#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!

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 Sparkly Grimoire

Since I’ve started exploring my witchy side, I thought it would be a good idea to write everything down. In doing so, I hope to learn what works for me, what doesn’t work, plus I can log all of the new discoveries I make along the way.

A few years ago I looked at bullet journals (bujo) and thought I’d start one of my own. There were so many beautiful spreads on Pinterest, and the styles really appealed to me. Just one catch – I’m artistic in the creative sense, but I can’t draw for toffee! I laboured over the first five pages of my bujo, but a weekly spread took me about two weeks to get “just right”, so I abandoned it. There are so many ways of creating a bujo without using the artistic spreads, but by the time I came across them, I was scunnered with it all!

I kept diaries in my early teens, and it’s always been my intention to start one up again, but apart from my brief liaison with a bujo, I’ve never got round to it.

Until now.

In my post The Magick Within I talk about how I’m not following any specific witchy tradition. I want to discover what works for me; what resonates most with me, without feeling the need to follow any strict teachings. There will of course be some rules that must be adhered to. However, there are certain rules which must be followed in cooking, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment or mix things up a bit.

I’m going to write down everything witchy that appeals to me. I’ll include moon phases, the elements, herbal remedies, and spells. I’ll also note my experiences with oracle and tarot cards, plus Sabbat celebrations. I have plans for a magickal garden space too. Anything and everything I come across on my spiritual journey will be included, so that I can adjust if and when I need to. It’s also a wonderful heirloom to pass down to my children, should it be a path they wish to follow.

A witch’s journal can be known as a grimoire or a book of shadows. There are many different images on Pinterest and Instagram of beautiful leather-bound books, covered in magickal symbols. My grimoire is an A4 gold sparkly notebook that I bought on sale at my local supermarket! It looks like it’s been sprinkled with gold faery dust, which suits me just fine, as it looks like magick just waiting to happen!

Do you have a special way of recording your path? Is there anything else you would include in a sparkly grimoire? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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?

#12ecothings: The 1st Quarter

This year one of our aims as a family is to be more environmentally conscious. We’ve always recycled, and we’re now on our fourth round of using cloth nappies, but feel we need to up our game a bit for the sake of the planet.

In January I was full of ideas on how our mega-eco life was going to look. We were going to shop small and local; go plastic-free in the home; wear organic, sustainable clothes; reduce our household waste. Having these ideas, I wanted to put them all into practice right away. Cue an overwhelmed Mags, on the hunt for dinner and almost crying because everything available at the supermarket was wrapped in plastic!

Instead of going into full meltdown mode, I took a deep breath and slowed down. Meaning that my kids got to eat that night! I’d seen a post on Instagram, where someone had started #12ecothings. The idea is that you aim to make one eco switch per month, so that by the end of the year you will have made twelve lifelong changes for the good of the planet. This seemed a lot more feasible to me, so we had a think about what our first few #12ecothings were going to be.

In January, we made sure that everyone in the family (including our littlest ray) had a reusable water bottle. We went with Klean Kanteen bottles, as they have a variety of styles to suit any need. Myself, my husband, and our biggest ray have insulated bottles, meaning we can use them for hot AND cold drinks. The two older girls have the Kid Kanteen sport cap – ideal for school and outings. Our littlest ray has the Kid Kanteen sippy cap, which is great for when we’re out and about. Gone is the need for plastic bottles, cartons of juice, or single-use coffee cups – plus it means extra pennies in our pockets!

February saw us re-evaluating our oral hygiene. We’d been making noises about moving to bamboo toothbrushes for a while – so when our toothbrushes needed replacing, we decided it would be our second switch. We decided to go with We Are Bristle, as they offer a subscription service. At the moment only my husband and I have them, as the children’s plastic ones are still usable. When they next need a new toothbrush, we’ll make the switch for them too. We’ve also been trying out the toothy tabs from Lush, to see whether they would be suitable for replacing toothpaste in plastic tubes. They do leave your mouth feeling very clean and have a lovely natural taste to them, but it would be expensive for the whole family to use them. I’ll be shopping around for a more cost-effective solution. This may even mean making my own. My husband made us all some mouthwash, using only cloves and water, and used a washed-out glass jar to store it in. He found the recipe in a book I borrowed from the library and it works brilliantly!

Another switch we’ve talked about making for a while has been the transfer from loo roll to family cloth. Family cloth is simply another term for reusable toilet wipes. This change isn’t actually a difficult one for us, as we use cloth nappies and cloth baby wipes. This is just the next natural step for our family. I had been putting off this switch, merely because I thought it was going to be an initial expense (although will save us money in the long run.) We use Cheeky Wipes for nappy changes, plus we have a hands and faces kit. They also do a toilet wipes kit, which look fantastic, but I couldn’t see us forking out for one any time soon. So I made my own, cutting up my biggest ray’s old vests and storing them in a spare basket. The idea is that they can be used for ALL toilet visits, with the used ones going into the nappy bucket. I’ve already tested them, and they feel so soft and luxurious on my derrière! Yep – old vests!

They aren’t the pretty wipes you see on Pinterest, but they do the job! I think sometimes people can lose sight of the real issue when going eco. It’s not about buying all the beautifully rustic things that make your home look the part. It’s about making use of what you already have. This switch definitely ticks that box for me! I should add that we will still provide recycled toilet paper for our guests, although they will of course be welcome to use our cut-up vests!

After my initial near-meltdown, I’ve learned that in the case of shifting to a more eco-friendly life, slow and steady is best. It gives you time to evaluate which changes you need to make, as well as the best way to go about making those changes. You don’t need to spend lots of money on the latest eco-trends to live a more environmentally conscious life. Making swaps as things run out is the way to go, along with cutting out single-use items. If everyone made just one change, the planet would be in a much better state. Which changes will you make?