Here in my heartland

I intended to post yesterday, and wrote something to accompany a video I made of Gracie running around the house like a ratbag. When I tried to post it Blogger didn't like it so I walked away.


Sleeping angels and carrot cake

All the grandkids were here on Saturday and stayed for a sleepover. They ran around like headless chooks in the afternoon, Eve watched a little bit of Peppa Pig, the boys watched Dan TDM, they had a drawing competition and played with Gracie and the Lego. I made lasagne for dinner but only three of us ate it. Eve filled up on avocado and bananas and Alex had grilled cheese on toast and some milk. They all slept in the same queen sized bed and when I went in to check on them at 11, all I could see were three tiny angels resting their sweet heads in a bed way too big for them.  πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‡ They slept soundly until 7am.


Pottering along

Rye flour has always been expensive but now it's expensive and hard to find.  Most places have rye premix but I don't like using that, I prefer pure flour. So when I dug out a small chicken from the bottom of the freezer yesterday, I was very pleased to find a bag of rye flour.  I made up a loaf yesterday and it's delicious.  I used to bake bread every day. Now it's maybe twice a week but it's still an important part of my house work routine. Supermarket bread, and often bakery bread, contain preservatives and I'd much prefer to eat food without it. Preservatives keep bread on the shelves longer and it stays soft longer when you bring it home. When our bread is three days old, I toast it.  After baking bread and when the loaf is cold, I slice it, put it in a bag and store it in the fridge.  If I keep bread in the bread bin during spring and summer mould grows after a couple of days so for now, the bread stays in the fridge.


Sending much love to Sun Ja, Sunny and our Korean family

Hello to our family over in Korea - Sun Ja and Sunny and the rest of the extended family.  I found a photo you probably haven't seen and then I searched for a few more of us all together.  I thought you'd like to see them.  We're thinking of you and send much love across the ocean.

Remember this Sun Ja?  The day after Jamie was born and you made your special bone broth and seaweed soup for Sunny.  I think it was the traditional Korean soup mothers have after their baby is born.

Ducks and garlic

I meant to show you these delightful photos I took, then forgot all about it.  The ducks visited us last week, I was inside when Hanno yelled out "Ducks!!", I went out and was surprised to find an entire family on their walkabout.  Of course Hanno fed them, they had a rest and off they went into the bush on the other side of our little dead end street.  It's always a treat seeing all the visiting birds we get here but this was something really special.


Starting the vegetable garden

The garden is overgrown with flowers and herbs and the soil is rock hard in places. Hanno has the sprinkler on to make digging easier.

Every day that passes by brings our 2019 vegetable garden closer to reality. There was a time when we'd (mainly Hanno) get stuck in and the set up was fast and efficient.  Now that we're older and slower, we do what we can, usually one big job a day, and that is inching us towards our gardening goals. Yesterday Hanno pulled out weeds and raspberry runners under the big trellis next to the chicken coop. We're going to plant beans and cucumbers there this year. We'll save two healthy raspberry runners for a life in pots. Having the raspberries transfer from the garden to pots takes them into my realm, but more on that when I actually have them in my clutches.  Hanno also weeded a couple of smaller patches, pruned the potted roses and watered the soil to make it easier to dig, which will probably happen in the coming days.


Cooking from scratch

I think I'm a little ahead of myself when it comes to the transition from cool summer food over to warmer and heartier autumn meals.  We're in the last week of summer here and I'm longing for my favourite season to start with her cooler nights and warm days. I'm always conscious of the need to create nutritious food for my family and when Jamie is here on the weekends, I love serving him the same kind of food that his father grew up on. So maybe a little earlier than expected, I've been making lasagne, breads, soups, and today - corned beef, potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower.


Seven years old? Really!

My first book, Down to Earth, is seven years old today, it was published 22 February, 2012. My editor, Jo Rosenberg, said she thought the book would sell for a long time and yes, it's still in the book shops and selling well. It helped me get to know so many people I would never have met otherwise and opened up many opportunities. Penguin sent my sales figures yesterday. So far, Down to Earth has sold 23,056 copies. 


A collector of buttons

My mum was a collector of buttons. She loved roses and magnolias and preferred raw vegetables much more than cooked ones. She was a dedicated family woman, a loving mother to her two daughters and a frequent helper at our school. She was quiet and gentle but fearless when something upset her. One day, she saw the local priest walk out of the pub across the road from our school. Oh boy! Stand back.

My mother, Jean St Claire - 1919 - 1993

Sending love to our Korean family

Sunny flew to Korea on Friday to spend time with her mum Sun Ja. She has been receiving treatment for an illness for a few years now and Sunny's two sisters have been caring for their mother and doing their best for her.  She's in hospital now so Hanno and I want to send a message to Sun Ja, along with these photos I took this morning.

Hanno, our son Kerry and Jamie.

Baked tortillas (flat bread) for lunch

Hanno and I generally eat the food we grew up with. We feel satisfied and comforted by that kind of food and we know it's preservative and additive-free and contains a lot of fibre and nutrients.  But we also like spicy food and since Sunny came into our lives she has opened up the dazzling world of Korean food for us.  We're lucky here because we have three chefs in the family so usually there is no mediocre food served. My mum taught me to cook and although I'm not a trained cook, I think I'm a pretty good home cook.  πŸ˜‡


Dried apricot jam and elderberry cordial

It's been hot and humid here this past week. Most days, Hanno and I both took advantage of the cooler temperatures before 8am and did a few bits and pieces in the garden and front verandah.  Hanno is continuing with general tidying up as well as lawn mowing on the ride-on, and I've been cleaning and organising the bush house, planting up the first of the polystyrene boxes and sowing seeds. It's hot work but it needs to be done so we work until we get hot and then go inside, put the air-conditioner on and have a cold drink.  And there we stay, working on inside jobs, until about 4ish when the temperature starts to slowly descend.

 Hanno making up a cold elderberry cordial. 
You might be able to see the grasshopper Gracie is looking at. She was locked in on it and when it hopped away, she lost it!


Cut back and pay off debt, it's life changing

Angie Grant, please email me about your course.


Do you sometimes wonder if change is possible?. You sail along accumulating debt with a home loan, car loan and credit cards that you thought you'd easily pay. Then on top of that there is your phone and your partner's phone, broadband, pay TV, gym memberships, insurance, your holiday, the kid's camps, entertainment, eating out, your new iPad, laptops for the kids, clothes and shoes for everyone, education costs and toys to make the kids happy. Oh, and don't forget food and fuel, both must be bought every week. If only you could press rewind, go back a few years and make better choices. Life would be easier if we didn't spend like this.


Both courses full

It looks like both my workshops - blogging for beginners and writing, are full. If anyone drops out, I'll let you know. I'm looking forward to speaking to everyone face-to-face.

Changing how we work in the garden

After quite a few conversations and hours of thinking about the pros and cons, Hanno and I have decided to keep our vegetable garden going; although there will be some changes. We were going to pay someone to weed and plant for us but decided that the $200 would buy a lot of fruit and vegetables and was not a wise investment of our limited funds.  Then we thought about having a cottage garden with no food crops. That would have been an easy option for us but when I thought about not being able to walk outside and pick herbs for our meals or not having homegrown tomatoes, it was so far from my vision of us, we dropped that idea too. Eventually, after weighing it all up, we've decided to grow some things in the garden and have another garden in the bush house with food plants in polystyrene boxes.


Writing and blogging workshops

I've been asked to do another blogging for beginners workshop and a writing workshop, which would be a new addition. The blogging one would start in March and consist of comprehensive notes on how to set up a blog or improve an existing one, and how to use Instagram in a productive partnership with the blog. The notes would be followed up with two hour-long group Skype sessions with face-to-face questions and discussions in real time. I'd also answer emails with any questions you may have. This workshop is AU$130.

I'm still working on the structure of the writer's workshop but it would cover writing for blogs, books, magazines or personal journals. The workshop is AU$130. I'll give you more details of the course structure when I've worked it out.

I have an Arts degree majoring in Journalism, English Literature and Communication. I also have extra qualifications in technical writing. Over the past 30 years I've worked as a journalist, technical writer, monthly columnist for the Australian Women's Weekly, freelance magazine writer and have written three books, all published by Penguin. My blog has had almost 29 million hits. So if you're just starting your writing career or you've been writing for a while but you're in a rut and need new ideas and techniques, I'd be happy to share my experience with you and help you get to the next step and beyond.

All courses full now.

Photos of our home

Now that Jamie has gone back to school I'm getting back to my regular routine. I still do most of my housework in the morning and the slower tasks, like mending, sewing and knitting, after lunch. I try to beat the current heat we're having and first thing this morning I was out watering the garden. I'm really just trying to keep the perennials, herbs and trees alive now. It's been a savage summer and luckily we have ample rainwater to use on the garden but it's a hopeless case with some of the plants. The only way to save some plants was to take cuttings and save seed so we'll be able to replant when the weather is milder. The sun is scorching and it seems more intense, last year was the same, and I have some plants that usually stay out in summer tucked away in the bush house. I'm currently planning this year's garden and with the combination of this deteriorating climate, age and dizziness playing a part, I hope we'll have herbs, garlic, tomatoes, chard, kale, lettuce, beetroot, small pumpkins, sweet potatoes and potatoes growing. I'll start looking for someone to weed and replant soon but it probably won't be until late April, when it starts to cool down, before we start. 

It's been a long time since I took random photos in our house. Some things stay the same, others, like the new kitchen tap, change. 


Bread and butter cucumbers, from scratch

Preserving small amounts of fruit and vegetables is a good way to minimise food waste, cut the cost of providing interesting food and a good way to introduce new, delicious food to kitchen table. Of course, you could buy bread and butter cucumbers, tomato relish or a spicy chutney from the supermarket or local co-op but nothing will be as good as what you prepare in your own kitchen. You can make your preserves exactly to your taste.  


Gracie in the wild

I've been out working on the front verandah this morning. Gracie was with me, I went inside and when I came out again I could see her staring at something in a tree. I went inside and got my camera. I crept into the garden without making a sound because I really wanted the photos. Well, when I got over there I realised nothing would have distracted her, she was focused in like a laser. 

What's that up the tree?

Crafting away on the needles

I read this article about the downside of microfibre cloths a few months ago and started looking for a new set of dish cloths that I feel comfortable using.  Microfibre is out, there are some water problems with cotton as well, so I rediscovered the knitting hemp I had in my stash. Last night at midnight, I started knitting a new set of diagonal kitchen cloths while I watched cooking videos.

I thought the hemp would be stiff but it's easy to knit with.  I love that the dishcloths won't stretch out sideways. 


Homemaking and getting back to normal

It feels good to be starting a new year with a clean and well organised house. If I was still writing for a living I'd also have daily schedules, to-do lists written out, my calendar marked up with birthdays, special events and various appointments, as well as a daily writing plan and monthly chapter list. Being organised makes things easier. It gives you a starting point and an end for each day and if you're smart, it will include family time and short breaks during the day. It's important that you take that time away from work because it helps maintain your mental health. If you're looking after babies or small children, even though it's difficult at times, you must have time to rest and relax whenever you can manage it. Child rearing can be intense and usually you have no one to step in if you get sick - it makes good sense to take care of yourself, so plan it into your days.  January is the ideal time to think about this kind of organising and to work out how to establish or improve daily routines.


Summer holidays

Summer holidays usually means grandkids to us. We're lucky enough to be close to them so they're often here during the holidays.  Now that they're older - Jamie and Alex will be eight this year and Eve will be four, they don't present me with the full time care they once needed and usually now it's just talking to them about all manner of things and keeping the food coming. However being the person I am, I like to throw in skill building whenever I can.  

Jamie has a grandma in Korea too, I hope she sees this photo.  Hello Sun Ja! We're thinking of you and send much love from Australia.  ♥️

Today Jamie made his first Irish soda bread. It's a simple recipe, it's fabulous for morning or afternoon tea and it can be on the table in under an hour. If unexpected visitors drop by, this is the ideal offering - along with butter and homemade jam.

Easy budgeting

The Christmas feasting is over and we've all but lost the cricket test match so it's a good time to get back to real life and start organising. In the past week Hanno has put in some time going through our ongoing insurance bills. A bit of research on the internet and a couple of phone calls and he's cut $164 from the home and contents and $124 from the car insurance. It can be a boring task but if someone asked you if you would like to earn $288 in 30 minutes, you'd jump at the chance.