Thursday, 7 June 2012
I leave the house at 5.45am, it is light and cool at this time of year. The birds are awake and actually noticeable without the torrent of cars that will fill the roads just a few hours later. I walk hard for an hour until I reach the bridge that takes me off island; and then take a slow mosey up the hill that leads to my workplace. By 7am I have completed the 4.5 mile journey, with half an hour to spare before my shift begins. The journey to work is more pleasant than the journey back home. The afternoons are becoming hot and sticky, the roads are busy and I am tired. But the journey is still invigorating after a day of constantly reacting to telephones and emails.The journey is a time to slow my brain down and be mindful of my surroundings.
I admit to having every advantage. Firstly, my workplace has showering and changing facilities for its several thousand employees. There are bicycle lock ups and onsite security if cycling is your thing. You can buy a hot cooked breakfast should you need a reward for your strenuous journey. Everything is geared up to be cyclist and walker friendly, which cannot be said for the majority of workplaces. I can afford to take the journey slowly, I live in a fairly safe city and I am healthy, if not physically fit.
Feet should be our primary mode of transport, as the transport of the masses for thousands of years. If you wanted to go somewhere, you walked, however far and however inclement the weather. There are ancient footpaths crisscrossing the whole of Britain, some remain as leisure routes, some are now sadly obscured by dual carriageways or housing estates. Feet are now something to be encased in ridiculously impractical shoes as you pay for them to be carried with the rest of you to you destination. I have been looked at with bemusement by colleagues who pay to drive to work and then pay for gym memberships that they resent using. The cyclists don't understand why I would want to take my time getting to work when I can get there in half an hour on two wheels.
Being a whole 5'10" from my brain, where I seem to do most of my living, I have ignored my feet for the most part. I appreciate them once again and have begun to take better care of them. They are frugal (I save almost an hours wages each day by not paying for public transport) and they are a means to better physical and mental health. They are now itching to go other places, different routes, longer distances; to wear comfy boots and to be soaked and rubbed at the end of the day, and treated with the care they deserve - and to be lived in a little more.
Sunday, 20 May 2012
- Shoes without laces. I was not about to stop and retie over and over, nor did I want them tripping.
- All kids and mama in the same bright colour the entire weekend. We went to a thrift store and bought 10 orange shirts in various sizes. That's all they wore for the trip, even for jammies. This way they (and me) get used to seeing each other in that colour and .can register it faster in a crowd or a panic.
- Black permanent marker, written on their skin on their backs my name and cell phone number. Why? If they get lost, they can tell someone that's where the data is. It isn't somewhere they can see it and mess with it. If they were to get snatched (unlikely)- that data won't wash off and is easily checked for by authorities. I got the idea from a medical show, patients writing on good limbs or bellies to remind docs which things they didn't want done. It occurred to me that a kidnapper (again, unlikely) could change the kid's hair and clothes easily but permanent marker takes 21 days or harsh chemicals to remove if they even realize that the data is there. Ha.
- Hair. Down. They usually wear pony or pig tails. Let's just be honest here- in close traveling quarters that style is too tempting to pull and yank on and sibling fights will escalate. Trust me, I know.
- Extra clothes. We had extra orange shirts. One of the girls threw up in the car, and changed right away into another orange shirt. Ice cream has necessitated clothing changes too. These are kids, kids eat messy.
- Protein for breakfast. Forgo the hotel sweets and go for eggs and sausage (except for the last day and sugar crash them for the drive home!).
- Bring snacks. We brought in our very small bag venison meat sticks, cheese, and water.
- Water. Drink it.
- Dinner. Lunch. Snacks. Try and bring food the kids are used to. New foods or processed foods they are not used to eating can upset their bellies. Nothing like a vacation full of vomiting in the car, poop emergencies at the art museum. Bring food you know they like and won't upset their digestion.
- Get them to eat, but don't force the issue. Excitement makes my kids not want to eat. Pick your battles.
- Baby wear. Much easier than trying to haul a stroller. Sometimes my 4 yo will take off and I can chase her with the baby tied on. A stroller full of baby doesn't allow that.
- Only bring out of the car what you will need for the amount of time. 2 diapers max for 3 hours is what I need. Why haul a diaper bag all over for that? Two disposables will fit one in each pocket. Cell phone with one, credit card and cash in the other (front pocket).
- Water, sippy, snacks. I also try and plan the intensive activities around his nap (in the baby carrier) so I can guide and talk to the girls better.
- He gets the marker treatment too, but really, since he is ties to my chest, he isn't really a flight or baby stealer risk.
- Music they like. Nothing is more aggravating to a kid than being forced to listen to talk radio for a 7 hour car trip. Find kid music that won't drive you batty either. I like They Might Be Giants. The Beatles is another favourite. Kids like oldies they can sing to.
- DVD player. When things get tense, break out a never before seen classic cartoon. Works every time. No one can say they hate it if they have never seen it.
- New sticker books. Puzzle paper. Crayons. Fresh brand new crayons are always a treat at our house.
- "Box of ponies". My girls love My Little Pony dolls. They can brush their hair and sort the dolls while buckled in.
- Song games, I spy, just talking.
- Lots of potty breaks, big movement breaks, fresh air run around and play breaks. They are kids and kids need to move.
- General Reminders:
- Keep phone charged and on at all times.
- Don't carry a lot of cash
- Be aware of who is around you and where
- PAPER MAPS- GPS can fail, be wrong, or suddenly die. And then you will be scared and lost and a little freaked out (like I was in Houston two years ago). GPS is fine, but keep the paper maps close by anyway.
- Print off a list of local hospitals
Thursday, 6 October 2011
This post is not the original post I had planned to write this week. But I have found myself confronted with the 'cost of travel' on short notice and it isn't fitting in too well with my simple living ideals! Ideally, traveling anywhere is planned and calculated and if you live simply you might want to consider the many options to make your trip as frugal as possible, without compromising enjoyment. The topic of traveling simply could be rather lengthy too, but I will just share with you what I have experienced this week as I plan to travel to Tasmania to visit my sick uncle and his family.
Firstly I have had to make a quick decision about making this trip. I cannot wait for several weeks to book a flight. Time is not on my Uncle's side. I cannot wait to see if prices will be 'cheaper' for flights. I have just had to book flight times that work best around my family that I will be leaving behind at home, accepting the cost of flying in such rushed circumstances. This has been difficult.
I believe that boat travel is better for the environment. This is an option when traveling to Tasmania. Again though time is not on our side. It would seem that when you have to rush...things aren't so simple and you end up spending more money or doing things that aren't so good for the environment. I think this can be seen in regular day to day life too! Slowing down saves money, I am certain of this.
As I breastfeed my youngest son, Ben, and I don't express milk he will be traveling with me. I am fortunate that we use cloth nappies and I can take a dozen nappies with a couple of wet bags to store the soiled ones in. They will last the couple of days without needing washing and the bags are good at locking in smells.
I feel very strongly about feeding Ben 'real food' cooked from scratch, so I am freezing up his lunch and dinners and taking them with me. A fridge is available in our hotel room so I can store his food safely. The short trip also works in my favour, in that the food won't spoil over such a short period of time spent traveling. The hotel has a communal kitchen so I can make Ben anything extra and warm his food when necessary.
The fact that the hotel has a communal kitchen also means that we can cook our dinner and make lunches if we buy supplies (or take them) which will again reduce the costs involved in 'eating out'. We have chosen a simple hotel, close enough to walk to the hospital where my uncle is ill, so we won't need to rely on taxi travel to and from.
Yesterday I made a cover for the stroller we will use and I am taking my Ergo baby carrier as well. I made the stroller cover from a vintage thrifted sheet that was in good condition.
The design inspiration and the cord used to tie one end with, came from a camping chair cover. This cover will protect the stroller when it is in the aircraft and is a little stronger than the garbage bags that I've seen some travelers use. I think bags like this would make useful protective covers for prams and strollers stored regularly in your car boot too.
I created a box shaped end and doubled the fabric and stitching to make it a little stronger.
I don't need to buy anything special for this trip, which is good as I have pledged to buy nothing 'new' for the month of October ...I don't think this includes travel and accommodation!
Do you find that when anything needs to be done quickly that you end up spending more? Do you have any frugal traveling tips you'd like to share here?
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Mr Chiots and I just got back from week in New England and we had a great time. Mr Chiots and I are frugal people, so we try to save money when we travel. I grew up in a frugal traveling family, we spent our vacation traveling the country visiting National Parks and camping along the way. Naturally, Mr Chiots and I do this as well. We enjoy the simplicity of camping and have a great time doing it. We save a lot of money on hotels, although camping is much more expensive than it was when I was young. Some places we checked campsites were $50. Generally sticking to the state and national parks helps keep these costs down.
We also take a lot of our own food because we like to eat Real Food and that's not often available when you're traveling (although it's much easier to find in New England than in our neck of the woods). Not to mention taking your own food can save you a lot of money on vacation and make sure you feel great the entire time. We enjoyed home canned tomato soup with cheese sandwiches and a lot of veggie or BLT sandwiches a long the way.
On this vacation we ate out a little more than normal because we found a lot of wonderful farm to table restaurants. We also enjoyed buying local veggies from little farms and chatting with the farmers about their climate and the local food scene. And we wanted to make sure we enjoyed a lot of fresh seafood since we were in the area for it!
How do you save money while traveling?
I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.
Thursday, 2 September 2010
Just shy of a month ago, I moved abroad. I left my little eco friendly car behind (no room for it on the plane you see!) and arrived car-free, but not quite care-free. The decision to go car-less for as long as possible was both purposeful and intentional and while I had a small moan yesterday on my blog, the reality is, I have found it a very blessed experience. I suppose, for me, owning a car is like owning a TV, it provides opportunities, but it is very easy to over-use. If a car, or TV, charged $10 for a 30 minute use and you had to pay to drive/watch I would probably find it easier to choose to walk when the car is in the driveway or find something else to do rather than stare at a screen...but alas "free" at point of entry is too tempting at times. And while I didn't own a car from age 17-24 I have gotten a tad too comfortable with the convenience of it all!
The weather has been hot, well over 100 degrees each day, yet my commitment to walking everywhere has meant I've simply found a rhythm which works for me, a rhythm which makes me be more purposeful and sacrificial, which chooses priority over apathy. I walk to a pool and swim (to exercise and cool off), walk to shops, job interviews, visit friends, run errands, go to the bank, volunteer or pretty much do anything else. Most of where I need to go is no more than about a 75 minute walk each way and to be honest, walking has opened up a whole new world. While I'm in a smallish city on my walks I've seen deer, beavers, raccoons, groundhogs, robins, blue jays, cardinals and an adorable yellow bird I've not yet been able to name. Friends of mine who go the same route in their cars have never, in 10 years (compared to my month), seen any such beauties. Through walking I've met people, happened on community farmers markets, found new places to explore and felt an incredible connection not offered by the disconnect which is an easy consequence of using a car to get from point A to B, B to C, C to D. I've noticed that many people are happy to "go for a walk" but not to "have to walk" to a specific point. Many people have asked me how I've walked in this heat and the answer is, I try to accomplish tasks early in the morning (which has provided a natural rhythm to my days), I wear long sleeves and a hat, I drink water and when it gets too much I simply "pull over" and find a new place to explore for a bit of a breather! I've also found that walking everywhere has made me need to be organized, I can't simply "nip to the shops" when the shops are a 65 minute walk each way, so being purposeful about my time has become a necessity!
The reality is, at some point I may "need" to get a car, because in my line of work 90% of jobs advertised list one as essential for being hired. Many years ago, I remember seeing a neighbour who lived 40 feet (1 house away) from the postbox drive down her drive and stop at the postbox, collect her mail and drive back. I asked her if she forgot something and she said she simply couldn't be bothered to walk. I hope, my couple of months with no car makes me choose to connect when possible rather than disconnect, helps me keep with the simple, frugal and green commitment of walking whenever possible and makes me less like my old neighbour and more like the person I am today.
While I know for many a car is a need, if for some reason I find a job which doesn't require a car, I am seriously considering trying to go a year without. When you add up car insurance, tax, petrol, break-down cover and (for many) the car payments, compared to my two working feet it seems like a very expensive want...or I could find some sort of a pay as you go system, $10 for 30 minutes which I think would mean I choose my feet a whole lot more and sitting behind the wheel a whole lot less.
Have you ever gone without a car out of necessity or circumstance? What did it teach you? Did you find it a simple, green and frugal choice? Have you ever cut down on your use of your car and how did you keep yourself motivated when it was there to be used?
Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Sometimes gardening can get to be a bit of a drag, it's hard work and hot work this time of year and it's easy to get discouraged. My gardens are far from where I want them to be and sometimes I feel stuck. When this happens, I need inspiration to make me look at things in a new way and to encourage me to keep going. Sometimes leafing through a beautiful garden book, or visiting a nice garden is all I need to restore my gardening spirit. It can be a lovely garden down the street, or a nice botanical garden far away.
I really enjoy reading about Thomas Jefferson and his love of gardening and I've always wanted to visit Monticello. Seeing photos of his gardens have always inspired me, and I was finally able to make a trip to see them. One of the things that I found very inspirational in his gardens was his use of natural materials throughout the garden. I really enjoyed seeing saplings and twigs used to support beans, peas, tomatoes and squash. I'm definitely inspired to do more of this in my garden. My gardens are surrounded by woods, so I have an endless supply of saplings and twigs.
His gardens are beautiful and beneficial and really inspirational. If you haven't read about his gardens or seen them I'd highly recommend it. I'll be posting a slide show of my visit on my blog later this week. (here it is for all interested)
I came home from my journey renewed and ready to tackle my garden once again. Ready to work on making my gardens more beautiful than they already are and inspired to use as many natural materials as I can for fencing and plant supports. By doing this I will not only be saving money, but using natural local materials is a great way to make your gardening even lighter on the planet!
Where do you find inspiration when your gardening spirit it low?
I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Not Dabbling in Normal and you can follow me on Twitter.
Saturday, 31 July 2010
Bear with me - this isn't the post I thought I'd be writing this time around, but sometimes rolling with the changes can be ok too. For some of you, trying to learn to live a new, frugal, lifestyle, everything probably seems so new and different. Trying to replace old habits with new ones is hard - doing such mundane things as planning and packing healthy lunches, or learning to grow or perserve your own food can take all the concentration, determination, and effort you can give it.
I've been living like that for quite a while now. I've learned what I need and the ways to go about getting it. It can be so easy, once you've figured out what works for you, to get complacent and lazy, even. You get into a rut, and find it can even be quite comfortable. That's where we are right now, and it could be so easy to just vegetate there, but that's really not my style.
I bust out of my ruts, usually, by traveling. I love seeing new things, experiencing different cultures, learning new ways of looking at our world. My husband, on the other hand, doesn't see things the same way however. Right out of college in the 70's, he did the whole see-Europe-with-a-backpack-and-a-Eurailpass bit for a summer, and when he got back to the States said he'd never get on a plane again. And I understood - he'd tried it, and he didn't like it. Ok, I can accept that.
But in return, I told him before we got married that he also had to accept the converse about me. I love the experience of culture shock, the nervousness of trying something new and different - it can be stressful, but for me, it's a good, energizing type of stress. So our pre-marital agreement was: I won't bug him to go with me; he can't say anything when I go without him.
And so now, here I am, 1,000 miles away from home. I don't have access to my home computer, nor the photos I'd though about using for my turn to post here. Sometimes, I can get really adventurous, ending up writing home from internet cafes where the keyboard is strange, but this time around I'm visiting family. Mom lives in Denver, so I flew out to stay with her. It just so happens, though, that she was planning on going camping with my sister, down in southwestern Colorado, near where a brother lives. So, adapting again, I'm now writing this post on Mom's laptop, borrowing internet access from another camping friend. I also get to go visit some friends I haven't seen for 25 years too. It feels good, getting a new outlook on life. And then, in a week, I'll be back in my familiar groove once again, but refreshed too. What do you do when your life needs a bit of a reset? When out of your comfort zone, do you feel good stress or bad stress?
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
I was on the road for almost three weeks this month, first in a country I'd always wanted to visit, Portugal (here), and then in a region I love, Tuscany (here). But my vegetable garden did not share my enthusiasm for travel. By the time I returned home, it had become a forest of healthy weeds threatening to choke my weakened plants. Traveling when you have a vegetable garden is an issue.
~ my unruly tomato plants invaded by weeds ~
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
(g CO2-e per
Ethanol (E10) Car
Ethanol (E10) Bus
Natural Gas Bus
Diesel Train (V/Line
Thursday, 3 September 2009
My husband and I got married over a year ago and have yet to go on our honeymoon. Part of the problem is making time (I got a new job and we moved across the country right after the wedding) and part of the problem was deciding what to do. We could have easily gone on a cruise or stayed at an all inclusive resort in some far flung tropical locale but that's not really us. Instead we wanted something more meaningful, something "greener." Now that we will have the time our search for the perfect green getaway has intensified and here is what we've found.
If you are interested in learning about building your own house or how post and beam houses are put together you could check out the Shelter Institute in Woolwich, ME which offers weeklong courses on a variety of building subjects. I realize building a structure, no matter how small, may not seem like a vacation but Maine is gorgeous and you can certainly have nights out after class is over and spend the weekend before or after simply relaxing. This is the current front runner for us but we haven't decided yet....
Feeling a bit more adventorous and longing to see more than two by four pieces of wood then you could bike the California wine country of the Tuscan Coast with VBT Bicycling Vacations. I think this would be awesome if you are in shape and an avid biker. Now most tours will drive you places if you don't feel up to the ride that day but the ride is kind of the point of the trip. Which is why we eliminated this option. I like to ride but I'm not up to riding for 3-7 days.
Thinking about starting a farm or simply want to get away from the bright lights of the city for the "slower" pace of the country then try a farm vacation. These have been popular in Europe for decades but are slowly gaining popularity across the globe. This doesn't really qualify as a "romantic getaway" but I think it's a great thing to do with kids.
Traditional hotels not your thing? How about vacationing in a tree house! We've tossed this idea around quite a bit but it would require flying to any of them and that just isn't in the budget for us.
A week long vacation is great but the reality is we don't always have that kind of time or money to devote to vacation (hence the recent popularity of staycations) but you can probably get away for a day or a weekend and do things like learn to make your own cheese. We've already signed up for a workshop in November and can't wait!
If you have any other ideas please share!
Monday, 18 May 2009
Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden
Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a cultural exchange whereby guests offer volunteer assistance and hosts in turn offer food, accommodation and hospitality.
We have been WWOOF hosts through WWOOF Australia for about two years. We have hosted many WWOOFers from Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Each of our guests have brought something special to our home by way of their knowledge, sense of humour, enthusiasm, patience, eagerness to learn, willingness to help, caring, travel tales or love of animals and children.
Feedback from our WWOOFers has been positive, and many have kept in touch with our family. Everyone has loved the food and felt very comfortable here, just as we have felt comfortable having them in our home and lives.
The scenery has impressed all of our guests, and seeing a tree kangaroo, platypus or echidna has been an added excitement.
Together we have enjoyed camping, juiced oranges, built a bonfire, picked fruit, planted seeds and trees, done lots of general farm maintenance, visited waterfalls, walked in the rainforest and laughed... among many other things. Hosting WWOOFers keeps our enthusiasm and energy high with regard to the many improvements and jobs we have here on our little farm.
WWOOF hosts aren't only organic farms - there are urban and suburban households, tourism ventures, animal shelters, hobby farms and other rural landholders in the WWOOF listings.
And WWOOF is also great for the traveller. All of our guests have explained how WWOOFing has enriched their travel experience and their lives. They have learnt a lot and lived cheaply (or free) but well for the duration of their stay with us. It is sweet to see how relieved they are to have free laundry and internet facilities, not to mention good fresh food and a comfy, quiet, warm bed! WWOOF is for young folk, couples, families, mature age travellers and everyone in between.