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5 August 2015

Living better with less

It was really wonderful receiving so many comments on Monday's post from people I've "known" for a long time. Thanks you to all who commented. It made my day.

= = = ♥︎ = = =

We quite frequently read about how people lived through the Great Depression and how many thrived in those demanding conditions. The lack of money, jobs, food and housing certainly made life difficult for almost everyone back then. And yet many people who lived those years say they were good, the tough times brought families together and valuable lifelong lessons were learned. I understand how tough times can teach frugality, appreciation, unwavering responsibility and courage but I think you have to be in the right circumstances to appreciate the lessons. If you're scared and hungry, every life lesson is difficult and maybe you feel too desperate to take much notice of anything except where your next meal is coming from or how to pay the bills.

I think you learn a lot when times are tough and also when things are going well. No one is born with a life manual, you do your best, and live with the consequences of whatever you do. But sometimes something comes along that will knock you over and through no fault of your own, you might be out of a job, go from full time to part time work, lose a partner, or your home. When the global financial crisis started in 2008, there were a lot of big changes and many people lost their home or job, and sometimes both. Lifestyles changed and many of us looked for ways to be frugal while living a good life. And here we are now in 2015, still living frugally, the world economy is still recovering and life has changed in countless ways. Many of the new ways of living we've adopted since 2008 are more sustainable. We're eating healthier and fresher food, we've changed the way we prepare food and shop for it, and for many of us these new ways will remain, even if the economy returns to what it used to be.

Because, just like the Great Depression, this long recession we're having is changing our mindset and showing us that modifying old ideas of how to live fit very nicely into modern life. Even with the recession, we've made many improvements to our lives while living on less money and being thrifty and sensible. We are recycling and mending now, we're cooking more of our own food and we're mindful of many things such as the importance of family and community and the insidious impact advertising has on us.

Simple living has taught me that almost everything is a series of small steps. What you see in someone who has "made it", or look like they have, is only part of the picture. That person got there one step at a time doing who knows what to get to the point you see them at. Those who don't have much are the same, it wasn't one big thing but rather many small steps to get to that point.  And so it goes with working your way through a simple life. It may have seemed like a huge decision to change how you live but after that, it's small steps. You start with one thing, that leads to other options and by taking one step after another, you reach another point.

It's certainly been a time of change. The recession has reminded us that we're not helpless and that we can do a lot more for ourselves than we had grown to believe, and those things can be life changing and enriching. I think you know what I've learnt along the way but I'd be interested in knowing what you have learnt in the past few years. What have been your good changes - both the big ones and the small, those things that even if the economy improves now, you won't go back to what you did before?

3 August 2015

Never give up

I love getting feedback and comments. I guess everyone who blogs does because it's the only way we know people read what we write. I am lucky that I have regular readers here and some of them have been with me since I started. Over the years, comments reveal readers to me bit by bit and every time a new comment comes, it adds more to my idea of who you are.

One of the reasons I keep writing my blog is that I hope I can share a bit of the knowledge I've picked up over the years. I really do think it is the responsibility of all us older women and men to pass on what we know to the younger folk. We are the current holders of our culture: family histories, family stories, cultural memories, traditional methods and bits and pieces that have been accumulated over the years. If we don't pass that on to those who come after us, who will? One of my aims here is to pass on what I think will help others, but as a reader you need to be patient because I'm not the most succinct writer. This post is a splendid example of my rambling, but it is how I am inclined to share my stories so I think we're all stuck with it.

A little while ago, the best kind of feedback arrived in my email tray. It was from a young lady who had written to me before. I answered her email on the blog. Her name is Stacey and I'll let her tell you the rest ...

Back in June 2012 you wrote me this on your blog and your commenters left some really lovely things as well. We wanted a house more than anything and were soooooo tired of being patient!! 

Then, in 2013 I wrote to you again letting you know my husband had been made redundant and was grateful to your blog for having set us on the right track that, while tough, wouldn't be unmanageable because of our limited debt. 

Well, although you probably don't remember even writing it (or me writing you!) I just wanted to drop you a line to say - WE DID IT! 

We have bought a house!!

Since the redundancy, we had to move states from one side of the country to the other, had a car accident across the Nullabor writing off the car, bought new car, changed jobs, saved saved saved and WHAM …. we had the most amazing deposit and the lowest of mortgage repayments. 

And you know WHY we could achieve this? Because for years, every morning before I was out of bed, I read your blog on my phone to see what new ideas and inspiration you gave. I don't normally comment on your blog because I don't think my voice is probably all that important (a little fraudulent perhaps given your commenters are much wiser than my 2 cents worth) but I have been quietly reading, pretty much every post you have ever written, and soaked up all the tips, tricks and quiet reassurances. 

Thank you Rhonda for providing that reassurance that we are on the right track, we can do it, and we just needed a little patience.

I received another email from Stacey a couple of days ago to say they've moved into their new home.

I've included this now for two reasons. With Stacey's permission, I wanted to share her experience of patience and optimism and how that at only 29 years old she is wise beyond her years. And I am hoping that if you too are struggling with a problem like Stacey's or something similar, then here is her email to show that things do work themselves out and to not give up. Never give up. 

Nothing worthwhile will ever be handed to you on a silver plate. It takes time to build the kind of life most of us want to live. So always remember the small steps, know that a good life takes hard work and patience and if it doesn't go according to plan, regroup, step up, have another go and never, ever give up.

31 July 2015

Weekend reading

This is our lavender laced Barnevelder. Of all the hens we have for eggs, I like Barnevelder eggs the best.

I didn't have much time for reading anything other than my manuscript this week but here are my offerings. I hope you enjoy them.  Take care, friends. ♥︎

Look who I just found is blogging regularly again: Gooseberry Jam. I promise you this blog is as beautiful as the person who writes it.
I've visited this  blog, Little Cotton Rabbits, for a long time but I wanted to show you this absolutely beautiful granny square quilt. I love that it's made out of cotton and the wonderful colour combination, although those of you who know this lady's work, will know her gift with colour.

30 July 2015

My favourite place #4

This is a weekly feature for readers to show us their favourite place at home. This week we have Sue and Ale. Thanks for sharing your homes with us, ladies.

Our first place this week is in Wales, it's Sue's place.  She says:

I have attached two photos of My Favourite Place.

It's the polytunnel !! We waited a long time to be able to erect it after our move to North Wales (UK) as being so close to a busy A road and living in an 'area of outstanding beauty' and being near the edge of the Snowdonia National Park it was considered to be an eyesore. With bushes and trees planted alongside the road that will one day shield it from view slightly, it was finally allowed.

Now it is where I grow our own food, veggies and fruit, and where tiny seedlings are nurtured before facing the perils of the outdoor veggie patch.

In here with my radio on and usually a snoozing dog or two in the corner I can garden no matter what the weather. When it rains the pattering of raindrops on the taut polythene makes for a soothing sound and it's happy place to be.

I blog over at Our New Life in the Country, the blog I started when we did indeed start our new life in the country just over six years ago.

=== ♥︎ ===

And now we travel over to Argentina to visit Ale.

Hi, my name is Ale from Buenos Aires, Argentina (
Here we have four seasons, although for some years to now the climate is changing and our winters are not too cold and our summers are very hot!

I live in a little house, in a nice neighbourhood in the city. It´s called "Flores".
We have transformed our garage in a family room, next to the kitchen. Here I have my cooking books, my knitting books, my notebook, toys for my grandchild and a comfortable sofa for rest or reading. From the door you can see in the picture, you go into the kitchen so I can keep an eye on whatever I'm cooking.
It has light and in the afternoons it's sunny and cosy. Specially in winter. There is a big window looking on to my little patio (not in the pics) and at the back, the laundry.
This is my favourite place.
=== ♥︎ ===

If you want to get involved in this, send two clear photos of your favourite place in your home or yard. Just one place, but two photos from different angles. Ladies, you know the drill. Photos of sewing rooms, kitchens, patios, gardens, baby's room or wherever you feel comfortable and grateful to be there. I want the men to be involved too, we all know you're out there, so I'm including tool sheds, man caves, gardens, garages, under the bonnet of the car or at the stove or BBQ, if that is your favourite place to be.

Write a short description of what you're sending, tell us the general region you're in, a little bit about your climate and why you love your favourite place. If you have a blog, send a link which I'll include with the photos. I think readers will want to visit you after the photo is up. I'll publish photos from two people each week in the order I receive them. Please size your photos at about 100 - 250kb, or 650 - 1000 pixels and that will allow me to reproduce a quality photo at the size I need for my blog.

Email address for photos is:

28 July 2015

How to make your own cake flour

I started seeing cake flour being use on TV cooking shows about a year ago and I've seen bulk cake flour once but never bought it because of the additives it had in it. So when I was at the supermarket and saw an additive-free cake flour recently, I decided to try it. Cake flour has less protein (gluten) in it than plain/all purpose flour does so it gives a softer texture. If you over beat cake batter made with plain/all purpose or self-raising flour, the extra beating will develop the gluten and instead of having a softly textured cake, it will be firmer.

The cake flour is the Lighthouse brand, sold at Woolworths and probably Coles as well. It's the Lighthouse Biscuit, Pastry and Cake plain flour and because it's plain flour, it contains no rising agent so you have to add baking powder. I use 1 teaspoon of baking powder per one cup of flour.

I made my usual whole orange cake using cake flour and I have to say the texture was a bit softer, but I didn't think it made enough of a difference to warrant the extra expense. I make my orange cake in a swiss roll tin so it doesn't rise much and spreads out. I cut it into squares. Generally, doing this the cake will last us five or six days but after three or four days the cake is beyond its best. Often I freeze half the cake to get around that.  However, using the cake flour I was surprised to find the cake was soft and fresh until the end. There are no additives, except for niacin, which is vitamin B3, so I don't worry about that.  When I saw the freshness of the cake was extended, I thought I might use cake flour, even at the added cost.  BTW, I used the same flour for the biscuits I made with Jamie but it made no difference to the taste or the freshness.

I did some research into cake flour and found you can make it yourself at home, using plain/all purpose flour and cornflour.  I made a cake with this homemade flour and it's as good as the Lighthouse brand. I'll see over the coming days if it lasts as well as the orange cake did.

Recipe for whole orange cake.

According to, to make your own cake flour at home take one cup of plain/all purpose flour and remove two tablespoons of flour. Then add two tablespoons of cornflour/cornstarch and sift it all together thoroughly.  Don't forget to add your baking powder to the flour before you sift.

It always pays to do your research and if this flour works as I think it will, extending the life of my cakes, I'll make up a jar of it and use that instead of buying Lighthouse flour. Lighthouse flour is $3.95/kilo and I buy Aldi plain flour for under $1 a kilo.  It's a saving of about two dollars for each kilo of flour I buy, so the savings will be there in the long run.

To make up a kilo/2.2lbs of cake flour:
  1. Measure out 4 cups plain/all purpose flour, then remove 8 tablespoons of flour
  2. Add 8 tablespoons of cornflour/cornstarch
  3. Add 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  4. Sift together.
What is your experience of cake flour?

27 July 2015

The ordinary work of the day

We had a lovely weekend here. The sun was shining and it was warmer than it has been so we were outside with Jamie while he rode his new bike and when we came inside, the doors stayed open to let the warm air in. My main work was to sew a few items for my swap partner, moeymichele, but of course, the ordinary work of the day also came into play.

Getting it all together for the swap.

 Searching through my stash for blue and lavender tones.

On the cooking front I made roast lamb and vegetables for us on Saturday, and used the leftovers for a spicy lamb curry on Sunday. Both easy meals and enjoyed by all of us. All of us included Jamie who was here both days, and Sunny who worked in her sushi shop. I made an extra portion packed in a sealed container for her to take home after work. I've experienced the exhaustion of a full day's physical work when I was younger and the thought of cooking a nourishing meal at the end of it still fills me with dread. I also baked jam drop biscuits on Sunday for our week's morning teas and had the added bonus of giving a pack of them to Jamie for his kindy morning teas and for Sunny's morning coffee. Home baked goodies, eaten when you're away from home, are a gentle reminder of the love you carry with you when you're out in the world.

With the butter, sugar and condensed milk whipped up, it was time to add the flour.
Here's my helper - cherry jam in some, apricot jam in the others.

And then morning tea and biscuits on the front verandah.  BTW, Jamie is wearing his Captain America suit.

My sous chef was Jamie who helped make the biscuits by setting up a work station on the table. He made the thumb hole in the biscuit dough and then filled all of them with either cherry jam or apricot jam.  Cooking and baking are great ways of teaching children the various bits and pieces of life. We counted and added, we washed our hands and talked about the reason for that, we talked about amounts and how long things last. I'm sure Jamie will remember that biscuit making even when he doesn't.

And it was Kerry's birthday yesterday so even though he Facetimed with Jamie and us on Saturday, there was a good reason for an extra call yesterday. Kerry's away at work at the moment and Facetime is a great way for all of us, especially Jamie, to keep in touch and to know he not forgotten. It's one of the good aspects of technology that helps us stay together when our circumstances force us to be far apart.

I'm getting through my swap items and have about another day's work before I'm finished. I've really enjoyed the sewing and I hope what I've made is used for many years. I also spent a little time on cleaning up and I repotted the Herb Robert I got from Nannachel at the group meeting last week. After reading about the herb and how it spreads by seeds, I've decided to leave it in various places in the garden, in the hope that it will spread and I'll have small patches of it growing well all through the year. From all accounts it likes the shady cooler weather so I'll make sure I give it a few places in the shade of other plants. It's such a sweet plant - a member of the geranium family and a very welcome addition to my garden.

I'm looking forward to a busy week ahead. I'll probably have the last read through of the book to complete and if it arrives on time, I might not get back here this week. I hope you have some interesting and productive days ahead too. Take care, friends. xx

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