Weekend Reading

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

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

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

Weekend Reading

15 January 2021

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

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

Radical knitting - dishcloths

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Weekend Reading

18 December 2020

This will be my last blog post for a while. I'm having a break over Christmas and will come back when I'm rested and ready to go again. Next year will be my 14th year blogging about how we live. In the beginning, knowing I wanted to write about making beds, washing up, housework and budgeting, I wondered if my blog would last 14 weeks. But it's still here and so are you and for that, I'm truly grateful.

Happy holidays from Gracie!

My sister sent this photo during the week. The Down to Earth paperback in the window of a bookshop near where she lives.

My sincere thanks to everyone who bought my books this year. It's an important part of our income now and 10 per cent of what you pay for one of my books comes to us and helps us live our chosen life here. Thanks also to all the readers who continue to visit.  Without you, this blog would not be here.

My tomatoes were growing in the bush house last week. This is what happens when you don't stake them early enough and it rains for 12 hours.

Munstead Wood standard rose growing in the back garden.

This has been the strangest year I've ever lived through. We aren't locked down now but we have been in the past and I know it's difficult shopping for food, going to the doctor and taking children to and from school. Staying at home helped stop the spread of Covid here and although there's a spike in Covid in Sydney this morning, we have almost no restrictions where I live. Hanno and I are still cautious and stay at home most of the time. What frightens me is how quickly it spreads and, as Sydney is showing us now, it goes from zero to five to 17 in less than a day. And many people don't have symptoms when they're tested but they have the virus. 

If you're locked down, I get it, it's hard but so is this virus. Keep hanging on, stay at home, be safe and wear a mask when you go out. Keep hand sanitiser and masks in your car or if you usually walk or use public transport, always have a mask and hand sanitiser in your bag. 

Use the time at home to think about your life and how you want to go forward. I'm pretty sure things will change after this, I really hope our governments will lead us towards a sustainable, less commercial, pollution-free future where businesses think about the environment as well as profit margins. It's a good idea to contact your local member of parliament too and ask how they and their party intend to protect the environment while we recover from Covid. But it's up to us to make our own personal changes too and now is a very good time to think about what we can change and improve in our own spaces. I use the plural 'spaces' because as well as being at home, most of us are also in our workplace, schools, parents homes, library and various indoor venues and these spaces must be safe for you as well.

Cecile Brunner rose growing over the chook fence.

Here is the last 2020 reading list. There are some lovely links here and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. 

So that's it for another year, my friends. Enjoy the holiday season, look after yourself, rest, think, play and come back ready for what might be another challenging year. Make the most of the time you have with your family in your safe haven.  

Hanno, Gracie and I send love to you across the miles. ๐Ÿ’œ

Weekend Reading

11 December 2020

This is the first foxglove flower I've ever grown. I just love them but always thought our climate was too harsh for them to grow here. This one is in a pot in the bush house and is really healthy. Other seedlings planted in the garden are tiny and I doubt they'll produce flowers. I'll have to change my strategy next year but in the meantime, these two plants are a real joy.

Weekend Reading

4 December 2020

This week I've been working on promoting the Down to Earth paperback on radio and writing articles for magazines and online. The weather has been dry and hot so I've had the sprinkler on the garden and thankful we have rainwater tanks to allow that to happen. I've also been gearing up to do some sewing next week so I've decided on two projects and made sure I have everything I need.  All I need now is the time to do it and I think that will happen next week.

Lace cap hydrangea.

Weekend Reading

27 November 2020
My son had to go back to hospital last Sunday with a nasty infection under his arm. He had a melanoma and lymph gland removed in late September. He stayed in for four days on IV antibiotics and tests and, thankfully, was released on Wednesday afternoon.  He's feeling much better now but it's another stark reminder of how important our families and our health are.  I hope your family is healthy and things are going well for you.

Weekend Reading

21 November 2020
My apologies for not posting this on Friday. I had a few things to do yesterday, and it's almost the end of the year and I'm tired. I had a good sleep last night, I'm raring to go today and apart from a few odds and ends, I have little to do this weekend. This afternoon, I'll start knitting a new set of dishcloths for myself and a friend. This is a yearly task for me and it's one I look forward to because it makes me sit, think and relax with the repetitive clicking of needles.  

Weekend Reading

13 November 2020
Here is our really tasty lime cordial alongside a jar of radish sprouts I just started.

I bought a small bag of limes when I was shopping last week and decided to work out later what I'd do with them. They cost $2.50.  Last summer, my friend Nicole gave me some finger limes from her own garden. I hadn't used them before, found the flavour to be a delicious mild lime flavour and they made best cordial I've ever had.  I was hooked.  That memory came back to me later in the day so I finely zested and juiced the limes, added juice from two lemons from the backyard and made lime cordial. It doesn't have the complex flavour of the finger limes, but it's pretty good. Those seven limes and two lemons made up a litre of cordial which I'll serve with iced tap water or cold sparkling spring water.

Usually, we make large quantities when we preserve fruit or vegetables and that's a great thing to do. You make the fruiting season last longer and add interest to your pantry and meals by putting up a few dozen jars of peaches, jam, tomato sauce, relish or chutney. That's a great thing to do, but it's also good to preserve small amounts too and it's a good way to get started on preserving if you haven't done any yet. A small batch will take less time, the lime cordial took about 10 minutes to make, and even though you'll only make a bottle or a couple of jars, you'll have something special in your fridge or pantry.

Where I live, we have an abundance of citrus fruits in spring and summer so it's common to find offers of free lemons or oranges. If the same is true where you live, grab a bucket and do up a small batch of cordial or juice. It will set you on the preserving road and that is a really wonderful life skill to have.

Here is this week's reading list. I hope you're able to make a cup of tea and sit for a while to read them.
My sincere thanks to everyone who ordered and bought the paperback Down to Earth. I hope you get a lot of good ideas and motivation from the book and that it guides you towards significant changes in your life.

Stay well everyone, especially those in areas where Covid-19 has taken hold. Have a great weekend.

Where to buy Down to Earth paperback

8 November 2020

I thought about writing a new book to show how simple life could help you thrive when Covid is active in your community. But when I thought about it, I’d already written it - Down to Earth is all about living in a safe and comfortable home, providing as much as you want to produce in your home, cooking wholesome food, growing, fermenting and preserving food, mending and recycling, slowing down, keeping your family close and being comfortable in your own skin. So instead of writing another book, Down to Earth has been published as a paperback with a ten dollar drop in price.

The Down to Earth paperback was published on 20 October and I’ve had a number of people from all over the world ask where they can buy it. So I’ve done some research and come up with this list. Thank you all for your support.

Many independent book shops. Ask them to order it in if it’s not there.
Woolworths - for the first time, Down to Earth will be sold at Big W soon, certainly in time for Christmas shopping.

UK, Europe and Asia
Book Depository with free postage

North America
Amazon Canada - please note: it states on the page that the book will be released March 2021. That’s not correct. It was published 20 October, 2020 and is available now.
Amazon USA - please note: it states on the page that the book will be released March 2021. That’s not correct. It was published 20 October, 2020 and is available now.