Friday, April 30, 2010

Being Ruby Giveaway

Heads Up! My good friend Julie of Being Ruby is having a fab giveaway here, or you can link via her adorable button over there to the right. Three chances to win one of her exquisite photographs.

If this will be your first time to her blog, don't just enter and move on, settle in and scroll through her older posts or you will miss out on some glorious photos and great stories. You will also meet one of the sweetest and talented gals from down under.

Of course I have mixed feelings about linking you at this time. It lessens
my chances of winning, but it's worth it if more people meet Ruby.
so get on over there and tell her I sent ya! (maybe I'll get an extra entry :0)


Crockpot beef stew from scratch

In the cooler months I love using my crockpot/slow cooker.  It tenderises cheaper cuts of meat over the long slow cooking process and it makes many kinds of excellent soup.  The trick is to keep to your cooking from scratch principles when using the crockpot; using tins of soup or stock in a carton is not an option.  You can get excellent flavour without adding any packets of sauce mix or

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Autumn's garden is progressing nicely

There must be something in the air.  In the course of one day, I have turned into a crazy woman with lists.  I prowled the house yesterday seeing things left undone for so long, so I made lists of what should be done sooner rather than later.  Lists are my friends but today I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by those I have made so I'm chopping the lists down to size.  I'll make a couple of master

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Still Hanging in the Garden

I cannot seem to leave the garden these days.
Our days of comfortable weather here are short lived.
They are predicting we'll hit 90 today.
So begins my hibernation.

Most of the pink roses are getting ready for their second round
of blooms, while the whites are returning now with their next showing.

This little lady cannot decide which side of the family she belongs to.

The trees in the yard, mesquite and ash, are now in full canopy,
protecting me from the sun
trying to pierce through and drive me indoors.

Fortunately, this bush is clearly visible indoors
through the dining room window.
Don't forget to visit all the other WW's over at
Faded Charm hosted by Kathleen

Roof Top Drama Ensues
My visitor returned a lone soul

He began to puff and make a racket and when I scanned to the left

A lady and a rival for her affections

They began the courtship dance;
their version of the Macarena I suppose.

The rival began to puff and ignoring the competition
placed all of his attention on the lovely female.

A wise move as she began to lure him in her direction.

He appears to be the victor and with a quick, hop

and a skip the battle has been won.

He seems unable to figure out the error of his ways.
Should he have puffed more, or vocalized louder?
He hung out here for hours calling for companionship.
I hope he found love after I went back inside.

A queen's ransom

Thankfully, things are slowly starting to get back to normal after about six months of chaos, shopping, reorganisation, relocation and, at times, barely contained nervousness over moving our Neighbourhood Centre and Flexischool to a new and permanent location.  Finally we have a real home; it's the first time ever in our 17 year history that we have a building to call our own.  We'll never have

Monday, April 26, 2010

You, me and the kitchen sink

Today's kitchen is in the beautiful far north of my state of Queensland. It's Joanna's kitchen, I'm sure you'll enjoy her story.Joanna writes:
"We live in Far North Queensland on the Atherton Tablelands, in a small Queenslander cottage. The kitchen is cute, but TINY! It's about 1.5 metres wide by about 2.5 metres long. It has a double burner gas stove and a smallish wall oven. In this photo

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The secret of contentment

I was asked in an email recently if I would reveal the secret of simple living. I have no secrets, I think I've been fairly open with what we're doing here.  I have a set of values I live by and everyone knows my day to day activities, so that was my reply. An email came back that surprised me quite a bit - it said that she had done most of what I was doing, made sure she planted what I

What's in a Name?

The other day I was questioned about the Z in my name for the millionth time.
Suzan with a Z not an s. That line came from my dear friend Macky, whose real name is Maureen by the way, and has stuck ever since.

In the course of the conversation, taking place in front of a t-mobile kiosk, two generations squared off on the topic of names. My family is rich with names like Etta, Nettie, Alice, Della, Mamer, Roberta, and Iva. Instantly conjures up images, yes?

So, apparently the oldest of the group I was explaining that back in 53 (OK WAY BACK!) classrooms were filled with Nancys, and Debbies and Susans, and I mean filled. I never had fewer than 2 Susans and 2 Debbies in my classes until I reached high school. DjR, my Dad wanted me to "shine" on my own but since Susan was the only name other than Scott that my parents could agree on, and they had already bestowed that moniker on my brother exactly 1 year and 1 day prior, I was named Susan with the caveat of a Z.

This has guaranteed that my name be misspelled 99% of the time. But I love it. I own it. To many from my past, I am simply Z and if you call me that it means you are a very old friend or a very dear new friend with the inside track.

Now the younger gals inside the kiosk found many "old fashioned" names hilarious and odd as in Charlotte, Sadie, Beatrice, Dorothy, Hazel, Helen, Margaret, Doris, Victoria, Clara, and Lillian. Granted even I never considered Bertha, Hortense, Gertrude, Mabel, Phyllis and Zelda. Though I adore Mabel on a wee one, thanks to Mad About You..."Mothers Always Bring Extra Love". The young gal whose name was un-pronounceable though she was a darling gal, commented that names such as these,"belong to only old people."

The two eldest in this discussion commented on the frequency of "made up" names in fashion these days. Those, whose names like mine, will never be spelled correctly with any frequency. Nevaeh, heaven spelled backword is rising in popularity. In addition the current generation is populated with their own versions of Debbies and Susans. The Jadas, Kennedys, Caitlins, Morgans, Meghans, Laurens, Hannahs, MacKensies, Ashleys, Brooklyns, Tiffanys, Haileys, Madisons, Briannas, and Kaylees will one day all be joining AARP together.

Does our name define us? Do we morph into the names we are given or do we adapt our personalities due to others expectations of our names? I had only one criteria in naming my children...well, two, their father had to agree. I required that the name be appropriate for an infant, a teenager and a senior. It also had to have the correct rhythm of a name. Hannah Grace, Benjamin David. It wasn't until after I had named darling daughter that I discovered Hannah means grace, so I had inadvertently named her Grace Grace. So, yes I suppose our names do define us, because that child certainly walks in grace. Benjamin has become Ben, and although I persisted for several years on using his proper name he is a Ben, and has the right to be called what he chooses, and the rhythm is better his way. Once again, defining us, because he is much smarter than I ever hope to be.

My Mother was named Alice Kae. She dropped the Alice and was known as Kae, until her marriage when she legally changed it to Kay. Mom felt herself to be a different person than that of an Alice I suppose.

What's in a name, what's in yours?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

You, me and the kitchen sink

Today we visit Affienia's kitchen in Leeds England.  This is another small kitchen and it shows beautifully what you can do with a small space and a bit of thought and creativity. 
Affienia writes: "Here is my kitchen. The first is taken with me leaning on the fridge, the second with me leaning on the sink. As you can see there isn't much room to move! The 3 shelves and the racks with the

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Simple living in retirement

When you think about it, the only time we working and middle class people get to do exactly what we want everyday is when we retire or when we're on holiday/vacation.  I guess we have a fairly free and easy life in childhood and as a teenager, but then there are people telling us what to do and when to do it.  Retirement, whenever it happens, is all about freedom.  It's the freedom to do exactly

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The genuine article

You don't see or hear of genuine articles much nowadays.  In my youth, it was a fairly common expression that meant something or someone was authentic.  I don't hear the saying at all connected to things now.  I believe that's because people are less concerned with the genuine now and more concerned with fashion and acquisition.  It matters not that something is true to its type, or that a

Monday, April 19, 2010

Simple living in your 40s and 50s

So now you've moved into your 40s, maybe even your 50s.  During your younger years I'm sure you heard all the negative silliness about aging but now that you're middle aged, you'll realise you're in the prime of your life.  You feel confident, ambitious and capable.  You are at the height of your money earning power, so you can pay off more debt now than at any other time.  Decisions made in

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Happy Challenge

"But before that I have to tag five other bloggers to go forth and produce their 10th photo post!! So if they'd like to participate, the goal is to find your 10th photo in your 1st photo folder and discuss what you were thinking when the photo was taken. I'm passing this tag onto ;
Suzan at Old Grey Mare

I have mentioned my friend Julie before. Besides being just plain wonderful this gal's talents blow me away! Saturday I see she has a new post, and I scroll down through each photo as always, devouring every one and what's this?
I've been tagged.

My first reaction was panic, because after I peeked at the other gals she tagged, I felt my photographic abilities paled in comparison. But fully engaged in the spirit,
I went to my archives and with much trepidation looked to see what my 10th photo in my first folder was. That's the deal, you have to take your 10th photo and talk about it.
I thought with my luck it would be another of my "before" client pictures and I'm sure they would not be happy for me to post any of those. For those of you who do not know this about me, I organize for people and if they've hired me it is to help with a shall we say "mess?"

Bless darling daughter! The 10th down in 2008 was one of hers, (and mine).
My very first assignment for the local magazine "polished" was being discussed and I needed to send over some ideas and photo suggestions. I asked darling daughter to take some quick shots of some of my memory bowls.

I had never used iPhoto before and after several hours of
playing around with effects and adjustments this is what I ended up with. Not only did I get the job, they used our photos and Hannah was given her first photo credit!

I was lucky enough to contribute to six more issues
before the magazine fell to poor economic times.

I still make these memory collections for clients.
They're always very personal and always a big hit!

Thank you Julie - you're the best

Please visit Dash, Jeanne, Cecellia, and Sharon

to see what they found for their 10th post, and meet some new friends.

Please visit all the other WW hosted by Kathleen @ Faded Charm
link over there to your right----------->

If they wish to participate and if they have time;
for these are very busy women
I wish to tag:

Erin at Erin's Art and Gardens
Carola at Boxwood Cottage
Kathleen at Faded Charm


You, me and the kitchen sink

Today we have another Australian kitchen, in the state of New South Wales.  It's Carole's kitchen and as you can see it's packed with character and looks like a real cook's kitchen.
Carole writes:"I live in a little town in the Hunter Valley N.S.W. my kitchen is great to work in. The window you see looks onto a little sunroom we built for my 89 year old Mum who lives with us you can see

Friday, April 16, 2010

They Got Me

They got me.
Over several years I watched and listened with interest
and great admiration at all the creations that came
forth from their studios.
I bought a few beads and trinkets here and there over the years,
but proudly maintained my single shelf of bead paraphernalia,
vowing never to start another hobby.
I occasionally produced a pair of earrings here and there,
a necklace for darling daughter, but nothing of note.

I don't know what happened.
I was invited to a a gathering of the evil bunch to create
that bird necklace remember that? It was fun and we ate after.

Shortly after that, there was a glass and bead show in town.
I attended, spent a considerable amount and we ate after.
It was loads of fun.

A couple nights ago, another impromptu gathering of the devils
and they worked on bracelets and I worked on these three.
We ate while we worked.
Now, understand these gals are true artisans, real designers,
their stuff is PHD level and I'm in pre-K.


They got me.

I also never showed you my finished bird necklace.
Not as involved as Heather's original design, or Jan's
version, but remember I'm a newbie

Now they're telling me about the great bead show in June.
They're evil I tell you, evil...but they've got me.
Sarah, Heather, Jan, Suzie, even you Tanya.
Lead me where you may, just be sure we
get to eat after.

Reviewing phone and internet accounts ... just because

I heard myself say this on radio the other morning: "Being thrifty is not about large amounts. You rarely make those large savings. It's more about constantly looking to save small amounts because over the course of a year, those small amounts become your large savings." When I finished the broadcast I thought about what had popped out of my mouth and that I should practise what I preach. I

Thursday, April 15, 2010

You, me and the kitchen sink

We are in Gail's kitchen today.  Gail lives in a Queenslander, which is a house up on stilts, surrounded by a veranda, usually on all sides.  They're wonderful old, distinctive houses that were built to suit living in the tropics.
Gail writes:"This is my kitchen, it's an 100 year old Queenslander that my hubby and l brought 10 years ago. We have spent the last 10 years doing it up, we have

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tea in 'good' cups

Today is a day of absolute pleasure for me.  I'll be sitting in the shade of the verandah reading one of my new books; tea will be had in the "good" cups. I'll knit and maybe go out for morning tea with Hanno.  I might even do some more research on my family tree. Today is my birthday, I am 62.
It seems like a good day to delve into my own history.  So far, I'm back to my great, great, great,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Simple living in your 30s

Hopefully you've landed in your thirties with only a few debts and a passion for living simply.  If you have, you're in the driver's seat.  If you do have some debt, there is still quite a lot you can do to untangle yourself before it strangles you.  The important part of this stage is that if you can set yourself up properly here, if you budget and pay off debt instead of add to it, you'll

Monday, April 12, 2010

Water under the Bridge

That's what he said. Water under the bridge. Thirty seven years ago he walked to his car,
drove away and we never spoke again. Today we are exchanging emails
after finding each other on Facebook.

A college love affair - crazy, confusing, youthful mistakes and regrets.
All those shared memories of that single bubble in time.

Trying to condense 37 years into an email. Marriages, divorces, births, deaths.
How do you make your life sound interesting yet be truthful. Do you tell all?
Do you embellish? Keep it lighthearted, or spew out all the grit and grime?

Summing it all up, your failures, your blessings, a balance of both,
trying to leave an impression of contentment, a good life.
Why should it matter? 37 years later, someone you have thought of,
but never contacted is suddenly in your address book,
their letter waiting in your email.

It has thrown me off kilter. Forced memories long buried. Why did I? Why didn't I?
Forced examination of self. Not always a comfortable exercise to be sure,
and in this case, quite difficult for me.
That last year we knew each other, was one of my most tumultuous.
I was not always kind to those who loved me
and Karma quickly smacked me down in return.

I struggle with the benefits versus the negatives of all this technology.
Being on Facebook and having a blog, I am still under the impression
that the benefits are in the lead. But all this goes deep, the intimacy we share
with virtual strangers, the risk of judgment by others. Scary stuff.

You are not assured of happy outcomes when you reconnect. Living so far from
my home town and having no family left there I have never attended a school reunion.
All those friends, long lost, are frozen in time in my memories.
They have not aged, they have not changed.
With FB, suddenly their photos are there and I study them with intensity,
shocked at first at how they've aged, ignoring what they would think
if they were able to see my photo, which I do not post.
I am awed by the bravery of all those who post their not always
flattering images for all to scrutinize. I am not that brave.

Bravery is required. To honestly type out the truth, with it's shame and triumph.
To face yourself on this Facebook as well as put your best face forward.

It IS all water under the bridge, these histories,
but those currents can swiftly take you somewhere
that you are not always prepared to visit. Keep your life vest handy.


Simple living in your 20s

I still get emails fairly frequently asking me to define simple living and if I can explain how to live like Hanno and I do.  Many of the long term  readers here would know that I encourage everyone to live their own life and while Hanno and I might be an interesting enough couple, our life is ours - it's what we do because it suits us, our personalities and the stage of life we're at.  I

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Garden Visitors

My garden is showing off. All the blooms bursting open,

teasing with color mixes never before seen around these parts.

Roses boasting with size and abundance.

This morning's sunlight spotlighted a garden visitor.

Tucked tightly into the bottle brush blooms, a home

of twigs and strings and paper. Last year this was the nesting spot of
a mockingbird family. Not yet sure whose home it is this year. This is a
brand new nest of different shape and size, and obviously,
like all good real estate it has
location, location, location.

This visitor showed no fear of me, intent on a cool sip of water.

Going way down for the slurp

Begin the head tilt

Bring it way up, so it trickles back and down
Open for the big swallow

HEY! Are you looking at me?

You, me and the kitchen sink

Today's kitchen is all the way over on the other side of the world.  We have Rachael's kitchen in Scotland.

My name's Rachael, I'm 22 and I live in Scotland with my husband and 4 month old daughter. I have recently started a blog at

Here's my kitchen. It's very small but I really like it. The last flat we lived in had an open plan kitchen/lounge so it's nice to have a

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Rush hour at our home

  I took this photo just 30 minutes ago after I let the chooks out for the day.
There is an air of serenity in our backyard.  It's aided by the weather, wandering chooks grazing on green grass, the sound of unseen birds calling from the rain forest and the knowledge that here we can support our passion for home grown organic food.  We spent much of yesterday morning outside.  Hanno planted and

Friday, April 9, 2010

Some reading for your weekend

If you're after some weekend reading, go no further than this list at The Long Thread.  It's full of charming blogs, thoughtful and fun projects and many things to keep you interested. 

I hope you have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

You, me and the kitchen sink

Today's kitchen is Libby's in Woolongong Australia.  Woolongong is just south of Sydney.

Libby writes:
"I love my kitchen - I designed it myself (I used to work as a Kitchen Designer) so everything is just how I wanted it. My sink looks into our family room and out to the vegetable garden. And the main orientation from the kitchen, when I'm preparing food, is outside. We've been in

There Are Moments and Miracles

There are moments.
Aha moments! I'll never forget the look on her face moments.
My world will never be the same moments.

Darling daughter has many assignments in her studio art classes.
She was welding a hot air balloon earlier this week.

While video chatting last evening she said "Mama, I want to show you something."
With the sweetest of smiles she pulls a large canvas into view and there I am:
17 years old, my Senior Year photo painted onto canvas.

Darling daughter had taken to college a coveted old sewing tin from my Great Aunt.
In it were small treasures, mementos from home,
and squirreled away in there I suppose was this picture.
In the photo, I am a year younger than she is now and it is not difficult to see
that she is my child, my likeness, and yet, not me.

Of all the images in the world to paint for an assignment, darling daughter chose this one,
and even added a few letters of my HS nickname Rennie in the corner.
Peculiar she would do that since it was discussed pre-birth as a possible name
for her ...along with Paisley, a paternal name, also considered.
I have been thanked many times for NOT using that one.

I will never forget this moment. Her peeking behind the canvas,
holding it up so I could see the entire piece on my computer screen,
all the while saying "it's not finished, but I wanted you to see."

What I saw was,
my darling daughter seeing me.
Not just as her Mom, not just a middle aged, often poorly dressed,
occasional authoritarian figure, with jiggly bits and double chins.
She saw me as we all can see ourselves with eyes closed and hearts open.
17 and beautiful, bursting with dreams and plans.
That summer of 7o I don't yet know that
many of those dreams will come true and many of them won't.
I don't know that I will be so blessed with my children
and will mourn both parents passing way too soon. I am frozen in time,
unaware that hearts really can and do shatter, but keep on beating out a new rhythm.

There are moments when you feel your children inside your heart
as you felt the movements inside the womb.
Tangible, thumping, beating, a living part of you.
I see my child as the young woman she is, as the little girl she was,
as the woman she is becoming. The miracle is; she sees me.

She told me as she worked on the canvas there were difficult areas
she struggled with and she was able to go to a mirror
and study the length and breadth of her nose, of her brows, to copy.
The miracle is; she sees me in her, and wanted to capture the moment.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Autumn in the garden - and the most asked question

There are certain times during the year when the air temperature is so mild and gentle we seem to blend into the natural environment and become part of it.  It was like that yesterday.  Late in the afternoon, as I was making dinner, I noticed Hanno was outside planting and watering.  I grabbed my camera and went out to join him.  There was no breeze, the air was neither cool nor warm, the

Must Be the Rain

There is a large birdhouse trellis under there.
Can you see it?

These little white charmers are new this year.
They seem to like their new home.

New cilantro and parsley garden being invaded

In 2 months this baby will be over 4 ft high and equally wide.

Love the metals in the garden

Roses hidden in the shadows. So much foliage this year.
We've had a full year's worth of rain in 3 months.

Dozens of these babies ready to burst into bloom

I have been blogging frequently about the garden this year, much to my surprise.
I don't think of myself as a gardener, though I've always tinkered.
( and cruelly sacrificed many a plant in my day)

But lately everything is doing so well; the deep greens, glossy leaves,
larger and fuller blooms are everywhere.Perhaps the grass that I recently removed,
absorbed too much water all those years and starved all the other plants.
Something has changed, because I can still be neglectful.

It must be the rain.