A Busy Week

I have missed blogging!  It has been a terribly busy week here at the Meagre home and I can barely keep up with the work of every day.

Today was a bit of a breather for me and I was finally able to make some soap for the Hanger Swirl Challenge over at the forum.  I’d decided at the last minute that I would do a Butterfly Hanger Swirl like the one at Handmade in Florida.

My soap curing for the Hanger Swirl challenge.

I wanted to use four colours (black, deep purple, red and white) as I had a Black Raspberry Vanilla FO from Kim and Gavin’s Little Green Shop. The deep purple for the blackberry colour turned out greyish so I couldn’t differentiate it from the black.  It’s my first natural colourant soap so I’m excited to unmould it nonetheless.  This one had alkanet, madder root, titanium dioxide, and activated charcoal.

While waiting for the laundry to get done (so I could use the powerpoint for the stick blender to make soap), I decided to roast some coffee beans using my Handy Roaster.  I opted for a light roast this time.

Using my Handy Roaster and the portable butane Gasmate to get a light roast. These coffee beans are from Nicaragua (bought from Di Bella Coffee at QLD).

We’ve also been busy getting quotes for a small kitchen refresh we’ll be getting done next month.  It is certainly difficult working with a small budget for a kitchen makeover.  We’ve been scouring online factory clearance shops and so far, we’ve been able to purchase the gas cooktop, canopy rangehood and a sink package.  All have been purchased for about 70% off.  We’re targeting a budget of 3-5k which seems very tight for a kitchen refresh.

Mum and MIL are enjoying their stay here and have decided to learn breadmaking.  Looks like I’ll be taking them along at my baking challenges!

I hope you have all had a good week.

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Living Luxe for Less

My apologies to all those who had received the unfinished post in error.  I don’t really know what happened there but it was quite a shock to have received an alert that I had posted something when I hadn’t.  LOL.  Hope you all had a good weekend.

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Since giving up our double income and excessive consumerism, we have learned to change the way we spend.  As I look back on our changes, I see that very little has been removed from our lifestyle;  if anything, our day-to-day living has become more indulgent without having to spend big bucks.  By moving into a more active role and becoming more of a producer than a consumer, we are actually still living the luxe life on so much less than we used to.

Here are some of of our indulgent pleasures at home:

A cafe-style brekafast of sourdough toast, ham, and eggs. Cost: less than $1, and I can have it in the comfort of our home every single day. Each cafe meal like this would set me back by at least $9.
Coffee, roasted to order. We’d recently run out of coffee beans, and to buy 3kgs of it would have cost us $100. This set above was $89 including the roaster, and the unroasted beans won’t go stale before we get to them. Plus, I get to have fun learning how to roast beans myself. Bonus!

Nibbling on fresh berries whilst out and about in our own backyard. The burst of flavour in my mouth is simply beyond any taste I have ever experienced from fruit bought from the shops. At the moment, our pomegranate is nearly ready to harvest — three fruits from a single young bush. It would have cost us over $8 to buy those — just a single fruit more and we would be breaking even on the cost of the plant.

Fresh flowers every single day of the year. Right now, the African Daisies and Salvias are in bloom and the spring bulbs have just been poking their heads out. We buy our tulips and lilies in May, when all the good nurseries around Monbulk mark down the bulbs to half price. I can’t wait to harvest bunches of them in the spring. It costs us just $60 to get 100 bulbs delivered, and those flowers come back year after year with sufficient care. It boggles my mind how we used to spend $10 for just three stems of lilies every week.

There is so much more on my list — homemade cheese, yogurt, and a million other things that I am sure many of you make as part of daily life.  I am so glad we’ve found our way out of consumerism, and I can’t wait to see what else this simple, gratifying life will teach us in the future.

How about you?  What are your simple luxuries?

What I’m Doing

Happy Easter Monday!

We’ve sadly come to the end of a long weekend, amd tomorrow is the first day of the school term.  Mr Meagre will be back at work, the Little Miss will be back at school, and I will need to declutter the spare room while chasing after the toddler.

Here’s a glimpse of what we’ve been doing the past few days.

Wednesday night. I woke up one of my dried starters while I was preparing food to take with us on a road trip the next day. This is a starter made out of unbleached bakers flour that I had dried a month ago. To wake it up, I dissolved a quarter-cup of the chips with the same amount of filtered water. When the chips had dissolved after a few hours, I fed it with a quarter-cup of plain flour (I ran out of bakers flour).
Thursday. Great Ocean Road Trip.
 

We set out shortly after 6am on Thursday for our day trip.  The weather forecast wasn’t looking good for the rest of the long weekend, so we decided that this was the best day to do it.  We took the long, scenic route to the Twelve Apostles.  It was a lovely sight with all the rock formations.  I probably will blog about it when I can get organised enough to copy photos from the camera.

Surprisingly, the kids were well-behaved, apart from a few Are-we-there-yet’s and sleepy meltdowns.  We took some meat pies, sausage rolls, Danish Spirals, chips, and drinks.  I also used the thermal cooker we bought from Aldi to make a beef stew (I highly recommend it, but must remember not to use the top pan unless I am not fussed about its contents spilling).  We did have to make a pit stop for food — it was at a Macca’s on the way home, for the obligatory Happy Meal and Frozen McSpider for the Little Miss.  She says it was the best trip ever.  She obviously doesn’t get a Happy Meal as often as she wants, LOL.

This is what we came home to on Thursday night. The starter is alive! I shoved it into the fridge so I can bake with it later.

On Friday night, we stayed at home and scoured the internet and local newspapers for used car ads.  We have been saving up for a new-to-us car, automatically setting aside some money each payday and parking it in our mortgage to help with the interest (we are able to redraw it without charge).  Our goal was to purchase a four-wheel drive in 2018 and we had been planning to buy one with a towbar, ready for when we save enough money for a used caravan. We made the decision to purchase it earlier because our mums (Mr Meagre and mine) will be here on a three-month vacation very soon, and our current car is a five-seater.

Mr Meagre’s “new” car, which he has already nicknamed Gru. Our current car is named Scarlett and the one before her was Herb. The Minions are quite popular in this household.

Fortunately, we were able to find a suitable one and we will be picking it up next week.  Mr Meagre seems happy enough with his 12-year old 4wd — it is not the shiny offroader of his dreams, but at least we were able to resist taking out a loan for that.
If you are interested in sourdough baking, I invite you to join us at the The Home Maker’s.  We will be making our sourdough starters today, and the sourdough bake-alongs will begin in May. I am pretty excited at having so many people to bake sourdough with!  The internet is awesome.

My sourdough “mother” from last month. I will be repeating this method for our Sourdough Starter Challenge at The Home Maker’s Forum, with only half the recipe. There are two other starter methods to choose from.

What have you been busy with this past month?

A Place for Like-Minded People

Tulips from last year. I am still hoping they’d come back this year.

In the past few years, it has become more difficult for me to find people with the same ideals as my own.  Being away from my childhood friends has not helped;  neither has the fact that we seem to be leading our lives misaligned from the so-called mainstream…

The support of an online forum has been truly appreciated, as I am sure it has been for many others.  With the closing of one door, there opens a window, so to speak.  I am happy to say that the team at The Home Maker’s Forum has done a truly wonderful job of creating a special home online.

If you enjoy turning your house into a home, love to garden, sew, knit, cook, bake;  live sustainably, or simply want to have a cuppa with online friends, please come in and join us there.  We shall be waiting!

Goals for 2017

Every year as the days wind down, I start a new sheet and re-evaluate our goals.  I find it helpful to know the things we plan to achieve the next year because it keeps me motivated, and helps us realign our priorities if we need to drop a few things.

I keep mulling things over during the month of January, discussing items with Mr Meagre as they come up.  Being the school holidays here, it leaves me with just a little more time to think.  The rest of Australia is in vacation mode but my head is a hive of activity, sometimes even past midnight.  Just as well I don’t have to drop someone off at school the next day.

By the time February rolls around, the goals have mostly been finalised.  A few minor tweaks here and there is all it takes to see us through the next year.

Here is the list of goals we have for 2017, broken down into rough categories:


Home and Garden

  • Save funds for landscaping the front yard and back gardens.  Nothing fancy;  just some edging, crushed rock, pavers and mulched (plantable) areas. 
  • Declutter and reorganise living areas and bedrooms.  After over two years of living here we have only just unpacked the last few boxes.  We are working on the last room at the moment, but already I can see that we need to declutter the first room again!  It never ends…
  • Keep track of our garden harvest and ongoing expenses.  We are using the method I mentioned previously.
  • Keep up with caring for our vegetable garden, fruit trees and shrubs.

          The view from our front door. We are slowly saving up to fill this with edging, crushed rock and mulch. A lemon tree might be good too.


          Financial

          • Pay off the variable portion of our loan, down to the amount we have in the loan offset.  This accounts for the bulk of our disposable income.
          • Maintain the current emergency fund level and set aside small amounts to increase it further.
          • Increase the budget we have for utilities (5% increase annually) and enrichment (swimming/karate/dance lessons).
          • Set aside a small amount for quarterly driving trips now that the toddler is nearly two years old.  This took up our previous budget for having someone mow our front lawns, so come spring we will certainly be feeling the pinch when the grass reaches our knees.
          • Increase our super contributions and start investing for retirement.
          • Start investing for the kids’ University fees (Little Miss Meagre turns 8 this year).
          • Find out how I could start a home-based food business.  I am attending a “Starting a Business” seminar in March.

                    Life Goal 2017: Great Ocean Road trip. Hello, front yard grass. LOL.


                    Health and Personal Growth

                    • Mr Meagre has started a get-fit program (office gym/karate/extra cardio at home).  I intend to get back into yoga this year;  I really miss it.
                    • Make plans for graduate studies in the next two years.  This means I need to retake the IELTS exam this year.  I have been setting aside $10 a week for the exam fee and intend to schedule it in September this year.
                    • Cut back on sugar.  We very rarely buy chocolates now but I am still baking treats every week.  I have bought a sugar substitute and am re-reading the 4 Ingredients:  Diabetes book.  When we feel a craving for something sweet, a tablespoon of peanut butter is usually our first port of call. 
                    • Volunteer and get more involved in local council events and activities.

                                Cutting back on sugar in baking. See the Rice Malt Syrup on the right?


                                Art and Craft

                                • I would like to practice playing the piano again but I need to work it into my schedule. Mr Meagre has been studying blues guitar in his spare time.
                                • I have started knitting at least one dishcloth per week, as well as other items we need in the home (the Ikea cork heat pads I was just talking about has suddenly crumbled into pieces).  Any extra items will be sold in my Etsy shop.
                                      I would love to knit a temperature blanket in these colours. Bring on the stashbusting. Photo credit: Bendigo Woollen Mills Facebook Page.

                                      What are your goals for this year?

                                      Simple Pleasures

                                      At the DTE forums last week, Emeline asked about the things that bring us joy in our simple lives.  I could go on and on about it, but here are a few things on my list.  

                                      At night while I shower before bed, I usually think about the many things that I am thankful for.  It is one of the things that ground me and helps me forget that during the day, I am this disshevelled, dazed, and cranky, old mum just trying to get through the stress of every day.

                                      • Bread rising on the countertop.
                                      • The smell of anything cooking in the oven.
                                      • Native bees flitting through flowers propagated for free, or bought for fifty cents and resurrected.
                                      • The sound of crickets or birds chirping in a previously barren suburban backyard.
                                      • Tree-ripened fruits and a bowl of fresh crops from the garden.
                                      • Handing my daughter a bar of ladybird- or butterfly- shaped soap from the stash.  Who’d have ever thought I’d learn to make soap in this lifetime!
                                      • Folding crisp, sun-dried washing from the line, knowing that I made that laundry liquid myself.
                                      • Lazing by the beach curled up with a good book, and closing my eyes occasionally to breathe in the salty air while my fingers flip through those ridged pages.
                                      • The cool breeze that suddenly hits my face in those last few minutes before the rain falls on a hot day.
                                      • The smell of rain finally hitting the ground; that earthy, grassy, musky smell as the warm air rises and the ground cools.
                                      • Looking through the budget spreadsheet and ticking those rows.  Each month that passes just brings us closer to owning our home.  Little by little, one cent at a time.
                                      • Seeing money magically left over in our accounts just moments before the weekly salary comes through. We have truly come a long way from our double-income shopping spree days.  We feel so blessed, and so much richer than those in the A-list suburbs, with their perpetually flashy new cars and brand new houses that don’t need any fixing.
                                      • Putting the kids to bed, knowing that when they open their eyes tomorrow I will be there to greet them, instead of having to rush to work like a headless chicken. Thank God for a husband who has courageously taken on the sole breadwinner role, in this day and age of gender equality and massive double incomes.
                                      • A warm shower after a long day.  There is nothing like those few minutes of solitude to soothe my tired feet and refresh my soul.
                                      • Sweeping the kitchen floor at the end of the day, muttering under my breath how the children are only young once.  I can only hope that even in our own imperfect ways, we can help them become the people they ought to be.
                                      • A hot cup of coffee or tea in silence, when the kids are asleep.  Tomorrow is another day filled with so many things to be thankful for.

                                      What simple pleasures are you thankful about today?

                                      Life, Rewind

                                      On the news this week, something has hit home.  Hard.

                                      A young mother was walking back to work after lunch when she, along with many others, was mercilessly mowed down by a troubled man driving erratically around the Melbourne CBD.  She was struck more than a week ago and had been on life-support since.  It was her first day back at work after maternity leave, and she had just breastfed her baby at a day care within walking distance of her office.  She was 33 (bless her soul).

                                      I was lying awake at midnight, reading the news from my tablet trying to fall asleep.  The little boy tossed and turned and kept me up all night, and there I was, muttering under my breath and on the verge of asking myself why on earth I had children.  And there it was on the news.  It could have been me.  She could have been me.  No, hang on a minute… I WAS her.

                                      In my youth, I was this career-driven madwoman who always wanted to have her way.  Work was my life, and I never, in a million years, would have thought I would be happy staying home with the kids.  But the universe has its ways;  people make their choices.  I am thankful to have been given this chance.  I am renewed in my joy of being a stay-home mum.

                                      Simple Dreaming?

                                      I wrote this a few days ago and it has been sitting in my scheduled posts since.  It is amazing what clarity the written word will give sometimes.  I now have a renewed appreciation for our choices, and the simple life.

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                                      Like many young Australian families, we are still paying off the mortgage for the home we live in.  Mr Meagre and I started rather late, and because of that we have only just begun the lengthy journey past our mid-30’s.

                                      A typical spring harvest of plant-and-forget garlic and carrots.





                                      We are three years into the mortgage and most days it feels so slow…  like a winding road so tight you cannot see the end of it even if you tried.  Being an obsessive planner by nature, I like having my goals listed down.  Ticking any list, or seeing any “percentage complete” figure has to be right up there in the happiness spectrum for me.  It is weirdly normal for me to have many goals, some of which are very long term (for example, our financial goals 30+ years from now).

                                      However, since “meeting” Rhonda I have been trying to simplify my life. I still remember reading her first book for the first time; that list I came up with about my life goals is still being revisited nearly everyday. Part of living simply, to me, was and still is being happy with what I have and making the most of what and where I am. “Bloom where you are planted,” as Rhonda would say.

                                      The first fruits off our PeachCot tree that has been in the ground for two years.




                                      Which brings me to the question that has been bugging me for the past few months.  Does simple mean being content with our current home and not desiring to move anywhere else?  If I dream of owning a farm “someday”, am I still being true to my simple values?  I love trees — I like seeing them grow, and to me the best trees are the big mighty ones with trunks so wide there is no way to put your arms around them… Where we are now, it is impossible to plant those so I content myself with dwarf netted trees in all sorts of espalier and I keep them pruned to within an inch of their life.  

                                      But this “content-ing” of myself, is it not me cheating?  When I tell myself, I shall do this when the backyard is bigger… or, if only I had the space I would do this or that… That kind of thinking, to me, is definitely not blooming where I am planted.  Or is it?  This is the best place for us at the moment, I am sure, so should I just spend my days bunkering down and start blooming?  Is my dreaming putting a damper on my happiness, and preventing me from living my life the way I should?  Do I need to come to terms with the fact that my values are not what I thought them to be?