a little less plastic

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We all love a little practical don’t we? This week, I shared a post on Facebook challenging us to use less plastic and showing the devastating affects of plastic on the natural world. I don’t know if I share too many of these kind of things, I only share what really touches and challenges me, but there’s a lot of that stuff out there isn’t there? One FB friend’s response was to ask everyone to contribute ideas on how we can use less (or no) plastic, and I’ve enjoyed reading the other comments (I’m now on the lookout for wooden earbuds). And that is my kind of practical. I enjoy reading for inspiration but I also want to skip on to the last few chapters of the book which just tell me what to do.

So here’s my little contribution today…

I’ve been making our own cleaning products for about half a year now. They are kinder to the environment, cheaper and effective! OK, I think they are cheaper although I haven’t actually measured this. But kinder to the environment is enough for me. I think they smell nicer because they are natural, especially if you drip a little of your favourite essential oil in there. And we all need more motivation to get cleaning (well, I do).

The recipes I’ve used have come from this book that I found at the Bristol Harbourside market..

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(I’m not sure what the deal is with copyright and all that. I will try and be vague and hopefully no one will arrest me.)

One of my favourite and very simple recipes for a creamy all purpose cleaner is to mix about 90g baking soda with 115-ish-ml of liquid castile soap (that wasn’t very vague was it?).You can buy both these ingredients in large quantities from Amazon. Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil, if you like, although this is optional. I like using lemon or tea tree; something that smells clean. Give it all a good stir and pour it into your re-useable plastic bottle (mine are from Ikea). It will need a good shake every time you use it and will be too thick to squirt out, so just pour it onto your cloth. It smells lovely, is really effective (Bi-carb is amazing!) and is using less plastic, by reusing your bottle over and over again. You could of course use no plastic by storing it in a glass jar or similar.

I would really recommend the book. It has lots of recipes using a small repertoire of ingredients, so once you’ve stocked up, there’s no stopping you. It’s so quick to make up and I really love the whole potions thing. Remember making potions as a kid, looking around the house for ingredients to add? Yeah, I think we’ve all done that. The kids enjoy joining in too and I’m not complaining about that…. it’s science, people!

The book is also available on Amazon – there’s some used copies available, which are so much cheaper. Or check out your library. Now, go and order those two ingredients and get started. Go!

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what am I…

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What am I enjoying?

Some really good friendships made here in Bristol. When we moved here, a few people said it takes a couple of years to settle somewhere and make good friends. I thought, ‘surely not that long, that’s ages. I’m sure it will be different for me’ (confession: I often think ‘it will be different for me. That’s either Hope or Pride, you decide). And although I did meet friends within the first couple of months of being here, it took a lot longer to feel settled, to have enough relationships locally that sustain us. Longer even than two years, I think. I can look and see we are so blessed with good friends and community and people wanting to share life to the depth that we do.

 I’ve had this thing about community and sharing life more closely for many years. I remember when it started, prompted by an inspiring book I read (as many things start for me). I remember being on my knees asking God for that depth of community and His Kingdom in our lives. It’s taken ages. I mean that in the ‘new testament’ modern kind of way; in the old testament they really did wait ages. Ages and ages and ages in a way that would’ve driven me crazy and probably drove them crazy too. Forty years? I’m not waiting that long! (as if I have a choice). So thankful to be Living Now with internet and good tea and comfortable beds and shops.

Still it’s happening but not yet happening. We are closer but not yet there (I wonder if we ever will be ‘there’ in this life. I really don’t like that feeling of not-being-there-yet. I’m always waiting for everything to BE HERE. Happening NOW. The Journey, Ugh!, the Journey.) And, goodness, its happening in a surprising way, amongst people I didn’t expect. Isn’t that often the way with God? We have our ideas and make our plans and God laughs (in a kind way I want to point out, just in case you’re hearing a cackle).

What am I working on?

I’m getting up early. Setting the alarm kind of early, which isn’t actually necessary when you’re home educating and most mornings have nowhere to be before 10am. I’ve been up early for the last two weeks, even at the weekend and it is SO GOOD. I’ve realised the trick to getting up early is to be getting up for something you actually want to do. Has that been obvious to the rest of you for a long time? I’m slightly embarrassed to face those of you who have no choice to get up early and get the bus in the rain to be at an actual job, which you may or may not love. Really sorry about that. Can I buy you a cappuccino next time we meet?

So I get up and brew a lovely pot of tea in my bedroom and take it to my office next door (its actually a shared office with Matt but I call it ‘my office’ because he has another actual office with real people and work in it and its not fair for him to have two.) And I listen to the Bible audiobook (one of my goals for the year is to listen to the whole Bible. It’s the NIV read by David Suchet (Poiro!), who’s voice I mostly love but sometimes his God Voice is a bit cross and I definitely don’t hear God in that voice. But that’s a whole other conversation.) So, I listen to the Bible and I DO COLOURING IN or KNITTING.

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Hello, is that a lovely start to the day? I think so. Then me and God have a follow on chat where I do more listening because He makes more sense than me. I might also write down some ‘thankfulness for the previous day’, another new habit I’m trying to form. Noticing and writing down thankfulness really does grow a thankful heart. Although I have to admit its impossible to get another person to do this unwillingly (i.e all of our children, yours and mine)…it really has to be done willingly doesn’t it? I forget this sometimes when I threaten our children that we will spend the following whole evening watching video clips of ACTUAL CHILDREN STARVING AND NOT COMPLAINING AT ALL ABOUT THE FOOD THEY ARE GIVEN. I haven’t followed through with that threat but if I do, I’ll let you know how effective it is.

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And I’m always disappointed by how quickly the time goes and 8 o’clock comes around which means its time for Matt to leave for work and hand over any awake children. I do love my children so but I never ever want to leave that place of peace and quiet, where its just me and God and no other noise or demands or requests. Taking God with me into making porridge and finding clean laundry and listening to complaints and directing little-and-middle-sized people into purposeful tasks is what I’m working on. I know He comes with me. He’s there already, but remembering Him in my mind and my body. Knowing His presence in the Noise doesn’t come naturally.

I’m also working on balance and boundaries. With myself and our family. I had it pointed out to me lately (quite painfully, but with love) that I’m absolutely rubbish at boundaries. Abysmal. Dire. Dreadful. Perhaps I knew that already but was pretending I’d forgotten. I don’t know how to make these decisions….do I let my kids talk to me while I’m on the toilet? Do I listen to their soul-sharing moments when its past 9pm and they know its meant to be our adult time without them? Do I give them every last piece of myself and my time? No, probably not, because when I do, I turn into Horrid Mum and that’s not who I want them to be around. Giving myself time and space makes me Lovely Mum and that’s who I want to be.

What am I reading?

‘Refugee Boy’ by Benjamin Zephaniah. Our book group choice. It’s a really good and easy read which is tugging at my heartstrings for all the people far from home, fleeing war and violence.

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I’ve just finished ‘The Screwtape Letters’ by C.S Lewis and want to make my way through his collection, which I bought Matt for Christmas. It was a gift for Matt, it really was.

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Dipping into this self sufficiency book. I don’t realistically aim to be self sufficient any day of my life (and I think that label goes against my belief in community, although I get the gist), but we are looking into getting pigs, as part of a small co-operative to raise for meat. So there’s a lot of experience to learn from here, which is very easy to read. The pages on butchering make me feel queasy and remind me that I’m not great with raw meat. I really really want to outsource that!

What am I making?

I’m still knitting a blanket for my baby nephew who is now over half a year old.

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I’m nearing the end and will be able to hand it over soon. I have enjoyed the pattern which has been easy, but it’s quite a large blanket knit with a small needle size so I’ve definitely lost motivation at several points on it’s journey. And the rows are long and involve me constantly counting. But putting it aside for a while means it takes even longer to complete; I do understand the logic of this. Nevertheless, my hands put it down and my mind tries to forget and I do something I can complete more quickly. And Mojo returns. I’m insecure about the colour I’ve chosen for it. I like the colour. For me. But I can’t imagine him liking the colour until he’s at least 43 years old and, by then, it will have been lost or passed on or chewed by someone’s dog. But I didn’t realise this until the said project was well on its way, too far to go back. And I haven’t found an alternative homemade gift that I can easily make now. And I really want to hand something over very soon. So blanket it will be.

Soap.

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I need to trial a recipe which includes Sunflower oil. I haven’t used this yet, but have been doing a little research and want to give it a try. Its inexpensive to buy, full of goodness and, as far as I know, not doing the earth damage in its’ processing. Ok, I admit to having done very little research on the latter point but it’s important to me, so I will do.

I’m still in the phase of trying out different oil bases for my ‘perfect soap recipe’. I’m not overly enjoying this phase, although I find it interesting. The smells are what really enliven me and I can’t wait to try out wonderful and funky scent combinations. Until I decide on my base ingredients, it’s probably wasteful and expensive to use too many essential oils. I’ve been sticking to the more basic ones such as lemon and lavender.

There’s a lot of waiting (that old friend again) in this phase of soap making. I should wait at least 4 weeks (ideally 6) before using the soap I make, and I find this stops my flow quite a lot. I’ve realised I need to make a lot more soap to keep flowing, and because I need the practice. I really need to practice and practice and make mistakes and learn from them. I’ve got so much more to learn. Letting go of the desire for every bar of soap to be amazing and useable will serve me well in the long run.

What I love is that God is in all of it; my quiet times with Him in the morning, my soap making, my writing, my conversations with the kids about the food they eat. The starving people and the full people. The walking and the sleeping and the food and the tea and the playing and the watching and the talking and the listening and the singing and the crying and the waiting and the making and the journey and the destination. He’s HERE. NOW. I don’t have to wait for that. We don’t have to wait for that.

For now, my friends, a hot pot of peppermint tea and a big kiss xx

Continue reading

And this happened…

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They’ve grown a bit since my last post!

I’m not sure where I’ve been exactly, except I know it will have involved dust and chaos, tea and chocolate and knitting, books and games and talking and mud. Oh, and I forgot my password and couldn’t quite figure out how to get a new one. For a long long time.

I’ve missed keeping my record, and when I ask myself why I really want to blog again, it always comes back to it being a record for myself and our children to look back on. I have loved reading my old posts over the last few days and sharing those photos with the kids. Because we do forget stuff, when it was wonderful and not so wonderful. I’m so glad I recorded so much in what, looking back, was a really crazy year; moving cities, having our fourth baby and three other children under 7, starting home educating (but in a new city that I didn’t know where the playgrounds were and who the people were. There was a LOT of driving around!). And I can look back and remember that we did create a play dough bakery and read a lot of stories together and paint and make our Christmas cards and make a lot of mess and pretend together. Because I had forgotten.

So I’ll bring you a little bit up to date; this has happened…

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Rosie is our adorable cockapoo. We got her on the day she was 8 weeks old (so young!) and she’s now four months old. We are loving walking her and being mobbed whenever we come downstairs, but not-so-much cleaning up of the little puddles and parcels around the house. She’s like a teddy bear and gets lots of attention and admiration when we take her out. Our dog journey started with a daughter desperate for a dog. Desperate, I tell you. For a long time. I arranged to borrow a dog once a week, through the website ‘borrow my doggy’ (highly recommended) and it wasn’t very long at all until we saw how much having a dog would bring to our family. All the kids adore her, and so do we. Matt spent the second night sleeping with her on the sofa as he couldn’t take the crying any longer (we have crate trained her at night)! I knew he would be a big softie!

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And aside from being mother and home educator to four lovelies, I’ve got THE best part time job in the world. A babysitter. Yes, I know its a teenagers job, but I get to hang out in other people’s tidy ordered houses (everyone cleans up for the babysitter) , read stories to children who LOVE me. Because I am Mary Poppins. Drink my herbal tea and knit quietly, do admin, journal, even watch TV if I’m that exhausted. Can you believe I get paid for this?!

And this happened….

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I am an official soap maker, my friends. I’ve wanted to make soap for a few years but just couldn’t bite the bullet and teach myself with all that scary chemical stuff required. So, I booked myself onto a soap making course and haven’t looked back. I love making stuff and soap making will be another creative outlet for me…but its also pretty science-y, and I’m really enjoying that. I will enjoy making our own soap (for hair and body as well as our laundry powder- I know!) and gifts for people, but I also really want to sell soap and one of my goals for this year is to start selling. So watch this space…