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!
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