Week Eight

Vegetarian Mama

So this blog is very much about my personal journey to make my family more eco friendly and our lifestyle more sustainable.  I think the issue of sustainability is in pretty much everything that we do. The way we travel, the way we shop and definitely in the way we eat…

This week I watched the video Vegucated. The long one about 3 people trying to go vegan. It took me most of the week to get through it in small chunks. You know in between nappy changes and playtime and making dinner and putting on the wash. Well in the end I finished watching and I’m glad I did. It made my mind up. Im going vegetarian. In fact I’ve been heading that way for a while so this really just gave me the final push. I quit pork in november and I’ve gradually been decreasing my meat consumption ever since.

I’m really glad that I’ve reached this point in my life. It’s something I’ve been evolving too without realising for a while. I’m not one of those lucky people that can change the habits of my lifetime overnight and it stick. I have to gradually work towards better decisions and habits and I think this is one of those times where the result is actually better than the original intention.

The intention being to eat less meat to encourage a more varied and healthy diet. The result of becoming vegetarian means in essence a total (thought gradual) overhaul of my eating habits PLUS no more eating Mrs chicken and Mrs cow which aligns more with my kindness to all ethics and morals.

The reason I’m not going vegan at this point is because I do rely on cheese and eggs to bump up my protein and also my trade is baking so I think it would make me a bit of a hypocrite to not eat these things at home but sell them gladly in the forms of sweet and delicious cakes. Plus for me it would make cooking for Penny very tricky! Cheese omelette is my fail safe when we’re going through a grumpy day.

With vegetarianism in mind, I’ll be posting some more vegetarian recipes this week!

Have a great day

Jessica x

Week Seven

Fast Fashion

I’m an 80’s kid. I grew up in the world of fast fashion. As a child I wore what was bought for me. As a teenager I used my pocket money and then wages to buy high street fashion. As a student I dabbled with many styles but pretty much always bought from the cheap high street chains. The idea of a capsule wardrobe was completely alien to me. If I needed a fancy dress outfit, a ball dress, a seasonal change of clothes, I would think nothing of wondering into Exeter town centre and purchasing what I ‘needed ‘with fairly little cost. Monetary cost that is. My wardrobe was vast with stuff, yet empty with personality.

Now I’m nearing my 30’s. I’m fairly settled in my fashion choices, I know what suits me and what doesn’t and I prefer to buy clothes that will last many years in both quality and style. That doesn’t mean I spend huge amounts of money though. I often charity shop, ebay or vintage shop for what I’m after. I don’t mind waiting till I happen across it rather than rushing out immediately and scouring every shop and then end up settling on something that maybe wasn’t quite right after all.

I am a careful consumer, I don’t often impulse buy and if I do, it’s for something truly fantastic, (or a pair of shoes that actually fit my giantess feet.) Careful budgeting is a personal choice. It doesn’t address the issue of being an ethical consumer, which has become a big topic for me this week.

We’ve all seen or heard about the terrible Rana Plaza factory disaster which happened last year, the BBC posted this article of stories of survivors a year on. They are all struggling. We are still buying fast fashion. Fast fashion which has proven to be lethal. Lethal not to us, the consumer, but to those labourers who are forced to keep up with our demand, by companies whose only interest is in profit margins and certainly not the safety and welfare and wellbeing of their exhausted workforces.

I saw a post on Facebook about a girl who bought a primark dress with a plea for help stitched into the dress. The article can be found here. The plea was “forced to work exhausting hours.”

What was the purchasers reaction? To state that she was so appalled that she couldn’t wear the dress again and it had got her thinking about cheap fashion and how it was made. Fantastic! The label had done it’s job and I think this particular person will definitely reevaluate her shopping choices next time round.  Plus as it has been shared on social media and picked up by the newspapers there is an even greater awareness and I think more labels may now have been found in other primark clothes. (Primark are apparently investigating but they haven’t released anything informative at the time of this post.)

As great as this is and as much as this may get us thinking about cheap fashion, I can’t help but find it terribly sad that our society has reached this point. That we seemingly have no ability to identify the source of our products as consumers and take some responsibility for it. That we have to be reminded by something as shocking as this label to take action against such exploitation against labourers. To me that plea was saying, “STOP. Stop buying this cheap product. Something this cheap cannot be made ethically. Please stop and think about how much power you have as a consumer.”

So I’ve made a vow to myself. I’m not a perfect consumer. I’ll be honest. I have a serious lack of time. I don’t have the ability to lobby companies and drum up lots of publicity and take this on as a cause. I have an 11 month old and a job. at 7:30 when my daughter goes to bed I can barely string a sentence together, (or hang up the washing straight) but I CAN and I WILL do better as an individual consumer. I can be more ethical and I can have a positive impact by making good choices and teaching my daughter as she grows up to do the same. Fast fashion = Dangerous Fashion! So here is is what I have been working on:

I have gone through the contents of my whole wardrobe (summer season, I’ll do my winter stuff too when September comes) and categorised everything. I now know how many dresses/trousers/shorts/tops/long sleeves/jumpers etc etc etc I have in my possession and I can see them all at a glance instead of having to dig around in a never ending pile of textiles. This means that not only is putting an outfit together a much easier task but I also know if there are any genuine garment gaps in my wardrobe – no more doubling up!

This might not seem like a big deal, but I feel I have much more control over my fashion. I counted all my garments and was very pleased to note that about 70% was actually second hand/vintage or slow,ethical fashion. Plus the majority of the 30% high street fast fashion I own was purchased during pregnancy or the breast feeding months and was mostly Marks and Spencers Fairtrade clothing, which I don’t feel too bad about. So it seems I’ve been gradually heading towards this point for some time, without consciously acknowledging it.

The more taxing bit will come when I want to add to, or change parts of my wardrobe. So I’m vowing to myself that I will only buy ethical brands that have proven track records in both their labour and environmental policies. I’m also going to work hard towards being able to make my own clothes properly so that I can reduce the need for high street as much as possible.

Hurrah, moral compass pointing at excellent. But wait, what about my daughter Penny. Hum. I can’t do all these wonderful moral things for myself and then pop into Gap for her clothes. I definitely don’t have the time to make all of her clothes and why would I when she’ll be out of them in the blink of an eye. I definitely cannot afford to buy organic ethical clothes for every season either (trust me, I’ve done the research.) Luckily my steely determination to save money at every turn means I have already been buying second hand clothes since she was born. Each season/growth spurt I pop on ebay and buy a bundle of clothes from other parents wanting to declutter and make a bit of cash. This isn’t a perfect system because I do end up with some clothes that I don’t really want or need for Penny and mostly the clothes are still high street made. BUT I am not the original purchaser, so the big fat companies are not making any profit from me personally, clothes that already exist are being kept out of the landfill AND other parents are getting some money back in their wallets. To be honest 90% of what I’ve got in the bundles so far may be second hand but babies grow so fast that the clothes are hardly used. So on the whole I think it’s a win. When I’m done with them, whatever is still in good condition I will resell on ebay and the rest I’ll recycle or up cycle.

I think this is the best I can achieve as an individual consumer at this point in time. Have you changed your consumer habits recently? Has this inspired you to make changes? I hope so, for the sake of the unnamed labourer who reached out to her western counterparts for help by stitching a label into a piece of fast, dangerous fashion that she was forced to make.

Until next time and thanks for reading

Jessica x

Week Five & Six

Real Nappies

So for the last two weeks I’ve been trialling cloth nappies. Thanks to the wonderful Jen at Exeter Babies for providing me with the free trial kit and all her great advice and help. If you are in the Devon area and you want to have a go this is the perfect way to get started as we are really lucky to have The Devon Real Nappy Project. This post is a real account of how my last two weeks have gone in trialling the cloth!

“POO, not in the nappy, it’s definitely not contained. Oh god, okay don’t panic NO DON”T ROLL OVER. . . . oh right. I’ll run the bath”

“What is that? is that a puddle of wee on my floor, Penny let me see… Oh right the wee’s just falling out the nappy like an ammonia filled niagra falls…brilliant.I’ll get the mop. Oh and now you’ve rolled around in it. I’ll run the bath and get the mop.”

“oh my god that nappy definitely just leaked all over the playgroup floor. How can I remedy this without anyone noticing. Totally mortified.”

These are real moments that have happened over the last two weeks, trying out the different types of cloth nappies is not for the faint hearted and you have to be prepared for some messy moments. The good news is that it didn’t take long for me to figure out which types were good and which types were definitely not for us. In total we tried Tot’s bots, bum genius, lollipop/pop “n” gro brands in different styles.

The world of real nappies can be very daunting and I’m definitely not an expert so if you want to read up on the different types have a read of the nappy section on The Devon Real Nappy Project.

Personally we didn’t get on with the all in ones at all. I don’t know if it was Penny’s shape or if I couldn’t get the fit right but these were terrible for leaking, regardless of which make I was using.

The pocket nappies were much more successful, it was still a bit of trial and error to get the sizing right but with a bit of perseverance, I’m really pleased with the pocket system and touch wood we’ve been leak free for a while now.

As Penny is already heading for her first birthday, I didn’t want to outlay a lot of money on a brand new set of cloth nappies, as effectively we have already lost the first year of savings by using disposables. I was really lucky and managed to win an ebay auction for a full set of the size 1 and size 2 pop “n” gro pocket nappies. In total I got 33 nappies with the same number of inserts and boosters, plus the nappy bucket for a total of £32. I also bought a pack of 3 wet bags and 5 bamboo inserts for nighttime at a total cost of £26.60 (with my super 20% discount from the real nappy project see link at the top)

To put that in perspective I would normally spend approx £35 per month on disposables (and that was with the deals!) and I have spent a total of £58.60 on nappies that will last the rest of Penny’s nappy time. PLUS I can use them again if we have another baby.

As the nappies are made with a micro fleece, they dry in super quick time which is really handy as we don’t have a tumble dryer. I bought one of those fold up standalone airers and I just peg everything up and leave it in the sunshine and huzzah, dry fresh nappies. Currently I do two nappy washes a week and I chuck in all the muslins, nappies and cloth wipes together to make it up to a full load.

I did try using fleece liners on top of the nappies to make it easier to deal with poo, but this seemed to make Penny hot and cause nappy rash so I’m currently trying other materials for liners – I’ll update this post if I find anything else that works! See Week Four for more on baby bums!

If you want to have a go but still feel a bit nervous, why not try going to a local Nappuccino where you can get lots of free advice, a trial kit and a good natter with some other Mummy’s all served up with a hot beverage and a biscuit.

The only regret I have is not switching sooner! The statistics for landfill and chemicals and costs are completely frightening and I wish I hadn’t contributed anything to these statistics. BUT I’m making up for it now 🙂

Have a great weekend

Jessica x

Week Four

Coconut Bums

Babies Bottoms are indeed as squishy and beautiful and soft as those sickly nappy adverts would have you believe. UNTIL the horror of nappy rash strikes. Red, sore, bumpy, poor little babies! If we as grown ups had such a rash we wouldn’t sit down unless we had a very big fluffy cushion to sit on and we would constantly bemoan our plight.

Luckily my plucky little ten month old hasn’t suffered too badly so far. Now teething is causing some proper sore bumness. Anyway I’ve been desperately trying to find solutions for Penny that are more earth friendly than the traditional thick chemical filled pastes of old. I feel that they are very expensive and the ingredients list is as long as my arm and unpronounceable to boot.  After a bit of research I was delighted that the answer landed in my inbox via the Moral Fibres blog post on the 21 uses of coconut oil.  One use is for nappy rash!

I had coconut oil in my kitchen cupboard so I tested it straight away. I found you only need a really tiny bit as it kind of “melts” onto the skin. It healed a pretty nasty bout of nappy rash in double quick time and I can use it as a barrier cream as well. I would call this a win for Penny and the environment! Now I just carry some round in a small pot in the changing bag. Ive also found it’s really good for dry skin too and it’s healed my “washing up” hands beautifully.

 

Still on the topic of baby bums, I’ve also switched to cloth wipes instead of disposables. I was sure that the chemicals in the disposable wipes were not helping with nappy rash as I found they were drying out my hands too! I decided to buy a starter kit from cheeky wipes as it came with the fresh and mucky box, which is a great help and makes very sure that there is no confusion on the “what needs to be washed” front.

Cloth wipes have been a brilliant switch. As they can just go in with the normal wash, it doesn’t cost me any more in washing and they dry really quickly. But if I’m in a rush I can just use them straight away as you dampen them anyway before loading up the box. I find they are actually much better for cleaning up baby bums than the disposables so it’s another win all round. Plus the cost benefit will be even greater if our family grows as they will last quite a few years. Once the baby years are behind us I can use them for general flannel use too.

I’ve been so pleased with this change that I’m now trying out cloth nappies. I’ll post about this once we’ve figured it out and let you know how we get on. I’m still trying to figure out the different types!

Have a great weekend

Jessica x

Week Two

 

Kitchen Garden

This week I’m talking about growing your own herbs. I’m a total novice so knowing where to start with a kitchen garden was quite daunting.   

 

 

What a week! Russell and myself have been suffering with various food poisonings/tummy bugs so it’s been a bit chaotic here. I hope all your weeks were much calmer! Penny has so far managed to escape unscathed and lets hope that continues. Anyway, to business and this post is about my experiment with growing herbs.

We are a household that likes to cook. Russell likes to experiment with curry flavours and I’m especially fond of Italian, which means that we get through a wide variety of herbs. Fresh supermarket herbs are expensive, shockingly so in my opinion. I’ve been biding my time for a while though, as I thought starting a kitchen garden with a newborn was probably a little optimistic. But now we are achieving “sleeping through” so I took the plunge in March and got some little starter kits from Wilko’s.

They were only 75p each and came with the pot, soil and the seeds and some basic instructions. I started with basil, coriander and rocket. Whilst the little basil pot has flourished beautifully, the rocket and coriander didn’t fare so well. Both failed to thrive after a good start and to be honest I’m not really sure what went wrong. I think I may have planted too many seeds in one go.

I could have got disheartened and given up but in fact it spurred me on. I loved seeing the little shoots coming up and knowing that it was due to my (totally haphazard) care. So over the last two months I’ve gradually added to my kitchen garden. I now have:

basil, lavender, oregano, rosemary, sage, curry leaf and mint

You don’t need much in the way of tools either, I just have a little watering pot for herbs that cost 80p and the herbs themselves aren’t that expensive. I think the most I’ve paid was £2.99 for the curry leaf plant. I’m also looking into ways to kitchen compost so I won’t have to buy that either, although I may have to wait till we move to embark on that journey.

I’m really enjoying using the herbs in my everyday cooking, it’s very satisfying to pick them fresh and put them straight into the pan. Oregano and basil have been brilliant in making big batches of tomato pasta sauce, which I freeze in small portions and take out as necessary. The curry leaf was really great in a lentil dhal I made for a dinner party last week. The only one I haven’t really used is the lavender, but I’m working on finding a drying technique so I can make my own pot pourri.

I use the word garden a little liberally I think. What I actually mean is kitchen windowsill. The word garden always brings big country rose bushes and hydrangeas to mind. But still, it’s my garden even if it’s small. I’m very proud of how much it’s growing and now I’ve got a bit of confidence I’ve started growing some flowers.

I currently have a trough of sunflowers growing on the lounge windowsill and a newly installed hanging basket outside my front door. All of the info on each plant promised they were easy to look after, which I’m definitely hoping is true! I’ll post a picture of the basket once the flowers are in bloom.

Sunflowers

I’d always put off growing my own, because I live in a first floor flat, having always thought I would be better off waiting till we moved into a house. I’m so glad I’ve finally got started though, as it”s been so successful that I wish I hadn’t waited so long. I’ve realised you don’t need much space and actually starting with just one or two plants worked best for me as I could focus on getting those right before adding more.

If you’ve been thinking about starting your own kitchen garden I hope this has inspired you to get growing. Start with your favourite herb and see where it takes you!

There’s a lot more I want to grow but I’m running out of windowsill so I’ll have to find some more space.

I hope you found this post useful, as always comments are welcome and please feel free to share any hints and tips you might have!

Happy Friday

Jessica x

Week One

 

Family Food Habits

This week I’m talking about food, which is a huge topic and I could write forever about it, so this week Im just going to focus on the changes I’ve made over the last few months to reduce wastage, save money and eat better.

ginger cake

I’ve shopped in Tesco all of my adult life. I’ve never really stopped to question it, or consider other options. My mother always shopped in Tesco when I was a child because it was the supermarket nearest to us. When I was a student I bought the value noodles, when I finished and brought in a salary I bought the big brands because it’s what was familiar to me.

Now I’m a mamma and questioning what’s in all this identically sized and coloured food. Even more so since Miss P started on solid food. I decided it was time to make some changes to move my family towards healthier and more eco friendly food habits.

The first thing I did was to order a weekly veg box. I felt strongly that we should have good wholesome organic vegetables that are grown locally or sourced in a sustainable way. When I added up the cost, I realised that I spend a similar amount in the supermarket but usually end up with a lot of wastage because it’s hard to get small quantities and multiple offers tend to mean I buy more than I need. Getting a weekly box means I get exactly the right amount, it tastes much better (who knew carrots could be so sweet) and I know I’m not feeding Penny any unnecessary gm or chemicals.

I also get a dozen eggs delivered as I know that they are coming from properly looked after chickens. (I buy from Riverford organic because they are based nearby and I like their policies and prices.) I’m happy to pay a fair price for good, fresh food that’s delivered to my door.

The second thing I did was plan. This is much harder to stick to than I first realised when I started doing this. Foodwise our whole week now revolves around the vegbox delivery, which comes on a friday. To help me with this, I did buy a few proper cookbooks to inspire me, as all my other books were based on sweet baking rather than wholesome cooking! I now plan exactly what we are going to eat sunday to thursday. Friday’s and saturdays are jackpot nights because we use up whatever’s left from the previous week. I’m not usually one to plug things but Hugh’s Three Good Things cookbook has been absolutely invaluable. I think 70% of our weekday recipes come directly from or are inspired by this book.

I do find it hard to be really disciplined about planning though. I try and sit down on friday when the box arrives and plan straight away, but sometimes other demands mean I don’t get around to it until saturday or sunday. But making sure the planning gets done also means that the rest of the shopping list gets done without overspending. Now when I go to the supermarket for all the other bits and pieces, I have the list and I stick to it. This has saved us a huge amount of money over the last couple of months and also means I know exactly what I have in the kitchen cupboards. No more out of date flour or beans in sight!

The third thing is possibly a bit controversial. We introduced veggie days. On a normal week we now have vegetarian meals on monday, wednesday and friday. Although not intentionally, we both seem to have made the whole day meat free too. I found this has meant we rarely have wasted veg at the end of the week, we’ve both got creative in the kitchen and to be honest, I find lots of our veggie meals as equally tasty if not more so than a standard meat and two veg dinner.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always possible to stick to these three things (except the vegbox) completely. I find that disturbed nights with Penny will often end up with lazy shopping and cooking. When this happens though I try to get back on track as quickly as possible. I think overall it’s made a big difference to our spending and our nutrition. Plus because we waste a lot less food and we don’t buy more than we need, we’re also being a more eco friendly family.

I think there’s more that we could do, but it’s a start!

I hope you found this post useful, do comment if you have any other ideas that could help or if you implement any of the above for your lifestyle!

Happy Friday

Jessica x

Project 8. . .

Organic Fuzzy Pig

This week I taught myself how to make felt from some natural insulation I had. Combined with a need for a new pin cushion, I bring you  the 100% homemade pin cushion (from totally re-loved materials of course)

First I pummelled my wool in a hot sink of water. Then I compressed it to get all the water out & realised that I would need to repeat this process many times to turn it into felt! I think it was six times in total, but it was a joy! Sadly I did not manage to take pictures of this bit as I was a bit enthralled & forgot (sorry.) But here’s the gallery of how the rest of the project progressed – enjoy!

Ingredients:

Handmade felt from organic wool insulation

scraps of felt from old projects (purple & navy)

needle & thread

Handmade stuffing made from organic wool insulation

Hope you enjoyed this week’s experiment, see you next week for Project 9!

Jessica

xoxo

**** newsflash – I am now selling these on etsy due to popularity, click here to order****