Tuesday 30 July 2013

Why I Buy Organic

Some people can't understand why I spend more money on organic food when my family is already on a tight budget but to me it is totally worth it.   I try to buy as much as I can from the True Food Co-op, where I can buy loose fruit, veg and dried stuff like chick peas, lentils and raisins.  It seems better value for money too, but isn't always convenient so i often end up buying from the supermarket which isn't so good because of all the packaging. 
At the True Food Co-op you fill paper bags with your food and printed on the bags are the following reasons for buying organic food, some which you may not have considered:

1. For my well-being:
Hydrogenated fats controvertial additives like aspartame, tartrazine and MSG are banned under organic standards.

It has been argued that organic food does not contain any more vitamins and minerals than non-organic food, but for me it is what is NOT included that appeals more to me than the extras. I love the fact that my food is as nature intended with no chemicals that could potentially effect my health in unknown ways.

2. For animals:
organic standards insist that animals are given plenty of space and fresh air the thrive and grow, garunteeing a truly free-range life.

I care about animals and their welfare, I want them to have had happy lives before I eat them or their produce.  I believe that nothing good can come to your health by eating the flesh of an animal who had a stressful and unhappy life and death.

3. For wildlife:
Organic farms are havens for wildlife and provide homes for bees, birds and butterflies.

As above, I care about animals and wildlife, bees particularly are having a lot of problems and crops sprayed with chemicals are one of the potential culprits for their demise.

4. For GM free diet:
Genetically modified (GM) crops are ingredients are banned under organic standards.

I believe that food should be as nature intended, there is a difference between natural cross pollination and altering the genetics of a plant in a lab.

5. For the environment:
Organic farming releases less greenhouse gases than non-organic farming - choosing organic, local and seasonal food can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

As an environmentalist I am passionate about the health of our planet, I am thankful that buying organic means I am having less of a negative impact on the environment. 

Do you buy organic?  Do you think it is worth the extra money?

Monday 29 July 2013

Washable Wet Wipes

This post was first published on Serendipity Child on 27/07/2012

If there is one thing that most parents seem to not be able to live without then it has to be wet wipes.  I often hear other mothers lamenting the cost of nappies, formula and wet wipes and I sigh thankfully to myself and think how glad I am that I am not having to spend money on two out of those three essentials.

Don't get me wrong, I am no saint, I was using cotton wool and water for this first five months of my son's life, and still use disposable nappies but I realised that I needn't be filling up our dustbins with yet more detritus, that, although admittedly will eventually bio-degrade, will take a long time under all that plastic.  So in order to eliminate that little bit extra waste I decided I could make my own wet wipes.  This idea struck me after reading the chapter about babies in The Self-sufficientish Bible, they suggest cutting up polyester fleece to use as wipes, but seeing as I had a lot of cotton flannelette left from the neckerchief/bandanna bibs I thought this would be a better material.  Not only is cotton more natural that synthetic fleece, but I figured it might also be more absorbent.  Also small particles that end up in our waterways during laundering would not cause harm to aquatic life like a synthetic fabric would.

To begin with I tore up my flannelette into long strips which were the width of a sheet of toilet tissue.  I then cut these strips into smaller toilet tissue sized rectangles.  Initially I thought to make them wet-wipe sized, but decided that toilet paper size was sufficient, and should I decide they ought to be bigger in future I could just make more.

Next I stitched round each edge with a wide zig-zag on the sewing machine.  I don't think that this step is essential, but I thought it might make them last a bit longer as it will stop them fraying in the wash. 

Then just keep going until you have as many as you need.  I must have made about 50 initially, but may  make more depending on how many I get through in a day.

To store them I put mine into a plastic tupperware type box with a slosh of water to keep them moist.  You could also add a few drops of something like grape seed oil which is the only other ingredient in waterwipes, or soak the water in chamomile tea before putting the wipes in. 

Better for your pocket and better for baby's bottom too because they don't contain any of the nasty chemicals found in commercial wet-wipes.

Once used place them into another plastic container with a tight lid which will not only keep in any smell but will keep them moist making them easier to wash.  (much harder to get out dried on poo than the soft wet stuff) You can wash them as you would washable nappies.  I will be washing them at 30 degrees with Bio D Laundry Liquid.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Crotchted Dish Cloths

As you may have noticed I don't like throwing things away unnecessarily, I hate waste, especially the non-biodegradable variety, so after years and years of using those nasty little yellow sponges with the scourer on one side. They always wear out really quickly and I had visions of these tiny particles of plastic entering our waterways and the stomachs of fish, and potentially our stomachs when we eat the fish, so I decided it was time to get eco and make my own dishcloths.  I knew people did it because I had seen them for sale on Etsy, but being short of money I decided to have a go at making my own with simple cotton string.

 Old cloth vs new

I crocheted a few lines (pretty badly) but came out with a perfectly serviceable dish cloth and have been using it effectively for the past few months.  It has lasted waaaay longer than a sponge and gets the grime off just as effectively. 

 Old fraying cloth

Now my crocheted cloth has started fraying and coming apart to it was time to crotchet another.  As you can see my crotchet skills have not improved that much since the last one, but this one too is perfectly serviceable and the old one is now lying happily in the compost heap waiting to become plant food for my veggies!
I am very happy with my environmentally friendly, free dish cloths and don't thin I will be going back to plastic sponges any time soon.

Lovely new cloth! I think you'll agree the crocheting is neater but I still managed to lose a few stitches along the way, hence the bizarre shape!

I can't be the only one out there who makes their own dish cloths?  What material do you use?  How do you keep those edges straight?

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Using my voice regarding supermarket waste

In recent times I have become more and more concerned about the waste that my small family of three have been sending to landfill, or rather to the waste-to-energy incinerator that disposes of the waste in my borough  (which still produces toxic air pollution and toxic waste that goes to landfill).  Perhaps it is having a child and one on the way that makes me think about what the world will be like for them when they are grown up, I really don't want to leave a planet filled with toxic waste, pollution and mountains of non-biodegradable plastic.
I recently read that in America one ton of waste per person is disposed of every year and that so much rubbish has been discarded irresponsibly that there is a massive floating gyre of plastic the size of Texas swirling around the Pacific Ocean.  In fact 25% of all plastic ends up in the sea*. 
We are lucky enough to be able to buy a lot of organic food from the True Food Co-op, where we can buy most of our groceries loose and thus take home no plastic packaging to put out with our rubbish, unfortunately it isn't always convenient to go there and I often end up doing my weekly shop in a supermarket, more specifically Sainsburys.
Obviously some waste is recyclable, our local council recycles paper, card, tin cans and plastic, but only plastic in the shape of bottles which was the main focus of my dilemma, so much food, particularly organic food at Sainsburys comes in plastic wrapping, bags or trays and the only thing for it is to send it to the waste-to-energy incinerator.  I felt so unhappy about this that I decided to collect a weeks worth of plastic and return it to the supermarket because I read that supermarkets have a legal obligation to dispose of their waste responsibly.  It would also be sending them a message that I am not happy about the amount of waste that surrounds their food.
By the end of the week I had a good carrier bag full of non-recyclable plastic waste including things like fruit nets, plum punnets and cereal bags and today I took it back to the store.
I was really nervous because I didn't want to be laughed at, but also didn't want to be thrown out of the store!  I asked to speak to the store manager who came down and I expressed my concerns to him (Martin), I expressed particularly how the bag contained the waste from just a family of three and to think about how much there must be from all his customers combined, he listened carefully and took my name and number so that I would get some feedback after he passed on my complaint to their head-office. I told him that I realised that my small action probably wouldn't have much effect but I felt that I needed to say something.  I was polite and calm and didn't get aggressive or angry. 
I am really pleased that I did this. I know that I am only one small voice but if someone doesn't speak up then who will? 
I intend on emailing Sainsburys with further comments to reinforce my message.  I really do want someone to take note of this issue as it really can't continue.
Have you ever taken peaceful action against an organisation that has acted in a way that you disagree with?  What did you do?  What was their response?

Just some of our non-recyclable waste

*Revolution in a Bottle - Tom Szaky

Monday 8 July 2013

Illustrated bread-making tutorial

First published on SerendipityChild on 22/06/2010

I got this bread making recipe from a wonderful website called selfsufficientish and it is pretty fail safe although is not a quick fix, you will need to go the the shops if you have a bread emergency, it takes a day to make. 

First pour 750ml of luke warm water into a jug:

Next add two teaspoons of yeast and two teaspoons of sugar and stir it in:

Leave the mixture in a warm place untill it is all frothy on top, (about half an hour)

Pour the mixture into a bowl:

Take your flour.  I use half wholemeal and half white breadmaking flour.  Organic of course.

Add flour to the yeasty mixture in the bowl:


Add more flour to make a gloopy paste:

Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place overnight (I do mine in the morning and leave it while I am at work)

While you are away the mixture with froth up and become all bubbly:

Give it a stir and you will find that it's all gloopy and stretchy:

Add more of the flour until it has thickened:

Flour your worktop:

Tip out your mixture:

Add more flour:

And some salt (I do 3 teaspoons) don't forget to do this or you will end up with quite bland bread.

Then begin the process of adding flour and kneeding until you have made a dough, don't add too much flour though, your dough should still be a bit sticky:

As you kneed, don't just fold and press the dough, really tear it and stretch it:

The dough should be nice and stretchy and spring back when you poke it:

I then cut my dough in half because I have found my tired old over can't cope with cooking one large loaf so I make two smaller ones:

Make two lovely round balls by kneeding them a bit more:

Put em into tins:

Then cover with a damp cloth (this one is actually clean but looks manky from fruit staining).  leave to rise.  The time it takes to rise will vary depending on how warm your room is.  Basically just leave it till it has risen lots!
Put the oven on just before you think they are ready to go in.


Put them in the oven.  My oven only goes up to 200 degrees and this seems to work fine.

Then as if by magin, in about 20 minutes you get a beautiful loaf of bread.  Take the loaves out of the tins and leave to cool on a rack.

Then enjoy

Hope you liked by breadmaking tutorial.  Comments are welcomed.
Come again soon.

Saturday 6 July 2013

The Pinkification of girls

Today I saw something very upsetting, well perhaps I am being a little over dramatic, but it did bother me.  It was this Peppa Pig back pack that you can see below.  On this occasion it's not the character that particularly upset me (though I dislike it) nor the colour (thought I am sick of the plague of pink we see in the girls section of shops these days) it is the words at the top for which "P is for".  Of all the empowering words this back pack could have displayed that begin with "P": Passionate, Powerful, Plucky, Positive... the designers chose "Perfect, polite, pretty and pink"  Could they have come up with a series of more passive, submissive, insipid words to put onto a little girl's bag?  

What about empowering girls?  Instead of labelling and encouraging girls with a word like "perfect" they could have encouraged girls to be individual, instead of "polite" what about  teaching compassion, and instead of "pretty" how much better would it be to encourage girls to be courageous or hard working or kind?  This bag is just a small example of the worrying deluge of stereotypical toys, clothes and accessories for girls.  I thought we had come on a bit since the 1950's but it seems we have taken a back step in terms of liberation of women and girls.  I know I sound over dramatic but you only need to take a little look in the dressing up section of most toy shops, the boys are entitled to creative, proactive roles such builder, police man and doctor where as the girls are relegated to caring or fantasy figures such as nurse, princess and fairy.  No there is nothing wrong with aspiring to be a nurse but when the aspirations in terms of career end there, we have to ask what is going on?  
Just take a look at this add from the 1980's and compare it with the lego promoted to girls, and this website for a girly lego http://friends.lego.com/en-gb/  today:


I for one hope that if my next baby is a girl I will be able to resist the avalanche of pink and offer a whole rainbow of colours, careers and even personality traits to my daughter. Children's brains are like sponges, they absorb everything they see and hear indiscriminately, so although it might seem like I am over-reacting here, girls are taking on an insidious message that tells them how they are expected to behave, what they are expected to look like and what their aspirations should be and I think this is so wrong.  I really hope that there is a change in the way girls are being portrayed by manufacturers so they can feel empowered instead of being pushed towards passiveness and vanity.  

I intend on contacting the designers, manufacturers etc of the above back pack to express my concerns.  

In the mean time I would like to share with you some links to websites where people speak much more eloquently that me on this topic:

I am sure there are more websites and articles out there, please let me know what they are if you have seen them, in the mean time you can join the pinkstinks campaign and like their facebook page if this sort of thing bothers you.  

Right I am off to write a strongly worded letter.