Sunday, August 28, 2011

I LOVE FOOD (Among Other Things)!

In conjunction with Paisley Jade's Things I'm Loving, I thought I'd tell you all just how much I am LOVING FOOD this weekend!!!  After having eaten lentils, beans, rice, oats and not a great deal else for five days, I am savouring the taste of sugar.  Enjoying the delight of variety, the taste of fruit.  Bread.  Yoghurt.  No oats or rice or lentils!  (To read more about our epic adventure in eating belowo the extreme poverty line of $2.25NZ a day click on the tab up to your right - Live Below the Line!).

My first meal after finishing Live Below the Line?

Toast.  Boring old toast.  Butter.  Vegemite.  Crunchy, warm, fragrant toast.  DELICIOUS!  Served with a cup of hot black current cordial.  Mmmm.  See my delight?  See my taste buds dancing up and down?!

My first snack?  Mashed banana and yoghurt with just a dash of spices and sugar.  Mmmmmmmm.

Loving soup.  Not the green gunk called soup that I ate twice a day while on Live Below the Line.  Nope.  This soup has sweet chilli sauce.  Oh my.  The smell of that soup!  I ate four small bowlfuls yesterday and finished the rest for afternoon tea today.

Other things I'm loving?

My parents.  They are incredible.  They live such generous lives.  They did Live Below the Line too you know.  While working full time.  I owe them a huge debt of gratitude.  It is through their lives that I am constantly reminded of the life God calls us to live.  Honest, productive, and generous.

Friends.  I have been blown away by the support of some really awesome people through this week of challenge.  Their messages of hope and encouragement have kept me (mostly!) sane.  I feel so blessed to know such people. 

A dishes-free evening!  Wahoo!  Boyo did the dishes before he headed out to work.  So nice to have one less thing on my to-do list this evening.

The washing is done (at least for now).

Mamma Mia!  And a study-free zone!  Yes, tonight I am not studying.  I FINISHED an assignment!  The REALLY big one!  Posting it tomorrow, just in time.  So tonight I am going to crawl into my pjs and my dressing gown, collect my self saucing chocolate pudding (yum yum yummy!), plonk myself in my cosy chair and watch tv.  I am gonig to knit.  I am not going to rush around trying to get a host of things done.  Ah, I need this.  I just LOVE musicals.  I dream of being in one myself some day.  I mean, what can possibly be better than a musical?  Dancing!  Singing!  Acting!  Costumes!  A stage and an audience!  Imaginary places and stories!  All in one complete package!  I will sing along.  Not loud enough that you'll hear me through the blog-o-sphere, but I promise you, I won't be able to help but sing along.  And I'll probably sing the songs for the next week.  They are those sort of songs.  Or at least I will sing them until Tiny Boppers (Munchkin's baby-boppin music programme on Wednesday - those songs are rather catchy too!).

That's me, folks.  Grateful for food and a lot of other things.  But Mamma Mia is calling and I have a date with relaxation!


Friday, August 26, 2011

Day Five - LAST ONE!

The last night of Live Below the Line is here! I have eaten my rice, lentils, beans and veges for the last time. I must admit to being rather relieved that I get to eat something different tomorrow night. Don’t know what yet. Don’t really care. Just as long as it does not contain rice, lentils, or beans! And as for wholegrain oats? I have no intentions of eating porridge for the next week! I am so sick of oats. Don’t get me wrong, they are a really valid food source and I would not have lasted the week without them. Normally I quite like porridge for breakfast. But they are oh, so boring without a bit of sugar, some sultanas, and yoghurt to wash them down. Grin.

Dinner last night.  Same tonight.
Fundraising is going well. Our online total is $220. Offline donations are at $120. Total: $340. With the $40 we will donate, that’s $380 total. My number crunching spouse assures me that means we are three quarters of the way to our target of $500!!! Yay! And there are quite a few people who have said they will donate who have not quite got there yet.

I’m so pleased that we decided to do this. It has been hard, believe me. I crave sugar. I had to open the honey jar earlier for Munchkin and wanted to eat the whole lot! But we have survived. Quite well, in fact. Most people who really live in extreme poverty would consider it complete luxury to eat what I have eaten this week and live how I have lived. I’ve been thinking about that as I’ve gone about my hungry, tired, grumpy day today. What would my life have looked like this week if I REALLY lived in extreme poverty?

If I really lived in extreme poverty this week:

No shower

No drink of fresh, running water (I’d have to walk to get it and who knows where it might have been first!)

No car and no petrol

Which might mean no work, and therefore no income. One of my jobs is too far to get to on foot. The other two are within walking distance, but doing 4hours of housekeeping on top of a minimum 45minute walk (each way!) on an empty stomach might not work out so well.

No power. Which means the washing wouldn’t be dry (we dry it under the heatpump on wet/cloudy days like today).

No heater because there’s no power.

No stove (no power, remember). I’d have to find some firewood. Hmm. That would be interesting.

No washing machine. We’d be washing by hand. Very time and energy consuming.

No supermarket trip for next week’s supplies (that’s what I made Boyo do yesterday. He was somewhat less than impressed at having to buy food he wasn’t allowed to eat, but he had to get his last loaf of bread for the Challenge and I didn’t want to waste time and effort on a return trip so I made him get the fruit and veges for the weekend).

And I’d not have been able to buy my $11.20 worth of groceries at Bin Inn. It would be way too far to walk! I’d have had to rely on my local New World supermarket because it’s the only one within walking distance. It is more expensive, and my options to prebag and weigh my food to get exactly how much I wanted are much more limited. So that would have meant less food.

Here's to changing that reality for one more person this week! 


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day Four - and we are NEARLY there!

I’m feeling rather lethargic. I’ve noticed it on every walk this week. We walk slowly. Slug-like. That’s me. I’m having trouble with my sentences, frequently getting words muddled. And I’m more than usually forgetful. Housekeeping today was, ah, interesting. Not a lot of energy to go around. Frequent stops for the loo (drinking lots and lots of water to try and stave off hunger!). My stomach feels a bit odd. Sore. Bloated. Not quite right. I’m blaming it on the beans. Not used to eating beans every day, you know! And I’m cold. A lot. Which is not uncommon, I admit, but I’m having even more trouble than usual in keeping myself warm!

The strange thing that I can’t get my head around is that I’m still eating a lot. Or at least it feels like it should be. I’ve got 6 meals a day here people. For those genuinely living in extreme poverty, they reckon they’d have to survive on two small bowls of rice per day with some foraged greens thrown in. Me, I’ve got that, plus ¼ cup of beans, some lentils, a barley and vegetable soup, oats twice a day, a small banana, and an egg. But because I’m not having to pay for power, water, petrol, medicine, or anything else out of my $2.25 a day, I can eat like this. Someone living in extreme poverty every single day gets way less than I’m getting. I can’t imagine how that must affect them.

It’s hard to make rational decisions. I spend ages trying to make sure I’ve measured out the right amount of oats. I wonder if I should hang on for another half an hour before heating my soup, or whether I will be feeling ill by then.

Today, I survived working by foraging in the garden. Found two small mandarins. I can’t tell you how truly delicious they were! I ate them with a baby carrot. I’ve got some broccoli, carrot, and celery saved for dinner tonight and tomorrow night.

Today’s breakfast?  Same as every other day this week. Wholegrain oats with banana – the banana sliced as finely as I absolutely can to make it last as long as possible!

Lunch today?  Rice, greens, lemon juice, and egg. I’m loving lemon juice. It adds SO much flavour!

I’ve been planning Saturday morning’s breakfast since Tuesday! I was thinking of bacon and eggs. But I have now concluded that all that fat and deliciousness might be just a little too much for my body after having a diet with no fat for five days. Incidentally, that’s one area of concern with this diet. No fat. Nothing to store for later. Our bodies NEED a certain amount of fat to work properly. And what about nutrition as a whole? Over the course of five days I probably don’t have any major nutritional deficiencies. My body has hopefully got stores of most vitamins and minerals to last out these five days. So the things I am feeling now are all short-term issues: hunger, lethargy, not being able to keep warm, being grumpy, having trouble making decisions. Now put it into perspective and add: vitamin C deficiency, Iron deficiency, potassium, B-vitamins, protein, amino acids, and more.

Imagine living your ENTIRE life without ever actually getting what your body needs to function properly.

How hard it must be to study and succeed at school when you haven’t eaten breakfast. Or lunch. Or sometimes even dinner. And when you do, you are hungry again within the hour. I’ve given up on study tonight. I have an unfinished assignment that must be in the post on Monday. But tonight it is just too much for me. I can’t actually work out what to do next, let alone how to do it! So I will have to get up really early on the weekend to get things finished. At least then I can have eggs on toast to fuel all the brainwork that will be going on! Tonight, I am finding it hard enough to manage the washing, the dishes, and getting myself into bed. Ah, bed. How I long for bed!

Only one more day to go! I find myself wishing it were Saturday already.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day Three

I’ve been struggling quite a bit. With an assignment due on Monday (which still needs a LOT of work) and 4hours of work tomorrow and again Friday, I was feeling pretty worried about whether I’d make it or not.

Rather than break the Challenge completely, I ended up ‘selling’ my chicken stock to the pantry cupboard and ‘buying’ 200g of wholegrain oats. Against the Challenge rules, but I can live with that. I have been very disciplined and not delved into the sultanas, cheese or anything else that is more than I can afford! I’m hoping the extra oats will almost double my oats and will be just enough to get me by. It certainly hasn’t stopped me feeling hungry throughout the day, but has meant I’ve been feeling a little bit less ill.

The breakfast oats were so much better this morning. Only took fifteen minutes to cook. I put them in a pot last night and poured boiling water over, banged the lid on, and left them there overnight. Nice and soft this morning. Of course, they still taste just the same as they did yesterday, but I appreciate not having to wait 30-45minutes for them to cook!

I miss eating for the pleasure of it.

Food is meant to be savoured. My poor taste buds! They are getting the same every single day. The sweetness of my banana in the morning sends them nearly tingling!

Last night we watched NCIS (our weekly tv habit). Boyo wanted chocolate. No go.

We aren’t really eating together either, with both of us having different food. I eat dinner with Munchkin still, he with his plate of delicious, aromatic food. Me with my bowl of rice, beans, lentils and veges. But that’s at 5pm. Boyo’s been trying to eat his as late as possible, often between 6-7pm. It’s quite lonely, this diet. Firstly because we are eating together less often. Secondly because even when we do, there’s not really much reason to linger over our plain fare. We eat, we move on.

Food is highly social. Imagine never being able to celebrate a special occasion with special food? We get letters and a photo from our sponsored kids each Christmas. There they stand, with a plate of rice or something and a coke in hand. Grinning. This is their big treat for the year, a special meal put on by the Child Development Centre. Many of us would consider it plain as plain can be, but for them it is incredibly special. It’s my birthday next week. I’m so glad it didn’t fall during Live Below the Line. Somehow it seems wrong not to celebrate a birthday with a special family meal.

Well, Munchkin is sounding antsy. It is his dinner time. And Boyo has just cracked out the toaster and toasted up his bread snack. Ah, the smell of it! I sniff. And sniff. And the sound. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Drool. He is being incredibly generous with his precious food and sharing little bits of crust with the hovering, 'More'-ing Munchkin!  Time to get my rice ready I think!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day Two

Here we are on Day Two of Live Below the Line.

I want cheese.

I want bacon.  Or chicken.  Or just about any meat.  Maybe even luncheon (which I normally don't touch!).

I want toast.  With butter. 

I want sultanas.

I want chocolate.  Ah, chocolate.  Chocolate pudding.  Chocolate cake.  Hot chocolate.  Whittaker's Creamy Milk chocolate.  I want chocolate.

You get the idea.  I want a whole lot of things. Mostly, I just want to eat constantly!
I am reminding myself that:
"It is only five days."  "Not the rest of my life."  "Not starvation."  "Just can't have whatever I want, whenever, that's all."  "For a good cause."

I still feel a little deprived.  Especially watching my son eat!

My husband told me this morning that he thinks perhaps I should wear this bib for the rest of the week:

Yup, I am a bit grumpy.  Okay, quite grumpy.  Irrational grumpiness is one of my hunger signs.

Boyo is still cruising along just fine.  How he manages I don't know!  We were joking this morning that he has lots of variety.  He can eat wheatbiscuits in a bowl, on a plate, with water, without, crushed up, or whole.  He can eat bread toasted, squished into a ball between his fingers, cut into triangles or slices or squares, from the inside out or the outside in.  He can eat standing up, or sitting down.  On a couch or on the floor.  Inside or outside.  Variety!  It's all about how you view it.

Breakfast is proving problematic for me.  While the rest of the day is rather unexciting, and a bit skimpy, it is survivable.  Breakfast, however, I am really struggling with.  There's just not enough of it.  Even with my banana thrown in.  And it's taking 30-45minutes to make.  Wholegrain oats take AGES to cook.  So I've come up with a plan.

Here's supper tonight:

I've popped it in the fridge to soak, in the hopes that it might halve the cooking time.  If it works, I'll do the same for tomorrow's breakfast.

And dinner tonight?  The same as last night:

Amy (the hungry-grumpy one!)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Supplementing the Challenge Food

I gardened this morning.

Here's what I came home with (to add to my food for Live Below the Line):


Day One

This is our kitchen. 

I made the signs this morning.  I'm trying very hard to remember that I'm not allowed to snack!  As this is something I do nearly all day, every day, I am finding it rather difficult!  Add to it all that I am preparing food for Munchkin multiple times a day and the temptation to just grab something 'quick' or 'small' from the cupboard is very high!

Here I am first thing this morning, watching Breakfast on TV3 - they have one of their team doing Live Below the Line.  This is the only time I remember voluntarily watching TV first thing in the morning (I hate people jabbering on at me first thing!).

I soaked all my beans last night for the Challenge week.  400g of them.  This morning I cooked them while making porridge for myself (wholemeal oats, salt, water) and Munchkin (wholemeal and soft cooking oats, water, stewed apple).  I then weighed and bagged them into 10 zip lock bags.  I'm just slightly paranoid about running out of food at the end of the week!  I can have ¼ cup for lunch, and the same for dinner.  Needed protein, even if they don't taste at all exciting!

Now, someone living in extreme poverty would usually not have access to a calculator, kitchen scales, measuring cup, or zip-lock plastic bags to help apportion food across a week. They’d probably be highly reliant on their visual ability to guess quantities. And on their willpower to only eat today’s small portion in order to have some left for tomorrow. I can’t imagine how hard that must be! Already this morning, at my first Live Below the Line meal, I was wondering whether I should eat the whole banana now because I woke up really hungry and breakfast powers me up for the day, or might I need half later? I ate the whole one.  Then wished I'd saved it for mid-morning.  It was WAY too long between breakfast and lunch.  I was hungry for two hours.  Did pretty well really - I didn't feel faint, and I wasn't too grumpy either!

The beans were cooked without salt as I'd forgotten to allow any for them. It turns out, however, that I will probably have salt left over at the end of the week!  I used what I thought would be about right on my porridge this morning, to discover it was rather salty.  If I'd not been doing the Challenge, I'd have been tempted to throw it out and start over (or at least mix it with Munchkin's to spread the salt out further!).  Similar issue with rice this afternoon, only this time I was trying to add just a smidgeon after cooking it.  I'm so not used to using normal salt - usually I use a rock salt grinder!  So I managed to put one too many pinches of salt on my rice!  Similarly, I don't think I need nearly as much chicken stock for my dinners as I thought.  I'd imagined I might want a whole teaspoon.  Yeah, guess that might be the case for a pot of soup, but for 1/4 cup of rice I used just 1/4 teaspoon.  So now I'm wishing I'd bought a bit less salt and stock powder, and been able to buy some sultanas or something.  Even just a few!

Another thing I've noticed is how high-maintenance my food is.  I got home from a lovely morning at the park, and had to wait for nearly an hour to get my soup all cooked and prepared.  In the meantime, Munchkin had eaten, had milk, had his nappy changed, and gone to bed!  Cheap food invariably requires more human input.  I guess that's because we really do pay for convenience.  Of course, I could always have gone with Boyo's 'instant' Challenge food.  He has been perfectly happy on his diet of bread and wheatbiscuits today.  But there's seriously not enough protein and sustenance to last my high metabolism there!

 At least tomorrow all I have to do is heat up my soup for lunch. It's all made, sitting in the fridge waiting.  And for the record, it tasted okay.  A few too many lentils/barley/split peas and not quite enough kumara/carrot but otherwise quite edible. 

I licked my bowl. 

I licked the serving spoon. 

I even licked the blender.  Yup, I was hungry!  The soup consists of all my soup mix, 10Tbsp of split red lentils, and my 2 small kumara.  I added  a whole small head of broccoli, celery, silverbeet, parsley, thyme and rosemary from the garden.  I used 3 of my 9 small carrots from the garden too, and a tiny drizzle of lemon juice.  Not bad at all.  I will no doubt be very bored of it by Friday though!


The Crowning Glory of my Live Below the Line Menu

Here they are.  My eggs.

You can see here that Dad and I were working out how much it cost per egg in order to split the costs between us (27c each!).  I ate an egg for afternoon tea today.  Must say I am very pleased to have the protein.  Although I do miss my free range ones.  Seriously, I think they do taste nicer.  Grin.  But as they are wont to say, "Beggars can't be choosers."  Very true.


Boyo's Live Below the Line Menu

Here it is, folks.  Boyo's menu.
He likes bread and he likes weetbix.  He's made a few concessions though.  No juice on the weetbix, just plain water.  And not even real weetbix!  This is a big deal.  I am NEVER allowed to buy Boyo anything but 'real' weetbix.  But this box is cheaper, so he decided to lower his standards just this once.  And the bread, well he never buys wheatmeal.  But there wasn't any grainy bread cheap enough when he needed to buy it last night so wheatmeal it is.

Boyo has $1.80 left.  He expects to buy another loaf of bread on Thursday to see him through the Challenge.  He is eating 6 wheatbiscuits for breakfast and dinner and 2-3 for supper.  9 slices of bread are spread throughout the day. 

There you go, folks.  Boyo is Living Below the Line!


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fundraising Update!

We start Live Below the Line tomorrow morning!!!  On the eve of our big adventure in eating, I thought it might be nice to give you a fundraising update:

Online total: $140
Cash total:   $85.80

So that makes $225.80 raised so far to help the people of Maridi in South Sudan!  We are so excited to have got this far!

But we want to raise more.  More than double that, in fact.  We are aiming for $500.  So if you've been thinking about it and just haven't got there yet, sponsor us now!  If you don't think you've got enough to help, you are WRONG.  Even $1 makes a difference to people living in extreme poverty.    Come on, help us make the world a better place.  Change a child's life.  A grandma's life.  A whole community!

If I can eat beans and rice for five days, anyone can!  Seriously.  I dare you to try it, even if just for one meal.  Eat, and remember how blessed we are to have choices, to have income, to have housing, to have clean water, to have loved ones around us.

Tune in tomorrow for a sneak peak at my meals!  Boyo's menu will also feature.  I think Live Below the Line is also featuring on TV tomorrow morning in NZ.  6:30am on Breakfast. I plan on watching!  Dressing gown over my clothes no doubt, bowl of breakfast in hand!  I might even take a photo for you all.  Maybe. 


Beans, beans and more beans

Yesterday I did my Live Below the Line shopping.  Dad and Munchkin came too (my parents are also doing Live Below the Line).  We went armed with calculator, measuring cups and spoons, and our detailed list.  Yup, being a planner, I had already been out and about and worked out most of the costs.

The bag was quite heavy by the time we were done.  But when I laid it all out, it really didn't look like much for an entire five days!  No photos of the actual shopping, sorry.  I desperately wanted to take the camera, but in the end decided that baby, calculator, shopping trolley, bags, measuring gear, lists, and more would be more than I could juggle in two hands!  I was right.  Various moments of thinking I had lost my list (opps, no put it in my pocket, or lost it in my handbag).  Various moments of trying to prevent one bored baby from helping himself to the contents of our trolley.  And his dill of a mother managed to go out without even a drink bottle.  We ended up buying crackers and yoghurt and eating them in the supermarket carpark part way through the marathon shopping - now that's not something I would have been able to do if we were really living in extreme poverty now, is it?!  As my dad said when we were discussing it, we'd have had to walk home, find firewood, light a fire, collect water, and cook ourselves some rice.  Imagine how tired and hungry we would have been by then!

Here are some thoughts from our shopping outing:

Ethics struggle to survive in the face of hunger. Mine disappeared. I’d said before hand I would probably go without bananas and eggs (as Fairtrade and Freerange cost too much). I was thinking of getting kiwifruit instead. But I bought standard bananas and eggs. It was that or not have any, and I ended up deciding that I don’t want to be hungry and they are such good food sources! While kiwifruit are packed with vitamin C, their energy won’t last me as long as bananas, and the bananas were actually on special at $1.39/kg and kiwifruit at $1.69/kg.

Having to make quick decisions can result in errors. I bought some chicken stock. It cost more than I realised (got the calculations on the spot wrong and was calculating at 10% of its actual price!). I put gave the mushroom stock and chilli powder, thankfully, when I realised how much the chicken stock had cost! Embarrassing! Imagine having to make decisions knowing this is all the money you have, and not having any idea of when (or even if) you might be getting more…that adds so much pressure to your shopping. So I could have bought another kumara instead. Or maybe a couple of carrots (they were $1/kg this week!). But I guess we will see whether I think it was worth the flavouring or not at the end of the week. Grin.

Pooling resources really does help. My parents managed to buy a small tin of tuna. Even if I’d not bought the stock, I couldn’t have afforded the tuna, because on my own I couldn’t afford the $1.90 price tag. But they could afford $0.80 each to share one (the smaller sizes were still over $1 each). I got eggs, which I’d not thought I could. This was manageable because I shared with my parents. I got 5 and they got 7.
Dad managed to get a small amount of tea leaves and milk powder.

We didn’t get sultanas…we thought about a 400g bag at $2.40 between the three of us, but eggs and kumara provide better long-term energy than sultanas, especially considering how few sultanas we would get each day for that money.

I sent my dad off with my last $1.10! When it is the last of your money, it is scary releasing it to someone else. He similarly noted that it was scary for him going back into the store and having to make a decision knowing it was not his money, and that I didn’t have any more. (He managed to get me 6 small bananas for $1.10 – which is what I’d hoped for!).

The grand total for my five days of food?  $11.20  Nothing left over.  Nada.  Zero.  If I get hungry, I get hungry.  And I only managed that by pooling resources with my parents and being very, very, very prepared!  My parents had a grand $1.20 left.  Mum since bought 90c worth of dates.  I nearly drooled, hearing that!

Click on the picture to enlarge it
What I got?

Well, quite a lot in some ways.  And not very much in others.  No meat.  No dairy.  Very little fruit.  No greens (but the garden is going to supply those for me).  But you can buy a surprisingly large amount of rice for $2.25 a day.  We shopped at Bin Inn.  This meant we could decide how many grams we wanted of each item, rather than having to buy a 500g or 1kg bag.  It doesn't really mean I got more food for my money, but it definitely means I got more variety!  We also went to three other stores to get the best deal we could on some veges and fruit.

My food for the week:
400g wholegrain rolled oats
500g brown rice
115g salt
200g navy beans
250g red split lentils
250g soup mix
a few teaspooons of chicken stock
2 small kumara
6 small bananas (wahoo!)
5 eggs (double wahoo!)

Eggs not shown, as still in the box with my parent's ones.  I am really, really pleased to have eggs as I usually eat a pretty high protein diet.  Lentils and beans are my other protein sources.  I chose wholegrain oats and brown rice for the added fibre and nutrition they provide over the rolled oats and white basmati rice I usually buy.  The soup mix was an on-the-spot decision.  I'd planned on buying pearl barley, but the soup mix was cheaper (on special!) and is a lot of barley with some split peas and alphabet soup mix.  It probably saved me 9cents.  Which when you are living on so little, is a big deal.  My dad was really chuffed to save 2cents on rounding at the supermarket!  It was really frustrating no longer having 5cent pieces in NZ.

So there you go.  I am ready.  Or at least as ready as I can be.  Boyo will buy the rest of his food tonight.  This is going to be one interesting ride!


TV3 Highlights Live Below the Line!

Live Below the Line featured on TV3 last night (Saturday) in New Zealand!

Here is the link

There's a 'paper' article, but also a video (you just have to put up with a mammoth advert first, grr).
The guys in the bright yellow shirts are a team from All Good Bananas doing the Challenge, who incidentally are giving 10c from every Fairtrade bunch of bananas sold during Live Below the Line to Global Poverty Project!

We're in the Paper!

My wonderful husband contacted our local weekend paper, and they wrote an article about us doing Live Below the Line (sadly, Boyo was at Polytech when the photo was taken)!  We've had lots of people comment that they saw us in the paper.  It is one of those papers that a lot of people just pick up for a nice weekend read, so a great place to be featured.  Isn't it cool?!?

Replace grey smudges with 'Boyo'!
Please note: the information in the article about our weekly food budget is incorrect.  I was asked how much we spend each week, and replied that I don't know but we hope to donate $40 to Live Below the Line as that is how much we will save over the five days.  Our grocery budget is in fact $530/month, which is $17.10/day.  So that would make it $120 per week for the three of us...but we allowed $4/day for Munchkin (he eats quite lot, and the higher quality stuff we buy too) and the $20.40 we'd spend doing the Challenge, to come to a saving of $43 that we will donate.  The Sun just got a bit confused and added that $40 to the $20 for the challenge, forgetting it is 5 days, rather than 7 and does not include Munchkin.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

One Day Off

I took one day off.

I put down my crochet hook and my knitting bag, and took one day off.

But then there was a programme on tv.  And a night of study.  I needed to wind down.  How else, but through knitting?!?

Two days after finishing 2011's blanket, here is 2012's.

What can I say?  I'm addicted! 


Blanket Mania

Yesterday Munchkin and I revelled in blankets.  We soaked in their bright colours, crazy patterns, and soft wool.  It was our annual Blanket Mania day!  Offically, it was the Bay of Plenty wrap up party for Operation Cover Up.  But seriously, there were enough blankets there that we could just call it blanket mania!  Blankets hanging over chairs, blankets piled high on tables, blankets bagged in ones or twos or fives in big rubbish bags.  Plain coloured blankets, multicoloured ones, bright colours, muted tones, big squares, small stripes.  You name it, that blanket was probably there!  Then there were all the hats, scarves, and jerseys too! 
I love going for the inspiration.  "Oh," I think to myself, "I could do one like this next time.  That's a great idea!"  I love going so I can feel connected with others (this is my second year of going to see other people's blankets, when I've been knitting now for nearly seven).  And this year, Munchkin got to come with me.  We took the stroller.  He's too heavy for me to hold now.  The stroller is really not designed for indoor use.  Great for walkways.  Copes brilliantly with rough terrain and steps.  Not so good in a room full of crowded people, many elderly, sipping tea and eating cake!  Let's just say I was a bit worried someone was going to trip over us or get their toes run over, but we made it through without incident.  After snapping a bazillion photos (okay so maybe it wasn't QUITE that much!), I let Munchy out for a wander.  He found a ball.  Of wool.  It bounced quite well.  He wandered around and duly received a few ohhs and ahhhs and "What a gorgeous boy" comments. 

Here is my blanket, on the table ready to be bagged up with all the others!

I handed in my blanket with a whole bunch of stationary, soaps, toothpaste and toothbrushes donated by my mum. 

Picked up a newsletter (and Munchkin got to keep his ball of wool!).

And off we went again.  Tears nearly forming in my eyes as I realised I am a small part of something much bigger, something very generous, very colourful, and very warm!

And here is the photo gallery for your viewing pleasure:


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gumboots and Exploration

On my mind today are gorgeous new gumboots and the joys of exploration.  Dirty fingers.  Wet knees from crawling through grass still damp from the last patch of rain.  Wind on face.  Warm woolly hats.  Big smiles as we discover something new together.  The joy of togetherness, productiveness, and connectedness to our world.  When Munchkin wakes up, we are heading back outside!

I am linking in with Rhonda's "On My Mind."

Totally Love my Life

I totally love my life!
There is no doubt my stress levels are way too high. But in all honestly, I love my life. My miracle life, that’s what it is. My miracle baby. Studying, that’s another miracle. Having spent four years living with chronic fatigue, the very fact that I have a child is a miracle. That I have studied while pregnant and with a baby is definitely miraculous. I just shouldn’t have been able to. If someone told me even two years ago that this would be my life, I probably would have laughed in derision. Yeah, right, whatever. The girl who frequently got ‘lost’ somewhere in a sentence, and couldn’t string a few words together properly? Study? Do a DEGREE? A busy, high energy, demanding, teaching degree? Sure. In my dreams maybe.

Have a baby? My heart’s desire. But I also feared whether I could carry a baby. I’d had an early miscarriage, and that experience was gut-wrenchingly destroying. Both the being pregnant (mind fog, exhaustion, how on earth would I have coped with a full pregnancy?!?), and then losing our baby. God had reassured me that he would give me one. I just never thought it would be NOW. In the middle of a degree. And that I’d have to keep on studying, and find myself able to do it physically, emotionally, mentally. But I have. It’s a miracle. A miracle I try to remind myself of when the workload gets too much, the baby too cranky and life feels overwhelming.

I love my life. I am fulfilling two major dreams: to have a child, and to have a career.

I love where we live. God told me he was ‘preparing a city for us’ in the year between when we felt to come back to NZ from Australia and when we actually moved. And he has. Our church is just right for us. Our unit came available at just the right time. It’s ideal. Walkway just out the door. Shops 15minutes up the road (walking!). My parents 20minutes walk away. Somewhere to dry washing! Affordable (a huge blessing!).
I love being able to walk places, to not need the car. Many of my friends live near me, and I’m trying to get out with the stroller and visit more.
I love our quiet, peaceful neighbourhood.
I love the wildlife. Tuis come and visit, our back neighbour has chooks.
I love the life this offers my son. I love that he gets to bond with his daddy, that they see each other often and we eat dinner together. I love Munchy helping me with the shopping and the washing and the wormfarm. I love that he gets to see his grandparents regularly (Boyo’s parents are only an hour’s drive away).

Even though life has not turned out at all how I imagined or hoped it would, somehow it still has managed to end up with elements of my heart’s desires within it:
Connectedness, involvement, and belonging with our local church
Growing friendships
Activation of my passion to alleviate extreme poverty
An amazing son
The ability to study, and work towards a career I am really passionate and excited about
Improving connection and relationship with Boyo
The beach

Being able to be outside, to go for relaxing and soul-restoring walks on a daily basis

The blossoms along our walkway!
Being able to garden and grow some of our own food

One of Munchkin's early gardening forays!  He did enjoy it, despite the serious expression.
Even though my life can be very busy, and with that very stressful, there is really very little I would change if given the chance.
A lighter study load?
A home of our own (so my chookies could live here instead of at my parents)
More income
A bath (I so miss my Friday soak-the-week-away baths!)
That’s about it. There is so much to be grateful for in my life just as it is. And the things that we don’t have (like a home of our own, and that bath), well, I feel like they will come, and I can wait.

I         Love          My           Life.

Linking in with Paisley Jade's "Things I'm Loving"!


I've set a stop-loss for the Challenge.  In case you're wondering, a stop-loss is basically a safety mechanism.  A pull-the-plug point.  At which point in a venture will you decide that enough is enough and it is time to give up and move on, that you've lost too much time, money, or sleep over something that is not returning you what you hoped?  You might apply a stop-loss to negotiations over buying a new house (if we can't get it for $xxxxxx then we will walk away because the house is not worth more than that, or we can't pay for more than that).  You might use one for a business venture (if the business doesn't make us money by such-and-such a date, we will fold it up and do something else).  Any area of our lives can have stop-losses applied to it.  In fact, we often do this unconsciously.  For instance, how bad does a meal have to be before you stop eating it?  For me, if food tastes burnt, I won't eat.  The experience is not worth it for me.  If it's a bit bland or salty though, usually I will just keep eating it.

So, stop-loss.  I have decided that I need to protect and look after myself while doing the Challenge.  I am in full semester mode (which means I have to study throughout the Challenge).  Hopefully I will get enough work done this week that I don't need to get up at 5am to study.  5am study means I eat two breakfasts!  Not really an option on the Challenge.  I also have a 15month old son, who has been teething on and off lately.  We are praying the teeth stay still for a couple of weeks! 

I've decided that if I feel physically unwell to the point I can't function, I will eat more.  But I won't stop doing the Challenge.  I will go to my cupboard and pull out some more food, yes.  But Challenge-type food.  Only stuff that is the same as what I will already be eating on the Challenge.  So my stop-loss is that if I am unwell, I can eat more, but not different.  Sound okay?


Breaking the Rules

You might have read that the Live Below the Line Challenge comes with its own set of special rules so we don't cheat.  Because it is meant to give us at least some idea of the real issues faced by real people living in really extreme poverty and we can't experience that if we keep making ourselves concessions.
This said, I am breaking the rules.
One rule.
I am using our garden produce.

#1 - I had been wanting to do a challenge like this since I was pregnant with Munchkin, but managed to convince myself that it was too hard and I couldn't do it on my own.  My original challenge was going to be living on $2US a day and using garden produce.  I was also going to allow some oil, salt, and sauces from my cupboard in my original ideas.  I'm sticking to the garden produce being allowed but not the others.

#2 - I want to look at food security.  Being a gardener, and interested in food production, supply, and security I want to look at how having access to food you have grown yourself can increase your nutrition, food security, and overall wellbeing.  This Challenge is a good opportunity to do so.  We have not planted or planned anything for the Challenge.  It is just what happens to be there from our autumn plantings.  Greens and herbs.  I will be keeping a daily record of what I eat from the garden and how I feel that affects my wellbeing throughout the Challenge.  Boyo has turned up his nose at utilising the garden.  It doesn't really go with his meal plan (which you will read about during Challenge week)!

This week I will be actively clearing our fridge by degrees.  No fresh food allowed in there by Monday week, other than what Munchkin is eating!  It seems silly to waste food by doing a food challenge, so I will likely soup all remaining veges on Saturday and freeze what doesn't get eaten by Sunday night.  That way I also remove as much temptation as possible.  Of course there is still the pantry to consider.  Grin.

I finished tweaking my menu plan for the Challenge yesterday (I think! It has had a few revisions already!).  Lots of weighing, calculation, and muttering to myself.  But I'm not going to show you the final product until Challenge week! 


Thursday, August 11, 2011

All Crocheted Out

People say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  So here you go:

Yes, I have FINISHED THE BLANKET!  I've even written a letter to go with it (complete with a few photos), and popped in a couple of knitted hats.  Tomorrow I will get a couple of tubes of toothpaste from my parents to add to the stash and will then be all ready to drop off the blanket on Tuesday afternoon.  I've been feeling a bit unwell the past two days, so crocheting has taken priority over study while I wait out whatever bug is trying to attack me!  Will be doing a big study blitz on the weekend though as Munchkin is having a sleepover at his grandparents.  His mummy is hoping to get quite a lot of assignment work done!

I can't tell you the relief in knowing I've finished one thing in the pile of things to do.  Knowing that the blanket will be able to ship out on time with all the others from around New Zealand leaves me feeling really pleased.  Proud of myself in fact.  I'm really still not quite sure how I managed to finish a whole blanket this past year.  I didn't really expect to.  After all, I was still finishing off the previous year's one a couple of months after the cut off last year.  It is a completely different matter finishing a blanket when you are a student with a baby to just working part or full time like I used to.  But I've done it, and it looks beautiful.  The only thing I wasn't happy with is that my wool ran out about 5cm from the end of the last strip!!!  So I had to use a different colour!  Grr.  (See it, bottom right photo above?). 

I just wish I could be there when they unload a truck of blankets at an orphanage in the Ukraine or Moldovia or wherever they are going this year.  Wish I could see joy light up the children's faces as they each get their blanket, as they stroke their hands over the soft wool and drink in the bright and cheery colours.  Priceless.  And even thinking about their joy, and the hours of warmth this blanket will provide both body and soul leaves me with the certainty that the hours of knitting and crocheting are definitely worth it.  Every single minute.  And yes, I will be doing it again!


Monday, August 8, 2011

Boyo Talks About Live Below the Line

Hi folks, here's a few thoughts from my wonderful husband about our up-and-coming challenge!

"Hi All,

Amy has asked me to do a little thing for her blog regarding my taking up the challenge to ‘live below the line’ for a week.

I am not too sure what I will write here, so you’ll have to bear with me on this one ;op

When we were out for a walk this afternoon, she asked me what my motivation was. And to put it bluntly, it is the money that we can raise.

I am a very competitive person (that is one of my strengths), so I am trying to raise more than she is. My aim would be to raise at least our goal for the challenge, on my own. Our goal is to raise $500.

When we set this goal, neither of us had any idea as to how exactly we were going to raise this money. So for us, that was a lot of money to expect.

For Amy, she seems to think that if we don’t make our goal, then oh well, her main aim is to raise awareness of the extreme poverty. But because I am so competitive, I really would be disappointed if we don’t (combined), manage to raise that amount.

The more I talk to people, the more I think we can raise. I work in a supermarket, and have had a lot of support from my co-workers there. So it would be disappointing to then not get much money from them all.

They are all a little shocked that we are trying to live off so little. But in my mind, it really doesn’t bother me.

I already have my menu set out (I haven’t purchased the items yet, cause it is still a few weeks away). But my plan is to eat wheat biscuits for breakfast and dinner (I currently already have Weetbix for breakfast, so I know what to expect in that area), and then I will be having sandwiches for lunch (as in, plain bread). As a teenager, I used to regularly eat plain bread, so another thing that really doesn’t bother me. I was originally just going to have plain bread the entire time. But I think that having Wheat Biscuits would be a little more healthy for me.

I am also considering maybe purchasing a small pack of biscuits as a treat. But am not too sure how much bread I will be eating, so will wait until near the end of the challenge and see if I have enough money left, and whether I can be bothered.

One of my goals is to try having as much money left over as possible, which I will then donate to our chosen cause.

We will also be donating all the money that we save during the process. As in, we have a weekly budget for our groceries. So we have divided that up in to 7, to work out what we spend per day. From there, we have worked out how much we will be saving by not eating our normal food, and the difference we will be donating to our charity of choice.

I think it has worked out to be roughly $40 (give or take).

I challenge every one who reads this, to go without something for one single day, and donate that money (for example, try going without that coffee, and donate the $4 to 5 that it would have cost, to these people who are living in extreme poverty instead). It may seem like only a small amount to you, as an individual, but could make a HUGE difference to some one who genuinely needs it.

Just think about how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful country. And be thankful that you weren’t one of the many who really don’t have much chance in life, because they happened to be born in to extreme poverty (out of no choice of their own).

Well, I think I have written enough here. Better sign off and let Amy post this. Hopefully, this sees a few more donations coming in. Remember, the link is:"