Monday, January 25, 2010

The Best Laid Plans....................

I like to plan things - I am quite methodical about it and make lots of lists, targets, aims etc etc. I do this for a living but it also spills over into my "home" life and I recently planned a nice little weekend away with Mr MC and the girls. I mapped out where we would go, which beaches we would visit and the sight seeing that we would do. With the accomodation booked and our bags packed we set out early on Saturday morning for a seaside adventure.

We managed to get in a little sight seeing, shell collecting and some time at the beach before a tummy wog took hold of Amy. We made the decision in the late afternoon with a sick little girl to trek home - Just as well we did as we now have 2 sick little girls and now today a sick Mr MC. I feel like the last man standing around here and have my fingers crossed that it leaves me alone.

With the weekend adventure cancelled I decided to spend some time in the garden. So it was off to the nursery to get some lovely garden soil.

This particular plot of garden needed additional soil, compost and mulch and has now been planted out with Zucchini, Pumpkin & Corn.

We use Sugar Cane Mulch in the garden which keeps the garden lovely and moist underneath and is great to stop the weeds from poking through. It is quite economical too.

I think that I have shown you Mr & Mrs Passionfruit and Mr & .Mrs Kiwi Fruit before? They are growing well and should produce us some fruit next season

A close friend has renewed my interest in Fuschia's - I found the perfect spot to construct a new garden bed with filtered light for them.

They seem to have settled in well in their new mulched bed.

There are so many lovely varieties available these days.

I remember turning these into little ballerina's as a child, it's funny how the simplest things take you back in time - Sometimes it is just a smell or a sound. I will show my girls how to make a ballerina tomorrow - I am sure that they will like that.

The last of our apricots have been picked and have today been made into Jam. I am patiently waiting now for the Greengages to ripen. How is your garden going?
There is so much to be done in it at the moment. I would love to hear about the crops you have grown this season and what you have done with your pickings.
Until next time,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Few Ideas, Pet Food, Projects & Gifts

So how are you going with your money saving? We are almost at the end of the 1st month so hopefully you have made a few changes to your household budget and have managed to save a buck.

Most of us kindred spirits love similar things so I know that you will understand my love of pot plants. I like to decorate my pots with little critters and play Espy with Tommy when he comes to visit - He has a real fascination for frogs so this is one of his favourites.

Most of my pot ornaments have been picked up at garage sales and markets really cheaply (usually around 50c) - They often have a small chip which makes no difference to me as they are just an ornament. I think they look lovely in my pots. Garden decoration can be done so cheaply - Keep your eye out next time you are browsing through a Trash & Treasure market you never know what you might find. If you are looking for local markets in your area check out the Markets & Fairs Web Site for upcoming events.

Whilst out and about also look out for plastic tubs with lids which can help you "file" your left over fabric scraps. I have lots of little containers full of Bindings, Charms, Strips, Panels, Pellon, Plain Stitchery fabrics etc Just label them and start your filing.

I try not to waste anything and cut most of my scraps up - Those that are an odd shape get put into an extra large tub to be used for applique. I also put some of my long term projects into it's own tub so that everything is kept together and also so that the fabric doesn't get accidentally used for something else.

Talking about projects I have started making my Yo Yo's for my Yoyoville Quilt. All of my Beach House has arrived from the Fat Quarter Shop and after gushing over it for a few days I finally took to it with the rotary cutter and made a start. Yo Yo's are great to make whilst watching telly - No thought needs to go into them and they are just so cute !!

Even "Eva" got in on the act - This will be the next pattern release from Mothers Cupboard - I wonder what it could be?

I am making progress with my "Birds of Happiness" quilt. Just a few more flowers to stitch now and then I can piece the border. I am using another Robyn Pandolph range for this "Somerset Cottage" I am making it to hang on the wall above our bed.

I have really enjoyed stitching this.

Look what arrived in the mail today! A gorgeous Christmas Stitchery expertly stitched by the lovely Peg. It was a thank you gift for co-hosting the 2009 Advent Swap. It is just so lovely and a beautiful gesture. Thanks so much Peg.

Blog land is such a fantatsic place and I have been lucky enough to meet some wonderful people. Jo who co-hosted the swap with me has become a wonderful friend, stitching and coffee buddy.

I have also made some lovely friendships via e-mail and the telephone. All of my Gum Nut sisters are just like "real" sisters. It is very hard to explain the bond we have all formed in such a short period of time but we are all very much "kindred spirits" and get along famously. We hope to meet up in person in 2010 - That will be so much fun.

One of my fellow sisters, Jenny, and I have so much in common. We have the same philosophies about life, love, family and stitching. We like the same things - shabbiness, fabrics, books.... the list goes on. Jenny sent me this book a few days ago "The Gentle Art of Domesticity". I have started to read it and it is just fantastic. It is about making a house a home, the difference between domestic chores and the domestic acts of cooking, home decorating and all of the simple things we love. I will cherish it forever as it is very much "me" and reflects how I feel about my home and family.

Before I sign off I wanted to start to address some of the requests that I have had about ways to save money. One of my followers asked about ways to save money looking after our pets. I have cats and dogs and I don't like to feed them commercial "canned" food. I developed my own "meat loaf" style diet for them quiet some time ago and all of them just love it. It is full of goodness and does not upset their tummies like the canned versions. I also feed a good quality biscuit to ensure that they are getting a healthy balanced diet and have something crunchy.

I place the following into a pot :-
1 Litre Water
2 Tablespoons Chicken Stock Powder (or the Chicken Broth I talked about in my last post)
1 1/2 Cups Soup Mix
300g Small Pasta
2 Grated Carrots
1 Cup Rice
1kg Beef Mince (Not too lean)

Put all into a boiler and mix together to make a raw broth. Cook on a low setting for around 3/4 of an hour (or until cooked). Allow to cool and then place into containers to refrigerate or freeze (I use recycled ice cream containers). The liquid will solidify making a nice firm mix once it is cooled.

My animals adore this mix. It is very economical to make. Most butchers sell a "Pet Quality" Mince mix very cheaply - Ask about it next time you are there.
Have a lovely weekend and I will talk to you next week.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Stuck On The Merry Go Round

Sometimes it feels like you are stuck on a Merry Go Round and just cannot seem to get anywhere - The last week or so has been like that for me. It is a busy time for me with my day job until the middle of February so please forgive my absence. I will try to pop in as often as I can. For now here are a few more frugal ideas.
Do you like my little spray bottle? I have lots of these around my house. I decorate them with whatever I can find including fabric, scrapbooking stickers etc. I make my own Ironing Spray which I can also use as an Upholstery Freshner and as an Air Freshner. It is simply water and Essential Oil. I use Lavender or Rose & Geranium as they are my favourites just put water in your spray bottle and add the scent until you are happy with the smell. I put about 15 drops in mine. Ironing with this spray is so lovely and everything smells divine !!

Last Sunday I cooked Roast Chicken for dinner. This is a favourite in our home and is also quite an economical meal. I usually roast 2 chickens and use the left over meat for our sandwiches throughout the week.

When I cook roasts I only ever put them in water to cook.

Once the roast is cooked you are left with a lovely stock which I drain through a sieve and cool. One it is cool I take off the fat from the top and then freeze. This stock is a fantastic base for casseroles, soups etc and costs nothing.

We all have leftovers each week and since it is BBQ weather here in Tassie at the moment we have had quite a few barbeques. I keep the leftover rissoles and sausages and place into a foil tray. I make a gravy to go over the top and then freeze. This makes a lovely meal served on mashed potato and carries that lovely BBQ flavour.

It is also the time of the year for Tomatoes. If you haven't grown your own it is the best time to buy them in bulk as they are usually cheaper and the supply is good. One of my lovely blog readers Susan has sent me the following recipe which sounds delicious. Just as soon as my tomatoes have ripened I intend to make some of this :-

5.5 kg (12lb) ripe tomatoes, sliced
500gm (1lb) apples, peeled, cored and quartered
500gm (1lb) onions, roughly chopped
500gm (1lb) sugar
Wedge of pumpkin, chopped
250gm (½lb) salt
1 tspn nutmeg
1 tspn curry
½ tspn dried chilli
½ tspn cayenne pepper
12 cloves
850ml (2 pints) vinegar
Optional: other herbs and spices – paprika, basil, oregano

10 Recycled large jars

Put all into an extra large saucepan, bring to boil. Then simmer for 2 hours.

To prepare jars. Wash in hot soapy water, let drain. Bring a kettle of water to boil or have a small saucepan boiling on the stove. Put each jar through this boiled/boiling water, rinsing inside and outside, cleaning soap off and placing upside down on sink. Do the same with the lids. Don’t need to towel dry.

Using a food processor, or rubbing through a sieve or such item, in batches, process until it looks like sauce. Fill jars, sit on a chopping board or thick newspaper, on bench, place lids on tightly and let them cool. Usually overnight, then pack on shelves.

This quantity will make 10 large jars (the size of Chicken Tonight or Kan Tong or Dolmino)

Sounds Yummy doesn't it?

Another great way to save some $$ is to use vouchers. Lots of companies offer them these days. My husband and I love to watch movies and instead of watching them at the cinema when they first come out we now wait until they are released on DVD which is sometimes only a few weeks after they have finished. Our local store that we use oftens gives us vouchers like the one above which is 3 movies for $7. We watched 3 New Release Movies and had the DVD's for 3 days for just over $2.30 per movie in the comfort of our own home.
You really can't beat that.

It is so important as part of your frugal living to buy items whilst they are on special. I check out the local supermarket specials each week on-line and write myself a list of products that I use on a regular basis. Items usually come on special every 6 - 8 weeks so when buying them try to get enough to see you through until it next comes on special.

I have been working on a few projects each night - Some I can reveal to you and some I can't - When I next post I will show you some of my new designs and also a few sneak peeks but only if you are good........ have you been good??

Anway I will be off now - Take time to smell the roses - We need to keep reminding ourselves of that.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Few Quick Ideas, Upcoming Projects & Recipes

Before I started my year of trying to save money and working towards becoming debt free I ordered a quilt pattern which begged to have some special fabrics chosen for it. I chose Robyn Pandolph's new range "Beach House".

My quilt will pre-dominately be made in the Pinks and Blues from this range. This will be my "year long" project of 2010 and should help me get through the long cold winter nights here in Tassie - Which is my favourite time to hand stitch.

This is the project that I have chosen. It is Yoyoville designed by Anne Sutton of Bunny Hill Designs. I just love the little appliqued houses all around the edge and the multitude of yoyo's in the body of the quilt.

I figure that if I have a long project to complete it will discourage me from wanting to purchase any more major buys for the year. Let's see if I can stay strong for the entire year.

As I was buying the pattern from Bunny Hill I decided to add some 2 strand Cosmo Threads to the order. I hope they are as lovely to stitch with as they look. I of course ordered them in "my colours" of shades of pinks and blues.

Now back to frugal living. Do you remember me telling you about Freecycle? The place where things are given away for FREE? On this site you are able to place an advert which goes to all group members in your area to ask for something specific. I decided to try my luck at getting a bread maker. Almost as soon as I posted a request a lovely lady e-mailed me and offered one and even dropped it at my door for me.
One of my blog visitor's Susan has e-mailed me some fantastic hints, tips and recipes for using with my bread maker to make buns, loaves and pizza bases - I hope to try these out really soon and will share the results and recipes with you then.

As part of my idea and tip sharing I wanted to include some from my studio. I recently ran out of template plastic and needed to make a dresden template for a design I was working on. I spied my $25 laminator on the top shelf and decided that would work just fine.

Since then I have made lots and lots of templates to keep using over and over again. It is a fantastic way of saving money and to build a large collection of templates cheaply. You can buy laminating sheets for around $11.50 for 100 sheets at Crazy Sales.

I trace the templates onto the front of an envelope and store them inside.

In my quest to try to re-use a lot of our household wastage I found myself left with this big tin.

I decided to make a tin to hold all of the money we will be saving each month. The aim is to take the money from the tin each month and pay it off our household debt. I intend to keep a record of each month's savings.
To cover the tin you will need some Scrap Cardboard, Fat 1/8th of Fabric, Scrap of Trim, Scrap of Stitchery Fabric, Embroidery Thread, Spray Glue, Craft Glue, Double Sided Tape, Measuring Tape and Sewing Supplies

Measure the circumference of the tin and the height. Cut out a piece of cardboard to that size. Cut a piece of fabric 1/2" larger on each side. Spray the card on one side with the glue and smooth the fabric onto it. Snip all the way around the fabric and use the craft glue to paste down on all 4 sides. Trace and stitch the word Savings onto the Stitchery Fabric. Sew this onto the front of the card and use the trim to cover the stitching line. Apply this cover to the tin using the double sided tape - Make sure the join is at the back.

And Hey Presto you have a lovely looking Savings Tin to keep your hard earned $$ in. Next time I will share some recipes I use for Linen Spray, Ironing Spray & Air Freshner and show you how to make the spray bottles look fancy.
In anticipation I have given you the layout for theses labels as well as the Savings Label to download FREE the link is HERE.

I really hope that you enjoy making it as much as I did. Also next time I have some budget busting cooking recipes including a lovely casserole that is fantastic for the slow cooker.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Few More Tips ........

I hope that I have got you thinking about ways to save money, to live within our means and to recycle and re-purpose items that you already have. I have had so many lovely e-mails from others wanting to change their habits this year.
One of the things that worries me is the amount of chemicals that we use around the home. In the coming weeks I have lots of ideas to save money on those expensive products and to use natural and basic products around the home. One of the key ingredients in most of these ideas is Essential Oil. You can buy it from the supermarket for around $8.00 per bottle - It will last for a long time and comes in many different scents.

Over time I have bought or have been given many of these Reed Diffusers and have them scattered around my home to make each room smell sweet. The concept is that the sticks are embedded with the scent from the liquid and it scents your home. These are just the $2 variety from the local discount store. Once the secent dries up it is easy to make more by using water and around 8 - 10 drops of essential oil. It is also import to upend the reed sticks every few days and turn them around so the wet ends are sticking out of the jar.

You can go one step further and use any type of glass jar - Wrap it in pretty fabric and use wooden meat skewers (cutting off the sharp ends). This would make a lovely inexpensive gift for a neighbour or a friend.

I love to sew and quilt but one of my pet hates is the waste..... I have a scraps tub next to my cutting board and all of the scraps go into it. Ocassionally I will spend an hour or so cutting charms from them and then file them away to use on a scrappy quilt. The long strips from straightening fabric are put to one side to be used in the garden.

They make wonderful ties for stakes. I use them on my tomatoes each year and for any new plants that I have planted to keep them straight - It doesn't damage the stem and can be re-used once you have finished with it provided that you don't tie it in a knot.

Another idea for re-using items in the garden is to save cardboard rolls from toilet rolls, paper towel etc.

They make fantastic seedling pots. You just need a tray to put them on, newspaper, potting mix, a sharp knife to cut them with, seeds and gloves.

Lay the newspaper in the botom of the tray - Quite thick. Cut the rolls to around 2 1/2 Inches high - For toilet rolls just cut them in half.

3/4 fill them with potting mix - pressing quite firmly to mould the potting mix into the roll.

Plant the seed and cover with potting mix.

Place the tray in a warm sheltered spot for the seeds to germinate and water. In around 10 days you will have seedlings emerge. When they are strong enough you can plant them directly into the garden - Including the roll which will break down.

When choosing seeds it is important to choose seeds with a long expiry date. Most of the discount stores around Australia sell packs of vegetable and flower seeds for only $1 per packet. This pack of Zucchinni seeds had 20 seeds inside. If I only get 10 seeds to grow it will only be 10c per plant.

Most of us do not want a huge abundance of plants growing at once so by purchasing seeds with a long expiry date you can save them for planting at a later date. It is important to keep them dry and in a zip lock bag in a draw.

Zip Lock bags are a wonderful thing. They can be re-used time and time again. I use them to package up bread in the freezer. I am the only one who eats Soy & Linseed bread in our house so each time I buy a loaf I break it down into packs of 4 slices and freeze. I always keep the bags to be used again.
I pack our work and school lunches each day using frozen bread. By lunch time we are eating beautiful fresh bread that has thawed. If you are packing meat in sandwiches it also helps to keep it at a lovely temperature until you can refigerate it at work. I pack ice blocks with the girls lunches each day to ensure that their food does not spoil.

Another great re-usable form of packaging are these foil trays with lids. The larger ones are perfect for a meal for 4 and the smaller ones hold a large meal for 1 or smaller meal for 2. They are very cost effective with the larger ones working out at 50c each and the smaller ones at 20c each. I use them to freeze leftovers.
I write the name of the meal on the lid and the date. At least once a fortnight I take out a selection of leftovers on a Friday morning and we have what we call in this house "Smash & Grab" that night for dinner. It is a great way to avoid buying take away at the end of a busy week and is a fantastic way of avoiding any waste. You just pop them in the oven with the lid on to re-heat and then you can wash them and re-use next time.

Next time I will have some more tips for you and a little pattern for you to download.
Have a great week.