Thursday, December 30, 2010

2 more sleeps...

Well, with Christmas behind us, and the New Year fast approaching, I have had a moment of panic and guilt at being an absent blogger.

With the start of the New Year, of course, comes the official start of our Year of Slow Living, so I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss the changes we have been making so far.

While we moved all our stuff in nearly four weeks ago, I spent the first week sleeping on my parent's couch while I finished up at my job in the city, while Grant started his new job in Daylesford.  Having now had three weeks in Kyneton, the house is beginning to look and feel like home and the boxes that are yet to be unpacked are able to be stored in rooms we don’t need to look in every day.

Our first, and perhaps most exciting, development, was the adoption of a puppy three weeks ago.  Not really a puppy, Jessie is 18 months old and was abandoned before being picked up by the pound.  When her owners did not come forward to collect her, she was sent to Pets Haven shelter in Woodend where we met her on 11 December.  She is a Labrador/Rottweiller cross with the best of both breeds’ personalities (in our opinion!).  We have had some settling-in issues, but on the whole, she is a little treasure, and has fitted in well to our new family.

Christmas was spent this year with my family at the beach, which was a great opportunity for Jessie to experience the ocean for the first time!  This was also the first year since I finished my undergrad degree that I have had time to ‘properly’ prepare for Christmas.  Those who know me well know that I love Christmas, and always have the most expansive plans for baking, crafting and celebrating.  This year, I had two whole weeks in which to intersperse the unpacking of boxes with baking gingerbread, making chocolate truffles (two kinds!) making a fresh wreath for our front door, wrapping presents and preparing a four-course Christmas Eve extravaganza (with matching wines) for the family.  And this is the first time in a very long time that I have been able to truly enjoy that whole process without getting stressed and feeling pressed for time.

In the few days since getting home post Christmas festivities we have begun preparing for 2011.  We did our sale shopping this year in Bendigo – a very nice change from the manic shopping mentality of Melbourne.  The stores were no more crowded than Melbourne’s on a normal shopping day – in many cases they were much less crowded!  Armed with a shopping list, we made our way through in about three hours.  Included in our haul was a breadmaker (our Christmas gift from Grant’s parents), a blanket for our bed, and a new down jacket for me.  Even in December, we have both been surprised at how cold it gets here overnight and in the early morning. 

The last two days have been dedicated to the building of raised garden beds and the planting of our vegetable garden.  While our landlord has kindly allowed us to plant a vegetable garden, the soil quality is not great and much of the garden is already well established.  So we have selected an area at the back of the house that was set up as a dog run by a previous tenant with fences all around.  Consequently, this setup ensures that we can keep our own little Jessie OUT of the vegetable garden!  I have added below my plan of the garden and what has been planted this round.  The next round will be in March/April.  If it all comes off, it will be a delicious bounty of fresh produce that will allow us to avoid too much reliance on the local Woolies.

Tomorrow evening, New Years’ Eve, we are planning a quiet night with some homemade pizzas cooked on the BBQ and a nice bottle of red that we have had cellared for a few years.  Whatever you have planned, we send lots of warm wishes for a happy New Year, and I look forward to sharing more of our stories with you in 2011. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

By Way of Introduction...

Welcome to the first post of 'The Good Life - a year of slow living'.  This blog will be a journal of 2011 - the year we pledge to live slower, walker more lightly and savour the small joys of life.  I am a first-time blogger, so this is very much a learning curve for me.  I look forward to hearing you feedback to help me make this blog as interesting and informative as I can.
So, about us.
My husband, Grant, and I have been living in Melbourne, Australia, in a two-bed townhouse 8kms from the CBD.  My background is in Art History, moving into Arts Event Management in recent years, while Grant has been working in Climate Change and Sustainability Services for a large international firm. Needless to say, work has been keeping us busy.
Long days at work have been augmented by early morning gym sessions on one side and industry events, drinks with friends, music lessons (guitar for him, piano for me) and Yoga classes on the other.  Who needs kids when we have our own plethora of extra-curricular activities to be ferried to and from?!
The Yoga classes seemed to work for a while, then we began booking regular massages.  One day last year we finally came to the conclusion that we were burning the candle at both ends, and it wasn't making us happy.  The rushing from one thing to another, constantly thinking about the next thing on the list, the noise and speed of city life just weren't doing it for us.
In late 2009, we started looking at land to buy around the Heathcote area, contemplating building a 'country house' - a simple weekender that we could disappear to on a Friday night and return refreshed to work on Monday.  Around the same time, Grant proposed, so building plans were put aside in favour of wedding plans.
We were married in July this year, on remote Kangaroo Island (off South Australia) and honeymooned in Europe.  We planned the trip to include as little time in major cities as possible.  Toward the end of our honeymoon, staying in rural Somerset, UK (at Edington House - just magic!) we became convinced that perhaps we needed more than just a weekender - maybe we needed a total tree-change.
So, Grant has now secured work in the beautiful town of Daylesford, I will be a lady of leisure until the new year, and we have rented a sweet cottage with a large garden in Kyneton, approximately half and hour from Daylesford.

Our Year of Slow Living will begin on January 1 2011. We will be trying many new things, and promise to share with you the failures as well as the successes.
We officially move into our new place in mid-December and the first challenges will include: 1. Living without a TV, and 2. Planting (and maintaining) and vegie garden.
Please do contact me with your feedback - I would love to hear from others doing similar things, or those who are considering doing so.
In the meantime, I made my Christmas Puddings this week.  If you are planning on doing the same, you might like to try Grant's grandmother's recipe (passed on to me by Grant's mum, Pat - an excellent cook; I only hope I do the puddings justice!)

Grandma Colwill’s Christmas Pudding Recipe
Makes 1 large or 8 mini puddings

250g Raisins
250g Currants
250g Sultanas
50g Glace Cherries
2 tablespoons Sherry
250g Butter
250g White Sugar
3 small eggs
125g Plain Flour
125g Self-raising Flour
½ teaspoon Mixed Spice
1 teaspoon Bi-Carbonate of Soda
1 large cup of fresh breadcrumbs

* Combine the raisins, sultanas, currants and cherries in a bowl.  Sprinkle over the sherry, mix well, then cover and leave overnight
* Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition
* In a separate bowl, sift together the plain flour, self-raising flour, mixed spice and bi-carb soda
* To the butter/sugar mixture, add the mixed fruit, flour and breadcrumbs alternately, mixing well after each addition
* Prepare your calico - bring a pot of water to the boil, add the calico and boil for 10 minutes.  Remove calico from the water, allow to cool slightly then squeeze excess water out.  Dust plain flour on a bench, place calico on flour and dust with more flour until both sides have a light coating of flour - this will waterproof your calico.  Line a large bowl with the calico and fill with the pudding mixture.  Bring the loose ends of the calico together and use cotton string to tightly seal the parcel
* Bring a large pot of water to the boil.  Immerse your pudding in the water, helping it to float by tying the ends of the cotton string to a wooden spoon placed across the top of the pot
* Boil for 3 - 3.5 hours, topping up the water as required
* Hang up to dry (I place a clothes horse in the bath and hang my puddings from that!) then store in the fridge until Christmas Day!
* On Christmas Day, boil your pudding as before, for 2-3 hours.  Cut the string and remove the calico.  Serve on a platter with your favourite accompaniments - brandy butter and custard for me, but Grant is voting for custard and vanilla ice-cream!