Gathering the straws of life together

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Cooking with cilantro

Cooking with cilantro

Cooking with cilantro is now one of my favourite things to do! But what is cilantro I hear you saying? Last week when making a curry I hurriedly went into the garden and picked what I thought was flat leaf parsley. We did have flat […]

Heritage hens can go broody

Heritage hens can go broody

It seems that more and more people these days have backyard chickens and if they are heritage hens they can go broody. It you, like me, have the space and are prepared to do a little work then you can have the joy of eating […]

Codeine Control

Codeine Control

As of today, the 1st February 2018, there is codeine control in Australia. We will join 26 other countries who have also introduced codeine control. If you want a painkiller that has codeine it will no longer be available over the counter (OTC) at the chemist. Pharmacists are little worried that some people may not have heard about the change. People will turn up and expect the pharmacist to hand them something stronger than paracetamol. To get a painkiller, stronger than paracetamol, a person will have to make a doctor’s appointment. There have been rumours of people stock-piling and there are good reasons for this for people who are sensible in managing their pain.

How did the codeine control come about?

An expert panel recommended to the Federal Government that codeine control for pain killers was the best way to protect the public.

What drugs have codeine

The painkillers that contain codeine and now only available by prescription include Panadeine, Nurofen Plus, Mersyndol, and pharmacy generic products. Some cold and flu medications also contain codeine. However, there is no mention to date, that we will have to go to our General Practitioner (GP) to get a prescription for cough mixture.

Extra trips to the doctor

Think of this scenario. I have a toothache but cannot get into the dentist until after the weekend. I have taken paracetamol for 24 hours and the pain persists. I will have to see my GP to get a prescription for something stronger, a painkiller that has codeine.

If you are one of those fortunate people whose GP bulk-bills then you won’t be too concerned about having to pay for a doctor’s visit to get stronger pain relief. If you are not entitled to bulk-billing your visit, then you will pay.

It’s Friday and I made an appointment to see a doctor. I can’t cope with this toothache all weekend! I can’t see my regular GP, fully booked, yet I am lucky enough to see another doctor. This should make me feel better, but my tooth is still aching. The visit, for less than a 20-minute consultation will cost me $75.00, but the good news is I will get a refund from Medicare of $37.05. Prescription in hand I take the shortest trip to the pharmacy. That little box of 20 tablets has cost me almost $60. Don’t think because you are an aged pensioner all is well in your world. Increasingly, medical practices are changing and charging pensioners up to $55 for a consultation.

The strongest painkiller over the counter at the pharmacy is paracetamol. Even better, buy a home brand product which is cheaper than the pharmacy!

Medicare costs will increase

The government argument for codeine control is about patient care. However, all codeine control will do is increase the cost of Medicare, for the government and consumer. It will also put more demand on GP’s and more waiting time for a doctor’s appointment. This will not make the public happy when someone with more serious symptoms, than a toothache, must wait a week or more to see a doctor. A few people needing codeine have congested the queue!

How harmful is codeine

Codeine is a low dose analgesic. It is at the lower end of the range of opioids. Codeine is a low efficacy opiate drug. On its own codeine is not a pain reliever. Once it is in the body, the liver metabolises codeine into morphine. Any pain-relieving effects is determined by how fast a person’s liver metabolises codeine. It cannot be predicted as to whether some people will have a bad response to codeine, hence now it is in the hands of the GP.

ABC’s Fran Kelly spoke last week to Professor Brendan Murphy, Chief Medical Officer. He said the main reason for codeine control is the concern about addiction, around 100 deaths a year from misusing the drug. Professor Murphy said that around 600,000 Australians are abusing low-dose codeine. However, Professor Peter Carroll, University of Sydney, holds the view that most people use low-dose codeine safely and appropriately for acute pain.

Read about Katie McQueen, as reported by the ABC, and how codeine control will affect her. Also, in the same article is a story about Peter Panas who has chronic back pain. With the help of Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital pain management program his quality of life has improved.

What are the statistics saying?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us that in 2016 there were 1,808 drug induced deaths. This is the highest number of drug deaths in twenty years, and like those in the late 1990’s, when a steep increase in opioid use, specifically heroin, the deaths in Australia peaked at 1,740 in 1999. Although the 2016 statistic is the highest on record, the death rate per capita of 7.5 per 100,000 people is lower than that in 1999 (9.2 deaths per 100,000 people). Find more information here.

The highest number of drug induced deaths in 2016 is due to Benzodiazepines (663 – 36.7%). These include Alprazolam, Diazepam, Oxazepam, Clonazepam, Clozapine, Temazepam, and Oxazepam. Other opioids, including Oxycodone and Codeine account for 550 (30.4%) deaths and alcohol 222 deaths (12.3%). Of the top 20 causes of death in Australia there is no mention of codeine and the associated pain killers. Read more here.

The National President of the Pharmacy Guild, George Tambassis, said that the decision to up-schedule the medicines were short-sighted and ultimately would only add pressure to the already financially stressed health system, while also increasing the burden on already over-worked doctors. The codeine up-scheduling decision fails consumers according to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. 

As Mr Tambassis said “shifting it (codeine) to prescription only without a mandated real-time recording system or any screening program will simply bury the problem even deeper in the overwhelmed system and cost shift it to an already bursting MBS (Medicare Benefits Schedule)”. Well said George!

“T” is for Technology

“T” is for Technology

Yes, “T” is for Technology. Technology is moving so fast we all must be on our “front foot” to keep up with it. If you are like me you also know that “T” is for Trouble and “T” is for Time, such as pulling your […]

Fork to Fork

Fork to Fork

We are enjoying a fork to fork experience as our home veggie garden is producing some of our food. Why should we worry about fork to fork when it is so easy to pick up veggies at the supermarket or local markets? There are a couple of reasons why I have gone down the track and today I will share those with you.

Home grown organic: the first reason is that when we grow our own organic produce we have better tasting food. We reduce the food kilometres and we know that our food is fresh – no storage! I really like beans, particularly when cooked in garlic – yummy. However, I have found that the beans we buy from the supermarket do not keep for long in the fridge. Even in an airtight container. Therefore, we went out and bought bean seedlings, the stringless type that grow in a small bush and do not need a lot of climbing space. Only after a few weeks the growth is phenomenal. It won’t be long before we will be eating our own green beans, fresh from the garden.

Improve our health: when we grow our own food, we know how these are grown. If they are organic than there are no pesticides. The more veggies we eat, the better is it for our health. The more colours we can put on our plate helps us get the nutrients we need. Also, I know that my food is safe to eat with no contaminants.

Our small backyard veggie garden is thriving!
If you live just around the corner, come over and pick up a lettuce!

Get outdoors and exercise: having a veggie garden gets me outside. Once I am outside then I am breathing in fresh air, looking around and enjoying my surroundings. By the time I have watered the plants, citrus trees and pulled out a few weeds I have had 15 minutes of exercise.

Save money: saving money on grocery shopping means we have extra $$$’s for treats, outings and holidays. For those on a low-income saving money is important and they get all the other benefits plus keep within their budget. Saving money is not my primary motivation but it is still satisfying knowing that I am not wasting our money.

Time to get the fork and dig out the potatoes – a real fork to fork experience!
Our first potato harvest this year! Still more potatoes in the ground.

Soul satisfaction: growing your own veggies is good for the soul. It just makes me feel good to see my plants flourishing. A little work in the veggie garden is very rewarding. A few months back we grew snow peas. From the garden to our plates in less than an hour. The taste is very different to the peas bought at the supermarket. Then there are our potatoes! The real fork to fork experience. So fresh. Steamed with butter or roasted – bellissimo! My O&O planted the seeded potatoes and I watered them most days when doing my gardening/chicken chores.

What about the chickens: Yes, our chickens also have the fork to fork experience. When we have cherry tomatoes a few go into their run for them to enjoy. Then when my O&O cuts the leg of ham, some of the bits are set aside for the chickens. This is their top food item now! Once they finish they squawk for more. A little is never enough! They do not understand the word moderation!

This is Lucy relaxing with her friend who lives next door. Birds of a feather, stick together!
Here is Carmella scratching in the run. Chickens are always busy! This little chook though has a tendency to go broody – it is happening again today! She loves sitting in the nesting box waiting for those imaginary eggs to grow into chicks.

We hope to enjoy our fork to fork experience many times over 2018. Our current crop of lettuce has been good to us. Very soon we will have more cherry tomatoes. The bean plants are thriving and so is the zucchini, capsicum, chilli and cucumber. As I am the only one, out of the two of us, who likes cucumber I planted only two seeds. One plant died, and I am left with one! However, it looks like I will have dozens of cucumbers, the plants are climbing everywhere with many yellow flowers. It looks like I will have to share our fork to fork experience and when we have an abundance give some to our neighbours and friends.

If you have a fork to fork experience maybe you would like to share it with me and others. In the meantime, go for some “soul satisfaction” – by growing some of your own veggies. If I can grow veggies, anyone can!

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock to 2018

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock to 2018

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock, all our clocks have ticked over to 2018. At least, for all of us who have a clock that goes Tick-Tock! It only seems yesterday when we were waiting for the clock to tick over into the year 2000. The Latin statement stat pro […]

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner and lots of us are saying Merry Christmas and wishing all a happy holiday. At our home this December we have had a great lead up to this festive season. Christmas day is not just about one day. These […]

Little things mean a lot

Little things mean a lot

Do you think it is the little things that mean a lot at this time of year? As we are nearing Christmas most of us are thinking about ways we can share the joy of Christmas. What can we give to family and friends? What can we buy for that special person in our lives?

At my age I have everything I need, maybe not everything I want! Generally, my “One & Only” (O&O) and I do not give gifts to each other at Christmas. What we like to do is to go shopping together near Christmas and buy one another a gift or two! Then there is our Christmas stocking where we can place the little things and yes, little things mean a lot. This year we bought ourselves a Fitbit. That is the look-a-like watch that stays on your arm 24/7, apart from when we have a bath or shower. The Fitbit counts the steps we do each day (from midnight on) …. all those trips to the bathroom during the night are now all worthwhile for my O&O! Our heart beats per minute are monitored, we can track a run or work-out and then collapse in a chair and relax with a guided breathing session for two minutes. I like the fireworks that go off when I reach the 10,000-step target. A very worthwhile Christmas present for 2017. If you are thinking of buying a Fitbit, go on-line and buy one. Our on-line purchase came about because when I rang up The Good Guys all the sales people were busy. I had to wait for them to call me back. As I could not get a definite answer on the time I would wait I had a look on-line. To my surprise I found and ordered two Fitbits for $62.00 less than the Hot Buy price advertised by The Good Guys. The next day we picked up our Fitbit Christmas presents, from The Good Guys. A small saving – but little things mean a lot.

Our Christmas stockings near our “wee” Christmas Tree in the family room – our BIG tree is in the dining room. 

There are a lot of little things that we can do for others that will mean a lot. If we know what a family member likes than we can buy that. There are little things we can do to make a difference to the lives of others such as something we can make or bake at home. This year, as enthusiastic as I am in making things and baking things, I did not do this. I had other ideas that I hope others like! Another Christmas gift I could have bought my O&O, and at $12.00 a month ($144 per year), is just over the price we paid for one Fitbit, is to adopt an orangutan. Helping an orphaned or injured orangutan is a worthy cause plus you get an update twice a year on their progress. Maybe, this is a gift you could buy for an animal lover.

There are so many little things you can buy that mean a lot. There are figurines, books, scented candles, plants, flowers, garden tools/gloves, diaries, watches, chocolates, fruit cake, biscuits, perfume, after-shave, soap or a reed diffuser, fragrance for the home. Then what about costume jewellery – the sparkling type!

In the song “little things mean a lot” by Kitty Kalen she sings about the importance of little things. Yes, little things that mean a lot. If you like songs from the 1950’s and 1960’s click below.

The gift giving, while great, will not change the heart towards others if there are no kind words or no acts of kindness throughout the year. In the lyrics Kitty sings “don’t have to buy me diamonds and pearls” – not sure about this line in the lyric – after all, aren’t diamonds and pearls just “little things”! Happy Christmas shopping. There is still time to shop – 10 more sleeps!

Time to preserve – mangoes

Time to preserve – mangoes

This week it was time to preserve that beautiful tropical fruit, mango! My O&O and I were out shopping, and we came across a tray of beautiful R2E2 mangoes – 11 for $15. It was definitely time to preserve and for me to use my […]


My Diary

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This week it was time to preserve that beautiful tropical fruit, mango! My O&O and I were out shopping, and we came across a tray of beautiful R2E2 mangoes – 11 for $15. It was definitely time to preserve and for me to use my time to launch into my first experiment with my Fowlers Natural Preserver, bought a few months ago. Engaging in the process of preserving food got me thinking about other things we can preserve.

We can preserve memories, such as through photos, the written word or a time capsule. We can preserve nature, our culture, our relationships. The list goes on and on. As the list developed I thought this could be an occasional series to write about in 2018.

But for now, I will concentrate on the topic of preserving food. Why do we preserve food? For me, preserving food is like having a time capsule in my pantry. I can enjoy fresh mangoes in the middle of the year when they are out of season. I know what is in the bottle – just mango, water and a little sugar, no other preservatives. Wait! There was one other ingredient, lemon juice. This addition raises the acidity level and prevents the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. To be sure any home bottling or canned food is safe to eat check that the lids are properly sealed before storing the bottles. Also, smelling the food before it is consumed will tell you it is good to eat!

I am reading and learning about home preserving and it is a rewarding past-time. After the processing period in the water bath the bottles (full of mango) had to cool down and the spring clips are not removed for 12-18 hours. Then I tested the bottles to made sure a vacuum had been created and the lids were secure. To check for a proper seal, I had to press the centre of the metal lids. If the lid is flexible, then it has not sealed properly. Once I had confirmation the bottles were all sealed okay, all that was left was to label and store in a cool dark place.

Bottles of mangoes just out of the Fowlers Natural Preserver.

When there is an abundance of fruit and vegetables in season this is the time to buy and preserve, as they are cheaper. But for me, it is not about the money but more so the health benefits. That is, knowing what I am eating and what is in the bottle!

When fruits and vegetables are out of season or are in short supply due to unfavourable weather, they become expensive. Home preserving gives you the best food, at the best price, at the time of the year you choose!  Also, bottled fruit make a great gift. That is, when we have an abundance – only 6 jars so far, this mango season!

It is important to check that the lids have properly sealed. After this, the bottles are ready for storing in a cool dark place.

When I was taking my time preparing the fruit for bottling my thoughts went to my great grand-mother, Mary. I was 8 years old when Mary passed away at 91 years of age. My mind wandered to how she would have managed feeding a family without refrigeration and cooking on a wood stove. Meat was preserved by curing it with salt and then hung in a tin box with air holes on the side. Onions, eggs, and beets were pickled. Jams, mustard pickles and chutney were made at home. Milk and cream was fresh each day, unpasteurised and unhomogenised!

Mary had time to preserve as she mostly spent her time at home. Any bottling Mary did would have been carried out by the water bath method. Using a large pot where the jars are submerged. Not so easy though when keeping the water at a constant temperature, on a wood stove. Living to the ripe old age of 91 years meant she must have been a great home-maker. Preparing food for herself and the family that was wholesome. It was all made from scratch with nothing out of a bottle, unless she had preserved it herself.

For home bottling it takes a little time and for now this is how I choose to use my time. However, it also takes time to go to the supermarket and reach for that canned fruit with all the artificial flavours and preservatives. Reaching into the home pantry for a bottle of fruit that is made at home, is more satisfying. When you have time, you can play around in the kitchen like me and experiment with preserving food through home bottling. Try it, I am sure you will enjoy it.


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