Friday, 16 October 2009

the blogger's apology

it's a common refrain on blogs - the 'oh my god, i'm such a bad blogger, i haven't posted in weeks' post. the promises to do better...

(it's a common refrain in my life come to that, the 'i really planned to get round to that, but somehow it slipped by the wayside' explanation...)

I had a long post planned about why posting had dried up, but i don't think all that detail's necessary. I'll summarise:

1. I started wondering too much about the point of some of the things I was doing and posting about
2. I was starting to find the selectiveness of blogging a bit like presenting a false front - why blog about the one decent meal i make a week when the rest of the time I eat chips and fishfingers in front of the TV? that kind of thing. it troubled me.
3. I changed roles at work and the ratio of my office hours I spend actually working increased from about 40% to a hair's width off 100%. the last thing I want to do with my free time is type, and look at a screen.
4. I found more often that not I wanted to just eat things, make things, see thigns, without stopping to photograph them first, and without stopping to plan how to present them in print

so, sadly, this blog, which I started with a great deal of ideas and exuberance, and which went quite swimmingly at first, has swiftly trailed off. as so many do.

which isn't to say I won't blog again - it's a nice project to have, and I do like projects. i really think a lot of good can come from the micro-communities blogs spawn; i've really appreciated comments i've got here, adn the inspiration i've got from other blogs. i can still feel the urge to blog. but it's a little like that urge to re-invent one's wardrobe or finally kick off the fitness programme in a big way - a nice idea, but not much without real commitment and realistic aspirations.

Anyway, I think that's about all I needed to say. I just felt I should come and finish things off nicely.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Exfoliation 3 - the shoe rack

In my ongoing battle against the accumulation of stuff, these shoes left the house recently.

The three in the middle went to charity shops, whilst sadly the battered old boots with holes and no heels went to landfill. (the flip flops I've ended up keeping as I realised I have nothing else summery to wear, although they are pretty battered).

As with all things I'm getting rid off, throwing things away is making me think about getting them in the first place, and shoes is a particularly bad area for me. I'm awful for buying shoes that don't fit, cheap shoes that fall apart almost immediately, shoes that are impossible to walk in, shoes I don't really like but feel like I 'need'.

I should be buying shoes that are a) comfortable b) durable and c) likeable. I really need to find some shoes that will last for years instead of months, shoes that won't give me corns or bruises or bend my feet out of shape. For some reason I don't think I have ever managed to do this.

Part of my excuse is that I have size 8 feet (41 european, I think a US 10), which are wide, with long toes, and one hammer toe. It is very difficult to find anything which is remotely nice-looking that fits, so if I find something 'almost there' I tend to buy it.

And I also have a fair amount of vanity about my shoes and clothes, so although there may be some tough, comfortable shoes out there, I'm still going to be pretty reluctant if they make me miserable with their ugliness. I have a semi-legitimate reason for some of this vanity, as I work in an environment where I am often meeting clients and am required to look reasonably smart.

Aside from the freakish feet and the vanity however, there's another reason why my holy grail of shoes has not yet been uncovered - which is that there just don't seem to be shoes out there (where I'm looking at least) that fit my criteria above. So many are made cheaply, which not only leads to them quickly wearing out, but also often means they are not designed for feet, but for fickle fashion followers, and are mightily uncomfortable.

So, at the moment I have one good pair of work shoes, I have my scrappy flip flops I got free off a magazine (I've accumulated so much awful tat through it being 'free' - another bad habit I'm trying to break!), I have various trainers, some falling apart flats I wear day in day out, and a few smart shoes which kill my feet but that I can wear for a couple of hours if really required to dress up. For the time being, this will do me. But as I come to replace these ones that will rapidly expire, I really need to find some shoes that will fit my brief. The search is on - I'll update when I find some goodies. In the mean time, all suggestions gratefully received!!!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Michael Pollan - The Omnivore's Dilemma

I think I'm behind the times with this - seems like everyone in blog world read this about a gazillion years ago, still, if you have read I'd love to hear your views, and if you haven't I can heartily recommend this book, so I thought I'd do a short review...

It starts out talking about corn, the peculiarities of the plant and how it germinates. I'm not sure exactly what I expected of the book, but I'm sure it wasn't an in depth discussion of corn... I was however, riveted, completely drawn into the story. By way of corn, Pollan touched on so much else and reading was like rapidly unearthing more and more gems of knowledge about food and how it works in our modern world. Things started fitting together, a big picture started building in my head.

From corn we journeyed to the world of intensively farmed meat, a part I found shocking and sad. Although I had an abstract idea that industrially farmed meat was 'bad' I had no real details on why this was so. This book has left me with a lasting picture in my mind's eye of cattle walking round in a vast concrete grid, carpeted with their own antibiotic and supplement ridden shit, eating a horrifying mixture of other animal waste parts, chemicals and corn. And with a lasting impression of the craziness of separating off parts of agriculture so that 'waste' products can not be used and put back in a cycle, and become pollution.

The section on organic food is also extremely illuminating - looking at the industrial organic and the smallscale 'balanced' and holistic farmer who may not be 'organic' in a strict legal definition sense, but is so much more so in other ways. I started dreaming at this point about living on a farm, finding out about permaculture principles and ways to make my farm a whole eco system where production is based on getting the most out of using nature's own systems. An un-intensive farm with all sorts of good foods and plants growing happily together...

It finishes on foraging and wild food, which was fascinating also, although probably less important to me than the other sections (I am unlikely to go hunting for wild boars, whilst I do face choices about organic from overseas versus non-organic small-scale local, and choices about meat and fish and processed foods every day, so the information about how things are produced was what was really useful).

I don't normally read non-fiction books through to the end - however interesting they are, I give up after a while, but I found myself reading this on the bus, in bed, everywhere, and then - probably quite annoyingly - peppering all my conversations with tidbits of information about cereal design, or cattle feed or wild mushrooms... It was really engagingly written, very vividly painting pictures of the places Pollan visited and rarely getting lost in realms of detail or complicated arguments. I enjoyed also getting a bit of an education in links between politics, business and agriculture. Definitely a lot of food for thought there.

All in all, highly recommended, for anyone at all interested in food, where some of it comes from, and why.

Friday, 17 July 2009

The waste challenge - an update

Inspired by others' examples, I rather rashly decided a couple of months ago to set myself a challenge. The idea was to carry all the waste I produced around with me for a month, rather than throwing it away. At the end of the month, I thought I would be able to draw meaningful conclusions about where the waste I produce comes from, and how I could best reduce it...
I'm sorry to say it didn't quite go to plan. I kept getting confused about the rules (and having no better authority to consult than myself, never really resolved this). I got really busy at work, so much so that cooking and exercising and doing anything in the evening aside from slumping on the sofa got abandoned. I got to that state where anything that seemed 'difficult' was jettisoned, including the challenge...

Still, it did give me food for thought, about 'challenges' as well as about waste, so I thought I'd gather my thoughts and consider what next here.

Is it possible?
There were two things I kept thinking as I went on - firstly, it seemed increasingly that it must be possible to get to a nil, or nearly nil, waste output. I didn't think it all through in complete detail but the more I thought about each piece of waste the more it seemed entirely possible to live a life where no waste was produceed, and even in a world where waste wasn't seen as something completely unavoidable. The second thought was how hard it would be getting there. The culture of getting rid of, of disposability, of throwing away, of ignoring the fact that throwing 'away' means throwing 'somewhere else' is completely prevalent and pervasive in the world I live in.

Think about it
The challenge, failed or not, forced me to think about this business of just 'throwing away'. Close your eyes and try and picture it - the whole situation - imagine your country in your mind's eye, and see the millions of people and households and businesses churning out waste here there and everywhere. And then look at the people and trucks and ships taking it away, burying it, burning it, throwing it in the sea... Picture that and tell me it's not crazy. There is not infinite room. Not to mention contamination and pollution. (Did anyone see that film Gomorrah? Possibly one of the most depressing films I've ever seen, it shows a really really ugly side to waste disposal (see exploitation, government corruption, mafia terror, illness, deaths and injury, illegal and dangerous working practices...)). This gave me a real motivation to continue with this.

The nitty gritty
From the grand scale to the minute... I started to see each little bit that contributed to the stuff I throw out. There was waste at every point of the day, decisions I had to make in all situations. I used hand dryers instead of paper towels, I tried using fresh tomatoes instead of canned, I had to make an effort to get to my local organic shop on time so I didn't end up in the palace of packaging - Tesco Metro. I chose loose cabbage over bagged up spinach, but then went to the farmer's market and bought lovely local organic strawberries in plastic containers, felt overwhelmed by the difficulty in getting everything right. I succumbed to buying weekend papers, and lamented the amount of stuff that came through my letterbox only to go straight in the recycling bin, unopened. I realised how often I threw stuff away without even being aware of it.

The plan
I realised that the way I tackle things best is bit by little bit, and that an all-out waste starvation diet was not going to help me change my behaviour in the long term. I read somewhere that if you do something for 30 days a habit will be formed. And once something is habitual you don't have to think about it anymore. I need to create waste-light habits, and one by one so I don't feel over-loaded and defeated.

So, the plan is this. Each month going forward I will tackle a different area of waste. My long-term aim will be to get to a place where I have a very very small amount of waste each month, all of which is recyclable - nothing to landfill. As I tackle each area one by one, hopefully my binbag will shrink and I'll move through the obvious stuff to the less obvious stuff, eliminating waste slowly but surely. And I want to invite you to join me in this challenge - either taking the same subjects as I do, or creating your own.

Join the challenge!
I just ate a little pot of fruit for lunch which came in a plastic pot with a plastic fork. I could easily have just bought a banana. And I ate a chocolate mousse, also in a plastic pot with a plastic lid. I could have bought instead a pudding from the canteen that comes in a china bowl. One thing I did do whilst doing the June challenge, was to eat lunch every day on a plate with proper cutlery - either from canteens or brought from home. It was so much nicer than eating with plastic forks from plastic containers, and I'm sure sitting down properly for lunch made me much more productive in the afternoon.

So for August I'll tackle food-on-the-go (as opposed to food shopping bought for home use, which is a big area I'll try and break down into smaller bits!), and hope you might decide to do so to! It would be great to share lunchbox recipes, tips for carrying coffee mugs and cutlery, or other ways to avoid accidentally picking up plastic/paper accompaniments to takeaway food. I'll post about how I'm doing and would be great to hear from others doing it too. Comment if you're up for it!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

July List!


A little late, but there we go...
From top left, clockwise:

1. Mini-break - Five of us (parents, sister, brother-in-law and I) journeyed down to the Loire recently to participate in a 'Balade Gourmande' - a 5km walk round pretty villages and vineyards, from one local food and wine tasting stall to another, accompanied by various musicians along the way. Got a little bit drunk and a little bit sunburnt and a little bit stuffed... All in all, a good day.

2. Reading list - Spotted this flagged up on the lovely Angry Chicken. It's a handwritten/hand-drawn zine with all kinds of information and tips about "how to craft a sustainable domestic life outside of consumer consciousness". Available here - it looks super.

3. Organic Cotton Sun Dress - from Lav & Kush, available here on Mudshark Streetwear. Gorgeous.

4. Visitor! - this is a picture from my trip to Bangladesh in Februrary to visit my good friend working out there. Looking forward this month to her trip back to the UK. yay!

5. Southbank - for the last few years the National Theatre's held a festival of outdoor free events throughout summer, called Watch this Space. In the past I've enjoyed: circus skills graduate shows after work; a crazy show involving a lot of fire, acrobatics and firemen dancing on podiums; and sitting in a deckchair watching old films and short films projected onto the concrete tower. This year they have a parkour week coming up, so hoping to get down to see some of that. I love the athleticism and grace of parkour, as well as the way it treats the urban environment as a playground.

6. Summer footwear - I like this smart looking flip flop from Melissa Sin at the Inhabitat shop. It's made of recycled plastic in a closed loop manufacturing process apparently.

7. Sunshine clutch - have been eyeing up these Bobelle bags for a while. They're made of eel skin - a a by-product of the food industry in Korea. All BoBelle products are hand made, hand dyed and fairly traded, according to their website. They also have some great looking hand bags and cute coin purses.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

A local meal!

A little while ago (feels like a very long while ago!) I signed up to LivingSenses lovely challenge to prepare and eat one local meal a week throughout June and August.
Well, I managed one week, before "things" got in the way...
It isn't much special, but let me tell you anyway.
At the farmer's market I chose:
- broad beans, because they reminded me of my parent's garden in summer - we were often tasked with shelling them
- strawberries, after tasting one and realising the seller wasn't lying when he claimed they were a variety acclaimed for their sweetness and flavout
- asparagus, just because it looked good
- and gooseberries, on a nostalgia trip also - these grow in my parents garden as well, and I never really see them in the shops.
All were English, and from fairly nearby, though I can't remember now which was which - Kent, Essex and Sussex I think.
I took my haul home and steamed the beans and asparagus to accompany poached eggs (from Somerset) and toast (yummy bread from a South London bakery).
Strawberries became breakfast pudding. At which point I should confess to distinctly non-local coffee and tea accompanying this virtuous-sounding feast, and quite possibly a second breakfast pudding of cake from the Portuguese shop (I love breakfasts that stretch on all morning!)

Later, I finished the beans and asparagus in a green veggy quiche - some old spinach and spring onions from the fridge (also both English I think) joined them, along with the Somerset eggs again, and English milk, and flour I think, though I forget now. This lasted several days for packed lunches.


And then, I topped off a day of local (ish) cooking, by baking this gooseberry cake. It doesn't look pretty, but it tasted a-mazing! I used a recipe meant for plum cake, which produced a very soft and light yet still somehow moist cake. Very very good. I'll dig out the recipe and post it here soon!

Although I've been kind of rubbish at this challenge so far, it's already been good to me, in that I never really bought much from the farmers market before, and have shopped there several times now, which has been really nice. And hopefully, I'll put together a few more local meals before the challenge-time is up, so watch this space for that... And do go and visit Local Senses and join in the Go Local challenge if you're feeling inspired.


Monday, 6 July 2009

Back again, with bikes

I'm just back from three days out of the country and in the sun. The distance and time to relax and sleep and enjoy eating, drinking, conversing has made me feel a bit less weary than last week, and a bit less fraught about work, so I thought I would pop in and try and post something at least.

Lots of post material has been building up over the last couple of weeks in my head and on the camera, so hopefully I'll get time to share some of that with you soon. For now, I think I'm just going to post some photos. These are from the summer solstice a couple of weekends ago. We had friends over for dinner and I mentioned I'd read about a solstice bike ride taking place the next morning. We liked the idea, we realised we had four bikes between the four of us (none of them being mine) and decided to go.

A short nap later, we reconvened and I got on a bike for the first time in probably 12 or 13 years. Swept down dark and empty streets, through the park, down towards the clamour of the city centre. Into soho, where being sober at 2am felt like being thrust into a circus or asylum, people shouting, swaying, talking to themselves, pirouetting, vomming, carrying friends, acosting rickshaw drivers.

A group gathered and we set off. It was short, and a little disappointingly lacking in the bubbles and music and costumes and general jollity you see on the critical mass rides, but I loved flying through dark streets surrounded by a sea of flashing red lights, and we made it up to primrose hill to see a (cloudy!) sunrise and drink tea, and it felt like a little adventure.

Now I really want a bike.















Thursday, 18 June 2009

Exfoliation 2 - The Bookshelf

A little while ago I told you about my first 'exfoliation' - that is, shedding unused clutter in order to leave just the good, the useful, the beautiful and/or to put that clutter back into the world and see it used better. (see makeundermylife for the original and best explanation).

Since then, I've been getting quite into this whole exfoliating/making under business. I've been picking away at my wardrobe, building up a big pile of clothes I don't wear or can't wear or know don't suit me. Every time I take something out my wardrobe looks richer, not smaller. The colours are nicer, I see more stuff I like. That taking stuff away, not putting it in, is what enhances it is so counterintuitive it feels like magic! And yet when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Anyhow, more on the clothes and what to do with them later...

For now, this was my second exfoliation - I went through the bookcase taking out all those books I didn't want anymore. Not a huge pile (there were a few more than this in the end), but it made space in the bookcase for a few more books that had been hanging round in piles elsewhere, helping tidy up our messy little shoebox of a flat.

I was quite excited to try out a couple of good internet book swapping initiatives I'd heard of. Bookmooch and Read it Swap it both allow you to upload books you don't want anymore then start swapping with others. On Bookmooch you collect points, on Read it Swap it it's a straightforward swapping system . Both great ways to give old books a new lease of life with someone else, and to refresh your library for minimal cost (and without any new materials being used).


However, I started thinking about how rubbish I am posting letters (and hence posting out the books), and how much I like the library and spending time in second hand book shops, and how I didn't really want to add to my permanent book stash... So I decided in the end that I was much better off just feeding my books back into the second hand system, and I dropped them off at my nearest second hand charity bookshop.

So, I'm interested in knowing what's your preferred way of reading. Are you a library addict, like me? (With my ginormous fines to show for forgetfulness!) Do you like to buy shiny and new or prefer careworn and tattered? Have you used any swap sites or other ways to circulate and re-use books, and how have you found them if so? Do tell...

Monday, 15 June 2009

still here...

I've been capsized by work of late. It's been filling up my time and zapping my energy to such an extent that I haven't been able to blog for a while. So, sorry for the absence. I hope it will all settle down soon.

I did manage to make my first local meal, although the waste challenge is faltering somewhat. I also finished a good book I wanted to tell you about, I've experimented with homemade almond milk and I've exfoliated this and that...

So, watch this space, and just as soon as things start to calm down enough for me to get a chance to post, I will be back...

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Another challenge!

Seems to be the week for it. This one is somewhat more pleasant than the waste one though. It's the Go Local challenge from Heather Jane at Living Senses and it entails making one meal from local food each week throughout June to August. If you join in you can then blog about it and post a link on Living Senses each week so all the local meals can be shared and admired. Lovely!

There's a farmer's market on at the school near where I usually run on weekend mornings, so I'm hoping to stop by there this Saturday and pick things up for my first meal.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The Waste Challenge - update 1

A little while ago I rather rashly made a commitment to myself, here on this site, to spend a whole month collecting my rubbish rather than throwing it away.

And now the month is upon me, so I have had to honour my word and start really thinking about waste. This is how things are going so far:

Day 1
- I realise it's the 1st June and hence the first day of the challenge as I am eating my lunch - with a disposable fork - it's made of wood and has got a bit soggy and broken so I can't put it in the cutlery drawer to take to work as I do with the few plastic spoons I pick up. I put it in my bag.

Later I'm working through my receipts (I record all my expenditure - slightly obsessive but there we go) and realise I have unthinkingly tossed them in the bin. I realise why I am doing this challenge - because it is that unthinkingness that I - and most others - have become accustomed to. But once out of my hand this stuff doesn't disappear into thin air, so I really should be thinking about just what I am throwing out.

By evening I'm quite impressed at my small haul for the day, until I realise I'm too late to go to my usual shop and have to buy dinner at Tesco Metro. EVERYTHING is in packaging. There is literally nothing I can buy loose apart from an unripe avocado. Some plastic and netting gets added to my stash.

Day 2.

This regime is pretty good if you're on a diet because if you're looking at food in terms of waste, there is not much there you can go for apart from fruit (this is at least the case in our canteen). I go out for lunch with a colleague though and get a sandwich wrapped in paper and then put in a paper bag stuffed with paper napkins. The bag and napkin I can save and re-use, but the paper is all oily so it has to be chucked (things with food on that might go mouldy over the course of a month are not coming in the bag). So I kind of cheated today, but still pretty good going with nothing so far. However, I am pretty thirsty because my only options for water here are plastic cups or buying a plastic bottle, as I forgot to bring my normal tea mug. Damn! And another dinner needs to be bought and I'm not sure I'll make my shop opening hours. I had better go and try do that!!!

Optimism

An optimistic article in this week's Sunday Times - http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article6395003.ece .

Author Rosie Boycott claims:

"There is a phenomenon springing up all around that isn’t just about a green revolution, nor is it simply a response to the recession, an economic necessity to downsize because your bank balance is looking precarious. No: a whole new set of values as fashionable as the old is currently in the offing. "

Is it really true? It doesn't seem based on much, although I'd like to think that the credit-crunch inspired articles that currently abound on clothes swapping, staycations, doing it yourself and growing your own are more than just a media fad.

She does touch on some more solid examples of 'good things' a-happening, such as a programme with persistent truants at Hackney City Farms and this - Capital Growth a project which aims to enable more food-growing in London, especially community food-growing. This is something I've daydreamed about but didn't know was actually out there happening, so I am glad to stumble across that, and it has injected a little optimism into my day.

What last made you feel optimistic?

Monday, 1 June 2009

June List


June's here! And it's actually sunny, hooray!

So, from top left, going clockwise.

1. I love this ring from artisan look on etsy. Gorgeous

2. Also lusting after the lovely caoba top - another etsy find by Zelaya. It's made of organic cotton, can be worn two ways, and looks perfect for warm weather (apart from the fact that I ban myself from buying white apparel on the grounds that I'm just too prone to spilling things).

3. Hoping to catch the The Photographic Object exhibition at the photographers gallery in its new home. It's one of my favourite London galleries with a constant turnover of small and interesting exhibitions and I haven't visited since it recently moved.

4. I'm sure this golden sands brooch from Calexandra would make everything in my wardrobe look better.

5. Comfy and chic, and coral, one of my all-time favourite clothing colours, this Peopletree bubble dress is another item on my wardrobe wishlist.

6. Having finally managed to keep up regular(ish) running training since January, planning to run a 5K this month, with Sri Chin Moy races in lovely Battersea Park.

7. Cherries have started to arrive on the streets of London and I can't get enough of them. They just taste of summer. I went to my first picnic this weekend just gone and sitting in the sun in the company of interesting people, with a handful of cherries and a glass of prosecco is a good recipe for a Sunday afternoon...

Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Not-Lara Bars!

Ok, so the photos aren't that pretty, but just to show that I did indeed try making the fruit and nut energy bars I mentioned the other week, and they turned out great. I based it on the Enlightened Cooking recipe but added some coconut and used brazils and cashews for the nuts. Pretty damn good, although very much on the sweet side - next time I make up a batch I'm thinking of including lemon/lime/orange zest to give it a bit more of an edge, and maybe trying combos with a slightly higher nut:fruit ratio, as the dates and cherries are both super-sweet.

Best part of these is I added up the costs of all my ingredients and worked out each little square cost me less than 20p. Compares favourably with chocolate bars (even from my subsidised work canteen) and very favourably with Lara bars.
Unfortunately, having one of these in my lunchbox everyday hasn't completely ridded me of my tendency to make impulse cupcake purchases mid-afternoon - still working on this...

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

An eye pillow and two kinds of patience

So, the three day weekend was gloriously sunny and I revelled in idling. Reading, lolling, eating cherries in the shade of a tree and the warmth of the sun; soundtracked with traffic hum and kids shrieks and pigeons' cooing. Lovely.

I didn't make the skirt I thought I might (see last post) as I couldn't find any fabric in my stash big enough. I did however get round to the Imitation Larabar Project, which went smashingly - photos to follow.

This though is a project from a couple of weeks back. I had seen instructions to make a yoga eye pillow on a yoga teacher's blog (sorry I can't remember which one!) ages ago, and it seemed to me just the thing for a) my current level of sewing skills and b) the scraps of silk I had left.

It's a really really simple project, though I still managed to end up with something a little less than perfect... I was reflecting the other day how there are two kinds of patience. People often say to me about knitting that they wouldn't be patient enough to knit. And I always think it bizarre because to me there's no patience to knitting. You can just throw yourself in and get on with it. To sew, on the other hand, you have to measure, you have to press, you have to trim and measure again and press again and so on and so forth. This kind of patience - the patience of doing something properly - I am just not good at. The knitting patience - the kind that just requires an ability to be happily absorbed in a simple repetitive task - I am very good at. I have always been quite happy to get absorbed in simple repetitive tasks.

Anyway, I'm off on a tangent. Back to the eye pillow. You can do a simple one where you just stitch all bar 1" of a rectangle (about 8" x 4"), fill it and finish the gap by hand neatly tucking the edges in, but I think doing an inner bag and an outer case is better. Less chance of filling leakage, easier to be neater, and also allows you to wash the cover.

The filling is equal parts linseed and rice. Lavender is recommended, but I don't really love lavender so I tried adding lime leaves and dried mint. It smelled lovely the first time I tried it but I don't notice any scent now so this was fairly pointless in retrospect.

So, the first step is to sew two rectangles together, leaving a 1-2" gap on one short edge. The next is to funnel in your mixture until it's about 3/4 fill. Then, sew the gap closed.
For the cover I added 1/2" all round to the measurements and an extra 2" to the length of one piece. This extra bit gets folded over first, then the two bits sewed together along the other three sides (so there is a little flap on the right side when you turn it inside out).

The inner bag now fits nicely inside the outer, and the flap can be flipped over to hold it secure (you can't see it on this photo as it's on the other side).

We have enough room in our flat to roll out a yoga mat so I practice at home fairly regularly and it is really nice to have a nice cool, silky heavy eye pillow to aid rest at the end of practice. It helps encourage me to actually rest, rather than just jump up and make a slice of toast or watch TV. Nice.

And what do you think of the new title banner btw??? I'm experimenting...

Friday, 22 May 2009

Bank Holiday Weekend Projects

I keep seeing things I want to make, and as there's a three-day weekend right ahead it's perfect timing for a small project or two!

First, it was this funky little bracelet from Scavenging which brought a smile to my face. I like the idea of turning a credit card into jewellery, it just appeals. And it looks pretty smart too. I don't own a drill, but next time one of my cards expires I'll be looking into it.




Then, these cute patterns caught my eye over at Heart of Light. I particularly like the tunic-style one - can see it being the kind of dress you wear all summer.



However, as I've found out with my first slightly-too-ambitious sewing project I probably ought to start with something a little simpler. Which was why I was pleased to come across a step-by-step guide - with photos! (how can I possibly go wrong with this?!) to a simple circle skirt on Burda style.


And finally, I tried Lara bars for the first time recently. Pretty good, I thought - tasty, filling, but not too much so, not too sweet, nice simple list of ingredients. BUT, super expensive for a small snack. So, I started musing on how one would recreate one. The aforementioned simple list of ingredients seemed to predispose the snack to guestimated copying.


Luckily, others had trodden the same thought process before me. Delighted to find out the always-wonderful Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini, and the new-to-me Enlightened Cooking, had already done the experimenting part and come up with some recipes. Chocolate and Zucchini's here and Enlightened Cooking's here. I am definitely definitely going to be stocking up on bulk fruit and nuts and trying these out for next week's lunchboxes. Yum!

Happy (long) weekend to you all!
Photos: bracelet from Scavenging; pattern from Simplicity; skirt from Burda Style; bars from Enlightened Cooking

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Isolation and Efficiency, and How They Came Around to Bite Us in the Backside

A couple of interesting links to share with you.

The title of this post is lifted from a speech I came across today whilst blog-browsing. It's Barbara Kingsolver's commencement address at Duke University and it is lovely - meandering yet whole, funny, uplifting, vivid, thoughtful. It's called "How to be hopeful" and paints saving our lives on earth as the next big battle, along the lines of historical battles such as the abolishment of slavery, universal suffrage and the civil rights movement -

"That will be the central question of your adult life: to escape the wild rumpus of carbon-fuel dependency, in the nick of time. You’ll make rules that were previously unthinkable, imposing limits on what we can use and possess. You will radically reconsider the power relationship between humans and our habitat. In the words of my esteemed colleague and friend, Wendell Berry, the new Emancipation Proclamation will not be for a specific race or species, but for life itself."

She also talks about ideas of success, describing how things seem to be at present:

"Exhaled by culture, taken in like oxygen, we hold these truths to be self-evident: You get what you pay for. Success is everything. Work is what you do for money, and that’s what counts. How could it be otherwise? And the converse of that last rule, of course, is that if you’re not paid to do a thing, it can’t be important. If a child writes a poem and proudly reads it, adults may wink and ask, “Think there’s a lot of money in that?”"

and as to what could be:

"You could invent a new kind of Success that includes children’s poetry, butterfly migrations, butterfly kisses, the Grand Canyon, eternity. If somebody says “Your money or your life,” you could say: Life. And mean it. You’ll see things collapse in your time, the big houses, the empires of glass. The new green things that sprout up through the wreck –- those will be yours."

I read that a couple of times, and felt kind of softened, comforted, open, hopeful... But the bit I really want to take from this is the following:

"The hardest part will be to convince yourself of the possibilities, and hang on. If you run out of hope at the end of the day, to rise in the morning and put it on again with your shoes. Hope is the only reason you won’t give in, burn what’s left of the ship and go down with it. "

Read the whole speech here: http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/2008/05/kingsolver.html

I came across this through an interesting comments conversation (commentsation?) that sprang up from this post over on No-Impact Man , which in turn is a reply to this article in The New Republic. The article talks about a 'green bubble' which is bursting as the economic crisis draws people away from environmental concerns. It was difficult to read objectively because I kept wanting to say, "well, I'm not like this or that", as it takes rather a snide view of the green movement, however I want to go back and read it again without taking it so personally as it seems to me important to read things that challenge your views as well as those that bolster them. To read without bristling and feeling attacked, but to use their arguments to see what you agree with and what you don't, to see if you want to adapt your held beliefs, or if you can more clearly focus your position by working out what exactly it is that you oppose or disagree with.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Book review - Skin Deep

So, I promised a review of this book - Skin Deep by Pat Thomas in my last post. I picked it up in my local library recently and got through it easily in a day or so.

At first I found it a little dry and uninteresting - so many sentences started with a complicated sounding chemical which my eyes just skimmed over, and ended with a slighly paranoid and flaky sounding 'danger'. To be honest, I am not hugely fussed if a chemical 'might' cause a rash, or if there's 'some' evidence that links it tenuously to cancer, or alzheimers or whatever.

I certainly don't want cancer or alzheimers, or skin rashes really I guess. But I live in a city, I breathe pollution on the train every day, I get second hand smoke on the streets, I will come across cleaning chemicals in my office and in shops and so on, there will be a whole host of things I breathe in blissfully unaware, not to mention what I eat (if burnt toast really is a carcinogen, I'm probably far more at risk from that than moisturiser!). In short, there is just too much of that stuff, and the evidence is too flimsy for me to start getting really strict about ruling things out on those grounds. Whilst I think in general it's probably going to be a good thing to avoid them and the information about the lack of safety regulations for this stuff is something I wasn't aware of, I think you risk getting obsessive and overwhelmed if you start trying to avoid everything that's been 'linked' to illness/ill health.

That said, as I read on I did start to appreciate the book more and more. What it helped me do was really think about what it was that I was buying when I buy cosmetics. It breaks down the types of ingredients that are in everyday cosmetic products and explains how they work. When it is all demystified like this it is easy to see what is behind the advertising and lovely images/words which is 70% of why I buy a product probably, and see it for what it really is - a load of different chemicals put together in a combination that the customer will want to buy.

There are a huge number of ingredients which go into products not to perform the task they are meant to do but to make the product easier to transport, or to give it more shelf-life, or to make it's consistency or look more appealing to the consumer. All of these ingredients can have some kind of effect on wherever you are putting them.

And a lot of the ingredients that are the 'active' ingredients are achieving something to make you keep buying them but not necessarily to achieve the results you think they're achieving (e.g. AHAs make the upper layer of your skin thinner, so whilst you temporarily might look smoother, it facilitates water loss from your skin actually making it more dehydrated and dryer. Also, I can't remember the details but there was a whole section on why some anti-aging ingredients probably actually increase wrinkles long-term).

There are also a huge number of ingredients made from mined minerals or from petroleum. Whilst we are all aware of the fossil fuels element of car use, and energy use, I doubt many of us think about the fossil fuels helping us to achieve dewy looking skin or peacock-coloured eyelids. This is a huge motivator for me to stay off the stuff.

The book also provides a selection of recipes or ideas for simpler, more natural-ingredient based alternatives. Recipes for toothpaste, mouthwash, simple moisturisers, make-up removers, facials, bath soaks for sore skin... The only one I have tried so far was a massive success - (I'll do a separate post I think to highlight it) and I'm looking forward to trying a few other new homemade products when I get the chance. I love the fact that you know what goes in to it, I love the whole fun mixing-up bit of it, and I love the fact that it liberates you from that relationship with the big companies and the ad-men that you enter into every time you buy a commercial product with all its shiny promises.

I would have liked more background on the cosmetics and toiletries industries - why things developed the way they did, that kind of thing - but that wasn't what the book was trying to do. It tries - and I think succeeds - to clarify and demystify toiletries and cosmetics in terms of what they are really made up of, focusing mostly on the health angle, and a little on the environmental impact. Overall, I wouldn't say it's an essential book to have on your shelf, but it was easy-to-read, straightforward, not overly preachy and pretty useful, so I would recommend it. For me it has definitely been a good starting point at least, and I am going to copy out some recipes and ideas to try out so watch this space for those...

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Exfoliation Part 1 - The Bathroom

I must admit to being a bit of a hoarder... I like to think I have got better over time (I no longer have keep all my cinema tickets and the collection of 'nice' plastic bags has been seriously slimmed...) but there's no denying the ridiculous amount of stuff I call my own.

So, when I came across Jess' exfoliation concept on makeundermylife it was just the motivation I'd been looking for to start getting more serious about The Constantly and Sneakily Accummulating Stuff. From time to time I enter a phase of nest-tidying urges and attempt to purge from this area or that, but it's never been that consistent. So, from this week onwards I'm going to try and find something (or things) to get rid of every week.


The really nice thing about this is that as well as de-cluttering, it really makes me think about how I will buy in the future and what alternatives there might be to the stuff I have.

There's also the potential to put redundant and idle objects to a better use or to discover exciting new ways to repurpose/upcycle things.

So, I started in the bathroom. (I've tried to give a feel for our bathroom in the little montage above). It's kind of plain, and the shelf is normally strewn with all kinds of bits and pieces.

For the first time in the 14 months since we moved in I took everything out of my side of the cupboard and off the shelf and off the side of the bath and considered whether I wanted to keep it. I think of myself as pretty low-maintenance so I was surprised at the amount of serums and lotions and creams and colours I had collected.
When I thought about it I realised there were two weaknesses - buying 'pretty' things as a comfort when feeling stressed or ugly or bored of myself, to which there could be much better responses; and 'free' things on magazines. I'm such a sucker for 'free' - nowadays I try and see it as them foisting something I don't need on me, rather than an exciting 'gift'. It's not really free after all!
Anyway, the results of my pruning were a tidier shelf (above!) and this little collection of stuff (below)... In the top right we have a Body Spray I never used and have no idea why I bought. It smells gross. I chucked the lot down the sink, rinsed the bottle and have put it to use as a mister for my palm tree (apparently this will stop it getting brown ends on its leaves!)

Next to that is some eye make-up remover. I've cut down a lot on eye make-up and use oil if I need to remove it so I just don't use this anymore.
Then there's some shimmery moisturiser which was just an awful idea.
And the foot scrub was ineffective and just made the bath messy.
Cheap hair colour made absolutely zero difference, and now I am henna-ing I really have no use for it.
In the bottom row we have: Hair serum - not really appropriate for fine flat hair like mine and felt like glue!; eye cream - I think I was feeling old and vain; earrings which I loved but have gone all manky with the cover peeling off; two really bad nail varnishes; and one of the 6 wash bags I've accummulated (FREE stuff again!!!!).
At the moment, most of this is still sitting in a kind of 'out-box' whilst I work out what to do with it as I'm loathe to just chuck it in the bin. In searching for alternate uses, I came across this brilliant site - http://www.recyclethis.co.uk/ - which discusses all kinds of ways to reuse or recycle all sorts of things - although sadly not sparkly moisturiser or eye cream. Would it be good for shining shoes I wonder? Would eye make-up remover clean dirt off kitchen cupboards? What could do with being painted horrible nail varnish pink? Should I rinse the moisturiser bottle and fill with raspberry coulis to create 90s' style desserts?
I'm not yet sure. One thing I do know is that I will NOT be buying any replacements. I feel quite bad that all these unused chemicals and plastic are going to probably end up in landfill. And after reading Pat Thomas' Skin Deep I feel thoroughly convinced that none of this stuff is worth buying. I hadn't really thought before about all the ingredients and what they were there for, apart from feeling a little uncomfortable at 'all the chemicals', and I certainly hadn't realised how many ingredients were based on petrochemicals, let alone thought about all the energy going into producing and transporting this shit.
I'm going to post separately about this book I think because there's lots of really interesting things to pick out of it and I've been rambling on long enough now.
I'll just leave you with a before and after shot of the cupboard. I'm kind of proud of my effort, although it is admittedly hard to tell at first which side is which! I think there is a lot more exfoliating still to do!!!
If you have any ingenious ideas for putting my cosmetic rejects to good use please do let me know!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Spaghetti with Anchovy and Broccoli

I seem to be stumbling across broccoli and spaghetti all over the blogosphere recently... First of all turkeycookies' Jess was cooking them up mid-week, then Claudia's breadcrumb and toasted garlic version whet the appetite over at cook eat fret , and I'm sure I came across another one recently as well but I just can't put my finger on it.

Anyway all of this put me in the mood to make my own version of this again, which I thought I'd now post here to further this blogging rash of broccoli and pasta type dishes.

The first thing to do is to get the breadcrumbs toasting. I've fried them in the past, but tried spreading on an oven tray and popping in a low heat oven this time, which worked just fine, and meant I freed up the one and only saucepan for sauce cooking - and had less washing up to do. Result!

so, the crumbs are in the oven - now you want to soften half an onion in some olive oil until it's soft and translucent, then add some slices of red piquillo pepper, a tin of anchovies, a couple of sliced fresh chillies and some sliced garlic and let it all cook, stirring occasionally until the anchovies have 'melted' into the sauce and it's all nice and soft.

Meanwhile the pasta can be boiled, and if you like you can boil the broccoli spears separately but I just let them share the pan with the pasta for the last 3 minutes of pasta cooking time (saving on pots again!).

Pasta and broccoli join your lovely sauce, and the whole lot gets smooshed around (trying not to chuck it all over the place) until nicely mixed up.

Plate up and top with a handful of the toasted crumbs, a handful of chopped flatleaf parsley, and a splash of good olive oil (and parmesan if you like, but I prefer without).
It is honestly SO good and more-ish. The anchovies don't make it taste fishy they just give it this salty umami-ish delish-ness, and it's all fresh but filling at the same time. Superb.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Soapnuts!

When I started thinking about ways in which I could replace nasty chemicals in my home, clothes washing wasn't an area that seemed immediately easy. Sure there are products like ecover that claim to be gentler on the environment, but I was never quite sure exactly how much so, and what exactly they were made up of and what effects those ingredients had, and so on...


So, when I came across this post over on the ever-informative Tiny Choices, I was pretty excited. It sounded almost too good to be true - a natural and compostable product that will wash just as well as detergent?! (Soapnuts grow on trees in Nepal and India, and produce Saponin, a natural detergent which can be used for all kinds of cleaning purposes.)


So, I had a quick look around for a UK seller and found Soapods selling on Amazon. I've now been using them for a month or so and am happy to report they really do work - and well! The little nuts themselves don't have the most pleasant smell in the world, but the washing (washed on 30C) is clean and smells super fresh - B was impressed at how fresh-smelling his stinky sports gear came out.

They're super easy to use too - you just pop them in the little cotton bag (see pic) and put them in the washing machine with your clothes. (NB make sure you tie it up properly otherwise there are little bits everywhere on your clothes! Same problem with string bags - don't do it!)

The only slight problem I've had is with storage in between washes. The leaflet advises keeping them in a closed container with a little water, if you run more than one wash a week. I found on one occasion however, this invited some nice mould to grow on my little cotton bag, so have taken to leaving them to dry out instead.

The instructions advise using for three washes, but advice I've read elsewhere suggests running the bag under a little water and rubbing it to see if it's still slippy and sudsy to see if they've still got the cleaning power. Using this technique I've had no problems and think I will get a lot more use out of a £5 bag than I would out of a £5 bottle of liquid detergent.

Apart from the fact that the water you are washing away should be less toxic and the production process is certainly going to be a lot greener, soapnuts are also compostable. (I am a little ashamed to admit that currently we don't compost our green waste - we live in a flat with no outdoor space, and though I have been researching indoors composters and seeing if I can find anywhere locally I could freeze waste and take it to, and asking the Council for help, so far I still have not found a solution. I will attempt to up the ante on this and report back at a later date...)

The only slight drawbacks then, in a green sense, are the plastic packaging they come in (my package is shown in the top pic) and the shipping from India to UK.

How excited was I then, to find out today that the native Horse Chestnut also contains saponin, and is a potential soapnut equivalent!?!? See this thread on the Money Saving Expert forums for more information. When it comes round to conker season, I am definitely going to be collecting me some free natural and local detergent and trying that out!


Another option to keep it local and free, is to grow your own soap nut tree. An account of how to do so from someone who's had success in this feat is here: http://exeterra.blogspot.com/2007/08/how-to-grow-soap-nut-trees.html . You just need to watch out for stray seeds in your soapod batches to get going. Awesome!

Have you tried soapnuts yet? How do you find them? And I'd be really interested if anyone's tried horse chestnuts or growing their own?!...

Thursday, 30 April 2009

The May List!


May has to be a strong contender for the best month of the year, doesn't it? A teasing peek of summer to come, flowers in bloom, and best of all - not one, but two bank holidays! woo woo! So this May, I am:


Planning to

- Finally get round to visiting the Madness and Modernity exhibition at the always-fabulous Wellcome Collection, which looks really interesting. (picture 1)
- Check out the Slow Food Market on the Southbank this weekend. It promises "40 stalls furnishing a delicious array of artisan food and drink, including rare cooked meats, fresh mezze, salads and sweets such as cakes, pancakes and baklava... and a programme of free access demos, tastings and workshops." (picture 2)
- Start on something from my lovely new Kim Hargreaves book (picture 8), very possibly with some organo-phosphate free and (fairly) local alpaca yarn from the Farm Yarn shop (picture 9)


Lusting after

- This gorgeous gathered print skirt (picture 3) from Sika, who use vintage fabrics sourced from Ghanaian markets to make their fabulous creations. All pieces are hand-made by local seamstresses in Ghana using traditional techniques such as tie-dye and batik and the income received from their sale goes back into the local community.
- Jess LC's handmade State Street necklace (picture 6) and earrings (picture 7) . Classic but funky, they would go with everything.


Looking forward to

- Visiting my lovely friend Shelley in picturesque Devon (picture 4)
- Starting a six-week beginners tennis course! (picture 5)


Hoping for

- Sunshine! (picture 10) - see items 2, 4 and 5 above!!

Picture credits (all from Flickr Creative Commons): Slow Food - Orin Optiglot ; Tennis Ball - StuSeeger ; Totnes - dachalan ; Sunshine - JunCTionS

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Objects of my desire

Since coming across these on the Brightside Project a couple of days back, I have been completely enamoured with these gorgeous hunks of wood...



The ingenious idea is a shoe which can be created new as often as you please just by changing the ribbon that is threaded through the base. The base itself is made from sustainably grown cherry wood, and the sole comes from recycled tire rubber.



There are a number of different base options available, and each purchase comes with five ribbons of your choice, although you can use whatever works to tie them up.



I just think they're awesome. Coupled with the fact that 'Mohop' is a totally catchy word, I have found myself more than once in the last couple of days just going 'mohop, mohop, mohop' in my head, a little crazily...



Website: http://www.mohop.com/

And read about the woman behind the shoes in this interesting interview: http://thegreenloopblog.com/mohop-builds-the-american-dream-shoe/237

Monday, 27 April 2009

Dirty u-bends and therapeutic flying

photo from www.acroyoga.org
An interesting weekend just gone... The most part of my Saturday was spent balancing on strangers' feet, as per the colourful picture above, practicing 'elephant walking' my hands, stacking my bones and getting to grips with 'therapeutic flying'.

It was all part of a one-day workshop hosted by the co-founders of acroyoga Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein. They basically play with yoga poses, bodywork techniques (especially thai yoga massage) and acrobatics to come up with a whole host of flying poses and moves which can be invigorating and spectacular or relaxing and therapeutic. Eventually practitioners can move together in a kind of vinyasa practice transitioning smoothly from pose to pose.

Whilst it took me a little time to get used to letting my upside down head rest on a stranger's belly, I really liked the playfulness and weirdness of it. Try doing the 'walnut' pose, where you're folded up over your partner's up-stretched legs, with your head tucked through and your hands gripping your touching feet - it just feels freaky, in a kind of wonderful way. It made me feel like I was a little lemur or something hanging out in the forest...

We were also introduced to thai massage, which I haven't experienced before. I really like the precept that it's all about allowing the body to work in the most effortless and efficient way - stacking the bones and using their weight rather than using muscle exertion and effort. In this way it serves both giver and receiver through being a gentle but firm touch for the receiver, and an interesting yoga work-out for the giver. Something I would definitely like to look into further

We finished the day with great big back bends giving a real sense of expansiveness and openness, and then an exercise called the 'water bed', which involved a lot of shaking, giggling and energy - the room must have looked quite crazy but I think everyone finished on a high...

Apart from the balancing and bodywork, I've also been inspired by this blog on the acroyoga site, which recounts a challenge by one of the acroyogis to keep every piece of rubbish (trash) for the duration of a three-month tour. Adi carried a bag around with her with every piece of (non-food) trash she produced. Surely this is the ideal way to really get in touch with what we are throwing away so flippantly all the time. Waste disposal has been so easy for so long that I guess most of us take it all for granted, with just a vague idea perhaps of the fact that it all has to end up Somewhere.

***

I had a particularly unpleasant illustration of some of what I throw out on Sunday, when the water refused to go down the kitchen sink plughole. After a lot of poking around we decided to get under the sink and unscrew all the plastic piping. And wow, what an ungodly stinking mess we uncovered. Thick brown sludge that has accummulated there over time. It really made me think about how unthinkingly we flush away and pour away and disappear what mess we produce.

(We were quite proud of our plumbing efforts though, neither of us having ventured into such territories before!)

So, I think I'm going to challenge myself to take up my own rubbish-carrying experiment to see how much I really produce, and what else I can cut out. I'm pretty good at buying unpackaged veg now, but there are so many other areas I need to think about. Over the next month or so I'll think about ways I can reduce what I am throwing out even more, and then - let's set a date - go for a month of waste collecting in June! There, I'm committed to it now. Slightly terrified by the vision of trying to cart around a suitcase full of junk, so I'm really going to have to concentrate on cutting it down! Any good waste-reducing tips willingly received!

Saturday, 18 April 2009

sewing project one

So it was a sunny day a few weeks back, and I was walking round Chalk farm and stumbled across a sewing shop. A brief browse and friendly chat with the proprietess later and I emerged with a paper pattern and a plan. Only chink in the plan - no sewing machine.

I'd noticed years ago a little shop selling used and new sewing machines, just down the road in Camden. So, fired up with the plan, I hopped on the tube and lo! the shop was still there so I entered and had a little chat about sewing machines.

I almost purchased a second hand toyota, a bulky new looking thing. And then I saw this in the window - a similar model to the machine my Mum got for her 21st birthday which is still running perfectly today.

I asked after it, and the helpful sewing machine shop man told me elna was like the rolls royce of sewing machines. Swiss made, and very reliable. I fell in love. I bought it!

The shop, by the way, was still run by the son of the man who established it, way back in 1936. It was lovely and cosy and they were happy to stay open half an hour after closing time to give me a demo and to find all the pieces and chat about the shop. A truly lovely shopping experience.

Anyway, I got home and I looked at the pattern and it was like trying to read Arabic, so I put it away again and waited until the weekend before last, when I was heading home.

My mum isn't a prolific seamstress but she made her own lime green suit to wear to her first interview, she made all our ballet costumes when we were little, and I remember her in home-sewn clothkits clothes back in the 80s. She knows what she's doing...

And she has this fine sewing stash!

I cut my pattern out of newspaper in case it went wrong, and because I thought if I cut it out I wouldn't be able to use it again. Not sure why I thought this, now I think about it a little more rationally, but there we go. It was quite a lot of work and I started to get disheartened. It had looked like a simple pattern to me and I'd had this lovely idea in my head that I'd just 'whip it up' in an afternoon....

Fabric cut, the sewing began, as did the arguments. I enlisted help, then stroppily refused it as the logics of the pattern frustratingly eluded me. I tried my hardest to be patient, but it is not something I am skilled at when it comes to making things - I kind of want to Just Get Going!









But I was a good girl, and I did lots of pressing of seams, and pressing of this and that (you can see here though where I neglected to cover up my gathering stitches - oops!)

Two days, and a lot of wonky sewing later....










...I finally ended up with something (almost!) ready to wear. So, it still needs a zip, and the bodice doesn't sit quite right. I also can't decide whether to make it a short dress or a long top (it's shown folded under here). I have however, kind of suceeded! Woo!






But now I realise what I thought was a simple pattern really wasn't that simple, and think I need to start off a little easier, really build up the basics.

So, if anyone has any recommendations for good sites with free basic patterns on, good books which will be a reference easy enough to understand for a complete novice, please pass my way!...

Thursday, 16 April 2009

switching off


Apparently next week is TV turnoff week, or ‘Digital Detox’ week as it’s now been renamed, as our lives fill up with more and more screens of all shapes, sizes and kinds... So currently I’m debating whether I want to join in the week more than I don’t want to miss a week of Great British Menu (so nice with a cup of tea when you come in all tired!).

My parents moved in to the house that they still live in in 1975 and have never bought a TV, nor wanted one. My two sisters and I grew up in the 80s and 90s as curiosities to most of the kids we knew, who didn’t understand it (we didn’t and still don’t have a fridge or freezer either, to make it even more fun!).

Whenever anyone asked us what we did (which was always the first question, followed by “are your parents hippies?”) I never knew how to reply because I never had to consciously think of how to fill my time; I just did stuff, you know. Thinking back now, we played a lot – lots of make believe, (inventing sandwich shops and a new religion for our invented country!), and we spent a lot of time eating... Then there was reading, knitting, playing clarinet, tidying up, writing, making stuff, just hanging around annoying each other. And when I got older I spent a lot of time lying on my bed listening to music and feeling the teenage angst, and walking up to the phone box to call people (ah, the days before mobiles and email...!)

I never missed TV, never felt deprived; on the contrary it was something that made us interesting and different, and although kids at school would talk about the X files and the Big Breakfast, it didn’t make me feel left out or wanting for a TV. It just never really appealed that much.

When I moved up to London I began to become quite besotted with the box. I pretty much got addicted to Big Brother series 4, cutting phone convos short and skipping home early from graduation drinks to go and watch it. And at points I’ve gone for months just coming home and sitting in front of the TV until I decided to haul myself up to bed. I used to go to my sisters just to watch TV together on a Friday night; I looked forward to Wednesdays every week when Teachers was on, and Sex and the City. I loved America’s Next Top Model just a little too much. And like all good students, I became very familiar with daytime TV (ah, Diagnosis Murder and Ed, those were the days…)

But I did often hate that feeling of being just stolid and stuck and stultified by having this box jabber on at you about things you’re not really interested in whilst you solidify on the sofa. Too often I watched just out of inertia.

I’ve lived in 4 of my 12 London addresses without TV, and we lived in our current flat for 9 months sans TV before the decision was made to get one. I liked the quiet and I liked coming home and having to think what to do, rather than just collapsing in front of the default option.

Now we have a TV and luckily things haven’t changed much. I watch it when there’s something specifically on of interest, or if I just really want to have a morning vegging out. And we use it for DVDs quite a lot. But I feel like I have a choice over it. I am now able to switch off rubbish TV, rather than sitting there shaking my head and wondering why I watch it. Which is good.

So, I don’t think it’s awful per se, but it definitely is another one of those things that is better in moderation. And it is amazing how much more time you have when you go from a TV-orientated household to a TV-less or TV-quiet one.

Maybe I will do digital detox week after all. It will be a good chance to remind myself how much I like the freedom that not sitting at the TV affords, and maybe I will get some more of my perpetual to-do lists done.

How about you? TV love or hate??? Would you or will you switch off for a week?

http://www.whitedot.org/issue/iss_front.asp
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TV_turnoff
http://www.adbusters.org/campaigns/digitaldetox
Image from adbusters