Treasures

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Getting hold of a wider range of goods and services without using the car usually involves a journey across the estuary, and what a delight it is. A short walk takes us to our local ferry and a bumpy ride over the sea transports us to Fleetwood, a town packed full of interesting architecture and a good range of independent shops.

Designed by Decimus Burton in the 1830’s, the town was originally designed to accommodate the working classes in  ‘golden sands, sea, air like wine and breath-taking views across Morecambe Bay on clear days.’ It certainly felt that way as we enjoyed a beach side picnic today.

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A train load of books in Fleetwood Library…

And so to more domestic matters…..

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Planning this year’s harvest- inspired by the permaculture movement we are going to plant some full-size trees this year..more later

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Finding a much prettier alternative to filter cartridges

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A handwritten letter from a dear friend on the most gorgeous notepaper

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Making naan to go with our lentil and tomato curry.

The Beauty Of Zero Waste – part deux

Having a family can certainly add to the waste we produce, an estimated 1/2 tonne of disposable nappies are produced every year per child- nappies in landfills take up to 500 years to degrade and around 200, 000 trees are lost each year to make disposable nappies for babies in the USA alone. The arrival of a baby often means that we are inundated with ‘essential’ items from well-meaning family and friends or from exhausted shopping trips in a vain effort to secure the one item which we believe will make our lives easier.

The simple truth is that having a home with just a few good-quality baby items make parenting much easier on both our health and pocket.

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Baby bathing essentials: muslin cloths, baby balm in a glass jar from a good friend, coconut oil and a gorgeous washbag made by a lovely lady.

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Toddler mealtimes- metal cutlery and enamel ware espresso size cup – perfect for little hands

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Washable nappies from Bambino Mio and bamboo wipes from Ma Petite Chou

For those precious spare moments….

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Fountain pen from Allan Lloyd in Kendal, ink, blotting paper and writing paper- for those times when only handwritten letter will do.

 

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Shopping kit

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Woodstore, wormery and apple trees ( taken last May)- for time spent in the garden ( either alone or with my little boy) – bliss!

The Beauty Of Zero Waste

That’s the thing about sustainability, it’s just so darn nice to look at. Alternatives to plastic are usually far more beautiful as well as kinder to the pocket and the environment. According to the Greenpeace Energy desk news, the UK government quietly reduced recycling targets for plastics last year- meaning that even more plastic is finding its way in to landfill.

Concern over plastic in our food is highlighted in the BBC’s ‘Trust Me I’m A Doctor ‘ – in the programme scientists drew attention to how plastic leeches into our food and disrupts our endocrine system, or in other words, our hormones. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. The episode particularly drew attention to the need for pregnant women to be careful about eating food wrapped in plastic.

A great start to reducing plastics at home begins with swapping your single use items for their more beautiful alternatives:

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Bamboo toothbrushes ( available from here), baking soda, body lotion ( made by the lovely Clare) and crocheted cotton rounds.

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Cloth napkins, tea towels, knitted dishcloths and cotton food covers.

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gorgeous bamboo sanitary towels, made in the UK from recycled fabric

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Shopping bags

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Soft, laundered vintage handkerchiefs

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Air fresheners and medicine cabinet.

These lovely items enhance our home environment and ensure that no waste is generated. If properly cared for, these items should serve us for many years to come ( and personally they just make me smile every time I use them).

 

 

Slowing down, re-evaluating

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January always lends itself to reflection and re-evaluating  life’s priorities. CC and I had a wonderful Christmas spent with family and our new baby. We shared time with our families, including CC’s mother who came to visit from Canada. I know that the memories of this Christmas will stay with us for a long time.

 

Even though Christmas isn’t about excess in our family ( we give mainly homemade gifts or things that people have requested), I still felt a little overwhelmed by the steady accumulation of ‘stuff’ (for want of a better term). Our little home has begun to feel too full, primarily because our baby needs equipment, such as a high chair, cot and playpen.

During January CC and I have been having something of a purge, slowly transforming our little house into the family space we need and  selling or donating the items which we don’t. The result has been SPACE !, gorgeous, calming, necessary room for life. Out have gone the multiple wine and beverage glasses, the additional dinner set, my large wardrobe ( and half my clothes and bags!),the spare coffee table for our guest room-now our baby’s nursery.

The result? Our home has begun to transform into the relaxing family space we have dreamed of. There’s less to dust under or over, fewer items to move about when hoovering and significantly less laundry. Less stuff has equalled more time spent playing and talking as a family. Fewer clothes in our wardrobes means that getting dressed takes a fraction of the time and putting away laundry is far simpler, since I don’t need to constantly rearrange items so that they will fit. Fewer pots, pans and plates had made our little kitchen a joy to cook in, I can now open a cupboard and just get out the item I need, instead of having to navigate surplus equipment in order to get what I am after.

Best of all, it has allowed us to put our unused items back out into the world to be used by someone who needs them, meaning that precious energy and the Earth’s resources will not have to be used to make those items again.

The money raised has allowed me to make a very carefully considered purchase (second hand ) -a wonderful child carrier to take our little one on hikes to see the beautiful countryside, recycling our excess has allowed us to enjoy the most precious thing of all…time.

Simple Bread Recipes

IMGP0857.JPGMaking BreadWhen I was growing up my mum and dad used to make bread all the time and I would often find it in my packed lunch. I often bake on days when we don’t have anywhere we need to be, simple bread takes time to rise (prove), it’s the original slow food, but it’s so much tastier than anything you can buy and a thrifty choice for those on a tight budget. The first recipe makes around 16 rolls or 2 full-sized loaves.

Simple Bread ( mum’s bread)

1Kg Strong Bread Flour (any will do)

1 sachet of yeast

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1/2 tablespoon liquid honey

1 teaspoon salt

660ml water (1 pint) of lukewarm water

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of your dray ingredients and pour in the water, honey and oil. Spread the fingers on your hand to form a paddle shape and mix until well combined.

Empty the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for at least five minutes. ( push the dough with one hand, stretching it away from your body) leave your ball of dough in a warm place until it is twice as big (around 40 minutes)

Empty your ball of dough onto a floured surface again and press until  the air is expelled. Form into 2 loaves or 16 buns and leave on an oiled baking sheet to roughly double in size.

Bake in a hot oven (200C) for around 20 minutes. Tap your buns on the bottom to check that they are done, they should sound hollow.

The second recipe is for Wheaten or Soda bread, it is even easier and takes a mere 40minutes from start to finish. We have relatives in Ireland and they would regularly send us home with a suitcase full of this delicious bread! Made with white flour, it’s known as Soda bread, with wholewheat it’s known as wheaten bread

Simple Soda Bread

450g of white or wholemeal flour

1 tsp baking soda

400ml buttermilk

1 level tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 230C

Sieve the flour, salt and baking soda into a large bowl.

Make a well in the middle, pour in the buttermilk and then mix with your fingers (spread your fingers apart to form a rigid comb shape). Mix until all of the flour is combined but don’t overdo it.Gently roll the dough into a ball and place on a floured baking sheet.

Using a sharp knife, cut a cross in the top of your ball of dough and prick each quarter twice to let the fairies out.

Put into your oven for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200C and bake for a further 25 minutes. The bread will be ready when you tap on the bottom and it sounds hollow. Wrap in a tea towel immediately after you take it out of the oven.

 

 

A Greener Baby

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While it could be said that having a baby is not the best thing for the environment, we have certainly tried our best to reduce our little boy’s impact on the planet and build a better future for him. From the outset we were certain that we didn’t want to overwhelm our little house with baby equipment and paraphenalia. We were also determined that we would buy second-hand wherever we could and, where we had no choice; such as a new mattress, we would buy as sustainably as possible.

Fast forward several months later and we do seem to have managed to limit the amount of equipment, although this has sometimes left us feeling ungrateful when we turn down kind offers from friends and family. Most friends and family members know us well enough to ask about what is actually needed, or have sent things which were as green as possible. The generosity of friends and family never fails to amaze us, gifts have included the most thoughtful and useful items, such as moccasins handmade in Canada, stunning hand knitted cardigans and blankets, handmade toys and a wide range of clothes.

Despite not knowing many parents of small children ourselves; being older parents, we were so very fortunate that a friend of my mother loaned us a beautiful crib, as well as passing on numerous toys, clothes and a simply wonderful mobile which plays the theme from Dr. Doolittle. The mobile and a wind up giraffe ( which also plays the same tune) were given to us several months before CC became the musical director for the stage version of Dr. Doolittle, it still makes us smile every time it plays and our little boy simply adores it. The joy that these pre-loved  toys give is immeasurable, and certainly trumps just going to a shop and buying new.

Nursery equipment has been purchased mostly second hand, his cot bed was such a bargain and the lady selling it was delighted that another little boy would enjoy the cot after hers had grown out of it. The only items we have bought new were the mattress and protectors which have to be new for the sake of safety, these we bought from The Little Green Sheep company using a generous financial gift from special friends in Canada.

We have also opted for washable nappies which are simply wonderful, really soft and colourful. Unfortunately, despite a thorough search online, I couldn’t buy these second hand, so we opted for the gorgeous designs and durability of Bambino Mio’s two piece nappies. Thanks to a great summer we have been able to line dry these the vast majority of the time and use our trusty wooden clothes horses the rest of the time. (I am not sure how lucky we will be with this during the North’s typically cold and damp winters though, we will certainly try to dry them outdoors as much as we can.)

We also use recycled bamboo fabric as baby wipes which are beautifully soft and are just thrown in the nappy dry bucket to be laundered with the nappies.

Having a new little human being in our home has certainly required some adjustment, when people talked about ‘not getting anything done’ I had assumed that I would be able to organise my way out of the chaos…..how very wrong I was! At three months we are just beginning to get the hang of balancing time with our son and time to grow our vegetables, cook and make. Today I managed to bake rock buns while our little boy was napping and plant winter vegetables such as spinach, winter salad and kale. I am determined that we will have some organic vegetables from our newly remodeled garden during the winter. Living in the north of England means that the hours of daylight considerably reduce from August on wards and this impacts on the length of the growing season, cloches and greenhouses can only retain heat and not provide extra daylight.

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It really felt like Christmas yesterday as a parcel of a second hand bundle of baby boys’s clothing arrived, 25 items for £12 ! The most beautiful coat made in France, gorgeous dungarees by Osh Kosh, a fox design jumper to name but a few of the delights. Also included was a wet suit suitable for a 3-6 month old, although I’m not sure he’ll need it, you never know!

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Summer’s End

*   What happened to the summer ? It seemed as though the weeks were endless and September was a world away. Autumn seems to have come early this year and we’ve been making the most of the ripe profusion of blackberries growing in dense pockets in the lanes around our house.

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*  Making the most of our treasure ; first  Blackberry and Bramley jam, next a couple of pies for the freezer and then blackberry sauce to enjoy in yoghurt and on pancakes.

*   After a bit of detective work ( messages in bottles) we’ve finally found a milkman who will deliver in glass  from a dairy not 1/2 a mile away. After trying to search the internet many times we happened upon empty bottles on local doorsteps and wrote letters which we put into several in the hope that one might reach its intended recipient, we finally got a telephone call from a lovely local farmer ( who said she was not on the internet).  Our first lot at 6am was thrilling!

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*   We’ve set ourselves the challenge to try and get further afield for supplies without the car; using the bikes and our local ferry we have extended our range this summer. This allows us access to a hardware shop, bank and larger grocery stores without using petrol. We’re lucky to have a coastal bike path that is car free with stunning views of our bay. The wind turbines were spinning quickly today in the brisk breeze.

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*   The large ships from Heysham appear to float on the sand as they make the most of the deeper waters in the tidal channels.

*   Making the most of the warm weather we’ve been camping in Northumberland, despite gale force winds on the first night ( we really thought we’d lose the tent on our coastal site)we enjoyed visits to more castles – this time the castle of Lindisfarne on Holy Island. This island is part of the inner Farne islands and accessed via a causeway-( be sure to check the tide tables carefully before embarking or you may find yourself stranded!) The castle itself was an Edwardian gem – furnished by Edward Lutens after being purchased by the owner of Country Life magazine ; the walled garden – a Gertrude Jekyll design- was a true delight and has inspired me to try growing more medicinal flowers in our little garden.

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*   After spending a few hours making several batches of home made beer ready for Christmas we’ve had a lot of bottles to prepare ! – these made me smile in the castle.

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*   On our final day we got rather carried away with the romantic setting of Hulne Abbey – (the location of Maid Marion’s House in Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves)

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