sustainable living

In My Kitchen: up close and personal

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‚ÄčWith the festive season approaching and in view of our imminent shift to Taylors Arm I’m attending early to Christmas gift strategies and shopping.

Resigning myself to the inevitability of on-demand occasion-dictated gift exchange but hopped off the consumer-retailer spending hamster wheel, once again I’m favouring gifts of products we’ve enjoyed this year, purchased locally from people¬†or organisations where¬†dollars make a difference to lives & families¬†not¬†corporates & shareholders.

To package the goodies, I popped over the road from my office building to Eastland Officesmart and grabbed funky green paper bags for a $1 each.

One of the unfortunate things about moving from the city is we’ll be no longer within walking distance of our local¬†Eveleigh-Carriageworks Famers Market so¬†I’m stocking up on gift items of Olsson’s Australian Salt and Prickle Hill Worcester Sauce. I’ll also¬†pick up a box of Jollie Gourmet dog treats for the lovely Lucy, my younger sister’s pooch.

I¬†ordered¬†boxes of my favourite Daintree Tea, and to avoid paying shipping for online¬†shopped Oxfam finger puppets for my new niece, I added bargain multi-packs of fair trade chocolate¬†as well as a couple of cat prezzies for my¬†other sister’s kitties Addy & Nutmeg for whom play is¬†preferable to¬†food.

Getting¬†in the swing of imminent Taylors Arm self-sufficiency,¬†to add personal homemade¬†touches¬†there’ll¬†be Bespoke Muesli,¬†liquid hand soap, and after test baking the¬†Passion Fruit Garden’s Gingernuts¬†recipe I’ve¬†designated them Christmas Biscuits 2015.

For¬†Nambucca Valley¬†flavour there will be¬†perennial favourites; macadamias from MacNuts and soap from Perry’s Lemon Myrtle.

festive goodies_up close and personal

Over the past few years our gift giving trended to consumables; a response¬†to our¬†cupboards being incrementally stuffed with stuff.¬†It’s my way of taking a stand, attempting to¬†influence by example because despite ongoing efforts,¬†we’re unable to¬†persuade family and friends that¬†although we appreciate the gesture we don’t NEED Christmas gifts.

During recent space clearing in our house at Taylors Arm I¬†filled a box with well-meant but superfluous gifted¬†miscellany and moved it to the G.O.’s shed prior to its next stop¬†at¬†a charity store in town. Possibly from whence¬†it will do the rounds again and end up nicely wrapped under someone’s Christmas tree. Not mine, I hope.

‘Tis the season to shop small.

Shop Small Australia
“Shop Small¬ģ has returned to Australia this November. It’s a national movement committed to supporting small businesses at a local level. You know the ones ‚ÄĒ the family businesses, the start-ups and the independents that make each neighbourhood unique.”

Shop the Neighbourhood – Canada
“Shop¬†The¬†NeighbourhoodTM is a local shopping event that’s all about celebrating small businesses and making your community thrive.”

28th November 2015 will be… Small Business Saturday
“In an age of global markets and capitalism, it‚Äôs far too easy for small businesses to struggle and fail, even if they have superior products and services. We have the power to change this, and Small Business Saturday encourages people everywhere to shop with small businesses for just one day, and to change the world a little bit.”

As I see it, the alternative is the slippery slope uncannily depicted by images from depressing artwork portrays what our societies have become.

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.

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things have changed . . .

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I wished I’d kept a food journal, but now I‚Äôve thought about it; a consumer journal. What I¬†supposed were lifelong constants are no longer. I was willing to be faithful so long as¬†manufacturers were true. I wanted them to care about the things I did. They offered¬†more products and promises to get my money. I ditched them. But it took many years to get to that point. Back to the less-is-more world I grew up in.

During my rural small town 1970‚Äôs childhood brands didn‚Äôt map my life. My¬†earliest¬†memories are of Mr Sheen, the timber furniture polish and Fabulon ironing aid. The overspray from both made our timber floor fantastically slippery‚Ķ great fun for a 4 year old wearing socks. I can‚Äôt remember what¬†kind of washing detergent my mother used but¬†a vague memory of the fragrance of Handy Andy mopped floors. At my¬†grandparents’ farm¬†I can remember only¬†Sunlight soap and Phenyle.

My own first¬†household brand choice was clothes washing detergent. My sister once remarked about our joint and ongoing dedication to Cussons Radiant washing detergent as we collaborated on bargains. It’s¬†been around for over 25 years, and I’d been loyally using it the entire time until¬†almost 4 years ago when a move to an apartment with a front load washer¬†rather than top loader made me take another look, and opened up the world of eco brands.

"I pressed the fire control... and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky..." Once I started changing I couldn't stop!
“I pressed the fire control… and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky…” Once I started changing I couldn’t stop!

Light turned on, I made the switch to eco not only clothes washing detergent but everything I could get: dishwashing detergent and tablets, paper towel and toilet paper. Not only changing brands but decreasing consumption.

I¬†swapped out half washing powder scoops for bicarb soda and ditched cleaning products except eco glass spray and bleach of which we use less than a bottle per year. I substituted vinegar as laundry rinse, adding lavender and eucalyptus¬†oils to make sprays for cleaning¬†the¬†kitchen and bathroom.¬†Reusable cleaning cloths and tea towels go into the daily wash. This, in the city by choice… But in the country by necessity because we have a septic tank for sewerage and otherwise our grey water runs into the garden.

No not-so-plastic-fantastic bottled water for us. In the city we boil & filter tap water kept chilled in the fridge or taken with us in stainless steel water bottles, and we use a Soda Stream to make carbonated-aka-fizzy water. In the country at Taylors Arm we employ an old-fashioned soda syphon and drink rainwater collected on the roof into tanks straight from the tap. For the G.O. and I, both coming from farming backgrounds drinking tank water is back where we began.

Coffee has been a lifelong journey from the instant powder of my early teen years to a grown up penchant for takeaway large soy lattes.  About 4 years ago we went with straight blacks and invested in a Jura Ena 5 coffee machine which has more than paid for itself. I buy bags of organic fair trade coffee and we use our own cups at home or KeepCups for DIY takeaway. At Taylors Arm we make pour over coffee using a Hario drip decanter and unbleached paper filters.

Occasionally I encounter the G.O. shuffling¬†jars around¬†the tea shelf hoping, in vain, for a glimpse of a yellow Lipton’s teabag label therein. Left to his own devices he is a creature of habit. I offer to swap out another of his indulgences. Coke or Cadbury? No. He was just hoping but he’s fine with¬†Daintree or herbal tea. He’ll have a Lipton’s at his mother’s.

I feel that same way about personal products¬†as I do about food labels, if I don’t know what it is I don’t want it as an ingredient. It didn’t make sense to go to the effort and expense of pursuing clean and home cooked food¬†while undermining the effects by applying¬†goodness-knows-what¬†to¬†our persons.

Seduced by product claims, marketing and colours I have a drawer full of accumulated lotions and potions. Now, I wear¬†less makeup, perfume, nail or skincare products and look for brands¬†that are¬†safe-ethical-eco-organic such as Natio. I’m fond of Clarins and OPI which are apparently¬†ok but could do better. We use locally made lemon myrtle¬†products and oral care products such as Grants.

Of course, it’s all¬†work-in-progress. Ongoing changes come about as I continue to research and discover¬†good products. I’ve¬†checked my habit of impulse buying fragrant candles¬†replacing them with¬†beeswax, essential oils and incense. Magazines also are a treat rather than a¬†regular purchase. I find more than enough inspiration via the blog-world, Facebook Pages Feed, Pinterest and free online subscriptions to websites that interest me.

On my to-do list is make my own washing powder and skin moisturisers. On my to-do-better list are clothes and household items. Possibly the most complicated and expensive exercise. The best we manage at the moment is to limit consumption, buy Australian Made where possible, get value from wear and reuse-recycle.

A¬†daunting¬†and recent change is¬†abstinence from hair colour. As a kid my fair hair was naturally blonde¬†due to the time I spent outdoors. In my late teen years it darkened to mouse with increased time spent indoors at a desk studying, then working. It’s been lightened unnaturally for just over 30 years. Now I’m turning 50 and my hair is turning silver, I’ve decided to embrace it.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference.
It does.‚ÄĚ
William James

old and poor vs. old and wise

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The Australian Federal Government Treasurer Joe Hockey reckons Australia’s aging population is going to run out of cash and have to live on the cheap‚Ķ funded by the government.
Australians to live longer and be poorer in 2055, Intergenerational Report shows

I hope it’s simply a cack-handed way of encouraging people to contribute to superannuation, responsibly consider their future, and the country’s budget. A message well meant [albeit for political effect]. Poorly expressed.

Worries me not, if it did I’d stay chained to my desk rather than actively nurturing plans to move to Taylors Arm and live simply & creatively as it’s likely we’ll be less well off financially than we are living and working in the city.

"Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it." Tom Lehrer
“Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it.” Tom Lehrer

Apparently to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle you need “$42,158 a year, or $57,665 for a couple… and according to the ASFA Retirement Standard, a comfortable lifestyle enables an older, healthy retiree to be involved in a broad range of leisure and recreational activities and to have a good standard of living through the purchase of such things as; household goods, private health insurance, a reasonable car, good clothes, a range of electronic equipment, and domestic and occasionally international holiday travel.‚ÄĚ

Some people, like¬†our friend, have certain priorities, in this case to have¬†sufficient superannuation to drink bottled wine rather than cask…

I’m going to say this quietly, so Joe Hockey doesn’t hear me letting the cat out of the bag, but we’re acquainted with quite a few people who have a good life living on the pension (“As at September 2014, the maximum rate for an age pension is $776.70 for a single person per fortnight. If you are a couple, the rate is $585.50 each per fortnight”) or modest self-funded income.

They don’t dine at fancy restaurants, take overseas holidays or buy new cars annually but were they wealthier, they wouldn’t anyway. They own their homes. They have pastimes, gardens, take walks, cook nice meals, drink bottled beer & wine(!), travel¬†domestically and spend time with family & friends. They¬†spend money on¬†goods and services when required but they don’t update their smartphone every time a new one is released… if indeed they own a smartphone… most don’t.

Even in the city the G.O. and I have had a bit of practice living simply, creatively and economically‚Ķ on our level of income if you want to pay off your house quickly, that’s what you need to do.

My MiL, an age pensioner, isn‚Äôt convinced – she thinks we’re a bit extravagant, and assures us when we¬†make the sea-tree-change¬†she’ll give us lessons how to live frugally. She wastes nothing, accounts for every cent, has a nice home and enviable bank balance. Most importantly she is happy with her life.

How do we plan to live viably at Taylors Arm, a rural area where employment and financial earning opportunities are less than the city’s?

  1. Own our house.
  2. Have no debt.
  3. Utilise our space to grow food.
  4. Cook our own food.
  5. Re-use, recycle, up-cycle.
  6. Utilise the resources of our own time, skills and energy.
  7. Amuse ourselves.
  8. Forgo consumerism.
  9. Budget.
  10. Think of wealth in terms other than monetary.

Do we think we’ll be missing out on good things in life?
No. On the contrary. We believe our realistic expectations and our ability to live within them is every bit as important as our superanuation balances.

I agree it makes sense for¬†employed people to contribute superannuation funds they will access at the end of their working life. What doesn’t make any sense to me is the mandatory contributions unless invested in a cash fund at negligible interest are subject to the vagaries of the share market‚Ķ essentially a gamble, as was proven during past GFCs when many people¬†lost considerable amounts not just from their superannuation earnings but from their original investment.

The current system¬†doesn’t adequately cater for self-employed whose contributions are not regulated, and also begs the question of fairness to non-paid-work contributors to our society.

Australian superannuation reminds me of The Cat in the Hat…

“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We cannot pick it up.
There is no way at all!‚ÄĚ ‚Äē Dr. Seuss

Be it ever so humble

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There’s no place like home…¬†and our encounter with the ‚ÄúTiny House‚ÄĚ had the G.O. and I¬†contemplating¬†dwelling dimensions.

On a recent Sunday we spent a pleasant Sunday morning browsing Marrickville Organic Food & Farmers Markets which shares its location at Addison Road Community Centre¬†with a variety of community groups including The Bower Reuse & Repair Centre¬†which in the lead up to the September 20 auction¬†hosted the ‚ÄúTiny House‚ÄĚ a house made entirely from reclaimed materials.

The ‚ÄúTiny House‚ÄĚ more closely resembles the caravan the G.O. and I aim to hook up¬†and realise our great Australian dream of travelling around Australia, than¬†what we consider a regular residence.

It’s not that we don’t do small… While our rented-from-my-sister 50 sqm 1 bedroom city apartment is bigger than the “Tiny House” the G.O. has referred to both it and our previous¬†similarly compact apartment as “the kennel” not in reference to the nature of the inhabitants but to the lack of spaciousness of our abode.

Moving back alone to Sydney from the Central Coast over a decade ago I opted for an inner city studio loft apartment and left behind a 4 bedroom, 2 living area, double garage, deck & largish native garden surrounded residence I had shared with 1 husband, 2 cats and dog. To be fair the household catered frequently for extended family and all the rooms were used on a regular basis.

Not alone in inner city living suiting our work-centric lifestyle, apparently micro-apartments are a growing trend but there are times the walls close in and no amount of proximate cafes, pubs, shops, markets and parks compensate the delights of our country village verandah, backyard and views across the hills.

Because we straddle city-country lifestyle, as well as the apartment plus storage cage we rent 2 car parking spaces. If we didn’t have plans to relocate we’d¬†keep only the G.O.’s ute he needs for work and a motor scooter. But country-village-no-shops-living 30 km from town will require a 2 car existence. So I hang on to my 18-year-old BMW and when I occasionally drive it out of the apartment building’s dusty underground car park I whisper sweet words to it about the nice rural life it will have one day soon.

At Taylors Arm our home is typical 1930’s, with 3 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, inside bathroom,¬†ample verandah and small workshop on a sufficiently sized 630 sqm block. The original owners Ollie & Vin closed in part of the verandah, and raised¬† 8 children in the house. Later additions were a shower-laundry and toilet out the back.

Modest size by McMansion¬†standards, much of its¬†capacity simply houses our belongings and is multipurpose, such as¬†the third bed-study-dining-storage-room. As far as living zones, during warmer weather¬†– most of the year – utilised¬†in order are:¬†verandah, bedroom, kitchen, back bathroom – a similar floor space expanse we’re accustomed to in the city.

Bigger smartphones are apparently better… “Apple has released a big phone. A really big phone. Samsung has had one for a while.” When it comes to the spaces we inhabit, I think we are heading in the opposite direction.

it adds up to a splendid Sunday morning

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Sunday morning was sunny
+
I spent Saturday food shopping & cooking while the G.O. was at work
+
We had breakfast food but the kitchen was clean…
+
We had to get in the car to go out later
+
The idea of a caf√© breakfast¬†didn’t appeal
=
Marrickville Organic Food & Farmers Markets

Marrickville Organic Food & Farmers Markets is one of a kind happening near us on a Sunday, a long walk or a short drive from our apartment. We park a little distance away at Enmore Park and stroll the few blocks to the entrance of Addison Rd Community Centre where the market shares its location with Reverse Garbage, The Bower Reuse & Repair Centre and eclectic community groups.

Marrickville Organic Food & Farmers Markets is a diverse, vibrant, busy event where you can browse, shop and eat. We do all three, in that order. As I usually do food shopping on a Saturday at Eveleigh Farmers’ Market, our forays to Marrickville Markets are pleasantly recreational, we pick up extras & impulse buys, and delicious breakfasts we eat casually perched watching the heterogeneous throng. The G.O. inevitably opts for a Country Fresh lamb roll, while I amuse myself perusing the multicultural, vegetarian, vegan, traditional offerings before, this time, deciding on an Egyptian breakfast from Fritter House.

 

Marrickville Organic Food & Farmers Markets are on Sunday 8:00 am Р3:00 pm, located at Addison Rd Community Centre, 142 Addison Rd Marrickville, NSW Australia.

home turf

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Back on home turf after my sister’s wedding life goes on.

Vivid Sydney lights up the CBD.

Someone paints decorates the railway overpass walls opposite our apartment with painted watermelon slices but within 48 hours someone else cleans it off.

Someone¬†goes to the touble of tagging their turf, the wall of the building across the road… again.

The G.O. and I have a Saturday sleep in then wander up King Street to Newtown Community Market.

  • I buy kale with a snail freshness guarantee.
  • The G.O. buys unwaxed unsprayed red pears.
  • We buy an assortment of pre-loved¬†books – guess which are whose?
  • I buy a peg bag for Taylors Arm where we have a¬†Hills Hoist clothesline, and¬†a backyard.

We go to the pub for lunch, enroute I find new street art.

The weather refuses to acknowledge the calendar.

‚ÄúImagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Banksy, Wall and Piece

in good company

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Earlier this week I attended an inspiring forum addressed by Natalie Isaacs, CEO/Founder of 1 Million Women “a community of women determined to act on climate change”. The forum¬†touted as being about climate change pleasantly surprised me by conveying ideas¬†on the same page as¬†I am¬†about sustainability.

Natalie¬†communicated a worthy message about collective power “As women we decide about 85% of household purchases. If 1 million women all make one better choice, however small, it leads to real change. We are a community of women determined to act on climate change. Together, our choices and how we live make us powerful! ”

If you would like find out more or be counted among the 1 Million Women, click on the link¬†and join. It’s free and there’s much interesting information on the website, such as that outlined by Natalie describing 1 Million Women’s Six Ways to Live Simply. I’ve encountered via blogging the company of many people –¬†women and men –¬†on the journey¬†making similar contributions to sustainable, ethical,¬†good living. I’m not splitting hairs about labels. Whatever you call it, it makes sense.

Besides sharing a teabag, much to the bemusement of family & friends, here are our Six Ways…

Less is More81bedd4bf3b6148938033fb54cc20def
On the way home last night I detoured to Pitt St Mall¬†“Australia‚Äôs busiest and most cosmopolitan shopping precinct” the closest stockist of Sodastream¬†exchange gas cylinders which give fizz to the bubbly water we use to make wine spritzers. I dallied, enjoying the novelty of browsing the stores. The G.O. asked why I hadn’t indulged in some retail therapy. My reply, “Stuff I want but don’t need and can’t afford.” Read the rest of this entry »

She’ll be apples, mate – Right?

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As is my habit during the course of a Saturday morning I did¬†our weekly food shop at¬†the local Eveleigh Farmers’ Market. When I returned home I made a cup of tea, and settled in with¬†the lunch I bought: gluten-free¬†mushroom, kale and leek tart made from, the¬†friendly stall-holder informed¬†me, market ingredients. At the computer I¬†arbitrarily clicked on ABC News. The first headline I saw was

Federal Government scraps food grants program

“The Federal Government has scrapped the $1.5 million Community Food Grants program.

The funding was announced last May by the former Labor government as a key initiative of the National Food Plan.

It would have seen money invested in projects such as farmers markets, food co-operatives and hubs, community gardens, and city farms across the country.

But applicants have now been advised by letter that the program has been reviewed and a decision made that it won’t be continued due to the ‘tight fiscal environment’…

…The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance is also disappointed. The alliance’s national co-ordinator, Nick Rose, says it was the first time that work by the community food sector had been recognised at a federal level…

…A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture says the Australian Government remains strongly committed to a vibrant, innovative and competitive agriculture sector…

This is why the government is developing a White Paper Agricultural Competitiveness, which will drive long-term agricultural policies and ensure Australia’s agriculture sector remains a significant contributor to the national economy and local communities.

The White Paper will take into account the analysis done for the National Food Plan, in the context of the government’s agriculture and food related policies.

A priority of the White Paper will be to generate jobs, boost farm gate returns, investment and economic growth in the agriculture sector…”

So, the Federal Government is ditching a scheme where 364 applicants have gone to the trouble of placing submissions for grants. Instead of fulfilling it even to some extent, simply by virtue of a change of government more time and money will be diverted to a White Paper to reinvent the wheel. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water could they not reassess the submissions and at least make some grants?

If the government¬†insists on the White Paper, I suggest a field trip to¬†Eveleigh¬†Farmers’ Market, both to buy great fresh produce and to talk to the stall-holders/producers. Read the rest of this entry »

at sixes and sevens in the eleventh

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It’s that time of the year. Not quite Christmas. Not quite holidays. Not quite summer.

Life at Chez EllaDee¬†& the G.O. and Sydney’s November weather have been dancing to the same discordant tune, akin to the¬†noise¬†of my¬†recorder playing in second class at school.

Weather-wise¬†it’s been four seasons-plus in one day.¬†Plus being¬†torrential rain, fierce winds, hail and tornadoes. November the month of my birth¬†& my sister’s and¬†associated celebrations has long been infamous for heterogeneous weather.

Likewise, the everyday of this eleventh month has been a mixed bag. It’s been an eye-opener to the comfort I find in being a creature of somewhat boring habit.

The G.O. was finally released from the project that’s been the bane of his existence since¬†Easter the year before last. He was headed for a new project on the South Coast, near Kiama where we like to steal infrequent weekends away, involving an extra couple of hours driving each¬†day on top of his usual 7 am to whenever workdays.

Inclement weather, a project fast heading to disaster and deadline diverted his efforts locally for a couple of weeks although he was working 4 am, 6 am, 7 am to whenever and 6 days.

Meanwhile, it was quiet, sometimes very quiet, on the solo home front unless of course I opened the door to the soundtrack of the train line.¬†But, that was my only respite. My mostly peaceful work days at my desk overlooking the harbour became unexpectedly but not unpleasantly hectic. It‚Äôs just the timing wasn’t great; home comforts depend on one of us having capacity to attend to them.

Read the rest of this entry »

the faith of small things

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shop with your heart
shop with your heart

On the back of Thriftober, comes Shop Small “the largest ever nationwide campaign to breathe new life into the small business sector. Running throughout November, the Shop Small movement is asking Australians to shop at small businesses in the lead-up to Christmas…

…Shop Small comes to Australia for the first time this year after campaigns in the United States and Great Britain were credited with stimulating consumer spending with small retailers and service providers. It brings together support from the business community, governments and consumers and encourages people all over Australia to support small businesses in local communities.”

Lacking the requisite credit card to participate and unconvinced of the altruism I’m not spruiking¬†the¬†Amex aspect of Shop Small, rather¬†continuing¬†to support local producers and businesses as I have done, sans the Shop Small label,¬†Christmases past and¬†increasingly this year via farmers markets. Read the rest of this entry »