Another reason why I prefer to shop local

I love shopping with local stores, and love supporting small business.  At least in theory.  I’m actually reasonably bad at doing it, because, like most people, the lure of cheap prices and the familiarity of nationwide chains means I just keep going to those stores.

My daughter has grown out of her swim nappy, and doesn’t need a swim nappy anymore, so I figured I would buy a new pair of swimming togs (swimmers, swimming costume, bathers, or whatever non-Queenslanders call the clothes you wear in the pool!). Which is all well and good, except that it is coming into ‘winter’, and that means that all the stores that have their stocking and ordering done at a central office have ‘winter’ clothes.

It’s 27 degrees celsius today where I live, and it is mid-May. So while the southern states are all rugging up in their ugg boots and jackets and beanies, we’re chilling back in thongs and t-shirts, and still going swimming. But, of course, the shops are full of boots and jackets and woollen jumpers and warm hats and raincoats and gumboots.  Not swimwear.

It seems to me to be a lovely idea that the clothing shops in the towns they are situated would predominantly sell the type of clothes that the people living in that town would require.  (it is, of course, useful to be able to buy warm clothes for travelling to cold climates).  It seems to me that a locally owned and operated business would be able to tailor their stock to the needs of their customers better than a business that is run from a central location.  I’m not really an expert in business, actually, I don’t really know much at all. But I’m putting it out there that it makes more sense in this regard that a local business would better stock products that locals are looking for.  I am sure there are managerial decisions made at many chain stores, but they still will have a limited range of stock to choose from.

Now, if only I could find a locally owned children’s clothing store…

Review: Big Fat Lies by David Gillespie

One of the books I read in January was Big Fat Lies by David Gillespie. I have seen a few of his books on bookshop shelves, particularly Sweet Poison (on the evils of sugar), and I had heard of Free Schools (which I also read in January), so I looked him up at the library and found this one.

According to Gillespie, we are being lied to about what to eat to avoid obesity, heart disease and cancer. He has scoured the evidence, and his claim is that the evidence points to two things: sugar and seed oils.

This is contrary to everything we’ve been told for decades: that the main culprit behind heart disease and obesity is saturated fat and we should reduce it. The best fats – and we do need a portion of fat in our diet – are mono and polyunsaturated fats.

The problem here, according to Gillespie is that the grounds on which saturated fat is labelled as bad are pretty shaky, but because the man promoting this view in the mid-twentieth century was well-respected by US government authorities, it went unquestioned and dietary advice across the world has since been to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fats primarily come from seed, and the quantities at which we now eat these ‘vegetable oils’ is unprecedented. They just don’t occur in high quantities in nature.

Likewise sugar – or fructose to be more specific – is now eaten in quantities that are dangerous. Fructose doesn’t set off our ‘feeling full’ hormones, and so we can easily eat far more calories than we need without noticing. But not only that: the processes our bodies use to break down sugar become overloaded by too much of it, and this leads to Type 2 Diabetes, dementia, and kidney problems.

Gillespie claims that not only does the research show this, but statistics do too. The rise the rates of obesity, cancer and diabetes have tracked in line with the rise in consumption of polyunsaturated fats (from canola, sunflower, corn and soy oils) and of refined sugar (cane sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup).

The jury is still out for me whether Gillespie (and others: he certainly isn’t the only person publishing material spouting the evils of sugar and seed oils) is onto something, or just on an alarmist train. There are a few things I’d like to question about the topic:

1. Research isn’t always complete and reliable.  Often, we don’t get black and white answers, but rather another piece of the puzzle, and when we put all the pieces together we find an answer. When it comes to nutrition I like to take advice with a grain of salt, because our bodies are so complex that we still don’t have a complete understanding of many processes.  Has the anti-sugar brigade put together the wrong pieces of the puzzle?

2. Correlation does not mean causation.  A silly example is if you took 100 school students and found that al the students with blonde hair scored well in their maths tests, you might conclude that affinity for maths comes from having blonde hair.  This is a correlation.   Looking at statistics of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia and mapping them against statistics of sugar and oil consumption may give you an answer, or it may be a correlation, and it just so happens that as we live longer the incidence of these illness also increase.

3.  We all have to die of something.  100 years ago people were dying of infectious diseases and workplace accidents at much higher rates than we do now.  Life expectancy was lower.  Maybe heart disease and cancer are inevitable as we age. Maybe it’s genetic. Maybe it’s diet or our lifestyle.  Maybe Gillespie is giving us the answer.

The book was an easy read. Admittedly, the book I had finished just prior to this one was Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which was beautifully written, but a hard slog.  Big Fat Lies lacked Pollan’s journalistic quality.  (David Gillespie is a former lawyer.)

Besides explaining why sugar and seed oil is what is making us sick and fat, Gillespie also devotes a section of his book to how to cut them from our diet, as well as a family non-controversial section on the things we do that make no different to our health (dieting, exercise for weightless, and vitamin supplements), but if we are desperate we will try anything, right?

I’m still unsure if giving up sugar and polyunsaturated fats is just a fad, or whether this holds the answer to a slew of public health problems, but the more I read, the more I am convinced that a diet of ‘real food’ – whole, fresh, seasonal and minimally processed – is the way to eat to live a longer, healthier life.

 

The books in this review can be found at either of the following affiliated links, or try your local independent bookstore, or your library.

 

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Living intentionally: reading

So…. my exciting new blog that I was going to be updating at least weekly fell apart after five or so posts.

But – hey! – I’m back.

Back on living simply, intentionally and beautifully.

I’ve set some goals this year. I’m not much of a goal setter. I tend to lose my way, get bored with my goals, find more exciting things I’d rather do, or realise I’m nowhere near achieving the goal and give up.

This year I have printed them out and stuck them on my wardrobe where I will see them.

I’m 8 weeks into the year and none of my goals are looking great. But I do have 10 months to go!

One of my goals is to read and review 50 books this year. This is part of my living intentionally. I do love to read, and I’m definitely a sucker for social history or social commentary. I’m hoping to review a stack of books this year, including some from ’50 books you must read before you die’ type lists, some I pick up randomly from the library because they look interesting, and some that have been lurking on my bookshelf for years waiting for me to read them so I can get rid of them!

It’s all part of living intentionally: I love to read. I want to read. I will read actual books as much as I read random internet articles.

(I’m totally an actual book person. Personal preference. I forget I’ve got any ebooks sitting on my phone, whereas the book that keeps getting shifted from dining table to kitchen bench to bedside table to coffee table serves as a physical reminder that, you know, I want to get that book read.)

What are you doing this year to live more intentionally?

The unfinished blanket

It’s a blanket that I began to crochet eight, maybe nine, years ago. Granny squares, in the type of autumny colour scheme that I love, from balls of wall I bought for 2 kina each at the town market where we were living in Papua New Guinea.  Almost finished: all the squares stitched together, and a border almost all the way around the edge. But my first baby was born and I never managed to pick it up to finish.

Shoved in a bag in the cupboard – someday I guess I’ll finish that – many days, years, of unfinished. Other unfinished projects have lingered also. Some I have had no desire to complete, and I have parted with those permanently. Some have been looked at and then put aside for another day.  Some have been finished or repurposed. 

This blanket has been put aside many times. I’m not even going to attempt that one now. I have finally brought it out again this week. I will complete this blanket. It’s not really big enough for a bed, just for putting over your legs on the couch, or maybe just for a child. But it is beautiful and I made it.

So many unfinished craft projects linger in my cupboard.  It is hard to part with many of them. They were an idea, an attempt to realise that idea, a desire to create and to express something of myself. They are mistakes, mis-measures, a demonstration of my limited abilities: proof that I can’t do everything. Sometimes humbling, sometimes heartbreaking. They have made me cry and have made me throw them across the room. Naughty children, out of sight until I’m ready to face them again. 

There are others for which the time just ran out. The ones that by the time I get around to completing them, after my time has been divided up between my husband, children, extended family, church, wasting time on the Internet, and finally I return to find the inspiration has gone, or I’ve forgotten what on earth I was even trying to do with this one. 

These all sit with the un-started.  The boxes of card, stickers, wool, paint, fabric, beads, dye, calligraphy pens, stamps and ink, patterns that all lie in wait of my beginning the task they were intended for. Some have been waiting a decade or more. 

I’ve learnt that I can’t make everything, nor do I even desire to beyond my imaginations. I have parted with most of my beads, and I’m waiting for opportunity to finish my scrapbooks so I can part with cutters and stickers and cardstock.  I’ve parted with a lot of fabric, patterns and wool.

Gradually, I’ve been accepting that I cannot realise all my grand ideas.  I must finish the last one first, or just write it down until such a time that I might be able to start and complete the task. I stopped buying fabric many years ago, with exception of needing it to finish a project. Once my stash has dwindled, then I can buy more, one piece at a time. 

But for now, the project is this blanket.  Discarding whatever the original intention had been, a border of single crochet just to complete it, that it may be admired and used, rather than languishing in a bloated collection of ideas and aspirations. 

The problem of packaging

How full is your bin each week?

I put mine out last night, almost one-third full of household rubbish. This is a 240L wheelie bin, so that’s about 0.8 cubic metres heading to landfill. We have about that much each week, which means we send 4 cubic metres every year to landfill, and this is not counting the garden waste that we top up the bin with each week.

But, given that technically my bin is full every single week because we fill it up with dead palm fronds, grass clippings, and other garden waste, I’m actually sending 12 cubic metres of waste to landfill each year. That’s my bathroom crammed full of rubbish and spilling out the door. 

And we are just one house.

All that rubbish has to go somewhere, and the more waste we create, the more rubbish we have to find space for out of town.  And, all of that rubbish has come from somewhere: natural resources have been employed in the production and transportation of the original products. 

I think I can do a lot better in reducing our household waste. Here’s some thoughts:

1. Less packaging. The problem of packaging is that it is paper and plastic used for no other purpose than to contain a product for sale. Sometimes this is great! I love buying my milk in a bottle! My eggs come home un-cracked much easier if they are in their cardboard crate than if I’d bought them loose. The plastic bag inside the carton keeps the Weet-bix fresher for longer. But, I need to be more conscious of not buying over-packaged goods. Individually wrapped biscuits, rather than a large packet that is then kept in an airtight container after it is opened, for example.  Loose apples instead of pre packed apples. The largest appropriate size packet. 

2. Less disposable items. I have one child still in nappies, ¾ of which are cloth, and one child who wears a disposable nappy-pant to bed each night. We could use non-disposable options here, but have chosen not to. I’ve given cloth menstrual pads a go, but have chosen not to continue those. We also use toilet paper.  All other disposable items we keep to a minimum: plates, cups, paper towel, serviettes, cleaning cloths, baking paper, plastic food wrap, alfoil.  If it is a disposable item, and I can possibly get a second use out of it then I will. (Obviously, not toilet paper.)

3. Less food waste. I remember reading somewhere that 20% of food gets thrown away. Seriously? I get annoyed if my kids only eat half their meal and I have to put the rest in the bin, let alone food that hasn’t even been used. I try to only give my kids as much food as I know they will eat, and I find ways to use up all the bits of leftover foods in my fridge before they go off: soups, stews, bizarre combos of bits and pieces for my lunch. I also try to only buy as much as will get used before it goes off. The one area I could really improve in here is composting my peelings etc. 

4. Less garden waste. We do have a bin that gets collected by a private firm and the contents recycled into new garden products. I’ve looked into ways of reusing garden waste as mulch, but haven’t found anything that will work yet. A compost bin would make a small difference.  We don’t have a lot of lawn, but we do have a lot of trees that drops things and plants that need pruning.

5. Buying household goods that will last a long time. Cheap and nasty things that break easily are not good economy, and not good for the environment. I do okay at this.

6. Recycling as much as your local council will let me. All of our milk bottles, cardboard boxes, soft drink cans, paper and glass jars go into the recycling bin. It gets collected every two weeks, and ours is usually ¾ full.  Again, this has a lot to do with too much packaging! The less that needs to be recycled in the first place, the better. 

Any other ideas on reducing household waste? 

The problem of too many free samples.

Image

This is not all of the samples hanging around my bathroom. I don’t know where I have acquired all of these, and I know that some of them have been lingering a long time. Perhaps there is a tiny cosmetics sample factory in my bathroom cupboard? 

I’ve saved plenty waiting for the right opportunity to use them. This will come in handy when we travel next time, to help keep our luggage down. Yeah, right.  Some of those sample packets have been with us to Brisbane and back too many times to count! I don’t really use as much as is in a sample sachet when we travel, or I know I will use more and so just take the bigger one. Or I plain forget. 

So, here’s my advice to myself, and to anyone who is overflowing with samples.  Use them. Don’t wait for the perfect time. Use them so they are gone but not wasted. 

What’s your samples hoard like?

It only goes so far.

I don’t know if you are like me, but I want it all.

When I say ‘all’, I mean holidays, a paid off mortgage, keep the kids going to the private school we started them at, good coffee whenever and wherever I feel like it, with a gorgeous vintage wardrobe, and all on one income. Or even better, completely self-funded.

But, here’s my reality: money only goes so far. If I have $100, I can’t buy $80 worth of groceries and a $40 dress. I have to choose; buy less groceries, or don’t buy the dress. 

And here’s what is hard: if I want to pay off my mortgage in significantly less than 25 years, then maybe I should stick to only drinking coffee at home. If we want to send our kids to this school, we might need to find a way to earn more money, and that might mean me getting a job that pays regular money. If we want to do a trip to Italy and Canada, then I might need to buy less groceries AND less dresses. 

To have the things you most want, you must sacrifice the things you least want. 

It isn’t always a money thing: it could be time, dreams, opportunities, health.  It is about deciding what is most important to you, and getting rid of the things that aren’t. Some days – and today is one of those for me – those decisions are hard. Some days, it’s easy.  Borrowing a book at the library instead of buying it: easy. Not buying too much chocolate after Easter, even though it’s cheap: reasonably easy.  Skipping the sales rack at my favourite shoe shop: hard, but fortunately not much comes up for me there anyway. Choosing how much insurance I need, with how much excess, because it is so expensive where I live: freaking difficult. Deciding what to do about school and work: worthy of procrastination because it is just too complex. 

Then I read my list, and am thankful that we have a high enough income to be able to make any of those choices!

How about you? Do find it easy to choose what to spend money on and what not to spend money on? Or do you put your head in the sand and hope that somehow the groceries and the dress will magically come to $100?

 

 

 

 

Five reasons to live with less

I made a choice three years ago to actively reduce my clutter.  I had started feeling as though the stuff in my house was beginning to suffocate me.  I started pursuing minimalism, reduced the amount of stuff I own, excluding furniture, by about half.  

Since then, I have chosen to continue pursuing a minimalist lifestyle. Here are five reasons why:

 
1. Because my ‘stuff’ is made of finite resources.    

If climate change is real and man-made (which I happen to believe), the biggest culprit is that we in the West use too much stuff.   I see a problem when coal is dug out of the ground a few hundred kilometres from where I live, shipped to China to power factories making consumer goods to be sent back to Australia, only to languish in the back of a cupboard or end up in landfill.  But more than that, overconsumption in the West cannot continue.  The coal will run out. The oil to power the ships will run out.  The oil to make the plastic will run out.  The phosphorous to make the fertilisers to grow the cotton will run out.  The rare metals that go in your phone will run out.  But if we start slowing down our rate of consumption, then maybe they won’t run out quite so soon. 

 

2. Because ‘stuff’ costs money.

At the moment I’m home raising small children full time, and plan on keeping my focus on my family as they grow older.   I don’t want to feel compelled to return to work to earn money to pay for things we don’t need.   And the money we do have should be going to things we use, not things to fill the house, and to those who are less fortunate than us.

3. Because everyone who has contributed to the production of my ‘stuff’ matters. 

The things that I own didn’t start their life on a shop shelf.  As a Christian, I am called to love my neighbour, which I understand to mean everyone I have a relationship with.  This means my children, and making sure they are able to grow up with the same great living conditions that we have now, and not jeopardising that by selfishly having whatever we want whenever we want it.  It also means the people who produce my stuff.  It’s not really fair that I have cheap consumer goods if the people who have made them are being paid a pittance for their work just so that we can have more.  It’s also not fair if the growers and factory workers are working in appalling conditions just so that I can have more.  Buy less stuff, of higher quality, and pay more to make sure the producers are receiving a fair price.

 
4. Because less stuff means more time for the things I love most. 

Less work to earn more money to buy more things.  Less time keeping a huge house clean and a mountain of possessions tidy and organised.  More time with my family.  More time doing things I enjoy.
 

5. Because I don’t need it all. 

Before, I used to think I needed a lot of things.  Now, I realise that I don’t need half of what I think I do.  There are only 24 hours a day, only 7 days a week.  Only 365 days a year, and only about 80 years to live.  I can’t do everything in that time.

 
 
 
*This post is an edit from one of my now defunct blogs. 
 

A brand new blog

This is Wild Lily.

My brand new blog.

Since I was a teenager, I have wanted to be a writer. I’m in my thirties now, and determined to make it happen. Let’s call this my place to practice writing.

Since before I was a teenager, I have also been a hoarder, and generally an untidy person. In my thirties, I have now embraced minimalism, simplicity and order.  I’ll write a lot about this.

Bookmark me. I’m excited about writing for you.