World Environment Day pledges

We’ve had a whole week of activities leading up to today, World Environment Day. Living in an island nation, and coming from an island nation, I’m acutely aware that rising sea levels will cause havoc. However for some pacific islands, they could get swallowed up completely soon. This article explains more eloquently than I can about how this is now at tipping point.

Our morning tea today celebrated the environmental initiatives that my workplace has done over the past year. We also celebrated the team that the most of (by percentage) had switched off their computer screens, earning them an organic box of fruit and veggies to split between them as a team. We were able to buy reusable water bottles, coffee cups and insulated containers to reduce buying plastics, of all kinds. I am slowly replacing my plastics with mason jars, mainly because of this blog. I love the lunch and breakfast ideas, and that the glass doesn’t corrode or taint the food from previous meals (pasta sauce being the case in point).

Another activity was taking leaves from the pledge tree, here are my family’s:

1. I will shop more often at my local farmer’s market

2. I will have a nude lunch twice a week

3. I will not buy bottled water, I will take my own!

4. I will attend a national tree day event and plant some trees in my local area

A nude lunch is not pre-packaged, so all homemade and brought in. While I do this a lot, there are occasions where I will augment the lunch with a brought purchase (chocolate *cough*). Aside from saving money if I bring a nude lunch every day, I’ll also keep my pledge. I’m going to keep track of them over the year and let you know how we go.

I wonder what next year’s World Environment Day theme will be?

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Long weekending

This Monday is a public holiday for the Queen’s Birthday, it’s our last public holiday before Christmas; except for Melbourne Cup day. Yes, we have a public holiday for a horse race. And people wonder why we have a gambling problem in Australia.

It being June, cold, damp and dark in the mornings and getting dark very early in the evenings, we’re limited to what we can do with the wee boy, the two activities we have lined up for him each weekend, the swimming and gymnastics are great as they’re indoors. But he’s requested to visit the animals this weekend too, so we’re off to Healesville on Saturday after swimming (picnic ahoy) and Melbourne Zoo on Monday, aiming to get there first thing to try and avoid the crowds. We brought the annual membership about this time last year, and it has paid for itself tenfold. I love that we can dip in and out, and don’t feel like we have to visit every animal on every visit. One time Peanut just wanted to see the giraffes, so that is what we did.

We’ve got babysitters on Saturday night, so we’re off out for dinner. Not sure what that feels like any more without having to take colouring books and pencils with us, but we’ll give it a go. We both love Peanut, he’s our pocket sidekick, less so now as he’s growing up so quickly. He’s also great fun to be around, it does feel odd not having him with us when we do get the chance to go out on our own, but every so often, you need to remind yourself of who you were before they smaller people arrived in your life.

Other than that the plans are tentative, we’re trying to catch up with some friends but we’re juggling calendars to meet them. Fingers crossed we will align with the planets and Hubs can smack a golf ball around and we can get a play date together. I’ve also got some serious reading to do for my book club, it is our first meeting in a couple of weeks and goodness me I’m struggling with the book. Not much is happening, I’m gritting my teeth and reading, but lordy, something better get going quickly to justify the 600+ pages.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing this weekend, I hope you have fun.

PS I know it’s Thursday.

Ten on Tuesday – musicians/bands edition

I may struggle with Carole’s suggestion this week, as I don’t think I’ve seen ten different bands, but we’ll give it a go:

1. Wet Wet Wet – first band I saw and for a long time, my favourite band so saw them repeatedly. Then they treated Tommy Cunningham awfully, Marti became addicted to drugs and it was a mess. Combine that with the teenage angst, listening to them now is hard work.

2. Billy Joel – seen him in the UK and Australia. Love him, although being brought up on his music, both my brother and I had a few years where we couldn’t listen to him. At. All. But all his albums are on my iPhone.

3. Pet Shop Boys – one unforgettable night at The Tower of London. We were offered corporate tickets at work, my manager couldn’t go so I went instead. My brother couldn’t get there, so I took the only other person I could think of on the spur of the moment; but didn’t ask my mum, who has never forgiven me. Whoops. Still bopping about with one of my best friends will remain firmly in my memory.

4. The Eagles – saw them at the original Wembley stadium. It was a fantastic concert and one I was talking about over this past weekend as Hubs said they’re coming to Australia. If I don’t have to sell a kidney to see them, I’d like to go.

5. Leonard Cohen – a birthday present from my cousin, her husband and I went to the concert at the Rod Laver arena earlier this year and had a whale of a time.

6. The Spice Girls – at the O2 arena Price Waterhouse Coopers have a corporate box, when the Spice Girls were there for a run of dates in 2008, they gave the box to the PAs to host a networking event. We met at their offices, took the river boat down the Thames watching the lights of London slip by, drinking wine. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, they know how to work a crowd those ladies do. I only wish they had recorded the concerts so I could buy the DVD.

7. Take That – got a text one night from Sonic, didn’t check it until the morning as I was already in bed. When I read it in the wee hours I found they had a spare ticket for Take That, that night. Did I want to go, let them know ASAP. I texted her back yes please and got the train to London to go to work, then whizzed across town on the underground. Much less salubrious than the river boat, and less wine.

8. Toploader – I was in the nightclub in Eastbourne when Sony signed them.

9. Babybird – Mum and my brother were going, and I asked to tag along. So at least I got to see someone at the Astoria before it was turned into luxury flats. It was an odd night, the singer kicked his music stand into the crowd and broke his foot for one thing and my zip broke on my jeans for another. I liked Babybird, when some of their songs appear on shuffle, I’ll listen to them, but still listen to one of the support acts Mulu; their one and only album is still one of my favourites.

And that is all I can remember, I love listening to live music too. Not that you’d think it by this pathetic effort. Must try harder, but when it is upwards of $100 to see anyone on their whistle-stop-blink-and-you-miss-them-tickets-like-gold-dust-tour of Australia, it’s not a justifiable expenditure.

Man flu times two

We’ve had a cold. By ‘we’ I mean husband and Peanut. Both manfully carried on, Peanut alternating from eating us out of house and home, and then not wanting anything at all, but struggling with little mouthfuls as he couldn’t breathe and eat at the same time. He didn’t have a temperature, and he’s not been ill, just poorly – so we didn’t take him to the doctors. Which when we cancelled his swimming lesson for Saturday morning proved problematical, as they can’t refund us unless we provide a doctors certificate.

We had a nice day with him on Saturday, although after a day at home on Friday with his Dadda he was going stir crazy; therefore we took him out to infect other people late morning to run some errands. As we pulled into a parking bay at where we needed to be for our second task, he fell asleep, literally going from chatting to snoring in seconds. I stayed in the car with him, Hubs went into the shop and we drove around the long way to get to our third visit. After 45 minutes (like clockwork) he woke up, we went to get some groceries and by chance found an incredible fishmongers. Called a ‘fisho’ Down Under. It was spotless, the fish were so fresh and well presented, I could have brought one of everything, but we settled on a beautiful snapper and some smoked trout to make this hash recipe as it looks really tasty, although it’ll be made gluten free obviously. I follow Williams Sonoma on tumblr, the recipes they post look amazing, and even better, when you read them, they are simple, so aren’t too imposing to make either.

Sunday was less successful, we are at the hitting stage of toddler-doom, and it’s hard work. It takes all my effort to not rail at Peanut, as it’ll just reinforce that what he’s doing is ok, but goodness me – it’s so hard. We were assembling jigsaws in the living room, he’d dragged out every single one he owns, it was lovely, until towards the end he ran at me and landed in my lap, with both knees hitting my pelvis. It hurt, brought tears to my eyes and I’ve got a nice bruise, which only Hubs can commiserate over. Then when we were having lunch, despite him having had something to eat earlier, as soon as we sit down to eat, he always tries to eat from our plates too, so I asked if he was hungry. I got an elbow in my elbow for the question, held up high and slammed down onto mine. Another bruise, another ‘What happened there?” moment. When I asked to come to me, he huffed, and refused to come back to the table. Hubs asked him to come back to us too, eventually he came over, where we explained that we don’t hit friends, or family.

Sunday we had an early dinner, Peanut asked for a bath straight after and was asleep by 6:30, he then slept through to 5am, came into our bed and slept till 7am. Last night was less successful, he was a lot more restless, after trying to resettle him, with him fighting it to the nth degree. As soon as I made any movements towards his door, we woke back up again. In the end I left him to it, and went back to bed. Hubs then got up to have a go, with him falling asleep in Peanuts bed. I’ve started coughing, so I think it’s my turn for the latest lurgy. Honestly, it’s flipping ridiculous, between child care and an air-conditioned office, we just pick up everything. The head cold going round work is awful, I was hoping that after having something last month I was going to miss it, so I’m dosing myself up and keeping my fingers crossed.

Melbourne is grey and miserable, just like the UK in winter. Autumn has most definitely moved on, the next season has swung round, and I cannot believe we’re in June! Slow down already…!

Vale Maya Angelou

I’m struggling today. I woke up to the news that one of the true shining lights of literature, Maya Angelou had passed peacefully away. Regarded as one of the greats of American literature, the ripples of impact from her writing were felt all over the world. I feel unutterably sad. I’m in black, I’ve wept and I’ve thought about the millions of us who will feel her loss, from Barack and Michelle Obama, to Oprah, to little old me. I then thought about her family of which she was so proud, and wept all over again.

She has been a stalwart of my life since my late teens. Never assigned reading, on one of my frequent forays to the library, I found her books as though called to read them. I brought the autobiographies, the poems, devoured microfiches of her news cuttings and wondered how strong you’d have to be if someone else had lived her life.

As my son crawled into our bed at 2am this morning, not feeling well at all, he cuddled up against me, my arms around him. I thought of when Ms Angelou was woken by her mother, telling her to wake up. Not to move, just to wake up. She woke to find her arms protectively around her newborn son, and her mother reassuring her that she was doing ok. Why I thought of that, last night, when I’ve not thought of it in years, I do not know.

Reading her books gave me an insight into a world I’d never see, but gave me courage when I felt afraid. She shared and opened her heart with us, allowing us to see that no matter what, you can begin again. Pick yourself up, start over. Some of the sagest, wisest quotes came from her, the internet, Facebook and Tumblr will have lots of them for you to read at, but these two:

When people show you who they are, believe them the first time

When you know better, you do better

I hold these two highly over my head and my heart, reminding myself time and again, pick yourself up. Start over. You are ok. You are enough.

I was given an education. That I wasted. My brother went to university, I didn’t. I couldn’t bear to be in education after three grandparents died in my teens. I wanted to be out of school, I hated it. Hated that I didn’t fit in, no matter what I did, I felt clumsy, awkward, stupid. Teachers I didn’t respect, because they didn’t respect me. Teachers that stood by and watched myself and others be bullied. Teachers that didn’t inspire me to greatness, because they appeared to me to have settled, so why should I try harder to make a difference? When the Head Boy wrote his name on the top of an exam paper, crossed his arms in protest at the standard of teaching and refused to answer any more questions, yet still managed to get 2% – just for getting his name right…

Then in my late teens, when I found Ms Angelou and realised that education was the ticket to getting out, getting on in life, will take you anywhere. I was angry. And her words lead me on to read, and read and read. Educating myself, each book pointing the way to the next in my journey. Most of my books have underlined passages, words that spoke so loudly to me, it was like a siren going off over my head.

This week I read this story, a boy who knew that if he worked hard, studied hard, he could achieve anything, despite being homeless, despite his life struggles, he was made Valedictorian of his class. I felt ashamed of giving up on myself, letting myself settle, not pushing myself harder when I had the access to free education. Not that I would give anything up in this life that I am living now, as I’m happy with where I am. But on the other hand, in my home country and in my adopted country we have two conservative governments who are demanding that university fees go up. Leaving people with a potential $500,000 debt to become doctors in Australia. If you are truly inspired to become a doctor, and you push through to the end of you university degree, how do you begin to pay back that amount of debt? Well, it will take years, you’re likely to take the highest paid job you can, charge the highest amount you can to pay it back quickly, leaving the people who will need your services the most unable to access you. That also saddened me beyond words too, that we’re pricing education, the only true ticket out of poverty, out of the reach of practically everybody.

When I packed up my books to move from the UK to Australia, I hesitated packing Ms Angelou’s biographies and poems that had kept me company on the course of my teenage to adult life. Reluctantly, I consigned the well-loved, well-worn, dropped in the bath, bashed and battered books to the charity pile. How I wish I had them with me now to re-read.

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.”
Alan Bennett, The History Boys

Maya Angelou, for the amount of times you held my hand, held my heart, I can never repay you.

Wonderful weekending

While I woke up tired this morning, that is more to do with a cat grooming me in the middle of the night and a small boy letting me have about 1/8th of my pillow in the small hours, I woke up happy.

This weekend was simply gorgeous. On Saturday, Peanut moved up a class at his swimming lesson, he is officially now with parents out the water. I got in with him to transition him, but next week he’s on his own, which given his toddler listening “skills” could be fun, but at least he can stand up where the class is taking place. After his lesson, we had a lovely play on the water park features, going down the slides together. One of his lovely spoonerisms is that he wants us to sit on his lap, or can he help you. Either way as his speech improves and we’ve lost haddacadda – helicopter, taskey – taxi, amongst others, we’re trying to keep some words and phrases in the family vernacular for posterity as they’re too cute to lose altogether.

We then caught up with friends, having a long (if you’re a toddler) walk on the beach in Seaford, bringing home three sea shells as mementos, throwing the ball for the dogs and pointing out jelly fishes to Peanut as we chatted all the way along and back again, I also got a peep at my sister-in-law, who I’d missed the weekend before as I was away.

After the walk, we had coffees and an ice cream, and split a bowl of chips on a balcony overlooking the water. Heading to the supermarket to grab some last bits for the roastie in the evening, Peanut dragged the basket on wheels around behind him, first carefully laying his monkey in the bottom. He then helped lift the groceries out to put on the belt, including monkey, much to the cashiers joy. He handed over the money, took the receipt, brightly said ‘Thank you. C’mon Mama!’ and led the way out the shop.

While we prepared dinner, he pottered about trashing his train track and playing with his digger, to tide him over the last twenty minutes or so before dinner, we put on A Bugs Life, a firm family favourite, “I’m the only stick with eyeballs!” He washed his hands first time of asking, wolfed his dinner down and as bright as a button asked to carry on watching the film. Looking at him, wide awake and raring to go, we started the DVD again, putting on his PJs towards the end. He went straight to sleep, and slept 8pm – 6:30am. Huzzah.

Sunday we had his gymnastics class. He had a little diva tantrum at the beginning when we took his socks off, so it took him a bit to warm up, but the one time I didn’t have a camera with me was the time he stood perfectly straight in ‘ta-dah’ position with arms outstretched. I know I’m biased but he truly is adorable. We headed to the farmers market, with an hours’ drive detour for sleeping beauty in the back. Brought some local veggies and goodies, including the last of the season’s figs (yum) and some triple cream brie (good job I’m running a lot). Hubs and Peanut had a pulled pork roll each, not much coeliac options to be found, I had lunch at home, smashed avocado, feta and eggs on toast (good job I’m running a lot). I had a doze, Hubs toddled off into the city to watch Carlton snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, then Peanut and I went out for a run. Nothing like a toddler squealing with glee ‘Faster Mama!’ as you hurtle down a hill for him to complain as you puff up a hill. I ran as much as I could, concentrating on the flatter bits of the route, but pushing as best I could on the inclines. I treated it as my fartlek session, and was very hot and sweaty as we got closer to home, with one of our neighbours grinning at me saying ‘It’s definitely easier on the way down!’ outside our house Peanut turned around in his buggy and said ‘Good running Mama!’ which made my day.

I pottered about the house, we had leftovers for dinner, the cats are getting on better, Hubs came home we had a lovely evening together, and Peanut slept through till 6:30am, after coming into our bed. I didn’t look at the clock last night, I didn’t want to know what time it was, it wouldn’t have made any difference to the clinging to the edge of the bed, I just would have known how long I was holding on for!

Have a good week peeps.

Postural support

I’m getting old and creaky. Yes, I know that is a shock to me too. I’m drawing ever closer to 40 years old, which aside from amazing me seems to be a significant number for lots of people. But for me, I think it will be like my 30th birthday. More of a problem to my mum, because she will have a 40 year old daughter! Age to me is pretty much immaterial. I’m old enough to be able to legally do lots of stuff, but it doesn’t stop me from being daft about some of the things that I do. I am getting better at this thing they call life, mainly because I’ve got a nearly three year old who says ‘Hey! What you doing?’ a lot, which makes me question what am I doing more than I ever have done before, as he wants answers and ‘Because I am’ doesn’t cut it.

Peanut is so funny, this morning he leant over me in bed and lifted an eyelid to get me out my doze, telling me to ‘Wake up mama, wake up!’ He then told me ‘Glasses on mama!’ After being woken up at one point (well after 2:30am, as that is when he joined us in bed) I had him, the bigger cat (more later) and myself on my pillow, with me having the smallest amount of the pillow, I was slightly jaded this morning, to say the least.

Anyhoo, I digress.

I’ve been seeing an osteo nearly once a week since I fell down the stairs, my back is better, but it’s not very strong. Worryingly so actually. I got given some lat push-ups to do against the wall, and could barely move. Compared to when I was regularly swimming, which in my head was the day before yesterday, but is in reality at least fifteen years ago, if not more, I’m as weak as a kitten (more later). I was shocked to say the least, I had to cancel a session with a fitness instructor last week, but this week I was put through my paces and couldn’t hide behind the ‘I run around after a toddler’ any longer. If I want to stay mobile and supported, I need to exercise my back. I cannot avoid it any longer, I also cannot carry Peanut around any longer, which isn’t an issue as he walks everywhere, but every so often he wants up, and while I can hold him for a little while, 15kg of wiggling toddler on one hip, ain’t good.

Aside from the running, which is coming on apace (ahem), I’ve now got specific exercises to do to strengthen my core and back muscle groups. I took myself off to the gym at lunchtime today, did all but one of them, avoided the foam roller (I’ll buy one at the weekend and torture myself then), shot back to work and am now sitting at my desk all hot and bothered. I didn’t have time to do the whole program, but as a lot of the exercises I can also do at home, e.g. push-ups, crunches, lunges and so on, it’s not a problem, I will do what I can at the gym in my lunch break, (if I don’t get a chance to go before or after work), then supplement the rest with the Swiss ball and yoga mats we’ve got at home. I’m also going to try to get to a yoga class every Thursday, except when I’ve got my book group. We’ve got our first meeting in the middle of June, I’ve started the book, but need to make some serious in-roads into it this weekend as it is massive.

On the intranet earlier this week two kittens were being advertised as needing homes, I requested that I have a look at them. At eight weeks old, integrating one into the family would be easier than the previous attempt when we tried to re-home an older kitten who wasn’t getting on with another colleague’s cat. They both came into the office for a play on Wednesday afternoon, I’d brought the cat basket in, got the spare room ready and crossed my fingers that one would be a good fit. Both kittens were male, one was fairly quiet, the other was charging around all over the place, so he’s come home with us. Doctor Hooper is in the house. Chief Brody is getting lots of cuddles from me, he’s very much my cat, hence the pillow sleeping. But he’s doing ok, a few hisses and growls, but other than that, we’re getting there. We can shut Doctor Hooper away into the spare room, to give them a break from each other, but at the end of the day, they will sort it out and come to an arrangement.

I am the only girl in a house with four boys. Oh boy.