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).

 

 

A Few Lovely Things this week…

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Treasures on the beach- mermaid purses (shark eggs)

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Veg boxes- two ways

A delivery from Growing With Nature ( plot to plate less than 2 miles)

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Learning…

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Building wooden towns -and then knocking them down…

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music two ways….piano by CC, gramophone by me..wish I could play the piano!

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Finally getting around to stripping the lavender flowers from my dried bunches.

Into The Woods

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

W.B Yeats

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It’s been a week of contrasts. Reading the brave words of Tina Rothery as she recounts the days spent fighting energy giant Cuadrilla makes me feel so very sad and proud in equal measure. The brave team of people who are slow walking the trucks in an effort to save our water and air are heroes observed by many in Lancashire; as a mum of a small child, it wouldn’t be safe for us to be there during the week, but we can show our support on Solidarity Saturdays.

As activists we need to continue to thrive, take time for ourselves against the seemingly endless onslaught of bad news. We need to make sure that our families engage with nature and learn those precious lessons that only being outside shows us. After all, it is our love of the natural world that will save us, we only protect and cherish what we know and love. Being outside is so very good for our physical and mental well being and reminds us all of what is at stake.

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Time spent nourishing our minds and bodies strengthens us and makes us more effective.

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Today we spent time in the woods and baked a nourishing loaf. All my love to the activists in the world today, wherever you are. XXX

Raisin Bran Loaf

In a large bowl mix together;

1 cup sugar

1 cup of sultanas ( or any dried fruit such as dates)

1 cup of bran fibre (all bran)

1 cup of milk ( soya or cows milk work equally well)

Soak for one hour.

Add 1 cup of sr flour and a teaspoon of mixed spice.

Bake in the oven at around 160C for about 1 1/2 hours.

Finding The Joy In January

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Watching Lapwings against blue skies along our beach.

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Savouring the final winter crops of sprouts.

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The texture of chunky teal-coloured aran.

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Feeding hungry winter birds from the birdtable (a gorgeous Christmas gift from my brother)

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Baking Aunt Bev’s Country Seed Bread with my little boy.

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The first British daffodils in a Cornish jug.

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Adventures with family in the Yorkshire Dales- Settle Station.

Why far fewer toys mean a happier and healthier child.

Children with too many toys struggle to focus properly and fail to gain meaningful experiences through play.

Our son turns one next month and we have made a special effort to limit the number of presents he is given this year. We have requested that people do not buy him gifts, asking friends and family to join us for a small celebration instead. Many studies have shown that a child who has far fewer toys experiences more enjoyment from them and will take far better care of their belongings.

Professor Kathy Sylvya of Oxford University writes about the harmful effects on concentration in a study of 3000 three to four year olds, her research showed a link between greater development of perseverance and intellect when children had fewer, well chosen toys and parents who spent time reading, singing and playing with them. Her research shows that giving children too many toys or the ‘wrong’ toys may actually be harming their development. She suggests a ‘distractive element’ in some toys may lead to children to struggle to focus and subsequently play and learn poorly.

Family homes also benefit from far fewer toys. We have a small basket in our living room with some simple wooden blocks, board and fabric books and a puppet. These toys are brought out when we play together with our baby and tidied away in the evening when it is time for bed. The adults in the house gain a restful living space, free of visual distraction and our son learns to take care of his special things. In his bedroom he has a compact shelving unit with some special toys for now and later on as he develops, wooden toy vehicles, a few books, some gorgeous hand made toys and a small selection of music making toys. Like any other family, these toys use used throughout the house and garden during the day, but are carefully returned to their designated place at night. The result is a restful home, pleasant for the whole family.

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It isn’t easy to achieve this, reminding well-meaning friends and relatives that you place more value in experiences and time spent is difficult. In our cash rich-time poor society it is so much easier to purchase a gift than to consider something that may add more meaning and value to a child’s life.

Next time you need to express your love why not consider the following ways to enjoy your time together?

A special day out -a picnic in the park,visit to a nature reserve or a trip at the beach?

An hour or two teaching a new skill-Spend some time baking scones, making pizzas or kneading bread together and treat yourselves to a cream tea at the end. Build something together such as a cardboard car or fort, defend it from invading armies and retreat for essential ’emergency’ supplies.

A special experience– a treasure hunt or scavenger hunt in the park or garden, a visit to see a seasonal display such as a bluebell wood or falling leaves in Autumn or exploring a castle or stately home.

A special journey – a trip on a steam railway, a seaside tram or funicular or a bicycle ride.

The memories of these special times will last a lifetime and are far more likely to be enjoyable and developmentally beneficial to our children.

Please share your stories and ideas, have you managed to make a birthday extra special ? We would love to hear from you.

 

 

Discovering why less is always more

Living with fewer possessions brings benefits to both our mental and physical health.

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CC and our baby boy outside of the tiny lodge we stayed in ( less than 400 square feet)

I lived in North America for five years, working as a nanny for a wealthy family. The house in which we lived was several thousand square feet and required many staff to maintain and clean; a housekeeper, cleaners, handyman, deep-clean teams, teams to clean the chandeliers, plant maintenance, pool maintenance, car ‘detailer’, gardeners- a seemingly endless stream of people coming and going from the house. Living there certainly crystallised my ideas on living in large homes, it wasn’t for me.

When my husband and I moved to the UK we lived in a small apartment (furnished with the obligatory van load of Swedish flat-packed furniture). It took mere minutes to clean, a quick sweep with the hoover, a scrub of the bathroom and a light dust took a fraction of our time. It cost us little to maintain and insure and we were able to work on a self employed basis with no fear that we would struggle to meet our living costs. As we stayed longer, our landlady requested a rent rise and, after seeing her drive up in a brand new Audi, we decided that it was time to invest in a home of our own.

We learned a lot of lessons in our first year of home ownership; maintaining a hundred year old house took a lot of money, especially when its former owners had resorted to the cheapest fixtures and fittings. Our aspirations of a beautifully decorated interior were soon drowned in the reality of the expense involved in rewiring old sockets, supporting Victorian chimneys (where former owners had ripped out fireplaces) and generally keeping things in working condition. Home ownership was an expensive and time consuming business.

We learned that decorating took a lot of time and effort and rarely transformed our rooms in the way we had envisioned. As with any older house , one job would inevitably throw up other problems to resolve, plaster falling off stripped walls, floorboards butchered by 100 years worth of plumbing and wiring. Gradually we sold our modern flat-pack furniture on ebay and replaced it with much less expensive second hand furniture which seemed more suitable for our older home.

When our baby boy arrived last year we prepared a new room for him to grow into, changing the large double for a day bed and providing shelves for toys and books. Decorating the room took the form of new cushions and bunting attached to the cornice as well as a few simple toys ready for him to use and enjoy.

Nothing prepares you for life with a baby and just how much time is spent caring for them and interacting with them. Our days became very full and chores such as hoovering, dusting and laundry were tackled at speed. We began to resent chores which seemed to be unnecessarily time consuming such as dusting all of the china on our welsh dresser and moving multiple items to dust and vacuum around them. The house, which had once felt so cosy and homely, now felt like a large obstacle course, full of items which were adding an inordinate amount of time to our daily routine. Added to this, there seemed to be a constant influx of toys and equipment for baby and, despite our best efforts, these seemed to multiply daily.

Around this time I started to read and follow some simple living blogs and podcasts, convinced that there had to be a easier way of life. Gradually we de-cluttered pieces of furniture, clothes, books and ornaments, selling or donating them to charity. I sold more than half of the clothes I owned and got rid of a triple wardrobe. I sold all of the china on our Welsh dresser and gave away the top half of the dresser, leaving only the cupboard at the bottom. As each item left our home, the effect was instant, the atmosphere seemed calmer, the air fresher and my mood lighter. I found time to garden and read again, activities which I had previously had no time for.

Items which we sold or donated helped to give us more money towards our holiday in Wales and numerous trips out with our baby boy. As we carved more and more space for our family in our home we felt better and better about ourselves and our house.

As we gradually got rid of possessions which were no longer adding any value to our lives we felt better and better and found more and more items to pass on, de-cluttering becomes quite addictive. Stuff which had sat idle for years will now hopefully be used by its new owners. Resources which would have been used to produce new versions of what we sold and donated will now not need to be extracted and precious energy will not be needed in their manufacture.Most importantly, we now are firmly determined that no more items will enter our home unless they are absolutely essential.

During our recent holiday in Wales we were determined to pack very lightly, just two outfits each ( we had access to laundry ) and two books and a set of blocks for our baby boy. We loved how freeing it felt and how simple it was to pack and transport our luggage. Packing has now become a challenge which we relish, we are determined to pack only carry-on when we visit Canada this summer and, thanks to friends of ours who have generously offered to loan us baby equipment, I think we will manage it. I certainly look forward to a simpler summer.

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning

*   ‘The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.’ (The Wind In The Willows- Kenneth Grahame – 1908)

*     There is something in the air at this time of year, a discernible change in temperature, the beginnings of the scents of spring narcissi and the sounds of birds working industriously nest making, when one will suddenly wake with the urge to sweep away the dust and grime of winter and throw open the windows to let the sweet new air blow through the house. Our Easter holidays have seen us taking time to clean our little nest. 

*    First the windows inside and out to let in the spring light. Use a large bowl of soapy water and dry with newspaper. I recently saw an advert for a Karcher window washer; what a waste of time and energy !, Newspaper is by far a better method and leaves windows looking beautifully clean.

*   Next an overhaul of the utility room, repainting the dresser and hanging some jaunty bunting.

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*      A really good scrub down of all surfaces with a spray of vinegar solution and a paste of sodium bicarbonate.

*    And finally some spring propagation of tomatoes, courgettes, marigolds, sweet peas using our rather lovely paper pot maker. This is particularly useful for peas and other legumes that don’t like to have their roots disturbed as they can be planted directly into the soil and will bio-degrade naturally.

*   Although the weather started with Arctic winds sweeping the country, the weather pattern has changed direction and the sea frett has begun to move over the land, bringing with it the warmer, damp air and the smell of the sea in our coastal village. This has meant the opportunity to begin our little garden once again.

*   I was inspired by the planting in Kirby Lonsdale ; where every little house really made the best of their outdoor space.

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*   Followed by the obligatory cream tea – this time at The Royal Hotel on the main street.

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*   This beautiful old building welcomed us with a roaring fire and squashy settees.

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*   Making the most of the time left of the Easter holiday we visited an old favourite – The Hazelmere Bakery and Tea room in elegant, Edwardian Grange-Over-Sands.

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*     A beautiful walk from Kents Bank along the shore line to Grange – crossing the railway and up through the town and finally the reward of what we think is the best afternoon tea in England !

*     Yesterday saw us enjoying the food market at Parrox Hall- a medieval house which is across the road from our little terrace.

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*   Then making a large pot of soup with the vegetables we bought.

Recipe For Simple Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

Splash of vegetable oil

Knob of butter

A selection of root vegetables in any quantity

A tin of tomatoes ( optional)

2 Litres of Vegetable or Chicken Stock

2 or 3 bay leaves

– Chop your vegetables roughly; (you could use a food processor but sometimes I like to chop by hand and listen to Radio 4 .)

– Heat your oil gently and add a knob of butter.

– Gently sauté your vegetables for around 2 minutes, then place a lid over your saucepan and let cook until your vegetables begin to soften ( about 10 minutes)

– Add the stock and tomatoes ( if using) and simmer gently for around 20 minutes.

– Remove from the heat and blend using a hand blender ( or use a potato masher to squish the vegetables to a rough pulp)

Delicious !

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Blackberry and Bramley Jam

The hedgerows are brimming with delicious, ripe blackberries and a delightful afternoon spent foraging yielded enough to make jam to give as Christmas presents this year.

Recipe For Blackberry and Bramley Jam – Will make about 4 small Kilner Jars full and an extra jar for your fridge.

1kg of washed blackberries

350g of Bramley Apples(or cooking apples)

350ml of water

1.3 kg of caster sugar or jam sugar ( I recommend jam sugar, saves lots of faffing about trying to get a decent set !)

1. Leave your blackberries to soak in salted water to rid them of any insects lurking inside .

2. Peel, core and chop your Bramleys, cook in a large preserving pan ( I use a very large saucepan) with the water until they are soft.

3. Meanwhile, rinse and dry your blackberries. Add your dry blackberries to the apples.

4. Stir in the Jam Sugar and simmer over a low heat, stirring frequently. Put a small plate in the fridge to cool.

5. Now turn up the heat and boil the contents of your pan for 35 minutes.

6. To test to see if your jam will set, spoon a small amount onto your chilled plate. Leave to cool for a few seconds and then push the mixture with the spoon. If the mixture wrinkles slightly it is ready. If your mixture doesn’t wrinkle, boil again for a few minutes and test again.

7. Place your jam into sterilised jam jars and seal straight away.