Online blogging course

30 January 2018
Hello everyone.  Last year I developed an online blogging course and had great success with it.  It's a course for beginners, or bloggers who've started a blog but haven't developed it. It is open to anyone no matter where you are in the world. The cost is US$100.

Creating a blog is a fairly easy thing to do but to present the best blog you're capable of, well, that's more difficult. As you know, I've been blogging since 2007 and was fairly successful in the first few months. As the years went by, Penguin offered me the opportunity to publish my work with them, I became a monthly columnist for the Women's Weekly and Burke's Backyard and I won a lot of awards.  I started off as a novice, knowing nothing about blogging, but I was a fast learner and I'd like to share the secrets of that success with you. I always use Blogger. It's free, easy to use and customise, it's the biggest blogging platform in the world and as it's owned by Google, it's usually trouble-free.

Routines - for the entire family

29 January 2018
January, week 4 in The Simple Home

This is the final post for January, so let's recap what we've done so far.  This month has been all about planning and organising the year ahead as much as we can.  Hopefully you've been able to set up a home admin area - it might be a dedicated office or it could be the kitchen table with box of your admin things that can be used on the table then put away. Much of your home organisation can be done in your home admin area where you have what you need at hand. If you need to write something down or look something up, it's right there. Your calendars should be set now with all the known 2018 appointments and events, your food planning should be done and, if you're doing them, menu plans created. It will help a lot if you have a list of 2018 gifts organised and you've written a list of home maintenance that can be carried out during the year. These lists, menus, calendars and plans can be stored in your home folder and left in the admin area so all your bits and pieces, the things you need to run your home, are in one place. I hope you've had time to organise a drop zone, charging station and your work spaces to better suit how you work because that will be very useful as you progress through the year.  Some of those places might have to be modified in the coming weeks, so don't be afraid to adjust as you go.


ROUTINES
Now it's time to think about how you do your housework, what works and what doesn't, and when is the best time to do your work. A routine is a sequence of actions that are performed in the same way and at the same time. Routines will help you develop the habits of a working home and will make life easier. There are many ways of establishing your routines. For example, my morning routine is to have everything - breakfast, cleaning the kitchen, getting the lunch ready, making beds, laundry and watering the garden finished by 9am. Then I go on to do other things like craft work or writing until lunchtime - our main meal.  I try to get the active tasks done in the morning because I get tired in the afternoon.  If you go out to work or work at home, you could make up a list of tasks you want to complete before you leave for work or start work at home. These might include breakfast, packing the dishwasher or washing up, getting the children off to school and workers off to work - with lunches packed the night before, and having something either in the slow cooker or defrosting for dinner that night. And while everyone else in the house is getting ready for the day ahead, they should be doing their routines too.  Children should make their bed, dress for school, put PJs away, have breakfast, pack their lunch and homework in their school bag and clean their teeth.

Part of the routine is that everyone knows what they have to do and you don't have to prompt them to do what they have to do.

Weekend reading

26 January 2018
I think this is the most significant group of reads I've collected and presented to you so far.  One site here has been life changing for me, I won't tell you which, I hope you discover it in your own way. As usual, the links are listed in the order I find them in, not in order of their importance or readability. I'm interested in hearing what you think of this group so if you have time, drop me a line or two in the comments.


It's been hot and humid here so we've been trying to get our work done early and then we turn on the air-conditioner mid-morning and stay indoors until late afternoon. That works well for us but I'm always mindful of our sons working in hot conditions and the many working people who make their living outdoors or in hot environments. 


I've been taking herb cuttings and potting them up but I'll write a post about that next week. It's an important skill and a good way of increasing the plants you have in your garden and to give away or barter with. Indoors, I made more lemon cordial a few days ago. It's such an easy thing to do and a good drink to have on hand on these hot summer days.

A frugal tip

25 January 2018
I know many of you will already be doing this, or at least know about it, but cooking in a saucepan with a steamer on top is a frugal and nutritious way to prepare your daily vegetables.  



I bought this set of three saucepans plus steamer about ten years ago and I use the steamer a few times every week. I put the hard vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, turnips etc., in water in the saucepan to boil, and softer vegetables: spinach, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower etc., in the steamer on top of the saucepan.  The lid from the largest saucepan in the set fits the steamer.

Two copies of The Simple Home to win

23 January 2018


Good morning friends. The lovely Ben at Penguin has given me two The Simple Home books to give away.  I'll give one away in June and the other in December. They'll go to two readers of my blog who consistently make interesting or helpful comments on The Simple Home month-by-month posts.  My memory isn't the best lately so I've got my handy notebook here at the computer now and I'll be making notes over the months.  Hanno said he'll help too, so between us we'll decide who will win the books.



I wrote The Simple Home as a sister book to Down to Earth and poured myself into both of them. All the bits and pieces that wouldn't fit into Down to Earth are there - all the significant life-changing events and the small and simple tasks that make up our lives. The Simple Home contains many of the ordinary things we do here every day that make the life we live so unique. There is nothing fancy on those pages, it's normal day-to-day stuff that has been carried on for many years but it's all in a modern context and, I hope, explained in a way that will encourage you to try it too.  

So keep commenting, or start if you haven't so far, and not only will you be connecting with the many like-minded souls who read this blog, you might also win a copy of the book.  xx

ADDED LATER: I know some of you don't know how to get a name to comment under and some have tried but it didn't work but I want you to be in this too.  If you comment as "anonymous", you'll have to put your name in every post so I know who you are; so Barb from NYC, Trudy from Germany or Mary from Victoria will help me identify you.  Thanks!

Customising work spaces and looking after what you own

22 January 2018
January, week 3 in The Simple Home

Thinking back on all the houses I've lived in as an adult, I've never walked into one that was exactly what I needed to work efficiently. I always want to make my work, especially the work that is repeated daily, to be as easy as it can be.  For that to happen, I've had to modify my work spaces. Modern houses in particular are set up with an emphasis on contemporary style and modern finishes and while older houses are more likely to have pantries, laundry rooms and a dedicated place for the ironing, they often lack storage and bench space.  We need to modify those larger spaces to support us in the work we do in our homes. This is something you'll do more than once. As you and your children grow older, needs change and so should your home.

DROP ZONE
Start by looking around your home in the areas when you spend the most time and do the majority of your housework.  For me, that is the kitchen, and my work room, but now we have Kerry and his family staying with us, it also includes a drop zone where they leave their bags, phones and keys, and a place where everyone can charge their devices. Hanno and I charge ours on our computers.

If you have children in the family, it's a good idea to have a drop zone near the front door where they leave their school bags, hats and shoes. If you give them a bench to sit on they can drop everything where it should be, empty their school bag - putting their lunch box and water bottle in the kitchen to be washed, and leave their jackets/hats hanging on a hook or hanger right where they'll find them again the following morning.  This will help with your morning routine too. If you don't have to join the search every morning to find shoes, hats or books, you'll save time and energy at the very time you need it most.

Here are some ideas for drop zones near the front door.  Remember, it doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to work. If all you have is a table or cupboard, make that work.

Knitting and being inspired by other bloggers

20 January 2018
It's heart warming to see knitters around the world clicking away on their projects and taking a photo  or two so we can enjoy their work from so far afield.  In the past week, I've enjoyed Alicia at Posie get Cosy who always produces such fine work, Annette at My Rose Valley with her beautiful, soft crochet and I love what Tonya at Plain and Joyful Living says about how we choose to spend whatever money we have. It's a diverse and interesting group we have online and I am very thankful that these women, and many others, choose to share their lives and their craft work with us. I'm motivated to pick up my needles when I see their work and I admire the steady stream of garments they produce. I'm working on my annual gifts list so I'm knitting too although soon I'll try my hand at crochet, again.  


Currently I'm working on a shell pink jacket for a new born, the daughter of my editor on Down to Earth and The Simple Home books. I'm using Blue Sky Organic Cotton Worsted in 10 ply that has been sent to me by one of my sponsors, Salahan at Ecoyarns. It's chunky yarn, very soft, lovely to handle, easy to knit and it comes in a range of beautiful colours.  In the photo above I've just finished the collar of this top down jacket and will, later today, transfer onto long circular needles.  When you check the knitting links above, have a look at Salahan's blog as well. She is a spectacular knitter, she's based much closed to home in Canberra, and she's extremely generous with her knowledge. If you're looking for good quality yarn or needles, check out the Ecoyarns catalogue too.

Weekend reading

19 January 2018

I took advantage of the Aldi special on cucumbers this week and bought 10 continental cucumbers for 79 cents each. It's good to stock up on bread and butter cucumbers when you can. They're one of the easiest pickles you can make.  All you need are the ingredients below, a few sterilised jars and lids and a bit of time.

Food shopping, organising recipes and menu plans

15 January 2018
January, week 2 in The Simple Home

This is another of those topics where there will be vast differences in the way all of us do things. I know people who shop everyday for their fresh food, I know others who, like Hanno and I, shop weekly and grow some of their food. I know quite a few people who grow most of what they eat and just buy beans, pulses, dried food and occasional fish or dairy. All of us are living simple, all of us organise our food in a different way.  I wonder what you do.

It's easy enough to wander down supermarket aisles and put products into a trolley. But to shop well and to get value for money, the food shopping we all do should be part of a plan that has been thought through. Hopefully, this week you'll be able to do that. Think about how you intend to shop, cook and store food. Our moderns times have given us a lot of choices. It's your job as a homekeeper to work out which choices work for you.

Most of our food conversations will take place in March.  This is to set us up with good habits and techniques until then, so it's mainly thinking about how we organise our food shopping, getting value for money, buying as much seasonal and local food as we can and involving children in the family food choices. Recipes and how to cook will come later.



Weekend reading

12 January 2018

I send warm wishes to my friends in California where deadly mudslides have cause such heartache.  Indeed, wherever you are in the world, if you're experiencing bad weather, I feel for you. Last week it was 47.6C in New South Wales, near where my sister lives. It hit the people living there badly but the wildlife suffered too with many bats dead and koalas needing help and water.  If you're living around the Penrith area, or any other place with hot weather last week, I hope you're okay and getting back to normal.  I fear we're only just seeing the first of what climate change will do.

Don't be the one who is still hoping to make changes next year

10 January 2018
I've been very pleased to read how you're organising yourselves with the help of various calendars, reminders and organisational tools. It's difficult starting something like this if you've always been disorganised but using the technology you're familiar with, or by using wall planners, paper calendars, notebooks and lists you'll get a good start and hopefully gain some momentum.

I wish I could go around to all your homes and help you see the big picture. The truth is I know that some of you will make it and some won't - the thing that makes the difference is how determined you are to change your life. All I can tell you from here is that by starting to make sense of your home, and working to make it support the kind of family you have, will make a difference to how you live. But you have to work at it. If you sit around wanting change and hoping for your life to be different, absolutely nothing will happen if you don't get up and set your plan in motion. You have to do that, no one can do it for you.

January - thinking about the year ahead and organising as much as you can

8 January 2018
January, week 1 in The Simple Home

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. ~ Abraham Lincoln

January in Australia is pretty laid-back. It's summer time, the kids are on school holidays and many people take the opportunity to take a break with the family or sit in a cool room watching test cricket on TV. Cough, cough. 😉 In the northern hemisphere, winter has set in and even though life continues as normal, the weather encourages hours spent by the fire, with some relaxing and others remaining productive with knitting, quilting, mending or other quiet work. It's good for us to sit back and slow down with our family in the one place where we should feel comfortable and secure - our homes. January is a very good time to disconnect, in varying degrees, from the internet too. I have various accounts on social media and even though I visit those accounts infrequently during the year, I make a conscious decision in December and January to step back from them and clear my mind. I want to see my own and my family's priorities rather than have those thoughts diluted with all the noise that goes with social media. I stop blogging then too. I rethink my goals, work on strengthening my values and reconnect with my family and home, with no distractions. I use the time to organise the year ahead, think about what I hope to achieve and put as much in place as I can at this slow time of year. I know that if I use January to think about my year and organise as much as I can, the better off I'll be when I'm busier.

Home is the place where we can be ourselves, kick off our shoes and enjoy every passing hour. Home is important and whether you live in an ordinary house like I do, on a farm, or in an apartment, a caravan, an RV travelling country roads, a mansion or a tiny house, all our homes need our time and energy. They can withstand periods of neglect but all homes function better and support us more if they're well ordered and maintained.

Lists can help you clarify what you want to achieve and your calendar and the emails/messages it sends will remind you to get those things done.  If you set your calendar up with the information you have at hand now, then add to it over the coming months, you'll be able to concentrate on other things during the year and know you'll be reminded of birthdays, important events and that you wanted to clean the windows when the mild weather sets in.

There is no recipe for organising a house, no website you can go to to find the list of what you need to do. We all have to create our own unique list and it's always changing. Every home requires thought, plans, routines and organisation that suit the people who live there. For instance, I have lived in this house since I arrived here at age 49, in a few months time I'll be 70. We've moved things around, changed wall colours, blinds and curtains, installed new energy efficient appliances and lights, we've put up barriers so crawling babies stayed safe, put up fences and took them down again, changed a bedroom into a writing room, then a writing and sewing room and now a writing, sewing and ironing room. All those changes and more have been part of my lists and organisational strategy over the years and helped us do the work this home needs.

Getting ready for tomorrow

7 January 2018
I thought I'd write a post to introduce my main 2018 project of strolling through The Simple Home book. It's almost two years since it was published. Back then, I had plans to go through the book online with my old buddy Rose. Sadly, Rose became ill and died on 10 January last year and it's taken all this time to even consider the project again. 

Christmas day lunch with my family.

Non-fiction books, particularly those which propose change, can sometimes be confusing allies. On the one hand they might lead you forward with absolute certainty and on the other hand, they might create confusion, doubt and, sometimes, guilt. I hope that by walking with you through my book it helps clarify your ideas about simplifying and how to use the book to build or modify your version of a simple life. Together, I'm sure we can go through the year, month by month, looking at each topic and discussing not just my ideas but yours as well.

Above: spicy tomato relish was made to enjoy with cold meats on Christmas day.
Below: I used some of this summer's crop of elderberries to make cordial

I've said many times that my way of living isn't for everyone, it's just the way I do it. My way might suit you, it might not, so I'm hoping that this project will show you various ways of building a simple life that will suit how you want to live. There is no right or wrong way to do this. We're all different, even those who are at the same stage as you. At any age you can be single or partnered, have children or not, own a home or rent, go out to work or work at home, be in good health or have health issues, have money in the bank or live week-to-week, be interested in growing food and keeping chooks or not have time nor interest in it. There are so many variables and all of them alter how we live. We all need to work out where are are at, what we want and how to identify the changes we need to make to live the life we want. I am hoping that this project and the collective thoughts and ideas that come from it will help you discover how to live a happy and fulfilled life.

Christmas day desserts. (Photo by Sarndra Hetzel)

I hope to do a Simple Home post on four Mondays of each month. That will enable me to break each chapter down into manageable segments and establish a post where you can add your ideas or ask questions as we go through topic by topic. However, a year is a long time to make any sort of commitment like that so if I miss a Monday, the post might just come later in the week or I'll make up for it the following week. At the moment I can tell you that I'm having cataracts removed some time in February and I'm not sure if that will affect my blog writing. I don't think it will but at least you know it might. When everything is going well, a post will be there on four Mondays of each month.

Hopefully you will contribute too. I know it's easier to just sit and read but I believe that being part of a community gives us all the opportunity to become good neighbours and to develop and demonstrate generosity, kindness and productivity. If you see a question or ideas posted by another reader, get involved and help if you can by replying in the comments section. We all have our own points of view. What I say might help some people, what you say might help others.  So don't be shy, become more than an onlooker, connect with the other readers and we'll all benefit.
I'll see you tomorrow. 😊