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.