Dec 29, 2007

Zero Waste - can we do it?

Merl gave me this book for Christmas (Teach yourself Green Parenting by Lynoa Cattanach and BabyGROE). On the whole it's a very good, pragmatic book. It's British, which makes it that fraction more culturally accessible to me than US books, and I agreed with almost everything.

Almost. I have some hesitation about the advice given about birthing choices - a first time Mum could definitely come away from a hospital caesarian feeling like a failure if she took that chapter too much to heart - OK, sure, giving birth in your own home and cleaning up afterwards is more 'natural', but then so is dying in childbirth (which people still occasionally do - even in the superduper West). So personally, give me an Independent Midwife-managed hospital birth any day. But each to her own.

Enough of birth politics, however, because the real reason I'm writing about this book is that it has sparked me off on another journey of discovery. What might Zero Waste look like on a family scale? How low can we go?

So, having assimilated the truth that I can bite off more than I can chew, this will not be a 6 week crash landing into the world of fully biodegradable everythings, this is a slow and steady evaluation of our personal waste stream and a sustained and sustainable effort to reduce it. (not very exciting, but there you go - hopefully interesting, if only to myself!).

What do we currently throw out you ask? How big is our waste problem? The broad brush stroke estimate is that if we buy the small City Council rubbish bags (45L) we use one a week, plus our recycling bin, but if we buy the big ones (65L) we use one every second week (or possibly 3 out of 5 weeks). My half-thought-about mostly pulled out of the air goal is maybe a 45L bag every second week? Can we halve our rubbish output?

Already I've identified some things that will need to go (disposable nappies, synthetic nappy wipes) and some things that bear further investigation (how expensive is a hand-cranked paper shredder and does our Council recycle yoghurt pottles or polystyrene meat trays?). The nappies shouldn't be too big an ask - we already use cloth for most of the time, but I put the baby into a disposable at night to keep her drier, and I generally use one if we're going to be out and about for a while for the same reason.

So. Goal for this week - cloth nappies only during the day. No more trusting to petrochemicals and bizarre absorbant gels to keep her dry while I actually leave the house. No more tripping out the door encumbered only with small-bottomed child, one spare nappy, wipes, toys, food, bib, and all MY essential items. Oh no, from now on it is large-bottomed child, wipes, two spare cloth nappies, one spare overnap, one change of clothes, two plastic bags, toys, food, bib etc etc.

Cloth is good, but the poo can be messier.

Oh, and a change-mat for changing pooey pants on other peoples' floors.

It's not as cumbersome as it sounds. Honest. Most of that stuff can just live in the car in case I need it anyway - i do not need to bring the whole lot inside with me everywhere I go. And I did this all the time with Miss3 - it's only with the baby that I've taken up the cheater's option of disposables while out. But I did so enjoy the freedom :-)

But a little footloose environmentally irresponsible freedom is a small sacrifice. And it will be cheaper too - always a good thing in a one-income family!

Now that's looking on the bright side :-)

Where has our baby gone?

We've just come back from a lovely couple of weeks visiting grandma and grandpa. When we went up, we took a Miss3 and a wee baby (Miss0) who sat on the floor and played with her toys while smiling at everybody.

Now she can take herself up to standing against a blank wall, and is just learning how to edge her way around the coffee table. Which has made us realise how un-toddler safe our house is, given that her hazard assessment abilities are currently nil. The bottom three rows of books in the bookcases will need to be held in with bungys, and the kitchen becomes a no-go zone.

And so the wheel turns.

Dec 19, 2007

A Miss3 story from Petone

As she was going to bed tonight, Miss3 shared this with me:

When I was five, I lived by myself and didn't have any parents. So, I had to get some parents. The first set of parents weren't very nice to me, so they had to go away. The second set of parents seemed really nice, but they were really forgetful.... But I kept them anyway.


Dec 13, 2007

pilates aftermath

I was so sore yesterday that I needed painkillers to sleep last night.

Still, I soldiered on today and repeated the experience. I feel much less sore now - 15 minutes after a wee Pilates session.

I figure if just lying on the floor waving my limbs around made me that sore I really need the exercise. In the meantime, viva la Panadol. Read more...

Dec 11, 2007

sweat-free exercise

Exercise without sweating has long been my aim.

No, wait, that's not true. Not sweating has long been my aim - usually achieved by not exercising. But on the odd occasion that I feel the urge to jiggle the kinks out of my limbs and perhaps get some mobility back to my neck and shoulders, I have searched for forms of exercise that do not involve sweat. Or pain, as merl points out - no sweat and no pain.

Which reminds me of a crap joke: The maid of all work was scrubbing the floors one day and remarked to the housekeeper that she was so hot she'd worked up a sweat. To which the housekeeper replied that we didn't use the word 'sweat', that the word in this house was 'perspiration'. So the next day the maid remarked that she was "a-presbyterian all over".

My brief flirtation with Powerlifting fulfilled one of the criteria - no sweat (or not much). It was pretty cool, walking into the free-weights room at the university gym with all these big sweaty grunting guys and actually using the equipment. At last I was one of the cool kids, doing real weights while all the pussy girls scurried past the free weights door and into the circuit room. Of course, I'd never have had the courage to go in there myself if I hadn't had my great big powerlifting flatmate to protect me, but that is beside the point. That was very cool, and for about a year a girl friend and I partnered each other at the bench, squat and deadlift. But people with long long limbs are not really cut out for powerlifting. And it hurt...

Enter Tai-Chi. Once I'd had our first baby, the ability to just flounce out to the gym vanished (it has never taken much for me to avoid going to the gym, and a new baby is an absolutely rock-solid alibi). I liked the sound of Tai-Chi, but couldn't see my way clear to actually getting to a class (why are all the beginners classes right at the mad hour of 5.30? Children need feeding then!) so I got a book out of the library. I used it quite often, but then it had to go back to the library... Occasionally I'll still do a bit from memory, but I'm not convinced I'm doing it right. But I did really really like this form of exercise. Like slow dancing. Merl even bought me some cheesy Chinese music to play in the background, which actually turned out to be very peaceful. I keep thinking I should get another book out of the library...

A friend and I have weekly "aqua bobbling" sessions, but they're not quite as weekly as they perhaps could be...

Today's experiment was with Pilates. Before Mum died she got me to choose my christmas gift out of a catalogue, so I chose a Pilates DVD and kit. We had our family gift-giving celebration on Sunday, so today I tried out my new present. It was good. No sweat. A little pain, but because the lady on the DVD can't see me I just stopped when it hurt too much - I figure that it will hurt less next time perhaps. It suited me very well. It was a half hour session, which was long enough to work but not so long that it put me off repeating it.

A cautious thumbs up.

By the way, I chose this somewhat bizarre (for me) gift because even though the baby is nearly 11 months old, my abdominal muscles have still not healed back together, and I'd really like to remedy this situation before it turns into permanent back pain. So it still fits with my pain-avoidance strategy... Read more...

Dec 8, 2007

Dinosaur found - still with its skin on

This is too cool.

"Scientists today announced the discovery of an extraordinarily preserved "dinosaur mummy" with much of its tissues and bones still encased in an uncollapsed envelope of skin."
From National Geographic.

Do we ever get over our childhood fascination for dinosaurs? Read more...

Dec 7, 2007

Vote for Mr Splashy Pants!!

Greenpeace have a digipoll going in which you can vote to name a Humpback whale.

Now, Mr Splashy Pants may not be the most dignified and majestic of things to name a whale, but it is the most likely to get 5 seconds of news time, and be turned into T shirts and bumper stickers. And that is what it is all about. Especially when the goal is to raise American outrage at the slaughtering of whales by the Japanese.

Of course, we kiwis are already outraged by this as a nation. I'm keen to do anything (even name a gracious singer of the deep Mr Splashy Pants) to let the outrage spread.

But hurry, today is the last day to vote! (sorry, I only found out about it here 10 minutes ago) Read more...

Dec 6, 2007

your money or your life

Brilliant brilliant book.

I cannot emphasise enough how good this book was for helping us put money and work into the proper perspective.

Your Money or Your Life - by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin Read more...

Dec 4, 2007

John Key Song

From the Facelift program.

Dec 3, 2007

Curtain-linings - to promote sleeping in. We hope.

I sewed linings onto the curtains in the girls' bedroom this morning.

The sun is rising about 5.30am these days and I for one am heartily sick of being up well before the alarm clock starts talking at 6.30am. It is not our curtains that are the problem, of course, but the curtains in the room of the small ones.

So today I sacrificed an old brown flat sheet (Queen sized and hardly ever used), tore it in half, hemmed it and sewed it to the back of the curtains. The curtains themselves are a lovely dark royal blue indian cotton, but the weave is quite open and they're not good light-blockers. I have already lined one set of these curtains with the remains of a white sheet, but that is not a great light blocker either. I am hoping for better results with the brown sheet. It's a slightly thicker weave sheet too, by the feel of it.

Big sheets are great for when you want large expanses of fabric - they're already hemmed and selvedged, and they're usually wider than you can reasonably buy per metre at the fabric shop. Best of all, they can usually be picked up for practically nothing at second hand stores, making them green and affordable. Read more...

Dec 1, 2007

kids book recommendation

We like Ella the Elegant Elephant. She's cute and funny and nice and learns neat little life lessons. But the coolest things are the illustrations - like Babar the Elephant and Madeline and Curious George all rolled into one. Timeless elegance. The Ella books are great. Read more...

Nov 30, 2007

Amazing Grace

We finally got around to watching this movie last week. It is great. But even greater are the resources on the website for discussion and action.

We watched the DVD at homegroup/bible study group/whatever you want to call the group thing last week. I had noticed that there were some study resources on the website, so I figured we would do some of those questions this week as a kindof follow up. WOW. We used the Faith Guide (UK edition), thinking that would be more relevant for our Commonwealth context, so I don't know what the US version is like, but the questions were thought provoking and intelligent. We ignored the "conversations over coffee" questions which weren't as good, and went straight for the themed questions. There's a study on each of the themes: Courage; Friendship; Community; Belonging; Work; Action; Transatlantic Slavery; Modern day Slavery; Guilt; and Grace.

Figuring that we have 3 weeks of studies left before the end of the year, we'd have a crack at 3 or 4 themes each night. We got as far as Courage. Using a scene from the movie as a spring-board for discussion, there were questions like "What motivated Pitt's courage? Wilberforce's?", "Do you think W and P's age influenced their desire for social change?", "Are we limited by our idealism in our attempts to make a difference?", "How does one obtain faith?", "are our fears reflective of the way in which we understand God?". We found plenty to talk about and pray about!

Highly recommended!

Nov 29, 2007

big brother is watching

Facebook has a new feature - not only does it track and on-sell the actions you take while within the Facebook site - it monitors your off-site browsing, keeps that data and on-sells it too. There have been several cases of people just going to Amazon, buying a book and seeing that information appear in a friend's Facebook newsfeed etc. This new application is called Beacon - and beware!

Now, we should all be aware that the whole point of facebook is to trick us into having a good time, divulging way too much personal information and then making money out of us. I have no problem with this so long as we are all aware of the risks. However, I do have a big problem with Facebook monitoring what I am doing when I am NOT on the Facebook site.

Fortunately there are things we can do.

The first thing to do is to download a little plug-in for your Firefox browser (I am assuming you know the goodness of Firefox and the badness of all things Microsoft). This wee beauty was written by someone specifically for the facebook/beacon application. Read about his experience with and opinions of the Beacon here (worth reading!)

Secondly go to MoveOn and sign their petition to Facebook to improve the privacy protections around this new application

Thirdly, and least effectively join the Facebook group Petition: Facebook, stop invading my privacy!

Fourthly, and MOST importantly - remember that Facebook is not a secure system - it is not private it is not like sending private emails to people - every single thing you do while on the Facebook system is logged, tracked and sold. There have even been cases where people have been able to open bank accounts etc etc in the names of other people by using information provided on Facebook, in combination with other publicly available information.

Right. I have installed the plug-in, signed the petition, joined the group, and now I'm off to facebook to have a closer look at my privacy settings...

More stories about Facebook privacy breaches here

Nov 28, 2007

what summer is all about

We are heading into summer here, and although today's weather has me scurrying for the thermostat and a jersey, last week we had some lovely days. This photo was taken on Sunday morning before we headed out to church.

This is what summer is all about.

Nov 26, 2007

a gift for your geek

Stuck for what to get your geek for Christmas?
Try Think Geek. For all things geeks love.

especially check out the t shirts

Nov 25, 2007

The Miss3 isn't sleepy and wants to be tickled instead song

Miss3 made a song request tonight as she was being put to bed. She came up with the title and I got to improvise the words (and actions).

"The Miss3 isn't sleepy and wants to be tickled instead song"
There was a young girl called Miss3,
who was in bed getting ready to sleep.
She laughed and she giggled all over the bed
as she got tickled from her head to her feet.

She wriggled and slid all over the bed,
and laughed as she was tickled all over.
For tickles and rumbles are lots of fun,
coming from a dad or sometimes a mum.

Nov 23, 2007

The Experiment - last day, the day of reckoning

The moral of the story is to not have a family crisis when in the midst of important scientific research.

So... if you don't give plants any water at all for several weeks and leave them in the hot sun... they die! wow. groundbreaking stuff.

Here are the links to what this experiment was all about...
Is Microwaved water safe?
The Experiment - day 1
The Experiment - day 7
The Experiment - day 15
The Experiment - day 23
The Experiment - day 32
The Experiment - day 33
The Experiment - day 41
The Experiment - day 48

Nov 16, 2007

Sloth is green

A list of the ecological benefits of the 'deadly sin' of slothfulness.

Just a side comment, though. There is no scriptural basis, to my knowledge, for the Seven Deadly Sins to be considered any more deadly than any other sin. From my understanding, although the bible has much to say about idleness and the refusal to work, there is also warning about pointless busywork - God ordained a whole day of rest each week, afterall. So with that in mind, I can't really consider waiting for a full load in the dishwasher to be sinful.

So, on with saving the planet by doing less! Read more...

Nov 15, 2007

funeral today

I'm too exhausted and drained to talk about this today, except to say that it was a lovely service and I'm really grateful to everyone who has passed along their condolences and given support etc etc. Thankyou. Read more...

Nov 11, 2007

the end

My Mum died peacefully this morning at 8am.

Oh how I will miss her.

it's 5.30am Sunday morning

I just phoned the hospice and Mum is resting peacefully with Dad beside her holding her hand.

The last few days have been awful. Mum has deteriorated so very quickly. Last Sunday she was up and dressed and spent several hours reading Miss 3 her story books - a perfectly normal Sunday. On Monday she was walking around the supermarket. By Wednesday she was not really getting out of bed anymore. Thursday morning when I went to visit she was just very very sleepy but having trouble remembering whether she'd taken all her pills or not and starting to worry that she didn't know what was best anymore. Friday morning she woke very disoriented and was admitted to the Hospice about lunch time for, at that stage, a few days to get her pain meds etc under control. I saw her Friday evening and, although she recognised me, she struggled to say what she was really trying to say and would get lost in the middle of the sentence.

Yesterday (was it really only yesterday?) I picked my brother P up from the airport and after dropping his bags at Mum and Dad's we went straight to the hospice, our sister Sh getting there from Christchurch only a few minutes before us. Mum spent all of yesterday just sleeping, although sometimes when we spoke to her she would 'hm' in response and her eyes would open. About lunch time I came home to give the baby a milk feed and get some food and cuddle Miss 3 and Dad went down to the lounge for a break. P was with Mum when she suddenly sat up and asked for a drink of water. He helped her have a drink and when he told her he loved her she looked at him and said "I know, I love you too". Sh came back in from getting a drink in time to get a kiss too, and then they let Dad have some time alone with Mum while she was awake. So that's really really good that they got there in time to actually connect with Mum.

Then yesterday evening about 7pm we got a 'get here now' call from the hospice, so we all rushed in (Dad and my aunt were already there) and said our goodbyes, but she was quite peaceful and just kept on breathing. The Pastoral Assistant from our church came and spent some time with us, which was really good - the right thing at the right time for my Dad who had been anxious that Mum would die before the minister arrived. (Our vicar is on holiday this week. The Pastoral Assistant is a lovely santa-claus type man who had met Mum several times through her work). Dad stayed in the hospice overnight - they are absolutely marvelous there and set up a bed right beside Mum's for him. Today our other sister Ch and another brother T are driving through from Southland and Central to spend the day. Our brother E is in Oz and was over only a couple of weeks ago, and will be again at Christmas, so won't be over again this week. It is so so good that E and E got to spend some good time with Mum while she was well. I think that's much more important than being here right now.

The grief comes in waves and I'm learning to just roll with it when it comes. I am going to miss her so very very much.

But under it all I have a strong current of peace. The concept of heaven is all very intellectual until someone you love dies, and then it becomes very important indeed. As i saw in a wee poem in the sanctuary at the hospice - "It does us no harm to believe this". And, more than this, I know that Mum loved Jesus and that she's safe wherever she is. As for praying for healing, i realise that I have prayed for that for months and months, and that Monday's thing was about me coming to a point of letting go and leaving it up to God. I may go into the whys and wherefores of this at a later date but it's not important for me to do that now - what is important is that I go and cuddle my children and husband and get started with the day Read more...

Nov 10, 2007

The booster seat label is LAW

I was coming home this evening at about 7.30 pm with both girls ready for bed. handymum was staying with her mum for a wee bit.
Miss3: Are you going to carry the baby into the house?

Me: Yes.

Miss3: I want you to carry me in too.

Me: Ok. I'll carry her in and then come back and carry you in.

Miss3: You see this label? (pointing at a safety label on her booster seat). It says "don't leave child in the car alone". That means you should carry me in before the baby.

Nov 9, 2007

mum is in the hospice

I may be a bit erratic in my posting over the next wee while Read more...

Nov 7, 2007

I love my slow cooker

For our homegroup tomorrow night we are having a potluck diner. Mmmmm yum. So today I cooked up some chickpeas in the slowcooker and tomorrow I will make curry. fantastic.

I use my slow cooker at least weekly - and it is totally the best way to cook chickpeas - it only takes a few hours longer and there is absolutely no worry about boiling the blasted pot dry or dealing with froth overflow all over the stovetop. You just chuck in the peas and hot water (with a couple of bay leaves to make it a bit tasty) and turn it on and you can forget about it until the end of the day. You can even leave it completely unattended to do the job in your absence. The perfect domestic servant. Read more...

Nov 6, 2007


I am spending too much time on facebook :-)

Thought this video clip was worth a giggle

Still, the site has its uses - we are having an old friend over for dinner this evening whom we haven't seen in several years and didn't even know was living in the same city as us until her location was mentioned in my newsfeed. Yay. Read more...

Nov 5, 2007

comments fixed

A friend just pointed out that my blog settings weren't letting her post comments since she doesn't have a google id. That should be all fixed now - I didn't even think to check what the default settings were.

This applies only to people wanting to comment in my actual blog. If you're reading this as an import into facebook then it's just the same as usual. (although I really can recommend you coming to look at the source blog - the posts are all the same obviously, but facebook only imports the text - not the occasional video - so especially if a post seems particularly random there may be some of it left behind...) Read more...

mum update

We went and had our usual Sunday lunch catchup at my parents' house yesterday.

Mum is not doing so good. She's turned all yellow since I last saw her on Thursday. Makes sense since the most active bit of her cancer is in her liver, but it was still a shock. When the decline in her health is just gradual - a little more tired, a little more gaunt-looking - it's easy to pretend that we're going to just stay in this limbo place forever. That this is the new 'normal' and we can just adjust and carry on.

But of course that's not the case. Every week she's more tired than the week before. Every week there's a new problem to talk to the doctor about. Her pain is back, and she's back on morphine to deal with it. I asked her the other day if she would consider another round of chemo, just as a pain-relief option, and she finally let her shield down just a crack. Just enough to let her despair show through. She's only got a handful of options and they all suck - nothing is going to make her well.

I don't even know if I have the faith to pray for her healing. Intellectually I know that He can do it. I do actually know people who have experienced miraculous healing. But He doesn't heal everyone (don't ask me why - if I knew that I suspect I'd know all there is to know), and I'm not sure I could deal with the despair of my going out on a limb and then having my request denied.
Far easier to reconcile myself to the fact that we all die in body, and that everyone's got to die of something.

Which also feels like an enormous cop-out.

crappy crappy crappy. I know what's going on here. For those of you who aren't Christian this may seem weird, but I'm not actually in the midst of a crisis of faith. What's happening is that I'm gradually being drawn towards praying for my Mum's healing, and this part of the process is just about positioning the idea in my mind. I always do this - my first response to most suggestions (even of things that I want) is a knee-jerk 'NO'. But once I get used to the idea and consider all the ramifications I usually come around to it - so long as I haven't irrevocably burnt any bridges by then.


well that's enough rummaging around in my entrails for one day. time to go outside and get the chickweed out from around my veggies. Read more...

Nov 4, 2007

The Experiment - day 48

Well, still no difference between the pottles. This is looking more and more like a 'nil result' experiment. ah well. At least I'll be able to use my microwave happily.

Here are the links to what this experiment is all about...
Is Microwaved water safe?
The Experiment - day 1
The Experiment - day 7
The Experiment - day 15
The Experiment - day 23
The Experiment - day 32
The Experiment - day 33
The Experiment - day 41

Nov 3, 2007

the baby has teeth!

Yay! She's 9 months old and has been 'teething' since she was about 5 months. Finally the bottom two incisors have made an appearance. hooray hooray. So that's why she didn't really sleep at all on Thursday night. poor wee mite was having big sharp white things coming through her jaw.

She has slept like a baby since then :-) Read more...

Miss3 and the baby goat

Last weekend Miss 3 and I went out to a farm to pick up some unpastuerised milk (which has it's detractors). Along the way we saw and fed the calves, as well as a wee goat kid that was 10 days old.

When I was recapping her day with her that night, we had the following exchange:

Miss3: And at the farm, there was a billy goat, and a nanny goat, and a baby goat!

Me: What do you call a baby goat?

Miss3: It's a baby goat. That's what you call it.

Me: A baby cow is called a calf. And a baby goat is called a kid. And you are a child.

Miss3: No, I'm not a child. I'm a darling.

Nov 2, 2007



for getting rid of stuff you no longer want but is too good to send to the tip

If you can't find your local group, it might not be officially linked to the freecycle people - just google it and it may appear...

We just sent an old crt monitor and half a dozen big packing boxes to better homes. yippee. I can reclaim my dressing table from defunct computer parts. Read more...

Oct 29, 2007

Chuck Missler

I have long prided myself on being an "enlightened, intellectual Christian". I have an 'active faith', I talk to God relatively frequently, read my bible a little less frequently, but do seriously and honestly believe the statements of faith summed up in the creeds. Along with this I have been more than a little disparaging of young-earth 6 day creationist types. Largely dismissing them as young, stupid, uneducated fanatics (which I still hold to be true in a general sense). I have also run screaming from any aspect of the creation/evolution debate. I find it to be a waste of time and energy and a huge distraction from the real work of God (loving God and people and helping others to experience God's love).

And then someone lent us a copy of Chuck Missler's 'Learn the Bible in 24 Hours'. Which is 24 hour-long lectures starting at Genesis and working through to Revelation. I would highly recommend it to anyone already fairly familiar with their Bible who would like to know some pretty cool stuff. And here's the problem. Chuck Missler is educated, well spoken, respected, intelligent, and rigorous. His science is cool. I am very much enjoying this lecture series. What he says seems to tie in with my own experiences of God. And he literally believes every word of the Bible. He is a 6 day creationist (there is some very cool physics around Relativity and Time and the speed of the expansion of the universe and the different experiences of time in different parts of the universe). He believes the earth to be 6,000 years old. He believes there was a global flood.

So here I am, my thoughts are provoked. Creation science has come a long way in the 15 years since I last cared remotelyI still don't believe it, and I'm firmly of the opinion that it doesn't make any difference to my status with God, my salvation or anyone else's whether we accept 6 day creation or God's creation through evolution or whatever. But I can probably state that I'm now more open-minded about it than I was - and isn't open-mindedness the modern-day virtue?

P.S. I'd still recommend the 24 hour lecture series even if you can't stomach creationism - just roll your eyes and sigh loudly through the lecture that deals with the early chapters of Genesis - his exposition of the rest of the Bible is very 'thinky' (as a mate of mine would say). Read more...

Oct 28, 2007

The Experiment - day 41

Well, here they are, a week after I began watering them with the different waters. No discernible differences as yet - they all look pretty healthy to me. So that's a bit encouraging and a bit disappointing. Part of me was secretly thinking that this experiment would be my ticket to 15 seconds of internet fame. Still, there is hope. The experiment has another few weeks to run...

Is Microwaved water safe?
The Experiment - day 1
The Experiment - day 7
The Experiment - day 15
The Experiment - day 23
The Experiment - day 32
The Experiment - day 33

Oct 26, 2007

Worst. Dinner. Ever.

For dinner last night I made a lovely meal for those of us with teeth. Lamb kebabs in minted yoghurt marinade (made from lamb a friend of ours got fresh from a farm and mint from our garden), brown rice, steamed broccoli and tzatziki. Mmmmmm yum.

The baby of the house was offered brown rice, mushy broccoli and some pate stirred in.

She spent a good ten minutes with the broccoli kinda hanging out of her mouth looking pained before dribbling it down her chin, then choked down a couple of mouthfuls of rice and pate - complete with dramatic face-pulling and mouth puckering - before simply refusing any more food. Hilarious to watch.

Still - 20 yucks to 1 yum - as they say. Since she's still very much in the 'learning abut food' phase of life I cracked open a store-bought tin of peach and apricot semolina, which she practically lunged forward out of her high chair to swoop the spoon into her mouth. Read more...

Oct 23, 2007

Christmas is a-coming. Are you ready?

Before you start hyper-ventilating at the thought of organising for Christmas so soon, give it some thought. The more you do now, the less you have to do later - and the less you have to do at any one time.

Check out Flylady's Cruising Through the Holidays links - especially the clutter free gift ideas (scroll down the page a bit). These are wonderful. Anything to stem the tide of plastic junk that seems to wash through our house from who knows where.

Most of the clutter free gift ideas boil down to
- something to eat
- tickets to something
- a service or a voucher for a service (like a lawnmower service and sharpen, or 2 hours at a day spa for example)

To add to this, I'd like to suggest looking at Tear Fund's christmas catalogue - a shopping experience with a difference. What you do is buy a goat or a well or a packet of seeds etc. This gets donated to one of Tear Fund's projects. What you get in return is a gift-card with a picture of the thing you just bought (without mentioning how much it cost) so you can give that card to someone else. We did this for our siblings last Christmas - they are the proud 'owners' of some arable land somewhere in India I think.

We give 'proper' gifts for birthdays. For Christmas it's more about saying "hey, we love you and are thinking of you". This helps keep the focus off the toys and presents and on to Christ - who is the whole reason for Christmas after all. Read more...

Oct 22, 2007

Labour Day - hooray for the 40 hour working week

The Sunday Star Times yesterday had what I thought to be a good article on the demise of the 40 hour working week in NZ.

Of course, I'm a full-time domestic goddess who gets paid in the priceless currency of gratitude and affection, while my husband works a government-department 40 hour week and earns enough for our family's needs and a few luxuries. (depending, of course, on how you define needs and luxuries - there are no casual 'weekends away' in our lives). But, we do nonetheless feel the pressure to be working harder and longer to justify our existence. Read more...

Oct 21, 2007

Made in China baby

This morning Merl was having a good "daddy-daughter-time" swinging the baby upside down and receiving gales of giggles in return when he stopped and peered closely into her mouth.

"Hey, she's got 'Made in China" on the roof of her mouth"

On closer inspection this turned out to be one of those circular see-through stickers that is on everything these days. At 9 months old the 'baby' is now well-versed in the arts of paper sucking, and anything vaguely paper-like gets chewed to within an inch of its life. Last night it was a wodge of adhesive tape that I rescued from the roof of her mouth just before bedtime.

It's funny, but things that I would have had kittens over when Miss 3 was a baby, are just kinda funny now. Although I have now made a mental note to check her mouth for foreign objects before I put her to bed. Read more...

Oct 20, 2007

The Experiment - day 33

Merl duly concealed the identities of the water last night and I added water to the drip tray of each pottle this morning.

Top left = A
Top right = B
Bottom left = C
Bottom right = D

So I'll refer to each pottle by their letter from now on.

I'm very curious now to see what will happen as the weeks progress...

Here are the links to what this experiment is all about...
Is Microwaved water safe?
The Experiment - day 1
The Experiment - day 7
The Experiment - day 15
The Experiment - day 23
The Experiment - day 32

Oct 19, 2007

The Experiment - day 32

"What Experiment?" I hear you ask. The links at the bottom of the post will see you right.

Well, here is what my little seedling pottles look like this evening. Lovely and lush, a little overcrowded, but that's okay - I want a good number of plants in each pottle to give a more reliable result.
I have not moved their positions around - so the one that is "top left" has always been "top left" and shall stay that way for the next 4 to 6 weeks, and ditto for the other three pottles.

On Tuesday I set up the different water treatments but have been slack about blogging (while being un-slack about parenting), so here goes now.
As you can see, I have used 4 more-or-less identical jars (Chunky Marmalade for those with insatiable curiosity about such things). There may be minor differences in the amount of scratching each label has received but I have not paid much attention to that. Right this second, each lid has got a label on it identifying which water is in the jar, but when Merl gets home from being a responsible youth group leader (they're playing Laser Force, the lucky dog) I'll get him to label them A,B,C,D so that I won't know which plant is receiving which treatment. The jars and lids were washed in the dishwasher all at the same time.
Details of the treatments are;
  1. Plain tap water - from the cold tap after it was running for a bit
  2. Boiled in the electric jug - start with cold tap water as above, boil it, let the jug turn itself off, let the water cool to lukewarm before pouring it into the jar. We have a stainless steel jug with a concealed element.
  3. Microwaved in pyrex - start with cold tap water as above, fill a pyrex measuring jug, use the "Auto reheat" function on the microwave and repeat the 'reheating' until the water is properly boiling. Stir cautiously with a stainless steel teaspoon each time the microwave beeps or stops (but not the last stop - just leave it - microwave-boiled stuff can be extremely hot). Leave the jug in the microwave until lukewarm then pour water into jar.
  4. Microwaved in plastic - as with pyrex but using a 'microwave safe' plastic container from the last time we had Indian takeaways.
So here we are, all systems are 'go'. And now... only time will tell.

Here are the links to what this experiment is all about...
Is Microwaved water safe?
The Experiment - day 1
The Experiment - day 7
The Experiment - day 15
The Experiment - day 23

Oct 16, 2007

A Miss 3 original: pets

This just in from putting Miss 3 to bed:
Daddy, I have a story for you.

Once upon a time when I was five, I wanted some pets. So, some pets started growing in my tummy. My tummy got very big and sore, so I went to the doctor, and he gave me some medicine. That made me very sleepy, and I went to sleep. While I was asleep they cut a hole in my tummy and brought the pets out. And when I woke up, there were my pets.

Oct 15, 2007

Fertility Awareness - why I use it

Now, some of you may find this all to be way too much detail, so I'm warning you now - if phrases like "cervical mucous" make you want to run screaming from the room then this is not the post for you. In fact - since I'm planning to post about fertility awareness more than once, I promise to always use the words 'fertility awareness' in the title when I do. Fair?

I've been thinking about posting on this topic for a while because there is a lot of misinformation out there about 'natural contraceptive methods' - including that lovely old joke
What do you call people who use natural contraception?
I admit that I laughed and laughed in a superior sort of way when I first heard it because of course I was going to choose the way of pharmaceutical science when that sort of thing became necessary. And science said that natural methods were obsolete and unreliable. Which of course some of them are - the 'rhythm' method and other more 'intuitive' (i.e. unreliable) methods are not remotely useful if you actually want to prevent a pregnancy.

But when it came to my turn to actually use the contraceptives that the pharmaceutical companies provide, my body had other plans.

The first pill I tried made me depressed. Like, seriously contemplating hurling myself out of my 5th floor workplace window, depressed. As soon as I noticed what was happening (and thankfully realised it was cyclic and possibly due to the little cream pills) I immediately stopped taking them. Within two days the world was a wonderful place - birds were singing, the sun was shining and I felt like dancing. hmmmmm

The second pill I tried gave me migraines. great. Back to my GP and we try painkillers to stop the pain and we try a preventer to keep them away.
So at this point, I'm taking hormones to prevent conception, but they have side-effects so I'm taking more drugs to counteract the side-effects. And of course those other drugs have potential side-effects too...

So I got off the merry-go-round.

I vaguely remembered someone talking a couple of years earlier about a method where you record your daily temperature and some other stuff. So I mention this to my GP, and (praise God) he was familiar enough with the method to point me in the right direction to at least find out more about it. He was very supportive of the whole move, which was nice.

To cut a longish story short, I found that "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" by Toni Weschler was an excellent book, and since I learn best by reading books, that was enough for me.

The whole point of fertility awareness is to learn to read your body's signs to find out when you are fertile, and work around that. If you want children then you use that fertile time to its full advantage. If you do not want children then you take steps - abstinence or barrier contraception of some sort.

Weschler teaches the "Sympto-thermal method", which is, simply, taking note of your
  • 'basal body temperature' - your temperature first thing in the morning
  • cervical mucous texture/quantity etc
  • position of the cervix
And all of those three things together can tell you when you are likely to be fertile. Any method that misses out one of those observations is not giving you enough information, and will be unreliable.

A surprise benefit was not having to go get pregnancy tests all the time :-) Before I had children my cycle was really irregular - anywhere between 27 and 41 days was perfectly normal. This would have caused me great stress on an almost monthly basis as I tried to work out if I was pregnant or if this was a normal month. But when you chart your cycles, you learn that it's really only the first part of the cycle that's variable - the time between bleeding and ovulating. Once your body has released that egg (ovulated) it has a limited life span - 12-14 days only. Basically, if you know when you ovulate and you get to 18 days after that without bleeding, then you're pregnant. Yeehah. I don't know how much money we saved on pregnancy tests those first few years we were married, but it would be considerable.

So there you have it - Merl and I have used Fertility Awareness for almost 8 years now with 3 planned pregnancies and 0 unplanned ones.

(Oh, and you're right, those numbers don't add up - our first baby miscarried very early in the pregnancy) Read more...

Oct 13, 2007

Memory Book

Over the last few weeks I have been writing a 'memory book' story book for my girls about their Nana. I can't remember where I first read of this idea, but it seemed a good one.
The idea is that for kids to process grief they like to hear stories about their loss over and over again - kinda to help them fix it in their heads and explain it to themselves. And because it can all get a bit emotionally exhausting to tell those stories from memory each time it is simpler to write it down. This also means that other people can tell the stories when I am not in the right headspace to talk about my Mum.

Now, Mum is still with us (which is a daily blessing). However, time is precious and sooner or later I would be needing to write a memory book. So I decided to do it now - while I'm not dealing with my own grief too much.

What I've done is write a wee story - "This is me and my sister with our Nana..." and illustrate it with photos of my Mum with the girls. I just stuck the photos on A4 paper, wrote it in pen and placed the pages in plastic sheet-protectors. I also went around and took more photos as needed ("This is their house"). What was excellent was that it pointed out some major gaps in our photo collection - I found that we didn't have any at all of Mum and Dad and both girls in the same photo, that sort of thing. So we were able to get some of those.

For now, it's a story about Nana and the girls and what they do together and how Nana does knitting etc etc. It will only take the addition of a few more pages to turn it into a memory book - which I should be able to manage when necessary. I also plan to do the same for the other grandparents.

I like to think that my kids will remember my Mum after she's gone. Read more...

Oct 11, 2007

A Man is not a Plan

That is the wisdom of the lovely ladies at WIFE, the Women's Institute for Financial Education. In general women are in a worse financial situation than men - even if they earn more somehow they seem to be (subconsciously) waiting for some prince on a white horse to come and take them away from all this.

I'm aware that that's a huge generalisation, but looking around me I know more single, working, child-free men who own their own home than single women in the same situation. So, whatever the psychology behind it, women tend not to save for their retirement or have any sort of investment portfolio (except where their retirement scheme is made easy by their workplace - it will be interesting to see how NZ's kiwisaver scheme helps this along).

A couple of years ago I realised that I was pretty good at not spending money - I could save it okay - but I had no idea what to do with it after that. The phrase "investment portfolio" made me scared. So I decided to educate myself. I had a hunt on the internet, as you do, and found WIFE. I also found some good books (Your Money or Your Life) and a couple of other columns that I read periodically (particularly Mary Holme in the NZ Herald, also sorted).

The best place to start is just somewhere. I made a decision to read one financial article every week and sooner or later it would start to make sense to me. And it does.

I like to know that the choices we are making with our money are sensible. I like to be able to have a good idea about what our options are and what we might be able to do if things go a bit pear shaped. Read more...

Oct 10, 2007

The Experiment - day 23

This is how the seedings look today. I'm thinking that I'll grow them for another week and then start feeding them the differently treated waters.

As you can see, there's a mix of plant types coming up. Each pottle was sown randomly from what I plucked from the mixed seed packet. They're still mostly at the seed-leaf stage but they're so closely sown that they might run out of room if I leave them too much longer.

The Experiment - day 15
The Experiment - day 7
The Experiment - day 1
Is Microwaved water safe?

Oct 8, 2007

Miss 3's tyre garden

I've seen this idea in several places and thought it looked good. Use an old car tyre as the outside wall of a little raised bed garden.

We found a car tyre under the house (some days it is handy to have bought a house with a very large pile of junk under it), painted it with some leftover paint (so it doesn't get too hot in the summer sun) and left it to dry while we pottered in the garden.

Miss 3 chose a place for her garden. I had made the tactical blunder of suggesting probably the two best spots in the garden, which practically forced her to insist on a space in the cold and dark, but I managed to at least shift it into dappled sunshine, rather than complete shade. I dug over a patch to loosen up the earth and then we went to the garden centre.

Given the choice between pretty flowers to look at and things to eat, our wee cherub chose goodness for her tummy. So we picked a punnet of 4 herbs (rosemary, oregano, thyme and garlic chives), and a punnet of 6 red-shaft silverbeet (chard). She really likes going out to pick things for the garden to put in our dinner, so this should work well.

Then we just moved the tyre into position, filled it up with a mix of compost and soil pilfered from elsewhere in the garden and planted it out. Voila! She's very proud of her very own wee garden. Read more...

Oct 6, 2007

Garden Hack and Slash

We spent parts of this afternoon in the garden. Very exciting.

I find that we must strike while the iron is hot as far as actually getting significant things done. Otherwise we get to dinner time and miraculously somehow nothing has happened. But today it was nice weather and we were in the mood, so out we went.

We have only lived in this house since January, and since we are in the Southern hemisphere, that means this is the first Spring we have seen this garden in. So surprises are arriving every week. There are daffodils and matchheads and crocuses and marigolds and clematis and all sorts of things springing to life. Earlier this week I noticed a very folorn looking blossom tree of some sort
being smothered by some boisterous shrubs. So that was the first thing we did - we reprimanded the shrubs. One came out entirely and the other got trimmed back quite severely. I am very keen to see what sort of tree this turns out to be. Secretly I'm hoping for it to be a fruit tree, but if I hope too loudly it will just turn out to be an ornamental I'm sure...

The next, and most major, item on the agenda was to remove a sycamore from our 'forest corner'. The previous owner of our house had been a keen gardener some years back, but as she aged the garden got more and more out of control. Apparently she spent the last few years in a retirement home and the house was rented out. Consequently the garden was in a sad state when we bought the house. It is still fairly sad I have to say. The 'forest' corner is great - several big trees providing good shelter from the sea winds. But as always happens there are a number of self-sown trees that have been left to grow - and they're quite big now. So the sycamore came out today. And Merl and Miss 3 spent a couple of happy hours feeding the sycamore into the shredder - lots of yummy fodder for the compost heap.

I can't believe how much bigger our yard looks now. There is definitely room for a play house for the kids to be built under those trees. very exciting. Read more...

IgNobel Prize winners

The wonderful people at Improbable Research have once again picked some funny stuff.
Here's the list as recorded at Treehugger since the IR site was not coping with the traffic...

Medicine Brian Witcombe of Gloucester and Dan Meyer of Antioch, Tennessee, for their report in the British Medical Journal, Sword Swallowing and its Side-Effects

Physics L Mahadevan of Harvard and Enrique Cerda Villablanca of Santiago University, Chile, for studying how sheets become wrinkled

Biology Johanna van Bronswijk of Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands, for a census of the mites, insects, spiders, pseudoscorpions, crustaceans, bacteria, algae, ferns and fungi with whom we share our beds

Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Centre of Japan, for developing a way to extract vanilla essence from cow dung

Linguistics Juant Manuel Toro, Josep Trobalon and Núria Sebastián-Gallés, of Barcelona University, for showing that rats cannot tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards

Literature Glenda Browne of Australia, for her study of the word "the" and the problems it causes when indexing

The Air Force Wright Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, for instigating research on a chemical weapon to make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other

Nutrition Brian Wansink of Cornell University, for exploring the seemingly boundless appetites of human beings by feeding them with a self-refilling, bottomless bowl of soup

Economics Kuo Cheng Hsieh, of Taiwan, for patenting a device that catches bank robbers by dropping a net over them

Aviation Patricia V Agostino, Santiago A Plano and Diego A Golombek of Argentina, for the discovery that Viagra aids jetlag recovery in hamsters

I thought the Linguistics entry to be particularly noteworthy, myself Read more...

Oct 5, 2007


My Tear Fund newsletter arrived today.

Aside from being overwhelmed by the hugeness of global poverty and need, I read a review of the movie Amazing Grace, which I have been meaning to go see, but will probably wait until it comes out on DVD. (How do other parents manage to actually leave the house as a couple in the evenings?!). The review states
"At the start of the film it is said there were 11 million slaves. Hard as it may seem, there are now more than 27 million slaves."
This includes, of course, child soldiers, bonded (debt) labour, third world prostitution, cocoa plantation workers in ivory coast etc etc (where 40% of the world's cocoa is produced - think of that the next time you munch into a Cadbury/Nestle/Herschey's product).

Slavery is a huge problem. These organisations (here, here and here) are full of information on getting actively involved in the fight against slavery. If (like me) you are a bit overwhelmed at adding yet another organisation to your 'save the world' burden, there are some simple purchasing decisions you can make.

It comes down to economics. As it states elsewhere in my Tear Fund newsletter
"Few parents would abandon or sell their children if they could afford to keep them. A sponsored child is unlikely to become a slave. A mother in a thriving Microenterprise business can keep and care for her children. A community where Aids and other diseases are being treated will have fewer vulnerable orphans. A country which is receiving fair prices for its goods and resources will be wealthier, more stable and more able to enforce anti-slavery laws... It may sound a bit far-fetched but when you buy fair trade products, you're actually fighting slavery in an indirect but real way" (italics mine)
So here's to Fair-Trade.

And the chocolate tastes even better when it's not blood-flavoured. Read more...

Oct 4, 2007

Monk e-mail

Something to keep the kids (and those of us with a childish sense of fun) amused.

Design a monkey and get it to read out an email message Read more...

Oct 3, 2007

War made easy

Even the trailer looks chilling. We will definitely be watching this DVD. I saw Noam Chomsky's manufacturing consent in the mid 90's. This looks like another look at the same subject. But of course, including president Bushes and Iraq. Read more...

Oct 2, 2007

The Experiment - day 15

Checked my wee seedling pottles again today. They are looking good. Lots of germination of a variety of plants in all the pottles. They're still at the seed-leaf stage so I'll let them grow another week or so before using the different types of water on them.

Have had a thought about the water treatments too. I'll get Merl to mix them up for me so I don't know which water is which - just that they're A, B, C, and D. Must remember to get him to write it down too, otherwise it'll be a complete and utter waste of time.

The Experiment - day 7
The Experiment - day 1
Is Microwaved Water Safe?

Oct 1, 2007

House dreaming

I was visiting Mum this morning while she got a visit from the community contact person from the Hospice. The Otago Community Hospice is a fabulous facility that do a wonderful job. But that is beside the point.

While I was 'round home, Mum passed on to me a small pile of New Zealand House and Garden magazines. Aaaaah. bliss. There is nothing quite so indulgent as sitting curled up on the couch with a pile of interior decorating pornography.

Don't get me wrong - I like my house just fine the way it is. Okay, the carpet in the living room is the ideal camouflage for baby poo and spilt dinners, and the laundry is the room with all the morning sun, but I can live with these things. (or at least, I can live with them being on the 10year plan to change them). But I do like to dream.

I dream of ripping out several internal walls and making one big kitchen/dining/living space, which would necessitate a total kitchen re-do. Of re-doing the bathroom - to install a bath, for instance - of extending the dining area into a conservatory. Even of putting a whole 'nother floor on top, with 2 bedrooms and another bathroom up there. Heck, those rooms might even get 'sea views' and 'all day sun' - big, big selling points if we were ever to re-sell.

And then I think - if someone gave me $100,000 to do whatever I want with it. What would God want me to do with it?

So I live with this unease. On the one hand there are things that could easily be done to make our house a bit more user friendly. On the other hand there are a billion starving people in the world who'd love the chance just to live somewhere as well-appointed as our garage (leaking and drafty as it is). Read more...

Sep 30, 2007

My veggie garden

I just realised that I hadn't bragged about my veggie patch yet. I do love to have a veggie patch. There's nothing quite so satisfying as watching your own food grow in your own back yard.

I'm a big fan of John Jeavons' "How to Grow More Vegetables..." book. So have thought about incorporating compost crops into my veggie space. I'm also extremely proud of having actually double-dug the patch before planting it out :-)

In our last house I experimented with the no-dig garden method. It was a total loss. I think it could work really well if you're using a piece of land that has already been gardened. But I was using lawn that had previously been cattle pasture - on clay. So it was totally compacted clay pan and my poor wee plants just couldn't send their wee roots in deeply enough - they just laid them down on top of the ground and under the mulch. So I ended up with mighty green bean plants 6 inches tall and broccoli that fell over in the wind.

This time I am dig, dig, digging. I'm hoping that after two or three seasons of double-digging etc that I'll be able to ease back to a no-dig version. Perhaps only digging every 3 or 4 years as the soil gets compacted. We shall see.

This wee patch you can see here is our main veggie spot. With two pre-schoolers I am aware of biting off more than I can chew as far as gardening work goes. I have started small. In this patch Miss 3 and I planted a row of sunflower seeds along the back. Then I cheated and bought seedlings from the garden centre for pretty much everything else: cauliflower; pak choi; silverbeet (swiss chard for you north americans); perpetual spinach; mesclun mix lettuce; calendula; parsley. We did plant seeds of beetroot, carrot and radish in this patch too.

I have another patch about the same size, maybe a little smaller, down by our compost heap which is all planted out in sweetcorn.

I'm still working out what will grow in this climate. Not quite a year ago we were living in the North Island of New Zealand (closer to the equator), and now we live in the South Island (closer to the south pole). Things which we could just plunk in the ground any old time at our old house will only grow in summer here, and things that we used to be able to grow outside on a sunny wall (like tomatoes) greatly prefer a glasshouse this far south.

All a big adventure :-)

Miss 3's favourite bit so far was making our scare-crow - isn't she pretty? Dressed in old cloth nappies which are no longer absorbent enough... Read more...

Sep 29, 2007

Flight of the Conchords Groupie

Okay, so I'm a big Flight of the Conchords Fan. :-)
Groupie fan site here Has updates of what they're up to currently.
And, of course, I just can't post without this baby


Sep 28, 2007

Compost this?

A site to check whether anything can be composted! very handy indeed Read more...

Sep 25, 2007

About Mum

So. Back to Mum's health. It's not good. This last lot of chemo was really only to try to delay the inevitable. The Drs were going to give her a bout of drugs about once every 3 or 4 weeks for maybe 4 or 5 months and see how it went. But the first try hit her so very hard that she ended up in hospital for 5 days with a white blood cell count of zero. This is not uncommon, but to cut a long story short Mum has decided that she'd rather have a few short months to live and feel tired and ill than have a few short months to live and feel utterly atrocious.

So Mum's decided to stop the chemotherapy. She can take it up again whenever she feels like it, but I don't think she will. She looks so frightened of it when she talks about it.

Hard as it is to watch her dying, I think she's made the right choice. Don't know what I'd do in her situation, but whatever will make her happy over the next few months is what she needs to do. My emotions about it are a bit detached at the moment. I have days where I'll be hanging out the laundry on the clothesline or whatever and suddenly I'll be bawling my eyes out because I'm going to miss her so very much. But mostly I veer away from the abyss. Right now I can only deal with my grief in little packets.

But that's okay - loss is not something you ever get over - you just find a way of making it a part of you so that you can keep getting up each day. I don't really believe in 'closure' or 'moving on' from something so big as this. 'Closure' seems to imply that you're somehow finished with your grief and your memories, and that just seems wrong. I will always miss my Mum. There will always be a Mum-shaped gap where she should be.

In a way that's kinda comforting.

But not very

The Experiment - day 7

What with everything that's been going on in the last few days (vomiting children and parents, big family meeting about Mum's health - more on this in the next post - my brother in town... not to mention a stack of good books from the library) I have rather neglected to look at my little plant pots by the back door. Also, the weather has been filthy the last couple of days so I wasn't up to lingering outside in the cold drizzle.

Still, pathetic excuses aside, I noticed 'my experiment' on the way to the compost heap this morning and on closer inspection discovered that some germination has happened! yay! So that's exciting. I raised the glass off the pots and angled it in front of them - like a cold-frame I guess, but open to the elements from the side. There will be more sprouts to come, since this is a mixed lot of seeds and they'll all have different germination times, but it's nice to know that they're growing. Read more...

Sep 24, 2007

Birthdays Without Pressure

Birthdays Without Pressure. Just the way I like them Read more...

Sep 23, 2007

Book review - Kage Baker's Company novels

I was delighted to see Kage Baker's 6th Company novel "The Children of the Company" when we were in at the library yesterday. I love this series. Whenever I see a new one at the library I snaffle it up immediately. They're a deceptively easy read. You get sucked lightly into the most complex plots and it stays in my mind for days afterwards as I work through the implications of what happened in this book in the context of the whole story.

The main over-arching plot is a science fiction cross with historical fiction and adventure/suspense. The Company exists in the 24th Century and has unlocked the keys to time travel and immortality. Sadly, time travel is hideously expensive and painful, and immortality (in the form of being converted into a cyborg) is the same - and can only be done on small children of the right physical type. No good for aging millionaires. So The Company decides to make its money by planting cyborgs in the ancient past and plundering treasures from past civilisations. "In the Garden of Iden", the first company novel, is a captivating read - mostly set in 16th Century England. As the series progresses the role of The Company gets more sinister and more complex as you find out more about what different 'immortal operatives' understand about their role and the history of The Company.

I'm sure I'm not doing it any justice at all, but it really is exceptional. If you at all enjoy historical fiction, mystery novels, suspense or any science fiction at all you will like these books. Read more...

Sep 21, 2007

Miss 3 being cute

This story was relayed to me by Miss 3's kindy teacher earlier this week...

Miss 3 and her best friend S were in the toilet area. S had finished and was waiting for Miss 3. "Miss 3, do you have a willie?" asks S (who does).
"Yes" says the little miss, after some thought
"Oh, cause my Mum doesn't, but maybe girls do and Mums don't"
Miss 3 pauses for more thought, "My Willy is a monkey and he sleeps with me in my bed at night" Read more...

Sep 20, 2007

rant for the day - 'christian' political parties

What is it about neo-con middle-aged christian men? Why this seeming compulsion to band together, wave their fists in the air and form political parties? (although, I was pleased to hear on National Radio this morning that this latest 'family values party' appears to be dead already - two days after it was born)

Actually, my real objection is to their usage of the word 'Christian' in their party name, and their assumption that they speak for all of Christ's followers. The Christian community is a very broad one indeed - including socialists, libertarians, people who see vegetarianism as an expression of their faith, capitalists, 'closed' communities, conscientious objectors, street-corner bible-bashers, blah blah blah. One political party can never hope to represent all Christians, and to claim that they are is either dishonesty or arrogance.

The Church as State was an experiment tried by Constantine in 303AD. It failed. The situation is created whereby anyone who aspires to political greatness is forced to rise to greatness within the Church first. This means that the leadership of the Church is suddenly populated by politicians, not people whose primary concern is the spiritual well-being and pastoral needs of their congregations. Of course, there also needs to be a State-endorsed church too (either official or unofficial) otherwise, how do we know if the politician is really 'christian enough'? or 'the right kind' of christian. And of course, then there are suddenly the 'wrong kind' of christian.

All of which is a mighty distraction from the real business of Christ - did you clothe the naked, feed the hungry, love God and other people? Read more...

Sep 19, 2007

vomit, vomit everywhere...

and I don't like where the rest of that sentence is leading so I'll stop. It wasn't exactly that bad but the day did start to the sound of Miss 3 choking in her own vomit.

at 6am

Didn't get a whole lot better as the day progressed either. Had some bad news about Mum today, but shan't go into it right now as the baby is teething and grumpy. Read more...

Sep 18, 2007

The Experiment - day 1

For the background to this experiment, see here

Miss 3 is at kindy, the baby is napping, dinner is in the crock-pot, all seems quiet... so I took the opportunity to set up the four seed pottles.

I used Yates Seed Raising Mix as the potting mix, Mesclun Original Mixed Species from Kings Seeds, and followed the instructions on the back of the potting mix bag.

The pottles were filled to near the top with potting mix, then firmed down. I watered each pottle with tap water (I ran the tap for 20 seconds before collecting water to minimise metal leaching from the plumbing - I will do this every time I get water but won't mention it again). Then I sprinkled seeds into each pottle, trying to keep each one evenly covered and about the same as each other. They are quite densely sown. I covered the seeds with a light covering of potting mix, placed the pottles in their drip trays (old takeaway containers), put them in a sunnyish spot and covered them with a plate of glass (an old car window I found under the house).

So we shall see.

Sep 16, 2007

How to go Green

Treehugger is a top site. Well worth checking every day. Here is their menu of 'going green' articles. Helps to break the steps of being a greenie into bite-sized chunks. Read more...

Sep 15, 2007

Death and Dying

Miss 3 and I went to the cemetery today. It is 2 years since my Nana died of cancer and I wanted to go put some flowers by her headstone. I wasn't sure about taking our child along with me, as the whole concept of death is a daunting one to have to explain - although it's not entirely foreign to her - she does know that people die, and that means that their bodies stop working and the bit that they think and feel with goes to be with Jesus. But what she might actually think that means I don't know.

I came to the conclusion it was a good idea to take her with me. You see, my Mum (Miss 3's beloved Nana) has cancer too, and will probably die within the year - it has spread through her liver and lymph system and is spreading very fast. She may even die within the week, having been admitted into hospital today and put in isolation to try and head off a terrible case of flu she's come down with while being on chemo.

So in the light of that, Merl and I decided that a trip to the cemetery to put flowers on my Nana's grave and to have a good cry and a talk about the good memories I have of my Nana would be good. So that's what we did. I had a cry and explained that I missed my Nana (her Great-Nana) very much and was sad that she had died, and also that she had been very unwell so when she died she had left her sick body behind and didn't need to be sick any more, so that was actually a good thing.

Perhaps this will help us all grieve a little easier for my Mum when the time comes. who knows. We just do what we think is best at the time. Read more...

TV and tots

I like this Salon article. It affirms my practice of settling Miss 3 in front of a couple of Berenstain Bears episodes while I get dinner ready. Basically says that so long as TV is age appropriate, for fixed time periods, mindfully watched and never just left on in the background it's ok. Also, no good evidence that kids who watch a lot of TV are physically inactive - seems to be very little correlation between TV time and physical activity in preschoolers.

It also, strangely, reinforces our decision not to actually own a TV. Any 'TV' watching we do is on our computer - a DVD or downloaded TV series. So it's never on as background noise - everything that we watch is a conscious decision. Read more...

Sep 14, 2007

Is Microwaved Water Safe?

A good question, I thought. I have been bothered by this thought since seeing this website. Basically, a school student fed two plants some water - one with water which had been microwaved and one with water that had been boiled on the stove. Both lots of water were cool before she watered the plants. After being watered like this for a couple of weeks, the 'microwave water' plant died.

Yep, died.

Now a plant can die for all sorts of reasons, so before abandoning my beloved microwave I have decided to check it out myself. I figure that with my (somewhat rusty) background in scientific endeavour (I have an MSc) I should be able to design an experiment that will at least indicate whether there is any difference between microwaved water and other water. Personally I hope not, because I love my microwave for defrosting stuff, and reheating stuff, and melting stuff... And the husband in the family loves to make our daily porridge in it.

So. The basic plan is;

Plants watered with differently treated water will thrive, regardless of the treatment that the water has received.

1 new packet of Mesclun Mix seeds
4 plant pottles with separate drip trays, all washed and rinsed in municipal supply water
1 new bag of 'seed raising' potting mix
municipal supply water
stainless steel kettle
pyrex jug
'microwave safe' plastic container

OK, I'm still thinking about this, but I'll probably grow all the seeds to the first true leaf stage on normal tap water and then change their water supply. The four groups will be 'normal' (unheated) water, water microwave boiled then cooled in a 'microwave safe' plastic takeaways container, water microwave boiled then cooled in a pyrex jug, and water boiled then cooled in an ordinary stainless steel electric jug (element concealed, as it happens).

It's spring in this part of the world, so just the right time for sprouting seeds and all that fun stuff Read more...
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