Friday, August 17, 2018

Motherly Advice...3 Continents, 5 weeks, 1 bag...how I did it...

 One of the reasons we live such an exquisitely frugal life, is so we can afford to travel. In the last 15 years, we have had 8 fabulous overseas trips, each one a special memory for us all. But there is an art to these things, and one of the very first lessons we learned was to travel light.  We also learned quickly, that if you dress comfortably, yet well, and look neat and well-travelled, you're more likely to get upgraded. And who wouldn't prefer to travel Business Class! 
We've now done this AND been upgraded successfully many times, so I can truly vouch for the whole One Bag idea.

It takes some discipline, it takes a level of maturity on the part of the kids (but we took our 8 year old and she managed!), and you have to abandon your 'just in case' mentality, but it makes travelling much easier. No waiting around at luggage carousels. No lugging a suitcase bigger than yourself from one end of the world to the other. Or one end of the airport to another!
You have to accept some monotony in your wardrobe selections, but only you will notice. You may also have to accept the limitations that travelling light places upon grooming. But you get creative! 

We did a five week trip a couple of years ago. We travelled from Australia to England, France, and the U.S. in that time.  Husband, Daughter and I all took one carry-on bag only, and a handbag or equivalent.
Here's the thing.


Whatever you can buy at home, you can pretty much buy at the other end...unless you're going to Deepest Darkest Wherever. And even then, they have equivalents.

Resign yourself to buying consumables or specialty items at the other end. You'll be okay. In a lot of cases, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner are even cheaper 'there' than here. In London we bought toothpaste for 28p, deodorant for 66p and shampoo and conditioner for 99p. Same in the U.S.

Here's my packing list:

1. One cashmere poncho/cape. Easier to wear than a coat or jacket, and easier to whip on and off if the weather was warmer for some reason. I bought mine at:
http:www.boutiquejewels.com

It was half price and I paid about $250 for it. But it was worth every single cent. Lightweight, extremely warm, dressy enough for the theatre, casual enough for sightseeing. Brilliant. I'm still wearing it, several years down the track. Such a useful thing.

2. 1 x pair lightweight comfortable black pants.

3. 1 x versatile black microsuede roll neck top...wear 6 different ways.

4. 1 x bright shirt...which I wore on the plane there and back...just for variety.

5. 3 x black camisole type t-shirty things. To layer if cold, under or over another shirt, or to wear alone if warm (and it often was, believe it or not, even in October).

6. 2 x sets silk thermal underwear...also black...doubled as Pyjamas. Again, worth every cent. Very thin and lightweight under your clothing....and very, very warm. If it got too warm, it's thin and light enough, that you could pop into the loo, whip it off, and roll it into a little tiny ball in your bag. Fantastic.

7. A couple of beautiful silky scarves for dressing stuff up or just to wrap around your neck when cold.

8. 4 x pairs knickers...all lightweight synthetic, so they could be washed in the shower and dry by the next morning.

9. 3 x comfortable lightweight bras.

10. Leather or leather look alike gloves...don't bother with wool, they aren't warm enough and they get wet!

11. One skirt, knee length, for going out and for variations in weather.

12. Bathing suit...well, you never know....and I did use it!

On the plane, there and back, I wore my favourite jeans, dressy shirt, the poncho, and the only pair of shoes I took...a pair of black, medium heel, calf high boots. Again, dressy enough for going out, comfortable enough for sightseeing. I only regretted not taking a pair of thongs (flip-flops) to wear around where we were staying. I probably could have fitted them in though!

I rolled everything to pack it. The official 'One Bag' method of folding, didn't work all that well for me.

I carried and packed all of this into one large weekender, an Oroton bag, which was a gift from my sons. It was probably not as large as some overnight bags, sort of A shaped at the sides... wider at the base than at the top, and I fitted EVERYTHING in that. Husband didn't believe I could do it, but I showed him!
You won't believe how much more efficient  and streamlined you feel, travelling this way.
While everyone else is heaving and huffing and puffing, you're breezing through the airport, straight out into your new destination, fresh as a daisy.
You look more like an experienced traveller, or even 'a local' too, and you're less likely to be harassed or targeted by undesirables.
Honestly, I'm the ultimate 'must look good every day' kind of person. And we coped admirably. We even discarded some items along the way and replace or upgraded them with local bargains. So bear in mind, NOT to take your very best with you. You might find a new VERY BEST en route.

What are your best travel or packing tips?
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Motherly Advice.......Is Extreme Frugality for you?

 
At the heart of many of my posts here, is the desire to save money, time and energy. I think that's why you visit me, right?

I'll share something that I'd like to throw into the mix.
 
I've done some interesting reading over the last few years. The world wide web is like one long endless magazine in that respect.
 
In combing the net for money saving, time saving, sanity saving ideas, I read one blog post that cautioned against 'money saving' over all else. I wish I could remember where that was, but I didn't think to save it at the time.
 
That was a light bulb moment for me.
 
Many of you who read my blog, do so to share and indulge in ideas to save money. We all want to save money for different reasons, but everyone's budget is finite, right? No matter how much you have, you need to manage it effectively.
 
I've read a few blogs and been involved in online discussions that advocate all types of what I would consider 'extreme frugality'.
 
Whilst extreme frugality might be admirable, I think we have to be careful not to lose our essential self in the process.
 
Tried and Denied
 
Here are some of the ideas I've tried, that have been denied further inclusion in my routine, for one reason or another...
 
 
In terms of looking after self, the much touted money saving Bicarb and vinegar for the hair in one online discussion, didn't work for me at all. Lovely shampoo and conditioner and having my hair looking just so, is part of who I am. So in taking on that bit of frugality a few years ago, I lost a bit of 'me'.
 
 
Still on personal care, the deodorant 'crystal' that's a solid piece of a combo of mineral salts, and totally looks like a piece of Boho d├ęcor comes next. Sit it next to a scented candle and a dreamcatcher and nobody would be any the wiser. You use this by rubbing the crystal on clean, wet armpits straight out of the shower. It does not prevent you perspiring like a modern anti-perspirant deodorant, but theoretically, it prevents bacteria growth, thus, supposedly, preventing odour.
 
Well. Not here in 35C+ heat and humidity, it didn't. I stank like a pole cat after about an hour...lol! So, being that I love smelling nice, this one didn't work for me where I live. Possible in a cooler climate, it would work like a charm.
 
Making soap was one I put off for years. But this was one that was a resounding success. It probably doesn't save us a great deal in terms of personal use, although there were definitely savings. But it saves us literally hundreds of dollars in ready made bespoke gifts! That was an unexpected benefit!
 
 
 
Here's my fantabulous recipe and instructions for making the most sublime and silky Goats Milk Soap.
 
 
I've had my flirtations with the Miracle Cleaner for my bathroom surfaces, and wasn't enamoured. My bathrooms get pretty dirty thanks to a husband who is out on building sites daily. That said, I adore it as a general purpose cleaner, and tint it pink when I make it. It's an absolute staple. For bathroom cleaning, I make a different concoction. You can find my recipes for favourite household cleaners and fresheners here.
 
I'm also fine with NOT making every single food item from scratch. I've learned that it's truly okay to use some convenience foods when and where required. The world will not cave in. Here that means pre-sliced Colby cheese, although I'll grate Tasty for cooking and for toasties.  I'll make my own spice mixes like Moroccan, Italian and Thai, but I buy curry pastes. Well curry paste...Korma paste does me for pretty much any dish that calls for curry paste. I amp up the sour/salty/sweet element for Thai dishes with other herbs and flavours like fresh Coriander (Cilantro) or Makrut (Kaffir) Lime Leaves which we grow. I'll make my own fried rice, but now have no qualms about keeping a sachet of pre-cooked brown rice in the pantry for a quick version if I've forgotten to pre-cook my rice the day before. See, it's about finding your savings sweet spot, isn't it.
 
Also Tried and Denied were home made sanitary pads, home made toilet paper replacements (for number ones only I hasten to add!), home made toothpaste, and home made hand cream. Those things were all effective, but not sustainable here. However, if we ever found ourselves in the position of needing to use them due to geographical location or financial necessity, I can honestly say we'd give those particular ideas another try.
 
These ideas all exceeded my personal limits for money saving strategies.
 
I respect those who want to employ them, but they just were not for me.
 
What works for you?

 Of course, much of what works for me, will not work for everyone else either. Some of you tell me this. It's a delicate balancing act between money saving, and just destroying your soul and making everything that is pleasurable in life, a trial.
 
The truth is, we all need to feel that there is reward.
 
That reward might be a family holiday for some, whereas for others, the mere act of having money available for an emergency is an absolute priority.
 
For others, it truly is 'can I pay the rent or the utilities bills this week', and believe me, I've been there too, and I know for a certainty, that my views on extreme frugality tips, had they been available then, would have been very different.
 
What's your reward?
 
Make sure you have your reward firmly fixed in mind, and balance what frugal measures will make that happen, without destroying who you are in the process.
 
My reward these days, is the supreme satisfaction of knowing that I can roll with the punches. When the finances are stretched for whatever reason, thanks to my ongoing frugal efforts, we barely see it as a blip on the radar. This also means that when we are flush, we don't see any need to spend up because our Quality of Life is maintained, no matter what. 
 
There is no Feast or Famine in our home.
 
Life is always a feast.
 
A feast for the eyes thanks to a clean and welcoming home and garden, and soft, worn decor.
 



 
A feast for the ears thanks to plentiful trees and birdsong and gentle music.
 



 
A feast to our fingertips, courtesy of lush and lavish home made furnishings of soft mohair, velvet, chenille, silk and wool.
 
 
A feast for the tastebuds thanks to delicious home grown and home cooked meals and treats.
 
 
 
 
And we constantly inhale contentment and abundance, with home grown French Lavender, Kaffir Lime leaves, and herbs like chives, basil, oregano and mint growing abundantly in pots and in our garden.
 
 
What more do we need, as human beings?
 
Does extreme frugality have a place in your life?

 
I do not follow any Extreme Frugality Bloggers.
 
My frugal blogging friends, some of whom you see listed at right if you're on your desktop screen, are sensible and practical in their methods of frugality. I like that. It's real, it's sustainable, it's achievable.

 Whilst I admire the Extreme Frugality bloggers enormously, I feel that some of their strategies would be truly soul destroying for me, and for my family. 
 
I've also wondered whether they must continue to offer extreme frugality solutions to remain in line with their blog themes, and ponder how many of those things are sustainable, even for them.
 
In that vein, we also have to accept that where we live, and what we are able to grow, barter for, buy inexpensively and in bulk, and be comfortable with long term, may vary enormously.

What are your limits,  and what are you willing to do to enhance your life whilst remaining true to your financial goals?
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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Motherly Advice......The Nifty-One-Fifty and Best Ever Home Made Cleaners...

 
A few years ago, I developed a habit called a Nifty-One-Fifty.
 
That's 150 minutes of uninterrupted time to accomplish the tasks in my day.
 
It is a way of disciplining myself to have a dedicated 2 1/2 hour slot first up in my day, to get tasks done, keep on top of housework and other commitments and allow myself the rest of the day to do as I please.
It also gives me an effective way to schedule time in the day for self-care, and nurturing others.
 
That's important too.
 
Here's how it works for me
 
I need to discipline myself in order to get things done in a timely manner. You too?
 
I'm no angel.
 
The computer calls, as does the sewing machine and my vast collection of cookbooks, so it's easy to get distracted.
 
Using my Nifty-One-Fifty to accomplish the mundane in my routine, is both rewarding and motivating. I know that if I cram as much as possible into that first 2 1/2 hours of the day, the rest of my time is my own.
 
I schedule Nifty-One-Fifty's in four main areas of my routine.
 
1. Shopping and food preparation
 
2. Cleaning and home maintenance
 
3. Gift creation, home furnishings and other creative endeavours
 
4. Self-nurturing and self-maintenance
 
Shopping and food prep
 
Over the years, I've stretched my weekly shop, to one every ten days. This works better for me, and for our budget, allowing me to accumulate fresh produce at bulk prices, and nab good bargains when they're available mid-week.
 
So, once every ten days, I allow a Nifty-One-Fifty for shopping and one  for meal prep. That's usually a single five hour block on a quiet day. That sounds a lot, but I buy everything I can in bulk, and pack and pre-prep as if we were a restaurant or commercial kitchen, thus reducing our grocery bill, almost eliminating the need for fast food on busy nights, and maximising food shelf life and storage space.
 
I pre-marinate, pre-portion, pre-prepare, and par-cook almost everything for the week in that block of time. 
 
You can read more about my methods here.
 
I've actually grown to enjoy and value my food prep and grocery shopping days. It's a challenge I set myself, to feed the family well on a tight budget, and I love coming up with new and creative ways to do just that.
 
This week alone, I've mastered gluten free pastry (pastry has always been my nemesis), home made wholegrain mustard, added bacon and egg pie to my repertoire (not quiche..a different thing), and I'm about to give gluten free scones a try. Scones and pastry are something we all miss in going Gluten Free, so this will be a real coup!
 
In June I managed to come up with a great gluten free pizza base that the family loved, so I'm really proud to now be recreating our old favourites, in versions that are kinder to our tummies.
 
Pizza base recipe here.
 
Allowing myself these dedicated blocks of time to find new and creative ways to feed the family well on a budget (and really...don't we ALL have a budget?), spurs me on enormously. If I was just prepping meal by meal, I wouldn't do this at all. It's a great strategy, and I've come to really enjoy these food prep sessions. They've actually become  more of a 'me time' than a chore. What a great outcome :)
 
 
Cleaning and home maintenance
 
Cleaning. Sigh. No-one loves it, but we all have to do it. Personally I like to get it out of the way quick and dandy so I an relax with a nice read or some sewing, baking or socialising.
 
Here's what I do to make the task fast, pleasant and effective.
 
First of all, let me tell you that I've researched and trialled products extensively in my lifetime.
 
So worked, some didn't.
 
As the years have gone by, I've overwhelmingly returned to homemade cleaners. They're less expensive, they smell better, they work just as well, and I can replenish them at will. Of course, they're mostly more environmentally friendly too.
 
That said, it's not all about products, it's also about your routine.
 
During my Nifty-One-Fifty, I treat cleaning, maintaining and beautifying my home as if I was employed for that responsibility alone by someone else.
 
I do not take a break, I don't stop for a cup of tea, I don't look at my phone or the computer, and I certainly don't watch television.
 
I dress for the job in comfortable clothes, closed in shoes, and have my accoutrements for the job tidily arranged in a bucket, just like a professional cleaner.
 

I have a system of working top to bottom of the home. Not upstairs and downstairs as we are on one level. But ceiling to floor. Many of you probably do the same.

It's pretty much: Dust ceiling and light fixtures for cobwebs, dust pictures on the walls, dust flat surfaces, polish and shine wooden surfaces like side tables and the kitchen bench, clean the bathrooms, sweep, vacuum and mop.

I make the task easier by using my favourite Miracle Cleaner.
 
Here's the recipe:
 
5 1/2 cups tap water
1 cup boiling water
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup dishwashing liquid
3 dessertspoons Lectric Washing Soda
1 tablespoon essential oil eg. Eucalyptus, Lavender, Lemon, Peppermint, Neroli, or a combination of any scents or essential oils you like
 
Mix the Lectric Soda (Washing Soda Crystals) with the boiling water and stir to dissolve. Add remaining ingredients and pour into a bottle for storage. Decant into spray bottles as required and use as you would any other spray cleaner.
 
I like to tint mine with a drop of food colouring and store it in thrifted cut glass whisky decanters. My last batch was pink, and this decanter set me back a whole $2.
 
 
My favourite bathroom cleaner is also home made.
 
Here's the recipe...
 
Pour half to one cup of Baking Soda (Bicarbonate of Soda) into a container, and mix enough dishwashing detergent with it to make a paste about the consistency of toothpaste.

The way I use this is a little unorthodox but very effective. I put on body exfoliating gloves kept just for this purpose. Then I take a teaspoon of the paste, and smear it over the palms of the gloves, and rub and scrub all over our shower recesses and basins with my gloved hands. Rinse and repeat if necessary. This works like an absolute charm and for some reason, the showers stay cleaner for longer. Fabulous.
 
I use this furniture polish:
 
1/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup generic olive oil
30 drops lavender essential oil
 
Pour into a spray bottle and shake well. Shake before each use to disperse the oils evenly. Use by spraying lightly over wooden surfaces, and polish with a soft cloth. A dessertspoon of Glycerine really helps with the shine if you have it. It's available in the medicinal section of the supermarket and is very inexpensive.
 
I love this glass cleaner:
 
4 cups water
2 tablespoons Ammonia
 
Pour into a spray bottle and shake to mix. Apply lightly and wipe away with a soft, lint free cloth.
 
I've heard you can use white vinegar in place of the Ammonia, but this is so cost effective AND effective that I don't mess with it too much. You buy the Ammonia in the cleaning aisle of the supermarket.
 
To prevent the vacuum cleaner being a bit smelly (which they do get occasionally), I clean the filter thoroughly after each use by giving it a bit of a bash on the stair rail outside, (careful you don't inhale the fine dust), and spray it with my home made deodoriser/room spray.
 
Home made Room and Home Freshener Spray
 
I buy my spray bottles from Aussie Soap Supplies here, but many suppliers have them these days.
 
 
Many tutorials will tell you to use vodka, or other stabilisers in home made sprays. I have to say I've rarely done this for my own use, or for gifting, as the amounts in which I produce and use them, really don't require long shelf life.
 
I simply use boiled, cooled water with a little Witch Hazel added to help disperse the oils, adding whatever combination of scent I like. I keep the fragrance light so that it's not overpowering.
 
Some combinations for our home made freshening sprays are....
 
To 100mls boiled and cooled water mixed with 1 1/2 tablespoons of Witch Hazel  try adding one of these combinations:
 
4 drops each Green Apple fragrance oil and Lemon essential oil.
 
4 drops Jasmine essential oil (expensive but lasts ages).
 
6 drops Christmas Tree fragrance oil from Heirloom Body Care (I purchase many of my fragrance oils from there)
 
4 drops each of Wintergreen and Scotch Pine for when the Winter ills and chills hit.
 
6-10 drops Rose fragrance oil...just because I love it so much.
 
4 drops each Lavender and Peppermint, which is calming and refreshing together. I find this wonderful when I have a migraine.
 
4 drops each Sandalwood and Neroli, which is just lush and heavenly.
 
Home made Citrus Cleaner
 

This one looks gross, doesn't it? But it's a wonderful bathroom and general cleaner for areas that are a bit stubborn.
 
You can use any citrus peels, but I have a Makrut (Kaffir) Lime Tree, which we grow for the leaves to use in Asian dishes. Alas the fruit is indedible, and smells like soap or disinfectant, making it ideal for this.
 
You just throw the peels and pith into a jar, and cover it with white vinegar. Leave for four weeks. Strain through muslin, and decant into a spray bottle.
 
Done. I love it for cleaning the bins, the kitchen bin cavity and my Falcon/Aga stove. Brilliant. And really, made from something we usually throw away.
 
Between those home made cleaners and a bit of elbow grease, our home is sparkling and welcoming in no time at all.
 
Using the idea of a Nifty-One-Fifty in other areas of your life
 
These Nifty-150s have taught me the value of quality time and concerted effort in so many other areas of my life, and sometimes an N150 (as I now think of it), with my daughter and/or husband, or children or grandchildren is just what the doctor ordered.
 
Whilst my daughter was on her mid year University break recently, I scheduled many an N150 with her. I just know in my heart, that the opportunities to have 2 1/2 hours with her in a single stretch, are rapidly diminishing as she grapples with adult life.
 
I try to schedule N150's with my sons and their wives, and my grandchildren too, although that isn't always easy. If we manage one a month, I feel I've achieved something.
 
Husband gets his share too of course, but then we do see each other daily and for lengthy periods of time as he is semi-retired now anyway. So that's less of an issue.
 
Remembering to schedule time with your nearest and dearest is such an important adult skill. I think many of us do it automatically, but if not, perhaps it's worth considering a Nifty-One-Fifty, a Power Hour, or even an Extreme Fifteen with those you love most.
 
Speaking of Power Hours and Extreme Fifteens, those can be useful time slots for other tasks too.
 
I appreciate that not everyone has a 2 1/2 hour stretch in which to accomplish what they'd like to in a day. I don't always either.
 
But any amount of concerted effort in ANY area of your life will make a difference to you and those you love.
 
From cleaning, to sewing, to cooking and gardening.
 
I've learned to love my Nifty-One-Fifty's, no matter what I'm doing. They give me a valuable sense of achievement each and every day, and that's a good feeling.
 
What are your strategies for a clean, happy home, a well controlled budget, a great routine, and a contented family?
 
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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Nannas Recipes in Four Sentences....Home made tingly sherbet powder...


HOME MADE TINGLY SHERBET POWDER

This used to be available under the name Wizz Fizz when I was a child. It came with a liquorice straw, a tiny plastic spoon, and a plastic gemstone ring around the neck of the packet.

Ahhhh...the memories.
Use little spoons, a piece of liquorice, musk sticks, or mini lollypops for dipping.
 Sift together 3 tablespoons citric acid with 1 tablespoon bi-carb soda and 7 tablespoons icing sugar. Grind the mixture to a fine powder with the back of a spoon. Store in an airtight container. Serve daintily, a teaspoon only per serve, in an envelope with a teeny spoon or one of the abovementioned confectionery pieces for dipping.
Also yummy over ice cream or mix a couple of teaspoons in a glass of water for a refreshing drink.
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