Saturday, 28 March 2015

Enjoying the Autumn Changes

Over the past couple of weeks our garden has started to noticeably change.  The weather has cooled, possibly a bit early this year, with days reaching less than 30 degrees Celsius. Some of the native plants are blooming and with them the honeyeaters and bees are feasting on their nectar.


Turtle and I have taken to sitting by the front window and watching honeyeaters feed in the mornings.  I've noticed that the brown honeyeaters seem to be the first ones there until the new holland honeyeaters come in and bully them out quick smart.

The Pincushion Hakea (Hakea laurina) is starting what I expect to be its best bloom ever. We seemed to have lucked out by planting it in the perfect spot 3 years ago and it has flowered well each year since.


An unexpected bonus of us sitting by the window is that we are noticing all of the things that are happening in our garden. This includes our cat Rogue going crazy and running up trees, possibly trying to catch some of the birds.


I was hoping to catch a photo of the honeyeaters feeding but it was nearly impossible.  A 17 month old does not lend herself to waiting quietly for photos.  Turtle has become obsessed with handling cameras and phones herself so that adds even more difficulty to the task. I have settled for capturing a bee feeding instead.


It is lovely to see the garden coming back to life after summer. It is also nice to be able to get out and enjoy the garden without risking heat stroke!

How is your garden faring the change of season? Are you enjoying it more?

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bad Habits and Mending Dog Beds

Our dog Zac has the strangest habits.  We adopted him at 12-18 months and found out when he visited us for a week to make sure that he fitted in well with Chile.  One of his habits is quite endearing.  He kneads his bed with his paws while clamping his teeth onto it.  Sometimes he actually rocks himself to sleep that way.

video

The other, somewhat annoying, habit is that he bites and shakes the beds, eventually tearing holes into them. Luckily the dog beds have withstood all of this action for quite awhile. Quite recently, however, the number of holes in them meant that each time Zac was left in the lounge room by himself there would be bed stuffing all over the place.

A typical scene after Zac is done with shaking his bed
While Turtle thought that coming up behind me and playing while I squatted and restuffed the beds was a fun game I was not so impressed.  A friend of mine has stopped buying new dog beds since they were being destroyed so quickly by her three dogs.  Although that idea was pretty attractive after cleaning up stuffing about 100 times, I decided to try my hand at darning the beds.

The felt fabric patches
I bought some cheap felt fabric from a fabric store and hand stitched one of the beds. Since I started on the one with the biggest holes and kept getting side tracked with a few other tasks around the house Mr Fix It took pity on me and did the other bed.  He even re-stitched a patch after I queried the quality of his work.

The first patch which I think looks quite good in a retro kind of way
Zac protesting the removal of his bed by moving to the couch - cheeky!
I am really pleased with the results and I hope that it might keep the beds going for awhile yet. My sewing skills are incredibly basic. It is not an area that I have built much confidence in.  However, if I keep getting some good results then I might just try my hand at some classes - maybe even with a sewing machine! I'm excited to think that I might be able to repair more items or even make up some unique clothes.

Chile thinking about moving back into her newly mended bed
Last night Zac made a new hole in one of the beds.  Mr Fix It darned it almost immediately while I was putting Turtle to bed.  I guess we will see how long we remain motivated to continue with this project.

Are you much of a seamstress? Have you mended anything stranger than a dogs bed?

Saturday, 21 March 2015

When is the right time to start using modern cloth nappies (MCN)?

A couple of my sustainability minded friends gave me some good advice when I was pregnant with Turtle.  They recommended that I wait until she was 3 months old before I started to use cloth nappies. For us, because she was our first, I think that it was sound advice.  However, it is a very interesting thought.

Photo source

When is the right time to start using modern cloth nappies or MCN?


Straight away?
If you use MCN straight away then you should definitely consider buying the specialised newborn style of cloth nappies. One of my friends had the one size multifit nappies all ready to go and then her darling boy was born and they didn't fit him for a couple of months.

You will also need to be organised enough to keep up with the laundry. Most newborns poo frequently. At least every time that they feed. Turtle did not do this. In fact she didn't poo for a week after she was born. We were so worried because it's not what is "supposed" to happen. Clearly every baby is different but consider yourself warned that it is likely your baby will poo a lot for the first few weeks or even first few months.

3 months in?
If you are keen to use cloth but want to wait for the madness of the first 2-3 months to be over then 3 months is probably a good goal to work towards. The benefit of waiting a little while is that you can try different styles on your little one and see what works best for your family.

Waiting until Turtle was 10 weeks old definitely helped me to be more confident about styles and what we liked before we bought lots of nappies that we didn't like.  But it was a lot to take on after she was born.  Trekking around with a newborn baby to research and buy secondhand nappies is not easy. It was from this experience that I learned to limit my driving radius to within 10-20km of our home unless it was a really amazing buy.

Whenever you're ready?
This seems like the most logical answer... Yes, whenever you are ready! Some people choose cloth for their baby later since they have the time and space to try it out.  There are also some really nice designs of MCN that draw people in too.

If you are trying to minimise your waste then the sooner the better but don't stress if you're not ready because there is always something else that you can be doing in the meantime.

What do you think? Is there a perfect time to start using MCN?

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Causes that touch the heart - donating money

In the wake of Cyclone Pam devastating Vanuatu, and upon finishing reading A Thousand Splendid Suns for the second time, I am reminded of how lucky I am to live in such a safe and peaceful country.

It is easy to get wrapped up in our day to day existence, which is sometimes difficult to navigate.  This year has started off with some rather sad events for me and my family.  However, when considering the magnitude of losing your island from a natural disaster, or your country through war, it can provide some perspective.

As someone who has, thankfully, never had to go without any essential basics I cannot imagine how hard it must be to suffer and survive tragedies such as these.  My family has always been at hand to ask for help and they have always had enough.  Don't get me wrong, there has been some tough times but never so bad that we didn't have a roof over our heads or food to eat.

I studied my senior high school at an Adult College where many refugees were learning to speak English and were finishing their high school studies.  Some of the experiences that were shared with me about living for years in refugee camps, fleeing war, and lying about their age to marry all opened my eyes to a very different life experience to mine.  They definitely made me feel pretty lucky.

I found A Thousand Splendid Suns to be a book that truly touched my heart and made me feel a connection with the women of Afghanistan.  When I finished reading it last year for the first time I was overwhelmed with a desire to do something.  The vivid account of the devastating impacts to families from the war and the repression of women horrified and saddened me.

Although I was inspired to do something I had no real idea on what or how to do it. One of my friends recommended CARE Australia to me. She was donating to them and saw that they were involved with educating women in Afghanistan.

After doing quite a lot of research between charities that work in social justice and poverty alleviation I started donating $15 a month to CARE Australia, which I felt was a small but important contribution towards their work rebuilding and educating communities.

When doing my research I looked at the type of projects that each organisation worked on, if it aligned with my interest and concerns, and the breakdown of expenditure to see how much was going to activities like fund raising and administration and how much was going into the projects that help people in need.

I also started to donate $15 a month to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) since they play an extremely important role in assisting and housing displaced people.

There are so many causes that deserve our attention.  I did try to find a charity that would provide support to Indigenous Australians but I, unfortunately, didn't find one that I was comfortable donating to.  Not because I doubted the companies but I had some specific ideas in mind and I struggled to find programs that aligned with them.

I believe that my families regular contributions are valuable because it is money that these organisations can rely on in their project planning.  It is something small that I can do to feel that I am contributing to initiatives that I hope bring hope and comfort to people that have lost a lot and endure tough times.  I hope the organisations I have chosen help them to build a better life for themselves.

When I see disasters like Cyclone Pam I feel good that I am already contributing something towards helping.

Have you also been inspired to support a cause? I'd love to hear about it

Lizzing Lightly

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Kale and Celery Soup Recipe

This soup was born from trying to use up some of the veggies in the garden, which were predominantly kale and celery of course! It was refreshing to have celery as the key flavour of a soup. I know summer isn't really the season for soup but it has cooled down a bit (it is early autumn after all) and the celery flavour made it feel right somehow.
Coarsely chopped kale, celery and potatoes in the pot

Since the soup was green and tasted so healthy it felt like a bit of a detox.  We really enjoyed it with a good sprinkling of pepper.

Kale and Celery Soup Recipe


Total time to cook: 1hr 15 mins
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30-40 mins
Time to blend: 5 minutes

Kale and Celery Soup Recipe Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1 whole celery
1 bunch kale
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
1 x 8 cm ginger (use more if you really like ginger)
7 potatoes

Method

Chop vegetables coarsley, cut ginger finely so that it blends properly.  Add olive oil to a large saucepan and heat on high.  Add ginger, garlic and onions and fry until onions are soft and translucent.  Add the rest of the vegetables all at once.  Add pre-boiled water to just under the level of the vegetables.  Bring to the boil and then keep bubbling gently for 30-40 mins or until the vegetables are all soft.  Blend (I use a hand stick mixer) until smooth and season to taste.  Serve with crusty bread or toast.

Have you got any recipes that you have created to use up vast amounts of vegetables from the garden? Were they a success?

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Cut my costs in half for the dog food recipe!

I'm pleased to share that after writing Lizzing Lightly's Homemade Dog Food Recipe I was motivated to buy the dog's kangaroo meat from a pet shop at half the price.
Freshly made dog food
It was only a ten minute drive each way and instead of paying $20.00 for 2kg I paid $22.00 for 4kg of kangaroo.  2kg was bought freshly cut and ready to cook.  2kg was purchased (also cut) frozen so I have put it in the freezer ready for when I need to make the next batch.

This is my first real changed behaviour from reviewing and sharing my day to day activities through Lizzing Lightly.  While it is not really a win for the environment I think it is worth celebrating as a win for my weekly budget :-)
The gorgeous pooches again - Zac and Chile
Thanks for reading and helping to motivate me to try and be as sustainable as I can be - I really hope some of my thoughts and ideas are motivating you too!

Lizzing Lightly

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Lizzing Lightly's Homemade Dog Food Recipe

As mentioned in dog allergies and sustainable meat choices we choose to make our own dog food to reduce our pooches impact on the environment and give them good quality food.  Feel free to use and adapt this recipe for your own fur babies.  I would love to hear if they like it!

Ingredients:


4 tbsp olive oil
Leftover vegetables: try to include something green and some sweet potato or pumpkin but whatever you have in the house will often do.
2 x 375 g can of beans.  We usually use kidney beans but chickpeas, cannelloni or four bean mix is fine.
2 kg Kangaroo mince.  We buy human grade from the supermarket for convenience but the pet grade is sufficient and much cheaper.
2-3 cups of rice or pasta (or any filler you wish to use).  Add more if you want the mixture to go a bit further.
Approximately 8 cups of water (enough to just cover vegetables and meat in your saucepan)
Optional:
1 or 2 can(s) of tomatoes
2 tsp of vegetable stock or gravox

Method:


1. Roughly chop up leftover veggies to a size that you think is manageable for your dog.
2. Drain and rinse the cans of beans that you have selected.
3. Place your largest saucepan on a high heat.  Add the oil and allow to heat up, then add the kangaroo mince.  Fry the mince on a high heat, mixing regularly to break it up into smallish lumps.
4. After the meat is browned and cooked add veggies and stir through allowing heat to penetrate.
5. After the mixture is heated through add the water along with the stock or gravox if you want to add this (be careful not to add too much salt).  Then add the rinsed beans.  If you are adding canned tomatoes then do this at the same time as the beans.  Mix well.
6. Add the rice or pasta to the mix.  After the mixture begins to bubble reduce the heat so that it simmers away.
7. Cook for about half an hour, until liquid is absorbed and rice or pasta and veggies are cooked through, stirring occasionally so that the bottom doesn't stick and burn.  Leave to cool and then serve into plastic containers for putting into the fridge or freezing.

This recipe makes about 21 cups of dog food.

Each of our Jack Russells will eat a bowl of this (approximately 1.5 cups) each night.  So the two of them eat about 3 cups each night.  This means that the mixture makes enough for 7 nights.  However, it lasts longer (probably 2-3 weeks) for us since we also feed the dogs our leftovers and the occasional packet of free range chicken wings.  We always have dog biscuits in the house to tide us over when we run out between batches.

This recipe costs approximately $30 to make (we pay about $20 for the kangaroo meat alone) so that works out to about $4.30 per day as the sole food source for 1 week.  Buying pet grade meat would reduce the cost by about half. After looking at the savings I feel more motivated to go out of my way to buy pet grade meat!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Dog allergies and sustainable meat choices

Our eldest Jack Russell, Chile, has had skin allergies since she was a pup in Adelaide.  As part of the desensitisation process that we went through with her to stop her itching constantly (so badly that she pulled her own fur out in yucky patches) we had to limit her diet to low allergy foods for 6 to 8 weeks. This included leaner or gamier meats (goat, horse, donkey, kangaroo, venison and buffalo) with carbohydrate sources of sweet potato, pumpkin, lentils, barley and kidney beans.  For those of you who are struggling with itchy animals here is a link to some information that might be helpful.
Our gorgeous dogs- Chile is the on the right
For the international readers - yes, we do eat kangaroo in Australia!  But there are plenty of them and it is a good idea.  Kangaroo is a sustainable meat.  Kangaroo can not be farmed and so there are less impacts from land clearing and nutrient application.  When compared to traditionally farmed animals like cows the Kangaroo has less impact because it does not produce large quantities of methane as part of its digestive process.  Since methane is a big contributor to global warming it is important to reduce these emissions.

Unfortunately the low allergy diet didn't stop Chile itching but it did help us to realise how many bulking agents and additives tend to be in pet food.  We are not really strict about the dogs diets now but we try to make homemade food for them in big batches to freeze.  Another good reason to make homemade dog food is to try and reduce the dogs greenhouse footprint (or paw print!).

That is why we use kangaroo meat in our homemade dog food (recipe to come later this week!).  It is more sustainable and our dogs love it - I hope yours will too!