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#PlasticfreeJuly anyone?

20 Jun

So I am as usual, writing and thinking more due to #blogjune than I manage for the rest of the year. It seems a little self discipline is good for me, the daily incentive forcing me to take time and focus on something specific.
This has got me thinking about other monthly motivational targets I could be engaging in. I know #dryJuly is common, however it doesn’t appeal. 
Then my friend on Facebook let me know about #plasticfreejuly

I haven’t signed up yet, however it looks interesting. Less a daily to do target and more an overall to do theme. 

My CWA group (see yesterday’s blog post) and some close friends with great environmental awareness have already got me going on this one. 

We made beeswax wraps in CWA last month. They smell heavenly whether wrapping my sandwich in my handbag, or wrapping cheese in my fridge. There are heaps of how tos on the web but we tried something different and melted the beeswax and then dipped our cotton squares (I just used new handkerchiefs) in and out. Worked well I think. We also used plain beeswax – adding in jojoba oil and pine resin (you can buy blends) is supposed to make your wax wraps more flexible, but mine seem fine for the purposes I have. We bought our beeswax from a bee products shop (fabulous advantage of living next to a hipster suburb) however a slightly less beautifully feeling version can also be found in hardware shops such as Bunnings in the painting products aisle. 

I also have great lightweight net bags made for me by a friend, which I can use instead of plastic fruit & veggie bags in supermarkets or farmers markets. She said they were easy – however my sewing experience is nil so I can’t comment. 

Then of course I have all my cloth shopping bags. I even tried these hanging supermarket trolley bags 

out for Aldi but they are too awkward for my bicycle … so if anyone wants them let me know and I will post them up to you. 

So my biggest waste of plastic bags is now my 

  • rubbish bin liners (I’m using supermarket bags) and so I might try and put one big bag liner in the actual garbage bin and empty my small bins into that directly.
  • individual plastic packaging for items e.g. Dog chews 
  • Dog poo bags – anyone got any ideas for replacing these but keeping your hands clean? 


Learning outside the classroom

19 Jun

I have tried to learn to knit many times. It’s never worked out for me. I’ve always given up and decided it’s just one of those things people with the gift of focus get and I don’t.

Tonight my CWA group did an Introduction to knitting class.

* for those of you who didn’t grow up with the CWA – this stands for Country Women’s Association. It’s a group that is spread across many countries, also known as Women’s Institutes, and has been in Australia since 1922. You can join a local group in the country or the city – my branch is Sydney Rd Brunswick. They used to be seen as a very conservative group, known for making scones and setting very specific standards for judging baking entries at each state’s annual show. Now their diversity of opinions are more widely recognised: you can leave out the mention of God in their introductory collect, they publicise their support efforts for farmers as well as they do their jam recipes, and Victoria voted to support marriage equality last year. *
Tonight I enjoyed knitting and it seems to have finally clicked. Only dropped one stitch and the concepts seem to be sticking in my mind.

So tonight’s skills training reminded me of the importance of learning in a context of fun, openness, and freedom from pressure about the outcomes. We chatted whilst learning (knitting circles have now been upmarketed to “stitch’n’bitch”), and we were all eventually successful in grasping casting on, and the basic knit. Some of the advanced even went on to ask to learn how to purl. Our trainer was a member of the group, and several others can also knit, so we have lots of people to ask about at monthly meetings as we progress, to help us solve problems we can’t work out and to keep us motivated about the end products we can create. 
I’m reminded about creativity in the workplace. 

How often are we asked to learn something new, yet we do not have any of the fun context to engage us in the best circumstances for learning –  

  • We are not fully present for the task (we may be worried about timelines shortening back in the office)
  • We fear  what happens to our jobs if we are dammed as “failing”  
  • We are training with people we do not know, and feel inhibited about asking questions
  • We are not offered follow up support, and leave feeling we are now on our own.

There have been great library managers who have actively encouraged a sense of play in the workplace, time in schedules to learn, a culture that focuses on trying instead of failing – big shoutout to @malbooth at UTS as an example here. 

However too often I still hear a less productive belief being promoted in Library management, that seriousness is the most professional work approach, that this is the only way to deliver focus and outcomes. 

I hope one day we get to a place where we realise that both approaches have their place. 

Top 5 things to bake

17 Jun

Today I’m inspired by a recent blog from Rach – check out her great recipes too.

My go to recipes for reliable, yummy, quick baking are :

1. Penny’s marshmallow recipe

I got this from a librarian so it must be well researched right? The wonderful @greengecko is a fabulous maker – food, clothes, craft. All her activities are child friendly too (from necessity I imagine).

Anyway I did a lot of baking when I was young, but genuinely didn’t know that you could make marshmallows from scratch. I think I thought they had some magical commercial polymer to make them that fluffy. So I was really excited to do these. 

I must warn you – there is NOTHING stickier than raw marshmallow mix – so make sure to wash any child assistant bakers in hot water immediately after.

I also find toasted coconut is essential for my vanilla marshmallows. I lay out shredded coconut (dessicated coconut burns quicker) on a baking tray and cook in an oven on 175 degrees Celsius. Stir occasionally and once it starts to brown remove (about 10 mins). 

2. Jaffa cakes 

In England these are my favourite store bought biscuit. Dark chocolate with marmalade and a very fluffy biscuit base. For awhile I paid a fortune to buy them from a British Goods store in Melbourne. Then the fabulous IGA near me bought them in regularly from Czechoslovakia, but then it all stopped.

So I was very excited to find I can home bake them as well. Also means you can increase proportions of jelly to chocolate to sponge depending on your personal preferences. 

For those of you who haven’t heard of Felicity Cloake, she’s a fantastic food writer who experiments with a range of recipes for a designated food item, and tells you the results of each. I was referred by a friend and am very thankful I was. She’s done the perfect icecream, the perfect scone etc I always learn something about the way baking different ingredients works from reading her columns. 

3. Cadbury family chocolate cake

It seems appropriate that Cadbury has a great reliable chocolate cake recipe. This one is a little misleading in the prep time as there is an additional 20-30 mins in the middle where you let the chocolate mixture cool. 

Still this one has always worked for me, comes out a light chocolatey taste and beautifully light. 

4. Stephanie Alexander chocolate chip biscuits 

I’m avoiding copyright by sending you to a site where someone else has bypassed the copyright. 

These are my favourite cookies. Feel free to increase the dark chocolate or the nuts; but don’t be tempted to let them cook for longer. Melted chocolate works out best as per the recipe.

Wonderful thing about most cookie recipes is you can make up extra batches and freeze them. Then you can come home anytime you want and throw them in the oven for a quick snack. 

5. Sponge cake
Everyone should have an easy passionfruit sponge recipe in Australia I feel. 

I feel guilty with my copyright hat on as I really can’t tell you where I got this from, but it’s a quick easy sponge that works. 

As with all sponges, if it doesn’t rise enough for you, add more eggs. However sponges are merely a vehicle for passionfruit icing (use real passionfruit not that pulp in a tin) and cream, so thinner is not really an issue. 

Those are my top 5 reliable quick recipes. 

My real repeat special that almost every visitor is served is roast chicken with veggies. There the only recipe tip I can give you though is buy a good organic fed, free range chicken, preferably direct from a Farmers Market, as they are much more forgiving. Then you whack it and the veggies in the oven at 180 degrees C for 1.5 hours and it’s delicious. I even cheat and source my gravy from those microwave supermarket packets. 

Now I’m hungry … might grab a snack.

Happy baking everyone. 

23 professional development things

15 Jun

I joked the other day about #23professionalreadingthings

Below are some topics:

  1. Design thinking / UX
  2. Talking to your clients (get a client as a reference)
  3. Updating your resume regularly
  4. New trends / emerging technologies
  5. Mentoring
  6. Community of practice
  7. using social media
  8. Using reference tools
  9. Using metadata
  10. participating in professional organisations
  11. writing a journal article
  12. learning code
  13. Learning professional presentation skills
  14. Your elevator pitch
  15. Your business case
  16. Your business story
  17. Read conference papers
  18. Join a professional group/listen to speakers egbVALA

That’s 18. What have I missed out to make it up to 23?