Posts tagged ‘slow living’

March 21, 2014

Book: The Ivington Diaries

Books about learning to garden can be a bit repetitive. After all, there’s only a handful of ways to sow seeds. Books on gardens, however, are wonderful. This example from Monty Don, has captured my attention and really made me want to learn more and visit more gardens to understand planting on a larger scale. It’s written as a year’s worth of diary entries, but with the years ranging over roughly a decade, so for example January 1st 1999 is followed by January 4th, 2004 and it’s utterly captivating.  Monty writes so engagingly he makes you want to walk around the acres of garden (sections have names;  spring garden, jewel garden, white garden) and take a peek into the potting sheds. He writes of practical matters, mulch being a favourite, and of the joy and artistry of creating a beautiful garden, not to mention the work that goes into creating such a garden from scratch and his words are accompanied by lush photography so you get a good overview of the different parts of the garden through the year.

The book format (even down to the paper and font choices), reminds me very much of Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diary which is an absolute favourite book of mine, so if you liked that, imagine a similar book set in a garden, and you’ve gone some way towards capturing the feel of this book.

The garden in question is at his home, Ivington, where he and his family moved following the collapse of the family business and the death of his mother. The house they bought and the creation of the garden seems to have brought their lives back together and in his own words ‘rebuilt’ him.  He writes with such love, attention and humour and, because the book is written as short diary entries, it’s really easy to dip into and read whenever you’ve got a free minute. I really recommend it, and think it would be a wonderful gift for Mothering Sunday…

The Ivington Diaries

February 11, 2014

Living Naturally Soapnut shampoo bar.

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In an attempt to reduce the amount of plastic we use, I’ve been reviewing all my toiletries. I know already that I’ll decide not to replace some things; I’m very attached to my favourite beauty products!  Because of this, I’ve been going for quick wins where I have no emotional resistance. Shampoo was first on my list.

I have no particular brand preference but my dry, curly hair has to be washed, or at least dampened every day. Goodness knows what I do in my sleep but I always wake up with it sticking up like a scarecrow. The daily washing doesn’t help with the dryness though—although I rarely use a hairdryer so at least it’s not getting heat damaged too.

My friend Jo suggested soapnuts as a solution to my packaging dilemma, and gave me this Soapnut shampoo bar from Living Nature to try. Soapnuts are basically dried husks of the berries from the soapnut tree. You can find out more by clicking here. They’re really good for people with excema or skin conditions that react badly to the chemicals in a lot of toiletries or laundry products, so if you or a member of your family suffer in this way they’re definitely worth investigating.

The soapnut bar I tried is apparently suitable for the whole body as well as the hair, but I decided to approach it the old-fashioned way for this trial, and just washed my hair in the sink. The bar lathered up quite nicely and it definitely felt like it was doing a good job of cleaning my hair. What I hadn’t initially realised is that, as well as the soapnuts and Dead Sea salt, the soap bar also contains several oils (olive, coconut, palm and castor) which left my hair feeling really moisturised. I think if you have oily hair already, this might not feel so great, but it helped combat the frizz I get with my dry hair so was a real benefit to me.

Other ingredients in the bar are essential oils of lavender, rosemary, cedarwood and cypress, so it smells gorgeous, slightly medicinal and woody. I think it probably goes without saying, but it’s also handmade, vegan and free of any chemicals.

I really enjoyed this product and, given that the oils help with the dryness of my hair, it might have actually helped me to find a replacement for styling products too! Definitely a keeper…and it’s made me wonder what other soapnut products we could try.

Have you tried any soapnut products? Or other packaging-free shampoo? I’d love to hear from you!

 

January 31, 2014

Comfort Viewing: what are your favourite shows?

We’ve been watching our way through the Academy Awards nominees, Golden Globe winners and lots of new TV shows recently—and seen some incredible performances. I’m really looking forward to Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, having loved him since his Dazed and Confused days—which has a brilliant soundtrack that always makes me smile.

But alongside this, I’ve been craving some comfort viewing. The relentless quest for the new can be a bit tiring, and at the end of a seemingly endless January (and never-arriving payday!) I’ve been curling up on the sofa and watching some shows that I’ve seen so often, I could probably parrot every line back to you.

As I’m trying ever-so-hard to be a minimalist, I have hardly any DVDs left. Here are those that are my required comfort viewing, and so I still own. I think there’s only one film and one TV award winner amongst them…

Television

  • The Good Life. Obviously. Because I feel like I know every word. And I understand that the show isn’t really about Tom Good’s quest for self sufficiency. Anyone who has watched it as many times as I have realises that Barbara is the person who keeps the Goods afloat, and really the whole thing is a vehicle for Penelope Keith as Margot to steal the show time and again.
  • The West Wing. Preferably the first series. Everyone is fresh and new; it’s so utterly engaging, even if sometimes the politics baffles me. So many corridors to “walk with me” down. I rarely watch an entire series from start to finish but this is a notable exception.
  • The Darling Buds of May. Absolute rose-tinted cheese fest. I make no apologies for this. Plus, it’s David Jason, who can do no wrong.
  • Poirot. Or Marple. Or any other crime drama in which the actual murdering is terribly civilised and we’re completely confident that wrong-doers will be caught. Because what we’re really looking for in a crime drama is tension, resolution and the return to status quo. That’s the comfort and why they’re so damn popular.

The Good Life. Best TV ever…

Film

  • Amélie. Beautiful, dream-like Amélie. A bit too sweet for some, but I find it charming. Plus it’s set in Paris—albeit a rather different version to the real city—which I love and return to year after year.
  • Die Hard. There’s just something about Die Hard that I find incredibly comforting. The good guy wins, despite all odds. Plus, it’s Christmassy. And Bruce. In a vest. Enough said.
  • Twister. Sorry. I know this is low-brow. But I love Helen Hunt in this.

Documentary

  • Signé Chanel. A totally fascinating French documentary series about the people working behind the scenes to create Chanel Haute Couture. Sits well with Twister and Die Hard, doesn’t it? From Karl himself through to the incredible white-coated women who painstakingly turn his drawings into fabric reality, this peek into the inner world of Chanel is the perfect way to pretend I’m learning French…

There are a few others that I’d add to the list if I wasn’t trying to be a minimalist. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for one, which I was obsessed with in college. Man on Wire is a superb documentary, and Dirty Dancing will always have a place in my heart, as I’m sure it does in many of yours.

What would your desert island viewing be? Is there something that you think is so unmissable that I should add it to the list? 

January 28, 2014

Living without supermarkets: blog inspiration

Our’Living without Supermarkets‘ challenge continues. We do have our failures, but overall, things are going well. I refuse to beat myself up if we have to venture into the Co-op for the occasional item, life isn’t perfect. The main thing is to keep trying.

Our reasons for reducing our reliance on supermarkets continue to be:

1: Spreading the wealth. I heard a statistic a while ago that said of every four pounds spent in the UK, one of those is spent in Tesco. This may not be true, but it still made me shudder a bit. I’d like to put money in the hands of more than just a handful of multinationals.

2: Keeping our local stores and markets alive. With the British high streets and giant shopping malls up and down the country turning into a homogenised experience, you could probably be parachuted into many of them and simply not know where you were because of the identikit brands. Supporting those independent retailers who are fighting against this tide is important to me.

3: Eating seasonally.  Buying from local growers, producers and suppliers as well as eating what I’ve grown myself, helps to ensure that for some of the time at least, we’re eating with the seasons.

4: Less packaging waste. Our vegetables are delivered in a cardboard box that is returned for re-use time and again. Buying from a local market stall means paper bags instead of plastic – these can be composted. In many cases, I take a cotton bag and dispense with packaging altogether. There are many ways to reduce packaging by shopping locally.

Since starting on this journey, I’ve discovered and been inspired by many, many other folk. A handful of those are here:

The inimitable Mammasaurus has written a lovely, uplifting series of posts on supporting local suppliers.

You’ll find great supermarket-free and plastic-free posts over on Westywrites.

On My Make Do and Mend Year, the incredibly inspiring Jen writes about a variety of subjects, initially based around her year of not buying anything new. She writes passionately about upcycling, transition, community and positivity. I love this site and learn a lot.

Over on A Year without Supermarkets, Team Pugh are basically doing just that – living without supermakets. I’ve only just discovered this great site and I know I’ll return.

Are there any other great blog about going supermarket-free or plastic-free? Or do you write about eating seasonally, sustainable living or minimalism? I’d love to hear from you! 

December 17, 2013

Home-made Christmas decorations

We’re starting again with Christmas decorations in our flat. So everything we have this year has either been bought from the Country Living Christmas Fair, given to us by generous relatives or made at home.

We have the two decorations bought at the Country Living Christmas Fair (not shown is a Christmas Pudding fairy, a gift from my lovely mum) on the tree. Alongside those are three knitted characters – Father Christmas, an elf and a snowman. Thanks to my lovely Grandma for those. Then, there’s the decorations we made with the kids. Felted baubles, made with wet felting, are strung onto the tree individually. I also hope to do a felted bauble garland. There’s the wet felted star, made by my daughter, using the same technique as the baubles, but pressing it down flat, then cutting a shape out. I’ve strung pine cones onto fine cotton, attached ribbon bows to the top of each and put them on the tree. And lastly, we have the loo roll fairy, made by my girl without any help at all, who is now sitting on the top of the tree!

Home made christmas decorations

December 13, 2013

Bringing The Garden Indoors.

Now that I’ve moved to a third floor flat, I am without a garden of my own. This is offset somewhat by my allotment and we have a shared garden, but it’s overlooked by several large trees. This makes for wonderful bird watching – I appear to have become an accidental twitcher – but means that the garden is darkened, covered in leaves, and any plants would need to compete with lots of tree roots so it doesn’t bode well for much growing.

So, to satisfy my green fingers,  I want to bring some of the outdoors into our home.

The first thing I did was plant ‘Paperwhite’ bulbs into little terracotta pots. I have a handful of these around the flat and they’ve brought a bit of cheer and a heady fragrance into our home. Although you can force these in the dark, I just left them in my mother’s greenhouse for a few weeks and they’ve flowered quite quickly. I love that the bright green shoots are mirrored in the green that has grown on the old terracotta and they look wonderful against the pale walls; a touch of next Spring in the early days of Winter.

Paperwhites in pots

I’m currently reading through ‘The Virgin Gardener’ by Laetitia Maklouf again, which has some great ideas for gardening without a garden. I’m going to have a go at growing succulents, as I was really inspired by the Alpine House at RHS Harlow Carr earlier this year. The structure of these little plants fascinates me, and they’ll be a great way to add greenery to our home.

Alpines at RHS Harlow Carr

There will of course be herbs in the kitchen, but I’m on the lookout for the best plants we can have in the rest of our home too. I’m after plants that will last well, help clean the air, cope with the temperatures and look great too.  I’ll be doing a spot of research over the next couple of months, but if you’ve any fabulous suggestions, do let me know!

December 10, 2013

A Month without Supermarkets: end of month review.

Well, our first month without supermarkets is over and generally speaking it was a great success.

We have loved getting our weekly food delivery from Abel and Cole. We’ve really enjoyed searching out alternative suppliers, local specialists and great independent shops close to home, including the local butcher, bakers, and cheese shop. We’ve had lots of successes. And we’ve had a fair few failures – needing milk when the only shop open is Tesco (grr) is a notable one. However, let us not use our plans as a stick to beat ourselves with.

We’ve decided that this is how we want to live forever; to reduce our reliance on the supermarket as much as possible, but to not get over-anguished about those times when we have little choice. Which is usually, as I mentioned in a previous post, down to a lack of planning.  We’ve also changed the way we buy our food slightly from Abel and Cole, so we plan our weekly menu beforehand so we know what will be coming in the delivery, what we will cook with it and when. This might sound pretty regimented,  but actually, creates a lot more simplicity on a day-to-day basis and means for much less food waste.

Now we’ve got into something of a routine when it comes to food, and made our main decisions about where we buy our food from, the next thing we really want to tackle is the amount of waste and rubbish we create. As I said, planning a weekly menu ahead makes for less food waste, but also we’re looking at packaging too. Recycling is obviously one way to deal with packaging waste, but it shouldn’t be the first ‘r’ in waste reduction. Reducing the amount of packaging we bring into the house in the first place should come before that.

So, that’s our next step. We’ve bought a bokashi system to help us deal with the food waste and we’re looking at ways to reduce packaging and rubbish.

I’ll share our progress with you in a further post – but if you have any tips to share, please add them in the comments!

December 8, 2013

Photo of my Week.

Pink bar tape

Pink nails and pink bar tape: the perfect ‘Margot and Barbara’ combination…

November 30, 2013

The End: #BEDN 30

Well, it’s the last day of ‘Blog Every Day in November’ and time for a few reflections. Clearly I’ve not blogged every day – it’s a real struggle for me to manage that – but I’ve written slightly more frequently than usual. And that’s been reflected in my statistics, which has been a really pleasant result.

Overwhelmingly, BEDN has been a blogging learning curve for me. I’ve really enjoyed writing a post from a prompt, meeting new bloggers and reading new blogs and trying to find the time to write more often. I’ve realised that I really need to make an editorial calendar (as recommended by Elizabeth at Rosalilium, founder of BEDN) in order to keep on track.

The first time I missed a day, I was quite anxious, thinking that I’d somehow ‘failed’ the challenge, but I came to realise that I should just be enjoying the process when I could. One of my favourite mantras comes from my lovely friend Jo – ‘Don’t use your plans as a stick to beat yourself with’ – and, remembering this helped when I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. And then came my usual up and down feeling about my blog anyway; the feelings that make me question the future of my blog. They’re usually enough for me to go quiet for a few days, before making the inevitable decision to stick with it!

Having spent a bit of time thinking about an editorial calendar, I’ve then spent some time thinking about content. As ‘Margot & Barbara’ has such a variety of content, it can often feel a bit disjointed, and I was wondering if a regular schedule of content might help that. One thing I’ve decided to do is bring back my ‘Three Good Things’ post for Wednesdays and then find a regular time for blogging each week, which should help me to balance that and the rest of my life.

I’m also going to tidy up my categories, so I have fewer, more coherent categories that should hopefully clearly show both the ‘Margot’ and ‘Barbara’ sides of the blog, and perhaps try my hand at a few more fashion and beauty posts, as I’ve enjoyed the few that I’ve done previously. I especially like the challenge of writing fashion and beauty posts that are both luxe and green at the same time, which is a win-win for this blog!

So, lots to do, changes to make, and hopefully a fresher, new and improved Margot & Barbara. Huge thanks to the inspiring Elizabeth at Rosalilium for creating ‘Blog Every Day in November’, it’s been a really fun challenge. I’d definitely try it again.

November 12, 2013

A Month without Supermarkets Update: BEDN #12

So, we’re 12 days into November and I thought I’d give you a bit of an update about how we’re getting on without supermarkets. We’ve had some notable successes and failures over the past few days, which have provided us with much food for thought (no pun intended!) and set us on course for what comes next.

Here’s what I’ve learnt:

  • Organisation is key to living without supermarkets. On the couple of occasions that we’ve failed, it’s because of a lack of organisation.  Mostly discovering that we’ve run out of milk. Next plan – freeze some milk. Supermarkets are often the only place open on the occasions when you discover that you’ve run out of something vital, and sadly we don’t have a local corner shop that would fill the need for somewhere at short notice, or late at night.
  • Vegetable boxes are great; we’ve really enjoyed using ours. BUT – in order to make the most of them, we’ve needed to be pretty organised. Eating the vegetables in some kind of order of their longevity, rather than leaving the salad until it’s a wilting, soggy mess is important, and has helped us minimise waste.
  • To make sure that you can cook genuinely great food from a veg box, you need a decent stock of the other stuff – herbs, spices, carbohydrates, dairy, protein. In short, everything else. Otherwise you find yourself going “Oh, we’ve got a great squash in the veg box, we could make curry/risotto/soup”, only to discover that you lack everything but squash…
  • Also, getting a veg box rather turns food planning on its head a bit. Often, we might decide to cook something because we’ve seen a recipe or have a hunger for a particular thing. Getting a veg box means that you cook with what you’re sent, not with what you’ve decided to buy from the supermarket. With Abel and Cole, we’re able to see a few days in advance what we’re getting, which means the cookbooks come out, and I have a lovely time planning what to do with what we’re having delivered.

Cookbooks

  • Because part of our hope for this project was to reduce waste, we’re making a lot more use of the freezer too; we’ve made breadcrumbs from stale bread, cooked in bulk, and frozen bananas to make smoothies.
  • There’s a lot less packaging waste from this kind of shopping, simply because there’s a heck of a lot less plastic. It wasn’t part of the original plan, but it’s now something we’re actively seeking to do.
  • We will never be able to do a one-stop-shop at anywhere but a supermarket – not even the central market in Leeds, which is wonderful, stocks everything we’d like. I think we’ve pretty much accepted this, and decided that because the time spent on food shopping in local shops or markets is a joy, rather than a chore, that helps to make up for it taking more time.
  • Having said that, time is precious and short supply here. So, if you’re as busy as us, I recommend that once you’ve found your perfect butcher/baker/cheesemonger, it’s a good idea to stick with them and build some kind of routine, in order to reduce the amount of time you spend on food shopping, even though it is fun! A great case in point is the Leeds Bread Co-op . We’ve just signed up to a regular order, that we will collect every Wednesday, hopefully it will help us stay a bit more organised (see point one!) and the bread is splendid.

Overall, the whole project is going really well. It’s making us appreciate our food more, think about what we’re buying and how we’re cooking it. We’re wasting less food, using less plastic, and really enjoying ourselves in the process. We’ll be continuing with this beyond the month of November, that’s for sure. And even if we do end up buying last-minute milk from a supermarket, if the overwhelming majority of our food comes from elsewhere, then I think we’ll still consider this to be a great success…

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