Little Miss Busy

Every day, week or month seems to be associated with a cause: this week we’ve had World Homeless Day, World Mental Health Day and International Day of the Girl. Three issues I care deeply about and would have liked to have written about here. I just haven’t had time.

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We gave our Little Miss the complete set of Little Miss books for her first birthday last month (a charity shop purchase from earlier this year) and I discovered a kindred spirit in Little Miss Busy. Little Miss Busy is only happy when she is occupied on some task and finds it very difficult to rest!

Last month in The times are a-changing, I wrote about the challenge of managing my time and responsibilities wisely. This hasn’t been easy and I’m still struggling to find a sustainable and sensible solution.

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As well as tracking my spending for October, I am trying to be accountable with my diary. What am I saying yes to? Is it because I want to be needed or am I genuinely required? Am I saying yes because I am scared of letting people down and I don’t want people to think badly of me? How can I prioritise the people who mean the most to me and often seem to get the worst of me?

I’ve been reading Consumer Detox (purchased for 50p from a charity shop!) which underlines the importance of relationship, rest and rhythm. I’m a long way from where I’d like to be.

I downloaded the Headspace app last night to help learn to meditate and to be mindful. It’s only ten minutes a day but it’s a start!

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Shalom; God’s Promise of Peace

I read this blog from my friend who writes at Graceful Reflections this afternoon. It blew me away and so I wanted to share it.

Graceful Reflections

Dove

The angel led me to a huge wooden door. He opened the door and spoke,

‘Shalom’.

I looked out on to an open plain. Verdant grass sprouted up from the ground and in the distance was a pool of clear water. Elephants stood at the edge, some were drinking and others cooled their feet in the shallows. A howl broke the silence. They were not alone.

To the left came a pack of wolves, ambling towards the water. On the other side of the pool was something soft and white, like a cloud had fallen from the sky and was resting on the ground. The cloud moved, not gliding along, but frolicking. My eyes widened in horror; I was watching a baby lamb. I was unable to move or speak, I could only watch.

The wolves came closer; the group split into two and began to encircle the lamb. I…

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Wrapping paper, toilet roll and Rocks

Consuming better is definitely easier than consuming less.

This week’s top new buys are:

A collection of old maps (20p each from a charity shop) which I’m intending to use instead of wrapping paper along with biodegradable string rather than sellotape.

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WragWrap This is another – more expensive – wrapping paper substitute but one I hope to use for a long time and that will become a family tradition.

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Who Gives a Crap toilet roll: it’s 100% recycled, has no plastic packaging and they give half of their profits to Water Aid. As they say on their website:

More people in the world have a mobile phone than access to a toilet. Think about that next time you’re texting on the loo.  

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I’ve ordered 48 so Small Boy and Little Miss are currently having a lot of fun building towers (Small Boy) and knocking them over (Little Miss). Little Miss is enjoying putting the rolls back into the big box.

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We may have problems when Small Boy starts phonics at school!

One of my vices is blackcurrant squash. I’ve started buying Rocks which comes in a glass bottle and Squash’d which is super concentrated (therefore less plastic) as part of our zero waste journey.

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I’m certainly enjoying consuming better: consuming less isn’t as fun or interesting. One area in which I have succeeded is reducing my use of shampoo and conditioner. Having washed my hair daily for years, I have now cut down to every other day thereby halving my use of hair products.

I’m already thinking about Christmas and how to celebrate in ways which are in line with seeking to live justly. It’s certainly going to be a challenge.

Handbags out of Fire Hoses

Consume better and consume less was one of my ‘takeaways’ from the Sustainability in a Consumer Age event on 18 September organised by Tearfund and LICC.

The event featured Ruth Valerio, author of Just Living, as well as:

  • Bill Skeates, Senior Compliance and Supply Chain Manager at Sky
  • Yolanda Ibbett, Director and Co-Owner of The Bedfordia Group
  • Andy Street, Director of Waste & Resource Management at SLR Consulting Limited and Chair for FareShare South West
  • Kresse Wesling, Environmental Entrepreneur and co-founder of Elvis & Kresse, a fashion brand which turns industrial waste into innovative lifestyle products

I was impressed and encouraged by the sustainability work that is going on in mainstream businesses, such as Sky, amazed at how food waste can be used to power homes, and excited by the fierce passion, creativity and values of Kresse Wesling and her handbags made out of London Fire Brigade’s unusable hoses. Maybe one day I’ll get one!

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They’re very expensive but they are truly a bag for life as Kresse offers free repairs. Would that be a better option that buying a new handbag every couple of years?


I picked up a report from Tearfund: Virtuous Circle – How the circular economy can create jobs and save lives in low and middle-income countries and am going to read Closing the Loop, Tearfund’s research report on the benefits of the circular economy for low and middle-income countries. I’m intrigued by the circular economy concept and can’t wait to find out more.


Ruth Valerio spoke about how we are the first group of people to be called ‘consumers’ – and this is particularly relevant for those born in the 1980s and later. We are trained by society to be consumers. We consume. How often do we produce, create and repair? Do we buy what we need or what we want? Is our identity in the labels we wear and the brands we own?

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As I left the LICC building and walked down Oxford Street: ‘Buy, shop, consume!’ shouted at me from every shop window.

Material items are not intrinsically negative: we need food and clothes. Yet, even though we benefit in many ways from the culture of consumerism, it is hurting our world: I am damaged, my relationships are damaged and the natural world is damaged.

More and more I recognise I am a consumer and how I turn to consumption when I experience negative emotions. Yet, ‘consumer’ is not my primary identity. Neither is ‘zero waster’, ‘meat reductionist’ or ‘ethical shopper’: my identity comes from my relationship with God and all that I do flows from that.

But how easy it is to forget that.


So what am I going to do next?

  • I’ve just started an ecology course with the OU through Future Learn. It’s completely not what I am good at but I’m enjoying it and I’ve resolved to keep studying. 
  • Read the Tearfund reports on the circular economy

Ecology and economics! [insert scared face emoji]


Postscript

So then Mr Pilgrim read this post and said he was worried about my focus on doing and achieving. He reminded me my identity is not in my achievements and activities. Sometimes all we have to do is rest.

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So maybe I’ll do that.

The Millennium Falcon and an Armani dress

A Lego Millennium Falcon, a red Armani dress and a family organiser are all items I’ve bought recently in charity shops.

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Charity shops are a British thing; the first modern-style charity shop was set up by Oxfam in 1948 to raise money for the organisation’s relief work in post-war Greece and is still trading at 17 Broad Street, Oxford (in fact, I’ve been there!). Charity shops in the UK raise £270m each year for charitable causes: my recent purchases have funded:

  • palliative care
  • support for people who are homeless
  • services for people with a learning disability
  • emergency and development work for some of the world’s poorest communities
  • animal welfare
  • support for pregnancy-related challenges, including post-natal depression.

I sought advice from the Journey to Zero Waste UK Facebook group about how to buy clothes in charity shops. The hive’s tips included:

  • shop without Small Boy and Little Miss – ha!
  • go frequently
  • check the material labels
  • try on
  • choose a base colour and then look for items in that colour or that co-ordinate well

I also asked my mum, who is always picking up great items, for her charity shop tips. She asks herself the following questions:

  • Does it appeal to me?
  • Is it a good fit?
  • Is it a good name?
  • Do I need it?
  • Is it under £10? (I have set myself a limit of £5 for clothes)

I’ve had some successes: 

  • An apron for Little Miss (which both Small Boy and I thought would be good for when she is a little bit bigger and able to join in with our baking).
  • Tops from Phrase Eight and John Lewis, and some dresses from Next for work.
  • A kite – every family needs a kite!
  • A Lego Millennium Falcon and Lego race car (Small Boy is getting into Lego and had previously said he wanted a spaceship).
  • Little Red Train books which were on my wishlist for Small Boy.
  • There have been several times when I’ve chosen not to buy something and I’ve not regretted this.

I’ve purchased some new items (bought in goods sold for profit), such as birthday cards and a 2018 family organiser – items I would have bought anyway.

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And some mistakes:

  • A wool cardigan that is too itchy to wear.
  • A £3.25 Armani dress which is too small but I’m optimistically keeping it.
  • A race car – Small Boy said he wanted it and I said yes in a moment of weakness and stress but in reality it’s just a large piece of ugly plastic junk.

What have I learnt?

  • It’s so much easier when I can go on my own. It also means I can buy items for Small Boy which can be given as bribes presents.
  • It’s really hard not being a consumer. I like buying and having new things!
  • If I don’t have time to try something on, then stick with sizes and brands that I know.
  • Most shops take cards (and some even do contactless) but there are still one or two which only take cash.
  • Shopping in charity shops is a lot of fun!

Further reading

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/knickers-models-own – Caroline Jones wore a different pre-loved outfit (all from Cancer Research shops) for an entire year proving you can be frugal and fashionable.

The times are a-changing

I once heard someone say that the only people who like change are wet babies but I’m not sure this is true. Little Miss certainly doesn’t enjoy having her nappy changed. She wriggles, rolls over and speedily crawls away.

I have a similar approach to change. I like it but only when I am in control. When I’m not, then I too, twist and turn and try to make my escape!


I’m using reusable nappies more and more now. I tried the ones my friend gave me and grew in confidence. I then discovered my local council (Hertfordshire) run a scheme where they give parents FREE reusable nappies – I love our Totsbots ‘bumbrella’ nappy.

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I was shocked to discover that 4% of UK landfill is nappies and so I’m keen to reduce our use of disposables, and the ones we do have are Naty – an ‘eco nappy’. We’re also using Naty wipes and biodegradable nappy bags.

I much prefer Cheeky Wipes reusable wipes which are not only kinder to our beautiful world but they are more efficient!


September is a month of change for Family Pilgrim as new routines, relationships and responsibilities begin. For all four of us, there will be change to our days. My year of maternity leave ends and I am returning to my paid employment with a mixture of emotions: excitement, apprehension, guilt and sadness. Small Boy starts nursery at our local primary school and both Small Boy and Little Miss will be looked after by a childminder for some of the week.

I hope I am returning to work with increased skills, wisdom and maturity and I am confident that Small Boy and Little Miss will thrive in their childcare settings but I know there are going to be challenges along the way for all of us. For me, I need to manage my different responsibilities and time wisely.

I found this image on the Mind and Soul Facebook page this week with the heading ‘Getting ready to go back to school? What are your best MH (mental health) tips for the new term?‘ It’s good advice for us as a family as we navigate the newness of the month – rest, exercise, good food and fun activities will help us adjust well.

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Image from Mind and Soul

 


One of the things I have discovered in the past 12 months is the power of small changes. Last September started with one big change as Little Miss joined Family Pilgrim but as we have sought to live more justly, we have made many small changes, including:

The small changes I have made give me hope and confidence that I can continue to adapt and grow. Things don’t have to be the same!

So – because I like lists and actions – here are three mini challenges for the autumn:

  1. Hit the pause button regularly throughout the day – stop, listen, look, breathe and pray
  2. Create not consume when feeling sad or stressed
  3. Love: the apostle Paul wrote: ‘If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.’ If I buy fair trade, avoid single-use plastics, lobby my MP, eat organic meat but do not have love, I gain nothing.

And what is love? Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

It’s Good to Celebrate

I celebrated my birthday this week: as the date approached I reflected on ways in which the day could fit in with my quest to live more justly, particularly thinking of ecological concern and my approach to money and material goods (two of the areas covered in Just Living). It’s good to celebrate and there’s nothing inherently wrong with material items but I’m aware of how much I have already.

I received some fantastic physical presents along the sustainable living theme (some I asked for and some were surprises), including:

  • Bamboo toothbrushes from Humble Brush
  • A pot of ink and reservoir for my fountain pen
  • Organic perfume (which I discovered by reading this article)
  • An aloe vera plant for the kitchen
  • A large plant pot for our garden
  • A resusable snack bag

I was also given money for a photography workshop so I can spend time being creative and for another sailing session. A friend took me out last weekend for afternoon tea: more than the sandwiches, scones and Moroccan tea, I enjoyed spending time chatting without having to think about children and chores. I also had a celebratory dinner with my ‘mum friends’. These women are all really precious to me and it was lovely to gather together without the children.

[My Love Language is ‘time’ which means I feel valued and appreciated when people choose to spend time with me.]

The day of my birthday was spent as a family – me, Mr Pilgrim, Small Boy and Little Miss. We made a cake (in Small Boy’s eyes birthdays are all about the cake) and had a picnic by the river before paddling and looking for fish. There’s something about being by water which brings me peace.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3

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The picnic featured sandwiches made with our new pre-loved bread-maker. Trying to cut down on the amount of single-use plastic we use, I wanted a bread-maker.  Mr Pilgrim said that it would be more zero waste to buy one second-hand so I did some research, and discovered:

  • Six per cent of people who receive bread machines as presents don’t use them
  • There could be up to 10 million bread machines sitting sadly on shelves

I asked on Facebook if anyone had one they no longer wanted, a friend said she’d seen one for sale on a local group page, I did some digging, sent a message and then the next day I collected a bread-machine for £20 from someone five minutes away!

Our picnic also featured Snact – they’re a bit like yoyos but made from unwanted ugly fruit and in compostable bags. Small Boy voiced his approval – which was good because I bought three boxes so I wouldn’t have to pay postage!


Following a much-needed nap (woo hoo!), Mr Pilgrim and I headed over to St Albans to Lussmanns. I wanted to go to a restaurant where the provenance of the menu matters.

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Lussmanns are shortlisted finalists in the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s 2017 Food Made Good Awards in the Serve More Veg and Better Meat: to reward the most innovative ways of encouraging customers to eat more veg and better meat category. They have a comprehensive and well-thought out sustainability policy, seem to care about their staff and support local charities.

And the food (I had North African style organic lamb followed by honey and thyme pudding) and service were impressive. I can recommend a visit.

So that’s my birthday over for another year…next year it’s a big one!

 

The Random Cafe: inclusion, community and sustainability

Excited to discover this week that a group in Watford are setting up a Real Junk Food Project: a cafe where all the food is unwanted – but edible –  and customers choose how much they want to pay for their meal.

Random Cafe is something really different for our town,  it’s about inclusion, community and sustainability.  We want to create a cool cafe and restaurant, where the food and atmosphere are great, a place where people want to be, where all of the meals just happen to be made from waste ingredients, and served on a pay-as-you-feel-basis.

To support The Random Cafe, please visit their Crowdfunder page, connect with them on Facebook and Twitter and visit one of their pop-up cafes soon.

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Further Adventures in Just Living: Fashion Revolution and Plastic Oceans

Do Something is the third and final section of the Who Made My Clothes course so here is my Fashion Revolution Pledge.

  1. Ask Who Made My Clothes? i.e. contact brands and ask them about their supply chains
  2. Buy fewer new clothes and purchase what I need not what I want. I have a ‘rest day’ coming up soon so am planning to peruse some of the local charity shops.
  3. Buy from ethical and fair trade brands. I have just found Monkee Genes and am looking forward to buying some – next time I need jeans!
  4. Sign petitions, such as this one from Labour Behind the Label, and email policy makers
  5. Spread the Fashion Revolution message (that’s what this blog is about!) Look at the easy-to-read Fashion Revolution white paper, follow them on Facebook and get involved with Fashion Revolution Day in 2018.

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July was Plastic Free July. Hopefully you read an article in the press or on social media about the problem with plastic, particularly single use plastic. If you want to find out more, have a look at the Plastic Oceans Foundation’s website.

Or you can watch this episode of Octonauts featuring pelicans and plastic debris as Small Boy and I did this morning!

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I’m making simple changes:

  • Saying no to plastic bags
  • Not buying bottled water
  • Switching to reusable sanitary protection – feel free to ask me if you want to know more about Mooncups and cloth sanitary pads!
  • Using a deodorant bar

Today a friend has given me some reusable nappies to try with Little Miss and I’ve ordered solid shampoo and conditioner. Hopefully, these will be successful!

 

I know I’m not Kate Middleton but…

Initially my quest to live more justly was experimental, novel and fun. Changes were made, new items purchased and knowledge gained. Now though, I’m feeling a bit glum.

Turns out trying to live more ethically often involves a cost. Sometimes financial – buying the more sustainable or fairly-traded item is usually more expensive. Sometimes personal when my desires for the shiny and new are not sated.

I am surprised to discover how materialistic I really am. I like the endorphin kick I get from new purchases and I am looking forward to shortly unwrapping a large pile of birthday presents (hopefully all chosen from my carefully compiled wishlist).

I know I’m not Kate Middleton but I feel embarrassed that in a couple of recent Facebook photos I’m wearing the same ‘special occasion dress’.

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Does this matter? Should it? Does it matter to you?

I find it hard to resist purchases for my children despite knowing their happiness is not dependent on having the latest toy.  Many of Little Miss and Small Boy’s playthings are from charity shops and some even used to belong to me or Mr Pilgrim. A sofa, blanket, chair and laundry basket can become a house or a boat or a train providing hours of entertainment, laughter and joy.

I’ve started reading L is for Lifestyle (another book by Ruth Valerio). Not a new purchase – we found it in a box of books under the bed! She quotes Richard Foster’s 10 principles for the outward expression of simplicity from the classic Celebration of Discipline.

FullSizeRender (23)I’m feeling challenged afresh as I look at the list:

  1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status
  2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you
  3. Develop a habit of giving things away
  4. Refuse to buy the latest gadget
  5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them
  6. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation
  7. Look with scepticism at ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes
  8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain honest speech
  9. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others
  10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.

One of the reasons I like writing this blog is that it helps me to sift and clarify my thoughts and feelings. As I come to the end of this post, the sad feeling I mentioned at the start has dissipated. Reflecting on Little Miss and Small Boy’s joy and delight in simple pleasures helps me to focus on what’s important in life: people not things. 

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