31 March 2015

Jamie's birthday and lots of house work

Happy birthday Jamie, he's four today! He's still in Korea and will celebrate his birthday with his mum, Korean grandma, aunties, uncles and friends. They'll be back home on Friday so we'll have another birthday then.  There was a time when I never thought about being a grandmother. Now I can't imagine life without my two precious grandsons.

This is him at the airport with his robot bag full of little toys.

I seem to be all over the place at the moment. Each task I carry out is calm and considered but I go from one to the other so frequently, it makes my head spin at times and I have to stop and think about what I'm doing.  All the extra work is caused by my book writing and a photo shoot for the book we're having here at home soon. Hanno is painting the front verandah, something we've been going to do for years, and this is the perfect reason to actually do it. I am writing every day with a deadline every two weeks and in between the writing sessions I've been decluttering my wardrobe (again) and chest of drawers (again), finishing off some knitting, cooking, baking, tidying and reorganising cupboards.

Baked this week - orange and whiskey marmalade jam drops.

I'm thankful that the new forum has settled down well and is working like a charm. We even have a little chat place there so we have live chatting happening too. I'm blogging as much as I can and happy for the chance to do it because it always seems to clear my head and gets me focused again. It reminds me too that you're all out there, we're all in the same boat, that life is tough sometimes, and that the tough times always give way to something better.


30 March 2015

Sweet preserved lemons

We planted a second lemon tree about 18 months ago and it's starting to produce its first lemons. I love have having too many lemons, I always feel rich when I'm surrounded by them.  As well as using them in cooking and baking, I juice about a hundred a year and keep the pure juice in the freezer to make cordial when the lemons on the tree stop growing.

Recently, I decided to try to make a preserve that would give us lemon slices for our tea and as a drink garnish.  Here is that recipe:

Sweet preserved lemons
  • 4 lemons
  • enough medium sugar syrup to fill a jar full of lemons
  • sterilised preserving jar and lid
  1. Slice the lemons and include half slices and quarters. Don't waste any. Pack the sliced lemons into the jar and when it starts getting full, push the lemons down into the jar with your clean fingers.  I got four whole lemons into that small jar.  
  2. Make up a medium strength sugar syrup using 1 cup water and ½ cup white sugar. Bring to the boil, make sure the sugar is completely dissolved and turn off the heat. 
  3. When all the sliced lemons are in the jar, and while the syrup is still hot, pour the sugar syrup carefully over them to almost the top of the jar. Put the lid on and when they're cool, store them in the fridge. The heat from the syrup will create a vacuum.
These slices and pieces of lemon can be stored for many weeks in the fridge. Use them in your tea or cold drinks. When all the lemons are gone, use the lemon syrup with sparkling mineral water as a refreshing drink.

I don't like salted preserved lemons so this is a way to keep some of the crop for later in the year.  What do you do with your lemons?


27 March 2015

Weekend reading

The leaves are starting to turn yellow and soon they'll fall, but it's still hot and humid in my neck of the woods. I'm hoping cooler weather arrives soon.  Whatever you do this weekend, I hope you enjoy yourself.  See you next week!

Simple living inspiration - I recommend this to you. These are unique events and, I expect, will be honest, enlightening and inspirational.
The antibiotics problem in meat
Making dish washing easier
Old and interesting
Back to Eden film
Self-saucing orange pudding
Cornell University home economics library
What they do to food

25 March 2015

A wedding in Korea

Sunny and Jamie are over in South Korea at the moment enjoying some family time. They went over for the wedding of Sunny's younger sister Sung Ji, who married Dong Ho Choi. He is a career soldier in the South Korean army. Sunny sent some of the family wedding photos and said I can share some of them here. 

 Sung Ji and Dong Ho being saluted by the soldiers.

And here is the guard of honour, under drawn swords.
This beautiful photo is of the bride, Sun Ji, with her mother Sunja Cho (left), Sunny and her sister Yeon Hee. Sunny, her mother and sister are wearing the traditional Korean chima jeogori, worn during festivals and celebrations.

 And look who is here. Jamie in traditional Australian dress of socks with sandals :- ) Very cute. 

Sunny and Jamie again.

It's so interesting seeing how other cultures celebrate important events such as weddings. Congratulations to Sung Ji and Dong Ho. I hope they have many happy years together ahead of them.


24 March 2015

Planning for retirement

Dear friends, I've opened the Simple, Green Frugal Co-op blog again. I started the blog back in 2008 with a group of bloggers I invited to join me. When things got busy, I retired it but now it's back with its unique take on simple life.  Click here to go there.

= = = ♥︎ = = =

I unintentionally fell into retirement when I stopped working because my head was about to explode. When I tried to reorganise my world so I spent less, one thing lead to another, everything started getting better and I never returned to work; I was in my mid-50s. Even though my retirement wasn't planned, it's been the most wonderful time for me with my family. I don't think I really thought about retirement before I realised I'd retired but I have to say, it's the golden treasure at the end of the working rainbow. Hanno planned his retirement and we'd paid of our debts before he retired but after retirement, he was bored so he bought a little shop in Montville and worked another six years.

This isn't where you'll be most of the time.  : - )

Being self-employed all those years, I only had a small superannuation package because there was always something else to spend the money on. Had we not been debt-free, there would have been no way I could have thought about retiring when I did. Now we're both on the pension and because we don't pay rent, have paid off the mortgage and have no other debt, we save a couple of hundred dollars every fortnight. And we live well. Our friends think we should travel but we're content being here and doing what we do. We might go for a trip to Tasmania and Victoria next year after the new book is out but that will be it. There will be no flying holidays and no extravagance.

We taught ourselves to be frugal because we could see that if we cut our living expenses, we would have a good life using our time wisely. I suppose we swapped working for a living for working for a life. We became much more productive at home and made a lot of the things we used to buy, and that made all the difference. That's one of the wonderful things about retirement, you have time. Your time to do as you wish. So if it is your wish to cut expenses, look for bargains and be more productive at home, you'll have the time it takes to do all it. And instead of being one of the people who feel useless in retirement, you can take control of your life and lead it to places unexpected.

There is a trap a lot of us fall into, and I fell too. And that is not taking retirement seriously, not making a retirement plan and not making your own estimate of how much money you'll need. The way we live doesn't fit into the mainstream estimates because a lot of our value and assets is in the work we do. And that's extremely difficult to plan for because you don't know how fit you'll be and how much you'll be able to take on yourself. My only advice is to judge your future in part on how you are today. If you've been healthy most of your life and plan to live the way we do, be optimistic and believe you can do the work. If there's some doubt, be more cautious.

You need to be doing this from when you first start working and although I don't think you need the amount of money our governments tell us we need, you do need enough to cover the kind of lifestyle you wish to live in retirement. So if you want to travel, you'll have to factor that in to your retirement estimate but if you're content to travel locally, then stay at home, you'll need much less. Don't forget, if you are very young now, you might not have the benefit of a pension so this long term planning is vital for you.

So what are the other things that can be planned along the way?
  • Pay down your debt as quickly as you can. Once you've done that, you can start saving or adding more to your retirement fund. Don't put all your eggs in one basket either. I know a couple of people who lost half their retirement savings during the GFC because all their investments were in real estate. Diversify, use your common sense and treat this money like it's your lifeline, because it is.
  • If you think you'll move before you retire, do it well before hand. There are a lot of things you can do in your own home to help you stay fit and healthy long into your old age. Things like fences, solar panels, vegetable gardens, chickens and bee hives. So if you need to move or you want to make those modifications to help you when you've retired, do it beforehand, not afterwards. You'll have the money for it and the energy to do the work yourself.
  • Learn how to cook, sew, mend, recycle, garden, ferment, knit, fish, and as much about the maintenance on your house and car as you possibly can.
  • Make a budget that you can live on and put your savings to work. Then menu plan, stockpile, shop for bargains, bake and do as much for yourself as you can before you retire. If you're using those skills when they're not essential, you'll adjust to retirement more easily.
  • Try to live near your family or connect with your community so you have a support system around you. Stay healthy and fit and in your own home for as long as possible.  Despite the scaremongering, most people live out their lives in their own homes, not in retirement homes. The more you can prepare for a long life at home, the more successful you will be.
  • Remain interested and involved and don't believe that older people can't do much. There isn't much respect for older folk now but don't ever let that stop you doing what you want, when you want to do it. 
  • Make your own rules.
This is a question for all the stay at home mums and dads out there: Do you have a retirement plan that includes savings or insurance? I think most people will say no but it's an important part of our life's planning. The unexpected does happen and you have to be prepared for it. If you are working at home and have made plans for your financial future, please share  how you've done that.

There is some excellent information here about retirement for Australians. Even if you're 30, it's essential reading.  Information about getting ready for retirement. And here is a retirement planner, it's an Australian government product so don't worry about investment people harassing you after you fill it in. It's confidential and very helpful. Again, for every age and even if you don't live in Australia, it will give you some good ideas.


23 March 2015

Homemade cleaning cloths

During the week as I was ironing I came across a pillow case that was frayed and very thin in a few places. It came in a set of a fitted sheet, top sheet and two pillow cases and to the best of my knowledge it's about ten years old. A lovely pair of blue and white check sheets that I always enjoyed using and thought looked lovely and fresh on the bed. Oh well, all good things must end, the rest of the set survived. I got four good sized rags from that one pillow case and they will probably last for another year, working for a different purpose. I love doing those little things that help me save money and lighten our foot print here. Such a short amount of time to make a difference.

As the fabric was so thin, I decided to make the rags double thickness so after I cut it into four, I stitched the perimeter to keep it together, then pinked the frayed ends off. The pinking will ensure the edges don't fray again and when I'm cleaning, I won't leave threads of cotton behind.

I haven't bought any sort of cleaning or washing up cloth for about 12 years now and have been very happy with how I can extend the life of worn out fabrics simply by cutting them to shape and tidying up the edges. I smile when I think of young Rhonda buying cleaning cloths and throwing out useful old towels to landfill. Such an innocent I was, working for the enemy. I think in those 12  years I probably saved close to $500 just on cleaning cloths. Amazing eh? Here are the current cleaning cloth prices at my local shop: Chux original 10 pack $3.99, Chux super giant 5 pack $3.99, Jif Ballerina cloth @ $1.70 each, Woolworths cleaning cloth domestic wipes extra $3.29, Chux kitchen scrubs non-scratch 4 pack $2.54. On the other side of the coin, a recycled pillow case, towels and sheets: zero, maybe five cents for the electricity. And it has the added advantage of not sending more rubbish to the tip - not the old commercial cloth when it's short life is over and not the packaging that it comes in. I wonder what a ballerina cloth is.

And speaking of dish and cleaning cloths, Faye's post on The Blessed Hearth about loving your kitchen struck a cord with me.  I took Faye's lead and decided to make up a couple of fabric cleaning cloths to see if I liked them. The answer is a resounding YES! I love using them for washing up, wiping down the bench tops and general cleaning. So I made up a few more to test over the coming months.

 Right sides together on the inside when they're sewn.

Cut off the inside corner so it doesn't bulk up when you turn it out and form the corner.

When the sides are sewn together and the cloth is turned out to the right side, edge the border with zig zag stitch.
This is the most basic of sewing so if you've never attempted anything on the sewing machine before, this is your project. Simply cut out a square as big as you want it to be, mine are about 10 inches square. I think you need two layers for absorbency, and they have to be sewn together.
  1. Turn them so the right sides are facing inwards, then stitch around three sides. 
  2. Cut the right angle corner off fairly close to the stitch line so it will sit properly. 
  3. Turn the cloth right side out, turn the hem of the fourth side under and pin it, then zigzag stitch around the border of the cloth. 
  4. Finished, but don't forget to wash the cloths before you use them. Many fabrics are dressed with chemicals and it needs to be washed off.
I made two cloths with flannel one side and recycled terry towelling on the other for heavier cleaning. They don't dry as fast as the knitted cloths, but it's not a problem if I hang them to dry in between uses or on the side of the laundry hamper when they need a wash.

I made seven cloths in about 25 minutes. So if you aren't a knitter, here is a good way of making cleaning and washing up cloths that provide a good cleaning tool and cost next to nothing. Believe in yourself, you can do this.


21 March 2015

Easter at the Nundle Go For Gold Festival

If you've ever been to Nundle NSW, you'll know it's an old gold mining area. Tucked into the rolling hills between the coast and Tamworth, it's a beautiful area with a lot to offer driving tourists. If you're looking for something to do on Easter Saturday and Sunday, look no further than Nundle. That is the weekend of the Nundle Go For Gold Festival.

While you're there, pop in and treat yourself by looking through the wonderful Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores, one of my favourite stores.  Megan and Duncan have been to Sydney buying at the wholesale fairs and the shop is full. "We always aim to have the store looking fantastic for the festival. We prepare a special traditional boiled lolly stall out the front of our shop with tall glass jars filled with Red Backs, Butter Balls, Aniseed Balls, Raspberry Drops, made in South Australia," Megan said.

Megan sorting through lollies at the front of their store.

The Nundle Go For Gold Festival, started as a Nundle and District Lions Club activity about 18 years ago, is now the second largest festival in north west NSW, after the Tamworth Country Music Festival. And it is hosted by a small community of 300 people and organised by half a dozen volunteers.

The Chinese theme was introduced to highlight the population of Chinese migrants attracted to the goldfields after gold was first discovered at Hanging Rock in 1852. The Chinese made up the majority of the population at that time.

Over the Easter weekend the quiet streets of Nundle are transformed with the noisy percussion, colourful costumes and acrobatic movement of the Chinese Lion and Dragon Dances. Performed by the Australian Yau Kung Mu Association from Sydney, the troupe of about 40 dancers and support crew perform twice daily and put a LED light show on Saturday evening. 

Panning for gold.

Another highlight of the weekend is the gold panning. If you need evidence that gold fever is alive and well you'll find it at Nundle at Easter. At last year's festival more than 600 people panned for gold in tubs filled with gravel and peppered with gold, including four nuggets, worth more than $1000.

The street market attracts about 100 market stalls selling fresh produce, preserves, honey, homemade cakes, clothing, food, toys, plants and the ubiquitous takeaway espresso. Live music will feature the Sax Summit, Dylan Hartas, the Blues Martyrs, Nundle musician Jeff Gibson, and traditional Chinese music by David Wei and Eva Timms. 

If you're inclined to stay overnight or for the weekend, there is a range of accommodation such as tent and caravan camping, motel, bed and breakfast, cabins and a self-contained cottage. More details are available here. It looks like a great weekend.


20 March 2015

Weekend reading

This is the rain exactly one month ago when the last cyclone passed by. It's been as dry as a bone ever since.

We're going through very warm patch with another cyclone up north. We need rain but it looks like being a dry and warm weekend ahead, not the ideal time for planting out seedlings. Looks like we'll have to wait another week. I hope the weather where you are is better than ours and you have the chance to either plant out or defrost your garden.

Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?  good question.
20 Satisfying, Wholesome Lunches You Can Make the Night Before

18 March 2015

Life at our place

I was talking to a friend the other day and told her that I'd never been so busy in my life. It's true, I am busier now with family, friends, work, creative projects and a life that makes me feel such gratitude and peace that every day feels like a magnificent gift.  Most people think simple life is quiet and steady, and while it has those periods, it also has times like those we're going through now that are hectic and full of life. There are so many things happening here. You'd think that having two weeks off the blog I'd have a few posts lined up to share with you, but no, time has not allowed me to do that so instead, I want to update you on some of the things going on around our place with a few photos.

Sunny and Jamie are going to Korea today so they can be at Sunny's sister's wedding. Kerry is running the sushi shop while she's away. It's been wonderful having Jamie here every afternoon for the past couple of weeks. He comes in full of stories about what happened at kindy and while I make him a snack and a drink, it takes me back 30 years when I did the same thing for my boys. How time flies.

I've been tested with my cooking skills lately because Hanno has had a tooth out on one side, then next week he has one out on the other side.  Weeks of soft food have left me wondering if we'll ever return to the freedom of selecting whatever we want to eat and not what we have to eat. I've been fiddling around with lemons too, it feels good to see plenty of ripening lemons on the tree. Our new lemon tree is in fruit too this year. There is no such thing as having too many lemon here at our place. I'll show you what I did with them next week.

Pork meatballs with herb gravy, steamed cauliflower and potatoes.
I'm having a love affair with Medjool dates at the moment. Here they are baked in a bar cake with walnuts.
Homemade potato and sweet potato wedges ready to go into the oven. I forgot to take a photo when they came out.
Above and below is the front verandah now. It's been like that for a week. There was concrete cancer in several spots near the front door so we got a tradesman in to get rid of it and tile over the top. I would have liked to tile the entire verandah but we can't afford that so this little area will provide a safe entrance to our home and when everything is back in place, I hope it still looks like an inviting and relaxing place.

And the first of the raspberries crept up on us. Jamie brought in a small handful during the week. They're Heritage raspberries, the first time we've grown them here, and they look like being a good cropper. We haven't done any planting in our garden yet. We usually plant up in March, and we will do that, but we're slower now and planting has to wait until we have the time for it. I hope we have seedlings in the ground by the end of the month and even with our smaller garden we hope to produce enough herbs, lettuce, tomatoes and possibly potatoes to keep us happy for a while.

So there it is in a nutshell. I'll stop here and instead of talking about work, I'll do some of it. I'm sure you get the picture, it's probably the same at your place. It's just life expanding to fill the space provided for it. I hope you have a lovely day.


16 March 2015

"it just happens to be cheaper ..."

Of all the elements that make up many convenience foods, preservatives are the ones that make the hairs on my neck stand up. Give me butter, fat, gelatine made from boiled cow heads, colouring that I know is crushed beetles, live bacteria and fungus. I'll take them all many times over before I knowingly consume food containing preservatives. Of course they tell us that all the additives they put in food are there to protect the food from invading pathogens, to add flavour; it's there for our own good!  And it just happens to be cheaper. These additives increase the profit margin for manufacturers. While cancer rates are increasing around the world, our health is being traded for profit.

I came across this article recently and since then I've read it a few times. I knew food manufacturers were adding all sorts to our food, but when I read this article, I was shocked. And terrified. One of my fears is that it's being using on what is supposedly 'fresh' food too. How did things get so bad? Why have our governments allowed this to happen?

I don't have any answers. My only strategy is to stay away from highly processed food but I do think we should all contact our local politicians and talk loudly and publicly about our concerns. Personally, I'd like to see better food labelling laws in every country. Surely we have the right to know exactly what is in our food and to make informed decisions over whether to buy or not. 

I have no magic wand that will make this better. It makes me resolve to continue to cook from scratch but I doubt even that will completely protect us. I hope you read the article and vote for it to change by using the power of your dollars when you shop. If we don't buy this stuff and start demanding better quality food through our politicians, then the "it just happens to be cheaper" will become less of a player in the way food is processed and sold to us.  Because the problem isn't just the fact that our food can be tampered with in this way but also that the labelling laws help hide that it has been done.


13 March 2015

Weekend reading

I've not had a lot of time for reading this week but here is my list for you. I'll be back to blogging next week so I'll see you then. Take it easy over the weekend. Spend some time doing something you love and enjoy the seasons as they change.

Good enough
The bird tree of life
Japanese milk bread recip
Overnight pleasant bread, baked in pyrex, not cast iron
What it's really like to stop using beauty productsRemove hair dye from porcelain
Studio portraits of owls
How to make a sewing kit for a young girl
Can I recycle all these plastic food wrappers?

12 March 2015

Living a deliberate life

Originally published 15 December 2009

I enjoyed your post. I'm wondering, though, how much your slower more deliberate life is possible because your children are grown and gone? I have tried to be more deliberate in my life, but I have children and I teach them at home. It's certainly a challenge to take from your posts and apply them to my busy life, but I have learned from you and the others. What's really working for me is to take one change at a time. That was great advice. ~ Anonymous

This is a comment from those made yesterday. I'm sorry I can't name the person who wrote as she is only know to me as anonymous. Anonymous, I wanted to address your comment today because I think "living deliberately" can confuse some of us. My interpretation of deliberate living is that I have intentionally taken my life in the direction of my values. I needed to sit and think, and I needed to work out for myself what was important to me. I knew how I didn't want to live, but what exactly did I want? When I changed, I knew I didn't want to keep spending and rushing around like a loon but I had to replace that with something, and that required me to decide on what my core values were and how I could live by those values.

I deliberately focused on my values - generosity, kindness, independence, self reliance, self respect and respect for others - and I made my everyday life reflect those values. That, to me, is living deliberately. You make a deliberate decision to live a certain way and every day make sure your life stays true to that. It sounds like a huge commitment, and it is, but it is done in small steps, every day, without fail, deliberately following that path.

I read Walden by Henry David Thoreau about 15 years ago, well before I made my changes towards simplicity. I have no doubt that book, and in particular this quote below, influenced me more than anything else; although I didn't know it at the time and only made that discovery in retrospect.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience ... 

It still takes my breath away to read those words. I am trying to live deep and to suck all the marrow out of life; I want to know if life is mean or sublime, and I want to know it by experience. I do not want to read about it in a magazine or a blog, I want to truly experience my life every day, and every day it is deliberately focused on the values I want to live by.

Now to answer your question: I'm wondering, though, how much your slower more deliberate life is possible because your children are grown and gone? Living deliberately isn't reliant on who is living in your house. It is the decision to discover your real values and live them, on purpose, everyday. That is important when you're raising children. You want them to live to your values until they have grown and are capable of making a sound decision for themselves on how they want to live. Hopefully, by that stage, your life and the way they were raised will influence them towards the kind of life you want for them. So for instance, deliberate living would be to decide you want to pay off your debt: you want to homeschool your children: you want to instil in them the values of care for others, kindness and generosity; you want to be healthy and connect with nature. Once those decisions on values (whatever they are) are made, everyday from then on, you would make sure your every day life reinforced those ideals, and deliberately move your family towards them. Every day you would deliberately work towards the outcomes you want by the way you homeschool, the behaviour you model for your children and the example your life sets for those young eyes. You would make sacrifices to pay off debt, even when it's difficult, you would continue to homeschool, you would plan into your homeschooling a few nature days and read books about the natural world. You would do all that deliberately - even when it's difficult to do.

Walden, and in particular the quote above did more for my resolve to live as I do than anything else I've read. As I said I read it many years ago, but reread it when I started to live a slower and more deliberate life. That second reading made me certain of the truth of Thoreau's words and I have tried to live true to them ever since. Walden is available free online here. I have it quietly tucked away on my computer and frequently revisit it. It is fine inspiration. It's not an easy read because it is written in the vernacular of the 19th century, but if you decide to take it on, I'm sure you be rewarded for the effort. It would be a great holiday project to read a little bit of Walden every day and if you do that, I hope you gain as much as I did from it.

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