Plastic-free experiments

I thought it was time to experiment with some new plastic-free alternatives.

I’ve steered away from DIY toothpaste as I want something with fluoride. When I saw discovered online company Anything But Plastic was selling Denttab Toothpaste tablets with fluoride I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve bought six-months supply because it is cheaper that way. I clean my teeth twice a day and alternate between the toothpaste tablet and usual toothpaste in a tube. I’m still getting the hang of it! You need to make the paste in your mouth with the tab and it’s quite a different feeling to toothpaste.

IMG_20180928_204457For the last 18 months I’ve been using a foundation from Green People. It’s great but expensive and in a plastic container. Lush are selling Slap Stick, foundation without any plastic. I went to my local Lush to find out what shade would suit me – there are 40 to choose from! But Slap Stick foundation is only available online although there is a helpful guide to choosing the right one for your skin tone. I picked 8N which is more or less the right shade. I’m still getting used to it but I love the concept. IMG_20180928_204646Crocheted make-up removers – I was kindly sent some of these for free from The Willow Tree Yarnery. They’re not as soft as cotton wool but they do the job!


And in other news, I always have one (or two) notebooks on the go and, thanks to a friend’s extremely generous birthday gift, I am now the proud owner of an Elvis and Kress notebook (which is refillable). It’s made out of decommissioned fire hose and is truly sustainable luxury.  A special thank you to my kind friend for such a wonderful present.

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For some reason, I thought that I’d never find a pair of jeans I liked in a charity shop. Recently I’ve bought as-good-as-new Monsoon and Fat Face pairs from local shops. It takes 1,800 gallons of water to make just one pair of jeans so second hand denim is definitely a good ethical choice and they are so much cheaper too! I may be spending more money on food but I’m definitely spending less on clothes.

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One of my earliest blogs on living justly was about the chagrin I felt on purchasing a pair of Converse trainers. I’ve been waiting until they needed replacing before buying an ethical alternative. They are looking pretty grubby now and I was pleased to receive an Ethletic pair for my birthday.


Once again, I am conscious that consuming better is still consuming and there is plenty of plastic (particularly small insect-related toys) in my life! But hopefully my small changes make a little difference and maybe inspire you, and others, to try a plastic-free alternative.

Loving and living local

At the start of this year when reading Free by Mark and Lisa Sandrette, I wrote a list of my five personal values: local, community, social justice, growth and creativity. This exercise turned out to be pivotal when, a few months later, I came to make a decision about whether or not to pursue a potential new job; a role which would have fitted with four of these values but was most definitely not ‘local’. I realised then just how highly I hold this value; local does not mean less.

It may be laziness but I just like having everything near each other! I hated the daily commute when I had a job 30 miles away from my home and conversely love my current 10 minute cycle from my front door to the office car park. (Thank you Mr P for rescuing my bike this week when I lost the key to the lock!)

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

It’s important to me to be part of a church in the community where I live as well as being involved in the community itself in some way. I am blessed in being part of a church family which loves our community and have the privilege of being involved in the local community association.

I’m now learning to appreciate my local environment. I have recently discovered, through reading Matthew Oates’ The Pursuit of Butterflies, the Welsh word ‘cynefin’ meaning ‘homepatch’ or ‘heartland’. My current home hasn’t been my home for very long and so I don’t know if the natural world here will ever make my heart sing in the same way revisiting the countryside of my childhood does. But maybe. If I watch and wonder and love and live with the eyes of a child, then as seasons pass, I will be able to say this locale too is the land of my heart.

David Lindo, The Urban Birder, writes about the importance of the naturalists’ ‘local patch’. The ever-generous Mr P presented me with a surprise gift recently of a colourful weighty tome all about butterflies in Hertfordshire and Middlesex – our local patch. There is so much for me to discover and enjoy without having to travel too far.

This week I enjoyed a nature walk with a friend in a nearby nature reserve – a short walk down the road from where I live. The term ‘nature reserve’ may conjure up inaccurate pictures in your mind as this particular site is fairly small and was developed from a site of redundant allotments. Yet, it’s a area near where I live full of wildlife. My friend and I enjoyed watching:

  • A common frog in the pond
  • Dragonflies
  • A red admiral
  • Many speckled woods
  • Beetles (which require further research in my Collins Gem Insects book)
  • Squirrels
  • A robin
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Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

[Note 1: Small Boy was at school and Little Miss was with us but fast asleep. I doubt we would have seen all the above otherwise!]

[Note 2: We also saw a black cat.]

I have a nature notebook in which I am jotting down different wildlife I see each day to help me build an appreciative picture of what is in my ‘homepatch’ and maybe over time to note any changes. I have frequently spotted a red kite flying overhead and spotted a fox twice late at night in the same place.

The Urban Birder’s catchphrase is ‘look up’ but I think mine is just ‘look!’

What’s on my plate?

I have some exciting news! Family Pilgrim now has an allotment!

We put our name on the waiting list earlier this year and I emailed last month during National Allotment Week to cheekily ask if we had progressed up the list – and we had! We saw it for the first time last week and now have the key. Small Boy, Little Miss and I visited this afternoon with Grand-père and Grandma. It’s a beautiful site although our plot needs some work. We saw a speckled wood butterfly this afternoon and there was a lovely chorus of bird song on our initial visit. We are reading, researching, planning and plotting – hopefully next summer we will have grown some of our own food!

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I’ve just finished reading Wilding by Isabella Tree (such a great name) about Knepp – a place I’d like to visit soon. She writes that 97% of wildflower meadows in Britain have been lost since the Second World War. This is one of those sticky stats that I can’t shake off. It saddens me to think that the countryside my children are experiencing is so different from that which my grandparents grew up in.

I’m looking to buy items produced from alternatives to intensive agriculture (one of the reasons why we have the depletion of wildflower meadows and therefore fewer species of bird, flower and insect) and appreciating our ‘from farm to fork’ food from Church Farm even more. I’ve started looking at Dove’s Farm products and reading about their farming methods.

I’ve just tried oat milk as this is meant to be the most sustainable form of milk but I really didn’t like it! It didn’t work in coffee or my porridge. I will try and drink less milk but I won’t be buying oat milk again!


Our last camping trip of the summer was to the Yorkshire coast and we visited the Seafood Social – a social enterprise cafe serving local fish and chips in Scarborough Market. The food was delicious – best fish and chips I’ve had! It was a pleasure to support this project. I can recommend it if you’re ever in Scarborough!

 

Family Foraging: Hedgerow Jam

Family Pilgrim has made Hedgerow Jam – and what a great team effort! Last week, Small Boy, Little Miss and I went blackberry picking; our local park has blackberry bushes so while the children slid, swung, and see-sawed, I foraged. Small Boy helped from time to time but Little Miss was more interested in eating the juicy berries – her little chin was stained pink by the end of the afternoon!

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After walking in the heat and humidity to another nearby play area while collecting (and eating!) more blackberries, we managed to gather just over 400g.

Using some unwanted jars from a friend and a recipe I’d found in Down to the River and Up to the Trees by Sue Belfrage – a book I’d borrowed from the children’s section of the library – we were all set! Waiting until the children were asleep, Mr Pilgrim and I heated the blackberries and an equal amount of sugar (with some water and pectin-providing lemon juice) and made jam! It didn’t take long and was surprisingly easy – even sterilising the jars was straightforward, we simply put them in the oven at gas mark 1.

Just need some homemade bread to spread it on now!

 

Holiday highs and lows

It’s a long, hot summer. Here are some collected thoughts about living justly in the holidays.

There’s been some holiday highs:

  • Camping – Family Pilgrim enjoyed a week camping in Dorset. I’ve loved our camping trips this year and am already thinking about next year’s. We live more simply (no screen time!) and love being outside. IMG_20180724_090346
  • Beautiful parts of the country – we haven’t travelled very far this holiday but we’ve enjoyed seeing beautiful parts of the English countryside.
  • Butterflies – I am becoming a big fan of butterflies and loved seeing them on the Dorset heath. I have also taken part in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count at home in the garden (with the help of Small Boy). We only saw ‘cabbage’ whites and it was tricky to judge whether they were Large Whites or Small Whites.
  • Crochet water balloons – ‘Bathies’ as Little Miss has named them are small woolen items crocheted to look like a balloon. After seeing the campsite littered with balloon pieces from water balloons, I decided to try crochet water balloons. We had fun yesterday trying to ambush Mr Pilgrim.
  • Swimming in the sea – Swimming in the sea is one of my favourite activities. I learnt to swim in the sea as a child and I always feel refreshed, revived and restored after a dip. Thank you Grand-père for teaching me to swim – and to swim safely – in the sea. I have now discovered that it is a great way to have some peace!

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  • Making ice lollies – we now have an apparatus for making ice lollies which saves money and single-use plastic. I also gain Parent Points with the children – but lose Dentist Points.
  • Eating Mr Whippy ice creams – We ate a lot of ice creams on holiday and I always chose My Whippy ice creams. A tasty way to reduce single-use plastic! Confession: I let the children choose their own ice creams so not only did I buy treats in single-use plastic, they were also from Nestle (I’ve avoided Nestle since I was a teenager because of the Baby Milk Action boycott): Smarties Pop-Ups, Nobbly Bobbly ice cream and Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles lollies. I can’t bring myself to say no when they have set up their heart on a ‘rainbow’ lolly.
  • Suspended coffees – we had lunch in a community cafe in Dorset which operates a suspended coffee scheme. We paid for two extra coffees which will then be available to someone in need another day.
  • Cycling – Mr P and I hired a tandem and enjoyed exploring the Dorset countryside and the coast. IMG_20180727_104131

Holiday lows:

  • Climate change – I’m (mostly) enjoying the weather. It certainly made camping easier and more enjoyable! But I’m aware that the cause of this heat wave is climate change and I’m challenged to once again think about my carbon footprint and how to reduce it. It’s not a big thing but I have stopped listening to the radio all day. It’s a big step for me as it’s a sign I am becoming more comfortable with silence.
  • Holiday hunger – food banks are seeing a greater demand over the summer holidays and many are experiencing low stock and empty shelves. There are two food banks near me and I added a few extra items into the shopping to help re-stock their shelves.

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  • Period poverty – I’ve been wondering about young women experiencing period poverty over the school summer holidays. What do they do if they have been reliant on the Red Box Project in the school? I know that many of the schemes are working with youth organisations who are seeing young people over the summer. Again, I bought a packet of sanitary towels (since I converted to the Mooncup and CSP, I never them buy them for me now) and dropped them off at my nearest collection point.
  • Loneliness – I was delighted to discover that one of the local churches decided to run its usual toddler group (expanded for older children) last week. It can be hard for parents and children when usual activities and groups pause over the summer. A morning spent making junk models and chatting to others can make a big difference to someone’s week.
  • People sleeping rough – I try to avoid buying water in plastic bottles but sometimes it’s the best thing to do. Please consider giving some bottled water to someone sleeping on the streets. This hot weather is very dangerous for people without shade, without sun cream and without access to water.

As the holidays continue, I am going to look for ways to love more and to act justly.

Walking

The first time I walked down our road, it was not our road. I was praying for a new congregation my church were starting in the community.

A few weeks’ later, I walked down our road for the second time. As Mr Pilgrim and I left a church meeting explaining the vision behind this new congregation, I said ‘let’s be part of it’.

So even though we lived in a different part of town, we joined this new congregation never thinking that this would be for the long-term.

A year later and heavily pregnant, I walked down our road in the dark November rain. It was still not yet ‘our road’ but almost. We were about to buy what is now our house but I was having doubts. Wanting to hear from God and hoping for a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from him, I walked the streets and prayed. For the first time, I felt a glimpse of God’s love for our community and that love has became my love. I never heard that ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

We moved in and I walked. Walked in the rain. Walked in the sunshine. Walked to help my baby sleep. Walked to get out of the house.

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Photo by Paul Dufour on Unsplash

Two years later, weighed down with fears and pregnant with Little Miss, I walked in the balmy heat of late summer. Walking to manage my gestational diabetes, the aroma of the lavender in people’s front gardens lifted my despondent spirit.

And today I walked. The houses are no longer houses, they are the homes of people I know. The school isn’t just a school, it’s our community.  I walked past places we know and are known: the post office, the pre-school, the churches, the Red Box collection point and the Green. I saw love, community and beauty.

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As I walked today, I remembered the first time I walked on this road. I remembered walking while pregnant in the winter rain and then in the summer sun, and I give thanks for God’s faithfulness and goodness.

The Circle Game

I have been intentionally living more justly for over a year (I even avoided ordering avocado in a restaurant the other day!) and recently realised I now only buy clothes from three sources:

  1. charity shops – I found a bright and colourful pair of trousers for £4.99 from Age UK on holiday last week causing Small Boy to exclaim ‘Mummy, I love your parrot dress!’
  2. Marks and Spencers (for underwear, socks and leggings) – I like their commitment to ethical cotton and some items are best bought new
  3. ethical retailers such as People Tree, Nomad and Rapanui.

Using organic cotton and passionate about supply chains, each Rapanui product has a code which can be scanned to discover its origins. As Fashion Revolution declare we must keep asking ‘Who made my clothes?’

Not only are Rapanui transparent about the origins of their products, they care about the end. When Rapanui clothes are no longer able to be worn, they can be sent back to be recycled and you receive £5 in store credit! They believe the circular economy is the future for the fashion industry.

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I have worn slogan t-shirts since I was a teenager (although I’m not sure I’d wear some of the one I wore as a teenager now!) and I’m currently wearing this long-sleeved t-shirt designed by my church.

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Women’s baseball jersey designed by Wellspring Church and available from Teemill

This was created and bought through Teemill, an online print-on-demand company pioneered by Rapanui . Charities, companies and individuals design their own t-shirts, sweatshirts and bags which are then created to order.

Little Miss and I have matching ‘Adventures are for girls’ t-shirts designed by For Joy by Kathryn Jane. Purchased through Teemill, this t-shirt inspires me to be a little bit braver and to help Little Miss have her own adventures.
Small Boy then wanted a t-shirt which was ‘the same as Mummy’s’ and I discovered Cheeky Monkey, Loyal Penguin on Teemill so we now have matching monkey tops. Our Penguin Friend has a similar one!
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 Rapanui and Teemill t-shirts are made in a wind-powered factory and printed in the UK using low-waste, environmentally friendly inks. What’s not to like?

And just in case you’re wondering, I’m not being paid by Rapanui or Teemill to advertise their t-shirts. I just really like their ethics!

 Rapanui do plain t-shirts as well as a creative statement tee isn’t always appropriate. Mr Pilgrim has some black ones which are now no longer fit to wear so we will be sending them Back to Rapanui  to be turned into new ones!

“And go round and round and round 
In the circle game”
Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game

So many books, so little time…

It’s often not a good sign when I have too many books on the go. It can mean I’m not focused and my mind is rushing around. But sometimes it’s just because I can’t resist another book. I keep saying no more until I’ve finished the pile by the side of my bed!

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This is what I’ve just read, am reading and am about to read.

No More Friendly Fire (bought from Eden)

This short book was written by the leaders of my church, Wellspring Church, Watford and I had the privilege of hearing some of the chapters delivered as talks a couple of years ago. One of which even influenced Little Miss’s name!

I wish I’d read this book years ago! I grew up in a church where women weren’t allowed to preach or have formal leadership roles. My confidence was so low that I just accepted this view. And accepted it for many years. Internalised misogyny.

But then – and this was partly as a result of hearing Helen herself preach – I realised that there was a different view. I read and studied such books as Why Not Women?, Discovering Biblical Equality, Women in the Church and Jesus Feminist, and I have been encouraged in my own spiritual gifts and have grown and flourished.

No More Friendly Fire focuses on how men and women can – and should – work together and explores this through looking at biblical stories such as Deborah, Esther and Ruth. Helen and Tim don’t shy away from looking at some of the awkward and confusing passages in the Bible and also aren’t afraid to reveal their own vulnerabilities. It’s a short book and definitely worth reading!

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Phoebe by Paula Gooder (also from Eden)

This has been on my wish list for a while. It’s like a novel but not. In fact, Paula Gooder says it’s not a novel and it’s helpful to bear that in mind when reading as it does feel too didactic in parts. It’s based on a real life Christian woman called Phoebe who was a deacon in the early church. Other Christians mentioned in the New Testament make appearances too: Junia and Adronicus, Prisca and Aquila, even Peter. It’s an interesting approach, very easy to read and a great way to bring the early church to life.

In Pursuit of Butterflies (library)

Trying to identify butterflies is tricky when looking after two young children! Both butterflies and children move quickly and demand attention. There’s an abundance of cabbage whites and meadow browns (or are they gatekeepers?) and I was thrilled to watch a peacock earlier this week and may have spotted a red admiral this afternoon.

In Pursuit of Butterflies is evoking a longing to go ‘butterflying’ to discover some of the rarer butterflies. I can’t travel around the country in pursuit of butterflies or spend hours standing in a wood but I can experience some of the pleasure vicariously through this book by an erudite butterfly-obsessive.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (borrowed)

The rise of the far right has got me thinking and I decided I needed to read some Bonhoeffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor and author who was executed in 1945 for his role in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Following a colleague’s advice, I’m going to start with Eric Metaxas’ biography: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

Time to stop writing and get back to reading!

Am I growing?

At the start of the academic year, I reflected on change. Small Boy was about to start in the nursery class at our local primary school, I went back to work after a year’s leave, and both Small Boy and Little Miss were going to be looked after by a new childminder.

It’s now the end of the summer term and sitting here on a hot and humid July’s evening, last September seems such a long time ago. Both children have grown and developed so much in the last ten months – as one would expect them too. Physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, there have been huge steps forward. Literally, in the case of Little Miss who started walking in October!

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But have I grown?

What does it even mean for me to grow?

Am I growing in my relationship with God? Am I more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, more patient and more kind? Am I more gentle, more faithful and more self-controlled?

There’s a story in the Bible of two sisters: Martha and Mary. Friends of Jesus, they open their home to him. Martha works hard preparing the house for their guests while Mary sits and listens to the intriguing itinerant rabbi. Martha becomes angry with her sister and appeals to Jesus, who then gently chastises his harried host: ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.’

I have always identified with Martha and find Mary irritating. I would have been angry with her too! I am an activist, a list-maker, a doer. I love the feeling of satisfaction when I achieve a goal – even if it’s just a small task!

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But Mary has chosen what is better.

I cannot escape the thought that growth isn’t about my achievements or my knowledge.

Am I sitting at the feet of my rabbi? Or am I rushing around trying to serve him?

I know I have written about this before and I’m embarrassed and frustrated that I still seem to be in the same place.

I still long for something deeper but struggle with the demands of my days.

Maybe it’s also sometimes easy to keep moving than to stop.

I think I will wrestle with this for many years to come.

Cake!!!

Today Family Pilgrim made a cake! IMG-20180630-WA0003

This year we have a mini vegetable-bed in our garden (dug by Mr Pilgrim and Small Boy) and we’re growing courgettes. Grand-père started them off in his greenhouse but since the beginning of May they’ve been growing in our garden. We have our names on a waiting list for an allotment and we hope to have one by the end of the year.

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We’re all surprised by how well they’re doing and we have a lot of courgettes! We are also getting some in our Church Farm vegetable box and so I thought we should make a courgette cake.

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I found this recipe on BBC Good Food and we used fair trade sugar, chocolate and cocoa, alongside Dove’s Farm organic flour and free range eggs from Church Farm (where we’ve seen the chickens!).

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Making a cake with Small Boy and Little Miss is not straightforward but Mr Pilgrim did a great job of involving Small Boy with the baking while I prevented Little Miss from playing with sugar.

One of my colleagues recommended using an electric whisk rather than stirring with a spoon because of the high liquid content of the courgettes. We also drained some of the water out of the larger courgettes.

The finished cake was enjoyed by all four of us with plenty left over.

My sister has suggested we make a courgette and lime cheesecake next!