Friday 29 November 2013

Eco heroics

Recently I was a finalist in the ettitude eco hero awards. I lost my category by one vote, which was disappointing, but it got me thinking about my eco footprint and I thought I'd share a little about how we live.

I don't really think of myself as an eco hero, per se, just a regular mum who sets a good example for her family. As you know, I use cloth nappies on our daughter and when we wash, its full loads only. Speaking of cloth things we are also big users of cloth for washing dishes, drying dishes and cleaning instead of using paper towels. Living in QLD, I don't own a drier as we get plenty of sun and I think laundry smells nicer dried in fresh air. We meal plan to avoid food wastage, and any food scraps are composted or fed to the dogs. Any paper scraps are likewise shredded and composted. We recycle, freecycle and bicycle as much as possible, and buy second hand where feasible. We have solar panels and our lights and appliances are off when not in use (although I think that's just financial sense!). I also sew, so old clothing generally gets upcycled into something new.

One of the big things that I think makes us eco friendly (and definitely helps the budget) is that I grow as much of our veggies as possible. We don't have a huge yard, but I try to make it as productive as I can - we have a dedicated veggie patch and a fruit section too, which hopefully should start producing in a year or two. Everything is looking lovely after all the rain we've had so I seized the opportunity for photos.

As well as flowers, our front garden has a basil plant which is so top heavy I needed to stake it, as well as that glorious purple chilli plant you can see there. These two are decorative and useful, especially for pasta dishes!

Wider view of the front - the garden behind the hedge is lime, lemon, mandarin and passionfruit vines which I'm gradually training along the fence. This is a slightly old photo and everything is a bit larger now. Mr Fork was a bit vigorous trimming the hedges, so they're looking a little worse for wear.

Here's the raised veggie patch, looking sparse at the moment as lots of it is still underground. There are some rangy cherry tomatoes climbing around the fence, some eggplant, some cucumber, celery, leek and a few other goodies hiding in there.

Beside the house is an area which we don't use very often so I'm making it productive. This boring looking patch actually has some galangal growing beautifully (yet invisibly) along the fence, and then in the mound beside it I've planted sweet potato. Sweet potato is awesome because you can eat the leaves above ground while the potato does it's thing growing underground. Very useful!

Gardens aren't restricted to just the ground either, you can grow lots of things in pots and containers! Styrofoam containers are great for growing lettuce - I plant a variety of types and just harvest the leaves as we need them.

In a sunny place under the stairs I have spring onions in a pot. Fabulous and pretty much ever lasting - I snip them off as I need them. Occasionally I'll do a huge harvest and chop and freeze them in bags for cooking with later. Also some pineapples. These babies are slow growing - it took a year to get my first one, and this is year two, when I get another two! These are seriously the sweetest pineapples I've ever tasted. There used to be rosemary in another pot. People say it's easy to grow but I just can't seem to keep my rosemary cuttings alive at all!

Here's the compost bin. Not very exciting, but it does make exciting things for the garden. I move it to a new position every time it's ready and full and the old position gets used to plant something yummy. You can also see some aloe in a pot in the background. It used to run wild in the garden, until it really did run wild and amok requiring much effort to control, so now it's contained safely in a pot for when we get sunburnt.

So that's some of my gardening and eco heroics. Do you try to be eco friendly or sustainable? I'd love to hear about it (or see your garden if you're keen to share that too!)

Tuesday 26 November 2013

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Is it me, or do the Christmas decorations go up earlier every year? It's not even December yet and I swear, for the past month, every time I venture to the shops I've been assaulted with Christmas carols, decorations and reminders that there are only X number of days before Christmas and better get organised!

Ok I get it, I need to start thinking about preparation, food, shopping and presents. I'm not really a grinch but it seems like we jump from one 'special' day to another and because there's no down time between them, they lose their 'specialness' a bit. Wasn't it only just Easter? Ok I joke, and maybe I get jaded as I get older but this commercialism is insane!

Ellie on the other hand, loves it all! She's is in love with the shiny decorations, the flashing lights, the ho-ho-hoing of a wandering shopping centre Santa. Her little eyes just don't know where to look as she feasts on all the visual gaudiness. It's lovely as this is really her first Christmas where she can start to appreciate it a bit (last Christmas we couldn't even tempt her to play with the wrapping paper on her presents). So for her, I'll make sure I hide my inner grinch and make Christmas magical. Which I will start to do. But not before the 1st of December.

How do you celebrate Christmas? Are you organised already or just starting to think about it now? 

Monday 25 November 2013

Go ahead, make my day

A few weeks ago, I was having a bit of a tough week at work. Usually, I make a big effort not to bring work troubles home with me but I just couldn't stop thinking about the could have/would have/should haves and I have to admit, I took my horrid mood out on Mr Fork a little bit. The poor man, he's not one for the sympathy and the listening and the talking and analysing like my girlfriends are and he didn't quite know what to do as I babbled and vented about things that weren't his fault at all. When I was done, I went to bed in a huff so that I could stew in my bad mood in peace. Mr Fork came in later without any prompting, bringing me a cup of tea and proceeded to give me a shoulder massage to make me feel better. He might not be one for words, but he does redeem himself with gestures.

So, this post is about those things that someone does to help change your mood from a frowny face to a smiley face. Those little things that give an opportunity to grab that warm and fuzzy feeling and share it around some more. Coming into the festive season, moods start to get higher, and tempers sometimes get a little stretched - so here are eight ways you can make someone's day a little brighter:

  1. Check in. Sometimes all it takes is a friend to ask a simple "are you ok?" or, "how are you?" and be willing to listen to the response. 
  2. Listen. Continuing on from #1, honestly, if you ask the question, be prepared to invest a little time into hearing the answer without vacant nodding and mm hmming. 
  3. Have coffee (or beverage of choice, bubbles are also nice!). I have a coffee at home to help get me moving, but by the time I get to work, I'm ready for another, so I've gotten into the habit of going for a second cup with colleagues. It's also a quick opportunity to catch up and have a bit of a vent or chat out of the office. On non-work days, I love nothing better than the excuse to catch up with people over coffee and cake...
  4. Little acknowledgements. It doesn't have to be something bought, a post it note with a smiley face on, or a chocolate biscuit can bring a smile. I have a colleague who brings me slices of homemade loaf, and bags of home made trail mix sometimes. I love it! (I bring her bagels and slice). Apart from satisfying my constant need to eat, I feel super chuffed that someone was thinking of me enough to pack me a snack.
  5. Go for a walk. Apart from working off the snacks and increasing those all important steps,  with the weather getting sunny and warm, it's nice to see a bit of sun and absorb some vitamin D. Plus its a great opportunity to talk or even just walk in companionable silence.
  6. Make them laugh. Tell them a joke. Send a funny email or a voicemail. Put on an accent or do an impression... the possibilities are endless!
  7. Shop. Sure, it's not as easy on the wallet, but shopping doesn't have to result in buying something. Window shopping is almost as therapeutic, and hey, it's called retail therapy for a reason!
  8. Give them a hug. Obviously don't go hugging people randomly, but sometimes a little human contact does wonders. The best part of my day (sorry Mr Fork!) is coming home to snuggles with this little person

What brightens up your day when you're feeling down?

Thursday 14 November 2013

The 'town bike' slice

Let's be honest here, with a name like the town bike slice, how could I not want to make this as soon as I saw it pop up on a newsletter from Stay at Home Mum? I was especially tickled with the explanation for the name of the slice: "Because it’s cheap, easy and everyone can enjoy it!"

It really was easy too. I was able to whip this up while Mr Fork and Ellie enjoyed some daddy/daughter time playing with her balloon balls. No need to mix or stir this recipe, it's as easy as measuring out a cup of each of the ingredients, layering then baking. My kind of recipe!

Chocolate chips - I used a mixture of milk and dark here.

Desiccated coconut.

Nuts - I used finely chopped peanuts and slivered almonds.

Rice bubbles.

Topped with a can of condensed milk.

Bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees and allow to cool before slicing - that's it!

Now the most important part, the verdict. I'm a little sad to say that the town bike slice wasn't really a hit with Mr Fork and I. It was too gooey to take anywhere, so my plans of taking it to work to share were shelved as it really needs to be stored in the fridge and eaten straight away while cold. It's also  a little too sweet for our tastes (and Mr Fork loves his sweets so that's saying something!).

It's probably not something that I'll make again but it was nice to try something new.

Have you had a disappointing food experience with something that didn't match your expectations?

Monday 11 November 2013

Fabric balloon balls

Ellie still loves to put things in her mouth. Seriously, it feels like every time I turn around I catch her eating something she shouldn't be. Most things are fairly harmless - various toys, books (this I'm trying to curb, telling her that we respect books in this house!). Some are gross - my slippers, the hound's pork skin chew toys. Some are just plain dangerous - the dishwasher tablet wrappers and small rocks and other things unidentified.

That being said, she also loves balloons. However as we all know, balloons can pop quite easily. Add an inquisitive toddler with sharp fingernails, an insatiable need to put things into her mouth and an inquiring mind into the mix, and I'm just not comfortable letting her play with these things unsupervised. Enter, the fabric balloon cover!

I'm a little chuffed with this sewing creation, as it lets me tick a few things off my 101 things list, it lets me be crafty and it lets Ellie have some sensory fun.  

What is a fabric balloon cover I hear you ask? Simply that, a cover that allows you to enclose a normal balloon inside. This results in several things:

  • If the balloon pops, no problem! All the pieces are contained inside so exploratory small people can't eat them
  • The cover gives the balloon really cool properties - one being, they now bounce!
  • For extra sensory and educational fun, I like to add some dried beans to the balloon before I tie it off inside. This makes it roll in unexpected ways and makes the entire item into a giant maraca
  • The covers are washable and easily portable for instant amusement  
It took me a long time to get the pattern right for these covers. I can't even tell you how many attempts I made! Some shapes were too big for the balloons, some too small. Some were the wrong shape entirely and some didn't fully enclose the balloon when tied up, negating the purpose. I even tried different materials until I found ones with the right properties.  But! Trial and error paid off and now I have a pattern I'm happy with (and Ellie has lots of draft covers to enjoy too!).

The covers here are off to a new home soon... I hope their new owner loves them.

What about you? Made anything crafty lately?

Friday 8 November 2013

H for habits

When Ellie was still brand new and we were still in the getting to know each other phase, I joined a mother's group. It was one of the best things I did as a new mother, because it gave me something to commit to once a week (therefore making me leave the house), and it allowed me to connect with other new mothers in exactly the same situation as me. The mother's group I joined was one organised by a community health nurse, so for the first four weeks, we had someone come and talk to us about various topics, provide some gentle education and generally make us all feel that we were doing a good job and all these new feelings and emotions were completely normal.

One of the things the nurse said sticks with me through until now, almost a year later. I'm paraphrasing, but it went along the lines of, there is no such thing as a bad habit. You simply raise your child in a manner that you can accept. That resonated with me. How often has someone told you to put your baby down and let her cry herself to sleep? That, if you go and pick her up or rock her when she is sleepy, she is just manipulating you? Children are only small for a short time. They are born innocent and don't understand the concepts of 'winning' or 'manipulation'. A baby will cry because it needs something and why should you feel guilty for holding her and providing comfort if they ask the only way they know how to?

I have used that as my parenting mantra… that it is all about the habits that I am prepared to accept. There was a time when Ellie would only fall asleep during the day if she was lying on me. I loved that time, it was lovely to have that close connection and watch her peacefully dream and sleep in my arms. After a week or so when I hadn't gotten anything done because I was watching her sleep and couldn't move around, that habit stopped working for me… so I started to transition her to something else and found another sleeping habit that worked for both of us.

Similar story with co-sleeping. We tried having Ellie sleep in the room with us, and it didn't work at all. She didn't sleep well, I didn't sleep well (although Mr Fork slept beautifully), and so we found a solution that worked for us. I am actually a little jealous of those that can make it work for them as it would make feeding and resettling overnight so much easier.

Ellie is going through a phase at the moment where she wants to be close to me  all the time. She is almost like a little barnacle - if she isn't being touched, she is unhappy. I know that there is advice out there that would say, teach her to be independent. But why should I, when she likes to be cuddled and I like to give cuddles? She learns by being with us and seeing the everyday things that we do. This is where baby wearing - wraps, slings and the Ergo come in ever so handy. She gets to be close, and I still get to go about my day and get things done. Win all around!

Another habit which I really love at the moment is what I have dubbed the "Ellie tax". Our morning routine goes a little like this: Ellie wakes up at 5, and I change her nappy then get her bottle ready. While she is drinking that, I make my breakfast and coffee and sit at the dining table. When she has finished her bottle she will walk over to me, raise her arms to ask to sit on my lap, where she will then proceed to talk to me and tax every third bite or so of what I am eating. Sure, it's probably not the best habit to get her into, but I love a few extra minutes of closeness in the morning, and I've noticed that she is getting much better utensil control because she can see how I feed myself (and her) from the correct perspective. She won't be small enough to sit on my lap forever (she is already half my height!) so I'm going to treasure it while I can. After eating my breakfast, she will move to her highchair and eat her own food (which she sometimes will generously share with me too).

So that's what I ask myself all the time now – is this a habit I can live with? Does it work for me? If not, how can I modify it so that it does?

Do you have any habits which mightn't be very conventional?

Monday 4 November 2013

Real nappies - super sized flats

I've mentioned before that we use mcn on Ellie. Getting to a stage where we found what worked for us was a real journey though. There was a time when she was just too small to fit her nappies well and we had leaks galore. There was the time when she switched from sleeping on her back to sleeping on her stomach, and the positioning of the boosters stopped being so absorbent in that position. As she grew bigger, her liquid output grew to suit and we had to put extra boosters in to cope. After certain meals, she would need several rapid changes... anyway, you get the picture. My point is that even after you find something that works, things change and you may need to revise your idea of success.  We tried a lot of different types of nappies and even though something didn't work at one stage, as Ellie grew and changed, we found nappies which previously didn't fit right were suddenly exactly what we needed.

One of the benefits of a flat nappy over a mcn, is that you can avoid a lot of the changing around and experimenting. A flat nappy is what most people think of when you say 'cloth nappy' - essentially those old school, towel like, massive nappies that need to be wrangled on, folded and positioned just so and pinned in place. Except these days, they're not so massive. And there are fabulous devices which means you don't need to use pins (like a snappi). And because you fold them to suit, there are SO MANY ways you can fold it that you can cope with newborn through to toilet training, front sleepers and back sleepers, boy or girl.  

Now, having said all of that, I looked at flat nappies and decided against them in favour of the less fiddly mcn. I still think they're fabulous though, and I actually have some in my stash. Just in case I need them, but they also have so many other non-nappy uses:
  • Burp cloths
  • Clothing protectors when you're cuddling 
  • Padding a change table
  • Lining the bed
  • Light blanket in the pram and car
  • Emergency towels
  • Cleaning up spills and milk overflows
  • Sunshade
  • Bib
  • Baby to sit on when playing
  • Rolled up to help with tummy time
The list is really as long as you can imagine. So I was super chuffed to get a few Real Nappies in the mail because, even if I don't use them on Ellie as a nappy, I use them for so many other things.

These nappies? They're fabulous. First of all, they're huge, at 27" square. They also come in a cute reusable calico bag.

They're 100% cotton, but not a heavy towelling material, they're a lovely soft birdseye weave - just look how soft they are!

You can see how light the fabric is, so if I was using these as nappies, I can just imagine how lovely and soft they'd be against a baby's skin. It's almost a crime not to use these for their intended purpose... but I'm quite attached to my mcn, so I don't think I'm a flat nappy convert yet. I do have them stashed around though - in the car, in the nappy bag and around the house. They've come in handy when needed, clean up beautifully and dry in a jiffy. Love!

Do you have any items which you've repurposed to suit yourself? 

Disclaimer: I was provided with the nappies as a consideration.

Friday 1 November 2013

Cuteness overload

There is so much cuteness in this picture I just don't even have words. I look at this photo and I just get a huge goofy smile on my face. Baby in a towel display. Love it! Clearly she does too!

What is making you smile today?


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