Janice Graham | RETIRE AND ENJOY

Author Archives: Janice Graham

About Janice Graham

I was born in England in 1938 and migrated to Australia in 1976. During my working years, along with my husband Ken, I managed a goat dairy and distribution business supplying health food products. At the same time I took up the challenge of helping build a mud brick home and lived a somewhat 'alternative' lifestyle. Since retirement I have published three e-books, two on vegetarian cookery and a collection of short stories from my younger years. My pastimes are studying the Spanish language, volunteering as a Crisis Counsellor and Community Visiting. I have been married for 54 years, have a son and a daughter and five grandchildren plus a little terrier called Sophia.

Who pens letters now? 1950’s tip how to look after your husband, What on earth is frogging, Enjoying good company, Turmeric, the golden spice

It’s wonderful to get back into blogging. Hope you have all enjoyed the holiday period and looking forward, like me, to catching up with all your projects and planned activities for the year ahead.  I didn’t make any New Year resolutions but thought I would try to keep up with the ones I made a couple of years ago, one of which was to practice the piano every day.    O’h dear is all I can say.  I did finish the blanket I spun, dyed and crocheted for my grandson’s Xmas gift and have since made him a cushion with the wool I had over.


During the break I took the opportunity to read some of the letters my mother wrote to me while she was alive.  I have them all in a big box.  Unfortunately she never dated them only the month and most of the post marks on the envelopes are illegible. Reading them brings friends and relations back home in England to life.  She was a brilliant writer and filled up pages with vivid descriptions of her daily life.  My letters to her are stashed away in my brother’s workshop in UK so my history from 1976 until 2000 is there to be retrieved one day.  

The penned letter has been used over centuries to create history, biographies, novels and films.  What is going to happen now that we use electronic messaging;  all those texts and e-mails.  I am now guilty of hardly ever writing an actual letter unless it’s at Christmas time when I write to a couple of cousins and friends who don’t have computers.  

I wonder if you write letters or keep those that were written to you.  Let’s make it a discussion topic;  it will be good to see your replies.  


I am always looking around for tips to pass on to you and when I found this in the advert for a Retro/Vintage Market at Rosedale in Victoria, I fell off my chair laughing.  Really though this isn’t a laughing matter because it was what wives were expected to do.  Amazing how expectations have changed thank goodness.



Although I have been a knitter all my life, when I saw the word “frogging” in a post on a Facebook page I manage, I really didn’t know what it meant so did a bit of research.  I do hope that I’m not the only one to have to admit ignorance, so here’s what I found.

Frogging and Tinking Your Knit Mistakes
Knitting mistakes happen to everyone.

If you happen to notice a mistake on the same row you are on, you can carefully work backward across the row to the place where the mistake happened and fix it right away. This is a knitting technique known as tinking. If you didn’t catch that, tink is knit spelled backward (again, a bit of knitting humor).

However, if you don’t notice a mistake for several rows, you might be forced to do some frogging. If the mistake is substantial and has changed the look of your project – you accidentally swapped the right and wrong sides or missed a cable turn – the easiest way to fix it is by taking the project off the needle and ripping back to before the mistake. You will then have to put the stitches back on the needle.

This is called frogging because knitters are punny and when you frog, you “rip it, rip it.”

As quirky as the word is, it’s not much fun to have to frog your projects. Yet, you will be glad you did rather than leaving a mistake that you could have fixed.


It’s so stimulating to meet new people and hear their stories.  At a recent coffee morning I had the opportunity to meet Linda who was wearing the most beautiful outfit which I couldn’t help commenting on.  She told me her trousers (blue) were a gift from a deceased friend, her top (multi coloured) was bought on an outing with girl friends and her very unusual necklace was made by a wire worker who was a friend in her craft group.  Of course when I heard the words ‘craft group’ my ears pricked up.  Apparently Linda has recently returned to Victoria after having lived in Tasmania for many years where she participated in quilting, beading, weaving, crocheting, knitting and more.  I asked her if she would like to share a photo of her quilting work on my post and here it is.  I’ve invited Linda to come to a meeting of the spinning and fibre arts group I’m involved in, so hope we will be able to share our interests into the future.  It’s amazing how new friendships can be born.  



I’ve been looking for more ways to use Turmeric.  Up until recently I have only used it in soups or stews but having read about its wonderful properties, I decided to try it out in a few other dishes.  I have to be bit sneaky or Ken will turn up his nose.  One thing I must warn is that you don’t use too much otherwise the taste will be overpowering.  So far I’ve tried sprinkling into rice, adding to a hummus dip and adding to scrambled eggs.  I did try adding to a latte but that wasn’t to my liking.  

Here’s an exert from an article I read in Silversurfers UK blog about Turmeric.

For ages, health buffs have been telling us that turmeric is a pretty wonderful thing, thanks to its nifty healing agent curcumin – which has some mighty anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Now a new study published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry has found even more evidence that this golden spice can ward of disease and mental health problems.
Research conducted by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that a daily supplement of turmeric boosted people’s memories by nearly 30% and eased the symptoms of depression.

I have so much more I could write but think I’ll leave it until next time.  Do write in with your comments and ideas.  It would be so good to hear from you.  

Remember we are not too old and it’s not too late to pursue our dreams



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Christmas is almost here

Yes, Christmas is around the corner and I know you will all be very busy.  Like weddings, Christmas is more expensive and lavish than it was compared with 50 years ago, but at its heart it’s still about being with family and friends, even if the way we do it has changed.  

Putting up the tree, however, small gives me a festive feeling and displaying some cards that I have stored away from long gone relatives, especially my Mother with her words of love, fills me with nostalgia and happiness.

As mentioned in my previous blog I have tried to make as many of my Christmas gifts as I can.  The task is almost complete but I have to admit wondering what I was doing to myself whilst beavering away. 

The blanket I’ve made for my second grandson, Jesse, a big lad, was a huge job, spinning the wool, dyeing in various colours and then crocheting.  Here’s a photo of the completed work.  It’s not a secret gift because he requested it after seeing his brother’s blanket which I made for a 23rd Birthday present.  

I can’t post photos of the other items until they have been distributed.  Ken asked what I thought I would be doing next year.  To be truthful I think I may be buying small gifts.  It’s not really the making of them, it’s deciding what everyone would like which is hard to determine.   I read recently how so many gifts are unwanted and stored or thrown away.  That’s a bit of a worry isn’t it.

Thank you all so much for reading my blog posts throughout the year;  I’ve enjoyed sharing my thoughts and interests with you and receiving your comments.  Continue making the best of your retirement.  I know some of you or your partners are battling ill health and to you I send my hopes for a speedy recovery

None of us knows what 2018 will bring but don’t stop planning your projects and activities, it’s what keeps us looking forward with enthusiasm.  


Gingerbread House made by my granddaughter Emma -a yearly tradition.



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Make your own Christmas gifts, Recipes for Radiant Skin, Crystallised Lemon in microwave, 5 pointers for art of growing older, Showcasing skills/weaving

Hello everyone – how time has flown since my last post;  sorry about the time lapse but I can’t always get to it as I should.

Christmas is coming

Christmas is on my mind and the question of what to give is uppermost in my thoughts. This year I’ve decided to make small gifts for each member of the family, well with the exception of one which is a large blanket for number two grandson, who made a special request.  Making gifts when I was a young woman was the norm and planning usually started in July.  This  activity was necessitated by lack of surplus income but generated great satisfaction in the making and the giving.  

There’s fun also to be had in making your own tree and house decorations.  I have just resurrected a pattern for a snowman that holds small gifts (his head is separate from his body and lifts off).   I made two of them many years ago when the grandchildren were small and glad to say they still come out each year as part of the Christmas scene.  If anyone is interested I can pass on the instructions.  Here he is:

If you are looking for ideas Pinterest is an excellent medium for inspiration and patterns.  I’m sure most of you are familiar with the site, if not here’s a link:   http://www.pinterest.com



Rhonda Armstrong, who I originally met at water aerobics and is a contributor and reader of the blog, passed on the following skin recipes.  Rhonda has a beautiful radiant skin and I believe has used the first two recipes herself there being a little tick against them on the paper she gave me.

Papaya enzyme scrub (for all skin types)

Finely ground adzuki beans have the aroma of freshly cut grass.  The Japanese use them to clarify the skin.  They grind down to a beautiful and delicate consistency perfect for exfoliation:

2 tsp mashed papaya, 1 tsp ground adzuki beans

Make sure you combine ingredients thoroughly


 Lavender buttermilk cleanser (for all skin types)

This delightful cleanser will give your complexion a lovely glow.  Buttermilk is an effective astringent and has a notably toning effect  It brightens the skin and helps even out tone and reduce por size.

1 to 2 drops lavender essential oil, ¼ cup buttermilk

Drop the lavender oil into the buttermilk, mix well and bottle.


Olive and lime shine mask (for all skin types)

This simple mask is full of antioxidants and AHAs that will soften and revive most complexions.  If you wipe this mask off gently with a dry cloth, you’ll be amazed at how much dirt it lifts.  It works well as a 30 minute mask or can be left on overnight and rinsed off in the morning

2 tsp olive oil,  ½ tsp lime juice

Whisk ingredients to combine until the mixture turns cloudy.


I haven’t personally tried any of these recipes but intend to have a go at the Olive and Lime Shine Mask – will let you know how I go.  


Crystallised Lemon in Microwave

My lemon tree is still burgeoned with fruit so looked up my recipe for crystallised orange rind and did some with lemons.  Turned out really well so you may like to have a go.  It’s much much quicker using the microwave than the stove.  I’ve stored it in a glass jar;  it’s yum just pinching a couple of sticks when you go to the cupboard.  


8 large lemons
, 9 cups hot water, 
3½ cups sugar (or make ½ quantity)

Remove peel with white pulp from lemons. Cut into 1/8 inch strip. Place peel and 5 cups water in 2 1/2 litre dish, cover with plastic wrap and microwave 100 percent for 14 minutes. Drain and return to dish, add 4 cups water, recover and microwave for 14 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water. Stir in 1 1/2 cups sugar. Cover loosely.

Microwave 10 minutes, stir, recover and microwave 10 minutes. Lightly oil wax paper. Separate peel on paper so not touching. Let dry 2 hours or more. Put 2 cups sugar in bowl and toss small batches of peel in sugar. Air dry 2 hours and store in airtight container.

I used 1½ cups sugar which was plenty for me.


Ageless Soul: An Uplifting Meditation On The Art Of Growing Older by Thomas Moore, published by Simon & Schuster,UK

I have just been reading a review of this book which seems very interesting.  I checked to see if my Library has a copy but so far no luck.   Probably only just been published.  However, in the review it gave five pointers on the art of growing older which I thought I would share with you.  Let me know what you think of them.

1. Don’t surrender yourself to an ageist culture that can’t appreciate the value of experience and knowledge. Make a point not to fit in, and stand up for your age, whatever it is.

2. Don’t live up to your culture’s expectations. Don’t retire if you aren’t ready. Pick up a new profession or skill in your older years. Don’t hold yourself back just to fit in with your culture’s limited ideas about ageing.

3. Cultivate activities appropriate to your age. Slow down when necessary, but speed up the artistic and contemplative side of life. Teach, write, paint and be in nature.

4. Stay close to the youth that is always in you. Because you never fully lose your younger self.

5. Use your learning and experience. You have a job to do, and that’s showing the younger generation how to get along and live happily. They would be lost without your point of view



I know many of you will have already seen a short film made for the Coal Creek Spinners & Fibre Arts Group showcasing the various skills of members of the group.  However, many will not so I am embedding the latest one here which shows the art of weaving demonstrated by Glenda Beresford.  Be inspired by Glenda who has only been weaving for a year,




I’m going to finish off with a quote from the book I mentioned above:



I would really love readers to share their ideas and comments on any topic, use Leave a Reply at top of page.   Please write.  In the meantime be inspired.


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Healing with art and craft: Turning a cooking failure into a treat: Sewing with certified organic materials: Nature at its finest; Colombia

Hello everyone, here I am with a few snippets of interest to share with you once again.  Before I start a post I always ponder over different articles I have read, ideas that inspire me, projects I have undertaken and all matter of other things, hoping you will be able to pass some pleasant time reading those things that interest you.  
First I‘m going to start off describing an article I read in a recent copy of Spin Off, the art & craft of spinning yarn (an American magazine).  Lynne Rule became a paraplegic some 8 years ago and with the help of her husband has founded the Healing Fibers Foundation.  She says there was little she could do to fill the gruelling days and endless nights.  It was then that her concerned husband remembered that she used to knit.  He purchased every needle size he could find along with bundles of yarn and gave them to her for Christmas.  From that gift the beginning of Healing Fibers emerged.  The mission of the organisation is to encourage those who are ability-challenged, those struggling with illness, whether physical, emotional, mental or stress-related, and caregivers to use traditional fibre arts as a means of non medical therapy, focus and relaxation and to aid in the ability to be productive.  She says so may times these people are overlooked or minimalized when they have so very much to offer the world.
I was really quite overwhelmed by this article, the whole details of which are too long to précis here, but what a wonderful concept and one which I think we could employ if we see the need.  
For more information you can go to their website which is truly amazing:  http://www.healingfibres.org
Turning a cooking failure into a treat for Ken
I bake bread each week but l decided I would make a sourdough starter for a change in addition to the usual mixture.  The starter fermented well over 4 days so I thought a fruit loaf would be nice for a change.  The loaf looked magnificent
but o’h dear it was so gluggy and didn’t improve much with toasting.  I couldn’t bear to waste it so ‘ding’ I came up with the idea to give Ken a real treat.  Back in the dark ages, mmmm 1953, Ken was in training for his National Service in the Army and when he came home on leave his Mum always sent him back to camp with a bread pudding in a tiny suitcase.  He tells me he kept that suitcase for years as it still had the aroma of the pudding and brought back so many memories.
OK, back to the treat.  Of course over the years I’ve made bread puddings but certainly not recently.  If you’ve made one yourself you’ll know you don’t need to use a precise recipe and you can use any type of bread you have to hand.  In case you want to have a go here’s a rough guide:
1 large loaf, preferably fruit, but you can add more fruit
as required. The bread can be white or wholemeal or a combination.  
Soak the bread in sufficient water to cover.  Leave for about half an hour then drain off the water and squeeze to mash.  It will be quite wet.  Add additional dried fruit at this stage.  If you use plain bread then probably about 200g will do though more or less doesn’t matter.
Add 140g light brown or raw sugar, zest of a lemon, good pinch of mixed spiced and cinnamon, 100g melted butter and 2 beaten eggs and stir to combine.  Line a large oblong tin with baking paper and pour in mixture.  Bake at 180C for around about an hour but check after 40 minutes to make sure pudding isn’t browning too much.  It should be firm to the touch.  Leave to cool, sprinkle with some white sugar and cut into squares.  Best eaten warm (not hot) or very yummy cold.  
As you can imagine Ken was very happy even more so when he tasted the pudding:
The pudding keeps well in the fridge.  There’s no way it can be eaten all at once !!
Sewing with certified organic materials
I love sewing with certified organic materials and I’m prepared to pay that little bit more knowing that the grower of the fibre has been certified by an independent authority.  Some time ago I purchased some Australian made certified organic jersey knit from Bloom Fabrics in Melbourne http://www.bloomfabrics.com.au
It’s been sitting in a drawer for some time but when I was given a beautiful skein of wool as barter for a felt hat I made for a colleague in my spinning group, I knew it would compliment the dress I was intending to make by way of a belt and cuffs for the sleeves.  This weekend I got started on the project and true to form I experienced the presence of my dear Aunt Helen who taught me to sew and always insisted that preparation was the key to success.  Hence the material being jersey it was necessary to stay-stick all the edges.  I was a very good girl and reluctantly followed Aunty’s instructions after which I lay out the prepared work with the crochet of the belt to see the effect.  I think it’s going to work well.
Way back  in November 2012 I included in my post a little about my Aunt Helen and the big part she played in my life during my youth so thought today I would include a link to one of my short stories THE INTERVIEW telling how she helped me make an outfit for a very special interview. Of course some of you may have read this story before.
Nature at its finest: Colombia, biodiversity and the power of nature

This is a story that you don’t expect to read when someone mentions Colombia.  It’s usually about drugs isn’t it, so when I came across this article while participating in a Spanish language course, I was truly amazed.  When I mentioned its contents to Ken he gave me a funny look because he sometimes has the opinion that I’m ignorant of the wonders of the world.  Well, he has a vast knowledge of the south americas, being very interested in fauna and flora especially bird species, so I’ll leave him to his scepticism about me !!  


Encompassing 314 different coastal and continental ecosystems, Colombia holds within its borders the richest complexity of ecological, climatic, biological and ecosystem components imaginable.

Colombia is a country favoured by its natural resources, the variety of its geography and diversity of its ecosystems. It has a great variety of mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, plateaus, valleys and savannas. There is also a considerable number of streams, creeks, rivers and lakes in the country, which contributes to its thriving biodiversity. Ecosystems, species and genetic diversity together form the complex concept of biodiversity that is vital to the survival on this planet. Behind Brazil, Colombia is the second-highest country in terms of biodiversity, home to more than 56,000 different species, 16% of which are only found within the country’s borders.

Covering only 0.8% of the earth’s surface, Colombia hosts 18% of the 10,507 known bird species and around 60% of the bird species found in South America. With nearly 2,000 different bird species, the nation is the first in the world when it comes to the number of bird species. It is also home to 479 mammal species, 534 different kinds of reptiles, 763 amphibians and 3,435 different types of fish. There is an estimate of 300,000 species of invertebrates in the country of which only 10 to 20% have been studied. Among them, we can refer to more than 3,273 kinds of butterflies, 900 types of ants and more than 7,000 different classes of beetles. Among those species exclusive to Colombia we can name the American flamingo, the Andean condor, the Andean poison frog, the harlequin poison frog, the indigo capped hummingbird and a number of colourful monkey species and some incredibly beautiful butterflies.

Within Colombian borders, there are more than 40,000 different plant species. Again, it is the number one country in the world, considering the astonishing number of different species of orchid flowers: 4,010 different species to be precise. There are also more than 230 different species of palm trees and even some species of colour-changing flowers.

Colombian biodiversity is at risk, with around 1,500 species reported to be on different levels of extinction risk. This is caused mainly by urbanization and overexploitation of natural resources. These blooming ecosystems may seem permanent, but they are actually susceptible to collapse.


I’ve come to the end of my post for this time.  I hope you are all enjoying pursuing your various projects and activities and because it’s Spring here in Australia, I’ll leave you with this quote:
A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms


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Volunteering – why do we do it? Anniversaries make us look back, Lemon juice ice blocks, Showcasing skills – spinning with a difference


Hello everyone – O’h dear where did August go?  Unfortunately I had a few health problems, not serious, but enough to put a spanner in my works so to speak.  Glad to say I am back on top of everything and ready to write again.    How easy it is to take good health for granted and going through a bad patch really does bring this home to us all.

Volunteering – why do we do it?

My first topic is volunteering.  Why do we do it?  I recently read that the best definition of volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.  That’s true but there’s more to it than that.   I believe there’s a need within us to share our skills and knowledge, to be involved and to communicate with the wider community in whatever way we can.  The spectrum of volunteering is very wide, there are opportunities for all abilities and ages at every level, but however we volunteer and for however much time we are able to give, the rewards personally are immense.  

Volunteering Australia has compiled the following facts about volunteering and happiness:

  •  Volunteers are happier, healthier and sleep better than those who don’t volunteer 
  •   96% of volunteers say that it “makes people happier.
  •   95% of volunteers say that volunteering is related to feelings of wellbeing.
  •   Just a few hours of volunteer work makes a difference in happiness and mood.
  •   Sustained volunteering is associated with better mental health.
  •   A strong correlation exists between the well-being, happiness, health, and longevity of      people who are emotionally kind and compassionate in their charitable helping activities.
  •   The experience of helping others provides meaning, a sense of self-worth, a social role and health enhancement.

Last weekend I visited the National Wool Museum in Geelong so decided it was a good opportunity to ask the volunteers on duty their reasons for volunteering.  Firstly I spoke to the lady who directed us to all the exhibits.  She responded that she lived alone and it was wonderful to be able to get up in the morning and have a purpose.  Next I chatted to the demonstrator of a huge Axminster Carpet Loom.  He said he wanted his skills to be preserved as there were few people left who could operate the machine.  Lastly I spoke to one of the guides.  His reasons were a little vague though I suspect he enjoyed the interaction with overseas visitors.  

Later I visited the Port Lonsdale Lighthouse and posed my question to the volunteer on duty.  She said she was passionate about her area and its conservation and wanted to make the public aware.  

There are obviously a myriad of reasons why we volunteer but it’s not just about the giving of our time, it is also the personal rewards we receive.

I would really love to hear what you think.   Do you volunteer or are you considering volunteering, perhaps you were a volunteer in the past.  You can leave your comments by clicking Leave a Reply at the top of the page.


Anniversaries make us look back

Anniversaries can be happy or sad times but they give us an opportunity to look back over the years.  Ken and I did just that last weekend when it was the 50th birthday of our son Gareth and our 57th Wedding Anniversary.  Let me share with you the story of our romance.  I hope you enjoy.

Mine is not a fairy tale romance, no knight on a flying charger came into my life but the man who did snuck in quietly with no fanfare …….

follow the link to read in full    THE ROMACE


Making lemon juice ice blocks

My lemon tree is bulging with fruit so I set about making up juice ice block trays.  If you also have heaps of lemons or are donated with some it’s well worth the effort to have a long term supply on hand.  All you need to do is juice the lemons and freeze the pure juice in trays then store in bags in the freezer.  It’s so easy just to take out a block when needed.

By the way I recently read some quite alarming facts.  The label on Woolworths lemon juice, 500ml $1.65, states that it contains:  Reconstituted Lemon Juice (99.9%), Food Acid (Ascorbic Acid), Natural Flavour, Preservative (223).  Preservative 223 is in the sulphite group, it’s Sodium metabisulphite, which can cause allergic reactions.

Showcasing skills – spinning with a difference

Members of the Coal Creek & Fibre Arts Group, based at the Coal Creek Community Park & Museum in Korumburra, Gippsland, Victoria, decided to showcase their various skills by video. The first of these videos in a series, is now available and features Ingrid Riddell on the Great Wheel and the Chakra.  


I must thank my husband, Ken, for the time and effort he put into making this video possible and to Ingrid for demonstrating so professionally.


I’m going to sign off now with this little quote:

The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled


Until next time


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The role a mentor can play in our lives, the prospect of spring in the garden, clever use for olive oil, Australian Sheep and Wool Show – watch highlights, enjoy a low calorie Scottish soup recipe

Hello everyone – sorry it has been so long since I blogged;  you must have thought I’d got lost.  On the contrary I have been knee deep in projects and activities which have taken up far more time than I ever imagined possible.  In fact I think I’ve been trying to do far too much and really feel the need to take things a little bit quieter which I find easier said than done.  I’m sure you all know the feeling.  Sometimes it’s like we’re in a race.

Recently I’ve contemplated on the wonderful role mentors can play in our lives or the reward we can gain by being a mentor ourselves.

The role a mentor can play in our lives

Sharing skills and helping others achieve their goals can be rewarding and fulfilling.  I have been fortunate to experience the wisdom and guidance of two ladies, Janet Staben and Ingrid Riddell who I met when joining the Coal Creek Spinners Group.  When I started I really had no idea about the art of spinning and all that is entailed in the preparation of fibre.  With their patience and forthright approach I have gained so much knowledge and insight.  They are always there to help, give support and answer any questions.  I must tell you a little about them.

Janet has been spinning for over 17 years and produces the most amazing skeins of wool which she knits into all kinds of garments.  She doesn’t stop there, she crochets, makes lace, felts, and recently has taken up rag rug construction.  I think there’s a lot more in her bag of skills.  I will be forever grateful to her for her role in my quest to spin.

Let me share with you a photo of a beautiful garment Janet has just completed for entry into a Vintage Knits Exhibition.  It’s from a pattern Janet found of a dress her mum made her when she was a child (blog 14/02/17).


Time with Ingrid is an education in all things fibre.  Her head is absolutely full of knowledge and her hands full of skill.  In 1990 she won a world wide competition for the longest plied thread of yard from 10g of wool,  She has undertaken an apprenticeship as a weaver and subsequently ran weaving courses and took on special weaving commissions like curtains and bar mitzvah apparel  As with Janet there’s much more to tell.  Ingrid says she thinks it’s in her blood as her Swedish half sister, who she didn’t meet until later in life, is a weaver.  

Feast your eyes on some of Ingrid’s creations:



Seek out a mentor you will be rewarded many times over as I have been.


The prospect of Spring in the garden – it’s round the corner

If you are a gardener there’s nothing more promising than seeing the first daffodils showing their faces and seeds you may have put in during the autumn starting to show progress

If you have been following my blog for a while you will remember that a couple of years ago I decided to downsize the veggie garden – o’h dear I’m still having trouble doing just that.  The joy of seeing my seeds emerge is just too much so perhaps just one more season !!   There’s already the prospect of early carrots, beetroot, broad beans and onions.  I think I have far too much kohlrabi;  it’s not a very popular vegetable but I find it so versatile as you can roast, boil, use in salads or just have as a crunchy snack.  

Do write and let me know how you are going if you love vegetable gardening as I do.  Did any of you try making the newspaper pots highlighted in my blog from July last year.  Here’s the Youtube video to watch again.  They worked so well for me.




Clever uses for Olive Oil

A good olive oil is a staple for any household and it has plenty of uses that stretch beyond salads and stir frys.  Here are a few I came across recently which you may find useful.  

Hair conditioner – Keep your hair smooth and healthy in between visits to the salon or washes by using olive oil. Brush a little olive oil through your hair and leave overnight.

Remove sticky substances – If you have sticky substances lingering on spoons and measuring tools, or even from stickers on glass gars, olive oil will help remove it. Apply with a cloth and rub gently until the residue is gone.

Make a herb mix – Save time with cooking by adding a mix of herbs to an ice cube tray – oregano, sage and rosemary for example – then top up with olive oil and freeze. Then you can simply add it to a frying pan when you’re ready to cook next for a perfectly seasoned mix.

Remove grease from hands – If you have car grease or paint on your hands, put some olive oil into the palm of your hand, sprinkle with salt, then rub together. Follow with soap and water; the grease will be gone and your hands will feel soft and smooth, too.

Furniture polish – You can restore some of the shine from your old furniture using a mixture of two parts olive oil and one-part lemon juice. Apply onto a paper towel and rub into the furniture. Then, using a clean cloth or paper towel, rub to remove any excess residue.  I really love this one.  


Australian Sheep and Wool Show, Bendigo

A couple of weeks ago Ken and I travelled to Bendigo to attend the Sheep and Wool Show and catch up with our grandson who is working at the general hospital.  So much to see, do and buy.   Ken has put together a short film of Woolcraft Highlights from the show.  You will see me demonstrating felting with the Victorian Feltmakers;  quite an experience and hard work.  



Carrot, leek and mustard seed soup

This soup is great if you are trying to cut down on calories (mmmm, yes I know, how boring).  I found it recently on a Scottish cooking site.  It’s reported to be  super good as it’s high in Vitamin A & B12, Dietary Fiber, Potassium and Vitamin C, each portion containing in the region of 120 calories.










5 large/450g carrots, roughly chopped
1 medium leek, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 tbsp  oil
1tbsp mustard seed
a pinch of salt and pepper
1 litre vegetable stock
125ml skimmed milk
25ml low fat yoghurt (optional)
a handful of fresh chives, chopped

1. Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the mustard seeds, after a couple of minutes they will start to pop. Don’t let them heat for any longer or they will burn.
2. Add the onions leeks and season them. Saute them for about 5 minutes until they have started to soften.
3. Add the carrots and allow them to cook gently for 5 minutes.
4. Add the stock and bring to the boil. When it has reached boiling point, reduce it to a simmer and leave it to cook away for about 20 minutes until the carrots have softened.
5. Turn of the heat, add the milk and whizz with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth.
6. Serve with a swirl of milk or a dollop of yoghurt and some chives.
7. Enjoy!


I hope you are all taking care of yourselves and enjoying your various activities, so until next time I’ll leave you with this thought:


Cherish the friends that make tomorrow

better than yesterday



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Looking back and bringing to life a special event, Helping cut flowers last longer and other tips, Who remembers Wendy Lord of the 70 hats, The Spirit of Warragul Steam Engine and a super recipe for Pesto, goats cheese and mushroom burgers

Hello everyone, welcome to my blog and a special thanks to those who sent in comments last month.  It really is rewarding to receive your responses.  

Looking back and bringing to life a special part of your past

Last week I decided to turn out a cupboard which stored all my photo albums, I’m sure everyone has one such place, and I stopped to pore over my time in the Girl Guides.  What happy days they were;  I believe the values that were instilled into us then are still relevant today.  The first album was from 1950 and do you know, looking through those photos, I could remember every event especially my pride in being enrolled.  From the age of 11 the Guides were a big part of my life and continued so into my adult life as  Lieutenant.  During those years we camped, hiked, held concerts and contributed to the community by engaging in different projects.


However, one event stands out more than most. To obtain my First Class Badge it was necessary to do a 5mile hike.  My friend Olive accompanied me on what turned out to be a terrifying day.  

This is how the story starts:

“Jan, RUN, RUN” shrieked Olive, frantically putting on her shoes and taking off through the trees —–     click the link to read on:



Helping your cut flowers last longer and other tips using Aspirin

I was recently given a large bunch of cut flowers so I had a search for tips on prolonging their life and surprisingly came up with Aspirin.  The same article indicated other uses so here are the best of them:

As plant food   Help your roses or cut flowers last longer by adding a crushed aspirin to the water in the vase. Give it a quick stir and then add your flowers. Changing the water every few days – adding a ground aspirin each time – will also help extend the life of your flowers longer.

For flower pots   The same way aspirin works for fresh cut flowers, it’s also useful for planters in the garden. Dissolve an aspirin into the watering can and water as normal – it will help prevent fungus from growing around fresh flowers and keep your plants looking their best.

Remove sweat stain    Aspirin makes an inexpensive and effective stain remover, particularly for any yellowing that occurs from sweat stains on white clothing. Grind the aspirin down and add a few drops of water to make a paste. Spread it over the yellowed area then put it in the wash as usual.

Soothe insect bites    Aspirin paste can quickly reduce swelling, itching and
redness from insect bites and saves you from needing to carry around extra supplies if you’re camping or hiking. Grind down aspirin and add a few drops of water. Apply it over the bite and leave to dry. It will quickly help calm the bite.


WHO REMEMBERS WENDY LORD, THE LADY WHO KNITTED 70 HATS – blog post of 14/2/17 (70 Hats for Seventy Years)

I hope many of you will remember Wendy Lord who visited Coal Creek Heritage Village and chatted to the volunteers in the Spinning Cottage.  Wendy and her husband were on a visit to Australia from UK celebrating their 70th birthdays and trying to do everything in sevens.  

I have been able to keep in touch with Wendy who has kindly sent me a photo of her 7 grandchildren,  

Wendy and her husband are now part of a 180 strong volunteer team  at Hillier’s Arboretum, in Romsey, Hampshire, UK where there are 72 hectares of gardens holding one of the world’s most important plant collections.  If you are visiting UK you might like to call in at the gardens and even catch up with Wendy and her husband Alan.  Now wouldn’t that be something.


The Spirit of Warragul Steam Engine

I spent a really great day with Ken and my daughter Abigail on Saturday 13th May participating in the celebrations to unveil, after a 30 year restoration project, The Spirit of Warragul Steam Engine.  

We stopped off at Drouin on our way to Warragul to see the train pass under the bridge and enjoy one of our childhood experiences of being enveloped in steam as trains passed beneath us.  Glad to say we weren’t disappointed.

Ken has produced a short video, which he tells me isn’t yet complete, but I wanted to share it with you so badgered him to let me use it.  Please enjoy.


The A2 Class steam train 986 began its working life more than 102 years ago, but was retired in 1963 and written off by Victorian Railways in January 1964.   The train has special significance because it was the last A2 in service in Victoria.

Fortunately, this historic treasure was preserved, being plinthed in Warragul Latrobe St Park with the assistance of Warragul Rotary Club.   It remained there until acquired for restoration by Steamrail Victoria in 1986, which saw the A2 986 move from Warragul to the Steamrail Victoria depot at Newport.  It was stripped right back to its frames as part of the restoration process.   After three decades of painstaking work by Steamrail volunteers, the A2 986 made its journey to Warragul from Melbourne with much fanfare.  



Here’s a yummy easy recipe to try out.  Ideal as a lunch time treat:


Serves: 2     Prep time: 10 minutes      Cooking time: 15 minutes
You’ll need 

* 2 large mushrooms
* 8 shallots, peeled and quartered
* 4 tbsp vegetarian pesto, plus a little extra
* 1 tsp olive oil
* ½ tsp sugar
* 85g round soft goats’ cheese
* 2 ciabatta rolls

What to do
1. Pre heat oven 200c/180c fan/gas 6.  Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and chop them very finely. Finely chop one of the shallots and mix it, and the chopped mushroom stalks, into the pesto.  Place the whole mushrooms gill side up on an oiled baking tray, fill with the pesto mix and cook for approximately 15 minutes until softened.

2. Whilst they are cooking place the shallots in a pan with the olive oil and sugar, cook over a low heat until softened and lightly caramelised.

3. Top the mushrooms with the goats’ cheese and return to the oven alongside the ciabatta for a few minutes until the cheese is beginning to melt and the bread is warmed through.

4. Serve in the split ciabatta topped with the shallots and an extra drizzle of pesto.
Cook’s Tip: The goats’ cheese can be replaced with gruyere or any other easy to melt cheese. Serve with a rocket and watercress salad tossed in a little lemon juice and olive oil.


I’m going to close this post with a quote that I really like.  I found it in an article written especially for Girl Guides in 1933:






Until next time




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Poignant story of love, Hat felting technique, National Volunteer Week, Grated Apple Cake and more to enjoy

Hello everyone – a month has slipped by since my last post and although I always intend to write more often, I just looked at the calendar and realised I’d failed to put pen to paper so to speak.  Lots of things have been happening, one of which is that I have been elected President of the Coal Creek & Fibre Arts Group after the sitting President had to sadly resign due to the ill health of her husband.  I hope I will be able to do justice to the task and fill her shoes admirably.  When I mentioned this to her she said I may have a hard job as she took size 11 to which I replied that I took size 11 too.  Mmmm I’m not sure what this means, is it an omen !  

Firstly I would like to share with you a short story that I heard the author, Ken Stokoe, read on Radio National Life Matters recently.    I am sure if we thought about it many of us could write our own love story with a happy or sad ending.  Unfortunately this story has a sad ending though it does reflect life’s journey so I hope you will enjoy it as I did.

Heartbreak !

It’s not about Verona, not Romeo and Juliet; just about Balmoral Beach and us.
An early Saturday afternoon 70 years ago.
She just free from work, I to the city from my working-class home in an outer suburb. We to meet and spend the rest of the day on an outing. There was a pack of sandwiches she had brought – sweet-corn filled. The first I had ever tasted. So delicious. How long had this been going on, I pondered?
That taste followed the ride from Wynyard in a very swish corridor tram with padded seats to Balmoral Beach. The first time there for this unsophisticated teenager.
It was a great adventure, crossing the harbour by the mighty bridge, another first, to rumble through posh streets of elegant houses such as I had not seen hitherto. Then down winding cuttings in the sandstone to a golden sand strand and a sparkling sea.
What a thrill, what revelations.
The lunch taken on a lawn in the beachside reserve under a clear blue sky, the air tempered by a soft breeze.
Presently, a stroll along the shore towards an adjacent islet of rock. I was so elated by it all that I shyly took her hand in mine. Things of this nature must have developed slower then than now. Certainly did for this couple who, although companions for many months, had never made so bold a contact.
How sweet it was.
Her hand so soft and smooth. Everything about her perfect; so pretty, so learned, so kind, so thoughtful.
A dog came bounding up, its tail wagging, as mine might have done had I possessed one. It dropped a stick at our feet, then dabbed at it with paw while gazing expectantly into our faces. Quite obviously dog-speak for “Let’s play”.
I released her hand, took up the stick, hurled it into the bay. The dog swam to the stick which was brought back to our feet to soak lower limbs with the water shaken from its shaggy coat, seeming then to grin as if to say, ‘What fun is this!’. The game continued.
Although I was joyed by the whole outing thus far, I did not take her hand again. Later, I came to realise she was not so pleased and did not share my attitude to the friendly dog. Much later, approaching marriage, I was told how cross she was when the dog caused the unclasping of hands, was disappointed that the holding of hands did not resume that day.
The years of marriage, though at first financially stringent, were idyllic.
Three daughters and Mum a girlish quartet. In the early years, we combined to nail together a ready-cut house. It is another tale of how the extensive backyard became a miniature farm. In time, the daughters branched out on their own.
We became Darby and Joan, had paid off the home loan, were in the ‘Golden Years’, but knew that someday it would end in death and grief. There would likely be a great price to pay for the happiness we now enjoyed.
And so it was.
She was diagnosed with an incurable terrible disease.
The closer the end approached, the greater grew our love. We mourned together through those months.
Two broken hearts, shattered. Not the mere bruised heart of all those years ago, irreparably broken hearts.


Wiping away the tears and putting away sobering thoughts, have any of you been undertaking new or challenging projects recently.  For over a year now I have been very interested in all things felt, reading about it’s origins, production and practicing the art.  I have turned my hand to making flowers, vessels, scarves and more recently hats.  When I read about a Russian lady, Irina Spasskaja, who had developed a unique way of laying out Merino wool fibres to create a soft hat with a double brim, which at the same time was water and wind-proof, I had to investigate further.   This culminated in my purchase of her 6 video tutorials (rather costly) followed by many hours of practice and the necessity to have a rotary board made to facilitate the work.  This was achieved by purchasing a ‘lazy susan’ base and then going to our local carpenter wiz, Gary, who goes by the rather strange name of DUCKS GUTS FURNITURE, who luckily had a circular piece of wood in the corner of his work room, ideal for the task, and within 24 hours I had my rotary board for the grand sum of $30.  Amazing.  Here’s  a picture of Irina showing her rotary board which I copied with the help of Ken of course. 

Irina showing the rotary felting board

I won’t bore you with all the technicalities of the process except to show you a few photos of how the layout works.  If you would like more details send me an e-mail (sbf@dcsi.net.au) and I will be happy to supply a fuller description of the process.

Now after nearly 5 hours of work here’s the completed hat:

Irina says you have to make at least 10 hats before you are ready to progress to the next level of expertise.  I think that could be sometime in the future for me.   One hat is a huge task.  


As many of you who are volunteers will know, this week has been National Volunteer Week with lots of activities and afternoon teas around the countryside.  I celebrated by attending my local neighbour house and participated in a group session of laughter.  We were told how laughter is beneficial for us whether it be real or false.  We had to walk around the room making eye contact with each other, clapping, repeating hehehehe, hoooo,  and making various movements, like simulating knitting, driving, digging and so on.   Yes, this did cause laughter amongst many of the participants but left me with a silly false smile on my face.  At least I did’t sit out like some, but I really didn’t enjoy the experience.  Have any of you tried this activity I wonder.  

At the end of the session different messages relating to volunteering were read out, this one says it all for me.

Volunteering can be an exciting, growing, enjoyable experience.  It is truly gratifying to serve a cause, practice one’s ideals, work with people, solve problems, see benefits and know one had a hand in them.



I am at last getting to the end of my abundance of apples, well almost, and in my quest to process the last few kilos found the following recipe which turned out really well, though for me the topping was too sweet, so I would suggest you reduce the amount of brown sugar a little if you don’t have a sweet tooth.  
Aunty Wendy’s Apple Cake                                                    
125grams butter
2 medium apples, peeled and grated
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon all spice
pinch of salt
…and for the topping:
25grams melted butter
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350F) and line a round cake tin with baking paper.
Mix butter, sugar and egg and then add grated apple. Mix well.
Stir in sifted dry ingredients, mix well and pour into cake tin.
Mix the topping ingredients together and spread evenly over the cake.
Bake for 45minutes or until golden brown on top.


What do you think of this marvellous Birthday Cake produced by the sons of Christine (retired President of the Coal Creek Spinning Group) for her recent birthday?  So appropriate and so clever:Congratulations Christine.

I’m going to finish of this post with a bouquet of felted flowers produced by the participants at a recent workshop:


(Michael Nolan)

Until next time, enjoy every day.




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Easter plans, Harvesting Chestnuts and Apples, the value of drinking water with lemon juice, trips around beautiful South Gippsland, buying something special and an old time recipe for Afghan biscuits

Are you all making plans for Easter?  For the first time ever it seems that I won’t be buying Easter Eggs for the grandchildren.  I’ve been told there is already so much chocolate sitting in the cupboards uneaten and perhaps teenagers would like something different.  Will have to think of some other little gifts to compensate.  Bit sad but they are all growing up.  

Being chestnut harvest time and my daughter having a huge amount of trees on her property, she always makes good use of them by making chestnut soup, croquettes and cake which are truly delicious, so we are looking forward to our Easter Sunday lunch which I know will be chestnut orientated.  

I’ve been very busy processing apples from our Granny Smith tree.  I can’t believe one small tree can produce so much and I’m quite over all the work even though there are more to process.  So far I’ve preserved them in 18 large Fowlers Vacola bottles, stewed and frozen some into portions, made 4 large pies (also in freezer) and one apple cake, not to mention those that I’ve given away to friends.  

Of course I’m going to be very happy when I come to use the fruits of my labours.  It’s been a lot of work and I wonder for how long I’ll want to continue.  Old habits die hard don’t they so will probably keep going for a while yet.  


The value of drinking water with a squeeze of lemon juice

I’ve chatted to quite a few people recently who tell me they have a squeeze of lemon juice in a glass of water first thing in the morning.  As it didn’t really appeal to me I decided to do a bit of research and came up with the following article which is very informative.  I’m giving it a go myself though I do find it hard to keep up the routine.

We all know drinking water helps keep us healthy and feeling our best – by adding a squeeze of lemon to your glass in the morning you could take it even one step further.
Lemon is a powerful fruit. It’s a source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin E, folate, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and more.
Incorporating lemon to your diet can do everything from support weight loss to aid digestion.
Here’s just a few of the benefits associated with drinking lemon water.
It promotes hydration
The same way athletes rely on sports drinks to stay hydrated, lemon water can help give your water a boost and keep you hydrated throughout the day.
It improves skin
Lemon is a rich source of vitamin C, which is known to help improve skin’s texture and help with wrinkles and dryness. Drinking plenty of water is also known to help improve the complexion, so together it’s a winning combination.
It supports weight loss
Studies have found that lemon significantly reduced weight gain caused by a high-fat diet in mice. While studies have yet to prove the same for humans, there is much anecdotal evidence that says drinking lemon water has a similar benefit. Part of this is probably due to lemon’s natural flavour – it helps you feel fuller and makes drinking water more appealing, helping you to go longer between snacking.
It keeps breath fresh
There’s a reason so many cleaning products are lemon-scented. The natural smell of this citrus fruit can banish a lot of other bad scents. You can keep your breath fresher by drinking a glass of lemon water in the morning and after meals. It will help stimulate saliva and prevent dry mouth, which often leads to bad breath.
It prevents kidney stones
The citric acid found in lemons is said to help prevent calcium kidney stones. Paired with an increased water intake, it can help keep your kidneys functioning well and stave off uncomfortable kidney stones.
It aids digestion
Drinking lemon water can help keep your liver functioning at its best, too, which will in turn aid with better digestion. Many people swear by lemon water to help reduce indigestion and bloating, as well as heartburn and even constipation.

Do leave a comment if you already follow this regimen and let readers know what benefits if any you may have noticed.



Ken has made a short film of our day trips around the beautiful area of South Gippsland.  Some of you may have already seen past clips from Ken’s repertoire but I hope you will enjoy joining us on our excursions.




I must tell you about my purchase of a beautiful dress from Tribal Threads Gallery in Loch (Gippsland), Victoria.  I have been looking for a long black dress to wear when volunteering in the Spinning Room at Coal Creek Heritage Park, and found the ideal thing made from organic 100% certified cotton ethically made in Australia.  It’s absolutely amazing and the label tells me that it has been knitted in Australia and dyed using Australian Certified Organic dyes and processes.  Here’s the link to the web site:   http://www.vegethreads.com

After looking at the site  think I will be indulging myself further in their garments.



Here’s a recipe from a very old edition of the Edmond’s Cookery Book, a New Zealand icon, first published in 1908.
200g butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1¼ cups plain flour
¼ cup cocoa
2 cups cornflakes
24 walnuts (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Grease or line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift flour and cocoa. Stir into creamed mixture. Fold in cornflakes.
3. Spoon mounds of mixture onto the tray, gently pressing together.
4. Bake for 15 minutes or until set. When cold ice with chocolate icing (I melt chocolate pieces with a little butter) and decorate with a walnut.


I’ll sign off this post wishing you all an enjoyable Easter.  Whatever you decide to do make sure it makes you happy.



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Coping with change, The horrid words “diet and “eat healthier”, Creating an heirloom, Slow Cooker Lentil Soup plus more

Hello everyone, thanks so much for reading my blog and sending in your messages.  It’s very rewarding.  Over the last month many friends have had to cope with unexpected changes in their lives, two through illness and a third having to decide to go into care,  which brings me to my first topic:

Coping with change

Recently I have been thinking about how change affects us.  It may be change in lifestyle,  the behaviour of friends or neighbours, alterations to things we take for granted or the more serious change that comes about by ill health or an unforeseen reduction in income.   We all have different coping abilities so a change, however small it may seem to others, can cause a lot of distress to the individual.  Personally I’m not a lover of change, for example if Ken pulls a plant out of the garden without telling me it’s going to happen, I think I should have been consulted first.  I’ve heard of partners coming home to find the furniture in the house moved around and becoming quite grumpy as a result.  Now that sounds quite petty but it does reveal a little of our personalities.  I think the lesson for all of us is to respect each others need to keep certain things as they have always been even though this can be frustrating or to make changes as and when they want.   Not changing promotes a sort of comfort and certainty in our lives whilst on the other hand change can be a stimulating and thrilling experience.

Of course at some time we may all have to cope with change as when illness or loss  unexpectedly strikes, then its amazing how we are able to draw on our inner strength in immeasurable ways to cope and adjust but at the same time we need those around us for support and understanding.

Do let me have your ideas about change and how it affects you.


The horrid words “diet” and “eat healthier”

Why do these words make us want to turn the other way.  For me it’s usually when my dress or skirt feels a little tighter around the middle which happened the other day.  Last year I made a two piece summer outfit which fitted perfectly.  When I wanted to wear it recently the zip of the skirt somehow didn’t want to pull up.  What a shock, although of course I should have known I had been eating too much bread.   Perhaps a few changes are worth trying so have a look at this article reproduced here:  I’ve already sized down my dinner plate which is one of the suggestions made.

If you don’t like the idea of going on a diet but do want to eat a little healthier, start with a few simple adjustments.
They’re small, satisfying and easy to implement – and if you stick with them over time, they have the power to make a big impact on your eating habits, your waistline and your wellbeing.
Ready to learn more? Here’s some small adjustments that make a big impact on eating habits.
Keep frozen veg to hand
Frozen vegetables are an easy and inexpensive way to make sure you always have healthy ingredients in the house. Keep a bag of frozen vegetables in the freezer and try and add them to your meals during the week by incorporating them into the dishes you’re making. 
Eat snacks from a plate or bowl
When you eat crisps and other snacks directly from the bag, you often end up indulging more than you intended – research suggests that when you eat like this your brain doesn’t give you a stop signal. Create a mindful portion size by putting any snack you intend to have in a bowl or plate.
Choose high protein breakfasts
Sugary foods like croissants, muffins and cereals may be quick and convenient, but they can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and make you end up craving more food – particularly sugar – sooner. A healthy, filling breakfast that’s high in protein and fat and low in carbs will help keep you fuller for longer and give you the energy you need to start the day.
Size down your dinner plate
The size of dinner plates has been steadily rising over the last several decades. Today’s plate sizes are between 9 – 12 inches across. In the 1960s, they were much smaller – just 7 inches. We instinctively fill our plates and eat what’s on them, meaning a larger plate causes us to eat more calories than we actually need. Instead, try using a dessert plate for your dinner instead – you’ll automatically start eating smaller portions and finish dinner feeling satisfied rather than overfull.
Stay hydrated
People often mistake hunger for thirst – stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking water rather than sugary drinks.
Try 80/20
When it comes to maintaining healthy eating habits over time, balance is key. The 80/20 rule is a good one to follow; make healthy, sensible choices 80% of the time, leaving room to indulge now and again 20% of the time.

Creating an heirloom  (I hope)

Using your creative skills, have you created or thought about creating an heirloom?

Over the past couple of years I’ve crocheted 4 blankets, one for Ken (he loves it over his feet in the winter), one for my daughter, one for my granddaughter and lastly one for my daughter in law.  Recently my eldest grandson, who will be 23 in September, said  “Nan I would love one of those blankets”.  This got me to thinking about making a special effort as a fairly new spinner and going the whole way by buying a sheep’s fleece, washing, combing, carding, spinning, dying and finally crocheting a blanket for presentation as what I hope will become an heirloom.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to buy a Border Leicester fleece at an agricultural show for the grand sum of $10.  Must say I was a little worried as to whether I was up to the task.  Anyway during the following week I washed the fleece in batches and was able to get it dried in the sun on the verandah table.  That was the first hurdle.  Because the preparation of the wool for spinning is long, and good preparation makes all the difference to the finished article, I have been doing that in small quantities and have to thank my friend Olga for taking on some of the carding for me whilst we are volunteering at the Coal Creek Heritage Park.  Must say visitors to the Park are very intrigued by the carding process which makes the hard work worthwhile and is a topic for conversation.

So far I have spun about 250g of wool.  The pattern I have for the blanket takes about 1.25kg so I’ve a long long way to go.  I’ll report my progress from time to time, that’s if I don’t fall by the  wayside in my endeavour !  In the meantime you might like to see the washed wool, combed and carded wool, spun wool and my first skein of plied wool.


Bringing my slow cooker out from the back of the cupboard

I have been intending to get my slow cooker out from the back of the cupboard for some time but the need hasn’t been there with the warm weather we have been experiencing.  However, I came across the following easy recipe which I tried with great success, so you might like to add it to your recipe list for chilly times to come or why not try it out now.

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

* 1½ cups red lentils
* 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
* 1 red bell pepper, chopped
* 2 celery stalks chopped
* ½ a bunch of kale (about 4 leaves) stems removed and chopped
* 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, pressed
* ½ an onion, chopped
* 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon parsley, ½ teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon              garlic salt, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 6½ cups vegetable stock


1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and pour in vegetable stock.
2. Cook on high for 5 hours, or low for 8 hours. Stir a few times throughout the cooking. If you like a more brothy soup, add in 1-2 cups additional stock.
3. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and crusty bread on the side (optional)
Prep time 15 mins, cook time 5 hours


It’s time to sign off.  I’ll leave you with this mantra:
Everything I need, I have. Everything I have, I need.
The minimalist lifestyle is not about how few items we own, it’s about how valuable and useful the items we choose to keep are. Our belongings should enrich our lives, provide a use or a purpose, and bring us joy. We should enjoy and put to use the things we own (inside of keeping them “just in case” or for special occasions) and remove everything else.



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