In Defence of Food - Michael Pollan

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was so challenging I read it in a day and a half whilst taking notes. There were many 'oh, of course' moments - I like that in a book.

I enjoyed the history lesson it contained. The steady removal of food from our diets, replaced with 'food like substances'. Margarine being the first example of a non-food or imitation food being introduced. Margarine, said to be 'healthier', actually ended up, according to the author, containing trans fats which were more unhealthy than the fats that were trying to avoid in the butter. Pollan also describes margarine as able to include whatever the latest trend may be - 'now with vitamin A and D' or the latest one ' omega 3'. Whatever the trend, it can be added to your marg! I also enjoyed the idea of society being more overweight than ever in a 'low fat' world. I had to laugh at the idea of instead of eating a breakfast cereal that is 'now full of antioxidant' in the form of processed blueberry extract - just eat the blueberry!

Here are the principles from the book that we will take into consideration.

1. Don't eat anything your great grandma wouldn't recognise.

2. Avoid products containing ingredients that are: unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than 5 in number, have high fructose corn syrup.

3. Avoid products that make health claims. ( usually an indication that it's a non-food. e.g the blueberry)

4. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle because this is where the 'food like' substances are. The real food tends to be around the edges.

5. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. I love this idea - use the fruit shop, butchers, local deli etc.

6. Eat mostly plants, grown well from healthy soils.

7. Consider what what you eat eats.

8. Eat wild when you can

9. Be more French, Italian, Japanese, Indian or Greek in your eating style.

10. Regard non-traditional foods with scepticism.

11. Pay more, eat less. ( quality vs quantity)

12. Eat meals not snacks. ( remember when between meal snacking was a sin? LOL) How we have changed - or marketers have changed us!

13. Do all your eating at the table (Pollan says 1/5 of meals are eaten in the car! )

14. Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does. ( food sold at petrol stations isn't real food!)

15. Try not to eat alone.

16. Consult your gut.

17. Eat slowly ( as in the Slow Food movement)

18. Cook and plant a garden.

What do you think of the principles ? Are they something that you could consider implementing?
I think, looking at the principles, it would make a huge different to our budget and also the amount of packaging coming into our house. Considering that we are attempting to drastically reduce our 'outputs' this year, I think this list will be a great focus tool.


Getting Ahead Again.

With the last visitors waved goodbye yesterday morning I turned my mind back to 'getting ahead'. It was terribly hot the day before so in order to be able to bake up a storm I had to get up really early and turn the oven on before it got too hot. I woke at 5.20am ready to start the day. By 9am it was game over, just too hot for cooking!

The lamington recipe that keeps incarnating into different things has done it again! From lamingtons to slice, to cake and now to muffins. I just stirred in some blueberries that a friend gave me from her recent 'pick your own' adventure.

I also made a huge lot of crackers to replace water crackers, Saos and Saladas. I adapted the lavash crackers recipe I have used before. I roll the dough out with the pasta maker to make it quite thin which is fine for a cracker to use with dips but for something more like a water cracker or crispbread style I just fold it over. To speed up the process I roll out the dough, lay it across a baking tray and slice it with the pizza cutter.

They come out of the oven crisp and golden brown. Now I need to harvest some sweet basil and make a great dip to go with them.

Yesterday was the first day that I let the girls out to roam. I had been told to leave them in their enclosure for a while so that they learn where home is before I let them out. They were a little hesitant at first but soon began enjoying their surroundings. I noticed how they picked the bugs off the cucumber leaves. We don't use any sprays or pesticides and generally run with the philosophy that there is enough for us and the lady bugs, as well as the fact that they seem to only munch on the leaves. But the chooks, well they had a picnic feast! I will let the girls wander around the garden beds. I know that the benefits will outweigh the fact that they will scratch around. I will protect anything that I don't want destroyed by them.

They must have loved their little romp in free range land, because....... they rewarded me with my very first egg!!! ( ***tears of joy*****) We proudly showed it to hubbie who replied 'it's a bit small - you might have to give them some steroids!'. Hmmmpph. I replied with ' if you want bigger eggs, go and get yourself an Emu'. lol.

It's a mighty fine start girls, don't listen to him. Bigger is not always better. You will get there!


Turning The Page...

Time to hang up my antlers for another year.

BlinkBlink... that was Christmas and New Year. Gone so quickly. Full of fun and family!

Now it's time to turn the page, crease down the margin on a beautiful new notepad and think about today forward. Isn't it funny that we have to wait for some externally imposed date to be able to start afresh. Truth is, every day is a new beginning!

We arrived home yesterday from our holiday up north. Every week throughout the year we save our pennies in order to go and have a lovely relaxing holiday after the hustle and bustle of Christmas is over. It is so nice to just do nothing! ( except swim, play tennis, drink chardonnay on the balcony at night!)

I return, refreshed and ready to continue on this journey of simplicity. I realised how much we actually love what we are doing when within an hour of arriving home we were mowing lawns and digging half a bucket of potatoes out of the ground. In just 9 days of being away we have cucumbers the size of drain pipes!

I have so much to write about. All that time lazing around, reading greats books filled my head with so many thoughts that I had to start a notepad. I will work through it with some posts over the next few weeks.
But for now.... just logging on to say welcome to new subscribers and welcome back to regular readers. I look forward to chatting with you throughout 2009!


Joyful, Joyful Day......and the Chooks Arrive.

Today was one of those days. Absolutely Splendid!

We arrived home last night so the morning was filled with washing and a radio interview with ABC in Perth. I can now proudly say that A Vision Splendid is reaching coast to coast! LOL
Then I decided to make a ladder for the chook house out of whatever scraps of timber I could find. The boys helped me to cut the steps roughly to size and even straighten out the nails that we were recycling. It is quite rough, but I actually love the fact that it's a little 'wonky'. We then used a old piece of timber for the perch.

We harvested a huge lots of beans. Here they are in a colander that belonged to my Grandmother. We use it all the time. I am certain that it will last another lifetime yet. I love old things so much. You know they are going to last well, because they already have!

I cleaned out the fridge and freezer pulling out all the compartments and washed them ready for Christmas goodies and stockpiles of harvested produce.

Then we went to town and adopted our girls. All four of them. Since then the boys have spent all afternoon in the cage with the chooks helping them to adjust to life with us.

I had one of those splendid moments. Full of joy. The boys were playing with the chickens and feeding them by hand while I watched and I could smell the beautiful aroma of a banana cake almost ready in the oven. Pure Joy !

To top it all off we are now going for a swim and then we will head off to the movies to sit in air conditioned comfort. We are seeing Madagascar 2 so I hope there are a few laughs in it for me too.

What a Splendid day!


Just A Quick Hello

Just logging in to say a quick hello. We are on the road and I have been searching for a wireless connection to be able to log onto the site. The picture below is of my 101 year old Grandmother who we have been visitng in Dubbo, western NSW, and who I thank for starting me off on this journey. I told her all about A Vision Splendid and she said "oh, so I am famous am I ?" and laughed. Nothing surprises her!

The response to my story in the Telegraph's Sunday magazine has been amazing. If you didn't see it, the article was titled 'Dollars and Sense' and told the story of people who choose frugality as a way of life which brings with it lots riches. Thank you to all the people who have emailed me and hello to all the new readers.

While we were in Dubbo we took the boys to the zoo. For those of you that haven't been there, Western Plains Zoo is very different to your concrete and cages type zoo. The animals are in huge open areas with a small but deep river or moat separating you from them. You can drive, walk or ride the 6km circuit. As you look around, you can't see the moat and it looks as though you are just walking through the plains. The wetlands bring hundreds of wild birds to the area which shows that the habitat is in balance.

It was a wonderful learning opportunity for the boys. The talks from the rangers was excellent. There was a very interesting talk about how the number of hippos have dropped 98% over the last twenty years because of the sale of their meat on the black market. The hippo dung kept the fish population alive, so the drop in hippos has also meant the drop in fish which results in the loss of the local fishing industry and the villagers' food supplies. It really struck me that mother nature has a way of keeping everything in balance, in a life cycle that is so well contructed yet held together with spider webs. One thing changes and the web falls apart. As usual it is the humans that have disrupted the web. We are such a distructive breed wouldn't you agree?


My favourite animal was this little meerkat and with his lovely little face I will sign off until I am back in the land of a decent internet connection.
Stay Tuned..............


The Chook House

The chook house is coming along nicely. Hubby has been hammering away. I just have to paint it and build a little ladder. The back has a fold down door for easy access to the nesting boxes. There is a good size run for them to get out and stretch their eggs.

There is just one thing missing. Chooks! I can't get them yet because we have a couple of trips planned and I want to be around to settle them in, so I just have to wait patiently. In the meantime I can always pretend with the stuffed toy! LOL

Having chooks lay our own eggs will be another step forward in our quest for a more simple life. Hubbie is delighted by the fact that he will be able to make a breakfast omlette with homegrown eggs and home grown tomatoes.

In days gone by quite a lot of people had a couple of chooks in their back yard. It seemed to be a common sight, alongside the vegie patch and the water tank. As a child I can remember my Nanna making the best sponge cakes with fresh eggs in her wood burning stove. She had it perfected!
Friends of ours have recently got their own chooks and they have been giving us fresh eggs. They are so different to shop bought eggs. They are firm and the yolks are so yellow! When I buy shop bought eggs I forget how soft the shells are almost smash them to pieces against the side of the bowl when I am cooking. The fresh eggs seem to have much stronger shells.

So... I will wait patiently. In my wait I sit and think.... does Santa bring live presents? How many 'food miles' from the North Pole to my place?



A Vision Splendid Book and Site

You may remember me telling you about how this whole journey began. It was the day I asked my Grandmother ‘how come we have all the labour saving devices under the sun and still don’t seem to get much done ?’. It really hit me that she could get up every morning before dawn, milk a cow, collect the eggs, cook a hot breakfast for many workers, bake bread and wash by hand all without any electricity and there was me struggling to get a load of washing on the line or remembering to take a DVD back to the shop! When she began telling me about how she ‘did it all’ I got my lap top out and started typing... and typing and typing.

Over the next few years I struggled to implement her wisdom. It was a case of two steps forward and one step back. Slowly but surely things started to get under control. There was a slow shift out of chaos into peace.

As I continued on down this path I found that there were so many women in a similar position to me. As I started telling the story about my Grandmother and how I wanted to implement some of her advice, I found that other women were really encouraged and empowered by the story. This gave me so much joy!

Starting a website in mid 2007 was an extended opportunity to share the journey, hoping that it would reach much further than I could by simply talking to people that I knew. I then wrote the e-book which is a collection of the blog content as well as further more specific details about my journey.

In recent times there has been much interest in the media about living frugally and following the old ways. As part of this rise in interest I have been able to do three radio interviews and two media reports. I really see a shift on the horizon – I see people slowly but surely moving away from the excesses of the past in exchange for a simple, joyful more sustainable life.

The E-Book is an overview of the journey and the areas that I focused on to make things more simple.

The areas covered are:
1. A Simple Life
2. Money
3. Total Organisation
4. Home Management
5. Shopping and Cooking
6. Christmas
7. Old Fashioned Green Living.

Why buy the book ?

1. It’s a helpful collation of all the Vision Splendid content in one easy to read document, rather than scattered throughout the blog site.

2. There’s much more detail in the book.

3. There are worksheets to help you take some of the steps required to bring peace to your home.

4. There is ongoing support via email to answer questions, seek clarification, and give encouragement should you need it. There is also ongoing support via the Vision Splendid newsletter.

5. It is a way of showing me your support and ongoing encouragement.

You can buy the e-book here and visit the new site here

Let me know what you think about the new site. I'd love your feedback.

The new year is a fantastic time to start afresh. To make a commitment to a better life! I look forward to you joining me as we encourage and empower each other down this difficult path of chasing simplicity and joy in a crazy world!

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