Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Peppermint Bark

This is another recipe I make every Christmas, particularly as a gift for one of my good friends who loves it and requests it as a gift every year!

It is really easy and great for using up any old candy canes from last Christmas. 

You will need: 

1 block of white cooking chocolate

Candy canes

Unwrap the candy canes and place in a plastic bag. Smash the lollies up using a rolling pin or mallet. Set aside.

Line a flat baking tray with some baking paper.

 Melt the chocolate in the microwave until smooth and glossy.

Then pour the chocolate onto the baking paper and use a spatula to spread it out. 

Sprinkle the crushed candy canes over the tops and then refrigerate for an hour or 2.

Once set, you can break up the bark and store in a container in the fridge or wrap some in cellophane and it makes a great gift!  



Christmas Decorating- Less is More

Our Christmas tree

One of my favorite things about Christmas is decorating our house. When my Nanna was alive Christmas was her favorite time of year. She had a "more is more" philosophy in regards to everything. More food, more gifts -even in the beginnings of dementia she would wrap up canned food items and put them under the tree! and more decorating. Every very spare inch on her tree had a bauble and the ceiling would be filled with hanging decorations. As the years went on it became harder for her to put up any decorations so hubby and I would go over and do it for her.

When she passed away, I inherited a lot of my Nanna's decorations and every year would painstakingly hang the ceiling decorations in my own house.

But this year I decided not to hang the ceiling decorations up. Why? Because this particular tradition has started to become more hard work than something I look forward to. It's just not fun anymore. Some of my readers who follow me on Instagram may also know I am a convert of the Konmari method, and have recently read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. This has a part to play in my decision as well.

I had a massive stack of foam boxes which contained all of our Christmas decorations and in the past every year we would bring them all inside, I'd use the decorations in about 4, then the rest would be put in the garage again. Why?!

This year I bit the bullet and decluttered my Christmas stuff. You know what I found? Many of it was broken items I had been meaning to fix, as well as some purple and blue baubles when I had my white Christmas tree- which broke years ago! So it had to go. Now my house is only decorated with items I truly love and I have stuck with a traditional red, gold and silver theme which is timeless, year after year.

Many of my decorations were bought in post Christmas sales for half or a quarter of the original price. I strongly recommend doing this!

 Here's some photos of my thrifty Christmas decor. We spend most of our time in the kitchen, dining and back room so I chose to decorate only those rooms.

My Christmas ornaments are displayed on my upcycled TV cabinet turned bookcase.

A red and green bow, tied and then with some wire put in the middle enables it to be hooked onto frames.

Some tinsel and a cane garland I made years ago, makes the kitchen look festive.

A couple of $2 mini poinsettias, a garland and some empty Christmas boxes. Cheap but pretty.
Christmas cushion covers which were bought for $2.99 each about 10 years ago.

My advent calendar, fake poinsettias, op shopped wooden coaster and a Christmas tablecloth in the dining room.

Wishing everyone a very Happy and frugal Christmas!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

My Frugal Tasks- 20/12/15

Sorry this is late. Last week was hectic!

We had friends over for a Christmas catch up, went to the Scitech Christmas party, my eldest son had his schools Christmas dinner, did some Xmas baking for gifts, caught up with a friend for lunch, dropped off some gifts to another friend and did some crafting!

Here's my frugal tasks I did this week:

-Packed a picnic dinner and went to a free Scitech Christmas party.

-Baked some shortbread and packaged them for gifts.

-Took Mr 9 for some free craft activities at Bunnings.

-Gave myself a DIY manicure ready for Mr 14's school dinner.

-Cooked dinner for friends. I had planned on cooking a BBQ, but it stopped working so I made a mince pasta bake and salad for dinner. Dessert was supposed to be pavlova but that didnt work our so I defrosted the spare hazlenut choc cake I made for hubby's birthday a few weeks ago, so we had that  for dessert. Normally I would have run out to the shops, so it was great to use food I had on hand.

-Made rocky road and peppermint bark, also for gifts.

-Sold some of my hand pored soy candles.

- Took Mr 9 for a drive to see some Christmas lights.

-Picked more tomatoes and silverbeet from my garden.

I wish everyone a happy and safe Christmas!

Christmas lights.

Mr 14 and I, ready for his school dinner.

Homemade shortbread ready for frugal gifts.

Fun at Scitech.
Bunnings craft. I made the one on the left for my MIL, the blue on is Mr 9's.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Bunnings Family Christmas Party

Mr 9 with Santa and Mrs Claus

 It has been a busy week here, as the lead up to Christmas always is. I have done most of my shopping for the rest of the month and we will eat out of our freezer and stockpile so only need to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables.

Mid week, we attended a Christmas Party held by Bunnings Warehouse- which is a bit like Home Depot for my American readers. We have gone for the past few years and have come to look forward to it because it's a great free night out! Miss 16 and Mr 14 are still happy-ish to come along, though I don't think that will be for much longer!

Instant snow and a photo frame made by Mr 9

Giant inflatable "snowballs"

The Bunnings store we go, to has the most awesome themed family nights, so we are very lucky.
This year's theme was Santas Workshop. The trade area of the store was set up with trestle tables holding different activities.

 Miss 16 and Mr 9 enjoyed rolling around in the giant inflatable "snow balls", there were snow cones in a cup, photos with Santa and Mrs Claus, instant snow and photo frame making and a lolly buffet.

 I was really impressed with the lolly buffet! They had 6 types of lollies in open jars with labels in front. The kids could eat Frosty's scarf (red and green sour straps), reindeer noses (maltesers), holly leaves (jaffas and spearmint leaves), Santa's cookies (choc chip biscuits), reindeer poop (clinkers) and snowballs (marshmallows). I think this is such a great idea for a Christmas party.

Not a great pic of the lolly buffet, but you get the idea.

Christmas pudding options

For supper we all enjoyed individual Christmas puddings with custard and drinks. I did note the absence of a traditional pudding with fruit, so I chose the sticky date.
But hey, it was all free so I won't complain!

Most Bunnings stores run Christmas family nights each year and also free events on Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day. These do tend to book out rather fast so you can book on their website and keep and eye out for some free fun at your local store. 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

My Week's Frugal Tasks-13/12/15

Free bread!

Here's my frugal tasks for this week,

-Cooked a bulk batch of chicken and corn soup for dinner. I froze 4 portions for quick meals and boiled the chicken bones to make stock also for the freezer.

-Defrosted our freezers and did a stock take. Found some mashed potatoes which I turned into 2 trays of croquettes. We ate one tray with salad for dinner and froze one tray for a quick and easy meal. 

-I did my main grocery shop, including our Christmas ham, mince pies and ingredients to make a trifle. Plus a few treats for our Xmas Eve box. I also stocked up on baking goods, long life milk, cheese, butter, cream, toilet paper, peach tea cordial, bread wraps and deodorant which was on sale. The total price was $160 and I cashed in $100 of my accrued Fly Buys points. I also bought my turkey on sale at IGA so my total shopping was $88. 

-Diced and froze 5 kilos of onions tor later use.

-Made chocolate balls, some for treats and some for gifts.

-Used a $10 off voucher at Big W with my Everyday Rewards card to buy chocolates for last minute Christmas gifts. My total cost was only $3.75.

-Ran out of mayonnaise so I made some from scratch.

-Tie dyed a cheap Kmart white tee as a gift.

-Attended a free Christmas family night at Bunnings.

-Made more tomato pasta sauce for the freezer.

-Picked up some free rolls and bread from the op shop.

 -Did some Christmas crafts with Mr 9 using kits I bought for a quarter of the price at the end of the season.

My cheap groceries

Mr 9 with his slushie at the Christmas party

Bulk batch of potato croquettes

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Chocolate Fudge

There are a few things I bake every year at Christmas and this fudge is one of them. It is easy enough to make with kids, only uses 4 ingredients and also makes a lovely gift.

You can add nuts to make a nut fudge or even use white chocolate and add a handful of dried cranberries to make white cranberry fudge.

1 can of condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
50 g butter
400 g cooking chocolate

Sprinkles for decorating

  First break up the chocolate into cubes, if you are using drops you can miss this step!

Place the chocolate into a bowl and microwave in 2o second intervals and stir each time until it is melted and smooth.

Note: When melting chocolate in the microwave it will retain it's shape until stirred. It is important to cook for only a small amount of time so it doesn't burn.

Then mix in the soft butter, vanilla and condensed milk and stir well. The mixture will thicken up immediately.

Pour the mixture into a tray. And spread the fudge around evenly. The one I use is silicone, but if you have a metal tray you will need to line it first with baking paper.

Add sprinkles

 Then add your sprinkles or chopped nuts. Refrigerate for a few hours until hard and cut into squares. This will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. 

 Here's some peanut fudge I made as a gift. The container is an upcyled one covered in Christmas paper and lined with baking paper.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

This Week's Frugal Tasks- 6/11/15

This week, starts the new month of December and I am happy to say we paid off $2055 towards our November debt! This figure was boosted up by an extra $650 made from selling our unwanted items on Gumtree. In the past, this bonus money would have been spent on treating the family to a day out. But I am now super focused in paying off our mortgage and becoming debt free. Every dollar counts!

Some of this week's frugal tasks included:

-Filled our upcycled advent calendar with lollies and chocolates bought in last years post Christmas sales.

- Picked more tomatoes from our garden and made passata for the freezer. I also cleaned out the fridge and used up some limp looking vegetables. I made a chocolate zucchini cake, blanched a couple of broccoli's to freeze and cut the kernels off a few fresh corn cobs and blanched these for the freezer and dehydrated some apples.

_Made a fresh batch of kombucha tea.

-Wrapped most of our Christmas gifts-I only have a couple more to go. And used wrapping paper and tags bought for only a few cents in last years sales.

-Picked up more bread from the op shop. I'm trying to stock up for over the Christmas period when the volunteers have their break.

-Sold some more items on Gumtree. The money made this month will go towards our December debt totals.

-Bought some hazelnuts from a bulk food store for around $2.50 cheaper than Coles and the store were also giving away bags of icing sugar for free.

-Made a trip into the city to run some errands and also popped into Scitech which is close by (we have season passes), to watch a movie at the Planetarium.

-Mixed up enough butter blend to last for the next few weeks.

-Made hubby a Birthday dinner and homemade choc hazelnut cake.

-Took Mr 9 into the city for some free Christmas activities.We packed our own lunch and I stopped in at Kakulas Bros to pick up some spices and other items which are cheaper there than the supermarket.

Passata for the freezer
Mr 9 at the Planetarium
Hubby's Birthday fakeaway of burgers, chips and milkshakes.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Nutella Celebration Cake Recipe

Hubby loves Nutella and requested a chocolate hazelnut cake for his birthday. This cake is very moist and decadent making it an ideal celebration cake.

1 and 3/4 c of Self Raising Flour
2 c white sugar
3/4 c of  cocoa powder
2 eggs 
1 c milk
1/2 c oil (I used vegetable)
1 tsp hazelnut essence or  1 TBS hazelnut liqueur (this can also be substituted for vanilla essence)

700g jar of hazelnut spread for the "icing" (I used Nutino brand because it was on sale)
Hazelnuts for decorating

Sift all of the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir until combined.

 In a separate bowl combine the eggs, milk and oil. Beat well then add to the dry mix. 

 Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, along with the hot water. 

Mr 9 helping with the cake

At this stage the batter will seem very fluid, don't worry this will only add to the moistness of the cake.

The mix will be seem very runny

I wanted to make a layer cake, so I added half the mixture to 2 round greased cake tins and bake for 35 minutes at 190 degrees. Insert a skewer after 35 mins to make sure the cake is cooked.

Leave cakes to cool down in the tins for several minutes,then carefully invert the cakes on wire racks to cool. 

Once they had cooled down I sliced off the top of the cakes so they would sit flat.

When I cut the tops off, I noticed there were lots of little air bubbles in the cake. Perfect for the hazelnut spread to sink in to I figured!

Place one of the cakes on a serving tray and ice the top of it with hazelnut spread. 

Then place the second cake on top. Add the hazelnut spread and then the third cake.

I had decided the 2 layers hadn't made the cake as high as I liked so I made 2 batches of the cake mix which yielded 4 cakes. I ended up using 3 in this recipe and put the extra one in the freezer. 

Once the final layer of cake is added, then ice the top and sides of the cake with the hazelnut spread and decorate with the hazelnuts.


Are you a Nutella fan?

Oat and Honey Slice Recipe

This is a lovely slice, perfect for lunchboxes or afternoon tea. It reminds me of Anzac biscuits. A friend gave me a couple of 1 kg bags of raw muesli which her family did not like. I picked out the dried fruit to use in a fruit cake and put the oats in a separate container to use in porridge and used some in this slice so mine also has some pepitas and sunflower seeds in with the rolled oats. You can add these for extra goodness if you like, or just use plain rolled oats.

1 c rolled oats
1/2 c SR flour
1/2 c coconut
1/2 c sugar
100g butter

Place all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.

Melt the butter and add it to the dry ingredients.

Mix well until combined, then press into a silicone or greased slice tray and bake at 160 degrees for 15 minutes.

Cool then turn out onto a chopping board and cut into 12 bars.

Store in a container in the fridge. 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

This Week's Frugal Tasks- 29/11/15

The gift basket I made for a friend, with homemade goodies.

Things have been busy here this week. Mostly with tidying up the yards and getting our pool ready for summer. But here's a list of my frugal tasks for the week.

- Picked up some free bread from the op shop. 

- Made 9 jars of passata with my home grown cherry tomatoes and gave some away to friends.

- Replanted some succulents from cuttings and tidied up my courtyard.

- Received some woodchips from a friend to top up my garden beds.

- Hubby replaced a section of our patio sheeting, saving money on labour.

-Gave a friend a Birthday gift of homemade goodies.

-Made some kale chips with kale that needed to be used.

-Started writing/drawing in a notebook  for self care and inspiration. I already had the notebook in my home education stockpile. 

- Made myself an advent candle rather than buying one for $10.

- Cooked and extra zucchini slice, apple cake and potato bake for the freezer, for when I feel like a night off from cooking.

-Put up our Christmas tree, decluttered my Christmas ornaments and discarded any broken ones and have listed some I no longer want on Gumtree.

 What frugal tasks have you done this week?
Homemade passata.
Free reclaimed bread we got this week.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Upcycled Advent Calender

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! I love advent calenders and have wanted to make one for years, but finding a reusable one with big enough pockets for 3 treats-one for each kid, is a mission. So I gave up and would buy the cheap disposable ones with the plastic-y tasting chocolate inside for a couple of dollars.

Recently while looking up Christmas craft ideas I came across this post on Pinterest 
and thought it was perfect! After all it is completely made using empty toilet rolls, which I always have an abundance of because a) there are 5 of us, b) they are free!, and c) there are so many great crafts you can make with them. 

Best of all, it is made with up cycled items AND I can easily fit 3 chocolates or lollies in the cylinders. Winning!

So here's how to make one:

First I gathered 24 toilet rolls. Squeezed one of the open ends shut and sewed it closed on my sewing machine. Like this..

Sorry about the photo, I had to screen shot it from my IG account. I had deleted it from my camera because I didn't want to be a weirdo who had pictures of empty toilet rolls on her phone!

You could also staple the ends shut or use hot glue.  

Next I painted each one. I decided to do half of the rolls red and the other half green. I just used poster paints we had in the cupboard. The paint sinks in to the cardboard easily so I gave each one 2 coats and let them dry.

After this stage, I'll be honest- I had no idea how I was going to decorate them. All I knew was that I didn't want to go out and buy anything for this project. Then I looked through my Christmas gift wrap stash and found some ribbon to decorate them. I used a thick ribbon with a candy cane print which was perfect. So I measured and cut each piece to fit around the middle of the cardboard roll, then hot glued it in place.

My helper

 Now to make the numbers. We had some Christmas printed paper which would be ideal, so I used a soft drink bottle lid to trace 24 circle shapes, then Mr 9 helped me cut them out. 

 Then I used some old scrap booking stickers which had numbers on them to put the numbers 1-24 on each circle, then hot glued each one on to a toilet roll. You could also use plain paper and draw the numbers on yourself. Just use what ever you have lying around :)

Here's a closer look.

I have a large pin up board we use for home ed, so this made a perfect base for the calendar and I used some pegs I got for free on Gumtree to clip them on. You could also just hang a few rows of string on your wall and peg each cylinder to the string. Or punch a hole in each cardboard tube and thread the string through each hole to hang.

My board was big enough to fit 4 rows, so I measured the string allowed for some draping on each row and pinned it in the back of the board. 

4 pins placed on each side of the back of the board. The string visible here is for hanging.

 Then added another length of string and looped it onto the top pins-this would be for hanging. 

Finished! I added a bow to cover up the screw in my wall.

 The calendar is finished and ready to fill. I've found one Freddo frog or small sized chocolate will fit inside or a couple of lollies. My kids like chocolate so I'm using some freckles, mixed buddies and a few small foil Santas I bought in last years post-Christmas sales. By the way, you can store chocolate for a long time if kept in a cool, dark spot. 

We are all looking forward to the 1st of December - yes even the teens still want their advent treats!