Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food LifeAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

I first picked this book off the library shelf because I kept seeing it come up in friend's Goodreads lists. To be honest, I didn't even really know what it was about!

Having just read Confessions of an Eco-Shopper, this book about author Barbara Kingsolver and her family making the enormous life-style change and become "locovores" was a great follow-on.

Reading how the family resolved to only eat what they grew in their garden or had been produced within a radius of their home was inspiring. It shows how blindly we shop, even if we consider ourselves ethical shoppers. While the US situation is far and away much different (worse) to Australia, experience in other areas has taught me we run, at most, ten years behind them.

I have embraced some aspects of their ethos, but not all. In our wide, brown land, our northern farmers feed those in the south and vice versa. The transport that carries one to the other does the reverse trip with supplies that just cannot be produced in the opposite climate. So to limit ourselves in a similar way would not only restrict our diets in some key elements, but would also have disastrous economical impact of the farmers who are still, by and large, local family businesses more than huge corporate conglomerates.

That said, I am now committed to supporting local farmers markets and small businesses in a pro-active way and will continue to plant and harvest herbs and some vegetables in our small home garden.

I am only one,

But still I am one.

I cannot do everything,

But still I can do something;

And because I cannot do everything,

I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

The Book of Good Cheer : A Little Bundle of Cheery Thoughts‎ (1909) by Edwin Osgood Grover

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A Radiant Goddess!

A month ago, I entered an online women's Circle established by a lovely lady known to all as Goddess Leonie. I have been following her blog for ages now, am friends with her on Facebook and have previously done one of her online courses (I love how the Internet has opened up such enterprises!)

So, three weeks ago I and many of the other "Goddesses" began our 21 day journey to becoming Radiant Goddesses. For me, the motivation is my need to be as physically fit and healthy as I can be for the months of October and November as I combine my busiest time of the work year with my daughter's upcoming wedding!

The course is a combination of a healthy eating plan based around raw foods, meditation, movement and daily tasks focused on all of these. Now, if you are thinking, well yes - a little - but also a real opportunity to nurture your body and review how you nourish it both physically and mentally.

Following straight-on after my eco-shopper experience and coinciding with my reading of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the timing was great! I was highly motivated to give my diet the overhaul it needed and return to some of the eating habits that I used to focus on as part of my MS management. I guess the hassle-factor of eating well even when the rest of the family were not led me to forget just what a difference it can make.

I modified the diet plan to suit my needs - I reduced but did not eliminate dairy, meat and wheat from my diet and continued my high fish intake (a key MS recommendation). I dusted off my blender and my juice extractor and rolled up my sleeves for some serious food prep!

So, here I am at the end of Day 21. I have been starting my days with a super-smoothie concoction that I have perfected over the three weeks -

Into the blender:
a banana
a handful of frozen berries
a slurp of organic yoghurt
a dash of apple juice
a handful of cashews/almonds/walnuts
a sprinkle of LSA mix
a dollop of honey
a drizzle of walnut oil
and a handful of fresh baby spinach leaves!

Yes - spinach - I never knew there was a world of green smoothies but now I am addicted! Get those leafy greens done and dusted at breakfast time! The combined goodies tick several of my MS requirements for omega-3 fatty acids and I am primed with anti-oxidants, calcium and more before I even leave the house!This mix keeps me going until lunchtime or even beyond.

My diet through the day has focused on fruit, vegies, more fruit, nuts, canned fish and gluten-free bread: I thought I would go the whole way with avoiding wheat in the end and feel better for it. mmm ...

Dinner has either been prepared by me around the menu plan or modified from whatthe others were cooking. I had decided not to fuss too much with dinner and accept that on work days especially, I would need to be flexible. It worked out quite well!

In the end, I feel really well and am looking to incorporate a lot of it into my on-going diet. After THREE WEEKS without chocolate (and a growing stash hidden by Melissa for me!)I am looking forward to moderately including it back in my diet - dark chocolate is my favourite and it is very good for you!

If you would like to participate in this or any of the other wonderful courses offered, you can access the whole site for only $99 per year! This is a small investment for what I can promise you is an amazing package of goodies. Have a look and see what you think - I am off to keep working on my Creating a Goddess Haven course!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Confessions of an (Aussie) Eco-shopper - reflections

When I picked up this book a few weeks ago while browsing at the local library, I didn't know it would take up so much of my thoughts and change some of my habits!

Here I am, at the end of my journey auditing myself against the challenges the author set herself in the book. And fairly pleased with the results. I have made a couple of changes already and have plans to make some more. Overall, we measured up pretty good against the challenges, having already met most of them.

So, here is to future improvements:

* planning to check out the local Farmer's Markets - there are plenty to choose from in our area, so I intend this to become part of my regular weekend activites.

* try and reduce the takeaway meals by planning ahead more.

* revisit the recycled toilet paper section and see if the quality has improved!

* sticking with my new moisturiser, Moo Goo, which I love and discovered via this book!

* sticking with my new crystal deodorant, which I am not sensitive to AND find quite effective :)

* buying fair-trade coffee for work and home.

* buying a stainless steel drink bottle

* awaiting a response to my email to Motto about how and where their fabrics come from.

* investigating worm farming!

It has been great to take another look at our lifestyle in this way and I thoroughly recommend it!

And visit Kate Lord at her blog for more inspiration!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Aisle 12 - Rubbish Challenges: Composting, Wormeries and magic microbes

* Challenge 35: Is composting the answer?
* Challenge 36: Worms: charming or alarming?
* Challenge 37: Do Bokashis and magic microbes do the business?

Compost, compost, compost! If only the kitchen collection bin would take itself outside automatically, I might say this word a lot less! Kieran is in charge of emptying our indoor receptacles into their outdoor partners and our never-ending compost bucket is part of that process. We compost all kitchen waste, with a bog-standard plastic compost bin down the back garden. The pace of decomposition is usually just that little bit behind our consumption, so it is usually full to the brim! Eventually, it all returns back into the garden.

I am quite intrigued by worm farming and each time it is shown on the gardening programs, I start thinking of starting one. If the children were still children, if life was less busy, then this is something I could see working well. But I am realistic enough to know that it would be my project and mine alone, and I can't promise said worms the lifestyle they need. So, for now, no worm farm.

But a Bokashi has potential. I have stumbled upon them at various community events and would like to investigate further. At least responsibility for the life-cycle of bacteria would cause me less angst than that of worms!

But for now, it is compost, compost, compost!!!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Aisle 11 - Checkout Challenges: Bags, Packaging and Recycling

* Challenge 32: Kicking the plastic bag habit
* Challenge 33: Packaging: can we get radical?
* Challenge 34: Can the "Three Rs" solve the rubbish crisis?

It is very rare for me to ask for, or accept, plastic or other store bags anymore. We have gradually evolved away from considering this acceptable. Our household collection of reusable shopping bags is quite extensive and the stash in the boot of my car meets our needs. I also have some wonderful eco silk bags that scrunch up small into my handbag, so I am rarely "caught short". I was pleased recently, when we returned to online grocery shopping, to discover they now use biodegradable "non plastic" bags for the delivery - this was one area I felt needed improvement. If I do find myself shopping without a bag, I 'punish' myself by buying another reusable bag from the store, which really works as an incentive to remember!

Packaging is the bane of my life. Wherever possible, I choose products with the least packaging, however some things - printer ink, for example, go overboard (no - I tried refillable ink cartridges and they didn't work for me!) While I can return the cartridges to the office store for recycling, there is still unnecessary plastic and paper around the product.

In my controlled workplace, I am able to completely separate my rubbish at my desk and the one main offender is that thermal, shrink-wrap cellophane they plaster on everything, as well as those awful "clam-shell" packages that encase products and need scissors to remove!

At home, although I choose a lot of packaging that is recyclable card or paper, there are still too many foodstuffs sealed into plastic bags, trays and the like. You cannot always avoid these, especially when shopping for others!

I often think that "waste management" should be added to my paid work job description, let alone my unpaid one! At home, we have three wheely bins provided by local government: general waste; recyclable waste and green waste. As the recyclables are co-mingled, it means we do not need to separate into different mixes - all our steel, aluminium, paper, glass and many plastics end up in the one bin. (I saw on TV recently how they sort this at the other end - quite reassured me!). Green waste is for garden refuse (we compost kitchen waste) and anything else goes into the general bin. We took part in a trial a couple of years ago to use a smaller bin and halve the pick up frequency (from weekly to fortnightly) however at that time our household was too large to cope and we had to revert to the standard. At work, I have general waste and co-mingled recycled, which we have to pay to have collected - sometimes wish I could have a compost option there too, however that pushes my dedication too far!

I also try to "close the loop" as much as possible and buy products containing recycled materials. Even though I strive for a paperless office, we still do need some for handouts etc, so I always look for the 100% recycled printer paper.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Aisle10 - Material challenges: clothes, cotton, swapping and shoes

* Challenge 28: Can a girl be eco-smart and still be stylish?
* Challenge 29: Can you find out where your fabrics come from?
* Challenge 30: Handmade and hand-me-downs
* Challenge 31: Shoes and handbags: can a girl ever have enough?

From the time I "grew up", I have not been a slave to fashion. Like everyone else in the 80s, I had my "Colours Done" and that changed the way I looked at clothes. I no longer bought what one must have, but focused on what I believed looked best on me.

As a child, I was dressed by an op-shopping mum who was way before her time and therefore, very daggy and embarrassing. So once I started earning my own money, I ran like mad from the concept of hand-me-downs and secondhand anything.

However, times changed, my income did too and I changed my life perspective on Reduce, Reuse, Recyle.And I embraced the world of good quality, used goods.

These days, my only concern when it comes to clothing is - do I like it?
That means it needs to be comfortable, colourful and ethical.

I source my clothing from second-hand stores, shops which stock fair trade goods from communities who need the income, markets and small online retailers and the like. The only "mainstream" brand I buy new is Motto, which is Australian made and owned - the fabrics are man made and I don't know where or buy whom, which I will now investigate. I love it because it is designed for women, not girls!

Because my daughter works at Savers, a recycled department store, some of my clothes that are purchased there or elsewhere will end their life returning there (if items are unsaleable, they are "ragged" which brings in additional income for the charities who profit.) I also look here for furniture and household items and, of course, books!

There are three things I have learned a woman needs to invest in well - bras, shoes and handbags! I am into quality, not quantity and mourn the end of life of my favourites.That doesn't mean designer rubbish, it means stuff that fits me and won't fall apart in five mins. My bra brands are Intimo and Body Wise, I like Dianna Ferrari shoes and Louenhide bags. And I love my Crocs :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Aisle 9 - Baby Challenges: Nappies, Milk and Toys

* Challenge 25: Do real nappies do the business
* Challenge 26: Mothers milk or formula?
* Challenge 27: Which toys pass the toddler test?

I hope you aren't expecting anything surprising from this one! LOL! When I turned to this chapter in the book, I read it with even greater interest than the others.

Nappies - diapers for those who don't speak the language - should be far from my mind with children in their early 20s! Except, in my line of work, I get to see and discuss them an awful lot! And in the case of disposables, I am I get to deal with their "disposal" a lot too!

Back in the olden days, when I had babies, this was a hot topic. Cloth meant terry toweling squares, folded into shape and covered with some sort of over-pant. Disposables became mainstream in the 80s and I could watch their design and usage evolve of my years at the front line of nappy changing.

Melissa was wholly cloth-clad, except the occasional outing. Kaitlyn was mostly-cloth, with disposables in the toddler years and Kieran was cloth to begin and then disposables (his skin coped better this way). I used "plastic pants" until Fluffies were invented.

From start to weary end, I had nappies in my life for most of a ten year period!

So, if I was starting now, what would I do? Well, I am in love with what Australia calls Modern Cloth Nappies (MCH) and I hope my children will be too when they have babies, as I would love to start collecting them now! They are so beautifully designed and so much improved on the proto-types I remember. However, I also accept that disposables have a place in the early days (I would rather the focus was on feeding, not washing) and also to use MCH in Melbourne's winter, you would need good drying options.

So - to feeding the baby! Well, no surprise here! I have been an advocate of breastfeeding for all of my adult life and there is no doubt in my mind that it is a health issue, not a lifestyle choice. Any parent who considers it to be a choice that is their's to make must make that an informed choice, fully aware of the risks of formula feeding. However, I also believe that women do not fail to breastfeed, rather society fails to support them to do so. except for a very small minority, most bottle feeding mothers would dearly have loved to establish or continue breastfeeding and I will do all I can to help reduce their numbers.

Now toys should also be relics of nostalgia, except I trip over them three days a week at work AND get to organise them and pack them up! I agree with the book author that wooden toys tend to appeal to adults and plastic ones appeal to children. I did some photography work for a friend who worked at a toy chain wholesalers a few years ago and got to photograph just about EVERY toy in their product range! That gave me a lot of time to ponder what children are offered and what adults pretend they are buying for the children.

I can safely say that, dollar per hour use, Lego and Duplo were the most used toys in our household - used until Kieran was approaching high school and still squirreled in his room! I look forward to grandchildren oohing and ahing over their parents old Lego. And probably their children as well. So even though it is plastic, it is a much better option for the environment in the long term.

From what I see, the toys children love most are the ones they haven't played with before, so perhaps the best bet is joining the Toy Library!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yoga and Babies - what a wonderful combination!

I have been practicing yoga since the mid 1990s and my only regret is that I didn't take it up early, when I was growing babies - I am sure my body would have been much better now if I had!

So I am really keen to share the following with you, from my yoga teacher Julia at Symphisis Yoga in Mornington:

Mums and Bubs
A new Mums and Bubs class starts on Thursdays from 12.30pm with the first class on Thursday September 16.

This class is to help mums recover from the toll that giving birth takes on bodies and to help deepen the connection mums have with their new babies. Babies can participate with mums or snooze their way through class and bask in the peaceful, relaxed and nurturing energy. You are welcome to stay and have a chat and a cuppa afterwards. The special price for this class is $120 for 10 class pass or $16 casual. The pass will be valid for 6 months (we know it’s not always easy to plan your day when there’s a young baby in the house). When you come to your first Mums and Bubs class you will also receive a freebie class to pass along to someone else.

If you know someone who may be interested in this class please share the information.

Symphisis Yoga with Julia Symington
15/1140 Nepean Highway Mornington 3931
Mob 0419 305 762 Studio (03) 5976 4675

And on a final note, have to share again my favourite yoga with baby video :)

Aisle 8 - Liquid challenges 2: cold drinks

* Challenge 22: Does organic booze beat the hangover?
* Challenge 23: Juicy fruit: squashing your own
* Challenge 24: water: what's the best?

As I am barely even an occasional alcohol drinker nowadays (not compatible with my medication) I will have to take a pass on the first issue.

Now juicing, there's a funny thing. I was quite the avid juicer several years agao, with a (then) state of the art juice extractor and all. But dealing with the pulp got to me in the end, life got too busy and the machine was pushed to the back of the cupboard. I continued juicing citrus though, occasionally and not as regularly as I could.

However, even before reading this section of the book, I have been intending to return to the juicing habit - if nothing else, as a way of dealing with some of that fruit and veg! I got as far as putting the old extractor into storage and making plans to update to a new one soon.

So push has come to shove - I am now researching improved technology (I want one with a separate pulp collector!) and in the meantime, have hauled the old one out of storage AND started today with fresh apple juice! I have also borrowed a book from the library to inspire me and look forward to stocking up on extra goodies next time I shop.

I am back on the juicing thing!

Water - my aunt once commented on the modern phenomenon of carrying water bottles as we go through life. In the past, life was slower and days were punctuated by breaks for tea from a pot. You tended to be at home most of the time, where perfectly good (maybe even from a tank!) water was drunk from the tap, via a glass.

Picnics and excursions included The Thermos - maybe even two! - filled with hot water or cold drinks. If soft drinks were around, they came in a crate directly to your home, delivered by a friendly man and rationed out by parents.

In my youth, nobody drank water unless they were forced to (unless it came from the drinking taps at school!) and drinks away from home were mostly Coke and other soft drinks. I cannot even imagine us asking for a bottle of water, let alone lugging a bottle of the stuff in our bags!

Then we all got conscious of needing to drink less soft drink and more water. Days out became everyday and it was easiest to just buy the bottled water the shops now stocked. Plastic drink bottles were for cyclists - or school kids. But we were not to bask in that rosy haze for long - no sooner had we all started buying bottled water, than we began to be told we shouldn't! So everyone starting buying plastic drink bottles and kitchen cupboards exploded with them. Now, we are told, those plastic bottles are more harmful than the tap water and we should use metal ones - we have gone full circle and I should have kept my old canteen from Girl Guides!!!!

So, my current status is this:
* I avoid buying bottled water unless I have not planned well and brought my own.
* I use water from the tap - except at work where we have a water dispenser
* I mainly use Tupperware Eco bottles, but intend buying a stainless steel one.

And my primary focus is to spend less time lugging it all around and more time remembering to drink it!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Infant feeding and emergencies

The safety of infant feeding is a topic most people associate with emergencies such as the Pakistan floods or the Haiti earthquake - situations where access to a safe water supply, refrigeration and clean equipment are challenged and babies health put at risk.

You know - in those third world countries.

Not in "safe" places like Australia and New Zealand.

Well, think again. Right now, the Australian State of Victoria is awash with flood water and many homes have lost power and access to drinking water. Across "the ditch", the New Zealand city of Christchurch is in disarray after an earthquake, which has led to sewerage contaminating drinking water supplies, loss of electricity and water and displacement of many people.

Natural disasters have no respect of affluence or sophistication. Right now, in both these situations, formula feeding parents are struggling to find shops that are operating, clean water to mix feeds and refrigeration for storage. Families living in evacuation centres are without feeding equipment and supplies and babies are at risk of gastro-intestinal infection.

It is easy to dismiss the risks of bottle feeding when you live in the modern world. Some people even believe the WHO Code really only applies in Third World countries. But right now, in our own backyards, babies are at risk.

Helpful people are probably already thinking of sending artificial baby milk and bottles to these areas, not realising that without power and water, they are only adding to the risk. Far better is to ensure food and water and shelter for the breastfeeding mothers - NOT to encourage weaning in such risky circumstances.

For more, you can read In Emergencies Breastfeeding Can Save Lives

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Aisle 7 - Liquid Challenges 1: Hot Drinks

* Challenge 20: Does Fairtrade tea make the best brew?
* Challenge 21: Does ethical coffee hit the spot?

I am a tea drinker. A chai consumer. And a coffee hater!

But have I really thought about the ethical/environmental background of my tea?

Not really.

I use a combination of loose teas and tea bags. I am a Twinings girl when it comes to bags and I prefer the individually wrapped ones - with full knowledge of the extra waste this creates. For my loose tea, I mainly buy from T2 (I was startled to learn recently this is owned by the Coca Cola company!) and I buy my chai latte in bulk from a company called Kenteco, either online or direct at expos etc.

So I am taking this challenge quite seriously and doing the research that I should have thought of long ago.

Twinings - I found their website (which has lots I want to explore) and was relieved to read the following statement:

Tea with standards

We want people to be able to drink Twinings tea without worrying about the welfare of the people who picked it.

Twinings is committed to ethical sourcing and it is our responsibility and that of all tea companies to;

- buy from tea estates where social and environmental standards are at an acceptable level

- try, with the means we have available, to work with tea estates, their communities and other stakeholders to improve standards.

Given the size and scale of the tea sector, Twinings believes that the best way to improve conditions is at an industry level and that is why Twinings is a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP).

The goal of the ETP is to ensure that all of the teas its members buy are being produced in a socially responsible way. Members include many of the world’s best-known tea companies.

The ETP continually monitors 6 areas of estate life ; employment (including minimum age and minimum wage), education, maternity, health and safety, housing and basic rights. The ETP also provides remedial advice and support to achieve these standards which are based on the UK Ethical Trading Initiative and the International Labour Organisation conventions. Click here for a copy of the ETP standard.

To find out more about the Ethical Tea Partnership visit

I think that is a pretty good result - maybe not specifically Fair Trade, but trading fairly. I will continue to buy.

T2 - when googling T2 and Fairtrade - found this on their Facebook page:

Tea T2 tea and the subject of “Fair Trade” products.
Whilst we scrutinise all our suppliers and their estates to ensure decent working conditions and local sustainability as well as seeking to build long term relationships with fair pricing in developing regions – we do not at this moment align ourselves with any particular organisation and brand ourselves with these accreditations.

mmm ... sounds okay, but I will keep a watch on this one.

Kenteco - Kenya Tea Company
What makes Kenya unique among tea growing nations is its tea producing and marketing company KTDA – wholly owned and directed by the 370,000 small-holders who skillfully grow the crop in often difficult conditions. For the past 30 years Kenya has produced fine small leaf teas by the CTC(Cut Tear and Curl) method used mainly for teabags. Recently traditional methods of tea making have produced Orthodox Kenyan teas.

I think that is good news - although they don't say anything about Fairtrade specifically. I think I am happy to stay with them.

Coffee - Apart from not buying Nestle products, I haven't really explored the coffee I provide for others at home or work. So I will endeavour to be more pro-active in this area in the future.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Goddess Circle

This week, I stepped into a brand-new Circle of Women and it feels really good.

I have long been a fan of Goddess Leonie and her inspirational, beautiful website and resources. At the start of the year, I took on her 2010: Creating My Goddess Year Workbook & Planner , which helped me plan my path for this exciting year.

But joining a Circle of Goddesses is quite a new direction for me. I consider myself creative but not artistic, spiritual but not far from mainstream, so to align with such a group is to step into a new way of life.

Yet, how lovely it has been - all three days so far! I have connected with some lovely new friends around the world and feel like I have found a part of me that was over-looked.

I know many of my friends would also enjoy this Circle. It does cost to join and the price may be beyond some budgets. But I really want you to know about this and to consider how you might take part. You can find out about it here

If joining the Circle is not for you right now, then have a look at her blog and other resources, because they will truly bring joy and colour and light into your everyday.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Aisle 6 - Healthy Challenges 2: Personal care products

* Challenge 17: Do natural deodorants really work?
* Challenge 18: Sunscreens: what's the safety factor?
* Challenge 19: Girl talk: the gory details on sanitary protection

As per my previous post, I have sensitive skin - and when it comes to deodorant, I am at the mercy of ONE product! Around 18, my body suddenly developed an intolerance to the product I had always used and I began a search to replace it. It seemed I would come out in an awful rash with anything I could buy in the supermarket (this was the early 80s, so choices were limited) but eventually I found a solution at a department store counter - and began a lifetime relationship with Innoxa Free and Easy. If they ever discontinue the product or change the formula, I am doomed (they brought out two variations a few years ago - fragrance free and sports: both restored the rash and were hastily dumped!)

I am open to trying the deodorant crystal discussed in the book - perhaps as a winter option: I suspect it wouldn't meet the need in summer - and will look for one as I am running low. But otherwise, it is that little pink roll-on for me!

Sunscreen is something I always felt guilty of not using enough of, however as I tend to avoid the sun when it is at its highest, I really only get caught on those first few outings in October when I forget sunscreen and hat! But in recent years, as awareness of the benefits of sun and vitamin D for MS, I now actively seek the sun in all but the most dangerous times, when I retreat to the shade. I truly believe if skin cancer is in my future, it will be caused by the hours I spent unprotected as a teenager, not the occasional overdose I get as a wiser adult! So I limit my sunscreen use, wear a hat and use a parasol and sleeves to cover my skin.

Now - sanitary protection! I almost baulked at writing about this challenge, when my blog is so public and posted to my facebook Wall for all to see! However, I have made drastic changes in product use in recent years, so I am just going to say - yes, I have ditched the disposable goods and have embraced the Diva Cup and cloth pads, which should see me through this next few years until it is all done and dusted!