Monday, May 13, 2019

Living without hot water, and other adventures

Today is the 7th day we have had no hot water! The solar hot water system we put in just over 4 years ago stopped working, and when we got the plumber out he discovered the stainless steel tank had corroded and was leaking. This meant that we needed a replacement ceramic tank -which is now the standard- and that was a warranty job from the manufacturer.

Time passed.

Our washing machine and dishwasher can create their own hot water if we need them to, so we could get most of our household cleaning done with just a kettle full of hot water and a squirt of dishwashing liquid.

Showering was not so easy!  DD cleverly worked out that a kettle full of hot water, when added in little bits to a jug full of cold water -just enough to warm the water- could be used to wash the hair when you are standing in the shower -pouring over your head and thus approximating the effect of a shower but with much less water. One whole kettle full equals about 6 jugs of water! Effective in a way, but we all miss the showers we used to have.

Today a big truck turned up with a HIAB facility to lift the new tank over the roof and into place.

HOORAY! They say that a period of deprivation like this can increase our happiness many times over -I am sure that the next few weeks of hot showers will be very much appreciated!

In the meantime DH is getting into the swing of his new non-paid work routines.  He got a bit of a cold and a cough, so wasn't able to go with me to a wonderful WA Symphony Orchestra concert - we bought seats in the choir, which is behind the orchestra- they are cheaper seats -and this is the view as the hall filled up!

The music was absolutely wonderful! 

DH was well enough however  to come to the May Day march down at the Fremantle Esplanade. May Day is a big commemoration for the union movement. This one was also the centenary of the Fremantle Wharf Crisis of 1919 in which a unionist named Tom Edwards was killed by police during a riot during an industrial dispute. 

We marched with the AMWU! 

I also handed out 'how to vote cards' at Joondalup this weekend for the 'change the rules' campaign.

One of my mother's day gifts was a pair of ceramic hanging pots with some pelargoniums to hang at the front door. I used the occasion to re-arrange the pot display there - this is quite a good place for pots where I can monitor their progress. DH is doing very well with his orchids -one has sent out another big spike of flowers -you can see it on the right of the photo -and there are two more on the way. Some of these plants get to be indoor plants from time to time -and the indoor plants need to come out here to have a spell in the fresh air and shade/sunshine as they require. 

I also got Bonnie Hunter's new book "String Frenzy" and some fabulous new fabric along with a cute little pincushion elephant for Mother's day along with a video call with the grandchildren! 

By the way, I have added a couple of recipes to the page From My Kitchen- a marinaded eggplant recipe and a very yummy kaffir lime treatment for cashews. I found these recipes 'somewhere'- probably in one of the books I have been reading from the library. I often bring home recipe books because there is often one or more recipes which strike me as interesting.  Check them out! 

Monday, May 6, 2019

What I am growing and why

Just last night I ducked out to our kitchen garden to pick some lettuce leaves from the 'cut and come again' tiny patch I am growing in a large recycled tub which the "Buy Nothing" FaceBook group I belong to had provided. The leaves were tender and succulent and sweet. With the pasta we were eating, the leaves helped to make a fresh side salad. I have a variety of leaves to choose from -rocket, French sorrel, nasturtium, basil, mint and parsley can all go in the salad. With such a variety the salad has plenty of taste and each plant has time to recover before we come back to cut them again.

Lettuce  and other salad leaves are one of my favourite things to grow in the garden. We have a pretty small suburban plot -just 700 square metres -so the decisions we make about what we grow and based on some important principles:

1. I grow what we eat. This is pretty obvious: I don't want to waste time and energy growing kale for example. I grew it once, and we all decided that there are much better things in this world to eat than kale! I always have spring onions because we just cut the green tops off and they keep on growing for a long time, and they can fit nicely in a tiny spot in the garden, and I use them frequently in salads and stir fries. This season I have broccoli -once we cut the main florets off we can still harvest the side shoots for a good month or more. Did you know you can eat the leaves as well as the florets and stems?  Peas have gone in to grow on the trellis in the back yard: you can also eat the leaves in salads.

This is the way we know what is in season- from now on there will only be tomatoes in the shops which have travelled a long way from the north of our state up near Kununurra or Carnarvon where the seasons are warmer in winter than down here. Their prices go up from now on too, so I will need to make our salads from other ingredients which are in season. Once when I was in Switzerland I was served a salad made of finely sliced carrot dressed with lemon and olive oil- there are other cultures than ours who can show us how to make fresh local ingredients work even when the cucumbers and tomatoes and capsicums are gone for the winter. Coleslaw is great in the winter- we add fennel fronds and seeds for extra flavour. We will add the frozen pomegranate seeds now in the freezer to our couscous and sprinkle them on hummous. Roasted root vegetables like pumpkin and sweet potato can make a great salad with some rocket, parsley and nuts.

2. I grow what is expensive to buy. We don't grow carrots, potatoes or cabbages- they are cheap and good quality from the shops, and they take a lot of ground, which I don't have. This season I have put in a lot of garlic -it is easy to grow in tubs and costs about $24 per kilo. I grow a lot of herbs for the same reason -they are expensive to buy, especially when you only need a sprig of this or a pinch of that. Fresh herbs are so much more flavoursome than dry herbs, and in our climate most of the common herbs like basil, parsley and rosemary do very well. I can't grow coriander though -it bolts to seed in our warm weather- instead I grow Vietnamese Mint as a suitable substitute. I have curry leaves, makrut  or Thai lime leaves, a bay tree, and lots of thyme and lemon thyme.

Most herbs will self -seed here if left to set seed at the end of summer. I have some tiny dill seedlings popping up all over the place at the moment, and flat leaved parsley is everywhere.

We also grow fruit for this reason -lemons, pomegranates, olives, limes, mandarins, grapefruit and quinces. Our grapevines give us both shade and fruit. We usually have so much that after we have harvested and stored as much as we can, we still have lots left to give away to friends and neighbours.

I have strawberry plants growing -but haven't had much fruit yet -and have a new rhubarb plant which I have great hopes for!

This autumn season is a time for some concentrated gardening. The old beds at the end of summer needed a bit of tender care -out came the tomatoes and eggplants and then we fertilized and improved the soil with minerals and compost. I have been working most mornings for the past two weeks to get the winter crops in -but after that concentrated work I won't have to do much more than harvest things for several months.

3. I grow what I can manage. 

I have some sore joints, so I don't want to do lots of digging, but I really enjoy working in the garden, which is for me the best kind of gymnasium. I was a member of a gym a couple of times - I really didn't like the loud music and the fact that I couldn't even see outside. The garden provides me with mental and physical stimulation and challenge in the open air where I can notice the birds, smell the herbs and flowers and feel a sense of accomplishment.

We grow in wicking beds and have an automatic watering system which covers most of the garden. If we leave it to go away for a while most of the garden will survive.

Each watering can weighs at least 9 kilos, so I get some strength training lifting them around the place, when I am using the water from the rain tank and the home made liquid feed I make from the liquid from the worm farm. The worms are the only 'livestock' sadly -no chooks here for us. The garden is a bit too small and I don't want to cope with the extra work of cleaning the chook pen.

I have three big steps up to the upper level in the back garden, so I am getting my  'step class' going up and down them. I have to kneel to weed, and stretch to get under a bush for that last straggly bit of couch grass.

DH and I like to keep the trees pruned to a manageable size where we can reach the fruit without a ladder and move around the garden easily.

If we ever get to the position in the future where we can't manage the work I will just get a gardener in to remove some of the fruit trees and the veggie beds and we will turn it over to local native species which will need less work.

4. We do it because fresh is best and it is fun 

The whole point of the fruit and vegetable garden is that we can grow organic fresh fruit and vegetables right here at home, with no carbon miles (because they have been flown in from far off places), just picked before being eaten.  Our diet is thus more varied as a result, than it would be if I was buying everything from a supermarket or green grocer.

We are not aiming at self sufficiency, but it is clear we can fit a lot of food growing in this small space  using pots to supplement the bigger vegetable beds and mini orchard.

The best thing, however, is the tremendous sense of achievement that you feel when you go out with a basket and a pair of scissors and come back with the makings of a meal, or when you hand out bushels of fruit to your neighbours as you have such an abundance.  You plant a seed and then you go out each day to see if it has come up. You experiment with your food because you try a new taste and you like it (or not, see Kale above!)

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Enjoying life

After a few days of rain and cool temperatures, we have had sunshine and warmth again, which is perfect for getting started on the winter planting. I have put in loads of garlic, and also some pak choy. Garlic is a great crop for a small garden like mine, because it is relatively easy to grow and yet is very expensive to buy. It stores well and I use it constantly in my cooking. 

 I bought some flower seeds because I felt that there were not enough things to pick for a vase. This is in anticipation of using some of the extensive collection of vases that I have, but also because I think I have too many vases and should clear some out. 

I have also planted mizuna, radishes, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, beans and peas. 

I really enjoy gardening at this time of the year, but there is so much to do, to get the soil prepared, and to move the pots around to get maximum sunlight. Now is the time that 'full sun' becomes prized, after a summer in which shade is premium. 

I am trying a new pickling recipe for my beautiful kalamata olives. This one has a very strong salty solution - you let this draw the salt out of the olives, and then rinse before bottling in olive oil. If it works it is a lot less work than soaking in water that you change daily for weeks and weeks before bottling. . Our tree is having its 'off' year this year, so we will only have a couple of bottles. 

We had some friends over for a party to celebrate DH's retirement.

I enjoyed trying some new recipes on them -this cake is a Nigella recipe made with coconut oil.

I also grilled and marinated eggplant to serve as part of a platter of antipasto. It was quite a hit. I am pleased as it is easy to do and gives me another eggplant recipe! 

Note to self: plant eggplants and zucchini in the spring! 

We keep lots of water baths around the place for the birds and insects. This arrangement of home made table -made by DH from a cast iron sun umbrella stand and some wood from a pallet, supports a china bowl which I found in an op shop. I am proud of our recycling efforts here! 

This week,  I put it here to replace a rather wobbly plastic bird bath, which was not attracting the birds, near the bottlebrush and in full view of the dining room window. I am hoping that the sturdy and stable arrangement will finally encourage the wattle birds who frequent our garden, to have a bath in it. Our large ceramic bird bath near the mulberry gets pretty regular use out the front, mostly by the magpies, so it would be great to see this get used too. I have one by the back patio which Dora likes to drink from. Why she would prefer this to her clean water inside, I am sure I don't know! 

Dora is always finding new places to sleep out her days! 

We have some huge pomegranates from our tree. I have been happily pressing them upon friends as I already have de-seeded and packed lots into the freezers. I am also gifting limes to all who will take them off our hands, as the Meyer lemons are just about ripe and the tree is absolutely laden with them. There are plenty of other citrus not far behind. We have been collecting jars for DH's marmalade. Now he is retired he will have more time to put up some jars. We love it on toast but it can also go in puddings and cakes. Jars of marmalade make great gifts too.   

If you can grow some food -more than you can use yourself, so that you can offer it to others, there is a great satisfaction and a sense of abundance. This is the simple life I dreamed of nearly a decade ago, when I started this blog. Over the years the garden has matured, and I have learned some skill along the way. There is still much to learn and improve upon, which gives me a continuing sense of curiosity and learning. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Happy Easter: now the other stage of life begins

This icon of Jesus rescuing the souls from hell is a favourite of mine, and is in prime place in our house today.
Happy Easter! 

Today is a very significant day in our household. DH has RETIRED. We are, in fact, both retired.

Who would have thought, all those years ago, we would have made it this far? It is a wonderful moment. A time to savor in all its richness and blessing.

This past few weeks have been a bit hectic for him, so first, a rest. 

Apart from handing over his duties, we have also had some wonderful events in these past two weeks. 

We were given free tickets to a wonderful performance from students at WAAPA, one of our local conservatories, in a wonderful sacred music performance in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Perth -recently renovated and a fabulous space for music.

We also sang ourselves in a choir performance at St Mary's Anglican Church on Good Friday. It was a very nervous time for us in the lead up to the performance, but it is always amazing how much an audience can lift our singing. Choirs like ours, which are not professional and which teach people like us how to sing amazing music, are a wonderful community building phenomena. I love the way our very talented musical director can get us ordinary people to sing wonderful pieces of music. They are going round and round in my head now. 

I also attended the Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees here in Perth. We stand for a humane treatment of asylum seekers. 

We also celebrated DH's birthday with a walk in a national part, coffee and cake in a cafe in the Swan Valley and dinner at a beachside cafe. He had a lovely time!

Now we are going to enjoy a bit of quiet, as we settle into our new way of life. I have some quilt blocks to sew, and DH has some lovely gifts and vouchers from work to use, and this will enable him to renew his home office for future use. A bit of a tidy up and some de-cluttering may ensue. 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Good times, little cost

I have been re-reading The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raiser-Rowland and Adam Grubb, so I thought I would reflect a bit on how we are finding ways to have good times with little cost. As my Dh has just two weeks of paid work to go until he joins me in the gentle art of retirement living, this is a helpful topic of conversation between us just now. By the way, I don't know the authors, and don't get any money from my blog so this is a completely honest recommendation!

The authors of this book learned to put aside the usual frenetic lifestyle of modern 21st century capitalism. and instead to priorities frugal living in order to maximise their enjoyment of life.
They found that when your life expands beyond career goals, and you live in a fortunate place like Australia, then if you are really lucky to have good health and secure housing, then your life is open and available for creative thinking: what can I do with all this lovely time when everyone else is working? 

I love the idea of learning to maximise enjoyment and keep costs down.

Many years ago, when suffering from restlessness and exhaustion from working too hard and resting too little, I thought that a trip to a nearby shopping mall would entertain me. Of course, I found it tiresome to see so many things I couldn't buy -or else I bought things I couldn't afford and didn't need. I wish I had even 20% of the money I spent on junk that later was thrown away after such trips! One of the early things I did on my path to a simple life was to put a sign on the letterbox saying "no junk mail" and so I stopped being subjected to advertising so much. We gradually stopped watching TV with any advertising included in it, and found it much more peaceful! I certainly stopped shopping for 'entertainment". 

Here are our latest activities, in no particular order.

Mind Blowing Free Art

The Art Gallery of WA has a great free exhibition on at the moment, called Desert, River, Sea. It is fabulous work by indigenous artists of the Kimberley region in WA. I visited first with a friend, then I made sure I took DH to see it too. I reckon we will get back to see it one more time before it finishes. 

Get out into nature: our national parks

We have a number of national parks within an hour or so of driving from here. I have posted before about how much we love visiting Walyunga National Park . Last Friday we went to a park we haven't visited for a long time -John Forrest National Park. It was a spectacular autumn day. It cost us $7 for a concessional entry into the park. We took a picnic and ate our lunch while being closely supervised by the local bird life.

We took a gentle walk along a 2 km bush track after lunch.

We have other outdoor locations which are great for some exercise as well as fresh air and nature study: our beloved beaches, and the two lakes we live nearby all have excellent walking tracks.

Read lots of free books: join a library! 

Many people love to read, but if you are a fast reader like me, it can be very expensive to keep the supply of reading material going if everything you buy is new. The library is a fun place to get books -and the joy is that if the book you select to bring home turns out to be a dud, you can just go back and get a better one. I have had excellent service through inter-library loans and reserving popular books, so that new books can be read almost as soon as they hit the shops!

I also like a good second-hand book store. You can browse for hours and come away with a treasure! I have got some classic cook books from second hand stores and op shops.

In this regard I want to let you know about the wonderful Better World Books, which is an online book seller which raises money for literacy projects around the world. They sell books which are discards from libraries, to raise money for libraries. They also keep books from landfill. You can find great books cheap on this site. Again, this is a completely honest recommendation -no financial interest involved.

Become an Expert at something
With time and practice it is possible to become an expert at something, even if you start with not much of a clue. Whether it is the naming of native species of trees or bees, or making pastry from scratch, or learning a language, there are plenty of opportunities to discover your inner learner. Do you remember when you went to school for fun? No, just me then?

Well anyway, learning in your own way and your own pace is different from being part of a class. The wonderful thing about the internet is just how freely people share information and how-to videos with each other. DD has learned how to bind books from online tutorials. I have a wonderful group of quilters who share freely all their tips and techniques. DH learns a language from a free app, and studies woodworking videos. DS is developing his own skills in woodworking from these places.

You can often find online groups of people who also are into your area of interest -this becomes even more fun as you catch up with people around the world.

Grow a garden

Of course you can spend a lot of money growing a garden, if you head out to the nurseries and hardware stores, or get expert landscaping advice.

I am talking the OTHER kind of garden. The one which you grow in a styrofoam box you got from the supermarket where it had been  a broccoli shipping box, or in a pot you picked up at the tip shop.  You have to buy some potting mix, but after that you bug in a cheap packet of seeds or maybe a cutting which you begged from a friend or neighbour. You give it some light and water and each day it rewards you with growth! The fun you have in seeing things grow!

The celery in this pot was the bottom end of a bunch I bought from a greengrocer. I bunged it in next to the basil and the root end of a spring onion I had also grown from a shop bought item.

You can grow things to eat, as I do, or things which are just pretty and colourful.

Our suburb has a 'buy nothing' Facebook group where people regularly offer cuttings and divisions of perennial plants -for free! I often offer plants and cuttings through this site, and enjoy meeting the neighours this way. I guess our daisies, cannas, frangipanis and pelargoniums are spread throughout this area now!

My garden gives me hours of activity and pleasure each week.

Free and Cheap Music
DH and I love live music, but tickets to gigs are expensive unless you know where to look. We have a couple of conservatory-type music colleges in Perth, where the students often put on free or cheap concerts to gain experience. Music societies also have regular events for their members and others. DH and I sing in a choir -and for the price of our membership we not only get the fun of learning to sing together, but we are actually in the performance too! We have one coming up on Good Friday and have been learning to sing some lovely music for it. 

Our local city councils regularly put on cheap and free live events -especially during the summer, in parks around Perth.


Other places for music include our wonderful ABC radio -we love Classic FM and the Jazz channel too. It has introduced us to fabulous music over the years. 

Now that many people are moving to only listening to digital music, there are many CDs in op shops. We have an extensive collection of CDs and a CD player which we enjoy very much, everything from World Music like guitar from Argentina or Fado from Spain, or jazz from Mali, to classical music and popular artists. 

I guess this post is now long enough. I don't think I have exhausted the topic, however. I would love to hear from you about your good times for little cost activities too. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

How to shop for food -tricks and tips that the supermarkets don't want you to know

I was speaking with friends this week, about our Greenwood Fresh Food pantry and the challenge of feeding a family on a very limited income which one of them was doing for Lent, and it got me thinking about the strategies I use for shopping for food which may not be known by everyone, but which I have found out through the very generous people who are part of the Simple Living community. It is turning into quite a long post! Maybe you need to get a beverage of choice and read along.

Inspired by people like Rhonda Hertzel and her book The Simple Home, most of us who have taken on the Simple Living approach know that we can feed ourselves well -and more cheaply -if we do most of the cooking for ourselves. We get to choose the ingredients, we get to manage portion size, and we have control over freshness and can limit waste. By feeding ourselves well for less, we reduce our demands on paid work to raise income, we reduce our demands on this overburdened environment, and we give ourselves and our families the best start for good health. We become self reliant -able to manage this important task without being dependent on outside help.

So here are my top shopping tips which the supermarkets don't want you to know:

 The cheapest, freshest staples are found by 'shopping the walls'. Think where the meat fridges, the fruit and vegetables are -around the perimeter of the shop. Walk around the perimeter first, and put most of your grocery spend in the basket from these places.

Buy food in season. Sure, they can import Californian oranges when our Australian orange season is over, but they are expensive...and a bit tired after a huge journey. Just imagine the carbon miles clocking up with these! The supermarkets want us to think any food is available to us at any time of the year, but that comes at a cost to our food budget and the environment. The best way to know what is in season is to leave the supermarket and go to a farmer's market -you will soon find that the foods in season are cheap and plentiful there. At the time I am writing this, it is early autumn in Perth and the farmers are over-supplied with zucchini -and offering packages like "Buy 3 for $2" -huge trombones of zucchini!. You can grate and freeze zucchini for later. This goes for other fruit and vegetables too. Leave the out of season, imported fruit on the shelf -when our own local season comes in, enjoy it to the full! This variety of foods is what makes our year interesting, and nutritionally sound.

Look high, look low. The foods which the supermarket wants you to find easily are in the eye-level shelves, where they stack the processed and packaged foods. Look up or down to find things like -dried beans, those power houses of protein and fibre, which are easy to prepare in bulk and freeze for chucking into soups and stews and salads. You will also find lentils and dried split peas there.

Keep at track of the price cycle. Most Australians are used to seeing the price of petrol go up and down according to the weird marketing cycle we have here, which sees prices jump just before a long weekend, and go down on Mondays or Tuesdays. DH subscribes to a government sponsored price watch service, which tells him where the cheapest petrol is on a daily basis. The same thing happens in supermarkets, where the price of something like coffee can be as much as $25 per kilo or as low as $15 a kilo, depending on the 'specials' they offer to get you in the store. You want to try to buy at the lowest point in the cycle, which means buying enough to last through the rises, until the price comes down again. I try to have at least one backup of every staple in the cupboard : 'one open, one on the shelf".

Some people recommend keeping a 'price book' in your handbag, where you note the date and place of things you buy often, so you can keep track of prices. I have to admit I haven't ever done this for long, but it is very instructive even if only done for a week or two.

Don't shop so often Every time we go into the supermarket, they tempt us with things that we didn't have on our shopping list (you do shop with one of these, don't you?) and we spend more than we planned. One of the ways to 'send the supermarkets broke" is to shop less often. You can do this by building up a store cupboard of food at home which means you always have something to cook and make a meal with, so you don't shop so often. When building your supplies, you buy at the cheapest part of the cycle for each item, you buy a number of them, and you make sure that you use them in the time when they are freshest.

Buy in bulk It is worth my DIL to travel an hour away from her regional shopping centre, to buy in a place where food is cheaper, and access to bulk supplies is possible. I am lucky - I have access to a warehouse type bulk food shop because of my RAC membership and it is 5 minutes from home. This shop is a bit like Costco but without a membership fee. I buy 'slabs' of 12 tins of Australian tomatoes, or 5k of bread flour, or a box of 24 tins of cat food. Rice is cheaper per serve when bought in big bags.  Some of these things I will immediately decant and freeze to protect their shelf life -bread flour lives in my fridge, for example, in the garage. You can put the bulk supplies in your pantry with a little bit of creative stacking, or slide a box under the bed or on top of a wardrobe! I had a cupboard which once stored an indoor water heater. When we moved the water heater to the roof we had a space which DH built shelves into, so I have both a pantry and a larder for long term storage!

Grow it yourself There are 'living herbs' for sale in supermarkets -you buy a little pot of basil, for example, for about $3. If you take the plant out of the pot and carefully tease apart the plants, you usually find there are actually about 4 plants which you can pot up and grow on. I have about 6 basil plants which have grown all summer from such a pot that I got from a supermarket.

Fresh sprouts like bean sprouts are expensive and can quickly spoil, but it is easy to sprout your own in jar on the window sill, with minimum effort and maximum nutrition.

If you have a balcony or courtyard you can fit quite a lot of food grown in pots. I would grow herbs everywhere I lived, just because they are packed with nutrition and they make food taste great, and are pretty tough. They are also expensive to buy! I grow some food in styrofoam boxes I got free from the supermarket- they were used to ship broccoli in.

If you have more time and some garden available, growing cut-and-come-again lettuces, silverbeet and spinach is easy and quick. I have just harvested some sweet potatoes from my garden. I also have a lot of fruit trees: lemons, limes, grapefruit, mandarins, quinces, pomegranates, olives, mulberries, cumquats, blueberries. You have to be prepared to deal with the harvest when it comes, though! This is where the skills of dehydrating, freezing and bottling (canning in the US) come in handy.

Make it yourself.  If there is a regular 'packet' of something which you buy for a recipe, chances are that you can make it yourself and it will be cheaper and won't have corn syrup or fillers and thickeners in it. What I do is start by looking at the list of ingredients on the back of the packet to see what the main components are. For example, we make a mince and cabbage dish which I used to buy 'french onion soup' mix for. I have been able to make a very acceptable alternative with dried onion flakes and chicken stock powder. Here is a recipe if you need it. You could make a jar full!

I make a Sri Lankan curry mix which my family love.

Other mixes I make are things like 'cream of anything soup mix' like this one. Home made sausage rolls are a revelation! They only take a couple of squares of puff pastry and a pack of sausage meat or mince -and you can make big, fat sausage rolls at a fraction of the supermarket price.

About eight years ago, I was given a bread making machine from a relative, and I started   making bread with packet mixes. It was cheaper than all but the most generic loaves, and I started to get the experience to try making it from scratch. Now I use a stand mixer to make my bread, and mostly make sour dough loaves. My loaves cost me about $2 but an artisan sour dough loaf of similar size is at least $6. I enjoy the growing sense of competence I am gaining, so much so that I am expanding my repertoire to learning to make pastry from scratch too.

I also make our soap powder for the washing machine: see here for a recipe. We have got used to fragrance free laundry, so much so that if we are on holiday and using a laundromat with a bought powder, we notice how strong the smell is!

DH makes jams and chutneys, and takes responsibility for making our yoghurt using UHT milk and full cream milk powder.

Substitute expensive ingredients for cheaper ones  I have a number of cook books, and regularly get others from the library which I read avidly. From this research I know that you can make a very acceptable hummus with peanut butter rather than tahini, that you don't need basil and pine nuts to make pesto but that a herb like parsley or mint will do, along with just about any nuts you have on hand. The queen of recipe substitution is Jack Munro . I recommend you get a book of hers from the library-it will be a revelation! Frozen berries are cheaper per kilo than fresh ones, and whilst I love fresh fish, it is often much cheaper frozen. DH quite likes soda water in the hot weather, so I gave him a soda syphon so he can make it more cheaply.

Use less  You don't need to 'rinse and repeat' you shampoo -in fact, you can wash your hair quite well with soap! You don't need bread flour to make bread, if ordinary flour is available, it will make  a satisfactory loaf -or make a 50/50 mix of bread flour and ordinary plain flour.  You can make a second cup of coffee from the grounds left in the french press after the first pour -particularly if you are making iced coffee for hot weather drinks. You can dilute hand wash for the bathrooms and people will still get plenty of lather for their handwashing. Many cakes will be perfectly OK with less sugar in them than the recipe says to use. We can eat less meat -serve smaller portions, add other ingredients to it to 'bulk' it out. Many nations have learned to have wonderful, tasty vegetarian and vegan meals or to serve meat as a condiment rather than the main item on a plate.

Don't buy it at all! In moderation it is nice to have luxuries, but nutritionally we are really better off with water than soft drinks (soda in the US) or bottled fruit juices. We CAN actually go without coffee if the budget is tight, although I would probably have a riot on my hands if I suggested that here. In fact, I love my coffee. If we were struggling, though, I would definitely cut down the number of cups per day, and always make it at home. I am afraid alcohol comes into the discretionary category too...lots of calories and lots of money. At least we can moderate our consumption -leaving the wine etc to one or two days per week will help. You can cook with cheap wine -don't listen to the posh chefs who insist otherwise.

We CAN manage without any special cleaners in spray bottles -vinegar and dish soap and bicarb soda can do any job around the home we need, pretty much. Did you know that when Choice Magazine tested laundry pre-soaker stain removers, some of them were not rated as effective as plain water? You can also get a good result from water and your ordinary laundry soap.

Shop somewhere else There are great bargains to be had in independent grocers, especially those who cater for the ethnic communities of our cities. You can buy large bags of spices instead of tiny bottles, and they are fresher too. Bulk goods are available. We are lucky that we have a big variety of these independent and ethnic based food sources -but you can also find ingredients like these online.

Beware the back of the fridge left overs! I love leftovers- my family sees them as a great bonus. The thing is, there is no point in shoving leftovers in a container and then throwing it out a week or so later. A label is a wonderful thing to help get the leftovers used up- especially if you put the container in the freezer! I once took cumquat pulp to work for lunch, thinking it was pumpkin soup! Now I am getting more determined about labels! I have used a roll of painter's masking tape and a permanent marker to label things -and also my fancy label maker gets used too. Leftovers can be dumped into 'weekend soup'- that soup I make where I get all the tired looking vegetables chopped up and added to a big pot, along with any leftovers of stew, curry or similar. Each soup is a wonderful, original recipe! Weekend soup makes great lunches for the week, before I head out to restock my fridge in quieter shops once the working week starts again. Leftovers can be made into pies when added to ramekins or dishes topped with mashed potato or pastry and heated in the oven. They can be added to toasted sandwiches too.

We need to reduce food waste -Australians are said to waste $8 billion worth of food each year!  That averages to about $1000 per family, which is enough to pay for a lot of  power bills! Storing food correctly is part of the answer, but we also need to plan  our menus around the need to use up the food we buy, and not buy more than we can use. I also try to use up as much of the food as possible -broccoli stems are just as good as the florets, for example. I compost our waste in order to grow more food. One good idea is to peel and chop vegetables in batches so that they are ready prepared and easy to use. My new fridge has puzzled me for a bit -the crisper drawers are not keeping things as crisp as my old one did! However I am now chopping the veg and putting them in plastic containers to keep them crisp and to take up less space.

Learn about how much of the plant you can eat, from studying the food habits of other countries. Grape vine leaves are used in Greece to make dolomades -you can even buy them in packets! Maybe you have a neighbour who will give you some, if you don't have your own. Just make sure they haven't been sprayed though. You can put nasturtium leaves and flowers in salads, and if you invest in just one packet of seeds you will probably have them in your garden for ever. You can eat the tips of sweet potato vines too. I used to cut off the base and the leaves of celery and put them in the compost, now I know that celery leaves can be added to salads and soups, and that the base, if popped onto damp soil, will grow a new plant.

Get a quick meal plan We all get tired sometimes and don't feel like faffing with a recipe but we are hungry. In these circumstances we need a selection of things in the freezer we can pull out and serve quickly, along with a selection of quick recipes which can be thrown together in the time it takes to order pizza. Puttanesca pasta is one such recipe we often use -made with store cupboard ingredients of anchovies, tinned tomatoes and olives along with dried pasta. We love 'breakfast for dinner' such as fried eggs, tomatoes and a tin of beans with toast!

If you have made it to the bottom of this post -thanks for sticking with me. I would love to hear from you if you have tips not mentioned here -we could assist each other to make a comprehensive list!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Proud family time in Melbourne and country Victoria

We spent a few days in the lovely city of Melbourne, catching up with some exhibitions and friends.

The biggest reason for the visit, though, was a very important graduation: our son and daughter in law have completed their studies and graduated on the same night, from the same university my husband and I graduated from nearly 4 decades ago!!!

It was a wonderful celebration.

What a fantastic achievement -not only did they finish their studies, they had 3 wonderful children and held down some challenging work situations at the same time.

Of course we had to go up to the country town where they live, for a quick visit with these same 3 grandchildren -now 6, 4 and 1.5 years old. This drawing is of me! I assure you the eyes are 'sort of green" and the hair is 'sort of grey and white". LOL

The exhibition on at the Immigration Museum on the topic of love, was moving.

The National Gallery of Victoria has a splendid exhibition on at the moment -frocks from designers over more than 100 years! On display among their usual paintings and sculpures, these designer gowns from fashion houses of significance, were truly wonderful.

We loved the whole thing but it wasn't long enough with our family or with our favourite city either.

It is always good to be home.

Now to re-adjust to the 3 hour time difference!