Wednesday, 25 January 2012

What about travel for leisure,... that still allowed? Well in short, no. So I guess now is the time to discuss our intended trip to New Zealand in seven weeks time. This holiday goes against the entire point of this journey, well in theory anyway. Perhaps when I finish discussing our plans it will seem essential? I hope so...

This trip has been on the cards for quite some time, for our family to reunite and celebrate my Oma's 85th birthday. We always knew it was coming and we were always going, but it is only now becoming somewhat awkward with this challenge. My Oma is getting up there in age, she is losing her memory and quite frankly this will be the first and last time she ever meets my husband and daughter. Based on these elements alone I see this trip as entirely essential.

Now however essential the trip is there are still aspects that would not sit well with me, things like taking a vacation from the challenge while we are there and picking back up when we got home. That's not how this works and as such we will be living in New Zealand almost exactly the same as we do here. How?

  • We are staying with relatives to avoid spending money on accommodation.
  • We will be doing a grocery shop and packing our lunches when we head out for the day.
  • We will eat dinner at home and if this is absolutely unavoidable; as it will be for the birthday dinner, we will order the bare essentials, so no fancy drinks (water will suffice), and no entrĂ©es or desserts. 
  • We will travel by public transport when family are not an option.
  • We will sightsee with our eyes and not our wallets.
We will be gone 10 days and I think this should keep us in good stead with this challenge. Although the trip doesn't sit well with me in the grand scheme of things, I think we can make it work.

The 'No Poo' is coming along. I must say my hair is disgusting at the moment. It is oily, knotty and just gross, but I was warned that this is part of the process and my scalp will eventually settle down. Add to the oiliness some re-growth from cancelling all my hair appointments for the year and its quite a disaster zone right now. I have a packet of blonde hair dye coming from a lovely friend over east which I will use as soon as it arrives! Best part is, it didn't cost a cent!

I finally put petrol in the car today, so a full tank has lasted 2.5 weeks instead of 1. I'm really happy with that. I think it comes down to walking more, being direct with my travel when I do have to use the car and having no airconditioning. You will also be pleased to hear Lila and I are surviving just fine without aircon and here in Perth it has been very very hot.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Do you no poo?...

...was the question asked of me recently when discussing this challenge with some mums at a recent catch up. "Excuse me?" I said?
She asked again, "Do you no poo?"
I was completely baffled as to what she was going on about until she explained herself. "Do you use shampoo?"
Well yes I use shampoo, doesn't everyone? Turns out not everyone does and quite a few of these ladies in the group didn't. Their hair wasn't a oil slick or a crazy frizball of knots, it looked healthy, it was shiny, and looked how you'd expect perfectly washed hair to look. I was so intrigued that I researched a little when I got home and learnt some interesting things. Apparently our body is designed to make the perfect amount of oil for our hair, and shampoo and conditioner strips these oils requiring your scalp to produce oil quicker and thus requiring more washes. Apparently if left alone your hair doesn't need any of the shampoo and conditioner hype (this little snippet prompted a lot of "I told you so" from Luke. "See, I've been on the right track all along!"). It does warn you though that there would be a trial period after giving up shampoo and conditioner where your hair will be quite 'gross', and gives you a very simple recipe of bicarb and vinegar to get you through the points where you can not bear it any more. It will however eventually get to a point where you do not need anything... WOW! You guessed it, I'm going to try to ditch the chemicals in that area too.

EDIT - Here is a really interesting article a lovely reader sent me. It really is very fascinating.

Two weeks into January and the air conditioning in our car has decided to play up, and by play up I mean it's not working. We know what is wrong and it is totally fixable but it has lead to many a discussion. I put the question out to a few people to gauge thoughts, is air conditioning in a car essential, do we fix it? The majority of people claimed that having a child in the summer in Australia made air conditioning an essential. In fact the only person who said it wasn't was my mum, who was prompt to state that she never had it with us. After much thought we have decided NOT to fix it. Sure its going to be inconvenient, and gross, and I'll long for the gentle blast of cool air, but many survive without it and it really is only a luxury I've become accustomed to. After all I didn't have air conditioning in my old car and I survived a summer with a newborn.

I went out to a lunch this week with some wonderful mums. We went to a local brewery, which I admit sounds a little odd but it is very child friendly with a huge sandpit and many kids happily playing. There were gourmet pizzas, salads, yummy chips and ice cold beer on our table. It was hard not to order, I felt in a way like I was depriving poor Lila as all the other children munched on the food. I had planned ahead however, and had cut up some fruit and veges for her to munch on while we were there, and I had eaten before leaving home. We had water packed with us so although it was hard and my mouth was watering, we didn't spend a cent.

We have started working on a small trial vegetable/herb garden. It has been hard to get to it as the days are so hot and our gorgeous daughter wakes up burnt if she even dreams about the sun. On Sunday the evening cooled off and became overcast so we took the chance to rip up the bricks and have a look at what we had to work with, which is not a lot at all. In spite of our lack of fertile soil, or any soil for that matter, we feel like we've made some inroads, and our parsley is sitting there nicely amongst the dirt, although looking a bit dead itself at the moment. We're now on the lookout for some nice soil to replace the sandy dirt, then we'll be off to the markets to get our first plants.

Friday, 13 January 2012

From disposable...

...nappies to cloth was the focus of the last few days. It had been on my mind ever since I had thought about doing this challenge, in fact it's been on my mind ever since I found out I was pregnant, but until recently I was very very much against cloth and all for the disposable nappy.
It was my mum who first broached cloth nappies with me and I was very quick to shut her down. I was adamant I would not be using cloth and it was the end of the discussion, mainly because disposables are easy, and seemed relatively inexpensive when compared to fronting hundreds of dollars for some Modern Cloth Nappies (MCNs).
We have had a year buying disposables. Originally the only thing I considered was our immediate convenience, I didn't want to spend the time washing or even worry about it, but now the times are changing. I can no longer willingly put Lila in disposable nappies when I know the costs on the environment and our pocket. When I stop thinking about my immediate comfort and start to think where the nappies actually go, what happens to them and the benefits of putting Lila in cloth, it's really a no-brainer.
I'm lucky enough to have such a huge support network of mums from all walks of life who have offered me great support in making the decision to go cloth. I have had an avalanche of offers to trial their nappies, to have nappies made for Lila, to have people come over and demonstrate how they work, it has been such a humbling process. This week we received a nappy from a dear friend in Adelaide, and I ripped the packet open and fired up YouTube to try and get my MCN degree. Eventually I had the hang of it and on it went. Love at first sight, it was a winner! Someone also told me during the week that once I try it out and see how easy it really is I'll never go back, and I think they're right.
I went over to my mum's during the week to show her the nappy we were borrowing, it was pretty much a robot compared to the good old terry towel nappies she had me in but she loved it and was very excited. The transistion will be slow. As we aren't spending anything on new items we will have to slowly build up our stash from the buy, sell and swap sites, but eventually we will have enough to complete the switch.

I think she liked it too

Today marks a week since I filled the car with a full tank and it would normally be today that it would be ready for another tank. I am pleased to report it is still half full so we've made a huge improvement in our transport already! I think I'm finally over the withdrawals of junk food, and while I didn't have a lot to start with, I'm no longer craving these foods and reaching for the fruit bowl is really second nature now.

I have continued to use to home made washing powder and the dishwashing liquid. My hands are completely healed, how amazing is that! For those of you who were enquiring about the washing powder for washing cloth nappies, I'm pleased to report it works a treat!

Now it is time to enjoy a lovely warm summers night with Luke, watching movies hired from our local library and a yummy fresh fruit plate!

Monday, 9 January 2012

We have FAILED... making the dishwashing liquid. What? You thought I was going to say something else? Come on, don't write us off that quickly!

 Ok, well maybe I am exaggerating, it wasn't a total failure, we made, it works a treat, however, we will definitely change a few steps along the way.

Home-made Dishwashing Liquid

1/2 cup of water
1 cup of grated soap

Add soap to boiling water and combine until smooth (NOTE: "Combine until smooth" could have been better described in the recipe as "dissolve thoroughly!") . We probably should have had the water a lot more 'boily', but it's hard to boil a cup of water without it disappearing!

 Add 1 cup of washing soda

1 child enjoying afternoon tea

1 cup of vinegar

We added some lavender from our garden

Reuse a container and your done!

The verdict - It is ok. It cleans well, easy to make and makes about 500mls. The issues however lies in the recipe, and perhaps in our technique:

  • The recipe states you combine water and soap until smooth where it should really say until dissolved completely, although if our water was boiling a bit more ferociously it may have combined better.
  • It says you can use washing soda crystals, however the powdered version (and probably powdered soap) would be much better! 
I think if we change these two things the end result won't be some lumpy curdled looking off milk, and wont wont be virtually impossible to squirt it out of the reused container! So all in all, it works, it just needs tweaking.

 To be continued on this project......

Saturday, 7 January 2012

We have survived...

...our first week, I feel pretty proud about that, but we will see how we are going in a few weeks time. Even though I hear that 94% of new years resolutions are over by day 28,  I think we are in this for the long haul.
It has been a quiet few days here, it's nice. The days are longer and the moments so much more rich in quality. As we really look at our lives what we notice is the need for less. As we eat more quality food, more fruit, vegetables and nuts we find ourselves reaching for the cupboards far less. 

Luke has been focusing on fixing things around the home over the past couple of days. I must say it is brilliant having a husband so handy! Two things needed some TLC; our fridge and the baby monitor. The hinges on the fridge door had given up the ghost and as a result there was a gap in the seal of the fridge which was no doubt wasting a fair amount of energy. The door also squeaked like crazy when it was opened. Luke put his skills to good use and we now have a perfectly sealed and quiet fridge door. Total cost? $0.

Assessing the damage
Drilling a hole for the hinge pin
New hinge
The second thing Luke fixed was the baby monitor. Good old wear and tear from Lila throwing it around meant the volume up button broke and we couldn't turn it up to hear her. Luke took it out into the shed and soldered on a new switch. Turns out he used some switches he found and had saved when he was 12 years old knowing that one day he would have a use for them. That's pretty cool huh, and free too!

New switch

I can't say that fixing things is new for us. As I mentioned earlier, Luke is very handy and great at restoring and fixing bits and bobs so he would always try and repair something over buying a new one, but maybe, just maybe these pictures could inspire someone to give repairing a go over buying a replacement?

In spending news I had to fill up the car yesterday. I am really interested to see how long a tank of petrol will last me now that I'm opting for walking and riding over driving. Previously I had been filling up once a week, so I'm hoping to stretch the petrol a lot further now.

My skin has improved incredibly well, it is amazing the difference! I'm yet to make the dish-washing liquid but I have been using gloves to keep the detergent off my hands. Tomorrow I will make up the home-made liquid, now that we have come to last dregs of our previously bought detergent.

I'm excited for tomorrow, we're off to the markets to see if we can find some bits and pieces in order to prepare our vegetable garden. Some gardening tools and edging would be great if we can find some.

I thought I'd mention an interesting point someone made to me during the week. When asked if I would like something they pointed out that them buying it for me was not ruining my challenge as they were purchasing it not me. I'm really interested to hear people's thoughts on this little loophole. At the moment I won't do it, I see it as defeating the whole point of this exercise. Its not so much about who buys, but the fact the my family are consuming beyond our needs. Gifts I think are fine but to have someone buy something on behalf of us at the shops is cheating I think...


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Continuing on with...

..the theory of small changes making a difference I have managed to tweak a couple of things we do today. I was flipping through a book which was discussing plastic bags, particularly how a Minke Whale had been found on a Scottish beach with 800kg of plastic bags in its stomach!
I know plastic bags are bad, I've known for a while, I've seen alternative reusable bags in the stores, and I've even seen people bring in their old plastic bags and reuse them. I however have never bothered, why? To be honest I don't know why, laziness, ignorance, head in the sand kind of mentality I guess. It comes back to the old 'what's one person using plastic bags going to do?' This is the exact attitude and way of thinking I am determined to change in myself.

I drove for the first time in over a week today, it felt weird and I dare say I didn't enjoy it. I have been walking everywhere but today was grocery day so I bit the bullet and got into the car. I made it a greener journey by planning my trip, figuring exactly where I was going and went there, and then straight home.

I struggled a little with the spending today, I wasn't having a good day at all, I'm tired, a tad run down and all in all not in the best mood. The snacks screamed at me through the shops, it was even tempting to go browse the clothing store. The checkout belt looked strange with its lack of 'treats' like juice or crackers. It even felt odd to inform the check out lady that the apple Lila was eating was from home and not some food I had grabbed for her from the shops whilst there. I did manage though, I survived a horrid day without buying anything but the bare essentials.

I also want to look into home-made sandwich cloth wraps. I've seen a few patterns around and they look like a wonderful alternative to aluminium foil or cling wrap. In the meantime we have stopped purchasing cling wrap all together and found suitable containers around the home for Luke's lunches and left over food storage.

I plan on making the dish washing liquid tomorrow in the hope that by doing so not only will it be better for the environment but better for my poor skin! It's not pretty, it has gotten so bad my knuckles have even bled from bending my fingers. I have taken a before picture as I hope and am curious to see whether making my own detergent, free from chemicals, will improve the situation.

After a hard day, and although I was tired, I couldn't help but smile carrying my new re-usable cloth bags into the kitchen. The absence of rustling plastic bags made for a lovely moment...

Monday, 2 January 2012

''Get cash immediately"...

...''Quit your job and be your own boss now'', just some of the wide sweeping statements that we are bombarded with through the media. While the content of the statements vary, the message is still the same, drastic, immediate action must happen in order to see results. While big changes are good, they don't have to be huge, they don't have to be instant and you don't need to have results straight away. I am finding this especially true with our lifestyle shift. While we may not be making huge changes, we will make a difference.

I am reading the book 'Eco-Friendly Families' and a statistic in the book jumped out at me concerning this 'small steps' logic. It reported that if every household in the United States were to change a blown light bulb to an energy efficient bulb their effect would be enormous, preventing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that from 800,000 cars and save enough energy to light 2.5 million homes for an entire year. Now if that isn't an incentive to make small changes I don't know what is.

And so here is our small change, making our own laundry powder.

Grate up some Velvet laundry soap

2 cups worth

Add 1 cup of Washing Soda

1 Cup of Borax

And we're done - easy peasy

We put a wash on and were really impressed with the result. Clothes smell lovely, they don't have that overly chemical waft about them, and they smell clean, in a simple gentle way.

EDIT: As quite a few people have shown interest in making this laundry powder i thought it might be worth adding some information a reader has pointed out. If you use your laundry water as grey water, that is, if the water from your washing runs off into your garden, DO NOT add the Borax. I had read Borax is no good for plants and a reader confirmed this, so simply use the grated soap and washing soda minus the Borax. We often use the grey water for our garden and will be making up a Borax free batch.

NOTE: You only need to use 2 tablespoons per load.

Today marked the last day with Luke at home, he is back to the daily grind tomorrow. I will really miss his help, darling Lila  is having a rough time with her molars and has been super grizzly. Usually when she is like this and it's just her and I we head to the shops to distract her and of course I usually make a feel good  purchase of chocolate or something along those lines. Perhaps instead of walking the shops I should endeavour to create more moments like this

''Lila, this is a leaf''

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Two hours and....

...fifty eight minutes after waking. The amount of time Luke and I lasted before we discovered we 'needed' to buy something. Luke wants to get some footage off his camera so he can do some editing on the computer but he needs a 4 pin male firewire to male USB cable to do so, he doesn't have one. The conversation went something like this:

Luke: ''I need a ..... cable to get the footage off the camera"'
Me: 'Hmmm, well you can't buy one"
Me: '''Have you checked Gumtree or Freecycle?"
Luke: "'yeh, can you go onto eBay for me''

We both search ebay and they are all brand new...

Luke: ''You can get them for a couple of buks new"
Me: ''Hmmm I guess we could just use last nights lotto winnings, then we aren't spending money..''
Luke: ''Yeah ok"

End of conversation for about 20 minutes.....Now how easy was that! How easily did we give up looking and resort to the buy it new mentality! After about 20 minutes I was sitting here at the computer and I thought, hang on, the point isn't that we are not technically spending money, the point is, we are so programmed into consuming new that we don't put the effort in to sourcing more environmentally friendly options. I'm sure there is someone who has one lying in their drawer and they are no longer using it, I'm certain we can pick one up second hand but because in that 5 minute time frame we couldn't see a second hand one jumping out at us we resorted to the, 'ah well we'll go buy one' attitude.... Hello! instant gratification anyone?
Anyway, we didn't buy one, we have our feelers out and will do our darnedest to source a second hand one from somewhere!

Today I walked to the shops instead of driving to pick up the groceries. It is actually shameful that it's new because we live on the same street as the shops! I also walked out of the shops with the bare essentials of what we needed for dinner and only that. It is the first time in a long time that I didn't impulse buy something totally unnecessary, and I'm proud of that.

I still have not managed to make the laundry detergent but I'm pretty sure tomorrow will be the day for that. Something tells me I am about to have a whole lot more time on my hands now that I'm not trolling the shopping centres.