Thursday, June 28, 2012

Possibly the best birthday present idea.

The best birthday present?
Jesus said it is better to give than to receive.

When we were given our new car (for free) my friend said she felt more excited about giving it to me than receiving her brand new replacement car!

And so for my 50th birthday tea party I am re-gifting 50 items from my home, and requesting no gifts for myself. I'm not self sacrificing. I already have more than enough. I just want to give out of my abundance. I don't mind what they do with them. They can pass them on - give them away, only they must not bin them!

Certainly this fits The Simply Living Challenge ethos perfectly. I just can't wait. (Though I am not sure if anyone will want the retro electric bread slicer.)


Asta x

Monday, June 18, 2012

Can you see her?

 Just when I think I have had enough of social media I suddenly realise how amazing it is as a vehicle for spreading knowledge and mobilizing others to make real change. So I am harnessing it to promote the rights of girls and women around the world who are 'cellophane' - looked through, walked past - these are the unseen.

If you scroll forever - back into the archives of my blog - you would see an entry about the picture book that I have written for the mature reader (I don't expect you to do this). It is called 'Cellophane Girl' and it's about a child widow - though it is also about all the girls and women that we don't see.

 By a series of odd Godincidences I stumbled upon the beautiful art of Kate Forman Ortiz and I just knew she had to illustrate it, and this she has been doing. We have one beautiful painted picture, the rest are sketches which she is slowly working on. (Kate has had a baby - Maeve the Brave, and so she is working on it slowly.) It isn't normal to choose your own illustrator, and I am sure I have gone about it all the wrong way, but I just L.O.V.E Kate's work. It's bright, it is full of empathy, it is political - and most of all - the more I have got to know Kate the more I know that we are a perfect match. She has the same heart for the 'unseen' woman as I do. What confirmed it most for me was when she started to draw. I asked her if she had been inside my head. How did she know what I can see in my mind's eye? How special is that? 

I am not sure how we will get published. Two highly respected authors have written endorsements for it and they believe in what we are doing. We have had one rejection slip from a publisher (I have only approached one publisher so far) - for the very reason one of the authors thought we would be - this company isn't at present accepting picture book manuscripts for mature readers. It is a niche market. 

BUT the book is just one way to get the message out. Published or not - Kate and I have not turned away from these women - we are looking at them full in the face (though it often hurts a lot). And we welcome others who want to do the same. We know it is good sharing stories about these girls and women, but that it is easy to become so overwhelmed that we end up doing nothing more than look. Looking is NOT seeing. Come and 'see' with us and let's get doing something!

Here are a few things that we can do now, in no particular order. If you aren't sure about how to go about any of these - if you need contacts etc - leave a comment and I will guide you. 

1. Write to a female prisoner and/ or come alongside a newly released prisoner. 

2. Go to Amnesty International's website and sign petitions. Right now they are asking for signatures for the release of Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor who is being detained in Libya.

3. Read books. Some suggestions are: 'Half the Sky' by Nicholas D. Kristof and Cheryl WunDunn, 'One Thousand Sisters' by Lisa Shannon , 'Slave Hunter' by Aaron Cohen, 'Marrying Ameera' by Rosanne Hawke. Hey you could start a book club. 

4. Watch movies and documentaries. The most recent one I have watched was called 'The Whistleblower'. The movie is 'okay' and I confess I did look away at some of the violence - but the courage of the woman who is the whistle-blower, and the fact that it is a true story, has encouraged me to persevere in fighting injustice. 

5. Sponsor a widow in the Congo. 

6. Baby sit for a friend - especially if she is a single mother. 

7. Explore some of the sites found on our FB page, share them, and invite your friends to join the site by clicking 'like'. 

8. Take in an asylum seeker (refugee). The Australian government is offering this solution to detention centres. 

9. Give away a day's pay -

10. At school - if you see someone alone - ask if you can sit with them. 

Peace and all joy,

Asta x

PS - And adopt a greyhound - that one is for you!!! I couldn't help myself.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

God's Car - how we got a free family car.

 God just gave us a car. 

Here is the story -  

Last weekend I got a phone call from a dear friend, who I haven't seen for a few months. 

"How are your cars going?" she asked me straight up. Odd question, I thought. 

"Well...." and I launched into the sad tale of how I got stranded in an intersection when my 22-year-old car broke down, and how for 2 days it was left on a main street with a handwritten note on the dashboard -'Flat Battery'. It turned out to be an accurate guess - and the alternator or something. 

I told her that my husband really wanted to sell his old 6 cylinder car because it costs too much to run. That we don't want to insure or register two cars, and that we want to use the small amount of money from its sale to help one of our children with something very important. That we longed for one decent family car. 

She listened quietly and then she said this -

"We would like to give you our car." And laughed. Later she said she just knew that something had to be up with our cars. And she said, "Your kids always loved our car." The exact words they repeated to me when I told them. 

This is how it all worked out. Her dear father died and left her some money. They bought a new car - to 'see them out'. They prayed about who their car should go to. Both came up separately with the same name - 'The Landers'. And so their loved car - which has new tyres, a new number plate, 6 months registration (they did this for us) and a near new CD player, and is in top condition because my friend's husband is a mechanic and it has been kept in a garage (whew what a mouth full) - became the Lander's family car. 

Yippeee and Wahooo. 

PS - Earlier in the year I finally asked God for a newer, reliable car. I have always felt a little odd about this type of prayer - a little guilty. Though I have to admit the day my car broke down  I was wondering if the reason I didn't have a new car was because I hadn't really known what to pray for - and so I updated my prayer and said to God - "If this isn't a silly thing to ask for - could we just have a reliable family car?"  And then the phone rang.... 

Thanks my friends.

Thanks be to God!

Asta x 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Slow cooking - making yoghurt with the slow cooker.

Facebook is a source of great inspiration and practical tips, and I just love how I can stay in contact with friends from all over the world. I also celebrate the fact that it has introduced me to like minded people. (I have a bit of a love/ hate relationship with it, because I am so easily distracted on there, and I lose track of time. I suspect this is a common complaint.) 

I was thrilled to find a link recently on how to make yoghurt using the slow cooker. When our children were smaller and I was at home full time, I used to make it regularly, but never with the slow cooker. I would wrap it up in towels and place it in an eski with hot water bottles to keep it warm. I have to admit something started going wrong with the process and in the end I gave up. It just became so sloppy (or perhaps it was me who became sloppy as I lost my focus and started to take too many things on). My new recipe and method truly works a treat. I cheated and test tasted it this morning, while it was still a little warm. Yum.

With 8 cups of milk and just half a cup of Greek yoghurt I have managed to fill a pre-loved yoghurt container and an ice-cream container. They will sit in our fridge now for 24 hours. Tomorrow for breakfast we will have home-made yoghurt with mixed berries! I can't wait. It's moments like these that I feel so glad to be at home full time again. I feel like such an awesome provider. It is so much easier to focus on the things that are important to me, and my family, little though they may seem. And I am reminded again that it is indeed the simple things that make my heart sing. 

So here is the recipe (and below I will post the original link). 

Pour 8 cups of milk into the slow cooker. Set it on low and leave it for 2 and a half hours. 

Unplug the slow cooker. I wrapped it in towels, because the air temperature is fairly cold at the moment. I left it for 4 hours. 

Take out 1 cup of milk from the slow cooker and whip in half a cup of yoghurt, return to the slow cooker. I whisked the whole mixture. 

Wrap in a few towels and leave it. For me that was overnight. The idea is to leave it 8 to 12 hours. 

Then transfer the new yoghurt into containers and place in the fridge for 24 hours. 

Done!!! Now impress your family. :) 

Here is the link to the recipe -

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Maintaining the pace – or not, by Penny Reeve

Penny Reeve

It’s been over two months since I last contributed to Asta’s blog and since then I must admit I’ve felt predominantly like a failure.  L  I’ve groaned at the dishes. Moaned at the washing and sighed at the ever thickening dust under the coffee table. I’ve felt as if all the love and gifting I wrote about last time has fizzled up, wafted away on the breeze of inspiration and I’m left with plain old me and a house full of work.
I’m tempted to shut up (who am I to write about living simply when we had take away twice last week?!), give-up (why bother pretending to make things from scratch when in reality I keep forgetting to put the bread on!) and slip back into my old habits. But something stops me.  It’s a flickering memory that I didn’t enter this simple living journey to prove a point. I began simplifying because I had some basic goals in mind. And these goals haven’t shifted – no matter the mood or surrounding family circumstances.
One of my main goals of living simply is to take back time. I don’t mean turn back time (I know I am a little odd but I’m not that far gone – yet!), I mean reclaim it.  A while back I decided that ‘busy’ was a dirty word.  Busy-ness had no right to rule my life. “Busy-ness doesn’t rule lives” I can hear you mutter. Well, doesn’t it?
Listen to the conversations around you and you’ll hear the word dropped frequently, as if it’s an expected, anticipated and even normal part of life. I’m not so sure it should be. I’m not convinced we were designed with busy-ness in mind. Fruitfulness – yes. Productivity – yes. Creativity – yes. But busy-ness?
One of my favourite Bible verses is “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Being still does not sit kindly with being busy. In fact, being busy negates even the possibility of being still. So my striving for simplicity is a deliberate attempt to slow my life. If I can’t completely eradicate the busy, I aim to squeeze it into seasons, or sessions, rather than allowing it to be the norm.
But how do I do this when I have an active family (including one amazing husband, and three adorable children - one of whom is a toddler)? I find busy-ness creeps up on me when I’m not looking and the symptoms pervade my life. I feel tired, harried, worried, stretched, exhausted, frantic – anything but still. I focus on the symptoms rather than the cause. And if I am honest enough to look at the cause (‘You’ve booked too much in your week again, PJ!’) I stall in that place of ‘failure’.
But remembering my goal to take back time isn’t about beating myself up. It’s about this little pocket of time that I have now. It’s more a mindset than a punishment. It’s deciding to plan the coming weeks aware of my own limitations. It’s choosing small and beautiful things to do with my spare time rather than filling it with nothingness. It’s being honest with my body: am I healthy? Am I eating right? Am I getting enough rest (busy-ness tends to sap strength even if what we’re involved in is positive)? I need to be careful about my motives, not begrudging time spent playing puzzles with my toddler but choosing to enjoy his growth and development. It’s about living out Micah 6:8 (“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”) instead of judging myself on other people’s expectations.
Every little decision I make in my attempt to avoid the ‘b’ word and live with more time impacts my family. Sometimes it’s a hard call: “No, you cannot do Tap as well as Ballet”. Sometimes it’s an easier one: “Lets wander up to the park now and we’ll just eat scraps for tea”. I haven’t reached my goal yet. I think we are still living in a time deficit, but we’re making tracks in the right direction.
So I’ll lift my chin up, dust the word ‘failure’ from my shoulders (the coffee table can wait till Monday) and keep going on my journey towards simplicity. The goals haven’t changed even if the month has. Plain old me is still in love with her family and eager to celebrate the beautiful with them. In fact, I think I might go and make some banana bread – the kind that takes about an hour to bake. And then we’ll eat it warm, outside, and watch the sun go down. 
What about you? Once you’ve finished reading this blog? What will you do today to take back some time into your family’s life? I’d like to hear about it. J

Penny Reeve is the author of 11 children’s books. She is passionate about children, faith and social justice. She can be contacted via her or via her Facebook page:

Thank you Penny. Oh my goodness I was nodding in agreement all the way through. I used to buy into the busyness is next to Godliness stuff, but I am no longer impressed by busyness. 

Asta x

Asta's fashion fast update

(365 days of not shopping for clothes, accessories, shoes and even socks)

This is my fourth day. I am wearing one of the outfits I bought on my last shopping spree at the Salvos. I haven't written an inventory of my clothes yet - but I will, when I feel brave. I worry I don't have enough for 365 days, but I know deep down that I have an obscene amount of clothes, even after my big clean out recently. I also know that  there is much in there that I never wear. I think I will learn that it is true that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. What a waste - and we are targeting waste this month on The Simply Living Challenge. 

A x

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fashion fasting.

This is my new stash from the op shop, I bought them this morning. You may be impressed that I walked there and back. I am!

 1 x red cardigan, 5 x jumpers, 1 x drawstring comfy pants, 1 x brown velvet bag and 1 x black beanie hat (I'm wearing it as I write because as you know I have declared war on waste and I am holding off putting on the fire. I'm pretty toasty actually. It's true that a hat and socks keep you warm.)

A new friend was op shopping and as I tried on my bits and pieces it became a real communal shop as she and her friend agreed or disagreed on the choices. It's something I love about op shopping and something I will miss, because today was my last op shop clothes shopping spree for a year. (Maybe) I am signing up with the Free Fashion Challenge.

I don't sound too convinced, do I? Well my mind is willing but my spirit it freaking out!!!

I wonder if I am mad considering this (because I am seriously addicted to op shopping) but we have had two women over at our FB page - The Simply Living Challenge - who have reassured me that I will not regret this. They have done it and they continue to be 'extreme' conscious consumers. I am impressed, and encouraged.

And I have Ellen walking beside me, and Georgina (Nans Common Sense) and her husband. We are taking the challenge together, with a few variations. (Georgina is thinking of doing it in chunks - as in she and her husband will do it until New Year and then consider another few months. Sounds like a good idea to me, though I am aiming for the year. And I think she might accept gifts. I haven't decided whether I will or not. What if someone offers me a pair of lightly used rainbow, red or purple or floral Doc Martens - or SoleRebels? How could I turn them down?Ah but I am allowed to swap. A marvellous loop hole.)

And why am I doing it? Because I am concerned about sweat shop workers. I am concerned that so many of us don't think about where our clothes come from, why they might be only a few dollars in a chain store.  Fast fashion. Disposable fashion.I don't like that most clothes are made cheaply and fall apart. I don't like the whole idea of the latest fashion. I am always amazed by how many  last season, rarely used clothes I find in the Salvos. I don't like that people turn their noses up at secondhand but believe it is okay to buy  new and throw away. I can't believe how many people (me too once) have bought into all that wonderful, persuasive advertising.

Sustainable fashion interests me. I just googled one of the founders of this challenge and she has recently co-authored a book on this subject. Here is a link:

In my case I'm not too pleased with myself that I can't walk past the clothes in the Salvos when I could just 'treasure' hunt through my own. I know I would have loads of fun altering my outfits, trying different combinations together, making something, re-discovering something or wearing it in a new way... it will release the creative in me. I want to have swap parties.

I also remember Oprah saying that we can dollar and dime ourselves into poverty. I think if I spend less at the op shop I could save up for that eco outfit I have my eye on. In fact - that thought could be a great carrot for me. If I put that weekly amount away I will definitely have enough to buy that outfit (or two) at the end of the challenge, and by then I am quite sure I will know what I do want and what I don't.

Wish me luck.

Asta x

ps - Do you want to join us? Perhaps you are already doing something similar. I would love to hear from you.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Counter cultural mums unite!

 ( Not the most flattering photo of me, but a special photo none the less.)

This week I return to our home as a full time, stay at home mum of two teenagers. I feel blessed that I have a family who welcome me home. I feel blessed that I know we will make ends meet because the simple life allows us to. I feel blessed that I have no confusion about the path I am on. I am free. I am living my values. I feel closer to God, and at peace.

In my mind's eye our house is clapping its hands and smiling. Every now and then it does a bit of a leap in the air and a heel click. Mum's home! (I'm thinking it's a good thing this is only happening in my imagination!)

Tomorrow I will sit on the verandah and eat with my son during his lunch hour. How many times will I be able to do this? Our other son had left home at his age. I feel a sense of urgency - a deep desire to drink in these precious moments.

And in the afternoon I will welcome our daughter home with 'high tea', she'll study or maybe read while I'll prepare dinner, and then we will walk our much loved Jasper (the rescued greyhound) through the bush. We'll talk and talk.

Later I will sit with my husband around the fire, the cats at our feet, while we drink tea or wine. The kids will have been 'heard' by me, the dog will be doing his greyhound thing (sleeping... well as long as he doesn't get too excited about seeing his 'dad' home), and so he and I will be able to give each other some focused attention.

Tomorrow I may clean, I may not. I know I will cook.

Punctuated throughout the day will be intentional times of prayerful silence and stillness. I'll write in my journal. I'll drink cuppas.

Tomorrow will be lovely.

I know the best made plans can come unstuck, but even if they do, it has been wonderful dreaming of them tonight.

Below is a link to a quick 'Thank you mum' video. Makes me wonder what my kids would say, especially when they have left home. Not sure if I want them to say some of the things these guys say ... covering for that guy when he burnt down a forest?! What I do know is that all kids are grateful when we are engaged in their lives. And it works two ways - mums love being loved. It is certainly the case for us.

My love to all the mums reading this.

To all the mums whose children have left home, and who don't live close by.

My love to all those women who long to be a mum and aren't yet, and may never be.

My love to the mothers who have lost a child. I weep with you.

My love to the mums who struggle to care for their children, to those who may not have access to their children. My love especially to drug addicts and prisoners.

My love to the women who are mums because they foster children with great love or because they look out for the children in their sphere of influence.

My love to the mums who are heart broken when they have no choice but to leave their children in care while they work.

My love to the mothers who don't know where their children are, or who have to stand by as they watch their children in pain.

My love to new mothers, to school mothers, to older mothers. To mothers of all races and religions, and all nations.

My love to the women who have taken me under their wing. My love to my mum!
..... and my love to Riva, Elliot and Tim

Be blessed all.

Asta x

(I should have written this for Mothers Day!)