Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Green clean

Now that I'm back to cleaning the house myself again (no more cleaning lady - sniff) I've been experimenting with some homemade cleaning remedies. We had previously been using 'eco friendly' citrus based sprays from the supermarket, but I figure even these come in plastic bottles and still tend to contain a long list of unidentifiable ingredients. I tend to think more now about what I'm wiping on the floor with The Booba spends crawling round on it (and then sucking on his hands...). So I've been having a crack with the old white vinegar and bicarb - and I'm happy (and a bit surprised) to announce that they actually work! Apparently vinegar even has strong antibacterial and antiviral properties, so those hooked on 'sterilising' their homes can feel comfortable with this alternative too. Here are some 'recipes' that have been working well for me:

* add a cup of vinegar to a bucket of hot water to mop the floor
* use vinegar neat to clean the toilet
* use vinegar neat to wipe shower tiles (apparently it has mould inhibiting properties)
* to clean the microwave add 1/2 cup vinegar to 2 cups of water and cook on high for 3 minutes. Then wipe out the inside of the microwave.
* to deodorise and disinfect a stinky cutting board soak in vinegar for 5-10 minutes.
* to clean a smelly drain tip down 1/2 - 1 cup of bicarbonate of soda then slowly poor down 1 cup of vinegar. Follow with water.
* for an all purpose cleaner that is particularly good for cleaning the bathroom sink add 2 tablespoons of bicarb to 1 tablespoon of vinegar and use it to scrub with. I've found this is much better at getting rid of that black gunge around the base of the taps than standard spray cleaners.
* put vinegar in an old spray bottle and use to wipe down the highchair and the mat that lives under the high chair.
* wet a newspaper with vinegar and use to clean the mirror (yes I used to think this sounded stupid too - but its fantastic at getting rid of those little white toothpaste spots).

Some of these ideas have come courtesy of a booked called 'Clean Sweep' by Alison Haynes (2008, Murdoch Books Australia), and the rest from

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Toy shopping

I know I've been getting a bit "off topic" lately what with being so busy on my soapbox (hey, I did call this thing "MamaRANDOM" for a reason!). How is the no buying new stuff thing going?..........well, I'm happy to report its actually feeling pretty easy right now. The trick seems to be not to expose yourself to temptation! - and now I'm just out of the habit of shopping in 'new stuff' places. When I do, I'm a lot more conscious in my purchases.

No, I can't claim to be pure - especially in the case of things for The Booba. He 'needed' a ride along toy recently (at a friend's kid's birthday party he wouldn't leave hers alone - and then when we got home he kept trying to 'ride' all his little toy trucks. It was too pitiful). I did find one at Salvo's but it was a little bit suspect in the safety stakes. So off we went to the toy department of a certain large department store, not my favourite destination.

Most of the kids I could see around seemed to be pretty whiny and miserable, and I don't think it was just a case of wanting all the toys they saw. That place made me feel pretty miserable too! - a sea of technicolour plastic bleating various hollow electronic ditties and leaching an artificial malodour. Hugely overstimulating yet at the same time completely devoid of warmth and soul. Feeling hugely optimistic I sought out the 'wooden toys' section. There wasn't one - other than a mealsy assortment of attractive but massively overpriced pull-along wooden dogs from Europe. When I finally escaped the department - flashing and singing ride along fire engine in tow - I felt exhausted and a bit hypocritical. But The Booba and his engine are inseparable.

I had a much more pleasant toy shopping experience recently when looking for a gift for my nephew in our local Oxfam shop. No plastic. Interesting colours and textures and a story behind each piece. And of course, not a whiff of a sweatshop. Nephew liked his little handpainted Peruvian tambourine and the Indian bells for tying around his ankles when he dances.

I've been making a few toys from upcycled materials lately for various babies' birthdays. I'm not much of a sewing afficionado so they don't bear terribly close scrutiny but I had a ball making them and the babies seem to have liked them. Just got a bunch more wicked fabric from the local opshop, so working on a few new designs at the moment...When I can find the camera I'll post some pictures!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Carrots come in purple?!

Yep, it would appear so! I know these guys are a bit paltry, but I'm still at the point where I'm pretty pleased to be able to produce anything at all! Current culinary stylings at our house are along the lines of '100 ways with carrot'. Can recommend grating a carrot up to make a salad with lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper (this recipe comes courtesy of a Swiss friend).

And now for something entirely different....Its been ages since my last post. This is probably a bit to do with the fact that The Booba has been going through a little bit of a 'challenging phase'(read: he's being a little toerag) so when he's not been needing immediate attention (when he's asleep) I've pretty much just been collapsing in a heap and zoning out infront of Masterchef. Excuses aside, despite the maternal angst I have had some pretty major bees in my bonnet lately that I've really been wanting to share with you all.....

Uranium mining in W.A.! I was aghast to discover relatively recently that since our illustrious State Government lifted the moratorium on uranium mining in this state at the end of 2008 several major mining companies have basically been champing at the bit to get started. There are several projects due to start operations in the next few years. Why is this so scary?..

* Uranium mining produces large quantities of radioactive waste. There is at present no satisfactory system for disposing of it safely. The government regulations for how this should be managed are depressingly scant.
* The statistics for rates of cancer in workers in uranium mines are frightening. And there is currently no national register keeping track of how much radiation these workers have been exposed to.
* Despite popular belief many people do actually live in the outback of W.A. Why should they and their kids be getting irradiated?
* Uranium mining consumes vast quantities of water
* The products of uranium mining get used to make nuclear weapons. Not cool.

While no uranium mine is yet operational in W.A. theres still time to do something about it. For more information and to get involved check out

Monday, July 5, 2010

'Boat People' are human beings too!

Next time you hear someone crapping on about how 'boat people' should just 'join the queue' and stop trying to 'illegally immigrate' to Australia, perhaps you'd like to share the following facts with them . These come courtesy of Amnesty International.

* There is nothing illegal about seeking asylum. It is a human right that is officially protected under Australian law.

* Anyone reading the papers or listening to talkback radio lately could be forgiven for thinking we are suffering a veritable hoard of asylum seekers arriving by boat everyday. No, we're actually not. Asylum seekers arriving by boat only make up 1% of our annual immigration intake. The vast majority (96%) of refugees seeking asylum in Australia do not arrive by boat.

* More than 90% of asylum seekers arriving by boat are subsequently round to be genuine refugees.

* A 'refugee' is someone who is forced to flee their own country as a result of severe persecution perhaps on the basis of their ethnicity, their religion, or their political affiliation. These people fear for their lives. I think I'd probably be jumping in a boat with my baby too if I honestly thought we'd be tortured or killed otherwise. Is it really fair for us to be casting these people as criminals?

Lets all just approach this issue with a bit more compassion.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More supermarket trolley politics...

Further to my previous post about the paucity of available sustainably fished tuna in Australia, I found around $8.00 for a tiny tin! Think I'll stick with going without for the time being, but if you love your tuna so much its worth the premium, check it out at I came across this at the local organic farmer's market we've been going to each Saturday morning. Contrary to my previous assumptions, the fruit and veg here is actually not all that much more expensive than that available at the local supermarket. And they taste so much better! They also have stalls selling 'upcycled' goods and the obligatory rock crystal deoderants and, newly, a cafe selling excellent coffee (organic fairtrade of course) in compostable cups. Eco-geek heaven.

As if things at the supermarket weren't ethically fraught enough, I've just become aware of another issue to bear in mind - palm oil! Apparently the vast majority of our palm oil is sourced from plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. Unfortunately the clearing of native rainforest for palm oil plantations is apparently the main cause of loss of Orangutan habitat. For more details check out the Perth Zoo campaign website at

Palm oil is used in up to 50% of processed consumer products - from chocolate to shampoo. I went to buy some supposedly 'green' dishwashing liquid the other day - until I saw that it had palm oil in it. Unfortunately in Australia we're generally currently kept none the wiser as to what contains palm oil and what doesn't - usually it will just be labelled as 'vegetable oil' (which could be pretty much anything). A 'Truth In Labelling Palm Oil Bill' will be brought before our Australian Parliament in August of this year. If successful, all products containing palm oil will have to be labelled as such. This will give the consumer the opportunity to put pressure on manufacters to use only Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). Worth a letter to the local MP, I think. In the meanttime, a 'Scorecard' has been produced by WWF rating different companies according to the sustainability of their palm oil use - check it out at

Thursday, June 17, 2010

We're just monkeys living in a plastic world

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to how it is we've all ended up living in a way that seems to be so bad for our bodies and our planet - and why we're so resistant to change. Having evolved to survive times of scarcity, our instincts tell us to accumulate resources. Our monkey nature tells us to eat lots of high calorie food when its there, to acquire things when they are available, to insure ourselves against time of need. And for those people on our planet who continue to go hungry, these instincts are probably appropriate. However, for those of us who live in the world of Happy Meals, living like monkeys is backfiring. Consumption has spun out of control because we're not living the life we were designed to live. This is no revelation - I'm far from the first to say this! But I think if we're ever going to work our way out of this mess, it bears repeating. Obeying our instinctive avarice and greed is no longer adaptive. Sustainably navigating our plastic world with our monkey brains is going to require instinct override - conscious consumption.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Raj Rocks

I've finally got my hands on a copy of Raj Patel's 'The Value of Nothing' (from the library, of course - sorry Raj). I wouldn't exactly call it light reading - especially for me as I don't really know all that much about Economics - but so far it certainly provides a piercing examination of the basic assumptions upon which our free market world has been built. In an analysis of the relationship between material wealth and happiness, Patel makes the observation (based on the results of research) that "after a certain point, more money doesn't make us happier. Instead, we find ourselves on a hedonic treadmill, in which happiness is about matching our level of consumption with our peers". This rings true to me. How sad.