Sunday, 27 January 2013

the great outdoors

After the terrible weather of the last few weeks, it was like winning the lottery to pull back the curtain and be almost blinded by the sun yesterday. Although I really love Winter and all it brings; soups, stews, blankets, frosty mornings and of course, Christmas, I'm one of those people who gets withdrawal symptoms if they can't get outside frequently. The frost and snow has made for some really ace photo opportunities though, and I've spent a long time over the last few weeks crouched over leaves and branches, desperately trying to capture the beauty of the colder months...

Cyclamen (sadly, with no flowers - I have no idea why, either. Sigh).

I was overjoyed to discover shoots hiding in a corner - we weren't living in this house this time last year, so I have no idea what they are!

Finding tracks in the snow is always fun. We don't own a cat, either!

Planting some hydrangea cuttings - they're now covered with plastic bags and perched on our bedroom windowsill.

Enthralled. And cold.
Although we live in Hampshire, our house isn't what I'd class as really rural, but it is overlooked by a whole load of trees - which means we get lots of birds flitting around. When Autumn came, we started putting out food for them; bread soaked in water (you have to make sure it's damp before they eat it), peanuts and fat balls, and before long we found we had some regulars. Two pigeons, two robins, several long tailed tits, two blue tits and a thrush (I think, I need a closer look!) all seem to spend most of their time perched on the tree at the bottom of our garden, snacking and just generally hopping about. I've become sort of addicted to watching them - I've never really seen the fascination with birds until now (I'm actually scared of them. True fact), but the more I watch them, the more interested I am. I spent half an hour one afternoon, camera in hand, fingers numb with cold, just waiting for them to appear - I haven't got a zoom lens yet, so I have to be really stealthy - and finally, my patience paid off, and I managed to capture them on film.

Spot the robin.

Once the thaw arrived, everything was grey, wet and miserable for a couple of days, but finally the sun reappeared. We made a thankful trip to the market (we had to get our veg from the supermarket the week before - I needed four red chillies, but they only came in packs of three. There was no option to buy them singly. Why, *insert supermarket name here*, why??), and I had some great luck in the Oxfam bookshop round the corner. The sun shone, the kiddos behaved, and all was well for the day.

I absolutely cannot wait to get into the garden this year - I'm ordering my seeds, looking for reclaimed wood and scrap bookshelves to make raised beds from, and covering tins to make planters like there's no tomorrow. I've got a definite idea of how I want things to work this year - plenty of food to last well into the Autumn, time spent foraging and fruit picking, really working with nature. Expect plenty of horticulture based posts coming up!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

global seesaw

The thing I love about blogging, more than anything, is the sheer amount of superb people you get to meet and chat to on an almost daily basis. Since I started writing, I've stumbled across some cracking, funny, intelligent, creative and beautiful ladies (and men!), who all continue to inspire and entertain me. Like the ace Lucy from Lulastic, a perfectly quiff-ed whirlwind of passionate campaigning, creative thrifting and gentle parenting. If you haven't read her blog, I strongly suggest you do - you'll be nodding along with her posts on world hunger and activism, and reaching for the (homemade) mod podge to get all crafty before you know it.
It was via Lucy that I stumbled across the fantastic new company Global Seesaw - an online shop that sells fairly traded, eco-friendly bags and accessories with a difference. The company exists to create sustainable employment for women who have been trafficked into prostitution - it gives them a way out, and the chance at a life with choices and freedom. The bags are all either jute, or organic fair trade cotton, and any images are printed with water-based inks, which means no chemicals being pumped into the environment. Ethically produced, environmentally sound and helping to fight back against the scourge of human trafficking - do you really need any other reasons to hot foot it over and get flexing your bank card?

After following them on Twitter, I ended up buying a bag, and they kindly sent me an extra one - which I've decided to give away to one of my lovely readers. I can't stress enough what an amazing company this is - if you've never read anything about trafficking, a quick Google search will tell you everything you need to know. Another blogging friend, Mel Wiggins, recommended a book called Half the Sky, which goes into this and many other social justice issues in more depth (it's sitting in my 'to read' pile as I type!), and the Global Seesaw website itself has a fair bit of information.

The bags are incredibly good quality, decorated with an ace bird print (who doesn't like birds?!), and have a popper fastening and a zipped inner pocket. The one I'm giving away is mauve and teal coloured, and is 37x38cm, nice and roomy - big enough for a few magazines, a wallet, a laptop, the kitchen sink....

To win this bee-yootiful bag, all you have to do is:

1. Follow Global Seesaw on Twitter or 'like' them on Facebook.

2. Leave a comment to confirm you've entered.

That's it! Please also do think about tweeting and sharing their details over Twitter and Facebook - they really are a superb company to support.

The giveaway will run for one week, and no entries will be counted after midnight on 30th January 2013.

Good luck!


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

new year, old habits

My first post of 2013 - happy new year to all my lovely readers! Here's hoping you'll all continue to enjoy my half-finished projects, environmental experiments, pictures of old tat and occasional ranting for the next twelve months.

The sky at dawn on New Years Day
I've read heaps and heaps of new years resolution posts lately - and I have to say, this time around, I made absolutely none. I don't smoke, don't really drink much, tend not to go out to clubs and whatnot and we can't really afford takeaways, so that counts out all the usual things. I could have said I won't buy as many magazines (absolute sucker for The Simple Things), or I'll stay away from charity shops, but I already know in advance that neither of those things are going to happen. Neither is any of the following:

1. Become an excellent good competent cook. I'm rubbish in the kitchen, honestly I am. I'm not too bad with baking, but when it comes to meals I usually churn out the same (easy) stuff. I am going to try and attempt some new things, but don't wait with baited breath, because it'll probably look like a turd on a plate.

2. Watch less TV. I can guarantee this won't happen. I like nothing more in the evenings than curling up on the sofa with the Husband, crafting away while we watch telly. Usually it's a box set - at the moment, we're working our way through Fringe, and it's ACE - but occasionally we'll catch something wildlife-y or funny. I never watch soaps. Cough, cough.

3. Stop buying yarn. I can't. It's an addiction, a disease. There should be some sort of helpline.

4. Stop eating so much chocolate. It's a bit like expecting me to stop breathing.

5. Limit my internet time. I have an ongoing battle with this - I don't spend a lot of time on Facebook, but I do read a LOT of blogs and articles online. I'd like to spend less time connected, and have one of those detox thingys people are always talking about, but I really don't think I could manage it. Perhaps I'll try having one evening a week where I turn my phone off and leave the laptop in the other room. Or perhaps I won't. Ahem.

This ties in quite nicely to something else I've thought about a lot over Christmas - my Twenty by Thirty project, where I basically made, on reflection, the worlds most unrealistic list of things to do by my thirtieth birthday. Which is in six weeks time.  While everything on the list still stands, and they're all things I hope to accomplish, the time frame was beyond ridiculous. How on earth did I think I was going to achieve so much, in such a short space of time, with two children to look after? I was talking about it with the Husband, and he asked why I kept trying to cram so much in to my days. When I replied that I didn't want to waste any of my time, he said, "but you spend so much time rushing about, that you never seem to enjoy anything. You just end up cross." I had to admit, the man talked sense. I think it's taken me four years to realise that being a parent is tiring, time consuming, stressful and hard. Setting time restricted goals is ridiculous, and I'm just setting myself up for failure - not to mention the fact that I seem to keep missing the enjoyment in everyday things.
I did manage to tick off a couple of things from the list already though - namely, the haircut. Behold, my short, red barnet:

I'm going to just come out and say it - I don't like it. The novelty of a 'proper' haircut wore off after about two weeks. It takes longer to do - my hair has a natural curl, and if I don't do something with it, I end up with a 'fro. The fringe is too short - see how I'm trying to tuck it behind my ear? I do that on average 6454729246 times a day, and it never stays there. My Mum pointed out that it was just loads of dead ends, and really needed the chop - I don't care, I declared, I want my ends back. I'm also fed up with the red - I did it over Christmas, and now Christmas has been and gone. I want it to be more browny-red (think Florence meets Alys Fowler) but I'm totally off the hair dye after reading up on the chemicals *shudder*. Sigh.

I have got aims for the year, though - the biggest being to really up my environmental and activist game. I stumbled across the Craftivist Collective way back last year, and have finally decided to join in with them on the #imapiece project, which supports Save the Children's Race Against Hunger campaign. I'm going to do a separate post on this in a couple of days, when I've finally finished my crafty piece, but it involved embroidery (which I've only just learnt but LOVE - ha, take that knitting, in your woolly face. I don't care that I can't master you, I'm a dab hand with a needle and thread) and feeling like I was actually helping to make a difference, which was ace in itself.

I've finally, finally got round to making some homemade laundry powder, thanks to Hannah's recipe from her blog. I've swapped my usual make-up for something more eco-friendly, and I made my first visit to Lush (and possibly my last, since it's pretty pricey and we're pretty skint-o. I was actually drawn in by a table full of leaflets and a big banner that shouted, 'CLIMATE REVOLUTION'. I got a free badge too! Simple things....). I've got all the ingredients to make my own liquid hand soap (thanks to that Mel Wiggins), I've got loads of seeds to grow enough veg to feed us through the warmer months (and I'm hoping for some gluts to get us into next Winter as well) and I've sorted the garden ready for planting.

PS: Happy New Year!

PPS: I also managed to make some little pelmet-ish kitchen curtains. Finally.

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