28 March 2016

Routines and menu planning

Sunday morning 7.30 and I'm trying to re-establish my routines. They used to work well for me in the past but were abandoned when I was writing; it's about time they pulled me back into shape again.  And shape is an appropriate word here - routines shape my day, they'll probably do it for you too if you give them a chance. I like to have all my regular, easy housekeeping finished by 9am. If I can do that, I can concentrate on a larger project from then until lunchtime. So the bed is made, bread is set to rise, the kitchen cleaned and lunch prepared, all before 9am. We have our main meal at 12 noon so I often get started on the prep before nine. If it's a slow cooked meal it might already have been cooking since the night before. Now that we're moving towards the cooler weather, when we have plenty of soups, curries, casseroles and roasts, one of then will usually be filling the house with home cooked aroma and reminding us that at noon, we'll be sitting down to a hot nourishing meal that will keep us going throughout the afternoon and evening.  Late in the afternoon we might have toast, a crumpet, fruit, yoghurt or tea and cake. We don't need much then. I find that having the main meal at lunch works better for me now that I feel tired in the afternoon. I know I've feed us well and cleaned up while my energy level is still high and it doesn't take much to prepare a snack later on.

We have a visitor here for the next week so I'll probably move the main meal to the evening but the cooking will be done well before then and I'll just have to serve and clean up. The dishwasher does most of the work that I used to do washing up by hand, so cleaning up after a big meal in the evening isn't the palaver it once was. Late yesterday afternoon I set out my meal plan and shopping list for the week. I'll shop today and look after Jamie, then during the week, with Hanno's help, we'll really concentrate on one of our biggest annual tasks - our new season vegetable garden.

Usually in the afternoons I do slower and easier tasks or work on my sewing and knitting, and later in the afternoon, just when the light is dimming, I like to go out to the garden. Connecting with the natural parts of my world never fails to remind me of my place here. I take off my shoes and feel the grass under my feet, I feel the soil for dryness and moisture and sometimes I water the plants while I watch the birds and listen to the sound of the neighbourhood. We are all surrounded by such artificiality. I really felt it while I was away touring with Hanno and Tricia. There was no grass to feel, no vegetables to pick, only concrete, bitumen, plastic, glass and unfamiliar, man-made noise. We are all part of the natural world and for me, this part of the day is therapeutic.

This week I'll clean out the fridge and organise one shelf of the stockpile cupboard a day until it's back up to scratch. Later this morning I'll clean the floors and organise the kitchen table and dresser.  Since we went away they've become dumping grounds, holding a variety of things that needed to be put back in their rightful places. They need to be tidied, with fresh flowers brought in, so it's once again a pleasant area to sit and talk. It will all get back to normal eventually, it just takes time and a bit of effort.

I have two Brisbane outings this week. On Friday, 1 April at 12 noon I'll be at Dymocks in Brisbane for a book signing. The address is 177 Albert Street, (Cnr Elizabeth and Albert), Brisbane. Please come along if you can. Don't forget it's Mother's Day soon, maybe the mother in your life would like to read The Simple Home.  Then on Sunday, 3 April at 4pm I'll be at Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St, Bulimba for a talk, crafts and afternoon tea. I hope to see you there but I believe the event is already booked out.


25 March 2016

Weekend reading

Many of us will have a few days off over Easter. I hope you take the opportunity to slow down and really experience where you are.  Turn off your phone, don't connect with the internet, cut out all technology and just be part of the natural surroundings.

So many of you have told me you love the weekend reading, so here it is again. This one is for Jo who I met on my travels. She told me she relaxes after a stressful week with a glass of wine and the weakend reading list. Cheers Jo.

There's nothing wrong with a bit of mould
Our teenagers need social skills, not social networks
Food is free - Ballarat
Food Inc - the full movie I've added this before but it's worth a look and another think
Farm tour at Purple Pear Farm - always interesting to visit this blog. Today they're taking us on a farm tour and discussing propagation, chooks, insect control and planting out.
The sad tale of a simple family funeral
Australians, see your country now
How to make tomato passata
Could sourdough bread be the answer to the gluten sensitivity epidemic?
The reed bunting's insignificant stutter is another sign of spring

24 March 2016

Everyone deserves a bit of space

While we were away travelling around the countryside, I don't know how many times I heard the phrases "you've really inspired me" and "you've changed my life", but it was a lot.  I feel grateful that people connect with my writing and decide to live more simply because that will eventually change them in many profound ways. I listened carefully to those stories. I heard about moving from two incomes to one, leaving a secure but unhappy corporate life for a simpler one, couples knuckling down to pay off debt, 20-somethings learning how to cook from scratch and bake, women and men being brave enough to go against what friends were doing and reject consumerism, people being made capable and productive by learning traditional skills, and being surprised that there is an alternative to mainstream life that many didn't know about. I was inspired by all of it. I've come back with renewed commitment, eager to settle into my home and live a life that I know is good for me and will see me through my days.

I thought a lot about those stories while I drove long country miles and they helped me put my own life into perspective. Sometimes it takes distance to see something so familiar up close. I realised that listening to those stories confirmed my own decision to simplify and gave me a renewed and stronger commitment. Now that I'm back here I've been reassessing the lay of the land, making sure that what I do is right for us, checking that not a moment is lost and planning for the right balance of productivity and slowness in my home.

The quietness here belies my plans. I have a deep freezer to rebuild and have started that already, there is a kitchen garden to plan and plant, passionfruits, chillies, rosellas and raspberries to pick and process and there are many sewing and knitting projects waiting. I have countless hours of grandmothering to enjoy. And in the years ahead I will live a life that will slow and then stop, so I have a death to prepare for. I won't write about all those things in books but I'll write about them here, because writing helps me grasp the superficial issues while understanding and coming to terms with the deeper and more difficult parts too.

Jamie's little cat Ekk, relaxing on my computer.  

I've been watching the ABC series Jack Irish. I had to catchup when I returned home and yesterday I saw the final episode. This wild, violent and chaotic series ended in a quiet natural setting with the main characters speculating about the fate of a racehorse. The last words they spoke could have been aimed at all of us - we people who choose to live outside the mainstream bubble.

"Everyone deserves a bit of space, something to chomp on and a bit of quiet time to do what they bloody feel like. There's not much more to it than that, eh."


22 March 2016

Book Depository selling Simple Home and all my books

Just a couple of reminders for you today.

The Book Depository in the UK is now selling Australian books and The Simple Home is listed as a bestseller. So if you're living in the UK, Europe or the US, you'll be able to buy the book with free delivery.  They have all my books.  Here is the link for The Simple Home.

Also, the function at Rosetta's in Maleny to launch The Simple Home has been postponed till after the Easter holidays. If you've already made a booking, Anne will contact you soon about the new date.

21 March 2016

Home, sweet home

We're home. We stopped to pick up some milk and bread, then cruised into our driveway and both breathed a sigh of relief. We did it! Almost 6000 kms touring city and country roads, meeting hundreds of people who came along to greet us, sleeping in many unfamiliar beds, eating food from shops, often missing out on meals and sleep. The absolute standout for me was listing to the stories of those who chose to tell theirs, sometimes whispered and sometimes out loud for all to hear, and being told how significant my books, blog and forum have been. I am grateful to know it. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of young people who came along - single and married - who are excited by the prospect of an unusual life ahead of them, marching to the beat of their own drums. It was a gruelling three weeks, but the joy of meeting all those people kept us going and smiling at the experience. I will be ever grateful we did it.

Some of the many thoughtful and useful gifts we received along the way. We really appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Morning tea, lunch, a swap and chat with Rose, Rhonda, Judy and Jenny at Rose's home.
Our swap table.

Judy and Jenny working on their crafts.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to travel in; thanks to the libraries and book shops that hosted us; thanks to Rose, Tony and Mavis for their hospitality and to the forum mods, Rhonda, Judy and Jenny for travelling in for lunch and a chat in Wollongong; thanks for all the gifts we received; thanks for the comments made here; thanks for making us feel loved; thanks for making the tour so worthwhile and interesting; thanks for proving, yet again, that this DTE community is a loving and caring one.

I have to thank my two travelling companions too, Hanno and Tricia. Hanno came down with a cold in Albury and then developed a secondary chest infection and a bad cough which he still has now. He's going to his doctor tomorrow but he soldiered on during the tour. Tricia and I reminisced about our childhood a lot when we saw so many things that reminded us of past times. The memory of driving around in that car with the two of them, squabbling about directions, getting lost, laughing, talking and sightseeing will be with me for a long time.

 The talk at Albury Wangaratta, NSW. (Thanks Al)
 Glee books in Glebe, Sydney.
A talk in Wagga Wagga.
Signing books at Collins in Shepparton.

And here we are now, smiling, at home again. We've survived being out in the world, driving across Sydney city streets and under the harbour at dizzying speeds to keep up with fellow drivers, at night, in the rain; we survived two nights on a ship in Bass Strait, getting lost, terrible food, rudeness and being exhausted most mornings when we woke up. We've experienced what feels like emptiness in overcrowded cities as well as the charm of smaller regional cities and country towns. We live in a beautiful country, there is no doubt of that.

 Sailing into Devonport harbour in Tasmania.

The main street in Yachandandah. 
 Main street in Carcoar, NSW.
The old Capital Theatre in Carcoar. The town was established in 1839 and it still looks to be very similar to how it once was.

While we were away I had the chance to reevaluate my life here - to see it from a distance and decide if this really is what I want and make changes if they're needed. I was inspired and motivated by so many of the people we met. Driving those long miles gave me the time to think deeply about how I will live until I stop living. This is it for me. This is what sustains me and makes me the best person I can be - being here on this bit of land, being a wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend. I know now that here is where I'll be until I die and that is set in stone.

Sunny and Jamie will visit us after school today and this morning we'll unpack, wash clothes and then tidy the house so it looks and feels like our sanctuary again. And then we'll close the gate for a couple of days. We'll potter around, talk to the chooks, sit in the garden, cook good food, rest and recover from our big adventure. My love and gratitude to you all. xx


16 March 2016

Last of the events - heading home

It's the last leg of the tour and we're currently relaxing at Tricia's pretty cottage in Blackheath. We're all tired but still enjoying meeting everyone who comes along to the signings and events. We'll be home on Sunday and I'm really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. Our house sitters have told me there's been a fair bit of rain since we left so I expect the garden to be green. Roll on Sunday!

Here we are in Echuca with Reuben, Katie and Jude of House of Humble blog and #wattleseedcollective on Instagram. It was great to catch up with them and meet baby Jude for the first time.

If you're in the neighbourhood, I hope you can come along to the last of the events. They're listed below.  I'll be doing a few events around south-east Queensland when I get back.

Thursday 17 March
7.00pm EVENT: Kogarah Library
Author Talk, Q and A and book signing
At: Kogarah Library and Cultural Centre, O’Keefes Lane, Kogarah NSW 2217

Friday 18 March
10.00am ABC Radio Newcastle
6.00pm EVENT: Coffs Harbour Book Warehouse
Author Talk, Q and A and book signing
At: 26 Harbour Drive, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450
Bookings: Light refreshments will be served. RSVP 16th March by calling Julie on 02 6651 9077

Saturday 19 March, 6.00pm
EVENT: Mary Ryans at Byron Bay
Author Talk, Q and A and book signing
At: 1/27-31 Fletcher St, Byron Bay NSW 2481

12 March 2016

Melbourne and Ballarat

We survived Melbourne. The day started for us on the car ferry from Tasmania and we drove into Melbourne's gloomy and rainy weather at about 7am. After booking into the hotel, Tricia and I took a taxi over to the ABC studio for an interview with Clare Bowditch. I hadn't heard of Clare before but she was pleasantly friendly and told me she's had Down to Earth as her bedside table book for the past couple of years. Later my publicist, Rhiann, told me Clare is a very well known singer and after looking for her on You Tube, I've decided to buy one of her CDs. She's fabulous. After the interview we went to a few book shops to sign books and then back to the hotel for a cuppa, then out again, this time to Hawthorne where I knew a few people from the forum would be waiting. Hanno came with me and Tricia stayed at the hotel to rest.

Hanno and friends having lunch in Lorne on the Great Ocean Road.

Here I am with the lovely Sarah in Launceston. Sarah was a charming woman who came along to the book shop with her daughter Audrey and mother. I'll remember our talk for a long time.
 And this is Rhian, my Penguin publicist, at Readings in Hawthorne.
The troops were gathering here. This is just before the Readings talk with women from the forum in the front row and me checking out the mic.

Sure enough, Gina, Kay, Jess, Char and a few others were there at Readings. I gave my talk, signed some books and meet a delightful boy called Kyle who brought Hanno and I a packet of melting moments, made with his own hands. They were delicious Kyle, thank you for your generosity. I hope you keep going with your passion for baking, you've got a talent for it.

 The river at Deloraine, Tasmania.

The view from the hotel room, we were in China town, Melbourne. Below is the scene inside the room. The bedroom was in another room.

I was happy to leave the busyness, noise and stress of Melbourne and to drive along the Great Ocean Road. From there we went to a bed and breakfast in Ballarat for two nights. This morning we met more wonderful people who had been driving from near and far to meet us. I love talking to them all and hearing their stories. Often we receive homemade gifts, it's a really beautiful experience.  Tomorrow we're off to Bendigo, then Echuca and on to Wagga Wagga next week.

I hope you're all well and happy, I know there are many of you reading about our travels because I've been told that, so there'll be a few more on-the-road posts in the coming days. Take care, friends. xx  I'm going to have a long sleep soon, I hope.


7 March 2016

Cygnet and Kettering, plus update on shop and library visits

Stopping for a cuppa on the way to Cygnet and Kettering, south of Hobart.

We're going to Freycinet today on the east coast of the island. It's a beautiful peninsula north of Hobart.

Here are the upcoming visits on our road trip:

Wednesday 9 March
11.00am Petrach's Bookstore
At: 89 Brisbane St, Launceston TAS 7250

Thursday 10 March
6.30pm Event: Readings Hawthorn
Author Talk, Q and A and book signing
At: 701 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn 3122

Sat, 12 March 10am
Collins Booksellers,
222 Stuart Street, Ballarat

Sun, 13 March, 11am
Dymocks Bendigo
1 - 3 Mitchell Street, Bendigo

There will be no stops in Echuca because it a public holiday.

Monday 14 March, 6.30pm 
 EVENT: Wagga Wagga City Library
Author Talk, Q and A and book signing
At: Wagga Wagga Civic Centre, Baylis St & Morrow Street, Wagga Wagga NSW 2650

Tuesday 15 March, 6.00pm 
 EVENT: Books Plus
Author Talk, Q and A and book signing
At: 157 Howick St, Bathurst NSW 2795
Tickets: $6 including light refreshments
Bookings: Call BooksPlus on 02 6331 5994 or email at admin@booksplus.com.au

Thursday 17 March
7.00pm EVENT: Kogarah Library
Author Talk, Q and A and book signing
At: Kogarah Library and Cultural Centre, O’Keefes Lane, Kogarah NSW 2217

Friday 18 March
10.00am ABC Radio Newcastle
6.00pm EVENT: Coffs Harbour Book Warehouse
Author Talk, Q and A and book signing
At: 26 Harbour Drive, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450
Bookings: Light refreshments will be served. RSVP 16th March by calling Julie on 02 6651 9077

Saturday 19 March, 6.00pm 
EVENT: Mary Ryans at Byron Bay
Author Talk, Q and A and book signing
At: 1/27-31 Fletcher St, Byron Bay NSW 2481

Wednesday 23 March, 6.30pm 
 EVENT: Rosetta Books
Author Talk, Q and A and book signing
At: The Neighbour Centre, 17 Bicentenary Ln, Maleny QLD 4552
Bookings: Call Rosetta Books on 07 5435 2134

Friday 1 April, 12.00pm 
EVENT: Dymocks Brisbane
Public Book signing
At: Cnr Elizabeth & Albert, 177 Albert St, Brisbane QLD 4000

Sunday 3 April, 4.00pm
EVENT: Riverbend Books
'Crafternoon Tea', in conversation with Julie from bookshop
At: 193 Oxford Street, Bulimba
Tickets: $15 includes a tea/coffee and sweet treats
Bookings: http://www.riverbendbooks.com.au/products/1010089?barcode=RBE03APR2016&title=CrafternoonteawithRhondaHetzel 

We drove down to Cygnet and Kettering yesterday, This is the beautiful mooring bay in Kettering below.

And if you want to read more about where we are, look here: http://www.discovertasmania.com.au


6 March 2016

In Hobart

Above: The Spirit of Tasmania in Port Melbourne, boarding the ship at 9pm, sunrise over Bass Strait, then a few scenes as we drove to Hobart yesterday.

We had a very smooth crossing over Bass Strait and we're now at our B&B, with Tricia, in Hobart. It's very peaceful here in a secluded valley surrounded by bush land with a large garden.  This morning we're going to Hobart for:

Sunday 6 March
11am Dymocks Hobart, Centrepoint Shopping Centre
Book signing
11.30am Fullers Books, Collins Street
Book signing

After that we'll have lunch somewhere and have a look around. We've been told there's a farmers market somewhere in Hobart so we might find that and buy some really good local food.  The main agenda however it to just relax and take it slow.

Thanks to everyone who send a comment. It's lovely to read snippets from friends when we're so far from home.  xx

4 March 2016

Albury, Wangaratta and Shepparton ... then on to Tasmania

We're in Wangaratta!  We arrived yesterday afternoon after a lovely drive through the Victorian high country. We called in at Yackandandah and Bright, both beautiful small towns with foliage turning a hundred shades of yellow and red. We don't see those splashes of vivid autumn colour where we live so it's a real treat driving through the landscape.  Along the way we are getting messages and phone calls from family and friends so even though we're out among the English, as Matty put it in her comment yesterday, we're still connected with our loved ones.

From left: Toni, Elle and Alison, with yours truly at the front.

Last night we met up with about 50 eager people at the Wangaratta Library. AlisonS, Elle and Toni from the forum were there and as I was signing books a number of the ladies told me they'd been following the blog for many years. I'm always surprised that so many people, far and wide, read here so it's lovely to talk to some of them face to face.  The evening before that we were in Albury with about 60 people at the local library. We didn't get away from Canberra until much later than we should have so, unfortunately, we arrived 45 minutes late.  Everyone who knows me well knows I am never late, so it was unsettling that we arrived far beyond our scheduled time. However, we did have a lovely time there and all the people who attended graciouly accepted my apology.

We're about to set off on the drive to Shepparton, where we'll visit a book shop, and then drive on to Melbourne. This evening we'll board the Spirit of Tasmania and sail to Devonport overnight. Tricia will fly to Hobart tomorrow and then the three of us will relax and spend some time sightseeing and enjoying island life.

Here is a very small weekend reading - a link to an article written by our good friend Megan at the Odgers and McClelland Nundle store: Moving to the country.
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