29 August 2008

Banana bread and butter pudding



Thank you all so much for the lovely, heartwarming comments made yesterday. Congratulations to the winners of the stitcheries - Sharonskan, Vickie and Julie. Please send me your postal addesses and I'll get them in the mail early next week.

I had a few things to catch up on yesterday morning. I got the bedsheets washed and hung out to dry by mid-morning, remade the bed with fresh linen and warm quilts, fed the worms, talked to the chooks and fed them a feast of green leaves from the garden. Inside again, I baked bread, wiped the kitchen benches over and made a big pot of vegetable and barley soup. I put aside a few small containers of it to have for work lunches. Late in the day I made a banana bread and butter pudding.

Hanno went to the Foodbank on Wednesday to collect food for Centre and picked up a couple of large black bags of Baker's Delight bread while he was there. We pack the bread up, freeze it and give it to our people when they come in for food. I took a couple of the loaves home so I had a nice white loaf for the pudding. We also have a lot of bananas at the moment, and too many eggs, so a bread and butter pudding was the ideal thing to make.

You can use any fruit in this, or sultanas (golden raisins), or just spread jam on the bread. It's a very good recipe for a large family, just add more bread slices, use an extra egg and increase your milk.

BANANA BREAD AND BUTTER PUDDING - enough for 6 people
8 slices of bread with crust removed
enough butter to cover all the slices
3 or 4 bananas, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
600 mls (1 pint) milk
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.

  • Butter the bread, cut into triangles and place half on the base of an ovenproof pudding or lasagna dish.
  • Sprinkle half the cinnamon and sugar over the bread.
  • Place half the bananas over the bread.
  • Then repeat those layers of bread, cinnamon/sugar and bananas.
  • Press it all down slightly so there aren't too many spaces underneath.
  • Lightly beat the eggs, add the milk and mix in.
  • Pour the egg milk mix over the pudding, making sure you wet everything with the milk.
  • Allow the pudding to stand for 10 minutes to let it all soak in, then place in the preheated oven to cook.
What you're aiming for is a soft custard around the bread and fruit. Overcooking with make the custard tough. It won't take long to cook, maybe 15 - 20 minutes. If the top hasn't turned brown but the bottom has cooked, put it under your griller (broiler) for a couple of minutes to brown the top.



I worked on the book proposal all yesterday afternoon with the smell of the soup cooking, and then the delicious aroma of baking custard and bananas. Mmmmmm. There is nothing better on a cold and dismal day than having tasty, simple food cooking slowly on the stove. Hanno and I had a bowl of soup each, a glass of water and then the pudding with blueberries. It didn't cost a lot to make but we ate well last night. Another bonus is that I don't have to cook tonight - and that saves time, electricity and money.

Suzan at Scrub Oak is having a 100th post giveaway. She has a lovely blog and is struggling with some decisions, not to mention, bears, at the moment. I'm sure you'll enjoy visiting her.




And the winners are...




I would like to congratualate the winners of Rhonda's 500,000 visitor giveaway. I printed all the comments and cut them up. I shrunk the print down to fit more per page so I will have a photo at the end with the names of the winners.



First, a good mixing of the names...








Drum roll please...





Winner number 1




Winner number 2








and, winner number 3, whose comment photo was eaten by Blogger.


These winners are...

Sharonskan, who does a lot to simplify her household


Vickie, who had a lovely Airedale named "Mopsie"


Julie, who is interested in sewing and craft projects- Millicent SA



Congrats to all, and especially Rhonda for this wonderful milestone!

Sharon

28 August 2008

500,000 visitors giveaway - FINISHED!



Clicking on the photos will enlarge them.

I thought I had today to look for a giveaway but after I read all your delightful comments on yesterdays post, I glanced at the visitors figures and WOW! It's over 500,000. In fact, another 700 of you have waltzed right in to add to that score.

I still find it hard to believe this blog is so popular. It has been a lesson in the making for me. It has shown me that sharing builds community, that word of mouth is more effective than gimmicks and that there is a need out there to connect with others online when those supports are lacking in real life. I know from my own perspective that it is wonderful to know so many of you are living simply and care about your effect on your environment.

Writing this blog and sharing our lives here has been, for the most part, a joy for me. It has forced me to look at my life in a deeper way than I would have without the blog. Writing about what we are doing requires an examination of the process most days - I doubt I would have done that as much if I hadn't been writing about our lives. I have found it interesting to develop an understanding of many of you through your comments, and along the way some friendships formed. I thank you for that because I am, by nature, a solitary woman but I am better for those friendships and I am wiser because of the comments.



I would love to give you all a warm hug and an invitation to tea to thank you for your involvement here. Obviously I can't do that so I'm about to look in my sewing room for a giveaway that I hope you would like to own. I have asked Sharon to choose who will have the giveaway, it doesn't matter where you live, I have leftover grocery money to pay for postage. LOL! ;- ) So if you would like to take part in this little celebration of numbers, add your comment and your name will be part of the draw.



Okay! I found three stitcheries I had waiting to be made into something, so you have three chances of winning. They are completed stitcheries that could be incorporated into a quilt, made into a cushion or tote bag, or even a wall hanging. I designed and stitched all of them by hand. Good luck and thank you for reading and being part of Down to Earth.

This is closed now. Sharon will do the draw very soon and I will be back with the winners. : - ) Linda is the last in the draw.


27 August 2008

Dive



I wrote yesterday about my life and how I have changed. I want to take that a step further today and write about how you might simplify, if you haven't already done so. When I do something new that requires me to change my behaviour, I think about it for a while, work out the ins and outs of it, I might do some reading, think some more and then I dive in. Often the diving is the most difficult part of that process but when that first step is taken, it's usually easier than I imagined.

A change towards a simple life is similar. From the outside it looks difficult - you want the peace of mind it brings, you want to regain your independence and live well, you want to be environmentally sound, but it looks like hard work. Instead of holding yourself back, I encourage you to dive in. It's okay to be a bit scared of change, it's normal to be apprehensive, but don't let that stop you.

Dive.

Your first step might be to declutter one room. It might be to stop buying coffee on your way to work. You might start taking lunch to work. Maybe you'll start hand washing dishes, or hanging the laundry on the line to dry instead of machine drying. Or will you start stockpiling and cooking from scratch? Drawing up a budget would be a good first step. Or will you say "no" to that next invitation for lunch with the girls so you can save that money and spend some time relaxing at home. There is also mending, learning to knit, starting a vegetable garden, looking for an organic supplier of local vegetables, buying milk from a local dairy or bartering. There are so many first steps, I have to stop now or I'll be here all day. But the big question is, what will your first step be, or if you've made your first step, what will your next step be, or your next?

It really is as simple as making the decision to simplify and then doing those things you want to have as part of your life. Everyone will decide on different things, and you might want to do things I've not written about nor ever mentioned here. You don't have to tell your family or friends what you're doing, or you might have a family meeting to talk it over with them, the choice is yours. The important thing is to start.

You'll probably find, like I did, that once the move towards simplicity has started, a new thing can be added each day or week, and once you have that momentum happening, nothing will hold you back. In six months time you'll take stock and see just how far you've come.

I'm not going to lie and tell you that every single thing you do will be easy and will bring you joy. It won't, some things will be a struggle. I think you'll fnd that overcoming difficulties and persevering will bring you to a place where you'll feel you've done your best and you'll feel good about that. Look for joy in your everyday life and try to find happiness and contentment in your life. Celebrate your new skills; it's okay to feel good about what you're doing.

I hope that as you settle into your stride you'll start not only doing for yourself but also for others. Generosity and kindness are the icing on the cake for me and I hope you will get the same amount of pleasure and satisfaction from giving to others as I do. I'm not talking about grand gestures - there are none of those in a simple life - it's more about the tiny, and often silent, things, that with a small effort from yourself, will make a difference to someone else.

As you can see, there is no formula for simple living. It's diverse, there is no one size sits all. That's what makes it wonderful - when you think carefully about what you want in your life and then start doing those things, it feels right. Your version of simple living will be different to mine and everyone else's, even though we will have elements of it that are similar. But when you get it right, when you work on your own version of your life, and not that one designed for you by advertisers and marketers (or friends), when you set to and start doing for yourself, when you regain your independence and feel deep within that you're doing the right thing, then, my friends, you'll know you're on the right path and a team of wild horses won't pull you away from it.

I'd love to know what your first step will be, or was. :- )


26 August 2008

Don't be afraid to simplfy



When I was growing up it was a commonly held belief that if you did well at school, worked hard and made a lot of money, you would live a life of ease, confident in the knowledge that you could buy whatever you wanted and happiness would follow close behind. Most of us swallowed that hook, line and sinker but when it came down to it, having it all didn't make us happy.

I've often written about not spending, decluttering and giving away things you've paid good money for. Hanno and I live on a very small amount of money, we have no pay TV, we rarely buy books, eat out or buy clothes and shoes. We are making do with what we have. We've stopped eating meat (except for Hanno's pork and kale fest during winter) and work to produce food for ourselves in our own back yard. We respect the work we do and we're grateful we have the energy and ability to do it.

We often work hard at home doing for ourselves things that in former times we would have paid others to do for us. We stopped buying convenience food and instead cook from scratch so we eat pure food with no preservatives or artificial flavourings. I mend clothes and we look after what we own. We repair rather than replace. We try to conserve instead of consuming.

Some might read all of that and think we are "poor" and miserable and that if we had more money, we'd buy our way to happiness. There have been studies done in recent years that tell us that as long as the human needs of shelter, food, etc are met, having more doesn't increase happiness. Rich people aren't happier than ordinary folk. In fact, the more valuable a person's time is in the workplace, the more they are likely to spend their time making money and being away from their families.

I believe that if money and possessions do make us happy, that happiness is only fleeting. It is replaced, over time, with discontent. If I wanted to, I could still be working for corporate Australia but I know, from experience, that the money I would earn and the things I would buy would not bring me the kind of life-enriching happiness I get from my voluntary work.

I also believe that people and self awareness make us happy. I am happy with my family around me and knowing that I am what I am and that I am true to my values. I have thought about what I want my life to be and I make steps towards that every day. That gives me self respect and satisfaction and eventually that builds into the kind of happiness that is instilled deep within.

Our life paths will lead us all to different places, but no matter where yours leads, you will be able to live simply. Start by simplifying your daily tasks and then try to incorporate generosity, kindness and grace into your everyday life. Don't think of this way of living as a restriction or "poor" but instead see it as a richness that is built in small and simple ways. The rewards are there for the taking. They may not be as flashy or obvious as those store bought rewards but they are enduring and significant and they don't go out of fashion.


25 August 2008

The Down to Earth book

The Down to Earth book is going ahead. My agent thinks there is a lot of potential so we are preparing a proposal for the publishers. We'll try the North American market first, then Australia and maybe Europe. It's so exciting! I'll tell you more about it as I get further into the process of preparing the manuscript.

I have to thank a good friend, Linda Nichols, who helped me along the path towards publication when she recommended my blog to her agent. She has been supportive and generous along the way and I thank her sincerely for that. Linda is an author and has written several books, another is to be published soon. You can read a little about Linda at her website here.

I will continue writing my blog because it's become an important part of my life. It helps me reflect on what I'm doing and provides a valuable record of plantings and projects. It also helps my family stay in touch with what Hanno and I are doing. My sons, sisters and friends are reading the blog now so they can see what we're doing here when they aren't here themselves.

We had a fairly hectic weekend and I didn't do everything I wanted to do. Thankfully I planted up some luffa seeds as well as the lemon cucumber and giant sunflower seeds sent to me by Tracy in the swap. Hanno will be panting the dragon carrot seeds this week too. Thanks Tracy!



I started tidying up my sewing room a few days ago and it's gone from this (above) to this (below). I don't know how I manage to get my sewing in such a mess. There is still some work to be done in there but that can wait for another day. I took the opportunity to mend one of my cardigans while I was in there. The edging had come away so it was just a matter of quickly stitching along the edge to reattach it. It's as good as new again.



I also finished off my pincushion and needlebook for my swap partner, Danielle. I'll post it off this week. Remember, the deadline for the swap is September 6, all swaps need to be posted by that date. If you're running late or have a problem with the swap, please let Sharon know on cdetroyes at yahoo dot com

The rest of the weekend was spent reading the blog from the beginning, I got up to this April and will continue on when I have the chance. It was like a walk along memory lane. I'm taking notes as I go and working out how I will structure the book. If you have any thoughts you want to share with me about what to include, I'm interested in reading them.

I'm back at work today and looking forward to a productive and interesting week. Winter is coming to a close and soon the days will begin to warm up. I noticed the wisteria has stared to grow new leaves, the flowers won't be far behind and with them, Spring. The year is flying by.

I hope you had the kind of weekend you hoped for and that this week will be a good one for all of us.

22 August 2008

Back in the vegie patch

There is good news from yesterday. Hanno's doctor said he thinks he can be treated for the glaucoma with drops, and these started last night. The other eye with the cataract and bleeding retina is being monitored. He said he wants to see if the bleeding stops by itself, apparently it often does. Hanno has to go back to check the progress of the treatment next month. I want to thank everyone for their good wishes and prayers. Hanno hasn't read the blog for a few days because we've been quite busy here but when he does, I'm sure he'll be very touched by your thoughtfulness.



Clicking on the photos will enlarge them.

Kathleen flew home yesterday morning. Moey, she used to work in northern WA and has just spent a month filling in for another worker who is away. Perth was just a stop over. Shane and Sarndra visited in the afternoon on their way back home. Sarndra said some butterflies were released for the baby at the funeral which I thought was a sweet and innocent gesture from grieving parents.

So now it's back to work. Today there will be a fair bit of gardening done because we're in another transition period out there. It's the end of winter and the garden is showing its age. Most of the cabbages have been picked, the cauliflowers are all gone and we need to fill bare patches and plan for spring. I really should have sown seeds two weeks ago but other things got in the way, so that will be done today.



Here are some seedlings Hanno put in last week. They are bok choi, buttercrunch lettuce, bulls blood beetroot and leeks.

Continuous supply from the garden is the most challenging aspect of food production for us. We often have gaps when we have to buy tomatoes, pumpkins or potatoes. We try to monitor the garden as best we can but seasonal and climatic variations make precise planning very difficult. But, it is what it is, we know that nature will always have the last say and we just go along for the ride. Whatever we get from the garden we are grateful for and we hope to shorten those gaps in production every year.



Dragon carrots will be planted here.

Today I'll plant up some trays of luffa seeds to plant on the new lattice wall near our bedroom. And with spring and summer coming there will be lots of salad vegetables to go in. Let's see ... we have long black Spanish radishes, Daikon and French radishes, dragon carrots, climbing princess beans and lemon cucumbers - all received in the seed swap a few months ago. We also have Darwin lettuce, more pink Brandywine and Moneymaker tomatoes, dwarf borlotti beans and maybe some watermelons (moon and stars).



If you are new to vegetable gardening, it is a good idea to know your food. Tomatoes aren't just tomatoes and there are many different kinds of lettuce. Get to know what you're eating - they all have different characteristics. The old heirloom types were often named after the growers, the grower's neighbours or what the food looked like, so often the names are just as lovely as the vegetable. Supermarkets have taken away our ability to know our food but I encourage to get acquainted again. When you plant, find out what type of seed you're planting and put up a little sign over the seeds so you remember just what it is you have there. Soon you'll be on friendly terms with all your vegetables and just like people, you get to know their names first.



More lettuce planted a few weeks ago under the lattice with Tropic and beefsteak tomatoes.

Another chore I need to do today is to clip back the capsicum (pepper) bushes. They have produced smaller than usual fruit over winter but with a good cut back, they should give us another year of service before being replaced. I have saved seed from these wonderful plants and will probably plant up a few more of them for summer.

And now friends, I have to prepare for a talk with my book agent. She is phoning soon. :- ) I hope you all have a lovely weekend.


21 August 2008

Q & A

Hello everyone. My routine has been thrown out somewhat because I have a visitor here. My second sister, Kathleen, arrived yesterday afternoon after flying in from Perth. She is flying home to Townsville this morning. I haven't seen her since my birthday so it's great to have her here. When she leaves, Hanno has to go to the doctor to have his eyes checked. I don't think I shared this earlier but he had an eye test recently and it revealed glaucoma in one eye and a bleeding retina and cataract in the other. This morning's visit is to the eye specialist who will decide what treatment is necessary. He is a bit nervous about this visit so it's good it will be over and done with this morning. Not knowing is terrible.

Later in the day, Shane and Sarndra will arrive for lunch. They drove over last night to attend the funeral of a friend's stillborn baby. How sad is that! It will be lovely to see them both, even though the reason for their visit is so sad. I'll bake bread for lunch and already have a fruit cake baked so I don't have to do much before they arrive.

So today I thought I'd answer a few of the questions I haven't had time for during the week. Also, I want to thank all those people who commented in the Taking Lunch to Work post. I found some really helpful comments that I hope will help keep me on the straight and narrow.

My main thank you today goes to Sharon who has been a constant help to me organising swaps and now the knitting buddies. I am sure many other readers join with me in thanking you Sharon. I love the idea of knitting mentors and I hope both the learners and the mentors enjoy the experience. Please keep us updated with your progress.

First up, a photo of Alice for Cathy. I thought you might like this Cathy as you ask about her. She is fine, although still pining for Rosie. I took the photo yesterday morning as she watched me type yesterday's post. Hanno bathed her yesterday so she is looking shiny and fluffy.



Mary Ellen, it's fine to link here. Thank you for your kind comments, I hope you find what you're looking for here.

Chookie and leemomofthree, Hanno and I will net the peaches in the next day or so. When we do I'll take a photo that shows what we use.

Aileen, the recipe for soy and linseed bread is similar to my white bread recipe but you replace the white bread flour with soy and linseed flour, and leave out the gluten flour. You might have to search around for soy and linseed flour. I get mine from my local bulk wholefoods merchant. If you can't find it locally, you might find some in your state online.

Renee, I think the tide is turning. I am involved in organising some life skills workshops which include bread making, worm farming, compost making, bamboo construction, sewing and mending and preserving. And look at the popularity of this blog, it's incredible. I think it's still at the very beginning of the turn but I think there is a general feeling that things need to change. Some, like you, me and many of the readers here, come to that change early, others will follow. So you better get as many jars as you can now because who knows what will happen. ;- )

lisa-michigan, I agree totally with what you said: Planning-it is a skill and takes practice. Traveling with little ones. My daughter is 3 years old and since the day she was born I never wanted to be in a position to HAVE to grab food because she ran out of formula/baby food/adult food, I either bring food with us, stuff it in my purse or make sure she eats before we leave. The hubby is getting better about that but he's just learning since we've been together how to plan.

Planning-it is a skill and takes practice. Step outside your life and be critical of the choices that affect your time. Not critical of yourself but your decision-making.

Living simply is made easier when you organise yourself to do it. When we're organised, we have the time to do for ourselves and don't have to pay through the nose for someone else to do the work for us.

Kim NZ, Hanno uses kale with pork knuckle, pork sausage and kassler - which is like smoked pork chops. I hope your DH like the kale.

Hi Cindy, it worked. LOL I'll change the feed later today. This is a brilliant link, thank you.

CB, I loved your post. It is a good illustration of how a bit of thought can give you a great lunch and save money at the same time. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Jennifer (humble wife), I really like your system and the generosity of your sweet treats. It is a lovely way to share what you have with others.

Ward, thank you. I hope you find a way to harvest your crops with those squirrels hovering.

Pippa, yet another great system for providing variety. Thanks for sharing.

anonymous, I think Charis gave some excellent advice. Thank you so much, Charis. I think you're already doing a lot and seem to mindful of where you're going and have made some good choices. I think it would be wise to cook meals for more than one and freeze the leftovers in one portion size containers. Do you have a freezer? Meals like soups, casseroles, curries etc freeze very well and will save you time and a bit of power (elec or gas) because you aren't cooking every day, just reheating. Do you have student friends who would be willing to swap food? You could all cook enough for four, keep one for yourself and swap the other three, thus providing variety. And remember boiled eggs, cheese or a small tin of tuna with salad and a simple potato salad for easy to make nutritious meals for one. I'll think of a couple of other recipes for you and post them soon.

Rose asked: Rhonda my queries re bread and yoghurt. Bread: my proofed yeast bubbles well but I get a very liquid loaf if I prepare the dough in the breadmaker. Should I dispense with proofing and follow the instruction book's order of ingredients?

Yoghurt: if I add the one third cup of powdered milk I get grit and lumps, even if I mix it with a little of the heated milk before adding it to the mixture. Any tips?

Rose, it sounds like you're adding too much liquid to the mix. Include the liquid you add to the yeast in the entire amount needed for the bread. For instance, if the recipe says 280mls and you use 30 mls to prove the yeast, you'd only add 250mls to the mix. Also, flour changes. Different batches from the same manufacturer take different amounts of water. The weather on the day also plays a part. You will need less water on a humid day. When I make bread, either by hand or in the machine, I always use enough liquid to mix, but I hold some of the allocation back. I ALWAYS test the dough with my fingers. You learn after doing this a few times what the dough should feel like. It's the best way to judge moisture content. Remember, you can always add more water, but never take it out, so be prudent when adding it.

Powdered milk goes lumpy when it's added to something already heated. Dissolve your one third cup of milk powder in a very small amount of cold water and reduce the amount of liquid used in the yoghurt to accommodate the amount used to dissolve the powder. You could also try using a good thick greek style yoghurt for your starter instead of thickening it with extra powder. I hope that helps.

Christine (simple quilter) thank you for your kind help with the knitting. Sharing what we know and helping others is a big part of this way of life. We all need to be helping others, especially those younger girls who are new to all this.

Moey, the baby is absolutely gorgeous. You look like a very happy mum. Congratulations to you and your husband. :- )

Jennlala, thank you for that link. I'm going to show it to my friend Bernadette who likes the holey dishcloths and is a great crocheter.

Mama K, a good friend of mine who lives in Belize makes pineapple vinegar. He says it makes up a great brew.

Carolyn, once the required amount of time has passed, just taste the vinegar, you'll know when it's ready. Also, if you see scum settling on the top, that's okay but you need to remove it. Use a clean cotton cloth or just scoop it up with a spoon.

Shannon, I hope you continue to be inspired to live well by reading my blog. I also hope you pass on what you learn to your friends. Welcome and thank you for your comment.

Shel - YAY! That's is so good that you taught yourself with the links. They were posted by Sharon, my right hand woman, who helps me here. I'll tell her about your comment.

I hope I haven't missed any questions. If I have, let me know and I'll try better next time. This post has taken so long to write as I've had breakfast with Kathleen before she left and have done a bit of work in the house in preparation for Shane and Sarndra's arrival later this morning. Please send your good thoughts and prayers for Hanno who is just about to leave for his doctor's appointment.

20 August 2008

Vinegar, with a surprise ending

I remember long, long ago often seeing my grandmother drink vinegar. When a salad was eaten, she used to pour the small amount of plain vinegar dressing left in the bowl into a glass, and drink it. Nothing would be wasted. I think my sister Tricia drinks vinegar in this way too. I must ask her. If you read this Tricia, send me an email please.

I've been reading about vinegar this week and it's a really fascinating subject. I have The Vinegar Book by Emily Thacker, it's an Australian book, lent to me by a friend.



Emily describes vinegar as: "an acid liquid made from wine, cider, beer (or most any mildly alcoholic beverage) by what is called 'aceteous fermentation. What this means is that alcohol mixes with oxygen in the air. The alcohol then 'disappears'. Actually it is changed into acetic acid and water. ... It was not until 1878, nearly 10,000 years after vinegar making began, that a microbiologist correctly explained the chemical process which creates vinegar. He accurately described the three species of vinegar bacilli. These tiny creatures gobble up alcohol and excrete acid. The process where alcohols are changed to acids is called fermentation."

I have made vinegar at home in the past and you can read about it here. And here, from the book, are some other ways to make vinegar, although Emily warns that store bought apple cider probably won't work as it's been pasteurised. The secret agent in the process is mother of vinegar which is a mass of scum that forms in unpasteurised vinegar or on the top of cider when the alcohol turns into vinegar. As fermentation increases, mother forms a rubbery floating lump. It's pretty disgusting but it does the job.



These are the vinegars I currently have in my pantry. I'm going to make another batch of homemade vinegar to use when these are finished.

MAKING VINEGAR

Apple Cider Vinegar
Put chopped up apples in a stone crock and cover them with warm water. Tie a cheesecloth over the top and set in a warm place for 4 - 6 months. Then strain off the vinegar. For faster action, add a lump of raw bread dough to the crock.

Another way to make apple cider vinegar is to allow sweet apple cider - preferably homemade - stand in a jug for 4 - 6 weeks. Cover it with a cloth to stop vinegar flies getting in.

Fruit vinegar
Place apple and peach peelings and a handful of grapes in a widemouthed jar and cover with cold water. Set in a warm place and add a couple of fresh apple cores every few days. When scum forms on top, stop adding the fresh fruit and let it thicken. When the vinegar is good and strong, strain it through cheesecloth and store in a bottle.

Wine vinegar
Let a bottle of wine stand open to the air in the summer sun. In about two weeks it will turn into a nice vinegar.

Make winter vinegar by letting wine stand open to the air for about a month.

There are many different grades of vinegar. If you are buying vinegar, the vinegar in large containers is really best used for cleaning. I buy my cleaning vinegar in two litre (quart) containers. I believe the best vinegar is organic apple cider vinegar. I use this in my salad dressings and yes, I have been known to drink the remains of the dressing. It's delicious.

The purpose of this post is to encourage you to experiment with vinegar and to show you that, like most other things, you can make vinegar from scratch. The taste will change depending on what you make your vinegar from, but you can also add to the flavour by making various herb vinegars. The possibilities are endless.

The Vinegar Book by Emily Thacker is published by Tresco Publishers, ISBN 1-883944-03-1

Melinda over at 1greengeneration wrote a very helpful post about vinegar this week. Check it out here.

And now for some good news. I have started discussions with a literary agent in New York who thinks this blog is the basis of a good book. So all those readers who were hoping for a book, may get their wish. I'll keep you posted. :- )

Thank you for continuing to read my blog. We are coming up to half a million visitors soon so I'll have to think of a giveaway to mark the occasion. I think we've built up a pretty special group of people here who add a lot to what I write through their comments. If you are new here, please drop a line and say hello.

19 August 2008

Knitting Buddies

KNITTING WITH SHARON - KNITTING BUDDIES
Hello ladies. It is nice to see how many of you are interested in learning how to knit or to start knitting again. Many of you did not leave an e-mail address so, at this time, I have posted only those of you that provided an e-mail in their comments. I am a little short on mentors and I am sending out a call for more out there. Rose from Illawara, offered to help up to three learners but did not provide an e-mail address I have given you two and hope that you can give me, as well as your learners, an e-mail address. If you would like to join the list and be paired with an available mentor or learner, please e-mail me (Sharon) at cdetroyes at yahoo dot com. I look forward to hearing from you. I will be away for a week as I am going on a road trip with DD S to travel 700 miles to visit DD G who has just moved into a new home in a new city, and help her get moved in and organized. I will be back early next week. If you want to be added to the list as either a learner or a mentor, don't forget to e-mail me! As a reminder, the deadline for the pin cushion and water bottle holder swap is September 6th. Update: Thanks Rose !
Cheers, Sharon
Learner (E mail) Mentor (E mail)

Lisa (ladyharley333 at gmail dot com) with Tameson (tamesonob at metrocast dot net)
Carrie (CarrieLMcClain at gmail dot com) with Miss Lila (misslilamae at gmail dot com)
Libby (libbyandbrent at iprimus dot com dot au) with Michelle (liviningraham at comcast dot net)
Carrie (carriechiaro at gmail dot com) with Liz (lizhartman1 at gmail dot com)
Mandy (auroraathebrides dot net) with Ann (athomestill at gmail dot com)
Chas (chasburrel at tvn dot net) with Christine [Quilter] (asimplequilter at gmail dot com)
Christine (skygoddyss at yahoo com) with Suzan (srsteele at hughes dot net)
Kaye (kaye at tnok dot com) with Kathy (kathy at OrangeTabbyStudio dot com)
Laura (mejas58 at aol dot com) with Rose [in Illawara] (rosmar at 1earth dot net)
Heather (heather at happy-heathen dot com) with Rose [in Illawara] (rosmar at 1earth dot net)

Taking lunch to work



We have to net these peaches this weekend to stop the fruit fly getting them.


It's a constant battle which I often seem to lose. You would think it's a simple thing to prepare lunch for one person, but it's not. Three days a week, it's my battle.

Most of you know I work at a voluntary job three days a week. I'm there from about 8am till about 4pm, but some days it's longer. I need to take food with me. Every day I try to take a delicious, wholesome and healthy lunch. Often I do! However, I get periods when for some reason I don't have time to make something or what I've bought and have stored at work is either finished or someone else has eaten it, and I buy lunch. It freaks me out when I do it because I feel I've let myself down.

I have tried having crackers, cup-of-soup, fruit and cheese on hand, but it runs out and I don't realise it until I go to get it and it's not there.

I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks whenever I'm sitting with my knitting. I've been trying to work out why I do this and how I can stop.

Eureka!

I realised (just this past weekend) that I have such a problem with this one meal because I don't plan for it. Every other meal we have here is planned to a certain extent. My work lunch isn't part of that plan. I never buy anything specifically for my lunch when I'm doing the monthly or bi-monthly grocery shopping. Subconsciously I think that my lunch is "a sandwich" and because we usually have bread and have any number of sandwich fillings on hand that "a sandwich" is taken care of.

I have decided to think about lunch the night before. Lunch is now not always "a sandwich", it might also be leftovers like soup or pasta or something fresh like a salad with cheese or a boiled egg. Either way, it's decided the night before. I've only had one day on this new regime. Yesterday's lunch at work was pasta with homemade tomato sauce from the night before. I heated it up in the microwave at work, shared an apple with a work colleague and had a cup of tea. Perfect!

Today I'm back to "a sandwich" again LOL!! But today that boiled egg is already cooked and will be made into an egg and lettuce sandwich. I have a small container of cherry tomatoes and some cheese cubes packed, and a pear.

This WILL work, as long as I think of my work lunch as part of our meal plan. I think that was what made me fail over and over again. I just saw lunch as "a sandwich" and not something to be thought about and planned, even thought the amount of planning was minimal.

It might seem trivial to worry about making lunch but these are just the things that slowly leak money away. Just as it is small steps to pay off debt, often it's small steps that create it too. If I bought a $5 lunch three days a week, it would cost me $750 a year. It's worth the effort to plan ahead and take lunch to work with me.

So wish me luck, folks. Today, egg and lettuce, tomorrow who knows! Joking, I already know what I'm taking, and hopefully I can tell you in a few months that I haven't had to buy lunch again.



FROM YESTERDAY'S COMMENTS:
Shannan, what a lovely and caring sister you have. I would imagine both families will benefit from your year of living together and you'll all be saving money. Congratulations on working out such a good solution.

Cherrie, that is excellent! I have to make myself a new bag soon too. Keep up the good work.

Nancy, the trick is to buy your supplies when they're on sale. I bought my big basket full of Lions cotton when there were reduced from $11.95 a ball to $4.95 a ball. I can get three dishcloths from one ball. As well as using them myself, I give them as gifts with homemade soap. I think giving this handmade duo is a more thoughtful gift than a store bought soap and dishcloth. The simple act of making things myself makes them special. Some people don't get it, but many do prefer homemade and doing for themselves.

Daharja and Christine, as Suzan said, I hope you find peace with your parents.

Carolemc, I agree, they are investments. :- )

Rose, ask your questions in the comments, please. I'm pretending emails don't exist at the moment. ;- )

Kristi, I agree, Dave's More than Enough is an excellent book, as is Your Money or your Life.

Robin, good luck with your plans, love.

18 August 2008

Paying off debt

I wish it wasn’t like this but money has a lot to do with simple living. I guess it’s naive to think that money, and the power attached to it, would be an innocent bystander in any kind of life. When you’re living simply, it seems too pure and wholesome to have any real connection to money or debt, and yet debt is the biggest obstacle to living this kind of life successfully over a long period of time. If there is one thing I want to encourage you to do it is to stop non-essential spending, find ways to save money and to pay off your debts.

I have written before about the constant need to change attitudes towards things we might previously have thought of as 'normal'. It's worth repeating though - changing your attitude towards spending will help you live the life you want. Back in my spending days, credit card debt and a mortgage were normal parts of my life. I didn’t realise it at the time, because shopping gave me other priorities, but I was working to pay off those debts and while I did it, I was building more debt. I thought it was 'normal' to have everything I wanted. We are encouraged to think that way. The average Western lifestyle always gives you new things to covet, it keeps creating more wants that you must have, it keeps you in debt. That will never change.

You have to change instead.

When I started living as I am now I changed my attitude to spending. I realised that I had everything I needed and most of what I wanted. I knew I should start being grateful for what I had. Shopping had lost its appeal, I was beginning to see how destructive it could be. I stopped shopping for comfort and recreation, I started thinking about what I needed and ignored what I wanted. Like many things in this simple life, one thing leads seamlessly to another. When I stopped buying, I started creating. I made the things I needed in my home instead of buying them. I regained my independence by reskilling myself, I took back the power to look after myself.

When I was a spender I was stupid enough to throw away good clothing simply because it was ripped or needed a button sewn on. I would rather work a few hours to pay for a new dress or new shoes rather than repair them. Now I value my time, and myself, a lot more than I did then. Now, let me tell you, I repair clothing, sheets, towels, shoes and anything else I can, just so I can continue using them. I have regained the strength to do things for myself. I am no longer seduced by convenience, I have taken responsibility for myself. I am an independent force.

I barely recognise that stranger in my past. No doubt there are millions who would think I’m strange now to save and conserve as I do. But here’s the rub. Living this simple life, being frugal, debt-free and environmentally aware has made me happier than I have ever been. When I was working, I earned quite a bit of money but it only served to keep me in debt because I believed I had the capacity, and the right, to own whatever I wanted. Now I know that no one has the right to continuously buy, just because they can. There is no law against it, but I believe it is morally wrong. I want to conserve rather than consume now. Now I know that if I want something of quality, beauty and uniqueness I make it myself, or barter.

I have written before about the seasons of our lives and I know that many of you are still in the season of nurturing children, building a home and a life. What I hope for you is that you still do and buy what you need, but always be mindful of how you shop, make a budget and don't be seduced by the flashing lights and those little messages that tell you: 'it's okay, you deserve it'. Make a plan to pay off your debt while you build your life, and don't keep adding to the debt. Learning how to sew, knit, cook, bake, garden and keep a frugal, natural home, will stand you in good stead because it will help you give your family the necessities of life, plus a few frills. Going back to basics and living a greener life is a much cheaper alternative to the 'normal' way.

There is no doubt about it, if you are carrying a lot of debt, or even a little, saying no to non-essential shopping will be difficult, but it will also free you. Try to change your attitude towards spending, because that will help you not notice or care about what is in the shops. As with many things, the first step is the most difficult but as you settle into it you will gain a better perspective on your own life, and if you take the opportunity, it will give you back your independence and lead you to a new life.

17 August 2008

Knitting Links

I hope everyone is having a relaxing week-end. I will try to post the knitting buddies on Monday. I will leave you with some helpful knitting links, including some free patterns for useful household items. The first link is a pattern for a simple knitted bath mat that can be made just to the size and color you need. It is a quick and easy pattern perfect for beginners from the purl bee: http://www.purlbee.com/simple-cotton-bath-mat/ Another pattern can be used for throws or baby blankets, and the fun is in the choosing of colors to customize the blanket: http://www.loopknits.com/2008/08/09/wave-blanket/ While looking on the web for knitting links several years ago I found "Knitty" a grand magazine of free patterns and helpful articles on knitting- it is webpublished every season and you can look at back issues and print off patterns anytime you want: http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEsummer08/index.html when the season changes they put out fun new issue with knew patterns--if you book-mark it just change the season -for example change summer to fall and it will get you to the new issue. A great site with demo videos to help when you cannot figure a problem out is : http://www.knittinghelp.com/videos/knitting-tips it explains and shows you through the videos a whole list of things from stitches to finishing to fixing those pesky knitting boo-boos. I will give you more knitting sites over the next few weeks. Don't forget that the deadline for the pincushion or waterbottle holder swap is Sept. 6th. You should have your parcel in the mail by then. I am starting to receive photos of the swap parcels and will begin putting them up after September 6th, on our flickr site. If you have any questions or problems please email me, Sharon: cdetroyes at yahoo dot com and I will try my best to help out.

15 August 2008

Taking stock

We set off early, just the three of us - Hanno, Alice and me, with the sun almost breaking over the horizen, heading for Shane and Sarndra's home, about three hours away. We packed Alice in the back of our station wagon on her bed so she would be cushioned from the bumps and turns of the journey.



We stopped twice along the way. First at this old hall near Somerset Dam for Alice to have a run. I imagined all sorts of old style dances happening in the corrugated iron hall in times gone by.



Our second stop was for morning tea at Marburg, a small town originally settled by German migrants many years ago. We had a flask of hot tea and water for Alice, but she was more intent on all the new smells waiting to be discovered.

Finally, after what seemed like too much time, we arrived at a little white house sitting alone on top of a hill. It was cold and windy. It had been snowing just the week before, the temperature regularly drops below freezing there during winter. After greeting us outside, Shane and Sarndra took us inside their little cottage to a hot fire blazing away and the smell of lunch cooking in the oven.



In some homes you get a really relaxed and warm feeling - this was such a home. There was a cat hiding under the couch that Alice never found, lots of books around and sunlight streaming in through the front enclosed verandah. We sat and talked till it was time for lunch and then all sat down to a delicious meal.



Shane is happy there in that little cottage. He is happy with Sarndra, his job and his life in general, I could feel it. Sarndra is a lovely girl and I am pleased they found each other, they seem to be a very good match. Usually we are too busy to take stock of a particular day and instead look back through the memory of it gathered in fragments. But yesterday, I looked at it all carefully while it was happening and tried to take in the small details so I could accurately remember that day for a long time.



Click on photos to enlarge them

Have you ever wondered what cook books a chef uses? Here are just some of Shane's. He let me borrow two lovely books - The French Kitchen and The French Market. I quickly looked through them while we were visiting and they have some excellent simple recipes. I'll be trying some of them out in the coming weeks and will share those that I really like.

We left on our return journey at 3.30pm. It had grown colder as the day progressed and I was thankful for the heater in the car as we drove those long and winding roads home. We didn't take the highways, instead we took the back roads which, like those in life, are always more interesting.

There are points in life when you take stock and decide if what you see is what you want to see. Yesterday was one of those days for me. I came away from our visit with feelings of love and pride, and, I suppose, relief, that Shane has grown into such a fine young man. You never know while they're growing if what you're doing is the right thing and as each child is different, you have to adjust what you do to suit each of them. I'm not saying I did every thing right, because I know I didn't, but I think I got enough of it right. It's a good feeling to see your son as an adult functioning so well, knowing he is successful in his job and happy with his partner and the choices he's made. As we travelled along that long thread that connects his home to ours, all those little animals hiding in the scrub would have looked in our car window and seen a well contented mother. And if I could bottle the feelings I tried to contain on that trip home, I'd would be richer than the queen.

14 August 2008

Good morning

Good morning all. I don't have time to post today, we're off as soon as we finish our tea to visit Shane and Sarndra. I'll take photos. ; - )

Enjoy your day.

13 August 2008

Knitting Buddies

Those of you who need help learning to knit and those who are willing to help please leave your names, e-mail (spelled out of course) and also put whether you are a mentor or a learner and I will get you all partnered. Here is another wash cloth pattern that is quick and easy from the Purl Bee: http://www.purlbee.com/wedding-washcloths/ This week-end I will post some knitting links with fun and easy free patterns and tutorials.

Learning to knit



My knitting stash and knitting needles.

One of the lovely things about first coming to your simple life is that you make your day-to-day living interesting by doing chores differently or mindfully, you change the way you look at yourself and your home and you start to learn a number of skills that some might think of as "old-fashioned". Pfffffffffft The reason you learn these skills is that you will stop buying a variety of things just because they're cheap and easy, and start to move closer to sustainability.

How easy is it to buy a pack of Chux, sponges or some other cleaning cloth. When they're dirty, you throw them "away", although by now we all know that "away" actually means moving your rubbish to a larger rubbish pile that sits for years before (if) it decomposes. Apart from the economics of buying those cleaning wipes (I just checked online and a pack of Chux now costs $3.49 = over $40 a year), they are made, packaged and delivered to your supermarket using oil. Enter the homemade dishcloth.



The pile of dishcloths I'm adding to each week.

She is a simple girl, made of pure cotton, quite easy to knit or crochet and will last many washes. I have homemade dishcloths here that are in their third or fourth year and are still as good as the day they were made. They're efficient, absorbent, hygienic and lovely to use - a constant reminder as you wipe your benches that you are now living a simple life.

If you don't know how to knit or crochet, this is one of those skills I was talking about. Knitting used to be taught to small children by their mothers and grandmas, and it is simple enough in the early stages to teach yourself. Patons has a good guide to knitting, there is a learn to knit video here, Lions knitting guide is here and there is a guide to knitting pattern abbreviations here. There is a very good video on learning to knit here. Or you may have a friend or mum who can teach you.

The dishcloth I knit most is Debbie's (Homespun Living) waffle weave pattern. You can find the pattern here. It is just plain and purl, so teach yourself to cast on, then a plain stitch, then a purl stitch and you're on your way. For Debbie's dishcloth you will need to cast on 38 stitches. But you don't have to do Debbie's pattern, you can easily do a border of six stitches with 30 purl, plain or a mixture of both as the body of your cloth. You decide what is easiest for you and go for it.

You will need a pair of knitting needles, about size 5 or 6. I like to knit with aluminium needles because the stitches slip easily off the needle. I have a few sets of the English Queen Bee needles and find them to be very good and easy to use.

Find some 100% cotton yarn that is about 4, 6 or 8 ply. I love using Lions yarn. It comes in a large variety of colours and it knits well. I have been lucky enough to have dishcloths sent to me from America, made with Peaches and Cream yarn. That also makes a perfectly lovely dishcloth - you can buy it on eBay if your local store doesn't stock it. For those of you in Australia, Spotlight usually have Lion cotton. I think our English and European ladies will have access to both Peaches and Cream and Lion cotton.

When you have your needles and cotton, all you need is a comfy spot. If you're like me, you'll find knitting to be a bit like meditating - it's relaxing and allows you to think or talk while you work. One of the many reasons I love knitting is that it allows me to be productive while resting. It is truly a gentle art.

Knitting dishcloths is a wonderful way to learn how to knit, to develop your technique and knit faster. Once you've done a few dishcloths, you will probably feel confident enough to go on to scarves, socks, mittens, hats and maybe even jumpers (sweaters) and cardigans.



This is another gift my sister Tricia gave me on my 60th birthday. It's a 1940s sewing basket which now sits beside 'my' chair in the lounge room and holds my current projects.

When you first start knitting you'll probably be all fingers and thumbs and feel awkward. You'll drop stitches, and needles, but it's just a matter of persevering and doing it. You CAN do this, it just requires of you to slow down enough to concentrate, look at the instructions and give yourself time to practice. As you go through the instructions and build up your rows, you'll see your dishcloth materialise from that long piece of cotton. Once you get the hang of it, you'll knit a dishcloth in a couple of hours - but be patient, when you start, you'll take a few days to do your first.

Take your own sweet time to do it. You are learning a skill that will stand you in good stead all the days of your life. If you enjoy knitting, it is something you will still be capable of doing when you're 90 years old. I have written here about how knitting and sewing fits into my life. I see knitting and sewing as being part of my housework instead of a craft that I need to make time for. I knit and sew because it gives me some of the things I need in my home, not because it is enjoyable, even though it is.



Here are two projects I'm working on now - both are experiments. The large brown one is a strange scarf I have in mind, made in two pieces. I'm using Lions organic cotton which is soft and woolly and feels lovely next to my skin. The red - actually it's burnt orange that looks red in the flash light - is a dishcloth done on smaller needles. It's taking too long and I won't use smaller needles on a dishcloth again.

If you don't knit now, I hope you take the opportunity to learn. It is a valuable part of a simple home and a will enable you to make useful items and clothing for your home and family. And don't worry about the awkwardness of beginning, we all have that and it passes in a flash. If you have problems when you start, just make a comment and I'm sure one of our generous and kind ladies will help out. I wonder if there are some ladies who are willing to mentor the younger and more inexperienced girls in email. If you have some time, and the experience to help someone knit, let me know in the comments and we might be able to pair up mentors with new knitters. Sharon, I'll email you soon but is this something you could organise if we get a few people? What would I do without you, Sharon. =:- ()

Dave, Abby and Kate, I'll get to your email on the weekend.

12 August 2008

Making Barmbrack

Although I didn't do much in the way of chores on the weekend, I did bake some barmbrack. Barmbrack is a traditional Irish fruit bread made with black tea and it's utterly delicious. The dough is a little like cinnamon roll dough but not as sweet. Barmbrack is great hot, straight from the oven, but this recipe makes a full loaf, so it's just as well it also makes luscious toast.



Traditionally, barmbrack is baked in a round cake tin but whenever I bake it I use whatever tin I grab first, this weekend it was a bread tin. No matter what shape it is, I'm sure you'll find it to be one of those reliable recipes that you'll bake again and again. And some good news, you can do it quickly in your breadmaker, or by hand if you desire.

BARMBRACK
  • Make up a strong pot of plain black tea - you'll need about four cups, enough to cover the dried fruit.
  • 3½ cups dried fruit - sultanas (golden raisins), raisins, currants and peel.
Pour the tea over the fruit and allow to soak overnight or about one hour minimum.
  • Add large teaspoon of dried yeast to a cup of warm milk and 1 teaspoon sugar. Mix and allow to froth up.
To make the dough, add to your breadmaker:
  • 3 cups white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • The prepared yeast mix.
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/3 cup soft butter

Start breadmaker on bread dough setting. You won't cook the loaf in the breadmaker.

Strain the tea off the fruit and allow to drain. If you have a breadmaker that has a fruit and nut compartment, add the fruit to it, otherwise, add the fruit at the end of the mixing cycle, before the dough has its first rise. If you're not sure when this is, time the dough and add the fruit about 30 minutes into the cycle.

When the dough is ready, take it out of the machine, roll it out onto a floured board and form into a loaf or round shape to suit your baking pan. Then place the dough into the greased and papered pan. Allow to rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size- this will take between 30 - 60 minutes, depending on the temperature in your kitchen. Add nuts to the top if you wish. (I am in the midst of a compulsion to add flaked almonds to every sweet thing I bake.) ;- )

Place in a hot oven and bake on 180C (350F) for about 30 minutes. The loaf will sound hollow when you tap it when it's cooked properly.

Serve warm with butter, or it can be toasted the following days and buttered.



Long term readers will know I celebrated my 60th birthday this past April. And when I say 'celebrated', I really did celebrate my age. Not with a wild party and alcohol, (although we did have a party) but by truly embracing my age, as well as who and what I am. Whenever I fall short of my own expectations now I say silently to myself: "I am what I am"; it helps when I feel I haven't done enough. I know some of you think I'm fast approaching sainthood, but I am as flawed as the next person and "I am what I am" reminds me of it and allows me to fall short occasionally. Anyhow, I didn't mean to go on with all that, but instead to tell you that one of the most treasured gifts I received on my birthday was from my sister, Tricia, who made this felt and wool stitchery for me. Well, I made it into a cushion on the weekend. It took its own sweet time to do and after sitting on the sewing table all that time, it only took about 45 minutes to complete. I know Tricia will read the blog this morning while she drinks her first cup of tea, so here it is, Tricia! Finally!



Now, just a few questions to answer from yesterday. Amber, you stamp soap depending on the recipe you use. The copha soap - or any of the solidified oils you have to melt, will harden faster, so you stamp them sooner. If you make a straight olive oil/rice bran oil and liquid coconut oil, you can stamp it the next day. Just test the soap with your finger, when you feel it's hardening and would hold the shape of the stamp, try one.
Lynette, you can use any grain in a heat bag - wheat, rice or lentils. I like to use an organic grain and I think it's safer when you're putting it into the microwave to heat it up.

Sharon, yes, I've thought about a Welsh Terrier and that would be my ideal, but we can't afford to buy $1000 dogs anymore. We'll be looking at the pound this time.

Kaye, thanks for your thoughts on the clothing. Much appreciated.

Christine, yep, more dishcloths. I'm trying to make a stack of them to sell with soap when I start selling online. I'll write more on knitting tomorrow.

Lisa, Bernadette and I were discussing the Pembrokes on the weekend. She used to have a corgi. Regarding the laundry powder - you can use any pure soap, either bath soap or laundry soap. I am only using my homemade castile soap now and it makes a lovely mix. I gave some of my castile soap to Bernadette and she reports the same softness with her skin. She's going to make her own soap from now on.

I want to thank you all again for your kind messages and for sharing your stories about your own pets. It really did make it easier for me when I read them. A special hello and warm hugs to Julia in Mackay and Heather Dundas. Welcome to all newcomers, I hope you enjoy your time here.

11 August 2008

And life goes on ...

It's been like a roller coaster these last few days. I have finally accepted that Rosie is gone but I am thankful that I can still see her with my mind's eye. Cathy asked if we would take another dog into our home and the answer is, from me, definitely yes!, from Hanno, well...maybe. I have already looked at the local pound website. Alice has always lived with Rosie and I think she needs a companion. I'd like a smaller dog this time, something I can pick up, maybe the size of a beagle. Airedales are big strong dogs and now we are getting older, it's difficult taking two for a walk alone. I think the time has come to downsize. When a new dog is ready to find us, I'm sure she will.



Koda (left) with Alice.

It was a busy weekend with comings and goings, and phone calls to our sons to tell sad news. Yesterday we had visits from step son Jens and his Airedale, Koda, and Bernadette and her dog, Iona. Alice had a good run around with her canine friends which I think did her the world of good.



Jens helped Hanno cut down an old tree in the chook run. We have a pecan in there too and wanted the dead tree down before the pecan starts to grow its new leaves. It's good that Jens lives just a few streets away so these heavy jobs are shared. There was a time when a job like this would have been a minor one for Hanno but now it requires a bit more thought and care. Now we welcome extra hands that are willing to help.



When Bernadette and Iona arrived we sat with tea and knitting on the front verandah. We talked about how we could help our local homeless young people get jobs and came up with a plan to help them. As with all these things money is often a stumbling point, but I think we can apply for a grant for what we want to do, so when I go to work today I'll look into it and decide if indeed it's as good an idea as we thought yesterday. As we talked, Alice and Iona slowly wandered through the garden, following each other, first one was the leader, then the other. It was a nice thing to see. As the weather started getting colder, Bernadette and Iona left and Hanno and I had some of the pea soup that had been simmering gently on the stove most of the afternoon.

Sundays have an easy, comfortable appeal that other days never come close to.

Oh, I also went through the fabrics Cathy gave and found a few pieces of polar fleece. I made up two dog blankets and a rice bag for a work colleague, Anna, who has a sore back and travels with a hot water bottle. I think the rice bag will be easier for her.

Another weeks starts today. It's a week I'm looking forward to while looking back to Rosie. We have a trip planned to visit Shane and Sarndra at their new home on Thursday that I'm looking forward to very much. Welcome to all the new readers, please leave a comment and say hello. I hope this week is a wonderful, productive and fulfilling one for all of us. Take care everyone.

10 August 2008

Thank you all


Hanno and I have been overwhelmed by the sweet messages left about Rosie. They helped us during that first day, the most difficult one, when we were still expecting her to walk inside or bark at the Pee Wees (Magpie Larks), her nemesis. Any other bird could land in our backyard and she didn't care, but let one PeeWee set foot here and she was after them.

We buried Rosie under the Banskia rose where she loved to sit. It's shady there and she had a view of both the backyard and the front. Hanno planted a daisy bush on her grave, I placed some flowers there for my sister Tricia, and we both had a cry. It was a sad day.

Alice is still looking for Rosie. Hanno let her get into the car to sit on the blanket he brought Rosie home on. She sat there for ages, sniffing and taking in as much of Rosie as she could. Now she is sleeping on a single bed and I don't think she likes it very much. They used to sleep together on a bed on the kitchen floor - on the night before she died, Rosie cuddled up to Alice, it was the first time she'd ever done that.


We went out yesterday. We visited a thrift shop near here and then went down to the beach for a cup of coffee. It was the best thing for us. The water was beautiful, we watched holidaying families cook their BBQ breakfasts and run around playing games; I smiled when I saw the benches were all in the shape of surf boards. When we came home it was like we'd packed Rosie away in our hearts and got on with our chores.


Today Bernadette is coming down the mountain with her dog Iona to visit Alice.



Hanno and I would like to thank each and every one of you who wrote a message of support. The kindness shown to us through this blog has helped us through these sad days, and it has proven, once again, the power of the written word.

8 August 2008

RIP Rosie



Rosie grew sicker as the day progressed yesterday. I walked around the garden with her in the afternoon because she couldn't sit still inside. When Hanno came home, he took her to our old vet, the one who operated on her eye a couple of years ago. Rosie had kidney failure and we were advised that even if they started treatment, because of her age and current condition, she probably would not survive. We chose to have her euthanised. She died late yesterday afternoon. This morning we will bury her in the backyard under the Banksia rose where she loved to sit.

We Have A Secret
We have a secret, you and I
that no one else shall know,
for who but I can see you lie
each night in fire glow?
And who but I can reach my hand
before we go to bed
and feel the living warmth of you
and touch your silken head?
And only I walk woodland paths
and see ahead of me,
your small form racing with the wind
so young again, and free.
And only I can see you swim
in every brook I pass
and when I call, no one but I
can see the bending grass.
Author Unknown

7 August 2008

Back home again



I've been looking forward to today ... Thursday is the first day of the week when I'm home all day. Being at work since Monday has working away from my home, socialising and being in the midst of many people and all that busyness out of my system. Today, and the next few days, I will concentrate on my family and my home and getting my house in order. Yes, friends, I'll be fluffing my nest again.

I want to do some sewing today. I have a few bags of fabric to go through, given to me by daughter-in-law Cathy. What I don't need, I'll give to our sewing circle. I want to work on my pin cushion swap today and hopefully get that finished and ready to send. That sewing room needs to be tidied too. It always amazes me how quickly a sewing room can look like a cyclone has whipped through it, when only the most gentle and calm chores are done in there.

Hanno is taking the Centre's mini bus into Brisbane this morning to pick up our Foodbank stores. The Foodbank supplies food and groceries to charities for a very small amount of money. We buy a lot of the Centre's staples at our local IGA and when we supplement that with what we get from the Foodbank we are able to make up a good parcel of food for people who need it.



I won't bake bread today but there are plenty of other chores to keep me busy. The floors need sweeping and washing, the kitchen looks like it needs a good going over and the front verandah is covered with leaves. A basket of apples is waiting to be turned into a pie and I have several lemons to be squeezed and frozen. There are a couple of loads of washing to be done and hung out to dry.

If I have time later I'll plant some lettuce and beetroot seedlings. It will do me good to get into the garden again. It's always the sweetest of pleasures to be out there on these cool days of late Winter, and when I look around me at the lushness of a garden that provides so much of our food, I know I'm really at home, and this is where I belong.

Rosie is still sick. She is good for a day or so and then is unwell again. We've had her to the vet twice but I'm not sure he knows what he's doing. Tomorrow I hope to take her to a specialist terrier vet in a township about 30 kms away. I thank you all for the thoughtful wishes you are sending us for Rosie's recovery. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure she will survive this. She's lost more weight - she's lost more than a third of her weight now, and she's still not really interested in eating. I hope the new vet will make some progress with her.

For the ladies who asked about the washing soda, here are photos of my supplies. I have two brands of washing soda here - Prepact and Lectric.



Washing soda is Sodium Carbonate, nothing else. So if you look on the back of your package, find the ingredients list and if it says sodium carbonate, you have the right product, no matter what it is called. It generally comes as a white powder but it is also sold in crystal form.



Good luck with your hunt. Here is the Cedel Lectric website for more information.

And finally I want to welcome back an old friend. Jewels returned her wonderful blog to blogland yesterday and it's a real pleasure to see her again. Welcome back, friend, your new home is absolutely beautiful! If you don't know Jewels, her blog, Eyes of Wonder, is on my side bar. Do yourself a favour and visit.

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