Making kind choices in your everyday life.

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A Cup of Tea with Me

Posted by on Jun 28, 2014 in Uncategorized | 14 comments

 

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Being a bit of a procrastinator and ditherer, I am so glad that I took the plunge and did the Blog with Pip course. As a result of my new found skills, my blog’s format will be new and improved at some point in the near future and I have made lots of new cyber space talented and entertaining friends.

My final “assignment” is this one – listing five things I am “loving right now”, over a pensive cup of tea (Japanese green tea from owl covered tea pot). This post is timely for me as I have been trudging through a bit of a hard patch for a while now so I like this gentle little reminder to myself that, despite some almighty hurdles – which I am still in the midst of dragging myself over, my life is pretty damn fine and here is my list….

Number One : Living in Sydney.

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I stalk country properties on Domain endlessly and yearn for a tree change – far away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Damn you River Cottage series with your rolling green hills and bountiful vegi gardens, have a MORE envy inducing lifestyle why don’t you ?!?  HOWEVER, the reality right now is that me and my fella have our city jobs, our city family and friends, our city house mortgage to pay and this fantasy will not be happening in the foreseeable future (it will happen though !). Until then, I am lucky enough to be living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We have the best Japanese restaurant EVER (inclusive of Japan) in walking distance from our house. We can see wonderful exhibitions like the World Press Photography exhibition, like we did last weekend, for free.  A drink and snack by a glistening harbour is an easy thing to do and we were even lucky enough to indulge in “Roar and Snore” at Taronga Zoo (*) a few nights ago (birthday pressie to my fella). I have great places to walk my hound (and lots of lovely new-ish friends to walk with) and, overall, I am loving living where I do right now. * I have mixed feelings about zoos – more about that another day – but Taronga is definately one of the better examples.

Number Two : Having a bath ritual.

I recline like a princess in our generous sized, 1950’s bath pretty much every night. Candles, bubbles (Coconut Bathox), a book and sometimes a wine are included in this indulgence. My dog always comes in and stares at me. Whatever worry I have during the day (aplenty of late), feels not nearly as daunting or fearsome after my little contemplative soak.

Number Three : Winter Hibernating with good books and shows.

Winter is my favourite season and  is the perfect time of year for some good old fashioned, guilt free lurking at home rather than gadding out and about. I do have a bit of a hermit-ish inclination to my personality so it suits me just fine ! Thanks to Kate from One Small Life, I have just started a new book which, one chapter in, I know I am going to love – The Happiness Show by Catherine Deveny . TV Series wise, we have just finished the brilliant series of Borgen (who knew that Danish politics could be so engrossing !) and have started on series 2 of “Orange is the New Black” which I am loving. Pottering at home is massively under rated.

Number Four : A couple of successes in the garden

My beetroots, chilli plants and garlic are growing abundantly and I am learning how to prepare my garden beds for the next project of potatoes. I get a gigantic thrill out of cooking from my garden offerings.

Number Five : Fostering some resilience and courage from within

This is a big one for me at the moment. This very so apt card :

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sums up what is making my working life shitty at the moment. It is one of those “beyond my control problems” where only recently, after several months of way too many sad sack tears and feeling utterly morose and powerless, I have  felt myself turn the corner and I can proudly step back and survey all the things I have learnt (and put into action !) from this vile and testing time. I can finally see some silver linings emerging and feel positive rather than teeth grittingly resentful about the changes which I know I have to make.

Part of my “sticking it to the man”….(thanks Ashley from The Squee for this brilliant turn of phrase – courtesy of your unmissable “giving it to” Joe Hockey post), I will be taking some glorious time off  (thank you long service leave)…weeks and weeks of doing nothing much aside from the top four things mentioned above, along with meandering walks with my dog and, no doubt, you’ll be hearing from me much more often. So, the anticipation of being able to do all things “I am loving right now” for almost a couple of months in the not too distant future is a wonderful thing.  As is the new found realisation – that………..   saying

 

You can head over here to find some of the wonderful blogs from my fellow classmates and hear all about what they are “loving right now”.

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Lemon and Barley Soup

Posted by on Jun 21, 2014 in Soup | 1 comment

Having not mastered the art of food photography,  with most of my dishes looking plain (but tasting sensational !) you can have an autumn leaf / Garp photo instead !

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Ahhhhh, winter and soup…..there are few finer things for the soul.

This recipe (thanks to Sanitarium) is delicious….quick and easy…..and healthy…..and filling…..so, get to it.

Ingredients

* 6 cups of water

* 2-3 heaped teaspoons of Vegi Stock powder (I use Vegeta as it is palm oil free)

* 1/2 cup of pearled barley

* 1 onion cut into quarters

* 1 peeled garlic clove

* 1 bay leaf

* 3 sprigs thyme (very easy plant to grow by the way).

* 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

* 1/4 cup of lemon juice

* 1/4 cup of chopped parsley

* olive oil to drizzle

* Pepper to taste

What to do

Bring water, stock and pearled barley to the boil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add onion, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Simmer for 45 mins. Remove from heat and remove the thyme and bay leaf. Add cannellini beans and process the soup (I use a hand held mixer but either wise a food processor would do the job).  Stir through lemon juice and serve up. Sprinkle parsley on top and drizzle with olive oil.

Makes 4 generous servings.

 

 

 

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Being charitable

Posted by on Jun 15, 2014 in Charity | 4 comments

“Of the various kinds of intelligence, generosity is the first” – John Surowiecki

It is quite terrifying that June 30th is a mere couple of  weeks away…..can we seriously already be half way through the year ??

I am far from being a financially savvy person but I do know that as the financial year ends, this is a wise time of year to reduce our taxable income through deductions and so forth. One of the best kind of “win win” deductions surely has to be donating to a charity/cause that is dear to you.

Not all of us are cut out to be hands on animal rescuers / activists, myself included (aside from our little rescue dog, Garp – thanks to Monika’s doggie rescue).  On days when my emotions are fragile, I will drive a different way home to avoid seeing a particular little bird in a tiny cage outside the corner shop as it never fails to break my heart. So, I have found that the best way for me to remain sane and  to help the animals in a practical way is to donate – in a variety of ways – to those organisations whose workers are brave and courageous enough to endure the heartache of actual animal cruelty investigations and rescues.

If ever you need any inspiration in your world, have a read about the stories behind Jill Robinson (Animals Asia), Lyn White (Animals Australia), Mary Hutton (Free the Bears) and Pam Ahern (Edgar’s Mission) who are just a few of the lovely lady crushes I have going on within the animal activist world !

There are so many extraordinary organisations out there that the options of who to donate to are endless.  Animals Australia, Voiceless, Oscars Law and AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural & Remote Indigenous Communities) are just a few of the amazing groups out there (not to mention the fabulous animal sanctuaries like Peanuts Funny Farm and Little Oak Sanctuary)…..but my heart (for over the last decade) belongs to….

Animals Asia

I remember hearing someone compare what the bears in bear bile farms endure to the life of Prometheus – the Greek mythological figure who had his liver pecked out by an eagle each day, only for it to regenerate over night and for the cycle to begin again. This life changing (for both people and animals) organisation came about when Jill Robinson visited a bear bile farm in China in 1993. Her ensuing devotion to creating real change in China and Vietnam has led to the rescue of hundreds of bears from the agony of being trapped in tiny cages and “milked” for their bile. Her persistence and education campaigns have led to a substantial tide of changing opinion in China, Hong Kong and Vietnam about how animals are treated. The indisputably lovely and hilarious Ricky Gervais and Olivia Newton John are just a couple of the high profile names who support Animals Asia. As do the cast of Downton Abbey – love this clip.

I only read this morning that the guru of all things kind, philanthropist Philip Wollen rates Jill Robinson, alongside Gandhi and his mum, as one of his inspirations in life so am not alone in the awe I feel for this woman.

If you are seeking out a cause to donate some pre end of financial year cashola to…..Animal Asia currently need funds more than ever before. They have recently taken over a bear bile farm in Nanning, China with the aim of converting it into a sanctuary for the current 130 bears. See Piece by Peace for more on this remarkable mission. 

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Apparently, on average, Australians give about 0.25 % of their income to charity. I think it is fair to say that in our privileged world we could be pulling our weight just that little bit more. So, why not pledge to reduce some luxuries in your life such as buying lunch at work every day or having a monthly pedicure and send what you save to an organisation who will be able to put it to much better use. Signing up for monthly deductions makes it an easy thing to do for the forgetful. Or there are the sporadic Kickstarter / Crowdfunding campaigns such as these ones : Dog’s Best Friend and Aussie Farms Repository which make ordinary people’s dreams come to fruition just by a whole stack of people banding together by donating a little bit to fund something big and wonderful.

Other sneaky ways to send some of your hard earnt money off to a good cause (without really noticing as you would have spent the money anyway)……..

Make a bet : This tactic has a lot going for it – guilt, redemption, making one ponder poor decisions and inevitable downfall resulting in financial gain for a good cause. I have a shameful habit of social smoking which rears it’s ugly head on average a couple of  times a year. In an effort to make said social smoking a little bit more unappealing, I have made a bet with my fella to part with $10 for each shameful cigarette smoked which goes directly to his charity of choice (Medecins Sans Frontieres).

Charity fund raising holidays : Travel and animals – two of my favourite things. One of these trips is on my whopping to do list – working with rescued wildlife in Bolivia as detailed here or treks such as this one, in Lakdah raising funds for Vets Beyond Borders.

Use consumer driven occasions such as Valentines day for good, rather than wasting money on chocolates, flowers etc which will be forgotten in a heart beat. This is what I receive every year from my sweet man (which wins him way more brownie points than a bunch of flowers ever would). Read my post here about having a charity christmas kris kringle which has become a yearly tradition in our family. Or, if you do want to buy something tangible….re-visit my kind gifts post.

Oh, and possibly my favourite….drink wine whilst sending a large chunk (50 % of the profits in fact) to your favourite charity.

We like wine in my household so are regular customers of  Goodwill Wines. I love this company – the wines are beautiful and many are animal product free. The story behind it’s foundation is a bitter sweet one too and shows what one can do when faced with adversity. The last case we had sent money to BAWP (Barristers Animal Welfare Panel) after seeing the legal work they have done to fight for dogs like Zeus who have been seized by various councils under the very dodgy Breed Specific Legislation. Our latest case (yes, shall I mention again, we do like wine in our house !) sent money to Australian Working Dog Rescue after reading about their recent rescue of Shenzi (have tissues handy if you open that link) and Edgar’s Mission as they are just wonderful and have recently moved to a bigger property to enable them to rescue yet more animals.

If money is tight and donating financially is not a possibility right now, there are other ways to do your bit. What are you good at ? Hair cutting ? Toe nail painting ? Cooking ? There are a myriad of ways to make some stuff or use your fabulous talents for good to raise money and awareness for your favourite charity. I discovered the inner candle maker within myself last year and made these….(ta da !)

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….to flog to family and friends to raise money for Animals Asia. With Honey Money Days just a couple of months off, I will soon be turning to this new favourite hobby of mine to raise some money for the bears.

Love baking and want to spread the biscuit love ? – check out this sweet initiative, Biscuit Billy. You can bake some biscuits (and receive some tasty dog treat recipes) and have them delivered to some deserving recipients – dogs in shelters.

Whilst we are on the theme of generosity, have a read of this post by one of my Blog With Pip classmates (Katie from one of my new favourite blogs, Life With The Crew) – her comments about how she goes without and lives more simply so she can rescue dogs in the remarkable way she does, blew me away.

Another fellow class mate shared this gorgeous initiative……for disadvantaged kids in Christchurch. If only I could knit !

I would love to know who your favourite charity / rescue group /giving initiative is….please let me know in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

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Why am I blogging ???

Posted by on May 25, 2014 in Uncategorized | 8 comments

“There was this forest that was on fire, and all the animals left homeless by the blaze were standing on the edges of the forest wondering what they should do because the fire had a hold on the trees. A hummingbird swooped down and dipped her beak into a nearby lake and flew over the flames of the fire dropping that teardrop of water onto the fire. To and fro the hummingbird went between the lake and the fire. The other animals cried out to the hummingbird, “you are crazy, that will never put the fire out. What are you doing?”, and the hummingbird turned and replied “I’m doing the best I can.” – African fable.

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Me – harrassing some local Laos pups.

 

I have recently embarked on a fantastic blogging course –  “Blog with Pip“. One of our first lessons involved the telling question, “why are you blogging ?” So, to address this question, along with a little bit of an introduction to me, read on !

The essence of why I blog is to encourage us all to find the little hummingbird (in the above fable) within ourselves in this scary, crazy, mixed up world.

Part of my make up is that I am a chronic and incessant worrier about EVERYTHING. I worry about it feeling like summer in Sydney when winter is just around the corner. I worry about the plastic in the ocean, deforestation, over population, rampant consumerism, the demise of the bees…etc etc etc…but mostly I worry about animals and how we treat them.

I am also a compulsive hoarder of information about everything that interests me (from building the perfect compost heap to buying a cruelty free doona). Storage of my copious amounts of information is haphazard and messy and takes the form of torn out magazine articles drifting around the house, scrawled notes and bookmarked laptop pages. A blog is the perfect way to organise and present my new found wisdom in a logical, readable way.

It is slowly dawning on me that we have choices to make from the moment we wake up to when we fall asleep at night. These choices involve everything from the toothpaste and shampoo we use in the morning to the way we transport ourselves to work, our choice in photocopy paper, the coffee we drink, our lunch, the woolen jacket we wear, the sunscreen we use, how we wash our clothes, our toilet paper, the restaurant we eat at, the businesses we choose to spend our money at to our glass of wine in the evening. The list goes on and on. Every facet of our ordinary lives involves a choice – but how do we make the kindest one ?

Our current government in Australia has deviated so far off the kindness path that we cannot rely on them to make our world a nicer place. It really is up to you and me to pull our weight, educate ourselves and be that little hummingbird. But, I need your help too. I like to convince myself that every little thing helps but the enormity of the problems with our earth and treatment of the animals and people who live on it means that a collective effort is needed.

This is where me and my little blog step in. I want to continue to research and present a regular post on these everyday choices and how we can do things better.

The “animal activist” (of which I am an armchair one) world is a confronting one which makes me lose sleep most nights. It also reveals an incredible insight into humanity – from the compassionate, selfless and brave souls out there to the most hideous and repugnant beings imaginable. It shows what excuses we all come up with – whether it be religion, tradition, convenience, ignorance or greed – to be cruel or inadvertently thoughtless.

I have faith that most humans are inherently kind but it can be hard to make the right choices without a lot of research.  Factory farming, animal testing, puppy farms, palm oil ingredients and the like are purposely hidden from us. None of these issues are advertised or appear on the news. The country displays at the Easter Show won’t show our children how the majority of smart mother pigs exist in their barren sow stalls. Advertising is often misleading and our laws permit and, therefore, normalise a lot of the cruelty in our world (sow stalls, bobby calf disposal and  live animal export come to mind).

I am keen to master the art of  being an effective blogger and communicator so I can find some willing hummingbirds to join me on my quest for making the world a better place – for both us and the animals we share it with. I want my posts to be informative enough to make you want to take action or some change in your life but not so confronting that you turn away. I am keen to ensure that I concentrate on the positive – whether it be obtainable changes we can all make to promoting lovely ethical companies where I am sure we would all much prefer to spend our money ! 

I feel like the world of blogging has opened up a thousand doors for me. It has given me a format to learn within and has revealed a multitude of other blogs that I can learn from. It has thrown me into a world of wise, articulate, funny, resourceful, like minded and intelligent people and has made me realise just how much the “everyday person” has to offer. I’ve come to realise that everyday person includes me.

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Burritos

Posted by on May 3, 2014 in Recipes - Savoury | 0 comments

“Eating vegetarian doesn’t mean you have to eat boring, humdrum dishes”Marcus Samuelsson

 

Mexican Dog

Image from extraorinarypets.blogspot.com

 

I would like to share 2 extraordinarily scrumptious burrito recipes with you. They are both hearty taste sensations and easy and quick-ish to make.

 

Spicy Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos – tweeked from Tali’s Tomatoes :

Made 3 (generous portioned) burritos.

Ingredients

Juice of 1 lime

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

2 chopped tomatoes

1 red onion diced

4 minced garlic cloves

400g sweet potato cubed

1 400g tin of black beans (kidney beans would be fine too)

1 diced red capsicum

1 cup of chopped kale (or spinach)

1/2 a bunch of chopped corriander

1 small avocado

3 tortillas 

Sprinkle of chilli flakes

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon dried corriander

1/2 tbsp coconut oil

salt and pepper to taste

What to do

Bake / microwave or boil sweet potato until tender (I chose to bake).

In a small bowl make the salsa mix by combining 1 chopped tomato, corriander, pinch of cumin, salt and lemon juice. Set aside.

Heat coconut oil, fry garlic and onion until soft. Add capsicum, sweet potato, 1 chopped tomato, spices and stir for a few minutes, mashing the sweet potato as you go. Add black beans, kale and lime juice until heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat tortilla according to instructions and then spread salsa mix across the middle of it, topped by the sweet potato mix and avocado. I also added some Toffuti sour cream. Roll up and devour.

 

Breakfast Burrito – inspired by Healthy. Happy. Life

(incidentally, we had it for dinner, not breakfast) and made 3 generous sized burritos

Ingredients :

3 tortillas 

1 tbsp butter / margarine (I used Nuttalex)

1 cup of chopped mushrooms

1 diced red capsicum

1 packet (250g-ish) of firm tofu – crumbled.

1 cup of chopped spinach

1 tsp garlic powder

1 heaped tsp tumeric

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp olive oil

2 tsp maple syrup (or agave)

1 tsp liquid smoke

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup of grated cheese (I used my melty dairy free “Vegusto”)

What to do

Add butter to fry pan. Saute mushrooms and capsicum for a few minutes. Add tofu and remaining ingredients (aside from spinach and cheese) for around 5 minutes. Lastly add cheese and spinach and fold through. 

Heat burrito / tortillas, assemble and eat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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