Lent and the Year’s Intentions

 

Today is the first day of Lent and I have been considering whether I should give up or take up anything. My mum and sister always give up chocolate, and I have joined in a couple of times. But I always feel that giving up something like that kind of misses the religious connotations of the period. Instead, I am going to take up being thankful. It is something I try to do anyway – recognise the blessings in my life (which are many) – but focusing on it specifically for a set period will hopefully help me appreciate what I have even more.

I don’t especially intend to share moments of thankfulness on this blog – there’s enough people out there keeping thankfulness diaries already. But you may get an update a few weeks down the line.

Lent also feels like an appropriate moment to re-visit my intentions for this year:

Be Mindful of Food Choices

Avoiding meat for most meals and making more considered food choices is going ok, but is probably the one I have been doing worst on. I have slipped up a couple of times and ordered things with fish in at restaurants, because I forgot I wasn’t supposed to. And Mr Techno always provides a meat-based meal when he cooks on Tuesday evenings. And there was a pack of bacon open in the fridge that needed eating, so I did add that to my pea and goats cheese salad. But I’ve still managed to cut way down on meat consumption, going from eating it almost everyday to just once or sometimes twice a week.

We’ve also made the switch to getting milk and juice from our local milkman. Along with the veg box we have had for years, this is helping us reduce our reliance on big supermarkets and cut down on packaging waste. Hurray!

Buy Only Secondhand Clothes

Tom is beginning to grow out of his 12-18 month wardrobe, so I’ve been having to buy him a whole bunch of clothes. So far we’ve scored everything we need secondhand, though I may need to get him some vests new, as I’ve been struggling to find enough in the right size. He needs more pjs too, but is otherwise set for the next few months and I’m pretty confident I can find him some secondhand (it is lack of money, rather than availability, that is holding me back currently).

I did get a new pair of walking boots at the very beginning of the year, but have allowed myself this as a) it was Mr Techno’s Christmas present to me and b) I really needed a good quality, good fitting pair which is difficult to achieve secondhand. With luck these will last me at least 10 years, where as a secondhand pair would be unlikely to have so much life left in them.

I’ve also developed a minor obsession with wearing men’s vests over leggings, but have kept to my promise and bought a few on ebay rather than getting them new. I tried to take a selfie to show you my favourite, but my selfie skills are sadly pants, so you will have to do without. I know this will be a great disappointment!

 

Get Outdoors Everyday

And, of course, we are still getting outside everyday. I don’t think we have had a single day this year when we haven’t got out, even if it is just the walk to nursery, or a potter round the garden (sometimes in the dark with a torch just before bath and bed). My new job and our lack of family time recently has meant we haven’t explored as many new places as I had hoped, but we have discovered a new park and gone on a trip to Epping Forest, so some progress has been made. We also have a camping trip in Wales planned for this summer (I have to go anyway to run a course on repairing old floors and the site we are using is right on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, so was far too good to pass up!)

 

Anyone else giving something up for Lent? Or taking on a new challenge?

Why Is There Applesauce in the Bathtub?

Winter 2015_018

‘What’s all over the bathtub?’ asked my husband when he got home on Friday night. ‘Oh.’ I said ‘I was washing my hair with applesauce. I’ll go rinse it. Sorry’.

Now, I suspect that in many households, a comment like that would require a bit more explanation. Fortunately, Mr Techno is used to me being a bit weird alternative, and didn’t even raise an eyebrow. See, since I stopped using shampoo a few months ago, all sorts of weird and wonderful things have turned up in our bathroom as substitutes. As Mr Techno said, washing my hair was about the only thing left I did normally, so it was only a matter of time before I decided to do something bizarre with it.

For once though, this decision had nothing to do with wanting to be green (or frugal, though it is arguably both). This was a decision based on pure vanity. You see, I have a lot of hair. It’s very long, very thick and (when I haven’t spent an hour straightening it) very curly. So washing it has always been a bit of a mission. I seem to have spent my entire life on a perpetual hunt for a shampoo and conditioner combo that doesn’t make it feel too dry, or too frizzy. And every time I found something that seemed to work, I could only use it for about a month before my hair stopped feeling properly clean after a wash and I had to switch again.

It was only because I saw it mentioned on this wonderful parenting/green living blog that I realised there was actually an alternative to commercial shampoos and conditioners…for some reason it had never occurred to me to try out homemade alternatives. But after some googling, I decided to give it a go. Because my hair is curly and doesn’t get greasy easily, I seem to be the perfect candidate for the ‘no-poo’ method (as it is so charmingly called).

The theory is this: your hair follicles naturally produce an oil called sebum, which keeps hair looking healthy and moisturised. But commercial shampoos are designed to remove oil, so they strip the sebum out of your hair. To compensate, your hair follicles produce more, making your hair feel greasier and making you wash it more. And so the cycle continues. If you stop using shampoo and switch to gentler alternatives, the balance should restore itself and you’ll need to wash your hair less often.

I stopped using shampoo at the beginning of October, which means almost every picture of me on this blog was taken after that time. I was already only washing my hair once a week, so it adapted quickly and I was lucky to skip the greasy transition phase a lot of people seem to go through.

I’ve now switched to washing only once every two weeks – though I do have to re-straighten my hair every four days or so because the natural frizz starts to reassert itself otherwise. Plus I go out in the rain a lot! Mostly, I’m using bicarb of soda instead of shampoo and diluted cider vinegar instead of conditioner. It works surprisingly well – my hair is soft, not greasy, and has no more split ends than it did previously. I also seem to be moulting less, which is odd, but nice.

I have found that my hair starts to feel a bit waxy though after about a month – it’s almost as though it is producing its own styling wax. That’s where the applesauce comes in – malic acid from the apples helps loosen and remove the waxy build up. I used it as a hair mask on Friday night and my hair has felt incredible ever since – really well conditioned. It even seems to have made the skin on my face a bit softer. Though I did have to do several rinses and brush my hair through a lot with increasingly fine toothed combs in order to get all of the applesauce out (I probably should have pureed it for a bit longer). Plus Tom saw me using it and then tried to copy me. At dinner time. With a handful of cheddar cheese. *Sigh*. Fortunately that mostly combed out too and he got his hair washed that night, so no longer smells like a dairy gone wrong!

All in all, I’m very glad to have accidentally stumbled across some alternatives to shampoo. It may not work for everyone, but suits my hair type down to the ground. Plus, who doesn’t love making homemade beauty potions and leaving them all over the bath to annoy their husband with?

 

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Green Is Not a Parenting Style

I read a lot. Mainly fiction, but also autobiographies, anthropological studies, and books on sustainable living. And, since Tom was born, about parenting.

I tend to be drawn towards books and magazines that focus on being a ‘green’ parent. I subscribe to the Green Parenting Magazine, and I have recently been given two different books with ‘green parenting’ in the title (The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting by Zion Lights and The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting by Kate Blincoe). I read blogs by parents aiming for a more sustainable life.

Mostly, these books, magazine articles and blogs are good. Sometimes useful, sometimes funny, sometimes informative. But there is a worrying underlying assumption in many of them and it has been annoying me more and more as time goes on.

The assumption is this: that being a green parent means being an attachment parent.

It’s all over the place. Especially in the Green Parent magazine. This assumption that anyone who wants to take care of the environment must also want to breastfeed, co-sleep, and baby-wear. That you can’t want to live sustainably and also use time-outs. Even the Zion Lights book, which is not very long, dedicates the entire beginning chapter to telling people that they should take the attachment route. And never, ever, ever think of doing any kind of sleep training. (The Kate Blincoe book, incidentally, has a brief mention of baby-wearing but otherwise is refreshingly free of judgement on parenting style. Read it. It’s very good).

Now, if you’ve read my parenting posts before you will know I do some of these things with Tom. I own more slings than I should and aim for empathetic, gentle discipline over time-outs or scolding (not always successfully). But that is to do with how I feel most comfortable parenting and what works best for my family. It has nothing to do with wanting to be green. Being a green parent should be about trying to reduce your impact on the environment and teaching your kids to do the same. Recycling? Buying second hand clothes? Using cloth nappies? These are things I do which make me closer to being a green parent. Owning four slings? That doesn’t make me green, especially considering I also own a buggy. And I’d like to think the fact that Tom has never slept a single night in our bed doesn’t make me not green either. Nor does introducing a couple of bottles of formula a day when I went back to work when he was 6 months old (we already owned the bottles, proving breastfeeding is not always waste-free, and recycled the formula cartoons. We are still using the scoops as toys for water or sand play).

And that is my worry. That parents who want to reduce their impact on the planet, but who don’t (or can’t) breastfeed or baby-wear or co-sleep, might read these books and articles and be turned off the whole idea. Because it ends up being part of the realm of ‘that’ kind of parent. Which is ridiculous. We all need to think about what we use and what we throw away. Especially when we are raising the next generation. It has nothing to do with which parenting style you prefer and everything to do with being mindful of your choices and how they affect the world around you. And raising your kids to do the same.

So regardless of how you approach parenting, please don’t think you can’t also aim for a greener life. Because you do not have to be an attachment parent to be a green parent.

 

Life with Baby Kicks

A Small Step to Greener Living

I have discovered something amazing! We have a milkman. We’ve lived in this flat for 2 and a half years and I had no idea we had a milkman. 

I only discovered this by chance – just before Christmas they came round all the flats in our street in the evening to try to attract new customers. Normally we wouldn’t have been home, but it was a bit drizzly, so Tom and I hadn’t stayed long in the park on our way home.

Not only do they deliver milk right to our doorstep, which is hugely convenient and helps keep some of our money out of the hands of the big supermarkets, but they use the proper glass bottles and collect them once a week to re-sterilise and resuse. So it is helping cut down our weekly waste as well.

And the company are a small family business that is based locally. And the milk is from a farm in nearby Essex. And they offer extras like organic free-range eggs and fresh juice.

I’m very pleased we were home in time to discover their service. Though slightly ashamed I had never thought to check if we had a local milkman at all…

Anyway, it’s another small step towards greener shopping habits. Every little helps and all that!

Intentions for a Greener New Year

Happy 2016 everyone! 2015 was a good year for us – we got to watch Tom grow from a four month old baby to a 16 month old toddler; a journey that has included him starting nursery, learning to crawl and then to walk, and begin to say his first words. I went back to work and Mr Techno was promoted. And we enjoyed some wonderful adventures in the great outdoors.

Like a lot of people, I’m very wary of New Year’s Resolutions, especially those that require me to give something up, or take up something I don’t enjoy (going to the gym springs to mind…) I have more sympathy with those that involve taking up a new challenge, and thought of doing something like that for this year. However, there is already a new challenge on the horizon which is likely to change our daily lives a bit – I can’t say more now as it is not yet finalised, but should have more news for you soon!

Until I know what impact this change will have, I don’t want to commit myself to further new challenges. So instead of resolving to do something new this year, I thought I would put together a short list of things we already do, which I intend to explore more deeply.

1. Be Mindful of Food Choices
As I explained in a previous post, I try to reduce the impact that our food choices have on the amount of waste we produce. However, I definitely used to be more mindful of where our food comes from. There was a time when the only meat I ate was the pigs my parents raised, or the game shot by my father-in-law. In both cases, I knew exactly how the animal/bird had been raised and how it had been died. In the case of the pigs, I even knew their names. But my parents no longer keep pigs, and I let pregnancy cravings alter my diet to the point that meat is now on the table most days. Since that excuse was exhausted long ago, it is more than time for me to reassess the amount of meat I eat. As a result, I intend to reduce this by only eating meat if someone else is cooking for me. Admittedly, this is less admirable than it might be, as Mr Techno cooks dinner once a week. But I feel it is a commitment I can sustain, whilst anything more is likely to test my resolve too far in the long run.

2. Buy Only Second Hand Clothes
As a university student, I made a commitment to only buy clothes that were either second-hand, or produced ethically. Realistically, that meant only second-hand clothes, as new ethical fashion tended to be a bit beyond my budget. But over the years I have slipped a bit, using the excuse of my changing shape (weight loss, then pregnancy, then post-baby weight not shifting) to buy the odd item of new clothing. I intend to go back to my original commitment, buying all of my clothes and most of Tom’s second hand (some things, like vests, I struggle to find enough of, so have to buy new). The exceptions will be underwear and shoes – underwear is hopefully obvious, and I tend to wear my shoes into the ground, so need them to fit well and be in reasonably good nick, something that can be hard to find second hand (I have tiny feet).

3. Get Outdoors Every Day
Making this pledge a few months ago, and then starting this blog to help me stick to it, has really transformed my life in a way I wasn’t expecting. I feel calmer, happier, fitter and more energetic than I did before. My bond with Tom has deepened as we spend quality time together outside, away from the electronic distractions at home. Mr Techno and I talk excitedly about where we will explore next, instead of letting lethargy get the better of us and make us stay indoors. I intend to build on this good work by continuing to explore the places local to us, but also by venturing further afield. We hope to take some camping trips come spring, and, as Tom begins to need less sleep, we want to take more day-trips to places outside of London. The new challenge I mentioned earlier in this post will have an impact, but one that I think we can work around.

So bring on 2016 – a year that will hopefully be as good as the last, if not better. A year that I hope will be greener in more ways than one. I can’t wait to get started!

 

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