30 June 2008

Thanks, links, bits and pieces

Graphic from the Carl Larsen gallery

In addition to the Frugal Food post today I want to add a few more lines.

Thank you to Sharon who spent a lot of time looking for excellent links for all of us. While this is my blog, Sharon helps me with the swaps and as I'm not posting on weekends now, on some Saturdays and Sundays she will post links or update you on the swaps. Sharon is the reason the swaps are continuing. Without her, I'd have stopped the swaps as I don't have the time to organise them. So thank you Sharon, your help here and friendly emails are a great encouragement to me.

The other person who you'll see at times on my blog is Bel. Besides being a million other things, Bel is the wife of Gary and the mother of six children, and she writes occasional guest posts here about living simply with children. Bel also has her own personal blog Belinda Moore and her business blog, Spiral Garden.

I have written before about not knowing why I like certain blogs but when I find one I really like, I know it immediately. There is a certain something in some blogs that I recognise straight away, it may be the style of writing or the unassuming character of the posts, I'm not sure. I do know I like blogs that honestly show a life being lived and the willingness to share the practical aspects of that life. I am not so bothered with the blogs that have a political slant or those that try and right the wrongs of the world but rather those that explain the day to day meanderings of a life moving towards sustainability. I want to see real people doing what they write about, I want to believe that an authentic life is being lived and not just talked about. I found such blog a couple of days ago. It's Clair de Lune by Beulah and if you have some spare time today I encourage you to check it out. It's charming, funny and real.

I also wanted to say hello to Helen in Gympie, Julia in Mackay and Cathy. I read every comment and sometimes write back but more often than not I don't have the time to express my thanks for each and every comment left on my blog. Thank you ladies and gentlemen, yes, there are quite a few men who read here.

I want to say hello to Di who commented a couple of days ago. She has finished work to have a baby. All the best Di, I hope it is a very happy time for you and your family.

And finally, welcome to all the new readers. I send my best wishes to everyone for a wonderful week. Now I'm off to pack some worms into a container. No, not my lunch ;- ) we are starting a worm farm for the permaculture garden that's already producing food where I do my voluntary work.

Frugal food - main meals

Last week a number of readers shared their frugal food ideas, with costings for the ingredients. If you're like the rest of us and trying to keep within your grocery budget, these recipes will hold you in good stead.

I have included a link to each readers' blog if it was included with the recipes. Thank you for sharing, ladies.

from Alexandra (no link)
Beans and Rice

Prices in USD. I did the best I could with the metric conversions.

1 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper (capsicum), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup (approx. 180 g) raw white rice
1-2 cups (approx. 230-500 ml) cooked red or black beans, drained
1 14 oz (400 g) can tomatoes (any kind), drained, liquid reserved
Enough chicken broth to make 2 cups (500 ml) with the liquid from the tomatoes
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp mild chili powder, or a few dried chiles, soaked in hot water and pureed
1/2 tsp ground coriander (optional)
1 spoonful tomato paste (optional)
1/4 lb (1/8 kilo) smoked sausage, sliced

Heat oil in a heavy pan with a lid. Saute onion, pepper, and garlic until soft. Add sausage, spices, tomatoes, tomato paste; cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have dried out a bit. Add broth, bring to boil, stir in rice and beans. Cover and cook over low heat 30-35 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid absorbed. Serves 3-4.

Beans-$0.50 (using dried beans at $1/lb); sausage-$0.63; onion and garlic-$0.40; bell pepper-$0.30; rice-$0.30; seasonings and stock cubes-$0.40; tomatoes-$0.54. Total $3.07.

from Gothelittle Rose

Food Group Glop (my own recipe)

1lb hamburger - $1.99-2.15 on sale

2 cups white rice
(or substitute with white/brown rice and barley mix) - Estimated $.50

1 bag frozen veggies (Sweet corn, mixed veggies, or broccoli mixes do especially well) - $1.10

1 10oz package of extra sharp cheddar cheese - $2.50

I start the rice cooking, often putting in a couple bouillon cubes and/or spices. Then I brown the hamburger, add just a tiny dash of milk, and add the cheese, shredded, by handfuls, mixing it until the cheese appears to 'disappear' and the hamburger 'drippings' turns yellow. I mix the vegetables and hamburger-cheesey mixture all into the rice and stir it all up together.

Feeds 6-8 for roughly in the neighborhood of $7!

from Juanita (no link)
You cant beat fish cakes for a warming dish and a frugal one too.

Cook some potatoes in water - 3-4 med ones.Drain and mash up and add 1 can drained tuna or similar fish. We pay $1.30 for a can. Add a sauteed chopped onion. Salt and pepper and chopped parsley ( we have in garden). If mix is a bit mushy add some breadcrumbs (I make my own) or some flour to stiffen a bit. Form into patties and fry in a med frying pan in some oil or butter. Takes around 3-4 minutes per side. Take care not too not move too much as they can break up a bit. You can also add any herbs or flavourings you like to make them spicy or more tasty. Even different veges and other main ingrediants.
They would cost around $3 at a guestimate.
Pumpkin soup is also very good. Saute onion, add chopped pumpkin, stock and water. Simmer till pumpkin is soft. Blend or mash up. Add water or milk to thin down. Season with Salt and pepper and you can add spices etc if you like. I buy pumpkin at the local market and its around 3$ for a big pumpkin. This can make a really big pot of soup. Also freezes well. So the soup itself would cost around $3-$4 for the pot.
Very nice on a winters day. We can also cook on our wood burner so I often cook our soups and casseroles on the fire.

from Dani (no link)

Carrot Fritters.
2 tablespoons plain flour 40c
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 clove garlic, crushed 10c
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 spring onions, thinly sliced 30c
2 eggs, lightly beaten $1.20
3 carrots 30c
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 spring onions, thinly sliced length ways to garnish 20c
yoghurt to serve 15c
Combine flour, cumin, garlic, parsley and spring onions in a large bowl. Add eggs. Mix well to combine
Coarsely grate carrots. Squeeze out excess moisture. Add to egg mixture. Season.
Heat oil in a large fry pan over medium heat. Fry up as fritters with 1/4 cup to each fritter. Cook in batches for 3 minutes each side until golden.
Serve topped with yoghurt and garnished with spring onions.

Total $2.65 serves 4 so 67c per serve

from the Tin House

Swiss Onion Tart

for the pastry:
1 cup plain flour
1 cup SRF
pinch salt
125gm butter (1/4 lb)
cold water
wizz in a food processor and line an 8inch fluted tart tin. Blind bake for 12 minutes.
(cost for pastry: 80c)

for the filling
2 tbl oil (20c)
3 med onions sliced ($1..ours are homegrown)
1/2 cup sour cream (50c)
2 eggs (50c)
1/2 cup finely grated swiss cheese (eg. gruyere)(80c)
cayenne pepper (5c)

heat oil in pan and add onions. Cook, stirring often over a low heat for 15 mins or until onion is lightly browned and very tender. Spread over pastry base.

Whisk sour cream and eggs until smooth. Add cheese and stir to combine. pour egg mixture over onion and sprinkle lightly with cayenne pepper. Bake for 40 mins at 180C (350F) or until filling is set.
Cost of tart: $3.85

Serve with garden salad: even a purchased bag of salad will cost $3 - ours is garden fresh.

So - fully costed if you have to buy everything: $6.85
if you don't: $2.35

from Kristi in the western reserve

I find it challenging to figure out the prices because I used to cook for 5 with leftovers and now it's only for me, with leftovers. This meal is a good and cheap one but my vegetarian son won't eat eggs so he won't eat it.

This would serve 3 to 4 I think. Or two people twice.

Hungarian Stacked Potatoes. (Rakott Krumpli)

Boil six good sized Idaho potatoes and six eggs.(You can do this in one pot.) Make a blend of one cup of sour cream thinned with about 1/2 cup of milk.
When the eggs and potatoes are done, peel them. In a casserole baking dish put one layer of potatoes, one layer of eggs and salt and pepper. Pour some of the milk mixture over it. Continue til it's all done. Bake at least 1/2 hour at 350degrees Fahrenheit. (About 175 C.)

I would serve this with a salad or steamed vegetable. In this case, a pound of steamed broccoli.

Potatoes about $1.00
Eggs. 1.00 (I buy organic eggs for $2.00 from a neighbor.)
Sour cream about 75cents.
Milk about 25cents.
Broccoli $1.50
Total about $4.50.

from Desley (no link)

Lentil and Vegetable Cottage Pie (AUS $)

1 tbs olive oil (18c)
1 onion, finely chopped (30c)
2 celery stalks, chopped (53c)
1 large carrot, chopped (22c)
2 tsp crushed garlic (10c)
250g tinned diced tomato (25c)
2 tsp mixed herbs (20c)
1 cup (250ml) vegetable stock (85c)
400g can lentils, rinsed, drained ($1.09)
800g potatoes, peeled, chopped ($1.00)
100g unsalted butter (50c)
1/2 cup (125ml) milk (16c)
2 egg yolks (27c)
100g grated cheddar (90c)

Preheat the oven to 200°C. In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat and cook onion for 1-2 minutes. Add celery, carrot and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add pesto, pasta, bay, thyme and stock.
Simmer gently for 15 minutes until vegetables are cooked. Stir in lentils and season, then transfer to a 1.2-litre baking dish. Meanwhile, cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender.
Drain and mash. Stir in butter, milk, yolks and cheese. Spread over lentil mixture and roughen top with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbling and golden.

Total Cost: $6.55. Per Serve: $1.64.

from Lorisdoris

It is called Monday Macaroni and uses up leftover meat and vegetables (1 cup of each.) Because the meat and vegetables are leftovers, I did not include them in calculating the cost of the recipe. The entire recipe costs about $2.25 US to feed 6 to 8 people.

Monday Macaroni

* 2 Tablespoons butter (17¢)
* 1 Tablespoon olive oil (28¢)
* 2 minced onions (80¢)
* 1 cup finely chopped cooked meat (leftover, so already paid for)
* 1 small can tomato purée or soup (75¢)
* 2 teaspoons minced parsley (minimal cost - free if you garden)
* bit of bay leaf (minimal cost)
* 1 cup cooked vegetable (leftover, so already paid for)
* 1 cup meat stock (free if saved from cooking liquids)
* 8 ounces uncooked macaroni (25¢)

Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Sauté the onion in the butter and olive oil until yellow and soft. Add the meat and cook 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato purée, parsley and bay leaf. Simmer 15 minutes. Add vegetables and stock. Pour over macaroni and stir before serving. May sprinkle with grated cheese if desired.

Serves 6 to 8

from just trying to be green

Well, I know I'm unusual, but my largest meal is breakfast. The rest of the day I just kind of nibble along while I'm working outside, and I don't really have a dinner.

So here's my recipe for buckwheat pancakes- we eat them with bananas, maple syrup, and local raw honey.

1.5 cup milk ($5.50 a gallon)
2 tablespoons butter ($2.75 per pound)
1 large egg (free for us, but $3.75 for a dozen)
1 cup buckwheat ($1.75 per pound) (or combination oat flour and buckwheat)
2 teaspoon baking powder ($2 for way more than we use in a year)
1.5 table spoons honey (or 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, $3.95 per pound)
.5 teaspoon salt ($3 for way more than we use in a year)

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine egg and milk. Melt butter and honey together, add to wet ingredients, then mix everything together. Pour by 1/3 cup fulls on to a medium heat frying pan, flip when the bubbles near the edge stay open.

Top with what ever you'd like. Fruit, honey, maple syrup, jam.

from earthly jane

Nacho Spuds:

6 potatoes ($.25???-$2.49 for 5lb bag) sliced fairly thin (not so thin they fall apart when baked)
3-4T butter ($0.20)
sprinkle with cumin and s&p

*toss to coat with oil and seasoning, spread out on tin foil covered baking sheet, back on top shelf of oven on 400 for about 30 minutes or until done (you'll want them a little crisp.

1 lb ground turkey or beef or chicken ($1.75)
3 T cumin ($0.10-$1.00 for the whole container)
1/2 cup water
1/2 jar of salsa ($1.00)
-brown meat, add seasoning, salsa and water, let simmer until it starts to get thick.

Top baked sliced potatoes with meat mixture. Shut off oven.

Top with 1-2 cups of cheese ($1.00) Stick in (turned off)oven until cheese is bubbly.

Top with black olives ($0.50 can)
1 green onion ($0.15) and sour cream ($1.00)

We serve with lettuce salad and vinegar and oil dressing.

Serves 6 @ around $8 for everything.

from toria

Tomato & tuna pasta - very cheap to make, with ingredients I always have stockpiled.

One can tomatoes (49c at Aldi)
One small can tuna - ($1.50)
one onion - (30c)
1 tbsp olive oil (10c? we buy in bulk)
1 bag pasta (59c)

Heat the oil, slowly saute the chopped onion for about 5 minutes - soften the onion, don't brown.

Add the can of tomatoes, turn the heat up & cook for about 10 minutes. Flavour with some pepper to taste.

Drain the tuna (I think one packed in olive oil tastes better in this dish, rather than one packed in water), flake it slightly with a fork & stir into tomato mix. Toss in some chopped parsley if you have some available in the garden. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of water, toss in the pasta & cook.

Drain pasta, serve with the tuna/tomato sauce.

This serves our family of 2 adults & 3 children (who only like a small amount of the sauce but will demolish a huge amount of pasta to make up for it) for just under $3. To serve a few more people, just add an extra can of tomatoes; to serve lots more you will also need to add more tuna.

from Rose

Split pea soup
1 kg split green peas soaked in cold water 8 hours ($2.28)
2 medium onions diced (50c)
2 large heavy carrots peeled and sliced (40c)
½ bunch celery sliced ($1.85)
1 litre vegetable stock ($2.79, less for homemade)
salt and black pepper to taste

Drain peas and rinse until water runs clear.
Add all ingredients to a very large stock pot plus another litre of water.
Bring to a rolling boil then a low simmer for 1 hour 15 mins.
Use a stick blender to puree all.
Reheat and serve 4.

from Paula

Here is my recipe for frugal mostly vegetable chili. We love it with a garden salad.
(Canadian Prices)

1/2 pound ground turkey ($1.50)
1 large can tomatoes ($ .69)
1 large can kidney beans ($ .49)
1 large can white beans ($ .49)
2 large onions, chopped ($ .50)
2 green peppers (capsicum), chopped ($1.20)
1 large carrot, grated ($ .20)
2 cloves garlic, minced ($ .10)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. hot sauce (more if wanted)
1 tbsp. olive oil

Saute onions, peppers in olive oil until translucent. Add ground turkey and brown. Add remaining ingredients except canned beans and gently simmer for 1 hour. Add canned beans and simmer additional 15 mins. Taste and adjust seasoning and chili powder.

Serve with a green salad. ($2.50)
Serves 6

Price: $5.17 or $.86 a serving without salad
$7.67 or $1.27 a serving including store bought salad

We can actually get 8 servings out of this recipe.

from Ashley

My recipe – usually have this for lunch all the time – but now I love it for dinner as well.

Summer Salad – (for 2)
40 almonds ~ 90 grams ~ 1/5 pound @ $6/pound = $1.20
2 cups Spinach (squashed down) ~ 1/3 bag @ $4.99/bag = $1.67
½ cup tomatoes (or from your tomato plant) ~ $ 0.90
1 Tbsp Rice vinegar ~ 14ml ~ 1/35 bottle@ 4.99/bottle = $0.14
½ cup broccoli ~ ¼ head ~ ¾ pound @$1.5/pound
¼ cup Raisins ~ 1/8 pound @$2.99/pound = $.39
Grand total = $5.8/ 2
I also add some cooked and cooled potatoes when I am really hungry or some left over meat if I have some. The almonds really fill you up though.


29 June 2008

"Lotta Links"--Sewing with Sharon

I hope everyone is having a relaxing week-end. I am going to split the sewing links I have into two posts -today I will give you some of the "how to" sites, for the "basics" of sewing. Next week I will continue with more sewing sites that should encourage everyone, even beginners, to try fun new projects. I will start off with a few beginning and "how to sew" sites for children: http://www.kids-sewing-projects.com/pre-beginner-sewing-lessons.html this site has all the basics and gives you different levels to learn as you go as well as free patterns. Another site with great tips on getting kids started in sewing is: http://cathiefilian.blogspot.com/2008/06/tips-for-teaching-kids-to-sew.html . I have found the following "how to" sites great references for sewing basics such as zippers and seam finishing as well as sewing terms. Use the menu to select what you want explained: http://www.sewing.org/enthusiast/html/e_learntosew.html The Sewing Divas have a wonderful site not only for explanations, but also for project ideas. Look on the right side for all the topics covered. They go into detail on everything and their explanations are very clear: http://thesewingdivas.wordpress.com/ For different types o;f seam finishing this is very helpful with clear photos: http://sewmamasew.com/blog2/?p=488 I have found this site to be a great reference, and their zipper insertion guide, including invisible zippers, isgreat for the beginner as well as for the more experienced. Choosing the right notions for projects can be confusing and this site helps to explain the different notions and how to sew them into your projects. This site has videos which show you "how" : http://www.expertvillage.com/video-series/1091_sewing-notions.htm Zippers can be a bug a boo for all of us and I have found these sites helpful in explaining the different ways to insert zippers: http://sewiknit.blogspot.com/2006/03/invisible-zipper-tutorial.html which explains that all you need to insert an invisible zipper is an iron and a sewing machine, not a special foot (which can be pricey depending on your machine): http://sewiknit.blogspot.com/2006/03/invisible-zipper-tutorial.html For different types of zipper insertions there are these sites: http://sewmamasew.com/blog2/?p=87 , http://www.sewing.org/enthusiast/html/el_flyfrontzipper.html , and http://www.sewnews.com/resources/library/0604basic/ For those who wish to alter pattgerns to better fit their shapes (not all of us wears the standard B bust cup size) I have found the following sites: http://www.cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_c/c-228.html as well as: http://www.cedesign.com/familyphotos/sewing/info/index.html and http://www.sensibility.com/pattern/resizepattern.htm . Next week I will continue with the links for sewing and will include blogs that have patterns, recycling fabrics and clothes, as well as sewing tips and ideas which we can all have fun with.

28 June 2008

Swap News

I wanted to remind everyone to make sure that they have gotten a hold of their swap buddy. I have heard from one who hasn't, and would very much like to keep the list current. If anyone else has had trouble getting reaching their swap buddy, please e-mail me, Sharon, at : cdetroyes at yahoo dot com and I will help you. I have found another really cute idea for a pincushion at Rachael Rabbit. Here is the link: http://rachaelrabbit.blogspot.com/2008/06/introducing-cupcake-crew-and-cupcake.html -they look good enough to "eat". Tomorrow, I will be giving you a "whole lotta links" for sewing. These links range from how to re-size patterns and insert different types of zippers, all the way to determining the fiber content of thrifted fabrics. They are handy references to have when sewing, for no matter how new we are to sewing, or how many years we have sewn, we will always have questions that need to be answered and problems that need an "expert" to fix (besides my personal favorite expert, the seam ripper), and I have found these to be some of the best links on the web. Until tomorrow, happy swapping.

27 June 2008

Independence, freedom and choice

I was feeling relaxed and focused as I went about my work yesterday. I pottered around the house doing this and that, and then worked on Shane's quilt in the afternoon. Hanno went to the dentist in the morning so morning tea was had, just me and the dogs, on the front verandah. It's my favourite place to sit and stare into the trees and think about life, the universe and our place within it.

We are fortunate people, we are happy living here. Just breathing this air fills me up and I know that if we continue living as we are now, working away at lives that are home made and filled with work and the satifaction it brings, our happiness will continue. We don't need the frills and trappings that have become part of modern life. I find the simple things we surround ourselves with and the work we need to do to live this way brings us the kind of contentment we never felt when we visited shopping malls and paid for our happiness. Like most others, we were conned into believing that work was a bad thing, something to be avoided, but since we discovered that work brings its own joy, we have never looked back nor regretted leaving behind lives that took but never gave back.

I look around our home and see a space that is easy to live in. It's beautiful here. The weather is lovely, we grow food all year round, we can keep our chickens, dogs and cat, we enjoy the many birds that visit us. We have a driveway a fair distance from the one lane road that leads to our house, we can close the gate on the outside world and feel content here. It's quiet. We sometimes hear children playing, a train going by at night or the whip birds and sacred kingfishers as they fly by with their strange screams. Otherwise is the gentle clucking of the chooks, Hanno hammering on one of this projects or the sewing machine buzzing away constructing fast stitches for me.

Just at the end of the front verandah a tomato is growing. It's a red cherry pear tomato and it's growing, against all odds, in a crack between the end of the verandah and the driveway of the garage. I have no idea how it came to be there but it has come to symbolise for me the way we live our lives. A seed planted in a hostile environment, going against the pattern of what has been before, and yet it thrives, bears fruit, and shows every day that difficult things are possible. We know that despite what is told to us by the media, and the example set by mainstream Australia, we can live well on $342 a week and we are happier now than we have ever been. When "they" tell you you need to have more to be more, don't believe "them".

How could you not love this life. No, we don't have a big TV or pay for the viewing of it, we don't have the latest fashions to wear, we no longer fly off to far away places for exotic holidays. But what we have is far more stable and significant than those passing fancies. We have built a life here that gives us enough work to fill our days and makes us sleep well at night, we are independent and we have the freedom to choose whatever we want to do each day.

The photo below sums up our day yesterday, and, I suppose, our lives as well. It's a gentle scene in the afternoon sun, showing that tasks need to be finished and the animals fed before we eat and relax inside. Yes, that's Hanno handfeeding Rosetta, our golden Hamburg chicken - naturally, Rosie and Alice sit and stare because food is being moved around and a crumb might fall.

Just to the side of the above scene, bean vines are weaving their slow path around upturned pots. One of the simple pleasure we'll be enjoying soon will be sweet baby beans pulled from the vine and eaten raw in the garden.

And over on the back verandah, fruit ripens naturally, a few bananas at a time, just enough for the two of us.

But the sum total of this life is much more than the individual parts because it adds up to give us independence, freedom, choice, security, joy and the comforting knowledge that we make our lives what they are. Like any good organic system there is a cycle created that shows us that what we put into our lives is returned to us ten fold. There is beauty is such a system, it is created by taking small steps, by using less rather than wanting more and by knowing that, at the moment, the work we do enables us to make whatever we want and need.

26 June 2008

Fires and frugal food

I have a secret pleasure at work. It's a pleasure Hanno disapproves of so it makes it all the more special for me. Before you start thinking I've taken leave of my senses, I have to tell you my secret pleasure is a wood heater. It's an old metal fire box in the 1930s house I work in. It's been sitting there like an old worn out battle ship since we moved in March with all manner of things sitting on it, but in the past week I've brought her to life each day with blazing fires that have warmed the house to its core. It's just wonderful how people appreciate and feel comforted by a warm house when it's cold and windy outside.

I would love to have a fireplace at home but Hanno thinks they're dirty and polluting so we have reverse cycle air conditioning, which I think is dirty and polluting. ;- ) Consequently, we don't heat our home and instead start off with many layers of clothes in the morning and shed them during the day. So I am really enjoying the entire process of the fire - building it up each morning, adding more logs, poking it at every opportunity and, of course, just looking at it and feeling the warmth.

It was a busy three days at work this week. We always seem to have more people need us in winter, it's the end of the financial year, we have a lot of new building planning going on and there were about 20 other things thrown in for good measure to keep me engaged and interested. I am lucky to work there surrounded by kind and generous people, and in a position to help so many.

Today I'm at home again. I'll catch up on the washing and do some baking but mostly I'll be sewing. It's birthday season in July and I need to get Shane's quilt finished. I have a lot of emails waiting to be answered so if you've written, I'm not ignoring you, it's just the nature of my days and I hope to reply to you in the next day or two.

We were talking about the cost of lunches yesterday and I was really pleased to read that so many of you are packing lunch boxes. Food is an ongoing cost that everyone has to deal with and with the prices rises so much lately I thought we should continue that theme and see if we can get a few ideas for frugal dinners/suppers. No doubt most of you would have your main meal of the day in the evening, but some would have it around noon. I thought it would be helpful for many of us to concentrate on one main meal and cost that out.

So, my challenge to you is to choose a nutritious hearty meal that you cook for your family, break that meal down into its parts and price it out for us. Post your recipe along with the cost of the ingredients in today's comments. On Monday, I'll use your recipes and food costs to make up my post. It should make a very valuable frugal food guide for us all. Try to make your contribution as short as possible as I think there will be a lot of recipes submitted. I will include a curreny converter in Monday's post so everyone can convert the costs to their own currency. Each post will be added with a link to your blog, if you have one, so make sure you include your blog address.

I would like to welcome all the new readers. If you get a chance, make a comment and say hello. There is a lovely community of readers here and it's nice for all of us to know who is here. There have been well over 100,000 page hits over the past month so I know a lot of you are reading through the archives. If you have a question about an old post, comment in the current post as I never have the time to go back.

25 June 2008

Lunch at work

I am really surprised at the cost of food now. I went to work with no lunch yesterday and ended up buying a curried vegetable pie at the local bakery. It was $3.75. A sandwich of salad and cheese would have cost $5. Add to that a drink and I would have been out of pocket $7.50! I work at my voluntary job three days a week. If I bought that lunch every day it would cost me $22.50 a week for lunch or a bit over $1000 a year. Taking lunch from home three days a week would cost between $100 and $200 and will save on all that packaging you get with a bought lunch.

We have a fridge at work and I usually have some cheese, butter and fruit or nuts stored there so if I don't have time to make lunch before I go, I have some biscuits cheese and fruit. I always take tea with me but I can also make tea or coffee at work.

Today I'll be taking what I call a backyard sandwich to work. It's homemade bread with egg salad and lettuce. I have some homemade biscuits too so I'll take a couple of them to have with my tea during the morning. I've been taking soup in a Thermos flask over the past couple od weeks and that's lovely and warming on these cold days.

I often talk about small steps and this is one of them. If you're just starting out on the road to a simpler life, the small step of taking your lunch with you when you go to work will save you a lot of money. You do have to be organised to do this every morning, but organising oneself isn't all that diffficult if you know it will save you $1ooo a year. Having a store of things like biscuits, cheese and fruit at work helps too. Just remember to buy them with your normal grocery shopping so you get them at the best price.

Don't limit yourself to sandwiches, there are many great lunches that can be packed in a box. I've included links to some sites that have great ideas. If you're trying to get your husband and children to be satisifed with a homemade lunch, I'm sure some of these ideas will hit the spot.

We are all guilty of falling for the voice in our head that says: "go on, buy lunch just today. It doesn't matter." Well, it might not matter one day but it does matter if you do it more often. And when you think about it, what would you prefer to have at the end of the year, an extra $1000 off your credit card debt or mortgage or the memory of hundreds of store bought sandwiches? The choice is yours.

Lunch box ideas

Vegan lunchbox

Schmooed food

Brown bag lunches

Muffuletta sandwich

24 June 2008

Caring for your baskets

I love baskets. I often take a basket with me when I go to my voluntary job, or out with Hanno to do the grocery shopping. When we go out for the day, I pack my basket with fresh sandwiches, fruit, water and tea so we don't have to buy food or a drink while we're out. I also use baskets around the home here. I have a little basket I use to collect eggs and herbs and I have baskets that I use to store fabric and yarn. They're really useful and look wonderful just sitting around waiting to work.

This is the basket I took to work yesterday.

My baskets really earn their keep and often get quite dirty in the garden or when I take one out on a picnic. Unlike a cloth bag that can be thrown in the washing machine and dried on the line, baskets require a little more thought in their care.

My tools for basket cleaning are a stiff brush - like a shoe polishing brush, an old toothbrush, soap, a bowl of warm water and some terry toweling rags or old towels.

I've just noticed this basket is drying out - you can see it in those greying areas. That's easily fixed by rubbing a light application of olive oil over the weave after its next wash.

Remove everything from the basket and take it outside. Take your shoe brush, dip it in the warm water and rub a little bit of soap on the bristles, dip in the water again and start scrubbing the basket. Work all over the basket, if you have smaller places to clean, use the toothbrush. Make sure you don't dislodge any of the weave, it you do, gently return it to its rightful place. You might use a pencil or an old chopstick to do that. If you leave it, it will dry with a hole in the weave and over time that may damage your basket.

When the basket is clean, take your outdoor hose and with a fairly sharp jet nozzle, hose over the weave removing all the dust and soapy water. When you're satisfied all the soap is gone, wipe the basket thoroughly with a terry cloth, then sit it on a cloth to dry in the shade. Depending on the weather, it might take two days to completely dry. Don't use the basket until it is dry as that will stretch the weave.

Cleaning a basket this way doesn't damage the cane or wicker. As the basket slowly dries, it will tighten up the canes and if you've been careful not to move the weave, you'll have a basket as good as new. Baskets last many years if cared for and kept clean.

You can often find old baskets at second hand store or garage sales. If you see one you like, check the weave for damage and look at the base and handle. If it's all in order, even if it's really dusty or dirty, it might be a wise investment. Clean it up using the instructions above and you'll have a friend for life.

23 June 2008

Making the most of a Sunday

It does me good to have time away from screens. I know this and make sure I have a couple of days most weeks when I spend most of my time connecting with my natural world. I 've just had two such days where I stayed away from the computer on purpose and watched a DVD with Hanno but nothing else on TV. Sure, I checked my blog and wandered around others for a little while, but both Saturday and Sunday I was quickly off into the work of the day, turning off the screen as I left. I know that for me too many screens - TV, monitors, any screens, prevent me from living the life I want for myself. I know I record my activities here but I could not do that unless I made sure that most of my time was spent connecting with real people, getting my hands dirty and doing, instead of just writing about, work. I love my computer and the ability to connect with people all around the world, but too much of it sucks the life from me. I wonder if this is common or is it something only I feel.

Sometimes, just some times, I watch a movie that impacts on me enough that I keep thinking about it long after it ends. Such films are watched knowing something special is taking place, there are lines I want to remember, ideas captured, simple music played well, and always an excellent script. Hanno and I watched Stranger than Fiction yesterday. What a wonderful and thoroughly enjoyable film. It a story about an obsessive and bland man who counts everything, lives each day as an exact replica of the day before and is reborn into his own life with the aid of cookies and milk and the love of a good baker. It’s a film about death that is life affirming. The film is postmodern, but not too abstract, and I’m sure many of you lovers of social realism will be caught up and captivated by its significance and sweetness, just as I was.

It reminded me that the plain and ordinary make up the broadstrokes of real life and that everyone, even an inconspicuous tax drone, and for that matter, a 60 year old Australian woman, has their own story to tell.

The rest of yesterday was spent pruning our peach and nectarine trees, clipping back grape vines, harvesting bananas, cooking and teaching myself some new crochet techniques. It was a lovely time. The weather was brisk in the morning and mellow in the afternoon. Night time was chilly but our bed was warm with soft flannel sheets and fluffy quilts. Pure joy.

There were a lot of eggs in the fridge so I had to use some of them. I made another swiss chard pie with several whole eggs and some yolks. That was eaten with a fresh garden salad of cherry tomatoes, Lebanese cucumbers and Darwin lettuce, dressed with raspberry wine vinegar and virgin olive oil. The egg whites made little pavlova cases filled with a dollop of local cream and strawberries, bananas and passionfuit from our backyard. Pavlova is usually a Christmas treat around here so it was nice to be able to tuck into them with a hot cup of tea at my side. I like my pavlova crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Here is my recipe.

Four egg pavlova - makes five small pavlova cases

4 egg whites at room temperature, it's best if the eggs aren't really fresh
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons cornflour

Beat the whites until they're starting to stiffen, then add the vinegar and cornflour and one tablespoon of sugar at a time. Beat well before adding the next. Keep beating this until there are stiff peaks.

Place on a baking sheet in small rounds, build the sides up a little by smoothing them with the underside of a spoon. Bake in a coolish oven - 100 C (220 F) until the outside is crisp - about 30 minutes. Then turn off the oven, leave the door open slightly and allow the pavs to cool slowly in the oven. When cool, add a dollop of cream and whatever fruit you have available.

It was a real pleasure to work in my kitchen on a sunny winter's afternoon. The photo at the top of this post shows what it looked like at around 2.30pm. I could see Hanno through the window washing the car on the back lawn and every so often, throwing a ball for Alice to chase.

There are many moments in my life now when I just stop and take it all in, and being there in my kitchen yesterday, making dinner for the two of us, was one such moment. It was just a one thing at a time slow and ordinary day that made me stop and take a picture so I will remember the day I watched Stranger than Fiction, worked in the backyard and made another dinner with what is grown there.

Please note comments are now being moderated. See previous post.


Monitoring comments

I have to monitor the comments again. Some creep is leaving innocent comments with links to pornographic sites. I know that many of you let your children read my blog and I would hate a child, or any of my dear readers, to be exposed to that. It's more work to check each link before posting it, and it will delay the comments appearing, but it has to be done. I'm sorry for the inconvenience.

PS, if you are looking through old posts and find any such comments, please let me know.

22 June 2008

Links for Stitchery

I know that some of you will do some stitchery on your swap items and I though you would enjoy the following links. I guess you could call this a "linktastic" post. Embroidery is a fun and portable craft that brightens up just about anything. It used to be a craft the young girls learned from their mothers and grandmothers starting with simple items such as tea towels. Today, it is a craft that sort of skipped a generation, but is slowly coming back into popularity. I have a few links that will help you learn both simple and complex stitches, as well as having free vintage patterns that are available on the Internet. One site that offers printable free vintage patterns is: http://mytransfers.blogspot.com/ . These are fun and whimsical patterns that are easy to do. Another blog that has vintage transfers and is very helpful for ideas is: http://stitchybritches.blogspot.com/ and in the side bar are sites that offer tutorials for stitches. Alicia Paulson's site: http://rosylittlethings.typepad.com/posie_gets_cozy/ is full of ideas for stitchery as well as other great crafts and she has a free pattern for Days of the Week tea towels that are a lot of fun. The last link I am giving you has the absolute best explanations on how to do almost any embroidery stitch I have found. Each stitch is found on the sidebar. Just click on the stitch and you will be find each step along with photos that explain how to sew it step-by-step. It makes it so easy to practice and learn, and is an invaluable resource for the embroiderer including using beads in stitchery: http://primrosedesign.blogspot.com/ . Next week-end I will post some great sewing links. If anyone would like any other links, such as those for quilting, leave me a comment, or e-mail me, Sharon at cdetroyes at yahoo dot com and I will start collecting links to post for you. Happy swapping!

21 June 2008

Swap News

I hope everyone enjoys their week-end. After a bit of shuffling and switching around, I believe that we have the swap buddies in order. I found another link on the Internet for needle books: http://melissagoodsell.typepad.com/day_to_day/2008/06/easy-felt-needle-holders.html and also wish to give every one the link to Craftzine, a blog which has new craft ideas gathered from the Internet each and every day. Craftzine is an excellent resource for an endless variety of crafts and skills, from sewing and knitting to book binding and furniture refinishing: http://blog.craftzine.com/ Craftzine has articles from artists and crafters, along with their ideas and tutorials from all over the world. There is a rather long index and you can find all sorts of goodies and ideas there that will help as all as we re-tool ourselves for a more self-reliant and sustainable lifestyle. If anyone needs help with the swap, please feel free to e-mail me, Sharon, at : cdetroyes at yahoo dot com and as usual, happy swapping!

20 June 2008

Preparing for energy descent

It's going to get worse before it gets better. With the cost of petrol continuing to rise in Australia and around the world, which also increases the price of food and everything else made and delivered using oil, Hanno and I are looking for more ways to cut our use of oil based fuel and products.

Here where we live, we're trying to ready ourselves as best we can for a world with far less oil. Energy descent. I know a lot of the readers who come here every day, like Hanno and I, are learning as we go. I've been reading about the concept of Peak Oil for a few years now and nothing I've heard from any politician or oil "expert" has convinced me there is nothing to worry about. To the contrary, their reluctance, until recently, to acknowledge there is a problem has made me even more convinced the problem is a big one. But finally the elephant in the room could be ignored no longer - world wide oil prices spoke the truth, oil supplies are dwindling.

In preparation for this new world we are trying to create as much as we can at home. We grow some of our own food in an organic vegetable and fruit garden and get eggs from our chickens. We harvest rainwater from our roof. We make our own soap and cleansers, bread is baked here, clothes are mended, dishcloths knitted, seeds sown, old products modified and recycled for another life. We squeeze as much from each dollar spent as we can. In the past five years we've cut our living expenses to less than a quarter of what they used to be. We did that by being mindful of our place in this fragile ecosystem and by reskilling and making do with what we have.

At the moment we aim to reduce our trips in the car, stop buying anything plastic or wrapped in plastic and not use the airconditioner to heat our home in Winter, but we need to do more. In his wise article, Retrofitting the Suburbs for Sustainability, David Holmgren states:
"So what do we have to do to make it work? Basically, the answer is “Just do it!” Use whatever space is available and get producing. Involve the kids – and their friends. Make contact with neighbours and start to barter. Review your material needs and reduce consumption. Share your home – by bringing a family member back or taking in a lodger, for example. Creatively and positively work around regulatory impediments, aiming to help change them in the longer term. Pay off your debts. Work from home. And above all, retrofit your home for your own sustainable future, not for speculative monetary gain. In an energy-descent world, self-reliance represents real opportunities for early adopters of a permaculture life style:
  • Rises in oil prices will flow through to all natural products (food, timber, etc);
  • Higher commodity prices will be a stimulus for self-reliance and organic farming;
  • Local products will be more competitive than imports;
  • Repair, retrofitting, and recycling will all be more competitive than new replacement;
  • There will be rising demand for permaculture as life-skills eduction; and
  • There will be a resurgence of community life, ethics and values."

In keeping with what David is advocating, one of the things I will be doing soon is to help reskill people in our community. There are many people who need to learn the skills of baking, soap making, gardening, sewing and knitting. We are already teaching some of these skills at the Centre where I do my voluntary work. I hope to teach all of them soon. I will also work with my local groups that are working towards building stronger local communities - communities that are able to sustain themselves during the coming years when the oil we have relied on all our lives is no longer cheap and freely available. I encourage you to seek out your local sustainability or relocalisation groups and see what is happening in your area.

Whether you believe the Peak Oil premise or not, you can't deny the price of fuel and food now. I encourage all of you to change your lives in ways that will help you live well in the future. Learn all you can about providing for your own needs, connect with your community and support or implement new and innovative sustainable ways for your region to cope with energy descent. And read what you can so that you'll be prepared. David Holmgren's Future Scenarios is a good place to start.

I am not trying to scare anyone I am encouraging you to prepare yourself and your family for change. It's still small steps, it's still doable and it's nothing to panic over, but you need to start now. Gone are the days of listing what we are doing and thinking it's enough. We need to move it up a notch and make sure that what we are doing is working for us now and will continue to work in the future.

There was a very good interview on this subject on the ABC's 7.30 Report last night. The transcript of the interview with Richard Heinberg is not up yet but check during the day and read what he said. It's very interesting. I just checked and the transcript is still not there. Hopefully it will make an appearance tomorrow. In the meantime, I found this BBC article.

My Little Jenny Wren doll

She arrived! Jenny is here with us now. She is so charming! She arrived yesterday in a little post bag, wrapped warmly in pink tissue paper held together by wool. Perfect!

This little cloth doll was kindly sent to me by Little Jenny Wren as part of her giveaway. She is currently sitting on my desk on the printer paper tray.

She is all I thought she would be. She is made exactly like the old fashioned cloth dolls I remember from all those years ago. She is beautifully stitched and dressed. She is wearing a pink felted jumper with a red gingham mid length skirt (very me) with pink gingham trims. She has some green cross stich along her skirt hem and a green floss belt. She is wearing a red ribbon in her hair.

I'm calling her Jenny.

Thank you Jenny for sending your namesake. I have often looked at your dolls and wanted to hold one. I never thought I would though, so it's a real treat to have my own Jenny doll here in my home. I am going to iron her skirt today and sit her on the shelf near the kitchen table.

I'm running behind time today because I've been reading. I'm going to have breakfast now and will be back soon with another post.

19 June 2008

Pets in the simple life

Recently, one of the regular readers, I'm sorry but I've forgotten who is was, asked me to write about my dogs, Rosie and Alice. They are two aging Airedale Terriers now 12 and 11 years old. Rosie is a rescue dog that had been badly treated by her first owners. We found her after our first Airedale, Murphy, died of auto-immune disease at the age of 18 months. When I phoned the breeder to order a puppy, she told me about Rosie because she was the same age that Murphy was. I ordered the puppy but decided to buy Rosie as well. Alice came along about three months later, she is Rosie's niece.

Rosie had a lot of pain in her hips when she first arrived here because she had been ridden like a horse by two little boys. In those early days she growled at Hanno and our sons, if they touched her around the back legs. She never growled at me so I think it was only men and boys who mistreated her. We started treating her with emu oil in her food and after a while it looked like she got over the soreness and eventually came to trust all of us.


When we started to live as we do now, I wondered how non-working dogs could fit into our more frugal lives. The cost associated with the dogs - good food, vet bills etc, might be seen as an unnecessary expense. If Rosie or Alice got sick or injured, we would face hefty vet bills. They were our responsibility and we required of ourselves that they be looked after as well as we possibly could. How could we justify the keeping of them? Could they fit within the framework of a simple life?

Yes, definitely.

I thought about this quite a bit early on and came to the conclusion that not only did they fit within our new philosophy of life, they would help us live to our values. I believe the way I live is not only about reducing the complexity of my life but also about finding joy and beauty in the ordinary and mundane things I surround myself with. I believe that we must find our own happiness not in the shiny high cost items on sale in our shopping malls or European holidays, flash cars or large houses, but in what we already have in our life. It is our responsibility to make ourselves happy with with less - much less. I find a lot of joy in natural things - our garden, the chooks, and of course, Rosie and Alice.

Our dogs are not working dogs in the traditional sense, but they do help protect us - they're excellent guard dogs, and they also protect our chickens. They have been taught to live with the chooks and although Alice will round them up for us when told to, they would never harm the chooks.

Their main value however, is that they make us happy. They make us smile. They jump for joy when we come home. They play with us and and make us laugh when they chase each other like a couple of clowns.

They don't cost a lot for their food and care. We make their daily food for them and I often make them treats. The other expense is for tick/flea medication. We live in a paralysis tick area surrounded by bush where the ticks sit on leaves or are brought into the back yard by native animals like bandicoots and possums. We use Advantix for large dogs which costs us about $50 for three months. I dose them with that six months of the year - so they're covered for the tick seasons and six weeks both sides of it. In the past we only covered them over summer and they both got ticks in Spring, they were both very sick and almost died. It cost us $900 in vet bills to save them. They don't often go to the vet, but when they recovered, he said they were the most healthy Airedales he'd seen in many a year. He asked me what we feed them and was pleased we didn't give them canned food. We learnt a valuable lesson about ticks that year and it was a great confirmation that we are feeding our girls well.

Simple living is not
about deprivation. It is about finding joy in the ordinary and living well within our means. Our lives are made better by sharing our home and our resources with Rosie and Alice. We have found a way to keep them in good health without it costing too much but above all else we love them and they're part of our family. I would find it difficult to live without a dog at my side.

18 June 2008

Homemade vegetable soup

In winter, I could easily live on soup alone. No, scratch that, oat porridge in the morning and soup in the evening. Give me that and I'd be your friend forever. I am a simple soul.

Here is my recipe for vegetable soup and herb dumplings. There is a no meat version of the soup and a meat version.

Traditionally, winter vegetable soups are made with root vegetables. They are in season in winter, and are cheap then, so it's the ideal way to take advantage of that and make a big pot that will keep you going for a couple of days.

These quantities will make a big stockpot full of soup which lasts for about five meals in our home. It is a very good soup for children who don't eat a lot of vegetables. Instead of chopping the vegies, you can shred them and they can't be recognised. The kids will be drawn in by the dumplings and have to eat the soup to get to them.

three stalks celery
2 onions
1 carrot
fresh thyme and parsley
all chopped finely

To make this stock, chop all your ingredients, except the herbs, and fry them gently in a sauce pan with a little oil. Cook them until they're caramelised - they will be brown, not burnt. You'll need to stir the vegetables so they don't brown too much. When they're nicely brown, add water, salt and pepper to taste and bring to the boil. Add the herbs and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Use a strainer and strain the stock, removing the vegetables and herbs. What you have now is a vegetarian stock.

Buy about 1 kg (2 pounds) beef soup bones. You want the bones with a lot of bone marrow in them for better flavour and more nutrition. The butcher will often cut open these bones so you can see the inside of the bones.

Put the bones in the oven with a little oil drizzled over them and roast for about 45 minutes, or until the bones are brown.

Then put the bones in a stockpot, cover with water and 1 chopped onion and some fresh thyme and parsley. Bring to the boil and simmer for at least an hour. Using a strainer, remove the meat bones and vegetables from the stock.

3 medium onions - chopped
3 large carrots - sliced
4 stalks celery - chopped
1 swede - chopped
1 turnip - chopped
1 parsnip - chopped
handful of parsley

2 cups of either pearl barley or brown rice - not both - washed well before use
salt and pepper

Add the fresh vegetables and herbs to your stock in a large stockpot. Add the barley or rice and stir. Bring to the boil and simmer for about two hours.

Two cups self raising flour OR 2 cups of plain flour (all purpose) with 2 teaspoons of baking powder
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
a handful of chopped herbs - either chives, green onion tops, thyme or parsley are great
To make the dumplings, add the flour, salt and pepper and butter to a bowl and, using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour. You keep doing this until the mix looks like fine bread crumbs - see photo below.

Then add the herbs and enough water to make a firm dough. The dough should be like a moist bread dough. When it's formed into a nice dough, take walnut size portions and roll them into balls. Plop the dumplings into the soup. They will float on the top of the soup and cook for about 15 minutes. Put the top on your stockpot so the dumpling tops cook in steam. When they're firm, they're ready.

Just to recap, this soup might take most of the day to cook, but you are only spending about 30 minutes actually standing at the stove or chopping ingredients. The rest of the time is the soup cooking slowly.

  1. So make your stock first, this could be done the day before.

  2. When the stock is ready, chop your fresh vegetables and cook the soup.

  3. Make the dumplings and add them for the last 15 minutes of the soup cooking time.
There is enough protein in this soup but if your family must have meat, make little meatballs and add to the soup. You can make little meatballs with 500 grams (1 pound) topside mince (ground beef), mix one egg with a tablespoon or milk and soak two slices of stale bread in it. Break it up and add to the meat, salt and pepper and form into balls. Fry these until cooked and add to the soup just before serving.

Swap News Reminder

Hello ladies, I just wanted to remind you to e-mail your swap buddy as soon as you can. Be aware that many times your buddy's response can go to your Bulk Mail Box or your Spam Mail Box-mine have!! Before you think your buddy isn't responding to you, check your Spam or Bulk mail box. This has happened to me in previous swaps and is happening to me with this swap. I check my Spam box everyday for e-mails from the swappers, and find them there every day. The logic of technology can totally befuddle me at times! Happy Swapping!

17 June 2008

Swap Buddies

Hello ladies! After a bit of sorting and re-sorting I am now posting the swap buddies. Please try to get hold of your swap buddy as soon as you can as this makes it easier down the line. If the e-mail address is wrong, contact me, Sharon at: cdetroyes at yahoo dot com and I will try to find your buddy. If there are any other problems, just e-mail me (not Rhonda). I hope everyone is starting to think of ideas for their project and I would like everyone to have a fun time with this swap! Remember, there is no such thing as perfection and the projects are to be fun and not frustrating. If anyone has problems or questions with the projects, just leave a comment and I am sure that there will be answer for you or e-mail me! Remember that the deadline for the swap is Sept. 6, 2008. UPDATE:I have corrected some e-mail addresses (so sorry-my boo boo) and changed #50 swap buddies. Happy swapping!
Danielle Ryan
mark-danni at bigpond dot com dot au
Rhonda Jean
rhondahetzel at gmail dot com
Sandra Baddington
sbaddington at optusnet dot com dot au
gavtrac at tpg dot com dot au
Jennie Tanovic
jennifertanovic at three dot net dot com
Malgosia (Pastelmaiden)
pastel dot maiden at yahoo dot co dot uk
Shirley John
ksjohn at peoplepc dot com
kdirkin at yahoo dot com
bluesparrowfairy at yahoo dot com
cynthiamrutledge at aol dot com
libertystarfarm at yahoo dot com
gaarthur at ntlworld dot com
tkjtbair at verizon don net
maggsdel at hotmail dot com
kmhedges at gmail dot com
kjsuttles at roadrunner dot com
diana at blue hyphen earth dot co dot uk
athomestill at gmail dot com
paulinexyz at hotmail dot co dot uk
aubrey dot romero626 at gmail dot com
catmccall at yahoo dot com
at underscore waterman at yahoo dot com dot au
Kristin (Earthly Jane)
just underscore me underscore kristin b at yahoo dot com
oakleydaisys at yahoo dot com
Lisa C
flyinginoz04 at yahoo dot com dot au
dlever at dodo dot com dot au
penofjen at yahoo dot com
andrew underscore charlton at hotmail dot com
vitay76 at gmail dot com
rc at skymesh dot net dot au
Flossie4Him at hotmail dot com
eliahn at aapt dot net dot au
Mary (in Texas)
rstrick1 at suddenlink dot net
Debbie S
softh2o at cox dot net
styan at optusnet dot com dot au
sewnup at hotmail dot com
sewilson at cull dot twcbc dot com
recycle underscore 1971 at yahoo dot co dot uk
Danielle Ryan
dani at thekitchenplayground dot com
marnieh at optusnet dot com dot au
greenplant dot blog at gmail dot com
clare0311 at hotmail dot co dot uk
steph dot martyn at btopenworld dot com
alison08faz at yahoo dot co dot uk
elizabethlloyd40 at btinternet dot com
angieswindle at gmail dot com
rinelle at tirtairngire dot com
kathyann1 at btinternet dot com
Tracy (sunnycorner)
sunnycorner2340 at yahoo dot com dot au
renauxnadine at yahoo dot fr Chas
chasburrell at tvn dot net
shevlinf at yahoo dot co dot uk
Jan m
jan at emurphey dot com
moylefam at tpg dot com dot au
Kim C
kim dot cranson at tesco dot net
Kim in Canada
k dot murray at sympatico dot ca
bs nederlof at telus dot net
cilcwm at talktalk dot net
Sandra Tee
skc240 at aol dot com
ibbotson6 at btinternet dot com
vickie dot leblanc at usainteanne dot ca
Rachel L
priorhill at xtra dot co dot nz
rosmar at 1earth dot net
dkhamby at msn dot com
Lisa (Tin House)
fitzgeraldsmt at bigpond dot com
bobbinin at yahoo dot com
robhan at hisabode dot freeserve dot uk
galaxygurl2002 at yahoo dot com
jean underscore maples at yahoo dot co dot uk
majormomof3 at msn dot com
Kristi J
kjalics at rocketmail dot com
fiona dot gazzardbarnes at yahoo dot co dot uk
Karen G
Iamnoimnt at yahoo dot com
Beth S
beth dot storey at yahoo dot co dot uk
Jennifer in Australia
dbrown50 at bigpond dot net dot au
han underscore ysic at hotmail dot com
stuart7588 at aol dot com
melanie dot murry at cox dot net
loral15 at yahoo dot com
Liz A
lizallen at westnet dot com dot au
theateam at internode dot on dot net
j dot boreham at bigpond dot com
ksm underscore rdm at yahoo dot ca
lynda at domino-oaks dot com dot au
mrsmom497 at gmail dot com
teagrrrl at hotmail dot com
emhemh at tiscali dot co dot uk
heart2home at tampabay dot rr dot com
farmhouse underscore blessings at yahoo.com
jacullen at yahoo dot com
ciara dot oz08 at yahoo dot ie
cottonpatchquilts at msn dot com
aurora at hebrides dot net
cdetroyes at yahoo dot com
Debbie in NY
dadesign at rochester dot rr dot com
le underscore lane70 at hotmail dot com
Angie angieswindle at gmail dot com

16 June 2008

Finding time for needlework

Some of you would remember that I bartered a couple of things for some fertile partridge wyandotte bantam eggs around Christmas time. Two lots of eggs were sent but none resulted in any chicks, which was mainly due to our inexperience. The second part of the barter from my side was a simple living stitchery, similar to the one on the side bar. I designed this a few years ago and had it in my home as an inspiration until I gave it away to Peggy at Hidden Haven Homestead. I think it might still be hanging in her home. Well, I've finally finished the stitchery and will post it off this morning. Hello Helen if you're still reading! I haven't forgotten you, I'm just slow. ;- )

My days are often peppered with short periods of needlework of some kind. I generally have several projects on the go at once, usually stitching or knitting, that will be used in our home or given as gifts. Right now I'm also doing a few dishcloths for the Etsy shop so I can package them with soap.

I know many of you love craft work and Renee commented recently that she could spend the whole day in the yard working, but wants to find time for her sewing as well. So how do you fit it all in? When there is so much work to be done, how do you manage to squeeze in the needlework, the work you enjoy and look forward to?

I don't look at needlework as a separate pleasure. I do find a lot of pleasure in it but I see it as part of my housework. When I want a break from more strenuous chores, I sit for a while with a cup of tea and my knitting or sewing, and I relax, regain my strength and then go to some other type of work. I believe we have to find our own pleasure in what we do. Working in your home on repetitive tasks, or physically hard work, would make even the saints among us complain. Try to structure your day with periods throughout it when you're doing something you love. That might be sewing, knitting, painting, writing or some other creative activity that you will benefit from. Taking time out from the washing, ironing and cooking with one of the gentle arts, will give you the strength and the motivation to keep going. It also gives you time to think about your day and what you're working towards.

I think some ladies feel guilt when they take time to sew or knit. They get a lot of pleasure from the doing of it so they think it's just a pure pleasure for them. That's not quite right, ladies. Yes, it is a pleasure, but it also contributes to your home - it is either part of your home making or your home maintenance. No matter how much pleasure you gain from the needles, it is one of your chores as well.

If you do get pleasure from craft work, or if it is something else that does that, structure it into your day. We talked about balance recently - this is a balance item. It is one of those things that you can look forward to during the day, it is still fulfilling your requirement to contribute in a meaningful way to your family and home, but because of its gentle nature, it will provide you with some respite from the heavier jobs.

Remember, this simple life is about finding pleasure in the ordinary and everyday tasks we all face. Don't be afraid to sit down with your craftwork. It is a great skill you bring to your family and if you find pleasure in doing it, well, that's just the icing on the cake.

When I first started reskilling myself for all the things I do here, I went straight to my old Needlecraft book. I bought this book in the 1980s and since then it's been the best guide for me with every kind of needle work. I checked and it's still being sold on Amazon, so I'll add it to my boxes, but you can very likely get a copy of it at your library. If you can get hold of a copy, it will be a worthwhile guide for you into the beautiful and sometimes bewildering world of needle craft.
The book gives excellent advice, clear guides and tutorials on embroidery, knitting, canvas work, crochet, applique, lacework, patchwork, macrame, quilting and rugmaking.

It also shows you how to recover from mistakes. I certainly needed that along the way.
For more information about the book, the link to the Amazon site is here.
And finally, it's Bloomsday! Some of you would know that my favourite book of all time is Ulysses by James Joyce. June 16 is celebrated in the book and has since become known as Bloomsday.
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