Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy 2008

It is 2 days into the New Year. It feels good. There was much to close the book on in 2007.

One of the gifts in our household this year was a power meter which measures the electricity consumption of any single item, or can be fixed to the mains meter to calculate total household power consumption and cost. This was a good way to focus our attention again on our carbon footprint after a fortnight of extra consumption through extra heating, cooking and lighting.

In the I-Count book that I won last year, there is a table of power savings made possible by turning things off. Turning gadgets off standby has been a message much heard in the eco-aware media in recent years, but I found this table helpful in seeing where all the power wastage comes form:

TV off standby = 20kg C02 saved = £3.70 per year
Video off standby = 66kg C02 saved = £12 per year
DVD off standby = 44Kg C02 = £8 per year
Computer off standby = 9kg C02 = £1.70 per year
Turn off lights you don't need = 370kg C02 = £55 per year
Unplug mobile phone charger = 10.5kg C02 = £1.90 per year

Total available saving per year = 519.5kg C02 = £82.30 per year

There is also the seasonal advice to turn your thermostat down by 1 degree and wear a jumper to save 250kg C02 and £30 off your heating bill.

We have not yet pinpointed the power guzzling demons in our home... I suspect the kettle and the ancient boiler will rank highly.

I received some great kick boxing accessories for Christmas, and an antique fish plate to add to my collection, and also a fabulous book by Nigel Slater: "Eating for England - the delights and eccentricities of the British at Table" which takes a quirky look at the British taste for food, their traditions, shopping and cooking methods. It's a great read... each subject from Stew to Jaffa Cakes to Spangles is a treat to read. Each warrants about 1 1/2 pages, so it is a good book to dip in and out of or read for 10 minutes before bed.

This leads me on to another list - what food is in season in January? Hugh F W (oh Hugh!) provides this list:

Jerusalem artichokes, brussel sprouts, cabbages, celery, chicory, endive, greens, kale, leeks, onions, parnsips, potatoes and swede. Also hare, partidge, pheasant, mallard and venison.

I was amused to find out that the Oxford American (apologies) English Dictionary's word of the year is "Locavore"... here is some explanation:

It’s that time of the year again. It is finally starting to get cold (if you are worried about the global warming maybe you should become carbon-neutral) and the New Oxford American Dictionary is preparing for the holidays by making its biggest announcement of the year. The 2007 Word of the Year is (drum-roll please) locavore.

The past year saw the popularization of a trend in using locally grown ingredients, taking advantage of seasonally available foodstuffs that can be bought and prepared without the need for extra preservatives.

The “locavore” movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locavores also shun supermarket offerings as an environmentally friendly measure, since shipping food over long distances often requires more fuel for transportation.

“The word ‘locavore’ shows how food-lovers can enjoy what they eat while still appreciating the impact they have on the environment,” said Ben Zimmer, editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press. “It’s significant in that it brings together eating and ecology in a new way.”

Locavore was coined two years ago by a group of four women in San Francisco who proposed that local residents should try to eat only food grown or produced within a 100-mile radius. Other regional movements have emerged since then.

A group of volunteers in Fife have adopted and adapted the idea. They've created the Fife Diet and are trying to live on a diet of food that is largely from within the area, shunning air-freight goods.

Writer Mike Small is one of the volunteers and he and his wife Karen and children Sorley and Alex have now been on the diet for two months. "Its incredible we've come to the situation where people find it inconceivable to eat food from near where you live," Small argues. "Our food system is failing us all and is unsustainable. In a few years local will be as mainstream as organic and it will be thought ridiculous to purchase air-freighted goods that you could get from Scotland or your own region."...

Here is a week in the life of the Fife Diet, as well as the likely menu for Christmas lunch.
Lunch:"Minestrone del Leven" [Leven is on the Fife coast] with curly kale, parsley, carrots, onions, and chilli
Dinner: Homemade rolls and bacon (from Auchtertool, west Fife)

Breakfast:Homemade bread toast with Fife butter and raspberry jam (from a firm in Newburgh)
Lunch:Leek and potato soup
Dinner:Stuffed cabbage and pork chops (again from Auchtertool)

Breakfast:Scrambled eggs and toast (with eggs from Kingsbarns, St Andrews, Fife)
Lunch:Parsnip soup
Dinner: Omelette and chips

Breakfast:Toast and bacon
Lunch: Carrot soup
Dinner: Venison stew (from Auchtermuchty)

Lunch:Stovies (Scottish potato-based cooked-up leftovers dish) with baby swede, onions, yellow carrots and Fife butter, all from Bellfield near Newburgh
Dinner:Colcannon - consisting of mash potato, kale, butter, and a little pepper and salt - and sausages from Auchtermuchty

Breakfast:Scrambled eggs on toast
Lunch:Shepherds Pie
Dinner:Organic Beef Stew (from a farm in Abernethy)
Bramble Crumble

Starter:Borscht - Beetroot soup with a circle of yoghurt, served with Aberdour oatcakes
The bird: Roast Bronze organic turkeys (from Falkland, near Cupar) with roasted seasonal vegetables - parsnip, potatoes, carrots
The pudding: White chocolate ripple ice cream with Fife raspberries (from Dairsie)
Drinks:Bouvrage (Alloa, Clackmannanshire) raspberry drink made from Fife raspberries and Christmas ale from Fife.

Well, that is all for now. There have been craft pursuits, but they will have to wait for another post.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Red Belt!

Back in September, I joined a women only kickboxing course. It has been great fun, I have made new friends, and got a lot fitter. Today I had my first grading and passed my red belt test! Not only that but I got the highest score in the class! I am feeling very pleased about this, and really looking forward to continuing the course next year. It is important to note that I am not in the picture above which is shown courtesy of

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ho ho ho!

The big day is drawing near: we now have our Christmas tree up, all gift shopping is complete and items are wrapped, all international cards were sent by the postal dates (yay!), little chap has only three days more at school, our Christmas meat order and veg box order have been submitted, and I have even been caught humming the odd Christmas tune or two!

Christmas came early for me, actually, as I received a wonderful package from Katie at L'aubergine joyeuse. We agreed to make each other a scarf and exchange them for the winter months. I knitted a silk scarf in Autumn jewel colours from The Yarn Gallery. I also included some small trinkets to make a surprise package. Katie crocheted me a lambswool scarf in purple (a favourite colour of mine) and included some gorgeous handmade glass beads in her package to me. I was delighted and have been busy planning how I am going to use them. The scarf has already had many an outing. It is slim and long, which is just perfect as I can wrap it a 2 or 3 times round my neck and it fills the space between collar and skin perfectly. Thank you Katie!

I have had a lot of time to myself this weekend, as the older lad brought a friend up to visit, so all the boys (including little chap) went off to the football yesterday, and this morning Guinness Man has taken little chap swimming at the local pool. It has been nice to have this time, and yesterday I managed to get out my paints for the first time in months. I was pleased with the results... and the colours give it quite a wintry feel, so it might form the basis of some cards next year.

I am glad to be seeing this year draw to a close. It has been a hard year, and there has been much disruption to our normal family routine. I am looking forward to turning the corner and facing life afresh in 2008.

I took little chap and his friend to the school disco on Thursday night... it raised £250 for the school playground refurbishment, and was a lot of fun. Little chap is also having his first sleepover here next week (after school has broken up!). He is so grown up now!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I won!

I often seem to win competitions in December! Last year I won the Christmas Raffle at the toy library, the year before I won a PDA from the newspaper, and this year I won a prize in the recent Ecover survey that I completed.

I love little books of wisdom, and so I was delighted to win the "I count" book of ways to stop climate chaos, and the Ecover guide for greener living.

Recent posts of mine have looked at domestic ecological and environmental issues, so these books are very timely, and some of the advice from them may well make its way onto the pages of this blog. Infact, here are some food related ones, seeing as we are entering the season of over indulgence:

- £424 of food is thrown away by each person in the UK each year. That is enough to buy 530 loaves of bread! Imagine throwing that in your bin.

- A study into food miles by Sustrans in 2002 added together the distance 26 items in a basket of shopping had travelled from its source to the store. It was 250,000 kilometres!

- Eating local produce can cut your food related greenhouse gas emissions by 90%

- On the basis that seasonally available food is likely to be available from local producers, here is a list of seasonal items for December...

Jerusalem artichokes, Brussel sprouts, Cabbages, Carrots, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Endive, Greens, Kale, Leeks, Onions, Parsnips, Potatoes, Swede, Turnips, (looks as though December could be a windy month ;-)

It is also the time of year for game so pheasant, venison, grouse and goose are all options for meat eaters.

I also joined the Leicestershire composting club organised by the county council (it is a matter of some hilarity to my friends that I am so avid a composter!). Anyway, I received some cellulose composting sacks, and also a very useful book on composting from the council for joining. I was delighted that it contained myth busting advice on composting specific items, and also a detailed section on Bokashi systems.

I have also been picking up some craft pursuits again. I decided to use the Regia self patterning sock wool to make some mittens for little chap, as he said his hands got cold when he rode his bike. I'm quite pleased. The size is good. Unfortunately, due to my inexperience with knitting on 4 needles, I inadvertently turned my work inside out, so have a band of garter stitch just at the point of the thumb gusset. However, as that falls across the knuckles, I have decided to look upon it as a design feature! Thankfully it will be easy to reproduce this in the same place on the other mitten. I was pleased to find that mittens knit up very quickly, and am pleased to add another tick to my knitters check list.

I am also making some knitted bookmarks from small amounts of luxury/interesting yarns, some of which I got as samples. I'm planning to add nice beads to each end of them, unfortunately I haven't got any that are a good colour for this bookmark yet.

I mentioned some time ago that I had felted the shrug I made from the ironstone wool my SP10 partner sent me. Well, I finally got around to sewing it up to make a project bag. I'm pleased with it. It has an internal flap as well to stop the items falling out, and as it is felted, this also makes a great place to keep needles, safety pins etc. I'm waiting for the perfect embellishment for the front, which might then double as a fastener, but the bag is already in use, holding the yarn and needles for the other of little chap's mittens!

I seem to be an all or nothing person, hence another long and rambling post after a period of silence!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Last Saturday I went to the Lutterworth Embroiderer's Guild annual Extravaganza. This is a wonderful day out with an exhibition of the Guild member's work, trading stalls, demonstrations, an amazing lunch and then an afternoon speaker.

I went with a good friend of mine and what a lovely time we had, comparing notes on what we had seen, sharing peeks of each other's purchases, and passing knowing looks and nods about topics touched on in the afternoon talk.

Alice always used to attend these events (she was the chairperson's daughter!), and somehow, I am glad I did not go to the extravaganza last year (favouring a trip to the stitching show at Harrogate instead), as this meant Alice was not a ghost at every corner for me this year.

I purchased (it is impossible not to purchase at Extravaganza!) 2 felted Christmas Bauble kits (great fun - take wool tops, a ping pong ball, add some pure soap and roll in your hands until felted!); 2 packets of handmade fabric beads; 1 pack of waterlily inspired coloured threads (a bit like a Texere yarns pack); 1 pack of Lutrador (see below); and 1 packet of mixed buttons (OK, I admit now that they are for an idea for NEXT year's Christmas cards). That was quite restrained for me. But luckily (a) I have had my fill of the Guild theme packs and (b) there was no yarn stall this year.

Onto to the afternoon talk, which was entitled "Granny's Sewing Box". Marion Maule was enchanting. Not too much "I, me and mine" and plenty of artifacts to show and anecdotes to share. Her collection of old, vintage and antique sewing implements, boxes, and books was wonderful. She herself said that if she collected an implement, she liked to find an example of work done with it, and if she collected a book, she liked to find an exemplar of one of the patterns in the book. Everyone in the audience had a moment where they thought to themselves "Oh! My Mum/Granny/Aunty etc had one of those". My moments were remembering the darning mushroom (green and black) that my Mum had that was also a needle store, and the carved needle holder that I thought was made of plastic, but have now been informed may have been carved from a South American nut.

I can't manager any pictures of the bits and pieces at the moment, as my scanner is not connected, but pictures will follow soon. In the meantime, here is some information on Lutrador courtesy of The Thread Studio.

Lutradur Hints and Uses
What Is It? - Lutradur is a non woven polyester material. At first glance, it looks like dressmakers interfacing, but its unique spun woven structure makes it see through in nature. It comes in a variety of different weights; the lighter the material, the easier it is to see through it. It’s a truly versatile material. It doesn’t fray, has a slight sheen, is see through, can be combined with all other types of material, can be painted, dyed, distressed with a soldering iron or heat gun, glued, stitched, embroidered…there are no limits to what you can do with Lutradur! It is also suitable for paper arts, such as making books, altered books, card making, Artist’s Trading Cards (ATCs) and postcards.

Can I run it through the printer? - The heavier weights of Lutradur can be run through the printer without backing paper; however, because of the structure of the material, some of the ink is inevitably lost. The lighter weights can be run through attached to freezer paper; again, the lighter the paper, the greater the ink loss. However experimentation with your printer settings is worthwhile.

What kind of dyes can I use with Lutradur? - Disperse dyes are suitable for dyeing lutradur. These dyes are painted onto paper and then transferred by ironing the dye onto the material. They are also available in crayon form.

What about paints? - If it works on cloth, it’ll work on Lutradur! However, if you use thick paint, you will lose the see through nature of the cloth. Better to work with washes of paint.

And inks? - Absolutely. Pens and pencils, too.

Can I use heat to distress Lutradur? - Yes you can. It is possible to use both a heat gun and soldering iron for distressed effects; it tolerates the heat of a hot iron in the transfer dyeing process, but if you leave the iron on the material too long, you can also produce a distressed effect, sometimes when you didn’t intend it!

How does Lutradur withstand intense machine stitching? - Depends on the weight of Lutradur you are using, and how you are using it. As with any other material, the lighter the weight, the more distortion is likely when you stitch intensively into an area. The heavier weights will take a lot of stitching; the lighter weights, if fused onto a supporting material (which would be visible through the lutradur), can also be stitched like this.

Can you stitch Lutradur by hand? - Of course. Hand stitching can look particularly effective.
Can I print on it?Yes. The transfer dyeing process lends itself to printing as well as painting, with a suitable thickener (contact your dye retailer for more information).

Can I use my embellisher on it? - Lutradur makes a great base cloth for the embellisher, but it can’t be felted onto other cloth.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Take a deep breath

Today I had been resigned to posting a "service has been suspended until further notice" message on this blog. But sometimes a nudge can come from the most unexpected places. So thank you to the person who told me today that they had visited my blog, your very simple statement has meant that I have found the motivation to return today and post.

First of all, I had promised to post the Blog Action day statistics. I think they speak for themselves and say that the day was a great success. Visit this link to find out more.

20,603 Blog Participated
23,327 Blog Posts (Google Blog Search)
14,631,038 RSS Readers

I had hoped to say more about the blog action day but it is a long time ago now, and in truth I felt my own entry was rather weak. But visit some of these sites for some some great posts and environmentally aware ideas.

Back to craft-like pursuits... I finally did it! I made all of our 100+ Christmas cards this year plus another 30 for little chap's school chums. There are a variety of techniques, some of them were very easy and repeatable (hence attaining the 100 target) and none of them were overly complicated (although the beaded fabric charms did take quite a while). Here is a picture of some of the cards as they came off the "drawing board".

Apart from that, we have had some fun home made moments. We nearly always do home made fancy dress costumes, and here is little chap as a pumpkin (again!) and loving it. Also a picture of our carved pumpkin - can you tell which is which?

We also lamented the lack of the annual community fireworks display by having a small box of fireworks in our back garden. No loud bangs and no craned necks. But no bumping into old friends either.

I am redecorating at home - teenage boy's bedroom now becomes sophis' guest room. I am 2/3 of the way through stripping the paper off the walls and ceiling. Little chap is always a willing helper.

I hope to have the rest of the paper stripped off this week, and then next week can sand down the skirting boards. I am dreaming of William Morris wallpaper.

I have Alice's children over for tea every couple of weeks, and we have a lot of fun. This week they excelled themselves... they had the play shop out (old packets, a basket, a till and some coins) and grabbed a carton each, filled it with some coins and ran round the house shaking it and calling out "charity... charity"!!! Is this a sign of the times? I love having a couple of hours to be close to them, and to maintain Aidan's friendship with them. They are special moments.

A couple of weeks ago, little chap and I went on a long bike ride down country lanes. On the way back he complained his hands were cold, so I am knitting him some mittens with the self patterning yarn I bought a few weeks ago. They were meant to be socks for me, but mittens sounded like fun and were a new challenge. Pictures next time.

Finally, I have to show you what a winter fruit and veg box looks like - amazing! A few too many parsnips for our family, but still a great selection and great quality. Well done raw'n'pure

I have yet to get my paints out, but am spending the next 2 Saturdays out and about at leisure at the Lutterworth embroiderers guild extravaganza and PTA London trip. Stories to follow.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

Blogger has nominated October 15th for a mass environmental awareness campaign. Bloggers are invited to register their blog and post an environmental-issue-related post on that day.

I have made a list of actions I have explicitly taken during October in order to reduce carbon emissions and engage in ecologically sensitive issues. We are all told that little actions taken close to home can have a large effect on reducing emissions. Here are my actions:
  1. I have not used my car for 3 weeks. I have felt a little bit claustrophobic, but only because I have not yet got to grips with the local buses.
  2. By shopping locally, and using our independent butcher and organic veg box scheme I have further reduced our household waste (which only consists of non-recycleable waste packaging thanks to our council recycling scheme, home composting and Bokashi system).
  3. We had a no electricity day where we turned off all electrical appliances, and told stories and played games by candle light - little chap though this was great.
  4. Replaced 5 more light bulbs with environmentally friendly ones - all our lights on the ground floor are now eco except the kitchen spotlights.
  5. I washed all our woollens by hand and only used the washer for the spin cycle (drip dry is not an option in winter when things have to be dried inside!).
  6. I freecycled a large pile of our old and unwanted items (mostly baby stuff and old office equipment).
  7. We turned an unused area of hardstanding in our garden into a new flower bed, thus improving rainwater drainaway, and improving the wildlife environment. We are planting it with a range of wildlife-friendly shrubs.
  8. I signed us up for milk delivery from our milkman - I have opted for locally produced organic milk which is not available in the supermarkets. This will support local organic farming and reduce waste (as the milk will come in reusable bottles not plastic containers).

We have not found this tasks to be be difficult, and have enjoyed the feeling that we are deliberately and conscientiously doing our bit. It will be interesting to see what other posts are published by participating blogsites today.

Blogger has also suggested that another way to support Blog Action day is to donate one day's earnings to an environmental charity. I am donating today's earnings to Green Peace.

Blogger will be producing statistics relating the the "reach" of Blog Action Day. I shall report these back when I see them.