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Friday, July 25, 2014

Oh so precious....

I ummed and ahhed about actually publishing my post on this topic or not, but as I see others now have I feel reasonably comfortable putting my feelings out here...



Have you been like me, totally numbed, by the events of last Friday?  I have quite literally sobbed my way through the news coverage every evening.  My thoughts turn to the tragedy through the day.  We flew that route home two months ago, almost to the day. 

What a tragic, needless, loss of life.  More than 80 children who will now never grow up.  While, a small number in comparison to those killed from the Netherlands, there were 28 Australians and a further 8 permanent residents on that flight. 

One family, from my home town of Perth, lost their three children aged 8, 10 and 12.  The children were flying home with their Grandfather.  The parents were staying a couple of days longer in Europe.  I can not comprehend their grief - to lose your young children, and live yourself to me is the greatest horror I can imagine. As our Prime Minister said these were your neighbours...children, parents, brothers and sisters.

Then there was the body of the toddler on the news.  Though covered by a sheet...the child lay with arms flailed out in much the same position as my slumbering toddler in the next room, similar blonde hair was visible from the top of the sheet.  That could have been my child plays again through my head.  And, my husband turns to make sure I am ok because now the sobs are audible. 

I rang my Mum shortly after that..because you know when you are upset....you ring your Mum.  At least I do.  She and I both had a teary on the phone...and after that I felt much better.  Mr Provincial and I decided to leave the news off for a few days - something that was a good move as it has immensely improved my outlook during the latter part of this week.

The whole incident of MH-17 puts pale to that false safety we have about the fragility of life.  In the last hundred years, at least in the West, we have made such strides to eliminate child mortality. So few are touched by it - that even a single instance is disturbing. To see it on this scale is horrifying.  I am sure that is only now because I have children and more sensitive to it, but hearing of the loss of any child sends shivers down my spine.

Truly, though, I am so amazed by the strength and faith of people, parents and children, who are able to carry on in these circumstances.  Some people have amazing God-given fortitude don't they?

I leave you with a quote from the TV show Call the Midwife which has stayed with me for many months.  In one episode, Sister Monica Joan, in a reasonably lucid moment, remarks..

“When do you suppose babies became so very precious?  Are they more valued now because they can survive or do they survive because they are more valued?”

Thinking of those precious little souls.....and hugging mine closer and hoping you are too because of such is the Kingdom of God.


Sarah


Monday, July 21, 2014

We're going on a snow hunt....

Over the weekend we set off to find some snow for the children to play in.  While we do occasionally get snow in our town, it is not an annual event.  After being pestered endlessly by Ginger for weeks, we found a back route through to Corin State Forest and took the kids there.  There were way too many people on the main play slope (which you pay to go on), so we ended up taking the kids off into pockets of snow on the forest's edge.  The virgin snow there was great for building mini-snowmen and throwing snowballs.

We stopped for a picnic at one of the State Parks on the way there.









Because, you know, once you are told you are going home..you just take off all your woolies in the snow!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

This Week's Frugal Accomplishments

Joining Brandy in recording my frugal accomplishments.

Since I have been adding to my written list of frugal accomplishments for a couple of weeks now but failed to transpose it to the blog, this list really represents about 3 weeks of frugal accomplishments.  Just saying!

Ripped an old bottom sheet into rags.  Made the equally threadbare top sheet into a protective cover for the cot mattress which is currently being stored under our bed as Tom Kitten has moved into a big bed.




Tom Kitten moved into a big bed.  I got the bed base from the charity shop for $20, the underlays were purchased when I had discount vouchers at Spotlight over recent months, the flannelette sheets were my Grandmother's, as was the red blanket and the doona covers (he now has three) were all purchased from charity shops.  These are the kind of savings that make me happy:)

We have been using up all the tiny bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel Mr Provincial has collected over the last 10 months of travel for his new job.  We officially ran out of our large bottles of shampoo and conditioner four weeks, and still have a number of small bottles to get through.

Decided to implement a Waldorf-style Winter circle time.  I ended up using only resources I could find on the internet and supplementing with songs from nursery music books I already had.

Went to the farmer's market in Canberra and bought enough apples, oranges and pears to last us the month.  The oranges were $1 a kilo (because it is winter here) and the apples and pears were the 'juicing fruit', read slightly marked, at $1.50 a kilo.

I made curtain tie-backs for the loungeroom curtains and the curtains in our bedroom.  I used four fabric placemats I bought at the charity shop ($2) to make the loungeroom ones, and a scarf ($1) which I think might be a Liberty (or faux-Liberty!) print for the bedroom ones. 

We have been trying to weather seal the house a little better as it sort of represents a cold air sieve at the moment.  I have been insulating our curtains, which has involved lining backing fabric with polar fleece and sewing it to the curtains.  I noticed a lot of the National Trust houses in England had this on their windows - though they had a proper insulating layer, not polar fleece.  But the latter is light, affordable and accessible so that is what I went with.  Mr Provincial put weather stripping on the bottom of the front door and a kind of insulating foam stripping round the other 3 sides.  Of course, until he gets round to doing something about the gaping holes between floorboards and walls these are all of limited efficacy:) 

I made a draught stopper snake for the front door out of some fabric I had on hand and the rice from the children's old rice box toy.  Since I still had rice left over in the rice box I then made some heat packs using the remains of the fabric.  The children each take two to bed at night.  As a bonus I could then reuse the tub to store Tom Kitten's 'to grow into' thrifted clothes which had been driving me nuts in the main part of his wardrobe.

I did several runs to pick up the free mushroom compost our local mushroom farm leaves outside for you to collect.  We have used some in planting our fruit trees, and the remainder will go in a garden bed I want to build up.  I will collect more in coming weeks as I can only fit two bags in our car at a time.

I shopped just the loss leaders at Woolworths.  These are the specials that are more than 50 per cent off.  The best buy was some nappies for Tom Kitten.  We only use disposables at night so these should last until the end of the year.



I borrowed Backyard Self-Sufficiency by Jackie French from the library.  After reading about how full-sized fruit trees should be positioned along fence lines, with their branches intermingling to reduce the amount of fruit the birds get; my very obliging husband relocated all our existing (small) fruit trees to that position.  Well, actually he still has the Plumcot to do but by that stage he had been outside in the cold and rain for many hours so we decided that transplant could wait until this weekend.  He also planted a stepover apple, dwarf mariposa plum, dwarf apricot and kiwi fruit plants (male and female) I had ordered.

We cancelled our existing mobile contracts and went on to an Aldi pre-paid plan.  This should save us a lot of money.  We were actually only on contract a couple of months since upgrading to a smart phone. However we realised we were barely using any credit so there was no benefit to doing that over a pre-paid plan.  Smart Phone = our worst investment ever!

We ate all our meals at home.  We are trying to use up some store cupboard staples at the moment to make way for food we use on a more regular basis.



I made bread every two days rather than buying it.

I pulled Ginger out of her ballet class.  She has not been enjoying it this year and has made a fuss every Saturday morning before going, so we asked her straight out if she wished to continue.  She said no.

I mended a coat and scarf.

I went to a garage sale at a local church.  In addition to purchasing some novels for 50c each I was also able to find some useful books in their 'free' box, and I was given some drawing stencils for the kids.



I went to the Lifeline book sale a few weeks ago and picked up some new books - a cookbook and history book which we will use for presents for my in-laws for Christmas.  And, I got a couple of cookbooks that we have had our eyes on for a few years (one of which is for Mr Provincial's birthday).

I made a discovery regards kitten food.  After purchasing the very expensive individual packet kitten food because I thought it was the only one available (though at least I bought up when it was discounted by $3 a box; but still cost over $6 a box) I discovered Woolworths does a canned own-brand kitten food...on the very bottom shelf!  These are $1.25 a can.  A much better price given the volume Tinkerbell goes through in a week.  A growing kitten is a significant understatement!

We changed our home insurance arrangements to pay our premium monthly, rather than annually.  There was no discount for an upfront payment so this makes more sense.

I borrowed DVDs from the library.  We particularly enjoyed Hyde Park on Hudson.

I cut Mr Provincial's hair.

We took delivery of a load of wood we won in a raffle being run in support of one of the children's activities (there is no weekly cost to attending). There was about a tonne of wood.  Saving about $200!

I went to a closing down sale for the discount shop in town.  There was hardly anything left by the time I got there, but I got a couple of heavily discounted tubes of hair-gel for my husband, some dryer balls which are meant to speed up the drying process and some Christmas Cards which were marked down to 9c a packet.


I picked up some school uniforms for Ginger at the charity shop....and, um, yes she has 18 months before she starts school.  Our school has no secondhand uniform shop and most pieces of the uniforms retail for over $70.  I got a size 6 winter dress for ($8 - they put higher prices on the uniforms than any other clothing in the shop!.....reading the market there!) and a wool jumper (sweater) for $4 as it had the half-price coloured tag.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Another Lifeline Book Fair

Taking it as given that because I enjoy reading other people's blog posts about books they have procured they might be similarly interested in mine.  I could, of course, be completely misquided in that belief. In which case you may wish to turn your attention elsewhere already:)

Anyway, a few weeks ago Mr Provincial very kindly took a day off work to look after the children while I trotted along to a Lifeline bookfair.  To mis-quote Dorcas from Lark Rise to Candleford, children's books are my one true weakness!  Mr Provincial had put me on a very strict budget this time owing to certain blow-outs on previous occasions.  I was pretty happy with my haul.  Even if it took me 3 hours to cull to my budget constraint.....


Edward Ardizzone is one of my favourite authors and illustrators.  I discovered one of his Tim books in the library in Darwin and have been on the hunt for copies ever since.  It turns out he was quite a prolific illustrator.  This time I found:

Tim's Last Voyage by Edward Ardizzone
Lucy Brown and Mr Grimes (the child in this looks so much like Ginger) by Edward Ardizzone
Rhyming Will by James Reeves
Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint
Titus in Trouble by James Reeves
The Little Fire Engine by Graham Greene


Greyfriars Bobby by Ruth Brown.  We love Ruth Brown around here!
Lucy and Tom's 1,2,3 and ABC by Shirley Hughes.  We enjoy all of Shirley Hughes books, but the Lucy and Tom series are Ginger's favourites; I think because Lucy reminds her of herself, and Tom of Tom Kitten.
The Old Woman who lived in a Vinegar Bottle by Rumer Godden.  Again guided in this choice by author preference.
Caterpillar Butterfly by Vivian French (love the illustrator Charlotte Voake).  Looks like good junior science book.
The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett.  I only discovered Jan Brett recently, I am now on the hunt for more of her books. 
The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola; again a recent discovery for me - but I love the faith aspect of his writing.
A couple of our pirate favourites Pugwash Aloft and Pugwash and the Ghost Ship by John Ryan.
Stormy Weather by Amanda Harvey...a great find for the current cold season!



Animals of Australia in Colour by Lyla Stevens.  This is on Jeanne's AO3 Australian Curriculum.
Our Father by Joan Gale Thomas.  My Aunt recently gave me her childhood copy of If I Were Born in Bethlehem so I knew this would be worth picking up when I saw it at the Recycling Shop (aka Dump) on my way home!
Leading Little Ones to God by Marian M Schoolland.  I am looking forward to working through this with Ginger.
The Christmas Story by Gennady Spirin.  The KJV of the Christmas story, exquisitely illustrated.
The Magic City by E Nesbit.  Anything by E Nesbit has my vote!
Once on a Time by AA Milne.  This is the second copy of this I have thrifted; the first one was missing the all important third page (LOL!)
Tell Me a Story by Eileen Colwell. We have another collection of Eileen Colwell's stories.  Great for read-alouds for preschool age.
Thursday Rides Again by Michael Bond.  Michael Bond of Paddington fame.
The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley.  Beautiful illustrations by Maud Lucy Atwell.



The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown.  I have seen this on a number of blogs.
Wake Up Mr B! by Penny Dale.  I enjoy Penny Dale's gentle plots and illustrations.
Angelina's Ballet Class by Katharine Holabird.  Ginger is in a Angelina phase at the moment.  Have to say I don't think this is one of the strongest Angelina stories.
Anatole by Eve Titus.
Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully.  Seeing this was a Caldecott Medal winner was enough for me.
Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose by Dr Seuss.  Always lots of Dr Seuss at the bookfairs but this was a particularly nice copy so it made the cut.
Paddington's London Treasury by Michael Bond.  Our Paddington Picture Book is held together with tape it has been so loved, so good to add to our collection of illustrated Paddingtons' for little people.
Benny's Visit by Linda M Jennings. After a recent visit to England (more on that soon) the kids are very into canal boats at the moment.
Wee Gillis by Munro Leaf.  I read about this in Inside Picture Books so picked it up as soon as I saw it.

I also picked up a handful of board books to add to Tom Kitten's collection; but by the time I came to take pictures they were already in circulation!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

I find Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments posts so inspiring. I decided to keep track of some of the things we do to save money too in the hope it will encourage me to do more.

Cut Ginger and my fringe myself.  It has to be admitted that hers looks a little better than mine:)

Waxed my eyebrows using a kit I bought about 18 months ago.

My husband fixed a dripping tap in our shower which was causing us to lose about 20 litres of water a day (we were capturing it in buckets for watering).  He got advice on how to do it from our neighbour and also got the handful of parts he needed - our neighbour's son used to be a plumber!

Went to our local agricultural show (fair) on a Sunday rather than a Saturday because entry was $5 cheaper per adult - our kids were free.  We took snacks with us for the kids, and only allowed them one ride each (we actually thought only Ginger would be old enough to go on a ride - but they both enjoyed the Carousel).


We have continued to eat just the fruit -plums, peaches and nectarines - we got at the orchard three weeks ago for $1.50 per kilo; rather than diversifying  our fruit selection from the supermarket.

Harvested zucchini and cucumber from our garden.  We are all tired of zucchini so I need to be creative in how I use it - maybe chocolate zucchini bread.  The cucumbers are a great bonus, because they are the only raw vegetable my kids consistently eat.


Picked up a worm farm and door mat from the Aldi clearance section.  Both were products I had identified in the weekly catalogue as being useful to us, but had never got round to picking up.  The worm farm was $10 off, and the door mat half price.

Purchased the German made 1 litre of white gloss paint, on special at Aldi this week, which we needed to finish some internal doors and windows.  We have been working away at the painting that needs to be done after the renovations we did last year.  We have the external painting work finished now.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Home Makeover: Master Bedroom {P,H,F,R}

Well, I have indicated in my last few posts we have been slowly working on doing up our house.  There is still a way to go but I thought it was time to share some of our progress.

Auntie Leila always says to start with the Master Bedroom....so I am for my {Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}!


{PRETTY AND HAPPY}

Here is the room as it currently looks.



I am pretty sure that our painter got his colours mixed up and the blue grey that was supposed to be in the Master Bedroom ended up in Tom Kitten's room and the baby blue for his room, in ours.  But, with all the furniture in it is not as obvious as it was in the beginning. 

Our bed is the one we purchased in Melbourne from Wilkins and Kent.  It was when we were pre-children and our disposable income was rather higher and our thriftiness rather less.  These days it just wouldn't happen!

The chest of drawers next to the bed and the blanket box under the window were both bought secondhand from Village Antiques in Bungendore.  The chest of drawers was a deeply discounted bargain - although the middle drawer does smell rather strongly of cigarette smoke!  It holds Mr Provincial's clothes providing valuable storage.  The blanket box has the winter doonas and spare pillows for guests in it.

Don't you love the pink and yellow stained glass in the window.  It is so cheerful.

We had the carpet taken out and the floorboards polished.  The wood is Cedar.

The lights above our bed came from Bunnings and used to sit on the bookcases in our house in Darwin where we had a lack of light problem in the living area and this was the only temporary solution we could come up with.  Now given the lack of space in the room we can't get in bedsides and therefore bedside lamps.  These lamps are ideal.

The painting which I love so much used to hang in my Grandparents house.  It is called Generations.



The curtains and bedclothes are from Country Curtains.  I got the inspiration and link for the curtains from Posie Gets Cozy.  I picked up the light bedspread and pillowcases from the clearance section of Country Curtains.  We really needed something lighter than our summer doona as our bedroom is un-airconditioned and we are making do with the ceiling fans we had installed.

On Mr Provincial's dresser sits "The Cat Who Walks by Himself" which I bought at the British Library; I haven't got round to persuading Mr Provincial to hang it yet.  My Mother-in-Law sent Mr Provincial the Dancing Lion from Singapore.  The cross-stitch was a gift from my Godmother for my 21st birthday.


Oh, don't you love double-hung windows.  They may be draughty in winter but they are so cosy cottage looking.

The bookcase we had in our study in our old house.  Now we live in a tiny three bedroom house we don't have a study so it is in the bedroom!

I love the umbrella and finally having it on display.  Mr Provincial bought that for me when we were just 18 and he was living in Taiwan for a year.  I wonder if our parents knew those schoolyard sweethearts would end up married with children!

The Ballet painting is by my Grandmother.  The Renoir print is from the Musee D'Orsay.  I always regretted not getting the sister print from the Met when I visited.  There is a lovespoon below it that my mother-in-law bought me back from the UK for my birthday last year.

The chair was my Great-Aunts.  I had it re-covered when we were first married.


This dresser was the first 'antique' I bought when I was 15.  It is looking a bit worse for wear after all its travels round the country, but I still love it.

I always have a stack of books by my bed; I seem unable to just read one.  Are you a focussed reader or a toe-dipper like me?  I seem to dabble then reach a point where I am gripped and throw myself in whole-heartedly.

My Mum drew the Degas inspired chalk drawing above the dresser.  She is such a talented artist.  She finally has time for such things now she is retired.


 {FUNNY}

Excuse my daughter throwing the tantrum on the bed.  When you lived with young children you sometimes face these staging issues!

We had the same amount of built-in-storage put in each bedroom.  It does mean that my husband and I have a little less space than we could use, but will allow our children to share their rooms if, God willing, there are more children in the future.

We paid extra to have the storage go to the ceiling in each room.  We are so glad we did as we can fit in crates of out-of-season clothes, or in the kids rooms out-grown clothes.

The floor rug my husband got when he went treking in Nepal. It was made by Tibetan refugees.



{REAL}

Would you like to see the befores?

At the point where Mr Provincial returned from the South and presented these pictures to me in Darwin I started to get a little worried as to what we had actually undertaken.  Actually, in the scheme of the house's entirety the bedroom was one of the better in appearances:)









Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Feeding Our Families: From Scratch

I am loving blog-hopping around the contributors to Renee's Feeding Our Families series.  So, I am being very presumptuous and joining in!
 
Often times I find myself wondering if I am making the best food choices for my family.  What are the words from Desiderata? "If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself". And, then I remember how far we have come in a few short years and have to give myself a little grace to make some mistakes.  I came from a non-cook home, and I only started cooking (as opposed to baking) at all when I left home.  Although I think my interpretation of 'cooked from scratch' was very different then than now - if it hadn't come premade out of bottle or packet I considered it cooked from scratch LOL.  There is so much more I actually make from scratch than I did when Ginger was born 3.5 years ago.

Bearing in mind it is Summer here, the following photos were all taken since mid-December....
From left: homemade yoghurt, granola, cakes (for church morning tea) and homegrown tomatoes

Shelling broadbeans from the markets

Rhubarb and apple pie

Ol' Vegemite Face

Fresh bread and my daughter's current 'pose for the camera' face

Apple Slices

Can't leave out the dolls

Stoning wild plums - a rather thankless task

Just back from the Orchard and ready to preserve - we live near the stonefruit growing area

Making ketchup

Weekend tradition - pancakes

Stewed nectarines - we found these growing wild on the side of the road.
I have to say that these days food preparation seems to consume a fair portion of my day, and yet I don't soak grains or beans like many whole food Mamas out there. 

So, what do I see as working in our kitchen?





YOGHURT


After many mis-adventures I have finally got a method for yoghurt that gives regular good results - I use the crockpot method - heat on low for 2 hours, cool for 3 hours, stir in half of a cup yoghurt then wrap in a towel and leave overnight.  So much less fiddly and more reliable than my old stove top method!  And, apart from buying yoghurt to use as the culture we haven't bought yoghurt in 2 years.

ROAST CHICKEN AND STOCK

Growing up roast chicken in our household meant someone had been to the chicken and chip shop and picked one up!  When I was 12 we went to the UK and stayed with a retired policeman and his wife for a couple of days.  She made the most amazing spread one afternoon including a home roasted chicken - her secret was coating the chicken in butter.  I was resolved that I would roast my own chickens once I left home.  And, this is now a fairly consistent meal on our menu plan because it yields.....

Chicken stock - I am not very good at making this immediately after our meal.  Usually I strip the meat off the carcass for another meal and then put the carcass in the freezer  Then on the day I have an identified need for chicken stock I pop it into the pot with fresh water, an onion, couple of chopped carrots and some celery.  Boil for an hour or so, then strain through a colander.

HEALTHY GRANOLA

Home made granola now forms part of our summer breakfasts.  The first homemade Granola I made,  I realise in retrospect was still laden with sugar.  We eat a much healthier version now.  I got this off a forum somewhere in the depths of the internet but have tweaked a bit over time.  I double the batch now we have a huge oven, so I need only make this every couple of weeks.

6 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup wheat germ or LSA
3/4 cup nuts
1/2 cup raw sunflowers or pepitas
1/2 cup sesame seeds

Combine in a large bowl.

1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together and pour over oat mixture.  Stir well. Spread in a thin layer on baking sheets.  Bake at 160 deg C for 10 minutes.  Stir and bake another 5 minutes.  Stir again and bake 3-5 minutes.

BREAD
 
I always seem to be making bread.  I am working on remembering to actually start this before 8:30 in the morning or I don't have bread ready at lunch.  In those circumstances, we generally have 'cheesy pizza' - our usual bread mix rolled out and topped with tomato and mozzarella (saves the time of the second rise) or Gozleme; the children eat the latter sans spinach.  Ginger calls Gozleme "God's Lemon"!

Gozleme Recipe

The dough
1 1/4 cup bread flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp dried yeast
2 tbs olive oil.
 
I use the bread maker and just threw in the ingredients and let it do the work.  It need only rise for 20 minutes once combined.  Once ready, divide into 4 and roll out.  Place some silverbeet or spinach (fresh or steamed) over half the dough and then scatter with fetta and fold over.  Cook on a greased cast iron frying pan over low-medium heat, about 2 minutes each side.  Serve with lemon wedges.


SOUP

Soup uses up the abundance of the garden or market.  At the moment I have 8 meals worth of zucchini soup stashed in the freezers because our plants are giving us so much.  Last night's meal was a defrosted zucchini soup with fresh bread.


POPCORN

Air-popped popcorn - does this need a description?  The kids eat it by the bowl full.

BAKING

Our sweet treats these days are generally made from scratch.  My brother-in-law gave us a microwave recipe for custard.  Boy is that good!  While a homemade cake is better than a cafe offering, these days I am thinking we need to make some healthier sweets.  I have borrowed Wholefood Baking by Jude Blereau from the library and want to try out some of her recipes.