Friday, August 31, 2007

A Pile of Pies

I've been busy making pies this morning. My 9 year old was wanting me to make *real* pies this time. :-) My first attempt was chicken and vegetable pies (which were yum in my opinion but not so yum according to the kids) and my second attempt was steak and mushroom (which went down slightly better with the kids). So today I've been making *real* pies with mince and gravy.

Hopefully they won't notice that I've added TVP and red lentils to the mixture. LOL. I actually made up the mix in the crockpot yesterday. Today was making the pastry and rolling it out and assembling the pies. It's a bit time consuming but I don't really mind. To me it's worth it to know what has gone into my pies.

This time I used bought mince but from now on I'm thinking of making my own mince. I bought a large beef roast on sale recently and chopped it up and put it into my food processor and it made lovely looking mince. The smell almost put me off meat for life but it's nice to be confident of what we're eating. I do have a couple of packets of bought mince that need using though so one of those went in the pie filling.

Here's a picture of my "pile of pies":

Like all good bloggers, I hid the ones that didn't look quite as good on the bottom of the pile. LOL. I don't know why I get so hung up on perfection. After all, there is something so clinical about food that all looks *exactly* the same isn't there. Here's a slightly more close up view of my pies:

I'm trying to work out how much they cost to make. Most of my figures are approximate/guestimates.

For the filling:

2 cups TVP - 80c

1 cup red lentils - 30c

574g mince - 3.44

4 Tbsp gravy powder - 20c

2 Tbsp cornflour - 5c

hearty beef soup sachet (I didn't have any beef stock) - 25c

1 Tbsp tomato paste - 20c

shallots - from the garden, cost negligible

salt & pepper - cost negligible

water - free

Total $4.99

I used just over half the mixture (froze the rest for another time) so approx $2.50 or slightly more.


250g butter - $1.10

2 3/4 cups plain flour - 30c

2 3/4 cups SR flour - 30c

Total for pastry: $1.70

Total cost for 20 pies: $4.20 so 21c each. Bargain! :-)

If you want to make up the pastry you add 1 cup hot to butter and mix until butter dissolves. Then mix the lot together with the flour (I use a dough hook on my Kenwood). Then I shove it in the fridge to cool down a bit to make rolling out easier.

I made a discovery today with the pastry too. With using up the scraps, instead of trying to squish them together in a ball and then roll out again (which is hard as the pastry gets tough), I just overlapped all the rolled out bits and rolled them together. Was much quicker and easier and they seemed to stick together alright (just don't use too much flour on your board the first time round).

I can't vouch for how my filling recipe (if you can call it that) tastes as I haven't tasted it yet. DH did a taste test last night and told me it tasted nice so fingers crossed it passes the family test at tea tonight. We're having meat pies, chips and salad for tea tonight. It's fake take away night tonight.

I think I must have been bitten by the cooking bug these past 2 days. Yesterday I made a big pot of tomato and vegetable soup (having some for lunch right now in fact). Also made an experimental batch of crumpets. Added more raising agents to try and get a lighter crumpet. I did succeed in a lighter crumpet but had very few holes so I'm still going to experiment with the recipe a little more. I also made the pie filling yesterday. Today I have made the pies and a batch of yoghurt as well as some spreadable butter (butter and olive oil whizzed together).

I'm looking forward to a nice quiet afternoon this afternoon! :-)

Damage Report

Well, our house is all in one piece which is good. We did sustain a little bit of damage from the winds yesterday. We lost our back screen door. I'm still scratching my head about how that got blown from our back door. Our TV aerial is now on the ground and we're not sure how "fixable" it's going to be. DH's new gate got ripped from it's hinges and some sheets of iron for our garden shed (that hasn't been put up yet) have been damaged. DH is a bit cross about that as he put extra heavy weights on them and they still got blown away. Never mind, most of it is just "annoying" rather than life altering.

Temperatures got to about 30C here yesterday. Unreal for August!!!

However we did get a whole 2mm of RAIN last night. :-) Not much but anything is better than nothing right now. Hopefully that soothed our poor dried out crops a little bit. DH would have liked 10mm but like I said, anything is better than nothing right now.

You don't have to drive very far from our place to see crops that are pretty much dead. Others have already cut their crops for hay - hopeful that they'll get at least some income from them. :-( It's really sad. I don't know what the future holds for some of those farmers. I think we're in for interesting times ahead.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Voting Frenzy

I need you all to go into a voting frenzy and pass the word around as much as you can (blogs, yahoo groups, friends, message boards and forums). That competition I mentioned a while ago where a group that knits for Brisbane's needy is trying to win $5000 towards costs (and getting more things knitted and passed on). Last day for voting is tomorrow!!!

Go to and then click on "vote for cash grant finalists" on the left hand side. Scroll down to the bottom and click on "Knitting for Brisbane's Needy". You can vote 20 times today and 20 times tomorrow.

They are neck and neck with a dance company trying to raise money for their dancers to go on a trip and while I think that's a great idea - I think those who are homeless or living in poverty need it more.

Thanks very much for your help with this. :-)

Fire Ban

Today is a total fire ban day here. How strange to have a fire ban in August!!!! It's winter - did someone forget to tell the weather man? LOL. Apparently there were 3 fires within 200km of our place on Monday. In August!!!! The weather has just gone crazy bizarre.

The wind is so strong that some of our pine trees look like they're going to snap. I'd take a photo but I'm not going outside in it! :-) Our whole house is shaking. Let's hope the wind classification it's built to is high enough! I'm sure it is. Would be nice if the wind blew in some rain. :-)

Today I'm thankful that I don't *have* to go outside. At least I'm not trying to drive in it or anything. Hopefully it has died down again by the time the bus brings the kids home. I wouldn't like to be trying to keep a bus on the road in this wind!

I'm trying to potter around and get a few cooking jobs done today but it's not the kind of day that makes you feel like doing much. :-( So it's babysteps, babysteps here today.

Oooh, the wind is dying down a little now. Phew!

Electricity Challenge

Inspired yet again by Rhonda Jean I have decided to make my current "cut our spending" challenge the electricity bill. As with most frugality projects, this also has an impact on the environment so there are lots of benefits all round.

In timely fashion, our latest electricity bill arrived in the mail yesterday. As expected, it was quite a large bill. Thankfully, our usage was a little down on what we used last winter. But it was still quite a shocker. The total of the bill was $762.94!!! Our average daily usage was 45.5kWh.

I know.... :-( Thankfully winter is our worst month for electricity usage by FAR! Our usage over the rest of the year hovers closer to the 20kWh per day mark.

Interestingly enough, the topic of electricity bills has come up on a yahoo group I'm on. So there's been lots of talk about electricity usage around the place of late. So yesterday, as part of that discussion, I was contemplating why our winter electricity bill is so high.

We don't have any gas here so ALL of our power usage (other than the solar hot water system which is at it's lowest effectiveness during winter) is electricity.

The tumble dryer is 1 culprit. Once upon a time I would wait for finer days to do my washing. But now that I wash 7+ loads a week, I just don't find that practical. I need to keep up with a load a day or I get overwhelmed. We do have plans for an undercover clothes line but with starting from scratch with our own place, these things all seem to take time (and money) to get established.

By far though, I think our biggest problem is heating. We built our house in such a way that we get a wonderful lot of winter sun through the north windows during the day. Unfortunately with the bedrooms on the south side, we struggle with the temperature in the bedrooms overnight. We don't heat them all the time, only when one of us is sick. We seem to have a tendency toward asthma and croup so whenever someone gets a cold they get a horrible cough during the night and the only thing that helps is warm air. With 2 column oil heaters and a fan heater for heating the bedrooms during this time, I think that's where our biggest usage problem lies. I've seen some bedroom heaters that are very economical that I've been wanting to get for the kids rooms. Looks like I need to bump them up to a higher priority on my "to buy" list (for next winter).

While this all sounds really bad (our electricity usage I mean), we have made HUGE improvements in our electricity usage since we moved house. It used to cost us around $3000 a year in electricity. Around $900 in winter and summer and $600 in the in between seasons. The reasons for it being higher were partly due to paying for many of my FIL's older appliances (he had an outside room at our house for his own use). Installing a solar hot water system and purchasing our own fridge (we had an old one on loan at the other house) have also helped as has going to a single meter. We were paying for multiple meter readings at the other house with a separate meter for farm usage. Here the farm is all on our house meter (but it's actual usage of electricity is fairly minimal).

The first year we were in our own home, our usage dropped by almost half. Since then the bill has been creeping up a little - partly due to increasing electricity prices and partly due to the fact that I just haven't focused on trying to keep it down.

We've made a start with the $$ side of things. DH rang our electricity provider yesterday and asked if we were on the best deal they could give us and they've offered us a 5% discount on all future bills. So that's $$ in our pocket for very minimal effort. :-)

For the purpose of this challenge though, I'm going to focus on kWh's rather than $ as that seems to be the best comparison to be made. Our electricity costs, being rural, are higher per unit than some so the easiest way to compare is to focus on our actual usage in kWh's. It's also a way to measure in between bills as I can read the meter as often as I like. :-)

So, I talked to the kids the other day about doing an electricity challenge and they are all excited about the fact. We've decided that we'll begin next Monday when I've taken a second meter reading and we can use that as a comparison as to whether we're making progress with our efforts. I'm focusing on the environmental benefits rather than the $$ benefits with them. They discuss the environment quite a bit at school so it fits well with what they're learning.

For the past couple of years, we've continued to budget the $3000 that electricity was costing us at our old home and have been using our electricity savings toward paying for our solar hot water system that we installed when we built this house. Now that the costs for that
are covered, DH and I had a conversation the other day about what we might do with our electricity savings. For some time now, I've been interested in installing solar panels for our electricity use. The cost has been somewhat prohibitive for us. So DH suggested that we earmark these savings for saving up for this. I was so excited that he seems to be finally on board with the idea!!! So, that's what we'll be doing. Another "compounding" effect for both our finances and the environment!!! We save money and energy and those savings go toward the possibility of saving more money and energy in the future! :-)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What Do You Do With Any Money Saved?

I used to consider myself a "frugal shopper". After all, I NEVER (well hardly ever) bought things at full price. In fact, since shopping was a hobby for me, I often came across irresistable bargains! So it came as something of a shock to me to discover that my shopping habits weren't all that frugal after all. You see, I didn't end up with any spare money in my pocket. I just ended up with more STUFF for my money!

Now, buying things on sale IS a part of being frugal. And it's certainly a good way to go when $$ are tight and needs are high. I lived on Austudy living away from home allowance for a few years and $$ are definitely tight when you're living in a flat on your own and having to find both living and study expenses from a very meager allowance (which I was still very grateful for of course).

The problem with me was that this behaviour didn't stop when I started to have more $$ to manage. A good example of this was our kids Christmas presents. We set ourself a budget and most years I stuck to that budget. But I made it my challenge to get as many toys for that money as I possibly could. In my mind I was *saving* money but in actual fact I wasn't saving myself any money - I was just buying more STUFF for my money. :-) Now we have a $$ value budget based on full-price and anything I buy on sale, the money then becomes an actual SAVING.

Which brings me to the point of this blog post. What do you do with any money that you've saved through frugal habits? I now track all our spending and attempt to come in under budget on as many categories as possible. Some things (like our medical expenses) are hard to predict and so it's not uncommon for 1 or 2 categories to end up in the red at the end of the year. But overall, since I've started this tracking of spending, we've always ended our year with some kind of surplus.

Spare money - isn't that everybody's dream? LOL. So then I had to decide what to do with it. Spend it? Mighty tempting. Save it? Maybe. Put it onto the mortgage? Probably *should* do that.... :-) I ended up deciding that we would split the surplus. 60% went as extra payments on the mortgage, 20% went to building up our emergency fund and 20% we allocated to "blow" money.

I think having some *blow* money has been a really important part of our journey to a more frugal lifestyle. Sometimes things crop up through the year that we'd like to do but haven't really *planned* or budgetted for. This created a bit of an issue for us. Do we blow the budget or feel deprived? Neither was really going to encourage us with our budgetting and frugality plans. So by setting aside some of our surplus each year, we have some money purely for *play* (in addition to any "play" money we include in our budget). It's a nice reward for our frugal efforts and helps us not to get too intense as well. Both DH and I have a tendency to get a little TOO focused on a goal and can tend to overdo the frugality bit at times - so this is also a way to "shake us up a bit" and encourage us to let loose with the finances occasionally. I think in turn, it helps us to stick with the frugal stuff for the rest of the time instead of giving up because we've made it too hard for ourselves.

There is another good option though. You can put any money saved toward things that are going to lead to further savings in the future. Your savings then have a compounding effect a bit like cash savings in the bank do. Where the interest in the bank account starts to earn interest and over time the growth rate of your cash savings increases dramatically. The same can happen with frugality. If you *invest* the money saved into things that are going to save you more money in the future - your savings efforts can start to have a compounding effect.

This is what I've decided to do with my food money savings. At the end of this month I expect to have around $800 in our food budget that is surplus as a result of my "grocery challenge". Usually I'd leave this in our bank account until the end of our budgetting year. But I've decided in this instance that I'm going to set that money aside separately and use it toward building up our fruit and vegetable garden and buying more chooks. Potentially I could turn that $800 of *savings* into thousands of dollars in savings over the next who knows how many years. So just like compounding interest, my savings can generate more savings and so on.

Well, that's the plan anyway. LOL. I'll keep you posted with how my "compounding" efforts go. :-)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

August Grocery Shopping

Well it's getting to that time of the month again and I've been a bit slack with keeping my records up to date. So today is the day to get everything entered into my spending book and work out where I'm up to.

August has been a bit of a "spend up" month for me in the area of groceries. I'm not hugely worried about it and some of it was expected due to my low spending in July. One thing I've noticed though, is the number of packets of biscuits that I've bought. At a rough count up, I've bought 23 packets of biscuits this month. LOL. That's a lot for me as I usually bake my own. Some of those have been due to very good prices, especially on those flavoured savoury biscuits (which I don't make myself). At the moment the cupboard is well stocked with biscuits. :-) And some of those are *hiding* in a box on the top shelf so they'll last a little while.

I also bought 4 tubs of ice cream this month as they were a good price. That didn't end up being the best of ideas though as DH saw all this ice cream and all of a sudden we were going through it a rapid pace. :-) I'll have to hide some if I want to stock up another time. LOL.

Here's where the tally stands at the moment:

August so far: $496.08
July was $302.29 then I did a bulk buy at the butchers early in August (not included in the August tally as it was supposed to be in July) of $65.12

In order to stay under my $100 a week average spend I need to keep my combined spending for July and August to under $900. So far the total stands at $863.49 leaving me $36.51 for this week.

So providing I spend under $36.51 this week, I've achieved my goal. If I can do that even with my biscuit and ice cream blow out, I'll be very happy. Given the fridge, freezer and cupboard are all full, there's no reason why I won't be able to keep the grocery spend to under that amount this week (just 1 shopping day left for the month).

It's been a funny month for discussions on groceries. I keep a bit of an eye on how DH is feeling about what foods I'm buying etc as this challenge is really a *choice* challenge rather than a * necessity* challenge and I don't want to continue it if DH is feeling at all "deprived" or frustrated with what foods I'm buying. Usually he's pretty easy to keep happy.

A couple of weeks ago, DH was teasing me about the fact that I NEVER wanted to fill up our pantry cupboard. When we moved into this house, I had 4 boxes of pantry staples to move (despite my efforts to use them up before we moved lol) and when I unpacked them into the pantry cupboard the cupboard still looked empty. I knew that if I were to ever fill the cupboard, that would be a LOT of food. And yes... most of the time that cupboard is full! LOL. So every now and then DH likes to have a dig at me about the amount of food I keep on hand. :-)

The thing is, he turned around a week or so later and told me that we were out of EVERYTHING. Of course, I just laughed at him for contradicting himself. Obviously I'm not the only one in this family with a tendency to exaggerate slightly. :-) We were out of promite, peanut butter, spaghetti and baked beans and almost out of honey, vegemite and tomato sauce. I guess for a bloke that's used to never running out of anything, it may have felt like we were starting to run out of *everything*. I suspect if we actually DID run out of tomato sauce, I would have had a mutiny on my hands. :-) It's a major food group in this household. LOL. I wonder if that's a reflection on my cooking skills? LOL.

I did have everything under control though, knowing I was going to do a "pantry stock" shop over the weekend. Everything is now right with the world. :-)We have a BIG bottle of tomato sauce, promite, vegemite, 3 tubs of peanut butter as well as a number of cans of spaghetti and baked beans.

I have however decided it's time for a new challenge. My *real* grocery budget is actually $129.23 a week. LOL. I kid you not. I budget monthly so it's actually $560 a month and it doesn't quite divide up evenly when you calculate it out to a weekly amount. :-) I'm quite happy with what I've achieved. 8 months of averaging $100 or less. I intend to continue to track my grocery spending and will still keep it as low as possible. It just won't be my "frugal focus".

I've found through my journey into frugality, that I'm most successful with challenging myself if I limit it to one area of our spending at a time. I work on getting spending down in one area and making those changes into a habit. Then I move on to something different. Our spending will tend to go up slightly in an area once it is no longer my focus, but only by a small amount and usually not up to as high as it was before. It works for me and stops me getting overwhelmed. It also makes it into more of a game and therefore I have fun with it rather than seeing it as a *chore* or *deprivation*.

So what will my next challenge be? Well Rhonda over at Down To Earth is currently running an electricity challenge. So I thought I would join in with that for a few months and see how that goes. I'll post more about my electricity challenge in the next couple of days.

As for the food budget surplus. I intend to skim that off to use for something else. I'll also blog more about that over the next day or so. :-)

Monday, August 27, 2007


When we go "camping", I prefer to do it in "style". :-) I'm afraid I'm not one for "roughing" it in the *wild*. LOL. There's still too much city girl in me for that. I did actually go *real* camping one time when I was about 19 with a group of friends. Sleeping in tents, toilet in the bush, no showers etc and it was enjoyable. But I much prefer the comforts that a caravan park has to offer. Electricity, flushing toilets and warm showers.

My definition of *roughing it* is having to go outside my quarters in order to visit the bathroom. LOL. Actually, I consider myself quite brave that I tolerate (and actually enjoy) that level of discomfort. LOLOL.

I was thinking while we were away over the weekend how much I love the sense of community that caravan parks have. Everyone is so friendly. I guess most people are in holiday mode so they are feeling happy and relaxed. I lost count of the number of "good mornings" I received on the way to and from the bathrooms. I also lost count of the number of trips to and from the bathrooms. LOL. I'm sure I'll enjoy it even more when our children are of an age where I don't have to go with them every single time. :-)

There aren't any high fences dividing one families personal "space" from another's. I think that brings down a lot of *internal* fences and provides an opportunity and an inclination to chat to one another. I was sitting outside under our "verandah" with our 3 year old yesterday morning while the people next to us were packing up their van next to us. My son piped up with "where's your mummy"? to this elderly gentleman. I resisted the urge to say she was probably 6-feet under (not that my 3 year old would even understand that phrase) and simply told him his mummy wasn't with him.

The guy had quite a chuckle to himself over the thought of travelling around with his "mummy" at his age and made a quiet comment to me that he was quite glad that wasn't the case. :-) I guess at 3 that's a concept that hasn't even been born in his little mind.

On one of my many trips to the bathroom a lady stopped to talk with my DD about whether she'd enjoyed swimming the day before. Without huge fences and space surrounding us, everyone can see a certain amount of what others are doing. It makes striking up a friendly conversation so much easier when you've had a little bit of insight into what the person has been doing.

I can't help but wonder if we've gone too far in the whole "privacy rights" issue. After all, how do you offer a neighbour assistance if it's needed if you have no idea what is happening in their lives or the fact that they need some assistance?

I love watching the kids on the playground too. Kids don't care if they've never met before. They're quite happy to strike up a friendship on the spot and get on with the business of having FUN together. We could learn quite a lot from them couldn't we?

I can't help but feel that our desire for *privacy* and our desire to lock up all our stuff to protect it from other people who want to *take* it has really robbed us of our sense of community.

In a way I guess caravan parks offer a little taste of what "community" and also "simple living" have to offer. Okay, the temporariness of them does take away from that a little. But the fact that people have only small amounts of "stuff" to take care of, limited amounts of technology to distract them from "real people" and enough to time to stop and have a chat with people as they go about their daily business, does create a very pleaseant atmosphere to be in.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Being Spontaneous

I've been away for the weekend. Did you miss me? LOL. I certainly missed having my daily "say" on here. :-) I did know we were going on Friday afternoon, which is why I posted a second blog entry then - to tide you over for the weekend.

DH and I did something this weekend that we very rarely do. We were spontaneous! :-)

I think the last time we were spontaneous was Mother's Day 10 or 11 years ago when we woke up on the Sunday morning and decided to drive up to where my parents were living at the time (about an hour and a half away) and surprise my mum by rocking up to church that morning. No phone call to check if they were even home or anything. It was fun and gave her a HUGE surprise - but it was definitely an "out of character" thing for us to do.

You see DH and I are planners. That's a good thing - most of the time. We rarely, if ever, run late for things. And if we have people coming to stay, I'll have everything well organised in advance so that I'm not having to do too much while they're here (mostly because I'm worried about having an "on the spot" disaster in the kitchen lol).

The thing is, if you were to rock up on our doorstep unannounced, you'd send us into a bit of a spin. Eventually our brains would catch up with the action and we'd be fine. But we're just not all that great at "fly by the seat of your pants" type stuff.

So it was kind of an unusual thing for us to get up Saturday morning, throw a few clothes into bags and head off with the camper trailer overnight. I guess it doesn't sound like all that big a deal to some of you - but it was for us. :-) We forgot a few things but funnily enough we survived. It was a good reminder to me of how much "stuff" I *think* I need, when in reality we can actually manage quite well with very little.

I think it's a good thing to occasionally step out of our comfort zones. Shakes life up a bit. The great thing is that our move toward a simpler lifestyle is what made this spontaneity even possible. Instead of having a weekend cram packed with activities, our calendar was free and off we went for some much needed "family time".

Where we stayed was close to the beachfront and with the unseasonably warm weather the kids actually went swimming! Not sure how though - the water was FREEZING. I couldn't even keep my feet in it, it was so cold.

It was great to get away from home and just BE. We're working toward making our home a sanctuary where we can BE but we still find it nice to get away for a bit and relax. No housework that I *should* be doing or farmwork staring DH in the face. It's such a blessing to have our camper trailer and have the ability to just take off with very little notice.

Yesterday I bought myself a magazine as I tend to find I get a bit bored and agitated just sitting around. But this morning while I was watching the kids on the playground, I didn't even open it. I just sat there and did not a lot really. I looked out over the blue sea which was quite calm (where we went is in a gulf). I watched the dynamics of people as they came and went and different children as they were playing on the playground. And some of the time I just closed my eyes and completely relaxed. It was all quite unusually calm for me. Perhaps some of this stuff is finally starting to rub off on me. :-)

So we're home again. Filthy, tired and grumpy (actually we're not all that grumpy which is a nice change lol). I did some shopping while we were away so there was a bit of stuff to put away. Mostly pantry items so not too much in the way of clutter. Ooh, I did get a ball of cotton yarn so I'm going to try some more knitting!!!! (And the first cloth I knitted is going well in the bath - the kids think it's great!!! Although I think it is going to stretch a bit with use.)

I hope everyone else had a nice weekend. I'd best be off and organise tea. I bought a cooked chicken and a few salad items for an easy tea tonight. Ooh, and a punnet of strawberries for a treat. Can't wait until we have some in our garden!!! :-)

Friday, August 24, 2007


After I bought my knifty knitter, I went searching online for ideas on what could be done with it. It was then that I came across the idea of felting.

Basically you take a woollen item (it needs to be wool and apparently not all wools work either) and wash it in hot water and it not only shrinks but the fibres all kind of matt together to give a felted appearance. Well it sounded kind of interesting to me so I decided I'd like to give it a try with some bags I was making on one of my knifty knitter looms.

Here are a couple of pictures of the finished product before the felting process.

I knitted them on the red knifty knitter loom (which is the second smallest round loom in my set), using all but 8 of the pegs. I used 2 strands of 8-ply wool together - 1 pink and 1 lavender in colour. Then just used a basic e-wrap stitch back and forth until I had approximately double the length I wanted. Then I started to decrease gradually to make a shaped piece for the flap section of the handbag.

So far I have made 3 of these and because I'm not following a specific pattern, each one of them is different. I like the idea of no two being exactly the same. :-)

For the handle I wrapped in a figure 8 movement around 2 pegs (again using the 2 different coloured strands held together as if 1). I made that up as I went along and it made quite a neat tube. Everything was then sewn together and trimmed etc before the felting process

Being the kind of person who doesn't like to follow recipes and instructions too specifically, I also made up my own variation for the felting process. LOL. You never know what I'm going to end up with when I experiment.

I soaked the bag in boiling water for around 20-30 minutes and then threw them in with my regular light load wash. I usually wash the light load on a 60C cycle so it's warm but not hot hot. The heat is supposed to somehow open up the fibres so that they'll be more susceptible to matting (I think).

Here's what they look like once the felting process is complete:

I don't know how easy it is for you to see the difference. None of my projects have come out 100% felted yet. Probably due to my lack of scientific approach to the process. LOL. But I don't mind really as it kind of adds to the character of the bag - continuing on with my "no 2 bags look the same" theme. :-)

Here is another shot of the felted bag. I'm really happy with the way the 2 colours have melded together.

The other great benefit I've noticed with the felting is that it helps cover any little mistakes! :-) All the stitching becomes a part of the overall piece as well. So it's perfect for someone like me who's just starting out and wants to make something that looks "nice".

My plan for 2 of the bags are as Christmas gifts for my nieces. We don't see them very often as they live in another state. I'm hoping when they see them it'll remind them of us and that even though we're a long way away, we love and cherish them dearly. At the moment I'm working on some little embellishments to finish them off. When I'm done, I'll post some more pics for you to see how they've turned out. :-)

Then I need to do some shopping for some small items to put inside. I've already purchased an Avon Little Blossom lip gloss for each of them. I'm not sure what else I might put inside. If you have any suggestions, feel free to add them to the comments section. :-)

If anyone is interested in taking up loom knitting, I noticed that the current spotlight catalogue has a set of 4 looms for just under $10 (on sale). That's quite a bit cheaper than what I paid for mine although they are a cheaper brand - I'm sure they'd still work just as well though.

I have a few other ideas I want to try out using the felting process - I'll keep you posted as I go! :-)

Homemade Crumpets

DH has made me some crumpet rings by cutting up a large tinned fruit can. 6 fit perfectly in my rectangular electric frypan. I've been working on perfecting the original recipe I was given. The first batch I made didn't have many holes in them. Then I found out from another person who makes their own crumpets that my recipe was missing the rising time.

Here they are - a batch of crumpets in my rings, just starting to bubble away.

And here they are, almost cooked. The verdict was that they now looked like bought crumpets (with the holes in the top) and they tasted like bought crumpets (well, better if you ask me). However, they still weren't as light as a bought crumpet.

So, I intend to play around with the recipe a little more and see what I can come up with. What I still can't get over is how easy they are to make. They are a little time consuming as I can only cook 6 at a time (and the recipe makes about 18) but other than that, they're really so easy and so much cheaper than their shop bought counterparts. Plus I know exactly what has gone into them.

You can find the original recipe here if you don't already have it. Just make up the mixture about an hour ahead of when you want to cook them. They can be eaten fresh (remember they still need to be toasted) or you can freeze them to use later.

I'll let you know if I come up with a recipe variation that makes them a little lighter.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dreams vs Goals

I've been thinking about the difference between a dream and a goal. In my mind a dream is something that doesn't have to be achievable or have a timeline. Whereas a goal is measurable, realistic, has a timeline and steps to be taken in order to reach that goal. Perhaps that's why I like dreams better! :-)

BUT, goals are the steps that take us toward our dreams.

One of the dreams I mentioned yesterday was the desire to take our children on a 3 month caravanning tour around Queensland and New South Wales. Like most dreams, the only way this dream can become a reality is if I start to set myself goals that move us toward that dream.

A number of years ago we came across a wonderful couple that had done exactly that. Taken the kids out of school for a term and travelled. They gave us some advice which changed our dream from a "pipe dream" (one we weren't sure we'd ever actually realise) to more of a goal. They suggested that we make up our minds that we're going to do it and not let anything stand in our way.

There is something that is quite invincible about a human mind once it is made up. I only have to watch my children on a daily basis to be reminded of that fact. LOL. You sure have to be one tough cookie to raise children. :-)

I'm so thankful to these friends. Up until that point I'm not sure DH was convinced that we would ever do our dream trip. He liked the idea of the trip, he just wasn't sure he could turn the idea into a reality. After that conversation with our friends, we decided that we were going to make it a reality. Even if it took doing it in our camper trailer on a shoestring budget - we were going to MAKE it happen.

That reminds me of a conversation I heard DH having with a teenage lad that was boarding with us when our first child was very young. He was doing the agriculture course that is offered during year 11 and 12 at our local school. This young lad was interested in becoming a farmer (although he had been raised in the city) but he also wanted to be a millionaire. DH was basically telling him that if he wanted something badly enough - he could achieve it. BUT that he may have to choose which he wanted MORE - to be a farmer OR be a millionaire. While there are plenty of farmers whose net worth is higher than a million dollars, they tend to be those who have gotten into farming with some kind of help. The reality of farming is that it's getting virtually impossible to start with nothing and build yourself a successful farming enterprise.

I think that this is a motto that DH and I have tended to live by. We can have ANYTHING if we really want it badly enough. But we can't have EVERYTHING. There's a big difference between those 2 words. Very few people build themselves an empire without a LOT of time and effort invested in that empire. It may come down to a choice of what you want MORE - more money OR more time.

Anyway, back to our dream trip.

Step 1 - have the dream
Step 2 - decide we ARE going to chase that dream
Step 3 - work out what steps are necessary in order to see the dream become a reality
Step 4 - take those steps, one at a time
Step 5 - see the dream become a reality

Well, some dreams are easier than others to work out what steps need to be taken in order to see them come to reality. Some dreams are out of our control to an extent (like my wanting to have grandchildren for instance - although there are probably plenty of children out there who would love an "adopted" grandmother). But they work for THIS dream.

So, what are our steps in order to see our dream of travelling with our children become a reality?

There are a number of things that need to happen:

1. Decide on a timeline. We wanted all our children to be old enough to remember the trip (school age) but go before our eldest reached the final year of primary school. So we've decided on Term 3 of 2009 (which I might add seemed quite a long way off when we first decided on that date but is approaching rapidly).

2. Purchase a caravan. Fortunately with already owning a camper trailer, this step isn't a necessity in order to see our dream come true. But it would make life on the road a LOT easier than having to set up and pack up the camper trailer each time we move locations.

Of course, there are smaller stages within this step as well. We need to consider whether we'll buy new vs second hand and what size, style, make, model etc etc etc. We've managed to narrow things down to around 2-3 options so far. We will buy second hand if the right opportunity comes along but are prepared to purchase new as second hand in what we want are very hard to come by and caravans seem to hold their value well. We also need to work out finance before we can buy. Our preferred timeline for ordering our caravan is early next year so that we have time to do a smaller trip with it before the big trip.

3. Save up finance for the trip. We've started this process and 2008 that will be our main financial focus (saving for the trip).

4. Work out how we're going to manage the farm while we're away. If DH had a *real* job (lol - I often tease him that he needs to get a real job) then we'd use his long-service leave. Since he doesn't, we need to work out exactly how this is going to work. DH has a few ideas and hasn't settled on a specific one yet.

5. Work out the kids schooling. Our preference is to work *with* their current teachers if possible but we will pull them out of the school if that is our only option. We haven't discussed this with the school yet as our senior staff seem to change frequently and there isn't much point in going through it with one, only to have to go through it again. I expect that we'll do that this time next year. We are travelling with another family who have children of similar ages.

Of course, then there is all the fun stuff like working out what we want to take with us (and what will fit in the caravan), where we want to go (some of which we plan to decide as we go).

Ooh, I'm getting all excited just talking about it! :-)

So there you have it. From a dream to goal setting to seeing the dream come true. Hopefully you'll all still be around to watch our dream become a reality!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dare to Dream

The topic of chasing our dreams seems to be one that touches us all. Somewhere deep inside all of us are those yearnings and longings that we're almost afraid to voice for fear that someone might think we're slightly crazy. Or perhaps it's the belief that our dreams really won't come true (especially if we voice them) that holds up back.

I want to challenge you today to "dare to dream". Think about what your dreams are. Write them down on a piece of paper. Better still, pop them in the comments section here. There is nothing like reading about other people's dreams to stimulate the imagination and get us all enthused about our own dreams.

Even just the process of daring to dream and the fun of following those dreams can be extremely fulfilling and fun. Some dreams don't get fulfilled and yet there is a certain fulfillment that comes simply from having those dreams and perhaps making a step or two toward them.

I remember years ago I was running some training sessions and part of one of those sessions was on the topic of dreams. One of the ladies went away from that session with a dream to set up a coffee shop/ youth drop in type centre inside an aeroplane. The amount of fun she had chasing up an aeroplane and sharing her progress with us all (and the fun we had being a part of watching her dream unfold) was phenomenol. She actually got as far as sourcing a plane that could be used. There came a point where she did decide to let go of her dream BUT she (and the rest of the group) learnt an important lesson from that time. Her dream progressed so much further than any of us would have believed. It was a great experience and one I'm grateful to have been a part of.

So, I want to hear your dreams. What are the things in your heart of hearts you'd like to happen in your lifetime?

Here are a few of mine:

* build a house on this farm :-)

* both DH and I to work part-time together (once our children are a little older) so we both have lots of time for other things

* take our children on a 3-month caravanning trip around Queensland and NSW

* get as close to self sufficiency as possible

* work in an orphanage (and maybe even one day adopt some orphans)

* work at a camp-site (I just love the atmosphere of camps)

* have grandchildren (lol - that one is a little outside my realms of control though)

So there you have it - a little glimpse inside my heart of hearts. :-) I don't know yet whether I'll see all these dreams come to fruition. Maybe over time some of them will change. I'm sure new dreams will emerge. It doesn't matter. Just having those dreams gives some kind of meaning and direction to my life.

Go on.... Dare to Dream....Dare to Share Your Dreams. :-)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fast Tracking Our Dreams

This is post number 8 (!) in a series of posts outlining some of journey so far toward a simpler lifestyle. I can't believe I'm up to 8 posts!!! :-)

If you haven't already done so, you might like to read the first 7 before you read this one:

Post 1: A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step
Post 2: Joe Dominguez
Post 3: Tracking Spending
Post 4: You Cannot Steer a Stationary Ship
Post 5: Living the Dream
Post 6: How Did This Happen?
Post 7: Words of Wisdom

A few weeks after my nervous breakdown last year, DH came home one day and suggested to me that perhaps next year he should cut back his workload a little. Strangely enough, instead of jumping at that idea, I laughed and told him I thought he was over-reacting a little and that I would be well and truly back on my feet by then. At the time he was flat out trying to put a crop in on 4 different properties (with his brother and dad helping), looking after 3 children, a sick wife and running a household. In hindsight, it's not all that surprising that he was feeling the need to cut back on his workload a little.

But at this point in time I was convinced that if I wasn't going to be recovered within weeks, it would be months not YEARS until I was back on my feet. As baling season and then harvest approached toward the end of 2006, it was becoming more and more likely that my recovery was in fact going to take years rather than weeks. In some ways it was kind of a relief that our year finished so poorly, leaving us with very few bales of hay in need of baling (DH and his brother had a contracting hay baling business) and crops that didn't take too much time to reap. I'm not sure our family could have coped with anything more at that time.

So it was at this point that we made the decision to give up the baling business and scale DH's workload right back to working just the farm we're living on. It was a HUGE step and even though the scaled back farming was only for 1 year, it was still a step taken with some trepidation. So much so that DH never did get around to running the figures on our current scenario. But his estimation is that we'll be about $30,000 short in income. This is business income, not personal income (although our personal income is a part of the businesses expenditures). For us the decision became more about what we *needed* to do rather than what we could *afford* to do.

It has always been our dream that one day DH could "semi-retire" and we would build a house here and he would just farm this farm where we're living. Some days I feel like I need to pinch myself to see if the dream we're living right now really is a reality. We'd always expected we'd be 50+ before we could realise the dream of living and working on this farm.

DH is having a wonderful year. He came home to the farm the day he finished year 12 and has worked hard and long hours ever since. The only way he tends to get a break is to go away somewhere and even then, that requires extra hours before we go and after we get back in order to get all the necessary jobs done. This year marks his 15th year of farming. No such thing as long service leave in the farming sector. :-)

I think it's doing him the world of good. He's under less pressure and he's less sleep deprived than he would usually be. He's enjoying pottering around the house getting some of those jobs done that have been niggling at the back of his mind since we moved over 2 years ago. He's discovered where half of my time goes as he ferries kids around to sport and has time to go to their many and varied school events. He's even managed to fit in a couple of games of football himself (until he discovered a 30+ year old body is more prone to injury than a 20+ year old body lol).

In fact, we're having such a good time that if we could make it work financially, I think he'd stay semi-retired. ;-) At least now that we've had a *taste* of our dream, we can be sure it's what we really want and have something to look forward to and continue to work toward. I'll be surprised if we wait until we're 50 to have a year like this again. At the moment though, we're just taking 1 year at a time and seeing where life leads us.

Here's the interesting thing though. I spoke before about reducing our income by $30,000 in doing what we're doing. Of course, that's a very approximate figure as the ingoings and outgoings in both farming and our contract business fluctuate greatly. It's handy to have some kind of approximate figure to work toward though. Late last year we decided to sell up a couple of investments we had (small ones that had grown a bit) and pay off our own house mortgage. This has reduced our interest bill by around $10,000. Due to the drought we're now getting some drought assistance which adds up to almost $20,000. There you have it - $30,000. I still can't quite believe how things have fallen into place.

I started off this story of our journey talking about how a "journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step". You know, that applies to chasing our dreams as well. We took a step toward our dream, not knowing how things were going to go. And it wasn't until we'd already taken that step, that the *how* started to fall into place. Sometimes we get so focused on the here and now and the obstacles that stand between us and our dreams, that we're too afraid to take that first step.

Perhaps the *how* fell into place for us because making our dream a reality became more of a *need* than simply a dream. It's been a good lesson to me though of how easy it is to *wish* for our dreams to come true instead of being spurred into action by taking a step toward them.

I don't know what the future holds for us. I'm sure it will be full of ups and downs. Possibly next year DH's workload will increase slightly. It was never our expectation that he would "semi-retire" for good at the age of 32. But it's been nice to have a little taste of our dream right now. It's really highlighted the fact that for us, having more time is much more valuable than having more $$.

I could talk all day about chasing dreams - but perhaps I'll leave that for another post, another day. Our journey in life so far hasn't taken quite the path we expected it to. But I will say, despite the struggles, I wouldn't change where we are (or who we are) right now for anything.

What have I learnt so far? Many things but these 3 are the ones that come to mind right now:

1. Don't be afraid of the hard times - they provide an opportunity to grow and learn.
2. Don't be afraid to go against the flow - the majority isn't always right.
3. Don't be afraid to chase your dreams - there is nothing in life better than living your dream.

Take a step.....Dare to be different.....Be who you were created to be! :-)

Monday, August 20, 2007

If At First You Don't Succeed....

...unravel it and start knitting again. LOL. Some of you may have guessed from one of my recent posts that I've been doing a bit of unravelling when it comes to my knitting attempts. :-) I thought it would be good to at least master 1 dishcloth with my knitting needles. I'm sure you need at least 3 hands to co-ordinate those things. LOL. I will admit that co-ordination did become easier as the project progressed (is this because the knitting helped hold the needles together?).

When I came across this blog post, I decided it was time to do away with perfectionism and just get on with getting it done. Not because of any deadline but because I could see myself reknitting the first few rows 100 times and never finishing.

So here is the finished product. If you're a knitter I'm sure you'll spot the mistakes. I had trouble with phantom stitches appearing on my needles. And it took a couple of rows for me to figure out I needed to shift the wool back and forth when switching between normal stitch and purl stitch (hence the hole). However, I was most pleased with myself to be able to drag how to do a purl stitch from the deep dark recesses of my mind.

But anyway, my first knitting project (since I was about 10) is now done. Not that we actually need any dishcloths at the moment. I tend to edge old towels or handtowels for dishcloths. What we do need though is some face washers so I'm going to see how this holds up in the bath. Nothing ventured nothing gained. It's not knitted with cotton since I didn't have any. I found some baby wool I bought a very long time ago thinking I might get inspired to knit while I was pregnant (I didn't). At least it's nice and soft but not sure how it'll go under duress in the bath with the kids. :-)

Thanks again to Rhonda Gay for her help. There were times when I wish some of my blogging friends lived just next door so I could pop over with the needles and say "what is going on here?" LOL. Then again, perhaps it's better that I had to work some of it out for myself.

I'm now back to using my round looms for knitting. Not that I'm abandoning my needles - just taking a break. At the moment I'm attempting to make an afghan throw rug for DS (in crows colours) on the loom. When it's done I'll post a pic. If my cloth survives the bathtub, I may even attempt to knit another one - this time without any holes (hopefully). :-)

Oh yeah, before I go tossing it in the bathtub, I probably should weave the ends in. I cheated and just tucked them underneath for the photo. LOL. I'm a classic when it comes to not quite finishing things off!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Words of Wisdom

This is post number 7 sharing some of my journey from mindless consumerism to a more simpler lifestyle. If you haven't already read the first 6 posts, you may like to do that first:

Post 1: A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step
Post 2: Joe Dominguez
Post 3: Tracking Spending
Post 4: You Cannot Steer a Stationary Ship
Post 5: Living the Dream
Post 6: How Did This Happen?

I remember when I was pregnant with my first baby and the midwife warned us that we would come across a lot of well meaning people, all with different opinions on how best to raise our child. Add to that all the literature out there on what’s best for baby and it’s no wonder many new mum’s feel overwhelmed. This information overload isn’t just limited to parenting though is it? We all have our opinions when it comes to all facets of life – money, wealth, careers, homes, child rearing…..the list goes on. Thousands of “experts” also spout opinions on a range of topics – often contradicting one another and yet spouting their way as the “only” way to go.

So how do you decide who you will listen to? How do to you tell the “true words of wisdom” from those that will lead you down a path you don’t want to go?

I once heard someone suggest that you should look for people who are where you want to go. Find out how they went about getting where they currently are. This was a suggestion in relation to building wealth, but I think it can be applied to all kinds of life situations, including simple living.

I think that’s the great thing about the internet world. It seems to be so much easier to connect with people from all walks of life. No longer are we restricted by geographical location. I know I’ve found places like and FrugalAussies to be instrumental in my journey toward simple living. Recently I’ve been reading at aussieslivingsimply as well. Another great bunch of people. Then of course there are the many blogs of other people’s journeys (gotta love those blogs!).

Of course, when it comes to simple living, there are plenty of conflicting ideas on what does and does not constitute a “simpler” life.

When my first child was a baby I had quite a startling experience. We were only a few days home from the hospital and my own mother was staying with us at the time. I remember saying to her “oh, I feel really awful all of a sudden”. Her reaction was to go straight to my baby – at that exact instant he choked on some mucus. I think that experience will be forever etched in my mind. As mothers, we have an inbuilt instinct – I think at times we’ve forgotten how to listen to that intuition or we don’t trust it very well.

Since that experience with my newborn baby, I have tuned in a lot more to that intuition. I go a lot by gut feeling in how I parent my children. I’m not saying I get it right all of the time – but mostly my gut instinct serves me well.

I guess you could say I’m following my gut instinct with our move toward a simpler lifestyle as well. When I read about other people’s journeys – there is something that seems to resonate deep within me. It just feels *right*. Perhaps not very scientific – but hey, science often gets things wrong anyway!!! LOL.

There’s another important part of my life that plays a very big part in *who* I listen to and what “words of wisdom” I follow. My spiritual side. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how little I’ve so far said in my blog about my beliefs. Am I trying to hide what I believe? Not at all. Do I worry about what people might think? A little, but perhaps not in the way you might expect. It’s not that I’m worried about what people might think of me so much as my concern as to how they might view God. That somehow, my many imperfections might reflect badly on God.

I’m a Christian. What does that mean exactly? Well, basically it means that I believe Jesus Christ is the son of God and also a part of God. I believe he came to earth as a man and was crucified, died and returned to life. That none of us on our own can ever get close to being “good enough” for God and so our only way to a relationship with him, is through Jesus Christ.

You see Christianity isn’t about being “good enough”, it’s about adoption. Being adopted into God’s family as one of his children. But so often you hear people saying they don’t want to have a bar of the “church” cos they’re a bunch of hypocrites. I know a lot of horrible things have been done in the name of religion (Christianity included but not on its own there) but I feel sad that people blame God for that. Being a Christian doesn't make me any better (or more perfect) than the next person. All it does is make me a child of God and for that I'm extremely grateful. To know that I am unconditionally accepted and loved by the creator of the universe is an awesome feeling. So please don't blame God for my imperfections (or anyone else's for that matter). He's the perfect one, not me.

All that aside, I am a Christian and I do use the bible as my most important sources of wisdom. So I wanted to share a few little “snippets” that I’ve found helpful as part of my journey toward simple living (and a life less caught up in money).

I love the writings of King Solomon. He was well known in his day for being the wisest and wealthiest King alive. I think to this day his reputation still stands. One of the great things about having decluttered our lives of all our activities during my recovery from my breakdown was having the extra time to read my bible (once I regained the ability to read and process words).

Here’s one passage that really stood out to me, written by King Solomon:

“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:17-19

I think a couple of things really stood out to me about this. The reminder that one day we leave this earth and we don’t take anything with us when we go. We can work and work and work to build wealth – to what end? Another that really hit me was that often we use the “for our children” excuse when it comes to building wealth. I think it’s a normal parental reaction to want to provide for our children. But are they really going to thank us if we spend a lot of our time while they are young toiling away, building wealth for them that they may or may not want? That they may or may not appreciate or use wisely? Is it better then to give them the gift of our time. To build a relationship with them and teach them about what is truly important in life?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t set anything aside either for our own future or our children’s. I guess what it really comes down to is having a balanced view about ALL the things that are important. Rather than getting too focused on a tomorrow that no-one knows what will bring.

Here’s a quote from Jesus himself:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and dust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” Matthew 6: 19-21

I’ve been thinking about rising interest rates and stock market declines over the past few days. We think freedom comes from having money. Money makes us feel secure. In my limited experience, having money and/or investments doesn’t bring any security at all. In fact, we found it just added stress to our lives – what to do with the excess money? Where is the best place to put it? When should we sell the shares we have? Can we pick the right moment? It can “feel” great to have a little more than you’re used to having. But it can also be an added responsibility.

We decided last year to sell our investment property and some shares that we had in order to pay out some debt. What a freeing feeling that has been, especially in light of the interest rate hikes and share market fluctuations. We can just continue on in our own little corner of the world and remain a little more “oblivious” to all of that. I think it’s the drawcard simple living has for many people – to get out of that whole rat race and back to the basics of food and clothing etc.

I’m not saying any of these things are actually bad. I do think though that chasing them at any cost can cause an imbalance in life.

Here’s a couple more quotes from the bible that have really touched me recently:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” 1 Timothy 6: 17 & 18.

I know at times I’ve been guilty of thinking “when I have more money I will help….”. It brings me back to the “how much is enough?” “Just a little bit more” scenario. By world standards, we are already rich. We have so much MORE than our basic needs met here while people the world over are struggling to get 1 meal a day. I need to constantly challenge my thinking and remind myself how much we have and how much more we could be giving. The interesting thing about giving is that the more you give, the more you realize you truly have and the more blessed you feel. At least that has been my experience so far.

Part way through last year, DH and I decided to put the photo’s of our sponsored children and our sponsored rickshaws on our family room wall. We struggled with this for a while as there is also a passage in the bible that talks about keeping it a secret when you give money. But we needed to share these people with ourselves. They are a wonderful reminder of how happy people can be on such truly tiny amounts. And a wonderful reminder to us of how much we really do have.

This post isn’t meant to come across as “preachy” so if it does, I apologise. I just wanted to share with you a snippet of the things that influence me and the way I make decisions about where I feel we’re meant to be heading in life. When it comes to both money and simple living, I don’t believe there is a “one size fits all” approach. I also don't believe that there is a "one way forever" when it comes to how we view financial matters. We're making the choices now that we believe are right for us NOW. What choices will be right for us in the future... well we'll have to work that out in the future. :-)

We're almost "caught up" to the present time in my reflections on our journey toward simpler living so far. I think there will be just 1 more post to go. Mind you, when I started I didn't expect there to be as many posts as I have written so far. So we'll see. LOL.

Next Instalment: 2007 - Our Timetable Brought Forward

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Nice Matters Award

Thank you to both Kez and Kin for nominating me for this award. :-) What a beautiful award - I REALLY like pink!!!!

The award was started by Bella-Enchanted

"This award will be awarded to those that are just nice people, good blog friends and those that inspire good feelings and inspiration! Those that care about others that are there to lend support or those that are just a positive influence in our blogging world!"

There are so many nice bloggers out there - it's naturally hard to select just a few to pass this award on to. I'll try and pick a few that haven't already received it yet. :-)

Firstly, Penny who's adorable little boys never cease to bring a smile to my face. Thanks for sharing a little part of your world with us Penny. I find this blog a great place to go when I'm feeling a little down and need a boost. :-) She has such a great sense of humour too!

Also, Christine who's beautiful smile from her photo always makes me feel good when I visit her blog.

And, Rhonda Gay . Okay, Rhonda Gay has actually just received this award from someone else but I really wanted to mention her anyway as she has been so wonderful lately helping me get started with my knitting needles. Thanks Rhonda! I love all her animal tales too.

Things continue to be draining in this house. DD has come down with a urinary tract infection so we've been up and down through the night for a few nights now and the poor little mite needs moral support from mum every time she goes to the toilet (which is often due to the infection). :-( So we now have 2 kids on antibiotics.

I'm feeling exhausted and sick of visiting the doctor and the chemist (3 days in a row this week). Hopefully we're past the worst of it now. I just need to take some time to rest and recover (didn't get up today until after midday!!!).

Friday, August 17, 2007

Our House Plan

For those who are interested, here is the rough sketch of our house design. This was the original drawing that I drew which then had to be draughted into a "proper" design. But this gives you an idea of the layout anyway. I'm not sure how clear it is going to come out but if you click on the picture it should enlarge.

The left hand side is the front of the house so you enter into the lounge room through the front door. The "back" is at the top of the picture and we have sliding doors entering the dining area as our "back" door.

When we were looking at existing designs, we wanted all the living areas to be on one side (the North side) overlooking the backyard. We also didn't want the children's bedrooms to be at the opposite end of the house to our room (given our children are still young). That and the fact that we decided to do away with having an ensuite (and most larger houses these days have them) were the things we found difficult to find in an existing design.

Plus if you've ever looked into transportable homes much - they tend to have very small kitchens and laundrys. I lost count of the number of times I was told "you have a big kitchen and laundry" by people working in these companies. I spend half my time in those 2 rooms so it made sense to me to have the space I wanted there! It's kind of sad the way the kitchen and laundry have become such unimportant places in modern homes.

Since this drawing, we did make a couple of changes. The major one was to shift the master bedroom built in robe to the wall it shares with the laundry. That enabled us to move the door into the master bedroom over and create a privacy door so that the bathroom can essentially be used as an ensuite (even though we only have the one bathroom). I didn't know what dimensions I needed to use for toilets and showers etc so the whole block for that area was left for the builders to complete. We do have the toilet separate from the bathroom though.

Basically there is a sliding door from the family room that opens into a small alcove. Turn left to go into our bedroom, right for the toilet or straight ahead for the bathroom. By shutting the sliding door, I essentially turn the bathroom into an ensuite and can privately move between the bathroom and our bedroom.

In an effort to not waste any space, the only "passageways" in the place are that alcove and a similar one coming off the lounge room to go into either the 2nd toilet or the office.

My biggest concern while we were waiting for the house to be built was whether or not the large open area of the kitchen/dining/family room would look long and narrow (as these houses can't be built too wide due to transport). Fortunately it doesn't and it suits our kind of lifestyle perfectly. Our children love it when we're nearby and I love it when we have visitors and I can be doing something in the kitchen and talking to them at the table at the same time (our last house the kitchen was kind of tucked away more).

So that gives you a little bit of a picture of what our home looks like. :-) I hope you enjoyed the brief little tour. LOL.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Power of Schmooze Award

The lovely Ali at Our Patch has nominated me for this award. Thanks Ali. :-)

This award was created by Danielle at Pink Reviews with the help of Mike at Things by Mike.

The award was created to

"recognize those people that were exceptionally adept at creating relationships with other bloggers by making an effort to be part of a conversation, as opposed to a monologue".

I wish to pass this award onto the following bloggers:

I'll also take this opportunity to thank all of you who read my blog and a special thank you to those who comment - it's so wonderful to have that 2-way feedback and to build such valuable friendships. :-)

Today I am Thankful for...

....drug companies!!! I know at times they get a bad rap for being money hungry manipulators. But in all honesty, a lot of peoples lives have been saved and/or improved thanks to the medications we have available.

I've been struggling with a lot of pain these past few days. I think the worst thing about it is waking up every hour or so through the night. So you add pain and lack of sleep together, it makes for one very grumpy me! :-) Yesterday when I saw my GP he recommended trying an Ibuprofen based pain killer. So I came home from the chemist with some Nurofen Plus. Now I am totally in LOVE with Nurofen Plus!!!! LOL. Wouldn't mind taking out shares in our local pharmacy though after parting with another $50 there yesterday (but I am thankful they're there - so I'm not TOO grumpy about that).

Last night DS had croup (again!!!). I'm thankful we have the availability of redipred - it's so scary when your child can't breathe. He was having an awful time of it - getting frustrated when he couldn't even get enough breath to cough. :-( So he's back to the dr today (was there just yesterday). Poor little mite.

I know our health system isn't perfect (far from it) but I'm just feeling really thankful that we do have some resources to help us through the not so healthy moments in our lives. So many people in the world don't have access to the kind of medical care that we do - and I know at times I'm guilty of taking it for granted.

Monday, August 13, 2007

How Did This Happen?

This is post number 6 in a series of posts related to our journey toward a simpler life.

If you haven't read the first 5 posts, you might like to read them first:

Post 1: A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step
Post 2: Joe Dominguez
Post 3: Tracking Spending
Post 4: You Cannot Steer a Stationary Ship
Post 5: Living the Dream

I seem to have this tendency to present the image of being "fine" and in control as much of the time as possible, regardless of how I'm truly feeling. A typical response from me over nearly any topic is likely to be "no worries". If someone asks you how you're going, how do you respond? I'd imagine the most typical responses would include the words "good" or "fine", no matter how things really are. Why are we like this? Do we somehow think that people will think less of us if we're completely honest with how we're going? Or is it more to do with how we perceive what the person is really asking - are they really asking how we are? Do they really want to know?

Maybe it’s just me that struggles with this, but somehow I doubt it.

In May 2006 I was diagnosed with having had a nervous breakdown. A situation that once I began to recover, made me scratch my head and wonder “how did this happen?” “How and why did I let things get to this point?” I think perhaps it left some of my friends wondering how they hadn't seen it coming either. Even my DH hadn't really seen it coming.

On reflection, perhaps it’s not all that surprising at all. We had had quite a line up of stresses in our lives in the lead up to this point. Family struggles, business issues, deciding if we should move, dealing with drought, kids in hospital, motorbike accidents, building a house and moving were some of the major ones. On top of all that life was moving at a lightning pace and while we knew we needed to slow down a little – deciding what to cut out was all but impossible.

And I’d not really felt myself ever since my 3rd child had been born. I had been diagnosed with mild Post Natal Depression when he was 6 weeks old, but for some reason I had expected it to just go away on it’s own. I put my decreasing ability to cope with day to day stresses as being more about my lack of ability to mother 3 children than anything else.

I was unraveling some knitting last night and marveling at how much easier it was to unravel it than it was to knit it. Once I got the process of undoing it started, it all seemed to fall apart quite easily really. That’s a bit like what happened in my own life in 2006. Smaller stresses got bigger and bigger. Tears flowed more and more readily and my sleep patterns became more and more erratic. Once I wasn’t sleeping properly, the tiredness added to all of the other issues and things kind of spiraled quickly out of control from there. I was left a bit like my pile of unraveled wool. Bent out of shape, all over the place, in a limp pile on the floor.

According to my GP, my driven nature (me? Driven?) had led me to push myself until all of my emotional reserves were used up and I kind of fell in a heap. My body and my brain revolted on me and said “no more”. Physically I was exhausted. Mentally I was exhausted. And emotionally I was running on empty. I reached the point where I just could not face going out amongst people. I knew that they would want a piece of me and I simply didn’t have any pieces left to give.

It certainly wasn’t an easy time in my life. To begin with I wasn’t too concerned. I knew I’d been running on flat out for pretty much most of my life. So I figured a few days of rest and I would be right again. Some of those days are quite a blur to me now. I remember thinking perhaps it would help if I did some things I enjoy – like baking. I couldn’t bake! I couldn’t cook a meal. I couldn’t read my piano music. I couldn’t read a book. Most of the time I couldn’t even carry on a decent conversation. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat. I couldn’t remember things (which was a real dilemma for DH as he’d always relied on my memory since his isn't very reliable).

There was a bonus with losing my memory though - I didn’t remember the things I’d forgotten so there was less stress there! In fact, there was an underlying "ignorance is bliss" kind of feeling in those early days. Perhaps functioning in a similar way to a medically induced coma, my brain seemed to shut down all non-essential functions in order to restore itself to a better state of health.

During this time my body couldn’t handle sudden noises or even minor amounts of pain (in fact, I still have a low pain threshold and a very sensitive nervous system). On a good day I could manage to give my children a hug goodnight – but that was it. Much of the time we had to try and farm them out to neighbours, especially in the early days when DH was busy trying to put our crop in. Not being able to mother my children was the most painful blow of all. All of my life I’ve wanted to be a mum and I really didn’t want to stop now.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months - my initial lack of concern grew into severe frustration that I couldn't just "fix" this problem or make it going away.

There was one moment during that those early weeks that has stuck vividly in my mind. DH had taken the kids with him around the farm and I was home alone. I remember sitting on his side of the bed and thinking “this is it”. “This is all there is for me.” “I’m going mad and I’m going to end up in an institution.” I talked to DH about it when he got home and he very wisely told me that thinking I was going mad was possibly the surest sign there is that I wasn’t. That if I truly was going mad, chances were that I would have no idea of the fact. My GP agreed with him and assured me that what I was going through wasn’t going to be a permanent state – it might take some time but I really was going to come out the other side of this.

I suspect though that this moment in time will remain a very pivotal point in my life. I guess in a way it was similar to a “near death” experience. When you think life as you know it is over, it really starts to bring into perspective the things that are truly important in life. I can tell you right now, how much money in the bank account or how much “stuff” we had accumulated were far from my mind as I went through the process of grief, wondering if I was ever going to experience “normality” again.

Thankfully for us, this wasn’t a huge revelation. We’d already started to turn our backs on the consumer mentality by this point (although it was definitely still a regular struggle). What it did do for me though was really cement in my mind that we were heading in the right direction. None of us know what tomorrow is going to bring. The only guarantee we have in life is the moment we live in right now.

It’s not about living life in fear. It’s about living life in freedom. It’s about being able to reflect on your day or your week and saying “yes, I made some good choices with my time”.

As 2006 progressed and the rains dried up, the stress levels of many farmers around us rose. But my nervous breakdown had been a precious gift to DH and I. We were truly able to step back and say “hey, we might lose the farm and that would be horrible and sad, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. We have each other. We have 3 beautiful children. Money really ISN'T what it’s all about.”

We’ve been through a lot in the past 18 months. And my recovery still isn’t complete. Do I look back and wish that none of it had happened? Not for a second. Many times I wanted it to be over but I haven't regretted going through the experience. They say that during the difficult times in life is when we learn and grow. I have learnt so much about myself, about life and what’s truly important, about how our bodies and brains are so intricately linked together. Yes, it was hard, but I feel that what I gained through that time in my life was far more than what I lost.

I’m not the same person I was 18 months ago. And I like the me that I am now better than I like the me I was back then.

There’s still some hard yards to go. My body is taking a long time to get back to “normal” and I have to be very careful that I don’t overdo it. Something that is easier said than done as a mother to 3 children. It’s kind of ironic though. Back at the start of 2006 DH and I struggled to know what we should cut out of our lives. Everything seemed SO important to us. In the end we were forced to cut ALL of it out and you know what – the world didn’t stop turning.

I think at times we can be just as guilty of cluttering our lives with too many activities as much as too much stuff. Somehow we are convinced that it’s important to DO all this stuff. We rush around in a crazy haze, feeling like life is already too short to fit in everything we want to achieve. Where does this come from? There's a whole lot more to simple living than just turning our backs on rampant consumerism. Our lives can get just as complicated and overwhelming by our "volunteer" activities as they can by desire to work flat out to build wealth and possessions.

My nervous breakdown has presented us with many gifts. One of them was a clean slate with our activities. We had no choice but to stop them all and now, as my health improves, we are choosing which things are the most important to add back in. Just like the unraveled knitting, as the needles resume their work, stitch by stitch life begins to take a new (and hopefully better) form.

As you might imagine, this post has been hard for me to write. Hard from the point of view that reflecting on such a difficult phase of my life brings with it a certain amount of grief. Hard from the point of view that sharing it takes from me some of my low levels of emotional energy. Hard from the point of view that sharing something so *deep* makes me somewhat vulnerable. But most of all hard from the point of view that so much has happened in the past few years and I have learnt so much that I don’t know which bits to include and which bits not to include (hence a half a dozen rewrites).

Does all this mean that we now have our lives all together? LOL. Not even close. Does it mean that we’re now on the path to simple living without wavering? Unfortunately not. I’m still susceptible to niggling doubts about whether we’re moving in the right direction. And I definitely still have my “keeping up with the Joneses” moments. *sigh*

I know this post has been long so if you’ve gotten this far – thank you for reading. It's nice to have you along for the ride as I reflect on this journey. I'm finding it a really helpful reflection time for myself about where we've been and where we're heading.

Next Instalment: Words of Wisdom

We've Been Hit...

....with the dreaded flu bug that's been flying around our community and knocking people flat on their backs.

DD came down with it first. Friday afternoon. Apparently on Friday her class was missing 12 kids and DS's was missing 14.

So far DD has been the easiest of the family to look after. She didn't move from the couch for most of the weekend. She did have a bit of a tummy upset but not enough that I'd call it a stomach bug. It's kind of a strange virus - mixture of everything really. Yesterday she started to get asthma which is normal for her after a cold.

Yesterday (Sunday) the youngest DS came down with it and he's wanted to be held ever since (including most of the night). He's had croup and coughed up his stomach contents a few times. Today he is VERY grumpy.

DH came down with it about 4am this morning and has been sleeping on and off most of the time since then.

Our older DS is on his way down with it - I think he's been struck with the "man flu" though as naturally he's the *sickest* in the family. In fact, I think the 9 year old is the least sickest as he's the most annoying and complaining the loudest (and upsetting the 3 year old). BUT, I expect he will get worse as the day wears on.

As for me....mum's can't afford to get sick can they? LOL. I have been very lethargic over the weekend and yesterday came down with a cough and asthma. This morning I went back to bed for a couple of hours sleep and I'm finding it hard to get warm. So I guess my body is fighting something. I'm just trying to take it easy and look after the troups the best I can.

Thankfully my DH isn't the kind of lie about moaning (not too much anyway) so he's being as helpful as he can (although he's disappeared to check the sheep now). Kids are settled watching a DVD and munching on Jatz biscuits.

I've been keeping the Easiyo maker busy as yoghurt seems to be another popular food item.

I haven't forgotten the next instalment of my "journey". I have started working on it but want to do it justice so I'm not wanting to rush it. I'm sure it won't be far away. :-)

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Did you notice in the photo I posted of our house yesterday that instead of a path of weeds like the last photo I posted, we now have a lovely paved path full of character? Well, I wouldn't have expected you to notice that. :-)

My clever DH has been at it again. Lately he's been getting quite a few little house projects done which is soooo exciting. :-) One of the benefits of him not working as much this year is having the time to get a few things done that have been waiting for some time now.

Here's a direct comparison for you. It does look a bit less green I guess but it'll save me having to weed the front path all the time (or have it looking scrappy). Hopefully it'll cut down a bit on the dirt and mud being dragged into the house as well.

Here is a close up of the path. The slate was collected from our other farm so the only cost we had was about $40 worth of concrete mix. DH bought himself a cheap concrete mixer to make a path out the back for the kids to ride on and it has well and truly paid for itself already (compared with paying someone to come in and do the work for us).

I love the character of the stone. I think it's so much more natural looking than paving bricks. Although we do intend to use bought paving bricks under our pergola sometime down the track as we want a more even finish.

This shows how the path goes around to the gate that DH made not that long ago. When the kids get home from school they walk along the path and through the gate to come in the back door.

I think he's intending to put some of this paving on the other side of the gate as well.

I feel so blessed to have a DH who can add some lovely touches to our home without it costing us a lot of money. There's a lot of satisfaction in those DIY projects as well.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Living the Dream

This is post number 5 in a series about my journey toward a simpler lifestyle. Not that there is much "simple" living going on during this particular time. LOL.

If you haven't read the first 4 posts, you might like to do that first:

Post 1: A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step
Post 2: Joe Dominguez
Post 3: Tracking Spending
Post 4: You Cannot Steer a Stationary Ship

For years, whenever we drove past this farm, DH and I would simultaneously turn to look up the driveway, wondering if we'd ever make the move to live here. Then we'd laugh about the fact that we'd both done the same thing and wonder out loud as to whether or not we'd ever build a house here. It was obviously a dream deep within our hearts to have our own home, here on our own farm.

At that time there was actually an old house sitting here. A VERY old house, built in post-war times with a hodge podge of materials and moved piece by piece from the other end of the farm to here. Some people were quite upset when we knocked it over but the reality was that it would have been VERY expensive to fix and even then we would have ended up with an old home, built with low quality materials and no 2 doors the same size. The last person to live here was quick to defend our decision, pointing out how bad the condition of the place was even when she'd lived there 20 years before. It wouldn't have been safe either - a puff of wind blew over two of the walls of the outside toilet and garage that we had been considering leaving standing. In the end the whole lot was dismantled, bulldozed and buried in a hole.

Once the house had been bulldozed and the site prepared for our transportable, it became quite apparent to those around us that something was happening here. We then got a lot of comments about what a beautiful spot this would be to live and that a lot of people had driven past and thought it was such a shame that no one lived here.

The way we deliberated for years over whether or not to build and move here, you'd think making that decision was going to be the hardest part of the process. :-) Unfortunately not. Once the decision was made to build and move, we had to make the choice between building a more solid brick home (on which there was a 3 year wait for builders at the time) or spend half the money and less than 12 months building a transportable home.

Then we had to decide on a design and a company that we wanted to purchase our home through. That was easier said than done as well. We narrowed it down to 2 companies but we hadn't come across a design that really suited what we wanted. In the end I sat down with an outline of the largest single lift home we could have and designed our own!!!

Designing our home was a bit of a surprise for me. Up until that point, where I would live had always been decided for me. My first flat I agreed to without having ever seen it (my parents viewed it on my behalf). Our first home as a married couple was a house owned by DH's parents in the town (rental was scarce so we didn't have any other options) and then when we moved into the farmhouse, it was expected that we would live there for at least the length of our working lives. Now, I had the opportunity to actually *choose* a home AND choose all of the colours for both inside and outside AND I got to draw up the design as well. It just wasn't something I'd been expecting to ever do (especially the design my own part).

Talk about overwhelming!!! So many decisions, so little time. There's nothing like drawing something on a piece of paper and hoping against hope that it's going to look alright when it's built! Too bad if it doesn't cos you're going to have to put up with it for a VERY long time. The pressure!!! Add on to that the fact that we didn't qualify for a regular home mortgage as we were placing the house on acreage - so we had a bit of rigaramole trying to work out finance as well.

Hang on a minute - what happened to our plan to simplify our lives? This sure doesn't feel all that simple!!! But it is all part of the bigger picture to get to where we want to be in life. I think it is a part of simple living to KNOW what you want or what will make you happy and to chase after that. I think many people in our society chase after money with an expectation that more money will make them happier. Whereas many who move down the path of Simple Living recognise that money alone ISN'T going to bring them happiness.

The farm didn't do all that well financially in the year leading up to signing the contracts for our house and we spent many times scratching our heads wondering if we were doing the right thing. It was something we prayed about a lot and God kept telling us to trust him. That can be easier said than done at times! :-)

Just as we were about to head over to Adelaide and sign the contract, our eldest son got sick and ended up in hospital. We had to postpone the contract signing and hope it didn't affect our quoted price. DS recovered and we got the contracts signed. Then came the fun part - looking at tiles and paint colours. The funniest thing about our tile choices was that we visited the tile place several times and had settled on what we like within the range that was covered by our quote. Then on the day we went to record all the selections, we took one final look and completely changed our minds in about 2 minutes. LOL. All those hours of looking and deliberating, only to spot a different tile that we hadn't spotted on our other visits and decide that that was the one we actually wanted.

This is a photo of the tile we ended up choosing as a border tile in our bathroom. The blue underneath is our tablecloth, not the colour of the wall. I have a spare tile floating around. :-) It is soooo much nicer than what we had chosen before so I'm really pleased we spotted it, even if it was last minute.

Most of our colours, we selected to be very neutral so that we could add colour or change colours with a few accessories. We have a lot of cream throughout the house. Even our ceilings are a cream colour rather than white. We had them painted a half strength of our wall colour. It gives the home a much softer feeling than white ceilings do. That was an idea that we copied from one of the display homes we looked at.

This is our bench top. What we had originally chosen was no longer being made by the time we chose our colours so we had to make a very fast decision on what to have. Somebody commented to me that it was a very "Jodi" colour. I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not but I like it and I guess that's all that matters.

It took a bit of a balancing act but we wanted to build a *nice* home for a reasonable budget rather than a *cheap* home for the least amount of $$ spent. One of the misconceptions of simple living is that it involves living as cheaply as possible. For some people this is the case and for most people I think frugality is an important part of achieving the type of lifestyle they like. But even frugality is about *mindful* spending in my mind rather than simply *cheap* spending. We spent extra on insulation, a solar hot water service and a recycled water system. All of these things fit well with our values and reduce our consumption of water and electricity. We also made a few choices on extras to turn our house into a home. Colourbond for the roof and guttering etc, a rendered finish to give the house a more solid look and some decorative touches like a nicer wood trim and more decorative doors etc. And a spa bath in the bathroom. :-) Now we don't need to go away in order to have a retreat. Can only use it when we have enough water though - we don't have any piped water here, just our own stored rainwater.

The drama didn't end once all the colour decisions were made though. Just when DH was about to begin dismantling the old house, he had an accident where his motorbike hit a kangaroo and he broke a couple of ribs and his collarbone. Now how we were going to get done what needed to be done? Thankfully some friends came to the rescue and had a house dismantling day.

I'll never forget the day we travelled to Adelaide to have a look at our partially built house. I was so nervous I thought I was going to wet myself. LOL. What if we hated it? What then? We walked inside and there were building materials everwhere. Doors lying against walls, not yet installed.... well, you can imagine what a half built house would look like. That day I fell in love. I loved it so much I almost cried. Our house! Our home! MY creation! Our dream - in the flesh. It was real! It was happening. And I LOVED it!!! I think it's like when you hold your baby in your arms for the first time. Suddenly all the horrible moments of pregnancy and birth seem to vanish into thin air. That's how I felt about all the dramas we'd had leading up to that moment.

I look at our house now and wonder how on earth they drove that 500km on the back of a truck!!! It's kind of mind boggling really. But I saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I thought it was going to slip off the back of the truck as they manoevered it into our yard. Funnily enough (well actually it's only funny in hindsight because it didn't happen), the guy driving the truck thought he was going to lose it as well. You could actually see the whole house slip sideways as the truck tilted on an angle! My baby splattered all over the highway would NOT have been a happy sight. The trucking guys suggested that next time we might want to order a smaller house. DH just laughed - we weren't planning on there being a next time!!!

Because we were only moving 10km, we moved ourselves. It was quite a few weeks between when the house arrived and when we could actually move in. The painters came and rendered the outside for us. We needed the electrician to wire everything in and install our solar hot water service. The plumber had to come and install our recycled water system as well as connect the house to both that and our water supply (rainwater). Then the electrician had to return to wire up the recycled water system. Floor coverings needed to be laid. A makeshift fence had to be put up so our 1 year old didn't end up down on the highway. DH laid some roll-out lawn so the kids weren't playing in a dust bowl or mud bath while we attempted to grow lawn. The list of tasks seemed endless.

So while all this was going on. I was moving our gear in, 1 ute load full at a time (we had a 4-door ute as our family vehicle at that time). There is nothing like having to pack and cart all your belongings one load at a time to make you realise how much STUFF you have. We had only been living in the farmhouse for 5 years and although we added 2 children in that time, I hadn't realised how much STUFF we really had.

DH likes to remind me of the day I moved the contents of our pantry cupboard. We had been trying to use up as much of our food on hand as possible so that we didn't have to move it all. When it came to packing it all up - I still had 4 reasonable sized boxes of pantry stuff. When I put it in my pantry cupboard - it looked almost bare. I said to DH on that day, "I never ever want to fill this pantry up with food". I knew it would take a LOT of food to fill it. Guess what....said pantry cupboard is full!!!

One of my simple living goals has been to reduce the amount of stuff that we have. This house is smaller than where we were living and we have no alternate storage space (not even a shed) which I think has been a good thing for me. Any stuff we have is right in my way - it's a good way to encourage decluttering. I know I'm still a work in progress in this area and recently I've been trying to get back into regular decluttering efforts. I really LOVE the idea of having less STUFF. And all the time I'm decluttering, I find I'm much less inclined to go out and buy more stuff to add to our home.

The first night we slept here was awesome. We were living our dream! What a fantastic feeling!!! :-)

Next Instalment: A nervous breakdown? That wasn't part of the plan.....