The shop is nearly ready

I've been busy this past week with knitting and sewing for my online shop I hope to open next week. It will never be overflowing, just be a few things I can do in my free time that I hope will earn us a little pin money. I've been told I could make a fair bit of money on my blog now but I'm not about to sacrifice my integrity for the sake of a few dollars. I see my little shop as something altogether different. I've often had people write to ask if they can buy something I've made and written about. This seems to be a fair way to earn a little bit of extra cash while giving others something I hope will add value to their lives. It's the same way I see my sponsors. I will only promote or support those people who share my values and who sell products I would use myself or for my family. Whenever you see a sponsor button on my blog, please be assured it will be for a small ethical business or a home business that I'm happy to support and buy from myself, and it has been the one in a hundred that made it to the blog.

The things I'm making for my shop are those things I would normally make for myself - dishcloths, aprons, scarves, soap, tea cosies, table runners and a few odds and ends. I am using good quality materials - all from my own stash, some are organic, and all of them are cotton, linen, wool and natural fibres. The soap is just rain water, lye and oil, nothing else. It is suitable for washing the whole family, including the babies, and your hair. I hope some of you like my meagre offerings. I understand that my taste won't suit everyone and my products might seem a bit old-fashioned but they will be made with love and care and to the best of my ability. 


It would help me quite a bit if I had some idea of how much soap I might sell. I've made three batches and that will be fine if that's all I need, but if there are a lot of people who wish to buy the soap, I'll get a few more batches done before Monday. If you're thinking of ordering soap, can you say that in the comments so I have a better idea of numbers. It won't count as an order, so don't worry about making a commitment, it will just give me a general idea of numbers. Thanks friends.


Recently I bought these two books with my Amazon points. They're the Chicks with Sticks Guide to Knitting and Guide to Crochet. Both are very good books and I'm happy to recommend them to you if you're a new knitter or, like me, a new crocheter. I am determined to learn to crochet because I want to make some jug covers for the shop and I would like to add lacy edges to my knitted tea cosies. One of the good features in the books is they have instructions on how to learn knitting and crochet for both right and left handers, or as they call them, southpaws. Both books go through basic stitches and how to hold needles and yarn, then go on to a wide variety of beginner and advanced beginner projects.


I'll be apron sewing and knitting today. Hanno is going to the Gold Coast again so I'll be alone and can get on with it. It's been raining these past couple of days so I'll cosy up with my craft work and see what happens. I love these diamond days. I hope you have a wonderful time of it too and if you're knitting or sewing, working at your job or in the home, enjoy yourself. 

70

Frugal favourites - lasagne, and a not-so-frugal coffee cake

Lasagne is one of those great meals that can be modified to suit a range of tastes and is often a favourite meal from childhood. I make lasagne from scratch, usually with a meat and tomato layer, a spinach layer and cheese sauce. I make the pasta sheets too. The ones I used for this lasagne were the leftovers of the chicken noodle soup noodles I made a week or so ago. I kept the pasta well wrapped in the freezer and defrosted it in the fridge the day before I used it. The same recipe does both meals well and cooks equally well being boiled in the soup and baked in the lasagne. That recipe is here.  This lasagne feeds Hanno and I for three meals, so it's a frugal favourite and it's very tasty.







Lasagne is a good dish for vegetarians. When I was vegetarian, I replaced the meat layer with a homemade baked bean layer - with half the beans crushed and half whole to give a thick and rich sauce. If you add the spinach layer and cheese sauce and make the pasta with wholemeal flour instead of white, you have a complete protein, vegetarian meal.

MEAT SAUCE
  1. Brown 700g\1½ lb topside mince\ground beef in a frying pan on medium heat.
  2. Add one chopped onion, one sliced stick of celery and some garlic - as much as you like, and mix it in.
  3. When the onion is starts taking on some colour, add two big spoons of tomato paste, mix it in and cook for three minutes.  Stir it so it doesn't burn.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste, one can of whole tomatoes, one can of water and one teaspoon sugar. Crush the tomatoes and mix together.
  5. Add herbs of your choosing - I added fresh oregano and parsley.
  6. Bring to the boil and let it simmer, with the lid off, for about 30 minutes - until it's well reduced and the sauce is thick.
CHEESE SAUCE
  1. Pour about 600mls\one pint milk into a saucepan over medium heat. You can use milk power and water.
  2. Add 2 large tablespoons cornflour and whisk in.
  3. Add salt and pepper and a sprinkle of chilli powder or Tabasco.
  4. Add 1½ cups grated chedder cheese.
  5. Mix together and stand there stirring until the cheese has melted. Cheese sauce burns easily, so keep stirring.
  6. When the sauce is thick and smooth, add it to the lasagne.
I'm sure everyone knows how to make up a lasagne in layers. I usually have two layers of meat sauce, two pasta layers, two cheese sauce layers and one spinach layer. But make yours up however it suits you.  

For a gluten-free version of this, don't use the pasta - use a layer of cooked mushrooms or eggplant instead and instead of making a cheese sauce, sprinkle grated cheese on instead.

MOIST AND RICH COFFEE CAKE


This is a very easy to make coffee cake but it turns out so well, you could use it as a special dessert or a celebration cake. Naturally, you have to decorate it better than I did, but it would stand any test for a special cake. Probably not the best cake for children or anyone on a diet.

Like my whole orange cake, this is all done in a food processor and is equally easy to make.

COFFEE CAKE
75g\2½ oz walnuts
225g\8 oz caster sugar
Add these first two ingredients to the food processor and mix until they're powdery. 

Then add:
225g\8 oz room temperature butter
4 fresh eggs
5 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in two tablespoons boiling water
Mix until everything is light and creamy.

Then add:
225g\8 oz self raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
and enough milk, sour cream or yoghurt to make a thick batter. Use whatever you have on hand but the addition of sour cream or yoghurt to any cake gives it something extra special.

When the mixture is nicely combined, add equal amounts to two 20 cm greased and baking paper-lined cake tins and cook on 180C\360F for 20 - 25 minutes - or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Turn out both cakes on a cake rack. If both cakes have a raised dome top, cut the top off one of them.  You'll need the bottom layer to be flat on both top and bottom.

While the cakes are still hot, mix together 2 teaspoons instant coffee and two teaspoons boiling water, and dribble this over the tops of each cake. Then let them sit there to cool down.



COFFEE FROSTING
350g\12 oz icing sugar
175g\6 oz soft butter
2 ½ teaspoons instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water

Beat the icing sugar and butter together until it's creamy, then add the coffee and mix until it's incorporated.

Sandwich the two cake halves together with about one third of the icing and decorate the top and sides with the rest. Decorate with crushed walnuts.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and they make it into your favourites recipes file.

27

Homemaking in tough times

For a while it looked like our economy was improving and that soon prices would level out and start falling again, but when I researched online for information about electricity yesterday, there was doom and gloom all over the place regarding food, utility and fuel prices. Australia did a bit better than most countries during the recent economic crisis, but now, due to the floods and storms, food prices are higher than they've ever been and fuel prices are going up due to the high Australian dollar and trouble in the Middle East. What's happening here is being mirrored in countries all over the world. Many people are struggling, no one is safe in these troubled times.



If you've ever doubted your role as homemaker/housewife be assured that now is the time you will help your family more than ever before. Take the lead and make sure that every penny coming into your home now is used to its true value. Develop a plan to take your family through this crisis. When food and fuel prices rise and utilities bills increase faster than they should, it's your job as a home maker to be frugal and smart. Look around, research online and ask your friends about good wholesome recipes for main meals and snacks. Whatever your grocery budget was before, see if you can reduce it a bit. Stop buying convenience foods and start cooking everything from scratch - it will save you more than you know. Buy fruit and vegetables in season and if you can't afford fresh vegetables, check out the prices of frozen. They're often a bargain when the fresh prices go up. Buy as much as you can in bulk, not only is it usually cheaper, it cuts out a lot of packaging.



This is a good time to start networking with your friends and neighbours. Despite what you may think, everyone is dealing with high prices and even if there has been no talk of cutting back, when you start that conversation, I'm sure most of your friends will tell you they're struggling too. Can you start buying a bulk meat order together? If you can find a good local butcher and buy a side of beef together, you'll pay (in Australia) about $7 a kilo instead of anything up to $20 a kilo at supermarket prices. The butcher will ask you how you want the meat divided up and you can still get topside mince (ground beef), T-bone, rump, round, chuck, roasts, silverside (corned beef) and sausages all included in that price. Don't forget to take the bones too, for stocks and soups.


If you have a family and haven't started a stockpile yet, now is a good time to start. Look around for things that will store well for a while in a cupboard and when they're on special, grab a few of them. It will take you a few months to build your stockpile but it will see you through these bad times well and it will save you money and time. Old posts on stockpiling here.


If you're new to frugality, it's an exciting time. Don't see it as a burden to be endured; it's an opportunity to develop character and to protect your family. My hope for you is that you'll see this as a permanent change and even when prices fall and times get better, you'll remain a tightwad and continue to live a simple life. If I were coming to this for the first time, I'd stop ALL unnecessary spending and spend only on:
  • Food, groceries 
  • Utilities - electricity, water, rates
  • Fuel and transport
  • Debt repayment - mortgage, credit cards, car payments etc
  • House, car and clothing maintenance
  • Insurance 
  • Medical and dental checkups
Phone, internet, cable TV - all these could be stopped if you needed extra money for any of the above.
Work out how much you're currently spending on all the above and try to work out ways to cut your costs in every category. If you can do that, put the money you saved aside as an emergency fund or to pay off debt. Once a month, as a reward, give yourself money for a treat. Not too much - a movie, DVD or a magazine. The rest of the time, entertainment will be inviting friends around for a BBQ, recording a free movie to watch, and getting acquainted with your library. They're a treasure trove of books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, games and free activities.


If you can make your home a safe and comfortable haven for your family they'll enjoy being at home more. If they're going out to work or school everyday, make your home a joy to come back to - a place where they'll rest, recover and regain strength. Don't be frugal with the love either, that needs to be given out freely and on show all the time. Nothing makes a family more united and strong than knowing they're loved and cared for. That is your job. In addition to putting food on the table, love in their hearts and paying the bills on time, these tough times are a unique opportunity for you to step up and guide your family. It's not an easy job but it's a part of our job description: homemaker. And when you're older, you'll look back on these years and know they make you and your family stronger. Sure, everyone enjoys the good years, but it's the difficult ones that we learn from and that make us tougher, more united and resilient. Let's get our aprons on and start work.

ADDITIONAL READING
Australia - food and food price increase.
Australia - tough times ahead.
UK - rise in the cost of living
UK - inflation
USA - Gasoline price rise
USA - cost of living reaches record high
50

Electricity prices are rising - let's start saving

(Sorry, there seems to be a problem with Blogger's paragraph spacing today.)


There is no doubt about it, household electricity prices have risen a lot and are set to rise even more. Click on this link for a report about it in The Australian. When the cost of electricity rises, so does almost everything we buy - because most of the things we buy are made using electricity. We can't do much about the increased cost of products in the shops, except not buy them, but we can do something about electricity costs at home. Saving electricity at home is all about small steps - you have many opportunities to save small amounts - and it all adds up. The good news is that the more you put into this, the more active you are, the more you'll save. We all have to use electicity but the amount of wasted electricity through stand-by power, leaving lights and chargers on, well, that, my friends, is all up to you.


We have just installed solar panels so we expect our electricity bill to go down but until we use nothing from the grid and are self sufficient in electricity by using only what our panels make, I'll keep on looking for ways to save. I believe the best way to manage electricity usage in the home is to do your own electricity audit. If you can start knowing what your meter reads, then modify your electricity usage and start switching off, you'll be able to accurately judge how much you're saving. If you've never done an electricity audit in your own home, do one now. It's a real eye opener. Here is an old post of mine about how to do it. If you're in Australia, and have had a Climate Smart Audit, you could also check your usage by watching your electricity meter inside the house. It's a good idea to record your meter reading, then use everything as normal for the first day to get an accurate idea of your usage. The following day, start on your program of saving electricity by using whatever you can from the following list. Check your meter again every day - always at the same time - and see how what you do effects your meter readings. 


Find your latest electricity bill and read it again, understand what you're using and how much you're being charged for it. Phone your local supplier and ask them when your off peak electricity rate cuts in and what's the best way to use it. That information may even be on their website. There is some general info here about off peak rates:
I have been writing about saving electricity
for as long as I've been blogging and the following is a list of all the things we've discussed, as well as readers tips, over that time. If you have anything to add that works well for you, please add it in the comments.


  • Turn off appliances at the wall. Reorganise your appliances to make this as easy as possible. Plug your TV, DVD, stereo etc into the one power board and turn the power board off when you go to bed at night. See if you can do a similar thing in the kitchen. 
  • Turn off all chargers with a black box on them at the wall, every time you finish charging. Those things really suck up the power, even when they're not charging but still "on". 
  • When buying new appliances, always buy the best energy rating you can afford. 
  • Sweep the floor instead of vacuuming. 
  • Wash up by hand instead of using the dishwasher. 
  • Use a programmable thermostat for your furnace. Set the thermostat five degrees lower/higher (depending on the season) at night. 
  • Turn the monitor off when you leave the computer. 
  • Replace old light bulbs with compact fluoros. 
  • Keep light usage to a minimum. 
  • Only do full loads of washing. 
  • Don't let rice cooker sit on warm after rice is cooked. 
  • Go to bed earlier – this saves on a lot of things like lights, computer, TV, stereo, extra cups of tea. 
  • Use your mobile phone alarm rather than an electric alarm clock. 
  • Ring your local electricity supply company and get all the information you can on your usage, tariffs and how you can save for your particular situation. 
  • If you have a 3 in 1 light fitting in the bathroom that contains a light, exhaust fan and heater, take the heat globe out. 
  • Watch less TV. 
  • Use a solar camping lamp in the evenings when you don't need strong light. 
  • Try to do without your small appliances like coffee maker, sandwich maker etc. 
  • Never leave small appliances, TV or DVD on stand by. 
  • Do less ironing. Shake clothes when hanging them on the line, hang shirts and dresses on a hanger to dry, give up the idea that you have to be absolutely creaseless. 
  • Use a wall clock instead of relying on your oven or microwave clock. Turn these ovens off when not in use. 
  • “Snuggle up" instead of turning on the heater, get a rug and snuggle with your loved ones on the lounge. 
  • Dress warmer in winter instead of turning on the heat. 
  • In winter, keep lap quilts and rugs on the sofa to encourage the family to use them instead of the heater. 
  • Turn on hot water heater for 1 hour a day. 
  • Change to solar hot water. 
  • Install skylights in dark rooms. 
  • Close the door when you’re heating or cooling a room. 
  • In very cold climates, install double glazed windows and insulated blinds. 
  • If it’s cold outside, hang window quilts. Read about them here: http://www.manytracks.com/Homesteading/winquilt.htm 
  • If you’re using a dishwasher, shut the dishwasher off and open the door after it's finished washing and let the items air dry. 
Following tips are from here:

Refrigerator/Freezer


A typical home uses 600-1200 kiloWatt-hours per year for refrigeration and freezing. 
  • Keep your refrigerator at 37°- 40° F (2° - 4° C) and your freezer at 5°F (-15° C).
  • Keep your refrigerator filled to capacity, but don't overcrowd to the point where doors cannot be closed or air cannot circulate.
  • Vacuum the condenser coils (underneath or behind the unit) every three months or so.
  • Check the condition of door gaskets by placing a paper sheet against the frame and closing the door. If the sheet can be pulled out with a very gentle tug, the door should be adjusted or the gasket replaced.
  • Do not put uncovered liquids in the refrigerator. The liquids give off vapors that add to the compressor workload.
  • Allow hot food to cool off before putting it in the refrigerator.
  • Plan ahead and remove all ingredients for each meal at one time.
Range/Oven
A typical home uses 200-700 kiloWatt-hours per year with its range/oven. 

  • Only use pots and pans with flat bottoms on the stove.
  • Include more stews, stir-frys, and other single-dish meals in your menus.
  • Develop the habit of "lids-on" cooking to permit lower temperature settings.
  • Keep reflector pans beneath stovetop heating elements bright and clean.
  • Carefully measure water used for cooking to avoid having to heat more than is needed.
  • Begin cooking on highest heat until liquid begins to boil. Then lower the heat control settings and allow food to simmer until fully cooked.
  • Cook as much of the meal in the oven at one time as possible. Variations of 25°F still produce good results and save energy.
  • Rearrange oven shelves before turning your oven on - and don't peek at food in the oven! Every time you open the oven door, 25°-50°F (-3° - 10° C) is lost.
  • There is no need to preheat the oven for broiling or roasting.
  • When preheating an oven for baking, time the preheat period carefully. Five to eight minutes should be sufficient.
  • Use your microwave oven whenever possible, as it draws less than half the power of its conventional oven counterpart and cooks for a much shorter amount of time.
  • Pressure cookers and electric frying pans use less electricity than the stove.
  • Use the self-cleaning cycle only for major cleaning jobs. Start the cycle right after cooking while the oven is still hot, or wait until late in the evening when electricity usage is low.
Dishwasher
  • Wash only full loads of dishes - but do not overload dishwasher.
  • Scrape food off dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.
  • Soak burned-on or dried-on foods before adding to the dishwasher.
  • Turn off the dishwasher when the drying cycle starts and let the contents dry naturally with the door partially open.

Washing Machines
  • Follow detergent instructions carefully. Adding too much detergent actually hampers effective washing action and may require more energy in the form of extra rinses. It's better to use less rather than too much laundry detergent.
  • Set the washing machine temperature to cold or warm and the rinse temperature to cold as often as possible.
  • Wash only full loads of clothing- but do not overload machine.
Sort laundry and schedule washes so that a complete job can be done with a few cycles of the machine carrying its full capacity, rather than a greater number of cycles with light loads.

Clothes Dryers
  • Hang your clothes outside and only use the dryer when it's absolutely necessary.
  • A typical home uses 360-1400 kiloWatt-hours per year with the clothes dryer. To become more energy efficient with your laundry, follow these tips:
  • Clean the lint filter thoroughly after each use.
  • Dry towels and heavy cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight fabrics.
  • Avoid over-drying. This not only wastes energy, but harms the fabric as well.
Hot Water
One of the biggest energy users in your home, next to heating and cooling systems, is your hot water system. A typical home uses 1000-4000 kiloWatt-hours per year with its water heater, including dishwashing and laundry water. To become more energy efficient with your water heater, follow these tips:
  • Reduce your water heating bill by 10 percent by lowering the water heater temperature from 140°F to 120F° (60° - 40° C). (Keep the temperature at 140°F (60°C) if you use a dishwasher without a temperature booster.)
  • Once a year, drain a bucket of water of the bottom of the water heater tank. This gets rid of sediment, which can waste energy by "blocking" the water in the tank from the heating element.
  • Locate water heaters as close to the points of hot water usage as possible. The longer the supply pipe, the more heat is lost.
  • Turn off the water heater when you go away on holidays.
  • Insulate your hot water supply pipes to reduce heat loss. Hardware stores sell pipe insulation kits.
  • Consider buying a water heater insulation kit, which reduces the amount of heat lost through the walls of the tank.
  • Repair any leaky taps/faucets promptly.
  • Use sink stoppers instead of letting water run while shaving and washing dishes.
  • Take showers instead of baths.
  • Set the washing machine temperature to cold or warm and the rinse temperature to cold as often as possible.
  • Wash only full loads of clothing and dishes - but do not overload machines.
  • Scrape food off dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.
Lighting

A typical home uses 400-1000 kiloWatt-hours per year in lighting. To become more energy efficient with lights throughout your home, follow these tips:
  • Clean your light fixtures regularly.
  • Turn off lights when leaving a room.
  • Provide task lighting over desks, tool benches, etc., so that activities can be carried on without illuminating entire rooms.
  • If possible, put lamps in corners of rooms, where they can reflect light from two wall surfaces instead of one.
  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs in fixtures that are on for more than two hours a day. Compact fluorescent bulbs will given an incandescent bulb's warm, soft light, while using up to 75 percent less electricity. They also last about 10 times longer. Typically, a 23-watt compact fluorescent bulb can replace a 90- or 100-watt incandescent bulb.
  • Use dimmable bulbs when possible.
  • Install photoelectric controls or timers to make sure that outdoor lighting is turned off during the day.
Heating

  • In the heating season, water vapors from bathing and cooking are beneficial because they help humidify the home. Use kitchen and bath exhaust fans sparingly in the winter to keep as much heat as possible inside your house.
  • In the winter, the air is normally dry inside your house, which is a disadvantage because people typically require a higher temperature to be comfortable than they would in a humid environment. Therefore, efficient humidifiers are a good investment for energy conservation.
  • Locate the heating thermostat on an inside wall and away from windows and doors. Cold drafts will cause the thermostat to keep the system running even when the rest of the house is warm enough.
  • Lubricate pump and blower bearings regularly in accordance with manufacturers' recommendations to limit the amount of energy lost to friction and to extend equipment life as well.
  • Close heating vents and radiator valves in unused rooms. Make sure that drapes, plants, or furniture do not block registers for supply or return air.rmostat as low as comfort permits. Each degree over 68°F (20° C) can add 3 percent to the amount of energy need.

Air-Conditioning
A typical home uses 250-1000 kiloWatt-hours per year for air conditioning in one room. To become more energy efficient with air conditioning throughout your home, follow these tips:
  • Set your thermostat to 78° F (24° C), or as high as comfort permits. When the weather is mild, turn off the AC and open the windows.
  • Close your blinds and curtains during the hottest part of the day.
  • Close cooling vents in unused rooms and keep doors to unused rooms closed.
  • Check and clean or replace air filters every month.
  • Clean the outside condenser coil once a year.
  • Reduce your usage by 10-20 percent by caulking and weather-stripping your doors and windows.
  • Insulate your house.
Fact sheet on CF lights:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_fluorescent_lamp
Info on mercury in CF lights:http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/06/what_about_merc.php

REMINDER:When recycling your compact fluoro globes, to take them to the recycle station, just like you would your old batteries, mercury thermometer and old style fluoro tubes.

How to make a door snake
Global electricity price comparison


Electricity is usually not one of those expenses you have no control over. If you put in some work you can save electricity and money. It's in your hands.
35

Weekend reading

I have been enjoying Spitalfields Life for some time now. It's about life, now and in the past, in London's East End. It's an interesting and enlightening read. There is a list on the right side of the page with an index of subjects. I think "Culinery Life" is my favourite.

I wish the West ladies at Homestead Blessings would post more often, but it is what it is and what is there is wonderful. It is good reading and there are beautiful people and beautiful photos.

This is the good life in Tasmania - Killiecrankie Farm. There is lots of craft, outings and ideas floating around here. Definately worth a visit or two.

Thank you for your visits this week and for opening the doors to your lives. I will be wandering around visiting as many as I can. I hope you have a beautiful weekend.
17

On my mind ...

This is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. It opens the door to us sharing our lives through these photos and gives us all a new way to discover each other, and maybe form new friendships. Your photo should show something at home that you're thinking about TODAY. If you're in another country you should join in when you read this, even if it's still Thursday.

To take part, all you have to do is post a photo on your own blog, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to here. Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When your photo is published, come back and add a comment below, with a link to your blog photo so we can all find you. Please visit all the blogs that appeal to you and leave a comment. Slow down, take the time to cruise around and enjoy your cyber visits.


Here he is again - Jamie! He is almost three months old now and when he visited yesterday, he was really alert, smiling and looking at everything around him. I had my first solo babysitting gig when Hanno, Kerry and Sunny all went to Maleny for morning tea and a stroll along the main street. Jamie slept for a little while, then woke and had a bottle while I talked to him about knitting and the difference between cotton and wool. We visited the chickens and he watched Hettie as she slept under the elder tree. Later we sat and watch a recorded Time Team and I introduced him to Phil, old Mick and Tony. It was a lovely visit that I'm still thinking about today.

Thank you all for the avalanche of comments yesterday - when I wrote about the lurkers I never expected THAT. I want to write to every one of you but time doesn't allow that, so please know that I really loved reading every single comment and I thank you for taking the time to respond. 

67

Hello!

I was going to write about lasagne today but this is more important so that can wait. I commented yesterday, at 10.30am, that I was at my voluntary job and would be back at lunchtime to reply to the ex-"lurkers", but then we got really busy, I worked through lunch and thought I'd reply at home. When I came home, Kerry, Sunny and beautiful Jamie were waiting for me, so that was that. Luckily Hanno had taken a frozen chicken from the freezer and instead of having the last of the lasagne, I made curried chicken and rice. They're still here and I'm pretty sure I only heard Jamie cry once overnight and now, they're all still warmly tucked up in bed on this cold 5〫morning.

This is a painting by Swedish artist, Carl Larsson from here.

Let me tell you, I feel the love. I never expected so many of you to comment after so long not doing it. I expected three or four, maybe five or six, so it was lovely for me to "meet" so many of you after so long. I explained in the comments at one point that between three and four thousand people come here most days to read and I've always thought it odd to get the usual 20 or 30 comments. Not that I'm complaining about that, I'm grateful for all the comments I get. I realise so many of us lead busy lives and it takes time. One of the reasons I write my blog is that it motivates me when I see others doing what we're doing - it keeps me writing, it's my way of saying everyday that "yes, we're still here doing this, are you still there too?" When you leave a comment for me, you open the door to your life, you let me know you're there. Knowing there are fellow travellers on this simple living path makes it easier for me,  and I think it might make it easier for all of us to know we're not alone. Actually, the catalyst for writing about lurking was seeing a comment on Sarndra's blog from a reader who said she came from my blog, yet I didn't know her and had never seen her name before. It doesn't take much to tip me over the edge, that did it, I said something.

Had anyone told me 30 years ago about the crazy idea of blogging, I would never have believed it. How could it be that we would sit alone in rooms, tapping away at a keyboard on a tiny slip of a machine, and that would connect us to people all over the world, that real relationships would be created, that we would genuinely care for people we have never met and that lives would be changed and inspiration found just by looking at a screen, believing, taking notice and making a decision to change. How can we know people we don't know? It's amazing to me. The blog world is a wonderful and powerful place.

I love knowing there are young women in their 20s who have started their adult lives, often with a husband or partner, on a simple, sustainable path that will help build strong families and serve them well their entire lives. Hearing about your families and how you live reminds me every day that Hanno and I are not alone in this, we are part of a group. To know women and men are learning to cook my recipes just amazes me; maybe there's a cook book waiting to spring out. Knowing that what I write is inspiring others towards a simpler way, leads me to this place every morning to continue it - like neighbours at the kitchen table, having a cup of tea every morning and discussing this and that and how we can do better and be better. So to all of you who took the time yesterday, thank you. It made my day. 

I wanted also to tell you that my blog being archived in perpetuity by the National Library of Australia. Here is the link: http://nla.gov.au/nla.arc-127061
This is part of the information they sent: 

The National Library of Australia aims to build a comprehensive collection of Australian publications to ensure that Australians have access to their documentary heritage now and in the future.

PANDORA, Australia’s Web Archive, was set up by the Library in 1996 to enable the archiving and provision of long-term access to online Australian publications. Since then we have been identifying and archiving online publications that meet our collecting scope and priorities. Additional information aboutPANDORA and access to archived titles can be found on the Library's server at: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/index.html

I feel really honoured to be part of Pandora and to be part of your day. Thanks to all of you for including me.
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Buying a fridge

After 13 years with our old fridge, two repairs to the thermostat and it starting to freeze the food in the fridge again, we bit the bullet and bought a new fridge. We want to reduce our already low electricity bill with the help of our solar panels and hot water system, as well as the prudent use and choice of appliances. We did some research to buy a fridge that was eco friendly and settled on the Electrolux two door bottom freezer from their Eco Range. One of the reasons we chose this fridge is that is doesn't use hydrofluorocarbons and it is made in Australia.



You can find out how much electricity your Australian fridge will use here at energyrating.gov.au. General research on all Australian appliances electricity consumption here.  



We've had the fridge for a week now and I'm really happy with it. It has excellent inside configuration, and even though the space inside is slightly less than our old fridge, it uses the space better and we can fit things in very easily. I love the two small drawers just above the vegetable crispers. They're just the right size for holding nuts, seeds, coconut and small bits and pieces. The middle glass shelf can be pushed back so that anything tall could be stored on the lower shelf, extending up to the top shelf. 


The freezer is at the bottom, all in drawers. There is a twist ice dispenser with an ice holder and scoop just under it. I'll use that a lot in summer. You can even take the seals out and wash them.

I'm usually not an appliance junkie but I really like this fridge. If you're looking for a new fridge, I encourage you to look at Electrolux. We bought ours online through Price Pirate.  After phoning around the local shops, Price Pirate sold us the fridge for $500 less than our local store's price. It really pays to shop around.

I have noticed quite a few long-term readers have commented for the first time recently. It always makes me smile when that happens and I make a mental note of what has caused that comment after a long time reading without commenting. If you've ever blogged and written about your own life, you'll know that it can feel a bit like people lurking in the dark out there. When they show their friendly face to say hello, it does make a difference. Thank you for coming out of the shadows and making contact.

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Generation S - simple, smart, satisfied

I read a report the other day that said the babies born for 15 years after 2010 (our grand babies!) will be known as Gen A, the Alpha Generation. Pffffft, as if we need more labels.  According to the report, these Alpha babies will start school earlier, get more formal training than ever before and then they're expected to work until they're 70 or 80. I can't imagine anything worse than knowing when you start work in your late teens or early 20s, that you'll still be at it 60 years later.


I don't want to spend almost my entire adult life in paid work. I want free time to do what I love without having to clock in somewhere or meet deadlines. Luckily Hanno and I are doing that, but I want our grandchildren to be able to do it, and I want you to be able to do it too. We are not here to keep big business in the black. According to the Dali Lama, the purpose of life is to find happiness (you have to think about that, it's not as one dimensional or simple as it sounds). How can you do that if your government relies on you and your contemporaries to work and keep the economy bubbling along until shortly before you die.  It's not fair.


Surely there are others out there who believe that the reward for working hard all through life, paying taxes, upholding the law, voting, raising decent families and building strong communities is that for a decade or two before death, when ambition and strength fade, we leave work behind and spend time doing exactly what we want to do. I am not saying that everyone will want to give up work, I'm sure there will be people who thrive on going to work and really enjoy it, but we need to have the option. It needs to be our choice whether we do that or not. Some of us want free time to get to know our grandchildren, learn a new language or how to play the piano, make the perfect loaf of sourdough,  travel, walk, swim, read or just sit under a tree and think.


There was a time in my past when I was quite happy to work hard and spend much of my money on buying whatever caught my eye. But no more. I woke up, I slowed down and I realised there is much more to life than work, spending and acquisition. When I realised that, I found more than I ever expected that made me happy. I found that not spending and being more aware satisfied me, and by making a lot of what I used, I replaced paid work with home-based skill building and production.


Many of your know Hanno and I are hard workers, and have been all our lives. We're working class, proudly so, and we understand the need to work. We also understand why it's healthy for our countries to have a sound and active working population. Work is good for us but we shouldn't work for pay until we drop dead. At the end of a long and productive life, we should be able to look forward to a gentle and free retirement of about 20 years. If we have worked all our lives, paid taxes to help support our economies, have paid off our debt and saved for our retirement, there is nothing wrong with leaving work when we choose to. I would like to see a government that encourages everyone to live within their means, to live simply and if they can support themselves, choose whether they remain at work or not. I'd vote for a government who encouraged us to live frugally, recycle, mend and sew and to work part time so we could have a better work-life balance.  I'd like a few leaders to realise there is no such thing as unlimited economic growth. 

I know a couple of Generation Alpha babies who will know there is an alternative to life-long paid work. There are a few gems of wisdom I hope to talk to my grandchildren about. Being self-reliant, confident and skilled enough to move life away from the mainstream is just one of them.



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Honey, I'm home!

What a weekend! I feel like I'm back in my rhythm, ready again for whatever each new day brings. I had to go to the shop on Saturday morning to buy a soap thermometer because when I came to make soap, mine was missing. I took all my equipment to the neighbourhood centre recently and it didn't return. But a trip to the shop is always a sharp reminder for me to continue along our slow path. I bought the thermometer, had a look in the book shop, then came home; in and out in 20 minutes. The hard core shoppers were just starting to arrive. I feel sad for them. If they knew my story they might well feel sorry for me too and think of me as deprived. I guess history will be our judge, if one is needed.

Saturday morning was cold, with whistling wind, so I was pleased to drive through my gate again and close the door. It was warm inside, morning tea made for Hanno and I and we sat for a while on the front verandah. He'd been working at cutting down a very old and large camphor laurel tree. They're considered a weed around here so it has to go. I held on to it for 13 years because it provided shade and shelter for other delicate plants and ferns. But now, as we're getting older, we have other considerations - soon we won't be able to do this heavier work. A tree just near this one, a tallow wood, cost us $900 to have removed a few years ago and we can't afford that again. 


This tall tree is the one he's cutting down. You can see where two branches have been cut, there are three left. He'll need help with those last three so we're waiting for a friend to help with those.



The camphor laurel, as well as being a weed, is too close to the house and a danger during storms. Hanno loves doing this kind of work, so before that ability goes completely and we have to rely on others, he's been cutting pieces off it. Luckily it has five main branches quite close to the ground, so he's cutting one off at a time. Then it's the laborious job of cutting that branch into a size that can be picked up and moved to the trailer. Each branch takes almost a day to cut up, then he packs the greenery into the trailer and it goes to the local dump to be chipped for their compost. We are hoping to give the logs to the local wood carvers.

This is my soap and laundry detergent stockpile.

So while he was outside, with a hot tea and cake in is belly, I started on my soap. I wanted to do a few batches but I only have one set of moulds, so I do one batch a day. I've made two batches so far and want to do one more and a batch of liquid soap. Some of this will be going into my shop that I'll be starting in a couple of weeks, the rest we'll use in the family. This is the best soap for baby's skin so I'm pleased to be able to supply good soap for Jamie and our soon to be born Peanut. 


There are two batches of soap here in my tidied laundry. One is drying on a rack, the other batch is still in the moulds and hardening slowly under some blue towels.

Soap only takes a short while to make so while I waited - first for the separate mixtures to get to the same temperature, then for the mixing to be done, I washed up. It felt good plunging my hands into that warm soapy water while I could hear the wind whistling outside. I started thinking about knitting and doing some lovely organic pink washcloths as soon as I finish a scarf. All fine thoughts while I washed up, and then the soap was made and packed warmly in the laundry, I moved on to the next task.


Scones for lunch with tea, washed up again, then I knitted and sewed the afternoon away. We had eye fillet roast for dinner; that was a real treat, part of the hind-quarter bulk meat order from a couple of months back. It was roasted alongside sweet potatoes, pumpkin, onions and carrots. The second half will be had tonight with herb mashed potatoes and kale cooked with bacon and onion. I made a mental note to make walnut biscuits during the week.


Over the weekend, one task blended into the next - when I got sick of doing something I'd go on to something new.  I'm not sure in what order I did it now but I also did some gardening, finished the tablecloth cupboard, tidied the laundry, made the bed a few times, swept the floor, cleaned the kitchen window sill, sorted through my stash to find fabric suitable for aprons to sell, made bread and a few pots of tea, organised my diary, researched my cheese making kit and replied to some emails.

    


I feel like I've returned to my home again and it feels right. Chores can be done or kept waiting, there is plenty of thinking and creating along with more practical tasks like bed making, cleaning and sweeping. There's no routine on weekends like this, just a list of things to be done and one by one they're mentally crossed off. There's no rush to get through it, no guilt if anything goes undone. My aim is to get through my work but to enjoy it too, even the seemingly dull bits. For every large, vital job and every small or dull task we do here is part of it - all part of the ever-changing mosaic that makes up two simple lives being lived next to a rainforest, with a creek running by, at the end of a one lane road.

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