Friday, August 17, 2018

An Amish puzzle ball

I've had fun making an Amish 'puzzle ball' for some neighbours who've recently had a baby.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Investments that support human rights

I've written a lot over the years about shopping for human rights.  How we buy creates the world in which our global neighbours live, so being mindful in this area is an important means to love our neighbours.

Perhaps a bigger factor in many of our global neighbours' lives though, is the companies in their neighbourhood.  Those companies have a big say in the conditions under which our neighbours work, how polluted their local environment is etc.  The larger of those companies are generally owned by people in high-income countries, many of whom don't know the first thing about what they get up to.  Most of us in high-income countries invest in aggregated funds (which in turn invest in actual companies) meaning that we generally don't even know the names of the companies we part-own.  Through these indirect investments many of us are unwittingly benefiting from some pretty dreadful practices.

Fortunately you can avoid this trap by seeking out investment funds that exclude or include companies based on ethical criteria.  A while back I blogged about Kiwisaver schemes that do this.  Martin and I now have other money to invest and have been investigating what options there are outside the Kiwisaver framework.  In priority order, we've been looking for:
  1. funds that only invest in companies which protect the human rights of people throughout their supply chain.  At a minimum we are looking for funds that don't invest in companies that use forced or child labour or buy from those who do; ideally we'd like them to invest in companies that pay a living wage and providing a safe working environment;
  2. funds that preferentially invest in companies that are making a positive difference in the world (social enterprises, companies that practise in sustainable ways etc.);
  3. funds that invested in companies in lower-income countries where investment capital is hard to find.
Do such funds exist?  Yes!  We couldn't find any funds that met all three criteria, but there are a number doing the first two :-)

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Making an ice cream recipe vegan

There are a few vegans in my life and I enjoy making ice cream so I've been on a quest to learn how to make vegan ice cream.

Most recipes on the internet seem to be one of the following:
  • based on banana;
  • based on coconut milk;
  • based on cashew nuts.
The first two have the draw-back that your 'creaminess' comes from an ingredient with a strong flavour of its own.  That's often fine, but sometimes you want chocolate ice cream that's just chocolate, not chocolate-and-banana or chocolate-and-coconut.  And cashew ice cream relies on straining thinned-down cashew butter through cloth, which is pretty hard work!  I wondered if I could do better...

Cream and milk are just mixes of fat, water and protein with a smidge of emulsifier to hold them together; egg yolk is fat and water with lots of emulsifier and the kindof proteins that thicken nicely on heating.  Could I make vegan substitutes by simply mixing vegan fats, water, protein and emulsifiers in similar proportions?  Turns out I could and the results were great!

vegan rose geranium ice cream, vegan chocolate ice cream and vegan vanilla gelato :-)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A lovely weekend

Last weekend was our regular six-weekly 'quiet weekend' where we try to clear the calendar of obligations and relax and do nothing in particular :-)  It was lovely.  Martin ended up spending a lot of the time baking - as well as pikelets for Saturday morning tea, he made bitter chocolate cookies for afternoon tea:

Monday, July 23, 2018

Slave-free sugar

To see how we avoid supporting those who enslave others when we purchase other goods, see my main post on shopping for human rights.

Last updated 7/7/18

Sugar is one of the five highest-value categories of goods likely to have been produced by forced labour (the others are cocoa, computers and electronics, clothing and fish and seafood).  The US Department of Labour reports that forced labour is used in the sugar industries of Brazil, Burma, Dominican Republic, Bolivia and Pakistan; and that child labour is used in the sugar industries of Turkey, Panama, Burma, Paraguay, Cambodia, Phillipines, Colombia, Thailand, Dominican Republic, Uganda, El Salvador, Vietnam, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Belize, Mexico, Boliva.

That's not something I want to support, but until recently I've been unsure how to avoid it.  However, I've recently learned that Countdown own-brand sugar is Bonsucro certified.  This is an independently audited certification that ensures the sugar farms and mills are free of child and slave labour.  That's what we'll be buying from now on!

The Countdown sugar range includes white sugar (in 1.5kg, 3kg and 5kg bags) as well as brown sugar, raw sugar, icing sugar and caster sugar.  Slave-free muscovado and golden sugar is also available from TradeAid; slave-free demerera sugar is available from Ceres Organics.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Mission of God's People

The Langham Partnership is currently promoting an online course taught by their international director, Chris Wright.  It looks really interesting.  It's called "The Mission of God's People" and considers the work 'regular' Christians (who aren't missionaries) are called by God to do.  Some similar issues are looked at in Why You're Here by John G. Stackhouse Jr. (recently reviewed by Martin on this blog).

(I couldn't get the promotional video to embed, but clicking on the image will take you to a page where you can play it!)

If that sounds interesting to you, read more about it (or sign up) here.  It's a self-paced course with 15 modules that you can do whenever suits you.  It costs US$120 (or US$100 if you sign up by 3/8/18) and that gives you access to the material for a year.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Bear Cam

In recent days I have been very much enjoying watching bear cam - a live stream of Brooks Falls in Alaska where brown bears are eating their fill of leaping salmon.  It's stunning!
Eight bears fishing the main falls yesterday.