30 October 2015

Weekend reading

It was back to summer bed linen for us this week although just after I did that, it rained for a few days and I regretted being so eager to change. I hope the weather where you live is good and you're able to get out on the weekend, fill your lungs with fresh air and enjoy yourself.  Our German family arrives tomorrow for a month's holiday. It will be good to see them again.

‘Young women need female role models to inspire success’Australian True Food Guide
Madge, live GMO-free Australia
Pasta key to healthy sustainable diet, says Italian celebrity chef
Repurposing vintage linens
Doritos, deconstructed

29 October 2015

My favourite place #17 - final

This is the final week of my favourite place. My sincere thanks to all the readers who so generously sent in their photos so we could see the small places where everyone feels comfortable and secure in the lands we inhabit all over our wide world  Our final place belongs to Noreen, an Irish woman living in Turkey.

Noreen writes:
I've only just recently found your blog and I love it. It's so positive! I have attached 2 photos of my favourite place in my home. I hope you like them. This is a reclining chair that I bought about 8 years ago. It is fairly tatty by now but I love it. I sit in it with my book under the shade of my lovely loquot tree which protects me with it's broad leaves from the warm Turkish sunshine. I read and I write in this chair, I have many stories to tell. I started a blog myself and write a post once a month. I'd love to know what you and your readers think of it!

Here is a link to my blog:

28 October 2015

The best eggs

Now that the 'experts' have told us that eggs are 'good' for us and not the cholesterol bomb they said they were, let's talk about eggs - what are the best eggs to buy, if you're buying chickens to lay eggs, what chickens should you buy and if you have your own chickens now, how do you get the best eggs from them.

A variety of our hens' eggs - the blue eggs are Araucana eggs.

All eggs contain about 6 grams of protein - 3 grams in the yolk and three grams in the egg white. That is about 12 percent of the daily protein requirement for the average person.

There is no doubt about it, after testing eggs from various sources, free range eggs are thought to be the best eggs you can buy. Make sure that 'free range' on the carton is really free range - the chickens should be outside in the sun most of the day, not live in over crowded conditions (there is a limit on the number of chickens allowed in each area), sleep in a barn overnight and be able to eat grass and the bugs that live on it. It is the grass and bugs that gives eggs the boost of Omega 3 oils that are so beneficial and make the eggs tasty. If you're not sure about the eggs available at your supermarket, write and email to the manager, or head office, asking them to clarify the free range issue for you. If you still can't get a straight answer, many cartons have the supplier's name on the carton, so look up their phone number and ask them.

What are the best eggs to buy
Where to buy genuine free range Australian eggs

 Lulubelle, one of our barred Plymouth Rocks.
 Nora Barnacle, our Barnevelder.
From left: buff Sussex, Barnevelder, (back) Araucana, Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, New Hampshire.
 Martha and Margaret Olley our buff Orpington and buff Sussex girls. Buff is the colour.

I believe that buying point of lay red/brown, black or white chickens produced for the caged egg industry is one way of supporting that industry. If you would never buy caged eggs, don't buy the chickens bred to lay those eggs either. However, if you already have those chickens, how can you improve the eggs they lay. This applies to all breeds of chickens, heirloom or pure breeds too, the single best step to take is to give your chickens access to grass. It will boost the nutritional value and taste of the eggs the chooks lay.

Always give your chickens free access to fresh water, they can be fed on pellets with a small amount of grain but if you add greens to their diet, in the form of grass or vegetables leaves, that will make those dark yellow yolks we all love and it will improve the quality of the eggs. Currently we have eight chickens and we get about six eggs per day. I'm feeding them half a small bucket of pellets and a hand full of grain per day. They have access to greens every day and occasionally they get some of our leftovers.

Having had many types of heirloom breeds over the past 35 years has given us a good opportunity to decide which eggs we prefer. This is important because we keep chickens for the eggs. Currently we have Plymouth Rocks, Barnevelders, Australorps, Frizzles and a Wyandotte. In the past we've had Welsummers,  Pekins, Hamburgs, New Hampshires, Orpingtons, a variety of Sussex colours, Rhode Island Reds, Araucanas, Campines, Old English Game Hens and Faverolles. Of all those breeds, I believe the Barnevelder lays the tastiest eggs and the New Hampshires are the most consistent layers in a backyard environment.

Yesterday's eggs, with the dark brown Barnevelder egg on top.

Keeping heirloom chickens is similar to growing heirloom vegetable seeds. They've stood the test of time, they're part of the diverse poultry world, they'll lay longer and are generally healthier than mixed breed chickens. And keeping a few of the pure breeds will help keep that breed alive so they're there for your grandchildren to choose from too.  Which breed produces your favourite eggs?


26 October 2015

Blogging, bears and play dough - what a trio

After looking into the trouble some readers have making a comment, I've decided to remove one of the blog filters to see if it makes a difference.  You can now comment as 'anonymous' if you want to. If you do that, I would appreciate you including your name in your comment so I know who it's from. Comments will still be moderated and will not appear until I approve them. All spam and any unpleasant comments will be deleted. Life's too short for that kind of ugliness. I hope that helps those of you who have had problems with it in the past.

Here are my blogging workshop ladies: (from left) Fiona, Aleta, Sharon, Kristy and Sandi.

It's been very busy here over the past few days. We're looking after Jamie from Thursday through to Sunday now and while he's absolutely no trouble and I love him being here, there is more work. We also had a workshop on Saturday with five ladies here to learn about blogging. We had a great time, I think the workshop went well and I hope the ladies went home with enough information and confidence to start their own blogs. I'll give you their blog links when a few of them are writing regularly.

If you're a sensitive soul and don't want to read about the death of an animal, skip this.
I've been watching the brown bears at Katmai on explore.org for a few months now and have been thoroughly absorbed by it. There, laid out before us every day, are these amazing bears living life in the wilds of Alaska. Late Thursday, a mother and two cubs came into view. One of the cubs was asleep on a path way and when it woke up and followed its mum again, it was unsteady on its feet and stumbled a few times walking up the road. Eventually he reached mum and his twin and it was painfully obvious to all of us watching that this little fellow was in big trouble. To make a long story short, when he reached his family, he dropped and didn't get up again. Sadly, the cub died on Saturday night.

This was remarkable for two outstanding reasons - the emotion shown by the mother, who at one point cradled the baby in her giant paw, and the fact that such an event was captured for all to see. The ranger said that dead wild bears are never found because they're eaten, so no chance of looking into the cause of death. But watching the process of death and the reaction of the mother and twin, and the bears in the vicinity, had just never happened before. Only the internet made this possible. 

It's the end of the bear watching season, winter is setting in and the rangers had all left the area, however, a small team of three rangers flew back in to retrieve the body and take it away for analysis. I was so pleased this happened because the mother had faithfully kept watch over her baby but when she left to feed the other cub, crows where taking advantage of the situation and pecking at the body. Of course this is all part of the natural process of death but I ached for this mother and she would have suffered more to have seen that particular bird scene played out. As distressing as it was at times, I'm very thankful I witnessed what happened on that river's edge so far away. It was a powerful reminder of how death is lurking in the shadows and can tap any shoulder at any moment.

Back here at home, mini cupcakes were made and Jamie practised his coordination skills by filling those little patty pans with cake batter. I guess this is part of an ordinary day for many mums out there but it reminds me of teaching Shane and Kerry to cook all those years ago. They're both chefs now and they sometimes teach me. 

I made two batches of play dough too. It's so easy to make, I do it in the bread maker, so it's no trouble at all.

This is the recipe commonly available on the internet. I haven't seen anyone making it with a bread maker though so I thought I'd share how I do it.
  • 2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cream of tartar: You can leave this out if you don't have it on hand but it does improve elasticity and extends the life of the dough 
  • food colouring - I used about ¼ teaspoon of Queen liquid food colouring
Place all the above into your bread maker bucket and turn on the dough setting. Process for five minutes then stop the machine. Turn out the dough onto a floured board and knead by hand so it's covered in a thin coating of flour and becomes less sticky. Store in a plastic zip lock bag or a container with lid. Wash the bread maker bucket straight away with hot soapy water.

I have a few more things to tell you but this post is already too long so I'll save them for later in the week. In the meantime, after a full year of mad work schedules, I'm looking forward to a few weeks with no outside commitments when I'll be sewing, baking and relaxing.  Life's good. :- )


23 October 2015

Weekend reading

I have my final blogging workshop tomorrow then there is nothing planned for three weeks. The weather is getting hotter here and I have to say, November is my least favoured month. I hope you have good weather for whatever you're doing on the weekend. See you all next week.

Embroidered cat shirts go viral
Weekly cleaning schedule
Tim and Hannah's affordable DIY self-sustainable micro cabin
Probiotic bacteria may aid against anxiety and memory problems
Living on our food storage
Why low-tech living is back
Making art, caregiving and loving my mother who has dementia
Crisps, betties, buckles and slumps: The Who’s Who of fruit desserts

And finally, I'll be doing some free library talks soon. If you're around, maybe you'd like to come along.  Bookings essential.

End Time
Frugal Festivities
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Kawana Library
Frugal Festivities
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Maleny Library
Frugal Festivities
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Coolum Library
Frugal Festivities
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Nambour Library
Frugal Festivities
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Beerwah Library
Frugal Festivities
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Caloundra Library
Frugal Festivities
10:30 AM
12:00 PM
Maroochydore Library


22 October 2015

My favourite place #16

This week we have photos from a country close to my heart, County Mayo in Ireland. Susan writes from there to share her favourite place where she is teaching herself to draw and paint.  And further over, in Pennsylvannia, USA, Fern writes about her gorgeous kitchen. For many of us, the kitchen is the heart of our homes, and this one is no different.  Thanks for sharing your photos with us, ladies.

I would like to share my favourite place, though it is just a tiny area set-a-side in a corner beside the window in our bedroom. I live in a little hundred and fifty year old, three bedroom cottage in the west of Ireland in a county called Mayo not far from the wonderful wild Atlantic Ocean.

In my little corner space I sit in my rocking chair where I nursed my babies many years ago and where today I like to just read, knit and just lately I am teaching myself to draw and paint, a dream I have had for so long and now at last I have the time. Life is good here. I have a blog showing just a taste of my life at Haremoon Cottage. www.haremooncottage.wordpress.com

: : : ♥︎ : : :

I am writing to share my favorite place with you. My name is Fawn and I live in Pennsylvania, in the Eastern part of the United States. Fall has started here which is just about the perfect time of year, with warmish days and crisp chilly evenings. 

Life is very busy around here with my little family and house full of pets. Currently, I work full time in a corporate setting, but your blog, combined with some inner soul searching, has inspired me to begin transitioning towards a slower, simpler lifestyle.

My favorite room in our house is the kitchen. This is where I spend most of the time when I'm at home. It is where I pack lunches early in the morning while the rest of the house sleeps. It is my first stop when I return from work to start cooking dinner. It is where I spend evenings cleaning up and getting ready (physically and mentally) for the next day. 

I love that my kitchen is where I cook nourishing meals for my family, to send them out into the world with full tummies and happy hearts. I love that my kitchen is where time slows down and I can putter around stirring a pot, checking on rising bread, or chatting with little boys or a grown man who wander in looking for a snack. You can see a glimpse of the little stool by the door where there is usually a child (or cat!) sitting to keep me company. 

Our kitchen is small and simple, but it is my happy place. I blog at www.stitchtherapyblog.wordpress.com about cross stitching, family life, and my cat.


21 October 2015

Living on one income - part 2

There are many ways of living simply, this is one of them.

Making the move from being a two income family to one income can create stress because of the uncertainty but when you settle into it, those feelings peel away, you start organising yourself in your new job and life on one income becomes your new normal. The key to this - in the early days and in the longer term - is organisation and team work.

The partner who goes out to work needs to understand the budget so creating one is a job for both of you. Ideally, this should be done before your change.  Sit down together, discuss your goals, know what your income will be and start tracking your expenses. Write up the budget, or do one online, it needs to be something you can both see, not just an idea in your head. You should both know what amounts can be spent on food, fuel, transport, entertainment, clothing, etc. so you can work as a team. Then one partner goes out to work to bring in the money and the other partner works at home saving as much of that income as possible. There are many ways of doing that but in those early days it will probably involve food shopping,  cooking from scratch and home production of common things such as yoghurt, bread, sauces, jams and cleaning products.

One of the early things I did that was very helpful was to make up a normal week's shopping list, then go through that list and make a second list of the things I could make at home. My second list contained bread, yoghurt, cheese, crackers, biscuits, cakes, jams, sauces, dressings, spice mixes, drinks, cleaners, laundry liquid etc. All these years later I reckon I've saved a lot of money doing those things and we're healthier because of it. We consume few preservatives here and we live with fewer chemicals than we used to.

When I first started living this way I did a lot of research about how to do many things. If you're like me you'll have a lot of printouts, various notes, spreadsheets, flyers, even pages from magazines. You'll need to organise these too. Enter the household manual. It contains everything that you need to keep the home - recipes, information about your rubbish collection, seed catalogues, vaccination dates, your pet's flea and tick treatments, handy ideas about sewing, planting, cleaning etc.  If you haven't started one of these, I encourage to towards it and to edit it every few months to keep it current and relevant.

Here is a short list of some of the things you might want to do in your first year:
  • Budget and save an emergency fund.
  • Change your home to better suit you and the way you work there.
  • Monitor your water, electricity and gas usage.
  • Get better deals on your regular bills such as insurances, internet, phone.
  • Set up a pantry and stockpile.
  • Declutter and sell the excess - money made goes towards the emergency fund or savings.
  • Learn to bake and preserve.
  • Grow some food.
  • Start composting.
  • Make an effort to reduce the amount of waste you generate.
There are so many things to do when you live a more simple life, you'll never get through all of them in one life time. But the most important thing to remember from this post and the previous one is to live your life, not mine, not your best friend's or your parents', live your life. We're all so different, we're different ages, we have different types of families, different aspirations, values, incomes, needs and desires. So go slowly, work hard, identify what you want and how to get it. By taking the small steps methods over many years, you'll build yourself a mighty fine life and I hope that on your dying day, you'll be proud of what you managed to achieve.

The paid worker no doubt will work hard for their money and when they come home, dinner will probably be cooked, there will be clean sheets on the beds and clothes ready to wear. The partner who works at home will do the majority of that work. However, that doesn't mean the home worker does eveything in the home. When the paid worker is at home, they should help with whatever needs doing. Going out to work doesn't make you the king or queen, it just means your doing different types of work and if you're really working as a team, you'll do your fair share when it's needed, without being asked.  

If you have children, teach them as much as you can while they're growing up.  One of the biggest gifts you can give your children is to love them and your partner, and show them how happy your family and the way you've chosen to live makes you. As you get older you'll go through a lot of life stages so don't be afraid to change as you need to. Just keep in mind your simple values and work out ways to remain productive for as long as you can. This is an enriching and significant way to live and it will change you like nothing else can.  Good luck. ♥︎


19 October 2015

Becoming a one income family

I'm queen of my home and here with my king, we grow, make, recycle, mend, bake, ferment, preserve, cook and do as much for ourselves as we can. Doing that helps us live a frugal life where we make the most of our assets and live according to our values and not those of multi-national corporations, advertising agencies or politicians who tell us to keep spending for the sake of the economy. I gave up full time paid work about ten years before the accepted retirement period and I have never regretted it for one moment. But this lifestyle is not only for retirees, it's here for anyone who is willing to do the work. Age is irrelevant.  The best way forward is to pay off your mortgage while you're both still working. That will secure your home as your major asset and you won't have mortgage payments hanging over your head every month. Hanno and I paid off our 25 year mortgage in eight years by paying fortnightly instead of monthly, and extra payments when we had any spare cash. It's not easy but it's doable and all the hard work will pay off as you cruise into life without a mortgage.

If you've still got a way to go on your morttage, this post is for you too but it isn't for the faint hearted. It involves much more than wishing you could pay off the mortgage, it's about planning to do it then following through on that plan. Not everyone will want to do this, some won't have the will power or even the opportunity to do it but the payoff is magnificent if you succeed. If you've been thinking about this for a while and decide to go for it, you'll need to plan out your debt reduction, then work towards that magical day when you breathe out and say: We did it!

Then the fun starts.

It's a really good idea to organise yourself well and have a clear plan. In those early weeks the aim for both of you is to set a budget and continue to deliver the same standard of food and house work as you did in the past.  You'll have to continue feeding the family and keeping your home clean so the areas you'll probably concentrate on first are finances, food shopping, food storage, and making your own cleaning products. In the following weeks, the person who is working at home can review all expenses, start a major home audit, then begin the life-long commitment to learning the skills needed to carry out the work you want to do. These new skills might include baking, cooking form scratch, food storage, fermenting, cheese making, and making the cleaning products you want to use. There is no doubt that if you master these more traditional skills - either one, two or many of them, you'll save money and increase your independence while moving further away from mainstream life. Hopefully, as you move through these stages, your sense of well being improves and a warm feeling of calm contentment will settle on you as you carry out your daily work.

When you first leave work and become a full time homemaker, you'll probably focus on setting your home up to support the family in a different way. You'll go from shopping weekly for most of your food and cleaning needs, to fewer trips to the supermarket. You'll probably stop buying convenience items and buy more ingredients to make what you need at home. These simple steps reduce the cost of living a lot but they also increase your self-reliance and resilience. This period of reskilling, or learning new skills from scratch is important and it never ends. You'll probably teach yourself how to do all the things your immediate future holds but as time goes on, there will always be more to learn as you go through different stages of your life.

And before this turns into War and Peace, let me finish by saying that gender is irrelevant in the choice of who will do their work at home and who will go out to work. There are so many things to consider - who works best with the children, who enjoys paid work, who gets paid more, who already has the homemaking and garden skills. The important thing is that you work with your partner as a team, make joint decisions, don't blame each other for past mistakes, share work when you're there together, and look to your future with shared optimism. This is the best way of living I've ever known but if I told you it's easy, I'd be lying. But if you want your life to be about more than working to pay bills, if you want to discover your true mettle, if you want to live on your own terms, if you want to spend time with your children and be the one who teaches them most of what they learn in those early years, then this is the life for you.

In the next post, I'll continue on this theme and discuss life after that initial change.


16 October 2015

Weekend reading

I got through a lot of writing work this week and now my desk is clear for a while. I'm looking forward to being in the garden this weekend and spending time with Hanno and Jamie. I hope you've got something to look forward to as well.

♥︎ = ♥︎ = ♥︎
The Shaker way to Cook and Eat
Good cooking tips I apologise for linking to yet another article telling us how we should eat but there are a couple of good points, especially about chicken.
Aussie Bird Count  Got a spare 20 mins? Take part in our Aussie Backyard Bird Count from the 19 - 25 October.
Australian bird finder to help you identify birds in your backyard
Warning: Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth's Surface Electrons is a scientific report and heavy reading. It is interesting though and may be worth your time.
Nest of baby dinosaurs found in ‘dragon’s tomb’

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