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 18 December 2016

The Vicky Challenge. Starting to wrap up the year.

We are really wrapping up our year.  Each week I have counted the monetary value of my savings, DIY, cooking and gift making and added them up.
And each week we have had some kind of savings subject in order to try and find new ways to save as well as realise just how much the work we do contributes in dollar terms to the budget. And that is over and beyond the making the home a lovely place to be and all the other ways that building up your home and benefit the family.

Now I am thinking about what format the blog will take next year. This year was entirely different to last year. So I am working on what 2017 will hold!

My Vicky Challenge last week included saving money on decorating my tins by using paper napkins for images rather then buying decals. As it was a lot if images I think I saved around $50!
Making all the lunches for work $100.
Focaccia and pizza bases $30.
Free ebooks $10.
I got a big bucket with a lid for bread flour for free rather than buy  giant container... $20
Transplanting spider plants instead of buying pots $50.
Painting. $100.
I wrote $360 into my savings book.

From all my mail and comments I can see lots of us have saved a fortune making gifts and cooking for Christmas. Jen in NZ described beautiful platters she bought on a huge special and then she filled them with all different kinds of cookies she made. How beautiful. We have seen so many beautiful gifts made all through the year.
I hope we have grown in confidence to give what we have made and also realised the crazy prices charged in the stores for many of the things we routinely make!
Lastly we looked at recipes for gift giving using ingredients that are not too expensive.

The Butterfly and Galah photos are from Rachel's Dad! 

Rachel sent me an additional recipe.  This is an Australian tradition! It is so good!  And she used her cloche and it made them look beautiful!


                                     ---- ANZAC Biscuits ----
                                         (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps)

1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup dark brown sugar

Combine above ingredients!
125g butter
2 Tablespoons treacle

Melt butter and treacle!
2 Tablespoons boiling water
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Combine boiling water and bicarbonate., stirring, and add to melted butter and treacle. This should effervesce!
Add wet ingredients to dry, mixing well.
Place Tablespoon-sized balls of mixture onto trays. Press down with fork.
Bake at 160 degrees (C) for about 15 minutes.

I use Golden Syrup in this recipe usually. That is something you can find in the English or Australia part of supermarkets. If you have this then you an also make Golden Syrup Pudding!

Serving things on a cake stand or under a cloche make them seem so special! I am a fan. I have a collection and lost all of them are from op shops! Thank you so much Rachel, beautiful as always!

Please thank your Dad too as he has sent me a lot of beautiful photos this year.

Something I have found that consistently gives me ideas and saves me money is having a supply of great websites and blogs to read. It seems to be a balance of actual useful information, motivation and encouragement and keeping my mind on lovely things.  Many of my favourite blogs are on my side bar or have been mentioned during the year. 

Others I really enjoy include:

The Prudent Homemaker. For savings and see her great pantry and stock pile section.
Shabby Art Boutique. See the tutorials section! And free magazines. Go to the blog and link parties.
Dada's Place. For crochet inspiration.
Coco Rose Diaries. Crochet. Not posting anymore but stacks there to read.
ByRosehip. Crochet.
Rosie Gets Cozy. Crochet and craft. 
Flamingo Toes. Sewing, crochet, embroidery heaven.
The Cottage Mama. For sewing and crafts.
A Bowl full of Lemons. Organising.
Just Plain Marie. Pantry, savings...
Little House Living. See her stockpiling section!
Cheryl's Frugal Corner. See her Pantry, Prep and planning.
Vickie's Kitchen and Garden. She will keep you in free ebooks.
One Good Thing by Jillee. Cleaning, tips, ideas.
Free Pretty things for You. Images, crafts.
The Graphics Fairy. Images. Crafts.
And if you only check out one make it Laine's Letters here.
When you find a blog you love check out their own blog list and then you just keep finding more!
I will think of a million more but this will get the ball rolling. If you will share your most inspiring and helpful blogs and websites this will give us all holiday reading for when we finally have some quiet times!  I love finding something new to read.

How did you save last week?  And what blogs are a help to you?
I hope the next days are not too busy. I am stating to feel quite excited!
My last shop is today and cooking tomorrow.

Monday afternoon US time Vicky is having surgery. Could you pray for her?
And Mel S is recovering from surgery if you would pray for her.
Being Monday here before it is Monday in the US I can wish Vicky good luck and I hope to see her back to her usual gorgeous self asap! xxx


  1. Dear Annabel, there is a wonderful and just lovely blog I have followed for awhile now and it is written so beautifully. It is called .... The bluebirds are nesting!. I love your blog Annabel it has been my saviour when I have been ill, my guide, my social circle, thank you from the bottom of my heart for such wonderful posts each and every year.
    I have thoroughly enjoyed it he Vicky challenge, thank you Vicky for all your advice and helpful, wise posts. I am thinking of you and hope you are back on your feet soon.
    Mel S thinking of you too, take care and be kind to yourselves ladies.
    Rachel, Thank you for all your lovely photos, ingenious ideas and lovely comments.
    Thank you everyone for your inspiration and the joy you have brought me this year and for nearly two years.
    My Vicky challenge week has been great again:
    Plants from my parents ( bought for me as a Christmas bonus, plus potting mix, bark and fertiliser to pot them. A saving of about $55 .
    My cheap giant tea cup and saucer planters in my favourite colours cost me $5 , worth about $35 each at some stores, a saving of $60.
    Meals from my mum, a saving of $20
    Meal preparation ( 2 hours) , social support ( 1 hour) and cleaning ( 2 hours) all subsidised. Saving me approximately $120 .
    Cheap books for gifts and charity donations $50 savings approximately.
    Ribbon I bought months ago and forgot about, $10 saving for two lots.
    A gift for my Dad and a gift for a family friend, I bought a cheaper but equally good brand and saved $15 approximately.
    Gifts for my mum , saved $50 approximately ( spent less than $45 for 10 gifts by shopping sales) .
    Grocery savings $50 , will go into food slush fund.
    I think there is more but I cannot remember.
    Thanks again Annabel, I look forward to 2017 and the blog exciting!.
    Love Barb W.

    1. Hahaha! Thank you Barb! You are lovely!
      I love your giant tea cup plants! They are gorgeous! They were such a bargain too!
      Everything has been shaping up for you to have a wonderful Christmas! You have done really well and have a lot to look froward to! I hope this week is really good and you feel the excitement building up!
      Thank you for your messages to Vicky and Mel.
      Have a good week Barb! With lots of love

    2. sounds like another good savings week for you Barb, I hope you have a great Christmas with your family.

    3. Thank you Meg, Merry Christmas to you too. May it be a safe , happy, peace filled , fun time.
      It has been a great savings week Meg, I haven't added it up but it is a fairly good saving , I will add it up soon.
      Love Barb W.

  2. Praying for you, Vicky and Mel.

    I am pretty happy that I tried making my own buttermilk this weekend and it worked! Just put 1/4 cup buttermilk in a quart jar and fill with milk. Shake for one minute and put in a warm place for 24 hours. Mine was on top of the refrigerator. After 24 hours it goes back into the refrigerator. You can then make more when you are almost out of that jar by using 1/4 cup each time. Mine was nice and creamy and thick and smelled wonderful. I used milk that was a few days past date so that was a plus, too.

    I have almost all the cookies baked and on the freezer. This week I move on to candies. I cannot even guess how much this saves every year.

    1. Dear Lana,
      Well done! I am realising how many things can be made at home with really decent savings. The cookies sound great and I can't wait to hear what candies you make. I am better at cookies so far. Your selection will make fantastic gifts.
      Have a really good week. I am baking today too. With love

  3. Hi Annabel
    Firstly my thoughts and prayers go to Vicky for a successful operation and a speedy recovery, and to Mel S, I hope all that pre op preparation is getting you through. Here's hoping you both are well enough to have a wonderful and Happy Christmas with family and friends.
    I have a few blogs I read all the time. Rhonda from 'Down to Earth', was the first blog I ever read. I still enjoy seeing what she has to say. From Rhonda I ended up at Nana Chel's blog. A love of the past to me to Grandma Donna's Generation Before Us. I also regularly read others listed on your page. I have now started reading Flamingo Toes as someone suggested it to me. Oh that's right, it was you.
    This past week, has been busy with lots of visits, presents exchanged and stories told. Katie's Birthday is today and she is very happy with her Minion themed gifts. I sent her off to work with a big box of vanilla slice I made last night for her to share with her work friends.
    It has been a good savings week and I have written out just over $400 in my journal.
    Annabel's mob, I hope you all have a wonderful week.
    Life is good.

    1. Rhonda's was the first blog I ever read too. It was the doorway that opened the whole blogosphere to me.

    2. Dear Jane, Donna's is another good one! I must visit as I haven't in a while.
      I knew your present for Katie's birthday was going to be a hit! And the vanilla slice! Her co workers must be loving you! That is a real treat.
      You brightened everyones day with that.
      Have a wonderful week there. Re your comment about your fabric addiction yes the sales are coming up! Dilemma! I could never go past a floral sheet no matter how many I have, just saying...
      Thank you for your message to Vicky and Mel! With love

    3. Jane - Stay strong!! I know you can do it!! Turn your stacks of fabric over and you'll feel like you've got a whole new stash without buying anything because you'll see the bottom of the stack!! I'm cheering for you. Blessings. Cookie

  4. Dearest Annabel

    Thank you for your kind thoughts for me and also for your prayers Barb, Lana and Jane. I am doing very well. Two weeks out today from my Total right knee replacement and I am walking with minimum pain. Quite swollen still but that is to be expected. I do believe the surgeon did a wonderful job.

    I have been so comforted in having my pantry at this time when I am off work and not being paid for most of it. I have only had to supplement with fresh fruit and vegetables and bread. I have made some bread but I am buying some also to help my pantry supplies last.

    Lana if you are using buttermilk in cooking you can add 1 tablespoon of vinegar (I use white) to one cup of milk wait an hour and you have buttermilk. I have used this multiple times when I have a recipe calling for buttermilk and it always works fine. However if you drink buttermilk I am not sure it would taste the same.

    I have been making some Christmas gifts and for the neighbour this week I potted up Marigold that I have sprouting up everywhere and have six to take into her along with a Dog's goodie bag I made up using a free template from the internet and using six of my dog's treats. It is a lovely gift and I know she will love it. I also took her in some seeds I harvested myself. I also got a free seed packet template from the internet, printed out three and filled them with mixed coloured gerbera seeds, white gerbera seeds and poppy seeds. I have since self harvested freesia seeds so I will give her some of these also.

    My garden is beginning to produce but the full on season won't be until next month and into March for most of the vegetables. I am going to germinate my own seeds next year up until now I have been buying seedlings but I am going to do my own germination next year.
    I have invested in fruit trees throughout the year using gift cards I received for my birthday and I asked for some more for Christmas so will buy two more fruit trees...thinking nectarine and peach. It is so much more practical than perfume or something I won't use.

    I have nearly finished knitting my Granddaughter's Christmas gifts and I have so many more planned for next year. I am making her a cross stitched cushion for her birthday with her name on it and a book I am writing her using scrap booking materials gifted to me. For Christmas I am making her a knitted Noah's Ark or perhaps some knitted hand puppets. For her winter outfits I have the yarn to make her a dress and matching cardigan here ready to go. So very satisfying. I am making DD16 a knitted Mermaid's tail lapghan and DD19 a teenage mutant ninja turtle rug. Saves me so much money on buying gifts and it is something you just cannot find in the stores.

    I am baking the net two to three days and this just saves so much money on the good CHristmas Fare. I am making gingerbread cookies and chocolate dipped piped cookies and chocolate balls and orange cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes and two pavlovas. Being so hot here in Australia this family always calls for Mum's Famous Pavlova's.

    I will begin my next Christmas gifts in January. My Pinterest Boards are bursting with patterns and ideas. I just cannot wait to start. First to get Christmas finished.

    God Bless you my friend and I am looking to sharing 2017 with you.

    1. Mel S, even when you are recovering from major surgery there seems to be no holding you back. I hope next year is less stressful for you, you really deserve some peace and quiet.
      I am also thinking about next years presents, starting early on my knitting means things will get finished.

    2. Dear Mel,
      You have done so well! It is fantastic how well your recover has gone. I know you did do a lot to prepare and it has paid off!
      I am cooking this week as well and Gingerbread also! I made one lot a couple of weeks ago and it all went and Ive had requests for more plus Harper loves it and now I am making little ones for her treats.
      The presents you have planned for your granddaughter and daughters are just lovely.
      Your garden has come a long way and you have really invested in it with your trees and work. It is wonderful. It will pay you back big time!
      I am also secretly planning next year! We will start off in January as it is the key to being ahead again next year. Have a great week, it sounds busy but good! With lots of love,

  5. Best wishes being sent to Vicky and Mel S

    Hi Annabel

    It has been a while since I have had the chance to drop in and read some of your posts, so I am making it my mission tonight to read all the December postings.

    Lots has been happening here for us, mostly in good ways. Things are really taking a turn for us.

    I plan on doing some baking on Thurs, Fri and well as grocery shop on Fri or Sat. We will leave early and have a breakfast treat in town, as this way we can have some family time together (this is very rare these days). DP will come home sometime soon after lunch on Thursday and then we have until Tues or Wed with him which is going to be wonderful for us and DD6.

    Mel S I am coming to your house for Christmas lunch........your baking sounds so delicious

    Thank you Annabel for sharing another year together, it has been wonderful and the support and your blog keeps me going especially when I need that helping hand to guide me in many ways.

    Take Care
    Aly xxx

    1. Dear Aly,
      I am glad things are going so well for you all! I hope you have a lovely Christmas and that 2017 is wonderful too.
      Thank you so much for your encouragement! With lots of love,

  6. Dear Annabel. What a lovely way to 'wrap' up the year! Your lovely blog has inspired so many it seems. A fact which comes as no great surprise to me! You have such a gentle and warm way, and this more than anything I think, has been a source of encouragement to so many this included. Thankyou for all you've done, all you've inspired, and all that you've done to recognise the many readers who do not have blogs of their own, but who deserve praise for the many ways in which they enrich their own families lives, and the lives of those around them. Many blessings to you and your lovely family for the Festive Season. Much Love, Mimi xxx

    1. Dear Mimi,
      Thank you! I think you might be on holidays by now! I hope it is wonderful!
      I can't wait to see what you come up with for 2017! With love

  7. Dear Annabel,
    My prayers join with everyone's today for Vickey's successful surgery and recovery and also for Mel's continued successful recovery.

    Rachel's ANZAC biscuits look like a winner and the photograph of them is beautiful, as are the pictures her father has sent. The Australian landscape and wild life looks absolutely gorgeous.

    It's really impressive what everyone has accomplished and so encouraging. I got into the Challenge late and am amazed that once I started calculating things it really added up. I put $300 in my book this week.

    I read quite a few of the blogs that you listed, Annabel, and some I plan take a look at. Crocheting blogs are at the top of the list, now that I'm addicted to it. (lol). I also love upcycling blogs and read Threading My Way, SoSewEasy,Quiltville Quips and Snips, Quilting In The Rain The 99cent Chef, Lavender and Lovage, Budget Bytes and visit sites that they have on their blogs.

    Everything here is ready for Christmas and I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking of next year and getting started early. Like Mel, the Pinterest boards are overflowing with ideas of things I'd like to make and/or try. Several of my quilting friends and I are on "fabric fasts". We've decided to continue this and year two of not buying any fabric is on. Same for yarn. Everything we made this year came from our stashes. We can trade or barter with one another but no purchasing except for thread, if needed, and needles.

    Thank you, Annabel, for your wonderful inspiring blog and for creating this beautiful community of women. Blessings. Cookie

    1. Cookie, I intend to look at your blog list, too!!

      I thought your fabric fast rather good!! I have seldom bought new fabric, and certainly not in the last ten years. I am finding myself an heiress in fabrics for recycling, and intend to enjoy it all!


    2. Cookie my name is Jane and I am a fabricaholic. It has been one whole week since I bought my last piece of fabric. The post Christmas sales are coming up. I am hoping to stay strong.

    3. Dear Cookie, Many thanks to you for everything this year and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas! I am catching up and way behind on replies and writing generally! I hope you have had a lovely week, with love

  8. Hi Annabel and cherished Bluebirds!!

    Annabel, first, since Vicky is out of action, I think Vicky would expect that you would also claim the value of your beautiful tins at boutique prices! (Isn't that right, Vicky?!)

    Vicky and Mel S, may the Eternal be your strength and healing. Vicky, it has been truly wonderful to follow the Vicky Challenge and, in particular, your magnificent garden and cellar, as well as your bartering. Your humour is very warming, and I return to the memory of how you traded for crochet yarn! Your Rick is a very accomplished man!

    Barb, I agree with you in that this is the best blog site in the whole wide world!! Thank you, too, for your appreciation. It is worth sharing something to brighten even one person's outlook on life!

    Jane - custard slice!! Yum!!

    Lana - I appreciate your zest for life! I reckon you've got plenty of interesting things to share!

    Aly - Enjoy your new little one!!


    As for me, part of my work is adding value to our home with more baking. This value is also about building the warmth of the home!

    Annabel, your reading list looks lovely to me, and so helpful. Those crochet sites are already drawing me!! Ha ha to you!!!! My research comes from all over the place. I've already mentioned Joybilee Farm - for gentle healing, herbal medicine, wild crafting and fibre arts. Any Aussies wanting to see beautiful photos of the Rocky Mountains, squirrels and potato gardening, As Lilies Sewing is nice. As always, I return to a sweet, beautiful homemaking site called - "The Bluebirds are Nesting"!

    With warm regards,
    Rachel Holt

    1. Annabel, my husband recommends, from, a free download of "Solar Secrets", 44 pages. He says it clearly shows that solar panels with the best efficiency in full sun are outdone, overall, by other panels that have higher efficiency ratings than the first in cloudy conditions. It is helpful.

    2. Rachel the vanilla slice is a total cheat but looks so good and is so easy to make. If interested just check the side of cotties vanilla pudding at the supermarket. Where they say to sue puff pastry I cheat again and use Lattice biscuits. This is my I have ten minutes before we have to go somewhere recipe.

    3. Rachel, the fast has been very interesting. Above saving money it has made us all more creative with what we have in our supplies. I've become a hopeless scrapaholic using every last bit for something. Happy reading. Cookie

    4. Dear Rachel, Thank you for everything!
      You are off to such a fantastic start to crochet I can't wait to see what comes next!
      Sorry I am so slow to reply! I am playing catch up with things today! with much love Annabelxxx

  9. One way I've saved money this week is by staying home! If I'm not in the shops I'm not tempted to add "just one more treat" for my family or Christmas gifts. If I stay at home, I'm not sliding around on icy, slippery roads and running gasoline out of my car. And if I stay at home, I get to enjoy the lovely decorations and a fire in the fireplace, things my husband and I have worked to set up and need to enjoy while we can!
    Merry Christmas!
    Blessings, Leigh

    1. Dear Leigh, I agree... I call them no spend days. The more the better! Often we use up something or substitute something too in order to just stay home. I love it! In your weather voiding the ice etc must be a good idea too as it must be quite dangerous (I can't even imagine driving on ice!)
      Enjoy every moment of Christmas! with love

  10. Thanks for the blog list Annabel. Some I had already on my reading list but I added a couple of new ones. I look forward to all your posts in 2017, I don't always find the time to comment, but I always appreciate the content and the comments from other readers, and I always take join in on the prayer requests.

    1. Dear Sherri,
      Thank you so much! I hope you have a beautiful Christmas and wonderful 2017. It has been a big year! With love,

  11. Great list of blogs to look at Annabel. I was just wondering the other day what you would focus on next year. Looking forward to finding that out. Love these recipes that you are putting up too.

    Not much to say here really, hope all is well with the sickies, the recovering ones and everyone else. Fi xxx

    1. Dear Fiona,
      I am still plotting and planning next year. For myself as well as the blog. Not paining will give me time to really do other things.
      I am reading for some quiet times to think over my dreams and plans! I hope you get the too. With lots of love

  12. Dear Annabel, thank you so much for your continued efforts in your wonderful blog this year. It is a lovely source of information, inspiration and encouragement! You always come across as very uplifting & kind. I made your Gingerbread recipe today with my kids and the results are so YUM!! My family thanks you too. Best wishes for a happy & safe Christmas and a wonderful 2017. Love Kelly xo

    1. Dear Kelly, I am so glad you liked the biscuits! I make them really mild for Harper to have some and I think then I should call the Honey Biscuits. I found out that they free ok as well.
      Thank you so much for your comments and encouragement!
      Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year! With love

  13. Dear Annabel,

    Joining in prayer for Mel S and Vicky.

    I am so thankful that I found your blog! I think I came over from The Prudent Homemaker. You have such a sweet spirit! Your encouragement, sharing of ideas, beautiful photos and much more make your blog so enjoyable and inspiring!

    My tallies on the challenge have been rather hit or miss lately. I am hoping to get at least a rough estimate done for my yearly total. My husband and I have been amazed at the savings already tallied. It has been fun seeing the reports on what others have done and saved.

    Thinking about Christmas, I got a kit I've had for years made up for a doll quilt and pillow for my youngest granddaughter. The backing for the quilt was a lovely, soft material that has been in my stash for years, as well. I've started some holiday baking for our enjoyment and gifts. The Christmas stockings are being filled mostly with things I've found for a good price or made, but are things I hope will be enjoyed. I fill stockings for the adults, as well as children. Our oldest daughter paid me a nice compliment when she loves doing stockings and got that from seeing me do such a good job.

    A couple other sites or blogs that you haven't mentioned and I sometimes visit are which lists free and discounted books for Kindle which is mostly a deal site. Sometimes there are free samples, free or inexpensive items from US grocery stores, discount codes, Amazon specials, etc.

    I want to wish you and the others in this community Merry Christmas and a Healthy, Happy New Year!

    With love from AZ,

    1. Dear Elaine, Thank you very much! I love the sound of the little dolls quilt! Well done on on Christmas stockings and now that tradition is carrying on!
      Have a really wonderful Christmas! And I hope 2017 is going to be a great year for us all! With love

  14. Dear Lovely ones,
    Vicky and Mel, I have been praying for your healing. I hope you both feel much better soon.
    It has been so wonderful to to come to Blue birds and be encouraged in ways of our home and saving but also in prayers and kindness.
    I have saved so much this year by learning new ways and reviving old ways.It is a huge blessing to be able to craft something and be happy to give it as a gift. Also a huge blessing to be part of a like minded community.
    This week my daughter needed to have a part in her car fixed. She went to GTM after her appointment. It is an outlet for Costco. It is far from our house but close to the mechanic. She called and said how many Gluten free cookies,mixes,pastas crackers do you want for between 20 cents to 99 cents.I said as many as will fit. She got lots of GF stuff and also many things for her(2 carts full)for 80 dollars,regular pastas, crackers and snacks,tomatoe products,beans,canned food,we are now bursting at the seams but it feels so nice. I am guessing we could go months without going to the store. She would have bought more but when she came back in from putting the groceries in the car the line was wrapped around the store. She called it good.:) I am so thankful for the support and encouragement on this blog. Because now we are stocked up on groceries. We did not overspend for Christmas and have many things extra to give away and a great start on the New Year. I hope everyone has a very blessed Christmas and a healthy New Year.
    Much love,

    1. Dear Patti,
      Thank you so much! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and I hope your brother does also.
      Wow on the savings and it was fantastic that your daughter spotted them and called you! This is great team work!
      Thank you Patti fro telling me how you are out in front for the new year it is wonderful and it is a big encouragement to me also. I can't thank you enough for that.
      With lots of love,


I really appreciate your comments thank you! The aim of my blog is the be a place of encouragement and happiness. Very rarely is anyone rude. Actually only twice so far! If you post a rude or aggressive comment I will read it but not publish it, thanks for

Spam is never published... if you are advertising a product or selling website your comment wont be published. I am inundated with stuff about drugs, horses and weird things! I am not going to publish this stuff! Thank you.