Weekend Reading and Gardening

16 July 2021

Life continues its calm course here with housework, cooking, baking and gardening every day and occasionally a visitor or a trip out. This week we had to take Gracie to the vet because she has a sore ear, again. It's infected and the vet has put her on antibiotics and painkillers and wants to see her again next week. If there's been no improvement, he'll give her an anaesthetic and clean the ear out properly.  He tried to do that this week but she cried so much he stopped so she could calm down.  Poor Gracie. 

The weather has been a bit strange here.  We've just had two days of 26C and it's the middle of winter! It's cooler now and next week it will be cold. But the garden is motoring along and soon I'll take some more photos for you. I've raised a lot of candytuft seedlings and took cuttings of two French lavenders and a yellow rose which are growing well. I'll plant all of them in the main garden over the weekend, re-tie the tomato plants, prune, weed and finish off the fertilising I started mid-week. How is your garden coming along?

We've had sudden surges of Covid in the southern states in the past week or two. I hope the Covid situation where you live has settled down although I've read in recent days that Covid Delta variant is surging in a number of countries. I linked to David Attenborough's Extinction program a couple of weeks ago. It gives the latest facts about the loss of biodiversity world-wide and what the consequences are of that. There is a prediction by a number of scientists that more viral diseases will present themselves because of it. There is another link below as a follow up.

How are you going? I hope all is good in your neck of the woods. Thanks for your visits both here and to my Instagram page. Have a great weekend and enjoy what you do.  xx

๐Ÿงต ๐Ÿชก ๐Ÿชก ๐Ÿงต

Weekend Reading

Weekend Reading, Grandmothering and Cleaning Cloths (again!)

9 July 2021
With a lockdown behind us and school holidays almost over, the normal pace of life will return again soon. I love the rhythm of life in my home. It's comfortable and calm and it helps me with both productive and creative tasks. I like the predictability of it, the knowledge that one day echoes through the week with familiar patterns and expectations. But I also love the surprises of life that sometimes happen along the way.

There were no surprises this week although we had Jamie here yesterday and he always adds a lot of interest, especially now that he's on the verge of change. Things are falling into place for him and yesterday, while we were weeding the back garden, he told me that it's better to work in winter because you don't get hot, and if you're cold you just have to get up and work and you warm up. He's right of course and I love that he feels that work is a normal part of his life. We're a family of workers and it feels right that Jamie fits in like a piece of our puzzle. It's Alex's birthday tomorrow so we'll have two savvy ten year old boys in the family.

It's raining today and while the rain fills the tanks and seeps into the soil it will mean that I stay inside most of the day. Although later on, after the morning chores, I intend going out to the back verandah to give it a good tidy up. At the moment there are garden tools, bags of potting mix, pebbles, straw, pots and watering cans all over the place. Most of the time we just put things back in place and move them around but it's a good idea once in a while to have a focused clean up and organise what is there to best support the work we do outside.

I've been working with the Ikea and the home-sewn cloths for a couple of weeks now and I have to tell you I much prefer the Ikea cloths for cleaning.  They're exactly the right size, the cloth is perfect for cleaning and they're easy to wash. I like the tea towels I made but I'm now using the cloths as a paper towel replacement - draining, lining vegetable bins and wiping up small spills etc., as well as for cleaning glass.  Did you buy some of the Ikea cloths?  How have they worked in your kitchen?

A big shout out to everyone in lockdown in Sydney, Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong where the Covid Delta variant is spreading. I hope everything is going well at your place and you're staying happy and healthy. Hanno and I send our best wishes to you and hope you remain safe.  

Thanks for your visit today and during the week.  ๐Ÿ’™

Weekend reading

Weekend Reading and New White Cleaning Cloths

2 July 2021
I've enjoyed sewing this week. There were a couple of mending jobs, I fixed the waistband on a skirt and made set of six white kitchen cloths and two absorbent tea towels. I'm still using my organic cotton knitted cloths but I've found that the white cloths are much better for cleaning the induction stove, microwave and fronts of the stainless steel fridge and dish washer.

Inspired by the white cloths from Ikea, I had a sewing session and made six cloths and two tea towels using white flannel from Spotlight.

I don't think I've properly explained my rag and dish cloth cleaning methods because I had a couple of emails asking if I still use rags. Of course I still use rags, and always will, but I've only ever used rags for what I call dirty cleaning, not in the kitchen. For me, dirty cleaning is cleaning bathrooms and toilets, wiping the floor with a rag as well as cleaning up any spills that ended up on the floor. If that spill was on the kitchen floor, I'd use a rag but I don't wipe the kitchen bench, fridge or stove with a rag. 

In the kitchen I like to start off with a cloth that I know is clean. That used to always be a knitted cloth and now I've added the white cloths. I saw them when I went to Ikea a couple of months ago, felt them and thought they'd be very absorbent so I bought 10 of them and two absorbent cotton tea towels.  The dish cloths were 30 cents each and the tea towels were 80 cents each. I got 10 cloths and two tea towels for $4.60! It was only when I used them that I realised what great products they are and such great value for money. 

This is the drawer under the oven where I store my kitchen cloths, tea towels, hand towels, straining cloths, jugs covers, tea cosies, oven mitts etc.

I feel the kitchen is cleaner now because I'm encouraged to use a new white cloth every morning. When I clean glass surfaces I dry the surface with one of the absorbent cotton tea towels.  Most days I use four or five white cloths for washing up, wiping the kitchen bench, sink and stove, and I wash them every two or three days. Having a stack of them there, and not just one or two, makes all the difference. I feel prepared for anything. 

This is the first forget-me-not. It makes me very happy.

Tommy Toe tomatoes are growing well. Tomatoes are easy to grow in winter in this climate, in fact, it's the easiest time of the year to grow them.

We've been in lockdown again this week, it ends tomorrow. Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle and the Blue Mountains are also locked down.  We're dealing with the terrible Delta variant of the Covid virus and with only a small percentage of people in Australia fully vaccinated, it's worrying, to say the least. If you're in one of the lockdown areas, I hope you made the most of the extra time at home. I think it's useless having a negative outlook. I just get on with it and use my time to do things that will make life better for us. I hope things are good at your home too. Take care of yourself, stay safe and keep warm (or cool). Thank you for visiting me here today. I love your comments and visits. 

๐Ÿ“ ๐Ÿชด ๐Ÿ“

Weekend reading

Weekend Reading and Housework

25 June 2021
Now that I'm not working for a living I live at my own pace. Most days are made up of housework that is done so we feel comfortable and at ease in our home; gardening to grow some food and flowers which contributes to our physical and mental health; cooking nutritious food to keep us full and healthy; various mending, repairing and maintenance jobs; looking after each other and Gracie; and, importantly, spending time thinking about the value of each each day and how it helps build the life we live.  

There are always things to be folded and put away.

Gathering my soap ingredients.  That dark jug is olive oil. I have no idea why it's so dark in the photo.

Soap making - it's an olive oil and coconut oil soap with no fragrance or colour.

Of course, there are days when odds and ends need to be done too. For instance, yesterday I made soap, over the weekend I'll reorganise our linen cupboard and make a couple of tablecloths and next week I'll prune and fertilise the plants on the front verandah. It's a mixed bag but I get it done by being flexible and juggling the 24 hours I have each day. 

When the chooks give you too many eggs, you make egg custard.

Another thing that helps use those 24 hours wisely is to cook food that doesn't take a lot of time, or a lot of food that can be served day after day simply by reheating it.  I'm doing that this week. I made a big pot of beef, barley and vegetable soup on Tuesday and it's fed us every day since. We finish the pot today. Yes, we eat the same thing every day but that doesn't worry either of us if it's delicious (and it is ๐Ÿ˜). The good part of it is I don't have to stop at 11 am to prepare our main meal at lunchtime. I put the soup on a low heat mid-morning and just serve it up when we're ready to eat. It's a saving of about 45 minutes and a great way to help me get through those busy days, and much less cleaning up too.

I think winter is a great time to work through those busy days and get cupboards cleaned, sorted and decluttered and to look around your home to see if anything needs changing. If changing a few things around makes your work easier, why not invest some time in doing it.  How are you organising your days this winter?

Thank you for being here today. I hope everything is right in your world. Stay safe. ๐Ÿฅฐ

Weekend Reading

Weekend Reading and out in the garden

18 June 2021
I've had a good break away from the computer and enjoyed the two weeks Tricia was here. Spending time with close relatives or friends is always a valuable thing to do. Tricia brought plants from her garden so we planted out Euphorbia, Lupin and Penstemon cuttings and lots of seeds.  I've taken cuttings from some of my roses and they're growing good shoots now and although I planted a few vegetables, including turnips, a night visitors enjoyed half the seedlings the first night they were in the garden.  Funnily enough, the other half are still happily growing.

Above: the pecan tree is yellowing and dropping leaves, it will be green again in September/October. To the left of it is a native fig tree. All birds love this and fly in daily to feast on the tiny fruits.

Here is the elder tree chopped back to the bone. You can't do this kind of pruning to most plants but this elder is as tough as old boots. It's currently growing about 2 - 3 inches a day and will be back in action in a couple of months, and much healthier for the pruning.
Below: one of the yellow passionfruit cut back after a year of prolific growth and many buckets of fruit. It's about a metre high now and will cover the trellis again, shading our bedroom wall, by summer.

The orange tree returned to its full glory this year after being devastated by night moths last year. We have three orange trees - two Washington navels and late season orange called Lane's Late; two Eureka lemon trees; one elderberry, which was cut right back and is now putting on strong growth; one pecan; a loquat and two yellow passionfruit vines, also cut back and regrowing well.

Above: fragrant stock, a favourite of mine and below, Cleome - four Queens Mix.

I'm having such a lovely time at the moment. All cleaning and home maintenance work is up to date, the weather is superb, I have a garden that needs my help every day, I have a couple of books waiting to be read and plenty of sewing to do. I don't need more than that to make me feel satisfied and happy.

This is the only rush hour we have here - the chooks racing each other to get out of the coop in the morning. Now, in winter, they want to be the first to find any native figs that have dropped overnight.

I promised the recipe for the plum cake so here it is. I bought Sophie Hansen's book In Good Company recently and have baked her Visitors Cake several times since. It's similar to the old pound cake and can be made plain and simple as a morning tea cake or enriched with dried fruit, apples, apricots, nuts, coffee or chocolate to make it an ideal visitors cake. This time I added plums. And for all the chook owners out there, it's a good recipe when you want to use up four eggs, or use up 12 by baking three cakes and freezing two.  It would freeze very well.

  • 1 cup (250 g) butter, softened 
  • 250 g (9 oz) caster sugar 
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 4 eggs
  • 1⅔  cups (250 g) self-raising flour 
  • 6 fresh plums cut in half or ¾ of a can of plums
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease a 20 cm (8 inch) spring-form tin. 

Add butter and sugar to a mixing bowl and cream it with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour. Spoon the batter into the tin and bake for about 35 minutes. 

The cake is ready when it smells cooked and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let it cool in the tin for about five minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool.

Bidens growing near my tiny solar fountain. We still have a lot of nut grass. Has anyone had success in removing it? I'd love to know your secret.

I hope you're safe and secure and enjoying life. Thank you for being here today, say hello in the comments so I know you're still around, or you're a new visitor. 

๐Ÿ’š ๐Ÿ’œ ๐Ÿ’š


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Weekend Reading

14 May 2021
This will be my last blog for a while. I'm taking a break. Life is getting busier outside so I'm not reading as much online to make up the weekend reading list and my sister is coming up for a visit very soon. We haven't seen each other for over two years so we have a lot of talking to catch up on.  I'll keep my instagram going and post if we do something I think you'll be interested in.

I hope you've had your Covid vaccination or you're getting closer to it. Stay safe, enjoy your weather - be it hot or cold, and keep working towards a simpler life.


  • Extinction - The Facts - David Attenborough's must-see documentary on biodiversity and how we're being effected by it
  • The Best Homemade Pasta With Meatballs - I introduced you to Liziqi, the Fairy, a couple of years ago, she was the ultimate in making everything from scratch. This couple is similar, they live in Azerbaijan, they're self-sufficient and they live off the land. 

Weekend Reading

7 May 2021

On Tuesday night I gave my last ever live community talk. I have had a connection with Noosa Permaculture for about ten years now so I ended on a high with this beautiful community group. President Petrina and her committee made me feel at home as soon as I walked in the door and the people who came along were supportive and interested. Thank you all. I had a lovely evening and after giving community talks from here to Hobart, I feel well and truly satisfied that my last talk was here, close to my own home and with people whose values I share.

This is a Hepburn Voice, a gift for my birthday last month.  It's a voice activated speaker that works as a radio, it plays the music I have on my phone (and other online music) and it also allows me to listen to Ted Talks, radio stations from all over the world, audiobooks and podcasts. I can even ask it what's the time in NYC or the weather in Lativa or answer my phone while I continue to cook in the kitchen. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Modern technology, most of it doesn't relate to how I live but this, THIS is wonderful.  And I love that it's high tech and yet looks like a meek and mild vintage radio.

Our passionfruit have been producing for the past couple of months and this week, Hanno harvested the last of them and pruned the vines right back.  The trellis has to be repaired in places so now is the idea time for both the pruning and the repair work. The cordial is a light syrup with all the passionfruit that needed to be used straight away. I strained the seeds off when I bottled it.

Today will be the first of many days when I have no appointments, meetings or work of any kind so I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the garden. I've got about three times as many seedlings as I need, a few plants in pots, and packets of seeds that I plan to broadcast over the soil.  I'm planting my potatoes in bags and pots today too. The weather is beautiful, the birds, bees and insects are flying in and out and for me, this is a perfect day's work. I have a feeling that many of your will feel the same about your gardens.

I hope you're safe and well and feeling more optimistic about the future with the increasing vaccination rates.  Hanno and I had our first vaccination last Saturday and will have the second jab in late July. We had feeling of tiredness and Hanno had sore muscles but the only other effect is the feeling that we're safer this week than last week. If you haven't been vaccinated, I hope you can get it done soon.  Have a lovely weekend.  xx


Weekend Reading

30 April 2021

It's been wonderful out in the backyard this week. We had a gardener come in from Airtasker on Monday and while she worked hard removing the weeds in the two main gardens, I watched from the kitchen while I cooked lunch and plotted my next moves.  And so the garden went from this ....

... to this.  

I can't tell you how good it feels. I'm starting off with weeded, manured and mulched beds, a lot of seedlings, a few potted plants and the motivation and energy (I hope) to create a garden where I can grow vegetables, pick flowers and sit to enjoy the splender of it.  My sister Tricia is coming up from the Blue Mountains soon and she's bringing seeds and seedlings from her garden for me to plant. It remains to be seen how well they do coming from a very cold climate to a subtropical one. This could only be done in autumn/winter, both of us have a long history with gardens, so the three of us should be able to help most of them survive.  I'll be working out there today and over the weekend but it will probably be between showers.

Inside the house I'm shortening curtains, slowly preparing a bedroom for Tricia, washing sofa covers and cleaning the oven. Yesterday, I made enough Swedish meatballs for two lunches so I'll only have to cook up some vegetables to go with them today. I love double-batch cooking - it's saved my bacon more times than I care to recall.

Hanno's been pruning the elder tree, harvesting passionfruit and pruning back the vines for another big crop, maybe at the end of the year but certainly next year. Even though we're both getting on in age, if we work at our own pace, all these jobs are doable and usually enjoyable. 

We're having our Covid vaccinations tomorrow and I'm looking forward to that. I know there is a very small risk of side effects, but the risks associated with Covid are much more of a worry. Our government has been very slow with our vaccination program and now that there are variants from the UK, India, South Africa, I think it's important we gain as much protection from the virus as we can.

I hope you're fit and well and looking forward to the weekend. The change of seasons is well and truly with us now and for me, this time of year is the sweetest. I hope it is for you too. Take care. xx

Here are the weekend readings:

Weekend Reading

23 April 2021

Work in my home continues with cooking, organising, cleaning and gardening taking priority this week. Hanno and I went to Ikea on Tuesday, our first trip there in over two years. I never browse when I shop, I have already done my research online and I go with a list on my phone. So I wait until I have enough things to make the trip worthwhile and then we set off. I needed a pair of new blockout curtains for one of the bedrooms, a doona and bed linen, some preserving jars, a few kitchen items and a couple of large glass tea mugs, ideal for my big cuppa first thing in the morning.  Hanno took advantage of the little food hall near the checkouts and bought some of his favourites - herrings, knackerbrot and jam. We both really appreciate those little treats because we don't often buy them.

Jamie and I made these little egg and bacon pies for his lunchbox last week. I used the recipe in The Simple Home - three sheets of puff pastry, bacon, eggs, cheese, garlic and green onions. They're delicious hot or cold, so perfect for a lunchbox.

Almost everything is ready in the garden to start planting, all I need now is help with the weeding.  Both Hanno and I get very dizzy when we're bending over so I've arranged for a gardener from Airtasker.  She'll be here today, I hope. So it looks like I'll be busy in the garden next week and then have the joy of watching the garden grow for the rest of the year.  You can see in the photo above, the two beds at the front are well and truly overgrown with weeds but there are plants in there too.  It will be good to have some order in those main gardens and to watch a new landscape emerge in the coming weeks and months. 

Hanno and I will have our Covid vaccinations next week. I hope the Covid situation is improving where you live and that you have access to the vaccine. Sadly, the situation in several countries is still out of control but wherever you are, staying at home and going out only for the necessities seems to be the best way to stay safe.  Take care everyone.  xx

Weekend Reading

16 April 2021
My sincere thanks to everyone who sent a birthday message yesterday. I had such a good day. I didn't do any work, I relaxed, read, gardened, went out to lunch at the local pub with Hanno and Jamie and all through the day those messages, emails and phone calls flowed in to fill the spaces left open. Thank you for help making it the day I hoped for.

Here we are in the garden after lunch. There's quite a shake up out there with lots still to do. When Shane, Alex and Eve were here for lunch on Wednesday, Shane put out some pavers for me that are now too heavy for Hanno and I to lift; they'll soon be part of a feature in the garden.

Okay, for lunch Hanno had fillet steak, salad and chips, Jamie had a chicken burger and chips and I had two entrees; crispy pork belly in Asian sauce and four coconut prawns. I asked for chips too and they brought out a huge bowl filled with them that were left uneaten.

This is yesterday's morning tea on the front verandah.

I set up my little solar water fountain in the garden yesterday. It's been sitting on the back verandah for the past six months. It's one of the things on the pavers.  More photos when everything is in place and we're happy with it.

I hope your week has been a good one and if it wasn't, that everything has improved now and is moving in the right direction. Covid is still playing a huge part in lives here and probably where you are too. Stay safe at home if you can and take the opportunity to improve your home and garden.

Here are this week's readings, I hope you enjoy them.