Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nearly autumn

Most Gardening Gurus are talking about 'what to do in Autumn", but here in Perth we are just gently sliding away from the really hot days into the slightly cooler mornings. The day time is still quite warm though. A few exotic trees are beginning to look like they are thinking about changing the colour of their leaves. We had one brief shower of rain on Friday -I think it lasted three minutes!

So not really autumn yet, but it is on the way! I found this olive (above) in a garden when I was walking last weekend -I love the colour change as the berries go from green to that fantastic purple colour. I love the bougainvillea too -what fantastically generous plants. They are looking like this all around Perth at the moment.Native plants see Autumn in Perth as a kind of spring. They start to look healthy again after their summer 'shut down and survive' mode. Some are in flower and putting out wonderful new leaves like this Ficifolia:

I have been doing my own bit of creativity this week. I bought some styrofoam eggs and I have been painting them as part of my Easter decorative collection. My DH challenged me to put some effort into making the house look special for Easter, the way it does for Christmas.

Being interested in simplicity and thriftyness, the first thing I did was look at what I had in that could be used in new ways. I had some lovely tablecloths I had bought at Op Shops, and I had my ever-growing collection of religious icons (most in thrifted frames). The one which has special significance for Easter has Jesus rescuing Adam and Eve from hell -it is known as the Anastasis and means 'resurrection".

I had a little Easter Bunny with an egg, and I had some real bird nests I had found on my walks around the suburb. I think that new life is really the theme of Easter and that is what I am trying to show in the decorations.

I did indulge myself and buy one or two special things at my favourite store in Mandurah, though! In the market there is a store which has quite reasonably priced items and many of them are things that I can quite happily take home.

This is what I have in one corner of the loungeroom so far:

I have plans for an Easter Quilt, but the plans keep changing all the time! I want it to have the word "Alleluia" on it somewhere.

And I am in the middle of sewing cushion covers for the loungeroom and family room. I have been following some English blogs and finding so much inspiration. So much to do and so little time to do it. That is why I am looking forward to my Long Service Leave, which is not so far away now, and I have already made some plans and booked myself into some craft workshops.

What luxury it will be to have Three Months -getting paid and not going to work!

Monday, March 9, 2009

What is an achievement?

Last week I was fortunate to attend the Ethnic Community Council of WA and the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Council of Australia's first national Immigrant and Refugee Women's Conference in Fremantle.

The picture is of the Joys of the Women choir, who opened the conference with Italian folk songs. The lady in the gold hat in the foreground was just one of many people proudly wearing clothing that showcases their ethnic and cultural background.

The speakers and the participants showcased some amazing community organisations. People who had survived the most amazing disasters had not only rebuilt their own lives, but helped others to do so too. It was at times very sad, and there were tears. Many friendships were made or renewed, and there was lots of laughter.

I came away from it feeling very uplifted by the realisation, yet again, of the power of volunteering and the not-for-profit sector in general. One proverb says "women hold up half the sky" and there was lots of proof of that here.

Many of the participants are often overlooked by our mainstream culture. They do not get much in the way of recognition. Somehow it does not stop them!

Last night, my DH and I proudly watched our son graduate with a Bachelor of Music. The young and not-so-young graduates each testified to their dedication and persistence in the face of many obstacles. Each one stands ready to contribute to their world. The WA Academy of Performing Arts has developed some world-renowned actors and musicians. Many more of the graduates will do what they do best -uplift the community with their gifts, teach and mentor others to find their creative side, offer another way of looking at this world. They may not get rich this way, except in all the things that matter.

I am now reflecting yet again on what a real achievement in life is, and how little we pay proper attention to it. I am sure that the simple sustainable life is built in a simple and sustainable society in which we each contribute to overcome the struggles and enliven the celebrations.

Hoping you are the same.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Outwitting the price hike in power

West Australians are looking at considerable increases in energy costs over the next 12 months, particularly in electricity.

Our household energy use is fairly consistent at 19 units per day. This is not too bad for a house with 4 adults, and 8 computers. It could be better of course and the price hike is a good time for us to evaluate our strategies for saving on energy use and to start to make that 19 units go down some more.

We already have low energy compact fluorescent globes in all the light fittings which can take them. One of the issues for us is that the ceiling fans in most of the rooms have a light fitting which will not allow a compact fluoro. These ceiling fans are economical forms of cooling, and we also use them in winter to circulate the warm air from gas heating, but they are costly in terms of lighting.

Recently we installed two cheap wall lights from Ikea in our bedroom. We just got fed up with table lamps which were unstable and this seemed a great way to overcome the problem. One extra advantage is that we can put compact fluoros in these light fittings, which means that we can save too.

We have set ourselves up with power boards which allow us to turn off major electrical items like the TV when we have finished with them, but it is hard to develop the habit of actually doing this in everyone who uses them.

This week DH installed two of these wall lights in our family room. This room often has the light on, even when I think the light is adequate, because my DD or DS are in there with their laptops and they want a bit more light. If we can train them to use the wall lights rather than the light which is part of the ceiling fan, we can save here too.

The main big user of power, according to advice from the electricity company, however is the 'beer fridge". Like most West Australians we have an elderly fridge on the back patio and we use it to store our cool drinks and to hold party platters when we are entertaining. It was made before the idea of low energy refridgeration was thought of. I can't imagine not having the useful storage capacity of this fridge, but I recognise that this particular model has to go.

I think it is time for a more modern drinks fridge which can keep things cool without guzzling the power. We have a street verge clean up soon so I think this one is going out. I am looking for a second hand fridge of a newer type which will hopefully put our energy use under 18 units per day. I wonder how low we can go?

I can encourage everyone to turn things off at the wall, but I find that kind of habit is hard to develop and easy to lose again. That is why structural changes are most successful in our house. How about yours?