Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hello Autumn

Hooray, it's the first day of Autumn. Ignore the date at the top of this post. The computer has a mind of its own. I have a couple of unrelated things to blog about today so don't try and find a theme there isn't one. LOL

It's Monday again and that means Meatless Monday. On the menu tonight is Cheese souffle. Of course we have it with a bit of salad to "green" things up.

Over the weekend I had to work REALLY hard to keep plastic bags out of the house. Every retail person on the planet wants to put your purchases in a plastic bag.

The average use of a plastic bag is less than an hour and they take over 2000 years to break down in landfill. So, I've been saying No, No, No all over the place. For the bags I have already, I am taking them to be recycled at my local supermarket. IGA provides a bin to put them in and I'm using cloth bags wherever I can.

I have some in the car and some on the wall near the front door for if I walk to the shops.

The white one was my grandmother's and was crocheted about 60 years ago and the "Iconic" one was a present from my sister in law for Xmas this year.

You might remember that I belong to another site called Simple Savings whereby people help each other save money (in theory anyway). Each month this year they are having a challenge. For March, it is adopt a tip month. That means that each day I have to implement a new tip from their site that either saves me time or money or effort.

So I looked through all their tips and found 31 that I will implement through March that have some relevence to myself and my family.

A nice easy one for the first day of March is to put a clean Chux underneath your vegetables in your crisper. It absorbs moisture and therefore extends the life of your vegetables. Sounds good to me.

My First Giveaway

Due to winning a giveaway myself from the lovely Libby at Life is a Journey not a Destination and ordering a bulk lot of Organic books, I have doubled up on one particular title. I've decided to give this brand new copy of Clean Food Organic as my first giveaway.

If you would like a chance to win, just leave a comment on any post this week and I will draw a winner on Friday. The book is fabulous and full of great information on Organic Living. Good Luck.
Under the Kitchen Sink

I had a couple of things I had put aside to repurpose. Firstly, I had some old towels that were too threadbare to use so I decided to cut them into squares, hem them and pop them under the sink to use in place of paper towel where it is appropriate. I even had a little Ikea container hanging around to put them into.

Some polar fleece pajamas that used to belong to Rhianna. Apparently they are fabulous for dusting. So I cut the pajamas into as many small rectangles as I could get from the fabric. Now I can throw out all those old, odd socks I have been using for years.

This is the cupborad under the sink. It's such a boring little cupboard which is why it's so neglected. Look at the mess and look at the plastic bags. So very naughty. I pulled these out and took them all to my local IGA which recycles them and then I bought some biodegradable bin linens. Apart from the bin liners there are to be no more plastic bags coming into this house.

This is the after shot. New dusters and "paper towels" in place.

I then stuck some environmental reminders on the pipes under the sink to remind me and everybody else in the family that we are no longer a plastic bag family.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Food Waste Friday

The lovely Angela over at My Year Without Spending has inspired me to start Food Waste Friday. This is where I have to go through my fridge, pantry and freezer and get out any food that is quite obviously past its use by date - in other words - waste.

What is the purpose of this?

Well, I have blogged previously that Australians toss about 25 % of all food they bring into the house. Not only is this terrible for your wallet but its awful for the environment. When food is put into landfill and begins to break down it realises a gas called methane which gets released into the environment. Methane is a nasty and if its not floating around for us to breathe in, its heading up to attack the ozone layer.

So eating everything you bring into your house is a step in the right direction in preventing the formation of this gas.

Here is my waste for Friday.

I have some shallots - which I just couln't figure out how to use them up and some roasted pumpkin which I cooked to snack on and then couldn't get through it.

The pumpkin goes into my worm farm container, which is a container I keep on my bench with scraps for the worms, (post on that coming later) but the worms won't eat onions so they have to go in the bin.

Do you know how much food waste goes into your bin every week?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Learning to Crochet

Julie and I started our learn to crochet class last night. It did not get off to a great start with us getting lost on the way there and turning up late. Never mind, Marg was still more than happy to see us and away we went. Apparently the other members of the class had cancelled so it was just Julie and I.

We had decided on the phone that we would start with the standard "granny square" but after 5 minutes of trying to teach us this, Marg declared that we were actually below beginner level (oops) and had to start right back at the very beginning with something called chain stitch.

Well, we got the hang of chain stitch pretty quickly and I was feeling very chuffed with myself until Marg decided we had to move onto treble stitch. This was when I realised that chain stitch was like learning to put on your seatbelt when you take driving lessons. Not even close to doing the real thing.

Two hours later and after much frustration, I managed to produce the small amount of crochet you see below. I had a headache, my eyes hurt and I HATED crochet!!!!!

Julie did much better than me as she has crocheted in her previous life as a 10 year old and it all came back to her pretty quickly. I was left to struggle on with wool twisted around every finger but the right ones and wondering if it was too late to start the embroidery class.

However, in the cool, calm light of the morning I have decided to return next week and give it maybe a few more lessons before I throw in the towel - I mean granny rug!

Chocolate Wheaties

1 cup self raising Flour

4 weetbix - finely crushed

One third cup desicated coconut

One third cup firmly packed brown sugar

125gm butter - melted

1 Tablespoon milk (approx)

Combine flour, weetbix, coconut, sugar and butter. Mix well and then add enough milk to bind ingredients together. Press a heaped teaspoon of mixtuer into a ball then flatten slightly between your palms and then place an a greased oven tray.

Bake biscuits at 200 degrees for 10 minutes, until they are a light brown.

Allow biscuits to stand on trays for a minute or two then transfer to a wire rack. Spread biscuits with warm chocolate icing and sprinkle with extra coconut.

To make icing

Sift three quarters of a cup of icing suger and 2 tablespoons of cocoa into a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of soft butter and 1 tablespoon of milk (approx) to make a stiff paste. Heat in microwave for 20-30 seconds till icing is smooth and spreadable. Use icing while it is warm as it will set when cool.

My mixture made 20.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Just a "Home" Day
A couple of days through the work week I clear all my errands and appointments and have what I call a "home" day. This is where I drop Rhianna at school and come straight home again. Then I don't leave the house until 2.45pm to pick her up.

During that time I might do some chores, a bit of craft or sewing and definately some reading.

Here is what I got up to today.....

I had some things out ready to put on Ebay. One of the items were these building blocks from ELC. Of course, the minute you know who saw them, she fell in love with them all over again. Despite the fact they have sat unplayed with in her room for a year. But who I am to stand in the way of some educational enterainment for my daughter that is going to cost me nothing?

Next onto some baking. First up, the bread. I am really impressed with our bread maker. The bread is lovely and comes out so fresh and warm. Of course, it does not last as long because it doesn't have all the nasties in it but it lasts a day or so which is all it really needs to in this house.

Then some "fun" baking. These are new to me and are called Chocolate Wheaties. They have about 5 weetbix in them so I tell myself they're healthy. I will definately bake these again.

And finally, just before I go for the school pick up I can sit and read a book. I have quite a few from the library at the moment. Can you sense a theme here???? I am so impulsive like that, when I find a new thing, I jump in with both feet. Next week I could be into elephant farming, who knows?

Hope you've all had a good day too.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

About Suzanne

A few years ago I moved into a lovely cul-de-sac in Castle Hill, Sydney. Before long, a neighbour came over to welcome me to the street. Her name was Suzanne. She told me she had some "health issues" but was on the mend.

A few weeks later she invited me over for coffee and that is when I learned that she had Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. I asked her what that meant and she said, "Well, stage 5 is death."

Her illness had not been detected until she was Stage 4 and her only symptoms were tiredness, some tummy bloating and some lower back pain. Now, if you are a wife and mother you may experience these symptoms every day. Which is exactly what Suzanne thought, "I just need to rest more" she told herself. Unfortunately by the time she was diagnosed she was at Stage 4.

She was determined to beat it though and underwent every course of chemo they recommended and even tried every experimental drug and therapy they had going. She kept telling me she couldn't wait to be well enough to come out walking with me and Rhianna. She'd wave to us from her loungeroom window every morning when we took off up the street, Rhianna in her stroller.

She was a quiet, dignified and wonderfully warm person who never said a bad word about anybody or complained about her lot in lfe.

Eventually the doctors told her they had done all they could and she was to "get her affairs in order". She had one last beach holiday with all her family and insisted that her husband finish the back deck he had been building for the past 2 years. She told him to hurry.

Suzanne died last year. We all miss her very much.

February 24th is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Buying Organic Groceries

I've been pleasantly surprised by the organic ranges that some of the supermarkets have these days. Now that I am actually looking for this kind of food, it seems to be everywhere.

But I won't lie to you, it's not cheap. I estimate I'm probably adding around $50 a week to my grocery budget. But I figure what's more important than putting clean, healthy food into your family? Aldi has the cheapest range of organic food.

This is what I got from Aldi this week.

This is my haul from Coles which has just put out its own Organic range.

Combined with my fruit and veg from the Organic Grocer I have a lot of the food groups covered. Meat and other protein products are available from the Organic grocer but the cost is unbelievable. For example the chicken breasts are $36 a kilo. So we are not going there just yet.

Instead, I am trying to cut down our consumption of red meat, do at least 2 vegetarian meals a week and use a lot more sustainable fish.

My hope is that as consumer pressure increases the larger supermarkets will continue to increase their ranges and organic products will be as easily accessible and as cheap as non-organic.

Meatless Monday
I picked up my game a little this week for Meatless Monday. I had a bit of a think through the week and managed to produce this - Ricotta and baked vegetable canneloni. Very yum.

And for dessert, one of my closest friends, Julie brought me this little box of chocolates for doing her a very small favour. There was actually more than 3 in the box but Julie stayed a while and we had some coffee and well, we ate most of them...... But if you are ever in the Blue Mountains, pay this store a visit. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Going Vintage

In my journey to become greener and also to save money I have come to appreciate vintage goods. Besides loving the whole "look" of old things, I can appreciate the workmanship that went into things.

Some of the items I have come from the 1930's. That's over 70 years old and still going strong. It's hard to imagine something from IKEA lasting that long.

These are my vintage bakelite cannisters. It took me two years to find some on Ebay that were in mint condition. My Mum and Grandmother each had a set of these and I love to remember days spent baking with both of them when I look at this set. The cabinet they are housed in is a 1940's dresser which we picked up in an antique store in Hazelbrook.

My vintage tablecloth collection (it's in its early days). I'm also collecting and using linen napkins.
Some of this crockery and glassware is very old and some is just from Spotlight and I liked the pattern. The depressionware pink glasses were a find from an op shop for $4.

This gorgeous eiderdown is from a shop in Springwood called Frou Frou. It's full of vintage wares and my girlfriend and I spend a lot of time in here ohhhing and ahhing over things. The shawl is from a flea market and the vintage bag from another vintage store in the mountains.

I got this old fashioned lamp off Ebay for $20. The shade was an aqua colour so I bought some fabric that matched my home a bit more and recovered it. You might think its a bit naff but it really suits my house.

I am absolutely loving collecting vintage stuff and plan to do a lot more this year.

Another award - this time from Debbie at

I am now supposed to nominate 12 others for this award and link to them. Let's see if I have 12.

Thanks again for the award Debbie
More Water Saving Strategies
I have shown previously how I have a plastic bucket in my shower to collect grey water for the garden. Some other strategies we employ to save water are:
A small bucket that fits into the sink. This catches water that runs while waiting for the hot water to come through, general hand washing water and the water used to wash vegetables - then I just carry it through to the outdoor plants.

This little timer costs about $4 and sits in the shower. The sand gives you 4 minutes and boy does it go fast when you have to wash your hair and shave your legs as well as the other jobs you have to do the shower.
This pipe runs from outside our laundry to the garden. It is connected to our washing machine and runs directly to the grass. Both the wash cycle and the rinse water are diverted to the garden.

The end of the hose just lies on the grass and as you can see the greywater is producing some fantastically healthy grass.

Is anybody doing some stuff to save water that I haven't discovered yet?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Family Fun Saturday

We have a few traditions that we like to do on the weekend and luckily they are low cost and good for the environment.

Today we went to some local garage sales. We only go to the ones in our immediate suburb as otherwise the cost of the petrol negates the savings we make on any items purchased.

We found a storybook which was perect as a home reader for Rhianna, 3 long sleeved tops, also for Rhianna and a little alarm clock for me. Total: $8. One of the garage sales even had their kids selling homemade lemonade and muffins out the front of their house. Breakfast and a bargain - how good is that?

Then onto some baking. This was a necessity as we had no bickies or cake in the house and therefore nothing for morning teas. We made some jam drops and a chocolate cake mostly using all the organic products I sourced last week.

Jam drops

Chocolate cake

Bill takes his turn as the "student" at Rhianna's school of learning. He's a good dad and knows he has to raise his hand to speak. Finn on the other hand, refuses to play.

The rest of the afternoon was spent trampolining and reading stories on our bed.

Hope you all had a great Saturday.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Meet the Love of my Life

About 18 months ago we got ourselves a little spoodle (cross between a poodle and a cocker spaniel). We got him in the Winter time and as it can get quite cold up here in the mountains little "Finn" liked to snuggle into the hood of my jacket while I surfed the net.

And when it all got too much he had a little nap there too.

I found these old pics while clearing out my folder today and couldn't resist posting them.

Have a great weekend.


Leaving McMansionville

Almost 2 years ago we were living in a part of Sydney known as McMansionville.

This area, in the North West of Sydney is dominated by large houses on small blocks of land, few footpaths and even fewer trees.

The shops and services are miles away (for most people) and the area is not serviced by a rail network but an infrequent bus service.

The McMansion
Of course we hated it for many reasons but the main one was that is was so soul-less.

On a day trip to the Blue Mountains, West of Sydney we found what we had been searching for - modest homes on medium to large sized blocks of land and a real sense of community.

Instead of feeling like fish in a goldfish bowl, we had a house with so much privacy, you couldn' t see the house from the street. And look at all that green.

Our home - it's in there somewhere!!!

Michael Grosvenor (2007) characterises sustainable communities by the following criteria:- (Check to see how your place stacks up)

- You can walk to some local shops.

- You can walk to a railway station.

- You can walk to a regularly serviced bus stop.

- There are paved footpaths in front of your house.

- There are cycleways.

-There are community parks and gradens.

- There is a wide range of community facilities nearby such as a decent library.

- The shopping area is busy.

- There is a mixture of housing types.

We tick all the boxes except the footpath one. So a very sustainable community I'm happy to say.

Sadly we don't have a footpath in our street

I can walk to my local train station. The bus stop is at the end of the road.

The shops are a 15 minute walk away and are busy.

I think we're pretty good here, much better than our last home and it shows in how much happier we are.

How does your house rate?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Sustainable am I so far?

I've probably been making conscious decisions to be more sustainable (and organic) for about a year now. So I decided to do a daily "audit" to see where there may be room for improvement.

I started the day with a strawberry smoothie. The milk and honey are organic and the strawberries were grown in my backyard. Pretty good so far. Hehe....
Dropped Rhianna at school. I really should be walking her to school or riding our bikes but there is a big hill between our place and the school and I am too lazy to tackle it in the mornings. I will challenge myself to start walking her to and from school 2 days a week starting from next week.

Was heading out for the day so made myself a hot chocolate to go. No bought coffees for me!
Saving money and the planet - so proud!!!!!!
Headed to Castle Hill - about a 40 minute drive. We still have a P.O box there for the business and we really should transfer to one closer to home but the expense of doing this and the hassle of lost mail has made us reluctant. Besides which, it's a great excuse to catch up with my old Castle Hill friends. So, driving for 40 minutes is not such a sustainable practice when there is an alternative. Can't go to castle Hill without some retail therapy.......

...luckily, they have one of the best op shops around. Found a pair of cargo pants for Rhianna, a novel for me and a new black handbag. $9 all up and all recycled stuff. And you thought I'd go to David Jones!

Next up, lunch with my best friend Natalie who lives in the very next suburb. I try to combine errands and social catch ups where I can to save making too many trips down there. I think that qualifies as trying to be sustainable.

Natalie and I spend some time on the computer trying to organise a Yulefest weekend away for July. We decide on a place called Lavender Manor. It's at Blackheath so we're supporting local business and not travelling to Canada to experience a white Xmas (very sustainable). And doesn't the cosy loungeroom look like just the sort of room you'd want to drink eggnog in.

Home again and time to put my feet up. I have a coffee and a quick flick through a library book I got yesterday. Boy this book looks terrific. Has so much info in it. Might have to buy this one.

I finally got around to organising the 2 classes I want to do this year. The first class is learning to crochet and I start next week. This will be a very sustainable activity if I can produce gift quality items. And to all my real life friends I apologise in advance for the items you may receive this year for your birthday or Christmas. (LOL)

The second class I am starting won't be till April but it's a Creative Writing Course. I have done a lot of writing over the years and now have a couple of good novel ideas floating around in my head but have no idea how to develop characters or even begin really. So I am really looking forward to starting this later in the year.

Dinner tonight is a lasagne I made yesterday using all the organic goodies I had purchased. One of our goals is not to buy take away this year so I plan ahead as much as possible. I knew I'd be tired this afternoon after being out all day so I made the meal for tonight yesterday. I did cover it with gladwrap though - very naughty.....

Well all things considered I'd have to give myself a B- for my overall efforts today. Doing O.K but some room for improvement.