Road Trip

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For 2 months we have mostly stayed at home apart from a weekly trip to buy fresh produce and dairy and a couple of forays to Bunnings for necessities for the renovation projects.  Over the last week or two we have also made a couple of visits to family.

COVID19 restrictions have been eased slightly but I have no real desire to go browsing in shops or mix with people whom I do not know.

However, we needed to get out and a road trip seemed like the perfect answer.  

Packed up and ready to go.

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We set out with a vague idea of going to Toowoomba. That did indeed become our destination, albeit via a rather circuitous route. Our first stop was for petrol so we then took the back road via the Glasshouse Mountains lookout to Woodford.  From there, we headed through Kilcoy, Yarraman and Oakey before arriving in Toowoomba.  It was definitely the road less travelled.

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It was time for a late lunch by the time we reached Toowoomba and we found a Turkish restaurant that were also offering takeaway meals.

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Despite the cold weather (apparent temperature about 2C) we headed for Queens Park to find a picnic table where we could eat. 

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We were rugged up with jackets and I had my knitted cap which kept my ear and head warm.  There were other people in the park but social distancing was certainly not an issue.

A couple of views of Queens Park and some of the autumn foliage.

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Our return route was via the highway to Brisbane where we made a brief stop to visit my mother and then back onto the highway for home.

In no time we had a fire going to warm the room.

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Our day out was an adventure which broke the monotony of the days at home.

Scones? Yes, please.

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I have never had a great deal of success baking scones but when you add the requirement to be gluten-free into the mix it really becomes a challenge.

A few years ago I acquired this book and I have mastered the scones.  I think the trick is the flour blend which is explained in the beginning of the book.

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I use the following to make 1kg of plain gluten-free flour and use the Kitchen Aid mixer to thoroughly blend the flours before storing in an airtight container.

340g brown rice flour
340g potato starch
200g arrowroot
120g quinoa flour

Here is the original scone recipe from the book.

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Please note that it has 900g of flour so makes a large batch.  I make a half mix because that is what will fit in my mixer.  I used a half mix for this batch of over 30 scones.

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As usual, I have adapted both the recipe and the method.  I make savoury cheese scones to serve with homemade soup but there is no reason that you could not make sweet scones.

CHEESE SCONES

400ml warm milk
40g psyllium husk

450g gluten-free flour blend (see recipe above)
8 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon finely grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

2 eggs
20ml apple cider vinegar

130g butter

Combine milk and psyllium and set aside. Combine dry ingredients and cheese.  Grate/shred the cold butter into the flour mixture.  Add the eggs and vinegar to the psyllium mixture then add to the flour mixture.  Combine until you have a soft dough.  I use the Kitchen Aid stand mixer for this but can be done by hand.

Lightly knead and shape to a rectangle of the desired height.  Use a knife dipped in flour  to cut the pieces and then arrange on a baking tray or two.  Be sure to allow enough space between the scones for even cooking.  Brush with milk and bake at 180C for about 15-17 minutes.

Whilst this is far from a ‘traditional’ scone recipe, it does provide a very acceptable gluten-free alternative which most people who do not have any gluten retrictions are more than happy to eat.

Eating In – Pizzas

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I made a batch of gluten-free pizza bases on the weekend and tonight we are having pizza for dinner.

Here are the partly cooked bases thawed and ready to add the topping.  I find that pre-cooking these for about 8 minutes makes them much easier to handle when assembling the pizzas.

001The dough recipe I use comes from this recipe book.

006If you are looking for good gluten-free recipes I would recommend that you look for it in your local library or you can buy it here.  The updated version has a different cover.

Otherwise just make or buy your favourite bases.

I assembled all of the toppings.

002The ice-cube tray contains frozen basil and you can read about how I prepared it in this previous post.

Once the basil had thawed, I mixed it with a small amount of tomato and spread the mixture on the bases.

003Then the rest of the toppings………

004Pumpkin slices roasted with balsamic vinegar, shredded baby spinach, diced salami, sliced olives, strips of red capsicum and topped off with some grated cheese.  I use low fat cheddar with a bit of strong cheese like partmesan to give a bit of added flavour.

005This is the pizza maker which we use and it takes about 5-6 minutes to cook the pizza to perfection.

008One quarter had disappeared before I had time to grab my camera!

The toppings are never exactly the same.  It just depends on what we have.  This is the first time I have used the basil mixture for the base.  I usually just use a tomato mixture and a sprinkle of mixed herbs.  I have also been known to use mango chutney spread on the base.  The only thing limiting you is your imagination.

This Time Last Year………….

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……….well almost.  It was actually 15th October 2013 that I published  this post which was the beginning of a series based on Francine Jay’s book, “The Joy of Less”.

I re-discovered it recently when I was working on adding back the photos to my earlier blog posts.  The series is now complete with photos and I would encourage you to take the time to read all of the posts.  I think there are about a dozen of them.  Even though I wrote them, there were some revelations which have inspired me to keep going on my journey to let go of more ‘stuff’.

The original catalyst for the series was the purchase of a new refrigerator and the fact that it required me to open the door of the overhead cupboard every time I needed to access the refrigerator.  We did have the doors re-modelled and this is what it looks like now.

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STREAMLINE – Everyday Maintenance

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After you have worked through all of the other steps in the ‘STREAMLINE’ process, it is important not to lapse back into old ways.  Just like changing eating (or any other) habits, if your version of minimalism is to be successful it needs to be an ongoing process.  You will have to work at it constantly and be vigilant at every turn.  Clutter in all its forms is insidious and will soon overwhelm you if you do not have strategies in place to stop it at the door, the mailbox and even your email inbox.

Well-meaning friends and relatives may feel sorry for you when they see your empty spaces and want to give you stuff to fill the gaps.

You did not set out to create a cluttered, over-burdened life – it just happened.  So, it could easily happen again.

“No, thank you” is one of the most powerful things you can say in your quest to keep your stuff at the level which suits you best.  Whether it is a freebie bag at a conference, a loyalty card from a store, a copy of recipe or your great aunt’s tea-set – if it does not fit your goals you can politely refuse the offer.

Dining table

I have refused, decluttered and minimised for several years and still know that there is more to go.  I keep a bag/box in the spare room and as I find things to go they are moved to the box which then goes to the op shop when it is full.  Sometimes it takes ages to gather enough to send off and other times there is a flurry of activity and I take several bags in one weekend.  Having a dedicated receptacle for things that are to be re-homed helps me to keep focused.

I hope you have enjoyed this series and would strongly recommend reading “The Joy of Less” by Francine Jay for more inspiration.  Please share your thoughts on decluttering and minimalism in general and as well as your personal achievements.

STREAMLINE – Narrow it Down

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This is where it starts to get really challenging.  Now we need to ask ourselves the question, “What is the minimum that I need to live?”  Francine notes that you do not need to worry that you will be expected to sleep on the floor or live in a tent but you do need to challenge yourself.  It is not enough to wave your magic wand and say that you need everything that you have.

There is no magic number of items or even a formula that you can apply.  Everyone’s ‘enough’ is different.  It can depend on your location, family, children, hobbies, upbringing and experiences.

Embracing minimalism is a personal choice.  It is not about depriving yourself but giving yourself the freedom to live and enjoy the moment.  There is a liberating lightness which comes from letting go of possessions so take the time to look around you and decide what you can live without.

Contents of cupboard

Some of things you could consider when attempting to narrow down your possessions:

  • Duplicates – these are easy – you don’t really need 2 (or more) do you?
  • Sentimental stuff – Francine suggests ‘minituarising’ as a way of dealing with these – an example could be a place card, photo, swatch of dress fabric and a dried flower from the bouquet all in a simple frame as a wedding memento rather than keeping a wedding dress and all the trimmings.
  • Digitising – scanned photos in files on the computer rather than shelves full of albums that gather dust.  If the digitised files are well catalogued they are actually more accessible than hard copies.  You can also keep back-ups in different locations in case of disaster.

I do not purport to be perfect in any of these ways but am certainly working on it.  What about you?

STREAMLINE – A Master Plan

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The first and most important thing I need to do with this post is to acknowledge that it is not my own idea.  This is the basis of the book, “The Joy of Less” by Francine Jay.

I have mentioned the book previously in a couple of posts here and here.  “The Joy of Less” is a book that I keep going back to and it continues to inspire me.  That is no small feat as it seems that everyone is writing a book on organisation, minimalism and/or decluttering.  Many of them do not offer anything new but “The Joy of Less” really hit a chord with me.  In particular, I liked the philosophy in the early chapters.  This helps you to understand what clutter is, how it affects us and our relationships with it.

However, today I am going to focus more on the actual process of creating a minimalist home which works for you.

S – Start over

T – Trash, treasure or transfer

R -Reason for each item

E – Everything in its place

A – All surfaces clear

M – Modules

L- Limits

I – If one comes in, one goes out

N Narrow it down

E – Everyday maintenance

This is the step-by-step process that Francine uses and to do justice to the information, I plan to discuss each point in depth in separate blog posts.  There will be one every day or so, depending on my workload so keep watching to get the full story.  Some are reasonably clear but other concepts need more explanation.

The important thing to remember about minimalism and decluttering is that it can fit any situation and be as much or as little as you want it to be.  However, if you are reading about decluttering, there is a very good chance that you are feeling the need to unburden yourself for some of your stuff.  Don’t hijack your goals by thinking that you will declutter your house on the weekend.  You can certainly make a start but don’t ever imagine that it is a one-off weekend job!

Tomorrow we will “Start Over”.  I look forward to hearing about your goals and achievements with respect to decluttering and minimalism.