Wednesday, December 27, 2006

At Home

Bowl of Salad at Work by Peter Ardito

Today you can find one teenager still asleep, Dh reading the newspaper in the kitchen, accompanied by my DD having a late breakfast. The older people are stretching their legs by taking a leisurely walk and small children are quite contented with their toys and playing nicely in their rooms. I can be found, trying to create some post holiday magic in the kitchen and finding new ways of creating a feast with leftover gammon and turkey. There will be salads today which is easy to do.
Yesterday we visited a friend and had some mulled wine and applejuice with Cake, mince pies and a lot of good cheer.
The weather is holding up, its colder but the sun is trying to shine through. The chickens continue to do yard big housekeeping and get chased occassionally by the dog who thinks they should not be out this far towards the house.
As far as my pressies go, I received a DVD series of ‘The Little House on the Prairie’, some waterproof clogs, a large scented candle, some sock yarn and a book about Belgian Waffles as well as a book about the life and times of Mrs Beeton. I am very pleased with the gifts I received. I also received a bunch of flowers through the post and a magazine subscription of Resurgence, which I look forward to reading every two months. Resurgence has some links and articles that seem worth browsing through.
I received an email from college over the holidays with an interesting message at the bottom which read

PThink before you print - only print this e-mail if absolutely necessary

I guess this would be a good rule to follow, if you do not need to print out an email you save on paper, printer and ink which is a good start. I can only imagine the mountains of paper that get created at college through emails,which then have to be shredded and recycled. Not printing them might save a few trees.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Downshifting bookstore UK

Two Women Both Wearing Box Pleated Skirts Browse Around a Bookshop

If you wish to support my site, you can, and it is entirely optional, do so by buying a book through the downshifting bookstore ( added in the links sidebar). I will add books that have been of interest to me. I am not doing this to make you buy something but it seemed a good way to show a list of books that I have or have found useful so far on this journey. If you do buy from the site, I will receive a 5% credit which in turn will enable me to buy some more books. As I said, it is optional, I do not wish you to think that I would want to encourage you to consume but if you are going to consume anyway and you want to do so by supporting me, you could use this way.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Dusting and housekeeping

Fir trees in the fog by Melissa Farlow

The fog is still shrouding most of the Uk and all internal flights have been cancelled. Trains are overloaded, airports full of passengers and the roads are clogging up. Home for Christmas may not be a reality for many who will remember this holiday as a travel nightmare. The trains will be on strike for 52 hours and generally the country will come to a standstill. It is not good for people but it is for the planet.

I am waiting for family to arrive and will have to be patient as we wait to hear how they progress towards us. A warm fire awaits them.

In the meantime I am doing some dusting on this blog, changing the template and bringing some new categories in the side line, a resources list of books that I have found useful so far and a picture which will be changed on a regular basis so you can see how the homestead looks as we go along.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas baking

As the day nears I am doing some last minute cleaning before the family arrives. In fact we do a lock in after the 23rd to the 3rd January 2007. That means we do not go anywhere at all unless it is local. There will be plenty of festivities but mainly we try to avoid the shops, any food shopping and certainly towns and malls. I am sure it brings relief to go shopping when you spend time together ..our alternative is to take the dog for a walk.

Winter officially starts today and the frost and fog create an icy cover over the frosty hard earth. The chickens need a little more care as their water freezes up but all other animals hide from the cold as we do. The fire is roaring, the cats lie near as well as the dog and people sit around with their books and knitting. Others are frantically rehearsing parts in Christmas plays and I will be doing come baking today.
Mince pies, butter biscuits and a chocolate log for days to come.

On a technical note, blogger has updated its service with easier options to load up pictures from my computer directly, so maybe I shall be doing some blog cleaning to give it a more personal space for the New Year.

Posting will be erratic in the meantime. Here’s my card to you all.......

Have a fantastic Christmas and a splendiferous New Year. May Good Fortune be Boundless and your Health be sound. May your laughter be frequent and raucous and LOUD! Here’s to chats on the phone, letters, comments and the odd lunch dates where we can be who we are in the company of friends.

Virtual gifts

Woman Has Been Very Busy Shopping So Much So That Her Helper is Hidden Under a Pile of Parcels

My sister in law lives in Canada and every year I struggle what to send her. Apart from ovengloves which she absolutely adores, it really has bugged me over the years to send large parcels of stuff to the other side of the world. The first year she moved to Canada, at a time I was heavily pregnant ( when I was a bit mellow etc), I packaged up the whole English Christmas including pudding, sauce, cake etc ( you have to be pregnant to do this and not think the postage through). The man at the post office did look strangely at the box which weighed over 25 lbs and was covered in brown paper with little messages and artistic holiday decorations. The recipients of the box had to travel 6 miles to the post office to go and get it and then thought, who would be silly enough to send them a huge box like that with such huge postage. I did say I was pregnant at the time.
Over the years, I have looked at small gifts, clothing, videos etc ( although that is difficult due to different formats), and eventually settled for books which I could order from the supplier in Canada saving postage and packing and airmiles office staff.
This year I hit upon the idea to send them an email voucher with the request that they choose their own reading material. it was sent on the 9th December instantly so they would have time to choose their own reading gift. Needless to say they approved and it sorted my problem out too.
Now I wonder whether the ovengloves were just a plan to stop me sending heavy stuff......

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

When the grass is greener on the other side of the fence

In the mid bleak winter, Frost stood hard as iron.....
Frost descended yesterday, a magical mist of cloud and ice hovered around the valley for the majority of the day, followed by some sunshine in the afternoon. This morning the leaves on the trees that had been holding out have fallen to the ground and the fire in the homestead rears heat.
Outside the chickens, minus cockerill have taken it upon themselves to fly about and explore all the bugs that grow in the garden. I am not adverse to them being out in the garden at this time of the year as a bit of bug clearing by chickens can only enhance soil hygiene, but they are venturing out on the road watched by the beady eyes of the cat population and that cannot be a good thing. The girls have been shut in the shed today for their own protection and tonight we will be giving them a feather cut on one side to stop them flying off that easily. It sounds a cruel thing to do, but in the end I need to protect my salad crop in the polytunnel which has been nibbled on.

Each decision you make has an impact somewhere. When we moved the chickens daily in their ark, pheasants would come and feed on the corn that was left behind. The chickens were safe from the fox but they had limited space to move about in. Moving them to a fenced enclosure stopped the pheasants but the chickens have managed to dig and scratch a patch of grass to mudbath in 3 weeks and are now looking at more grass to eat, which is understandable. The space covered by the chicken ark also houses the winter quarters of a doormouse which has made a neat and sensible warm home underneath with all the pieces of straw that fall through the chickenwire. Its as tight as a ball, safe from the elements and cats, and the chickens covering it at night make it warm from above. I do not like to cut the chicken’s wing feathers but in the end, that seems the most sensible solution at the moment. They receive plenty of green material each day to keep them busy...yet...the grass is obviously greener on the other side of the fence.

Monday, December 18, 2006


I am currently reading Heat by George Monbiot , a book that talks about global warming and possible solutions. Its drastic as he advocates that we need to cut 90% of our usage of fossil fuels. Its rather technical and I am wading my way through it.
One of the suggestions is that to make this work without too much hardship, we need to have a system of rationing, i.e. that each country should have a proportion of the earth’s resources equivalent to the people they have in the country and then if they do not use it they should be able to sell it to the countries that do use it. That sounds fair. He compares it to rationing during the war.
I tested my children on what they would be prepared to give up and found that actually they are quite reluctant to give up something they already have. So a tactic seems to stay with what you have at the moment and not replace it when it runs out. My oldest son pointed out that when you take something away it has a knock on effect on something else. Lets say we took the TV away, then he thinks he would be spending more time on the computer. If you take the computer away, he would spend more time watching TV. There is an element of non creativity about that. My suggestions fell on deaf ears...but the it is nearly the holiday season. I will have more time to think this one through.

I am trying to give up the car but it is proving very taxing at the moment. We will continue to look at options and see what we can do about them without having too much hardship. We live in the depth of the countryside 3 miles from the nearest town and although walking there is an option, it takes a lot of energy and time to do so. Nice walk though.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Intelligent sheep

Sheep on the Hillside by Colleen Sgroi

The children are beginning to show signs of holiday fever. Adults in our household have holiday apathy and the two together make an interesting mix. I am happy they are excited, there are many community activities on the calendar. They are all involved in plays and concerts which means transport to and from. It requires organisation and although I am that, the pace certainly quickens to a run at this time of the year. Downshifting has meant that time has a different value for us and we do not necessarily adapt to the rush from the outside as well as we did before. It can seem a stark contrast between the two areas of our life.
It has meant that we have talked about what activities we actually enjoy and not just the ones we do every year and feel obliged to participate in. We have two invites for the same evening. Our little hamlet hosts a drinks event at the local manor house ( a 1 mile walk away) and then dinner will be at one of our neighbours. All within walking distance with people from our community which gives us an opportunity to see what has been going on with eachother while time has been hurtling by.
Today we ventured out for a nature walk with our labrador and looked at some different sheep in the field. We had never come across this type before and when speaking to one of our eccentric villagers about them she announced they were endangered species of sheep and she wanted them to graze her land. We talked about the doormice in the hedge, the owls that patrol the area and the buzzards that occassionally can be heard and seen around. We all stood talking on the drive wearing wellington boots, warm woolly hats and caught up with the world. I love haphazard meetings like that. Home again, I went in search of the rare sheep, Castlemilk Moorit, which apparently are decorative sheep with a short fleece, fawn with chocolate tones underneath that make good tweed. I spin fibre and had never heard of them. Short fibre would be hard to spin anyhow. I bemoaned the fact that an awful lot of animals whose fleeces had a particular purpose have disappeared in favour of one particular type of sheep. There is so much we have lost over the last 100 years through monoculture. Now my neighbour is not going to make any money from these sheep as they do not appear to have either good meat value or fleece so decorative seems a good thing to be. They are indeed beautiful to watch. My Dh and I laughed at the words she uttered ‘ these are intelligent sheep’. Well they have to have something and again, we both laughed because we have always considered sheep to be slightly silly and far from intelligent but maybe we are just ignorant and have ever only met silly sheep. It was good to laugh together at a new discovery.
Home again, the kettle went on, cup of tea in hand I sat down to do some sewing, knitting and spinning of the summers fleece I dyed, carded and quite understand how expensive it would be to produce a cardigan or jumper from animal to person. I am sad that many skills have been lost and yet at the same time my excitement today has been to gaze on a different sort of animal and learn more about it.
There is a whole world out there we have lost and have forgotten about.
Urban girl found a gas camping stove in her attic which will be put to good use next year during the making of potions of plant dyes to dye the fleeces with.
I like to read the foxfire stories about older folk who talk through homesteading things and will share some in another post.


The ash tree fell down in the recent storms and as you can see it conveniently fell inward. The boys were rather upset as they had been building a platform on it and used it as a makeshift treehouse. Ash trees however do not have long roots, so I am told, and thus we had warned them that they could not construct a tall tree house as it could keel over any time. This ofcourse happened. ( a lesson they learnt that when parents say things like that they do not mean to spoil their fun but there can be some wisdom in it).

We need to get to the tree but currently the soil has had so much rain intake that we could be wading around. My Dh is trying to borrow the chainsaw and cut the tree into convenient size chunks that will light the fire next year. Ash is very useful because as a wood you can burn it green or dried so it can be used immediately if you need to.

The trees are part of a hedge that simply has been left to grow wild and part of our management plan for the future is to restore the hedge using traditional skills. This has not yet happened as we have been trying to create the vegetable and fruit garden as a priority. I never like to cut down trees but some of them are covered in ivy and are not much alive either. It is a major project and shelved for the time being. The trees also provide shade and shelter from winds.

Our homestead is small and set in a bowl of an old stone quarry. It is southfacing and the trees shelter the winds which has created a small microclimate which we are trying to understand and work with. All plants grow towards the light and with some beds having a backdrop of a 50 foot cliff face, means that all my beans can be found at the beginning of the row growing towards the light.

Its a unique setting, its not big by all means, just a large garden space which we are cultivating and surprisingly it provides quite a lot of produce.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

On polytunnels

Polytunnels are plastic domes that serve to extend the season either way. In the british climate I cannot be assured of a crop of tomatoes, peppers etc even strawberries without extra heat. The plastic covering over the beds does just that and raises the temperature. Its a bit like a greenhouse but as we live in an old quarry and lots of debris falls down from the cliff face a greenhouse would have been too risky.

The polytunnel has 6 raised beds and a bench to bring plants on. It allows me to overwinter seedlings and plant them out when frosts have stopped and more importantly to grow some salads in our cool climate. The first bed you see on the left hand side has some spring cabbage in it, then a bed with mixed spicy salad and some leeks, the third bed has some peas and lettuces and the last bed currently grows some green manure which will be cut and dug in before the crop goes in in spring. I grow strawberries in hanging baskets which is working quite well. It looks a bit sad at this time of the year but it is a dormant season in the garden.

When the sun shines, its lovely, out of the wind and I can be found doing some gardening even when it is raining outside. I also have a chair in there and quite often retreat as a bit of light good for the plants is good for me too. My moral drops when light quality drops in winter so I make the most of it, take to my chair with cup of tea and spend some time admiring the plants.
( Eccentric personality).

December on the homestead

We are more indoors than outdoors at the moment. Some storm damage needs to be worked through. A big tree needs cutting up into logs and stored but as yet the paddock is still too wet to walk in so it will have to wait.
In the polytunnel the broad beans have been planted out in the raised bed, the pheasant has been in to eat the tops of my peas but garden greens and lettuces still stand proud. I water only twice per week but open the tunnel every day to allow some airflow.
On the bench the sweetpeas are poking through and some other flowering plants are holding their own. These will be planted out in the spring to provide some colour.
There is not much daylight at the moment and the chickens are slowing down too. It is a sure sign that humans should be slowing down too. I look at the larder and the amount of canned goods there are stored and feel grateful.
Time to relax, listen to some music and plan the next year’s garden.
I also have a harvest of fleece to spin in readyness for dying in the summer when the plants are in full bloom.
On the holiday front, the house is benefitting from a good deep clean, more decluttering takes place, the candles are coming out to give us some cheer. I like listening to music as well as the children play their instruments. There are choir practices to attend in the village. I am concentrating on the building of community at the moment.

The transport survey is going well......

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A box of dates

Did you think it was going to be about the dried fruit variety, that could be an answer of course.

After the holiday season I usually lose some energy because daylight is less and I miss the sun terribly. Usually, there is less to do in the garden and I am feeling a bit low.

Her is the antidate ( pun intended!)

Imagine receiving a little box full of diary dates with surprises on it such as :

winter picnic in the woods, wellies required.
walk on the beach
theatre outing
back massage
1 hour free time so you can have that bath with candlelight
Candle lit dinner
Pedicure - sit back and relax
Your evening to control what we watch on the TV ( if you do)
Home-movie night in, popcorn, beer
Musical evening where you get entertained
Games night in
a chore your partner hates doing
A clean car, no ironing
Visit to a museum
Trip to the library

The secret is to plan the dates in the diary and to make sure that your partner or loved one can look forward to them and to be adventurous.

It costs very little, just your time, effort and sense of fun. Go for it!

clutter free gift ideas

Clutter-Free Gift Ideas

If you’ve been expending energy getting more organized lately, the approaching holiday may have you filled with mixed feelings. It’s likely you’re relationship with “stuff” isn’t what it’s always been. You may have a new found appreciation for clutter --- more specifically, avoiding it at all costs. This new relationship with stuff adds an interesting twist to the traditional holiday shopping extravaganza. Doesn’t it? How do you balance the spirit of gift giving with the desire to avoid clutter?

The first step is to decide what clutter is to you and those on your shopping list. Then, employ shopping strategies that avoid clutter for you and those you love. I think of clutter as anything that is taking up space, getting in the way, or not serving its intended purpose. It’s something that takes away energy, instead of creating it. You may have a slightly different definition of clutter, but the key to giving (or receiving) clutter-free gifts is purposeful gift giving. Giving something that will be used and enjoyed by the recipient.

Here are some tips and ideas for creating a clutter-free holiday in your gift giving and receiving.

1. Ask your gift recipients for some ideas. What’s on your gift recipient’s wish list this year? The best way to avoid your gift becoming clutter is to buy something they’ve pre-selected and really want. You know they’ll use it and you know they’ll love it. You can add a personal touch by adding something that goes well with the original gift. For example, if your friend wants a coffee press, include a bag of gourmet coffee and some after coffee mints. If your husband has a book on his wish list, add a book mark. If your daughter wants a journal, add a special writing pen.

2. Give consumable gifts to create less opportunity for clutter. Give an indulgence … something the gift recipient will use up and feel pampered and loved. Bath products are a perennial favorite. Other consumable gift ideas include cookies, cookie mixes, bread mixes, fancy jams and jellies. Keep in mind your recipient’s taste and dietary preferences.

3. Give gifts without strings attached. Sure, tie your brown packages (or red, green or blue for that matter) with strings ... just don’t give with strings attached. Often, when people receive a gift they feel like they need to keep it forever, simply because it was a gift. It doesn’t matter if they love it or use it; since it was a gift they feel obligated to keep it indefinitely. Put your gift recipient at ease by including a gift receipt. Take it a step further by including a note letting your friend know you want them to have something they’ll love and enjoy and if what you selected doesn’t fit the bill you’d love them to use the gift receipt and select something they’ll really love.

4. Give experience gifts. Gift certificates to the movies, dinner out at a favorite restaurant, the spa, or to sporting events create a gift that avoids clutter and doesn’t get forgotten the day after it’s given. Include young gift recipients in this strategy as well by creating coupons for trips to the park, the zoo or a water slide. This is a gift for your young gift recipient as well as their parents --- a two-for-one gift of sorts.

5. Give gift cards. Do you love to get a gift card? I know I do. Gift cards are a fantastic option for the person on your to-buy list that already has everything or has a wish list full of items that exceed your budget. Consider giving a gift card and having others that are buying for the same person give gift cards from the same store, too. If you select a store with a wide range of product options your gift recipient can pool the gift cards he receives and select something he’ll love.

6. Stuff stockings with something useful. The stocking can be a haven for clutter … little things, inexpensive things, breakable things, cluttery things. Avoid this potential clutter trap by going practical … sugar free chewing gum, toothpaste, new toothbrushes, socks, mittens, gloves, card games, or jewelry are all wonderful ways to stuff the stocking without creating clutter.

7. Avoid clutter for yourself by keeping handy ideas of things you’d love to receive. Often, when someone asks what you’d like, it’s hard to come up with an idea on the spot. So jot your ideas in a notebook or planner you carry with you. Then, if someone asks what you’d like this year … you’ll have ideas at the ready. Seem awkward? Just say “Thanks so much for asking … I do have some things on my wish list this year.”

8. Avoid picking up a second for you. I don’t spend a lot of time shopping … life is too full of other things for me. So the holidays offer a rare opportunity to get out and do some good, old fashioned shopping. The temptation to pick up just a few things for myself can be great. Does this ever happen to you? You find the perfect gift for someone on your list and pick up a second one for yourself. Yep, I’ve been guilty, too. This is a great time of year to avoid bringing anything you don’t absolutely need into your house. You’ll have plenty to do finding homes for all the new things people are out buying for you for your holiday gifts.

With a little foresight, avoiding clutter this holiday season is as sure as ice in St. Louis ;)

Aby Garvey is a professional organizer and the owner of simplify 101, inc. Her mission is to help you create time and space for what matters most in your home, business, and life. Aby is the author of the e-book "the happy scrapper - simple solutions to get organized and get scrapping!" She publishes a monthly organizing and time management email newsletter available by visiting her web site at

Friday, December 08, 2006

Green is hip

I am blessed with super friends. Its a special day for me soon and my friend turned up tonight with a bunch of flowers. I love purple and the flowers and paper are purple and vibrant green. It felt really special even more because actually it will not be my special day until after the weekend. I love the beauty of flowers, they bring a touch of nature in the house and bring hope of the future ( to me anyway). I grow vegetables but because I like flowers so much. I grow a bed of cut and come again flowers from sweetpeas to sunflowers and a lot in between. This is not really a season for flowers in the garden but it is a completely compostable present in a few weeks time. It does not clutter the house, it has scent and..well I am chuffed that my friend has thought this through. The were bought locally as well.

The other news is that politicians are running away with the green message. The chancellor in the Uk is going to up the taxes on flights and fuel which no doubt will make some people think twice about holidays and others again will just pay. I agree that if you want to use more than the next person it will come with a pricetag. It feels a responsible way to act.

The second thing is that they are trying to change planning laws which will enable householders to install solarpanels and windpower with less bureaucracy attached to it which has to be good news too.

There is also a move to make new houses zero carbon which will be a good step in the right direction.

And then there has been more freak weather in the Uk. Yesterday the sky got really dark and we had one flash of lightning and a huge bang of thunder followed by lashings of rainwater. Our little paddock area needs a boat at the moment and the poor chickens are wading in mud. The tornado in London was unexpected and trees have been falling quickly. These are not usual weather patterns in the UK, thunderstorms in November are not usual.

Make light work of debt...

Debt in general is not considered a good thing and yet sometimes without it we cannot buy what we need. Lets say you wanted to buy a homestead. Not many of us would have the money upfront to go and buy it without some debt.

Is there good and bad debt? In my eyes, I would advocate to avoid it alltogether, but if you have to borrow to reach your goals the following might be worth considering :

the item you buy should go up in value and not down, usual trends, so for instance if house prices rise by 8% per year and your mortgage rate is 5% then the asset will still grow in a positive way even though you are paying interest on the loan you took out. Selling your home will then realise sufficient to pay off any outstanding loan. The aim is to pay the loan off as soon as possible.

If the item you buy depreciates in value, such as a car for example, then that would be a bad debt because your initial loan will not only accrue interest at 8% but the value will drop by 15% per year putting you in a spiral where you will never catch up.

If you want to buy an item, look to see how you can obtain it for nothing ( freecycle or sharing), second hand at the best price, or see if buying it somewhere else will give you more value for your money.

In the fifties, my parents bought a car with another couple; it gave them both means of transport and they just had to agree on who had the car when. Sharing meant that they got the car for half the price, half of the time but that they needed to get organised about its use.

Tools could be shared in your neighbourhood, that would mean that only one person would need a hedgetrimmer, someone else would have the chainsaw etc. Tools would be available to eachother when jobs needed doing, there would be less clutter and you would have a sense of community. We share a big ladder with our neighbour and he bought it in the shop with his 10% discount card. We store it as he does not have the room but when he needs to clean his windows we chat and he gets the ladder out. We also share lawnmowers, his is for a small garden that is quite flat and we opted for a model that will tackle longer grass and together we have the tools for whatever length of grass when it comes to it. Creating community and sharing with others can effect a saving,

The behaviour exhibited by many at the moment is that in order to keep spirits up, they need to go shopping and buy something on credit. Then the credit cards come in and they have to go and buy more because they feel bad........see what I mean.

To turn this around simply means that you need to be in control of what goes out. Ideally when you want or need to buy something you would have the money saved up but when that is not possible and you take on a debt...take it on, pay it off as soon as you can and make it serve you and not the other way around.

Let’s say the shop offers a 1 year interest free loan with no payments on a new sofa and you want that sofa. ( try and resist but if its useless) Make a note in your diary or on your computer system to create an alarm to revisit this debt. Invest the money in a savings account, let it accrue interest, pay off the sofa at the end of the year and cash in your interest. You win/win, you have the use of the sofa and you gain interest on their money. What usually happens is that people forget about the loan, get stung with high interest rates when the date is passed and go into resentment. So make it work for you. When you buy something the money has to be spent somewhere.

Another scenario that I have to say has happened to me in my early not so wise money times and I felt I had no choice but. I wanted to get a job to have more income. The job meant that I needed to travel a lot and my car was not that safe to drive so I bought a car with loan payments. I also needed to pay for my travel to and from work, lunches out, clothes to keep up with fashion, image haircuts on a regular basis, stress releasing activities such as massages, gym get the drift. The actual balance at the end of the month was actually that I was working 45 hours per week for a lifestyle and for someone else. When the job went, not only did I lose the monthly paycheque but I needed to continue to pay the car loan payments, and when I sold the car and cleared some of the loan, I ended up with a smaller loan and nothing to show for it. The moral of the story is to check out all the hidden costs of your purchases. Less may be more. I lived with a virtual partner at the time, I say virtual because we never saw each other, we had no control over our spending and we had no relationship either with eachother nor with money. It ended badly, with having to sell everything and starting afresh. So I guess I can speak from bitter experience...and ofcourse I am now wiser and greyer a little less about image and am with the right guy, affectionately called scrooge.

Debt can only work if you make it work for you and not if you become a slave to its power.

Remember that the skills you have have a price attached to it, and make up your mind how you can best market yourself , where the cost of living against your salary gives you the best value and the life you want. Take back your individual power and make informed decisions.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Holiday Sanity

You know the scenario, it surely plays the same in your house.
The calendar is filling up with dates and parties to go to. All family members have outings, need transport, need to bring some sort of seasonal food. There are gifts and cards to sort, and then.....the holiday meal.

I have a plan, a back up plan and a disaster plan.

The plan is simply a menu for the whole month of December and first week of January. Rest assured that you will only have to work on this once, each year it just needs tweaking with new and different styles but the backbone of your holiday season will be sorted.

Buy the big items such as turkey, gammon and anything that can be frozen as soon as possible, prices go up and choice diminishes at the end of the month. The Christmas Cake and Pudding are made already and getting mature with sherry by the week.
Stock up on wines and drinks if you must!

The back up plan, is a couple of frozen or canned homemade standbys such as Chili Con carne, Spaghetti Sauce and Soup.

The disaster plan is 1 hour of rest with some nice music and a simple smoked salmon and scrambled egg dish with nice toasted bread.

I also parboil my potatoes and freeze them so all I need do is pop them in the oven when needed and if your family is like mine and you have a good 10 people to lunch, sorting the potatoes out will save your sanity.

The first week of January I always book myself in for a bodymassage as by then I usually have a stiff neck, tense muscles and could do with giving myself some me time.( its on my wishlist for the holiday season each year).

There are lots of holiday organisation tips on flylady and organised home links in the side bar.

Most importantly, if you still have time...sit down with everyone in your family and find out what makes their holiday special. I did this last year and had a lot less work and more brussels sprouts in this house. I made this for 10 years, had to then think of what to do with them when no-one ate them. Why continue traditions that no one likes in your family, reassess and create your own individual holiday meal, if you fancy duck, chicken or goose, then have individual and enjoy the process.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mostly I would like to be remembered

Mostly, I would like to be remembered
As someone who was passionate for life.
The days of unsought ecstasies are numbered,
However long we linger in the light.
I was one who cultivated wonder,
Less of one contented to explain,
Delighted by the promises of hunger,
Enduring for their joy the years of pain.
Gifts I had aplenty: Some I savored,
Others sacrificed for others' needs.
Remember me as someone who was favored,
Despite constraints, to tumble in the leads,
Ocean to what winds I could not be,
Nightrider through what worlds I could not see.

Your Money or your Life

Following on from Nik’s comment ( thanks Nik) I am sharing a book review I wrote in my journal about the exact book mentioned.

Your Money or your Life by Joe Dominguez

Having been a Financial Adviser I thought I had a good idea but this book really is an eye opener for people who wish to compare the amount of money coming in and how to manage money going out.
It is simple to read and offers 9 steps to Financial Independence ( when your income = outgoings from savings ( i.e. other sources than paid employment). It challenged my values about money and the world I had built surrounding it. Following the steps I have clearly identified areas in my life on which I spend money and which are not aligned with my current thinking and do not provide fulfillment.

This is definitely a book I would recommend if you are trying to simplify your life, if you are facing a major life change and want to conquer the money thing.

Another book I like is the Lilypad List by Marina Van Eyck

I really loved reading this book, in fact I had difficulty putting it down. It tells the story of frogs and how they live in their pond, how to achieve a picture in our mind of what a simple life would mean to us.

The checklist is:
Everything is perfect
Time out is essential
Sensory awareness is the key to delight
We can trust the process
We are all cells of the Living Earth
We all make a difference
There is only the now moment

Whatever you do to simplify your life and balance it out, you will be making a difference to the resources you consume and therefore to the earth and the community around you.

This book is about the wisdom of one person who has tried many ways of simplifying her life and if that is what draws you to read on. It is not a practical guide on how to achieve it but a proces to allow reflection of what simplifying your life means to you, what values it elicits and concludes with a list of resources. You can read more about the lilypad list on the website.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Car poll update

Thanks to all of you who voted in the side bar. Before making a drastic decision about the car one person made a very sensible suggestion to put the car to grass for 3 months and see how I get on.
In order to effect change I usually keep a diary or journal in which I write my every move on a particular subject, such as a cash book if I wanted to see what the money is being spent on. I am doing this now with travel and transport questions, noting where I am going, can I go by taxi, bus etc and the actual cost and time. This will enable me in February to make a decision on how to go forward.
There will be challenges with regards to for instance getting supplies food for the animals. We shall see how each challenge looks on a daily basis.
We can take soo much for granted.
On the homestead, we have had a tree blown down which means that we will be Ok for fire wood next year. Ash can be burnt any time and we will be replanting a tree in the spring to take its place. It will take about 15 years to get as big as the one that fell down.
The storms still rage and branches and debris clothe the soil. Walking in the countryside is an exhilarating experience at the moment and good at helping mental cobwebs disperse.
Advent heralds community activities and yesterday the old and young met for an evening of carol singing, mince pies and a glass of wine. Winter has to be around soon.

Monday, December 04, 2006


If you are about to go out and add to your credit cards ( which ofcourse you are not are you?), have a look at sort it website, it is by a political party in the UK but offers some useful tools to tackle debt and consumer spending. It has a useful monthly cash planner too.

An alternative to giving money as a present is to offer people a printable gift voucher. You can print your own off here. Some suggestions are as follows:
❑ 5 hours of cleaning, ironing
❑ cook someone a meal
❑ supply 6 eggs weekly for a month
❑ redeem against some plants in spring
❑ help for a declutter weekend
❑ 3 hours of painting
❑ digging your garden
❑ spring cleaning
❑ baby sitting
❑ window cleaning
❑ sewing, breadmaking, flower arranging lesson whatever your talent

One family in our village for instance is being offered a weekly cleaning service while her husband is off to Iraq on duty. This will relieve this Mum from some chores. Each week a new bunch of flowers will be added by another person. The biggest impact on others need not be made by money but by giving your time and showing you care.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Let music lift your spirits

An invite from one of our choir members plus an offered lift to a concert in town seemed a good antidote to the colder, wetter weather so I said yes. I am glad I did, not only did it take me back to a place where I had lived 16 years ago but the actual sound of an orchestra and 100 voices really did something to raise the vibration in the place.
I had forgotten that music had an important role to play in my life. The human voice was the instrument that carried our stories, our traditions and emotions in the past. Now you are lucky to find a person humming or singing along.
The power of music is fascinating and sometimes can communicate more intensely than words. A piece of music can take you on a journey somewhere, lift your awareness higher and fill a hall with some splendid community.
Not only classical works, but modern new composers fill our ears with a reflection of sounds that can inspire us, can fill us with awe. It does not always have to be a film to set your world alight, a good book could do the same as a piece of music. The world is filled with an immense amount of noise that may drown the individual voice, so people feel they can only communicate with limited means, technological ones. Watching TV gives the impression that you belong to a community and yet, you are alone watching it. No doubt it provides some sense of entertainment....yet I cannot help feeling that we have lost some element of partnership, team work and community at the same time.
Many performances are given by people offering their voices and instruments for the benefit of all of us, without monetary payment simply the thrill to be part of a group that meets every week and gets to perform in front of an appreciative crowd. Before music became available on tape, CD or even wireless, this was the only way to listen to an original work being performed.
I urge you to see if there is some music in your community and if you feel drawn to join a group, please add your voice to a heavenly choir or band. I assure you listening to it will lift your spirits and human vibration. You will hear some sounds that are different and meet people who take a pride in the instruments they play and practice daily for your enjoyment.
Make it a special outing.
I have added a few concert tickets to my holiday list as a must......if I invite some people for an evening out, not only will they participate in a unique evening but we will enjoy eachothers company. It may not be a physical present but the memory of it may last longer than a box of chocolates.

Think outside the box.....Give community and enjoyment this season of good cheer!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Severe weather warning

The whole of the Uk is bracing itself for severe stormy weather and heavy rain....its nearly a full moon which will make water levels rise even more, flooding may be a problem. Winds will reach 70 to 80 mph which may result in structural damage. The expression
batten down the hatches

comes to mind.

Yet at the same time, a storm can clear the atmosphere and enable us to be more focussed on the future.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Holiday options

So, how are we going to deal with the Christmas card scenario this year?
Usually I sit down at the table and wade through an awful lot of letter writing and card writing at this time of the year and I also get a lot of cards sent to me. I believe it keeps the postie on his toes, and costs a lot on stamps and trees. What could we do different :

❑ family and friends that are nearby could use a phonecall and chat
❑ email cards to those on email
❑ make a date to visit those you have not seen for over a year
❑ send a calendar with the date you would like them to visit
❑ learn some songs and go carol singing....

That should have reduced the list down, now you could make your own cards by printing photos on plain paper and sending that off.
If you are still buying cards, buy them so proceeds go to a charity of your choice or make your own, a simple tree will do. Be creative.....
When the cards arrive this year, and they will,display them. After the holiday season I cut mine up into gift tags for the next holiday season and gift some to the many collection points that are around so they can be recycled.