Ethical living · Social justice

Getting ready for Advent

Advent starts in about six weeks and I’m already looking forward to four Advent activities I’ve planned.

Wearing my fair trade Christmas tree hat – I didn’t need it but it’s beautiful and fun! Little Miss adores wearing it and looks so winsome. I don’t look quite so cute but it’s creating joy and laughter.IMG_20181023_083100

Reading God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – I have recently read Eric Metaxes’ biography of Bonhoeffer which I wholeheartedly recommend. I’m now ready to read some of Bonhoeffer’s works and this Advent devotional of compiled writings seemed an appropriate place to start.

Reverse Advent calendar – Grandma has already bought the children some exciting Advent calendars. Thank you, Grandma! But I want to do something alongside Lego and Peppa Pig which turns our attention – and our time and money – to those who are in need of some help.

We are going to make a reverse Advent calendar. In previous years, the logistics have overwhelmed me but I have just added 24 items, such as a bag of sugar and tins of rice pudding and custard, to my online shopping order. Each day in Advent the children can choose an item to go in our Advent Box and then together we can take these gifts of food to a local charity which runs a foodbank  – dropping off weekly rather than just before Christmas.

Last year, a friend told me about the Jesse Tree – making ornaments for a Christmas tree which tell the story of Jesus. I’m fairly rubbish at craft and so have ordered a book to help! My hope is that this activity will not only help Little Miss and Small Boy learn about Christmas but will also remind me and Mr Pilgrim of the wonder of Jesus’ birth.

It can be easy to have good intentions but then not to actually do anything. I find planning – and then writing about my plan – means my idea is more likely to become reality!

Advent is still over a month away so there’s still time for you to plan a way of giving, discover something to read or do, or even buy Christmas-themed head-wear!

 

Ecological concern · Ethical living

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!

 

community · Ecological concern · Ethical living

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!

 

Ecological concern · Ethical living

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!

Christian · Ethical living · Social justice

What’s for breakfast?

On Martin Luther King Day last month, I listened to his ‘The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life’ sermon which contains the well-known quote:

Before you get through eating breakfast in the morning, you’re dependent on more than half the world. That’s the way God structured it; that’s the way God structured this world. So let us be concerned about others because we are dependent on others.

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(Listen to the sermon or read a transcript)

I’ve ordered Where Do We Go From Here: From Chaos to Community by Martin Luther King because ‘The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life’ sermon is so absolutely amazing and I want to – and I think need to – have more Martin Luther King in my life.


Today is the first day of Fair Trade Fortnight. I’ve recently discovered some new ways of supporting fair trade:

  • Shared Interest – I’ve started investing a small amount each month; the money is lent to small farming and handcraft groups in disadvantaged areas working in parts of the world where other lenders are less keen to operate.
  • Clean and Fair – I’ve ordered a five litre bottle of handwash and a 5 litre bottle of washing up liquid (plus a funnel!) of this new fair trade product. It contains FairPalm – sustainably-grown palm oil from West Africa (where palm oil plants grow naturally). This is good news both for West African palm oil plant farmers and orangutans in Indonesia. [Grand-père – I do listen to you!]

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  • Arena Flowers – A fair trade registered florist. With Mothering Sunday coming up, why not send an ethical bouquet?

‘Before you get through eating breakfast in the morning, you’re dependent on more than half the world.’

What can we do to ensure that those who are involved in creating our breakfasts are paid and treated fairly? What fair trade item could you buy this fortnight?

Watch this short video created by the Fair Trade Foundation featuring Samuel Maina, a Kenyan coffee farmer. I love his gentle challenge at the end; I will certainly be thinking about him the next time I have a cup of coffee.

This film features farmers and workers at a banana plantation in Panama.

Before you get through eating breakfast in the morning, you’re dependent on more than half the world. That’s the way God structured it; that’s the way God structured this world. So let us be concerned about others because we are dependent on others.

 

community · Ecological concern · Ethical living

Snapshots

This week I attended a photography workshop (a birthday present but it’s taken me some time to organise it!). I’m looking forward to being creative, growing more confident with our camera, and capturing some of Small Boy’s and Little Miss’s childhood.
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Small Boy and I made banana bread this morning using soft and squidgy (fair trade) bananas. I ate a deliciously warm slice topped with homemade Greek yoghurt (our latest addition to the zero waste journey) as my mid-morning snack; don’t judge me – the Small Boy alarm clock woke me at half six and Little Miss was awake for much of the night.

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The pavements and grass verges in our local area are frequently littered with dog poo. Problematic when pushing a pushchair alongside an energetic Small Boy, I’m know I’m not the only mum who is fed up with cleaning wheels and shoes – we live near a primary school and many children and parents use the pavements to walk to and from school.
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Our local borough council has a ‘report it’ function on its website, specifically for this issue. I’ve reported pavement poo three times now (including yesterday) and twice the street cleaning team has been rapidly dispatched to wash the area. I’d rather there wasn’t a poo problem in the first place but I’m pleased I can do something about it! It’s a small way I can love our community.

My bedtime (library) book is by John Lewis-Stempel, an award-winning nature writer. I’m currently reading The Running Hare, his account of trying to farm a field using traditional methods. That might not sound fascinating, but it’s a brilliant, evocative and provocative read. I’m saddened by the demise of many British wild flowers which my parents and grandparents would have grown up with.
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I’m making plans for my 18 countryside activities for 2018; I’ve found a place to go and look for wild badgers, discovered a large hill to climb with Small Boy, and beaches to visit and puffins to spot.

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I’m looking forward to writing about them!

Ethical living

Happy Christmas, Mr P!

Here is a little thank you to my husband, Mr Pilgrim, as a (zero-waste!) Christmas present:

This time last year I had no intention of pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle. To be honest, I thought we did quite well. We recycled, we cycled and we had fair trade wedding rings. Yet, as I read and reflected, I realised how much we could change and should change – for the sake of the world and those who live in it.

Mr Pilgrim has encouraged me every step of the way. Always building me up and offering his support. Not always agreeing with me; sometimes gently questioning and challenging. Yet often helping me stay on track when I was tempted to wander!

He has embraced our vegetable boxes and cooked some amazing meals which have been a pleasure to share with him. He tackled our parsnip glut creatively by making awesome ginger and parsnip soup as well as parsnip crisps. He has researched ethical cycling shorts, made the switch to using cloth nappies for Little Miss and wrapped up my Christmas present in an old map. He has accompanied me to charity shops, bought me fair trade chocolates as a treat and built this brilliant bug hotel with Small Boy.

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He’s even eaten kale and chard.

I returned to work on 1 September and I haven’t bought sandwiches from a shop at all during this time – saving money AND avoiding single use plastic! Every day I have had homemade sandwiches with Mr P’s homemade bread (from the pre-loved bread machine – his idea!). One lunchtime they were hand-delivered still warm to my desk.

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He’s never once laughed at me, dismissed what I’m trying to do as a ‘fad’ or been critical.

Thank you, Mr P, for being my fellow-pilgrim and for championing me, listening to me and encouraging me to be the best version of myself. I love you. Happy Christmas.

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Ecological concern · Ethical living

Meat, feet and retreat

Meat

Since we’ve started living more sustainably, Family Pilgrim has made some changes to what we eat and drink. Mr P and I have become much more aware of both the provenance of our food and the impact on climate change of eating meat, particularly red meat.

I‘ve realised that animal welfare is something that matters: I know that sounds obvious but how often do we think about who made our clothes or where the components of our smart phones came from or how the animals we eat were treated?

I need to ask questions about where the food on my plate comes from.

We’ve been buying vegetables, meat and fruit from Church Farm for about six months now. I’ve recently stopped purchasing all meat products from the supermarket and bought Quorn for the first time. If it’s good enough for Mo Farah, it’s good enough for Family Pilgrim! 

I’m becoming more intentional about choosing vegetarian options when eating out. Tonight I had chestnut roast at my work Christmas dinner.

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Currently, I’m not planning to become vegetarian but I do want to continue reducing our meat-intake. 


Feet

My Charity Shop Purchase of 2017 has to be these £15 green DMs from my local HomeStart shop.

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I’d been chatting to someone about how I’d like to get some Doc Martens and how I had loved them as a teenager. And then three days later when Small Boy and I were shopping, we spotted these. I was fairly sure they wouldn’t be in my size, but they were! 

They’re definitely an ice-breaker and Small Boy and Little Miss love delighting in fighting taking turns in putting them on!

The large purple hippo (a Christmas present for Little Miss) was runner-up in my Charity Shop Purchase of 2017 Award!

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Retreat

I’ve been feeling emotionally and mentally tired recently and my mind has been racing. A conversation with a friend prompted me to have a break from my phone and computer for 24 hours. I told a few people so they’d know to contact Mr P if there was an urgent problem and then put my phone on airplane mode from sunset to sunset. I think I might make this a regular thing as it definitely helped me switch off.

I’m also aiming to leave my phone downstairs at night-time and relying on an old alarm clock to wake me up in the mornings.

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Although to be fair most mornings Small Boy is a very effective alarm clock! 

Ethical living · Social justice

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:

  • Thirty-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!

 

Ethical living · Social justice

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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