Thursday, 19 September 2019

Is He Is Too Important For Your Party?

The "He" being the chemical symbol for the gas Helium, used to fill party balloons the world over. There is currently a global shortage of helium. In recent months, the price of helium has risen significantly - three times this year, each time going up between eight and ten percent.
That means that you will have to pay more for the balloon you give your grandchild, or take to the hen party, or tie to the hospital bed. The balloon companies complain that rising prices mean people are buying fewer balloons for decorating their party venues.
But my question is - should we be buying these balloons in the first place?
They are 'single use plastic'
They float away - and a high percentage do escape their owners clutches, either accidentally, or as part of a 'balloon race' - and then clog up the oceans and hedges and endanger or kill animals, birds and fishes
Those two reasons alone ought to be enough to make us stop and think 
But my question is - is this a reasonable use of a finite resource?
Helium is used for many other things - it is used in diving apparatus, it is used in rocket launches, it is used in the manufacture of computers, mobile phones, TV screens, in welding, in cryogenics, and for medical purposes.
Yes, Helium is used for a number of significant medical purposes
When I was taken ill in January, I had to have a brain scan. MRI scanners depend on helium, to keep their huge magnets cool. MRI scanners have revolutionised the diagnostic procedures in all branches of medicine.
Heliox is an oxygen/helium mixture which can be used to ventilate babies, children and adults with breathing difficulties. It is significant in the treatment of asthmatic patients.
So my question is - if the global supply of helium is limited, should we be pumping it into rainbow coloured plastic unicorn balloons - or ensuring that we keep more of it to help babies breathe, and to make faster diagnoses of cancer and other conditions? 
David Cole-Hamilton, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the University of St Andrews, believes that given its importance in medicine, the use of helium for balloons should be banned. Given than the supply is limited, it is absurd that around 10% of this noble gas is used for party balloons. He says  "If you said to people 'Do you want a helium balloon, or an MRI scan for your daughter?' it's an obvious choice"
I am inclined to agree with him. 
What do you think?

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

I Should Lick The Stamps Myself!

Om Monday evening, I went to see Downton Abbey at the cinema. I knew that Bob wasn't really interested, so asked around at church to see if anyone would like to come with me. I ended up booking TEN tickets. [note to self- next time check seating plan- I was reading it upside down, so we were nearer the front than I'd intended]
It was glorious fun.  There will be no spoilers in this review- but if you didn't like DA on TV, don't bother reading any further. "I don't know the characters, and so I don't really care about the film" said Bob. Which is OK- I slept through his new DVD of Gormenghast last weekend.
All the usual characters from Lord Grantham's household - plus the King and Queen, and their daughter Mary, Princess Royal plus husband, Henry Lascelles [Lord Harewood]. And The Queens chief lady-in-waiting, Maud Bagshaw.
Geraldine James played the Queen- brilliantly. She always looks like she ought to be a Redgrave [The Royal Family of English theatre?], but isn't related. There are strong hints about happiness of  the Harewood marriage [he was 15 years her senior] and there were certainly rumours throughout the 1920s about that.
Maud Bagshaw is an invented character - you can see her in the top picture standing on Lord Grantham's left. Imelda Staunton plays her extremely well, and she brings a good twist to the story.
Carson comes out of retirement for the royal visit. You couldn't really have a Downton film without him. How would Lady Mary cope, for one thing?
He is played by Jim Carter.
And this is the bit that I love- Jim is happily married, in real life, to Imelda Staunton. He's well over 6 feet tall, she just tops 60". I approve of such an arrangement. Marry a man you can lookup to, said my mother. I did, and so did Imelda!
The Dowager Duchess, Maggie Smith, gets some of the best lines. In one discussion about the idea of whether or not two characters should start a correspondence, she clearly does not disapprove. "Dislike it? I should lick the stamps myself!" [note to younger blog readers - in the good old days, stamps were not self-adhesive!]
OK, the plot is ridiculous but it is fun to watch. It will be on TV over Christmas before long, I am sure. The scenery, the costumes, the pomp&ceremony, the bustle of the kitchens, and the swish of the gowns....all the stuff we expect from Julian Fellowes is there.
Only two minor quibbles

  1.  I am not sure that "conspiracy theory" and "government cover-up" were terms in general use in 1923
  2. A gown which does not fit is altered. I know it is a film and therefore there were two separate garments - but I am not convinced that a gown like the first could actually be altered to create one like the second. But I'm just being picky - the costumes were great, on the whole. Do take note of Hugh Bonneville's splendid calves, in his formal knee breeches at the ball!
A great evening with good friends, and a film we all enjoyed *****

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Cheap Chupney!

There we were, having a sandwich, in BH24, Ringwood the other Tuesday.. This is one of my favourite places for a snack.
"Oh no!" said Bob "not another picture of me eating!" He had a cheese toastie. I had peanut butter and banana on sourdough, drizzled with honey and raisins. It was delicious, if rather sweet!
But they have a bookshelf full of cookbooks on the wall behind the table, and you can read whilst waiting for your food.
I took down "The Modern Preserver" by Kylee Newton. It was so interesting - covering all sorts of preserving methods - from chutney to kimchi, jam to gin! Lots of practical details, clear instructions,and lovely photographs. Having been given so many tomatoes and apples lately, I was interested in the tomato chutney recipe. This is the recipe that started Kylee off [read her 2015 Guardian article here]
I took out my phone and photographed the page!
I did tweak the recipe a little- I was determined to make the chutney with as little outlay as possible. I had the tomatoes and apples already. I bought a bag of onions on the way home.
I didn't have any dark brown sugar - so I substituted with two thirds molasses and one third demerara [I cannot remember which recipe I bought the molasses for last year, but the jar needed using up] 
I had no lime, so just used lemon. And I don't like chilis, but put in ½tsp of garlic&chili salt.
The recipe makes 6-7 350ml jars. So I used half quantities and filled 4 smaller jars.
I had never made tomato chutney before, and the instruction to salt and drain the fruits made a lot of sense, when I realised just how much liquid came out of 500g of toms.
It bubbled away beautifully in my Le Creuset.
Before long I had four jars cooling down happily.
The texture and consistency looks good.
It will be hard to wait four weeks until it has matured!
Kylee says this is a good "Breakfast chutney". I don't usually have chutney at breakfast - its usually brown sauce or ketchup. But then, I have not purchased brown sauce since 2017 - I always make my own now, using Gil Mellor's recipe, The chief ingredient of that is leftover chutney.  So maybe I will try this one in October, when Bob cooks one of his legendary Saturday Morning Breakfasts for me!
Four jars of chutney, and all I had to purchase was a  few onions. Very satisfactory! Thank you to all my gardening friends who continue share their lovely produce.

Monday, 16 September 2019

The Magic Of A Broom.

Do you remember Calamity Jane ? Doris Day, riding shotgun on the Deadwood Stage, dodging those Indian arrows that were 'thicker than porcupine quills' ? The film would probably be frowned on now, for all sorts of reasons, but some of the songs have been stuck in my brain since childhood. The one that irritated me even then was "A Woman's Touch" - which was when Calam changed her fringed buckskin suit for a frilly frock and a pinny, and started cleaning up the cabin. How could anyone give up that exciting lifestyle for bland domesticity, I thought - and why should it be just 50% of the population who did the housework anyway? Look at these lyrics- as un-feminist as you can imagine!
A woman's touch can weave a spell
The kind of hocus pocus that she does so well
With the magic of a broom
She can mesmerize a room

It makes you blink, to stop and think
A woman and a whisk-broom
Can accomplish so darn much
So never under-estimate a woman's touch
That said, I am going to admit to a perverse pleasure in the acquisition of two brushes which have made housecleaning easier of late, especially after marathon sewing bouts. I can't show pictures of my stitching yet, as these items are for other people -but I can tell you that I managed to get the Dining Room back into use for the weekend. 
Although my Sebo vacuum cleaner is brilliant, it doesn't like all the little bits of thread and fabric trimmings which drift onto the carpet [despite my fancy new thread catcher] The beater bar collects lots of strands. I posted about that back in June. But I have solved that one now.
Meet my Wilko Stiff Bassine Brush [bassine is a form of natural fibre which makes very stiff bristles] When I finish my sewing, I crawl round the floor on my hands and knees, firmly sweeping all the threads and trimmings into a heap. I also have a small magnet to hand, to gather up any misplaced pins. It only takes 5 minutes, and then I can quickly vacuum the floor clean, and all the Sebo picks up is dust.
And here's my handy little compact brush&dustpan, made by the OXO company. This gets used for sweeping the table cloth. It is so neat and easy to use - whether I am sweeping up threads, paper trimmings after craft work, or breadcrumbs. My Mum had an ancient 'table dustpan' when I was a child, and this is the modern equivalent.
I found mine going very cheaply in John Lewis, and it lives in the dining room, where it gets plenty of use. Especially after I've been eating croissants.
I can do housework when I want to - the probably is, I do not often want to. Having appropriate tools does make the task easier though.
Here's Doris

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Nifty Fifty

Reading this article in Saturday's Guardian I discovered that it is 50 years this week since the 50p coin appeared in our pockets and purses. No more of those brown "ten bob notes"
It set me thinking about the whole 'fifty years' thing. The Israelites of the Old Testament knew all about the fiftieth year- God had declared it to be the Year of Jubilee [Leviticus 25]
Yes, there was to be jubilation - celebration of God's continuing goodness and provision
- but there were also other things which the people had to do.
Not enough just to celebrate - they had to demonstrate that God had blessed them, and they needed to bless others.
They were commanded to write off any outstanding loans, to offer freedom to the slaves, to restore property to the rightful owners, and to allow the land to lie fallow, and so that it would rest and regain strength, to produce better crops in following years. And they were to take particular care of the poor and the foreigners living among them. Wealth was to be redistributed fairly.
Restitution, restoration, redistribution, rest    - and care for the poor and the stranger. 
Strikes me we could do with some of these Jubilee Principles in our nation right now! 
[the mugs are the ones I designed for our church jubilee in London in 1989]

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Arsenic And Old Lace?

Did you ever see this crazy film? Produced in 1944 by Frank Capra [who did the Christmas Classic "It's a Wonderful Life"] It involves a young writer who falls in love with the minister's daughter who lives next door. They are preparing for their honeymoon, and he returns to the house where he was raised by two elderly aunts and other eccentric relations.
He finds a corpse...and discovers the old dears have a "ministry to end suffering" by helping old bachelors to depart this life. 
They put arsenic, strychnine and "a pinch of cyanide" in the elderberry wine and bump off the old gentleman! It's a rather dark comedy, but during WW2 it helped take people's minds off Hitler, I suppose. I have none of the poisons [nor any elderberry wine] but I do have a lot of old lace.
Much of it was given by friends when we lived in the Midlands, and I am grateful to them for that. Nottingham was once known as the Lace City, and a lot of the garments made in Leicester factories  were lace-trimmed. 
For centuries lace was handmade- then a Midlands inventor developed a machine which would make lace, and in Victorian times, yards and yards were churned out. [Read more here] I have two boxes full of lace trimmings. And I am determined to use it up purposefully.
So...this year's Christmas Tree Festival Project is going to involve lace. I am also using up some felt from the stash, and recycling the decorations from our 2016 tree. That was the year we embroidered doves, and each one hung inside a hoop which had the name of one of the "Fruits of the Spirit" stitched on it. [Love, joy, peace etc]
The hoops, cut from lemonade bottles, have got crushed in storage, so I stripped off the tape, and ironed it out.  We will use these to decorate felt crackers.
Here are two of my prototypes, made yesterday.  But when I unwrapped some ecru coloured machine-made lace from the card, I found some lovely wording underneath.
There was no attempt to persuade you this was hand-made- but a genuine pride in the quality of the product. "ERL" brand Equals Real Lace. "Insist on having it, support an all-British Industry".  In fact, they were so sure of the consistency of the product that the back of the card bears the number of the worker responsible for these 6 yards of trim. Presumably she had to write her number on that label with her pencil! Click on the picture to read the wording.
I do not know how old this lace is - I am not sure which generous member of our congregation passed it on to me. I suspect it is well over 75 years old. But this year the lace made by Worker 37 has finally come off the card, and will be used to adorn a Christmas Tree in Dorset!

Friday, 13 September 2019

Do You Have A Yen To Save?

definition yen -  a strong urge or craving
definition yen -  the Japanese unit of currency
If PanYan is a pickle, is YenYen a savings-craving?
Ideas from The Land of The Rising Sun are certainly trying to have an influence on us lately. First Marie Kondo had us all tidying our homes, then we all went to do shirin yoku [forest bathing] and now, it seems, we need to be mindful about our spending, and adopt the kakeibo philosophy when dealing with domestic finances.
Kakeibo is the Japanese term for a "Domestic Accounts Journal" [pronounced "kah-keh-boh"]
It is a way of managing a weekly/monthly spending plan with a view to meeting savings goals, living within one's means and recognising where the money goes, and developing strategies to spend less and save more.
This journal has recently been published in an English format.
There are five basic steps
1- At the start of each month write down your money goals, and how much you want to save. Review this each week. Are you on track?
2- Calculate how much money is left after essential bills have been paid each month [divide into weekly amounts]
3- Keep a detailed weekly spending log
4-Reflect each week/month on your progress
5- Write down what steps you could take to meet your goals.
"Oh -I never knew that was how you were supposed to do it - we've been going wrong all these years!" laughed Bob. Most people I know who follow a budget use something similar to this - they just don't consider it to be a Japanese Philosophy. Since my teens I have kept a spending journal like this - at first in a notebook, then for my first 5 years of marriage, using the one at the back of the Good Housekeeping Diary, and then for many years on my computer using the "Quicken" programme. Nowadays I am not quite so diligent - mainly because after 40 years of marriage, I've got a pretty good idea of where the money goes each month, and I can access my credit card/bank balance instantly online. Just occasionally I stop and monitor spending carefully for a few weeks to ensure no new spending patterns have crept in. Keeping diligent track of our financial habits has helped us get through 5 years of studying for ministry, an eleven year mortgage [paid off in nine] and now significant monthly car repayments.
I never knew the Japanese had a word for it though. You can buy this book for about £10, and learn all about the Japanese art of saving money. Or you can practice the British way of saving money, and keep your budget records in a pretty note book from Wilko at a fraction of the price!
I know that lots of you in Blogland budget carefully - what would you say was your best tip for good financial management? What has helped you most?

Thursday, 12 September 2019

All Greek To Me [Not Exactly A Toga Tutorial]

Ferndown Middle School is having a "Greek Day" today. Pupils are expected to go in costume. Could I help my friend with a toga? Well yes- but actually togas are difficult to manage all day in school, and women often wore a garment called a chiton anyway. That is pronounced Kye-ton. You thought it was sheet-on didn't you? So did I, till Bob [who knows all about Greek] enlightened me. I think sheet-on is a good name, because that it what it is.
This easy chart shows how to make one out of a sheet.
It didn't take long to produce one on Sunday afternoon. 
Although Greek girls left one side open, I stitched up the side seam. I am concerned for my young friend's modesty [it also means she can wear leggings underneath if the weather is cold!
The fold-over top is called the apoptygma and the girdle is called the zoster. I had some silk ivy leaves in the Great Stash, so wound some onto florist's wire to make a garland. 

Sorted! or should I say Eureka?
Trivial fact - Ole Kirk Christiansen called his plastic bricks Lego because that is Danish for "play well" 
But in New Testament Greek lego means "I say"
Does this mean many Greek jokes begin "Lego, lego, lego..." ?

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Getting In A Pickle

Aren't these dahlias beautiful? I was visiting a friend who gave me a bunch from his garden, and I wanted to share their vibrant amber/orange/golden colours.
Dahlias always remind me of the  Flower and Produce Show in Hertfordshire, when I was a child. The local gardeners vied to win the coveted cups and shields for their  efforts.
There were also prizes for cakes, jams and chutneys.
Sue posted on Friday about her attempt to recreate Branston Pickle.
That set me thinking about Sunday tea at the Manse,  in Bishop's Stortford [usually ham salad] and PanYan Pickle. 
That was a favourite foodstuff of my childhood. It was first made in 1903 by Maconochie Brothers in Lowestoft, Suffolk. It's taste [using curry powder] was thought to be "Oriental" - and  workers at the factory were asked to provide a name - thus "Pan Yan" was chosen. By 1924, it was the world's top selling pickle- but discontinued in 2000. 
In 2008 Chris Evans made an appeal for its return on his radio show. Premier Foods, the multi-national company who had bought out the firm years before, admitted sheepishly that the 'secret recipe' had been lost in a warehouse fire a few years before! A number of people have sought to re-create the distinct taste of this tracklement [see here] and people who had old jars came forward to supply the ingredients list from the label.
Here are some of their wonderful adverts from the last century - and a picture of the jar I remember from my youth!
Did you have a favourite childhood treat,now discontinued?

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Life Worth Living

I try and keep my blog positive, and upbeat. But today I want to be more serious. This is World Suicide Prevention Day. Over 6000 people in the UK committed suicide last year. That's more than 16 lives lost every day of the year. 

In my life I've known a number of people who have attempted suicide- sadly , some of them succeeded. My heart aches for those left behind. 
So often the person concerned is lonely,  in real despair and has nobody to talk to. A few years ago, just before Easter, I received an email. It was from a person - a complete stranger to me - who said she always read my blog. Her life was in a mess, she had sorted out her affairs, written the necessary letters etc, and planned to take her life on Good Friday. She said she wanted somebody to pray for her, that God would forgive her - and wondered if I would do that, please - she knew from my blog that I was a Christian. 
I assured her of my prayers, and asked a few more questions, and saying I felt that her decision to end her life might not be the only way forward. She lived a very long way away - but I sent her details of people near her who could help with her particular problem. I heard nothing more, and I struggled through Easter, constantly thinking of her and praying. Three weeks later, she emailed again and said thank you,  things were improving, she had found the urgent help she needed. I heard nothing for five years. Out of the blue, a long email, again saying thank you, explaining how everything was better, friends were helping and life was bright again. Whenever I remember her, I pray she is still going on OK, and thank God for the good support she found locally.[Maybe she's reading this] For a brief moment, I was a tiny link in that chain which helped her hold on.

We can all be part of the chain. If we are concerned for our neighbours, then we need to be brave enough to gently start the difficult conversations. Groups like The Samaritans are there to help. If you are worried about someone, they will advise you. 
A few years ago, a young woman went to the station with the intention of throwing herself under a train. Someone noticed her and started a conversation - and now she is working to help others in a similar situation, and her story inspired this brief, but brilliant, video  Read more here.
There are also some excellent and helpful links on the Shoebox blog this morning Click here

Many people at the moment are expressing despair about life, and the future. Brexit, Climate Change, Economics... some of them are really struggling. Look for the warning signs. Be brave, start a conversation - it might save a life.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Fizzing With Frustration

Here's a little quiz for you

  1. What is Bicarbonate of Soda ?
  2. Is it the same as Baking Powder ?
  3. Is it the same as Baking Soda?
  4. What is Washing Soda?
  1. Bicarbonate of soda - chemical formula NaHCO3 - is a white powder which for centuries has been used in the kitchen as a raising agent,[eg in scones, and of course, soda bread] and in the sickroom as an antacid [a key ingredient in Alka Seltzer]. 
  2. NO - Baking powder is a combination of bicarb [an alkali] and cream of tartar [tartaric acid] When these get wet, they react, causing air bubbles.
  3. YES - Baking soda is the US name for bicarb. 
  4. SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY Washing soda - chemical formula Na2CO3 - is a different thing altogether. If you heat bicarb in the oven, you will drive off the CO2 and H2O molecules, leaving you with washing soda. BUT it is a dangerous chemical, causing skin irritation [ and vomiting if ingested] However, many people like to wash clothes/dishes with this product as it is a 'natural' product. It is often sold as 'soda crystals'

Now the thing is, the much safer bicarb is also good for cleaning- mix it to a paste with lemon juice and use it gently to remove tea stains from your mugs, or beetroot stains from the sink. Bob used most of my bicarb last week to clean something.
That's fine, but I needed to replace it as I want to do some baking. I was in The Range - which sells random food products - and so I asked "Do you sell bicarbonate of soda?" I was told "It's in DIY"
I went to DIY and repeated the question "In DIY we usually have soda crystals, but we are out of stock. You want baking soda back in homewares"
I returned to homewares - and see the original assistant, actually stocking a shelf right next to a product labelled "baking soda". I picked up a container and said "Excuse me, you do have bicarbonate of soda after all, it is right here" and she said "Oh, if you had said baking soda I would have known what you meant" 
Well, I figured maybe she was used to the American term, so I let her off. 
But time was pressing, so I went off to the till and paid for my stuff. 
Only when I got home did I realise that  the small print on the back tells me that the ingredients of this bottle 'contain bicarbonate of soda' but it is not safe for human consumption, or for baking, or for use as an antacid. Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, which mentions its cleansing properties on the packet, also stresses it is 100% compliant with food codes. This one, on the other hand, calls itself baking soda, but cannot be used for baking.
I have complained to The Range, as I think this is extremely misleading. I don't know what they have added to the bicarb - but to actually call it baking soda when it isn't seems quite wrong to me.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

The OTHER Rev Bob ?

A very oddly labelled envelope came through the letterbox last week
As far as I know, there is no other Rev Bob Almond! We suspect that when Bob filled in the form it said Mr/Mrs/Ms/Other - and he ticked Other/Rev.
Steph is fascinated that the Other Rev Bob loves at the same address. Maybe there are two, and they are sharing the workload.
But as Bob said to the diners at our Thursday OAP Lunch Club, your name is important. We get uncomfortable when people mispronounce our name, or shorten it [I'm Ang never Angie] or worse, forget it completely. We like to be sure we have got another person's name right. 
It is a great comfort to me that God knows me personally, he calls me by name, the loves me, and he always gets it right. When life seems tough, I read Isaiah 43, which begins "Fear not, I have called you by name, you are mine..."

Saturday, 7 September 2019

ZWW - The Waste Audit

The sheet was on the fridge - and very soon I realised I would have lots of repeats. Some of this was stuff for recycling.

  • All the tea bags and coffee grounds can go into the food waste bin, which Dorset Council sends off to an anaerobic digester- making soil improver, compost, and a renewable energy source.
  • Plastic milk bottle go into recycling [now Kids' Club is over, I no longer need to keep the tops for making snakes]
  • Food scrapings from the plates go in here too, and trimmings from fruit/veg prep. I wash much of my veg rather than peel it these days.
  • lots of my food was in tins, card packets or glass bottles - these all went into recycling.
  • Post - junk mail, and envelopes, and newspaper [pretty papers kept for crafting with]
  • paper bags, if ripped[if not, they are folded and put in a drawer for further use]
  • cardboard boxes from food - pizza etc [plastic window ripped out, see below]
  • one roll of loo paper, flushed - paper core retained for crafting.

But sadly there were landfill items, which I ended up putting in our regular black bin

  • 'security' collars from a jar of mayo
  • plastic wraps from cake, biscuits, salad goods, cucumber
  • the plastic/foil sheets which contain my daily meds. It proved impossible to separate the foil from the plastic- so all went into the black bin
  • a tetrapak carton which had contained UHT milk - not easily recyclable round here. Perhaps Hans Rausing, multimillionaire head of the family who developed this packaging  who died last week, has left some of his fortune to pay for more recycling plants! and a second one which contained orange juice
  • 4 little packets from dishwasher tabs
  • a polystyrene box which contained Bob's fish'n'chip lunch
  • 3 wipes
  • 4 paper tissues
  • a piece of clingfilm, used to wrap something from the freezer
So, did I decide there were areas where improvement is possible?
  1. I've  considered changing my dishwasher tabs for the unwrapped capsules- but these are usually made of plastic. That will flush straight into the ocean! The only non plastic ones I have found are these - but they are twice the price of my regular ones. Many of the plastic free liquids contain palm oil. I think I shall stick with my current choice as the best of a bad set of options.
  2. I'm trying to find a better source of UHT milk [I use it for my homemade yogurt] which is not in a tetrapak. I note that more expensive brands of orange juice often come in recyclable plastic bottles - maybe I can find a brand where the price differential is manageable within my budget,
  3. I'm using real hankies a lot more- but sometimes a paper tissue is more hygienic!
  4. I'm wondering what my favourite chippie would say if I raised the issue of polystyrene boxes with them. I cannot see the old days of chips wrapped in yesterday's newspaper returning, can you?
  5. Many medications - especially over-the-counter ones now come in blister packs. For a number of years, I've asked family members who holiday in the US to bring me back a bottle of acetaminophen tablets [aka paracetamol] One large bottle lasts us ages - cheaper, and more eco friendly a dozen little boxes of 16 pills individually encased in plastic&foil. An odd holiday present, I admit, but most useful
As Liz says, much of the waste-reduction is managed by thinking ahead. If you plan, purchase and prepare your fresh food, you don't need to buy pre-made, pre-packed meals. My salad came in a single use bowl, with a thin plastic sheet over the top. The sheet has gone, but I've been using the bowl all week to hold pins and thread as I am sewing. If things are going to landfill eventually, it is good to use them more than once.
Finally - there is one thing I have implemented this week; a number of mailshots we receive come in a plastic sleeve- this week, two came in plastic labelled "Recyclable- place in the 'bags' bin at your supermarket" So I have labelled an empty tissue box and it is in the kitchen, ready to receive these, and any other plastic carriers I acquire [like the ones from the pharmacy when I get my repeat prescriptions]. Once it is full I shall take it to the supermarket.
update - thank you to everyone who has made the helpful comments below- some great ideas there. I shall find out about Dorset and tetrapaks. And I love the idea of a 'charity basket' hung on a tree for the birds!

Friday, 6 September 2019

ZWW - Progress Report #1

The Audit Sheet is on the fridge and I am trying to be diligent about filling it in. Easy when I am in the kitchen, less reliable when I throw something away in the bedroom. I will post about the Audit tomorrow.
But I have done a few other things to save stuff from landfill.
On Wednesday, I was invited to go to the Scrapstore with a couple of friends. I picked up a few bits and pieces for my Sunday Morning Children's Activities. And I found something for Bob too
This is a case for microphone stands. Bob has one already, but he has too many stands - so this is a useful addition to his PA kit. They retail around £20 - this was £2.50! Admittedly it needs an inner divider, but we can easily sort that.
I showed the staff at the store some photos of the Kids' Club crafts - they'd provided laces for the bottle-top snakes. They said it is always good to see how stuff has been used. 

I was quite disciplined about collecting stuff- as I said to my friend "If I cannot think of a use for it, I will not take it just to add to my stash - better to leave things for someone else who can use them"
My other activity of the week has been working on a set of three memory bears for a friend in Sussex [she's also a friend of Jill, for whom I made a bear in July]
Now in one sense this is helping save old  worn-out shirts from landfill. One had a hole in in, two others were ripped on the button band, and cuffs and collars were very worn. You couldn't really give these to a CS.
So that is good - but I have still got all my trimmings which are too small for further sewing projects. What should I do with these tiny bits? I remember when I was making some play costumes from fur, I worked outside in the garden, and the birds came and picked up the little bits for nesting. Not sure these scraps will be as useful. Any ideas, anybody?
How have you been getting on with Zero Waste Activities?
As I rarely buy new clothes, and usually look first in the CS when I need something, the Oxfam Secondhand September Challenge hasn't felt particularly relevant. But I applaud those who are trying to cut back on their clothes-purchase-habits. Every little helps!

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Thank You!

This time last week, my 'views' topped 2½million views. In just under 11½ years, that's an average of around 475 views per post, currently well over 5000 hits per week. This summer has been particularly lovely for the number of face-to-face conversations I have been able to have with some of you - but I realise there are others out there who I do not know at all.
I cannot get my head round these statistics, but whoever you are, thank you for reading, and thank you for all the kind, generous, witty, and thought-provoking comments.
If you keep reading, then I'll keep blogging!

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Flogging A Dead Horse

'Horses' get into so many popular phrases
'Flogging a dead horse' - which means 'doing something that is a waste of time'
'Don't look a gift horse in the mouth' - do not find faults with something given as a gift
'Only fools and horses work' -smart people make a living without hard graft
That last phrase became the title of the popular sitcom about the Trotter Family and friends- Del, Rodney et al, who were Cockney 'wide boys' making a living as dodgy market traders in Peckham. And when they talked of "flogging" something, they meant selling it. Well, I have been attempting to flog this-and-that over recent weeks, with mixed results.
The coffee percolator, went on eBay, along with a couple of smarter dresses and a linen jacket. Also a fancy Lakeland Norwegian Kransekakke baking tin [brand new. still in box - bought at a Boot Fair, and I'd never used it] I wasn't aiming for a fortune, so didn't go for high prices.
One top was sold- but the buyer never paid up, so I withdrew that and eBay refunded my fees without any fuss.
The Pokemon Psyduck made me a profit of £2 - which is better than nothing. I think the most unexpected sale came from my sashes. In 2005, I was responsible for a large conference, and all our stewards wore bright satin sashes [cue Julie Andrews, and cheerful singing***] I have kept these in a biscuit tin ever since. But at no point did I need them - although I cut one up for a sewing project about 7 years ago.
It suddenly occurred to me that with the popularity of hen parties, I could re-sell them as pink HP sashes ["Unprinted - personalise them with a sharpie"] And I sold them for £6 profit. 
Since the beginning of July, I have notched up around £65
Then I moved on to FaceBook Marketplace.
The advantage of FM is that people collect the items and you don't have to worry about postage and stuff.
The odd thing is that almost all the stuff I have sold there has been to people with whom I have a connection already through mutual friends. Even one item where the buyer said "Can you take it to church and give it to X for me please?"]
The young lady who bought my Biker Jacket looked brilliant in it- and insisted on rounding the payment up by £5 because she'd had to mess me about re the collection date. I was so pleased it would be worn regularly, and hope she keeps safe on her new set of wheels.
I'm only listing one item at a time on Marketplace, as that way I can keep a check on stuff. It is averaging out at around £10 a week with minimal effort on my part. And that's fine by me. I am still taking bags of other stuff to the local Charity Shops - and I have a pile of books building up for Ziffit...
***Bob has recently sorted out our LP collection. How come we have THREE copies of the Sound of Music? I've put "double set - 1965 mono plus 1981 stereo" for sale online. But I don't really think anyone will buy them!