Friday, January 30, 2015

My mission to Simplify in 2015

We all know that we have too much stuff and I think these days more and more people are realizing that having less stuff is less stressful, requires less money, less cleaning and generally overall improves our outlook on life.  The Australian Organizing Guru Peter Walsh has written several books on the subject and I own a couple of these books but haven't made it a priority to sit down and read them (I know shocking but it's the truth).  I did loan them to one of my sisters so they haven't been sitting on my bookshelf gathering dust.  That being said I love my things and I have a lot of things and I find it hard to let go however I'm embracing more of the "letting go" than I would have two years ago.  Of all my friends I would say I have the most stuff.  It's not a competition, nor is this stuff keeping up with the Jones or valuable but I have things.  Boxes of quilting stuff, scrapbooking stuff, photos, books, cooking stuff, camping stuff.  This stuff except for the camping things don't add up to a lot of money but it's still hard to let go of my stuff.

In the last year I have been more willing and wanting to let go of some things.  I want to sit somewhere in between the "too much stuff" and "the no or minimum stuff" and the old saying that it should be either beautiful or useful does make sense.  I have taken (what I consider quite a lot of things) to the charity shops in the last year however it's a drop in the ocean.  My thoughts about simplifying in 2015 is somewhere along the lines of "if I had to move house again, what would I like to keep/take and try and get rid of everything else".  Usually it's only when we have to move house that we start seeing all our things so even though I'm not moving I want to reduce our things.  When I moved nearly 4 years ago I had hundreds of boxes and a truck and a half of things and when I moved here I purchased even more furniture.  In my previous house I had lots built in's which stored books and things and a huge kitchen that kept all my kitchen and china so when I moved here there was no where to put these things so I purchased a couple of Ikea China/Book cases.  It's not really the cabinets that are the problem it's all the stuff in them and you can easily sell an Ikea cabinet if you had to.

This is what I worked on today, here's my Linen Cupboard "Before" on the left and "After" on the right.  Note that the empty shelf on the left was full and looked exactly the same as the shelf below, stacked with linen.  I only remembered when I started emptying the cupboard that I should take a photo.

I have been inspired by Carmella Rayone's blog called "The Assortment" which I have been reading for about a year now.  Their story, their cabin and their life is very inspiring.  As a result of their cabin having so many enquiries from around the world about people wanting to downsize Carmella has been working on getting the cabin/plan ready so people can purchase it for themselves.  During the working of the plan she decided that the plan had to be of "international standards" so that the cabin/small house could be built anywhere in the world with the set of plans.  Along the way she realized that she wanted to offer a couple of different options and therefore 4 cabin/small house plans were born.  She has just released descriptions of these wonderful little homes which you can read about on her blog above.  This was her original Design Philosophy and this was the result and here of their home.  Carmella has called the designs Shelter 1, Shelter 2, Shelter 3 and Shelter 4.  I think if I could click my fingers and have my dream place I would have 2 acres with Shelter 3 on it, a big veggie garden, animals, a big tyre swing, mounts of dirt for a BXM track the kids could ride on, a tree house and after the month of January we had in Brisbane I would have to have a pool which is a luxury but wholly molly January was tough to get through because of the heat.

Back to my simplifying in 2015 and Carmella's philosophy is inspiring and even though I will never be like this, I can only be me after all, I can learn and chip away at my stuff a little at a time and hopefully by the end of 2015 I will have less stuff.  I know when Peter Walsh has a segment on The Living Room TV show on Channel 10 he gets a couple to get rid of 70% of their things in 2 days and that is huge.  If you like your things, making decisions to get rid of things on the spot would be very stressful so I'm on an imposed get rid of my stuff and simplify in 2015 myself.  I would love for Peter Walsh to visit for a coffee but totally would love to hate him if I had to do this entire process in 2 days.  I see bags leaving my place to charity but as they say Rome wasn't built in a day and you have to work towards the life of Simplicity as it can't be achieved over night.

The linen cupboard has been on my mind the past few weeks and yesterday I opened the linen cupboard with the thought of clearing it out and I looked inside, got over whelmed and shut the cupboard door.  That was yesterday however today I decided I would clean out the linen cupboard because as you know when you are trying to shove clean towels and sheets in there and they fall out that you just have to make it a priority.  Always assume these projects take longer than you think, always assume that your place may look messier when you finish even when the cupboard may look better.  Always assume that you are going to feel much better once it's done.  I started by taking everything out of the cupboard and lining similar items together along the hallway.  ie summer sheets together, winter sheets together, towels etc.  One of the things I'm sure everyone has in their cupboard are cushions, extra cushions from previous decorating times that are too good to throw out and may require time to put them on eBay but you haven't made time to do it.

The other thing I did when going through this cupboard was remember a blog post I read on Andrea Dekker's blog a while back about her not having a linen cupboard.  This is where I'm in the middle and I'm not going to be like that which is right for her family however I do have too many things.  Lets face it normally when we wash our sheets they are washed in the morning and dry in the afternoon ready for the bed so to be honest why do we need more than one set of sheets per bed apart from a summer set and a winter set.  Also I believe that when going through the process sometimes you have to do it in a couple of rounds.  So today I got rid of lots of towels, large towels which are Sheridan and have been used but are still perfectly okay however we just use smaller towels now.  I still have more towels than we require so for my family of 3 I have 10 bath towels.  Using 3 at a time really 6 would be ample but in saying that I got rid of about 8 towels.  Next time around I could reduce that number but for now I was more than happy to get rid of 8 towels and put it in the charity pile of things.

I also have about 4-5 sets of summer sheets for my Queen size bed which to be honest I would really only need 1-2 sets but I've kept 3 and next time I might be able to get rid of the 3rd set.  I also have doona covers that are no longer my taste and will also go.  For me I would love to get a little extra $$ and sell them on eBay given they were all expensive items and I don't want much for them however I haven't had much selling items on eBay in the last few years.  10 years ago I could sell anything but these days it's hard even if your prices are low, everything is cheap to buy now so for the effort to put them on eBay sometimes puts me off but I'll give it a go and if not, I won't hesitate to put them into the charity basket.

More organized and less stuff feels good.

This is what's left over.  The pile of bags on the right and the white doona cover on the floor are for charity and the other three piles of Sheridan Sheets and Doona Covers I'll wash and put on eBay.

This is also for eBay, doona cover, valance, cushion covers and I have a couple of cushions in the top of the linen cupboard to go on eBay as well.

When I look at the linen cupboard now I don't feel stressed and those towels that don't get used now will go to someone who can use them.  I have also managed to put my mix master and slow cooker in this cupboard which is great because the mix master has been sitting on my buffet for the past 4 years because there is no room in my kitchen due to it being less than half the cupboard space that I had in my previous home.  Sometimes I get disheartened and overwhelmed when I look around my house because I know I want to get rid of stuff but sometimes it seems so daunting.  So doing the linen cupboard today was great.  Every room in our house needs a good going over and even just thinking about one room at a time is daunting so picking one thing and doing it is manageable.  Don't get me wrong I still think this is a huge task but I'm giving myself until the end of the year and working on things when I feel I'm up to it like yesterday even though I thought I should do the Linen Cupboard and opened it, I didn't feel up to it.  I hope this post helps anyone who wants to sort through things but also feels too over whelmed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

New York Times No Knead Bread

This wonderful recipe for "no knead bread" has been around for a long time and in fact I first made it about 5 or 6 years ago.  Here's a link to a video if you are interested.  I don't often make it and I should make it more regularly.  I used to bake it in my "camp oven" which I take camping but last year I bought a dutch oven from Aldi for the sole purpose of making this bread.  I put the pot in the cupboard and didn't get around to making the bread for a few months and when I got the box out I realized that it couldn't be heated up at high temperatures due to the handle on the lid so I rang Aldi to talk to them about it explaining what I wanted to use it for and they said that the handle on the lid was not tested to past a certain temp so I didn't end up using it and it was past the date to return it to Aldi.   To cut a long story short, last week when my niece and nephew were visiting from Perth I decided to make the NYT No Knead Bread for the next evening and decided to use to dutch oven given there was a chance the handle on the lid might melt.  I cooked the bread, the lid didn't melt and I was very happy.  There is no other recipe I cook in the oven anyway that requires such a high heat like this bread so I was willing to risk and it was fine but obviously Aldi weren't going to cover the pot's on going use if used at high temperatures.

The bread was delicious with a crunchy crust on the outside and soft texture on the inside and you need a good bread knife to cut this loaf.  I also made a Sun Dried Tomato Dip to go with it and everyone enjoyed both.

The Sun Dried Tomato Dip was 250 gms Philadelphia cream cheese and 100 gms of sun dried tomatoes.  Just blitz the sundried tomatoes and then mix the cream cheese in with it and it's done.  This quantity made quite so I would probably just make half the recipe next time but it was delicious with the bread. My photos are quite blurry as my shutter speed was too slow and I was running late getting my hot bread over to my sisters but you get the idea.

My 23 year old niece loved it so much asked for the recipe and I explained to her that she can use one of her Mum's Corningware/Pyrex dishes with the lid to bake the bread.  I will be making this bread more often, just remembering to get the dough done the afternoon before we actually want to eat it.  It's so easy and everyone loves it. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Enjoying the Rain

Finally we've got some much promised rain today and it is cooling Brisbane down.  Sienna is loving the rain and is splashing around in the back yard in tiny pools of water getting wet and dirty...just the way she loves it.  The simplest things keep her happy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Raspberry Lemon Muffins

Last week my Mother in Law and I went out for coffee and we shared a Blueberry Friand which was delicious and when we ate it we realized it had a lemon flavour to it which was totally unexpected and amazing.  This week we have my niece and nephew here from Perth so I thought I would try making a similar recipe.  I was on the Retro Mummy Blog and found a Lemon Blueberry Gluten Free recipe which I tweaked a little because I used frozen raspberries and normal SR flour.

This is a Thermomix recipe however you could just make it in your normal food processor and there's basically two steps.  First blitz the sugar and peeled lemon rind until it resembles fine breadcrumb consistency and then throw everything else in and mix it up and then it's ready to put in your pan and then top with your raspberries or blueberries.

I made individual muffins rather than the one large cake but you could do either and if you have a fancy Friand pan even better.  Also in the recipe link on Corrie's web site she forgets to include the desiccated coconut in the recipe instructions when putting all the other ingredients in so just remember if you are on her recipe link.  I baked my muffins for 20-25 minutes as it's quite a thick but runny recipe however just do the skewer test and you'll get a perfect Raspberry Lemon Muffin.  The recipe made 18 muffins and I just sprinkled them with icing sugar once completely cooled down.  Here's the recipe I made.

1 cup of sugar (Corrie's recipe states raw however I just used white which was on hand)
Rind of 1 lemon (I used a potato peeler to get all the rind off before squeezing the lemon)
Juice of 1 lemon
125 gms of butter
2 eggs
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of shredded or desiccated coconut (I used desiccated)
One and a half cups of SR flour (or GF flour)
1 cup of frozen raspberries (or blueberries) (I think I only used 1/2 cup in the end)

Heat oven to 170 degrees C fan forced oven (180 normal).
Place sugar and lemon rind in Thermomix and process for 10 seconds on speed 9.
Add in butter, eggs, lemon juice, milk, coconut and flour and mix for 20 seconds on speed 4.  Scrape down the bowl once in between.
Pour into individual muffin cases (patty cake wrapper) and sprinkle a few raspberries on top of the mixture.  There is no need to push them into the mix just sit them on top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes and use the skewer test to make sure the middle is cooked through.  I set two timers on my phone one for 20 minutes and one for 25 minutes so I can check at both times.
When a skewer comes out clean, take them out of the oven and leave them in the tins for 10 minutes to cool down and then lift them out onto a cooling rack.  Once completely cool sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy.....these are awesome and would also freeze well I would think.  Give these a go you won't regret it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A beautiful moment

My amazing mother in law is up from Melbourne and I've got to spend time with her this week with the kids.  Yesterday we went to one of our favourite parks about 10 minutes from home and I took this photo of Nanny on the swings with James and Sienna.  I was actually sitting at one of the tables minding our handbags and I walked over a little to take this photo which filled me up with love.

I have an amazing relationship with my Mother In Law even though I have been separated from her son for 7 years and luckily for me I only divorced him and not his family.  His family (not him) treat me like I'm still part of the family and we ring every couple of weeks and write letters and send drawings and report cards and keep them involved in our lives.  They are incredibly loving, kind and generous and interesting people.  Pop (Nanny's husband) drove up last November 1,800 kms from Melbourne to see us for 3 days for James Birthday and then drove back.  He did say in hindsight that it was a long trip in a short space of time but he did want to give his car a good run, and a good run he gave it.  Within half an hour of arriving he was playing chess with the kids.  My mother and Nanny & Pop (my in laws) are amazing grandparents and I am very grateful that James and Sienna have such wonderful grandparents.  This morning I had my mother and my two sisters over for a morning tea to catch up with Nanny as my family love Nanny and Pop as well.  When Nanny was over in Perth recently visiting her family she had a coffee with my sister who lives there.  I am very lucky that I have a great mother in law (and father in law) and who are still around even though my marital status is no longer.  This photo of the kids swinging on the swings was a beautiful moment for me.  Below is a little bird that was close by chirping away at me.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Around Here

Around here it is school holidays which means you don't have to be anywhere at anytime unless you organize it and we love a slow start at our place compared to the school routines.  I love making lunch at lunch time instead of in the mornings and I love hanging around the house chilling.  There have been arguments and disagreements and he said/she said and frustrating times as in any normal family but there have been some nice times, fun times, new times as well.  Here's a look a few things we have been doing this week.

Walking down to our local Dam that was only opened two weeks ago to the public.  It was a backup for drinking water however it's not used anymore as they have capacity in other Brisbane Dams and they have opened it up for swimming and canoes so we went to check it out.

What a beautiful view, it made me so happy to be so close to this.

Some nice grass, a little bit of sand and water what more could you ask for.

James on the boogie board and Sienna swimming behind out to the yellow buoys.

What a beautiful sight with the canoeists coming down steam.

On the edge of the water.

A family photo using the self timer.

A beautiful red flower on the walk back to the car.

Afternoon bike ride and I had to walk as my bike tyre has something wrong with it.

Waiting at the lights for Mummy who was very slow making her way to catch up.

The afternoon light looked beautiful on this tree and we used to have one outside my bedroom window when I was a child.

Waiting for the light change.

In the playground working over some obstacles.

A bit of rock climbing.

Another beautiful moment of the afternoon light hitting this bush.

These things are crazy, watching them and getting on them are two different things.

I made my 2nd batch of soap the other day and unfortunately the pink and blue moulds didn't work out as planned as the soap was a bit soft.  I was able to pop out the soap in the green container without any trouble.

My first sourdough loaf using Celia's Sourdough starter but I was less than impressed with my efforts and I did end up cooking this in the middle of the night due to an unexpected afternoon activity.  Back to the drawing board.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Birthday Tutu

With Christmas now over I want to get a head start on some hand made presents for Sienna's birthday.  Last year I made her a Rag Quilt  for Sienna's birthday which I loved making and she loved it and then I made a little sausage dog for her however I made it after her birthday as I got the sewing bug.

She turns 9 on the 27th February which is basically two months away but once school starts up again it's all systems go.  Whenever we visit a friend of ours Sienna is always putting on their tutu's and doing a dance or singing with her friend so I thought I would make one for her birthday.  There are plenty of tutorials on Pinterest for "no sew tutu" and you'll come up with heaps of instructions.

You can either use ribbon like I did for the waist band or get thick elastic and sew it together to make a circle.  Since I was going with the whole "no sew" theme I opted for pink ribbon for the waist band and purple and pink tulle which I bought from Spotlight and lucky for me it was 30% off day.  I bought 2 metres of pink and 2 metres of purple and the tulle was 150 cm wide.  If you were making it for little toddlers you could make the tutu shorter and get 2 out of this amount of fabric due to the length.  Remember your strip of fabric when cut will be halved again in the doubling over effect so whatever length you want your tutu the fabric strips have to be twice that length (hope that makes sense).

This is so easy and the whole thing took about an hour but it can be done in less time.  I tied the ribbon around a dining chair and then cut stripes of tulle about 4 inches wide using my patchwork mat, ruler and rotary cutter so that process was easy.  There are great instructions on how to cut lengths by wrapping it around some cardboard and these instructions are on Pinterest as well under the "no sew tutu". 

My colour theme was a strip of pink then a strip of purple, then repeat all the way around and it's as easy as that.  I hung it up on the clothesline to take a photo of it and noticed Sienna's bike from Santa is the same colours which are so pretty.

Here's the photos of my work in progress with the ribbon tied around the dining chair so I could use two hands to loop the fabric through.

Seriously this is so cute and so easy and I only wish Pinterest was around when my daughter was a little toddler.

My next project for the birthday is making this wall mobile of hearts which is one of Sienna's favourite shapes.  It's a foreign blog so I have translated it into English and put the link it however if it doesn't link with the translation just change it yourself.  Stay tuned for progress on that in a couple of weeks time.  I popped into the Quilt Store today to pick up some little squares of fabric.