#12ecothings: The 2nd and 3rd Quarters

In March I posted about our #12ecothings journey that we had embarked on at the beginning of the year. The idea is that in order to make lasting changes in our lives which will benefit the planet, we adopt one eco switch each month. This means that by the end of the year we will have made twelve swaps which we can carry forward.

Our journey so far has been a learning curve. Some switches have been easier to make than others. Sometimes we’ve made two swaps in one month, then gone a month without making any. It’s just depended on when we’ve run out of things and have been ready to purchase something more eco-friendly. I don’t believe in throwing away something just so that you can look eco-friendly, so we’ve been running down what we have at home first.

In March I talked about the three switches we’d made – water bottles, oral hygiene and loo roll. These swaps are still very much in effect. We take our water bottles everywhere we go, all of us now have a bamboo toothbrush subscription with We Are Bristle (although I’m still looking for eco friendly toothpaste for my children), as well as a loo roll subscription with Who Gives A Crap. Our homemade toilet wipes are also still being used, although I need to make more, as we only have enough to last us around two days.

Our next six swaps are as follows:

1. Soap. I’ve always preferred bars of soap, as the liquid stuff really dries out my hands, even the ones with added moisturiser. I used to buy the liquid soap in the plastic pump bottles, as it was easier for the children to use. I’ve gone back to bars now though, as not only do they last much longer (my kids can go through one bottle of liquid soap a day if let loose in the bathroom), they can be completely package-free if you know where to look. At the moment we have the sea vegetable soap from Lush, but I’ve also found soaps from independent makers in charity shops, craft shops, and on Etsy. If I can’t get it completely package-free, I look for bars wrapped in paper. This can then either be recycled or repurposed.

2. Dishwasher powder. Technically, in order to be the most eco-friendly we can, we shouldn’t even have a dishwasher. That being said, we’re a big family and we purchased our dishwasher less than three years ago. I used to spend hours doing dishes – more so when we were entertaining family and friends. When we bought our new kitchen we weighed up the pros and cons of having a dishwasher, and in the end the time-saving incentive was the deciding factor. It’s generally only on once a day on the eco setting, plus we bought one with an A+ energy rating. We started off using dishwasher tablets, but these were all individually wrapped in plastic, so when I discovered you could buy loose powder in a cardboard box we switched to that. The tablets are designed to go in the big models, but as we have a slimline model we don’t need as much detergent, so since swapping to the powder we get more washes for our money too.

3. Shampoo/conditioner. This has been a bit of a stop-start switch. I have a waist-length mane of dry, sometimes-curly-sometimes-straight-mostly-can’t-make-up-its-mind hair. It takes shampoo, conditioner, plus an occasional treatment/serum to tame it into something that I’m willing to inflict upon society! I took the plunge and bought a bar each of shampoo and conditioner from Lush, as well as a serum for added moisture. The shampoo bar was great, although with both myself and Kevin using it, it went down quite quickly, despite the fact that I only need to wash my hair twice a week at the very most! The conditioner bar wasn’t great. I didn’t feel it did much for my hair, although it could be that I need to try a few to find one which suits my hair. When both had run out I ended up being pushed for time and bought shampoo in a plastic bottle. I did buy a big one that I knew would last though, and my kids have plans to turn it into something wonderful once it’s finished! I’ve seen loads of different eco substitutes for bottled shampoo and conditioner on Pinterest, the most popular one being apple cider vinegar. I’m planning on trying out a few and may do a separate post on my findings. I’m not quite ready to try the no ‘poo method yet, although I’ve heard good things about it. The serum is great – definitely something I’ll be sticking with! My kids still use baby shampoo, as three of them have quite sensitive skin. I’m on the lookout for an eco brand for them though, particularly one in sustainable packaging.

4. Straws. I was a bit on the fence about this one – not because I don’t think plastic straws are having a negative impact on the planet, but because straws aren’t generally something we use. I felt that if we bought some it would just be for the sake of saying we had switched to reusable straws! However, I’m partial to a cocktail once in a while, and my teeth can be sensitive to cold drinks if there’s ice in them. Kevin bought me some bamboo straws which can be washed and used again and again. When they are at the end of their life they can be tossed in the compost bin, so are very environmentally friendly. The kids love using them when they have mocktails too.

5. Food wrap. Cling film and aluminium foil are the two things I was most keen to find substitutes for. Luckily I didn’t need to look far, as beeswax wraps are one of the most common swaps available. Naturally antibacterial and sustainable, they come in all different sizes and can be composted once they are beyond reasonable use. I went with Bee Green wraps, as they only use the surplus beeswax from the hives and are based in Devon. I am looking at making my own – if you’re interested my SIL, Jo, has a great tutorial.

6. Reusable bags. This is one which we have actually been doing for years, as we have acquired a stash of reusable bags for the shopping. One thing which really bothers me though, is the amount of plastic used to package fruit and veg in the supermarket. Even the loose produce invites you to put it in a plastic bag! I rebelled against this by making my own fabric produce bags. I used spare fabric I had lying around, but you could make them out of anything – an old t-shirt; a spare pillowcase; an old sheet. Even the most amateur sewer could whip up a few in around twenty minutes. I’ve had fellow customers come over to me in the supermarket to comment positively on my bags, as well as the workers on the checkout. One checkout lady even recognised me the next time I was in, thanks to my homemade produce bags, and called over her colleagues to have a look! A bit of eco-fame does wonders for adding a bit of glam to the weekly shop!!

It’s been fun working out which swaps to make, as well as giving us that warm glow which comes with doing good. We are still doing nowhere near enough to save our beautiful planet, but we’re getting there.

Which eco swaps have you made?

A Blogiversary Top 10

Today marks my first ever blogiversary!

I started my first blog back in 2014, but I got as far as one post before the PND hit. I’d been thinking about starting another one for ages, and last year decided to just go for it. At first I just wanted to log my thoughts and experiences – mainly the good ones – but it took a bit of a turn when I realised I had lots more ideas that I wanted to share. I outlined my plans for a new set-up in Bright Blogging Days but although I have the ideas and the motivation, everyday life comes first.

Still…37 posts later I’m still going. To celebrate I thought I’d share my top 10 of my blogging year.

  1. Getting to know people from all different communities in the blogosphere. Having a mix of subjects on my blog has led to interaction with a range of different people.
  2. Writing a guest post for the Sewcialists page. You can read my contribution to the #sewstripes challenge here.
  3. Having a place to share my witchy side. It’s not something I talk about with most of the people in my life, so it’s nice to have a place where I can be more open about practising magick.
  4. Breaking the silence on my experience with PND. Mental health needs to be discussed more openly.
  5. A world of inspiration awaits me in my feed. So many different people writing about different things in different ways!
  6. Gathering followers – this wasn’t ever one of my aims, as I started this blog for me. I’ve been amazed at how many people have stuck with me though, and taken the time to read what I have to say.
  7. Giving myself a voice. I have a lot to say, but sometimes find I can put across my point more coherently when it’s written down.
  8. Logging my family’s adventures. The blog acts as a way of recording our time together.
  9. Encouraging me to actually do the things I think/talk about doing – then to blog about them!
  10. Celebrating one year of blogging.

Thank you to everyone who has read, liked and commented on my posts. It’s nice to know that my voice is being heard. Any ideas on improving the blog/posts you’d like to see will be welcomed in the comments. I’m working on some new post ideas for the upcoming weeks, so watch this space.

Here’s to a bigger, bloggier second year!

Thank You and Hello!

I realised the other day that I now have over 50 followers! I don’t quite know how that happened, but I’m so pleased and thankful that you’ve all taken time out of your lives to have a read at my musings. I’m thinking that if I ever get to 100 followers, I may do a wee giveaway of sorts – possibly something that fits in with my whole eco-warrior self!

A while back I wrote a post called Bright Blogging Days, where I outlined my plans for how my blog was going to look. It started off well, but life got in the way and my writing fell by the wayside. I’m taking back control though, so expect more regular posts from me – on anything and everything!

I also realised that although I talk about my life and family a lot, I haven’t actually said much about us as individuals and how we fit together.

So here goes!

I’m Mags, a SAHM to 4 children, and I’m currently exploring my witchy side. I love to see the beauty in nature, as well as observe how people act towards one another. I’m happiest pottering around at home or in my garden, although I won’t say no to a night at the karaoke, especially if cocktails are involved! My family are everything to me, and although I’m fairly laidback, I’d willingly fight anyone who threatened their happiness!

My husband is Kevin, and he’s the cleverest person I know! He’s a lecturer and researcher in the Aerospace department at a well-established university. He also does a lot of outreach in his role as a STEM ambassador. Patient and mild-mannered, he’s a brilliant role-model for our children, and he does his utmost to make sure we’re all happy. He started us on our eco journey before we were married, and has been the brains behind a lot of the positive changes we’ve made. We’ll be celebrating 12 years of marriage at the end of this month!

Andrew is our oldest child, and our only boy. At 9-and-a-half, he is intent on becoming a marine biologist – a famous one at that! His dream is to swim with sharks, and he’ll happily talk for hours on the subject, his brain soaking up and retaining any fact he reads. He reads anything he comes across, including Shakespeare (the children’s versions) and Dickens (the original versions.) My little man is also a whizz with Lego, and can build anything he thinks up, with only his imagination as his guide. He’s quiet and patient – a virtue needed with 3 sisters raiding his room on a daily basis! When he finds something funny, his infectious giggles can send a ripple of laughter through a room in seconds.

7-and-a-half-year-old Julia is our oldest daughter. I’d describe her as a free spirit with a built-in risk assessment feature! Out of all of my children she’s the most interested in my witchy explorations. She’s started collecting crystals and stones, determined to find out as much as she can about them. She’s extremely tactile, and will generally use her hands to look at something. She has her own ideas about fashion and hobbies, and it’s my aim to encourage her to believe in herself more. She can be quiet, but is very observant about her surroundings – about people in particular. She can be a bit of a worrier, but she also has a knack for calming people down with a simple cuddle, or by slipping her small hand into yours.

Keira is our 5-and-a-half-year-old whirlwind! She literally bounces around from the minute she wakes up until the minute she goes to bed. Her cheeky smile lights up her whole face, and she moves through the day singing, and living in her own little rainbows-and-unicorns world! She is also scarily clever! She could write at the age of 3, and exceeded expectations in all areas on her first school report card. She loves being a big sister, and spends a lot of time teaching her baby sister how to make funny faces.

Jessica is the baby. At 16 months, she’s developing her own wee personality. She’s finding her place in our family, and will quite happily “join in” with the conversation at the dinner table. She loves to play, which usually involves chewing on her toys and then hiding them in my wellies!

Family time is important to Kevin and I, and we make sure that we create time for talking about the serious issues with our children, as well as playing games, reading stories, or simply being available for a cuddle. Our children are great kids – they are loving, empathetic, and understand what fairness looks like. They are often complimented on their behaviour and manners when we’re out, and I have no problem taking part of the credit for that! They also bicker, annoy each other, and somehow manage to smear toothpaste on the loo when brushing their teeth! They make our family what it is though – toothpaste-smeared loo and all!

So there you have it – my beautiful little family. As in previous posts, I’ll be mentioning them a lot, so hopefully I’ve painted a picture of who we are and how we work!

Thanks for reading and sticking with me. Stay tuned for various musings, family antics, and lots more!

Healthy Goals

Since my teens, I have had a precarious relationship with food. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started, but it is undoubtedly linked to my mental health. Comfort eating has always been a big part of my life. At the age of fifteen I was heading down the road to bulimia, but luckily for me my dad found out in the early stages, and was able to help me nip it in the bud before it escalated.

The thing is, I love food. But I don’t like what it does to my body when I overindulge: the full-to-bursting sensation; the heavy feeling in my limbs; the bloated feeling. I especially dislike the pounds that then creep on as a result. These physical reactions are then coupled with negative thoughts about myself, which can send me into a downward spiral. It’s a hard cycle to break, but break it I must!

I was a skinny child, and my shape didn’t really change until I reached the age of twenty. Other than my bust, of course, which suddenly appeared one day. Measuring 34DD, it was disproportionate to my small frame! I then started to go a bit podgy around the belly, my bust got bigger, and at eleven stone I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. For my height, that weight is at the very top of my healthy BMI, so I decided I would do something about it: I was going to join Weight Watchers. I’d heard a lot of good things about it, and when I did my research I found that it centred on making healthy food choices, rather than cutting out certain foods completely. They also fully encourage exercise, in order to create a balanced healthy lifestyle.

Three days before my first meeting I found out I was pregnant with my first child. Morning sickness – coupled with the desire to eat healthily for my growing baby – meant that when I gave birth I was a stone and a half lighter than when I fell pregnant.

Another nine months and I was back up at my heaviest weight. I took myself off to Weight Watchers, just as I’d originally intended, and found a healthy way to control my eating habits, my weight, and my mental health. I loved going to the meeting every week, loved listening to other members’ stories, and loved watching my shape change. I was three pounds away from my goal weight when I found out I was expecting my second child. Unless medically advised, you aren’t allowed to attend Weight Watchers when pregnant, so I had to stop going to my meeting.

I did go back after having my second baby, but I started to help out at the meetings, so it became more like a job than a weight-loss journey for me. I had a different leader this time (who is now one of my best friends), plus my head wasn’t in the right place. Apart from a couple of fluctuating pounds, my weight didn’t really change. When my local meeting closed I didn’t look for another one.

Then two years ago I started afresh at a meeting taken by the first leader I had. Two months in I discovered I was pregnant with my littlest ray, so halted once more. Today I went back to the meeting. I’ve joked that it’s her last chance, as that’s now twice I’ve fallen pregnant within a few months of joining her meeting!

I know that Weight Watchers works for me. Anything that creates a calorie deficit will in fact work, but I know that this plan in particular fits in with my lifestyle. As a family we eat home-cooked food, so meal planning will not be a problem. I’ve also looked out my exercise DVDs, so that I can tone up as the pounds shift. My littlest ray’s morning nap is the ideal time to burn off some fat, as well as boost the endorphins.

My aim is to lose around a stone and a half. Although I have that number in mind, it’s not the final goal. I want to focus on non-scale victories too: inches lost, clothes fitting better, and feeling fitter. My first goal is to fit into a dress for my step-sister’s wedding next month.

My biggest aim is to show my children the importance of making healthy choices – getting them to “do as I do, not as I say.” We are our children’s first role models, so it’s imperative that we step up and demonstrate good choices to them, instead of simply waxing lyrical.

I’ll be posting updates of my getting-healthier journey here. I’ve realised that I need to have accountability for my weight-loss, so this will be my sounding board! Have you set yourself any health goals recently?

Possibilities

I’ve been quiet for the past month, but there’s been a lot going on! I can’t disclose all of it at the moment, but be assured it’s all positive.

First of all – my husband got a new job! It came out of the blue, and all happened very quickly. He’s been working at a university as a research associate for the past four years, playing about with planetary drills and robots! I’m playing it down, but he’s actually a super clever guy, and is always looking for ways to develop new technology. He has a PhD in robotics, although rarely uses his title.

That’s about to change, as recently he was advised to apply for a lecturing post that had suddenly opened up. These posts are few and far between, and usually only become available when someone either retires or relocates. He got the job, as I knew he would. This means that he now has a permanent position at the university, instead of having to apply for funding every year or so to keep his job. He’ll need to get used to people calling him Dr! It also means more stability for us, since I’m still doing the SAHM thing!

That could also change sooner than we expected! After toying with a few ideas, I had sort of made my mind up that I would go back to teaching when my littlest ray starts school. I was initially a bit apprehensive about this, as it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the classroom. The curriculum has changed, policies have changed, plus my referees have now retired, so references will be a problem.

I found a refresher course at a local university though, which helps teachers who have been out of the classroom with new policies, plus gives help and advice when it comes to applying for jobs. This eased my mind a bit, and I began to look forward to the thought of being in the classroom again.

Then I stumbled across something which threw me a bit of a curve ball: Forest School.

Forest School is where children can learn in an outdoor environment, usually woodland. They learn survival skills through different games, plus anything which is covered on a typical curriculum can be incorporated into their surroundings. They get fresh air, will learn about nature in a natural environment, plus have plenty of opportunity to run around and just be kids.

Forest Schools are run by Forest School practitioners, whose training includes outdoor safety and working with children. It sounded right up my street! I did a bit of digging on the entry requirements, and was over the moon to discover that one of them is a teaching qualification. It will be at least a year before I would consider doing the training, so I have plenty of time to make my mind up about whether or not it’s something I’ll pursue. At the moment I’m really excited at the thought of being able to work outdoors, yet still put my diploma to good use. I’ll also be able to take my littlest ray with me to work, as well as my older three during school holidays.

I love that life is full of possibilities. One decision can be the beginning of something wonderful. It can also have the opposite effect, which is why some decisions are very hard to make. You’ll never know whether they’ll pay off if you don’t take a risk once in a while though. My husband and I are currently in the process of making one of these decisions. It could either go horribly wrong, or be the best decision we ever make. I can’t say much else on the matter at the moment, as it’s a very personal consideration. I’ll disclose everything once we’ve reached a decision either way though. (I know you kind of hate me for leaving you hanging right now, but I completely understand. 😉)

Its good to have options, and we count ourselves very lucky, as some are not as fortunate to have choices in life. All we can do is live our lives in a way that makes us happy, without harming others. For us, this means the best possible life for our children, giving them the freedom to live their lives as they choose, and showing them the importance of looking after our planet.

Where will life take you today?

The Magick Within

In my post A Spiritual Life I talked about how I had stepped away from the religion that I had grown up with, and was getting a feel for what I believe to be a more natural approach to spirituality. I’m pleased to say that the more I research the pagan ways, the more I truly feel that it is a path I was meant to follow. In my childhood religion, the word pagan was synonymous with unspiritual – not quite evil, but certainly not something anyone would want to be associated with. What astounds me most about this, is the fact that every Christian holiday has its roots buried deep within the realms of the pagan festivities. Of course, this was done in order to make Christianity more palatable to the pagans, but in fact it has actually made it easier for me to go back to the old ways, as each Sabbat contains elements of the holidays that I was brought up with.

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my Mum. She mentioned that my Grandad (her Dad) had been a pagan. He died when I was sixteen, although I hadn’t seen him since I was three. I was sad for all the conversations I couldn’t have with him on the subject of spirituality, as well as all the knowledge he would have passed on, but in a way I felt more connected to him, as if pieces of the puzzle were starting to come together.

Along with the pagan way of life, I have also been delving into witchcraft. Again, previously synonymous with evil and unspiritual, I have found it to be a very natural progression in the way I live my life. At first I was merely interested in herbal remedies for my family, but this interest graduated into exploring how invoking different deities can have an effect on these remedies. I’m currently exploring which spirits I most feel an affinity with, as it’s a very personal two-way relationship. I do have a particular interest in the Faeries, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are interested in me! In Catholicism people would graduate towards particular Angels or Saints, asking them to intercede for them and grant favours. Invoking spirits for favours/blessings is no different, although caution should be taken, as some spirits can be quite mischievous if they aren’t handled in the correct way. I’m finding Judika Illes’ book Encyclopedia of Spirits to be very detailed and informative.

Witchcraft is an umbrella term for so many different forms of magick. The Wiccan rede includes the phrase “harm none”, which I think is just good common sense, no matter what your beliefs are. I’m still researching most areas, finding which ones appeal to me the most. Botanicals and moon magick are up there, and I’m looking forward to the arrival of my first deck of tarot cards. I’ve been reading about different types of witch, and can confidently say that I’m likely to remain a solitary, walking my own path and not following any set tradition. Looking at the different profiles I’d say I flit between the Kitchen Witch and Hedge Witch depictions.

If you read my Feeling Bookish post, you’ll know the relationship I have with books. In this instance they are more of a friend than ever, as I truly believe that knowledge is power. I’ve read/am reading multiple books on the Sabbats and magick, cross-referencing everything to make sure I know what I’m doing. It was my birthday this month, and I was kindly gifted some new reading material, as well as some money – which I of course spent on books!

I believe we all have magick in us. Some are more in-tune to it than others, much in the same way some of us are great dancers and others have two left feet! I’m enjoying exploring the magick within, and already incorporating it into my everyday life. As I grow more confident in my practice, I’ll be sharing my experiences here. How will you explore your inner magick?

An Ostara Celebration

The Spring Equinox is upon us, bringing lengthening days and the hope of a fruitful growing season. Light and dark are equal, bringing balance for a fleeting moment, before the light triumphs. Seeds are sprouting tiny green shoots, trees are budding, and animals are emerging from their dens. The earth is warming up; nature’s incubator at the ready.

As with the other festivals on the Wheel of the Year, I wanted to mark the occasion. The wonderful thing about the pagan festivities is that they open themselves up to so many different ways of honouring them. I decided to keep it fairly simple, since I’m only starting out. I have my eye on some more involved rituals for future celebrations, but for now my priority is getting a feel for each Sabbat and identifying which facets work for me.

I focussed on some of the more well-known symbols of Ostara:

  • eggs and rabbits/hares for fertility
  • candles to welcome back the light
  • flowers as a representation of the warming earth and its bounty

Myself and my wee rays dyed some boiled eggs last night, then feasted on them for breakfast this morning. The children squealed with delight as I served them up – I foresee colourful breakfasts becoming a more regular affair!

As the children ate, I read to them from Wendy Pfeffer’s A New Beginning: Celebrating the Spring Equinox. We learned how people celebrated the end of Winter thousands of years ago, and how different cultures had their own rituals – some of which still hold fast today!

We then set up a mini Ostara altar, using an empty egg carton for the main structure. We filled it with some of the colourful eggs, chocolate mini eggs, candles, and flowers. My littlest-middle helped me to collect some moss from the garden, and we added that too.

I also had the main display set up in the living room – flowers, more candles and chocolate eggs, a wooden rabbit (procured from my littlest ray’s toy box for the day), and my celebration ring (adorned with a bee, a ladybird, and a butterfly.)

When the children arrived home from school, we scampered into the garden, where we planted some seeds at the time the equinox occurred. (16:15) While doing so, we conducted a growing spell, summoning the elements to bestow on us a plentiful growing season.

We then came in for dinner – mini quiches, followed by chocolate mini eggs for pudding…all in keeping with the egg symbolism.

After dinner, we all traipsed into the girls’ bedroom, where we had a lovely view of the sun setting before bedtime.

Here in Scotland, we had a beautiful day for our Ostara celebrations. It was an apt welcome to the growing season, and hopefully a sign of things to come.

Happy Ostara to you all!