Taking a leap of faith…

A little snapshot of what’s been happening over the last few months

So the last few months I’ve flown underneath the radar.  Essentially my world has turned upside down and it really has been for the best.

At the end of January I decided to resign from my high stress job and focus on restoring my health and well-being.  It wasn’t an easy decision but it was becoming clearer that my health was suffering to a point that it was making me physically and mentally ill.

In the time I have had off I have thrown many ideas up in the air and it as been wonderful experience to be able to do just that.  Everything from community volunteering, writing, making craft, making cupcakes and setting up a nursery.  Nothing has been set in stone but perhaps for someone like me that is a good thing.

One thing that I am growing more committed to is how to become more sustainable and self-sufficient in a regional town.  I have been researching urban examples of this but the context is usually based around more metropolitan living arrangements.  For me this is still useful as I don’t have acreage but living in a regional town presents its own issues like access to resources and services.  However it invites you to be more creative and be more in contact with your local community.

I’m currently in the process of turning my very productive spring/summer veggie patch over to hopefully a very productive autumn/winter veggie patch.  If I cannot grow it I’m trying to find local supplies and with that I’m finding some interesting things.  I managed to get hold of quinces the other day and had a go at making quince paste.  Mmmmmm quince paste and cheese.

I am also having a go at making a sourdough starter.  My first attempt was a bit of a failure.  However I’ve done a little more research and I should have another one ready to start by the end of the week.  Once I’m in the groove with it I’ll post the recipe/manual of the starter and any subsequent recipes I might try with it.

My partner and I are also about to embark on an adventure.  We are going to be travelling half way around Australia in a few weeks so I am sure there will be plenty to come on that.

Feeling great to be writing once again and there is so much more to update you all on but I must be off for now.

Take care for now.

Shaszi xx

 

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The Death of Backyard Cricket: A Town Planner’s perspective…

Quite a while ago I was going to write a paper on a topic to do with town planning. I am passionate about town planning as I am a town planner by trade. So I thought with this blog entry I might share this discussion with you. This is a condensed version and you could say at this stage this is an opinion piece but I might still find myself writing that paper for a journal yet.

The Death of Backyard Cricket

Many children of my generation and before have grown up in Australia with the tradition of playing backyard cricket. The quarter acre house allotment was not a rare sight and the house was configured in such a way that there was ample room for a pitch. If you were really lucky the groundsman (Dad in most cases) would mow in a pitch to make it look authentic.

Children were encouraged to play outdoors. In fact we loved playing outdoors. Weekends and holidays were a bonus as half the neighbourhood would turn out and convert the quiet suburban backyard into something resembling a Boxing Day test match at the MCG. Some would take it quite seriously as well.

What concerns me as a town planner is the disappearance of these quarter acre blocks and therefore the death of a great Aussie tradition… Backyard Cricket. Today it is becoming the norm for a small 300 square metre block with a 3-4 bedroom house tucked on it and a small courtyard style garden. To put it bluntly a yard not even big enough to swing a cat around, little lone swinging a cricket bat.

I would be the first to understand that the draw of gaming, social media and the Internet in general is enough to lure any teenager away from the great outdoors. I have a young adult son. However one must wonder if there is a relationship between these shrinking backyards and childhood obesity.

We have moved to a society with smaller allotments, parents both working full-time hours with little time to spare to take kids to parks and the fear of letting our precious children out on their own. It’s sad but it’s true. While I understand that these smaller allotments do suit our hectic lifestyles what price are we ultimately going to pay with our children’s health?

It’s easy to say get them involved with a sports club but the cost is not cheap. My son at one stage played cricket, football and indoor cricket. I can tell you from first hand experience it is not cheap.

Another issue that has an impact on the game of backyard cricket is our society tends to live in our little sheltered cocoons.  How many times in the last month have you spoken to your neighbours?  I suspect many haven’t.  It seems gone are the days where children would play freely between houses, especially on a weekend or school holidays.  Are we now too protective of our children to let them out the front door?

So unfortunately it appears the death knell is ringing for the game of backyard cricket. Sad but true.  Will this even have an impact on the future of cricket for this country?  Let’s hope it doesn’t.

Until next time. Take care.

Shaszi xx

A Very Productive Weekend…

What a fantastic weekend!!! So productive, yet so enjoyable and rewarding.

Friday evening kicked off with a visit from my son and his girlfriend.  My son was so excited about my suggestion for dinner.  One of his favourites and so simple to make.  The best thing was being able to use the produce out of my garden.  I bet you’re wondering what this favourite meal is?  Grilled zucchini and eggplant on Turkish bread with tzitziki.  Sometimes when we cook it up together it doesn’t even make it to the plate.  Instead we stand around the BBQ chatting and eating as it cooks.  Perhaps this is why I love it.  The fact it gives me an opportunity to chat with my 19 year old son about everything but the food is good also.

Later I made my first batch of plum jam.  I bought approximately 2kgs of plum from a roadside stall for $4.  Plum jam is my favourite and I just couldn’t resist.  I made a second batch on Sunday and it tasted divine.  I couldn’t help myself and I shared the fruits of my labour with friends as well.

The yummiest jam…Plum Jam

I can tell you it didn’t just stop at plum jam.  I have reclaimed my dehydrator and had a go at making my own chilli flakes from my home grown chilli.  I utilised them in the 4.5kg of pickled onions we made up.  It was a very simple pickling spice made up for the vinegar.

Pickling Spice

For every litre of vinegar…

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

1tsp chilli flakes

1sp coriander seed

1 tsp mustard seeds

These are added to the warm vinegar before adding to the onions.

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Pickled Onions

We did a couple of  jars for a friend who likes his hot stuff.  With that we added a couple of fresh chilli to the jars.  Now its a sit and wait for approximately 3 weeks until tasting.

One of the General Inspectors bought into work some of his home grown garlic and I took a bag.  With the garlic I had a go at making garlic powder as my partner required some for the marinade to make his beef jerky.

Next it was onto the sausages.  Oh yeah we even threw sausage making into the weekend.  First time I had ever made sausages and I have to say it was so much fun.  We made 4.5kgs Greek lamb and 4.5kgs Burgundy beef sausages.  Later in the evening we actually cooked and tried a couple of the smaller sausages.  DELISH!!!

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Sausage Making

With the rest of the mince we made 3kgs of hamburgers.  My partner puts the mince through the sausage maker and into mettwurst skins and freezes.  Once frozen he then cuts it up with a band-saw and there you have the perfect shaped hamburger.

In amongst all the produce making I also made a trip over to Big Bend.  This is a beautiful spot on the Murray and quite popular.

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Big Bend Lookout

I have been engaged to do an arborist report for a shack owner.  I must say I love this kind of work.  I also loved the fact I could take my fur baby Artoo on has first work assignment.  He enjoyed it so much.  He swam in the River pretty much the entire time I was at the shack.  This dog is crazy about water!!!

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Artoo on his first assignment

 

The one big lesson I learnt this weekend is I need to start doing the things I love and feel passionate about.  My work life balance needs to be a priority because at the moment I seriously think I have it all wrong.  This weekend was certainly a wake up call.

Here’s to finding a healthy balance.

Take Care

Shaszi xx

Monday Catch Up…

So I’m starting to get a bit of an idea how I would like to structure this blog.  I’m thinking on a Monday I’ll do a bit of a catch up with you and fill you in with what’s been happening in my world.  Later in the week I would like to share a piece that I have taken the time to do a little research on eg. zero waste, native bees, recycling etc.  Leave a comment below if there is a subject that you are interested in.

Well this weekend was an absolute scorcher! By 9:45am on Saturday it was already 37 degrees Celsius.  By mid afternoon under the verandah it reached 47 degrees.  Let’s just say by 9am we were indoors and watching the cricket (a quick shout to the Aussie boys for winning the Ashes 4-0).  However that did not stop us from doing a little bit of gardening.  Most importantly ensuring everything was well watered.  We even managed to do some harvesting and we were very excited to pick our first apple cucumbers.

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Another fantastic harvest from the garden

 

For dinner I made a salad showcasing our home grown produce.  The cherry tomatoes just burst with flavour.  The best thing though was actually being able to share our produce with friends.  We gave away a bit of everything and kept what we would use within a reasonable time frame.

At the moment I have tomato plants popping up everywhere.  A legacy from “The Great Gender Fluid Chicken Saga of 2017”.  So we dug up 12 and gave to friends who were after tomatoes.  I love sharing produce and plants.  I love it because it is a great way of bringing people together.

I have also set up a Pinterest account for readers and myself to be inspired and motivated.  I do like this social media platform for inspiration.  I liken it sometimes to a pictorial version of Google.  If you would like to check it out for yourself click here.

Well not much else has been happening due to the extreme heat.  Apart from watching cricket,  doing some of my jigsaw and reading.  Then in the evening taking the Artoo down to the River for a swim.

I hope everyone is managing to be keeping cool (or warm on the other side of the world).  Until next time.

Take Care

Shaszi xx

My top 5 ways to help beat food waste…

So if you are anything like me the  Festive Season has now come to a grinding halt and it’s back to the grindstone.

One thing I took notice of this Festive Season is food waste.  While I know I’m guilty of over-catering (I don’t like people going hungry when I’m the host) I am aware that food should not go to waste.  Here is a quick video that will give you a bit of an insight at just how bad food waste is in Australia…

 

The statistics are at the very least shocking.  So what can we do about it?  I have put a little list together of my top 5 ways to help prevent food waste.  Please, if you have any further ideas feel free to share them in the comments below.  The idea of this blog is not only sharing my ideas and thoughts but to hopefully learn from each other.

MENU PLAN

I’ll confess.  I’m not the most organised person.  However I do try to work out a rough plan with what I’ll be cooking throughout the week.

Be flexible with it!  If someone invites you out to tea or you just don’t feel like cooking what you decided on a few days ago, change it up! I always leave one day on the menu plan blank.  A sudden invite out, leftovers from the night before are not an issue.

SHOPPING

Most people are aware of some golden rules of food shopping.  However a refresher never hurt anyone.

Always go shopping with a list.  I know when I don’t I end up with shopping I didn’t really need and the items that I really needed don’t even make the trolley.

Don’t shop on an empty stomach.  It’s amazing how much ends up in that trolley that you don’t actually need because your stomach has taken control.  This can also apply to taking children shopping (as well as loosing your sanity).

Shop seasonally and locally.  Fruit and vegetables taste so much better when they are in season and shopping locally will help reduce food miles as well as helping out the local economy.

BE CREATIVE WITH LEFTOVERS

So you have some leftovers from last night’s dinner.  Don’t let it go to waste.  Roast meat always makes great sandwiches for lunch the next day.  Or you could cut that roast beef into strips and toss it through some salad.  For people with busy schedules last night’s leftovers could become tonight’s gourmet delight.

Do Something!  is a not-for-profit organisation that works to create and promote positive social and environmental change.  This organisation has created a website called FOODWISE.  This website gives you practical tips to reduce food waste and has some of the country’s top chefs contributing recipes to use items that are patiently waiting in the pantry.  Have a look around.  It may just give you some inspiration for a meal or two.

SEND FOOD HOME WITH GUESTS

Decided to make a big pavlova for your guests?  You and your guests didn’t eat as much as you expected or felt too full from the main course?  Let your guests take some home with them.  In fact insist on it as they are leaving.  Be reasonable with what you might eat the next day and send the rest home with your visitors.  I’m sure they will appreciate it at smoko the next day.

COMPOST

So you have planned,  shopped with a list, been creative with your leftovers and sent food home with your guests.  Let me tell you, there will always be that moment when something doesn’t get used for one reason or another.  That’s ok.  It really is.  Just don’t make a habit of it and please DO NOT put it into landfill.

Set up your own compost system.  Your garden will love you for it.  If you don’t have a garden set up a worm farm and take up fishing.  Find a friend that has chooks.  Many Australian  Council’s now have green waste bins available if the first three options aren’t for you.  Really there is no excuse for food to end up in landfill.

Well there you have it.  Some food for thought.

Until next time.  Take care.

Shaszi xx

 

Catch Up Time…

Well it’s that crazy time of the year again.  I’ll admit that I’m struggling to find a good work life balance at the moment.

I’m finding my life is being consumed by my work to the point when I am at home I’m often thinking about work.  Being a Town Planner in a regional area of Australia can be quite demanding.

That’s why I have decided to write.  It is such good therapy and for myself it takes me to a good place.

Let’s begin with an update of the my veggie patch.  Well I must say it is booming!!!  I even have some bonus plants that have come up as a result of composting.  Rockmelons, I think (just waiting for the fruit to become a bit bigger to be able to identify), pumpkins and tomatoes.

I have been harvesting Lebanese zucchinis, cherry tomatoes, beans, basil, capsicum, eggplant and chilli.

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So much colour and taste coming from the garden

We now have the veggie patch fenced off (Artoo took a liking to digging in the soil) and have connected some irrigation to it.  The soil quality has improved so much.  Mulching has also been a very big factor.  Home has already been rocked by a few days over 40 degrees (and not even in the hottest time of the year yet).

With little spare time I have had a go at making my own peppermint sugar scrub.  I love the smell of peppermint and it is just delightful to use on your hands and feet.  I have even put some into jars to give as Christmas presents.

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Homemade Peppermint Scrub

I had never used sugar scrub up until recently and I’m sold.  A great environmentally friendly alternative to some of the exfoliation scrubs out there on the market that use plastic (microbeads) in their products.  Many governments are starting to call for a ban on microbeads being used in personal products as they have a big impact on our lakes, rivers and oceans.

Here is a great little video about microbeads.  It’s amazing what plastic is found in and has made me look for alternatives or make it myself.

If you would like to share your environmentally friendly beauty treatment tip please do so in the comments below.

Well that’s it for today.

Take care for now.

Shaszi xx

Weighing in on sustainability…

This week I have finally reached my half way goal.  To date I have now lost 30kg.  Finally I have lost my baby weight (my baby is now 19) and I haven’t been this size since I was around 16-17 (I’m 43 now).  Here is a before and after shot to give you some idea of the physical transformation I’ve gone through.

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BEFORE
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NOW

So you may be wondering what my weight loss has to do with sustainability?  Well I believe it has a lot to with sustainability, clean living and even enjoying the great outdoors.

I decided just over twelve months ago that I was never going to diet again.  Instead, I thought about all the information I had gained throughout all my years of yo-yo dieting and did some further reading on the Paleo lifestyle, which seems to be the latest trend.

Now I’m not about to go into a full Paleo meltdown and go all hardcore on you but I did like some of the concepts.  I bought myself some Paleo cookbooks, joined some different Facebook groups and checked Pinterest for inspiration.

The concepts of this Paleo lifestyle that rang true to me and I believe have a lot to do with my success include:

  • Get rid of the processed crap;
  • Buy organic where possible;
  • Grow your own; and
  • Buy as locally as possible.

For a person who wants to reduce their ecological footprint these concepts really related to me.  Plus there are some really great recipes out there.

So that was the basis of my journey 12 months ago.  It really made me look at my lifestyle rather than just my diet.  It also helped me get to know what wonderful produce is available in my town/region.  The Riverland is never short of fresh fruit and veg.  With that, it has also helped me form some great friendships, which brings me to mindset.

This healthier way of living has not only helped me lose weight but it has increased my confidence and improved my mindset.  A healthier more positive mindset helps you to become more resilient  and I personally believe it has helped me to lose weight.

Now I’m going to put it out there that I have indulged in both eating and drinking.  However this also has a lot to do with a better mindset.  If I am going to enjoy the local beer, wine and food I’ll do it on a weekend with friends and family.  I’ve learnt to think more positively about food by enjoying and celebrating it in more creative ways and sharing that with the people I love.

If you are looking to shift some stubborn weight ditch the dieting and look at your lifestyle.  A sustainable lifestyle could just be the key to your success.

Until next time.  Take care.

Shaszi xx