Going Green

Like most of us, I’m concerned about the environment and the way humankind has devasted our planet with our wasteful and lazy ways.  On a more personal level too, we are not doing ourselves any favours with our easy, throwaway lifestyle choices.  I’m more than a bit worried about the negative impact plastic has on our bodies for instance.  We ingest tiny particles of the stuff everyday through the food chain as well as bits that may break loose from our containers and packaging. It has also been suggested that toxins in plastic containers could leech into the food in those containers. See five reasons to avoid plastic containers. Even most teabags are made with plastic and I recently read about a scientific study that was conducted and it showed that tea made with plastic teabags had particles of plastic in it. Yes, you are drinking plastic! 

I’ve long been very mindful of what I use in the way of cosmetics, toiletries and some household cleaning products.  I always buy cruelty free products and try to avoid those containing parabens and SLS.  Some shower gels and shampoos have these and other harmful chemicals in them, all of which we are rubbing over our skin and then washing into our water system. I’ve toyed with various ideas to reduce plastic use, reduce general waste and be a bit more eco-aware over the years and am on a bit of a kick with it again. 

Luxury Bathroom Spa Gift Set by Hooked On Patterns

My first idea came from seeing some beautiful crochet projects on Ravelry, specifically the Spa bathroom set  from Hooked on Patterns.  Until a couple of weeks ago, my shower cubicle contained; a nylon shower scrubby and shower gel, shampoo and conditioner all in plastic bottles and I used disposable cotton wool pads to clean off my make up. I made up my mind that I would ditch the plastic from that area at least.

So, I spent a fair few hours crocheting the shower puff in white cotton yarn, King Cole Cottonsoft if you are interested, only to find that it didn’t work with shower gel, I didn’t have a bar of soap to try and having thought about it, that might have been ok.  However, it weighed a bloody ton when wet so once it had dried out, I pulled it out to re-use the yarn. That felt like a disappointing fail to be honest.

Next up was the face scrubbies, I used a different pattern, Resuable make-up scrubbies from Stitched Up Craft for these and also experimented with my own patterns.  These are ok to use, I use micellar water for cleaning off my make up and you need to be careful that it doesn’t just run off the pad!  I think they would be better with a cream/lotion type cleanser really.  They are not quite as soft as normal disposable cotton wool pads but you pop them into a mesh bag and in the washing machine rather than in the bin heading for landfill so that’s got to be worth the minor inconveniences surely. 

My favourite things from the spa set are the facecloth, which is crocheted in a nice textural stitch and is deliciously soft on my face and the soap scrub, which is a little mesh bag for a bar of soap, I got some handmade soap from Hatton Handmade Soap via a lovely eco webshop called Peace with the Wild.  So, the soap scrub or soap sack as they are often called works a bit like the old soap on a rope for those old enough to remember that! The bag has a hanging loop on it and you leave the soap in the bag and lather up and either use your soapy hands to wash yourself or rub the soapy bag over your body.  If you love the ease of one of those  nylon shower scrubbies with a dollop of shower gel, then you won’t like the extra effort needed to use the soap sack but I think it is worth it both for my well-being and that of the environment.

Also from Peace With the Wild, I bought a solid shampoo bar and a conditioner one too, pictured here.  Now these I’m still not sure about.  I have read about the transition period where your hair feels waxy and greasy and is difficult to style.  This is because for years, your hair has been producing it’s own natural oils to combat the chemicals in the shampoos and conditioners we’ve been using.  It takes anything from a few washes to a few months apparently for your hair to get used to the new chemical-free shampoo bar and to stop producing so much oil.  The first couple of washes, my hair felt truly dreadful and if we hadn’t been in lockdown so no one sees me anyway, I don’t think I’d have stuck it out. However, three weeks in now and there is a noticeable improvement from how it felt at first.  I’ll continue until I’ve used up the whole bar but if I’m stuggling to dry and style my hair, this might just be an eco idea that gets shelved. I hope my hair adapts to it though because like with the soap sack instead of shower gel, I like the knowledge that I’m not washing tons of chemicals into the water system.  All of the soap, shampoo and conditioner bars are made from natural ingredients, cruelty free, vegan and come wrapped in paper which is of course recyclable.

Next up, in light of my recent discover about the plastic in teabags we’re in the process of ditching teabags in favour of loose-leaf teas and herbal infusions.  I ordered lots of taster packs from The Tea People as well as a metal caddy with my favourite tea, liquorice root and some English breakfast tea for Patrick to try.   We use a ball shaped tea infuser for single cups rather than a teapot so it’s a little like a teabag I suppose.  Patrick enjoys the Sleep tea which is a blend of some of the common sleep inducing plants such as hops & valerian along with passion flowers and rose petals.  I really like the Relax tea which I’ve been drinking as my bedtime drink.  It’s made from a blend of tulsi, fennel, camomile, aniseed, linden and sunflower petals and is a lovely, sweet and soothing taste. I’ll definitely be ordering from them again, the tin caddy with my liquorice tea in is really pretty so I’ll probably get our favourite teas in caddies next time.

That’s about it from tree-huggers central for now.  Doing our best to make a difference!


Lockdown Life

I have been working from home since 24th March. As I write this post, that is 8 weeks and 4 days.  I honestly thought we would be back at work within a month when the lockdown was first enforced.  Mostly, I’m enjoying working at home but as my colleague Debbie is furloughed, it is a bit of a struggle to keep up with the workload.  The worst part really is that we obviously can’t go out, away for a weekend or anything that we would normally do to switch off from work so I feel like it is very ‘work/eat/sleep/repeat’.  The best part though, is being able to sit in the garden for my lunch when the weather is nice. Listening to and watching the birds is my mediation for the day.

As we are not going to be going on holiday this year, we have invested a bit of time, effort and money into our garden, it is a very small space but we have done our best to make it a wildlife haven.  We get such pleasure out of watching the birds at the feeders and sitting out when it is warm enough that we decided to extend our little pond with a cascade feature, see video below.  Since then we’ve got a couple of pond plants in there too.   

We also bought a small hawthorn tree for blossom and berries for the birds and a dwarf cherry for a large pot outside the back door.  Already, the birds have claimed the water cascade and not a day goes by that someone isn’t bathing or drinking from it.  We’ve been privileged to witness our resident daddy blackbird feeding his two offspring and pairs of robins and bluetits with the males feeding their mates which is what they do just before egg laying apparently.  We’ve had a pair of goldfinches on the feeder that we bought specifically to attract them and of course, many chattering sparrows and squabbling starlings. We have named our blackbird Tufty because of a tuft of feathers sticking up on the back of his head and I can’t resist calling his two demanding juniors Ronnie and Reggie!  We were sure that our robins (called Bob and Bobette) also would be nesting nearby but we haven’t seen them for a while and no sign of any youngsters so I fear the worst.  We had a juvenile robin visiting us last year, very cute and were hoping our Bob and Bobette were going to be parents  raising a brood for us to watch this year.   See below video of Tufty feeding one of the twins, notice the other one coming from under the bush at the back to make sure he/she isn’t missing anything! 

I’ll leave you with a slideshow of photos all taken in our garden this year, mostly during lockdown.

10,000 Steps for 10,000 Men – The finish.

Following on from my last post, I successfully completed my 10,000 steps for 10,000 men challenge in aid of Prostate Cancer UK.  Throughout the month of March, I walked or ran (mostly walked truth be told!) at least 10,000 steps per day, which was around four and a half miles.

In total I did 355,401 steps which equated to 258.65 km or 160.71 miles and raised £740.00 for Prostate Cancer UK.  It wasn’t always easy.  Physically it wasn’t difficult but finding the time to fit in the walks was, especially after the lockdown started and working from home, I no longer had my 3 miles walk to and from work. I was incredibly lucky with the glorious weather we had in March and I confess to doing more than one exercise session per day, sometimes going out three times on short walks, just trying to get the steps in.  It was for a good cause though and neither I or anyone else was put at risk during the walks.

I was pleased to get to the end but I did have some enjoyable walks.  One Friday evening in particular comes to mind. 

Sunset over the drain

 I still needed to do quite a lot of steps as I had been busy with work during the day and hadn’t managed to get out. I was set to give up on the day but my best cheerleader Patrick talked me into going out whilst he cooked our meal and so with the promise of a beer waiting for me afterwards, off I went.  Up Endike Lane towards Beverley Road, back through the little park next to Cross Keys and along the field behind Endike School towards the drain.  It was just starting to get dark and the light was beautiful, I was so pleased that I’d gone out. Leaving the drain and on my way back down Endike towards Cranbrook it looked so beautiful with the car and street lights just coming on and the sun setting behind it all. Not the best quality of photos with my phone but evokes a nice memory for me anyway.

The best thing about posting this update as long after the event as this is that I can impart the best news we could have got, that Patrick’s operation was successful in removing all of the cancer as it was located in the prostate only and hadn’t spread anywhere else. 

Endike Lane

I Went For A Walk Today…

I have pledged to do 10000 steps a day, for the whole of March, fundraising for Prostate Cancer UK. During the week, I’m walking to and from work which takes care of about 7500 steps so the remaining 2500 aren’t too difficult to achieve but weekends are a bit of a struggle to get the steps in. So today I went for a walk. It was a beautiful, sunny spring day and I left the house and headed towards Beverley Road via Cottingham Road. My destination was Pearson Park which was the first public park in Hull and named after the ship owner and philanthropist Zachariah Pearson, who donated the land to build it. The park is currently undergoing a restoration and I was looking forward to seeing how this was progressing.

Walking down Beverley Road, I am always struck by the beauty of some of the architecture. I would love to step back in time to see this street as it once was. Now it’s a mixture of shabby bedsits within converted once-grand houses and Polish supermarkets! One such grand building that looks to have been sympathetically converted into an apartment block is the former Mayfair cinema pictured below. Unfortunately there’s a bus stop right in front of it so it’s impossible to get a clear shot.

On approach to the park entrance on Pearson Ave, I’m impressed by the restoration of the magnificent gateway. The gates and gateway have been repainted in the original period colours of green and cream and look wonderful.

Inside the park there is a lot of work still to be done but what is done looks fabulous. Tucked behind metal fencing, Queen Victoria has had a bit of a spruce up, she’s looking gleaming.

The new conservatory is I believe, built on the site of the old one and a beautiful bandstand is close by. I am looking forward to a time when this horrible Covid-19 outbreak is over and we can all go out to the park together again and enjoy these glorious facilities.

Leaving the park, I walked home via Newland Ave, popped into the greengrocers and tried the supermarket for bread flour, no luck there. This pandemic has brought out the worst in some people. Selfish panic bulk buying of some things leaving nothing for the rest of us. I hope they all get weevils in the flour they have stockpiled.

I decided to use Auckland Ave for the last leg of the walk home because its quieter and more peaceful than Cranbrook. This time of the year is my favourite time, everyone’s gardens bursting with life and the birds singing in the trees. The blossom of the magnolias in these gardens caught my eye and I quickly snapped a photo. I was a bit worried that someone might come running after me demanding to know why I was taking photos of their garden.

I feel so much better after a walk with mother nature and I’m not far off completing my step count today!

If you care to donate, here is the link. Jill’s 10000 Steps fundraising page for Prostate Cancer UK

Crochet Blankets

I’ve discovered a new crafty love! Crocheted stripey blankets (or throws, whichever term you prefer). I ended last year with the Granny Block Blanket for Michael as a Christmas gift and started this year with the V-Stitch blanket I had hoped to do as a Christmas gift for Mason.

The patterns from HanJan crochet are part of her yarn stash series, designed to use up stash. However, as I liked her colour schemes for both blankets, I bought the yarn packs from Deramores. I was a bit disappointed with both yarn packs actually as the colours didn’t match up to the pictures of the blankets and I ended up substituting some of the colours anyway. I think the designer, Hannah’s blankets were probably made from her own stash so the actual yarns she used may not be available but even so, some of the colours were way off course.

Both projects were enjoyable but I think I preferred making the granny block one, the cream linking row between each colour felt like an anchor of sorts and seemed to help me focus. Here it is in situ on Michael’s sofa. How perfectly does it match?

The V-Stitch, although nice to do, started to feel a bit endless about halfway through. I just chose 9 colours and picked a colour one row at a time, with no pattern or scheme in mind. I think that for my personality though, I need a bit more structure or plan to work to as I started to get fed up with trying to decide which colour should come next. However, it turned out well and Mason is happy with it.

For anyone interested, the exact colours and yarns I used are listed in my Ravelry projects here : V-Stitch Blanket and Granny Block Blanket.

One thing I do want to crochet this year is a striped blanket for us, inspired by the beautiful sunrises and sunsets we see at this time of year. I love the colour palette of the winter sky and this idea has been bouncing around for a while now but I’ll need to buy the right colours. I’d best get some stash used up first!

I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of my inspiration, although these phone photos really don’t do these lovely colours justice. Watch this space for a future winter skies blanket.