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 December 2017

Feather your Nest Friday, 29 December, 2017.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!  I got what I wanted which was everyone together.  It was big and it was hectic and we were lucky with nice weather.  One of our biggest worries before Christmas is that it will be too hot!  But it was beautiful.

Mum cutting her Christmas Pudding.  This is Sago Plum Pudding she makes every year.
It is so good!

The person who enjoyed it most was Harper!  I am pretty sure this was the best day of her life!  She has older cousins who played with her all day and they were all just beautiful.

They had so much fun!  

This was Scarlett's first Christmas.  She wore a little deer antler headband 😍

Aunty Chloe with Scarlett.

It was just a lovely day.  I wish I took more photos but it was busy!   I will remember this day forever! 

I have to say when we got home I felt exhausted.  I think I am still in recovery mode!

So down to business... some of the ways we saved and got ahead etc. were:

I got a free chicken from Coles.  If they have no cooked chickens ask for a ticket to get a free one next time.  Most Coles do this.

Every year I made Nan's tomato pie to take to Christmas.  It isn't much of a recipe really but you can find it here.   I always LOVED this and Nan served it with many roast dinners.  It wasn't until recently that I realised it was a way she stretched the roast meat.  We always had lots of vegetables and this was an extra.  Left overs are great with eggs! 

We came home from the farm with left overs!  I love left overs!  I didn't cook a thing for three days. 
We had meat, eggs, cheeses, mini quiches Mum had made, wine, tomatoes, cherries, salad... it was wonderful!  

Even with eating cherries constantly I had spares so yesterday I made Brandied Cherries.  Today they are looking beautiful as the Brandy and Syrup are turning a beautiful ruby colour.

A couple of these will become gifts. 

I made yoghurt.

I was given shampoo and conditioner.

Now I am adding up my last Vicky Challenge for the year.  I am calling this close enough to the year end.  So tonight I will add up the whole year!   This challenge has motivated me every week! It has also given me more confidence to say that my work at home is an income.  And it is.  The things we do, create from nothing and cook etc are worth a lot.  If we had no time and had to buy all these things it would cost a fortune!

Today I have a lot of cleaning up and putting away to do.  Over the weekend I will put away the Christmas tree.  I like to get to New Years Day with everything put away and a lovely clean house.  To me this starts the year off well!  I have a lot to do!

I LOVE these days between Christmas and New Year.  I have started to write down all we did this year.  Truly, I forget half of it until I start writing it down.  We did a lot!  We have some major home improvements.  I made some progress with my health and fitness.  Our family grew!  
I look at the end of one year and the beginning of a new one as a big opportunity to have a review, make changes and plans.   I love a new planner and a fresh new year. 
And my new planner arrived yesterday!  It is gorgeous!   I get ridiculously excited about this! 
I cannot tell you how much a planner and writing things down helps to actually get things done!  I don't want to drift through a year, I want to set goals and achieve them!  
The last three years this saw us clean out a cellar and fill it with emergency supplies and food.
It saw us learn so many new skills,  set up back up plans like generators and rain water tanks and ways to cook in an emergency. 
It saw us establish an emergency fund.
It filled my present cupboard with gifts.
Last year it saw me paint the whole house top to bottom.
Even really big dreams are achievable when you break them down to week by week and day by day. In fact I am convinced the biggest things are achieved by what we do in tiny bits daily.

So on Monday we will get up and running!  If you want to join in think about what you want to achieve or change in 2018.  What needs to happen for your family? What do you really need to change?  What are you unhappy with?  
I tend to set goals in different areas i.e.  household, financial, health etc.  
Sometimes I realise the things I decide to NOT do anymore are just as important as the things I decide I need to be doing. 
Realising things that are just not working can be a really good thing.  This is the time of year that I take the axe to those things!  Don't keep doing something that isn't working!  
A review is a real good thing.  We have the power to change so much.  We are able to learn so much.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me this year.  In life I am always surprised.  I remember different hard times in life when the people you are sure will stand by you don't and the ones you doubted turn out to be your best friends.  I think that happens to us all!  We get surprises!   I always looked at this (after the initial shock) as good as really it is great to know what people are really made of and the truth rather than what you THOUGHT was the truth. 
And so it is with blogging.  I have had the most wonderful help from people  I have never met and never could have expected help from!  I have made the most wonderful friends!  I am so grateful!  You all have encouraged me so much.  
There are people who read and never comment but from a few lately I have found out they feel like they know us all like friends!  
As I began writing to a group of people who were my friends I have continued like this.  So I am just writing to friends.

This also means I need to review what I write.  A few times this year I almost couldn't write the blog as I was writing so much personal correspondence.  I know realistically I have to choose between the two or I am messing up my own home life and family life.  Usually I pretty much write everything on the blog.  I have had letters from people asking me how I am and what is going on?  It might be rude of me but I think well if they gave a flying fig they would already know!  haha! So this is honestly ridiculous to re write everything I just wrote!  So Im taking the axe to that!  

For many this year was not easy.  I can think of so many examples of this.  A fresh new year is very welcome!  But we also have so much to be grateful for.  That is what I am thinking about now.

Have a lovely weekend and Happy New Year! xxx


  1. Dear Annabel,
    I think New Years Day is always exciting. I have been working on my goals for 2018. I am looking forward to finding out what wonderful posts you have in store for us.
    Love and hugs,

    1. Dear Glenda, I know you love your planner too! And lists! We are so similar with this! Tomorrow is my big day! I have a day all to myself to start my new planner. I will take photos so you can see it as I tried a new one this year and am so thrilled with it.
      I hope 2018 is much better for you. I hope we both have great progress with our health, with love

  2. I can't wait to hear your Vicky Challenge total. I am going to re-read your Vicky Challenge posts because I would like to that in 2018,

    I have put up a few posts this week on my blog of the challenges I have set before myself.

    For example, I want to use up my fabric stash. I thought perhaps I had enough Christmas fabrics to make 4-6 stockings. Turns out I will probably be able to make ten!

    Thanks so much for your continued inspiration and encouragement! Let's keep each other accountable!

    1. Dear Cheri,
      I see from your blog that you have also had stores closing around you. We have had so many. It is awful really.
      I am using my fabrics too! Also I now look for fabrics in thrift stores in sheets, clothes, pillowcases etc and have found some beautiful things.
      But first I need to put what I have to good use! I am starting next week!
      Thank you so much! Yes we can keep each other on track. I find reporting in does this for me as I think if I don't get going I will have nothing to post! haha it works! Have a great new year! With love

  3. Annabel I know what you mean by writing things down and keeping a record of the big and the not so big things that happen over the year. I keep a journal and find this really helps me to realise that I set lots of mini goals, and that these all add up to big achievements.
    The last two years have been the most difficult years Bluey and I have faced together in our married life(30 years in January. We have come to realisations about others and about ourselves. I have decided that I am going to look for the positive as much as I can in everything that happens in 2018. I am looking forward to increasing my skills and learning new ones.
    Thank you for your friendship, guidance and patience this year. You have given my support when I needed it so much. Thank you to the Bluebirds who were there supporting me from near and far in those difficult moment. I appreciate it more than I can express in words. Much Love.
    Life is extremely hot and grateful for wading pools good.

    1. Dear Jane,
      You certainly had a huge year. A year of too much actually but you did very admirably. In spite of the hospital stays and frights with Bluey you still got so much done!
      You are part of the family here and Im so glad we have such a big prayer team when you needed it. This was wonderful. There are some serious prayer warriors here!
      I hope 2018 is much easier and we have a wonderful time with lots of good adventures! With lots of love

    2. Dearest Jane,

      I love your goal of looking for the positive as much as possible in 2018!

      I am glad that Bluey is better. May 2018 be so full of blessings that the challenges of 2017 fade in the fullness of the blessings you walk in.


  4. Dearest Annabel so pleased you had such a beautiful Christmas . Your photos say it all , wonderful memories in the making .
    We were part of 3 celebrations , two here snd one we went to . The weather was not as kind as it has been for this week .
    I’ve taken all the Christmas decorations down , guests have left and vacuuming and putting away of all the items that come out of hiding , at this time of year , has been done .
    Pantry stores have been tidied and date checked . Leftovers frozen for meals , Christmas cake slices frozen too as no one except me is eating it . Ready to start new planning for the year ahead .
    Happy new year to everyone , and hope healing is happening for those unwell .
    With love , Maria xxx

    1. Dear Maria,
      You had a big Christmas! Three celebrations is wonderful!
      You did tons of cleaning and organising before Christmas and now with everything put away you are really ahead. I am lagging behind a bit but hope the weekend helps!
      I hope the new year will be wonderful for your whole family. It sounds like the freezer is in good shape. Mine is quite full too...which I like! With much love

  5. Dearest Annabel so pleased you had such a beautiful Christmas . Your photos say it all , wonderful memories in the making .
    We were part of 3 celebrations , two here snd one we went to . The weather was not as kind as it has been for this week .
    I’ve taken all the Christmas decorations down , guests have left and vacuuming and putting away of all the items that come out of hiding , at this time of year , has been done .
    Pantry stores have been tidied and date checked . Leftovers frozen for meals , Christmas cake slices frozen too as no one except me is eating it . Ready to start new planning for the year ahead .
    Happy new year to everyone , and hope healing is happening for those unwell .
    With love , Maria xxx

  6. Dear Annabel and bluebirds, thank you Annabel for continuing your blog, it's a big part of my life.i have a ritual every Monday , Wednesday and Friday where I make myself a cup of tea and read your beautiful posts . I am sipping on a cup of English breakfast tea and having read your latest blog all seems right with the world!. By that I mean that the hustle and bustle of Christmas is over and you have put my thoughts into such lovely words. I like having a record or writing lists of things too. I know what you mean about getting excited about a pkanner for the new year too. I got the women's health diary for Christmas, it's more than just a diary, it's full of health info and tips for women and it is great.
    I missed reporting in with my Vicky challenge last week and this week has passed in a blur but I have saved in many ways.
    I look forward to a new year of craft, reaching goals and happiness , my health will also feature this year too.
    Thank you for your friendship Annabel, you are so kind , encouraging, supportive and I appreciate everything you do for us here at bluebirds and for me.
    May 2018 be a healthy, happy year for all of us .
    Love Barb W

    1. Dear Barb, Thank you so much and thank you for being a big part of this little community too.
      You worked really hard on your health and made so much progress this year! You should be proud! Also you did so well with The Vicky Challenge!
      Thank you Barb as you are very kind and encouraging to everyone. I hope 2018 will be a great year! With love

  7. You had a wonderful year. Those cherries just look delicious! I never want to stop learning do you Annabelle? It improves our whole lives! I haven't took down our little bit of decorations yet. We love how bright the lights are so we are not in any hurry. I can't wait for next year!

    1. Dear Vickie,
      I realised something a while back.... we have all these lights in the bright and heat of summer. I discovered how nice they are in the cold and darkness of winter... much better! I would want to keep them up too! It brightens and warms things up even if its only the impression of warmth. Coziness I guess I would say! Now I am working on fairly lights etc inside when winter comes for the same effect even if not Christmas for us.
      I hope you have a very Happy New Year. with love

  8. Annabel, what a year it has been and personally I will be glad to see the end of it. I hope 2018 is a little kinder to us all. Thanks for all the effort you put into making your blog a friendly, supportive and informative little corner in Blogland. Big hugs.

    1. Dear Nanna Chel, I hope 2018 will be easier for you. I certainly have found this year NOT plain sailing and know so many who feel the same. Even here amongst our group so many have had really serious things to contend with. I hope the new year will be great for us all. Thank you so much! With love

    2. Nanna Chel,

      I agree with you. This has been one of the worst years of my life! I am glad to see the end of 2017. May your 2018 be filled with as many good and blessed things as your 2017 was filled with troubles.


    3. Cristy, I'm still praying that God will meet your every need, as I'm sure others are. May 2018 be a blessed year for you and your husband.

    4. chipmunk,

      Thank you so much! I am really grateful for all the prayers.


  9. Annabel,
    Your words are so nice and comforting both. Harper and Scarlett are so cute and growing like weeds! We will be having a new addition this year, my 4th grandbaby is due in May. I am going to be adding up my Vicky challenge totals, taking down the tree and trying to finish up an ongoing project that is near completion that will be my biggest task before I start anything else, but when I write down goals for this year I have another project in mind. The Bluebirds are a wonderful circle of friends to have and it has been so great "visiting" each week and seeing what everyone is up to. Friendship is a cherishable item that also makes us rich!

    1. Dear Vicky, Thank you for so much help all year! Even when things weren't going well we managed to laugh!
      You did so well soldiering on and now you have achieved huge things. I hope you feel very proud! Now on to 2018! With so much love

  10. Dear Annabel and beautiful bluebirds I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas :) .

    How beautiful it is to see your family Annabel have such a joyous multigenerational Christmas Day together. I just love how you make the most of everything that comes your way by making or preserving it for future use :).

    We have been working this week on getting spares of most things to replacing other needed household items such as sheets, towels, tea towels and other things. The reason we are doing this is 1. We saved way over our projected savings target for this year and 2. that we are gearing up to buying our own home in a couple of years and want to then concentrate on paying just the mortgage rather than buying anything else for the home, clothing or other needs.

    Our Vicky challenge added up to $578.70 this week.

    I will let everyone know what our savings were from the time we started our Vicky challenge from June this year next week as well.

    Here is how we feathered our nest and saved money this week -

    In the kitchen -
    - Made double batch of chocolate fudge weighing 1.9kg from homemade condensed milk and chocolate purchased on special saving $101.89 over purchasing the same amount in the stores. We kept some for us and some we turned into Christmas gifts for close friends along with jars of our free honey and some garlic picked from the gardens.

    Purchases -
    - On 50% off specials purchased 1 x 6pk of rolls and 2 packets of croissants on half price special Christmas eve and a cooked chicken on Boxing day saving $7.91 over usual prices. It was so hot we decided to not cook and have cold meat and salads for a few days.
    - As our towels are now 10yrs old and very worn on special we purchased 6 x 600gsm Egyptian cotton bath towels, 6 hand towels and 6 bath mats saving $48 on usual prices.
    - Purchased on eBay using a 10% off voucher and on special 5 x 500TC queen Egyptian cotton sheet sets saving $282 over purchasing them locally in our small country town. Again some of our sets are worn out and we will keep a few sets for spares once the others wear out.
    - On eBay used a 10% off voucher and purchased about 3 years worth of cotton terry towelling tea towels for $1.76ea saving $82.60 over what they sell for here being $3.49ea.
    - Purchased a couple of years supply of cotton underwear for myself plus a couple of years supply of cotton tips and cotton makeup removal pads on 50% off special saving $26.
    - On some at usual prices and some at 25 - 50% off sale prices we purchased 1 lge and 1 sm Pyrex measuring jugs, 2 large stainless steel mixing bowls, 2 egg whisks, 1 set of measuring s/s measuring cups, 5prs of cushioned work socks, and a pair of sandals saving $33.30.

    Other ways we saved were -
    - Using saved grey water from our showers and washing machine to water the house lawns all week, missed one scheduled garden watering session due to rain saving 83lt of water, and only turned on our electric hot water system for 3.5hrs this week as the water stayed so hot as we hardly used any due to the high temperatures here.

    Have a wonderful week ahead everyone and a fantastic New Year :).


    1. Dear Sewingcreations, You achieved so much in 2017! Thank you so much for all you shared with us as you inspired me every week so I know you inspired others to see what can be done in a week and different areas of saving. You have encouraged me to add selling some items to my weekly plan as an addition to savings.
      Your savings last week were fantastic! I hope 2018 will see you much closer to your dream home and I am sure this will be the case! With much love

  11. Dear Annabel and fellow Bluebirders,
    I am truly thankful for this community of likeminded individuals. I don't regularly read any other blog than this one (I have 6 kids, so no time) and like Barb W. I look forward to each new installation and love to sit with a cup of tea and read. I have learned and been reminded of so much and am looking forward to reading so many more posts!
    Also, thanks to all of the commenters. I really feel like I am acquainted some of you from reading your comments regularly. It makes this world a little less lonely to see people sharing ideas, information, praises and prayer requests. I truly love this community on my "Australian Ladies'" blog!

    1. Dear Sarah, Thank you so much! I feel like so many of us know each other so well! Thank you for your kind words!
      I hope 2018 will be a great year for your family! With much love

  12. What a wonderful Christmas you had with your family around! We also were blessed to spend Christmas Eve with all but 3 of our children and their families so there were "only" 41 of us gathered together that night! Instead of a more formal dinner, Dave heoped me make buffet sandwich-type foods. I took a roast beef out of the freezer and after crock potting it for 8 hours the night before and having it in the fridge overnight, I sliced it into our own version of deli roast beef that I put into 17 free rolls that I had! I made cranberry pecan chicken salad using ingredients I had on hand and put it into 38 croissants that I bought ($10). Then I made 18 ham and cheese sandwiches using leftover baguettes and ham! I also made 18 PB&J sandwiches for littler ones again just using ingredients and bread I already had! So basically, I made 90 sandwiches with just $10 worth of croissants!!! My kids brought side dishes, desserts and some entrees as well! It seems like we rarely make assignments any more but everyone brings a wide variety of foods and we always have enough!
    Two of our out of town/state daughters and their families (10 people) stayed with us for 8 days- just leaving today after lunch! I fed them 3 meals/day - so 24 meals for the 13 of us and all I bought from the store was a package of lasagna noodles and a gallon of milk! We had muffins, breakfast burritos, scones, apples, oranges, bananas,sausage egg strata for breakfast. Dinners were homemade pizza, beef and bean burritos, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken nuggets,heroburgers. Lunches were sandwiches and leftovers. We were so grateful to have a full pantry or this could have been a small fortune at the grocery or even more for take out!!
    Yesterday, when I went to the grocery for a gallon of milk, I went to the mark down section and found Sunmaid raisins for $1 each (reg. $3.29) and Craisins for $3 (reg $4.99) so I bought 24 or so raisins and 37 pounds of Craisins ! I use both of these regularly in my baking and cooking and I was running low so this was a real blessing!
    I look forward to 2018- 2017 has been very good to us! Dave found out today at his cardiologist that he will need another heart surgery on our anniversary in February but we are grateful that such surgeries exist !
    I look forward to learning more from all of you over this next year and expanding my horizons! I love and appreciate the time you take on our behalf, Annabel as well as the rest of you who so freely share your wealth of talents and experience to help me stretch and grow!!! Happiest of New Years to all of you!!!

    1. Dear Gardenpat,
      I am hearing so much how cold it is so I hope your chickens are ok!
      Thank you so much for all your Friday comments and sharing your weeks. I am so inspired by your inventiveness and savings on so many fronts and your whole pantry! Your family are very impressive to me.
      Thank you for everything! I hope 2018 will be good for you. This surgery is concerning but I hope it goes very well for Dave. With much love

  13. So glad to hear you have arrived home safe and sound Annabel.

    I have been flat out since Christmas day with family events (60th wedding anniversary for my parents) and still having my middle daughter home until Sunday. Also have my eldest grandie here until Sunday night :)

    I was going to get a cake decorator to make a cake for my parents celebration, but instead decided to make and bake a delicious fruit cake and ice it myself. I will have to send you a pic...I was just a little proud of myself ~smiles.

    I went down to the shops after Christmas but didn't really find anything I needed or saved money there.

    We have been eating leftovers and enjoyed sharing it at different family members houses. Love this time of year. I think this should continue all year long!

    It has been very hot and humid here (with a little rain), but Christmas day like yours was perfect. I think it was just about one of the best I have had and it was definitely made easier by just buying gifts for the three grandkids. There was 20 of us at mum and dads and we all had such a lovely day. I think Christmas is having much more inportance now my parents are aging :)

    I look forward to 2018. 2017 has had its ups and downs but I am learning to find the positive in the midst of all the downs. It takes practice, but makes life much more pleasant. My biggest up this year, was the birth of my baby grand daughter in July :)

    I hope the coming year will be a great one for all the Bluebirds, and that we can continue to support each other through the tough times that may come.

    God Bless.

    Love Tania xxx

    1. Dear Tania, We were both blessed with new Granddaughters! It is wonderful.
      Well done on making that beautiful cake. I am sure this was so special to your Mum and Dad!
      I love the left overs and the days between christmas and New year so much too! Just beautiful.
      I hope you have a wonderful 2018. Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments and contributions. With lots of love,

  14. Dear Annabel
    I am one of those who read all your posts on your blog and never comment. Maybe that can be one of my New Years Resolutions to actually comment on blogs. I have learnt so much from you and thank you very much for that. I know I have such a long way to go with making some significant changes to our lifestyle but step by step. So thank you very much from a grateful reader - Ruth

    1. Dear Ruth,
      I am so glad to have you here and know you're reading. Thank you for commenting!
      I hope 2018 is great for you. Each step you take is wonderful. I think in terms of each way we learn to save, get ahead etc is an achievement and when they all start adding together you just see amazing results. At first for me it was things I quit buying. Now it is more new skills. It is a good fun journey too! Have a very Happy New Year! With love

  15. I too take a break each Monday, Wednesday and Friday to read the blog. Annabel you feel like family to me and much better than those that are supposed to be family. ‘17 has not been very pleasant and I am one that looks forward to a fresh start.

    The photos of your Christmas were beautiful. I looked at the,pm more than once.

    Happy NewYear dear Annabel, and to all the lovely ladies who read and comment also. Fi xx

    1. Dear Fiona, I really hope 2018 is better for you. You deserve a much easier and happier year! I too feel like we can be sisters or family! I am so glad we can encourage each other.
      Comments like yours also keep me on track. I am working on the new year blog plans. In turn this keeps me on the straight and narrow too as I am reminded constantly of my goals etc as I write each post. It does me good!
      Have a very happy new year! With much love

  16. Dear Annabel,
    What a wonderful Christmas you had. You have a beautiful family.

    This past year seems to have gone by in a flash. We had unexpected challenges along with a lot of joy, and getting used to the new normal and much got accomplished.

    Annabel, thank you so much for all you do and for providing a place where like-minded women can gather. You have blessed so many of us.

    Wishing you and all of the Bluebirds a very Happy and Healthy New Year. Blessings, Cookie

    1. Dear Cookie,
      Thank you for helping so much and being so supportive!
      A new normal takes some getting used to and in the swing of things. New patterns and habits I think... this is happening for me slowly with some of my new normals!
      Have a very happy New Year! I hope 2018 will be good for us all! With lots of love,

  17. Dear Annabel,

    I spent the last couple weeks going through my journals to summarize the year and trying to prepare for next year. I found it taxing, since there were so many troubles listed in the journals.

    But in the end, I was able to see that in every event a worse event was avoided. And we all made it through and are still here to tell about it.

    I want to thank you for your blog and all you do here for the Bluebirds. I can clearly see through my journals how very much things I learned from you have helped in this overwhelmingly challenging year. The Vicky Challenge, and the posts about menu planning have especially helped.

    Because of the Vicky Challenge, I was able to see where I was making an impact, even though the challenges were MUCH greater than the amount I was applying through frugal savings.

    And the menu planning gave me a real way to lower my food budget even more than I thought possible. And yet it didn't feel like belt-tightening. In fact, the menu planning made me feel abundantly wealthy! Even with our new food lifestyle, I have been able to keep to this new lower budget. Even with throwing out $40 worth of food that we could no longer eat, we have about 10 meals available to us. And this at the end of the month (and year!) when our food pantry is normally spent and our food budget nearly always is!

    So Thank You! May you be as blessed as the blessing you have poured out on my family this year.


    1. Dear Cristy, I love how you are looking at this year! And I love what you said about making it a thing to make wise choices daily. Our daily choices have a HUGE impact. This is really a good way of looking at it!
      Also thank you for your feed back! The Vicky Challenge has helped me see the impact of things we do and see where the big savings come from etc. Very revealing! Also the menu planning... what you said there is so true... seeing a line up of 10 meals ahead without even shopping does make you feel ahead, in control and no we do not need to buy anything unless it is a great price and a good choice.
      Like you we have dietary "rules" and some things have to go. Here these are anything with artificial sweetener or trans fats or boxed things with non food ingredients. While Im not eating grains the family still do so I still cook with some flour etc so nothing like that will be wasted. Happily what is healthy for me is healthy for Andy so this makes shopping good. I watch for great meat and veggie specials as they are out mainstays.
      I think you got through the year wonderfully and as you say things could have been MUCh worse so we have to count our blessings this way! I hope 2018 is a really good year for us all! With love and thanks,

    2. Hi Annabelle and fellow bluebirds, I too look forward to your posts, but rarely comment. I have been reading them for a long time now.
      I would be years younger than you and you are teaching me a lot and give me lots of encouragement.
      Like many we look forward to a better 2018. Happy New Year to you and your lovely family. Robynne

  18. Great post, Annabel! 2017 was a really rough one for us and I have to admit to feeling fear as we're going into 18. I so want it to be much better! I went into 17 with a plan and it was immediately thrown into the giant shredder of life and pulverized!! I'm actually afraid to write up a new one for fear of having to look at it and be crushed again. So, we've developed a loose verbal list with the goal of making wise choices daily.

    I loved all your pictures. The cherries look wonderful!

    We are bitterly cold here in the plains and are expecting an awful drop even more this weekend. Our plan is to stay home, as facing single digit and negative temperatures just isn't healthy!

    Happy New Year to you & your growing family!

    1. Dear Debby,
      Ah yes the giant shredder! haha! That is so true! I like your thoughts on making wise decisions daily. If we do that all these small things add up. I have tired to learn to always look at the big picture vs the small one. It wasnt until I looked at a coffee out as a yearly expense rather than a weekly or daily one that I saw just how much something like this costs. The big picture tells us more. Also daily decisions can have us go off in all kinds of directions and have all kinds of consequences. So good decisions daily is an excellent policy.
      I cant imagine it being so cold! I hope you are inside warm and cozy. These are times it is so nice having projects to work on then its quite content. This will be me soon when it is too hot to go outside and I get sewing!
      I do hope 2018 will be much better for your family! With lots of love

  19. Happy New Year! Your time with your family was lovely and your granddaughters are so much fun and cute. We were able to see our Germany grandchildren on Skype.

    We begin 2018 afresh with knowing that my husband is truly retired on disability. We reallocated our investments to a more conservative mix for those who are retired. We will begin pulling from what we have saved and need to really sit down and work on how our budget will work long term since our income will not change until full retirement age here in the USA. I am so thankful for a retirement seminar that we attended in the fall offered by my husband's previous employer. That allowed us to know how to disperse our saved money with out touching the principle and running out of money during retirement.

    It has been incredibly cold here so even though we love our large windows uncovered to the outdoors we have closed curtains and blinds to keep the heat inside. We have been making homemade soups to keep us warm and those soups are so thrifty. We chopped all the leftover Christmas ham and froze it on baking sheets and then poured it into a Ziploc bag for use over the coming weeks. The ham bone is in the freezer for another time and all the broth from the roasting pan is frozen. As we chopped the ham we put all the scraps into a container for seasoning and put that in the freezer. Extra baked goods have been frozen to take out and enjoy bit by bit. We did well with eating the leftovers and did not waste all those delicious foods. Today we found gift tags for 25 cents a package and Christmas cards for 75 cents a box. Our favorite Danish butter cookies that we never spend the money to buy were half price so we bought two tins and also some favorite chocolates. We are still on the lookout for a few marked down items as we are out and about. It is good fro us to have a plan or we buy things we do not need if we see a super deal. Even 50 cents is too much if we have no immediate need of the item. I bought a $40 toy for $14 for one of our grandsons for his birthday later on in 2018.

    A big thing we have to learn is how to ship items to Germany for the best price. We mailed two small books and it cost $8.85. There has to be a better way. Any input from others here would be appreciated!

    1. Dear Lana,
      I am so glad you can see, hear and talk to your Grandchildren!
      With the postage... a small parcel for me to the US is about $40 so it isn't viable anymore. For international gifts I think it is best and easiest to go online and shop in their country and have it delivered. Obviously it wont work for handmade items etc but for regular gifts then you get much more for your dollar. I really wanted a gift for Laine. I had something in mind and found a shop just near her and ordered from them then they delivered it. It was great.
      I have been on the look out for bargains and no luck at first. Yesterday finally I had some! I think after new year is much better here. I noticed in previous years everyone goes mad in the after Christmas sales but by mid January it is all half price again! So I will keep watching through January!
      All your ham will be great as the year goes on! We also lived on left overs and it was such a rest I loved it!
      I hope 2018 will be a good and much nicer year for you both! With lots of love and thanks,

    2. Dear Lana I have been posting internationally from Australia for a number of years with my internet homewares hobby business and the best way is to keep your packages small height and weight wise in the package so you can send them as a letter rather than a parcel which is more expensive. Also keep your packaging to a minimum eg no wrapping paper etc and perhaps get your family to wrap it for gift giving at the other end to save on postage costs.

      Enquire with your post office if they can give you a letter gauge which is essentially a cardboard template that you can slide your parcels in so you can gauge the cost of your parcels. Most post offices do have a international and local pricing book that gives you weights and prices of parcels and letters internationally as well for free they can give you which helps.

      Some tips I have to shrink the size and height is package them in plastic roll the air out of them and heat seal the plastic or alternatively a vacuum sealer does the job nicely too. This takes the air out and decreases the weight and height of the parcel by compacting it. I found by doing this I can send things as large as table runners as letters rather than parcels.

      I hope this helps reduce your postage costs.


    3. Dear Lana,
      If you are in the US, you can look on the USPS website to calculate international postage. I have found that there are certain price brackets. For example, you can send a 2lb package for a set price but if you are one ounce over, it rounds up to the next pound, so you would be in the 3lb price bracket. In that case, to get your money's worth, you would want to fill up your parcel as close to 3lbs as you could get! I hope that makes sense. Another thing I have found is that it can be cheaper to send separate parcels to the same person. For example, it is $5 cheaper to send two 2lb packages to Australia than it is to send one 4lb package. I learned all this during the swap! I hope that is helpful.
      Love, Kelsey

  20. Lana,
    I'm not sure if it works for anything shipped outside of the US, but talk to your post office and ask them if they have rates for Media Mail or book rate.

    1. We did ask about Media rate and it does not apply to shipping overseas. Thanks for the suggestion!

  21. Dear Annabel,your mums sago Christmas pud looks like it was so delicious,i am glad you all had a lovely day,I achieved so much this year!! no more credit card debt,i bought a new bed and base i have savings for emergencies. My goals for the new year is too lose weight,i have been doing a lot of walking each day at least an hour,over Christmas iam ready to focus on healthy eating iam currently using recipes from the 4 ingredients diabetes cook book in the book is a polenta lasagna i would like to try:)

    Thankyou for all your tips and blogs through out the year wishing you,your family, and all the bluebird readers a Happy New Year 2018xxx

    1. Dear Melissa,
      Well done! Clearing CC debt is just fantastic and you must feel good!
      I am not sure if you are type 1 or 2 diabetic... Andy is type 2 so I am familiar with that. I want to tell you that going grain free or near grain free even his blood sugar is perfect and the weight just FALLS off. Quite incredible. That would be my tip of the year as I am amazed by it.
      I hope you have a wonderful New Year. Thank you so much for all your comments this year! With much love

  22. I am one who loves your posts and have even saved many in an e-mail folder. That being said, sadly I am one who rarely post a reply. Please know that although I may not reply, your blog is the only one I read from top to bottom so as not to miss a single word. Thank you for all the encouragement you give to everyone!!

    1. Thank you so much for telling me this! I hope you have a very Happy New Year and 2018 will be wonderful. Thank you for your kind words! xxx

  23. What a delightful Christmas you all had, and what a lovely post, Annabel! I am looking forward to 2018, and I have my new floral planner all ready. Like others here, I will not be sad to tell 2017 good-bye! My Vicky challenge will continue again in 2018. My biggest savings this year? Student loan interest. I paid all my loans off this year! How? By being frugal and cooking more at home, and a thousand other ways I didn't spend on day-to-day things so I could shovel more funds into paying off those heavy loans. It's done, no more of my money is going towards interest on those things, and it feels so freeing!

    Thank you, Annabel for all you do for us Bluebirds! And thank you to all Bluebirds for the sweet on-line community we all share! I wish us all a very blessed 2018! Love and sparkling New Year's confetti from Teresa

    P.S. Annabel, can you tell us what men's Christmas gifts you packaged in gift bags?! I can't remember which day you posted that this year, but I recall a photo on your blog of several identical gift bags lined up. I'm ready to begin re-stocking my gift pantry (cupboard, shelves, etc.) and would love more inspiration for gifts for men!

    1. Dear Teresa,
      Thank you! What an achievement! You have placed yourself in a great position with loans paid off! That makes the new year very exciting! Well done!
      I feel so excited for you! It has taken me ages to reply I am sorry... but I hope you have a wonderful 2018. You have done so well.
      Oh yes! The mens gifts were good Germa made knives I got at Aldi. They are very good quality but they came in sets in awful packaging. So I got six sets and broke them up into a carving knife, plus four other different knives. Anyway they were a hit as good knives are very expensive and they all liked this. So it was really finding a quality thing and re packaging! Doing a heap the same was really good!
      Happy New Year to you! with love

  24. Dear Annabel,
    I am glad you had such a nice time with family at the farm and made some good memories. It looks like Harper had a blast!
    What a year this has been! It started out unusually rough with me completely unmotivated because of the severe 24/7 morning sickness! Then of course the biggest blessing was having John. That is basically what this year has been about, preparing for him and then learning so much about motherhood and enjoying it. Colton also became a certified paramedic, and my side project was having the craft room completed.
    This time around I am motivated and ready to get busy! We are going to tackle the yard this year, getting it cleaned up and fenced in, and building the garden shed and chicken coop. We also want to install a bathtub in our bathroom as this house only has showers. It is "for John" but I am looking forward to it too.
    I am ready to start the Vicky Challenge again and follow through with budgeting. Our projects need to be saved for and we have our second vehicle to pay off, but I think we can do it!
    Another thing we are looking forward to is Colton's graduation, which will hopefully be in a few months! Then we will start our new normal and adjusting to what will be our schedule for the rest of his career.
    I have a few other personal goals like read a book every month, memorize certain Bible verses, and exercise 3 times a week. I still need to address the sugar issue but I have to have a plan or it will never work!
    I am sorry this has been such a rough year for so many. I pray this year will be better. I am looking forward to following along, encouraging one another and learning. I can't wait to see what's in store for the blog!
    Lots of love, Kelsey

    1. Dear Kelsey, Yes you had a big year. I also include the hurricane! And you did so well. Becoming a Mother is the biggest thing!
      Congratulations to Colton! This is really wonderful. What an achievement.
      I love my bath. You never know... watch out for a good bath possibly even for free or in a yard sale or something ... you just never know! My bath is my therapy!
      A chicken house and your yard fenced in... this will be very good as John grows. Also it is great to know what you are aiming for already so you can work towards these things!
      I hope you have a very Happy New Year! with lots of love,

  25. LOVED this post! You have touched on things that were already rolling around in my thoughts, gave me fodder to chew over, and a warm and happy heart for what you achieved this year. May the Lord BLESS you even more than you could hope for in 2018 and beyond. xxx

    1. Dear Jenny,
      I hope 2018 holds wonderful things for you. Thank you for all the encouragement about keeping things gentle peaceful and beautiful at home. I have been thinking a lot about this! Also I am back to embroidery thanks to you! With much love

  26. Dear Annabel
    I am so glad that you received your Christmas wish, it looks like a good time was had by all especially Harper. Next year I can see Scarlett being in the thick of it.

    Our Christmas has been quiet due to my mother in law passing away on the 21st.

    My husband have, for the past 7 years helped her get everything ready for the family Christmas feast on the 25th. Gradually I took over the cooking needing doing on the 24th while my husband did the last minute dash to the shops to pick up anything that was needed.

    It was strange that we were not following our normal routine of the past 7 years.

    This week I have been baking for the wake and we popped to the shops because I wanted to pick up a couple of things to dress the family home up when it goes up for sale.

    Unfortunately a lot of things have not been able to be started because most official places are closed down or they have a skeleton staff on and cannot access what is required.

    I am still learning about my medical condition so that is an on going thing for me. Anything apart from that has been put on the back burner for the time being until things settle down with the paperwork and house and dog and....

    I do have some things that I want to learn but I think I will be sticking to small things for the time being.

    I wish everyone a wonderful 2018.


    1. Dear Lynette, You are certainly another one of us who had a lot to deal with in 2017. At this point you would have to be quite worn out. And no one could have a normal Christmas in your circumstances. I think the new year would be good for you to rest and recover a bit then look after your health. You have been prepared to try a new diet and all the experimenting that goes with that and adjust your routines etc. It is a process but you have done extremely well. Many people are not prepared to change their eating habits or learn what they could be doing for health problems. I hope you can knit and do things at home that will make you feel happy and peaceful. I think until the funeral is over you wont be able to relax really, not long to go now.
      I hope 2018 will be a much nicer year! With love

  27. Hi Annabel and everyone,

    What beautiful family photos! So happy to hear you had a nice holiday. Those cherries look amazing.

    I have learned so much from you and everyone here - we now have a nice pantry of staples, common medicines and first aid needs, and some treats!, a sturdier home, a start on a garden with two berry patches, and a lot more knowledge to start the new year. In 2018 we hope to continue what we started this year, do a few more things with the house, take advantage of good sales, and add to our skills and knowledge. I hope 2018 will be the year I master my fear of my sewing machine!

    Happy New Year and may 2018 be wonderful for everyone.

    1. Dear Kathy, You have done a lot and now you have a great set up... the garden will be wonderful! I think a berry patch would also lead to other things (as many things do...) apart from fresh beautiful berries then you have berries in cooking, jams or preserves, some of these for your pantry and some for gift giving!
      Well guess what! next week I am starting a sewing challenge! So get that machine set up and oiled up! I will explain on Monday!
      Have a very happy new year! With love and thanks,

  28. Sorry, I've been remiss from commenting. December has been very busy for our household. So I've been catching up on everyone's gift projects, bargains and canning adventures. I can't say it enough of how blessed I am by the Bluebirds.

    As I read several posts back about Kelsey's husband bringing home produce from the truck accident, it struck me. Our husbands and families are blessed by our diligence. I'm so thankful when my husband has the confidence in me to bring home food that might otherwise go to waste. So Bluebirds, don't modestly brush off any praise that comes your way, rejoice! God is working in you and through you. What a blessing to be a blessing! We are seeking to be Proverbs 31 ladies and what a worthy pursuit!

    God bless you all in 2018 as you pursue the most excellent way!

    1. Dear Leslie, Thank you! You are right... and it is funny you should mention Proverbs 31 as this has come up several times here in the last 24 hours! A timely reminder and hint I think...
      I loved Kelseys story too! And yes! Our husbands should be able to have trust in us that we will make the most of everything and not be wasteful etc.
      Thank you for all your support this year and your encouragement. I hope we will have a very productive and happy 2018 together! With love

  29. Dearest Annabel...a flying fig, indeed. Yes, you know I have the same issue sometimes. I write the blog, I have my own personal Facebook page, and the blog Facebook page, and the Facebook closed group, and sometimes I ask myself, where does it end? I completely empathise. You are so open and honest and share so much, and if people really wanted to know, they only need visit here, so go! What a beautiful Christmas and so many special memories in the making. Precious indeed. Thankyou for all you do to keep us motivated. I have had such a hard year in some ways, and I've appreciated each and every post. Sending New Year blessings to all from me and A Tray of Bliss. Love Mimi xxx

    1. Dear Mimi, Haha! I know you relate! Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. 2017 sure was big and it was hard work. You are truly in a new stage now. I just hope the holidays are restful.
      Now we get to start a new chapter! I love that! I hope it is a good one for us all! With love and thanks,

  30. I had a chuckle to myself reading todays blog as I also pack christmas away today as I like to start the new year fresh and ready and every year my husband complains I am packing up too early, I also have my new planner ready to go with all next years important dates marked in and goals set have a great 2018 and hope you get your goals all ticked off.


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