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.