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Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What They Live

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


























My Children

:: Couldn't tell you the last time they watched tv, but can tell you what they planted in our community garden

:: Have no clue what the latest gadgets or toys are, but can list books and board games we love to read and play

:: Don't know what a play station, gameboy, or Wii is, but can tell you tale after tale about dolphins

:: Won't sit for hours in front of a screen, but spend hours putting together puzzles

:: Aren't sure of the real names of all the shops we visit, but can tell you the names of all the shop owners and what fairtrade items they sell

:: Haven't yet figured out the politics behind big corporations, but can articulate why we boycott certain shops in very simple terms - "they aren't kind to their workers" is usually suffice.

:: Politely listen to hurried tales of weekend busyness from peers, teachers and friends, but quietly whisper in my ear "Mama lets just be at home and sit under a tree"

:: May not yet be fluent readers, but love that their Mummy is in a bookclub

:: Graciously receive gifts, but find real joy in the making of the thank you card the second the gift is opened.

:: Know we have to watch pennies, but remind me each week to make sure our home has flowers.

:: Don't live in the country, but as of yesterday learned how to gently hold chickens

:: Don't eat meat, but love hanging out with pigs at the city farm!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Weighing Up Organic & Natural Newborn Options

by Amanda 

Instinctively mothers want the best for their babies. Our main concerns are for their health and well being. Before and after new babies arrive we are bombarded with information from well meaning family members, friends and books, blogs, informative websites and magazines. It can be overwhelming and often times leads to uncertainty and utter confusion. Try to pay attention to the things that matter most to you, consider what is practical and listen to your instincts. There are options and choices for everything baby - new, second hand, borrowed, hired,  handmade, organic and eco friendly. You may choose a combination of these things depending on your budget and lifestyle or may choose one only. Whatever YOU choose will be the best for YOUR baby.

When I was expecting with my last son I had a bee in my bonnet and I only wanted to use organic skincare, organic bedding, organic bath linen and organic clothes. But when I started to investigate these options and products I realised we simply couldn't afford everything and as it was our last baby it didn't make sense to be spending that much money. I did manage to pick up a few items from ebay, but not every item I was seeking could be found there. I then started to weigh up how often these items would be used, their value after use and what items would be in direct contact with my baby's skin.

I prioritised the wish list and skincare wasn't an option for me. It had to be natural even though I didn't plan to be using it all the time. As skin is so porous and can absorbs traces of all kinds of materials, I didn't want any products to go near our baby that had ingredient lists with long words that I couldn't pronounce or understand. Natural and organic skincare was an easy choice. It had to be simple and in most cases I can make the products myself.

I then looked at bedding and decided to buy a secondhand cot and mattress. As new mattresses 'off gas' chemicals (that's the 'new smell') a new one was not on the shopping list and as we couldn't afford an all natural one, a secondhand one was the best choice for our child. I was lucky to pick up one locally that was in excellent condition. My compromise was to layer the bedding with organic linen and I purchased two sets of fitted, organic bamboo sheets for the bassinet and the cot. I also chose an organic mattress protector. Admittedly I did have a few sheets left from my previous children's bedding and these are my spares. Using pre-loved sheets are a wise choice for bassinets as they are only used for such a short time and most are in near new condition.

Bath linen was another priority for me, as again this would be used directly against my baby's skin. I chose two organic bamboo towels and a 3 pack of bamboo muslin washers. Muslin washers are by far the most gentle cleansing cloth for newborns and I highly recommend them. The bamboo towels being so absorbent, dry the skin very quickly and the fibres are soft and super gentle against a baby's skin. I am still using all of these items today along with some hand knitted washers (see pictured) and they will last beyond the toddler years.


When it came to newborn clothing I chose to buy and use only secondhand items made from 100% cotton and wool where possible. Items that have been used and washed over and over again have had their manufacturing residues washed away and this put my mind at ease. We were gifted many items and I chose to buy a few organic undergarments, again because these items were against his precious skin. Style wasn't an issue for me. Items had to be practical, easy to put on and take off with minimum fuss.


Other items that I chose to buy organic were the Organic Ergo Baby Carrier (half was a gift), natural medicines and remedies, cloth nappies, feeding products and a handful of toys for gifts. I didn't require bottles to bottle feed, but if you do, you may want to use glass bottles or at the least BPA FREE plastic ones. There are plenty of options and compromises and secondhand can be the most eco friendly if this is something you strongly value. Make your own decisions about what items you really need and weigh up the choices and alternatives in relation to your budget.

Don't forget to make the most of the opportunity whenever someone asks what you really need or want for your new baby and don't be afraid to share your core values and wishes. You may not like to ask for something organic due to the price tag, but there are small organic items that will be appreciated like organic socks and scratch mittens or you may know someone that makes beautiful crocheted hats...so ask for one in organic cotton! The path into parenthood can be an opportunity to learn as much as you can about the impacts of the living environment you create for your child and sharing what you learn with your family and friends provides a supportive environment when your baby arrives.

What decisions did you make or do you plan to make about choosing products and items for your babies in relation to your values?




Sunday, May 27, 2012

How Simplicity Prepares You For The Harder Times

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Late yesterday evening I wrote on my personal blog about the difference in the experience of frugality when it is forced vs. it being a choice. The days grocery shopping "adventure" was still fresh in my mind. And in truth, my mind was on the black formal dress shirt school is insisting each child owns by Monday (for a concert), my daughters need for sandals, my son outgrowing his trousers (again!), four prescriptions that need renewing this month, three bills which recently arrived and a petrol tank in the bottom 1/4.

I've lived a frugal and simple life for many years. You will find us hiking instead of shopping, watering our community garden plot instead of going to an adventure playground or theme park, and spending our evenings reading, playing games, riding bikes or volunteering instead of frequenting paid activities. But this is the first time under our new circumstances of it not being an adventure, or a reason to save for something (emergency fund, car repair fund, holiday fund, long term savings plan). This is no longer about choice, but circumstance. The two very different c's.

The difference for me is two fold. Firstly, the "what if' thought is never far from my mind (what if there is another bill, or an emergency which costs $$ arises) and secondly, the constant need to prioritize, or choose what to cut in order to make it all work. And that isn't a nice feeling at all.

And yet, honestly, I see beauty in how we live. Yes, I've certainly learned that when things are already tough, more seems to go wrong - like a double blow that seems, at times, ridiculously unfair. But I've also learned about joy, faith, perseverance and commitment to a choice, and owning that choice even when it no longer feels like you've chosen such a path. If we had an extra $1000 a month, the reality is, our activities would not change, you would still find us hiking, bike riding, visiting parks, cooking from scratch, playing games, making art and crafts and loving life. None of that would be any different. What would change is the bank balance, our ability to easily deal with the emergencies that arise and perhaps a little bit more peace. But the reality is, we are not poor, we have a very nice roof over our heads, our fridge and cupboards are full, everyone has all the clothes they need, we have more books than we could possibly read (though we are trying!), we have our garden plot, a car that gets us from A to B, each child has a hobby, or two, that they enjoy each week. And our life really isn't any different, except that I need to be far more creative at times. And you know, the artist in me knows, creativity is never a bad thing!

I'd love to hear from you. Do you have any tips for me, or other readers, about embracing forced frugality or living well on less?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Days Like These

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches



















It is days like these when we have nowhere to go and no real commitments, that I wonder why it isn't possible to be still more often. Today I declared it was a "home day". And just what is a home day? A day where we never leave home; no shoes need to be put on, no hats, scarves or gloves need to be tackled. It's a day where I stand at the window, cup of tea in hand and watch the world go by. It is a day where I enjoy simple crafts with my children, no one needing to be hurried, no one making us late. It is a day where I smell curries and soups and muffins cooking and baking, ready to nourish us through far too many busy and hurried days ahead.

It is days like these where I reflect on our choices, our dreams, our aspirations and instead of planning I think "be still". It is days like these where I accomplish our greatest goal - simplicity. It is days like these when absolutely everything else can wait and I'm reminded of a favourite poem...

Cleaning and cooking can wait 'till tomorrow
For babies grow up, as we've learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep

Anon

It is days like these, where my greatest wish for this world is for everyone to stop. Stop the negative and anxious thoughts. Stop the dash to the shops. Stop the hurried list of things to do. Stop. Stop. Stop. Be still. Be still. Be still.

I hope each person reading this soon has a plan to be still. To breathe. To relax. To be...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The green and simple life - as it actually is in a small urban house, with small children

Aurora @ Island Dreaming


 
I have to admit, I am at a bit of a loss as to what to write about this week.


It isn't that we haven't been doing anything. I have baked bread, I have started two batches of wine, a batch of from-grain beer. We have further  decluttered and redecorated the house, celebrated Halloween and Christmas, cooked almost every day from scratch. Nappies have been washed, laundry gloop made. But my own blog has been silent for two months now, because the wherewithal to coordinate doing something worthy of writing about with having a charged camera battery, time to sit at the computer and compose something and the brain capacity to write acceptable English more often than not fails me.

The reason? A six month old teething baby. The beautiful routine we had begun to get into? Gone out of the window, replaced by fractiousness, separation anxiety and broken nights. Broken nights for everyone, because her three year old brother in the next room often wakes with a jump at the onset of a midnight screaming session. We are not a well rested household.

Herein lies a problem. The main attraction of a simple life is to be more rested than those panicking to climb the material and social ladder. I feel not rested, I feel overstretched for the first time in many months. A steady diet of doctors appointments, preschool sessions, vet appointments, scheduled activities,work and study commitments on top of all our day to day frugal activities is interfering with a previously plodding, calm schedule. Life does not feel simple and deliberate. It feels slapdash.

The reason I tell you this? I have been reading a few too many beautiful blogs of families with small children where everything is rosy and beautifully staged and calm and organized and tidy - and this has been bad for my mental health. It is, I realise now, no different to looking at adverts for expensive cars and anti-aging creams and feeling angry and inadequate for those things that are beyond your reach. I know that many bloggers actively admit they show the very best of their days, their blogs are a medium for them to focus on the things they are most grateful for and this is not a dig at them. I may have been guilty of this on my own blog. It is a dig at myself for falling into the trap of comparing our life unfairly with those edited blog lives.

I have neglected to keep up with a few of those delightful blogs that unfortunately I cannot help comparing myself too at the moment. My own blog has fallen by the wayside a little and instead I schedule my fortnightly appointment here and look forward to it. Our allotment is still awaiting its autumn tidy up, the garlic and broad beans have not been sown. Dishes sometimes stack up on the side. The hoover sometimes doesn't come out for a few days. Knitting gets left out in the rush and unravelled by a passing three year old. The cat knocks a house plant onto the floor and I shout and use choice words that I would never dream of typing. The dining table piles up and we eat on a rug in the living room. I raise my voice sometimes and lose my patience and sometimes I just scream into a pillow, cry and feel sorry for myself. Mindfulness escapes me to be replaced by racing thoughts and deep seated feelings of inadequacy.

I have nothing practical to share with you at the moment; I can't share with you tips for soothing a teething baby, as none of the things that worked with the first of my children is working with the second; I cannot get my brain (and camera) together enough to write the wine tutorial I have been planning for most of 2011. Instead I just want to say go easy on yourself and enjoy the start of this new year. If you are struggling to keep your head above water right now, because of overtired small children or for other reasons, then let something go and do what you can with the material or spiritual reserves you have. Keep on keeping on. I'm off to find my camera battery.




Sunday, November 27, 2011

We're Different And That's OK

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Yesterday, my email provider had a front page article about the biggest mistakes people make when giving Christmas gifts; totally out of my character, I clicked on the article and began to read it. Lo and behold, one of the biggest mistakes, according to the author, anyone can make is to give homemade gifts, particularly knitted items. Apparently such things are ghastly and embarrassing for the giver and receiver. Who knew?!

When I got over my initial one second check in (I had just, the hour before, finished putting together a few little handmade gifts) I enjoyed a little laughter at the hilarity of it all. Not only did the article suggest homemade things are totally inappropriate, but so is anything useful, including some items of clothing, giftcards etc. And I began to think of the hilarity of it all, one person, who came across as incredibly spoiled and pampered, a person who is probably quite young and used to having money spent on them, is dictating what is acceptable/normal/OK. Well, here's the truth, his/her norm is certainly not my norm.

And there in that little article was the theme of my life over the last few months. As I navigate motherhood and find what other parents view as normal is vastly different to our life and the norm I want for my children. As I chat with colleagues and hear their views on necessities (a family can not live in less than 2500 square feet, apparently, nor can they function without TVs in their van), I've come to really think about being different and being OK with being different.

We are all on a journey. In my teenage years I desperately wanted to fit in and truth be told, for most of those years didn't. Sometimes, when I compare "notes" with the lives others have, I fleetingly think how nice it would be to have what they have, because in the throws of it, we are all human beings with needs and emotions. But the truth is, I'd rather be different. I'd rather put thought into what comes into our home, than accept the toys a manufacturer tells me my children need. I'd rather give money to help causes, then fret over which new car/van/TV/laptop to buy. I'd rather spend a couple of hours making a dishcloth, then pick up 10 for $2 and I'd certainly rather have to shop at 4 or 5 local shops/farmers stalls, than go to one big conglomerate and feel proud of how much more I could get for the same money.

Sometimes being different is challenging. Sometimes I can feel too different. Sometimes it would be easier not to think critically about each choice, not to have to wonder where something came from, or how its production impacted others. Sometimes it would be lovely to simply roll up at a particular fast food joint and be done with dinner in 2 minutes flat. But the truth is, 99.9999% of the time, I am totally head over heals in love with this different life, bad gift giving (knitted items!) and all. My greatest hope, is that 20 years from now, my children are OK with being different too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Taking Stock

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

I don't mean the stock we use for cooking - though we do make bone broth, chicken stock and vegetable stock concentrate at home to cook with, and I can post about that another time!

Living with a large family, on a farm, we tend to accumulate 'stuff' - not through excessive shopping habits, just by keeping what we do have - reusing jars and plant pots, saving hand-me-downs for younger children, etc.

We have recently been changing the way we store things.  The children gave up their unloved old cubby house, which created an instant gardening shed for me!  I was able to sort through all the pots, tools and hose fittings which I previously kept on a table in a dark corner of the shed.  I parted with some of the pots for other gardeners to re-use.  I found that we had a lot of mis-matched hose fittings, but not really a spare full set to fit our tap size, so I bought a nice brass set in the hope that it will outlast the plastic ones which don't seem to cope with our high UV levels here.  With all the spiders sent on their way and everything sorted into piles and open crates, I felt much less overwhelmed by our gardening paraphanalia (bits and pieces collected over nearly 20 years of playing in the dirt)!


The same week, my husband finished constructing a 6m x 3m shed that we'd salvaged from someone's backyard a year ago.  Finally the kids' bikes could be moved from the lean-to at the front of the milking shed, and all their sports gear and outdoor toys could be moved out of the corner of the shed too.  We found some broken toys and outgrown items lingering in the bottom of the drawers and crates - so here was another good chance for a clean out!

And in the very same week we were moving things around and now have storage space for our pantry items.  So I've been taking stock off all our stored food (we order much of our food in bulk every 6 months), the preserving jars (empty and full), emergency supplies for cyclone season (like candles, matches, water, tinned food, etc), and even our camping supplies, clothes stored for the youngest two children (outgrown by the older ones), out-of-season clothes of mine and other 'stored' items.


I hardly know what to do with all this extra space we suddenly have - it's a little overwhelming!  I'm trying to organise our new spaces in an ordered manner so that clutter doesn't build up (I was glad to find that with all the re-arranging there wasn't very much we didn't use - unlike my 9 year old's bedroom last month which we realised was housing bags full of outgrown clothing and toys!).


It seems like this year Spring really is time for 'out with the old' for us, and I'm so grateful for the new spaces (at last) and creative storage options.  Now, if only the rain would stop I'd get back out there and tidy up the old shed, with it's newly emptied corners...

Do you have any storage tips?  How do you balance re-using (pots, baling twine, kids' clothes), and clutter?  Does Springtime see you cleaning up and sorting out too?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Less toys, more joy

Aurora @ Island Dreaming


 
Our son turned three this week. Much joy, much cake, many sweeties...even more toys! We have always aimed for a minimalist toy box, having thorough clear outs every few months as new things come in. What we do buy is usually second hand. An army of friends and relatives are on hand to express their love with the latest new novelty toys and games. Unfortunately, very little stands the test of time - lack of interest or initial over enthusiasm usually consigns many toys to the charity shop or dustbin. For this reason, we rarely buy toys ourselves, reserving that money for experiences.

As we are sorting the toy box yet again, we are deciding what  to keep for his three month old sister. She has already been bought toys of her own, which she is currently showing zero interest in. But then why would she? She has many faces to learn to recognise and the antics of her parents, brother and pet cats to amuse her.

As I was finding space for all the new bits and pieces that came into our home this week, I noticed the set of stacking cups I had placed on the mantelpiece. We bought these from a charity shop when our son was just 6 months old. At first they were brightly coloured objects to look at and manipulate. Gradually he learnt to build the tower and to stack them inside each other once again. Then he used them to hide things under. Then to serve us pretend cups of tea. Then they became pretend hooves to clip-clop around the room. Just last week he had one of them in the bath to slop water and to rinse away the shampoo. These will be keepers for his sister.

The belief that children need dedicated plastic play props for every imaginative scenario - play kitchens, shops, stables, beauty salons and space ships - is not founded in evidence, but by advertising budgets running into the hundreds of millions. Pretend play is good, but then pretending is the fun of it, and rooms full of dedicated props distract from that.

Some things don't need to be pretend anyway - our son doesn' t pretend to sweep, I actually let him sweep with our dustpan and brush. We also bake together, he watches me cook and when he was younger he played with our actual pots and pans and utensils. Imagination can be left for the things we can't actually do - adventure on the high seas, for example. Getting out of doors, running around, exploring and collecting things is also essential to our children's - and our own - well being. It is free and costs the earth nothing.

There are a few things other than the cups that have stood the test of time, that are still being played with and will be kept for our daughter. A lot more will be given away. Occasionally I feel that we are being stingy (usually when I have been told as much by loved ones who are buying lavish toys). Resist that feeling at all costs, especially in the face of opposition. I have realised now that exposing my son to an endless stream of influences that suggest to him that his life is somehow lacking will only make him dissatisfied and me feel like a terrible parent. We avoid supermarkets and toy shops, we watch DVDs not television, so as to limit our exposure to advertising - and now we are beginning the task of explaining how precious our time, our money and our environment is - far too precious to waste on throw away possessions.The best gift we can give our children is the knowledge that happiness cannot be built on a rising mountain of possessions.

What toys have given you the best value for money? How do you pass on your material values to your children?






Thursday, October 6, 2011

Short Notice | Traveling Simply and Frugally

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

This post is not the original post I had planned to write this week. But I have found myself confronted with the 'cost of travel' on short notice and it isn't fitting in too well with my simple living ideals! Ideally, traveling anywhere is planned and calculated and if you live simply you might want to consider the many options to make your trip as frugal as possible, without compromising enjoyment. The topic of traveling simply could be rather lengthy too, but I will just share with you what I have experienced this week as I plan to travel to Tasmania to visit my sick uncle and his family.

Firstly I have had to make a quick decision about making this trip. I cannot wait for several weeks to book a flight. Time is not on my Uncle's side. I cannot wait to see if prices will be 'cheaper' for flights. I have just had to book flight times that work best around my family that I will be leaving behind at home, accepting the cost of flying in such rushed circumstances. This has been difficult.

I believe that boat travel is better for the environment. This is an option when traveling to Tasmania. Again though time is not on our side. It would seem that when you have to rush...things aren't so simple and you end up spending more money or doing things that aren't so good for the environment. I think this can be seen in regular day to day life too! Slowing down saves money, I am certain of this.

As I breastfeed my youngest son, Ben, and I don't express milk he will be traveling with me. I am fortunate that we use cloth nappies and I can take a dozen nappies with a couple of wet bags to store the soiled ones in. They will last the couple of days without needing washing and the bags are good at locking in smells.

I feel very strongly about feeding Ben 'real food' cooked from scratch, so I am freezing up his lunch and dinners and taking them with me. A fridge is available in our hotel room so I can store his food safely. The short trip also works in my favour, in that the food won't spoil over such a short period of time spent traveling. The hotel has a communal kitchen so I can make Ben anything extra and warm his food when necessary.

The fact that the hotel has a communal kitchen also means that we can cook our dinner and make lunches if we buy supplies (or take them) which will again reduce the costs involved in 'eating out'. We have chosen a simple hotel, close enough to walk to the hospital where my uncle is ill, so we won't need to rely on taxi travel to and from.

Yesterday I made a cover for the stroller we will use and I am taking my Ergo baby carrier as well. I made the stroller cover from a vintage thrifted sheet that was in good condition.


The design inspiration and the cord used to tie one end with, came from a camping chair cover. This cover will protect the stroller when it is in the aircraft and is a little stronger than the garbage bags that I've seen some travelers use. I think bags like this would make useful protective covers for prams and strollers stored regularly in your car boot too.


I created a box shaped end and doubled the fabric and stitching to make it a little stronger.


I don't need to buy anything special for this trip, which is good as I have pledged to buy nothing 'new' for the month of October ...I don't think this includes travel and accommodation!

Do you find that when anything needs to be done quickly that you end up spending more? Do you have any frugal traveling tips you'd like to share here?

Amanda x

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Organising Days

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

Last month, I posted about Organising Information.  Following on from that I'd like to describe how I use tools to organise our daily lives...


We are a busy family with one adult who works full-time (shift work) and plays in a band, myself with a home based business and lots of volunteer/community commitments, and six children, five of whom we homeschool.  One daughter works 5 days a week and is studying, two daughters work at least 2 shifts each week and have busy social lives including sport and rehearsals, and three younger children with various classes, excursions and friends to meet up with here or out and about.

Diary - I choose a week-to-an-opening diary which is opened flat on my desk at all times.  My family can look at it, write down their commitments, check if we're busy before accepting a shift at work or invitation someplace etc.  Because I look at my diary often, and write events in there by hand as soon as I find out they're on, most things stick in my mind.  I tried using my phone so I could respond to invitations and make appointments when out and about, but the downside was that the whole family couldn't access the info like they can with a paper diary on my desk.  If I'm out and need to book something, I usually just make a tentative date and check when I'm home.  On the rare occasion the tentative booking doesn't work, I'll phone and change to a date/time that does suit.  I have also tried Google calendar and various software tools because I use my computer daily, but again, the paper version won out and we're sticking with the diary.  Garden-themed diaries and Moon diaries are my preference, and you can buy diaries from the very simple generic version at your local newsagent to one themed to almost any area of interest!

Menu Plan - My first ever post here at the co-op was about menu planning, and I use the same method today! 

I always have a sheet of paper on the side of the fridge listing all meals for the week, who’s cooking, baking to do, outings, birthdays, work shifts and other reminders for the whole family.  A lot of this info is transferred from the diary on my desk.

On Sunday night I take one of these sheets of paper (they’re printed from a Word doc on the computer with days of the week etc and spaces to hand write all details)… After writing the next week’s outings, visitors etc on the list, I begin planning meals. On the days we have busy afternoons or are home late, I choose a meal from the freezer (I cook in bulk and freeze), or a quick meal. Then I think about what fresh produce I have from the garden, markets or co-op to use up. We have these meals early in the week so that nothing spoils in the fridge.

Next I think about what’s already planned and choose other types of meals to slot into the plan - we divide our usual meals into lists depending on what they’re based on: egg, legumes, rice, potato, fish/meat or bread. At times I challenge myself to include new recipes, other times I try to use up a lot of frozen homemade meals and pantry basics to save a bit of money. Overall, the menus are well-thought out so they work.

If you’d like a helping hand to get started with menu planning, I recommend Mealopedia and Menu Plan Mondays at Org Junkie for inspiration. Some good advice can also be found on this page of the Hillbilly Housewife site.

Lists -  My lists have been the subject of a few giggles within my family over the years - packing lists, shopping lists, To Do lists and so on.  Sometimes I stop making so many lists and guess what?  Not very much gets done!  I forget things and feel a bit harried not knowing exactly what it is I have left to do.  I guess I am not a naturally efficient person - I never feel obliged to do housework and don't have rhythms like "Monday is cleaning day, Tuesday is baking day etc".  I also wear many hats - so while I'm busy teaching algebra, it doesn't come to mind that I have a phone call to return or need to start a sourdough loaf today...

Having a list and crossing items off is a sanity-saving tool for me!  I write my To Do lists in an exercise book which sits with my diary on my desk.  I also write bits and pieces of phone messages and other things in this book, and it's amazing how many times I have needed to go back and check on something.  When I use scraps of paper, they flitter around everywhere and I end up losing my lists - and part of my sanity!  I do write my shopping lists on scraps of paper (and sometimes lose these) but by the time I've done the menu and noted the ingredients required for the week, I normally know my shopping list anyway.  Again, phones and computers have apps and software for list-makers like me.  I've tried to use these tools, and also the whiteboard and eraser, but nothing compares to crossing out completed tasks with a firm blue line from a pen!

I am hearing whispers about the festive season here and there lately...  If you want to be more organised this festive season, you may make use of a how-to article such as, Organized Christmas?  I think Christmas is a perfect time to flex your organising muscles... The perfect warm-up to a stress-free, planned and productive 2012!


Please leave a comment describing your favourite daily life organising tool - do you favour apps or a calendar on the wall?  Or do you have an excellent memory and barely use lists?  Or maybe you just prefer to wake up and see what the day brings?


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Documenting the Firsts

By Megan at The Byron Life


This week I have been packing boxes in readiness for our return home and I came across Melody's cherished  "ballet book" - a simple scrapbook I made to document her first ballet classes. I wrote about its creation on my blog last year and I thought readers here at Simple, Frugal and Green might appreciate the idea that memory-keeping needn't be an expensive or elaborate affair. 


***


I’m no Martha when it comes to scrapbooking, that’s for sure. No designer layouts and special albums for me; I prefer to wing-it with whatever’s at hand. While my efforts wouldn’t pass muster with serious scrapbooking enthusiasts, I am happy that I have at least made the effort to document and celebrate some of the significant events and activities in my girls’ lives in this form.

Pictured above is a crazy-huge scrapbook of Ella’s very-first artwork from her toddler and pre-school days. We made this book together when she was a young child, I think she was four-years-old, and we took it off to a local copy shop to have it bound. For many years she would trot out this book to proudly show visitors and to this day it is still one of her most prized possessions. It is an especially important keepsake to Ella as she has developed into a most talented young artist and this book documents her “early years” (or her “bunny years” as I like to call them as that was about all she was interested in drawing for quite some time!)

This one is a book I made last year to document Melody’s first year at ballet. It has photos and mementos from her first ballet classes through to her first performance and I have written the text in very simple storybook style. It is now one of Melody’s favourite bedtime reads (what three-year-old doesn’t love to read a book all about themselves?) This book was made late at night, after Melody had gone to sleep, while I was pregnant with Maddison and finished just the night before she was born. So, for me, this book is also infused with those special pregnancy/birth memories... I gave it to Melody for Christmas and it was one of her favourite presents.

I think this home-made, free-form approach to scrap-booking works better for me because I get intimidated by expensive, “perfect” scrapbooks and I procrastinate over what is the “perfect” thing to write and add to them. If I am just winging it with less expensive materials, in a less structured way, I relax a bit more with the whole thing and don’t end up placing such huge expectations on myself that I never get around to doing anything.

The results are, in a word, wonky! That’s my style... But they are made with mama-love, and I reckon that’s what really counts.


We have some significant things happening in 2010 – Maddi’s first year being one of them - and Melody has oh-so-enthusiastically started pre-school a couple of days a week, so right now I am playing away documenting these major events.
This is the start of a scrapbook of Melody’s artwork from her first year at pre-school. As you can see, it’s made from a simple, old-fashioned scrapbook, and Melody is the creator-in-chief - from making the artwork to start with to sticking it in her book each week. I can’t wait to see how her drawings and paintings change over the year. The book is covered in one of her paintings and then clear contact paper is applied over the top.

While these books will ultimately be in the possession of the girls, I freely admit the making of these is as important, if not more important, to me than them! Childhood, that most powerful of times, scoots away from us so, so quickly... I want to savour, and remember, every moment with my girls while it lasts.

x
Megan

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why Not?

Posted by Bel

from Spiral Garden

Recently I have participated in some community events regarding our local council's 10 year plan. I have been conversing with many people, trying to explain more about what the grass roots groups in our community are attempting and achieving, and why we are concerned about peak resources, about climate, about the economy and about relocalising our region.

People ask me why I bother? They insist that it isn't worth working with any level of government. They don't understand...

When my grandchildren ask me, in decades to come, “What did you do when the human race was becoming crazy with consumerism, destroying pristine environments, forgetting the old ways and worshipping money…?” I feel proud that I can tell them that I did what my heart told me to... Within the capacity of my roles as a mother, a gardener, an educator, a friend, a volunteer, a writer, a citizen – I shared ideas, and I encouraged action. As much as I could, I always walked the talk.

What will you tell your grandchildren?

(Next time I post, I will continue with the organisation topics as promised!)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Life Changes

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Since I wrote my last post here, I've become a mother to two beautiful children, a daughter and a son. Life has felt anything but simple, green and frugal. In fact, I'd go so far as to say like has been somewhat complicated, definitely the opposite of green and more expensive than it has ever been [aka I am leaking money]. One piece of advice has carried me through, from a seasoned parent who I really respect: focus on survival until it feels like you can do more.

This whole experience has taught me so much about understanding people who feel the simple, frugal or green life is beyond them. I've heard friends, co-workers and people in the media say that they feel overwhelmed at the thought of making their own soap, recycling, composting or cooking from scratch. While I've long held the belief we should all start slowly, being a mother for just shy of three weeks has really given me a level of compassion and understanding about why changes can feel so challenging.

Almost three weeks in, we are doing well. I can't say I'm cooking every single day, I certainly can't say my laundry situation isn't scary. But in terms of small successes:

- I am using green soap and green cleaning products, even if I didn't make them myself
- I am composting, even if the bucket is in a sorry state and needs to be dealt with
- I am ensuring we get three meals a day, even if they are simple or from a favourite independent store instead of more complex {what I would do for a roast!!!}
- I can see where I want us to be (a more simple, green and frugal life defining parenting choices) and I know slowly we will get there...

One of my favourite quotes is this: "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” Anatole France.

So if you are struggling with life changes, just know part of embracing the single, frugal and green life is to be simple with yourself and your needs. Don't be harder on yourself than you would be with others. Understand sometimes focusing on survival is the right thing to do.

I feel hope our new life is emerging and I'm sure as long as we are together it will be a grand one. I hope wherever you are in your life you see hope to.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Organising Information

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

The most common item on my To Do list is "tidy office".  My office is an alcove off the dining room which houses my husband's desk, the kids' laptops, my business stock, my desktop computer and all of our household paperwork and personal finance 'stuff'.  It's only 3m x 3m and has no door - so it needs to be well-organised all the time!


There seems to be so much information coming into our lives - local newspapers, magazines handed on by friends - as well as my couple of favourite mags bought new, books to be read, homeschooling resources, lists, my precious diary, paperwork for my volunteer roles and my business...  And then there are bits and pieces like recipes, notes from workshops and meetings, samples and catalogues from suppliers, birthday cards to send, bills to pay.  Argh!  It's very easy to be overwhelmed...


So, every now and then I clear off the 2m x 2m dining table, which is just beside the office, and I start to make piles of things which need to go in different places to where they have accumulated.  Of course, I could deal with paperwork and other items the day they arrive, but with six children, homeschooling, the farm, the business and LIFE - I am just not that organised.  But I am a little organised, and I will share below some ideas I've found invaluable for keeping track of the paper trail...

Household Notebook
I got the idea for a Household Notebook from organizedhome.com.  I bought the biggest ring binder I could find - it's the white type with the clear insert cover.  On the spine I used the printable 'household notebook' label from Organized Home, and on the front I inserted a beautiful photo of my garden.  Inside I used a whole box of clear sheet protector sleeves and some plastic dividers I found in our house.  I made labels for the divider tabs - farm, house, me, education, food, family, community, work.  I left a couple of dividers at the back of the folder in case I decide to take on any more roles! All of those pieces of paper I've saved and wanted to keep were sorted and filed into this folder, which sits upon my desk to be grabbed whenever required.  Items in it include maps of the orchard, drawings by children, scraps of poetry, booklets, brochures, handouts, master menu lists the very many other lists...

Garden Journal
I have never kept a Garden Journal, but I wish I did!  I do have maps of trees and perennial plants around the house paddock, but nothing for the vegie gardens.  I searched online for images of Garden Journals, to see what sort of thing I'd like to create, and the options are endless!  From online journals to scrapbooks, meticulous record books and everything in between!  If I had a garden journal, I'd keep a record of which seeds I sow when, and the results.  I'd write notes about frosts and rainfall if I had a system in place.  I'd boast about harvests and preserves in my garden journal.  Do you keep a garden journal?  I'd love to hear about it!
 

Finance Folder
Our finance folder is a bit like the household notebook, but it's all about money.  It has a beautiful title page with an image of blooming flowers and quotes about wealth.  Then there are a couple of pages of important numbers and details, a printed calendar for the current year for easy reference and a page with the months of the year with regular bills written in their month - insurance renewals, rates, vehicle registrations.  There are sleeves for bills to be paid, my balance sheet summary (I work well with pen and paper, rather than spreadsheets or online budgeting programs), a sleeve for that month's receipts or accounts paid for my business, wish lists for birthdays, bank books for the younger kids' accounts and other taxation, budget and finance bits and pieces.  This is a system I have used for over 10 years and I really like it.  As soon as a bill comes in, or a receipt hits my desk, it is filed in the finance folder.

Recipes
I like to cut recipes from magazines, receive hand-written recipes from friends, print recipes from forums and websites...  So I bought 4 ring-binder folders last year and labelled them - sweets & baking, meals, preserves and Thermomix.  In each folder I have more clear plastic sleeves and in the Thermomix folder I organise recipes approximately by recipe type - meals, sweets, preserves, dairy, etc.  The folders look great on a shelf in my kitchen and anyone in the family can find our favourites.  They are also a great inspiration at menu-planning time, because every single recipe is hand-picked by us, so there's no sifting through things we don't like in recipe books!  I used to keep a lot of recipes bookmarked on the computer, but with our power outages and internet interuptions, especially in our summer wet season, I have gone back to paper versions.  After creating these folders, I had a big clean-out of unused recipe books, copying the one or two recipes I used from many, and passing them on to others to enjoy and use!


Filing Cabinet
We bought a 2nd hand filing cabinet for next-to-nothing about 18 years ago.  At first it had just a few suspension files hanging in it, and some junk in the bottom drawer.  As our family grew larger and our lives grew busier, the filing cabinet accumulated more folders.  Each year, when I do our tax, I clear out unwanted pieces of paper from the filing cabinet and shred them for use in the chook nests, or to start the fire.  There's something very satisfying about incinerating old bills!  I don't file items as soon as they come in.  Maybe because of the awkward corner the cabinet is in, or maybe because I'm just a procrastinator!  I have a green file folder on top of the filing cabinet which fills with papers to-be-filed.  Every couple of months or so, I file away these papers when having an office clean up.  It's a method which suits me, and the two-step process in fact reduces some of the items filed, as I might put something in the green folder just-in-case, but by the time filing day comes, I realise I didn't need to keep it.


Next post: organising daily information - diaries, calendars, menus and more!


Monday, August 1, 2011

Sell Outs

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches



















I have long held the belief that a simple, frugal and green life isn't about following a script or ticking off certain things on a list. A simple life in the country isn't so simple if you spend your time yelling, constantly bargain hunting or feeding a tv addiction. A simple life doesn't mean you have to keep pigs and bees or make every single meal from scratch. A simple life doesn't mean you can't work. Instead I view the simple life as a paradigm and a lense by which I view the world; a fundamental belief in focusing on the most important things, seeking to find balance in all I do and living by the principals "less is more" and "living simply so others may simply live".

Lately all around me colleagues and friends have been talking about what is important to them, a few even mentioned the term sell out. You see many of them thought in their early 20's that they would make "good choices" (that is their term, I certainly am not value judging their choices as good or bad) but as their lives have developed through their late 20's and 30's they really haven't decided to stick to those "good choices" they once thought they would live by. I spent the last week listening to their examples, some of which were:

- Deciding to commute for 2 hours to work so they could have the "biggest bang for their buck" aka the biggest square footage house
- Not buying free-range or organic meat or dairy because they don't care anymore about animal welfare (this person was very pro responsible farming in her late teens)
- Not taking the option of a 4 day work week after returning from parental leave because that extra day is a weekend in Las Vagas every year.
- Never hanging clothes to dry because it would take an extra 10 minutes and interrupt precious facebook time
- Feeding the family hot dogs, boxed pizza and boxed macaroni & cheese almost every night because that is what is quickest and after 10 hours outside the home, no one has the energy to cook
- Admitting they see less than 10 hours a week of their 4 and 2 year old because with an 11 day work day 5 days/week and a love of bargain/frugal shopping (thus visiting 5 different shops on Saturdays and often nipping to the US for the real sales) the grandparents pick up the grandchildren from daycare Friday afternoon and keep them until Sunday morning. This was a hard one for this friend to admit because while suffering from infertility they swore time with their children would always come first, now they have 2 very good careers, a very large house they just totally renovated and only see their children Sundays.
- Being scared to go without because their friends are richer than they are.
- Becoming so obsessed (their words) with paying off their mortgage, buying a second and third home to rent out and retiring at 55 that they are not really living now
- Throwing away anything with a tear/needing a new button and buying new

As I have listened to these conversations, I have tried not to make any value laden statements but did occasionally ask "so if you know, would you change anything", I further asked one "would you now go to work 4 days a week so you can do the things that used to be important to you and simply shop/eat out less". What was really interesting to me, is that no one said they wanted to change a thing. One, a top city lawyer married to another top city lawyer, who eat out 20x a week and admits they don't see their children at all between Mon-Fri said "nope, I'm a proud sell out - I want as much as I can have for as little as I can get it for, we're not interested in having less money, we want more money". I smiled and pondered those words, asking myself what I can learn from their experiences, choices and definition of happiness/selling-out.

What is interesting to me, is in my experience, the older I get the less I want to "sell-out" and the more comfortable I am going without what most people view as a necessity. It took fostering four very broken and traumatized children to help me see there was another life waiting patiently for me to embrace; they taught me there is so much more to life than work, stuff, money and materialism. And while I don't really have any friends in real life who live like I do (although I am blessed to have one friend on either side of the Atlantic who are at the beginning of their simple living journey!) hearing these friends and co-workers yearn for more money and not desire to change anything about their current circumstances, made me very thankful for places like this co-op, the readers of my own blog, Rhonda's blog and the myriad of others which remind me daily that each day I will face choices, those choices bring me closer to the values I hold or further away. While I do aim to be careful about how much time I spend online, I do feel a bit of a haven in what I choose to read in this amazing place. It was that haven that helped me stick to my choice not to attend a friend's wedding and your words gave me the confidence to stick to my conviction when the bride expressed her anger.

Through my own learning this past month (both from the wedding and the new life that awaits me, as well as conversations with those who live so differently to myself) I've come to a place of both certainty I'm on the right path and also grace - grace in deciding I don't have to be perfect or do things exactly like other simple life followers. I've come to realize if we embrace the simple life as a lifestyle choice, then we are probably all doing the best we can, sometimes under extra-ordinary circumstances and most often without people around us to commiserate or encourage. I've come to accept this path will often be lonely. And maybe when it comes to a simple, frugal and green life, that is OK. Maybe as long as we hold onto that value and don't allow ourselves to totally "sell-out", then our anchor will at the very least keep us grounded through the seasons where being simple, green and frugal is more challenging. Like my current season of vermicomposting - and it failing time and time again. Yes, it may be easier to throw in the towel like many people and not bother with spending more time trying to "do good" but since when is the right choice the easy choice. And by heck, one day I'll get that worm compost system right!

My own personal goal this week is to write a list of things I'm not willing to compromise on, as I begin a brand new and exciting chapter in my life, maybe it will serve as a reminder to hold onto what is most important and leave the rest behind! Because the truth is, whether people see it or not, there is a cost to selling out - a cost to ourselves, our families, those we love, our community, our environment and future generations. By focusing on the most important things, I hope to avoid the real cost associated with selling out and instead reap the rewards of a slower, more balanced, person/community centered path. And suddenly I'm reminded of the tortoise and the hare. And now I can firmly, without a shadow of a doubt, say I'm the tortoise, how about you?

Have a happy, simple, frugal and green week, filled with choices which represent the real you !

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weekly Rhythms Which Help

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


After a few weeks which left me feeling positively disheveled, I've been taking some time to commit to getting back into a rhythm which helps me lead a simple, green & frugal life even among the chaos of life! And for me, right now, those essential rhythms include...



















:: A weekly walk, preferably repeated each day ;)




















:: Homemade soup, perfect for a winter's eve - or for tackling summer allergies & sinuses



















:: Weekend cooking sessions so meals are healthy & simple during the week - this week roasted trout, brussel sprouts, cooked sweet potato, roasted lemony carrots and broccoli salad



















:: A few sessions with the needles - the perfect way to unwind

And when I take the time to incorporate a few little activities which help me lead a simpler life, I find that I'm learning an important lesson. A lesson in understanding no matter how busy, there is always a choice. A choice to rest, a choice to be in that moment, a choice to let go of the distractions and instead take a few minutes to focus, to be, to let go. And in that very moment - even if in the background there is noise and lists of things to do, I see the beautiful! And when I find that beautiful, even just a few minutes each day, it helps me set the tone for a relaxed and simple week.

What activities do you incorporate into your life which help you lead a simple, green or frugal life?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Autumn

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

Early sunsets and nature’s bounty set the mood for family feasts.



Gathering together is the theme of autumn. Traditionally, it is the time when we store food for winter, close up our homes and spend more time indoors. The Autumn Equinox was on 21 March 2011 (in the southern hemisphere) - a wonderful time to unite with friends for a harvest feast. It is a time of balance – equal sunlight and darkness. Harmony...




Taste – Cooler evenings see the return of soups and slow-cooked meals. The bountiful harvests of Autumn ensure that plates explode with colour, flavour and warmth.



Touch – Little hands delight in the varied textures of treasures found on nature walks. Nature sows as man harvests. Seeds are enchanting – great power in the palm of our hand. There is a chill in the breeze and we seek out jackets and shoes, amazed at how tall children have grown through summer.



Smell – Inhale the fertile soil when digging in the garden to harvest the last of summer’s abundance. Allow earthy scents to envelop you as you crunch fallen leaves underfoot. Absorb the sumptuous aroma of a simmering soup, or something baking in the oven.



Sight – The resplendent colours of Autumn are a celebration of nature: one last party before winter sets in. Notice how the golden pumpkins capture some sunshine to store through the grey days ahead. To compliment the brilliant hues of trees, the sky is bluer than in any other season.



Sound – Migrant birds call farewell as they leave for warmer climes. Autumn sounds are as crisp as the cold winds that begin to blow.



Feelings – Autumn is the time to preserve the living wonders of summer - try making jam, pressing flowers or drying herbs to give thanks to the waning sunlight. Soak up the last rays of warmth as summer disrobes and darkness creeps in. Relax and enjoy the fruit of your labours – your garden, your work, your family.



Activities – Autumn is a good time to clean up the garden and plant in readiness for spring. Depending on where you live, different crops will do well through the cooler months. Seed packets and catalogues have appropriate instructions, or ask a local gardener, as their advice will be the most valid to your locale. Most things you plant now will take quite awhile to reward you – bulbs, brassicas (the cabbage family), potatoes, onions, garlic and broad beans, for example. For fast results, try some sprouts or a terrarium indoors.




This season will provide many treasures for your seasonal tableau.Find a warm-toned cloth and adorn it with seeds, leaves, bark and pods.Dry some flowers and leaves to put into a little pottery vase. The hues of Autumn showcase nature’s splendour.



It’s time to come inside. The days are shorter, the evenings cool. The summer holidays are but a memory and each of us is settling back into our routines and rhythms for the year. This is the time to revive evening rituals neglected during the fast and fun summertime. Long story times and meals by candlelight are some of our favourites.





Craft in autumn can include Mother Nature’s offerings – simple bark and leaf rubbings, seed pod characters, arrangements of dry foliage or jewellery-making. It’s also time for fibre crafts – if you want to knit a scarf for winter, start now!



Enjoy this season of slowing down and reconnecting with home and family.





This is part of one (of three) Seasonal Fun Series I have had published in parenting magazines. I know many of our readers are in the northern hemisphere. For more seasonal inspiration, here are some relevant articles:
Spring #1
Spring #2
- for the northerners, and...
Autumn #1
Autumn #2

Blessings,
Bel



Monday, January 24, 2011

Blending Old and New Traditions

by Throwback at Trapper Creek


Times change and people pass away, and many times celebrations and family traditions are lost to the progression of time. I grew up in a family with several birthdays and anniversaries that were around the Christmas and New Year holidays. I noticed as a child that special efforts were made by my mother to differentiate those special days from the hub-bub that surrounds that time of year.

When you start a family you don't think of such things much, or at least I didn't. And then my daughter was born on my deceased mother's birthday - 3 weeks late. So now I had the task of making my daughters birthday her special day, and not go on and on about a grandmother she would never know. We also didn't want to go the route that many of our friends were taking with elaborate birthday parties and over the top gifts, we wanted to keep the day simple and special.

At our house the person whose birthday it is gets to pick the meal, (I usually pick someone else cooking it!) And sometimes we go out for a lunch combined with a shopping trip to a store of the celebrant's choice. Over the years for our daughter's birthday we have went antique shopping, to a reenactors fair, used book store and this year we went to a leather store for some tack supplies.

Establishing new traditions was important but keeping some old traditions going too was significant. My brother was born during WWII on Christmas Eve, times were tough and goods hard to come by. To differentiate my brother's birthday from the usual dinner and gift giving, my aunt and uncle gave him a very large candle for his first birthday. December 24th was also my aunt and uncle's wedding anniversary. A special night. The big birthday candle was always the centerpiece and was lit before dinner. We never thought about the candle, except to dig it out and light it for dinner and put it out later and pack it away again for the next year. The candle would flicker, and melt and get shorter and shorter. We always joked and speculated about how long would that candle last anyway? Sometimes the candle would burn until the wee hours of the morning, it seemed like it would last forever. Sometimes forever is not very long. My brother was diagnosed with cancer, and we started fretting about burning that candle on Christmas Eve - we didn't light it until we sat down to eat, and we quickly put it out as soon as presents were opened. No one had a plan, we just did it. We quit joking about the candle lasting. Somehow we thought if we didn't use it up, my brother would not be used up either. Secretly we all wished we hadn't let that candle flicker for hours on end in years past. But, it didn't turn out that way - my brother passed away 21 years ago, and the candle is still here.

We burned my brother's candle on his birthday until my mom died, and then I stopped using it. But, I really liked the tradition of the gigantic birthday candle, and the memories that surrounded it. In keeping with old and new, we bought our daughter a huge candle for her first birthday. May it burn for many years keeping a simple birthday tradition alive.

Please share traditions you have kept or shed in your family celebrations.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Managing the Wardrobes of Growing Children

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

I recently tidied the boys’ wardrobes and found that Bryce had outgrown most of his clothes, some hardly worn! So onto eBay this week to buy some bulk lots of clothes for him… Each year, I have bought bundles of up to 20 items for under $50, a lot of them quality brand names, all clean, as-new and perfect for a growing child!

I normally have a small notebook in my handbag. I record in it items of clothing the children need, or will need next season. Each child (I have six) has a page, and on their page I'll have notes like "size 2 gumboots", "size 10 tshirts" etc. This way, when I spot a sale or I'm at an op shop, I can check if items are on the list and double-check sizes.

We are blessed to have several family friends with children older than ours. They send big bags of hand-me-downs our way and we go through them and pass some on to other families. Within our homeschooling network in particular, there are often bags of clothes being passed back and forth. At some of our homeschooling Mum's meetings we have a swap table where everyone dumps some clothing, books or other items which are free for others to take and keep. Because we live on a farm, it's great to have pre-worn clothes for the kids to wear outside in the mud - no fuss or bother about dirty or ripped clothing.

The quality of clothing on eBay, in op shops and hand-me-down bags is so high that you'd never know it isn't new. Our children are clean, neat and tidy, reasonably fashionable and happy with their eclectically-sourced wardrobes.

Sometimes I also alter the children's last-season winter clothes so they fit for one more year. With fleecy clothes and flannel pyjamas, I sew a band of contrasting fleece onto each sleeve, and the bottom hem of the top, and either onto the knee section, or the bottom hems of the pants. Skirts can also have a contrasting band sewn onto their hems, for extra length. This is great for clothing which will only be worn at home, and for toddlers who don't mind!

I very rarely need to buy new items of clothing for our children - some underwear, swimwear, something nice for a special occasion and sports shoes are the items I buy new (hopefully at the end-of-season sales, at heavily discounted prices). Shopping like this for kids' clothes is great for the budget, and the environment!

Do (or did) you have children to clothe? What are your tips? What about school and sport uniforms for growing bodies?

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Thanksgiving Timetable

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I'm the oldest of five children, so learned early how to cook for a crowd (in fact, I had to learn to cook all over again, for one, when I moved out on my own). Although there are just the two of us now, Thanksgiving Dinner at my house is usually for at least six, and sometimes even more. Over time, I've developed a timetable schedule that lets me get everything ready and on the table at once, with a minimum of stress. The menu doesn't vary much - we pretty much stick with tradition for this meal.

Things get started the weekend before Thanksgiving. The turkey needs to be out of the freezer and into the refrigerator by Saturday to thaw - it will take at least 3-4 days. I use my timetable as a reminder when making out my shopping list that day too (should you wish to refer to mine, clicking on the picture below should bring it up in a more-legible size).

By Tuesday, the turkey has thawed enough that I can get the giblet bag and neck out (when my sister first cooked TG dinner for the family, she didn't realize that those extras were inside. Mom discovered them, cooked inside, when she went to carve the bird) to use for making stock for gravy and moistening the stuffing. I submerge the bird in a bucket of brine, in the refrigerator, until Wednesday, and then let it air-dry, also refrigerated until time to get it into the oven on Thursday.

With the brining bucket out of the refrigerator Wednesday, I can start getting some of the other items prepped and in. I'd rather cook from scratch instead of out of cans when possible. Although the timetable says pumpkin, I prefer either a pink banana or butternut squash for my pie. Any of them will work, but where pumpkin pie can have a greenish cast to it, squash pie tastes the same but with a nice brown color instead. Whole sweet potatoes cook at the same time, later to be peeled and sliced into a casserole dish. Bread for the dressing, either cornbread or french bread, is baked, cut into cubes, and left out on the counter overnight to dry. I use the "day before" list pretty much in order for the most efficient use of my oven.

The "Make" list, I might leave until my sister arrives. I always have a "guest apron" or two available, and we enjoy the chance to talk, wait for the local radio station to play Alice's Restaurant, maybe drink a toast to the harvest, and work together preparing the dishes we've had on Thanksgiving since we were children.

For "The Day" I have two sets of serving times in the left margin. If my husband has the day off work, we can eat in the afternoon; if he's working (Nevada casinos are 24/7, so getting the day off is never a certainty), TG dinner becomes an evening meal. Since there is only enough room in my oven for the turkey, everything else goes in when the turkey comes out. The side dishes cook while the turkey rests; gravy is stirred and potatoes mashed; husband carves while everyone else gets their choice of beverage. Then everyone helps get the meal on the table. And then we all sit down together. I hope you and your families are similarly blessed this holiday season.