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, 21 September 2017

Feather your Nest Friday, 22 September, 2017.

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

Some of the ways I built up the home included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My spice cabinet is filled up ...

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

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

During the week I made three dozen sausage rolls.

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

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

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

I am really pleased with them! 

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

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

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

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

My Vicky Challenge came to $408. 

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

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

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

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is just wonderful Jeanette!

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

Lotion bars and beeswax wraps...

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

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

And a little Christmas Dress!

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

Maria has been card making...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Pantries and Preparedness. Achieving our goals with opposition.

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

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

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

Rachel's Macadamia Nuts.  
She has Macadamia Trees! 

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

Rachel getting ready to make citrus jam.

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

Rachel's beautiful citrus jam.

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

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

Chloe's afternoon tea for a friend.

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

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

Rachel sent me photos of bird nests on her farm!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Feather your Nest Friday, 15th September, 2017.

What a week!  We emptied out the kitchen, lounge and dining rooms and the floors were pulled up. Then there was grinding and surface preparation and wheel barrows through the house. Not one room was spared as there were things stacked up in each. The house was wide open most of the time due to workers going in and out and also dust and fumes.  And it was cold and raining...
And Harper was so ill with the flu.  This was her first illness apart from a cold.  Our state has a huge breakout of a bad flu strain and the hospitals are overflowing.  At first we were worried what was wrong with Harper (she went to the Doctor twice) but then her Dad got it.  He said his whole body aches, his skin hurt, terrible stomach pains and headache, temperature and so on. Classic flu symptoms.  Wednesday I was very worried about Harper. She looked terrible.  She cried constantly.  I felt sick.

Yesterday finally (the 7th day) Harper seemed much better and now Lucy has it.
Scarlett is only seven months old. It will be really bad if she gets it.  I am so worried.

So my week has been mornings here and afternoons at their place.  Two houses in messes!
I went to bed last night with a bad headache hoping it is not my turn with this flu.
So this week was a real barrel of laughs!

I am behind on everything including replies and correspondence.

Ok now to what I do have to report that is good!

We found one of our chickens had made a nest in the garden and was hiding her eggs...

Before the work on the floors began I started replanting our herb pots.

I have two stacks like this.  They look bare now but soon will be overflowing.  I planted lots of basil plus some cherry tomatoes around the bottom.

Chickie and Willie were helping!

Then the floor work started. Emptying my whole kitchen pantry was a big job! 
This is what my kitchen looked like...

And this was the lounge room...

These were the "clean" photos of the tidied up stages! 

However now the floors are down!   There is still a lot of work to do as I have to repaint all the skirting boards and other jobs but I have a floor!  

I have to admit it was tough to take photos but these areas are at least clean and basically put back together...

The floor looks kind of like a farm shed floor. I really love it.

There are things in wrong places still like the mirror but you can see the floor at least.

I got my spice cabinet painted and into position...

It fits this corner just perfectly!  I still might rub it back and age it a bit but at least the painting is done.

I added a wooden appliqué to the top which I got on eBay for $5.  And I used a bird Christmas decoration to hang from my key.  (it came with a filthy old cord key holder!) 
This weekend I hope to set it up with my herbs and spices.

In the store I found shampoo and conditioners I like out for $1 and $2 plus bubble bath for that price as well.  I stocked up on these as they were well below half price.

Overall, even though I have a lot of unpacking to do, this was all big progress!

I washed all my lounge covers. I thought while we are moving everything I might as well spring clean the covers. 

We lived on meals from the freezer and I was able to feed us and Lucy's household while in a crisis with wholesome meals.  This is the power of getting ahead in action.  When my kitchen is properly up and running again I will get back to building up the freezer again.  But it has been wonderful to have things to just thaw and heat. 

Now to set up my kitchen in a whole new and better way!  Hopefully by this time next week it will all be really good.  

I can't report on my Vicky Challenge but I will attempt to work it out over the weekend.

I hope you had a good week! How did you build up your home, save or get ahead?   We all have good and bad weeks!  Some weeks we are just treading water! These are the weeks that getting ahead pays off.  They remind me of why we should make hay while the sun shines! xxx

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

When you make your own yoghurt...

If you could see my house right now...  I am in the bedroom surrounded by piles of boxes of pantry items, there is noise and dust...   I decided to write up a post about the spin offs from making yoghurt as it is so incredibly useful and zero crafts are happening right now!

First of all I discovered that the yoghurt I was eating contained cultures but not live ones! Unless the label says Live culture they probably aren't living.  So this would explain why it never did my any good when taking antibiotics and I ended up having to buy a chemist version.  It was also expensive. Also when I had tried yoghurts with fruit in them I came out in a rash.  Every time!  On closer inspection these contained all kinds of preservatives.

Cath from The Cheapskates Club got me onto making my own yoghurt and I haven't looked back.  There are all kinds of methods and I had been put off by recipes with heating, temperature taking and a lot of fiddling around.  This method needs none of that.  You can find the way recipe here.  I ended up with an Easiyo yoghurt maker with needs no electricity and is really basically a large thermos.
Also I use either real yoghurt as my starter or a couple of spoons of Easiyo starter,  either is fine.

Suddenly yogurt goes from expensive to cheap!  It is very nutritious and yum.  The things you can now make also cheaply are mind boggling! You can also flavour it naturally however you like.

First of all you can make a whole list of things from actual yoghurt.  Frozen ice blocks,  smoothies and shakes, smoothie cubes, parfaits etc.   An easy pizza base is just plain yoghurt mixed with flour to make a dough. This presses out to be a surprisingly good base!  I found that half water and half yoghurt worked just as well.

There are so many muffin recipes that use yoghurt.  The ones I make are my Miracle Muffins that use basically any ingredients you have on hand.  Miracle Muffins.  These are so good for breakfasts and lunch boxes.  And they freeze perfectly.

 I make Naan Bread and that is just my regular bread dough with a few spoons of yoghurt mixed in. This makes it silky smooth.  These are so yum!  You can also make a two ingredient Naan using just 200g Greek Yoghurt and 1 and 3/4 cups Sr flour.  Knead this well, cut into six, roll flat and cooking until lightly charred in a little olive oil in a hot pan. 

I make a mint raita with yoghurt, mint and cumin.  Just blend away!  It is so good with any curry.

With mint in the garden this costs me almost nothing. Yet the girls always ask for containers of it they love it so much! 

Then there are cakes.  So may cakes contain yoghurt.  My main one is my Use it Up recipe that I will add any fruit to.   

That recipe is Economical and Yummy Cake.   Very easy and also freezes.
Then you have pancakes,  french onion dip, Tatziki, yoghurt and bread crumbed dipped chicken (simply dip chicken into the yoghurt, then the crumbs and bake. That's it!)  and as a topping on Lamb Kofta or Glouash...

After you exhaust things to make with yoghurt then you have things you make with either sour cream or buttermilk as yoghurt can usually be used in the place of either.
So my plain Greek Yoghurt goes on top of baked potatoes, into potato bake and even can become a substitute for a cheese sauce.  Lynette makes A Moussaka Topping using one cup of yoghurt, 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon plain flour. She beats the eggs and adds the rest.  Spreading this on top of moussaka (or lasagne) and bake as normal.

There are countless cakes with sour cream or buttermilk.  I am making banana cake that is meant to contain buttermilk and using yoghurt with some water added to get the consistency right.   This recipe is a favourite around here.  It is on this post The Money Saving Baking Day. 

Every time I make Enchiladas I use sour cream so now I use Greek yoghurt in its place. No one has noticed any difference. 

Then there is Ranch dressing, other dressings and toppings...

There are just so many possibilities and I have recipes lined up to try yet including Sour Cream apple slice and Southern Fried Chicken by Donna Hay.  I keep noticing new recipes to try.  Another option is to strain the yoghurt until you have a soft cheese.  I am yet to do that but it is on my list when I get my kitchen up and running again.  I will report how that goes! 

When I made my first batch of yoghurt I had no idea how it would help the rest of the food budget.  It is one of the best new things I learned this year!  This has worked by eliminating things I buy and giving me ingredients to use in pretty big quantities.  Plus I am eating more and it is the real stuff which is good for me. 

When I started this post there was grinding happening in the kitchen and now it is Wednesday morning there is glue going down and then flooring!  I see a small light at the end of the tunnel!  😊

I hope your week is going well!  And I hope if you are in the US that you are safe and dry and ok. Please let us know.

If you have any tips or recipes that use yoghurt please share and between us we will have a good list. I am amazed how this one simple thing has given me so many possibilities!  xxx

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Pantries and Preparedness. Hurricane Preparedness by Kelsey.

I am posting my Pantries and Preparedness post early so that it is available before many readers are impacted by Hurricane Irma.  Also on Monday my house will be full of tradesmen. 

This post is from Kelsey. She recently went through Hurricane Harvey.  Being in Texas I imagined Kelsey well inland and never thought she would face a hurricane.  Then I got this email from her ...

Dear Annabel, 
  Just writing to let you know I may be absent for a while. We are right in the path of Hurricane Harvey. Major wind and flooding is expected. I feel prepared, much because of all your preparedness posts so thank you for that. Your prayers would be much appreciated. I will let you know how we are when it is all over or as soon as we have power if it is lost.
With love, Kelsey

Looking online I found Kelsey was one hour inland and her husband was working right on the coast.  So we had some emails go back and forth. I am including these bits which were as Kelsey prepared for what they knew was coming....

Thank you, Annabel. I am online now keeping track of the storm. It is about to make landfall. It is not bad where I am yet and my husband says where he is it is completely safe. Still I am concerned. Thousands are already without power in Corpus.
 I have lots of water. I have even filled our plastic trash can with water just in case. Also our pantry is full and I will ration as needed. I set our refrigerator on the coldest setting so it will stay cold just a little longer in case we lose power, which I am expecting to happen. Freezers will stay closed. Really I have so many of your preparedness posts and comments from the ladies running through my mind and it has helped a lot. I got all the laundry done, dishes washed, disposables ready, etc. Phone is staying on the charger, flashlights on hand, John's diaper bag full of necessities so we can stay in the hallway, which is the middle of the house. This thing is big, the biggest Texas has seen in a long time. Certainly in my lifetime. I will let you know once it passes how we are. Though it is supposed to stall and stay over us for days. Then they are predicting it will move north and then swoop back down over us again. 
Yes, you are right. This really makes preparedness real and I am already seeing I would like to be more organized about it. Sorry this email is so scatter-brained lol. I'm trying to type fast!

This next bit was after the storm...

Houston is a few hours away from me. Yes, they got hit hard. My sister lives there and although she is ok, she knows many who lost everything. Houston is I think the second largest port in the U.S.. Then of course Corpus is also a major port though not as big. And there are oil refineries all up the coast line. Already the grocery store shelves are bare. We went to the store last night and they had signs up all over saying, "Sorry, out of stock." People from our surrounding areas are shopping at this store as theirs are either simply gone or out of stock also. There are gas stations, too, that are out of gas.
  I have learned so much from Hurricane Harvey and the aftermath, both about my situation and that of other people. First, I am thankful for everyone's prayers and that my loved ones are safe. Colton, John, and I still have a roof over our heads. Many do not. We also have electricity. Thousands and thousands of people don't have it yet with no promise of when it will be back on. And this is just in the neighboring counties! If Harvey had hit Corpus as was predicted I probably would not be able to write this. Instead it hit about half an hour's drive north of Corpus. 
  Before Harvey hit, many people of course headed to the grocery store to prepare. I felt like our pantry was full enough that we could get by for a long time if needed. But we went to the store on Wednesday (the hurricane made landfall on Friday night) as is our usual shopping routine to pick up a few items for my husband's lunches. Wow! The water aisle was wiped clean and the checkout lines were backed up all the way into the aisles. I can't tell you how long I waited to buy lunch meat, two loaves of bread, and bananas! I was glad I was prepared food wise.
 One of the things I was most concerned about was water. I just knew we would lose electricity (it goes out at our house even during a light rain shower) and without it we can't get water. To me, water is the most important thing. We had lots of bottled water and my husband came home from work with an extra case too. Still I felt it was not enough. I think the recommendation is one gallon per person per day. And I know I drink a lot as I am breastfeeding! (I'm so glad I persevered through those struggles! I knew John was taken care of as far as eating!) So I filled jugs, empty mason jars, buckets, trashcans, anything basically that could hold water. We have a Berkey water filter, so if it came down to it, I could use that to filter some of the more yucky water (like from the trashcan). I just kept thinking if I was thirsty I would wish I had filled more things with water! Our house doesn't have a bathtub or I would have filled that up too! Thankfully we never lost electricity but I was prepared.

All things considered, one area I do need to improve on is an evacuation plan. I need to write this up and have a list of things to take, a list of places to go, and a list of phone numbers in case it is not safe for me to stay. Things could have been a LOT worse for us here. I'm not much on taking unnecessary risks. Every situation is different, but I may not want to stay next time. I am amazed at some of the people who stayed along the coast even under mandatory evacuations. It is their right to do so, but it puts not only them in danger but also the first responders who have to go rescue them. In Rockport where the hurricane hit, the city officials told the people who didn't evacuate to write their social security numbers on their arms so their bodies could be identified afterwards! Yes, I would definitely leave!!!
 Anyway, before Harvery hit, I was busy about the house washing ALL the laundry and making sure all the dishes were done. Disposables, matches, candles, flashlights, etc were accounted for. The animals were fed and had a sufficient supply of food. I packed John's diaper bag and then basically sat down to watch the news and wait. 
  Harvey hit at night. It was dark and so we couldn't see anything, only hear. John and I slept in the hallway in the middle of the house where there were no windows. I say slept, I didn't sleep! I prayed, had a few catnaps here and there, watched John like a hawk, and streamed the news live through my phone. The local station had continual coverage and I could tell those poor reporters were sleeping at the station. I kept waiting for the electricity to go off or to hear glass breaking or something!

Kelsey's home was fine and they were all safe.  What an experience to go through.  Especially I think with a young baby.  

With Hurricane Irma coming in I asked Kelsey if she had time to write up anything else she thinks is important  while it is still fresh in her mind and she kindly wrote the following: 

1. Prepare well beforehand. You never know when things like this are going to happen. With hurricanes we have a fair bit of warning, but even preparing a few days in advance is not going to get you as far as if you implement preparedness as a lifestyle. Even though I felt prepared, I kept going through my mind wondering if there was anything else I needed to do. In situations like these, you often don't think as clearly, so it's better to have everything ready before you get to that point! This also prevents you from waiting in long check out lines, facing a shortage of goods, and potentially paying higher prices when supply is low and demand is high. I know one lady who went out a couple days before Harvey hit and bought $300 worth of groceries. I couldn't help but think how much further her money would have gotten her if she had practiced frugal grocery shopping and stocking up throughout the year as opposed to all at once and in a panic.

2. Because there are shortages before and after disasters, be prepared to ration. You can't expect to eat like normal and not run out of food fairly quickly, especially if you are feeding a lot of people or children. Children might get upset because you tell them they can't have this or that snack, but it would be worse if by day 5 you have nothing left at all to give them. This goes for water and also fuel, whether it be for transportation, energy, or cooking.

3. Keep your refrigerator and freezer at the coldest setting and don't open them if the power goes out. I know we all know this, but I felt like I had to police our appliances in case anybody forgot and out of habit went to grab something. Because we stock up during sales, our two deep freezes were full (if they were not, I would have added water jugs to freeze and act as ice packs) and this would mean hundreds of dollars in food waste if things didn't stay cold. For this reason also, a generator is high on our priority list along with fuel to power it.

3. Still on the topic of food, be sure you have a way to eat what you have. If you have lots of canned goods, make sure you have a manual can opener. After Harvey I have decided not to declutter my two spares! Also be sure you have disposable plates, cups, utensils, etc. When water is precious, you don't want to waste it washing dishes. Also remember that, while having dry goods like rice and beans are great to have in your pantry (we have these in bulk), they may not always be practical to cook during an emergency due to how much water it requires to cook them. I'd rather open a can of something and save my water for drinking.

4. Having a baby adds a whole new dimension to preparedness. Talk about feeling like a protective Mama bear! John was my main concern throughout the whole thing and I would have done whatever I could to keep him safe! As for feeding him, I breastfeed him directly so I didn't have to worry about him eating. (Except I knew I needed to stay hydrated and have lots of food for myself!) For other mothers who use bottles, I would say be sure to have a way to wash them. If you pump, it would be a good idea to have a manual one on hand and don't rely on the breast milk you have stored in the freezer in case the power goes out. If you formula feed, have lots of extra cans on hand and enough water to make up the bottles. You know how much your baby eats so prepare accordingly. Your baby is the most important thing and top priority. We also cloth diaper but I have a lot of disposables on hand also. I never want to be stuck washing John's dirty diapers by hand lol! Plus that takes more water. I'm really big on the water thing if you can't tell!

5. Don't depend on other people to help you. If you can get help, great, but don't rely on so and so to take care of you. Prepare yourself because most people won't. I was amazed at the attitudes of people I knew who thought this wasn't really a big deal. Though we didn't experience any damage, we COULD have, and I wasn't about to take any chances. Many people lost everything and like I said, it could have been a lot worse for us personally. This goes for if you need to evacuate as well. If you need to get out, please find a way to get out beforehand. If you don't have a place to stay, go to a shelter. My husband spent Thursday loading people on buses evacuating people, so I know buses were provided by the city. If you decide to stay, be ready to fend for yourself. Once the winds reach a certain speed, EMS and fire are no longer running for the safety of the first responders. So if you need help, you have to wait until its over.

6. You have talked about this before, but make sure you have any medications you need. The pharmacy will be closed.

7. Keep lines of communication open. Know where your loved ones are and what their plans are during the storm and what they will do in case of the "what ifs". I was in communication with my husband, my neighbor, my mom, and my friends in the next county. I kept my phone constantly on the charger so I talked with them the whole time, but if we lost power, I could stop (limit the texts) in order to save my phone battery and still know what everybody was doing.

8. I know some of the ladies have mentioned having a form of entertainment during things like this. I would agree this is helpful especially with children and keeping things relatively calm. I was nervous and tense. I am the only entertainment John needs right now, but if he was older I definitely would need to occupy him and keep a sense of calm. If mom's calm, surely there's no need to worry.

9. Many people in hurricane prone areas already know this, but take a walk around your property and put away or tie down anything that can blow away. You would be surprised what wind can do to even the heaviest objects if strong enough. Large trucks can entirely turn over. That means your bbq pit can too. Trim trees, board up or tape windows, whatever you need to do to prevent damage to your home and keep yourself safe. Obviously stay away from the windows.

10. Have a way to know what's going on. I streamed the news live through my phone because I had electricity to keep it charged. On my preparedness list is a battery operated radio because I'm not sure we have one! After Harvey had passed our area, many radio stations had the phone lines open for callers to report any road closures, trees down, power poles down, etc. so people could be aware of road hazards and power outages. They also called in with tips on dealing with no electricity so this was helpful.

11. Pesticides. I do not like poisons, chemicals, etc. but I also don't like disease carrying mosquitos. This was not something I had thought about until we ran into a relative buying pesticides for her daughter who lives in a flooded area. She said the mosquitos were starting to get very bad. I would have a way to keep them off my body if nothing else and a way to treat bites.

12. Keep some cash on hand. People like it and there's no electricity required!

13. Think long-term, not just a day or two ahead. People are going to be without power for weeks. Schools are shut down indefinitely. Businesses are closed or destroyed, and shelves are empty. Prepare to do without for a long time.

Kelsey also said "thank you to all the Bluebirds for your prayers for our safety, it means a lot to me"  and I certainly know a lot of people were praying.  Now  with Hurricane Irma there are too many readers here plus others in some groups I am in to list. Well, I am fearful to name them incase I miss someone, but many have already mentioned in comments who is in the path.  So pray for them all and everyone. 

As you know neither Kelsey or me are experts in this.  Kelsey is sharing her experience and that is so valuable.  We all have to adapt to our own situation, evacuate if need to,  follow the advice of authorities and listen for instructions.  Once the window of time has closed do not venture out or take any risks!
Thank you so much Kelsey for sharing this information and for taking the time to write this all up when you are so busy and this is all still affecting your area.  And with a baby as well!

If you have experience and tips please add them and also once this hurricane passes please let us know you are ok!  Many prayers and much love. xxx

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Feather your Nest Friday, 8 September, 2017.

This hasn't been a normal week and it hasn't gone smoothly.  I reached tired and irritated yesterday!
I am really glad of this chance to have new floors and to make it a spring clean and a re organise at the same time but the mess started to get to me in the last few days.  I know I need to keep my eye on the end result!
Stopping to assess things is a good idea.

These are the things I did manage to do to save money this week:

With lots going on I was able to reach for a tin I had put away for busy times and open a brand new fruit cake.  I LOVE having things I can just get out when needed!

I made a batch of yoghurt and have been having this for breakfast.

I had a spaghetti sauce cook up and made dinner and 23 pasta dinners to freeze!

There are various combinations going on here but these have stocked up my freezer and emergency meal supply.

I also made Honey Gingerbread as Harper loves these.

The front of the house (that isn't a mess!) has flowers from the farm and I have lavender and bay leaves drying.

My menu planning and shopping have been going really well.  Once again this week I only shopped for milk, a few veggies and the best specials.  I added a lot of reserve meals with the pasta cook up.

As I move the contents of my pantry I am washing jars, filling things up,  labelling where needed and so on.  

Today the sun is out. This is after a week of rain and hail!  And flowers are starting to peek out in the garden.  Signs of spring! 

On the weekend I am working on my herb and spice cabinet.  I want to be able to set it up as soon as the floor is down and this is looking like it will be Thursday.

I hope that next Friday I will have so many good things to report and to show! 

How did you build up your home, save money and get ahead this week? 
Have a wonderful weekend! 

Our poor US friends have another hurricane coming in and this is impacting several of the ladies here.  One of them is Patsy who lived through a bad one not very long ago.  These times make our preparedness efforts seem very real.  Always keep on top of your preparedness as much as you can! 


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Being rescued by Vicky! Using up eggs.

My packing up of the kitchen and dining room has started and I am re organising as I go. I decided this is also spring cleaning and re arranging my cellar as well.  The whole domino effect has begun!
Lucky for me I have my dear friend Vicky come to my rescue!

With the cost of meat it has been noticed here by many that eggs are mostly the cheapest source of protein. In fact earlier in the year we had almost no eggs on the supermarket shelves at one time and it was because it was winter and chickens lay less then but also that more people are buying eggs as a main meal option due to the prices of meat.  

Other times we can just have a lot of eggs to use up as the chickens all seem to lay at one time and this is when it is great to do heaps of baking, quiches, custards,  slices like zucchini slice and so on.

Anyway over to Vicky:

Having and using a glut of eggs! 

Bluebirds, at times we will all have an excess of something and of course we want to use it with as little waste as possible as we are doing our best to keep up a good economy of our households. Right now I have an abundance of eggs that I am trying to use. Eggs are a cheap protein when money is tight and is a very versatile ingredient. Besides all of the ways to cook them they can also be frozen to use later and are good for about a year in the freezer. I have found when serving something that I have an excess of my family has always let me know when they are tired of it, but I have always tried to keep it varied so they don't burn out too quickly while using the most of the excess. When we have an abundance it is time to get busy! Cooking or prepping for future use either way the sooner it gets taken care of the less will go to waste. So for my egg adventures for this week I am planning ahead for future breakfasts, hard boiling some for egg salad which takes care of lunches and also incorporating them into dinners as well. Sometimes looking to other ethnicities and how they use ingredients can give us some different choices and add some new likes to the menu and meal planning or pulling out some recipes that has been passed down in your family that you have never made and takes the ingredients you need to use up? and I will show an example of a dessert we make with egg whites that I made to use some of them up. 

My best little layer! 

So for the breakfast portion of my egg use up I have scrambled eggs with onions , peppers, and cheese and put the mixture in freezer bags for omelets.
Then I experimented with cooking an egg in a canning ring for a nice round egg that will fit perfectly on an English muffin for breakfast sandwiches. It worked pretty well and I will be making at least a dozen more and breakfasts are done. 
Next I boiled a 2 dozen for egg salad and a few just peeled for either a snack or to add to salad for lunch, but I didn't take a phot of those I think hard boiled eggs always look the same all over. Giggle giggle! 

Then for our evening meals I have made dumpling soup which is just a variation on pasta and is dropped into hot liquid instead of adding more flour and rolling out dough, This is a very filling meal and cheap to make because you can make it with chicken or beef broth, in a tomato type soup or in any kind of vegetable soup and they can be made thicker for a chewier and more firm dumpling or thinner for more of a spaetzli type dumpling.

 Either way they are always good! And I made more pasta dough to put in the freezer to roll out later, but I am ahead in that department and have used up some eggs. 

Rachel's Ravioli, another egg recipe! 

Then for desserts I have made just a few plain cakes, but my biggest egg user is a dessert that my Yugoslavian grandmother always made is called Sampita and uses several egg whites which is when I make it, to use up eggs. It is puff pastry with a very sweet, fluffy filling. It is so sweet that it goes a long way so I share it around. 

There are so many things we can do with eggs from quiches to eggs benedict, French toast, etc, one of our favorites is breakfast for dinner which we may be having several nights this month until I use up all of these eggs! 
What is your favorite way to use up eggs when you have a lot? 

Thank you so much Vicky!  I love that you showed a desert that is a family recipe also. 

I am going to work on adding an egg based dinner to my weekly menu plan.  Often I keep up with eggs with baking but as a dinner this would give us a meat free night.  I somehow tend to do this more in summer with self crusting quiches and slices which I love to take on picnics and pack for lunches. 
What are your recipes that make eggs suitable for a main meal?  
How do you use up a lot of eggs when you have heaps or they are at a great price? 

Of course today is not my usual Christmas Challenge post.  I will mainly keep to the routine but I have a lot of pantry and preparedness subjects I want to cover before the end of the year.  There are not enough Mondays!  So I might do some extra posts or swap some posts around.

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