I have always been a fan of homemade. Not only homemade foods but also clothes, home decor and much more. I even had a stint at making Christmas cards. I can remember watching a tennis final with Roger Federer while making dozens of Christmas cards for family and friends. It was enjoyable and exciting, probably because of the tennis yet I never did it again. Maybe it is because there are no more Federer finals to watch!
Homemade food have been a passion for a long time now. Whether it is for health reasons, being frugal, using the best ingredients and enjoy doing it, it has been a huge part of my life.
The collection of such foods is growing. As I love sharing good things, I have started to blog about it. Not all recipes are mine and my husband Keith is doing his fair share. He loves fermented foods and started making apple cider vinegar and sour dough bread years ago.
In fact my daughter started a sourdough culture while we were still living in Australia and we loved making fruit and nut breads. Making your own sourdough bread is easy and fun albeit there are a few rules. Keith has perfected his starter culture and we always have the luxury of crispy fresh sourdough. He trials different flours and sometimes adds ingredients such roasted garlic, rosemary and olives.
Homemade foods on offer
We have now added fire cider, red and white sour kraut, pickles, chutneys, jams and olives to our list of homemade foods. We were so lucky to spend almost a year on a large property in the Ariège. There were plenty of fruit trees including apple, plums, mirabelle, blackberries, mulberries, figs and crab apples. Consequently the production of chutneys, pickles and jams resembled a professional kitchen.
I hope to inspire you to have a go at ‘homemade’. My perfect ‘cook up’ is singing along to my favourite tunes on a weekend day while having the kitchen to myself. Then miracles happen………..
As we are heading for winter, consequently it will be time for fire cider! My previous post showed you how to make organic apple cider vinegar and that will give you the perfect base for fire cider.
So what is fire cider?
Simply said, it is a spicy concoction that combines different taste sensations in one drink. It is a combo of sour, spicy hot, pungent and sweet and it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. We take it during the winter months as a daily tonic to help fight off colds and flues.
fresh horse radish, onion, garlic, freshly grated turmeric, grated ginger, chillies, a sprig of rosemary, 1 cinnamon stick, apple cider vinegar, honey to taste and a large glass jar.
The list of ingredients is not set in stone and we use what we can get hold off. For instance it is hard to find fresh horse radish in Southern France where we live.
The quantities are rather flexible because it depends on how much you would like to make. Nevertheless if you want specifics feel free to let me know in the comments.
Here’s how to make it
Chop up all ingredients in tiny pieces and no need to say – the tinier, the better.
Place them in the jar and cover with apple cider vinegar
Close the jar and shake it up!
Place in a cool dark place for at least 4 weeks
Strain so you are just left with the liquid
Warm up honey and flavour to taste
Store in the fridge or a cool cellar
How to use fire cider?
Take a shot everyday, neat or dilute with water. If you find it hard to drink it, you could use it as an ingredient in soups, marinades, sauces and dressings.
Does it work? Who knows! It is full with ingredients that are good for you. Scientifically its potential may not have a leg to stand on as scientist usually don’t spend their time on testing the efficacy of natural remedies. I am a firm believer of taking daily a large diversity of organic natural ingredients. This fire cider is a combination of such ingredients.
As a matter of fact I am not here to debate the pros and the cons of taking fire cider. Above all I am here to show those who are interested how to make it.
All things considered, let me know if you have a go!
I was watching a yoga practice and the teacher said the following – “Meet yourself at where you are!”
Immediately I asked myself “What does that mean and am I doing that?”
Taking this literally, the answer seems rather obvious. Of course I know where I am but you must sense that the real question addresses something a bit deeper. Practically I know where I am – my location, activity and general sense of well-being. However you probably get that this is not my point.
Meet yourself at where you are!
‘Meet yourself at where you are’. What does that actually mean? To be honest, all kind of things come to mind, but I found the below online.
Meaning to take note of where you’re at (what’s going on in your life, how you’re feeling, etc) and then give yourself permission to focus on what is important right now based on this.
I understand that it refers to an awareness of “where you are and if that is where you want to be”. In other words, are you doing what you love and are you living the life that meets your dreams, beliefs and values?
Reflecting on myself, I think I am ‘somehow’ where I want to be. I enjoy living where I am and I am grateful that I can earn an income online. What I do, may not be my ‘ideal’ job although it addresses many aspects of what I am trained for and enjoy doing.
The main restriction has to do with time. My work week is 9-5 for four days which sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Yet I am aware that deep down I would like it to be different…..
For starters I chose to work only 4 days per week because I have plenty of other things that I want to do. Before I accepted the job offer, I knew that working 5 days per week would zap me from most of my energy. Even with a four days per week, I don’t seem to have enough energy to do other things. Being over 60 may have something to do with it!
What is the answer?
The reality is that I am no different from many people. I am certain that many people with set work times feel the same. Many motivational gurus tend to make us believe that all we need to do is ‘make time and commit’. Somehow that does not seem to work for me and possibly not for you either.
To recap, I am able to take note of what I value and I am so lucky to be living in a country that I chose. I have the option to work from home and have been able ‘to set up office’ in five different countries so far. It means that I can travel, do house sits or move around while still doing my job and earning an income.
Some of my favourite things to do are hands-on. I love gardening, up-cycling furniture, mosaics and in general being creative. When I do such things, I tend to forget about time and am totally ‘in the moment’. This is the ‘place’ where I would like to be most of my time but so far I have not figured out how to make that my reality.
Not an easy one! Feel free to let me know if this rings a bell and intrigues you. I am curious about your thoughts!
After our recent change from small town to country side, I am taking assessment of the different lifestyles I have been able to explore. To be honest I was not aware that I experienced such a wonderful variety. I have lived in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, surrounded by mountains and near the beach. Climates vary from subtropical to moderate and I experienced below sea level and living at a height of 1000 meters. I know about car free mountain villages and life in big cities.
By having all these experiences I have learned what I like and don’t like. I have found out what I appreciate and don’t want to do without. Some of these discoveries have surprised me.
The lead up
As a teenager I had this feeling that I did not want to stay in The Netherlands. If you would ask me ‘why’, I could not tell you. There was this longing for adventure, the unknown and the unpredictable that appealed to me. I found it hard to commit to anything in Holland whether it was a boyfriend or a job. And looking back I never did commit.
Apart from teenage jobs to earn some pocket money, my first jobs were abroad. In fact they were in Switzerland and I ended up working 6 summers in Zürich. After graduating and facing a recession in the Netherlands, I returned to Switzerland for longer term jobs. I stayed long enough to qualify for a residence permit.
In Switzerland I learned that I love mountains and you may know that Holland is flat as a pancake. I also found out that nice long summers were within reach, something that Holland does not provide in abundance either. Swiss job pay well and I splashed out on some travel to the land down under. Australia taught me that I love nature, hot weather and empty spaces.
So I ended up living Down Under for 25 years. Unfortunately due to job locations not in the surroundings that I would have preferred. My husband had a city based career and as a result we lived in Sydney and in Brisbane. Nevertheless interesting and very different cities at the time.
Time for another change
After 25 years in Oz we decided to move to a small town in France. The location of the town was a practical choice as we wanted a house that had good potential to be a medium term holiday rental. It was a good choice and we also ended up living in it for a few years. Limoux is a vibrant little town with a fabulous square and a crazy carnival lasting from from January to March. At least that is how it was before Covid happened.
Living in the centre of a small French town reminded me that I love nature, hate noise and what I saw from our windows was roof tops and the opposite house of the neighbours. Despite being a small town, it was surprising how noisy it could be. Then the next change came our way. During the summer of 2021, we did a housesit on a big estate in the Ariège and ended up returning to become its caretakers.
And now, I am surrounded by nature with lots of birds, deer hopping by and even the treat of meeting wild boars. We have no neighbours, the nearest supermarket is a drive away but it seems I have everything I want.
The funny thing is that I did not know I would like to live like this. This recent change came our way totally unexpectedly and I seem to have taken to it like a fish to the water. So never say no before you try, seems to be the lesson.
Have you ever had that feeling of doubt creeping in when you are in the middle of preparing a change? This is how I felt when my husband asked me if I realised it was just going to be the two of us for a while.
To get you up to date, we are in the process of moving to a big estate to become the new caretakers of a property. It was sold earlier this year when we were there doing a house sit. The property we will call our new home is in the Ariège with only a few small villages close by and a few bigger towns approximately 30 km away.
3-5 years of settling in
My husband’s question made me think! I have always loved starting over again, meeting new people and exploring all the new things around me. From experience and I have a fair bit, I know that it takes me 3-5 years to feel settled somewhere. It takes that long to make friends and feel comfortable. One of the things that always strikes me most is to figure out where you can find random things like a needle, pins or nails.
This new destination in Daumazin, Ariège offers nature, gardens and plenty of land but going to a café for a quick drink will be a thing of the past. To be fair, we don’t even know if the few cafes that we found in surrounding villages will be open. French villages can be fairly sleepy during the winter months.
Naturally I am a very social person. I like to be in touch with people, meet and talk to people. Social media is from that perspective a god sent. My experience is that it has helped me to connect with many likeminded people all over the world.
Social Media helped me to reconnect with old childhood friends, even a teenage boy friend and I made many new virtual friends. With some I click so well that I am sure we would be friends in person.
Moments of doubt
I suppose it is fairly normal to have these moments of doubt when change comes closer. It may help to put things in perspective. My usual approach to change is to be openminded, have no expectations and walk into it with energy and guts.
I can remember that this is how I started a new life in Sydney in 1991 and it paid off. I found a job within a week and made ‘friends’ there quite fast. Australians are in general easy going welcoming people and embrace strangers without hesitation. Many of them were once in the same situation after all – being a land of immigrants.
The biggest thrill for me will be the outdoors. Stepping outside and being surrounded by nature is like a medicine for me. To put it in perspective – where I used to live the only thing I see is the house in opposite and the street is not much more than a car width.
There will be opportunities to garden, possibly start a vegetable pad. I like to eat organic and make foods such as pestos, chutneys and jams. How wonderful would it be to go shopping in your own garden?
So, after this little ‘awareness’ moment and writing it down is as always helpful, I put on my gutsy hat and steam forward to this new life with energy and zest!
When doubt creeps in!
If you are going through a change and see these moments of doubt creeping in. If you feel you need a little retune, why not reach out, tap into my experience and let’s evaluate it together.
A ‘new adventure looming’ was my caption today on an Instagram post. Since we have moved to Europe, we have welcomed many new adventures that crossed our path. Sometimes it can lead to a surprisingly different lifestyle as it has done for us now.
If you would have told me a year ago that we would be in this position, I would have never believed it. It has never crossed my mind we would commit to something like this.
How a housesit became a new adventure
We love doing the odd house sit, probably 2-3 per year. It is a lifestyle we can embrace because I work online and only need a stable internet. My virtual job has allowed me to work in 5 countries so far. To clarify, my job is based in the UK but I live in France.
During 2021 we have done three house sits – one in Spain and two in France. The housesit in Denia, Spain turned out to be much longer than we anticipated. The reason was that the homeowners could not return from the UK due to covid restrictions. In fact, they needed to find replacement sitters to let us go. It ended up being a 9-week house sit instead of 5 weeks.
After returning we decided we should concentrate on France as it would be more accessible as we live in France. The Spanish housesit cost us close to 600 euro due to covid tests for us and our daughter who came to visit for Christmas.
During the summer of 2021 we did two house sits and both were in a different part of France. New territory for us and it gave us the opportunity to explore new areas. On the first house sit we replaced the couple that worked as caretakers of a rather big estate. The house was for sale and the people who came to view it bought it.
From house sitters to becoming caretakers
To cut the chase, they asked us if we would like to become the new caretakers of this estate. After a weekend debating with the help of visiting friends, we decided to prepare a proposal. We based the proposal on what we reckoned it would take to maintain this 16 HA property.
We proposed what we thought was fair but if it did not happen, it would be fine. Guess what, the new owners approved the proposal without a single objection. In fact, they even congratulated my husband on the quality of his proposal. I suppose as a seasoned IT project manager, writing big budget proposals is not new to him.
So, to finalise the story, the house will exchange in the beginning of December. We are moving there the same day to become officially the caretakers of this gorgeous property La Bourdette. I will keep my current job and assist in the gardening while my husband will be riding a tractor lawn mower, maintain a huge pool and tackle what else comes his way.
We will be living in an annexe of the main house and have our own outdoor area and views. I can potter in the gardens, grow vegetables and have an outdoor area – an exciting prospect to say the least.