March 2012 Crafty Great Aunt Margaret

Meet Gabriella, Rubio’s guardian angel who watches over him at night!

And to the right is Gabriella’s creator, Great Aunt Margaret.

We had a lovely visit last week from Rubio’s grandmother nanny Joy and her sister Margaret, Rubio’s great-aunt. Margaret (who would be very embarrassed to see herself on the internet!) is a talented seamstress and our house is filled with beautiful things she has made for us including a huge patchwork quilt she made for our wedding in fiery autumn hues of red, yellow and orange, a lovely bright patchwork cushion and more recently a series of beautiful toys for our lucky boy.

As well as Gabriella we have Kanga and Joey who like to play hide and seek, and now Ren the little brown dog who has a very chewable nose!

My sewing is of a slightly more practical nature at the moment, lots of mending and patching and sewing on buttons. Call me strange but i do enjoy a bit of calming, therapeutic darning. Making something torn whole again, gently replacing lost threads, weaving accross the hole until that beautiful indian cotton top is mended and wearable again.

So far this year we have bought very few new things that are not on our ‘ok to buy new’ list (shoes, underwear etc) but then i realised there are more things missing from this list… how about
candles, swimsuit…

…both of which i bought new last month! Once again we went through the options of buying second hand but i could’t find second hand beeswax candles anywhere unsurprisingly! A compromise is buying beeswax candles made locally and sold in the ‘Made in Stroud’ shop, or at the farmers market.  Second hand swimsuits are easier to find but in the end i chicknened out of buying one on ebay in favour of a new one i could try on from a ‘slightly’ ethical shop. ah nothing makes insecurity and vanity more apparent than buying swimwear! I suppose i should write the difinitive list of things that we think are ok to buy new, but then actually that’s a bit of compromise isn’t it, when we should be looking to buy everything we can second hand and only when that fails go down the easy route of buying new.

Perhaps the list should just comprise of these few things:

-food and drink

-toothpaste and other cosmetics including my contact lenses

-toothbrushes, glasses when they finally fall apart

-Stationery and art materials

And almost everything else can be found second hand, ‘freegled’ or borrowed. It might be worth Ed and me reminding ourselves why on earth we are doing this, what is the point of not buying new? Do we mind what it acheives or affects in the big scheme, or are we simply concerned with making our own lives more simple and reducing our need to work for money (as opposed to working for actual material gain i.e. allotment work)? For us this is not just an interesting economic, ethical, sociological and personal short-term experiment, it is tightly bound up in how we live and how we will continue to live. We are not economists, we don’t know what would really happen if everyone lived like we do (we can imagine bankers, mortgage brokers, insurance companies and big chain stores wouldn’t be happy!), but we do think it is important for us to live both in an environmentally gentle way and in a way that gives us time to dream. Opting out of the consumer ‘work/buy’ cycle is our way of doing this.

And to finish on a light note, here’s our little boy scoffing yoghurt straight from the bowl after a particularly messy lunch time!

Happy Spring!

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I love flowers!
Especially at this time of year. The first bunch of dafodils are a symbolic purchase showing that Spring is here at last. But i’ve been ignoring the fact that most flowers are flown from the other side of the world and grown using nasty pesticides.

The farmers market im Stroud sell beautiful local seasonal flowers but not so many through these cold months, and sometimes we like to send the mother or mother-in-law a little birthday bouquet, so i was very happy to find Wiggly Wigglers…

And here is the amazing ‘My Zero Waste’ blog on flowers

I did buy the most beautiful little bunch of snowdrops from a lady in the market, they were framed by two ivy leaves and i wish i’d taken a photo. Maybe i’ll  find some more this Saturday…

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February 2012

Ever felt like all the positive energy is being sucked out of you by other people’s apathy?
huh, i’ve been feeling like that recently, but an hour on the allotment this morning did what a hot bath couldn’t last night, and made me feel positive once more. It’s usually very hard to feel down living with the most positive person i’ve ever met (and with Rubio who is hilarious at the moment!). The allotment is ‘resting’ under a lovely warm green blanket of weeds but we tidied the bean poles away, dug up the few remaining rotten potatoes and noticed the earth underneath was looking much better than previous years thanks to our muck spreading at the end of last year. This year we are only planting a few rows of potatoes in our garden as, for the last three years, the potatoes we’ve grown have been floury and fallen apart when boiled… we’ve tried every variety imaginable with no success, any suggestions?
So this year, much to the disgust of some hard-core allotment types, we are going to mainly grow flowers! Huge swathes of calendula to be made into tincture for Ed’s mum, buckets of sweet peas and cosmos for the house, hurrah! And of course the old, easy favourite veg like beans, beetroot, chard and courgettes.
I half heartedly pruned the raspberries, not really remembering whether they are summer of autumn variety, and what the protocol is… my excuse being Rubio in the sling on my back distracting me playing peep-o with his daddy!

Rubio and Ed on the train to Birmingham… Rubio likes the train, especially sitting on the table and then diving off!

Rubio’s blanket is nearing completion, i reckon another year should do it! Only a couple more squares to go. What other crafty things have i been up to, oh yes, very frugally making use of every inch of an old towel. It was one of those lovely big bath towels, overused to the point of greyness, with a huge tear it was so threadbare. I dyed it bright turquoise, cut off the torn botton edge with my new pinking shears (no time for sewing hems these days!) and decided it was perfectly useable still. And i even used the cut off section to make two tie-one dribble bibs and one cloth wipe! full marks!

So, so far this year we have bought new… um… a toilet brush and a mop for the floor.

Ed was given a fabulous pair of new shoes (shoes are on our ‘ok to buy new’ list as long as they are fairly ethical) that are made by ‘Simple’, they have soles made from recycled tyres, organic hemp and cotton and leather uppers. And Rubio likes them alot!

I guess these shoes could be more eco and more ethical, they are made in California and a probably heavy on processing. The most ethical shoes (other than second hand) according to would appear to be ‘recycle your jeans sandals’ followed by good old Birkenstocks!

And i liked them so much i got myself a pair as my other pair of trainer type shoes had holes in the soles! Here is Rubio admiring them with me whilst enjoying the cardboard box they came in. He is sitting in the middle of his new cot bumper, a second hand ebay purchase of course.

And finally…

I bank with Barclays, for those who subscribe and can read it the above report is pretty damning. For those who don’t, Barclays scores the lowest (low score = bad) in terms of environmental impact, ethics, human rights etc etc. I’m shocked by it and also amazed that if i hadn’t just looked up ethical shoes, then registered on the ethicalconsumer website to read more, i wouldn’t  have seen the link about Barclays… now to change banks!

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Happy New Year!

Another new year, another new year’s resolution… this time we have decided to further our non-new-stuff buying by trying, over the coming year, to let people know what and why we are doing this in the hope they might not buy us new things and maybe that they might think a little about what, where and how they shop. Ed and i had an interesting talk about this, about whether or not we want to tell people what we do, whether we will sound ‘preachy’. actually preachy is a good word, because we decided that it comes down to the distinction between what we ‘know’ to be ‘fact’ (ie peak oil, global warming, too much stuff thrown away, seas full of plastic, toxic soil etc)and the things that we ‘believe” in, like that less work (in the sense of 9-5, never-see-the-product-of-your-labour kind of work) and more time is a good thing, that having less stuff is good for the soul indeed that wanting less stuff is good for the soul.
We talked long and hard about why we are doing this. We went through the different levels from the personal to the global, and here’s what we thought…
On a global level we have global warming, we have peak oil. We have pollution from oil spills, air pollution from burning oil, coal, gas. We have environmental disasters which may be linked to global warming.
Then we can zoom in a bit more, we have toxic soil from landfill, seas full of floating plastic, people moved off land due to intensive prawn farming, soya growing, palm oil etc, we have deforestation.
We have terrible unethical working conditions in diamond and metal mines for our mobile phones and laptops. We have child labour for our cheap goods.
We have goods shipped around the world for processing, then back again for packaging, then back again for sale. We have areas like the straight of gibraltar, the busiest area for container shipping where tuna, dolphins and whales are threatened.
zoom in again, on a more local level we have supermarkets throwing away massive amounts of food while people starve,transporting goods nationwide using huge amounts of energy. we have local businesses suffering, undercut by cheap chain stores. We have houses full of things that are thrown out because they are so cheap to replace they are not mended. We have streets lined with black bin bags every week. we kid ourselves that because we recycle some stuff we are doing a good thing, even if this recycling ends up in landfill, or being shipped to china.
We have houses full of new plastics, off-gassing, full of formaldehydes. bad for the environment to produce, possibly bad for us to be around. And we have so much stuff we don’t use, yet work so hard to earn more money to buy even more stuff…

crazy old world. poor old world.

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Happy Christmas!

I didn’t ask for much this Christmas (not much of a surprise huh?!) but ended up with a lot. Unwrapping the unasked-for, surprise presents was fun and the things i didn’t ask for are all very nice, but once i had flattened and put away the wrapping paper for next year and arranged the new things into an attractive pile out of the way of Rubio’s little hands, i couldn’t help but think that i didn’t really want these unasked for presents! Not because i’m ungrateful, grumpy or a humbug, nor because they weren’t desirable, sitting on the living room floor on Christmas eve night* i saw simply and clearly it was because i hadn’t desired them. I hadn’t wanted them so they didn’t satisfy any need or desire within me.

Am i becoming an ascetic? hmm, let’s look at good old Wikipedia…

Asceticism (from the Greek: ἄσκησις, áskēsis, “exercise” or “training“) describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals… refraining from sensual pleasures and the accumulation of material wealth. This is to be understood not as an eschewal of the enjoyment of life, but a recognition that spiritual and religious goals are impeded by such indulgence.

Those who practice ascetic lifestyles do not consider their practices virtuous in themselves, but pursue such a lifestyle to encourage, or ‘prepare the ground’ for, mind-body transformation.

In the popular imagination, asceticism may be considered obsessive or even masochistic in nature. However, the askēsis enjoined by religion functions to bring about greater freedom in various areas of one’s life (such as freedom from compulsions and temptations) and greater peacefulness of mind (with a concomitant increase in clarity and power of thought).

Rubio and I have been ill over Christmas, both down with a really nasty cold. Rubio recovered fast with the added help of my immune system through breastmilk. I however am still languishing. Well, i wish i could be languishing (it sounds relatively passive and restful no?) instead babies stop for no sick mother. Over the last week i have noticed a distinct craving to be alone and quiet, which  last night made me think about that old fantasy i have when things in life get too much, of becoming a nun! Forgetting the rather big problem i’d have of having to believe in God etc, i find the idea attractive at certain times. I imagine peaceful, even silent days! I imagine sleeping every night! i imagine calm slow days filled with thought, quiet tasks, painting and gardening! I imagine having the energy to eat a full meal in the evening!

But in imagining this i thought of the things i wouldn’t have; Edward and Rubio, the things that make me happier than anything. My nun/hermit/ascetic alter-ego would be superficially happy but without my husband and child, without that love, i would be sad deep inside. And now, i am superficially tired, miserable with this cold, restricted in my actions in many ways, but deep inside i am glowing with happiness.

Happy Christmas

* German mother = presents on Christmas eve

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December 2011

First off: Not Buying It

Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping

Which i have just bought second hand on amazon!

We have adopted an exciting new approach to Christmas commercialism…  not buying any presents at all! No, actually it’s more that Christmas once again has taken us by surprise and this year we are in a particularly chaotic situation with baby and problems with a damp and leaky house. But it’s an idea isn’t it, tempting just to forget the presents altogether and, yes the old cliche, just spend time with our nearest and dearest?

It does semm a little empty trawling through the (charity) shops looking for a ‘thing’ that someone we know might like. I’ve been trying to think of gifts that are useful in some way, like plants, books or food, but still succumb to the easy option of a nice something decorative that  i suspect the recipient neither wants nor needs. And Ed and I are steeling ourselves once more against the onslaught of unwanted gifts we will recieve. that sounds terribly ungrateful doesn’t it? But we do appreciate the thought, really, it’s just that whilst we are  trying to buy less, not buy new, only buy eco etc etc, people around us still buy us new and sometimes more as if to compensate! It kind of undoes the good we are trying to do doesn’t it?

Bah humbug Emily! It must be the howling wind ruffling my temper.

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Missing the Transition textiles group…

Missing the group, the warm cosy evenings chatting, drinking tea, eating freshly baked biscuits, laughing, singing, being sung to, oh and of course crafting…



Kirstie and a fabulous hat…                Tara and ‘Daylight Rubbery’

Will be back to full textiley force soon, baby allowing!

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