28 September 2012

Weekend reading

Thirty-three years ago today, these two youngsters got married in Hamburg, Germany. We still look as goofy as we did then. I used this photo, taken yesterday, because it looks like we have no idea what we're doing with this new fangled technology. Most of the time, we don't.  :- )

Weekend reading

Nigel Slater's baked chicken, tomatoes and olives.

Just how dangerous is knitting? Jaime at NGO Family Farm tell us in this blog.

Extracting woad at lovelygreens.

Take a walk in the woods at Beauty that Moves

Chicken feed recipes

From comments this week:

Ree at Nallerang Creek Farm

Buttons thoughts at Ravenhush 

Dayla at Badger Farm

Thanks for your visits and comments during the week. As usual, you all teach me a lot.  I hope you have a beautiful weekend.  


27 September 2012

The GFC and learning to live with less

Before the global financial crisis (GFC) started in 2008, there was rarely anything in the press or on TV about budgeting, going back to basics, frugal living, simplifying, living within your means or anything much outside the consumerist norm. Well, times have changed us, and not only do I think significant change has happened, I think for many of us, this way of living makes so much sense, it is here to stay.

Now I often see magazine and newspaper articles as well as TV news and current affairs segments on thrift, budgeting, saving money by shopping wiser and where to get the best grocery prices. I have to say, I wonder why it's taken a world-wide financial collapse to bring us to this point. I think these topics would be useful all the time, but still, I'm grateful for the information we get now. I think these snippets of info are really helpful to all of us but especially the younger readers who have grown up believing that it's fine to spend on whatever you want, regardless of whether you have the cash to do it. Paying by credit card is so easy and often it's only when people are deep in debt that they realise how much damage has been done and how much work will go into getting out of debt. Often it takes years.

Not going along that debt pathway in the first place is the wisest option. By moderating your desires and practicing frugality a wonderful life can be built that gives many of the good things you work for but also the free time to enjoy it all.

The downturn in the economy caused a lot of unemployment and unpaid mortgages but significant gains were made from it too. It revealed to us that we can live well on less, and often having more reduces our enjoyment of life because we have to work more to pay for it. It taught us that genuine satisfaction comes not from comparing ourselves ourselves to others and gauging our worth by having more, it comes from creating an authentic life that is lived according to the values we cherish. 

But there are choices to be made - and those choices are critical. You can choose a new house with a high mortgage or a modest home with a more realistic mortgage. You can choose to buy furniture you can afford, not what your friends have or what you see in a glossy magazine. You can choose to stockpile, make your own cleaners, cook from scratch and hand-make your life or to buy all your wants and well as your needs. Each of these choices will determine how much money you need to live the life you have chosen.

The choice is yours but if you choose the frugal option, you will have more time to enjoy what you have. I think that is one of the best things to come out of the GFC. It has shown us that there is an alternative to what modern life had become. It has encouraged us to examine life and make changes, and it has moved many of us towards a more sustainable and simple way of living. The financial downturn has been effecting life world-wide for a few years now and it's given us time to settle into new patterns and routines. For many, it has forced change that may not have happen otherwise and for others it has brought more people in line with how we're living.

How have you been effected by the GFC? Have you seen some good in it?


25 September 2012

Keeping a stockpile

Even though I haven't written about our stockpile for a long time, it is still sustaining us. During our busy period with the book and Hanno's accident, we couldn't have done without it. No matter what stage or age you're at, whether single or married, having a stockpile will save you money and time. Of course the size of the stockpile will vary according to how many people live in your home. A friend of mine lives alone but she has a small stockpile of those things she can't do without - tea, coffee, baked beans, tinned salmon, sugar, honey, oats, flour, rice, toilet paper, toothpaste and soap. She buys milk, meat, fish, fruit and vegetables on a daily basis on the way home from work, but if she gets caught out through overwork and tiredness, or she's sick, she can leave the daily shop alone and still keep going on what she has in her home cupboard.

Our stockpile is in a cupboard in the kitchen, it's not the same cupboard we use as a pantry. The pantry contains the food we are using now and is usually stored in containers, the stockpile is all unopened.

We shop at Aldi for most things and the IGA and markets for the rest. I've just taken these photos of our current stockpile and it's looking healthy. This is because we ran it down a bit in the past few months and have just built it up again. It can sit nicely in our cupboard and although we don't have things like biscuits, crackers, cakes, muffins, sauces, mayonnaise, salad dressings, pasta and soft drinks in the cupboard, we have the ingredients to make a wide variety of those things.

Some of the soap and laundry products I made up last week. Below is my stockpile of laundry liquid and soap ingredients.

Of course, it's not only food we stockpile. We have ingredients to make laundry liquid, soap and a variety of vinegar and bicarb cleaners. You can buy these ingredients when you think of them and have enough to keep you going for almost a year. They won't go off and they don't take up much room, unlike the commercial liquids you buy.

We also have a stockpile of meat, chicken and fish in the freezer. I guesstimate that in the case of illness, being low on cash or wanting to use the cash for other purposes, we could live here using the stockpile for about six months. That stockpile would keep us going and we could supplement the stockpile using the eggs, vegetables and a small amount of fruit in the backyard.

Everyone sets up their own stockpile in the way that suits their own family circumstances. Whether you're part of a large family and use your stockpile and bulk buys to assist your frugal lifestyle or if you're a single fellow, with not much time to spare, stockpiling will serve you well. Along with budgeting, it's the first thing I recommend to people when they ask me what they can do to start living a sustainable, simple life. It's also a wise move if you know, or suspect you or your partner might lose a job. If that happens, get right back to basics. Find your tried and true recipes for things like salmon patties, meatloaf, pasta bake, fried rice, boiled egg salad and vegetable omelette, as well as a wide variety of soups and stews. They and your stockpile will keep you going through tough times and when you come out the other side, you can keep these strategies going to help save money to pay off debt and the mortgage.


24 September 2012

Far better than riches

My sister Tricia is visiting from the Blue Mountains so we took the opportunity to invite our cousin Susie and her husband, Nick, over for lunch. They live nearby and we don't often see them but when Tricia is here it always seems right to invite them over for a meal.  Tricia came up to collect a very precious piece of our family's hertitage - the bassinet that our mother bought for Tricia and I to sleep in when we were babies. The bassinet has moved around the family since then. Our mum lent it to her sister, Joy, so Susie and her brother Stephen slept in it as newborns, and Susie's three children and her grandson all slept in that cradle.

Nearly 70 years old now, this basinette is ready to go back to work again.

Now it's going back into service again. Tricia's son Daniel and his girlfriend Laura are expecting their first baby in November. Tricia is set to be a grandma for the first time! It didn't take much thought for her to drive all the way up here to collect it. We've been talking about it for a while now and wondered if it had been repaired or if it needed to be. When Nick lifted it out of the car, it was just as beautiful as when our mother bought it - an old wicker bassinet, still white, still sturdy and sweet, and ready for our family's newest baby. I am really excited to meet Daniel and Laura's baby and to know s/he will sleep in the same tiny bed that Tricia and I slept in reminds me, yet again, of the value of a strong and loving family.

We sat around the table yesterday, looking at old photos Susie brought along and it dawned on me that these small and large pieces of our family memorabilia are part of what holds us together. The passing on ritual helps bring new members into our family while showing the younger members that they too are keepers of our family traditions and precious heirlooms. It reminds us that what we believe is important, is not always financially valuable, but always emotionally valuable and loved.

Yesterday, I looked around our kitchen table and all of us who were girls together are now in our 60s and grandmothers, or soon-to-be. Back then I thought I would always be young, probably just like you do. But here we are, talking about our children and their children and it feels good and right to be this age and passing on the important parts of our family's story, giving the material pieces of our family to those who come after us, and making sure our family remains strong and always supportive. Our babies will never be born into wealth or privilege but they are born into a loving family, and that, I believe, is far better than riches.

What important pieces have you passed along to your younger family members?

21 September 2012

Weekend reading

Imports of fruits and vegetables into Australia have increased 60 percent in seven years.

Cappers - traditional American grit.

Interesting and helpful - UK Handmade.

The hive habits of bees.

A delightful blog at joy and comfort. 

This is Ale's blog and it's written in Spanish. Just click the Google translate button at the top of the blog and it will translate it instantly for you.

Check out the crafts here on twiggynest. She has only been going for a few months but this is building into a very good nest of ideas.

EcoStore, one of my sponsors,  let me know the Australian Lifestyle Awards were announced this week. Congratulations to EcoStore on winning the Home category. I'm doing a review of their new unscented range at the moment and will blog about it when I've finished testing the products. I was really pleased to see another of my sponsors among the winners - Biome. Congratulations to Tracey and her staff. Also, a shout out to Milkwood Permaculture who not only won the garden category, they have an excellent blog you should visit (link below). 

I've lost the links on the list below and don't have the time to reinstate them. Please cut and paste to visit them.

Winner – Food Connect, www.foodconnect.com.au 
Highly Commended – CERES Community Environment Park, www.ceres.org.au 
Winner – Bills organic bread, www.billsorganic.com.au 
Highly Commended – Honest to Goodness, www.goodness.com.au 
Winner – Silo by Joost, www.byjoost.com/silo 
Highly Commended – Bliss Organic CafĂ©, www.blissorganiccafe.com.au 
Winner – Temple Bruer, www.templebruer.com.au 
Highly Commended – Mountain Goat Brewery, www.goatbeer.com.au and Burragumbilli Beer, www.burragumbilli.com.au 
Winner – Ecostore, www.ecostoreaustralia.com.au 
Highly Commended – Australian Living, www.australianliving.com.au 
Winner – Bio Paint, www.bioproducts.com.au 
Highly Commended – Sindhiya Soapnuts, www.soapnutssindhiya.com.au 
Energy Saving 
Winner – Ecoswitch, www.ecoswitch.com.au 
Highly Commended – Panasonic Econavi, www.panasonic.com.au 
Water Saving 
Winner – Every Drop Shower Saver, www.showersaver.com.au 
Highly Commended – Caroma, www.caroma.com.au 
Winner – Milkwood Permaculture, www.milkwoodpermaculture.com.au 
Highly Commended – Landshare Australia, www.landshareaustralia.com.au 
Winner – Charlie Carp, www.charliecarp.com 
Highly Commended – Bokashi buckets, www.bokashi.com.au 
Community Group 
Winner – Grow It Local, www.growitlocal.com.au 
Highly Commended – Smart Garden Program, www.mysmartgarden.org.au 
Beauty Company 
Winner – Miessence, www.mionegroup.com 
Highly Commended – Pure and Green, www.pureandgreenorganics.com.au 
Beauty Product 
Winner – Ere Perez almond oil mascara, www.ereperez.com 
Highly Commended – Trilogy organic rosehip oil, www.trilogyproducts.com 
Fashion Company 
Winner – Kowtow Clothing, www.kowtowclothing.com 
Highly Commended – Bird Textiles, www.birdtextile.com.au 
Winner – Weleda, www.weleda.com.au 
Highly Commended – Healthy Interiors, www.healthyinteriors.com.au 
Winner – TOM Organic, www.tomorganic.com.au 
Highly Commended – The Environmental Toothbrush, www.environmentaltoothbrush.com.auFor further details and information please contact Liz ben-Arieh at ecostore Australia 03 9015 6873 
Winner – Intrepid Travel, www.intrepidtravel.com.au 
Highly Commended – Earthwatch Institute, www.earthwatch.org 
Winner – Bombah Point Eco Cottages, www.bombah.com.au 
Highly Commended – Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, www.wolganvalley.com.au 
Winner – Gardening 4 Kids, www.gardening4 kids.com.au 
Highly Commended – Whole Kids, www.wholekids.com.au 
Winner – Wishbone bike, www.wishbonedesign.com 
Highly Commended – Jinta sports balls, www.jintasport.com.au 
Eco Info Site 
Winner – Local Harvest, www.localharvest.org.au 
Highly Commended – Sustainable Seafood Guide, www.sustainableseafood.org.au 
Eco Shopping Site 
Winner – Biome, www.biome.com.au 
Highly Commended – Naturally Gifted, www.naturallygifted.com.au 
Winner – Go Get, www.goget.com.au 
Highly Commended – Green Tomato Cars, www.greentomatocars.com.au 
New Car 
Winner – Mitsubishi i-Miev, www.mitsubishi-motors.com.au 
Highly Commended – Nissan Leaf, www.nissan.com.au, and Toyota Prius Hybrid, www.toyota.com.au 
Winner – Macquarie Universite, www.mq.edu.au/sustainability 
Highly Commended – Bosch, www.bosch.com.au 
Winner – Open Shed, www.openshed.com.au 
Highly Commended – Green Moves, www.greenmoves.com.au 
Winner – Conservation volunteers Australia, www.conservationvolunteers.com.au 
Highly Commended – Beyond Zero Emissions, www.beyondzeroemissions.org 
Winner – The Clothing Exchange, www.clothingexchange.com.au 
Highly Commended – Buy Nothing New Month, www.buynothingnew.com.au 
Winner – Orange Power, www.orangepower.com.au 
Hall of Fame 
Winner – Bob Brown, www.bobbrown.org.au 
Local Green Hero 
Winner – Belinda Bean 
Highly Commended – Krista Bernard (posthumous), www.ridehimalaya.com 
Junior Green Hero 
Winner – Thomas King, www.saynotopalmoil.com 
Highly Commended – Parrys Raines, www.climategirl.com.au 

20 September 2012

Simple milk and beer

It's been a busy week here. I've been making soap and cheese, we had all the therapy and doctor's visits and then yesterday, Hanno's birthday. He asked me to thank you all for the warm wishes. We celebrated last evening, just the two of us, with pork cutlets, red cabbage and new potatoes freshly dug in the backyard. It was followed by a custard dessert and washed down by non-alcholic wheat beer from Germany, with a toast to the old country, the year ahead and to us.

Just a note on the blogging workshops I'm doing with Ernie. These are part of a business I'm setting up with him and are not related to my blog at all. It will be a separate website.

Oat milk

I had an email from a reader at Byron Bay recently telling me about her recipe for oat milk. I made it up yesterday and Hanno and I both tried it. It won't replace cow's milk for us but we'll drink and enjoy it. 

It's very easy to make.
  • 2 cups of oats
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or honey or maple syrup)
Mix all the ingredients together in a container with a lid, and place in the fridge for 24 - 36 hours. Remove from the fridge and blitz with a stick blender until the oats are finely ground. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a bottle or two. Store in the fridge and use as you would use dairy milk. It may suit you if you're lactose intolerant.

The oaty sludge left over can be given to the chickens, added to porridge oats, or used in bread, scones, muffins or pancakes.

Fermenting ginger for ginger beer

This is my first Blogger video. I have to apologise for having parts of this sideways but I didn't think about the orientation until after I watched it. Still, it shows what I wanted to show you and I'll remember this next time and do a better job for you. If you would like to make ginger beer, here is a link to my recipe and photos.

I guess this means that summer has started here. It's going to be 30Cish today and with ginger beer in the fridge, we'll be ready for anything.  And that's good because my sister, Tricia, will be here today so who knows what we'll get up to.


19 September 2012

Why do you blog?

It's Hanno's birthday today. He's 72!  Happy birthday Hanno. :- )

I've been thinking a lot about blogging lately. I'm not thinking of subject matter, it's rather the ins and outs of blogging, what makes a successful blog, choosing the platform on which to blog, how long it takes each day and what I get out of it. These musings will be part of a series of blogging workshops for beginners that my friend Ernie and I will present in our area soon. We'll also develop a website and possibly have online workshops as well.

Above, here is Ernie during our blogging workshops work session last weekend.  And Jenni and Hanno below sitting in the warm sunshine outside, drinking tea.

Blogs are written and read for a wide variety of reasons. As a learning tool - to find new recipes and ways of doing housework, to learn more about people in other countries, for entertainment and inspiration, to connect with others, to influence others, promote ideas, sell things, improve writing skills, to create a record of family life, and many other reasons.

When I stated my blog it was mainly in frustration because I'd written the beginnings of a book and had that rejected by the publishers. I turned that beginning into a blog, and have never looked back. I eventually got a book contract with Penguin and had my book published earlier this year, but my blog has become an enjoyable part of life for me now and I continue to write as much as I can.

The blog world was unknown to me when I started writing here and as I uncovered more and more blogs and looked into the family life of so many other people, I became hooked. I was lucky to develop a group of faithful readers right from the start and once I connected with them and started to get to know them, either through comments or their own blogs, I realised blogging was much more than its common definition - "an online journal". It's much more than that.

I have made friends through my blog that I'm sure I will have for the rest of my life. I have learned so much through blogging and I have been able to express myself in a very personal way. Some days I wonder if I've gone too far and others, if I've held back too much. I guess I always knew that people would interpret my words in their own way and that is reinforced each day. As a writer you attach your own meaning to your sentences but the writer is not the reader and each sentence is open to the experience and understanding of every reader. My recent post about breakfast in the cafe was a prime example of this. Some read what they thought I was saying, some just read the words.

Overall, my experience of blogging has been one that I would have been poorer without. Of course, there are the occasional anonymous comments that are filled with hate and envy and luckily now my blog picks up most of them and puts them in the spam folder without me even seeing them. The rest I read and wonder why anyone would value their own time so little by writing in such a way. But the overwhelming response I get is from a warm and loving community of friends and like-minded souls who write about their own experiences, value being part of this blog and who feel they are part of Hanno and I. 

There are two things that I love my blog for. One is the community of people who share our values and who regularly comment here. They show me over and over again that we are not alone. Even though we don't have neighbours who live as we do, we have you. The other reason is that I have created the most wonderful record of our family life here. More and more I am seeing this blog as a gift to my family - particularly our grandchildren who might not see life as we live it now when they're older. I would have loved to have a day-by-day account of my own parents or grandparents' life. It would have taught me so much and I think I would have been able to understand and know them better. If you're looking for a reason to blog, or you're unsure about what to blog about, use a blog to record a year of your life - with photos. It will be a valuable and unique gift to your children and grandchildren.

But that's enough about us and why I write. Why do you write a blog? What do you get out of it? If you've had a blog that you've given up, why did you stop? What is the most difficult part of it for you? Tell me the pros and cons of blogging as you see them.


18 September 2012

Slowing down for a cruise

We had a delightful day out on the water last Friday. A short drive over to the coast, then a 90 minute ferry trip along the Noosa river and a picnic on the shore. I took chicken sandwiches and some homemade coleslaw, buttered cinnamon loaf, black tea and water. We dined like the king and queen and we had a day out to remember.

Simple pleasures.

We live in the area of Queensland called the Sunshine Coast and (for the international readers) if you look at your map, that is just above Brisbane, the capital city and half way up the east coast of our country. It's one of the fastest growing regions in Australia - everyone comes here for the climate. This area has traditionally been a tourist area along the coast, and where we live in the hinterland, more dairy and timber country. It's beautiful here. The temperature never goes below freezing, and rarely even close to it, and it has good rainfall, about 1900mm/75 inches a year. We have the major portion of that rain during the summer.

Noosa is seen in the rest of Australia as a great destination for a holiday and while it is beautiful, the locals know that it is around the other end of the coast - around Caloundra - that is best for fishing, swimming and just plain lazing around. The great thing about Noosa is that the Council there limits development and population. It's abut 10,000 off its population limit at the moment and there are no buildings built above the tree lines. 

We enjoyed our day cruising along the river. On one side of the ferry there were multi-million dollar homes and on the other side, more simple dwellings with no electricity or water, built on the beach. We passed by pelicans that are returning to the coast now that the inland water of the past three years is beginning to dry up. There were quite a few houseboats, men standing and paddling on surfboards, men and women fishing, picnickers, tourists and locals all taking it in and slowly going about their day. We spent a grand day sitting back, relaxing and taking in the sights.

It did us the world of good to just stop everything and relax for the day. With the recent upheaval caused by Hanno's accident and the subsequent frequent trips out to visit the hospital, doctor, OT and pathologist, we needed a day such as this to just look around, refocus and enjoy where we live and each other.

17 September 2012

Sharks and dinosaurs

I think the only times Hanno and I have eaten breakfast out was when we've been travelling but last week we had breakfast at a local beach cafe. Hanno had an OT appointment at 7am and as we had other things to do during the morning while we were out, instead of going home for breakfast, the OT recommended a nearby cafe and we went there. I thought there'd be only one or two other breakfasters but the place was packed. I bet you're thinking they were all young people on their way to work having a quick coffee and toast but no, most of our fellow diners were our age. 

I had my heart set on grilled cheese on toast and black tea. Hmmm, not available. How about cinnamon toast and black tea? No. Plain toast and tea? Uh-uh. Poached eggs on toast? Nope. Scrambled eggs? No. We could have sweet muffin of the day with cream, or bacon and egg bap with caramelised onions and BBQ sauce, or poached eggs, hash, hollandaise sauce and bacon, or smoked salmon, grilled asparagus, creme fraiche, sourdough and poached eggs (for $18.50), or what we had - toasted organic fruit loaf with citrus curd. Hanno had coffee, I had tea and although there were enough tea and coffee varieties to sink a ship, we both had the basic versions.

How times have changed.

I don't want to eat 'new' food for breakfast. Breakfast is for old favourites - grilled cheese on toast, porridge, boiled eggs and toast. I don't like my food stacked up. I want it all sitting on the plate. I don't want dots of oil, sprinklings of micro herbs or caramelised balsamic.  And no foam.  Thank you.

I would like grilled cheese on toast soldiers and black tea.

I'm not talking about a toasted cheese sandwich. I want the authentic pre-1950s bit of toast with slices of cheddar cheese on top, grilled till it's melting and golden. It's not such a big ask but it seems that, like Elvis, it has left the building. Food fashion has dictated that grilled cheese on toast has turned into fried haloumi on sourdough wedges with white balsamic dots, a sprinkling of oregano and lemon. pffffffft!

If you've been reading here for a while you would know that I love change but the things that change should be the dinosaurs, those things that were inefficient and ridiculous to begin with (like fried haloumi on sourdough). Sharks, on the other hand,  have barely changed over millions of years. There is no need for a shark to evolve - it was close to perfection to begin with. Grilled cheese on toast is a shark, no need for change. It may have turned into fried haloumi for most people but here in my home, it will always be on the menu.

If you're ever at my home for breakfast expect a variety of sharks to be on the menu - porridge, tea and toast soldiers with homemade jam, crumpets and honey, baked beans beside the toast (not on it), bacon and eggs one day a week, and tea, always black tea. Not English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Lady Grey (or any of the Grey family), Russian Caravan, Queen Mary, peppermint or green. All breakfasts are served with loose black tea, usually the King brand, made in a tea pot and poured through a strainer. That is another shark.


14 September 2012

Weekend reading

I have grave concerns about our dairy industry. I'm not the only one - The Milk Maid Marion.

Why real buttermilk is so good for you.

Food freedom - the right to choose.

Loneliness is a health risk. Get out, make friends and connect with your community.

The casual summation of the family unit - I love this idea.

From our comments during the week:
Donna at Little Acorns is getting ready for the C word.
Tracey at alWright being us
Rach at Squiggly Rainbow
Lorraine at FlowerlLady's Creations

Hanno and I are going out for a cruise along the Noosa River today and will then enjoy a picnic lunch on her banks. It will do us both the world of good to get out, smell the sea, look around and take in the wonderful region we live in. Thank you for your comments and visits this week and for your continued support of Hanno. He is slowly getting better. I hope you have a beautiful weekend. I'll see you on Monday.

12 September 2012

Natural raspberry cordial from scratch

I love making our drinks from scratch. In summer I always have a few concoctions ready and waiting in the fridge, along with cold water and ice cubes. Whoever visits is offered "tea, coffee, water or cordial?" In the midst of summer, most of our visitors choose the cordial.  We're lucky to have a prolific lemon tree and when I'm organised in winter, when the main lemon season is here, I strip the tree and freeze several bottles of pure lemon juice. In spring and summer, it is used to make lemon cordial.

This year I didn't have much time so we still have about 30 lemons on the tree and they'll be my source of lemon juice for the cordial in the next month. However, I've just made a raspberry cordial, mainly for Hanno because he's been feeling nauseated and poorly, but the cordial is so delicious, it's already part of our summer drink selection.

I bought a box of frozen raspberries from Aldi - they'd been marked down because of damaged packaging and I paid $3 for 500 grams. To make up the cordial, I defrosted the berries and made up a weak sugar syrup - two cups of sugar to five cups of water. I added the juice of one lemon, added some of the sugar syrup to the berries and blitzed them with a stick blender. Most people strain their berry cordials but I like to leave the fibre in, so when the berries were a thick mush, I added them to the syrup and mixed it well. The cordial is made by using a small amount of the raspberry concentrate and diluting it with cold water; serve with ice. It's also a delicious spritz made with sparkling mineral water.

Raspberry cordial kills stomach bugs.

I still have half a bottle of elder cordial left in the fridge from last season. It's fine to drink and now it's warmer again, no doubt that will be finished off soon. Our elder tree is flowering beatifully at the moment so there'll be another elder cordial session coming up soon.

My other summer standby is ginger beer. It's a naturally fermented drink and I've just started one which will be ready for drinking in about ten days. It's fizzy and spicy and delicious served cold. It also contains all those probiotics so it's going to do Hanno some good after being on antibiotics these past couple of weeks.

When I was out at one of my events, I met a lady who gave me a recipe for alcoholic lemon wine. I'll be making that soon too and will let you know how it goes.

Making your own drinks will help you cut out all those preservatives, colourings and additives that are in almost all soft drinks and soda pop. There are many cordials to be made using fruit commonly grown in backyards and ginger beer is made using either fresh ginger or dried ginger spice you buy at the supermarket. And they're all quick and easy. If you haven't done this before, start by collecting glass bottles that have a good seal - so you'll be recycling as well. The sugar contained in the drink acts as a preservative as well as a sweetener, so your drinks will safely sit in the fridge over summer, if they last that long.

What drinks do you make from scratch?


11 September 2012

It's easier at home

I've had many opportunities to think about my simple life over the past six months and to meet and talk with others who are living this way, or who want to. I guess what has come from that is the feeling that our decision, all those years ago, to change from our high spending life to something more modest and productive, was the right one for us. I have had no regrets about our change, I think I have grown in spirit and I am certainly happier, more skilled and capable of looking after myself. 

We've spent quite some time these past months away form home and I missed it. I missed the flexibility of living in our own home, the custom-made comfort that has been built in here and the familiarity of it all that not even the swankiest hotel we stayed at could match.

Being surrounded by rainforest, productive vegetable gardens, wild birds and chickens everyday tends to lift spirits. Who cannot see the joy of life when there is an abundance of life thriving around us?  Watching the antics of the chooks, hearing the whip birds call and collecting fresh eggs in my scooped up apron always makes me happy. You can find the goodness of life in your own home and when things go bad or when times are tough, that goodness has the potential to save you.

What is the most important element of simple life for you? Is it the work, paying off debt, slowing down, becoming your true self, reskilling, opting out of the spending spree or any of the many other things? For me, it's the change of attitude needed to live like this. I've gone from an attitude of expectation that a ready-made life will be provided for me, to one where I want and need to custom-make my own life. I see the sense now in working to make what I need instead of working to pay for what I need.

Fine tuning a recipe so that it is perfect for us, placing that last stitch in exactly the right place, matching colours and choosing fabrics that suit us, harvesting vegetables, making cordial and jam from our fruit and slowly moving through the day with meaningful work to do is what I want my life to provide me. It enriches me.

The simple life attitude remains an ever-changing constant that is with me when I'm spending time in my home or when I'm out, doing all those things that I've done these past few months. The focus changes, the tasks change too, but the inclination towards sustainable options and remaining true to my values on the road kept me on track and lead me, eventually, back to home. I guess the easiest time to live by our simple values is when we're at home, it's when we're out that it's difficult. We're bombarded with advertising messages on the sides of buses and buildings, we see people just like us shopping with the plastic. If we can hold on to our values then, if we can think about the big picture and not just that hour or day, if we get on with our business so we can return home, it gets easier. It is always easier at home.


10 September 2012

Slowing down to a quieter and gentler life

Today is a new beginning for me because yesterday I did the last of my public appearances. I made a committment to myself to promote the book for six month and to stop in September. So I had two wonderful days at the Real Food Festival in Maleny, met many people who came along to listen to me talk about simple life and bread-making and now it's over. I have to tell you that although I enjoyed it and felt privileged and honoured to travel around meeting so many interesting people, it is not in my nature to seek the spotlight and I'm pleased to get back to being my anonymous self. I'd make a terrible celebrity.

This is the pop-up Rosetta's book shop at the festival. I know this area well, it's the shed they judge the poultry in at the Maleny Show.

Maleny Co-op had a great stall showcasing all their organic produce.

And, close to my heart, the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre fundraising stall, selling gourmet sausages on local bread, with homemade lemon cordial and Anzacs. We got this stall as my payment for speaking at the festival. Our sewing circle convenor, Pam, made the bunting.

On a sadder note, these two last days were the only days Hanno has not been at my side when I've travelled out. He felt too sick on the weekend to go anywhere, so it all ended quietly with me telling myself as I drove down the mountain that tomorrow would be a new start with my focus firmly on the domestic, with the gate closed, here at home. Yay!

But I have to thank everyone I've met on my travels, particularly those I met on the weekend, for your kindness and generosity. As usual, I came home with homemade bits and pieces that people have made for us and it was good to see Hanno smile when I walked in with a 30 inch long pink, knitted, sausage dog - a draft stopper for the front door.

One of the ladies I met on Saturday was Diana, who picked me out of the crowd and we started talking. As many knitters know, the conversation slowly edged its way around to knitting and Diana asked me about my dish cloths. She's just started making them. I told her that I'm currently making a few looser knit cloths because they dry much quicker and I prefer them now to the tighter knits. I have made a smaller tight knit as a face cloth for a baby (above), but the loose knit larger cloth is for my cleaning and dishes. It's not as pretty as the smaller one, but it's very effective as a cleaner.

The cloth in the photo above is larger than normal and all in plain knit - I think they're really good for dusting and wiping down walls and benchtops. Usually I'd make up a loose weave cloth using about 30 stitches and knit about 30 - 35 rows. The larger one above is about 40 - 45 stitches, on size 9 needles using 8 ply pure cotton.

Today I'm taking Hanno back to see the surgeon. I hope he can stop taking the antibiotics because they're making him sick. Tomorrow we'll go back to the OT to have the splint refitted, then we'll settle back in here at home again. I've already started thinking about getting back into a routine and working on a few new projects. No doubt we'll have weekly OT visits and doctors visits for a while but I'm not committed to any writing work, no public engagements and apart from a few days to fill in at the neighbourhood centre in the coming month, I'll be a homebody. I've missed being in my home. I'm pleased to have that busy stage behind me now and that I can start living a quieter and gentler life again. I hope you'll come along for the ride. Who knows what we'll discover right here in our own homes.


8 September 2012

Real Food Festival on this weekend ...

... at the Maleny Showground, I'll be there giving a talk on Simple Living at 12.30pm today and on baking five minute bread tomorrow at the same time. If you come along, say hello and introduce yourself. If you have a Down to Earth book at home, bring it along and I'll sign it for you. The books will be on sale there and I'll be signing after my talks on both days.

The festival will have good local food to eat there and take away. There is a children's section. And don't forget the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre's stall selling locally made gourmet sausages on local bread rolls with home made relish, Anzac biscuits and cordial. The biscuits and cordial were made at the Centre.


7 September 2012

Weekend Reading

Meet Mrs Morley - what a wonderful woman
What is really in eggs from chickens eating grass and green vegetables - Mother Earth.
Tomato Blight and copper 
Looking beyond "organic"
I love the idea of "Greenhorns"
Discovering Waldorf at The Magic Onions

From the comments this week ...
Sharon @ laughing purple goldfish shows us some of her craft work.
Our new life in the country - there is a bit of everything on Sue's blog. Take a look.
Suzanne @ Enchanted Moments has new furniture in the chook house

What a week it's been. Things are settling down for us and although I have two presentations at the Real Food Festival this weekend, the rest of the time I'll be resting, knitting and spending time in the garden. Sarndra and Alex are visiting us today. Hurray!

I hope you have the opportunity of spending time with your loved ones too. Have a  lovely weekend.

5 September 2012

Slow and steady to get through the work

There are few things more grounding and self-affirming than working quietly in your own home to provide comfort and healthy food for yourself and those you love. Yesterday was such a day for me. In between tending Hanno - making breakfast, lunch and tea, with coffee and tea throughout the day, and administering eye drops every two hours, I made a sling and fleece neck rest and thought about the beginnings of a quilt to use up the many scrap fabrics I have here. I hope to start on that soon and have started selecting scraps.

I had two big cans of crushed Australian tomatoes waiting for me in the kitchen so mid-morning I made a spicy tomato relish, enough to do us through spring and into summer. After the relish was jarred and cooling down on the bench, I rearranged Hanno's occupational therapy appointment. We've moved from the hospital to a private OT who specialises in hand injuries. Then a bit of typing to finish the minutes of the MNC last committee meeting and back into the kitchen to make lunch.

After lunch and a bit of knitting I made a date and walnut cake. It is one of those oven foods that smells just as good as it tastes so we enjoyed the smell of it for a couple of hours and a taste mid-afternoon. Then I took the washing off the line, put another load in to wash overnight and I was ready to make our tea. We've been eating leftovers this week. Monday night we had corned beef hash cakes with fresh coleslaw and last night it was the leftover roast pork we had when Kerry and Sunny were here. I just cut it all up finely, cooked a selection of fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden and make a little sauce in the pan. It was delicious.

It was a busy day and I ended it feeling really tired but there is nothing better than getting a good night's sleep because you worked hard during the day. I felt like I'd done well at my work and that I'm getting through the backlog of tasks that didn't get done during our crisis. Today, there is another load of washing in the machine now, I'll be cleaning the floors, making a couple of batches of soap, potting up tomato seeds I have fermenting on the kitchen window sill and juicing lemons for cordial. If I have time, I'll prune the mandarin tree and work on my presentations for the Real Food Festival. And yes, I will rest, but not quite yet. 

For all those who live close-by or in Brisbane, if you're looking for something interesting to do this weekend, come to Maleny Show Ground for the Real Food Festival. I'll be doing two presentations and book signings there from 12.30pm on both days. If you do come up, please come over and introduce yourself. I'd love to meet you. Hanno will come with me if he's feeling up to it, or I'll only be away from a couple of hours. 

The Real Food Festival is returning to Maleny in the beautiful Sunshine Coast Hinterland and this year it's going to be bigger, better and lots of family fun!

Last year over 4500 visitors flooded through the gates and, with the support of major sponsor IGA Sunshine Coast, the 2012 Real Food Festival has been extended to two days to give more people the opportunity to participate.


· Over 100 exhibitors – all from the Sunshine Coast – with displays covering a wide range of food and food-related interests, from primary producers to prepared food

· Cooking demonstrations in The Natural Foodstore Real Food Kitchen, featuring talented local chefs and special guest, Martin Boetz, from Longrain

· A special Market Chef cook-off between Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson and State Environment Minister Andrew Powell

· Eumundi Markets Kids Arena, which is dedicated to inspiring kids with pizza-making, Market Chef competition between high school teams, plant potting, talks, activities and entertainment

· Jeffers Market Nourishing Ideas venue, which will host experts sharing advice on eating for good health for the whole family

· Food for Thought talks on subjects such as local food systems and indigenous food heritage

· Live entertainment with seating on hay bales under the Big Red Tent

· Book signings with speakers and presenters

The Real Food Festival is about authenticity: all food on display has been grown or produced in the Sunshine Coast bioregion according to the interconnected Slow Food principles of good, clean and fair. You’ll be inspired by our passionate producers and chefs, and have a fun family day out.

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