Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Book Review

I've been reading the Frugalwoods blog for quite a while now and pre-ordered her book back in October last year.  The book arrived yesterday and I sat down with a coffee and read it in one day.  I'm not a big reader however when it's something that interests me I'll read it pretty quickly.  Yesterday it rained most of the day so I felt very indulgent sitting out the back with a coffee reading and eventually came inside as it was a bit windy as well as rain and sat on the couch and read the book from start to finish.  As I've been reading her blog for a while I knew a lot of the story however it was really interesting hearing the rest of the story.  I would recommend reading it and perhaps get your local library to get a copy.

One thing that came across in the book was that they never do anything without thorough research. I'm like that as well however these two take research to the next level and fully paid off when purchasing their first house and their subsequent 66 acre property in Vermont. This is a story about how they retired to the country at age 32 and are financially independent.  Both Elizabeth and her husband work part time from their property because they enjoy what they do.  Don't need to work from a money perspective however, enjoy the stimulation and creative outlet along with living on their 66 acre property.  They have just welcomed their second baby to their household at the same time her book was launching so they have been very busy. 

One of the other things that she talks about in terms of budgeting is reducing line items in your budget from fixed and discretionary.  The only fixed line item they had was their mortgage.  She said even food, electricity, phones etc. are all discretionary as in you can always do better, use less electricity and have somewhat control over even reducing these numbers a little bit.

One paragraph in her book is a great example really assessing and thinking long term.  Here is what she says:-

Would you rather watch TV or have $91,000.  Lets say you spend $75 a month on cable.  It doesn't sound like a huge amount of money on it's own.  But multiplied by twelve months, that's $900 a year on television.  Now, lets say you instead invested that $900 in a low-fee index funds and realized a 7% return, which is considered an average annual market return over the long term.  Imagine you kept that same $900 invested for decades, which is the wisest way to invest, and added $900 to your investments every year instead of paying for cable.  In 30 years, your annual investments of $900 would've grown to $91,865.74.  Yeah, you read that right $91,865.74.  Now ask yourself again: Would you rather have $91K or watch television.

Her book is how they did it and talks about graduating from college getting her first internship in New York City that paid $10,000 and living in an unsavoury neighbourhood right up to moving to Vermont and having their first baby.

Years ago I helped a friend do a budget when she had maxed out her credit cards and didn't know what to do.  I love doing numbers and spread sheets and helping her.  Budgeting is all about doing things differently and one of the simple things that I got her to change was to stop buying her soft drink with her lunch each day.  Sometimes taking baby steps is the first part and so I got her to buy a box of soft drink from the supermarket and take a can to work every day instead of buying it.  A soft drink at $2.50 per drink x 30 days = $75 whereas she could buy a box of 30 cans on sale for about $20 from the supermarket.  So straight way she is $50 better off without giving up her soft drink.  If you were being extremely frugal you could give it up altogether however I like to try and do things differently so you don't feel deprived and can stick to it.  She could also make lunch and take it to work thereby saving another $80-$100 per month however just with the one little tweak of the soft drink you can find more money.

Frugalwoods went all out and gave up most things haircuts, make up, dining out however they had a long term goal to own acreage and live in the woods and so to them it was totally worth it.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Around Here

Around here we have 2 weeks left of school until Easter holidays.  The Autumn weather still thinks it's summer with days of 31-32 degrees this week however at least the humidity is not high thank goodness.  I've managed to do a couple of rows of crochet on my lap rug I started years ago while watching Landline and Gardening Australia on Sunday.  Saturday we headed out to Sandgate for a walk at low tide and to chase the soldier crabs and have fish and chips for an early dinner.

I've finally ordered some seed potatoes from Green Harvest and also going to plant some sweet peas this year.  I say that every year and when St Paddy's day comes around (when you are supposed to plant them) I get busy and forget so this year I'm planting them.  When we were kids one of the side walls to our house always had sweet peas planted so I wanted to get them growing this year.  Here's a few photos from our afternoon at Sandgate.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Hand Made Bunting

Well as the saying goes hand made takes longer than to buy new and this can certainly be said about this party bunting I made.  The history behind this is my friend's friend had a beautiful bunting and I would borrow it from her (via my friend) in February and November for both my kids birthdays.   I loved it so much I went to Spotlight and bought the exact same fabrics, made a template and thought I would get to making this.  As I was a mother raising 2 tiny kids on my own there wasn't a lot of "sewing time" so the fabric sat in the original packet and also a house move that year as well.  During the last few years I took this project out once and made a few triangles and then it went back in the bag.

Two years ago in November I wanted to borrow the bunting again however it was her sisters birthday so the bunting wasn't available.  I thought to myself I need to finish my own bunting in time for Sienna's birthday and then that came and went until last November and the same thing happened.  Sorry the bunting is being used so it's not available.  This was the final kick I needed to get this project done in time for Sienna's birthday in February.  Christmas came and went and then early February I thought now is the time.  I spent one Saturday afternoon sewing the triangles and then the next day I sewed them onto the binding and it was done.  I also found the original docket in the bag dated 28-01-2011 so as I mentioned .....hand made things take time (ha ha).  I was so thrilled with this and we used it for Sienna's birthday last weekend.  I made mine double the length of the original one so it would span across our outdoor area.  There was also some leftover triangles so I made that up for Sienna's room which is about 2 metres long.

With mine I had 7 different coloured fabrics, some with dots on them, some with stars and some with stripes.  I picked an order of the 7 fabrics and then just repeated this pattern along the bunting.  The triangles are 26cm along the sides and the top is 20cm.  The tape was also purchased from Spotlight and is called "Birch Heading Tape" 50mm white (Product No in 2011 was 029112).  At the time it was $2.99 per metre.

I made a cardboard template of the triangle/flag and this was the finished flag.  I cut strips of fabric using my rotary cutter and mat and then I would top and tail the triangles to get the most out of the fabric.  Sometimes I cut two strips and layed them with the fabric wrong sides out so they were ready to sew rather than having the turn them all over and match up again. 

After that I sewed the triangle/flags on the sides leaving the top open.  I then turned them inside out and using sissors snipped around the point to cut a little bit of the excess fabric off and then cut a little snip every cm into the fabric so it would turn inside out nicely and end up flat.  Once I turned it inside out I put the cardboard template inside and then ironed the triangle/flag to get a nice firm edge.  

Once they were done I then ironed the Birch Heading Tape in half to give it a nice crease and then left half to one metre at the end for the ties (eg so you can tie it around a pole) and then I placed the flag into the folded tape and pushed the top of the flag so that it was in the centre of the tape (ie it was touching the ironed fold) and then put pins in it to keep it in place.  I then continued with the next flag and the edge butting up against the edge of the previous one and pinned etc.  I then sewed 1/4 inch line along the white tape taking pins out as I got to them.  So in front of my sewing machine from left to right is the folded tape with the middle folded bit on the left then the top of the flag is next and then the pointy end of the flag is on your right.  (if that makes sense).  After all of that it only took me two afternoons to finish this project and I was thrilled with it.

All systems go pulling one apart and putting one together.

Lots of activities going on.

The old trampoline being dismantled and my beautiful bunting that spans across the back area.

New trampoline put together.

Sienna got a new trampoline for her birthday so we had all the family over for a BBQ and while the new trampoline was going up the old rusted out one was coming down.  I bought the original trampoline 6.5 years ago and back then had a "trampoline put together" family BBQ on Exhibition Wednesday.  Eventually the net tore away from the top hoop and Sienna (bless her) got some wool and sewed it up and attached it to the top.  After many months of her jumping that ended up breaking and then we got smart and used cable ties and put them all around the top to hold up the net and then continued on again.  Then late last year a couple of the springs broke away and the stand was rusting out so it was time to get a new one because this was no longer very safe for her, particularly since she is always doing back flips.  This one came from Kmart and I had it on lay-by until her birthday.  The old one was also from Kmart so we got many years out of it.  The old one was 12 ft and this one is 14 ft as she is twice the age now so I went for the bigger one.  She was so thrilled with it and invited her friend over straight away to have a jump on it.

Happy 12th Birthday.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Home Made Tomato Sauce

I would love to do more preserving however I never get around to it for various reasons.  It's actually been 2 years since I have made this tomato sauce so I wanted to give it another go.  It's quite sweet so I think I could cut down on the amount of sugar in the recipe next time however I had fun making this.  My friend Karin and I did a preserving course at Green Living Australia in Brisbane back in December 2013.  It was such a hot day in Brisbane however we were in air-conditioning so it was a great day to do the course.

I ended up selling my stick blender a long time ago because I have a Thermomix however I think I might get one from Kmart because when you have a big pot of tomatoes that need blending when they are hot, the stick blender is the way to go.  I didn't get this blended as much as I would like because I was blending the hot liquid in the Thermomix and you need to be very wary when doing this.  I think it's safer to use the stick blender in the big pot. Because of this I only produced 3.5 jars and then with the pulp I dished it into ice cube trays to use as pizza sauce on our pizza bases.  Last Friday night we made some pizzas and used some of these and it was great.  Once they are frozen I take them all out and put them into a ziplock bag.

HOME MADE TOMATO SAUCE (from Country Life Experiment blog)

2 red onions – finely diced
5 garlic cloves – finely sliced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons curry powder
2.5 kg ripe tomatoes – roughly chopped
2 cups white sugar
600 mls white wine vinegar
1 Teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons cornflour (optional)
2 Tablespoons water (optional)
1. In a heavy saucepan, saute the red onion and garlic in olive oil until soft and clear.
2. Add in the curry powder, and cook for a further minute.
3. Add in the tomatoes and cook them until they have collapsed.
4. Add in the sugar, white wine, and salt.
5. Simmer for an hour, until the sauce has thickened.
6. If the sauce is too runny, blend the cornflour in water, and then add into the sauce. Allow to boil and thicken slightly.
7. Spoon hot sauce into sterilized jars, wipe the top, and seal (I got 5 large jars from this quantity).

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Around Here

Around her I'm loving a bit of rain and the change in weather....the heat...OMG the heat this summer was shocking so all I can say is bring on Autumn.  Here's a few pics of what's been going on around here.

Bluey enjoying the view to the backyard.

A bit of "freelensing" photographic technique I was having a go at on my faux tulips.

Another pic of same flowers.

Again this is a moody arty pic not meant to be in focus.

We love the huge flowering Bougainvillea up the road from our place.

We are still enjoying the jam drops I made recently.  Here's the recipe.

A family self portrait taken at GOMA....they had cameras on the floor.

This was all mirrored and a rather crazy exhibit with we had to wait 30 mins to view and were in there for about 3 mins.

Rainbow light shining onto the kitchen back splash.

Afternoon painting activities.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Jam Drops

I don't know anyone who doesn't love a good Jam Drop biscuit.  When I was 21 years old and flatting with a friend his mother used to make a batch of jam drops and send them down to Brisbane in a biscuit tin. She lived about 4 hrs from Brisbane in a little country town and as I was flatting with him I got to eat the yummy jam drops as well.  It was always a highlight when the mail came.

I made a batch of jam drops two weeks ago however they had brown sugar in them and they were quite sweet and they didn't hold their shape very well so I've gone back to my normal recipe and made some this morning for the freezer.

Here's the recipe that I've used.


½ cup Sugar
125 gm Butter
2  eggs
2 cups Self Raising Flour
1 teaspoon Vanilla
pinch of salt
Jam of your choice


1.   Turn oven to 160 degrees.

2.    Cream butter, sugar and vanilla in Thermomix on speed 5 for 20-30 seconds and scrape down the bowl.  If using your normal kitchen mix master just cream butter, sugar and vanilla.

3.    Add eggs and process for 20 seconds on speed 4. (mix until eggs combined).

4.      Gradually add sifted flour and salt and process for 30-40 seconds on speed 3 until a stiff dough forms. (mix until dough forms).

5.      Roll into balls, place on greased oven tray.

6.      Push thumb into center to make a small indent and fill with your chosen variety of Jam

7.   Bake in moderate oven for about 12-15 minutes until just brown.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Afternoon Tea

I'm sure you all have a favourite pikelet recipe and this is the one we currently use.  This morning on the TV they interviewed a lady by the name of Kerri-Ann from Toowoomba who is a whiz at meal planning, meal prep and saving time and money in the kitchen.  She spends $150 per week and this covers their blended family of 7 so I'm very keen on getting tips from her.

She does not do a bulk cook up of a month's worth of dinners however she does bulk cook morning and afternoon tea items.  Here is the interview from this morning.

This morning I cooked up a big batch of her pikelet recipe and made pikelets for the freezer.  Often I will mix up the ingredients before I pick the kids up from school and cook them when we get home or on the weekends I get the kids to whip up a batch for morning tea.  Her recipe has a cup of sugar in it however this is a really large recipe and made about 45 pikelets.  Having them in ziplock bags in the freezer is very convenient.  If you were doing this for afternoon tea to eat and didn't want to freeze any for school lunches etc. I would do half the recipe.

PIKELETS (makes about 45 pikelets)

  • 1 cup of Sugar
  • 2 cups of Milk
  • 3 cups of Self Raising Flour
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Essence 

  1. Beat eggs, vanilla and sugar in a large bowl with a whisk.
  2. Add milk and flour alternately and mix until smooth.
  3. Cook spoonfuls in a warm buttered pan (not hot) until bubbles form on the surface then flip and cook until golden.
  4. Serve with butter and Golden Syrup or Jam.
  1. Use a whisk to ensure the mixture is light and fluffy.
  2. If you have time to leave the mixture to rest for 20 mins before cooking it's good to eliminate any flour balls or lumps
I also bought myself a pan from Aldi this week for $9 so that we can get our pikelets an even size.  Not that this matters however it means you can fit in 7 at a time whereas when we do them in a normal fry pan we seem to only be able to make 4 at a time.  I didn't need this pan and tossed up if I should another another item in the kitchen however we've used it twice this week and I'm really happy with it.  Our design has a smiley face on it and the other one was more of a waffle effect.