Friday, October 31, 2008

Just Being

Part of living simply is learning to 'just be'. By this I mean learning to enjoy the moment rather than rushing about thinking of all the things that need to be done.

This can be very hard to do as there are always things that need to be done (yes, even living simply is a lot of work).

This morning Miss Berry woke and I when I went into her room she was still a bit sleepy. I got her up and she put her arms around my neck, gave me a big kiss and then put her head on my shoulder.

Rather than continuing with our normal routine I sat in the rocking chair and we had a big cuddle. It was a wonderful feeling having my little girl nestle into me like that. Being able to take the time to look at her gorgeous little fingers as she twirled her hair around them, listening to her little noises as she lay there and her much treasured kisses are all things that I know have made my day much more enjoyable.

The bed still needed to be made, the washing hung out and the dishes done but it really didn't matter that they weren't done by 8am.

No matter what today (or Miss Berry) throws at me, I know I will be better able to cope. This morning re-charged me more than a good nights sleep can - it re-charged my soul.

Miss Berry actually went back to sleep (which is rare) so I got the chance to write about how wonderful this morning has made me feel. I will never get this morning back and I am grateful that I have this beautiful memory rather than one of rushing about like a mad chook.

Try to 'just be' sometime today - whether it is sitting in a park on your lunch break instead of in a crowded food court, playing with your little ones, sitting in a special part of your garden or taking the time to tell a loved one how much they mean to you and re-charge your soul.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Staying on Track

First a note from my garden....

My first strawberry harvest!

They were absolutely delicious. Even Miss Berry noticed them ripening and every time we went outside she tried to rip them off to eat them. Well, we finally did.

I find it a constant battle to stay on track with my goals. They are not goals I have been forced to make, and I do not resent trying to meet the goals; in fact I enjoy the process. It seems there is always something that is trying to tempt you away from them, especially in a society that screams the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

Lately my spending has started to slip. I find I am looking at shop windows or ads and thinking ‘I really do need a whizz-bang automatic apple corer and look it’s only $150 – bargain!’ Of course I haven’t actually seen a whizz-bang automatic apple corer but you get the idea. I don’t always continue with the thought and buy something but I have done it a few times too many.

I don’t think falling off track temporarily is a failure. Recognising that you are slipping is something to be proud of in itself but ignoring it won’t get you closer to your goals.

What are my goals?

I have broad goals (long term) and then more detailed goals (short and medium term) that help me to achieve my broad goals. My broad goals are:
  • Not have any debt (achieved in July this year).
  • Live a simple, frugal life that is environmentally sustainable.
  • Save money for a very large deposit and all cost associated with purchasing a family home.
  • Purchase a family home that is not a McMansion but has enough space inside to accommodate a growing family and has more yard than house.
  • Make sure my family and I are healthy, exercise regularly and are not overweight.
  • Be happy and enjoy my life.

My detailed goals are things like our budget and saving plan, the vegie garden or always sourcing second hand items instead of buying brand new things. These are the goals that need constant thought and attention; the broad goals will take care of themselves if I keep my eye on the detailed goals.

I think it is this principle that people (myself included) forget about and then wonder why they are not getting anywhere. It is useless to have goals, record them in a lovely inspiring way, forget about them and then wonder why you haven’t crossed any off a week later. I am going to sound very high and mighty but I think this attitude reflects what we are like as a society now. We want everything immediately without having to put any effort or sacrafice into it. This immediate gratification is one of the reasons for household debt being so high, and why a lot of people are struggling with huge mortgages. As I said earlier, this post is about me getting off track, not other people so I am now stepping down from the aforementioned animal.

Enough talking about not meeting goals – it’s time to do something about it. I hope that this blog will help remind me of my goals. I will also monitor my spending habits more than I usually do and this will begin with recording everything I buy each day. This is an excellent exercise for those trying to budget. By writing everything down you can see exactly where your money goes. Hopefully, these two steps can get things rolling again.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My New Gardening Tip

Just a quick post today as we are heading off to the art gallery to see Monet.

I learnt of this trick to keep slugs and snails off seedlings:

It is a food can that the bottom has been taken off making a cylinder. This is pressed into the ground around the seedling and stops the slugs getting to the seedling. Once the seedling has grown past the stage where it is at risk of being completely eaten you can remove the can and use it on another seedling. I have used the small and larger cans and so far it is working really well. You can see in the photo the basil on right was chomped on before I put the can on. The seedling on the left is a Black Russian Tomato.
You may have also noticed that I have used a mix of sugar cane and shredded paper for my mulch. I have used equal amounts of each and mixed it together before spreading it on the bed. We have a severe weed problem and this is the only way I can stop the weeds coming through.

An update on yesterday:

I did get some cooking done.

This is the lentil hotpot I made up for Miss Berry. I always have some in the freezer and I use it as my convenience food for her. She will eat it hot or cold.

Lentil Hot Pot

1 carrot
1 stick of celery
small potato or swede or similar
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp dried red lentils
2 tbsp rice
1 tin of tomatos
1 tsp tomato paste
parsley to taste

Add everything excpet the parsley in a saucepan and add enough water or stock to cover. Simmer covered for about 30 mins or until veges and rice are soft, adding water if neccessary. You can also blend this so that little bubs can eat eat.

Once cooked, I let it cool and then put into clean baby food jars and then freeze - super easy and yummy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Baking Day

The plan was to spend the day in the kitchen. Not only do I need to clean out the pantry and the fridge but I also need to do some baking. I like to have some snacks in the freezer so I thought I would make some corn and ham muffins for Miss Berry and some banana cake and oat and apricot biscuits for us. On the list of baking was also some bolognaise sauce which I freeze in Miss Berry sized portions and a lentil and rice hotpot that I also freeze up for Miss Berry.
I have already made up some breakfast cereal this morning.

Home-Made Muesli
1 ½ cups rolled oats
2 tblsp wheat germ
½ cup oat bran
½ cup bran
½ cup sultanas
¼ cup goji berries

I mixed this together and I served it with stewed apricots and prunes for Miss Berry and with yoghurt and some mixed nuts for Mr Berry and myself. It was very nice but I think I might try a toasted version next time.

But, that is all I have done so far because my darling Miss Berry has decided to do this ...

... and when I stop her she throws herself back and starts crying. So it looks like I am going to have a day of teaching her to sit calmly on the lounge and to get down without hurting herself.

I just had to snap the photo, how cute are those little toes?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

When the Baby's Away

Miss Berry has stayed the night at my parents last night and Mr Berry and I had a brief reminder of what our life was like sans children. This is the first time she has spent the night away from us (and she hasn’t even missed us!). We went out into the city for dinner and walked along the harbour afterwards. This morning we are having brunch in a lovely cafe near home. Mr Berry is actually reading beyond the front page of the paper and I am on my laptop writing. It feels so foreign and I keep waiting for Miss Berry to start throwing food and yet this was a regular occurrence for us not long ago.

It wasn’t until after Miss Berry was born that we decided to make the transition to a simpler life. When we decided that I would not return to work, we needed to overhaul the budget and I stumbled across Rhonda’s blog and found it very inspirational and informative. Before that we often spent a weekend morning at a cafe, and we ate out the majority of nights. Our food budget was three times what it is now and we were spending most of our money each month on unnecessary things. I had not heard of the term simple living although we had de-cluttered the house a year before and I knew our materialistic lifestyle was not what made me happy. I was concerned about the environment but my knowledge of what I could do did not extend past turning off lights, having short showers and making sure I put paper in the recycling bin.

These past six months have been a huge learning experience and it has been hard to break old habits and learn to think before I rush out and purchase something. I now consider where a product has been made, the conditions of the staff that make the product, the energy expended to produce and ship it and whether we really need it. I believe we are happier and more content than we have ever been. We now have more time to enjoy being a family and most importantly we have the time and the ability to slow down and enjoy being with Miss Berry and help her grow and discover her world.

So, today will be split between relaxing and doing some things around the house that are difficult to do with Miss Berry around. I want to clean up a part of the garden that is really over run and we have a pile of pavers that need moving. I am also going to get onto the sewing machine and finish a couple of quilts that have been sitting there for ages.

In the meantime, I am going to shut down my laptop and finish my proper in-a-tea-pot-loose-leaf tea and reminisce about the old days whilst I quiz Mr Berry on the current article he is reading. That is much more fun than actually reading the paper myself; think of it as the CliffsNotes version of the Sydney Morning Herald.

On the way home....

We walked past a couple of garage sales and I picked up these goodies; for $6. All but 2 of my drinking glasses had disappeared so I was very happy to find this set in excellent condition. The skirt and bags will be great for summer and should come up well after a clean.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Banana Muffins

We were off to Mother's Group today and I baked some banana muffins for the little ones and of course the not so little ones. It is my understanding that because the mini muffins fit in your mouth in one go they are 'fat free'. Please do not correct me if I am mistaken although confirmations are welcome.
Everyone loved the muffins and they were inhaled as soon as I put them on the table.

Banana Muffins

2 cups self raising flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup milk
125g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
2 mashed bananas

Sift flour and stir in the sugar. Add the butter, egg and banana and ¾ of the milk. Mix with a wooden spoon and add more milk if needed. Spoon into greased muffin trays and bake in an oven preheated to 180oC for 15-20mins or until golden.
Remove from trays and allow to cool on a wire rack. Alternatively, risk burnt fingers and break muffins open and smear with butter and eat whilst hot.

I can usually get about 36 mini muffins or 12 mini muffins and 12 normal sized muffins from this recipe. I tend to freeze most of them as soon as they are cool.

I find it so satisfying to bake something from scratch.

It's more than being frugal by not buying packet mix or using mushy bananas instead of throwing them out. It's about taking the time to prepare our food rather than mindlessly picking something with huge amounts of packaging and preservatives off the supermarket shelf. It's about having the ability to whip up afternoon tea when friends drop in with ingredients from my pantry. Its about being aware of what is in the food I give my family. It is all of these things and more; it is also a very small step towards living a simpler life.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Introducing ...

The Berry Patch is the home of Mr Berry, Mrs Berry and Miss Berry. I (Mrs Berry) have been thinking about starting a blog for a while now. I wanted somewhere to write my rambling thoughts and to document our journey towards a simple, sustainable family life.

I am not a great writer (or even a good one for that matter) and my English skills in general leave a lot to be desired. I hope that in writing regularly both of these will improve but until they do, please excuse my spelling and grammatical errors and my often plain descriptive language.

I am a stay at home mum (Miss Berry is 13 months). My job/career is to provide a loving and somewhat clean home for us all, to maintain our financial situation and ensure we are living within our means and are saving for our home. By not working outside the home I am able to save us a lot of money by cooking our meals and snacks, shopping for specials, mending and making our clothes, maintaining a vegie patch, minimising our utility bills and lead the family away from a consumer-driven life and towards a simple, sustainable future.

I enjoy being a 'homemaker'. I love walking in the front door in spring and smelling the bunch of roses I picked from our garden or looking at the quilts draped over the lounge that we use to keep warm on a winters night. The smell of freshly baked bread still warm from the oven and the feel of a handmade jumper are some of the things that I think make my house a home.

And speaking of somewhat clean ... I believe my housework is calling.
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