Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tired

Tonight I am tired. Very tired. My head is aching, my body is sore, and my brain has had enough for the day. I will probably head to bed soon...to my hopefully comfortable 2 standard pillows, 1 tri-pillow and 2 cushions. Plus the mink blanket, polarfleece, and Sebastian my teddy bear. And I will start again tomorrow.

I do love going to bed. Many of my friends like to claim that "sleep is overated" but I disagree. I really don't understand why folks avoid going to bed. I love bed...maybe that's because bed for me has always been a place of safety, contemplation and dreaming. My mum used to read me a bedtime story and my dad would pray with me, every night, almost without fail, before I went to sleep (Dad and I did this right though my teenage years even). Then I would curl up and daydream away until sleep came. I'd imagine I could fly, or that I was saving the world from some great evil, or I'd rework a movie I'd watched, or write an imaginary script in my head. Bed is a great time for the imagination to work...when your mind is half asleep the world of reality can just slip away for awhile. In more recent years some of my best play script ideas have come as I lay in bed at night (generally followed by a quick rush to a pen, paper and light to capture the idea before it fades!).

But I think the reason I like bed most is because it brings closure. Each night, I talk to God about my day. I thank him for the good things, ask about the bits I don't 'get' and generally review and release the day just gone. I think there's a reason we have night and day, weeks and months, seasons and years. They give meaning and definition to our lives. And night time, that's the time for relaxing, socialising, and then sleeping! Imagine if there was no night. If time just continued in one great, big, never-ending line. Unchanging, uninterrupted. No closure, no completion, no breaks or rest. Awful. For me, bedtime signals closure. The day is done. Whether it has been a good one or a horrid one, it is done. I can't go back and do anything more or re-do what I did somehow. And tomorrow is not yet here. Whether I am excited or apprehensive about it, tomorrow is still beyond my scope, so best left until the morning. The night is a time to let go of my busyness and my expectations, and just rest. I believe the ability to genuinely rest is so powerful. This is something I am not really that good at, but I must say that bedtime helps. Boyo will tell you that I take ages (and ages, and ages!) to get ready for bed. The routine of it all just helps me unwind, so by the time I curl up in bed, I am ready. I am ready for peace. I am ready to give my body time to heal and replenish itself. I am ready to give my mind, soul and spirit a break from the harrum-scarrum of my day to day life. I can forget about assignments, 'to do' lists, friends, money and everything else. I can, for a few hours, just be. So I think, personally, that sleep is highly under-rated!

And on that note, I am going to bed! Sweet dreams, my friends.
Amy

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hiccup!

Our little Munchkin has been getting the hiccups! At least, that's what it feels like they are. If it isn't hiccups, there's some really weird kind of muscle twitching going on here. Apparently at least one of my brother's got hiccups in a big way, and when I told Mum what and where the twitches were she confirmed they are indeed hiccups. The funny thing is that they are faster than you or I would usually hiccup...sometimes really fast, sometimes not so fast, always repetitive.

I lie there at night, feeling this hic-hic-hic-hic-hic, and I so wish it would stop. so I can go to sleep. I wonder what Munchkin thinks of it. Poor kid, probably doesn't even really 'get' what they are. Last night, I did suggest that Munchy give him or herself a fright (as this is supposed to stop the hiccups)! I have thought about helping out in that department, but so far have been far too compassionate and nice towards my baby to deliberately try and find a way to give it a fright. So we just put up with the hiccups. Along with the bum that is now sitting up against my right ribs, and the feet that are jabbing me in the left side. I am wondering how much more this kid is going to grow? There's kinda not anywhere else for it to go, other than outwards of course, and my skin already feels like I've hidden a fully enflated basket ball under my shirt, and that it might pop if any more pressure is added! Ah well, I guess these things have a way of just happening because they need to.

At antenatal class yesterday we watched a short video on post natal depresssion. The lady made a comment that I found really liberating. She said that one of the myths in our culture is that pregnancy is wonderful and enjoyable, but that in reality many women find it incredibly hard. (I think she was leading up to telling us a similar thing about motherhood!). I have thought this throughout my pregnancy - that I came into it with a very naieve idea of what pregnancy was or might look like, which was rather a shock. I have not been comfortable, or particularly happy or excited. Instead, there have been times I've felt incredibly guilty for feeling this way (you're pregnant right, and you wanted a baby, so you should be ecstatic!), even while acknowledging that there's a whole lot of stuff going on that I have to sort through emotionally and physically during these months. I didn't need it, but it was really nice to hear from someone else that pregnancy is not all daisies and sunshine, all the same. After all, just about every couple in the antenatal class said their favourite thing about the pregnancy has been the baby's movement. Uh huh. Then they got to me, and I said I don't actually enjoy it all that much (what sacrilege!)...it is all just a bit too uncomfortable you know. Being of such a small build myself, I either end up with a baby in my groin and bladder, or in my rib cage. I do enjoy knowing that Munchkin is alive and well, and apparently active and happy. And it is pretty amazing seeing the rather odd shapes my belly can become (it is very rarely a nicely shaped, even curve now - there's usually a lump on one side or the other from Munchkin's back or butt). Boyo thinks it is really cool, but I could happily go with a bit less movement, provided we still had a healthy bubs in there! So anyway, for anyone out there considering pregnancy just be smart and realise it is not a happy-happy-joy-joy ride for everyone. For many of us, it is uncomfortable, tiring and darn hard work on many different levels. I am told it is totally worth it in the end, though!

Amy and the hiccuping Munchkin!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Interesting Interest

Boyo and I had a rather interesting conversation just before I started cooking dinner (which is currently cooking...curried kumara soup followed by rice pudding for this Meatless Monday, and because Boyo has had a tooth out so needs something non-chewable, plus a bit of leftover fish from yesterday so it doesn't go to waste. I am soooo hungry just telling you about it all!).

So, back to our conversation. We had a letter from our bank, trying to talk us into an interest bearing savings account. This all sounded pretty good to start with. I mean, making your money work for you to get more money is sound stewardship, so interest on your savings is a good idea. However, then Boyo pointed out the interest rate. It ranges from 1.75% to 2.5% per annum. Now, I don't know about you, but to me that doesn't seem like much at all. In fact, it makes me wonder if it is worth putting money into the bank, if my sole reason to do it is for the interest. I guess it all boils down to purpose, use, and amount.

If I want to feel my money is 'safe' then a bank seems like a reasonably good idea, although not completely fool-proof by any means (as the recession bank collapses have shown us). If I want it accessible, but somewhere I am not tempted to use it to buy junk food, wool, or books, again the bank seems like a good idea. And I'm thinking that interest on $5,000 would seem a lot more worthwhile than interest on say $50. Yet the larger amount would probably still only receive a slightly higher interest rate than the $50 at the end of the day.

I found myself wondering what would happen if instead of putting money into the bank to earn 2.5% interest, I used that money to do other things. What if I 'invested' it in our future in some other way? So here is my hypothetical situation:

Spend $40 on a fruit tree and some fertilizer for said tree...as we don't have our own property this really is just conjecture for the sake of it at this stage!

For the first 5 years, we assume it doesn't produce much of anything.
For the following 5 years, we assume it produces us 25kg of fruit each year, on average.
If the fruit is worth say $5/kg in the market, then we've saved ourselves $625 by growing our own.

Now, like I said, purely hypothetical. You might find you'd spend a little on fertilizer, but then again you might just make use of free compost for your fruit tree. Some fruit trees cost more than $40, some cost less...depends on whether it is grafted, heirloom, from a nursery or garden centre. Many trees on today's market seem to start fruiting from 3-5yrs, but that would be a low yield so I just ignored that and started at 5yrs. We totally guessed 25kg, based on what my parent's apple trees seem to do...but we have not in any way weighed their actual yield. And of course, we are assuming that you have a property that you are not going to up and leave in a couple of years time.



SO, all fruit-related conjecture aside, if I were to put that $40 into my bank's interest bearing savings account, and get 2.5% interest, Boyo reckons I would make about $50 in interest over a 10 year period.

Interesting interest.

Thinking things through is a good idea. This is one instance where putting a bit of money in the bank is not necessarily the best long term investment. $90 in 10 years time, versus $665. While it might not be actual money in the hand, it is still income and still an investment. It's all about how you view it. And while we may not have a property in which to plant a fruit tree ourselves at present anyway, this is an approach I can apply to other areas of our lives. Small appliances, for instance. Will they save me money, or are they just a commodity? If they save me money on a weekly basis, they might be a better 'investment' than savings in the bank. Maybe. Worth considering at any rate.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in having cash reserves, and I believe in the use of banks. Boyo and I have an emergency fund and it certainly helps my overall stress levels, knowing it is there if we ever need it. I believe in paying off debt and I believe in routine saving. We are hoping to save money over the next few years towards a house deposit, so we will be making use of the bank! I'm just reminding myself not to take things at surface value or blindly follow the advice o the 'experts' around me as they usually have their own interests at heart (no pun intended!). I need to determine for myself what is a good investment, based on my own lifestyle and values. Sometimes that might be putting money in the bank, other times it might be investing in something else for our future.



Amy

Word for the Week!

The word for this week is: discombobulated
Meaning: bewildered

I have taken it from http://www.freerice.com/
I find it so much fun to try and work out what some of the more obscure words on free rice mean! Plus there's the added bonus of knowing that each word I get correct helps someone in desperate need.

Don't you just love how DISCOMBOBULATED sounds...like someone is lurching around drunkenly, tripping over themself, dazed, limbs hanging loosely, brain in a cloud of confusion...it really sounds like its meaning. So cool. I really like words that sound like they mean.

And now for the really fun part. How can we use this word?

"The reading on Anthroposophy has left me feeling a little discombobulated."
Which I must say it did. I've been doing a report on Steiner education for my degree, and while I found the philosophies and curriculum information facinating as a whole, and some ideas very applicable for early years educators, Steiner's manner of writing/speaking and the depth of some of his underlying concepts (of Anthroposophy) left me reeling! So discombobulated is a good descriptive word.

I challenge you to use this word at least once this week, within its correct context, meaning and pronunciation! Hope you have fun with it!
Amy

Friday, April 16, 2010

Why am I doing this to myself???

So I handed in assignment number 3 today.
And found myself during the course of the week wondering why on earth I am doing this.

But really, it is quite simple. I have been wanting to qualify in something for a few years, to have something that I felt passionate and interested enough in to spend time studying and then have a career working in afterwards...With about 4 years not fully well in the past 6, I didn't have many options earlier on and then it took a few years to work out what would be the best thing for me to be doing. Since realising that Teaching in general and the Early Years in particular suit me really well I haven't regretted that decision. I do wonder if I am absolutely insane working on a full-time, full-on degree while pregnant.

But then that brings me to my second conclusion. I wanted a child. I asked God for a child. I waited 3 years, and now here it comes. It is somewhat ironic that it didn't happen earlier when I felt much more 'desperate' for it to...rather, it happens when I feel so much more at peace with myself and my life. When Munchkin appeared I was honestly at a place where I was happy with the purpose and direction before me, with or without children. I think that this is probably a healthier place to be, better for me and better for our child, in that I am not expecting it to fill a gaping void in my life, but rather to be part of the amazing tapestry that is a purposeful life.

I do still wonder why I am doing this. With another 4 assignments left to work on, and the 'normal' study load starting back up again next week, I haven't exactly had a holiday. Nor am I likely to get one. But then life doesn't ask us when we would like things, or even what we would necessarily like. Again, probably a good thing as I'd just take the easy road and never have any trouble or hard times and most likely feel completely bored with my life! Of course, this is easy to say, but not very easy to live!

While I didn't 'choose' to have a baby and study full-time all in the one year, I am fully conscious of the blessing that both these opportunities are. Both are major, major things I wanted, and thought I would have to continue waiting several more years for. It is funny how often opportunity comes knocking dressed in overalls and looking like hard work (someone famous said that once, but I can't remember who!)...this year certainly looks like hard work, yet I know deep down that God does not give me things to do without also giving me what is needed to do them. I know that it is through hard times that I grow. It is through hard times that I appreciate the gifts I am given. I just have to remember it during said hard times!

While I would still love for Boyo to land a great, well-paying job in his industry so I can drop my study to part-time, I am not expecting it. Instead, I am going to try and stay focused on the good aspects about this year. Like, he will get to spend time with Munchkin during the day while I study, then I do the night routine while Boyo works. It means Munchkin gets both our attention. And while living on a Student Allowance is no walk in the park, I am sure grateful to be given one! I so can't imagine studying and working.

So when I wonder why on earth I am doing this, I'm going to tell myself, "Because you have to take opportunity when it is given, and run with it. If you don't, you might not get another chance. If you do, you might surprise yourself at just what you are capable of and what amazing things lie around the corner."

Amy

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Seasonal Change in the Garden

The garden is looking scrappy. This is a polite way of saying that it looks a total mess! Being the end of summer here, everything is getting a bit sad. As I've been busy on Practicum for the better part of a month, the garden has also been somewhat neglected...adding to the general disarray.


The 'Top Garden' as I call it (the highest one that holds vegetables) - the tomatoes are done, and need to come out.

Yesterday Boyo and I made a small start on the big autumn tidy up. I pulled up the Borlotti Beans and shelled them, sitting on the garden wall. He dug up the climbing beans (a task I decided was too much for this preggy to manage). Mum is planning on tackling the main tomatoes in the Top Garden. Over the next couple of weeks, Boyo and I will hopefully then dig in some blood and bone plus a generous dose of sheep pellets so the garden is ready for Dad to move the strawberry plants into it. Once he has done that, the bed they have been in will need a similar treatment, before being ready to plant some winter salad greens under the cloche.

Have you ever noticed that there seems to be specific times of the year that gardening is hard work? I seem to recall early spring being similarly filled with digging, manuring, more digging, planting, and more digging. I guess that's all just part of the seasonal aspects of gardening, particularly as we grow year round in Tauranga. I was hoping to go out and collect fallen autumn leaves for the garden over the next 2 months. Sadly, I might have to give that idea up, my maneouverablity becoming more and more limited by the week. I have thought about bribing Boyo and/or my parents into collecting some. I still might, but I suspect it will take all our combined efforts just to prepare the garden beds around our other various commitments.


A mid summer planting in the 'Feijoa Garden' (closest to the feijoa tree) of broccoli, lettuce and pak choy has been growing well despite white butterfly attacks. I have seedlings just started for another plant once the other garden beds are ready.

It will be nice seeing the garden all tidied up and ready for our winter harvests. I am certainly looking forward to that. What have you been up to in the garden lately?


Amy



A Recycled Bag

Resusing of things like ribbons and bags is something I have always tended to do (see my earlier post on ribbons for why I love them so!). It has not taken a major light bulb moment in my life to see that this is a handy skill to have. I find it so much easier going to a well-stocked craft cupboard to locate wrapping paper or bow, than having to head off to the shops. Having moved countries a couple of times in the past 4 years, my craft cupboard is a little bare. I was recently looking for a bag or basket to put a little gift into, and thought I might have to buy one, when I realised I had a very cute little bag that had originally been given to us holding a present for Munchkin. The only issue was that it had a photo of a baby on the front. Not quite the look I needed! So I got out some matching paper, cut it to size, then stuck a pretty hibiscus sticker over the top. I think it looks rather nice.

The finished bag - by using coloured paper that matched some of the pretty little dots, I've ended up with a finished product that looks like it was meant to be like that.

Isn't it amazing what you can do when you think a little creatively? This project took less time than it would have for me to whisk out to the shops and quickly buy a bag. And it was far more satisfying!

Amy



Using What You've Got

With our grocery bill being so much higher than what I want it to be, I am trying to focus my efforts on using everything we buy. That means making sure nothing in the fridge, cupboard, or fruitbowl goes mouldy, smelly or otherwise unedible before we get to it.

We noticed recently that some of our fruit was getting too soft for fresh eating. So I made fruit crumble for dessert. It ended up with 2 Golden Delicious apples, 2 Packham pears and 1 banana. And it was delicious!Last night we had another crumble, this time with just apples, to use up some windfall/codling mothed ones from my parent's trees. It took me hardly any time to prepare, as last time I made a big batch of crumble topping in the food processor and froze it in portions ready for use. All I had to do now was chop fruit, pour the topping on, and cook. How easy is that? Yum, yum, yummy! And I get the satisfaction of using something that might otherwise be wasted. I added a few chopped dates and a pinch of ground cloves for extra flavour. I think we will be having another one next week, as there are more apples to use and this is by far the easiest way I've found of using them! Not that either of us are complaining. Apple crumble is good, no matter what the reason for making it.



Fruit crumble waiting for its crumble!

What creative ways have you come up with lately to use up food you might otherwise have to throw away?

Amy

Borlotti Beans

My dad was the receipient of some gifted Borlotti Bean plants this year.

This is the result.


Borlotti Beans freshly shelled, with the vines ready to go in the compost heap.

For our small garden area, I think that fresh beans hold a lot more value - they produce so much more for the space they take up, as each time you harvest the plant is encouraged to produce more, whereas dried beans basically get left to their own devices until the end of summer.
I will probably put these on a tray to dry a bit more before storing them. I do love the colour, shape and sound of dried beans! Perhaps it reminds me of collages made at kindergarten?!?

Amy

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Soup Season!


With the autumn chill just starting to creep into the air here, I have decided that soup season has started.

I love soup.

The cook in me loves it for its versatility. You pretty much take whatever is on hand, put it all together in a pot and cook. It doesn't have to be flash. In fact, I often use soup as a way of using up the veges that are starting to look a bit limp, left over rice or roast, or whatever else takes my fancy. Lots of chopping. Then smelling the flavours all intermingling. Then eating. A simple recipe for success. I have very rarely made a dud soup. Only once, that I can remember...and that was because I got a bit confused as to how strong cayenne pepper was and it ended up a little hotter than desired! Still edible, but we did serve that lot up with a lot of yoghurt added to tone it down a notch or two.

The eater in me loves soup for its warmth and flavour. I grew up on soup. I recall many, many servings of pumpkin soup when I was around 11-13 years old...Mum would get a free Big Grey pumpkin most times she got fruit and veges at the local market, and it invariably ended up in the most delicious pumpkin soup. Yum. My other all time favourite is Irish Chicken Soup, out of a recipe book of my mum's. The egg and natural yoghurt in it give it an absolutely delightful tang. In recent years I have discovered that you can even make soup out of broccoli with a bit of potato and cream cheese (Frog Soup - so named for its colour) . Quite tasty. I was surprised. Usually I like my broccoli either raw or very close to it.

Tonight I am making a BIG pot of vegetable soup, using up 2 small chicken carcasses from previous roast dinners. I am hanging out to try some shortly. It has: garlic, onion, ginger, potato, kumara (sweet potato), carrot, celery, savoy cabbage, fresh thyme, rosemary and parsley, a teeny sprinkle of chilli flakes, and some red split lentils and pearl barley. It should prove to be a very satisfying meal for me!

Boyo does not share my enthusiasm for soup. He doesn't really like it much, which is sad, seeing how useful it is! Never mind. He does eat it, as long as I don't try dishing it up more than once or twice a week, and make sure there's enough other food so he gets filled up...soup rarely being filling enough for him. But I don't know if much of this soup will make it to the dinner table. I sense a 'soup and toast' for breakfast phase breaking upon me. I will leave him to his daily dose of weetbix. Boring cardboard stuff.

Amy

Organiser Ahead...

There is something in me that loves to plan. I am just a planner and organiser by nature. The jars in my cupboards have little masking tape and vivid labels with the item and date bought. My kitchen has a specific place for every item. My clothes get folded in specific drawers, even to the point of wooly socks at the back and summer ones at the front. I count how many pieces of fruit I buy at the store.

Masking tape labels - just one of my organising tools.


However, when it comes to keeping a clean home, I am not the hotest. In fact, I have spent years living in relative filth. I was trained well, exceptionally well in fact, but somehow that all got lost for a bit when I left home. It was compounded by extreme tiredness and fatigue due to illness in the early years of our marriage, and Boyo and I ended up in some bad habits. I say 'bad' because it meant that our house was a bit of a pigsty despite us actually having both the time and ability to make it otherwise. So I have been working on cleanliness over the past 2 years or so. It was a major achievement when I started cleaning the bathroom once a week. I couldn't believe how good I felt! Or how little time it took to get it at least semi-clean (15minutes once a week, and I have a reasonably clean bathroom - I only wonder why I didn't try earlier!)! I've had to train myself not to be such a perfectionist, otherwise I either won't get started, or won't be able to stop once I do. You might hear me talking to myself as I go, coaching my efforts along the way with things such as, "We are going for CLEANER here, Amy, not cleanest, and definitely NOT perfect!" or, "Don't look, don't look at the skirting boards. You are only allowed to dust the lounge today, just the lounge. Do the lounge and be happy with a clean lounge and don't worry about the rest for now!"

So for me, keeping house is not so much about it being clean. It might be more about it being tidy. Boyo would certainly say that (tidy isn't such a priority for him). For me, I think of it more that I like everything to have its place. I like it to be organised. So this past week I have been on a mission...

...a mission to organise my house. It has been happening gradually over the past 5 weeks we've been living here anyway, but this week has seen concerted effort on my part to 'get things organised' while I am officially on 2 weeks holiday. Holiday being, in this case, another word for study leave...I have 7 assignments and 2 tests before Munchkin is due (plus another test on our due date, and 2 exams a couple of weeks after~we will have to see about those ones!), so for starters I have plotted out the next few weeks on a calendar, decided what assignments are priority and when I can do them, and made a start. Mid-way through the second week of 'holidays' I have posted off 2 assignments and have another almost finished. Whew. There is also a small mountain of research books now sitting on my desk. Goal: Read and take notes within the next 2 weeks before they have to go back to the library. Hope: Complete 1 of the 2 assignments the books are for. Reality check: Not sure how that will go!

On the home front, I have sorted all of Munchkin's clothes and stored them in little containers on a shelf in our door-less wardrobe, labelled, ready for use. If Boyo needs to dress the baby, there will be no excuse for not being able to find the right things. We have bought a car seat! This is a big deal, considering the rigmorale we had to go through to (hopefully) get the right information for our car. Still have to get it fitted correctly with tether bolt, but we do at least have a car seat. I have bought maternity bras - another very, very, very big deal! I have sorted all my non-preggy clothes into summer and winter and stored all of them in underbed storers and containers in the linen cupboard. Labelled, of course. I have written to our sponsored children. And I have unpacked yet more boxes. The only thing with unpacking boxes is that it tends to create another job to do. Or several. This lot were our childhood soft toys, some of which will be passed on to Munchkin. They all needed a wash after 4 years in storage, and now we have to work out where to store them (can you hear my organising brain ticking over right now, trying to work out whether a basket or container will work, how big it needs to be, how much it might cost, and where on earth we can put it?). I still want to find a set of drawers or cupboard to sit beside my Lazy-boy chair in the lounge, to hold things like my knitting, water bottle, book, snacks, etc. I figure I will probably spend a lot of time in that chair over the next year either babying or studying, so it may as well be well-equipped.



Some of Munchkin's clothes.



So, here I am, the planner. The only thing is that not all of life can be planned. People often compliment me on how organised I am, wishing they could be the same. Don't wish it. We are all made unique, and what can be a strength one day can easily be a failing-point the next. I cope by planning. It is my safety mechanism. If something comes up that I cannot plan, or do not know the outcome of, I really struggle. Trusting God with the unknown is one of my hardest tasks ever. Leaving things alone to see what might pan out is another. I always want to organise it, and sometimes interference is premature and unhelpful. Sometimes we just have to let life flow, and take us where it wishes. I've had to learn that with being pregnant - there is so much about pregnancy that is not predictable. No one can tell you what symptoms you will or will not have, what day your baby will be born, it's size or temperament, how well it will sleep or feed, or what effect having a child will have on your relationships and your sense of self. These are all things I cannot plan. I can think about possibilities, and definitely do, but I am having to learn to let go.


Amy, the organiser, is having to leave some organising to a more qualified source. The good thing with that is that I know it will be well handled. Probably not how I want it to be, but then God sees the future so much better than I do, and is looking at specific priorities (such as my character development). I have noticed, looking back, that He does seem to get it right. Whether you believe in divine direction or not, one must admit that life's unpredictablity has a way of shaping our character, helping us define who we are, and keeping us on our toes. And if life didn't consist of little twists and turns along the way, imagine how boring it would be.



Amy




Don't the teddies look cute drying on the washing line?!



Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fridge Space

Our new fridge is terrific, but it certainly is not designed for people who eat green things. I mean, it has a built in vege bin that is the size of our car's glovebox! As everything I put in it seems to go limp rather fast, I am also guessing it is not sealed very well from the rest of the fridge. As we would only manage to keep a week's worth of fruit in there, never mind everything else, I decided to get a little creative with the remainder of our ample fridge space.

Here is what I came up with:

Our new vege bins - overflowing already due to preparing for a BBQ last week!


I spent AGES at the store, measuring container upon container. I had to call Boyo in the end. It is a good thing I did too, as the measurements I had with me for the fridge were not particularly accurate and I would have been somewhat less than impressed with myself if I had come home after such diligent container sourcing to find that they didn't fit anyway!

The major issue was that most containers were either too big or too small. While I could get something that was smaller, it wouldn't be an efficient use of the space. I am somewhat keen on efficiency. I did not like the idea of having big gaps in my fridge, which would either get filled with stuff (that would most likely subsequently be 'lost' or 'overlooked' until it grew and smelt bad) or sit vacant (what a waste of space!). Eventually I came up with a solution that I was happy with. I ended up with 3 containers, 2 square ones and a tall rectangular to fill the otherwise 'wasted' space. At present, the tall one holds carrots, the blue lidded one has lettuce and cabbage, and the white lidded one has zucchini, mushrooms, ginger, celery, cucumber, and so forth. I still have tomatoes sitting in an icecream container on the shelf above. I've got fruit in the vege bin in the bottom of the fridge, as well as on another shelf higher up. So we eat a lot of fresh food. It's not exactly a crime. In fact, it is rather good for us! I'm glad I've found a way to keep it all relatively fresh and well organised. Hopefully this way we will not 'lose' any in the bowels of the fridge. It took a few hours of work to organise and sometimes I do find myself wondering if all my 'organising-ness' is worth it. In this case, I'd certainly have to say it has been. The new vege bins are easy to move in and out of the fridge, and easy to locate - "It's in the blue one, Boyo." The time invested is already paying off and I am happy.

Amy

Bum Spears

These are Bum Spears.




They have a very useful purpose, all due to their spikiness. You see, cats have this nasty habit of using any bare, or nearly bare, dirt as a toilet bowl. A smelly, annoying habit at any time, but particularly distasteful when it also involves digging up a gardener's precious seedlings. They always seem to go for the carrots too - those teeny, tiny, delicate fronds just start to make some headway, then suddenly, a cat decides to visit. No more carrots.


Hence the bum spears. In actual fact they are kebab skewers, but my father-in-law has come up with this very original and most suitable of names for them. My mother-in-law has been using them successfully for years to ward off the neighbourhood pussies, so I figured I would have a try.


My last 2 carrot plantings have been covered with shadecloth until germination, then with bird netting until they are nice and lush and thick. At my parents I've been using bricks placed temporarily around silverbeet and celery seedlings...mostly to stop the blackbirds going to town and inadvertently upending my poor little seedlings. But we decided to give the bum spears a go in our own little garden patch. Sadly, only a few pak choy seedlings have survived. This, I hasten to add, is not due in any way to the performance of the bum spears, but rather a combination of sad little seedlings left far too long before planting out, dry weather, no hose, and my general neglect. I am disappointed, as it took quite some effort to kneel down to plant them (note to self: next time you are moving, don't even THINK about trying to look after seedlings at the same time - do it after you're settled!). Boyo dug the garden first, and probably got a bit of amusement at watching me maneovering myself and the growing bump that is Munchkin. After kneeling and rising a few times I concluded that my gardening days are done for the next few months! I wandered out today to see how our little row of carrot seed is faring, and was excited to see quite a number of seeds germinating - all without a single cat hole to be seen. They would have to be pretty game, considering I have an army of bum spears up either side of the row and down the middle!


So there you have it, bum spears. Just another original gardening technique, passed on from one gardener to another. What techniques do you use that are a bit 'out of the ordinary?'

Amy

I am in grocery shock...

I am fairly adept at extending our grocery budget, after years of doing so. However, I have come in for quite a shock this past month and have had to conclude, very much reluctantly, that I have been living in a dreamland.
In Australia, we were managing our grocery bill of $450(AU) a month quite happily. I would buy Operation Christmas Child gifts out of that money as well as feed the two of us nicely. I knew food prices had gone up (I have charts of my grocery bills from the past 3 years to prove it), and we had definitely noticed it ourselves, increasing our food budget from $400 to $450 a month. In case you are wondering, food went up about 20-25% in a year in Australia, and I believe New Zealand was similar.
We are fortunate I think, to live in a western country. I read many articles about nations that depend strongly on rice where their food bills doubled or even trippled - and this for people who were already struggling to feed their families on very little income. The food crisis is expected to last until 2015 for varying reasons (like increased fuel costs, drought, etc). So we were fortunate that we had a flexible income and only experienced a quarter increase rather than more. And we still are. However, I am noticing the price of food like never before. It might have something to do with going from a flexible, luxuriously high income, to a fixed, barely-covering everything income.
I blithely thought we could manage on $450 a month here. It would be tight, I thought, but we would just have to make do. Yes well, after 2 months of shopping I have concluded that I am deluded. Either that or we need to eat lentils, sausages and silverbeet every day!!! As Boyo absolutely refuses point blank (and I also must admit to being less than enthusiastic), another solution had to be found! After speaking with 3 other couples around us, I've had to (very reluctantly) admit defeat on this score, and look at increasing our budget. The other folks I talked with are all managing around the $130-150(NZ) a week...which for us would be about $550-600 a month. I am, of course, still trying to wrangle ways to make it less! But I suspect that this is what it will end up being...as a preggy I can only lessen my daily intake of food so much you know and can't expect to suddenly start eating less once Munchkin is born - if anything it is likely to be more!

Recent bacon and egg pies - top one by Boyo, bottom one by myself...these were lunches during my practicum.

So the next task is to see where we can 'take' the extra $100-150 a month from. Our budget is pretty tight, but not completely inflexible so I'm sure we will come up with something. I just wish we didn't have to 'eat' so much of our income! And after saying that, I am already thinking of what to eat for my pre-bed snack. Hmmm, yoghurt, banana, dried fruit, it all sounds so yummy. I only just ate dinner, I can't possibly be hungry yet. Can I?!


Amy

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Blankets and Blankets

Here is my latest Operation Cover Up Blanket. Well, half of it at any rate. I had it out to check the pattern was working correctly and check how many squares I have left to knit. And a good thing it was too, as I have discovered I only need another 4 squares to be finished! YAY!!!! As an average blanket takes me about a year to complete, you can imagine the relief and excitement when I get to this stage!!

Half a blanket - I only managed to get 4 colours in enough quantity so this is the pattern I came up with using 4 colours!

Operation Cover Up is a ministry of Mission Without Borders here in New Zealand. They send hand-knitted blankets and clothing each year to orphanages and families in Europe. These children live in countries like Romania and Moldovia. There is often little internal heating during their cold, harsh, snowy winters so woolen blankets are a god-send. I first started doing Cover Up knitting around 5 years ago. I was sick with undiagnosed chronic fatigue, so had very little energy for anything. My mother-in-law was doing these peggy squares for blankets, so I thought it might be something I would enjoy doing - easy to pick up and put down, to do on the couch between naps, and feel like I was contributing to something bigger than myself without exhausting myself further. So she set me up with the basic instructions, showed me how to cast on and off (I first learned to knit when I was little by my Granny died when I was 12 and I hadn't knitted since), and away I went. To start with, I would just do a square, and give it to her whenever we met. Then I started keeping them...here is my first ever blanket. It was HUGE. I accidentally used 4.25mm needles instead of 4mm so whoever got this blanket got a really good deal. Grin.


Blanket #1 = easily covered a double bed!
Well, by the time I had finished this first blanket, I was totally hooked on peggy squares! I've been knitting Cover Up blankets ever since. Here is my 4th completed blanket.


This one was so much fun to knit - the 'squares' are actually knitted in rows, half the normal size of a square then the rows crocheted together as I went.

And another one...this one I did not complete myself. It contains many of my squares though. When we moved back to New Zealand in May last year, I started knitting squares and sending them to my mother-in-law's knitting group, thinking that I would probably only have a little free time before starting full time work. Well, the work plans did not eventuate, so I ended up knitting 56 squares between May and the end of the year...most of them before I started study in mid July. 56 squares is actually the exact amount needed for a blanket, so I could have kept them all after all! Never mind, this finished blanket looks gorgeous!


I love how the lady who crocheted this together changed the direction of the squares - doesn't it look gorgeous!?!

So now you know. I am addicted to knitting. But not just any knitting. While I can knit hats and have recently extended my repertoire to include booties, knitting squares is my first love. I knit during the ad breaks on tv (so much nicer than having to listen to all the sell-sell-sell rubbish!). I knit if I have a few minutes spare before leaving the house for work or whatever. I knit whenever I visit my mother-in-law. Sometimes I knit before bed, sometimes I knit when I get up. Some months I hardly knit at all (like the past few!), but eventually I get this feeling that something is missing from my life, and I pick up my knitting needles again. I sit there, knitting row after row of uniform stitches, and sigh a deep sigh of contentment. Ah, this is where it is at. It genuinely feels like I have come home. Knitting for me is a dual activity. It gives me a sense of satisfaction, seeing every row take shape, every square finished, each blanket sent off to someone in need. But that's not all. Knitting provides me with some space. It is my 'me' time. A lot of 'contemplation of the world at large and me in particular' takes place during my knitting times. Because it is so repetitive and squares are so easy to knit, there's plenty of space for me to think about the things that are going on in my life, what I am learning about God and this world, how I am feeling, and what I'd like to be doing. Knitting is just me! I think Granny would be proud. She was an incredible knitter. Most of my childhood memories of Granny include a set of knitting needles. She used to knit teeny tiny baby patterns and gift them to Wellington Women's premmie ward. She'd knit every single baby born into our church a pair of booties, complete with fluffy sheepskin soles. I'd love to be able to knit like that, but I think for me, I have found my niche.

Who knows how long it might be before this current blanket gets crocheted together. For now, I am just happy that it is almost finished.
I hope you've enjoyed the colour and pattern of all my blankets. Do you knit? What is it that appeals to you about knitting?
Have you ever thought about knitting a square or two for a good cause? It's satisfying, believe me...whether 56 or 1!

Amy

'Disposable' disposables!

We have ticked another 'to do' off our baby preparation list, and purchased a box of disposable nappies.

You might be wondering what on earth I am doing, buying disposables, if you have read any of my previous posts about nappies. Well, I noticed that even people who sell the new generation cloth nappies often suggest that you start with disposables for the first 2-4 weeks, just to give a bit of adjustment time for Mum, Dad and the new bubs before the washing routine kicks in. It sounded like good advice! The only issue is that I really do not like disposables. The idea of putting all that plastic and chemical load on my baby's butt somehow seems so wrong. Then having to throw it out knowing it will take 500 years (or whatever the attrocious time frame is) to decompose, well that seems so wrong too.

So I've gone for the clean, green 'disposable' alternative. Which really is disposable in every sense of the word! They are called Moltex. They have no chemicals added, are unbleached and breakdown properly. They also still operate and look like a standard disposable in every other way. So we get the convenience of something that does not need washing, and my conscience can sleep peacefully at night knowing I'm not creating more pollution than necessary.


We got 208 'newborn' ones (3-6kg I think is the actual weight range) for $120. Not cheap, particularly when compared to how little I made my pocket nappies for...but I think it will be worth the extra help when Munchkin is first born.

For now, that is all we have the money for. Later on we might look at getting a few more, for outings and going away and such, but we will see. I did notice a new range in PakNSave's supermarket recently. I think they were called Natural Care or something along those lines...they looked more enviro-friendly than a standard disposable and a more affordable price than Moltex, but don't do newborn. So we might get a pack of them every so often once Munchkin is up to the crawler stage, we will see. It is nice to know the option is there if we ever decide we need it.

Now I just need to work out where to store all the nappies, both Moltex and Pockets! Hmm...



Amy