Sunday, July 29, 2012

The BIG, BIG Simply Living Book Swap.


I have just stumbled over a book swapping site in Australia where people buy and sell their books. Postage is included in the price, and any profit is marginal. 

What if we here do a swap where the only cost is postage (no money is exchanged) and we don't choose our book - but get a lovely surprise in the mail?  

 We have in common the desire to live simply - sharing our goods, conscious consuming and frugal living are some of the areas that we are exploring together - but we are also a varied bunch with a wide range of interests. I think this is exciting. You can not pigeon hole us, and we can learn so much from one another. Won't this be a great opportunity to connect on a real level? 

Reading is one of life's simple pleasures, isn't it? We all seem to enjoy it. Some of you have even shared your recommendations in the comment section of the last post. What does that list say about us? 

 This is how I see it working:

1. Leave your contact details in the comment section. I check all comments before they are posted and I promise those details will not be published. Or if it is easier find me on FB and leave me a private message. (While you are there you might like to check out my FB page )

2. Then I will do what  magic I can - matching you with someone else from your country. 

3.No money will be exchanged, but of course you will need to spend money in posting your book. 

4. If I can't match you with someone from your country I will request that you send the book by sea (it is cheaper) to someone elsewhere. It may take some time to get to its destination, but I am sure it will be worth the wait, and who doesn't love a 'surprise' package in the mail? I have sent several books to friends this year - two overseas. And it seems to me they arrive just when they are needed the most!  

5.Tuck into the pages a photo of yourself, a little note or a book mark. Maybe share why this book means something to you. Personalise the experience however you like. 

6. Be sure to send something that you would like to receive yourself. In other words don't send 'rubbish'. But I would be very surprised if any of you did that. 

So what are you waiting for?


Asta x

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Recommended reading

A random selection from Asta's library
So I thought I would add a recommended reading widget to my blog. I have a friend who has done this on her site. As I am a passionate book lover, who loves to recommend books, I thought I would too.

Surely it can't be too hard, I thought. I chose my books carefully, trying to keep them to a limit. I created a lovely slideshow of titles that made me smile as the preview displayed their pretty faces... covers... one after the other. 

 I saved it. I copied it. But when I tried to paste it, I had no idea where to paste it to. Blogs! I have so much to learn.

Anyway while I sort out this problem why don't you share with us the books that you would recommend. I covered topics like: art, writing, simplicity, eco living, spirituality. What topics would you chose? Or maybe you are mostly a fiction reader. Any favourite authors? I can't wait to hear from you.

Asta x

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Share a cuppa with Steve.

Steve is simply fun to be with. - Asta
"I want my life to be part of this movement that prevents starvation, greens the planet, beats machine guns into gardening tools, to feed people and restores all things." - Steve McKinnon

 Steve, being modest, would not like to hear this - but he is one of my heroes. His style of simple living, his faith, his integrity, his sense of humour and humble nature make him a delight to know. 

*Steve walks the talk.*

Make a cuppa, pull up a chair and meet Steve - 

What 5 words best describe you?

 Visionary, unorthodox, prophetic, pastoral, shy (at times).

Introduce us to your family. 

I have 3 sons and 1 wife. Neo is 10 and is a live life to the max, outdoor type but he is also a sensitive and abstract thinker.  Ben is 7 and is an indoor, arty/ crafty smarty, and Samuel is 3 and is generally very happy, helpful and honest. They are all great and unique. 

Erica is a social worker and teacher trained. She is a very strong and caring woman, and I chose her because I knew I would put my wife through a lot - so she’d have to have those qualities. 

How would you describe living simply? 

I actually find Living Simply is very complex.  If I am to “live simply so that others may simply live”, how much time do I spend trying to live simply myself and how much time should I spend helping others grasp this concept? In order to do the later there are things I need eg. car, computer, time, etc.  My answer is in community.  If I live in community with others committed to similar ideals then some of my time can be spent helping others grasp this and other times I can garden or raise chooks and rabbits, and helping marginalised people.

Why is simple living important to you? 

I hold a faith that God’s society will one day take over this crazy society and this revolution is a slow process but a powerful one, like the Colorado River cutting the Grand Canyon. I want my life to be part of this movement that prevents starvation, greens the planet, beats machine guns into gardening tools to feed people and restores all things. 

As I am part of the richest 5% of the world’s population that have ever lived that consumes resources at an incredible rate, and I also have access to education and information, I think I’m in a position, and have a responsibility to live more simply and encourage others to do the same.

Who inspires you? 
My community inspires me. Tom challenges me when I say I am thinking of buying a caravan and peppercorn renting it out to a homeless guy. He'll say, “Why don’t you live in the caravan and let the homeless guy live in your house?” Bonnie inspires me as she checks the compost temperature and turns it at 5am. Our community group started perma (culture) blitzs and we get together each month and blitz someone’s yard to grow vegetables. My wife inspires me as she breeds rabbits and kills them to eat. She says, “If we are going to eat meat we need to be more connected to the process.” Tom and Lyn are looking at going with TEAR Australia to Afghanistan to help make a difference. Phil and Julie from TEAR tell me I should charter a boat and take asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia because under UN law anyone can apply for asylum. I said, “My name would become mud. I would get crucified.” “Don’t you call yourself a Christian? Anyway your name needs some muddying up," is their reply. 

Talks and books and Jesus inspire me, but seeing a need and having a go at meeting that need in a community development manner gives me a kick. In 2002 I helped set up a community garden in Lockridge and now its going quite well. I am no longer running it and lots of others are- fantastic! I’ve helped set up a half way house but we are still in the process of making it self sufficient. 

It sounds as though your community is the tribe that supports you in your simple living. Who are they?

Yes, my tribe is Lockridge Open Table and Peace Tree Community and Lockridge Anglican Church. They all live in Lockridge and we support each other in trying to live simply and keep each other accountable in that effort. TEAR Australia is also my wider tribe.

Who do you read?

Mike Frost, Ched Myers, Dave Andrews, Richard Rohr, Martin Luther King, Jon Owen (UNOH Sydney), Stephen Said, Steve Bradbury, John Smith, Tony Campolo, Brian McClaren, St Francis and a list of others help me. I’m not reading anything at the moment, instead I’m listening to talks  from those people I’ve mentioned.

How do you make a living? 

My goal is to work part time so I can spend more time with my family and in the community and for years I did this. I do have 2 part time jobs that are hopefully part of the answer. I’m Chaplain and Counsellor at a K-12 school in Ellenbrook (3 days a week) and a TEAR Representative for 2 days a week. I think though at some point I need to break this and take more risks. If we are in Australia we won’t starve to death even without a job, but I do need to be responsible for my family. 

What is your concept of 'daily bread"?

I think daily bread is bigger than just money and food. I think if we have a caring, loving and supportive foundation - that is - faith and family, then we can take more risks whether emotional or otherwise with others. Recently I've been talking with Erica about creating an encouraging environment within our family; where we speak kindly and more positively with each other. It’s working.

In terms of daily bread I think the motivation behind why we do anything is important. At my best I do things for others out of gratitude for what God has done for me. At worst I do things out of obligation, or anger, or insecurity and this is counterproductive.

How can we get the message of simple living across to others? 

 Do we need to publish what we are doing online - like a blog on this stuff? Oh wait...

Hahahaha. Steve, I really think that you get the message across so well - because you live what you preach. In fact you don't preach! That's my point. 

What else can you and Erica, and your tribe teach us?

I don’t know what we can teach but I can tell you what we do. We op shop, we give 5% of our income to the poorest of the poor- through mainly supporting TEAR Australia. We keep each other accountable to give the other 5% to local churches and mission. We open our homes up. Meet our neighbours. We grow our own veges to save our carbon footprint. We dumpster dive. 

Dumpster dive? I have wanted to do that for ages but as yet I haven't been brave enough. 

 We holiday close to home as much as we can and walk the Bibbulmun Track. We live close to each other and walk to each other’s places. We try to work with each other for paid employment or on a project.  We raise chooks and rabbits, and include others from the community in this. We run community garden workshops.  We keep each other accountable through our use of time. We get milk straight from the cow and it’s stored in a pail in our neighbour's back fridge. We have to rush off to the neighbour's when we run out of milk, so we can fill up our 2 litre flagon.  We use our oven to heat and bake. We have solar panels etc... all the usual stuff, but we couldn’t do all this if we didn’t have community.

How can we support what's important to you?  

You can support us by continuing to do what you are doing in your locality, giving to TEAR regularly or giving Useful Gift presents to friends, advocating for the Micah Challenge etc.

Steve thank you for sharing your life with us, your wisdom and your time with us - oh and our imaginary, or maybe not so imaginary - cups of tea. It has been a refreshing conversation. You have given us much food for thought. Thank you!!! 

 Has anything stood out for you from this interview? We invite you to share your thoughts with us here - to keep the dialogue going. Feel free to share this interview far and wide - if you think it can make a difference. 

Peace and all good my simple living friends,

Asta x

( Asta is a TEAR Representative in her local church. You might like to be one too.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The five minute rule might just change your life.

Five minutes. 300 seconds. 

Trying to find hours to accomplish something can overwhelm us to the point where we just won't even start.

But maybe I have found a key. Think of your project as that elephant. You know the one? The one you can only eat one bite at a time (weird expression I know, certainly not one for an animal activist - but helpful for now).

If you need to write a letter, a story - just do it for 5 minutes. You might just be tempted to add on another 5 and then another 5.

The house is a mess? Spend 5 minutes doing one simple job - take a broom to the cobwebs, sort the washing, clean the bench, make the bed...

I often hear people say that they have no time to read. To that I say - if you really want to you will. It only takes 5 minutes!

I'm off to work on my new art project - for 5 minutes.

Asta x


Stay tuned for the next interview. This man really walks the simple living talk. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Catherine Earp (A 'daily bread' interview)

Catherine and children at a shared birthday party. 

It was with great pleasure that I interviewed Catherine Earp today. She is a humble young Australian mum, with much wisdom, who truly lives the simple life. 

Catherine, how would you describe yourself in 5 words? 

warrior. over-comer. beauty seeker. visionary.

They are powerful words. Tell us about your family?  

Thanks be to God I married a good man in June 2004 and have returned his investment with four children: Annemieke Abiah Magdalene, Theodore Elijah Aslan, Manoah Jansen Tobias and Rosalie Adalia Evangeline. I hope he knows I love him. I tell him that I wouldn't have had four children in five years (and two months) to any other but a good man. I love that we do life together. 

Your children have beautiful names. Can we have a glimpse into your day to day life?

So far today I have held my squirming son until he stopped resisting, 
sung over him and discussed the nature of love with him (that if he were a 
tree he would need lots of water to grow, but since he is a boy, he needs lots of love. He says he needs water, too. So we agreed that trees need a little bit of love and lots of water, whereas he needs a little bit of water and lots of love). I have traced around his hands, making one look like a tree, and the other like his own hand - I believe in engaging all of his senses as much as possible. 

I have breastfed my baby, picked cradle cap from her scalp and mentally 
scolded myself for not leaving it alone.

I've walked past a mirror and realised that I must be as tired as I look but 
somehow I think I'm managing despite it. 

I have played soccer with my 2-year-old, taken the compost out, prepared a meal and snuck peeks at Facebook.

Can you explain to us what 'daily bread' means to you? 

It's about physical needs. I really think God is saying - I'm not disgusted by 
your frailty. I'm not disappointed by your human nature. I'm not surprised 
by your neediness. I'm okay with all of that. Just trust me, come to me, 
let me connect to your physical parts as well as your emotional, spiritual, 
intellectual, social... parts.

Can you elaborate a bit more. What is an example of him meeting your 
daily bread needs?

That's simple! I have bread on the table.
I have air in my lungs.
I have sunshine, shelter... and then I have comforts added to 'enough'.

How do you make ends meet financially with a relatively large family?

That question makes me smile because just the other evening I cornered 
my husband (who has no intention of letting me employ myself outside our 
home) and said, "You can't afford to let me work and earn income for our 
family." I went on to explain, "We'd have to pay for A's schooling (we're 
home based education people at this stage), place Th, M and R in 
childcare, we'd have to buy bread (we make ours), buy nappies, buy pre-
made meals (instead of home-made), buy me a new wardrobe, pay for 
housework help... and who would go op-shopping? or bargain hunting?" 
And I went on and on and on... until I concluded, "I more than earn my way around here! I think it's worth keeping me on."

Oh that is funny. You sound like a perfect fit for the living simply 

I didn't realise I was a simple philosophy person until I recognised myself on your blog, Asta!

I cook meals from scratch, op-shop and go to the local recycling depot 
(Tiny's Green Shed) for items that have been reclaimed from the tip. For 
example I've bought the children bicycles for $10 each.

 I sew, mend, make and compost and so on. That hasn't been a change of 
lifestyle for me, I think I inherited it from my parents. However, I can still 
learn more about living simply and just being. So, I'm embracing it. 

There was a time that I felt a little bit 'rich' - very modestly, actually - and 
spent a bit extravagantly, compared to my habits today. I didn't enjoy that 
life nearly as much as the more simple one I've returned to.

So who inspires you? 

The mother who bottled and stewed plums every summer. 

The father who grew broad beans every winter. 

The woman who writes a blog. 

The builder who saved materials until he could build his own house. 

The friend who asked 'why?' or 'what for?' 

The Vietnam veteran whose home runs off solar and uses the generator when absolutely necessary... and his lovely wife who works with him cleaning homes, and mowing lawns to bring in an income  - so that he can feel useful and hard working, and so they can live their simple rural life. 

The friend who chooses to live on less than their means so that they can bless others. 

I find inspiration everywhere.

What have you been reading lately? 

 I've just started to read Rhonda Hetzel’s 'Down to Earth: a guide to simple living'. 

That's a great book. It's popular with a few in The Simply Living Challenge community. What's a practical tip we can learn from you?

I put old woolen jumpers in a hot wash (can work with ordinary loads of washing) if put in pillow case with about 6 golf balls. After 6 washes the old jumper is shrunken and relatively stiff (doesn't always work with hand knits) and can be used anywhere you'd use felt: under table legs, creating a toy...

Well I have to confess that I have felted by accident Catherine. It was a happy accident as it turned out. 

So how can The Simply Living Challenge community support you?

Sometimes I wonder if I've missed something... if my life is TOO simple. Maybe I'm not taking it seriously enough? I doubt myself.

 I love seeing ways of living simply connected to their philosophical roots - the whys behind living that way. 

I need courage to give my niece a handmade recycled jumper dress for her birthday rather than the plastic toy I know she'd love.

Thank you Catherine. It has been lovely talking with you.

If you enjoyed this interview and would like to leave comments for Catherine, please do so here and I will make sure that she gets them.

Asta x

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The wabi sabi bowl.

The wabi sabi bowl
Wabi sabi.... don't those words delight? Do you know what it is? I'm not sure that I do, but I do know that it is a Japanese aesthetic. It seems to mean finding beauty in wear and tear, rust, in junk, in decay, in hand made... these words are often used to describe it - imperfect, impermanent, incomplete. 

When I stumbled upon those words I just loved them. I took pleasure in saying them. I felt I'd found a concept that celebrates something that I love and have few words for. It seems a perfect match for simple living. 

 Last night I made the bowl in the photo - my wabi sabi bowl. Absolutely imperfect, impermanent and incomplete - made from free dried grass and old clothes. Something in me thrilled at its creation.

I placed it on our sparse chest of drawers, and it became an offering and a prayer.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Jessica Waters

Made by Jessica Waters at Pillow Slip Posies.

This interview is the first in a series of interviews which will explore the 'daily bread' activities of those at The Simply Living Challenge community. 


"Don't chuck out everything just because it's not in fantastic condition any more -so much can be done with just about everything!" - Jessica Waters

Why did you start a home business?

I wasn't really trying to build a business in the begining. I like creating. I dabble in everything from sewing to paper craft to painting. There are only so many of your own pretties you can keep around on your own shelf! I had several annoying people telling me how good they thought my creations were and that I should sell them. My sister was there when I listed my first doll. Now I have started I am quite addicted to the feeling I get when a complete stranger buys and loves my work.

What do you hope for? Pocket money, solid income, fame?

 Not fame no. (Here she laughed.) Somewhere between pocket money and a solid income. I don't want to rely on the money because it would take the joy out of it. I love what I do and only do it when I'm inspired, and in the creating mood. I hope for a  good community of people who like and buy my work, and give me enough money to fund my shoe addiction! 

How did your business idea develop? 

  I started by creating floral hair clips and headbands. My Nan gave me a giant pile of beautiful vintage linen that was too worn around the edges to be used as linen but was perfect for sewing. The first clip I made was a rose made from one of the pillow cases I got from my Nan. That’s how the name of my business started - Pillow Slip Posies. I tired of making those very quickly because they were all very similar and I used the same techniques. 

I was browsing Etsy one day and stumbled across a pattern for a doll. The pictures of the handmade dolls they had up were pretty, but I couldn't help thinking about how I would change them and make them original and funky. 

Who are your dolls aimed at? They look very detailed. How long do they take to make? 

They aren’t really aimed at anyone. Kids can play with them or adults can buy them to display. They are just for people who love a good "pretty". Each doll takes up to 3 days, depending on how much of an idea I have in my head to start with. I don’t use patterns for the clothes so if I haven’t made a particular type of outfit before it takes longer. It’s a lot of trial and error.

Where do you get your inspiration? You write a character description to go with your dolls. That's a lovely touch. 

I get my inspiration from so many different places. Sometimes I have a beautiful fabric and the doll flows from there. That is how my first doll Ailish was created. I had the fabric I used for her body and the rest of the materials for her clothes and hair just felt right. The style kind of wrote itself. Most of my dolls actually write themselves. I get the idea for one small part of it, like the blue hair and the hair bow I put on Asta, and the rest just seems to fit. It's a bit hard to explain. I spend such a nice chunk of time creating each doll that they almost speak their personality to me as they are being created. 

I have planned some future dolls that are based on charactors I love: Marie Antoinette, Gwen Stefani (a 90's pop star), Kerli (singer) Kelly Eden (model).

How does your business fit into The Simply Living Challenge's philosophy? 

I buy very little of the materials I use. My nan is almost a neverending source of vintage linen; sheets, doilies and of course more pillow cases! I upcycle clothes whereever I can as well - mine, my kids', op shop finds. You dont need to buy new to have new things. My girls are each getting one of these dolls for christmas, made out of something they used to own or wear.

What can we learn from you?And how can we support you? 

You can support me by spreading the word! Share the shop with everyone! You don't have to buy my creations - though that is definitely appreciated... just realise that you don't need to buy your materials new! Don't chuck out everything just because it's not in fantastic condition any more -so much can be done with just about everything!

What can you learn from me? White chocolate and coffee are the best combination of flavours ever! 

Where can we find you Jessica? 

 I originally started with just an Etsy shop - but now I have a Facebook page as well -

Jessica you are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing with us. 

Asta x


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Letters to the invisible.

The pope with a prisoner (creative commons)
I was in prison and you visited me -  Jesus
Write a letter to a prisoner

A shop assistant expressed a genuine desire to write to a prisoner when she discovered that I do.
"Okay, I'll find you a prisoner," I said. I always speak faster than I think. As I walked down the street to the bank I was wondering if I really could follow through.

And in a Godincidence (those who follow my blog will know that these happen constantly in my life) who should all but bump into me as I rounded the corner and into the arcade where the bank is - but the lovely gentleman who gave me the names of the three American prisoners whom I originally wrote to, now two - because one is released. ( In fact she's reading this post and doing sooo well. I am just bursting with pride.We are now Facebook friends and in constant contact. I love that girl.)

I said to him, "You don't happen to have another prisoner who needs a penpal, do you? I have someone who is really keen."
He held out the letter in his hand to me and said, "This just arrived." Wow. We laughed. I could have hugged him, but I was unusually well behaved.

I turned right around, marched back up the street and into the shop where she works. She was alone at the desk. I placed the letter in her hand. "Here she is. Her name is Barbara. You are meant to write to her."
She was taken aback, with tears in her eyes she took the letter, lent forward and said quietly, "My sister has just gone to jail." (Perhaps this time I can become a prison visitor...)

One of my prisoner friends is alone in a cell at the moment. The funding for the course he was doing was cut. He, like all at his prison, has very little time out of  his cell and so very little time in fresh air. He is alone with his thoughts. He has no visitors. My regular letters keep him going. It isn't a big thing for me, but it means everything to him. Do you know someone who is invisible to the world - who could do with a letter from you? Well what are you waiting for? Grab a pen and some paper (it doesn't need to be fancy) and let them know they are seen. And if you want a prisoner... we'll see what we can do (God and me).

Asta x