Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rotting food, sugary drinks, and too many towels to wash

So much for that post about the bokashi bin that never happened. Not that anyone's reading this blog, but I'm slipping on a lot of fronts so I need to 'fess up and stay accountable to myself here.

My beautiful bokashi bin finally arrived and I have set it up... so far all good in terms of there being no noticeable smell, but I'm giving it a few weeks of fermentation to see if that changes. One problem I've had is that it's bigger than I expected, which means it doesn't fit nicely into my kitchen. I've been experimenting with other places to put it, and for the moment it's on the dining room table - not the best and most guest-friendly place for a bucket of rotting food :S

In other news I've not only been having many many soft drinks, I've also had quite a bit of coke in the last two weeks particularly. BAD Jess. It got to the point where it was too many to be able to remember them all to put on my soft drink counter. I'm pretty mad at myself, but I'm making a new start today, which is all I can do. So from today: only water and tea, with the occasional fruit juice, coffee, or soda water with a dash of cordial. I decided the occasional coffee will be ok, as long as it's fair trade and organic (the reason I'm allowing myself this naughty caffeine drink is that on the days where I absolutely cannot stay awake, I'm finding myself giving in to getting coke - or worse, an energy drink - so I can make it through the day. If I allow myself A FEW coffees each week, maybe it'll be easier to resist the other evils...?)

My showers have been creeping past the 4min point, so SLAP on my wrist. I'm sitting at about 6-8min now, and there's NO excuse now that I have my beautiful little timer in the shower. Time to recommit to that, especially seeing as the last water bill told me I'm using 192 litres PER DAY, which is way under the government's personal target for each person of 155 litres. Hmm.

One thing that really annoys me is that our rental property only has a full flush toilet. It's a shame, because apparently about 20% of a home's water is flushed down the toilet so there's huge water saving potential there. I doubt there's any chance the landlord would put in a new toilet for rental tenants (?) so I'll just have to focus on other water saving tactics...

1. actually start using my shower bucket, and try flushing the toilet with this when I have got enough buckets worth (I've heard you can do this but have never tried flushing the loo without pressing the flush button... we'll see)

2. be strict with myself again about having 4min showers

3. Shave my legs BEFORE I have the shower so I can just rinse the soap off under the running water when I do start my shower

4. Guilty confession time... I usually use a different towel every day. What the? So, try to use towels for more than 1 day so I don't end up washing a load of towels every week

OK I think that's enough for now. I'll let you know how that all goes.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Honey I'm home

Hi, it's been ages since I posted, mainly because I got fabulously distracted by Bertie coming home from her work interstate for just over a week. And then less fabulously distracted by the inevitable slump in my feelings and motivation levels when she went back again *sigh*

I'm off to an event tonight but I promise to try (who am I promising it to? I don't have any readers... oh well I'll promise it to myself) to resume my normal post-every-day-or-two schedule. I even know what I'll blog about... my bokashi bin that arrived on friday! yeah!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Maya Gold Chocolate

Green and Black's Maya Gold Chocolate - organic and fair trade!!!

According to the Green & Black's website, "in 1994, while Jo and Craig were vacationing in Belize, they discovered how local cocoa farmers were being harmed by decreasing cocoa prices. They agreed to pay the farmers a fair price for their crops and created the flavor of Maya Gold®, which was inspired by the ancient Kukuh drink traditionally enjoyed by the Mayan farmers. This way of doing business didn't seem different to them - it just seemed right and came naturally – and in the process, the Maya Gold brand earned the UK's first Fairtrade mark."

Did it taste good (unlike the fairtrade chocolate I tried last year)? Hell yeah :)

I know what I'll be eating lots of now that 'normal' chocolate is off the menu!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Eco kiddie film - five stars from me!

Bertie and I finally watched WALL-E tonight, and it was magical. A great main storyline (how can a romance between robots be so emotional and compelling?), a great message about the meaning in our lives, the world we live in and on, the environment and our relationship to it, and the beauty and importance of connections between beings, whether they be human or robot or cockroach.

This film ends up being extremely uplifting and hopeful - a great choice for a family flick to sit down and watch together. I think this film would provide a good starting point for some parents to converse with their children (or children with their parents?) about environmental issues. It'd also be a great one for primary or secondary school kids to watch and discuss in class.

There were some amazing images in the film that really stayed with me - the skyscrapers WALL-E makes from rubbish blew me away; I thought they were a great way to conceptualise the link between development and 'progress', and waste/rubbish/excess in our world. To begin a 'children's film' with an Earth that has been abandoned due to pollution, rubbish and toxicity is a very powerful thing, and I think Pixar handles it well in that it has an impact without being too overwhelming or depressing. The loveable WALL-E characer (and the romantic storyline) certainly balance out the potentially doom-and-gloom-ish beginning.

Another image that stays with me is that of a plant, a bit of green, in a world that is mostly dead and brown. To see a small green thing being sought after, protected, cherished... another great way into conversations and lines of thought around the environment. What do we value? Why do we value it? What would it take for us to value environmental assets as well as, or even instead of, financial ones?

A lovely movie for kids, an even lovelier movie for adults. I must admit to a bit of a film cry, though that could come down to my being a wee bit exhausted and emotional. Who knows.

If you happen to get the extras on the dvd, watch the two shorts. The one about the BURN-E robot is gold, and is a lovely complementary storyline to the main film.

The best Pixar film yet, in my opinion. Five stars from me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

excellent experiences with my easy easiyo

My nieces and I made banana yoghurt in my new easiyo yoghurt maker - YUM! Mixed with a little honey, the yoghurt initially got a big tick of approval from both children... until one found out that I'd added the honey and changed her mind: "I just don't like it anymore!" So cute. I remember thinking my dad's pumpkin scones were delicious until I found out the secret ingredient was pumpkin ;)

My serve, in the photo above, has a teaspoon of honey drizzled over the top, and a small handful of blueberries on the side. Soooo good. Better than the stuff from the shops, too. Once I've finished the banana yoghurt in my fridge, I'm going to try the plain unsweetened skim yoghurt again (without the super lumpy effect I hope!).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Victoria's hottest day...

Phew, what a busy, crazy few days. I've been so busy having fun I haven't had time to blog! It was great to see some really good friends; it was also lovely to go swimming and escape the 46 degree weather for a while! It was such a relief when the cool change came through - I really appreciated it properly after the heat. My favourite weather is twenty degrees or so with a bit of drizzle to enjoy without getting drenched... lol I'm not fussy, am I? It rained today, and when I got home, I just stood outside my apartment for ten minutes enjoying the feel of cool water on my skin.

On a more serious note, I feel absolutely terrible for all of the people who lost loved ones or property or both in the fires yesterday - Bertie and I were very sad to hear that 80% of Marysville - a town we visited recently and loved - has been destroyed. We were also worried about family we have in Gippsland of course. We heard of this site where you can give money to a relief fund for Gippsland victims of the fires, so we're going to be giving a donation.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I gotta go see my supplier...

So I just found out that there's an Environment Shop round the corner from me! Very exciting news, though I'm a bit disappointed I didn't know sooner as I could have got my bokashi bin from them. Instead it's using greenhouse gases getting sent to me. At least I hope it's getting sent to me, it hasn't arrived yet. Oh well at least I can get my bokashi refill bags from the Environment Shop, which is exciting!

They sent me a catalogue, and there were SO many delightful things in there. Must... control... spending! I am not allowed to buy the remote controlled power switches, the real beer handmade shampoo bar, the staple-less stapler OR the every drop shower saver. No more buying stuff until the end of the year. Hehe.

One of the exciting (but certainly not necessary... now) things I saw was the BabyBeeHinds fitted cloth nappies - I knew I'd have to use cloth nappies when I had kids, but always hated the idea of trying to fold them into one like an origami and then try not to stab them as you get the safety pins in place *shudder* - fitted cloth nappies? Great invention :)

Apparently the Environment Shop also stocks the stuff I recently bought from Ripple, a business in Melbourne that sell water saving stuff. Cool.

OK time to leave the blogging and finish reading my chocolate book...

*Oh btw, the other day I was reading the 'About Ripple' section of their website and found this juicy, appealing bit of information about them:
"Currently, we choose 100% GreenPower from our energy provider, offer secure bicycle parking for staff, and insist on the reusing, recycling and composting of waste where appropriate. When required to print, our paper is recycled and sourced locally. We participate in a car share rather than owning a company car. Staff are encouraged to contribute to office initiatives regarding the sustainability of all our operations."

Hell yeah.

Lumpy (but yummy!) yoghurt, and my epic ethic sagas continued...

What a wonderful trip to Moe! Absolutely lovely spending time with family, and seeing my nieces head off to school/kinder. We also went to one of their swimming lessons; the children were so cute, and so courageous as they learnt to handle the water. I couldn't believe how confidently some of them - all of about 3 or 4 years old - jumped from the side of the pool into the water. I could actually see myself enjoying going to swimming lessons with some kids of my own and watching them encounter water for the first time! Boy did that day make me feel clucky :)

The yogurt the girls and I made was yummy with a teaspoon of sugar sprinkled over it, and a strawberry cut up. It probably didn't even need the sugar, but it helped make it go down easier, especially because it looked a bit gross - the whey had separated from the rest (as I expected it to do) but the yoghurt itself looked firm and set and yummy... the guide said to stir the whey back in as it is apparently nutritious. This I did, only to find that stirring the yoghurt made it very lumpy looking. I might look into the whole whey issue and see if other people drain it off instead of stirring it back in - I prefer non-lumpy yoghurt, and even my niece took a look at it and decided against it, so it might be something to work on perfecting before I serve it up to guests!

Still, the taste was good so I feel emboldened to try again... as soon as I get another easiyo (I gave the other one to my A.S.I.L, whose daughters LOVE yoghurt, so they should get plenty of use out of it!). It's nice to know there'll be someone I know out there making yoghurt that'll understand when I whinge about whey and lumps, and who I can point to when other people accuse me of being a strange and solitary freak ;)

In other news, the grace period for soft drink is over - I have read up a bit on the fructose issue, and from what I can tell some scientists don't think it's the leading reason for weight gain and obesity but that it is one of many serious factors, while others think fructose is the devil incarnate when it comes to the spread of obesity in the U.S. particularly. I found enough to worry me; after I read up a bit on the effects of sugary drinks on teeth as well I mentally put my foot down. I am suitably motivated to give up sweet fizzy stuff, ESPECIALLY seeing as I seem to be slipping back into coke drinking (two cans in two days ugh) and want to nip that nasty habit in the bud again before it turns into a fully blown caffeine addiction a second time. Last time I gave coke up (cold turkey) I got the shakes, headaches and extreme grumpiness for a few days. I can't believe some parents let their kids drink that stuff *shudder*

I now have a 'Soft Drink Confessions' count happening on the side of my blog, where I'll count the amount of soft drink cups/cans I drink, and what percentage of them are coke. Hopefully neither number will creep up from now on, but at least if they do I'll know I have to confess them here.

Another thing that happened over the last two days was that I got some reading done (it happens when you take the train to the country. Awesome.) I'm nearly finished reading Bitter Chocolate by Carol Off, and it's a shocking read. As in, the things Carol Off writes about are shocking, not the writing itself. It's actually very well written (when am I going to find one in my must-read pile that isn't? Surely it's time for a tear-it-to-shreds book review?). I was horrified -though admittedly, not that surprised- by her accounts of slavery and human rights abuses in the chocolate industry's past. Much more shocking was that it is still going on, in one form or another, today! And with children! I can't believe that children are exploited and abused to make the west's favourite (legal) addictive treat. Horrible, horrible stuff to read, and very eye opening. I can't believe that this is the first I'm hearing about it, though I've seen plenty of 'fair trade' chocolate around the place these days and had an inkling that all may not be well with my cherry ripes and milky ways. Amazing how I subconsciously 'decided' not to research it before now.

I think another ban might be in order, or at least a selective one. I just got home and had a look through my kitchen: for someone on weight watchers I sure have a lot of chocolate lying around or hiding away! I think, to prevent wastage of food I've already bought, I'll have a rule that I'm allowed to finish/give away any chocolate that's in my kitchen now, but not buy any new chocolate UNLESS it's fair trade stuff. I also won't offend friends and family by rejecting any chocolate I'm given as a gift, but I'll make it known that I'm changing over to the more ethical variety (I've told Mum tonight, but she always buys us fair trade choccy for presents anyway, go Mum!). This might mean that I have to get off my butt and learn how to use chocolate in cooking so I can transform fair trade blocks of chocolate into versions of some of my favourite chocolate treats - ice magic to go on ice cream (it might have to be more like chocolate sauce), lamingtons, chocolate covered turkish delight, and cherry ripes. I'm sure I can come up with some tasty (and probably healthier) alternatives. Hmmm maybe instead of cherry ripes I could do fresh cherries and strawberries dipped in melted fair trade chocolate. YUM!

Mum told me tonight that she'd like to read the Carol Off book, especially because she might be doing some stuff around fair trade chocolate with her students this year, which is just fantastic :D

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mix one truck, one soft drink, a litre of homemade yoghurt and a trip to Moe... to make an eventually awesome day :)

I'm in Moe today with my A.S.I.L for one niece's first day of school and the other niece's first day of four year old kindy! I'm having a great time :)

My nieces and I used the easiyo yoghurt maker this evening: one poured, the other stirred. I'm about to boil the hot water to go into the easiyo and make it do it's magic... yoghurt for breakfast if it works YUM.

As I caught the V-line train today and passed through the Gippsland area, I must admit that I got all romantic about the idea of living on a big block in the country, with an actual house that I can retrofit instead of an apartment in the city, and a big garden that I can fill with delicious edible goodness instead of a few pots here and there. I don't know why the idea is so persistent in my mind - I'd be so isolated from friends and family out here. Then again, I guess it didn't take that long to get the train out here from 'Southern Cross Station' (you'll always be Spencer St to me!). Hmmm. I think it'd be easy to find plenty of positives and negatives about ANY suburb we've been considering. Lots to think about.

I had a soft drink can today... so that whole giving up soft drink thing obviously didn't go well. Still, I had a bad morning, the worst of which was nearly seeing my cat get run over by a truck, and then nearly getting run over when I jumped in front of that same truck. Lol. So I'll be starting the soft drink ban when I feel I've sufficiently recovered hehe.

I miss my cat Dwayne. Thankfully Mum's checking in on him while I'm gone. He really is a bit of a pseudo child ;)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A little bit of added motivation to stay away from one kind of sugary snack!

I went to my pile of books to decide what to read next... and I found Bitter Chocolate by Carol Off in the pile. If the dangers to my own health and happiness caused by sugar (as outlined in Sweet Poison) aren't enough to convince myself to stop eating things like chocolate bars and blocks of chocolate as a snack, then perhaps the unhappiness chocolate causes to other people will do the trick. I'll report back when I'm finished the book :)

Sweeeeeeeeeet Poison *sigh*

Woah. I almost wish I hadn't read Sweet Poison: why sugar makes us fat by David Gillespie. If you believe what he's saying, then fructose is a bit evil in large quantities. The body is not programmed to tell you to stop eating it, like it is with other foods, because early in human history fructose-filled foods were so rare to come by and were therefore not harmful in the available small quantities. However in today's environment of processed foods with added sugars, and readily available sugar, honey and fruit juice, we eat much more fructose than our bodies can handle. We can eat and drink sugar by the bucketload without feeling full (though we might eventually feel sick); meanwhile the fructose causes weight gain (Gillespie blames fructose for the obesity epidemic we see in the developed world at the moment) as well as a whole range of serious - and often lethal - health problems. Being all around us, however, fructose is not an easy thing to avoid or even reduce.

I think I will be asking a qualified dietitian about the fructose issue, as I don't plan to drastically change my diet based on one book written by a lawyer/IT professional. Still, Gillespie seems to have done a lot of research and hard work, and has lost 40kg from his fructose-free ways. Yet another example of a person who changes their life drastically, and then writes an inspiring book that motivates me to change my own. If he is right, I will voluntarily walk my way down into a personal hell: no more than 5-10g of fructose a day (which you would get from a few pieces of fruit). While I research Gillespie's theory, I'll start the first easy (and beneficial for me no matter whether Gillespie is right or not) steps. After all, if I'm going to give up eating much fructose I think the key to success will be to do it in stages. The first two will be... *drum roll*

1. stop drinking coffee as I only like it with three sugars. Swap to sugar free tea.
2. give up soft drinks altogether, and if I really need a sweet drink, have soda water with a TINY bit of cordial instead of the tonne I have with it now.

At the very least these two steps will save my teeth some grief (my dentist has already told me to give up the large number of sugary drinks I was consuming, namely coke which I have almost completely given up), and reduce my caffeine intake as I am a terrible addict.