November 12, 2016

Austerity Lights Up My Life! [By Austerity Stylist, Barbara Ganoush]

I don’t have any lamps in my house at all, and I like lamps. Not to be confused with lumps! I do have plenty of those, on the floor boards under the carpet, on my person. And in the front and backyard. Lumps galore!

What I do have is ugly ceiling lights with the globes exposed and electricity bills the size of a small house deposit. 

Lamps look fashionable and the low light is soothing and relaxing of a night time. Candle light is nice too, but also very dangerous. Many a house fire happens because of burning candles falling over setting fires to curtains and other inflammables in the house.

Given I’m skint, on a fixed income, a bludger, a leaner, and a tax payer thief! I can’t just pop out and buy a few, so I need Babs to help me rustle up some of that depression - pre-war era, do it yourself gumption - that she seems to have running through her veins... instead of blood.

Sure, I could go to Vinnies and find something, but where’s the fun in that? Besides Babs wouldn’t have any bragging rights now would she?

So what do I have sitting around the house that only need to spend a few quid on?

I have a few empty jars in the kitchen. Could I use those I wonder?

Lo and behold Bunnings (are you listening?... product placement fees please!) brochures are routinely dropped into my letter box and hold a nice austerity lighting option.

I don’t mind the brochure being dropped off because I do like a good gander, and it makes useful newspaper for my fur children’s litter trays. Boy did I spot something that might shine a light on my rustic ramshackle shack, austerity chic chateau de poverty that I live in.... But pay a pretty price for.

Because we all have to live within our means don’t we Mr Hockey! Except he left out the bit where living within your means on Newstart is impossible, because the payment is so mean (it’s to incentivise you into work).

However one doesn't need to be Warren Buffett, to realise it hasn’t kept up with the cost of living. And welfare policy dictates.... that moving to an area with cheaper rent which also has lower employment, means that you will loose your benefit. If you’ve been unemployed for long enough you’ll have no savings, so moving is out of the question anyway. But hey! Mr Hockey and the conservative government use hunger and fear to control both their ignorant voters, and the vulnerable population, while claiming meals and accommodation as expenses to be paid for by the tax payer. Nice!

So what did I spot that was cheap as chips, might fancy up as a lamp, and won’t cost much to run. A $2.00 dollar solar garden light!

I did a bit of research online and soon found a nifty way of turning a glass jar into a lamp using a cheap outside solar light. My use for the light is inside not outside, so I don’t need to buy any silicone glues etc to keep it glued to the top of the jar - or for keeping it water tight.

The solar lights easily come apart. The extended stake just slips off from the top, and your left with the small solar panel, metal casing and plastic lamp that reflects the globe. The instructions tell you to charge your lamps outside for about 36 hours... and then you can push the switch inside the plastic casing which causes the lamp to come on when it gets dark.
The simplest way to shine a light on your austerity living, is to take an empty jar and place the round solar lamp with it’s plastic globe, minus the stake for the garden and place on top of the empty jar. This will work if the glass is small enough. I found that mustard jars have a nice shape, but you can also use tall jam jars if the opening small enough.

If you want to go upmarket a bit and you’ve found a bit of dosh, you can buy a mason jar. I purchased a blue pint size mason jar with a regular lid for $4.00. The mason jars have two parts to their lids. They have a flat piece and the outside ring that screws onto the top of the jar with a hole wide enough that the solar light can fit through. I found though, that the hole was a little too big for my solar lamp so I needed to find something to make the lamp fit snuggly in place into the opening of the jar inside the hole.

I don’t want anything permanent because I wanted to be able to lift the lamp out if I needed to. I had saved some aluminium pods that previously contained tomato paste. The top of the pod had a small rim that was the perfect size to fit underneath the lip of the mason jar screw rim.

I just needed to take the bottom of the pod off to create a hole for the lap to fit through. You can use a Stanley knife to cut a circular hole to do this. The plastic casing on the solar lamp easily screws away from the solar top and battery housing. When you do this you're left with a tiny globe. This creates a beautiful marbling effect through the design on the mason jar because of the design on the glass. You can of course choose to leave the plastic lamp with it’s reflector in place and this will reflect a different light making bright white bars.

If you really want to dazzle your friends, you can buy a clear mason jar and spray it with a coat of glass frosting paint which will set you back about $19.00 dollars from Bunnings or it might be cheaper at another store. This creates more of a warm glow and I plan to do this when I get flush again.

I had fun making these so I suggest you check out different jars and different types of solar lamps. If you can afford one of the more expensive types that have a metal mushroom shaped top you could see if that would work with a pickles type jar. I have a couple of short squat round jars with a beautiful shape and some lovely engravings on them. I’m curious to see if I took the top off one those more expensive solar lamps and I’m really only talking about $12.00 or so, would fit on top of these jars.

The upside of these lamps are that they are cheap and fun to make. You don’t have to turn them off they turn themselves off when it’s light and come on again when it’s dark. They would make neat kids night lamps. If you hate coming home to a dark house like me, they are an inviting light if you get home, when the sun comes down.

The downside is that you have to keep putting them outside to recharge, unless you have a beautiful sunny spot in your house where they get their sunny fill all day.

Austerity living can be fun, but please don’t tell our government otherwise they’ll just accuse me of being on Newstart as a “lifestyle choice”.

Stay tuned for more Babaliscious cleaning and make overs for the employably challenged with the delightful Barbara Ganoush.  As seen on The Block 
...well maybe one day??

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October 14, 2016

Saturday Brunch & You Aint Got No Money? Cook this Spaghetti With Zucchini And Cherry Tomatoes [By Cheap Kate]



  1. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, following packet directions, until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a small, non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add garlic, zucchini and tomatoes.
  3. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes or until tender.
  4. Drain pasta, reserving 2 tablespoons cooking water. Return pasta and reserved water to saucepan. Add zucchini mixture, salt and pepper to pasta. Toss over low heat until heated through. 
  5. Spoon into bowl. 
  6. Top with parmesan and serve.
  7. Mini bocconcini cheese (balls) can also be added for extra yumminess.

Serving Suggestion

Impress hot dates, with a glass of Shiraz (De Bortoli Deen Vat 8 Shiraz 2014)... or perhaps for $5.00 or less a De Bortoli Sacred Hill Shiraz ...depending on how the crow is flying that week. 

Culinary Delights in Austerity Times: Stewed Apples [By Barbara Ganoush]

Back story

I read somewhere that our true unemployment levels are the same as what they were during the depression. Yikes! Quite frankly!... I think our government has taken it’s welfare policy from that era too.

So what happened!

Well there was a stock market crash and everyone freaked out and lost money. Economic markets around the world were ruined. Income from Australian exports fell, local industries came to a standstill and unemployment rapidly increased. Hmm it sounds remarkably familiar.

Sir Otto Niemeyer

The Wall Street crash in October 1929 signaled the beginning of a severe depression for the whole industrialised world. A contributing factor was the visit in 1930 by Sir Otto Niemeyer from the Bank of England, who visited Australia to advise governments to implement a deflationary policy.

Niemeyer contended that wages must be 'depressed' (i.e. cut) to make exports more competitive and to raise profits. Niemeyer advised savage cuts in all existing social services. 

Yes, he must still be alive today and advising our government!

So what caused the Great Depression?

The ultimate cause of the Great Depression is still the subject of debate by economists. Just like our GFC and supposed debt crisis. He did it!, no he did it!

Although the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange determined its timing, there were several factors involved:

  • A fall in export prices and sales
  • A fall in overseas loans, leading to a reduction in government capital spending
  • A fall in residential construction

At the time, privately owned banks controlled Australia's monetary policy and the country relied heavily on borrowing money from other countries to bring in new investment. When the banks refused to extend overdrafts to Australia the government began selling off gold reserves.

I knew watching all those gold digging shows on the telly would come in handy one day!

Rationing: Then... and now

To ensure that everyone received a basic amount of essential supplies such as meat, butter, sugar and tea, the government brought in a system of rationing. Everyone had to apply for ration books, which contained a number of coupons. Each coupon gave the holder permission to buy a certain amount of something... usually over a weekly period.

Healthy welfare card anybody!

Despite the hardship, rationing was well received by the public because it applied to everyone equally. Not so this time round though! Only those dole bludging criminals have to get food vouchers and supplies rationed.

Nevertheless, when the government announced in May 1942 that they would impose rationing on clothing, there was a rush to buy as much as possible before rationing began.

Well! we haven’t reached those dizzy heights yet, but there is still plenty of time.

Shortages and rationing also led to hoarding. People who had access to some rare commodity, such as petrol, would store up as much as they could, for their own use in the future. This only made shortages worse. It also led to a black market: items that were in demand were sold privately, at very high prices, outside the rationing system.

Yes, I believe that government income rationing for those on welfare who get the ‘basics card’, or ‘healthy welfare card’, and its numerous other names in countries overseas - creates a black market.

Those who received the dole, could be assigned to government, to relief work such as council maintenance. Relief workers dug ditches and built roads and pathways. Men were paid in cash but the hours of work and weeks on a job were rationed, so very few averaged the basic wage.

It’s work for the dole now! So no pay at all.

Those unfortunate enough to be assigned to work in distant areas were forced to live in camps isolated from their families, and the few who refused to work had their sustenance relief (or ‘susso’) cancelled. Yes suspensions on the dole now come in all flavours: sickness, injury, hospitalisation. You name it.

So Barbara says she’s heard it all before and that we should just stop whining and start cooking!

                                      Barb’s Own Stewed Apples

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • (thinly sliced or chopped apples, approximately 6, I like Granny Smith, but you can use any
  • 12 cup sugar
  • 1cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 12 cup water

If you don’t have that many apples then just reduce the ingredients. Servings around 4-6


1.  In a saucepan (w/lid) melt butter over medium heat; turn off heat.
2.  Mix in sugar and brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and add 1/2 cup water, stirring to combine.
3.  Bring mixture to a boil and allow to boil until beginning to thicken.
4.  Reduce heat to medium; stir in apple slices, turning to coat.
5.  Cook over medium to medium high heat 4-5 minutes, stirring, allowing sauce to continue to thicken.
6.  Reduce heat to low, cover apples and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, another 5-10 minutes, adding more water if necessary, until apples are tender (cooking time will depend on the thickness of your apple slices).
7.  Sauce will thicken as it cools.

  • Serve with cream or ice cream.
  • Admin suggestion: Drizzle with cream, and maple syrup.... and perhaps add mixed dry fruit - like prunes.

It’s Babalicious!

October 3, 2016

Make Three Outfits For Less Than $12.00

Lisa Haas explains how she deconstructs thrift shop items to create a new range of clothing. 

All in a day’s op shopping…

Okay, so I’m a little bit of an op shop fanatic – any opportunity (no pun intended) and I’m there.

Anyhow the other day I was off on a little adventure and first stop happened to be a local Red Cross Shop.

Let me digress – I am mostly on the lookout for materials to make a range of retro inspired pieces using (not so easy to find) old tea towels and table cloths – not just any ones however, even though they may be dated my requirement is for those in mint condition.  My other look out is for clothing constructed from linen, which I deconstruct to make various home ware items.

Just inside the door of already mentioned op shop was the ubiquitous $2 rack and there, amongst other items, was a long dress in an interesting navy fabric featuring creamy coloured flowers. Not my cup of tea but I could sense definite remake potential.  I was thinking maybe a top and a skirt while I was at it. Duly purchased for $2.

Onwards and upwards the next stop in a town 50 odd k’s away, this time a classic ‘vinnies’ (St Vincent de Paul) store. My luck was in when I spotted a pair of $5 jeans. I had recently noticed a pair of slim fit, just above the knee shorts in a fashion chain’s summer catalogue and the jeans I found were perfect for a remodel.  Also in this store I came across a beautiful pale pink, one hundred percent linen, caftan style top for just $1. This would do for some kind of repurpose, surely. As it turns out, this item ended up staying just as it was after a wash and careful iron.

Finally, and one more ‘vinnies’ later, a very cute woollen tunic top with graffiti style patterning that just needed a slight adjustment to make it wearable. So $11.50 later, a bit of an adventure plus some time on the sewing machine and I have a new top and skirt for summer, a pair of fitted denim shorts, a pale pink linen top and a tunic style, long line top which will be great over a long sleeved T and leggings.


About the author
Lisa Hass lives on the North West Coast of Tasmania and is involved in the local craft community.

Image via flickr

Childhood Revisited Via Chocolate Crackles

Was out about about this afternoon. With no idea of time, ended up having afternoon coffee with my mother in a cafe at 5 pm. Yes had lost all track of time. Forgot all about day-light savings. 

And what I saw before me on the cafe counter.... beyond the French Vanilla Slices and the rest - I time-travelled via food, back to being a kid again - when to my joy I saw CHOCOLATE CRACKLES!!

Of course, as a kid, chocolate crackles were - perhaps still are - a birthday party favourite for kids of all ages. They're super easy to make and, if you're lucky, there may be a couple left over for adults to enjoy, too.

Alas I said to the kindly man behind the counter, please please, give me one of those with my cup of English Breakfast tea.

Of course I asked would those ones be the same as those I had as a kid. I like authenticity. And naturally I asked the price. $3.00!! Affordable.  And I have a feeling for the gluten free among us they may hit the spot.

Those chocolate crackles made my day - served with milky tea. Plus was thankful they weren't served on one of those hipster-wood chopping boards. Would have ruined entire experience.

What's good about chocolate crackles, is they require no baking... so good on the energy bill. (I might experiment by drizzling in some dark chocolate to the recipe mix).

Here's the recipe:

  • 4 cups Rice Bubbles or rice puffs
  • 1 1/2 cups (230g) icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup (85g) desiccated coconut
  • 1/4 cup hundreds and thousands (sprinkles) - optional
  • 3 tbsp cocoa or powdered cooking chocolate
  • 250g Copha


  1. In a large bowl combine rice bubbles, icing sugar, coconut, hundreds and thousands and cocoa. Mix well.
  2. Melt Copha in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  3. When completely melted, pour over the dry ingredients.
  4. Mix well, ensuring all ingredients are covered with Copha.
  5. With a spoon, fill cupcake cases and place on a baking tray.
  6. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour

  • Crackles can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.
  • You can substitute the hundreds and thousands with coloured sprinkles or cachous if you wish. Cachous being those small silver balls used to decorate cakes etc.

September 28, 2016

How To Start A Gift Circle And Rebuild A Community [By Claire Bell]

Give and you shall receive
The gift economy represents a shift from consumption to contribution, transaction to trust, scarcity to abundance and isolation to community.

It’s not Christmas, so why am I sitting in a circle with eight people as we shower each other with gifts?

It’s because I belong to a gift circle.

I’ve read that a gift circle is a modern adaption of an ancient practice.

Whether it really is an ancient practice I have no idea, but who cares?

In my experience, it’s a fine and noble  way to build relationships and to restore community in our increasingly fragmented society.

I love gift circles because they help build an alternative economy based on sharing, where people give of their possessions, time and talents with no expectation of return.

I got the idea to start my own circle after reading the book Sacred Economics by writer and self-described “de-growth activist” Charles Eisenstein. He believes we need to encourage more compassionate and trusting relationships and the key to this is to become givers rather than consumers.

Sacred Economics offers creative ways to reduce our dependence on the money economy, which in turn helps rebuild community and restore our connection to the natural world.

Gift circles are a perfect way to build community because our needs are met by each other rather than by corporations and shopping malls.

This means we spend less money and waste fewer resources. For example, in my gift circle even old olive oil tins, glass jars and polystyrene boxes are re-used for gardening and storage projects.

The beauty of it all is that we share our surplus and this inspires generosity, discourages hoarding and keeps our wealth moving.

Since our circle began, we’ve noticed a tendency towards greater trust and goodwill – a natural outcome, perhaps, given how freely people give of their gifts and how gratefully people receive them.

I once thought the adage ‘Those who ask shall receive’ was really corny but I don’t think it’s corny anymore because I’ve seen it in action.

But before we receive, it’s nice to give first.

Here’s how a gift circle works

You need between ten and twenty people. It’s important everyone is clear from the start that it’s not a bartering system — although people are welcome to barter on the side.

The crucial point of a gift circle is that people share their goods and services as a gift without expectation of anything in return.   

A gift circle comprises three rounds

Round One: Everyone sits in a circle and takes turns expressing one or two needs they have. For example, a lift to the airport, a ladder, a bag of lemons, a massage, someone to walk their dog, etc. As each person expresses a need, others in the circle can interject with suggestions and offers on how to meet the need.
When everyone’s had their turn, it’s time for round two.

Round Two: We go around the circle again. This time, each person offers an item or a service (or maybe an idea or a suggestion) that he or she would like to give. For example, babysitting, baking, clothes, or the use of something such as a wheelbarrow or a chainsaw. Again, as each person shares, anyone can speak up and say, “I’d like that,” or “I know someone who could use one of those.”

As each round unfurls, a scribe records everything and sends an email to group members that evening or the next day. This way it’s easy to remember everyone’s needs and offerings.

It’s essential that offers are followed-up or the gift circle will breed resentment and cynicism rather than community.

Someone in the group, therefore, must take on the role of follow-upper and be prepared to keep it all together. Consider it as a service to the world.

Actually, it’s not very hard to keep it all together. I don’t think I’ve had to follow up anything.
People naturally and easily commit to their offers – it seems to be the way a gift circle operates. But at least initially, it needs to be watched and nurtured until there comes a point when it all flows seamlessly.

Round Three: This round is where each person takes it in turn to thank others in the group or the group as a whole. For example, I might thank a member for the bag of lemons they gave me last circle. Someone else might thank another member for a suggestion they made which helped solve a problem.

Whatever the nature of the thanks, this round is very important because it inspires generosity in those who witness it.

It also confirms this group is giving to each other, that gifts are recognised and acknowledged and that my own gifts will be recognised and appreciated as well.
Although a gift circle is easy to start, it’s a challenge to keep it alive. This is because people are busy and also because alternative economies still face huge resistance from the money juggernaut.

It takes time, energy and commitment from all members to build a structure strong enough to withstand the cult of productivity and money’s hypnotic allure.

Other impediments to maintaining a circle include anxiety about appearing vulnerable or acquisitive when expressing our needs and our discomfort about receiving gifts when there’s no obligation to reciprocate.

I no longer think these impediments are all that serious because what I can say from my gift circle experience is, yes, there is anxiety and discomfort at first — and it soon passes.
Definitely there were moments our circle struggled – especially during the winter months and numbers dropped and I fretted that it was all falling in a heap and we’d be lured back to consumerism.

Instead, we’re still here, giving and receiving with ever more trust and confidence.
Gift circles, wonderful as they are, still struggle in a money-centred culture and yet they’re more essential than ever.

They foster community, encourage generosity and help us all live more simply and thoughtfully.


Claire Bell  is a yoga teacher and writer.
You can find Claire's book "Stone Age Secrets For Mind And Body" at

For information about Claire Bell's Yoga classes, go to her website at

Other articles by Claire, can be found at

This article originally appears on

image via flickr

September 16, 2016

The Ploughman's & The Plebiscite...

This week in Australia, the populace is encountering, all the argy bargy of whether to go the way of the same-sex marriage plebiscite, or not. Just spelling the damn word has been an issue for me. And if it wasn't for Labour MP Tania Pliberseck, I may never have got my tongue around the syllables. And spell-check isn't helping. I digress.

The Plebiscite and the Ploughman

And on that topic... at the last count and just this morning I have received in my newsfeed, a delightful selfie of Opposition leader Bill Shorten with the darling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau...who we all know can do no wrong. And he even wears brown shoes!...and those tired of my drivel can always read the brown shoe backstory here.. 

Alas, earlier tuned into our 24 hour news, and was delighted to see opposition Labour leader, Bill Shorten succinctly put in his 50 cents worth to the masses about what he thinks of the plebiscite bill. An issue that ABC news reported recently as becoming the proverbial political hot potato. And an expensive one at that, costing about $160 million. You can buy many a potato at that price (meantime welfare budget cuts have gone through while everyone was sleeping)... must make mental note to self about potatoes...going forward. Watch this space for recipes where the potato is the jewel in the crown (in my kitchen anyway).


So returning to the theme of cookery for those on the breadline, here's hoping I am not boring too many people with more recipes where bread is the key factor. But since our government leaders are the only ones eating cake, and won't share it with us.... even the crumbs (or fake icing) - cannot hold myself back from adding this one, since I have fond memories of devouring many a Ploughman's Lunch, back in the day, in the Queen's own country.

I discovered them when travelling through country England, particularly across the Lakes District.  Just the words Ploughman's Lunch, conjures up images of lazy lunches, sitting outside with friends, in a beer garden of an old English country pub (when not raining). Nothing like an English pub. And along with the Ploughman's Lunch, there's something so comforting about English pub interiors... I know it's the combination of plush earthy velvet furnishings, some locally acquired mounted brick-a-brack, here and there, and all the little lamps about the place. And not a gaming machine - or the sound of one - in sight. In fact I think you may have to cross a geographic border for that.

The Ploughman's, is one of the most famous of pub lunches - so simple and yet so satisfying, especially if taken with a pint of real ale or cider!


The specific term "ploughman's lunch" is believed to date no further back than the 1950s, when the Cheese Bureau (a marketing body affiliated to the J. Walter Thompson ad agency) began promoting the meal in pubs as a way to increase the sales of cheese, which had recently ceased to be rationed. Its popularity increased as the Milk Marketing Board promoted the meal nationally throughout the 1960s.

Going back further however, throughout the centuries, agricultural workers of England, would take their lunch out to the fields with them; this usually consisted of bread and cheese with ale or cider - a perfect combination. It's easy to prepare and should consist of at least the following: crusty bread and butter; a selection of English cheeses; pickled onions; chutney and pickles. This also makes excellent picnic food, and is easy to pack and transport. So it's one way of eating out, without breaking the budget.

Ingredients ideas list

  • crusty bread - such as pane di casa loaf, pasta dura, large crusty bread rolls or a baguette
  • 8 ounces mature farmhouse cheddar cheese or Stilton or Cambembert is great.  In fact, just grab any cheese that's easy to get your hands on. Readers may know I love Bonconcini... tastes like it's made from the milk of the gods.
  • Mayonnaise
  • Boiled eggs & avocado (optional)
  • Slices of ham or prosciutto - or both. And some nice hot salami could go down well.
  • Or any meat left-overs you may have about the house. Turkey would be perfect.
  • Include a jar of pickled onions, relish, or any kind of tasty chutney... to dollop onto the cold meats and cheeses. 
  • Plus cranberry sauce which is particularly nice to have with the turkey, ham & cheeses
  • Marinated olives would be a good addition, along with fresh basil leaves, and marinated capsicum if you happen to have any of those on hand. Another continental addition would be marinated eggplant. Yumm.
  • Olive oil to drizzle

So the idea of the Ploughman's lunch is to serve the above items casually on a platter. Throw formality out the door. People can choose items they wish to assemble - with selected breads, chutneys, relishes and so forth. 

Most important, serve with a nice beer, ale, apple juice, or cider.

Ideal to serve outside in the fresh air, with the dog at your feet, and ideally beautiful green, lush, bucolic surroundings. However, if a leafy pasture is out of reach... just throw the lot on the kitchen table, or a large coffee table, or ottoman - and dig in.

Useful links

Explained: Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite (ABC

Top 10: Lake District Best Pubs and Inns

Why Australian Marriage Equality Org. Opposes Same Sex Plebiscite

20 better things to spend $160 million than the marriage equality plebiscite