Monday, February 11, 2013

dreaming of a slower, simpler and more resilient lifestyle

Well, we are already a few weeks into 2013 and I have only just got around to updating my blog.  We had a lovely simple calm family christmas and managed to keep the present giving to a sensible level, which can be a challenge with an 8 year old and 5 year old.

Last year we managed to move towards a more sustainable life with the expansion of the veggie patch and experiments with preserving, sewing, knitting and yogurt making to mention just a few of our little projects.

During 2013 (and beyond) I am aiming to move further along the path to a simpler and slower life, as it just feels completely right.  The month leading up to Christmas was a frantic, stressful mess of social engagements, present buying, work pressure and much more - by the time the holidays arrived I was mentally at breaking point.  A place that I don't enjoy being and that is not good for the rest of the family.

I spent the holidays investing in my health and enjoying time with my family doing fun and simple activities such as walking in the nearby forest, taking photographs, dancing to my favourite music, tending the garden and baking delicious food.  I now feel a whole lot happier in myself and want to retain this feeling.

I have jotted down a simple wish list of ideas for the upcoming year to remind me of my goals and share with anyone else that is on a similar path (I'd love to hear from you no matter where you are along the path to simplicity).

My 2013 - plans for downshifting and upskilling

  • Learn to say no!  no!  no!  (note to self... this means not taking on more than you can cope with!)
  • Focus on activities that make me happy and reward me, rather than those that drain me (within reason, obviously there will still be some unrewarding tasks that need to be done!)
  • Map out longer term plans for the future - where do I want my family and I to be in 5 years / 10 years time?
  • Try out solar cooking - this is one that I am very keen to try but I need to save up for a solar cooker first!
  • Make more food from scratch
  • Makes some green cleaners and maybe learn how to make soap
  • Make some more progress with my fledgling home business, this requires me to be more organised and use my spare time more effectively!  
  • Spend more time being creative especially sewing and knitting.
  • Consider completing a Permaculture Design Certificate if time permits
  • Attend workshops and classes to upskill - cheese making is one course that I am particularly keen to do being a big fan of cheese!
  • Move towards a more frugal life which includes streamlining our financial outgoings so that we can make additional payments to our mortgage.
  • Declutter
  • Plan the veggie patch better to maximise food production and store the excess harvest, I really need to get organised to have plenty of food in ground at all times!  
  • Maintain a well stocked store cupboard of essential food / household provisions.
  • Strengthen my connections with the local community and the children's school.
and perhaps most importantly.....
  • Focus on my health and wellbeing.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Slow living reflections November

I can't believe we are almost at the end of 2012.... time flies when you are busy having fun!  So time to reflect back over the month of November with Christine from Slow Living Essentials.

NOURISH: This month I have been returning to making more often.  One of the big successes was the homemade pizzas with dough made by hand.  We have family pizza and movie nights every Saturday and the dough is usually made in the bread maker.  However a work colleague has been telling me for quite some time that it is extremely simple to do by hand so I decided to give it a go.... he was right, it really is very easy to do and tasted fantastic!  

I've also been baking more cakes and cookies to avoid the need for shop bought cookies in school lunch boxes.  I even made my own birthday cake - one for at home and one for my team at work.  Both cakes were very well received and complemented so I will be baking that cake again.

PREPARE:  We had a lot of very ripe lemons on one of our trees and we have already had our fill of lemon drizzle cake so I have juiced them all and frozen them in ice cube trays to be used in cooking throughout the year - thereby avoiding the need to buy bottles of lemon juice.  I have also started my Stockpile cupboard again, buying essentials so that we wouldn't go hungry if we couldn't get out of the house.  After some initial skepticism and comments that I was losing my marbles, the man of the house has been impressed with the stockpile cupboard as it has come to our meal rescue on several occasions already!

GROW: The vegie patch is bursting into life again.  I have planted sweetcorn, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkins, beetroot, carrots, lettuce, radishes, spring onions, basil, coriander, chives, eggplant and they are all busy growing away.  There are hundreds of self sown tomato, silverbeet and pumpkin seedlings sprouting up all over the place too.  

We have cherries and apricots ripening on our trees.  Unfortunately we won't be getting any apples (again!) as something has eaten all of the little fruitlets (probably one of the neighbourhood possums).  Next year we will have to net the tree as soon as the blossom has been pollinated   We also have our regular jar of beansprouts on the go in the kitchen to add to the vegies growing outside. 

CREATE: I've been sewing sunhats for my little monkeys now that the weather here in Melbourne is starting to warm up.  I've also started to make some shorts for the little ones to wear.  I am also half way through making myself a summer top.  

DISCOVER: This month I have been reading How to Bake a Business by Julia Bickerstaff, to get some useful ideas for a fledgling business that I am planning to launch next year.  I have also been reading Down to Earth by Rhonda Hetzel, which was a fantastic birthday gift.   

I am almost finished reading Angels of Aceh, which follows the story of the emergency medical team that flew out from Australia a couple of days after the Tsunami in 2004.  A fascinating and inspiring read which follows the team through what must have been an incredibly tough time and shows the strength of human spirit and determination.  I picked up this little gem from the book sale in my local library.   In the pile of books on loan from the library there is Sewing for Boys (Shelly Figueroa and Karen LePage) and Permaculture - Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (David Holmgren).  Too many books and not enough time to read them!!!

REDUCE: I have an ever growing mending pile sitting next to my sewing machine.  I have repurposed my worn out hiking boots into planters as I just couldn't bring myself to throw them "away". I also rescued a large water container from the hard waste collection which will be perfect for keeping water in the chicken coop - the previous one perished in the sun and split in half when it rolled down the garden in a storm!

GREEN: I continue to use homemade dishwasher detergent which is just as good as the bought variety!  I also plan to make some clothes washing detergent as we have just run out of a locally made green version.  I have also bought bicarb of soda and apple cider vinegar so I can trial using them in place of shampoo and conditioner.  White vinegar is used a lot in our house - particularly as the rinse aid in the dishwasher and as the fabric conditioner in the washing machine, where we also add a few drops of eucalyptus oil.

ENHANCE: I have joined a local ladies walk n talk group and recently attended my first walk with the group.  It was a great opportunity to meet some new people whilst having a chat and getting a bit of exercise into the bargain.  I'm looking forward to the next walk n talk event.   I also continue to buy from local shops and suppliers whenever I can and have to say it is an absolute pleasure avoiding the BIG bad supermarkets.  My weekly craft group is slowly growing with two new lovely members of the group.  

ENJOY: I am enjoying watching my little fairy settling in to the school practise sessions - she is so excited about starting school in January and has grown so much over the last year.  

Late November is also the annual celebration of getting another year older and wiser :-)

Monday, October 1, 2012

health and well-being

I think it is fair to say that I have been neglecting my health and well-being of late.  Too much indulgence in good food and wine, combined with not enough exercise is not the greatest way of maintaining an ageing body and mind! 

Today I finished work early and decided to get back into my running gear after a 2 month break - it was hard work but I am feeling very pleased with myself for breaking the lazy spell and making the first step towards getting back to a healthier me.  I have a couple of favourite running spots and this is one of them - such an awesome natural space that invigorates and inspires me as I run.
slightly red faced, a bit puffed out but very happy at the end of my run

I am now going to make an extra effort to keep looking after my health and well-being  today was the first of many steps!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

a spring tidy up

The weather has been very mixed this weekend.  We have still managed to get a lot of tidying up done in the garden, as well as a bit of planting.

The vegie beds are now (almost) weed free and are ready to planted up with summer vegetables.

before the weed-a-thon
After the weed-a-thon
The new section of the vegie bed has lots of self sown silverbeet growing, along with some parsnips and parsley.  We have planted a raspberry hedge and a couple of rows of potatoes in front (Dutch Cream).  We planted another row of potatoes in the existing vegie bed (Pontiac) and some of the Kipfler potatoes from last season are starting to grow again too.

I thinned out the parsley patches today so that we will hopefully have a lot more parsley in the summer.  We also planted some oca (New Zealand yam) in the front garden.  These are a new crop for us and were a kind donation from a work colleague of the man of the house.

Preparation for summer planting is well under way - lots of tomato seedlings are popping their heads up, and we also have hints of zucchini, beans, sweetcorn, lettuce, carrots, chilli, capsicum, melon, beetroot and pumpkin. Still more crops to get going but not enough hours in the day :-)  At the end of a busy day of gardening we harvested a basket full of home grown vegies to make a stirfry with egg rice (eggs happily provided by the chooks that are merrily scratching around in mountains of weeds from the rest of the garden.

A basket of yumminess from the garden... carrots, broccoli, cauliflower,
silverbeet, broad beans, celery, spring onions, lemongrass, vietnamese mint.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A breath of spring air

Spring is peeking it's head out from behind the clouds and tempting us all with a taste of the summer to come.  My garden in bursting into colour and it is time to start getting organised in time for vegie planting.  I'm determined that this year we are going to have a bumper harvest of vegies of all colours, shapes and sizes!

Spring pops it's head up into the garden
I've been absent from my blog for a few months, while getting on with life and trying to build my own personal mental strength and resilience.  I haven't found time to reflect on my slower living here on my blog but I have been mentally reflecting on them daily. I'm going to attempt to catch up with my reflection here with a photo collection that sums up the last few months.      (If anyone knows how to arrange photos side by side in Blogger please let me know - I just end up with a long column of photos!)

School holiday entertainment - garden obstacle course

School holiday entertainment - walk in the forest and hugging a big tree

I'll never tire of living in the midst of such beautiful natural spaces

Easter school holidays - our trip to the Alpine Region, Mt Buffalo

A favourite spot - the local nature reserve

Solar panels go on the roof at last (soon to be moved to the less shady part of the roof!)

Little fairy celebrated her 5th birthday with a very pink cake

Getting some fresh air and exercise in the Dandenong Ranges National Park

A trip to the Wallace and Gromit exhibition at the Melbourne Science Museum

Celebrating the winter solstice at the Belgrave Lantern Parade

Tidying the vegie patch in preparation for spring

The wattles have burst into flower brightening even the darkest day

One of my favourite plants in the garden (Grevillea).  The flowers are so beautiful.

I've also found time to relax and do some craft.  A couple of sewing projects for kinder dress up days and birthday parties, and I've lots of sewing ideas just waiting to happen.  I've re-learnt how to knit and am currently making a gift for my lovely sister who is expecting her first baby.  One of the achievements that I am most pleased with is helping to set up an informal craft and skill sharing group at my local neighbourhood house - there are only 4 of us at the moment but I'm sure the group will grow.  We are all having a great time with lots of chatting and laughing with a little bit of craft thrown in.

My goal is to update my blog more regularly, so I hope you will visit again soon!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

a busy gardening weekend

We've had a very busy weekend out in the garden getting on with some projects on our things to do list.  Two very tired grown ups with very achy backs are now relaxing with tummys full of home cooked tastiness.. the hard work has definitely been worth it.  

Our existing main vegie patch has now doubled in size and our front garden orchard has been mulched.  
No dig bed in progress

Relaxing with a couple of glasses of home brew

The mini orchard at the front of the house
We're still harvesting eggplant and zucchini.  We rescued the remaining tomatoes (2 large bowls full) this morning after I spotted a pair of king parrots happily munching on them.  We have some fruit trees in the back garden that are not in good locations that we will transplant into the orchard area over the winter and I am planning to plant some more blueberries and other fruit bushes in between the trees.  Back to office based work tomorrow morning - if we can drag our weary bodies out of bed!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Slow living reflections - February

Wow... February has flashed past very quickly - I suppose that is what happens when you have house guests for 5 weeks.  We've had a lovely time entertaining and catching up with both sets of parents but now they have left I am actually quite pleased to have the house back to ourselves.  It is much calmer and it means that we can get on with living a bit more simply!
So, time to reflect on my slow living achievements over the month of February.  Once again, I am joining in with Christine from Slow Living Essentials for a monthly reflection of slow living.  

NOURISH: While we were entertaining we opted for a lot of easier options - barbecue and salad for most evenings.  Now that we are on our own as a family again there is more time to get into the kitchen and make a mess.  This month I have had fun trying out recipes from some inspiring blogs, including the Vege Bake from eat at dixiebelle's (yum!) and the lentil loaf from Tricia at Little Eco Footprints.  Both very delicious and well received by the whole family... especially the lentil loaf.  As a lapsed vegetarian I knew that I would love it, but the man of the house who is a die hard meat eater loved it so much that he's suggested that it becomes part of our weekly menu - result!!
Vege bake
PREPARE: After much watching and waiting this month I managed to find a Fowlers Vacola preserving kit on eBay which was close by for collection and came with 100 jars!  I am ridiculously excited about the new addition to my kitchen.
By lucky coincidence, my local vegie shop had 10kg boxes of tomatoes for sale a couple of days after I collected my preserver so I have been having fun preserving fresh summer tastes for us to enjoy in the winter months.  Once we end up with an excess of our own tomatoes I'll be preserving those too... no more tinned tomatoes shipped from Italy for us!
Bottled tomatoes

REDUCE: I managed to get a couple of op shop bargains again this month.  A nice new top for work and some vintage sewing patterns.  

GREEN: On an outing with my parents I discovered a lovely local shop which sells bathroom treats all made locally.  

GROW:   The vegie garden is growing like mad at the moment.  We have been filling our tummies with tomatoes, sweetcorn, zucchini, beans, lettuce, silverbeet, strawberries, chillies, eggplant and lots of herbs.  We love setting the "how much of the food on our plate came from the garden" challenge.  I've also started to plan ahead and have some autumn / winter seedlings popping their heads out of the ground.

CREATE:   My creative space was hijacked for 5 weeks to fulfil it's original purpose of spare room.  During this time I have spent a lot of time dreaming about my next creative project... more on that over the next month!

DISCOVER: Part of the shipment of goodies delivered from the UK by my parents included some lovely sewing books.  There are so many lovely projects in these books that I am not sure where to start!  I also bought myself a copy of this book - entertaining and inspiring at the same time.
ENHANCE: Once again this month I have caught up with some of the members of my local Transition Towns group, and have been helping to plan events for this year.  We held a movie night where we screened the beautifully filmed HOME.  Stunning aerial footage of our planet that highlights the impact of human activity.  If you haven't seen the movie I would thoroughly recommend it, and it is free to watch online or download.

I had an awesome time helping out at Little Fairy's kinder - I just love how inquisitive and full of energy four year olds are.  I'm continuing my quest to shop locally whilst avoiding the supermarkets as much as possible.  I took some time out to visit the annual Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne and had fun chatting to stallholders.  More inspiration to keep me moving along the path of sustainability and slow / simple living.  

ENJOY: I had an enjoyable time while my parents visited from overseas.  I think my favourite moment had to be the child free day when my parents and I strolled around these beautiful gardens, then filled ourselves with delicious local seasonal food in the neighbouring restaurant.  Perfect!  Such a calm place to wander around at a leisurely (child-free) pace - I intend to use this as one of my retreats from life's stresses.
Cloudehill Gardens, Olinda