Saturday Stall

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Even though I haven’t written a blog post for a couple of weeks it doesn’t mean that I have been slothful. Far from it. It is just that most of the day-to-day happenings have not been worthy of a blog post.

I have also been occupied in creating as many Boomerang Bags as possible for our very first market stall at the Witta Market on Saturday. This market in our district is dedicated to local makers and growers so it seemed to be the perfect fit for our bags.

We kept it very simple and used the bags as the decorations to attract potential customers.

Here is a close-up of some of the bags.

The market was a clear success with bags being sold as well as some potential volunteers identified and raising our public profile.

Next month’s market is barely a week before Christmas so will be a great opportunity for some last-minute gifts.

Downstairs Developments

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Like many homes in Queensland, our house is high-set with plenty of space ‘under the house’. Part of this area is occupied by the double garage and a workshop area which is connected to the main part of the house via an internal staircase.

When we moved here the remaining area was simply dirt. Due to the sloping site, the majority has plenty of clearance while the area under the front verandah is only suitable for hobbits. About 10 years ago we had the usable area concreted with a view to creating an alternative summer relaxation/entertaining area. The concrete floor, ground level site and southerly aspect all combine to create the coolest possible location on hot days.

The plans have been rolling around for a number of years but we are finally starting to make some real progress.

We finally hung these chairs up yesterday and I am already getting quite used to the idea of reclining here and whiling away the time.

We bought them years ago and did hang them for a while but had to remove them from their original positions when the fluorescent light were installed. Debate about what sort of fixings were required led to inertia and no action until the other day when we decided to have another look for something suitable.

These swing mountings looked perfect and seem to be doing the job admirably as the 2 bolts go right through the joist.

One of the problems of creating an entertaining area was the bracing between some of the posts could be a hazard to people. We came up with the idea of having a ‘green wall’ which would minimise any risk of people walking into the metal bracing.

There were a number of hanging baskets here so we bought 4 new ones to supplement them as well as some chain and hooks.

The pots are still empty but we have hung them to gauge the best positions and are happy with this arrangement. The next step will be to fill them with some of the potting mix we bought on Saturday and get some plants into them. I am going to use Devil’s Ivy/Pothos which we have growing in abundance in the shaded areas at the rear of our garden. It is easy to propogate and should quickly achieve the effect we hope to create.

Bagging a Bargain

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Last week I bought 13 pineapples. Why 13, you may ask? There were 13 medium sized pineapples in a box at the front of the local fruit and vegetable stall where I shop.

It pays to keep an eye out for these occasional bargain boxes as you can see from this post from January this year. This time the pineapples were in perfect condition apart from being slightly odd shapes and I did not need to discard any of the flesh. My $10 box of pineapples yielded one which we ate fresh and 12 others at 77c each.

Some were sliced and others pulped. Here is the results ready for the freezer.

Reaping the Rewards

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I was away from home for a couple of days early in the week and did not think I had anything particular to share with you at the moment.

However, when I went down to the garden this morning I discovered that the sweet peas were flowering. I had planted them about 6 months ago along part of the fence in the vegetable garden area and barely taken any notice of them since. An occasional bit of supplementary watering but they really did not seem to be doing much and all of a sudden I have flowers.

Sweet peas, along with Iceland poppies, are two of my favourite old-fashioned flowers that I remember fondly from my childhood. The scent evokes strong memories and I cut some and brought them inside where I am enjoying them. I hope you do too.

A Long Road

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Many of the projects we have worked on here have taken a considerable length of time to achieve. Sometimes it is the planning, sometimes the money or resources and others are simply a matter of time and competing priorities.

It is almost 15 years since we moved here and growing some of our own vegetables was an early goal. Although we have 1.5 acres of land, much of it is unsuitable for vegetable gardening – too steep or flood-prone so we identified an area close to the house as the spot for our future vegetable gardens. It was all grassed so the first version looked like this.

The soil is excellent and our efforts were reasonably successful, however, we had a somewhat grander plan.

Early in 2011 we built the first raised garden bed. The plan allowed for 9 beds eventually.

Still just one raised bed as we needed to source more suitable uprights.

Progress and by late in 2012 there were 3 raised garden beds. The star pickets on the left of the photo show the position of the next ones to be made.

In reality, 3 beds was probably plenty for us to manage while we were working fulltime but our agenda was long-term.

By the end of 2016 the plan was definitely coming together. We had 6 raised garden beds and woodchip mulch to create paths and suppress the weed and grass growth. The area was also fully fenced.

Late 2017 shows further development but no more garden beds.

The last 6 months or so have provided plenty of opportunity for working on projects at home and thanks to scoring some additional secondhand Colorbond we have finally finished the last of the garden beds.

There are 9 nine beds as per the original plan. We will be buying some soil for the last 3 and also to top up the soil in the others. The woodchip mulching of the paths also needs to be extended to include the areas around the new garden beds.

Then it will be time to get planting. I hope the predicted rain arrives in the next couple of weeks.

All of this has been achieved with salvaged, secondhand and excess materials.

Rebalancing in Retirement

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I retired from full-time, paid employment in July 2019 so it is now 15 months since I was last in the office. My finishing date was pretty much decided at least 2 years prior to my retirement. I did not really contemplate gradually reducing my hours or other strategies to ease into retirement. This bemused many people who continually quizzed me as to what I was going to do when I retired. I did not really have a clear answer which made them even more convinced that I would return.

The last 15 months has been somewhat of a rollercoaster. 6 weeks after my final day in the office, we headed overseas for a much-anticipated 9 week holiday. It was an amazing adventure which we thoroughly enjoyed. Towards the end of the trip GMan and I independently came to the same conclusion – that we would have a break in 2020 and not go overseas. What a fortuitous decision that proved to be. We had previously considered travelling to Scandinavia this year.

Upon our return from overseas towards the end of October we had barely 2 months at home before setting off on a road trip to Victoria. We spent Christmas with family and then planned to visit areas in eastern Victoria and south-eastern NSW but the worst bushfires in living memory crushed that plan. We did manage to visit more family in Canberra and experienced the impact of the smoke first-hand. Not a pleasant experience.

Home again in early January and we imagined that 2020 would be a time to settle into a steady routine. Enter COVID19 and the world seemed to be completely upturned. We were very grateful for the space we had – house and large garden, a well-stocked pantry as well as a garden which supplied at least some of our food requirements, not having paid work to try to do from home or children to homeschool. We were unable to see or visit family and friends for several weeks but this was barely a minor inconvenience compared to what some people have had to endure.

In fact, COVID19 gave us the opportunity to focus on projects around our home. A quick scroll through previous blog posts provides a bit insight. Compost bays, a cold frame, more raised garden beds and finishing the pergola are some of the outdoor improvements. Meanwhile, I prepared meals made predominately from our homegrown produce as well as sewing and mending. Furniture restoration completed.

As restrictions were lifted we resumed some of our activities and interests outside the home. Which brings me to the essence of this blog post.

It is easy to become immersed in a particular interest or activity to exclusion of most others. Therefore, my goal is to identify broad categories and try to include a mix of activities/interests. It is probably not feasible to try to do this each day but I think that it is possible within the timeframe of a week.

After some thought, I have come up with a list of general categories which cover most of the things I do. Yours may be a little different.

Administration
Appointments
Community engagement
Craft and creating
Family
Friends
Garden/outdoor maintenance
Garden/outdoor projects
Health and fitness
Homemaking – regular/frequent tasks
Homemaking – seasonal/occasional tasks
Planning
Relaxation
Socialising and entertaining
Travel

Of course, some of these definitely overlap and some activities may even cover 3 categories. The list is in alphabetical order so that no-one can question my priorities. I do not envisage making specific lists but it certainly helps to keep things in perspective.


Finally, to those people who were convinced that I would not have enough to do in retirement – you were definitely wrong. My days are occupied, interesting and most of all, fulfilling.

Family Comes First

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I was looking back at the date of my last post which was a little over a week ago. Since then my focus has been firmly on my family. Even though GMan and I are the only ones living here, we are fortunate to have plenty of contact with family. Sometimes it seems to come all at once as has been the case in the past week.

Last Monday I went to Brisbane. I took my mother to a specialist medical appointment then we treated ourselves to lunch at Fuzzy Duck Cafe. I would recommend it. This was en route to visit my aunt who is in an aged care facility. Visiting has not been possible during COVID19 restrictions so it was good to be able to see her.

I stayed in Brisbane overnight and after another appointment the next day I picked GMan up from a dental appointment and we headed home.

It has been school holidays for the last 2 weeks and our daughter and granddaughters arrived on Wednesday evening. The girls stayed until Saturday afternoon while their mother went to work for the remainder of the week and picked them up again on Saturday.

During their stay we prepared meals, sorted through my fabric stash, went to the gym, shopped for shoes, went to the beach and park and checked out the garden.

Miss O making french dressing and learning the principle of adjusting the seasoning to taste.

Cutting broccoli for the soup.

A successful shopping trip to buy new sandals for Izzy.

More cooking – pizza bases ready for toppings.

The beginning of a dress for Miss O from a piece selected from the stash.

Some of the regular housework goes by the wayside when there are visitors and this time was no exception.

The refrigerator looked somewhat chaotic. There were several leftovers that I could incorporate into meals the following day.

I had invited my sister and brother-in-law for lunch on Sunday but had no specific menu planned for the meal. We did a small amount of grocery shopping late on Saturday afternoon.

Our lunch was predominately a selection of small plates and salads which worked perfectly as we sat outside in the very pleasant spring weather.

Photographing the spread was overlooked until I brought the salads out.

Homemade hummus, guacamole and sourdough bread, rice crackers, vegie sticks and brie for starters then kale salad, rice salad, cucumber and onion salad ad tomato wedges to serve with mini meatballs, vegie kofta balls and spiced cauliflower bites. Fresh fruit salad made the perfect finish to the meal.

While it sometimes works out that a particular period of time is mostly taken up by a single facet such as family events, I am trying to create more balance in the spread of activities in my week. More about that tomorrow.

Not Busy

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As I mentioned in a post last year, I have tried to remove ‘busy’ from both my vocabulary and mindset as much as possible.

I have spent the last 3 days occupied in one of my favourite activities – sewing. It has not been just any sewing but specifically dressmaking clothes for myself.

The first project was a dress which was modelled on an oft-used shirt pattern.

I bought the fabric which is a cotton drill from a local thrift shop for $5. I have yet to source suitable buttons and finish the hem.

Another dress. A simple, lightweight shift which will be perfect for hot summer days at home or the beach. The fabric for this one was leftover from a previous project. Of course, both of the dresses have pockets.

A navy linen shirt made using the same pattern as the first dress. This is an extremely versatile pattern which I have used numerous times. The contrasting binding on the neckline and armholes is not visible when the garment is being worn but I think it adds a somewhat whimsical touch. Making my own bias binding allows me to indulge ideas like this. Once again, buttons and hemming are required to complete the shirt.

I have another linen shirt cut out which is black.

This has barely put a dent in my stash of fabric and I am looking forward to making more items to add to my wardrobe.

It is almost 2 years since I last bought any brand-new clothes apart from underwear. In that time I have bought less than 10 pieces from thrift shops and recycle boutiques and made a few items. Some of the clothes that I wore to work are still suitable for some occasions, however, I find that I am gradually changing the mix of clothes in my wardrobe to reflect my retirement lifestyle.

Use It All

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I have spent the day in the kitchen today. When you grow produce it is important to ensure that it is used and does not go to waste. There is a degree of urgency as we are heading away on holidays in a couple of days. I made broccoli soup, juiced oranges and limes and dealt with a bunch of celery which I picked a couple of days ago.

Some of the celery had been used on a platter with hummus and guacamole but the majority of the bunch was still intact and all of the leaves. We love celery soup and when I make it I use all of the stalks and leaves. However, I have enough celery soup in the freezer at the moment.

I separated the stalks and chopped them ready for snacks and salads, but what to do with the leaves? I decided to experiment. Firstly, I washed them then removed the excess moisture in the salad spinner.

Then it was into the dehydrator.

Because the leaves are quite light it only took about 3 hours to dry them. Then I simply crumbled them into flakes and shook them through the colander to remove the larger stalks.

This is the result.

Did you know that celery is the prime ingredient in vegetable stock powder? I will use them for seasoning in soups, casseroles and a selection of other dishes.

I am pleased to have been able to use all of the bunch of celery without wasting any of it.

Some Salads

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I am currently sifting through some old blog notes and recipes that have not previously seen the light of day.

I will post them here as I think they are worth remembering for the coming months as the weather heats up.

CHICKEN SALAD (Serves 2)

1 chicken breast fillet (steamed and shredded)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (chopped)
2 tablespoons walnuts (chopped)

Combine the ingredients and dress with mayonnaise.  Chill.

Serve with other salad as desired.

CUCUMBER & ONION SALAD

Lebanese cucumber (thinly sliced)
Onion (thinly sliced and separated into rings)
Good quality salt (I use Himalayan pink)

Layer the cucumber and onion rings in a shallow dish, adding a fine sprinkle of salt to each layer.  Chill and allow to stand for about an hour before serving.

I do not have a photo of this very simple, yet tasty, salad.

PEAR SALAD (Serves 2)

1/2 pear, cored and sliced thinly
Small stick of celery, sliced thinly on the diagonal
6 walnuts, chopped
Parmesan cheese, shaved
30ml lemon juice           }
5ml balsamic vinegar   } – Dressing
5ml olive oil                     }

Arrange the pear, celery and walnuts on the plate.  Combine dressing ingredients and drizzle over salad.  Top with shreds of parmesan cheese.

Here it is served with grilled salmon and coleslaw.

It is useful to have a selection of simple, appetising dishes for when the weather is hot and inspiration for meal preparation is often lacking.