30 November 2007

Slowly returning to normal

I hope you didn't think I'd jumped ship. The house was a shambles when I woke up yesterday, then when I sat down to my computer to write, I couldn't connect to the internet (Hanno had disconnected everything to move the desk), so I decided to post from work and started tidying up. Yes, I had yet another day at work yesterday. I've been there every day this week so far, and will go back again today for our annual general meeting, where I have to deliver my report for the year. I worked alone yesterday and it was very busy, so I didn't get a chance to post and when I got home, after looking at the 72 emails waiting, I couldn't face it. I was too tired, so I ate my dinner and crashed into bed.

That all sounds pretty miserable and I have really good news. Even though we've yet to cook in it, the kitchen is almost back. As you can see from the picture above, it's almost complete but we still have no running water. The gas fitter connected the cook top yesterday, the electricians were here till 6.30pm last night and the plumber will be here this morning. When he goes, it's almost there. There are some broken tiles to replace, the skirting boards aren't down yet and the lower kitchen cupboards are still empty, but my kitchen is almost ready to work in. I am so pleased.

The curtains are finished and when the plumber goes I'll hang them, then we'll start bringing back everything that has been stored all over the house for the past couple of weeks. This is a good day! My sincere thanks to everyone for all the good wishes that have come in. I love these long distant embraces of support and friendship. And to Sharon and Lucy, the aprons arrived! Lucy's on Wednesday and Sharon's yesterday. I'll email you both this morning. Wow, what a lucky woman I am. And I just have to tell everyone that Lucy used EXCACTLY the same red and white check (I'm guessing hers was from Ikea too), that I used for my curtains and for her apron. LOL Great minds. : ) Sharon sent two beautiful aprons that I adore, I'll post pictures soon. Thank you ladies.

The eggs arrive tomorrow and I'll definitely do a post about them, and how they arrived. In the meantime, I'd better get on with organising my kitchen because I intend cooking our dinner there tonight and baking bread tomorrow. These past couple of weeks have been far removed from the simple life I wish to live. Hopefully things will return to my version of normal next week, and while Hanno and I enjoy the benefits of our new floor and kitchen, I will continue posting about our wonderful life together. : )

28 November 2007

Flying eggs

Last week Ann asked if I had two dogs as usually Rosie is in my photos. Here are Alice (left) and Rosie together last night for Ann, and to remind us all of the pleasure pets can bring to our lives.

It has been my experience all through my life, that while the vast majority of days are lived in a very ordinary way, they are sprinkled with days that test me to my limits and those that are the sweet icing on my cake. It sometimes feels like life goes on its merry way then, just to remind me that this is not to be taken for granted, something upsets the ordinaryness of life with a set of circumstances that test my purpose and strength. I accept these difficult times, like now with the kitchen, just as much as I do the ordinary days because I know as sure as night follows day, that just around the corner a diamond is waiting.

Symmetry.

When I came home from work yesterday, where I was so busy I didn't stop for tea, lunch or bathroom breaks (eek!), I walked into our home to find even more of the floor ripped out, furniture moved from the lounge room, a bookcase in the kitchen and the lounge packed in tightly behind my computer desk. Then fate stepped in with the most wonderful counterweight.

A couple of weeks ago, one of our Rhode Island red chooks went broody for the first time. She's so focused on becoming a mother hen that she has to be physically removed from the nest to eat and drink. And when she is removed, she runs to the bucket to drink, runs to the feeder to eat, then runs back to the nest, settles down again to try to hatch unfertile eggs. We want some more chickens so we decided to look for a rare breed that we could raise with a dual purpose. We get eggs and a rare breed, and many of them are dying out, is given more space in this fragile world of ours.

I asked around and was contacted online by a lovely lady in Perth. She only knows me from my writing but she said she had an excellent line of bantam Partridge Wyandotte chooks (bottom right hand photo) and that she could send me some fertile eggs. These chooks had been given to her by a vet who had raised them over the years to a very good show standard, but he now has a terminal illness. He had given them to her with the hope that his Wyandottes would live on. Of course I was interested but they were on the other side of the country - 3600 kilometres (2250 miles) away. I've been silently hoping for the past week that we would be lucky enough to raise these chicks, but the likelihood of that happening, because of the contraints of distance and cost, seemed very remote.

Until yesterday.

When I walked into the increasing wreck that we are calling home at the moment, among all the emails and messages, this gem was waiting, and verbatim I will quote it: "I have 8 [eggs] already, if the girls play nicely I should be able to get the eggs on a Friday flight, does that suit you or how about Saturday? Instead of sending me the postage over how about we barter? I would love some dish cloths if you can knit or sew them."

This, my friends, is the most beautiful affirmation of why I live as I do. This simple bartering of goods needed for each of our simple lives, the reaching out to our (long distance) neighbours to help fulfill a need and in turn to be helped, this is what I want my life to be. I want these acts of kindness, generosity and support to be well and truly a part of my days. But balance always steps in. The symmetry of life only allows a slender and humble number of these wonderful days so that when they come along I recognise them for their true and genuine worth and don't take the profundity of simplicity for granted.

I will really enjoy knitting dishcoths and sewing an apron for my unseen and distant friend. The days I make them will be diamond days, as will the days the chicks hatch. I'm not sure if Helen reads my blog, but if she does, thank you, Helen.

The eggs arrive on Saturday. : )

Apron swap and emails

I'm about to do two posts.

This one is to remind my Australian and New Zealand friends that today is the deadline for the apron swap; they should be posted today. The deadline of 28 November is tomorrow for those on the other side of the world. I hope everyone has enjoyed this swap, it will be the final one for the year, but we'll have more next year, starting in January.

I also wanted to say hello to everyone who has sent me an email recently. I love getting your emails and really enjoy reading about the lives our little blog community. I have quite a few to answer at the moment and will get to them as soon as I can. Life is very busy at the moment and I only get through a couple each day. Please know I've read everything sent and will write back to everyone as soon as time allows.

Now, on to the next post ...

27 November 2007

The kitchen

There is no kitchen here, no floor either. These vital parts of our home should have been installed last Monday and Tuesday but the kitchen is still echoing when sound bounces off bare walls and the cement slab. Nothing has been done.

The workers arrived last Monday, ripped up the old floor and discovered water under it. Work stopped while we had a dehumidifier dry out the slab. The slab dried and the workers returned on Thursday to lay the
floor. Worked stopped immediately when they discovered the new floor boards were too big to fit into the ones still on our lounge room floor. They contacted the insurance assessor and were told to wait until the insurance company gave approval to have the entire floor done. We got that approval late yesterday. Now we have to try to fit into the schedules of both the floor and kitchen people. We also have to move everything out of the lounge room, which includes moving my computer. Sigh.


It's been an interesting week. Hanno has set up a makeshift kitchen for me where we have a pottery crock full of filtered water, a camp stove, electric frypan, toaster, electric kettle and a bucket. The microwave and fridge are in the lounge room, I'm washing my hands and washing up in the laundry, all the non-refrigerated food is in one of the bedrooms. We've been eating bread from the baker but I've made our other meals here, apart from a cheap vegetarian pizza last Tuesday.

Above is a potato pancake (Kartoffelpuffer) that we had the other night.

Kartoffelpuffer - enough for three people, or one person and a Hanno ; )

Grate (on a cheese grater) six med - large potatoes and finely chop two medium onions. Mix these together in a large bowl and add two eggs, salt and pepper and four tablespoons self raising flour (or plain or all purpose flour with a teaspoon of baking powder) .

Cook in a fairly hot frying pan in olive oil until golden brown. You can make several small circle ones or fill the whole pan then cut wedges to serve. It's delicious served with a salad.

This has shown me how much we rely on the modern conveniences we all have in our homes. I used to think we'd gone back to basics, but we haven't. We're just playing at it. I've been working on my quilt during the past week and that's been a gift. It's allowed me to stay calm and relaxed, except at those times we were told of each delay. Then I let Hanno and the insurance man have it. LOL But overall it's just been a process of working through each day and not focusing on the negative. There are positives here too. I've been able to reorganise my kitchen to how I work now and when it goes back in, although it will look similar, it will be a better place in which to work.

There is no doubt that this has been a big upheaval, but every day, bit by bit, I've been working in my home as I usually do. Tea is still
being taken on the front verandah most mornings, we eat well every night, we are still happy and smiling, and I know that I have little to complain about.

26 November 2007

Recycling, reusing, reducing

Glass jars can be reused many times for your jams. New lids can be purchased when the seal goes.

Choose your packaging carefully when you are buying groceries. It’s great to recycle and reuse plastics but it’s much better to reduce the amount of plastic you buy in the first place.

If you buy those plastic sauce dispensers, buy one, then buy a bulk pack of sauce and keep refilling the dispenser, ditto with mustard. The same goes for those plastic bottles of water. When the bottle is empty, refill it instead of buying a new one. Naturally you’ll need to wash it every day. Cleaning chemicals often come packaged in plastic. There are more natural ways of cleaning your home, look here to find some I use. Even when a product looks like it’s in a plain cardboard box, the box is often coated in wax or a thin plastic to make it watertight. Just scrape the box with your fingernail and if you have anything come off under your nail, it’s probably been waxed. Milk and juice cartons are made from a product called Liquidpaperboard, which is a mix of paper, aluminium foil and plastic. When you recycle these cartons they are made into office paper.

Make your own laundry powder and refill the same container.

Speaking of paper, that is one of the materials that must be recycled, either in your own garden, compost or worm farm, or at the recycle depot. If you add paper to your household waste bin, it will go to land fill and as it breaks down it will add significantly to the methane gas that’s emitted from your local tip. Methane is one of the most harmful greenhouse gases. Paper is easily recycled and uses 90% less water and 50% less energy than paper made from trees.


Shredded paper makes excellent hens' nests.

Australians use over five billion plastic shopping bags a year. That is shameful. In Australia, plastic shopping bags should not be added to your normal rubbish bin, nor to the recycling bin. Despite this over 200,000 plastic bags are loaded into landfill every hour. They should be taken to a store or major supermarket (Coles, Woolworths, Franklins, Safeway) that accepts them back. These bags are then sent en masse to a special recycling station where the bags are processed and recycled. Plastic bags are generally only used for the time it takes to carry your groceries to your home. Then it takes between 15 and 100 years to break down. I can’t stay on blogs or sites that have those plastic bag counters on them. It is the one thing that will move me off that site immediately. I can’t bear knowing how many of those bags are being accepted into people’s lives every day. There is no reason to accept a plastic bag when you go shopping. We have been living with green shopping bags for years now and if you haven’t bought some or made your own shopping bags, why haven’t you? Be prepared, take your bags with you when you are grocery shopping.


Instead of using plastic wrap to pack your lunch each day, buy a lunch box with small containers that fit inside a larger box that firmly hold your food down. You'll have a lovely homemade lunch, that survives the trip to work or school, without the plastic wrap.

There are patterns for crocheted shopping totes here or here or a fabric one here. The bags below are the net bags I use when buying vegetables, nuts and fruit. They are just a piece of tulle or netting, sewn along three sides and hemmed at the top. Simple! One of my readers has just alerted me to her home business that makes a similar fruit and vegie bag, here is the link for online sales. Thanks Rebecca.

Net bags will allow you to bring home your produce without plastic. They also allow the shop keeper to see what you have in the bag.

Buying butter in paper wrappers instead of a plastic tub is the way to go. If you buy bread, buy it from a local baker and ask that they wrap the bread in tissue or a brown paper bag. Or take your basket with you with a clean tea towel and wrap that around your bread. Better still, make your own bread. You'll be able to buy your flour in bulk heavy paper bags with a string closure.

These bags can be composted or given to the worms after being cut up.

If you’re serious about the amount of packaging and waste you throw out, it would be a good idea to sit for a while and work out a waste reduction and recycling program for yourself. I did this a few years ago and now our bin generally contains only a very small amount of waste. Give your food scraps and peelings to your compost, chooks or worms, and you’ll be cutting back on a lot of waste. Newspapers, cardboard, old telephone books etc can all be composted or shredded and used for the chooks or in compost. If you cut back on the amount of plastic you buy, you’ll be on the road to making a valuable contribution to your planet. It really is easy to do this, it only requires a bit of thought and determination to carry it through.

25 November 2007

Three blogs to read

Yes, it's the second post today but I wanted to write about a few additional things.

There are a few blogs I want to recommend you read. The first is Julie's. Julie has
been going back to basics and writing about it every day for the past month. It's very interesting and definitely worth reading.
Julie's blog - Towards Sustainability

Kim is following the rigorous Riot for Austerity 90% reduction and doing well. Read about her efforts here, and the very interesting recounting of her day on her home page.
Kim's bog - Hedge's Happenings

Melinda at Elements in Time is grappling with the difficulties of her extended family's continuing consumerist lifestyle. She writes an insightful post about it on her blog and there are photos of a Thanksgiving dinner there which, to an Australian, were very interesting.

Paying off your mortgage and credit cards

Debt, what a rotten word. Yet it’s what most of us have to sign up to, live with and work through if we are to own our own home. Let me say first that I know there are many ways to pay off debt. I’m writing about what worked well for Hanno and I. This is what I have experience in. Other methods may work equally as well but as I have no experience of other ways, I can't write about them.

As I said in the previous post, we paid off our mortgage in eight years. It was not easy, few things that are really worthwhile are ever easy, but we decided on our plan and we stuck to it. Yes we fell of the wagon a couple of times, but when we did, we got right back on and knuckled down again. We also had a healthy deposit when we bought our house.

If you’re thinking of buying a house, don’t wait until you buy it to start putting money aside. Work out how much you can realistically and consistently pay off a mortgage, and from that moment on, start putting that amount aside. While you’re looking around for your home, this money will be building up and when it comes time to pay your deposit, your nest egg is there. Add it to your deposit. Once you’re locked into the mortgage, pay as much as you can each month. Make extra payments if you’re able to.

If you have credit card debt, and have debt on a few cards, I like the snowball method of paying them off. First you make a list of your credit card debt, from the smallest to the largest debt. Then, before you pay anything from the debts, you save an emergency fund of between $500 - $1000 to provide a safety net in case something happens that you need money for. This will allow you to use your emergency fund instead of your credit cards in an emergency.

When you snowball debt, you pay off the smallest debt first, while continuing to pay the minimum payment on your other cards. When the lowest debt is paid off, you go to the second lowest debt and do the same thing. When you pay off the second card, you'll have more money for your payment because you'll have paid off one card, so you use that money to increase your payment on the second card, and so on, until you've paid them all off. Always pay the minimum payment on your other cards.

Be careful of temptation while you're in your period of debt reduction. The bank will write to you offering to increase your credit limit - they say this is your reward for being an excellent customer and for paying off your debts so well, but in reality it's to trap you in ever increasing debt that they reap huge rewards from. It is not in the bank's interest for you to be debt-free. So when they write you that letter telling you that your limit is increased, write back and say you want to decrease your credit limit. Decrease it so you don't face temptation.

Read more about snowballing debt here.

When you have your cards paid off you should keep ONE of them. That one card should have zero balance and a limit of about $500. This is what Hanno and I have now, we have had this card for many years, we rarely use it, but it's there, just in case. We find that paying for things with cash, feels like we are really spending money, whereas buying with a credit card doesn't. There is nothing like the feeling of handing over a couple of $50 notes to let you know you're really spending, and to be careful.

Now, this is the bit that I really wanted to share with you.

When you pay off your debt you have to be strong. It will be very easy to go the other way, say it doesn't matter, or your best friend has a new dress and you should have one too, or the car needs new tyres NOW. Don't betray yourself. Stay true to what you want to do. Stay on the path you've planned out and don't keep spending. If you do need a new dress or new tyres, then they should be saved up for, not whacked on the credit card. Please don't betray yourself. That is what you'll be doing if you keep spending.

I firmly believe that Hanno and I have such a strong marriage because together we decided what our shared values were and we worked as a team for what we wanted. Debt reduction was part of that. We decided that our days of being screwed by the bank were over, we wanted to be free of debt and the weight of carrying that debt around with us every day. Together we listed our debts, together we planned our escape from debt and together we worked towards it. It helped build our marriage because we were working towards a common goal and when we saw each other making the sacrifices necessary for our success that built into our marriage a feeling of pride, security and strength.

I can't tell you what it will take for you to pay off your debt, but if it's giving up your Saturday shopping sprees, selling your decluttered household items on ebay or cutting back on your spiralling grocery bill, do it; do whatever it takes. You and I both know it won't be easy but whatever pain, inconvenience or anxiety it causes will be forgotten when you come out the other end and live debt-free. Having no debt will give you freedom to live the way you want to live. So what's stopping you? Be brave, take a deep breath and dive in.

24 November 2007

A few updates

I had a lovely email from a reader today, an ex-New Yorker who has moved to PA. She's a writer and a contributor to the book Get Satisfied: How Twenty People Like You Found the Satisfaction of Enough. Apparently it's been very popular and is going to be made into a documentary. I checked it out on Amazon and it looks like a very interesting read. I've added it to my Amazon favourites.

Don't forget your aprons ladies. The swap deadline is next week, November 28. All aprons must be posted on or before that day.

I haven't been able to post about my kitchen yet. Let me just say that work has stopped and we have no kitchen. I'll update you when I can write about it without sounding like a mad woman.

Getting rid of debt

Our six monthly water bill arrived yesterday. It was $44.85, with our discount we have to pay $40.36. We've worked hard to reduce our water consumption and as the price of water has been rising - from 78 cents/kilolitre in 2002 when our bill was $248.20; 78 cents in 2004 when our bill was $148.20; 95 cents/kl in 2006 when our bill was $101.65 to 115 cents/kl now when our bill is $44.85, we have been using less and getting the most out of every drop. We've done a similar thing with our electricity bill.

There are choices to be made when you decide to live simply and reduce your impact on the world. One of the choices we made was that reducing our use of water and electricity was something we could achieve that would make a different to our greenhouse gas emissions and to the amount we paid for our utilities. We worked on one thing but got two rewards for the work we put in. In many ways being frugal is being green.

We did a similar thing when we decided to get rid of our debt. We paid off our house in eight years. We did that by first making the conscious decision to do it, we made a plan on how we'd do it, then we did it. That last part was the most difficult. ; ) It's easy looking at something and knowing you need to work on it; making a plan is pretty easy too, but the doing of it. Well, that takes effort, perseverance and determination.

One of the things we planned for when we started on this path of debt reduction was to not worry about what our family, friends and neighbours thought. We had to have enough confidence to know, really know right down to our bones, that what we were doing was right for us. It might not have been right for our neighbours, or our friends, but for us, it was right - it would make our lives better. I'm not going to tell you it was easy, because sometimes it wasn't, but as we got into it and we saw our debt reducing every week, instead of going up or stagnating, it replaced the feelings of deprivation we sometimes felt when we decided against buying tickets for a concert, going out to dinner or going on holiday, with something better - we felt the taste of freedom.

Being in debt restricts you. It makes you play by someone else's rules. You have to work enough so you have the money to pay up every month. And the really horrible thing about having a mortgage or credit card debt is that often when you make a payment, you don't reduce the debt - or you only reduce it by a small fraction - often you're just paying interest to a bank.

But the purpose of this post is not to remind you of your mortgage or credit card bills, but to show you, by example, that reducing debt isn't just about your large bills. You can reduce your debt by cutting back on your consumption of water, electricity, gas, petrol and your phone. When you pay less for all these things, not only will you reduce your footprint on the earth, you'll also have more money to pay off your mortgage and credit cards. And, ladies and gentlemen, I guarantee that the day you pay off your mortgage will be a day you'll remember for a long time. There is such a feeling of relief and freedom that you'll be smiling all the way to the bank to finalise your account.

Tomorrow I'll write about ways to pay off debt.

Graphic from allposters.com

23 November 2007

It's time for tea

It's Thanksgiving Day in America today so I'd like to wish my American friends happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all have a wonderful day with family and friends.


Some of my tea making paraphernalia. I know I have too much of this but tea makes me happy, I enjoy making good tea for friends and family and I love having morning and afternoon tea. So for those reasons, I'm keeping all my tea gear, none of it will be removed in a decluttering frenzy in the foreseeable future. I think I have nine teapots. I can't check now because most of them are packed away somewhere. The little white teapot here I bought in the 60s when I first left home - it's a Finlandia. The blue and white tea/coffee pot is from the 1970s, it's an English Adams, not expensive, but my first blue and white set of crockery. The pot with "tea" on it is a 1930s set Made in Japan. I also have a set of canisters that match it which I bought off ebay about six or seven years ago. The little blue cup and saucer and milk jug are similar to ones my Mum had when I was growing up. They were also bought on ebay several years ago. Kettle at the back, tea balls and strainer at the front.


I was asked in comments and emails how to brew a good pot of tea, and thought it was an excellent idea for a post.

Tea is the second most popular drink in the world. Water is the most popular. Like most people, I've been drinking tea made with tea bags - I found a well priced organic black tea bag at Aldi and have been using that. But over the past couple of months I've gone back to real tea, and I say 'real tea' because tea bags are made with the fannings (the worst grade of tea) and tea dust. There is such a difference in the taste that I know if you've only used tea bags, tea made with loose leaves will convert you to making tea in a pot.

You'll need fresh water, a kettle, a china, glass or pottery tea pot, tea leaves, a tea cosy (if you're in a cold climate), tea strainer or tea ball (to stop the leaves going into your cup), and ...

Time. After your water is boiled, it will take about five minutes to make a pot of tea.

You must have fresh water from the tap to make good tea. Tea needs dissolved oxygen in the water and if you use water that's been sitting in the kettle for a while, that's not good enough.

While I'm sure
there are many ways to make a good pot of tea, this is how I make it:
  1. Fill your kettle and boil the water.
  2. While the kettle is boiling, prepare your pot and the tea cups. If you're putting the tea in a tea ball, do that, making sure the tea ball is suitable for the size of the pot. Don't put the tea in the pot yet.
  3. When the water is boiled, pour a small amount into the pot and swish it around the pot to warm it. Tip that water out.
  4. Add the tea leaves to the pot. The usual measure is one teaspoon for each person and one for the pot. So if you're making two cups, you'd add three teaspoons of tea leaves and enough water for almost three cups.
  5. Pour the boiling tea over the tea leaves and place the lid on the tea pot. The water must be boiling.
  6. If you're in a cold climate, place a tea cosy over your teapot. The tea will stand now for a few minutes and it must be kept hot. I use a tea cosy here in winter but not in summer.
  7. Allow the tea to steep for between three to five minutes. I drink mine after about three minutes.
  8. If you take your tea with milk, it is added after the tea is poured, and although this is firmly adhered to in certain parts, (ahem England : ) ), it really doesn't matter when you add the milk. Some say you scald the tea when you add it first, I doubt very much that it matters.
  9. Sugar or honey is generally used to sweeten tea and some add a squeeze of fresh lemon. But don't add milk if you add lemon as it will curdle the milk.
I have my tea black with one spoon of honey. MMmmmmmm. Please don't flavour your tea too much, it masks the true flavour of good tea. All those vanilla, apple, apricot and strawberry teas, aren't the types of tea I'm talking about here. They are tea bags made with fannings and with (usually) artificial flavourings added. If you want to drink good tea for flavour and health, you'll choose a good quality loose tea, have it black or with milk and with sweetener or without. That's it.

TYPES OF TEA
All tea comes from the plant Camellia sinensis. After the tea is picked, it is processed in various ways to
produce the different teas we drink. Tea is generally named for the region it originates from.

Green tea: Tea that is dried immediately after harvesting.

Black tea: Tea that is dried and fermented, it's stronger than green tea. Black tea comes in various strengths
and flavours. There is Darjeeling (my favourite), Orange Pekoe (which not orange flavoured), Earl Grey (black tea with bergamot oil added), Ceylon tea (for my fellow Australians, this is the tea that is sold as Billy Tea, Lan Choo, Bushells, King Tea etc.) Ceylon tea is my everyday cuppa.

TEA COSIES
You'll need a tea cosy if you live in a cold climate.
Tea cosy
patterns here and here, Australian 1930s crocheted tea cosy and a vintage tea cosy. I wanted to show you my favourite tea cosy that Tricia made for me, a patchwork one, but I can't find it with everything packed away for the renovations. I'll try to remember it when everything is back to normal.

I hope you all have the chance to make a pot of tea soon, and to sit and relax with the warming flavour of it.



22 November 2007

Progress

This is the beginnings last night's dinner, prepared in the guest bathroom. There are cooked potatoes in the colander at the back, radishes, just picked, and pickled cucumbers. I'll write about this meal in a future post.

We are making progress. It might not look like it, but there has been movement in the right direction. Yesterday the dehumidifier was removed after draining something like 200 litres of water! Absolutely incredible. Today the floor goes down and tomorrow the kitchen is put back. But enough of my kitchen, if you're not bored with it by now, I am, and I want to talk about progress.

I think many of us, myself included, have been conditioned to believe that we should always have our desires met instantly. We are told not to save for what we want to buy but to have what we want instantly by using a credit card. Have it now! This happens in the home too. We have instant porridge, two minute noodles, instant soup, tea bags, precooked rice, we even have instant messaging. Why can't we wait for these things? I believe there are few nicer ways to start the day, and to think about what I'll be doing during the day, than to stand at the stove stirring porridge - real oats. I love brewing tea in a pot with tea leaves too. Tea needs time to develop flavour. Tea bags just don't cut it. Yes, I know tea bags take a fraction of the time a pot of tea takes. You will save about 2 minutes using a tea bag. But what do you do with those two minutes? Do you get what a pot of tea will give you - a sense of slowing down and the anticipation of good tea.

Sometimes you have to wait for progress to happen too. It's not instant, precooked, predigested or fast. Like your tea in a pot or good porridge, progress needs work invested in it, and occasionally it needs to be stirred before you realise something is happening. You might be focused on your simple life and doing some of the things we talk about here, but feel you're not getting anywhere. Progress is a strange phenomenon. It might happen quickly right before your eyes, yet sometimes you ache for it and you feel abandoned. If that is how you feel, don't give up, don't ever give up, progress is brewing in the background.

If you're feeling frustrated by a lack of progress towards the life you want to live, start stirring your porridge, so to speak, by learning more simple things you will need in your life. That might include reading more about budgeting, redoing your budget, talking to a friend or neighbour about keeping chickens or growing vegetables, decluttering a small area of your home or taking time for yourself each day to sit, relax and think. This small step will often stimulate progress to show itself in some way.

Sometimes you just need to wait because behind the scenes progress is bubbling away happily without you knowing it. When the time is right, you'll wake up to a brighter view of your life and you'll see you're closer to your ideal than you realised. Simplicity is not a tea bag, it's a pot of tea and it needs time to develop it's full flavour. And remember that you won't always see your progress, it sometimes creeps along too silent and transparent to be noticed.

21 November 2007

A post from the edge

Is this every man's dream? The fridge next to the armchair, facing the TV.
We survived another day without a kitchen, and with cupboards and appliances sitting on the back verandah. Actually it hasn't been too bad and the only thing I'm really missing is my filtered water tap. There is water in the tap but I never drink our unfiltered tap water. I thought we were preparing for two days without the filter, and filled the pottery crock Tricia gave me before the taps were removed. It's now less than half full. I thought we were pretty good with our water but let me tell you we are being even more thrifty with it now. We are pouring the remains in the water bottles into the electric jug and drinking full glasses of water; no drinking water is being thrown on the garden, into pot plants or down the drain. It has shown me that no matter how much you monitor your usage in a normal day, there is always room for improvement. I don't have to work today so later in the morning I'm going to boil some rainwater from the tank and add that to the crock.
Tea and toast bar.
When you think about it, you can cut back on the length of showers, turn off the tap when you brush your teeth, do less washing in an energy and water efficient washing machine, but you can't cut back on the amount of water you drink. We always try for two litres each a day, plus what we drink in our tea. So I guess we need about six litres of drinking water a day. While I was at work, I drank the spring water that's at the Centre. I also filled up my water bottle before I came home, but that's all gone now and soon we'll be relying on our rainwater to keep us healthy and hydrated.

Here is Rosie checking out the old oven which has been plopped next to the cupboards on the back verandah.
This is another instance where something unexpected happened and what we have stored here has seen us through. I think it was Lisa who asked recently about stockpiling water. Here is your answer, Lisa. It's essential.
The new stove on the left, next to the old stove, both sitting on the back verandah.
I prepared enough food for two days without the kitchen. Today is day three. I'll have to come up with something for us to eat today and tomorrow and although I have no doubt we'll eat well, I know I'll have trouble finding everything I need. That is another lesson learned - pack a box of easy to prepare foods, no matter now quickly you think everything will return to normal. Oh well, I'm sure we'll survive. At least we have food in the house, which is more than millions of people throughout the world can say. Lis and Christine suggested a post about what we're eating this week so when the kitchen is back and everything is back to normal, I'll write about it.

Thank you for stopping by today and welcome all the new people who are reading my blog.

20 November 2007

Welcome to the revolution



I love it when the unexpected happens. It reminds me that no matter how much we plan things out, no matter how many people work on a job, no matter how much we want it to go smoothly, some things just take their own sweet time. Whatever will be, will be.

Work has stopped on the kitchen.

Yesterday I was dressed and had eaten breakfast before the workers arrived at 7am. My plan was to have everything done and my basket packed for work, and to write my blog after they arrived. My computer is away from the work area, no problems, I thought. HA! I said hello to all of them, organised my basket, and came in here to write. Then they turned off the electricity. : ) Plan B - I drove to work. I thought I'd do my post from there before everyone else arrived but I got busy straight away and stayed that way all day.

So, what happened in the kitchen? They removed the lower cupboards, then the floor, and found water laying under the floor boards on the concrete slab. A lot of water. The floor will dry out until Thursday, when the workers will return. Apparently the entire kitchen will be back in by Friday afternoon. It's now Tuesday morning. : )

I have to tell you how much I loved reading about the changes you've been making in your lives. The comments made on the previous post, and the emails I received, turned yesterday's ordinary day into a diamond. It's strange what motivates us to change. Behavioural change is supposed to be the most difficult and yet it's been achieved by reading words on a screen, and knowing there was the need. Of course that is too simple for what has happened here. Those changes made were the result of a number of things. I think my blog shows a life being lived. I try not to talk too much of why Hanno and I live as we do, I want to just show and tell the ordinary day-to-day doing of it, with sprinklings of what we get for our efforts. We all know we've used too much of our planets limited resources, and polluted our water, air and soils because of it. What we need to do is to peel back the layers of our lives, look at what we've got, and replace the layers with only what is absolutely necessary. (A bit like my kitchen.) We are all changing from being users to conservers, and when our layers are back in place, it will reveal a simpler life.

I hope my blog shows that we are all part of a profound and significant group. We aren't alone and we aren't weird to want to live this way. Simple living will help restore the planet to a more stable place and we are leading this revolution. We got into this mess by believing the lie that we can all have whatever our money can buy. It didn't happen overnight, it was a fifty year process to get to this point. It won't be reversed fast either but every mile we don't drive, every piece of plastic we don't use, every vegetable we grow or buy locally, every person we talk to about our lives, will help repair the damage. I am thankful for everyone who reads and everyone who comments because it shows that we are part of that simple revolution. The rest of the neighbourhood just doesn't know it yet.

18 November 2007

Moving the kitchen

This is what came from kitchen cupboards, there is more on the floor.

The day has arrived. Today we'll finish clearing out the kitchen in preparation for the renovation tomorrow and Tuesday. We worked on it steadily yesterday, packing things in boxes, putting aside unwanted items, throwing out unrecognisable pieces of plastic and cleaning out cupboards. This is the ultimate deep clean. The dishwasher is on the back verandah, today we'll move the fridge into the lounge room, table and chairs will go to the bedroom, the dresser has to be unpacked and moved and the stove and oven cleaned. Both the stove and oven will be replaced along with a new cupboard under the sink, benchtop and sink. We're having a new floor installed too, just in the kitchen/dining area, but to put the new floor down, the kitchen cupboards need to come out. I am so pleased I'll be out of the house at work both days the workmen will be here. Hanno will be here to supervise and will happily work alongside the men doing whatever he can and, no doubt, making cups of coffee. That reminds me. I'll have to make a comfortable area for the workers to have their lunch, and I'll see if I can find an ash tray.

I finished the hand stitching on my new curtains yesterday and hope to make them up today on the sewing machine. They'll be simple little curtains, hemmed top and bottom and attached using silver clips from Ikea. It shouldn't take me long to hem them and they'll be ready to hang when the kitchen is finished.

I'm not sure when I'll be able to post over the coming days. The workmen will arrive at 7am so before then I'll need to have had my shower, breakfast and be dressed ready for work. I'll just say I'll post when I can. I have access to the internet at work but I'm usually so busy when I'm there, I might just have the time to check comments.

In the meantime, I'd like to ask you all to do something for me. If this works, it will also provide some very interesting reading for everyone and it will give me some feedback. I often read that blog readers have been inspired by something I've done, or said, and by my life in general. I also get quite a few emails every week telling me this. I wonder if that inspiration has enabled you to change things in your own life, and if so, what changes have you made. Please make a comment and tell us of your changes, no matter how small they may seem to you, or how large. I am often inspired towards change by things I read and I would love to know who has been inspired enough to change, and by what. Thank you. : )

17 November 2007

Quilts - I get it!

The tentative beginnings of a quilt. The centre panel is an old pillow slip I bought from Ikea, that is bordered by leftover fabric from my new curtains. The rest will be made up of bits and pieces of old fabric, never used. It's from old skirts of mine, tablecloths, pieces from Tricia and a couple of metres of blue tones bought specially for this project.

I'm a quilter! I never thought I'd ever utter those words and if the truth be know, I'm only on my second quilt. Ummm, and there is a gap of 27 years between the first one and what I'm doing now. LOL My first quilt was made using precut Laura Ashley squares. I made a single bed quilt so that my baby Shane could sit on something soft on the floor. All I did was sew the squares together, attach some wadding and a backing and that was my quilt. I still have it somewhere, I think Hanno has it packed in a box in the shed. Shane is now 27 years old.

My sister has been a quilter for many years and has made some beautiful quilts, one of which I use on my bed in winter. But I never really understood the quilt mentality - when my brother-in-law asked Tricia "why are you cutting up fabric and sewing it back together again?" I listened closely for the answer because I didn't know. Of course, Tricia didn't answer her husband because she thought he was teasing her. Maybe he was, but I wanted to know what her answer would be. Now I know.

Or think I do.

Making a quilt from pieces of fabric left over from other projects, or gifted to me, is the essence of simple living. It's the ability to make something functional, beautiful and necessary using the frugal remains of other projects. It's the motivation to use what we have, to make what we need.

I arrived at this pleasant rethinking of patchwork because three things worked together to convince me of the worth of a patchwork quilt. One was that I now have enough fabric - Tricia's overflowing basket full of scraps gave me the means. Secondly, I realised that what I made didn't have to be perfect. This was galvanised into my head when Tricia was here and I told her that I couldn't get my patchwork squares to line up exactly on their seams. "So?" was her answer. I loved that. I love knowing perfection isn't required. If it is, I always fall short. The third thing was after seeing Tricia's quilt I finally knew where my starting point was. I never knew that before and for someone as craft-dumb as I am, that is a really important step.

About a year ago when Tricia visited, she cut out a lot of squares for me in preparation for the quilt I'm now making. Over the months, I sewed lengths of them together (hence my shock when they didn't all line up) but I didn't really know what I was supposed to be doing with the strips. I am an intelligent woman, but I can also be very stupid with things unknown to me. I could write a creditable magazine article in an hour, I could explain to you the life cycle of the worm or make a speech to a thousand people, but give me strips of fabric and I'm dumbfounded. Completely dumbfounded. Tricia's quilt showed me the way, I start from the middle and work out, that makes sense to me!

This quilt, like my first quilt, is for Shane, I plan to make Kerry's for his birthday in July. The symbolism of a handmade quilt can be quite powerful and it can echo meaning to family members over generations. I will weave several messages to my sons in their quilts, there will be symbols of their Australian, German, Irish and Swedish heritage, as well as secret messages from me to them, some they're recognise, some they won't. I hope the quilts show my sons their uniqueness, my unconventional nature, some of my humour and grace, as well as the values I've come to live by, and I hope they discover too - thrift, generosity, kindness and acceptance. I hope my sons recognise all the idiosyncratic elements stitched in piece by piece, because I want them to know their quilts are meaningful. But most of all I want them to feel the love I've stitched for them, and to be wrapped in that love as they sleep.


16 November 2007

How a garden can help reduce your costs

All these photos of the garden were taken this morning.

The garden is producing well at the moment so we've been able to cut back on what we buy at the shops. I thought it might be interesting to work out the cost of our food so far this week, including all meals and snacks, and see how the garden produce factors into those costs. I will also include the source of the food, from our garden, pantry, fridge, stockpile or shop.

I make a loaf of bread almost every day. This costs about $1.60 for a wholemeal, rye or white loaf. Between all of us - the humans, dogs, fish and chooks, we eat a loaf a day. When something comes from the garden, I am counting that as 0 - nil. While I'm aware that the seeds and water come at a price, that price is minimal, so I'll add $5 for the week's seeds and water. I'll add the cost of the bread and seeds to the overall cost.

MONDAY - my work day so morning tea and lunch eaten apart. DAY'S TOTAL = $1.64
Breakfast
Boiled eggs (garden - 0), homemade bread toasted (pantry), butter (10c), black tea (pantry - 10c), honey to sweeten tea (pantry - 6c). Total 26 cents.

Morning tea
None for me
Hanno - black tea/honey 8 cents, homemade biscuits - (pantry 5 cents) Total 13 cents.

Lunch Hanno
Salad sandwich on homemade bread (tomato, lettuce, cucumber from garden, avocado given to us - 0), homemade lemon cordial - 2 cents. Peaches (garden - 0). Total 2 cents.
Lunch Rhonda
Salad and cheese sandwich (cheese 10 cents, salad 0), black tea/honey 8 cents, peach (garden - 0). Total 18 cents.

Dinner
Vegetable lasagna and salad - eggplant, tomatoes, capsicum (peppers), chilli, silverbeet, lettuce, radishes, celery from garden - 0, onions (shop - 10 cents), pasta sheets (shop - 10 cents), cheese sauce - powdered milk (pantry - 20 cents, cheese (fridge - 50 cents), flour - (pantry 5 cents), butter, salt and pepper (10 cents). Dessert - fresh peaches - (garden - 0) Total $1.05.


TUESDAY - my work day so morning tea and lunch eaten apart. DAY'S TOTAL = $2.14
Breakfast
Toast with butter and homemade strawberry jam, butter (10c), black tea (pantry - 10c), honey to sweeten tea (pantry - 6c), jam (pantry - 10 cents). Total 36 cents.

Morning tea
Hanno - black tea/honey 8 cents, homemade biscuits - (pantry 5 cents) Total 13 cents.
None for me.

Lunch Hanno
Salad sandwich on homemade bread (tomato, lettuce, cucumber from garden, avocado given to us - 0), homemade lemon cordial - 2 cents. Total 2 cents.
Lunch Rhonda
Salad and cheese sandwich (cheese 50 cents, salad 0), black tea/honey 8 cents. Total 58 cents.

Dinner
Left over vegetable lasagne (0 cents) and salad - eggplant, tomatoes, capsicum (peppers), chilli, silverbeet, lettuce, radishes, celery from garden - 0, onions (shop - 5 cents). Dessert - fresh peaches (garden - 0) and bananas (shop - $1) - Total $1.05.


WEDNESDAY TOTAL = $7.88
Breakfast
Me - baked beans (pantry 25 cents) on toast - homemade bread toasted (pantry), butter (10c), Hanno - homemade quark (40 cents) on bread - black tea (pantry - 10c), honey to sweeten tea (pantry - 6c). Total 91 cents.
Morning tea
Black tea/honey - 16 cents, homemade pikelets - (flour, powdered milk, butter, whey from quark - $1) and homemade jam - 10 cents. Total $1.26.

Lunch Hanno
Salad sandwich on homemade bread (tomato, lettuce, cucumber from garden, avocado given to us - 0), tea/honey - 8 cents. Total 8 cents.
Lunch Rhonda
Egg and tomato sandwich (egg 0, salad 0), black tea/honey 8 cents. Total 8 cents.

Dinner
Spinach pie and salad - spinach (garden - 0), eggs (garden - 0), onion (shop - 20 cents), garlic (garden - 0), fresh ricotta (shop - $2.45), cheese - (fridge - 50 cents), homemade shortcrust pastry - flour (pantry 40 cents), butter (fridge - 90 cents). Salad (garden - 0). Dessert homemade yoghurt (fridge - $1), honey (pantry - 10 cents), blueberries (garden - 0) TOTAL $5.55.


THURSDAY TOTAL = $4.63
Breakfast

Me - baked beans (pantry 25 cents) on toast - homemade bread toasted (pantry), butter (10c), Hanno - homemade quark (40 cents) on bread - black tea (pantry - 10c), honey to sweeten tea (pantry - 5c). Total 90 cents.

Morning tea
Black tea/honey - 16 cents, homemade pikelets - (flour, powdered milk, butter, whey from quark - leftover from yesterday - 0) and homemade jam - 10 cents. Total 29 cents.

Lunch
Both
Salad and tuna (pantry - $2) sandwich on homemade bread (tomato, lettuce, cucumber from garden, avocado given to us - 0), tea/honey - 16 cents. Total $2.16.

Dinner
Leftover spinach pie (0) and salad (garden - 0).
Dessert
Poached peaches (garden - 0), syrup - vanilla (pantry- 50 cents), sugar (pantry - 10 cents) and Maleny Jersey cream (shop - 60 cents). Total = $1.20
Hanno - tea/honey (8 cents)

Snacks included peaches from the garden (0) and cashews from the pantry, I buy these in 1 kilo packs, so I'm guessing our snacks cost about $3. Salad dressing was made from olive oil , dry mustard, S&P (pantry) and lemon juice (freezer). I'm adding $1 for the dressing I made. Add the cost of the bread $1.60 x 4 = $6.40, the cost of gas for the cooking = $3 and various sundries I can't think of but I'll add anyway = $2.

TOTAL
Monday $1.64
Tuesday $2.14
Wednesday $7.88
Thursday $4.63
Cashews $3.00
Dressing $1.00
Bread $6.40
Gas $3.00
Chook food $2.00
Water and seeds $5.00
Sundries $2.00

TOTAL FOUR DAYS = $38.69 or $9.67 per day for two people.

15 November 2007

Work in progress

This is the quark I made from my yoghurt last week. It drained for four days before I could get back to it, but that's fine as long as it's kept refrigerated. The cheese on the left is savory with cucumber, red capsicum (red pepper), green onion and salt and pepper. It's great on crackers or a sandwich. The one on the right is sweet with honey stirred through it. It's delicious on toast for breakfast. I also collected a small jug of whey that I'll use to make a cake and pikelets (flapjacks).

Housework never ends! You could work half the day just doing what needs to be done in your home, or you could work to a schedule and have your chores organised for the days during the week, but even if you stuck rigidly to your schedule, you'd still have to do it all again tomorrow or next week. Because housework never ends.

I used to struggle with this. I had real trouble coming to terms with the endless nature of it. How could you ever want to do any chore, and get joy from it, when it would never end? No matter how well I did what I had to do, there would always be something else to do tomorrow - or I would have to do the same thing, over and over again.

When I first starting living simply, this was the one thing that didn't just fall into place for me. If I wanted to live well, get joy from the simple things that made up my day and provide a good home for my family and myself, then I had to look at my chores in a different way. I am one of those women who, although I've worked outside the home most of my life, when I became a full time homemaker/housewife, I wore that badge with pride and wanted to live up to the true and full meaning of the name.

So I started thinking about the never-ending nature of housework, as that was the bit that bothered me the most. I didn't have a problem with most of the chores themselves. One of the things Hanno impressed me with early on in our relationship was his attitude of "It has to be done, I'll just do it." So I started with that and I just did what had to be done. I made sure I didn't do all the things I liked doing on the same day, and sprinkled them throughout the week so there were always days I did chores I liked doing - like cooking, baking, gardening and mending with things I didn't like so much - like cleaning toilets, ironing and vacuuming. That worked! But no matter how many times I packed the dishwasher or cleaned the shower, or how well I did it, it still had to be done the next day or next week. Hmmmmm.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. If housework never ends then I should get rid of that feeling that if I clean the fridge out or mop the floor, then that's done. Over with. Finished. Completed. All fixed. If housework never ends, then I never have to finish it. Eureka!

When I stopped thinking that I'd work through my chores, get everything finished and then they'd get messed up again so I'd have to start over again, and replaced it with I'll do the ironing, mopping, washing up, make the beds and bake today and if I don't have time for the mopping, I'll do that tomorrow, that made a difference. I continued working with chores I liked, mixed with those I didn't like so much, and that worked well for me. I also changed things to better suit the way I worked. I stopped vacuuming so much and started sweeping. I liked sweeping, so I could still keep the floors clean without the vacuum cleaner. Now I vacuum once a week and sweep the rest of the time. I stopped using the dishwasher and started washing up by hand, and found I really liked it. I stopped ironing everything we wore and now just iron my work clothes and the napkins, tablecloths and pillow slips that I like ironed. I stopped washing everything that had been used once and now only wash what is dirty or smelly - this helped reduce my washing to two or three loads a week. That made a big difference to the amount of housework I did and also cut back on our power and water usage. A big plus.

I guess what I'm saying is that if you want to live in a clean and comfortable home that you can enjoy with your family and friends, then housework is a part of your life. If it's inevitable then you should try to make the most of it. You might end up liking most of it, like I do. Rethink how you work. Just because you've always done something one way, it doesn't mean it has to be like that forever. If you can modify something to better suit how you work, do it. Streamline your tasks and don't aim for perfection. Take breaks. Do everything you do well and find the pleasure in it - it will be there lurking, you just have to find it. Be proud of what you achieve every day because you are providing a comfortable home for your family, you are making the most of the resources you have and looking after what you own. That is a good thing. And most of all, stop thinking that you'll never get through it all. Housework never ends, so don't try to finish it.

14 November 2007

Preparing for Christmas

We started our Christmas planning yesterday. Not here at home, but at the Centre where I work. Our two main projects are Santa's Helpers and a Christmas breakfast. Both of them are a big part of this caring and open community and both require a lot of organisation.

Of course the end result of both projects is quite simple. Santa's Helpers enables us to give gifts of toys, books, games and clothes to children in our town who might otherwise go without, and we give a hamper of Christmas food, including ham and a few treats like coupons for haircuts and a box of chocolates, to their parents. Our Christmas breakfast is simply that. A breakfast that we cook for the town residents. Our local politicians come along to help with the cooking and we serve all who come along. We encourage those who are living alone or away from their families, and the homeless to join us, as well as town residents who want to meet and get to know people they otherwise wouldn't meet. Last year we served over 350 people.

And the best part is - everything, every toy, game, book, box of chocolates, bike, all clothes, bags, ham, drink, haircut, bread, salad, fruit, yoghurt, water, softdrink, eggs, croissant, and all the goodies that make up the hampers and the breakfast, is donated by the wonderful people in our town.

Christmas has always been a time of family get-togethers for me. But it can be a time of sadness and stress for a lot of people. We see that in the work we do at the Centre. Some people have too much and seem to drown in their excess and some don't have enough and feel guilty and sad because of it. We help redress those problems by encouraging those who can donate to do so, and we give those donations to people who really need them. The rest is used in a breakfast of celebrations on Christmas morning where everyone comes to sit and eat together. Often Santa calls in to have breakfast with us after he's finished visiting all the children in Australia.

Hanno and I are having a dinner with our sons a week or so before Christmas as they are both working on Christmas day. On Christmas day we will be up early to help set up for the breakfast, to cook, serve and clean up and to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas with the people we'll meet at the breakfast. It will be a very simple Christmas for us. We aren't exchanging gifts but we'll be richer for the experience of it.

What are your Christmas plans?

graphic from all posters.com

13 November 2007

Preparing for tough times

I often watch a local TV program on Sunday at lunchtime. Landline is an ABC program about all things rural and it gives a good insight into important issues facing our farmers and people in country towns in Australia.

Last
Sunday their lead story was about the effect equine flu has had on the people who own horses but aren't part of the horse racing industry. For those of you who aren't local, in the past few months horse flu has devastated the Australia horse industries - there are two of them, the racing industry and the pleasure and performance industry. The latter being all those horses used for trail, pleasure and equine show riding as well as all the horses in pony clubs and horse studs. The government rushed to help the racing industry but has done very little for the pleasure and performance industry. The end result being that thousands of people who live from pay packet to pay packet are left with no income or any means to live. Those who applied for government benefits, had to wait seven or eight weeks to the first payment to come through.

Imagine living for those seven or eight weeks with no money to buy food or pay the rent or mortgage.

Watching that program and seeing the hardship many of these people are suffering made me realise, yet again, that a disaster that can effect our lives can happen at any time, even if we think it can't. I'm sure all those people who worked in those very well established horse businesses, and especially those who owned them, would have thought that the future looks bright and that nothing would threaten their livelihood. How wrong they were. And it could happen to any of us.

Although it won't fix any great problem that may impact on your life, a stockpile will help you live until you can get government help or work out a way around what has happened, whatever that is. Knowing that you have enough food in your cupboard to tide you over for a couple of months puts a comfortable buffer between your family and those unexpected and devastating things that might happen.

Both men and women have a role to play here. If you're a man who is the sole bread winner for your family, it is your responsibility to help provide food, even when there is no money coming in. If you're a homemaker, the organiser of your family finances and food buyer, you should be prepared for good times and bad. If you're a single parent who fills both roles, it is vital to think about how you will feed your children and yourself if you have no income.

Having a healthy stockpile that is used well and replenished frequently is the best way I know of to protect against the unexpected. That could be the loss of income or a national or local disaster. The side effects of saving you money and time are the icing on the cake. If you haven't got a stockpile, why not look into it and find out how you go about starting one. It will be one of your family's assets. And even if no disaster strikes or you never lose your income, you'll have a cupboard full of food that will make your life easier because you won't have to run to the shop every week. How good is that!

12 November 2007

Ironing


My simple life is changing all the time, just like any healthy process, it's not stagnant. I try to improve what I do so that I get the best results for the time and effort I put in and I'm always thinking about ways to make the more mundane chores pleasant and satisfying.

Ironing has always been a problem for me. I think it stems from when I was a nursing sister. That was way back in the days when nurses wore crisp starched white aprons that crossed over at the back, over a slightly less starched blue uniform. Cuff and collars were almost solid, it always amazed me how stiff they were, and they were attached with removable buttons. All this was held together with a belt that even though it was cotton, was starched to resemble a thin slice of steel. Naturally there were thick black stockings and big clumpy, sensible, lace up shoes. My cap, and later my veil, held enough starch to sink a ship and they were bobby pinned to my head so that movement was almost impossible. I loved that uniform. LOL It's hard to understand why because it was uncomfortable and it took a lot of time to dress, but it symbolised to me and to my patients the long line of tender care I was a part of. But that is totally off the subject.

That uniform was washed, starched and ironed for me. Each week when I picked up my laundry, it was neatly folded and the bundles firmly held with string. When I got those aprons out, they could stand upright without my help. That starch was a powerful force. ; ) I think that level of washing, starching and ironing excellence spoiled me for anything less. I didn't like ironing at all because I didn't use starch and my ironing was always floppy.

Each week when I ironed I tried to make it just another part of a pleasant day. It didn't work. I tried various things, like turning on the TV and listening to the radio, they made no difference. Yesterday I hit the jackpot. I ironed and I enjoyed it.

I think the two key elements to my success where silence and mindfulness. Why didn't I already know this! I decided on silence because I was thinking about something. I was being interviewed by email and I wanted to think about my answers as I ironed. Yes, not being mindful, I know, but let me continue. As I thought about this interview, things fell into place and I was happy with my answers. I continued on with the ironing, still in silence, and started to notice the ironing more. I thought about the clothes, how I would wear them at work, there was a button missing on Hanno's shirt so I got a needle and thread and repaired it while I stood at the ironing board. Each piece of clothing was checked to make sure it was in good repair, ironed and added to a bundle or hung on a hanger. It felt right working bit by bit through the basket, sorting, repairing, ironing and placing items into their own bundle.

When the ironing was finished, I took my bundles to their rightful places. Dishcloths were placed on the kitchen window sill in a wire basket, napkins were folded and placed on the kitchen bench for another week of home cooking. Pillow slips and a table cloth were folded and placed in the linen cupboard. Skirts, dresses, pants and shirts were hung back in our wardrobes. The process of doing this simple task gave me a lot of satisfaction. It was the payoff for the ironing. All items returned, clean and fresh, to their rightful places; order was restored. It felt good. I hope it works again next week. ; )

11 November 2007

Attention swappers who did not receive their napkins

THIS IS FOR THOSE SWAPPERS WHO DIDN'T RECEIVE THEIR NAPKINS

If you sent napkins in the swap and didn't receive a package, please contact Sharon at cdetroyes@yahoo.com Sharon will be sorting these stragglers out.

Sharon, I spoke with Rhonda Gay, Karen's partner. She is sending a new set of napkins as hers have been lost and the Post Office can't track them.

A busy week and quarantine restrictions

There is a lot work to be done here today. We have our new floor and kitchen repairs happening tomorrow week, and I only have six free days before it starts. I want to do a few extra things like make some food for us for the time we won't have a functioning kitchen and start moving plates, pot, pans and glasses to another room. I'll think about relocating food later next week. I also have to do a fair bit of writing on projects separate to my blog. It looks like I'll be busy today and all next week.

I love change and the chance to reassess past choices. When everything is repaired and the new floor is down, I'm changing how I store things in my kitchen. This upheaval is giving me the chance to do that. Everything must come out of the kitchen, and when it goes back in, it will mirror how I have changed and how I now use my kitchen.

I also hope to do some sewing today, although that might be a late afternoon activity. I would like to finish off my swap aprons so they can be posted in the next couple of days. If I don't finish them today, they'll have to wait until late next week. I hope everyone is having fun with their apron and the swaps in general. The purpose of these swaps is to make contact with fellow blog readers and to give everyone the opportunity to work on
small and fairly simple craft projects we all use. I see it as a way of building skills for those of us who need that and hopefully it will also build confidence so that you continue on and plan other projects for yourself.

Last time I received a swap package it was opened by Australian Customs. Being the only island continent and very mindful of protecting our unique flora and fauna, we have very strict customs regulations. I want to make everyone aware of the restrictions so that when you wrap up your packages you know what is allowed. This is a very helpful site that gives information about what is not allowed to be sent to Australia:

http://www.daffa.gov.au/aqis/mail/cant-mail

This is from their website:

If you are sending international mail to Australia:
  • do not send prohibited food, plant material or animal products

  • make sure you fill out the declaration label clearly and correctly, itemising everything inside the package, including any packaging materials you’ve used

  • do not pack items in egg cartons, wooden boxes, or cardboard boxes that have been used to hold fruit, vegetables or meat/smallgoods - this packaging is a quarantine risk and is prohibited

  • do not pack with straw or dried plant material, use newspaper or foam to wrap fragile goods
So basically you can't send any seeds, nuts, plants, food, animal products or anything with soil on it. It's fine to send extras in your parcel if you want to, but please check the website above to make sure we in Australia can legally receive what you send. It might also be a good idea if you're sending to other countries to ask your swap partner if they're aware of any restrictions. I will put this information in my side bar too.

Sunday is usually a restful day here in my home. We still do our regular chores but there is also a lot of sitting around and relaxation. I doubt I'll be doing that today but I hope you are. I hope you're all having a wonderful
weekend and that you take time to look after yourself as well as your family. Thank you for stopping by today.

10 November 2007

Life's abundance and complexity

This is my adorable dog, Rosie. Rosie is an Airedale Terrier and she's 12½ years old. Hanno has just clipped her for summer and she's come into the kitchen to see if there is a spare honey biscuit for an old girl. Hello to another Rosie, hello Rosetta!

I was
talking to an acquaintance the other day about retirement. She asked me if Hanno and I had enough money for travelling, entertainment and "enjoying life", her words, not mine. The reason she asked was because she does have a lot of money but she's struggling to find a reason to get up every morning. Poor her. Imagine not having a reason to get out of bed.

I am catapulted out of bed every morning by the knowledge that there is a full and interesting day waiting for me. No matter how tired I have gone to bed the previous night, I always have this same enthusiasm to get up and live, really live, the next day. Living simply gives me that.

If I were to have given that woman a full and clear answer, instead of the short one I gave, I would have told her about my simple life, but I fear that some people only hear what they want to hear and I'm sure my words would have echoed somewhere in the recesses of her brain and soon been forgotten. You see, she and I have a major fundamental difference in how we view our lives. She believes that life's enjoyment is bought with dollars, and I know that is not true. She has been deceived into believing that joy is a commodity with a price tag, she believes retirees need a huge retirement payout to live well, she thinks that happiness is purchased.

As you all well know by now, I am a homemade gal. I make my own happiness. Joy ferments along with the ginger beer and sourdough right here in my home. We are happy people because we have have something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. We truly live each day and we aren't reliant on others to deliver invitations to lunch or a shopping spree to help us enjoy ourselves.

It's a commonly held belief that when you retire you sit around and just soak up life's pleasures. But unless you're almost brain dead, or incredibly lazy, sitting around gets boring after a while. It's much better to have a purpose to each day and if that purpose changes constantly, that makes for an interesting life. Humans need interest, and what finer interest is creating a wholesome life for yourself. Of course there is room for travelling and entertaining, but they're very small portions of life's abundance and complexity.

Life should be made up of the elements of living like proving food for ourselves and maintaining a comfortable and warm home, as well as those things that make our existence meaningful like nurturing our families and maintaining valuable friendships and knowing, really knowing by experience, the joy in that. All else is flim flam.

9 November 2007

Swaps

Can we have a check of the swaps. Have any of the people who are waiting on the last swap received their napkins?

Has everyone in the current apron swap made contact with their swap partner? Please check into the comments box so I have a better idea what's happening. Thanks everyone. : )

Inner peace and contentment

When I first started living as I am now, I was searching and hoping for happiness and contentment and thought I might find it with fewer possessions and less attachment to mainstream ideals and what modern life had evolved into. I focused myself on the lifestyle and not what would eventually bring me real happiness, my inner self. I know now that the simple lifestyle is merely the means of attaining that inner peace and contentment; it's not the destination, it's just the ticket to ride.

Of course, when you think about it, the entire package is inner peace and contentment brought about via the daily work we all do in our lives. Everything you do in your day has the potential to deliver or delay that contentment. If we are striving to achieve our own personal happiness that is more likely to come when we work towards it with a purpose without getting sidetracked along the way by incidentals like buying another TV or new shoes. When I began to understand that, it helped me readjust what I did during the day. I stopped watching TV - mainly because I was watching pay TV lifestyle programs where people were looking for their ideal life, or cleaning programs where they'd clean up their lives and homes with the help of an outsider. I realised that I was trying to change my life while watching others try to change theirs. I needed to focus on what I was doing, so the daytime TV stopped. That lead to a kind of domino effect. We didn't watch much TV at all then, the cost of having pay TV was too high a cost in my simplified life, so it went. That freed up my daytime hours to concentrate on planning what I wanted to do. It gave me time to expand our vegetable garden, to learn how to mend and sew, I had time to learn how to make good bread. My goal now was to do everything well and with a purpose. It wasn't good enough just to bake bread, it had to be the best bread I was capable of. There was no reason to bake mediocre bread when we could, with just a few adjustments and more mindfulness, be eating excellent bread.

Being mindful is really the key to this. I discovered that when I slowed my mind down to focus on what I was doing at that minute, without thinking ahead to what was coming later, or what had passed, I was able to work systematically. I could improve what I was doing as I did it, I tried new ways and ditched old ones and eventually, over the course of about a year, I'd developed a new way of working that produced consistent results, I'd taught myself a lot of new skills and rediscovered old ones, and I was happy with my results.

That is the point of simple living to me - happiness. When you're happy with what you're capable of and how you live, whether that is cheering on your child at the school sports day, making the best peach jam you've tasted, delivering a well thought out presentation to your boss, saying hello to your new neighbours, hugging your partner with real affection, enjoying the company of your family and friends or growing the perfect tomato, that will deliver contentment to you. The satisfaction you feel when you do all those commonplace things builds into genuine contentment and self respect. You learn to respect yourself and what you do. That opens up a whole new world of good feelings, it will bring excellence to your life and the ability to be generous.

I know this opinion will be believed by some and not by others, but I know it to be true - as you simplify, consume less and pare back your needs, you will enrich your life. You'll create a new standard of quality for yourself because you'll start making excellent products for yourself instead of buying mediocre ones. And the end result of this new way of living will be that the richness of your everyday life will not allow the mediocrity of mainstream life to impact on you as much as it did in the past. You'll replace the mindlessness of TV, weekly magazines and shopping at the mall with a life full of purpose where you'll want less but be a whole lot more.

8 November 2007

Alone

I am having a wonderful day. I am alone here today, it's just me with the dogs and chooks. Hanno is off having some medical tests done and will then go to pick up our new kitchen appliances.

I love being alone and haven't been for the longest time. My only alone time now is when I drive back and forth to my job. Today was a real treat for me.

And it's been raining. : )

This morning I took my tea out to the verandah and watched the rain fall, and I thought about how my life has be changed in the past few years. I was sitting here smiling like the Cheshire Cat when the phone rang so I talked to Kathleen for about 15 mintues. She's in Perth this week and we talked while she took the train from Perth to Fremantle.

I spent the morning after that on my aprons. I am doing them as a pair - I cut one out, I cut the other; I cut the ties for one, then the other. All I have to do now is the hemming and I'm done. It's been a real pleasure working on them. I love the fabrics I chose and how they all fell together with few hiccoughs and NO mistakes. : )))

I have just had a sandwich for lunch and another cup of tea and soon I'll prepare a tuna casserole for dinner and tidy the kitchen. Then I'm going to sort through some quilt material until it's time to serve our evening meal.

We decided this morning that we will remove our peach and nectarine trees. I'm really sad about this but know it's for the best. We've had a terrible trouble with fruit fly this year and they are all coming for the peaches and nectarines. Unfortunately they are stinging the tomatoes too. We didn't have fruit fly at all in our garden till we planted those trees and even though they're only in their second year, they'll have to go. The chooks will have a feast on the fruit that we'll probably strip off tomorrow.

I also wanted to thank my lovely readers for ordering your books, DVDs and CDs through my amazon ad. I forgot to look at it until just now and there's almost $10 in commissions there, so thank you for being so thoughtful.

Yoghurt and quark

Yoghurt and quark can be made from ingredients usually found in the fridge or stockpile cupboard. With the price of food seeming to rise every week, they're handy recipes as you'll be able to make yoghurt for snacks and desserts, and quark for sandwiches and crackers. Quark is an easy to make from scratch simple cheese that's popular in the Germanic countries, and maybe also in Scandinavia. I hope one of the readers will tell me if that's right. It's a cheese made from yoghurt that can be either sweet or savory.

Here is my way of making yoghurt from scratch. If you buy yoghurt for this, make sure it has no preservatives, colourings, flavourings or gelatin. Greek yoghurt tends to be thick and will make up a good quark. But if you want to make your own yoghurt, this is a recipe I've cut from earlier in my blog:

I made yoghurt today. It's easy, delicious and inexpensive, costing about half the price of supermarket yoghurt. You can make yoghurt with any kind of milk, low fat cow's or from goat or sheep milk. All your equipment should be clean and make sure you use clean tea towels. Adding milk powder to the milk will make a thicker yoghurt.

You can use ordinary bought yoghurt as a starter, but make sure it doesn't contain gelatin. Generally the organic and biodynamic yoghurts have no gelatin. You can buy specialist milk thermometers, but for some reason they have very small dials. I've got a candy thermometer with a bigger dial for my older eyes. You probably need to use a thermometer until you know what the temps feel like on your clean finger. After that, it's easy enough to judge by poking your clean finger in the mix.

YOGHURT RECIPE
makes one litre (quart)
4 cups milk - the milk can be made with milk powder
½ cup instant milk powder, more if you want thicker yoghurt
3 tablespoons plain yoghurt at room temperature

Pour 4 cups milk into saucepan and clip a thermometer to the side of the pan. You need to pasturise the milk again to make sure only the beneficial bacteria grow. Heat milk to 80 - 95 degrees C (176 - 203F) or until little bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Stir the milk while it's heating to stop it scorching.

When the temperature is reached, remove the milk from the stove. Stir in the powdered milk.

Leave the thermometer clipped to the pan and cool the milk to 40 - 50 degrees C (104 - 122F). To speed up the cooling process, you can transfer it to a cool bowl or put it in the fridge.

Add the starter. Place the plain yoghurt in a small bowl, stir in 1/3 cup of the warm milk and mix until smooth. Then stir the starter mixture into remaining milk and mix well.

Incubate the yoghurt in the crockpot (or in a warm place like an oven on low heat). Preheat the crockpot on low for about 15 minutes, until it feels very warm to the fingertips. Pour yoghurt mixture into the crockpot, cover the crockpot, and turn off the heat. At 35 to 45-minutes intervals, heat the crockpot on low for 10 to 15 minutes then turn off the heat. Be warned that if you overheat the yoghurt, it will turn into a solid blob. Don't ask me how I know that. ; )

The mix needs to incubate for 3-5 hours at a temperature of 43-45 degrees C (110 - 113F). Do not shake or disturb it during incubation. After 3 hours, check to see if the yoghurt is set by gently tilting the container. If yoghurt is set and firm, place it in the refrigerator and chill for 6 hours before serving. If not, continue to incubate. Check the yoghurt every hour and place in refrigerator as soon as it sets. The longer the yoghurt incubates the tarter the flavor will be.

If your yoghurt sets within 3 hours, but you'd prefer more tartness, continue the incubation process for another hour or so. Yoghurt making is only successful if you use fresh viable cultures, so check the use by date on
your yoghurt starter and make it as soon as you can after buying it. Once you've made your own yoghurt you can use it as your next starter.

QUARK

When you have your yoghurt made and you want to make quark, you need a large jug, a strainer and a piece of clean cotton cloth. Wash the cloth with pure soap, rinse well and wring it out so it's not dripping wet. Place the strainer in the jug and the cloth over the strainer. Then add the yoghurt.

Cover the yoghurt with the cloth, so the mix is entirely covered.

Put a plate on top and and weigh the plate down with something fairly heavy. I have used a pot of jam. The process of making quark involves removing the water (whey) from the yoghurt. You do that by sitting the yoghurt in the strainer, in the fridge, weighed down so the whey can drain from the yoghurt into the jug.

To get a suitable dry quark, you'll need to allow it to drain for at least 24 hours, possibly 48 hours. When you think it's able to be molded into a cheese shape, remove the quark from the strainer, pack it into a mold and then turn it out onto a plate.

The quark below is an old photo of quark I made a few months ago. The savory quark was made by adding salt and pepper to taste to the finished quark and adding some chopped chives. You could also add chilli and chilli sauce over the top of the quark.

This sweet quark below was sweetened with a little honey and then I added a small amount of homemade strawberry jam to the top of the quark.

FROZEN YOGHURT

Instead of making quark with your yoghurt, you could make frozen yoghurt popsicles or dessert. Just freeze some fruit - berries, banana, apple with a squeeze of lemon juice added to stop browning. Make sure the yoghurt is cold after making it.

Popsicles

If you intend making popsicles, put the frozen fruit in the blender and whizz it up. Add about ½ cup fresh orange juice and the yoghurt mix, then whizz it again until the mix is thoroughly combined. Pour the mix into popsicle molds and freeze.

Frozen yoghurt dessert

You could also make a bowl of frozen yoghurt by adding frozen fruit to a blender and whizz to break up the fruit. Add about third cup of honey and the yoghurt mix, and whizz again. Pour into a bowl and freeze.

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