Friday, October 19, 2018

Raising my voice

This is Anti Poverty Week, and so I went along to the rally in the city of Perth. I see this as part of my Simple Living practice: to engage with the community in ways to improve our lives together. If I want my life to be sustainable and simple I am sure the answer lies in assisting positive social change for all. I am not living this life in isolation. 

It is shocking that inequality is growing around the world. In Australia it is fueled by the lack of entry level jobs, wage stagnation and the fact that the Newstart allowance given to job seekers has not increased for 25 years.

There is an increasing tendency to blame the poor for their situation, instead of seeing it in structural terms. We can fix poverty by doing several basic things: raising Newstart, creating more social housing and ending the scandalous Robodebt fiasco, where welfare recipients are being forced to defend themselves from paying fake debts to Centrelink. It is estimated at least 1 in 6 is fake or needs to be corrected.  Then there is the punitive use of Cashless Welfare Cards, to stigmatise welfare recipients and take away their agency to make decisions about their use of welfare support.

Here is the St Vincent de Paul statement about the Cashless Welfare Card:  St Vincent de Paul Society does not support the cashless welfare card. There is no evidence it improves the wellbeing of individuals or communities, either by reducing substance abuse or by increasing employment outcomes. The cashless welfare card also carries a high risk of unintended and expensive consequences across government and the community, including social exclusion and stigmatisation, increased financial hardship, and the erosion of individual autonomy and dignity. Ultimately, this is a punitive and paternalistic measure that is driven by ideology rather than evidence.Find more here 

There was a major rally to call for a total ban on fracking non-conventional gas in Western Australia.  I went to that one, too! We are worried about the impact of fracking on our natural environment, particularly on our water supplies. 

The final thing I did in a fortnight of raising my voice was that I attended my local City of Joondalup council meeting, to assist with a campaign to get them to consider divesting from fossil fuels.  The group I went with comes from Perth. we are building the Divestment movement and resisting new fossil fuel projects to build a broad and effective climate movement powerful enough to create a safe climate future.

This is what I said:

I ask Councillors to support the motion that

"the CEO to prepare a report on the options for the city to change its risk appetite and investment policy to place a greater percentage of invested funds into institutions that have all (or a great majority) of their portfolio in fossil fuel free investments, providing that in so doing the City can secure a rate of return that is at least equal to the alternative offered by other institutions".

Climate change is, as you and I know, one of the challenges facing the City of Joondalup in the future. I refer you to the recently released “Coastal Survey Outcomes Report” which has been considering how our city might respond to the challenges of coastal erosion due to rising sea levels.

I also refer you to the City of Joondalup Environment Plan 2014 to 2019 which has a whole chapter on Climate Change Mitigation. If we are serious about this problem for our City, we won’t be undermining our efforts at reducing waste and supporting local environments by using the City’s assets to invest in industries which will make climate change worse! We can send a clear message to the fossil fuel industry: change your ways now and join us in tackling climate change

As the Mayors of London and New York said on 10th September this year that “We believe that ending institutional investment in companies that extract fossil fuels and contribute directly to climate change can help send a very powerful message that renewables and low-carbon options are the future. If we want to fund the scale of transformation the world needs, we must foster sustainable investment and use the power of institutional investors.”.

Do you get involved with local community actions like this? 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Getting serious about the kitchen renovation- it only took a year!


Home made sausage rolls: why have I not done this before? I am astonished at how easy they are, and tasty. I found a recipe which adds fennel seeds to the pork mince and they are terrific.

Well, that took a while! In October 2017 I wrote a post about our ideas for renovating the kitchen. I wrote then that there were things which had become difficult about this kitchen, and what we wanted to change:

  • There are very few drawers. As I am now in my early 60s, I am finding it harder to reach into the back of the bottom shelf and lift out a heavy casserole dish that I have stored there. The idea of having a drawer which can hold my dishes and which I can pull out to reach them is very attractive. This feature will help us to move into our senior years with confidence we can manage things here
  • I sometimes run out of bench space. I do a lot of cooking and baking, and DH loves to preserve and make jam. This kitchen is a bit cramped sometimes. Some of my appliances -like the microwave and the stand mixer -have to be stored on the bench too. 
  • It doesn't have a lot of natural light. I would like bigger windows to see out of and let light in.
  • I can't store my baking trays in the kitchen -they are in the linen closet.
  • I can only fit in a bottom mount fridge/freezer, but I would love a side by side fridge freezer so I can keep more in the freezer. Right now we have another fridge outside -mostly because we need the extra freeer space, but it is not always so convenient to go out there. In the summer it is a hot place for a fridge to be kept, so I guess the fridge motor is working hard out there. 
  • I sometimes wish I had an extra oven -I have used my barbecue as an oven when things get busy. My current freestanding stove and oven is showing signs of age and the oven in particular has a small capacity because its heating source takes up quite a bit of room. 
  • We have solar panels on the roof, so using electricity rather than gas would be a good thing for the planet and cheaper for us, especially now I am retired and can do more cooking during the daytime. I could replace the gas stove with an induction cooktop and electric oven. 
  • The layout of the kitchen could be improved

I guess there were a lot of reasons why we didn't act on our initial ideas back in October last year. We knew that the building industry in Australia shuts down over the Christmas -New Year period, and it was unlikely that we would get the project up and running then.

We got stuck into some easier updates -painting the lounge room and dining room, for instance. Then I really got uncomfortable about how messy and inconvenient the kitchen renovation would be. I couldn't face it so I just left the idea altogether.

Anyway, this week, with the weather warming up and the possibility of cooking outside become practical again, we started getting quotations for the work we wanted. The first quote was terribly off-putting, though, as it was hugely over my estimated budget. In my innocence, I had looked at what our last bathroom renovation had cost, and doubled it, but in fact this quote was four times as much!

We also discovered that it was going to be difficult to get my desired side-by-side fridge and freezer in the kitchen without compromising either the amount of light in the kitchen (smaller window) or the amount of bench space near the stove when moved to the interior wall. I was seriously disappointed.

It took a day or so to reflect on that experience and to get back into trying to find a way around the problems we had encountered. I reminded myself that we live simply, that we don't need grandiose finishes and that by keeping our goals in mind we could hopefully find a way to a kitchen which would work for us, but not absorb so much in the budget.

We went to IKEA and have sought a detailed quotation from them -it looks more in our ball park already. I am encouraged by recommendations from the Young House Has a Podcast people that their IKEA experience was fine -and also by recommendations from someone DH knows, who is also happy with theirs.

We have also sought a third quotation from another custom kitchen cabinet maker: hoping that it might be somewhere less than the first one, and not too much different from the IKEA one. The designer they sent out to measure up was most impressed to catch me in the middle of making my sourdough bread, and he also understood entirely why we didn't want expensive stone benchtops, for example, as I couldn't see what the advantage was in them. I have laminex benchtops we put in over 20 years ago and they have held up very well

In the meantime I have done a major cull of kitchen equipment, and sent a number of things to the op shop, so there is more room in the cupboards. This is not instead of renovating, I hasten to add, but so that when we need to pack up the kitchen, we are only packing what is essential.

I am hoping that we can do all the major planning of this renovation now, and start it in late January when the building industry comes back from their summer holidays.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Unless...the Lorax quilt is finished

I wasn't going to make this quilt! I was looking for something else in my stash, when I came upon a Dr Seuss panel which I had totally forgotten I had. I was immediately inspired to make a quick quilt for DGS #1 who is 4 years old, and who has recently shown a love for the Lorax movie. 

There were 10 distinct panels on the fabric , so I chose my favourite 9 and saved one for the back. Then I found some fabric which picked up the colours in the prints, for some borders around each scene. I was looking for things which wouldn't look out of place with the colours and which might bring 'growing things' to mind.

Then I sashed it all with neutral print squares (mostly left over from other projects) and added navy cornerstones. Here I am sewing on my favourite Singer 326K, recently returned from the mechanic and good to go.

I think it was three weeks from start to finish on this little quilt.

I used a pieced back -leftovers from the front fabric -and made a 'frankenbatting" by sewing a few pieces together. Then it was a bright yellow binding and I was done. 

Here is the quilt outside in the garden among the fruit trees.

I will wash it and get it sent off to our grandson soon.

This quilt is the fourth one for the year for me: see the others I have sewn this year here