The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Sunday 11 December 2016

The Vicky Challenge. Saving on food gifts continued.

My Vicky Challenge was pretty good last week. I think as soon as you do any baking that adds to it. The same with making any gifts, mending, repairs or DIY... the savings soon add up!
I need to find out the current prices locally of sour dough loaves of bread. This has been a good part of the challenge... checking to see what things actually cost compared to what they cost to make. That has been such an eye opener!

This week my savings included making six pizzas using the sour dough as my bases. They were great so I will do this from now on!
Plus I made three Spinach Quiches, pastries and a tray Apricot and Walnut buns.

I altered two tops, did some painting, froze lemon juice, made all the lunches...
Plus my great op shop day got me a big set of large storage tins plus a giant storage jar all at great savings! That also helped my total! 

I wrote $455 into my savings book.
All year I have had a special note book just for my savings and had one page per week. This has made it easy to keep track of and add up each month. And soon the whole year! 

The last two weeks we have been talking about saving money with our choices of foods to make as gifts and take to shared lunches and parties etc.  Ingredients cost money. This can vary enormously! With some thought there are ways around spending too much. Substitutions help too. I am just about to make some Pesto and the recipe calls for pine nuts which are very expensive. I will just be using almonds. They work fine for about a quarter the price!  Other times it is sometimes best to just decide to use another recipe altogether! 

Thank you for all the tried and tested recipes and ideas!  Today we have some more to add. 

Firstly from Jane... this is her faithful cake she makes very often.

Banana Cake 
From  the Sydney Morning Herald c1963
125g melted butter
I tsp grated lemon rind
1 cup castor sugar
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
2 1/2 cups SR Flour
Combine all ingredients until smooth. 
Place batter in two  greased 20cm cake tins or one deep tin. It really needs to be deep.
Bake in a moderate oven for 40min or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

Today I made a dozen muffins and a small slab cake from this one mix.

The slab will  be served with strawberries and cream for dessert.

You never waste a banana with a recipe like this. Plus I have found they freeze so well and you can stash cakes or muffins for when you are pushed for time. Thanks so much Jane!

Next a recipe from Teri. To me this looks like Meringue but the ingredients are not the same.... although similar. It is a sweet and I have not heard of it before. I love the name and the colour! 

Over to Teri...

I wanted to share my favorite Divinity recipe.  so, when you have time, you can post it:
2 egg whites, room temperature 
3 cups sugar (this is granulated cane sugar)
3/4 cup corn syrup  (the light colored kind)
3/4 cup water
1 small package flavored gelatin  (3 Oz. or 85g)  I use strawberry but I've used lime and orange, so any flavor you like
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Chopped pecans and/or coconut may be added.  These are optional.
Mix the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan, Bring to a boil and cook to form a medium hard ball (this takes about 15 minutes depending on your elevation.  could take longer). (For my elevation, this is 240 degrees F. on my candy thermometer).
Meanwhile,  beat the egg whites until they fluff up, then sprinkle in dry gelatin, beating until this holds a definite peak.  Pour syrup mixture into the egg white mixture in a fine stream, beating constantly until candy losses it's shine and holds its shape. Drop by teaspoonful onto parchment paper. work fast! this makes about 40 pieces of candy depending on size.

How pretty are they! So I will be trying this out!! Thank you so much Teri!

How did your Vicky Challenge go or how did you save and get ahead last week?

Have a great new week! Most of us are busy as it is getting so close to Christmas!  I am really reviewing what I do and what I don't want to be doing this week and next.  I want to wrap up the year and my projects. I want to cook lots of treats for the family.  I do not want to be running around very much and have cut out a lot of it.
The busiest time of year can also come when you are tired!
Already I am feeling very reflective about the year that is almost over and cooking up plans for the new one ahead!
Mainly I want to really celebrate Christmas and be grateful for all our blessings which have been many!
So enjoy the season. Make it wonderful. Soon it will have flown past. xxxx


  1. Dear Annabel and everyone. First I want to thank you particularly Annabel, and all our friends here, for such a supportive and encouraging environment this year. I think we all attempted things we may have otherwise postponed to the never basket, without the inspiration we found here. Secondly, I wanted to say that for anyone who is a doubter, our own savings are allowing us to enjoy a cruise over Christmas, and that's something that would not be happening without our (odd to some) frugal ways. So having a goal and a reward is such great motivation. And thirdly, as Annabel has coached us so often, once this wonderful Festive season is over, and we catch our breath, it's time to start preparing for next Christmas. Being prepared in my gifts, not only of material pretties, but of time, cake baking and decorating, and teaching to others, has given me such joy this year. Even more important, getting to December 12, and realising that I haven't stretched myself financially, and that everything I've gifted has been made with love, rescued and beautified, or sourced when prices are at their most attractive, makes it all worthwhile. I've just gifted the most stunning designer snowflake candles to a couple of fussy friends, sourced at the post-Christmas sales last year, and they were oohed and ahhed over like you would not believe. It's never to early to start! Thankyou all again. Looking forward to a beautiful 2017 with you all, and especially with you, Annabel. Thankyou so much. Mimi xxx

    1. Dear Mimi,
      Thank you so much! I know quite a few ladies ventured into learning new things and I am thrilled about that! Each time I have learned something new I have loved it! I am wondering what 2017 will hold and can't wait!
      Your gifts would be beautiful. Having followed along I drooled over most of them!
      Have a wonderful trip and Christmas! We need a little time out to rest and review. Enjoy! With love,

    2. Have a wonderful time Mimi!

    3. Thankyou both. We will return rested, refreshed and at peace with the world, I am sure. Mimi xxx

  2. P.S. I know of Divinity. It's delicious, so thanks Terri, and thanks to Jane for the scrumptious Banana Cake recipe. It sounds divine! Mimi xxx

  3. Hi Annabel,
    You have had some great savings this week. The baking looks so yummy. I agree that when you look at a recipe you need to think about the ingredients and the cost of those ingredients. We have pesto with macadamias instead of pine nuts. Delicious.
    I think the same about going out for dinner. This past week an old friend from Darwin visited. We didn't go out for dinner but stayed at home and had a beautiful mushroom risotto with the little slab banana cake, in the photo in this post, as dessert. We must have saved at least $100.
    This week I was gifted two large garbage bags of fabric. Most of the fabrics were at least 2m lengths. I added another $100 savings in my book.
    There has been a last frenetic bit of sewing and knitting take place. This has finished the Christmas presents. Mum and Dad are visiting tomorrow and will take all the gifts with them, ready to go under the family tree at my Brother's.
    I'm adding over $700 of savings into my book this past week.

    1. Dear Jane, Having dinner at home is a big saving and it still can be just lovely and special. In fact I think a lot of people really appreciate it and that you cooked for them.
      Thank you so much for your recipe plus photos!
      I can just imagine the flurry towards the finish line with the presents! Well done! I know they will be loved! You are a fabulous sewer and very creative. Well done too on the massive savings! You have to feel good! With lots of love

    2. I forgot to say I am thrilled you got given all that fabric! I know you will be putting it to good use! xx

  4. Hello Annabel, your sourdough sounds delicious. I love the sound of those pizzas and the scrolls. Yum!! They would be so expensive to buy in the shops. I love those two recipes. I love banana cake and the Divinity recipe looks gorgeous. I agree withe baking and cooking, I am starting to realise it really saves us a lot. We have cornbeef fritters and salad, using up the rest of the corn beef. Our whitegoods arrived today, so we are nearly ready to start our kitchen. We bought a gas cooker, which will be good for when we remove the kitchen, power outages and camping too. I thought of you with the Preparedness posts. I am really looking forward to Christmas, I love the sound of your Christmas baking! Lots of love, Bridge

    1. Dear Bridge,
      Your appliances arriving would be very exciting! If they are in big boxes then they can be little cubby houses! Yes it is very good to have a gas cooker. If the power is out you still have something.
      Today I am making shortbread. That is easy and fast, I cut it into wedges which is even faster than cutting out shapes. I am making a triple batch! Some for everyone. I know you will have to go through a mess to get the kitchen done but the end result will be lovely! With lots of love,

  5. Hi Annabel and crew!!

    You're on a winner with all this baking! The sourdough scrolls and pizza still amaze me!!

    Jane's food makes me feel hungry, and at home!! I really should learn to make risotto. The banana cake and macadamia nuts should be on my menu!! Thanks, Jane! It's much appreciated (& sour cream is cheap!!) All that fabric should slow Jane down just a little while I find my way with crochet!

    Teri, we can learn something new every day! Today, your Divinity recipe is like a bolt out of the blue! Incredible!!

    Now, what are we going to have for tea?!!!!

    With warm regards,
    Rachel Holt

    1. Rachel if I don't have sour cream I use yoghurt. I used a mango yoghurt in the banana cake featured in this post. I've also used plain milk when all else fails.

    2. Thanks for that, Jane! We've got plain milk already! Now I'm just waiting for bananas to ripen! I think my husband would love to find some banana cake waiting for him under that glass cake lid!

    3. Dear Rachel,
      As I know you have lemons I am mentioning that I squeeze some lemon juice into milk then that is my sour cream. It works a treat. And that banana cake is so good!
      Thank you for your comments on the cooking! I feel kind of clever as I doubted I could even get this sourdough up and running at all! But it goes on from strength to strength!
      Today I am making shortbread! I owe you an email... meantime thank you so so much for the fantastic photos! Everyone loves your photos! You have been very industrious!
      I hope the weather is not too hot. We are having our warmest days so far.
      With lots of love,

  6. Love your recipes! You certainly have been busy and saving money! Your divinity looks so good. I just bought everything I need for a fun time in the kitchen this next couple of weeks. The baking will start today as we are pretty much snowed in. Have a great day!

    1. Dear Vickie,
      I can't wait to see what you cook! Your article on saving money in the kitchen was really good. This is an area we can do so much. Its amazing! Everyone loves to eat!
      I can't imagine being snowed in but I can see that being prepared can mean there you are snug and warm and busy cooking so that it is a lovely time! With lots of love

  7. Dear Annabel and ladies, wow what a week you have had Annabel, all that cooking and baking looks lovely . I have had a fairly good week , today was a massive savings day . I have been researching portable air conditioners and was looking at one at an electrical store Andre one I needed for my room size and wanted was $749 and then my Dad suddenly thought of my uncle who works for the electrical appliance company of the brand of aircon I wanted, we rang him and I am buying one from that company for $488.16 , same model, exact same aircon, a huge saving of almost $260 just for the sake of a phone call, my uncle has ordered the aircon and I will have it by Monday. I needed some new towels and as I am a large lady I need and like a large towel so I bought some huge colourful beach towels , they were 40% off at best and less , I bought nine , original price $35 each down to $21 each a total saving of $126 for towels. I bought myself a book at a book stall today , it was marked down from $24.95 to $5.95 and because the cover was a little damaged the lady further discounted it to $2.95 , I bought two children's books for a charity Christmas gift and saved $13 on the two a total saving on books of $35 .
    I have had my regular subsidised cleaning, two meal prep services( saving me money on takeaway if I couldn't cook) and saved a lot on medication as I am on the safety net until December 31 st . Savings for cleaning, meal prep and medication approx $100. What else is there?, I received a $40 spotlight voucher for Christmas from my sister and BIL and nieces which depending on sales and what I buy I could turn it into more savings potentially.i have received half a dozen lemons form my grandmas tree yesterday, saving me about $5 , I bought a shirt and two gifts at 50% off at my favourite clothing store , saving me $20 . I better stop there!. A mega savings this week for me ( to make up for the last few weeks) my total for the week is: $586!!. Pretty pleased with that!.
    Have a good week everyone, stay safe and keep cool / warm depending on where you live.
    Love Barb W.

    1. well done on the air conditioner Barb. It will make life much more pleasant for you. The lemons were a great gift, they are over $1 each in Victoria.

    2. My home all like large towels too. I picked up 6 just white with a blue stripe as fall started on clearance. ($14.00 for $5.99) I did it when my 2nd son went to college too. I bought prints for him. (Golf scene, sea turtle were a couple.)For those of you that like to reuse towels, he used the top of print for head and bottom of print for the rest. 😉
      Sheila USA

    3. Dear Barb,
      I am very pleased about you getting an air conditioner! The Australian summer heat is really something. I wish I could say I was tougher and can handle it but I can't. Plus wiht health problems it is just worse. And heat illness are a real thing and it is plain exhausting. I get heatstroke early and terrible migraines. So I really think this will make your life a lot better. I am so pleased about the discounted price you got that was huge! I can't wait to hear how the next hot day goes and how you feel about the difference it makes to your day. There are lots of ways of keeping the costs down too.
      It was lovely to get a Spotlight voucher! And yes if you go in the sales you might even double the value! Have fun with that!
      The lemons will be good too! You had a very good week! I am really happy for you! With love

  8. Dear Annabel,
    It's almost time for breakfast here and looking at all the delicious food that was made is making me hungrier. Thank you Jane and Teri for your recipes. I didn't know macadamias were native to Australia. I learned something new today. Here they're very costly just to buy a few.

    For the most part all of the Christmas baking and gift making is done. Yesterday the last of it, making fudge, got accomplished and today it will be packaged up and all things that need posting will go out. I need to check on Etsy to see what they charge for things I made to get an idea of how much was saved. I would love to know how much lotion bars might go for as they were so quick and inexpensive to make. Have a good week everyone. Blessings. Cookie

    1. Dear Cookie, If I am not too slow do take photos of your fudge all packaged up! I would love to see that! It is Shortbread day here today!
      In a shop we have here called Lush the lotion bars are $14 or $15 each mostly. Look them up online as the ideas are great and the ingredient listings are basically recipes! You will see what I mean!
      Have a great week! With love

    2. Dear Annabel,
      Thanks for the heads up on Lush. I just checked and they sell it here in the USA. The lotion bars are $12.95 which with shipping and handling would be over $13 per bar. Unbelievable as to make them there's probably less than $1.50's worth of ingredients and I got 7 from the batch I just made for a savings of $91. I looked up the tea cozies and they were selling on Etsy for $20 each for something similar. I made 6 out of scraps of fabric and batting I had on hand. They took less than 2 hours to make one, for a savings of $120. The handwarmers varied in price, but I had made 12 sets with upcycled materials and $1.25 worth of rice. I'll put them at the medium price of $5, another $60 savings. $270 savings in just those gifts alone. I took some pictures of the fudge before it was sent so I'll send them out tomorrow when there's better natural lighting (it's night here now). I just make the easy 3 ingredient fudge and top it with either chopped nuts or crushed peppermint. Cookie

  9. Annabel what a good week you've had your cookery always looks so amazing and yummy both.
    Jane banana cake is one of my favorites!
    Teri Divinity is also a yum and yours looks so good!

    As for me I have cashed in all my points on various things for gift cards and have done quite a bit of Christmas shopping for free this way. I also used materials I had here at home and crafted some gift bags and pinching your idea of birds on pegs Annabel. We have been using the woodburner as it's that time of year again I have been using the crockpot more and we have been watching the electric and the bill was only $87! That was excellent for here. And of course all of the normal things we do which for the week has been $520. Not bad. It's almost time to add it all up! I hope everyone has had a wonderful year of saving weather it's a little or a lot!
    have a great week.

    1. Dear Vicky,
      Well done on the free Christmas shopping! I dream of an electric bill that price. Ours is quarterly I know many who pay $1200 a quarter. We pay about half that which is still enormous. I have run out of things to turn off.
      This is what you pay for "green" energy.
      You have done so well! With love

  10. Hello Annabel, divinity is just a delicious candy but I understand it can be tricky to get to turn out just right. My grandmother made white divinity with either finely diced pecans or black walnuts. It was strictly a Christmas time treat when I was growing up,
    I haven't had much free time to blog hop- I miss it though and hope to find time to visit soon.

    1. Dear Rhonda,
      Thank you for that info as it is new to me.
      I know you are busy I keep track reasonable often and understand perfectly! With love

  11. Annabel, you have been very busy! All your cooking looks so yummy!

    I've been baking lots and lots of cookies. It's now time to package them up and put my Christmas baskets together.

    Thank you for sharing my Divinity recipe. I knew you would love the color!! :)

    Sorry I haven't commented lately. I love all the gifts that have been shared plus the inspiration. I so agree with all the things Mimi mentioned! We have a wonderful group, plus so many new things to try. I love all the recipes shared, also! Thanks so much!

    Mimi, I wanted to tell you I made a dream catcher, per your instructions. I used one of my grandma's doilies. It's not as fancy as yours, but my husband loved it!! (it was his birthday present)!

    Have a wonderful week friends! Love, Teri

    1. Dear Teri, Thank you so much for the recipe and lovely photos!
      Well done on making a dream catcher! Mimi's are beautiful. I keep seeing them in shops for a hundred dollars or more! I have seen some on Shabby Chic as well which I like. They are a lovely gift!
      Have a great new week Teri! With love


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