Saturday, 24 August 2013

Tidy Friday - Waspy Food Waste!

We've been camping for a week so not much tidy Fridaying to report although keeping a tent containing four people's stuff tidy still constitutes a challenge. But we carry on eating when we're camping so there's no reason not to check in on the food waste!

Last year when we went camping, we had an unusual food waste situation when a black labrador rampaged through our 'kitchen'.

Spot the wasps!

This year it wasn't the dogs, it was the wasps. At our first camp site, we battled them continually, and finally, they won. In our absence one day, they bored through a bag of sugar that Husband had forgotten to put in the zipped bag, and found a few strawberries left in a punnet. We salvaged half the bag of sugar and tried to use the strawberries as a wasp trap by positioning it some distance away from the tent. This did indeed attract a lot of wasps but unfortunately some remained loyal to us and our sweet treats. 

By the end of the five days we spent there, despite trying to take a peaceful, zen approach to wasp attacks, we were swiping maniacally at anything stripy or anything that brushed wasp-like against the skin.

Apart from that there was no more holiday food waste. We were so busy working up an appetite walking and cycling that every scrap of food was devoured with no chance of any going to waste!

Hill walking in the Brecon Beacons = lots of food eaten = not much food waste!

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 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Kiddiwalks Book Giveaway Winner!

The Giveaway winner for the Kiddiwalks book was Sarah G ! Congratulations!

(As selected completely at random, no favouritism towards other Sarahs here!)

Sarah G, please email me your address and I will forward it to Countryside Books who will send you your Surrey book.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

River Walk - August

Every month (well, nearly every month) this year, we've been walking the walk. The river walk. Partly because it's a great local walk, and partly to notice the seasonal changes.

What was new for August?

  • The first excitement was a wasp sting double whammy! Son and Husband walked through some long grass and got stung at the same time. Sometimes wearing shorts is not such a good idea. Guess which one of them screamed the loudest, made the biggest fuss and has the most swollen leg? 

  • Cattle cooling off in the river! So the kids had to find a new paddling place further up stream.

New paddling spot!

  • The Chinese Lanterns are growing again. I wonder when they'll change colour?

Chinese Lanterns, 2 January 2013

  • There are lots of thistles flowering, which are very popular with the bumble bees. Their legs were coated in pollen.

  • And the view up the Bybrook Valley? Completely lush, leafy and green, and where has the cottage at the bottom of the valley gone? So different to the winter and the long wintry spring!

View up the Bybrook Valley, 11 August 2013.

The view up the Bybrook Valley
looked like this for the first four months of  2013!

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Big Holiday Mend!

With a bit more time on my hands and a holiday in Wales on the horizon, it's been time to tackle the mending pile! You need your warm pyjamas when you go camping in Wales, and you need your warm pyjamas not to have holes in them! 

The good thing about reusing stuff is that when it comes to patching Son's pyjamas I didn't have to look very far for something to patch them with. His old and tattered aeroplane pyjamas (too tattered to hand down to anybody) have been working hard as dusters, so I searched for a piece that wasn't too grubby and dusty and reincarnated it from duster back to pyjama bottom! (I also made a mental note to self, not to use all the pyjamas for dusters next time, but to keep a piece for patching!)

Then I moved onto these shorts. A tear needed sewing. Can you spot the repair? My stitching is never miniscule! 

What made me really happy was that when I started work I remembered that they weren't shorts at all - they started life as trousers and I turned them into shorts last summer when they had torn beyond repair at the knee. 

And then I remembered that they were hand-me-down trousers too. Even better.

And when I turned them inside out to sew, I saw another neat repair around the back pocket that the previous owner's mum or dad must have done.

I love it! On at least three occasions these trousers/shorts could have been consigned to the bin, but with a small amount of effort and a lot of love, they've been kept in service and may yet see another owner after Son has outgrown them.

It's what it's all about!

(Please note that I am taking a break from being online until Wednesday 21 August, so will not be responding to comments on blog posts published this week and next. Please chat amongst yourselves and I look forward to joining in the conversation after my break!)

Friday, 16 August 2013

Tidy Friday - cashing in on the Bokashi!

I'm on a blogging break this week, so this is not your usual food waste blog post reporting on the week's food waste issues and decluttering, but a specially pre-prepared blog post.

A while ago, on one of my Food Waste Friday blog posts somebody mentioned the Bokashi food composting system, which I had vaguely heard about. Not long after, I was having a chat with our local health food shop owner about green cleaning, when the conversation turned to Libby Chan's - fermented cleaning products. (They're based on a Japanese idea and are all the rage apparently, they work really well and you can check them out here if you want an alternative to other more traditional green cleaning products.)

Libby's also produce their own Bokashi system, so with my Food Waste Friday hat on, I asked if I could take a photo. Here it is (alongside some other Libby's products). I know the idea of Food Waste Friday is not to have any, but if there is unavoidable food waste it's good to have a Plan B to make sure it doesn't end up in landfill.

We don't have a food waste collection in our area, and if our two chickens didn't eat up the leftovers that we really can't make use of, I'd be really tempted to try out something like a Bokashi. I'm not sponsored by the health food shop, or Libby Chan's or any other Bokashi producer. Just saying!

You can compost just about anything inside them, except bones. You add food waste in small pieces to the bucket. Bran is then added and the waste pushed down to eliminate air. It then ferments, and when it has finished fermenting can be added to your compost heap, or dug into the garden. 

Sounds good to me.

Anyone using a Bokashi out there? How do you find it?

Remember that National Zero Waste Week is fast approaching! This year the focus is Food Waste - with lots of great ideas to help you try and keep food out of the food waste caddy, the Bokashi or the compost heap! Are you going to take the Zero Waste pledge this year?

(Please note that I am taking a break from being online until Wednesday 21 August, so will not be responding to comments on blog posts published this week and next. Please chat amongst yourselves and I look forward to joining in the conversation after my break!)

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Phew! What a corker!

I've been reducing and reusing and recycling for a very long time. 

I made this cork mat in about 1996, after seeing one exactly the same at a friend's house. (1996 was before the days of the interweb and blogs and pinterest and instagram when we had to get ideas from - shock, horror - REAL LIFE (and books)! Can you imagine!) 

Actually the whole project took a very long time. There was the collecting of the corks (don't worry, a lot of other friends and family members helped collect them; we didn't drink all that wine ourselves). Then I used a pokey tool (its technical name may be an awl?) to make holes in all the corks. And then I used a very big needle to string them all together.

It was so fiddly and longwinded and even a little bit painful for the old fingers, that I never made another one, although I'm sure everyone would have carried on collecting corks for me. Fortunately it has seen almost daily use since 1996 and still hasn't needn't replacing yet. Not bad for a load of old corks! 

In fact it's become such a fixture of our daily life that we don't even notice it any more. But when the Wiltshire Waste Watchers came to supper in March, they oohed and aahhed at it and took photos. I hoped it didn't look as if I was deliberately showing it off! It's just always there.

Seeing my old mat through new eyes, I thought, "There's a blog post in there somewhere!"

And there was.  

(Please note that I am taking a break from being online until Wednesday 21 August, so will not be responding to comments on blog posts published this week and next. Please chat amongst yourselves and I look forward to joining in the conversation after my break!)

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

More Kiddiwalks! An August Giveaway!

We've mostly had a simple summer so far, doing things at home and with friends, for free.

Last week we ventured a little further (well, all of 5 miles or so further) to do another Kiddiwalk from the Kiddiwalks Wiltshire book. I've blogged about these fantastic Kiddiwalks books before. They follow a simple formula. The walks are all:

Simple - circular routes that aren't too hilly and some of which are suitable for buggies.

Short - all the walks are between 1.5 and 3 miles.

Stimulating - Plenty of variety and points of interest, places to play and open spaces.

Stops - Each walk features somewhere to stop for a refreshment - this could be somewhere for a picnic, a cafe or family-friendly pub.

Our kiddiwalk was to Brown's Folly in Bathford, (near Bath).

It's a site managed by the Avon Wildlife Trust.

There's a lot to see and my kids declared it the best walk we had done all summer.

Under the ground are lots of disused caves and mines where Bath stone used to be quarried. These days the caves are important bat roosts for many species of British bat including the rare Greater Horseshoe bat.

At night the bats can feed on the rich insect life supported by the grassland.

There are fine views towards Bath.

And Brown's Folly itself, (or the Pepperpot as it was known locally). You can't get into it but it's impressive none the less. It was built by Colonel Wade Brown in 1848, to provide employment during an agricultural recession.

There is plenty of woodland to play in and the kids enjoyed making use of ready made dens that they found....

Swinging on branches...

And the best bit of all was finding a rope swing! Even I was tempted to have a go and my tummy muscles ached for days afterwards...that must be a good thing surely?!

Brown's Folly. Brilliant for bats but brilliant for kids (of all ages!) too.

The Kiddiwalks books are all available from Countryside Books and the really good news is that they have kindly agreed to provide a Kiddiwalks book free to one of you lucky readers! 

All you need to do is to visit their website (click here or on the link above) and decide which Kiddiwalks county you would like your book to cover. (Countryside Books do lots of other books, not just walking guides, so the website is well worth a visit). There are too many Kiddiwalks books to list here, but they cover North, South, East and West. And London! You might like the book that covers your home county or one that you can use on holiday. The choice is yours! Once you have made up your mind then leave a comment by 7pm BST, Wednesday 21 August on this blog post or on the Everyday Life On A Shoestring Facebook page, specifying which book you would like, and I will draw a winner at random. 

Please note that I originally approached Countryside Books for a giveaway in May and they generously co-operated. This is the second giveaway they have provided. I write about the books anyway as I think they offer such good value and such good material! 

Many thanks to Jackie at Countryside Books!

Please make sure to come back after Aug 21st to see if you have won!

(Please also note that I am taking a break from being online until Wednesday 21 August, so will not be responding to comments on blog posts published this week and next.)

Friday, 9 August 2013

Tidy Friday - back on track!

Tidy Friday and Food Waste Friday disappeared on here for a few weeks but they're back!

The weather got really hot in July and there was food waste overwhelm here. The fresh food was going squishy and mouldy so fast that there was hardly time to photograph or write about it. Just goes to show how unaccustomed we are to prolonged heatwaves and the food waste challenges that the warmer temperature brings.

I thought the sunny weather would be ideal for fast sprout growing indoors, but it was also ideal for drying out sprout seeds and mould spore growing, so a whole batch had to be ditched.

The other real victim of the heat was the bread. Always the bread. Either going mouldy or rock hard.

At some point I read a Love Food Hate Waste tip, that you can refresh a dry loaf by soaking it in water and crisping it in the oven. I haven't tried this yet, but I did soak some bread and freeze it when it became so brick-like that I daren't risk breaking the blender blades on turning it into bread crumbs. It may not sound very delicious but I'm hoping I'll be able to use the frozen bread mush in place of bread crumbs in recipes. 

And just when I needed reinvigorating on the food waste front, National Zero Waste Week's theme this year is 'Use it up!', focusing on Food Waste. There's a brand new whizzy website, where you can sign up to pledge your involvement, get ideas and find recipes for using up waste. It's a fantastic resource for anyone who's interested in reducing their food waste and great for those who are already food waste watching to pick up more tips and keep motivated! Don't be put off if you're outside the UK, despite the 'National' part all are welcome. I've added a badge at the top right of the blog which should link you to the website.

My other efforts at decluttering have been going sloooooowly. There's been too much other fun stuff to do! The kitchen had some attention when it became hazardous to open one of the kitchen cupboards without baking trays slithering to the floor and onto your feet noisily. Is reactive decluttering really such a bad thing?! And there have been a few items sold on Ebay and a couple more books have left the house via Green Metropolis book selling website. Is the house a tasteful haven of clean lines and clear spaces yet? Well, no, but I'm trusting in my favourite guiding principle that the (decluttering) journey is as important as the destination...

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 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Cracking Gromits, Gromit!

Not a day goes by when we don't give thanks for the amazing treatment that Daughter received at the Bristol Royal Children's Hospital. She was born with a large exomphalos (or omphalocele if you're in the US), spent the first four months of her life in hospital and had a huge medical team behind her for the next two years. Every single one of those people were really important, but the paediatrician and the surgeon from the Children's Hospital were just that little bit extra special. The latter performed life saving surgery, and then further corrective surgery, and we to'd and fro'd to see her at the Children's Hospital for seven years. We'll hold Miss C in our hearts forever. When Daughter was discharged from her care we knew that none of our bunches of flowers, bottles of wine or a book token gifts could ever match our gratitude. Although we have tried, there will never be any fundraising event big enough either; all we can do is to keep on giving thanks and to keep on supporting Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal for the Children's Hospital however we can.

Ironically the first Gromit we found was the one
that is furthest away at London, Paddington!
When we heard that this summer, the Grand Appeal's latest venture was going to be the Gromit Unleashed trail; 80  five foot high Gromit sculptures placed around Bristol and the surrounding area, there was no question about it. We'd have to get out there Gromit spotting at some point in the holiday!

A Close Shave by Harry Hill at the Bristol TIC
All the Gromits have been sponsored and decorated, some of them by well-known celebrities, and come October will be auctioned for the Grand Appeal. Judging by the sale of Bristol's gorillas (a similar project in aid of Bristol Zoo) in 2011, they should fetch many thousands of pounds for the hospital.

Carosello by Guiliano Carapia at the Spyglass, Welsh Back

We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon on the trail of the Gromits. Such a great atmosphere, and a super summer holiday activity. Bristol is buzzing with people (not just families, lots of adults too) following the maps or using the Gromit Unleashed app on their phones to track them down. 150,00 maps were printed and the Tourist Information Centre has already run out, which gives you some idea of the trail's popularity! As well as the map reading and the art appreciation there's some history too as it takes in lots of famous Bristol landmarks, as well as areas of Bristol that a little more off the beaten track. There are also several trails within the trail (a Harbourside trail, a Heritage trail and a Central Trail) and there's a Passport to be stamped at six different passport stops. If you wanted to find all 80 Gromits, you could have several days of fun in Bristol!

Salty Sea Dog by Peter Lord CBE
Living 20 miles or so from Bristol, we're unlikely to see them all, but doing the trail has inspired plenty more Wallace and Gromit activity at home! There are games and activities on the Gromit Unleashed website, Son has decorated his own Gromit on paper, and it goes without saying that there are all the films to be watched again!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Frog on the blog and other frugal faves!

A few of our school holiday frugal favourites so far?

1) Frogs are absolutely top of the list!

I'm always very happy to see a frog or a toad when I stumble across one in a pond or on a path but I've never intentionally set out to go amphibian watching, so when Son announced that he was off to search for frogs ands toads in the post-heatwave rain, I doubted he would have much luck. How gratifying to be proved wrong! If you know when and where to look, there are more frogs lurking around than you'd think. Pick a damp evening at dusk, and poke around in the shade of a leafy hedge and you might be rewarded with the sight of a lovely froggy like the one above, photographed in the hedge by our allotment. There have been several frog spotting expeditions and most of them have resulted in frog sightings.

2) And whilst Son has been busy closely investigating the fringes of the allotment, I've been harvesting a bumper crop of redcurrants and gooseberries, along with some of our other staples like lettuce and spinach and planting up some sprouts and kale for winter. Our allotment always looks rather pathetic compared to neighbouring patches that are lovingly tended by retired gents with way more time for allotmenteering than us, so it's good to feel that our humble efforts produce something!

3) We've been to and fro to the library. 

I've finally taken back my June borrows, which were all quick picks: 

Rip it Up by Richard Wiseman (a fervent argument for the psychology of William James; in a nutshell, if you want to be certain way or develop a certain habit, then take action, act 'as if' - act the way you want to feel or be and the rest will follow) and The Thrifty Forager by Alys Fowler (I only browsed this one - lots of nice pictures but if you want to be a successful thrifty forager then you probably have to take note of William James and get out there and forage, rather than sit on your backside leafing through coffee table books on foraging!) 

My absolute favourite for June was The Wisdom of Donkeys by Andy Merrifield. Strapline: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World. I picked this up because I'm always up for more tranquility, but actually I thought it would be a twee read. Wrong! Part travelogue (the French dwelling, Marxist urban theorist (!) author plus donkey set off on a tour of the Auvergne, although we're never told exactly where, or shown any maps, and can only guess at the trip's duration), part donkey (history, geography, anatomy, psychology, behaviour, donkeys in literature (with the notable exception of Eeyore), therapeutic uses of, maltreatment of, lessons we can learn from...), and part autobiography, I found this a really good read. It was insightful, gave me food for thought, and made me appreciate donkeys all the more. The book transported me not only to France, but also to the very town in Devon where I grew up and even the self-same residential home for the elderly where I had my first part-time job as a teenager - the residents there now enjoy therapeutic visits from a donkey.

Meanwhile Son has signed up for the Creepy House library summer reading scheme and despite being a sometimes reluctant reader has enjoyed Jeremy Strong's Killer Tomatoes and the second Tom Gates book, and Daughter is ploughing through the Laura Marlin mysteries by Lauren St John.

4) Our part of North Wiltshire is not what I'd consider the classic Wiltshire landscape of rolling chalky downlands so we were pleased to discover a corn field worthy of a real Wiltshire crop circle virtually on our doorstep when we ventured along a new-to-us footpath on an evening walk.

5) With the kids at home, there's a constant chorus of "I'm hungry!" or "What is there to eat?" Filling them up with plates of noodles at lunchtime is cheap and helps reduce the hunger pangs somewhat but doesn't solve the problem entirely!

Homemade pot noodles for one person:

2 tsp Thai curry paste
3 spring onions, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped or grated
mugful of vegetable or chicken stock
handful of frozen peas (or sweetcorn)
150g sachet of noodles
sesame seeds, to finish (optional)

Fry the curry paste, stir in the spring onions and carrot and cook for one minute. Pour in the stock and add the peas. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes or until the carrot is just cooked. Stir in the noodles and heat through. Scatter with sesame seeds if desired.

From 101 Recipes for Kids, BBC books.

How's your summer? Any favourite redcurrant recipes or easy recipes to fill up growing children? Any good summer reads (kids or grown-ups) to share, summer walks or wildlife watching in your area?