Biennial spring clean

We do our ‘spring’ clean each summer. Last year I was very pregnant so didn’t get to do my usual task of cleaning the windows.

Today, I got out the newspaper and water bowl to wipe away two years of dust.

Dirty window
Clean window

It took an hour and a half for six windows and a set of glass French doors.

We’re fortunate that we can clean the windows ourselves. When we moved into the apartment, we replaced the original impractical sash windows with wonderful tilt-and-turn windows. This means they can swing (turn) right open as well as tilt from the base for a small gap.

On the radio today

If you were listening to By Design on Radio National this morning, you would have heard me being interviewed about community scale retrofit of homes.

A friend put me in touch with the show’s presenter, Fenella Kernebone. Fenella suggested I pop into the ABC studios to do the interview by tardis.

I thought the TARDIS comment was a geek joke until the ABC security guard at the front desk asked, ‘Are you here for the TARDIS?’

Tardis studio at ABC Southbank
Tardis studio at ABC Southbank

The fine print on the sign explains that the most remarkable characteristic of a TARDIS is that its interior is much larger than it appears from the outside.

In a small booth with a big mike
In a small booth with a big mike

I’ve now been interviewed by journalists four times (twice for newspaper, twice for radio). It’s always hard for me to predict what the end product will be.

My company gave me media training last year and I learned that I should always prepare a key message and back it up with three lines of evidence.

In most cases, if you tell the story clearly enough that the journalist can use it verbatim, then you’re doing them a favour.

I think I need more practice.


‘I’m hungry,’ my brother said. ‘Let’s get something from the shop over there.’

We crossed the shopping centre floor to reach what was called the ‘Cafe & Boulangerie’.

Jason said to the shop assistant, ‘Do you have filled baguettes?’

‘Baguettes?’ She looked confused.

‘You know, long sandwiches.’

‘Um. We only have foccacias.’

I started laughing.

It permeated the air

We were on the highway, driving back from regional Victoria to Melbourne. The landscape passing by was fields with the occasional five-building town.

‘Why does it smell like chips?’ I said suddenly.

Simone and Rob sniffed the air. ‘Hmm, it does, doesn’t it? Strange.’

Two minutes later, we saw the McCain’s factory on the horizon.

‘Ah, McCain!’

Fractional pants

‘The weather is warm,’ Damjan said gleefully. ‘I’ll wear my three-quarter pants.’

‘You know, in Chinese they’re called seven-tenths pants,’ I said.

‘Seven-tenths? Seventy per cent?’ Damjan looked astonished. ‘What do we call them?’

‘Three-quarters,’ I reminded him. ‘Seventy-five per cent.’

Damjan started laughing. ‘Why are they shorter in China?’

‘They’re poorer, I guess,’ was the obvious response.

Climate rally

On September 21, Damjan and I joined 30,000 people (supposedly) at the climate rally in front of the State Library of Victoria. The rally was part of a series around the world in the lead up to an important climate change conference in New York.

Ben and Jerry's: If it's melted, it's ruined
Ben & Jerry’s was the only corporation that I saw at the rally. I like their sign, ‘If it’s melted, it’s ruined.’ True for ice cream, true for Antarctica.
Next major extinction? Pollies
There’s that photo showing the Coalition ministers-to-be. They look like they wanted to be taken seriously, don’t they.
Homemade sign
Handwritten homemade signs are still being made.
Climate action is on my agenda
And here’s me. Climate action is on my agenda. When we left the rally, Damjan walked around the city holding this sign. We got a lot of people smiling at us and saying, ‘Good on you!’ Not surprising for the one electorate in Australia that voted in a Greens MP. Oh, there was one guy who said, ‘Tony Abbott is great!’ We thought he might not have read our sign properly.

Breastmilk experiments

A while back, we noticed that Mia didn’t want to drink bottles of breastmilk that I had painstakingly prepared. At first, we thought it was because she didn’t like drinking from bottles. We changed the bottle teat. We tried when she was less tired. Sometimes she would drink it, sometimes she wouldn’t.

Finally we tasted the milk ourselves. Freshly expressed breastmilk was mild and sweet. The milk that we had thawed from the freezer was horrible.

I felt awful. We had been trying to force horrible tasting milk into Mia’s mouth!

So, we ditched the ‘liquid gold’. I had no qualms about it. It’s hard work to build up a stash of breastmilk but there was no way I was going to feed it to Mia.

My stash of frozen breastmilk
My stash of frozen breastmilk
Liquid gold melting away in the sink
Liquid gold melting away in the sink

Why did this happen? Somewhere between expressing, freezing, storing and thawing, the taste of the milk changes.

I read around the topic on the internet. Some women’s breastmilk has too much lipase (an enzyme), which means that breastmilk starts changing in flavour within a few hours of storage. This is not what happens to my milk. Mia is happy to drink milk that has been refrigerated for a few days.

Another theory that sounded promising is to do with the way frozen breastmilk is stored in the freezer. The freezer has a defrost cycle, so if milk is stored on the ‘floor’ of the freezer, it might defrost and refreeze a little each time the freezer does a cycle.

To test this, we made three samples of milk. One was refrigerated. Another was stored on the floor of the freezer. The other was stored on the freezer shelf. After three days of storage, I also expressed a fresh milk sample to add to the experiment.

Four breastmilk samples stored in different ways over three days
Four breastmilk samples stored in different ways over three days

It was a single-blind taste test. I knew which sample was which and Damjan did not. Here are his notes.

Tasting notes from breastmilk trial
Tasting notes from breastmilk trial

It turned out that thawed breastmilk tastes like coconut! Also, all samples were drinkable and close to indistinguishable.

Our next theory was that it was the age of the breastmilk that mattered, rather than the storage method. So for two weeks, every second or third night, I made a breastmilk sample and froze it.

Last week, we got to do another blind taste test.

Is it the age that matters to the taste of breastmilk?
Is it the age that matters to the taste of breastmilk?

Alas (or hooray?), all samples were equally drinkable. The age of the milks did not seem to relate to how strong the flavour was. Damjan wasn’t able to rank them by age.

So we haven’t really gotten to the bottom of it.

At least we know that we can freeze milk for at least two weeks. In fact, on Monday, we sent Mia to childcare with a bottle of thawed 16-day old milk and she drank all of it.

Who is more disabled?

When I was almost eight months pregnant, I went to Brisbane for a training course. On the way back, I took the Skybus back to the city.

I had been sitting in the ‘special needs’ section of the bus for about five minutes, waiting for the bus to leave the terminal, when a Skybus official got on the bus and said to me, ‘You’ll have to move, we have a person in a wheelchair that needs this space.’

I leapt up to change seats. It took two seconds for the man’s expression to change. ‘Oh no! You’re pregnant!’

I mumbled reassurance. I think a person in a wheelchair is more disabled than a healthy pregnant woman.

Racial profiling

Five of us plus Mia arrived at our favourite Vietnamese restaurant. We were a bigger group than usual so the waiter seated us upstairs, where there are round banquet tables.

Damjan looked around and said, ‘I think there are more Aussies here today.’

Dad replied, ‘No, this is normal. They always put the white people upstairs.’

‘Really? Why?’

‘Because white people eat slowly. They put them here to avoid clogging up the busy tables downstairs.’