My Italian lover – Gillio planner

I’ve embraced technology for a long time and use and appreciate it daily. The ability to communicate worldwide on Skype, smartphones, online banking, music downloads   – these are all big things in my life.

But at the end of the day, when it comes to scheduling and planning, I am a paper person. I’m visual and I like to write things down. I’ve used a planner for as long as I can remember, and have been a pretty loyal Filofax user. I’ve strayed to Erin Condren, Kikki K, Van der Spek and even Kate Spade, but I have always come back to Filofaxes, particularly Malden and the Original. Right now I own a black and cream Van der Spek, a cherry Original Filofax, and as of last Monday a beautiful epoca leather grey Gillio Mia Cara, made of Italian leather by a company called Gillio Firenze, out of Belgium.

This is not my first Italian lover. I have tried the large and pocket sized Mia Cara as well as the Campagna but after many permutations and combinations of planners and wallets, I have settled on a personal sized wallet/planner combo.

gillio front

Here it is open flat:Gillio flat

And now here is the magic.  The planner portion on the right can be removed from the wallet section of the Gillio.

Gillio separate

Here is the planner section opened up:

gillio diary open

And here is the second magic trick – the massive pocket at the back that holds a4 papers folded….

Gillio pocket

Now before anyone gets too excited, you might want to wait for the Aussie dollar to appreciate against the Euro. This one set me back nearly $500 which is a pricey purchase for someone who is looking to simplify and slow down. My justification: this planner is not only my Italian lover but it is also my executive assistant, my brain on some days and the thing that keeps our large family functioning.

I’ve ordered some new inserts from Etsy, so I will post about my set up when they arrive.

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Home grown cauliflowers can make you squeal….

It’s been awhile since I have squealed with delight. I’ve got to say I haven’t squealed much at home or work…..

Well today I did. I planted brassicas a few months ago. We have been enjoying the bountiful broccoli, but there were no cauliflowers to be seen. Until…. Today! Gorgeous little crisp heads of cauliflower. Yippee!

cauliflower

Today’s post is in photos. I am increasing our vegetable production. I purchased three Vegrug planters from Costco recently and my kind husband has put them together. Today we cleared the area, mulched sticks and trees, dug out stumps and put in the watering system. Tomorrow is soil, and clearing the rest of the back yard.

So the before shots – you might say it has been neglected over winter:

Before bottom half Before top halfBefore close up top half

And some where-we-got-to-today shots, with a very patient husband installing the dripper system:

 David installing dripper system

vegtrug half full bottom after

Bread bliss – homemade sour dough

Each week or fortnight, I make a little change towards being more self-sufficient. Too many changes and I get overwhelmed. One a week or so seems achievable.

This week – I am baking my own bread. I lashed out and purchased a Breville Gourmet bread maker because it makes baguettes and we are suckers for a good baguette. I must admit these babies are the best thing the bread maker makes in my view. Crusty exterior, yummy middle and delicious straight from the oven with lashings of butter. They have also passed the fussy husband I-only-like-Bakers-Delight test.

My second adventure into the wonderful world of bread making is to make my own sour dough. This is day two of making the starter. I’m using the River Cottage recipe. You basically make a starter over a period of seven days, and “feed” it over that period. Post seven days, you can start making daily sourdough. How exciting.

sour dough starter

The starter recipe (that’s above, in all its smelly glory at day 5):

100g strong baker’s flour

Enough water to make a paint like consistency

Mix and cover with gladwrap or a lid and leave in a warm place.

Each day, remove half of the starter, add 100gm flour and some water to return to the paint consistency. Keep feeding in this way for seven days. Each day you will see bubbles (natural yeast) and over time, I am led to believe, it smells better.

The night before you are ready to bake your loaf, take 100gm of the starter to 250gm strong flour and 275mls of water to make a sponge. Leave it overnight and it will look fermented again.

The next day, add 300gm of bread flour, 1 tblspn of olive oil and 10gm fine sea salt.

Hugh recommends a good hand knead and rise process, but I am little bit more practical right now. Rather than hand kneading, I will be using the bread making function in my bread maker – takes away a little of the whole connection with food part, but while I am still working full time it seems like a sensible compromise. I’ll update you on my first loaf.

Wintery cauliflower soup

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It’s definitely winter in the nation’s capital – even predicted to snow tomorrow in higher urban areas. This is a B&W photo of our view from the balcony of our house yesterday.

Thankfully when I moved her in 2006 I invested in the right bedding and outerwear to cope.

Still it looks bleak and wintery. Just the time for warm winter soups to warm the spirit.

In the suburban veggie patch, I am growing broccoli and brussel sprouts this year. Cauliflowers too are cheap ($2 each) and in season, so I found this quick and easy recipe in the latest winter edition of Good magazine (a New Zealand based publication that has piqued my interest of late).

I don’t eat onions or garlic, so I substituted my home grown spring onions, some homemade chicken stock from the freezer, a squeeze of lemon from our bountiful lemon tree and I had some left over cream in the fridge. Delicious.

In cooking this soup, I timed it carefully. I have a tendency to leave soups on the stove and overcook the beautiful, fresh seasonal ingredients, so this time I followed the timing in the recipe to a tee and it tastes delicious.   A sprinkle of parmesan and some crusty homemade bread rolls are just the trick.

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This is a picture of soup once I added my still partially frozen home made chicken stock.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup (courtesy of Good Magazine, Issue 43)

Ingredients:

1 tbsp of butter

1 medium onion

3 gloves of garlic

1-2 green cardamom pods, crushed

Half a cauliflower, chopped, including the stalks

Juice of half a lemon

3 cups water or vegetable stock

½ cup cream

Freshly ground salt and pepper

Method:

In a saucepan on moderate heat gently sauté onion until translucent. Reduce the heat and add garlic, cardamom, chopped cauliflower and lemon juice and cook for about ten minutes until everything is slightly toasted by not browned.

Transfer everything to a lidded saucepan, add water, cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for approx. 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cauliflower is soft. Remove from heat and cool slightly

When cool, take out cardamom pods and blend until smooth. Before serving, bring to boil and stir in cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Yummo.

If not consumerism, then what? Post minimalism

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If you are not shopping, caring for your things and maintaining your things, and you have done the big clear out, then what do you actually do with all of that down time?

This is exactly what is happening to me right now and its both terrifying and exciting all at once.

Once upon a time, I was a kid who loved music and dreamed of a big job with a big pay. The dream came true, but on the way to a big job with big pay, I lost my music. I became a mother and a professional and a consumer. A consumer who thought if only I had a ….(insert latest tech gadget, kitchen appliance, item of clothing, bag, house) then things would be better. I would be happier.

Of course on the path to minimalism, I realised while constantly seeking out, wanting more and living in the future, I was letting my actual life pass me by. I was not paying enough attention to my childrens’ lives. I had neglected my passions.

Yesterday my husband and I had a bit of time to kill in between purchasing some groceries and going to a movie. We wandered around the shops and purchased nothing. Absolutely nothing. Both of us discussed how we are far less inclined to want anything from the shops any more. The mere activity that I once longed for and craved felt empty and unfulfilling.

I’ve also worked out some new work arrangements to reduce workplace pressure.

OK so I am here now. In the middle. In between not wanting to consume, not wanting to indulge, to live simply and appreciate what I have. Work will be less stressful. I get up in the mornings on weekends now and my household jobs don’t take long. I exercise and that’s one hour. I spend a little bit of time in the garden, tending to my veggies and watching their progress. And then there is….

Not much.

So the next couple of months will be about a journey to discovering what else is out there. I will explore and only truly look for those things that I am passionate about. I’ve reduced the meaningless activity out of my life and I don’t want to replace it with new meaningless activity.

Step 1: I’m going to learn to do something new that is consistent with my new slow lifestyle. Not sure what yet – permaculture maybe, or furniture restoration.

Step 2: I am going to reconnect with food. For a long time I have just been going through the motions with food, just cooking what I need to, repeating the same old same old recipes. Food is boring now. So to reconnect, I am going to go through each of my recipe books and cook from them systematically. A qualifier is that the recipes will need to be wholesome and simple – with few exotic ingredients.

What have you done post a consumeristic lifestyle? What has helped you make the transition from consumer to slow?

Simple living and extroverts – are we compatible?

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I’m an extrovert to the max. No – it doesn’t mean you find me the last one to leave at the work Christmas party, dancing on the table tops. It means that I do all of my thinking with others, and I think with my mouth. As a good friend once told me – if I’m not talking, I’m not thinking (lucky for her, I kept her as a good friend, in spite of this).

I read Rhonda Hetzel, who has inspired me immensely (see her amazing blog Down to Earth) in her quest to slow down and live a simple life. But she talks about sometimes not leaving the house for up to a month at a time, and for me, that seems almost impossible.

And I was chatting to the equally inspirational Brooke McAlary from www.slowyourhome.com  as part of her community weekly chats, and I raised this very topic.

Working in the home, cooking from scratch, growing vegetables is all very appealing to me. Not working in paid employment is also really appealing to me, having worked hard for nearly twenty years and building our net worth so that our mortgage is n-e-a-r-l-y paid off.

But just basing myself at home, and reducing my contact with the outside world is not compatible with my personality type. So simple living for me in the future, if I am not working, is going to have to involve people, other than my family and making sure that I connect with others regularly.

Part of my plan will need to involve community. I’m not sure just exactly what and how yet, because I am still working.

I wonder how many of us in the simple living world are extroverts? If so, how do you satisfy that part of you that needs to connect with others, if you are primarily working around the home? Would love to hear and get some ideas.

I’ll follow the sun…..

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I’m chasing the sun around my house…..

Hard to believe that I’m chasing the sun in a week of -6 and -7 overnight in the Nation’s capital. Freaking freezing.

This week I have had some time off work – with headaches and fatigue (yes, yes, all clear signs).

So I have had the time to watch the rhythm of our house, and think about our electricity and consumption use

And this is what I found out.

We have heavy curtains to reduce heat loss, but with the two of us working, opening and closing the curtains to maximise sun and reduce heat loss just isn’t high on the priority list. What I discovered is when you have time, you can care about these important factors. And remarkably, the house does not require heating between 9am and 5:00pm if I play my cards right.

I need to:

Draw the curtains at night when the heating comes on, to retain the heat as much as possible.

Open only the drapes in the morning and leave the shades down until the sun starts to stream though the windows. Between getting the kids off to school and when the sun streams in, I sit and write on the couch where the sun is captured through the front windows. It’s so yummy and toasty to sit with the sun heating up my back.

During the day, I get out and do some physical work in the garden while the sun is shining. This keeps me warm, reduces our heating costs and gets me being productive. Plus plus plus.

When the sun starts streaming, open up the shades and let the sun shine on the floor and heat up the slate tiles. It’s delicious. And the house keeps a cosy temperature of 19 degrees in side all day.

I sit and meditate in the afternoons, in the front window with the sun at its warmest.

Finally, I manoeuvre the clothes horse around to get the clothes dry.

All the while, I’m watching the Wattson click over our net power usage, once we take into account the solar panels.

Wow. Without the experience of chasing the sun, I would just have the heater on all day.

What do you do to maximise the sun?

Organising to simplicity part 4

The final post in the series for now is my ensuite.

I have seriously reduced the products I need for my hair, face and feet. I’m also becoming more conscious of the chemicals that I put on my face, in my hair, and so I am slowly moving to more natural products as I use up old products.

For example, I am slowly moving my skin care over to Aesops, which I love.  I have made my own deodorant and lip balm following some youtube video.

So again – this is a journey.  The journey for me began with throwing out the things that were really old, out of date or no longer relevant to my hairstyle/make up look of today, which has been simplifying significantly.

Then I packed away doubles of whatever I have and created a list of those items in my purse so I don’t forget and buy more.

So the dreaded before shots:

hair drawer before

 nails drawer before make up drawer before

Stage 1 of my clean up got me to here:

hair drawer after make up drawer after nail drawer after

Pretty good effort.  I organised my multiples of everything and got a system going.  But…

I still felt controlled by my stuff.

I still had way too much of everything.

So my efforts now are even simpler again – and I’m sure this will reduce even further with the next cull.

I only have minimal make up in a make up acrylic organiser. I have two mascaras, two eyeliners, four different eye shadows and four different make up brushers in the drawers.  I have my Foundation, eye cream, toner, home made deodorant and lip balm on the top of the organiser.

make up tray

My bath products are right near the bath tub.

bath products aesops bath

And my hair, blow-dryer and nails drawers are looking a whole less busy.

hair draw  feet drawer

And I feel like I could simplify a lot more from here.  It’s a work in progress. I’m aiming to get everything down to two drawers and the acrylic organiser.

What is your next household simplicity project?

Organising to simplicity part 3

The third part of my breaking up with organising series – this is all a work in progress, and I will continue to update as I simplify.  Today’s photo series are focused on my study area – and I apologise in advance for the dark before shot.  Nonetheless – easy to see it is clutter heaven.  This is where I process our admin and do our scanning/filing – more scanning and less filing these days as I try to cut down on the paper I store.

You can see there are some attempts to organise (containers for things, desk top filing units) but it wasn’t a picture of simplicity.

before photos study

And here is my after attempt – less stuff, less to organise and more peaceful.

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Organising to simplicity part 2

Part 2 of my breaking up with organising series – this time, the linen cupboards in our house.

Six beds and seven people equals at least double of that, in sheets, towels, beach towels and extra bedding for guests.

You can see in the first set of photos, a decent attempt at getting organised (still lots of things, now in neat boxes)

 linen before

 Revolting amounts of excess linen here…

The first attempt after shots (not bad – a few less things and neater in boxes):

linen after 3 linen after 4 kids linen before2

And in the second attempt earlier this year – less things, in neat boxes.

linen after kids linen after2 kids linen afterlinen spider 

And one little scary creature that I found while tidying again EEK!