Monday, 27 May 2013

Leaves falling down

We thought we had a good amount of autumn leaves in our yard, (okay Jonathan wasn't entirely happy with the situation, as he had to sweep them up) - but then we visited Jonathan's parents house and found out what a yard embracing autumn really looks like. The kids were ecstatic.


And with such clear blue skies (except for the last half of last week, when the older kids were at camp and the rain teemed down, the whole time) it's been hard to drive past our local park, especially when Arch yells out "Swings Mum! Swings!"
 Arch loves the swings.

And I'm finding it hard to say no to this little face.

I thought it was hilarious that the council had 'patched' the soft fake lawn- like surface with this bushy astro turf.
The perfect spot to stand..

Thursday, 23 May 2013

100 Years

Have I already mentioned how May is a freakingly busy month for us? Actually it seems to be that way for a lot of people. I'm always interested to see how people deal with the stress of busyness. Juggling without dropping all the balls is a valuable life skill that sometimes eludes even the best of us.

Me? I'm lurching like a drunken sailor (not even attempting the juggling analogy for myself) from one event to the next. Still smiling (mostly) and trying to channel the aura: Yes I'm on top of the details... Sorry, what did you say the date was?

One of our major events this month was joining my family in celebrating the 100th birthday of my grandmother. This is not the kind of event one gets to attend every day, if ever. My grandmother, Doris Edna Esdaile (the two worst christian names you could get, she always told me) is a wonderful matriarch. She became a christian in her late twenties, after her children were born. She has lived faithfully serving God her whole life and her Christian descendants are numerous.

Grandma (with Grandpa, who died in 2011) has three children, nine grandchildren, and twenty-two great grand-children (There was some debate about the number..). Children of the grand-children met up, some for the first time, and had a ball.

Among the cards and salutations from assorted friends, family and dignitaries (including the Prime Minister of Australia, and the Premier of NSW), this one stood out from the pack.
I just love the Queen. She'll be sending herself one of these sometime soon if she's careful!!

At the end of the celebrating, we got a photo of the four generations: Grandma (100), my Mum (turning 70), me (turning 40 - later this month), and Jesse (10).
And we praised God for Grandma and her wonderful life.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Ethically-made Garments

The deaths of 1100 people (mainly women) in the collapse of a garment-making factory in Bangladesh three weeks ago cannot readily be ignored. Nor should they be. The terrible ramifications for the children and families who have lost their parent(s) and livelihoods (such as they were) are immense and devastating.

Source: Reuters

As an op shopping mother of four children, I've always prided myself on this way of buying clothes ethically - recycling/reusing etc. It is one step (at least) removed from buying directly from the retailer, and hence I conveniently don't often worry about where or how the clothes are made. But like most parents with a stretched hip pocket, I too can be a sucker for the retail catalogues that pour through my letterbox, advertising cheap kids clothing.

But as parents trying to provide for our children the best way we can, we shouldn't have to manufacture empathy for parents in other countries trying to do the very same thing. Are we happy to accept mothers and children working in dangerous and exploitative conditions such as those found in Bangladesh, just so we can pay $8 for a tee-shirt or $6 for some track pants?  We need to accept our role in this. Being cash-strapped or time poor isn't a good enough reason when you think about the working lives and death tolls attached...

Photo of Arch, taken by M Dudley, 2013

The Bangladesh tragedy is the world's biggest disaster regarding the clothing manufacturing industry (going back to the abuse of children and workers in the industrial revolution) and it is a tragedy that it took this to force retailers and manufacturers to account for how their clothes are made.

And yet some of Australia's major clothing retailers have, even now, refused to disclose details about how and where their clothes are made. More reprehensibly, they've refused to sign an international Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, which aims to improve health and safety conditions for workers in that country.

I urge you to express your concern to these companies (as of writing, Target, Big W, KMart and Cotton On have been mentioned) - any way you can. I'm writing to all of them (check out my letter under Pages on the side bar - feel free to use it as a template), and I'll let you know what responses I get.

I recently recommended a great teen fashion novel by Sophia Bennett (Threads), which dealt with the issue of African child soldiers in a really sensitive and great way. The second book in the series Beads, Boys and Bangles is also fantastic, and deals with issues of ethically-made clothing, and the tyranny of the sweat shop manufacturing industry. This series is highly entertaining, with a social conscience and a great way to introduce your tweens to areas of social responsibility in the (often vacuous) world of fashion.

Would you change your spending habits to make a stand in this area?
Will you consider changing where you shop to make a difference?
How do we find out if the clothes we are buying have been ethically made? Can we believe what we're told by the big companies?

I hope these issues don't go away in a hurry. The pain of the Bangladeshy people affected by the factory collapse will last a lifetime, so change is the least we can do..

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Breakfast and Baking

I am sure I find justifications in all seasons, but AUTUMN seems particularly conducive to the pursuit of eating baking and I've found myself turning away from my usual evening fare of net surfing reading books and browsing magazines to pore through my cookbooks in search of new and tasty treats to whip up.

Heck I'm even whipping up tasty treats solely with the purpose of having something nice to eat while I pore through the recipes in search of yet more cooking project ideas.

Exhibit A:

Bircher bliss
It seemed only logical this morning when I returned from the  school run (oh okay and a quick  duck in to an op shop that was semi-on my way home) to mix up some bircher muesli. Such a great late breakfast snack to flop on the couch with my new (old) book of Bill Granger recipes ($4 at the op shop - hooray!).
I love bircher muesli, it feels healthy, even though I suspect it may not be. It really just depends on your chosen ingredients. Basically all you need is:
2 cups of rolled oats.  
Then turn to the fridge. Do you have a 3/4 empty tub of yogurt (plain is preferable) that the kids have stopped eating because "someone" opened the new tub already? Throw it in on top of the oats.
Then add a cup of whatever juice you have handy (apple or orange is great) - this morning all I could find was peach syrup from a tin opened last night for dessert - easy.
Then grate an apple in to the mix. No need to peel it, the colour looks good. Any berries you have (frozen or fresh) make a great addition too. I added a few chopped up tinned peaches for good measure.
A handful of shredded coconut and if you have any toasted nuts or pepitas, you're laughing.
Alas, there was no laughter when I opened my AIRTIGHT canister of pepitas (which i recall was not cheap when purchased from a health food shop at Christmas). I practically heaved at the sight of about 50 million wriggling grubs and repulsive webby stuff engulfing the seeds...Why? Why?
I know, I know, freezing is possibly the answer. Someone told me recently (to whom I was ranting about this very subject - sorry, I know I need to get out more..) that you should pop all your nuts/oats/flours/legumes etc in to the freezer for a few days upon buying in order to kill whatever may be living in there. Maybe permanent storage in the freezer is best? Easier to replace the pantry with a freezer maybe? 
Moving on, while bircher muesli is best left refrigerated (to stew) for a few hours after making, I find it is just fine eaten immediately (sans grubs) while post-it noting new recipes I am hoping to try as these delightfully crisp autumn days continue.
Ooh, these cute post-its were in ALDI this week for $4 a packet.

Great to pop into a bag of assorted Mother's Day gifts, don't you think?

Hello? Did I hear someone say MOTHER'S DAY????

Perhaps you (family, are you listening??!!) could put a gift bag together with a few relatively inexpensive but well chosen items. Off the top of my head I'd suggest:
  • peanut brittle
  • latest copy of the UK The Simple Things magazine (love it!)
  • a copy of the brilliant John Green novel The Fault in Our Stars
  • a mid-weight woven linen scarf to suit the changing seasons (saw some nice ones in Sussan, just saying..)
  • a scented candle - perhaps one of those anniversary limited edition ones in the snazzy boxes by Glasshouse.
...just a thought in case you were lacking direction for the the big day...

Of course, no pressure..

..and no excuses either... just saying :-)

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Crisp leaves and correspondence

We collected these autumn leaves on one of our walks in the Mountains. They are as big as dinner plates. Mimi particularly was desperate to collect as many as she could, and bring them home.
I'm so glad I let her. They really are lovely.
Look what we did with them!
a u t u m n   b u n t i n g

In between the autumn leaves, I clipped vintage postcards, mostly with a floral or landscape theme.

The vintage postcards have come from a large album of cards: Daisy's collection from Lizzie, XMas 1907, that my aunt gave to me in a box of old books she thought I might like. She was right of course, I like them very much! I have written about some vintage postcards I've collected before. They are gorgeous and I find them fascinating. They also are great for decorating.
There's something about other people's correspondence, or maybe just correspondence full stop, in this age of electronic communication. Certainly sending cards is not what it once was. It was funny to see in this gorgeous collection, which consists mostly of birthday, Christmas and Happy New Year cards, the messages are brief, and often carry no real news at all. I guess it was people's way of 'dropping a line', letting the person know you cared, but without too much time or effort expended.
The album is battered and worn. The words may not have been profound (at least not the ones I've read) but Daisy obviously kept them with care, inserting each card into a tome to be later pored over and kept, records of friends and family and relationships and celebrations and of years passing..

For reasons too tedious to go in to I have been without the use of a mobile phone for many weeks. One upside (and there aren't many - but don't get me started), is that I've been reminded of how much I like writing cards. Choosing a delightfully delicate card to say thank you, or a light and brightly decorated card for a greeting is fun and requires a little thought. I don't think anyone will keep them in an album (although I have lots of old cards sent to me squirrelled away in various shoe boxes and bags, and under beds..), but it is a nice tangible way to communicate, and somehow seems to require and convey a little more care than a text message, don't you think?