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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 not take a look.

22 May 2015

Weekend reading

It's been a busy week again with more work than I thought I would have. The weather is a little warmer but there's no humidity so I don't mind at all.  I haven't blogged as much as I wanted to but there are few comments so I wonder who is reading. To all those who did comment, thank you, I appreciate you taking the time.

I hope everyone has time to relax and enjoy life over the weekend. Whatever you do, enjoy yourself. ♥︎

A fabulous bias binding/tape tutorial
How to clean the BBQ
How to live a middle-class life in New York City on less than $5,000 a year
Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute
Pocket money, what you need to know
How to make a tutu
Backpack tutorial - advanced beginner's project
What If Everybody Didn't Have to Work to Get Paid?

20 May 2015

Simple meals from the stockpile

I spent the past few days travelling and working. We had a short trip to visit family on the weekend and now I'm back at the desk, writing. Meals have been very simple: pumpkin soup for two days and salmon fish cakes late last week. It's a good stand by pantry meal so I thought you'd like the recipe. I generally make it a different way almost every time I make it, using whatever I have in the stockpile and cupboard.  This time is was red salmon with a orange sweet potato instead of plain potatoes. It made a great change and I'll make sure I use the sweet potato again. 

1 large can red or pink salmon Alaska (415 grams)
1 onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled, diced, cooked and mashed
½ finely diced capsicum/pepper
1 egg
salt and pepper
breadcrumbs - I used Panko

  1. Break up the salmon, discard the liquid and either remove the bones or crush them. I use them crushed in the fishcakes because they're very soft and they're a good source of calcium. 
  2. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and form into fishcakes.
  3. Coat in breadcrumbs and allow to sit in the fridge for an hour to firm up.
  4. Then add to hot oil in a frying pan and cook until both sides are golden brown.
I served ours with a garden salad, pickled celery and chilli jam. Delicious and very thrifty, this fed us for two meals at a cost of under $10.

I made another plum cake too. Hanno loves it and the season is short. Apart from that I'm not doing much except writing. I'm getting to the end of it now, three chapters to go, so I can see a time when I'll be back to being a full time homemaker with all that brings with it.

I've decided to make a list each day of short tasks I can carry out when I take a break from writing. On it today and for the rest of the week are:
  1. Prune hydrangeas and roses
  2. Water hanging pots
  3. Press tablecloths and napkins
  4. Bring in my new chair. Hanno painted an old wooden chair for me to use here in my work room. I'm giving up the office chair and getting back to an old kitchen chair with a seat pad on it.
  5. Make seat pad. I'll take a photo when it's in here. Hanno had painted it a beautiful pale chalky blue.
I've found that if I don't allocate time for certain things they don't get done and I feel like I'm not doing anything. I'm sitting all the time while I write so when I take a break I want to do something and this little list is just the thing to organise my thoughts and get through a few small things.

Around 4 o'clock it's so lovely outside. I get my little garden trolly and some clippers and I've been snipping here and there. The air is crisp, darkness comes early and the leaves are slowly falling. I hope you're enjoying your home today and that you're getting through the work you've planned for yourself.

15 May 2015

Weekend reading

Miss Tammy Wyandotte and Bluebelle snuggling up on a cold night.

It's cold. As I write this it's only 5C/41F but I won't complain. I just think back to that high humidity we had this summer and feel thankful that I'm not there now. This week I cooked more warming food and cut back on the salads, continued fussing over my work room, wrote thousands of words for the new book and watched Hanno tend the new vegetable garden. It's a lovely time of year.  I hope you had a good week too.

Hand Washing Your Dishes Could Be Better For Kids' Health
Sometimes I love blogs because of the words and sometimes for the photos. This one, Small Things, which is one of my constant joys, is loved for both. Enjoy your special life. I just love the photos of the children totally immersed in the natural environment surrounding them.
A picture of loneliness
42 percent of US honeybee colonies died off last year.
Simple solutions to clutter
20 Satisfying, Wholesome Lunches You Can Make the Night Before
Etsy might not change the world, but ...

14 May 2015

Down to Earth hardcover available soon on Amazon

I'm very pleased to let you know that my Down to Earth hardcover book will be available soon from Amazon. The books are currently on their way from Australia to the US but you can put in an order now and they'll bill you when book is posted. It won't be too long. Click here to go to the Amazon page.

It's been a long time coming. I know many of you were hoping to buy a copy so now is your chance. I'm very proud of this book and proud too that after three years, it's still selling well in the book stores.  My next and final hard cover book, The Simple Home, will be published in March next year. Then I'm retiring (really retiring) to live the good life and I think I'll continue to blog.

13 May 2015

Hot food on a cool day

I asked Hanno to buy some lamb neck chops for me last week and since then they've been sitting in the freezer ear-marked for Scotch broth. I made a thick version of it yesterday. I know it doesn't sound appetising but if we're not going to waste any part of the animals we slaughter for meat, neck chops must come into play at some point.  Lucky they are so delicious.  This is an old recipe I've been eating all my life. It's my mother's recipe but there is a very similar version in Maura Laverty's wonderful classic Irish cooking book, Full and Plenty.

For two people, you'll need four neck chops. If you can't find neck chops, look for forequarter chops. There isn't much meat on each chop so if you're a big meat eater, you'll need more. Trim the fat off the chops and cut up your vegetables.
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • the green top off a head of celery, or two sticks of celery, sliced
  • 2 carrots, chopped into chunks
  • 1 sweet potato
You can add other root vegetables such as swedes, turnip, parsnip if you want to.

You'll also need:
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ cup washed pearl barley
  • 1 ½ litres water, maybe more

You'll need a cast iron Dutch oven. If you don't have one, start the cooking in a frying pan and transfer it all to an oven proof dish with a lid for slow cooking in the oven. Neck chops are one of the cheapest cuts of meat and usually have a bit of gristle and cartilage. Long slow cooking dissolves that part of the meat and you end up with meat falling off the bone and dissolved nutrients, such as glucosamine, in the broth. You don't have to bother about making stock for your sauce either. You'll cook the meat on the bone with a lot of vegetables so you'll make stock as you cook.

Add a small amount of oil to the pot on the stove and start cooking the lamb. When they've browned, add the vegetables and allow them to get some colour.  All the colour you add at this point is extra flavour in the finished dish. When you have a bit of colour on the meat and vegetables, add salt, pepper and the paprika. Then add the washed barley and pour in the water.

The barley will thicken the broth and the more you add, the thicker it will be. Don't go overboard because it soaks up a lot of water. Put the lid on the pot, bring it to the boil and then place it in a preheated oven on 160C for about two hours.  Test taste for seasoning and add more if it needs it.

A cheap alternative to serving this with potatoes is to make herb dumplings. They're delicious and go really well with all sorts of stews and soups. Men love dumplings and even though these chops don't have much meat on them, with the addition of the dumplings, it's filling and delicious.

To make dumplings:
  • 3 cups SR flour
  • 2 tablespoons room temperature butter
  • enough water to make a dough - like a scone dough
  • salt and pepper
  • herbs - parsley, chives or whatever you like the taste of
Rub the butter into the flour, salt and pepper with your fingertips and when it looks like breadcrumbs, add the chopped herbs and enough water to make a moist but not wet dough.  Form the dough into balls and add to the broth in the last 20 minutes of cooking.

And that's it. A delicious and hearty meal for a very low price. I hope you try it.

12 May 2015

My work room

Virginia Woolf once said: A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. I'm not sure I agree with that but I do know that any creative activity is nurtured by a room of one's own.  I think the creative process is more than a space though. I know when I started writing my blog, I did so in our noisy lounge room and that was far from private or my own. Moving to another room gave me the impetus I needed to improve my blog writing and express my creativity in different ways. I was encouraged to commit to the work of the blog and the room itself gave me a place where I could sit and think before I typed. 

For over a decade I wrote on a second-hand, chipped, melamine desk that pinched my arms when I leant on it. I wrote Down to Earth and The Simple Life at that desk sitting on a third-hand chair. You're lucky you were out of ear shot because I let rip at that desk a few times.

And then I decided I needed a change and that I spent a lot of time at that desk and should enjoy being there. I talked to Hanno about it and started planning.

I've set up my room mainly for writing and sewing. I have my computer at one end and the sewing machine at the other. It's just the right combination for me.  I bought two small chests of drawers from Ikea and that is where most of my sewing, computer and writing accessories are. Two small kitchen tables, side by side, have given me enough work space to comfortably work at both ends.

When Tricia was here she tidied out my fabric stockpile cupboard. It feels good to have space for the fabric away from ribbons, lace, buttons and embroidery paraphernalia. As my grandmother would have said: a place for everything and every thing in its place. I wonder how long it will stay like that. I have good intentions, very good intentions, but with fast days slipping away towards deadlines, good intentions are sometimes not enough.  At least I know it won't take much to clean up.

That's the new book document on the computer screen. When I finish writing this chapter I have three more to write, and four more to read and approve the editing. It's been a tight schedule but I work better under pressure and the structured writing program has helped a lot. Otherwise I would have been faffing around making excuses to go into the garden or to sew for a while.

There will be time enough for all those things in July and beyond when the writing is complete and I return to being a full time homemaker. Then it will be a better balance of writing and sewing which I can imagine myself doing for a long time to come in this beautiful room we've created here.

But in all those years when I didn't have my own room I was still creative and looking for places to express it in a realistic way. You have to be able to do that until you have the good fortune to have a room of your own. If you look at two photos up, there is a wooden box at the end of the desk. I have that there because I'm making up a sewing kit to have in the lounge room. I want to be able to work there as well, especially when Jamie is here. If you don't have a space to call your own, claim some. All you need is a spot where there is a place you can sit and work on your crafts, or just to relax and have a cup of tea. There will probably come a day when you will have your own room, maybe like I did when your children leave home and there are spare bedrooms. In the meantime though, take time for yourself wherever you can to express your creativity, to plan your next work project or just to relax and calm down.

I haven't quite finished my room yet. There is still a bit of fluffing I want to do. But there is no need to rush, this room will be here for a long time.

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