Sunday, December 31, 2017

Enjoying the summer of 2018

Summer in Perth Western Australia

  • Blue, blue skies nearly every day. 
  • The sound of frogs at night. 
  • Gum trees are shedding their bark and emerging all white and smooth 
  • Rosellas and 28 parrots munching the last of the mulberries
  • Watering the vegetables from the water tank -level dropping each day. 
  • Going down to Fremantle on the train, for a fish and chip lunch on the foreshore
  • Still harvesting blueberries from our bushes 
  • It is too hot for lettuce to grow, but I am cultivating mizuna, sorrel and sweet potatoes to add to salad leaves from the shop, along with basil for pesto. 
  • The passionfruit have started dropping from the vine -they are so yummy with our yoghurt in the morning 
  • Putting the shiny sunshade on the windshield of the car, otherwise it is too hot to hold the steering wheel when you get back in
  • Knowing that it is better to park in the shade than to park near the shops
  • The quinces are getting bigger and the olives are fattening nicely
  • Watching the pomegranates for the sign of them ripening
  • Picking tomatoes from our own bush
  • I am now doing the quilting on my bargello quilt. 
The other day my DH commented that the supermarkets had lemons on sale from California for $6.50 per kilo. We both shook our head in dismay. Who doesn't have a lemon tree in their backyard, which is now laden with lemons? If they don't have one of their own, don't they have a friend or relative with one? It seems like many of us have been disconnected from our seasons so we don't know what is ripe and in season-otherwise why would anyone pay such a price for fruit which is so abundant in this climate? The local growers have them in the growers markets at considerably cheaper prices. 

Speaking of lemons, the Eureka in the front yard is doing just what we wanted it to do -supply us with sharp, juicy, thick skinned lemons in summer. They are huge and heavy! Meanwhile we have been netting and bagging the grapes on the vines to try to get some of the fruit for our own use -but the birds have got a few bunches left out for them to snack on. It is a matter of concern for Dora that the birds turn up each morning. She sits on the small table near my sewing machine, which is up high enough for her to keep a surreptitious eye out for the birds, without them noticing that she is there. 

I have been trying to harvest fennel seeds -we use the fennel tops and seeds here for cooking, but I am yet to work out an easy way of getting the seeds separated from the stalks. Anyway, I have about a cupful, which will be good in our salads and bread.

We travelled up to New Norcia for the ecumenical carols on the 30th. This is such a lovely thing to do -carols without the pressure of the pre-Christmas rush, so that we can just enjoy the beauty of the New Norcia environment and the music and the words.

The festivities are over and the year is full of possibilities. Must get back into having some people over for lunches and dinners, whilst the outside is such a pleasant place to be! 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Making connections

The fourth candle is lit and tomorrow is Christmas Day. 

I started this blog on Anzac Day in  2008, as I began my journey into simple living. I wanted to document our story, and truly it is a wonderful resource and archive. When I look back I am amazed at how far we have come: our first raised garden bed, the day we were so excited when the solar panels arrived, the various attempts to improve my bread making (still a work in progress), the family celebrations and significant events.

Over the years the blog has found some friends, too. It is such a gift to have a comment left on the blog from someone who has read and appreciated what I have written or commented upon we are doing here. Not all the readers leave comments, though, and that is just fine.  I am a faithful blog reader too, and don't always make comments on the posts of others. 

I always learn things from blogs, and feel such strong connections with those who write them. You can see my favorites on the blog roll on the right.  

When DH and I were young, we lived a long way from our families. The only way we could be in contact was by an operator connected STD phone call from a phone booth on our college grounds -we didn't have a home phone until we graduated. 

Now my son, daughter in law and grandchildren are living in another state, but we use FaceTime and Facebook live and Messenger to keep in touch with each other frequently. Today we watched little DGD2 being dedicated at church. The vision was great, and it is amazing to think that they could get that signal from country Victoria to Perth Western Australia in pretty much real time. 

I added a battery operated light in among the straw in our nativity scene. 

Dora is too sophisticated to wear a Christmas hat

There will be no embarrassing cat photos on this blog! Here she is, however, sitting on my unfinished and only pinned together quilt. After Christmas I am going to evict her and get the quilting done. I am often very productive after Christmas, as the whole of life slows down and gives plenty of time to get things done. 

Meanwhile, I want to wish you a very happy Christmas. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Decluttering and bread making while the garden grows

The third week of Advent and Christmas is approaching fast, but we mostly feel under control -presents have been organised, cards sent, and festivities begun with the usual end-of-year events.

There are two other things going on around here, one is that I have been experimenting with refining my bread making techniques, and the other is a growing tidal wave of decluttering.

Regarding the decluttering -the new lounge room cabinets liberated a chest of drawers that was used to store craft supplies.  It turned out to be just the right size to fit next to my bed, which until then had only had a bedside table, without drawers. I love being able to put everything away -and there is plenty of room to store my extensive collection of op shop scarves, too. I like the look of the drawers -neat and tidy.

DH was inspired so we measured the rest of the space in the room and were happy to realise that there was room for the same unit on the other side of the bed -and off we went to IKEA buy one for him- they are called Alex and are in the office section of the store. The shallow drawers are great for keeping books and medicines  near the bed. DH is talking about painting the whole bedroom -he is feeling really good about the opportunity it gives to update and refresh everything.

This in turn has led to him taking a keen eye to clutter in his study. The former bedside tables are now side tables in his study, and go nicely with the new photo frames he has been setting up to refresh the decor. The study is a work in progress, because the lead-up to Christmas is a busy time for him. I think that once Christmas is over, he will be happily pottering away on making this place work better and look better.

I have been continuing to tidy up too. DH mentioned that he was feeling the front porch was looking tired, so we rearranged and changed some things there too, to make a less cluttered and spacious entrance to our home. I moved the seed trolley to the back yard -now that I am not working it is easier for me to keep an eye on it there. The mulch is all spread, the roses have been fed and dead-headed and all the junk is gone. The only thing left to do is to get rid of some weeds in the brick paving - I have ordered a special tool for that, which should make it easier to achieve. Have you ever wondered how weeds in dry and hot brick paving seem so indestructible? I can't imagine there are many plants which could survive our baking hot sun  and dry weather, but these things are determined to take over the whole driveway. I am likewise determined that they will not!

Bread making

My sourdough technique has been improved by the use of an overnight first proving of the dough -and also by cooking the dough 'under the dome' of my roasting pan. The result is that the bread is more spongy with good sized air holes and has a thinner but crisp crust. Read my bread recipe and technique here 

The garden is looking great at the moment. Summer production is under way! We feel as though our garden has done a lot of maturing this year, and is now a micro-climate of its own, which is bringing good results in the production of food. Our place looks so lush when others in the street are a bit dry and bare.

Our pomegranates are coming along -not a huge crop, but growing nicely. This one will be cherry red and about the size of a baseball when ripe.

The kalamata olive is in production. 

The grapes on the trellis are ripening. 

The biggest crop is the passionfruit however -there are so many fruits on it just now! 

We are getting good sized Eureka lemons this year, which is confirming we made the right decision to plant the tree to supplement the Meyer lemon out the back. The Meyer lemons come all at once, but the Eureka is more of a continuous cropper. I can't imagine being without a lemon tree or two. Lemons are $4.50 each in the shops! I have a plan to make Nigella's Lemon and Thyme Bundt Cake for Christmas -as we have lots of lemons and thyme. I will probably serve it with some yummy icecream, out on the patio. The forecast for Perth for Christmas day at the moment is 29C, which should be just about perfect. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Living room update-just in time for Christmas

Our new bookcases are in position, and the giant cull of books has happened.  It was difficult to let books go, but we acknowledged that some of the books were just 'there' for no good reason, so they are going off to a local college which holds a book sale annually.

We are all getting used to the 'grown up' look of this room now. With its leather couches and the hearth and bookcases, we are all a bit 'British colonial" in style, I think. We really like this version of our room now.

You will notice that we have our Christmas stockings hanging up -but I haven't made one for DGS2 yet, so there will finally be 8 up there. 

We have gone with non-traditional gold candles for the Advent wreath this year.

The plate is a Royal Doulton one that DD found in her op shop, and the Advent wreath is one I bought many years ago now. The cherries are from Devonport (one holiday when we visited the Cherry Shed) and the holly came from a florist supply shop which closed down some years ago. The sand is from the grandkids' sandpit! 

This display cabinet arrived today. DD is using it to store her craft supplies. Now that she knows everything fits, the next thing will be to make it nice to look at, through that gorgeous bevelled glass. I think she has some boxes in mind, which will bring her stuff together. 

 This cabinet sits in a curious alcove in the room -we think that the original house was designed in typical 1973 style to have a 'bar area' in the lounge room. We don't want a bar area, but it tucks the piano  and the craft cupboard away nicely. 

The nativity which spells 'peace' is a charming addition to our decorations this year. We bought it in the Blue Mountains on holiday. 

The dresser in the dining room is looking festive with two table-top trees and a nativity in a distinctly Russian looking style. 

Our nativity in the shed DH made for it. The disco ball is a long-standing family tradition, which started when DS and DD thought the Angel in the background looked like he was doing the disco The Christmas bauble looks just like a disco ball, and thus a tradition was made. 

These little Ikea book shelves are just right for the ever-changing displays of seasonal icons. At the moment we have the Annunciation and the Birth of Jesus, with a cute little picture on the top shelf of Mary in bed reading, whilst Joseph is minding the baby. It was a Christmas card sent by a friend, and I was completely charmed by it, so I kept it. 

The red candle is battery operated, so safe to leave on, and the wrought iron candle holder came from DD's op shop, where it had sat for weeks with no-one wanting it. DD got it for very cheap during Volunteer's Week, as they had a special discount for volunteers. 

My lovely treadle sewing machine is hidden inside her cabinet, and instead we are displaying my Auntie's immaculate 1930s machine, behind my "Stargazy" advent calendar quilt. Santa seems to have made friends with a pokemon!

The decorating and culling is continuing here. DH has some ideas for a revamp of his study and I have installed a different bedside cabinet next to my bed. There has also been a general tidy up outside -the entrance is now clear of old wooden pallets DH had thought to use in his workshop, but they weren't very nice wood so they went to the recycle centre. I finished spreading the mulch, so the tarpaulin has gone from the front driveway too. Now all we need is a suitable 'flamethrower' type gadget to be delivered, so we can remove the persistent weeds from the brick paving, and we will be so unbelievably smart!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Playing with water -my quilt is under construction

Here is my quilt "Playing with Water" on my design wall. The centre panel is Japanese and is called "koi at the waterfall". I found it in Melbourne, when my good friend B showed me a couple of special fabric shops she knew.

I wanted to create a quilt with the feeling of water and sunlight, so I made my first ever Bargallo style quilt blocks. My Accuquilt Go fabric cutter was very helpful, as it gives accurate long strips to sew together, and then cross cut into the blocks. I am sure it helped greatly with this quilt.

It is hard to photograph the colours accurately. The panel is navy with a grey-blue accent fish and a deep red fish. I am planning a small gray border and a red binding to pick up these accents.

The quilt may have to wait a week or so for more work to be done on it: I have a new Christmas stocking to make. Each year I hang stockings for us all, even though some of the family are far away. This year we were blessed with a new grandchild, so DGS2 needs his own stocking to add to this display.

Our new bookshelves are due today too, so we will be busy rearranging our books and CDs for a while, and generally getting the house back in order.  There is one more cabinet to come, but that will be several weeks yet.

More pictures when the bookcases are in! 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Lounge Room Update

It wasn't planned, as such, but this week we got inspired by the update we had made to the dining room, which can be seen from the lounge room, through two arches. We would like a similar update for the lounge room.

I had decided that the trusty IKEA Billy Bookcases had been useful, but were looking tired and the white finish was really out of sync with the rest of the lounge room.

Here they are in previous times, doing what Billy book cases have always done-providing a cheap and effective storage solution on either side of the fire place. Note the picture on the wall -more of that frame later!

 We tried several times to get a carpenter to build us some built-ins, but the vents for the gas heater were a problem in the design. No-one would even give us a quote!

A week ago I finally made the decision to buy some ready-made shelves. They are in oak finish and have two drawers at the bottom. They will be delivered the week after next.  In Western Australia, we often have to wait for things to be delivered from 'over East", and these are coming via Melbourne port and then on a truck across the Nullabor!

DH saw the delay as an opportunity to paint the room. We had put this off, because we were looking for replacement doors for the 1970s glass doors which lead from the entry into the room. They were looking very tired and very yellow. Confession: in 20 years of living here, we had never repainted the trim on these doors. They were pretty sad looking. Finding new doors which would go with the house -and in particular the entry doors we replaced a few years ago, was quite a headache, however. We had looked at salvaged doors but these weren't right in style for us. I had found a place which could make new doors but was not sure about a design. We decided to paint the room this week anyway -and figure out the doors later!

Now, you perhaps would like a 'before picture" but because we didn't like the doors, we have no pictures of them alone. Here is one just on the right side of the picture below.

Suddenly, we were packing boxes and moving things out. DH did a great job of painting the walls and ceiling. He even spray painted the ceiling fan blades white.  It has taken most of the week to do.

At one point I had a crazy idea -what if we painted the door paint trim charcoal, like the colour of the curtains and many other decorative touched in the room? If it improved things, maybe we could live with the doors, until the right replacements came up. DH wasn't sure, but did eventually agree.

We are not professional painters, and the doors were not easy to paint but the  result was better than we both expected.


The dark colour has brought out darker tones in the glass, and the dark frames pick up the colours of the gas heater, curtains, coffee table, sewing machine and even my quilt. They no longer seem to clash with everything here.

Here is the fireplace wall, waiting for the new shelves to appear. It looks pretty empty right now!

Do you see the new picture on the wall? I found it in an op shop in a dreadful frame. I took the print out and had a framer make a new matt and put it back into the frame which used to hang here. The new fresh look has brightened up this wall.

What did it cost so far? Paint (but not labour -both DH and myself in packing up and painting and putting things back), new matt for the old frame probably a couple of hundred dollars. Saving by not replacing the doors -several thousand dollars! Even if I count the cost of the new shelves (which were on sale and several hundred dollars each discounted) we are still ahead. A bonus is that the old doors get to live here rather than in a salvage yard or even in landfill. 

We are all pretty tired and achy just now, but pleased with our efforts.

I should have some time to concentrate on my new quilt in the week coming up, so I hope to have some pictures of progress next week.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Summer days already!

This is our favourite beach, which is called Mullaloo It is about 10 minutes drive from our place. Each year we know it is summer when we can get down to the water's edge and walk on hard sand with our shoes off. In winter you can't do it -the beach is narrow and steep, but summer changes everything- the beach gets wider and flatter.

 We walk here as often as we can -early in the morning before it is too hot. About an hour to walk to the rocks and back, then home for coffee and the rest of our day.  We have done this three times since last Friday!

The weather suddenly turned into summer a week ago. It had been very wet, then suddenly we had 36 degrees Celsius, we were wearing short sleeves and putting the ceiling fans on.

The shade sails had to go back up around the house.

We are very pleased with the way our grapevines are growing over the pergola on the north side of the house, and creating cool green shade over our windows.  These grapevines have only been here about 18 months. I expect that, the way they are growing, we will have full shade cover in about two weeks or so.  This will provide natural air cooling over the summer, but still let winter sun in.

There are bunches of grapes forming too! 

The jasmine on the back fence by the patio is perfumed and lush at the moment.

Dora needed to go to the vet for her check-up. After winter she always has a few knotty bits in her fur near the base of her spine -she just can't manage that part of the grooming task. The vet cut off the knots -but was able to leave most of her fur on. She looks OK from this angle! 

I added a finished quilt to my page here .  This was a very special project and I have had a lot of kind thoughts expressed to me in response to it. I have a new project on my design wall, but before I can start cutting things out I need to do a bit of maths and get the project planned out carefully.

As it is summer we are turning our thoughts to everything cool and summery. This wonderful book 'Honey from a Weed'  by Patience Gray is so much more than a cook book- is full of inspiration in the ways we can use our locally grown foods in new ways. Here in Perth our climate is similar to the Mediterranean -we can grow citrus, pomegranates, fennel, olives, thyme and rosemary, for example. If your library can get you a copy- I recommend it thoroughly.

 Another thing full of inspiration is the SBS new series of Food Safari . I get so inspired by the ways we can create simple and nourishing food using the cuisines of our world, brought to us by Australia's rich refugee and migrant cultures. Tonight I am going to make a noodle soup with tofu baked in the oven, and served with bean sprouts (home sprouted) and crispy fried onions. This will use some of my newly growing warrigal greens . Fabulously nutritious food which costs very little.

We are so lucky to live so close to this coast! If you are looking for us over the next few months, I suggest you start here!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dining room update

One of the things that makes me cross about our market driven society, is that things which are still perfectly useful, are suddenly declared 'out of fashion' and therefore we are influenced to think of throwing them away and buying new things which are pretty much identical to the old things, but perhaps a different colour. Not only is that an expensive thing to do, but so wasteful for our planet.

I have explained previously how I wanted to refresh the dining room at our place, but felt that the table and buffet were strongly made and worth keeping. In today's style guides though, they are the wrong colour.

My solution has been to replace the pine chairs with new white ones. The old chairs went to the op shop. We moved the dresser to another wall, and restyled it with my prettiest blue and white or pink and white china. I have retired the Arnotts biscuit tins which had been featured on the top. I also sent to the op shop some other pieces which were taking up space and making clutter.

DH did a lovely job this week of repainting the walls, door and door frames and the window ledge. We took down all the china plates, and that had left holes in the walls we wanted to fill. Things get tired after a while, and the door frames in particular had become chipped. 

The wooden window ledge is now shiny again, perfect for when our cat Dora wants to sit and breathe the air through the open window. 

Then I went looking for a new buffet. In the past we had a chest of drawers in this room but it was too high to be useful for an extra serving space, and was coming to the end of its life anyway.

The chest of drawers went to the op shop too. 

We are lucky to have found the perfect thing to replace them! 

The top is the same colour of wood as my ancient pine table and buffet, but it picks up the white of the chairs and the china, to make it all seem like it fits in! The doors are framed in the same way as the dresser, and the knobs are the same shape too! 

I am now in the final stages of refinishing the art for the walls. We are waiting on a tool to be delivered, which will help us fix the back of the picture frames securely.  Meanwhile these two delightful originals can sit here, leaning against the wall  -in the modern manner! 

We are all feeling happy about this makeover so far, and are inspired to keep going in refreshing more spaces in our home. There is a problematic store of stationary which is going to be culled next! 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Community building

I have been involved in community groups all my adult life. I have been the initiator of some, volunteered in others, taken roles as diverse as Chairperson or President, secretary, treasurer, and coordinator of volunteers. In some cases I was a paid employee of a not for profit association, in other cases I was a volunteer.

Now that I am retired, it is natural that being part of a community group would be included in my mix of volunteer activities. I have a long standing relationship with CARAD -the Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees here in Perth, but my volunteer role there came to a natural end last weekend. There may be other opportunities for me there in the future of course.

I thought I might move in another direction for the next little while, so I went to the West Australian Quilters' Association AGM last week, and was duly appointed to the editor role of their printed quarterly magazine. I have done something like this in my professional life -although the last 20 years have been about on-line publishing rather than in hard copy. They needed someone, I thought I could do it, and so the whirlwind has begun -an edition needs to be in the hands of members by the first week in December, so I am working with the current editor on this as we effect a hand over of responsibility. It is a great way to meet people!

 I have joined the Community Quilters group which is part of this large and active association, which makes quilts for donation to a variety of organisations supporting individuals in need. They run quilting bees every two months, and in between time the Sewing Days make blocks and people donate their quilts, and fabrics, and the end result was over 1000 quilts were donated in the last financial year -an enormous effort.

I just hope that I can keep some time for the other activities I love to do, including creating my own quilts. This one below has got to the stage of putting the borders on. It is made of shirt fabric and will be given to the widow of the man whose shirts have gone into the quilt, as a memory quilt.

Not all of the shirts were cotton, and the construction of the top has caused some concern, but it has gone together well enough so I really want to move on and finish this up. Trouble is, I keep doing fun things and not staying home long enough to sew much!

For example, we have enjoyed lots of fun days with the grandchildren and their parents whilst they were in Perth recently. Precious times 

Then the sun came out and spring arrived, so of course we had to get back into our beach walks! 

Then there are the obligatory days making bread, or cakes, or gardening. The garden is amazing at the moment, so full of life. It is beginning to look 'full' -everything growing into everything else.

The quince tree is covered in blossom, so I am hoping that this year the storms won't blow the blossom away, and that we can protect it from pests so that we can have those huge, heavy fragrant quinces to play with in autumn.

Life is good, and I am grateful. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Planning a new kitchen

My kitchen was remodelled when we first moved in, over 20 years ago. We took out the horrible 1970s orange and brown patterned tiles, the batwing doors, the broken wall oven, the brown and orange lino. This blogger has some pictures which remind me of what was here then, but hers is much cuter! 

Our kitchen has done us pretty well for 20 years, and I have enjoyed cooking in it, but lately we have been planning a revamp. Given that I have a goal of living simply, this is a big step which required much thought.

What is wrong with the kitchen? 

  • 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
This week we went out to check out some options for appliances, and DH made a preliminary sketch of the new layout using the IKEA software, so we have now got some idea of what we want to achieve. Presently my stove is in a funny spot between two windows. It only has bench space on one side. We want to move it to the other side of the room. We want a much bigger window and a bench running the whole length of the room.

Something like this plan above. The pantry is in the left hand bottom corner (not shown) and the fridge is the big grey rectangle in the middle. 

Underbench oven with induction cooktop because a small person like me needs to be able to reach over the door . 

I liked the handles and interior of this fridge freezer 

Two bowl sink -in white? not sure. 

The spiders now invading my kitchen are NOT a problem. I hope they visit my new kitchen too. 

This project is both exciting and daunting -there will be a lot of mess before it is done, and some disruption, but if we can get through it, we will have a kitchen to last us another 20 years.