The Best Birthday Present

I had a lovely birthday on Friday. I turned 35.

Hubby sent flowers to my office. I nearly cried because I would NEVER have expected that.

He also gave me the book 'Choosing Eden' by Adrienne Langman which, if you've had a chance to listen to the podcast from the ABC in my previous post, is about the couple that left Sydney and moved to the country to prepare themselves and their children for the price hike and lifestyle changes that may be associated with the peak oil dilemma. I finished reading it this morning and found it to be an easy ready and very motivating.

The second item in the picture is the DVD of the series that recently aired on the ABC called "Not All Tea and Scones". It is a series about the CWA ( Country Women's Association) in Australia. On the surface it is about women cooking and entering cake baking competitions and serving scones at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney each year.

 The true message, I believe, is about the strength of country women in being the glue that binds families and communities especially in times of drought and economic hardship. It has many recipes featured throughout it and I will let you all know how they go.

The flowers pictured are from my girlfriend. She was out of town for Friday and couldn't join me for dinner that night. When they arrived at my office I sent her a text message that said " they are beautiful and so are you" and she replied " your friendship's worth every petal". ( sigh! )

In the evening I went out for dinner with some friends. These are my " air pot" friends so it was a very rare occurrence to go to a restaurant. We had a great night. N friend even made a home baked white mud cake and I nearly died when the waitress came out singing.

I am so lucky to have such great friends. They are indeed a very precious resource.
Thank you for all the emails I have been receiving. I will do my best to answer as many as I can over the next few days.


When Disaster Strikes..... It may not be what you think !

I have always loved the idea of 'being prepared' as you know, but I have a certain amount of complacency.

 After all, I tell myself, we don' t live in a hurricane area, nor a flood area and I often think that I should probably be ready in case the small airport we are close to ever has a terrorist attack or we are evacuated because of an explosive threat, but then I get side tracked and it goes back on the ' must do one day ' list.

Now my thinking has changed, and no, I am not burying weapons in the backyard or building bomb shelters. I don't know what the disaster is that I am preparing for which greatly changes the way I prepare.

The biggest disaster we all face is personal. It could be that the breadwinner becomes ill and is no longer able to support the family, it could be a dramatic change is your small business, it could be that family member becomes ill and requires a full time carer. Sometimes you could never have seen the 'disaster' coming.

Hubby and I were talking about this recently with the horse flu virus that has invaded our state.

 It has meant that all racing has been shut down and no horses are to be transported.

I didn't think too much of it at first, but it had now stretched on and the flow on affects must be terrible. What if you were the man who worked behind the bar at racing events, what if you bake bread for the canteen, what if your charity group runs the coffee stand at the local pony club. The flow on effects are enormous.

My point is..... we never know when disaster will strike, so we always need to be ready. Disaster may be on a large scale like a flood, hurricane, power outage or it could be on a personal level, like losing your job. It may be an instantaneous event or it may be a slow steady change.

Rhonda from Down to Earth recently wrote about the ABC interview she heard on the subject of peak oil http://www.abc.net.au/rn/lifematters/stories/2007/2028694.htm If you tune in, the story starts about half way through this audio programme.

We may not notice the changes too much at first. As they say, drop a frog into boiling water and it will jump out. Drop a frog into cold water and slowly increase the temperature and it stays there, oblivious to the danger, until it is cooked. The moral is be responsive to gradual change.

But wait...... what if I'm wrong ! What if peak oil is a myth, what if climate change is a myth.... what if I make all these positive changes for nothing ? LOL If I'm wrong, we have made our selves healthier wealthier and wiser for nothing ! ( read sarcasm) The reality is that you are a winner, whichever way it goes.

So, on a practical level, how do we make these changes. After all, not all of us are lucky enough to retire to the coast on acreage with just ourselves and our partner (like the lady in the ABC story). Some of us have to still educate our children, pay off houses, work to put food on the table and build a future. So we need practical advice.

Stay tuned.... and send this site address to your friends and family so that we can create a network of support, for simple ideas that families can implement easily.


TV Free

As I have said before we don't watch commercial TV at all. Never. We are ABC watchers and occasionally we will watch SBS if there is something special on.

Since last Friday we have switched the TV off once the kids have watched the ABC kids shows after school. I don't mind them watching these, especially the science show and BTN ( Behind the News). Our 9 year old loves this.

When you switch off the TV your shoulders drop and you breath a sigh of relief - try it and see. Then the calmness sets in. The Tranquility. Ahhhh Serenity !

When you have the TV off the time goes really slowly, maybe because it's not broken down into half hour segments. We read, the kids colour in and build lego, and surprise surprise ....we talk !

Try it. You may just like the serenity. I am up to night number seven - I think I am hooked on the peace and the early nights. I will watch it again, most likely, but as a treat and planned relaxation and enjoyment, not as a mindless exercise. I like having the extra time too much

RE-CAP Eco - Challenge

It's now around three months since we had our family meeting and set down our ideas for our own family eco-challenge. Here is a summary of what we originally wrote down and how we are going.

1. Energy

a) Turn off lights when not in use DOING
b) turn off appliances at the wall - SOME - could improve here
c) Have shorter showers - DOING
d) install energy efficient light bulbs DONE THROUGH WHOLE HOUSE
e) use re-chargeable batteries - not doing this - but minimised use of battery operated things

2. Water

a) shorter showers and water saving showerheads - got flow inhibitors
b) catch cold water when waiting for hot to come through – use this to fill water bottle and kettle - DOING
c) wash up in the small sink DOING
d) flush when necessary DOING ( giggle)
e) install water tanks - not done yet - on list after current reno finished

3. Transport

a) Ride bikes to school and work - H and kids ride to school - I haven't started riding to work yet as still too dark on way home
b) Limit trips to town – by planning and grouping trips DOING
c) Get Dad to ride motorbike to town for smaller items/ errands DOING
d) Walk DOING
e) Find cheaper fuel, drive more economically DOING

4. Garbage

a) Compost Food Scraps DOING
b) Stop Getting Plastic Bags DOING ( although still have trouble with smaller bags from time to time)
c) Buy items with less packaging TRYING - this one is REALLY hard

5. Consumption

a) Don’t buy unnecessary things DOING - we have cut right back !
b) Work on a cash budget LOVE DOING THIS
c) Use things sparingly- DOING - e.g. less toothpaste on the brush etc
d) Do instead of buy – make it yourself. DOING - lots of cooking.

Overall I think that we are really progressing well as a family. The considerable drop in water usage reflects the changes we are making.

There is always room for improvement. I would still LOVE to be able to ride to work. I will have to do a test run to see if I can make the 7.5 km and how long it will take me.


Enviro Saver Programme

We have just had an energy assessment through the Enviro Saver programme.

This is a free assessment of energy and water usage.

 During the assessment they change all your light globes over to energy efficient ones and fit water saving shower heads or flow restrictors.

They can also give advice about rain water tanks and solar water heaters etc. We already had a few energy efficient bulbs in, but they changed an extra 11 lights for us.

This programme is free because it generated carbon credits which companies then buy. I am looking forward to the savings and will keep you posted.

Check out the site to see if they are working in your area yet ( aussies only sorry).


Changing The World - one air pot at a time.

Do you remember these ? These are called " air pots". They were around in the 70's/ 80's. They are a giant thermos with a pump top that holds about 2 litres of boiling water or icy drinks.
My obsession began quite a few years ago, BC actually ( BC = before children). As we were sitting somewhere eating take away that starts with a big 13th letter of the alphabet I spied an older couple with their basket and their thermos having morning tea/lunch. It really struck me that what they were doing was not only healthy it was extremely frugal and they didn't have any rubbish. We, on the other hand had spent 20 bucks to clog our arteries and pollute the earth.
So, ever since, I have christened these folks " thermos people" to the point that when we drive places we point them out. "look honey, thermos people".
All the thermos people I ever saw were older folks. Even folks with huge 4 wheel drives and caravans bigger than my home who certainly didn't look like they needed to save money were using their thermos! So why aren't young couples and families applying the thermos principle ? We need it the most. We need to still pay off house educate our children etc. We can't afford to be pulling into takeaway shops !
So..... the tradition began. We became thermos people and encouraged others in our age group to become thermos people as well.
I remember travelling around western New South Wales and pulling into the park at Dubbo and making coffee for hubbie and I and snacks and drinks for the children, with home baked biscuits and cake and felt the greatest sense of joy - which I call " joy of joys". I even have the vintage table cloth ! Oh !!!!!

The air pot obsession was simply an extension of the thermos principle. When I saw my very first one I couldn't believe that they still existed. I remembered them from my childhood. I just had to have it. IT WAS THE ULTIMATE THERMOS !
Since then I have taken it everywhere and showed it off so very proudly! Then a N Friend's husband found one in amongst second hand items that was brand new in a box with original paperwork ! - We were soooooo excited and couldn't believe our luck. I ended up finding another one for K Friend last week for her birthday. The funniest thing was that her other friend had also got her one so now she has two - one hot and one cold !
They are sooooooo brilliant. We waterski and picnic most weekends so we always have byo coffee and food. The savings are extraordinary ! Do the maths. Even if we only bought one coffee each Sunday theres a $300 saving.
We laughed so hard today because down on our river a vintage car club turned up for their morning tea stop. They all got out of their old cars and got their thermos' out and that's when I spotted it - on a table further up the park - an air pot ! I had to hold myself back from going up to bond with them, and ask them if it is an original still in use and discuss the longevity.
I held back.... after all.... I didn't want them to think I had some sort of air pot obsession !!! LOL
Anyway, my challenge to you all is this. Firstly, if you did grow up with an air pot or if you were/ are 'thermos people' I want to hear ALL about it.
Secondly, if you are not currently thermos people, then make a start ! Next time you travel anywhere pack a picnic lunch and pocket the savings! Do the maths and work out what you can save.
Thirdly, as you drive around this great country of ours ( our yours) take note of the ' thermos people' and think about how they save their health, their hip pocket and the planet.
Fourthly, spread the word ! Help me in my individual quest to revive the air pot world wide !


Water Usage

You may recall that our family undertook an eco-challenge ( scroll down to the categories of posts at the bottom to read) and were focusing on a number of areas.

Well, it looks like we are beginning to see the results. The water bill came in yesterday and it is 16 Kl less than for the same period last year. It is also 5 Kl less than the last bill.

There is still room for improvement as it really hasn't been that difficult to get the usage down.


Home Made Wraps

This is the first time I have tried to make a tortilla or wrap as we call them. It was surprisingly easy! This wrap is for number 2 son's after school snack. It has home grown lettuce and tomato that I bought at the local Farmer's Market on Saturday, so it definitely fits within the 100 mile radius. You

may recall the challenges that I am having with the 100 mile diet - scroll down to categories at the bottom of the page if you have missed the posts.

Tortilla Recipe
2 cups self raising flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 cup warm milk.

I just mixed it all together and let it all sit for a while.

 Then I broke it up into balls and rolled them out really thinly on a floured bench.

I them 'scooped' them up with an egg lifter and put them in the frying pan. I only used a tiny spray of cooking oil and had the pan as hot as it would go

. It only took a about 20 seconds to cook each side. Number two son said they taste better than the packet ( God love him ! ) and as he is only six I am sure if they weren't he would have soon let me know.

I used to buy the packet of ready made wraps.

We often have them in the summer time. I marinate some chicken breasts cut into strips in ginger, coriander and lemongrass with a little soy sauce and then cook the strips on the barbecue.

They are great for guests because you can lay out a smorgasbord of salad and everyone can make their own wraps. I have one friend from Sydney who loves them, but she is particularly sensitive to food chemicals and comes out in an itchy rash when we have them. I guess if you can stick a food product in a plastic bag and have it sit on the shelf for 3 or 4 months it must have something in it to preserve it.

I can't wait until she tries these wraps. I hope she loves them.


Raspberry Coconut Slice

This is the slice to make when you think you have nothing in the cupboard!

You Need: ( the base)

3/4 cup plain flour

1/4 cup SR flour

90g butter

2tbsp sugar

1 egg

jam ( I used strawberry because I had it - the original recipe used raspberry, but you could use anything you have ! )

Mix together and press into a baking tray. Then spread with the jam.
Then to make the top you need
1 1/4 cups coconut
2tbsp sugar
1 egg
mix this all together and spread on the top of the jam base. Then bake for about 30 mins at 180 degrees or until the top is a lovely golden brown colour.
The one in the picture is a double mixture. The amounts above only make a small tray. Make the small on first and see whether your family likes it.

Where Did The Name Come From ?

" A Vision Splendid" .

Long before I started blogging I had a computer journal. I used to collect ideas, pictures etc and write my plans and thoughts.

One day, in the middle of renovations, sick children and an absolute mess throughout every room in my home, I walked around and took some photographs of our place in it's " raw state". When I uploaded them onto my computer I named the folder " Not A Vision Splendid". I then proceeded to open a new computer journal called " A Vision Splendid" and began writing in great detail how I was going to 'take control' of all aspects of my life. I now believe that this is an ongoing process and that I will never 'have' control, but when I look back, I think I have really come a long way.

Australian readers will also know that poem ' Clancy of the Overflow' in which Banjo Patterson uses the line:

" And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plain extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars."

This also, has influenced me in not only the name of the blog, but in the idea of picturing your ideal and then moving towards it.

Visit this link for the whole poem

Often when you read people's blogs you think they must have a perfect life as it all looks so lovely. I think that you only see what they want you to see. No-one ever shows their kitchen during cooking or what their loungeroom looks like after a rainy weekend when the kids decide to build a pirateship out of boxes !

One day, when I am feeling game, I will show you the 'not a vision splendid' photographs ( cringe ).

My challenge for you today though is, in an attempt at keeping it real, post a photograph of something that you know is currently not perfect that you would like to choose as your 'Vision Splendid' project, that is.... imagine how you would like it to be and slowly move towards it.

Feeling Personally Organised

Do you ever feel that you can’t keep up with life and that it just happens while you run to keep up with the pace.

The idea is to take control so that you become proactive instead of reactive. This means that you will be prepared for events beforehand rather than reacting to them when they become urgent or important.

The tools you will need to feel personally organized are:

1. A diary
2. A calendar
3. Menu Planner
4. Shopping List
5. Budget Book

The calendar needs to go on the wall at home and the diary needs to be big enough to write in yet small enough to carry around.

In order to get ahead you need to set up your diary. Remember, you start where you are. Don’t think you can only start doing this at the beginning of the year.

Firstly, birthdays. Fill out a list of all the birthdays for the year. Then go through and mark them in your calendar. When you go to mark them in your calendar/diary you will need to firstly mark the date and then secondly put a note in the week before that says “send off card” or “ buy present” or whatever you do for that person. It may just be that you send a special email on the day.

Mark in any other dates. I, for example, mark in all the school holidays and try and plan when I will take leave throughout the year.

Now whenever you receive notification of any events you need to not only put them in the diary but put a reminder a week or two out from the event depending on what sort of preparation is needed for.

I have discussed the concepts of menu planning, budgeting and shopping before on the website and you can scroll down to the category searches if you need further information.

The idea is to be dealing with things before they become urgent. The more ' ahead' you are the less stressed you are.

What can you do today to be prepared for something that is on you horizon ? If you deal with things on the horizon they are the size of ants. If you leave them until they get closer and closer those ants become elephants and you will be trampled.

Please let me know different ways that you do things in advance. It could be as simple as making lunches the night before, buying Christmas presents in January or once a month cooking, I would love to hear from you.Please also let me know if you require more detail. Would you like to see the charts and forms I use in my home management binder or mu budget books/ menu planner etc. Do you need a copy ? Please email me. My address is in my profile.


Wash on Mondays, Iron on Tuesdays

Well, maybe not that programmed, but Monday is my stay at home day so I always have "Monday Jobs".

These usually include:

Paying Bills
Doing the Budget
Menu Planning
Calendar Updating
Organising my clothes for the rest of the week
organising sports clothes for the children

Rhythm and routine are important parts of life.

If you can spread your tasks over the week you won't have one day where there is an impossible number of tasks to be done.

Doing things little by little brings peace to your day.


The Family That Plays Together Stays Together.

We have just had another wonderful day down at the river.

Whenever the weather is good we pack up our picnic things and our skiing things and head of. We usually have another two families that meet us there so between us there are 7 children.

The good thing about these days are that we all play together. We have learnt to water ski and tube, the kids fish, swim, run around etc. We all ‘play’.

The grown ups all comment about how much fun it is to come together for days of complete relaxation. The good thing is that our kids are with us. They are not wandering the streets or hanging out with other kids or families that may have different values to ours, they are with US. We all hope that if we are an active family that does activities that all ages enjoy, then we will keep our kids from wandering off the path !

Tips For Building a Strong Family

1. Build a Family Identify – give kids a strong sense of who they are. Treat you family as your team. Use positive language such as “ we are the Jones family…” “ The Jones family always…..” make up funny and memorable things about your family.

2. Establish your family values by defining them through the above e.g. “ In the Jones family we treat each other with respect”

3. Develop a strong family history. Children love hearing stories about when you were young, or when they were babies etc. In days gone by oral traditions were very important. We talk so much less now that we all glue ourselves to the TV. So tell your stories to keep the history alive.

4. Develop Family Celebrations. Kids love predictability and rhythm. Celebrate the little things with special dinners or treats. Build up to bigger celebrations such as birthdays and Christmas by preparing weeks in advance. Kids love the suspense and the countdown. Develop Family Traditions by repeating key components of celebrations, for example, 1st December is always the night that we play Christmas carols and unpack the decorations and tree. The children are SO excited by knowing that this is the way it always is.

5. Play together as a family. There is no better way to develop a sense of belonging, than to actually spend time together.

My challenge to you if you still have your children at home, is to simplify things. Don’t be tricked into thinking that if your children aren’t doing 3 after school activities a week that they are ‘missing out’.

What kids are missing out on today is the chance of being kids in a family that is calm and well rounded and most of all loving ! So, slow down. Create routines and rhythms by which you run your house in a smooth manner rather than a frantic timetable of trying to keep up with everyone.

Just stop. Think. And Play.

April Theme: Re-organise and Transition

In the Southern Hemisphere, April is in Autumn.  The days here are still warmish, but there is a sneaking whisper in the wind. That whisper ...