Tag Archives: Books

Vantastic (a Giveaway!)

This giveaway is now closed.

Vantastic  1 Vantastic 5 Vantastic 3 Vantastic 4 Vantastic  2 When Kate of the beautiful Foxs Lane blog announced a little while ago that she was working on a book, I got really excited. When I discovered it was about “retro caravan holidays in the modern world” I got really, really excited! I’m a little bit obsessed with vintage caravans and have often daydreamed about finding an old van, doing it up and going on a big adventure. In 2011 Kate and her lovely family did just that! The five of them packed up their vintage caravan, Frankie Blue, and embarked on a 6 month road trip around Australia. I followed their journey via Kate’s blog with great admiration (and I have to admit, just a teensy bit of jealousy!) Yesterday a copy of Kate’s book landed in our mailbox and as soon as it was unwrapped, I snuggled down with a cup to tea and devoured every page. Vantastic is just beautiful. It’s bursting with practical information for beginner caravaners, sprinkled with cute crafty projects and yummy recipes and, naturally, the styling and photography is gorgeous. I know this book is going to become a much loved addition to our little library and I’m sure that in years to come, when we’ve got a van of our own, it’ll be absolutely invaluable. And! The really good news is, we have a copy to giveaway. Hurrah! To go into the draw all you have to do is leave us a comment. We’ll use the random number generator to draw a winner at the end of the week. Good luck everyone! And congratulations Kate!

Katie x

PS This giveaway is open to all our wonderful readers, both in Australia and overseas.

Update: The winner of the giveaway is comment number 3. Congratulations Gillian!

Vantastic Winner

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Thoughts on Ethical Eating

Farmers Market Bounty

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about food. I’ve been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (an inspiring book about a family who chose to eat only local, seasonal produce for a year) and I’ve been listening to local ABC radio a lot (I realise that makes me sound about 197 years old but my mum always has it on and I secretly quite enjoy it!) so I keep hearing the terribly sad stories of Australian farmers struggling to survive. Though I’m always quite mindful of what we eat and where it comes from I’m realising now, more than ever, how important our food choices are and how badly the current system of food production and distribution is failing us. All of us.

Animal Vegetable Miracle

In our increasingly urbanised society, many of us are so far removed from the sources of our food, we simply have no idea how our choices affect our famers, the animals we share the planet with, our environment and even what’s on our own plates. We need food so we go to the supermarket and we buy it, without much thought for how it got to be there. That’s a real shame because the reality is, much of the food on supermarket shelves is attached to a slew of ethical issues worthy of our consideration. From the environmental impact of the use of pesticides, herbicides, genetic modification and fossil fuels used in agriculture and to ship the food, to the livelihoods of the farmers and treatment of animals who have produced it, and it’s impact on our own health; food is a big issue and something that affects every single one of us. It’s also an issue so huge and infinitely complicated, that it can be really hard to contemplate.


What can we possibly do to change things? Where do we even begin?

I believe in taking baby steps. For starters, we can all make an effort to waste less food. The average Australian household throws out 345kg kilograms of food every year (that’s a total of 4,000,000 tonnes of food nationwide!) which is obviously a huge waste of resources. We can try to eat more organic produce which is produced with less impact on the earth (and as an added bonus is often more flavourful and nutritious!) Most of us could probably benefit from eating less processed food and cooking more from scratch. Many of us could change our relationship with meat and eat less of it and/or only consume free range, organic meat that has been treated ethically. We can try to eat more local and look for fresh produce closer to home. In doing this we will be reducing the carbon footprint of our food and supporting our local producers. Some of us can even grow some of our own food, vastly reducing the use of chemicals and fossil fuels in the journey of produce to plate. We can’t all do everything, but we can all do something.

Seedlings at the Farmers Market

Since writing this post about food, Reuben and I have made some big changes to the way we eat. Recently I have had more time to cook and have been making things from scratch much more regularly. I’ve also been really concentrating on making healthy, nourishing meals, packed with lovely whole foods, so we now eat very little processed stuff. We’ve switched from doing multiple small shops (picking up a few groceries every day) to doing one big weekly shop, and we’ve stopped getting takeaway on lazy nights. Now if we can’t be bothered with cooking, we’ll simply have leftovers or something fuss free like eggs and mushrooms on toast.

We’ve also been better with finishing up leftovers and only buying products we know we’ll actually use. I still don’t really meal plan but in the last couple of months I’ve figured out what fresh ingredients are staples for us and we now buy those things, which always get used up, as the bulk of our groceries. If I see anything different or seasonal that we might fancy, I try to make a priority of finding a recipe for it and using it up ASAP, so it isn’t left forgotten in the bottom of the crisper. All of this has reduced our weekly food bill and waste substantially, which is great, but there is room for much improvement when it comes to the ethical side of our little family’s consumption.

Tiny Strawberry

The main point I have taken away from Animal Vegetable Miracle (and Whole Larder Love too) is that Reuben and I really need to concentrate more on seasonal eating and buying local produce. We usually go to the local farmers market (which, sadly, is only on once a month) and buy our fresh fruit and veggies for that week there, but I want to start planning ahead and buying a whole month’s worth of things like pumpkin and potatoes that will keep for the duration of the month. We also need to have a go at preserving seasonal and more perishable produce. Once we are in our own house Reuben and I will set up a veggie patch and get a couple of chickens to provide us with fresh eggs, which will reduce the amount of fresh produce we need to buy. And the environmental impact of food we’ve grown ourselves will be almost zilch!

Reuben and I don’t eat meat and have always bought free range eggs, but I’d love to find a local, organic dairy supplier. I’d really, really like to get my hands on some raw milk and have a go at making cheese, but given the fact selling raw milk for consumption is illegal in Australia, that might be a bit trickier. Of course there will always be things that we can’t grow or make ourselves or buy at the farmers market, but with us cooking from scratch more, our grocery list for non fresh produce has already reduced. I’d like to start buying more of our basic staples such as rice, flour and lentils from small local businesses like Bendigo Wholefoods, rather than the big supermarkets.

I am hoping that once we’ve moved and are somewhat settled in our new home we will be able to create a new, healthier rhythm around our food.

Avocados and Mangos

We all need to eat and, whether we like it or not, the way we eat and the food choices we make have a direct impact on the world around us. We have a responsibility to our environment, our farmers, our animals, our future generations and ourselves to make good choices. Though it often seems like we have no power to make meaningful change, in fact we do. We vote with our money and the way we spend it gives us a voice to industry. Though as an individual that voice may be only a whisper, as a collective we can make some serious noise!

Maybe you can only make one or two small changes, or maybe right now you are not in the position to do even that. That’s ok. All any of us can do is our best. What we can all do, at the very least, is be aware of the ethical issues concerning our food. Learn about them. Think about them. Discuss them. Change starts with awareness and education. If you’re just beginning your journey to a more ethical approach to food and would like to learn about more about the ethics of food and where your food comes from, I highly recommend reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and Whole Larder Love (both book and blog) by Rohan Anderson. All of these resources have had a major impact on the way I think about the stuff I eat. And if anyone has any other suggestions for good reads on this topic I’d love to hear them!

Katie x

PS I know cost plays a really significant role in the way we all eat, so I am thinking a follow up post on ethical eating on a budget might be in order. What do you reckon?

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Four Good Books

Katie and I love books! And lately we’ve aquired a few amazing new ones. Here are four of our current favourites. They all just so happen to be by very clever Australian authors!

Whole Larder Love

I gave this one to Katie for Christmas. Whole Larder Love is one of our favourite blogs and Mr Anderson lives and blogs in not-very-far-away Ballarat. His book is brilliantly designed and spectacularly photographed. It is all about looking to nature for food, focused on growing, gathering, hunting, cooking and being active in the production of the stuff you eat. I read Whole Larder Love from cover to cover in just a few days, which I never do. It is that good!

The Little Veggie Patch Cos Guide to Backyard Farming

I recieved The Little Veggie Patch Co‘s Guide to Backyard Farming as a birthday gift from Katie in December, and spent a good portion of my Christmas break eating up every word. The book spans a whole year in the garden and has been the catalyst for my current veggie patch planning frenzy. I was lucky enough to run into Mr Capomolla when he was in Bendigo recently and he was really nice and happy to chat to me. Katie and I will definitely have to pop in to the Little Veggie Patch Co. shop next time we’re in Melbourne.

What Katie Ate 2 I gave this book to Katie as a gift for our 8th anniversary last week. It’s a beautiful book written by Australian blogger Katie Quinn Davies, with amazing photography throughout. Katie had been saying she wanted this book for a while before I bought it, and now I can see why! I can’t wait to have a chomp on the Homemade Baked Beans on Toast and gobble up the Caramelised Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tartlets with Balsamic Syrup… Yum!

The Gourmet Farmer Deli Book

I was given the Gourmet Farmer Deli Book by an awesome friend for my birthday last month. Gourmet Farmer is an Australian TV show that follows food critic Matthew Evans on his journey to building a simpler life, more connected to his food, in rural Tasmania. Kind of similar to the UK’s River Cottage series. This book is about preserving food through butter and cheese making, curing meats, making sauces, pickling and such. I absolutely can’t wait to have a go at making feta and ricotta.

So there you have it! Four good books that have entertained, inspired and educated us this last month.

What have you been reading lately?


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We were in the Paper!

A Very Humble Christmas

Today we were in the paper! The Bendigo Advertiser ran a lovely full page article all about our contributions to Handmade Christmas. This is the second time we’ve popped up in the Addy (here is the first), but it’s still strange seeing our faces and words in a real life newspaper. We feel so lucky to have so much support from our local community.

We hope you are having a lovely weekend and aren’t getting too frazzled with Christmas preperations. We’re almost there now!

Katie and Reuben x

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The Book Thief

The Book Thief

Once upon a time long, long ago (when we lived in Sydney) I worked with a lovely lady named Sally. Sally often spoke of the books she had been reading and when I bemoaned the fact I hadn’t read anything in ages, she encouraged me to get back into it and suggested books she thought I might enjoy. I trusted Sally’s opinion and knew that if she enjoyed them, I most probably would too, but for whatever reason I just wasn’t in a reading state of mind. I think during the entire two years we lived in Sydney all I managed to read was Wuthering Heights and a few Charlaine Harris books! Quite sad really.

Even though I didn’t read them then and there, I did make a mental note of the books Sally suggested. One that always stuck out in my memory was The Book Thief. Sally had recommended it a few times. After we left Sydney and I started reading a little more, every now and then I’d think of The Book Thief, yet somehow still never managed to get to it. Then in April this year I was looking for a present for my mum’s birthday, wandering about a book shop in Bendigo stroking all the lovely spines and drinking in that gorgeous book smell, when I saw it. The Book Thief. That’s what I’d get my mum! Sally said it was good, so it must be.

A few months later I asked mum if she had read it and she told me she hadn’t. Then earlier this month we were watching First Tuesday Book Club’s 10 Aussie Books to Read before you Die special and there it was again. It came second on the list. “Oh The Book Thief!” I said. “Did you ever get around to reading it it?” Mum then confessed she had tried but hadn’t been able to get into it, so had given up. Suddenly overcome with curiosity I decided the time had finally come. It simply needed to be read. I started that night.

I have to admit I struggled with the unconventional style in the first couple of chapters of The Book Thief (and sometimes the narrator’s little asides bothered me, even at the end) but if the people of Australia loved it and (more importantly) if Sally loved it, I figured it had to be worth sticking with. And gosh, I’m so glad I did! The Book Thief is the most moving book I’ve read in quite some time and I know it’s going to stay with me for years to come.

The story, narrated by death, and set in Nazi Germany follows the story of a young girl named Liesel. “It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery….”

If you need a happy ending The Book Thief probably isn’t for you. The characters are endearingly flawed, human and real. You desperately want everything to be ok for everyone but of course, this is Nazi Germany. How can it? The Book Thief reminds us that in war, civilians of all sides are victims.

Despite the tragic nature of the story, The Book Thief isn’t morbid. It is written with grace and empathy, sprinkled with heart warming moments and gentle humour. Somehow it’s simultaneously both heartbreaking and wonderfully uplifting. Author Markus Zusak is a gifted writer and his prose is beautifully poetic, lyrical and poignant.  The Book Thief is not a light, fast read. It is a book to treasure, to ponder, to savour. It’s a story that almost hurts to read, but you find yourself relishing ever bittersweet word anyway. I suppose it’s terribly sentimental, but then I like sentimental!

I just wish I’d listened to Sally sooner.

Have you read The Book Thief? What did you think? Or maybe you’ve read something else wonderful lately? Do tell me!

Katie x

PS Happy “End of the World Day”! It looks like we are safe after all 😉

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