Monday, March 15, 2021

Keeping spirits up....


We are facing some challenges here. I know many of you are too.

Ours are not Pandemic related, thank goodness, although, that too can change in an instant.

A family member has had a health scare, and some surgical intervention has been required. This person of course, like so many, believed themselves fit and well up until last Thursday. Even supernaturally so. That all changed with a routine blood test and a phone call.

Now I've been the support person more than once in this sort of scenario. I am familiar with the Stages of Grief and how they are not just connected to the passing of a loved one.

But even the support person needs a little something to lift ones spirits on a day-to-day basis, right? 


My acrylic brooch collection does this for me. 

Dare I say, without fear of contradiction, that some days, my brooches are my reason for dressing well, and sailing out the door with a smile instead of a scowl.


Oh...and necklaces. Oversized and quirky statement necklaces. A new love, recently embraced with enthusiasm.


I love how a change of accessories can completely change the look of a simple shirt.


Some of my collection are cute, fun and quirky, and some are more timeless...


As Dory says in Finding Nemo, sometimes they remind me to Just Keep Swimming...


What keeps your spirits up?

...Mimi...

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Budgeting and Insourcing...Plan ahead for everything....


Here's a topic that some of you might think dull, but for those of us who love Insourcing, it's a fabulous kind of game. Like a Scavenger Hunt of a sort.

Believe it or not, Insourcing won me a competition that allowed me to purchase my dream oven. Thankyou to those who participated in that event. I remain eternally grateful for your support. And all I really did was make a posh salad! So there's gain to be had on many levels!

Planning ahead

Planning ahead is part of life here.

We plan ahead for next seasons clothing needs, for birthdays, for Christmas, for Easter, for holidays for staycations, where you stay at home and entertain yourself and the family with planned activities, instead of going away. 

Husband built this fire pit a couple of Winters ago. That made a Staycation in the middle of the cooler months, pretty attractive!


Planning ahead means you can put what little money you have, into snapping up bargains or buying fabric from the remnants bin, or buying a sewing machine or overlocker or a robot vacuum cleaner, or setting it aside for something worthwhile, rather than frittering it away on random purchases that do little to enhance your life in the longer term. 

We renovated an old van for daughter to have her own mini-vacations, using only what we had on hand, and a few remnants from the discount bins at the local haberdashery. It turned out pretty well we thought!

And don't just look ahead one year. Try to see 5, 10, 20 years ahead. This helps keep things in perspective. That pair of shoes, or jeans or bag or coffee will mean nothing in 5 years. That money on your mortgage or into superannuation or just into the bank for a rainy day, could have the power to have a significant impact on your life.

Let's all just get on with what needs to be done. It's what our Mums and Dads did, it's what their Mums and Dads did, it's just what has to happen.

On the Home Front

One thing that I did this morning to plan ahead, was make up a huge batch of home made laundry detergent. This sounds mundane, but has the potential to save us literally a couple of hundred dollars over the next few months.

I use the one in Rhonda Hertzels book that's also on her Down to Earth website. This is my doubled up recipe for a huge batch.

One box of Lux flakes (8 cups) I have sometimes grated Sunlight soap, as its cheaper again. But the Lux flakes are particularly nice, and have a soft, comforting scent.

1 1/2 tubs Borax (4 cups)

1 packet Lectric Soda (4 cups)

Mix together well and store in a large container. I use a Hurricane lantern with a little scoop in it, that's actually a tea bag holder I got at the thrift store. It just makes doing the washing feel nicer. And the Lux flakes make the linen smell gorgeous.

This costs about $14 and at one heaped tablespoon per wash, will give me about 180 loads of washing. The other great thing about it is, I don't need fabric softener to scent or soften our laundry (another saving), and it's the only thing that doesn't give the family eczema (a further saving on creams, lotions and potions to relieve the eczema). So sometimes you have to look at where other savings might occur due to making your own. The up front cost might be the same, but other costs might be significantly reduced by using home made.

Making a house a home

I'm not an investment adviser by any stretch of the imagination. All I can tell you is that we've never bought a new home. We've always bought the house (some might say the fixer upper, or 'the dump') that no-one else wanted in suburbs that weren't yet trendy, renovated and landscaped slowly and gradually, doing almost everything ourselves from patching and painting to building kitchens to polishing floors by hand to pouring concrete, then sold for a profit and done the same thing again. 

This was sometimes a three year, but often a 7-10 year project. During that time we would live in the house, without floor coverings, without a kitchen or bathroom or other creature comforts for weeks or months. We managed. Lots of people used to do this but it's not so common any more from what I understand despite the plethora of DIY television shows and YouTube videos.

When we couldn't afford new, we bought second hand and made do. Husband built things, I painted and patched them. We made thrifting an art form in many respects. There are literally dozens of posts here on my blog about our upcycling efforts.




It can be daunting if it's not in your DNA that's for sure. Buying cheap and new often seems the simplest solution. All I can suggest is that you need to be flexible in what you think you can do, and where you think you can live. We kept an open mind and often lived in or invested in areas that made our friends think we'd gone mad, but guess who's laughing now.

The Rewards

We didn't get to where we are in our 60's by living the way many people do now. And it has nothing to do with technology or the absence thereof. It's just a different mindset. You can be frugal when you're young in order to live comfortably later in life, but most don't see that far ahead.

Do cost of living expenses nowadays make a difference? Well almost certainly, yes. But it's all proportional in the end. Your mortgage should still be no more than 30% of your income, savings should be 10%, the rest is negotiable according to your situation.

Adopting this mindset can mean that you're out of step with popular opinion. But if you do, it means that you can weather tough times in your life and not crumble in a heap, because you've practiced making the best of a less than desirable situation, whether it's illness, financial troubles, relationship challenges or job losses.

For my part, I practiced that mindset. From trying every alternative therapy on the planet when my gorgeous little son was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, to hand painting my terminally ill Mothers casket for her funeral as a last loving gesture to her, I've always remained determined to maintain a feeling of purpose in my life, even when placed in sad situations that were completely beyond my control. This actually GAVE me a sense of control, where none existed. I think thats kept me sane. It can do the same for you.

Tell me about your planning. What creates financial freedom and a feeling of being in control for you?


...Mimi...


Monday, February 22, 2021

Budgeting and Insourcing...using the Toastie maker for baking



Here's the answer to the age old (or maybe quite recent) question, can I bake in my Toastie/Jaffle maker.

This question arose to me because a good online friend was constantly showcasing her goodies, all conjured in the pie maker.

I don't have one. I didn't want one. Too much clutter in the cupboards.

Then I realised, I have this...


We here in Australia call it a Jaffle maker. It's also known as a Toastie maker. About $8 from the KMarts and Big W's of the world.

I started off by trying to make an impossible quiche. I got the proportions of flour wrong and ate them as omelettes for breakfast instead. They were goooood! Yes I know. I could have cooked them in the frypan. But it's HOT here, and the frypan is HEAVY, and this is so EASY.



Buoyed by that experiment, I moved on to trying my Banana Bread recipe. In went the mixture, I closed the thing, and....


...Look! Light. Fluffy. Moist. Delicious. And my kitchen stayed cool! Very important when the temperature is 32C at 8:00am!


Here's the mixture I used. This is half of my usual quantity of mixture which bakes into one loaf of banana bread, and is usually gobbled in 8 generous serves by my Husband.

This amount of mixture made 12 fluffy little pillows of banana bread and just as delicious as ever!

The mixture:
Makes 12
Two large mashed bananas
One heaped tablespoon yoghurt (I used coconut yoghurt)
1/2 cup of sugar (I’ll only use a quarter next time)
One egg beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (not baking powder)
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup of desiccated coconut 
3/4 of a cup of plain flour(I use gluten-free of course)
Heat up the Jaffle maker.
With a fork mix the ingredients into the mashed banana one at a time, adding flour last.
Fill jaffle maker hollows, without overfilling. Close jaffle maker, and cook for eight minutes. Lift out carefully with tongs or a fork, and dust with icing sugar if you wish.

Absolutely delicious and so light and fluffy!

I'm making pasties using gluten free puff pastry next.

Stay tuned!

What other appliances serve dual purpose at your place?

...Mimi...

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

New passions....and old...insourcing is still my thing!



Sometimes making-from-scratch is just not the answer, due to lack of time, lack of commitment (!), lack of motivation or lack of talent...

Sometimes all of those.

That applies to cooking, sewing, crafting and gardening, in my humble opinion.

I love a good project, but after two years of total neglect due to full time work, my sewing room is chock-full of projects not yet started. Ditto to the garden, the kitchen, and my craft cabinet. So, as with anything, I'm taking baby steps to reactivate my mojo.

Embellishing and refashioning existing clothing, is a great way to reuse and recycle an item that is a little tired or dated, or just to refresh beloved items that have fallen out of favour. It's also relatively quick and easy to do, and can yield quite spectacular results for very little effort. Sounds good to me!


From the first time I spotted this Chanel jacket on Pinterest, I knew a copycat version was in my future. Alas, my Chanel jacket project remains in it's purchased bag, pattern unopened, navy blue and silver nubby twill still folded. Sigh. Maybe this year.

Enter the denim jacket refashion, brought to mind by this beautiful refashion below...


Now, I have two denim jackets. Both a little too long in the body and the sleeves, for me to gain much wear from them here in the Tropics. Why, I ask myself, had I not thought to shorten both, and trim with something fun??!

Pompoms and floaty whatnots were a great idea, but then, why not the feather trim I'd been eyeing off for yonks? It's my refashion, after all!

My feather trim just arrived, and as I'd hoped as seen at the top of my post, it's the same glorious shade of pastel blue as my Laduree` macaron box, lovingly nursed home from Paris at the start of 2020. Doesn't that seem an age ago...

Feather trim will be affixed to denim jacket pronto,and shared here later this week!


Meanwhile, I've been embellishing this thrifted cardigan, a plain thing in itself, but once prettified, I think it will become a new favourite! This is not yet stitched, rather just offered for an idea of placement of embellishments. These are all from my stash, left over from dance costumes or other sparkly thing-a-me-jigs.


I've been eyeing off this glorious luxury bedroom decor for some time too. Olive green seems an unlikely shade for a bedroom, until you appreciate it's soothing qualities. Olive green is also a natural foil for my orange accessories, including my made-over desk...



Heres a stunning king size bedspread in Olive shantung, thrifted for just $6. A bit of a run through the laundromat sized washer and dryer, and we're done. Now to find the other embellishments to bring my vision to fruition...


Meanwhile, real life invades creative life, and Daughter, newly independent, has a busy week coming up. Mum to the rescue with a basic chicken and vegetable soup. This achieved by simmering 6 chicken drumsticks, with onion, bay leaves, celery and carrot. Meat picked from bones, and discarded along with the skin. Vegetables also discarded. Stock and meat chilled and fat skimmed from top. New celery and carrot added, along with some fresh herbs. She can now use this to make a soup of her liking, by adding different vegetables, different carbs, and a variety of herbs, spices and sauces. At least five meals in this huge bowl.


Lemon coconut chia seed balls were a special request. Recipe found here.


And as daughter does not have room for a slow cooker in her teeny tiny kitchen (although must be said, room was made for the coffee machine...), braised lamb shanks with leek and rosemary, mashed sweet potato and trimmed greens were conjured for her dining pleasure on busier evenings.



As of old, I'm calculating my savings based on just the items I've mentioned here. There are of course, numerous others.

Saving on two new custom embellished jackets....at least $150.

Saving on a new super king sized bedspread...$600.

Saving on custom embellished cardigan with sequinned appliques, sequins, pearls, beading and embroidery $250.

Saving on ten meals and 6 snacks for daughter if she were to have to buy takeway....goodness knows...let's call that $150.

Add to that, quiet gift card making, cupcake baking with the granddaughters in preference to an outing, bathing the dog myself, and washing my own car, amounting to perhaps another $150 in savings, and it's been a good week.

$1,300 if I'd bought everything I had my eye on. And believe me, I have friends who would notch that up in a heartbeat.

Actual spending... $72 for everything... the feather trim, the bedspread, the laundering of the bedspread, and the ingredients for the cooking and baking.

$1,218 saved.

I'm practically worth my weight in gold.

I bet you are too.

How did you save this week?

...Mimi...




Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Silky Cookie dough....


Mimi's Silky Cookie Dough

Makes 2 large logs

250gms butter, softened at room temperature for about 30 minutes (you can use margarine, but butter will be nicer)
2/3 cup icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (vanilla essence is fine too, but the extract is more fragrant)
2 1/4 cups GF flour blend or 1 cup cornflour and 1 1/4 cups rice flour

Use a small bowl and an electric mixer to beat the butter until smooth.
Add the icing sugar and beat until light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla.
Put this in a larger bowl, and add the flour/s cutting them into the butter mixture with a metal spoon until the mixture comes together and combines. 

Add choc chips, sprinkles, nuts or dried fruit if you wish.

Dust your hands with more of the GF flour, or cornflour, or rice flour, and form the dough into two balls.

Wrap in cling wrap, and roll and shape into two logs.

Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Now, heat a sharp knife under hot running water, and slice off rounds.

(Alternatively, roll this dough into small balls, freeze on trays, tip into ziplock bags once frozen, and remove as required to bake. Bring to room temp and flatten slightly prior to baking. Bake until golden in a preheated oven. I actually prefer this method.)

Bake on a lined baking tray in a preheated 180C oven for 25 minutes.

Heavenly!

Note that the dough will keep in the fridge for up to 2 months or in the freezer for 6 months...if you can stop eating it that is! Cooked biscuits will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. They are a very crumbly texture though so keep a serviette close by to catch stray crumbs!

Monday, January 25, 2021

How life changes....



Life changes. There's no doubt about it. And although the changes aren't always welcome, they come along anyway. 

So could be said about youngest child and only daughter, leaving the nest about three weeks ago. She has just turned 21, so in comparison to her three older brothers, she's a late bloomer. But then, she is still studying, and that in itself, ruled out independent living for some time. In recent months, she floated the idea with us, being that we would be the ones funding said 'independent living', and we agreed that The Time Had Come.

A suitable share arrangement with a Uni bestie had arisen, and it seemed that along with The Time Has Come, Seize The Day was the apt motto.

So it is, that Husband and I now find ourselves co-parenting a cat that she wanted (no great hardship really), and fielding up to a dozen phone calls a day. Topics listed as follows:

Q. How do I make stir-fry sauce? 
Answer: Make a cup of broth with a stock cube, add whatever flavours you want, thicken it with a paste of cornflour and water.

Q. Where do I buy Pho paste from?
Answer: Any Asian Grocer stocks several versions of a Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup) Base.
Note: See restaurant worthy version of her Pho above, our first meal with her in her own place.

Q. How do you make Gnocchi? Can I make beetroot gnocchi?
Answer: Roast a fresh beetroot and one or two large potatoes. Allow the potato to cool, and grate it finely. Puree the beetroot and add to the mashed potato. Season well. Add an egg and enough gluten free flour to form a dough. Divide into four portions. Freeze some if you want for another day. Take a portion of the dough, and roll into a long sausage. Cut the sausage into nuggets, and flatten with a fork. Add to boiling water and cook briefly until hot. Serve with olive oil, parmesan and cracked pepper.


Q.Can I make fresh gluten free pasta. 
Answer: Yes. It's just gluten free flour, and an egg, formed into a dough, rolled flat and cut into noodles with a sharp knife. You can even tint the noodles different colours for fun.


Q. Now that I'm broke, what can I give my friends for gifts?
Answer: A home made cake is always a winner. Palette knife flowers are dead easy.


Or come raid my scarf stash or grab some thrifted scarves, launder gently of course.
Then embroider with cute icons meaningful to the recipient. 


I love this one with beetles and butterflies.

It's a whole new world for her and for us. 

I think we can all make it work.

Happy Days.

What big changes are afoot there?

...Mimi...