Thursday, April 30, 2009

I saw this sign the other day:
They weren't backwards in coming forward were they?

PS - The sign was spotted while spending a lovely morning at The Trainshed near Camden. They have models of Thomas the Tank and all his friends, you can even go for a ride on them! A fun, cheap family outing. Check out their website

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Sky is Always Blue Above the Clouds

Today's headlines aren't great; 'New Quarantine Powers to Fight Swine Flu'... '91 Aussies Suspected'... 'ANZ Shares Drop'. Yesterday's were tough too, with horrific murder stories, further talk of a recession and the first cases of suspected Swine Flu on Australian shores.

Now that I think about it, it's been a while since we've had good news. Yes, interest rates are dropping but that relief is somewhat dampened by the thousands of houses being reposessed by banks due to rising unemployment levels.

During times like these I find it hard not to feel like everything is against us and that nothing will ever go to plan or succeed again. In a few months, or maybe even years, I'm sure I'll look back on my (almost) depressed state as being over-reactive and dramatic. I'm sure we'd all agree though, that while we're in the middle of these crises, it's very hard to look upon things rationally.

Recession. Swine Flu. High unemployment rates. We're all feeling it now. Some of us have lost jobs, lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on investments, lost homes or, even more seriously, have loved ones who may be infected with the dreaded Swine Flu.

It may sound sadistic to say this, but I find it comforting to know that we're all going through this, not just one or two pockets of society. It's comforting because we're all going through it together. Most of us know the disappointment of financial loss, the fear of what is to come and the frustration of the now. Most of us know that this will pass, but that right now, the present is all we have. The past was, in many ways, brighter and the future will once again be brighter, oneday. When it comes down to the reality of things, all we have is the people who we love and our faith. But, I guess, that's all we've ever had, recession, boom or sickness.

One thing I love about friends and family is that they're in the position to be able to remind us that the sky is always blue above the clouds and that oneday this will all be a past memory, out of which we'll all come stronger, braver, smarter and hopefully, more appreciative of what we do have.

Photo by Anders Jacobsen

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

James Dyson - Cyclone of Bagless Tenacity

This man is amazing. He designed and constructed 5,127 prototypes, endured 14 years of debt and even ended up in court a few times. All in persuit of the perfect, bagless vaccuum cleaner.

James Dyson achieved what he set out to do and is now a multi-billionaire and designer/manufacturer of the world's best selling vaccuum cleaner.

One of his comments that really stuck out for me was, "Everyone has ideas. They may be too busy or lack the confidence or technical ability to carry them out. But I want to carry them out. It is a matter of getting up and doing it."

Take a look at Margaret Heffernan's article; James Dyson on Creating a Vaccuum Cleaner that Actually, Well, Sucks.

Photo by Dyson

Monday, April 27, 2009

Is it really all up to Mr Rudd?

As the economic crisis worsens and Australian households begin to feel the pinch, I'm reminded of a report I once saw about The Great Depression of the 1930's. Amid the chaos and fear, due to the domination of real poverty and hardship, the people of Australia were still able to find a sense of teamwork and comradship within their hearts.

One example of exceptional unselfishness that comes to mind is the fact that many employees chose to take paycuts in a bid to save their employer's businesses. In making such a wise and selfless decision, these people probably saved their jobs, allowing them to continue to provide for their family. They also saved a business, which, after the Great Depression would have stood as a foundation in rebuilding society and the economy.

When all we're hearing about is how bad things are, were and will be, it's easy to become disheartned and, as a result, complacent about our part as individuals in the position of our country's economic, social and environmental situation.

I'm challenged to, instead of looking to the Government for answers, look inside for ways that I, as an individual, voting, tax-paying Australian can do my part to improve the situation for all of us.

Perhaps instead of looking for pay rises, we could be content with what we have and, just for now, make do the best we can, with what we already have. We might be able to do without going to the movies or renting the latest blockbuster for $8/night so that we can put the extra money into buying Australian made products instead of cheaper imports.

I'm certainly not professing to be following my thoughts and turning them into action. Just yesterday I exclaimed in what, looking back now, was a very toddler-ish tantrum voice, "Recessions just aren't fair!" to my husband who, much to my annoyance stared at me with a look of amazement.

But one thing I have learned from my little outburst is that no, recessions aren't fair, but nonetheless, what am I going to do about it?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Miss Universe Australia contestant, Renee Slansky

Congratulations to Rachael Finch, Miss Universe Australia 2009!

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Miss Universe Australia contestant, Renee Slansky, who hails from the Hawkesbury.

Here's what she had to say about the lead-up to the contest;

High Hopes for Miss OZ
by Joni Leimgruber

It’s not often that a girl hailing from Ebenezer is chosen as one of only 30 in the finals of the Miss Australia contest but this year we’re in luck.

Renee Slansky grew up in Ebenezer and attended Hawkesbury High School and Colo High School. She is now a successful model, TV presenter, business woman and one of just 30 finalists in the 2009 Miss Australia contest.

This months finals are fast approaching and preparing for the highly competitive event is foremost on Ms Slansky’s mind.

The Miss Australia hopeful spoke to the Gazette this week. “I’m getting my dresses all ready. I have certain dresses from different designers and Australian labels.”

The competition doesn’t require entrants to utilise Australian clothing designers but Ms Slansky sees supporting the Australian fashion industry as an important aspect of the role.

“You don’t have to use Australian designers but I want to because that’s what it’s about. You’re an ambassador for Australia.”

Ms Slansky uses both established and up-and-coming Australian designers.

In October last year, hundreds of Miss Australia entrants competed at Castle Hill where three national finalists, including Ms Slansky, were chosen. Competition officials have since travelled around the country scouting for entrants suitable for the final 30.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Ms Slansky has her finger in many pies. As well as keeping up with a busy modelling career, she recently became the presenter for a mineral makeup company and features on TV shows like Mornings with Kerry Anne. The talented model is also a sports TV presenter and helps manage a promotions company. Ms Slansky also has a new business in the wings. “I want to start up a new business in the next few months which will be an events company for charities.”

At the moment though, Ms Slansky’s priority is the looming competition. “I’m nervous but I think I’ll be more nervous as it gets closer to the event,” she said. “I’m more nervous about finding my dresses and being prepared. On the night you just be yourself and do your thing. I’m excited!”

The competition final will be held in Sydney at 7pm April 22nd and is by invitation only.

As published in The Hawkesbury Gazette, April 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thank you everyone for your wonderful support and encouraging emails. It really means so much. Thanks especially to those who signed up and are following my blog. The more links I have the better it is for my 'online presence'.

For those of you who are interested, my website is now up and running - thanks Justin!

Today I've posted an article which was featured in the reader's section of Mother and Baby magazine a few months ago.

7 Quick & Easy Blues Busters
By Joni Leimgruber

Suffering from 3.30itis or battling sleep deprivation? Here are 7 quick and easy Blues Busters that will have you smiling again in no time.

1. Get out your favourite CD, the one that makes you smile, and play it loud - very loud! Dance around the lounge room. Go on, you know you want to. Sing as loud as your lungs can possibly manage.

2. Make a habit of opening all the curtains first thing in the morning. Let all that beautiful morning glow in. You will get a natural shot of Vitamin D (known to increase energy and duration) in the process.

3. Think of 5 things in your life that you’re grateful for. It might be your children or your best friend. It might be something as simple as a sunny morning or the sound of birds chirping outside your window. Now pause, just for a few moments, and let the feeling of gratitude and appreciation soak into your body. You will feel truly uplifted and ready for whatever lies ahead.

4. Every morning (or anytime you’re feeling tired), take 10 slow, deep breaths. You will feel the energy from all that extra, beautiful oxygen seeping through your lungs and into your body. Do this on a daily basis, and getting out of bed will be so much easier.

5. Ring a friend and talk about what makes you smile. Talk about your dreams and aspirations and everything you want to be and do. Share your excitement with someone who will be excited for you. Maybe you’ll inspire them to express their plans and thoughts as well. Excitement is contagious!

6. Write a list of all the quotes and passages that truly inspire and lift you. Keep them nearby on tough days and refer to them whenever you’re feeling that downward pull. To get your list started, visit

7. Smile! It’s the most sure-fire way to lift your mood.

As featured in Mother and Baby, Oct/Nov 2008

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Folk-popping, preserve-making Emma Craig

Of Preserving Folk

25 year old Emma Craig can’t decide exactly what she wants to do with her life, but for now she’s happy rocking the pubs at night and making preserves by day.

That’s right – during the day, she makes a living out of creating jams, chutneys, pickles and even honey bread.

This isn’t what you’d expect from a 25 year old but Emma has found a niche in creating amazing, colourful and exotic blends of fruits, spices and honey, transforming her into successful ‘preserve-ess’.

“I love it that I’m doing something that people have done for centuries,” she said. “These days it isn’t necessary to preserve food in preparation for a shortage, but I still like to only use produce that’s in season.”

Based at her parents company, Blue Mountains Honey in Penrith, Emma has spent the last couple of years testing and tasting and now has a large range of preserves with unique flavours, textures and themes brandishing her own label – Peachtree. Emma’s creations are far from the traditional sickly sweet preserves so many of us have grown up with.

The young preserve-ess started out by making traditional jams varieties such as fig and berry but Emma admits, “I’m not a major jam eater myself so I wanted something different”.

Every product in the Peachtree range features honey as a key ingredient and usually spices or herbs of some sort. For example, Spiced Orange Honey Marmalade still has the bitter sweet trademark you’d expect in marmalade but it also has a surprising hint of something extra, the spice mix behind which Emma keeps deliberately quiet about.

Emma’s Christmas Jam (a multi-layered mixture of cranberry, strawberry, cloves, cinnamon and orange) has become a hit, while more exotic blends like Apple and Ginger Jam, and Pear and Cardamom Paste have customers intrigued and often, addicted.

When it comes to cooking, it’s all in the family. Dad, Steve, was a pastry chef and Emma remembers when he used to make wedding cakes. “I remember Dad decorating cakes for weddings. I always wanted to help but was never allowed so I would just sit and watch and stare at the cakes… we love our food!” she adds with a giggle. Both her Grandmothers have also played a huge part in Emma’s passion for cooking. “Dads mum, who had seven children, was a great cook. She didn’t cook preserves but there was always something on the stove. Mums mum, on the other hand has always made jams. I often use her old recipes and ask for her advice if something isn’t working.”

Emma sources her fresh ingredients from local farmers whenever possible, mainly through various Hawkesbury Harvest growers. She also uses produce from Steve’s backyard crop which supplied pumpkins for last years batch of Roasted Pumpkin Relish.

The inspirational jam maker also has a ‘night job’, which is, according to Emma, where her biggest dreams come to life.

Emma is the lead singer of the self-described ‘quirky folk pop’ band, Emfatale & The Scary Rabbits, which plays at venues all around Sydney. Her boyfriend, Craig, plays guitar, bass and keys and does backing vocals for the band.

While Emma admits that she’s certainly not in the music industry for the money, she loves the satisfaction of writing a song and hearing the band perform it. Life experience is where Emma finds inspiration for her songs. “I like to write about things I see happening around me, whether they be good or bad,” she explains. “Public transport is a great place to find inspiration. There is usually something happening or someone who looks like they have a story to tell. People in this area always have something to say.”
Rabbit Jam is set to be next on the menu. Aptly named after the band (and containing no actual rabbit), the jam will form a link between the two careers and will be sold at gigs.

So, how does an indie (independent musician) chick find herself making jam?

“Well.” Emma explains, “Mum calls me The Singing Chef because food and music have always been a huge part of my life. From the age of two I was singing in the car on the way to the markets. If I wasn’t a musician, I’d be a chef. I guess now I’m a singing jam maker.”

With two polar opposite but equally creative careers, Emma can’t afford for her imagination to dry up. “I love listening to birds.” Emma says, when asked how she manages to keep her creative juices flowing. “From a vocalists point of view birds are amazing. Their melodies are endless and timeless. I also find reading food magazines inspirational. I like to know which flavours are in vogue and what produce is available and in season.”

When asked what plans she has for her music career, her answer is infused with excitement; “To win an aria award of course!”

After meeting Emma and experiencing firsthand her zest for life, I have a feeling that this folk-popping, preserve-making, full of life chick is only just getting started.

Catch Emfatale & The Scary Rabbits on April 3 at The Mars Hill Café, Parramatta and on May 2 at Lansdowne in Broadway.

As featured in Hawkesbury Lifestyle, March 2009

Photos courtesy of Blue Mountains Honey and Joni Leimgruber