Buying a clothes dryer

Before I start today I want to thank Teri for sharing information in my last post about using a Kitchen Aide mixer to knead bread dough.  She said: I love baking bread. I'm having problems eating loaves with lots of seeds, so I may have to try your recipe. If anyone is using a Kitchen Aid to knead the dough, I found it's helpful to let it run for 9 minutes. I learned about that in a cookbook and my bread is better since I started doing that.  I'm sure that will help some bakers make better bread using their Kitchen Aide mixers.  It doesn't take much time to share something like that and yet it might be just the thing that helps someone who might be thinking of giving up on homemade bread. Small things do make a difference. Thanks Teri.

~.~.~ ❣️ ~.~.~

An idea for the craft bee - jug covers.

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How to make milk sandwich loaf

Before I start today, I want to thank you all for such beautiful comments on my 12 year anniversary post.  I was surprised and touched that so many would take the time to tell me what they thought of my writing, my blog and me.  Thank you. Now, let's get on with the next 12 years. 
~~~ ❤️ ~~~

Hanno's had trouble with a sore mouth for a while so I've been working on a new softer loaf so he can continue to eat bread.  When you make bread you generally add flavour with salt, sugar or liquid, or you allow it to ferment and develop natural flavour. The main change in this bread recipe is the addition of milk and I've changed the amount of salt and sugar to what I think is a good balance. The milk, salt and sugar add taste to the loaf so you can leave out, or reduce, the salt and sugar but it will change the taste of the bread.

This is today's loaf.

34

Twelve years old today

Twelve years ago today, I sat here at a table in my sewing room and started my blog, Down to Earth. I had no idea what I was doing. During the previous few years I had written the beginning of a book documenting our new way of living and after the book was rejected by publishers, in a rare lightbulb moment, I decided I HAD to share what we were doing and the only way I could do that was to start a blog. My first post was about Brandywine tomatoes. I knew nothing about blogging and didn't know how to start but I did want to write honestly about our ordinary days here at home that, in the context of the times, were surprisingly enriching and satisfying. Brandywine tomatoes were what I was thinking about that day, so that is what I started with. Writing about what I was doing and thinking set a pattern that I repeated for many years.  In those first few years, honestly, I had so much to tell you, I could hardly contain it. I started off posting everyday and did that for years before having the weekends off.

I was 59 when I started, it seems like such a long time ago.

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A perfect day in the backyard

It was a close to a perfect day in the garden yesterday. Temp 26C, low humidity, the brightest of blue skies and so many migrating birds resting on their way to somewhere else, as well as our local birds and many newbies who visit us every winter.  The gang is back in town. It was a good day.

Here is our mini Cavendish. It will grow to about 2 metres tall.
26

Two new workshops



I'm having a Blogging for Beginners Workshop on Saturday, 25 May and a Writers' Workshop (getting published) on Sunday, 26 May.  Both workshops will be at my home on the Sunshine Coast and run from 10am to 3pm.  Bookings will close 15 May. 

7

Autumn vegetables and homemaking

After a couple of weeks of rain, we now have sunshine and the gentle heat of late autumn. The strawberries are growing well, raspberries and Youngberries are developing their canes for fruiting later in the year and we have tomatoes, lettuce, French beans, silverbeet, spinach and Welsh onions almost bursting out of their boxes. The cayenne chilli bush in the old sandpit is so full and heavy, it keeps snapping off side branches and I've been giving away chillies to who ever will take them.

Strawberries in hanging baskets this year.  It's part of our way of easier gardening.
Afternoon sun on the back verandah and box garden.  French beans below.

23

Making your home


At some point in the morning, without fail, I make our bed. It's an indispensable part of my home making and the comfort it provides us when we go to bed at night consistently reinforces its importance.  Some folk have to drink coffee in the morning, I have to make our bed. It makes sense to me and it motivates me to care for the rest of my home too.  Lately I've been thinking a lot about the work we all do in our homes and I know that for me, housework slowed me down, lead me to a better life and changed me in the process.  

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Easter - sit back and relax

It's been a busy week. Shane, Alex and Eve slept here last night. Jamie is here now, Shane is at work and soon they'll go over to Kerry and Sunny's to have a sleepover with Jamie. He even cleaned his room for the big event!  It's surprising how much you forget about normal life at various points in time.  It's only when we have the grandkids here that I remember looking after my own sons and the feeding, drinks, colouring in, playing, arguments, broken sleep, walking on small pieces of Lego πŸ™„ and the pure joy of looking after little people. And just how relentless it is.

Starting work on the rabbit while I watched Gardeners World.

In the couple of days before the gang arrived, I worked on the ballerina rabbit birthday present for Eve who turns four on Sunday. I struggled for a while with the shoes and then realised the answer was to hand-stitch them and then cut the felt slightly outside the stitch lines.  Eureka!  By the time Eve arrived, I'd sewn and re-sewn the shoes, and for days had thought about what to make for her top.  I finally settled on a knitted shawl, tied at the back the way I've seen some ballerinas wear their shawls.  She liked it but I think she preferred playing with the Peppa Pig car and passengers. Oh well, she might be next week's favourite.
21

How are you going with your apron?

Today I've been working on another felt rabbit, this time for my granddaughter Eve's fourth birthday next Sunday.  Eve told me last week she wants to be a ballerina. πŸ™‚  This rabbit is a ballerina and at the moment I'm sewing prototypes of ballet shoes.  It's hard going because each shoe is only 20cm.  πŸ˜³  I'm hoping to finish her tomorrow but I still have some knitting to do after the shoes.


19

Another birthday! UPDATED

I wrote the first part of this post in 2013 to celebrate my 65th birthday and thought I'd add to it today, on my 71st.


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Homemade dog food

Recently I revised my recipe for Gracie's meals. I've never fed her canned dog food because I want her to stay healthy and I doubt the claims of healthy ingredients in most store-bought canned food. Homemade dog food is easy to make and I make a big pot full, keep one container of it in the fridge, and put the rest in the freezer.  Generally I cook the food up once a month.

17

Sewing bee - aprons

I wanted to hold this world-wide sewing bee so that we could work collectively on aprons that we use everyday. It's economical to make aprons rather than buy them, you'll build your sewing skills at the same time, so it's worth the time and effort you put into this.  So what is a sewing bee? This is the meaning taken from dictionary.com: Bee is derived from the Old English meaning “a prayer, a favour.” By the late eighteenth century, bee had become commonly associated with the British dialect form, been or bean, referring to the joining of neighbours to work on a single activity to help a neighbour in need: sewing bee, quilting bee, etc. 

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Sewing bee list

Well, that was a delightful surprise!  I didn't expect so many ladies would join the sewing bee.  We'll have a good time and hopefully all come out the other end with at least one apron.  Next Monday  I'll post details of the sewing bee as well as a few free patterns that you can download. They'll be patterns for an ordinary plain apron - the simplest one to cut and sew, a harvest apron, cross-back apron, shop/market apron, half apron, peg apron and a child's apron.  You'll need about one metre of fabric for the main part of the apron and 25 cm of contrasting fabric.  If you're a new sewer, it might be wise to buy cotton tape too so you don't have to make the waist and neck ties.

THE LIST IS CLOSED NOW. Even if you're not on the list, you'll still be able to see everything that goes on in the sewing bee.  So join in and sew your apron with us.

COMMENTS ARE ALSO CLOSED

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What are Rhonda and Hanno doing? Let's see...

It's such good weather here at the moment. The nights are coolish at 15C and the days are warm and comfortable around 28C. The true marker of the start of cold nights hasn't happened yet but soon I'll get out a set of fluffy flannel sheets, add a doona to the bed and we'll be in winter mode. I love this time of year.


Last Sunday we went to the local Chipmunks for Jamie's eight birthday party. Sunny flew back from Korea on the morning of the party so it was lovely to catch up with her and all the family news while we sat and had a cup of tea. Shane brought Alex and Eve down for the party too so it was a good day for being with our family and celebrating together.



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Starting a more simple life

I received a comment on my last post from Kellylynn who wants to know how she can start living a more sustainable, simple life. This is part of her comment:
I'm 45 yrs.old. We are a one income family, have no savings, pantry's not stocked. Living pay-check-to-pay-check. We do own our home and have almost a 1/4 of an acre to work with. I long to help us live a sustainable, simple life. Comfortably prepped for growing old. But I feel so overwhelmed with where to even start. Feeling short on time and upset for not beginning so much earlier in life. Will your book(s) help with steps on where to start coming from zero? If so, which should I start with?

You start with NOT buying my books. Stop all spending. From now on buy only essential items. You should only spend on food and transport. If you absolutely need clothing or shoes, yes, but within reason.  That's all I'll say on money at the moment, I'll get back to it later when we discuss your budget.



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A comfortable place to grow old

When we first moved into our home we made quite a few changes. We pulled up carpets, built a new kitchen, added another bedroom and bathroom and built verandahs front and back. Fences went up. We also put in gardens and a chook house and Hanno got a big shed to house his tools, garden equipment and any future cars our sons might have. We, although we didn't know it at the time, were getting ready to live more simply and our house and land were evolving with us.


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Talking, baking and planting

I've spent a few Saturday mornings on Skype recently chatting away to people I know through this blog. It's been a lot of fun and many of the women I chatted to said they enjoyed it too. We were all in our own homes, many of us had a cup of tea or coffee and it was like meeting up at the coffee shop with the girls. So I've been thinking I might make it something I do just to socialise. I wonder if there are six people who want to chat on Skype for an hour on a Saturday morning (Brisbane time). You can ask about bread, or cooking, or mending, or whatever, or we can just socialise and get to know each other. Isn't that a great idea! I'll start it in April because I still have a writers chat and a bloggers chat coming up. When they're finished, I'll pick a date and if you comment here or follow me on Instagram, you can email me and let me know you're interested. I think we'll have a great time.

ADDED LATER: Please not, I'm not taking names now. In April, I'll let you know when to contact me via the contact form on the right.


I made a new bread recipe yesterday. Well, I suppose I can't call it a new recipe, I just added oats to my normal bread.  I ground it up in a small food processor and substituted one cup of ground oats for one cup of flour.  I wonder why I waited so long to do that, it was fabulous.  Here is the link to one of my bread posts with the bread recipe.

24

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.

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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.

36

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.

31

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.
6

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.

29

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.

35

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.


29

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. 

40

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
30

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.
11

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˜‡


26

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!

31

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

Angie Grant, please email me about your course.

πŸ”ΆπŸ”΄πŸ”Ά

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.


43

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.
7

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.


44

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.
5

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. 

45

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.  


26

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?
28

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. 

51

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.


49

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.
44

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.

48