12 December 2023

Decluttering is good for the soul

Summer hasn't been too bad here so far this year. We missed the very high temperatures experienced down south so it gave me a chance to weed the garden, declutter, do some Christmas preserving and deep clean various cupboards and drawers. I also had a looooong talk with Grandma Donna on Skype last week. We have so much in common and it feels as if I've known her for many years.  

Decluttering is so good for the soul. When it's been done it reduces the amount of time it takes to do the daily chores because there's so much less to look after.  Moving stuff around from A to B "because I might need it later" kept me from doing my decluttering effectively.  Since Hanno died, I've given away and recycled about 50 percent of what I own and boy, does it feel good! I still have a few things to go but they're items I'll sell - lawn mowers, whipper snipper, wheel chair etc. They're all in good nick so I doubt I'll have a problem moving them on to new homes. I wish I’d been more focused on real decluttering years ago. It can change how you live and how you view your life, and I know now that it's too important not to do it properly.

This is four sliced cucumbers that had been salted for an hour. I wrote about them previously and you can find the full recipe and instructions here. I saved the leftover spiced vinegar because I use it as my salad dressing. I don't like dressings containing olive oil.

I bought two new toys for Gracie yesterday - a stuffed pig and a ball on a rope.  She loves them a lot and took the pig to bed with her last night. It was still beside her this morning when I woke up. 😊

The garden is coming along well. I'm not doing any major work on shaping or remodelling until the plants spread out and cover all the soil they're growing in. When that's happened, I'll move a few things and hope I end up with a wild garden that reveals hidden beauty as well as the more obvious kind.

I had a few hours of sadness when I heard Shane MacGowan died recently. He and the Pogues are favourites of mine and I've spent a lot of time listening to their music. I'm expecting to hear Fairytale of New York a hundred times over the Christmas holidays. It's one of his fabulous songs that I never tire of. If you haven't heard the song before, look it up on YouTube but be aware it's not your traditional Christmas song - it's much darker. It reminds me of the value of embracing imperfection in music and people. As Leonard Cohen put it: "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

I hope you'll spend the holidays with loved ones and friends and rest enough to give yourself a good start to the new year. I'll be sharing Christmas lunch with my family - Shane and his children Alex and Eve, as well as Kerry, Sunny and Jamie. We're having what has become a traditional Christmas lunch for us: Cold glazed leg ham, spicy chicken wings, prawns fresh from the boats at Mooloolaba, potato salad, green salad, various homemade pickles and sauces, and for dessert - homemade pavlova and cheesecake.  What are your plans?

Thank you for your support during the year. I'm glad to say I've moved through the grief of losing Hanno and come out the other side, give or take the odd moments that I hope never leave. I know now it's a big deal to live alone, much more of a task than I'd imagined, but I'm doing well and enjoying life.  Of course, my sidekick Gracie helps me a lot and together we're pretty happy. 

Happy holidays everyone!  🎄

And here are a few links I thought you might be interested in:


16 November 2023

New mugs, Zwilling storage and Pinkie is in and growing

I'm still living in the outernet, still loving it and still glad to be alive. I wrote about the outernet here if you have the time to read about it. Every time I walk out into the backyard and look around, I have a feeling of gratitude for everything I have, especially the gardens and access to the private, open space. The garden brings balance to my days, keeps me active and reminds me of the benefits of the past and the promise of the future. Earlier this morning, I planted my rose, Pinkie, in a large pot so she can climb up the lattice. When Pinkie flowers she will create a beautiful backdrop to the garden that I've spent almost three decades tending. I am one lucky gal.

I bought these gorgeous mugs recently and have been enjoying my morning cup of tea with them on the front verandah. They make me smile everytime I see them.

I've gone back to making bread. I have a loaf on the rise now and it should be ready by lunchtime. I plan on having a leg ham, salad and tomato relish sandwich for lunch with homemade lemon cordial and lots of ice.  The forecast temperature is 35C here today, I've just turned the airconditioner on and when I get a fair bit of this post written I'll look forward to doing the rest of my housework in comfort. I have a load of washing in, the weekly grocery shopping was delivered earlier and although I put all the cold things in the fridge and freezer, the rest is waiting for me on the kitchen table.

Some of you will remember I bought a Zwilling Fresh and Save vacuum starter pack in January this year. I've been using it non-stop since then. It's changed how I shop and cut my food wastage to almost zero. I recently bought a three pack of a small, medium and large glass container set and I'm using them for storing cold cuts, cheese, strawberries and leftovers. A good friend of mine bought a starter set when she heard about mine and recently she told me it’s been “life changing” for her. It's a truly wonderful system of food storage in a vacuum. When used correctly, it enables food to last five times longer than normal.

The two photos above are the new vacuum set I bought recently.


This is bacon stored in a Zwilling vacuum container. This lot is 4 weeks old, generally when it goes a bit slimy and disgusting, but this was as fresh as the day it went in. I finished off this bacon the following week and didn't waste any of it.

This lettuce looked good - it was three weeks old at this point - but it was bitter when stored in the plain glass container with no vacuum. I stored half this lettuce in a Zwilling container, finished it off when it was six weeks old and it was tasty and delicious.  Another batch of food saved from the compost.

This is more non-Zwilling storage but this time it worked out well. A cucumber from Woolworths with parsley and cherry tomatoes from my garden - so really fresh. The photo was taken at week three, I finished off this box in week four and all the food, including the cucumber were good to eat.

This beef ravioli will be eaten in a couple of weeks time after being stored in the fridge. 

I took a small amount of parmesan cheese off the top of this block and I know when I come back to eat more, it will be good to go after being stored in this Zwilling vacuum bag in the fridge.

The bags are easy to clean - I clean mine with a brush to get into all the corners and edges, then dry them in the sun on the back verandah.

Recently I decided to test the Zwilling against the methods of food storage I used in the past. What I discovered surprised me a bit but it was a pleasant surprise. When storing fruit and vegies in the plastic bags I bought them home from the supermarket in, vegetables and fruit lasted about a week. For instance, cucumbers and ripe capsicums went soft and mushy after a week, especially if they'd been cut into. Storing the same things in a plastic box with a clip down lid, they lasted a bit longer. But storing them in a glass box with a clip-on lid, well, they lasted three to four weeks. The Zwilling containers come out on top with taste though. The non-Zwilling glass containers with no vacuum looked good but the lettuce was bitter.  The food stored in the Zwilling boxes all looked and tasted fresh.  I'm certainly a Zwilling convert and I recommend the vacuum system to you.  I have no connection to the Zwilling company.

This is the relish I made last week.

Times are tough at the moment. For mortgage holders and for people who shop for groceries (at our two major supermarkets who say they're helping us as much as they can yet they're still making billions of dollars in profits 🙄) I hope you're keeping your head above water, especially at this time of year when usually we're shopping for Christmas presents and food. Try to make use of any produce you're growing to make christmas drinks and food. I've just made some cordial and tomato relish. I'll be storing it all but it will make it onto our Christmas table too. Everything you can make now will be less you have to spend later.  If you are struggling, I hope you get through the Christmas period and look forward to a better year in 2024. Be kind to yourself, don't let pressure from family and friends get to you and just do what you think is right. ❤️

Here are two recipes for relish I'm happy to share with you.

And finally, here are a couple of photos of Gracie taken this week.  She's in good health but she had to endure a clipping and a bath this week.  Thankfully, she started talking to me again yesterday. 🫤


1 November 2023

Becoming capable and content

I've been battling the bush fires here since Saturday and it's been very stressful. I'm close to the area that was evacuated so we were all on a Prepare to Leave warning all Sunday. Thankfully, I was able to stay. Gracie didn't know what was happening as I kept walking outside to see what was happening. Bush fires are unpredictable and fast so you have to stay alert and follow the guidance of the local fire brigades. I'm amazed and so grateful for all the work the volunteer fire brigades, helicopter and fire bomber pilots did to keep us safe. They worked around the clock to fight the fires and then monitor them so we could stay in our homes. In my town, they saved not only homes and human lives, they also saved pets, horses, chickens and farm animals. What a wonderful group of people. 

After trying to get through several boxes of tea bags, which Hanno used to drink, I've gone back to loose tea.  I use this teapot, it's exactly the right size for me - two cups. The teapot has a strainer in it so it's easy to make and clean up afterwards.  I got this little pot a few years ago from Odgers and McClelland in Nundle.  It's an old fashioned shop, there are very few of these old stores left now. Have a look at their website, I'm sure you'll love it.

The more you stay at home the more important your home becomes. I think a lot of people feel differently about their homes after the pandemic. Homes became our havens and made us realise how lucky we are to have safe homes to live and thrive in. Food plays an important part in life too. There was a time there when we couldn't go out to eat and the weekly trip to the supermarket became a treasured time out in the open air. Those who didn't cook quickly gathered recipes and started cooking and baking and many of them realised how wonderful home cooking is.  Did you learn to cook or expand your cooking skills during the lockdowns?

I have to work on this new bread recipe. I want to make smaller loaves, mainly a one kilo loaf.  This is a one kilo loaf but it's a bit tough and I think there's too much dough for the little loaf tin.  I won't be satisfied until it's light and fluffy inside with a crunchy crust. When I get that right, I'll start on my wholemeal and rye loaves.

Over the years I've talked to hundreds of people who dived into household routines, preserving, cooking and baking, and many of them changed how they live because of it. Some people I've talked to said there's too much to learn and they don't know what to do first. It is possible to learn hundreds of cooking and baking skills but you only need to learn and practise what YOU need to know. You choose what you will include in your life, so don't bother with everything, just learn and then practise what you want to eat. You might get back to other things later; you might not. So whether you just want to learn how to bake a decent loaf of bread or if you want to bake bread, cakes, pies, sausage rolls, biscuits etc., just work out what you want to feed your family, then learn those recipes one at a time.

This is a recent lunch - macaroni with red capsicums/peppers, onion, garlic and bacon. Instead of making a sauce, I poured on some cream and added parmesan. Delicious!

I've gone back to eating and enjoying the food I loved as I was growing up. I have a list of about 40 meals that is my main source of inspiration. There's a post about that here.   If you struggle with the what's for dinner question, making up a list of your own favourite meals will give you plenty of ideas to get you through.

You can never have too many jars.

This is a photo of my future mending and sewing.  I can see a new scrunchie at the very top, a couple of old towels that will be cut up and edged on the overlocker/serger for rags, a new linen apron and a larger linen check which will probably end up a skirt. I like having my sewing and mending pile in full view so it reminds me that when I have a spare hour, there is work to do.

If you don't have a sewing machine, it can be a very useful appliance to add to your home. It will save you money when you can mend torn clothing and household linens. It will also give you the ability to alter clothes to make them bigger or smaller.

I love this Zwilling vacuum seal system I bought a few months ago. I'm keeping bacon in this container, I can unseal it, take out what I want then reseal it.  It holds food fresh for five times longer than normal. I kept this bacon fresh for a month when it usually goes a bit slimy after two weeks.  In the other container I have strips of capsicum but I also keep lettuce, radishes, tomatoes and cucumbers fresh for a lot longer than I used to. Vacuum sealing has saved a lot of food from being wasted, I don't have to shop for fresh vegetables each week and no doubt, it's saved money along the way. I also have resealable plastic bags that I can store cooked food in - again, it lasts five times longer than storing it in a freezer bag or sealed bowl.

Of course the ongoing chores, such as cleaning and organising the fridge and freezer keep going with the peak times being the change of seasons.  I remove one shelf at a time and clean it, edit what was on the shelf and return what needs to stay on that shelf.  It takes about 10 minutes to clean one shelf so I often do this when I'm waiting for something to cook or dough to prove. Breaking it up like that makes it an easier task.

In the past few months I've been learning how to do some of the jobs Hanno prided himself on doing. Maintaining our home and property was his way of showing how much he loved us. He never complained about the work and most of the time he did it silently. Now it's my turn. Yesterday I attached tap timers to the two hoses attached to the tanks. In the next day or so I'll attempt to repair the garden table which blew over when the wind lifted the garden umbrella and tipped the umbrella and table over, making the legs quite unstable.  I've also removed and reattached a venetian blind, pruned the orange tree, emptied and cleaned out the 500 litre water tank on the front verandah and sorted through the power tools and their batteries. I'll never do those jobs as well as Hanno did them but I feel I'm looking after myself and I feel thankful that I have the strength to do as much as I can for myself.

Kartoffel Puffer - potato pancakes

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I hope things are going well for you and you've closed the gate and taken time out for yourself and your family. We've got everything at home - fresh air, gardening and household routines help us simplify our lives and become capable and content.  And that's a very good thing.  xx


10 October 2023

The cost of living crisis

Hello friends, welcome back.

Everything is fine here and I'm lucky to not have any big bills lately. The cost of living crisis seems to be hitting hard in suburbia and everyone I know is trying to cut back. If you've never had to cut back before you might not be aware of the many ways to save money so I thought it might be a good idea to go over a few of them. Before I continue, I want to tell you that I find it fairly easy to save money on a wide variety of household expenses. The reason for that is I live alone so I only have to adjust my own behaviour. I'm sure you know how difficult it is to get everyone in the family onboard to reduce their spending. But the main focus at this time should be to pay all the regular bills, put food on the table and buy fuel. After those things have been paid for, hopefully you have money left over to pay all your bills, save or put towards something special like birthday or Christmas presents.

Remember that almost all the savings you make will be small ones. Adding up all the savings over the space of a month will show what they are: the difference between being in debt or remaining debt-free. So it doesn't matter if you save $2, $50 or $200, it all goes into the pot to keep you out of trouble.  I hope you aren't under too much pressure with your mortgage repayments. Gone are the days when you could knuckle down like Hanno and I did and pay off our mortgage in eight years; repayments on many loans have doubled in the past few years. If you're having trouble with your mortgage, or think you'll have trouble in the near future, please go to your mortgage broker or bank loan officer and talk to them about it. Don't ignore it. I'm going to leave the mortgage info there because I'm not qualified to give advice and if you're struggling, you need the right advice immediately.

Chicken and vegetables.

Steak and salad.

Spinach and cheese pie.

Asparagus Quiche.

All the other areas of household economy are a bit easier to work with because the stakes aren't as high and when it comes to things like food, fuel, phone, internet and insurances, usually you can cut back or move your account to another provider. When I'm working on reducing costs and you may remember that I recently reduced my electricity usage to see how low I could get it (two posts back) - work out what you want to focus on and one by one, make an action plan to reduce your costs.  For instance, if it's insurance, internet or phone costs, do some research  and then ring your prover to see what deal they can do for you but make sure you've done research online beforehand so you know what the competition is offering for the same product.

  • If you make your own plain bar soap, that is an excellent shampoo. It will be a money saver and cut down on the endless supply of plastic bottles coming into your home. If you have a nearby bulk goods store, take a recycled bottle along to fill it with Castile soap. It's also a very good shampoo.
  • I started putting together my Woolworth's shopping list this morning which I'll get delivered on Friday.  I usually go to the roadside stall near me that sells local produce for my fruit and vegies. I can get everything I want there and usually spend between $10 and $15, the quality is better and it's much lower in food miles. I added everything that I'll buy there onto the Woolworths list too and it came to $33.70 so it clearly shows me that travelling a little bit further will save me money and give me local, fresh food. Think about buying generic brands too. I have found most of the Woolworths generic brands I've tried have been pretty good and better value than the big brands.
  • Try to shop with a menu plan already worked out so you only buy what you need.
  • Make sure you store food properly as soon as you bring it home from the shops. Divide up, refrigerate, freeze, vacuum pack and store staples in your pantry or stockpile. I store staples I'm using in the pantry along with onions, sweet potatoes and potatoes; foods for future use are stored in the stockpile cupboard. 
Make your own relishes, sauces and pickles.  They are so much tastier, cheaper and you know what you're eating.


My rotating list of favourite family meals.  Make up a list of the meals your family love, try to get about 20 meals on the list and choose future meals from your list. It will stop that worrying about to eat every night.

I hope some of this information will help you reduce the cost of living in your home. It's a stressful time but remember, it won't last forever and if you learn how to cut back, you'll increase your skill levels and lead your family towards better days.


21 September 2023

Home and garden tasks to keep me happy

I'm removing the comments section from the blog. I know that will disappoint some readers but I have two problems associated with comments - time and spam.  I have to moderate the comments because of the number of spam comments I get and that takes time every day. As you know, I am spending less time online now and having to deal with spam takes me away from other things I'd rather be doing. I'm sorry to take this course of action but removing the comments immediately removes the problem.


I hope you're looking after yourself. I've just finished making my bed and those of you who have read here for ages will know that a comfortable bed is a building block of self care.  We spend a third of our lives in bed. It's where we rest, rejuvenate, dream, talk, make plans and sleep. The best way to make your bed comfortable for those night time activities is to make your bed every day. You'll be able to fluff up your pillows, straighten sheets, add or take away blankets, swipe away wrinkles and get your bed ready for you to dive in at the end of the day.  Going to bed, knowing you've prepared it for sleep, gives you a good feeling. If you're not in the habit of making your bed every day, give it a try; it takes only a few minutes but it makes the world of difference.

The garden is coming along well and working there, planting, weeding, moving pots, pruning and watering makes me feel capable of doing everything that will help me continue my complex, simple and satisfying life.  My old enemy, nut grass, has made a comeback, even with the weeding and mulch. I know I'll never get rid of it so I'm choosing to look on it as just another bit of greenery. I'm hoping that when the garden is completely planted it will be less noticeable.

Yarrow and Cleome.

This is a Cecile Brunner rose. It's a tiny pink bud - you can see how small they are when compared to the size of a small battery.  A large bunch of them in a small vase looks beautiful.

The roses have started flowering and the two Cecile Brunner climbing roses I planted recently are already halfway up the arch that supports them, and one is flowering. There are two other climbers - Dorothy Perkins on the side fence and Pinkie on the back lattice. Both are growing well but not flowering yet.  I like height in the garden so I want to get two more standard roses. I've decided to block-plant the white cosmos in pots. They were going to provide height but as most gardeners know, plans change a lot when you stand back and look at what you've got. 

I have multicoloured Alysum, short pink salvias, cone flowers, and two Peter Pan dwarf agapanthus yet to plant. Two magnificent Berry Canary foxgloves are planted in big pots so I expect them to grow tall and strong. I can feel the garden filling up although I have to wait until the end of the month, see what areas need more plants and then go to the nursery to buy another batch. It's exciting.

A new rose - Seduction.  Mine is a standard rose not a rose bush.

Recently I bought a new rose that I really love. If you're not a rose grower, maybe this rose should be your first. If you've been a rose grower for ages, this is one to make room for. It's called Seduction and it's a semi-double (meaning it has a lot of petals). They are sold as standard roses and as rose bushes.  I have the standard variety which is a rose bush grafted onto tall rootstock. 

They start off a creamy white with a touch of pink on the edges and as they age, the pink edges get darker and more noticeable.  It supports many roses at the same time and each flower is in bloom for about two - three weeks. They're an excellent cut flower as well.

I've been harvesting the Silver Beet/Chard for the past couple of weeks. I love chard so I'm building up a small stockpile of single portions in the freezer. There are tomato plants at the back, which are flowering, as well as parsley, dill and green onions in the front. With these plants I only occasionally buy herbs or green vegetables but I still buy cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potato and onions.

I started baking bread again. I had to go to the bakery every week to buy a no preservative loaf and I got sick of doing that.  It's much easier making bread at home, it's much cheaper too, I know what's in the loaf and I can make exactly what I want. I don't know why I stopped baking. After Hanno died it seemed to be one of many things that were too difficult. But like all the other things I stopped then started again, bread is back to stay. I had a slice of hot toast for breakfast this morning with butter and cherry jam and a cup of black tea. It was a classic breakfast which I enjoyed a lot.

It's going to be 34C/93F here today. Yesterday we had bushfires very close by and all day there were fire bomber aircraft and helicopters flying low between the fire and the local dam. It was burning from Australia Zoo down to the highway and all it would have taken was a change in the wind direction and we would have been in danger of burning here too.  It looks like it's under control now and it will be cooler tomorrow so I have my fingers crossed. It's not a good sign when we're still in early spring.

I hope you're well and happy and things are good where you are. Take care. xx

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