Sunday, 30 June 2013

Hay fever (and a heavy cold) stops play...

I was really looking forward to getting out for a walk on our special river walk route today. The one we've been walking every month in 2013 to observe the seasonal changes. Things have been busy here and this weekend was the last chance to get out for the June walk.

But this is the scene in the English countryside at the moment:

It's grassy out there! A hay fever sufferer's worst nightmare.

This was a walk we did last weekend in Somerset, not so very far from the Glastonbury Festival site. (In fact, we were held up en route on the A37 by a major Worthy Farm portaloo delivery. We may not have been to the festival but perhaps we saw Mick Jagger's toilet arriving.)

Usually my hay fever is bearable. After 24 summers of suffering, I've found what works for me. Having given just about every remedy available a go over the years (homeopathy, acupuncture, vaseline round the nostrils, and heavy duty anti-histamine tablets - you name it I've tried it) my preferred strategy is pollen avoidance where possible, sunglasses outside and regular use of a Beconase type nasal spray and eye drops. 

Most of the time this is effective. But this weekend I'm nursing a streaming cold on top of hay fever. A river walk through grassy meadows, even in the interests of maintaining our monthly track record of walks, is the very last thing I feel like doing.

Luckily I get to make up the rules here, so I say, TWO river walks in July instead!

Meanwhile - have you got any favourite hay fever remedies that I've missed and really should try? Any favourite summer cold remedies? And best of all any combined hay fever/summer cold remedies!! 

(If anyone's interested, the walk near Glastonbury was another from the Countryside Books stable - they don't do a Kiddiwalks Somerset book but this four mile walk was from their Pocket Pub Walks in Somerset book (we haven't got the book (yet) but downloaded it as a PDF from their website))

Friday, 28 June 2013

Tidy Friday - Things that look like p** II

Remember 'things that look like p** I'? The completely unaesthetically appealing but delicious left over chocolate cake?

Last week there was another p**-like specimen. Revolting I know. Even the willow pattern plate can't disguise the fact that this is one yucky...CARROT.  At least you know I'm not making this stuff up. 

If I was falsifying the evidence there'd be different food items wasted here every week to make for more interesting reading. And they'd be just a little bit gooey, not full on disgusting. An asparagus spear here, a fennel bulb there and the odd wafferr thin mint. But no, it's carrots all the way. Again, and again, and AGAIN. If you do a search for carrots on this blog the results will return 8 weeks, yes that's two whole months, worth of Food Waste Friday posts devoted to carrots...white mouldy ones, black mouldy ones, ones with black AND white mould, green mouldy ones, cooked ones that were forgotten about, the lucky ones that narrowly escaped becoming food waste, and now we have the ones that skulk in plastic bags. A warning to you all; this is what happens when you leave a carrot in a plastic bag in a cupboard, for over a month:

Oh, and there was more.

A kiwi and an apricot had a bite taken out of them by a child, and were then rejected for being too hard and crunchy. I don't know why I hung onto half eaten fruit until it went mouldy, but I did.

And while the carrots and soft fruit have been silently decomposing, the ongoing decluttering and house contents simplifying exercise has gone rather quiet too.

Just a bit of half-hearted, pretend decluttering.

You know the sort. Where you thin out some piles of paperwork, and easily recycle the stuff that doesn't need to be kept, but procrastinate extremely on the filing of the stuff that does. Mostly because the filing system itself is also full to bursting and needs pruning. And so it goes. This decluttering business is neverending (and dare I say it, a little bit dull). 

Food Waste Friday was dreamt up by, to encourage people to use up food instead of waste it. This week you can find Food Waste Friday hosted by 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

I ♥ my shopping trolley!

There, I've said it out loud now. I'm a shopping trolley owner and proud of it. It's not cool or funky, and the kids won't come shopping with me when I wheel up to town (all the more reason for using it) but it's frugal, practical and eco-friendly.

Photo: Yay - new wheels! Latest tip rescue.
Me striding purposefully up the road  last winter
with my shopping trolley.

At the moment I'm in a beautiful midsummer shopping groove where me and my lovely blue rescue trolley (rehomed from the tip) glide up to the Co-op on a Monday evening and do more or less a week's worth of shopping.

The benefits of this system are manifold. 

My back is relieved from carrying a heavy load of shopping. I can get more shopping than a couple of bags will allow.

But it's also impossible to overspend on shopping. Any impulse purchases have to be rejected. There's only space for the essentials and the shopping list has to be designed so that the contents will fit in the trolley. (I once got a £40 load in there but that involved a rather precarious balancing act). 

No fuel is expended other than my own (a brisk 10 minute walk each way) and I am committed to shopping locally. 

Nobody under 16 wants to be seen with me; no extra people accompanying me on my shopping trips means no extra stuff is snuck into the shopping basket.

Shopping is not the only thing the trolley is great for - in the few months that I've been a trolley owner, mine has done several trips to the charity shops bearing the fruits of our decluttering.

Granny trolleys (as my Daughter complimentarily calls mine) won't suit everybody; they're designed for the gad about town like me, who lives near the centre, not the rural dweller. But if you've ever dabbled with the idea, then I'd really recommend it. Get trolleyed!

Any other loud and proud shopping trolley drivers out there? 

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Tidy Friday - Keep Calm and Eat Fish

Food Waste Friday rolled around again. Every week at the moment, we are frustratingly close to zero waste, apart from a couple of mouldy things. Can you guess what these are?

It took me a minute to identify them as small turnips that had been lurking in the dark cupboard where I keep my vegetables, for too long.

If we throw away just two food items each week that still adds up to 104 turnips/carrots/onions a year. Imagine buying that amount in one go and throwing them all way? What a waste.

Fortunately I didn't let any of the trout (caught and given to us by a neighbour) go to waste. That would have made for very smelly food waste next week.

In our house there's an unwritten law of fish eating. The more squeamish about fish bones you are, the more bones you will find in your fish and the more fish bones you find, the more squeamish about them you become. Even if it's a very large trout with very large fish bones and I have been through it with a fine tooth comb before it reached the table. And even if you have heard my lecture on fish eating several times. ("Look at what you're eating before it goes in your mouth, concentrate, eat slowly, don't gobble, don't talk at the same time as you're eating, stay calm". Mindfulness in action!)

That meant there was quite a lot of the very large trout left for me, the least squeamish fish eater. What a treat, fish bones and all.

What about the other aspect of Tidy Friday? The battle against clutter in the rest of the house?

It was what I would call a consolidation week! There's not much point in decluttering a new area if the recently decluttered areas are filling up again, so we tidied Son's room and the porch. How much easier it is to keep on top of emptier spaces. 

We are also 7 items of clothing less, thanks to Ebay. This was Ebay at its best, items listed in less than an hour, all paid soon after the auction ended, and all posted in one go yesterday. If only Ebay always went as swimmingly. 

Busy times and sunshine result in less decluttering.

(I'm busy making music at the moment, and some of you local readers wanted to know when you might see the acoustic folk band I play in. The Heartful Dodgers are now updating our appearances regularly on our Facebook page and our next appearance is at the Pound Arts Centre, Corsham, tomorrow from 1.30pm, as part of Corsham Festival's FREE family fun day!)

Food Waste Friday was dreamt up by, to encourage people to use up food instead of waste it. This week you can find Food Waste Friday hosted by 
Simply Being Mum.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Keeping fit the pleasant way...

I've been looking forward to June all year.

My very frugal, retro Kellogg's calendar bought in the January sale mostly has pleasant but slightly saccharine pictures for each month. Blonde, curly haired children tucking into bowls of rice crispies and 1950s housewives serving up wholesome trays of breakfast.

But June features this babe.

She makes me smile every time I look at her. I can identify with that mad-eyed stare and rictus grin. And next time someone tells me about their latest half marathon I'm looking forward to telling them all about how I keep fit the pleasant way...(followed by a pincer fingered tweak of my collar).

Actually I'm not very keen on bran flakes. Nor anything Kellogg's style that goes gooey in milk. (Please don't tell the totally high on fibre Kellogg's lady). No, at the moment we're keeping fit...the pleasant way...with overnight oats.

We were reminded of these by my sister, who'd found them on Pinterest or Instagram and had been salivating (probably with a look on her face just like the Kellogg's lady) over glorious images of overnight oats tastefully layered with fruit and homemade yogurt in mason jars.  

It's another name for the original Bircher muesli, which consisted of oats soaked in yogurt with nuts and grated apple. Whatever you call them they're a great way for keeping fit pleasantly, and soaking up all that nasty cholesterol when it's too hot for porridge.

We don't bother with aesthetic mason jars, but soak our oats in individual bowls overnight in the fridge. This accommodates different family tastes. Some like nuts and seeds, some don't.

The recipe is one third oats, one third milk and one third natural yogurt but it's not a fine art and can easily be thrown together with a bit of guesswork. You can add nuts, seeds and fruit (dried or fresh) according to personal preference, either in the evening when you soak the oats or in the morning. 

I like a drizzle of runny honey on mine. After all it is such fun keeping fit!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Tidy Friday - a clean sweep?

It's been two weeks since the last Tidy Friday. School holidays and beautiful weather called for an impromptu break from blogging and tidying.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing to report this Tidy Friday.

Thinking back over two weeks there was hardly any food waste other than this mouldy onion, and even then you can see that it's sitting on a chopping board because the good part was salvaged.

The warmer temperatures have resulted in fresh produce spoiling faster, but for the most part we've stayed ahead of the game by doing things like zapping black bananas into banana muffins and popping stuff in the freezer.

Another reason for no food waste is that we've done small shopping trips to buy exactly what we needed over the half term holiday and this week. Less food in the house = less food waste. 

As for the rest of the house, there was a long overdue half term declutter of Son's bedroom, which conveniently took place whilst it was raining. If the weather had turned nicer sooner it might not have seemed such an appealing prospect.

This was decluttering on an epic scale involving at least two trips to the charity shop, copious recycling, offloading some clothes onto my youngest nephews and nieces and happily only a tiny amount of non-recyclable plastic for landfill.

There are no before shots (we won't go there) but this is the book case after the clear out. Notice how there's half an empty shelf (just ripe for more clutter) and you can see the blue wall behind the shelves...

We even managed to expose enough of the wall on one side of the room to wallpaper paste a World Map (bargain Christmas Present bought from The Works). We like maps.

The linen cupboard lives in Son's room and had got really messy too, resulting in half its contents being piled up on the floor of the bedroom waiting for space to be made, so that also got some attention. There's nothing like neatly folded linen, or even just folded linen in my case, but ours never stays that way for some reason.

This post-half term week has been quieter on the decluttering front whilst we were still dealing with the fall-out from Son's room (which probably counts as three week's worth of decluttering in itself!)

 Things we learnt from this decluttering experience:

  • What most decluttering experts fail to highlight is that the most important thing is a constant supply of coffee and chocolate digestive biscuits. Decluttering uses up lots of energy and even the most boring of tasks isn't so bad if you know there's a chocolate digestive biscuit waiting for you at the end of it.
  • You need determination and time. Having read various guides to decluttering I've decided the main thing is actually getting started and not losing your resolve once you have started, rather than following any particular system. I've also decided I'm not very good at following 'programmes' but am more of a guerilla declutterer.
  • Break it down. We did several hour long bursts over 3 days rather than an all dayer.
  • You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. At the end of the exercise Son's room looked fantastic but the landing and top of the stairs looked awful - bags and piles of stuff everywhere. Don't underestimate the time that redistributing the clutter takes!
  • Team work is the answer. Son and I were the crack decluttering duo. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of every single miniscule piece of plastic detritus on his bedroom floor. I had to hold everything up for examination while he cried, "Don't throw that away, it's a Lego minifgure policeman's tooth pick!" but on the other hand he did all the running around reallocating clothes to the dirty laundry basket and stuff to other rooms etc while I turfed things off shelves and off the floor. Husband was chief charity shop delivery man and did several runs with an overflowing shopping trolley.
  • Music whiles away the time but when you have heard the same Newton Faulkner CD twice in a row, and know all the words to songs you had never heard before you started decluttering, it's time to take a break.
  • Fortuitously we had an extended family get together at the end of the whole exercise, and were able to override some family members' desperate requests not to come bearing clutter, and still offloaded a bag of clothes. (The downside of publicly blogging is that everyone knows what you are up to)
  • At the same get together we had a discussion about clothes4cash type enterprises. Living in cities, both my siblings have shops nearby where you can take in clothes, they will weigh them and pay you for them. Yet another tool in the decluttering kit and weapon in the war against stuff going to landfill.
What next? Make hay while the sun shines; a little garden decluttering maybe...

Food Waste Friday was dreamt up by
to encourage people to use up food instead of waste it. 

The Non-Consumer Advocate is running a 'Goal of the Week' 
feature at the moment which is another useful motivator 
for general decluttering and getting stuff done!