Saturday, October 13, 2018

We're getting chickens!

Hey friends!

I'm excited about today's post. It's been a long time in the making.

If you've been following Craving Fresh since its early days, you'll know we had chickens about ten years ago, but had to give them away because there really wasn't enough room for them in the yard we had at the time, and they were stinking up the place.

Now that we have a bit more room and I have my gardens set up the way I like them, I've reached the point where I want chickens to make my property more of a permaculture space. Chickens provide fertiliser for the gardens, they eat spent plants, weeds and scraps, and they keep the unwanted bug population down, all while providing eggs for us to eat. They are a permaculturalist's dream and I keep watching YouTube videos about people incorporating them into their homesteads in clever ways. Check out Justin Rhode's channel if you want to see what I'm talking about.

So, as much as I've dreamed about getting chickens again, I didn't think it would ever happen. For one, Paul was dead set against the idea (and still is). Two, I wasn't sure how to incorporate the chickens into our yard in a way that wouldn't result in all my gardens getting demolished, and everything getting covered in chicken poop.

But then my really clever and kind brother-in-law, Ben, designed the perfect solution for our space. And built it. And dropped it off to us these holidays. So the decision was made for us. Happy days!

I'm going to take you through Ben's design now, so you can appreciate how clever he is.

What he's built is a moveable chicken coop and run, that fits over my raised garden beds and can be moved in three parts.

Part 1 - A platform for the coop to sit on
Ben built a platform for the coop to sit on, which clips onto the end of any of my raised garden beds.

Folded metal bands hook over the edge of the garden bed and vertical metal bands dig into the ground to help support the platform from the other side. The platform allows the coop to float next to the garden bed, without taking up any space on the garden.

Part 2 - A chicken coop
The chicken coop sits on the platform described above, floating out from the end of the raised garden bed. It will provide a place for the chickens to sleep, lay eggs, and find shelter from the rain. We had lots of rain over the past few days, and the coop stayed nice and dry inside, so I think it will be a lovely home for the chickens.
The roof of the chicken coop is hinged and can be propped open for cleaning out the coop and collecting eggs. The coop has rope handles on either side to allow me to lift and move it to other parts of the garden.

The coop has two roosts built into its back corners, where the chickens can sleep at night. It also has a wooden nesting box with two compartments that Ben built for the chickens to lay their eggs in. The blue sheet plastic on the bottom of the coop is removable for easy cleaning.

On the back of the coop is a small top-opening door, which can be hooked open or locked closed.

I will lock the door closed when the chickens are inside the coop and I want to move them to another garden bed. Otherwise, the door will remain latched open so the chickens can move between their coop and chicken run, which I'll show you next.

Part 3 - A chicken run
Ben built this chicken run to fit exactly over my narrowest raised garden beds. I have five raised beds in total, but two are slightly narrower and longer than the other three. When the chicken run is on one of the three shorter gardens, as above, I'll use bricks to cover the slight gap at the end, otherwise the chickens might try to escape through it. The bricks will also help keep the run in place, if we have strong winds. The open end of the run butts up directly against the back wall of the chicken coop, so the chickens can easily move between the run and their coop, without escaping.

When Ben delivered the run, it wasn't covered with anything, so I got the chance to figure out how I wanted to enclose it. I chose to cover the main part of the run with square aviary wire to give the run extra stability, and then used cloche fabric to cover the exposed end of the run, so I could open that end to throw food scraps into the chooks.

I used a staple gun to secure the cloche fabric to the bottom and sides of the run, after I had sewed a fold into the top of the fabric and threaded a curved cloche wire through it. The ends of the cloche wire are longer than the fabric, so they can hook into the aviary wire on top to close the flap. It's really easy to unhook the wire to open the flap from the top, and then hook it closed again.

In order to be prepared for the incoming chickens, I spent a few minutes yesterday sketching out a garden plan and figuring out which order I'll rotate the chickens through my garden beds. There may come a point that I don't want the chickens on any of my vegetable gardens, at which time I'll move the chickens to another area of my yard, possibly with a larger, more open run area. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

The first garden the chickens are going into has been growing kale for a couple of years and needs a change of crop. The original kale plants went to seed and more kale plants popped up from that seed, so it's been kale, kale, kale ever since. I've also got kale growing in another couple of gardens, so I won't miss this lot. The chickens will get to eat the kale that's in there, as well as any slugs, snails and white butterfly caterpillars they find. They'll also turn the soil over for me and poop into everything, fertilising it nicely.

Before setting up the chicken run today, I topped up the garden it went onto with homemade compost from one half of my rotating compost barrel, and then covered that with a layer of wood mulch. The chickens should have fun scratching through the mulch, looking for worms, pooping in everything and turning it into lovely soil for my next crop. I'll try to add a few more loads of something like lawn clippings into the garden while the chickens are there, to get it nice and full before I move the chickens onto the next garden.

The other item Ben built for the chickens was a chicken feeder. It's pretty ingenious. He made it out of three bits of pipe fitted together, with the ends blocked off by plywood. You remove the top section of pipe to tip the chicken food inside. The food then gravity feeds down to the bottom section which has a hole cut out of it for the chickens to peck the food. I've taped up the hole for now to keep the food fresh until the chickens arrive, but it should be a good system for keeping the chickens fed if we need to go away for a weekend.

Now that we have this brilliant system all set up, we need chickens. Hopefully they'll be arriving tomorrow. We're just getting two, from friends of ours who are moving cities soon and needed to find a new home for their chooks. It will be interesting to see how this moveable system works with actual chickens in it.

I think that's everything I can tell you about the chickens for now. I'll update you when the chickens are here and tell you how it's all working in practise. In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions about our chicken system.

Emma xx

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Anger of Angels - a giveaway

It's a good day to be alive, my book-loving friends. Sherryl Jordan is back!

Like many of you, I had a love affair with Sherryl Jordan's writing during my teenage years. In fact, I credit her with getting me a lead role in my high school play. I acted out a scene from Winter of Fire for my Year 10 drama class, and I could see the scene so clearly in my mind's eye (because Sherryl Jordan is such an epically good writer), that my drama teacher gave me 20/20 for my acting and cast me as Frenchy in Grease. It was one of the highlights of my high school career, so thank you, Sherryl!

In any case, I was gutted when I got the news that Sherryl Jordan had to stop writing because she had crippling hand pain caused by OOS. It's been a long, sad Sherryl-drought since then.

Until now.

Sherryl Jordan's first Young Adult fiction in ages just hit the shelves, and I devoured it. Oh yes I did.

The Anger of Angels has everything I desire in a book: good people thrust into difficult situations and choosing to do the right thing despite the potential cost to themselves; a sweet love story between two people I care about; and magic. (All books should contain magic, if they can possibly help it.)

The Anger of Angels also has a sequel in the works, yet the story feels complete enough on its own that you won't be throwing coffee cups at the wall when you reach the last page. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel though, because there are things I want to see play out.

Now, I have a giveaway for you. (I told you it was a good day.) If you live in New Zealand and would like to enter the draw to win a copy of The Anger of Angels, simply comment on this post, or on my Facebook post about this post, or on my Instagram photo about this post. That's it.

For extra entries, tag a friend on Facebook or Instagram, who you think would like to win a copy of The Anger of Angels. I will draw the winner at 2pm on Saturday 6 October.

Good luck!


Monday, September 24, 2018

New hope

Hey friends,

I've thought of you all many times since my last post. You sent so many encouraging messages. It was incredibly uplifting at a time when I was feeling pretty low.

Thank you!

Life has been full of really good things since I bared my soul to you a fortnight ago. I've been listening to Lauren Daigle worship music as much as I can, setting my mind on good truths. Whenever things get fractious at the homeschool table, I turn her on and the mood immediately lifts.

I've also been to counseling twice more, which has been really positive. I'll tell you a little bit more about that at the end of this post.

A couple of weekends back I went to SISTAS conference, and it was exactly where I needed to be. I came away recharged, hopeful and full of specific advice for my situation - even though the speakers obviously had no idea what my situation was when they were writing their talks.

I had a lightbulb moment at SISTAS when Paul de Jong spoke about dealing with issues as they arise. He said that if we don't deal with painful things in the moment, they become stumbling blocks that will continue to trip us up.

That has certainly been my experience.

Of course, when I was a kid I didn't have the maturity to deal with the things that were going on for me, so I made a lot of false assumptions and put the blame for my poor relationship with my mother on me. There must be something wrong with me, I thought, not understanding that she had her own issues going on.

I couldn't figure out why this seemingly minor thing kept tripping me up though. So what if my mother hadn't loved me as a kid. Lots of people have way worse childhoods than I did, yet they seem to get over it and move on with their lives. Why couldn't I move on? Why did it keep messing me up? Was I destined to live a half-life forever because I couldn't just get over it?

Paul de Jong's talk gave me hope though. I am old enough to process it now. I have support that I didn't have as a child. I also know how important it is to deal with all the false beliefs I adopted as a child, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to sort them out.

Paul de Jong recommended that once an issue is dealt with, we leave it in the past. Don't continue to bring it up, or we'll be scratching the scar and causing it to become inflamed again. That metaphor really spoke to me, because this situation with my Mum will always leave a scar, but that scar shouldn't continue to bleed if I let it heal properly.

I discussed this idea with my counsellor and she noted that things might come up that trigger certain emotions for me, but I can speak to those feelings as they arise and say, "I see you there. I know why I'm feeling like this, but I don't accept it." And that awareness could help me work through the difficult moments.

My counsellor has also given me an activity to do - to speak and/or write to my childhood Emma and tell her all the things she needed to hear back then but didn't. I'm looking forward to that and hope to have it done before my next session with my counsellor.

So it's feeling positive. I have a lot more hope than I did when I wrote my last post. Please do continue to pray for me though, as that prayer coverage has really buoyed me up in a difficult time.

With much love,

Emma xx

Monday, September 10, 2018

A child of neglect

As Paul and I were prepping the food for our daughter's birthday party on Saturday, I mentioned that my parents had never organised a birthday party for me when I was a kid. Paul seemed taken aback by that news.

"We had very different childhoods," I explained.

And it's true. Paul never doubted he was loved by his parents. As a kid, I was pretty confident in my dad's love for me, but was equally confident my mum despised me. She was, at best, disinterested in my life. At worst, annoyed by it. Her catchphrase, when I approached her, was a cutting, "What do you want now?"

I learned to stay out of her way.

As all children of neglect will know, there are some advantages to having an absentee parent. I became fiercely independent, very young. I was free to roam wherever I wanted, without anyone checking up on me. I got to play and explore to my heart's content. I got myself the three kilometres to school and back every day, building my strength and self-confidence. I did my homework because I wanted to please my dad and my teachers, who were the reliable adults in my life. I did things for myself that most little kids don't do, so I became competent at a lot of things really early.

Thankfully, my relationship with my mother did improve in my late teenage years, after Mum underwent counselling. However, the damage to my psyche had already been done, because, despite all the good that can come from neglect, there are inevitable downsides.

The most significant downside for me is that I don't trust my heart easily. The one person who was supposed to love me, didn't, and I interpreted that to mean there was something fundamentally wrong with me. In all my relationships, I withdraw at the first sign of trouble. I do not show people the real me. I either leave people alone, or I show them what I think they want to see and leave it at that. If I suspect my friends are getting sick of me, I move on, despite the love I may feel for them.

The lie I believe in my heart is that all people will reject me as soon as they glimpse the real me.

I learned early on that the only safe person in my life was me, and so I've coped these thirty-something years by keeping myself to myself. Yes, even in my marriage.

It's really debilitating.

I don't want to live like that anymore.

Thankfully God has been working behind the scenes in my life, and I've come to trust that he won't reject me. In fact, he sees my flaws better than anyone and has paved a way for me to be restored to the wholly beautiful Emma he intended me to be.

In the hope of something better for my life and my relationships, I've started going to counselling again. My aim is to try and combat the lie I believe about myself, as well as to find strategies for investing myself in relationships, even when the inevitable conflict arises.

I also want to find my rest and comfort in God, which is something Abraham, King David and Jesus all did during their times on earth. It's something I've been thinking about since going on a retreat earlier this month run by On Becoming Esther.

To aid in the process of sinking into God, I've joined a contemplative prayer group, started doing a bible study written by Aimee Walker of On Becoming Esther, and bought myself a ticket to SISTAS conference for my birthday. I'm looking forward to spending a solid 48 hours soaking up God's presence.

All that said, please pray for me. I have hope, but I also have doubt. The patterns are so ingrained inside of me, it's going to take a miracle to unravel them.

Emma xx

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Karaoke birthday party

Hi friends! I hope your weekend has been good. We've had such a full weekend of fun, celebrating our eldest daughter's 9th birthday. That's her above, wearing the dress she and my husband picked out for her birthday (it's an annual tradition called Daddy-Daughter Dressy Day that they've been doing since her first birthday).

One of my daughter's dreams when she grows up is to be a pop star or a songwriter, so I thought a karaoke birthday party would be the perfect theme for her. I kept it a secret from her right up until the morning of her party, when I started slapping American Idol signs around the place. She didn't actually know what American Idol was, so I had to explain it was a singing competition and that we were going to be doing karaoke for her party.

I would have done something more current for the theme, like X-Factor or The Voice, but my daughter had picked blue for her party colour scheme and that perfectly matched the American Idol logo, so that was the theme I ran with. Together we had made a balloon arch out of dark blue and light blue balloons tied together with fishing twine. It was pretty simple to make (we watched a YouTube tutorial) and looked really striking.

Party guests signed in as competitors at the door and got an American Idol contestant number stuck to their chests.

We'd borrowed a karaoke machine from my lovely neighbour and we hooked it up to our iPad so we could play YouTube karaoke songs. It was a neat set up because the kids could search for any song they wanted to sing.

We didn't actually hold a singing competition during the party - I thought that would end in hurt feelings, so the American Idol concept was more thematic, although most of the guests did have a go with a microphone at one point or another.

I kept the party food fairly simple - vegetable crudites and hummus, a fruit platter of pineapple, grapes and strawberries (man those strawberries went fast), sausage rolls, cheerio sausages and potato chips.

The birthday girl has been learning cursive for homeschool, so I had her write her guests' names in vivid on individual glasses so they could reuse their glasses throughout the party. We served juice and water infused with strawberries and lemon for party drinks.
My daughter doesn't really like cake, so we have got into the tradition of making her ice cream cakes for her birthdays instead. My talented sister-in-law, Mandy, assembled this cake for us, which was made with salted caramel ice cream on the bottom and peppermint chocolate chip ice cream on top. She decorated it with mini flakes and MnMs for a splash of colour.

As well as the karaoke entertainment, we ran a few classic party games: pass-the-parcel, musical-cushions (although we had to cut that one short when my son got landed on), and chase-Paul-to-rip-the-lollies-off-him.

Paul then took all the kids to the local playground for a run around, and we finished the party with a spa in our lovely neighbour's spa pool.

It was a really fun day and we were lucky that the weather was beautiful for it too. My daughter was so happy with how it all went and had an amazing time with her friends and family.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Garden update August 2018

Hi friends! It's been so long since I've done a garden update, but it feels like spring has come a little early this year, so my thoughts are turning outdoors.

I've been making a lot of green smoothies lately, to take advantage of the abundant leafy greens I have growing. My smoothie recipes are ever-evolving, but my latest one featured silverbeet, spinach, three types of kale, parsley and mint from my garden.

While wandering around my yard last Saturday, I noticed the soil level on the raised bed pictured above was getting low. I'd recently sprinkled seaweed and used coffee grounds on all of my gardens, but that hadn't increased the contents of any of them by much, so I got to thinking about where I could gather more free garden fillers from for this particular bed.

On a whim, J and I drove to a couple of local cafes hoping to gather more used coffee grounds, but one of the cafes was closed and the other one had its own composting system. Not wanting to waste a car-trip, I filled up three large plastic containers with wood mulch that had been dumped at a local park and carted them home instead.

I was thinking about clearing out the low raised bed completely to refill it, but several of the plants in it were well established, so in the end I just moved the smaller plants to the next raised bed down the hill (pictured above) and dumped a layer of wood mulch around the more established plants. I also added sheep manure to help the wood mulch break down.

I was racking my brain for what else I could add to the garden to top it up, when it suddenly occurred to me that I have a compost bin full of grass clippings and various other garden material I've been chucking in there over the past year. Now, I must admit, I've mainly been using this compost as a place to dump garden waste, and haven't taken the time to stir it, or been particularly careful about my ratios of brown to green materials. As could be expected, when I opened it up, I discovered it hadn't broken down particularly well, but I figured it would break down eventually, mixed in with the wood mulch on the raised bed, so I pulled it out and spread it around.

Taking a break from the raised garden mission for a minute, I pulled out my loppers and pruned my nashi tree (pictured above) and one of my apple trees, which were both looking a little criss-crossed. I've never pruned a fruit tree before, but I understand the theory of it from having done a Certificate in Horticulture, so I decided to give it a go. Since it was my first time, I didn't take off many branches, just the ones that were obviously growing into the centre of the tree instead of out. If I had any doubts about a branch, I left it on, figuring I could get it next year if I need to.

I then spent an hour mowing our lawns and refilling the large compost bin with the grass clippings. It is always a treacherous affair mowing our lawns in winter, when the clay soil turns to bog, but it had been sunny for a couple of days so I got away with it.

I was definitely in the gardening mood and it was such a nice day that I just kept going. I emptied one half of my rotating compost bin (the half that has been composting away while we filled the other half) and sprinkled that over the raised bed I was trying to top up, as well as around my citrus trees, which always need more loving.

I had to take a shower after emptying the rotating compost bin, because there's no way to do it without getting smeared in stinky compost. I figured that was a good time to call it a day in the garden.

But I was straight back into it on Monday afternoon, when S helped me pull out the dormant asparagus crowns from around my citrus trees and move them to the raised bed I've been trying to fill. It was a tough job pulling them out. They did not want to budge. Their roots have really spread out since I planted them in the citrus garden last year. I needed to move them though, because over summer and autumn they were shading out our citrus trees. Since we'd all much rather eat fruit than asparagus, it was an easy choice to shift the asparagus.

I then collected another three containers of wood mulch and used it to finish topping up the raised bed I'd been filling, as well as to fill in the gaps I'd created in the citrus bed when I pulled the asparagus out. I'll need to top up the whole citrus bed with soil before spring really hits, but need to pull out all the strawberries and then replant them in the fresh soil to do that, so it's quite a big job.

My other gardens are doing their own thing at the moment. The other half of my wraparound deck garden is currently growing lettuce, carrots, coriander and strawberries.

The gardens I topped up and planted in June are doing well. I harvested some of the silverbeet for my smoothie this week and everything else is growing nicely (lettuce, broccoli, spinach, basil, kale and coriander).

This avocado tree planted itself from a discarded stone in the perfect spot, exactly where I wanted a big tree to grow to give us privacy from the road. It's doing well there, and even if we never get an avocado off it, I'll still be happy it's there. (I hope we do get lots of avocados though!)

Our feijoas are filling in and getting taller. I'm hopeful we'll get fruit off them for the first time next year. We all LOVE feijoas.

This plum tree, which I thought had died, has just started budding again. I'm so relieved. My other plum tree did die, so I'm not sure if this one will actually fruit unless I plant a companion plum tree for it, but at least I won't be starting completely from scratch.

Our Star Magnolia tree has been blossoming abundantly and scattering its petals like snow over our lawn. Beautiful.

My rosemary is almost as tall as our fence. It thrives in this hot spot against our house.

These are some of the pretty flowers I planted back in June. The purple ones are spreading well, and seem to have settled into their new home nicely.

So that's how my garden is looking at the moment. There's always more I'd like to do, but then I think back to how my garden looked when we bought this place two-and-a-half years a go, and I remember to be grateful. There was not an edible thing here when we moved in, and now there is an abundance.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Frugal Fun No. 22

This week I enjoyed several lovely (and free) morning walks. I haven't been exercising much this year and the weight's been piling on, so I got to thinking about what exercise I would actually be motivated to do. I always love walking when we're holidaying at the bach, because the beach there is so beautiful, but I didn't think I'd be motivated to walk near our house because we live on quite a busy road. However, I found a walk near home that takes me off the beaten track, and it's beautiful and serene. I really enjoy it. (Not quite as much as the beach, but pretty close.)

Last Saturday I told you I was taking the kids to a fun, free activity that afternoon. It was a harp exhibition called 100 Harps, where harpists performed, people sold harps, and anyone could play on harps themselves in a "harp petting zoo." As a teenager, I longed for a harp. I had visions of myself playing one while wearing a long flowing white dress, all angelic-like. It never came to anything, but now at least I can say I've strummed on a harp. (Bucket-list item 44 ticked.)

I took the kids to the harp petting zoo first, and they all had a little play. Then we went and watched a performance before heading back to the petting zoo again. The children were so much more expressive on their harps after watching the concert.

It was a beautiful afternoon, so after we left 100 Harps, I took the children to the Blockhouse Bay playground for fresh air and exercise. The playground looks out over a beach, and I COULD NOT resist filling up one of my reusable bags with seaweed for my garden. I just threw the bag into the washing machine after I had emptied it and now it's back into its normal shopping bag rotation.

On Sunday we had friends over for lunch - a simple potluck affair of rotisserie chicken, buns, oven chips, coleslaw and salad vegetables. Afterwards we all drove into the city to go to Cakes 'N' Ladders, a board game cafe that our friends have been to several times. You pay $2.50 per person per hour you're there, and get to play any of the board games in the cafe. It's a good way to try out board games you've been thinking about buying. The kids played several games with each other. Unfortunately I was coming down with a cold, which got the best of me while we were there, so us adults had to cut our game short. We all headed back to our house where I had a nap while Paul ordered pizza for everyone for dinner.

I knocked my cold on the head pretty quickly by taking lots of vitamin C, taking three drops of Lugol's iodine solution daily, and eating a clove of raw garlic.

This week I was able to make use of my emergency container several times. It's a container I keep in the boot of our car and it's filled with spare clothes for the kids, including togs and rain coats. It also holds a towel and a light blanket. We used jackets from the container twice this week, when the weather did a sudden 180, and we also used the blanket for the children to sit on during a class that was held on a cold wooden floor. I'm so glad I put this container together.

I've been trying to make the most of the abundant kale currently growing in my garden, by whizzing up green smoothies for my breakfast most days. I usually throw kale, spinach, parsley, frozen okra, frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, collagen powder, cinnamon, vanilla, vitamin C, Natvia and water into my Thermomix and whizz it all up until smooth. I was adding a teaspoon of spirulina powder as well, but I've just run out so I'll need to buy more. My kids won't go near these smoothies, but I don't mind them.

On Monday morning I had an appointment with Voice Therapy at Auckland Hospital, because I've had a hoarse voice for almost a year now. The Voice Therapist stuck a camera down my nose and had a good look at my vocal chords. She showed me the videos after she'd finished and it was pretty fascinating. To make sound, your vocal chords are supposed to move towards each other at the same time, but mine have adopted a subtle follow pattern, which the therapist thinks might be due to nerve damage. I had a terrible cold when I went to SISTAS conference last year, but I sung anyway and it might have permanently damaged my vocal chords. I'm pretty devastated at the loss of my voice, because I've always loved to sing and now that's not really a possibility. My voice also gets tired reading to the kids, and I can't put the expression into their stories that I'd like to. I'm going to voice therapy again next week, where the therapist will work with me to make the most of the voice I do have. In the meantime, please pray that my nerves will heal and my voice will come back. I miss it.

While I was at my voice therapy appointment, Paul took the kids down the road to The Domain, The Winter Gardens and The Auckland War Memorial Museum. (He said they were able to pack so much into the hour because they didn't stop to take photos.) The kids LOVED the museum and have been begging to go back, so guess where Paul will be taking them when I have my next appointment?

On Tuesday night, Paul and I went to our regular parents' group and our friend babysat for us. She goes to the same parents' group, but on another night, and on those nights I babysit for her.

This week I started reading the recent release, My Plain Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows, but I just can't get into it. It's killing my life-long love of Mr Rochester and Jane Eyre, so I'm not sure if I'll finish it. I really loved these authors' first book, My Lady Jane, so I'm pretty disappointed that this book isn't living up to my expectations. Definitely go read My Lady Jane though, because it is awesome.

This week I also read (and actually finished) another book called All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover. It's about a couple dealing with infertility and it made me cry, but in the best possible way. It's got some mature content, so I'd recommend it for more mature readers. It will definitely make you appreciate your spouse more.

I got both these books out from the library, because the library is awesome.

I've got more library books in my to-read pile, but lately in the evenings I've usually been watching YouTube to unwind. I really love Darci Isabella's channel, and through her I was introduced to Justin Rhodes' homesteading channel, which I'm also really enjoying. Both these YouTubers are making me long for my own flock of chickens though, and Paul is dead-set against that idea unless we move to somewhere with more land. Maybe one day.

This week was our first week of full homeschool activities this term, and it gave me a good idea of what term three is going to be like. Some days were seriously go-go from morning to night, while others were more relaxed. On the busy days I started to get anxious, worrying about whether we were going to be late to our activities. But then I realised I was stressing about the possibility of being late, not the reality of it. And I decided not to worry about something that hadn't even happened yet. If we ever actually were late for something, I decided I would deal with it then. It was amazing how much this inner pep talk calmed me down. We were slightly late a couple of times during the week, but it didn't actually matter anyway.

L has been coughing a lot in the evening this week, so last night I plugged in a diffuser in her bedroom and set it running with tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, and the World Organics essential oil combinations, Vitality and Joy. The diffuser was one my sister-in-law gifted to me, and I love it. I love being able to freshen the air in my home with essential oils. They smell amazing.

A friend recommended this Peanut Butter, Chickpea and Banana cookie recipe when I mentioned I had bananas that needed using. I ended up baking the cookies a couple of times, because they were so moreish. First I soaked and cooked up a big pot of chickpeas to use as the cookie base, because it works out a lot more economical to cook beans from scratch than to buy them tinned. The cookies turned out a lot softer than our other cookie recipes, more like a soft brownie, but the kids devoured them anyway so I called this recipe a win. It's certainly a lot healthier than our regular cookie recipe and any time the kids eat a healthy alternative to their favourite unhealthy treat, I do a happy dance.

I'm cooking a big meal for our church's youth group leaders this weekend, and I've been mulling over something frugal, simple and tasty to make. I've finally settled on pumpkin soup, so I'm currently simmering a big batch of chicken stock on my stove to use as the soup base.

On my kitchen counter, I also have a jar of milk kefir doing its thing, as well as an Easiyo container of yoghurt brewing. I used a couple of tablespoons from the Easiyo starter packet and mixed it with one cup of milk powder to make the yoghurt. It works out quite a bit cheaper than using one whole starter packet per batch of yoghurt.

I forgot to mention it, but when we went away on holiday, we turned the hot water off at home. It saved us a huge amount on our July power bill. Each week I get a power usage email, and I can see a sharp drop off on the days we didn't have the hot water cylinder running.

L seems to have shot up lately and outgrown a lot of her clothes, so I took her shopping at Kmart last night. While we were there, I found Be Kind tops in the clearance section, so I bought one for each of the girls. "Be Kind" is a constant catch phrase in our home, and I thought that having a visual reminder could only be helpful.

I think that's all my frugal news for now. What have you been doing to save money lately?