Friday, June 14, 2019

Slave- and child-labour free fish oil/omega 3s

Some months back our neighbour asked me if the cod liver oil she takes is slave free.  It’s been a bit of a challenge to find an answer, but I now have good news and bad news.  The bad news?  I'm not confident the brand she’s been taking is slave free.   But the good news? I’ve identified two other brands I'm confident are :-)

As well as looking into cod liver oil, along the way I looked into all major brands of fish oils and omega 3 supplements I found for sale either in supermarkets or online pharmacies.  You can read our detailed findings here.




It turns out this is a pretty complicated area from a human welfare point of view.   Most brands were keen to tell me about their quality standards and environmental standards, but it seemed few had seriously considered human welfare standards in their supply chain.   And the supply chains aren’t trivial to trace: fish oils are usually made from what’s left over after higher value parts of the fish have been removed, and oil from different sources seems not uncommonly to be mixed together.

Further complexities were in the labelling of oil.  A lot of fish oil is sold as being ‘Norwegian’: however, it turns out Norway is a major hub for the re-processing of fish oil, as well as being a major fish oil fishing nation.  So ‘Norwegian’ oil may have been made from fish caught on Norwegian boats (which have excellent labour standards) or it could have been caught who-knows-where and simply re-processed there. You don’t know if you don’t ask.

It doesn’t help that the two major certifiers of fish oil basically only certify working conditions in factories (rather than on fishing vessels), even though all the worst abuses happen at sea rather than on land. And abuses can be severe: fish that produce lots of oil are typically cold-water fish, occuring in deep sea far from land. Ships are frequently at sea for months on end, making these fisheries at very high risk for forced labour: workers can be tricked onto them and then have no way to leave.

Still, I did find three companies Just Kai can recommend:
  • Clinicians make their oil in Norway, from fish caught in Norway;
  • Ethical Nutrients make their oil from fish caught in low-risk jurisdictions (mostly Peru), and has strict responses to human rights abuses when they are found to occur;
  • Blackmores visit the fishing vessels that catch their fish in port and audit them for human rights abuses.
Particular products from other brands are also recommended.

You can read my full article here or download a summary pdf of my findings here.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Formalising Just Kai

Martin and I have been working hard on the Just Kai website in recent weeks.  We're wanting to break the 'Just Kai' work off from this personal blog now that people I don't know are showing such an interest in it.   I had nearly 3000 views on the 2019 Easter egg post - but I'm not going to retain those people if they have to wade through heaps of random things about my personal life to get to the content they're after!

I will continue to link my big fish research articles here, but if you'd like to be alerted to smaller, more regular updates, subscribe to the Just Kai blog here.  The latest post is my speech from the Fairfield Conference, which went online today :-)

My buying guides for fish, cocoa and sugar have also been collected there: from now on, those are the ones that will be updated, rather than the versions on this blog.

I've also set up a Facebook page for Just Kai.  I'll mainly use that to promote the blog articles, although it may also get some unique content.  If you want to like that, it's here.

Just Kai has also signed up to Twitter.  As well as promoting blog posts there, I'll use it to re-tweet articles relating to modern slavery and child labour.   I put one up today about modern slavery in the UK, featuring a number of people forced into very everyday jobs.

Exciting times!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

More milestones :-)

No photos, but I'm quite excited by a few recent developments.

As of Tuesday of last week, I'm playing the violin again :-)  I'd been doing physio exercises to strengthen my back so I'll be strong enough to play it, and I decided the time had come.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but it went reasonably well.  Since then I've done at least 10 minutes practise every weekday, working away at Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring.  It's going well and I've ordered some more sheet music from the library to be going on with :-)

Also, on Friday and Sunday I rode my bike to places I needed to get to, as opposed to just riding it for exercise.  On Friday I rode to the GP for a blood pressure check (it's been a bit high and they want to check it weekly for the next wee while to keep an eye on it) and on Sunday I rode to church.  Both are about 1.5km from home (if that), so it wasn't a huge ride, but neat to be using a bike for transport again :-)

When I started seeing the physio earlier this year, he wanted to know what my goals were in seeing him.  Eventually I came up with being able to:
  • go tramping;
  • use my bike for transport;
  • play the violin.
I'm not at the level I hope to get to with any of those, but I'm delighted to see I'm starting to do all three :-)

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Citrus leaves

I've recently learned something super-cool: all citrus leaves are edible!

I've long known that kaffir lime leaves are edible (and widely used in Thai cuisine), but I'd assumed there was something special about them.  But no!  The essential oils that are present in the zest of citrus fruit are also in the leaves, so grapefruit leaves taste like grapefruit, lemon leaves like lemon etc.

You don't generally eat them as such: you infuse the flavour then discard the leaf, just like with bay leaves.  So you can pour boiling water over the leaves and drink them as tea; simmer in stews, curries or milky puddings; wrap meat in them before baking (apparently salmon wrapped in lemon leaves is super-yum) or even put a layer of leaves in the bottom of the pan when you're baking a cake and let the flavour infuse up through the batter.


Friday, May 10, 2019

I'm sick

I've got some kind of cold/flu thing and have mostly been in bed since Friday last week (that's 8 days now).  I keep on thinking I'm getting better (and yesterday even walked a circuit of our street with Martin) but then I don't.  I have a yucky, gunky cough and runny nose, my head is fuzzy and I just want to sleep.

Martin probably caught the same thing, but he only had one and a half days off work earlier this week.

Maybe periods of illness like this will also be part of my new normal?  I can think of a number of occasions in the distant pre-CFS past where I had 1-2 weeks in bed with a virus or tummy bug.  Now that I'm out in public more again (and now that my immune system is no longer in the hyperactive state CFS likely put it in) maybe that will be how it is again.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Holiday in Whangarei

On Easter Monday, Martin and I jumped on the bus and headed up to Whangarei to visit his parents for the week :-)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Happenings

There's been a lot going on lately!

Two and half weeks ago, our street celebrated Neighbours Day:

Ruby hanging out with Jan and Matylda and their baby, Camellia

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Vegan marshmallow Easter eggs

I've nailed a new Easter egg recipe.  After ludicrously extensive experimentation, I bring you: vegan marshmallow Easter eggs!


This is part of an ongoing quest to love our neighbours as ourselves.  Working conditions in the cocoa industry are terrible and child labour is common.  We want to love our neighbours in far-off cocoa-growing regions by ensuring they have what they need to flourish: a living wage, safe working conditions and, if they're kids, the opportunity to go to school.  But we also want to love our nearby neighbours by showing them hospitality.  For our vegan neighbours at Easter, that means hand-making vegan Easter eggs using fairly traded chocolate, as vegan fairly traded Easter eggs are otherwise very hard to come by.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Fairly traded Easter eggs 2019

Did you know that at least 20% of the Easter eggs on sale in New Zealand this Easter will be made with cocoa grown by kids who are kept out of school to work?  Kids who commonly work 12 hour days and are frequently beaten.  Who would want to support that?

Fortunately, you don't have to!  Below are some ways you can get your Easter treats whilst helping your neighbours to flourish :-) - the list can also be downloaded as a pdf here.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Mokoroa Falls

Yesterday Martin and I went for a wee tramp with my long-standing tramping buddies Anna and David.  It was super-nice to be doing something like that again!  We did the Mokoroa Falls Track: one of the few tracks in the Waitakere Ranges still open (most are closed to try and prevent Kauri dieback, but this one has been resurfaced and is apparently OK).  It was about 4km of walking and, whilst most of it was on a very well-formed track or was stairs, around the bottom of the actual falls there was a bit of scrambling to be done.  It was fun!

David and Martin cleaning their shoes as we entered the track

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Fairfield Conference 2019

Three weeks ago Martin and I, along with our friend Anna, attended the Fairfield Conference: a conference trying to encourage social justice through ethical trade.  We had a table there for Just Kai and I also gave a talk.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A long way to go

I thought it was time for a bit of an update...

It's a funny time at the moment.  I started seeing a physio about 6 weeks ago, since then exercise has been my main occupation every weekday morning.  He has me doing various strength-type exercises each morning (some 5 days a week, others two or three), plus twice a week I go for a walk for an hour or so and twice a week I go for a bike ride.  The bike riding's been a bit of a shock to the system!  At the beginning I could only go the length of our driveway a couple of times but I'm now doing just under 4km (which takes me 15 minutes) and I'm hoping to be cycling for transport a bit before too long.

In one sense, I've definitely made enormous progress in the past 4 1/2 months.  My physical abilities have gone through the roof.  This is my graph of how many steps I'm averaging per day (the numbers are the average of the two weeks leading up to that day - my steps are very variable per day, so averages make it easier to tell what's going on!)


The numbers are still small, but the graph is just going up and up!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Thoughts after yesterday's shooting

I saw a video today that I found this sobering, but it also seemed to reflect well some uncomfortable things I've been thinking about this morning.  I can't see how to post it directly, but if you're on Facebook you can see it here.  It's an Australian speaking, but I don't think things are all that different here.

Image credit https://www.facebook.com/YeoCartoons/

I'm white and I grew up here.  New Zealand doesn't feel racist to me.  But I have two friends, people of colour who have moved here after living in quite a few other countries, and they say they've never experienced racism anywhere like they experience here.  And one of them has lived in France, which I tend to think of as pretty racist, and they've both lived in England.

I also (occasionally) hear Kiwi Christian leaders making statements near-identical to those quoted in the middle of this video.

I don't know exactly how, but I do feel like people like me are part of the problem.

Whilst I don't think we've had violence on this scale here since the early days of European colonisation (or maybe since WW2 - I think there was a massacre of POWs here then?), it feels like what happened in Christchurch yesterday is just the extreme end of something that's pretty everyday in New Zealand.

If we don't acknowledge that, actually, this *is* us - how will it change?

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Preparing for Easter

From Martin, for the church newsletter this week.
Easter may seem far distant today, but in my experience it often turns up before I've really noticed.  Palm Sunday gives me some warning, but life is busy and before I realise it's Good Friday.  

Many Christian traditions practise a season of preparation for Easter, known as Lent.  The word Lent means many things to many people, but as a Baptist with no Lenten tradition I have quietly picked up two ideas that give my heart time to feel the vibe.

My first goal is a daily reading plan following Jesus as he walks towards the cross.  The internet (or your Bible app) offers many plans for the Western Lenten timeframe - 40 days, skipping Sundays.  Those will start this Wednesday, if you wanted to choose one yourself.  Palm Sunday is another good time to start, reading day by day.

I also try to go without some small nice thing that I would have every day or so.  This jars my memory and points my mind to Jesus stepping away from the glory of heaven.  It also makes me a little sad, and I try to remember that "God is Enough" for me. On Sundays I enjoy the small treat and remember with joy that on Easter morning Jesus conquered death.

(Pro tip - Don't pick something morally bad to give up.  You can hardly celebrate Sunday by being rude to the neighbours, can you?  The best day to give up sinning is Today, certainly, but don't mix up your purposes.)

My success rate has been variable, and last year the calendar again surprised me.  I will be trying again, and maybe you'd like to join me.
 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

So many flowers!

I've been loving all the flowers around me recently!

moth orchid on my dresser (quarantined from the other one to try and work out which one is the source of a mealy bug infestation)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Neighbours Day is coming!

Neighbours Day is coming up in around 6 weeks.  This is an excellent opportunity to get to know the people who live near you and help them to get to know each other.  If you're not already, could you consider doing something in your neighbourhood?


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Oakley Creek with Michaela

Yesterday we introduced our niece, Michaela, to Oakley Creek :-)

Checking out a spot I think would be great for an evening picnic.

Vegan ice cream and frozen desserts

I spent a lot of last winter devising vegan ice cream recipes: mostly to put together a recipe book for our niece for Christmas, but also for our own use.  Why?  Although we're not vegan, we've cut back a fair bit on dairy consumption in recent years for the sake of our neighbours who are most at risk from climate change.  Dairy products are nothing like as bad for the climate as meat, but they're a lot worse than eggs or plant-based protein so we try to restrict them a bit.  Also, I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable about all I'm hearing about the treatment of bobby calves in the dairy industry, and do wonder from time to time about giving up dairy entirely.

The internet is full of vegan ice cream recipes - however, I wasn't that satisfied with them.  Most are based on either bananas, coconut milk or cashew nuts.  Both bananas and coconut milk have quite strong flavours - that's fine if those are the flavours you're after, but they do limit your options.  And cashew nuts, as well as being quite expensive, are hard to work with.  If you want a smooth product, you have to soak the nuts, blend them to a paste, then force that paste through a cloth.  I've never actually tried it so I could be wrong, but that sounds like very hard work!

So I wondered, could you make ice cream using relatively-flavour-neutral soy milk?  It turns out you can, although I haven't found anyone on the internet publishing such recipes.  The trick is to add neutrally flavoured oils to bump up the fat content, then add soy lecithin (a natural emulsifier) to get the milk and oil to mix.  Turns out it works a charm!

rose geranium ice cream, chocolate ice cream and vanilla soy gelato - neapolitan ;-)

Sunday, January 27, 2019

On not being 'there' yet

For some years I have listened most Sundays to a sermon by Darrell Johnson.  I have appreciated his practical applications and the way he so explicitly draws his points from the text at hand; I also appreciate the rich background information he links me to.

He is now retired and I have finished his back catalogue on YouTube, but I found that his church, First Baptist in Vancouver, Canada, publishes all their sermons online.  Last year I appreciated their series on Colossians.  Today I had intended to go to my own church, but was too tired and ended up staying home.  I've listened to all the recent sermons on my own church's website so I turned back to First Baptist and listened to the first sermon in their series Why Jesus says He came.  It was called The Preteen Jesus.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Accessibility

Yesterday I had a GP check up followed by a blood test on the way home.  It's the first time in many years that I've been to the blood test place - since I got sick, all my blood tests have been home visits.

I was pretty shocked by what I saw.

Over these past years I've thought a lot about accessibility as I've more and more come to see myself as a person with a disability.  I think the blood test place was very 'accessible' if you limit that word to meaning 'wheelchair accessible'.  However, I live in an area with a high migrant population, and I was shocked by how inaccessible it was for someone not that fluent in written English.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A bit of an update

Life is a bit of a rollercoaster at the moment.  I'm doing way more than I used to and I'm so enjoying having so much more people contact and so much more independence.  So many things that I used to find hard are easy now.  For all that I do a lot of sewing, I've always hated cutting projects out - the concentration was really difficult and I was always battling through so much pain as I leaned on weird angles to do it.  But last Tuesday I had a project to cut out and it was so unexpectedly relaxing and kind-of meditative that I ended up cutting out my next project immediately after as well!  I'm also ever-so-much less sensitive to noise, light, sounds and smells, which is awfully convenient :-)

Hanging out with friends from high school near Oakley Creek