Monday, 25 September 2017

Hawaii Day 1 and 2 - Looking for Lava

Our big holiday this year was Hawaii, as my son was really keen on volcanoes and with the world stage being a little bit scary in the European countries, we thought a USA holiday might be a safe one. And, Hawaii is only a 10 hour flight from Sydney.

There is a 4 hour time difference - ie in Sydney it's 7pm but in Hawaii it's 11pm (albeit it's 11pm the day before) so another one of those going back in time experiences - leaving Sydney at 430pm Saturday arvo and arriving in Honolulu at 530am Saturday morning. Our plan was to stay on three of the islands - big Island, Maui and Oahu - and we caught a connecting flight to Hilo airport on the Big Island.

We stayed at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, which is a nice comfortable hotel with car parking (as we decided to hire a car on each island). Of course, the bummy thing about a morning flight is that we can't check in for ages, so after we got our car we went to do a few small sightseeing things before we checked into our hotel.

We dropped by the Rainbow Falls (which had no rainbow since it was cloudy) and had lunch at Kuhio Grille, which served traditional Hawaiian fare as well as some a mix of other dishes. Their specialty is the one pound laulau, which is steamed meat in cabbage, cooked for ages till it's soft. It had a very home cooked feel to it and was quite satisfying! Also, Hawaiian fried rice which uses spam instead of ham or bacon, and the serves were so big we took some home and ate it for dinner. The kids were too tired to go out for dinner after check in and so that worked out well.

The next day we were up early and went to the Kaumana caves which were cool except we didn't have a torch, so we didn't go very far into the caves. The torch on the phone just doesn't cut it.

Met an Australian couple (from Sydney) there - there were heaps of Aussies around!

After that we headed out to the Maku'u Farmer's market and had a big brunch of chocolate banana crepes, takoyaki, poke bombs (which looked like raw seafood on salad in a beancurd cup), taro pearl tea and chocolate fish shaped waffles as well as a plate of noodles. Stuffed after that! Looked around the markets but didn't see much I wanted to buy, so we headed off to the Lava Tree state monuments.

Lava trees are formed when lava pours over existing trees and cools around them and then the inside tree gets burnt and you are left with the volcanic stone mould of the tree. There were a lot of those trees here, but of course there has been substantial recovery too.

We visited the Kapoho Tide Pools for a play in the water. Apparently they are warmed by some thermal vents, but I didn't notice any particularly warm spots. Lots of reef fish and
Next we went to see some of the Black Sand beaches. We visited two of the less frequented ones - Kehena and Kiamu - though Kehena was popular with the nudists! Kiamu wasn't much of a beach - mostly a lot of lava formations and a tiny beach but nothing really to swim in. There were people swimming at the Kehena beach as well as a bunch of bongos being played. Picked up some vegan ice cream there which was quite nice.

Then we were off to the boat to see lava! This boat takes you quite close to the lava and we had to be at the meeting point by 430pm. After a quick pep talk about safety and getting wet, we boarded a metal boat which had a cover but open sides - similar to the boat ride in the Tasman sea with Bruny Island Cruises. The weather was actually very good and the seas calm so the ride wasn't as wild and bumpy as the Tasmania's, and also because the seas were calm we didn't get as wet. We had big spray jackets to keep us dry in Tasmania (supplied by the company) but because it was so warm in Hawaii, it doesn't matter if we get a bit wet, we didn't even feel cold! The kids enjoyed the ride - it was like being on a Disney ride.

The lava hitting the water made clouds of steam which could be seen from a distance.

And up close it was so impressive! And of course, it was so hot!

The guide took a bucket of water from the sea for us to feel the temperature, and it was as hot as a hot bath! We stayed there for almost 40 minutes taking photos before he took us back. Everyone was really impressed with the sight.

It was late so we had dinner at KFC - they had some different things to us, Nashville hot and Honey Mustard chicken. Time for a big sleep for a big day tomorrow!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Chicken Diaries - Updates on the new chickens and the rodent siutation

Well it's taken months but Princess Layer now hangs around with the other chickens, AND she started laying eggs in the middle of September. Tiny little eggs, mind you - smaller than when Cacciatore first started laying. I found the first one on the ground and since then she has been laying steadily, and in the coop.

Snowy is being broody again but I thought I would take advantage of her broodiness this time and get her to do some parenting, since I had a rooster fertilizing my eggs. I don't know for SURE if they are fertilized, having not seen a blastoderm in the eggs, but I'll assume that they are since he does his business a few times a day.

However, the crowing at 545 am was getting to me. Before the neighbours started complaining and I got nasty letters from the council, I decided to adopt him out to someone at work, whose father said he would take in my rooster.

So I took Luke down to the farm (he has a dairy farm) and there were plenty of ladies there to keep him busy, as well as only one rooster to compete with. So, I think he will be doing quite well there. The kids said their last goodbyes to him and they gave me the Spanish Inquisition treatment at the end of the day, asking about the farm he went to and whether they could visit.

As to my rodent situation...

After weeks of not catching a THING, I had left the trap empty and open with no food in it (peanut butter didn't work), there was something trapped in there last week. The worst part was that the rodent caught was NOT the one that I had seen running around the yard - this was a mouse. And it was dead - or so I thought. As I went to empty the cage it twitched, but when I put it on the ground to examine, the next door neigbour's dog had his nose to the fence and sniffed it, so I let him sniff it some more, then went to get a plastic bag to dispose of the mostly dead rodent, when ZHOOM! Out sprang a paw from under the fence, trapping the mouse, and then slowly dragging it back to his side of the fence. I was too surprised to stop him - who knew that big paw could get under that tiny bit of exposed fence!

I reset the trap, but did not expect that there would be a victim the next day! This time it was the rat that I had seen frequenting my yard, and unfortunately it was very much alive. I had to dispose of it, which seemed pointless after going to all the effort to trap it humanely. So we killed it and disposed of it and I reset the trap again. Hopefully there will be no more rodents, but there were 2 when I thought I had one, so no doubt there are more there... somewhere.

Friday, 8 September 2017

My first environmentally friendly car - and a splurge at that!

I have always wanted an electric car. I did look at the Nissan Leaf but the reviews were terrible, and when I asked my brother in law what I should get, he said a Tesla. Back then, I had no idea what Tesla was, except for being a SI unit of magnetic flux density (I'm thinking Back to the Future flux capacitors here!).

Fast forward 9 years and Tesla not only makes electric cars, but they make batteries that people use to store solar energy. I was more inspired to buy a Tesla after Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, pledged to help South Australia with their energy crisis by building the biggest lithium ion battery storage facility in the world - and he said that he would build it in 100 days or it would be free.

South Australia embraced renewable energy and has one of the highest mixes of wind and solar in the world. Because these renewable sources can be intermittent in power generation, at times of high power demand the system cannot cope with the demands for power leading to statewide blackouts and power outages.

It's a shame because I really support what South Australia did to go for renewable energy. However, the downside is that renewable energy is now viewed as being unreliable, poor output and that fossil fuel energy is a more reliable sources, leading to increased pressure to start new coal and nuclear power plants.

The technology that Tesla has for its cars is amazing. They are powerful, the batteries last reasonable distances and they really try to be cutting edge. The technology IS cutting edge, and the future should be built on these sorts of technologies - think iPods from discmans, mobile phones and satellite navigation. When the world sees that we WANT electric cars, and that there is a big demand for them (and that they're not 50kph cars that die when the sun goes down, but they con compare with the grunty petrol enginies) then others will follow suit.

Last year, I put a deposit to secure myself a Tesla 3, one of mass produced "cheaper" Teslas coming on the market. It was still not cheap by my standards, but I really wanted a Tesla to support the company. However, I lamented the loss of my slow, non powerful, 7 seater Nissan Dualis, that I love for it's utility and the kids also love the 7 seater.  They didn't want me to buy a new car, they wanted me to keep the Dualis forever.

But that changed 2 weeks ago.

I was out and about and I saw a Tesla X - which is the SUV Tesla, which retails at a whopping 150k. I was not even considering spending that ludicrous amount of money on a car. But, when I looked in the car, I saw that it had MORE than 5 seats. In fact, it could have 7 seats!

I was sold. All I wanted in a car was in the Tesla X. Electric. 7 seater. The ability to fold the seats down and be able to cart large items home from Ikea. Or fit a 65" television in the back.

So last Monday I test drove one. I am not used to powerful cars, and this was a very powerful car. 0 to 100kph in 5.2 seconds they say. I believe it, but it's not like I'll be doing that any time soon. I just want to get from A to B and not have to use petrol.

I love the 7 seats. I love the giant touch screen. I love the automated reverse parallel parking. This car will make me the laziest driver ever.

In terms of power and charging, Tesla has superchargers down the east coast on the way from Brisbane to Melbourne, with further extension into Adelaide. They are all set for us to cruise these long distannce drives between major cities. Superchargers can charge the car really rapidly - I think 20 minutes to get 200km - which is a quick trip to the toilet and a snack at McDonalds.

Safety features:
Front Impact Airbags for driver and passenger
Side airbags for front and rear seats
Knee airbags
Stability Control which senses when vehicle exceeds handling limits
ABS brakes
Battery in bottom of car to lower centre of gravity

There are even 4 anchors for baby seats!
The battery has a warranty of 8 years. The car has a 4 year/80000km warranty.

I'm so thrilled about the car that I can't wait for it to come now - expected delivery is late November. I don't mind if I have to wait longer. I just can't wait to just plug my car in to charge like my mobile phone and never have to lift a bowser again. The future can't get here fast enough!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Flashback - How to get a good sleep with a baby

A number of friends and familiy have been having babies and one of the most common things I hear is about lack of sleep.

Now it's not uncommon for new mums to be a bit irate at husbands who seem to complain about being tired when the mothers are doing all the work. However, I also hear about the opposite where the dad is up feeding the baby at night but mum is still being woken up and they're not having a good rest.

I am a fortunate person that I don't need much sleep, but that doesn't mean I don't need ANY sleep. But even with a new baby there was a way where we could work something out so that we both weren't tired and cranky all the time.

1. Only one person needs to suffer from lack of sleep

I find it rather selfish that women who are staying at home looking after the baby expect husbands to work AND get a lousy night's sleep. After all, someone has to go out and earn money so we can buy all the things we need - maternity pay only gets you so far (that is, if you are eligible for it).

I breastfed my babies for 6 months, and if I was going to do the feeding, I would take the baby to another room and go sleep there so hubby could get some sleep and function during the day. However, I need a bit of quiet time too! So on Friday and Saturday nights, I would have my turn to get good night sleeps and hubby would do look after the baby from 11pm till 6am (and do that 2-3am feed).

If you truly want to sleep, then your baby will have to get used to the bottle. Men don't have boobs to feed babies, so express some milk that dad can use or have a baby formula feed for that one time so you can get some sleep. What if the baby doesn't take to the bottle? Well, get ready for no sleep then - if you really want this to work, you have to train your baby! Guys tend to be overwhelmed by a baby crying who is clearly hungry and so the easiest thing is to give the bub back to mum for some boob time, but I think persistence is key, and you as the mother have to be on board with that and encouraging.

2. Don't let them sleep too much during the day

Newborns sleep A LOT. Like, 16-18 hours a day! But it's not all in one go, but in spurts after feeds. One of the biggest mistakes, I think, is to let your baby sleep a lot during the day, thinking that you are getting lots of time to yourself.

That's probably ok if you are going to sleep during the day too. However, that's rarely the case. Usually you spend the day doing chores or relaxing, rather than sleeping or napping. Then you are complaining because the baby is up all night sleeping only 1 hour spurts at a time - which is what you want them to be doing during the day an having that 4 hour sleep at night.

It is tempting to just let a sleeping baby lie, but I think it's better to wake up your baby if they are sleeping too long in the day. Personally, 1.5 hours is when I would start to wake them up and then try to get them to sleep at night because they would be cranky as by the end of the day with interrupted sleep.

3. Power napping

I highly recommend napping when baby is napping. Even if you're not sleeping, just closing your eyes and resting can be quite beneficial. Don't worry if you don't sleep, because that anxiety actually leads you to even LESS sleep. Just close your eyes and meditate or think calm thoughts.

This little chart is useful, but everyone is different. Me personally, I have good sleeps in 2 hour blocks or even half hour ones but 1 hour ones seem to make me feel tired. It just takes a while to figure out what your sleep cycle is like.

4. Don't drink caffeine

It sounds pretty obvious, but it is easy to forget when you are used to being able to drink whatever you wanted!

I was an absolute idiot because I was drinking diet coke when breastfeeding and wondering why baby never slept much. Once I stopped doing that, baby slept so much better! I felt very silly. So if you're breastfeeding, think about that coffee you're having. You might need it, but baby won't be thanking you for it! I found chocolate an acceptable alternative and cups of tea. Still need to keep those fluids up to keep the milk going!

Good luck with your baby and your sleep! You will be tired, but hopefully you'll find your routine, and hopefully some of these little tips have helped.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Chickens Diaries - Laying has restarted! And some new additions

Hip hip Hooray! We have eggs again :D

Now that the days are getting longer, and a little bit warmer, we started having eggs again. Mary was the first to start laying, but now Snowy and Bubbles have started too.

It's been 3 months since we had eggs. Looking forward to having lots of eggs again!

Cacciatore is looking rather miserable and pathetic with her moulting, so it will probably be a month of two before she starts up again. She laid into winter the longest.

In other news, I was at it again on Gumtree and saw some more free chickens. This time they were a pair of Barnevelders, a rooster and pullet, that someone had gotten from their daycare and raised. The reason they were free was that this lady's dog had killed some of them and she wanted to try to make sure the other two survived.

I went to check them out and they were beautiful chickens!

We named them Princess Layer and Luke Skysquawker. 

It's not that obvious here but Layer has lovely lace feathers and Luke has a lovely green sheen to his feathers. I was pleased to see they looked like full size chickens and not bantams.

Barnevelders may start laying as late as 28 weeks, and these two were 17 weeks old so it might be a while before I see any eggs. I wonder if they will be brown eggs?

Having the two of them means that Layer won't get bullied much, as she hangs with the rooster and he doesn't take much flack. He had a bit of a power struggle with Bubbles, but since then they seem to have settled down. Layer is very flighty and flies out of the enclosure a lot but no different to Cacciatore really, as she wanders around the garden eating grass and digging in the dirt.

I was most upset on their first night in the coop because Mary had a bleeding comb and was making a dreadful wheezing sound. She had seemed fine earlier in the day but in the afternoon began making a weird sound. I checked her for discharge from her nostrils in case she had a cold but she seemed clear, just a weird sound. And in the night when I found blood in the coop I was most upset so I took her out of the coop to have a rest in isolation so she could heal up a bit. I made her some bread soaked in olive oil the next day, but she seemed to return to normal. I have no idea what happened to her - did she aspirate something? - but I'm glad to see she was fine afterwards.

I'm wondering how long I can keep the rooster for before he becomes a nuisance. I'm hoping it's a while.

Oh, and the other day I had a big sinking heart, as I went outside in the dark to check on the chickens. I saw a RAT running around the fence. MAYBE two. I have no food lying around so I'm hoping that they're not going to hang around in my backyard, but I will have to put out traps, because 2 rats quickly become TONS of rats, and I don't want people to make me get rid of my chickens because they think they're attracting vermin.

The other thing that could be attracting them is the compost bin. Now that everyone is throwing their kitchen scraps in there the bin stinks. I've been trying to put more carbons in but it can't keep up with the nitrogen from the kitchen. It was fine when it was just my stuff... and I'm hoping that the smell will attract soldier flies so they can start laying eggs and eating up all the food... but not if it's attracting rats! I've ordered some humane traps, but I am sad that I will have to kill the rats a bit inhumanely. What would be the kindest way? Drowning? Cold water? I can't put baits out coz of the chickens! So I'm giving this trap a whirl and I'll tell you how it goes.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Chickens - How to pick a chicken's nostril when it's full of gunk

When I came to clean the coop in the mornings, sometimes Snowy's eye on the right side was not open and she'd be scratching it. I noticed then that her nostril was blocked with gunk. I didn't get a photo but it looked like this chicken:

Was it cancerous? Was it gunk? It was quite hard the first time I poked at it, and when I googled it, I found that it can actually be dislodged if I do it carefully with a pointed object, like the pointy bit of a chicken feather (tons of those lying around on the ground at the moment). It turned out I didn't need to do, that I started doing it with my fingernail and it did start to move and I could move it out. It came out like solid cheesy gunk, much like squeezing a zit or a boil, I suppose!

Here is a picture of what someone else managed to get out.

Her nostril afterwards was dilated, and I was worried that she would get more crap into it. She probably will and I'll be picking at her nose again. But at least this time, I know how to do it!

So my suggestion is to get a good grip on your chicken. One site said to tie up her legs so that she can't kick and flap around - I didn't do that. I had her wedged between my legs, so she couldn't back out (I was squatting) and my left hand firmly around her neck, with my right hand picking at her nostril. She would often flick her head away from me but it took time and patience. If your chicken is particularly cantankerous, I think that a bandage wrap around the chicken would work well (like a crepe bandage) or at least a towel to keep her firmly wrapped so she can't escape.

Why does this happen?  Apparently feed can get caught in the nostrils, and Snowy with her twisted toes might be more at risk of stuff getting caught in there since she can't scratch it out well. It wasn't anything cancerous, thank goodness, nor was it a canker sore that I have seen in other pictures (yuk!).

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Ditching the disposable - How to reduce feminine hygiene product landfill (ie pads and tampons)

*** WARNING ***

Some people may find the topic of menstruation a bit uncomfortable so feel free NOT to read any further from here!


When I started using cloth nappy products to try to reduce rubbish, there were lots of links to how to reduce your waste from disposable feminine hygiene products too.

Having been brought up on disposable products my whole life, I was astonished by the idea, and a little skeptical, of course. How do you clean them? Is it hygienic? Are they safe? And isn't it a bit GROSS?

Well, of course it is. If baby poo on nappies can be done and be clean then why can't blood (or breast milk) for that matter.

So for the person who would like to make a move towards reducing their feminine hygiene landfill footprint, here are a few options.

Reduce your menstruation

Surprisingly, many people think that if you don't shed your endometrium monthly, somehow a bad buildup of excess "period" is dirty of bad for you. What a period is, is that every month a hormone surge will encourage the lining of your uterus to grow and thicken so it's nice for "planting" a fertilized egg. If the egg is not fertilized then the hormone surge dissipates and the hormonal support for that thickened lining is gone, leading to shedding of that thickened lining, which is the "period".

Taking the oral contraceptive pill continuously, or having an implanted device such as an implanon, or an intrauterine device can reduce your periods. How it does that is that they have other hormones that inhibit the growth of that fertile lining for eggs (in the case with the pill and implanon, it suppresses the release of the egg) and so you don't get a period. However, much like the lining of any tissue, it has to shed every now and then so you can get spotting at various times.

The advantage of not having your lining growing and shedding all the time is that it decreases your risk of endometrial cancer. This is because the cells aren't proliferating highly because of the hormone surge. Think about it, if you're making lots of new cells, there is more chance that one of those new ones are going to go awry and become a cancer. So if you make, say, 1000 new cells a month just from normal turnover, but when you have a hormone surge to thicken your uterus lining and then shed it, now you're making 2000 cells amonth, and your risk of getting one bad one is one in 10000, then after 10 months you're likely to have 2 bad cells if you get periods, compared to one if you get none. Now that's an oversimplification, but you get the idea!

So, less periods, less feminine products used. Easy!

Menstrual Cups

Mentrual cups are inserted into the vagina and basically "catch" the blood in the cup, which you just take out and empty, wash and reinsert. However, these things are not one size fits all, and it takes some time to figure out which one is best for you.

I haven't used them myself, but this article has heaps of helpful advice on different cups, depending on the shape and length of your vagina and cervix. The reason I don't use one, is because at work, I think I'd feel a bit embarrassed washing my cup at the sink where others could see me.

It's also quite cheap. One cup is probably about $30 and that can last you for years. Think of all that landfill you're saving as well as the wallet benefits! However, I think if you are unfamiliar with inserting things into your vagina then this has a bit of a learning curve and it's an easy thing to abandon if you feel uncomfortable putting things "up there".

Reusable Cloth Pads

These are similar in materials to cloth nappies and also can be used over and over for your whole reproductive life, I think! The outlay for these is more than a menstrual cup (each pad is between $5-$12 depending on absorbancy) and like cloth nappies you probably need a good stash to get you comfortably through. I would say you would need at least 10 if you're going to wash them every day, and 15 if you want to wash every 2 days. That's easily $100, and considering it costs about $6 for a pack of 16 tampons, and $3-$6 for a pack of 16 pads, you would need 1.5 years to make any savings.

Interlabial pads sound uncomfortable but they are useful for that "gush" you can get sometimes, whether that be blood or urine, and some people swear by them.

If you bring a wet bag to put your used pads in, they will contain the smell and the wetness and they are discrete - just empty the contents for laundering when u get home.

Laundering is probably what people find a bit icky, but if you've ever had to wash your blood soaked pants from "accidents" before, then it's not that different. A bucket of cold water to soak and then wash and all the blood comes out. No fabric softener though, that will wreck absorbancy (just like cloth nappies).

Period Underwear

I had never heard of these until recently, but they seem like an awesome idea, especially for the person who wants to feel as "normal" as possible without the bulk!

Thinx and Lunapads are American brands, and Modibodi an Australian brand, and are all very similar - except for political agendas!

They look like normal undies, and I think that might scare people, because how can they not leak? The advantage of these undies is that they could also be useful for incontinence as well, so you can use them when you get older as well (or for everyday if you need it for sneeze and cough protection).  The disadvantage is that they are pricey - it's about $30 for one pair of undies. And how many undies do you need a day? Is it just one? There is also wash and drying time to consider, so I would recommend at least 3 pairs.

Alternatively, you could use these just as undies during your period when you are using some other kind of reusable product. Especially at night time or during sports! I personally think these are the best in terms of convenience as protection and though some people swear by them as the sole use during menstruation, I'd be scared if I had a heavy period.

Sea sponges

The little blurb in the pic tells all. But look at the size of them! I can't imagine they would be comfortable to insert, though they are smaller than a baby's head...

I remember when I was at Uni and read an article about a girl who was sewing strings onto her sponges much to her roomie's horror. I remember thinking at the time I wouldn't be game enough to use them.

Fast forward to now and my thinking has changed. The only thing is, I can't figure out where you can get them in Australia. Are those normal sea sponges you use for makeup ok? I assume so? Are they going to fall to bits inside you and come out piecemeal? For those that have used them, they say they are quite comfortable because they are squishy and conform to your inner curvatures better. I think you would need to sew a string on them to be able to get them out easily though. From what I can see, they cost about $30 for two, from overseas. And since they are animal products, they may be hard to get into the country past customs.

Crochet tampons

This is from eclectically creative's etsy shop
Yes, they are exactly what they are. You can buy them ready made, or make them yourself. Change every few hours like normal tampons and wash them by soaking in cold water then laundering. Cheap if u can do them yourselves. But boy do they look fiddly.

So... Are you converted yet?

Ok, there you go, things that people use as an alternative to disposables! I mean, poor people must menstruate too, or people who live in villages, what the hell do they use? I think that it's a huge mindset change that people need to go through. Most of the concerns are about extra work and cleanliness.

Dishes are a classic example. Is a disposable plate cleaner than a washed ceramic plate? Isn't it easier to throw out a plate than it is to wash it? Aren't disposable plates cheaper than a good dinner plate? And you're putting it into your MOUTH! Underwear is against the outside of your body - as are pads - so why do they have to be sterile rather than just washed clean like any other clothes?

I've just given you some options if you'd like to make a difference. Hopefully something catches your fancy, but if not, don't sweat it! Just pass this on to someone if you know they would like to consider making the change, to at least give them some ideas :)