Wednesday, 28 February 2018

My first Zero Waste shopping experience

I've been shopping! 
not very exciting really...but the changes I've made in a few weeks are having a massive impact on my bin - so I'm very happy - AND, it's been much easier than I anticipated.

So the story so far - well, like most people I have done the majority of my food shopping every week in the supermarkets. For me, with a husband who has a lot of food intolerance and a very tight budget, this has meant shopping at Aldi for fruit, veg and meat, Tesco for certain "free from" items, Booths for others...the list goes on. I also got a few bits from Blackburn Market each week, some fish, bits of meat, eggs etc. I felt like I was always shopping and then throwing away tonnes of packaging (although I had convinced the fish stall that the 3 pieces of fish I get each week don't all need their own plastic bags, than all to be put in another carrier bag) 

So after a few weeks of sewing up fruit and veg bags from an old duvet cover, saving up for a set of stainless steel containers (only cheap ones, not the best!) and asking the butcher on the market how he would feel about me using my own containers and him being quite positive, I set off for my first zero waste shop

A draw full of fresh packaging free veg


Everyone was so positive - the fruit and veg stall thought it was wonderful and complemented me on my bags, the Exchange Coffee Co were more than happy to fill my tins with coffee and loose tea, the bacon stall owner asked me about zero waste shampoos as she's trying to reduce plastics herself, the fish stall just grinned at me when I passed them a tin, and the meat stall laughed when I asked for as much chicken as he could cram in the tin - I even had a tiny tin that was just the right size for my toddlers weekly pie - wins all round...until I got to the cheese stall. Even though they have the full cheeses they had cut and pre-wrapped pieces in cling-wrap. They were not happy about cutting another piece for me, and instead spent ages weighing the pre-wrapped pieces to find the closest to the weight I wanted. As there is no other cheese stall and I know it all comes pre wrapped at the supermarket I gave in until I can find another supply! 

Stainless steel containers with meat, fish and bacon in - plastic free.

I did end up at the supermarket for a few bits and pieces, cereals and bread for my husband mainly and a few tins and jars, but overall I am really pleased - here's to the next shop! 

Monday, 12 February 2018

Upcycled, recycled, cycled all over...

Another goal for 2018 is to make as many of my own and my sons clothes as possible, but to make this just that tad more challenging I am also trying to not buy any fabric this year! 
Sounds impossible? Well, looking around my sewing room I think I probably have enough fabric to keep us clothes for many years to come - it's going to be tough not to buy more though...

For almost 12 months now I have been on a diet - a BIG diet - so far I am 1lb off loosing 6 stone, I have another 4 stone to loose before reaching my goal, so a good source of fabric is my ever increasing pile of clothes that are tooooo big. Some I have donated to charity, some I intend to sell on e-bay but others are perfect to down size!

My first down sizing of 2018 is jeans that I have cleverly re-invented as....well, jeans! 

Arranging my pattern onto old jeans
I bought a load of PDF patterns last year, there are three designers I buy from at the moment, they are brilliant, Most of the patterns come in multiple sizes, and when you pay for them, you get them instantly - Most of them are now moving to 'layer' formats so when you open up the PDF in Adobe, you choose the layer with the size on you want and just print that off, simple! 

This finished Ants in the Pants pattern from Puperita
The pattern I used was Ants in the Pants from Puperita on Etsy - the great thing about all these designers is they also have great support groups on Facebook, so if you have any questions, there's always someone there to help - often the designer themselves. 

All of the designers I use are also happy for the finished garments to be sold by the makers. One does ask for anyone doing this to make a donation to a womens refuge, another charity, or to her sponsored child in Africa, and they all ask that they are named as the designer - fair enough I say!

Here they are being modeled - He is hard work to get to model anything! these are the least blurred shots.
His top is also made by me, this is a MBJM (Made by Jacks Mum) pattern.

I will pop the links at the bottom to my favorite PDF pattern shops! 
Happy sewing.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Getting Stuff Done - In the Kitchen

My Glass storage Jars for dry goods on display 

Well my year of getting stuff done is certainly gathering momentum.
I think a more relaxed approach is paying off, along side good research and a feeling of positivity, I am surprising myself with how much I can do, although it is making me kick myself a little at how long it has taken for my eyes to be opened.

I did not watch Plastic Ocean, (I will do when I think I can get through it without sobbing) but its effects are starting show in other people. I have joined a few Facebook groups dedicated to reducing waste and making do and mending, plus up-cycling clothes and fabrics etc, They are helpful and infuriating all at once! 

There is definitely a generation gap out there that really shows those who lived without much plastic years ago, those who have studied Home Economics/Cookery etc at school, and those who didn't. My approach is to just read the advice and do it how I think best, and what suits me and my circumstances.

For many years I have been aware of a problem with the amount of plastic we consume on a daily basis, but besides giving up carrier bags a few years ago (and feeling rather smug at the checkout with my reusable bags) I have buried my head in the sand with regards to everything else - And so I have been doing a waste audit. 

I have been shocked at how much plastic, single use and otherwise, my life seemed to require to function normally.

Rather than have a knee jerk reaction and just bin it all and start afresh I am considering each item as I encounter it. Can I use it again repeatedly? Once its empty/finished can I find a better alternative? Do I even need it at all? 

Small changes are already making a big impact on my rubbish and recycling bins.

First was to go back to getting doorstep deliveries of milk in glass bottles. 
We always had a milkman deliver when I was growing up, as far as I remember milk just wasn't sold in the supermarkets - and when I moved into my own home in 1992 I got my milk delivered then, but after a couple of years the milk started to arrive later and later until it was being delivered after I had gone to work, and coming home on a hot summer day to sour milk on the doorstep was the last straw, so I ditched them. 
I am so glad I have gone back (new milk man!) It arrives about 5am, so by the time we are up at 6.30am (toddler time...) it is there. I recon that's at least 4 large plastic bottles a week less going into my recycling bin.

I am currently on the Slimming World diet, and was becoming a little bit addicted to Muller-light - so my next mission was to start making my own yogurt for both me and my toddler.
I bought a wide neck flask and a small pot of live yogurt as a starter culture - and pow! I have yogurt! Apr another 18-20 less plastic items going to landfill every week.

I have been straining the yogurt to thicken it up and have had whey left in the spirit of re-using I have thrown myself into the world of Fermented Vegetable - Wow, they are sooooo delicious 
 On the Right is my Husbands Whey free fermented Veg (He is milk and dairy intolerant) in the middle are my Whey Fermented Veg, and on the Left is distilled vinegar with lemon rinds infusing for cleaning
Fermented Veg in the fridge and jars of Whey waiting to be used

I have also used the Whey as a starter for my next batch of yogurt and to replace some of the water in my bread recipe - delicious!

Another issue on my list had been food waste. At one time this would have all gone to our allotment to e composted (apart from meat, dairy, citrus fruit etc etc) ut as we don't have an allotment anymore or much of a garden or a council food waste collection I have now invested in a Bokashi Bin! 

We are in early days with it yet, but it seams to be going well. Basically this is an Anaerobic digestion /fermentation system that means I can eventually 'compost' ALL food waste, I mean EVERYTHING - raw, cooked, meat, dairy, fish, bones, shells - the lot! 

It isn't taking up much space and is easy to use 

Bokashi Bin with Bokashi Bran on top

And finally, I am trying to bulk buy, find places to take my own containers to fill, making veg bags etc. More an those adventures soon. 

Results so far are;
1) less waste in both recycling and landfill bins
2) saving money - quite a bit!
3) loosing weight faster and eating healthier 

win win win! 

And that's just the kitchen...

Useful Links; 

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018 - The year of getting stuff done!


Where does the time go?

Its been 2 years since I last posted and everything was in the middle of change! Then suddenly it's 2018.
I have been trying so hard to find time to blog, but there is always a million other things to do as well, and this always seams to take a back seat.

I wondered what people meant when they said they felt like they were running round like a headless chicken - now it all makes sense!

I finished my Textiles Degree with first class honours - just 5 months after giving birth to my surprise son! A surprise because 1) my daughter is now 26 years old 2) I thought I was too old - and might be going through the menopause 3) well, he just wasn't planned - but he is certainly very welcome and very loved now he is here - and almost 2 years old already!

Baby Fig No2 at just a few weeks old - on a quilt I made many many year ago! 

So as you might imagine, my great plans for my post degree career have all been kind of - well, altered! (I would say postponed, but at my age I think altered might be more realistic.)

I am not letting my degree go to waste though, I did a lot of interesting research in a few different areas, that I want to develop into both lifestyle habits and business opportunities, and the biggest driver in my life right now is plastics, and how I can reduce their impact on the planet in my own tiny way - 'every little helps' as the saying goes.

I have been busy joining groups on Facebook, looking at ideas on pinterest, contacting people, researching alternatives and figuring out how I can do my bit - this is going to be a long and winding road with no easy solutions, but I am determined to learn, and do what I can so that the world my son inherits is a cleaner, better one.

So...Baby steps for now.

I have been making resolutions for the new year as always, but this year I have been working on them for the past month - the first one is to worry about getting stuff done so much!  Hopefully this year they are going to inspire me to take the slower, more meandering journey rather than the all or nothing journey I usually take on then abandon soon after - I am feeling positive! I know there are more changes and upheavals ahead, so lets get this year started, bring it on!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

New Begginings

Wow - I can't believe its been almost 3 YEARS since I last updated this blog, and SO much has happened.
2 years ago we lost my beloved grandma Queenie, my inspiration for crafting and my number one fan. She was 98 years old and had lived through 2 world wars and a world that had changed in incredible ways, not least the digital revolution that makes this post possible! I miss her, and think of her often.

Baby Fig has gone off to university in London to study fine art, and is loving being in her favorite city - and finds coming home to our quiet little part of England quite dull now.

For myself, well - I took the plunge as well and am just starting the 3rd year of a degree in contemporary textiles at our local collage. It has been a struggle at times with much soul searching and angst but I must admit I am enjoying it immensely, and looking forward to this last year (although the 10,000 word dissertation is like a looming black cloud at the moment!)

Mr Fig continues to make jewelry in his shed and has invested in a pressure pot - I steer clear as it all sounds a bit dangerous!

There has also been another major development in my life - but more of that at a later date...

So - some of the pleasure crafting has taken a back seat for the university work, I have learned lots of new things, and played with modern technology like the laser cutter, digital fabric printers, sublimation printers and computer programs like illustrator as well as learning how to do gold work and teaching some Russians how to make felt!

I shall leave you with a couple of images from the pieces I had to make for my course at the end of last term, and hope you are all well and happy and crafting!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

the creative bug!

I have been fortunate enough to discover a FREE art and craft class at the Ace centre in Nelson (Lancashire) 
It isn't often you get anything for free these days, and as one of those people who loves learning new skills, and meeting similar minded people, but who can't afford to go on a class, and doesn't qualify for a reduction, I have really relished these classes. 

I have had a go a drawing and painting (something I haven't done since 1990 back at collage - pre baby fig days!) and I have enjoyed the quiet contemplativeness required and been quite pleased with the results so far! (pictures at a later date!)

In the afternoon we have been doing various crafts, but I must admit I have been totally absorbed in Papier Mache. The last time I did any was to make masks for my Theatre A'level back in the late 1980's, but thanks to an amazing blog by Ann Wood  I have been inspired to not only do a few of my own designs but to have a go at a couple of the free designs she has posted. 
I have no idea what I will be using these tiny tea cups for - but who cares? they were a joy to make! 

And these two sailing boats have almost sated my desire to re-rig a vintage sailing boat! 
I have lined them with Primark tissue paper, and sewn patches of fabric and an old map to the canvas sails. They are names 'Harriett' and 'Bessie' after my crafty Grandmothers! 

Just click on any of the images to take you directly to Ann's website for instructions and templates! 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

When life gets in the way of living.

 It feels like I am forever appologising for not blogging regularly - but with one thing and another, life for example, it tends to take a back seat most of the time, even though I am usually writing it in my head one way or another. One day the technology will exhist for us to transfer our ideas directly from our minds to the computer. 
The weather has become really cold this past couple of weeks, and with the early dark nights back for the next 6 months and having to work longer hours, well, time slips away, and when I do have an hour or two to myself I just haven't felt like doing anything much at all.
 My baby brother found out recently he had cancer of the thyroid. He is only 36 and has 2 gorgeous girls of 7 and 15. Luckily it seams it has been cought quickly and he had surgery a few weeks ago to remove as much as they could, cutting him from ear to ear! While his partner spent hours at the hospital and dashing round here their and everywhere for him, we have had the pleasure of spending a lot more time with my nieces - the youngest is in the photo above with my 'little' girl and our old Jemmy dog, all cuddling up together. 
Baby bro is on the mend now - he still has to go to Chrisites for a radio active iodine treatment in the next couple of weeks, and will be on thyroxine and other drugs for the rest of his life - we are all just glad he is going to be around for a long time yet!

Mr Juicy is suffering with his digestion still, he is wheat, glueten and dairy intollerant and really struggles with his food. I decided to have a go at making crumpets for him a couple of weeks ago - baking always takes my mind of my troubles. It was the first time I had ever made crumpets, and I was just so chuffed when each stage did what it was supposed to do with the alternate ingredients I had to use. Look - little bubbles forming as they cooked in their rings! 

 So things haven't all been doom and gloom - I have been enjoying knitting these "V Junkie" socks from "Socktopus" - starting them in the hospital waiting area (socks are the best ever portable project)
 Baby fig got a full time job she seams to be enjoying - and I daresay she will enjoy it more when she gets paid!
 I have finished another pair of socks for Mr Juicys Christmas pressent and will soon be starting on his Birthday pressent so I am not rushing between Christmas and New year to make them,
And I have been enjoying a FREE art and craft class weekly - we have been doing Art in a morning, something I haven't done since school and am really enjoying the peace and quiet of studying and interpreting images - then we have been doing crafts in the afternoon - for me mainly papier mache - which I have enjoyed much more than I thought I would - photo's of my projects to come! 

Here in the north we have had the most spectacular autumn - The colours of the leaves dying on the trees has been more vivid than I can remember for a very long time. I have consistantly forgotten to take my camera out with me, but it doesn't matter, at least I have had the opportunity to walk or drive past them daily and never cease to be awe struck at their colours - the yellows have lit up against the stormy skies, the reds have glowed, and their seams to have been every colour inbetween. Lets hope winter is mild and bright.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

I am a sock puppet.

I have had a pair of socks on the needles constantly for months now - as soon as one pair is finished, I start on the next. It has become a compulsion almost, and now I am going to justify it! 
First of all, there are so many gorgeous sock yarns out there - everywhere I look! I start most days drooling over one yarn site or another - and have 3 balls of the most gorgeous coloured yarns saved on my e-bay watch list. I have yet to save enough money in pay pal to buy them, and have watched them for almost 60 days now. One day my beauties, you will be mine.
Secondly, Mr Juicy has been wearing the last two pairs I knit for him in a 'wash wear' rotation for weeks now - so I NEED to knit him some more, what with winter coming up and us no longer having a tumble dryer etc etc....
Thirdly - I have still got about 6 different sock yarns to use up in my sock yarn stash trunk, it would be a shame for them to sit there unused.
fourthly - there are oodles of amazing sock patterns out there that are begging to be knit, can you hear them? "knit me, knit me"
fifthly - socks are small practical projects that can be carried any ware with you to fill in those boring moments, e.g. sitting outside a shop waiting for husband/daughter, in hospital/dentist/doctors waiting room, and perfect to take to a knit and natter if you are just knitting round and round - you can't make a mistake while getting all the juicy gossip.
and sixthly - oh, I am sure there are a million other reasons! can I not just LOVE knitting socks?

My latest socks on the needles in an amazing Opal self patterning yarn - for more details of the yarn and the VERY basic pattern, click on the photo to take you to my Ravely page.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

a little bit of everything.

All sorts of life has happened since I last blogged, some good, some bad. 

I thought it was about time I did a quick catch up, but just the good stuff! 

on 24th August my brilliant Grandma was 98 years young. I knit a pair of socks for her in bright stripey colours. Anyone who has read my blog will know she was a sock knitter since WW2 when she was passed 5 needles and an ounce of sock wool in her local yarn shop and told "you never had a better chance to learn" - however she was convinced until getting her new socks that sock wool only came in grey. I would love to take her to a yarn shop and show her all the amazing colours there are now.

I also gave her some small tatted ornamental hangings bought from a leprosy charity in India. She was an amazing tatter. I explained where I had got them from and that no - I still had not got the hang of tatting. She declared she would tell everyone in the home that I made them anyway, and that she was incredibly proud of my tatting skills. Thanks Gran.

Earlier in the year a project had started to "Yarn Bomb the Castle" - the castle in question being Clitheroe Castle - the nearest town to us, just 4 miles away. 
This had caused some controversy in our local paper after a Clitheroe craft shop owner wrote in to say what a dreadful idea this was, and that we should all be knitting baby clothes for Africa. It was a long story and I did end up writing a letter in response and getting quite irate about the whole thing (I am not one for writing to papers!) 
Anyway - nearly every local knitter I know ended up knitting 5" squares for the project. Our little knit and natter group made hundreds and my mum took it upon herself to sew them into strips. This was so the strips could be wrapped around things then taken down and made into blankets. Her living room was full of huge wheels of colour. 
On Saturday 25th August it poured down! This was the day of the "Clitheroe Torchlight Procession" an event held every 10 years, and the yarn bombing coincided with this event - and even though the castle itself remained un-bombed the trees, railings, signs etc were covered in wool - it looked really good! 

September is the month we all say "oh no! it's less than 4 months to Christmas!"
I have been wracking my brains for gifts that don't cost much as we are still completely skint, but that have time and love put in to them - September is the month to plant bulbs that will flower for Christmas - so I have reserved a dark cool space in the shed, will be hunting through my cupboards for vintage dishes, teacups and bowls - and am about to go and peruse the bulb selling websites so I can compare them with prices at our local garden centres. this years motto is to be "BE PREPARED!"

I have so much more to tell, but am going to get started on my Christmas project and will return soon with further adventure! lol

Monday, 13 August 2012

Isn't baking just BRILLIANT!

With the wonderful 'Great British Bake Off' starting tomorrow I thought I would post a Guest Post I wrote some time back for Penny wise penny. 

I have also been baking non stop for the past week for a party last Saturday to celebrate Baby figs 21st birthday on the 15th August - we had a fancy dress Alice in Wonderland tea party - with embroidered table cloths, mismatched china, cucumber sandwiches and lots of cakes. If it has taught me one thing it is NEVER to attempt to enter the GBBO


Bread has been around for about 30,000 years. It is still a staple in most European diets, and comes in more shapes and variations that you can shake a stick at. It is filling and comforting, and there is nothing more satisfying than making your own.

At one time making the daily bread was part of most housewives’ routine, in fact for many cultures it still is, but for most of us the routine has changed to buying either a mass produced supermarket loaf or maybe treating yourself to an artisan loaf every now and again.

I am not trying to convert you to giving up shop bought bread, but I am trying to encourage everyone to have a go at making just one loaf – you never know where it will lead, and the whole experience is more than likely to lead to more bread making, experimenting and appreciation – it is just so satisfying on so many levels, and very economical! 

A basic loaf of bread is made from fewer ingredients than you may imagine, a strong bread flour can cost as little as 80p for 1.5kg, enough for 2 large loaves, dried yeast lasts for ages, but do check the use by date, after all it is a living organism – and fresh yeast is incredibly cheap, even free at certain supermarkets – just ask at the bakery section - but please only get an ounce at a time as it doesn’t last long! Then you will need a couple of teaspoons of salt, an ounce of butter, and water – that’s it! And if you don’t have a loaf tin use a flat oven tray – there is really nothing to stop you having a go, and I promise you all your senses will be in for a treat.

From the texture of rubbing the silky flour and butter between your fingers, mixing in the warm water, the change in the dough’s texture as you knead it to become a stretchy, smooth pliable balloon. Your eyes will never become tired of the delight of seeing the bread rise under its damp cover as the yeast works its miracle. The smell is comparable to nothing else, warm, homely, comforting, and finally the taste – a slice of warm soft spongy bread with butter gently melting into it might give you serious indigestion, but trying to resist really is futile, even the day after, if there is any left, toast a slice and cover with home made jam or marmalade for breakfast – it doesn’t get much better!

So what are you waiting for? Most bread making products, i.e. the flour and yeast will come with a basic recipe printed on them, give it a go and if you become hooked, experiment! I can assure you, the final sense you will experience is an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. Happy bread making!