Monday, June 27, 2016

Luxuries in a simple life

Do you make lists of things you are grateful for? Notice the little luxuries? I find it helps to promote feelings of abundance in a simple life. 
Things like lovely fresh mint on my eggplant, chickpea and tomato bake last night. 
Things like walking on the beach in a winter bright morning, while the other folk are at work. 
Things like the freedom to protest our government policies about asylum seekers during Refugee Week. Although real luxury would be a humane and generous government. Just sayin. 

I am having some days off this week and hope to complete a special quilt. No pictures though. Secret Squirrel! 
See you after the election! 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

It's all Dora's fault!

Here she is looking all innocent!

Dora was a rescue cat with a troubled history. One side effect is that she doesn't groom well, which is made worse by the lovely THICK coat she wears. It gets knotty and she does not tolerate combing by her human servants.

One vet helpfully suggested we get a kind of spray on conditioner for her cost. She hated that too. Now when she brushed against walls or curtains she left black greasy fur. 

In trying to find a way to manage this I bought some unlined IKEA curtains to replace the cream ones which were looking daggy. These new ones 
Wewere almost see-through with the light behind them and we really noticed the lack of insulation. Our lounge room was 2 or 3 degrees colder in the morning then when we had insulated curtains. 

Today I found Textile Traders with a genuine 50% off sale on curtains. So we now have insulated fabric curtains at $250 instead of $500 for the lounge and dining room. That is a big saving! It will help with heating and cooling costs too. 

We don't spray Dora. She lets me brush her a bit. When it gets too much the Vet gives her a sedative and she gets a clip. We have learned how to manage, and she has learned how to live with us too. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Mid winter feast!

We like to mark the Winter solstice with a feast for some friends. As it is cold outside and our dining room is small, we set up a long table in the lounge room. 
DD decorates with candles and greenery on every available surface.

We roasted a leg of lamb in the barbecue, and served it with cauliflower cheese, pumpkin and salad.  DD made an apple and plum crumble for desert.  It wasn't complicated food, but we had pleasure doing it. We sent our guests home with DH's marmalade, fresh limes and grapefruit. From Tuesday the days will get longer!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Improving things -and a puzzled electrician!

We had the electrician in this week to do a few jobs we have been saving up. One of them was to add a timer to the solar hot water system booster. This winter we  I have had some rather chilly showers because we haven't got the 'turning off and turning on the booster during the day when the solar array is most active" thing going as a routine. We are pleased to have this now as an automatic 4 hours in the middle of the day. Our young electrician was most bemused however, as he couldn't understand why we wanted the booster on during the day, rather than at night just before the morning shower routine. I think he was struggling to get his head around the 'use your own power first" idea that comes with solar panel ownership.

The Science Show on RN was on the topic of solar power and battery storage. Here is the link. Just as soon as battery storage gets a bit more affordable, we would love to have even more chance to 'use our own power first". The show points out that there is still some resistance among power companies to the whole idea of battery storage AND being connected to the grid for those weeks when the clouds just don't allow the home owner to make enough power and store it for all their needs. I am confident this will change as power companies realise that they are saving money by not building more power stations. We need to do this for the climate! 

The hot water booster is not a problem for our budget, as we get free hot water for most of the year, so having to turn on the booster during the winter months in Perth is not a big deal for us-especially if we can use our own energy wherever possible! We will gradually cut back the number of hours that the booster is on, as we move past the winter solstice and the days get longer with the sun higher in the sky, thus making the solar hot water system more efficient.

We finally got the electrician to put up a new light fitting over the piano -only about 15 years since we needed it! It is using a LED light globe just like most of them we have in this house now.  DH is very happy because there is no shadow on music books which are on the piano ledge any more!

I have been out in the garden today setting up a new wicking bed in a large but damaged plastic pot. I lined it with black plastic, and used the crack in the side of the pot for the overflow pipe bung- it is a bit high up the side of the pot, but I hope the veggies I want to grow will manage, without it turning into a lake when it rains. I have planted broad beans and spinach-fingers crossed that they come up! If you would like some instructions on making a wicking bed try this helpful post  and this YouTube clip .

I am happy to have kept this large plastic pot out of the landfill. It gives us an extra veggie garden bed, and saved us the cost of purchasing a raised garden tub -we have three of these already. It would have been a squeeze to add another complete tub, as I wanted to just use a small corner of the garden near the citrus trees. That is a saving of about $200!

Talking of citrus trees: I tried a new winter salad on some Friday guests -using two of our grapefruit cut up with no pith or membrane, added to finely sliced fennel and home grown parsley and mint. Served on a bed of spinach leaves, it was a refreshing crunch to the vegetarian quiche I made. The salad is simply dressed with grapefruit juice and olive oil.

I am thinking of freezing some lime zest as we have quite a good crop. I have frozen lemon zest in the past but heard a story on the radio about a lime farmer who was making lime salt with zest, and also selling frozen zest to restaurants. The story said the farm was also making lime-and-chilli cordial, which was proving quite popular too! Some of the limes will go in gift bags to our guests at next week's Winter Feast, which we are now planning. It feels so good to be able to share our abundance like this!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Winter activities

We have been working in the garden for the last couple of weekends now. The gentler weather inspires it, and the winter weeds demand it! I have been chopping back the trees and roses in the front garden to let more light in, and to generally make sure we can reach any fruit we get.

The roses have had a haircut, rather than a proper pruning. The Iceberg had got so large it was in danger of being blown over, and was making it hard to get to the letterbox.

We removed a lot of weeds from the back garden, and are thinking about putting in a brick or concrete path to the washing line. We have been using mulch as a path but of course it breaks down and then the weeds come up. We would like something more permanent but will think of options.

I have been puzzled by the lack of growth in our big garden bed near the dining room. A few weeks ago, I tested the soil and added lime as it was a bit acidic, and today I have tried to cut back the bottlebrush on the western side, to let more light to it. I have added trace elements to the soil. Not happy to have this garden unproductive, so I will keep working on it until it is back in production again.

Last week, The WA Symphony Orchestra was selling cheap tickets for three shows- so we snapped them up. Last night we were treated to the gifted pianist Behzod Abduraimov who was amazing. Our cheap seat turned out to be right in the front row, but our view was obstructed by the violinists so we could not see all the stage. We could see Behzod, however !  The music was wonderful!

I have been working on a special quilt for someone, so no pictures as yet. Enough to say it has now got to the flimsy stage and I must put a backing together this week.

Finally DH and I have had some ideas about next financial year's budget. We have solved our 'miscellaneous" problem  -the one caused by us paying cash for things but not remembering what we bought -by using our cards for just about everything. The next habit we are going to develop is to restrict spending to just three days per week: Groceries only on Mondays and Fridays, and trips to Bunnings only on Saturdays! We hope to be more deliberate when we are in the store and to plan ahead more.