Sunday, 19 March 2017

Beware Ordering Items From China

When I'm not in flow making your skin care products I'm off playing little miss detective.  Perhaps I was a detective in a past life (if there is such a thing?)

While looking at ladies fashion trying to figure out what style of clothes I like I stumbled across an Australian women's fashion online website.  At first I was in awe of the pictures because the dresses are so well made and feminine.  I started to browse, making a mental note of dresses I liked; looking at the instructions, sizing charts, about us, contact us and terms and conditions.  Supposedly order processing takes 3-5 days and then up to 12 working days to post (max 3 weeks).

While they don't outright say it they elude to being based in Australia yet have no business contact details aside from an email address (which didn't strike me as odd since it's not unusual for online websites to only have email contacts).  I looked up their business name and found they have an ABN and a street address in Sydney yet the business has been listed by a Chinese name (person or company).   They had another business in 2015 under a different name that no longer exists - what happened to it?   Couldn't find any information on it.

I sent them an email enquiry about site info and received an email back that did not originate from Sydney, they copied and pasted a standard response from their website and didn't answer my question.

It was time to look for reviews and sure enough I found some on their Facebook page, 99% of which is negative.  Mostly regarding the long postage times over 1-2 months, low quality clothing not looking like the pictures and incorrect sizing. All comments are replied to with courtesy responses.  Tracking of orders is done via an overseas (China) courier company.

This lead me to wonder even more about the company.  How could they claim to be based in Australia while selling low quality items they ship in from China?  This is false advertising and the very least.

My detective work took me here, there and everywhere and I ended up finding out about dodgy (scam) companies that set up websites in China using photos they've stolen from other websites and selling second rate items.  Items made in sweat shop factories where employees are asked to replicate items pictured on the websites.  Judging by the quality of the work often reported, the employees don't seem very skilled and quite often have no idea how to replicate the product well.  From there I looked around for other sites scamming the Australian public and was horrified to find that there are many and when the companies are confronted about their dubious existence they close their websites down, change business names and open new websites.  I was further horrified to find reporting these companies isn't very easy leaving me, and no doubt others, unsure as to how to actually do it.

Customers who report dodgy products to the companies have emails ignored, phone numbers don't work, items are often lost in transit, arrive second rate and have to be returned in order to receive a refund, which often isn't given.  There is no way to chase the company down, reporting them is tricky and often futile, returning items is costly, so many just cut their losses and China gets it's money from ripping off other countries with fake items: clothing, jewellery, electronics etc. These companies have infiltrated not just Australia and the US, but France, the UK, Thailand, India... just about every corner of the globe!

Now this isn't to say ALL companies from China are illegitimate fake scammers; numerous people have purchased knockoff items they're happy with, but BEWARE and do your homework.  If unsure ask for more information because somewhere out there someone knows.  One thing to look out for is photos that also appear on other websites (you can do a reverse image search), this is a sure sign the photos are fake, and fake photos mean fake companies!  Also not having standard photo styles, such as consistent background colour, product placement etc.

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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

One Chicken, Six Meals

While this article isn’t for our vegan friends it is about helping those who wish to reduce their meat intake. More people are becoming aware that the way we produce and consume meat has a largely ill effect on the earth and our bodies; the vast quantities we consume, the suffering of animals and the environmental impact of raising animals for meat.

So if you’re moving towards eating less meat this article should help.  Also chickens have less environmental impact on our earth than other animals (see diagram).

Using one whole free range chicken this is what I did to make one bird feed our family (of four) for six days.

Remove the two breasts/chest area and place in a freezer container. No need for impressive knife skills, just do the best you can. Remove the wings, drumsticks and thighs (I like to separate the thighs from the drumsticks because there are more pieces to go around). Two batches of chicken ready for freezing and using later on in the week. 

Place the remaining body of the chicken in a large pot, stuff and onion into the cavity, and cover with water. Add some flavours if you like such as peppercorns, cloves, garlic and bay leaves and add salt to taste. Cook on a very low heat for at least three hours. 

When the chicken stock is done allow to cool before removing the body of the chicken and strain the liquid into glass bottles. This makes several (recycled) wine bottles of homemade chicken stock which you can freeze and use at your leisure.

Meal one: remove the bits of chicken from the bones that have been slowly cooked in the chicken stock and use in homemade backed beans. Tinned beans (strained) cooked in a 800g of crushed tomatoes with sautéed onion and the chicken pieces. 

Meal two: slow cooked chicken Italian style. Wings, drumsticks and thighs slow cooked in 800g of crushed tomatoes with Italian herbs and some home grown olives. Served with brown rice (or mashed potato if you prefer).

Meal three: use one bottle of chicken stock in a vegetable risotto. 

Meal four: the chicken breasts were cut into bite sized pieces and used in a yummy homemade butter chicken sauce, served on a bed of brown rice. 

Meal five: after eating the Italian style chicken (meal two) there was a fair amount of very flavoursome tomato sauce left over. This sauce can be poured over cooked pasta as a rich flavoured Napoli sauce. 

Meal six: using another bottle of chicken stock cook some macaroni and a large tin of beans, with added Italian herbs and make a delicious and hearty Minestrone.

These dishes are just an idea of how the whole chicken can be used in many different, economical ways and it takes me back to a time when families were frugal with food and used every bit to make food go a long way.


Thursday, 2 March 2017

How Far Can $120 Worth Of Food Go

Monday morning was grocery shopping morning. With a view to NOT enter the supermarkets all produce was purchased from the local businesses. We're really lucky where we live because our green grocers has a huge variety of produce including accompaniments like sauces, spices, noodles...

Fruit and vegetables came to $70. Break down: sweat potato, 5 garlic bulbs, handful of fresh ginger, 6 mandarins, bag of apples, bunch of bananas, 500g strawberries, grapes, 6 figs, 4 large carrots, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, free range eggs, trio of dips, a bag of walnuts to snack on and tomato passata.

Meat from local butcher, consisting of a handful of chicken necks for the dog, a handful of small chicken pieces and 3 chicken breasts, came to $18 (the necks and pieces are cheap).

Local bakery, three wholemeal loaves of breach came to $5.

Italian delicatessen, 3 bags of pasta, mozzarella, large bag of parmesan and large bag of Italian cookies (for school snacks), came to $25.

Monday dinssert = (Dinssert - a word coined by JOLI meaning having dessert for dinner)
Rhubarb and apple crumble.  Rhubard and apple supplied by a friend who grows their own produce. Crumble made from ingredients already in the pantry (what I refer to as staples*).

Tuesday dinner =
Pasta neapolitana. One bag of rigatoni pasta topped with a tomato sauce I made the previous Sunday lunch (before shopping) and parmesan cheese.

Wednesday dinner =
Minestrone made with the handful of chicken pieces, onion, garlic, 4 potatos (from last weeks shopping), one carrot, rehydrated chick peas* and a quarter bag of riccioli pasta.

Thursday dinner =
Stir fry vegetables with rice.  Broccoli, snow peas, garlic and ginger, with an egg, coriander and oyster sauce*.

During this time a banana cake was made with old bananas and staples. I did a quick shop on Thursday to get milk and butter because I forgot to get these on Monday.

Friday dinner =
Cauliflower and chicken soup, with one whole cauliflower, one chicken breast fillet, garlic, onion, stock and a cup of dried lentils*.

Saturday dinner =
Left over minestrone.

Sunday dinner =
Bread and trio of dips.  The bread was warmed in an oven after being lightly tossed with olive oil then served with a trio of dips.

We made a carrot cake on Sunday with two of the carrots and a cup of the wall nuts, eggs and staples.

This is to feed a family of three and by Sunday we have 4 bananas, two apples, half a bunch of grapes, garlic, ginger, cucumber and sweet potato, two chicken fillets, two loaves of bread (we must have had at least another half a loaf prior to shopping) and the accompaniments such as cheese, milk etc.

Monday dinner =
Chicken breast baked in tomato sauce with onion, garlic and mozzarella cheese, served with sweet potato mash.

Tuesday dinner =
Cucumber salad with feta cheese and home grown olives.  The last bag of pasta with parmesan cheese (with bolognese sauce made with mince from the freezer) plus home-made garlic bread with half a French stick (from the freezer).

Wednesday dinner =
Left over cauliflower soup with buttered bread.

Breakfast is cereal* and milk, lunch is a sandwhichs, buscuits, fruit and water, afternoon snack is fruit or cookies, sometimes yogurt if we have it or cake if we've made some.

*Staples = from the pantry / freezer - items usually in stock.