Sunday, 20 December 2020

2020 - An Emotional Year

It's time for me to go on a blogging break.  We have Christmas to look forward to with our family and 2 adorable grandbabies next week.  The presents have been purchased and wrapped.  They'll go under the tree Christmas Eve to keep them away from little fingers.  We have a holiday planned and Megan turns 21 next month.

Our year has been quite an emotional one even without Covid 19 turning the world upside down.  We lost a close family member back in February.  Her passing was quicker than expected and resulted in some family relationships becoming very strained ( to say the least ).

My Mum finished her final round of heavy chemo treatments in March just before Covid restrictions came into force.  Mum and Dad have been in their own version of lockdown all year with Mum mostly staying home for the last 2 years.  She's doing well now but still has her challenging days.

In March we had the birth of our second grandbaby.  Bryson is just a delight to be around and his constant smiles light up a room. Unfortunately the panic buying had just started a couple of days before Bryson's birth.  Darren and I raced from supermarket to supermarket to buy nappies and formula for both Luka and Bryson. 

We had family living with us from February until 2 days before stage 4 lockdown in August.   Our full house worked quite well most of the time and it was wonderful to be a part of Luka and Bryson's life every day.  Luka loved to sit on my knee to share my toast and jam every morning.

We helped move both Jessica and Megan a total of 4 times.   Three of the moves were emergency moves during various stages of lockdowns.  Hopefully things have settled down and both girls are happy where they are living.

Darren and I became empty nesters at the start of August.  The quietness of our home was a bit of a shock after having a full house.  Thankfully we enjoy each other's company and have spent many hours out on the deck drinking cups of tea and watching the clouds go by.

We celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary on 2nd September.  Although our Cook Islands holiday was postponed,  we did enjoy a candlelit dinner at home, just the 2 of us in stage 4 lockdown.

We've see work come and go.  When things got tough,  I started sewing face masks to sell.  When that slowed down,  I made cards,  sewed hanging tea towels / hand towels,  made bath bombs, soaps,  book marks and jam.  With shops being closed,  there was a real demand for handmade goodies. My newly acquired craft room was buzzing and the sewing machine went into overdrive.  At one point I  ' employed ' Darren to take orders.

I enjoyed online card making days with my friends from The Cheapskates Club.  It was wonderful to catch up,  compare notes on how we were going and made a few cards along the way.  Luka enjoyed bringing me biscuits and saying hello to the ladies.

We spent as much time as possible out in the back yard gardening and tidying up.  We planted more veggies,  fed and pruned fruit trees,  helped Luka explore the great outdoors and had many meals and cuppas out on the deck.

We survived ( and at times thrived ) a 14 week lockdown - one of the longest in the world.  The hardest part was not being able to see Jessica and my parents.  Another challenge was keeping our younger family members calm and sane when all they wanted to do was live normally.  This really took an emotional toll on me.

I've spent the last few months building up my stockpile as supermarket shelves returned to normal ( sort of ). Our fruit trees will be supplying lots of fruit for eating,  freezing and jam making over the next couple of months.

Slowly we are getting our lives back to normal although I don't think we'll ever be the same.  On a positive note, our home is squeaky clean,  our backyard looks wonderful and we are more organised.

Thankyou to all of you who read my blog,  especially during my daily posts earlier this year.  We've all travelled this year together through the ups and down.  Thankyou to those who supported Darren and I through buying my handmade goodies.  You've helped and encouraged us more than you'll ever know.

If you are living where lockdowns,  restrictions and ( at times ) fear is a part of your every day life, I'd like to encourage you to get up each day with a sense of purpose of what goals you'd like to achieve.  This,  and God's protection kept me going during our darkest days this year.  Having a list in my head when I woke up really got me going.

 Have a blessed Christmas,  love and enjoy your family near and far.

I'll be back blogging again in late January,  early February.  If I get the chance,  I'll put up some holiday reading posts to keep you inspired and challenged.  

Jam for presents

The day Bryson as born

Luka playing in the laundry basket

Luka kissing Bryson

Our grandbabies

From the kitchen

Our guttering display

Plums growing

Princess sun baking

Luka and Darren picking cherries

Potatoes and tomatoes growing

My birthday flowers from Luka

Our anniversary lunch platter

Out on the deck

Soap making

Selling face masks

Handmade greeting cards

Shortbread biscuit.


 






Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Free Christmas Decorations

A well decorated Christmas tree is certainly something to be admired.  There's just one problem.   It could cost a small fortune to get the ' glamorous ' look that we see in department store windows.

A budget friendly option is to buy your decorations at Boxing Day sales,  op shops and discount retail stores.

A SUPER budget friendly option that costs zero is to make your own.  Here are some ideas  that will get you started.  I personally have used some of these ideas when we were trying to fill our newly purchased ' big ' tree about 20 years ago.

*  Use craft ribbon or scraps of material to make bows.  Thread a loop of cotton or a paper clip to the back for ease of hanging on the tree.

*  Make a paper chain out of Christmas wrapping paper.

*  Leftover craft wool can be made into cute pom poms. Attach a ribbon bow and a hanging loop with a hot glue gun or craft glue.

*  Cupcake patty cases can be made into all sort of decorations.  Glue on a button in the centre to form a flower.

*  Scrap material can be cut into Christmas shapes.  Stitch together with large stitches and add a tiny bit of filling.  Sew on a ribbon loop and you have a cottage style decoration.  

*  Paint three icypole sticks and hot glue gun them into a triangle.   Attach a cardboard square to the bottom to make it look like a Christmas tree.  Decorate the sticks with glitter glue,  pom poms or any other craft item you have on hand.  Glue a star to the top and a loop for hanging.

*  Collect pine cones,  spray with a little white paint or paint with glitter glue.  Attach a loop for hanging.  If you like the rustic look,  keep it plain and just add the loop.

*  Fashion old broken Christmas tree branches or an old wreath into mini Christmas wreath decorations. Glue on a few buttons and a small bow.  Attach a loop.

*  Do you have craft beads or broken bead necklaces on hand?  Thread the beads onto craft string or fishing line to make icicles.

If  all else fails and you are not crafty at all,  thread popcorn onto string or fishing line to make your own garland.

   


How have you decorated your Christmas tree on a budget ?

Saturday, 5 December 2020

This Week's Frugal Tasks Saturday 5th December 2020

 Last weekend Darren and I made a great escape from Melbourne to visit beautiful Bendigo about 3 hours away.  It was wonderful to have a mini holiday after enduring such a difficult year.  The weather was warm,  the accommodation was great and we enjoyed time with family and friends.   

 We took supplies with us to make breakfast each morning even though breakfast could be ordered ( at a cost ) at our accommodation.  I like to take my homemade bread to make toast as well as my jam and other spreads.  The wholemeal bread with extra goodness is quite filling which keeps us going for a few hours.

Here's what else we got up to -

*  We packed salad rolls,  nut bars and bottles of water for our trip to Bendigo.  This saved us about $20.

*  Picked beans and strawberries from our garden.

*  Diluted the last of the kitchen detergent in a bottle.  When it comes time to refill our pump bottle,  it will be easier to get all of it out.  Of course I'll be turning the bottle up side down too.

*  Turned the shampoo bottle up side down to get every last drop out when I was refilling the next bottle.

*  Gratefully received bread bags from a cafe.  They have been recycled into bin liners for our bathroom bins.

*  I went op shopping with Megan and the grandbabies. I pick up a cotton doona cover for $3.20 ( including discount ) which will be used for making tea towels for presents.  I also picked up a pair of jeans and 3/4 pants.  Megan had her student card on her which gave us 20% off everything.

*  Darren used our Woolworths fuel discount which gave us petrol for $1.01 a litre.

*  Darren emptied a compost bin and used it in one of the veggie garden beds.

*  Darren and Luka picked all the cherries off our tree.  They were delicious but Luka thought it was fun to squish them.

*  Froze two serves of leftover shepherds pie.

*  Made a conscious effort to turn off or unplug all electronics not in use.   This is something I try to revisit every few months just to make sure we haven't overlooked something.

*  Resisted the urge to go out for morning tea after a cleaning job.  I really felt like a treat but realised I had better food on offer at home and saved us about $15.  We are really good savers so money not spent stays in the bank and is transferred away from our every day account at the end of the month.

*  The heater has been turned off for the last month and we've resisted the urge to turn it on when we get up to a cold morning.  Our evap cooling is only turned on when an electric fan isn't strong enough to cool the room we are in.  We try to be aware of when the curtains need to be opened or closed depending on the temperature of the day.  

*  Saved the shower water and washing machine rinse water.  Water bottles were emptied onto pot plants and the rest of the water went into the washing machine.   

*  Sold more hanging hand towels to a friend.  The rest have been listed on various Facebook pages.  If they don't sell I've made a head start for next Christmas. 


Our lunch for the road

Darren and Luka picking cherries

So much fun with cherries

Home grown

Princess trying to get my attention

Are you harvesting any fruit or veggies from your garden ?

What was on your frugal list this week ?


Saturday, 28 November 2020

This Week's Frugal Tasks Saturday 28th November 2020

 This week has been a busy one at the Gower Abundant Cottage.  My cleaning work continues to increase and I'm very grateful for the lovely clients I have.  The rest of my days are filled with sewing to complete a few orders,  gardening ( pulling weeds ),  housework tasks and spending lots of time playing with our grandbabies.  Luka is a bundle of energy and loves to get into everything.  Bryson sits there smiling at his older brother's antics and generally loves to play with anything Luka gives him. 

Here's what else I've been up to -

*  Made a double batch of laundry powder from scratch.  During Winter I blitzed up all the little bars of soap from hotels I'd collected over the years ( and from family ).  I now have 2 small buckets of the soap as powder ready to make laundry powder when I'm running low.

*  Picked another handful of beans from our garden.

*  Baked four loaves of wholemeal bread with extra goodness.  The last time I costed out the ingredients it came to about $1.60 for 2 large loaves.  Bread with all these goodies bought from the supermarket would cost over $3 each.

*  Knitted another dish cloth and started on the next one.  I'm making them in Christmas red to go with the hanging towel and tea towels I have in my kitchen at the moment.

*  Altered a dress whose arm holes were too big.  I also altered a top for Megan.

*  Sold a few jars of jam to a friend.  She's put in an order for another 3 jars of raspberry jam.  My favourite and hers.

*  Sold more Christmas and plain colored face masks to a friend.

*  Sold one dozen eggs.

*  Sewed lots of hanging hand towels to get a head start on next Christmas.  Some of these have already sold.  I'm very grateful and blessed to have many return customers.

*  Saved the shower warm up water and poured it into the washing machine.

*  Fed the compost bin every couple of days with kitchen scraps.

*  Dried all washing on the line.

*  Baked some ANZAC biscuits using dough from the freezer

    

Freshly baked bread

ANZAC biscuits

Raspberry jam


One of the roses Luka gave me for my birthday last month.  At the moment I have it drying in my craft room and plan to put it in a box frame.


What was on your frugal list this week ?


Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Free Christmas Presents To Give

 The pandemic this year has seen many people's budgets stretched beyond what they could ever have  imagined.  Birthdays,  anniversaries,  Mother's Day and Father's Day have all been celebrated under difficult circumstances.  At times it's been impossible to give a planned present with supermarkets being the only option for shopping.

If you are finding it hard to give presents this year,  these suggestions might give you a ray of hope and not hurt your budget.

*  Hampers.  They come in all shapes,  sizes and budgets.  A free hamper can be put together with what you already have.  A craft hamper can be made up of your surplus craft supplies.    All crafters have a stash that keeps on growing.  Bundle your supplies into a storage basket,  large icecream container,  or a decorated cardboard box.  Tie a ribbon,  attach a gift tag and you have an impressive gift to give.  

Maybe a pasta hamper is more your style.  Add a couple of packets of pasta ,  tinned tomatoes and make up a jar of mixed herbs with ingredients and stock you have in your pantry.

Do you have spare cooking utensils put away waiting for your old ones to fall apart ?  Bundle them together with a pretty ribbon or some kitchen twine,  add a tea towel or cooking ingredients from your pantry and you have a very useful cooking hamper.

  *  Linens.  Do you have spare tea towels or hand towels sitting unused in your linen cupboard ?  Fold them into a neat little stack and tie with a pretty ribbon,  cut up lace curtain or kitchen twine.

*  Baking makes a wonderful present.  Biscuits,  slices and truffles can be made with staple pantry items.  Place them in a cellophane bag,  recycled glass coffee jar or a decorated paper bag.  Recycled coffee jars can be sourced for free on Buy,  Swap Sell sites on Facebook or through friends.

*  Plants.  Take a few cuttings from your favourite shrub,  tree or even plant a few veggie seedlings.  Wrap a little paper around the pot and attach a tag with growing instructions.

*  Zero Waste.  This is the name of a Facebook group I came across.  People are always decluttering and want to give things away for free.  There's probably a similar group in your area offering an item you can repurpose or restore to give as a present.

*  Regift.  If you have presents stashed away in your cupboard you cannot use,  regift it to someone who can.  Just make sure you are not giving it to the same person who gave it to you in the first place.

*  Timber gifts.  Do you have scrap bits of timber lying around. ?  A tool box,  planter or herb garden could easily be made.

*  Material gifts.  If you have a material stash of any shape or size,  making presents for children is quite easy.  Stuffed toys,  library / toy bags,  hair scrunchies and books are just a few ideas to get you started.      


A pasta hamper

Biscuits in a cellophane bag


Plants for gifts

Gifts in a jar

What gifts do you give that don't cost a cent ?


Saturday, 21 November 2020

This Week's Frugal Tasks Saturday 21st November 2020

 I have to be honest and say that this week has not been an especially frugal one.  We had our evap cooling unit replaced,  bought a spot cleaner machine to do the car seats and other surfaces and went out to lunch yesterday. We already had money put aside for the evap cooling and it was a necessity.  The spot cleaner was something we had been thinking about for a while.  My car is 12 years old and very much in need of a deep clean on the pale grey seats.  So it will save us money in the long run.

I have stayed home as much as possible.  The shops are not that appealing to me.  Maybe that's due to our 14 week lockdown and other restrictions during the year.

Hayfever season is in full swing in Victoria and I've suffered dreadfully this week.  My face masks have come in handy when hanging the washing on the line,  dusting at clients homes and going out to the bin and letterbox.

Here are the other frugal things I've done.

*  Found a seller on Ebay who has buttons at a much cheaper price than Spotlight.  I use the buttons on the hanging tea towels / hand towels I make and was shocked at how dear they are in retail shops.  The seller I found on Ebay is an Australian seller and she sends them very quickly.

*  Cleaned the kettle with citric acid.

*  Picked green beans for the first time this season.  I also picked a handful of strawberries.

*  Filled up my car with petrol at $1.09 a litre.

*  Sold a few hanging towels.  If you are interested in buying some,  they are $6 each and on my Facebook pages.

*  Sold a couple of Christmas face masks.  I still have 9 left for sale and I have photos of the designs available on my Facebook pages.

*  Found a cotton doona cover at Savers for about $6.50 that I will use to make tea towels for presents.

*  Gratefully received lots of used greeting cards from a friend.  I've cut off the fronts I can use and will repurpose them into gift tags or newly designed greeting cards.

*  Made up a bottle of multi purpose surface spray using cooled boiled water and dish washing liquid,


From the garden


Bryson is now sitting up

      

Under the Christmas tree


At St Kilda beach


Luka having fun with the camera



What was on your frugal list this week ?


Saturday, 14 November 2020

This Week's Frugal Tasks Saturday 14th November 2020

 Our week has certainly been a busy one.  My cleaning work is starting to come back after 4 months of being at home.  I've had to remind myself that my body has to get used to the hard work again.  I'm learning to rest when I get home before I tackle my own housework.

With the restrictions easing Darren has had extra hours at the cafe which has been a real blessing for us.  We've pottered in the garden,  done some Christmas shopping and spent time with both our daughters.

Here's what else we've been up to -

*  Cut the last of the broccoli from our veggie garden.  We now have enough in our freezer to see us well into the New Year.  

*  Made and sold a fair few Christmas face masks.  Many of them are being sent up into NSW where they still have Corona virus hotspots.  If you are interested in buying a mask,  I have photos of the designs available on my Facebook page.

*  Megan found a ride on toy at the end of our street in a hard waste pile on the nature strip.  She's left the toy at our place for our grandbabies to play on.

*  Baked lots of shortbread biscuits from scratch.  I must say,  they have become my new favourite biscuit to have with a cup of tea.

*  Saved lots of shower warm up water,  drink bottle water and washing machine rinse water to reuse around our home and garden.

*  Darren planted lots of flower seeds in egg cartons.  He then placed them in plastic containers to make mini hot houses.

*  Made and sold lots of hanging hand towels.  I didn't even get a chance to advertise them on Facebook.  I've run out of suitable buttons to finish of the others I've made.  I've ordered more buttons off Ebay ( cheaper than material shops ).  As soon as they arrive I'll be putting photos of the finished towels on Facebook to sell.

*  Used electric fans on the warm days we've had recently.  Our evap cooling was unsafe to turn on and we were waiting for it to be replaced ( which it was on Thursday ).

*  Unclogged a bathroom plug hole by using bi carb,  vinegar and boiling water.

*  Gratefully received a pre loved  iphone from a friend who had a spare one and wanted to bless me.  For those of you who didn't know,  I've been using very basic cheap mobile phones for many, many  years mostly because I couldn't justify the high price tag of iphones. Darren is in the process of setting up the phone for me to use.  Now comes the scary part - I'm not good with technology so this is going to be a big learning curve for me to overcome.

*  Refilled all the foaming hand wash pumps around our home with diluted shower gel.

*  Picked a bunch of iceberg roses from our garden.  I used a pasta sauce jar as a vase for them.

     

In the garden


Darren and Kurt chopping down some trees

Cherries are ripening

Beans,  potatoes and tomatoes are growing

Did you have a frugal week ?

Have you started your Christmas shopping ?


Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Christmas Stocking Stuffers for Teenage Girls / Women

 Filling a Christmas stocking doesn't have to be hard or expensive.  Work out your budget,  select the right sized stocking to fit your budget and wait for items to go on sale.

Here are some of the items I've put in stockings for my girls over the years.  As usual,  I don't put everything in every year.  It just depends on what their tastes are,  what's in fashion and what I can find for a very cheap price.

*  Shower gel - especially the well known brands when they are on sale

*  Compact mirrors - or any mirror for that matter

*  Fashion scarves if they wear them

*  Nail polish

*  Manicure sets

*  Hair ties or hair accessories

*  Coin purses

*  Travel makeup bags

*  Little packets of tissues ( great for handbags )

*  Body sprays

*  Sports socks

*  Makeup wipes

*  Flavoured teas

*  Post it notes

*  Magnetic shopping lists

*  Bubble bath or bath bombs

*  Shower caps

*  Nail files

*  Coffee cup

*  Water bottles

*  Small diary

*  Fancy soaps



What do you put in your Christmas stockings for teen girls or women ?

Saturday, 7 November 2020

This Week's Frugal Tasks Saturday 7th November 2020

 This week has seen me at the sewing machine just about every day.  Christmas face masks have been flying out the door as people prepare to get into the festive season.  Darren has been busy in the garden tidying,  planting and picking.

Here's what else we've been up to -

*  Made 2 batches of butter using the free cream I'd frozen.

*  Cut many heads of broccoli,  blanched and froze them.

*  Darren picked a beautiful bunch of hot pink roses from the garden for my bedside table.

*  Fed the compost bin almost every day with kitchen scraps.

*  Made lots and lots of Christmas cards to sell and for us to give to friends and family.

*  Sold lots of hanging tea towels that I'd made a few weeks ago.

*  Went to a local op shop that was having a $1 store wide sale.  I picked up a few shampoos I can use to make foaming hand wash.  I also picked up a new silicon cake mould for $1 that usually retails for $12.99.  I'll be using it for soap making.

*  Megan,  Darren and I lined up on the first night Kmart was open after lockdown.  We picked up long sleeve tshirt type tops for $2 that usually retail for about $10 - $12.  I bought enough to put some away for the next couple of years.

*  Bought a few craft supplies from a $2 shop that are cheaper than the usual discount shops.

*  Purchased knitting cotton for better than half price from Spotlight.  I'm now fully stocked to make more knitted dish cloths over the next few years.

*  Made a double batch of ANZAC biscuit dough.  Some were baked and the rest were frozen for future baking.  I also made a whole orange cake with an orange I'd frozen last year.

*  Made and sold lots of Christmas face masks.  

*  Darren planted out lots of veggie seedlings and seeds.


The cotton I bought on sale


Christmas face masks I've made

Bright Christmas face masks

Home baked ANZAC biscuits

How have you saved time,  money or energy this week ?


Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Christmas Stocking Stuffers For Teenage Boys / Men

 Christmas has certainly crept up this year.  Then again,  it's been a crazy year and we can be forgiven for having our minds on other things.

I've just gone through my present cupboard and started filling up the Christmas stockings for this year.  The men in our family are always a little harder to buy for so I thought I'd write this post to share my ideas and maybe get a few from you all.  Please share your stocking stuffer ideas in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

Here's what I've given to teenage boys and men in the past -

Shower gel

Disposable shavers / travel shaving kits

Chocolate

Giant biscuits / cookies

Deodorant

Cap / hat / beanie

Mixed nuts in a string bag

Gardening hand tools

Box of savoury biscuits.  Shapes biscuits are a hit in our family.

Bag of chips.  This really does bulk out a stocking

Coffee sticks

Coffee mug

Socks - novelty or otherwise

Blow up pool toys

BBQ / meat sauces or marinades

Dvds

Torches ,  shed lights or head lamps

Key rings


Of course I don't buy everything on the list each year.  Things are changed around depending on what I can find and what is on sale.    Many of the items are found in discount stores and on bargain tables.




What do you put in teenage boy / men's Christmas stockings ?


Saturday, 31 October 2020

This Week's Frugal Tasks Are Out The Window.

 Hello to all the readers out there.  My week started out as it usually does with a good start on my frugal list.  Then the announcement came that retail was opening up.  So I've been a little busy shopping,  buying up the things I really needed and picking up a few bargains.

The rest of my week has been spent making cards to sell and advertising them.  Now I've fired up the sewing machine again and making Christmas face masks.  Orders are coming in at a steady pace and I'm busy cutting them all out.

Some of my cleaning clients have been in contact to make their regular bookings.  I'm now trying to get them all sorted and locked in for their house cleans.

Unfortunately I haven't had time to be frugal for the last 4 days so my frugal list will be posted next week.  Hopefully by then it will be extra long.


One of the card packs I made.


How has your week panned out ?

For those who live in metro Melbourne,  have you been to the shops yet and grabbed a bargain ?