Saturday, January 30, 2016

Farewelling friends....

 Mimi's Rock Cakes...source Simple Savings
Hello to the person from Hamilton, Waikato who frequently visits this post. I do not know who you are, nor why you visit here so often, but your visits are noted :)

Some of you know me from a money saving website here in Australia. If you do, you would be aware that they pay me for a newsletter contribution, and have done for some years. That bit of pocket money meant that I felt justified in supporting their very friendly forum, with long stretches of my personal time. It also meant that while there was a bit of extra pocket money attached, the family tolerated my long stints on the computer, playing in that forum :)

That site is now in review mode as they work out how to refresh their business, and their immediate chosen strategy, until they decide where to go next, is to release me from my paid writing commitment to their newsletter, to reinstate an old favourite contributor, who left some time ago after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing. They cannot, apparently, afford us both. The lady in question has been called 'a brilliant writer' hence her comeback, which I confess, stung a little. I never claimed to be a 'brilliant writer', but I always wrote from the heart.

This has been a blow to me as it's come without warning, effective immediately, and whilst I'll miss the money a little, I will miss the friendships, and what I felt I could do to help people see a life beyond poverty and struggle, more.

The way has been left open for me to return in an unpaid capacity whenever I like, but I know that would now be very difficult.

I am both sad and relieved. My own life has moved beyond penny pinching some time ago, and it's only when I return to the site in question, that I feel the savings gene kick I deliberately played down our very wonderful trip last year, as I felt it was disrespectful to members who are struggling to pay the mortgage and put food on the table, to share too much. Likewise I do not speak of trips to the ballet, theatre or a plethora of wonderful activities in which we immerse ourselves, for the same reason. There is more to me than a 3 week rotating menu and shopping at Aldi ;-)

I've had a book in the works for some time now, and they have promised to help promote it, so this will free my time to focus on that project.

I will miss you all more than you can ever imagine. That forum has been a lifeline to me in so many ways over the years, and to be displaced through no wrongdoing on my own part, is very hard to take.

Anyone who would like to stay in touch can find me here, of course. Can I ask you, encourage you even, to steer anyone who notes my absence to A Tray of Bliss? They can also email me through here.

One door closes, and another one opens. I wonder what will come next?

With Love, 

Mimi xxx

Friday, January 29, 2016

Five Star Frou-Frou're in my heart...

This week, Jes's at Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth's, Antique Botanical Prints caught my eye and my imagination...

baked camembert with balsamic, cherry tomatos and thyme

Fiona from sawitdidit had my mouthwatering with her incredible baked camembert...


...and Ann from Domesblissity bowled me over with this gorgeous tween room makeover!

Thanks to all, and don't forget that this is a party! So be sure to mingle won't you ;-)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dreaming and Scheming #1...

 When you were a child, did you have dreams about what sort of life you'd have when you 'grew up'?

Beyond the usual 'I want to be a Princess or a Fairy and live in the Woods' sorts of dreams we have when we're really young, we all have an idea of how we'd like our life to look when we become adults.

Funnily enough, growing up in a rambunctious household of seven children meant that I mostly wished for peace and!

And to this day, I crave and value my peace and quiet and have toiled long and hard to achieve and preserve it.

Apart from that though, I wished for a home with a bookshelf, art deco furniture and artifacts, and a rambling garden. I was hugely influenced by my European grandmother and mother here, as they too shunned the bright, shiny and new. They instilled in me, a love of books both for reading and for gazing. They loved their gardens and knew how to make a garden both productive and pretty.

To start with, I didn't even know what Art Deco was, but I knew I loved it. All those gentle curves in the furniture, the beautiful wood with burls and knots that craftsmen brought to life with such loving care, the leadlight touches, be they clear panels, segregated to accommodate a curved door on a display cabinet, or a cacophony of jewelled colours on a feature window.

Back when I was first furnishing my home, Art Deco wasn't really appreciated, and I was able to source some beautiful pieces at bargain prices. Alas over the years, they were sold, as one thing about Art Deco furniture is that it's bulky, and my smaller homes at that time, couldn't always house such large pieces. I did however keep my curved dressing table with it's huge circular mirror, which still has pride of place in my bedroom.

These days, I indulge my love of Art Deco in the form of jewellery, posters, and smaller pieces like jewel boxes and ornaments. Now that's a lesson I wish I'd learned earlier! 

I always loved anything representing Greyhounds, which were featured often in the form of silhouettes on lamps, statues, and works of art. Now of course, I have my own real living miniature greyhound, our little whippet, who we adore. I still recall the first time I saw a dog of the 'Hound' breed. I was 5 years old, and a lady walked by with an Afghan hound which is sort of a long haired greyhound. I took one look at that long slender curved tail and declared it a Monkey Dog. For the rest of my life, I wanted a Monkey Dog, and now I have one! See, you can even have a dream pet :)

As the offspring of Europeans, seeing 'the old country' was always going to feature big in my dreams. 

Travelling to Turkey, Italy, Greece, and Spain last year saw a long held dream fulfilled. See, you don't have to fulfill every dream between 20 and 30. Some dreams are worth savouring and enjoying later in life when you can travel in style.

Seeing my childhood visions of the Arabian Nights spring to life before my eyes, will stay with me forever.

Even having a garden eluded me for many long years. Decades even.

But just in the last twelve months, I've managed to grow roses, plant fruit trees, and grow enough herbs for myself and friends. That one came much later in life, and is treasured all the more for it.

My Grandmother and Mother could knit, crochet and sew anything and everything, and did so. They were masters of fashioning fondant into any flower you care to imagine. If  someone needed a wedding dress, three bridesmaids dresses and two for the little flowergirls, they'd manage that too.

I toy with all of those, but cannot hope to match their level of skill. I've had a different sort of life. 

But I think I inherited their creativity gene, in other ways. I adore papercraft, designing and sewing dance costumes, cooking, and gift creation. The advent of the internet has had just as much influence on me in that respect, as Mum and Nanna.

So let's have more than a few moments of Dreaming and Scheming in our Homespun Year.

What can you do this year, that will have you looking back with a feeling of pride and accomplishment next January? 

Will it be mastering a skill to a level where someone will pay you for your skill?

Will it be planting a herb garden or some fruit trees?

Will it be simply finding away to cut your grocery budget by $50 a week to save for that longed for overseas trip?

Maybe it's reading the complete works of Shakespeare or the King James Bible, the version I grew up on, which for me is always the 'real' Bible. Even if you're not particularly religious, it can be a fascinating read as an adult.

Here's my list....

Learn to knit Cable Stitch so I can recreate those lush rugs in all the Homewares stores

Master my embroidery sewing machine

Travel to Vietnam

Gift only homemade, home grown, or home created, targeting the gift to the recipient (this bit is so important), and within that, meet the following four mini goals....

Perfect my candle making skills, so I can turn my collection of thrifted cut glass sugar bowls, into lush pastel candles for gifting

Grow something I can gift lavishly...roses, herbs, bunches of kaffir lime leaves, succulents, ivy

Promise myself that in DIY-ing my gifts, I will only use the best components. If I'm DIY-ing, I can afford to use beautiful yarns, luxurious fabrics, and heavenly materials of all kinds. They don't have to be expensive. Remnant bins often produce the most gorgeous beaded tulle, lace, satins and silks for next to nothing.

Pass a skill on to my daughter and daughters-in-law that will encourage them to DIY their own gifts.

Read the original Lewis Carrol Alice books.

Finish reading Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky (I'm finding this tough going, but I'm persevering....good brain food!).

See my granddaughters more before they start school and the moment is lost.

Value the time I have with my sons and daughter, as each visit is a blessing in itself.

Repaint my home and purge anything that is not beautiful. I almost don't care about the 'useful' in that quote. It can be beautiful and useful. If it's just useful, I'm going to eye it with great suspicion!

Love life. You never know when you're not getting any more of it.

What's on your Dreaming and Scheming list? Let's work on them together.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Insourcing way of putting value on my role in the home....

 Recording my insourcing is my way of placing a value on what I do at home.

I used to work fulltime, which meant paying someone else to do all kinds of things. And when I say someone else, I mean the supermarket, the doggie wash lady, the car detailer, the florist, and so on.

Now that I have embraced being a full time wife and mother, I find that I can do all of that myself, but sometimes it means I don't feel that all I do, has financial reward. But it does of course.

By tallying up what I've done in the week gone by, I get a real sense of the valuable contribution I make, not just in my own home, but in the community at large.

This week, I made gorgeous bouquets in glazed pots for a friends wedding. For a similar idea at the florist, she had been quoted $65 each. She and I made them for under $15 each. A huge saving on ten pots of roses of $500!

I cooked and cleaned for my family which I know from previous experience, means I saved at least another $500 on a cleaner, pre-prepared meals, takeaway or eating out.

I bathed and groomed the dog saving $30.

I made a basic birthday cake saving even on that, a minimum of $20.

I babysat my grandaughters, saving my son and his wife hundreds on day care fees.

I made my own pasta, and even gifted some to a friend who had just moved into a new home, saving significantly on a houswarming gift. 

So conservatively, my value in the home this week, was at least $1050 not including day care fees! To earn that, after tax, I'd have to be on a pretty hefty salary package!

The thing is, that this is not just a case of having more money 'in the bank' because it's not all about the money.

It's about having time with family, showing them what is important, so that they too, can imagine a life where they are not slave to 'a job'. That is probably the more valuable lesson.

If I can show my sons, daughter, and daughters-in-law that we have a wonderful quality of life, despite not being a dual income family, then perhaps they too, will see that it can be done.

How did you value your role in the home this week?

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Five Star Frou-Frou #33....Homespun Lovelies...

 Welcome to Five Star Frou-Frou and thankyou for indulging my absence.

I'm dying to see what everyone has been up to!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Homespun year....Crochet Hearts for Valentines Day...

These sweet little crocheted hearts are just the thing to gift to friends, teachers, loved ones or to use as Random Acts of Kindness on Valentines Day.

One ball of yarn will yield dozens or even hundreds of little hearts and they make the most fantastic fundraiser. We sold hundreds of them for $1 each at a fundraiser on Valentines Day at the school one year, raising nearly $500!

Depending upon your level of skill, these take between one and five minutes each to create.

You can use any sort of yarn, and any size crochet hook. They will look slightly different or be a smaller or larger size, or more open or more closely woven depending on the yarn ply, and the hook size used. No matter what, they're pretty!

Now I'm no crochet expert, and these were shown to me by a Mum at the school, so I'll just describe it as best I can.

Crochet 4 chain.

Go back to the very first chain stitch you made. All further stitches will now be made into this first chain stitch.

Into the same first chain stitch, crochet three treble, then one chain.

Into the same stitch, crochet three double, then one chain.

Into the same stitch, crochet one treble, then one chain. 

You now have half a heart, with the trebles at the top forming the top of the heart, and the treble at the bottom forming the point at the base of the heart. So now you reverse what you just did, continuing to crochet into the first original chain stitch.

Three double crochet, one chain.

Three treble crochet, one chain.

Finish with three chain to complete the dip of the heart at the top.

Single chain through the centre hole, and draw the ends up to tie off at the back.

Ta-Dah! Cute little heart. Pull it into shape a little if you need to.

My first few looked pretty awful, but then I got the hang of it and taught it to my daughter, and we've now crocheted over 150 between us.

These need only the teeniest scraps of yarn and can be made into brooches, hairclips, bunting, stuck onto cards, friendship bracelets, or turned into those little things that teens like to hang from their mobile phone.

If you're an experienced crochet lover, you're going to love these as they are so quick. If you're a beginner, you're going to love them and want to crochet dozens as they're finished really quickly, and give you a real sense of accomplishment.

A perfect little Valentine treat....and no calories!

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A beautiful life takes time....

As a younger woman, I dreamed of a lavish life, filled with travel, French perfumes, designer shoes, and antique jewels.

I was a young, single Mum for many years, and that life seemed, for a long time, unreachable.

But that didn't prevent me from keeping my scrapbooks, and poring over Vogue and Harpers Bazaar and Gourmet Traveller, keeping that dream alive.

This was pre-internet and pre-Pinterest days, so back then, I kept a three ring binder of pages full of ideas for how my life would be one day.

I labelled the first section, 'My Home' and filled it with pictures of beautiful traditional family homes,  rooms furnished in the style I liked, and articles on how to grow roses and lavender and fruit trees and herbs. 

In the section notated 'Personal', I kept advertisements for Chanel No. 5, gorgeous shoes, antique jewellery, and women I admired whose style and grace I hoped to emulate one day.

The 'Travel' section was chock-a-block full of views of the Eiffel Tower, the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, shows I wanted to see on West End and Broadway, the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean, chateaus in France, castles in Italy. 

 It took forty years, what I hope is less than half my life, but eventually I saw most of the pictures in my 3-ring binder come to life.

By the age of 40, I had found my true love, completed my family with a daughter after three sons, and bought a home that we sculpted into our dream with our own hands. 

My darling showers me with the jewels (both real and faux), shares my love of travel to far flung destinations,  and enjoys seeing my face as each small dream is realised. He too, was in my 3 ring binder. Not as a picture, but as a list of qualities. A man who is kind, gentle, creative, and sensitive. A man who is not afraid of hard work or hard times. A man who loves me for who I am, not how I look.

How can you fulfill your dreams, if you don't know what your dreams are?

Pinterest is a wonderful modern day tool, but for me, that 3 ring binder was my slender cord to the life I wanted, and with patience, perseverance and focus, it has all come to pass. Do not underestimate the power of a book that you can hold in your hand and leaf through each day to keep you on track and focused on what is important to you.

Don't be afraid to say no to people or things that do not fit with your long term view of how you want your life to be.

Each day brings you closer to the life that awaits you.

These photos are of some of my more tangible treasures. Some real, some vintage, some faux, some hand made. I love them all.

Of course, the real treasures are my husband, sons and partners, daughter and grandchildren. And believe it or not, they are the most unexpected jewels of all.

Dream big. Set it down somewhere where you can view and review the dream constantly. Then over time, your dream will find you.

I promise.

Find that 3 ring binder, and fill it with images of the life you want. Then lets work together to see it to fruition.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mimi's Savings Secrets...having a budget does not mean having an ugly life....

Home grown roses
Hand made brocade heart decoration
Home made raspberry muffins
Potpourri made with roses and lavender from the garden
Home made Petit Fours for a High Tea
Hand embellished French inspired Torsolette
Wrapped and embellished Lindt Chocolate bar for gifting
Lavishly wrapped gift using butchers paper, cellophane, white organza ribbon, and metallic Christmas bauble
Rolled crepe paper rose using hand dyed crepe paper
Home made Cherry Ripe Fudge
A cloud of knitting in marshmallow pink

Home baked celebration cupcakes with edible rose petals and pink pearls

We have a budget. We stick to it.
Are we deprived? Or poor? Or living like paupers? Do we look deprived, or poor, or like we live like paupers?
I don't think so.
What do you think?
Living beautifully and elegantly has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with attitude, and effort.
These are all my own photos, and my own projects. In fact a couple of them are my 16 year old daughters projects.
We live a life surrounded by beautiful things.
We create beauty in our home every day.
Pink is my daughters and my favourite colour, and roses our favourite flower, so we have lots of both. It makes us happy. Believe it or not, it makes The Musician Husband happy too. So long as we have pink and roses in our life, life is good. Strange but true. 
Paris is our favourite destination and we surround ourselves with little bits of Paris too.
We save our money to see the world and help those in need and to invest in our childrens and grandchildrens future.
Having a budget, does not mean being ugly in mind, body or spirit.
It means being choosy and knowing what lights up your life.
You too, can find little things that light up your life.
Let me help you.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Insourcing to have a Happy Homespun Holiday...

We've just had the loveliest break.

We holidayed near the beach, and the best part about it was that the only time we ventured near the shops, was to buy groceries.

I hear people saying often 'oh we need to save X dollars for spending money on top of our holiday expenses'. I understand the need to buy food and to have emergency money, but what exactly is this 'spending money' for?

For sure if you are visiting a far flung location that is on your Bucket List, I completely understand wanting a souvenir or two. But if you're going to the same place you go every year, as many of us do, what is it that you think will be there this time, that wasn't there last year, and won't be there next year?

Markets, for example. People love 'em. But every market I've been to anywhere in the world, ranging from Australia to Fiji, to London and Singapore, to France and Italy and Spain, seems to sell the same kind of stuff with minor variations. Who really needs that stuff, and is it really a reminder of 'good times' to buy it? Wouldn't a photo or postcard do the same? And really, isn't the majority of that stuff now available on eBay at discount prices?

Now food markets.....that I get. You have to buy your food somewhere, so why not support the locals. Totally a great idea. And with far more romance and memories for the senses than the one selling windchimes and chopsticks.

We don't go to our beach haven to spend money. Why outsource your family memories? I know from conversations with my now 36 and 37 year old sons, that their fondest holiday memories have nothing to do with souvenirs or shopping.

We insource our holiday memories as we do with so much in our lives, and our kind of relaxing means creating memories of a different kind.

So my first tip for a Happy Homespun Holiday, is to plan ahead. 

Ask yourself these questions...

1. What are your favourite things to do in your spare time at home, and can you take those with you? For us it's reading, cooking, and crafting. So that's an easy yes.

2. Can you use this time productively to get ahead on a long term goal? This could be writing a journal or a book, making gifts for upcoming birthdays, or passing on an heirloom skill. I taught my daughter how to crochet these sweet little hearts this time.

3. What do you want the memories of this holiday to be? For us, it was lots of beach time sitting in big comfy chairs in the shade, reading and relaxing, teaching new cooking and crafting skills to my now 16 year old daughter, and eating lots of wholesome food in beautiful locations not available to us at home.

So in planning ahead for our Homespun Holiday, it was important to take a couple of books each in a genre that we enjoy, some ideas of dishes that my daughter wanted to learn to cook,
crochet hooks and wool to teach her how to crochet and get cracking on some gift making, and
a shopping list for grocery shopping when we arrived, that included foods for picnics and easy meals for all of us to enjoy making and eating. Not hard at all.

We made little individual picnic boxes on Day One...

...and by the end of the first week, my daughter had mastered a pumpkin risotto to rival the local restaurants...

 ...I'd shown her how to use overipe nectarines and cherries to make a lavish fruit studded cake...

A couple of her friends had come for a stay and we'd made Rocky Road...

 ....and our own fresh and delicious pizzas...

Week Two saw us debating over who could make the best scrambled eggs. The Musician Husband favouring the stirred method like a custard, and The Diva and I preferring the pour and pleat method that sees us waiting for the butter in the pan to froth at the edges like a frilled petticoat, before pouring in the beaten eggs and cream, gathering the bubbly surrounds to the centre so that they form mouthwatering pleats.

 It was generally agreed that we all surpassed the offerings at the local cafe`s.

In addition to the pretty baby blue hearts pictured earlier in this post, I taught my daughter how quickly chunky yarn and oversized crochet hooks or knitting needles can be turned into gorgeous gifts like this chunky chain scarf necklace, and yummy chocolate coloured throw...

....and we did lots of lazing on deserted beaches like this one....

Nobody felt the need to go to the Markets, the designer stores (except for inspiration for more of the aforementioned hand crafted gifts), or the cafes and restaurants. We treated ourselves to a few meals out at a favourite outdoor bistro, enjoyed some gourmet ice creams. We took lots of photos, and agreed it was a pretty perfect break. 

All with very little in the way of 'spending money'.

If I had to compare each and every activity we created, meal we cooked ourselves, and entertainment enjoyed within our own four walls or outside of them, with a similar one we'd had to pay for, I think the amount would be staggering. I have friends who just holidayed in the same area, who came home nearly $3000 poorer for the experience. And that was without the accomodation expenses!

I'm going to say we saved a minimum of $2000 by planning ahead, being very clear on what our holiday memories consist of, and not being tempted to spend for the sake of it.

That's not all bad. See, you really can insource even portions of your holidays and save big at the same time.

What's your favourite Homespun Holiday?

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Homespun Holiday....

 We are not people who holiday in order to spend. 

As a wonderful consequence, we have, over the years, saved enough to buy our own house near the beach, allowing us to holiday for long periods of time when we are able. That's where I've been everyone! Thankyou for all of you who emailed me with concern for my absence. I was out of range and unable to respond, so please forgive me.

We spent long days at the beach from sunup (above) to late afternoon (below).

This is a well known and much loved beach in our region, lined with trendy cafes and lavish designer stores in it's shady streets. But we avoid those like the!

Instead, we collect driftwood for vases in the house....

....make chutney from boxes of soft fruit to gift upon our return...similar chutneys in the trendy stores and outdoor markets would sell for up to $30 a jar...

We poach peaches with wrinkly skin (skinning them first!) in vanilla syrup, tinting them pink just for fun. I think they look like a sunset, don't you?

We thicken some of the peaches in syrup and turn them into a luscious dessert with a meringue topping...

We remember that Cauliflower au Gratin is a fab meal all by itself.... up our little whippet, who at nine human years old, is not getting any younger and feeling it...

... I teach my now 16 year old daughter how to make all kinds of things like Greek yoghurt, turning it into Labna by draining it in muslin...

....I love how it looks just like icecream...

 And we spend days crocheting long strands of single chain with chunky variegated yarn, turning them into lush scarves/necklaces to be embellished with rhinestone buttons on the tie holding the strands. I think they'll make beautiful gifts...

A simple, lovely, relaxing holiday.

I'm glad to be home, and back in action.

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