<![CDATA[Self-Sufficiency  Dream - Blog]]>Fri, 26 Jan 2018 15:38:11 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[I Quit My Job]]>Fri, 26 Jan 2018 23:32:16 GMThttp://selfsufficiencydream.com/blog/i-quit-my-jobWow, how amazing does it feel to quit a job because you are moving to Italy...well only amazing when you have a back up plan clearly.  In preparation for moving and quitting full time work I have been trying out various freelance websites like peopleperhour.com, Upwork and Fiverr.  I created profiles on all of them in the past few months to see what kind of work was available and for what kind of money.  I am both impressed and surprised by the results!

I first put myself on Fiverr, this is an ok platform but my experience is that there is more spam and in general the contract values are really low given they are based on discrete ‘gigs’.  I then came across peopleperhour, this was better in the sense that the jobs were better and the rates we better but there were not lots of them.  For me there were maybe 5 - 10 potential jobs a week although many of them were not suitable as the rates were too low.  Onto Upwork - I am laughing at this now but I think I tried to get approved on Upwork for maybe 10 - 12 months, I must have applied about 20 - 30 times by changing my profile etc.  In December I was finally approved and this opened my world to really great opportunities!

Fast-forward to January I have 3 really interesting jobs for 10 - 20 hours a week each!  Good hourly rates, no commuting and interesting work.  This is why I decided to quit my actual job full time VP of Sales role, no more people management, politics and commuting.  I feel a new sense of freedom and ownership of my life.  I also realize I might have over committed myself by having three jobs, I am clearly still dazzled by money but I think this slow transition will be good for me.  By the time May rolls around (when we are planning to actually sell the house) I hope to be down to two jobs and then come August I will say goodbye to all of them.  It is scary to not earn any money because you fear you will not be able to start earning money again when you are ready but I think that this process has shown that it is possible.  I hope when we are settled in Italy that I am ok with just having one job for 10 - 20 hours a week, I just need enough to have a nice life - I need to get the American mentality of EARN AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE out of my system :)

<![CDATA[Italian Temporary Home Strategy]]>Tue, 09 Jan 2018 04:22:17 GMThttp://selfsufficiencydream.com/blog/italian-temporary-home-strategySome of you may have read a previous blog about my love of the Italian agriturismo but for those you who have not heard of an agriturismo it is an independently-owned farm used partially for accommodation purposes.  This means that this might be a place with one room/ apartment or 20, it really depends.
We have finally decided that we will put our home on the market in May and have made the rather brave assumption that come August 1st we will be bound for Europe, house free!  We have yet to figure out where to fly, where to buy a car (or move our car - a new idea I need to explore) but we figure that this process to buy or collect our car will take about a week.  So come the 11th or so of August we are ready to experience agriturismo life and so far the plan is to stay in various agriturismos until November.  We are going to start with a 2 week stay in the Alto Adige region which is where you will find the stunning Dolomites, the stunning Northern Italian Alps.

Wow, is it hard to find a place in this region that actually has availability in summer!  We love to go to this region to experience the summer hiking, fresh air and stunning mountains.  Our first choice was to stay in a lovely sounding town called Castelrotto which is the largest town in the Seiser Alm region which is largest high-altitude Alpine meadow in Europe but alas for our budget everywhere is booked.  After more research done, on my husband’s part we have landed on the town of St Magdalena.  Check out this picture - not a bad place to stay huh!  And, yes, this is the view from the place we are staying.

St Magdalena, Italy
One great thing about these places in the Dolomites is that they often throw in these activity cards.  For this particular location the card is called the DolomiteMobil Card which offers free use of public transport, free entry in over 80 museums, guided excursions and alpine tours, free use of the local swimming pool and free rides on the Seceda funicular!  What a deal - can’t wait to get there!

<![CDATA[Silence is Golden]]>Sat, 06 Jan 2018 21:51:26 GMThttp://selfsufficiencydream.com/blog/silence-is-goldenApologies for the silence for so long, life got the better of me.  Also when you decide to move to another country your list to things to do becomes SO much longer.  I am in the the process of trying to find a home for over 30 orchids as I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars heating my greenhouse this winter when I will be moving to Italy this year.  This is just one of many tasks I am trying to tick off the list.  Here in Seattle we have had some bad weather these last couple of months and we lost a lovely ornamental evergreen which was a good 30 feet tall, it is still in the garden along with many branches….more tasks.

With the start of the new year is the start of the real planning which is exciting, some big decisions and larger questions are:
  • When to sell the house
  • Sell through an agent (and lose LOTS of money) or sell by owner
  • How long will it take to sell?
  • Should I book my flight to Europe based on when I think the house will sell or wait until the last minute?
  • Where should we fly to Europe to buy a car given I will not actually be a resident yet?
  • Where should we live until we find the house we want to buy?
  • Where are we going to learn Italian?
  • ….

The list really does go on and on.  Some people might be overwhelmed by this but frankly I am pumped.  I am going methodically check each on of these off the list in the coming weeks and months so that when it is time to go we will be all set.
<![CDATA[An Impactful Trip to Mexico]]>Wed, 25 Oct 2017 19:24:56 GMThttp://selfsufficiencydream.com/blog/an-impactful-trip-to-mexicoMy husband and I are lucky enough to be away on our first trip alone since having our son 2 years ago. We decided to head to Mexico as flying to Cabo is an easy flight from Seattle. We decided to come back to an amazing hotel which we have visited several times before. Rancho Pescadero, which is several miles outside of Todos Santos seems to value the concept of farm to table. They have an amazing Garden Restaurant which serves food which it seems is 100% made from scratch. They grow most of their own vegetables in a lovely garden of about 1/4-1/2 acre. They have just planted the crops that will see them through the winter. They are lucky enough to grow almost anything they need through our winter months.

I love all the various salsas that they pair with the various meals, everything has such a simple but fresh flavor. Ceviche is another delicious treat with the fish caught that day and paired with simple ingredients: lime juice, cucumber, avocado, red onion and tomatoes.

​We have spent our first two days reading books, eating, drinking, swimming and playing Yahtzee of course. This time doing essentially nothing has made us ask ourselves, 'why are we waiting until 2020 to move to Italy'? The obvious answer is 'we need to have enough money' but in the last two days I have thought to myself, 'is it ever enough'? I have been conditioned to save and save and if I am honest with myself do I know when I will feel like I have 'enough'?

Doing some research on cost of living in Italy I came across this site: https://transferwise.com/gb/blog/cost-of-living-in-italy. Which clearly states that the cost is EUR 33,996 for a family of four to live in Milan (excluding rent). We are a family of 3 and plan to live in the countryside!

With this time to think things through and do a little research we have decided that 2018 is the new 2020! We will hope to leave the US in the first half of 2018, buy a car and caravan and vacation around Europe until November. We will then head to an Italian town like Todi, Spoleto or Perugia and hibernate, learn Italian and start the property search with the hope of buying a property so we can move in by the Spring/Summer 2019!

Wow, this feels great to make plans which are imminent!

<![CDATA[Delicious Canned Tomato Sauce]]>Tue, 10 Oct 2017 22:26:59 GMThttp://selfsufficiencydream.com/blog/delicious-canned-tomato-sauceAs you might have read from an earlier blog post I pick my tomatoes, remove the stalks and freeze so that when I am ready I can make one big batch of tomato sauce which I will can and use throughout the winter.  

We have had our first rain of the autumn here in Seattle and the temperature outside is a cool 55 degrees F so it is time to make the sauce!

This years tomato crop was not as good as in previous years so I suspect I will not get more than a few liters of sauce, darn!

Here is my process for making tomato sauce:

Canned Tomato Sauce

First I start by dumping all the frozen tomatoes in the pot, just to defrost them and getting them cooking takes 3 - 4 hours so make sure you are ready for almost a full 8 - 10 hours of cooking.

You need to reduce the total volume by 60%, crazy I know but tomatoes have so much water and you need to cook this off so you are left with tomato goodness.

Once you have cooked down the tomatoes to a thick mixture it is time for you put them through a food mill.  My food mill has three options from the biggest holes to the smallest, I use the middle option.  Once I am through with this process I always find that I need to cook down the mixture a little bit more.  You know it is ready to can when you don't see a separation of water at the top and tomato sauce.  I have included a lot of pictures to help you with this process.

​When it comes to canning you need to boil a pot of water, make sure your jar are sterilized.  I use quart size jars and before adding the sauce you need 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.  Fill the jars with the sauce leaving about ½ at the top.  Put on the seal and lid and then process in the boiling water for about 45 minutes, leave them for an additional 5 minutes with the heat turned off before you remove them.

You should have a winter's supply of tomato sauce!

<![CDATA[Autumnal Roasted Tomato Soup]]>Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:45:23 GMThttp://selfsufficiencydream.com/blog/autumnal-roasted-tomato-soupIt is tomato glut season and I am lucky to love tomatoes!  The  weather is getting colder here in Seattle and we have had rain for the last 3 days.  This weather makes me think about the cold rainy winter to come and that in turn makes me think about soups and stews, YUM!

With that in mind here is my recipe for an autumn treat:

Roasted Tomato Soup

Put about 2.5 pounds of tomatoes, 2 roughly chopped onions and about 6 - 8 garlic cloves (peeled) in a large bowl

A bowl full of tomatoes, onions and garlic

​Add about 6 tablespoons of olive oil and make sure that everything has a good coating.  Once coated dump out the contents onto a baking tray.  Cook in the oven on 450 degrees F for about 20 - 30 minutes, they are finished when the look nice and caramelized!

Oiled and ready for the oven!

​Once they are done in the oven dump them into a pot add about 32 ounces of stock, 2 - 3 bay leads and about 3 - 4 tablespoons of butter

Ready to cook down

Cook for 20 - 40 minutes or until the contents has reduced by ⅓, you want a thick mixture.  

Remove bay leaves and then use an emersion blender to create a consistent mixture.  Add cream to taste (I added about ¼ cup), salt and pepper….Enjoy!

Enjoy this delicious tomato soup!
<![CDATA[For the love of orchids]]>Mon, 18 Sep 2017 17:19:21 GMThttp://selfsufficiencydream.com/blog/for-the-love-of-orchidsI have been growing orchids for a good 4 years and it is such a rewarding activity.  The excitement I feel when I see an orchid about to bloom after waiting sometimes up to a year is pretty awesome.  I have added to the collection a lot over the years and have about 40 orchids now.  I heat my greenhouse to about 55 degrees F in the winter which does restrict the varieties which I can grow.  I don’t grow Phalaenopsis orchids as they cannot handle as they cannot handle temperatures this low.  

I have a lot of success with oncidium orchids and grow may different types.  When they bloom WOW do they bloom with sometimes 3 - 5 flower stalks covered in bloom.

Oddly enough I do not use any fertilizers at all.  I use a timed irrigation on them in my greenhouse which sprays the entire plant, leaves and all.  My goal is to create as natural of an environment as possible for them and the greenhouse gives them the level of humidity that they need.

Here are some pictures of my favorites!
This Miltoniopsis Rubenesque smells so amazing
One of about 10 flower stalks
A stunning oncidium orchid
The flowers on this orchid look like spiders!

​After waiting about 3 years I was finally able to get this stunning Cypripedioideae orchid (Slipper Orchid) to bloom and then it bloomed for a second time in less than a few months, lucky me :)

The long awaited slipper orchid
<![CDATA[Dahlias - The Start of a Flower Addiction]]>Wed, 06 Sep 2017 03:29:42 GMThttp://selfsufficiencydream.com/blog/dahlias-the-start-of-a-flower-additionAfter the moles ate all of my stunning oriental lilies this year I had a lot of space that I needed to fill.  I love cut flowers so after doing some research I decided that I would give Dahlias a try.  Did you know that the dahlia was declared the national flower of Mexico in 1963. Also, quite surprisingly, the tubers were grown as a food crop by the Aztecs, I love Wikipedia!  

I have always been so impressed when seeing the striking massive Dahlias at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show that I used to go to every year when living in the UK.  What always amazed me about Dahlias is that they are perfect, you can stare at them for minutes and still not find a malformed petal.

At the local garden center in Woodinville I was given the choice between close to 100 Dahlia options and frankly I had no idea where to start.  In the end I bought a mixed package of Dahlias which had a label indicating that they were good for cut flowers.  I also quite liked the idea that I would have no idea what the flower would look like until it bloomed.

WOW, was I not disappointed with the different types.


​I am totally addicted to these stunning flowers and now I need to find out if they grow well in Italy too :)
<![CDATA[2017 Tomato Results]]>Tue, 29 Aug 2017 03:54:41 GMThttp://selfsufficiencydream.com/blog/2017-tomato-resultsAs my tomatoes have now reached the top of the greenhouse (16 feet) I think it is a good time to review varieties I selected and how they have done.  Here are the varieties I have grown and my comments on how they have done!

  • Red Robin - These are the determinate tomatoes I grow in the front of the greenhouse.  They did not disappoint this year, this is an amazingly compact prolific plant producing a delicious cherry tomato, I suspect each plant produces 100+ tomatoes which for this plant's size is amazing!
  • Caiman - I have never grown this one before and I am pretty satisfied with the massive and attractive red tomatoes, they are firm, large (size of an apple) and delicious!
  • Gardener’s Delight - I have grown this tomato for years but this year my plants have a terrible disease which causes the growing tip of the plant to shrivel and die.  So basically this plant only got up to about 6 feet.  Instead of removing the side shoots I started to grown one of them up since I had lost the main growing tip and I just noticed that this is dying as well.  What a shame!
  • Ananas Noire - I thought that this was a fun tomato when I read about it but in practice this tomato has not impressed.  There are not many tomatoes on this plant and so far none have ripened.  I am always looking to grow prolific/productive plants and this one does not fit the bill
  • Sweet Aperitif - WOW, this is an impressive plant, some of the tomato branches have close to 75 tomatoes...yes, 75...this is not a typo.  The are so sweet and delicious, in fact the most delicious tomato I have ever eaten!
  • Montesino - This is a grape variety and it is SO good.  It is not as prolific as I would like and for a grape tomato is taking a lot longer to ripen than I would have expected

<![CDATA[Kale Recipe for Kale Haters]]>Thu, 17 Aug 2017 22:09:42 GMThttp://selfsufficiencydream.com/blog/kale-recipe-for-kale-haters
Kale gone mad!
Apologies for the silence, I have been trying to keep up with work and all the vegetable picking in the garden.  What has been most surprising this years is that my kale is still growing like crazy and it has not been attached by any of the many insects that often attach it every year. Lucky me!

I LOVE kale but I come across a lot of people who don’t love it so I am always looking to create recipes to convert people.  Admittedly, I have failed more often than I have succeeded but I continue to try.  I wanted to share the recipe which has created the most kale converts.  Enjoy!


A good glug of olive oil
About 15-20 kale leaves
2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
1 cup of beef stock (chicken will do but beef is better)
1 cup red wine if using beef stock, white wine if using chicken stock
1/2 cup of grated parmesan
3 tablespoons of butter
Grated nutmeg (optional)
Black pepper (optional)

Strip the kale leaves from the tough centre stalk and discard the stalk. Roll the kale leaves up into a tube and cut the tube into slices (or just chop the kale). Cut the onions into two halves, then slice each half so that the onions are in long slivers. Chop the garlic. Heat a non-stick pan and add the olive oil. Add the onions and turn pan onto a low heat. Fry the onions until they are transparent and soft. Add the garlic and keep frying until the garlic and onions are pretty soft.

Heat the pan up until its hot and add the stock. Keep the pan on high heat until the stock reduces to about 1/10th of its original volume. Add the cup of wine and reduce that until its about 1/10th its original volume. You're trying to get something which is a bit thickish, not just liquid.

Turn the heat back to low and add the kale. Keep cooking the kale until its still bright green (not pale green) - probably about 4 -5 minutes on a low heat. Stir the onion and kale around so its all mixed in together.

Add the parmesan and stir.

When it looks like the liquid is just covering the bottom of the pan - its ok if its still a bit liquidy, but you don't want it to be a half inch deep for instance - then add the 3 tablespoons of butter and stir until the butter is melted.

The butter and liquid should thicken slightly.

Turn off the heat and stir everything in the pan so that it is well mixed.

Grate more Parmesan over the top, grate some nutmeg and/ or black pepper, and serve.