Monday, October 29, 2012

A Simple Room Makeover

We love our new house, but when you move into somewhere new, there's always things you would change. The previous owners of this house were cat owners (as are we) and their cats were inside animals. They had an enclosed run to the side of our house (now our quail pen) with ramps up to the third bedroom window, meaning their cats could come and go as they pleased. This room is now our guest bedroom, and there is a little nook in there that we use for the girls' quiet writing/crafting area, and it is a much used room of the house. Unfortunately, the carpets were badly stained and smelly and no amount of steam cleaning would improve them. The curtains were also stained and smelly, and the room in general seemed dingy and unattractive.

I really wanted to create a space that our guests would feel comfortable in, somewhere warm and inviting. So yesterday, we set about transforming smelly and dingy into fresh and attractive!

This was the room BEFORE the makeover.

We started removing the carpet and underlay...

 ... revealing the most beautiful polished floorboards underneath!!

 A bit of a cleanup and meticulously removing all of the carpet staples from the floorboards....

I made some new curtains out of a pair of vintage bedsheets from my mum's linen cupboard, hung some pictures of bunting that I had made on the wall, and used an old stool that I got from freecycle as a bedside table (with a doily on top, of course!)

I put some flowers from our garden into a vase that was once my grandmother's to pretty things up some more.

Some mismatched vintage pillowcases add some character.

 Even the crafting nook had a makeover!

Every guest room needs somewhere for guests to put their suitcases! This beautiful pine box was once my 'glory box', made for me by my grandfather.

I am so pleased with how this room looks now. It's fresh, and inviting, and cost me the grand sum of...... zero dollars!! Nath is a little concerned that I'm getting all 'granny chic' on him, but I am just loving that vintage-y floral look. It is so homey and unpretentious. I'm looking forward to getting into the kids' room with my makeover on!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Please End Factory Farming

Today, I cried.

I subscribe to the Greening of Gavin and today Gavin shared a clip that moved me to tears. It was about factory farming.

Sadly, this is a problem that is not only confined to third world countries or the worlds' poor. If you buy your meat at a supermarket, this is your problem too.

Please take the time (eleven minutes.....  not so much to spare) to watch this video through to the end, and share it if it touches your soul.

Make it Possible from Animals Australia on Vimeo.

Our family proudly has nothing to do with factory farming, by buying certified organic and free range meat from The Naked Butcher, a business dedicated to providing meat with less of an ecological footprint.  We also did our research, and are aware of which farms our meat comes from, and what their animal welfare and ecological philosophies are. We raise some of our own meat, and we treat our animals incredibly well. They die as happy creatures, in a manner with as little trauma as possible. We pay more for our bought meat, but we are paying for the knowledge that another creature's life has been respectfully and humanely treated so that we can have the luxury (yes, luxury!) of eating meat.

We are making arrangements to be able to shoot our own meat, as well. Any animal we dispatch, be it a wild rabbit or a hen we have raised from chick, is done so with a sombre spirit and deep connection. We do not take for granted our responsibility.

We also eat far less meat than 'the norm'. We eat red meat less than three times a week, and much smaller servings than we once would have.  This is perhaps one of the biggest changes an individual can make, both in terms of the environment and the welfare of the animals that we as a human race are responsible for.

Don't eat naively. Watch the video. Know the impact you have. Share. Make some small changes. Please.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Monitoring Our Electricity Usage

When I get an electricity bill, like most Australians these days, I hold my breath and look first at the dollar amount on the bill. Comparing bills over the past few years by how much they have cost you is slightly misleading, though, given that electricity unit prices in WA have increased by 62% in the past four years. You could have been using the same amount of electricity over this time, and still be receiving substantially higher bills now than you were in 2008.

This is why the second thing I look at on my power bill is the units we use, per day, on average.

When we moved into this house, I knew it wasn't very energy efficient the way it was. I wanted to make some changes to reduce both our outgoing expenses and the impact our energy usage has on the environment. To do this, I needed to start tracking how many units of electricity our household uses daily, on average. I went back a few bills and was horrified to discover that our usage had crept up as high as 38 units/day, averaged out over a billing period. I jumped onto Energy Made Easy to find out what the average usage in our location is for a family of our size. I discovered this:

Our energy usage was almost double the average! Energy usage is one area of life that I want to be below average in. So, we made some changes.

We switched the incandescent globes in every light socket in the house for low voltage CFLs.

We had an electrician come and swap the old ceiling fan with three decorative lights to a more streamlined, ONE (energy-saving) light ceiling fan.

He also removed the power-guzzling heat lamps from both bathrooms. Sure, we could have just left them and vowed not to use them, but that wasn't working too well for me.... they really do warm you up! He replaced them with a simple, CFL compatible light/fan combo.

While he was here, the electrician also installed LED downlights on the front deck which are far more energy efficient than the regular porch light.

We bought an Ecoswitch so that we can turn our TV/DVD/speakers off in one go, so that they don't have to remain on standby when not in use, and we don't have to move furniture every time we want to get to the switch.

We also bought an E-Co Shower Diamond Shower head, which only uses 7.5 litres/minute (normal showers use 20-30 litres/minute) and it really doesn't even feel like a water saving shower head. We also have the Every Drop Shower Saver installed, which allows us to cut the water flow while we lather up, without losing temperature. As our water is heated by electricity, both these devices save on the cost of heating too much water. The kids have a bath, and our tank is only 50litres, so it works out that they each use about 17 litres of heated water, which is the equivalent of Nath or I having a two and a half minute shower.

We put in this.... we only have to use this in dire emergencies.

We also made the decision to forfeit having a pool, as all of our research informed us that pool pumps are the single biggest user of household electricity. We switched it off, and are currently researching converting it into a food-producing aquaponics set up (fresh trout, anyone?)

In the future I would like to install one or two skylights, and make the switch to solar hot water. Eventually, I want to install solar panels, but the more changes we can make now, the smaller system we will need to buy.

Yesterday we received our bill in the mail, and I was delighted to see this:

We can (and will!) still improve on this number. Next on the list is to teach my daughters that light switches work both ways.

Do you monitor your electricity usage?
Any great energy saving tips for me??

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Meaning Of Life

The kids and I are about a week and a half into our 'Quest To Stay At Home More'. The only time we have left the house (and gardens) during this time are to walk 300m down the road to the local post office to check our mail, to take Miya to her first day of school today, and me sneaking down the hill to buy some groceries one day when Nath was at home.

Staying at home for a whole day, let alone over a week, is something that I would never have been able to face in the past. When I was struggling after Eden was born, I had morning and afternoon activities lined up every day, just so that I wouldn't be stuck at home. Being at home scared me. It meant my life was crazy busy, but it got me through those difficult few months.

Now, though, I think I need home much more. And despite them asking me daily for the first few days where we are going or who we are going to see, I believe the kids need it too. They have blossomed this past week and a bit - they are so much more settled and calm, and are enjoying getting in on tasks with me. 'Helping', they call it. I'm not so sure.

Ironically, I seem to be getting so much more done in my days at home than I was before we started this when I was running around like a headless chicken. I'm taking more pride in my day-to-day tasks, seeing them as not only inevitable, but valuable too. The house looks lovely, and I don't feel rushed.

I've been able to complete a few projects as well. Having a few little handmade things throughout the place makes the house feel more like a home. Every room has a story. It really is a wonderful thing, to be able to create.

I've been noticing both on the list of blogs I regularly read, and in real life conversations, the topic of 'Meaning' has been coming up quite a bit. I wonder if this beautiful spring weather has something to do with it - encouraging people to unfurl from their winter slumbers and engage more in life. I had a conversation with a very good friend the other day whose sense of meaning has been justifiably shaken by a recent significant loss. She asked, probably rhetorically, what the meaning of life was, and it made me stop and think. It really is different for everyone, isn't it?

I think I have found mine. I feel a purpose that is new and exciting to me, to just grow my family up healthily, happily and simply, to provide the things that money can't buy, to teach them by example how to do the things to keep a home ticking over, and live by my values so that they know no other way to live when they are older than by their own values. The revelation that I never have to go back to work if I choose not to has left me feeling blessed to have that choice, and content with staying home indefinitely, while my children are still children and still need me in the selfish, trusting, secure way that children do.

All this has been brewing for quite some time - years, in fact. But this past couple of weeks I have really given myself permission to stop and truly listen to my soul. I'm pretty sure, based on past experience, that my resolve will waver, that I will have hard days still. Simpler living isn't always that simple. Like most things, its worth is in the work required to do it. Being at home more means days of bored and restless kids, not just days of wonderful, creative and imaginative play. It means having the time to cook from scratch, instead of buying ready-made, quick and convenient foods. It means teaching myself new skills, instead of paying for someone else' expertise.

But.... what a gift! The older I get, the more thankful I become that my own mother was able to stay at home with my sister and I as we grew up. I remember her helping in my classroom and in the school canteen, coming to all of my sports carnivals and school assemblies, taking the time to meet my friends and their parents, showing me how to cook and clean. She instilled in me the skills and values that have helped me in my journey through housekeeping and parenthood. I hold no judgement for mothers who have to or want to work outside the home. It's just not for me.

Right now, the baby is sleeping (finally), slowcooked Moroccan lamb tagine is finished on the stove ready for dinner, the washing is done, and, to remind me to keep it real, the girls are outside screaming at each other. A mothers' work is never done, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Princess-y Kind Of Tea Party For A Princess-y Kind Of Girl.

Yesterday we celebrated Miya's birthday with friends from all her walks of life, carefully and thoughtfully selected and invited by her. The planning and organisation of this particular party has really highlighted the fact that my first baby is really growing up into an emotionally aware, social, slightly 'perfectionistic' little girl. She took to this event planning thing like a duck to water, and I was merely a slave to her wishes! Half the fun was in preparing for it, and it was every little girls' (especially princess-y kind of girls!) perfect party.

The 'cake' and fruit rainbow.

Oh, so dainty!

Miya's new writing 'nook' - a gift from our Mothers' Group.
Making crowns and wands. So much glitter!!
Pretty pink meringues, thanks Grandma.
Pass the Parcel.
Fairy Tea, anyone? (Soda water with raspberries)

The tutu I made for the winner of Pass the Parcel.
The little prizes I made for 'consolation prizes'. No sad fairies here!
Birthday girl, beautiful dress, sheepskin coat??
Present opening. Miya was so lucky.

Thanks to all who came, thanks to all who helped, and thanks to all who love our beautiful big five year old xxx

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy 5th Birthday, Princess Miya.

When she was born, I thought all the other mums were so jealous of me, because of how beautiful she was!
She's still so beautiful, and definitely has a style all of her own now!
 We hope you enjoy your day beautiful girl!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Rediscovering Home

I'm sitting at my sewing table to type this, looking out onto our deck, and beyond that our (somewhat dishevelled) front garden, and beyond that, the green rolling hills that mark the beginning of the Avon Valley. It is a warm and sunny day today, but I am wondering if the weather is fooling us again, and one last cold snap is around the corner. Pretty soon the hills will change from rolling green to sunburnt brown, the blossoms will fade from the fruit trees and summer fruits will take their place.

This time of the year brings with it its own set of tasks and rhythms. We have been busy clearing old piles of mulch, wood and scrap tin left by the previous owners, preparing for snake season. The old Hills Hoist we got from Gumtree has been cemented in, ready for the warm weather to hit so my washing can finally be dried in the sun. Garden beds have been dug out, and are waiting for the last of our spring planting to be laid out. Corn and beans are in, as well as potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, radishes, spinach.... and our ever expanding line up of young fruit trees are waiting to be transplanted into the ground out of their pots. Compost beds have been built, as the compost and mulch will get our gardens through a long, hot summer without using too much water. The water tank is connected and will be used purely for the gardens (we are hoping for another couple of days of rain, though, to fill it!)

We have our first brood of quail chicks, now. Nath is looking forward to raising them up for their eggs and their meat, but for now they are just cute little balls of feathers running around the bottom of a cage. When they are a bit older, they will live in a large run, but a cage is fine for now. We also have some new unsexed young chickens. The girls will join our layers and the boys will end up in the pot.

I have been busy preparing for Miya's fifth birthday party next weekend. She is having a garden tea party, and there is much to do to get our garden in order. I have sewn fifteen metres of bunting to string up, and have cleared the local opshops of their teacups and saucers. Next week, I will be busily baking little cakes, biscuits and quiches for the day. Miya has invited ten or twelve little friends over, some new and some old, and is very excited.

All this work around the home helps remind me of what is truly important in life. I feel like I lost my way for a bit there, being on holidays, then moving house immediately upon our return. Money has been thoughtlessly spent, food is not being planned and enjoyed the way it should be. This seasonal change of rhythm reminds me to take an inward breath in my daily life, and focus back in on home and the family. To slow down (again - isn't it funny how easy it is to hasten pace with the rest of the world, and how difficult it can be to slow our lives down when they get too frantic?) and enjoy just.... being.

I have made a few decisions, the last couple of days. I miss my buying ban, and the freedom it gave me from being weighted down by stuff. I am revisiting my buying hierarchy:
  • Make do
  • Make
  • Freecycle/Pay It Forward
  • Secondhand
  • New, but locally handmade
  • New, but Australian made and/or Fairtrade
  • New, made overseas, but Fairtrade and supporting communities.
I am also returning to my food philosophy of eating only unprocessed food. This has been tricky. I have definitely grown used to not-good-food-choices in recent weeks.

And, I am staying home more. Rediscovering home, the place of my soul's content. Rediscovering rest, and the joy of completing the little tasks that keep this home ticking over. Finding time to create, and play, and read.

Kind of like spring cleaning for the soul.
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