Monday, November 30, 2009

Ecomaster Assessment – Part 1

We have our Ecomaster assessment booked in a few days after moving to the new house. Ecomaster offer a 4 hour complete assessment, looking at how to make your house more energy efficient, water conscious etc etc.

Granny B had one done in August. This resulted in her organising for Ecomaster to do draught proofing and put in new insulation in her ceiling. The difference to her house is amazing. It used to be freezing in winter (and I mean truly freezing – think sleeping in full winter pjs, beanie, thermal socks, doona, blankets and still freezing) and boiling in summer. We’ve had quite a few days of 35 degree weather here in Melbourne at the moment and her house has stayed nice and cool for most of the day.

I cant wait to have our assessment done on the new house. We can already see a lot wrong with it (flat roof, no ceiling insulation, no underfloor insulation to name a few). But having retrofitted our current house, we can see the potential and what can be done to improve its energy efficiency.

We will have to do it in stages but I look forward to the suggestions that this assessment can provide.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Eating Meat

I’ve been looking at our meat intake in response to reading how bad red meat is carbon footprint wise. For the 12 years prior to Little B being born, I was a vegetarian. Mainly because I preferred it as a healthy lifestyle and really enjoyed the food. Since Little B was born with his trailer load of allergies, we have had to go back to eating meat (one of his big allergies is to the majority of vegies).

But I still insist on only eating red meat twice a week. The rest of the time we eat the vegetarian meals Little B can eat, and one meal each of free range chicken and sustainable fish. I wonder how many people are comfortable with making the change towards partial vegetarianism? I'm hoping to do more vegetarian meals as Little B's allergies reduce / improve and as our garden gets bigger and more productive.

I’ve been watching River Cottage recently and found the segments on small holding really interesting. Especially how they grew their own free range chickens for meat. I like this idea but cant really seem to come round to putting into practice (says she who cant pick snails off our vegies). We aim to get chickens for eggs in 2010, and perhaps we may then move onto contemplating them as a food source as well.

Mr B has said he will take on the chook "disposal", if we do the plucking and innards removal. Blech!! But hey thinking about it is a start LOL.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

So sad

I still find it so sad when I meet other parents who have begun the allergy merry go round. Especially since in the early days, that is mainly what you get – the run around. This particular couple I met recently had to see 6 different GP’s before they could get anyone to listen to them, then it took another 3 specialists before anyone would listen or even look / touch their child’s skin.

Their 4 month old little boy is covered quite literally from head to toe in eczema. He scratches himself until he bleeds. They were given so much conflicting advice from so many different sources, but finally they have found a specialist who was the first to actually touch and look at their child’s skin. He also gave them some experienced advice and for the first time in recent weeks, their little boy doesn’t spend each day screaming in pain and trying to scratch his skin off.

I applaud them for their perseverance. Its bad enough being a first time parent and then having to battle the medical establishment, who all seem to follow the idea that first time parents can only be hypochondriacs.

I’m a firm believer in trusting your instinct. After all, who lives with your child 24 / 7, who eats, sleeps and breathes with them – you, the parent. So who is going to know if something is wrong – you!!!

If this story says nothing at all, I just want parents, especially newbie’s, never to give up on themselves or their bubbas.

Frugal living = green living = sustainable living?

I find it increasingly interesting how often simple or frugal living can mean that you are being environmentally responsible as well.

In the beginning, there were things I started doing to be more frugal that I can see now were eco-friendly. We didn’t use a dryer (due to power costs), used cloth nappies (for cost and environment), washed in cold water with full loads, cooked from scratch, didnt use chemical products to clean the house, vinegar as a fabric softener and our the primary reason for these was to save dollars.

And now with the new things I have tried as well I can see this parallel too. Knitting our own dish cloths, not using chemical cleaners, using a lunette cup and cloth pads, using fans not air con, buying 2nd hand clothes and so on. Its why I really look back with interest to what Granny B and MIL B did when we were growing up, that was done for frugalness but was more environmentally friendly as well.

Obviously this doesn’t always apply. Having to cook from scratch as much as I do for Little B, I can see that the link between cooking from scratch and knowing the ingredients is far more important, than buying the cheapest ingredients. I’m more likely to buy organic now, and grow my own food.

Mind you I am still a dollar stretcher and whilst I buy the “best” food I can for our family, I save pennies where I can. I guess its ingrained in me after years of simple living as a choice ☺

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Garden Update

Well our zucchini seedlings are no more. The Midnight Monsters aka a possum family have helped themselves and eaten them all up ☹ I think it might be time to invest in some cloches. I’ve seen some glass ones and bamboo wicker type ones, and am leaning towards the wicker-esque ones first methinks.

Interestingly, they only seem to ransack one part of the garden and don’t investigate our raised beds (or maybe they are just scared of snails, because we have a plague of those around there). Granny B has become an expert snail smasher (with a running commentary from Little B). I am too faint hearted to even look at snails, in fact just thinking about them now is inducing an urge to vomit LOL.

But everything else is growing really well. Our cherry tomatoes have had a huge burst of growth, and our beans have overcome their transplanting shock. Our cucumber has recovered from a snail attack and has some weenie baby cucumbers on it. And our snow peas are still taking over the world.

We planted:
- more zucchini (what can I say I’m a sucker for punishment)
- red capsicum
- carrots
- lettuce

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christmas tree o Christmas tree

We haven’t had a Christmas tree since Little B has been born. In the early days, Mr B and I had a tree but one of our lovely furbabies decided her first Xmas to eat the tinsel, some Christmas decorations and a Christmas light. She spent Christmas at the vet, having her insides cleaned out and being resewn together. Very expensive Christmas that year ;-)

But this year we have decided that Little B needs a Christmas tree (mind you I reeeeally want one too). And since our previous Christmas decorations were too tasty, we are looking at having an eco-friendly decoration bonanza.

We started early by making bakers clay and letting Little B cut out Xmas shapes, baking them and painting them. He had an absolute ball doing this and it was fun for us as well. We made some extras so that he can give them to his grandparents as Xmas pressies.

We then moved onto making crafty gods eyes in jazzy colours. And with each week leading up to Xmas we have planned one Christmas decoration craft project per week to do together. Now I know at the end we wont have the designer magazine Christmas tree, but what we will have is:
• eco-friendly decorations
• lots of quality time spent with Little B
• lovely memories of Little B’s ecstatic joy at creating his “masterpieces”
• the joy in perhaps creating a new tradition for our family
• and last but not least, the House of B’s first family Christmas tree.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ice cream, we all scream for ice cream

I’ve found a less intensive way to whip up some ice cream for Little B. A d├ęcor Frosty Mug. I just put in the rice milk, stir for 2 minutes, wait for 2 minutes and bam, we have instant icecream.

This has been the most fabulous addition to my kitchen. It satisfies Little B as he has become quite keen on the concept of ice cream from books and watching other kids. And for me its something easy to do and make for him when its hot or as a treat.

Little B has never had real ice cream, so to him it’s the real deal. Plus he loves rice milk, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone ☺

Thursday, November 19, 2009

20 years on and still current

I’m currently reading Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison and am just blown away by the fact that Bill Mollison wrote this in the early 90’s. Nearly 20 years later, I’m impressed that so much of what he has written is even more applicable today.

I love the concepts in Permaculture and eventually hope to do a short or weekend course to study it a bit further. The idea of planning your garden around 4 zones really appeals to me. Also the idea that everything that comes onto your block, stays on your block really resonates with me. So much so that I am making a huge concerted effort to follow this principle as best I can. Its made me change my shopping habits even more.

By luck and a bit of information, we have accidently designed Granny B’s garden in this way. Yay for us. But with my new “garden” already forming in my mind, I am so eager to embrace and implement permaculture principles and design on its blank canvas. I am well into the design stage and am really enjoying the planning process.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm in love.....

I have finally found low VOC wood stains and oils in Australia. This has driven me mad for ages as there were none to be found in Oz but have existed for ages in Europe and the US. Now Livos is importing them from Germany.

I cant wait to trial this on a dining table that I am refurbishing in readiness for our new abode. And also then on the floorboards, architraves and skirting as well. I’m told you cant smell anything after 48 hours and with Little B having multiple food allergies and chemical sensitivities, it sounds like a dream come true.

Will post back pics once our new table is on its pathway to dreaminess.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Just a little bit of ignorance!!

You know I am really starting to tire of professionals who are ignorant about allergies. Little B goes to 3 year old kindergarten next year. So at the start of the year I began looking for kinders for him.

I’m lucky that I found a great and supportive one almost immediately. They have previously had children who are anaphylactic to nuts and as such were open to a child with multiple food allergies. They also already have a policy about only eating out of lunchboxes and if the child is highly allergic than a staff member sits next to them during snack time.

But I did have one other kindy tell me they weren’t keen to have him as it was too complicated. Though they didn’t think it was too complicated to have a child with anaphylaxis nor to do the training for an epi-pen. Just too complicated to make sure fruit wasn’t shared!?!?!?!?

But I experienced mind blowing ignorance from another kindy teacher. Upon learning he bleeds gastro-intestinally from the foods he is allergic too, she said “oh well that’s not as important to me as a child with anaphylaxis”. When I clarified this comment, she again insisted it wasn’t something she had to concern herself about. This same kindy has only just moved to lunchboxes and still insists on providing milk drinks during snack times.

Not only milk – but this milk is bought by a different parent each kindy day. As a parent to a child with a multiple food allergies, I was blown away by this woman and kindy. One, who serves milk in this day and age with allergies on the increase – let alone relies on varying individuals to provide it? Secondly, just because Little B wouldn’t swell up, stop breathing and potentially die in front of her, she wasn’t willing to keep an eye on him during a kinder session.

Needless to say I didn’t pick this kindergarten but I have heard of some parents sending their cows milk allergic children to kindergarten or child care where they have been given cows milk (even though the parents have provided an alternative).

Just how ignorant can people be? And how did they get their jobs as educational professionals?

Herb Garden

Today, Granny B and I decided to start a herb garden and a lettuce garden in some polystyrene boxes we have been donated. Our lettuces aren’t working so well at Granny B’s (and in past years we have normally grown them at my place).

Here is the blank canvas:

And here are the herb and lettuce boxes (we have two kinds of lettuce and some baby spinach on one side, and basil, oregano and coriander on the otherside):

By re-purposing these boxes, it means we can keep them close to the back door but it also makes them transportable should we wish to move them around the yard. I will start on a new vegie garden at the new House of B pronto but starting in the middle of summer means I will probably be getting ready for autumn planting or late Feb.

I’m looking forward to starting another herb garden. We have a great rosemary and sage patch, but it will be fun to try these new one this year. I also wouldn’t mind turning my hand to some asian herbs as well.

Today we also planted:
- rockmelon
- more pumpkin
- eggplant
- more carrots (the last lot were eaten by creatures of the night)
- beans

Friday, November 13, 2009

Consumption Rebellion inspiration

I often find at the moment that I am inspired by other people’s blogs or challenges. They make me rethink things that I am doing or want to do.

Currently I’m focussed on buying nothing new (if at all possible), kudos to Consumption Rebellion. This means I’ve been much more creative in looking at reusing things around the house. It also means that if I want something new to wear, use and so on, first I check my cupboards and try to reuse / or refashion, then onto op shops, freecycle, and finally ebay.

Mr B has always been a fan of the rubbish drive special. He also loves to tell me that free is the right price. And as we pack our house for the move, we are reminiscing over the way we acquired items. We have a lovely cork table he uses for his hobbies (from the rubbish drive), some chairs (from the rubbish drive),….are you seeing a theme here. But we also have hand me downs, hand me alongs and bonus finds from the op shop and freecycle.

And since purchasing our new house, it has offered a few challenges too. We started looking early on for a tv type stand (that could be used as more than a tv stand). I’ve made it a habit now to stop into any op shops when in the vicinity as well as eye balling ebay. This helped us find a gorgeous Baltic pine tv stand that has drawers and shelves for other inanities (and will make a kicking toys adventure playground for Little B ☺.

But I guess I’m just amazed at what you can find, if you have a list and then patiently wait to find what you are looking for. And sometimes it is just good flow – Granny B wanted to sell her lounge as she has a progressive back injury, then I happened to see a gorgeous lounge in an op shop. She went and bought it one day, listed her old lounges on ebay same day, they sold that night and were picked up the next day. Perfect flow!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rice Milk Ice cream Recipes

** I’ve made both these recipes back when I was following an elimination diet, Little B has never had the egg one obviously but has tried the oil based one **

1. Dairy, soy, nut free version

100g caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
4 egg yolks
2 cups rice milk

Add 1stp vanilla essence for vanilla ice cream
Add 1/3rd cup cocoa for choc icecream

- Combine caster sugar, egg yolks, cornflour, beat until mixture becomes very very light yellow.
- Bring rice milk to boil on stove top. Mix together.
- Put back into saucepan and stir continuously until slightly thicker.
- Cool in fridge for 7 hours. Put in icecream maker as per instructions.
- and walla you have ice cream.

2. Dairy, soy, egg and nut free version

Exactly the same as above but instead of egg yolk, you add 1tbsp rice bran oil.

I used the 2nd recipe for ice cream Christmas puddings last year and everyone loved them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It starts at the beginning

I’ve been looking at kindergartens for a few months as Little B is nearly 3. And I have to say that I have been surprised by the lack of environmental consciousness in most them. You would think that in this day and age with Stephanie Alexander’s school kitchen gardens and the like there would be more interest in all things eco.

I’m lucky that I have found a kindy that follows my green and sustainable ethos. I think this is really important for two reasons: one, I want to support and encourage local community projects / businesses that are reducing their carbon footprint and two, I want Little B to learn these life skills, belief systems, fundamentals from places other than just our little family.

His new kindy-to-be is on green energy, has water tanks, is chemical free, has a vegie garden for the kids, has a Bokashi bucket, a worm farm, fruit trees and only uses art and craft supplies which are recycled.

And I’m proud to say that even though he is only 3, the primary school that this kindy feeds into is equally green. In my opinion, this is the best type of education to begin their lives.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Garden Update

Our snowpeas are growing…and growing…and growing. In fact I think they might take over the world ☺ Which is great actually, as last year they grew really fast at the start and then got too wet and keeled over and died.

Our strawberries are flourishing as well. The snails don’t seem to have noticed them (though they’ve noticed everything else in the garden – goodbye cucumbers).

And our carrots are slowly appearing in the vegie bed. I’m just waiting to see if our capsicums are going to grow from seed or whether I'll admit defeat and start cultivating seedlings first.

We’ve used a combination of seeds straight into the ground and are own home grown seedlings this year. I’m curious to see which does better in our different vegie patches. We have three going with different processes – one is a no dig above ground, one is cultivated earth (we worked it over a lot during winter with manures and compost) and one is just good old fashioned dirt with no help from us. Ironically at the moment, it’s the good old dirt winning the race, but its still too early to tell.

We planted:
- more zucchini
- pumpkin
- more lettuce (this isn’t thriving as well this year)
- pak choy

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The gastro fairies have come visiting :-(

Unfortunately the gastro fairies have come visiting Little B. He is one sick little man – high temps and all the rest. I have to say I dread gastro as it takes a huge toll on Little B.

Last September he had a horrid rotavirus that ended up with him being hospitalised twice. He ran a temp of 40 for 4 days and we were changing nappies a minimum of 16 times a day. But that wasn’t the worst bit, he lost heaps of weight and it took him 3 months to recover fully. Luckily he was still breastfed and that kept him hydrated and soldiered him through.

The problem with having multiple food allergies is he doesn’t really have a buffer to fight off viruses like these. Its not like I can offer heaps of appetising foods to encourage appetite and rice milk unfortunately is basically white water with some calcium LOL (our dietitians description not ours).

Fingers crossed these fairies are only visiting for a very short while.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What I don’t do….

In homage to Unstuffed, I have decided to do my own list of some of What I Don’t Do…

- I don’t use the clothes dryer
- I don’t use my lights in the house unless it is dark outside
- If its yellow, I let it mellow
- I don’t use the air conditioner
- I don’t use shampoo or conditioner
- I don’t use chemicals for cleaning or bathing or anything really
- I eat very little processed, pre-packaged foods
- I don’t use disposable beauty or personal products (Lunette cup, cloth pads)
- I try not to buy new (secondhand clothes, secondhand furniture, borrow from the library, freecycle, reuse / recycle etc etc)
- I don’t accept junk mail, I don’t buy magazines, I don’t buy newspapers
- I don’t leave the computer plugged in (use a laptop and its battery)
- I am trying not to use plastic (currently in the slow process of converting all our containers over to glass)
- I don’t do bottled water (sigg bottles baby – all the way)
- I don’t use plastic shopping bags
- I don’t let Little B watch much tv (there are better things to do in life)

I’d like to add heaps more to this list – but what can I say, I’m a work in progress ☺

Friday, November 6, 2009

Where for art thou compost?

One of the things about moving house is that I have to leave my poor compost bins behind. A weird thing to miss I hear you say but I will miss them. My compost bins have been a saga of trial and error (initially more error than trial). And now just as I have got them to the stage where they break down well and fairly quickly, I am leaving them behind *sniff, sniff*.

But I guess the good news from it all is I wont make the same mistakes again and can start anew, with some new bins. At least the new ones will be within walking distance to the house. At the moment, I put off putting our vegie scraps into the bins as long as possible before I have to abseil down our block to the bins. Lucky I am committed to being green LOL.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Allergy Cheer Squad - I salute you!

Over the course of our allergy journey, we have met some amazing mainstream and non mainstream medical professionals. And I would like to take this opportunity to give them the applause they deserve.

First up, is Robyn Thompson, a midwife and lactation consultant based in Melbourne. We met her in the early days for breastfeeding help. The best advice Robyn gave me was that "every mother should follow their instincts". I use this as my mantra. After all, we eat, sleep and breathe with our children on a daily basis. Who better to know if something is wrong. She gave me the most amazing confidence as a first time mother, and that is priceless.

Another member of my cheer squad, is Jacinta Tobin, a paediatric gastroenterologist who focusses on food allergies and nutrition. She is another amazing woman who backs mothers with complete confidence. She believes that mothers intuition is absolute and works so hard to help. If we hadnt found this woman, we would still be living with one very sick little boy.

Finally, Sue & Howard Dengate have been a fantastic help as well. Their website and books on going failsafe saved my sanity. Salicylates are completely evil where Little B is concerned. He is a nightmare when he eats high salicylate foods not to mention sleep goes completely out the window. This couple answered any and all questions I sent via email, and again made me confident to make the right food choices for Little B.

Confidence especially when you are a new mum can be hard to come by. These individuals made sure that this allergy journey was made as a mother confident that she knew something was wrong with her little boy. A mum who wasnt going to go down without a fight to get the help he needed. Ladies and gentlemen I salute you!!!

Finally some good news....

I'm am proud to say that Little B has been weaned off his reflux medication......finally!! The combination of probiotics and vitamin d has meant that we can be drug free. In fact, the end result has inspired me so much that I am attempting to wean myself off similar medication.

Little B is a lot happier and sleeps SO much better. As someone who could hold the Crappiest Sleeper in The World title, this has been an absolute eye opener and joyful experience for me. Its very odd not to wake multiple times a night, often with screaming involved (from his side only LOL). He is much calmer and eats so much better as well.

Who would have thought it would make such a difference. So I take my hat off to his paed gastro, Jacinta Tobin. She walks off the beaten path and at the forefront of paediatric gastroenterology for allergy bubbas and I admire her determination and spirit.

House of B is moving

We're moving house soon. We've worked really hard to make our current house eco-friendly and sustainable, but the irony is now that we have just got our solar panels we are moving house :-) But we are very excited about the new House of B. It is a larger block, with a house that lends itself better to being made over in a sustainable way.

Also even though we are moving further out, it has greater access to public transport and the ability to walk to local shops etc. So we wont have to use the car as much (have no choice where we currently live - its the car or rock climbing). And the exciting bit for me, is the garden (read lawn and some fruit trees) is a blank canvas for me to redo my vegie garden. And I'm keen to do a big permaculture garden.

Since we move in 5 weeks, I've been indulging my gardening urges by working on Granny B's garden. Another plus for new house is its 6 doors down from Granny B's (yay the walking distance thing again). We've been working hard on putting in spring plantings and enjoying all our mini orchard fruit trees blossoming. Our blueberries are fruiting and so are our dwarf peaches. Yummmmmmmm

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sneaky little vampire loads

I'm proud to say that reducing our electricity usage is really paying off. We are now down to 11kw a day!! *dance, dance*.
By slowly turning things off at the powerpoint and not using other items, I am slowly whittling down dollar amount of our electricity bill as well as kilowatts used.

Biggest culprits so far have been the things that have vampire (standby) power -
* the TV (when not in use we pull the plug out - it spends alot of its life like this LOL)
* microwave (which we turn off unless we use it)
* lights (which we changed to 12 watt leds)
* mobile phone charger (keep unplugged)
* computer (moved to laptop, and use battery until it needs charging)
* digital alarm clocks (we moved to old fashioned key wound alarm clocks).

But one of the biggest culprits has been our cordless phones. Call it a blinding flash of the obvious, but I didnt even think of these until I read a Choice article on them. By going back to an "old fashioned" phone, we knocked $40 off our electricity bill alone. The mind boggles!!!!

But I have more to attack with our house, and with a move to a new house, we hope to bring it down even further.