Relaxation and the feeling of presence

This is one of my favourite photos of Jamie, taken on the evening of his first birthday. Look at that tummy!

He was out in the garden with his dad yelling at the potatoes before he could walk. LOL
And this one is with opa, both having a quiet drink on the front verandah.

It's Jamie's third birthday today. It doesn't seem that long ago when we got a long awaited phone call to tell us that Sunny and Kerry were at the hospital and to come down. I can't imagine not being a grandma now but it was only three years ago that I made that very happy transition. Jamie, Sunny and Kerry are all in Korea at the moment but we'll have some Facetime with them later today. I'm really looking forward to it. Happy birthday, Jamie! We love you.


It makes no sense to me to try to relax after being massaged from head to toe when you know you're going to pay for the "relaxation experience". Relaxation to me doesn't involve people I don't know. I have a better way - it's more simple, it involves the great outdoors, it doesn't come as a bottled essence and it's there for the taking whenever I need or want it. Our backyards grow relaxation. If you let it and if you're completely present, with no phone or tablet, out there fresh air will fill your lungs and bring you back to yourself. The sweet, almost silent breeze, the insects and birds will welcome you back to nature, tranquility and gentle self-awareness.

 Blueberries are still growing.

There is a touch of autumn in the air now. I was out in my backyard yesterday afternoon, sitting, watching, picking, cutting, digging and tying. The temperature is at that perfect state of balance where it is neither cool nor warm. The wind blew the tops of distant pine trees I could see, but in the sheltered confined of our yard, the fences and shrubs kept the wind at bay. I tried not to think about anything other than what I was doing and that feeling of presence stayed with me when I eventually came back inside again. Relaxed.

Sunny, those are daikons front left.

Last week we had a lot of rain so the garden is growing strongly now. Little cucumbers are forming and pak choy is ready for picking. When I share some with the chickens, they go a bit crazy at first trying to reach the green and white crispness first, then they run away to a quite corner to eat their prize. I've pulled up most of the pumpkins and the vine has been added to the compost. They weren't a great success but I think I left it too late to plant the seeds. Next time, they'll go in two months earlier. We have two pumpkins from the vines, another one other was rotten and another still was only half grown and not worth picking. The 'Rouge de Marmande' tomatoes are going like the clappers and the first of the prolific cherry tomatoes are red and plump. Even though the rain brought a lot of growth to the garden, it stopped us planting out our seeds and seedlings. There is still a lot of bare ground out there. No doubt more planting will be done this week. There is always something to be done here. It's one of the benefits of living in a productive home.

It a wonderful time of the year now and I feel the optimism that only autumn brings. I'm writing every day to get the last three books finished and every so often I slip out into the garden to renew my energy and spirit. I hope you have a place like that where you can go to recover from normal life, whatever that is for you, although your relaxation place might not be a garden. It could be a room, your patio, a beach or any place where you feel safe and can just enjoy and appreciate the time you spend there.

Remember that relaxation is an activity you have to engage with. You don't just walk out there and wait. You consciously focus on the space you're in, you stop thinking other thoughts about what happens next or what you're having for dinner. You have to be really present in that space, at that time. If you can do that you'll have one of the many natural things that money can't buy.

The table below is for the series of talks I'm doing at the local libraries soon. The talks are free but bookings are essential. You can book online here.  By the way, if you do come along to any talk, please introduce yourself. I love meeting the people who read here.

Living Simply
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Coolum Library
Living Simply
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Caloundra Library
Living Simply
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Kawana Library
Living Simply
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Maroochydore Library
Living Simply
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Nambour Library

Weekend reading

I thought I may have been dreaming but no, it's true. I was told by Penguin yesterday that The Simple Life is being reprinted, already! Published on Wednesday and reprinted on Thursday. Thanks to everyone who helped make that happen. :- )  I hope you enjoy it. If you bought it online and have time, would you mind writing a review at the shop you bought it from. It does help spread the word. Thank you. xx

We've had a lot of well needed rain here in the passed couple of days. The tanks are full and the vegetables are growing like Topsy.  I finally finished off Johnathan's cardigan and sent that down to him with Tricia. Johnathan is Tricia's grandson.

Johnathan's cardigan in Eco-organic cotton, 8 ply,  from Eco Yarns.

I've got a weekend of housework ahead and then back to writing next week. I usually feel a bit disconnect from my books until people start reading them and now The Simple Life is out, it's fired me up again for the three remaining books. I hope the series will help many of you in your journey towards a simpler life. Have a wonderful weekend. 

The powerful belief of a loving mother
Photographing a sweet town that never was
Your own backyard emagazine from Lorrie

Taking a break from routine, then getting back to it

I'm longing to return to a state of relaxed normality but it's been a busy few weeks here. We've all been waiting for yesterday when the book was published. Thank you so much for the warm support you've given me with your comments and emails and by purchasing the book. Those comments encourage me to continue here because I know people are reading and are connected enough to comment. It is good to have the book out and on the shelves so now I can concentrate on getting the last three written and out to you.

Tricia crocheting a jug cover.

My sister has been here for the past week, and flies home today. While she was here, she helped me organise the Mending, Repurposing and Household Linens book and she made up the cutest, sheer, patchwork kitchen curtain and a jug cover for the book. It was good to sit and talk to someone who understands what I'm trying to do with the linens. I want to encourage mending and recycling instead of buying new, as well as help develop traditional sewing and mending skills for some of the younger women and men. This is work such as replacing zippers, sewing on buttons, making dishcloths, mending rips and general maintenance of clothes and household linens. If you have these skills it allows you to keep trousers, shirts, jumpers, jeans, dresses, pyjamas, night dresses, skirts and school uniforms going for much longer, as well as save money by not buying disposable products such as dishcloths and dusters, which helps a lot with the budget.

The patchwork kitchen curtain. I saw this idea originally in Pinterest - it's on my page there.

The final reason for my busyness has been the continuation of Hanno's illness. Since early December he's had long periods of gout pain that have come every month and only let up for a week or two, only to return again. We went back to the doctor yesterday and have a referral to a new rheumatology specialist at Greenslopes, which is a large hospital in Brisbane. The GP is changing his diagnosis too, from gout to gouty arthritis, and possibly to rheumatoid arthritis. So bear with us. We're a bit slow at the moment but we're getting there.

Over the next couple of days, I'll take the opportunity to catch up on a few things not done while Tricia was here. I don't know why but I find it impossible to stick to my routine when she's here. I haven't made bread for a week, we bought bread from the local bakery and while I did continue feeding the chooks and letting them out each morning, then quickly watering the garden before going back inside, there were quite a few things I should have done but didn't. I did cook from scratch each day but we also went out for lunch twice. Once was Tricia's treat and the other was yesterday when we celebrated the book with a beer, fish and salad at the local pub. I did make the bed everyday, I did wash up but I didn't sweep the floor.  I feel like I've been on a little holiday. I'm not feeling guilty about it. It is what it is. I just have to pick up where I left off a week ago and get things done now.

So to get me back into gear and to help those of you who struggle with this sort of thing, I recommend Rose's 28 day organising challenge at the forum. These are small challenges for common household tasks that can be done in a few minutes. You can do the entire challenge or pick and choose the tasks you struggle with. Either way it's a great refresher for all of us who've fallen off the wagon, or never got on it. ;- )  

Rose's discussion thread. Look below the discussion thread for the individual day challenges. For example, this is the entry for day six:

Day 6 will essentially repeat Day 5, if you've been sticking to this challenge you may find a rhythm emerging especially with your morning and evening routines. Today, keep to those routines, do the tasks for today from your weekly routine, continue to put away dry washing, declutter at least one item and identify an undone thing that is niggling at you. You may decide to do this on the spot, if it's going to take a while then note it in your journal and break down the whole task into smaller steps.

Day 6 challenge:

  • do your morning and evening routines, keep to the essentials.
  • do today's tasks from your weekly routine.
  • put away clean dry washing.
  • declutter one item.
  • identify an undone thing that is niggling you.

I love how Rose talks about a rhythm developing when you carry out these challenges. That rhythm often comes in when you repeat these kinds of tasks and it's that rhythm that helps you get through the work. If you've been struggling with your house or yard work, I recommend this challenge to you. They are easy and quick tasks that can be slotted into most days and will keep you on target in your simple life.

The Simple Life is published today

My second book, The Simple Life, the first in a series of six, is published by Penguin today. I am one of those writers who never thought I'd publish one book, let alone two. So today is a special one for me. The Simple Life is a Penguin Special, with the distinctive Penguin cover. Their aqua blue series is for works of non-fiction. While it's not the same kind of book as Down to Earth, with pictures and beautiful design, it still contains my heart and soul and I truly hope you enjoy it. Everyone can buy either the print or ebook version of it and while it will be available from Amazon and iTunes, you can buy it from the Penguin site here. The book is light so postage will be fairly cheap.  Added later: Apparently the Penguin site is experiencing problems. Please make your purchase here at Bookworld. Several readers have said it's cheaper there and you can order today.

Once again my sincere thanks goes to Penguin for their support of writers world-wide. In particular I want to thank my editor, Daniel Hudspith, who cleverly guided me through the editing process and to my publisher, Andrea McNamara, whose grace and wisdom have seen me through The Simple Life and Down to Earth.

Price: AU $9.99 - print book and AU $7.99 - ebook.
This is from the back cover:
Rhonda Hetzel feels passionately that living simply leads to a richer, more fulfilling existence. Having made the decision to live frugally, embrace sustainability and opt out of the capitalist consumerist mindset, she set about working out how to achieve her goal, learning traditional skills, reducing her spending and environmental impact and focusing on the simple things that make life worth living: family, friends, and a home-cooked meal. This is the story of her journey and the lessons she has learned along the way. Rhonda relates why she wanted to change her lifestyle, what simple living means to her, and offers guidance to those thinking about taking the same path.

I'll be back tomorrow with a post about organising and routines.


Weekend reading

Another busy week here. It's probably been the same at your place too. I hope all is well in your home and that you'll have a chance this weekend to slow down and look after yourself.  Thanks for your visits this week and for your help with the shopping questions. XXX

If you can't keep hens in your backyard, here are some webcam chooks for you to watch.
NASA-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?
Farm to table living takes root
How to be fashionable with no money
Over-scheduling children may rob them of a life worth living
Joel Salatin on Converting people to sustainable food
Lost trades fair - coopering, chair and knife making and a lot more
Leftovers? Ask the dinner doctor
Lady's work mittens - free Revelry pattern
Food photography 101
Urban Sketchers
How to make a herbal salve

sustainable mum
Simple crafty life
Homestead in Africa

Have you shopped at Costco?

Hello everyone! A late post today because we just got Kerry on the plane to Korea, and Tricia is here. It might be a bit hit and miss with the posts over the coming week. But I wanted to do this post because we've been talking about products and shopping all week and I want you to share your experience of shopping at Costco.  

We are fairly new to Costco in Australia. I think there are five Costcos here, one currently being built fairly close to where we live and another in Adelaide.  So if you've been a shopper at Costco, what I'd like to know:

  • What products are they selling?
  • Where are they sourcing their products from?
  • What are the prices like?
  • What is the service like?
  • And any general comment you'd like to make.
I know there are websites to go to to read about these things but I prefer hearing from real customers who share my values. Thanks for taking the time to do it. 


Do you know what's in the cosmetics, cleaners and skin products you use?

Making gifts - homemade soap with organic cotton face cloths.

Recent research by the American organisation Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has shown that women in the US use an average of nine personal care products every day. In those products are over 100 different chemcials.  I'm sure it would be a similar figure for women in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Click here to see more information about that study. 

In another piece of interesting news, Johnson and Johnson have started removing cancer-causing hormones from some of their products and other companies, namely Avon, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Procter and Gamble and Unilever have been asked to do the same.

The FDA in America require an assurance from cosmetic companies before they go on sale that the product is safe to use but they aren't allowed to pre-test to confirm that assurance. They rely on the integrity of these companies to sell safe products.  Fragrance is another cause for concern. Fragrance used in room fresheners, cleaning products and cosmetics has been linked to breast cancer. The US Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act allows fragrance ingredients to remain a trade secret and because of that, no one really knows what's in these products.

Making laundry liquid in the kitchen.

 Set up with about six months supply of homemade soap and laundry liquid.

One of the things I wanted to do when I gave up work and started working in my home was to make this place as safe as it could be. I want my entire family, and yours, to be safe and now that we have grandchildren, that decision is even more urgent. I want to live a long and healthy life and I will not jeopardise that by using any of these products now. Skin is the largest organ in our bodies, what you put on it, what touches it and what it absorbs has the potential to harm you. Please be careful. I don't want any of you to become sick or die; I want you to live a long and healthy life too.

I encourage you to check the products you're using. Many companies put their ingredients lists online now. For example, here is the ingredients list for Cold Power with Cuddly, made by Colgate:

Cold Power with Cuddly - Front Loader

Ingredients (INCI Name)Purpose
Sodium carbonateAlkalinity agent and cleaning aid
Sodium sulfateProcessing aid
Sodium tridecyl benzene sulfonateCleaning agent
Pentasodium triphosphateWater softener and anti-redeposition agent
Sodium aluminosilicateAnti-redeposition agent
Bentonite clayNatural softening agent
Sodium silicateAgglomerating agent
C12-15 Alcohol 8 EOCleaning agent
Sodium anionic terpolymerProcessing aid
Lauryl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chlorideCleaning agent
Antifoam compoundFoam regulating agent
CI Flourescent brightenerWhitening agent
EnzymesCleaning agent for enzymatic stains
FragrancePleasant scent

Notice the last on the list? Fragrance. Phhhhht. 

If you're doing your washing with that product, or any of the others that are similar, you're sleeping on sheets and then wearing clothes that have been washed in all those chemicals. The laundry liquid I use has got four ingredients: water, soap, washing soda and borax. It works as well, if not better than the commercial brands and it's much much cheaper. Here is my laundry liquid recipe and soap recipe. Laundry liquid will take you about 15 mintues to make up and will last a couple of months. Soap will take about 45 minutes of work, spread out over a few hours - it's a weekend job. My recipe for sun infused calendula salve is here.

Calendula salve made with organic calendula petals grown in the backyard.

I tried to find ingredients lists for various bar soap and shower gels but they're not showing them. Hmmmm, I wonder why. Here is one I did find, however, it's Imperial Leather bar soap. My soap recipe has four ingredients, one of them is rain water.







Palm kernel acid

Tetrasodium EDTA

Benzyl Benzoate





Alpha-isomethyl ionone






CI 77891


This is important. Even if you think you're bullet-proof, this is worth some of your time to check the soap, shower gel, washing powder or liquid, sun screen, insect repellant and cosmetics you're using. Do some research online into those products. If you can't find anything, email the company and ask.

I would love to leave you with good news but instead I'll leave you with this to read - it's an article about the FDA's rejection of the cosmetic industry's draft legislation. It is dated 6 March 2014.

Part of it: Writing that "the draft industry bill could put Americans at greater risk from cosmetic-related illness and injury than they are today," Taylor expressed he no longer saw common ground with the industry in a 14-page memo that detailed how industry’s proposed changes would weaken the FDA’s already very limited regulatory authority over the safety of cosmetics and personal care products.

Do you think that profits are more important than customers?


Rose is leading a very interesting set of organising challenges over at the forum this month. The current one is: Today is Stop Driving Ourselves Crazy Day. Today we face up to one thing we are doing which is driving us mad and we do something about it. If you have trouble organising yourself or doing what you want to do, have a look at the challenge. It may help get you on track. Just click on the link to go there, if you're not a  member, you can join up free here.