Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Alien Invasion. Is your bunker ready? To blog, or not to blog...that is the question.

What’s the deal with blogging? It suddenly seems like everyone has a blog (I realise how hypocritical and ironic it is that I’m actually blogging right now, but just go with it). I don’t know how many times in conversation people will casually add the words ‘in my blog’. What are they trying to say by letting you know? I have something to say, I have strong opinions, don’t mess with me or you will end up in my blog, I’m such a deep thinker?? A blog can be informative, entertaining, boring or preachy. There was one I read that made me laugh so hard I had tears running down my face and made my husband look at me like I was a lunatic. Some read like a private journal entry that has been made public, but perhaps should have been left private.

In Hyde park in Sydney, there is a place where people bring their ‘soap boxes’ or milk crates and stand up on them and preach (for lack of a better word) their chosen topic in loud voices to passers-by. Popular themes amongst the milk-crate-preachers include; aliens and UFO’s (they are coming to get you), antigovernment types (these people probably also believe in UFO’s), preppers (people preparing for the end of the world and once again, usually related to aliens and the government…and atomic bombs), religion and politics. Most people walk past. Some stop and listen, enjoying the spectacle. Others will debate with the speaker about why they are wrong. This seems like an acceptable thing to happen and if anything the speakers appear delighted that they have managed to lure someone into a conversation about a topic they are clearly passionate and obsessive about. It then seems to end up as a battle of wits…whose oratory persuasion and knowledge can out do the other persons (also known as a debate), onlooker’s head nodding or shaking to indicate level of agreement.

I find the soap box situation awkward. When I see them one word usually comes to mind. Weirdo. They are generally extreme and more or less wanting to tell you that you have it wrong.  I get the feeling that most of them would struggle socially. I don’t think ‘coolness’ has ever crossed their mind (totally overrated anyway). It’s awkward because they are really putting themselves out there, wearing their heart on their sleeve for all to see and to tear off.

The other word that comes to mind is brave. It takes a lot of guts and conviction and planning. They haven’t just been strolling through the city and thought ‘I have a thought…I might say it aloud for all to hear’, no, they had all their props ready the night before. Milk crate, check. UFO warning signs, check. Information booklets, check. Brown trousers, check. Original aviator reading glasses, check. Sweaty armpits, check. Then they got up early the next morning, gathered their gear, and made their way to the park, hopefully beating all the other like-minded individuals to the best spot.

Blogging is just a passive form of this. Your blog is really a soap box. You may be in your pyjamas, but really its brown trousers, aviators and sweaty armpits. Your audience is potentially a million, but at the same time, a million people may decide your first sentence was too boring to continue reading.

Aaah, blogging. Is it just another way to get rejected by a larger audience? I have noticed that people can be vicious in their comments. Trolls. It’s easy to be mean from the safety and anonymity of your lounge room.

Similar to when you are driving and a car speeds up behind you, swerving from side to side about an inch from your rear bumper trying to get past (even though you are going ten over the speed limit). Eventually they make it in to the lane next to you (probably stuck behind the same traffic you are) and the light turns red. You both pull up next to each other. You look. The soccer mum in the car next to you, with her freshly manicured claws gripping the steering wheel, pretends to not notice that the driver she has been trying to intimidate for the last 5 minutes with close range swerving motions is right next to her. She won’t look. Not so brave anymore. Trolls really get my blood boiling. So weak. So pathetic, yet their comments can be so damaging and hurtful.

So what am I trying to say? I don’t know where I was going with all this. I actually started writing thinking my angle was only blog if you have something interesting to blog about, or lead a life worth blogging, but I think the moral of the story is, be nice to bloggers. They are modern day soap box preachers with something on their heart or in their head that they want to put out there. At the end of the day they might be a bit weird, but if you don’t like it you don’t have to read it. It’s something that they clearly feel passionate about and there will be like minded individuals out there who will love what they have to say. Birds of a feather will flock together after all.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Getting started - How to sow seeds

Congratulations to those who put their hands up for the seed giveaway. You should have all received them by now. Here is a little ‘how to’, to get you started.

Sowing seeds is easy and much more economical than buying seedlings. I think gardening gives us so much more than just food, but it does not make any sense to me to spend $4.00 on a punnet of carrot seedlings which after watering and nurturing for months, will result in 8 carrots, when you can go to your local supermarket and buy a whole bag of organic ones for $4.50. As much as I enjoy gardening for gardening sake, it has to be logical.

I remember seeing potted garlic for sale at my local hardware store for $9.00, and it only had two plants in it. I guess for people who don’t know how garlic grows and imagining that these will grow into ‘garlic bushes’ that end up being festooned in garlic bulbs, this may seem like a good deal. In reality it was probably the most expensive garlic in the world at $4.50 a bulb as each plant only grows one bulb.

There are a few seeds that require a bit more time and patience to grow, but for the most part my journey so far has taught me that when you plant a seed in the right season and water it, (and don’t let it dry out), it will grow!!! Sounds simple and self-explanatory, but it amazes me, and you don’t need to be an expert you just need to try.

So what do you need to start.

·         soil

·         compost or manure

·         seed raising tray

·         seeds

·         sea weed solution (Seasol)

Seed raising mix. You buy the stuff because you think you are doing the right thing, right? I mean, if only it would do what it was supposed to do.

I don’t use commercial potting mixes/seed raising mixes because I never had great success with them. My seeds would sprout and then would really struggle and look weedy. If you have tried and failed with growing seeds, this may be the reason. The thing I noticed with commercial seed raising mixes is they would often seem to repel water and become really dry despite watering and they seem to lack the nutritional requirements for growing a plant beyond the two leaf stage.

Search around your garden for some decent soil. If its clay it’s not decent, you may have to buy some. It should be easy to dig, be relatively fine (not have too many rocks/sticks) and, you know…look like nice dark dirt. If you really don’t have any soil, then just buy a bag. Put a spade full into a bucket. I mix mine with mushroom compost, or the compost from my chicken pens (which is well rotted straw and manure). If you don’t have either of these in your yard you need to buy a bag of compost/composted manure from a nursery or visit a friend who has some. I mix two parts soil to one part compost/manure.

Compost or composted manure contains organic matter which will hold water and supply nutrients to your seedlings so they can grow.

1.       So, mix the soil with the compost in the bucket. Make sure to break up any lumps. Add a little water and mix through, enough to make it damp, not mud.

2.       Spread the mix into your seed tray and lightly press into each cell.

3.       Give it another water to soak it through and settle the soil in.

4.       Find a small stick, and use it to push a hole about 1 cm deep in the middle of each cell. The required depth may vary depending on what you are planting, but for pak choy, 1cm is fine.
5.       Drop a seed in each hole and cover over with dirt.

Place your seed trays in a sunny position. In summer I put mine in a place that will get full sun for a small part of the day but not the full day as there is always the risk that you come home from work on a hot day and find your seedlings fried. During winter it's ok to leave them in full sun. Make sure any excess water can drain out, in other words, make sure the tray isn’t sitting in a pool of water as this will rot the seeds/plants. At the same time, if you let them dry out while the seed is germinating or sprouting, they will die, so they do need to be watered every day at the beginning.

I give them a water with the sea weed solution once or twice a week, and that’s all. I know there is more than one way to skin a cat, but I'm just sharing my method.

Come on, commit to starting a garden by sowing some seeds, then you will be forced to find somewhere to plant them out.

I’m going to do a tutorial soon on how to make a simple garden, so simple anyone can do it, and I will transplant my own seedlings into it! I hope you will join me.

Good luck and happy gardening.





Thursday, 12 December 2013

Christmas, family and the electric fence - building great traditions

As I mentioned in my recent articles, I just love Christmas. Christmas is a great time of year for traditions.

I’ve decided after much thought and observation, that traditions create a sense of security, comfort and togetherness. Traditions shape childhood memories, and they are usually fond ones (unless your family traditions included walking barefooted through a bindi patch on Christmas Eve…unlucky).  Traditions may just be something you have just always done. It doesn’t have to have any great meaning behind it, it doesn’t have to be symbolic or spiritual, it just has to be done…and then done again the next time…and then the time after that (that’s what makes it a tradition).

The familiarity and predictability of rituals or traditions not only create a sense of security, but are also a great source of fun, excitement and anticipation.

We live in such a fast paced techno-gadgety-digital-drivethru-world I think it’s good to take a time out from it, and spend some quality time with the fam-bam making warm and fuzzy memories.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it usually involves quality time, which means not staring at your phone the whole time. Sometimes as a parent I actually have to force myself to not take a photo, and to just be in the moment. I do like taking photos, but I don’t want my view of my children’s lives to only be through the screen of a iPhone held at arms length.

Growing up there was an entire neighbourhood that would decorate their houses with painted timber cut outs (of Santa, elves, Nativities etc) and lights. Unbelievably fairy light weren’t invented when I was a kid (does that mean I’m old?). The lights people used were those big coloured light bulbs on a string or spotlights shining on the cut outs. Our family (with many others) made it a tradition every year to walk the whole neighbourhood and oooh and aaah at all the displays. It was pure magic!

We also used to visit a particularly nice Nativity scene at a shopping centre. I remember every year trying to see baby Jesus’ face in the manger…I could never quite see it. I would have loved to climb over the railing and pick him up and just get a good look at Him.

On Christmas Eve we started having a family dinner with all our extended family. There were all the usual festive foods, crackers, carols and laughter. Christmas Eve dinner has become a real highlight for me.

Christmas morning, after the presents, we went to church. All the kids proudly taking along their favourite toy and blatantly showing it off to all the other kids doing the same thing.

Christmas lunch, we again had a family meal with the extended family. On both sides of my family it was tradition that the family patriarch would be ‘Santa’ and sit by the Christmas tree and call the cousins names out to come and get their presents!!   

With my kids, we still do dinner on Christmas Eve, we look at light displays, but I’ve started a new tradition of going to a Christmas tree farm and cutting down a real tree. We also have a craft day with the cousins and make something Christmassy. This year we are making candles and decorating pine cones.

This was last years tree selection process. What this picture doesn't convey is how hot it was...42 degrees!! Far different from the snow dusted scenes in story books. 'Watch out for snakes' I kept reminding them, which was a bit silly as it would have been way too hot for snakes.
My Dutch friend told me about Sinterklass (Dutch Santa). Apparently his birthday is the 6th of December, he was a real person after all, and if you leave your shoe by the fireplace before his birthday, he comes and leaves chocolate and biscuits in your shoe!! We did it this year and the kids thought it was great so that’s a new tradition that we are going to adopt.

We have loads of little traditions that I won’t bore you with, but the important thing is we do them, and we have fun as a family. Hopefully one day my kids will pass these traditions down to their kids.
This years selection process. Chose a much milder day, and waited until late afternoon...very pleasant.

For kids the Christmas magic is in the belief and in the anticipation, for parents the magic is in watching their children’s excited faces and I imagine for grandparents the magic is watching their children watch their children. Now that would be pretty special.

So what are your family traditions? Inheritance isn’t always money or property…it may be a tradition you have started!

We all probably have some similar traditions like carols, crackers, paper hats and ham, but why don't you start a new one that is unique and meaningful to your family. "Now come on family its time to tie an onion on your belt and all hold hands while grandpa touches the electric fence."

I'd love to hear about any special or unique traditions your family keeps.

Have fun and be merry and keep family traditions alive.


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The lazy persons festive bunting. Quick and easy.

Deck the halls this Christmas with my 'lazy persons festive bunting'. I love the idea of lovingly cutting out fabric and stitching it all together...but it aint going to happen. It's quick, easy and cheap. I made some last year to decorate the house for a Christmas party thinking it wouldn't last and I could just toss it after Christmas, but I packed it away and what do you know...it looks as good this year as it did the last! It was so effective that throughout the year I've made easter bunting and birthday bunting as well.
All you need is a stapler, scissors, ribbon and a festive themed pad of scrapbooking paper (which you can pick up from dollar shops or Big W etc).

Below. Fold opposite corners of the paper together to make a big triangle. 
Then fold the corners together again to make a smaller triangle. Press the fold line together well.
Cut across to make two triangles as shown. These will have the paper print on both sides.
Use all different colours and patterns if you feel adventurous. Lay them out flat ready to staple. You will end up with a spare bit of paper that you can make other Christmas crafts with.

Staple the side together to stop them opening.

Now staple them onto ribbon. Make sure you use even spacing, this will make them look nice.

I use three staples along the top.

Here is the finished product.

 I have probably made 15 metres of it and wouldn't have even used half the pad of paper.
Have fun.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

"Hey Mum, Is Santa Real?"

Christmas is around the corner. Truthfully, I get really excited about the silly season…maybe even more so than the kids. I remember as a kid standing on the back steps searching the starry Christmas Eve sky for Santa and his sleigh. I actually convinced myself that I saw him!

I think most people remember that moment when they found out Santa wasn’t real. I wasn’t very old, maybe four or five. I had left Santa a gift under the tree. A rubber from the church bookshop that said ‘God loves you”. He needed to know! Anyway, later on in the year I happened to find the same rubber in my mum’s wardrobe and I just put two and two together.

My kids have grown up believing in the guy in the red suit. If they asked me directly if Santa was real I wouldn’t lie to them, but they just never have. Every year we thought it would be the last.  We expected them to come home from school with this knowledge passed on by friends, but this has never happened!!

As a nurse I try to distract patients with chatter while changing dressings or jabbing them with needles etc. I’d had a discussion with one patient, an elderly man, about when I should tell my son about Santa. I never thought we would be the ones to break it to him…I just figured childhood would take care of it for me. But he was getting older and more than anything I wanted to prevent some major embarrassment at school. The patient said “oh no, don’t tell him. Let him believe while he is a child. Once you take that magic away from him you can’t get it back. Let him be a child for a bit longer.” It’s true. We seem to be in such a hurry these days to make our kids grow up. Suddenly the whole Santa issue seemed to signify childhood and innocence and it made me sad because it meant my baby was no longer a baby…he was growing up (sniff).

Not so long after that I said to my husband that I think it may be time to give our oldest the birds and the bees talk (he is currently 10). My husband who has the remarkable talent of seeing all things clearly said “he can’t know about sex and still believe in Santa”. So true. So he told him about Santa. Talking to my son about it later I asked if he was disappointed. He said “kinda. I figured the Easter bunny wasn’t real, or the tooth fairy (because that’s ridiculous), but Christmas is so magical, I’m a bit sad”.

I know some people are firmly against the big guy in the red suit. They don’t want their kids to have trust issues because they lied to them about Santa. Each to their own. I’m yet to meet an adult who links their trust issues to their parents actively promoting St Nic. A more likely source of trust issues would be being abandoned by one of your parents, or finding out your Dad had another family somewhere. If anything people seem to enjoy reminiscing about the excitement and anticipation they had as a Santa believing child. Adults would pay good money to be able to experience the same kind of excitement and glee that kids get out of Christmas. I feel like this is an opportunity that exists in childhood and I don’t want to rob my kids of that.

If you don’t want your kids to believe in Santa, that’s fine, but do me a favour, can you also tell them to not ruin it for everyone else? Last Christmas we met this little girl at a party. The first thing she said to my kids was “Santa isn’t real”…ahem. Some hours later I saw her run back over to her parents and say “no, we had it wrong, Santa is actually real, he really is”, all the kids standing behind her like excited chipmunks. The other kids at the party had infected her with Christmas magic. The dads face was hilarious as he looked at his daughter and the 10 other kids behind her. I gave him my best ‘go ahead. I DARE you’ look, but he didn’t.

With all this Santa talk I don’t want to take away from the real reason for the season, the birth of Jesus. My kids are well aware of this fact and love celebrating Jesus’ birthday. We even have a Nativity based lights display out the front of our house so we can share this with our neighbours and friends. I remember singing silent night and away in a manger as a girl thinking they were the most beautiful songs in the world. The words really painted a picture for me of the miracle that took place in that stable all those years ago.

Christ is always going to be the centre of Christmas. Over the years (or millennia) cultural and religious traditions have formed around Christmas. I know there are lots of people who will tell me I’m wrong, but I feel that in Australia we have so few cultural traditions that I have decided that I’m going to milk this one for all its worth…that includes Santa.

I think I’ll leave it there. I think my next post will be about building traditions in your family and given the time of the year it will probably be about some fun Christmas traditions and activities.

Until then,


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Insta...sham and Fake...book

"Love my reading room. Its my quiet place,
no kids allowed...aah, the serenity"

First of all, I want you to know I love social media. I think it is great. I get to keep in contact with friends and family in other towns, states and other countries. I get to see my nieces and nephews several times a week, even though they live two hours away. I’ve never had a problem with negative comments or internet trolls (despite having a friend that’s a troll….you know who you are Smeng Shmolson), after all you can pick and choose who gets to view your stuff. I love that on Instagram you can search your favourite hash tag and find people all around the world who share similar interests. They can inform you, inspire, educate or make you laugh. I usually search gardening related topics. If you search ‘home grown’ you find a lot of pot growers. I hash tagged ‘tampon’ once because I posted a photo of my 5 year old who had made a boat that he had decorated with tampons (he has no idea), then I searched the hash tag to see what else came up…well thousands and thousands of people all over the world with nose bleeds popped up, and they all of course had jammed a tampon up their nose. They all had the same great idea. People are funny.

There is of course the more overtly negative topics you can search, which I have no interest in dwelling on, but many would, and access is as simple and easy. In a few years my children will be teenagers, and the fact that so much harmful content is so easily available frightens me, but that’s a whole other topic and not what I want to talk about today.

Amongst family, friends and acquaintances the negative side of social media is more subtle. Sunshine, rainbows, concerts, parties, waterfalls, kids looking angelic (not at all like the little monsters they are), tender family moments, exotic holiday snaps and healthy food pics…all these pictures scream “see, isn’t my life perfect!!” Photos are cropped, styled and filtered to look their best. It’s only natural that we want to share fun and interesting things, I mean, who wants to see the boring bits of your life? Not me. That’s what Twitter is for…because everyone wants to know you are in a line at the supermarket. Not. That’s why I’m not on Twitter.

I’m as guilty as anyone of doing this. When I look back over all the pictures I’ve posted…I’m impressed. My kids look like they are having a great time, my garden looks to be flourishing, I give the impression I’m eating all things healthy straight from the garden. These things are true sometimes, but not all the time, but all you ever see on social media is the ‘sometimes’ moments and the viewers are left with the impression that it is ‘all the time’. For adults, I think this is where the main danger of social media lies. We watch all our friends having the most wonderful time during their exciting day, and their kids are having the most magical, educational experiences. You see a snap of your friends kids participating at a ‘how things move’ workshop at the Powerhouse Museum on your newsfeed. You glance over your shoulder at your kids plonked in front of the TV watching Postman Pat, in their pyjamas, eating an evil ‘grain’ based breakfast, at 10 AM…and you feel bad.
"So healthy organic dried home grown bananas
fertilised by the grass fed cow I keep as a pet. The kids eat
them like lollies. Personally I like to follow with a
chaser of a raw, gluten free, vegan, organic green
smoothie made in my thermo mix. "

We just can’t help comparing and potentially having thoughts of ‘I wish my life was that exciting, my kids are missing out, why wasn’t I invited to that party?’ etc

There is a group on social media that I have dubbed ‘the hubby lovers’. Women who post pics of their husband with gushy comments. ‘Love this man, best husband ever, love my hubby, my hubby and me, me and my man’ etc. That’s nice and lovely, but the max quota for this kind of pic is twice a month…not every day. It’s like you’re trying to convince everyone that you have this amazing relationship, or maybe you are trying to convince yourself?? Who knows, but if I was a troll, I’d comment “get a room”. My husband doesn’t engage in social media, so I don’t bother posting my sentiment for the world to see…I like to tell him to his face.

There is also a lot of product placement that goes on, which for the most part is probably intentional. It was this fact that motivated me to write this article. Someone I’m following had posted a picture of the kids playing in the backyard, but had unnecessarily angled the photo so you could see the ocean in the background. I get it, you have a house on the beach. Now we all know and think you are appropriately awesome. A picture of your cat may seem benign, but have carefully placed your new Louis Vuitton handbag right next to it…we can’t miss it, and even though you caption may read ‘I love my Snowball’, it actually says, ‘check out my new $5000 handbag, yeah that’s right, I’m rich. Didn’t you know? Well now you do.’ I personally think spending that much money on a handbag makes you stupid, and probably in debt, don’t get me started.

"I remember that one time
this room was clean
before the kids trashed it and I had to hang the washing out
in it because I only remembered late last night I'd left wet
 washing in the machine and the kids needed dry uniforms for
 the next morning
...aah, the serenity"
I hope I don’t sound cynical. I really just want to remind you that when you see and read things on social media it is usually just a snapshot of the best bits of people’s day, week or year. Enjoy, appreciate and admire their experiences, but don’t ever let them get you down, because their life has as many boring bits as yours. When people product place in their photos, see it for what it is, and wonder why they feel they need to do this.

I was going to create a insta-sham day for your enjoyment (complete with product placement), but I have run out of time and energy. So my two brief examples will have to suffice.
"Yummy, dehydrated bananas. Better feed them
to the kids to offset the Happy Meal they ate
in the car."


Until next time



Tuesday, 23 July 2013

How To Grow Raspberries

There is nothing better than fresh raspberries. They are this amazing combination of taste and texture. They are these velvety little vitamin bombs that explode taste when you squish them to the roof of your mouth. I have always felt that buying raspberries at the supermarket is an extravagance. They have to be the most expensive item per gram in the fresh food section. I remember seeing punnets of raspberries (which is really probably 2/3 of a cup) selling for $14!!!! When I say selling, I mean just sitting on the shelf, because who could honestly justify paying that much for a handful of berries. The only kind of person I can think of that might justify that cost, is a would-be-boyfriend trying to impress a girl with a home cooked three course meal, desert requiring fresh raspberry garnish. Oh the dilemma. Come up with a new desert to impress, or fork out for fresh berries???

I know they aren’t normally quite that expensive, but it got me thinking about how hard these berries must be to grow to be so pricey. After doing a little research I discovered it’s not that they are hard to grow, it’s that they don’t ripen after they are picked, so they have to be picked ripe and therefore don’t have a long shelf life. They also can only be handled once, as they bruise easily, so they are picked and placed straight in the punnet, packed into crates and transported to market.

Well I’ve decided I want loads of these tasty treats so I’m giving growing my own a try. Below I’ve covered the steps for planting raspberry canes. I’ve only planted mine recently so I can’t say I’m sipping on home grown raspberry daiquiris just yet, but maybe next year. I’ll keep you posted.

I’ve embraced a ‘no dig technique’ with my gardening which is basically as it sounds. Instead of digging into the ground you place soil/mulch onto the ground building a mound in which to plant things. What you will need is newspaper, soil/mulch, raspberry canes and a trellis. The trellis is used to support the canes. I concreted two posts into the ground and strung some wire up between them, but an existing fence or star stakes and wire would work as well. Raspberries like a rich, well drained soil in a sunny position that is also protected from strong winds.

1.       Layout newspaper where you want your garden to go. This will kill off the grass underneath and stop weeds popping up in-between. Picture below is showing my two original canes so we laid the newspaper around them.

2.       Mound up your soil and mulch. I’m using mushroom compost mixed with soil as that’s what I have at hand.

3.       Plant all your canes allowing half a meter or so between each one, ensuring that their roots are totally covered (a little helper comes in handy).

4.       Raspberries don’t like to dry out so make sure you water them in well.

5.       Apply a thick layer of sugar cane mulch over the soil as this will help them to not dry out (not pictured).

The canes will eventually send out suckers and other canes will pop up next to the original. Canes produce fruit once or twice a year depending on variety, then they die back. By the time that happens new canes have appeared and they will produce the fruit for the next season. The idea is that your original cane multiplies into a thicket. I bought 8 different varieties from www.diggers.com.au which will fruit throughout the year which will hopefully mean I end up with something like a regular supply.

Well, for those feeling adventurous why don’t you give it a go?

This is me digging a post hole for the trellis...if you've never dug a post hole, well...you don't know what you are missing out on.