Saturday, January 29, 2011

Somebody Loves Me!


We went on holiday this past week, our annual family holiday. This is the second year we've done this. After being married for over 5 years, and realising we'd not really had a proper holiday 'just for us' (you know, the sort where you go somewhere alone, and spend time as a family unit, without using your annual leave to either move or visit family?!), we decided this needed to change. Last year we headed out to a bach by the beach, and played table tennis, visited some friends, and generally had a lovely time. This week, we headed to a forestry block on the Coromandel owned by my extended family, just a couple of hours drive from Tauranga. I was horrified to realise that it has been seven years since we last visited. It was fabulous. No internet. No telephone. No tv. Not really any power for that matter (it runs on low voltage solar, with gas for stove, hot water, and fridge). Limited cellphone coverage (if you stand in the right spot outside, you can get texts...sometimes. Or you can hike to the helipad at the top of the ridge to use the phone...we found that out by accident affter hauling ourselves and the stroller up there!).

There's an old piano that Munchkin and I spent some time playing. We paddled in the river down in the valley one day, went to visit Cathedral Cove further north another, and paddled at Tairua another day. I found it amazing how refreshed we felt after just four nights away. I think it has a lot to do with being so far removed from our daily lives. We actually came home a day early to avoid some rough weather. I'm hoping we might be able to head back to the forest for another few nights later in the year, as it was so enjoyable.
We went out pine-coning. This was the thing I was most looking forward to. I remember times spent with my family during childhood collecting pinecones around the Wellington area for our fire. There's something nostalgic about it for me. It is very more-ish. Almost obsessive. My mother agrees with me on this. You just keep thinking "I've just got to get this last one," and then you see another last one, and another! I think I enjoy it so much now as we don't have a fire so therefore don't actually NEED to collect pinecones. We can do it for the fun of it, and give them to my parents for their fireplace. I must admit to enjoying past-times that produce some form of useful result. Grin. Boyo and I discovered that the best way to collect pine cones with a small son is to have one person forage, and throw the cones somewhere near the stroller. The baby thinks the plonks as they land is great fun, and enjoys 'chatting' to the second person who is collecting the thrown cones and popping them into a bag in the bottom of the stroller. By the time the bottom of the stroller is full, the baby is ready for a new occupation and we head home, to repeat our expedition a few more times over the coming days.

The highlight of the whole trip for me is the pile of pinecones I discovered on the front door step the first day we were there...Boyo (who is not a pine cone collector at heart by any means) had collected them for me while I had a nap. We had been talking about trying to make our relationship more affectionate and romantic. It wasn't until a while later that I went and had a closer look:


What a lovely man I have! He couldn't have given me a better gift right then. He also got me some kanuka stakes for the vege garden too - a very productive hour he had while Munchy and I slept! I decided to return the thought, although the pine cone touch really should have been replaced with licorice or something he loves equally well for full effect, but I had to stick with what was available.


An interesting development was seeing how they changed over the coming days. What had been tightly closed cones when collected, gradually opened in the warm sun to drop their seeds.


Aren't they beautiful?


Amy
Saturday, 29th January, 2011

Blanket Number Seven's Beginnings!

I am feeling rather chuffed about my knitting progress at present.
I've done quite a few squares. Fifteen to be exact.
I am trying to remind myself that just because I have over a quarter of the squares done for a blanket, doesn't mean I am going to get it finished quickly. At least a few of these squares were left overs from the last blanket, knitted in the wrong colour for my pattern by accident.
Plus there were the three or four I managed to knit in hospital before Munchkin made his arrival. But in saying all this, I have been making good progress lately. Since Munchkin started going to sleep a little earlier I have been doing a few rows of knitting most nights of the week.

I am really enjoying the freedom of no pattern restraints! You can probably tell from my squares that I am generally a symetrical, order-lover, but from time to time I do branch out and do random stripes. You used to always be able to tell when I'd amassed a fair bit of odds and ends in my knitting, as I'd end up with a single square of many, many stripes of different colours. This time round, I am trying to mix my odds and ends in with the wool given to me on my birthday, so that the blanket doesn't end up with too many similar squares.

Which is your favourite square? I personally really like the white, navy and brown one...unusual for me to like something with brown but I think the colours work well together.


Amy

Saturday, 29th January, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Local Resident



Here's one of our local residents. I saw him (or her) when I was weeding grass out of the pebbles round the flax bushes by our front door. This photo is probably about life-size. Our beautiful local is just big enough for me to notice it's lovely yellow stripes as I bent nearby, and decide that it really needed a photo! I am constantly amazed at the intricate details the Creator has woven into even the smallest of our fellow earth-dwellers. Here is a slightly larger view.







Isn't it amazing what you can see, if you look closely enough?



Amy

Friday, 28th January, 2011

Harvest

Munchkin and I had a recent foray into the Big Garden. He sits in his mini highchair in the shade while I garden. It does seem like I spend more time fishing his toys back onto the tray, or something or other out of his mouth than actually gardening though. I remind myself that hopefully I will gradually get more actual 'gardening' time and that this time outside, together, is not only building our relationship nice and strong, but also helping to foster an awareness and responsiveness to the outdoor world in my small son.

He wanted to eat grass. I convinced him to stick with a cherry tomato instead.

Here's my 'harvest basket' ready to head home. I've just recently started using this basket for gardening, after wanting to for ages (it kept finding other 'more important' uses until now I have finally claimed it for the garden!). I find the wide, flat nature great at holding an assortment of produce without things getting squished at all. Plus the other essentials such as water bottle and sunscreen! The mobile phone is my time-keeper at present after another watch broke...important not to get carried away and keep saying 'soon' to the Munchkin when he is grizzling, as it could spell disaster if he is left too long past either food or bedtimes!
The garlic has fallen all over the place, so I'm guessing it must be about time to harvest it. I did, last week, at any rate. Some really big cloves, some really small...we did end up doing two plantings as some of the first didn't come up. And it has been sadly neglected pretty much since the day it was planted! All in all a reasonable harvest.

The climbing beans (Blue Lake) started producing last week. Just in time too, as the dwarf butter beans have about done their dash and I only managed to get one row in this year.

The grapes look oh, so deliciously tempting. Better get some cabbage and make up a cabbage leaf brew to keep off those nasty green shield bugs once the grapes are close to ripening. And the bird netting needs to come out too. I don't mind sharing fruit and veges with the local wildlife, honestly, but I must at least get to eat SOME of what we grow!

I took home a babaco. These are relatives of papaya (paw paw) only taste quite different I think. My grandfather grew them on the Thames coast. They are subtropical and don't like frost, but manage okay with our light frosts here in Tauranga. Now both my uncle and my dad grow them. I hope to continue the tradition too. This one got chopped up and stewed with a little bit of sugar. I ate some with icecream and yoghurt, and some just on it's own. Munchkin sampled a bit and seemed to approve.
What have you been harvesting lately?
Amy
Friday, 28th January, 2011















Monday, January 24, 2011

Chicken Stock

I am a bit of a scrooge when it comes to chicken stock. I refuse to buy it. I don't like the little cubes of stock-making stuff as they seem to be far too many added extras with long-sounding names. The 'real' stock I'm okay with, but if I add the cost of buying stock to a recipe, it becomes more and more expensive. So I make my own. I quite often get us little chooks for dinner (the smallest ones you can get here, number 9s I think?) on special for around $5 each. We usually manage to get two meals out of such a chook, then I pop the carcass into the freezer. Once I have several little carcasses in my stash, I make a batch of stock. I am a very basic stock-maker. In fact, I don't even know if it would technically be called a stock, or more of a broth. I pretty much just chuck the chicken carcasses into a pot, cover with water, and simmer for most of the day (or as many hours as I can be bothered with!). If I feel very domesticated, I might add some bay leaves, an onion or other assorted herbs. There you have it, chicken stock. It does the job, at any rate. And I feel really good about using something that is otherwise going to be a complete waste, to make something that can help create deliciously tasty meals.
Amy
Monday, 24th January, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Sleep

In discussions with other parents of young children, I have concluded that there are very few children in the world who sleep consistently through the night. It seems that everyone has their own little sleep issues, from the newborn 'several hours to feed, half an hour to sleep' routines right through to the 'four year old just wakes randomly in the middle of the night every few nights.' My mother commented, rather wisely I thought, that "The only thing reliable about a baby, is that they are unreliable." This in relation to Munchkin's sleep routines. But I think it is fairly good advice over all. It seems I just get a handle on one routine, before it is time to change. Time to drop a day-time sleep, or add another solid feed. Or there's a hiccup before things return to 'normal' such as teething upsetting the soundness of sleep, or Munchkin having a day when he doesn't sleep well or a day when all he seems to do is sleep!

The past week or so has been one of the most trying times for me sleep-wise. He stopped sleeping soundly at night. He's never been particularly good at sleeping through the night. We managed a couple of months between 3-5 months, and then again started to get it right over summer. That was before teething. We had a couple of bad weeks when tooth #1 and tooth #2 came through, then a few weeks of peace again to recuperate (thank God!). Then once again things have deteriorated. It had got so bad that earlier this week I was up 5-10 times a night to him! Not good for Mummy. Not good for baby either, but at least he gets to nap during the day, and babies do seem to be rather resilient. I was giving him his homeopathic teething remedy and we couldn't work out anything else wrong. I used bongella on his gums, but not his amber necklace as he's got a dribble rash again that it would enflame even more. I was desperate. Then, two days ago I remembered Passiflora Co. This is a homeopathic remedy that helps calm you down for sleep. It's terrific. Kind of the 'general sleeping trouble go-to' of the homeopathic world. It is really, really gentle, and safe to use with a baby. I usually avoid medication of all forms for both myself and Munchkin wherever possible so my homeopathic kit gets used fairly often. I have given Passiflora Co. to Munchkin the past two days, just before bed at night, and also before his day time sleeps (as they were shocking the past couple of days too - he'd just wake and wake and wake and be so grotty and miserable!). Well, Friday night he woke twice. A marked improvement. I still didn't sleep all that great because I am by this stage wired, waiting for him to cry! Yesterday he had two lovely long day sleeps, and was a much happier chappy for them. Last night he woke once. YAY! He is still asleep, at 7:40am. Yesterday he slept till 8am. Today looks like it will be about the same. Usually he is up at 6am, pretty much on the dot. So this tells you just how exhausted he has ended up. We won't mention the racoon-like dark smudges under his mummy's eyes. So there you have it. A simple remedy to help calm and soothe and my baby is sleeping properly again. I wonder sometimes if we get our bodies into a state and then don't know how to get out of it again on our own? Teeth #3 and #4 are still not through, and I suspect may be a ways of yet so I'm really, really glad I didn't just put it down to teething and do nothing about it. Teething is a nasty business, and completely unavoidable, but at least there are a few things we can do to help ease the discomfort.

And for all you parents out there - you deserve medals. Parenting is definitely not for the faint of heart!

Amy

Sunday, 23rd January, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Preserving Tomatoes?


Okay, so this is more of a question than an informational post! Any thoughts folks on how to preserve a tomato glut to use over the year ahead? I planted LOTS of tomato plants because last year we had trouble with disease, so I wanted to be sure of a good harvest. There's a mix of roma types, a medium sized beefstakey-thing, and pear and cherry tomatoes.

I have thought about bottling - my parents do have a preserver and jars, so could show me how to do it. I'm wondering whether to do them as straight tomatoes, or go for tomato sauce with herbs, onion, etc added in. Other ideas include drying some in my Ezi-dri dehydrator. This is quite time consuming though, and the olive oil to put them in adds to the cost too so I'm probably only going to do a small amount of these. We do not have freezer space to keep anything much in there. And what space we have is currently taken up with Munchkin's food. I am contemplating how I could save up for an extra freezer over the course of this year...basically to store things like blueberries, tomatoes, feijoas and other seasonal produce.

How have you stored tomatoes in the past and what do you do differently now? Any favourite tomato recipes? In North QLD a few years back I made some really nice tomato soup. I basically chopped up fresh tomatoes (romas, mostly), added a bit of sweet chilli sauce, salt and pepper and a few fresh herbs, cooked, then pureed. It was really tasty!

Amy

Saturday, 22nd January, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rain

I love listening to the sound of rain in the evenings. I think it takes me right back to my childhood, when it rained fairly often and with great ferocity at times. We lived in Wellington, which has been meanly called "windy Wellington" many a time. As a true-born Wellingtonian, I must point out that statistically, Palmerston North has higher, more consistent bad wind than good old Welly. And that the wind does usually drive away any smog, so the city is sparkling. But I digress. Wind being battered on windows and roofs reminds me of night times as a child, when I would lie snuggled up in bed listening to yet another southerly trying to pummel our house to bits. As our house was made of concrete, with brick over the top of that, it never budged an inch. My friend's house, on the other hand, used to creak and groan and whine something chronic and I'd have trouble sleeping when we had sleepovers there. But at my house, the wind and rain simply reminded me of how snug I was. Even gale force winds never had an effect. We always wondered why our roof stayed so securely in place, especially on the occassions we saw bits of neighbour's roofs flying down the road (yes, I do remember several of these occassions). Then my dad repainted our roof, and discovered it had at least twice the usual amount of nails required. Yup, I loved the feeling of security in that house. I should point out that not ALL of Wellington is that wild either...we did live on a hill right over Cook Strait so we got the worst of it. I remember having trouble keeping the car door open long enough to get in without getting squashed of a morning when heading out to school. I remember standing face to the wind, arms outflung, to see if it would actually pick me up (but only when it wasn't really bad - I never did attempt that in the really wild weather as it probably would have blown pea-stick me a few metres backwards!). I used to love sitting and eating my breakfast, gazing out our full length lounge windows, watching the Inter Island Ferry and being oh, so glad I was not on it that day, as it exited the harbour and hit the swell and the spray from the waves would spray up and over it's giant funnel!

So why am I thinking of rain and wind? Because it is raining and it is windy! It has been so fine here for so long, I'd almost forgotten what a good bit of rain would feel like. I even headed out for a nice walk with Munchkin and the backpack just a couple of hours ago. We had a lovely walk, enjoying the breeze (as it was then) and didn't even get wet at all...a good thing as the umbella would not have been useful and Boyo's big jacket that I took just in case probably wouldn't have done much to keep the both of us dry! But a short while after we got home, we got to watch rain drops lashing against our front door. I am still listening to them hit against the windows and looking forward to the sound continuing as I go to bed. The wind has picked up. I'm glad that Boyo and I brought Munchkin's little mandarin tree into the conservatory earlier instead of leaving it in the exposed position it was in.

I know that tomorrow I will probably be sick of the rain. It is not really convenient, you know. There's the washing to get dry, and we have the car warrant to get tomorrow so are meant to be doing some errands around town while we wait for that...I can't see that being at all comfortable in this kind of weather. Plus I've got gardening to do up at the Big Garden, which I am so not about to attempt in wet weather, particularly with a Munchkin in tow. Later in the week I'm meant to be going on an outing with my mum, and maybe to a lifegroup BBQ at the beach - hmm, I think Boyo said that this would probably blow over tonight but that there may be other wet weather following it? Entertaining Munchkin gets a bit difficult when it is wet. He just loves being outside, it is the best thing ever for keeping him happy. Particularly when he's really tired in the evenings at present, and just hanging out for bed but we need to use another 30-60minutes before it is time for the final bath/milk/bed routine, a walk is about the only thing I know of that successfully keeps both him and me peaceful and happy! We can walk in drizzle, and we can walk in wind, but walking in both wind and rain gets a little problematic. The stroller does have a rain cover, and I do have wet weather leggings and jacket...but the time that I did attempt it in the rain, Munchkin got so steamed up in there he couldn't see a thing. Which means he will either cry, or fall asleep (likely both, and neither of which I am wanting when it is only an hour till bedtime!). I got steamed up too. The leggings get a bit hot. The hood of my jacket is not the best, and water drips down my face, into my eyes, and down my neck. You get the idea. We are pretty intrepid and can be found out and about in most weather, but sometimes you do have to tell yourself it is foolishness and stay put inside. The current weather being one of those times.

So I will probably get a bit sick of rain after 12 hours or so. But for now, I am enjoying the rain, knowing that the ground is gratefully soaking up the much-needed and longed for damp, and I am enjoying the bit of wildness. I'm about to sit down and do some knitting. Oh, the bliss. Knitting, and rain. A good evening.

Amy

Tuesday, 18th January, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Outdoors Work, Munchkin Style

Munchkin and I mowed the lawns in late December. Yup, we have only done this once. Generally it is a job done by Boyo. He is the lawn proud member of the party. Left alone, I'd probably get rid of most of the lawn. I do like a good lawn, but I think they take up far too much space that could be growing something useful, and too much time and effort for something we predominantely just look at. But I digress. We have a small electric mower, as our little patch is compact and easily accessible from the house. So Munchkin and I did the lawns one day. Here we are:




It was hard work for Mummy, and Munchkin did get his head bopped by accident on one low tree branch, but over all it was a successful venture. Munchkin was suitably entertained (he quite likes his backpack) and Mummy got a workout as well as proving she can mow lawns with baby in tow. Hopefully I don't need to do it too often though, it is hot work!



Amy


Monday, 17th January, 2011

Our Generous Neighbour

This is what our lovely neighbour came and gave us a few weeks back. They had been away camping and did a fair bit of fishing and such while away:


This lobster (called crayfish in NZ) was a real blessing. Our neighbour is a very kindly soul, who is selling us her fresh eggs on a regular basis as well as giving us the odd garden produce from time to time. We gave her some cucumbers in return a few days later, despite her attempts to pay for them ("But you gave us a crayfish!" "Yes, but that's different!" "But these are just going to waste if you don't take them. We have so many!.."). I have since given away another 5 cucumbers to various friends. These from just one plant, which is successfully giving my parents, my husband and myself more cucumber than we can eat. The 3 lebanese cucumber vines are just starting to produce. I love lebanese cucumber and am thinking seriously of getting myself some feta cheese and dijon mustard to have cucumber on toast like I used to in Townsville. It is really rather delicious!
One of the things I love about gardening is the give and share mentality, and the relationships that can develop out of leaning on the garden fence. I feel very blessed to live where we do!
Amy
Monday, 17th January, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How to Knit a Peggy Square - Part 1

Hello to all my readers! I have had a couple of recent requests for information on how to knit peggy squares so have decided to do a couple of posts...intention being to photograph some squares as I do them to give you a visual aid, but if you are after instructions for the basics of knitting then I understand U-Tube to be the place to go. Grin. My instructions in the actual art of knitting will be brief, to say the least. I personally re-learnt from my mother-in-law after being initially taught by Granny when I was a young sprat.




So firstly, who do I knit for? I knit for Operation Cover Up, which is part of Mission Without Borders here in New Zealand. You can find them here: http://www.operation-cover-up.org.nz/index.html, although their web page is not updated often. There are often groups of knitters in towns, and you might either find out about them through calling the local churches, or seeing a write up about them in your local free paper (here in Tauranga I read a write up which told me where I could go to look at finished blankets and drop mine off). Their blankets are put into big wool bales once a year and shipped to Europe where they are given to children in orphanages, and sometimes families who need them too. Countries such as the Ukraine, Moldovia, and Romania can be recipients. I have seen videos of children receiving these blankets, and their joy is incredible. I imagine they don't have many pretty things, so must love the colour and patterns of the blankets just as much as their warmth.


I don't personally know of an organisation in Australia that does knitted blankets like this, but there will be other organisations who would also like knitted items, including blankets I'm sure. For instance, Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes of Samaritan's Purse (http://www.samaritanspurse.org.au/) are sent into the Pacific Islands. They LOVE to get handmade items, so you could knit a square, then sew it together and give it crocheted or plaited handles to make a bag. Here are some specific bag-making instructions by an old school friend of mine: http://narelleworboys.blogspot.com/2008/07/shoulder-bag-knitting-patterns.html. You don't have to fill a whole shoe box with goodies in order to be of help, you could just make a few knitted bags and get them to your local coordinator - they can them pop them into any shoeboxes that need an extra gift or two.



Now, to get into the knitty-gritty (like my pun?!).

Operation Cover Up guidelines recommend:

* Use 8 ply (aka double knit)

*Use pure wool wherever possible (handwash only is okay - no washing machines anyway) - if you can't get 100% pure wool then try to get 80%+ as pure wool is warmer for it's weight than acrylic, and also wicks moisture better, dries faster, and lasts longer (look on the ball's label for the breakdown of contents). For many children receiving these blankets, warmth is essential - they are in orphanages in areas that get heavy snowfall, have little money for heating and definitely do not have the luxury of an electric blanket! Pure wool is more expensive, I know, but I have yet to make a blanket square that uses acrylic for these reasons. Look around for specials. In NZ, $3-4 a ball is really good. I used to shop at Spotlight in Australia, and get it below $3 a ball using my discount card when they had specials. Other options include asking any knitters you know for any they don't want, looking in second hand stores, finding woolen jumpers and undoing them to reknit, and asking your relatives for wool for your birthday (my personal favourite! I got some gorgeous wool this year!).

* Use 4mm needles. Your choice what sort.

*Knit 40 stitches across, by 80 rows up, in plain garter stitch (it is nice and warm and thick). Don't knit too tight, or really, really loose. If you knit nice and evenly, you will make a square. Realise that different wools do end up knitting to slightly different sizes, even if they are all 8ply - some are just thicker than others, doesn't matter as long as you stick with 4mm needles and 40stitches by 80rows when it all gets joined together you can pull the squares to line up with each other.

*It helps to cast on and off fairly loosely so the crochet hook or needle can get between stiches to join squares together.

*Each blanket is 7 squares by 8 squares. Totalling 56 squares. A lot, in case you are thinking of making one on your own. I average one blanket per year. I don't think I'm really fast, and I knit during ad breaks while watching tv, when sitting at the doctors (yup, that one gets a few looks!). Basically I do a few rows at a time, but would hope to be knitting a little bit most days of the week. I allow at least 40 balls of 50g weight per blanket. I think it is a bit more than that, but haven't checked recently because I keep using up scraps here and there along with my purchased wool.



The great thing about these squares is that anything goes! You can do one colour. You can do 20 (I might have been close when using up a whole lot of scraps one time!). You can do a whole blanket yourself, or knit one lone square and send it off to your local group to get joined to 55 others. You can knit a square in a day, then forget about it for weeks. Or you can do a bit at the same time every day. It's flexible. I love the time to think and reflect while I knit. And that otherwise wasted time is no longer wasted. And I love that it goes to children who have so little.



So, there you go. I suggest you find someone who can knit and learn from them or have a look for some U-Tube videos, as that is much easier than following written instructions and photos. You only need to know how to cast on, cast off, and knit garter (plain) stitch. And how to count your rows. Nice and easy. Another post will follow this with a few other hints and tips on peggy squares.



Amy



Thursday, 13th January, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

YAY!

According to my in-law's bathroom scales, I have lost over 4.5kg in the past few months! Yay! I am so excited. I had thought I'd lost a fair bit, but still a ways to go before I can fit my winter clothes yet...not sure if I'm going to make it back into the 'skinny jeans' as even my calves are too big to get into them now, but hey, I can always hope. Grin. All the pushing Munchkin up and down our local walkway must be working. I started shunting him around the local swimming pool last week too. My mum got us a little floaty thing that he can sit in, so I push and kick one way, then do a weird kind of breaststroke on my back the other - the floaty ring mostly keeps up with me in my wake, with the occassional redirection with a hand when needed! Munchkin is okay with swimming, but it is a very serious affair. The odd smile tilts his mouth ever so slightly upward when I blow raspberries at him, but otherwise he is silent and serious, gazing this way and that, dangling his little hands over the sides. Very cute. I take him in the backpack, because he heads groundward after about a minute on my hip. So between that, the floaty thing, the bag of towels and togs, and Munchkin, I must look like a packhorse! I guess it's a good thing I got used to carrying lots of bags and things when I spent time overseas, so it doesn't bother me at all!

Amy

Wednesday, 12th January, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Groceries - Meat


Meat is one of the 'big' expenses in my grocery budget. And I mean this in two ways. Firstly, it costs us a fair bit up front each month. Secondly, it costs the environment a whole more than other forms of food because animals have to be fed food and water and such to create the meat we eat, plus there's all the transport and butchery costs, etc, so a whole lot of water, power, and energy goes into meat production. This is something it is really easy to forget as I stand in front of the chillers at the supermarket, gazing at the yummy looking sausages, corned beef, or chicken drumsticks, so it is usually the monetary cost to us that motivates me to be careful how I spend my 'meat dollars.'

I would like to eat less meat. This is not because I have any grand ideas of being a vegetarian. I like eating meat far too much. And I don't like lentils, or tofu! A lot of people seem to assume I must be vegetarian because I don't often have lots of meat with my lunch (when I was at work). I'd have leftovers, mostly, and salad and eggs...that sort of thing. Anyway, I am not vegetarian nor have any intentions of ever being so. But in saying that, I do think that in our westernised society we rely too heavily on meat. I think we probably eat a whole lot more meat than our bodies really need, and definitely a whole lot more meat than other people in the world manage on quite happily. So I am trying to eat less meat. I have been trying for about 5 years or so. It is a work in progress, and one which is progressing very slowly. I am not very good at making meatless meals, you see. Plus, Boyo is a bit of a traditional 'meatasaurus' and likes to have his meat and three veg. He looks a little askance at anything too weird, and really dislikes things like couscous and chickpeas, or anything really spicy or curried. Which is fair enough. So rather than try to find more meatless meals that we can both stomach, I have tended to focus on having less meat per meal, and filling it out with things like rolled oats, beans, lentils, and loads of vegetables.

When I shop for meat, I am looking for one specific thing. Have you ever looked at the per kilo price? It is shocking!!! I find lamb particularly leaves me with feelings of pent up rage at the injustice of it all, as I wonder how a country with 70million sheep (or thereabouts) still has lamb prices at $20+ per kilo! I am guessing we make more money selling it to Japan, England, anywhere but here. Here, there's beef. Loads and loads of beef. Mustn't sell for enough overseas, that we get it so cheaply. I reckon that up to 80% of the meat at my local PakNSave supermarket is beef in one form or another. There's some pork, and chicken, and a smidgeon of lamb, but mostly it is beef.

I now try not to look at the per kilo price. After all, it can be rather misleading. Some chops can look really expensive, yet they would make us a good meal. Instead, I look at the per meal price. Is this packet of lamb chops going to give us one meal, or two? And how much will that cost us? Is it below $5 per meal? If it is, I have a winner. If it isn't, then it gets put back. Sometimes I will spend a bit more than that, for special meat like lamb or fresh salmon, but mostly I stick carefully to that guideline. I find that by doing that, I am able to feed us really well without spending a huge amount on our meat. I try to make sure that we are eating a mixture of fish (terakihi, kawhai, hoki, lemon fish, salmon and a frozen mix of mussels/squid/shrimps are favourite NZ options), beef, bacon, and chicken, with a meal or two of pork or lamb each month depending what is on special.
When I get home from shopping, the meat is all carefully packaged into meal sized portions before being put in the freezer. Here's some lemon fish, waiting to be wrapped.

So there you go, my secret meat-purchasing tool. Do you have any specific criteria when buying meat?

Amy

Monday, 10th January, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Finally


It is with great pleasure that I announce I have FINALLY finished blanket #6 for Operation Cover Up!!!!!!!!!
Here it is:




I ended up using twisty orange wool around the edges as I'd run out of white. I rather like the quirky touch it adds and kind of wish I'd used it instead of the white on the rest of the joining. This is not my favourite blanket. It has taken about 2 years to complete, due to moving, having a baby, and studying (I knitted other squares while this wool was in boxes). I only chose these colours because that's what was available when I was starting the blanket, and I've had so much trouble with the pattern, having to change it several times. But regardless, a child somewhere is going to think this blanket is just marvelous. It will keep them warm on snowy nights. They will be able to snuggle up and remember that somewhere, far away, someone loved them enough to knit a blanket just for them. That is what matters, really. I am so glad to be finished. I have been knitting a few odd squares for my next blanket, but now I can finally let myself get involved in it...in what time I do have available at any rate. My next blanket is going to be a random (as in, random squares, no pattern and no set colours, other than what I have been given to work with already). I've had enough of patterns for now. Grin.


I am really quite chuffed with myself for finishing such a big project, and despite so many set backs and other things claiming my attention.


Amy
Sunday, 9th January, 2011



Friday, January 7, 2011

Munchkin's Favourites - Continued

Here are a few more of Munchkin's favourite toys. I would like to add a disclaimer here, that not all my son's toys are either handmade or things found lying around the house. He does have some nice, proper baby toys too. But I figure that they are pretty standard so you don't need to see them. I recently got him three new toys as we realised that he is kind of outgrowing all his newborn toys and needing things with a little more challenge. He now has one of those metal and bead toys where you thread the wooden beads over the turns in the wire. He also has some 'peekaboo' cubes that have animals inside to look at, and a plastic giraffe tower to 'post' them all into. And the final toy is a very cool triangular thing that suctions onto the highchair, one side having a mirror, and things that whirl and make noises when pushed or rolled, and the other side has 4 little maracas that you can take out of it (for want of a better discription), each a different colour and shape with a different sounding noise when shaken. He is rather taken with this toy, much to my delight. I am rather thankful for the nice lady at the second hand store finding it for me!
So now that I have made my disclaimer, here are a few other recent favourites:
An empty chippy bag has given hours and hours of entertainment. The first one got left behind on a trip away, but has been replaced by another (Mummy and Daddy having terribly hard task of emptying the bag of our favourite chippies first!).
This is a wooden spoon. You might find it hard to see, as it was moving rather fast. A very versitile toy, this should be a gift to all 6 month old babies. Option A: eat it. Being wooden, it is nice and hard, and safe to chew away at to help those sore gums. Option B: wave it around madly (and see which unfortunate relative you can bop unsuspectingly!). Option C: Bang it on things. Option D: Throw it off your highchair and see where it lands. Option E: When tired of all else, eat it again...just don't push the narrow end in too far or you might gag. Munchkin is now a verteran wooden spoon user. He has his own one, just for him. I don't particularly want to share his dribble any more than is necessary.


A recent creative project, I made some formula drums. They used up a few of the empty bazillion or so formula containers we have. I simply dried some rice and chickpeas in the oven for awhile, then glued the lid on once they were in the drums. I then covered it all with fabric and finished it off with a ribbon to help keep the lid secure. The masking tape down the sides is to doubly secure the material with such a small eating machine to contend with. Material costs: Ribbon and a couple of small tubes of glue. I had everything else on hand. These are currently being rolled around the floor, or hit with the wooden spoon (with assistance from Mummy most times). Oh, and eaten, of course! They will hopefully last a few months so Munchkin can use them more as he gets older.

So there you have it, a few more simple toys.


Amy

Friday, 7th January, 2011






Grocery Budget - Annual Clear-out

I am currently doing my annual clearout. This is something that started happening quite by accident when we lived in North QLD. Prices for fresh produce went through the roof every summer, you see. Things had to be shipped in as our local climate didn't make for very good growing conditions (most foods we eat don't like being under a foot of water or soaked for day upon day by torrential rain). Those foods that did make it up north were not terribly inspiring (such as the lettuce that was limp and slimy when I picked it up in the supermarket - it got put back down!). In our last year there I did discover a local market which kept us in fruit and vegetables at much better prices and quality (big, fat passionfruit, ladyfinger bananas, potatoes from the Atherton Tablelands, yum, I do miss them!). But I still found that we could use our ENTIRE month's grocery money just on fruit and vegetables. Not to worry though, I am a hoarder by nature, and had piles of food in the cupboards so I just decided that one month of summer (January, or March maybe) we would eat only from the stockpile of dry goods, meat and other saved goodies in the freezer and therefore have the grocery budget free for fruit and veges.

I am continuing the tradition. This year it is not such a big deal, with NZ summer produce being a little more affordable over summer, but I have still noticed that to get good quality fruit around Christmas and into January requires higher per kilo prices than I would usually spend the rest of the year. Most fruit has either finished it's season or is yet to start it. We have delicious stone fruit (apricots, nectarines, and peaches, as well as cherries) but these are a little more expensive, especially at the start of the season.

The other reason I've decided to continue the tradition is that it is a good opportunity to go through everything and use things up before they get too old. I have a slight tendency to 'lose' things in my freezer. Okay, so it's more than slight. I do get a bit carried away with saving food sometimes, that it ends up being wasted in the end anyway because I don't use it before it is past it's best. This is a concept that Simple Savings (www.simplesavings.com.au) utilises really well with their $21 Challenge - the idea is that you use up what is in your pantry one week and spend only $21 or as close to that as you can, instead of just mindlessly doing your usual shop. It is just great for anyone who shops weekly or even fortnightly - as I shop monthly this is kind of my version of it. Any extra money not spent on cherries will go towards a few other small items we need around the house.

So this month I am back to menu planning, focused around meals that use up things in the freezer and cupboards with as little new items needing to be purchased as possible. It is quite a challenge, and nice to get to make some different food from the very boring fare we've had since Munchkin was born. I am utilising a Christmas present, 100+ Tasty $10 Meals by Sophie Grey (Destitute Gourmet) to help.

What forgotten things do you have in your pantry that you could use to make a meal with this week? So far we've had 2 nights of meatloaf to use up some mince and breadcrumbs, a few meals planned that need chicken stock which I made last week from 3 carcasses I'd been saving in the freezer, a bean and sausage dish, and next week one that uses lentils with kumara (sweet potato).

Amy

Friday, 7th January, 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

More Garden Bounty

Here's some more garden bounty, but of a different sort. While I primarly enjoy growing things I can eat, I love looking at beauty and smelling sweet perfume so I also enjoy growing flowers whenever I can.


I learnt this trick from my mother, who is a rather dab hand at arranging flowers. They are an amazing way of brightening up a room. She usually has a bunch in one room or another around the house, but the toilet is the most likely place. I remember in one house, we would often have a small posy of violets from the garden sitting on the toilet cistern...just gorgeous against the dark green tiles. I've noticed that flowers last well there, out of direct sun but under a window to get a bit of light. And I find that I actually notice them more than in other rooms of the house. While it is nice to have flowers in the bedroom, I rarely go there during the day. On the dining table is a lovely spot, but our dining table seems to invariably be crowded out with one or more fruit bowls and various other bits of paper, etc that are yet to be sorted out. Grin. So while I do put flowers there, they tend to get overwhelmed a bit by all the other clutter. Similar problem in any other place that I actually have a suitable shelf or table to put them...I don't get to appreciate them as I would like to because they are actually hard to see (really should do something about our storage issues one of these days). So these lovely flowers, picked from the Big Garden earlier this week, made their way into the toilet room. It gets visited multiple times a day, and they greet me cherrily every time. They aren't cluttered with other things, and they make an otherwise dull place seem a little nicer. The other benefit is that I don't spend the day sneezing from the heavy sweet pea perfume, which is what happened for the 10minutes or so they spent on the dining table! You can't really see in the intensity of colour in the hot pink/red geraniums here. They are combined with sweet peas, some parsley seed heads, and a bit of flower off the oregano. The Big House doesn't really have a flower garden at present, so we pop flowers in around the herb patches, on the ends of the long beds, and along the front of the raspberries and passionfruit. I think it looks quite beautiful. We have cosmos, calendulas, borage, sunflowers and more coming along. I even put in a few along beside the driveway here and am so excited to see them starting to flower.

Where is your favourite place for a vase of fresh flowers?


Amy
Thursday, 6th January, 2011

The First Decent Summer Harvest


Here is our first decent summer harvest, from up at the Big Garden (my parent's garden). Our tomatoes are a couple of weeks behind theirs and just starting to change colour. We have been getting a few salad greens, zucchinis, and some strawberries and raspberries before now, but this is the first time it feels like I have really done a proper harvest. This is proving to be a nasty summer in the Bay of Plenty for growing things. Firstly, it has been rather damp and humid. The strawberry plants at my parents look sick. Not much fruit off them this year and hardly a flower in sight now. The 20 runners planted here have been producing, but some days they go to the blackbirds and slugs as they are rotting so quickly in the damp conditions. The Christmas raspberries have also succumbed somewhat to the wet weather. They seem to have little tiny bugs or caterpillars in residence inside many of the ripe berries. I am beginning to understand why store-bought raspberries are always so under-ripe. The more ripe the berry, the more likely there will be added protein. This, I imagine, is not a very desirable characteristic when you are trying to sell your raspberries. I am not so keen on it when I've grown them myself.
The tomato plants are looking more healthy overall than last year, when they had some weird viral disease. Some plants are still exhibiting the funny leaf curling seen last year, but overall they look better. It is interesting seeing the difference in growth habits between the different varieties. The cherry tomatoes go straight up, in long gangly branches. Everywhere. They require a fair bit of tip pruning just to keep them from taking over the whole garden. The San Marzano romas are a much more compact plant. Uncle Roald's Super Tomatoes have very, very long and bushy leaves.
Now I just have to work out what to do with all those cucumbers! We ate the beans tonight. There haven't been many this year (unlike last year where they were coming out our ears because the first lot I planted looked like they would keel over and die but didn't so we had several lots - this year we have only one short row of dwarf beans, and a row of climbing ones just starting to flower). The zucchini will disappear into a stir-fry or something without any hassles. The raspberries are mostly eaten already - the sooner you eat them, the less time they have to go mouldy or squishy. And here are some of our first tomatoes.
Have you been harvesting anything this week?
Amy
Thursday, 6th January, 2011

Pencils and Rulers and All Things Stationery

Warehouse Stationery is having its annual 'back to school' sale until the 9th. I duly headed out yesterday and got the stationery for my Christmas Child boxes this year.
Only they didn't have the pencils I wanted to get. Apparently not received yet. Grr. I will have to try again on Saturday. In past years I have just got cheap packs of 12 pencils and split them into my boxes so the kids get 3 or 4 each. But having seen what cheap pencils are like on my practicum (teaching experience) earlier this year, I really want to get them some decent quality ones this time, even though that means they will get less. Cheap pencils break frequently, particularly when being sharpened, so get used faster and therefore aren't such a savings after all. I also haven't managed to get any coloured pencils. My budget is a bit tight at present so I've had to leave them for now, although I'm still hoping I can find some more money over the next few days so I can get some.

So this year's boxes have an exercise book, a notebook, a small eraser, a metal pencil sharpener, and a plastic ruler.

It doesn't look particularly exciting to my gift-giving eyes, but I know that most likely these will be the gifts that mean the most to the children who receive them, as it means they can go to school. They will treasure their stationery.


Amy

Thursday, 6th January, 2011

Chew Bags


I recently got out my sewing machine for a very quick project, reminding myself that no one was going to be investigating my sewing to see if it was straight or not. I made about 5 chewbags for Munchkin out of some cheesecloth/muttoncloth I bought at a local discount store. My husband had a bit of a giggle as the bags are a mix of different sizes, as I tried to get a handle on how the cloth was stretching, but didn't want to throw out any attempts! I was trying to get them made as quickly as possible, and simply zigzag stitched round each one twice, having turned the tops over first. The idea is that you drop a piece of fruit in, and then knot the top. Munchkin is quite happy with the finished results. The past week or so he has tried orange, nectarine, watermelon and rockmelon. He has yet to fully grasp the concept that the yummy stuff is only in one end, but will happily chew on the unfilled end anyway as he likes to suck water out of similar cloths when he is hot and/or bored. In saying that, he has already worked out what they look like, and gets rather excited as he sits in his highchair waiting while I get one ready! To wash, I turn them inside out and empty any remaining contents into the scrap container, rinse under the kitchen tap, then add the chewbag to the rest of his normal washing. A successful project.


Amy

Thursday, 6th January, 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christmas Day Happenings


We enjoyed our quiet Christmas Day. I find it surprising how many people asked how Munchkin enjoyed his. He, being 7 months old, was completely oblivious. Then people would say it must be so much more fun doing Christmas now we have a child. Ah, nope. It just meant that we had to remember he needs sleep every 2-3 hours, and feeding, and changing, etc, etc, etc. I guess it will be in a few years time, when he has some concept of the idea and actually gets excited about it. But we still intend on keeping things simple so the real reason we celebrate (Jesus) doesn't get lost in the hype.
We enjoyed a nice roast lunch together, but forgot to set up our stockings (opps...) so we ate the goodies from them during the day. We wrapped 2 shoe boxes. I wanted to do more, but as this ended up being the very last thing before bed, the desperate need for sleep won out over my more romantic ideals. I honestly can't remember what happened with the rest of the day. I think we went for a walk. Munchkin had a few sleeps. We had presents from Boyo's parents. Our church had a Boxing Day service, rather than a Christmas Day one. We didn't make even that as Munchkin crashed into a pile of rather long sleeps. I think that about sums up our Christmas: a relaxing day.

The highlight of the day for me was definitely wrapping the shoe boxes, even if I was almost needing to prop my eyes open by the time we got to do them. I also picked up a new wrapping technique from my amazing husband! See how neatly the sides of the lid are done? And all without any cutting involved, just fold over carefully like you would a present. I'd been carefully cutting and sticking and all sorts of things...this took a bit of getting used to but once I got the hang of it, it was much tidier and faster. Love it.

A couple of the little gifts we got to get things started for the year.



And another, with Boyo testing it out - works quite well.


Amy
Wednesday, 5th January, 2011


Space

A strange new thing has been happening to me the past few weeks. This phenomenon has left me puzzling on quite a number of occasions. I find myself unsure, hesitant, sceptical even.

I have evenings. They have crept back into my life ever so quietly, and I have found myself at a bit of a loss as to what to do with them.

You see, to get Munchkin sleeping through the night requires a considerable amount of food and therefore time. He is a tall boy, about as tall as baby's get according to Plunket. We like to say he takes after his mother (his mother, being me, is a delicate framed, tiny slip of a thing!). It makes people laugh, even if it doesn't stop the comments of "he's HUGE!" much at all. To get him sleeping through the night I was feeding him 3hourly in the mornings, then at 1:30, 3:30, 5, 7 and 8 (with a bath in between - I am not sure when I ate, I know I did but I don't remember how or when). Apparently goats milk formula is lower in fat than other types, which also means he needed more to 'tank up' for the night. Even with all that food, he only managed a couple of months before needing a night feed again for another couple of months, before finally starting to sleep through again a few weeks back. He is now down to just 4 milk feeds, 3 solid meals, and a chew bag snack or two each day. Today being the first day of 4 feeds instead of 5, I am hoping it works fine but I think he ate about the right amount.

It is such a novel thing, having an evening again. I used to spend pretty much all afternoon and evening feeding and changing Munchkin, then an hour tidying up, preparing for the next day and then finally getting myself ready for bed. This was while I was studying too - most of the morning when I wasn't looking after Munchkin. Free time after lunch still feels like such a luxury. Actually, free time at all does. There have been a few evenings where I have not quite known what to do with myself, but I am now starting to settle in and enjoy the little bit of space in my day. I did some knitting last week. Rather novel, and oh, so relaxing. I've watered the garden a few times without it being a running race against time and the dark. Tonight I cleaned the bathroom, saving myself from doing it later in the week. I'm about to go and hang out some washing...usually something left for Boyo in the mornings (there will of course still be more for him to do tomorrow - never ending as it is!). This week I even took some 'time off' in honour of the Public Holidays which we hardly even notice in our household (my husband works most of them currently) and read a book. I think it must have been a year since I read a fictional book. It was rather enjoyable. My eyes are a little tired now. My husband is glad it is finished. I am not. I would like to start another, but I am being restrained and sticking with my 'to do' list for the next little while instead. I watched a few movies on tv too over the Christmas period, but am trying to avoid the tv again now...it is such a mind-numbing time waster that I'd be better off knitting or reading or something instead, and saving tv for when I really, really, really want/need it (plus the movies are on past my bedtime and after staying up late 2 nights in a row last week for New Years and to read my book, I am still feeling the effects!).

Ah, the joys of having half an hour or so in the evening before sleep takes hold. What do you like doing in the evening to relax?

Amy

Wednesday, 5th January, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grocery Budget - Overview

I'm wondering if anyone else does what I do with the food budget, and divide it into different areas to see how much each area costs?

I don't worry much about it these days, but when I was first starting to watch what we spent on food, I looked at how much we spent each month (we run a monthly budget) in each area of our food budget...so meat, fruit and veges, eggs, bread, and dry goods (which also includes sundry things like deodorant, toothpaste, tinfoil, etc, and anything else I can squeeze in there!). Being someone who likes to know what is where and where is what, I found this helpful in assisting me to get a handle on where our food dollars were vanishing.

In Townsville, I used to write down the costs of everything I bought in the grocery budget. I made an Excel spreadsheet specifically, and would write up each month, giving myself a total for the month, and then also breaking down the fruit (what I got, how much it cost and per serve cost) and meat (same again). Yup, a little extreme perhaps, but because I did this for the three years we lived in North QLD, I was very aware of how food prices moved. People would comment that it felt like food had gone up a lot. The newspapers even reported it. And I noticed that I was starting to run out of money in what had originally been a rather generous budget. So I went back and looked at my grocery spreadsheet. Sure enough, our food costs went up by around 20-25% in just over a year. Fortunately we were on a higher income then and were able to increase the budget, as well as being more aware of areas we could cut back in. Now, being on a lower income, being aware of what I am spending on groceries is even more important.
Here's our old food budget of $400 a month (Australian):
Giving $30/month
Meat/Fish $40/month
Chooks/Garden $10/month (save for seed/grit/seeds/fertilizer/etc)
Bread $30
Staples $130
Fruit and Vegetables $130/month ($30/weekly)
Dinner out $30/month

Obviously things have changed somewhat! Our grocery budget is now $550NZ. And it doesn't include dinner out as an item. Our meat costs have risen to around $70/month. Giving remains the same, if I am careful I can spend $30 on Christmas Child Box items. I am not specifically putting money aside for the garden (no chooks, very sad!). I make bread, and Boyo buys it. Fruit and veges are taking up to double what they were each week (and this with a vegetable garden that produces way more than my old one!), and staples have gone through the roof!

So how do I do things now? We operate a cash system for our day to day spending. We pay our main monthly bills online, in person, by the 1st of each month. We could have set them up as automatic payments, but I prefer it this way. This way, we have to physically sit down and assess where we are at financially at least once a month. (This year I have not been doing my monthly groceries write up though. I do kind of miss it, but the time factor means that it has had to go.) So once that is done, we take out enough cash for groceries, spending, birthdays, giving, petrol, and pocket money. It currently goes into plastic bags. I hope to make some zipped fabric ones instead, both because the bags keep breaking, and people keep staring at my plastic bag of money! One of these days (I need help with zips).

So I get my $550 for groceries, and fill in my shopping list (an Excel spreadsheet with our usual stuff listed, which I orint out and write amounts next to or cross out if not needed). A few months back I also started putting $60 aside for each week's fruit and veges (which includes eggs and bread too) as I was finding that I'd not leave enough after the big shop and things were getting too thin by the end of the month. I really don't like scrimping on the fresh stuff and this seems to be helping! If there is money left at the end of the month, it is a good month! If there isn't, I have to find some from somewhere or change what I want to buy.

So there you go. Further posts will follow on individual areas of the groceries.
In the meantime, happy munching!

Amy
Tuesday, 4th January, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Wishing you all a Happy New Year as 2011 dawns. It is amazing just how fast the year has disappeared on us. Here we are again, at the beginning of another. Yesterday I had to say "this coming year..." and suddenly, after one night, I can now say "this year..."

I must admit to being somewhat at a loss as to what all the fuss is about with New Years. I've never really 'got it.' There's something about staying up late for the sole purpose of saying "Happy New Years" that really does not float my boat. I like bed. I love sleep. I do not like 'having' to stay up. Even in my teens and early 20s I didn't like New Years. I was quite happy to do all-nighters from time to time, but usually it would be on spontaneous occassions when I just happened to be out with friends and we decided to do some mission or other over night! Having to stay up for the sake of it, that's another story.

I think my dislike of New Years has a lot to do with disliking the noise. I am a light sleeper and the bain of my life is that I find it nearly impossible to sleep with music going - bass particularly will drive me up the wall. Even our incredibly quiet, secluded neighbourhood here (which has had all of 1 or 2 parties throughout the 9 months we've lived here) had several lots of music and partying going last night. Boyo and I headed to bed. We were probably asleep by 1am, after most of the noise started to die down (thank God!). I was up at 6am. Life with a baby is somewhat different from the carefree existence of my single days. Then, if I did stay up late or till dawn even, I could head back to bed for a few hours sleep. This so does not happen now. Munchkin will be up, whether I want him to be or not. I did get a nap this afternoon at least.

I have also worked out another reason why I've never really liked New Years much. It has to do with the whole New Year's Resolution thing that we seem to have going. People would ask me, "so what do you want to do this year?" and of course on the 1st of January, I would have absolutely NO idea. I would feel pushed, propelled towards a future for which I was not ready. I hadn't finished with last year, people, so do we really have to start a new one just yet? Can't I keep the old one for another month or so? It needs a bit of tidying up and I still feel rather attached to it. After I worked out that I didn't feel prepared for New Years, I did start to feel a bit better about it. I am able to remind myself that it is just a day. We humans like to keep track of time, and this is one way we do it. We like to make plans, and New Years provides an ideal moment in time for us to do so. But that doesn't mean I have to be all excited about it. So I haven't finished with last year yet. Well, I can still mull over it for as long as I want to, really. I can write down the good bits and the bad bits, and finish off things that are as yet unfinished. I don't need to have some amazing list of resolutions for the year ahead. It sounds like people hardly ever fulfill them anyway. I'm better off sticking with my recent regime of writing down dreams and goals during the year and ticking them off/moving them around whenever I feel like reviewing during the year.

My year starts in February. This is what I have worked out. Invariably it seems that things happen in February. This shouldn't really be a surprise to me. After all, schools start in February. Most businesses in NZ seem to have some kind of a 'down time' in January while people are on summer holidays. So February it is. This is a good thing really. It means I get a whole month to adjust to the fact that we are in a new year. I get a month to say goodbye to 2010 and a month to say hello to 2011. Good. So now it doesn't feel like I'm being rushed into another year.

And on that note, I wish you a Happy New Year. Who knows what lies ahead of us? I hope for good health, happy times, prosperity and strong relationships. But mostly I hope that I live a year I can be proud of, a year in which I live more for others and less for myself, in which I find more of God in the daily chores of living, a year in which I can laugh and dream and plan with gratitude for all the good things, and have the support, comfort and love I need for all the not-so-good.

Amy
Saturday, 1st January, 2011

Simple Double Blessing




Another tap around my place. This one is outside, on the front of the house. It has a matching partner on the rear of the unit which I have yet to get to. What saddens me is that the water I get from this tap, which I use to water the garden, is better quality water than most of the world is able to drink. I was bucketing water onto the garden before being given this hose a few months ago - it has made looking after the garden so much easier! A real blessing. The job is so much faster, and easier on my back. Again, it is really such a privilege to have something this simple which we often take for granted in New Zealand. I know that so many women (and men and often children too) around the world have to carry their water kilometres. I am so blessed to be able to turn on a tap and have it provide water gushing out: clean, drinkable, and loads of it.




Amy


Saturday, 1st January, 2011