Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Great Kitchen Clean Out of 2012

There is a New Age belief that whatever you give out comes back to you, not just emotionally but materially. For example, if you give a lot of money to charity the universe will reward you with lots of money. Not really sure about that but over the years I've given away a lot of things to charity. I also seem to be constantly being given things. Or more accurately perhaps, inheriting things.

When my grandmother passed away in the U.S. I'm not entirely sure my mother gave any of her stuff away. Several months after her death large shipping containers full of my grandmother's things arrived on my mother's doorstep. We had great fun looking through it and picking out what we wanted. My mother kept most of it and lived alone in a three bedroom house in which every piece of furniture, nook and cranny was stuffed with things. It's hard to let go of your mother's things, even if that's all they are: things.

After my mother passed away my sister and I spent a day together in her kitchen dividing up her kitchen things. It was like Christmas. Most of what I took wasn't so much because I wanted or needed it; it was because it reminded me of my mother or grandmother and, therefore, created a link to someone no longer in my life. In addition to that, some of the things I took seemed like a good idea at the time...

With Footprints came gratitude and with gratitude came the realisation that I had more than enough material things in my life. Furthermore, no amount of material objects was going to either bring back my mother or grandmother or strengthen the bonds I already had with each of these wonderful women.

That being the case, Husband and I spent the past two days culling in the kitchen. And I mean culling. We have boxes and boxes of things we don't use, need or love to give away to charity. I think there is more stuff in the boxes than in our kitchen cupboards now. The only things I've kept of my mother's or grandmother's are the ones I actually use. The exception is my grandmother's spoon rest which I used to use but kept breaking. The lines where it's been repaired are glaringly obvious. Nevertheless, I intend to buy a plate stand and proudly display it on my now bare kitchen counter. I just love that spoon rest and every time I look at it I think of happy times in my grandmother's kitchen which was the hub of her house. Oh, and her coffee cup is on the counter too, holding chopsticks. (We eat a lot of Asian cuisine. Not sure what she would think of her cup's current use but I rarely drink coffee and tea doesn't taste good in her coffee cup.)

Husband and I feel tired but liberated. The feeling after de-cluttering is akin to having a weight lifted off your shoulders. Furthermore, I feel great that our unwanted stuff may find homes where it's loved and help a charity at the same time. I just hope that the so-called laws of the universe don't give me lots of new stuff to fill the gaps. I like the gaps.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An ex-pat American's Thoughts on the Sandy Hook shootings

I've been fuming since the Sandy Hook shootings. I do it every time there's a mass shooting in the U.S. That makes me angry quite a lot of the time. Up until yesterday I simply failed to understand why the U.S. doesn't change its gun laws. I was at the hairdresser and he posing the same questions. As he did so, however, I felt personally attacked; not because I don't believe in gun control but because a great number of American family members who I love and respect and believe to be intelligent, well-educated people don't. As he ranted and raved I pondered how it could be so that that was the case.

Then it hit me. As much as I - and other Australians - are at a loss to understand why gun laws aren't toughened in the U.S., the Americans who don't want tougher gun laws are at the same loss to understand our point of view. Both sides think they're right.

I'd be generalising if I were to suggest that all Americans support guns and no Australians do. The fundamental difference, I believe, is cultural. Guns are part of American history, culture and psyche. Try changing that. Yes, we've got guns here and, despite the introduction of stricter gun laws sixteen years ago, a young man went on a shooting spree at Monash university ten years. Guns are not part of our culture, however. Most everyday Australians simply do not feel the need to own a gun for protection whereas many Americans do. 

So, today, I go above and beyond my usual gratitude for being middle-class in a Western country. Today I'm grateful that:

  • my parents decided after their two year working holiday in Australia forty one years ago to stay
  • I grew up in a country where guns are not part of the culture
  • when a disgruntled student walked onto my daughter's school campus with a score to settle he was carrying a sword, not a semi-automatic weapon, and no one was killed or even injured 
  • following the worst shooting massacre in the world, which sadly was here in 1996, there was "a ban on all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, and a tightly restrictive system of licensing and ownership controls."
  • the thirty five deaths at the above shooting galvanised both sides of politics, as well as the general public, so that the victims didn't die in vain. (It was still senseless and a tragic loss of life.)
  • the most recent mass shooting here was ten years ago
Things are not perfect here by any means. I live in Adelaide where we've have some really bizarre murders. Furthermore, I don't know the overall crime stats for Australia. I'm still glad, however, not to live in a country with a gun culture.

For a different perspective from a fellow Aussie blogger check out Trifectagirl's most recent post. It's very insightful and makes me wish I'd written it.

Finally, I could not finish this post without acknowledging of the children and teachers who were killed or injured at Sandy Hook elementary school and their family and friends who are going through a horrific time at the moment. My heart goes out to all of them.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmukkah presents

I went out and did my usual Christmas smash and grab yesterday. I headed to our large regional shopping centre armed with a list, credit card, shopping bags and a big bottle of water.

In just over an hour I had bought all the presents on the list. The remaining ones are few and are things I want to buy on-line or somewhere else.

Furthermore, I incorporated it into picking up Teenage Son and Girlfriend from school.

I mostly bought gift cards to stores that at least have an 'ethical sourcing policy' which means that, in theory at least, they don't purchase goods made under unethical conditions. I'm not convinced the Coles group stores really are that altruistic but it's the lesser of the evils when there are teenage nephews and nieces that you don't really know what to buy. The bulk of the rest were bought at Oxfam where I got an unwrapped present ( I love those!), a bracelet for The Girlfriend and some sauces for a good food loving friend. The Boyfriend is getting a DVD. My own children want to go to Womadelaide for the whole three days so we're paying for part of their tickets. As for each other, Husband and I have decided to buy an electric mixer. We've done the research and, unfortunately, it's a case of the best of a bad lot. We can't seem to find what we want second-hand but will keep looking for now. If we can't find one, we'll buy one which we hope will last.

My sister and her family will receive a family pass to the baseball and my father-in-law a gift card to a local, independent store near him.

Stepmum is a Christmas baby. She and Dear Old Dad are planning to downsize so I don't want to buy her anything material for her birthday. When Teenage Son and I were visiting them recently they introduced us to their favourite restaurant so I plan to arrange a meal there paid for by us to celebrate her birthday.

Chag Sameach!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Our Victory Garden

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. Nor have I not felt like blogging. I've been travelling - again. That's for another post, another day and, believe me, I have lots to write about. Today, however, I'm writing about our back garden.

Seven years ago we adopted a Border Collie cross puppy. At the time we had a lush back lawn. The Dog, however, loves to run and chase birds. He never catches any but it amuses him all the same. Soon, dirt running paths appeared where The Dog had been. They kept getting deeper and deeper. Somewhere along the line, our state began to undergo watering restrictions due to drought. In there, too, my mother became terminally ill and passed away. Needless to say, the lush lawn eventually died, too, due to abuse and neglect.

We've been trying to replant but the poor seedlings don't stand a chance thanks to The Dog. They either got peed or trampled on. Then, to add insult to injury, he tried to dig up the cat. That's when we knew we had to rethink the whole back garden. I hit on the idea of raised beds. The dog could run around them, the plants would be too high for him to pee on, one could sit above the cat's grave (and we could attach the plaque our vet sent us) and there would be no undergrowth at ground level to attract snakes. Win.

The Garden Whisperer came and did it when I was away. (I travelled without Husband this time.) When I left the garden was a dust bowl. This is how it looked when I got back.

We're growing salad greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries, basil, chives, mint, oregano, chilies, thyme, parsley, comfrey, bok choy, joie choy, Asian greens and coriander. That may not be all; that's what I remember. You can also see that The Dog still has plenty of room to run. Mulch has been laid where it's bare so no more dust and dirt everywhere.


Monday, November 19, 2012

The Joys of Blogging

About a month ago I finished the first draft of my novel. I'm taking some time off now. I plan to return and it's still in my head; I just need to detach from it so when I get back to it I can do some ruthless editing.

That being the case, I brought along one of these blog posts to share at my writers' group on Sunday. One of my fellow writers asked me what I wanted him to look for. It's something we do; is this believable, does the dialogue flow, is there too much/little description etc? My reply was that I write the blog purely for enjoyment and didn't want to think about it too much, I simply wanted to share. Writing the blog is fun; I love doing it and don't want to censor myself in the sense that I'm so hung up on how it reads that I lose the joy.

I've also realized, however, that when I don't post I feel guilty. The truth is there are some days when it's just the same old, same old and any post I wrote would be a repetition so I refrain. We continue to work on our garden, try to keep waste down, try to shop ethically on a daily basis; I just don't always write about it. I'm not getting pressure from anyone else to post everyday, just from me. I don't want to lose the joy. So, keep on checking this space on a daily basis, it's a joy to write and post for you. I just can't guarantee that I'll post everyday. Other times, I may have the ideas for multiple posts in my head. The lot of a writer, I guess.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

When Bad Companies are Good

It would be quite logical for me to write that I wouldn't shop at Dick Smith electronics but would still buy Dick Smith food products. Why???? I hear you ask, confused.

I shall tell you. Dick Smith electronics is no longer owned by the man himself. I'm not sure what he thinks about his name still being used. It is owned by the Woolworths group, one of the duopoly. If things continue as they are, most shops in Australia will be owned by one of the two groups. That's not good for small, independent businesses or our wallets.

Dick Smith - as far as I can gather - still owns his food label. He is a passionate believer in buying Australian produced foods owned by Australian companies. Of course, Dick Smith doesn't deal with the food directly, he owns the label which is used on jars and boxes of food made by Australian companies he's chosen. I know that Sanitarium Foods is one such company. If you want to know more about Dick Smith foods, as well as his philosophy, click here.

The other company is Cadbury. I've been writing for some time that, despite their Fair Trade and organic chocolate ranges, I try to avoid buying their products. I stand by that because, as I've written before, they're owned by Kraft which is considered one of the bad boys. I would, however, buy Cadbury ice cream which is made under license by Bulla Dairy Foods, a family owned Australian business. I'm not sure of the agreement but Cadbury ice cream is Bulla ice cream. I'd rather just avoid the confusion and buy Golden North or Maggie Beer instead. We rarely buy ice cream anyway because of the packaging and the unhealthiness so, why not indulge in one of the local but more costly ones as an occasional treat?

I'm now sure I've cleared up any confusion you may have had. NOT.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Time To Be Thankful ... Again ...

Last year, in the lead-up to Thanksgiving, I wrote a blog about what I was thankful for. I'm not going to  do that this year. Been there, done that. It's not that I'm not grateful; it's that I'm grateful for the same things. We don't celebrate Thanksgiving here but, in the lead-up, I see many of my American family members and friends posting about their gratitude on Facebook. They have every reason to be grateful; they're middle-class Americans. That, in and of itself, is something to be thankful for. The same goes for being a middle-class Australian.

Yesterday I heard an inspirational 50 minute interview with James R Doty. Here is the link. I'd never heard of him and never would have had I not chanced upon this interview. I'm grateful that I did. One of the things he said that resonated with me is that in America - and thus by extrapolation in Australia - people rarely look at those lower than themselves on the socio-economic scale and think how fortunate they are. Instead, they look at those higher and wish they had what they had and believe that would make them happy. Since beginning Footprints I've rarely thought about those higher on the socio-economic scale. I'm thankful every day to be exactly where I am, both socio-economically and geographically. Okay, I admit I'd LOVE to live in North Adelaide and be able to attend more theatre and travel more. But if that's all I want that I don't have I'd say that's a pretty good position to be in.

What are YOU thankful for?



Monday, November 5, 2012

Eating Seasonally

Husband and I have always been very organised about planning menus and shopping accordingly. Our menus rarely - if ever - used seasonal veggies. We just buy what we need without thinking too much about it.

Our veggie harvest last summer caught us on the hop. We didn't expect such an abundant crop and found it hard to get out of our mindset of planning a menu and then buying the veggies. We did well once we got into it, however.

We're hoping this summer will be even bigger and better but we really need practise at planning a menu around existing veggies rather than planning first and then buying. To that end, last week I purchased our first seasonal veggie box from our on-line greengrocer. We didn't know what was going to be in it. It was sort of like Christmas/Chanukah opening the box and seeing what wonders were there. The box was full to brimming with veggies around which we planned this week's menu.

On Friday evening we had the mother of all stir fries. We ate off of that for three days. Then we had a traditional meat and roast veggie meal. (The kids had lentil patties.) Last night we had a vegetarian chilli which will feed us for a couple of days. We've discovered that mashed sweet potato added to chilli is a filling and tasty way to add extra bulk, vitamins and minerals so we did that. Tomorrow night we're having a potato, cauliflower and leek soup using the cauliflower growing in our garden.

First Froots sent us an iceberg lettuce which Teenage Son will eat. The rest of us prefer salad greens. I began to lament the fact that we didn't have enough greens left for our lunches today when Husband - who is working from home today - dashed out to the veggie patch and grabbed a handful for us to put in our salad. From garden to bowl in under five minutes.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

To Trick or Treat or not to Trick or Treat

I've been thinking about Halloween since, well since Halloween. The reason that I've given it any thought at all is that a couple of friends had lively and passionate debates about it on their Facebook pages. I probably wouldn't have given it any thought at all otherwise, except to make sure I had treats for the occasional little trick or treater that comes to our door.

We don't celebrate Halloween in Australia. There are small pockets of children who trick or treat but that's all. The debate was whether they should do so or not. The main reason against it was that it was an American, not Australian thing to do. The other was that few of the children involved know anything about All Hallow's Eve or All Saints Day.

Several years ago we had our first lot of trick or treaters and I was taken by surprise. We had nothing to give them. Since then I've always made sure I have something. This year we had no trick or treaters so, while Husband and I were out, our children ate them. (The treats, not any visiting children, I can assure you.)

Initially, when I began thinking about it, I was against the celebration of Halloween since it's not part of our culture. When I moved here over forty years ago from the U.S. it was a country heavily influenced by England and English culture; we celebrated Guy Fawkes Day. Over the years our influence has come much more from the U.S. Do we need to begin to celebrate something we've never celebrated before because of this influence? I would give that a resounding no. Except it's only a handful of children that are actually trick or treating; it's by no means a phenomenon that has swept the nation. There are loads of minority groups celebrating different festivals all the time. As a Jew, I do. Furthermore, we should be allowed to do so; it's a free country. One major difference is that you don't see me celebrating Chanukah, for example. Trick or treating is pretty visual. Let's face it, St Patrick's Day, essentially an Irish celebration, makes people wear green and get pissed on green beer every year. We don't begrudge them that; in fact, we all rather like being Irish on that day. (I fully understand the ties between Ireland and the early settlement of Australia.)

As for the children not knowing why they're trick or treating, how many children from non-religious families know that both Easter and Christmas are so much more than just a bunny, chocolate eggs, a man in a red suit and presents? That doesn't mean I think it's right. I would prefer people, including little people, to know why they're doing something and understand the symbolism behind it.

Having written all that, however, I don't like Halloween. That dislike is growing, too. I have nothing against Halloween itself. Sadly, even here where it's not part of our culture retailers have taken it on-board. It's now another celebration - conveniently located between Fathers' Day and Christmas - to encourage us to spend money in their stores and feel guilty if we don't. They don't give a shit about Halloween but they want us to feel obliged to buy lollies for the trick or treaters and costumes for our little darlings. If there is a push to celebrate Halloween coming from anywhere it's from business. I guess you've got to make a living; I just have a problem with doing so by engendering guilt.

In case you were wondering, my children didn't trick or treat; I don't recall them asking. Would I have let them? This may sound like a cop-out but, to be honest, I don't know.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Halving Those Emissions

It doesn't seem that long ago I was lamenting the fact that we seemed to be burning extra fuel due to the fact that then Teenage Daughter was learning how to drive.

Teenage Daughter turned eighteen on Sunday so she's now legally an adult. Not sure whether to call her Teenage Daughter or Adult Daughter. I know which she'd prefer. I'm going to try the latter today to see how it feels. As well as becoming legal, she passed her driving test so she's now a licensed driver. There's a certain humour in the fact that the first solo drive she did was to the bottle shop to buy a bottle of cider. She wanted to be asked for id but wasn't. I'm happy to report that the cider was shared with Husband and me and not consumed before driving.

Today she drove herself to the exam she had. She's still gone but afterwards she's going to pick up her brother and bring him home from school. Had she not had her license I would have driven her to her exam and gone home for three hours before returning to pick up her and her brother.

Tomorrow she's going to study at a friend's house. I'm not going anywhere so she can use the car again. Same deal; I don't have to bring her and pick her up later.

Thursday she wants to go to school for a short time in the middle of the day. Same again.

I'm sure you're starting to get the picture now. Adult Daughter having her license will potentially reduce carbon emissions. Of course, she'll probably go out a lot more which may, in fact, cancel the whole effect. For now, however, I choose to be optimistic.

In addition to that, I gain time at home in which I can work on the blog, the novel and other projects.

Cheers, and, if you're in Adelaide, take care - there's a new P-plater on the road!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Giving and Receiving the Perfect Gift

One of the things that The Boyfriend’s mother and I have in common is our passion for op shopping. There’s one difference, however, between us. She has a Salvos shop on the corner of her street so she’s only a few houses away from bliss and I, alas, don’t.

A few weeks ago Teenage Daughter was in the car with The Boyfriend’s mother and they drove past the Salvos Store. Teenage Daughter saw a dress she liked in the window but the shop was closed at the time. When she returned to look for it, she couldn’t find it. End of story, right? Wrong!

Yesterday evening Teenage Daughter got her birthday present early from The Boyfriend’s mother. She unwrapped the carefully put together package and it was difficult to tell who was more excited as she did so, Teenage Daughter or The Boyfriend’s mother. When it was fully unwrapped, there sitting in tissue paper was The Dress. Apparently, The Boyfriend’s mother went to the shop after Teenage Daughter had been and did a more thorough search which resulted in finding The Dress on the designer rack. Not only did she find it but it was in Teenage Daughter’s size!

It was one of those situations in which the giver and the recipient are both very happy with the end result. In addition to that, it was a real Footprints moment.

My favourite gifts to receive are those that show that the giver truly knows me. My father – Dear Old Dad – gives me gift certificates for Kiva, an organisation through which one can loan money to someone, usually in a Third World country, to set up a business. It’s a case of giving someone a fishing rod rather than a fish. He knows that it’s a perfect gift for me. Once a loan is paid off, I never want my money back I just put it into a new loan. I also like getting Oxfam unwrapped gifts or having a donation given to a worthy cause. A friend recently gave me a photo frame made from recycled and cleaned up bike chain. I thought that was really cool.

Likewise they’re my favourite gifts to give. Gifts like that are not always welcome, however. As Dear Old Dad once said to me, you need to be very sure when giving gifts like that. Consequently, I find present buying really stressful. I want to buy ethical and eco-friendly presents but I also want people to like them. Ultimately, I simply chicken out and give vouchers or money. For Christmas last year I gave my sister and her family tickets to a night out at the baseball, something she went out of her way to thank me for and tell me was a very welcome gift.
At present I’m getting pretty excited about Teenage Daughter’s 18th birthday on Sunday. I guess after that I’ll need to rename her Adult Daughter! I’m pretty sure she’ll like the present we got her.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

More Errands

I'm glad Teenage Daughter doesn't follow my blog because yesterday on my way to pick her up from school I bought her birthday present - a good quality leather satchel which I hope will get her through five years of university and ordered her birthday cake because my cake baking and decorating skills suck. I ordered it through a small local bakery. I figure that most pantry items such as flour come from local rather than large companies so I don't think I have to worry about their ingredients being unethically sourced. Interesting how the more processed the item, the more likely it is to come from an unethical company ...

Upon arriving at her school I went into the office to collect a leave of absence form for Teenage Son for our upcoming trip to Hobart.

Teenage Daughter wanted to drive home. I needed to collect my still not working hearing aid so she drove us to Blackwood. Then, since her driving test is on Sunday, I got her to drive us home the scenic - but not further - way along the winding back roads of the Mt Lofty Ranges.

By then I needed and deserved a nice hot cuppa locally grown tea!


Monday, October 22, 2012


Husband and I set up house together 26 years ago. Since then we've rarely bought our veggies from the supermarket. We've always preferred to use a greengrocer. We used to go to The Central Market but that's hard to fit in these days.

A couple of years ago - before we were doing The Footprints Project - I found out about First Froots, an on-line greengrocer. They were mentioned in a money saving website. The person had written that they were more expensive but that their produce was fresher, thus lasting longer, so there was little to no wastage.

I was throwing away a lot of stuff that I'd found cheap so I decided to try them and see. At first it was strange to not stand and caress all the various pieces of fruit. With First Froots, however, that's not necessary. Your produce comes straight from the wholesale produce market to you on the same day and really is ultra-fresh. We do pay more, including a delivery fee, but we waste less. I've thought about going back to buying it at the local greengrocer. I have to be over there at the supermarket anyway so it would cut back on carbon emissions. I just can't bring myself to do it, though. I've been spoilt for the past several years. It isn't just that; they're a small, local, family business which is something Footprints is all about. Besides, my dog has a dog crush on the delivery guy.

Over the weekend, Husband and I went out and bought over $50 worth of veggie plants for the garden. We bought more tomatoes, cucumbers, chillies, capsicums (bell-pepper), eggplants, zucchinis and spring onions. If they take the money to buy them is well spent and we'll be saving a heap on our produce, as well. While we wait, though, the company I'm currently using is providing us with about the freshest produce available, short of actually going to the wholesale market myself at some crazy hour of the "morning". Pfft.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sweatshops, slave labour and Chardonnay Socialists

One of the things that bothers me about what we're doing is that by not buying certain products we may be having a negative impact on the livelihood of someone who really needs it. It's very easy to sit in my middle-class house in the suburbs of Australia and be a "Chardonnay Socialist",  deciding that I know best for people in pretty dire economic straits half a world away. That is not my - or our - intention by any means.

Every business needs to make a profit in order to survive. There are some businesses, however, that have lost their morality in the process. Profit has become more important than the way they treat their workers. Some have even been implicated in beatings - and worse - of people who try to fight for better working conditions. Of course, there is always the chance that once a workforce wins the battle for better pay and conditions that the companies will move on to other countries where the governments either are complicit in or turn a blind eye to work practises. It is probably no coincidence that our fair labour laws have led to many companies moving off-shore.

We don't boycott any one country in general. We try to find out more about the companies from which we want to buy and what their factories are like. I would have no qualms about buying something made in China if I knew that the workers were fairly treated and paid. I have an idealistic idea that if people boycott companies that treat their labour force badly, profits will fall and the companies may change their work practises. It pains me to think that, in the mean time, my actions could be causing harm.

I do believe that the Fair Trade movement is gaining momentum and that if people knew what some companies were doing they might boycott their products. Back in the late 1980's David Suzuki began to predict environmental disaster and, for awhile anyway, people were spurred into action. Companies began to stop using dioxins as a bleaching agent and started manufacturing recycled products. I'm not convinced the companies cared for the environment; they saw it as a way to increase profits. Wouldn't it be cool if companies could increase their profits by fair pay and conditions?


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Road Trip!

There isn’t really a road trip; it got your attention, though, didn’t it? What I did do today was a dose of what The Non-Consumer Advocate refers to as “errand batching”.

It began with a quick trip to the doctor – nothing to worry about – followed by a dash to my audiologist to drop off my perpetually broken down hearing aid. (Not sure that was money well spent!)

Next I went to our nearest big shopping centre. It would have been a quick trip but I have ethics to consider these days. I went to Myer because they have an ethical sourcing policy and bought Innoxa mascara because that brand has been listed as one of the good guys in cosmetics. There aren’t many. 

Teenage Daughter’s eighteenth birthday is less than a fortnight away and we want to get her a good quality satchel that will see her through five – or more – years of university. So, while I was at Myer I looked at satchels. I went to Strandbags after that but I don’t know what their sourcing policy is. I didn’t buy anything because I’m heading back there with Teenage Daughter tomorrow after driving her to an exam. (I’m also driving two of her friends so I’m happy with the fact that only one car will be used instead of three. I’m sure I can find something fun to do while I wait for them.)

Then I got totally distracted and could no longer focus on presents and ethics or anything because right there in the middle of our shopping centre was a Vintage Clothes fair! I had great fun looking at wonderful old clothes and bought a bright, geometric patterned circa 1970’s scarf. Bliss.

On the way home, I left a bag of clothes at the Salvos store.

Cheers from a groovy chick.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Spring Day in the Garden

Yesterday, Husband spent the day in the garden. It was a gorgeous day and we had no commitments.

He picked the last stalk of broccoli which we had a few hours later in a quiche and then pulled up all the broccoli plants and one lettuce which had gone to seed. Now we can add to the tomatoes and lettuces we planted a couple of weeks ago.

Our neighbours have an abundant mint crop so we got some runners from them and potted the mint into a large pot. Hopefully, it will thrive because homemade mint tea is delicious.

It looked like our potted sage was dying and that our rosemary was doing nothing so we put them both into bigger pots. The sage is already thanking us, standing tall and abundant and looking like it's doubled in size over night.

A sage like plant I got for Mothers Day from Teenage Daughter was also looking a little the worse for wear so we repotted that, too. I hope it makes it because it's very pretty and it was a gift.

Finally, you may remember the great vinegar experiment. The garden smelled like salad but only a few weeds died. In light of the massive amounts of weeds we still have and the fact that we want any tall ones out NOW to lower the risk of future Brown Snakes we've gone back to using weed killer. :( Consequently, we sprayed with that yesterday.

A good, productive day in the garden.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012


To say that I'm protective of my children would be a gross understatement. It would be far more realistic to say I'm over-protective to the point of paranoia and then some. It drives them crazy. Teenage Daughter will be legally an adult in eighteen days and reminds me of that fact at any and every opportunity. It may drive them crazy but they also use it to their advantage.

For most of my children's lives I've been a stay at home mum. It's something I've always felt a little guilty about. With a university degree and professional qualification maybe I should be contributing financially. This system, however, works best for us and I'm far happier at home. In order to justify my choice, however, I have always been there at the kids' beck and call. That's not helpful to their learning to be independent adults or for the Footprints Project. I've blurred the lines between keeping them safe and doing too much for them.

These days I see myself far less as a stay at home mum and far more as a writer. Sure, I'm not published  yet but that doesn't mean I'm not a writer. That shift in perception has filtered down to my dealings with the children to some extent.

I 'rescue' the children when it comes to rides. All it takes is a phone call to Mum if one of them has missed the bus and I'm down there in the car faster than you can say carbon emissions. Or if the weather looks bad, I'll pick them up after school so they don't have to catch the bus in the rain. I believe the name for me might be 'bunny'. These rides have nothing to do with protecting them; they're a bad habit I've gotten into. I wouldn't hear of one of them coming home on the bus in the dark after a music rehearsal but dropping everything because it's raining? Seriously?

Yesterday I had just begun writing the blog. Two sentences into it the phone rang. It was Teenage Daughter; she'd missed a couple of buses and would have to wait thirty minutes for the next one. She was at a large regional shopping centre (a mall) where there is a bus interchange. There was food, shelter, water, toilets and safety. I thought about it dropping everything and going to pick the poor delicate creature up so she wouldn't have to wait. But there I was blogging about lowering our impact on the environment. Furthermore, I needed to buy petrol and there are so many roadworks happening around here at the moment that I didn't think I'd be much earlier than the bus anyway. I simply told her I couldn't be there before the bus and to wait.

She survived. She survived better than I did. I was wracked with guilt. The only thing on her mind when she burst through the door was showing me the new dress she'd bought to wear to her school's upcoming Jazz Cabaret and Valedictory. (It was very pretty but she seems to have forgotten about shopping ethically.)

I may have been wracked with guilt but I learnt some valuable lessons. The children don't need to be rescued from inconvenient situations, I can put my writing first as long as everyone is safe and I don't have to use the car when the bus is a perfectly fine means of transport for the children to use to get home from school. The best bit is that it reduces emissions.


Monday, October 8, 2012

The Rainwater Tanks - The Final Chapter

Before I start I want to thank my cyber-friend, Jack, over at Jack's Hideout for featuring my blog on his this week. If anyone reading this has wandered over from Jack's Hideout, I'd like to welcome you and thank you for coming to visit.

Okay, here's an update on the rainwater tanks. THEY'RE DONE! They each have two taps. One is to use to get water straight from the tank. The other has two hoses which link it to a pressure pump and a garden tap. If we want to use the hose or sprinkler we turn on the pump and use the garden tap. Voila - rainwater comes out. I used the tap from the tank to fill a bucket the other day to water potted plants. It was the first time we'd used the tanks and it was quite thrilling.

I don't imagine we'll get much use out of them this summer; they need to be fuller. We've had some rain since they were installed but not enough and I don't think we'll get too much more over the coming weeks. In the meantime, we can certainly use them for watering cans, if not garden taps.


Feline Footprints

I’ve always had a pet; sometimes a dog, sometimes a cat or two and, most recently, two cats and one dog. Sadly one of our feline family members passed away four days ago. I’ve lost numerous cats over the years. Since losing the last one, I’ve lost four significant people. I would have thought that having lost human friends and family members would have made it easier to lose a pet. The opposite seems to be true, however, in this case. I’ve been walking around with a heavy heart since our little Armand died.

Armand joined our family eleven years ago as a kitten. Teenage Daughter and I went to the RSPCA animal shelter and picked him out. Actually, he picked us out. He walked to the front of the cage and began to purr. When we held him, he purred more loudly and when we put him back in the cage, he watched us expectantly as we held and patted other kittens. In a sense, he never stopped purring.

Almost as soon as we got him home, he was staring longingly out the back door. Once we were confident he would be safe, we let him venture outside. He ran across the grass, frolicking and chasing things. His personality was too big to be contained in the back garden and, before we knew it, he was under the back gate or up a tree.

Eventually, he began to jump over the fence to the front garden and sometimes venture up into our quiet cul de sac. One time I saw him sound asleep on our next door neighbour’s roof, enjoying the sun.

Armand was a hunter. We were very pleased by the fact that we often saw him with mice or rats in his mouth. We were confident that with him keeping down the rodent population we wouldn’t have to worry about snakes. It was difficult sometimes to reconcile the ruthless rodent slayer with the charming boy who used to cuddle on our laps, kneading with his paws and purring himself to sleep.

I didn’t use the word ‘charming’ lightly; he really was. He would greet me when I’d been out with a friendly meow or approach me for no other reason than to say hello sometimes. He always kept me company when I hung clothes on the line, rolling around in the sunshine. Whenever any of us were sitting under our back pergola, it was guaranteed that Armand would join them for a cuddle.

The problem is that we were wrong about snakes. On Wednesday afternoon, a Brown Snake was seen in our cul de sac; on Thursday morning I found my charming boy dead. Since he was perfectly healthy the day before and people around here don’t bait other people’s cats, I think it’s safe to assume that Armand’s fearlessness and curiosity got the better of him and he took on the wrong opponent this time.

Husband dug a grave in the back garden and we placed our boy in. I don’t really know if it’s Jewishly correct to do so but we said the Mourners’ Kaddish prayer for him and each of us placed a shovelful of dirt over him. I even stepped back from the grave, according to custom. I found it heart-breaking to do so.

Yesterday evening we were driving home and Teenage Son said, “Look at the dirty paw prints on Dad’s front windscreen. They’re Armand’s.”

My boy’s footprints were still there. I imagine they’ll be washed away in the next rain or when Husband washes his car – whichever comes first. The little feline paw prints he left on my life will remain, however.

Cheers and give your pets a pat from me.

Monday, September 24, 2012

School Holidays

Hi all

Taking a couple of weeks off of the blog due to the kids being on school holidays. See you in a couple of weeks.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Left Over Food and Curry Puffs

One of the issues that we're trying to overcome in our house is left over food. When I was growing up My Gorgeous Mother cooked enough food to feed an army, even though there were only four of us. Then Dear Old Dad moved out and MGM still cooked the same amount of food. Then I moved, ditto. You get the picture. Well, it just so happens that I married a man who cooks in the same manner as MGM.

We often eat our meals for two nights and that isn't what I'm referring to. I'm writing about those single or double portions that get lost in the freezer or the last serve in the saucepan that inevitably gets thrown out. That's not even to mention the half cartons of sour cream or salsa left over after burritos that eventually end up in the bin, as well.

All that food could and should be used. I want to; I really do. As we put away a small amount of left over curry a couple of weeks ago I joked to Husband that it would spend the mandatory time in the freezer before being ditched. Then one of us had an idea. I can't remember who it was. I'd love to take credit, however, because it was a good idea.

Earlier this week I carried out the idea. I defrosted the curry and put it in a saucepan to reduce. While it was reducing I defrosted a few sheets of puff pastry. I cut each sheet into four and put a couple of spoonfuls of curry onto each quarter. I then folded it over into a triangle and put them in the oven. As they baked I made a raita dipping sauce.

The curry puffs were yummy. We ate four each and finished them all. I certainly know what to do with those single serves of curry from now on. I just need to use up the cucumber I used for the raita now.

And yes, I do cook from time to time. Well, I had to really; Husband was away.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why I Bought a New and Unethical Phone

At the beginning of 2008 I got a new phone. This particular phone is still going strong. For reasons that escape my memory now I gave it to Teenage Daughter last year. Her phone was dying and she managed to convince me that I should get a new phone and give her my old one. The phone from 2008 is still going strong and you have no idea how many texts fly back and forth between her and The Boyfriend. We had to replace the battery a few months ago but, apart from that, it's been a wonderful phone.

Not so the one I bought to replace it. We've used Nokia off and on since we started using mobile phones. For the most part we've been happy; hence the brand loyalty. This phone was a shocker. From the moment I bought it it was a lemon. I've had it just over a year now and basically it sucks. You have no idea the number of times I had to restore factory settings on it. I'd gotten to the stage where I was doing that on a daily basis. Something needed to be done and quickly.

The criteria on Footprints are:

  1. Can it be bought secondhand?
  2. If not, can an ethical/eco-friendly version be purchased?
  3. If not, buy the best so it doesn't need to be replaced as often.
With that in mind: 
  1. I had had enough trouble with new phones I wasn't even going to try second-hand.
  2. No. Sadly, there are no ethical/eco-friendly phones. It sucks.
  3. I had an internal battle over which brand to buy.
I happen to believe that the best is Apple. I also know that Apple's contractors in China have less than savoury practises when it comes to human rights; that was in the media not too long ago. In the end, however, I still went with Apple. My justification is that I don't want to replace this phone in a hurry. I want it to last; I believe it will. That being the case, I'm using fewer resources and fewer people are getting harmed. I don't know how the factories that the other companies are using are doing in their human rights records but probably not good either. Basically, it's a lose/lose situation. The only real solution would be to go mobile phone free and that is definitely food for thought.

Not sent from my iphone!


Monday, September 17, 2012

From Garden to Table in 10 Minutes

As you know, Husband has been watching his garden grow. What you may not know is the Husband is the main cook in our family. He's very passionate about cooking. I learnt many years ago that he wasn't trying to come in and take over when I was cooking dinner but that he genuinely wanted to take over because he enjoyed it so much. That was when I handed over kitchen duties to him. It works well for us; he loves cooking, I hate it.

Over the last several weeks he's been tracking the progress of his broccoli. I say his because he's taken ownership of it. Finally, on Saturday, he cut off a stalk. He brought it in, washed it, steamed it, prepared a butter, lemon and mustard sauce and we had it with sauteed chicken over couscous for lunch. The whole process from garden to table took about 10 minutes.

Maybe it was our imaginations but we were convinced it was jam packed with flavour. It tasted great. The broccoli was barely steamed so it still had a slight crunch to it. Whether it really tasted better we can't be sure but it was just so fresh. It was a wonderful feeling to be sitting and eating something so fresh, organically grown in our own garden.

I'm planning to put another stalk into a Fried Rice this evening. (Due to circumstances beyond my control I'm forced to make dinner.) While I'm at it, I'm going to cut another one which also looks ready and blanch and freeze it. I know it will lose some of its impact but I don't want the snails to munch on it while we're waiting to eat it.


Monday, September 10, 2012


Before I begin today's post, I'd like to share a link. I've written about The Non-Consumer Advocate before. Her blog is getting some attention at the moment and she recently did an interview on Australian TV from her home in the U.S. Here's the link if you're interested: Katy's Interview.

One of the issues we struggle with is how much to use the car. Teenage Daughter's driving is good enough now that we don't have to take her out for separate drives anymore. We just let her drive whenever and wherever possible in the general scheme of our lives. (She's only about six hours away from getting her license.)

Before we began Footprints we used to drive one or both of the children to their youth group on a fortnightly basis. One of us would bring them and one would pick them up. It's about fifty minutes round trip and the meetings last for two hours. Teenage Daughter isn't doing it this year because of school commitments and the meetings are only monthly.

For various reasons, Teenage Son has only made it to two. This month and last month. Last month Husband was away so I decided it was a good time to save on carbon emissions by killing time nearby. I went to the library but it was closed. I went to the next nearest library but it was closed. I went to the next nearest library but it was closed, too. I ended up sitting in a cafe. Ultimately there was still a lot of driving around.

This month, however, the sun was shining and I knew the Botanic Gardens in the city would be open. The rest of our small city must have had the same idea. I drove along the back of the Gardens and every spot was taken. I followed the road around past the zoo and nearly every spot was taken. Obviously, those not going to the Gardens were going to see the pandas. I got to the very end of Plane Tree Drive and found a parking place. It would mean a five minute walk through beautiful Botanic Park back to the Gardens. That was okay, it was sunny. I made my way through the picnickers and Frisbee throwers and into the Gardens.

My first port of call was the cafe for a cappuccino. It was full but there are two there now so I went to the other one. I sat outside with my cappuccino and laptop and worked on The Novel (it deserves a pseudonym now, too.) When I'd finished my drink I went and sat on some lawns in the sun. I couldn't work well there so I ended up lying back, closing my eyes and soaking up some Vit D rays. (Let's not mention melanoma.) WIN!


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Footprints and Poverty

Yesterday I was reading one of the blogs I follow and The Non-Consumer Advocate asked her followers to help out a fellow follower with advice. This particular person has come across very hard times and needed advice on how to make it through financially.

As I cruised the supermarket aisles today, Ethical Consumer Guide in hand I pondered what I would do if I were in that person's position. It became abundantly clear very quickly that Footprints would have to be greatly modified. Some of the changes would lead to greater care for the environment but maybe less ethical care; some would fall short on both. To be honest, although it would concern me, keeping a roof over our heads, paying our bills and feeding the family would matter far more.

As a family we'd have to try harder to use less of our utilities. Watching output for Footprints is different from watching it to keep a roof over your head. I bet Teenage Daughter actually could find a way to shorten her showers if that were the case. Instead of the heater being turned on by anyone who was cold rather than putting on an extra layer, I'm sure the jacket would be reached for. It would be a case of "this shit just got real".

I tend to buy in bulk or larger sizes where I can but, if it's more ethical to buy from a company that uses heavy packaging, I do so. I bet I'd be buying the absolute cheapest and not caring about anything other than price! And if I couldn't find something second-hand, you can bet I'd be buying it new from Big W, regardless of their ethical sourcing policy.

The responses the other readers gave, for the most, would fit into Footprints. Much of it was common sense: plan the week's menu in advance, only buy what you need, make things from scratch rather than buy them ready made, buy in bulk, buy second-hand, use your library, walk or catch the bus, put on extra layers rather than run the heater and start a veggie patch.

One thing is for sure: I feel terrible for the family that has found itself in this situation and hope it's remedied as soon as possible.

Have a great weekend.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rainwater tanks and Broccoli

The moment I sat down to write this blog someone quite nearby began using a chainsaw or some such noisy contraption. This upset the neighbour's hens so I'm typing to mechanical and animal squawking. My teeth are on edge. What began in my head as a blog about my garden may morph into a rant about the noise with full expletive accompaniment.

The Garden Whisperer and his partner gave up last Saturday to continue working on our tanks. Both of the tanks - did I mention they're enormous? - are now fully set up and plumbed to the rumpus room gutters. One of them has an overflow pipe which sits discreetly behind the rumpus room and leads to the back corner of the garden where there is nothing but rubbish and weeds. Our neighbours have fruit trees, however, in that corner so it will help water them. The other tank needs to have its overflow pipe buried underground so it will water our bottlebrushes. The pipe can't just sit in the middle the path to our garden shed. The tanks are so big, however, that I can't imagine overflow ever being an issue. Obviously, the second overflow pipe is the next thing on the agenda. We're getting a pump for the tanks to share so The Sparky (who happens to be The Boyfriend's brother) is coming in the next week or so to put in a power point for the pump. We're also waiting for the pump itself to come into stock. By having them pumped we can attach the garden hose to the tanks and water straight from them. Of course, we haven't had anything but magnificent, dry spring weather since the tanks went in...

Meanwhile ... in the veggie patch. We were veggie patch-less for a couple of years. We built a rumpus room in the old veggie patch and didn't set up a new one until last summer. I don't really know why but we chose to set one up just outside our front door. I think because, being out the front, the dog couldn't get to it to pee. We had a bumper harvest so it's a great spot. When The Garden Whisperer first visited, he remarked on the location. He wants to expand the veggie patch but leave it where it is. The soil is good and fertile but, beyond that, we walk past it several times a day on our way in and out. Husband, a self-confessed black thumb, cannot walk out without a small detour to the veggie patch to check things out. He knows when it needs water and which veggies are doing what.

At the moment we have spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce growing. Each time he leaves home Husband lovingly checks the broccoli. We love broccoli in our house and cannot wait to eat it. He went out for several hours on Sunday and, in his absence, I fertilised the patch. Upon his return, he remarked on it. There is nothing that escapes his notice in the veggie patch. I've never seen him get remotely excited by growing veggies before but moving the patch has made all the difference.