Saturday, April 28, 2012

Being Green in Australia + recipes

As another Earth Day comes and goes, I thought you might like to know how 'being green' compares in Australia to the States.

First, I should preface this post with a fact. Boulder, the city where we lived previously, is ranked as one of the top 5 most eco-friendly cities in the United States. (I once went to a house party where the hostess pointed me to the bathroom and warned me to check the toilet first because they 'let it mellow' in their house.*)

There's not many places in the world where being green is as steeped in the social consciousness as in Boulder but, luckily, Canberra is a fairly progressive city.

Some similarities and some differences
  1. Recycling is just as easy as it was in Boulder. Canberra also has single stream recycling, which means everything recyclable goes into the same bin.
  2. Canberra recently initiated a Plastic Bag Ban in November 2011. Shops no longer carry plastic shopping bags. Instead, shoppers must bring their own bags or buy a tote bag at the store if they forget their own. The Plastic Bag Ban didn't really change our lives that much. In Boulder, while it wasn't forbidden to have your groceries bagged into plastic bags, it was definitely frowned upon and so we are in the habit of bringing our own bags to shops.
  3. Bike lanes are just as common here and there is a very extensive bike/walking trail system throughout the capital city and surrounds. However, I am sad to say that we use our car a lot more here than we did in Boulder. The city is just so spread out that riding our bikes or walking to work is not always feasible. I miss the commute to work in Boulder—it was a beautiful one mile walk through the historic part of town, with a view of the Rocky Mountains in the distance.
  4. The one area that Canberra really falls down on is availability of organic vegetables, fruits, and meats. And this is an instance where Boulder totally spoiled me. In Boulder, buying organic was easy and extremely affordable. Here, I have to search through 2-3 stores to find the organic food that I need and, in the case of fruits and vegetable, it is often rotting on the shelf when I find it.
  5. An upside to living here is that most houses and apartments do not have clothes dryers. Everyone hangs their laundry on a line to dry which helps to conserve energy. In Boulder, our apartment complex forbade us from hanging our laundry out on our balcony. I always thought that rule was silly. Every time I hang up laundry outside now, I smile and remember my mom hanging up the laundry when I was a kid.

To end this post, I thought I'd share a couple of recipes with you. When we first moved here and I wasn't working, I decided to experiment with some homemade cleaning solutions. My best friend in Colorado (hi, Taryn!) is a master at making things and she shared these two with me.

Homemade Laundry Detergent
Works great. The only thing that sometimes needs to be washed twice are our stinky running/climbing clothes. Though sometimes I can get by with just dumping in a bit of extra detergent. Taryn recommends using Dr. Bronner's bar soap. I haven't been able to find it here so I usually buy whatever brand the natural foods store has on sale.

Homemade Shampoo and Conditioner
I decided to try this one at a time when I wasn't working because it didn't matter how bad my hair looked. Luckily though, these recipes worked just fine and I continue to use them. Drew especially likes these homemade hair solutions. Three things to note - a) your hair does not smell like vinegar after it dries, and b) your hair might be a bit more oily when you first start using this recipe, but it quickly adjusts, and c) you may need to fiddle with the amounts of baking soda or vinegar to perfect it for your hair type.

Happy Earth Day (a few days late....)!


*You know, the little ditty that one sings when one's house has lost electricity and one is trying to conserve water..."If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." ♫

Friday, April 20, 2012

Earthquakes and Poetry

This morning, we had an earthquake right outside of town. It was tiny as far as earthquakes go, only a 3.7 in magnitude. However, it woke both Drew and me up at just a little past 5am. We felt a tremble and heard a low rumble. 'Earth noises' as the local reports called it.
Photo from Geoscience Australia

When we finally did get up, it was a lovely foggy morning. The kind of fog that dampens the sounds of the neighborhood. Throughout the morning, my mind kept returning to those earthly grumblings and I felt inspired to write a haiku. Since it's National Poetry Month in the United States, I thought I'd share it with you.

Autumn Earthquake
a haiku by Mandy
The sun tiptoes up.
Fog rests on the fall morning.
The earth rumbles, shakes.

Hope you enjoyed that little slice of poetry!  Feel free to share your own haikus in the comments!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Two Can Play That Game

Four days off work...what to do?

Due to a terrible head cold on my part, we stayed home for most of our long weekend. But that didn't stop us from having fun. Instead, we spent a good part of the weekend playing board games.
Carcassonne, one of our favorite games, introduced to us by our good friends Ian and Heather
In Colorado, we had lots of board games and card games. Way too many to bring to Australia. When we moved, we still managed to find room in our luggage for all of our favorite 2+ player games. Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Quiddler, Five Crowns, Tigers and Goats, and Magic (yes, that card game that was popular when we were in elementary school).

A few weeks ago, we visited Mind Games, the local game store and added two other games to our collection. (Btw, games are expensive here! If I hadn't won a cash prize contest at work, we probably wouldn't have splurged on two games. Think of what you would pay for two board games, times that by three and it's around what we paid.)

Qwirkle, our new favorite game
Our favorite of the two new games is Qwirkle, a strategy game that matches 6 different shapes and 6 different colors. If you've played the card game Set, it kinda reminds me of that, but less frantic. Every time we've played it, our scores have been relatively close. I'm really curious to see how different it will be with more than two players.  

Our other new game, Dominion.
The second game we bought is called Dominion and it's a card game. Drew compared it to Monopoly in that you have to accumulate money to purchase land. At first, I thought it was just a game of luck but as we played it more, I realized that there is a lot of strategy involved as well. It's similar to Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan in that you can buy various expansion packs to go along with it.
Mandy, surrounded by cards, tea, and tissues.
Minus the being sick part, we had a fun and relaxing weekend. I'm glad to know that as we head into the short,cold days of winter, we have lots of good games to play. What are some of your favorite games?

Oh, and in addition to playing games, we started planning our next big trip. We're thinking the Kimberleys in May.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

This King's English

These days my writing feels a bit bipolar. There is the American me who writes emails to friends and family and talks about organizing and favorite colors and theater. Then there is the slowly-acclimating-to-Australia me who edits books and writes media releases and talks about organising and favourite colours and theatre. Notice the subtle differences there?

There are no moms here. Nor are there centers or curbs. Instead, we have mums and centres and kerbs. A 'Z' is not pronounced zee, but rather zed. I have not learned these differences. I have learnt them.

I have also recently discovered that those punctuation rules that were drilled into my brain in school seem to be a bit topsy turvy here. Take the following sentences for example.

American me would write:
"It's a perfect day for a picnic," said Drew.

Mandy nodded, "Let's pack a picnic basket and walk to the lake."

Australian me would write:  
"It's a perfect day for a picnic", said Drew. 
Mandy nodded, "Let's pack a picnic basket and walk to the lake".

Eeeh!  Punctuation outside of quotation marks! A part of me cringes whenever I see that.

In honor (honour?) of my current preoccupation with all things spelling and punctuating, I thought I'd leave you with a few editing gems.
  1. The MLA Handbook now has an official way to cite a tweet.  Lots of people are already having fun with this idea and my favorite (favourite) example is this one.
  2. Now that we're going digital with books, will they be in a constant state of editing? I'm sure some authors hope so! An edition of the current bestseller 50 Shades of Grey apparently refers to a character as a "bacon in the night." Errr, that's probably being fixed to 'beacon' as we speak.
  3. Did you know that September 24th is National Punctuation Day?
  4. Misprints happen. Even in the Bible. A 1631 edition famously notes in the Ten Commandments that "Thou shalt commit adultery." Referred to as the Wicked Bible, almost all of the copies were confiscated and burned. A few, however, remain in the hands of collectors and venerable institutions such as the New York Public Library and the British Library.
  5. In the days of telegrams, people used to rely on code books to reduce phrases to single words. Here are a few good ones from the Anglo-American Telegraphic Code, published in 1891: Babylonite (Please provide bail immediately), Titmouse (I [we] accept with pleasure your invitation for the theater tomorrow evening), Mahogany (Malaria prevails extensively), Enringed (the news causes great excitement).