Thursday, October 30, 2008

Your daily grossness

As loyal readers would know, I had my wisdom teeth out a few weeks ago. It all went generally well, except one of my dissolvable stitches just wouldn't dissolve. I've tried tugging at it (um, that hurt), poking at it continually with my tongue (that did nothing for my facial expression), and brushing hard over it with my toothbrush.

Alas, nothing. It was determined to stay in there, taunting my futile efforts.

So this morning I bit the bullet and called the surgeon's office, who bade me to come in at once. After a bit of poking around, and fair bit of spitting blood from me into the basin thoughtfully provided, it came out.

Hooray - now even my mouth is Plastic Free Month-ready!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's all about priorities

Since announcing my Plastic Free November project, I've been doing a bit of thinking, much of it sparked by an aquaintence who scoffed at me over the amount of time I'd have to spend shopping and cooking from scratch. "What a waste!", they sneered.

I'll concur with their point - it does take a little more time. Yesterday, for example, I needed some broad beans for dinner. It would have been much faster to jump in my car (let's presume that I actually own a car, and know how to drive one!), joining the hoards on the road, spewing pollution and carbon emissions as I went, and then lunge into the supermarket, getting a plastic packet of cheapie imported broad beans from the energy-guzzling freezer, then driving back home to quickly throw them in a saucepan, without the hassle of removing them from their pod.

Much, much faster, but at what cost?

Instead I spend an hour or two at the start of each month doing a monthly menu plan, based on what is currently in season. I love this time - I happily dig out all my cookbooks and food magazines and daydream about fabulous meals, drooling as I go. Then, a few times each week, I take Grumbles in hand after consulting my plan (no asking "what's for dinner?" at our place, we always know!) and we sally forth upon our feet down to the local shops, stopping to natter to shopkeepers and friends as we go. It's not quick, but damn it's enjoyable.

Then we walk home, savouring the fresh air and sunshine, or rain if it's that sort of day, chattering about the shoes hung over power lines ("Grumbles, is that where we keep our shoes?" "NOOOOOOOOOO, bwahahahhah!"), listening to the birds, pausing to scratch the bellies of neighbourhood cats. Then we plonk ourselves on the front stoop, scrap bowl and broad beans in hand, and shell them together. Grumbles learns about food, and locality, and the importance of community, and I enjoy watching her learn and blossom, proud to stand by and watch her showing Max the book shop man her new shoes, and informing Zota the cheese shop owner that we're having pasta with broad beans for dinner tonight.

I'm sorry, but I don't consider that to be a waste of time at all. The hand-shelled broadies win for me, every time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Plastic free for November (feel free to join in!)

As long time readers may recall, last April I took a pledge to be plastic free for 21 days, and it went rather well. I didn't purchase anything that was made of or came wrapped in plastic (except for an odd hiccup or two) as I was sick to death of it coming into my house.

I've mostly stuck with it, but over the last few months have become a bit lazy (having four wisdom teeth out will do that to a girl), and slowly but surely the plastic has been creeping back into my house. Dip containers, juice containers, plastic-wrapped foods - you name it, we've got it. It's insidious, and bloody everywhere, and I am putting my foot down!

No more plastic! I'm making November the new Plastic Free Month. It's disgusting that we scar the earth by drilling for oil (a rapidly dwindling resource), expend huge amounts of energy in processing the oil to turn it into plastic, then manufacturing it, packaging it, transporting and distribution it, polluting heavily the air, the oceans, the rivers and the earth as we go, and then once we get the plastic home we throw it in the friggin' bin. ENOUGH!

My pledge is going to be three-fold:
1 - I shall refrain from purchasing anything that is made of or is packaged in plastic for a month;
2 - I shall try to minimise all waste created for the month, and only purchase products in packaging that can be recycled;
3 - I shall crap on about it here, in the hope of inspiring others.

This does mean that my purchasing over the next month will be limited mostly to food, but that's quite ok as I have enough stuff as is, and I'll be saving money over the start of the silly season.

Now for the interactive bit - who's with me? Trust me, it's easy and green - think of it as an early Christmas present to the earth, as we eshew unsustainable practices, and focus on recycling, reusing and reducing. Now, before you start freaking out and begin wailing "I can't do it, the damnable stuff is everywhere!", I think it's only fair to allow a few caveats. Mine, for example, are plastic lids on glass bottles, plastic linings in canned goods, and plastic-wrapped medicines if we fall ill. I'm not going to beat myself up over any of those, although I'll try and avoid them where I can. I think the key to making this work is making active choices whenever you can, and not sweating the smaller, unavoidable instances.

I'll help you all along by posting menu and recipe suggestions, as well as plastic free Christmas ideas. So c'mon! Sign up, and let's be crazy and plastic free together! I promise, I'll blog about it every day as we go!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Six of one, half a dozen of the other

I've been tagged by Katiecrackernuts (top name!) to do the Six Things About Yourself meme. You know the drill: I blab six things, then tag somebody else.

The challenge will be to come up with six interesting things about myself that I haven't already mentioned before. Yikes! I'm not sure I'm that layered, but here goes:

1 - I LOVE LOVE LOVE mid-century illustration, like the above pic. Can't get enough of it, no sirree! Just as well the fabulous Plan59 is around to give me a regular fix. If anybody knows of any other similar sites, feel free to let me know.

I mean, seriously, how excited is that kid over his spaghetti? He's all "Great Scott, Spaghetti! I may very well crack my face open with excitement! Spaghettispaghettispaghetti!" Oh man, it cracks me up, gets me everytime. I can't see the youth of today being that thrilled over mere pasta.

2 - I'm rather partial to a bit of spaghetti myself. Especially with freshly made rocket pesto and roasted pumpkin.

3 - I only paint my toenails in summertime. Never the winter, because I'm too lazy to upkeep something that is always hidden in socks and boots. So now you know - I'm a nail maintenance slob!

4 - I never did the big travel/work/live overseas thing, as we chose to have Grumbles instead. I often get pangs of envy listening to others talk of their big adventures, but I'd still make the same choice if I had my time again. Still, never too late, eh? I hear Norway is nice this time of year...

5 - Cheesecake is my favourite dessert. I ate three pieces of it the night before my wisdom teeth op. I figured I'd best shove the calories in whilst I could still move my mouth, and thank heavens I did because it was nothing but mash for a week afterwards.

6 - I am not ashamed to admit that I love Careless Whisper by George Michael, although I may regret announcing this when you all stop reading my blog in disgust at my pathetic taste in music.

Right - tagging time. This one has been doing the rounds for a while, so if you want to do it and haven't yet had the pleasure, consider yourself tagged by moi!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Issue #6 out now!

Pssst! Got your copy of MixTape Issue No. 6 yet? It's choc full of fantastic articles, including Guys Should Sew, Natural Dying, The Twelve Days of Christmas Mix, Creative Journals and a really super article on Greening Your Holidays by yours truly.

It's the best read you'll have all year. Guaranteed!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Paper making tutorial

It's here - the paper making tutorial you've all been waiting for! This is such a fun activity - not only is it ideal to do with small helpers, but it's recycling at it's creative best, and cheap as chips to boot. What's not to love, eh? So pop on some old clothes (one does get a little wet), and let's get cracking.

A paper recyling kit (I bought mine from a National Geographic store years ago, but you can find them online here)
Saved paper
A blender
A tub that is larger in dimension than the deckle in your kit
A space to lie the paper down to dry. The kits usually come with drying boards, but they won't work if you want to make larger pieces. I usually use the concrete out the front of my house, as it's nice and smooth, but I always give it a good sweep first, as getting dirt on your new paper is rather annoying.

Step 1: Gather your paper to be recycled. I save every bit of coloured paper that comes my way. The more heavily pigmented the paper, the more colourful your hand made paper will be. Tissue paper, in particular, creates some vividly coloured paper, due to the heavy pigmentation.

Step 2: Sort the scrap paper into piles based on colour. It's best to do this, and then you will end up with lovely coloured paper, rather than some drab tone.

Step 3: Decide which pile you will attack first (we chose the blue pile), then rip up the paper into small pieces, about the size of a postage stamp.

Step 4: Cover the paper with water, and leave to soak overnight. If you are using glossy paper, such as old wrapping paper, or magazine paper, you may want to leave it to soak for 48 hours.

Step 5: Assemble your equipment in the place you are going to spread the paper out to dry (I usually do this bit outside). You will need a tub, a sponge, and your paper making kit, comprising of a draining mold, a piece of fine mesh, and the deckle (the wooden frame).

Step 6: Now it's time to make the paper pulp. Place a small handful of soaked paper into your blender, then fill the blender with water, being careful not to go over the maximum liquid indicator mark. Whizz until the paper looks small, and you can't see any big chunky pieces flying around.
Word from the wise - don't add any more paper than a small handful. Trust me, you don't want to fry your blender like somebody I know did *cough cough*.

Step 7: Pour the mixture into your tub, and repeat blending the soaked paper until you have a depth of 10cm. If the mixture is really thick, sieve some of the pulp out, or add some water. It should be the consistency of soup.
Note: I usually add some white paper to my mixtures, to make it go further. However, this will dilute the colour somewhat, so you end up with pastel shades rather than vivid ones. Also, you can add things to the pulp mixture at this stage to jazz it up a bit. Glitter, confetti, lengths of string or wool, flower petals, tea leaves - the world is your oyster. Go crazy!

Step 8: Assemble your kit. Place the mesh on top of the draining mold, then the deckle snugly on top of that.

Step nine: Holding your kit, dip it in the pulp mixture, holding tightly with both hands. Bring it up out of the tub, and, resting it on the side of the tub, let as much water drain out of it as possible.

Step 10: Remove the deckle. You will have a rectangle sheet of wet pulp on the mesh. Carefully pick up the mesh, and place it pulp side down on the ground, in the position you want it to dry in (i.e. full sun, away from curious pets).

Step 11: Carefully sponge off the mesh, getting all excess water out of the pulp (which isn't actually pulp any more - it's a very wet and rather soggy piece of paper!).

Step 12: Once you have removed as much water as possible, carefully pick up the end of the mesh, and peel it off the paper. If the paper begins to rip and stick to the mesh, place it back down and re-sponge it, using a dribble of water to removed the paper from the mesh.

Step 13: Voila! A brand new recycled piece of paper. Well done!

Step 14: To make larger pieces of paper, repeat steps 8 to 13, being careful to place the second piece of paper slightly over the edge of the first, so the overlapping sides will adhere together.

Step 15: Continue until the piece is big enough for your liking. The one in the picture above is 5 pieces across and 3 down - 15 in all.

Step 16:
Leave the paper out in the sun until it is absolutely bone dry, then very carefully pull it off the concrete. Ta da - you've done it!

Now that you've mastered the technique, it's time to experiment. Here's some ideas to get you going:
- Try drying your paper on different surfaces, which will result in paper with amazing textures.
- Add different colours of pulp together to make 'swirl' effect paper.
- Scent your paper with essential oils.
- Sprinkle your paper with plant seeds, and then give as gifts. The recipients can plant them in the garden, and marvel when the plants grow up.
- Iron the paper once dried, for a super smooth surface on which to write.
- Experiment with plant dyes to really colourful paper.
- Get the little ones involved, and turn the paper into funky masks/cards for Grandma/Christmas decorations etc

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial. If you have any questions, drop my an email or leave a comment.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Home made paper

Since it's going to be a bright and sunny 29 C on Saturday, I was thinking I would spend part of the day making paper for gift wrapping.

Is anybody interested in me documenting the procedure, and making a tutorial? Leave a comment, and if there is a bit of interest then I'll endeavour to cover my camera with as much paper pulp as possible!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Yo ho ho, and knock me on me bum!

'Tis a terrible day to be on good ship Jorthy - we've been invaded by pirates!

Scary ones, at that. I've always had a morbid fear of pirates, particularly ones sporting ruffly shirts, eye patches and, er, chest hair.

Ooooh, these two look like they are planning mutiny. Arrrr, ya mangy curs!

Although, if it is indeed mutiny they are planning, that one on the left might just stuff it all up. He don't look too bright, and the captain looks like he might be hitting the rum, whilst the one in the middle looks like he's still suffering from the rum he had by the barrelful the night before.

Still, why take any chances, 'eh? I'd best grab Grumbles, and we can fire our cannon balls at them, and sail safely off on the seven seas. Ahoy there!

We got this splendid Pirate Ten Pin Bowling set from Fairground Child. Grumbles and I have spent many happy hours knocking them over in our hallway (much to our neighbours delight, I'm sure!). They are Fair Trade, and made by a cooperative in Sri Lanka. Not only do Grumbles and I have fun playing with them, but they are also a hit at parties!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Back, but far less wise than before

Well, howdy there, folks! I'm am back, and as you see, still in one piece (albiet with four lovely, blood-oozing holes). Before I go any further, I'd just like to say a big thank you all so much for all your comfort, hugs and words of advice. It was really very much appreciated, and really helped calm down the freak out I was having! I'd email you all my thanks personally, but Blogger doesn't give out the email addresses of commenters. I need to investigate how to fix that.

The op went quite well, and I was home by 11:30 that morning, which was good. Being in hospital was absolutely no fun, but then again, when is it? Thankfully I was the first to go into theatre, so I didn't have too much waiting around to do. I had a bit of a reaction to the drugs, and got a bad case of the shakes as they brought me back around, but a good 20 minutes on the oxygen soon cleared that up.

The best bit was after complaining to the nurse about how I thought I was going to throw up or faint, wasn't quite sure of which, she quickly gave me a tiny wafer, and told me to dissolve it on my tongue. Instant nausea removal - it was fantastic. I lay there, trying to rack my brains and turn my delight into some sort of witty remark about it being one hell of a communion wafer, but alas, my brain wasn't working. Obviously, as my mouth wasn't working either, so even if I did make a joke no body would have understood it anyway, but would have gazed at me in horror as I lay there, pasty white, mumbling away with blood dribbling down my mouth. Charming!

So, I'm back home, and rather tired and sore, with heaps of bruising coming out now. But the bruising has nothing on the swelling - I currently look like this:

Which is rather unfortunate, as normally I look just like this:

Heh, heh!

Right, I've just a bit of lunch, so now I must do a light brush, salt rinse, another rinse featuring some sort of industrial mouth wash, then stick a syringe filled with salt water into the wounds and flush them out, and then top it all off with - you guessed it, another salt rinse. Joy.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Warning: Freak out ahead.


Tomorrow I am getting my wisdom teeth out. All four. In hospital.

How do I feel about this? I am scared out of my fricken tree. Seriously. The last time I was in hospital, giving birth to Grumbles, I almost so very nearly didn't come out again, so the thought of having to lie on that hospital trolley again, counting down to ten as the anaesthetist does his thing really doesn't appeal. I'm having a mild anxiety attack just typing this.

Even just the smell of a hospital sends a shudder through me.

I'm not worried about the pain. Pain I can handle. It's just the thought of something going horribly wrong that is giving me the willies. I know, I know, it's just a dental procedure - what can wrong? Well, last time I was just meant to pop out a baby, and look how that finished up. Me, lying there, star of my own blood-filled medical tragedy, featuring 5 hours of emergency surgery, 18 blood transfusions, loss of coagulation system and a sub-partial hysterectomy. Yay - happy days!

Whew. Deep breaths.

It's the waiting that's doing me in. The weekend was fine, I was rushing about like a mad woman, cooking pot after pot of soup, and making numerous batches of ice-cream, both of which will see me through the week. But now Grumbles is having her nap, Galumph is at work, and I'm sitting here trying to keep dark thoughts out of my mind. Having a vivid imagination isn't always such a good thing, ya know? Bring on tomorrow and let's get the whole thing over and done with.

Ok, more deep breaths. Sorry for being such a sook.

I just want to wake up, and be ok. I just want to be able to live a long and happy life, growing disgracefully old with my husband, and having the joy of watching my little girl grow up. Please, please God, don't let anything go wrong this time.