News Flash: Bananas Down, Petrol Up

'Cavendish' bananas are the main commercial cu...

Image via Wikipedia

Just a lightning quick post today.

I couldn’t believe what I read in the article “Banana Prices Set to Drop” by the Herald Sun 19 October 2011, so I had to check it out for myself. I went to the shops earlier today and as the article correctly reported bananas were $7.99 a kilo!

I splurged and bought 3 for $4.95 or a mere $1.65 apiece . Yum! There may be hope for getting this bright yellow staple back into the fruit bowl and lunch bags soon.

The down side is gasoline/petrol is at a 4 month high at $1.50/litre (for my US readers, this is roughly $5.70/gallon given current exchange rate). So my trip to the grocery and to fill up the car (over $100!) emptied my wallet.

If you are a new Australian expat, there are a few websites to help you find the cheapest petrol in your neighbourhood, so you don’t have to drive around and waste money and time looking for a good price. One of them is Motormouth.com.au. Instead you can use this saved money and buy more bananas (or maybe be able to get to work without breaking the bank)!

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Mangoes the New Banana?

Hard to believe, but bananas still haven’t returned to “normal” prices since cyclone/hurricane Yasi hit Queensland in February 2011. Since my August 4 post entitled “Mortgage the House to Buy Bananas” this precious fruit has now decreased slightly to $10.95/kg from its high of $15.95/kg. Now we’re paying roughly $1.95/banana — so now you can buy a bunch for under $10!!!

Author's Own

Before I moved to Oz I don’t think I ever had mangoes as they probably never made it to Colorado shelves and if they did I can only imagine how expensive they would have been. Here in Sydney mangoes arrive the beginning of September and they typically hover around $4 apiece. Closer to where they’re grown the price drops significantly and consequently Queenslanders don’t seem to have as much passion for mangoes as those of us further down the coast.

As a side note, in many Asian countries people can’t believe we actually pay for these golden globes. They simply pick them or can be purchased for less than AU $.50 apiece so you find them frequently in their dishes — as dessert, a salsa topping and in salads or curries.

Although many Aussie families can’t afford mangoes throughout the season, many, many people buy this luscious sweet silky fruit for Christmas when they come down in price to $2.50 each or $25 a flat.

Imagine my joy when I came around the corner in my local grocery last week and saw this sign:

Author's own

FANTASTIC — Mangoes in mid-October for December prices! This much-coveted holiday treat on par price-wise with your average banana. Doubtful that mangos will usurp bananas as mangos don’t come with their own packaging and must be cut before sending in school lunches. But I can’t help but wonder if this price cut will diminish the allure of this exotic and if bananas will be the Christmas dinner centrepiece. Either fruit is a huge change from the holly and pine cones of the past!

sindhri, famous mango variety from Pakistan an...

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Posted in Food | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Choose Health

White MacBook laptop

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It’s been too many weeks since I’ve written in my blog and it hasn’t been due to lack of ideas or enthusiasm. It has been simply that I could not type. I sprained my dominate hand and wrist, so I’ve been limited to essential tasks only. Being adventurous, I tried voice recognition software and I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating funny the results were. I’m happy to report I’m on the mend and have more access to the keyboard once again.

I’m even happier to report that I am now the owner of a new MacBook Pro. I got the laptop the day Steve Jobs died…eerie! I’ve read so many comprehensive tributes to him and his contributions that I won’t spend my limited time today rehashing what has already been said. I will say that my first experience on computers was with the old Apple “toy” at University and I loved it. As I entered the adult world and worked for IBM I migrated and then have stayed on the DOS and then Windows world since. The migration has been painful so far…

I digress.

What I wanted to say today is how the last number of weeks have been even more challenging than the computer migration in the last number of days. Not being able to pick up a pan when you’re making dinner, wash your hair, brush your teeth or type has made me reflective. And grateful. I didn’t lose my hand or even the permanent use of it.

While I was nursing my injury, my BBQ lovin’ uncle has just decided at 70 to become a vegan. If you aren’t surprised about this, let me tell you I certainly was. This is a man who lived for Whitey’s ice cream and big plates of food. The diet cuts out fats, avocado and of course dairy. He seems really committed to it and I applaud the fact that he’s taken his health so seriously, especially at his age. (I probably would say I’ve lived a full life and be happy eating the ice cream!) However, his mother/my grandma, is nearly 100 so he still may have many years ahead despite his two older brothers and father already gone before him.

Some chicken, pork and corn in the barbeque

Image via Wikipedia

All of these events have converged in my reflective state to wonder about priorities and what importance we place on them. In the obituaries and articles I read about Steve Jobs I didn’t notice anything about how many meetings, discussions, brainstorming sessions, etc. he went to when he should have been resting. When he could have been spending time with his family and friends. When he chose to get that one thing done before he slept. I wonder if he had the opportunity once again would he have chosen differently? Would this have had an impact on his health and longevity? Would we still be able to benefit from his creative genius?

Jobs is only one person and yet touched so many lives. So I draw you into my reflective repose: What choices are you making and how is this impacting on others?

Posted in Political, historical or world events, Self-care | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Inner Strength + Poise = Winning

I’m not a huge sports fan and when there is an opportunity to watch an international event it creates conflict for me as I try to back my “home” country. Today’s US Open Women’s tennis tournament was no exception as USA player Serena Williams rivaled AU Samantha Stosur. The tipping point for me came clearly in the way in which the players used their personal power to overcome adversity.

I don’t follow tennis, but I’m keenly aware of the Williams sisters and how they have changed the landscape of women’s tennis. The power and force they bring to the sport has seen players like Stosur lose confidence in themselves and ultimately their game. 

Watching today’s match was emotionally bitter-sweet as it was played in New York on the tenth anniversary of the infamous 9/11 attacks. Williams had high hopes of winning the tournament not only for her professional record, but even more so for her country. And the predominately US crowd was with her, it was palpable.  

Enter Stosur who has a reputation for “cracking under pressure” despite her years on-court. Given the stakes today, I can only imagine what it was like for Stosur to walk out on the court.

Stosur began the match firmly in control. Despite being the crowd-favourite, Williams seemed to lose confidence as her first serve consistently failed. This was short-lived. Mid-match and an overdue powerful serve Williams yelled “Come-on!” which received an official warning. This sparked an undaunted Williams’ to erupt costing her a point (and for what it’s worth, my support)

“A code violation because I expressed who I am? We’re in America right now!” Serena Williams rebuttal to chair umpire Eva Asderaki

AND yet restore her self-confidence.

It was this penalty which brought Williams’ anger surging through the racket toward Stosur and additional umpire battering during the break.

“Don’t even look at me. If you ever see me walking down the hall, look the other way, because you’re totally out of control,” Williams said as she sat in her chair next to Asderaki’s. “You’re a hater and unattractive inside.”

It was also this penalty that restored Williams’ power and visibly diminished Stosur’s. 

The chair umpire deliberately looked away from Williams when play stopped. An already passionate crowd became frenzied. Stosur missed the next few points. It is a great example of how power can change the dynamic of a situation.

"Outbursts and Temper Tantrums" Comcast.net

This tactic seems to be borrowed from US men’s tennis legend John McEnroe who used this same tactic, by using such phrases as “you cannot be serious” and racking up countless fines and fans. Perhaps this tactic should have retired with McEnroe. In the 2009 US Open Williams was fined $175,000 and now may be banned from future US Opens due to these incidents. We do not want our sports figures to win because they are feared, we want them to win because they are fearless.

Under pressure there is a moment of reckoning, a choice point.  You saw it today. Stosur puts her head down, breathes deeply and faces Williams determined and focused. It is this moment that the power balance changed. Regardless of the outcome of the US Open, Stosur won. Bloomburg reporter Mason Levinson captured it perfectly

“Williams looks bewildered by the Australian’s power, precision, and composure.”

We can model Stosur’s example. When you know someone gotten to you or you’ve given power away to someone else, simply by taking a breath and refocusing, regains your person power, your belief in yourself. You are fearless. You win.

Be inspired! Watch the highlights here: theage.com.au

Bloomburg article referenced above: Serena Williams May Face U.S. Open Ban After Outburst in Finals Loss

Posted in Leadership, Political, historical or world events | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sisterhood Bridges Cultural, Economic and Racial Schisms

Take tissues and take your mother, sister, daughter or friend to see the movie “The Help“. 

Confession: I read the highly recommended, NY Times best-selling book and am one of the few people I know who thought it was a good story, end of story.

Why? At the risk of being controversial, in my opinion the book concentrated on the obvious race and class differences in Jackson, Mississippi during the sixties, which editor cum author Kathryn Stockett was able to draw upon from her own experiences. Stockett missed a rare opportunity to bring emotional depth to her well-thought out characters and pathos was sorely missing to me.  

That opportunity was seized upon by fellow former Jackson, MI  resident Director/Executive Producer/Screenwriter Tate Taylor who delivers a brilliant heart-renching and inspiring version of the movie. The characters you loved in the book now reach out and touch your heart, bringing the richness of their stories to life.

My book club went to see this movie before general release here in September. The local cinema offered “High Tea” and gave each grandma, mother, daughter and a couple of brave men in attendance a beautiful boxed cupcake and a cup of tea as we entered the theatre. Of the twenty or so of my group, we laughed among ourselves how funny is was to also receive a personal size package of tissues as part of this special screening as none of us had cried over the book.

During the film emotion seemed to imbue each woman both on-screen and in the audience: friendships were forged and/or reinforced, rifts between mother and daughter healed (at least for the moment) and an unspoken bond of sisterhood emerged. A sea of black smudged racoon eyes, knowing smiles and promises to get together soon were exchanged leaving the theatre. The tissues’ purpose defined.

The movie touts “Change Begins with a Whisper”. The movie delivered change – right there in the theatre. I wish I could bottle that sisterhood and uncork it whenever necessary. If you see the movie, I hope you can capture that feeling for yourself. Regardless, I wish for you sisterhood in times of change.

Posted in Building Community, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How to Emotionally Prepare Yourself When Your Child Leaves Home for College

It’s no surprise that many parents experience grief and/or elation as their child leaves home for university — it’s one of the biggest changes a family goes through.  It is also an opportunity for you to support your child into the next phase of responsibility/adulthood.

Fellow blogger Adventures In Expatland shared her desire to support her son as he goes from the Netherlands to the US for his education in her post entitled Twenty Three Days. Inspired by this recent post, I thought I’d put together some tips for parents who are also facing this life-changing experience.

From jayguin.wordpress.com

  1. Recognise that both you and your child are going through the same change, even if it’s not the same emotional reaction to the change. Remind yourself that people have different ways of dealing with change if/when there are emotional clashes.
  2. Create opportunities to share time together before your child leaves. Do not leave this to chance. Get out a calendar (or equivalent), sit down with your child and put these commitments directly into the schedule.
    • Ask your child to choose a couple of activities that they’d like to share with you and/or your family before they leave. One idea could be their favourite meal at the house, another going for a hike, for example.
    • Choose one time a day when it suits both of you to simply touch base and see how plans are progressing in packing, organising paperwork and/or how they’re feeling about things.
    • Ensure that these times are sacrosanct on both sides.
  3. When things go wrong, resist the temptation to “rescue” your child. Instead of solving the problem, coach:
    • ASK your child what options they have.
    • ASK your child who they need to involve or talk to and if they have their details.
    • ASK your child when they need to have this sorted and have them commit to a date and/or time and put it in their diary.
    • ASK your child if they would like to follow-up with you at your next schedule catch up to report their progress.If you have a spouse or other children staying home, take extra time to really LISTEN to their needs and spend time with them too. This is a change for everyone.
  4. Make plans for yourself and/or the remaining family members after the child leaves to look forward to. Date nights, a weekend away and/or shifting rooms in the house are typical examples. See related articles below for more ideas.
  5. Whether your child is moving within driving distance or overseas, they are only a phone call away. Ask your child how they would like to be contacted and how often. Negotiate something that works for everyone.
  6. It is not your child’s responsibility to take care of your grief. Spend time with friends, family or others who you can share your feelings with. Write your thoughts in a journal or seek out a counsellor.
  7. Conversely your child may not be as excited about leaving home as you are. Encourage them to get support for themselves as above, if so.  

Most importantly, ACCEPT that:

  • Your daily routine may be different.
  • Your relationship with your spouse and/or other children may change.
  • Whatever feelings you have, they are all valid.
  • Take care of yourself.

NOTE: If you’d like to brush up on your listening skills (and who doesn’t?) I recently came across this quick refresher on TED Talks. Click here to listen to it: 5 Ways to Listen Better by Julian Treasure.

Posted in Relationships, Self-care | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Mortgage the House to Buy Bananas

Whaaa? A household staple — the omnipresent BANANA? The thing every mom/mum puts in the school lunch box?…Yup! Apparently due to hurricane/cyclone Yasi, bananas have been at record highs since February 2011.

Banana Stand Australian Grocery Store August 2011

NOTE: For my American followers, quick lesson on conversion:

  • 1 pound = 1/2 kg/450 grams
  • US$1.00 = AU$.94 today

I’m not strong on math so I’ll assume you aren’t either. If this were in the USA, bananas would cost roughly $7.50/pound.

In simple terms we pay roughly $2.50 for ONE banana!

This isn’t a typical post for me, but I’m writing about this as my heart was touched today. I was at the fruit stand and an elderly shopper shared with me that she was buying bananas for her grandkids because her daughter cannot afford to buy them.

She cannot imagine her grandkids not knowing the thing the rest of us have taken for granted in our lives. She delights in making banana sandwiches for them and seeing their faces light up or giving a banana as an after school treat.

Last weekend we had an engagement party for a niece and as a treat I bought baby bananas for the little kids at the party that I found “on special” for $7.99/kilogram if you purchased an entire kilo. So many happy little faces and bodies jumping up and down — you’d think I’d put CANDY on the table.

In the intro of this post I said this price hike is “apparently” due to Yasi. Every month since she hit Australian shores we’ve heard rumors that prices are coming down, that the golden banana is going to be available in bigger quantities, yet it is SIX months later!!! (Did you know that apparently other countries can import them?) Without loosing focus in this post, there is plenty of speculation in the news that this pricing is imposed, keeping bananas artificially expensive.

What I want to concentrate on here is how we can take the simplest thing for granted. I know I did. I used to be able to make a banana bread off the top of my head to GET RID OF those pesky aging fruit. It took a crisis like this where I had to show some respect to the humble, healthy, portable banana and in my nieces and nephews eyes to elevate it above candy!

So I pose to you, what simple thing do you take for granted? What is one thing you can commit to and bring joy into others lives like my granny friend this morning? (Without mortgaging the house!)

Posted in Expat News, Food, Values | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments