Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Australia Day playdate

We hosted our annual Australia Day playdate on Tuesday. We made ANZAC biscuits, vegemite sandwiches and lamingtons. No one liked the vegemite sandwiches, including Henry, but that was okay with Lucy who ate all the left overs. The lamingtons were the clear winners!

Tonight is officially still Australia Day so we will be enjoying a lamb rack with lamb jam followed by a pavlova. Lucy decorated the house with her collage and flags. The kids wore Aussie shirts, we got out all our Aussie books and soft toy animals.

Happy Australia Day!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Dreaming of summer vegetables

We started planning our summer vegetable garden. That might sound a little early given that it snowed last week but we calculated that we need to start sowing the seedlings inside on 26 February. This gives us an outdoor planting date early in April which should be the last frost.

We spent a couple of hours poring over our Seed Savers catalog looking for interesting heirloom varieties. This year, like last year we are focusing on tomatoes with lots of other random things thrown in.

Here's our list of seeds:
  • Tomato, Beam's Yellow Pear
  • Tomato, Crnkovic Yugoslavian
  • Tomato, Cherry Roma
  • Tomato, Eva Purple Ball OG
  • Tomato, Gold Medal
  • Tomato, Mortgage Lifter (Halladay's) OG
  • Bean, Empress
  • Carrot, Danvers OG
  • Arugula OG
  • Onion, Yellow of Parma
  • Pepper, Golden Treasure
  • Squash, Waltham Butternut OG
  • Leek, Blue Solaiae
  • Watermelon, Golden Midget
We're stocking up on a few herbs that grow annually here like chives and sage. We also bought some borage to attract bees and some Sweet Alyssum to attract lacewings (to keep away aphids). We are also going to underplant the tomatoes with basil to reduce bugs eating the tomatoes.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I just finished reading Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma. It has certainly created a dilemma in my mind about the food I eat. Not that I am about to become a vegetarian but I am uncomfortable about the fact that my meat comes from a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). I'm investigating better options. We already have a lamb farmer's number on speed dial but I need to look into beef, chicken and pork options. Unfortunately living where we do is restrictive but I'm hoping to find some better options.

Here are two quotes from the book that will (hopefully) cause you never to eat fast food again:

Of the 38 ingredients it takes to make a McNugget, I counted 13 that can be derived from corn.

According to the handout, McNuggets also contain several completely synthetic ingredients, quasi-edible substance that ultimately come not from a corn or soybean field but from a petroleum refinery or chemical plant. These chemicals are what make modern processed foods possible, by keeping the organic materials in them from going bad or looking strange after months in the freezer or on the road. Listed first are the "leavening agents": sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and calcium lactate. These are antioxidants added to keep the various animal and vegetable fats involved in a nugget from turning rancid. then there are "anti-foaming agnets" like dimethylpolysiloxene, added to the cooking oil to keep the starches from binding to air molecules, so as to produce foam during the fry. The problem is evidently grave enough to warrant adding a toxic chemical to the food: According to the Handbook of Food Additives, dimethylpolysiloxene is a suspected carcinogen and an established mutagen, tumorigen and reproductive effector; it's also flammable. But perhaps the most alarming ingredient in a Chicken McNugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed on the nugget or inside of the box it comes in to "help preserve freshness." According to A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (ie lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food: It can comprise no more than 0.02% of the oil in a nugget. Which is probably just as well, considering that ingesting a single gram of TBHQ can cause "nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium. a sense of suffocation, and collapse." Ingesting five grams of TBHQ can kill.

The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan page 113

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Going natural: Washing detergent

The next item on my list of natural products to tackle is laundry detergent. I've been using Seventh Generation products in the laundry for a long time but I thought there was still room for improvement.

So I decided to try using soap nuts. The theory is that you throw a few soap nuts in a cotton bag into the washing machine with your dirty clothes. This is okay if you wash with hot water but I don't.

So I soaked the soap nuts in boiling water overnight to produce the soapy liquid and then I use 1/2 a cup per load. I also added a few drops of lavender essential oil.

So far its working great! Unfortunately soap nuts are not cheap. I think the economics may work out the same as purchasing laundry detergent but at least I now know there are no chemicals going into my clothes.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Snow Day

Unexpectedly we had a large snowfall last
week. On Monday morning we woke up in our very own snow globe. Three snow days followed but Monday was the highlight for building snowmen, making snow angels and eating snow cream (snow with maple syrup). We stayed home all day drinking Williams-Sonoma hot chocolate, laughing, talking and playing board games.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Visit

To say we had a fab
ulous week with our Aussie friends is an understatement and does not capture the full warmth of friendship that we experienced. I wish I could just bottle up the week into a jar so that when I am feeling lonely or homesick I could release some happiness!

We did the usual touristy things around Wilmington like visit the Aquarium, browse the Christmas shop in Southport, eat fudge at Kilwins downtown, and go to the beach [albeit for 10 minutes because it was freezing].

We also opened up Andrew's Pizza Wilmington for a gourmet pizza experience.
Throughout the week we ate at various restaurants including Cracker Barrel, Panera, La Costa, The Pharmacy and Sweet & Savoury. The adults had a special treat: a kid-free dinner at Bento Box thanks to our lovely babysitter Jessica who braved the task of 4 small children.

Lucy & Cora, although there was a whole head difference in height, were instant friends. They created a boy-free zone in their bedroom and played there for hours. There were
swimming lessons [jumping onto the airbed/pool, swimming with lamb slipper kickboards], camping, Christmas, tea party and so many more activities. And the fabulous thing was that there was no fighting! Truly not once did either girl come to complain about the other during the whole week. They also enjoyed playing at the beach, playing in the snow and making real chocolate cupcakes.

Henry & Jacob alternated between sleeping and playing but both liked getting extra cuddles from all the parents. It was a week full of noise and fun and now the house feels quiet and empty without them around and we miss them already!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

2010 Reading list

Another year, another 46 or so books read. I've started exchanging the books I can't keep at So far I've got a stack of 17 exchanged books for 2011 plus many other new books that have lingered from prior years.

I only listened to one audio book this year but it was a biggie! At 64 hours of recording (or 1136 pages) Atlas Shrugged was something to get through. I guess you either love or hate Ayn Rand. I fall in the latter category. I got to the end and I know who John Galt is but I have to say I did not enjoy most of the journey. [Actually there was another audio book - Around the World in 80 days which we listened to whilst driving between Texas and New Mexico]

Lucy and I read three novels together - Trumpet of the Swan, Little House in the Big Woods and Where the Mountain meets the moon. She loved them all and can't wait to do more in the Little House series.

My top three fiction for the year are: A Fine Balance, Divided Kingdom, The Man who was Thursday.

I also discovered the Diary of a Nobody which is very similar to one of my favourite books Three Men in a Boat so I will be reading the Diary again in the future.

For non-fiction I would highly recommend Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It inspired me to grow more food in our garden and it introduced us to home cheese making.

Here's the 2010 list in reverse reading order:

What Is a Family

Schaeffer, Edith

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Lin, Grace *

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment

Jacobs, A.J.

A Week At The Airport: A Heathrow Diary

Botton, Alain de *


McGahan, Andrew

The Castle

Kafka, Franz

The Everlasting God: A Character Study of God in the Old and New Testaments

Knox, D. Broughton

The Best of Myles

O'Brien, Flann

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Twain, Mark

Atlas Shrugged

Rand, Ayn

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

Pipher, Mary Bray

Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood

Martin, Jamie C.

Nightmare Abbey & Crotchet Castle (Penguin English Library El 45)

Peacock, Thomas Love

The Fifth Mountain

Coelho, Paulo

The Blue Flower and The Bookshop

Fitzgerald, Penelope

The Lynne Truss Treasury: Columns and Three Comic Novels

Truss, Lynne

Let the Great World Spin

McCann, Colum

At Home in Mitford (Mitford Years, #1)

Karon, Jan

Little House in the Big Woods (Little House, #1)

Wilder, Laura Ingalls

A Moveable Feast

Hemingway, Ernest

Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons: Celebrate the Holidays with Elegance and Simplicity--on Any Income

McBride, Tracey

The Diary of a Nobody

Grossmith, George

The Hunter

Leigh, Julia

Granta 111: Going Back


The Land of Green Plums

Müller, Herta

Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics

Reist, Melinda Tankard

Divided Kingdom

Thomson, Rupert

Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls

Reist, Melinda Tankard

Around the World in 80 Days

Plummer, Christopher

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Persepolis, #1)

Satrapi, Marjane

The Big Sleep

Chandler, Raymond

A Fine Balance

Mistry, Rohinton

Living With the Underworld

Bolt, Peter

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

Chesterton, G.K.

Father Brown: The Essential Tales {15 Tales}

Chesterton, G.K.

It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita

Armstrong, Heather B.

The Brotherhood of the Grape

Fante, John

No Ordinary View

Reed, Naomi

My Seventh Monsoon: a Himalayan journey of faith and mission

Reed, Naomi

Jazz Notes: Improvisations on Blue Like Jazz

Miller, Donald

A Deeper Shade of Blue: A Woman's Guide to Recognizing and Treating Depression in Her Childbearing Years

Nonacs, Ruta

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary

Winchester, Simon

Angels: God's secret agents

Graham, Billy


Robinson, Marilynne

The Trumpet of the Swan

White, E.B.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Kingsolver, Barbara

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World

Koeppel, Dan

Madame Bovary

Flaubert, Gustave

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Luke 2 memorisation

Lucy gets the top award for not stopping for breath whilst speaking!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Welcome 2011

By the end of 2010 we were happy to part company with the old year. Henry, then Fiona, then Lucy all succumbed to a gastro bug.

I'm happy to say we are all well again and feeling happy.

Happy New Year to everyone!

Our friends the Martin family from Australia are arriving on Thursday. [3 sleeps to go!] We are super excited and we are going to be very busy.

So no blogging! In the meantime, as I have time, I'll do a wrap up of Christmas and 2010.