Photography Selection

Over the past few years I have become interested in learning about photography. I especially enjoy black & white photography and photos with interesting angles or textures and lighting. Here is a small selection of photos I have taken, from across Europe, Hong Kong and Australia.

If you’d like to see some more examples of my photographs, please check out Stay at Home Dadding’s Photography Category.

Reading Benefits – Why it is Vital to Read to and with Your Children

“They told me I was going to lose the fight,
Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights”

(Wuthering Heights, Kate Bush)

There are so many benefits of reading to children as well as reading with your children. It’s about the best thing that a parent can do to help their kids succeed through schooling, (along with making sure they always have a good breakfast and a good night’s sleep).

 

Whilst perhaps obvious, having access to books is crucial to encouraging literacy in children. I try to have at least a few children’s books available in each main room of our house. When a child sees a parent reading, they can easily grab a book for themselves to enjoy.

IKEA Kallax - Benefits of Reading to Children - Reading Benefits

Matilda and the Bookworms

Matilda by Roald Dahl was one of my favourite novels during my primary school years. I particularly enjoyed Matilda’s escapism through reading books and taking trips to the library. When I was growing up in Australia, books were often seen to be “uncool” and more for the girls than for boys. I’m glad to see that these attitudes appear to be changing. I think a lot of children who are little bookworms can recognise a part of themselves in the character of Matilda. The character and her adventures make them feel even better about their reading habits.

Matilda - Reading Benefits

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Libraries and Daydreaming

Every week, I bring home a couple of books from the library for each of my children. Borrowing books instead of buying them helps us in maintaining a minimalist household. I’m all for having a great book collection at home, but it should be made up exclusively of favourites. Buying fewer books also helps to keep our family expenses down.

In a 2013 lecture on why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming, author Neil Gaiman raised some very good points. It is quite long, but I’d encourage you to read the entire lecture (or The Guardian’s abridged version) if you get a chance.

I found a lot of value in what he said about fiction building empathy as the reader learns to view worlds through the eyes of others. Gaiman also quotes Albert Einstein to support his case:

“If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Studies have found that reading may cause side-affects such as developing the habit of crossing your fingers and looking thoughtfully off to one side.

To the Book Depository!

If you’re looking for some ideas on quality books for your children – check out Book Recommendations and Author Spotlight. These articles are all about our favourite books, why we love them and why they are great for improving a child’s literacy.

Reading Benefits - Benefits of reading to children

Happy reading!

Bea Johnson – Zero Waste Home (Book Recommendations)

Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home, The Ultimate Guide To Simplifying Your Life is a book that we can highly recommend to anyone looking to reduce their household’s waste. Bea Johnson began her journey towards running a zero waste household over 8 years ago. She is married with two children, lives in California and engages in a minimalist lifestyle. This book, first published in 2013, is a brilliant resource for those interested in zero waste living.

The 5 Rs

Early in the book, Bea Johnson introduces us to the concept of the 5Rs. These are listed in a particular order.

5rs

Step 1 is to Refuse what we do not need. (e.g. freebies, junk mail, business cards, hotel toiletries and single use plastics).

Step 2 is to Reduce. This requires each individual to question, “what can I live without? what can I live with less of?”

Step 3 is to Reuse. The is not the same as recycling. This is about choosing reusable coffee cups and shopping bags instead of disposable options; buying second-hand clothes and repairing broken items instead of replacing them.

Step 4 is to Recycle. You know what this means, but what is down-cycling? And how much from your recycling bin actually ends up being recycled? Australians can learn a lot of these answers from The ABC’s War on Waste.

Step 5 is to Rot. This is largely about food waste. Please check out my recent post on worm farms for more info on this topic.

The concept of the 5Rs are just the tip of the idea iceberg that Zero Waste Home includes.

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Criticisms of Critics

There’s always a critic, and Bea Johnson has her fair share. In particular, she cops a lot of flack from vegans. I would rather her be celebrated for what she is doing well and for inspiring others than to see her ridiculed for her dietary choices. Some people talk in absolutes and are very black and white when it comes to these sorts of ethical things. It is both unfair and counter productive to declare that someone who is not 100% successful in their honourable endeavours is a failure.

She openly discusses techniques that she has tried and later stopped for various reasons (e.g. her abandonment of making soy milk at home). I think that this openness is great. Through being honest in Zero Waste Home about her challenges and failings, Bea Johnson seems more human to the reader. This in turn makes her achievements seems more achievable to the rest of us.

At the end of the day, we do not personally need to hold up a single jar containing all our annual waste to be successful. Lauren Singer and Bea Johnson do such things not only for publicity, but to demonstrate what is possible and to inspire us to do better. Also, please remember that they’ve been doing this for a while now. There are many changes to make in order to live a zero waste lifestyle – it takes a while, so ignore the haters who say one should be immediately perfect or shut up. If you’re vegan but still have 10% of the waste you once did, you’re doing great. If you eat eggs but buy all your clothing second-hand and don’t own a car, you’re doing great too.

Bea Johnson – TED Talk

Here is Bea Johnson’s TED Talk from 2016, it will give you a good idea of Bea’s passion and philosophy and will hopefully inspire you to pick up a copy of Zero Waste Home, The Ultimate Guide To Simplifying Your Life.

The paperback, is $18.75 in Australian dollars from Booktopia or €9.49 from Amazon.de

For any extra info, here is Bea Johnson’s website, Zero Waste Home.

Each Peach Pear Plum – Rock’n’Roll Storytime

Each Peach Pear Plum is a wonderful children’s book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Each page’s artwork has a hidden character. It’s great fun for children to flick through the pages and play “I Spy”. Cinderella, Tom Thumb and the Three Bears are just some of the classic characters hidden through the pages of Each Peach Pear Plum.

I’ve chosen to turn this book into a song for this month’s Rock’n’roll Storytime, now up on YouTube.

My Zero Waste Living, V60 Coffee Setup

“Meet me at the coffee shop, we can dance like Iggy Pop”

Coffee. I love coffee. Without around three cups of coffee a day, I doubt I’d ever be able to get the dadding done. This article is all about my zero waste living, V60 coffee setup.

Over the years, my coffee setup has changed many times. I’m very happy with how my setup is at the moment, for taste, convenience and for being zero waste.

 

Previous Misadventures in Coffee Making

For brewing, I’ve tried many different methods. I found that plungers (french presses) always made my coffees taste gritty and watery. The electronic machines that I’ve tried always seem junky and have taken up a heap of bench space in the kitchen. I quite liked my moka pot but I eventually burnt the rubber handle off mine. I used an Aeropress for a year or two and whilst I could get a smooth cup of coffee at times, I found the process very clumsy and messy.

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The Winner Is … Hario’s V60 Dripper

V60

 

A couple of Christmases back, my brother and my sister-in-law gave me a Hario V60 Dripper. I have the white porcelain model, and from the very first time I used I’ve been amazed and how well it works. I really love it. The V60 makes the smoothest coffee I’ve ever made at home from any method. It’s also about the quickest, easiest and least messy.

Although I need to buy V60 filters, I’ll explain later how it is still a zero waste coffee setup. You can buy filters in plastic or in cardboard packaging. I get mine in cardboard from Essential Coffee Services. The people who run the shop are very friendly and I’ve noticed that their filter prices are cheaper than those of cafés in Sydney.

V60 fliters

Grind Time

I’ve always ground my own beans and think that having freshly ground beans could be the single biggest factor in making a good cup of coffee. The closer to brew time that they’re ground, the better – I’ll usually grind my beans as the kettle is boiling.

For years, I used an electronic grinder with a broken button taped on with electrical tape. I was never really happy with its inconsistent grind. Having to be attached to a power socket would often make it difficult for me to access of a morning, with a busy family in a small kitchen. Waiting for coffee is not my favourite thing in life.

Last year I finally replaced my electric grinder with a hand grinder – my wife likes to refer to my it as my “Altes Kaffeemühle”. The grind is more consistent now, which makes my brew taste better. I can grind up beans in the lounge room if my kitchen is crowded and it’s good exercise too!

A hand grinder saves on electricity – maybe not much, but if you can save a buck, why not? Plus, I find that electrical things are always more like to break down than non-electrical.

The model I got was one of the more affordable ones – the Rhinowares Hand Grinder. For the cost, I’m pretty happy with it, but there is one big annoyance with it. The bottom canister (that catches the ground up coffee beans) slips and falls right off! This makes it awkward to use as I need to focus on holding the device together whilst trying to maintain a decent grip on the top half as well.

Rinowares Hand Coffee Grinder

Beans

I get my beans locally and in bulk, usually 1KG at a time. Wherever possible, I get them in paper packaging and transfer them to a large glass jar when I get home.

Here are some of the suppliers in Berlin and Sydney whose beans I’ve enjoyed.

Sydney

The Wood Roaster – good value. Brown paper bag, but unfortunately plasticky on the inside.

(You can pick it up from Essential Coffee Services around the corner. They also have a ‘cyclists’ brand from the South Coast which is great value).

Coffee Alchemy – great reputation, mostly about $50/kg for beans. I haven’t tried all their blends yet, but am looking forward to them. Some days, I can smell their shop’s coffee beans roasting from my home. Very enticing.

Alfalfa House – they have no packaging which is fantastic. They have three varieties to choose from, the cheapest one was quite nice, but even the cheapest is up there with Coffee Alchemy in price.

Berlin

Bonanza – I loved their coffee, but even though Angie calls me a coffee snob, I rarely ever buy the high-end stuff. Sure, I’d love to get the best beans around, but that’s not the greatest idea when we are four people living off one income. Every dollar (or euro) I don’t spend on coffee, is another dollar saved for my family, so normally I’d only get Bonanza on birthday week.

The Barn – my brother always swore by their beans, whilst they are great, I again found them a little more expensive than I’d normally like to spend.

Pakolat – a very cozy café with decent and affordable beans.

Friedl – also good, I often got their Brazilian blend, I found it really nice.

Zero Waste Coffee

The used up coffee grinds finally go on our vertical garden and raised garden bed, this is to deter insects. Slugs had started to munch on our kale plants when my eight year old son told me that he’d learned at school how coffee grinds can help keep insects away from crops. Sure enough, his tip has worked wonders in our backyard!

As I mentioned earlier, I try to get both my beans and filters in paper packaging. When it comes to the V60 coffee filters themselves, I feed them to our worms. Worms aren’t the biggest fan of coffee generally, but the knowledgable person at Newtown’s Green Living Centre told me that they’d be cool having a little bit each day. They definitely don’t seem bothered by the little bit left on the sides of my filters and happily munch threw them in no time.

Coffee To Go

In case I ever need a coffee on the run, I always bring my reusable cup with me. Some people use a thermos, but I’ve never found that the contents stay hot enough for long, so I’m not really a fan.

The ABC program, War on Waste, which I have recently recommended, demonstrates that whilst a disposable coffee cup is mostly recyclable – they are not being recycled due to a small amount of plastic lining on the inside. The program also showed how many cafés are now giving a discount of up to 50¢ per coffee for people who bring in their own cups.

War on Waste Coffee Cups

I picked up my first reusable cup from Bio Company. It had a Berlin S-Bahn design which I really liked, being a nerd who is slightly fanatical about Berlin’s public transport system.

Unfortunately, my cup dropped and was cracked. I was pretty sad about that, but instead of throwing the entire cup out, I now use it is a pencil caddy.

Berlin Pencil Caddy 3

I recently got a replacement cup for free from Naked Foods – they had a promotion running in which you received a free Keep Cup with a spend of over $30.

Keep Cup Coffee Reuable

That’s it for now, perhaps one day I’ll crate a post about my favourite cafés to sit down and enjoy a coffee in. Lately, my daughter and I have found ourselves in various cafés in Sydney’s Inner West, with young Batgirl becoming quite the Kinder Kaffee (babycino) connoisseur.

Starting a Worm Farm & What Worms Eat

Last year, on our continuing quest towards living with zero waste, we invested in a worm farm. The worm farm was inexpensive at first and completely free to run since then. We found the worm farm easy to set up and maintain. Since the first month, the worms have provided our garden and plants with free organic fertiliser. In case you’re concerned, it doesn’t smell and isn’t really gross at all. Best of all, it has truly succeeded in helping us to cut our waste in a dramatic way.

 

 

Starting a Worm Farm

Starting a worm farm is easy and should cost you well under $100. We got a Worm Factory starter kit from Green Living Centre in Newtown.

This is Worm Factory’s own video about their product.

The one complaint I have with our Worm Factory worm farm is that the legs could not handle the weight of the worm farm, once it really got going. We removed the legs and placed the worm farm on two adjacent milk crates (please note that the legs with which our model came are different from the ones in the diagram below). I’m also very careful with the tap as I’m afraid it could snap off, although this concern might be unfounded.

We felt that we didn’t buy quite enough worms to start with, so we bought some extras from Addison Road Markets. They had babies and now we have a good number to munch through the plenitude of scraps that we feed them.

If, after reading this article, you want any extra information, the people at HoboGro are extremely knowledgable.  They can even tell you how they make practically free worm farm housing from repurposed items, collected from the sides of streets. I especially liked the description they gave me of the three levels of our worm farm.

  • The dining room
  • The lounge room
  • The swimming pool

The diagram below shows how you can add more levels at a later date if you require them.

How to Start a Worm Farm and What Worms Eat

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What Worms Eat

I’d like to give you a brief guide on what worms eat, to get you thinking about how a worm farm can help you reduce the amount of waste from your own home.

Initially, we found things like carrot tops would sit in the worm farm for weeks, with no sign of being broken down. The best trick we’ve learnt is that blending the food before giving it to the worms makes it waaayyy quicker for them to break down. We collect scraps such as banana peels, broken paper bags, avocado shells and apple cores in a paper bag in the fridge. We had a small compost bin on our kitchen bench for a while, but found that little flies liked to come and visit it even with the lid on tightly. Once our bag a food scraps is full, I throw it all in the Vitamix with a bit of water. My kids call this “a smoothie for the wormies”.

Here are some good things to give the worms:

Coniferous Waste – greens – some things such as the tops of leeks we save for making stock.

Fruit Scraps e.g. Banana Peels & Apple Cores

Other Vegetable Scraps e.g. ends of carrots – some things like sweet potato peels I save for making stock

Pasta

Lentils

Paper – this is where the bulk of our colouring pages finally end up.

I have to say, my whole family is really great at saving all of this stuff for the worms, even our three year old.

How to Start a Worm Farm and What Worms Eat

What Worms Don’t Like

Garlic – instead we save these scraps in the freezer for making stock.

Onion – instead we save these scraps in the freezer for making stock.

Bread – my kids make sure that we never waste any bread.

Citrus – this is one of the few things to find its way into straight compost (green waste bin).

Coffee Grinds – a little is ok, the rest is used on our garden to deter insects. You can read my Zero Waste Coffee Setup article for more info.

And in the End…

From the tap attached to “the swimming pool”, eventually comes worm wee. This is the fertiliser which helps our vegetable garden grow.

Having a worm farm continues to massively reduced our waste each week. The only food scraps I haven’t been able to get rid of in either stock-making or worm food (aside from citrus peels) are avocado seeds. I have heard, however, that if you smash them with a hammer you can even feed these to worms.

Furthermore, it is a zero waste project that the four of us get to work towards as a family. My kids especially enjoy getting involved with the worm farm. They like to come outside and say ‘hi’ to the worms and to help feed them. When we close the lid, my daughter always says in her cute little voice “goodnight wormies”. So in conclusion, worm farm = zero waste + zero regrets.

Here’s a song that I’m sure your kids will enjoy, it’s largely about having an earthworm for a friend. It is from Weezer’s guest spot on Yo Gabba Gabba’s Super Music Friends Show.