Saturday, November 3, 2018

Lots to do

Firstly, thank you to those who have been leaving comments on my blog: I hadn't realised that Blogger had a new way of handling them and only just found comments going back months! It is nice to make contact with each other this way. 

There seems to be a lot going on here just now. We have signed the contract for the renovation of the kitchen, and have a rough start date. Our choices have been made for appliances, and pretty soon we will need to pack things up and make way for the builders who think they will start in the first week in December. Now that this is becoming a reality, it can't happen soon enough -the layout of our present kitchen is not ideal. We often cook together, DH and I when we have guests, and yesterday we were in each other's way a bit. Our new kitchen will have more work surfaces and more storage. 

Nevertheless I was chuffed with the way this butterscotch apple and blueberry pie turned out yesterday. We had friends over for dinner, and it was great for desert. The recipe is in Nigella Lawson's classic cookbook "How to Eat". I added 30g of icing sugar to the base, and Nigella suggested, and it made a lovely flan base even though it was hard to keep it intact when rolling it out. 

Our  mantle is decorated with a new cornucopia vase (right) , which I found in a second hand shop. It is from the same factory as another I already had, so they make a nice pair. In fact, the fact that I now have a pair makes the first one (left)  more attractive I think. I have filled them with olive leaves and silk roses. 

I am busy making blocks to add to the pile needed for my queen size version of Bonnie Hunter's Scrappy Mountain Majesties above, using beautiful fabrics mostly bought in the Blue Mountains when we visited last year. I have to make 66 and have got about 42 done. Getting there! 

Spring is warming up nicely, and my grapevine pergola/ natural air conditioner is filling out nicely this year. This is on the north side of our house. 

We were able to get out to a beach walk recently on a lovely morning, and on another day went for a walk around a park. The busy season for the garden is mostly over: we have switched the reticulation on, so there is a lot less to do.  I have lots of lettuce and rainbow chard at the moment 

   I found a new to me Local Quilting Shop nearby and was pleased to make the acquaintance of the staff, and to find that they have every single Kona cotton colour on display! I love Kona cottons and I am sure I will be back to add to my collection. 

This sewing machine was on the counter - nearly 100 years old -one of the shuttle bobbin ones -and amazingly intact and in good condition. 

Our choir is working hard on Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols -the music is amazing! Christmas will be upon us before we know it -and I had better get some organising done! Have you got plans yet? 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Raising my voice

This is Anti Poverty Week, and so I went along to the rally in the city of Perth. I see this as part of my Simple Living practice: to engage with the community in ways to improve our lives together. If I want my life to be sustainable and simple I am sure the answer lies in assisting positive social change for all. I am not living this life in isolation. 

It is shocking that inequality is growing around the world. In Australia it is fueled by the lack of entry level jobs, wage stagnation and the fact that the Newstart allowance given to job seekers has not increased for 25 years.

There is an increasing tendency to blame the poor for their situation, instead of seeing it in structural terms. We can fix poverty by doing several basic things: raising Newstart, creating more social housing and ending the scandalous Robodebt fiasco, where welfare recipients are being forced to defend themselves from paying fake debts to Centrelink. It is estimated at least 1 in 6 is fake or needs to be corrected.  Then there is the punitive use of Cashless Welfare Cards, to stigmatise welfare recipients and take away their agency to make decisions about their use of welfare support.

Here is the St Vincent de Paul statement about the Cashless Welfare Card:  St Vincent de Paul Society does not support the cashless welfare card. There is no evidence it improves the wellbeing of individuals or communities, either by reducing substance abuse or by increasing employment outcomes. The cashless welfare card also carries a high risk of unintended and expensive consequences across government and the community, including social exclusion and stigmatisation, increased financial hardship, and the erosion of individual autonomy and dignity. Ultimately, this is a punitive and paternalistic measure that is driven by ideology rather than evidence.Find more here 

There was a major rally to call for a total ban on fracking non-conventional gas in Western Australia.  I went to that one, too! We are worried about the impact of fracking on our natural environment, particularly on our water supplies. 

The final thing I did in a fortnight of raising my voice was that I attended my local City of Joondalup council meeting, to assist with a campaign to get them to consider divesting from fossil fuels.  The group I went with comes from Perth. we are building the Divestment movement and resisting new fossil fuel projects to build a broad and effective climate movement powerful enough to create a safe climate future.

This is what I said:

I ask Councillors to support the motion that

"the CEO to prepare a report on the options for the city to change its risk appetite and investment policy to place a greater percentage of invested funds into institutions that have all (or a great majority) of their portfolio in fossil fuel free investments, providing that in so doing the City can secure a rate of return that is at least equal to the alternative offered by other institutions".

Climate change is, as you and I know, one of the challenges facing the City of Joondalup in the future. I refer you to the recently released “Coastal Survey Outcomes Report” which has been considering how our city might respond to the challenges of coastal erosion due to rising sea levels.

I also refer you to the City of Joondalup Environment Plan 2014 to 2019 which has a whole chapter on Climate Change Mitigation. If we are serious about this problem for our City, we won’t be undermining our efforts at reducing waste and supporting local environments by using the City’s assets to invest in industries which will make climate change worse! We can send a clear message to the fossil fuel industry: change your ways now and join us in tackling climate change

As the Mayors of London and New York said on 10th September this year that “We believe that ending institutional investment in companies that extract fossil fuels and contribute directly to climate change can help send a very powerful message that renewables and low-carbon options are the future. If we want to fund the scale of transformation the world needs, we must foster sustainable investment and use the power of institutional investors.”.

Do you get involved with local community actions like this? 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Getting serious about the kitchen renovation- it only took a year!


Home made sausage rolls: why have I not done this before? I am astonished at how easy they are, and tasty. I found a recipe which adds fennel seeds to the pork mince and they are terrific.

Well, that took a while! In October 2017 I wrote a post about our ideas for renovating the kitchen. I wrote then that there were things which had become difficult about this kitchen, and what we wanted to change:

  • There are very few drawers. As I am now in my early 60s, I am finding it harder to reach into the back of the bottom shelf and lift out a heavy casserole dish that I have stored there. The idea of having a drawer which can hold my dishes and which I can pull out to reach them is very attractive. This feature will help us to move into our senior years with confidence we can manage things here
  • I sometimes run out of bench space. I do a lot of cooking and baking, and DH loves to preserve and make jam. This kitchen is a bit cramped sometimes. Some of my appliances -like the microwave and the stand mixer -have to be stored on the bench too. 
  • It doesn't have a lot of natural light. I would like bigger windows to see out of and let light in.
  • I can't store my baking trays in the kitchen -they are in the linen closet.
  • I can only fit in a bottom mount fridge/freezer, but I would love a side by side fridge freezer so I can keep more in the freezer. Right now we have another fridge outside -mostly because we need the extra freeer space, but it is not always so convenient to go out there. In the summer it is a hot place for a fridge to be kept, so I guess the fridge motor is working hard out there. 
  • I sometimes wish I had an extra oven -I have used my barbecue as an oven when things get busy. My current freestanding stove and oven is showing signs of age and the oven in particular has a small capacity because its heating source takes up quite a bit of room. 
  • We have solar panels on the roof, so using electricity rather than gas would be a good thing for the planet and cheaper for us, especially now I am retired and can do more cooking during the daytime. I could replace the gas stove with an induction cooktop and electric oven. 
  • The layout of the kitchen could be improved

I guess there were a lot of reasons why we didn't act on our initial ideas back in October last year. We knew that the building industry in Australia shuts down over the Christmas -New Year period, and it was unlikely that we would get the project up and running then.

We got stuck into some easier updates -painting the lounge room and dining room, for instance. Then I really got uncomfortable about how messy and inconvenient the kitchen renovation would be. I couldn't face it so I just left the idea altogether.

Anyway, this week, with the weather warming up and the possibility of cooking outside become practical again, we started getting quotations for the work we wanted. The first quote was terribly off-putting, though, as it was hugely over my estimated budget. In my innocence, I had looked at what our last bathroom renovation had cost, and doubled it, but in fact this quote was four times as much!

We also discovered that it was going to be difficult to get my desired side-by-side fridge and freezer in the kitchen without compromising either the amount of light in the kitchen (smaller window) or the amount of bench space near the stove when moved to the interior wall. I was seriously disappointed.

It took a day or so to reflect on that experience and to get back into trying to find a way around the problems we had encountered. I reminded myself that we live simply, that we don't need grandiose finishes and that by keeping our goals in mind we could hopefully find a way to a kitchen which would work for us, but not absorb so much in the budget.

We went to IKEA and have sought a detailed quotation from them -it looks more in our ball park already. I am encouraged by recommendations from the Young House Has a Podcast people that their IKEA experience was fine -and also by recommendations from someone DH knows, who is also happy with theirs.

We have also sought a third quotation from another custom kitchen cabinet maker: hoping that it might be somewhere less than the first one, and not too much different from the IKEA one. The designer they sent out to measure up was most impressed to catch me in the middle of making my sourdough bread, and he also understood entirely why we didn't want expensive stone benchtops, for example, as I couldn't see what the advantage was in them. I have laminex benchtops we put in over 20 years ago and they have held up very well

In the meantime I have done a major cull of kitchen equipment, and sent a number of things to the op shop, so there is more room in the cupboards. This is not instead of renovating, I hasten to add, but so that when we need to pack up the kitchen, we are only packing what is essential.

I am hoping that we can do all the major planning of this renovation now, and start it in late January when the building industry comes back from their summer holidays.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Unless...the Lorax quilt is finished

I wasn't going to make this quilt! I was looking for something else in my stash, when I came upon a Dr Seuss panel which I had totally forgotten I had. I was immediately inspired to make a quick quilt for DGS #1 who is 4 years old, and who has recently shown a love for the Lorax movie. 

There were 10 distinct panels on the fabric , so I chose my favourite 9 and saved one for the back. Then I found some fabric which picked up the colours in the prints, for some borders around each scene. I was looking for things which wouldn't look out of place with the colours and which might bring 'growing things' to mind.

Then I sashed it all with neutral print squares (mostly left over from other projects) and added navy cornerstones. Here I am sewing on my favourite Singer 326K, recently returned from the mechanic and good to go.

I think it was three weeks from start to finish on this little quilt.

I used a pieced back -leftovers from the front fabric -and made a 'frankenbatting" by sewing a few pieces together. Then it was a bright yellow binding and I was done. 

Here is the quilt outside in the garden among the fruit trees.

I will wash it and get it sent off to our grandson soon.

This quilt is the fourth one for the year for me: see the others I have sewn this year here 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

My standards are slipping! My heart is full

Sometimes I knead bread whilst wearing my pyjamas!  

Sometimes I work in the garden  a long time, and don't get around to showering and being clean again until lunchtime!

Sometimes I sit on the couch and read books for hours!

How much of my retirement life should I share?

 Sometimes I think of this as I converse with people I know: won't there be a problem with people who are not yet able to retire, thinking that I am just skiting about my wonderful life? On the other hand, they probably think I am being a bit slack, with slipping standards and a complete lack of intellectual rigor and discipline! 

My heart has led me here -over ten years ago I was sick and sore and worn out with the stresses of full time work for both DH and I in difficult jobs and with a young adult family and a home and church and everything. My job was fabulous and exactly what I wanted to do, but involved a lot of looking AT the pain and suffering in the world, and feeling that there was not a lot I could do to change it. Where others looked away, I looked at -and was active and disappointed often that the compassion I thought we could offer was not being offered to vulnerable people. 

My heart said "simplify" and I started to do that. I sought calm in my surroundings, I stopped shopping as a leisure pursuit, I started to meditate. I said NO to some things I had been involved in. I stepped back. This helped me keep going. 

I listened to my heart when it said "Notice: every holiday you put on your apron and go to the kitchen and cook from scratch, and you are happy there." I used to shock my friends by saying I turned into a 1950s housewife when I knocked off work...but I didn't think it was a betrayal of my professional life, but a new thing I could enjoy. 

My heart said later when I was contemplating leaving work "Listen to me now: is there a place where you feel joy more than here in this garden?"  That made the decision easy.

My life now  is full of challenges: can I make a new loaf of bread as good as the last one? Can I grow these vegetables from seeds I saved? Can I defeat fruit fly this year? Can I live my life with more awareness of each passing moment? Can I get that book from the library that everyone is talking about, but which I don't need to own any more? Can I improve my quilting skills? Can I give more away of my life and my time? 

The rewards are great: getting to know the local magpies (see picture above) took us years  in this house, but being here to see this one fly on the back of my chair near the window to say "Food Please, Human!" each day during spring, is a pretty wonderful thing and not one I could enjoy whilst sitting in an office in the city somewhere.

We ate freshly made homemade strawberry jam (thanks DH) and sourdough,  this week. We used to make bread and jam before I retired, but perhaps there is more time for this sort of thing these days? I think there is.

These days we tend to give each other tickets to things instead of presents, and this occasion was for Father's Day. It is lovely to be able to share the fun, and excitement of an event like this. We have heard these talented people several times now, and enjoy it very much. Their CDs have been playing in the house all week since. 

I have two hours most days to work in the garden, and that these Spring mornings it is a real joy to do so. The rewards for this work are seeing the plants thrive, or being able to go out to the garden to pick as much parsley, mint, thyme, dill, fennel, curry leaves, kaffir lime leaves as I want? We have so many lemons I can casually cut them in half to squeeze in a glass of water, and not worry how much they cost or if I will need one for cooking later in the week. 

I still read  a lot, and not just cook books and novels either!   I volunteer, and also still learn French, and still enjoy a good conversation. I don't need to prove anything anymore, so I don't push myself if the book is boring, or the volunteer space is not respectful, or if the people are difficult.

This is my blog and I am glad I have it -now when I look back to the beginning when I started writing, I can see just how far we have come. If you have found your way here, and are on this journey too, I would love to hear from you sometime. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Spring things

We have been very busy in the garden since we got home from our holiday. The winter weeds were knee high, so we did a quick sweep of the triffid-like nasturtiums and what I call "winter grass" and made a huge pile on a tarpaulin. Then we spread mulch which had been sitting in the trailer since before we went away -for exactly this moment. We call mulch "makeup for gardens" because everything looks so much neater and nicer under a thick layer of mulch. I  have probably spent two hours nearly every day since we got home, in the garden.

With that done, I am now more into the productive side of gardening - making sure everything is ready for the growth spurt which Spring brings. We have had a lot of rain this winter, which means that the citrus are continuing to produce heavy, juicy fruit as well as having a huge production of blossoms. The blueberries are setting fruit now,. My deciduous fruit are coming into leaf: mulberry, pomegranate, quince, grapes. I am feeding things, pruning and training things, planting things: tomatoes, lettuce in particular. I have been working on the styrofoam wicking beds, which I use to extend the veggie gardens and which are very useful for tomatoes. We can't replant tomatoes in the same soil for about 3 years or more here, because of problems with nematodes. I therefore plant tomatoes in wicking beds in new potting mix each year. This is the fence in the front of the house, near the carport. We squeeze as much productivity as we can in this 700sm plot!

DH took the pile of weeds to the tip and came back with another load of mulch, as we haven't finished the garden entirely yet. It will help to preserve the soil moisture as the summer comes. Our summers are usually dry from about November through to April or May.

There is only so much gardening I can do in a day, though. A couple of hours has me ready for more gentle pursuits. This is the quilt top I have made for my DGD1, featuring the Lorax panel I found when looking for something else in my stash. I have cobbled together a backing, and sewn pieces of leftover batting for it, so today or tomorrow I plan to be down on the floor pinning it together.

DH and I took a day off on Wednesday to go up to Walyunga National Park again. We expected that the river would be spectacular after all the rains, and it certainly was!

These two kangaroos were looking very well fed and relaxed as we walked up to Syd's Rapids. It is always a thrill to see them in the wild. The walk took us about two hours -it was 6 km there and back but we went fairly slowly, just enjoying everything and stopping to take pictures when something caught our eye.

The wildflowers were abundant again this year. I have decided I really need to have a Field Guide to the flowers and plants of the Swan Coastal Plain, because I am often stumped to know what they are called. Hmm: maybe I should add that to the Christmas List? I have started one on my phone so I can remember my good ideas. 

I am aware of just how lovely and precious this place is. It is under threat from so many things, but climate change is already putting our environment under stress. This area is a biodiversity hot spot- we have large numbers of plant and animals which are found nowhere else in the world but this tiny south-west corner of Australia.  I went along to the Rise for Climate rally in Perth last weekend, and have joined a group of people working with to try to get our city council to divest from investments in carbon producing industries.

We could be a Clean State -we have abundant sunshine for much of the year, and lots of wind and tides too -with some storage capacity we could power this state with renewable, clean energy entirely. It is a bit of a dream, but without a dream, almost nothing will get done. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Planes, buses and trains

When you have travelled from Perth to Melbourne by air, you might as well keep going, to enjoy what we West Australians call "The Eastern States", before coming home again. This picture is of the new Silo art in the town of Rochester in Victoria. We travelled by both train and bus to Rochester on this trip. Rochy is where our family are living. 

We sandwiched two important family stays in country Victoria with a lot of journeys on trains and buses through New South Wales and Victoria -almost 3,000 km of journeys which took us to Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Orange (because it is on the other side of the Blue Mountains!)  Choosing train travel meant that we could relax and enjoy the day. I spent most of the time just staring out the window, unwilling to miss any scenery.For people at our stage of life, public transport is often much cheaper with our Seniors discounts than hiring a car would be. 

This picture is from Flagstaff Hill in Melbourne. We had arranged our public transport concessions in both Melbourne and Sydney and found that it was very easy to get around in both places.

The other consideration is that the use of public transport cuts down carbon emissions per person who is on the bus or train! This is slow living at its best.


We hadn't visited the Old Cathedral church in Melbourne until this trip, but found both a lovely set of stained glass windows and some CDs of choir music which we have greatly enjoyed on our return home. 

Melbourne was our home for 13 years, and we still have friends and family who live there. It was great to be able to catch up with them. This picture is taken from Southbank. 

From Melbourne we caught the XPT to Sydney and then the next morning went off through the Blue Mountains to Orange. Each train trip was comfortable and convenient. The staff were cheerful and helpful.

In Orange we stayed at Duntryleague Guest House, which is situated in a lovely golf range. We took our first ever wine tour of vineyards in the Orange region, and had a lovely time. There was snow in Orange just before we arrived, and it snowed a few days after we left, but the days were were in town were sunny. My puffer jacket, thermals, hat and gloves got a real workout, however. 

 Then it was back to Sydney for a longer stay. DH hadn't had as much opportunity to explore the city as I had, during my working life, so I was glad to show him around. A trip on the Rivercat up to Paramatta must be one of the best value and most scenic public transport trips in Australia. You get a 90 minute trip up river for the price of a cup of coffee!

One of my favourite historical homes is Elizabeth Farm in Parramatta. 

Despite all our travels around, it was really all about visiting our family and supporting them with some grand-parenting, which were the real reasons for our trip. It is hard to bring up three children when you are far from family support. Our son and daughter in law do an amazing job, but when they have to go away together for work, we needed to come over and help.It was a lovely time, even though exhausting and busy! 

We are now home and recovering! DH came back with bronchitis but is getting better. I had a cold or some kind of sinusy-allergy thing which laid me low for a while but I am feeling better today. It may be something to do with being further away from the canola fields in flower!