Dusting off the laptop

Welcome back!

I have just deleted two tedious and rambling paragraphs explaining my absence from the blog for the past few months. Basically I got the cold, then I got the flu, then I got the cold again. My immune system must have got a good battering because I visited the GP after 5 weeks to be told I was ‘probably in the early stages of pneumonia’, and an antibiotic was administered. I now feel amazing (health, I think is one of these things it’s hard to appreciate until it’s compromised), but I emerged to a house that needed a good clean and tidy, ironing and a freezer that needed replenishing.

It has taken over a month since being unwell to be able to motivate myself to post on the blog again. While it’s lovely to be back in full health, and I’ve finally got the house whipped into its usual state of ‘could-be-clean-in-half-a-day-for-visitors’, I’ll admit I’m overwhelmed by trying to meet the goal I set myself for writing two posts per week on the blog. Plus my other New Year’s Resolutions have slipped a bit, although I’m still working towards them all.

However, I am reminding myself that it is still only April and that any steps taken towards success are better than none at all. Much better.

Once again, therefore, I’m picking myself up and carrying on. In the time since I’ve been better I have defrosted my rundown freezer and started filling it up again with healthy and delicious food. I have devised a new ‘system’ (I use the term loosely) to keep track of what’s in the freezer and make meal planning a little easier. A list on the wall of what’s in the freezer saves me opening it and rummaging around.

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I have resumed my knitting class, and despite missing two sewing classes (out of an eight week course), I managed to catch up at home and finished my latest dress with my classmates.

Perhaps most importantly, I have printed off my list of goals for 2016 and pinned them in my kitchen where I can see them several times daily. I want to stay on track. I really believe that the goals I have set are important and part of what I want to accomplish this year.

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I’ve had a set back, but I’m going to go easy on myself and post when I feel like it. I’m still very much working towards my goals for 2016!

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.” Zig Ziglar

New Year’s Resolutions – 2016

Happy New Year!!

It’s not the most original opening to my first post of 2016, but it’s sincere. I hope that you have a fantastic and fulfilling 12 months ahead.

I am starting this year full of hope. I have concocted five goals that I want to work towards on the blog – some build on my previous efforts towards creating a more sustainable lifestyle, some are new, but all (I hope) will bring new and exciting opportunities to learn. Equally as important is that they are all absolutely achievable, as long as I’m willing to put in the effort – and I am! I really am!

So, without further ado, here are my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016…..

  1. Increase my blogging. I’d like my posts to average out over the year at 2 per week, therefore I’m aiming to end in December around the 104 mark.

I love my blog, I really do, but I’ve found that without disciplining myself to write, it’s the first thing to fall by the wayside when life gets busy or stressful. I miss writing though, and without the motivation I get from publicly sharing my progress, I’m in danger of achieving less. I’m also missing my pals in the blogging community, so for lots of reasons, it makes a lot of sense to breathe some new life into my blog. It’s good to be back!

  1. To build on the good work I did last year when I learned to sew. I want to save more clothes from landfill by altering them or upcycling them into other items. Where I do make clothes from scratch, I want to start using some organic fabrics.

My motivation to learn to sew grew from my decision to take a step back (if not completely away) from the fashion industry. I don’t want to support slave labour or environmental damage. I want to use my new sewing skills to extend the life of the clothes in my family and ultimately prevent them from being left to rot and leach chemicals into the earth. By increasing (from nothing!) my use of organic fabric, I will – slightly – minimise the negative environmental impact that producing those materials cause.

  1. I will continue to learn to knit, with the aim of being able to produce items that can be gifted.

Last year, while doing really well with my knitting, I got carried away learning some complicated techniques. This year I must focus on producing pieces that can be given away as lovingly made and thoughtful presents, which have been created as ethically as possible.

  1. I will dramatically increase the amount of food that I cook from scratch, using organic ingredients where practically possible, with the aim of reducing the packaging I contribute to landfill.

I failed in my goal to keep reducing my rubbish last year, and I’m sure the amount of ‘convenience’ foods I bring into the house contributed to this. It’s time to reduce our rubbish and improve our diets! This will also help with goal 5…

  1. I am going to provide healthier and more varied food for my family.

I am bored of the food I cook, bake and buy. When the kids complain about the same old stuff, I tend to agree rather than reprimand – it’s got that bad! I amn’t keen on cooking and creating food but I’m going to grab the metaphorical bull by its horns and throw myself into this challenge. It’s time to cook new meals, bake (some of) our own snacks and find out what it is that those self-proclaimed foodies love about meal times. I want my family to look forward to their meals and be excited about what delight is served. I would like someone at some point this year to ask for seconds!!!

Good luck to everyone out there hoping to live your dreams in 2016, you can do it!

If you want to see how I got on in achieving my New Year’s Resolutions for 2015, check out yesterday’s post.

2015 New Year’s Resolutions – how I got on

It’s that time of year again when I like to post a round-up of the progress that I have made on the blog in the last 12 months. Today I will be revisiting the five New Year’s Resolutions that I set myself one dark night, as 2014 drew to an end. I’ll also share with you how I got on by marking my own work pubicly (oh yeah!).

Usually by this point, readers are fairly up to date with my progress, but this year I’ve been decidedly crap on the blog – a meagre 24 posts. All of this is soon to change as you’ll see in my next post, but for now, let the 2015 assessment begin…

(Resolutions in bold, assessment below)

  1. Buy a very limited number of clothes for me, and a (less) limited amount for my children. I’d also like to avoid buying clothes to give as gifts. My aim is to prevent supporting the (largely) unethical fashion industry (see my post from 2014) Where I do purchase clothes I will endeavour to use tools, such as The Good Shopping Guide, to buy as ethically as possible.

I am still putting in a really good effort at keeping my clothes consumption to a minimum. When I decided to buy no new clothes for myself in 2014, I didn’t expect to be doing this well two years later. The items I bought for myself this year were mainly basic items that ‘supported’ the rest of my wardrobe – tights, underwear, a neutral pair of shoes, black leggings and a swim suit. The swim suit was the only purchase that fell into the categories of fashionable or luxurious. I purchased it in Fat Face, which does pretty well in terms of ethical High Street shopping (see link), and it was the only new item I bought for a family holiday.

I pretty much failed in my quest to buy fewer clothes for the children. I do try to buy them stuff in a bigger size so that, in theory, I’m buying less in the long term. I also use the Fat Face sale in an attempt to make some of my purchases more ethical, but I can’t kid myself – my efforts in this area are lacking (plus I really like Fat Face!)

While I definitely bought way fewer clothes as gifts (80% less?), I didn’t manage to cut them out completely. Especially when friends have babies, I find it so convenient to buy clothes as they are useful, easy to post and exchangeable.

Overall score: 6/10

  1. Learn to sew. The aim of this is to allow me to efficiently mend the clothes my family already has, plus – in time – try my hand at adapting the children’s clothes so that they might continue to get wear out of their outfits as they grow. One day I’d like to attempt making my own clothes from ethical materials, but I accept that this may not be something I achieve in 2015.

Ok, I’m shoving my modesty aside here to announce that I totally rocked this resolution! Within the first few months of the year, I’d made a dress and on Christmas day, I wore a much more complicated little number that even involved full lining! I’ve upcycled, adapted, mended and invented. I’ve even managed to sew some things as gifts for Christmas. I found I quite like sewing, which definitely helps 🙂

It is with relief that I realise I wasn’t expecting to make my own clothes from ethical materials this year. Although I have upcycled fabrics, and made use of some offcuts, I have yet to purchase any organic materials – this will feature in 2016’s goals (with no allowance for failure!)

Overall score: 10/10

  1. Learn to knit. I would love to master this skill. Ideally I will learn to make gifts for others as well as household staples such as socks, using UK wool. For 2015 I will aim to be able to produce a few basic items that would be of a high enough standard to give as presents. This cuts out poor worker conditions, and reduces the air miles my finished items have travelled.

I did well on this resolution. I started on a high and made a pair of mittens which were duly given away as a birthday present. I got somewhat distracted from my goal of being able to make household staples by falling in love with an intarsia cushion cover pattern – much more complicated that was necessary at this point in my knitting career – but I’ve stuck with it and learned a new skill and yes, I did use UK wool.

Overall score: 9/10

  1. Go supermarket-free for Lent. This will be the third year that I’ve given up supermarkets for a specific period. Each time I do it, I learn more and get less dependent on using them. I like to support local businesses and opt out of the poor environmental practices that are rife in the supply chain of supermarkets. You can read how I got on last year in my concluding post and please, if you’d like to, join in!

I completed this task with only a small blip when I used a supermarket chemist to pick up a prescription, realising too late that it was a supermarket-related (it was a stand alone shop, not a counter in a supermarket!!)

My blogging on the subject was pretty sparse and my shopping unadventurous so I’m dropping this from my blogging goals for 2016, in the hope that my writing will be marginally more interesting than watching a wall of wet paint dry. I will however, continue to go supermarket-free for Lent this year, so the subject may be alluded to.

Overall score 9/10

  1. Reduce my rubbish. I will continue to monitor and reduce my use of single-use plastics, plus I will aim to put out less rubbish – half a black bag per week would be a pleasing reduction. My local authority is finally due to collect food waste in April so I should be able to get rid of all food waste (as opposed to the limited items that can go in the garden compost) so with a boost like that, I have no excuses!

While I have done a fair amount of work in the past on reducing my rubbish, I think it is safe to say that I made little (if any) progress this year.  In our household we recycle everything that the Council picks up and we are now able to recycle food waste fully.  We still have our faithful veg box which comes in (almost) zero plastic and we’ve stuck to a lot of the changes we made for Plastic Free July but I can’t think of anything we’ve done this year to specifically reduce our rubbish.  I’m awarding myself points for keeping up good habits but, as no progress is made, I end on a depressing end result of…

Overall score: 4/10

Despite the ups and downs in my scores, I’ve enjoyed reflecting on my progress, and am aware of just how powerful writing goals down can be in terms of helping to turn them into a reality. I’m currently working away on my list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2016, which I’ll be posting in the next few days.  Next time there’ll be no fails!!

How did you get on with your goals for 2015?

New Year’s Resolutions 2015

Happy New Year!

Some people love making resolutions, while others don’t. I fall firmly into the first category. The New Year is an opportunity to start afresh. The tricky part of setting goals is to make them attainable. It’s simply depressing to write a long list of hopes and aspirations for the year, just to have them float out of reach by the end of January when it’s cold, you’re maybe back at work, and you’re coming down with the ‘flu… It’s hard not to think ‘what’s the point?!’ and stop trying.

Last year I set myself five goals for 2014, all relevant to my desire to live a more sustainable lifestyle. None of them were especially easy, but I found that those I was more focused on achieving (surprise! surprise!), were the ones I got better outcomes for. You can see how I got on here.

I’ve been boosted by the progress I made, so this year my New Year’s Resolutions build on of some 2014’s:
1. Buy a very limited number of clothes for me, and a (less) limited amount for my children. I’d also like to avoid buying clothes to give as gifts. My aim is to prevent supporting the (largely) unethical fashion industry – for more detail, see my post from last year. Where I do purchase clothes I will endeavour to use tools, such as The Good Shopping Guide, to buy as ethically as possible.

2. Learn to sew. The aim of this is to allow me to efficiently mend the clothes my family already has, plus – in time – try my hand at adapting the children’s clothes so that they might continue to get wear out of their outfits as they grow. One day I’d like to attempt making my own clothes from ethical materials, but I accept that this may not be something I achieve in 2015.

3. Learn to knit. I would love to master this skill. Ideally I will learn to make gifts for others as well as household staples such as socks, using UK wool. For 2015 I will aim to be able to produce a few basic items that would be of a high enough standard to give as presents. This cuts out poor worker conditions, and reduces the air miles my finished items have travelled.

4. Go supermarket-free for Lent. This will be the third year that I’ve given up supermarkets for a specific period. Each time I do it, I learn more and get less dependent on using them. I like to support local businesses and opt out of the poor environmental practices that are rife in the supply chain of supermarkets. You can read how I got on last year in my concluding post and please, if you’d like to, join in!

5. Reduce my rubbish. This is a resolution carried over from last year that got somewhat neglected. I can do better! I will continue to monitor and reduce my use of single-use plastics, plus I will aim to put out less rubbish – half a black bag per week would be a pleasing reduction. My local authority is finally due to collect food waste in April so I should be able to get rid of all food waste (as opposed to the limited items that can go in the garden compost) so with a boost like that, I have no excuses!

I’ve tried to keep my resolutions manageable and realistic. If I had more time, I’d break them all down into smaller goals, with specific tasks to be achieved each quarter. As I bet many other bloggers can relate to though, I find it a difficult to balance achieving my goals with recording all the work that goes into them! We’ll see how I get on…

If you have any tips or posts on how to nail those New Year’s Resolutions, feel free to let me know!

2014 New Year’s Resolutions – how I got on

This is the time of year that lots of articles and blog posts pop up on social media about New Year’s Resolutions. I adore these! They are so full of hope and inspiration. I am bursting with my own ideas for 2015 and what I want to achieve (blog post to follow soon). Before I can proceed though, it’s time to review my own resolutions from last year and assess whether I’m actually any good at keeping them!

Outlined in bold are extracts from my blog from this time last year, and below is my account of how I actually got on – eeek! Here goes…

1. Throughout January, I am going to cut down on the amount of laundry I do. I am guilty of tossing anything that has been worn or used into the washing machine without first considering whether it is actually dirty. Plus (I’m whispering this) I don’t always fill the drum to its maximum capacity. This means that for my family of four I often run the washing machine twice a day.

I will give myself a ‘washing allowance’ of one load per day and do everything I can to put clean clothes back in the wardrobe as well as use other household items, e.g. towels, for longer. I hope that this will prevent me wasting electricity and stop excessive amounts of washing powder going into the environment. Also, I think it is enough time to retrain myself on how I think about the laundry – the hope being that I can carry any good habits I acquire through the year.

Okay….I’m awarding myself high points for effort on this resolution but…I failed to hit my target of one wash per day in January. Perturbed, I kept on trying until June when I finally managed it! I ploughed on for a few months after that until (unrelated to my efforts) something went wrong with the washing machine, and it stopped draining properly. Everything came out smelling disgusting and we had to keep rewashing things. It was all very stressful for me after having spent months of keeping the washing to a minimum! We ended up replacing the washing machine, and I gave up counting the loads I was doing. I am still not great at wearing things more than once before I wash them. Room for improvement!

Overall score: 6/10

2. I am not going to buy any new clothes for myself for the whole of 2014. I have blogged about this here. In summary, I reckon I have enough in my wardrobe to see me through the year, and if I feel I need an item of clothing, I will either try to buy it second hand or borrow it.

The aim of this goal is to prevent me contributing to the environmental impact of the production, distribution and disposal of clothes; to ensure that I am not purchasing clothes made by employees working in unsatisfactory conditions; and to avoid supporting companies who use Workfare.

This went well – I have documented how I got on in this post. It has made me challenge my clothing consumption significantly and I will build on my achievements in 2015.

Overall score: 9/10

3. For lent this year, I will be giving up shopping in supermarkets. I am hoping to revive Supermarket-Free Me and blog about my experience. I am always sceptical of committing to projects too far in advance, with my absolute priority being to look after my young children, but let’s think positive and say I’ll be blogging as much as I can over Lent and tweeting about it too. If you’d like to join me then please do read through my archives (the first post is here) and find out why this might be a good thing to do! The more of us doing it, the more fun this could be…

This counts as another success, in that I did give up supermarkets for Lent. My blogging slowed part of the way through when I caught a nasty cold, but I picked up my writing after a fortnight and continued to log my progress. I found this challenge tougher than I’d expected – you can read my concluding post to find out what my highs and lows were.
If you fancy joining me in 2015 then I’d love some company!

Overall score 10/10

4. In July my goal is to give up single-use plastics. I am currently ‘in-training’ just now – if you scroll back a few posts on the blog, you will be able to read about my progress so far.

Plastics have a huge negative impact on the environment for a number of reasons, including their failure to decompose at the end of their ‘working lives’ and the harmful chemicals they are composed of. By giving them up for a month and by finding small ways to banish them from my life, I hope to reduce my contribution to the damage they cause our planet.

Hmmm…I certainly threw myself into this challenge, in that I changed the way I consumed plastics and I blogged about it fairly enthusiastically – you can read my Plastic-Free Me posts here. July itself was quite different to how I imagined it would be. It was far from plastic-free, but I did make significant changes and as part of a team of other blogger taking part, awareness was raised of the issue.

Overall score: 7/10

5. Throughout the year I will be trying to reduce my rubbish as much as possible. Having implemented some new green habits in 2013, including composting and taking part in Zero Waste Week, I began to see the amount of junk I put out for the weekly bin collection decrease. I found this a little bit thrilling. In the last seven months I have gone from throwing out approximately three bin bags per week to one. I think can improve though. Hopefully I’ll work out how and be able to share it on the blog.

If I’m being honest, this resolution was neglected. It’s hard to tell whether I reduced my rubbish or not. We’re still putting out one bin bag most weeks. Taking part in Plastic Free July obviously helped, as did Zero Waste Week but my recent clear-out while playing the Minimalist Game generated a good few things for landfill. I made an effort at Christmas time to reduce waste by using recyclable wrapping paper and reusable crackers, but I think it was a case of too little too late!

Overall score: 3/10

Good luck to everyone hoping to keep to New Year’s Resolutions in 2015 – I look forward to finding out what they are, and whether we are going to be embarking on any of the same challenges.