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Showing posts with label Simple Living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Simple Living. Show all posts

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Upcycling Pillow Slips

by Amanda of Live Life Simply

I made a couple of grocery totes from vintage pillow slips during the week. They were quick to sew up, use an entire pillow slip (no waste), are durable being double layered and roomy enough to fit plenty of farmers market goodies inside!



The pdf pattern for this tote can be found at Spiderwomanknits .It is a free tutorial and is very easy to follow. I did however make a small change to mine and I top stitched the edges of the handles.


I like that these bags are super simple, thrifty and green. I'm making more of these this week!


There are many more ways to upcycle pillow slips. I designed a pre-fold nappy last year from a flannel pillow slip and it is still going strong. I have also cut embroidered pillow slips down into a square shape and made them into simple cushion covers


Here are some more ideas for pillow slip upcycling that I am adding to my list!

Pillow slip into a:

Pretty top
Apron
Little Dress

There are plenty more ideas out there and I would love to hear if you have made something out of a vintage pillow slip too. I have a collection of slips waiting to be transformed into useful things!

Amanda x

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Frugal Limits

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches























Every now and then I hear about a large family with the same food budget as our more avearage size family, or a family in size similar to ours, with a much more modest food budget and I question why I'm not able to be as frugal. I wonder where I am going wrong and I usually sit down committed to read their blog, or the article and learn something. The goal? To reduce our expenditures. I begin reading feeling like I'm doing something wrong, I finish, feeling like I'm doing something very right. You see, we all have to do what is right for our family and I believe, what is kinder and gentler for the earth and those who are more vulnerable. But reading the nitty gritty about what people are willing to compromise on, I actually leave feeling like it is a compomise too far. I'm personally not willing to:

- Shop once a month: access to fresh fruit and veg is too important
- Purchase ready meals or packaged foods with coupons
- Skimp on fruits and vegetables - one blog which which received much attention for being frugal and healthy posted a menu plan which included only 2 fruit and 1 veg a day (most studies recommend a minimum of 5-6 a day)
- Purchase factory produced animal products
- Build a diet around cheap fillers without much nutritional value. For example, a pasta dish served with bread was recommended as a cheap meal. Whereas e may have pasta, but it would be served with a fresh spinach salad and a veg.
- Shop at unethical major corporations

The more I think about it, the more I realize that while I certainly do budget and work hard to stick to it with food, I do see placing priority on green living, simple healthy meals and supporting others (for example by purchasing fairtrade items) as more imporant to me than slashing my budget another $50 or $100 a month. And for somewhere between $300 and $350 a month we purchase:

- Free range eggs from local farms
- All organic animal products
- Fairtrade: sugar, bananas, tea, coffee, mangos, flour and cocoa
- Green cleaning and laundry supplies
- Pet food & litter
- About 50% of our fruits and veg organic
- Enough fruits and veg for 3 fruits and 3 veg (plus a salad) a day
- A locally sourced produce box
- Seeds for our community garden plot

Yes, I could probably shave at least $50 a month off the budget if I changed to what some frugal bloggers recommend. And that $50 would come in handy. But more than that, I want my children, who have experienced malnourishment prior to joining our family through adoption, to continue to make educational and emotional gains that good food has allowed them. I want my hard earned money to tred softly on this earth and help people. I want to invest in our health now, to safeguard us for the future. And if that takes another $50 - $100 a month, I'm really OK with it.

What about you? What is your line when it comes to compromise? Is it only about money, or like me, something more?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What They Live

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


























My Children

:: Couldn't tell you the last time they watched tv, but can tell you what they planted in our community garden

:: Have no clue what the latest gadgets or toys are, but can list books and board games we love to read and play

:: Don't know what a play station, gameboy, or Wii is, but can tell you tale after tale about dolphins

:: Won't sit for hours in front of a screen, but spend hours putting together puzzles

:: Aren't sure of the real names of all the shops we visit, but can tell you the names of all the shop owners and what fairtrade items they sell

:: Haven't yet figured out the politics behind big corporations, but can articulate why we boycott certain shops in very simple terms - "they aren't kind to their workers" is usually suffice.

:: Politely listen to hurried tales of weekend busyness from peers, teachers and friends, but quietly whisper in my ear "Mama lets just be at home and sit under a tree"

:: May not yet be fluent readers, but love that their Mummy is in a bookclub

:: Graciously receive gifts, but find real joy in the making of the thank you card the second the gift is opened.

:: Know we have to watch pennies, but remind me each week to make sure our home has flowers.

:: Don't live in the country, but as of yesterday learned how to gently hold chickens

:: Don't eat meat, but love hanging out with pigs at the city farm!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Weighing Up Organic & Natural Newborn Options

by Amanda 

Instinctively mothers want the best for their babies. Our main concerns are for their health and well being. Before and after new babies arrive we are bombarded with information from well meaning family members, friends and books, blogs, informative websites and magazines. It can be overwhelming and often times leads to uncertainty and utter confusion. Try to pay attention to the things that matter most to you, consider what is practical and listen to your instincts. There are options and choices for everything baby - new, second hand, borrowed, hired,  handmade, organic and eco friendly. You may choose a combination of these things depending on your budget and lifestyle or may choose one only. Whatever YOU choose will be the best for YOUR baby.

When I was expecting with my last son I had a bee in my bonnet and I only wanted to use organic skincare, organic bedding, organic bath linen and organic clothes. But when I started to investigate these options and products I realised we simply couldn't afford everything and as it was our last baby it didn't make sense to be spending that much money. I did manage to pick up a few items from ebay, but not every item I was seeking could be found there. I then started to weigh up how often these items would be used, their value after use and what items would be in direct contact with my baby's skin.

I prioritised the wish list and skincare wasn't an option for me. It had to be natural even though I didn't plan to be using it all the time. As skin is so porous and can absorbs traces of all kinds of materials, I didn't want any products to go near our baby that had ingredient lists with long words that I couldn't pronounce or understand. Natural and organic skincare was an easy choice. It had to be simple and in most cases I can make the products myself.

I then looked at bedding and decided to buy a secondhand cot and mattress. As new mattresses 'off gas' chemicals (that's the 'new smell') a new one was not on the shopping list and as we couldn't afford an all natural one, a secondhand one was the best choice for our child. I was lucky to pick up one locally that was in excellent condition. My compromise was to layer the bedding with organic linen and I purchased two sets of fitted, organic bamboo sheets for the bassinet and the cot. I also chose an organic mattress protector. Admittedly I did have a few sheets left from my previous children's bedding and these are my spares. Using pre-loved sheets are a wise choice for bassinets as they are only used for such a short time and most are in near new condition.

Bath linen was another priority for me, as again this would be used directly against my baby's skin. I chose two organic bamboo towels and a 3 pack of bamboo muslin washers. Muslin washers are by far the most gentle cleansing cloth for newborns and I highly recommend them. The bamboo towels being so absorbent, dry the skin very quickly and the fibres are soft and super gentle against a baby's skin. I am still using all of these items today along with some hand knitted washers (see pictured) and they will last beyond the toddler years.


When it came to newborn clothing I chose to buy and use only secondhand items made from 100% cotton and wool where possible. Items that have been used and washed over and over again have had their manufacturing residues washed away and this put my mind at ease. We were gifted many items and I chose to buy a few organic undergarments, again because these items were against his precious skin. Style wasn't an issue for me. Items had to be practical, easy to put on and take off with minimum fuss.


Other items that I chose to buy organic were the Organic Ergo Baby Carrier (half was a gift), natural medicines and remedies, cloth nappies, feeding products and a handful of toys for gifts. I didn't require bottles to bottle feed, but if you do, you may want to use glass bottles or at the least BPA FREE plastic ones. There are plenty of options and compromises and secondhand can be the most eco friendly if this is something you strongly value. Make your own decisions about what items you really need and weigh up the choices and alternatives in relation to your budget.

Don't forget to make the most of the opportunity whenever someone asks what you really need or want for your new baby and don't be afraid to share your core values and wishes. You may not like to ask for something organic due to the price tag, but there are small organic items that will be appreciated like organic socks and scratch mittens or you may know someone that makes beautiful crocheted hats...so ask for one in organic cotton! The path into parenthood can be an opportunity to learn as much as you can about the impacts of the living environment you create for your child and sharing what you learn with your family and friends provides a supportive environment when your baby arrives.

What decisions did you make or do you plan to make about choosing products and items for your babies in relation to your values?




Sunday, May 27, 2012

How Simplicity Prepares You For The Harder Times

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Late yesterday evening I wrote on my personal blog about the difference in the experience of frugality when it is forced vs. it being a choice. The days grocery shopping "adventure" was still fresh in my mind. And in truth, my mind was on the black formal dress shirt school is insisting each child owns by Monday (for a concert), my daughters need for sandals, my son outgrowing his trousers (again!), four prescriptions that need renewing this month, three bills which recently arrived and a petrol tank in the bottom 1/4.

I've lived a frugal and simple life for many years. You will find us hiking instead of shopping, watering our community garden plot instead of going to an adventure playground or theme park, and spending our evenings reading, playing games, riding bikes or volunteering instead of frequenting paid activities. But this is the first time under our new circumstances of it not being an adventure, or a reason to save for something (emergency fund, car repair fund, holiday fund, long term savings plan). This is no longer about choice, but circumstance. The two very different c's.

The difference for me is two fold. Firstly, the "what if' thought is never far from my mind (what if there is another bill, or an emergency which costs $$ arises) and secondly, the constant need to prioritize, or choose what to cut in order to make it all work. And that isn't a nice feeling at all.

And yet, honestly, I see beauty in how we live. Yes, I've certainly learned that when things are already tough, more seems to go wrong - like a double blow that seems, at times, ridiculously unfair. But I've also learned about joy, faith, perseverance and commitment to a choice, and owning that choice even when it no longer feels like you've chosen such a path. If we had an extra $1000 a month, the reality is, our activities would not change, you would still find us hiking, bike riding, visiting parks, cooking from scratch, playing games, making art and crafts and loving life. None of that would be any different. What would change is the bank balance, our ability to easily deal with the emergencies that arise and perhaps a little bit more peace. But the reality is, we are not poor, we have a very nice roof over our heads, our fridge and cupboards are full, everyone has all the clothes they need, we have more books than we could possibly read (though we are trying!), we have our garden plot, a car that gets us from A to B, each child has a hobby, or two, that they enjoy each week. And our life really isn't any different, except that I need to be far more creative at times. And you know, the artist in me knows, creativity is never a bad thing!

I'd love to hear from you. Do you have any tips for me, or other readers, about embracing forced frugality or living well on less?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Creating A Positive Vision Of The Future

By Gavin Webber from The Greening of Gavin


Writing most days about living a more sustainable lifestyle is so very rewarding, and I have come to treasure telling my family's story via this blog and my own.  I strive to keep my posts as positive as I can, given the ever approaching post-petroleum future and climate chaos that we now face. Most of the time I succeed.  I have come to learn that positive visions are increasingly important in engaging people which help them to avoid and overcome fear and inaction due to these issues being constantly bombarded at them.

So many activists and environmental messages are filled with doom and despair which attempt to engage via negative emotions in an attempt to urge people into action.  It is not working, because I believe that this is backfiring more and more.  It is simply alienating ordinary people further by disengagement.  People do not want to hear negative messages by choice.  I know I don't.

However, people are becoming increasingly aware that our current consumer culture is not exactly Earth friendly, or is conducive to a long and fruitful future for mankind.  Without a positive vision to be drawn to, or role models from which to learn good examples of simple, green and frugal solutions, they probably just switch off and continue on with business as usual or get stuck in denial of these events.

I have come to realise that there is no us and them, and that we are all in this together.  People want a better future for their descendants, and are willing to work hard at a better life, but will only strive in the right direction if given all the facts, and a positive vision of what they can achieve.  The future is not set in stone, and with each decision we make, they can have a remarkable effect upon it.

So I urge you all to paint that positive vision in everything you do, say or write.  As we begin to share our positive vision of the future, we will find that more and more people will become interested and engaged, and hopefully strive towards one that will have the best outcome for all life on Earth.

Chance favours the prepared mind.
-Louis Pasteur

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Exiting The Rat Race



Back a few years ago, I remember thinking many times that something was missing in my life. I could never put my finger on what it was, and strived for answers. I would buy the latest consumer and electronic goods, upgrade my computer yearly to a faster model, buy the latest PC games to spend endless hours of my free time on. I worked hard and long in my quest to earn more money so that I could afford more material possessions in the vain hope that I would find satisfaction and fulfilment. 

It didn't work, but like many other people stuck in the rat race, and due to my inaction and consumeristic habits, it was as good as it got. No-one wants to be unfulfilled in life, but sadly many of us are still looking for that "something" that is missing. Credit card balances were through the roof, and I was living a lifestyle way beyond my means.

I also found it hard to unwind each day, and realised that my head was swimming with so much stuff that my mind raced a fair bit of the time. I wasn't in touch with my surroundings, sometimes out of tune with the wonderful people I shared my life with, and I certainly was not in tune with the plight of the planet. I was blissfully unaware of my impact on it and to the ecosystems that exist upon it. I had drifted on the tide of a life half lived for far too long.

What a sorry state of affairs! I had an inkling of what might be wrong, so Kim and I started to attend meditation classes so that we could both learn to relax. I really enjoyed the experience, and things began to change. After a meditation session, I felt connected to my inner self in a way I hadn't experienced in my life.

Then came the day that I went to the cinema to watch a free movie provided by work, and it changed my life. It was as if I awoke from a horrible dream, and if you have read this my personal blog from the beginning, you will know the rest of the actions I have taken to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

All the actions aside, I think I have only once described the emotions and personal changed that have taken place with in me. Firstly, I have taken a step back, and had a really hard look at myself and the way I lived before my epiphany. I have managed to come to grips with who I am, and what I want to do with the rest of my life. I found that by looking within, rather than searching for answers in the outside world, I found that I was already complete and that my life was complete. I found that a simple life had meaning, albeit occasionally hard work, and it was not about blatant consumerism that the TV blasts at us, day in, day out. In fact, I found myself watching less and less TV, and began the research and learning that ultimately helped my understanding the climate change problem, and the ways I could reduce my carbon footprint.

At first my family thought I had lost the plot, but found that their husband and father began to talk about more interesting things, and made them think about things that challenged their own understanding of how our civilisation works. I had another purpose other than the daily grind of work. Not only did I feel fully connected to my family, which brought me great joy, I began to feel connected to the Earth, through my gardening endeavours. I may have said this before, but growing your own food is one of the most uplifting and spiritual things I have ever done, and certainly one of the most fulfilling. All of the things that my family and I have done over the last two years have brought us closer together, and we spend more meaningful time together. I now stress less about work, and am more relaxed at home, but more active and took a pay cut so that I could work a 9 day fortnight. I have also lost 10 kg in the process and now know that by looking at my inner self, I changed who I was for the better.

Nowadays, we rarely go out anywhere by choice, but we have a fuller lifestyle. We have comfort in knowing that we produce our own solar electricity and solar hot water, drive less, and have reduced our consumption across the board. We make things together, we grow food together, we cook together, and most of all we have fun together, which is really the simple home truth that people caught in the rat race just don't realise. Living simply, and honesty, like our grandparents, is what a full life was, and still is, all about.

It makes me sad some days, when I realise that it took me about 42 years to get it, but my goodness, I am making up for it now. I still work to pay off the house, and actually enjoy work without the stress, and find it a great way to spread the word about my lifestyle. I stopped sweating the small stuff. We are paying off the house and our other debts very quickly, so we should be debt free in about five years time (maybe a little longer). We don't live in a McMansion (never did anyway), and now live within our means. Credit card debt has gone, with the nasty consumerism troll now living at the bottom of the compost heap like the rotting matter it is.

It feels great to be alive, and to have a goal as big as the planet for the rest of my time on it. I have found the "something" that I was missing. It was inside of me all along, and I just didn't know it at the time!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Days Like These

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches



















It is days like these when we have nowhere to go and no real commitments, that I wonder why it isn't possible to be still more often. Today I declared it was a "home day". And just what is a home day? A day where we never leave home; no shoes need to be put on, no hats, scarves or gloves need to be tackled. It's a day where I stand at the window, cup of tea in hand and watch the world go by. It is a day where I enjoy simple crafts with my children, no one needing to be hurried, no one making us late. It is a day where I smell curries and soups and muffins cooking and baking, ready to nourish us through far too many busy and hurried days ahead.

It is days like these where I reflect on our choices, our dreams, our aspirations and instead of planning I think "be still". It is days like these where I accomplish our greatest goal - simplicity. It is days like these when absolutely everything else can wait and I'm reminded of a favourite poem...

Cleaning and cooking can wait 'till tomorrow
For babies grow up, as we've learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep

Anon

It is days like these, where my greatest wish for this world is for everyone to stop. Stop the negative and anxious thoughts. Stop the dash to the shops. Stop the hurried list of things to do. Stop. Stop. Stop. Be still. Be still. Be still.

I hope each person reading this soon has a plan to be still. To breathe. To relax. To be...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Journeying

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Yesterday I posted my 1000th post on my blog. 1000 "essays" over the last 3.5 years about this journey. This downshifting, simplifying, greening, frugal journey. A journey which has seen me:

Give up paper products
Use reusable toilet cloth (as opposed to toilet paper)
Leave a corporate city job
Learn to cook
Give up tv
Begin shopping locally
Really commit to vegetarianism
Learn to reuse and/or refuse
Learn to knit
Use a vermicomposter
Move countries
Commit to cleaning without pesticides
Volunteer overseas
Become more passionate about Fairtrade
Learn to say no to things which don't reflect my/our values
Adopt two children

But honestly, it is more than all that. I could list 1000 things I've done since beginning this life, this new more simplified, frugal and green path. But here's the truth, the most important thing I've learned through the 1000 posts is to be still and to walk in grace, not only towards others, but towards myself too. That tender dance of stillness and grace means more than learning a frugal recipe or saving money on my utility bills. It is a dance that allows me to only see the beauty in a moment with my children, when other stresses and strains are hard to keep quiet. It is the dance which lets me know the importance of hope in a world where messages are often of doom.

1000 posts of journeying have led me to standing still. And from my still space on a very cold wintery morning, the frugal, simple and green life looks like a grand one, the world looks postively beautiful. The noise is shut out and the stillness is let in.

May we all journey well in 2012. May we all journey towards a place called simplicity. May be journey not as if in a race, but as if on a path with lots of forks, twists and turns, all leading you just where you need to be. All leading towards a quiet moment and a little sound whispering hush.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The green and simple life - as it actually is in a small urban house, with small children

Aurora @ Island Dreaming


 
I have to admit, I am at a bit of a loss as to what to write about this week.


It isn't that we haven't been doing anything. I have baked bread, I have started two batches of wine, a batch of from-grain beer. We have further  decluttered and redecorated the house, celebrated Halloween and Christmas, cooked almost every day from scratch. Nappies have been washed, laundry gloop made. But my own blog has been silent for two months now, because the wherewithal to coordinate doing something worthy of writing about with having a charged camera battery, time to sit at the computer and compose something and the brain capacity to write acceptable English more often than not fails me.

The reason? A six month old teething baby. The beautiful routine we had begun to get into? Gone out of the window, replaced by fractiousness, separation anxiety and broken nights. Broken nights for everyone, because her three year old brother in the next room often wakes with a jump at the onset of a midnight screaming session. We are not a well rested household.

Herein lies a problem. The main attraction of a simple life is to be more rested than those panicking to climb the material and social ladder. I feel not rested, I feel overstretched for the first time in many months. A steady diet of doctors appointments, preschool sessions, vet appointments, scheduled activities,work and study commitments on top of all our day to day frugal activities is interfering with a previously plodding, calm schedule. Life does not feel simple and deliberate. It feels slapdash.

The reason I tell you this? I have been reading a few too many beautiful blogs of families with small children where everything is rosy and beautifully staged and calm and organized and tidy - and this has been bad for my mental health. It is, I realise now, no different to looking at adverts for expensive cars and anti-aging creams and feeling angry and inadequate for those things that are beyond your reach. I know that many bloggers actively admit they show the very best of their days, their blogs are a medium for them to focus on the things they are most grateful for and this is not a dig at them. I may have been guilty of this on my own blog. It is a dig at myself for falling into the trap of comparing our life unfairly with those edited blog lives.

I have neglected to keep up with a few of those delightful blogs that unfortunately I cannot help comparing myself too at the moment. My own blog has fallen by the wayside a little and instead I schedule my fortnightly appointment here and look forward to it. Our allotment is still awaiting its autumn tidy up, the garlic and broad beans have not been sown. Dishes sometimes stack up on the side. The hoover sometimes doesn't come out for a few days. Knitting gets left out in the rush and unravelled by a passing three year old. The cat knocks a house plant onto the floor and I shout and use choice words that I would never dream of typing. The dining table piles up and we eat on a rug in the living room. I raise my voice sometimes and lose my patience and sometimes I just scream into a pillow, cry and feel sorry for myself. Mindfulness escapes me to be replaced by racing thoughts and deep seated feelings of inadequacy.

I have nothing practical to share with you at the moment; I can't share with you tips for soothing a teething baby, as none of the things that worked with the first of my children is working with the second; I cannot get my brain (and camera) together enough to write the wine tutorial I have been planning for most of 2011. Instead I just want to say go easy on yourself and enjoy the start of this new year. If you are struggling to keep your head above water right now, because of overtired small children or for other reasons, then let something go and do what you can with the material or spiritual reserves you have. Keep on keeping on. I'm off to find my camera battery.




Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Making Broth a Habit

by Throwback at Trapper Creek



Being almost done with the holiday eating season, I figured an article about broth would timely. We can all use a few health giving and cleansing eating habits, not just to deal with holiday food overload, but everyday.

I've found in my kitchen that upping the nutrition level in foods can achieved easily by using more broth in place of water during the cooking process. This adds flavor to sometimes bland foods, broadens their appeal and makes food easier to digest.

In our household we go through about 7 - 8 quarts of broth or stock a week. What triggered all this was my husbands autoimmune problems. He needs every calorie to count, so all his meals and snacks need to be nutrient dense. I first had to attack this problem by making more broth and stock. What was an occasional foray in the kitchen with the results committed to the dungeon of the freezer became a weekly habit. I rarely freeze any broth and if I have any leftover, I can it so it is shelf stable and convenient. But for the most part I devote space in the refrigerator for the weekly broth. If it's there, I use it, and it's an added incentive to use it before it gets old.

We use broth for:

Soups and stews.

Hot broth for a quick pick-me-up on a cold day, or to begin the day.

Braising vegetables, or for adding a dash of liquid to stir fry.

Cooking grains.

How do you incorporate broth into your cooking?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Winter Checklist

by Throwback at Trapper Creek


Sweet Meat Winter Squash.

Just a quick winter checklist from the farmstead:

1) Check stored vegetables and fruits for signs of spoilage, use up blemished specimens first. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.

2) Check home canned foodstuffs for bad seals. Discard any spoiled food safely.

3) Make a mental note of what home preserved foods you are really using up and which are not too popular. This information will be helpful when planning your next garden.

3) Stock up on winter emergency kit supplies, such as stored water, first aid supplies, batteries, flashlights, lanterns etc.

4) If you have livestock, try to keep at least two months of feed on hand. In extreme cold weather animals can easily eat twice as much. Count salt as feed too, adequate salt intake along with water really helps an animal regulate their body temperature.

Stay warm and have a great holiday!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nature Deficit Disorder - Holiday Decoration Edition

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

With Thanksgiving behind us, there is no denying Christmas is right around the corner. Our quiet country road was abuzz with traffic on Black Friday with families heading to the neighbor's Christmas tree farm. Conifers are king in our neck of the woods, with Christmas trees being a major agriculture crop due to our high rainfall and acid soils providing perfect conditions for growing trees. In fact it's hard to keep land clear here, it naturally wants to grow trees.

That being said, many people do get a natural tree, but still buy many decorations for the rest of their homes that aren't natural at all. I have to admit I am a sucker for the bright colors of ornaments and lights, but I'm trying to end it there, and have more natural decorations to go along with the fir tree we will decorate.

Douglas Fir bark with lichen.

No matter where we live we can look outside in our surroundings and find something to decorate with. My daughter and I challenged ourselves to make a bouquet to get us in the Christmas spirit. But, it had to be out of ordinary plants available nearby, and put together quickly. She took off with the camera, and I took off with my trusty Felco pruners.


Cotoneaster, bird planted.

She was attracted to the berries on various plants, all these are natives or wildings and just part of our landscape on the farm.


Snowberry.

English Holly.


In the wintertime we cut firewood on any dry day that we are all available. We're taking out dead or damaged trees, and the dead trees have loose bark. Living in a rain forest means moss and lichen grow on anything that doesn't move. It is lovely and perfect for bringing in to dress up a vase or to decorate with.

For our impromptu arrangement we went for scotch broom and sword fern for filler and just added a spray of holly and a multi-branched snowberry to add some contrast.



We know this bouquet wouldn't win any prizes at the fair, but it was fun, didn't cost a penny, and we brought a little bit of the forest into our house to enjoy.


What types of greenery or natural items do you have in your neck of the woods to decorate with?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

We're Different And That's OK

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Yesterday, my email provider had a front page article about the biggest mistakes people make when giving Christmas gifts; totally out of my character, I clicked on the article and began to read it. Lo and behold, one of the biggest mistakes, according to the author, anyone can make is to give homemade gifts, particularly knitted items. Apparently such things are ghastly and embarrassing for the giver and receiver. Who knew?!

When I got over my initial one second check in (I had just, the hour before, finished putting together a few little handmade gifts) I enjoyed a little laughter at the hilarity of it all. Not only did the article suggest homemade things are totally inappropriate, but so is anything useful, including some items of clothing, giftcards etc. And I began to think of the hilarity of it all, one person, who came across as incredibly spoiled and pampered, a person who is probably quite young and used to having money spent on them, is dictating what is acceptable/normal/OK. Well, here's the truth, his/her norm is certainly not my norm.

And there in that little article was the theme of my life over the last few months. As I navigate motherhood and find what other parents view as normal is vastly different to our life and the norm I want for my children. As I chat with colleagues and hear their views on necessities (a family can not live in less than 2500 square feet, apparently, nor can they function without TVs in their van), I've come to really think about being different and being OK with being different.

We are all on a journey. In my teenage years I desperately wanted to fit in and truth be told, for most of those years didn't. Sometimes, when I compare "notes" with the lives others have, I fleetingly think how nice it would be to have what they have, because in the throws of it, we are all human beings with needs and emotions. But the truth is, I'd rather be different. I'd rather put thought into what comes into our home, than accept the toys a manufacturer tells me my children need. I'd rather give money to help causes, then fret over which new car/van/TV/laptop to buy. I'd rather spend a couple of hours making a dishcloth, then pick up 10 for $2 and I'd certainly rather have to shop at 4 or 5 local shops/farmers stalls, than go to one big conglomerate and feel proud of how much more I could get for the same money.

Sometimes being different is challenging. Sometimes I can feel too different. Sometimes it would be easier not to think critically about each choice, not to have to wonder where something came from, or how its production impacted others. Sometimes it would be lovely to simply roll up at a particular fast food joint and be done with dinner in 2 minutes flat. But the truth is, 99.9999% of the time, I am totally head over heals in love with this different life, bad gift giving (knitted items!) and all. My greatest hope, is that 20 years from now, my children are OK with being different too.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gratitude





I am envious.

I can step outside of my door every day and choose to see what I want to see; and like most people, my default is to see what I lack - a surprisingly easy task in such a wealthy country. It is so much easier to compare myself to those 'doing better' - to see the flash cars, billboards, airbrushed magazine covers, aspirational homes - than to see the reality of those struggling below me. Some days I am filled with angst for all the things that I don't have. My neighbours own their home, I only rent. My colleagues go on several holidays and weekends away each year, I might have just one week away. Some of my acquaintances can spend money without a second thought, I have to balance a food budget. Poor, poor me.

If I didn't take the time to stop and really look, I probably wouldn't appreciate the roof over my head, rented or otherwise, until I lost it. I would take for granted that we have running water, running HOT water. That my children are growing up in peacetime, on UK soil at any rate. That I can afford and can access good healthy food for us all.  That I had an education, that I can read and write and do maths. That my partner and I both, for the time being at least, have jobs. That I have an awful lot to be thankful for, in comparison with the vast majority of humans on this planet; and even some of my close neighbours. There are some things I lack. Sometimes things are a little tight. But mostly, I am blessed.

I sometimes wonder what is the most important skill for living a simple life and I change my mind regularly. I know that it isn't bread baking, or sewing, or knitting or cooking from scratch, these are merely means to an end. I wonder if it is knowing when to say 'enough' - and to acquire this skill is to be able to look at your life once in a while in the light of all of the things that you do have and be filled with gratitude for them.       

I am envious that we do not have a day in the UK dedicated to expressing gratitude for all that we have.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American friends.


Friday, November 4, 2011

keeping warmer


by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

chimney

One problem with living in an ancient stone house built directly above a chill, humid wine cellar is that, though it's wonderfully cool in summer, heating it in the cold season is hard.  To keep heating costs down (while not freezing to death), we've found some simple and efficient ways to stay warm - which I wrote about on FuoriBorgo last year (I've linked the relevant posts below).

hot water bottle

-    Hot water bottles - a time-tested and yet vastly underestimated method of keeping warmer.
-    Felted blanket curtain - we added a thick layer of insulation to our largest double-glazed window.
-    Warm slippers - yes, warm feet do make a huge difference!

How do you keep warm in your wintry house?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cloth baby wipes and cleaning solution

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

It has been 10 months since our youngest was born and I am still dedicated to using re-usable wipes and my own cleanser at change times. It may sound strange to some, but I really enjoy nappy change times, using handmade products that I have blended and experimenting with materials for wipes.


The recipe I love most for cleansing bottoms is:

1tsp natural/organic SLS FREE baby bath wash (I use the Little Innoscents body wash)
1tsp almond oil
250ml cooled boiled water
Mix in a spray bottle and shake before each use.

I spray the cloth wipes and then use, but you can spray directly onto an older baby's bottom. This mix needs replacing regularly, but I like that it is fresh each time I make a batch. You can also make up tubs of cleanser and soak your cloth wipes in the solution, but I would recommend that you replace the solution daily for this method.

Some other ingredients that can be used in this recipe in small quantities are:
  • Manuka honey (1/2 tb in the above recipe)
  • Vitamin E capsules (1/2 capsule - not synthetic E)
  • Essential oils (only oils that are safe for infants and use only as directed at the right ratio babies and the solution base)
  • Pure Aloe Vera gel (1 tb)
Or you can just use plain water without any additives!


My favourite wipes are ones made from upcycled flannel baby blankets and bamboo velour. I just throw the soiled ones in with the nappies and the wet ones go in with the baby's clothes. Wipes are really fast and simple to make and don't need to be any special. Just a square cloth that has been over locked around the edges is fine but I make mine double sided with top stitched edges to make them last. I also use terry cloths, but I much prefer the softness of the flannel and bamboo velour variety. You will need at least 24 to 36 wipes for your baby.

Some of the reasons you might like to consider using cloth wipes are:
  • Your baby has sensitive skin
  • You wish to avoid the chemicals found in most commercial baby wipes
  • You wish to save money
If you don't want to make your own wipes there are plenty of online shops that stock cloth wipes. You will find wipes made in gorgeous rainbows of colours, bamboo, organic cotton and more! Often the hand crafted websites Etsy and Madeit have WAHM's who make wipes too.

BABY WIPES TIPS
  • You can re-use some of the stronger varieties of disposable wipes by throwing them in the wash. They will last around two to three washes before starting to fall apart and this makes your dollars stretch a bit further if you use these full or part time.
  • You might like to consider some of the more natural varieties of disposable wipes. They are generally dearer but your baby will be exposed to less chemicals and this has to be a good thing. Combining the use of these or the non-natural variety with cloth wipes will save you money too.
  • For short trips travelling with cloth wipes use a good quality wet bag to store and pre-soak your wipes.
  • Cloth wipes also make great face and hand cleaners at meal times and you can upcycle them to the rag bag when you no longer require them to be used as baby wipes.
  • Hand made wipes make a lovely gift for a new mum. Make a stack and tie them with hemp string for a thoughtful, eco-friendly gift.
What are your experiences with cloth wipes and solution?

Amanda x

Friday, October 21, 2011

some thoughts on the value of food

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

Thank you for your comments and thoughts the other week on the cost and wastage of food (here).  I was going to focus on ways to limit the waste of food in our households this time around, but I'd like to share a few thoughts that stem from your comments.

thoughts on food

We all seem to agree that when we pay and/or labor more for our food, we're far less likely to waste it.  I, for one, am guilty of occasionally wasting store-bought bread that's gone stale. It doesn't happen very often, as I normally bake our bread, and only rarely need to buy it.  And I don't actually throw it away, it goes to my neighbors' chickens.  But it does happen: we occasionally waste store-bought bread gone stale.

However, I would never, ever waste the bread I bake, which costs far more than the store-bought kind both in terms of money - as it's made with a variety of organic flours and seeds, and baking increases my electricity bill, and in terms of time - to mix, knead, wait for the dough to rise, and bake.  The money, effort and time I spend baking the bread my family eats is not something I'm willing to compromise on, as I believe they're all an investment in our health, and the health of our planet.  Plus, the result is fragrant and precious bread that is eaten to the very last crumb - fresh or stale (we'll talk about how to use stale bread in a different post).  But the stale store-bought bread?  That I toss.  I toss it because I didn't pay much for it, because it's not very healthy, and because it doesn't taste very good.  I toss it, in other words, because that cheap bread wrapped in plastic that I picked from the shelf in a consumeristic logic is not worth trying to save and make something out of.

I think this is the root of the problem: since when has food been (culturally) devalued so much as to become expendable?   What happened to the concept of food as something precious that nourishes our body and souls?  I say "souls" because food is not just about a bunch of nutrients that we gulp down, it is also a matter of taste, and consuming food is a daily ritual that connects us with the land and the people who produce our subsistance, and the loved ones with whom we share it around the table.  I suspect that the fact that food has become cheap stuff that we pick from the shelf, often unaware of where it comes from, has something to do with the fact that from precious, food has become expendable, and liable to be wasted in colossal amounts.  What do you think?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

UFO's and Christmas

by Throwback at Trapper Creek



The cats have absolutely nothing to do with UnFinished Objects in my sewing room, except to remind me that I don't have much time to rest if I think I am going to sew gifts for Christmas!

Harvest time is still winding down in the gardens, but night is getting here much sooner these days, leaving me more time for needlework projects.

I have also been thinking of the economy and not really feeling like being much of a consumer this holiday season. Rather I would like to make good on projects I have already started. I have several unfinished projects that would actually make great gifts. A denim work shirt for my husband, a pair of flannel pajamas for my daughter and maybe a new quilt for my bed, fashioned from a quilt top that is crying out for batting and binding. I have spent the money, I need the space, and a lot of the work is already done! What could be more fitting in a bad economy?

Are you thinking along the same lines this holiday season? What projects are in the works in your Christmas basket?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Less toys, more joy

Aurora @ Island Dreaming


 
Our son turned three this week. Much joy, much cake, many sweeties...even more toys! We have always aimed for a minimalist toy box, having thorough clear outs every few months as new things come in. What we do buy is usually second hand. An army of friends and relatives are on hand to express their love with the latest new novelty toys and games. Unfortunately, very little stands the test of time - lack of interest or initial over enthusiasm usually consigns many toys to the charity shop or dustbin. For this reason, we rarely buy toys ourselves, reserving that money for experiences.

As we are sorting the toy box yet again, we are deciding what  to keep for his three month old sister. She has already been bought toys of her own, which she is currently showing zero interest in. But then why would she? She has many faces to learn to recognise and the antics of her parents, brother and pet cats to amuse her.

As I was finding space for all the new bits and pieces that came into our home this week, I noticed the set of stacking cups I had placed on the mantelpiece. We bought these from a charity shop when our son was just 6 months old. At first they were brightly coloured objects to look at and manipulate. Gradually he learnt to build the tower and to stack them inside each other once again. Then he used them to hide things under. Then to serve us pretend cups of tea. Then they became pretend hooves to clip-clop around the room. Just last week he had one of them in the bath to slop water and to rinse away the shampoo. These will be keepers for his sister.

The belief that children need dedicated plastic play props for every imaginative scenario - play kitchens, shops, stables, beauty salons and space ships - is not founded in evidence, but by advertising budgets running into the hundreds of millions. Pretend play is good, but then pretending is the fun of it, and rooms full of dedicated props distract from that.

Some things don't need to be pretend anyway - our son doesn' t pretend to sweep, I actually let him sweep with our dustpan and brush. We also bake together, he watches me cook and when he was younger he played with our actual pots and pans and utensils. Imagination can be left for the things we can't actually do - adventure on the high seas, for example. Getting out of doors, running around, exploring and collecting things is also essential to our children's - and our own - well being. It is free and costs the earth nothing.

There are a few things other than the cups that have stood the test of time, that are still being played with and will be kept for our daughter. A lot more will be given away. Occasionally I feel that we are being stingy (usually when I have been told as much by loved ones who are buying lavish toys). Resist that feeling at all costs, especially in the face of opposition. I have realised now that exposing my son to an endless stream of influences that suggest to him that his life is somehow lacking will only make him dissatisfied and me feel like a terrible parent. We avoid supermarkets and toy shops, we watch DVDs not television, so as to limit our exposure to advertising - and now we are beginning the task of explaining how precious our time, our money and our environment is - far too precious to waste on throw away possessions.The best gift we can give our children is the knowledge that happiness cannot be built on a rising mountain of possessions.

What toys have given you the best value for money? How do you pass on your material values to your children?