general chit chat recipes
All right kiddies, time to get out a permanent marker and start drawing on a new ‘border’ for Australia. The shape of our nation just changed. It seems the new shape of our land resembles a giant hand flipping the bird at the UN along with the poor and needy looking for refuge here.
It could also be drawn as giant bollocks.
Get to work on those maps.
No other country has ever done this before….
Oscar has never been camping.
It was time to fix that and today was to be the day.
A beautiful sunny day.
After Oscar got home from mothers group we began putting the tent up.
The tent is best put up with 2 adults.
1 adult and 1 4yr old does not equal 2 adults in fact in terms of productivity it equals negative 5 adults.
It was a long process, not only did I have to answer a billion questions about every little thing i did, the amount of little things i had to do increased 65 fold due to little hands moving pegs, poles etc to different parts of the front yard because he was being ‘helpful’.
Thankfully 3/4 of the way through putting it up he got bored and went inside to begin sourcing items to put inside the tent. You know essential camping items like soft toy dolphins, dinosaurs, books, cars and a microphone.
Oscar brought these items out one by one whilst I fiddled with ropes and zippers.
Oscar was inside the tent when I placed the last peg in place holding the fly down.
As I took the last bang of the hammer on the peg it began to rain.
I dashed to the verandah, Oscar was inside the tent.
The rain got heavier and heavier and then it began to hail.
Like hell I was going back to the tent.
In between the loud dents of hail I could hear Oscar singing into his microphone and complaining about how loud he had to be because the rain was too loud.
He stayed in there an hour.
We went off to dinner at the inlaws and came back ready to sleep in the tent.
Everything was set, sleeping bags, torches, water bottles, soft dolphin.
We did our good night’s. Oscar wriggled in to his sleeping bag, I wriggled in to mine.
(it’s 7pm in case you are wondering).
Torch off, night night.
A few minutes later Oscar is out of his sleeping bag slowly undoing a tent zipper, I ask what he’s doing.
He returns to his sleeping bag and we resume the quiet.
I begin to drift off to sleep.
Oscar begins to talk about the leaves falling on the tent, that he’s cold, that he’s too hot etc.
Eventually he is quiet again.
I am sooo close to asleep.
Then “Daddy my bed in my room is better, how about we do camping another night, maybe a Sunday”
Not wanting to do this all night I ask if he would like to stop camping and go inside to his room.
So we gather up pillows and stuff and head back inside. (It is now 7:32pm)
Straight in to his bed and asleep instantly.
The poor dolphin is out there alone.
32 minutes of camping.
I hope he isn’t like his mother who doesn’t do camping and doesn’t even do below 4 star…
I love camping and I love 4 star.
I have been to very few live gigs of big / famous bands. But they have all been amazing!
- Counting Crows (early 2000′s)
- Jamie Cullum
- U2 (twice)
- Flight of the Conchords
- Neil Finn & Paul Kelly
And a few Comedian Types
- Arj Barker (twice)
- Lano & Woodly
- Ross Noble (twice)
- Wayne Brady
I think that’s it.
I should get out more.
I have never really traveled alone before, but have wanted to for many many years.
I had my opportunity to do that the last 2 weeks and loved it. Of course I love traveling with others especially Tom and or Jenny. But being alone was super too.
The only real downside for me on this trip was that the writing on the US coins was way too small for me to be able to read with my broken eyes.
So every time I was given change with coins I had to keep them, I couldn’t use them to buy stuff because I had no idea what each one of them was worth. So I always paid for things with notes and card.
Pretty much everything I bought resulted in change including coins.
I off loaded some in those little charity tins on counters but not all of them
I brought home a plastic bag stocked full of coins.
I still have no idea how much I have.
My life is soo hard.
There is one group in the states that works harder than any other. They are found right across the country and deal with millions of people every day. Before you jump to conclusions and think I’m talking about the espanics I’m not.
Ladies and Gentlemen I introduce to you the portable barriers.
Above is a photo of some of these hard workers taking a break in their staff room. I can assure you that this is a rare sight, they hardly ever get breaks.
No one makes queses like the US. On my first day in NYC I visited 2 attractions and had to go in 9 queues.
If any workforce can save the US economy it’s the portable barriers.
On Monday morning I headed for the airport for a sneaky little jaunt to the US. The wife has sent me to try and keep the March Photo Scavenger Hunt trophey in the family.
I would say 90% of the times I fly I get pulled aide for the explosives test, today was no different.
I told the guy I always get picked and asked him why I fit the profile, he said he couldn’t answer that.
My plane left on time and the whole 13 hours the old man beside ensured he made full use of our shared arm rest. While on the other side of me the entire passenger and crew list made full use of hitting my elbow and knee. I couldn’t sleep a wink, it sucked.
Eventually we landed at LAX where I then spent 2 hours waiting in line for customs.
Hearded from one waiting room to another with a few hundred others.It was pretty painful.
Once I made it to the Customs officer he wasn’t very impressed with my reasoning for being in the states. I told his it was for the photo scav hunt so he asked lots about that, he then made me open my bags and show him what camera equipment I had brought with me. This went on for a while, eventually he stamped my passport.
Then I headed for more scrutiny so I could connect to a domestic Delta flight to New York.
This time I got patted down and sent through the body scanner.
The man was very gentle.
My Delta flight ended up being almost 2 hours late. Which was handy because I think I spent about 2 hours going in and out of the terminal toilet.
I arrived in NYC just before midnight and made it to the hotel at 2am, 32 hours after leaving home.
When parents buy their kids their first car or even when people buy their own first car I’m sure that first drive is full of two emotions. One being ‘Wahoooo I just got a new car’ and the other ‘Oh Shiiiiiiiiii&&&&&*********** I don’t want to crash it’.
I’m never going to get myself a new car, sure I got one for my birthday this year but I can’t actually drive it. Although I did try once and stalled it straight away. So that was that.
We have been using an antique push pull mower that is probably 100 years old. Lent to us by Lesley. It has worked quite well but never done a super job as the ground is too uneven and if by chance you encounter a stick it just stops and then the handles dig in to your ribs. This happens quite a lot as there is heaps of fallen sticks and twigs hidden in the uneven ground from the gum tree above.
It’s hot frustrating work so I quit.
Jenny does most of the lawn mowing around here, unless we borrow the noobs petrol mower in which case I’m happy to take control and mow mow mow.
Yesterday we decided we should get a real mower.
We went off to bunnings as I had a voucher from Christmas and had a look at their range.
There is a lot of mowers at bunnings and not one staff member who knew about mowers. Apparently the mower guy knocks off at 3.
Anyway we looked at the mowers, then Jenny spotted the hippie mowers up the other end that run on batteries and dolphin smiles and the aura of lavender plants or something. So then we discussed the possibility of one of the cordless electric mowers. there was even one that was on super sale.
I went off in search of a staff member, which if you are familiar with bunnings it’s a good idea to take a satellite phone and food provisions for up to a month. the place is huge.
Eventually a lovely staff member came along who knew nothing about mowers and tried to find the box for the one we liked. He couldn’t find the box and said he had no idea where to look. So he suggested we come back a different day, I assume earlier in the day though because we all know the mower guy knocks off early, hopefully not to cut another mans grass because we all know that is wrong.
I came home sad, I didn’t have my first ever real man toy, I didn’t even have my first ever watered down pansy boy electric man toy.
forget Movember, that thing drags on for a whole month. Today was Mowday!
We set off to bunnings again, we made it to the carpark then the son had a melt down in the car because we hadn’t brought any food with us. Our first reaction was to be frustrated with him, but he’s a smart kid. He knows how big bunnings is and was just looking out for all our health and safety.
I found the mower man and got talking about what sort of mower would be best suited for us.
He talked us out of the dolphin, candle, herbal tea mower as they only work on flat ground with no sticks.
I talked him out of the cheapest petrol mower as it had terrible reviews online.
We settled on a new Makita mower. A bit more power than the bottom of the range but not big and fancy which we didn’t need.
I disappeared for 6 months in search of a trolley big enough to carry our mower whist Oscar and Jenny staying in the aisle growing old together.
I returned and headed to the register. At which point Jenny and Oscar went back to the car. I can only assume they went back to the car because they wanted to be in comfy seats to witness me push an oversized box on an undersized trolley down a steep ramp toward parked cars.
Helping me would have made the process boring. Thanks wife, always looking out for the story.
On the way home from Bunnings we also stopped off at the servo so we could get some petrol. I got out and opened up my new jerrycan. Let me just say at this point that not being a driver also mean I very very rarely use petrol pumps.
I put the petrol pump nozzle into my can, the petrol immediately sprayed up out of the jerrycan on to my shirt, legs, arms and 95% of the entire petrol station.
I very cautiously filled up the rest of the can with the pump, although if I had a sponge I could have filled up 99 barrels, you would all start calling me Sheikh Howie and I’d start selling them to the US.
Eventually it was full and I put it in the boot, paid and we headed home.
At home I opened the boot, removed the jerrycan, and mower, then also removed the boot floor mat because I had also managed to spill petrol inside the car….
I’m no mechanic, in fact I have had very little to do with motors in my life. Not being able to drive has meant they have never really interested me. Therefore it was not a good sign when I found assembling the plastic catcher to be very very difficult. It didn’t even have any screws or anything!
After much sweating and swearing I got the catcher together. Now on to the mower. Oh easy peasy all I had to do was attach the handle. I did that super quick. And then I folded it up to admire my work and a small piece flew off in to the bushes never to be seen again.
Not to worry I’m sure it wasn’t important.
Here she is.
I’m not motor or mower savvy but I’m not an idiot (please refrain from commenting).
I knew before mowing that I should check to see if the mower had any oil in the oily thing on the motor.
I opened the cap, removed the dipstick. Looked at it and saw splodges of oil on it and thought to myself ‘that’s nice of them to already put oil in the motor’. Filled up the petrol tank and some of my shoe then got ready for ignition.
I wheeled the mower up to the grass near the street, primed the engine then pulled the cord like a very proud man.
I tried again, nothing.
I checked the choke. Gave it another prime… nothing.
A lady walked past and said ‘did you prime it, prime it again’.
I primed it again….. nothing.
Jenny came outside at this point, the pressure was on.
Then suddenly on another attempt she started. I was happy.
I mowed a few strips then went to empty the catcher in to the bin, my first harvest..what a moment! I opened the catcher flap and looked in expecting to see a green sea of chopped up grass and junk mail. IT WAS EMPTY.
Who knew, you have to remove the mulcher if you want the catcher to work… I’m such a dipstick.
I did some more mowing, my little girl was eating the grass like a boss, she was also then throwing the grass back up in to the catcher…beautiful.
Apparently now it was time for a grinding sound before the mower shut off.
It died, completely locked up, seized, frozen.
I called Makita, they said ‘did you put oil in it?’
I said ‘no, I checked but it already had some’.
Makita then told me that I just ran the motor dry and that it was dead, no chance of revival.
They don’t put oil in, it would have been residue from when the engine was made with a tiny bit added so it doesn’t seize up in transit and storage at stores. They also told me that to check oil you remove the dipstick, clean it, then put it in the check.
I didn’t know that.
Then they told me the good news of how I voided the warranty so nothing I could do.
I then called a local mower shop who told me pretty much the same thing and that a new motor would be the same cost as just buying the whole mower again.
So I managed to write off my first ever petrol powered motor in about 10 minutes.
Looks like it’s back to Jenny mowing.
The future of us having a petrol mower is now uncertain.
I’m thinking the best option is probably to just concrete over the front lawn.
Oscar and I went on a little holiday the last few days.
We did lots of fun things but the stand out moment for me was on a bus.
We were traveling to Sea World on a crowded bus and Oscar, grabbing his ears,said quite loudly “Daddy these bits on your ears, they’re testicles”
I’m pretty crap at blogging these days. But you already knew that.
Here is my review of 2012 through various camera lenses of mine.
Other stuff happened but this will do.
Not totally accurate theology but a pretty accurate profile of santa.
On Monday 2 political greats graced our screens on Q and A.
Twitter went crazy with #RuddBull lovin.
I have made some merch which you can buy here.
I’m pretty much the king of instagram, and now you can look at all my wonderous photos.
Yesterday I put a bunch of stuff on the chair at my desk. Some papers, a few pens etc.
I later moved the stuff so I could sit down but neglected to move one of the pens, It was at the back of the chair so if I sat down I wouldn’t be sitting on it.
I sat down and spent some time on my computer doing important work like watching some stuff on iview.
Jenny came in a bit later to help me clean up this room a bit as I had someone coming over in the afternoon to get some social media advice.
There we were cleaning away and suddenly jenny said ‘WHAT DID YOU SIT IN’
I was confused, what did she mean, anyway I dropped my pants and had a look at the back. There was 2 major blue splodges.
On closer inspection of the chair, the pen I had left there had leaked a puddle onto the chair and I had sat in that puddle.
I went upstairs in my undies and changed pants before returning to cleaning duties and normal daytime activities like eating, going to the toilet etc.
Just before bedtime I went to the toilet and noticed that there was some blue on the toilet seat, it looked chemical.
I tried to rub the blue off with toilet paper but it didn’t budge.
Then a bit later Jenny went to do her bed time routine and asked why the toilet seat was blue, I had no idea then simultaneously our brains clicked and let out an ‘ohhhh’
I turned around and Jenny confirmed the back of my undies was blue. Then for research purposes I dropped my undies and Jenny then confirmed that my bum was indeed blue as well and has been since much earlier in the day.
The moral to the story?
When trying to redecorate your bathroom don’t buy expensive marble, simply sit in ink and place your bare bum around the bathroom surfaces to create a genuine marble effect.
Most of you would know I do a bit of (unpaid) work for Black Stump.
I love it, this year I moved roles as I got fired from ticketing, I am now the Village Coordinator.
Basically I was like the Mayor of centre of the festival, although I had to unblock a clogged toilet, pretty sure Mayors don’t do that, or maybe the really good ones do.
Before the festival the role was recruiting all the stall holders, NGO’s and food vendors.
At the festival it was pretty much troubleshooting and accepting edible bribes from the food vendors.
All in all I had a super weekend at stump and I hope I can be involved for a very long time to come.
There was lots of stuff I wanted to see like Frasers show about his cancer and Jon Owen attempting comedy. But I wasn’t there to see stuff, I was there to eat chips and I think I did a splendid job at that.
Oh and for next year I’m seriously considering attempting a comedy gig.
We have 3 no junk mail stickers on our letterbox, but this was deposited today regardless.
A Liberal party flyer for the local elections highlighting the reckless spending of the current Mayor (a formal liberal party member, now independent)
It’s pretty dodgy, my favourite point is the green highlighted one that unfortunately sums up the area I live in.
$2 million to reduce Hornsby Council’s greenhouse gas emissions including a feasibility study on setting up a community owned ‘solar farm’ in Hornsby
To most in this area that would be seen as an outrage, to the 3 hippies that live in the shire, it’s bloody awesome. A community solar farm…spend more Mr Mayor!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The AFL season is drawing to a close and it’s now time for the finals.
This means it’s the end of the tipping season.
I tip like a boss…..for the second year in a row!
I got a new car for my birthday.
I don’t even drive.
Jenny will drive me in my new car.
When the lads and I were thinking of recording a frivolous podcast we put feelers out asking for topics to discuss.
There was suggestions like “If a man speaks in the forest and there are no women around to hear is he still wrong?” and “you are in a zombie outbreak, you get bitten and find yourself in a costume shop … what costume do you put on before you die to be dressed as when you become a zombie?” but there was also one serious one which was asked by Luke.
He asked “What are the limitations of fair trade?”
So that is loosely what this post is based on. (fair trade, not women and zombies)
I’ve been mulling over this topic in my head for quite some time, not so much the limitations of fair trade but the rise in direct trade and what impact it may and can have.
Before you turn off and think an under-qualified bum is about to rant on about global trade, governments and spreadsheets you are wrong, instead the under-qualified bum is going to try and talk about the cup of coffee you bought this morning.
Whether you agree with it, dislike it, or don’t give a damn, chances are you have heard of fair trade. The same goes for Rainforest Alliance and some of you may have even heard of UTZ Certified. These 3 are the main players in handing out badges that say “this product is ethically produced”. They all have different interpretations and benchmarks and they all do ‘similar’ things. There is also direct trade which is growing rapidly.
Let’s be honest, coffee drinkers are turning in to hipster wankers, when we grew up as kids our parents bought the cheapest instant coffee possible in massive big tins and drank it constantly. There may have been some freshly ground stuff in the house but that was only for special occasions, the kind of occasion where you had to sit at the kiddy table and not touch the olives on the grown ups table. The ‘fresh’ ground coffee was ground half way along the coffee and tea isle of the supermarket in the self grinder that still had residue from the 48 other people who had used it that day and probably the cockroaches that used it as a love nest overnight.
Now coffee is a once a day affair, it can’t be cheap or instant. It has to be served in a cafe that is either decked out in retro styling or one that is minimalist and industrial preferably replacing chairs for uncomfortable up turned buckets or milk crates with your Nanna’s cushion on them. Coffee is now drunk in tiny mugs and the most important part is how exotic the beans are, the aroma and the body, is it smooth, is it nutty. Were the beans grown and picked at the right altitude, is Mumford and sons being played in the cafe. Do they roast them out the back of the cafe and sell them direct to the scarf wearing patrons. A new major part of this trendy cafe culture is direct trade.
direct trade is essentially a cafe purchasing their beans direct from an overseas farmer.
Is direct trade a bad thing? Well I don’t think the concept is bad and I think a farmer who has worked hard on his produce should have the right to sell to whomever he wants but is it being executed well and why do trendy cafes love it so much? I think cafes love it because it makes them feel elitist and set apart from their competitors, it means they can brag that their coffee comes straight from a farmer that they know personally and they can ensure the best of quality. Often their choice to not take part in purchasing certified ethically produced coffee using which ever certification program is that is costs more and the money gets split between different layers and stages in the import etc. By using direct trade they are bypassing the bureaucracy of certification and are in their view providing a strong relationship with the farmers and contributing to their development.
But coffee is very rarely grown in well to do and developed countries, in fact it is very rarely even grown in English speaking countries. Yes yes I know that we grow some coffee in NSW and blah blah blah, but the majority of the world’s coffee beans are grown in poor south American countries and poor African countries. A cafe may set out with the best intentions of assisting a poor farmer and sourcing their beans ethically through direct trade but my concern is that best intentions do not mean best practices.
A Cafe on the northern fringes on Sydney may make the best coffee you have ever drunk, the beans are sourced from an Ethiopian farm in an area that has the perfect altitude and climate. A highly trained barista and his business partner travel to Ethiopia and hand pick the farm and farmer, they strike up a bond and commit to sourcing their beans from this farmer, with the best of intentions of not only sourcing great beans but having a positive impact on the life of this farmer. But there are some holes, firstly a great barista from Sydney does not qualify them as a great human rights and community development officer in a country where they don’t even know the language. How do they know what the rights of workers are in a country tens of thousands of km’s away from their cafe. How do they know that once they are back in cafe that the farmer and his workers are being treated fairly and ethically. Where is the accountability that the cafe is actually paying a good price for the beans. Who was the dominant negotiation in the price of the beans, you can be assured that in a majority of cases it was not the farmer.
Direct trade does provide a direct link to the good you are purchasing, and a cafe may have a really thriving relationship with the farmer but is their arrangement really providing the empowerment and stability that workers in developing countries require if they are to be lifted out of poverty.
Without accountability what happens if the cafe changes owners, or they suddenly want to pay less for beans.
How does a cafe owner in a foreign country rock up unannounced to audit the working conditions of those who picked the beans.
How does a cafe owner even know what those working conditions should be.
The problem with direct trade is that it’s main focus is on the product not the producer.
There are programs like Cup of Excellence where farmers are encouraged to produce the perfect coffee bean and each year a couple of farmers are awarded as the finest in their field. The price for these beans sky rockets and the farmer is rewarded with extra cash. But not all the cash. A large proportion is passed on to the farmer for achieving the goal but not all. And a cash injection does not guarantee that the workers will see any of this money.
So what do the accreditation organisations offer?
Lets start with Fairtrade’
Basically the fairtrade symbol that you see on consumable products is a guarantee that the product has been produced in such a manner that the producers were paid a fair wage, in fair conditions and with extra benefits.
When you buy a $3 cup of coffee the farmer who grew the beans probably gets around 1-2 cents. But this can go up and down depending on world coffee prices which fluctuate like anything else. So one day a farmer could get 2 cents the next less than one. Under the fair trade system there is a set minimum price that is locked and guaranteed. Let’s say it’s set at 20 cents per kg of beans. If the global price goes down to 18 cents a fair trade farmer will still get 20, if it goes up to 23 he will get 23. But there is a safe guard not offered under other systems. Fair trade is also not like direct trade, it is not a coffee farmer who sells to exporters etc it is a co-op. Farmers get togther and it is their co-op that does the negotiating and in return they also split the profits on wages for workers but also health care and education for their families.
It costs to be fair trade accredited, you need to be audited and accountable, but this is the same with all sorts of certifications. You have to pay and be audited if you want the heart foundation tick on your products.
Rainforest alliance is similar although it is often dubbed as the weaker brother of fair trade or fairtrade lite. It’s certification is only at a farm level and there is no real auditing of the supply chain from farm to consumer. There is also no minimum price set to protect farmers and it is harder for small farms to get involved as the system is mostly for large producers.
You may have heard recently that Nestle has committed to sourcing all their cocoa ethically in the next few years, this is a major major step for an organisation that hasn’t had a great track record for human rights. they have chosen to go with UTZ Certification which seems to be even weaker still than Rainforest. No base price, but the most disturbing part of UTZ is that to be producing ethically sourced products the workers only need to be meeting local laws and requirements. So if a country has very weak working condition laws then it is those laws that determine if a product can be certified. Fair Trade and Rainforest both have international standards that they require.
So it’s a step in the right direction and a massive step for a super massive company but it’s also giving them accreditation with worrying gaps.
It’s no secret that I’m biased to fair trade, and I’m not biased towards it because I sell it at markets. I sell it at markets because I believe in the system.
There are a few reports and studies that say Fair Trade is a terrible system and not all the money gets back to the farmers etc.
The reality is no system is going to be perfect when humans are involved, every system is going to have a minority that find ways of skimming off the top, but the fact is the fair trade system is the most robust in terms of requirements and benchmarks for the fair wages and working conditions of workers. It’s been around a long time now and maybe needs an overhaul but all systems and methods need tweaking.
It does however provide an accountability level that can never be achieved through a cross cultural relationship between two parties that have very different skills and needs such as a cafe using direct trade.
Oh and i don’t even drink coffee I was just using it as an example the same could be said about any product or produce really.
And remember I’m not a professor or trade expert, just an opinionated bum.