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.

Thursday 28 September 2017

Feather your Nest Friday, 29 September, 2017.

I was back to a more normal week!  Using my kitchen and cooking I am finding it so much better and clear counters are lovely.

Some of the ways I feathered the nest and saved included:

Mum gave me a dozen eggs and 2 sheets of pastry. Allie let me pick spinach from her garden.

You can guess what I made!  Two large spinach quiches! 

Lucy gave me eight large bananas.  Using my yoghurt in place of sour cream I made three huge banana cakes.  This one is packed ready for travel to the farm for Chloe...

I cut up and froze a whole cake and Lucy got bananas back in her cake.  Harper calls this Nan Nan Bell's 'Nana Cake.  😊

I made two batches of yoghurt, one Greek and one vanilla.  Half the greek yoghurt went into cake and  the rest I decided to try making a soft cheese.  This is Greek Yoghurt strained for a few days like this...

After a few days there is a lot of liquid strained off.  Then I rolled it into balls and placed these into olive oil with chives and garlic...

It will either be good or terrible!  I will report next week.  But it looked and felt like cream cheese.  The consistency was creamy.   This lot is to go with crackers on Grand final day.  So I am hoping I can use it as cream cheese and it can go into pasta dishes and make cream cheese frosting.  If so this will be another huge savings!
(And something else I have learned!)

This week we achieved something I have really wanted and we got a rainwater tank!  Mum's house a street away has one and this has been my emergency back up water. But now we also have our own!  This was one of the things we planned with the insurance money. 

It fits nicely down the side of the house and it was a bargain as well. We used to look at them and price them so we were expecting to pay much more but for $300 we have a tank plus the fittings and tap etc.

We also upgraded our generator.  So all the waiting on a pay out from insurance paid off as we have a beautiful floor and have been able to invest in these things.  

I made a large batch of chicken tikka masala plus used more yoghurt to make a mint raita with mint from the garden.  I had Naan bread in the freezer from the last big lot I made.  This made three meals.

We had a left overs night and I have got ahead with my menu planning and am learning more and more.  I will have a menu planning update post soon as I have found all kinds of tricks to add just one more meal to the list.  It is really working.  I can now just shop for specials and my list only ever has one or two things on it. 

In just over a week my Aunt is having a garden party with a trading table. I have been potting herbs, saving Bay Leaves and other items for the trading table.  
A reader wrote me the most beautiful letter and offered to trade items.  I love bartering!  I also had suitable items to trade!  So we did a deal and made friends!   I am going to do a post on this soon. How often is it that we have a lot of one thing?  It just works out that way.  I have a lot of parsley seed,  masses of Bay Leaves,  another thing I have in ridiculous numbers are the old fashioned tortoise shell  knitting needles.  This is how it goes.  So we are going to have a Bluebirds swap party! 

I hope you had a good week!  How did you build up your nest, save or get ahead? 

September was a big and very busy month. We achieved a fair bit.  Now on to October! xxx

Tuesday 26 September 2017

The Christmas Challenge. Show and Tell for September Part 2.

This is our second week of sharing what we got up to in September!

First of all we have Kelsey!  Despite a small baby and a hurricane she still got extra stuff done!

This is a Lavender themed gift set Kelsey made...

How beautiful!  This is just stunning! So professional.

And here is a collection of items made, printed and from a sale that Kelsey had gathered together...

The recipe cards in there are Jes' Recipe cards. They are available to print for free on Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth.  A couple of ladies asked recently about Jes.  She WILL be continuing to blog after a short break!  This is the best news ever!  I think the world needs beauty and light which is what Strangers and Pilgrims is! 

Barb still made cards even though she has had a bad month with her health. 

Well done Barb! I hope you are feeling much better and October will be easier for you.

Cookie found a paint that replicates sea glass.  Oh the possibilities with this! 

Here she has changed plain glass jars with this paint then gone on and decorated them. So gorgeous!

And she made a whole quilt of scraps!  This is what I love about quilts... the actual original purpose of turning bits and pieces into something wonderful...

Cookie is also drying her Hydrangeas...

Beautiful colours Cookie. They also go with your sea glass!  I HOPE to have hydrangeas this summer! 

And finally her crochet... 

This is the seiche and pattern that Mum and I use so often. I love it!

What a good month Cookie!  I think I better get moving next month.... 

Tanya is someone new to welcome! She has her own goats and makes goats milk soap!  This one is covered in rose petals....

And she made beeswax candles...

This is how I like doing things, in a mass production style!  

She also made face washers with designs from her children.... 

What a lovely idea for a gift to Grandmas and Aunties etc...  

Thank you so much Tanya!  

Thank you all for sharing as it is so inspiring and a way for all of us to come up with new ideas.  

Next week we will be into October!  I am really hoping that I can get cracking and produce lots of things.  I am hopefully past renovating messes!  I also have quite a few good supplies lined up from some of my op shopping including beautiful things for card making.  

We have a tutorial by Jane to look forward to.  Wait until you see this! 

I hope your week is going well.  See you on Friday! xxx

Sunday 24 September 2017

Pantries and Preparedness. Other ways to do things.

Recently we had  a post by Vicky on pasta making and a post by Rachel on Ravioli.  Both got lots of comments and the number one comment was that people thought you need specialist equipment to make pasta and it was tricky and this had prevented any attempts at all!  To find out no special equipment is needed has unleashed lots of new pasta makers amongst us!

This is true with many things. Yes there are new gadgets to make all kinds of things easier but our Grandmothers generally didn't have them and many generations before them didn't either but they got on just fine! In fact they probably produced very fine products!

Also across many areas I have noticed that different countries and cultures do things differently!   I have a funny story about this.  In my forties I ended up having to have a hysterectomy.  I fought that for years mind you.  Anyway after this I asked the specialist if I could have baths or not?  She said in Australia we say no, you have to have showers for three months.  But in England you can have baths. So if you want to have a bath just pretend to be in England.  No kidding, this was the specialist! hahaha!  Well I never could imagine I was in England so I had showers for three miserable months (as I hate showers).

Until I started this blog I never knew that in the US jams, relishes, chutneys etc are canned.  Generations and generations here have never canned these things!  This could make some people flip but this is just the truth of it.  If this is true for you and you are set up to can then keep doing what you are doing. It is not an argument it is just seeing how things are done in other countries.
But if you would love to make preserves and do not have the funds to do so or you think you don't have the funds or special equipment then this post could be like the pasta post!  You may be able to make many more things than you dreamed of!

Over to beautiful Rachel to go further:

                                --   BOTTLING FROM SCRATCH!  --

I firmly believe that we, as homemakers, can find ways to preserve our produce with little or no monetary outlay. I own brand name preserving jars, but have known the necessity of avoiding the cost of buying the accessories for these. Living in Queensland, I have also needed a way to keep kitchen products like choko pickles and jams (usually stored in recycled grocery jars, anyway) as long term provisions not reliant on refrigeration.

Bottling (an Australian term!) with rescued grocery jars  -- with metal lids -- is now a treasured concept of mine! Allow me to share my humble findings! .....

To this day, I remember an article, featuring a commercial kitchen, torn from an old magazine during my childhood. I can still picture the large recycled (grocery) jars of tomatoes nestled carefully in a large cooking pot, and protected against the buffeting of simmering water by using kitchen towels as packing! 

Jembella Farm also has preserving methods for such recycled jars (an example of their work shown at ....

With these in mind, I referred to the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) data, which provides detailed preserving information (i.e. water bath processing time) for particular crops, jar sizes, and elevation above sea level.

I can summarise with a generalised method which levels the mountains of confusion! This is suitable for acidic foods that have a pH value of 4.6 or less.

I love to use the simple 'hot pack' method!! 

Firstly, I cook my preserves-to-be in my usual cooking pots, and, once cooked, keep them hot. (This means less wasted  jar space, compared to running the whole cooking process through the water bath method, which leaves space as the fruit cooks and compacts!)

Secondly, I have my olive oil can (with a protective false floor made using the base of another olive oil can - cut out with a can opener - elevated by egg rings [or canning rings, US]) containing gently simmering water. 

Thirdly, I use a two dollar op shop saucepan containing simmering water to heat the rescued grocery jars and lids. I use a saucepan lid, and roll the jars to distribute the heat from the simmering water! The jars and lids must be without damage, to facilitate a good seal. This step is not about sterilisation of the jars, but, rather, heating them!

What then?

Using jar tongs that one is comfortable with, remove the hot jars and lids from their saucepan, and fill with the hot cooking - to 6mm/quarter inch from the rim. Clean the jar rims with only dry cloths, to prevent sudden changes in temperature, and place the metal lids onto the jars. Then, using the jar tongs again, submerge each filled jar carefully into the olive oil can of gently simmering water so that the jar is covered with one or two inches of water. As an average (i.e. a typical pasta sauce jar), the processing time in the hot water bath is ten minutes. Remove the processed jars, and sit overnight on an insulated wooden board/thick towel/wad of newspaper out of any drafts! During the cooling process, the lids should "pop"! and form an effectual seal!

One tip -- if a jar seals too well (which means it cannot be opened by ordinary methods!), I turn it up-side-down in an enamelled cup of heating water (sitting on an egg ring would be safer if using anything more than gentle heat!) to allow the metal lid to absorb heat and expand. Then the lid can be opened as usual!

If you like what you see, I encourage you to give bottling with rescued grocery jars a go! 

Thank you so much Rachel.  As usual your photos are beautiful. And there you are preserving with what you have and doing a very good job! 

Jane sent me a photo of her preserves just the other day.  She uses the sterilisation method I do for jam and she water bath seals the relishes and chutney...

Your shelf of preserves look beautiful Jane! 

Most of my jam is made in the microwave, unless I have a particularly large batch to make.  For generations we have been big jam makers.  Both my Nan's loved having fruit!  Jars were saved always!  My microwave method is here: Easy Jam Making.   This is not canned.  Jars are sterilised and sealed when the jam goes into them boiling.  This keeps years.  I would have made well past the hundreds of jars of jam in my life time this way, I am probably into the 1000's by now! 

Also... I have never figured out why people buy pectin.  Many recipes I see contain pectin.  I have no understanding why.  I always add a little fresh lemon juice when jam making and jam always sets.  So this could be yet another expense that can be avoided.  It might also be another example of how things are done from one country to another?

Jam has so many uses!  I add jars to many of my hamper gifts but it has so many uses in the kitchen..
Take a Jar of Jam.  If you have too many jars just now take a look at some of the ideas in this post but also in the comments. 

In the same way I cannot consider buying a dehydrator.  The cost of electricity here and having anything run for days is not on my radar.  I do however have a blast furnace outside in summer and can dry almost anything for free!  Things can also be dried by the fire in winter then packed away.  So I do dry quite a few things but it has to be without electricity.

So if costs have kept you from preserving or the idea that it is complicated then try some simple preserves. You will be amazed and it is so much fun!  To me the sight of preserves lined up on your shelves is the most beautiful thing ever!  Both my Nan's and Mum would have whole days making jam or relish.  What a production!  Just fantastic!   Fruit season is beautiful and I have been known to stay up late still preserving rather than have fruit beat me and be ruined!  

I also do a lot of refrigerator pickles. These aren't canned either.  If you want to try this look up Jamie Oliver refrigerator pickles.   He is English so perhaps this is an English method... but if I have lots of cucumbers I will do this and Andy loves them.  This works with most vegetables.  Again, no special equipment, old jars and what you have, with wonderful results!
Then there are other preserves I have not tired i.e. fermenting. 

I hope not to start a debate on methods but instead encourage ventures into preserving.  I saw a UK lady was having difficulty even getting a canning kit (as they are not readily available there) but that you can use a pressure cooker to can as an alternative.  The wide variations in practices in each country are surprising.  Do your own research and investigate.  Many times the best information is from our Mum's and Nanna's.  
Another thing... ask around as sometimes the very goods you need are sitting idle in your neighbours shed or the back of someones cupboard just waiting for someone to use them again!

If you have any tips on getting started,  minimising expenses,  methods of preserving that are low cost or other ideas please share!

Thank you Rachel for a wonderful post and all your help!

Have a good week!  We are learning new skills, adding to our pantries and building up our preparedness in all kinds of ways! It all adds up! xxx

Thursday 21 September 2017

Feather your Nest Friday, 22 September, 2017.

This week I got everything put away and my kitchen put back together.  I spring cleaned as I went.  I am tired but happy!   So it has been a big week of nest feathering.

Some of the ways I built up the home included:

My counter tops are pine.  The new floors are much cooler being driftwood/grey so I stained the counter tops with a white wash effect.  I did this all day yesterday.   But it worked!

First I had to sand them all down.  Andy did most of that for me.

I cleaned the windows out the back.   And I washed all the cupboards, range hood and filter etc.
If I can do light fittings over the weekend then this whole area is spring cleaned.

Kitchen cupboards get so dirty!  Actually kitchens do as we are cooking all the time.  Cleaning is never ending...

My pantry cupboard is back together and I have stored far more in the cellar.

The baskets on top hold paper goods i.e. paper plates, cups, paper towels etc.

My spice cabinet is filled up ...

I keep the made up mixes in the lower cupboard.  And I started writing up my favourite mix recipes onto recipe cards and posting them inside the door so I can quickly re make them.  A lovely reader sent me these most gorgeous cards! I will get more written up over the next week I hope.  I got this from Laine who keeps most used recipes inside her cupboard doors.

From the mess I was in I am seeing I have come a long way!  (This is the beauty of looking over what we have done rather than just the list ahead!)

During the week I made three dozen sausage rolls.

And three trays of enchiladas using Vicky's recipe to make up the sauce sauce. These are a big hit with everyone and lots are in the freezer. This was all to build up the gaps that had formed when  Lucy's family were sick and we had no kitchen.

Also some peanut butter cookies/biscuits as Harper loves these.

In the garden I faced up to pulling out two trees in giant pots.  I hate ever doing this but these were truly beyond help.  So I decided fine, I am going to make these pots into food growing pots! 

I am really pleased with them! 

I can see in the last few days this has all really started to grow.  And today is really warm, the warmest day in a long time. I planted tomatoes (two types) eggplant, chilis, capsicums...

I found a bargain on deli meat that Andy likes saving over $10.

Yesterday I got the windows at the back all clean and everything seems brighter. 

I made two batches of yoghurt, one Greek and one Vanilla.  The Greek is very useful, this week that went into the enchiladas in place of sour cream, on top of baked potatoes and into smoothies which used almost all of it up.  

My Vicky Challenge came to $408. 

Spring cleaning and re arranging seem to go on forever as one thing leads to another!  But I am so glad we had the chance to do this with the floors and of everything that has been completed in the last couple of weeks.

I am hoping in October I will get back to a lot more crafts and other things!

How did you build up your home, save or get ahead this week? 
Sometimes it is hard to know what to do next so "just do the next thing" and eventually it gets you there! xxx

Tuesday 19 September 2017

The Christmas Challenge. Show and Tell for September, 2017.

There are Christmas decorations in the stores now!  And in October I make my Christmas cakes! So I guess I need to accept we are getting to the serious end to our Christmas Challenge.

The good news is there is still plenty of time to get heaps made, add some bargains to the stash, review what we have and what we need.  Overall we want to get to December with as much ready as we can.  The last few years I have saved so much money by not buying gifts at the most expensive time of year and by making as much as possible.  Also by watching out for major bargains during the year.   I have ended up enjoying Christmas much more and have been able to give gifts to lots of ladies at the nursing home and to someone in need.  I have even found myself ahead for the new year with spare gifts to go towards birthdays and other occasions.  A healthy gift cupboard is a great way to get ahead.

Now is also a good time to watch for the items you use in Christmas cooking and grabbing them when on great specials. My friend Kaye keeps a large tub especially for these items so they are set aside for her Christmas cooking.  This is another big money saver!  There are hamper clubs that people pay into all year. By doing this yourself with fantastic deals and buying the specific things you want you can end up with about four times the goods and value!

Now to see what you all have been making so far in September...

First of all we have Jeanette.  She crocheted an afghan for her husband.  I listened live to the Presidents speech late last night and even though I am Australian I think this is magnificent!

This is just wonderful Jeanette!

Jane has had a very busy month!  She made a mens toiletries bag...

Lotion bars and beeswax wraps...

I really want to do the beeswax wraps. You use them to wrap or cover food instead of plastic wrap and you keep re using them.  So like napkins they replace a lot of disposable items.  I think I need to ask Jane about this... 

And she has been sewing up a storm!  Her little Grand daughter is going to have the cutest wardrobe!

And a little Christmas Dress!

Jane you have achieved so much! Your Christmas cupboard is looking good!  (plus I have seen other things she is working on!)

Maria has been card making...

These are just lovely! Card making is so enjoyable and cards are expensive so this is a big savings and I think cards in packs make great gifts as well so there are multiple ways to use them.

Well done Maria especially in a month you have had a serious injury to deal with.

Rosanne made an Afghan for her DIL.  She makes each one according to the colours requested.  I don't know how many she has done so far this year but it is a lot!  

Big projects like this are possible with thinking ahead and getting started early.  People dream of making gifts and starting in December but this is already such a busy time.  The earlier we state the bigger the possibilities!

If you would like to contribute to next weeks Show and Tell please email me at or post your photos to the Bluebirds Facebook page.  We can give each other a lot of ideas! 

I am off to Aldi today. They have some amazing items that I hope to add to my cupboard that I thought are just right for my sister in law and a few others.  I hope they are not sold out!  I have all the mens presents taken care of.  Next I need to work out the girls gifts.   And I need the dried fruit for my Christmas cakes... Aldi is very good for that too. 

I hope your week is going well!  My place is almost back to normal with just a bit of unpacking to do.  I am hoping by Friday to have everything set up as I want and my kitchen to be totally re organised.  I am loving it so far! 

Thank you everyone for your contributions.  They are inspiring and beautiful to see! xxx

Sunday 17 September 2017

Pantries and Preparedness. Achieving our goals with opposition.

A while ago Cristy asked me how do we manage to stick to the budget when there are family members who constantly invite you to expensive events, restaurants and expect you to come?  She said she felt bad that she was always saying no.  Plus she has young children and she feels she has to say no so much...   I said I would write something about this as we all have pantry and savings goals and we all are tying to live within a budget.  But most people are not, as far as I can see, and they care little for your budget that is for sure.

I love a post where I can show some of the photos that have come in! 
This is from Chloe.
She made Mum's Lemon Butter and Lemon Cleaning Vinegar. 😊

Anyone reading Laine's Letters will see she spoke about this subject a lot.  She has a lot of letters on debt, paying off debt, not owing anyone, times when she had to say very hard "no, we cannot afford that" and so many things, some of them quite heart breaking.  I remember one time she needed a gift and she only had three dollars left in her purse.  She made it a challenge to find a gift with that three dollars and she said that it is more important to stick within her budget to her family than to buy a fancy gift.  I have remembered that always as if there is anyone I would like to be like it is Laine.

Rachel's Macadamia Nuts.  
She has Macadamia Trees! 

We live in a world now where debt is just normal and the US and Australian national debts are mind blowing as is the debt of the average family. And these figures grow daily.  They grow so much that many have decided to give up and there is nothing you can do about it.  But you can rest assured this all is not going to end well. Kicking the can down the road never ends well as someone has to face the consequences.  So we here care about that but you have to understand many people do not.
Also do try to see the times you have to say no as a teaching thing, if your children understand how the money is made that goes into the house, how hard it is worked for and how it has to be managed to pay for everything you are teaching them good lessons and about reality and responsibility and giving and helping others.

Rachel getting ready to make citrus jam.

The next thing that is certain that if you stand for any good thing you are going to face opposition.  If you stand for any Biblical thing you are going to get a whole lot of trouble over that in the world today.  So that really is the first step, deciding who you are serving and who you want to please.

Rachel's beautiful citrus jam.

Then we have the fact that no matter what you are doing to improve your life you are going to have opposition. This sounds ridiculous on the face of it but it is true.  If you are trying to lose weight and get healthier you likely will have someone near you who will sabotage that.  I used to teach health and fitness and this was a problem for many people. As soon as they were successful their husband or sister or someone would begin buying them boxes of chocolates or something like this and they would come and ask "why would they do that when they know how hard I am trying?"  My answer would be it is just the same as WHY would friends and family smoke around someone trying terribly hard to give up smoking?  Why does the alcoholic still get offered drinks?

People might seriously be sabotaging your efforts or they might just think they are being kind to include you.  I think it is worth stating clearly and nicely what you are doing and what you can't afford so there is no wondering if they realise.  After that if you are invited to expensive events you can conclude they are either lazy and don't care or it is actually a form of exclusion.  I certainly have known people to plan events that only some can go to and it is just a form of snobbery and exclusion but more often people are just setting up something that suits them and are not too interested in how it will be for others.  But whatever this is it is about THEM not you.  Like Laine and the three dollars it doesn't matter. Your job is just to stay within your budget and keep your household on track.

Chloe's afternoon tea for a friend.

There has always been peer pressure around money and possessions.  I originally thought peer pressure was a school days thing but I soon found out there is massive adult peer pressure and also adult bullying.  There is adult manipulations and things you would not believe of adults!

I was a single Mum when the girls were growing up. I had a lot of help from my parents so I didn't have to say no very much for financial reasons.  So I cannot advice on that other than in general.  But I did say no a lot on social things as there were a lot of things I would not let the girls attend and sleep overs to homes we didn't know and trust etc.  I wrote about the pressures I felt in a few past posts, one of them was Your Time.  This came down to the same kind of thing, people placing pressure on you to do things their way!

Rachel sent me photos of bird nests on her farm!

I do think it is much harder when you have to say no to children and certainly from a financial point of view.  Once again I would say read Laine's Letters on this subject.  I can tell you this all did her children no harm at all as they are all grown into fine people.
One thing I think is to create a lot of yes moments yourself.  Some of ours were yes to craft and whole cooking days with a friend coming over, yes to a pyjama day movie marathon, yes to an op shopping day and so on.  There are a lot of things that would be wonderful to do that you can say yes to!  And this applies to the family get togethers and social things also... yes to a BBQ or a potluck or a family picnic where everyone brings something!  Yes to making a cake and delivering it for a birthday!  I like to say yes to afternoon teas!
With the big family events that are costing a fortune I am finding I would much rather visit a person when things are quiet and I can actually get to talk to them which you seldom can at a crowded event.  Skip the big bash and visit them yourself with something you have baked and with the children. They will love this more!

Jane made Rachel's Ravioli! 
She said it was so delicious! 

Some families seem to have a social director. This person feels it is up to them to arrange everything and that everyone must obey. haha! I see eyes rolling.  To disobey the social director is a dangerous thing.  Well, there you go,  being the odd one out that the social director cannot control is your lot in life.  Seriously, when you see it this way it is almost funny!

Aside of creating ways to say yes that are good and positive work on having goals and rewards. Celebrate achievements and practice gratitude and simple joys.  You can inject so much joy into a household without it costing anything. Create atmosphere and memories. Build your nest.

And find support.  Counteract the wrath of the social director with savings buddies, craft friends, cooking for someone who is lonely and beautiful things.  As we all know we can have wonderful friends that do understand and are doing the same things and distance is no problem!

It is not easy. But it is easier if you know your mission and goals.   Last weeks Megs said : "It's beginning to be Fall here, and I was thanking God for all the blessings that He gives. I especially thanked him for the feeling of peace that living within your means brings."  
I cannot finish with anything better than that!

Have a very good week! I am hoping for a smoother one. Everyone has improved in health. I have most of the unpacking done!

How do you manage pressures to blow your budget?  How do you stay on track?  This is a big question!  It can be lonely if you have no one supportive around you and the media is basically all advertising. Even our news stories now are often thinly veiled ads.  They are all trying to sell you something!  Many charities too are not real charities and they aggressively pressure you.
And with children, how do you say no and keep things realistic in your home?
Any tips you have please share! xxx