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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

New Year Review

Last year I intended to do quarterly reviews but I let perfectionism get in the way and ended up not doing any so this year I’m trying to do better by just writing things out as I think of them and not worrying too much about whether it is set out in the best way.

That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Bible Study
Last year I used the Daily Bread reading plan by Robert Murray M’Cheyne. I managed to more or les keep up with it until about September and then gradually ended up about a month behind by the end of the year. This year (once I finish last year’s reading plan) I’m planning to study the Hexapla. I don’t have a set aim of how quickly I want to get through it – I just want to study God’s word thoroughly and compare the different translations. I figure that looking at the alternative translations in parallel will help my understanding and it will enable me to see for myself the differences between the translations. This is something I am really looking forward to for this year.

Last year I did plant a few things but all I ended up with was two tomatoes (and I didn’t even plant them!). Unlike 2006 (I didn’t grow anything in 2007) watering was not an issue since it was a fairly wet summer but the slugs and snails totally destroyed my runner beans. I also usually find it difficult to access the tools etc I need to work on the garden but this year my husband has tidied out the shed so I should be able to find what I need. Since Little Girl loves to spend time outdoors it should be fairly easy for me to get the time I need in the garden to make it a success.
Short term goals
  • Sort seeds.
  • Decide what to plant.
  • Write on calendar when to start seeds.
  • Read a bit about the plants I am growing.
  • Clean out pots and prepare for planting.
Long term goal
  • Maintain plants throughout growing season and raise a crop.

I did start doing daily cycling for a couple of months in the summer but then when the weather became not so good I didn’t like to take Little Girl out on the back of the bike so I stopped. I then got some exercise videos which I did a few times but I haven’t got the hang of them yet. I’m thinking I might try going out on my bike again as Hubby has been out on my bike (because mine has the child seat) with Little Girl this week and evidently she really enjoys it as she keeps requesting to go out on the bike now.
Short term goals
  • Go cycling twice a week.
  • Do an exercise video once a week.
Long term goal
  • Exercise four to five times per week.

Healthy Eating (Nourishing Traditions style)
Last year in addition to baking sourdough bread I developed my own sourdough spicy fruit loaf. Sourdough fell by the wayside in the last couple of months but I’ve got the starter out and ready to go now so should be resuming sourdough bread this week. (Edited to add: I made some today.) I started making yoghurt, buttermilk, crème fraiche and kombucha and will continue to do so. I also obtained some kefir grains but haven’t been successful in producing anything palatable from them yet. I was already making stock from bones/carcasses but I have started deliberately choosing meat on the bone in order to avoid the need to buy stock cubes at all. We switched from margarine to butter and from semi-skimmed to whole milk (except for in tea – I just don’t like the taste of whole milk in tea). I introduced a Nourishing Tradition-ised version of baked porridge (oatmeal) into our breakfast repertoire to give a bit more variety whilst still being healthy. I have started doing a bit of pickling and making condiments and hope to expand on this in the coming year.
Short term goals
  • Resume sourdough baking
  • Experiment with kefir again (any suggestions of how to make it more palatable are welcome)
  • Try a new Nourishing Traditions recipe each week.
Long term goals
  • Replace all condiments possible with home made ones.
  • Eliminate shop bought snacks containing hydrogenated vegetable oil.
  • Reduce sugar intake as far as possible.
Stewardship (frugality and “green” living)
Amazingly my current figure for this years spending (our financial year ends at the beginning of April and I forecast expenditure and then update it with the real figures) is only 0.2% higher than last year so far although I expect it may end up higher than that in the end.

I’ve been tracking my grocery spending in a spreadsheet for about three years but had never made a price book. Finally in December I started one (which led to some very interesting discoveries with regard to price) and my intention is to make use of it in order to find the best prices and to be able to stock up when things are on special offer.

I started making lentils and rice which is a very good cheap alternative to mince (ground meat) and I’ve started using lard (which is 72% cheaper than butter) for some baking and for greasing baking tins/trays. Another big change food-wise would be that we started getting organic fruit, veg, milk, cream and eggs delivered from a local farm.

I finally got around to buying cloth handkerchiefs instead of using paper tissues. I am sure this is saving us a fortune as I would often get through a box a week and I have definitely noticed that I don’t need to buy as many as I used to. My husband also agreed to try toilet cloth instead of toilet paper (for number ones only) on a trial basis which is also cutting down our use of resources.

I already mainly use homemade cleaners but having bought a huge bag of Ecover washing powder, it would be silly to switch to homemade. I have however decided to mix it with borax, soda crystals (washing soda) and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) in order to reduce the cost per wash from the current 7p per wash.

I’ve also been making more of a conscious effort to avoid buying more “stuff” and to try to avoid excessive packaging which is probably reflected in the low increase in our spending despite high inflation.
Short term goals
  • Update price book monthly and make appropriate purchases according to the information.
  • Use half lentils and rice in all mince dishes.
Long term goals
  • Cut back/eliminate kitchen roll use.
  • Price up meal recipes (including any variations) in order to see how much they cost.
  • Refine washing powder recipe.

Home education
This is something I have been thinking about a lot this year. I have a lot of ideas about how I want things to work out in the medium term but am less concerned about the short term. Rather than having specific learning goals or a time frame for those goals, for the most part I just want to provide a suitably varied range of appropriate experiences so that my daughter can learn and develop at her own pace. Although I don’t follow it strictly, I have found “Slow and Steady Get me Ready” useful for activity ideas and variety.
Short term goals
  • Create a home-education file.
  • Write down appropriate activities and put them into categories.
  • Try to ensure each category is covered at least once a week.
  • Continue teaching letters and progress to words when appropriate.
  • Read at least one book about education.
Long term goals
  • Read more about various philosophies of education (Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Classic/Trivium) and make notes.
  • Sketch out details of a medium term plan.

This started out with considering whether our books, DVDs and videos were good things to read/watch and then expanded to become a full scale clear out. The DVDs and videos have been done but books take time to read so they are a much longer job. We sorted through our boxes of stored stuff and managed to roughly half them. This has produced a lot of stationery mainly in the form of empty files, dividers and scrap paper. I’m now trying to work through the rest of the house tidying and decluttering. I come from a family of hoarders and used to be very sentimental and obsessive about keeping things (such as all my Christmas and Birthday cards and all my school work since I was about nine or ten for example) but since starting on the books etc it was like a light bulb went on in my head and suddenly I realised how unimportant these things are. Yes it is nice to keep mementoes of significant occasions or special people in my life but I don’t need to keep everything to make a life record which someone else then has to sort through when I’m gone.
Short term goals
  • Finish general decluttering around the house.
  • Go through and put away last remaining storage boxes.
  • Finish removing staples from scrap paper.
  • Throw away, recycle or Freecycle all unsalable items.
Long term goals
  • Sell “stuff” at a car boot sale in the summer.
  • Get rid of anything left over either through e-Bay, Freecycle or charity shops.
  • Create a regular system of decluttering and “stuff” avoidance.
  • Teach my daughter how to declutter and not accumulate loads of “stuff”.

Keeping the home
Overall I would probably say I’ve got things more organised than I used to. Menu plans and checklists of things to do on regular days/weeks definitely help. Towards the end of the year things did get rather chaotic due to a number of factors but thanks to most of those being resolved and progress with decluttering I am more or less back on track with things now except for menu planning. My Home Keeping Folder is getting rather unwieldy and disorganised though so I’m thinking of starting afresh and working through Heather’s “Inside the Guide” series to cut it back down and organise it. My recipes are also rather disorganised so that is another thing I want to work on.
Short term goals
  • Resume menu planning
  • Remake Home Keeping Folder using “Inside the Guide
  • Sort through recipes/recipe books and only keep ones which will be used.
Long term goals
  • Organise recipes into a file.

I aim to meet all the short term goals by April when I will do a quarterly review.

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;


Buffy said...

What a lot of great goals! If you manage to do all of these you're going to see some serious changes for the better.

I know I need to get down to sorting out clutter myself.

Heather said...

Excellent goals Susan! I'm so impressed. I read somewhere that writing down goals is the first step toward achieving them, so I would say that you're well on your way!

Anonymous said...

Here's hoping.

Anonymous said...

microfibre clothes are brilliant replacements for paper towels, and you can get them colour-coded to avoid cross-contamination. You can also get bamboo dishcloths which are similar to the traditional cotton ones, but bamboo uses loads less fertiliser and water when it's growing, and when they're finally more hole than cloth, just chuck them in the compost.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Rosamundi - I didn't know that about bamboo although I do know they make bamboo nappies so maybe that's why. I think the main thing is sorting out some sort of system so that the cloths are handy on the worktop rather than in the cupboard so that I can grab cloths as easily as the kitchen roll.

Anonymous said...

You know those wicker baskets you can get, lined with cloth? I've seen them in restaurants to hold paper towels in the toilets. How about one of those and a bag under the sink for the dirty ones? Or a metal basket so that the basket getting wet wouldn't be an issue?

Anonymous said...

That's a very good idea - thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have also been going through Heather's "Inside the Guide" to reorganize my binder. I found Heather through you, so Thanks!

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