Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Rural Renovation - On a Budget

After a busy week of work, home and garden a little bit of inspiration can really set you up for the coming week.

This home is in the Peak District (UK) and has been renovated on a budget. Definitely a 'Frugalista' at work! You can read more about their story here at Period Living - which also happens to be one of my favourite magazines.

I think I might need a bigger table beside my favourite chair...

It's good to see 'real' curtains slung by the French doors. These ones look solid enough to keep out either an English winter or an Australian summer without appearing heavy.

I really like the freshness of these interiors. You almost expect a 200 year old stone house to be a bit dark and drab inside. Obviously, this one was orientated in such a way to grab every ray of sunshine.

It must be very tough leaving this home to go to work...

Have a great week!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


My definition of a 'frugalista' is: someone who refuses to sacrifice style in the pursuit of low cost solutions to any problem.

My current frugalista challenge is my temporary kitchen. The builder is now scheduled and will spend a couple of days removing the old bathroom as well as the wall between the kitchen and old bathroom.

I've already started the demolition process - this is the first of the frugal solutions. I can wreck stuff just as well as the next person and doing it myself is saving me LOTS of money.

I figure that for every hour I have to pay the builder to work, I have to work at least THREE hours to pay for it. Not only does the builder earn more per hour than I do, I have to pay him with AFTER TAX dollars.

As you can see, the maths is pretty simple and the choice is clear.

Bathroom demolition in progress...
My next set of frugalista challenges involves making the kitchen workable during the period (possibly extended!) that it's 'temporary'. IKEA will probably feature largely for those things that need to be purchased but on the whole, the plan is to repurpose items I already own. Plus, if I have to purchase something, it needs to be appropriate for the final product kitchen so I'm only spending money once.

These are a couple of the pieces I'm considering for the makeshift kitchen...

IKEA Udden Single Bowl Sink with Legs
I like the open space under this unit. It would be perfect for the dishwasher and you can get a shelving unit that sits under the sink.
IKEA - Stenstorp Kitchen Island
But, I'll have to wait until the space has been cleared before I get too carried away!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Morning Tea - A Simple Luxury

There's not too much in life that beats taking the time to enjoy a good cup of coffee and home-made cake!
Robert Gordon paper baking cups add a little finesse to simple cup cakes
The cakes were made using a basic butter cake mix:

125 gm butter
125 gm caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
190 gm self-raising flour
85 ml milk

Set oven at 180 degrees celcius.
Prepare cake pan or paper baking cups.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Gradually add eggs, beating well.
Stir in flour and milk alternatively. Stir gently but thoroughly.
Bake until sides shrink slightly from the sides of the pan and a skewer comes out clean and dry. Cake 35 - 40 minutes. Cup cakes 15 - 20 minutes. Please Note: these times are approximate.
Cool on a rack before icing (optional).

Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa, half a teaspoon of vanilla extract and an extra 40 mls of milk for chocolate flavoured cup cakes. Yummmmm!

Make sure you take some time today to enjoy a simple luxury, too.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Time and Money...

It’s one of modern life’s little jokes. You either have money or you have time, rarely, it seems do you have both at the same time. So, invariably when I’ve had the cash flow to undertake new projects I haven’t had the time to implement them. I don’t need to tell you how frustrating that is, I’m sure you’ve had your own experience of it.

This is where the ‘big rocks’ come in to the picture. If you’re not aware of what your big rocks are you can waste a lot of time and money on pebbles and sand.

How do you figure out what’s important to you? Sometimes you need to decide what is NOT important to you and work backwards – you’re bound to notice a few trends appearing. For example, I don’t particularly care about the latest fashions. Having 17 pairs of shoes in the latest colour, heel shape or size doesn’t appeal to me. I would much rather purchase a pair of shoes that I can wear every day, are comfortable and will last a long time. So, I can construe from this that I value function over fashion. The next step is to see if I can apply the ‘function over fashion’ principle to other areas of my life, for instance; clothes, furniture, plants, bed linen. I’m sure you’ll see a pattern emerging. If you’re like me and are a function over fashion person, you’ll probably have all white bed linen and dinner sets and, basic black will play a large role in your wardrobe.
Knowing this means I’m not tempted to buy a fashion item because I know I won’t value it and it will be clutter within a week. That knowledge alone constantly pays extra off my mortgage.

Which are you, fashion or function? If you’re a fashion person, that knowledge can still save you money. Knowing that you’re likely to buy several pairs of shoes each season means that you can choose to spend less on each pair because you know you’ll only wear it for a short time, that way your overall spend for the season will be much less.

Knowing what your big rocks are enables you to discriminate where you spend your time, too. Are you wasting your time on pebbles and sand? Do you spend two or 3 hours per evening watching television? What else could you spend that time on? If eating healthy meals and snacks made from scratch is important to you, then just one evening per week with the television off could be spent baking or preparing snacks or lunches for the week. Ultimately, using the time this way, saves you both time and money.

Thinking about the way I spend my time and money enables me to see where I am losing or wasting both. My aim is always to accomplish as much as I can each day that contributes to my goals – being mindful of both time and money is a large part of that.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

First Major Renovation - New Bathroom

My Victorian cottage is typical of most houses of that era; the ‘wet areas’ were added at a later time in an addition invariably known as a ‘lean to’. The ‘lean to’ on my cottage is approximately 7 metres by 3 metres and contains the kitchen, bathroom, laundry and loo. That’s a lot of functionality in a small area.

'Lean to' - view from kitchen
Ultimately, the plan is to remove the bathroom and laundry, expand the kitchen and turn the laundry/loo area into a rear entrance/mudroom.

The first step in this plan is creating a new bathroom from the third bedroom. Once stage one is complete, the old bathroom can be removed ready for the expansion of the kitchen.
Bathroom stripped bare
Unfortunately, we had to remove the Baltic pine lining boards. I would have loved to be able to reuse them but most couldn’t be removed without damage. But... I’m sure I’ll find a new use for them one day.
Starting to come together
As you can see, I used a timber dado to tie the bathroom back to the rest of the cottage which has panelled walls throughout. All the woodwork in the bathroom is painted with several coats of enamel to keep it waterproof. I don’t mind saying that it was a VERY smelly job. Enamel paint really gets up your nose! The painting is not quite finished but has been put to the side until summer so that every door and window can be open for ventilation.

Here’s the (mostly) finished bathroom...

The new bathroom
So, stage one is essentially complete. Stage two is about to begin; demolition of the old bathroom. Now, where's that sledge hammer...?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Big Rocks First

Deciding to start a journey is one thing, knowing where to start is something else again and can sometimes be a greater challenge than the journey itself.
Most people are aware of the story about the professor and the jar of rocks. The story goes something like this: a professor produces a large jar and a tray of rocks. He then fills the jar with the rocks and asks his students if they believe the jar to be full. Yes, they say. Then the professor produces a tray of pebbles which he adds to the jar, gives the jar a shake so the pebbles fit in the spaces between the rocks and asks the class again, is the jar full? Some of them catch on and say, no. The professor then pours sand into the jar which fills in the remaining empty spaces. The lesson most people draw from this story is that you can always fit more into your life. The lesson I take from this story is that if you don’t deal with big rocks first... they’ll never fit.

In starting my journey to an abundant life I needed to choose my ‘big rocks’. Most of us putter through our lives not giving a great deal of thought to why we do what we do and whether or not it’s really important to us. I was no different until I travelled with my daughter and my parents to Britain in 2003. I returned from that trip changed in a way I’d never anticipated. It might have been about timing or it might have been the renewed connection to my ancestors or it might have just been the sleep deprivation on the flight home but, my view of what my life could be changed irrevocably. I wanted something different to what was being sold on prime time television. I wanted something that was possibly even subversive. I wanted a simple life filled with those things that were important to me... and only me. Because, it is my life and as far as I know I have only one.

Over the next few years I took some risks, experimenting with different jobs and businesses in an effort to discern what it was that I wanted to do with my life and, just as importantly, how I was going to make it pay. I’m a lot closer to that determination than I was at the start of my journey but I’m not there yet. What I have been able to discover though, is what my ‘big rocks’ are. Here’s a selection.

  • Cooking from scratch so that we can avoid unnecessary additives like colours, flavours, preservatives, etc.
  • Avoiding genetically modified ingredients like corn, cotton seed oil, canola oil.
  • Growing as much of our own fresh produce as possible which cuts carbon emissions, pesticide use and excessive use of water.
  • Renovating my cottage so that it supports my lifestyle rather than my lifestyle supporting my house.
  • Redesigning the garden to increase productivity.
  • Harvest as many natural resources as possible, like water, sun and wind.
  • Live the three ‘R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

  • Reduce the number of hours of corporate employment.
  • Produce multiple income streams through patchwork economics.
  • Invest in my passions so that they become my work.
  • Work from home.

  • Using conscious consumption to reduce discretionary spending.
  • Buying staples in bulk and stockpiling other items when available at a reduced price.
  • Arranging my finances to benefit me and not the bank.
  • Using all of the above to increase my surplus cash so I can renovate my cottage, pay off my mortgage and be completely debt free.
Putting these big rocks in the jar every day enables me to focus on my goals. Staying focussed has enabled me to get the first of my renovation goals underway – the new bathroom (stay tuned for before and after photos).