Daylesford and region (ethical holiday extrordinaire – Pt 2)

Oh, delightful Daylesford. Such a wonderful holiday destination I couldn’t fit two days of exploring and ethical shopping into one post.

Last week I spoke about our stay in the lovely Hepburn Springs, a sleepy little village just outside which is perfect for an uber-relaxing getaway. If you are looking for a little more buzz thoug, Daylesford itself has a fantastic blend of shops, galleries and cafes to keep you stimulated.

Good cafes are, I believe, are close to the most important part of any holiday. Specifically cafes that serve brunch. Luckily the Daylesford streets are packed with such cafes – although many don’t open til 10am – and most of them serve ‘Istra bacon’, from a local producer of small goods. A close friend of mine recommends The Book Barn, down by the lake, which also sells second-hand books (I am in heaven), but unfortunately this was temporarily closed during our stay, so I cannot comment further.

Convent 1

The Convent Gallery is probably the best known of Daylesford institutions and is well worth a visit. This beautiful old building has rooms filled with canvases, jewellry and sculpture by local and international artists and boasts an equally beautiful garden. There is plenty to explore, including an old stair case which winds up to the bell-tower, or down to the small Convent museum, held in the basement. Once you grow tired of wandering through, you can sit and reflect under the stained glass windows of the chapel, or sit and revive in the modern cafe at the entry to the gallery.

Convent 2

Daylesford itself wasn’t quite enough excitement for us so we travelled further afield to Creswick, which has a woollen mill. You can choose to do a tour of the mill, or like I did, spend hours wandering through their factory outlet instead. They have a huge range of locally made mens and womens clothing along with bedding. Although the kids section is actually quite small, they have some great products including these little jackets which are so cute I almost bought one even though I have no idea who I would give it to.

Creswick

We also drove the 40(ish) minutes into Sovereign Hill, Ballarat. Both self-confessed history nerds, Mr LLUF and I ran about this replica of an 1850’s gold rush town desperately trying to see and experience everything – the pouring of a $140,000 gold ignot, learning how to pan for gold, sharing a devonshire tea served by a woman in maids cap and apron. Incredibly Sovereign Hill has a number of artisans who work on site, hand crafting souvenirs using traditional methods.

Lollies - Sovereign Hill

We watched the making of the boiled lollies which you could buy at the1850’s Grocer store along with hand made jams and sauces. In a somewhat modern twist these can also be bought online if you don’t want to go all the way to Ballarat to try them.

Grocer - Sovereign Hill

You can also watch and even assist in the making of candles. We saw four girls working with the artisan to create some rainbow candles to take home with them and they looked to be having a really good time of it. Perhaps most incredibly, you can watch heavier industries at work such as wheelrights, blacksmiths, and the foundry where you can watch an artisan spin a lump of metal into a saucepan, a toothpick holder, a bell, and more, which you can then buy for what I thought was a suprisingly reasonable price.

Foundry - Sovereign Hill

I must admit, between all these vendors I went a little nuts stocking up on locally made goodies. And so it was with a heavy heart, and a heavy back seat, we drove away from the Daylesford region.

Hepburn Springs, Daylesford (ethical holiday extrordinaire – Pt 1)

Hepburn Springs is a quaint little village just minutes from Daylesford proper, and like Daylesford is famous(ish) for its mineral springs. A quick google of Hepburn Springs and Daylesford may have you believing that mineral spa bath, winery tours and restaurant dinners are pretty much the extent of Daylesford. But this quaint little region has so much more to offer.

We stayed at Clover Hill accomodation in private, comfy rooms that were super spacious, and CLEAN. My friends will understand the gravity of my approval when I say that it passed the ‘hair-test’ with a whopping five points remaining!!

I’m not neurotic. I’m just detail-oriented, ok?

Clover Hill provides some great complimentary facilities including gym, sauna, pool-table and dvd library. Your tarriff also includes a very well appointed continental breakfast, and champagne and chocolates on arrival. This secluded little getaway is on the far-end of Hepburn Springs, but still less than 5 minutes drive away from the myriad of antique stores, galleries and conveniences of Daylesford.

Fair Grotto - HSMR

Just up behind the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa is the Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve. A 150 year old garden with many little trails that lead off to rambling fairy grottos (see above), a tree-top walk, fields of daisies, and of course the mineral springs. Each of which can be accessed through an old fashioned pump system.

Tree-top bridge - HSMR

We spent a few hours exploring, and still would’ve happily returned  for a picnic the next day, or for a Rainforest Allliance certified coffee at the architecturally stunning Pavillion Cafe, if only we’d had time.

Pavillion Cafe

Access to the reserve and springs is free, but make sure you bring a cup or waterbottle with you to make sampling easier. Each spring tastes slightly different, so it’s worth sampling them all, but prepare yourself. They all smell like sulphur, and with the exception of the Wyuna Spring, we decided that one mouthful was enough!!

Wyuna Spring

With this in mind we graciously requested tap water instead of mineral spring water when offered the choice while dining with Rubens@Hepburn. This is a delighful rustic diner, with tasetfully mismatched chairs and a delicous menu incorporating local produce with medditeranean tradition. Our meal included goats cheese from the award winning Meredith Dairy and Prosciutto and Chorizo from Istra Smallgoods.

Rubens

We teamed these with a Mt Franklin Pinot Grigio and an organic Sandy Farm Cab Merlot for the full local produce experience.

So between a day at the park (to help you buy less), an abundance of local produce, access to nearby antique stores and a fairtrade coffee at the Pavillion cafe, Hepburn Springs ticks some serious – and somewhat delightful – boxes for an ethical holiday destination.

But wait! There’s more! Look out for next Thursday’s blog about more of the wonderful things the Daylesford Region has to offer.

 

 

Washing your hands [with] responsibilty

…not of responsibility.

There are all sorts of conflicting reports about how long it takes various plastic articles to break down but essentially, without very specific conditions and poisoning the environment around it – it does’t. Highlight Kids provides a short explanaition as to why (pitched at exactly my level of scientific understanding) – click here if you are interested.

The thought that my bottle of moisturiser may still be poisoning the earth long after my body has returned to it is horrifying, and made so much worse when I think of all the wildlife it might kill on the way out. According to the Queensland Government Department of Environmental and Heritage Protection an estimated 100 000 marine mammals and turtles are killed by plastic litter every year around the world. And I haven’t even started on the damage done to the environment and wildlife during the manufacturing of this bottle!!

So with all this weighing heavily on my heart I have been trying to come up with new ways to cut more and more plastic out of my daily life, and my most recent adjustment has been in the hygiene department. Don’t worry, I’m still washing, but I have discovered that the simple act of swapping one soap for another has made a huge difference to the plastic consumption in my house.

First I got rid of liquid soap in the bathroom. If you buy liquid soap because you like the anti-bacterial stuff read this article about its potential impacts on your health and the environment and stop!!! If you buy it because you have a snazzy pump dispenser that goes perfectly with your bathroom decor, perhaps you could consider treating yourself to the snazziest soap dish you can find to ease its passing.

I must admit that we are still using liquid soap (not the anti-bacterial kind) in the kitchen. I just find it so much neater in this already explosively chaotic corner of the house. And hey, if it really suits your life style to keep buying a truckload of pump packs, go ahead. Just remember to recycle.

But if you are planning to switch to good old fashioned bar soap like I have then here are my suggestions for four fantastic brands that are packaged in good old fashioned cardboard. Even less plastic!!

photo 4

Cheap and cheerful with a classic scent, Country Life Original is the perfect everyday soap.

photo 3

Velvet Beauty Bars are the perfect alternative for Dove users. Still has the moisturising benefits and not only is it made in Australia instead of Thailand, but its bulk packs aren’t wrapped in plastic film either!

 

photo 2

People with sensitive skin and a bit of extra cash to burn may like to try Natures Commonscents, which ironically has no scent, marketing itself as fragrance free.

photo 1

This soap’s fresh scent is perfect for washing off a hard day at work. It is also literally the gift that keeps giving, with funds raised from the sale of Thankyou products going into development projects in poorer countries.

Bring the bacon home

What does ‘Australian made bacon’ really mean?

The Australian pork industry want you to know that it doesn’t mean much.

Apparently as long as your bacon is processed (cured, sliced etc.) in Australia it can be labelled as Australian made  even if the entirity of the meat was raised elsewhere. Australia imports well over $400 million of pork per year, and the pork industry worries that the lack of clear labelling on one of our favourite pork products will eventually put them out of business.

As someone who always reads the labels I can say with great confidence that product origin labelling is extremely frustrating. Not only can the information be hard to find on the packet, but the term ‘made in Australia’ can mean that anywhere between 50% – 100% of the cost of the product is attributable to Australia. It’s tough.

If you want easier to read labels write to your local MP. But if a change in legislation is coming, it’s not coming for a long time. So in the interim I’d recommend two simple steps to increasing your chance of buying 100% Aussie bacon:

  1. Read up on the legislated definitions of ‘made in Australia’ and ‘product of Australia’ in this helpful article.
  2. Look for this pretty pink label which guarantees that your pork is Australian.

Aust-Pork-web

And when you buy that delicous Australian pork, you might like to follow my tips for the perfect pork crackling, recently tried and tested at our Christmas in July (which actually happened in August):

  • Score the rind in a diamond pattern, taking care not to cut all the way through the fat to the meat;
  • Rub in salt, getting right into the cracks. This will help to dry it out, giving it that crunchy, puffy texture;
  • Cook it on the highest heat to which your oven will go for the first 20-30 minutes, then turn back down to 180ºc until the meat is cooked through.

Happy eating!!

 

 

To warm your heart and sole – why you should wear Australian made socks.

Tuff Mongrel Socks

Last week I talked about using the BHP to warm up with less. Moving through the LLUF mantra (less, local, used, fair) – this week I want to talk about why you should add some pairs of locally-made socks to your shopping list this winter:

They are a practical, low energy way to deal with cold feet. My feet get ridiculously cold, as my partner is always keen to point out when they find him under the doona. We had a housemate who would tell us that he knew that winter had arrived when he heard Mr LLUFs pained pleas for me not to touch him with those feet through the wall. Good times.

My favourite supplier of Australian-made socks is my best mates Nana who unravels knits she bought at the op-shop and turns them into the chunkiest, warmest socks you have ever seen. Wearing these socks to bed has all but saved our relationship. Unfortunately for you, Nana-socks aren’t for sale. But I have an awesome alternative recommendation for sourcing your own winter woollies. Read on.

Surprisingly they are also a practical way to deal with hot, sweaty feet. That’s right. A pair of socks made from the right material can help keep your feet cool and dry by protecting them from the non-breathable, non-absorbent materials your shoes are likely made from. Sweaty feet are the gateway to a range of nasty infections, so if this is an issue for you I would definitely recommend a new pair of socks.

I recently bought Mr LLUF some Tuff Mongrel Socks. To avoid any confusion this is a brand, not an adjective. At 60% merino wool these fall into the ‘right material’ category, while having just enough synthetic fibre to make them easy care. And he says they are super comfortable.

Mongrel Socks are available in a range of different blends depending on your needs – pure wool, possum merino blends, 94% mercerised cotton – most of their socks are made in Tasmania, so you know they’ll be the perfect addition to your winter wardrobe. After all, Tasmanians know cold. Hell, that place is near freezing in the height of summer.

There are studies to suggest that wearing socks has some other surprising benefits including a better nights sleep and increasing your chances of orgasm!!

With this in mind, why wouldn’t you rush out and buy yourself as many pairs of Mongrel Socks as your budget and drawers will allow?

I am Tuffetts Underwear

tuffets underwear

Shoes and underwear have been the two products where I have most compromised my ethical shopping principles in the past. You can’t really buy second-hand underwear, and last time I went looking there weren’t a lot of practical or affordable options in the local/fair markets. First I tried sweatshop-free American Apparel, and although ‘I looked so perfect standing there’ (pardon the ridiculous pop-culture reference, I had to do it), they don’t have underwire bras and are pretty expensive. Given how miserably poor I was at the time this was enough to send me crying back to Big W multi-packs.

A few years later armed with a full-time job and a whole 2GB of internet – allowing me more freedom to e-window shop than ever before – I stumbled across European lingerie. Hoping that whoever made it would be sufficiently protected by European labour laws, I ordered Italian-made underwire bras that were cheapest when shipped from the States. Ridiculous. And what’s more – none of it lasted very long. Flimsy, pretty things that offered no support, and fell apart after a few goes on the delicates cycle (and yes, I used a wash bag). So to Myer I went, buying the most supportive thing I could find without stooping to the truly hideous.

And so I had grown to avoid underwear shopping wherever possible. But then I got this:

invite

an invitation to a bridal shower where everyone brings a lingerie gift for the bride that somehow reflects who they are. She then has to guess what came from whom and I was surprised to see just how accurate our bride was!!

I rate this as a bridal shower game, but in the lead up I was in a total spiral. How would I compromise this time?

Luckily the increase in access to internet shopping and the fact that it is very cool to buy ethical, and eco, and so on these days has meant that I haven’t had to compromise. Cue Tuffetts. Not really the pink/red sparkly number I am sure the bride was expecting to trace back to me, but I can justify how Tuffetts reflects me in four ways:

1. They are cheap – an adjective which the bride has been using to describe me since high school, where granted, it was probably deserved.

2. They come in my favourite cuts – boyshorts and pushups. And a whole range of other styles. And I’m sorry for the overshare.

3. The logo is a little crown – also a hangover from high school where Princess was a popular pet name for me.

4. They are Australian made – which is obviously a major theme with me these days.

In the end it was the crown (and the pink sparkly stuff I wrapped it in) that tipped the bride off. And her review of the underwear?

“Very comfy and butt-hugging, with the perfect amount of elastic – not too tight but still very supportive”

 

Saving the world one staple at a time…

 

I like to be environmentally responsible whenever I can, and when I heard the internet rumour that if every office worker in the UK alone used one less staple per day 120,000kg of steel would be saved every year, I thought – that’s great, I look forward to saving the world one staple at a time.

All the feel-good eco-stores have paperless staplers available which, apart from having dreadful reviews where more than 4 sheets of paper are concerned, are also made in China. I enquired with one of these stores, who were very prompt in responding, but unfortunately were unable to confirm that the people who manufacture these stapleless staplers are paid a fair wage, and allowed to do so under safe conditions.

Unable to identify any Australian or fair-trade alternative, I started to wonder if you could get reusable staples. It wasn’t long before I realised, with some embarrassment, that I have used such a thing before. They call them paper clips.

After a long Google search I was unable to find any Australian made paper clips, and, unless I wanted to pay $19.95 for a set of 3 giant paperclips – which I did not – I was unable to find a suitable fair trade option either.

In one last desperate attempt I decided to visit Officeworks. I should probably have wandered the aisles of a mum-and-dad office supplies shop, but I don’t know of any – and Officeworks is so very close to my work.

I never said I was perfect.

Anyway.

paper bindersOfficeworks provided me with a range of clip styles made in China. This included paper and bulldog clips by Celco, who in spite of marketing itself with a little black Australia, has most of its products manufactured offshore. The single exception appears to be paper binders which Celco actually has manufactured in the country it so proudly displays on its boxes.

Paper binders have a few clear drawbacks as a staple replacement – they are a bit exxy at $15.74 for 200 19mm binders; they are a bit large, with 19mm being the smallest option available; and they are a bit sharp, with a paper piercing point capable of giving you a nasty scratch. They are however reusable, very stable and capable of holding a large quantity of paper together if required.

If this is still too much metal for you, my final recommendation is to try out some different paper-binding folding techniques such as:

http://www.bloomize.com/how-to-bind-papers-without-staples-or-clips/

http://www.bloomize.com/how-to-bind-papers-without-staples-or-clips-4/

Let us know which ones work for you!!

 

Food gentrification – how bad can good food be?

 

Gentrified foodFood gentrification, a new buzzword causing quite a stir in the world of social commentary, suggests that as hipsters and the rest of the middle class fall in love with each new food-fad they are pushing prices up for the cultural and class minorities who ate it before it was cool. Mikki Kendall, who is attributed with pioneering the term talks in a guest article for Breaking Black about how these minorities are then unable to pass on their culinary heritage to their children, and worse, are unable to feed their children – not really knowing how to cook healthy meals with whatever is left in their price range. Bitch Media expands on this idea, providing an example using kale which in the U.S has allegedly risen significantly in price since being marketed as a super food.

There are opponents to the theory, including Jason Best, writing for Takepart, who argues that although the average price of kale may have risen, it is still cheap in poorer neighbourhoods and ethnic food stores, it is just the inflated prices in the supermarkets of affluent suburbs pushing up the average. Ryan Cooper, writing for The Week suggests that as the middle class buys more of a new ‘in’ food, farmers will start planting more of that food, and this increased supply will ensure the price stays down. Cooper notes however that foods which require specific growing conditions, such as quinoa, are exceptions.

Joanna Blythman, writes for The Guardian about how quinoa has tripled in price since 2006 so that now those in the regions where it is grown cannot afford it, and have been forced to forsake this traditional food source for less healthy alternatives. Blytham mentions not only these economic impacts, but also environmental impacts of food tastes in the west, discussing deforestation and water insecurity as poorer communities try to make way for preferred crops.

Now I’m not going to mediate on who is and isn’t right, or tell you where to sit on the food gentrification continuum (hipster hater/quinoa convert/decided unbeliever), but I can tell you that none of these articles provide any practical way forward for those who are concerned about the impacts of their food preferences on communities. I certainly don’t have all the answers, I don’t even have many answers, but I figure that the following three suggestions can’t hurt:

1) Don’t waste food – the less you need to buy to feed your family, the less you have to worry that you are inadvertently robbing another family of this ability.

2) Buy from farmers markets or locally owned produce stores whenever you can – after all, the blame for food price rises doesn’t really lie with hipsters because of their inherit hipness, it lies with the major supermarkets who see an opportunity to make more money and exploit it regardless of the impacts on the less fortunate. So take that power out of their hands.Quinoa

3) If you eat Quinoa, buy Australian grown: Kindred Organics Quinoa, from North-West Tasmania is the cheapest Quinoa available on the Honest to Goodness website!! Check it out at http://www.goodness.com.au/Organic-White-Quinoa-Australian-1KG.html#.U4b_sCjF-Vo

 

Writing from The Rock – a series of surprises at Uluru

 Desert flowerBraceletsRedbacks

This is my first time in the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, and I have to say that it has been an incredible experience. My Australian made Redback boots have set foot in the outback a number of times, and I am quite sentimental about the layer of seemingly immovable red dust that they have accumulated over time, so I jumped at the opportunity to head out to the Red Centre with two of my wonderful friends. Not only do I consider standing at the foot of Uluru something of a pilgrimige, but this is a sight I have been whistfully watching on postcards my entire life. So you can imagine my suprise when Uluru turned out to look nothing like the picture I had in my mind!!

As one of my travel buddies so succinctly put it, I had always believed that Uluru rose out of the ground like a giant bunt-cake, all smooth with a scalloped edge, and although it does look like that from a distance, as I got closer I was amazed to see that its surface is dotted with caves carved into the rock face, that its base is surrounded by jagged pieces of rock that have fallen away maybe thousands of years ago, and there are deep pools that cascade down it’s side, creating multi-layered waterfalls on those rare occassions when it rains. I was also amazed that despite the infrequency of rain, that the park is so green. There is even a beautiful waterhole tucked into the base of Uluru that acts as a perfect mirror to the cliff face above it.

I  didn’t expect Uluru to tower quite so far above me as I stood gazing in wonder from its base. It astounds me that anyone would want to climb it, as not only is it disrespectful to the Anangu, but given it’s immense height, and the fact that the climb is virtually at a 45 degree angle it seems like a very unsound safety decision to me. And what was even more suprising yet, was that Kata Tjuta, otherwise known as the Olgas, stands some 198 metres higher than Uluru just 50 metres away*, but I had barely heard it mentioned until I started to review tour options.

Naturally I hoped to take home souvenirs of this incredible experience, and I was pleased to discover a sizeable range of lluf-approved purchases available from the souvenir shops around Ayers Rock Resort, the parks Cultural Centre, and the airport. This included soaps, bush pot purri, and various spice mixes, sauces and jams incorporating native Australian ingredients. Yum. But what was really amazing was the availibility of non-perishable items made in Australia or in fair trade arrangements, as opposed to being mass produced in more ‘affordable’ manufacturing regions. I could only make small purchases, given that my 7kg of carry-on already included a pair of boots that weigh nearly a kilo on their own and four days worth of clothing, however I have been very happy to purchase:

A t-shirt: Australian made clothing is always hard to find, so imagine my suprise to stumble across a relatively tasteful souvenir t-shirt. Samsousan, as it turns out, has a wide range of Australian made promotional and souvenir apparel, and also incidentally do a mens tuxedo t-shirt which I am very excited about – that one never gets old. You can see the complete range at: http://www.samsousan.com.au/

Bracelets: I am madly in love with the above pictured bracelets from Better World Arts. Accompanied by the story of the design, they are beautiful and functional pieces of genuine aboriginal art. Better World Arts sells some amazing handicrafts with a business model that empowers the aboriginal artists and the artisans in Peru, Kashmir, West Bengal and Nepal who bring the designs to life on cushions, rugs, bags and jewellry. These can be viewed and purchased from: http://www.betterworldarts.com.au/products

Magnets: I actually bought heaps of Australian made magnets. Some that had aboriginal symbols for beautiful sentiments such as togetherness, happiness, and friendship from a brand called Wijikura, and some that featured classic postcard shots of the National Park from a brand called Visit. A quick internet search revealed that Visit sells lots of Australiana items- some Australian made, including some lovely scenic calendars, and some not. But all its Australian made products are well signed, so you don’t have to look too hard to find them. Many of these can be seen on their website: http://www.visit.com.au/

So next time you are shopping for souvenirs, I encourage you to put in the extra effort to find out where they came from. There are genuine Australian souvenirs out there and I have found them worth the effort to find.

 

 

* See the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Visitors Guide: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/visitor-guide-uluru-kata-tjuta-national-park

N.B. photos above were not taken inside the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. You may be suprised to learn that for the purposes of safeguarging the traditions and sacred places of Anangu publishing images taken within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park requires a permit and is subject to strict guidelines.