14 June 2024

The cost of living crisis won't last. Hang on!

The first time Hanno and I walked onto the land I still live on, in 1994, I was underwhelmed to say the least. Everything was dry, there was a small brick house sitting in the middle of a very large block of land but no fences, verandahs, tanks, solar panels, gardens, pathways or a driveway. The house looked lost and lonely but when I walked into the backyard, it was all there waiting for us. I could see remnant rainforest snaking along as if it was growing on a waterway. Sure enough, there was a flowing creek - it runs from Maleny to Pumicestone Passage in the Pacific Ocean - surrounded on both sides by old rainforest trees and vines.  I loved it and although I really didn't like the house, I knew we could change that but we'd never find land like this again. We bought the house soon after and moved here in 1997 when Shane finished school. Hanno and I were both working then.



I still have no driveway but all the other things we thought would be essential to our way of life we added later as we had the cash to buy them. We had a Solarhart solar hot water installed, along with our first water tank and two skylights and we put in a vegetable and fruit garden and bought another flock of hensHanno built a chook house, all made with recycled materials on a cement slab. We gutted the kitchen and got a cabinetmaker in to rebuild a kitchen I could work in and in 2000 we added another bedroom and bathroom. About ten years after we arrived we added a larger water tank, giving us the ability to store 15,000 litres/quarts of rainwater. In 2011 our first solar panels were installed - seven panels that saved us a lot of money. In 2023 I had the old panels removed and 18 panels added to the roof; they still save me money.  It's been slow and steady progress and all paid for when we had the cash ready. Doing that gave us a lifestyle that didn't rely on credit cards or loans.

And every year the land we lived on became more productive and beautiful.




If you grow some of the food you eat you'll save money, even if it's just the green leaves (lettuce, spinach, bok choy etc) or herbs.  All those plants will grow well in containers.

We paid our mortgage off in eight years, mainly by paying fortnightly instead of monthly and putting every extra cent we had on the mortgage. That might have been savings from our a lower than expected utilities bill or not spending what we expected to at the supermarket. I built a stockpile cupboard so I always had ingredients for every meal, I baked our bread - making a tasty and nutritious loaf for $2.50 instead of the $5.00 at the bakery. EVERY saving went to the mortgage. There is no doubt about it, it was tough but on the final day, when we paid that last payment, I was joyous and thankful that we'd pushed through the difficult times and done it. Living without a mortgage gives you a real sense of freedom and independence.


Afternoon light in the kitchen.

I'm well aware that many of you might be struggling with rent or paying off your mortgage at the moment, we all know the cost of living is frightening. There have been times in the past when we could have looked to our politicians for hope and help but I think those times have changed. Just this morning I read our opposition leader flew on a $23,000 private jet flight to speak to people in Tamworth about the cost of living! Good grief, how can anyone think that's okay?


I wash Gracie's blankets every week and she often sits there for a while watching them. But not the day I took this photo. I tried to get her to sit there but she wouldn't have anything to do with it.  Grrr.

I don't have any fancy answers to the cost of living crisis but I do know that it won't last. Over the years I've been through many financial crises and every one of them ended. There will be a time in the future when you'll look back on this and remember how you soldiered on and I hope you'll be proud that you did.  Remember that all the small steps add up - in paying off debt, saving for what you need and changing your life to something different. Everything takes time.

Take care of yourself, enjoy every day and take it easy.

ADDITIONAL READING
Clean v green: ‘disgust wins out’ over eco ideals when doing laundry, study findsIs there asbestos in your makeup? Why women with cancer are suing big beauty brands

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26 May 2024

An ordinary week and some of what it contains

It looks like I live a traditional, old-fashioned life and yet I believe my lifestyle is revolutionary and rebellious. Yes, I bake bread and cakes, preserve food in jars and cook all my meals from scratch. I happily live a thrifty life, I never follow fashion - either in clothes or opinions, I don't draw electricity from the grid, my water usage is estimated by the water company as being that of half a person (!), I drive less than 1500 km a year and I haven't been on a plane since the 1990s. I live on less than $30,000 a year and am thankful to save about $100 a week of that. I don't have a credit card but I do buy books, fabrics, including lots of linen, hobby supplies, toys for Gracie and anything else I need or want, and I do that with cash. 


This is my square loaf but I didn't put enough dough in the tin for it to rise into a square.  Oops.


I might be doing the work that was done by housewives in the past but I have different reasons for doing my work and a lot of it is focused on the environment, the cost of living, slowing down and wanting to live a peaceful, happy life.  But none of that just happens automatically, it takes a plan, hard work and determination, and it comes in stages.


Doing housework makes you feel better and I know that because often when faced with a job I don't want to do - mopping the floors and cleaning the cupboard under the kitchen sink come to mind - I make sure I do the best job I can because when I finish, I feel fantastic. And when I clean under the kitchen sink, I keep going back to admire my work. ๐Ÿ™„


During the week, I picked 25 chillies from the herb garden for Sunny and family.  Sunny chomps away on chillies like they're apples. I have two small chilli circle slices in my entire dish.

Yesterday was the second anniversary of Hanno's death. I thought of him more than usual, some visitors came to my home and there were a few phone calls. Of course I think of him every day but it’s not in the context of grief but rather affectionate memories of our life together and how we built a better life for ourselves that involved working sustainably rather than focusing on money. 

Grandma Donna and I have been continuing with our talks and last week we discussed soaking flour. I'll talk about that when I understand it more and teach myself to use it in my baking. I love talking to Donna, she says I have an accent, which of course I don't but I love listening to her southern American accent. We have so much in common, it's like having a sister that I've never met on the other side of the world. Life is made richer with genuine friendships - I hope your life is enriched by them too.


Here are Pip and Gracie getting to know each other. 

I also spent time with another dear friend, Nicole Lutze. She brought her puppy Pip with her so both Gracie and I were delighted.  For morning tea I baked a decadent French Apple Cake with no milk or buttermilk but with double the butter. It was delicious. I made sure I sent half of it home with Nicole so I wasn't tempted to eat the whole thing. 


When I make bread, I usually take off a small piece of dough and freeze it for pizza. This is the pizza I made this week. 

My work today will involve reorganising the freezer and cleaning the fridge, clipping Gracie, tidying the back verandah and moving a few more things from the front verandah to the back. Yesterday I made Gracie's food for the next couple of weeks, beef, barley and vegetable soup for my meals for the next few days;  I also pruned all the plants on the front verandah. It's a good time to do that - the plants don't grow much over winter and it gives them the chance to rest and then they're ready to burst into new life in spring.  If you wait until spring to prune, the plants will have to recover from the pruning before they put on new growth. So with all that under my belt, when I finish this post to you, I'll be sewing for the rest of the day. I haven't had a chance to sew for ages. It's mainly mending and creating a few bits and pieces for my home. I want to make a little curtain for the inside of the front door, I need to finish off some aprons I have cut out and I want to make a new cover for Gracie's bed. What are you doing today?


Chinese style chicken with pak choy.

I got my flu vaccination last week. The first time I went for it, I had to postpone because someone I had close contact with got Covid. I've never had Covid and I don't want to get the flu or RSV either so I'm careful about where I go and cleaning my hands as often as I can while I'm out. I doubt that will change in the future because new viruses seem to be present in the community every so often.

I hope you're well and not caught up in the rough weather that seems to be happening all over the place. Have a great weekend and spend some time with the people you love. Thank you for your visits and to everyone who comments, thank you, I love knowing what you're doing and I love reading them.


ADDITIONAL READING AND VIEWING


The life of a former cafe owner who enjoys being close to nature


‘We call it our farm’: meet the Australians swapping supermarket shopping for farm shares

Thinking of getting a solar battery? Consider these things first

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12 May 2024

There will be wonderful afternoons in the garden

I received an email during the week from a reader who has been mourning her husband for seven years. She said she's given up on housework and only does what must be done. She said the rest of the time, like me, she sits and thinks about life with her husband. I had to correct her because that's not what I do, I gave up sitting and thinking about life with Hanno because that’s not how I want to live. I want to be self-reliant and productive. I work all through the day and while I work, I remember sometimes what Hanno and I did together. I realised I had to get on with my life, that Hanno would have expected that and I didn't want to give up. My purpose now is to create the life I want to live in the home I want to stay in. Having a purpose helps me get through many things and it also helps me to keep going. Being thoughtful in all areas of my life, not just housework, helps a lot too. It helps me understand what makes tasks easy or difficult, it helps me decide what I should do and what doesn't matter that much. All actions have consequences, and more importantly, inaction has consequences too. 


There are plenty of lemons growing and new flowers for follow-ups too. I juiced one of these lemons during the week and I got two cups of juice from one lemon. 

So with all that in mind I'm putting into action a feeling I'd been harbouring for a while - I started planting vegetables and herbs again! I'm growing a small group of vegetables and herbs that I eat almost every week and I'm doing that in the old sandbox garden. I won't be breaking soil again or dealing with weeds, everything will happen in the sandbox or pots. First to go into a pot was ginger, I have a chilli bush growing in the sandbox that's full of fruit and I'll keep that going when I harvest the chillies. I'll soon buy six rainbow chard seedlings and they'll be planted in the sandbox. I have five pots of parsley going and I just received heirloom seeds for perennial Welsh onions and the Australian heirloom Crystal Apple cucumber. I'll use the ginger throughout the year in tea, cordial and ginger beer, I'll make enough chilli jam for the year, eat some fresh and share the rest with Sunny and Kerry. All my other fruit and vegetables will come from the supermarket or roadside stall.



The old sandbox is full of weeds at the moment. I've removed about half of them but I have to take it slow because bending over makes me dizzy. I think I'll finish the weeding during the week and I'll sow seeds for the Welsh onions and Crystal Apple cucumber in a tray to grow a bit before I plant them out. I'll probably have to bring in some bricks to create a stable place for the pots to sit on. When I get into it properly, I'll take more photos and write about the new garden and pots. 

It will do me good to get into the backyard again, especially in the afternoons. My housework will be finished, there'll be shade over the garden and the birds will be there. I’ll be able to see and hear small birds chirping, whip birds cracking their whips, kookaburras laughing and occasionally, cockatoos screeching. If I hear swooshing overhead, I’ll know the man up the road has released his homing pigeons for their afternoon flight. They will be wonderful afternoons.


Here's my girl. Gracie recently found a snake skin on the lattice at the end of the verandah. When I wandered down there to see what she was carrying around, I saw she'd bitten the tail off the skin and was about to eat it!  She WILL eat anything but we're still the best of friends.





I wonder if you've found soup bones at your local butcher or supermarket lately. I had no luck when I looked and the last time I bought bones, they were ridiculously expensive. So I'm changing what I've always done in the past and when I eat chops, T Bone steak or other meat with bones, I'll cook the meat and cut the bones out before I serve the meal. Those bones will go into a container in the freezer and I'll use them for soup and bone broth. I've made a few small changes lately. I grind my peppercorns in the little food processor and keep a small jar next to my little salt container instead of buying peppercorns in a grinder.



The square bread is still filling my kitchen with a lovely aroma once a week. I'm very happy with the recipe and haven't made any changes, which is unusual for me. To save on plastic bags, I bought a small plastic container to keep it in after I slice the loaf. It can go in the freezer or fridge depending on the space I have available and what I'm eating that week.

I hope all is going well for you. After talking to Grandma Donna on Skype, I know about the terrible tornadoes in the US. I hope you've not been close to that and that everyone is safe and sound. If you're in the rain areas in NSW and Victoria, I hope that didn't result in floods for you.  I send my best wishes to everyone who read this.  ๐Ÿฅฐ

๐Ÿงต ๐Ÿชก ๐Ÿงต

ADDITIONAL READING AND LISTENING
  • I've been going through old music from the 60s and 70s to catch up on some favourites and see what I missed. I listened to Led Zeppelin for a couple of months, then ELO, Radiohead, The Eagles, REM, Carly Simon and Janis Joplin. Now I'm obsessing over Dire Straits. I think their song Sultans of Swing, released in 1978, is a standout and the guitar playing is the best you'll hear on a pop song. The singer-songwriter is Mark Knophler, he is now 75 years old. I listen to it every morning and every evening and it makes me happy - not just for the music but also for the nostalgia. If you haven't heard it before, be my guest ... you're welcome.
  • I like food and budget strategy of the woman on  Hometown homestead  See what she has to say.
  • And here's one of my old posts that I think should see the light of day again. It's called Enough.


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3 May 2024

Creating a beautiful, simple lifestyle

I didn't understand the significance of caring for a home until I gave up working for a living and started building a slower life which involved housework. In the beginning I thought I was focused on a series of tasks that had to be done on a daily, weekly or monthly basis but about two or three weeks later it clicked and it all made sense to me. I wasn't just doing a group of individual chores, housework was helping me create a home. I could see then that the cooking and baking were connected to the grocery shopping, gardening, chickens, the budget, recycling and family gatherings; cleaning was connected to the laundry, making soap, laundry liquid, green cleaners, home maintenance and the budget; the chickens were connected to the garden, recycling, cooking and the budget, and so forth. The budget was connected to everything. The separate tasks of housework made more sense when I realised it was like a patchwork and the elements worked together to create a simple lifestyle and a better life. 


Looking after a family and the family home is one of the hardest jobs around and unfortunately, many of us don't give it the respect it deserves.  It's often thought of as being domestic drudgery - hard work that never ends.  It's true that housework never ends but if you want to live a simpler life in a home that's a safe haven, doing housework will enable you to do it. If you don't do the work, everything stays the same.

But you can take it in stages.


I keep forgetting to drink enough water so I fill this litre jug every morning and make sure I drink it all before lunch. After lunch it's filled again and I drink that litre during the afternoon.  It's working so far.

I don't want you to follow what I do because I have the time to do a lot more than I used to do when I was a working mum and my sons lived at home. I think stay-at-home mums and dads and retired folk could easily do their own version of what I do. If you're trying to simplify, identify the stage of life you're at, work out the time you have available and do what you can with the time you have. One thing's for sure, you'll be able to do something. It could be making your own laundry liquid (it takes 10 minutes), baking a cake each week for school lunches, menu planning, once a week cooking from scratch or any number of things. Pick one thing and start doing it. Once you get that under your belt, add something else . When you transition to a different stage - maybe your kids leave home or you work shorter hours - you can take on more.  It's all up to you.




Always focus on being thrifty and do what you can to save money. Reducing your debt will give you more options, life will be less stressful and you can move towards paying for everything when you have the cash, not on credit. There are strategies you can use to help you pay off debt, if you search for "paying off debt" or "budgeting" in my search bar you'll find the ones I, and thousands of others, use. It's not easy but the feeling you get when you pay off your mortgage or credit cards is indescribably wonderful.


Make your home what you want it to be. No one will come in and offer to do that for you, it's one of your power tasks and it can make or break you.  All the time you put into your home will make you a different person. It will open you up to the deeper understanding of what home is, it will slow you down to and help you to relax, it will give you a better understanding of debt and it will give you and your family a place where they feel safe. And in these uncertain times, everyone should have that. All the ordinary tasks it takes to make my home the place I want it to be, as well as the thinking, relaxing and silence I cultivate every day changed me for the better. At the beginning of this I had no clue that would happen and it was one of the many things that surprised and delighted me. 


My home has become a centre point for me, I am made content and self-reliant by the work I do. I reclaimed my independence here and discovered how to live to my potential. The slower pace helps you see what might be ahead - both the good and the bad. It may not be everyone's choice doing household chores but I have been enriched by it and I doubt I would be as happy as I am without meaningful work to do every day. I don't want to live a life where I don't have to do any work, and I don't want to be dragged down by it either. I know now that if I do the work here that makes my home comfortable and safe, in return I get this feeling of sublime contentment. And I am thankful that homemaking slowed me down enough to discover that.

EXTRA READING:

I hope you're doing well now that we're settling into our cold and hot seasons. We've had record amounts of rain this year and the bush and pine forests surrounding my home have never looked better. Kerry and Jamie are coming over tomorrow and I'm looking forward to a good weekend.  I hope you have a great weekend too. Stay safe. xx

~~~ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ~~~

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26 April 2024

Food, Home Maintenance, eCookbook and Gracie

Thanks for all the birthday wishes. It's a lovely way to mark my special day. I haven't taken any new photos for this post, mainly because I didn't have any spare time and I thought it was a good way of featuring some old photos I'd forgotten about. 


I'm having some work done on the front verandah and had workmen here to check what could be done. Just before he got sick, Hanno noticed some problems in the concrete on the verandah and he never got back to it. He was always focused on home maintenance and said that if maintenance wasn't carried out when it was first noticed, the problems only got worse and it took more time, energy and money to fix. So now, after waiting two years to have someone look at this, it looks like major work. They're going to remove the top layers of cement, with some thick patches of paint attached, then level and tile it all. Before that's done, I have to take all the plants and furniture to the back verandah. Shane was here on Tuesday to remove the front tank for me. I'm really happy he'll use it in his own vegetable/flower gardens. I'm not sure yet when the main work will start but I'll start my work over the weekend.




I've decided I'm not going to do the eCookbook. I had to resurrect Word which I was very happy to delete when I finished writing my books and when I looked at it again, I was lost. I spent the first six weeks relearning it. It's bad enough just dealing with the text but when I tried to insert photos, it was difficult keeping my place and working out where to insert page breaks. Over the past two weeks I've been trying different apps and I worked out it would take me another two months to finish the first book. I even tossed up the possibility of stopping the blog to keep writing the eBook. Then I started thinking about my promise to myself about only doing what I wanted to do, and I don't want to do the book. It was a purely financial decision to cover some expenses I had so apart from disappointing you - and I hope you aren't too disappointed, I'm pleased to leave it behind. And that will give me the time to write blog posts to my heart's content. I still get a lot out of my blog, I love helping people and sharing what I know and that is best done here, on this blog where I have no word or photo limits.

Most of the recipes I was going to share are on the blog, I was going to update them, but they are there. There's a search bar on the right side of this page so all you need to do is to search for what you want to find. And I'll make sure I add the foods and meals I'm cooking to my blog posts as I go along.


I made a big pot of beef, barley and root vegetable soup last week. I enjoyed that for a few days and also stored two litres of it in the freezer. In the middle of winter, when it's really cold, I'll defrost it, turn on my heater and enjoy it. I'm making pikelets this morning. I've made the batter and will cook them when I finish here.  I have some double cream I have to use up and will make the choice of strawberry or cherry jam while I make a pot of tea.

Aldi seems to have lowered a few prices recently so I've been shopping there. I never shop at Coles but Woolworths, while saying they're dropping prices, it seems to be the same to me. If you're struggling with the cost of living now, I hope you can keep your head above water until things change again. It's difficult because there seems to be no way out but usually it's a matter of small things making a big difference. I've found some old posts that might help with with food costs but if you don't already cook from scratch, that is what will save you the most money, as well as be a huge improvement in the taste and nutrition of the food you serve.

https://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2021/10/main-meals-cooked-from-your-rotating.html
https://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2018/01/food-shopping-organising-recipes-and.html
https://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2015/01/healthier-and-cheaper-cold-cuts.html
https://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2011/09/my-german-beef-fest.html
https://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2011/04/saving-money-on-meat-buying-in-bulk.html
https://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2013/11/frugal-food-savoury-mince.html
https://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2010/08/home-cooking-what-decadence.html


And finally, I have no doubt that those of you who follow Gracie closely won't be surprised to know she is still sitting at the bookcase looking for mice.  She has also expanded her search areas to a cupboard in my office (she's there now) and another bookcase in the lounge room. ๐Ÿ˜‘

I hope you're doing well in your home during these hard times.  It won't last forever, we just have to keep going and take one small step at a time. If you have any tips for the rest of us, please share them in the comments.  xx ❤️
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15 April 2024

Where happiness is lurking



It's my birthday today, I'm 76. ๐Ÿ™‚  I love being my age. Every stage of life brings new joys and challenges and now is no different. I know some people fear ageing but I think life gets better the older you are. I have all the time I want to do as I please and when I was younger it was the opposite. I have no doubt there will come a time when it will get harder but until then I'll live every day to the full and enjoy each day.

After 13 years on book shelves in Australia and around the world, Down to Earth looks to be on its last legs. My royalties are telling me that story and I think The Simple Life and The Simple Home will follow. The number of borrowers in libraries is still high but the libraries have cut back the number of copies they're keeping. It's been a wonderful ride to be on and I'm very grateful to everyone who bought my books, I hope you got the value, inspiration and encouragement you were expecting. If you want to buy my books, look around now because I'm not sure how long they'll be available. There is a paperback and hardback edition of Down to Earth.



I've changed a fair bit in my home this year. Things I don't use have been given away and I'm aiming to create a home that is comfortable, welcoming, easy to look after and which will encourage creativity. In the past week I've created a new drawing space in the lounge room; it faces a window and has good light. At the moment I'm working on a daily journal with watercolor drawings but my long term goal is to paint watercolour portraits. I have no unrealistic ideas about my talent as an artist but like everything else I've ever done, I'll work through it regularly and hopefully improve. Whether I reach the stage I'd like to be at is anyone's guess but I'm looking forward to the time I spend at that desk.


I bought a heater recently after years of using the reverse cycle air conditioning which I didn't like at all. I really wanted to put in a chimney and wood heater but it would have cost a lot of money so I looked around for something else. I had no idea these heaters existed but I found an electric heater with a pretty realistic fire glowing in the front. I love it. As you know I had a thousand dollars credit on my electricity bill so I withdrew some of that credit and used that to buy it. My bill tells me the lowest usage level they bill for is a one person household, I use half that. So officially, as far as the electric company is concerned, I'm half a person. ๐Ÿซค I'll be happy to use the heater when it's cold and enjoy looking at the flames while I warm up.


Vegetable and meatball soup (above) and Shepherd's Pie, made with the leftovers from a half leg of roast lamb (below).  Both delicious.



I've been living alone for two years now. It looks like the trick to solo living is to have a loose plan every day and to stay active. I’m getting by nicely using a combination of technology, creativity, old-fashioned housework and home cooking. I don't spend a lot of time online or watching TV but I want to keep a clean home, I want to eat the food I like, I want to develop my creativity and I want to be productive. I don't have specific meal times - I eat my main meal between 12 noon and 2pm and at other times I eat if or when I'm hungry.  I make my bed before 9am but all other housework happens when I feel like doing it. I do have a cleaner who comes in for two hours once a fortnight as part of my home care plan, so far it's all working very well.  

The gardeners come once a fortnight - they're on my home care plan too.  They do a great job mowing, cleaning up and weeding. The garden beds are gone now, except for the last bed near the chook house but I'll leave that one because it provides a logical boundary. Most of the weeds that were climbing the fences have gone as have all the sapling trees that had come up all over the place. We've always had these jobs to do but it was one of the jobs Hanno did every so often and I never had to worry about anything like that. I was so lucky to have a him as my husband.


Gracie made me do it. ๐Ÿ˜‘


But I was happy with the end result.  It's less for the kids to deal with when I'm gone. 



We had two mice here in the house last week and I was pleased to catch them in traps and get rid of them. Since then Gracie was convinced there were more behind the bookcase. I couldn't hear anything but I thought that maybe the two mice produced a litter and those babies were too small to call out. Gracie sat at each end of the bookcase for hours and eventually I gave in and decided to have a look.  That meant taking everything off the bookcase because I couldn't move it otherwise. When I had it all on the kitchen table I decided I had to continue on with my Swedish Death Cleaning and nothing would go back that should be thrown out or given away.  I was so pleased I did that. It feels like I should have done it a year ago but it's done now and I'm happy with the way it looks.  And no, there were no mice under or behind the bookcase but Gracie is still sitting there. Terriers never like giving up, she takes after me. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Have you made plans for yourself to help you achieve your dreams? Don't just drift along - if you have goals, go for them. No one is going to hand you your ideal life on a silver platter - we all have to work for what we get. I've worked hard all my life and continue to do it because I know that's where happiness is lurking. I hope you discover that simple truth too.  Take care, friends. xx


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22 March 2024

Square toast bread and other treasures

I've been writing about change recently, mostly because I've undergone significant change in the last two years but also because that’s what we all do - we change. Change is healthy, it shows we’re evolving and not standing still. However, my change topic today is not about personal change, I’m changing the shape of my bread, it will be square, and the recipe is changing to suit the shape. I have many posts here about baking bread and yes, I've been through all the changes you're currently going through - sourdough, artisan bread, sandwich loaves, ancient grains, rye, milled oats and the rest. But now I'm focusing on square toast bread and, of course, scones. I will bake scones using the recipe now engraved on my brain that was taught to be by my mum when I was about 10 years old. She used to tell me I had "a light hand" and that was what was needed to make good scones. Who knew!

Almost all the bread I eat now is in the form of toast, generally one slice with my breakfast. It bugged me that my tall loaves had to be put through the toaster twice so the complete slice was toasted from top to bottom. Then I came across Japanese square bread made in a loaf tin with a lid. Now that I think back on it, I'm amazed that I didn't think of this sooner and looked for the right tin to bake it in. But I'm there now so that's all that matters.






I bought my loaf tin at Amazon au I've been using it for a couple of months now and I'm very happy with it. I don't grease the interior of the pan nor do I use parchment paper, The dough goes in, bakes and it comes out as a perfect square - there’s no sticking to the loaf tin and no fiddling with it.

The first problem I came up against was my normal milk bread recipe, even when I adjusted the amounts in the first loaf I baked, it was too big. I was getting a square loaf, but there was too much dough in the tin and because the lid stopped the dough from rising, the bread was dense. I kept working on it and I’m pretty happy with my recipe now. It makes slightly more dough than I need but I always take a small portion off to make pizza.  I looked at the Japanese recipes traditionally used with this loaf tin but they used a fermented starter that had to stay in the fridge overnight and I didn’t want that added hassle. 

I've been baking bread for over 20 years now and most of that time I baked every day. The reason I didn't give up on it was I simplified the process so it didn't take a lot of time. People were shocked when I said I was using a bread machine to knead the dough - I still use one now to do the same thing - but back then most of the people who baked bread used the traditional methods which I thought took too long. I worked from sunup to sundown in my home, cooking from scratch, preserving, gardening, keeping chickens, harvesting, composting, making simple cleaners, recycling, mending, sewing and knitting, and saving 20 minutes, or 2 ½ hours a week, made a big difference to me. I needed a way of making good bread that was just another task, not a time sponge. Now, of course, bread machines are commonplace and although I usually don't buy everything new that comes along - I have no airfryer, pressure cooker/Instapot, Thermomix or coffee machine, my bread machine will probably be buried with me. ๐Ÿ˜€

My next step is to source quality bread flour online so I don't have to rely on the white bread flour available at the local supermarket. I'm thinking I'll probably go for the Wholegrain Milling Co.'s Stoneground flour from Gunnedah - they have a selection of white, wholemeal and rye. If you have a favourite flour, please let me know about it. This is my current recipe:

500g bread flour
2 teaspoons dried yeast
300g warm water
2 tablespoons milk powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
20g melted butter



 

I bought too many citrus last week so I've been drying a few lemon and orange slices. I also discovered 20 red and green chillies growing in the back yard so made up a few jars of sweet chilli sauce. I bottled it yesterday so that will sit in the fridge for a few weeks to mellow and I'll have some delicious quick sauce for pasta and for adding to soups and stews. I had steak, onions, mushrooms, broccoli and carrots for lunch yesterday so today I'm making miso and pumpkin soup. I'll make enough to store for later in the month too. The sweet chilli sauce recipe will be in the PDF/ePub cookbook.



And there have been a few repairs to do this week too. I've had to learn about repairing all manner of things since Hanno died but it's been good for me to do it. Sarndra helped me replace a venetian blind in my office that refused to open or be adjusted in any way and this morning I learnt how to unstick a press-in bathroom plug. I also had to fiddle with the back door lock to free it up and reapply a skirting board that fell off. What next? LOL

Hello to Judith Waller in Victoria. Thanks for your letter Judith, I appreciate you thinking of me. xx

I hope things are going well in your home. Thanks for your visit today I hope you're enjoying this time of year. Stay safe and well. xx

ADDITIONAL READING:

Great vintage bake-off: why lamingtons survive while fruitcakes fell from favour

Play outside and sing together: what living in Denmark taught me about raising ‘Viking’ children

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9 March 2024

This is real freedom

One of the things I love about living alone is that I can do whatever I want to do. I've always been independent and a loner but this puts a new sparkle on the edge of it. This is REAL freedom. But hand-in-hand with that freedom is the importance of maintaining relationships with family, friends and neighbours.  My family continues to support me with phone calls, messages and visits which I know will carry on until I die. Thankfully, we are that kind of family. I have a couple of online friends who I speak with online or on the phone and two other friends I see every few months - it works well for me, keeping me in touch with the people I love while enjoying my independence and time alone. My neighbours seem to have adopted me since Hanno's death and I can rely on them for almost anything ... except getting rid of snakes. LOL I am reluctant to ask for help but sensible enough to know when I need to. 



Yesterday, I did my grocery shopping, came home having bought a new moth orchid, repotted it and two other orchids and then had a tea and toast breakfast at 10am. I worked on the cookbook for three hours. At 2pm, I cut up tomato, onion, cucumber, lettuce, avocado and chilli, made guacamole, and had lunch of corn chips, salad and guacamole, then I finished off the fresh pineapple I cut up the day before.  From 3 - 5pm I was mending and sewing, then took Gracie outside again until it was almost dark. Inside again, I showered, read for a while, made some notes about ideas I'd had through the day, read The Guardian online and went to bed. It was a good day.


Spending time with Gracie is very important to me and seeing as she likes to be WITH me, I have to juggle time working on the computer and being outside with her watching her chase March flies and lizards or watching what's happening in the neighborhood - which usually is not much. There's virtually no traffic, but a lot of birds and after 3pm, neighbourhood kids playing in the street. Every couple of weeks I wash Gracie, or groom her, she hates having all that done but being a Scotch Terrier in a warm climate, she tolerates it and me fussing over her.


Here are my beautiful sons, Shane and Kerry, when they were in grade one and preschool, they are now in their 40s.

I think a lot about my life and my good fortune to have met Hanno all those years ago and how grateful I am to have this life. I have a wonderful family, I have nothing to complain about, I have more than enough, I'm happy to live on less than I earn and feel fortunate to own my home and have no debt. I've met many interesting people, made a living being a writer since I was about 30 years old and have an abundance of optimism and general good health. I wonder too about the state of the world, how wars break out and how it is usually the innocents who pay the ultimate price for that. Hatred, aggression, greed, jealousy, sexism and racism are reported on the news everyday - it never goes away.  And yet here I am, a dog at my feet, reading this blog post I just wrote and wondering how I got so lucky.

Addition: I've just restored the comments. I hope they aren't swamped with spam like there were before, if so, I'll deal with it then. Please comment here rather than Instagram.

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