A Weekend of Memories

I am very excited to be heading off to my annual scrapbooking camp today. Three lovely days at Camp Elim on the lake near Forster NSW. It is the one time of the year when I can catch up on my albums. I don't scrapbook like you see in the shops with all the piles of ribbon and flowers and sticks and anything else that can be found, to me it is more like a photographic journal. The important thing for me is capturing the story that goes with the photos, like a diary of our daily pursuits with photographs.

I do this in 'hard copy' because although everything is in digital format, the format changes every couple of years. As an example of this I look at my childhood which is on 8mm silent film. The projector doesn't work properly anymore and yes I could probably get it fixed and convert the films to DVD etc etc, but the format will change again before too long. Just think - we started with the 5 1/4 inch floppy disk and then moved to the 3.5 inch disk and then the CD and then the DVD - what will be next ? Realistically I will have to convert my photos into a new format about every 5 years or so.

So for me, it's the old fashioned way. I take photos and I get them printed then I put them into museum quality albums and write with archival inks and preserve them. In the future there will be no outdated technology required to view my history, just the naked eye.

I have all my photos sorted and printed into groups ready to go for my intensive album making session. I have made notes to trigger my memory about what I want to record on the pages and it will be head down tail up working hard all weekend.

Making albums brings me so much joy. For each of my boys I have written an album 'to' them. It is a series of letters and photographs starting with when they were growing in my tummy. It captures how I felt about the day they were born, bringing them home for the first time, when they took their first steps. They love to look at them and read them. It is my view that it reinforces in them how they fit into the family and how precious and loved they are. In our busy lives do we ever take the time to write a note to someone and tell them how precious they are in our lives ?

This is my chance to record history for my family.


The Spirit of My Ancestors

This is the spoon I use to cook with.

It belonged to my great grandmother.

Considering that my Grandmother is now 101 years old, it is amazing to think that HER mother used it to cook with.

If you look closely you will see that one side is worn down from use over the years.
This is one of my most prized possessions. A couple of years ago I was a guest speaker at the View Club and took my spoon along to talk about the importance of writing down our stories. I accidentally left it on the table and it was collected with all the cutlery at the end of the meal. I went home without it and it took a couple of days for me to remember that I must have left it there. I was devastated and returned to the venue and raided drawers and drawers of cutlery with the owners to finally get it back! It must have gone into the dishwasher with every thing else. I was extremely lucky!

I really LOVE my spoon because every time I pull it out I am reminded of the spirit of my ancestors. Hard working, frugal living, self sufficient, simple people. Whether it was by choice or necessity, the spoon reminds me to live like it's 1940s. To be more family oriented. To cook from scratch. To be self reliant. To waste less. To save more. To have a grateful spirit.

I wonder what possessions of mine are going to be around for more than 100 years ? The answer that pops into my mind is unfortunately the millions of plastic bags I have used so far LOL !

Doing Away With Disposables

Step by step... little by little ... moving towards a more sustainable, frugal life.

You don't just wake up one day and decide to throw your job in and live off very little. It is like a great sculpture. Each day the sculptor chips away little by little, every day moving towards a masterpiece.

You start with simple things like planning your meals, shopping to a list, organising your budget better, saving money here and there. As you perfect those skills you move on to cooking more from scratch and purchasing groceries items only when you know they are on sale and using your stockpile for when they are full price.

Soon you are growing a few of your own herbs and maybe a tomato. Next you're using the car less and riding your bike more. Before you know it you are making your own pasta and the thought of soap making suddenly doesn't seem that daunting.

The latest step has been slowly replacing disposables. Cotton crocheted cloths are great to use instead of paper towel and washing up cloths and make great cleaning rags. They are very easy to make and take about two evening. When I say very easy to make I mean VERY easy, (coming from some one who has NO crocheting skills what so ever! )

Cloths can be colour coded. A good way to remember your bathroom cloth colour is to make 'blue for the loo and pink for the sink'. Once you have used the cloth, just throw it in with the washing for use again. This is my idea of 'sustainability' because of the ongoing use of the item. I no longer have to re-buy the replaced products.


Processed Convenience Foods

Take a look at my 'processed', 'convenience' food.

 I bought it yesterday with no packaging for quite a cheap price considering the volume. 

Once I got it home I 'processed' it, that is I peeled it all and chopped it up and put it into containers for the fridge. 

When hunger struck it was easy and convenient to grab out of the fridge. When the predictable ' Mum, I'm hungry' conversation took place it proved itself to be very 'convenient'.


The Daily Sweep

If you told me 12 months ago that I would be sweeping everyday I would think of it with dread. The hallways and loungeroom used to be covered in a lovely cream carpet which we chose when our first born son was a baby, not knowing how ridiculous it was to have cream carpet and a young family. When we closed in the back area of the house and reclaimed the laundry as living area we put flooring through all the areas except the bedrooms and office. As a result I now have to sweep everyday.

Rather than being a chore, I actually enjoy my morning ritual. It is quite shocking the amount that is actually swept up. All that dust and dirt was soaking into the carpets before because I certainly didn't vacuum every day.

I like the simple repetitive act of sweeping all the dirt and dust out the front door and back into the garden. I love that the simple act doesn't require any electricity or the latest state of the art vacuum cleaner. I love the feeling of satisfaction that I get when I walk back in and it is all clean once again.

There is joy in the simple rhythms of life.............


There's More To Life Than Money ?

There’s more to life than money. We hear that saying all the time but for many people money is at the centre of their existence and I believe, rightly so.

If you are thirsty and dehydrated you can think of nothing but water. If you are starving you can think of nothing but food. So it is right to think that when you are out of money or you have money troubles then that is all you can think of.

Poor money management creates tremendous stress. There is stress because of guilty feelings of over spending. There is stress not knowing how bills will be paid for. There is stress in knowing that you are going backwards. This stress is often the basis of many disputes and marriage break ups.

The only way out is to WAKE UP from the CONSUMER NIGHTMARE.

If you are unhappy with your present financial circumstances then you must make changes to your relationship with money or things will not improve or they will get worse.

1. WORK OUT WHERE YOU ARE FINANCIALLY – list everything you have and everything you owe. A total clean sweep – right down to that 10c on your bedside table and the 20c coin in the glove box of your car. Gather it all up and FACE YOUR FINANCIAL TRUTH.

2. LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE – If you are in debt, look around your home and ask yourself ‘was it worth it’. I remember seeing a TV programme once where a finance expert was in someone’s home and they opened up the storage cupboard and just started counting - $30, $25, $75 etc as they were pointing to board games, hairdryers, DVD collections, toys etc. How much of your money is just sitting around in cupboards. It’s a VERY scary thought.

3. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU NOW DON’T HAVE: Think about this- if you have a mortgage and you haven’t paid it off in ten years, ask yourself where that money went that could have been used for extra repayments. The answer is – thrown out! You have spent thousands of dollars that could have got you out of debt on things that you have bought and thrown away. How many clothes do you have that are more than 5 years old ? We buy them then they go out of fashion and we throw them away. We also buy popcorn makers and electric slippers, music CDs, storage baskets, doona covers, computers, TVs, lounge suites. We have them for a while and then they become old, boring and unfashionable…. So we buy new ones. So instead of now being debt free, we accidentally spent the money that we could have put towards extra repayments on …… things that we thought were good at the time.

4. KNOW THE TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Advertising is seduction. The sooner you understand this, the better you and your money will get on together. Don’t believe what you see. No face cream will make you look younger, no car will improve your life, no office furniture will increase your income. What will really make you feel great is being financially free, having positive relationships and finding your ‘JOY FACTOR’ – that is, something that truly gives you joy in life. Think about why companies offer - BUY NOW PAY LATER type deals. It is because they know that the majority of people don’t pay on time and they will make extra profits.

5. IF YOU HAVE A POOR TRACK RECORD, DON’T TRUST YOURSELF: I have heard people say, I can’t carry cash because I just spend it. In my experience it is a lot harder to part with cash knowing that you only have $30 in your wallet than it is to hand over your credit card and convince yourself that this is a justifiable one off purchase that you will definitely pay off at the end of the month. BE REAL – carry cash and be creative about not using it.

6.BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF: We get into trouble with money because we are lying to ourselves. We won’t accept the cold hard truth that we cannot live our current lifestyle on our current income. It’s as simple as that. If we were HONEST we would think differently about how we spend.

7. RECOGNISE THAT RECREATIONAL BUYING GIVES A SHORT TERM BUZZ: - Sure, it’s exciting when you bring something home from the shops but the buzz wears off, sometimes too quickly and you have to buy something else to get that sense of excitement. – If it were any other substance you were abusing it would be called a drug addiction !

8. START IMAGINING A BETTER WORLD Day dream about what your life would be like if you were debt free. Would it mean that you could take holidays, real, soul renewing holidays. Would it mean that one of the parents could ‘come home’. Would it mean that both parents could work part time. Would it mean that you could stop working to pay for debt and start working in an area that you are passionate about that may mean a lesser salary. Would it mean that you could leave work all together and work for yourself, create your own income or do volunteer work ?

9. WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO TRADE YOUR TIME FOR: If you are working to create income, then everything you buy you have worked for. If your hourly rate is $30 then to buy a $60 pair of jeans you have to work two hours. You may be quite willing to do that. Ask yourself, however, whether you are willing to pay for other things – Are you prepared to work 20 hours per year to pay for cleaning products that you simply pour down the toilet or the sink ? If not, use vinegar and bi-carb. Are you willing to work 26 hours a year to pay for a subscription TV service that you miss most of the time anyway. If not, borrow DVDs from your local library. What about working 40 hours just to pay for the finance charges on your credit card which are in addition to working to pay for the things that you purchased that created the finance and interest charges. Maybe the answer to some of these questions might be ‘yes’ but it’s worth asking the question.

10. PLUG THE HOLES AUDIT: Go through all your bank statements, receipts, bills etc and see where your money goes. Don’t dismiss any small amounts. If you seriously want to make some changes then plug the holes in your ship. The small holes draining away your potential savings could sink your ship. Look at every option and try to work about how to save $5 here and there. You might find cheaper house insurance that cuts $10 a month off your bill, what about grocery savings by menu planning and shopping with a list, what about using cash only when you’re out. How about driving less or changing brands of deodorant, bread or internet provider. There are THOUSANDS of hints and tips waiting for you out there when you are ready to make the change.

THE RESULTS: Having your family budget under control means that you have freedom. You can sleep at night without financial stress. You can spend freely, knowing that you have amounts in spending categories already there in your money tin when needed. If the kids have an excursion, need new shoes, are going to a birthday party or are playing sport, you can be confident that there is money to cover it. You know that planning your meals and squeezing your grocery budget is worth it for the end of year holiday that you have each year. When you have the money aspect of your life under control it frees you up to think about chasing your joy and living a more sustainable, family centered life.

A Hint of Spring - Garden Update.

If you look closely you will see our blueberry has the first hint of blue.

The Lemonade Tree

The peas

The Silverbeet


Pasta Making

Further home made joy the other night from freshly made pasta. Someone told me many years ago that once you taste fresh pasta it is very difficult to go back to the dried stuff. I would have to agree.

Our pasta is just made with flour, egg and salt.

The photo below is pretty bad and doesn't do justice for the outcome, but the whole family got involved in producing this dinner and it was lovely !

The Joy of Soapmaking

Here is the result of my first soap making efforts. I am very pleased with the outcome, although some of them are a little bit crumbly. Although I left them 24 hours before turning them out of the moulds, I feel they could have been left longer.

My recipe uses copha, olive oil, rice bran oil and lye. I added a pure lemon myrtle oil as fragrance and for it's medicinal properties. I stamped them with a fancy M because it's the only stamp I had.
The soap takes 4-6 weeks to 'cure' and I can't wait for them to be done. Just washing the containers, the soap feels very creamy and moisture rich.

I loved making the soap because of the joy factor. There is joy in knowing that I can produce something like this from scratch and there is joy in knowing exactly what is in it. There are no petrochemicals here!

It struck me when I was making this soap that it is not as much 'work' as I thought. Being more self reliant does take time, but it's time here and there. About half an hour to make the soap and I won't have to do it again for some time. I will work out how long the cakes last and time it so that I will always have lots on hand.

How exciting having another thing under my belt in this quest for self reliance. Bring on the cured soap so that I can grate it to make washing powder !!!!!


Feel the Rhythm.....

Can you believe I have made ten Chinese Lanterns tonight because the boys wanted to "celebrate the Olympics"? Personally, I am not into the Olympics - there's that whole Human Rights issue that spoils it a bit for me, along with the whole - money for entertainment while millions starve, but, I keep that to myself ! LOL

It is so lovely to be home for the afternoon/evening routine. When I was working and would come home late I would REALLY miss this, even though I have the best husband in the world that would do homework, cook tea and bath the children, I always felt that I was missing out.

Kids thrive on rhythm and so do adults. It provides stability and security. Life seems to run smoother with a daily, weekly, seasonal and yearly rhythm. That's the way nature operates.

Today confirmed for me that I have made the right decision in leaving my legal career and choosing my family instead. It's really funny that most mothers agonise over the career/family decision when the children are small. It seems funny that I was home for 5 years when they were young then went back to work for about 2.5 years then made the decision to 'come home'. I remember my sister, who has children a lot older than mine, was talking about mothers 'coming home' when the children where in their later teen years, especially when they were in the senior school years because that's when they were needed most. At the time of hearing this I was dreading the idea because you tend to think that as they get older they become less reliant on you. As my children grow I realise that the reliance remains, it is just in a different format.

Another wise woman told me once that there are seasons in life. This is my season to nurture. I don't know how long it will last, but when I feel ready I will return to work. I have a really great boss who sent me an email today updating me on one of our cases and telling me to let him know when I get bored ! lol.......... We'll see when the season changes.


Today ... in review

Radishes are popping out of the ground, 22 corn plants think it is spring and have poked their heads up. Zucchinis are unfolding life dancers from Swan Lake and all is well with the world.

Hey Julie I tried your recipe for Lavash crackers and they were a sensational success!! ( Julie is Crazy Mumma from Towards Sustainability linked below). I rolled the dough out with the past maker to make them ultra thin. I couldn't believe how many it made. This container full plus the 8,432 that Hubbie and I ate as they came out of the oven and there is still half the dough mixture left.

The recipe was simply 3 cups of flour, 1 tsp salt 2 tbs poppy seeds 2 tbs sesame seeds 1 egg 1 cup of milk 60g butter.

They are identical to the store bought ones we got on the weekend to spread Camembert on. Of course they don't have any preservatives and probably cost about 45c to make. Now I will have to make the coriander dip again considering I have so much coriander growing.

Here is my favourite chocolate cake recipe


Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2/3 cup of cocoa sifted then add 2/3 cup of boiling water. Stir and put aside.
In a new bowl beat together 200g of room temperature butter with 330g of caster sugar.
Once creamed add 2 tsp of vanilla and 3 eggs one at a time. Then stir in 2 cups of Self Raising Flour then add 125 ml of milk. Cook for about 55 minutes, or until you can poke a skewer into the cake and it comes out clean.

Today..... In A Nutshell

1. Wash bedding for number 2 son.

2. Make corned meat with Nanna's mustard for tea

3. Plant my Dutch Iris bulbs

4. Plant some more flowers out near the front steps

5. Make bread

6. Make a chocolate cake for afternoon tea

7. Make cookies to stock up the jars

8. Tidy the backyard gardening mess from yesterday's planting session

9. Measure space for the chook house and turn the sketch into a formal plan

10. Measure and design outdoor kitchen space ready for summer

11. Re-organise under sink garbage system - compost/ recycling/rubbish

12. Begin update of my household planner - focusing on budget.

13. Prepare for scrapbooking camp I am teaching at the end of August.

14. Juice fruit and make cordial

15. Tidy Office

16. Put bigger sign on front door that says "please make up my room" to see if there are any takers.


Time Out

This week I have been in Sydney for a couple of nights. ( wait for it.......) WITHOUT CHILDREN.

Hubbie went down to the Boat Show held in Darling Harbour and instead of going to the show I spent the time wandering aimlessly around the city. It was sooooooooo indulgent. I hardly spent a cent, but I indulged my greatest passion by spending hours in book stores. ( okay - I did make one purchase)

I love the ABC book shop in the Queen Victoria Building. Being a total fan of the ABC I have a wonderful sense of familiarity when I see all my favourite shows on DVD and see the books of many authors that I have listened to on Radio National.

The hotel we always stay in when we go to Sydney is the Citigate ( formerly the Charlton Crest) and it is right behind the ABC studios and across the road from Central Station. Being close to the ABC studios, we have seen a few of our favourite celebs hanging out. Last time we visited we sat across from "David" from the movie show discussing a film he had seen. I am such a groupie - I had to really stop myself from rubbing his arm and telling him how much I love him and asking whether he and Margaret get on in real life. Another time we saw Geraldine Dougue ( love Gerry) and .... the most exciting thing was when we opened our curtains and saw across into the ABC offices and a Banana in Pyjama suit was hanging up without any Banana inside it !!! Oh, the thrill of it all! ..... Was it B1 or B2 LOL !!!
Is it Kerry O'Brien in the suit ?
We dined in the restaurant which was having a Christmas in July special buffet and certainly ate our fair share of King prawns. The second night we realised that it was 9 o'clock and we were still sipping wine and eating slowly. At home it is such a contrast - early dinner, showers for the boys and all cleaned up and washed up before 7pm. It was so lovely having the time to actually talk to each other without filling the gaps with ' eat your vegetables' or 'use your fork'.
I went to Paddy's markets and was happy to get:
bulk sesame seeds
bulk poppy seeds
wasabi peas
a kilo of ginger roots
half a kilo of dried ginger
So, I will start saving now for next year's trip to the boat show, even thought I probably won't go to the actual show, I will wander the city without a care in the world.
For now it's back to reality. There is no lovely lady to come in and straighten up the house while I am out. I am thinking of hanging a sign on the door that says " please make up my room" and just see what happens.

Getting Ahead

"When you have time, you do things for times when you have no time".
This is what my Grandmother taught me about Getting Ahead.

We all seem to be so busy these days that we are always running behind. We are late for work, late home and then have to get something 'quick and easy' to slap on the table for dinner because we simply 'don't have time'. We run our children all over the country side, yelling at them to hurry up.

We flit from one appointment to the next, having quick catch ups with friends on the hands free mobile while swapping the kids from school clothes to soccer gear in the back seat of the car with the other hand.

Why don't we have time ? Over the years have they shortened the length of a day ? Was 24 hours in 1972 longer than 24 hours in 2008 ? If you believe the hype then you would conclude 'yes'.

In the 1950s women were told that they could have so much extra time by purchasing labour saving devices. Clothes washers, clothes dryers, dish washers, kitchen appliances - all saved the housewife a tremendous amount of time. BUT.... where did that time go ? What did we fill it with ? Work outside the house ? Coffee mornings with friends, shopping ?

Our lack of time is a cross between a problem of overscheduling and perception. If you were to make a list of your priorities in life and then compare it to your diary you might be surprised at the results. For example, you might say your spouse is the most important thing, but when you glance back through your diary you may find you actually spent more time having coffee with friends or shopping than quality time with your spouse. Honestly answer the question - do you do too much that is not really aligned with your purpose or priorities ?

The other reason we don't have any time is because of our perception. If you ask anyone, they are busy. It seems to be the standard answer. How many times do you hear people say "i'd love to do that, but I just don't have time". The truth is we all have 24 hours a day.

So, when I do have some time left over I do as my Grandmother says and try and do things for times when I know I won't have spare time. Last week I had planned to do so much in the garden, but the miserable rain kept me from venturing out too far.
Instead invested some time. I made huge batches of biscuits and muesli bars, made soup with leftover amounts and made cordial. I also got an extra loaf of bread on. I have been making crunchy cookies lately as they seem to keep a bit longer. I put them in glass Moconna Coffee jars on the bench -It gives me great satisfaction knowing that I have made them for the family and I know exactly what is in them. I also put a huge batch of dough into the freezer for stand by. I usually always make a double batch so that I can make cookies at short notice

These muesli bars worked out well. It's the recipe that just uses rolled oats, crushed weet-bix dried fruit orange juice and honey.


April Theme: Re-organise and Transition

In the Southern Hemisphere, April is in Autumn.  The days here are still warmish, but there is a sneaking whisper in the wind. That whisper ...