31 July 2022

Change, Homemaking and Wise Economy

Of all the simple pleasures waiting for us in our homes, my favourite is sleeping on newly washed sheets that have been dried in the sun. Last night I drifted off into a deep sleep, cuddled by warm sheets smelling of sunshine. Bliss! Sometimes these small simple pleasures are what keep you going on hard days. Having the capacity and awareness to plan your days, your budget and to keep yourself focused on your goals. Being able to sit down to a good meal cooked from scratch, or to defrost one from your stash of meals that you keep exactly for such a day. Enjoying what you have right there in your home and working to a routine and rhythm that carries you through each day without having to think what comes next. They are some of the simple pleasures I've built into my life.

However, now that I’ve written that I realise my rhythm has gone!  Hanno and I were together for 45 years and we each chose what housework and yard work we wanted to do. It wasn’t set in stone because life is never predictable and when things changed we had to be flexible (without whinging about it). When I was writing books, Hanno did more housework than I did. In the last nine months of his life, I did most of his outside work.  Over the years, with the repetition of our various chores, we developed rhythm to our days and that helped us carry out those chores. In fact it made it easier.  I realise now that since Hanno died I've been struggling with the rhythm of my housework - knowing by experience when to do what and how it fits in with the overall scheme of things. That was one of the many things shaken to the core when Hanno died. He was part of that rhythm. I'll have to restore it because for me, that's one of the main keys to tending a home and enjoying it.

My inside work this week has been in the kitchen and dining area. I've simplified both spaces and I'm happy with the outcomes.  I'm still working on the dresser and book case but I have plenty of time to finish them off before I move on to another part of the house. I love moving things around, it gives a fresh, new look to a room and a feeling of contentment, productivity and renewal. I wonder if you feel that too.

I can't say I've had a busy couple of weeks. I worked steadily on decluttering, started building a flower garden on the front verandah, I cooked and cleaned and watched YouTube. I clipped Gracie and removed a large bucket full of her thick black fur. But at the end of the clipping, I got tired and so did she so I didn't get around to doing her head or legs. When I look at her legs now she's got a kind of poodle cut - smooth body with puff balls on her legs and head.  LOL. I hope to finish the job tomorrow and bring back a more balanced look. 

Here she is!  Gracie with her French poodle cut. Eek!

Like the rest of you, I've been horrified by the wild fires in America and Europe and the house fires in London. Seeing family homes and wild habitats burn is heartbreaking.  All those years of building a house and creating a home - for humans and wildlife, gone. It must be the strongest reminder to us all that we have to change the way we live or those weather extremes will become part of our "normal" world. We all have to start at home, doing what we can to stop spending, cutting down on the use of single-use plastics, saving water and energy and simplifying everything we can while we still live a good life. It can be done. 

I hope you're well and safe.  Covid is a big problem again in Australia so I've been staying at home and wearing a mask when I go out.  Take care.  xx


15 July 2022

Comfort and function and how I get there

Things are going well here. I'm slowly working through a few projects, sorting through things I no longer need or want and each day I look back on what I've done to help create a future so different to the one I thought I'd live. It's amazing how many things I had here that just sat in a drawer or cupboard, had no purpose and just took up space. What I'm doing now should have been done years ago. Every day I declutter, the happier and more satisfied I feel.

My goal is to keep the comfortable and functional feel of my home without stripping it bare or throwing out things I'll need in the future. I brought a little trolley inside and when I fill it, I leave it for 24 hours before the items are placed in the rubbish bin, the recycle bin or given to someone I know. So far this is working well and I've retrieved only two things from the trolley and kept them.  I'll never have a minimalistic home, I love my home but I want to rid myself of things that weigh me down: old clothes, books and the appliances and items that helped me do the work I once did. I'm still living simply but I'm no longer making bread because I've found an excellent ancient grains loaf at my local bakery that serves me well. It takes about 10 days to eat one loaf. I no longer make my soap but I'm still making laundry liquid. I no longer preserve as much in jars as I did in the past but I'm still making bread and butter cucumbers, tomato relish, chilli jam, and a variety of fruit cordials. So my Fowlers preserving equipment is gone but I still have a good range of jars and bottles.

Here's my new kettle - low tech and pretty. When I found the one I wanted, I looked for the best price - I got this one at Peters of Kensington for $54 reduced from $100.

I want to use everything in my home. I don't want to keep too many things that aren't functional. To help with that aim, I've moved most of my "good dinner set" from the dresser to the drawer under the stove. The Villeroy and Boch Petite Fleur set that Hanno gave me for my 50th birthday is now used every day.  I did reverse the trend though because I bought a new kettle. My old one had been very dodgy for months. Some days it would work, some days I wouldn't. It went to the bin early last week when I had visitors and it wouldn't turn on to make coffee. 😡 I replaced it with an on-stove old fashioned kettle.

It may not look it but I've decluttered the kitchen too. Lots of glasses, plates, mugs, a slow cooker, bread machine, pots and pans have been recycled. This kitchen is 25 years old, we ripped out the old kitchen when we came here. I designed this kitchen and we got a local cabinet maker to make and install it.  It's seen thousands of meals produced and it's still a great place to work.

This is the first drawer under the stove - easy to reach when cooking. 

I'm also concentrating on building safety into my new life. As I'll be alone a lot of the time, I decided to buy an Apple watch (second hand) which will help me if I fall. The watch can detect hard falls and when it does will it will either ask: "Did you fall?" or show it on the watch screen and if you choose or say "yes", the watch will dial 000 for an ambulance to come and help you. If you don't reply after a fall, it will dial 000 immediately. The other day I was cleaning some mats on the back verandah and I was dropping a mat on its side to remove dirt and my watch asked if I'd fallen. I must have been holding the mat edge as it hit the cement. But all I had to do was say "no" and everything continued on as normal.

We also have these motion sensor night lights, Hanno bought them about 18 months ago. They're great if you wake up to go to the toilet and don't want to turn on a bright light. They're battery operated and you position them around the house in places you walk at night. We have one in the bedroom so when someone starts moving in the middle of the night, it turns itself on. It's a very soft light not like an overhead light. They're also helpful when visitors stay overnight and don't know where the lights are if they go to the toilet in the middle of the night. As soon as they open the bedroom door, the light comes on. We have them in the bathrooms and all along the corridors. You can buy them at Bunnings, Etsy and Amazon. Batteries last a long time. In the 18 months we've had ours, I've replaced the batteries once.

For those of you who ask about Gracie, here she is sitting on her new outdoor bed. She went through a stage of wandering around looking for Hanno but now she just follows me everywhere.  When I sit on the front verandah having tea, reading or listening to the radio, she's always with me. We're having a very cold winter this year so I gave her this little sponge mattress to sit on. Usually she lays on it but here's an unusual sight - Gracie sitting down.  She usually stands or lays down with her legs pushed out the back. She is such a cute and tender soul. I don't know what I'd do without her now.

I've been gardening this week too. I've planted lettuce, radishes, pansies, yarrow and penstemons, moved my Welsh onions and some roses and pulled out a lot of oregano that was taking over the herb garden.  Today I'll be adding more manure and organic fertiliser, watering and filling my new garden waste bin with clippings piled high by Tricia when she was here. It's a bit odd going into July without our big vegetable garden, it's was a big part of our lives for years, but it feels right to be keeping a small number of plants and growing all the herbs I eat.

The main thing is that I feel okay and optimistic. I want to keep working at maintaining my simply life. I never want to be sitting at the computer or watching TV all day.  What a waste! I want to live, not just watch others live. It's important for me to connect to you via my blog because it keeps me writing and provides the best record of my life as it is now. Blogs will become more frequent but I won't return to daily blog posts or the Weekend Reading list.  Instead, I'll write when I have something to say and drop in interesting links if and when I find them.  Like these:

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. ♥️


2 July 2022

Knitting washcloths

For the past couple of decades I've been knitting dishcloths. I generally knit some for gifts through the year and I make sure I always have eight or nine cloths in my kitchen linens drawer. Knitting is good for the soul. It slows you down, gives you a reason to sit and stay quiet while adding to the products that support you with your housework.

Above are my latest dishcloths. While Hanno was in hospital and the nursing home, I knitted some for Shane, my nephew Danny, Tricia and I'm just now finishing off a set for myself.  I knit a new set for myself every year and when the older cloths are no longer serviceable, they go into the rag bag for general cleaning and when they're worn out, to their final resting place in the compost heap. 

I use organic knitting cotton for my washcloths but any type of knitting cotton would do. Just make sure you DON'T use wool. It will shrink in hot water and take ages to dry. To buy online, try EcoYarns, Spotlight, in the US Peaches and Cream or Laughing Hens in the UK. I think 8 ply is the best weight but if you have lighter weight cotton, use two strands and knit them together.  I did this recently with Japanese 4 ply cotton it was easy to do and it looked really good.

  1. Either leftover knitting cotton or a ball or skein of cotton yarn.  You'll get about one and a half washcloths from one ball.
  2. Straight knitting needles. This doesn't have to be precise - either 4.00mm, 4.5mm or 5.00mm if you're in Australia, UK sizes - 8, 7 or 6, or US sizes - 6, 7 or 8.  I used 5mm needles for my washcloths.

Knitting Instructions:
Cast on and after three rows you'll increase the length of each row until you reach 50 stitches.
    Cast on 4 stitches
    Knit next 2 rows
    Next Row: Knit 2, Yarn Over, Knit across to end
    Repeat this row until you have 50 stitches

    Then you'll start to decrease:
    Next Row: Knit 1, Knit 2 together, Yarn Over, Knit 2 together, Knit across to end
    Repeat this row until you have 4 stitches left
    Knit 2 rows even
    Cast Off

This is what the first half of your dishcloth will look like. At this point, I start to decrease the length of each row.

If you're an absolute beginner, teach yourself to knit by watching these YouTube videos. It's not difficult. This beginners' dishcloth pattern is an ideal way to learn to knit because you'll be able to produce something while you learn. Expect to make mistakes, we all do when we learn anything new. Mistakes make you stop and think. 

All the stitches you'll need are in the list below:

I use organic cotton. It's soft, very absorbent and they can be used and added to your ordinary washing load. If they're stained, an overnight soak in sodium percarbonate - Napisan, Sard, Disan etc., will easily take care of the stains. They'll last for a couple of years if you use and care for them this way.  They're ideal for washing up by hand, wiping kitchen benches and for more general cleaning such as walls, doors, mirrors and glass.

These are some new skeins and lots of leftover balls of knitting cotton. This is how I use all those little bits of cotton and end up with new washcloths every year. There's no wastage, just repetitive stitches which, like meditation, relieve stress and add to our self-reliance.

Knitting has been part of human life for thousands of years and it's a really useful skill or have. Knitting washcloths may seem like such a simple activity you might wonder why I bother when I could easily go to the supermarket and buy cloths. Knitting is a small step and simple life is full of small steps. Living as I do isn't about large gestures or about complicated ways of doing things. Sometimes it's just sitting quietly and slipping stitches from one needle to another.

Please note:  Google has stopped feedburner which is the software used for email subscriptions.  I'm sorry but I can't add it back.  I'll announce every new post on Instagram. For those not on IG, you'll have to take the time to come in and check.

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