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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.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The last couple of months....

 We have enjoyed abundant and delicious local food....






 We have worked in and enjoyed our garden












 And we have played....










Well, I was looking through my archives today at naptime with Ginger - that would be Tom Kitten's naptime; Ginger sadly has given up her daytime sleep in the last month.  She loves looking at pictures of herself when she was younger and I think it is such a pity that I have not been good about record keeping the last 12 months.  So, there really is no time like the present to do some catching up!

The last 7 months have just been so busy for us.  Since Mr Provincial left the Army it feels like we have been working flat out.  Evenings our now occupied with gardening or bottling produce.  He also now has a 3 hour daily commute so I am holding the fort a lot more.  Occasionally there is time to add a few stitches to the cross-stitch I started a couple of weeks after getting here - progress on that feels grindingly slow.

The weeks seem to be full as well.  For the first time in my adult life it is the week between weekends that seems to disappear; not just the weekends!  While the renovations were intensive up until Christmas and I thought I would just about lose my sanity if I saw another builder or contractor, we are slowly settling down into our rhythm.  Bread is being made daily, yoghurt weekly and I made my first batch of homemade laundry powder (since we got here) this morning.  The house is actually both clean and tidy!  The gardens...well they are enormous and we have so much work ahead of us but we are harvesting tomatoes and zucchini in abundance thanks to Mr Provincial's hard work.

We have been blessed in our neighbours - our neighbours over the back fence are lovely and we often while away a good hour in the evening chatting.  Ginger and Tom Kitten have been spoiled with the arrival of a play kitchen and doll's house from said neighbours - turns out our male neighbour enjoys a good garage sale!  Our neighbours across the road have offered to baby sit and even arranged for us to take up a egg arrangement they have had in place for 20 years but no longer needed because they have purchased their own chickens.  I love how we now always have an abundance of eggs in the fridge and opening the carton and finding a variety of egg sizes within.

Ginger is now at a local preschool one day a week.  She was so happy (if exhausted) when I picked her up last week - it was the right decision to send her.  We have kindygym, swimming, and music group during the week.  Ginger has ballet on the weekends.  Church for all on Sunday.  Just last week I was invited to join a bible study, we are going to try to attend but I do like to be home some of the time LOL!  At home I am at peace and the more we are home the more comfortable being at home we are.

I am finding everything requires more planning now we live out here in the country.  I also have to constantly be reminded by Mr Provincial that although Canberra is just over an hour away and offer so many opportunities we chose to live out here and need to engage in our local community; even when that means giving our children different opportunities than we might have given them had we chosen to live in Canberra.  Mr Provincial is now being given errands to run after work because it saves us $15 in petrol if I don't go in to do them - not to mention quite a number of hours.

But, most importantly we are content in this little brick house.  Our children are happy and we are settling in.  I couldn't ask for more than that.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY
Outside my window...we have an overcast summer day.  The birds are cheeping and I can see some tiny robins dancing round the back yard.

I am thinking...that in a few days time I will be 30 and that 2014 is a year I want to make some wholesale changes about how we live our day-to-day life - more wholefood, more family connectedness, more crafting, more reading, more time with God, new community connections...

I am thankful...for my husband having a week off work.  I am also thankful for my children adapting so well to the removal of the television to the garage.  We had one post-TV tantrum too many and I banished the television from the house.  I hadn't intended to do it in quite so dramatic fashion but have to say after the first day of a few whimpers we have had no further requests for viewing.

In the kitchen...I am doing a simple pasta dinner.  We have had visitors two times already this week for dinner, and I feel we could all do with a less elaborate meal tonight.

I am wearing...a fawn coloured knee length skirt and a t-shirt in a Laura Ashley reproduction floral.

I am creating...a quilt for my husband's Grandmother's 90th.  I made curtains for the second bathroom earlier in the week but now seem to have lost my momentum.  Back to the cutting board tonight.

I am going...to be bottling wild plums.   We have an abundance of wild plum trees in our town and some are frankly delicious.  Mr Provincial has just gone out picking and we will preserve those this afternoon.

I am wondering...how our homeschool 4 days / formal preschool 1 day ratio will work out for Ginger this year.  I am so nervous for her starting at the only preschool we could get her a place at....I have heard mixed reports.  Is this the right decision?  Moreover, what is the right schooling decision going forward.  As we have connected with more homeschooling families in this community I am gradually envying their certainty that homeschooling is absolutely the right choice for the family - I am knee deep in the "I just don't know what to do" mire.

I am reading...a Miss Read - Storm in the Village, a collection of C.S. Lewis letters - Yours Jack, Matthew for Everyone from the New Testament for Everyone series by Tom Wright and Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer.

I am hoping...to finish alphabetising the children's bookcase.  I got stymied at J because I ran out of laminating sheets.....

I am looking forward to...seeing my Mum tomorrow night and going to Sydney on Saturday with my husband to see America: Painting a Nation at the NSW Art Gallery - my birthday treat.

I am learning....that a pinecone does indeed close itself up when submerged in water!  The knowledge a good preschool curriculum can impart:)

Around the house...I need to clean the bathrooms again, catch up on a bit of washing and decide whether to put my Mum in the new verandah room (no easy bathroom access) or clean out the toy room so she can sleep there.

I am pondering...whether we should include a candle in our night-time bed ritual for Ginger and Tom Kitten who currently share a room.  Will it help the currently dragged out bedtime routine, or just add to it?

A favorite quote for today...

"As parents, we do not know what will be the result of our choices and decisions about lifestyle, schooling and spiritual direction for our children.  All we can do is continue to educate ourselves in our decision-making, and do the hard work these decisions demand.  It is not for may years that we will be able to see what indelible impressions we have made.  We just do our best day by day, year after year, in faith that our abiding love for our children will act as our guide, that love will show us the needs of each unique child of ours".  Sharifa Oppenheimer
One of my favorite things...is that in our new home I hear life around me all the time - whether it be birds cheeping, a rooster crowing, or the footfall of a horse on the road.  I feel so much more alive

A few plans for the rest of the week:  We will re-read Ginger's assigned books tomorrow, do some more phonics work, and work on her poem memorisation (we are doing the Summer Preschool Curriculum from Wee Folk Art).  I also need to do some grocery shopping tomorrow - we NEED milk!

A peek into my day...


Thursday, July 25, 2013

{PHFR}

Joining these lovely ladies for {Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

{Pretty}


Well, you don't blog for two months and massive changes take place in your life which leave you wondering where to start off again.

So let's start with the big stuff.

We bought a house.  It finally settled yesterday so I can talk about it freely.

A 1920s double brick cottage in country New South Wales.

This was necessitated by the fact that Mr Provincial got a new job, outside the Army (though he will continue in Reserves). 

Our house is nice and pretty on the outside, but inside it needs a tonne of work.  That is what the last two months have been spent doing.  Working out what we can afford to do right now to make it liveable.  Getting quotes, making choices, booking in contractors.  Getting rid of possessions because 'tis small!  

Contractors that don't always come through....like the electrician who was supposed to start today rewiring the house, but apparently has got 'booked up' and won't be able to come in until next week (we know that because we rang him today to tell him the fans we had ordered were mistakenly shipped here to Darwin not to NSW...not because he rang us!) and that causes issues for the painter who is supposed to go in next week, and the floorer the week after.  You run businesses people - I think a phonecall to the affected homeowner is a pretty basic necessity!  But I digress.

A very pretty house.  Our first family home owned by us which we can do with what we will.  Very exciting.  God has been most gracious in his provision.

{Happy}



One of the features which really attracted us to this property was that it is on a huge corner block so we can have our own vegetable patch, have a chicken run and fruit tree orchard.  In fact, the vegetable patch is already established - albeit empty.  And we know for certain there is a pear tree on the property because all of this year's crop was dumped on said vegetable patch.

As a side issue, it looks like we have interesting neighbour's to the rear.  Our conjecture is they are running a scrap yard from their property!  Things you don't notice before you put an offer on a house:)  We are thinking some nice new fencing or vines would improve our rear outlook no end!

One more cute rear view of the cottage before we move on...



{Funny}

Well they say you can never start them too early on household chores.

Tom Kitten is obsessed with the vacuum cleaner!  Not just climbing on it, but actually using it.  Properly.  As in it is actually running in these photos.




{Real}


Ginger loves these wellingtons!




It is the middle of winter in Capital Country and coming from the tropics as we presently do, our children don't really possess winter clothing.  Temperatures in Capital parts are around the zero mark or below (minimum) and our house has minimal heating - read one wood stove.  So we have had a mad scramble to outfit the children.  One of our friend's came through in a big way dropping off an enormous bag of clothing for Ginger that her girls' had outgrown.  Ginger of course had to try them all on.  This despite the fact the ambient temperature her in Darwin is in the high 20s/ early 30s (80-90F!).  She was dressed like this for the rest of the afternoon.