Know your currawongs

Currawongs vs Magpies

At a recent family gathering where physical distancing was strictly enforced, my dear Uncle pointed out that in my blog post about the Victorian Fortifications at Middle Head, I had made a mistake!

I had incorrectly identified magpies as currawongs. This is a grave error and my family of amateur but deadly serious twitchers were somewhat disturbed by my rookie faux pas.  There was a great deal of comment about my journalistic credentials and accusations of “fake news”.

I, therefore, apologise most humbly for my error and all future posts which include the identification of native Australian birds will be subject to strict quality checking by the newly established Family Ornithological Committee.

I’d like to thank my most esteemed Uncle for not calling me out publically and highlighting my error in the comments section.

🙂

These are magpies, not currawongs.

Check out the cheeky magpies at this site

 

Magpies have a lighter coloured beak and extensive white markings. There are significant regional differences between magpies. Juveniles are grey. They should also not be confused with pee-wees which are much smaller. Currawongs, on the other hand, have a black beak and only a small amount of white on their under-tail area. I don’t have a photo of a currawong or pee-wees to share.

The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen – Book Review

As my Year of Zero approaches it’s halfway point, I must confess that I have bought a book! Yes, a brand new one! Not even second hand! It’s a bit of a Catch 22 really. I said I was not going to buy anything new but then this book will help me with one of my other goals, which is to be more of an eco-warrior princess. The book The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen, by Lindsay Miles was published this month by Hardie Grant. It is a common-sense, no-nonsense guide on how to cut down  or maybe even eliminate kitchen waste. (depending on how warrior-like you choose to be!)

I have been following Lindsay’s blog, Treading My Own Path, for a few months now and I found her advice there very sound and helpful, so thought the book would be a good way to help  keep me on track to achieve my “be less wasteful” goals.

Lindsay approaches the less waste issue with a huge dollop of realism. She is not into naming and shaming. She sets out her philosophy in her introduction:

“ [the] purpose [of this book] is to give you ideas and tools to make changes and feel positive about the things you can do and not guilty about the things you can’t do”.

Less Fuss No WasteThe 223-page softcover book is full of practical ideas. It is divided into five chapters. There are lovely pastel illustrations throughout and plenty of charts and tables to make things easy to understand.

Part 1 gives a recount of our modern industrial food system and why it is no longer sustainable. (If it ever was) Supermarkets are full of abundant and relatively cheap food which is available all year round. Fruits like cherries which were once only available at Christmas time are now shipped in thousands of kilometres from the Northern Hemisphere. Hardly sustainable! While there is a lot of food, our choices are limited to those species ‘selected’ for their high yields, durability and size not unfortunately for their flavour.

The next three chapters look at separate categories where the consumer can take planet-positive actions.

Part 2 looks at how to reduce or remove packaging and plastic, Part 3 introduces carbon-friendly food choices and finally, Part 4 shows how you can reduce your food waste by careful storage, and using as much of your food as possible. This incidentally will save you money as well.

The final section Part 5: Getting started in your (less waste no fuss) kitchen, gives the reader ideas on how to plan meals, how to avoid single-use items and simple recipes for things you can make yourself.

Lindsay does not suggest that you start with an all or nothing approach but rather tackle what you feel most comfortable with first. That may be as simple as remembering to take your own bags to the supermarket or buying from a bulk food store. As you master one thing you can move on to include something a little more robust like reducing your intake of animal foods or buying only plastic-free produce from the farmer’s market.

Lindsay categorises potential actions by ”fuss level” from Fuss Level + to Fuss Level +++.

For instance, if you want to concentrate on reducing plastic packaging, a Fuss + option would be to “Take a stand: pick one grocery item that only comes packaged in plastic and stop buying it altogether.” The Fuss +++ version would be to make the item, like crackers for example, from scratch.

It’s an easy, enjoyable read that I’d recommend dipping in and out of as often as you like. It’s a reference book rather than a novel. Keep it handy in your kitchen. Lindsay’s writing style is unpretentious, friendly and encouraging.

My goal is to make more from scratch and reduce the amount of food I throw out. To this end, I am planning my meals more carefully, sticking to a list and buying what I can in bulk. I’ll definitely be trying out some of Lindsay’s cracker recipes! My biggest stumbling block is reducing the amount of plastic packaging I have, even though I am making a conscious effort to reduce it. It’s everywhere! My next action will be to try a home delivered fruit and vegetable box. This should reduce my packaging a bit.

Go to Lindsay’s website to see where you can order your copy.

 

 

Furious Fiction 12 – June 2020

Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition

Here is my entry for June’s Furious Fiction, the Australian Writers’ Centre’s monthly competition. Lockdown is nearly over here in Australia, but things remain unsettled with racial tension adding another dangerous element to the world’s instability.

As I’ve said before, this competition is a fun activity with a terrific prize. You can read about it on their website.

Basically, it’s 500 words in 55 hours for a $500 prize.

The criteria for June were:

  • Your story’s first and last words must begin with J.
  • Your story must include a game being played.
  • Your story must include the phrase MISS/MISSED THE BOAT.

I’ve continued with Frankie’s journey and although I feel it is unlikely this chapter will make much sense as a stand-alone piece, I am now more focused on the challenge of completing his story using the prompts given.

This month’s entry was submitted on Saturday night at 22:15. 496 words.

You can read the previous chapter in Frankie’s story here.


Chapter 5: Justice for all.

Justice is a tricky concept.  Frankie knew justice didn’t mean fair. It didn’t mean right. It didn’t even mean protection of the innocent. It was a game invented by the people who owned the ball.  A blood sport rigged to ensure the rich always won, even if they broke their own rules. 

Frankie was playing for the wrong team. Judge O’Mallory, on the other hand, was on the winning side. Frankie imagined O’Mallory had been fullback for the First XV at St Swanky’s or wherever his type goes to school.  He probably went to boarding school, packed off at five by his neglectful cold-hearted parents. 

As the bailiff dragged him screaming from the courtroom, Frankie decided it was time he learnt to play by their rules.

He needed someone to tell his story.

——-

“Bailiff! Take him down!” The thunderous words were still ringing in Judge O’Mallory’s ears as the door slammed on Frankie. He wasn’t feeling like a winner. He’d sentenced another poor wretch to five years in prison on the whim of a corrupt government. A government that allowed for the tyrannical rule of the black-shirted Fashion Police. 

—–

Personal grooming had sunk to all-time lows after COVID. People didn’t even bother wearing pants when they were Zooming! The lack of respect spilt over into other areas of life and before long there was anarchy!  

The lack of decency and dignity was deplorable! Someone needed to do something! 

Someone did. 

The UCP. 

The Ultra Conservative Party burst onto the scene after the Pandemic with their promises of a return to the “Old Normal”. Changes in the laws were incremental. Like a lobster in a pot, the heat was turned up so slowly no-one noticed until it was too late. The populous had missed the boat on the democracy front.

Low-slung jeans were the first to go. No more dudes with the crotch of their jeans down around their knees. Who could argue with that? A ban on exposed underwear was quickly followed by the prohibition of activewear anywhere other than the gym. Again a significant portion of the population supported that particular ruling. 

Then bright colours, florals, patterns, stripes and animal prints.  

The UCP controlled the market by buying out all the boutiques.  Easily done, since most had gone under in the lockdown.

They introduced a regulated monochromatic capsule wardrobe which stipulated less than twenty items, a mandated date for changing from one season’s capsule to the next, and jail time for those who breached the code. 

—–

O’Mallory wasn’t the only judge feeling uncomfortable about the fashion laws. The secret rumblings amongst his colleagues were getting bolder.

They needed someone to tell their story.

Frankie’s opinion of O’Mallory was wrong. He didn’t know he had an ally in silk and horsehair

Both men needed the same thing, a fearless storyteller! Someone who was willing to blow the whistle on corruption and intolerance. Did such a person still exist? 

What they needed was a bloody good journalist! 

Is dandruff seasonal? 

During the summer months, I don’t have an issue with dandruff but in the winter I have to be more careful about wearing black. I wondered is dandruff seasonal?

I asked Katrina, my hairdresser, about it and her answer was yes and no.  It isn’t seasonal as such, it has more to do with the temperature of the water we use to wash our hair.

According to Katrina, “Dandruff is just dry skin like anywhere else on your body but the hair traps the flakes and it can’t get away. In the winter, we use hotter water and this dries the skin more so you end up with more dandruff.”

People with oilier hair and hence less dry skin have less dandruff but are likely to use hotter water and wash their hair more frequently. Hormones can also affect the amount of dandruff a person has.  People with thick hair also tend to get more dandruff for two reasons – extra hair traps more flakes and there is also less airflow around the scalp.

To help with this type of dandruff you can try massaging your scalp. Massage stimulates the skin and increases blood flow and the secretion of natural oils which will moisturise your scalp. Using cooler water will also help.

For some people, dandruff is more than just dry skin. More serious forms of dandruff are caused by fungal infections, psoriasis or dermatitis. To deal with these issues you will need to use medicated shampoos. These shampoos can strip the colour from your hair so Katrina recommends you use them every second wash.

There are plenty of fancy treatments around but more natural ones include massaging small amounts of tea-tree oil or coconut oil into your scalp to improve hydration.

Here are a few websites that give you some ideas of how to deal with dandruff.

Nine home remedies to get rid of dandruff https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-treat-dandruff

If you’d prefer a more medical approach have a look at the video and information provided by the American Academy of Dermatology.

 

PS I warned you the Sunday Post was going to be a lucky dip of ideas!

Saving the planet – one pair of socks at a time.

I am balancing precariously on the intersection of two conflicting intents. The conflicting intents? Saving money so I can retire and saving the planet.

Personal savings intent:

I am 59, and I have a huge mortgage as a result of getting divorced and needing to start again. I don’t want to downsize as I am already in a small villa. I want to retire by 62. I have set myself a goal of saving a little over a third of my net pay for the next four years. This should get the mortgage paid off and means I won’t end up homeless.

I am achieving this through a number of strategies which I set out in my Year of Zero Post. Essentially I’m saving money by:

  1. Placing an embargo on buying new things and only replacing stuff if it gets broken or wears out.
  2. Being much more frugal in terms of food, entertainment and lifestyle in general.

Saving the planet intent:

I want to be a more sustainable and ethical buyer. I want to buy from smaller companies, not multinationals. I want to buy local more often and hyper-local wherever possible. I want to buy from people who have bonafide planet-friendly strategies. I want to buy Australian made and Australian owned.  I want to buy from those companies whose triple bottom line includes, profit in terms of money, environment and people.

My dilemma? I need new sports socks. The ones I have are disappearing inside my shoes as I run.

Weighing up the options

I can go to the local chain store KMart, and get three pairs of socks for $2. I won’t buy those because I know they won’t last long and are probably synthetic and will end up smelly. I can afford to splash out and get 3 pairs for $12. KMart has an ethical buying commitment. They are establishing a framework to ensure their suppliers’ employees are paid a living wage.   Their sustainability policy concentrates on sources of cotton and cocoa, social responsibility and saving energy by installing LED lighting. Their environmental bona fides are not great, but they are working towards it. They’re are thinking about it, but they are not there yet.

On the other hand, I could buy from a company like Boody. Boody is an Australian family company which manufactures underwear and socks from ethically and sustainably sourced bamboo. Their environmental credentials are impressive. The bamboo is grown and treated in China. Some of their products are made in Australia, but from their website, it is hard to tell where the items are actually knitted or stitched together.  They employ local people, pay a living wage,  and have a close to zero waste production cycle. They give to planet-friendly charities. They tick the environmental boxes but not the manufactured in Australia box.

Given the KMart socks are also not Australian made, this factor can be cancelled out.  BUT one pair of bamboo socks will cost me $10! I can get a discount if I buy five pairs. This brings it down to $8.80 a pair.

The Decision?

And here is where I get stuck. This is, I fear is where most people get stuck. Do I spend 400% more buying the eco socks or stash the cash in my own account? What wins? The now or the later? My economic future or the future of the planet? What legacy do I want to leave?

The answer becomes clearer when it’s personalised, and I think about my own family. What impact will my actions have on my offspring? What impact can I have as one person?

The journey has to start somewhere, and this time I am going to give the eco-socks a try. My desire to ensure that this one planet remains liveable and viable for my grandson has won the argument.

DISCLAIMER: I have no connection to Boody. They just came up when I searched Google for ethical and sustainable socks.


Nearly $60 later; the socks arrived, they’re soft and fluffy and good quality.  They are labelled “Made in China”. I hope they last!

 

Go Solar!

In my quest to reduce my carbon footprint I am seriously considering installing solar panels. I am coincidently doing a unit of work on energy with my Year 7 Science class.  Since our school is “learning from home”,  I  had time to play with some new apps and techniques to prepare a lesson for remote learning, I put this clip together as a bit of fun. Three parts learning new skills, 3 parts lesson prep and 4 parts just fooling around!

Video footage using my iPhone, screen capture using Loom. Music from Purple Planet. Adobe Sketch with an Apple Pencil and iMovie to put it all together.

 

Signs of the Corona Times

Coping with Coronavirus and its various restrictions is very much at the front of our minds.

This week’s Sunday Post is a return to the Photo(s) of the Week theme. Here are three images which I think sum up what’s happening in the urban first world.

1. Social Distancing

Sure you might have to order from the pavement, but heh!!! you can still get your coffee!

A woman ordering coffee from the pavement
Stay there, please!

2. Working from Home

You might be working from home but at least you’re working! And, if you do have to catch a train, it won’t be crowded!

a train station with empty platforms
Wollongong Train Station: 6:57 AM – on a weekday!

 

3. I can’t go to the gym!

No, you can’t! Or the beautician or the pub or a cafe (unless you order from the pavement!) But there is a good reason for that! “Curve flattening”, people, curve flattening. A flat curve is a good curve!

a picture through the window of a gym it its empty
Oh no, you’re not! Not any more!

 

One thing though as a population, we are much better at reading exponential graphs!


Of course, there are many much more serious impacts. People dying, hospitals being overrun, domestic violence increasing due to lockdown restrictions, hoarding, etc. I don’t mean to diminish the importance of being vigilant and careful. I do mean to emphasise that we should be grateful for what we do have and do our best to help flatten that curve.

Stay at home! Wash your hands!

 

 

The Sunday Post 2

My Favourite Television Shows.

The Sunday Post will be a weekly short, casual chat about trivial matters. (Perhaps that’s no different to my normal posts??!!)

I recently (and about 5 years after the rest of the world) discovered the historical bodice ripper, Poldark. I binge-watched Season 1 on a long haul flight, interweaving it with another British series Line of Duty. Both series were recommended to me by the hosts of a podcast, Chat 10 Looks 3.

I am now racing through the Poldark catalogue. It ends at Season 5.

It got me reminiscing about the shows I used to love to watch.

  • Thirty Something… does anyone remember that?
  • St Elsewhere? I am still really, really careful about cleaning out the bath after one of the main characters died by hitting their head on the bottom of the tub. Stars a very young Denzel Washington.
  • A Country Practice… An Australian favourite – people, well people my age, still talk about the scene where Molly died.
  • The Bill – the original series – it got a bit weird after a while.
  • ER – George Clooney….swoon….
  • NYPD Blue – Bobby and Andy with a sweet spot for John Kelly!
  • LA Law – think shoulder pads.
  • Law and Order before the splinter shows.

More recent favourites have been

  • Offspring– Nina Proudman’s brain is as noisy as mine.
  • Grace and Frankie – perfect demographic for old chooks
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – will Aunt Lydia turn? That’s the big question!
  • Alias Grace
  • The Crown
  • Virgin River – when IS Season 2 coming!!!!
  • Sex Education – thank goodness it’s made by the British and not the US.

I didn’t get into Game of Thrones – I have not watched one single episode. I might yet crumble on that one. One day.

I got bored with Outlanders after staying up ALL night watching Season 1. The staying up all night part didn’t bore me. Season 1 was great, but the next season did not hold my interest.

The Good Wife! How could I forget! I never understood how she had time to be so well put together! You NEVER saw her go shopping.  How could she have such fabulous hair and clothes?

Sea Change! Another great Aussie show. Now the memories are pouring out. Sigrid Thorton and David Wenham. I’m still waiting for my Diver Dan. This was a 1990’s show but they resurrected it in 2019 with a spin-off featuring the now grown-up children…I don’t think I will watch that.

The Sopranos – so much of that watched through fingers half-covering my eyes or my fingers in my ears blocking out the scary bits.

Way, way back when I was still at school, I remember waiting till my dad had gone to bed so I could watch Banacek with George Peppard.

What are your favourite shows from the past? Let me know in the comments below.

PS: Re Poldark. I have now watched every available episode of Poldark. The internet is screaming out for Season 6.  Spoiler alert! In Season 4, there is a bare-chested-getting-out-the-cold-water-scene to rival Mr Darcy’s in Pride and Prejudice.

 

 

The Sunday Post.

Looking for my regular Sunday Post? Last week I announced that sadly, I was abandoning my Mini-doc of the Week project. It has defeated me. During school terms, I don’t have the time to get out and make new content, let alone the time it takes to edit it.

This has caused me some anxiety. I was brought up with the mantra “if you start something finish it”.  I started a yearly challenge of one mini-doc a week, and now after only eight weeks, I’m walking away from it very unfinished. You may have noticed that I am very goal orientated.

You can see the evidence in my 60 for 60 project, the Year of Zero. Etc etc. I have immense respect for Matt Jonowsky, who completed a 52 Week video challenge a few years ago! He made 52 simple, short movies that are inspiring.

What will I post on Sundays instead? I have had a few ideas.

  1. Review of the week – a review of another blog, website, podcast, book etc
  2. Recipe of the week – a healthy gut-friendly remix of old favourites. This also gives me the opportunity to tune up my food photography.
  3. Photo of the week continued?
  4. A news story of the week
  5. Eco Tip of the week
  6. The short story of the week (might land me in the same trouble as the mini-doc!)
  7. Occasional mini-doc of the week.
  8. The crafternoon project of the week.
  9. App of the week?
  10. Money-saving tip of the week

The list could go on and on. And I have to get cracking on my A-Z of Wollongong posts too!! Oh dear, so many ideas so little time! By next week I’ll have Sundays sorted!