Weekend Reading

9 April 2021
The gift this week brought us was rain and it was so badly needed. It meant we stayed in the house, or at least on the verandahs, for three days but it was beyond wonderful to watch it fall, to see the green landscape return and to sleep as it fell on the metal roof. Simple things give so much. And now we have all that moisture back in the soil, it's the ideal time to do some weeding, relocate plants and get a better idea of what needs to be done to get the cottage garden up and running again.  In years to come, the garden will take care of itself for the most part, with just some weeding and watering from me so it's important at this stage to get everything in the right place, have taller plants that create shade for tender ones and not only get the colours right, but the structure too. Gardening and just being in the garden plays a big part in my mental wellbeing. I wonder if it's like that for you too. Maybe I should write about that. Hmmmm.๐Ÿค”

Ginger, picked in the back garden just minutes before this photo.

It's the first time I'm trying this way of sterilising jars. I saw a lot of Korean homemakers use this method and if it works well, it will be easier to do small batches this way.

Both Hanno and Sunny have suffered with sore throats and coughs lately so I made up my throat tonic for them. The recipe is here for you to try.  

Ginger and Lemon Throat Tonic

  • a piece of ginger about 3 - 4 inches long
  • 2 lemons thinly sliced
  • 1 litre water
  • ½ cup raw honey
Add the water, ginger and lemons to a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Gently simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, put the lid on the saucepan and let it sit for two hours. Then add the honey, stir until it's completely dissolved and pour into a sterilised bottle.  

You might go through this fast if there's a harsh winter but if not, you'll need the sterilised bottle to keep the tonic safe and able to be used much later.

I keep the ginger and lemon and  recycle it, going through the above process again. The flavour won't be as strong, but it's definitely worth getting two batches.

To make up the tonic for use, make hot tea with it by adding boiling water to 2 tablespoons of syrup, add it to black tea using the same amount or make it into a cold drink.

I keep a small amount of ginger and lemon in the tonic to keep up the intense flavour until it's used. 

I'm waiting for elderberries to ripen at the moment, they should be ripe next week, so I can make up a winter tonic too. You can freeze the berries as you pick them if you don't have enough with one picking. The berries and the flowers are still very useable after they've been frozen.  I'll write about the winter tonic when I make up the batch.

If you're looking for a small backyard tree, I'd like to recommend an elder tree. It's a tree that grows fast, it's a great shade tree, it will give you (and the wildlife) flowers and berries, it's easy to look after and you can easily keep it to the shape and height you want by cutting it back. It's a soft wood so it's not difficult to keep it tidy. The downside is that if it's in a really good position, it will send out shoots for new trees, but these are easily snapped off to keep it under control. You might have to look around for a sapling, I've never seen them at regular plant nurseries. I bought mine at the Maleny Co-op. Oh! I was just looking for unusual salvias online and found a place selling organic elderberry saplings for $5.50 each.  Great timing. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

I'm really enjoying the slow transition to colder weather. I hope you appreciate the change of seasons too. The Covid situation is settling down here again although we're waiting too long for our vaccinations. Hanno and I are eligible for our jab now but no one has any vaccines and it looks like it will be May before any working clinics will be up and running.  I hope you're well and staying safe.

Thank you for visiting me here today. I love your feedback and comments and although I don't always have time to answer them, I read them all and often think about them again during the day.  Have a great week.  xx

๐Ÿ   ๐Ÿ  ๐Ÿ

  • Cafe Vienna coffee mix - this won't do for coffee drinkers who must have a certain brew made at a certain place but for those of us who just want a cup of coffee, this is a good mix to have on the shelf


Weekend Reading

2 April 2021
A few years ago, the week we've just had here would seem like a very easy week. However, now things take more time so I feel it's been a busy week. Today we're looking after Jamie, always a pleasure, so we'll probably make ginger syrup, talk about his birthday and birthday party, the final week of school and what he's got planned for the holidays. Then when he goes home today, the gate will be shut and over the coming days, Hanno and I will mix gardening with relaxing.  Oh yes!

Close to the front door, this is one of our book cases which holds cook books, my books, magazines and a few odds and ends.

We started weeding and reorganising our cottage garden during the week. It's a real mess with invasive weeds taking over parts of it and plants that are dying back.  It needs a total overhaul as well as working out where the empty spaces will be and weeding, fertilising and covering those spaces with compost and mulch, ready for planting next month.  My sister, Tricia, is visiting soon and she's bringing cottage plants from her garden, such as penstemon and Japanese anemones, and I have a climbing rose coming from Treleor Roses in mid-June.  Rebuilding the garden will be a staged exercise but that is true of most simple productions - instant anything is rare. I'm really looking forward to the rebuilding process - out in the cool, fresh air every day, gardening, watching the birds, insects and reptiles, and trying to work out new ways of adding interest to the backyard while keeping opportunities for foraging and safety for the abundant wildlife that share this space with us.

I made coleslaw as one of our side dishes last week. This was the start of it - the cabbage is under the vegetables on top. 

Our capital city, Brisbane, which is an hour's drive from our home, went into lockdown during the week when community acquired Covid was found in a handful of people. In the last 24 hours there have 9 cases acquired overseas and one local. Most of our cases are Australian citizens returning from overseas but this goes to show that local spread is still a possibility and we must be careful.

Hanno on his trusty lawnmower.

I hope you're healthy and remain safe, wherever you are. I'm very worried about readers living in areas with high mortality rates. Please stay at home if you can and if you have to go out, wear a mask, take hand sanitiser with you and avoid standing too close to others.

Nodding violets growing on the front verandah.

Thank you for visiting me today. It's Good Friday here and we have holidays until everyone returns to work next Tuesday. I hope you enjoy Easter and spend it with the people you love. xx

๐Ÿฐ ๐Ÿฃ ๐Ÿฐ


Weekend Reading

26 March 2021
Hello friends! We finally got some rain which we're very grateful for.  All up we got 230 mm which is 9 inches on the old scale. The entire east coast of Australia got a lot of rain, many with record falls. The water hasn't run off yet so if you're in one of those flooded areas, I hope you've got help from the locals and the SES and that you get things back to normal soon.

Bread and butter pudding made from stale brioche hot cross buns.

Hanno went back to the eye specialist yesterday. Luckily there hadn't been another bleed and the doctor was very happy with his eye. He had to go back for another checkup in two months. Fingers crossed. Hanno asked me to let you know he was very grateful for all the good wishes sent about his eye.

On Wednesday, I was interviewed for an article in Taproot magazine.  The article will be in the Sustain edition later in the year. I'm sure most of you know the magazine which was founded by Amanda Blake Soule of the wonderful SouleMama blog. When I first started blogging, Soulemama was a great encouragemnt to me and it's good to see both of us still thriving all these years later.

Lunch one day during the week - chive pancakes with mini Roma tomatoes.

My new computer arrived yesterday!  I'm still on the old one writing this but I'll move onto the new girl over the weekend when I have a bit more time. I'm keeping this computer and will use it for photo storage.

Can you believe it? Jamie has his tenth birthday next week. ๐Ÿ˜ณ He's grown into a very sweet, kind and talented boy and we couldn't be prouder of him.  Here is the post I wrote on the day he was born.  BTW, the monkeys are still loose.

๐ŸŒฟ  ๐Ÿ’š  ๐ŸŒฟ

I hope you enjoy this week's readings.  

How to create a neat edge on your garter stitch projects
How to Start Your First Knitting Project
Down the back today - this is an Instagram page of a wonderful Australian garden. This is a genuine garden and home, not the shiny and "perfect" Instagram garden. Check out the seed swap.
La Parfait, Weck and Ball jars and lids and preserving supplies - Australian site
Melbourne mum stuns with 35-tray pantry storage solution - When I first saw this, I liked the idea but didn't think it would suit the kind of food we cook. It looked to be packet and bottled foods instead of ingredients for scratch cooking.  However, if you look at the far right, you can see ingredients there. 

Weekend reading

19 March 2021
I feel really energised lately and although it's due to the cooler weather and the approach of my favourite seasons, I think housework is working its magic too. I started by reluctantly cleaning a few drawers and cupboards and by the time I moved on to the fridge, pantry and larder, my attitude change and I was looking for new organising projects.  There is nothing like the feeling of living in a home that is organised and comfortably neat. I'm not talking about absolute precision, I'm thinking of relaxed, clean spaces that make living here a pleasure. You really do get into the grove of it when you've completed a couple of spaces. I keep going back to look at what I've done and it motivates me to do more. And I take my time too, I'm not rushing and I do it when I feel like it. It doesn't feel like a commitment or a burden, it's MUCH better than that.

This was the start of the larder/stockpile cupboard clean out. We did one shelf at a time. I'll write more about it later in the week on Instagram.

I've just put Gracie's food on to cook (above). It's enough for a couple of weeks so I keep one container in the fridge and freeze the rest. This batch is 2kg beef mince with pumpkin, carrots, cabbage, rolled oats and rice. She LOVES it. Later this morning I'll clean the seals on the freezer and fridge. Since the humid weather started, they've be slowly growing mould that doesn't wipe off anymore, it needs a firmer touch. I don't use liquid bleach, I'll use either peroxide or Di-san spray instead. I also have to tidy my work room. I've been sewing and throwing things left and right in piles instead of putting them away immediately. It's a 20 minute job so I'll get that done before I go outside.

These kipfler potatoes are chitting on the back verandah.  You can see the shoots  just starting to emerge above. When more shoots are out, I'll plant three each in grow bags. 

It's supposed to rain this afternoon so before it does I want to clean up one of the salivas that snapped in the wind the other night.  That will give me the chance to use my new shears (above); I bought them at Bunnings yesterday afternoon. I also picked up two flowering plants for the garden. It doesn't seem right to go in there and not buy a plant.  ๐ŸŒฟ  ☺️  ๐ŸŒฟ

The seedlings have been moved from the bush house to the verandah to keep out of the rain. They're doing well so far.

This week, I forgot St Patricks Day for the first time ever!  Of course, when a memory loss happens most of us falsely believe it's the first sign of dementia. I tend to think it's old age, the part concerning loss and weakness, coming to the fore. When I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and had a series of MRIs, one of the things they noticed were early changes due to old age. None of us survives ageing unchanged. But I think I'm winning because I still feel energetic and I want to do everything I can do.  I still wonder about St Patricks Day though, I wonder what my mum would have said to that.

I hope you're well and safe and spending time with loved ones.  Covid vaccinations have started here but they're very disorganised. Have you been vaccinated yet? Have a lovely weekend and enjoy the change of seasons.  xx


Weekend Reading

12 March 2021

I'm running late today. Not that it's a problem for a woman who never wears a watch and operates mainly by light and dark instead. I'm doing all sorts here - writing, keeping an eye on my sewing while I sit here writing - I do have plans for it!, and I'm tending seedings and cooking lunch. I also need to organise shelves in the laundry and change the bed linen. I was watering before we had a bit of rain, and of course you know we have a small black dog who always wants to be out on the front verandah searching for lizards.  The lizards know what she's like now and they disappear as soon as she walks out the door. 

Hanno bought me two lava rock plants from Aldi during the week. I really like them - this one is an elkhorn and I have a birds nest fern in the bathroom.

But most of my thoughts float out my workroom and into the back yard. It's mid March and that means gardening in my world - and the orchids are starting to flower! I have a lot of ideas to try this year and can't wait for the days to catch up to my outside to-do list. I bet there are a lot of you who feel the same.

The new bee hotel.

Hanno is outside now modifying a bee hotel we bought at Aldi during the week. It should be up later today. The seedlings are doing well with all of them except the chives, forget-me-nots and cleome up and growing. Jamie will be here on the weekend and we have plans to pick elderflowers. 

It looks like Hanno might have had another bleed into his eye. Next week, he's got his post-op check up from the last bleed but I think he'll be having the procedure done again. We'll see how it goes. 

The news reports tell me that the Covid situation seems to be improving in most places with the vaccinations going ahead. I'm really pleased to see the death rates have fallen dramatically so hopefully we'll be looking at a healthier world very soon. I hope things are good where you live. Stay safe.

Here are this week's readings:


Weekend Reading

5 March 2021
I'm getting excited about getting closer to starting our gardening season. We've had cooler evening temperatures, soon the humidity will ease and then I'll start pruning and planting. I sowed seeds during the week - 15 Woolworth's flower, vegetable and herb seeds and open pollinated seeds from Eden Seeds.  I'm hoping I got the timing right and when the seedlings are ready to plant, it will be comfortably cool enough to do it.

I also put out some kipfler potatoes to chit last week and when they send out some shoots, I'll grow them in a grow bag. Over all this season, we'll grow the potatoes, silver beet/Swiss chard, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchinis, Welsh onions, purple turnips, all the herbs we eat and a variety of fruit.  The passionfruit are doing really well and should be ready in April - the two vines are full; there are plenty of lemons on two trees and they're still flowering; and it looks like there will be loquats to pick later in the year.  We pruned the tree six months ago, fertilised it and then there was enough rain to soak the fertiliser in and it's made a real difference.  The dwarf banana needs some help and it will get that as soon as is cooler.  It's certainly enough to keep me busy every day, engaged in outdoor life and breathing fresh air. I can't wait.

Here is one of our lunches from the week - pork fillet with red cabbage, sweet potato and potatoes. The gravy is from the mix I showed you last week. A delicious meal and quite cheap - $6.50 for the pork fillet which was enough for both of us, red cabbage from the stockpile cupboard and the potatoes are vegetables we always have on hand. I served them with butter and green onions.  Today we're having chicken parmigiana, potato salad and salad. I think we're very fortunate to eat food cooked from scratch every day. A good variety of meat, fish and vegetarian meals that suit our tastes and keep us healthy.

The final simple living workshops are on the weekend - Backyard, gardening and chickens. We've all had fun with these workshops, I think the ladies have learnt a lot and it's been a treat for all of us to sit with our cuppas and talk about how we live and what the challenges and benefits are.  I'll be doing a workshops for the Ku-ring-gai Council, the North Sydney Council and the Willoughby Council soon too. The Ku-ring-gai Council workshop on Baking and Cooking and is on 16 March, the ad is above. That is booked out and has a waiting list. The other Council workshops will be in June and July.

I hope you're staying healthy and happy, have a wonderful weekend and I'll see you again next week. xx

This week's readings:


Weekend Reading

26 February 2021
Hanno had an operation yesterday to clear up some bleeding in his eye. I'm happy to tell you that he's woken up this morning with normal vision and his eye is looking good. I'm grateful for the eye doctor we both go to. He's very skilled, efficient and does most of these smaller ops in his private surgery.

I've transitioned from plastic bins and jars to glass in recent years and only have this plastic bin, those blue bins and two larger bins left.  This one on the right contains sugar and I'll probably change it over fairly soon. The bin is beginning to show signs of cracking at the base and when it finally goes, I'll buy another one of those large glass jars. 

I've spent the past few weeks methodically cleaning and organising my food cupboards. There's been no clear plan and I'm not rushing it, I've just done a cupboard or drawer here and there when I felt like doing it. It's part of a bigger plan to reduce food waste so it's not just about clean spaces, it's more about how food is stored so it doesn't spoil and get thrown out. I have to tell you, there is nothing like the satisfaction of cleaning and organising a space that you use a lot. It makes an immediate difference and the satisfaction grows every time I use each cupboard.

Here are the two larger plastic bins.  I hope these last a few more years because I like the size of them for bread flour and rolled oats.

Maintaining inspiration can often be a problem with this kind of cleaning and organisation so I was really happy to find a You Tube site that became my motivating force. Harugreen at Freezer Organization, Refrigeration Organization was exactly what I needed to keep me focused. There were foods there I didn't recognise, but I was fine with that, I was there to learn and improve what I do. I hope you watch it. I think you'll be surprised. Watch for the wonderful makeshift utensil she uses to pour black beans into a container and don't forget to choose "English" subtitles in the settings at the bottom of the screen. There are a lot of other videos there on various forms of housework so I subscribed and I'm slowly working my way through the rest of harugreen's videos. I'm so glad I found her. If you're looking for help to start organising or to keep going, join me over there.

I'm presenting an online workshop this weekend on Food Storage and Stockpiling, so this all slotted in well for me. This is the second last of the six-week series; next week will be Backyard - Gardening and Chickens. I've had a wonderful group of women join in, some for all six workshops, some for one and some with a selection of the subjects they have particular interest in. We've had a great time and I'm pretty sure they've found simple life homemaking interesting and hopefully more helpful than they might have expected.

I've also read and watched these links during the week. I hope you have time to go through them over the weekend.  


Weekend Reading

19 February 2021

Another busy week, this time with more organising and decluttering (again!), thinking about dying, planning for the future, deep cleaning the front verandah and the usual cooking, baking, cleaning, writing and gardening. Oh, and writing notes and preparation for the weekend workshops which this week is all about cooking and baking. I'm looking forward to it. All the workshops have been real fun so far.

Weekend Reading

12 February 2021
I've gone a bit berserk this week and have been cleaning cupboards and drawers in the kitchen in addition to a lot of other work that HAD to be done. I still haven't done the pantry or the stockpile cupboard but I'll get there next week.  On the subject of stockpiling, it's got such a bad reputation since the Covid toilet paper wars, I'm changing the name of my stockpile cupboard to my larder. It's got a comfy ring to it and it feels right to make the change.

This new cutlery tray has a slider on top so I can fit in the vast number of spoons etc. I have in my collection. BTW, I have more teaspoons in my tea station. ๐Ÿ˜Š I'm definitely not a minimalist.

Weekend Reading

5 February 2021

Many things have returned to normal here after our long summer holidays. School and work have started, limited sport is back, shops are open, people are travelling between states although some are still closed or have removed border controls but then put them back again for a couple of weeks. So although general life looks normal, there's a feeling of uncertainty and the knowledge that it could all change again.


Weekend Reading

29 January 2021
This is Mary Rose, a standard David Austin rose. It flowers like crazy during summer as long as I keep the water up.

Each day gets busier here and we're almost back into full working mode. My online Zoom workshops start tomorrow and I'm excited about meeting all the ladies face-to-face and being able to talk about how we live. I'm also negotiating simple life workshops for the Kuringai, Willoughby and North Sydney Councils so stay tuned for news about those in the near future. 

Weekend Reading

22 January 2021
It's been a kind of quiet busyness here this week. I'm trying to get some sewing finished before I start the simple living workshops, and they start next weekend. Thanks to everyone who has signed up. I think we're going to have a great time and I can't wait to actually see all of you in person. 

I'm thinking of having another workshop, closer to Easter, on writing. I'm not specifying the type of writing, it will be a general discussion, over two workshops of three hours in total, where I share how I started, how I maintain motivation, how I became a published writer, the commitment and hard work all serious writers need, and a little bit on contracts. I get quite a few emails from budding writers who usually ask me about getting to the next level. They want to make a living out of writing but they get to a point, get bogged down and don't know what to do next.  I think a workshop using our shared experience might kick-start a few writers and maybe clarify for others what they need to work on.  It will be online, on Zoom. Let me know your thoughts.

Soft vegetables like green onions last much longer if you prepare them as soon as you pick them or bring them home from the shop.  They just need a good wash then cut them to suit the size of the container you'll store them in; they should be stored in the fridge.  They'll easily last a couple of weeks like this. When you want to use them, just take them out and cut to size for your particular recipe.  Lettuce and celery can be processed the same way, they will last much longer and be nice and crisp.

Weekend Reading

15 January 2021

Things are slowly returning to normal and I have to say I'm really pleased about that.  I don't really enjoy the Christmas/New Year holidays anymore. The last cricket test starts today and by the time it's over next week, I hope to be well and truly back into my 2021 housework routines.

Jamie and I baked these choc chip biscuits just before Christmas and I sent him home with the leftover biscuit dough to cook more when his biscuits ran out.  Luckily he had that dough because they had no snacks to leave out for Santa. They quickly baked more biscuits and I have no doubt Santa would have loved the smell of fresh biscuits when he arrived at Jamie's home on Christmas Eve.


Radical knitting - dishcloths

12 January 2021
When I made my lifestyle change many years ago, there was a period of about 12 months when I thought about what work needed to be done at home, what ingredients and products had to be bought for our home and what I could make myself. When I had all that information I worked out a plan and a new life was born. That plan in it’s polished form, is what became the Down to Earth blog and book. 

I went from spending a lot on convenience products to being more frugal and mindful about what I could stop buying and make at home. I wanted to start with the items/cleaners/food I used everyday, so I stopped buying Chux and started making cotton dishcloths. That one action saved money, was a sustainable practice and it increased my skill set, in this case the traditional skill of knitting. So within the first 12 months of changing my fast-paced, money-driven life to a much simpler one, I picked up my needles and started knitting cotton dishcloths. I say dishcloths but they can also be baby cloths or washcloths.


I use 8 ply organic knitting cotton on size 5 needles but I’ve also used two strands of 5 ply cotton on the same needles and it worked well. I always keep the small half or quarter balls left over from other projects so I have the opportunity to use all my knitting cotton for a useful item. Don’t use polyester or wool because they tend to retain smell and cotton is more absorbent and easier to look after. 

These cloths will last for years, even with constant washing. I wash mine every one or two days in the washing machine with homemade laundry liquid and dry them on the washing line. Sometimes you might catch one of your cloths on a knife and it will unravel if you don’t mend it quickly. So try to catch your two yarn ends and knot them or do a quick darned repair. 

You don’t have to be too precious with dishcloths, so this is a good project for beginners. They don’t have to fit, they’re just a square and I knit mine while I watch cricket on TV. I make mistakes sometimes but it’s a dishcloth so I don’t fret about it, I fix my mistake and carry on. 

Here are some links I found to help all the beginners.

To all our beginners, have patience and remember that when you learn how to knit, and this is the first step, you'll be able to make clothing for your family, that will last for many years.  If you get stuck, put a comment in here or IG and one of us knitters will come along and help you start again.    Happy knitting everyone.  ๐Ÿงถ