One womans struggle to live sustainably in a money obsessed world...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Spring, food and feet

Spring seemed to have taken forever to get going this year and and although it has taken a few shaky steps recently I'm sure a heavy frost or two will scupper any seed I plant out just yet unless they are of the hardiest variety.  With that in mind I set about looking for potatoes that will sit happily in the soil with a few frosts about and onion sets that will go in the ground now.  I found these and planted them up without a second thought.

I've left the pink fir apple potatoes out for now cause they just won't cope wth frosts and they are too special to lose.  I have to say I am hoping I haven't jumped the gun with the others.  The frosts have been pretty bad and nothing is showing it's head yet.... I'm sure it will be ok.....

Early peas and second planting of garlic ( the first planting are making a good recovery after the chicken massacre) as well as second planting of broad beans are also in.  I'm not worried about these guys as they love a bit of cold, just got to keep the chickens and bunnies off them!

In the mean time I found myself a lovely mushroom growing kit at Hulme garden centre.  It's a box with everything you need inside, literally all you do is add water and 6 weeks later start munching 'shrooms!  In my excitement (and hunger) I scoffed the first crop before taking pictures....Sorry, but I promise to hold back for the next lot so you can see my first crop of the year.  All I need now is an egg off the girls and I can have myself a 'shroom omlette, thanks to Kippax towers mini farm!

Spring also has another effect on me, other than itching to get muddy outdoors.  I always have the urge to redecorate and rearrange my house!  I've been here for 8 years and have always said this was a stop gap home, not somewhere I wanted to stay, it's too small and inner city manchester isn't where I want to be, but life seems to have planted me here and I may aswell make the best of it.  One space that doesn't work well and I've never touched apart from putting some laminate down, badly is my hall. So here it is in all it's pokey shabby glory.  Not very welcoming....
I'm stuck with the size of it but I can make it look nicer and not have my coat rail so high up only a giant can use it.

So, I have started stripping the woodchip off...  Have you ever stipped wood chip?  AARRRGGGHHHH!  Nearly done though. The gloss has been sanded and on the laft hand side and the door has been painted, looking good... I've even started putting an edging down by the skirting board to neated the laminate! 
PS that large thing with a cushion on it is a TV!?  Why do things like that appear in my house?  ....MEN....
I'll repaper with lining paper which I will paint on the left wall and I will paper the right hand wall with something glorious.  Photo's to come soon!

And just as a little something to make you scratch your head..... This thing appeared near to my local food superstore.  It's a giant shoe box!  Io said the BFG dropped it on his way home from the shops.  Apparently he needs some decent trainers for all that running from giant land he does.....   Kids..... :-)

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Catch Up!

Right, are you ready for this onslaught of info?  Weeks have gone by without a post and surely I've got lots and lots to talk to you about.  Well, there is a bit...
Last month, I took part in a Valentines swap with other crafters at Folksy.  The theme was 'handmade heart' and I chose to make a cute little pin cushion for my recipient, Bethany.
She seemed happy with it!  What do you think?
I was really excited when my parcel arrived in the post from Talking Beads, I was even more excited when I opened it.  The ladies at Talking Beads had made me a perfect little heart made from beads.  Each one was sewn in place, I can't begin to tell you how neat and beautiful it is.  What clever ladies they are!

I think it looks extra specially fab on my crafting drawers.  Love it!

Another bit of Folksy news is that I have sold my first two MONSTERS online!  I am so pleased.  I was feeling a bit down and degected about the whole selling online thing and I was beginning to feel like jacking the whole thing in.  Then, like a message from the cosmos, two sales in three days.  So to celebrate I made a few baby MONSTERS and popped them in the folksy shop today.  They are very sweet and quick and easy to make so I can put them in at a lower price.  Who knows, maybe the fabled Folksy Sales Fairy may visit me again soon.

The other bit of news is that although the chicken haven't started laying yet, one of them, Pluck, has been showing a bit of behaviour that signals eggs are imminent!  She's dug out a shallow nest at the base of my tea rose bush and everytime I come over to her she 'assumes the position'.  Basically that means she kind of squats down ready to be mounted by any rooster that has his eye on her!  I heard if you rough them up a bit (nothing scary just lift their tails and ruffle their feathers on the back of their necks) it makes them feel like they've had some rooster action and they get up fluff their feathers and go about the day in a state of chicken loved up mist!  I gave it a go and sure enough, Pluck fluffed and shivered like she had the best night of passion any chicken could dream of and went about her merry way cooing and showing off to the others.  I feel, strangely dirty about all this, but if it means I get eggs soon, I'm willing to try just about anything!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

I'm back!

Hi guys!

So sorry for no posts for the last few weeks!  I promised you an update on my adventures in homemade deoderant after a week and well, I've posted nothing at all!  Why?!!  I hear you all ask... Well my beautiful offspring managed to break my internet dongle 2 hours into the half term holidays,  2 HOURS!!!  Kids hey?!  Well I was faced with a bill of £70 for a new one off Orange so I said 'Knickers' to them and got myself a pay as you go dongle for £20.
Anyway, I'm back now so I'll let you know how that deodorant experiment went.  I have to say I am impressed!  I certainly works so far as keeping fresh and staying dry but there are a few problems with it that I think with a bit of jiggery pokery with the recipe could sort it out.
  Firstly it goes on a little clumpily, and therefore flakes onto clothing.  It brushes off easily though and doesn't stain like shop deo's on black tops but it could do with being a tad smoother.  Maybe it's because I used potato starch instead of corn starch?
Secondly, and this is a problem not everyone will come up against but anyone who suffers with a tendancy to get yeast infections easily, like me (I'm embarrassed to say) may find their pits getting a little red and itchy after a few days use.  I had been warned of this problem by the web site I got the recipe from and a qiuck application of cannisten cream knocked that on the head.
So all in all I think it has been very successful and I will continue to mess about with scents and oils and starch to come up with a recipe that's suits me best.  I would say this deo wouldn't be to everyones taste but if you are feeling adventurous I would hartily recomend giving it a try.

No piccies today sorry, but as I have lots to catch up with and tell you about, you can be sure that the next post will be full of them!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Adventures in Chemistry

A few weeks ago I came across the Indistructables site and found something I have been looking for, well as long as I've been interested in Sustainability! It's a recipe for how to make your own deodorant. Deodorant is one of those necessary evils. It's full of dodgy chemicals, terrible for the environment and suspect to your own health, but noone wants to stink like the scary man that hangs out in the local charity shop, so we use it.
This recipe uses natural ingredients, easily found at my local Asian food store and promises to ban odour as well as keeping my pits dry. I hope noone feels I'm being too familiar when I say, since I was 11 I have been frankly plagued with pits that get very, very wet if I don't use Sure Stick...Sorry to name my shame and a Brand name but I've tried them all and when this one came out on the market I jumped for joy cause at last I could raise my arms in public! Smell, doesn't seem to be much of a problem for me, well noone has openly complained, and my kids are brutally honest with me and I'm sure they would have said something if there was a problem there. So, in essence this recipe has a lot to live up to. Can it keep me dry, smelling nice, be easy, non-time consuming to make and cheap enough for it to be worth while doing?

Today, I used the last of my regular deodorant and headed off to the shop in search of, corn starch, baking soda, coconut oil and some essential oils to make it smell pretty. I couldn't find corn starch, but did get potato starch instead, the packet said it can be used instead of corn starch in cooking so lets see if it works in deodorant! Also, I remembered I had some essential oils at home, so I didn't buy any at the store... More on that later...So, here is the mix after I added a bit of shea butter (left over from soap making) and wacked it in the microwave for a sec or two to soften the oils cause the were rock solid in my freezing kitchen. Now, back to those oils... after rooting about all I could find was ....Pine and Eucalyptus... Well at least the Pine is antibacterial, even if I will smell like toilet cleaner....
The consistancy was very good and when I rubbed my fingers together, it had the same drying effect of my usual deo... all good so far.
So here is the finished product packed professionally into my old cleaned out deo dispenser. I popped it in the fridge to set and will be trying it out for the first time tomorrow. For fairness sake I will try it for a week and then post my findings then! In the mean time, I think the packet is looking a little boring and is in need of a bit of decoration, so please comment and tell me what you think a good name for it should be. Del's deo?...Eco Pits! .... I'm sure you can do much better than me!

Monday, 8 February 2010

So much to do......

Well, this weekend was a busy one and although not much went to plan, things seemed to turn out alright in the end...
I'll start with Saturday evening, that's when it all started to go wrong. I had planned to do a spring clean upstairs and then bake some cupcakes for my friend Shannon's little girls birthday party as a surprise treat! Sadly, my cold hit me pretty hard and me and Io(my youngest daughter) fell asleep while having a 'Mummy needs a few minutes' lie down...
Aargghhh! We woke up at bedtime with nothing done! Io said she felt a bit not well and when I felt her head she was burning up with a fever...doh! she's caught my cold, just what we both don't need. Well time for damage limitation, the cleaning will have to wait for another time (there's a shame...) and I'll have to crack on baking those cakes and decorate them in the morning. I managed to bake a batch of lovely cakes while tending to my sick daughter's every whim...."Drink please mummy"..."Tissue please....NOW"..."Turn the TV over"..."Hug me"....
Now why don't I have someone to boss about like that when I'm sick?
Anyway, I congratulate myself with a cup of tea and a browse through my emails. I'm planning how to decorate cakes, whether Io will be well enough for the party on Sunday-Bowling then a quiet tea at Shannon's, and whether Spring cleaning on a Sunday is against the law (any excuse...), when I open an email that nearly makes me spit tea all over the laptop!
Ages and ages ago, I promised the group I volunteer for- Action For Sustainable Living that I would man an information stall at the Zion Centre to promote Sustainability at their Open Day. AARRGGHHH!!!! I'd forgotten all about it and worst still I was supposed to be there Sunday 10-4. The party starts at 2, Io is ill, and I've done my usual thing of saying 'Yes' to everything without thinking.
Calm down woman.....Think.....Think.....
Ok phone Shannon, there is no way Io will be well enough for bowling, we'll go to the quiet tea at 5. Now, babysitter for Io. Lee my partner! I knew I wasn't alone in this! Time he did a bit of work. Phew! Things starting to work out.... Now email AFSL, can someone take over at 1 for me? Yes?!! Brilliant!
Ok, so how did it all work out? Well, I left Lee and Io in front of the TV, happy if a little snotty, packed my crochet needle and a ball of wool in my bag...You know, in case things are slow... and dash off in the cold to the Zion Centre.
I get there and I'm the first person with a stall to arrive, well it is a Sunday morning, and I start looking for the stuff that 'should' have been left there for me to set up the stall. All I can find is Energy Saving Lightbulbs...NOTHING ELSE! I phone my boss, her phone is off, now what!
A very nice man called Chris takes pity on me and brings me a cup of tea, I ask him when the doors open to the public, he says 12. Hang on....12!!!!! What am I doing here at 10 then with nothing but a box of lightbulbs?!!! No wonder I'm the only one here. So I've got two hours to kill. I know... I whip out my crochet hook and start making a present for Io, a little balero snug for the party. Two hours later and....Taa Daah!
While I was knitting away, someone found the rest of my stuff for the stall and things satrted to look up!So I spend just ONE HOUR with the public before another volunteer arrives to relieve me so I can get back to Io. Just before I leave though, I spot a stall making sreen printed T shirts for £2.50. I know, I'll just have a quick go, to make a present for poorly Io of course, not because the last time I did screen printing was back in school...ahem...and this was the result!
I like it! Maybe it needs some applique too... (Stop've got more than enough to do).

When I arrive home, everyone is still alive and happy I bring presents, apart from Lee because I didn't bring him anything...I don't know, there is no pleasing some people.
It's a good job I made the T-shirt because, it turns out the balero is just a tad big for fact, I wonder if it would fit me??!!
Perfect fit! BONUS! Now, seriously, that wasn't the intention. It WAS meant for Io, HONESTLY! I promise to use a smaller hook and make one for her.
Anyway, I make the cakes with vanilla buttercream and jellysweets in the shape of bones because Jessica loves dogs (sorry, no pics, by that time I was rushing about at warp speed) and get Io dressed and ready, pick up the Sock MONSTER I made for Jessica and head out for tea at Shannons.... Jessica loved the cakes and had scoffed two before we even got our coats off! And she was thrilled with her MONSTER! Io had rested enough in the day to have enough energy to play with Jessica until bed time. Happy Days!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Spring is in the air?

That cold I was telling you about hasn't got any better. :-( Blocked ears gummed up eyes, snot, coughs...well you get the picture.
So to cheer myself up I thought I'd go out into the garden- as the sun was shining- and look for signs of Spring.
First, I started in the front. Last Autumn I built a raised bed out of and old cupboard and filled it with compost from the back garden. I planted fruit bushes, and herbs and was generously gifted with 3 strawberry plants from I's school garden. I also put in a few surprises here and there so I would forget and be pleasantly surprised when they popped up.
So here are some hyacyth bulbs popping up next to the sage

and here are some buds appearing on my Japenese wineberry bush... ooohhhh....

Now, onto the back garden, two hyacythns with a tulip in between.... I can feel the mucus drying up and my spirits rising...

So, when I turn around to check on the only vegetables growing in the back garden, the garlic and broad bean shoots, I'm feeling pretty serene and proud of myself.....
Then, I see this....The bloody chickens have ravaged the whole lot!!!! Urge to kill RISING.....

I feel my sinuses blocking and my head starting to hurt again. :-( Not to worry though, I had an idea. I can't coop the chickens up in a pen like the bunnies, they are just too clever, so I used the bunny pen to coop up the raised bed. The animals all have free run of the entire garden now apart from the beds. I can see it's going to be up to me to compromise, once again....

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Rough with the smooth

Today is one of those days you think is going to be a write off. I woke up feeling stuffed full of cold, choughing up a lung and then I realised I promised I's school I would bake some cupcakes for their Teddy Bear picnic for Haiti... I set myself a challenge a while ago that the next batch of cupcakes I make will resemble these delicous ones by Molly Bakes. (who was that muffling a snigger.... ?!) All I need is some patience and planning I said to myself. Piece of cake!!!!

Well, I set to and here are the results...
First a light chocolate sponge,

Next the decoration!

They might not be up to Molly's standard, but for a first try at cake decorating I'm very pleased with myself! Today isn't so bad after all

P.S. Who noticed one cake was missing from the tray? Well, you've got to have quality control somewhere in the production line!