Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Tree Is Up!

The outside deck lights add to the ambience

Big smiles....the tree is up.

We have reduced the plastic content by 50% on the tree this year by using paper decorations made from old books.  We also have brought out our non-plastic traditional ornaments that we now use every year (pics below).  We are using the left over baubles from last year....and now the challenge of how to keep Toshi the cat away from the tree. She hates Christmas trees.

Hanukkah falls on the 24th this year, so that will make things 'interesting' this year.  Normally there is some breathing space between each celebration, but this year Hanukkah overlaps with Christmas.  It gets a little tricky with those in the family with Jewish heritage (dear wife and five daughters) and me, the good ol' fashioned British/Irish bloodline with Christian roots. Luckily we all totally enjoy both types of festivals from each heritage - it is just tricky when the dates line up.  And...then there is daughter number five with her birthday two days before Christmas....who planned that?!

Anyway - enough yakking.  Here are the pics.

I have pine needles to vacuum up by
the looks.  The house smells
amazing with a real pine tree.
Carbon neutral, non plastic and
can be used in the chiminea
once dried.

Some prezzies under the tree.
Brown paper and string wrapping.

Porcelain bauble with nativity
scene - by Wedgwood.

Mamma HM reaches up
with the star........

....can't quite reach!

We placed it in front of the window
that looks out onto the deck
so we can enjoy it from both
inside and outside.

Papier mache bauble from

Three wise men looking rather lost.
They should have asked for directions!

Painted metal cow bell from Austria

Mr Squirrel.

Paper book baubles

Do you think it will reign deer?

Paper snowflake to counter-act
the Aussie summer.

Aaaaw - pretty. It is starting to
look a lot like Christmas.

Sleigh bell on a satin ribbon

Christmas doll from Austria

Wooden rocking horse.

Apparently there will be some red and gold material bows to be added yet.

Take care and stay nice folks.


Thursday, 1 December 2016

Four Sites I'm Enjoyng

Dinner from scratch.
A fresh garden salad with feta cheese
and Southern fried chicken (thanks USA!)

Hi folks

These four sites have been around for a while but I have only recently spent time reading the back-dated posts and articles or browsing through the sites more thoroughly.

You all have probably seen them before, but for those of you who have they are:
(just click the titles)


Jamie is a stay-at-home dad who sews and tailors his own clothes and plenty of clothes for other people too.  Looking through his back-dated posts reveals a vast array of knowledge especially around tailoring men's clothes.

LEHMAN'S - For A Simpler Life

An astounding site and interactive catalogue of wares - they ship world-wide.  The farming and gardening equipment is great, so is the kerosene fridges and cookers, the lamps and hand washing machines and....and....and....
Just get a cuppa and enjoy it.  The catalogue can be downloaded as a PDF - the best junk mail in the whole world!
(It is a bit Chrismassy-themed at the moment - but dig deeper into the categories to get to the real good stuff)


Many of you will know of Joel Salatin.  His 'take' on farming is refreshing and drives a sense of hope and possibility into my mind.  Perhaps for starters, watch the video on the front page and then take it from there.  This site is chock-a-block full of info and links as well as videos on methods and systems that will shift our paradigms on farming.


Peter's site shows his journey from never having sewn ever, through to the amazing tailoring and sewing he produces for himself and others nowadays.  He is a tad flamboyant and has a great twist to his humour too.  Reading through the back-dated posts shows the technical excellence developed but also the generous sharing of all these skills with his readers.

I am not affiliated at all with any of these sites or people - these are just four that I have been reading lots of recently and genuinely enjoying the information, skills, ideas and insights that each offer.

Enjoy, lean in, take care and stay nice.


Sunday, 27 November 2016

Frugal In Pictures

Hi Folks

Here are some little frugal things we have done lately that have saved us from spending unnecessary money. The great thing about some of these is that they have been executed rather nicely by some of our daughters.  This frugality thing might just be catching-on a little.....I hope.

Youngest daughter made these potted succulents as a
'thank you' gift to her birthday guests.  They worked out
costing her $1 each.

The girls have been experimenting with
using old books that we have culled
for decorations...some more
further down too

We got a new inside lounge suite so instead of getting rid of
the old one, we repurposed it as an outside setting on the deck.
Cost for 7 seater outside setting = $0

Waiting for guests to pick their fave
succulent as they leave.

A view of the deck with furniture
all in place

The opposite view of the deck now

Some more Christmas decorations made from old books
Cost $0.  Heaps more of these are getting made as we speak.

Miss 16's birthday cake made from scratch
by daughter # 3.
Saved a motza by cooking this from scratch

Take care and stay nice Folks!


Container gardening along
the back wall of the house.
Faces North East.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

How To Escape The Car Loan Trap

Nothing quite as irresistible as a shiny
new red car - until the loan repayments

Car loans - everyone has them apparently.  It is just part and parcel of the new consumerist culture. Mostly everyone I know has a car loan or lease...or two. Sometimes three.

It is totally normal these days for a young person to buy a new or near new car using a car loan soon after they get a job. Car loans are usually over a five year term. Incidentally cars seem to start to need serious mechanical attention by the five year mark and this normally prompts folks to flog it off and buy a new one....using yet another loan or lease.  This cycle repeats every five years for the rest of their working life, each five year loan playing 'tag' with the next.

My first car - a 1976 Alfa Sud Ti.
 Lemon in colour, lemon all round really!

It seems totally what?

So what? Here's so what - let's do the math.  If you took the average amount of a car loan ($395 per month) and invested this amount conservatively for your working life....guess how much you would have at the end of your working life?

Answer:  At least 4 MILLION DOLLARS.  

That's so what!

Double that if you are running two car loans/leases.

If only my father had never sold his 1961 barn-door VW Kombi !
Worth a mint these days I am told.

Folks, not only is planned mechanical obsolescence prompting us to replace a car every five years or less, so is the pressure of fashion, the illusion of safety-in-newness, the unspoken 'success' markers of a new car and the relative simplicity in getting a car loan.

Those that turn their back on this sinister car loan racket are wise.
Those that take the equivalent amount and invest it over a working lifetime are wise and wealthy.

My grandfather's Chrysler (1937??) with a broken axle.  This happened in
the 1940's as he and Nan were driving to Brisbane Queensland.
That was back when the Pacific Highway was gravel all the way.

If you need a new car  - do this instead.

1. Put away $20 per week for five years into a high interest bearing bank account
2. At the end of 5 years you will have about $5600 saved
3. Purchase a low mileage car for $5000 or less (use a local car sales internet site and sort by mileage lowest to highest with a filter on cars maximum price $5000 - you be surprised what you'll find)
4. Use the $600 to pay for stamp duty, rego transfer, insurance etc
5. Continue to put away the $20 per week and repeat this process every five years

One little boy socialised very young on the excitement of owning a new
shiny car of his own.

Paying off your car loan is NOT enough

If you have budgeted and scrimped and been frugal and paid off your car loan - WELL DONE.
But beware, you are still at HIGH risk of falling back into the car loan trap.  As soon as your car hits the point where it is needing lots of endless repairs, you will be (by pure necessity) lured back into a car loan/lease cycle because you do not have a choice.

Start TODAY to put away for a replacement car. The weekly amount required to replace your car (paying cash) every five years should be ABSOLUTELY part of your budget - no matter what.

99% of folk fail to write into their budget that weekly amount required to replace their car every five years, paying cash.

Without that money sitting there saved, you will be at extremely high risk of falling back into the sinister never ending whirlpool of a lifetime of car loans.

Don't lean into this one folks - jump in both feet.

Take care and stay nice folks


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Wednesday Hump Day

A harvest bowl of fresh garden produce

OK folks, so it is hump day - that mid-week time for a bit of a sigh.

I have been working away on finishing the posts series on core values as well as draft writing the stockpiling posts too. Thoughts are getting jotted down for a post on the evils of car loans and I have typed up some thoughts for a post on several other topics too.

Meanwhile........the garden grows.....

Fresh garden produce straight
into tonight's salad

A TV dinner - from scratch.
Crumbed lamb chops - yummo!

Capsicum ripening quickly

Eggplant is setting fruit rapidly

Some more tomatoes to pick

The Aloe Vera I took a cutting off
a couple of months ago has had
three babies!

The gurlz....except for June who is
STILL clucky.

Kent pumpkin is now flowering

It is my favourite time of (late) spring here in Australia where you can wander out and pick a bowl of produce from the garden every evening. The feeling of abundance is all pervading - it's lovely.

So, I just thought I had better check in and post up some new pictures for you all to enjoy.  I am now super busy at work as we enter into our busiest time of the year. paying 144,000 Doctors, nurses, health professionals and hospital staff accurately every Thursday is a never ending and highly exacting job.  Ah well, no rest for the wicked.....better worn out than rusted hey?!

Take care folks and stay nice.


Thursday, 17 November 2016

A Short Story - One Perfect Day

I've woken up before my alarm again and lay there in bed thinking about the day ahead.  Normally my head would be full of stresses and looming decisions necessary to take into the corporate world....but today is different - I have a day off. Today I get to stay at home and be the real version of myself.

I slide out of bed careful not to wake my dear wife and I pad out to the kitchen. A soft glow is beginning to manifest in the eastern sky and in half an hour the first rays of light will spear over the horizon.....but for now this cool grey dawn is my ultimate 'quiet' time. I fill the kettle and turn it on and pop a couple of slices of left-over homemade bread into the toaster.  The aroma of toast fills the kitchen and I quietly spread home-whipped butter over the hot toast enjoying the moment when the butter quietly melts. The kettle has boiled and fresh coffee steam curls up from the cup. Scooping up both toast and coffee I quietly steal outside onto the deck....waiting. In minutes the first ray of sun shoots across the sky.  It feels like there is healing in every beam. Birds get a little louder and I hear my hens beginning to fuss. I sip the coffee and munch the toast just content to be a small part of a larger moment.

It is six o'clock in the morning and I begin to hear the family's alarm clocks going off one by one.  I rally from my reverie and begin preparing breakfast.  Fresh eggs from the hens fried with home grown tomatoes and toast from homemade bread - a rolling breakfast served hot to each as they emerge from their morning showers. All too soon it is kisses goodbye all around as daughters pack off to University, college, work and school for the day. My wife emerges from the morning fray looking eternally perfect as usual and also exits for the day .... off to work with containers of lunch concocted from last nights delicious leftover lasagne and a fresh garden salad.The silence descends instantly and I bring the bins in, click the tall iron gate behind me and I am contentedly safe in the wonderful realm of 'home'.

Thus a day of solitude and activity begins. Hens are fed, eggs are collected and I pause to watch those simple feathered ladies go about their ancient routines  - I catch myself smiling at their lives. I put away the eggs, load the dishwasher, put on a load of washing and head outside again.  Watering the pumpkins, the mint and Aloe Vera comes next and whilst the water is running I top up the chooks' water. The rabbit (I'm still uncertain how the rabbit came to be with us) is let into its run for the day then the tomatoes, leeks, beets, capsicum, eggplant, parsley, peppers and strawberries are watered. The sun is now well into the sky. The mechanical servants have now finished their jobs and the dishwasher is unloaded, dishes stacked away and another load put on.  I stride down he hallway enjoying the cool wood on my bare feet and into the laundry to unload the washer and put on another load.  I pause to refill the laundry liquid containers from the big blue container full of home made laundry liquid then proceed out into the sun to hang out the washing in the beautiful morning sun - I dream of replacing my plastic pegs with wooden ones.

A quick tidy through the house, our bed gets stripped and remade with fresh linen all round and I marvel at the phenomena of a perfect night's sleep that always seems to occur with fresh bed linen.

 Time for a cup of tea.

I sit, I sip, I enjoy the quiet and just 'being'. I have heard that men are good at just thinking nothing - this bloke has never experienced this and I wonder at it's possibility as the Kookaburras land on the fence to audit my lawn. Inevitably they find something or other amusing, have a grand old cackle and fly off like overladen 747's. I catch myself grinning again.

Bread making brings me delight (I still do not know why) and I start the dough and set it aside in a shallow bath of warm water for its first rise. The dishwasher gets emptied again and another load of washing put on and hung out.  A flash of red catches my eye against the glorious white of my flapping washing on the line and I see that four more red tomatoes are ready to pick. Whilst I am picking these tomatoes I pluck a green capsicum and a luscious leek - perhaps an omelette for lunch later on....

The cat sidles up to butter me up before lodging its 'starvation' complaint, but I am onto this creature who does the 'starving' act to each person in the household in turn "I saw you get fed twice this morning before they all went to work you naughty cat!"  - the cat knows that I know and instantly turns off the food-flirt trick and promptly sits on my chair (pay back I think). A second knead of the bread dough and now to wait for a second rise too. Another load of washing done and hung out and now to start bringing in each load as it dries.  I know the washing is not truly done till it is folded and put away - I've learned to do this immediately I bring in the washing or it just does not get done.

Bread into the oven....I watch that first few minutes as it lifts up in response to the oven heat - I never tire of this moment. My attention then turns to making a light luncheon for myself...definitely a fresh omelette. The omelette is eaten unhurriedly as I read sitting in the shade of the paperbark tree - Grass Roots magazine today...I lose myself for 45 minutes in this publication. I quickly log into the computer, check the blog and some forums I am on for 15 mins maximum (have to be strict on myself or I can lose an entire day without a second thought).  The oven buzzer goes off and a glorious high topped loaf of bread emerges.  I wrap this in a linen cloth to cool knowing full well this will be pretty much devoured by the family as they walk in the door later this evening.

As I water the cyclamen my mind turns to dinner for the evening. As per usual there will be extras for dinner - friends, family and 'hanger-oners' - all are welcome. My guess is probably 15 will turn up for dinner.  A mixed roast is just the easiest solution for dinner - lamb shoulder, a roll of pork and two pump hens should be plenty (the left overs can be had cold for lunches the next day if I over-cater).  I prep the vegetables - potatoes, sweet potato, big carrots, kent pumpkin, whole onions, beets -  and thaw the meat and arrange everything in the oven. That oven is mighty full. This will be very slowly roasted over many hours so the meat is succulent and the caramelisation on the vegetables is second to none. There will be lashings pan gravy too - of course!

The rest of the washing is brought in and put away, the deck tables set for dinner, cutlery polished, wine glasses wiped, white wine in the fridge and red wine on the table. Everything is just ready to go now for later on.  This means I can relax and enjoy my family and guests.  I make a coffee and begin to think...about the budget.

I really enjoy regularly tweaking the budget and gleefully spend an hour on this  - just me and the budget spreadsheet.  I muse on how I used to fear and hate this activity....but the shift to a more simple and frugal life has profoundly changed my approach to budget and money. Next I check the stockpile and take mental note of what is low....need to look out for specials on toothpaste and deodorant now as both are getting low. I ponder on starting my own loo paper empire given how much we go through with a family of seven and the steady stream of friends and family that flow through our place - I reach down and squeeze the roll of loo paper currently on the dispenser so it does not unravel as willingly (who knows, it might get better 'wipes per bum' if I slow down the spin speed!)

Letter box is checked.  It bears the electricity bill and the phone bill. These days both bills are paid fully and in credit when they arrive - such a change to a previous life when thrift and frugality were  points worthy of derision and mocking. The bloke across the road waves and we have a chat about cars, mechanics, gardens (his lawn is immaculate - ho hum), the neighbours, the election (yawn) and we bid each other a great-rest-of-the-day and return to our respective lives.

I check the roast - it's doing fabulously. I have an hour before the fam' starts arriving home.  I let the hens out for their afternoon run and peck around the lawn and whip up another batch of home made soap. Each batch lasts about 12  weeks, so when I am down to my last 10 bars I know it is time to do another batch. Three years ago I would not be seen dead using home made soap let alone making it - how things change. I find myself smiling again.  Now with 15 minutes to go before the hoards start rolling in I sit at the piano and run through some Bach and Debussy - piano has been my constant companion since I was a small boy and has stayed with me through all the seasons of my life - interesting.

The hoards are pouring in now. Stories of the day are being told and exclaimed about across each other, coffee and tea is being made and drunk, homemade cookies and bread are being enjoyed, the oven keeps getting opened to "see what's for dinner" and the cat is doing her unconvincing starvation meowing one is listening mind you. The house is now pulsating with conversation, laughter and low-level family banter and the odd short-lived argument. Contents of bags are being emptied, work clothes being flung into the laundry, shopping lists being added to, phone calls getting made, news on the TV being listened to and discussed, fashion tips swapped by the five daughters and mother, remember-when's being laughed about....and now the friends and hanger-oners are arriving.  It is food time.

I was wrong.  It is 20 sitting down for dinner. It is all good as there is plenty to go around. Hens are cut up, pork is pulled, lamb is carved, vegetables put into the Bain Marie, pan gravy made (a big pot full)....and I call for everyone to sit down at the long white tables on the deck for dinner.  All the food is placed in the middle and folks can serve themselves. I have stretched the meal out with loaves of crusty bread and a couple of big garden salads. Grace is said, candles lit, wine is poured, food is passed in all directions, lashing of gravy is poured, napkins on laps, silverware flashing in the evening light, wine glasses clinking happily, chatter rising and falling, laughter exploding like colourful fireworks, secrets whispered, hugs shared, food demolished with utter gusto.  No official dessert tonight just several big cheese and fruit platters instead.

The talk continues well into the night, fresh coffees and tea are brewed, people spread out to the lounge and lawn, the chiminea is lit with a huddle standing around it (why does an open fire draw the human soul - I wonder?). The dishwasher has already started its unthankful job and will continue through about 5 loads before the evening is done. Visitors begin to disperse and their effusive delight with the company and good tasty food is reward enough for me...they'll be back again, no doubt about it.

As the family prepares for bed, I whiz around doing the last minute tidy ups and make myself a hot cocoa.  I shuffle down the hallway to bed and as I slide between the clean fresh linen sheets I know of a certainty, right down into my bones, that it has been one perfect day.

As I drift off to sleep I idly suppose that someone will turn off the lights, lock the door, wind the cat and put out the clock........mmmmm.


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