Christmas Wish List

My parents were asking about Christmas, and my dad joked about me putting my wish list on my blog. So… here I am!

I love experiences (cough cough, Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb but also movie tickets), so I’m not above those.  And I love second hand too. But I know sometimes that doesn’t fit other people’s sensibilities so this list is of mainly concrete ‘things’.

Beeswax candles bought myself in May 2014 with birthday money
Supposedly normal candles are made from ‘bad stuff’. I have tried these candles, the angle shaped ones a colleague gave me (he knows the people who make these here in Sydney). They were lovely.

They smell delicious
They smell delicious

Boxed Cards

I was browsing stores on a walk home on the weekend, and found these delightful examples so I snapped some photos.  Blank cards are so versatile – thank you’s, birthdays and any other reason.  I have almost used up the stash I got Christmas before last so I’d love some more. (In other news, I did buy some themed gift cards without plastic bags at $1 each, so a win for the Zero Waste challenge!)

Photographed at Pentimento, King St Newtown
Photographed at Pentimento, King St Newtown

Two burner stove bought myself in March 2104 (different model)
I want something that’s light and easy. A BBQ with a gas bottle is neither, so this is a compromise. The one thing I worry about is how long it’d last, one can of butane.  It’s all part of my preparation to be a little more self sufficient if there was a “situation”.  I’m inching into ‘prepper’ territory.

In an emergency source:
In an emergency

Australian Ballet Calendar Gifted to me twice after the first was stolen from my mail box 🙁

This may be a tradition now as it’ll be the third year I’ve had this calendar to ‘girlify’ my desk at work.  I love the form of ballet dancers, and every year there’s new photos some I love, some not so much, but it’s just lovely!

click here to buy it:
click here to buy it:


Push up handles Gifted by the BF who was worried nothing on my list would be given to me – awww! Different style, but ticked all the boxes!

Since 2010, I’ve had weak wrists from far too much getting myself off the ground with a right angle between my palm and wrist/arm.  As a result, I had a lot of physio, to no avail.  I therefore can’t do dips or push ups conventionally without pain.  I’d love to have some push up handles so I could get back into these fitness activities to tone my arms up!  I could take them to the gym (if/when I go), but I could also DIY exercise.  This is something I can see my brother, a physical education teacher, relishing buying me 🙂

These look like they won't mark the floors source:
These look like they won’t mark the floors


To be clear I love Christmas, much more for the giving, than the getting. And seeing I try to be minimalist I try to create a list to make it easier for people to get it right for me. If you’d like to know about my gift giving last Christmas click here (can’t go revealing secrets too early for my gift giving this year!)  I already have my short list of my nearest and dearest and what I plan to buy them when I take a day off on Tuesday to go Christmas shopping.

Do you have a wish list?  Do you share it with people, or prefer them to surprise (or shock) you?

A day on the job (as an electrical engineer)

Following the trend of some of my favourite blogs (Declutterer by Fiona and An Exacting Life by Dar), I’m posting a day in the life of an electrical engineer at a big power company in Sydney.  This is a hybridised version of how I think today should go based on other days!

5.38am – 6am: wake up to my alarm that’s progressively one minute earlier every day.  Get on my sports gear and head out for a run/walk of about 2kms

6am – 6.40am: shower, dress, eat breakfast, tidy the kitchen, read some of the bible, snuggle with BF and talk about day ahead

6.40am-6.55am: drive to work – the best part of this time of day is it’s not too busy, and we all know what we’re doing, there’s few ‘silly drivers’ and never crashes or breakdowns 😀

6.55am-7am: stop at the local cafe for a mocha (since the work coffee machine broke).  Love they know me and my order, and now have a bowl with change for us regulars to deposit our payments.

7am: Arrive at work, archive all the ‘blog’ emails, but click on a few favourites, and load one or two favourite blogs in the browser (that I don’t get via email).  Open work emails and read the latest.

7am -8.30am: Review spreadsheet of 12,000 notifications for tasks, focusing on the urgent (5) and priority categories (455 with 34 overdue).  Make phone calls with field supervisors to discuss the requirements of the oldest jobs – outage requirements, times of day, what their site visits established, what I can do to help resolve the notifications.  Draft a letter to customers advising them that the previously planned outage has been cancelled and work can now be completed without an outage.  Write paperwork for other switchings, reviewing the loading on the substation (low voltage: 240V/415V), looking at the isolation (low and high voltage (11kV) as the job requires), printing applicable maps, and attaching forms to be completed, before emailing them to all the required people. I must check if there’s any key customers, or medical customers if I’m planning an electricity outage, and ensure I meet them face to face, or speak to them on the phone, to be sure they understand the power outage and the impact on them.

8.30am-9am: Commute to another depot for a bi monthly meeting of the safety equipment and uniform committee, as I’m the female representative.

9am-11am: Review decisions on clothing and safety equipment (wonder about my post, if it went live automatically at 10am… if anyone is reading it yet ;))

11am-12pm: Drive to suburb to deliver the amended letters to the industrial customers that will no longer have an outage.  Drop by another depot to drop off old uniforms (from before the rebranding – the company assures us they are being recycled.  We’re not allowed to donate our clothing to charity without removing the logo, which effectively renders them useless).

12pm -12.15pm: Heat my lunch and chat to staff at this depot.  Discuss recent restructuring briefing, and bemoan the changes to the overall culture.

Photos of an asset impeded by the growth of vegetation
Photos of an asset impeded by the growth of vegetation

12.15pm – 1pm: Return to my usual office, via a site that I was emailed about in the morning.  There are concerns that foliage around the handle of the pole mounted equipment are impedding effective operation.  I take some photos of the issue to email to contract tree trimming.

1pm – 3.30pm: Forward email about tree trimming.  Read new work emails, forwarding and responding as necessary.  Review shared calendar to see if more work has been booked.  Review works planned for exactly two weeks time, and check another email inbox to check switching paperwork has been submitted.  Follow up with staff at another site about issues with submitting paperwork, and work through any issues.

3.30pm-4pm: I usually finish work at 3.30pm, however I don’t have anywhere to be straight after work, so I take the time to tidy my desk, and review my career episode reports (required to gain certification in my profession). This is required by my employer, but I feel it’s more appropriate to complete it after hours.

4pm-4.30pm: Commute to my parents house

5pm-5.45pm: Get physio on my right shoulder from a break two years ago, and on going niggles in my neck that are causing headaches.

5.45pm-9pm: Return to my parents home, for dinner with my family. Each of us kids takes turns when we get home (at various times) to follow our mother around and ‘download’ our day to her.  Don’t worry, she downloads in between too!  My brother leaves for South America on Saturday, so it’s the last time together as a family for 10 months.  Leave a pair of shorts with mum, to get new fabric for and have copied by her tailor.

9pm-9.30pm: Drive from my parents back to my house, and meet the BF whose enjoyed (?) another night alone on the couch, as I’ve already been out two nights in the week for water polo.

9.30pm: Attempt to be in bed, reading, after a quick shower.  The BF will either come to bed with me (if this time ‘creeps’), or lay with me before I start reading to have a chat about the day asking ‘what was good that happened in your day today?’ (Such a great way to focus the daily debrief in the positive!).  Change my morning alarm for 1min earlier.

How does this compare to your day?  Feel free to post about a day in your life!  And, I bet you’re wondering where I get all my blog reading and commenting in – well so do I! I’m lucky to have the smart phone in gaps of time, to catch up on posts.

Waste Wednesday update

For anyone who chances upon this blog, every week I remain mindful of the landfill waste I generate by weighing my garbage.  I like to consider what made up our week of waste in our two person home in Sydney, Australia and think of ways to get the total less and less.  One day, I hope to get 0 grams for a whole week, but so far my best efforts were 67g!

This week I weighed in at 305g up from 256g last week.

Weighing in at 305g
Weighing in at 305g

Here’s what was in there:
– vinyl strips from my handbag: the vinyl was delaminating, so I cut them all off so that now I have a fabric bag
– plastic trays: two from meat and one from gnocchi: I can hand make gnocchi, but I can’t always be bothered.  Plus now that I can buy gluten free gnocchi, I’m a happy gal!
– meat tray nappies: does anyone else get a meat tray with a little pillow of absorbent stuff, to soak up ‘juices’?  EWW!

The plastic tray collection
The plastic tray collection

– two sachets: from a honey marinade for chicken on the weekend
– plastic strip from our new showerhead package (no we’ve not mastered how to connect the new shower head to the existing hardware :()
– postage sack: used as the bin liner

One week's non recyclable trash
One week’s non recyclable trash

Overall, I’m not impressed by the weight BUT I am happy this weight is a sustainable ‘normal’ point for us. We are back to buying meat like ‘normal people’, and all the other plastic-y packages are being returned to Coles supermarket where they turn it into play furniture.  I’ll keep at it.

Oh, and for regular readers, I finally found greeting cards not plastic sleeved entombed, for $1 each, so I snapped about 8 for my stockpile.  Not only will I save money (otherwise they are up to about $8 each!), I’ll also do without more rubbish!  If only I’d thought to take photos of them, rather than the garbage.

What’s the hardest thing for you to keep out of your garbage?  Is there a certain product that you can’t find plastic/packaging free like gnocchi?

Hodge Podge

So, today’s just a ‘random thoughts’ collection.


1. I couldn’t help myself, and started my walking/running challenge! Two days in, I did 13 mins on Mon, and 14 mins yesterday, and took the stairs except when laden with groceries, desperate for the bathroom, or super headach-y.  I even got at least 2L of water into me yesterday.

2. I want to speak to my local council re: composting on a neighbourhood scale.  Can those who know which councils do this worldwide let me know in the comments, and perhaps share the link to their website would be stellar (Dar? Cassie?)

3. What are Thanksgiving staples? I’m having a Thanksgiving dinner this Friday night, as I want an excuse to make Pumpkin pie! I’m inviting a handful of people around, and it’ll be a grown up dinner party.  Australian’s don’t ‘do’ Thanksgiving, so I need all your advice and taditions!

That’s about all!

The limitations of green power

For irregular readers, I’m an electrical engineer in the power industry.  My day job was building new substations in suburban streets, and now my job is to do maintenance on these kiosk sub stations that supply houses, businesses and everything in between!

My capstone project (ie  my engineering thesis) was about micro hydro power in Guinea, near Indonesia.  Another student did a technical analysis, and went to the village it was installed in, whilst my thesis was about ensuring that matching technology to communities were assessed on all their needs, not just how many light bulbs!  A more transdisciplinary approach – which wasn’t truly ‘engineering’ but as a double degree student with an Arts degree, I think it was acceptable.  In any case, I got a Distinction (the only grading higher is High Distinction).

Part and parcel of my thesis preparation was to assess all types of renewable energy sources for the community.  I independently researched geothermal, solar, wind, biomass and hydropower.  The alternatives being used in these areas are largely diesel generators.

by Sahsa Calontiw source:
by Sahsa Calontiw

Overall, micro or pico hydro are ideal for mountainous regions in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.  Their needs are small – lighting in evenings, safer cooking options rather than burning wood and the hazards of smoke.  In some cases, they have TVs. Essentially, there needs are small, and the technology is an appropriate size.

However – can renewable technologies work for our developed economies?  If you’re reading this, you  have to have electricity, and more than for a few hours a day!  The demand you and me create on the network is a whole different ballpark to these rural mountainous communities.  The problem with renewable energy sources is that storage isn’t simple – nor is storage simple with the current nuclear or coal based power plants.  The different with fuelled power plants is that you can ‘burn’ more when you know your going to have a peak demand on the network – in extreme weather conditions, in evenings when everyone’s home and cooking.  Renewables predominantly only work well with batteries.


Batteries have a number of drawbacks.  First, they aren’t cheap (yet), particularly the size you might need to store a few days worth of power.  There’s issues with the type of power you get – now you get AC power – a wave.  Batteries give you a straight line of power, no wave.  To get a wave, you need a rectifier. That’s before we talk about the heavy metals that make batteries.

The stats source:
The stats

I totally support further research into renewable technologies, and battery storage.  I think the solution is the level of investment where renewables can meet base load, and coal or nuclear power cover the ‘peak demand’ that I mentioned before.  The reality is, though, that whilst renewables cost more per unit, it’s unlikely we’ll see the inversion of where we source our power.

What do you think about our power needs?  How do you feel green and renewable power sources should be used vs how they are used currently?

Savings target: oh so close!

As my new year resolution (one of many) for 2013, I wanted to save $20k by 22/12/13. I started with $13,487, so I was really looking to save $6,512.45.

When that looked like a sure thing in May, I shared with you that I’d like to save $26k by the same date (Essentially doubling the ‘real’ money I saved to $12,512.45)

Here’s where I am today:

OH so close!
OH so close!

$213.01 remaining! If I have a slow weekend, I can easily hit that on Monday. If not, it is easily possible after interest at the end of the month, oh, and after being paid again!

For those who might be struggling with debts – see that my savings journey wasn’t simple either.  I did well, and then I dipped in.  Moving house certainly took some savings, and time to rebuild.  But overall, I kept my eye on the prize, and strove to beef up my account more and more.

Yes, I will meet my stretch target!

Get healthy – monthly challenges

I plan to start a series of one month challenges, focused around improving my health.  I know that my one month challenge not to eat out in July impacted our habits, and saw us plan better and eat at home more.  It probably saved us a ton of money too! Sure, our grocery spend went up but our eating out bill went down by even more!

So here’s what’s on my rough plan for the new year (though I’m tempted to start in December, seeing I’m already feeling lethagic!  Plus, I think I’m heavier than I’ve ever been *gasp*).

Take the stairs – I live on the third floor, and the stairs are markedly quicker than waiting for the lift.  I’ve already started taking them occasionally.  I think I might allow myself free passes when I have the overflowing recycling bin, or a plate of food, but ‘usually’ I will take them.  I already use the stairs at work.  In other situations, I will favour the stairs to the escalators.

Drink 2L of water a day – I’m not sure how good this *truly* is, but it can’t be bad for you right?  Sure your body reaches an equilibrium and expels what it doesn’t need, but there’s no harm in diluting all the coffee that I drink… which brings me to:

Oh no! NO coffee? source:
Oh no! NO coffee?

No coffee – I was going to say no caffeine, but I think the occasional Earl Grey tea or chocolate, or even an energy drink might be needed.  But coffee is becoming habitual, and apart from the $4 a day habit, it can’t be good for me! I think a nice summery month would be best suited to trying to be coffee free!


Let me tell you, I waded through some very suspect photos, to get what I was trying to demonstrate! source: Charlotte Anderson,
Let me tell you, I waded through some very suspect photos to get what I was trying to demonstrate.  Apron not essential!
source: Charlotte Anderson,

Squats – I have this weird idea – what if every time I sat on the toilet, I did ten squats?  It’s only my body weight as resistance, but there’s no harm in toning up my legs by just repeating the movement a few more times.  Strange, yes?  Possible – definitely!

Walking – I already wake at 5.45am to get to work by 7am.  Although I keep getting to work about ten minutes early.  What if I woke up just 5 minutes earlier, and walked for 15 minutes before showering and preparing for work?  Maybe every day, I could add a minute, so by the end of the month I was walking for 45 minutes?  That’d give me a cumulative walking time of 15 and a half hours for the month!

So, as you can see, I have five challenges, and there’s 12 months in a year!  What else do you think I could add to improve my health and well being? Would you be interested in joining me in some of the challenges, so we can help cheer each other along?

The future of food

The Wednesday before last, my mentor called me about going to a conference on Friday.  Friday was my RDO, so initially I was hesitant to give up my day off, but after googling the one day conference, I was interested!  There are minimal opportunities in the current climate to go to professional development, so I feel honoured that my mentor nominated me.

The conference was to celebrate 30 years of a centre for engineering innovation and excellence, and the conference’s theme was ‘the next 30 years’.

There were a few sessions, but by far the most interesting session was about food.  There was a CEO of Goodman Fielder, a food manufacturer, someone from the Australia Food and Grocery Council, someone from the Foodbank and someone from CSIRO (Australia’s government science body).

Interestingly, when I google CSIRO, I’m lead to food pyramids, I’m not sure I knew CSIRO was responsible for those.  What I found I’ll share, as they are quite different!  I’ll put the larger ones at the end for easier readability.

So which is it? sources (L to R),,
So which is it?
sources (L to R),,

Goodman Fielder spoke about making food more individualised, so that customers get what they want, whether they want to know more about the provenece of their food, organic food, additives etc.  It was incredible to think this big brand is looking to segment and individualise their market even more, as no customer wants to feel like ‘everyone’.

Goodman Fielder brands
Goodman Fielder brands

The Foodbank was the glue in the group of four speakers- each of the three other speakers and the bodies they represented, had helped the Foodbank be a success.  The Foodbank redistrubutes food to those in need, and Goodman Fielder ran a promotion ‘buy one, give one’ and Foodbank is drawing down on millions of ‘free’ loaves of bread Goodman Fielder have donated through the program to match those consumers bought.

Some things that might be of interest to you

– supposedly, some organic food can be worse for you: I wish they’d said more, even though I don’t eat organic, I’d love to know more about what food they make ‘healthier’ with chemicals

– local food movements are a trend, but then won’t take over the majority, as it’s not sustainable

– there’s enough calories produced currently to end world hunger – it’s the distribution that struggles

– organic food, whilst the demand is increasing, will also not become dominant in the market

– food is cheaper now than any time in history, and represents less of the households budget now than ever before (something I’ve certainly noticed)

– packaging extends the life of food, preventing spoilage (you know what I think of that!)

None of these insights have anything to do with my profession or the company I work for, which is a shame, as this was by far the most interesting part of the day for me.  I’d have loved to approach management in my company about these issues… But it would fall on deaf ears, understandably.  Thankfully I have a blog where I can talk about things that interest me!

I found it interesting to note that I use next to none of Goodman Fielders brands (it helps that I seldom eat bread, to start with, but I also seem to eat less and less ready made or easy meal foods).

What do you think of some of the ‘insights’ that were shared?  Which food pyramid do you prefer?

I agree with the crossed out stuff, at least in part (I think you need some grains though). I think more vege than fruit is better though. source:
I agree with the crossed out stuff, at least in part (I think you need some grains though). I think more vege than fruit is better though.
I think this is closest o how I think I should eat.  Not surprisingly, this one comes from an anti sugar website:
I think this is closest o how I think I should eat. Not surprisingly, this one comes from an anti sugar website:
I agree with the water layer -
I agree with the water layer –

Zero Waste Wednesday – oh for sushi

Hello fearless readers! Morning night/Tuesday morning saw me stuck with a killer migraine, so alas I was a little less enthused to be a blogger.  Rest assured, I’m now back to fine form.

This week was another ‘blah’ week, with a not particularly low weigh in on my waste.  I weighed in with 256g, better than last week at 744g and 508g the weeks prior.  I did throw a pair of shoes of the BF’s out without weighing them either (unlike last time).   Nothing on my personal best of 67g for a week.

256g on Wed 220 Nov 2013 (I'm not sure what's on it to make it look so dirty!)
256g on Wed 220 Nov 2013 (I’m not sure what’s on it to make it look so dirty!)

Overall, I’m blah about this.  This being weighing my rubbish, and hoping to improve.

I’m annoyed that some law has changed and raw chicken can no longer be sold from the deli at Cole and Harris Farm.  It’s because everything else is cooked, so it’s a contamination issue.  Thankfully, butchers are ok.

I also bought us sushi on Sunday for lunch – each one in it’s own little container.  I did say no the the plastic soy sauce fish and the bag.  I took them home in my handbag and used the bottle of soy.  There was no alternative to the trays – both sushi vendors in the shops between church and home sell it the same way.

Looks big, but it was pretty light
Looks big, but it was pretty light

I’ve got to remember that being mindful is a start. Every time I refuse a plastic bag for some fruit or vege, I’m doing something good. When I take my cup for a coffee, I’m saving adding a plastic lid and a paper cup to recycling. Gosh darn, I have no idea how Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home does it, I really don’t.  Does she really say no to quick and delicious sushi because of it’s plastic containers?  What do you think?

15 travel tips of a frequent traveller

I’m (only) 28, but for my age, I’ve travelled quite a lot (see my completed bucket list for an idea)!  As well as packing and flying internationally or domestically 4 times a year, home to my parents from boarding school.  These are the things that work for me, and I’d recommend to others:


  • You gotta be able to carry it all: makes sense really, but don’t rely on trolleys or porters, cause somewhere along the line, you’ll be tripped up
  • Remember you ‘things’ count: three bags, or whatever (coats), then everytime you’re walking from taxi to check in to gate to plane etc, mentally recheck the count!
  • Paper shopping bags: work a treat for those 5 novels you want to take! Putting them in checked luggage could put you over, having them in a disposable bag means if you do accidentally leave it anywhere, it’s not the worst thing in the world, and you’re unlikely to be challenged for taking more than one piece of carry on this way
  • Wheelie suitcases: I swear by them.  But then I hate having heavy things on my shoulder, so I also don’t usually use an over the shoulder handbag
  • Spare underwear: seriously, I think this enough in your hand luggage.  I don’t like to lug too much around
  • Face washer: in a zip lock – great to wash and try ones face on a long trip.  I sorely missed packing this for this trip, and it would have made a world of difference to feel ‘clean faced’ part way through.
  • Paper copies of tickets/reservations: I know phones are fancy now, but with long flights smart phones can lose charge, cost a fortune to download data, or plane not work.  Especially in the developing world, take the time to print and carry documents you might need.  If nothing else, it helps to show taxi drivers!


Just one paper bag, not ALL of them though! source:
Just one paper bag, not ALL of them though!


  • Umbrella: Place it in the front pocket of your checked suitcase.  Some airlines/airports confiscate your umbrella (Marrakesh!) so checking it is best.  Having it in the front pocket makes it easy to access in a sudden arrival downpour (Greece! I didn’t pack one, so I bought on for 3 Euro!)
  • Swiss Army Knife: I can’t praise mine highly enough, even if it was from an ex.  I stash it in the front pocket of the checked suitcase.  Even locked, I can wiggle it out, and use it to cut off other tags etc
  • Light scarf: no matter where you are going, these are great as a light stopping eye mask, a pillow case on the suspsicous pillow case, or to keep you warm
  • More underwear: the last thing you want to run out of is underwear.  It’s small – pack more than you need.  Yeah, I’m not a huge handwasher on holiday either :p  I like to put the dirties in the inside suitcase pocket
  • Dirty clothes: I like to fold everything, but distinguish dirty stuff by pulling it inside out, and then folding it.  Saves me wondering if I wore it (I will rewear stuff in cooler climates, I turn things inside out when it’s got no more wears!)
  • Toiletry bag: I don’t believe in one carry all – there’s never a big brick sized space left in your bag! Many smaller bags work better – I reuse pencil cases from school and zip locks bags.


Sometimes, these are just too big! source: Laura Wittmann
Sometimes, these are just too big!
source: Laura Wittmann


  • Take reading material to leave behind: either thin your collection at home, or buy second hand books.  I love library books, but not for international holidays!
  • Power boards: don’t buy countless adapters, buy one, and pack your local power board to charge all your ‘things’.  As an aside, I really do take less and less electronics every time.  They are just too much stress to leave in a room, or always carry.  A phone with a good camera is usually enough for me.
Make space for all your chargers, but buy only one pricey adapter! source:
Make space for all your chargers, but buy only one pricey adapter!

Do have a pearl of wisdom when you are travelling and packing?  Please add to the discussion, I’m sure there’s some tricks I could leanr.