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.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Christmas Challenge. Show and Tell for April. Part 1.

I only realised we are at the end of the month yesterday. Where did the month go!??
I will start of show and tell as I have lovely photos in already!

Kelsey put together beautiful themed gifts.  She found packets of seeds on a huge special.  So she made up gardening gifts...

Kelsey included some home made hand scrub and gorgeous packaging. I love the styling!   She said these gifts were very inexpensive and a big hit.  Really good ideas here!

Jane made Olive Oil soaps.  They look really good! Soaps are amazing as they make great gifts or supplies.

I love the shapes Jane and the colour, they look really creamy. Beautiful.

Kelley has been card making. She found a luscious book of floral images! Perfect! This is a dream come true kind of op shop find for me.  There were enough beautiful pictures to make stacks of cards! 

Old books just are fantastic for card making. For a few dollars you could have a hundred images!  You can choose any theme that you like or that a loved one likes.  Rose books are pretty much my favourite find! 

Kelley these look like super expensive cards and what a supply you now have! 

Anne  took a little wooden box and decorated it with Beatrix Potter pictures to make a little book box. I think this is gorgeous.  Her beautiful crochet is shown as well. 

I think everyone has shown beautiful AND economical gifts!   Now over to you! What have you been making this month? How did you add to your gift cupboard?

In Australia we have Mothers Day coming up.  I also have a couple of birthdays as well.
I added a huge roll of plain brown paper to my stash. I think it is 50 meters and it was really cheap. Good old brown paper always looks stylish!  It also covers ugly pots and looks good to wrap around a bunch of herbs or flowers, wrap soaps and make bands around a loaf of bread etc.  Handy stuff! 
I am almost finished a rug for charity, I am on the last row with is a scalloped edging. 

Pictures can be posted on the Bluebirds Facebook page or emailed to me at 
Works in progress are also welcome!

I hope your week is going well. We have had lots of rain and the garden is watered.  xxx

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Pantries and Preparedness. Weekly progress and my easy Lasagna Recipe.

News wise last week was one of wondering what to believe, what is real and what is not!  This week looks like more of the same!  I am glad I am a couple of years in to building up my pantry and learning new things.
I have been a member of Patsy's A Working Pantry Classroom and this has been very educational. I feel as though I have had an intensive course in preparedness and it has given me many extra things to work on.  Patsy has a new class coming up and a new subject coming later in the year also.  I will be taking that class as well.
Otherwise I have been working on an inventory and organisation.  When the bathroom is finished I will also have a dedicated cupboard for medications and remedies and more space for personal care type items so this will be good!

This week I am going to sneak in a recipe as I have been asked a few times for it. This is something I almost always keep in the freezer.  Having meals put away is really a great form of preparedness!  And a money saver!  If I am having busy day I can just grab a meal from the freezer. (Otherwise I will get something started in the crock pot.)

This is how I make Lasagna and it is very versatile.  I am very casual about quantities etc as this is how I make it, with what I have.  It is a cheats recipe really and probably not very authentic however it tastes good!

First of all... if I have a lot of tomatoes or have found a box of tomatoes at a good price I will make up lots of tomato sauce which is just onions, tomatoes, garlic, herbs and whatever else I have (possibly zucchini, eggplant, capsicum etc) and cook that up.
If not I use jars of a ready made spaghetti sauce like these....

Actually these aren't even the normal ones but this is what I used last time and they were fine! 
If I am having a cook up I will normal do about 4 kilos of mince (ground beef) which is roughly 8 lbs ish! You can do whatever qualities you like. 

First I chop three or four large onions and fry them in a little olive oil in a really big stock pot. 
Then I add the mince and cook until it is not pink anymore.
Then I add in my jars of tomato sauce ... I think usually about six to eight jars.  You want enough that your mince looks lovely and red not icky and brown! 

I swish each jar with water to get the last bits out and this little bit of extra liquid is a good thing....
Anything that is in the crisper that needs using or maybe I have because of a good price goes in... zucchini, capsicum, fresh tomatoes, spinach...  even carrot could go in. If you have picky eaters you can grate these and sneak them in. 
I add plenty of pepper and a fair bit of oregano. 
I let this simmer at least an hour. Two hours on low is even better.

With all this sauce I might have a meal of spaghetti and set some aside for another time.  I might even use some for on top of what I call a boys meaty pizza. (they seem to like it)
With this lot I froze some, used some over penne pasta and made three lasagnas.

I just use dry lasagna sheets. 
I am always breaking off the corners to get them to fit! 

I do a layer of pasta, then a layer of meat sauce, another layer of pasta, another layer of meat sauce and top with a final layer of pasta sheets!

Your meat sauce does not need to be very thick, just well cover the sheets.

I am often guilty of over filling the pan. Allow more room than you think!  

While the meat sauce was simmering I had a big jug of white sauce going. You can make a white sauce and add cheese or a cheese sauce anyway you like.  I do a fair bit which is probably two litres (four ish pints) of milk (usually powdered milk) and I do it by using about four large spoons of cornflour, make that into a paste, add my milk, add pepper and set in the microwave on high for three minute bursts. Stir well and repeat until you have a custard like thickness.  At the end I add handfuls of grated cheese and stir.  I do not make it with butter as I think with all that cheese who needs butter!  But thats just how I make it and its your choice.  As long as you have enough for a good topping thats all that matters.  Usually I chop some fresh parsley and stir that into it.

I pour that over...

Make sure you cover all the pasta to the edges. We love the cheesy topping so I am generous on that.
(If I end up with left over cheese sauce this is good!  I will toss in some cooked pasta and that might be dinner with some meaty sauce over the top or make a macaroni cheese type dish. Yum!) 

Then I sprinkle cheese over the top ...

Then bake in a medium oven until it is golden and bubbly...

You need to keep an eye on it as you don't want it too brown... and you want it to be in the oven an hour or so as it takes this time for the pasta to become soft and good.  It is just one of those things that you want the flavours time to blend and develop.

If I am freezing it or putting it way for another night I will only brown it lightly... or the second time it might get too dark. Think of that....

It is messy to cut when hot but when it is cold it cuts so neatly and nicely....

So if you want to freeze meals I suggest cutting it into portion sizes then wrapping them and freezing them. I wrap them in non stick baking paper and foil.

I have frozen whole trays many times but now I tend to do portion sizes and find we waste less, it thaws out quicker and it is really handy in portion sizes.

As you can see when I cook something I cook a lot. I just can't see the point of cooking in small batches, I would rather cook and ensure a good few nights off down the track. But you can make up any amount of meat sauce you like, layer it will pasta (sometimes I have used cooked penne or other shapes instead of lasagna sheets or even thinly sliced zucchini or eggplant)  top with a sauce and bake. The quantities are up to you and very flexible.
Lasagna is one of those things that taste better the next day like stew, soup etc as the flavour develops.   A tray of it also goes a long way as I always serve it with a large salad and if you wanted it to go even further you can serve with crusty bread as well.

Thanks to Lynette who knew I was making Lasagna and she said I should take photos as I go and finally share the recipe!

What meals do you find good to keep in the freezer for emergencies?   I try and keep a couple of weeks worth of dinners ready to go.  I also keep components of easy meals frozen i.e.  I always have some bacon and some pizza bases as in the fridge I always have cheese and so it is easy to make a pizza in about five minutes.  You can make a pizza this way much faster than get a take away one or even one delivered!

Maybe we can all build up our go to freezer meals selections!  Recently I discovered that Enchiladas freeze really well so I keep them individually wrapped and ready to go as well.

What have you been doing towards your pantry and preparedness?
Have a good week!  Our week is a bit funny as tomorrow is a public holiday. xxx

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Feather your Nest Friday, 21st April, 2017.

This has been an interesting week.  We both have bugs which we haven't been able to kick for several weeks now. Pretty blah!  Add in renovation mess,  job loss... you get the idea!
The good thing is that Andy got four days design work and he has mainly been working on that and he is expecting more of the same next week.  So he has work and it is just that the days routine is different as he is home.

Another good thing is we have had good soaking rain. On a really dry garden this is beautiful.  More is meant to be coming so I sat my houseplants outside for a drink of rainwater and a good wash and dusting. Nothing does house plants more good than rain!

Easter was lovely.  Harper loved her kangaroo family.  But I think it was the wrapping that made the big impression as she kept saying "wow, wow, wow!" which was so cute! 

Andy found me the prefect Easter card...

I was amazed how he found one so me!

So... some of the ways I saved money this week included:

My Aldi shop. I continue to realise they sell things I didn't realise they sell!  Each time it turns out to be another saving.  I have made my shopping trip day Wednesday to coincide with the special buys.  I even love it as an outing!  I am both saving money and getting more groceries which builds up my pantry.  In fact you could look at it as building up your pantry for free.

I did a lot of sewing. I got my machine out and aimed to do something every day from a mounting pile of mending and alterations.  I thought it would take forever but doing a bit everyday got me there in four days.

I made 4 large heat packs from some lovely soft polar fleece type fabric.
Then I took in several really nice tops that were always too big and I never wore.  This added new tops to my wardrobe.
I took in three skirts and now they are added to my wardrobe.
I had several beautiful scarves and pashminas in lovely colours that feel gorgeous, fine and soft. But they were not worn as they swamped me.  I carefully cut them down and turned them into infinity scarves...

Now I will live in them in cold weather! They feel so luxurious! I got two out of each pashmina.  I love them! 

My sourdough came out and I made four pizzas.
I made the boys fishing picnic.

With on hand and frozen ingredients I made a crock pot batch of chicken soup.  This gave me lunches during the week and I thought would help me get better.  I have a motto to always have the ingredients to make this.  I always have onions, parsley, dry beans, pasta, bay leaves  etc. I keep chicken, garlic (as a back up) and chopped celery in the freezer always.  There are usually carrots in the crisper....   it all goes into the crockpot and I can have soup for dinner.  I can add some rolls from sourdough pretty fast too.  Very handy.

My Mum gave us a lamb roast. This was a beautiful dinner and I made fresh mint sauce from the garden mint to go with it. Yum!

I recycled gorgeous paper I was given with an Easter present. It was sparkly! I was never throwing that away!

My honey gingerbread biscuits were my Easter gifts. I know Harper scoffed a fair few of these!   I made several dozen. We had some,  some went on the fishing trip, some were packed up in tins and given away.  They are so easy and nice and everyone loves them. Children included.  I get honey from the farm which is a bonus!

I wrote $390 in my savings book for my Vicky Challenge.

How was your week?  How did you save and build up your home?
Have a good and relaxing weekend! xxx

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Christmas Challenge. Beautiful inexpensive fabric!

Rachel sent me beautiful photos of what she had been making and I thought I have to make these into a post!  She made gorgeous tea towels (kitchen towels) using old sheets and they are so pretty!

To finish them off she worked a crochet edging around them.  Lovely! 

We have talked about before how old sheets, quilt covers, curtains etc provide miles of fabric at very inexpensive prices.  I hunt for them at op shops and have also been given lots of them.  In particular I look for vintage florals as they are what I love!
These have ended up as tea towels, table napkins, table cloths (a table cloth cut just to fit your table with a crochet edging is beautiful! Plus maybe matching napkins!) little curtains, aprons, pillowcases... that are also very suitable to make nighties, pyjama pants, little dresses, hankies...  so many things.  Also sheet sets can be cut down and even trimmed or appliqu├ęd to make cot sheets, bassinet sheets and other nursery items. Very economical.
Usually I am able to get sheets for $2 to $4.  But it is a lot of yardage!  

I will also use plain  white or plain colours to back my tea towels as I would usually make them double thickness.  So plain ones are on my radar too! 

Rachel's are just so beautiful and far nicer than most tea towels in the shops. They probably cost her cents to make.  Ugly tea towels here are probably $8 each. Beautiful ones are probably $20 each but I almost never see any that I like.  These I love! 

I have had good luck with old curtains. These below I made a while back and I backed them with plain sheeting.  I keep lots out on display and on hand...

I had a box of trims I had collected over the years (again, op shops) and used these to trim them however my normal trim would be a crochet edge.  I might work that all the way around or just do one edge and make it a bit wider.

There are so many styles available you can find something to match your kitchen... pastels, brights, retro etc. In fact teenagers tend to really like the crazy retro prints and these make great pyjama pants which they then wear with a cotton t shirt or singlet top. Good gift! 

Fabrics can be really expensive but there are ways around it!   I always check in op shops for quilt covers, valances.... (think of all that ruffle!) sheets, curtains, table cloths...  this is how I met Jo! She saw me in an op shop rummaging through all these big bins of old linens and heard me talking to Andy and I don't know what else but then she said "is your name Annabel" and I said "yes" then she asked me if I was the Bluebirds are Nesting Annabel?  I think Jo was pretty on the ball to figure out it must have been me!  And I had good success in that op shop too! 

Thank you Rachel for showing us what can be made with a fantastic source of cheap material. Your pictures are just heavenly. 

I hope your week is going well!  What are you working on for your Christmas cupboard?  
What are your ideas for really inexpensive things to make?  Crafts and gift making do not have to cost a lot!  Not at all.  We can make the most of what we have and what we might find along the way. 
Currently I am trying to use up all kinds of things I have stashed in my craft cupboard and turn them into gifts or useful things. 

See you Friday! xxx

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Pantries and Preparedness with Glenda. Making things last as long as possible.

This week Glenda is adding some information that will help with making stored food last much longer. I hope you find her tips as helpful as I do.  I note that many times it is a combination of things that work to maximise shelf life.  I am learning a lot in this area as it is my first year of really needing to rotate goods on a large scale.  Food is expensive and also a major asset so this is really important information.

Over to Glenda...

   There are a few more things, along the way, I would like to share with you about preparedness, so I hope you don't mind it coming in a little at a time :).
   Basic storage has always been a primary goal for us. If we needed three days, three months, or a year or more, we needed to consider what foods we could survive on and how to store them long term. Grains, Beans, Pasta, dehydrated vegetables and fruits, sugar, salt, and sourdough all have a lifespan of over thirty years, if properly stored. The biggest enemies of food are: light, heat, and air. 
   Some people put their food and emergency stores in a garage, but this is unwise, unless it is temperature controlled. Most garages, especially in the U.S., are hot in summer and cold in winter. The temperature extremes will affect the quality of the food, herbs, or medicines. It is best to keep a stable temperature year around. Dark, temperatures between 50 to 60 degree F, and lack of oxygen will keep foods fresh and usable for a very long time.
   I mentioned dehydrated foods as a long term storage item. This is true if the moisture has been thoroughly removed and the items are vacuum sealed once dehydrated. I have found that just putting them in jars will work for several years, but they do dry out more and some become too hard and tasteless to use. It's a learning process over the years. 
   When we started buying in bulk, eating healthy, grinding our own grains, and baking and cooking from scratch, almost four decades ago, we did not have the internet or all of the sources people have now to help them prevent mistakes. Having said all of that, I still believe each family has to see what works for them in their own environment and situation. We live in a dry climate that is not bothered by mold, bugs, or dampness. If we lived in S.C., where my mother was from, we would have another set of conditions to consider when storing food.

    Grains and a grain grinder will supply wheat (or similar grain) for baking all forms of muffins, breads, cakes, etc. Salt, sugar, water, powdered milk, and powdered eggs are all that are necessary for most breads. The spices add a lot of flavor, but again last a very long time if sealed properly. Everything I have mentioned here are very long term storage items; most thirty years or indefinitely. White Flour, at the most, stores one to two years with oxygen absorbers and stored properly. The bran and germ have been removed from white flour and unless it states unbleached it has been chemically bleached. The health issues with white flour can be found on a search on the internet.

   The LDS website is a good source to find shelf-life lists of foods. There are other sources also, but the LDS calculator is on the internet for anyone to use as a guideline for food storage.
    According to their list: Wheat, Corn, White rice, sugar, some beans, oats (I consider this under grains when I speak of grains), pasta, dehydrated potato flakes (easy to make at home), dehydrated apples slices, powdered milk, and some dehydrated vegetables will last 30 years or more. 
   To make dehydrated powdered potato flakes, we buy organic potatoes because potatoes are highly pesticide contaminated in the U.S. Peel, slice, and blanch the potatoes for about three minutes in boiling water. I like to use a steamer because it eliminates the potatoes from being submerged and it is easier to transfer them to the ice water. Immediately plunge them in ice water to stop the blanching process. We lay them out on either paper towels or dish towels  and dry the slices as much as possible without breaking them. Then we place them on the dehydrator trays and turn it on. After they are thoroughly dried, we leave them in a pan and once a day stir them gently to make sure they continue to air dry for two days. If we want slices we vacuum seal them in canning jars and put them in the food storage room. If we want powdered potato flakes, we grind them in the Cuisinart until they are like powder and then vacuum seal them in canning jars and store them in the food storage room. We always label the jars with item name and date we sealed it.
   There are some tips when sealing powders in canning jars in order to not plug up the tubing to the vacuum sealer. Make sure that the canning jar is only about 1/2 to 2/3 full, depending on how fine the powder. I usually shoot for 2/3 full, but have had that not work at times with powders. It's important to make sure the rim is really clean, just like in canning. 
   I vacuum seal spices, herbs, and medicinal herbs. I opened some basil I grew three years ago and dried, then sealed, and it smelled  and tasted as fresh as the day I dried it.

    Lavender for soaps, room fresheners, and other uses is wonderful and fresh smelling for years when vacuum sealed in canning jars. We try to grow a lot of lavender and culinary herbs during the summer. 

Next time we are going to cover my least favourite subject which is being prepared if you have to evacuate your home.

Glenda also mentioned that having seeds to sprout is a good idea as sprouts are power houses of nutrition and I really hope we will have a post on this subject coming up. 

Another consideration is getting the best value for money in the food we are storing. Glenda costs out how much things are in various sized packs. Here she showed me how she buys cheese in bulk and freezes it.

I mentioned above that often there are a combination of steps that maximise shelf life. Here Glenda is vacuum sealing butter to go into the freezer... (after being purchased on a big special.)

Knowing how to make things last also allows us to take advantage of good prices when we see them!  I note that butter has a long history of being greatly sought after and valued and hard to get at times. 

I will add that in Australia we have the same situation with most sheds being way to hot in the summer to use for food storage.  Over time I realised if I had the right type of cupboards outside or in the shed I can store toilet paper, cleaning products and many things out there and in turn free up lots of space in cooler places inside for food storage. It was a bit of a change around but made a lot of space I didn't know I had! 

When our bathroom is finished I will have room for a set of shelves in there. It will mean my linen cupboard will no longer have towels. I can see a heap of space coming my way!  I plan on having baskets in my shelves to store supplies like shampoos etc.  Each area that I organise ends up having much more storage space than I thought. 

How are you progressing with building up your pantry? If you have any tips for making things last, long term storage and making the most of great prices please share them! 
If you have any questions for Glenda she is a wealth of information! 

Have a wonderful week! xxx

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Feather your Nest Friday, 14th April, 2017. Good Friday.

I have a lot to report!  I hope you had a good week.  The last couple of days have been beautiful here with perfect sunny days and cool evenings. I love Autumn!

Firstly, my new clothes line is up!  
If you remember seeing the wrought iron when we were given it,  this is what it looks like now...

It is difficult to take a photo of a clothes line! But it is lovely and I hung out a giant load of sheets after this and they dried in no time in the sun.  I said "it works, it works!" to Andy and he laughed. 

It is now covered in linen again as it is so sunny and beautiful. I love the sight of linen in the sun and the breeze. You cannot buy anything in a bottle that smells as good.  Also this gives me about twice the line space that I had before.  I love it!

I cleaned out and organised my freezer. I am NOT showing you a before!  Lets just say I had a fair few near misses with things falling out and nearly hitting me in the head. Mum said "that's nothing" as one time a frozen pork roast hit her foot and cracked a toe!  You get the idea...
I emptied it, washed the shelves and baskets...  measured up the spaces and found suitable baskets.

I don't know why I didn't do this before. Baskets instantly turn shelves into drawers.  You just pull them out  and can see what is in them instead of trying to rummage around and see what is in the back.   And it is working as many things have come in and gone out and it is easy to keep going. 
Big difference!  Actually it is one of those things that I get a surprise every time I open it! 

This week I had a cook up and made two Lasagna's and lots of serves of spaghetti sauce.  One lasagne was a present.  

Lynette said to me to take photos and turn them into a recipe and I did!  It is very versatile and easy to  make and when I am cooking up mince it gets me loads of meals.  I will post this all soon.  I love to get ahead with meals and put some in the freezer.  We basically never need take away because of this.

I made a batch of zucchini soup, my first soup of the cooler season. I love soup!  
Also a butter chicken and tripled the recipe (for the same reasons as above) and a raita from our garden mint.  This was delicious and made two dinners and one freezer meal.

Andy is making over an area of the back yard. There was soil to be removed and this went on to my hydrangeas that needed the soil to be built up. 

We got more done on the bathroom. Progress. 

I have been going through my wardrobe for a giant clean out, organise and making up outfits for the cooler days. I still have a way to go on this... 

I made my cards and gift tags for my supplies. 

Today is just beautiful. I am baking honey gingerbread biscuits and these are most of my Easter gifts. I made an Easter nest for Harper and this is her present...

It is her family in little kangaroos.... Mummy, Daddy, Harper and little sister! haha!  The girls had these Sylvania families when they were little. They are just gorgeous.  I still have some I kept too.  I must get those out. 

I haven't worked out my Vicky Challenge yet.  We both have had coughs, sore throats etc all week and not sleeping very well.  I think a restful weekend might be in order...

Now I want to add some things....

First of all we all prayed for Kelley's Mum. Kelley wrote to say how well her Mum is doing and thank you! Really she is doing so wonderfully!  This is such good news.

A couple of weeks back Anne had commented about doing up her daughters room. I asked he if she would show me pictures. Well, she did! She emailed me photos and they were lovely!  There was an idea she had with little birdcages which I LOVED. Now she has shown it on her blog so her is the link.... Simply Living the Dream.

Maria wrapped up chocolates for her family Easter celebrations.  I thought these were lovely and something I should show now as there is still time! 

These are just lovely!  Overall,  blocks of chocolate are usually much more chocolate and better value than eggs and with wrapping and a personal touch they are amazing!  I remember Mimi did this a while ago as well and I love the idea.  They would be good anytime as a gift as well. Beautiful Maria thank you! 

There were requests for the recipe Kelsey used for her fizzles that she made in her cleaning present. 
This is the recipe she used here.  Kelsey added that you need to keep these in a container that is NOT airtight so something with a loose lid or a little basket maybe.  Thank you Kelsey! 

How did you build up your home, save or get ahead this week?

Have a wonderful Easter!xxx

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Christmas Challenge. My projects so far for April.

After my big present cupboard clean out I could see I have a lot of work to do to fill it up!  All my wrapped soaps went in on a tray ready for gift giving.   That helped!
This month is a bit of a mess really. I have a toilet in the box in the dining room, a shower screen on the floor in the lounge room, a ripped apart bathroom and a bath in Andy's office. Anyone who has renovated knows what it is like!

I am working on a crochet rug in the evenings.  This is lovely to sit down to and add a bit to each night.  I hope to make a few rugs through the rest of Autumn and Winter. Mostly I am using up yarn I have.  I would like to make a few scarves for myself... I like the ones that are a loop or a longer loop that you twist like a figure eight.

My card supply is very low so I decided to get on to cards.  Harper's Birthday is coming up so I started on cards for children. Suddenly I need a heap of new baby cards and also cards for little ones. I like doing things in batches and I found four fairly beaten up (secondhand) Beatrix Potter books for ten dollars in total.  I love these kind of images so this was perfect!
From these I got 28 cards and 18 gift tags with a few images still to spare.  One book also had stickers which I thought I could use to decorate parcels so they were a bonus.

Harper is mad keen on cats so one of the cat ones will be her Birthday card I think.

The tags are quite large so they could also be bookmarks or labels.  

These were really lovely to make as I know all these stories so well and they are so sweet.

I made up some of each into packs to give as gifts...

And I have finished some very soft little cheesecloth/muslin washcloths with crochet edgings.  These little cloths are lovely for babies and for makeup removal. They are double thickness. I get them in Ebay for the grand price of 35cents each and free postage. Seems too good to be true but really true! 
(If you want some look on Ebay for 10x cotton facial cleansing muslin cloth towel you will see quite a few... check postage is free. I just noticed some of mine were 26 cents each as well) 

These would also look lovely with little grub roses in the corners... that might be next.

Given the prices of cards in stores this all would have cost a lot to buy. Now I have a big supply.   Next I will get on to some cards for adults.
Over Easter I am getting out the sewing machine. This will mainly be to do some alterations but I will also make up some heat packs. They make lovely gifts and we all use them so much that a fresh supply is good.

Last week there was something missing from Show and Tell!  Jane made a gift for Kelsey who is expecting a baby boy!  So I had this picture but could not show it as Kelsey didn't have it yet and I would wreck the surprise!  But now she has it so I am good to go!

This was such a lovely thing to do Jane. It is just gorgeous and perfect for our little baby Bluebird!  What stunning work and Kelsey was just so thrilled that a parcel could come all the way to her from Australia with such a kind and custom made gift! 
I had to share this as it's so beautiful! 

I hope you are having a good week.  I am off to Aldi then having a big cook up for the Easter long weekend and Easter gifts. 
Also the sun is shining and my new clothes line is up! Photos coming on Friday! xxx

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Pantries and Preparedness with Glenda. Storage buckets etc.

This week we are continuing on with help from Glenda.  She said to me how pleased she is that we have a good pantry and also several income streams rather than just one.  
When we started building up the pantry I mainly focused on storms and power outages as they were my main worries.  Now here I am surrounded by a series of good reasons to be prepared...  the cyclone and seeing what happens in the aftermath, rising food prices as a consequence, Andy's job loss and now they tell us we might be in for a mouse plague!  
I couldn't make this stuff up!  And I won't even get into what is happening in the world right now...  (which seems to be escalating even since I started to write this)
I will just get back to my goal and that is to get ahead as we can, learn as much as I can, and encourage you to take every opportunity to have a well prepared household.  And to make hay while the sun shines! 

Now over to Glenda and to where we left off last week.  We are looking at pantry storage.  (The photos are all Glenda's pantry and storage that she and her husband took for us!)

The large food safe buckets with air tight lids (whether tight seal or gamma) can be purchased in various sizes from businesses that sell them brand new or bakeries that sell them used. If purchasing new, the bucket and lid are usually sold separately and they can be costly. The new one's, though, are BPA free and the buyer can choose either the regular tight seal lid or the gamma lid to go on it. We have a mixture of both. If using the tight seal lid, remember to purchase a Bucket Lid Wrench to open it. The gamma lids are great for people with arthritis or if someone is going to be getting in and out of the bucket frequently. Once purchased, the buckets last a lifetime, whether they are used bakery buckets or the new BPA free buckets.

    When we first started buying in bulk to save money, about 35 years ago, we went to the bakery section of the grocery stores and they gave them away at that time. They were used for frosting, so we took them home, washed them up thoroughly and dried them really good. We would let them sit out to continue air drying for a couple of hours just to make sure there was no moisture left. The lids were the hardest to completely get dry. It's important to make sure the lids have the rubber rings on them and that they are removable for washing. We ultimately replaced all of those buckets with the BPA free buckets, but no one should feel that is necessary to do. The buckets allow for large poundage storage. 
    A five gallon bucket holds about 37 lbs. of wheat berries.  The same size bucket holds 37 lbs of popcorn. We use the organic popcorn, instead of purchasing cornmeal. The popcorn will store for 30 years in the bucket and when we want to make corn muffins or cornbread, I can just grind what I want; it's delicious. It is, also, much less expensive to buy the popcorn in the bulk and grind it than to buy cornbread muffin mix or cornmeal. Freshness is an issue with store bought ground grains that have sat on the shelf. 

   The Sam's Club, near us, sells 50 lbs of Premium popcorn for $23.98. That amount of popcorn will last a very, very long time, unless a family eats a lot of cornbread, corn muffins, and popcorn as a snack. When storing items, it is always wise to consider their versatility. Whole Popcorn can be used for a snack; ground for breads and muffins; and it stores very long term safely. For us, that makes it a wise investment in storage. I don't have to worry about running out of that grain and I have a variety of ways to fix it. Plus, by buying it in the bulk, now, it saves me money, time, worry, and effort in the future. Any purchase now is a hedge against future inflation.

We will leave it there and wait until part three and part four... 
Thank you so much Glenda.

I can say that in Australia you can certainly get free food grade buckets and large containers pretty easily.  Ask at any bakery,  restaurant,  cafe....  if you know someone with any kind of food business you are set.  Vicky covers her buckets with vinyl or you can use contact if you like as well.  You are getting a lot of food storage containers for free this way. 
It is also very possible to get free glass jars especially if you know instant coffee drinkers who will save them for you.  I have always saved jars and the old style ones with screw top lids that I just love I have mostly found in op shops.  I have been to plastic ware type sales parties where you could buy a small car cheaper than outfitting your pantry with plastic containers,  pfft!  I would rather fit out my pantry for free or very little and spend the money on stocking it.  But storing things properly is vital so that they last and are not raided by pests etc. 

We are going well and finding ways to use our time wisely, getting lots of things done that need doing. Now my clothes line is up!  
I want to encourage you to be like a little ant and work on your preparedness.  Also to be watchful and prudent!  
Have a good week! xxx

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Feather your Nest Friday. 7th April, 2017.

What a week! It wasn't all good.  To get the bad things out of the way first, Andy lost his job Tuesday. He went to work at 8 am and was home at 9:30.  He was upset.  Now,  it did not come as a huge surprise but we were shocked anyway.  Weeks ago we started seeing the writing on the wall and knew this company was not paying it's bills and it's supplier  stopped supplying them... and other obvious ominous signs.... but still it caught us off guard on Tuesday.
It is a blow and a problem but we do not have all our eggs in one basket and Andy has his drafting, designs and other skills and regular clients who use these.  So we just have to fill a gap.  
He is using his time well and when not applying for jobs he is getting on with what needs doing around the place which includes working on the bathroom.  On Saturday we pulled out the old spa bath in our bathroom as the first step to a big makeover.  With a giant hole in the bathroom we are kind of committed to continuing now.  

So as cheer up therapy here is my new bath...

It is sitting in the office right now! In fact we have a toilet in the lounge room, a vanity on order,  a shower in the van...    Tomorrow we get on to the next step which is levelling the floor space where we took out the spa.  This was old, not working and huge.  I am going to have space for a beautiful set of shelves or a cabinet for all my towels and bathroom things...  which will be lovely! 

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

Mum had given me bananas. I had frozen them and it was the boys fishing weekend so I defrosted them and made a big banana cake.

Everyone loves this cake. I make my cakes in giant slabs in my biggest baking pan.  That way I can cut it up and freeze a lot for work lunches etc.

I also made my sour dough into pizza bases and several pizzas.  This made dinner,  lunch box fillers, and accompanied the cake on the fishing trip. Pizza is still one of my best use-it-up recipes.  

This all worked out well as the boys returned with fish and Andy actually had fish and chips for dinner! 

Plus this day is a beautiful relaxing day that they enjoy and it all costs very little.

I finally cooked my Quinces. They start out hard with a whitish/yellowish colour flesh. They end up ruby pink.  I used some as stewed fruit and then I made three crumbles. I already had crumbs mixture in the fridge I made when I had peaches. It used up random cereals, crumbs, nuts etc. to make a big supply.
Well, it worked out to be yum! 

I made three so two will go in the freezer. 

One of the best things of the week was our local  Aldi opened!  I didn't go on the first day as I don't like crowds. But I went on the second day!  It is just a few minutes away and will now be my weekly supermarket.   I found that it is a really big store and it had extra special buys.  

This is a game changer for us!  Unless our other local supermarkets respond with some huge specials they won't be seeing me again. Thanks to Cath Armstrong from  The Cheapskates Club and Wendy I know how to cut my grocery bill in half with Aldi.  Best thing ever!  

I haven't figured out my Vicky Challenge savings yet but it will be a fairly reasonable amount so I am glad of that.

We hare having a burst of warm weather so the clothes line is covered in linen.  And Andy has made my new clothesline with he wrought iron corners and it is all painted.  Now it just has to be put up! It is going to be so beautiful!

I have to show you a picture. Chloe has been bottle feeding three lambs. They love her.  If she is on the phone in the house they can hear her talking and come to that window.  Or they wait for her at the back door...

Yep, she is loved! Her chooks are also laying and she can let them out and they put themselves back to bed at night. This means they have a huge area to free range in the day. They are having the best fun time!

 How did you build up your home, feather your nest and get ahead this week?
Have a wonderful weekend! xxx