Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Generosity of Strangers


I have been totally blown away by folks generosity when it comes to baby clothes!!! What amazes me most is that the people I have received from for the most part barely know me (if at all). My sister-in-law has passed on several lots of lovely second hand clothes from people she knows - cardigans, booties, singlets, all-in-ones, and so on. Then a teacher on my Practicum turned up one morning with a big bag of baby clothes too, plus a set of flannelette cot sheets!

Add these to the second hand knighties I have found, and the stash of woolen cardigans my mum got at Savemart for us, and we are almost set. I think the only things on my 'list' now are hats (which I will knit soonish!) and woolen singlets. I have 2 beautiful winter family shawls to use, plus my mother-in-law will knit a summer one.

We've been given a basinette to hang in the cot, a baby bath, and mostly likely a car seat capsule.

The washing machine is currently going with the cot sheets I made, to be followed by another load of gifted baby clothes. I have several bags of washed baby clothes already, plus a few more bits and bobs left to wash. My mum has almost finished the cardigan/hat/bootie/mitten set she is knitting (ladybird buttons - so cute)! My sister-in-law's mother-in-law kindly knitted a beautiful little dark blue cardigan from some wool I got. My own mother-in-law has found a soft blanket, pillow case and day shawl that she used when Boyo was a baby and passed them on to us.

Now I just have to work out where to store all these terrific baby clothes - a problem I am more than happy to be encountering!

My grateful thanks to all the folks who are helping to prepare for Munchkin's arrival.

Amy

I love Dysons

Have you ever done research on vacuum cleaners? Some friends of ours did a few months back and commented that if you've got a limited budget, you shouldn't, because invariably the raving comments about cleaners were about Dysons and if you couldn't get a Dyson, that would be disappointing. The saying goes that you get what you pay for and in vacuum cleaners I think this is probably pretty accurate. It is quite difficult to buy a second hand Dyson. No one wants to sell!

Having recently moved, our brand new vacuum cleaner has had a chance to show us what it is made of. I would just like to say that I love Dysons!!!

We were originally given a Dyson as a wedding present from my parents (thanks so much, Mum and Dad). It was duly lent to my in-laws when we went overseas, and they later bought it from us because they liked it so much. Grin.

So when the time came to get a new vacuum cleaner, I had 2 options on my wish list. One, a Dyson, two, a Henry (Henry being a semi-commercial cleaner my family had - they work well, cost around $300-400 and have rather cute 'faces' on them!). We decided that a vacuum cleaner was one area we should not be skimping in. With 2 asthmatics in the house who also both get hayfever, and the high possibility of ending up in a rental with old, dusty carpet we needed something that would do the job and do it well the first time.

So we got a Dyson in the Boxing Day sales. This meant we managed to get the model we wanted together with the turbo head for the price we'd normally get just the vacuum cleaner. The turbo head just pulls up even more dust than a standard Dyson head. Upon moving into our new rental, the Dyson has been duly unpacked and put to work.
What do I love about it so much??? Well, where to start...here are my three favourite features...
It is light and easy to move. This is the only vacuum cleaner I've ever used that I can operate left-handed as well as right-handed, giving my back a break from all the twisting that invariably accompanies vacuuming. And I have used quite a few vacuums in my time.
It has a swivel head. This is one of the absolute best things - it means I can vacuum the walls, the shelves, the curtains, the floor, the skirting board (pretty much everything!) and all using the one head.
I can actually see how much dust I am vacuuming up. Which means that I don't forget to empty the 'bag' before it starts to overflow! Yes, I must admit to being one of those people who would invariably leave emptying the vacuum cleaner for the next person. But not anymore.

So there you have it. I do like Dysons. If you could have only seen me, vacuuming out my kitchen drawers and cupboards, talking to myself and my vacuum cleaner about how much I love Dysons!

Amy

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Meatless Monday...Ah, Thursday!

Hi again! Well, my second week of officially trying to remember to do Meatless Monday has been a bit of a flop. Not a particularly good start, but I am not despondent just yet. I have been on my first Practicum you see, so things have been a little hectic. I am very blessed to have this opportunity to observe and learn from a teacher, and am having a great (though tiring!) time. The students and teacher are all taking very good care of me. I even have a special wheely chair so I can move around the tables to work with students without having to bend or kneel! I have concluded that good teaching is as much about negotiation and soothing of ruffled emotions as it is about maths or the a-b-cs. At least with the littlies, at any rate! My days consist of listening to children, watching children, helping children sound out words, checking their spelling, making sure they've all got their hats at morning tea time, patting crying shoulders, sharpening pencils and countless other little duties associated with helping young learners develop. It is a challenging and, at times daunting, job. I have so much respect for our teachers. It is no mean feat, controlling a classroom of children. And then getting them to learn something new on top of that - well, amazing, that's all I can say! I am with a fabulous class and a fabulous teacher and am learning so much...mostly just how much more I have yet to learn before I even contemplate taking over a classroom of my own!

So, in all this, I kind of forgot Meatless Monday in my planning. So we are having Meatless Thursday instead. Tomorrow's planned dinner is scrambled eggs, salad, and kumara (sweet potato). So Meatless we are, despite it not quite being Monday still! Grin.

Of course, with all the brain strain going in relation to my studies, I have also not contemplated World Water Day, other than the odd, "Oh no, I'm running out of time and I still haven't a clue what I can do for it!" As these thoughts are invariably replaced with either what to feed us today, whether I have organised my bag for tomorrow, written my notes up from today or figured out just what happened in that moment in the classroom, I haven't got very far at all. I guess I am doing the first step though, and sometimes that is about all one can do. Awareness is often the critical inital process, and sometimes I need to allow a little more time for awareness to really sink in before I launch into action (I do tend to be a bit too action-oriented!). So action will come, sometime. For now I will try to keep the awareness of World Water Day somewhere near-ish the front of my brain space and hope that my subconcious mind will be working away diligently, finding some good applications for my life. The subconscious mind is good like that. You give it a problem or a question, and if you give it enough time and space, eventually something 'pops up' to the surface!

Well, the time has come for this tired preggy to put herself and baby to bed. Another day of reading, writing, talking, listening, sharing, admonishing, praising and generally interacting full-on with children awaits me tomorrow. I definitely need my beauty sleep!

I hope your week is one of blessing and purpose.
Amy

Saturday, March 13, 2010

World Water Day

An email from Tear Fund has just advised me that 22 March (Monday week) is World Water Day.
Samaritan's Purse, another organisation I support, considers safe drinking water such a vital need that they have a project site dedicated to it: Turn on the Tap.
You can take photos of taps around your home and email them in. A corporate sponsor donates $2 when you do! It makes a huge difference. For $100 Samaritan's Purse can give a family a water filter. $250 provides a community (yes, a whole community) with a well and pump.

According to Turn on the Tap, a child dies every 20 seconds from water-related diseases. Unsafe drinking water is the second greatest killer of children in the world today. Yes, you did read that correctly.
UNSAFE DRINKING WATER KILLS a child every 20 seconds.
The second greatest killer in the world is completely preventable.
It's hard to believe that something so basic could be such a threat to someone's welfare. I mean, we just 'turn on the tap' right? I remember my brother getting giardia on a camping trip once - that was pretty awful. I can't imagine what it must be like to live with that kind of illness every day.
One in 8 people in the world do not have access to save drinking water (that's over 800million).
Most people in the developing world would love to have 10 litres of safe water a day. We probably flush that down our toilet with every single flush.

Flooding in on our street in Townsville, North QLD...just an inconvenience for us, as we don't rely on this water for drinking!


So, it seems to me that there is a little inequality here and that this is an issue I can, and should, be doing something about. I don't have to save the world. I can start by being aware of just how precious fresh, clean, filtered water is. Then remember to be grateful that it arrives at my house in a pipe, saving me hours of walking and carrying to fetch it. Sheesh, a nice hot water cylinder even heats it up for me.

I can decide to take my gratitude and position of privilege and do something with it.
What, I am still trying to decide. I do have a week, after all...hmmm.

Do you ever think about how much water we use, and how easy it is to take it for granted? Is there something you can do to help those who don't have the same access we do? Maybe you could send a photo of your tap into Turn on the Tap?

Amy

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Meatless Monday

Yesterday we had a really nice, vegetarian dinner. I did not purposefully set out to have a meat-less meal. It was simply what I felt like eating when I was arranging the menu for the week. It wasn’t until we sat down to eat that I realised it was Monday. I’ve read on a few blogs about Meatless Mondays. It is a ‘movement’ I guess where people are taking meat out of their diet on just one day a week. The idea being that meat is a very expensive commodity in environmental currency. Meat production costs a lot of water, a lot of grain, a lot of petrochemical fuels and fertilizers, and uses a lot of space. These are all things that we actually need for other things, such as feeding the world’s starving. Then there are also the ethical aspects of meat production – the way animals are housed, fed, transported and slaughtered. I have not worried too much about researching further, as I believe that these concerns sit well and relevantly for me, so to speak, fitting well with my own personal philosophies.

The other issue I feel comes into the meat versus no-meat debate is that we really do we eat too much meat in our Western diet so it sure wouldn’t hurt to eat a bit less and instead eat some more veges! It is this reason predominantly that has led me to progressively reduce the amount of meat Boyo and I eat. Not being very skilled or knowledgeable about preparing meat-less meals, I instead spent a few years reducing the meat intake of each meal. Our average meat portion is now around 200g for the two of us (so 100g each). I have no idea how this compares to ‘average,’ just that it is less than we used to have! I have learned how to make meat go a longer distance by combining it with beans, rolled oats, or vegetables.

So back to Monday’s dinner. I just decided that we’d have a meat free meal, so we did. Then I realised that it was in fact Meatless Monday. The idea behind Meatless Monday is not to turn the world into vegetarians. It is simply to encourage people to eat a little less meat each. If all westerners ate one meal a week without meat, a lot of grain and water could go to those who really need it. Well, we really enjoyed our meal...even Boyo who loves his meat. And I can quite happily contemplate the bacon and egg pie that he is making us tonight.

Here’s our dinner. Beetroot leaves, celery, tomato and herbs from the garden. Capsicum and lettuce from the farmers market. Kumara, onion, carrots from the supermarket. I also did sweetcorn, but we were in a rush to pick up a lawnmower and decided we didn’t really need it anyway!

It was a really yummy dinner and I’m thinking of making Meatless Monday a regular event. I haven’t told my meat-loving husband yet though!

Have you had a nice meat-free meal recently? Do you have any favourites you’d like to share?

Photos are coming...just as soon as I get the camera cable out of a box to download them!
Amy

Boxes and Loo Cleaner

Boyo and I have just moved into a little unit on the weekend. There are boxes just about everywhere! Our internet and phone line are still down. Apparently there’s a line fault that they have to find and sort out so I will probably have to head back to my parents to work out my study requirements for the week and post this entry. We spent ages yesterday rearranging the lounge furniture, sitting on it and discussing, then rearranging it again in an attempt to make the space work better. It will probably be rearranged again today. We are accumulating a rather large pile of empty boxes in the conservatory which will at some stage have to go out for recycling. There is one box we think we will keep though, a large washing machine box that looks just made for Munchkin to play ‘house’ or ‘fort’ or any number of cool games in. Last night we purchased a small electric lawnmower too, for our little patch of grass.

The kitchen is probably about the most organised room in the house. There is food, for starters. I spent around 4 ½ hours shopping on Saturday so we now have all the spices I thought I’d possibly be using, flours for breadmaking (now, where is the breadmaker?!), dried lentils and beans, and so forth…none of it in jars just yet, but hey, we will eat. The freezer is stocked with meat too. It is out in the garage, there not being room in the kitchen area. I must say that something in me feels VERY satisfied when I know there’s plenty of food in the house. I believe I have located all my small kitchen appliances, so they are all in various cupboards. And we bought some dishwash liquid, a dishrack, cloths and scrubbing brush so have even been doing our dishes!

There’s still plenty left to do though. The spare room/office is still to be set up. There are 2 rows of boxes decorating the garage, waiting to be unpacked. Unpacked into what, I’m not quite sure yet. Need to get some cupboards and bookshelves only where will we put them?

Yesterday I did one very important little job. I made loo cleaner. This is where I rave madly about the great benefits of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda). How cheap it is ($3/kg at Bin Inn bulk foods). How environmentally friendly (well, it’s a food so what do you expect). How versatile (if I had only baking soda in my house, I could likely clean every single thing I needed to). How nice on the hands (they feel nice and soft). How it cleans and brightens (kind of like a cream cleaner like Jiff only without the chemicals). How it absorbs odours (seriously, it does). And how hypoallergenic (no silly artificial fragrances). Baking soda is simply amazing! It is the secret agent of the kitchen cupboards. During the day, it lives a normal life as the occasional rising agent for baking. But at night, when we are all sound asleep, baking soda slips out, puts on its black balaclava and trench coat, and gets to work! Seriously, it has so many uses there have been books written solely about baking soda.

But anyway, you get the general idea. If you want to clean something, try Googling baking soda. Or check out http://www.simplesavings.com.au/ for loads of hints and tricks including, but not limited to baking soda’s myriad of uses.

As for loo cleaner, I can get you set up with that in about 5 minutes flat. Get some baking soda. I used 3 cups. Put it in a metal (not plastic) bowl or pot and use a metal spoon to squish the big lumps out of it. Add some essential oil of your choice. This is not a necessary step, but it does make the bathroom smell a whole lot nicer. I used 10 drops of lavender, 10 of mandarin and 10 of lemon, but you can use whatever you like (tea tree, rose, etc, etc, etc). Stir and squish it all some more to mix the oils in well. If you happened to use plastic utensils for this project, you will be able to smell and taste the essential oil for months as it gets absorbed into the plastic.


Pour the finished product into a container of your choice. The one shown here was going to be recycled and even has its own scoop. My mum (a recent convert to baking soda loo cleaner) has a pretty glass jar with clip top lid, and a little metal spoon for hers. Label it so that people know it is not a poison nor for eating indiscriminately. Wa-lah! You now have loo cleaner. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Our loo cleaner stays right beside the loo. Whenever it is a bit smelly in there, someone just sprinkles a teaspoon or so of the cleaner around the toilet bowl and leaves it to sit. When we go to give the loo a proper clean, we sprinkle and scrub. That’s it. Having discovered this cleaner has revolutionised my bathroom. We no longer have a smelly room, and I no longer feel compelled to buy silly fragrance sprays that just end up making me sneeze. As a bonus, the loo is both cleaner and whiter than ever before. And if I need a nice smelling cleaner anywhere else in the house, I know I can always raid the bathroom! So 10 minutes spent in the kitchen has left me feeling so much more in charge of my home this week. Everything else is going to take awhile longer to sort out, but for now, I'm happy that we have loo cleaner.

Thanks for coming by today. I hope you have a nice week.
Photos are coming...just as soon as I get the camera cable out of a box to download them!
Amy

Friday, March 5, 2010

I'm Not an Imbecile...Really!

We are in the process of moving, Boyo and I. We've been boarding with my parents for the past 10 months and are now moving into a 2bedroom unit in preparation for Munchkin's arrival in 3 months' time. While we have really enjoyed staying with my folks, and so appreciated their generosity (sharing your home with your grown kids is no mean feat, folks!), it will be nice to have our own little space, unpack all our boxes (some have been stored for 4 years!), and feel a little more established here in Tauranga.
I've been juggling the moving requirements around study. By moving requirements, I mean the usual things like organising power and phone, and packing belongings. But as we returned to New Zealand with only a few boxes and a bed, we've also had the added task of purchasing new items for our home. Some of this has been really enjoyable, and some, we could quite frankly do without! Boyo has been doing most of the box relocation tasks and many of the other moving related ones in order to give me more study time, but there has still been plenty to do.
So the big move is today/tomorrow. Yesterday I was trying to organise some fresh batteries for my battery powered toothbrush (my compromise between a standard brush and an electric one). I wanted to pack the battery charger. There I was, batteries in charger but charger not working. Boyo came up to help and suggested checking the little button that sets the charger up for either 2 or 4 batteries. My response? "I'm not an imbecile, you know!" I had checked that twice. Yes well, he begged to disagree, looking over the batteries and immediately noticing something was wrong. I had very carefully checked the little labels inside the charger and worked out which end was the 'positive' end and popped my batteries in all in a row. The only problem was, I managed to put them, all of them, in negative to positive! They were all the wrong way round! I swear I have used the charger a multitude of times, and I definitely know which end is the positive one. I also know which end (the pointy one) is the positive end of a battery! Blame it on the baby brain!!!
And here I thought I'd been holding things together nicely. At least I managed to laugh at myself.

Amy