Berlin

We have just got back from a last minute family holiday to Berlin. And by family I mean pretty much all of us – me, hubby, the kids, my mum, my stepdad and my sister. Seven of us spending the week together. Recipe for trouble right?

Actually it wasn’t. We had a fantastic time. Although I do think my sister has seen enough of her niece and nephew for a while now 😉

My stepdad isn’t allowed to fly due to medical issues so we looked into other options and found we could go by train. The Eurostar took us from London to Brussels, an ICE train from Brussels to Köln and a second ICE train from Köln to Berlin. 9 hours altogether which sounded like a nightmare.

I was genuinely surprised by how easy it all was. Each train was on time, clean, comfortable and the journey was just so easy. I would definitely consider doing it this way again.

We did a lot of sightseeing and even went on a Hop on Hop off tour bus around the city. This was probably the warmest way to do it as temperatures were in minus figures the whole time we were there. We even had snow!

Both myself and my step dad have been to Berlin before. Him, as part of his time in the army 40 years ago, and me, as part of a school history trip 20 years ago (that makes me sound so old!) The city has changed so much and we barely recognised it. On the plus side, it was clean, easy to navigate and the people were really friendly and tolerant of my basic German skills.

The only negative thing for me was the amount of beggars there were. I found it hard that (1) there were so many of them and (2) they were quite pushy asking for money. I know that it’s not their fault, that homelessness is a major problem and all countries (and individuals) could probably do more to help the situation. It just made me very sad to see it.

Since coming back we are all still talking about it and I think we would definitely go back again should the opportunity arise.

Have you ever been to Berlin? Or the Germany?

2018

2018? Another year gone. Time certainly does fly as you get older!

I’ve seen so many “New Year, New Me” posts across the whole of social media over the past week and while it is nice to see people setting goals for the year ahead, how many of them are realistic?

I know I’m guilty of it. It’s easy to get swept away with the glamour of new diaries and blank calendars and think “this is the year I….. <whatever>” But then the real world kicks back in, the mundane day to day stuff and it’s easy to get sidetracked. To put things off til tomorrow, til Monday, til… well any day that isn’t today.

I’ve tried to keep that in mind while setting myself goals for 2018. I like having targets to aim for but I can get downhearted if they turn out to be unachievable. So I’ve dialled it back this year. No big sweeping status, no grandiose plans. Just a list of things I’d like to do in the house, things I’d like to do with the kids and things I’d like to work on personally.

I hope to write here a lot more often and I’d like to share with you both the work we are doing in the house and the steps we are taking to live a more sustainable life. And I’d love it if you would join us as we negotiate the unknown that is 2018.

I wish you all a healthy and happy new year.

Turning 10

Little Lady recently turned 10. She was so excited! Double figures is a massive milestone when you are 9 1/2 😉

We wanted to make it special as you only turn double figures once but we found it very hard to help her celebrate. We asked her what she wanted to do and there was nothing she could think of.

Same went for presents. She’s really good in that she’s perfectly content with what she has, and that’s amazing. I love that she is like that. However, it’s extremely difficult at the time of year with both her birthday and Christmas coming so close together.

So what could we do? I surprised her with a unicorn cake which thankfully she loved.



It’s not perfect but I was quite impressed by the finished result actually. Thanks YouTube!

Hubby then arranged a rafting party for her. She loves the water and went indoor surfing last year. She was so excited. She invited her friends and started a countdown on her calendar.

They all had a whale of a time. They got very wet, both accidentally and on purpose, but every single one of them was smiling at the end.

Once they had warmed up in the shower and changed into dry clothes we had cake.


Think they enjoyed it, don’t you?

A Pair of Giraffes

Back in the summer my baby cousin turned 1. His mum organised a jungle themed party and invited everyone to come in fancy dress. Little Lady and I love dressing up and decided to go as giraffes. Okay, so maybe not technically a jungle animal but they are my favourite animal so they won!

We had yellow t shirts but I did buy yellow leggings due to being pressed for time. Using masking tape I marked off lines on both the t shirts and the leggings and then painted the spaces brown.

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I put a piece of cardboard up inside the t shirt to ensure the paint didn’t bleed through.

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Once it had all been painted I peeled off the masking tape and left the paint to dry.

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It’s so simple yet so effective. Little Lady and I had a lot of lovely comments on our matching outfits.

By the Bar

In my dream kitchen I have a breakfast bar that the kids can sit at doing their homework while I prepare tea. Pfft! Yes I know I live in a dream world but that’s the way it’s always been.

A while ago, possibly even a year ago now, we were given a bar stool. It needed a lot of TLC. The top fabric was stained, marked and scratched. The paint on the wooden legs was looking pretty shabby too.

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We are currently in the (very long) process of redoing the kitchen and we wanted a red theme. As it happened I had an offcut of red leather in my fabric stash which was a perfect size for the seat.

Hubby did a great job repainting the legs and recovering the top. He did go out and buy new studs as the old ones he pulled out wouldn’t stay back in.

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To be fair the stool gets used a lot. Mainly by D who thinks it’s a great step to stand on to reach the higher cupboards *rolls eyes*

All I need now was the bigger kitchen, the breakfast bar and kids who will sit down quietly!!!!

Mending

Bit of a confession before I start. I have chubby thighs. I know we barely know each other but it is relevant to the post I promise.

Chubby thighs run in my family and us ladies suffer from what I term “chub rub”. It’s a nightmare in summer when everyone else is wearing skirts and dresses and I’m still in 3/4 length trousers to avoid walking like John Wayne. But it also affects my clothes. I practically live in jeans and after a while I find that the denim, no matter how thick, starts to wear in between my legs.


These are my favourite summer trousers. They were originally upcycled from a pair of jeans with a hole in the knee and have since been patched and repaired between the thighs. The last time they were repaired it was a rush job as I found the hole as I was getting ready to go out, so I grabbed the first bit of fabric I could and patched them quickly so that I could still wear them.


To be honest I actually like the fact that the patch is much brighter than the denim although the downside is it draws attention to a body part I don’t really want people looking at! So I decided to make it a design feature. I put patches on other parts of the trousers for no reason other than to make the inner thigh patches look like they belong and are not there to hide chub rub holes!!


These trousers still have a lot of wear in them and by patching the holes I have prolonged their life. Do you have any clothes that could be mended instead of being thrown away?

Zero Waste Top Tips

I have been taking part in Zero Waste Week for 4 years now and have been slowly working towards reducing my waste. I am no where near Zero Waste but I am definitely better than I was.

So what tips can I offer for anyone thinking of trying to reduce their waste?

  • Don’t try to do it all at once – it can be very overwhelming at first so break it down into more manageable chunks
  • Do a waste audit. How much waste do you throw out on a daily basis and where does it come from. This will help you identify the areas you can work on. Which brings me to….
  • Pick an area to start – maybe you want to tackle food waste first, or your kids’ lunchboxes?
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself – No one is perfect, we all slip up.

Are there any other tips you think I should include? Please let me know in the comments below.

Good luck with your Zero Waste journey.

Trashless Tuesday

On Day 2 of this year’s Zero Waste Week I was challenged to see how much (or how little) waste I created in just one day. So here goes:


For full disclosure this picture is me and the two kids only. Hubby took his lunch to work in a reusable container and has cutlery in his locker but once he’s there I don’t know if he created any other waste.

There were also 2 dunker pots but Little Lady didn’t bring her empty one home. Now I do see the irony of the string cheese wrapper after I posted about using block cheese but it was requested and bought the night before they were due to go back to school from the corner shop that didn’t have block cheese. Once the packet is finished we won’t be buying them again.

The main two slip ups by me were due to lack of organisation. We usually use loose leaf tea in a tea pot but struggle to get it sometimes so we had bought tea bags the last time we went shopping. The pot noodle was also due to poor planning. It was quick and easy to prepare after a lunch meeting.

The crisps? Well I love crisps and haven’t really found an alternative that can be stored just yet. I’d be happy to hear your suggestions if you have any?

Tea was made with veg that came in our vegbox and pasta that had been decanted into a large glass jar last time we went shopping.

Overall I don’t think we did too badly. Yes there is room for improvement and yes on other days we will create waste that was not shown here (the empty pasta bag for instance). How did you get on? Do you produce more/less waste than me on an average day?

Waste

Today is day 2 of this year’s Zero Waste Week. The theme today is all about reducing waste. I wrote this post 4 years ago showing how I cut down on lunch box waste. Looking back now I can’t believe I wrapped her sandwiches in foil and bought pre packaged cheese! But just goes to show how little changes now can become lifetime habits. Hope you enjoy

Waste

Lately the issue of waste and the environment has been at the forefront of my mind. I have slowly been taking stock of our lives and living habits to see where we can cut back on waste.

One morning while doing the mundane (and mostly thankless) task of making packed lunches I realised that I could cut a lot of waste here and I was quite shocked.

This is what little lady’s lunches normally look like (with some variations).

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Little lady also takes fruit separately, which she eats at break time.

Where can I make changes? Straight away I can lose the foil. I mean her sandwiches are in a lunch box, in a bag! Seems a bit ridiculous to wrap them in foil too!

So foil gone. What’s next? Little lady’s treat. Her treat varies depending what niceties are on offer when we go shopping. These particular treats are individually wrapped but come in a box, in a plastic wrapper. Lots of packaging, and therefore waste there. With a bit of forethought and 20 minutes spent in the kitchen while baby D was having his nap and she now has home made (freezable) treats. I cut the welshcakes into little stars rather than the traditional circles so that they fit in her lunch box. We also stumbled across these fine(!) gadgets 2 for £1 in the pound shop, which makes her sandwiches a little bit nicer now they are naked (well we think so)

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I do like her lunch to be relatively good for her so I always try to add a cheese stick. There are again individually wrapped (easy for lunches) but in a packet. The individual wrapper goes in the bin at school so technically it doesn’t affect my waste but that’s not really the point here. We are still producing waste no matter where it is disposed of. This was the item that made me feel a little bit silly. I thought about how to reduce the packaging for a while before realising IT IS CHEESE!!!! I honestly can’t believe I have been buying these as well as the block of cheese that is a staple in our shopping. Just goes to show that marketing works. The individually wrapped cheeses “perfect for lunch boxes” fooled me for quite a while. Well no more. Today I cut my own cheese sticks from the block in the fridge. Less packaging and a slightly sheepish mammy!

So what does little lady’s lunch box look like now?

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Some naked homemade jam sandwiches, a home made treat, cheese cut from the block and a yoghurt.

Any ideas on what to do about the yoghurt? I am still quite stuck on that one so for now the long yoghurts will stay.

Bagging it up

No one can go completely zero waste in one go. It takes time and it takes effort. The good news though, is that small things can make a big impact. Small things like bringing your own bag to the shop.

Since the introduction of the 5p carrier bag charge here in the UK, there has been an emphasis on reusing plastic bags or even bringing your own cloth bag. Most of us now have a wide collection of “bag for life”‘s under the sink. But how often do we remember to take them with us?

How many of us have left a shop juggling our purhases because we don’t want to have to buy yet another bag?

Hmm, yes I thought as much 🙂

So……for the first day of this year’s ZWW I’m going to help you make a shopping bag that you can keep in your handbag. As long as you remember to put it back in your handbag once you’ve used it, you can tick off “refuse plastic bags at the checkout” from your Zero Waste checklist. Result!

You will need:

  • a piece of fabric (I used an old quilt cover)
  • Needle and thread
  • sewing machine (or you can handsew if you prefer)
  • an iron
  • A button
  • A piece of elastic/ribbon 8cm long

Instructions

  • Prewash your fabric if necessary
  • Measure and cut 2 pieces of fabric, 2 handles and 2 pieces of lining (not shown in picture) My fabric measured 45cms x 35cms and my handles measured 60cms x 6cms


Handles

  • Fold the straps in half lengthwise marking the centre fold line. Open up and fold the edges in to touch the fold line.

  • Fold in half again and press to conceal all raw edges

  • Sew all the way down the open edge

Main Bag

  • Measure 8cms in from both top edges of your main bag fabric and pin the short strap edge, taking care not to twist the strap
  • Pin the elastic/ribbon to the centre of the top edge on one piece.

  • Lay one bag piece right side (RS) to right side with one lining piece. I’ve used an old piece of fabric for the lining as it was what I had to hand. An old bedsheet is perfect for lining bags like this.

  • Sew (I used a 1.5cm seam allowance (SA) along the top edge catching the handles and the elastic. For added strength you can sew the very edges to the SA on the lining

  • Lay the “half bag” you have made down flat RS up and place the second piece RS down on top.
  • Match up seams and sew all the way around leaving a gap the width of your hand at the bottom of the lining (between the two black lines on the picture)

  • Clip the corners to get a sharper corner then turn right side out through the gap.

  • Sew the gap closed and tuck the lining into the bag.


  • Place the bag on the table with the elastic side up
  • Mark a dot 10cms up from the bottom of the bag in the centre

  • Sew a button at this spot. Make sure you sew it well as it will take quite a bashing if you use the bag a lot.

Folding your bag:

  1. Fold on long side into the centre by a third
  2. Fold the other side in over the top
  3. Fold the bottom up a third to reveal the button
  4. Fold the top down and tie the button.

(Or you can follow the picture below)

  • Pop in your handbag and voila!

I’d love to see pictures of your bag if you make one.