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, 26 March 2017

Pantries and Preparedness. Re organising and rotating....

This week preparedness is REALLY in the news with a cyclone coming in towards Queensland and due to hit early tomorrow. We are not anywhere near this thankfully!  But Bridge lives just about the most affected area and we have friends living right where is expected to come in. Aly is inland from the ocean but could experience a lot of effects as well.  I hope you all will be ok and am thinking of you so much!
There is a sense of nervousness and the news is covering the developments.
I notice that QLD and the local councils have good advice and websites full of really excellent information.  If you are a reader living anywhere near this cyclone I hope you are listening to updates and preparing as much as possible.  I can't really imagine how stressful it would be waiting for this to hit land. I feel quite nervous about it from a good distance away!

Now to the last week...

My goal for the week was to rotate, organise and clean out my kitchen pantry cupboards. The week before I had started  moving my row of big glass jars in the kitchen as they were getting too much sunlight. Light is just no good for storage although I love a sunlit house.  
It took me ages to figure out what to do.  Then it hit me to completely empty my closed in kitchen cupboards and use them to store my jars and contents.  And I got baskets to sit on my long shelf which is under the island bench... and all my canned and packaged goods would go into those. The baskets greatly reduce light but anyway tins and packets would be fine there. 
This meant turning the kitchen on it's head basically.
Last week we were saying how things get worse before they get better. This was a mess unlike any other! haha I tried to do it in manageable stages but several times I bit off more than I could chew. 
And I bet you can predict what happened when my entire kitchen floor was covered in food.  I got visitors!   I can see that this is funny now but I didn't think so at that moment! 

Eventually I set up baskets and labelled them according to their contents and things that I tend to keep a lot of.  Now I can see exactly how much I have of each thing.  All tinned soup is together, all tined fruit is together and so on.


Fake chalkboard labels!

Before I was guilty of buying up on a good special and putting it away where ever it would fit. This was made worse by the usual needing to unpack the usual groceries and get on with the day, cooking dinner etc. Consequently as I cleaned out my cupboards I had a heap of surprises!  
In the end I washed all my shelves, re lined them and started from scratch. 
I now have the really big baskets that I got going last year and these contain categories like long life milk, powdered milk, pasta, tea and coffee, dried fruit... 


These were my side of the road find shelves from last year. They hold a lot of stuff! 


And my row of baskets under the bench which are soups, packet mixes, tinned fruit and so on. 


These are my new baskets, I have a row of 9.  I got them on a special at Big W.

My labels look like chalkboard labels but this is just a trick. I found that black cardboard and a chalk board pen or white out (white correction pen) looks exactly the same!  I love them!  You can use this trick when making labels, signs etc and the only time it isn't suitable is when you actually want to be able to rub the chalk out!

Everything in jars is now behind closed doors.


I have collected jars for years. Most have gone from op shops.

The currently open packets of things go into a jar.


I have twenty of these huge coffee jars that my Mum's friend saved for me.

After my kitchen cupboards were all done I had a few hours going through things in the cellar. A lot of food that needs using in the next months came upstairs into my new system.  I have a lot of work to do in the cellar to get it organised as well! 

Getting to a stage where we have good supplies took a while but it would all be wasted if we don't manage it and keep it rotating.  I think the work I have put in during the week will really help me with this. The basket system could just as easily be boxes and also work in a built in pantry or inside cupboards. Grouping things together helps to keep track of how much you have in each category.
I think putting a few things out of place really easily leads to a snowball effect and it becoming a major mix up! 

Aside of the work on the kitchen I also got a basket for my bike and now can transport a few things easily.




And I put up 100 m of solar fairy lights in the back garden. They work so well. They are really pretty, cost nothing to run and illuminate the yard.  

So that was my week! I am really pleased with it but then I think of how much more I have to do!  
Big or small things all add up!  I will be working on the cellar trying to get it as organised and labelled. 

How are you going with building up your pantry and improving your preparedness?
Next week we have a post by Glenda with some money saving food storage tips. Having had a sneak peek I have already used some of Glenda's tips.  

Have a great week. If you are anywhere near this cyclone please take every care.  xxx

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Feather your Nest Friday, 24th March, 2017.

This week I have had a few chances to see how many people don't seem to have anyone who encourages them, celebrates with them or keeps them company in their endeavours to build up their homes.  I was very lucky having a good family and an older Titis 2 type lady in my life when the girls were young and I read Laine's Letters that were honestly like taking vitamins!  
As housework is endless and life can be full of struggles with health, money, relationships etc we need encouragement!  The verse Vicky pointed out recently really struck me.  It was Luke 15:8  about a woman who lost a coin and when she found it "she calls her friends and neighbours together saying rejoice with me for I have found what I have lost."
Somehow that just hit me that yes, we need someone to celebrate with.  It does us good.

I always say that thanks to the internet we can find this kind of friendship even if there is no one on our street or in our town that is friendly or interested in homemaking.  And there are loads of encouraging blogs, homemaking websites, classes, forums, you tube and more.  You do not have to meet someone to have a wonderful friendship either and some of my very best friends are people I have not met! Thanks to the internet we can cast our net wider and find our perfect friends!
We need to be careful that we hang around  encouraging places as there are people who will build you up and there are others who will tear you down.  If you are sensitive the negative subject matter can really get you down.
"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up"  ...  this is so needed!  There are so many that need an encourager.  There are so many that are lonely.  I just want to encourage you if you are lonely and going it alone then reach out and say hello and do not underestimate how you can find friendships and encouragement even across the miles.

So, Feather your Nest Friday is about encouraging myself and encouraging everyone that I can to celebrate what you did get done and achieve during the week rather than just stress about everything that still needs doing!   Assessing our progress shows us what we achieved. It is good to do.

Some of the ways I built up my home this week include:

Cooking...  this week I made a giant slab of chocolate cake.


This served as lunch box fillers, deserts and went on the fishing picnic. And I froze slices as well.

I made three trays of Enchiladas.  I make up a heap and freeze them for easy dinners. 
Bridge asked how to make them so here goes!  This isn't much of a recipe since I cheat!  But they are surprisingly delicious and things like this mean we just never buy take away. 

I use a couple of jars of Enchilada sauce...


I cook up some chicken in smallish pieces.... but you could use up left over cooked chicken also.  Once cooked pour in your sauce and let it get all blended together.


Retain at least half of your sauce for underneath and on top of your enchiladas....  spread a smear of sauce in your baking pan and save the rest for over the top.

Lay out tortillas and spread a little sour cream over them then your chicken and sauce mix and a sprinkle of cheese.  


 Roll these up and place in your baking tray,  seam side down.

Spread your remaining sauce over the top.  Sprinkle with cheese....


If I am going to freeze them I leave them like this and freeze. If we are eating them these go in and cook until warm through and cheese is melted. Serve with a salad.


I am not a Mexican and this is probably a long way from correct but they are delicious and easy.  I can have a tray in the freezer or you can individually wrap them also.

I also made cheese and vegemite scrolls. (12)

At the chemist I was getting prescriptions and was offered a choice of a heap of products for one cent! So I got one cent dish detergent!

Andy caught crabs which he had for a meal.



I got a $1 rockmelons and a kilo of pears for $2 (very good prices around here)

The last of the figs were made into about ten slices of fig paste.



This is beautiful with crackers and cheese. It keeps well also.  It is honestly delicious!
The amount I made would be over $50 in the shops.

I painted a whole heap of cards and made over my present cupboard. (as reported Wednesday)

And potted up some little succulents that have multiplied...



I wrote $339 into my savings book for the Vicky Challenge.

Just now I am still working on re organising projects!  This just seems to have domino effect! Hopefully over the weekend I will get past the messy stage and on to the organised stage!

How did you feather your nest this week? I hope it has been a good week and you have a lovely weekend!  xxx




Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Christmas Challenge. My present cupboard and progress.

During the last week I have been on a re organise blitz and one area that was desperate was my present cupboard. It never had shelves and I once hung a set of canvas shelves in there that are made for clothing like jumpers/sweaters.  I don't know why I put up with it for so long as it basically didn't work. Things slid out and if you put your arm in to get something everything basically fell out!
Finally I fixed it up.  Andy worked all weekend so I did this myself too!  The man at the hardware store cut four bits of plywood the right dimensions for me then I was set!
One simple project like this still took hours by the time I emptied the cupboard, started again and re organised it.
There is not much in there at this stage either as we have most of the family birthdays in Jan/Feb/March. Also I have another spot for gift wrap, ribbons and cards.

After admiring Cookie's painting she has been encouraging me to try some myself.  I am not sure about the results but I have had fun and I only needed to buy one thing to be able to try painting nests.
I am still practicing.


I am working on cards and gift tags...



In the evenings I am adding a crochet edging to a table runner for Chloe....



Tomorrow the football season starts. This signals the start of watching some TV, darker evenings and less gardening.  It all equals a lot more crochet time and more crafts.  I have lots of things lined up, baskets of yarn out as well as embroidery plans. I can't wait!

So this is the sorry state of my craft cupboard before intervention...



I think I'll leave this picture small!

The shelves went in and I lined them...



And now it is re stocked. I am working on having shelves and boxes with names on them so that I can see what I have for each person.  The whole middle shelf is just going to be Harper and Scarlett. Harpers Birthday is coming up so I am basically ready for that!



I am really happy with how much better it is!  So I am happy with the week!
For some reason I have an organising bug and several other areas of the house are completely pulled apart and the place looks like we have been broken in to!  Do you notice the mess you have to go through to re organise a cupboard or shift things around?  Things get worse before they get better!
My other areas are all pantry related but things will be much better when they are done.

Next week we will be up to Show and Tell again.  If you would like to share what you have been  working on we would love to see!  You can post to the Bluebirds Facebook page or email me at brinkzi21@hotmail.com   Works in progress are fine too.

I hope you are having a good week!  And I hope I can dig myself out of my messes and have a couple of other areas made over as well by the weekend!

Do you have a specific place to keep your present supply and how do you keep track of what you have and who it is for?  As the year goes on and we really build up to Christmas it can be a lot to store and organise. But it is worth a lot. Not running to the shops in December is a huge time and money saver.  I hope by the time Show and Tell is finished I will have a lot more made to add to my supplies. xxx

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Pantries and Preparedness. Progress report! Rotating.

It is now over two years since I started working on building up my pantry and preparedness generally. I had made it a goal to rotate all the food items in the cellar this year and each week I have been doing that.  It is a big job!  This is a learning experience.  I need a system where I just do this regularly and it is part of life.  But I have discovered how fast time goes by and that you really need to keep on top of this and an eye on everything.
This is the natural next step, using and replenishing supplies.
As I do it I am trying to organise things into groups, make things easier to find and know exactly where everything is.  So the end result will be an improvement on what I have anyway.
I have discovered the only way I can keep good supplies of powdered milk is to use it regularly in my cooking and keep rotating it this way.  I need the habit of using it every time I make pancakes, mornay etc.


My photos today are your cooking. 
This is Maria's Magic Slice. It looks delicious.

That first year when I stocked my empty cellar I did get a long way, it just needs organising now.
Between then and now we established extra ways to cook and now have the back ups of a gas BBQ and always keep spare gas, a portable camping cooktop with cans of gas and an electric frypan which the generator will run.
With all of these I can cook pretty much anything and heat water.
I have a plastic tub that is my mini bath to wash in and it has worked well.
We got our generator and got good at using it.
We built up good first aid kits in the house and both cars plus first aid books.
Water is stored for drinking and we have a lot stored for washing etc.
Security is something we have added too as well with things like sensor lights around the house.
Now I have a bike as an alternative source of transport.
We have solar chargers and battery chargers.
We keep spare sheets, towels and bedding.
Pets have back up supplies as well as us.
We have good supplies of garbage bags, toilet paper etc.
There are boxes of batteries, candles, matches etc.
Plus plastic sheeting, tarps, masking tape etc you could need in a storm.
We are ahead of medications and have good supplies of over the counter medicines.
Both of us have battery radios and spare batteries.
All phone numbers and important documents have copies.
We have all emergency numbers written in the kitchen, wallets and phones.
I have an action plan in the kitchen. If something happened and I cant think straight I have my plan that is well thought out.
Our food supplies have enough protein and I can make pretty good meals from what we have on hand.


Mel K made Cookie's bread with great success! 

We also have plenty to do if the power is out. You need this... once you have done everything you can then it is a case of keeping things going and waiting. I have plenty of supplies of yarn, books, various crafts to keep me happily occupied. This is serious actually as waiting around nervously isn't good, it is better to be happily busy.


Kelley made Peppermint Creams!


Recently I did a course with Patsy at W Working Pantry and by the end of this I had a fresh list to work on.  I keep this list on the fridge and weekly we report in on how we are doing.  Most of the things I found I needed are easily remedied like more drinking water, more larger sized batteries and disposable plates and cutlery.
The hardest thing is communication.  If the power is out any length of time we found that having been clever (we thought) and had our phones fully charged and alternative ways to charge them all comes to naught when the phone towers themselves have only a few hours back up plan and they go down. So you need up with working phones with no reception. I did not know that prior to our big blackout!   If there is someone you would want to be communicating with this you need something else.
This is a bit like how you can have a generator but if you have no fuel stored you can't use it.  Fuel does not pump when the power is out. So what we have stored is what we have when we need it!


Janine also made Cookie's bread! It looks like another success!

Many of the ways we are better prepared are skill related.  We know a lot of things we didn't know two years ago! 
So it is all progress. And I would have missed many things here that I should have mentioned!

How do you keep on top of rotating your food storage? How long do you allow for canned goods? Milk Powder? Dry goods like rice and pasta?  Flour? 

As we build up our supplies this is a bigger and bigger issue! Many of you are much more experienced than me in this area and I would love your advice.


Jane's Sourdough keeps reading new heights! 
Thank you for all the beautiful photos and sharing your cooking everyone! 
This is an encouragement to others.

I am finding it good to do a review, tidy up/organise and incorporate things that need using up into the weekly menu.  It is all a learning curve and I want to go forwards not backwards!

Have a good week! xxx





Thursday, 16 March 2017

Feather your Nest Friday, 17 March, 2017.

This week it started to feel like Autumn and today is just gorgeous!  I am so happy about this! 
As we had a public holiday Monday I feel like it has been a short week and that I didn't get that much done. But once again, thanks to the notes I take as I do things, I look back over the week and feel much better! I have quite a bit I can count in my Vicky Challenge as well! 

I finished my DIY chandelier and it is ready to hang.


Chloe came up on the weekend and brought figs she had picked.


I used these straight away in two meals. The first night I made fig pizzas. The next night I stuffed some with cream cheese and wrapped them in Prosciutto. These are really easy and delicious. 


I still have a bowl full of figs in the fridge. They will be either jam or fig paste over the weekend...

In my sour dough adventures I made Calzones. They are probably very un authentic. However they were yum!  Really they are just pizza pockets.  I used capsicum, cheese, bacon, salami etc.



Also I made buns. This lot were raspberry.


I have it worked out now that the addition of milk, eggs, butter and sugar gives a sweet dough and it is like with the plain bread mix as then this gives you heaps of things to make which are just variations on a theme.

Andy is making me a new clothes line. For a long time I have wanted an old fashioned style one which is right across the back yard. My current one is old and nasty but I love hanging clothes on the line and sheets and towels smell so beautiful from sunshine.  I saw a picture online with each end having pretty scrolls in the corners.  Andy looked for wrought iron to use for this and the corners were $80 each.  So this idea was scrapped.  Mum's neighbour this week gave us the four corners we need!  All they need is painting!  They are perfect! 


I can't wait! 

I froze some strawberries for smoothies as they were going soft too fast. 

As well as fig pizza I used up a heap of leftovers on another pizza.

I did a heap of pruning, fertilised the roses and the lawn and generally have been tidying up in the garden.  The parsley has millions of seeds and I have baby parsley coming up everywhere.

For my Vicky Challenge I counted making all lunches, the chandelier, the savings on the lattice work,  my tray of buns, the figs etc. and it amounted to $776 which is the best week in ages. 

How did you build up your home and savings this week?  I hope you have a lovely weekend.  
I am off to hang washing in the sun and try and be outside as much as I can while it is so nice.   xxx















I have been doing a bit of pruning in the garden and fertilised the roses, spread some lawn food over the lawn and generally tidying up.  There are baby parsley plants coming up everywhere because of self seeding. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Christmas Challenge. Chandelier makeover and catch up.

Time to report on my own Christmas Challenge!  In our family we have most Birthdays early in the year.  So it has been full on keeping up with birthday presents.
My arm has given me trouble and I have been very slow with my crafts.  I am working on improving my actual present cupboard as it is a mess and I need a better shelving system. I am looking for drawers or pull out baskets I can put in there and organise it. It is hard to see what I have without pulling it all out. So that is on my immediate list.

One craft I completed comes from a road side find.  I love, love, love chandeliers. I can always have another one!  Andy saw two light fittings and told me so I ran around the corner to see and picked this one up...


I see a lot of light fittings with 5 or more "arms" but this was better than most as it features pretty shapes, scrolls and patterns plus eight arms.   And it is quite a decent size.
Ok not everyone would get excited by this!  But Andy knows me pretty well!

First I spray painted it white. I hung it up in a tree and gave it a few light coats.
Next I ordered two types of crystals on Ebay.  There are places that give you free postage and whole bags of amazing droplets of strings of crystals for about $12.  (I found this out when I added extra crystals to my hallway chandeliers.)



I increased the overall size of the whole thing by draping strings of crystals between the arms so they dipped down... and then hung single droplets from those.


I already had plenty of globes and when they were in Andy plugged it in and lit it up and it works!

It is going up in the lounge room.  I have been playing around with that room and it will be an extra thing I can do in there.

The whole thing came in at around $30.  Plus it was fun!



Chloe took home her little table top (like the one I posted last Friday) as I had painted that for her in palest blue.  She already had the base which has been sitting with no top in her bathroom. It was kind of a joke how the table would be more useful if she could actually sit something on it.  So now she can and I hope she sends me a picture of how it all looks.

Currently I am working a crochet edge around a lace table runner.  I have been slow as a wet week on that.  AND Cookie has me trying to paint birds nests.... I have one more item to collect and I will be ready for this challenge. I said to her that maybe my birds nests would be depicting a species of bird that makes really messy nests!  haha that will be my excuse.

 What are you working on this month?  Some of the US ladies are experiencing snow storms so if this is the case I hope you are warm, snug and safe and working away on lovely things. That is the ideal way to get through intense weather.
Here Autumn is just kicking in. This revolutionises things for me as the garden becomes less demanding and the football season starts. This equals rainy weekends crocheting, sticking my photos in albums, painting and sewing. I can't wait!

See you on Friday when I hope we will all have lots of good things to report! xxx


Sunday, 12 March 2017

Pantries and Preparedness. From learning one skill you get so much more! And the recipe for Sticky Buns.

Last week Cookie shared with us her easy one hour bread and we talked about being able to make basics from scratch and what an advantage this is... in both money savings and also being up to make meals from very simple ingredients.  Cookie's recipe can be found in last weeks post.

I am going to attempt a basic tutorial in sour dough another day.  It is thanks to Nanna Chel that I got started as she sent me some starter and instructions. She sent me to a blog called Gully Grove which helped me a lot as I found many instructions confusing but that blog made it much simpler!   Anyway, I am working on a tutorial to make it really easy for anyone interested.

Whether you are making bread with purchased yeast or sour dough starter it is like a lot of skills... it has many, many spin offs. You do not just get bread you get rolls, pizza bases, Calzones, focaccia and  fancy breads,  buns,  scrolls and sticky buns! (and many other things I haven't even tried yet.)

You can feed your family, fill lunch boxes, use for entertaining and gifts.

Then you have left overs. You get Bread and Butter pudding,  bread cases,  croutons, bread crumbs (for toppings, crumbed chops, meatloaf and more) and it goes on and on!  I wrote a post here about using up left over bread.  I make Bread and Butter pudding and it looks like a cake. It cuts like a cake and it is beautiful.  You can also make individual ones in a muffin tray.  This is also a great way to use up jam.


If you have a whole bunch of people to feed and they are always hungry all of this can really help! 

Anyway here is my Sticky Bun recipe. I adapted it from a very old recipe to my sour dough. I find really you can make any recipe calling for yeast. To do it I start with a cup or two of starter, make my sponge and go right ahead and use that instead of purchased yeast. Somewhere I will need to use less liquid than the recipe says or more flour (or both) to get the dough consistency but so far this has worked out with everything. 

For Sticky Buns (this makes 18)
Use about two cups of active sour dough starter and make your sponge with one cup of flour and one cup of water. Let it sit and become good and bubbly. I do this the night before. 
In the morning:
Heat up a cup of milk and add a large tablespoon of butter and a cup of sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Let it cool down to warm.
I put my sour dough sponge in the mixer, add this melted mix, add 2 eggs and 4 cups flour.  (I used bread flour for everything)
Mix and keep adding flour until you have a nice soft dough, not dry but not wet! (I think I used about five cups overall)  Knead until lovely and smooth. I do this in my mixer with the dough hook.

Let this rise. I set it aside until mid afternoon. 

I use my largest baking dish and another smaller one. Line really well and up the sides with baking paper. 
Make a caramel sauce in a saucepan of 2 large tablespoons of butter, 2 cups of dark brown sugar, 1 cup of Golden Syrup.  (this is available in the Australian or British section in supermarkets overseas) 
Melt this all together and pour over your baking paper to cover the bottom of both tins.  You can make this anytime however I make it just before I fill the trays with my buns as this gives you warmth in your pans which will help the buns to rise. 
Sprinkle bits of pecans or walnuts over your toffee mix.



When your dough has risen to about double roll it out into a long section. 


Sprinkle this with 3 teaspoons of brown sugar and 3 teaspoons of cinnamon.  
Roll this like you would to make scrolls to form a giant long rolled up sausage.

Slice this into about 18 thick slices.  Then set each one onto your toffee base...


I got 12 in one tray and 6 in another. 
So it looks dismal at this point! Cover and let sit somewhere warm until at least double in size.  The warm toffee will help your pan be nice and warm. 
Once at least doubled you can bake them.  I used a medium oven for about 20 mins. Keep an eye on them. You want them to be golden but not get too dark...


Now for the good bits!  You want to let this cool down a bit as the toffee underneath is bubbly and would burn terribly if things went wrong. But you want it still nice and warm so it will tip out. 

Lay out a big baking tray or baking paper and tip the tray upside down so the whole thing comes out. 
Then carefully peel away the baking paper...


Underneath you will find oozy goozy sticky buns all golden and yum.

I served them warm at dinner when I had visitors....


They are really good! Later when they were cool I found microwaving them for 30 seconds made them like just out of the oven again.
I froze the whole tray of six and they freeze well.  

So that is it!  

Last week I worked on rotating some food items from our storage. I ordered a bike basket and seat cover for my bike.  I added large size batteries to my supplies.
Our power situation made international news and Elon Musk came out and said he can fix our problems.  This will be interesting!  I know he is a really smart guy and can only imagine him talking on the phone to our Premier and find this somehow hilarious.  However it would be amazing if good came from it! 

Did you add to your preparedness this week or learn a new skill that would be helpful?

Today is a public holiday for us. I am trying to get off to a good start! Have a wonderful week! xxx