This month in Lego builds

I had some fun with Emmet this month, finding new places to stash him for my Instagram series ‘The Continuing Adventures of Emmet’. My awesome husband did some animation magic on one of my builds and I built an entire set (Family House #31012, 2013) from online instructions. It was extra fun to try and figure out how to replace pieces that I didn’t have in my own collection.

Image above is an animation of Lego Mini figure Emmet riding a motorcycle out of a garage door on a small house as it opens.

I re-created my first Lego Set (#230 Hairdressing Salon, 1978)…and added Emmet. I didn’t get much Lego as a kid as it was considered a ‘boy toy’ back then. I think I got this one because the theme of hairdressing salon was one of Lego’s first attempts at marketing to girls. It worked!

Image above is a basic Lego hairdressing Salon with Lego Mini figure Emmet’s head displayed in the window

Below is me in my happy place. Every weekend, I like/need to spend some time touching and creating with my brick friends. 

Image of me in my happy place – sitting on the floor surrounded by containers of Lego

The Vollkswagen T1 Camper van (set #10220, 2011) is one of the hardest builds I’ve done. Really fiddly. This was my second time at building and Emmet joined the party. 

Image of Lego VW Camper Van with Emmet at the wheel

I have a thing for building toilets. Who knew? Here’s Emmet sitting on the toilet from Lego Friends (set #41038 Jungle Rescue, 2014).

Image description: Toilet from Lego Friends Animal Rescue set with mini fig Emmet sitting on it

Some fun with the kid displaying the First Order Special Tie Fighter (set #75101, 2016)

Image description: Lego Star Wars TIE fighter with mini fig Emmet operating it

And a cool MOC by my son!

Image description: My son’s MOC vehicle with mini fig Emmet at the controls

Ethical Electronics – what to buy and what to avoid

Using the Baptist World Aid 2016 Ethical Electronics guide, I’ve provided an easily accessible snapshot of which brands you should seek out and which to avoid when buying electronic goods.

The Baptist Guide does the work for us, comprehensively investigating companies on the processes they follow in all phases of supply chain production – extraction, smelting and refining, components manufacturing and final manufacturing. The Guide examines four areas for each company:

  • Policies
  • Traceability and transparency
  • Monitoring and training
  • Worker Rights

Combining results from all those categories together, the Guide gives each brand a rating from A to F, with ‘A’ being the highest rating possible. In 2016, overall no brands received and ‘A’ rating. Based on the Guide, next time you need to buy electronics –

Give preference to these brands, which scored a B+ grading:

Image of electronic waste and text reading ‘Ethical Electronics Guide Top Scorers (B+ Rating) Acer, Apple, Bosch, Intel, LG, Microsoft, Moto, Neff, Nokia, Siemens, Xbox, Zelmer.’

Don’t buy these brands, which scored lower than a C grading:

Image of electronic waste with text reading ‘Ethical electronics guide lowest scorers (D-F rating). Don’t buy Amazon Echo, Fire & Kindle, Canon, Fujitsu, HTC, Kitchen Aid, Lenovo, Whirlpool, Dyson, Fisher & Paykel, Go Pro, Kogan, Soniq, Sunbeam, Teac, Thermomix, Polaroid.’.

An interesting note is that of the 56 brands reviewed only two brands paid a (partial) Living Wage (Dick Smith Electronics and Garmin). The rest don’t pay a living wage to all those in the supply chain. Although the report highlights that 64% of companies reviewed showed some improvement, there is still a very long way to go and even companies who scored a B+, like Apple, have been associated with the use of child labour and excessive working hours in their factories in China. E-waste is also a growing environmental toxic disaster and the practice of the West exporting its toxic e-waste to China has been called ‘Toxic Imperialism’. 

For these reasons, please consider buying second hand or doing without where possible before buying any electrical goods. 

To download or order your own copy of the Guide, visit:



There’s a lot that I don’t know and some that I can’t work out no matter how much I try. That’s the case for everyone I’m sure. But some of this is assumed to be stuff that I should know or be able to figure out given that I’m an adult and a ‘professional’. This can sometimes make my life and work pretty stressful and leave me feeling like a fraud.

It’s often said that autistic people have some areas that they excel in and are ahead of their peers in and other areas that they are ‘behind’ in. This experience was true of me as a child and has remained true for me as an adult. As a child, I was considered by most of my teachers to be clever, except in maths where I was accused of not trying and shamed for struggling. As an adult, I have learnt that like some other autistic people, I have dyscalculia, meaning that my brain cannot make any sense out of numbers and maths concepts and trying to feels physically uncomfortable – even painful. I must have found a way to communicate this to my teachers because I was eventually ‘excused’ from maths class at 14 years old. I have a vague memory of tears and fleeing the classroom – which I now understand as a very public meltdown.

In adulthood, it’s considered more common to hold specialised knowledge in some areas and not in others. This is a function of our jobs and a result of our life experience. For example, I don’t know how to operate a bulldozer but I do know how to conduct research. I think for this reason, we sometimes don’t understand how these differences in autistic neurology show up in adulthood.

For me, it’s like this – within my job I have some things that I don’t understand and have trouble making sense of that others expect that I can understand and make sense of. I’ll call this ‘assumed knowledge’. We may be fire fighters or garment workers or babysitters or stay at home parents or doctors and each comes with some specialised knowledge areas. All share assumed knowledge though and lacking in this will make the job sometimes impossible. For example, a fire fighter needs to understand how to operate their equipment and it will be assumed they can also follow a set of safety instructions as well. A stay at home parent can prepare food for their young children and it will be assumed that they are able to arrange a doctor appointment for their child if required. An academic (like me) will have skills in conducting research projects and teaching students and it will be assumed they are able to make sense of emails and fill in the many forms that come with the job.

Just like in math class all those years ago, not being able to demonstrate assumed knowledge feels embarrassing. Asking for help to do something that others imagine you can do – believe that you should be able to do given the skills and knowledge you demonstrate in other areas of your life – is risky. Memories of being shamed in childhood are not easily erased and it remains a fact that autistic adults experience higher rates of unemployment and are not promoted on par with non-autistics.

Like many of the things that I used to think were my own failings, I’m beginning to reassess this situation in light of what I now know about my autistic neurology. This process has me questioning the whole idea that autistics are ‘behind’ in some areas and ‘ahead’ in others. It implies we may have the ability to ‘catch up’ in those areas we find challenging and I’m just not sure this is always the case and nor should it be.

For example, no matter how hard I try to understand math, I can’t. No matter how many times I re-read a particular email from a colleague, I may never be able to make sense of it. No matter how many times I follow instructions on how to complete a particular form at work, it may remain un-doable for me. I put much more effort in trying to do the work of making sense of the stuff that doesn’t make sense to me than I do in going about the rest of my job. And yet, these things never get clearer or easier for me like many of the other tasks on the job do as you get more experience with them.

Rather than comparing our abilities to our peers and coming up ahead or behind, either in the schoolyard or the workplace, I think we should instead frame this as our unique autistic neurological signatures. For too long these comparisons with our peers have hurt autistic people. They’ve seen us ending up in special ed or enrolled in therapies as small children and held us back in the workplace as adults.

Instead, I want us to be accepted and celebrated for our beautiful autistic neurologies. Neurologies that see us travelling down a different path in a completely different way towards an entirely different place. We don’t learn in a linear, stackable, predictable pattern arriving at some destination called ‘functioning adult’. We may not share your ‘assumed knowledge’ or demonstrate your ‘adult skills’. We are disabled by trying to make ourselves function in ways that we are not best able to function in and need schools and families and workplaces to stop being so rigid and bend a little to make room for us.

We are not behind or ahead. We are autistic.

Review: Two apps to help you shop more ethically

Image is a mobile phone with the opening page of the Good on You app
I’ve been trialling two apps that are both designed to help you figure out if the item you want to buy is ethical or not. The first is the Shop Ethical! app for Australia and
New Zealand available for free download for IOS and Android.

It’s updated every 3 months or so and includes a rating system for:

  • Appliances
  • Baby items
  • Clothing
  • Electronics
  • Food and Drink
  • Household
  • Office Supplies
  • Personal Care
  • Pet
  • Retail
  • Toys

The latest update also has a barcode scanner which is a fast and brilliant way to check a product when you are at the point of purchase. This app has an A-F rating system that rates a range of impacts including environmental, social, animal and business ethics. The website states that ‘Company ratings are based on information gathered from over 150 sources including the work of organisations such as Greenpeace, Choose Cruelty Free, WWF, Free2Work and Friends of the Earth’. For each product you search, it outlines praise, criticism, boycott calls and any other pertinent information.

It’s also got a ‘Get informed’ tab and a ‘Take action’ tab that allow you to go a step further in your journey to shopping ethically. I really like this app as it lists over 5000 products as well as information about companies.

The second app is the Good on You app, again available for IOS or Android and free. It allows you to search for a brand, a store or a category of item and provides you with a rating system. Launched in 2014 by Ethical Consumers Australia it currently has ratings for over 1000 fashion and accessory brands.

The rating system lists:


  • Great
  • Good
  • It’s a Start
  • Not Good Enough
  • We Avoid

Personally, I’d suggest avoiding anything below the ‘It’s a Start’ rating because if it’s ‘Not Good Enough’, then why buy it? When rating a product or brand, this app looks at the treatment of people, the environment and animals. The website states that when considering a rating, ‘the most reliable information about how a brand performs on an issue comes from certification schemes like Fair Trade, Ethical Clothing Australia and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)…we also take into account information from a large number of certifications on specific issues, NGO rating projects, multi-stakeholder agreements and industry initiatives’.

This app is definitely more of a fashion app and while it looks beautiful and is really intuitive to use, it’s not yet as comprehensive as the Shop Ethical! app.

It’s never been easier to check on a product or brand now that you can have all the info right there in your phone!

Begin again


Intentions work well for me. I ponder situations. Thoughts arise. I make an intention in my head. I say it out loud to my husband. I grow the structure of the intention and build a scaffold to make it have the best chance of success.

For the longest time my intentions are not new ones. I revisit ones that didn’t make it. Good ideas, strong plans that didn’t make it the distance. I begin again. Each time I begin again, I tweak the structures and change the scaffolds based on what I’ve learnt from the last intention that burnt out before I fulfilled it.

In 2017, I have the intention to only purchase fair trade products. The structure around this is that I will reset the intention every month. For some reason, making it to the end of a month and beginning again the next month seems to work better for me than the far away hardcore vision of 365 days of intention. I’ll post each month’s experience as it unfolds here – a month by month account of challenges I faced, choices I made, feelings I had. I want to stay present for the experience. To be there, awake, watching the excuses that arise in my brain to justify why this one time, it’s ok.

I want to know myself more as a consumer. I want to watch the desire, the fulfilment of it, how quickly it all fades once I have what I think I needed. Only to begin again in another circle of desire.

I’ve taken stock of what I own and I think I can make it to the end of 2017 without needing new clothes or shoes. I already buy only fair trade coffee to drink at home, so at least that’s sorted. Birthday gifts for others will need to be planned well in advance.

The reasons behind my intention are simple – I own enough. I don’t need to spend as much as I do, I don’t want to spend a life in a cycle of thoughtless spending. I don’t want to own goods produced by people being taken advantage of. I never have.

I’ve updated all the resources on this blog, so they’re all current at December 2016. I’ll be continuing to update them throughout the year. If you have a brand of clothing, food, coffee or toy that you’d like me to look into, let me know and I’ll do my best to determine if it is ethically produced or not.

So here I am, beginning again.