Thursday, 1 May 2014

Free range vs cage eggs

D and his ladies, back in 2008.
I started getting to know chickens on a more personal level after D started keeping some. They are such beautiful and amazing animals. Simple yet intelligent and incredibly amusing.

They have such soothing soft clucking noises that had a calming effect on me. When they decide to have a good old dust bath in the sun, you'll see feathers and dust going everywhere. They'll run to me when they see me (I'm not delusional, I know it's only because they think I have food, not because they love me). And to a certain extent, they're such peace-loving, timid little creatures that choose to freeze and cower when they sense danger. How could you harm something like that?

I have always tried to steer clear of cage eggs because of the documentaries I've watched and articles I've read that detail just how cruelly hens are treated in these "farms" (they're more like a factory, really. A windowless, dark and crowded factory). But getting to meet and rear these gentle little ladies have made me even more determined to buy free range.

Free range eggs are a little dearer, but when you watch clips such as this, you really can't buy cage.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Chunky basil and cashew pesto with coconut oil

Click on the picture to read the recipe
All the talk about my little basil plant reminded me it was time I made another batch of pesto! And so I made this up and shared it with our food buying group.

Basil plant (right) after being harvested. Still lots to go!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

How does your garden grow?

My aspirational farmer of a husband has somehow gotten me extremely interested in gardening, perhaps because nothing beats the feeling and idea of walking out of our apartment on to our little garden ledge to pick what we would like to eat.

Our little jalapeno and basil seedlings when we bought them back in October 2013 - our first married couple purchase!
The pot on the far left houses daffodil bulbs that needed to be unearthed and stored away for next spring.
A month later and we have jalapenos and a bush of strange pointy basil leaves
Basil is just about one of my most favourite herb/plant because it smells so amazing and I absolutely adore a good basil pesto. With our basil plant thriving, I started wondering if I could "grow" a new one from a cutting. So I snipped off a little stalk from our existing plant, stuck it in a tiny container of water for a few weeks and little roots started growing from its stalk! When the roots looked long and established enough, we planted it into its own pot.

There were only four leaves on the plant when we first planted it. Look at it grow!
With the cool of autumn setting in, it's time to research the best fruit or veg to plant for the season!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Interview with a wordsmith

To be honest, the only thing I knew about Kel Richards prior to our interview was the he was the author of the highly hilarious and yet reverent and relevant The Aussie Bible. The book made an impact on me because it proved to me that Christianity can be fun and attractive. 

Needless to say, it was quite an exciting day for me when a media release about his latest book arrived in my inbox, opening up the possibility of an interview. The cherry on top? While a fictional novel, the lead character of his book was C S Lewis, one of my favourite authors.

It was an interesting process thinking up questions for Kel. My research gave me the impression that he was a real thoughtful and intelligent man, and I wanted my questions to count.

I am not entirely sure if I managed to accomplish that, but I enjoyed reading his answers. Answers that reflected a deep love and passion for God.

You can read my Q&A with Kel Richards here.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Bulk food storage

I've talked a little about the urgency with which we need to reduce the amount of waste we generate – in particular plastic – because of the rate with which trash is slowly overtaking the planet we live in, with dire consequence.

Then there's this video, that talks further about how food and packaging waste have an "insidious, long-term impact on our environment, our wildlife and ultimately our own health".

Besides being a cheaper option, another reason why D and I started Purely Bulk Foods to buy food in bulk is because it reduces the amount of plastic packaging that is used. It's a slower and more thoughtful process because you don't have the convenience of simply grabbing the item you want and go. You actually have to think about bringing something with you to contain the items you purchase. But I think, and hope, that it's merely a shift in habits.

And a win-win way to do this is to reuse jars and containers that previously came as as packaging for some other food you've purchased. I have a collection of clean pasta and jam jars at home, ready to be used as vases, piggy banks and food storage. They do look rather pretty once you've removed the labels by soaking them in hot water (you can use eucalyptus oil for the really stubborn ones).

I got a bunch of Moccona (coffee bean) jars off Freecycle a while ago and they have come in very handy for storing some of the whole foods we've got. Add a bit of washi tape to help with labelling—in case you can't remember everything you've got and confuse plain flour with self-raising flour—and away you go!


And yes, I know we need to get more cashews.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Too busy

Image from 'The Busy Trap' article page
Have I ever reflected on 'The Busy Trap' article by Tim Kreider, published in The New York Times blog? It made such an impression on me when I first read it in late 2012 that I was telling everyone about it. I did a sermon at church on it, I wrote an article about it and I was probably relentlessly sharing some form of its message on my Facebook page. So it is with some surprise that looking through my archives, all seems to be silent on the blog front.

It could be because, ironically, the 'busy' level in my life went on steroids shortly after I read the article. So much so that I virtually stopped blogging in 2013.

If you haven't read the article, I strongly recommend you do. But maybe finish reading my post first :)

In the article, Tim basically talks about how 'I've been really busy' has become the go-to response whenever we ask someone how they are. He goes on to explore how it could be because of the values society puts on people who are 'busy'. Being busy gives the impression that you have a life worth living for, that you mean something to someone and that you are industrious and hardworking - both admirable qualities at the best of times. And so we crave the idea of being busy, perhaps even get addicted to it.
Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. 
But he questions the real meaning of it all and how we could be using it as an excuse to perhaps hide the emptiness of our lives. And it's become something we accept, perhaps even expect.

The reason why it made such an impression on me is because I felt Tim was describing me. To this day, I still get nightmares about not studying for an upcoming exam (I graduated from uni twelve years ago and my Master's program the last three years did not have exams) and for not handing in an assignment on time (can you tell I have some form of stereotypical over-achieving Asian gene?).

When I'm not doing something I consider 'productive', I start to feel nervous and guilty. Should I really be playing Toy Defense 3: Fantasy, should I really be sitting here doing nothing, should I be reading this trashy magazine? Ok, so maybe I really don't need to do the last thing, but the point is, I feel like I need to do something that will contribute to something: housework, work work, research something, write an article . . . relaxing just sounds so . . . wrong. And even when I'm doing something, my mind is hurriedly ticking away thinking about what else I can do next.

D is the master when it comes to relaxing. I'm not saying he's lazy. But he savours and enjoys the moment that he's living in. He appreciates what he has to do, what he's doing and has a much healthier emotional and mental state of mind than I do. He takes care when he does something and puts serious consideration into everything. If I'm constantly on fast forward, he's on my version of slow motion. I suppose between the two of us, we get some semblance of normality.

I do wonder why I am the way I am. I don't think it's because as Tim diagnoses, that I like to feel important or that I need to know that there's some meaning to life—as a Christian, I know I am important to God and that's all the matters, and I firmly believe that my meaning in life comes from a relationship with God. So why am I still addicted to busyness?

For the moment, it's a question I cannot answer. But what I can do is not be busy. To not feel guilty about not packing in every single second of my life with some form of 'productive' activity. To not flit from one thing to another, be it physically or mentally. To remember to breathe. To live in the moment.

And most of all, to not say 'I've been really busy' when someone asks how I've been. Because if I had to say that, it's simply because I've chosen to bite off more than I can chew.

Monday, 10 March 2014

#LoveYourWalls

Took this photo a while ago for a competition by 3M Command hooks/strips but thought it would be interest to share over here too.

I present to you my "bedhead", comprising two strings of photos and a line of fairy lights bought in Bangkok years ago, all held up by two little 3M Command hook. They look even more awesome when the bedroom is illuminated only by the fairy lights, but my camera is too substandard to take a proper photo.


Is it time to admit I have a bit of an addiction with these little hooks that don't harm your walls (important when you're living in a rented place)?

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Tracks

D and I scored a couple of free tickets to watch the Australian movie Tracks the other day.

Based in the 1970s, the movie tells the true story of Robyn Davidson, who travels 2700 kilometres across the harsh Australian desert from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, accompanied only by four camels and one dog. She gets the help of an Aboriginal elder for a leg of her trip, and a National Geographic photographer drops in at different times of her trip to document her journey for the magazine (she contacted them to obtain funding for her trip), but for the most part, Robyn is largely alone.

It's a pretty tough trek, across dry, barren land where the only way of knowing which way to go is with the help of a compass. But it's gorgeous country—wild, dangerous and vast. Having a deep insight on the nature of humans and their tendency towards the insignificant and even towards violence and intolerance, Robyn is insistent on going alone, preferring the company of her loyal dog and four camels (including a really adorable baby one!).

To a certain extent, I can understand Robyn's motivation for her trip. As the promo piece says, "Sometimes we have to detach from the world to feel connected to it". Maybe it's from watching one too many episodes of Living With the Amish, but I have been increasingly getting the sense of living in a really crowded world. I don't necessarily mean it from an overpopulation perspective, but more of a mental and spiritual kind of sense.

Case in point, I'm currently sitting in the living room, watching a rerun of The Mask, sitting next to D, each with a laptop on our laps. I'm not sure why I'm still here, as I really do feel bombarded by the television with its shouty advertisements and movie trailers (we usually watch recorded shows and skip through ads).

Robyn escaped the world in the 1970s, before the internet and social media boom. She needed it then, and I do wonder if we need it even more so now. We are more connected than ever before, and yet disconnected all at the same time. Our minds are constantly on what's happening in cyberspace that I feel sometimes we miss what's happening right before our very eyes. We are constantly told that we need more, want more and have to buy more. The irony of it is that by writing this entry, I'm creating yet another message in the world that we most likely do not need.

Perhaps therein lies the charm of disconnecting and cutting off from the world and from people. To go into the wild and experience life in its rawest from. Maybe that's why I feel so refreshed after a camping trip, where computers and mobile phones are left behind and we spend time connecting with each other and the world around us.

Of course, there is no way I'm going to do a Robyn and embark on a 190-day trek across the desert (not including the months prior spent learning about training camels and living in the wild). I'm too soft for that. Not to mention the fact that I would actually miss human company. But it serves as a good reminder about the things in life that do matter, the ones unrelated to being plugged in.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Introducing Purely Bulk Foods

video

I've always liked the idea of a food co-op, buying food in bulk and reducing the need for multiple packaging. Unfortunately, the nearest bulk food co-op or store is about a 30 minute drive away from where I am, and nowhere near where I would usually do my grocery run, which makes it rather inconvenient to simply "pop into the shops".

D also loves his wholefoods, and of course, a good deal. So when he discovered that we could actually buy directly from wholesalers below normal retail price if we had a big enough order, an idea was formed . . .
https://www.facebook.com/PurelyBulkFoods
The plan is to get a bunch of like-minded people together, people who love buying nuts, grains, seeds and legumes, and people who recognise that at the end of the day, packaging doesn't matter—it's the quality of the product that does. Because really, who doesn't like healthy, organic wholefoods that don't cost the earth?

For the past few months, we did our research, contacted some suppliers, found out their pricing and decided to give bulk food buying a go . . . by starting a bulk food buying group ourselves, seeing that there's none that we know of near us.

We've got some interest and orders in already, but we are looking for more people to join in, to really make it possible to buy in bulk and keep the prices low for everyone.

So if you're in the Sydney North Shore area and would like to save on healthy, organic whole foods, do give Purely Bulk Foods a go. Drop by our Facebook page and download a price list/order form today!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Interview with a senator


http://writingsofmel.blogspot.com/2014/03/5-questions-with-cory-bernardi.html

A while back, I conducted an email interview with the Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi. It was my first interview with a politician. Well, I've interviewed ex-politicians before, but this was my first still-in-office politician.

Not that it was much of an interview, to be honest. I merely emailed through some questions and then got a reply. But the nature of the article didn't require a conversation, and it was probably the best form of interview for someone as busy as a senator, so an email interview it was.

When we first thought of featuring him in the magazine, he was merely an interesting politician who can be quite outspoken about his (some might say) rather conservative Christian views. But whether it was serendipitous or bad luck, he came under intense media spotlight for a few days in January thanks to his comments on abortion and homosexuals.

I won't make a comment on what I personally think about his views, but reading through his answers was an interesting experience. There was obviously a lot of thought and care that went into formulating the answers, and they reflected what he stands for and advocates in an intelligent and eloquent way. I certainly don't doubt his beliefs, but I also couldn't help but admire the media training politicians go through and how well they remember lessons to stay on the message.

And I did have to smirk at his answer to my final question: "We must also take care to avoid being too safe when it comes to political correctness".  He certainly hasn't been too safe with his remarks to the mainstream media. At least this is a man who practises what he preaches!

Friday, 28 February 2014

Farewell summer

Farewell summer. It has been mostly fun.

Thanks to you, I got to return to the beach I got married at and frolic in the sea;

I saw hang gliders taking off and landing near the spot I was proposed to just over a year ago;

I took long walks in light-filled and balmy evenings;

I regularly had dinner at 9pm because my internal clock hadn't quite registered the sun set at 8pm, not 7pm;

I discovered an interest in gardening; and

I had plenty of great excuses for yummy ice-cream and tasty smoothies.

Come back soon summer. I miss you already.

Now, where is my snowboard?

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Getting through?

D has been looking for full-time permanent work for close to a year now.

When the only thing you seem to be getting are "thank you for your application, your skills are of value but we found someone better" letters, your morale starts to sink. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. And those are the replies you actually receive. More often than not, you're seemingly sending your resume out into a giant black hole, never to be heard from ever again.

We try to keep in good spirits. D has such a wonderful and positive outlook that it would take more—much, much more—to get him down. But there are good days and there are most certainly bad days.

You start wondering if the boulder will ever be rolled away to reveal the bright sunshine it had been blocking. You begin to think perhaps this lifestyle—one which you've never imagined or wanted—is the one you'll have to adjust to.

In the irony of the job hunt process, the wider the gap between jobs, the less likely someone will want to hire you.

And that's when you start wondering, is this the life that God is "blessing" me with? Is this life the life worth living?

Don't get me wrong. I know that God is still blessing us. I'm still gainfully employed and D still manages to get odd jobs now and then. We can pay the rent, we can feed ourselves and we can even give ourselves little treats now and then. But it's also one in which as D says, "we're surviving, not thriving".

But it's not the financial side of things that's causing me despair. And I know we're doing much much better than many other people around the world. I recognise that this falls into the realms of first world problems. That still doesn't stop the sense of worthlessness that slowly creeps in with each rejection letter, with each non-reply, with each day that goes by where you start losing that sense of who you are, of what you should do, because you're simply waking up in the morning and looking for work, only to receive . . . nothing in return.

God has brought me through enough difficulties in my life for me to trust Him. To know that He is good, that He loves us and that He wants so, so much more for us. I know that at the end of the day, hopefully in the not too distant future, we will look back at this period in our lives and discover the reason why we had to go through what we're currently going through. I know that, because He's proven to me time and time again that that is what happens. He only wants the best for us and there is a purpose to everything He does.

And yet, it doesn't stop the fear. It doesn't dilute the worry. It doesn't curb the despair. Your faith starts to waver. The anger and frustration at God, at our situation, begin to show.

Then this:
God at times permits tragedies. He permits the ground to grow dry and stalks to grow bare. He allows Satan to unleash mayhem. But he doesn't allow Satan to triumph. Isn't this the promise of Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose"? God promises to render beauty out of "all things," not "each thing." The isolated events may be evil, but the ultimate culmination is good.
We see small examples of this in our own lives. When you sip on a cup of coffee and say, "This is good," what are you saying? The plastic bag that contains the beans is good? The beans themselves are good? Hot water is good? A coffee filter is good? No, none of these. Good happens when the ingredients work together: the bag opened, the beans ground into powder, the water heated to the right temperature. It is the collective cooperation of the elements that create good.
Nothing in the Bible would cause us to call a famine good or a heart attack good or a terrorist good. These are terrible calamities, born out of a fallen earth. Yet every message in the Bible compels us to believe that God will mix them with other ingredients and brings good out of them.
But we must let God define good. Our definition includes health, comfort, and recognition. His definition? In the case of his Son, Jesus Christ, the good life consisted of struggles, storms, and death. But God worked it all together for the greatest of good: his glory and our salvation.

And so we hold on in hope. We continue to trust. And I continue to pray that D will get through this and that his spirit won't be broken by this famine in his life, in our lives. All we can do is let God continue His work, and sustain us through the tough and difficult times.

PS: If anyone reading this is looking for, or know someone who is looking for, an Assistant Accountant, I know a really talented and hardworking one who is ready to start immediately!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Johns' Baby Mittens


The John's Forest Bonnet looked so lonely by itself that I just had to make a matching pair of mittens. They were oh-so-tiny, but once again, I held on to a quote by knitting revolutionary Elizabeth Zimmerman: "babies vary and knitting stretches".

As mentioned before, knitting baby items are a joy in that they are completed in no time at all – this particular project took me a couple of hours or so – but they can be a little finnicky when you're knitting tiny little items like mittens. When the ball of yarn is bigger than one finished mitten, I found myself endlessly rummaging through the knitting bag trying to find said stray finished mitten.

Once again, the pattern was modified and knitted in the round so as to avoid seaming. And for those who want to know more, a kitchener stitch will give your project that nice flat dome finish. It's what's commonly used to finish off beanies as well.

And because baby mittens are useless individually and since I've already discovered they do get lost fairly easily – and also because the original pattern had them as well, I braided three individual strands of the yarn together and attached the ends to each mitten to hopefully keep them together forever. Which means if they get lost, at least they're lost together.

Pattern here.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Johns' Forest Bonnet


My first finished project for 2014. A gift for friends who are expecting a baby next month.

It was a ridiculously quick and easy knit, especially after I modified it so that there was no seaming and sewing required.

Baby projects are awesome. You get to create super cute items in super quick time. The only challenge is believing that they will actually fit the baby in mind, as finished items are usually so tiny you wonder if it would fit a human.

For those so inclined, a three-needle bind off made it possible to avoid sewing/seaming.

Pattern here.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Paying it forward

I am a firm believer of taking the time to give a compliment when it is due, mainly because I can also be quick to write letters of complaints when those are due. However, believing that letters of complaints are merely feedback to improve things, I concluded that I need to write letters of compliments as well to keep good things happening. Maybe it's just my way of ensuring karma doesn't come back to bite me.

Yesterday, D and I had lunch for the first time at No Ordinary Cafe in Willoughby. The food was average, but what really caught my attention were the artwork on the walls.



This one was my favourite
I really couldn't take my eyes off them and wanted to possess each and every single one of them. It made such an impact on me that I had to find out about the artist. Lucky for me, she had a website and after playing lurker for a few minutes, decided that I just had to tell her how much I liked her work.

A while ago, I got a reply:
Dear Melody

Thank you so much for taking the time to send me such a lovely email!

I really appreciate your very kind feedback and I am so happy that you love my paintings.

You have made my day!

Kind regards

Elizabeth Langreiter
That made my day.

Then stalker Melody found her on Facebook and liked her page.


You too can stalk Elizabeth here.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

10 signs you're getting older

  1. Your skin, once soft, smooth and supple, is starting to turn snake-like at an alarming rate.
  2. You start aching in places you never did.
  3. You don't bounce back from a late night as easy as before.
  4. You choose not to have late nights because you don't bounce back from them as easy as before.
  5. You're getting hairier where you don't want hair, and less hairy where you want hair.
  6. You call the boys from 1D boys.
  7. You call anyone under 25 a kid.
  8. You acquire tastes for food you never liked, such as eggplant and okra.
  9. You think growing your own food is terribly exciting.
  10. You find out the exact time of your birth so you don't age yourself prematurely.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Waste not, want not

Thought for the day:

The less you purchase/consume, the less you waste. The less you waste, the less you throw out. The less you throw out, the more you help the earth.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Picking up the needles


Ah, the bliss of sitting back in a comfy couch in the evening, watching an interesting show on television and a knitting project on my lap. Needles, how I've missed you.

I didn't realise just how much I'd missed knitting until I finally picked up the pictured work in progress, left aside a year ago to focus on work, study and wedding. When the needles started clicking, I could feel my entire being relax and my mind float off into a happy place.

Of course, my fingers and arm are a little sore from being out of practise after a year but it's just so exciting to be creating again and I'm already buzzing with all the potential projects I can make. And it's also great because it represents the fact that I actually have time to breathe again!

The irony of course is in that when life gets overwhelming, the first thing to go are the very things that relaxes us.

For those wondering, the work in progress will hopefully become another Origami Bolero (based on Jo Sharp's pattern), minus the dodgy seaming  

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Trashed

What happens to all the rubbish you produce? I'm sure you know it goes to landfill (or the incinerator), but do you really know the impacts landfills have on us and the environment? Just because it gets buried away doesn't mean the problem won't come back to bite us.

D and I went to the film screening of the movie, Trashed (preview at the end of this post), a few days ago and it's extremely difficult to come away from the doco-movie without feeling like we need to put in a lot more effort in reducing the waste we generate.


That's Jeremy Irons sitting in the midst of a landfill in Lebanon. It's something that confronts you right at the start of the documentary. Mountains of decaying matter piled up high, right next to a pristine looking sea. Except, of course, appearances can be deceiving.

The rubbish you see has been leaking into the sea and the problem floats all the way to nearby countries like Italy and Cyprus. The problem isn't so much in the rubbish, but in the fact that in the process of decay (which in the case of plastic, could take hundreds and hundreds of years), extremely harmful chemicals are released both into the water systems and into the air. With housing estates nearby and with fishermen fishing in the sea right next to the landfill, it's unsurprising that humans will feel its impact in a very real—and harmful—way.

The problem isn't just isolated to Lebanon of course. We all have landfills in the countries we live in. It's easy to say it's not our problem when we do not live in close proximity to it (and perhaps we don't even really know where our nearest landfill is) but the harmful chemicals it leaches out will have an effect on us sooner or later. And we ought to spare a thought for those who are actually living near one of the many landfills dotted around the world.

And while we may think incinerating our rubbish, instead of putting it into landfill may help, think again. Just because we burn away our rubbish doesn't mean the process does not produce harmful—if not even more harmful—gases that mess with our bodies and the environment.

We are killing our planet and ourselves in a very real, albeit extremely slow, way, and it really has to stop.

It's an uphill task in a throwaway culture. Products come at such a relatively cheap price that we can afford to buy items with the sole purpose of throwing them away (disposable plates and whatnot, garbage bags, bottled water . . . ). It's convenient, it doesn't hurt our pockets and so we persist, not realising that somewhere, somehow, something does hurt and while it may not hurt us now, it will eventually, even if it's our children it hurts.

Reducing our waste can be done. In an extremely admirable way, this family has done it.

I'm not saying that we all have to go the way that family has (if you can, kudos to you). Realistically speaking, I know D and I won't be able to do that. But perhaps in time, we can. After all, our lifestyle is merely a habit we've developed over the years and habits can change. But for now, the first thing we can do is take a little more thought into the things we purchase and those we throw away.

We can all bring reusable bags to the shops and refuse plastic bags, purchase things we know we will need for a long time, purchase things with minimal and recyclable packaging, recycle whenever we can and compost food scraps (D and I use the Bokashi Bin).

A life worth living only becomes so when we consider others and the future. As residents of Earth, I really do feel we all have some sort of responsibility when it comes to respecting the place we live in, and looking after it. You wouldn't trash your home, so why would you trash the home your home is in?

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Homegrown tomatoes

The husband has a little bit of a farmer in him and planted some tomato plants late last year in the garden plot and have they gone nuts!


If you can't see the numbers on the scale, that's 896 grams worth of tomatoes. This is actually our second haul. The first one weighed a little more and prior to that, we had been picking one or two early ripers every few days.

Growing up in the city, growing your own food has never been something I had any particular interest in. Food was food and it didn't really matter whether it was store bought or homegrown. That has all changed, after tasting these red, juicy, sweet parcels of delight that burst forth with goodness on the first bite. I never knew tomatoes could taste so good.

And it's been a really satisfactory journey, seeing a plant grow to give fruit. It's cost effective (these tomatoes cost us about $1/kg as opposed to $5/kg) but knowing that we're trying to be self-sufficient, that we're kinder to the environment by buying (or in this case, eating) local and that some of our food's coming to us chemical-free is probably what motivates us. Oh, and of course, the great taste.

The best part about gardening with the husband is that he does all the dirty work. I have no qualms getting my hands dirty, but there is no way on earth that I will ever put my fingers where there is a chance that it might come into contact with something crawly and slimy. Needless to say, I'm on plant watering duties - and it's oh-so-fun! Every time I water our babies, as we call them, I just want to call out, "drink up, babies, drink!"

It's definitely not possible for us to become completely self-sufficient, but growing a little bit of fruit and vegetables in tiny pots on a ledge and a little, narrow garden plot is at least making a little bit of a difference. And the rewards taste so sweet!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

A Life Worth Living

In line with my previous post about positivity, the start of a new year and my renewed commitment to blog more regularly, I've decided to give this site a bit of a refresh and a rename.

Aussie Adventures (this site's previous name) came about in 2005 after I learned that I was going to move to Australia for work. It was about keeping a log of the new experiences in a new country.

The purpose of this blog really does remain the same - it's about documenting the special moments in my life - but I feel that the message has gotten lost over the years and a name like "Aussie Adventures" didn't really help.

I want to capture the positive, the inspiring and the awesome. I want to talk about what should drive us, what can sustain us and what has made us smile. Not everything will be about the good and the great of course, because life doesn't work that way, but within the context of a life worth living, I hope everything will somehow still make sense.

And so, I bring you . . .

Thursday, 23 January 2014

What makes stories go viral?

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2014/01/the-six-things-that-make-stories-go-viral-will-amaze-and-maybe-infuriate-you.html?utm_source=tny&utm_campaign=generalsocial&utm_medium=facebook

Being in the publishing business, I'm always interested to know what draws people in to reading a story—and better yet, to share it.

This article in the New Yorker however, not only provided some insight, I believe it issued a challenge as well: a challenge to make the world a more positive place, because that is really what people want.

So what makes stories go viral? In a nutshell:
. . . two features predictably determined an article’s success: how positive its message was and how much it excited its reader.
To a certain extent, I'm not surprised. Who doesn't like to share good news? We are surrounded enough by negativity that positive messages evoke some sort of reaction in us that makes us want to help someone else feel better. We love to be inspired and we love to laugh. It's why human interest, triumph-over-tragedy stories in lifestyle magazines are so popular. It may also be why, over the past years, I've deliberately turned off Facebook notifications from friends who have a tendency to take on a "woe is me, everyone is out to get me, I am so angry with the world" attitude in their posts.

Of course, there are a few other additional factors to what makes stories go viral, such as:
  • something that makes people feel that they’re not only smart but in the know
  • we share what we’re thinking about—and we think about the things we can remember, so things like lists are awesome
  • "People love stories. The more you see your story as part of a broader narrative, the better"
But I want to go back to the positivity thing again and ponder why we love great, uplifting stories, but somehow are unable or unwilling to produce more of it.

I believe that a lot of what we see, read and immerse ourselves in can have an impact on our perspective on the world. So if we immerse ourselves in negative thoughts, negative behaviour, negative narratives, we tend to see the world as a nasty, horrible place filled with terrible people who are only out to hurt and harm us.

It's no wonder the Bible advises, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).

But we are not only responsible for our own mental wellbeing with what we read, we are just as responsible for other people's mental wellbeing with what we produce. And we are all content producers in one way or another, even if it's just a 140-character Twitter post.

Want to make the world a better place? Think, be, write positive.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Anna Gare: The best food is made at home

It's always exciting to see your work in print, no matter how long you've been in the business of writing.

I can't quite remember when exactly i interviewed Anna Gare, The Great Australian Bake Off co-host and judge of Junior Masterchef Australia. It was just before I took time off to get married, so it would have been mid-September some time. The article was scheduled to appear in the January-February issue of Signs of the Times and today, the magazine arrived.

Cover article, yeah!
We did a phone interview, as Anna was on the way from Sydney to Canberra to promote her new cookbook. (And for those wondering, she was being driven, so wasn't being a road hazard or anything.)

I don't think I'll forget the first few minutes of our phone conversation. She was warm, pleasant and gave me the impression that she had all the time in the world to chat. Such was her level of thoughtfulness and courtesy that it wasn't until I actually asked if it was a good time to start the interview that she tells me, "Actually, my ride just arrived, so would it be alright if you called me back in ten minutes?"

Anyway, I call back in ten minutes and she sounded cheerful and lovely, and the interview went without a hitch. It was a really pleasant interview. She seemed so open and honest, had such a ready laugh and you could hear the passion that she has for cooking and food. And her philosophy was simple—fresh, unprocessed products are the best for you, and good, healthy food don't have to take hours to prepare.

You can read more about her thoughts here.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Wedding bolero


After a long hiatus thanks to a nonsense business of getting married, it is perhaps somewhat fitting that my first post back is wedding-related.

Thanks to a defective gene which causes moments of insanity and an intense love for anything handmade, the then husband-to-be and I decided that it would be a great idea to pretty much create everything for the wedding with our bare hands.

Long story short, it was incredibly fun, we enjoyed every moment of it, but needless to say, it was rather time-consuming and stress-inducing at times. However, if we had to do it all over again, we wouldn't change a thing. And perhaps you will read more about the various wedding creations in posts to come. But I'm not promising anything. I love creating but am terrible at keeping records.

But this is a post about my latest completed knitting project and I will learn to focus. With a wedding planned in spring on the beach, I had an inkling that I would need something to keep me warm after the sun had set and from the cool sea breeze.

I will admit that I actually considered purchasing a ready-made bolero initially (I was making everything else including yes, my wedding dress, and had a dissertation to contend with, so time management dictated that a bolero that I would probably only wear for a short time in the evening be relegated less important in the "to make" list) but after a few days of inability to find anything I liked, I decided the best way to get what I want is to make it myself.

So I found something that closely resembled what I wanted with an incredibly easy pattern and modified it to become the bolero of my dreams. (For those interested, I essentially added a frill edging using this pattern.)
 
In the end, with everything else going on, it still took me four months to complete. It was finished on an extremely warm day, less than a month before the big day, which led me to declare, "I don't know why I made this, I don't think I'll need it at all."

Famous last words.

We had rain, hail and crazy strong winds that day. At 11 degrees, it was one of the coldest day in October history. Without my merino-blend bolero, I would most probably have lost an arm from hypothermia. But this knitted bolero, made from yarn given to me by a friend, kept me really warm and toasty that day. I hadn't planned to wear the bolero for the wedding photos, but it was so cold that day, nothing was going to make me give it up.
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