When life gets in the way….

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There have been a couple of changes which explain my lack of posting lately, neither of them part of the original plan and both of them in the short term will complicate our lives rather than simplify it.

The first change is that Mr S has decided to start a micro business. I say a micro business as at the moment it is very small and in its early stages, however we are hoping and have plans for it to grow into something bigger in the long term.

The second bolt out of the blue has come in the shape of bricks and mortar. We had no intention what so ever of buying another house, however an opportunity presented itself which now means we are in the process of buying a second property.

The house in question was left to a family member and so we have had first refusal on it. It needs lots of hard work and a little money injected into it but will hopefully provide us with a rental income and an investment in the long term.

Our hope is that we can build on these multiple streams of income which would eventually provide us with enough income for Mr S to quit has job – this to us is our ultimate goal in self sufficiency.

So apologies if my posts are becoming a little sporadic! As Mr S is still in employment it will fall upon yours truly to organise and implement much of the above (besides running my own business!) Sometimes life just gets in the way of blogging :-)

Categories: Our Story, Self Sufficiency | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Back to life, back to reality

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Firstly I must apologise for not blogging for a while. The main reason for my absence was our much-anticipated trip to Florida, the other reason being that upon our return I immediately decided to swap the Boy’s bedroom with my office in the attic which left me without a workspace or computer for a while.

Our trip was fantastic but unfortunately over all too soon. There are however a few lessons that we have learnt from our holiday that we hope to incorporate into our everyday lives.

1. We don’t need lots of stuff to have a good time.

Each of us travelled with only one small suitcase each (each one weighing less than half the 23kg allowance – how did that happen!). The contents were actually more than adequate for our trip, in fact if we had been staying longer we wouldn’t have needed anything else.

2. Play more.

Ok, so compared with home Florida is like one big playground :-) Seriously though sometimes we forget to have fun and forget about the carefree side of us. In an attempt to not get bogged down by life we have declared Sundays as our Fundays!

3. Go walkabout.

Walking is a great way of discovering. Even if you think you know your neighbourhood by taking a stroll you never know who you might bump into or what you might see, I aim to get out and stroll more often!

4. It’s ok to chill out.

Life is busy and its hard not to be doing so I’m going to ditch the guilt and try to make time to do nothing in particular – letting my thoughts wonder and pottering around aimlessly.

5. Be happy to be home.

It’s hard not to get the back from holiday blues but home is where the real stuff happens, besides if we hadn’t come home then we wouldn’t be able to go back again!

Categories: Family, Travel | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Swan Song

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There are big changes coming in the Simplicity household. I’m not 100% sure what form they will take or even when they will happen, but the changes will happen, at the moment they are like shadows waiting to be thrown into focus.

For almost two years now we have been planning a trip to take our Son to Florida. One thing we know is that our time is limited when it comes to family holidays, in a few short years we will be redundant and his friends will take our place as his travelling companions.

So before he gets too old (and embarrassed!) to want to go on holiday with his folks we wanted to take a trip to give him lasting memories of family holidays and very soon we shall be embarking on our journey.

But the title of this post doesn’t refer to this as I’m sure there will still be many more chances for us to holiday together, albeit on a smaller scale, it refers to what comes next.

To us this holiday is symbolic of a lifestyle that we are leaving behind, it will be our own personal swan song.

Categories: Our Story, Simplifying Life, Travel | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

Progress in the vegetable garden

Let me start by saying that I have the best husband ever (ok, so I might be slightly biased on that one :-) ).

Remember the shed that I included on my vegetable garden plans? Well it’s finished, built single-handedly by the previously mentioned wonderful Mr S.

At last no more hunting around the garden looking for my tools as they now have a home of their own.

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Elsewhere in the garden everything else seems to be making a late appearance this year as the wet start to the summer delayed progress. Unfortunately our apples and plums are virtually non existent as the rain stopped the bees pollinating early in the season but we do have a glut of beetroot and courgettes!

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Categories: Gardening, Green Living, Self Sufficiency | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

These are a few of my favourite things……

“Buy me diamonds and rubies
I’m crazy bout Bentley’s
Gucci dresses and drop top kompressors
Wine me and dine me
Bring those platinum rings
Those are a few of our favourite things”

- Big Brovaz, Favourite Things

It saddens me that nowadays many people think that the higher the price tag the better something must be. Interestingly it’s thought that the things you own with the highest material value are often not the things that add the most value to your life.

So just for the record here are a few of my favourite things………

  • My family –  I’m lucky to have such a close family both in terms of relationships and distance. We get together a lot as my Mum, Dad, Grandmother, Sister, Brother in law and Nephews all live within walking distance.
  • The view from our house – It never fails to cheer me up, whatever the time of year, in sun or snow all I have to do is take a few moments to take in the view and I’m happy
  • My cat – my old lovely lady of a cat has been my companion for 14 years. I love my cat and she loves me :-)
  • Discovery – By nature I’m inquisitive and I love finding out about things. People, places, ideas – you name it I love to discover, whether by reading or experiencing directly.
  • Being near the ocean – The sight, the sound, the smell, the touch, the taste. Being near the ocean awakens all of the senses.
  • Laughter  – you can’t beat a good old belly laugh can you?

These some of the things in life that make me happy, really happy. The best thing about these things though is that they aren’t really “things”at all

What about you? What are your favourite things?

Categories: Simple Pleasures, Simplifying Life | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Easy Orange Wine Recipe

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Thanks to Mr S there is now one area in our lives that we are completely self sufficient! Over past few months he has been in a brewing frenzy. Buckets, bottles and demijohns seem to be taking over our kitchen so last night as a reward for putting up with his brewing equipment taking over the kitchen space he presented me with a bottle from his first batch of orange wine.

Here’s the recipe he used – it should provide you with 6 bottles of dry white wine with a slight citrus flavour, cheers!

Here’s what you need to make 1 gallon of Orange Wine

1 litre White Grape Juice

1 litre Orange Juice, no bits, budget brands are fine but so is freshly squeezed

800g Sugar

1 tsp Pectolase

Tannin – 1/2 teaspoon or, make a mug of strong black tea and let it cool

1 tsp Glycerine (optional) -Glycerine gives body and mouth feel to the wine and makes it smooth

Yeast & Nutrient – You can buy the sachets of yeast or, pots which you would only use a teaspoon for this recipe. Not sure if the nutrient varies between brands but this brand uses 2 tablets crushed

Campden tablets – guard against infection and oxidation, you should use one per gallon whenever you rack your wine. Crush it to a powder between two teaspoons.

Potassium Sorbate or ‘Wine Stabiliser’ -This makes sure that no yeast can reproduce (this happens if there is any sugar left in or added to the wine)

Equipment

2 x gallon demijohns or, you could use 2 x 5 litre water bottles with a hole drilled for the bung

Airlock and rubber bung

Hydrometer and trial jar

Measuring spoons

Funnel

Meat baster (easy way of getting a wine sample out of the demijohn)

Thermometer

A syphon tube with a rigid plastic ‘racking cane’ and sediment cup

**All equipment must be cleaned and sterilised first **

Method

Boil around a litre of water and leave to cool (You will need this later)

Dissolve the sugar in 500ml water. It doesn’t have to reach boiling point but, will need to cool before putting in the demijohn

Pour the fruit juices into the demijohn

Add the sugar syrup, glycerine if using and tannin

Top up with the cooled boiled water to the bottom of the shoulder. (It seems like a large space but, initial fermentation can be vigorous, better to have a large space than it bubble over onto the floor)

Put your well washed hand over the neck of the jar and give it a good shake to mix everything up and to get some air into the must.

Check the temperature. If it’s around 25°C (give or take a bit), add your yeast, nutrient and pectolase. Cover and shake it again.

Fit the bung with airlock and put the demijohn somewhere out of direct sunlight, ideally with a fairly stable room temperature in the region of 17-20°C.

Now all you have to do is wait for fermentation to stop which can be anything from 1 to 4 weeks.

Racking

*Clean and sterilise all equipment*

Crush 1 campden tablet into the receiving demijohn then syphon

Put a well washed hand over the neck of this jar and give a gentle shake, ease palm away to release any fizz. Keep shaking and releasing until there’s hardly any fizz.

Add the potassium sorbate (wine stabiliser) as per brand instructions. (this will stop any yeast reactivating especially as you may need to back sweeten)

If needed, sweeten to taste using cooled sugar syrup then top up to neck with cooled boiled water.

Either use finings which will clear the wine quickly or, leave to clear of its own accord (this could take another couple of weeks) then bottle.

The wine can be drunk straight away but benefits from being left to mature.

Categories: Self Sufficiency | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Enjoying life’s simple pleasures in Norfolk

Last week Summer finally arrived in the UK and by perfect coincidence we had planned to spend the week in our caravan. I love spending time in the caravan, the time we spend in it gives us the opportunity to get back to basics – life seems much easier when we only have room for essentials and aren’t distracted by the rest of our belongings.

Our destination this time was the heart of the Norfolk Broads, in my opinion the perfect place for us to embrace some of life’s simple pleasures…….

Sitting on deserted beaches and spotting seals watching us amongst the waves.

Preparing and eating simple but delicious meals ‘al fresco’

Enjoying the solitude of the Broads at dusk from our canoe.

Watching kingfishers skirt above the water, their iridescence catching in the sunshine.

Sitting, appreciating the warmth of the sun on our faces just watching the world go by.

The feeling of bare toes in soft warm sand.

Lazy unhurried mornings……..and afternoons and evenings.

 

These were some of the simple pleasures that we enjoyed last week. How about you? What are your favourite simple pleasures?

Categories: Simple Pleasures, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Minimalism

One thing I find that gives me encouragement and inspiration to live a simple life is reading how others have achieved the goal of downsizing their lives.

Whilst searching for this information on the Internet I have come across quite a few blogs and websites about minimalism. I’d never really considered applying a minimalistic approach to my life, but after reading more and more about it it’s an approach to life that really appeals to me.

Whilst I don’t ever think I could truly be classed as a minimalist (living with only 100 things, what with my family? You have to be joking! ) much of what I’ve read coincides with the steps we have taken to simplify our lives.

Minimalism and simple living are closely related as both advocate the reduction of the unnecessary in order to concentrate on what matters most. I see simple living as the charming country cousin to the slick pared back minimalism.

For those of you interested in finding out more about minimalism then these websites have a wealth of information.

www.theminimalists.com

www.becomingminimalist.com

www.mnmlist.com

Categories: Decluttering, Simplifying Life | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Update on the vegetable garden

Due to last month being the wettest June in the UK on record and July following in the same footsteps it’s no surprise that not much in the way of progress has been made in the vegetable garden.

Thankfully, this weekend offered us some fine weather and a chance to carry on with our plans.

There have been a few alterations to our original plan – the main one being that we no longer need two sheds due to our garage declutter.

After looking around at the ready-made sheds that were available locally Mr S decided that he would have a go at making the potting shed himself.

He managed to complete the frame and base which will make up the potting shed and covered seating area, hopefully it won’t be too long now untill our garden tools have somewhere to call home!

Elsewhere in this part in the garden the soggy vegetable beds are starting to dry up a little. We have already had success with our potatoes, harvesting them as we need them to ensure that they are fresh and the quantity of strawberries has surpassed previous years.

We are currently picking a pudding basin full every other day, however due to the high rainfall they aren’t lasting very well once picked and so we seem to be having an awful lot of strawberry smoothies at the moment.

The other vegetables are slowly coming on but what they really need now is some sunshine to give them a boost – they’re not the only ones :-)

Categories: Gardening, Self Sufficiency, Simplifying Life | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Simplifying Finances

photo credit: Dplanet

The work to make our life simpler is no quick fix solution, we are in this for the long-term and recognise that whilst we have not exactly been completely committed to the end result over the last few years we have made great strides towards it by what we have done so far, the main thing so far being…

Simplifying Our Finances.

We have been quite lucky in that the both of us have a natural aversion to debt and have never run up huge credit card bills – if we want something we save for it and pay in cash.

The one exception to this though has been the necessity to purchase our house with the aid of a mortgage. We reduced this debt heavily by downsizing to the house where we now live. It has been hard at times, both with the amount of work and the conditions we have had to live in, however the pay off is that we have since managed to eliminate this debt completely through making overpayments and now own our home outright.

In paying the mortgage off it now gives us the knowledge that whatever happens to us employment and income wise we potentially have a roof over our heads and one less bill to pay at the end of the month.

Our other outgoings have room for improvement though! Utility bills, food and fuel can all be reduced and we plan to do so over the coming months by looking at what we use and what we can do to reduce the cost.

One of the biggest ways that we hope do this is by growing a large proportion of what we eat. We have been steadily increasing our productivity in the garden over the last few years and our aim is to improve on this from now on.

Tips to simplify your finances

Imagine how much simpler your financial life would be with no stress about debt. Becoming debt free is one of the most stress-relieving, life-simplifying things you can do. I know that everyone’s situation is different but here are a few ideas that we have found useful in simplifying our finances.

Plan For Upcoming Expenses – Plan and budget for large expenses such as Christmas and holidays. We find that putting away a set amount each month for upcoming purchases elevates the need for using credit cards to make major purchases.

 Buy A Smaller House – When you are looking to buy, consider buying smaller. One of the problems when buying a home is the temptation to buy more than you need. Just remember, the bigger the house, the higher the mortgage payments, insurance premiums, maintenance costs, utility bills, etc… Plus you’ll spend a ton of money buying more junk to fill the house.

Keep A Spending Diary – Each day, record everything you spend into a notebook. We have done this in the past and it has been really useful to pinpoint exactly where all of your cash goes. It also helps to keep you more mindful of what you are spending.

Get Organized – Keep things simple. Consolidate your bank accounts as it makes tracking your finances easier, set up direct debits for paying regular bills so you don’t miss deadlines and keep a note on a calendar when the ones that can’t be automated need to be paid.

Build An Emergency Fund – Few things give you peace of mind like having a stash of cash set aside for emergencies and unexpected expenses. Ours has saved us several times.

Categories: Our Story, Self Sufficiency, Simplifying Life | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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