Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Finished Boxes!


The first shoebox...

It was with a sigh of relief that I handed over my 12 shoeboxes to the regional coordinator on the second-to-last day for collection. I had spent several days in a marathon shoe-box-wrapping session. To be honest, I find shoebox wrapping a walk in the park these days. It wasn't always so. I originally found them quite hard to wrap. Being a fussy, perfectionistic wrapper sure didn't help, but it now stands me in good stead. I can wrap a box beautifully, with minimal effort. I have my own little system, which after all this practice has been honed down to include the least amount of effort for the nicest possible wrap. Grin. I used to use a big ruler and pencil. Now, it is all done by eye. I used to use a lot of double sided sellotape. Now, I use hardly any.
A shoebox-wrapping-in-progress

A single 10metre roll of Christmas wrapping paper, bought at halfprice last year (or was it less than that? It was awhile ago now!) wrapped 12 shoeboxes. There's still paper left on the roll. As I had another 10metre one, yet unopened, I gave the remainder of this role, plus a 5metre roll to my mum to use for her boxes this coming year.
Over halfway there!

Filling them up!

Ready to go!


And now, on to next year's boxes. Hmm, maybe not quite yet. I'm doing donations for the postage on these ones for a bit. But I do have a stash of 6 boxes, waiting to be wrapped on Christmas Day, ready for filling next year.

Amy - Shoebox Wrapper Extraordinaire!

Sunday, 31st October, 2010

Christmas Child Bits and Bobs

Here are some of the photos I promised when I was making up the Christmas Child boxes.
Firstly, I realised that I hadn't taken photos of the clothes when I bought them, so here they are...



Clothes for the girls!


I find that 'something to wear' is the single most expensive item that goes into my shoeboxes. In the past, I've tried to get the clothes first, as that way I have a better idea of the agegroup I'm buying for. This year, I ended up getting them near the end...but that's okay because I'd decided to buy the generic things for 5-15yr olds (soaps and flannels can be for any age, after all) first, and just buy the toys last. I managed to pick all these items up at the Warehouse, averaging $5 each (they were on sale). Another issue I find is that it can be hard working out what would be considered appropriate clothing in the recipient's community. To avoid any discomfort, I avoid anything sleeveless for girls, and anything with advertising and/or words on it. This time round the boys ones ended up with some words, which are quite cute really, as they were the only things I could find. I do know not to buy socks or undies. Apparently, they do not get worn in the Pacific areas that our New Zealand shoe boxes go to (this information was from an Operation Christmas Child regional coordinator so worth going by). Hats and jandals (flip-flops, thongs) have been a favourite of mine in past years. Kids get a lot of use out of a pair of jandals.


Some for the boys!


And here we have the toys under 'something to play with'...all purchased at a local Dollar Value store, costing $2 each. I'd like to point out the woven plastic balls. These were advertised as cat toys. They have a little bell inside a ball, inside another ball. I thought they were a fabulous idea for younger kids - imagine throwing around a ball that jingles, rolling it down a hill, using it to hit other balls, and so on. I generally try to get toys that are going to be active, imaginative ones. No batteries allowed due to customs issues anyway. So skipping ropes, marbles, and this year some chess and connect four (instructions are on the back of the little box). I like to get craft things too, such as puppets to make, but find that they often require sizzors and glue. While the recipient might have these items, they equally might not, and I'd hate for them to be unable to play with their gift because of that. So my motto is that it has to be able to be used with just the items in the shoebox. If I can get sizzors in there too, great. Glue is usually a bit problematic as we can't have anything that might leak.



Toys - yay!



Anyway, those are the final items for my shoeboxes this year. What interesting things have you managed to find for your shoeboxes?

Amy

Sunday, 31st October, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Taking a Moment












I am studying for exams at present. Once I complete them (I have 3 over the next 2 weeks) I will be heading straight into Practicum 2, in a local kindergarten for 3 weeks fulltime while Munchkin spends time with Suzz (his grandmother) and Boyo. So I don't have a lot of time for posting on my blog. I have a mile long list, it seems, of things that I'd like to post, but the list gets longer each time I am on here, rather than getting any shorter! I thought it might be nice though, to enjoy a few photos of the garden again...these are from my parents garden, taken early this year - flowers, some Italian parsley (yum!) and a watermelon.
Amy

Saturday, 30th October, 2010










Another One?!

I want another baby. I feel compelled. This urge could be said to almost border upon obsession. It feels as if I almost NEED another baby.

Before you get carried away thinking that I’m all clucky after having Munchkin, let me just clarify that I have absolutely NO desire to be pregnant or give birth again. Nope, much as I love our little one, I don’t want THAT kind of baby. Now I’ve probably got you wondering if there are in fact more than one kind of baby. There are. And I want one.

Not this kind. At least not now, at any rate. Give me a few years to think about it…


Nope, not this kind either:
I could totally go with it, but my husband would be horrified. Sad.

No, I want one of these:


Every time I read about the benefits child sponsorship offers to kids, I want to do more. Every time I get a letter from our sponsored kids, I feel the same. And it’s not just what sponsoring does for children, although amazing for sure (clean water, clothes and pencils for school, immunisations, food assistance, schooling, and so on are not to be sneezed at). It goes beyond that. Sponsoring a child tells them that someone (me) somewhere (far, far away in New Zealand) thinks about them. Cares about them. Has decided that their life is worth investing in. Sponsorship tells a child living in desperate poverty that their life matters. It tells them that they can be someone, and help someone, and get somewhere in life. But on top of this incredible difference I get to make in one child’s life, are the differences that spread across their community, and across the generations. For instance, giving girls a chance at an education increases their self esteem, their position in society, and in turn the welfare of their future families as they later invest in the health, education and welbeing of their children. Then there’s the community wells that are dug, the agricultural training that can be accessed, the midwives that are trained, the businesses that can start, and on and on it goes, each benefit flowing outwards to enable more and more and more.

So, I want another sponsored child. The thing is that we already have 3. Most people are somewhat surprised by this. Don’t be. There is just no reason why children should be dying of hunger and water-bourne disease. Not while there’s something I can do about it. Why should I sit back and enjoy my cruisey middle-class, suburban life with my filtered tap water, electricity, and supermarket fare when other’s, through no fault of their own, have nothing? I want a large family. I just don’t plan on them being my birth-kids. I see this as one way I can change the world. One child at a time. One $45 sponsorship a month at a time. One letter wending its way to Tanzania, or Nicaragua, or Bangladesh at a time.

At the moment, I have to wait. Now is not the time. We are living on a student allowance, and managing okay, but there’s not much extra to go round and at present it is going on yet more clothes for the Munchkin. But I don’t want my son to become my excuse for ignoring the plight of others. Yes, he is my first responsibility. Yes, I need to make sure he is fed and clothed and loved. But this shouldn’t become my over-riding pursuit. After all, he is well-cared for. It won’t hurt him to have a few less toys and a few less treats, and to grow up learning that there are other people in the world who don’t get to live with the wonderful things we do.

I’m still hoping that someday soon I can have another baby. I’m wondering if there’s some way I can find that $45 a month…maybe I could make and sell stuff. Yeah, don’t have time to keep my house clean, let alone get out the sewing machine. Maybe we could eat less. Well, that is always an option, but I find that my mind is telling me that I ‘need’ to eat what I eat. Considering how much people eat (or rather don’t eat) and survive on, this is probably something I could debate with my self-centredness. But how much of this is me being selfish though, and how much is to do with our cultural expectations - we grow up surrounded by them, it can be so hard at times to work out how much something is a need, and how much it is an expectation built by what society says is a need. So for eating, if I were to eat less, eat lower quality, or eat different foods than what I do now would that be truly depriving myself of needed nutrients or is it that my society thinks it might? I'm still not sure on this one.
Funny how there’s always something more that we ‘need.’ Like more clothes (the truth is that I can probably get by with very little), and a garden hose (how many people in the world do you think bucket water to their garden?). Either way, it doesn’t seem right to me to just sit back and wait out the next 2-3 years, hoping that we’ll be able to ‘afford’ to sponsor another child after that. In the meantime, who is going to give these kids hope? And will we really be able to afford it later, if we can’t now? It is not as if we are expecting a huge windfall of money or anything. Our income will hopefully improve, but I don’t imagine it will be dramatically and instantly…and besides, there will be other pulls on it then, such as buying a house and sending Munchkin to school. So I’m just going to have a little chat with God about all this, and see what He thinks. When will it be ‘time’ for another baby from Africa? Whose life does He want to change, through my actions? And how can I go about enabling that to happen?

Whose life are you changing? Do you have room in your family for one more?

Amy
Saturday, 30th October, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bibs


Munchkin needs more bibs. Specifically, he needs some bibs with waterproof backing. Due to excessive dribbling and pukey-ness, his cotton bibs are simply nowhere near effective. At around $6-10 each, this is not really a minor expense for us. Combined with needing more singlets and other clothes for summer, a backpack, and various other things, and a rather tight budget, and we've had to get a little creative in saving up for some.

We have a 'cash' basis for our usual monthly expenses, such as petrol, spending, and groceries. Cash out at the beginning of the month. Once gone, it's gone. What I've done is create a bibs jar that now sits on my desk. After doing the big grocery shop at the beginning of the month, I apportioned $30 into 3 plastic bags, labelled Week 2, Week 3, Week 4. This is our fruit and vege money for each week (it should really be a bit more than that, more like $40, but I'd bought a big bag of apples, another of oranges, and things like kumara, potatoes, etc at the beginning of the month). The idea is that at the end of each week, rather than just putting any leftover money back into groceries and probably spending it on things we don't need, I now put it into the bibs jar. I find that I save so much better when I have a specific, measurable goal like this. I am much more likely to stop and think, "Hang on, this chocolate would be worth 1/2 a bib, which we really need. Maybe I don't need chocolate after all."

I am buying bibs from my friend, Lydia, at Little Kiwis (www.littlekiwis.co.nz). She makes gorgeous kiwi-flavoured baby and kids gear. She custom makes a lot of things, so we have been able to get bibs that have towelling top, bamboo inner for extra absorbancy, and waterproof PUL backing. Last month I managed to get Munchkin 4 bibs (they cost $7 each). They work so much better than the non-backed ones he has, which he manages to dribble and/or sick through in half an hour! So nice that he rarely has sopping wet clothes now. We just need to get a few more than 4, as they still get filthy. Yesterday we were trying to work out why he smelt so bad. Turns out his bib had gone a bit rancid. It didn't even look dirty, but obviously it was! So we obviously need enough bibs to still change them several times a day...plus some bigger ones that cover everything for eating.
I only managed to save 20c in Week 2. Weeks 3 and 4 should hopefully result in a few dollars saved each. We might also have a bit of spending or petrol money left to contribute too.
What do you find to motivate yourself to save?
Amy
Monday, 25th October, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Boys Can Wear Pink Too!

Our local Plunket Nurse was horrified when we chose a pink toothbrush for our infant son. Why not, said we. "But he's a boy!" she replied. SO? What is it about having to genderise colour??? And why does it have to start so jolly young? I get fed up with the limited range of colours to chose from in clothing. It's either all blue for boys, or all pink for girls. I found it really hard finding neutral clothes before Munchkin was born. I guess everyone making clothes assumed we'd find out what we were having. Well, we didn't. Anyway, back to Plunket. So we chose a pink toothbrush. Not that anyone is going to see it anyway. And why can't a boy like pink? Boyo used to wear fluro pink tshirts back in the 80s and thought he was very cool doing so. My brothers have worn pale pink shirts from time to time (and looked rather stilish in them, I might add - they are snazzy dressers, both). Munchkin has a pink outfit too. It is bright pink, and has animals in yellow, green and blue on it (i.e. lions, etc). I think it's really cute, but still find myself cautious about dressing him in it when we are going out. How silly. If people think my son is a girl, because they only see pink and don't look at him, that's their own fault. I don' think anyone could say he looks girly otherwise. He wore his pink top to church today, teamed up with some blue pants to match some of the animals. Didn't get a single comment! It just seems bizzare to me that here I am worrying about what colour my son's clothing (or toothbrush!) is, when there are so many more important things. Things like, what kind of attitudes will this child grow up with, is he learning to persevere, to interact with people, to be grateful, to laugh.

Amy
Sunday, 24th October, 2010

The MUNCHINATOR

We have nicknames for nicknames in our family. Munchkin is also known as Munchy, Munchybaby, my Munchykin, and the Munchinator. These are names we used on occassion when he was in the womb, and which have become more or less common since he was born. The Munchinator is one of my current favourites.


Munchkin is living up to his name. My son is an eating machine! He has been trying solids since just before turning 5months old, and absolutely loves it. He sits there, waving his plastic spoon around, mouth gaping, as if saying, "Come on, Mum, I was BORN to eat!" In the short space of two weeks, he has graduated from eating from an egg cup, to a normal cup (bowls being too big still to bother with, as it is easier to mix and heat food in a smaller container). His current dietary delights include baby rice, apple, and some kumara, carrot and silverbeet. We need to get more icecube trays. We broke the one we have, trying to remove frozen apple from it. One would think that people would design ice cube trays with a bit of flexibility. How else do they expect you to pry a frozen lump of ice from the plastic tray??? Needless to say we wish we could find the receipt for that purchase.


Meal-in-an-egg-cup!
I was hoping to avoid solids for a bit longer, but gave up after Munchkin's eating needs well outstripped the feeds he is having during the day and he started waking at night to eat again. Can't exactly fault him that, but I do so miss my sleep now I've gotten used to having it again! The plunket lady was amazed we'd managed to get him sleeping through to start with, being such a 'big' baby...yes well, it did take some doing...I was feeding him at 1:30pm, 3:30pm, 5:30pm, 7:30pm and 8:30pm before bed to get him sleeping through, before he gradually decreased the number of feeds and increased the volume of the remaining ones. Just can't seem to find anywhere to put another feed now, or get him to want more at each sitting. Never mind, he is happy, and doing really well, and we will just continue plodding our way through solids and the 1200-15oomls of milk he has each day.

Giraffe

Munchy is a bit of a giraffe. He has inherited some tall genes. Not from me. I have the recessive genes in my family. All the short ones. Grin. Munchkin does not have a single short gene in view. He is the average size of a 9 month old baby and he's only 5 months old. That does at least explain why he's been wearing 6-12month clothing for awhile now. I will need to organise yet another batch of clothing before summer...I'm just trying to put it off as long as possible hoping he will growth spurt before, and not after, I purchase more clothes!
Having a tall baby has challenges all of it's own. These are, of course, heightened (no pun intended!) by my small frame. Munchkin is nearly 9kgs, and my arms do not have any muscle tone to speak of. I am currently developing some by lugging him around. The front pack is rather useful for us, as I am actually unable to carry him for any length of time without him heading ground-wards. Only he is getting too big for that now too. He can't fit it the proper rear-facing way, only forward facing. This is apparently not as good for babies (called 'crotch dangling' - oh, what an elegant term, referring to the fact that they kinda just hang there, whereas facing into you their thighs also take some of the weight). Well, it's just too bad really, as it is several degrees better for him than a sudden landing on the floor. It is also a heck of a lot better on my back than trying to balance him on one hip or the other (never terribly successful).
So we are going to head up to "Zero to Five" and have a look for a good secondhand backpack. We will need it when we head off to Australia in December for a few days. I hate to think what 2 days of airports would do to us otherwise! While I can find it in my heart to wish he would stop growing so fast, I do so love my giraffe!

Amy
Sunday, 24th October, 2010

Creative Wrapping 'Paper'

I realised (as I went to wrap a present, duh) that we don't really have any wrapping paper. Okay, so that's not true. We had over 10metres of Christmas wrapping paper, purchased for shoe box wrapping. And we have some smaller bits of used wrapping paper - these with things like 'welcome baby' on them as they are from gifts given to Munchkin. Not really what I was looking for. My spur of the moment solution was to check my sewing cupboard. Here's the result.




The fabric was leftover from a small blind my mum made years ago. The ribbon was actually part of the gift (a little stash of ribbons, sequins and odd bits for Maxine over at http://kiwimeskreations.blogspot.com/ to use with her cardmaking)...it was just convenient that it matched the fabric so well!





Amy

Sunday, 24th October, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Make It Yourself

Ever felt annoyed by the non-user-friendliness of things you've bought before? I sure have! My solution? Make it yourself. Obviously, this is not always an easy thing to do, nor always practicable in our busy lives, but sometimes I come across something that is really bugging me that I can actually change with a few simple adjusments that don't take too much time or money. Our address book is one. I got so frustrated with an address book that had teeny tiny lines for addresses...nowhere near enough when you've got friends overseas with 6 or 7 line addresses! Then there was the fact that it had nowhere for email addresses or mobile phone numbers. Yup, I've had this one for years. Then I found it kept getting out of date. I had crossed out and twinked over addresses so many times you'd think the book itself would be fatter from all that extra ink! After thinking over my frustrations for some time and concluding that I definitely don't want to spend money on an address book right now, I decided this was a project I can tackle myself. I bought a spiral folder that fits A5 paper. I titled it "Stylie Addressbook" scribbled on a bit of paper stuck on the front. I used my gillotine to cut some computer paper down from A4 to A5, and hole punched each page. Each person or family unit has a page (no doubling up on pages, or writing on the backs of pages, as I wanted to be able to throw a page out if it ever got too messy and start again without it affecting anyone else's details). I write in pencil, so that way it is really quick and easy to make any changes. Out comes the rubber (eraser) and pencil and it is all done and dusted in a few seconds. No waiting for ink to dry. No grimacing at all my crossing out.


I recently updated our address book, and added some colour coding and organisation (previously there was no rhyme or reason to where each person's details were kept). It now has blue for family and red for friends on the top right corner of each entry. Each entry follows a set order of Name, phone, email, address, birthday. Plus on the bottom right corner I'm writing when it was last updated. This because the last few times I've gone to send things to my brothers, I haven't been able to remember if the address is current or whether they've moved since.


So that's it. A simple solution to my dilema. It only cost a few dollars for the folder (which I could use again for something else if I ever want to) and is easy and cheap to maintain.


Have you recently done any 'make it yourself' projects instead of buying something ready made?


Amy

Friday, 22nd October, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shoe Box Show Down

The 'count down' is on. Shoe box collection sites for Operation Christmas Child close on Monday 25th of October around New Zealand.

I am currently in a shoe-box-wrapping marathon. The finished pile is getting close to the ceiling. Soon I will have the fun part of filling each box with the goodies I've collected throughout the year, before labelling and dropping them into our local collection point. I'll probably do this on Saturday, as I've just realised that Monday is a public holiday so I'm not sure if the business operating as a collection point this year will be open.

I have become an expert shoe-box-wrapper over the years. Is this a marketable skill, do you think??? I am efficient, and very tidy in my wrapping. My finished boxes look really good, and I feel some amount of pride in my accomplishment. Pity I can't add it to my CV. Grin.

Photos will come once I have finished the boxes...focus, Amy, focus. One thing at a time!

Amy
Thursday, 21st October, 2010

Birthday Cheer



I completely forgot to show you another of my birthday presents this year! I just realised as I was going through photos and came across some of them. Both items were on my birthday wish-list:



Apparently my sister-in-law has never seen such delight over ribbons before. Yup, I am a sucker for pretty ribbons, as mentioned in an earlier post. I just love the colours! They are so beautiful. As I have a pretty small craft stash at present, after moving countries, my sister-in-law and my parents-in-law decided to get me something for the stash. I think my favourite is currently the multi-coloured one on the left, with the red, pink, and orange stripes. They also got me some wool for my Operation Cover Up knitting. Lovely large hanks of wool, 200g each. I will get at least 16 squares out of this lot, but most likely closer to 20. Yay. Haven't managed to knit any yet, but I am hoping I might get the chance over summer.
What a wonderful birthday present! What have been your favourite presents, and why?
Amy
Thursday, 21st October, 2010

What Do These Things Have in Common?



Exhibit A: Packet of chocolate Tim Tams

Exhibit B: Bunch of daffodils from local roadside stall

and Exhibit C: One red capsicum imported from Australia (didn't get a photo of this one, sorry).

So, have a guess at what these three things have in common. What did you guess?

Answer: They each cost $2. I found it fascinating that three very different items all cost the same. So what gives the best value for my gold coin? I'm really not sure. And if I only had just $2, which would I choose to buy? The answer might be quite different than if I had $4 or $10 spare...

The capsicium and biscuits can be eaten, which is helpful. But they've both had high energy input and travelled great distances (we do get NZ capsicums over summer, but this was taken a few months back before NZ glasshouses were in good production). The daffodils can't be eaten, but look at how beautiful they are. A packet of chocolate biscuits only lasts a few days in our house, if that. And invariably I end up eating the biscuit too fast, woolfing it down and then wishing I'd taken more time to savour the chocolate. The daffodils lasted about a week, I think. They were grown just up the road from us by a small scale grower. I could use a capsicum to make some quite nice dishes, but I'd need to use the whole thing in one sitting.

So there you go, a bit of a dilema. I'm thinking that so often we are faced with decisions like this. Probably every week, in fact. What should I buy, and what should I leave? Which of these seemingly unconnected items is the best value for me at this moment in my life? And if I have to pick and choose, how do I go about making that decision?


Amy

Thursday, 21st October, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a must-have in our garden, and in our climate we have a good chance of tomato success. Our major issues are usually around mildew, due to summer rain and humid conditions. Last year was a bit disappointing all round, as we not only dealt with the usual wet summer conditions, but also had some kind of viral something-or-0ther (of the nasty kind) infect most of our tomatoes...they still produced fruit, but some was no good, and there was probably less over all than we'd expect from our 18 odd plants. Our early tomatoes lacked flavour, but things improved as the summer progressed (the dripper line we put in probably helped!). I also tried several varieties that I'd used in North QLD, but found they weren't as good in these conditions. So this year, we won't be doing any Brandywine - they split in damp conditions, so we hardly got to eat any last year. Just not a smart choice on my part.


This year, we are going to be having:

San Marzano - a roma tomato, that I used in Nth QLD and found to have good flavour and more pulp than the usual romas I've previously come across - it made some fabulous soup.

Cocktail Cherry - these are a mix of cherry tomatoes from Kings Seeds. I love cherry tomatoes so this way I didn't have to choose which sort to get!

Uncle Roald's Super Tomatoes - these are from seed handed down by my great-uncle. They are a fairly standard supermarket sized tomato, only taste better!

Principe Borghese - I'm putting in just 2 plants of this, as the fruit were not what I'd expected last year, but I thought I'd better give them another shot incase the viral disease affected things badly and it turns out I like them...they did make nice dried tomatoes so I will at least use them for that again, if I don't eat everything first.
Here are the first batch waiting to be taken up to the 'big garden' and planted out.
Amy
Wednesday, 20th October, 2010


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Strawberries

Our strawberry harvest is looking very promising.

We have over 100 plants under the cloche at my parent's place, plus 20 extra runners that I found a home for here in our little garden. Now I just have to get a bit of netting to protect ours from being pilfered by birds. I would like to eat at least some!


Amy


Tuesday, 19th October, 2010


Gardening in Style


I just couldn't help but share this lovely shot with you. Munchkin joined me in the garden for a few minutes recently. Suzz (his grandmother, my mum) came up with this creative 'seat' for him. He seemed to quite enjoy it, until he got too hungry. We've a gardener in the making, I'm sure!


Amy

Tuesday, 19th October, 2010

Garden Gems



Tuesday, 19th October, 2010

Here are a few little snap shots of things I found in the garden recently...

Mint. It is running rampant down under the babacos.

Here's a calendula. They are such pretty flowers, and useful too. Mostly I try to keep flowers away from the veges, just in case we got a petal or two in a salad by mistake, but calendulas and borage are both safe to eat, so I was able to squeeze this one into the herb strip in the main garden.
Amy








Monday, October 18, 2010

My Latest Pets

Here are my latest pets:


Okay, so not your usual cat, dog or budgie! But so much more useful. I was given a wormfarm for my birthday this year by my wonderful husband (and son). It is a Can-o-worms, and comes with 3 tiers, and a tap to drain off all that liquid gold out the bottom. I chose this one because my dad has had one for years and years, and it seems to work really well. We didn't buy any worms, but rather stocked it by taking an icecream container full from Dad's farm. As worms populate up to the limits of their available room and food, his farm will simply repopulate to cover the few I took out.

My wormfarm!


I also took quite a few from our compost bin. I have never seen a compost bin with lots of worms, but this one sure does beat all. It is down behind the back shed at our rental unit, and on warm, wet days is simply teeming with worms. I'm sure other days are the same, but they all head to the top of the black plastic dome on these days. It was a simple matter of rubber gloves, hand trowel and icecream container, and 4 or 5 trips between compost bin and new worm farm, and my farm was ready to go. I thought I must have taken almost all of them, but need not have worried - a recent visit showed that there's still plenty there to continue munching.


So why have worms? Well, they generally don't smell (if they do, you might need a bit of lime as it is getting too acidic). They don't need a worm-sitter when you go away. You just give them heaps of food and a bit of water before you go, and can then enjoy your 2 week summer holiday knowing your worms will still be alive when you get back. They eat food waste. I think my farm is supposed to eat up to a litre per day once it gets going, but that will probably take 6-12months. I personally hate throwing food in the rubbish. All that stinky, decomposing waste in our landfills. And so unnecessary, when it is actually a valuable resource. That's not a sustainable practice at all.




In efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle, worms come up tops. They don't take up a lot of room. They don't make any noise. They don't need taking for a walk, and they don't require expensive vet bills. They are hard working little machines, that go about their business with almost no help from me. I just have to supply food, preferably in small bits, a little water, a shady spot for their house, and empty a layer of the worm farm every few months...which is a task I do not mind at all seeing as worm castings are rather helpful round the garden (apparently very neutral so safe to use ad-hoc wherever you like, you just cover with mulch to stop the sun leaching the goodness from them - you can mix them into soil, put them round shrubs, water a dilution into your tomatoes or strawberries, and use the same to help transplant shock for new seedlings - basically an all-purpose compost!).


I am very happy with my farm. It was something I could have now that I can use for years to come. It helps me live more sustainably, even while we are renting. Do you compost your food scraps? What's your favourite method?



Amy

Monday, 18th October, 2010

A Little Bit of Chaos


The garden got a little over run this past winter. This is not really surprising considering all the other things that were going on in my life. In saying this, however, I would like to point out that gardening does seem to bring out the random in me. I start off with major planning, which then usually disintegrates into 'just put something in the space' through the seasons. I also follow permaculture and organic principles in my gardening, which tend to make for a less tidy space. It is not that you can't have an organic, or permaculture garden that is neat and tidy and all in nice little rows. You can. The thing is, discouraging nasties involves dissuading them from taking up residence. So putting things in long, neat rows is kind of like having a neon MacDonald's sign - "eat here, eat here" it says! They can munch from one end to the other in happy contentment and fatness (I know, that is not really a word, but it does sound so good!). So, I try to deliberately break up plantings. For instance, this year we have tomatoes in 4 different rows, each with something else planted in between. Hopefully if one row gets diseased, we will still eat tomatoes.

I also let things go to seed. This is for the beneficial insects. After all, they do need somewhere inviting in which to take up residence and go to work at culling all the insects I don't want in the garden. This past winter they sure had it good, and not from any of my doing.

The broccoli went to seed. I only managed to get in about 4 plants in early February, which we have concluded was a bit early. Their main heads were very small, and ready before winter, but the interesting thing is that they continued to produce some very tasty, prolific side shoots right through winter. The only issue was that we failed to keep up with cutting and eating them, so they flowered. I am thinking of trying a few again this year to see if we get a similar result because the ones I did eat at the end of winter were delicious.


Seeding plants have a wild beauty all of their own.

Amy


Monday, 18th October, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What Can You See?

Here is our front garden on a nice sunny day earlier this week.
Serene and peaceful, wouldn't you think? Needs a bit more weeding, which is what I'd just been doing down in front of the spikey plant to the left. Now look a little closer. What can you see?

Closer.

Oh, and here's the other spikey plant...
They do look rather beautiful. Fortunately for me, they were rather dozy and more interested in creating their nests in the gentle morning sunshine than in the silly human's head that got rather close. We bought flyspray. Wasps are about the only thing I will use flyspray on (nasty, chemical stuff, stinks and is not good for our world at all, so usually we just use a flyswat if we really need to kill something)...Boyo did try using a shoe on these instead first, but they were a bit hard to get at. I do feel a little mean killing the wasps, as they are simply living their own lives and minding their own business. I'm sure they must fulfill necessary jobs in the grand scheme of things (such as parasiting other bugs maybe?), but I personally feel rather uncomfortable being anywhere near a wasp, let alone having two nests right by my front door. So it was bye-bye wasps. I am now checking plants before I get too close, just in case any of their friends have similar plans.
Amy
Saturday, 16th October, 2010

Catching Up


Gardening has taken a necessary backseat in recent months (surprise, surprise!). With the arrival of spring, and the completion of my major study load for the year, I have started heading out into the garden more often. By more often, I mean getting out there at all! Our front garden had so many weeds. I've gradually been working my way through, pulling them all out of the little pebbles. Munchkin even helps most mornings. We pop outside for a few minutes wander around, and he either perches on a knee, or sits on the stones when they are dry, while I pull a handful of grass out. He quite enjoys it, but we only manage a few minutes before bed and bottle. I had so many little piles of pulled grass and weeds scattered all through the garden bed, that it felt like it was just as messy as if I'd left the weeds to start with, so I have started putting them all in a bucket as I go. When it is full, I just do a mad dash up the back of the property to the green waste pile behind the shed. Sorted.

Amy
Saturday, 16th October, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

It Stinks!

Okay, so I did at least start out the day dressed nicely. That was before Munchkin managed to puke down my arm, my back, my right leg, my right sock and shoe. If you are wondering how it all managed to get there, I was kneeling down, picking him up off the floor and it all went up and out just as I put him up to my shoulder...most of it landed on the back of my leg.

I now stink of vomit. And I can't escape. Boyo is still asleep in our bedroom, so I have to wait until I can change my clothes. As he worked till midnight last night, then was woken by Munchkin joining us in bed before 5am (I was trying to get another hour of rest out of him, but as he was wide awake and rather twitchy, it did not work!), I don't think Boyo would be particularly appreciative of another wake-up before he's ready!

As my current outfit includes my jeans, aka my 'nice' trousers and one of my few nice tops that fit, I will be reduced to my usual track pants and sweater for the next day or two while these get washed and dried. There is a bit of a washing pile up with today being Friday (usual washing day plus Munchkin's mountainous daily piles) so it may take awhile before I get my clothes back. Hopefully I will get to wear them for more than a couple of hours next time round. Ah, the joys of parenthood!


Amy
Friday, 15th October, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Munchkin's Entertainment Program

Thursday, 14th October, 2010

Munchkin's Entertainment Program, aka Mummy's Exercise Regime

I am currently having 2 week's holiday. All my assignments have been handed in. Yay!!! Everyone else is out on Practicum. I have been given a late prac, much to my relief, to allow a few more weeks for Munchkin to get older before I have to leave him at home for the 3 week prac. So I now have 2 weeks to recover and recuperate before studying for exams, then going on prac myself.

I have hence started my exercise regime. This is not a set-in-concrete kind of regime, but more of a what-can-I-do-today-that-increases-my-activity-and-fits-around-the-baby kind of regime. Munchkin, of course, does not even realise that Mummy is trying to improve her weight and fitness and overall sense of well-being. Munchkin thinks that this is all for his enjoyment. He is quite happy to have some extra entertainment.

So in the mornings, Munchkin and I head out with the front pack for a 20min walk. This is very beneficial for my butt and thigh muscles with his extra 8kgs straddled across my front. Muchkin loves going outside, so this is merely an extension of the time we were already spending wandering around our yard. He's a very happy chappy every time he sees his woolly hat, because he knows that means we must be going out somewhere!

My other standard options are:
Swimming. This requires Munchkin and Daddy time while Mummy does a few laps at the local pool, hopefully once a week...did my first one since pregnancy on Sunday and really enjoyed it, though I did not enjoy the feeling in my arms and legs the following day!).
Dancing. Munchkin just LOVES movement. Doesn't matter whether it is us or him moving, as long as someone is and preferably to music. Arms especially seem to be entertaining. So the past 2 mornings Mummy has danced to a Beach Boys song while Munchkin watches with great delight. My dancing would never win any awards, but it certainly gets the blood flowing, the breath puffing, and the baby giggling.
Pilates. I have a short 10min routine to do, which I will hopefully manage every second morning before Munchkin wakes up. Didn't quite work yesterday, so I ended up doing it in 2 or 3 stints while he played on the floor after his breakfast. Never mind. Still did it, which is the important bit.
Walking. Lots of walking. Munchkin has been walked in his pram/stroller since day dot almost, so quite enjoys it when Mummy and Daddy strap him in and head out along the boardwalk. We like to go most days, provided the weather is okay.
Gardening. It is a digging time of year, with gardens needing to be prepped before planting. As almost no gardening happened over winter, the work I might have otherwise spread over a few months is currently being done right before each successive planting needs the garden beds. My current gardening day is Mondays, and I head off for 1 hour while Daddy watches Munchkin...this method being about 4 times more productive than an hour spent in the garden with the baby. I dig, and weed, and dig, and add blood and bone and sheep manure, and dig, and did I mention dig?? The digging is the bit that's really good for my arm muscles. Any arm muscle work is probably helpful when you consider I am a lightweight 160cm tall woman carrying a baby who is currently over 8kg and 66cm tall...he kind of sticks out all over the place and invariably ends up heading floor-ward as my arms give up in protest!

So that is my current exercise regime. Munchkin thinks it is all good.

Amy

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mauao


What a beautiful place we live in! Boyo and I comment on this often while out walking. We couldn't really ask for a more gorgeous location in which to live our daily lives. We do notice, however, just how easy it is to take these things for granted, to forget how lovely our area is, how close the beach is, how warm the sun, or cool the breeze, and end up stuck inside, rushing from one thing to another in our day to day lives.
We went to Mauao on my birthday. The Mount. Mount Maunganui. Mauao is its proper Maori name. It means 'caught in the light of the day'. I always think of it as caught by the dawn. It is such a beautiful place between ocean, harbour, and land.


A lovely place for a rest, don't you think?

You can walk all the way to the top, on one of several different paths of varying steepness. We chose to content ourselves with a leisurely walk around instead.



The path around the ocean-ward side.

Really should do it more often. Now, how often do we say that?!? Just 2 nights ago we lay out in our backyard and watched the stars peeping through the clouds as they scuttled across the sky. And commented on how we 'should do this more often.'
When did you last take some time out to enjoy your local area? Any plans to do it again soon?
Amy
Thursday, 7th October, 2010


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

To carrot or not to carrot

Wednesday, 6th October, 2010

I am still in debate as to whether to grow carrots next season or not.

You see, I dug some more out of our little garden here this week. They were really quite nice. Nice enough that I was eating them raw on their own. Usually, I find the carrots we grow to be both scrawny and nowhere near as sweet as I like. Supermarket carrots are sweet, and that's about it. Carrots grown at home have deeper layers of flavour, I think. Due to Tauranga's mild climate, we never seem to get enough chill to sweeten our carrots up, and I find them somewhat less than appealing. I must admit that having to dig, scrub, and trim is also a deterrent. Lazy me, used to my veges coming prescrubbed and trimmed.

So, these latest carrots have me wondering all over again, and just after I'd decided that we really should stop wasting our time growing carrots. They are called Mini Sweet, and are a variety from Kings Seeds. They grew bigger than some others planted earlier (these were not planted until early April, somewhat late even by our standards, and only just got enough growing time in before wanting to go to seed in our warm, wet spring!). They are also, as I mentioned before, sweeter than I expected.

The jury is still out on this one.

Amy

Fingerpainting

Wednesday, 6th October, 2010

Fingerpainting can be such fun!!!
My first two artworks, playing around with texture and pattern.

These were for an assignment. Yes, an assignment. One of the joys of studying the Early Years, although assignments like these are far too few and far between as far as I am concerned. It is a bit tricky doing practical projects like this in an extramural (distance) degree, what with postage and learning techniques, etc. But they managed it in the Visual Art module of our Arts paper, teaching us how to do basic fingerpainting. The idea is that I am now confident enough to do lesson plans and/or sponteneous painting with littlies, using a variety of techniques.
It's a volcano!
This one incorporates some mixed media - stitching, for added effect.
The gloopy feel is somewhat interesting. Mixing colours was too. I enjoyed using bits and pieces to stratch the surface to create different patterns (called sgraffito).
Final masterpiece, a collage combining parts of many other artworks!
Amy