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?

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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