Sunday, 30 November 2008

Living Au Naturelle

Thanks Sharon for allowing me a coveted spot as a guest blogger on your inspiring blog. I am honoured and humbled.

It’s been quite a year of discovery for me in so many aspects but one of the things I have taken on is trying to go ‘au naturelle’ when it comes to my beauty regime. I feel like an onion and over the last 12 months have shed so many layers of what I thought beauty was all about.

In my working ‘in an office’days, I wore make up every day, the hair was curled and perfect, the nails looked good, toenails painted – the works. I could not have dreamed to work in public in any other way. In fact, in the mornings when I saw myself without make up on I thought I looked ill.

And maybe I was.

When I think of the cocktail of chemicals I had put on my face, skin, nails and hair, I cringe. Have you ever noticed at the end of the day your foundation seems to disappear off your face? Well, it didn’t slide off, it absorbed and with it all the chemicals from the foundation as well – into your skin! Yuck. This is just one example but here is a list of what I used to do and what I am doing now to try to rid my own body of so many chemicals.

  • Wore make up – Go without make up except on very rare occasions
  • Wore lipstick – Switched to natural beeswax lip conditioner
  • Spray on deodorant – Use a natural crystal salt deodorant
  • Hair coloured at professional salon – Do it myself with organic herbal colouring
  • Used regular toothpaste – Switched to SLS and Fluoride free toothpaste
  • Wore nail polish – go without completely
  • Wore perfume – rub natural amber resin on my skin instead
  • Used shave gel for legs – use own homemade soap
  • Used shower gel – use own homemade soap
  • Used regular shampoo and conditioner – Use organic, SLS and parabens-free shampoo and conditioner
  • Deep conditioning hair treatments – Coconut oil or any other oil that’s around

I know I do feel better for it. I also know the air inside my own home is better for it. It is cheaper and I’ve even re-gained a natural glow on my face.

If you would like to find out just what kinds of potentially harmful chemicals are in your own products, you can go to the cosmetics safety database here:

Jennifer at HomeMattersMost


Image Credit: Indabelle


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Friday, 28 November 2008

Malta Tomorrow

For the first time this year, I’m going away ‘properly’. No jaunting down to London (anybody remember The Tomorrow People?) for a mad dash around what’s probably my most hated place on earth or a week or three courtesy of the NHS - oh no, this time I’m actually going on holiday!

Back in August I wrote a post outlining my financial goals, one of which was to save £500 for a bonding holiday with my younger daughter. Well I managed to get there (well, almost - after emptying the coin jar I was £20 off) so LM and I are off to Malta tomorrow for a whole week of doing nothing other than what we want to do. Bliss!

We booked it about a month ago. I found a cheap deal online through EasyJet that included flights, hotel accommodation and car hire for the week for just £200 so off we're jolly well going.

I’ve flown with EasyJet before and been really satisfied. They make no fuss about carrying my extra 30kgs of medical stuff free of charge and offer wheelchair assistance from the check-in desk to the gate. I still have to book parking and for an extra tenner I can have them meet us by the terminal to take the car to the car-park and then bring it back to the terminal again when we return. For me, who has difficulty walking and carrying anything heavy, it's more than worth the extra ten pounds.

Having a hire care for the week means I can easily get around. We both drive so if I’m having a bad day and just want to stay at the hotel, LM can still go out and do things on her own. She’ll also be able to take over the driving should I feel ill while we’re out and about. It’s just a little car but then that’s all we need and I certainly don’t want to be spitting out more co2 than necessary. It’s enough to have to take a plane and hire a car, without increasing the problem unnecessarily. Not that I could afford anything bigger, but that’s besides the point.

The hotel’s nothing spectacular but that doesn’t bother me. As long as the bed’s reasonably comfortable and the kettle works, I’ll be happy. It's just a base, after all :)

Anyway, I’ll catch up with you all when I get back. In the meantime I've been lucky enough to have some of my favourite bloggers write guest posts that are scheduled for publication while I'm gone. If there’s an Internet café nearby or the hotel has access, I may even pop in and post something myself, you just never know.

Oh, and I'll be borrowing one of LM's cameras so expect some photos when I get back.

Look after the place for me :)

Sharon J

UPDATE: Richard has kindly offered to drive us to the airport so that'll be both easier, and save a bit of money that can be better spent enjoying Malta. Thanks, Richard.

And thanks to Sam too for offering to look after my pets while we're away. What would I do without friends?


Image Credit: Kriskae


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Thursday, 27 November 2008

Completely Disorganised

Yesterday I spent several hours searching for three pillowcases that I bought about a month ago. They’re plain white, Egyptian cotton pillowcases that I’d planned to personalise with embroidery and give as Christmas gifts and if I’m to have any chance of getting everything finished in time for the big day, I need to get cracking on them.

Do you think I could find them? Not a snowball’s chance. I’d have stood a better chance of hitching a ride to Amsterdam on an ant’s back than finding those pillowcases. I asked others if they had any idea where they might be but nothing… they are missing.

This, my friends, is one reason why I really must press on with the great de-cluttering scheme. I’m sick to the back teeth (well, I would be if I had any) of having to spend so much time searching for things that should be easy enough to find. In the time I spent hunting in every place I could think of, I could have been half finished with one but instead have no pillowcases and I’m no closer to having my Christmas presents finished.

I have a craft drawer where I keep… yes, you guessed it, my craft supplies. You’d imagine they’d be in there wouldn’t you? Nope. Maybe the airing cupboard along with other bedding? Nope. In the cupboard where I put everything that can’t go anywhere else? Nope. In some other drawer then? Nope. Wardrobe? No, no, no.

I’ve run out of places to search.

This is very annoying. I was at hair pulling stage yesterday.

I’ve already got rid of quite a bit of clutter but there’s tons more to be done. From now on I am going to de-clutter one drawer, basket or cupboard (or just one shelf at least) every day that I have a reasonable amount of energy. I won’t live like this anymore! A place for everything and all that.

Sharon J xx


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Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Six Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me

I’ve been tagged again. This time by two of my favourite bloggers, FT over at Notes From The Frugal Trenches (pop over and take a look at the awesome photos she’s put up on her tag post - they‘re truly beautiful) and A Piece of Wood.

This time the idea is to list six things that most people probably don’t know about me.

  1. I have very large feet. They’re a size 9 now but that’s because I’ve lost a lot of weight. They used to be a size 10. I’m tall so that helps them look at least a bit in proportion but it’s been a bugger getting shoes over the years. Evans wasn’t always there and although I’m not in the least bit bothered by them now, when I was a teenager they used to cause me endless embarrassment (and we all know how mean and immature teens can be so they were forever being made fun of).

  2. I know a lot about dogs and their psychology. I’ve always had a dog and have always trained them well. Unfortunately, the dog I have now is the dimmest I’ve ever come across - I swear she has learning difficulties (well if people can have them, why not dogs?)

  3. I’m really difficult to live with. I like things to be done my way and am really not too clever at sharing my space. Even my mum says she’d never want to live with me. Hell, even I find it difficult to live with me!

  4. I have a Max Bygraves CD. There are memories attached to it so I keep it. In fact, I have quite a bit of naff music simply because the songs mean something to me when I hear them.

  5. I once caused such a ruckus over a bloke who was a convicted paedophile (9 times he’d been inside for it) after I found out his wife was allowed to be a child minder that it hit the front pages of the national newspapers.

  6. I don’t like flying. I’m not afraid that the plane’s gonna fall out of the sky or anything, it’s just the thought of having to spend hours inside a capsule with no possibility of saying “bugger this, I’ve changed my mind so I'm getting off”. Once you’re in there, that’s it, your fate is out of your hands. Still, at least I won't be adding to the carbon problem too much by flying off to far away places, my trips are all short haul and even they're few and far between (although I do have one coming up in a few days).

I’ll drive people nuts if I keep tagging them so I’m not going to choose anybody this time. Instead, if you want to do this one, just consider yourself tagged.

Sharon J


Image Credit: Ombrelle


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Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Pavement Parking

One of the problems we have on this estate is that visitors often park their cars with two wheels on the pavements rather than use the dedicated parking spots which entail them walking between 25 and 100 yards to the house they’re visiting. Not a long walk by most healthy people’s standards, and even I can walk to my daughter’s car in the car-park, and my legs are well dodgy.

Luckily, not being able to pass on the pavement isn’t too much of a problem for most people here because there isn’t a whole lot of traffic. We live in a cul-de-sac so there’s no through traffic and the kids are always playing in the street, relatively safely. However, this isn’t the case on the myriad streets around our town where motorists do the same thing on far busier roads.

I for one wouldn’t want to have to negotiate a pushchair out into the traffic just to be able to pass a car belonging to somebody who obviously thinks his or her own selfish needs, like parking as close as possible to a shop because they can't be bothered to walk a few yards, are far more important than those of anybody else, and if I were in a wheelchair I’d be stuck. There’s no getting them up and down high kerbs and into traffic easily!

Unfortunately, there’s no law saying that motorists can’t park on pavements. Apparently government tried to pass a law back in 1974 but the police and local authorities opposed it as they had no way of enforcing it. Understandable from the police - they’re bogged down with more important things as it is (like pen pushing), and as far as local authorities go, they’d probably have to employ more traffic wardens which would increase council tax and everybody would be up in arms. It ended with government eventually telling each authority, in 1984, to act as they thought best.

But things have changed since the 80s. It isn’t unusual for a family to have two or three cars (when Richard still lived here, we had three - his, mine and LM’s) and without somewhere to park them, most end up on pavements. And let’s face it, if they were to park ‘properly’ along the sides of streets, no other cars would get through.

So what’s the answer? Do as they do in Japan? If you haven’t got somewhere to park, you don’t have a car? Or should local authorities prioritise more parking space? Or would people just ignore those spaces as they do on our estate? Or should we just leave things be and accept that young parents with prams have to push their babies out into traffic and wheelchair users and other disabled people will find it difficult to get around (and it’s difficult enough for them as it is)?

Anybody have any ideas?

Sharon J xx


Image Credit: Peter Ito


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Monday, 24 November 2008

Learning To Say No

Since starting my journey towards a simpler life, one of things I’ve had to learn is to say “No” more often.

Once upon a time, no matter what people asked of me, if I was able to do it, I did. Rarely was there any real gratitude shown and all too often, when I asked for a favour myself, that person was either too busy or just unwilling for whatever reason. Not everybody was that way, obviously, but too many were.

The fact is, people will keep on taking whatever you offer them and all the helping out I was doing was starting to wear me down. I spent so much time and energy doing things for other people that I found myself increasingly unable to do the things that actually meant a lot to me. My life, it seemed, belonged to others.

Nowadays I’m much more inclined to say no although to start with it did feel pretty weird. I’d find myself having to offer reasons for not being able to help but the truth of the matter is, nobody has any right to demand another’s time and an excuse really isn’t necessary. If you’ve said no then you clearly have a reason and have every right to decide yourself whether you want to share that reason or not.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t extend a helping hand but we don’t need to say yes to everything that’s asked of us. The following are a few basic guidelines that I use now when deciding whether or not to say yes.

Who is this person?
Sounds like a strange question because in all likelihood, if you didn’t already know them, they wouldn’t be asking a favour of you, but what I mean by this is what kind of person are they? Would they be happy to help you out when you need it, or are they blood suckers who just keep on taking without ever giving much back in return? I don’t mean that they have to do the same kind of favours for you, or even of the same magnitude - everything depends on a person’s abilities etc - but if they don’t show willing often enough (or ever, for that matter), start saying no more often.

Am I comfortable doing this?
I’ve put my life in danger to help others out and while I was ok doing that because the situation was serious, that wouldn’t always be the case because there are some things I really cannot do because they’d either be irresponsible of me (what would have happened if I had been hurt - who would have looked after my family?) or just plain difficult. If I’m not comfortable doing something, then unless there’s really no other way and somebody’s life depended on it, I’d say no.

Should this person be asking this of me?
People who know us well should know our limitations but still I’m often asked to do something that’s beyond what anybody should really expect. Once upon a time, I’d have done my best to do it anyway but nowadays I just think that they ought not have asked in the first place and put me in a position where I feel I have to help and simply say no.

Could this person do this for him/herself?
One example of this was people constantly asking me for loans even though they had at least as much and often more coming in than I have. If I can budget and make my money last from one pay day to the next and save a bit too, then surely they can. By helping out with loans the whole time, I wasn’t really do them any favours so instead I offered to help them set up a budget, an offer that has been declined by each of those people who‘d regularly ask, so now I just say no. As they say “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime”.

How important is the favour?
There’s a big difference between getting out of bed at two in the morning to take somebody to the hospital because a loved one’s just been admitted with a serious illness and could die and picking somebody up from a night club because they've spent their taxi fair home. If I don’t really think the person should be asking the favour of me, then I say no.

What are my own priorities?
Do I have the time or energy to do this? How important is it compared with the plans I’d already made for my time? Can I afford to do it and, if not, are they able to pay themselves (or even willing to)? If I feel that my own priorities are more important - and this is one where I often fell down before because I put other people’s need (real or perceived) before myself all too often - then I say no.

Since starting to say no more often and give more consideration to my own needs instead, some people have stopped contacting me as much. Fine. I know where I stand with them now. Those who really care about me understand that you can’t always do everything for everybody and have started expecting less of me. I still help out when and how I can, but I don’t jump around like a puppet on a string anymore and am actually spending time helping myself instead.

Sharon J xx


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Sunday, 23 November 2008

Mourning The Worms

Can any of you remember me saying that I’d bought a wormery? It was back in February, although the only reason I remember when it was is because I posted about it here.

Anyway, said wormery is no more. Well, the wormery itself is still there but what’s inside resembles a toxic wasteland more than a group of happy worms going about their business of turning veg and fruit, paper and other stuff into compost and fertilizer.

So what happened? Well, somehow or another the rain got in. Lots of it. The wormery has a tight plastic lid that doesn’t blow off and although it has ventilation holes, these are tiny. And yet when I went out there to feed them a few days ago, the lid was half way up the garden and the wormery was half filled with water. Yes, that much.

The worms, for the most part, were dead. The few I managed to save were thrown into what barely passes as a flower bed but there's soil there and soil needs worms. The wormery itself has been left abandoned; it’s too heavy for me to carry and empty and I don’t want to just tip it out where it is. The job of emptying it by bucket would be too much for me too, so it’s just going to have to stay as it is for the time being until I figure out what to do about it.

Such a shame. It was coming along so well, too! I just can’t help wondering how that lid got off.

Sharon J xx


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A Few Words About Comments

We’ve recently had some interesting debate happening in the comments of various posts here and that’s a good thing. An exchange of opinions is never a bad thing UNLESS it’s done in a way that screams “my opinion is the only right one and you’re a moron for thinking otherwise”, which unfortunately some of the comments have done. Just a few - most have been well thought through opinions that haven’t had a pointing finger attached to them, but we all know how a few can ruin things for the majority.

Please, please continue commenting - a healthy exchange of opinion helps us evolve, and while most of us generally choose to spend time with people whose opinions are intrinsically close to our own, when we’re out in the world we’ll always come across other thoughts and ideas that can and often do help us form our own views. Blogging is part of being ‘out in the world’. But just as I doubt very many would fly up and screech their opinions at all and sundry in real life, so it should be here.

Please remember that, unlike the guy in the image above, those who read your comments are real people with real feelings, regardless of whether they choose to be open about who they are or prefer to anonymity that the Web offers. You never know who may be reading or how you may be hurting them.

Bear in mind that if you're diplomatic in the way you put your view across, others will be far more likely to listen and respond.

Let’s remain open minded towards others views and treat each other with the respect that everybody, regardless of their view, deserves. Please.

Sharon J


Image Credit: Philipp Daun


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Saturday, 22 November 2008

Six Things That Make Me Happy

I’ve been tagged again. This time by …. erm…. the lady who runs Colour It Green. (Sorry, but I don’t know your name. Maybe I should, and if that’s the case I can only apologise but I’m dreadful with names, honestly).

Anyway, the idea of this tag is to list six things that make you happy, who the tag came from and then pass the tag on to six more bloggers. So here goes:

  1. Being in the woods or by the sea. I know that’s two but I’m cheating so I’m going to call it ‘being close to nature’. I don’t much care for woods where there are lots of people though, or places like Blackpool by the sea… I want places that haven't been spoiled by throngs of tourists; places where I can find peace to connect with my surroundings while I ponder life, the universe, and all that jazz. (The image above is of Durdle Door in Dorset - I once promised myself that I'd get strong enough again to be able to walk down there. Unfortunately, I've since become weaker, but if I keep trying to improve my strength, I'll get there one day.)

  2. Doing something, anything, that makes one of my children smile. They used to tell me off for dancing or singing in the street when they were little (yes, I can be a tad eccentric and I’m already saving for the purple stockings) but hey, they smile at the memories now :)

  3. Music. My taste is very eclectic so what I listen to depends entirely on my mood and even though I can’t sing to save my life, I do anyway and I’ve always been drawn to musical people. In fact, a whole bunch of my memories are based around times where music has been involved in one form or another. I also love to dance. Well, LOVED to dance. I mean really loved to dance. One of my exes and I would dance together anywhere - in the living room (we’d clear the furniture and spend a whole evening just dancing), on the street, in the park, wherever we happened to be. I don’t have the energy anymore and even if I did, it’d be painful. I think I could grin and bear the pain if only I had the energy again though.

  4. Good friends who are looking for the end of the same rainbow. There are few things that make me happier than time spent with people who I can really connect with - y’know, those people you can totally be yourself with. Unfortunately those people are few and far between (maybe that’s because I’m after a weird kind of rainbow?)

  5. Time spent alone doing something I enjoy. I wouldn’t like to be a recluse, but I do like leaving phones unanswered and letting the doorbell ring without answering while I just enjoy reading a book, doing some sewing or whatever else I fancy doing. My ME time is important, it helps me stay in touch with who I am.

  6. The first tiny green buds that appear along hedgerows and in gardens in the spring. They never fail to make me smile.

So there you go - six things that make me happy. There are lots more, of course, but they’re the first six I thought of.

To keep the tag going I’m passing it on to:

Green Lettuce Soup
Home Matters Most
Shabby Shac
Sharon Rose
Jungle Fever
and finally I’m sending it across the North Sea to My Little Norway

Sharon J xx


Image Credit: Lovestruck


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Friday, 21 November 2008

Anonymous Comments

Just a quickie.

Would those of you who post under “anonymous” please use a name instead? It doesn’t necessarily have to be your real name but by being consistent in your choice of name it will give me and other regular readers a better chance of differentiating between you. Some anonymous comments are easily recognisable through their writing style and method of putting their opinions across whereas others are more diffuse but it would be nice to know for sure who’s saying what as I believe it builds a better blog community. After all, if we were all having a discussion in the ‘real world’, we wouldn’t be hiding behind a curtain having our say, would we?

I’ve considered turning off the option that allows anonymous comments but that also disallows those who are happy to use a name but aren’t members or either Blogger (Google) or one of the OpenID sites, and I don’t like that either as I don’t believe in forcing anybody to join anything.

So, would you think about it please, anonymous posters?


Sharon J


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Thursday, 20 November 2008

Throw Away Food

My daughter used to work at a petrol garage but as it was recently bought up by Tesco, she’s had to go work in one of their Express shops while the garage is knocked down and rebuilt to suit Tesco’s needs. What she has told me about the amount of food that goes to waste there EVERY DAY is appalling.

It’s not as if I didn’t know it happened - I’ve heard all about Freegans and their dumpster diving - but to hear about it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, kind of brings it home just that little bit more.

Tesco Express shops are small. Anybody who’s ever been in one will know that you couldn’t possibly do your weekly shop there; they’re more like a chain of what was once independently run corner shops only a bit bigger. And yet still they fill at least one, often two large skip sized containers EVERY DAY with food that can’t be sold. Food that’s perfectly ok for human consumption and that could be donated to soup kitchens, refuge centres, hostels and the likes. But no, it’s thrown away. It ends up on the landfill to rot away.

What one of the commenters on my post about Home Baked Bread said something about supermarket bread being more environmentally friendly than that which we bake at home but just how environmentally friendly it is to throw away a large number of loaves, rolls, cakes and the likes every day is highly debatable. Personally, I can’t see how it can be more sound than baking your own because not only are the products ending up on the landfill, the wrappings are too!

Why on earth do they produce so much when they know that so much is going to go to waste every day? Wouldn’t it be better if the shop was simply allowed to run out? I mean, that’s what used to happen when I was a kid. If you went to get your bread too late and they didn’t have any, tough luck. Nowadays we want everything available 24/7 though, but at what price?

I remember when me and my kids had barely a crumb to eat and how grateful I would have been for just a small amount of the food one Tesco store throws away! But it won't change while people keep shopping there. The power ultimately lies with us, but we rarely use it.

Sharon J


Image Credit: Danny McL


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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

So Who Does Christmas Belong To?

I’ve seen an awful lot of arguments happening on various Internet boards recently, all with the same theme: who does Christmas belong to and who should be ‘allowed’ to celebrate it? Some of those arguments have gotten really out hand, with name calling and threats to personal safety being thrown about.

I believe that Christmas should be celebrated by anybody who wishes to join in the festivities and that, as long as they’re not hurting others, they should be allowed to celebrate in whatever way suits them, be they Christians, Pagans, Jews, Atheists or whatever else.

Many Pagans will argue that Christmas (Yule) originally belonged to them with the counterargument from Christians being that the word CHRIST in Christmas makes it theirs. Everybody has their own opinion but shouldn’t it foremostly be a time when we can practice peace by showing tolerance towards other religions or lifestyles, and stop arguing over who it belongs to and how it should be celebrated?

Here in the UK we’ve been calling this winter celebration Christmas for a good few hundred years. Before that it was known as Yule, a celebration of the Winter Solstice (the rebirth of the sun). Whether or not we should or shouldn’t call it Christmas is of no real relevance to me - it’s just a name - what’s important is that we can accept that it’s a time when each and every one of us should be able to do whatever we feel is right on that day. For some, it means absolutely nothing more than presents, for others it’s a time during which they can feel close to and give thanks to their God, for others it’s a time when they can drink and be merry. No doubt there are many, many more reasons why people celebrate Christmas too. Or even why they don't, whatever the case may be.

If we choose to celebrate, can’t we at least do that in peace, without needing to justify why we choose to do so as Atheists, Pagans or Worshippers of Little Green Men from Mars? Nobody has a supreme ‘right’ to Christmas, it’s just a day really, like any other. There’s no proof that Jesus was born that day (in fact, it’s highly unlikely) and nowhere does it say that you have to believe in God (as depicted in the Bible) in order to celebrate it.

Personally, I don’t believe it really has much to do with religion anymore at all. It’s about money. Even if everybody stopped celebrating on grounds of their faith, Christmas would still live on. The money grabbing capitalists would see to that. If anybody, they're probably who Christmas really belongs to these days.

Sharon J xx


Image Credit: Tom Stardust


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Tuesday, 18 November 2008

What Tree Are You?

I found a web page yesterday that lists what your tree is according to your birthday. As I love trees I found it quite interesting. Apparently, my tree is a pine tree.

My characteristics, according to the chart are:

Loves agreeable company, very robust, knows how to make life comfortable, very active, natural, good companion but seldom friendly, falls easily in love but passion burns out quickly, gives up easily, everything disappoints until it finds its ideal, trustworthy, practical.

Hmmm… I’ll have to leave that up to others to decide whether or not that’s me. I can definitely see some similarities there though.

Could being connected with pine trees be the reason I was drawn to Norway?

Sharon J


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Monday, 17 November 2008

Home Baked Bread Day

It’s not long since it was Canned Pineapple Anniversary Day and now it’s Home Baked Bread Day so c’mon people, get the flour and yeast out and get baking. You know there’s no bread quite as good as home baked bread.

I’m lucky enough to have a bread machine that my mum bought for me about 6 months ago. I don’t have the strength in my wrists for all that kneading anymore so I use the machine to do that part and then usually bake it in the oven rather than in the bread machine. It’s probably me that’s doing something wrong but I’m never entirely satisfied with bread out of the machine whereas the same dough comes out beautiful when it’s done in the oven, either as a loaf or as rolls.

We vary our breads between granary with extra seeds (LM likes her bread really seedy), plain white bread and wholemeal. Sometimes I do a mix of granary and wholemeal, and sometimes I add herbs and stuff to white bread. It all depends on what I fancy at the time.

What I really love about home baked bread is that you know exactly what’s going in it. Well, apart from the times when I use bread mixes for quickness, because they have a few things I’m not sure about in them too, but still they’re not as bad as commercially made shop bought bread that have all sorts of chemicals added to make the dough rise quicker and go further. And the taste just can’t be compared, of course.

If you have kids, today might be a good time to introduce them to the art of bread making. My mum never baked anything other than apple pie so I learned about bread making late in life - my own kids used to love baking bread with me, though. They always had their own roll each in the oven along with the main loaf.

I’m going to be making granary rolls today and will have one with lettuce, ham, cheese & red pepper later. Scrummy!

Sharon J


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Sunday, 16 November 2008

A - Z of Homemaking

Somebody tagged me with this ages ago but I forgot to do it, and now that I’ve done it, I’ve forgotten who tagged me (and there was me thinking I’m finally getting more organised!). If it was you who passed this on to me, I can only apologise for not giving you a mention. Give me a shout and I’ll remedy that, though.

Here goes:

A is for Aprons - yes/no? If yes, what’s your favourite?
I have two pinnies, both original 1950s and bought at a car boot sale about 10 years ago. I don’t wear them every time I cook but if I’m doing something messy (which usually involves flour) or am dressed up, waiting for guests, I’ll pop one on.

B is for Baking - favourite thing to bake?
I’m not really into baking cakes and things anymore - did too much of it when the kids were little - but if I had to choose something then it’d probably be apple pie.

C is for Clothesline - do you have one?
Yes, it’s a double set-up that runs the length of the garden. Sounds great but as most of it hangs over a flower bed (actually, it’s more a weed bed at the moment) and another parts hangs over the patio table, there isn’t really that much room on it. Ideally I’d like a whirly gig but right now I have other priorities.

D is for Donuts - have you ever made them?
D must also be for ‘donkey’s years ago’ because that’s when it was. At least 20 years ago. It wasn’t an experience I enjoyed so has never been repeated.

E is for Every Day - one homemaking task you do every day.
None. There are days when I’m simply unable to do anything more than exist let alone start swinging a broom around. When I am up and about and feeling relatively fit, I…. erm…. still don’t actually have a task I do every day.

F is for Freezer - do you have a separate deep freeze?
Nope, only the one that’s combined with the fridge. I’d love a separate one but there’s just no room for one here. Still, what I have is better than nothing so I shan’t grumble.

G is for Garbage Disposal Unit - do you have one?
Yes, it has four legs, fur and is called Poppy. If she doesn’t do the job adequately there’s another one called Jack usually waiting as a back-up and then what isn’t suitable for them goes to the worms. It works for me :)

H is for Handbook - what’s your favourite homemaking resource?
My imagination and the Internet.

I is for Ironing - love or hate it?
Absolutely loathe it. Most of the time it just isn’t necessary so it’s a waste of energy, both mine and the electricity it takes to heat the iron (well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!)

J is for Junk Draw - yes/no? If yes, where is it?
Junk draw? What do you take me for? I’m too organised to have junk! Oh… sorry… I was away in la-la land there for a moment. Yes… the junk drawerS. Less said about them the better!

K is for Kitchen - colour and decorating scheme?
Don’t get me started on that one! It’s an awful peach with grey cabinets and what were grey tiles but are now red (tile paint is a wonderful thing). I think it was probably fashionable during the 80s but my plan is to make it sort of Norwegian country kitchen-ish although when it’ll be finished is anybody’s guess.

L is for Love - what’s your favourite part of homemaking?
Sitting down and looking around me, seeing that it’s reasonably clean and tidy and feeling ‘at home’. I also quite like cooking, I just don’t like the washing up that follows. Oh, and making things look or function better than they originally did without having to spend a lot of money doing it.

M is for Mop - do you have one?
Of course. It’s an old-fashioned string type mop and bucket affair that I’m not particularly satisfied with but it’ll do until it wears out. I also have a micro fibre mop type thing that’s great for just going over the living room floor with but useless on the nasty floor covering that’s in the kitchen.

N is for Nylons - machine or hand wash?
Nylons? I guess that means tights and stockings? Mine go in the machine with everything else.

O is for Oven - do you use a window or open the oven door to check?
Mine doesn’t have a window so I have no choice. And anyway, getting down low enough to peek through a window wouldn’t be an option for me anymore. Still, at least this cooker works properly, unlike the one I had up until about 9 months ago and what's more it was free (donated by a Freecycler).

P is for Pizza - what do you put on yours?
Minced beef, onion, mushrooms, tomato puree, and oregano all mixed up together and then bunged on top of a base and topped with cheddar that‘s sprinkled with paprika. Sounds boring but I’ve been making the same pizza for about 20 years and as my family all love it, I’m not about to change it. I think they'd probably hang, draw and quarter me if I did, anyway.

Q is for quiet - what do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?
I blog (surprise, surprise), knit, sew, cross-stitch, read, write, listen to music, meditate, ponder life… whatever suits my mood.

R is for Recipe Card Box - yes/no? If yes, what does it look like?
Don’t have one. If I try a new recipe and like it, it goes in a file. If somebody didn’t particularly like it I make a note of that to make sure I don’t make it for them again. The same goes if somebody really raved about it, only then I make it more often, obviously.

S is Style of House - what style is your house?
Hmm… I’m not sure my house has a particular style. It was built about 10 years ago and looks pretty much the same as every other house on the estate. And not that much different to those on the next estate, or the estate after that, either. Inside I guess it’s kind of eclectic but definitely leans mostly towards things that are ‘old fashioned’ and/or unusual.

T is for Tableclothes - do you use them?
I would if I had some! I have one that I use at Christmas (red velvet so not really suitable otherwise) and I plan to make one out of a duvet cover along with matching curtains once the kitchen's done but otherwise, zilch.

U is for Under The Kitchen Sink - organised or toxic wasteland?
Somewhere in between. There isn’t enough space for it to be as organised as I’d like but I’ve seen a whole lot worse. I try to steer clear of as many toxins as I can though.

V is for Vacuum - how many times a week?
Don’t ask… please. I’d die of embarrassment! No, seriously… I vacuum when I think the place needs it or when I’m feeling fit enough to do it. Nobody died of dust bunnies in the corners or the stair carpet not being pristine at all times.

W is for Wash - how many loads of washing do you do each week?
About one or two I think although I haven’t actually counted them. I don’t have a set washing day - I load the machine as I go (apart from whites and delicates) and let it do its thing when its full enough.

X’s - Do you keep a daily list of things to do that you cross off?
Yes and no. I have certain things on a list but others I just do as and when.

Y is for Yard - who does what?
This should be G is for Garden, surely? Oh… right… we’re talking US English here. I have one, yes, but nobody does very much at all in it at the moment so it's hardly worth mentioning.

Zzzz’s - what’s the last homemaking task you do before bed in the evening?
Turn the lights out.

The meaning is to keep the chain going by sending this along to a few other bloggers to complete. If you’re on the following list, enjoy ;)

Catz at Catz’ Corner
FT at Notes from The Frugal Trenches
Kethry at Urbania to Stoneheads
A Piece of Wood at…. A Piece of Wood
Laura at Move To Portugal

Please don't feel obliged to take up the tag. It's just for fun, after all.

Sharon J


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Saturday, 15 November 2008

What We Do & Don't Have

We have bigger houses but smaller families
We have more degrees but less sense
More knowledge but less judgements
More experts but more problems
More medicines, but less healthiness
We've been all the way to the moon and back yet we have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour
We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we have less communication
We have become long on quantity but short on quality
These are times of fast foods, but slow digestion
Tall man, but short character
Steep profits, but shallow relationships
It is a time when there is much in the window but nothing in the room

~The Dalai Lama


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Friday, 14 November 2008

War and Loving Our Children

A recent post on Hysterical Jugglings had a list of all the wars that the UK Armed Forces have been involved in since WW2. The list is long. Shockingly long.

As far as I’m aware, none of those wars were caused by the threat of our islands being invaded so I can’t help wondering why they happened. Money? Power? No doubt the excuse was to bring peace to the world, or at least the areas where the wars were being fought, but at what price did that peace, if it exists, come?

It seems to me that as long as we’re happy to send our young men and women off to fight wars, our need to prove our power is stronger than our love for our children because in many cases, those who die fighting those wars are little more than children. People as young as 18 have died for ‘the cause’ and still continue to do so. In some countries, those fighting are much younger. Much, much younger.

I do believe that we must defend ourselves against invading forces but wars caused purely through one nation’s hatred of another or religious intolerance is surely disrespectful to those who are sent to fight? How can we expect young people to lay down their lives because one group of people believe in this deity and another group believe in that one? Or even the same deity but in different ways. It’s madness. Complete and utter madness.

How many young people, I wonder, have lost their lives fighting wars based on intolerance or threats that never even existed? How many mothers have lost their children? How many children have lost a parent? Why, why, why?

Until we overcome our love of power and become more tolerant of other people's views and lifestyles, how can peace ever exist?

Sharon J


Image Credit: Dunecasher


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Thursday, 13 November 2008

Canned Pineapple Anniversary Day

Apparently, today is the anniversary of the first canned shipment of pineapple sent from Hawaii way back in 1895. As far as I’ve been able to find, nobody’s entirely sure that the day is actually correct but it’s as good an excuse as any to get out a tin of pineapple out of the cupboard and eat it.

I personally love pineapple, especially the tinned variety. Yes, I know the fresh stuff if probably considered far superior but my taste buds tell me otherwise so there’s always a tin of pineapple chunks or rings in my food cupboard. Sometimes I eat it ‘as is’, occasionally adding a big blob of double cream if I’m feeling particularly decadent, other times I use it in cooking. The following is my favourite recipe that incorporates pineapple.

Hawaiian Pork Casserole

Serves 2

Olive oil
300g pork, diced
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped
1/4 red & 1/4 yellow pepper, deseeded and diced
50g mushrooms, sliced
Small can pineapple chunks
1 tbsp tomato puree
Plain flour
300ml vegetable stock
Juice from tin of pineapple chunks
A coupoe of good glugs of red wine
Salt & ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to gas mark 4 (180c).
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Bung the sliced onion and crushed garlic in and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft.
  3. Stick the peppers and mushrooms in the pan with the onions and cook for a further minute or so. Tip into a casserole dish.
  4. Coat the pork in flour, add some more oil to the frying and fry the pork until it’s nice and golden all over. If your frying pan’s small, do this in batches because otherwise you’ll end up boiling the pork which isn‘t a good thing. Put in the casserole dish with the onions and garlic.
  5. Pour of a good glug of red wine into the hot pan to deglaze it, scraping up all the bits as it bubbles then pour that into the casserole dish too.
  6. Add the stock, another good glug of red wine, and the pineapple juice to the casserole and mix it all up.
  7. Cover and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hours 45 minutes.
  8. Taste it and stick some ground black pepper in if you think it needs it. Add the pineapple chunks, stir and cook for a further 15 minutes.

This is absolutely delicious served with fluffy white rice and green salad and it’s an apt meal to make on canned pineapple anniversary day being as the first ones came from Hawaii.

Sharon J


Image Source: Cervus


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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

We Don't Need No Education

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone

Most of you will probably recognise those lyrics as belonging to Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in The Wall’, which I was listening to last night surrounded by candles (LM’s doing, btw) and those lyrics, no matter how many times I hear them, always hit a chord with me.

I’m a believer in free education, y’see. By that, I don’t mean education that doesn’t cost anything, although I do believe in that too; what I mean is education where youngsters are allowed to form their own opinions and conclusions rather than having to go along with what teachers and text books say is right, where the pressures of ‘performing’ are obliterated and where kids can be free from bullying, not only by fellow pupils but by teachers too.

Mainstream education may well be the right choice for some but for many it isn’t. I remember Lise’s first year of Junior school, and how she was reprimanded for not writing ‘joined up’. Oddly enough, the same teacher had earlier commented on how beautiful my hand-writing is, so I went to the school and asked her how she could punish my daughter for not writing in the way the school had decided was correct when my handwriting was perfectly acceptable and so was hers. The teacher had no answer other than “it’s school policy that children should be taught to write this way”. Not good enough I’m afraid. I pointed out that hand-writing is individual (hence why we have graphology) and the teacher had to admit defeat. I was not going to allow my daughter to be pressured into writing in a way that didn’t come naturally to her.

There have been many such incidences that, on the surface, may appear petty and insignificant, but they can have a huge impact on a child’s sense of ability. Everybody isn’t good at sport, math, language, science etc. We all have our areas in which we thrive and we all have things that we really don’t enjoy. By utilising the subjects that our children do enjoy, we are, I believe, giving them a far greater chance for the future than by pushing them to do well in areas that just don’t come easily to them. By doing so, I believe we’re bullying them - pulling rank - into being something they’re not.

And then there’s the playground bullying. I don’t care how much a school’s administrators insists that bullying doesn’t exist in their school, it does. It exists in each and every mainstream school I’ve ever encountered (and my kids have been to a fair few) and it isn’t easy to stop. Kids are bullied going to and from school, in the playground and in the classroom (just a look can be enough) and too many kids have already ended their lives because of it. My own children were traumatised by it and eventually I realised that there was an alternative - home education.

I’m sure there are good private schools around too, such as Steiner schools. I don’t have any experience with them so I couldn’t say, but a good friend of mine was once a teacher in a ‘free thinking private school’, teaching philosophy to five year olds in order to open up their minds and allow them to think for themselves, thus drawing their own conclusions and forming their own opinions. That has to be a good thing but we can do it ourselves too. Children need to be able to explore their minds, make mistakes and learn from them without chastisement, and learn to be true to themselves. This, I’m afraid, rarely happens in mainstream state schools.

All too often they’re ‘educated’ to be Just Another Brick In The Wall.

Sharon J


Photo Credit: LNX


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Tuesday, 11 November 2008


First of all, let me apologise for what happened in the comments section of yesterday’s post. Those of you who read it are no doubt aware now that Richard and I have parted. It wasn’t a mutual decision, it was something I felt I needed to do. Of course Richard’s hurt, but I had no intention of mentioning this on the blog and certainly wouldn’t have been running him down. He’s been good to me in many, many ways but we simply aren’t in harmony, a fact I’ve long recognised but have hoped, as so many of us do, that things would improve.

Nothing would have been better than for our relationship to have worked - he’s a kind man who I have no doubt truly cares about me, but we were far from soul mates. Our values differ far too much, as does our outlook on how to live life. That doesn’t necessarily make him worse than me, just different.

Sometimes, no matter how painful it is, we have to accept that things simply weren’t meant to be.

I believe that people come into our lives for a reason and stay until they’ve performed their task. Sometimes that could just be a few minutes of conversation at a bus stop, other times it may be a few years, occasionally it’s a lifetime. All of those people have been, and still are, valuable in their own ways, but that doesn’t mean we have to hang on to them when being with them no longer feels comfortable. Our instincts tell us when it’s time to let go.

Again, I’m sorry that you had to be subjected to this. It wasn’t my intention but I felt I had to say something after yesterday’s exchange of comments. Maybe I should have just deleted them, but I have a policy to not delete comments on the blog unless they’re abusive. Richard wasn’t abusive - he was merely telling the truth as he sees it. And there’s always more than one truth.

Sharon J


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Monday, 10 November 2008

Changing My Leaves

As I was driving my ‘almost’ daughter home last night, I couldn’t help but noticed how thickly strewn the pavements were with the leaves that are rapidly falling from the trees these days. The dazzling colours can still be enjoyed, but the heavy rain and blustering wind told me that very soon winter will get serious about laying its cold blanket across the country and it’ll all be over for another year.

Seeing the leaf littered pavements made me think about how autumn’s finale is a closing point. Nature will go to rest for a while, having rid itself of the last leaves, leaves that are no longer needed.

Perhaps, I thought, this is a good time to think about what I should be getting rid of too. I’ve been a bit lapse with the decluttering lately - too many other things going on in my mind, issues that needed to be dealt with - but seeing those leaves brought it home to me that this IS the time to get back on track. Just as the trees no longer need those leaves, I have stuff that no longer needs to be part of my life. They’re cluttering me, crowding my space and, to be honest, they’re making me unhappy. Strange really, considering that once upon a time I honestly believed that stuff would do the opposite - that it would make me feel good. Some stuff still does - the stuff that I need and that makes life easier or more pleasant - but a lot of it doesn’t. It’s just there, taking up space and demanding attention that I just don’t want to give it.

So let the decluttering re-begin, I say. Nature knows that it shouldn’t hang on to anything it no longer has a good use for - a lesson a lot of us could learn something from.

Sharon J


Image Credit: Eve Morrison


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Sunday, 9 November 2008

Just A Thought

"Too many people spend money they don’t have, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like."
~ Will Rogers

How true that is.

Sharon J


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Saturday, 8 November 2008

Why It's Ok To Drive Instead Of Walk

One thing that’s often talked about on simplicity and eco blogs is the use of cars. While I have absolutely no doubt that we really must cut back our use of said vehicles, but there are times when, no matter what’s said about using your legs or a bicycle, that a car should be accepted as the preferred method of transport.

Let’s say you work shifts and finish really late. Or that you’re going to a friends who lives quite a way away. Or even the cinema, the bowling alley or the local social club (but only if you won’t be drinking). Not everywhere is safe to be walking around late at night, especially not if you’re a woman, and unless you’re a really good cyclist who can easily manoeuvre out of sticky situations, in my opinion you’re better off in a car.

I try to use my car less than I used to, even though I neither walk more than a couple of hundred yards or use a bike, but even if I was fit and healthy, I’d still use it at night and especially if I had to travel though a less pleasant part of town than the one I’m lucky enough to live in. Why should I put myself in danger to save the planet? I do what I can, but there’s a limit. I’m not a martyr to the cause and neither should anybody else be. Well, I don't think they should be, anyway.

In fact, there are some places - although not in this town, fortunately - where I wouldn’t walk even if broad daylight let alone at night. If a person has to regularly go to or through those kind of places, I certainly wouldn’t condemn them for using a car.

What I don't like is when people continue to make short, unnecessary trips in their cars. Every day I see neighbours go out in their cars and within minutes they're back. They can't have gone far so surely they could have walked it? Ok, so maybe now and then they're not feeling too well, or have to take something heavy somewhere, but I'm pretty sure that most of the time it's just down to laziness and/or the need for everything to be done quickly.

I know I use my car more than I'd like to, but I have reason to and I do try to combine my trips as much as possible. It's rare that I just nip out for one thing these days. Instead I plan ahead so that I know what I'm likely to be needing and do as much as I can in one hit.

Neither do I like the use of cars that are TOO BIG for a person’s needs. One person can manage fine in a small hatchback and an average family has plenty of space in a medium sized MPV. When I see single people in big, posh cars or mum and her two kids doing the school run in a huge 4x4, my immediate thought is that they’re merely showing off. They’re using stuff to increase their worth within society. Ha! What worth?

It’s what you do, how you do it and why you do it that shows a person’s true worth, not what they drive or own.

They say they have these cars to ‘stay safe’, but what’s so unsafe about taking the kids to school by foot?

Stay safe by all means, I’m all for that, but only when there‘s a real possibility of danger.

Sharon J


Image Credit: Knots


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Friday, 7 November 2008

Losing The Passion

I’ve always been a pretty passionate kind of person, one of those who throws herself into things, wanting to know as much about it as possible and to do it as well as I can and over the course of my 48 years, my passions have been many.

One passion that’s been a thread throughout my life, right from when I was a little girl, is writing. I’d write in notebooks, on serviettes, on the backs of bus tickets and… well, on just about anything it’s possible to write on. And for a good few years, my main income was through writing.

But not now. The passion’s gone. I’ve no idea where it’s gone - maybe somebody half inched it while I wasn’t looking for all I know, but gone it is.

I still enjoy writing my blog, it’s ‘writing proper’ that’s gone. I have no muse when it comes to fiction and non-fiction, unless I’m writing about something that I particularly want to write about, leaves me cold. It just doesn’t interest me anymore. I try, believe me I do, but the words just don’t come. Not in a way that’s worth putting on paper, anyhow.

I’m thinking it’s time to accept that it’s gone.

I knit but I’m not passionate about that either. I sew and cross-stitch but there’s no passion behind them either. I cook from scratch but without the real passion that I once felt. There is no passion in me right now.

What’s happening? Why do I feel this way? It’s like I’m empty, just waiting for passion to come marching back and push me into gear again. I’m sure it will eventually but it’s the waiting I don’t like. Having no passion doesn’t sit well with me.

Sharon J


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Thursday, 6 November 2008

The Porch Door And Energy Saved

About 18 months ago I had new doors fitted in the living room. One leads to the kitchen, the other to the front porch. They’re pine doors but because they’re extra wide, they had to be ordered and cost a good deal more than their slim counterparts (rather like clothes for the fuller figure costing more than those for skinny chicks - a problem I had for years!).

Anyway, the door to the porch has never been right. To start with it closed but was clearly warped. The guy who fitted it assured me it would go back once it settled though and I believed him. It didn’t. It got worse. It got so bad that the door wouldn’t even shut anymore. And what’s more, he hadn’t even used the right number of screws in the hinges. Talk about cowboy!

With my gas bill going through the roof, the knowledge that using up resources unnecessarily and me being a proper little frozen fish finger who shivers at the slightest draught, I knew that I had to have something done about it. Cold air was coming in and warm air was going out and that just ain’t good. I lived through last winter like it but I certainly didn’t want to live through another with all that heat being wasted. It would be waste of both money and resources, not to mention how much it hurts me to freeze!

Enter Kyle.

During dinner on Tuesday I mentioned the door and how something needed to be done about it. Actually, I more than mentioned it. Fed up with the draught that was blowing through and after trying unsuccessfully to shut it (I always try even though I know it’s a no go) I kicked the damn thing and called it a few unsavoury names. Kyle, my daughter’s ‘gentleman friend’, decided at that point that he was going to fix it. And fix it he did.

As soon as dinner was over, he had the toolbox out, the door off and was fixing the dodgy hinges. Then he started chiselling away at the door itself, determined that no matter what, that door was gonna shut!

The result isn’t particularly pretty. There’s are bits missing along the lower side edge where he’s had to chisel them away (I don’t have a plane) but it shuts and that’s what matters. And it saved me a lot of money buying a new one and having somebody fit it, and what’s more, the wood will be used for a good few years more before it eventually becomes firewood.

Things don’t have to be perfect to be good. The door has character now and it does the job it was intended to do. All is well :)

Sharon J


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Wednesday, 5 November 2008

My Story of Sparklers

Well it's Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes' Night if that's what you prefer to call it, and all over the country kids will be given sparklers.

Once upon a time I saw sparklers as an innocent type of firework that the kids loved to hold and swirl around, making pretty light patterns in the dark. I did it when I was little and so did all of my friends so it was natural that I let my own kids have them.

One New Year‘s Eve, when LM was about 4, we all gathered outside in the deep snow (this was in Norway) to send up our rockets and as usual, I had a pack of sparklers for the children. I gave them one each, lit them and turned my back for a few moments because a neighbour had called out Happy New Year.

Suddenly Lise is tugging at me, telling me that LM’s on fire. I turned around and there she stood, sparkler still in her hand, with her mitten on fire. A mitten that was surrounding her hand! I immediately pushed her hand into the snow, extinguishing the fire and, using the torch we had with us, examined the damage. Luckily, she was wearing padded mittens and the flames hadn’t managed to get right through to her skin, but another few seconds and who knows what the results might have been. And I hate to even think about what would have happened had the sleeve of her snowsuit caught fire!

Sparklers are DANGEROUS! They reach a heat of around 2000 degrees. Considering water boils at 100 degrees, it doesn’t take much imagination to understand just how hot that is! It’s hot enough to melt iron!

If you're celebrating tonight, do enjoy yourself but please, please be careful if you’re giving your children sparklers. It really does only take a moment for a spark to turn into a tragedy. LM was lucky, but it could so easily have been different.

Sharon J


Image Credit: Tom Olliver


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Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Market Murder

I’m afraid our local market may well die its death quite soon. The council have plans to ‘re-vamp’ the area where the market’s now held and spread the stalls all around the town instead, a plan I honestly can’t see working.

A market is traditionally a place where traders GATHER to sell their goods and where people know they can go to get either a bargain or something special that they can’t find elsewhere. It’s a place that should be bustling with young mums with pushchairs, men and their dogs, old ladies with pull along trolleys (yes, I know they can be annoying but give them a break, it can be hard to carry bags around when your arms and legs aren’t what they used to be) and housewives looking for fresh veg, meat and whatever else they can lay their hands on for the dinner table. It should be filled with the sounds of traders calling out “get your caulis here, darling” and there should be at least one greasy spoon where you can rest with a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie. What it shouldn’t be is a scattering of stalls dotted here and there around town. That has to be one of the daftest ideas I’ve heard in a long time.

Apparently the plan is to build new council offices on the site of the market but because there’s a bit of a financial problem with it along with the fact that our local council is being grouped together with a few others to make one big council area, nobody seems really sure as to what’s actually going to happen there. It seems they’re definitely going to do ‘something’ with it though.

If the powers that be in this town really want to keep the local community lively then surely the market’s an important part of that? I’d actually like to see more of them. On the days that the general market isn’t on, I’d like to see more guest markets. We had a French one visit a while back (a long while back) and there’s a Christmas market planned, but that’s it. And what’s more, the French one wasn’t where the market usually is and neither will the Christmas one be. We don't even have a monthly farmer's market - we have to go to Nantwich (the posh neighbour) for that.

One argument against the market has apparently been that a lot of the traders aren’t actually local (as in from the immediate Crewe area). Well that’s nothing new! Market traders have traditionally travelled from market to market, plying their goods, but they don’t exactly come from the other end of the country and they sure as heck don’t come from abroad (with the exception of visiting markets, of course). They’re still a darned sight more local than the owners of the chain shops that this town seems to be attracting more and more of.

I have fond memories of markets. As a kid I always went to Walthamstow market with mum every week. She knew exactly which fruit and veg stalls sold the best produce and we’d stop at the fish stall and buy kippers, winkles, cod fillets or whatever seafood Dad and I would be having for dinner that week (she wasn’t keen herself) and a plate of cockles for me to eat as we went along. She might look at the curtain material, buy some new linen, get herself a new pair of tights, buy me a pair of shoes or something else that I needed (getting a new winter coat was always the most exciting one) and during winter we’d stop at the sarsparilla stall for a mug of the steaming hot spicy brew.

When I lived in Norway I went to the fruit, veg & flower market on the square every week. I loved browsing the stalls, finding the best looking vegetables and juiciest fruit and a bunch of pretty flowers for the table. Then I’d sit at a pavement café and just watch the activity before getting the bus back home. Good times.

I shall be sad to see the market dispersed.

Sharon J


Image Credit: Burge5000


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Monday, 3 November 2008

Simplicity Isn’t Always A Happy Face & Clean Aprons

I read quite a few blogs in the course of a week, some daily, some less frequent, but one thing I’ve noticed about a lot of the simplicity blogs is that the general picture that’s given is one where the woman is happy pottering about her home and garden, cleaning and cooking and growing her veggies. She knits, sews, shops locally and ethically and the impression I get is that everything’s always rosy in the simple household.

Well I’m trying to live simply. I cook mostly from scratch using fresh, local ingredients and although I can’t keep my house as nice as I’d like, I do clean (obviously). I chat with my daughter, advise her where I can, cuddle my pets and am generally contented with my lot. But that isn’t always the case.

Some days I’m moody. I don’t feel like cooking, I don’t want to clean, my pets get on my nerves, my daughter annoys me, and everything can go to the place that’s very hot. What’s more, I think that’s ok. Nobody’s happy or even contented all of the time. Things get us down sometimes and although I’d say I’m generally a positive person, sometimes I just allow myself to feel miserable. We humans have a whole range of emotions and as long as we’re not deliberately hurting somebody, or even know we’re hurting somebody even if it isn’t deliberate, I really don’t see the point in denying ourselves any of them.

Just as I think it’s dangerous that magazines portray women as only being attractive if they look young, slim and full of energy, I think it can be equally as dangerous to those trying to live simply - especially those who are new to simple living - that the whole concept is portrayed in a way that will have us believe it’s all smiles and clean aprons. Life, no matter how you choose to live, just isn’t always how we expect it to be. It’s rather like a rose - the beautiful flower is what we notice most of the time but there are always those other times when the thorns will catch you and the beauty of the flowers seems to fade for a short while.

Simple living isn’t a recipe for complete contentment and never will be, but in my experience it does bring more contentment into life. Just don’t expect it to eradicate every thorn and allow yourself to be moody sometimes. You’re only human, after all.

Sharon J


Image Credit: Scandinavian Treasures


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Sunday, 2 November 2008

Saving The Rainforest

Every day I go on Facebook. Yes, I know some of you probably think that’s a pretty lame thing to do but there’s a reason that doesn’t include throwing food at friends or sending them virtual gifts that mean nothing (although when I first started using it a year or so ago, I did do those things, admittedly).

The reason I use Facebook regularly now is because there are two applications that I feel I need to use as often as I can: (lil) Green Patch and (lil) Blue Cove.

Basically, you grow a garden or look after a fish tank type thing (or both). Every time you send a plant or fish to a friend and they accept, a little bit of rainforest is saved. To buy plants and fish you need green bucks but you get 50 of those just for logging in every day (100 if you log into both applications) and there are various other ways of gathering bucks too. I won’t go into all the details here as it’s all explained in the FAQ attached to the application.

So far I’ve saved 29sqft of rainforest and I haven’t been using it that long. In fact, LM, who’s only been using it for a week or two, has already saved 15sqft. Some people have saved hundreds of square feet though so I've a way to go yet.

How? Well there are sponsors who put money into saving the rainforest for every square foot that Facebook users ‘save’. Again, that’s all explained when you look at the application.

If you want to save some rainforest and have a bit of fun while doing it, why not join? If you’re already a member of Facebook then adding either or both of the applications is simple. Just do a search for either Green Patch or Blue Cove for more information about them. If you’re not a member, signing up is dead easy. All you need to do then is find your friends, add them, add one or both of the applications and if they have one too you can start sending them plants and fish.

If you already have either or both of the applications but need more people to swap with (or if you decide to add them), feel free to email me at dioritt @ yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk and let me know. I won’t mind adding you :)

Sharon J


Image Credit: Steve Lacy


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Saturday, 1 November 2008

You Come Into This World With Nothing

As posted on Wednesday, I’ve recently attended a funeral. There were tears - tears from the family for the loss of their mother and grandmother and tears from friends of those who’d lost somebody they loved because they were hurting so much. It’s hard to see somebody you care about hurting like that and knowing that apart from offering a shoulder to cry on, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to ease their pain. But such is the nature of a funeral and the grieving process is important.

What I really want to write about though is something one of the family friends said at the wake. She’s a 90 year old Jamaican woman who I’ve also known since I was a teenager and who’s one of the wisest, wittiest ladies you could wish to meet; a real scream and even at her advanced age, she hasn’t changed one bit.

A group of us younger (!!) ones were stood in the garden when she came out to join us. At that point we were talking about the garden, which is terribly overgrown but with its old brick walls and some wonderful climbers and shrubs, could be turned into a real haven for both humans and wildlife. Leigh, the lovely old Jamaican, speaking to my friend Carol, who lives in the house with her Dad, said something along these lines:

“Don’t just stand there talking about it, do something about it. You come into this world with nothing so be prepared to leave with nothing. Make every day special and enjoy life while you have it because what you’re left with when you leave will mean nothing.”

So true.

Sure, somebody else might be able to use what we leave, but is that what life’s about? Gathering stuff and money to pass on to others? Or should we be getting the most out of the time we have on this planet, enjoying every day for what it’s worth? That doesn’t necessarily mean spending like a maniac, but if you want that garden and you have the money and resources to do it, then get it done! If you want that holiday in the Caribbean and you can afford it, then go. If you want to learn to knit then don’t just talk about it, get an instruction book, some wool and needles and start knitting! Do the things you want to do while you’re alive and well and able to do them.

I try to live by that philosophy myself and have done for most of my life but even more so since coming close to death myself. I realised just how quickly it can all be over and I’m damned if I’m going to just sit around waiting to do things “some day in the future”.

If there’s anything left over when my time comes, then hopefully my children will put it to good use themselves, but I’m not planning on leaving anything. I have my life to live and if anybody happens to think that’s selfish then tough. I’ve passed on my genes, for what they’re worth, I’ve fed them, clothed them, taught them and nurtured them - the rest is for me to enjoy in whatever way I see fit.

You do indeed come into the world with nothing and no matter what you do, you can’t take a damned thing with you when you leave.

Sharon J


Image Credit: Clarity


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