29 October 2021

Organising your time and creating routines

My computer problems have been resolved so I'm back with you.  There'll be no Weekend Reading today because I haven't been reading but I hope this post on time management and routines will interest many of you, especially the new readers.

One thing we all deal with, and sometimes struggle with, is how to organise our time to do everything we need to do and want to do. Most weeks can be similar for those who have retired or are ill but when you’re raising a family, caring for loved ones, working outside the home or living on one income with outside work and work at home existing along side each other, organising time can be difficult. In all those situations, however, when you create routines and organise your time effectively, life is easier.

I get a few emails about this from readers who can’t create routines that work. I think the best way to organise home life is to do it in bits and pieces, never all at once. Each part of your life and every bit of housework you do requires focus so you have to be thorough and do it one step at a time. Slow is best.

I think the best way to start is to work out what you’re having problems with right now, and start with that. You have to be prepared to give time to the things you want to happen and for most things, each process will have many steps, not just one. For instance, if I want to feed my family nutritious food then I have to make time think about what I want to cook during the week, then more time to create a shopping list, go to the supermarket to buy food, go to the butcher, baker and fish market, or to the weekend markets. When I come home with the shopping, I need time to refrigerate or freeze the food, or store it correctly in a cupboard, before I cook it every day.  As you can see, there are many steps and it takes time but when you set up your routines, it will help you a lot.

There are a few processes that could be part of your kitchen routines - cleaning, organising, cooking, baking and preserving. Another process that will fit nicely into your kitchen routines is to batch cook. I want to eat food cooked from scratch every day. You could cook enough food for the week on the weekend but I prefer a two day method. When I cook, I make enough for two days so we eat home cooked food every day but I only cook 15 days, not 30 days a month. We eat the same food two days in a row but when you’ve done this for a few weeks, you can freeze the second batch and build a store of frozen meals - so you have the choice of what you eat on the second day. Make sure you label your meals well so you don’t leave food sitting in the freezer or waste it. This post, Three key ways to save time and money, is about stockpiling, green cleaning and batch cooking for beginners, I hope it helps you with motivation.

If I want to reduce the number of chemicals I have in my home, ONE of the things I do is to make sure I always have soap, borax and washing soda on standby in the laundry so I can make my homemade laundry liquid. This not only gives me a very effective way of cleaning our clothes with few chemicals, it also saves money and helps me cut down on the amount of plastic I bring home. But it’s not one step, it’s many and it takes time. If I have the ingredients here, making laundry liquid takes about 15 minutes, then it lasts a couple of months before I make it again. Shop-bought laundry liquid costs about $9 - $10 per litre, homemade laundry liquid is $2 a litre which is a huge ongoing saving. Click here for my recipe for laundry liquid as well as a number of other uses for it.

And as you can see, these two common household processes have multi-steps and take time. It’s never instant, you have to work for it.

The reason they need multi-steps and time is that when you go to the supermarket to buy your weekly groceries, if you buy already cooked food, premade cleaning products etc., you’re paying for convenience. If you buy ready made meals, you’re paying for someone else to buy the ingredients, prepare and cook the meal and when someone else does the work for you, you pay for the ingredients, plus the work they do.

However, buying convenience means you have to earn more to pay the higher price of convenience products - the laundry detergents, shampoos, snacks, fizzy drinks etc. By cutting back and going back to a more basic kitchen, you’ll reduce your use of plastic, you’ll know exactly what is in the food you eat, you’ll live with fewer chemical and you’ll have more money in the bank.

So how can we get back to that basic nourishing food and healthy life?  Routines will help you with the tasks you repeat over and over again.

Before you do get into routines you must organise your work areas - kitchen, laundry, bedrooms, sitting/lounge room, outside areas, but do one area at a time. Start with the kitchen, because you’ll be preparing food and cooking almost every day. Take a good look around and move things to suit how you work there. If you drink a lot of tea and coffee, make a tea and coffee station with your cups, teapot, kettle etc. near by. Make sure your glasses, plates, bowls and serving dishes are within easy reach for every one and are close to where they’ll be used. I have three big drawers under my induction stove. They contain all our plates, serving and mixing bowls so they’re close to where the food is made and when I finish cooking, all plates and serving bowls are right there. Clean and organise the fridge and freezer. Make sure you knives are sharp, it helps you a lot. Clean and organise your cutlery and gadget drawers - this will save you time when you don’t have to look for the things you need. Give away or donate everything you don’t use. Clean and organise all the drawers and cupboards you use every day, it will help you later when you're busy cooking, baking, making lunches or cleaning.

I know how much time paid work takes - I worked for a living until I was 56. I know how much time children take, especially when they’re very young. I’ve had my own children and looked after three grandchildren, so I get it, it’s time consuming. But once you’ve set yourself up with routines, a stockpile of groceries, green cleaning and delegating chores, simple life will help you to live well, consume less and hopefully be healthier. And you’ll have a feeling of self-reliance, freedom and satisfaction that will help you carry out your house work and build your own simple home.

22 October 2021

Weekend reading, change of seasons, garden

ADDED LATER:  I'm having computer problems, I'll be back later this week or early next week.  

Melbourne comes out of lockdown today - the most locked down city in the world. I'm celebrating with you Melbourne! Stay safe everyone and have some fun, you deserve it.

With the weather moving from cool to warm during the week, I cleaned the back verandah and moved our table and chairs towards the house where it's shady 24/7. We have shade blinds that protect the verandah from the sun during the afternoon so when I moved some plants onto the verandah I pulled down one of the blinds to provide shade and a bit of protection. I love the feeling I get when I clean up a big area like that when the seasons change. I feel I'm doing the right thing and it opens new opportunities for me. When things are a mess, I don't want to do anything because I have to rearrange everything before I even start.

It's gardenia time!  Here are a couple of sprays of them with the Queen Anne's lace.

The Taproot magazine edition I'm in was published this week and that resulted in a lot of new people visiting my Instagram page and here at the blog. Hello everyone and welcome. I hope you all find inspiration here or on Heather's beautiful blog - Northridge Farm, or Alyson's at Alyson Morgan or Farai's at Farai Harreld. We all have ideas and information that will help you transition to a more sustainable and simple life.

This weeks baking was a date cake from the Grandma's Cookbook website. It's an easy to make cake, undecorated in any way and so delicious with a cup of tea.  Jens and Cathy called in during the week (they moved up the Hervey Bay two weeks ago) and I was delighted to be able to offer them some fresh date cake with their tea before they headed home, another 2.5 hours away.  Other food I served this week included mushroom omelettes, pork fillet with potatoes and red cabbage, Atlantic salmon with salad and kartoffel puffers. 

And of course you know I've been out in the garden doing this and that. Everything's growing well and it's providing a safe habitat for the wildlife that wander or fly through.

This is a tropical vine growing over the garden arbour.

These St Anne's Lace have grown to over 9 feet tall! I love picking the flowers for the house.

Over near the neighbour's fence is this scene - comfrey, foxgloves, a bee a hotel, mauve trumpet creeper and a huge pink salvia.

And this is looking in the opposite direction.

 🐌  👩‍🌾  🦆

Weekend Reading

  • Something good every day and Hungry Hungry Pippo are two newsletters my friend Pip Lincoln is writing. If you know Pip's books you'll know what a fabulous writer she is. Check out her newsletters - the first is free, the second with a small fee. Both are interesting and entertaining!

ADDED LATER:  I'm having computer problems, I'll be back later this week or early next week.  


19 October 2021

Homemade - sewing my household linens

I don't work nearly as hard as my mother or grandma, or, no doubt, their grandmothers. I'm fortunate to have appliances that make housework easier so because I know that and always have a fragment of it in my mind, I don't complain about housework. But I don't go overboard with appliances either. I don't have an air fryer or coffee machine or thermomix, I have a good fridge and freezer, both ten years old but energy efficient and still working well. I have an excellent self-cleaning oven, an induction cook top, a microwave, stick blender, hand beater, food processor, mini processor for processing nuts and small vegetables, stick vacuum cleaner, excellent washing machine and dryer. All these appliances are the best quality we could afford at the time, they were bought with cash, are energy efficient and they give me the extraordinary gift of time. Time to do what I want to do instead of house work.

Today, as well as my regular work, I made four more 'paper' towels by modifying two towels I made a while ago. I was using the big towels as tea towels but I have those very absorbent Ikea tea towels and I love them. So in a continued effort to cut back on paper towels, I'm using flannel towels instead. They're doing the job well and just need a hot wash in Di-San to remove grease spots. I do a batch of them at the end of the week - dish cloths, 'paper' towels, muslin straining cloths and usually a tea towel or two. They soak overnight and are ready the next morning to hang out to dry. Easy. Mostly though, the dishcloths and tea towels go in the regular wash along with the towels.

This week, premium flannelette 147 cm is six dollars a metre at Spotlight. That is what I used and it's working better than I thought it would. If you're not in Australia, just buy lightweight cotton flannel from your local fabric shop. If you decide to try this, cut your cloths to the size you want and either hem them on the sewing machine or overlock them if you have an overlocker. As a guide, my cloths are 35cm x 35cm and the paper towels are 45cm x 35 cm.

Very early in my simple life I realised that sewing, mending, knitting and homemade gifts would play a big part in what I do in my home. I'd never been interested in crafts before, although my mother did try to teach me when I was at school. I didn't have the capacity to understand the significance of them then. Now I know that making these household linens helps the environment, gives me better quality and I save money.  I am a slow learner sometimes. 

15 October 2021

Weekend Reading, baking and lemons

I don't remember if I told you about the American magazine Taproot's latest edition. The current edition features four simple living and minimalist bloggers and I'm one of the bloggers 🤔.  It's a truly lovely magazine that focuses on family, food, crafts and the values we hold dear. Welcome Taproot readers as you come through. I hope you look through my older posts too as there's a ton of information there that will help you simplify and live well. Taproot is available in Australia from Lauren and Oberon at Spiral Garden.

This isn't just a head with two legs, Gracie is trying to hypnotise me into giving her a piece of carrot cake.

It's been a busy week here but it's moved along calmly with most things falling into place. I always get more done when I work slowly. I drove Hanno over to see his eye specialist on Monday. He had another bleed into his eye recently and although it required a minor op, during Covid, the doctor is well set up in his rooms to perform these small operations. Hanno's eyes are still not right so I'm hoping another day or so will see improvements.

In my home I've been baking, cooking, putting up a single batch of lemons and making more 'paper' flannel towels, more on that in a few days. Readers sometimes comment that I do a lot of work in my home and I guess I do.  I want to live simply and that, to me, means doing most things from scratch.  I work to my routine, it all flows smoothly and the work is done without resentment. I'm in my mid-70s now and housework gives structure to my days while creating a warm and comfortable home that is a joy to live in. The alternatives for my age group of travelling around in a caravan, shopping and joining clubs I did when I was younger. Now I want to enjoy what I worked all those years for - my simple home at the end of a dead-end street, with chickens and a creek in the backyard. Bliss!

Cup cakes and carrot cake were on the menu this week. Jamie was here on Sunday so I sent him home with vanilla cupcakes with chocolate icing. I like him to take something homemade to school and while his parents are working so hard, it's easy for me to bake a batch of something for him to enjoy during the week. I also made the best carrot cake I've ever made! Is was moist, spicy and delicious. Every time Hanno and I had a slice we both had to say how lovely it was. 🙄. The recipe is here at Grandma's Cookbook. As usual, I modified the recipe to suit us; I added an extra egg and left out the walnuts and sultanas. I also grated the carrot with a microplane to make sure the carrot melted into the batter without any hard bits.

I also made up a jar of preserved sweet lemons to add to drinks over summer.  Generally one jar does us the whole season. It's a quick and easy job that takes about 15 minutes. I used four sliced lemons, scrubbed clean with bicarb water. When I added them to a sterilised jar I poured hot simple sugar syrup over them and sealed the jar. They sat on the kitchen bench overnight and are now in the fridge. If you make them, when the lemons are all gone, use the lemony syrup in icy water for another refreshing drink. With the addition of lemon to the syrup, this lasts at least six months in the fridge.

Have you had a good week too? I hope you enjoy the reading list this week. xx

Weekend Reading


8 October 2021

Weekend Reading

It's been a good week for me working at home, with a trip out and mostly lovely weather. I'm not doing more than I usually do, I'm just slower than I used to be so it all takes longer.  At the moment I'm taking a break from reorganising the back verandah. We move the table and chairs closer to the house in summer to keep most things in the shade but as it's not had a deep clean out there for a while, I'm cleaning as I go. I'm also keeping an eye open for snakes as we had a brown snake on the front verandah a few days ago. Gracie saw it first and ran at it but as most Australians know, brown snakes are aggressive and one of our most dangerous snakes so we called her back and went inside so the snake could move on at its own pace. The same day Hanno found a large python skin in the flower garden so they're on the move again. I'm not scared of snakes and I respect their right to live here as we do but I have to train Gracie to stay clear of them because if she's bitten by a brown snake she'll die and I think a large python could swallow her.

Earlier in the week, Hanno was assessed by a woman from My Aged Care, a government department who help older people live in their own homes. We're already getting a few of their services and this assessment was to see if Hanno needed further help. We'd already talked about him getting a walker to move around and we eventually found an all terrain, lightweight walker, so yesterday, we went out and bought one. So far, it's been a great help to Hanno, both in and outside. He's still walking around and doing many of his jobs but with the dizziness, the walker ensures he doesn't fall.

I've cleaned and reorganised a few more drawers this week and my next job it to tidy up my work room. It's not my favourite job but I know that when I finish, I'll love working there and when I look at it, I'll feel like an angel. 😇. I have a few more plants to go into the back garden which I ordered online. They are hardy geranium Roxanne, a penstemon, a couple of salvias and a Japanese anemone. I'm pleased to tell you the citrus trees are currently growing tiny oranges and lemons for our next harvest and the roses and foxgloves continue to be truly beautiful.

Vegetables cooking for the salmon slice, which is below.

Some of our food this week has been a tinned salmon, pasta and vegetable slice (above), we had fish yesterday and today I'm roasting a leg of lamb with fresh vegetables. I'll make the leftovers into a lamb curry tomorrow.

You can subscribe to my blog by email again. The area is in the side bar. When you subscribe, each new post will be automatically emailed to you. And if you're looking around for Christmas gifts which they say are going to be scarce and slow on delivery this year, on Amazon (Australia) my books are on special!  Down to Earth paperback is $26.94, the hardcover is $33.50 and the hardcover of The Simple Home is $34.66. Both books have 4.5 star ratings and both are available as ebooks as well.

I hope you're well and happy and doing things that make your days joyous and satisfying. If you haven't been vaccinated yet, please do it soon and stay safe in these troubled times. We don't hear about the Covid figures much now, it's more about vaccinations, but I just looked it up and so far there have been almost 240 million Covid-19 cases reported officially world-wide and sadly, 4.8 million deaths.

Stay safe and well, everyone. xx

Weekend Reading

  • Purl Solo - If your creative juices are flowing but you don't have a project in mind, here is the beautiful Purl Solo page full of knitting, sewing, patchwork and small works.

6 October 2021

Main meals cooked from your rotating list

Although Hanno and I used to eat a wide variety of foods, now we both prefer the food we ate as we were growing up. The food from our mothers and grandmothers' kitchens and for us, that's food from the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, all food was cooked from scratch, it was simple, with few ingredients, but it was always very tasty.

Kartoffel puffer aka potato pancakes.

When I taught a cooking and baking workshop a while back, I shared a list of the meals I cook on a regular basis. My current list is 40 meals long but really, I cook 15 - 20 of those meals on rotation but in no particular order, over and over again. You might think that would be tedious and uninteresting but you'd be wrong, we both love that list and look forward to every meal.  And the good part of the list is by shopping carefully, I have the ingredients for almost all the meals in either the panty, stockpile, fridge or freezer and can cook from the list day in and day out without rushing out to pick something up from the supermarket.

Beef and vegetable soup with dumplings.

The key to this is to sync what is in your stockpile, pantry, fridge and freezer with the meal list. When you select a recipe to go on your list and after you've cooked it a couple of times to modify it to your tastes, identify the ingredients you need to add to your stockpile and freezer so they'll be available when you cook that meal. Most of these old style foods have few ingredients and many of them use the same ingredients. So things like cans of tomatoes, tuna, salmon, rice, barley, flour, cornflour/cornstarch, breadcrumbs, bicarb, pasta, chick peas, a variety of canned beans, potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, herbs, spices etc, are common pantry staples but in the end, what you stock at home depends on what you have on your list. 

It gives me a feeling of purpose to select and prepare food for my family. I see it as an important part of homemaking to provide food that will keep us healthy and which supports our values. I love when our family gets together and we sit around the kitchen table and share a meal. That is the time when we catch up with each other’s news, forge strong connections and solidify our family ties. Serving food that reflects our values fits very well into that scenario.

One thing to note early here is what we should all be doing - involving the family in our food choices. It's the best opportunity you'll have to discuss budgets, food prices and nutrition with your children and a really good way to teach them about home-cooked food. Getting the family on board with food choices means they'll be more likely to eat what's put on the table every day. And having your children grow up with a good idea of what food costs, where it comes from, how to store and cook it, will be a great help to them when they leave home and already have a measure of self-reliance, a good understanding of how to feed themselves well and how much it costs.

Cottage pie with sweet potato topping - recipe here.

So if you want your children to be a part of the family food planning and if you don't want to, or can't, prepare every meal, you should write down all the recipes you put on your list.  You won't be available every day to cook the main meal and when you're not there, someone in your family should step up to provide the main meal. That could be your partner or your children and remember, cooking and shopping for food is gender-neutral. No matter what they say, we all eat, therefore we should all know how to shop for food and how to cook it. 

Rissoles with mushroom sauce, Brussel sprouts and fried potatoes.

Cooking from your list of recipes, is a wonderful way to teach children and teenagers to cook the food they'll think of many years down the track as "the food I grew up with". Food is more than eating and nutrition. It's also about culture, pleasure and accepting good food as part of your everyday lives. So when you create your list, do with it everyone there and encourage them to talk about their favourite food then make sure you add those meals to the list.  In the early days of the list, you or your partner will probably have to teach your children how to cook their favourite meals as well as some of the other meals on the list. As the months and years go by, and certainly before the kids leave home, they should have a good understanding of food, their food budget, how to store food correctly, how to cook a selection of meals and how to use leftovers.

Vegetarian recipes will help you go through the week with some meatless meals. This will be good for your health, good for the planet and will add variety to your meal list. But I remind you to only have meals on your list you enjoy, so if you're new to vegetarian cooking, test drive the meals before they are added to the list.

When planning your meals, think about:
  • Nutrition
  • The meals you like eating
  • Your recipes
  • Your budget
  • Where to shop - markets or supermarkets
  • How much time you have to cook

Here is my list. You'll see that some food is served in a different form over two days. You do this depending on how large your family is - if you have a large family, you'll probably eat it all the first day. But if you want to do what I do below - for example, roast chicken then chicken noodle soup (or chicken fricassee), or roast lamb then shepherds pie (or curried lamb), make sure you cook enough of the meat component for two days. That's a form of batch cooking and it saves time and money.  You can see that items 9 and 10 below also use this tactic, but with the side dishes. You make enough potato salad and pickled cucumbers to serve both days and use a different protein. Also, if you think a meal will not be enough - such as the soup meals - serve a simple dessert as well.  This will hopefully convince the picky eaters and the meat eaters that they've had enough and they're satisfied.

1. Roast chicken and veg 
2. Chicken noodle soup 
3. Roast lamb shoulder/leg and veg
4. Shepherds Pie 
5. Sausages and veg with onion gravy 
6. Kartoffel puffer - potato pancakes - recipe is here
7. Lamb Chops and salad
8. Fresh fish, potato salad and pickled cucumbers or pickled beets with pink onions 
9. Salmon, potato salad and pickled cucumbers 
10.Swedish meatballs, potato salad and pickled cucumbers 
11.Steak and chilli sauce 
12.Chicken fricassee with light sauce, mashed potatoes and salad 
13. Roast pork belly and vegetables 
14. Pasta with meat sauce 
15. Stuffed capsicums 
16. Lasagne and salad 
17. Arbendbrot - rye bread open sandwiches with cold meats, salads and cheeses 
18. Mushroom omelette 
19. Zucchini frittata 
20. Chick pea and vegetable curry 
21. Spinach, ham and cheese frittata - recipe here
22. Pasta with peas and bacon 
23. Green onion omelette 
24. Cheese and spinach pie - filo pastry - recipe here
25. Boiled eggs and salad 
26. Bean tacos with salad, avocado, chilli jam and sour cream 
27. Sweet potato soup and homemade bread with rice pudding and stewed fruit 
28. Tuna bake and salad 
29. Salmon rissoles and salad 
30. Meat balls, red cabbage and parsley potatoes 
31. Cabbage rolls - recipe here
32. Beef rouladen, mashed potatoes and broccoli - recipe here
33. Chicken or pork schnitzel and veg 
34. Corned beef, potato and cabbage 
35. Corned beef hash - recipe here
36  Curry and vegetable pies - it can be chicken, beef or lamb curry
37. Korean fried chicken, pickles, salad and wedges 
38. Pork cutlet, gravy, red cabbage, sautéed potatoes and sour cream
39. Pea soup and soda bread with flummery - recipe for flummery here
40. Beef Casserole - recipe here

Following are some older posts I've written that may help you organise your list and set yourself up for easy family cooking. And in the photos I've featured, you'll see some of the cook books I've used that are full of older style recipes.

Here are some websites featuring old-fashioned home cooking that you can look through to find recipes for your list. Ask older family members for family recipes and those that reflect your heritage. If the recipe makes it onto your list, cook the meal a few times to make sure it suits your taste. Then write the recipe as your modification of the original recipe. 


When you create your list, start off with 15 meals and add the others as the weeks go by. Once you start this, you'll probably remember some of grandma's meals and others you ate when you were little. Add these until you have your list of 30- 40, then cook the favourites in a 14 - 15 day continuous two week rotation. Every so often, add something else from the list and drop one. And never forget this: the list, what you add to it, as well as the shopping and cooking, is a family affair, it is not one person's job.
Happy cooking everyone!  🍉 😊 🥗


2 October 2021

Weekend Reading and family meals

We celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary during the week with tea and cake on the front verandah.  We were married in Hamburg in 1979. A couple of months after that, I was pregnant with Shane and we returned to Australia the following September with a three month old baby. Happy days!

It took ten minutes to fix one of Hanno's favourite jumpers. The raglan sleeve had come away from the back so his 15 year old jumper gets a few more years of use.

The last few days we've expected storms and heavy rain but the forecasts proved unreliable and we got about 5mm. Last night's storms were lots of thunder and lightening with very little rain. Still, I'm grateful for every drop and over the last few days much needed water has slowly trickled into our rain tanks. 

And now it looks like the warmer days have arrived. We're expecting 29C today and 36C on Monday. I've still got a few odd and ends to do in the garden and I want to clean up the bush house, so I'll do that soon before the humidity arrives.  That's the killer, as soon as it's humid, gardening and most outside work becomes much harder.

Donna and I had another lovely talk yesterday. Getting to know her has become a fascinating part of my week and even though we have a lot in common, our differences are also binding us together. We were talking about food this week, and among other things, the benefits of having a list of favourite family meals. Those who did my cooking workshop a few months ago will know I have a list of about 40 meals that we enjoy and are easy to cook.  I usually cook about 15 - 20 of those meals regularly on rotation and if I want a change, or someone is coming for dinner, I check the list and choose something else. All those list meals use ingredients in my pantry and freezer so I know I can rely on the list and I don't have to run to the supermarket to stock up. 

This is the first flower spike on the Berry Canary digiplexis; it's a perennial. New flower spikes are now growing below the main spike. 

Mixed tall snapdragons.

I'm going to do more posts on my blog in the coming months so I'll start with that one to get the ball rolling. During the week, I also added an email subscription app to the side bar on the blog. I used to have one there but Google withdrew that service in July. Email subscription makes a list of emails for me and automatically mails out new post details to everyone on the list. Please be assured, I'll never use your email address for anything else nor pass it on to anyone. If you want to join that service, simply add your email address in the "Subscribe to my blog" area in the side bar over there ----->

We had several Covid cases in my state during the week and although we're not in lockdown, I think we're close to it. Until now, football has been played in my state and the grand final is tomorrow. Everyone is hoping the match will go ahead but it's still up in the air. We're in a state of transition here with plans to move forward and open up when 80 percent double dose vaccination is reached. That will happen before the end of the year. I hope the Covid situation is improving where you live and that you're staying well.

Weekend Reading

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