Not much to blog about this month :)

I have little to report on the garden, except that it’s muddy as anything. The weather has been cold and wet, Roger has been pruning back fruiting trees and bushes and pulling out very dead plants. There are piles of spent plants everywhere.

I turned on my camera this morning to take a few photos but it’s flat – so, a short post!

We have just harvested our pumpkins but haven’t counted or weighed them yet. We have around 30 which is less than we were hoping but enough. There are still carrots, silverbeet, leeks, beetroot, broccoli, beans, lettuce etc growing. We have just had the last of the zucchini.

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We have been keeping a journal of harvests from the garden this year including weights etc. We have just reached 6 months and so far have well over 600 kg of food recorded from the garden, that includes eggs. We have had some great harvests this year but also some flop crops. Potatoes failed to do anything, from all that we planted with high hopes something happened to them and we only got 16 kg. Peppers and Chilli didn’t do great but I think Roger’s mammoth tomato plant prevented them from reaching their potential greatly 😦 Peanuts were planted and just disappeared.

We are still harvesting feijoa and figs. Did you know you can freeze figs whole? Just top and tail and freeze on a tray then bag. These will not keep there shape or texture but as we use them mostly in smoothies these are fine.

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I bottled the apple cider vinegar. This time I had a most wonderful “Mother” on top. I haven’t taken the time to find out what I can do with this but if anyone has any ideas please do let me know. I had a quick look and understand I can use it to make more vinegar but no-one really said HOW? so it’s sitting in some of the vinegar still waiting to become something new.Image

I bought a large box and a supermarket bag of walnuts for $30 from a friend.Image

I have been making soups galore. I could live on soups though Roger does not like them, my son loves them too so pots of it get dropped off to him. This one Pumpkin and Bacon.Image

Home:

After we finished painting the lounge we painted the porch which sorely needed it. To replace the large heart on the wall Roger made me a rusty barbed wire one mounted on a piece of recycled wood. I just love it but unfortunately can’t get a photo today. I also changed the little cupboard I was painting. I used to do alot of folk art but have discovered my hands shake too much now (I turned 55 on Saturday, I guess that’s just where age is getting this woman!) I was really unhappy with it so have decoupaged it. It’s very cute but no photo of that either today. I made my own Mod Podge as it’s $20 for a small jar of it here – how on earth do people afford that??!!

I am also making some velvet patchwork cushions, hand sewing them because my friend has borrowed my machine. I searched the op shops for old velvet and beaded clothes… and acquired some great ones but have just started them so I don’t imagine there will be any photos of them for a lonnnggg while 🙂 I am really enjoying having the time to just sit by the fire and listen to music and do something else other than food! I have also still been working but that will be ending shortly, winter at home is sounding truly good.

A photo of my shabby sideboard for Pauline (as requested) Image

And finally, I took some photo of Roger with Syd the other day without them realising – I thought I would share one on here because I love it (*whispers* don’t tell Roger!) Man and his best mate.

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 I hope you all had a lovely Mother’s Day!!!

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Settling into Autumn

We are well and truly hitting Autumn. We have had the fire going quite a bit, the nights and mornings are chilly, the garden is on it’s very last legs. Just in time for fellow blogger Anthony and his family (from Australia) to visit tomorrow, the garden has exhausted itself!! But we are very excited and looking forward to meeting them 🙂

Either dead or dying

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When your garden looks like this on a very large scale there are several reactions all at once. Glee for one, lol. Things will slow down now and we can get to enjoy some other aspects of life and hopefully paint our lounge! Sorrow because we do love summer and horror, because that’s one grizzly mess to clean up!

But we do have sunflowers and we are still waiting on fruit and pumpkins to ripen.Image

There is still plenty to preserve. I have continued buying sauce tomatoes for pulping, cooking till concentrated and freezing. I did 7 jars of pickled garlic.

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A lovely fellow blogger 🙂 sent me a link one day for an easy way to peel garlic that was on You Tube. It was bashing it to break up then putting in 2 stainless steel bowls and shaking it rapidly for 5 minutes. If anyone ever tries this and gets it to work please let me know HOW? because it didn’t work for us!

Still pickling beetroot

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Roger picked me some peaches to do…..Bless him she says, between gritted teeth 🙂

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Capsicums are still coming and being frozen, as is, for stuffing with whatever over winter

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We have plans now for our marrows. I got given a recipe by a friend for Marrow Rum (Fran?)

You take the top off, de-seed it, and fill it with good brown sugar and let it ferment for 2 months in a cool place. Apparently it makes very good booze! I hate rum but am keen to try it, I am sure we will find takers for it.

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A large batch of apple sauce was made and frozen and another batch of cider vinegar is on the go.Image

You could be mistaken for thinking we either a) had a white telly-tubby call in or b) we were visited by martians – Roger’s first visit on the bees 🙂

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He is really enjoying them and we are both becoming quite fascinated as we read more about their community living, work, and lives.

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Our kitchen window is the most used window in our house. Roger will often appear at it, grin, tell my to hold out my hand and pass me the first fig, strawberry, tomato…bird’s nests he has found etc. All sorts come through that window, or get passed out of it, often a beer or a fresh baked something. Twice in one week he bought these to show me 🙂Image

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AND FINALLY!! A source of great excitement arrived.

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Last year I inherited by Mum’s new oven when she went into a rest home. A year later it’s arrived via my sister and hubby on holiday. It was a 3.5 hour ferry trip and over an hours drive away but was bound to get here sooner or later. The decrepid old thing we had was near it’s last legs, half the elements no longer worked and the racks caved in occasionally. You have no idea how welcomed this appliance was!!! It will make preserving and drying a whole lot easier that’s for sure.

Many of you are heading into Spring, I wish you a long and productive two seasons!!

Growing our own food – frugal food, self reliance and the learning of new/old skills.

Things are so tough for many out there right now and it heartens me to see so many young ones returning to the habits of older generations, growing some of their own food. This may end up a long post for regular readers who have heard it all before but this is for those who are thinking maybe they would like to try for a garden, or grow on what they are already doing.

When we moved here there was just lawn and we shopped like everyone else. This was 3 months after we moved in, a wee vegetable garden had been put in (bottom corner) Excuse the dead branches by the house, this was Roger thinning out a dead vine!

IMG_0033 Our garden has grown over the years but it was only last summer we decided to really go for it and see how far we could go with “eating from our section”. This has been a journey of learning self reliance….one thing leads to another and formally frugal habits have been replaced by simple living, making our own cleaning mixtures, less chemical exposure, an appreciation for nature and our environment, searching for more free foods, the trading and sharing of our excesses and helping others.last summer

So, here where we are now (actually taken last summer).

We are fortunate that Roger works on a farm and can get meat – for those of you who can’t work in farming though it’s all relative, he earns a low wage, the meat is counted in with it. I don’t eat alot of meat and basically no-one needs to eat alot of it. Much of our diet can be grown at home with eggs, vegetable, fruits and berries….nuts if you are lucky enough to have a large section. Our diet comes from a garden that’s probably 1/8 acre. This is why we do it, this was my shopping last week for two people.

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I already had 2 bottles of milk in the fridge bought the week before on special. The avocados were cheap so I got 10. The spices and seals were for preserving. The wee tins of fish are for me. We can’t grow bananas. Roger prefers this brand of softened butter opposed to the butter/olive oil blend I make sometimes. Dates, raisins and raw peanuts are healthy additions to our diet. Basics like sugar, flour, vinegar etc are bought in bulk. The bread is Rogers favourite. Few of these things are necessities, but desires. I also had cheese already, and a little coffee I bought up on special. Just about everything I buy is bought in bigger quantities when on special eg the avocados here. I also don’t show the pet food here.

Seeds and buckwheat are bought from the bulk store and I will go every week or two and stock up on stuff like this…coconut, brown rice, dried beans, baking soda etc.

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This is basically our shopping for the week…things like toilet paper and soap are purchased in bulk when cheap. We spend on average around $40 – $60 per week on our food and some weeks all we buy is milk. A few years ago our Health Dept put our a brochure for shopping on a low income and it was estimated $70 per person is the least a person could live on foodwise in NZ and this would be for a very basic diet, nowhere near as healthy as we eat.

Garden produce is either frozen, pickled, bottled or made into sauces, jams, chutneys…or boozy drinks! An old disused laundry has been crudely converted into a store room, a would be larder…(note the earthquake proof shelving as last year alot of bottles and jars just slid off shelves)

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I still have a couple of months preserving to go then the majority of our food is stored for the remainder of the year. In fact, we could survive from our food stores and garden etc until next summer (9 months) if need be…and still be healthy.

I sometimes also make white bread for Roger and freeze some, three loaves can be made for $1.80.Image

Every few weeks I am tempted to buy something like this – a deli pack the supermarket sells cheap. This all cost $7.95 and their are foods we don’t get…salami, ham, quiches so I don’t have to cook tea a couple of nights. All of this can be frozen. Served with salad they all make a good meal for those nights Wendy doesn’t  be bothered  cooking / making her own quiche or Roger would just like toasted sandwiches for a change.

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 Again these are just desires.

Truly we could survive from our garden if need be. We preserve summer fruits and vegetables to eat through winter. We preserve nice things to eat because we can, because they add variety, nutrition, a taste of summer through the cold months. If we wanted we could just freeze everything but we make our preserves because we appreciate the flavours on what could otherwise be quite a limited winter diet.

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 Sharing food with others means they share in return. These pears and oranges came from friend, lemons we pick from an unowned tree down the street. These apples came from a wild tree by the farm.Image

At present I am doing a juice, salad and soup detox so am living on vegetables from the garden, along with dried beans/legumes and feeling good for it on the third week. I am not starving to death and am surviving well 🙂

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Eggs supply alot of nutrition and with eggs and vegetables you always have a meal.

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We also just got bees to get our own honey….this lasts forever, is a healthier alternative to sugar and the bees will help pollinate the fruit etc.

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To put food, our shopping habits and what we really need to survive into perspective, I like this. The healthiest and happiest looking people I think are those from Mali who have (by comparison to western diets) a very basic diet sitting in front of them.

What people eat in different countries around the world

We grow herbs in the garden too, these can be used fresh, dried, used for skincare or remedies. I am still learning about the use of herbs and do not get enough time to really get into it but herbalism really interests me, I have a whole lot of learning to do in this area!

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Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

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I recently bought a book on foraging in NZ and what wild weeds, herbs, fruits etc can be used and the making of medicines etc. This I found at a secondhand book store for $2.50, a quick flick through tells me I will be reading this avidly over autumn and winter to learn from. Besides personal interest in this sort of thing I have to say this – I am not convinced the economy will pick up any time soon, things could get alot harsher for everyone, us included. We believe it is our responsibility to be able to fend for ourselves if need be. Basic necessities in life are food, warmth and shelter…you have to add water. Many are living now on social security and benefits because of the high unemployment rates and existing poverty by the new working poor, so many in fact it is not sustainable.

Another depression or war would force so many to find food where they can. W want to learn how to survive if the need be. Sounds terribly pessimistic but I’d rather be knowledgeable than naive or ignorant if the “shit should ever hit the fan”.

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This month I have been doing an e-course I won through another blogger, Lois, at Living Simply Free . The course has been really interesting and was offered through Handcrafted Travellers. This young couple are very inspiring and have a great ethos, that of living off the land. I am ashamed to say I have not finished the reading but have it all stored to do so, I have just simply been too busy but I feast off their site!

In this course we have learned about embracing simplicity, experiencing quality v quantity, resistance and learning to say “No”, chemical free cleaning, getting rid of plastics, herbal beauty, handcrafted and natural clothing, learning new skills, earthing, the importance of Vit D, limiting technology for your health and wellbeing…in general self reliance and living in harmony with nature. They have a beautiful site and have much of interest to say, they also run many courses.

Another blogger I follow and whose post I recommend here is Rohan from Whole Larder Love. Read here how he jackhammered through concrete slabs to start his garden and honestly, this guy has a lovely blog…he lives off the land, fishes, hunts, runs classes and sells his vegetables. Also very inspiring.

We also practice self reliance in other areas too, which will be the subject of another post to come, this is already too long!

And so, after 15 – 18 months, this is where we are at 🙂 I will stress here, we are not feeling we deprive ourselves of anything. If we want it we will buy it, we enjoy the food we eat, I cook really nice meals and we like the fact it costs us so  little.

Plum Jam

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When making plum jam either the plums can be halved and stones removed before cooking or you can remove them with a slotted spoon while it’s boiling (they float to the top). If the stones come away easily I would recommend doing that…the other way can take ages.

Plum Jam:

1 kg plums

1 kg sugar

250 mls water

Wash the plums and de-stalk if necessary. Sterilise jars by heating in a slow oven for 1/2 hour at least. If using metals lids sterilise these by boiling in water for 10 minutes.

Put plums in a large pot with the water and cook about 30 – 45 minutes (lid on) till pulpy. Stir in sugar and boil gently until thickened and test a little in a saucer in the fridge, if it comes out with a skin on top it will set. Makes around 7 – 8 smallish – med jars. IMG_3317

Normal…….

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My son shared this on Facebook today. My son hates his job, he has been working for the same company for 18 years having worked his way up from a junior position, working now as an area manager for a boss he can’t stand. He doesn’t read my blog, (neither does his boss) so hopefully doesn’t find out I have been talking about him behind his back… I shall keep him identity-less! He stays there because in our small area this job provides security and decent wages which he needs now because he has family. This post is not to discuss him so much as dissatisfaction in our lives. I am not knocking the above, some thrive in big cities with well paying jobs and holidays to relax into. Not knocking it at all. This is not my life and I am happy for that, my way is not other’s way and their’s is not mine, we are all different.

But seeing this set me off on a tangent (as is my way!) How many of us fall into the lives we have, no conscious decisions made, we just live them. We do our 9 – 5, struggle to pay our bills, do whatever to make ends meet, many lucky to even get a holiday!!! My life is far from this picture above but today I was walking around with a mumbling going on deep down, feeling crabby and distracted. When I read this I laughed it off, made a joke, yep that’s life. Later on when thinking about it and thinking about the dissatisfaction with life some must feel, I recognised my own.

Roger and I have been discussing a few things recently, much of it centres around nooses we have around our neck – mortgages, insurances etc. We are very lucky to have our own home but fact is the bank owns half of it. It’s unstable times, if the economy gets worse (a possibility) there is no guarantee we could even keep it. Both of us have to work and there is never any money left after mortgage, rates, big insurances, utilities, the costs of running vehicles to get to work etc etc. There are no holidays bar a quick weekend away. We would quite like a new normal even though we are far from normal. We have spent 7 years here, we do what we do because we need to, we love our home and garden but there are problems here. Our neighbourhood has gone from a quiet country one where everyone got on fine to one where we are growing a high front hedge to keep away from. We walk through the gate and sigh. Glad to get home from work, because let’s admit it, work is not always fun! but no longer enjoying our situation of where we live. We are virtually surrounded by transient vineyard workers, loud parties and arguments, lousy attitudes, gang members wearing patches etc are the norm here now. I don’t want to sound judgmental here, that’s not really my thing, live and let live. But….we are living in a different environment from that which we moved into – we have escaped town to have it follow us! I went down the shop the other day, drove, and pulled up at a give way. An error in judgment in driving by someone else had her glaring at me and yelling “You stupid f….bitch” at me through car windows. Roger was out mowing the front berm when a car full of young guys pulled up beside him and a pile of rubbish thrown out the window by his feet before they drove off laughing…apparently that was really funny!

What we have been thinking is to move, there are other towns over the west coast of the island which are really cheap, we COULD be mortgage free. We could live in a more settled area. We could leave our home and garden. We could invite my son and fiance to join us, how nice that would be – or leave them behind because they have different ideals. We could live in a wee structure and get more land. Could… maybe…..!!!

So, this is where my mind is at this morning. Dissatisfaction, with everything we thought we were doing right not feeling so right. It’s led me to think of others, human nature, why we are so stuck in our ways doing nothing to change them, why we live lives we aren’t really happy with. Why we complain so much and don’t just feel grateful for what we DO have 🙂 Why people don’t just live lives they love in order to conform, then how hard it is to get unstuck because we have families to support, expectations,bills etc. Then the fact there are homeless people who would be grateful for anything, the fact transient workers have to live somewhere and are probably all very nice people even if some seem a little aggressive at times lol. Giving away eggs and veges over the fence doesn’t seem to work anymore in helping neighbourly connections.

Happiness and what it takes to make ourselves happy, in our own individual and sometimes different ways, seems to be hard to find. I don’t think wanting happiness is a selfish thing, shouldn’t it be the norm? There’s only so much TIME in life with which to find happiness….if only we could bottle time.

An oldy, Jim Croce – Time in a Bottle

Anyways, my rambling for today is true rambling! Now I have to go and get the carpet shampoo unit from the shop and clean my carpets, probably the real reason for my grumpy mood today! Sometimes I think it would be nice to not be broke, you could pay to have your carpets cleaned. Maybe we just need better jobs, more money…. holidays……..! 🙂

Another week. Vanilla Essence, Home brewing, seed saving etc

This has been such a busy week here! The garden is running a muck (read, weeds out of control) and I have been working way more than we were expecting me to due to short staffing. Roger has been busy elsewhere during the weekends and we are behind in everything. But… all is good 🙂

We got a great buy!! I must say here when my hubby bid on it on an auction site I thought he was buying a Still and encouraged him, alas it is a beer making kit which is NOT QUITE THE SAME. Beer isn’t cheap and though I can see the sense in making one’s own….I hate the stuff. I was thinking vodka for fruit liquers and preserving herbs (yummy things), he was thinking ice cold beers at the end of a working day …. every Kiwi male enjoys his beer. But I did get something out of it. This all came for $53 and note the glass bottles, 1 dozen of those gorgeous things which we will not be using for beer 🙂 This unit had been used once.Image

I mentioned last week a friend had made us some vodka so I have been trying different things with it. He has told us we can borrow his Still to make our own, if you have Vodka you can make all sorts and homemade vodka is soooo cheap – $28 for 8 large bottles!

Vanilla Essence:

Split 6 vanilla pods sideways then cut in half. Place in bottle and pour over 1 cup vodka. Leave to stand in a dark cupboard for 8 weeks to mature. Apparently this will last forever, just topping up vodka or adding another pod as required. It smells divine!

Vanilla Essence

Vanilla Essence

After 3 days:

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Herbal Tinctures:

Instructions from my sister-in-law Beth – Place 300 g of desired herb in airtight jar and cover with vodka. Leave to sit in a cool dark place to 2 weeks, shaking regularly. Squeeze all liquid out of the leaves and discard, strain and bottle. Take 1 – 3 tsp a day. I want to build up a supply of these but my first is Feverfew, used for migraines and as an anti-inflammatory.

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Freezing without blanching: A tip.

I do all my beans, zucchini and pumpkin this way (if pumpkin is not storing well I will freeze it). It’s the quickest method I have found and removes all the air without need for a vacuum pump. The snaplock bags can be used dozens of times.

Place vegetables in bag filling about 3/4 full.Image

Without sealing shake all vegetables down, fold over to meet vegetables while letting air escape.Image

Seal while folded. All excess air is gone.

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Press out flat for storage

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Coriander Seed:

Whose idea was it to dry and collect this? Oh yeah…. mine. Alot more complicated than it sounded at the time because we never pulled it out and hung it upside down in a rubbish bag when we should’ve. By the time we pulled it they had been dropping for weeks so instead we did it the hard way!

One coriander plant = thousands of seeds

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Just a little of them.

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McGyver’s (Mr QAL’s) solution for separating seed from stalk 🙂 🙂

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1 bowl full, as far as we have – and this AFTER Syd chased the cat through the lounge and spread a complete bowl all over the carpet. Back to the flippin heater / fan stage of collection, instead I threw my hands in the air yelling “That’s it, I’ve had it!” so it might sit there a few days before the final product is clean and edible!

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Chocolate and Almond Buckwheat Granola Clusters:

A few months ago I changed to a gluten free diet, this past few weeks I have been craving a decent cereal to replace homemade muesli. Fran from Serendipity Farm saved the day with a wonderful recipe for these granola clusters which she has tweaked from another recipe. http://theroadtoserendipity.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/narf7s-bolshie-blissful-buckwheat-granola-clusters/

I then tweaked hers and came up with this which I will post in a wee while but Oh yum, it’s delicious and not nearly as expensive as similar products on the market, in fact it turned out far cheaper than I thought it would.Image

First you need Sunflower Butter and I have been wanting to try some of this so a good excuse. Also an economical butter to make and tastes delicious. The recipe for this can also be found on Fran’s post or http://www.gypsyforest.com/welcome_to_gypsy_forest/2012/09/cinnamon-maple-sunflower-seed-butter.html

I used honey rather than maple syrup.

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Coconut Oil Deodorant:

This is all I use nowadays and is very economical to make compared with organic deodorants. I shall also post this this separately.Image

It’s a beautiful day here today and I have so much to do I don’t know where to start but at the beginning is probably a good idea….coffee, while I think about everything and procastinate as well as only I can do 🙂

Oh, I did have a nice thing happen. I got an email from a fellow blogger from Australia who is coming to NZ and would like to visit if he can manage it. I think that’s pretty cool 🙂

And this week I started reading on the e-course I won on Everyday Simplicity from http://handcraftedtravellers.com. Check out their site if you haven’t already, it’s just lovely.

Simplicity in the Making; Guest post and giveaway

I wanted to share this guest post at Simply Free. Both this blog and the blog of her guest Handcrafted Travellers are just wonderful. This bright young couple share a lovely life of simple living that is just so right. I am excited to say I just won their giveaway, an e-course in Everyday Simplicity. Am very excited and heartfelt thanks to Roland, Cheryl and Lois for making it possible. Please do check out their site, it’s simply hours of very gentle reading that will reasonate with many of my readers.