Looking forward, looking back

13 January 2020
We don't go away on holidays anymore but always make sure that the time between Christmas and mid-January is like a holiday.  We both do what we want to do and make sure it's different to the regular things we do during the year. I forget about routines, my meal plans loosen up and I sleep when I'm tired. My main aim is to rest and recuperate, watch Test cricket, tend the garden, read and think and as I pack away another year, I prepare for the year ahead.

Peaches were prepared in front of the TV with the cricket on.

The main indicator for me that we're "on holidays" is stepping back from the computer/ipad/phone. Even though I've earned a living using a computer for about 30 years, technology has advanced so much, it's not just about work now, computers are also for pleasure. So what does than mean for someone who never plays computer games? Social media, You Tube etc can be a huge time sponge. I make sure I have a complete break a couple of times a year, and limit the time I spend online so I have more than enough time to spend living the life I write about. I have ring tones for my phone and messages which I choose to answer immediately or not.  I have zero notifications or alerts on emails or social media and they are checked when it suits me, not when the computer tells me I should do it. Doing this gives me time offline without the annoying intrusion of alarms and a computer making decisions for me.


December was a knitting month for me.  I finished enough dish/face cloths for a baby gift, a few for Shane and a top-up for my kitchen cloths using the end pieces of my usual yarn - organic cotton or hemp from EcoYarns.  I usually use the plain diagonal pattern but I found this one I like in recent days so I'll give it a go next time. I've just moved onto a Marple scarf - one for my sister Tricia and one for me.  The pattern is free on Ravelry. In winter, I like to have something warm around my neck and this scarf is ideal for inside, doing housework - it's short and cosy.  I'm knitting mine in Blue Sky Fibers Organic Cotton Worsted 10 ply and Tricia's in O-Wool Balance 10 ply, a soft blend of organic Merino wool and cotton.


I caught up on reading over the holidays. I finished off The Erratics (on iPad) by Vickie Laveau-Harvie and re-read Wendell Berry's Bringing it to the Table (old paper book). Both were well worth reading. BTW, I never buy paper books now, I've fully accustomed myself to reading on the iPad although there were many times in the past when I swore I never would. It's environmentally sound, cheaper and I don't have a hundred books to look after. I also did a bit of reading on gender variance.  I've known gay people most of my life but, as far as I'm aware, I don't personally know any transgender or gender non-conforming people. I respect everyone I meet and don't want to offend anyone because I haven't bothered to learn how to address them or write about them. This is new to me, and ongoing, but I'm glad I have the opportunity to learn more about the people who make up my world.



During December and January I'm always on the lookout for cheap fruit and vegetables to make into jam and relish. My preference is peach jam and I found good, cheap peaches just after Christmas.  You only need a couple of kilos to make four jars and that does us the whole year along with a batch of strawberry jam I make during winter's strawberry season.  This is the recipe I used.   I also made a batch of tomato relish to have with our Christmas table cold meats.  For that I used two large tins of tomatoes I bought on special for $2 each. That, along with my homegrown chilli flakes and herbs, and some onions, I made up five jars of delicious relish.  These simple jams and relishes take no time at all to make and you don't need any fancy equipment, but they add so much goodness and taste to food during the year.


I've been working on a new bread recipe that I'll share soon; it will be a high fibre white loaf. Developing new bread takes much longer now because a loaf lasts four or five days. The adjustments that are so important are only made when a new loaf is made. Still, that suits my life now and I'm not fussed at all about going slow.

I use all these notebooks but the one on top is where I write notes to myself and record things I want to try or modify. The little tabs help me organise my notes.

An organised notebook and calendar are a must-have at the beginning of the year.  I know that if I have that sorted, when appointments and important days present themselves, I can quickly add them to my calendar or notebook and I know I'll stay on track throughout the year.  It never works as well if I organise myself in late January or February. When I have my calendar sorted, I know I'm sorted too and that feeling stays with me all year.


Charles helping with some Tasmanian devils.

My nephew Charles sent me a video to share with you, just click on the white triangle to play it. It's of him releasing a koala at Port Macquarie, before the devastating fires there late last year.  There is also a photo of him in Tasmania last year doing some volunteer work with the devils. Great work, Charles.

Thanks to everyone who comments here. I don't have time to reply to everyone but I do read all of them and often think about some comments as I go through my day.  Thanks also to everyone who contributed bat wraps, joey pouches or cash donations during the terrible fires that have almost brought us to our knees here in Australia.  For those of you who are overseas, we're supporting each other, relying on our communities and, as in the past, we really do become our best when our country and our fellow Australians need us.  So thank you for being with us as we get through this and start rebuilding. And let there be no mistake - this fight for our country and its animals, as well as the rebuild, is lead by ordinary citizens, not the government. 

20 comments

  1. Hi Rhonda, a very peaceful blog this one. My heart goes out to all the ordinary people and animals that are affected by these fires. Even though it is horrible, you are right that it is also so good to see that so many people have such kind hearts and that they come together to build it back up.
    Getting organised in january has become a very good habit. I have finished my calender, our yearly financial planning. It makes me feel accomplished and that some things are under control. Getting things organised has helped me too in making a, for us, big decision. If I get the chance I will change jobs, more satisfying work, but a huge paycutt. Thanks to the planning and yearplanner, we know that we will be allright.
    And what a delight to see your jams, bread and relish!
    Take care :)

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    1. I'm thrilled to see you organising and planning in January, Jacqueline. It's only when you do these things you can make rational decisions like the one you've made. I wish you all the best with your change of job. xx

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  2. What a lovely blog post. A relaxing read that makes me want to take a wee holiday at home too. I intend to do some finishing of various craft projects over the next few days. That will give me a lot of satisfaction. I've joined a group on fb called UK crafters for Australian wildlife. Lots of people making bat wraps, pouches, etc. They are collected at a local hub and sent to where they are needed. I'm so glad some good people organized this as its given an opportunity for people to help in a small way.
    Its breakfast time here in England and having read your post all I can think of is nice bread and jam !

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  3. When I heard more than a half-billion animals were going to be lost due to the fire, my heart went out to all of you over there. The world is with you and will help in any way we can! Coming from California originally, I know how devastating this can be, and I believe your current fires dwarf ours significantly. Glad you have some semblance of normalcy where you are; I think at times like this our homesteading routines can be a great comfort during difficult times. God bless.

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  4. Jaqueline's comment about this being a really peaceful blog is so spot on. It's just what I need to read right now. Thank you for the years of gentle, inspiring reading Rhonda. It's so appreciated

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  5. Hi Rhonda, that time between Christmas and mid January was just a bit slower here as well. I have noticed in previous years that by this time I feel very drained and in much need of a rest both physically and mentally. It has been such a terrible time for so many in our country and yet also shows that most of the people here still show true Aussie spirit and are there to help and support those in need. I believe it has also shown us that we cannot rely on the heads of our government to look after our best interests anymore and that is not acceptable.
    I do love homemade jams, relishes and pickles. I make them when the produce is available and have a lovely full store cupboard at the end. My brothers and my sister also receive the benefits from this so it certainly provides for quite a few. We have just started pulling some of those lovely small white onions so pickling will be on the cards soon. Look forward to trying your new bread recipe. Kate from Tassie :)

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  6. We are having a lovely quiet "home holiday" too Rhonda. Lots of quiet days playing lego, board games, chess and crunching on platters of simple finger food. I have been on the look out online in the local BSS pages for second hand high school uniforms for Will, and am slowly gathering what he needs. I can't believe he is starting high school in a couple of short weeks.

    I went to dig out my new 2020 diary and new note book the other day but I can't for the life of me find them, I could have sworn I bought them and tucked them aside but maybe I didn't. If they don't turn up before this weeks shopping Ill have to buy them then, I'm like you and feeling disorganised already as I want to be marking out important school dates and appointments.

    We very nearly have a good size built in pantry under the stairs now, Grant's hoping to finish it this weekend. I cannot wait to have an organised storage space to stockpile again and it gives me space for jars again for preserving etc. We discovered a native sandpaper fig tree, so I'm watching the fruit hoping I can pick some before the wild life gets to it to make fig jam. Have you ever seen them? The fruit comes straight out of the branches and trunk. I have no idea if they are actually any good, I had never seen them until we moved here. Henry reckons the new pantry looks like Harry Potters bedroom and that it makes a pretty good cubby.

    Our plans for the new year involve further waste reduction by buying in bulk (now we have space) and other various greener tweaks. It feels like something important and tangible we can do in the wake of the horrendous fires. There is rain on the forecast over the next week.

    xx

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    1. It sounds like things are coming together on your homestead, Em. A high school boy! How exciting.

      We have the small leaf fig in our backyard. It's indigenous to this area and has small yellow figs growing near the leaves. http://noosasnativeplants.com.au/plants/228/ficus-obliqua We don't eat figs so we leave them for the birds, and how they love them. If some fall into the chook run there is quite a scramble to be the first to collect them. If I were you, I'd find out how they're pollinated because some native figs are pollinated by wasps and they go inside the fig to pollinate. Sometimes there are wasp bodies inside the figs. 😳 Good luck getting the kids ready for school.

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    2. So I looked them up like you suggested and apparently they are considered the nicest and sweetest out of the native figs, and are meant to be delicious straight off the tree. They are a little fruit about 2cm in size, though they are pollinated by wasps. I'm still keen to try them if I can get to them before the wildlife and I'll be very sure to open inspect each one carefully! Fig and wasp jam does not sound appealing. Though I hear eating bugs is a growing niche industry in Australia, I'm happy to leave it to those who are particularly passionate about it! ;)

      xx

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  7. Hi Rhonda, I never knew that about fig trees. Thank you for the pattern links. Those look excellent. My mom read her Kindle every day before she died; I inherited it. It does feel good use something that was in her hands every day, and to save paper. Glad to hear that you enjoyed your break. I am slowing down and enjoying nature, myself. I will send a donation for the fires. We have been watching the footage. It's heartbreaking.

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  8. Rhonda reading your posts are like spending time with a dear friend. So soothing to the soul even though we have never met. Such a gift 💜

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  9. As a result of your previous post, I made a donation to Wildlife Victoria. Thanks for telling me how to help.

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    1. Thanks for your donation. I'm sure Wildlife Victoria appreciates your generosity. I do too.

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  10. That jam looks delicious. My garden didn't give me any produce this year but I replanted this week in the hope of getting something before the frost hits in a few months.

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  11. Loved this post Rhonda. Thank you.

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  12. The breads and jams look delicious!
    I hope to (one day) be able to arrange my life so that I may enjoy the month of January in a slower pace...

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  13. It is always so wonderful to read about how people are treading the same path as you however many thousands of miles might separate us. I too love to use the time after Christmas as a time to think ahead about how the next few weeks and months, slowing bringing thoughts into focus in time for Spring here in the UK when I can start to flesh them out and bring them to life. I love the idea of having a holiday at home by changing your routine and switching off technology, sounds perfect.

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  14. Happy New Year to you and your family Rhonda. I will follow up your links to Knitting patterns etc and I am always making notes as well. The last couple of sentences in your last paragraph are so very true, and echo the thoughts of so many. The whole world is aware of Australias plight at the moment, it is quite astounding.

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  15. Hello Rhonda, your Peach jam looks wonderful! Love your notebooks, great way to organize. Thank you for the dishcloth/face cloth pattern, I will definately try that! My January here is a bit of a muddle this year. Increasing health problems in and out for hospital tests, two sick family members and a house on sale, have completely turned things upside down for a while. To settle and ground myself, I have started another 30 days of decluttering. Gives me a lovely sense of purpose in all the chaos.
    Thinking of your country and the fires every day, blessings, Pam in Norway

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  16. Sounds like you had a lovely Christmas period. I also read The Erratics last year, and really enjoyed it. Also, I've never tried peach jam before, so you have inspired me to lend my hand to making some while the stone fruit season is still upon us. All the best. x

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