The ever-changing template

Hello readers. I'm changing the template again. I've tried tweaking it but there's no way I can fix the problems some readers are having on phones and tablets. I've reported the issues to the template creator but have had little response, and none at all in the past two days. Please bear with me. I hope to have it fixed today.

Make the most of what you've got

Hardly any of us have the life we dreamed of back when we had time to dream of perfect lives. When you grow up a bit you realise almost nothing is perfect and many things in daily life aren't even close to it.  When I look back on my life, I feel grateful that I've done what I've done, married who I did, gave birth to two fine sons, worked in jobs I found extremely satisfying most of the time, paid off debt before I got weighed down by it and worked out that using common sense to decide the way forward was, hands down, the best option. I'm also very grateful that I made the most of what I had because I think that's one of the main keys to living well and being content.

I fear that nowadays there is a yearning for what's out of reach. Instead of making the most of what we already have, we want what others have and sometimes go into debt to get it. We've forgotten that we can be happy in our own homes and that a life lived in a warm and secure home can set us up for success because we feel cared for and we're not stressed when we go to work and school. That warmth and security isn't a product of materialism and what's in the latest catalogue, it comes from the heart and from people who do the hard yards to encourage and build those feelings and values into families and homes as they mature.

A home is more than a dwelling. A home starts to develop when someone takes the time and puts in the effort to make the house clean, tidy, organised and calm. Over the months that follow, warmth and comfort start to linger as food is cooked at home, aromas greet the family as they come home from school and work, there is cold water in the fridge, hot water for tea or coffee, simple flowers on the table, a candle burning in a jar, and homemade biscuits or cake to be shared. Slowly, a feeling of peace creeps in quietly and fills every part of the home. And even if you're working outside the home, the aroma of a cooked meal can be created each day by being organised enough to prepare a meal in the slow cooker or by serving leftovers that just need heating up. None of this is bought on a credit card - it's all simple stuff made possible by spending time and effort.

Focusing inwards - into your own life, family and home, instead of outwards towards recreational shopping, paid entertainment and increasing debt, can mark a difference in your lifestyle that might change your life. And all these little changes might not look like grand gestures of common sense but they have the potential to provide the comfort and security you've been craving but haven't quite known how to bring into your life.  The trick is to do the things that make you and your family feel cared for. And that can be anything from having clean sheets and a made bed to being brought a cup of tea and being told to put your feet up while the washing up is taken care of. It is that simple.

Even though your children probably won't think of it as a gift, expect them to do their fair share. That starts when they're 2 years old and are encouraged to pick up their toys. You can build on that every year to include more complex tasks. If you have those expectations, when your children are teenagers they'll have the life skills they need to look after themselves; that will give them a feeling of confidence and that they're capable and clever. And despite what they think, having expectations of your children is a way of teaching them and showing your love. You can say "love you" every time you speak on the phone or leave for work, but you'll show your love by teaching them how to be the people they want to be. And that involves time and effort.

Once you start thinking this way, it will be clear to you which small steps will help you make a magnificent difference. It will be the ordinary everyday things, it will be building on what you already have, making minor adjustments in how the work is carried out, asking for help from family members, dropping other things that don't mean much and structuring every day to nurture your life instead of take from it. I can't tell you what will work for you because we're all different, but I do know that once you start thinking this way, and then start implementing your ideas, the way forward will become clearer.  Just make the most of what you've got and build on it every day.

♒︎♒︎♒︎  πŸ ♒︎♒︎♒︎

Thank you for your feedback about the look and functionality of the new template.  I've let the template developer know about the problems you've got and I hope they're fixed soon. If not, I'll change the template again. There is no use carrying on with this one if it's not working for some readers.  Please don't send anymore feedback until I ask for it again.

Dentists, shopping and housework

I have only one photo for you today so I'll lead with that.  After a lot of consideration, I sent in a saliva sample for a DNA profile.  I'm so excited but I'll have to wait because it will be between 6 and 8 weeks before I see the results. I'm having it done through where I have been building my family tree for a number of years. When the result comes back I've given permission to have it matched to other registered members of Ancestry, so I might even find a few new relatives I didn't know about before. I know there are quite a few of you who are interested in genealogy, have you have your DNA profile done?

Thanks for all the feedback on my new template. I appreciate you taking the time to tell me that it's working well for you. Although I'd updated the look of my blog over the years, the template has been unchanged since about 2010. In that time we've seen the introduction of tablets and phones capable of viewing blogs, and it was for that reason I updated to a 2017 template. As usual, I searched for the most simple and uncluttered interface and I made the header myself using It was easy and took less than 5 minutes. My blog is now optimised for viewing on computers, tablets and phones so I hope you have no problems seeing what I want you to see from now on.  

It's going to be a full day for us here.  I took Hanno to the dentist this morning at 7.15 thinking that he would have a tooth extracted. Hanno is on warfarin and had reduced the dosage over the past couple of days.  The dentists wants to be sure of his current reading though so sent him for a blood test this morning and he'll be back in the dentist chair tomorrow for the extraction.  A few years ago Hanno had a tooth removed and he ended up in hospital so we have to be careful. 

Later today I'll drive Shane to the airport and do the grocery shopping on the way home. Hanno and I were going to shop tomorrow but there is a severe tropical cyclone up north and it's predicted to cross the coast just south of Townsville tomorrow morning, then make a left turn, turn into a rain depression and head south - towards us.  So it looks like the week ahead will be very wet and we're hoping to get most of what we have to do done today, Hanno's tooth out tomorrow morning and then we can stay at home, safe and sound.  I hope my fellow Queenslanders, especially those up north, stay safe in the coming hours. Stay at home if you can and keep your family close.

We had a wonderful weekend with Shane, Alex and Eve here. We looked after Eve while Shane and Alex met up with Kerry and Jamie to see the new Lego Batman Movie on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, the movie was booked out and they saw Boss Baby instead.  Alex was all dressed up in his Batman cape and face mask, and he had another cape and mask for Jamie (so cute). I was looking forward to seeing a photo of them sitting there watching the movie.  It's Jamie's birthday on Friday, he'll be six years old. Wow, time flies eh? I'm making a Minecraft cake for him this year. Stay tuned to see how that turns out. πŸ˜‰

I'd best get a wriggle on. I want to do a few chores before Shane arrives. We have leftovers for lunch so I only have to heat and serve but the rest of the day will be busy. Hopefully I can get through all my plans so we can stay at home most of the day tomorrow. 

Finished for the moment

Here is that look from Gracie again.

Thanks for being patient while I reorganised the blog. I still have some minor tweaks to make but the majority of it is done. I hope you like it.  I think it's much easier to read. It might have seemed to take a while but I was doing other things - like housework - as well. We have Shane and the kids coming over tomorrow so there were beds to make and ironing to put away. I've done some cooking too so there are healthy snacks in the fridge when someone says: "I'm hungry, grandma."

I hope you have a good weekend. It looks like it will rain on and off here but I won't be complaining about the - I love the rain.  See you next week. πŸ”

A new look

As you can see I've started using a new template but I can't configure it exactly how I want it. I'll be working on it again tomorrow. Please bear with me. It will look much better very soon. (I hope.) 😧

Rye bread with buttermilk starter - UPDATED

I made this rye and spelt loaf yesterday. Hanno said it's as good as the one from the German baker.  Woohoo!

Hello dear readers.

I'm back into my bread routine although I'm not baking bread every day, which is what I used to do. Now we eat our main meal at lunchtime and we don't need bread for sandwiches. This is a dense bread if you make it with rye and spelt - very much like traditional rye bread. It will be lighter if you add white or wholemeal flour instead of the spelt. Hanno likes a slice or two of good bread in the late afternoon which he eats with cheese, ham or smoked salmon. I had a slice of this last night with cheese and chilli jam. It was delicious.

It's important to use clean hands and clean utensils for this recipe.  If you don't, you may introduce yeast or bacteria you don't want in the dough. You'll need clean bowls, measuring spoons and jugs and it's a good extra precaution to sterilise the jar you make the starter in. By using only the cleanest equipment, you'll end up with a very good dough that will bake well.

I used a buttermilk starter dough to make this loaf and that was made by mixing one cup of rye flour with ¾ cup of buttermilk in a jar that can hold about 3 cups. Make sure you mix it well with a spoon because the starter needs oxygen. I left the open jar on the kitchen bench all day, at night I put it in the fridge. That slows down the fermentation and allows flavour to develop.  Give it a good stir each morning when you take it out of the fridge. It's ready to use when you can see it's fermenting and bubbly. It takes between two to three days here but it will depend on the temperature in your kitchen.  Please don't worry if the starter takes three or four days because the longer it takes the better the flavour will be. If, after three days, you see no activity, smell the starter and if it smells okay just add ¼ teaspoon dry yeast to the mix and stir. You should see fermentation start a few hours later.

1 cup spelt flour - you can use white or wholemeal if you don't have spelt
2 cups rye flour
water - enough to make the dough come together**
2 teaspoons salt - I use pink rock salt - optional*
1 tablespoon molasses or brown sugar - optional*
1 teaspoon caraway seeds - optional*
all the starter

*All the optional ingredients add a lot of flavour to the dough, use or omit depending on your taste and health requirements. I always use all of them.

Add your ingredients to a bread machine, adding about 50mls of water. Add the starter and start the machine on the dough setting.  Check the dough after about a minute and add more water, bit by bit, until the dough comes together in a sticky ball.

When the cycle is finished, place the dough on a floured board, knead for a minute or two to make sure the consistency is right. It needs to be a firm dough because it won't be baked in a bread tin. Set the dough aside in a greased bowl or a banneton covered with a clean tea towel and allow it to rise.  If you use rye and spelt it won't rise much, if you use white or wholemeal, which contain more gluten, it will rise but not as much as your normal white loaf. I baked my loaf after 60 minutes but this will depend on the temperature in your kitchen.  Don't rush it by leaving it in a warm place, take your time and allow the flavours to develop - this is slow bread. Rye is always a sticky dough, so if it sticks to your hands, you're doing it right.

Preheat your oven to 220C/430F and prepare a baking tray with baking paper.  When the dough has risen, plop the dough onto the baking tray and put it in the oven.  After 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to 190C/375F and bake for about another 20 minutes.  The loaf is ready when it smells like bread and there is a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of the loaf.

If you're looking for a healthy loaf with flavour and fibre, this is for you. I hope you try it. I'd love to hear how you go with it, so let me know.

I've changed this last paragraph because I used the wrong link.  Here is a recipe for soft rolls like a brioche roll. I'll write about the other link soon.  Happy baking everyone!  πŸ‘©‍🍳πŸ₯–πŸ‘¨‍🍳

** this post was updated because I left out the water component.

24 hours here

My daily life is so familiar to me and it makes so much sense that I think it must be normal for everyone to live as we do. It's only when I go out, or read about how others live that I know that living like this is far from what is normal now. I'm not saying our way of life is better because I see many people living lives of productivity and purpose. It is the best way for us though and that's all I need to know. I believe the workings of anyone's life are determined primarily by mindset, the stage of life you're at, by personal circumstances and responsibilities. My life used to be harder but we're in a different season now, we have different priorities and, most importantly, we have a different mindset. Now that we have worked enough to buy a house and what we need to fill it, we use hard work, creativity, thrift, organisation, management, responsibility and a sense of purpose to maintain and conserve what we've worked for.

The shade structure came down, salvias and old herbs removed and the first new plants went in.

Gone are the days when I went out and worked for a living. Now I'm happy to stay here and work to maintain the life we have built. This was yesterday:

3.30am - 10am: 
I was up and dressed, checked the weather radar, emails and comments. 
Read a few pages of The Guardian and some Mary Oliver poems. 
Talked to Gracie, rubbed her tummy and organised some yarn and knitting needles. 
Fed Gracie outside and let the chickens out.  Looked around the garden, took some cuttings from my blue salvia and potted them up.
Jamie arrived at 6.45. I talked to him, cooked breakfast and tidied the kitchen.
Made the bed.
Sat on the back verandah, listened to Macca on the radio and talked to Hanno about the new garden.
Hanno started planting out the parsley seedlings from the bush house as well as thyme, basil and oregano bought at the local co-op yesterday. These are the first of our new season plantings.
Organised the spices and nuts that I bought at the co-op on Friday.
Made a rye bread starter that I'll probably use tomorrow.
Made a banana cake.
When the cake was baked, we had morning tea.

Very moist banana cake with flaked almond topping.
Rye starter sitting on the kitchen bench collecting airborne yeasts.
From the co-op - black mustard seeds, Madras curry powder, flaked almonds and celery seeds.

Before noon:
Watched the rain fall from the back verandah.
Blanched cabbage leaves for the cabbage rolls we were having for lunch. Left them to drain and cool.
Made pork filling for cabbage rolls.
Started writing this blog post.
Helped Jamie with his spelling - he was working through the Spelling Eggs program on the computer.
Made and cooked lunch.

Cleaned the kitchen.
Iced a piece of banana cake for Jamie to take home for school lunches.
Packed a serving of cabbage rolls, herb and onion mashed potato and gravy for Sunny to have for her dinner at home.
Spoke to a friend on the phone.
Knitted in front of the TV watching recorded programs. I usually watched recorded TV because I can fast forward and ignore the advertising.
Jamie went home.
Checked laundry supplies to see if anything is running low.

Checked if there was anything needed in the laundry. This stick is a spurtle I bought from an antique shop a few years ago in Glen Innes, a country town which hosts a popular Scottish Festival. It's probably stirred a lot of porridge over the years, but here it's always been my soaking stick.

Made tea and toast and watched the TV news.
End of day.  Went to sleep around 7pm, was up again at 10ish, messaged with a friend on the computer while I read the papers.
Added recipes to my Paprika app. Looked at some webcams. Back to bed just after midnight.

Up at 4am.
Today I'll clean both bathrooms but this morning will be devoted to ironing which I allowed to build up over the past few hot weeks. I hope to get through it all and put it away today. Lunch is leftovers, I hope to knit and prune plants this afternoon.
And now I'll publish this post so you know I'm still here, still working, still smiling and still feeling grateful for all we have.

I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.  πŸ’

Weekend reading

I have had a truly wonderful week. There is more separation between me and the internet and I'm hatching plans for the vegetable garden and projects in my home.  It's a very good place to be in. I have the time and inclination to fluff up my nest and it feels like the right thing for us, especially at the beginning of autumn.  Now that I'm spending less time online, I have fewer links to share for my weekend reads. Consequently, I won't be doing weekend reading every week in the coming months, it will be when I have enough links to share. That might be once a month or once a fortnight. I'll just play it by ear. I know this will disappoint some readers but I'm going through a period of transition and change is always a part of that.  The only constant is that my blog will continue.  I enjoy it so much and it is my window into the world and to you, even though that window is shrinking somewhat. 

I hope you enjoy your weekend and, like me, appreciate the changing of the seasons. Thanks for your visits, I'll see you again next week, friends.  ☘️

Into the woods: how one man survived alone in the wilderness for 27 years
Free boat neck top pattern + Tutorial
TsimanΓ© of the Bolivian Amazon have world's healthiest hearts
A woman who retired at 28 with $2 million in the bank explains how she saved 70% of her income
Just one cookbook - Japanese home cooking

Gracie news and photos

So many readers have been asking for more Gracie news and photos. She's seven months old now and she's healthy, active and very mischievous, which seems to be a trait most Scotties have in common.  I think she may have quiet a few crocodile genes because she can eat anything at any time. We've had to stop giving her anything plastic because she chews it up and eats little pieces of plastic. Hanno bought her two frisbees and she demolished one in the first 10 minutes she had it. So that was the last bit of play plastic she'll be given.  Now she has balls, her blankie a couple of old shoes and those rubbery chew toys you can hide food in.

Generally she's a joy to be around and she's very much a people dog. She likes sitting next to either Hanno or me and she'll follow us around as we work, but she's completely happy to sleep by herself in her little bed in the lounge room when we go to bed.
We had her coat stripped back for summer and I think we'll do that every year. She was clipped in November and now her coat, skirt and fluffy legs (her furnishings) are showing signs of growing back to keep her warm in winter.
We had her spayed 5 weeks ago when she was 6 months old. After the operation, she was tired, floppy and off her food for 24 hours, and she didn't lay in her normal frogger mode for about 10 days, but now she's back to normal.
We're still working on her diet. She didn't like the cooked food I made for her when she was a little puppy and she's on a combination of raw chicken wings, tuna and Black Hawke biscuits. Just this week I started giving her the homemade food that I froze and now she likes it. I'll make her some again when it gets a bit colder and she wants something warm.  When I get it sorted out, I'll write a post about what she's eating.

It was a big step for us to go from Airedale Terriers to Scotties but we're so happy we have Gracie. She's a real scallywag and she's keeping us on our toes but maybe that's what we need at the moment. If you're thinking of buying a small dog, Scottish Terriers are hard to find but they are well worth the effort.  They're a great family dog, they love kids and they're very protective of their family. ❤️

A pictorial ramble through my jars

Over the years I have learned to love jars. I'm not just talking about the pristine goodness of a new box of Fowlers or Mason jars arriving in the mail but also recycled jars of all shapes and sizes. I love bottles too. I'm probably preaching to the choir here because I think many of us have discovered how thrifty, practical and convenient recycled jars and bottles can be in our simple kitchens and laundries.  But instead of writing about the benefits of recycling and building up a treasure trove of jars and bottles, why don't i just show you some photos from past years, as well as some new photos, showing what I'm doing with these glass containers that just keep on giving.

These wide-mouth, red check jars are my favourite recycled jar. They last for years of repeated boiling and vinegar liquids, they're easy to wash and they hold a convenient amount - 1 cup, 250mls.
 I store my dry pantry supplies in jars of all sizes. 

And of course, there is all the lemon butter, pickled vegetables, jams and sauces I've made over the years. Some are stored in purchased jars, most are in recycled jars.  As long as the lid and seal are undamaged, they're good to use again.

Don't forget the fresh juices and cordials. Every year we squeeze lemons, oranges and passionfruit from our garden and store a lot of it in the freezer in plastic bottles.  Below is some raspberry cordial I made last year. That went into glass bottles and was stored in the cupboard.

I make a lot of yoghurt and sour cream and that is stored in jars and kept in the fridge.  Above is sour cream, below, yoghurt.

The whey left over from various dairy foods is also stored in a jar and kept in the fridge until I use it in my baking.  
 Chicken stock is stored in litre jars.
Two unusual uses for jars - saving seeds at the end of the growing year. Some seeds are stored in sealed envelopes in the fridge, these seeds were used within a few weeks of being saved so they spent that time in a jar.   Below is sun-infused calendula oil I use to make soap.  It's in an old coffee jar.

Here are my work horse jars. This one above is my liquid soap, my first and only batch. During part of the days-long process of making it, it was stored in this huge jar.
 Many of us use jars to store our sour dough starters. 
 Or fill up jars and bottles with homemade laundry liquid and give it away to friends and neighbours.

They're handy when you need a small container for craft items.
And finally, ginger beer plant fermenting in the kitchen. 

And where do I store all these jars? Well, have a look below. The first two photos are my current stockpile of jars. One is in the main stockpile cupboard, the other in a cupboard above the stove.

 I have egg cartons, Fowlers jars and recycled water bottles out in the garden shed.
Above, this was my old cupboard where my dishwasher now is and below another stash in a kitchen cupboard.

And finally, this shows that even when you're travelling around the country, you can still recycle and bring home treasure.  These are four little jam jars we had on our breakfast trays when we stayed in flash hotels on book tours, with one fruit juice bottle.  The little jars hold 50mls and have been really useful storing spice, ointment and creams.

I'm sure you have your preference just as I have mine. I can't go past a wide mouthed jar with a pop top metal lid. I have two coffee jars with a round glass lid, the rest are all pop tops. They serve me well for preserving jams and sauces as well as storage jars in the pantry and craft room. I'm sure there are people out there as crazy about recycling jars and bottles as I am. What do you use yours for and where do you store them?

Back to Top