Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Bag Lady

Hello, my Name is Sharon and I am a bagaholic , hangs head, and grins. 

 I love bags big time!  I love making them.  I am always searching the op shops for handles, as I believe that the handles make or break the bag.  This week I manage to snag 3 wooden handles from the hospice op shop in town for $2.  Two, I could use straight away to finish bags that have been waiting a while for their handles.  I was so excited to have finally matched up the bags and handles so got to and finished them last night.

The one above is a just a crochet rectangle with lace frill and crochet flowers.  I just needed to extend the top and fold over and slip stitch together. And I was done in 45 minutes.

This bag is one of my favourite methods.  I buy the out of date curtain and furnishing samples in bundles of 20 or so for a mere $2. 

Then I use lace and old doilies to decorate.  (I can’t bear to use the doilies I make!)  For this one I had crochet a flower in the matching red and cotton, and added a pearl 

button on both sides. Actually, I didn’t finish this till this afternoon!  So, two more bags to give as gifts, or for the church fair, or keep for myself.  In the first picture of this bag you will see that I have a cup of tea, well that is one of the cups from my haul yesterday.  

While I was at the counter buying my handles, someone delivered a box of bits and pieces, the ladies had a quick look through and sighed, one of them said, “more china!”  My ears pricked up for my obsession with china runs a close second with bags. 
“Can I have a look?” I asked hopefully, as I glimpsed some choice pieces.  
"Okay," well, I was in heaven the box had some of my favourite china some crochet cottons and pretty embroidered runners and small table cloths plus some very old magazines from the 1950’s.

I was drooling.  “When will this go out”, I asked

“If you take the whole box you can take it away with you”, said one of the ladies, whom happens to be the manager.

 “Really, there are some good pieces in there!.” I said reluctantly. 

“No, you can have the box for $20 as you are a very good customer!” 

“Are you sure?  There are a couple of cup and saucer sets that you usually sell for $15 to $20!”

“We have so much china at the moment it is a joke and those crochet cottons nobody uses anymore.”

“I do

“Well if any more come in we put them aside for you” the lady offered.  

And would you believe it she phoned me this lunchtime and said that there was a large bag of crochet cottons delivered this morning.

Despite the Royal Albert china and early (1900’s) Meakin china, my favourite piece was this cup, it is Japanese and has a wonderful mother of pearl finish, no saucer, I don’t know whether there is meant to be one.  All in all there were 4 Royal Albert sets, 5 Meakin plates, the Japanese cup and some rather nice plates and bowls.  I feel very blessed.  Needless to say I emptied all my change out into their donation box, the least I could do! The magazines are a real trip down memory lane and I will blog about them at a later stage.

Food budget.

I only needed two items for the coming week – pate and some yogurt that was on sale cheaper than I could make it, plus some milk that I will get later this week to see me through the fortnight.  So I was able to buy some items for my store.  They were all specials and came to $27.25 and that leaves $2.85, milk is $1.99.  First fortnight worked yay!

I am sticking to the menu plan okay, except I am tending to have my main meal at night as it is too hot to eat at midday.

My heat pump was installed this afternoon and I have had it on cool, bliss! That is one reason why my post is late as I couldn’t concentrate on writing it with the workmen drilling and banging!!   And on this note, I will end this post as I need to have a lie down!

So thanks for visiting and have a great day/night wherever you are!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Being Flexible

Being keen as anything to get going on my challenge of cutting food costs, I made a menu plan and a shopping list, hah, that all went out the window when I got to the supermarket.  Normally, I would have used a brochure they stick through the letterbox in the weekend.  Somehow it didn’t arrive and I assumed that the usual specials would apply how wrong I was!

First of all I intended to buy lamb as that has been on special for ages, no it was up to $34 a leg!  No way! I cast my eye along the chiller, oh pork! Yippee!  A good price too.  Such a good price that I am seriously thinking of going to town after my physio on Friday, and get some more joints, as also (I discover that I can see the specials online) the legs joints are even a better bargain! 

There were quite a few bargains that weren’t on my shopping list such as avocados at 89 cents each; Jarrah coffee reduced down to $4.00, normally it is about $7, and potatoes they have been about $2.99 a kilo, I got a 2.5 kg (5 lb) bag for $4.00.  Maggi cup of sups for $1.99, (quite often I will just have a cup of soup and a piece of toast for supper.  Quite a quick and cheap meal, (there are 4 in a pack.) Tasty Cheese $10.00 instead of $12.00'

I quickly realised as I was going around the shop that my menu plan was not valid anymore and also that my actual needs for the next fortnight were only about ¼ my budget.  So I am able to replenish my stock as well.  Well mostly!  I did plan to make a quiche on Friday as I have a friend coming for lunch and she is vegetarian.  I would have used up the butter I have for the pastry, However I could not believe my eyes it was over $5.00 a 500gm block. (Normally you can get it $3.50, what happened?  So, I will make impossible quiche instead and save my butter!  I went on line and the other supermarket in town has it for $4.50, STILL!?!!

Here is my budget and menu plan, I promise, promise you I will not bore you with it every fortnight, I just wanted to list it to show that even when food is dear in your area, if you have a well-stocked store you can be thrifty. As a matter of interest Winz (state benefit people) calculate that when giving out a food grant to its clients, $100 for a single person a week is sufficient!  PLEASE I AM NOT SAYING IT IS TOO MUCH, THESE PEOPLE ARE VERY NEEDY and NEED HELP WHEN UNEXPECTED BILLS COME IN, THEIR BENEFITS DON'T MAKE ALLOWANCE FOR THE UNEXPECTED. (I have been there!) I am only giving this as a benchmark. Also I wanted to show that you can eat really well on my budget.  Yes there is an initial outlay to build up your store, but that can be done gradually during the weeks you have a surplus.

Fortnightly needs:

Pork 2 kg (4 lb) - $14.22
Chicken  1.3 kg (2 ¾ lb.)- $9
½ Cauliflower - $2.70
Eggplant - $2.49
Sour cream 250 gm (8 oz.) - $3.00
500 gm carrots - $2.22
500 gm Onions - $1.47

Total $35.10

Store cupboard

Potatoes $2.50 kg $4.00
Tin diced tomatoes - 80 cents
UHT milk 1 litre - $2.00
4 packets Maggi soup of soups - $8.00
1 Watties Tortellini Sachets 350 gm - 3.00 (stand by treat)
Jarrah Vienna latte coffee - $4.00 (treat)
Bread (el cheapo) -- $1.00 (I like to have a loaf in the freezer in case I don’t get round to making a loaf!)
Tasty cheddar 700 gm - $10.00, will cut it up into 4 pieces and freeze.

Total $32.80

This leaves $32.10 of my fortnightly budget of $100 (US $70) for perishables and replenishment of stores.

Menu plan

Tuesday Roast chicken, potatoes, kumara, carrots and peas, strawberries
Wednesday –Cold Chicken, potato salad, lettuce salad, fresh peach
Thursday – Broccoli and feta fritters, garden salad and fresh peach
Friday – Impossible Quiche, garden salad and fruit salad with yogurt
Saturday – Chicken Pilaf, lettuce salad, yogurt and berries
Sunday - Roast Pork and the trimmings, Bread and Butter Pudding
Monday - Black Bean`Quesadillas, Fruit salad
Tuesday – Cold pork, broccoli, carrots and Jacket Potato, rest of Bread and Butter Pudding
Wednesday – Chicken curry and rice, yogurt.
Thursday – Stuffed zucchini (mince beef), rice, carrot salad, preserved apricots
Friday – Sweet and Sour pork, noodles and stir fry vegetables, apple
Saturday – Broccoli/cauliflower soufflĂ© and garden salad, apricot crumble
Sunday – Chicken risotto, using last of chicken and stock made from the carcass, chocolate mousse  
Monday – remains of risotto made into a patty with a pocket of feta cheese, chocolate mousse
Breakfast is usually toast and vegemite or jam, or a cereal, such as cornflakes or weetbix, milk and preserved fruit.
Supper will be the cereal if toast is had in the morning or a cup of soup and salad sandwich. I will make ratatouille to have some days as a change.

Today’s main meal I had this evening as it was too hot to eat at midday!  I still haven’t eaten the peach, but will have it later perhaps.  I have planned for desserts but quite often I will miss them. They are there if I want them.
With this plan I have not used all my pork, I will have at least 6 meals lfor the freezer. And I probably will have some vegetables left.  There were only 3 meals that made heavy use of what was in store. 

The key to this is being flexible, go for the bargains and then plan your meals.  Take enough time when you are going around the shop to think what if I have that what else would I need.  This shop was done in only one supermarket; no doubt I could have pared it down even more if I shopped around more.  But we are in the middle of a heat wave and no way was I going to traipse down the other end of town!  I will check it out on Friday.

One bit of good news, the company that is fitting my heat pump in is doing it next Tuesday so if the heat wave is still here I will have air conditioning. Yay!

Crochet news – I have been working on a shawl from some wool I unraveled from an op shop jersey. I am using two strands and it is coming on well.  However I would love someone to tell me how to stop unraveled wool looking like spaghetti junction!

I fell in love with shawls last winter and I do have another one on the hooks, but have put it aside as it is too hot to handle wool comfortably, so, I have been making some doilies.

They are quick and fun to make.  This is made with no 10 cotton and a 1.75 mm hook.  I got the pattern from Ravelry, I must put a link to my project pages on the side bar.  I am not sure if you can see it if you don’t have an account with them, but for those of you that do, you can access the pattern links.

In the Garden

It is too hot to be in the garden much, but I have had to clear the bed against back of the house, so they can put in the unit for the heat pump.  I will start again as the plants are overgrown and rather shaggy.  The Geraniums had got taller than me!  So, a good excuse putting in a new plan for that area.
Tonight I will take some time out to read with a herbal tea, I am reading David Baldacci’s Zero Day, I love his books.  After I have posted this I will strip the chicken carcass and freeze the meat and boil the carcass to make stock. 

Life cannot get any better than this!

Thanks for visiting and have a lovely day/night.

PS I want to thank Jane over at Hope and Thrift for inspiring me to take the plunge.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

You are never too old to learn!

I have been taught some lessons this week.  The first one is how we can say something without really thinking about the meaning and how it affects the listener or reader.  For example, I know Jane over at Hope and Thrift was a bit miffed when various comments called her ‘lucky”, I don’t think I called her lucky but I think I implied it, and I should know better.  So, apologies, Jane.

I think when we use the word lucky today, envy is involved, it’s the grass is greener over the hill syndrome.  I think that there is a bit of laziness involved, people see something they would like but don’t want to put in hard yards.  The true meaning of luck implies unmerited fortune.  Living a simple life actually is hard work, hours gardening, canning, and sourcing bargains and so on.  It is enjoyable and very satisfying, but like everything in life you have to work at it.  So, from now on I am going to be mindful of what I say, that’s lesson no 1.

Lesson no 2 is thinking outside the box.  I have been preparing my garden for the autumn and winter crops, lots of weeding and digging, it’s been a struggle, but I doggedly soldiered on.  Yesterday morning the ground was too wet to do any work (it been raining here 3 days), so I decided to do a bit of blog hopping.  I found some wonderful new sites and will add them to my sidebar soon.  On one blog they mentioned ‘no dig’ vegetable gardening and my fingers quickly clicked on the link to a marvellous video of a trial of traditional and no dig vegetable growing.  I struggled with the gentleman’s accent but got the gist very well.  Excited I googled ‘no dig’ gardening and then went on forest gardening and permaculture.  A wonderful morning spent learning.  I have decided to give ‘no dig’ a trial; I have 6 vegetable beds and will prepare 3 of them the ‘no dig’ way in preparation for next spring. Hedging my bets, ha ha!
Here is a link to some of Charles Dowding videos 

Lesson no 3. Always keep on challenging yourself.  I suppose all of us can get set in our ways, and don’t see that a change can beneficial to our goals in life.  I have been thinking over the last month or so that a mobility scooter would make my life a lot easier.  I don’t want the cost of running a car, as I don’t think the costs would outweigh the advantages.  But I want some independence, at the moment I rely on the kindness of friends and a limited bus service.  The friends I know are only too happy to help but I am conscious that it is awkward for them sometimes, the bus service is free and stops near my house but the times are not necessarily convenient.  Having a scooter would mean that I could shop around the stores for the necessities of life, I could visit friends or go to events without them having to pick me up and I would be free to leave at my convenience and not theirs. 

Anyways, the problem was I didn’t want to dig into my savings as they are earmarked for other things.  I have already started saving towards one but it was going to be a long road because they are about $4000 new or $2000 second hand.  Last night I went der….! I have been reading Jane’s challenge of living on $20 a week for 3 people.  I don’t want or need to so strict, but I could cut my food budget right down, my food larder and freezer are overflowing, I can barter with neighbours for the extras.  I worked out that $50 a week would enable me to live healthfully even if plainly.  It might mean more time preparing meals, but hey I am home all day.  I will also be able to save on electricity costs as I am having a heat pump installed, and also won’t have to spend so much on firewood.  I reckon that I will be able afford the scooter before next spring. Or, even sooner if I can find what I want second hand, which is ok as I wouldn’t want to use it much in winter.

I have decided to chart my progress once a week for this challenge on my blog as I hope it will keep me on the straight and narrow.  So here comes 6 months of tightening my belt, maybe figuratively and well as metaphorically, ha-ha.

Thanks for visiting an d see you next time,

Friday, 17 February 2017

A forgotton Art

I have been reading a lot of “frugal” blogs lately.  All seem to agree that growing your own stuff is a big factor in paring down costs. 

As I have mentioned before I was unable to put in a proper summer vegetable garden due to my accident.  I do have stuff growing, that some friend planted for me when I was in hospital.  One of them was broccoli.  They put in 12 plants and now I have a massive glut.  I could freeze it but as I have a small freezer and I can grow it all year round, it seems a wasted effort.  But, it has worked out well...   While I was waiting for the bus last week, a neighbour popped out and asked whether I wanted any zucchini (my friend never put any zucchini in), would I ever, for some reason they are still expensive in the shops.  In the conversation, I mentioned I had a glut of broccoli, her eyes lit up.  So a swap was made.  She also mentioned that she only grew strawberries and zucchinis these days (she is in her 80’s), and that she was tired of eating strawberries every day. Well my strawberry patch was useless this year due to lack of attention in the spring.  But my blackberries are going to be a massive crop this year.  So we arranged that I will have some of her strawberries and give her some of my blackberries when they ripen. 

This made me think, in my childhood, I remember the neighbors swapping stuff with my parents, someone had lots of apple trees and we had lots of plum trees and so on.  So, as an experiment I knocked on a neighbour’s door who has a peach tree in her front garden with peaches rotting on the ground.  I asked her if she would mind if I took some peaches and I could give her some of my apples or plums when they were ready.  Well she almost gave me a huge hug!  The peach tree was there when she moved in and didn’t want to chop it down as it provided some shade in the summer, but she can’t stand peaches!  But she loves apples, so a swap was arranged, I have peaches and when my apples are ready I will supply (I have 3 apple trees so it will be no hardship!).  Now I have 3 baskets of peaches to preserve, and more to come.  She also told me that she had planted too many tomatoes, would I like some.  Yes I would, would she like some free range eggs as a friend from the country always brings me a dozen every week in exchange for some editing and graphic design of a newsletter for her business.  Yes she would.

The moral of all of this is even if you can’t grow something or your crop has failed for some reason the old barter system is a wonderful way to be thrifty.  It has a plus side, it is a way to get to know your neighbours and create a caring community feel that is fast disappearing from modern life.

Another thing I have learnt in the last week or so, where there is a will there is a way!  I have been desperate to get out into the garden and get on with preparing my Autumn and Winter vegetable plot.  Being on crutches has hindered that desire, not any longer I have discovered that spades and forks make wonderful crutches and I can garden after a fashion!!  It is tiring but I can do it and it is amazing that 10 minutes actually adds up quite quickly.  Luckily my hips are quite good and bending is not a problem.  I am also sure that it will be good for the healing process as well.

Well that is it for today, hope to see you soon.

Monday, 13 February 2017

The 3 "C"s - Cats,Crochet and Cakes

It has been several weeks since I have posted!  I have been under the weather and had to rest up.  I took the opportunity to get stuck into my obsession – crochet.  One project which only took one hour or so and as a result have got hooked on washcloths!  This dish cloth has been in constant use and I will be making more.

When I was in the wool shop buying some cotton, I saw the many wonderful colours that wool comes in these days.  How I resisted I don t know.  Maybe it was the thought of all that wool in my trunk from my tapestry kit making days.  Needless to say I got some of the wool out and within a week had completed this small throw and a cushion cover  to match (Well to be honest I still have the backing of the cushion to crochet).  I draped the throw on the bed and went to get my camera.  Came back and what do I see my lovely cats firmly ensconced.  What is even more remarkable these two never sleep near each other.

Ever since it has been a battle to get them off it, Bro the black one usually spends the day outdoors, but for the last week he has been inside a lot on this little throw.  I have given up, it is theirs!

So, I fished out of my trunk some more wool, big hanks of Paterna wool.  There will be enough to make a proper sized blanket.  I have already made great inroads on it.  Crochet is so easy to do in bed or listening to the radio.  It is very addictive.

I am feeling a lot better now and yesterday was back firing on all of my cylinders.  But it was pouring with rain so I couldn’t get into the garden.  I have always wanted to make a teapot cozy, so trawled the internet for patterns.  I didn’t really want to do any I saw, I want a homey one!  There are some astonishing  tea cozies out there!  So decided to do a plain one and sew flowers on it.  How to do flowers?  Well I found a wonderful blog Attic 24 with instructions .  So I spent the morning doing Lucy’s tutorials with odd scraps of wool.  I feel quite chuffed; all I needed to do was make the cozy!  Completed last night.  Tah Dah!

So feeling pleased with myself this morning, I duck out in the rain to view what could be picked for dinner (I like to have my main meal midday,) and saw a few stalks of Rhubarb appearing.  Not enough to make a bowl full, but enough to make my favourite cakey dessert that my grandmother used to bake a lot.  The fruit can be varied according what you have on hand.  I didn’t really have enough rhubarb so added one apple.  (It is rather special if the fruit has a tang to it.)

Gran’s Fruity Cakey Dessert


1 ¼ cups s/r flour or plain flour with 1 ½ tsp BP
¾ cup sugar
120g melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
Topping – fruit of choice
2 tbsp. sugar


Combine flour, sugar, butter vanilla and eggs.  Put in greased pan and top with chopped fruit.  Sprinkle the sugar on top and bake 180 Celsius for up to one hour.  Serve with custard, cream or plain yogurt.  This really freezes well.

All in all a productive few days.
See you again soon.