Showing posts with label Simplifying. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Simplifying. Show all posts


Living with Uncertainty


This is my Grandmother - aged in her late 90s. 

She was born in 1907 and lived a life that was two weeks short of 102 years -living on her own until almost 100 years. 

She saw much uncertainty; The Spanish Flu pandemic, two world wars, a great depression, the early death of her husband..... the list goes on. 

In this photo she is briging in her tomato seedlings for the evening to proect them from the cold. She raised the seeds from last year's crop. 

After living a life of uncertainty, she had learnt to always be prepared. That meant that she always had produce in the garden, preserves in the cupboard and frozen veg and meals in the freezer. 

In these times of uncertainty I am reminded to look after the basics. Keep my house warm, preserve the produce and be prepared for rough economic times - just in case. It worries me to think that these skills of growing, baking, preserving and budgeting are slowly being eroded away by clever marketing. That is why I will also advocate for the simple life and retention of the old fashioned skills. 

Of course, I also know the secret that there is much joy to be had in the simple things in life ! 


Renewing, Restoring, Rewilding, Reconnecting

We were due for a break. We were excited by the opportunity to go away as a family and take some time out.

We didn't need to go far, or spend much money at all.

It is funny that you can be so close to home and yet feel so different about things. Truth is, it is not the location, it is the mindset that you slip into.

You slip into a mindset of relaxation and renewal. You slow down, breath and look around. You are not rushed and you take the time to let all the little things enter your senses. You listen intently, you breath deeply to smell all that you can. You reach out to touch the surrounds.

And it feels wonderful. It feels like you have a fresh lease on life.

...and yet, you are so close to home. It shows you that you can turn off distraction and turn on your senses at any time that you need to renew.

Our weekend consisted of a Friday night of games first of all. A hilarious night of Pictionary where we snorted with laughter and our drawings made us question the way we think collectively because we could draw meaning from a couple of squiggles.

On Saturday we walked almost 8 kilometres. We explored, studied and 're-wilded'. We reconnected with nature and realigned with the fabulous thing that is Mother Nature in its many forms.

It is beautiful to watch our boys, who are now young men, still show wonder and awe at the natural environment.

On Saturday we had an abundant meal of fresh seafood.

On Sunday we returned home, very steadily, stopping a number of times along the way.

When we arrived home we were refreshed and content. It was such a wonderful time of purposeful renewal that we all agreed that we will do this more often.

Personally, I will be exporting this thinking to myself when I am at home. I challenge you to do the same.

What would it look like if you carved out some time to practice renewal ? Does it mean that you have a bubble bath with a glass of wine ? Does it mean that you drag your chair out into the garden and read indulgently without guilt while you eat strawberries ? Does it mean that you choose a hobby and give your self permission to carve out time to indulge yourself in it ?

It's very healthy to practice self care instead of martyrdom and guilt . We are much better for those around us when we take care of ourselves first.

There is much joy to be had in slowing down.


The Fire Pit

The boys had been wanting to build a fire pit for some time. They had been very mathematical in measuring out the hole, planning the surrounds and dreaming of their nights toasting marshmallows.

There was quite a lot of clay where they decided to put it, so the digging was quite difficult.

Unfortunately, it rained and rained not long after they dug their hole and it become nothing more than a duck pond for quite a few months.

They had almost given up on the idea and signed it over to the ducks permanently, but as the cold nights hit, they had a renewed interest in the project.

They dug it out and lined it with old bricks, tiles and anything else they could find.

Of course, when it came to lighting, no ordinary match would do. They wanted to experiment with lighting a fire with a battery and some steel wool. It worked really well.

 As they built up the layers of wood they could find from around the property, it settled into a beautiful warm fire. We moved some chairs down there and brought down a really nourishing meal of slow cooked meatballs and mash and all sat around chatting.

It was such a slow relaxing night. It felt like we were camping, but we were 100m from the house.


Easy Like Sunday Morning

Nothing more relaxing than a day out in Forster wandering around, window shopping,

Having slow coffee while reading the Sunday papers

Then having a cafe lunch

and stopping to smell the salt in the breeze.

A day of rest is good for renewal of the soul. That's why I'm Easy. Easy like Sunday morning.


I'm On A Diet - A Mental Diet

Did I mention that I am on a diet ? 

A diet from pictures of air-brushed women, faking perfectionism. 

A diet from advertising that makes me feel lacking, vulnerable and unsafe then shows me a product to 'fix' that feeling. 

A diet from news stories that make me subconsciously prepare for when I will experience a kidnapping, tsunami, economic destruction, coma, civil war, locust plague, divorce, workplace harassment or breast cancer. 

As with my commitment to real food I will commit to real life. I will practice gratitude instead of feelings of imperfection, shame and unworthiness.

I will rejoice in my imperfections. i have missed out on too much fun already to waste time on trying got be perfect.

For more on imperfection visit Brene Brown  and watch the video on imperfection. 


Free Range Kids: Special interview with Lenore Skenazy

Did you catch the 7.30 Report interview with Lenore Skenazy last night ? She is the author of a book titled 'Free-range Kids'. If you missed it, take the time to watch the whole interview with Kerry O'Brien ( who I am secretly in love with and devastated that he is leaving soon!) 

Do you think that it is strange that this topic has become SO CONTROVERSIAL ? 

I congratulate Lenore for being brave enough to take on the topic of 'helicopter parenting' and the issue of 'blame'. I LOVE her position that you can't go to the park and play because it is too dangerous, yet it is okay to let them sit on the lounge and watch television, become obese and develop poor habits and health issues that stay with them for life.

We won't accept caged eggs, but we readily accept caged children ! We fight for free range eggs, but are quite happy to raise 'battery hen' children.

Think back to your own childhood. Were you roaming the streets on your bicycle without a helmet ? Off playing down the street knowing that it would be okay as long as you were home in time for tea ?

Do you remember lots of kids, at some stage, having a broken arm, or skin off from 'stacking' their bike ? Eggs on their heads where they were running around the house and crashed into each other ?

Do you remember when kids were 'dirty' ? They were literally covered in dirt because they were building bike jumps, dig outs, cubby houses or burying treasure maps ?

How does the way you raise your children to compare to your own childhood ?

Think about times back even further. Was my Grandmother hovering over her children to make sure they played nice, didn't get their feelings hurt or (god forbid!) scuff their knee on some grass and get a graze ?

It seems crazy when we compare.

Are you a helicopter parent, a lawnmower parent (the parent that smooths out all obstacles) or a free range parent. I think I am in the middle ground, but with my boys now 9 and 12 I think I can swing a little more free range now that the Lenore has done such a great job of putting language on the issue.

Let's get some dialogue happening, people. Where do you sit on the free range parenting scale ?


Mapping Out The Vision - A Spring Re-Vamp

Today is the first day of the school holidays and I feel that I finally have a chance to step back and examine this splendid life. As I have mentioned briefly, a number of different family events have meant that we have been running here and there since June.

During the last few months we have spent a lot of time on the road, living out of suitcases with friends and family or staying in hotel rooms. Whilst I love the place we stay in Sydney and love the meals, it is just so nice to come home.

Even though we have now been home for about 4 weeks, those busy weeks have seen lots of activity. Both boys were away at different times on school camps and they have had various sporting finals and events, parent teacher interviews and social functions.

During the past few months I also managed to take on some work. Luckily it is work that I can do in my own time, meaning that I have the school holidays off and can work from anywhere, provided I have an internet connection.

So with all that busyness finally finished, I am so excited by the opportunity to stop, breath and re-group.

The first thing we did was to get back into our garden, which was sadly neglected while we were away. Luckily we had a fair bit of rain which meant that things were 'wild' rather than 'dead'. It is time to undertake our spring planting regime which I love because there is so much potential and life in this season.

I am working on a new schedule which will enable me to carry out some paid work but still keep my family life in balance. At the forefront of my mind at the moment is re-vamping the following aspects:

- meal planning: slow change of meals to reflect the warmer weather and the availability of different seasonal produce.

- new budget: I have noticed a drop in fuel prices and a rise in grocery prices. This along with changes in the activities that we do means a new cash budget is required.

- new household routines: as we change from winter to summer we have different household routines, particularly with the jobs that need to be done outside. The boys are also older and are ready to add to their job lists.

- papercrafting: handmade cards and stationery are becoming increasingly popular and I am teaching more and more classes. I need to schedule my classes well in advance and have creative time for working on my new designs.

- health: re-vamping my activity schedule to reflect the warmer weather and to get back on track ( after way too many restaurant meals!!!)

- re-establish our sustainable living principles: Being away has meant that we often had to 'default' to choices that I would normally avoid. Time to re-examine the steps we take as a family to live a more natural, sustainable life.

And finally.............time to be .................slow.

Don't you just love spring. It is a time for a fresh start!


Panning for Gold

When we were away we took the opportunity to go panning for gold at Nundle. Even though it was the middle of winter in an area that often gets snow, it was really quite a beautiful day.

As I sat there, the children off doing their own panning and happily exploring all the river had to offer, I suddenly realised that I had found treasure !

No, it wasn't a gold nugget sitting in the bottom of my pan, it was uninterrupted time, seated in nature where I could hear nothing but the babbling noises of the creek.

It was delightful and the time spent there was worth it's weight in gold!


Light Show Treat

This is the result of a light show that our nine year old put on for us the other night. I couldn't believe the amazing effects !
He simply dressed himself in black and taped a glow stick to a few parts of his body.
Then he played some music and danced for us while we all sat in the darkness and watched. It was totally hypnotic!
Because the shutter was open on the camera for so long, the result was almost like melted glass.
He has asked me to tell you all " It's not always easy practicing to get this right." LOL ! Looks to me like he got it just right!


{So Sunday} Banana Pancakes

I almost forgot to save you some!

Have you ever tried homemade pancakes with banana and a drizzle of local honey ?

Have you ever eaten them, sitting in the sun on a winter day, when the sky is so blue that you are sure Spring is already here ?

Have you ever felt ?


Re-Using Success.

I still have a lot of plastic in my cupboards.

I have been making a real effort to re-purpose a lot of it because I don't think there is any sense in just throwing it all into landfill. It defeats the purpose.

Slowly but surely I have been changing over some of the storage containers in my cooking cupboard, a cupboard I have above my main prep area so I can just reach up and grab everything I need.
The large glass jars are from buying coffee in bulk and the smaller jars are from local oysters. They have a plastic lid unfortunately, but I still like to re-use them.

I have labeled the jars very simply with a permanent texta.

I enjoy opening the cupboard and looking at all the cooking supplies. I can see at a glance what needs to be topped up, often from a bigger supply in the pantry. I especially enjoy decanting the farmer's market honey into my little pour bottle which makes it easier to manage and easier to pour out a little for a cup of tea or to add to a recipe. I also like having my spices in bigger containers because I use so much of them.

But most of all I love the fact that the containers are NUDE. There are no brand names, no bold colours and no in your face slogans. It makes me feel all 'Little House on the Prairie -ish' LOL or maybe even a bit 'Waltons-ish' - knowing I can send John Boy to the store for a pound of sugar any time soon!

- Gotta love a spoon full of madness each and every day.


This Home Made Life

I have really enjoyed the last few days. I have been busy baking, making and gardening up a storm.

Today I came to realise how 'normal' these things are for us now.

On Friday I made a huge batch of washing powder. As I was grating up the soap I watched "Harp in The South" on my laptop. This is a beautiful Australian story about a poor family living in Surrey Hills Sydney in the 1940s. As I was grating away I felt like Olivia Walton making butter on the front porch while Grandma knitted!

Friday night is pizza night and we do it so often now that we can slap together a batch of beautiful half plain/ half wholemeal with the toppings that each person wants before you can even find the number of your local delivery boy!

On Saturday we made fettuccine that was so damn yummy I had a dream about it and could have easily made some for breakfast on Sunday! Because we have our own eggs, this fresh and tasty pasta only cost us 27 cents to feed the four of us !!!

Sunday was of course the Sunday roast and the weekly apple pie to go with it.

I also managed to plant some garlic, lettuce, onions and carrots.

Soon I will make another batch of homemade soap and this time I would like to have a go at making a liquid hand soap.

I am loving this home made life.


A Simple Reminder

On Wednesday I spent the day with my youngest son on his school excursion to Timbertown. We have been there before, so it was nice to go with his class group.

Apart from spending the day with my son, it was a very healthy day for me. I felt a reconnection.

I walk into the little cottages and there is something spooky about it. I see the small rooms with perfectly laid out furnishings and hand made quilts on beds and hand stitched lacework on vintage wooden chests of drawers. It is spooky yet it really speaks to me. It is spooky because I can sense the pain of a woman who probably had 10 children with no electricity or running water and worse still... no lap top to record her frustrations and joys!

After the spookiness clears I am drawn to the simpleness. I am drawn to the fact that there are limited personal possessions, which meant that what they had was truly treasured. I am drawn to the idea that their life was made up of the ‘job’ of living in itself.

Every day was about living. It was about preparing meals , growing food, washing clothes, making belongings, educating children. These tasks took all day. I see our lives in contrast where we do the ‘business of living’ in a short period of time. We wash our clothes automatically, have our food delivered and outsource the majority of the other tasks. Then we are left with the rest of the day and week wondering what we should do. We have so much time left over that we introduce jobs, hobbies, socialising, children’s activities and recreational shopping.

As I look around the old style room I imagine that life was so busy through the week from sun up to sun down that by the time Sunday came around it was a well earned ‘day of rest’. How lovely it must have been to know that you worked hard and accomplishment so much all week that you were due for a day of relaxation and socialising. I guess the flip side of that is that it all started again with wash day on Monday.

Of course I know that I am totally romanticising the whole thing and the reality would have been quite harsh ( especially the no lap top bit) but isn’t that was nostalgia is all about ? You take the good and leave the bad.

Back to my home in the 21st century where I have my own version of the pioneer cottage. My focus turns to preparing meals, tending to the garden, baking some treats, composting the food scraps, collecting the eggs, washing the clothes, tidying and caring for my home, making some handmade cards and helping the children.

I am just lucky that I have a digital camera and lap top computer so that we can all share the journey.


Learning Piano The 'Unschooling' Way

For years I have wanted my eldest to start playing piano.

 Notice "I" wanted him to play.

When he started first class I discussed the idea of having lessons with him. but he wasn't interested. He would say ' maybe one day'. Little by little he started mucking around on the keyboard and from time to time I would ask him if he wanted to do lessons - but still not interest! ..... didn't he realise that it would be much easier if he learnt when he was young and that it would be 'good for him'.

But...... I let my feelings of frustration aside knowing that if I forced him into lessons it would be something of a chore. He would 'have' to practice each week and I wanted him to LOVE IT, not necessarily be good at it.

I grew up playing the piano. I had formal lesson from about the age of ten and did up to my 5th grade AMEB exam. But for me, it wasn't about exams, techniques etc it was about being able to hear something and play it, to write pieces of music, to write songs.

Last year, the spark in my son was switched on. He started to tinker and I showed him a book with very basic 'teach yourself' notes. He absorbed it so quickly. I didn't 'teach' him, I just yelled out "that's meant to be an A" from the kitchen from time to time when I could hear him miss a note.
Every week or two I would show him a little snippet more. Lately he has been putting a one finger chord in his left hand while playing a tune with his right.

Last week I thought I would step things up for him. I grabbed a piece of paper and penned down the notes to a Red Hot Chilli Peppers song that he knows and loves. Then I left him with it to figure it out. He self corrects, which makes me so happy because he hears his mistakes!

Then I started him a book, with nice bright colours. You can see above that the 'music' has no rhythm associated with it ( that will eventually come). The note above the line is his left hand chord and the notes below are the melody. The different colours are used because that is how I think ( and I hope he does too) that is, the colour is used to 'section' the music.

The results are phenomenal. He plays with real passion. He has mastery over the keyboard. I will do him up some more songs like this, then we will move to the sheet music and start looking at the shape of the notes ( pitch) and the rhythm. He knows his 'every good boy deserves fruit', but this just gives him some quick success to embed his passion for music.

It gives us joy when we hear him pump it out - sometimes over and over again, ten or so times a day. This is very different to having to beg a child to do their piano practice before their lesson.

He played the song for his grandparents who were visiting this week. They liked it .......... I did not dare tell them that the title of the song is 'californication' LOL


Home On The "FARM"

Well....... 'farm' may be a bit of an exaggeration, but with my garden beds now fenced off from the chooks with a stretch of makeshift netting and a wooden gateway it has affectionately become known as 'the farm' and I am fully embracing it!

I have a vision for the 'farm'. It is a vision splendid. I have been looking back through the archives of Path To Freedom and have seen that they started with something not that much different to what we currently have. I think we even have a little more space.

Reading their journal is so inspiring. They didn't wait until they had their acreage in the country to start leading a more self sufficient lifestyle, they jumped in where they were, in the city in Pasadena and just made the most of the space they had.

So, whilst my 'farm' is not a huge area, it does have it's advantages. It is only 20 steps away from my back door, yet I am still within walking distance from the little shop, post office and the boys' school. It is small but extremely manageable. There is room for expansion ( a whole two square metres! ) and I can run and get anything from the area when I am cooking.

It would appear that the more joy I am finding around my home, the less I search for outside 'entertainment'. I like the planing, digging, seed raising, harvesting and preserving that comes from having a garden. They are 'feel good' activities. I could never find that sense of joy in shopping mall!

I like falling into bed at night knowing that I have worked hard all day. It seems I fall into bed exhausted yet wake refreshed ready to start a new adventure, or try something new.

Our boys finished school on Thursday and don't go back until the 28th april. I am really happy about having them home because there is so much 'home learning' to do. Sometimes their school days interrupt real learning ( and my boys have great teachers this year!) - I know that sounds strange, but to me ( and I spent eight years as a primary school teacher) parents are the first educators of their children. Kids learn the most amazing things by osmosis up until the age of five. They learn at least one language, how to crawl, walk, count, the names and attributes of animals and things in nature. They even learn to read! Then, once they start school, we seem to think that they can't learn independently anymore. They need a 'teacher' to tell them what to learn. For boys that classify birds, write 'how to manuals', cook, build, design lego robots, paint artworks and solve puzzles, it can be pretty boring to go to school and colour in sheets that say " F is for firetruck" LOL

So, school holidays is the chance to rev up some passion for learning. We will even take them to Sydney to some museums to spark some curiosity.

But for now....... can't stop to talk..... got to get back to the farm... - crops to plant, corn to harvest! LOL


TV Free Week

Picture from

We have joined with friends of ours in going tv free from Monday to Thursday.

Our friends said they were interested in getting their kids more motivated and having earlier nights themselves. We thought we would also give it a go. Even though we don't watch commercial television, we do watch the ABC and the occasional SBS programme. One of the difficulties is that the shows we enjoy are in a bad time slot for our kids.

They enjoy The New Inventors, Collectors and Catalyst, but all of these are on in an 8pm time slot.

I thought there would have been more opposition to the box being switched off. We have don't it a few times in the past without any problem, but number one son is now ten years old and really enjoys science programmes.

Anyway, we have flicked the switch. There was a slight murmur on Monday when I reminded number one son of our choice, but he got over it pretty quickly when I joined him in doing some other activities. Number two son is seven and he could take it or leave it. He is more of an outdoors man!

After Monday.... they haven't even mentioned it! They do homework, they "play", they draw, they build models with cardboard boxes and they try to hypnotise the chooks! They are so funny to listen to.

Last night we commented about the change in them. We started to think about their imaginations and giving them time for their brains to expand and think of wonderful ideas. Often these ideas only arise out of total boredom. When they have to ask the question 'what is there to do?'

It's got me thinking. If our kids are watching two to three hours of television a day - is that time when there brains are in a vegetative state? Are we not allowing our kids to reach their true potential because their brains are 'on hold' for such a huge amount of the week ?

As far as the favourite programmes go, I taped 'Top Gear', and 'The New Inventors' and I will tape catalyst tonight. They are welcome to watch them on Friday night or over the weekend.
I wonder whether it will be a sustainable idea, or whether we will slowly go back to sneaking a few programmes in here and there.

I know that I much prefer listening to the boys talk to each other, play, argue and resolve issues as well as make up 'toilet humour' jokes and limericks. The only issue I have is that I am ready for bed at 7.30pm LOL

What is the TV situation in your house ? Are you happy with it? Do you have any TV rules or guidelines ? Are you a TV addict and happy with your choice ? - would love to hear from you on this topic.


Strawberry Picking

Yesterday the boys and I went with some friends to Ricardos strawberry and tomato farm near Port Macquarie, about 45 mins from home. We got to pick as many strawberries as we liked and then just paid for them by the kilo.

They gave us all buckets and a pair of scissors to neatly cut them off the plants.

The plants were growing in a polypipe frame about seven feet tall and were very healthy looking.

We finished off the day by going to a nearby park where the kids had a swim in a sheltered area just back from where the river meets the ocean. A lovely relaxing day for all....... now...what to do with a huge load of strawberries.........minus the 50 or 60 we ate last night!


The Chook House

The chook house is coming along nicely. Hubby has been hammering away. I just have to paint it and build a little ladder. The back has a fold down door for easy access to the nesting boxes. There is a good size run for them to get out and stretch their eggs.

There is just one thing missing. Chooks! I can't get them yet because we have a couple of trips planned and I want to be around to settle them in, so I just have to wait patiently. In the meantime I can always pretend with the stuffed toy! LOL

Having chooks lay our own eggs will be another step forward in our quest for a more simple life. Hubbie is delighted by the fact that he will be able to make a breakfast omlette with homegrown eggs and home grown tomatoes.

In days gone by quite a lot of people had a couple of chooks in their back yard. It seemed to be a common sight, alongside the vegie patch and the water tank. As a child I can remember my Nanna making the best sponge cakes with fresh eggs in her wood burning stove. She had it perfected!
Friends of ours have recently got their own chooks and they have been giving us fresh eggs. They are so different to shop bought eggs. They are firm and the yolks are so yellow! When I buy shop bought eggs I forget how soft the shells are almost smash them to pieces against the side of the bowl when I am cooking. The fresh eggs seem to have much stronger shells.

So... I will wait patiently. In my wait I sit and think.... does Santa bring live presents? How many 'food miles' from the North Pole to my place?



Collecting Experiences

I woke up early this morning with a very exciting thought. The boys have finished school and for the first time in a few years I am not working! That means that I am in holiday mode with them until they go back to school at the end of January. I am so thankful to be able to have the opportunity to do this.

I am now turning my mind to things that we can do throughout the holidays. For the first time in a long time petrol has dropped below $1 a litre. That is a huge saving. I have never changed the amount of cash I allocate to petrol each week, simply adjusting how much driving we did. Last month $30 worth of petrol barely put a drip in the tank, whereas $30 this week almost half filled the tank.

Cheaper fuel prices means we can get out and about more and explore some of the local area again. It is great to live like tourists in your own town. There are some beautiful areas around here that I have never been to because we tend to explore new areas we go to.

So.... thinking about a collection of experiences that we can 'experience' over the holiday period.

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 ...