Category Archives: Life at Home

Zero Waste Update 3- Collecting Rubbish

Sometimes I feel like I’ve become that annoying, preachy, eco-warrior from hell… Some days I feel like it’s all completely futile. But most days I feel like I’m actually on a meaningful venture that might, just maybe, make a difference. If not to the world then at least to me, my family and even my neighbourhood. There’s been enough interest on my Facebook Zero Waste posts – several likes, a couple of (positive) questions or comments- that suggest to me that a) there are more people who are interested in changing their own habits than I thought there were and that b) there are more people who hadn’t thought about a lot of the issues but are open to hearing new ideas. If there are a lot of people who are cynical about the whole thing and sick of me banging on about it, then at least they’ve had the good cyber-manners to keep quiet.

So, what’s new in the Life household, zero waste wise?? Lots but I think this one deserves a post of its own…

I’ve been on a couple of walks with the dog which have doubled as rubbish-collecting expeditions. One day last week, after a lot of wind and rain (and as it happened the day after the weekly council rubbish collection) I walked down to our local water-front park. The walk itself pretty much demonstrated the journey of a piece of rubbish (plastic and otherwise) that gets dropped in the street. There was so much of it around, undoubtedly much of it dropped and/or blown from household bins as the garbage truck picked them up. From the footpath, rubbish had blown into the gutters. It had then washed along the gutter to the drain, where surprisingly large pieces (and of course small ones) are able to enter. I picked up a shopping bag full of rubbish up off the street and out of the gutter on my way down to the park (about 1km away).

The park is on the water’s edge- there is a narrow harbour beach with a small retaining wall and with the recent wind and high tides the water level had evidently risen high enough to overflow and rise up onto the grass. Once it had subsided, the tide had left a high water line of sticks, plants, shells and RUBBISH. It was incredible. Much of it was plastic. Light enough to float and be washed up, I guess. Top mentions go to the round plastic peelable seals that most milk cartons come with these days. Second was probably those plastic ring seals that the milk cartons without the peelable ones have. There were the ubiquitous bottle tops from sports drinks and bottled water, particularly those small round clear plastic caps they put over the plastic pop-up spout. Plus the inside of pens, miniature plastic soy sauce bottles, many unidentifiable small plastic bits and bobs and of course, a couple of drinking straws. Beer bottle tops and cigarette butts topped the non-plastic offenders and just to mix it up there was also a piece of polystyrene which had broken up into a million billion pieces and I probably picked up about fifty of them.

The park has a dog poo bag dispenser, which I usually shun in favour of my own dog poo bags (we are currently using up our bought stock, after which we’ll start repurposing the other plastic bags that still, somehow, make their way into our home from time to time.) However, on this occasion I was quite glad of the bags, they are the size of a medium freezer bag and I filled 2 of them with small bits of litter from the park.

I set off back up the hill, feeling very virtuous although bothered slightly that if that rubbish hadn’t made it to landfill the first time, perhaps it wouldn’t the second, either. Or the third, or the fourth. Another thing I’ve noticed is how old and tatty a lot of the plastic is and I wonder how long it’s taken to look like that- are these bits of rubbish that have been in the water a month? A year? A decade?

This morning’s walk was more focused on the macro. I took a big department store bag with me (it was the first to hand) which proved lucky as, today being Monday, there seemed to be a lot of weekend rubbish around- not just bottle tops but bottles!! I walked down to a local beach this time. In total, 3 beer bottles, a vodka bottle and a bourbon and coke can plus several cigarette packets and soft drink bottle labels. Plus an equal number of milk bottle seals. At least my neighbours aren’t just drinking booze! The beach itself had the usual little plastic bits and bobs, I didn’t have the time (or, to be honest, the inclination) to pick every single one of them up. After all, I’m meant to be enjoying the walk too, not just staring down at my feet looking for bits of rubbish.

So on my way home I was thinking, I probably need a set of guidelines for when it all seems too much, a futile exercise, or one that becomes a chore rather than a good deed.

Perhaps I should focus on plastic, or big things, or just get a bag-full then stop. I’ve already decided that tiny things in the gutter (in fact most things in the gutter) can just stay there- there’s not much point trying to make the world a better place for myself, my children and the dog to live in if any of us gets taken out by a car whilst scrabbling around in the gutter for rubbish. I’m also really careful with tins and broken glass, my tetanus immunisations are up to date but similarly getting a festering infected wound is probably counter-productive to my zero waste endeavours.

So if you see a strange woman and a bored-looking dog wandering around the beaches and parks of Auckland, it’s probably me!

Zero Waste Update 2*

*I wrote this post in May but it looks as though I didn’t post it…. think maybe Baby L interrupted… Oops!

And so we continue this zero waste project… this morning as I was gazing into our rubbish bin (yes, I know, sad) I was struck by the proportion of its contents that consisted of nappies. We only have 1 child (Miss L) in nappies, although that’s soon (ie hopefully within the week) to be 2. Miss L, at 15kg and 22 months old, is simply too big for the cloth nappies I have, and I’m not forking out for another system when I hope she’ll be toilet trained in the next 6 months. I do try to make a nappy last as long as possible (sometimes invoking the need for nappy cream) and she does have some nappy-free time (usually at her own insistence) which saves on nappies and also does the job of nappy cream. I know it’s not ideal. But it works for us. As with Master and Miss L, I’m intending to use a combination of cloth & disposable for Baby L.

Wipes are another ongoing issue and source of enviro-guilt for me. I looked into bamboo wipes, and will probably give them a go, but I did some research on bamboo on the internet and found conflicting info. Yes it’s “biodegradable” under the right circumstances and “natural” but many sites seemed to suggest that the environmental impact of growing bamboo (clearing land, water consumption) is considerable. Worse than the alternatives? I don’t know. The other option would be toilet roll and some plant-based, super expensive body lotion from somewhere like Ecostore and I was prepared to try this option but annoyingly, when I was there the other day, I found they only sell teeny weeny bottles (not just expensive but also quite wasteful and their bottles are not refillable, just recyclable). I also thought about cloth wipes and just washing them but I know that the realities of washing a poo-encrusted piece of cloth would be prohibitive and it really wouldn’t take off. So back to bamboo it is, I suppose.

So how are the other projects going?

Reducing packaging

My new bread system is working brilliantly! I found an unused large linen drawstring bag, which had come as one of those protective covers for my Country Road Tote bag- which I use all the time unless I have the nappy bag (which is almost all the time) but regardless, I don’t empty my tote and put it away, so I have never had any use for the special bag-bag. I washed it and use it for my bread. It easily fits 4 large loaves, 6 rolls and the occasional scone or other treat.

I felt jubilant last week at the supermarket after psyching up and asking for my chicken breasts from the meat counter to be placed into my Tupperware container (actually they’re Décor but anyway). I had convinced myself that surely I wasn’t the ONLY person to have ever done this, right? The woman looked at me like I was mad. She glanced sideways and said “I’m not really sure I’m allowed to”. I said “I just want to save the plastic”. She added “I’ll have to weigh the container too”. I smiled, said “Just put it on the scales and zero it, then stick the label on the lid”. I was probably the most exciting customer she had all day. Certainly the most excited, I felt positively buoyant after the experience! Today that all came undone when I tried to buy ham from a different branch of the same chain of supermarket and was told “We’re not allowed to do that” but I was offered one of their plastic boxes instead of the usual plastic bag. I tried to explain that my objection was to the plastic, not to the bag, but got nowhere so took the plastic bag and walked off trying to look more haughty and less sheepish than I actually felt. Might have to work on that one….

We are bin-liner free! This was a really easy progression. I used to double line my bins (!!!) in case the liner leaked, so I wouldn’t have to clean the bin (I’d only routinely throw one liner away though, unless it had leaked and the second was dirty). Yes, I’ve had to wash the kitchen bin out a couple of times but it’s really no big deal. I try to put messy rubbish straight into the wheelie bin (the way our house is laid out this is not a big hassle, although once the rainy days of winter arrive I may feel differently) and for really, really messy things (eg chicken bones boiled & strained to make stock) I do put them in a plastic bag.

Toilet rolls– I placed a bulk order for 48 400-sheet 2-ply toilet rolls, from a website called insinc.co.nz, made from recycled paper and wrapped in paper, delivered in a cardboard box, no plastic!! Not entirely sure of the hydrocarbon cost and carbon emission created from the delivery of the box by, presumably, motorised transport but anyway.

Bamboo toothbrushes– I paid $6 a piece for these in Ecostore, then saw a different brand in New World for $4 each so bought one of those too just to compare. As soon as my plastic ones wear down, they’re getting a trial run. Ditto some bamboo cotton buds (which I personally don’t use but Mr L does).

Soap dishes– we are a liquid-soap free house! The bars are quite messy, I think maybe even worse on a dish. Plus they get dirty if you have really dirty hands (think grease from a car exhaust). Plus once they get soft the kids like to dig their fingers into the bars which is wasteful and unsightly but then I suppose so is chucking out a plastic soap refill container every few months.

Washing powder– I found a new brand in cardboard packaging going cheap in New World so decided to give it a go- it’s called Ecoplanet. Not as zero-waste as refilling my ice-cream container at Bin Inn, but I’d bought the non eco-friendly powder last time at Bin Inn, and was feeling guilty about that. I like the Ecoplanet better than some of the other eco-brands as the packaging is completely plastic free- no annoying plastic bag hiding inside the box and even a cardboard scoop instead of those plastic ones that you then get left wondering what to do with.

Cloth napkins– I dug out my (hardly ever used) cloth napkins to use instead of kitchen roll- we weren’t ever great kitchen-roll consumers anyway but I like to use one if I’m eating something messy and they kids have taken to using them too.

Shops

I continue to visit Bin Inn, trying to be mindful of the environmental issues associated with driving there in the first place. I have bought canola oil, golden syrup and honey there now and they do, in fact, sell olive oil, it’s just not on display.

Some other places I’ve found include:

Wise Cicada in Newmarket- they have loads of stuff on offer and seem to market themselves as an organic café/deli/general store. In fact, not all their products are “eco-friendly”- like the cotton-nylon shower puff they had. They had a lot of alternative-style, hemp and hessian bags and clothes for sale but I didn’t feel they offered much over and above my other eco-resources except for staff members with dreadlocks.

Huckleberry Farms– this appears to be a chain, the closest one being within a few km of our house. It seems to be more of a health-food shop and they do sell a lot of naturopathic/alternative health products, but they have a moderate selection of dry goods in bins.

And so we continue to pare our waste down…. Until next time!

Guess Who’s Back?

After a long and busy hiatus, I’m finally back in blog land.

May saw the arrival of our 3rd and final child, a beautiful baby boy. Since then things have been rather hectic with 3 kids to manage but the departure of my parents in law last weekend signalled a return to “normal” (well real, anyway) life.

I have been itching to write again for some weeks now. I’d like to say I have loads of new material and inspiration but I’d be lying, so I thought I’d get writing and see what flowed.

Foremost in my headspace right now (other than Master, Miss and Baby L) are my on-going zero-waste efforts, my aspirations to minimalism as well as some new mindfulness stuff. I’ve read Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better Than Before, since writing last and of course, there’s the usual post baby lose weight/return to exercise/ back to work challenges to tackle.

We anticipate spending another 18 months in NZ (maybe more but probably no less) and after the speed at which the first year and a bit has flow by we have resolved to get out there a bit more and see as much as we can see. So more to follow on that…

For now though, that’s my quick “hello I’m back” spiel, just to get my typing fingers warmed up again.

See you soon x

Family Barometer

Some weeks ago there was a link on Facebook via The Guardian.com to an advice column written by Molly Ringwald– an actress who I associate mainly with the early 90s given that the only movie of hers I can name is The Breakfast Club, which was my best friend at school’s favourite movie (I was never entirely sure why but anyway).

I wondered what an ex (?forgive me Molly if you are still acting) actress might have to say in an advice column- so I idly followed the link to find out. She actually seemed to give quite sensible advice, the problem in question was posed by an adult (man or woman not specified, age over 30 but also not specified) who felt their family (mainly siblings) were becoming increasingly distant and disinterested in them. The details of the situation aren’t important but Molly made a point which I thought was quite well put, in saying “The true barometer for family is showing up, telling the truth and treating those we love with dignity and respect.”

My recent revelation to my sister that I don’t think her partner is a good choice for her (compounded by a couple of other fundamentally different opinions on various issues) has been playing on my mind a lot. Things came to a bit of a head over the Easter weekend when she announced their engagement, of which I was informed by text message. Still no attempt to address or even acknowledge my concerns. Neither has there been an invitation to the wedding, nor an express statement that I am not invited. They are getting married later this month, which for me, currently 38 weeks pregnant, makes it pretty much impossible to go (given that we are living in different countries). In fact, her only reference to me going or not was to say “I realise it’ll be impossible for you to come”. What makes me more angry than being invited or not invited is her (to my mind) evident cowardice in hiding behind my baby as a reason to avoid the issue of inviting me or not, not just with me but with other people who will no doubt all just assume (and if they don’t I imagine she’ll tell them) the reason I’m not going is because I’ll have just had a baby. Maybe I’m just being overly suspicious, but it all seems a bit too convenient. I had the decency to tell the truth, she replied with nothing remotely resembling dignity or respect, and now won’t even show up to the discussion.

It’s not the first time I’ve thought about my family, not just my sister, but also my parents, the way our relationship has turned out, the way we deal with (or, more commonly, avoid) issues as a family, and why things have turned out the way they have. Of course, it’s easy to aspire to the cheesey, convenient TV family set-up with its (usually mildly flawed but) functional relationships and thick layer of warm and fuzzies, but I’ve never been under any illusion that that was us. Thinking about some of my friends, (somewhat depressingly) none of them seem to have what I’d class as an ideal relationship with their parents, or their siblings for the most part. Mr L probably comes the closest with his parents, which seems to pretty much fit Molly’s definition to a tee.

My relationship with my parents is harmonious enough, but at times superficial and lacking in depth or honesty. The other thing I really feel is missing is an active interest in my life (and perhaps mine in theirs too). I mean, they ask how things are, how are the kids, how’s work etc but occasionally it becomes painfully evident that my parents have no idea what I do on a day-to-day basis. As was perfectly demonstrated when I passed my second big set of post-graduate exams, marking the “end” of my vocational training and thus signifying I’d “made it” in my chosen career. I even invited them to Melbourne for the graduation ceremony (which they attended). My Mum then told me some weeks later that my grandmother had asked what I’d “become” now that I’d passed these major exams and she hadn’t been sure what to tell her. I’d devoted over 1000 hours of study to these exams, travelled interstate and overseas to train for and sit them, and my own mother couldn’t actually tell anyone the significance of them to my career, what they “meant” to me.

It’s slipped out before that she really has no idea what I do at work, and I very much doubt if she’d be able to tell you much else about my life in detail, like how many marathons I’ve run (two) let alone where they were (the Gold Coast and Auckland). In fact, she probably wouldn’t confidently be able to tell you I’d actually run a marathon at all. In contrast, Mr L’s parents (who admittedly we do speak with more often but I think that’s a result of their interest rather than the cause) will know if I’m doing even a 10km local fun run and will wish me good luck as well as ask how I went afterwards.

At times I’ve felt close(ish) to my sister. It’s usually been when she’s been at a time of change or uncertainty in her life, such as when she left her first husband. I’ve always thought is was quite telling that I didn’t ask her to be a bridesmaid at my wedding. This was partly because we had a very small wedding and having too large a wedding party would have been silly, but also because I felt absolutely no genuine desire to have her standing beside me as I got married, I didn’t think too hard about why not, I simply felt it would have been a bit token and meaningless. And that was 6 months after she’d left her husband, so based on what I’ve just said, that’s when I thought we were closer than usual!

I’ve sometimes blamed the 4 year age gap or the fact that she’s devoutly religious, and I really hoped that as we went further into adulthood and the relative age gap narrowed that we’d maybe have a bit more in common. Then when her marriage broke up and she left her (loser) first husband, I thought and hoped that maybe a bit of her personality had returned, she’d move away from the hypocrisy that so much of religion is and that she might become more “normal” and our relationship more functional or at least meaningful in turn. But sadly, husband-to-be number 2 is even more of a loser than number 1, and the way things are at the moment, the chances of ever being functional are slim…

In many ways, I feel it’s too late to fundamentally change the relationship I have with either my parents or my sister. I think the reasons we’ve ended up the way we have mainly include personality (that’s just the way they/we are), habit (that’s the way things have always been) and communication style (avoidant and minimalist) but the main reason it bothers me is that I don’t want my kids to be saying similar things about me one day. I can’t do a lot to change my personality but I can certainly show up and communicate better than my family has with me and avoid letting apathy and complacency become a habit.

“Showing up, telling the truth and treating those we love with dignity and respect”: food for thought.

 

 

Zero Waste Update

Well, it’s been ­­­3 weeks since my Zero Waste aspirations began. So far I’ve been quite excited and impressed by the changes we’ve made and by how easy they have been.

So far we’ve managed to:

Refuse plastic bags for our bread and bakery products. This has simply been a matter of requesting a paper bag for the (numerous!) hot cross buns we buy (“Yes, of course no problem!” has been the unanimous reply) and buying our bread from the pick-your-own section of the supermarket. I’ve stopped buying sliced bread as I couldn’t see how, even from Baker’s Delight, this was going to work in a paper bag. Instead I slice my own- I thought the kids would protest about the uneven, more rustic slices, but actually, they haven’t.

Refuse or reduce other packaging

  • Soap- we’re phasing out liquid soap and I’ve ordered some wooden soap dishes online to make it less messy (although to be honest, it’s not too bad but a soap dish which allows the soap to drain and dry between uses should also extend the life of the bar).
  • Bin Inn– our patronage continues and I have bought sugar, washing up liquid, laundry powder, baking soda and buckwheat there. I was excited to see they sell honey and golden syrup as well as canola oil (but alas no olive oil). The other very exciting find was their peanut butter machine- you take your own tub, select smooth, medium or crunchy, and let the machine grind your peanut butter straight into your tub! The kids loved it and so did I!

Ecostore products

  • The toilet brush is great, as toilet brushes go. Not only does it look quite classy (if it’s possible for a toilet brush to look classy) but the bristles are nice and flexible so it cleans brilliantly, and the kids haven’t given it a second glance- I was worried with it not being enclosed that they might want to play with it.
  • I’ve only just finished my regular shampoo (I realised my hair only really needed washing once a week while I’m pregnant- it seems much drier plus I am not exercising so it doesn’t get sweaty), so have only used the Ecostore stuff once. It seemed ok, not very lathery, but I’m sure lather is just some marketing trick to make you feel like you’re getting really clean.
  • Also loving the string bags and no one at the supermarket has had an issue with me buying my fruit and veg in them.
  • The free soap I got dries my skin a bit so I might try another variety next time.
  • I haven’t tried the sanitary products yet.

Dog poo– most of this has gone over the fence with no complaints from the neighbours (human or bovine.)

Bins– I have also cut down on bin liners (we used plastic shopping bags) by not bothering to line the nappy bin in the garage- it stinks anyway so what does it matter- and chucking as much as possible straight in the wheelie bin rather than into a house bin first and filling up a plastic bag. A bin liner now lasts 2 or 3 days, instead of less than 1. This creates the illusion of less rubbish, certainly, as everything packs in tighter, but I like to think we actually have been throwing less out too.

Deodorant- the bicarb/cornflour/coconut oil concoction became difficult to use as the weather has got cooler, as it’s not as soft and easy to apply. I could add more coconut oil I suppose but I’ve actually taken to just using cornstarch (J&J at the moment but I am going to try and move to plain kitchen cornstarch) and perfume with no complaints (from myself or others!)

Picking up rubbish at the beach– I felt like a total hippy but I picked up a small bag (yes ok it would have been better to use a bucket) of rubbish- cigarette butts, wrappers, bits of plastic etc at the beach yesterday.

Resuable coffee cup– we have started taking them out when we get a takeaway coffee (which is actually not all that often anyway). Even Mr L was on board with this today.

Marmalade– I made a big batch of marmalade for the grand total of about $7 this week- made the equivalent of about 5 jars from the shops. Of course it has been bottled in reused jam jars I’d been saving.

My next goal is to source and try out the following:

  •  Shampoo bars- dog & human
  • Bamboo shower puff
  • Bamboo toothbrush
  • Bamboo babywipes
  • Toilet rolls made from recycled paper AND free of plastic packaging
  • Containers for meat from shops etc

 We’ll see how we go!

Zero Waste Home

So I came across a blog called “Zero Waste Home” by Bea Johnson a few weeks ago while reading an article on reducing plastic consumption in your life.

Bea is a French woman living in the US, married to an American guy with 2 children. Essentially, she describes how she lived a fairly “traditional” French childhood in suburban Provence (it never occurred to me that they had suburbs in Provence as I’ve always assumed it was all quaint medieval villages and lavender fields but evidently there are suburbs too!) then when she moved to the US she found herself embroiled in the “American Dream”- big house, big garden, 2 gas guzzling vehicles and a disposable lifestyle.

Motivated by wanting to live in a slightly more atmospheric, inner suburb of whichever US city she’s in, but unable to afford the same scale of house, they embraced minimalism to allow them to downsize and move closer into town.

Eventually she transitioned to and embraced not just having less stuff but creating less waste.

I found the book really quite interesting as it generally seemed to support the feelings I already had about being green and recycling (ie that recycling surely can’t be the “chuck stuff out totally guilt-free” card everyone seems to regard it as). She doesn’t go into a huge amount of detail about the process of recycling, its byproducts and the like, but she does touch on a few processes and suggests that the real problem is plastic. According to Bea, plastics are rarely recycled into equally sustainable products, they are often “downcycled” into products that can’t then be recycled a second time and go to land/ocean fill.

Her philosophy, as I had kind of already embraced myself, is to minimise the amount of stuff that comes into your house, that’s the only way to really minimise the stuff that goes out again. Her 5 Rs are Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. Fairly self- explanatory, but to spell it out,

  • Refuse as much stuff as possible
  • Reduce the amount of stuff you do let into your house
  • Reuse it (as opposed to recycling it)
  • Recycle and Rot (composting) are then last resorts before throwing it in the bin

Some of her tips go a bit far for my liking (each to their own, but she advocates dusting cocoa powder on your cheeks instead of foundation and I don’t fancy a load of flies swarming around me or smelling like a hot chocolate) but she has motivated me to try and reduce as much as possible the amount of stuff we chuck out and to focus, first and foremost, on cutting down our plastic waste.

Some things I’d already been doing for a while, like:

  • Avoiding cling wrap as much as possible- for about a year I’ve been using reusable sandwich wraps. There are several available on the market and many of them are quite expensive, cashing in on a combination of the food-safety paranoia and the environmental concerns surrounding plastics. I must say I found some very reasonably priced ones at Howards Storage World in Australia and I have no idea what their environmental or food safety profile is, but having bought only two and used them all year, surely that’s better than the roll of cling wrap I would otherwise have gone through?
  • Re-using paper in the printer. I used to get a lot of it from work- for some reason my old workplace in Sydney was so wasteful with paper and you’d find reams (literally) of paper printed on one side only that people had left in the printer, I’m not sure why- printed in error I guess, so I’d swipe it and take it home to use. The main problems were I’d actually acquire more than I could use (I don’t print much stuff out at home) and a couple of times I had to be careful about ending up with printouts which had sensitive information on the reverse side.
  • Composting- in Sydney this was a no-brainer as we had a garden we could use the compost in and also chickens, whose poo really needs mixing with compost as it’s too harsh to put straight on the soil (apparently). This had fallen by the wayside since moving to Auckland, mainly because we didn’t have any sort of garden beds (or chickens) to benefit from compost, also because we had nowhere convenient to put a compost bin and finally because every house in NZ (our new one included) seems to have a waste disposal system, which I have always considered an American thing. Anyway we have resurrected our composting habit- it’s amazing how much goes into it and how satisfying it is!
  • Reducing electricity & gas consumption- this was always easy to comply with as it reduces your bills. Happily our new house has instant gas hot water with a thermostat, meaning I have been able to turn down the temperature our hot water is heated to. I could never see the logic of paying to heat water to hotter than your skin can stand, only to cool it down by mixing it with cold water for a shower. It’s not quite as hot as it could be for washing dishes, but it’s fine.
  • Resuable water bottle- I HATE paying to buy water when I’m out, so this is easy.
  • Resuable coffee cup- Mr L and I both have these, however our main motivation was again financial, we’d use them to take coffee from home rather than taking them to cafes to get them filled. But I’ve done it a couple of times now and they haven’t thought I’m a complete weirdo! It’s not that hard. I had also been taking mine to work, to make cups of tea in rather than using the Styrofoam rubbish they have there.

Since reading Zero Waste Home, some of the new things I’ve looked into have included:

  • Buying bread in paper bags as much as possible. I always reused the plastic bags our bread came in, usually for cleaning up after the dog (see below) but felt bad. It’s been pretty easy and hasn’t confined us to expensive Bakers Delight bread (although we do go there quite a bit anyway), turns out our local budget supermarket has very nice loaves of bread which you self-serve in paper bags. Of course, Bea would suggest getting your own cloth bread bag (she uses a pillow case) and doing without the bag altogether, but then what do you store it in when you get home?
  • Packaging- with other products, too, I’ve been much more aware of packaging and trying to stick to a hierarchy of none-paper-glass-plastic. I realised (with horror) that the bars of soap I’ve been buying to use in the shower come in non-recyclable plasticky paper wrapping. I bought some in simple cardboard boxes and have now found some without wrappers at all. They are a little more expensive, but are still less than $3 per bar. I also agonized over my choice of honey in the supermarket, feeling ashamed of my convenient plastic flip-top squeezey bottle- I mean how hard is it to take the top off and use a knife??* But there was no honey in a glass jar, I couldn’t believe it!! So I got a screw top plastic jar which looked like it could be used again, instead of the flimsy, throwaway soft plastic things that most of the honey seems to come in here.   [*I might add that I have previously been down the “which honey container to buy” decision tree, and what led me to the squeezy bottle (when the jars are way cheaper and would ordinarily have won) is the fact that I HATE it when people leave crumbs in the honey/marmalade/jam/butter and even more when there are traces of butter in the non-butter spreads, it grosses me out. I even go so far as to use a clean knife (not the buttery one) after buttering the toast to apply the spread, in order to avoid contaminating it. I realise not everyone shares my OCD tendencies and so to avoid irritation I resorted to buying the squeezer. Anyway, I digress.]
  • And on the subject of soap, for years I have been a liquid soap user, again, not being able to stand the soggy mess on the sink that collects with bars. But I figured it’s a lot of plastic, so when we finish the liquid stuff we’ve got, I’m going to try bars for handwashing once again. (I never got into shower gel for the simple reason it’s so expensive compared to bars of soap, so I’m sure I can cope with bars at the sinks).
  • New shops- I ventured to Ecostore, which I had always dismissed as a complete rip-off in the past, but actually some of their stuff is ok. I came away with a toilet brush (our cheap metal and –gasp- plastic one had fallen apart after about 5 uses, so I bought a wooden handled, natural bristled one, with a wooden & ceramic stand. The brush is compostable so when it gets grotty you chuck in on the compost heap. Then you just buy a replacement brush to put in the old stand. I also bought some organic cotton string bags, which I put fruit and veg in at the supermarket (the things that are too much hassle to have loose) and some all-natural, compostable sanitary pads which were also cheaper than I expected. NB I will NOT be composting these as I think it’s kind of gross for the other household members, but I figured they’ll decompose quicker in the rubbish tip than the normal sort. Some shampoo & conditioner in refillable bottles completed my purchase, and I was rewarded with a free bar of (package free) soap and a lip balm! I was prepared to buy a large tub of laundry detergent, as I quite like the Ecostore stuff, but was disappointed to find they only have a very limited range of products that they’ll refill and their powder detergent isn’t one of them. You can take your containers back but I was told by the woman serving me they recycle them, they don’t refill them. Not like at…..
  • Bin Inn– a chain of sort of health-food shops I suppose is how they describe themselves, but most of their products are in bins sold by weight- you take your own containers which they weigh empty, then weigh again when you’ve put your loot into them! What a fabulous idea. So far I’ve bought rolled oats, sultanas, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, laundry detergent, dry dog food and dog treats. The stuff is reasonably priced- some of it’s more expensive than in the supermarket but some of it is a lot cheaper so I think it breaks even. There’s one about 20 mins drive from us, so it’s probably an awful waste of petrol to go there all the time, but once I get my system going it might work quite well!
  • Dog- I always put her mess into plastic bags then in the bin, but our new house backs onto a big overgrown field whose only users are cows, so I have started chucking her poo over the fence into the long grass. I’m sure the cows won’t mind, given how much mess they themselves make. And when it’s exposed to sun, rain and flies, dog poo doesn’t hang around that long anyway, certainly not compared to sitting in a plastic bag being preserved on a rubbish heap.
  • And finally, I have also tried making my own deodorant!! Using 1/4 cup bicarb soda, 1/4 cup cornflour and 4 tsp coconut oil. It’s ok, it’s like a stick deodorant only not in a very convenient dispenser (you rub it on with your fingers). I’m not a super sweaty, smelly person, luckily, or I don’t think I’d get away with it. I have been a bit sweatier than usual, but I have about 4 bottles of perfume that take me aaages to get through so I figured I’d start using them daily and they can supplement the deodorant. I generally buy fragrance-free deodorant anyway, and have always balked at the cost of the aerosol stuff. As luck would have it, I didn’t make it to Aldi during our recent trip to Sydney to buy any more of their cheap, perfectly acceptable, mildly-fragranced stuff anyway, and I was already resenting paying $7 a can for branded stuff here.

It’d be nice to get to the point where we don’t have to put up with meat, cheese, fish & deli products in their inevitable plastic wrapping but to do this I think I’m going to have to start shopping at small local shops who’ll take a BYO container and put the stuff into it. An idea I like in theory, but the convenience of a supermarket instead of 5 different outlets, particularly with 2 kids in tow, just wins out most of the time.

Will we ever do away with plastic altogether? No. And I don’t think we’ll achieve completely zero plastic waste either. Plastic has its uses. I have a lot of plastic tubs already and I can’t see the point of chucking them out to buy other substitutes- I’ll use them until they fall apart (ideally forever)- surely that’s better than them going to landfill now? Plus, plastic is really useful for keeping things fresh! I keep my vegetables in plastic bags in the fridge so they don’t go soft. And plastic is better than paper for keeping bread from going stale. What I am trying to do is have designated sturdy plastic bags which I can reuse many times over before they need to be thrown out.

 Anyway, we’ll see, It’s a start, at least!

How do you tell someone that you don’t like their partner?

Well the first question, I guess, should be DO you tell someone that you don’t like their partner? Of course, it depends. If that person is your boss, then no, you don’t. If it’s a friend, well, it probably depends on how close a friend they are, if they’re happy with said partner, how serious it is and why it is you don’t like this partner. Do you just not “click” or is he (let’s assume for simplicity’s sake your friend is a heterosexual female) demeaning her, cheating on her or hitting her? Ok, so it’s a grey area with a lot of factors to consider.

 Let’s now assume for the sake of the argument that the heterosexual female in question is your sister. And the partner you don’t like is unofficially moved in with her, soon to be officially moved in with her. So the “person” you want to tell is important to you and all the signs are there that this is serious. To be absolutely sure, you ask “So, what do you see happening with Mr P long term?” and she says “Oh we’re planning on getting married”. So that clears up that glimmer of hope/doubt you may have had.

 You are philosophically at opposite ends of the spectrum from your sister and Mr P on several issues, namely religion, which doesn’t make objective analysis any easier, but you try and be as objective as possible anyway.

So what about him? Do you click? No. Have you ever? No. In fact, he struck you as slightly odd the first time you met him. Not just because of the dodgy boy-racer car and service station sunnies he was wearing (at the age of 36) but by the slightly immature way he said he didn’t mind driving 3 (noisy) hours between their houses because “she’s worth it”. Obsequious people always make you uncomfortable. The second time you met him he struck you as downright inappropriate, it was hardly an hour after giving birth to your second child and he tagged along with your sister when she visited you, still in the delivery suite, the blood-stained hospital linen barely cleared from the bed and you still naked from the waist down (under a sheet, but still….) Being half naked and dripping blood from your privates in front of any man other than your husband also makes you uncomfortable.

Is he good to your sister? Well, superficially, yes. He gives her gifts. He holds her hand. Constantly. At family functions. Glued to her side on the couch. According to her he’s very loving and supportive. Now consider your dog. She gives you tennis balls. And places her paw on your knee. And jumps up on the couch to put her head in your lap the minute you sit down. She dribbles a bit, which is probably the main difference from Mr P, but then you haven’t scrutinised them closely enough to be sure he doesn’t either.

Is he good for your sister? No. Definitely not. He has no job. He seems to have no particular desire to obtain or hold down a job. Putting food on the table is easily done when she pays for it. Oh and cooks it for him after he’s had a hard day doing nothing. It gradually emerges that he has some bizarre ideas. Ok so the religion is excusable, being the most widely socially acceptable form of lunacy there is (apologies to whoever I am misquoting there). But the anti-fluoride campaigns? The anti-vaccination sentiments? He never struck you as the kind of person you wanted hanging around your children, but suddenly you’re almost relieved that in 3 months you’ll have a newborn and you’ll be able to emphatically say “NFW he’s coming near my baby and giving them whooping cough”. And then you think “Stuff it, NFW is he coming near any of my babies with his kooky ideas and other weirdness.”

So you try and say to her “Is he REALLY what you need”. And she says “Yes.” Ok. Oh, sorry, you didn’t realise he had reasons to be weird and useless… the ADHD, the depression… excuses, excuses, excuses. And then the moving in becomes official, and they’re moving into a house which is going to be mortgaged in her name only, he’s still without a job, and your parents have put up half the deposit for the place. And they will be defacto in the eyes of the law and in 2 or 5 or 10 years when it all falls apart he’ll be legally entitled to half of what she has. And so you say “I know you think this is a good idea, but I DON’T and I feel I have to tell you why.” And then you wait for a response….

Wherever I lay my hat, perhaps??*

And so, after 6 months, we are moving again. Our landlords are returning unexpectedly from overseas and asked us very nicely to move out so they could have their family home back. We asked them not so nicely to pay for everything and they eventually agreed and so here we are, moving again.

Which has got me thinking again about the topic of “home”, which I tried to define in this post. When I wrote it, the house didn’t feel like home at all, and when I got the phone call asking us if we’d consider moving, I thought “Yeah, why not, it’s not like this is our home, we’ll find another house”. And yet in the few weeks since then (yep, we move quickly!) all I seem to have been able to think about is how much that rental house does feel like home now.

I’d say it’s taken me about 6 months to settle in. And by “settle in” I mean get a routine going, feel comfortable going about the activities of daily normal living that make you feel like life is pottering along happily. I’ve got my supermarkets [a- close and cheap] [b- the only one that sells the rolled oats I like] and [c-nice bread and earns us Airpoints]. I’ve figured out which bread to buy, where to get a takeaway coffee (an even more complicated algorithm consisting of options a-e) and where I go to hide on my child-free days to get free internet and do some work. We’re only moving 5 minutes away and so none of that will change, but moving still feels like an upheaval.

And so, when I suddenly felt unexpected pangs of “Oh but this place feels kind of like home now” I asked myself the question WHY? I started with “What will I miss?” Well, the trampoline and the cubby house for the kids for a start. So we’ll buy a trampoline if the kids miss it that much. And we left the world’s best cubby house in Sydney and got over it. We’ll buy/build/create another one.  The spa, which we poo-pooed initially as an indulgent luxury, we actually love, as it seems like such an indulgent luxury! Well, there’s a (currently non-functioning) spa at the “new house”, which we’ll ask the landlords to get working. And we’ll have to leave it when we go back to Sydney anyway, so it’s not the be-all and end-all.

So I started to think instead of all the things that annoy me about the house- the chopped-up living space, the smallish kitchen, the loose door handles, the stupid French phrases stencilled on the bedroom walls (which would be wanky even if you were French, and these landlords are not!) The new house has much more living space downstairs and a much nicer flow to it, which will suit us much better. That started to make me feel happier about moving.

We went away over Christmas and coming back to the “old” house, it felt nice when we first walked through the door to be “home” but after a few minutes, I realised it was being back with the convenience and familiarity of our own belongings that felt good. But then I thought it wasn’t about “stuff”….

And so as we gradually make the change to the “new” house, I’m coming to realize that home isn’t about a house or a corner shop or a supermarket or a selection of cafés or a cubby house, although those things help. I think it’s really about being with the security and comfort of those you love- with them, you can make anywhere “home”.

*And yes, I do realize that song is about a guy who doesn’t have a home, well not as I’ve tried to define one, anyway.

New Year’s Resolutions- the return

I know last year I wrote a post on NYRs and how I don’t believe in them any more, but this year I need to make a few changes. Not absolute rules, but efforts I intend to make to get more out of life and hopefully make things a bit easier.

 De-clutter my head and my time, not just my space

  Physical decluttering is an ongoing task which I’m quite happy to do and reasonably good at. I find it liberating and rewarding. Mental decluttering, on the other hand, I am terrible at. My job requires me to multitask at a sometimes crazy level, and over the years this has crept into my non-work life too, increasingly encouraged and facilitated by social media and portable electronic devices (5 years ago I didn’t even have wireless at home- to use the internet I had to go to my desk and sit at my computer- imagine how much more productive I’d be now if that were the case!!!). I surf the net in the evenings. I don’t read books, I don’t talk to Mr L in the evening, even setting aside the laptop to watch a TV show feels like a major act of restraint. And it’s crazy. I have discovered one or two things online (see below) that I think have the potential to enhance my life, but mostly, it’s crap. So I’m going to lay down some guidelines that will hopefully see me managing to fit in more of the things I want to do (see below) and wasting less of the time I have to do them in.

Improve my eating habits

  I could devote a whole post, no, actually a whole BLOG to this (and obviously there are many of those) but I have been eating waaaay too much, with the lethal combination of pregnancy and Christmas lead-up resulting in hunger being a very infrequent occurrence lately! Enough about that for now, but I need to rein it in a bit.

Get more sleep

  I think if I declutter my head I will be able to do this much more easily. I fill my brain with internet nonsense, interspersed with frequent FB and email checks, so when I do get to bed, my mind is still racing with thoughts about what someone has posted/sent me/responses I can post etc etc.

  I also REALLY need to get an alarm clock. How will an alarm clock help me get MORE sleep??? Well, at the moment I only have my phone as a time-telling device, and when I wake up and check the time, it’s soooo tempteing to see if that crucial email has come through, or read the FB notiftication that’s on my home screen. If I replaced my phone with a clock to tell the time and wake me up (if that ever ceases to be the role of my children) i can leave my phone downstairs.

Look into happiness a bit more as a principle, not just an abstract concept

  One of the more useful things I stumbled across on FB (in contrast to the previously mentioned time-wastage) was this TED talk by Shawn Achor. For a while now I’ve been quite intrigued by this friend of mine- really a girl I went to school with who I always considered way too cool to even dream of calling a friend. She is now living in the US and seems to have found this spirituality and sense of meaning to her life which intrigues me. I’m fairly sure it’s not a religious type of spirituality [forgive me if I’m wrong, if you ever happens to read this, Katrina!], it seems more about doing good and feeling good and spreading good.  Good is a bit of a bland word, I know, but it’s more realistic than love and more grammatically correct than nice-ness. Anyway, in a nutshell, this guy talks about how people really try and put the cart before the horse and have lists of goals and life plans and things to aim for, they strive to reach a state of affairs which they believe is synonymous with happiness. Assuming they actually achieve all those things, though, inevitably there is then something new to aim for and so the goal posts shift or the finish line moves further away and they’re still not happy. Instead, he proposes we start recognizing and acknowledging the happiness that already exists in our lives, and in doing so become more content, more fulfilled and thereby inadvertently more productive (and if not, then at least happier without even having to tick off our to-do list- I extrapolated there, I don’t think he actually says that.) As a goal-setter from way back this had an immediate appeal to me. As I outlined in this post,  despite having achieved a lot, for example, at school, I still left with a great feeling of having missed out….

[As I finish off this post, it turns out today I received as a Christmas gift a voucher for a Kikki K workshop. I can choose between organisation, DIY, goals or happiness, and I think I’ll have no choice now that I’ve written this, but to go with happiness. Exciting!]

Calm, Kind, Courageous

Something else that she-of-the-happy-spiritual-blog mentioned, that I need to look into more, is choosing 3 concepts or qualities that you want to focus on and then approach everything (particularly challenges) in your life with those 3 things as guiding principles…. More TF.

Do more of the following

  I’m hoping that with a less cluttered head space less wasted time (and one more child- yeah right!) that maybe I’ll find some time to do more of any or all of the following. Things I’d kind of like to do, if I had all the time in the world would be:

  • Reading- anything’ll do, I have a load of books on my e-reader to get started on, so this should be achievable if I can make time
  • Relaxing/meditating/etc- I’ve never been good at meditating, yoga, or anything that involves switching my brain off (or at least focusing solely on the experience at hand). Even as a child on long car journeys (any car journey, really), I’d entertain myself with elaborate fantasies about all sorts of things, and happily pass the time day-dreaming away. My mind is not used to being quiet.
  • Doing something creative- Sadly, I’m not remotely artistic (and actually not really creative either) but I can usually follow a set of  basic instructions to produce a recipe, an easy sewing project, or a craft item. Not that I’m wanting to inflict home-sewn clothes on my kids (well unless I got really good!) but there are loads of handy little things I often think it’d be quite nice to whip up, even for presents etc. Anyway I think the sewing thing’s a way off but I got a craft knife and a few other bits and bobs for Xmas which might see me making my own birthday cards or something in 2015….

Anyway, it’s Christmas Day today, so Merry Christmas, Nadolig Llawen and general happy thoughts to all….

The “ick” factor

There was an episode of Sex and the City, I’m sure, with this title. Yep, I just Googled it, there was, but it had nothing to do with what I’m about to write about so I’ll stop there.

Several things this week have left me with an icky feeling….

A Christmas gift arrived from my parents. A case of wine. My heart sank for several reasons when I saw it. We bought them wine for Christmas, so there’s the obvious, ironic futility of buying each other essentially the same gift. Only it’s not the same gift. We bought them a gift pack of 4 wines from our favourite winery (Amisfield, FYI). We love their wines. My parents love their wine. In fact, they love any wine. And therein lies the problem.

I felt, even thought it was just wine, it was a reasonably thoughtful gift from us. I was raving to them when they came to stay about this Amisfield [no this is not a sponsored post, are you serious?] how we go there every time we are in Queenstown, how we joined their wine club, how amazing the food there is, how great they are with the kids…. And I thought buying Mum and Dad some (nice) wine might share a bit of that experience with them.

I’m not sure when we became such wine…. Connoisseurs? Snobs? Enthusiasts, perhaps, is the nicest way of putting it, but we like to drink nice wine. Not lots of it, just a glass in the evening, and we would almost NEVER get through a whole bottle between the two of us in one sitting and so we feel we can afford to pay a little more for our wine. Sure, there are the cheap and cheerful bottles you buy for a mid-week drink, or to have at a larger gathering where you might not get much of a look-in, but as a gift or for a special occasion, or even just for a weekend dinner, we like to splash out a bit.

Which is why I chose the smaller selection of pricier wines from a winery we love that means something to us, instead of just ordering a mixed case of sub $20/bottle wines to be delivered from a distributor down the road. I’d like to add it’s NOT about the money. At all. I wouldn’t actually have cared that much if they’d got us nothing. And I am glad they didn’t get us crap to clutter up the house.

It’s just the fact that, even after spending 10 days with us drinking our wine (not to mention all the other occasions we’ve taken wine along to dinners etc and they’ve commented “Oh, this is nice!” they seem to be so totally disconnected with what our interests and the smaller details of our existence really are. Did they not notice we don’t usually choose to drink $13 bottles of wine? Again, not about the money. That we generally choose Central Otago Pinot Noir, not Marlborough? Maybe they thought they’d diversify our tastes. That if we want a cheap mixed case we’ll buy our own? Actually, no, they didn’t notice that we don’t buy cheap mixed cases at all. Maybe they found it hard to justify the delivery cost for less than a case but found a case of nicer wine too pricey? I faced the same dilemma myself and just forked out the $50 shipping fee because I wanted to get them something nice but blowed if I was going to buy them $400 worth of wine!

Anywyay, as Mr L pointed out, we should try it first before we (I) get too carried away. And, as I pointed out, we can always save it and give it to them next time they come to visit.

Note to self, next time, just have a ready list of presents they can get us when they ask. One thing my sister seems to have down pat.

Facebook misunderstanding On a completely different note, on the same day, a friend took offence to something I said on Facebook. I was aiming for dry humour, he interpreted it as grumpy confrontationalism. (Is there such a word? Spellcheck seems to think not, but then again it can’t spell organise either.) Which just got me to thinking (again) what a waste of time FB can be.

Other things have made me re-think FB lately- some of my sister’s inappropriate postings, how much time I waste reading articles and blog links. I got full marks on a quiz the other day called “Do you know your plurals?”… like, duh, I did Latin and am a grammar Nazi. Of course I do!

It has its uses of course (FB, not the quiz, or Latin). For example I follow some vaguely useful pages such as the NZ Herald, so now have a clue about what’s going on in the world (see below). Some of the stuff people post is useful and interesting. But I think I have to reintroduce some ground rules, like limiting my hours and posts and culling (again) people who frequently seem to post time-wasters.

Anyway, back to my friend. He’d sent me a message saying “That was a bit odd…”, implying that he was offended by my comment, so I apologised, tried to explain what I’d been meaning to say, then when I went to delete my comment, he’d already removed it so I figured he really MUST have been offended. So I apologised some more. I think he felt a bit foolish as there then came an olive branch of a message by way of “Oh maybe I was just being grumpy, so how’s everything anyway?” No major damage done but it made me think how much of my time am I wasting thinking up witty retorts to other people’s inane comments when I could be doing something way more useful and avoid offending anyone?

Anyway in the grand scheme of things (and the grand scheme this week has included a Taliban massacre of school kids and teachers in Pakistan and the death of a 38 year old mother of 3 in Sydney in a hostage situation in a CBD café- she was the year behind me at school and the thought of her 3 kids spending Christmas next week- not to mention the rest of their lives- without their Mum brings tears to my eyes every time I think of it) these are not big issues.

But I think we’ll all be glad of a break over Xmas and I personally am very much looking forward to 2015.