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, 31 May 2015

The Crock Pot (Slow Cooker) Your number one handmaiden.

There is nothing nicer in the world than getting to the end of the day when you are tired, worn out, and frazzled and you walk through the door to the aroma of a beautiful meal cooked for you. Oh, what a relief. I hope you have experienced this a few times!

It doesn't matter if we have been out all day and returning home or perhaps home after a busy day, the meal all cooked and ready to serve is just the nicest thing.

Everyone loves the aroma of hot food as they walk in. What a welcome home and it builds anticipation of a wonderful meal. 

When my children were babies I was a single Mum. I noticed right away four or five in the afternoon babies were grizzly, I was tired, feeding would be difficult and it all came when I needed to start cooking dinner. There were times when cooking then was hard.

Later this time became busy with baths and bed time, homework, after school activities and tired and hungry children. Five o'clock seems to be the time for everything!

If you are working outside the home you are heading home after five. I can't imagine then also having to face decisions about dinner, cooking and cleaning up. Plus everything else...

Whether its tiredness or too many things happening someone at home cooking your dinner is just a dream come true.

Knowing dinner is beautiful and will be ready has another effect. You are not stressing about it. You are free to talk with the family, help with homework, relax and chat or take a soak in the bath if you want. You are also not running to the grocery store and trying to work out what to cook for dinner or tempted to grab takeaway. None of these things enter your head. This is a money saver and time saver. And massive stress saver. 

If this sounds perfect to you then you can start a new life next week and have your dinner cooked and ready and avoid the five o'clock crazy hour forever. 
You just need a crock pot/ slow cooker. And you don't need to use it everyday. It will provide extra meals that are not recognisable as repeats or left overs. And you will have lunches you could take to work or send with the kids to school. It will save you so much... cooking, time, money, stress and worry.

There are lots of things that just taste better after long slow cooking. Soups, casseroles, roasts, curries and so many things develop beautiful flavours over time. Even inexpensive meats become glorious when slow cooked. Lamb shanks fall off the bone. It is really divine.

But more... you are not standing at the stove, you are off doing things you need to be doing. 

An abundance of soup or meat from last night also gives you tomorrows lunch or perhaps another dinner in a night or two. And many casseroles turn out to be perfect tender filling for golden flaky pies. Suddenly you are famous for your pies.

All of my recipes are designed to get you going and to increase your confidence to cook meals your family will love. In reality you can cook almost anything and so many things you didn't think you had time to cook!

Much of it can be pre prepared, specials can be taken advantage of. I decide much of my menu from marked down meat and amazing vegie specials. These go straight into the crock pot or I freeze ready to go.

Even times I am having a summer BBQ or entertaining the crock pot might be full of sides, like baked potatoes or corn on the cob or a lovely bread to serve hot. Or a hot desert to serve later.

Another huge advantage is saving energy. Here in South Australia power is very expensive. Last summer I stopped using my oven altogether in an experiment. I used either the crock pot, the BBQ or we had cold meals. Our electricity bill was $400 cheaper for the quarter. Yes $400. And since I have found the same and compared the bills. It has been my oven eating the power. 

In summer keeping the house cool is another issue. The oven just heats up the kitchen which is the last thing you need on a really hot day. On those days I usually serve cold meat and salads. Other times I have used the crock pot and it does not heat up the house. I will cook a piece of meat and use it in wraps, or serve salads with it. Wonderful. The house stays much cooler.

You can make beautiful baby food. I worked out that my crock pot full of pumpkin to puree or apples or pears.... results in pureed baby food that in the store would cost $77 to buy. The ingredients to make would be well under $7 so lets just say that is abut $70 saving every time you do it! Isn't that crazy?

You can also stew your fruit. Apples let go long enough turn pink. I used to add sago and the girls loved this for desert and eat it cold the following days. The scent of quinces cooking as they turned pink was another lovely one. Stewed fruit hot in winter or cold in summer is just yummy!

Your crock pot is your trusty helper there to serve you. It will make meals while you are busy or while you sleep. What could be better?

Lets get started!

I have several crock pots. They are inexpensive to buy and I have some from op shops too. If you have never used one a really good way to start is to make your favourite soup. Whatever recipe you love. If it is a blended soup you will blend it at the end of the day. Use less water than you normally would but otherwise just pop everything you normally would put in, get it started in the morning and let it go all day. You have no stirring or checking, you just come home to cooked soup. If using vegies that you would normally cut up small don't both just throw in big chunks and save yourself the bother.

Most recipes you love can be used. Less water is usually the key. I only add water to soups. Or around corned beef.  Nothing else! As moisture doesn't escape so things are more moist than you might first expect. And most meats and vegies are moist, it is surprising how much moisture comes out of things.  For flavour or gravy you can use all kinds of things from balsamic vinegar, cranberry sauce, tomato paste, a tin of soup, mint jelly... think of all the flavoursome "liquids" that go with the combination you are using. ie I think Pork.... goes with apples... Lamb goes with mint jelly... chicken goes with cranberry... beef goes with tomato... whatever you think are combinations you love! What else goes? Mushrooms go nicely with beef or chicken. So you could use mushrooms, mushroom soup, a tin or dry... and so on. Apples to go with pork could be whole apples, diced apples, a tin of apples... It is very flexible!

Now my husband said to me that he didn't like crock pot meals. He said they are "too creamy" so somewhere along the line someone had cooked him something he didn't like much and he doesn't like creamy meals. End of story. I just took it as a challenge. I soon knew he loves curries. And I am not a curry maker. So I bought curry bases in the supermarket and went from there. We had butter chicken and I did sides of Nann bread and raita and little salads in pretty bowls and rice. And beef Korma and Tikka Masala and he thought it was all so fabulous. It was all in my crockpot. Then I did a lamb leg and loads of vegies with a rich gravy, and then lamb shanks with tomato and red wine... well it was an easy conversion! 

Your best bet is going to be cooking things your family really loves. I am all for trying new things, introducing more things, packing in a lot of vegies and making things healthy. But start off with things you know they are going to love. I don't mind a bit if you use flavour bases from the supermarket or stock or a can of soup. I am a country style cook. I cook rustic wholesome food. I understand country flavours and my priority is to cook wholesome meals and for us to eat a lot of vegetables everyday. I like us to have seven or so serves of vegies. Everyday. I like to have meals on hand for when I am sick. I get migraines and I factor that in. I always keep meals in the freezer and soup in case anyone is sick. But I don't know how to balance the flavour of a curry and feel intimidated by that. So I buy lovely curry sauces and use them. They have all turned out so well. These do not have to be especially for the crock pot. I keep some on hand. My Mum has abundant mint in her garden so I learned to pick a bunch, blend into yoghurt and add a dash of cumin so I have a raita to serve with curries. This is yum and I love it! What I am saving is it is ok to improvise,substitute, experiment, cheat and learn. We are all learning. And even if we use something like a flavour base or can of soup, over all that meal is still likely to be much healthier than take away. 

Left over vegetables and a chicken carcass can be put on in the evening and let go over night. While you are sleeping you are cleverly making wonderful stock.

You could make a thick heartt soup and in the morning fill the thermos with this and send these to work or to school on cold days. 

Getting set up. 

Having a few basic things ready to go is going to help. Things that you do not want to "stew" will need to be placed on something to raise them off the base of your crock pot. Simple things like egg rings will work. I would do this with a pot roast chicken, for instance. I like to have some cake airers that are just the right size for this. And some casserole dishes to insert that are just the right size. These will be for cakes, custards, creme caramel etc that need to be placed into a water bath for divine results! So see what you have and then see what you can find. I make a template of the base of each crock pot and keep that in my purse. This way I have perfectly sized things when I need them. 
My most often used inserts are a vegetable steamer thingy that I sit over the top of other ingredients to cook peas or other vegies that I might want separate...

This is kind of collapsible and fits a variety of things. Other ones are the old triangle shaped inserts with holes through them. They will work fine.

Non stick baking paper is another essential. With something like a cake or loaf of bread you might rather use a tin inside the crock pot. Otherwise you can line the crock pot dish with baking paper and place it directly in. I just find that makes things easier to lift out. Also you can use baking paper to create layers or "pockets" to separate sections of food from one another.

Next is oven bags. These come in different sizes. These make it possible to have vegies cooking in one bag and baked apples in another all that the same time.

Then you need cake tins, casserole dishes, ramekins etc that sit nicely inside your crock pot.  These casserole dishes fit in just right for individual baked custards where you are sitting them into a water bath so they cook like velvet...

Or this larger baking dish for custard, creme caramel, rice pudding...

Filling the bottom of the crock pit with water and sitting these in is much safer than juggling a tray of boiling water in a baking pan in the oven. When making something like this I will put a tea towel under the lid so there are no drips. I would do that too for cakes, breads etc. Anything where you don't want condensation dripping back into food.

Here I have just used a foil tray for my meatloaf and surrounded my vegies around that. I would put a couple of desert spoons of water in the bottom and that is it. Toward the end I might add grated cheese over my cauliflower ...  or perhaps pour over a sauce.

The other thing to have is a stick blender. To puree soup or vegies I blend it right there in the cooker. Quick and easy.

After you have used the crock pot it is easy to clean. Fill it with water and let it sit. If it is really dirty with stuck on food add some fabric softener or a dish washer tablet and let it soak. You can even run it a while and let this brew do it's thing. It will clean so easily after that.

Next in this series I will start on recipes. They are my tried and tested ones. But whatever recipes are your families most loved recipes they will work. It is easy to adapt and things you never feel you have the time for now you will cook all the time!

Also the large amounts you can cook lead to other meals. I will show you how a chicken casserole will be just that on night one and the left overs can become a family chicken pie, individual pies to freeze or a version of a Shepherds Pie with mashed potato over the top. The crock pot gives you the most tender pie fillings ever! 

You can make baked custards, creme caramel, scrolls, bread, anything! All without worrying about stirring, burning etc. You can put things in before bed time and wake up to cooked breakfast on a cold morning. 

People also seem to think things all need to be casseroles or stews or soup. But you can separate layers or sections so that different components never even touch each other.

You can also divide your meal so one side is main and another side is desert.

Things like boiled puddings or steamed puddings are easy as you never have to worry about them boiling dry.

I will leave it there for today. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find inserts and accessories that fit your crock pot so that you can make all kinds of new things as we go along.

Have a really good week! We have a fresh new moth ahead of us! xxx

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 29 May, 2015.

The week is almost over and so is the month of May! What a big month. And a tiring week but a good one!

These are some of the ways I built up my home, saved money and feathered my nest this week:-

I painted a really old ladder to use as my herb and flower drying station. I like rustic but this ladder even when scrubbed clean just looked grubby. So I painted it with some paint I had. So far I am drying some of the roses Lucy was given, rosemary, basil and mint. I have Bay Leaves coming from Mum's garden. Teri described her herb drying techniques on Wednesday and I am going to be doing a lot more drying as part of my preserving.

I did a lot of cooking. And I have found myself cooking old fashioned wholesome things to give Lucy as she is a feeding Mum. Baked custard and Baked Rice Custard, roast vegies, chicken soup...

I even made "lactation cookies" The nurse at the clinic gave us this recipe. Making them I was doubtful... they contained Brewers Yeast which does not smell good. I think Wednesday the dog might end up eating these cookies. But they will be very healthy for her!

However, good old fashioned eggs, milk and vanilla is probably just as good. And so comforting on a cold winters night. I used to make custards like this all the time when the girls were little.

This is delicious. Very smooth and with a lovely vanilla flavor.

This is the recipe, it is so easy.
You need two medium baking dishes. The smaller is for the custard the larger is for this one to sit in and fill with water.

About half a cup of cooked rice. I use left overs that I have frozen for this.
4 eggs, 1/3 cup castor sugar, 2 cups milk, 1 and 1/3  cup cream, a teaspoon thick or good vanilla. Cinnamon to lightly sprinkle over the top.
Blend your eggs and sugar then add your milk, cream and vanilla making sure you get it very smooth. Sprinkle your rice over your baking dish and pour over egg mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
In medium oven place your larger dish and then your mixture dish inside of that. Using a jug pour cold water into the bottom dish so that it comes around 3/4 up the sides of your top baking dish. Let cook like this for 35 minutes and check it. It should be looking golden and softly firm. (if that makes sense!) If its still too wobbly give it a few more minutes.
Carefully remove from tray of water when finished.

You could do this in individual serves in small dishes if you like.

It comes out as smooth as velvet. Let it cool a few minutes before serving. It is nice cold also.

I progressed in my freezer challenge. I used frozen rice for the two dishes of Baked Rice Custard I made. I used left over frozen bacon and cheese for pizzas, we ate a freezer meal one night, I used up berries in muffins, ate soup from the freezer for two lunches and used a Plum Cobbler for a desert.  So I have created space and had a re arrange and it's much better. It is kind of tragic to have a freezer and then see wonderful specials which you can't take advantage of because the freezer is full! I've got to keep it rotating!

A week of being home, helping Lucy, cooking and things meant I really didn't spend any money but it was a really productive and good week.

This was Andy this week with Harper. I think he is going to be called GrAndy. Except Harper can't talk yet so there's no way of knowing for sure! Harper grew and gained plenty this week. I put that down to all the custard I sent over! :)

 Being the end of May I need a little review. I go back and look at my goals for the year. It's easy to forget what you even wrote down! I am going ok except for one glaring area which is my walking. So I need to do something about that.
One of my main goals was my pantry and cellar. I am going well with those. I think because I review them weekly or more.
I also need to get working on my present stash and Christmas presents. Now I am about to finish the blanket I will get stuck into things that would make good gifts. Making presents is like everything else. Just making one thing per week now will give me almost thirty presents ready for Christmas. But usually I can make a few things a week. And yet waiting until November or December it would seem daunting. If you have supplies in your cupboards and you turn them into presents for Christmas and Birthdays you are turning them into cash. What a huge saving!

I think I learned a lot in May, especially in regard to food storage and thanks to contributors who have helped so much. Thank you. This is building up our homes. Knowledge and new skills are a great advantage to your household. Sometimes learning one new thing can turn out to be a massive saving.

How did you save money this week? How did you build up your home? I hope it was a great week and you can feel really good about the things you did. All the things we do add up so much!

Have a wonderful weekend! xxx

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. Progress and a tour of Teri's Pantry.

I am happy to report that my metal shelves in the cellar are full! And my husband is on board with my project and has offered to build shelves across the other wall of the cellar. The people who lived here before us had it for wine storage. So one wall is still a wine rack. I have half filled one side with bottled water but other than that this section is difficult. So Andy is pulling it out and building pantry shelves. This will greatly increase my space and organization.

Last week I invited everyone to share pictures of their pantries and preparedness. And any information about how you do it. The first person to send me pictures was Teri S. Thank you so much Teri!  This was so exciting! Teri has agreed for you all to see. These are a testimony to hard work, consistency and prudence. This is part of Teri's letter, I know you will enjoy this as much as me...

I do want you to know that I've been working on food storage for many, many years and have had several friends and family members guide me along the way, with knowledge and encouragement.  You are doing a grand job, using your cellar, cupboards and other creative ways to store items!!  I love how you use tins and jars and make them look so beautiful!  My mom taught me many years ago to use cookie tins but we have never decorated them, as you do! I love the trunk you make too!!

I learned so much about dehydrating years ago (my first dehydrator used a small light bulb to dry the food lol).  I found that dried foods were so handy and I didn't want to waste food, or had an abundance from our garden, so this was a way to have fruits, veggies, herbs and even rose petals year round.  I learned how to cook with my dried foods, make fruit leather and potpourri.  I wasn't wasting, I could share extra and my family enjoyed our meals.  I've just recently started making a veggie powder mix (which I put dried onions, garlic and herbs) that I use to season ground beef etc. and I use my powdered tomatoes to make tomato "paste" thereby eliminating yet one more item to purchase at the store. I love to snack on dried fruit.  I use my dehydrator year round.  One year, I had lots of extra potatoes so I researched how to dry those. I dry broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery and celery leaves, onions (both the round part and the green tops), herbs and fruit of all kinds.  I also dry winter and summer squash. 

It's only been the last 15 years that I've been pressure canning soups, meats, broth, veggies etc.  It took me a long time to feel comfortable using a pressure canner but one year we had a wonderful huge crop of green beans, not much freezer space and so I pulled out my pressure canner and canned away!  lol  I then learned how to can dry beans, chili, baked beans, soups, broth, etc.

The big wooden shelving you see full of canned goods was built for my mother-in-law.  She used it for years and that's the only thing I asked for!  :)  We have moved it several times and I love it!  It holds over 400 cans of food.  (it is 2 shelves stacked on top of each other and anchored in the back and sides).  The room where you see most of the food and wheat grinder table is something I dreamed of for years and with this house, my dream became reality! The room that holds a shelf with empty jars, paper products and #10 cans was just an extra room being used for nothing so we decided to make that space for paper, cleaning products extra.  It does get the hot afternoon sun so I don't store my canned goods in there (by the way, these rooms are in the basement (cellar)). My food storage room has little heat and stays the same temp year round.  (we do have water pipes in there so during winter we leave the door open a bit so it doesn't freeze).  This room is a work in progress.  I'm trying to organize it better, many thanks to you, dear Annabel!! Sorry its a bit messy.  The dried mint (in the paper bags) still needs to be pulled off the stems and put in jars.  Also, I recently rearranged so all my dehydrated foods would be on one shelf for the most part.  The totes hold extra flour, sugar, pasta, etc. and I'm using a small one to hold a few extra packages of marshmallows and will put other items in that too.

The last two pictures are under the stairs.  It holds some of my big buckets, stock pots and extra dehydrator racks.  Those buckets hold wheat, beans, rice and the boxes have #10 cans of flour and oats.  Over the years, we have shared lots with family members/friends needing a bit of help and I've yet to learn how to cook for two.  lol  You are a great help to me by encouraging me to use my freezer for "extras" so thank you!  :)  I also have two small closets off the kitchen that I use for my "pantry" and then refilling jars as needed.  (one of the closets was a "coat" closet and we added shelves as our kitchen is very small with little cupboard space).  We buy in bulk (from the LDS cannery and Costco) and wait for good specials at the grocery store, like you do.  We buy our meat from the mark down bin, mostly.  The prices of food is awful and they just keep getting worse.  Our garden is starting to grow but cold temps and rain have slowed it down.  However, I won't complain about the rain.  We truly need it! 
It's important to have food storage in various forms so not all is lost when electricity is out.  I do need to figure out a way to "earthquake" my shelves.  I've done some research but haven't decided which way to put a "rail" along each shelf.  

For our family, our food storage and other storage of non-food items is insurance and a way to take care of our family without running to the shops all the time.  I'd much rather go to the basement to "shop" than get in my car.  lol  It saves money, time and stress!  I still have a long way to go with getting things like LED lanterns, other ways to cook etc.  I did find a bag full of tea candles and other small candles at an estate sale a couple weeks ago, so my supplies are growing slow but sure.  I also keep material on hand to sew with, I mend everything I can to get more use out of it and I enjoy crafting.  Little by little, things get done and it gives me a good feeling! :)

Well, little by little Teri sure has got things done! Teri has been very generous and made me feel that for someone who is almost five months into this that I am doing ok. And that in my little way I have encouraged her! This is beautiful to me as encouraging each other is a big and important thing. 

Now, we are all at different stages. Plus we have different sized families and circumstances. The important thing is that we do what we can to have a well stocked pantry and be prepared. 
Teri pointed out she has been working on her pantry for years. This is good to remember. She has obviously worked really hard to get it this way and it didn't happen overnight.

Space is another issue and some of us are in apartments and smaller living spaces. Earlier in the series we explored some creative storage for small spaces. the point is to start now, making the most of what opportunities you have and using the space available. It will be different for all of us.

I am very lucky to have my cellar. It is little as cellars go but it is a space I can use 100% for food storage. Plus it is cool and a consistent temperature is a great thing for food storage. So I am making the most of that. But because I feel so prompted to do this if I only had under the bed, my kitchen cupboards or laundry cupboards I would still be doing this. If the power goes out, the ATMs are down, you are snowed in or whatever you have to be able to stay home and be ok and feed your family. 

Thank you so much Teri for the tour of your pantry. I just loved it. I am inspired and encouraged by you. 

We have covered a lot of subjects so far and there are so many more to go. But feeling inspired is very energizing! 

What can we do this last week of May to improve our pantries and preparedness? And what can we do to keep this a priority and continue to build up our supplies and reach our goals? Consistency is an amazing thing as little by little you achieve amazing things... consider the ants! 

I hope you are having a wonderful week. The sun is shining here again today and drying my sheets on the line. Lovely. xxx

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Stretch a Meal and Use it Up. Miracle Muffins.

I thought I would add today to our stretch a meal and use it up series. This week I am making a big effort to use up bits and pieces from the freezer. I seem to be a collector of lots of small bags of ingredients!  I started on the weekend with something similar to an archeological dig and unearthing random packets of left over berries. This produced about a cup and a half of mainly blueberries.
So I made my Miracle Muffins. Oh, I also unearthed a small tub of vanilla yoghurt. So that went in too.

This recipe is so handy. You can turn all kinds of bits and pieces into muffins that can become breakfasts, sides with soup, lunch box fillers, after school snacks, morning tea... anything! It makes two dozen medicum muffins but you could do mini muffins for a small child or texas man size muffins in which case you would get a dozen.

This is the recipe. It is very versatile!

4 cups of SR Flour,
1 heaped cup of sugar, any kind.
1 cup of butter OR oil.
1 cup of milk , any kind.
2 eggs.

To this you can add:
Chopped apple, raisins, sultanas, currents, dried apricot, date...
Pureed fruit, tinned fruit, stewed fruit, cooked rhubarb,
fresh or frozen berries, banana,
Yoghurt, plain, flavored....
Chopped nuts.
Chopped chocolate.
Grated carrot.
Any combination you like that you have, want to use up and think will be nice.

Mix wet ingredients together and add dry ingredients and blend. Add any ingredients you do not want broken up last and fold them in ie chunks of fruit or berries. I use a small square of baking paper in the bottom of my muffin tins. Bake in a medium oven about 12 mins but test with skewer.

My general rule is if I use really wet extras ie yoghurt or pureed fruit I will use a little less milk.
And another is probably I will use about a cupful of this or that but you could use more or less. If I have added too many wet ingredients I add a little more flour.

You can add a topping before you bake them and use up a sprinkle of sugar. A drizzle of jam. A sprinkle of left over cereal. Some nuts. Also add a spice or sugar that you think might work ie I would sprinkle with cinnamon if I made apple... or vanilla sugar goes well with fruit.

So mine on Saturday were the basic recipe plus a cup of vanilla yoghurt, plus a big cup of blueberries, plus about two tablespoons of plum jam. I went for plum as I have a ton and it's pink. I fold in the berries and then the jam gently so it is visible like strawberry ripple. This bulks out the berries and it basically seems you have way more berries than you actually do!

When baked I sprinkle with icing sugar.

The thing is this can make savory muffins also.
Use the base mix and omit the sugar.


A handful of grated cheese,
Creamed corn or corn kernels.
Chopped ham or bacon,
Cooked onion,
Mashed pumpkin, grated zucchini,
Also add herbs if you like. I add chives to cheese and bacon muffins...

The same flexibility applies.

Turning a few bits and pieces into a tray of hot muffins is a real family filler. These also freeze so well. Then you always have quick lunch box options on hand. I doubt I have ever made the ezcat ame combination twice but they are always really good.

Using up and stretching what we have reduces waste, saves a lot of money and might reduce our trips to the shops as well. Most of the time it is enough to try and keep food costs down. I would say just about everyone has that battle. When I see the price of something simple like a muffin in a cafe or a bakery I think how making a couple of dozen is so cheap in comparison.
My savings on the grocery budget are adding to my pantry so it is like a double challenge. Or a triple challenge if I count the use things up from the freezer one as well!
According to the prices in our local bakery my batch of muffins would have cost $64. I got just over two dozen out of this batch, I got 28. Can you believe that? $64.  The cost to make was probably four dollars or so. And it all took under an hour. So lets call that a $50 an hour pay cheque.

I hope this might add to your stretch it and use it up go to recipes and it will save you money also.

Have a wonderful week! We have a beautiful sunny day after a really cold night. I have grocery shopping to do and some errands to run then I hope to get into the garden and soak up some sunshine.

I am excited about Wednesday's Pantries and Preparedness post! See you then! xxx

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 22 May, 2015.

What a big week it has been. Last Friday seems like at least a year ago! Harper was one week old yesterday and well, it was a massive week.

I have had a different week too and helped Lucy with her nest and not as much in my own. But it's still nesting!

These flowers arrived for Lucy from my aunt. I had to include this picture as they are just beautiful and I have enjoyed them everyday...

This week I saved money by doing a lot of cooking. I made quiche with bacon, spinach and sun dried tomato, chicken soup, sausage rolls, lamb and baked feta, shepherds pies and baked custards... all in big quantities to feed extras and freeze some sausage rolls as well.

I pulled apart and re did my herb pots. I divided some of the herbs so now I have spares to grow as gifts and to add elsewhere in the garden. In one row of my pots I added viola. I couldn't resist. I'm going with the excuse that I use these on top of cakes and pavlova. Which I actually do or sugar them for on top of little cakes...

They are so cheerful and sweet! I will back this story up with a cake covered in flowers sometime soon!

I re dyed some pants black. This made them look new again. While I was at it I added several other black things and this really makes them look new and fresh.

Broccoli was $1.99 a kilo so I stocked up and also got enough to make soup. (before this it was around $7 a kilo!) Later today I will get Butternut Pumpkin at 70c a kilo and do the same. The best buys can be amazing savings and give you the basis for many meals.

Barb suggested garlic could be good to plant between my roses. I planted about a dozen cloves and the ground is wet and it has rained more since so I hope they take off. (thanks Barb!)

I've been painting an old ladder to make a drying rack for herbs and flowers.

We had a lot of rain, maybe close to two inches all up. I have buckets in places outside that get run off and as they will I pour them into my biggest pot plants and dry spots.

I packed up some things to sell on ebay with my friend.

Also I started a challenge with Wendy on The Cheapskates Club Forum. She is doing a challenge to use up all the odds and sods in the freezer and turn them into meals. These bits and pieces get forgotten and if we don't do this now and then things end up as fossils (lol) and get wasted. I have bacon, all kinds of cheeses, celery, spring onions, cranberry sauce, berries (several kinds) and yoghurt, just off the top of my head. So now, by hunting them out and listing them,my challenge is to make meals around them next week. The money I save I will use to build up my pantry. Thanks Wendy, I was slow to start but am on it now! I love challenges, they work for me to get extra done.

I built up my home by adding to my pantry and supplies. I added canned goods, medications, batteries and evaporated milk.

I add atmosphere in these dark evenings with fairly lights in the hallway. Twinkly lights turn cold gloomy nights into pretty romantic evenings.

How did you save money and build up your nest this week? I hope it was a good week!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. Make a plan.

Over the last four and a half months I am amazed at what I have learned about pantries and preparedness. I just looked back at my weekly posts and can't believe the subjects we have covered! Ever step has been a big learning curve for me and I have loved it! And I have made some wonderful friends along the way. I fact if someone says they love jars and pantries I know we are going to get on like a house on fire!

It was towards the end of last year that I started to feel a conviction that I needed to really build up my pantry and get prepared. You might remember that I started reading blogs on the subject and as I read comments I was seeing people from all over the world saying they were feeling the way I was... that I NEEDED to do this and felt strongly prompted to. Did you ever have a feeling that was strong and you ignored it? That never turns out well!  That experience has taught me to never ignore strong feelings and to listen to them!

This last week many of the blogs I read and many who never even mention pantries have all been having a lot to say on the subject. It is as if masses of people feel this is very important and to do it now. Don't wait.

In the last months we have seen right here amongst us a series of events where preparedness was essential. Actually we have had a fair few and Debbie, Lynette, Helen and Mimi have been through incredible storms, power outages, deadly road conditions, flooding and all kinds of things. Mel went through job loss and her pantry saved her family during that time. So we have seen plenty of examples of WHY this is a good idea and more than I can mention.

This week Patsy released an e book which I purchased instantly as everything she writes is very good and her site A Working Pantry helped me get started and helps me every week in ways I will mention in a minute.

Her book "Yes, you CAN have a well stocked pantry" takes you through a myriad of ways you can get yourself a good pantry with plenty of supplies. There is more than one way to skin a cat as they say!
I found myself jotting down notes in my journal. There are so many ways you can add to your pantry and many of them you may not have thought of.
The book is also like a tour through Patsy's own pantry and storage cupboards which I love. I have noted more ways that I can add to my pantry and more plans to implement. It is really enjoyable and motivating. We can have it in our minds that we want to build up what we have so far and life can get in the way. Patsy makes it a priority and she is another person who's real life circumstances saw her need to live from Pantry supplies while they had no income. So she knows what she is talking about! P
We do not want to get to the end of the year having planned to build up a fully stocked pantry and not have achieved it.  We want to get to the end of the year having surpassed our expectations!
One way I do this is by joining in with the weekly goal setting that A Working Pantry has. Each week you set your goals and review the precious weeks. This makes all the difference. There is no forgetting and it becomes a fun challenge!

This is the link to the e book Yes, you CAN have a well stocked Pantry.

It is good to watch for every opportunity to build up your supplies as you never know what you might find. It might be an amazing special or it may be the you have something growing in the garden that you need to preserve and use so that you make the most of it. There are so many ways to add to that pantry. In my case it seems to be working that I watch for every opportunity (be watchful!) and have an overall plan to have gone from a small basic pantry to a fully stocked mini shop in my cellar, in the space of one year. So I have that goal. But my secondary plan is to set a goal each week, write it down and share it, and review and re set that goal the next week. If you want to do that you are welcome to do it here or on Patsy's blog or face book page or both. It is pretty well known that goal setting works. And that writing down goals and sharing them with others works too (the Buddy System!)

What are you plans to build up your pantry? Can having a plan help you make more progress or serve as a reminder?

For up coming posts I would love to see photos of your own pantry, preserving, drying, jars... anything to do with your supplies. I cannot have too many and would love to see what you do and how you are doing it! Please send your photos to me at
Firstly I would love love love to see what you are doing and secondly I have pantry related prizes to give to the best photos and information too.

I hope you are having a wonderful week and making progress!  We need reminders or life gets so busy and we have so much to think about that our plans can evaporate. But having a well stocked pantry might be really important sometime and we will be glad we stayed on track! xxx

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Rest for the Heart......Contentment.

Dear Friends,
It is always such a joy to pause in my day and to write to you.  Thanks to my dear friend Annabel, who has brought us all together in our circle through her blog.
Today I want to speak about having our hearts at rest.  How does that sound to you?  For me, it means not allowing anxiety and cares to set up camp in my thinking or talking.
My dear friend Lyn sent me this quote this morning from Jesus Calling" not give in to fear and worry, those robbers of abundant living."
These are nest raiders are they not?

This morning, I awoke to the fire lit in our lounge room.  It was such a beautiful surprise to greet me as I opened our bedroom door, and felt the warm air fan my cheeks.
I breakfasted in front of it and I thought of how happy, safe and loved I felt. It brought to my mind that we are meant to have our hearts at feel contentment.
I have recently had extensive dental work completed, and we have cash flowed the whole thing apart from the last couple of thousand dollars.  That came from our savings and I have been eager to replenish the account.
Last week, I surveyed our overgrown garden, and the thought flitted through my mind about getting a gardener in to give us a quote with tidying it up. It's easy to look at something not quite right and feel discontented isn't it?
I dismissed it immediately and thought that we would do what we could with it ourselves.  Glen gave it a mow, picked up all the sticks. With this encouragement, each day, I went out and cut back ferns and shoots with some scissors and filled the wheelie bin.  Bit by bit, our garden was being revealed, and we were getting some exercise.

This morning, while Glen was using the chain saw to cut up the sticks that we had gathered for our fire, I got him to trim back some foliage with it.

It's hard to believe that this one little bit of garden was so overgrown that we could hardly identify the plants!
Another joy that has added to my weeks delight is that Jane Goble from Posy Typepad wrote to me!
You can find Jane's boards on Pinterest or she is on instagram @janegoble.

Thanks to lovely Jane, she has inspired me to source a fair isle cardigan.  I love it!  And I'm trying not to act like a five year old and want to wear it every day.

Well worth the $8.12 I paid for it!  This label really says it all.....Quintessentially British.  This garment has been designed with you in mind.  Wear it with love. x
The sum total of my musing today dear friends, is that our hearts can truly find rest, once we find contentment.  It's not something that is linked with a certain salary, or house or family size, but it's being at rest, finding useful work to fill our days, and delighting over the beautiful components that bless our life.
I've shared a little of my world with you today, but Annabel and I would love to know....where is it your heart finds rest?  What's it a teacup that belonged to your grandmother, but now rests in your flour bin, is it the bunch of wildflowers that your children picked from your yard, is it the lilt of joy as your mother answers the phone and realises it's you ringing her?
Do share, we would love to know!
Love Helen x

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 15 May 2015.

I have news! This week we build up our family with a new baby!

Yesterday Lucy had her baby! I was dying to post right away but had to wait for all the family to know and such technicalities!

First of all Lucy is well and they all are fine. The baby is a little girl just under seven pounds which is really good as we were told she would be small. Lucy is tiny for anyone who doesn't know.

So here is Lucy with baby...

Her name is Harper Patricia Ivy.

Patricia is my Mum and Kato's Nana also.
Ivy is my Dad's Mum/Lucy's Great Grandma.

Dad is away up north working on cattle. I rang him and told him the name. He already knew about the birth as Mum rang him first. But he didn't know the name. I repeated it to him so he could hear over his bad hearing and dodgy phone line. 
He said "oh, thats marvellous" and kept saying "oh, thats marvellous" over and over and then he said "Oh, that's a bit emotional" lol He never expected his Mother's name to be in there. You could have wiped the floor with him. It was a joy to hear him beyond words over all of this. Dad has always been more like the girls Dad than Grandpa. He was their number one man in their lives and so the connection between him and both girls is so close.

Now, I am not the first Grand mother in the world. And I know my Grandmothers loved me and I loved them. But no one ever told me what it is like when your daughter has a baby. Not a word. Not until the last few months when Fiona and Kaye both shared with me that they felt intense emotions, anxiety, joy and a million other things when their own daughters had babies recently. Thanks to them I felt more normal and had someone go ahead of me and this was such a help. 
Also I had a lot of prayerful support and Lucy had more prayers than she will ever realise. Thank you to you all.

So in the afternoon Chloe, Mum and I went in together. Chloe didnt nurse Harper as she has a scratchy throat and was really careful.

Kato was nursing her when we walked in. Oh, my goodness she looked so tiny. Mum swooped in and had a nurse. I regret not getting a photo of Kato nuring her first but I will do that next.

Harper and Great Grandma! 

Then my turn!

She is just gorgeous with the cutest little face. And she did a lot of faces, frowning and lips moving. It felt so strange. Yesterday we had gone shopping and Lucy's belly was the feature and here she was!

Look at that little face!

I didn't really expect a nurse so soon! Luckily I did all my crying in the morning when I got the call and had de blotchified by the time I got there. And I didn't cry either. Impressive!

Last night I looked at the pictures over and over.  We all love her so much already.

What a day. What happiness, relief, everything....

This morning I got a text from Lucy.

It just said "Mum she is an angel. I am so blessed."

And thats how we feel too.

During the week I cleaned, cooked, gardened, took Lucy to hospital once with a false alarm, and kept extra busy as that's what I do to keep from worrying and thinking too much! It seems just wrong to post pictures of pies and so on at this point so I will save all that for next week!

I hope you had a wonderful week and had lots of opportunities to save and build up your nest.
We have a new little chickie in our nest! xxx

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. Your garden as part of your pantry.

It was really thanks to Patsy at A Working Pantry that I came to realize everything in the pantry, store cupboards, fridge, freezer, shed and garden is ALL part of my pantry and preparedness. It is true. When we go to make a meal without running to the shops and using just what we have the garden is a part of it. And the things we can pick and use add freshness, nutrition and flavor to our meals.  If the shops were closed this freshness would be a great boost to our stored foods.

The US girls are planting their gardens as it is spring and we are getting ready for winter. So we are all in different situations and climates. And some of us may have no garden at all or a tiny space. But we can all grow a few things. And it's a money saver. Herbs are available to buy in many forms, fresh bunches, semi dried, dried... and they all cost a few dollars a bunch or packet. For the same few dollars you can buy several tiny plants and get them going for future use. Once you have some of them they go on forever and others seed like my Parsley that is now over a hundred baby plants! Some we can get going for free if a friend has rosemary or mint, for instance, you can usually pull up a little bit and you have a plant ready to go.

Only the other day I showed how I stacked four pots to form a herb garden in a small space. This grows a surprising amount of food. The bottom layer is a half wine barrel and will grow quite big things. But smaller pots will still give you a supply of your favourite herbs. If you are growing parsley you need a really tall deep pot. I could not ever grow it well until I found this out.

Grow what you love and use if it is suitable for your climate. The local nursery will help you with this.
I grow and use chives, garlic chives, oregano, two types of parsley... one is Italian the other I don't know! Also rosemary, thyme, chili, capsicums, tomatoes, limes and recently we planted an apple tree.

For a while there I thought my garden was quite full. Then when I had so many parsley seedings I started to look for spots to plant them and suddenly every small space was fair game. Now that I have done this I can see I can keep going and I have room for lots more herbs. It means my garden will look increasingly English Cottage Garden (which I love) rather than neat manicured garden which we inhertied when we moved in. So now I am gardening in the gaps!

Along the front fence I have three rosemary bushes. I cut this all the time and use when I am roasting lamb as it goes beautifully. It is so fragrant and I love it.

The front has roses which are lovely and I would never remove. But I have a lot of space underneath and between them that I think is fair game for more herbs.

Out the back I have my herb pots near the back door and a bit planter full of sage and parsley.

Mimi and Hilde taught me to make sage and burnt butter . Yum.

My basil is almost finished so not at it's best but I have had wheel barrow loads of it! 

I don't know much about herbs but am trying to improve. Glenda is helping me with that. And my philossphy is to grow the things that I am successful with and in big quantities. I am happy to grow much more than I can use as then I have bunches to give away. Once I took a basket of rosemary and bunches of parsley into our local cafe which has a market garden theme and lots of fresh produce. I got to know the people in there. They gave me free coffees after that! But anyone who cooks will love a fresh bunch of herbs. The basil smells just beautfiul. 

Plenty of chopped parsley goes into my chicken soup and I serve it chopped over spahetti sauce and as an addition to lots of meals. I use this most.  The chives I sprinkle over potatoes and sour cream potato salad, in savoury muffins, with eggs and tomato (the addition of chives makes Andy like anything).
Basil, I make pesto and a simple basil and tomato summer salad that is lovely. I add fresh oregano chopped over spaghetti sauce, this is delicious. Last night we had lamb with baked feta and sprinkled with thyme and it was lovely. I know I do use something from the garden nearly every day. And I have been able to give away and also do some trading. I wonder what this all would cost me per week to buy? I would guess if I bought several bunches of fresh herbs per week it would mount up pretty quickly. Or I just wouldn't use so many because of the expense. So the abundance I have makes a difference!

Mum has the hugest Bay Leaf tree that she planted about thirty years ago. We all use the leaves from this lovely tree. She also has rosemary and lots of lavender.

Now to look at what to add and make the most of my spaces. It is wet here now and there are things I could plant. I am not too worried about frost as open spaces get it but not so much in more protected spots and it is not winter yet anyway.

Pa grew comfrey and used it to make a tea that was a liquid fertiliser for the garden. So comfrey is something I will look to add.  I could probably add ten more things...

What do you grow? Do you have somewhere you could add a little more? I thought if I could learn more about different herbs I could further expand my pantry this way.

There are times like during floods where our garden might no longer be a help to us. If you are in a flood prone area some pots up higher with your herbs might be better. And there are those who have tons of room that can go way further with lots of fruit trees and vegies.  I know Cath grows a great crop of pumpkins in her back yard. The thing is to use the space we have, even if it is a balcony or tiny courtyard, to grow what we can. The first time you go out and snip herbs to go with dinner they have paid for themselves. They are always there to add freshness to your meals and goodness in your cooking. I know, at least, I am not relying on the shops for this part of my pantry.

I am sure I can expand on this in my garden and also use more herbs in cooking and dry, freeze and preserve reserves. I am just learning. All tips and recipes will be appreciated!
My bit is to encourage us all to include some things from our garden into our supplies and reserves. We will be so glad we added what we could. 

I hope you are having a good week! Hoping to have god news to report soon! xxx

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Stretch a Meal and Use it Up. Flans, Quiche, Impossible Pies.

Nothing uses up leftovers and makes a great meal better than a pie! These are such an opportunity to use up little bits and pieces and make something spectacular. And the bonus is they are great for breakfasts, lunches and dinners and also made in small sizes they are great for sending in lunch boxes. They are also very portable. Perfect for a picnic or to take as a gift of a meal to someone.

Recently Lucy took me to a cafe nearby and they specialized in Flans. I wish I had taken photos now... Firstly they looked spectacular. Each one was placed on a large cake stand. They had all kinds of interesting fillings like pumpkin, sun dried tomato and feta, spinach, chicken and so on.
They just looked glorious and I thought how easy these are to make and people were going crazy over them! I also should have priced them. But going by the price per serve it would have had to be $50 for a whole flan.

Yesterday for Mother's Day Lucy asked Mum and I over. Lucy who is meant to be resting on Doctor's orders and due in a few days...

Anyway we arrived and she had made us all a lovely lunch. First I'll show you desert which is really nothing to do with anything I just have to show you! :)
Desert was a baked cheesecake which was just beautiful...

Her main was a Chicken and Spinach Quiche with rocket, pear and walnut salad. It was yum!

And she decorated it with hearts for Mother's Day. Which I loved.

Inspired by how nice this looked I thought today I would add Quiches and Flans to our ways to stretch a meal and use it up.

There are two main "quiches" I make. The first is a quiche that has the custard like filling and make modifications to the filling. And a pastry base. This is a chance to use.... onion, practically any cheese you may have, spinach, asparagus, bacon, ham, sun dried or fresh tomato, roast pumpkin or sweet potato... and so many other things. You can use a sprinkle or a lot depending on what you have.

You can make your pastry or use ready rolled. The basic filling is 3 eggs blended with a cup of cream. I mostly use evaporated milk instead. It is very flexible. Classic quiche might have stricter rules but we are being versatile!
A yummy trick is to cheat and use Mimi's Onion Confit spread over the pastry base. Then pour in your egg mix. This is beautiful and I call "Caramelized Onion Quiche".

The next version is to use sour cream. A simple mix is 3 eggs to 300ml/10oz sour cream and your choice of fillings. This gives a thicker consistency and is good when using more fillings.

Another variation is to use dried breadcrumbs sprinkled over the bottom of your dish. Then fill with your fillings and gently pour your egg mix over the top and bake. This gives and easy pie crust.

The other way I will do this is to make a more rustic pie and use some flour in the mix instead of pastry. Impossible Pies work as the flour sinks and the pie is self crusting. This works best if you let your pie sit for a few minutes before baking. It is a super easy recipe and so versatile.

The basic recipe is 4 eggs, 2 cups of milk or cream or a mix, and half a cup of flour. Blend all together and pour over your fillings. There are so many versions of this.
Grated zucchini (or thinly sliced) is good in this.

Some basics are use seasonings of your choice, saute your raw ingredients that need it like onion or spinach to reduce it down. Others like tomato, corn etc don't need pre cooking. Some things are decide for yourself!

I always serve with a relish of some sort and a little side salad.

For lunch boxes I make any of these in muffin trays. For little kids I would make mini sized ones. If you are low carb or gluten free I would use no flour in the impossible quiche. Really then you are making a frittata but lets not get technical!

This is Lucy's recipe for her pie. She pre baked her short crust pastry base (with weights) and the hearts. She added the hearts to the pie after it was almost cooked.

1 and a quarter cups shredded cheddar cheese,
1 cup cooked diced chicken.
1 ten ounce package frozen spinach thawed and drained really well. (this is half a cup)
1/2 cup chopped onion.
3 eggs.
3/4 cup milk.
3/4 cup mayonnaise.
Salt and pepper.

Fill your pie shell with your chicken, onion, spinach, cheese..
In a bowl whisk the eggs, milk, mayo and seasonings. Pour this over your dry ing.
Bake in med oven until knife comes out clean. Let sit a few minutes before serving.

This is beautiful. Next time you have left over cooked chicken reserve a cup for this.

For a large serving I double or triple the recipe and line a baking dish with non stick baking paper. Then just make a giant rectangle. This cuts up into lots of serves.
To make it look spectacular make a cake sized on and place on your loveliest cake plate or stand. It really looks fantastic!

These recipes are very flexible. But with a few ingredients and some eggs you have a meal. I keep  tins of evaporated milk and long life cream in the pantry and I always have cheese in the fridge so I mostly can whip something up in a hurry!

I would love to hear your versions. Mimi makes a Salmon luxury pie, I think we had better get on to her about this recipe. I made it once for Valentine's Day. It it an example of a recipe with a little bit of a strong flavored ingredient that makes it wow.

Some of us are in spring and others are in autumn! This is good as these recipes are just as suitable as a hot meal or as a cold picnic lunch.

I hope you have a wonderful week. I am out the door to the shops and then getting some soup on.
My plan is to make a muffin tray of bacon impossible pies to go in Andy's work lunch for the next few days.

Last week we did "substitutions" in our Stretch a Meal and Use it up series. The comments, ideas and recipes you all contributed made it wonderful. It was epic! Thank you!

Lots of