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I started the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op in 2008 when I invited a number of other writers to join me writing about sustainable subjects of all kinds. I retired the blog writing for a couple of years when things got really busy, but now it's back. The Co-op has always been popular and has had a unique take on simple living. Why no take a look. Click here to go there.

31 March 2015

Jamie's birthday and lots of house work

Happy birthday Jamie, he's four today! He's still in Korea and will celebrate his birthday with his mum, Korean grandma, aunties, uncles and friends. They'll be back home on Friday so we'll have another birthday then.  There was a time when I never thought about being a grandmother. Now I can't imagine life without my two precious grandsons.

This is him at the airport with his robot bag full of little toys.

I seem to be all over the place at the moment. Each task I carry out is calm and considered but I go from one to the other so frequently, it makes my head spin at times and I have to stop and think about what I'm doing.  All the extra work is caused by my book writing and a photo shoot for the book we're having here at home soon. Hanno is painting the front verandah, something we've been going to do for years, and this is the perfect reason to actually do it. I am writing every day with a deadline every two weeks and in between the writing sessions I've been decluttering my wardrobe (again) and chest of drawers (again), finishing off some knitting, cooking, baking, tidying and reorganising cupboards.

Baked this week - orange and whiskey marmalade jam drops.

I'm thankful that the new forum has settled down well and is working like a charm. We even have a little chat place there so we have live chatting happening too. I'm blogging as much as I can and happy for the chance to do it because it always seems to clear my head and gets me focused again. It reminds me too that you're all out there, we're all in the same boat, that life is tough sometimes, and that the tough times always give way to something better.

30 March 2015

Sweet preserved lemons

We planted a second lemon tree about 18 months ago and it's starting to produce its first lemons. I love have having too many lemon, I always feel rich when I'm surrounded by them.  As well as using them in cooking and baking, I juice about a hundred a year and keep the pure juice in the freezer to make cordial when the lemons on the tree stop growing.

Recently, I decided to try to make a preserve that would give us lemon slices for our tea and as a drink garnish.  Here is that recipe:

Sweet preserved lemons
  • 4 lemons
  • enough medium sugar syrup to fill a jar full of lemons
  • sterilised preserving jar and lid
  1. Slice the lemons and include half slices and quarters. Don't waste any. Pack the sliced lemons into the jar and when it starts getting full, push the lemons down into the jar with your clean fingers.  I got four whole lemons into that small jar.  
  2. Make up a medium strength sugar syrup using 1 cup water and ½ cup white sugar. Bring to the boil, make sure the sugar is completely dissolved and turn off the heat. 
  3. When all the sliced lemons are in the jar, and while the syrup is still hot, pour the sugar syrup carefully over them to almost the top of the jar. Put the lid on and when they're cool, store them in the fridge. The heat from the syrup will create a vacuum.
These slices and pieces of lemon can be stored for many weeks in the fridge. Use them in your tea or cold drinks. When all the lemons are gone, use the lemon syrup with sparkling mineral water as a refreshing drink.

I don't like salted preserved lemons so this is a way to keep some of the crop for later in the year.  What do you do with your lemons?

27 March 2015

Weekend reading

The leaves are starting to turn yellow and soon they'll fall, but it's still hot and humid in my neck of the woods. I'm hoping cooler weather arrives soon.  Whatever you do this weekend, I hope you enjoy yourself.  See you next week!

Simple living inspiration - I recommend this to you. These are unique events and, I expect, will be honest, enlightening and inspirational.
The antibiotics problem in meat
Making dish washing easier
Old and interesting
Back to Eden film
Self-saucing orange pudding
Cornell University home economics library
What they do to food

25 March 2015

A wedding in Korea

Sunny and Jamie are over in South Korea at the moment enjoying some family time. They went over for the wedding of Sunny's younger sister Sung Ji, who married Dong Ho Choi. He is a career soldier in the South Korean army. Sunny sent some of the family wedding photos and said I can share some of them here. 

 Sung Ji and Dong Ho being saluted by the soldiers.

And here is the guard of honour, under drawn swords.
This beautiful photo is of the bride, Sun Ji, with her mother Sunja Cho (left), Sunny and her sister Yeon Hee. Sunny, her mother and sister are wearing the traditional Korean chima jeogori, worn during festivals and celebrations.

 And look who is here. Jamie in traditional Australian dress of socks with sandals :- ) Very cute. 

Sunny and Jamie again.

It's so interesting seeing how other cultures celebrate important events such as weddings. Congratulations to Sung Ji and Dong Ho. I hope they have many happy years together ahead of them.

24 March 2015

Planning for retirement

Dear friends, I've opened the Simple, Green Frugal Co-op blog again. I started the blog back in 2008 with a group of bloggers I invited to join me. When things got busy, I retired it but now it's back with its unique take on simple life.  Click here to go there.

= = = ♥︎ = = =

I unintentionally fell into retirement when I stopped working because my head was about to explode. When I tried to reorganise my world so I spent less, one thing lead to another, everything started getting better and I never returned to work; I was in my mid-50s. Even though my retirement wasn't planned, it's been the most wonderful time for me with my family. I don't think I really thought about retirement before I realised I'd retired but I have to say, it's the golden treasure at the end of the working rainbow. Hanno planned his retirement and we'd paid of our debts before he retired but after retirement, he was bored so he bought a little shop in Montville and worked another six years.

This isn't where you'll be most of the time.  : - )

Being self-employed all those years, I only had a small superannuation package because there was always something else to spend the money on. Had we not been debt-free, there would have been no way I could have thought about retiring when I did. Now we're both on the pension and because we don't pay rent, have paid off the mortgage and have no other debt, we save a couple of hundred dollars every fortnight. And we live well. Our friends think we should travel but we're content being here and doing what we do. We might go for a trip to Tasmania and Victoria next year after the new book is out but that will be it. There will be no flying holidays and no extravagance.

We taught ourselves to be frugal because we could see that if we cut our living expenses, we would have a good life using our time wisely. I suppose we swapped working for a living for working for a life. We became much more productive at home and made a lot of the things we used to buy, and that made all the difference. That's one of the wonderful things about retirement, you have time. Your time to do as you wish. So if it is your wish to cut expenses, look for bargains and be more productive at home, you'll have the time it takes to do all it. And instead of being one of the people who feel useless in retirement, you can take control of your life and lead it to places unexpected.

There is a trap a lot of us fall into, and I fell too. And that is not taking retirement seriously, not making a retirement plan and not making your own estimate of how much money you'll need. The way we live doesn't fit into the mainstream estimates because a lot of our value and assets is in the work we do. And that's extremely difficult to plan for because you don't know how fit you'll be and how much you'll be able to take on yourself. My only advice is to judge your future in part on how you are today. If you've been healthy most of your life and plan to live the way we do, be optimistic and believe you can do the work. If there's some doubt, be more cautious.

You need to be doing this from when you first start working and although I don't think you need the amount of money our governments tell us we need, you do need enough to cover the kind of lifestyle you wish to live in retirement. So if you want to travel, you'll have to factor that in to your retirement estimate but if you're content to travel locally, then stay at home, you'll need much less. Don't forget, if you are very young now, you might not have the benefit of a pension so this long term planning is vital for you.

So what are the other things that can be planned along the way?
  • Pay down your debt as quickly as you can. Once you've done that, you can start saving or adding more to your retirement fund. Don't put all your eggs in one basket either. I know a couple of people who lost half their retirement savings during the GFC because all their investments were in real estate. Diversify, use your common sense and treat this money like it's your lifeline, because it is.
  • If you think you'll move before you retire, do it well before hand. There are a lot of things you can do in your own home to help you stay fit and healthy long into your old age. Things like fences, solar panels, vegetable gardens, chickens and bee hives. So if you need to move or you want to make those modifications to help you when you've retired, do it beforehand, not afterwards. You'll have the money for it and the energy to do the work yourself.
  • Learn how to cook, sew, mend, recycle, garden, ferment, knit, fish, and as much about the maintenance on your house and car as you possibly can.
  • Make a budget that you can live on and put your savings to work. Then menu plan, stockpile, shop for bargains, bake and do as much for yourself as you can before you retire. If you're using those skills when they're not essential, you'll adjust to retirement more easily.
  • Try to live near your family or connect with your community so you have a support system around you. Stay healthy and fit and in your own home for as long as possible.  Despite the scaremongering, most people live out their lives in their own homes, not in retirement homes. The more you can prepare for a long life at home, the more successful you will be.
  • Remain interested and involved and don't believe that older people can't do much. There isn't much respect for older folk now but don't ever let that stop you doing what you want, when you want to do it. 
  • Make your own rules.
This is a question for all the stay at home mums and dads out there: Do you have a retirement plan that includes savings or insurance? I think most people will say no but it's an important part of our life's planning. The unexpected does happen and you have to be prepared for it. If you are working at home and have made plans for your financial future, please share  how you've done that.

There is some excellent information here about retirement for Australians. Even if you're 30, it's essential reading.  Information about getting ready for retirement. And here is a retirement planner, it's an Australian government product so don't worry about investment people harassing you after you fill it in. It's confidential and very helpful. Again, for every age and even if you don't live in Australia, it will give you some good ideas.

23 March 2015

Homemade cleaning cloths

During the week as I was ironing I came across a pillow case that was frayed and very thin in a few places. It came in a set of a fitted sheet, top sheet and two pillow cases and to the best of my knowledge it's about ten years old. A lovely pair of blue and white check sheets that I always enjoyed using and thought looked lovely and fresh on the bed. Oh well, all good things must end, the rest of the set survived. I got four good sized rags from that one pillow case and they will probably last for another year, working for a different purpose. I love doing those little things that help me save money and lighten our foot print here. Such a short amount of time to make a difference.

As the fabric was so thin, I decided to make the rags double thickness so after I cut it into four, I stitched the perimeter to keep it together, then pinked the frayed ends off. The pinking will ensure the edges don't fray again and when I'm cleaning, I won't leave threads of cotton behind.

I haven't bought any sort of cleaning or washing up cloth for about 12 years now and have been very happy with how I can extend the life of worn out fabrics simply by cutting them to shape and tidying up the edges. I smile when I think of young Rhonda buying cleaning cloths and throwing out useful old towels to landfill. Such an innocent I was, working for the enemy. I think in those 12  years I probably saved close to $500 just on cleaning cloths. Amazing eh? Here are the current cleaning cloth prices at my local shop: Chux original 10 pack $3.99, Chux super giant 5 pack $3.99, Jif Ballerina cloth @ $1.70 each, Woolworths cleaning cloth domestic wipes extra $3.29, Chux kitchen scrubs non-scratch 4 pack $2.54. On the other side of the coin, a recycled pillow case, towels and sheets: zero, maybe five cents for the electricity. And it has the added advantage of not sending more rubbish to the tip - not the old commercial cloth when it's short life is over and not the packaging that it comes in. I wonder what a ballerina cloth is.

And speaking of dish and cleaning cloths, Faye's post on The Blessed Hearth about loving your kitchen struck a cord with me.  I took Faye's lead and decided to make up a couple of fabric cleaning cloths to see if I liked them. The answer is a resounding YES! I love using them for washing up, wiping down the bench tops and general cleaning. So I made up a few more to test over the coming months.

 Right sides together on the inside when they're sewn.

Cut off the inside corner so it doesn't bulk up when you turn it out and form the corner.

When the sides are sewn together and the cloth is turned out to the right side, edge the border with zig zag stitch.
This is the most basic of sewing so if you've never attempted anything on the sewing machine before, this is your project. Simply cut out a square as big as you want it to be, mine are about 10 inches square. I think you need two layers for absorbency, and they have to be sewn together.
  1. Turn them so the right sides are facing inwards, then stitch around three sides. 
  2. Cut the right angle corner off fairly close to the stitch line so it will sit properly. 
  3. Turn the cloth right side out, turn the hem of the fourth side under and pin it, then zigzag stitch around the border of the cloth. 
  4. Finished, but don't forget to wash the cloths before you use them. Many fabrics are dressed with chemicals and it needs to be washed off.
I made two cloths with flannel one side and recycled terry towelling on the other for heavier cleaning. They don't dry as fast as the knitted cloths, but it's not a problem if I hang them to dry in between uses or on the side of the laundry hamper when they need a wash.

I made seven cloths in about 25 minutes. So if you aren't a knitter, here is a good way of making cleaning and washing up cloths that provide a good cleaning tool and cost next to nothing. Believe in yourself, you can do this.

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