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Sunday, 28 November 2010

Quesadillas

10 months : Leon love his quesadillas.




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Friday, 19 November 2010

Greener Living - saving the planet (and some cash)

Through a current work project I've been delving into the depths of eco-living and how you can save energy and money while saving the planet. Since discovering that I am more Green Dreamer than Eco saint, according to the Tesco Greener Living Interactive Quiz, I have taken a step back to look at how my life is impacting our world. I thought I was greener than the average Brit; I recycle pretty much everything, always wash at 30C, limit my purchases - but in taking this test and looking at the Starbucks takeaway capuccino guiltily sitting on my desk - I realise there are a few tweaks I need to make to ensure I am truly an Eco Saint.   

So what do I need to do to become an Eco saint? Granted, as we rent our flat we cannot change the light fittings to take energy saving lightbulbs, double glaze our windows, or install solar panels - but there's a lot I CAN do and I'm going to attempt to change my ways:

Draft Proofing: Living in a building a few hundred years old is very charming, but when winter sets in, the cold, damp air can tempt me to switch on the heating here and there. My mum suggested placing cling film over the windows, which I found rather odd - but apparently it helps. I need to make a few sausage dog draft proofers out of old tights and newspaper, and potentially replace the curtains with a heavier one in the bedroom. Leon often throws off his covers in the night and I always try and cover him back up - so maybe it's now time to invest in a baby grow-bag thing? I just don't like the idea of his movements being restricted at night by being in a 'bag'.
OWL Micro energy Reader

Another big main change is switching off appliances left on standby (I always worry this will mess up the settings on Sky etc. but switching off saves £37 a year according to Energy Saving Trust) and I want to get one of these OWL energy readers to see exactly how much energy each appliance uses. Whether it’s turning off at the plug rather than just using standby or simply turning off a light, the OWL Micro shows you how changing your behaviour can save you money and so help the environment. It is easy to install, easy to read and easy to use. Costs about £25

In the bathroom instead of buying a Hippo,  I'm going to put a brick or two in the Cistern and hope it still flushes. Secondly, Leon's bath uses up so much water and he's only in it for about 10 minutes. Hubby loves having a bath after and tops it up for himself - unless it's been pooped in (baths are very relaxing for babies you know!), but the plug isn't snug and lets a lot of water go. We need to fix that. So, I'd love to get a Babydam (rrp £27.50 but was reduced to £20 during Energy Saving Week- Boo just missed it!) and halve the amount of water used per bath. According to Babydam the average baby bath in a family sized bath is 20litres so this would make it 10litres. "If all parents in the UK used BabyDam for 2 and a half years when bathing their children (based on average of 700,000 births in the UK each year), we could save over six BILLION litres of water across the UK - that’s enough to fill 2,500 Olympic sized swimming pools!"

I feel that I'm rather green In the Kitchen : only heating up as much water as I need in the kettle, cautious with water usage when washing up and using that to wash the floors... I may moan about the council's non-action for picking up Kitchen scraps down my street (as it's a pretty commercial street so don't have recycling boxes either) and as we don't have a garden I can't chuck the scraps on a compost heap. It feels so wrong to throw them away. I missed telling LBRUT in the recent survey - but I will contact the councillor to suggest a communal compost heap for willing residents to contribute to if they have no green space themselves. It may come to contacting  York House Gardens or Orleans House Gallery gardens to see if they could do with some... 

I try to buy most my fruit/veg from the Grocers and now always take a canvas bag with me shopping. I try to plan my meals for the week but need more discipline with this and have started looking for inspiration. http://www.frugaliciousfood.com/ is a new initiative from Jen (TheMadHouse) and  Cass (The Diary of a Frugal Family) encouraging meal planning and show us theirs, Tesco do some personalised plans and make it easy to buy ingredients of course, and I found this one from the UK based Resourceful cook really helpful too and you can adapt to how many people it's for, how many nights a week etc. I'm tempted by their Winter warmer selection. Brilliant stuff and I hope to make enough for Leon too as he prefers the food I make for myself than for him... The best site for leftover ideas and help in preventing waste has got to be http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/

I feel proud to have switched from cheapo washing up liquid to Ecover but have bought 3 bottles since and didn't know how to re-fill them. Thanks to reading http://plasticisrubbish.wordpress.com/ I know now to find the nearest retailer who do re-fills on the Ecover site (makes sense) and will plan my re-fills in advance to ensure I never run out and thus need to buy another plastic bottle.
On the commute : We don't own a car (as much as hubby would love to!) so I'm a public transport fanatic and know that I  should dig out that Thermos from my parents' kitchen and fill it with hot coffee before leaving for work! No more takeaway coffee cups!

Make do and mend : I've always tried... now I am conscious of mending more things be it toys or handbags. I rescued a tiny evening bag that I love, from ripping apart completely and it feels as good as new! Another particular bag has so many holes in the lining I am constantly searching the bottom for pens, tissues, notes, lipbalm etc. Now I've cleaned it, turned inside out and preparing to reinforce the lining with an old silk shirt I will never wear. Will feel like a new bag after that hopefully! Although I enjoy shopping, I need to go about it like a food shop and go out with items in mind instead of buying aimlessly and then finding out that it doesn't go with anything. Also, I've taken out the knitting needles and am attempting some wrist-warmers for myself and some little legwarmers for Leon!

My last challenge is trying to find a way for hubby not to take plastic carrier bags from Waitrose when he does the shoping. He goes straight from work so doesn't carry much in his pockets. I may need to find those reusable nylon bags and strategically place them on him without noticing...

Maria's Checklist to become an Eco Saint:
  1. Draft Proofing
  2. Switching off appliances at mains - getting an OWL monitor
  3. Bricks in toilet cistern
  4. Buying a BabyDam
  5. Arranging communal compost heap! (Or leaving scraps in someone else's scrap bin)
  6. Meal plans
  7. Re-fill Ecover bottles when needed
  8. Thermos for coffee
  9. Convert hubby into an Eco saint too
  10. any suggestions?
Here are a few of my favourite sites that I've discover along the way: 
For inspiring me to improve my home-making skills
For making it fun to look for eco-friendly designers, products and ideas
For actively doing something with unwanted t-shirts or lost gloves and lots of news
I like their home and Lifestyle section
Pretty images of life in Italy - beautiful

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Twinkle Twinkle

Our bedtime routine of singing Twinkle Twinkle and saying goodnight to the hot air balloons, owls, animals and each other, now cannot be done without having that Fredrika Stahl version from the Nissan Juke advert playing out in my head while I sing it. It hovers in my mind in a way so superior that I can only try and emulate it. I feel like I should belt out the variations and hope that it will sound as beautiful - but alas, I do not take the plunge fearful that it won't work and I'll end up shocking little Leon from his sleepy state.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Twickerati

For anyone living in Twickenham (Richmond Upon Thames) I recommend this blog 

News, comment and ill-informed opinion on local issues for Twickenham residents, aka the twickerati

I was reading the sum-up of the Future in Twickenham conference last weekend (I would have loved to have gone but don't imagine Leon would have enjoyed it as much). It seems that these groups don't talk much to each other.  Council, Residents, Solum construction, Rugby guys, and others all need a compromise about planning issues and development for areas of Twickenham (Kings St, Riverside, Station)

Nothing's really happening and they don't want to change much because of the Rugby World Cup or Olympics or something...

Now, Twickenham - It's a nice town but, unless it's sunny it is very grey, hard and has a huge ugly road going through it. There are stunning parts and I love walking through the old part winding under the bridge, by the lampost to Orleans House Gallery, or past the cemetery, or Sion Road, the trees, so many trees, and gazing from the station bridge across the rooftops of a time before.  Then there are the people in the street, the church street shopkeepers, the charity shop workers, grocers, people you know, the man who draws buildings outside Boots, The dry cleaners and even poundland! (God is that how I use my town?) There is character there and I love it, but it just seems so disconnected. Even Church street could glow a lot more. I feel like I see people go from one thing to the next and no one is stopping to enjoy things properly on the street or the buildings. Not like in other parts of London like Dalston where people chat in the streets and take their time - there's a better vibe. though it's going awry. Yes a lot of towns have lost their identity but i suppose it's moving with it's natural course. But couldn't we just steer it a bit better and help make it a nice place to live?

In the comments Twickerati asks" "what do people want & expect rather than just “not want”. A pleasant residential suburb? A shopping location? A riverside tourist destination? A commercial hub? All have merits but they’re not all complementary. This still needs some thought to help shape what exactly is “Twickenham: the brand”.

Twickenham the brand - will be intriguing to see what comes of it. You can read a town by the vibe. that's all


I want to get involved with making this town a bit better as I know there are lots of groups trying to do things (like FSS, and a bunch of other acronyms POTR PORTT TRAG) but you don't hear about real improvements. Perhaps I'm ill-informed as much of the public is about what can be done and how to approve it or not. Does anyone else know about plans in their towns or do you not really care? I suppose if it's going to happen it will, but I grew up around here and have already seen lots of changes - some great, some not but sure we all just want to have what we need, live well, and live in a harmony with everyone else. Will check out some plans to The Fox pub at the library - gosh is this what motherhood does to you or is it just growing up?

In any case, I feel a community saved through improved community awareness with interesting blogs like Twickerati is a marvelous thing. Localised and specialised social networks like For Sanity's Sake and Netmums (for parents) are bridging gaps between people meeting each other and knowing what's happening in the area. Twitter is linking these event/info organisers and users and slowly people can get on board. People just need to say what they think. I suppose we're all discovering this new world together and I'm pleased to be listening to these conversations and possibly participate.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Weaning and HIPP Organic food review

Leon LOVES food. He had his first tastes from about 4 months with purees and other finger foods and now at 10 months he's pretty much feeding himself with his hands and with a spoon! It's so exciting to watch him maneuvering the spoon into his mouth. As expected, it's messy - but in the space of a few days he's hitting the target much better and not getting as much on the walls thank goodness.

Since going to back to work part-time I've found it a bit of a struggle to organise myself properly in terms of making all his food - and remembering to take it out of the fridge in the morning. When he's being looked after by my parents or my childminder friend, I've pretty much given up on making his main meal and am content to pack him a jar/pot/tube of pre-made food along with a few steamed veg, pasta and a banana or pot of yoghurt for after.
 
I was sent a few tubs of  HIPP Organic wholesome meals to try out and they've gone down extremely well. Firstly, the size of the portions are large enough to satisfy his hunger even though they were stage 2 wholesome pots suitable from 7mths+ and I shall try the stage 3 for 10mths+ soon enough. To prepare I only needed to place in a little pan of hot water for a few minutes where I also added some cold pasta and frozen veg to complete his meal. You can of course just give the pot on its own - but I prefer to add those bits to vary the textures/tastes etc. Plus he can dip them into the HIPP food.

Secondly, the meal flavours were indeed scrumptious:  Sweet Red Pepper & Aubergine Penne; Tasty Sweetcorn, Tomato & Chicken Risotto and Scrumptious Cottage Pie with Herbs. (Full product range here) However I was a bit concerned that most of them contained a high percentage of tomatoes (usually 20% of the veg) and Leon hadn't reacted well to tomatoes a few months ago. But he didn't react to it and ate it all up so it was fine :) 

Last but not least, HIPP have made their new pots completely recyclable plus, it's easier to reuse than the glass pots as they can go in the freezer - perfect for storing batches of my own recipes ;) And they stack better than the glass pots too. It's also encouraging to know that "each of the ingredients can be traced back to the farm, field or animal they came from" and that all the ingredients are considered organic. Thumbs up all around!
HIPP organic pots approved by Leon
The main factor for me, as well as knowing that it's relatively free of nasties, is the convenience of chucking it into the baby bag for whoever's looking after him and knowing that it's easy to prepare to serve warm. Now, I'm looking forward to trying the other flavours, but will save them for childcare to use only as they are a tad pricey to be used every day. Plus I enjoy making food for him!