Tag Archives: change

Happier at Home

I’ve become quite fond of Gretchen. Since reading The Happiness Project and attempting my own (and therein gaining a newfound respect for her diligence to such a project) I’ve been listening to her podcast Happier and I’ve read (and really enjoyed) Better Than Before.

I was wandering around my local library the other day (not quite deliberately enough to call it browsing) when I came across her book Happier At Home. I’ve never really had a great urge to read this one- for a while I thought it was the same as The Happiness Project but with a different cover or title, as some books seem to have for various international versions. But after seeing it there in front of me and reading the back to make sure it wasn’t the same as The Happiness Project, I thought “Let’s give it a whirl!” so I borrowed it. (I love libraries, they satisfy my penchant for zero waste, frugal, clutter-free living.)

Although I’d had my reservations about The Happiness Project, I enjoyed Happier At Home from page 1. Gretchen’s writing voice is different to her podcast voice. When I first tuned into her podcasts, I remember being quite surprised to hear the way she spoke. I’m not sure why…. Reading another of her books then reminded me of that slightly awkward, nerdy, slightly neurotic type A persona that I found difficult to fully warm to in The Happiness Project. But this time, instead of finding it disconcerting, I actually found it quite comforting to hear it again.

And so, I read about what is, essentially, her second happiness project, this one on a slightly smaller scale, set in and around her home. And, just as with The Happiness Project, I was inspired to take away from it some “Try this at home”s (find out what this is on her podcast- although it’s pretty self-explanatory!)

Specifically,

  • Go shelf by shelf (declutter- a constant mission of mine)
  • Kiss in the morning, kiss at night (Give proofs of love)
  • Give gold stars (Acknowledge others’ good deeds verbally not just mentally)
  • Go on adventures (Big and small, with both Mr L and the little Ls)
  • Give warm greetings and farewells (a kiss at least, hello and goodbye)
  • Dig Deep (My personal commandments need revisiting I think)
  • Suffer for fifteen minutes (Get a potentially tedious and large scale chore done little by little each day- mine, as Gretchen’s was, is collating some family photo albums.)
  • Follow a threshold ritual (Literally, cross the threshold of your house with gratitude)
  • Eat like a yogi (I added this one myself- more on this later, it’s a work in progress)

I wonder if I’d have been better off reading Happier At Home before The Happiness Project. Despite coming first, The Happiness Project is on a much bigger scale and was a bit full on for me. Mine kind of fizzled. This one’s much less rigid. It’s just going to aim to incorporate these habits into my day, rather than ticking off resolution charts or writing time lines.

We’ll see how we go!

 

 

Zero Waste Update 4

Ok so I promise this is not turning into a Zero Waste blog. There are a lot of those around and while they can be very inspiring, I do find they tend to run out of new things to talk about after a while.

However, I read back over a couple of my previous Zero Waste posts last night and realised how much things have changed, especially my attitude!

I can’t believe I complained about recycled toilet paper being “ugly” and in this post said, about people who use cloth baby wipes:

There are people who use old rags as baby wipes and wash them. Good for them.

So, just a quick update on what’s new around here….

Baby wipes– While we’re on the subject: I couldn’t really find a definitive answer on the environmental impact of bamboo/viscose etc etc but I suspect it’s still significant. When in doubt, something reusable is almost always going to have less impact than something single use. Also, what really bothered me was the plastic packets they all come in, which is definitely single use and not recyclable/biodegradable etc. So I took the plunge. Mr L had a couple of old t shirts destined for the rag bag so I chopped them up and have been using them as babywipes. I just wet about 10 at a time in a sink of cold water with a squirt of baby shampoo in it (although this is probably unnecessary) and store them in a small reusable baby wipe container we had lying around. Once they’re dirty I chuck them in the laundry sink and put them in the next wash. Because they’re thick and fairly large (actually probably no bigger than a standard babywipe, but more substantial because of their thickness), one usually does the job, so a box of 10 lasts at least a day, usually two.

Miss L isn’t a big fan of them, but she’s practically toilet trained now. Baby L doesn’t care as long as his bottom’s clean. I must point out though, for those unaccustomed to the different grades of baby poo, that the newborn poos (when all they drink is milk) are liquid and relatively inoffensive. Once they start eating solids there is a steady progression in gross-ness as their poos become more voluminous and solid, and once they’ve smooshed around a nappy for anything more than a few minutes they are probably not something you want to use a reusable anything on. So for these ones of Miss L’s, I do the bulk of the job with toilet paper and then finish off with a reusable wipe.

Apologies to anyone for whom that was TMI.

Coffee cup– I broke my ceramic mug at the zoo when it was knocked out of the holder on the stroller (talk about first world problems). Apart from being slightly embarrassed about the big “smash” inside the (supposedly) quiet Kiwi enclosure and then having to scrabble around picking up broken bits of china (one of which cut me), I felt like a complete idiot that I had just created more waste in trying to avoid waste. I had visions of the pieces of ceramic lying, never to decompose, in a landfill somewhere, the shards cutting the feet of small animals or ripping the guts of sea birds open. Then I got a grip.

My new cup is plastic, so it shouldn’t meet the same fate. I actually like the spout better than my old one, it’s nicer to drink out of, and in the unlikely event that I one day have no use for it, it’s recyclable. (Yes, I know, internal lecture to self about the evils of plastic recycling)

I was faced with a real dilemma the other day though, stopping for a quick coffee on my way home without my cup!! What to do?!?! Easy, I decided to “have here”. Only it was 4.30 and they were clearing up and told me I could only have it in a takeaway cup!! Wracked with guilt (and desperate for a coffee) I wondered what I should do. As she made the coffee I stood there already feeling guilty for the waste that one coffee cup would produce. So I compromised, and took the cup but asked for no lid…. After all, I consoled myself, it’s not about being perfect. I think I need to start thinking “Less waste” rather than “Zero waste”.

Toilet paper– I’m now buying Safe from Huckleberry Farms. Recycled toilet paper, paper packaging, and no, it’s not that ugly. It’s certainly prettier than the job it’s designed for anyway!

Also at Huckleberry Farms I found they stock a few things which might be handy- they let you fill your own container with Ecostore washing up liquid, meaning I don’t have to go all the way to Binn Inn for it. They also sell Global Soap, so I bought a bar of their stain remover to see if we can do away with the plastic-packaged Vanish stain remover which comes in handy for baby poo explosions and the collars and cuffs of Mr L’s business shirts when they get grubby. So far, the trial on the shirts has been disappointing…. Might have to try harder.

Loving Earth Chocolate– also at Huckleberry Farms, this chocolate comes in a compostable wrapper. And costs a small fortune. But at least I only buy (and therefore eat) a tiny bit at a time.

Cooking– kiwifruit jam, more marmalade, tamarillo chutney…. All of these are easy to make, taste great, are zero waste and are great to give away as small impromptu gifts. They also invite oos and ahs of admiration as people say “OMG how you have the time to make your own jam with 3 children?” Well I have the time to update my Facebook and watch crap TV, so I figure I have the time to make jam. What’s that? You update your FB and watch crap TV too… precisely.

Other pleasing discoveries have been zero waste crackers (good with cheese) and “larabars”- also pseudo healthy- as a chocolatey treat. What’s also good about making these things yourself is that as making them is (arguably) harder work and more expensive than tossing a packet in the supermarket trolley when you walk past them, you feel less inclined to polish off a whole packet. This is probably also because they are quite rich- you just wouldn’t eat a whole tray of them.

Toiletries– I am now using Lush toothy tabs instead of toothpaste (most of the time). They took a bit of getting used to but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. They don’t give you that big mint hit but they do leave your teeth feeling really clean and smooth and most mornings I wake up feeling fresher. They feel a bit odd- a bit like brushing your teeth with chalk, but they taste so much better than any bicarb concoction that I came up with. They are quite abrasive though (hence the smooth teeth!) so I hope they aren’t damaging the enamel on my teeth. The abrasiveness also means I have to keep my mouth open when I brush as my toothbrush rubbing against the corner of my mouth with the toothy tabs was really irritant. I’m using “Breath of God” at the moment, which I chose on the recommendation of the shop assistant as being the least radical change from conventional toothpaste. And if I’ve had something particularly garlicky or I just want to be “normal” again I do occasionally still use regular toothpaste, probably about once every 3 or 4 days.

Lotion bars- Lush also do massage bars so I bought one to use instead of body moisturiser. I’m not a big body moisturiser user anyway, but occasionally my legs or elbows get dry and I want to put something on. I’ve been really happy with these- they go on quite sparingly and smell subtle but nice (of lemons, despite being supposedly peach scented). Once the weather warms up I have a feeling they might melt a bit too easily and be a bit greasy, but we’ll see. You can keep them in the fridge but who wants to go to the kitchen after a shower to put on moisturizer before they get dressed??

Unfortunately both the toothy tabs and the lotion bars are slightly more expensive than the products they’re replacing.

I’ve now used up the J&J cornstarch so I’m just using regular cooking cornflour instead of deodorant. I looked around for a while for a metal shaker for it but gave up and bought a plastic one- hopefully it’ll last.

Books– I did a bit more reading- “Plastic Free” by Beth Terry, who attacks plastic not just due to the waste impact but all the other evils it supposedly delivers (endocrine disruptors, carcinogens etc etc). I take these things with a grain of (package free) salt, but it’s easy to see how planting the seeds of doubt and fertilisng them with supposed science to a naïve (or even merely) open mind can create obsession and paranoia. I can imagine how people get turned against things like vaccination and fluoride, two other 20th century innovations that have done a lot of good but can be portrayed as the harbingers of just about every modern day affliction you can imagine. That said, I’m still trying to avoid it as much as possible, without being too paranoid about the damage it might be doing me personally.

I also read “The Zero-Waste Lifestyle” by Amy Korst by but to be honest it didn’t contain much I hadn’t read before, so it was a skim read really. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be interesting to someone embarking on a zero/less waste change but it didn’t hold a huge amount for me.

Right so much for that quick update.

I promise to write about something different next time, really!!!

 

 

Weighty issues part 1: Michelle, meet Gretchen

I specifically have not talked about weight or dieting (in detail anyway) on this blog- I wanted to keep it a weight-free zone. For most of my life I have had a preoccupation with my weight, diet, eating etc (I kept my first food log when I was 9 years old) and I didn’t want it to take over my blog.

However, Baby L is approaching the 4 month mark and I still have 8kg of baby weight to lose…

As part of my general ruminations about weight loss over the past few months I have vascillated wildly between two main strategies I might use to shift these stubbon kgs.

The first (and the diet I’ve been most successful with in the past, losing my baby weight after Miss L was born) essentially revolves around calorie counting. Specifically, the Michelle Bridges 12 week body transformation. It’s surprisingly simple: you eat fewer calories than you expend and voila, you lose weight. More specifically, 1200 calories a day for women- this allowed me to lose about 10kg in 12 weeks. It even permitted me a few slip-ups along the way. Michelle is big on exercise but emphasises that the calories you burn from exercise are far exceeded by the calories you save by sticking to the diet, however, I’m a big proponent of the other benefits of exercise (link to running post) even if calories burning is not number 1. You get a meal plan, which is essentially 7 new recipes a week, most of which were tasty and surprisingly quick to prepare. I found the diet quite easy to stick to for most of the 12 weeks. You keep a log of the food you eat (just for your own records) and you post your weight online once a week. She advocates weighing in on a Wednesday, which unofficially allows you to relax a bit on the weekend and be really strict on a Monday and Tuesday. You also get a treat meal once a week. She sends you weekly or twice weekly “motivational” emails and video links and you have access to the online 12WBT “community” where you can be encouraged and motivated (I must confess I was largely discouraged by the overwhelming stupidity of the general population and their failure to comprehend basic concepts but that’s another story.) This for the fairly reasonable price (I thought) of $200, which is less than $20 per week.

I finished that diet very pleased with the results, smaller than I’ve ever been (as an adult) and rather smug about how “easy” I’d found the whole thing. “I really have very little sympathy for people who say they can’t lose weight” I recall saying (despite the fact that I’d been struggling with it for 25 odd years). However, I felt a bit lost at the end of it, I kind of wondered “Well what do I do now?” Do I keep counting calories, do I start eating “normally” again? MB recommends you gradually increase your daily calorie allowance until you find your set point. She herself, apparently, doesn’t count calories or log her food but is (obviously) pretty in tune with how much she’s consuming and tends to stick to a fairly strict diet in the week and relaxes a “bit” on weekends. And so I started eating some of the things I’d given up- mainly cheese and cakes- started baking again, got a bit lazy…. And gradually 3kg crept back on. It wasn’t a huge deal, that was me back at the lower end of my comfortable adult weight range, so no big deal, right?

When I got pregnant with Baby L, I was determined not to gain 25kg again as I had done with the other two. But it became obvious I was stacking it on again so I tried to do MB to maintain my weight and limit my pregnancy gain. Hmmm…. Not so easy when nauseated and tired. So I ended up 25kg heavier again with Baby L.

Since giving birth I’ve said “Right, this is it, time to start!” a couple of times but I’ve just found it so bloody hard. I can’t help feeling that signing up online, paying the money, all of that seems key in sticking to it, but I find it ridiculous that handing over $20 a week makes you stick to a diet when you could spend that $20 on something else… like a yoga class, an exercise class, a pedicure (well not every week obviously).

It was timely then that I read Gretchen Rubin’s “Better Than Before”, which is a book about habits- forming good ones mainly. Early in the book she encourages you to identify what sort of personality you are- the options are Obliger, Upholder, Rebel and Questioner. I didn’t even need to read the descriptions of the personality types to know that I am an Obliger. Obligers essentially are motivated to follow through with things if they are accountable to someone else. We don’t like to let other people down but are less motivated by keeping promises we make to ourselves (Upholders on the other hand, are motivated to keep their promises to both other people and themselves). This kind of explained a lot, paying money (and not just my money but mine and Mr L’s money) means if I didn’t get results on this diet I would be wasting our money. And, somehow, posting my weight online for all to see (even people I didn’t know) also motivated me. So how can I substitute that external accountability?

The other thing I had last time was a wedding to go to at the end of the 12 weeks- one of Mr L’s friends- I’m not sure why that made a difference except for the fact that I knew that a lot of the girls there would be fit and skinny as well as younger than me and I suppose I didn’t want to be the fat dumpy wife (not that any of them would have thought that, it’s just how I would have felt).

I’m also trying this time to note how beneficial being a few kgs lighter would be for things like my newly trialled yoga hobby, running, SUPing, etc, rather thn just doing it for the sake of looking good.

So I’ve planned my meals, tried to substitute paying Michelle Bridges with paying my unofficial yoga fund and printed out some skinny pics of myself for motivation. I’ve also written out a week by week countdown and declared my 15 year uni reunion as the official 12 week milestone to get in shape for. (Interestingly, Gretchen warns against using a “finishing line” when trying to achieve goals or start habits, as they generally lead people to stop their new habit, after which they often find the second time round even harder. As I have proven…)

And if it all falls apart this week, there’s an “official” round of 12WBT starting September 14th

Guess Who’s Back?

After a long and busy hiatus, I’m finally back in blog land.

May saw the arrival of our 3rd and final child, a beautiful baby boy. Since then things have been rather hectic with 3 kids to manage but the departure of my parents in law last weekend signalled a return to “normal” (well real, anyway) life.

I have been itching to write again for some weeks now. I’d like to say I have loads of new material and inspiration but I’d be lying, so I thought I’d get writing and see what flowed.

Foremost in my headspace right now (other than Master, Miss and Baby L) are my on-going zero-waste efforts, my aspirations to minimalism as well as some new mindfulness stuff. I’ve read Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better Than Before, since writing last and of course, there’s the usual post baby lose weight/return to exercise/ back to work challenges to tackle.

We anticipate spending another 18 months in NZ (maybe more but probably no less) and after the speed at which the first year and a bit has flow by we have resolved to get out there a bit more and see as much as we can see. So more to follow on that…

For now though, that’s my quick “hello I’m back” spiel, just to get my typing fingers warmed up again.

See you soon x

Zero Waste Update

Well, it’s been ­­­3 weeks since my Zero Waste aspirations began. So far I’ve been quite excited and impressed by the changes we’ve made and by how easy they have been.

So far we’ve managed to:

Refuse plastic bags for our bread and bakery products. This has simply been a matter of requesting a paper bag for the (numerous!) hot cross buns we buy (“Yes, of course no problem!” has been the unanimous reply) and buying our bread from the pick-your-own section of the supermarket. I’ve stopped buying sliced bread as I couldn’t see how, even from Baker’s Delight, this was going to work in a paper bag. Instead I slice my own- I thought the kids would protest about the uneven, more rustic slices, but actually, they haven’t.

Refuse or reduce other packaging

  • Soap- we’re phasing out liquid soap and I’ve ordered some wooden soap dishes online to make it less messy (although to be honest, it’s not too bad but a soap dish which allows the soap to drain and dry between uses should also extend the life of the bar).
  • Bin Inn– our patronage continues and I have bought sugar, washing up liquid, laundry powder, baking soda and buckwheat there. I was excited to see they sell honey and golden syrup as well as canola oil (but alas no olive oil). The other very exciting find was their peanut butter machine- you take your own tub, select smooth, medium or crunchy, and let the machine grind your peanut butter straight into your tub! The kids loved it and so did I!

Ecostore products

  • The toilet brush is great, as toilet brushes go. Not only does it look quite classy (if it’s possible for a toilet brush to look classy) but the bristles are nice and flexible so it cleans brilliantly, and the kids haven’t given it a second glance- I was worried with it not being enclosed that they might want to play with it.
  • I’ve only just finished my regular shampoo (I realised my hair only really needed washing once a week while I’m pregnant- it seems much drier plus I am not exercising so it doesn’t get sweaty), so have only used the Ecostore stuff once. It seemed ok, not very lathery, but I’m sure lather is just some marketing trick to make you feel like you’re getting really clean.
  • Also loving the string bags and no one at the supermarket has had an issue with me buying my fruit and veg in them.
  • The free soap I got dries my skin a bit so I might try another variety next time.
  • I haven’t tried the sanitary products yet.

Dog poo– most of this has gone over the fence with no complaints from the neighbours (human or bovine.)

Bins– I have also cut down on bin liners (we used plastic shopping bags) by not bothering to line the nappy bin in the garage- it stinks anyway so what does it matter- and chucking as much as possible straight in the wheelie bin rather than into a house bin first and filling up a plastic bag. A bin liner now lasts 2 or 3 days, instead of less than 1. This creates the illusion of less rubbish, certainly, as everything packs in tighter, but I like to think we actually have been throwing less out too.

Deodorant- the bicarb/cornflour/coconut oil concoction became difficult to use as the weather has got cooler, as it’s not as soft and easy to apply. I could add more coconut oil I suppose but I’ve actually taken to just using cornstarch (J&J at the moment but I am going to try and move to plain kitchen cornstarch) and perfume with no complaints (from myself or others!)

Picking up rubbish at the beach– I felt like a total hippy but I picked up a small bag (yes ok it would have been better to use a bucket) of rubbish- cigarette butts, wrappers, bits of plastic etc at the beach yesterday.

Resuable coffee cup– we have started taking them out when we get a takeaway coffee (which is actually not all that often anyway). Even Mr L was on board with this today.

Marmalade– I made a big batch of marmalade for the grand total of about $7 this week- made the equivalent of about 5 jars from the shops. Of course it has been bottled in reused jam jars I’d been saving.

My next goal is to source and try out the following:

  •  Shampoo bars- dog & human
  • Bamboo shower puff
  • Bamboo toothbrush
  • Bamboo babywipes
  • Toilet rolls made from recycled paper AND free of plastic packaging
  • Containers for meat from shops etc

 We’ll see how we go!

Zero Waste Home

So I came across a blog called “Zero Waste Home” by Bea Johnson a few weeks ago while reading an article on reducing plastic consumption in your life.

Bea is a French woman living in the US, married to an American guy with 2 children. Essentially, she describes how she lived a fairly “traditional” French childhood in suburban Provence (it never occurred to me that they had suburbs in Provence as I’ve always assumed it was all quaint medieval villages and lavender fields but evidently there are suburbs too!) then when she moved to the US she found herself embroiled in the “American Dream”- big house, big garden, 2 gas guzzling vehicles and a disposable lifestyle.

Motivated by wanting to live in a slightly more atmospheric, inner suburb of whichever US city she’s in, but unable to afford the same scale of house, they embraced minimalism to allow them to downsize and move closer into town.

Eventually she transitioned to and embraced not just having less stuff but creating less waste.

I found the book really quite interesting as it generally seemed to support the feelings I already had about being green and recycling (ie that recycling surely can’t be the “chuck stuff out totally guilt-free” card everyone seems to regard it as). She doesn’t go into a huge amount of detail about the process of recycling, its byproducts and the like, but she does touch on a few processes and suggests that the real problem is plastic. According to Bea, plastics are rarely recycled into equally sustainable products, they are often “downcycled” into products that can’t then be recycled a second time and go to land/ocean fill.

Her philosophy, as I had kind of already embraced myself, is to minimise the amount of stuff that comes into your house, that’s the only way to really minimise the stuff that goes out again. Her 5 Rs are Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. Fairly self- explanatory, but to spell it out,

  • Refuse as much stuff as possible
  • Reduce the amount of stuff you do let into your house
  • Reuse it (as opposed to recycling it)
  • Recycle and Rot (composting) are then last resorts before throwing it in the bin

Some of her tips go a bit far for my liking (each to their own, but she advocates dusting cocoa powder on your cheeks instead of foundation and I don’t fancy a load of flies swarming around me or smelling like a hot chocolate) but she has motivated me to try and reduce as much as possible the amount of stuff we chuck out and to focus, first and foremost, on cutting down our plastic waste.

Some things I’d already been doing for a while, like:

  • Avoiding cling wrap as much as possible- for about a year I’ve been using reusable sandwich wraps. There are several available on the market and many of them are quite expensive, cashing in on a combination of the food-safety paranoia and the environmental concerns surrounding plastics. I must say I found some very reasonably priced ones at Howards Storage World in Australia and I have no idea what their environmental or food safety profile is, but having bought only two and used them all year, surely that’s better than the roll of cling wrap I would otherwise have gone through?
  • Re-using paper in the printer. I used to get a lot of it from work- for some reason my old workplace in Sydney was so wasteful with paper and you’d find reams (literally) of paper printed on one side only that people had left in the printer, I’m not sure why- printed in error I guess, so I’d swipe it and take it home to use. The main problems were I’d actually acquire more than I could use (I don’t print much stuff out at home) and a couple of times I had to be careful about ending up with printouts which had sensitive information on the reverse side.
  • Composting- in Sydney this was a no-brainer as we had a garden we could use the compost in and also chickens, whose poo really needs mixing with compost as it’s too harsh to put straight on the soil (apparently). This had fallen by the wayside since moving to Auckland, mainly because we didn’t have any sort of garden beds (or chickens) to benefit from compost, also because we had nowhere convenient to put a compost bin and finally because every house in NZ (our new one included) seems to have a waste disposal system, which I have always considered an American thing. Anyway we have resurrected our composting habit- it’s amazing how much goes into it and how satisfying it is!
  • Reducing electricity & gas consumption- this was always easy to comply with as it reduces your bills. Happily our new house has instant gas hot water with a thermostat, meaning I have been able to turn down the temperature our hot water is heated to. I could never see the logic of paying to heat water to hotter than your skin can stand, only to cool it down by mixing it with cold water for a shower. It’s not quite as hot as it could be for washing dishes, but it’s fine.
  • Resuable water bottle- I HATE paying to buy water when I’m out, so this is easy.
  • Resuable coffee cup- Mr L and I both have these, however our main motivation was again financial, we’d use them to take coffee from home rather than taking them to cafes to get them filled. But I’ve done it a couple of times now and they haven’t thought I’m a complete weirdo! It’s not that hard. I had also been taking mine to work, to make cups of tea in rather than using the Styrofoam rubbish they have there.

Since reading Zero Waste Home, some of the new things I’ve looked into have included:

  • Buying bread in paper bags as much as possible. I always reused the plastic bags our bread came in, usually for cleaning up after the dog (see below) but felt bad. It’s been pretty easy and hasn’t confined us to expensive Bakers Delight bread (although we do go there quite a bit anyway), turns out our local budget supermarket has very nice loaves of bread which you self-serve in paper bags. Of course, Bea would suggest getting your own cloth bread bag (she uses a pillow case) and doing without the bag altogether, but then what do you store it in when you get home?
  • Packaging- with other products, too, I’ve been much more aware of packaging and trying to stick to a hierarchy of none-paper-glass-plastic. I realised (with horror) that the bars of soap I’ve been buying to use in the shower come in non-recyclable plasticky paper wrapping. I bought some in simple cardboard boxes and have now found some without wrappers at all. They are a little more expensive, but are still less than $3 per bar. I also agonized over my choice of honey in the supermarket, feeling ashamed of my convenient plastic flip-top squeezey bottle- I mean how hard is it to take the top off and use a knife??* But there was no honey in a glass jar, I couldn’t believe it!! So I got a screw top plastic jar which looked like it could be used again, instead of the flimsy, throwaway soft plastic things that most of the honey seems to come in here.   [*I might add that I have previously been down the “which honey container to buy” decision tree, and what led me to the squeezy bottle (when the jars are way cheaper and would ordinarily have won) is the fact that I HATE it when people leave crumbs in the honey/marmalade/jam/butter and even more when there are traces of butter in the non-butter spreads, it grosses me out. I even go so far as to use a clean knife (not the buttery one) after buttering the toast to apply the spread, in order to avoid contaminating it. I realise not everyone shares my OCD tendencies and so to avoid irritation I resorted to buying the squeezer. Anyway, I digress.]
  • And on the subject of soap, for years I have been a liquid soap user, again, not being able to stand the soggy mess on the sink that collects with bars. But I figured it’s a lot of plastic, so when we finish the liquid stuff we’ve got, I’m going to try bars for handwashing once again. (I never got into shower gel for the simple reason it’s so expensive compared to bars of soap, so I’m sure I can cope with bars at the sinks).
  • New shops- I ventured to Ecostore, which I had always dismissed as a complete rip-off in the past, but actually some of their stuff is ok. I came away with a toilet brush (our cheap metal and –gasp- plastic one had fallen apart after about 5 uses, so I bought a wooden handled, natural bristled one, with a wooden & ceramic stand. The brush is compostable so when it gets grotty you chuck in on the compost heap. Then you just buy a replacement brush to put in the old stand. I also bought some organic cotton string bags, which I put fruit and veg in at the supermarket (the things that are too much hassle to have loose) and some all-natural, compostable sanitary pads which were also cheaper than I expected. NB I will NOT be composting these as I think it’s kind of gross for the other household members, but I figured they’ll decompose quicker in the rubbish tip than the normal sort. Some shampoo & conditioner in refillable bottles completed my purchase, and I was rewarded with a free bar of (package free) soap and a lip balm! I was prepared to buy a large tub of laundry detergent, as I quite like the Ecostore stuff, but was disappointed to find they only have a very limited range of products that they’ll refill and their powder detergent isn’t one of them. You can take your containers back but I was told by the woman serving me they recycle them, they don’t refill them. Not like at…..
  • Bin Inn– a chain of sort of health-food shops I suppose is how they describe themselves, but most of their products are in bins sold by weight- you take your own containers which they weigh empty, then weigh again when you’ve put your loot into them! What a fabulous idea. So far I’ve bought rolled oats, sultanas, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, laundry detergent, dry dog food and dog treats. The stuff is reasonably priced- some of it’s more expensive than in the supermarket but some of it is a lot cheaper so I think it breaks even. There’s one about 20 mins drive from us, so it’s probably an awful waste of petrol to go there all the time, but once I get my system going it might work quite well!
  • Dog- I always put her mess into plastic bags then in the bin, but our new house backs onto a big overgrown field whose only users are cows, so I have started chucking her poo over the fence into the long grass. I’m sure the cows won’t mind, given how much mess they themselves make. And when it’s exposed to sun, rain and flies, dog poo doesn’t hang around that long anyway, certainly not compared to sitting in a plastic bag being preserved on a rubbish heap.
  • And finally, I have also tried making my own deodorant!! Using 1/4 cup bicarb soda, 1/4 cup cornflour and 4 tsp coconut oil. It’s ok, it’s like a stick deodorant only not in a very convenient dispenser (you rub it on with your fingers). I’m not a super sweaty, smelly person, luckily, or I don’t think I’d get away with it. I have been a bit sweatier than usual, but I have about 4 bottles of perfume that take me aaages to get through so I figured I’d start using them daily and they can supplement the deodorant. I generally buy fragrance-free deodorant anyway, and have always balked at the cost of the aerosol stuff. As luck would have it, I didn’t make it to Aldi during our recent trip to Sydney to buy any more of their cheap, perfectly acceptable, mildly-fragranced stuff anyway, and I was already resenting paying $7 a can for branded stuff here.

It’d be nice to get to the point where we don’t have to put up with meat, cheese, fish & deli products in their inevitable plastic wrapping but to do this I think I’m going to have to start shopping at small local shops who’ll take a BYO container and put the stuff into it. An idea I like in theory, but the convenience of a supermarket instead of 5 different outlets, particularly with 2 kids in tow, just wins out most of the time.

Will we ever do away with plastic altogether? No. And I don’t think we’ll achieve completely zero plastic waste either. Plastic has its uses. I have a lot of plastic tubs already and I can’t see the point of chucking them out to buy other substitutes- I’ll use them until they fall apart (ideally forever)- surely that’s better than them going to landfill now? Plus, plastic is really useful for keeping things fresh! I keep my vegetables in plastic bags in the fridge so they don’t go soft. And plastic is better than paper for keeping bread from going stale. What I am trying to do is have designated sturdy plastic bags which I can reuse many times over before they need to be thrown out.

 Anyway, we’ll see, It’s a start, at least!

March Happiness Project- Vitality

It’s autumn! I love a change of season and I especially love the first day of autumn. So my plan for March: Vitality.

Gretchen does this one first up. I guess she figured it’d stand her in good stead for the rest of the year. Which is partly why I chose to do it early as well (and also because, getting late in my pregnancy, I figured I might need it the most about now!)

I think I’ve pretty much lifted my resolutions directly from her. They are:

1. Go to sleep earlier– I really need to do this! Since giving birth to Master L, when everyone seemed to be full of the advice “Sleep when the baby sleeps!!” I’ve resisted having a nap when the kids have theirs, or going to bed as soon as they do. It helped that as tiny babies, both my kids were good sleepers so I seemed to have less of that new-baby sleep deprivation than other mums do, I think. Apart from the fact that, even at my most tired, 7pm is generally too early to go to bed (and I need to have dinner), I’ve always valued my child-free/child-asleep time so much, that to sleep it away myself seems like a waste. I welcome the opportunity to do my own thing, whether it’s getting dinner ready, tidying up, watching TV or surfing the net. However, now that I have 2 kids and am 30 weeks pregnant, I’ve come to realize that staying up being an adult is all well and good, but if you’re so tired the next day that you act like a child (and a tired one at that), it’s better for everyone that you sleep. For me, I need to not just go to sleep earlier, but go to sleep “cleaner”. Sleep hygiene is something I’ve never been great at, and now that we have mobiles and laptops and i pads to keep our minds buzzing right up (and even after) we turn off the light, I’m even worse. So I’m going to try the following to sleep longer and better:

  • Start the bedtime routine at 9.30- laptop off, last cup of tea, start getting kids’ milk ready, make sure kitchen either tidied to my liking or make conscious decision to leave it till the next morning (and be happy with that decision!)
  •  Upstairs at 10- no more checking phone for emails or FB updates
  • Read for up to half an hour before lights out at 10.30
  • Get a bedside clock ASAP so I can leave my phone charging downstairs and am not tempted to check it at 4am!

2. Exercise- I’m limited by what I can do at the moment (yes, I know, excuses, but really, I have horrible varicose veins that start in my groin and ache when I try and do too much on my feet) but I’d really like to swim or walk (well, stroll/waddle) 3 times a week. The dog will be happy about that too (not me swimming, but the strolling part). I’m conscious of being VERY unfit in this pregnancy, which I’m sure I’ll regret in labour, if not before

3. Act energetic– ok so being the size of a baby whale is not really conducive to this but the theme of this month is “Vitality”, after all! I came across a man called Richard Wiseman last night, a psychologist and author of 59 seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot (I have asked the library to reserve me a copy). One of his basic theories about behavioural change is that if you pretend to be what you want to be, you will be. So pretend to be more energetic, and you will be! Same goes for happy, powerful, calm blah blah… (Maybe I could save myself this whole Happiness project series here!)

4. Toss, restore, organise– This is generally something I find fairly easy although we have still not got on top of things 100% since moving house. This weekend’s task is to get 2 more of our remaining rooms sorted out. I’ve also become a bit slack with tidying the kids’ toys in the evening- “Do an evening tidy up” is actually one of Gretchen’s daily resolutions for her vitality month. It needs to be reintroduced in our house! I’ve also been intrigued lately by a blog called Zero Waste Home– but more on that later.

5. Tackle that nagging task– oh my perpetual to do list!!! Gretchen’s rule- if you can do it in less than a minute, do it now (actually she got that from someone else, I’m not sure who though). To whittle my To-Do list away I’m going to try:

  • Once a week, cross an item off without doing it (ie just get rid of one non-essential task)
  • Schedule 2 items per week
  • Anything less than a minute- do it now!

6. Eat better– I debated about including this as it probably falls more in the domain of “Health and Fitness”, which I have planned for July. However I can’t help but feeling that my terrible diet (too much food and of the wrong type) probably also plays a part in my lack of vitality, not just through excessive pregnancy pounds gained, but in the general malaise and sluggishness that comes from feeling constantly full and never hungry. So although I think the motivation to really lose my baby weight won’t kick in until after the baby’s born, I’m going to try making some small changes now so that a) I feel better and b) I don’t have as much weight to lose come May. Starting with 3 meals & 2 snacks a day, instead of the constant grazing and mindless eating I’ve been allowing myself to do.

 That seems like a lot of resolutions for one chart. Let’s see how I go….

 Commandments

  1. Let it go
  2. Act the way I want to feel
  3. Do it now
  4. Enjoy the process

February Happiness project- Attitude

And so (given that I finished her book at the very end of January), I decided February would be the start of my Gretchen Rubin-inspired Happiness project. Not long to plan, exactly, I know, but I thought I’d ride the motivational wave and get stuck in.

More t/f on the rest of the project (assuming I keep at it!) but it’s fairly closely modelled on Gretchen’s: essentially, tackling one area a month with some more specific goals laid out. I thought I’d start with “Attitude”. Interestingly, she leaves this one until November, which didn’t make much sense to me when I read the book. I thought if I worked on this first, the remaining 11 months might be a bit easier.

So my mini-goals/tasks/resolutions were:

1) No negative FB updates

2) Use your kind voice– funnily enough as soon as I started this I got an email from The Parenting Place– some NZ parenting support group I’ve had almost nothing to do with except signing up for their newsletter in a moment of weakness. They don’t send a lot of useful stuff, but I found this timely:

“As parents it’s easy to forget that how we say something often matters as much as what we say. If you have a child who can be resistant, keep the fight out of your voice and try using charm instead. It’s amazing what can be achieved when our tone of voice lets our kids know that we expect them to make a good choice. Making a decision to sound calm and happy often has the added benefit of making you feel calm and happy – a win/win for everyone.”

Sounds so simple doesn’t it? Along with it went a resolution to try and say “Yes” as much as possible. “Yes I’ll play with you. Yes we can go to the park. Yes you can help me make your breakfast”. What no one has told me is how you’re meant to respond when they throw it back in your face- when, after a morning of speaking kindly and saying “yes”, Master L has a meltdown because you say (kindly) “Yes we can build sandcastles on the beach…. Another day. Now we have to go home and have lunch and put Miss L down for a sleep”. And suddenly your sweet obliging child turns into an ungrateful, entitled monster and you’re almost sorry you bothered indulging him in the first place.

3) Find an area of refuge– “when people’s minds are unoccupied,” Gretchen says, “they tend to drift to anxious or angry thoughts. And rumination- dwelling on slights, unpleasant encounters and sad events- leads to bad feelings”. I’ve found this hard as it’s a bit vague. Apart from the argument with my sister, which has taken up more of my headspace than it should, what I’ve been trying to do is think of nice things- the new baby, holidays etc, before I go to sleep at night.

4) Smile more– especially when you feel negative or anxious

Gretchen recommends keeping a resolution chart, ticking off each day which resolutions you pretty much stuck to and reviewing it to see how you are going.

Now that we’re half way through February, I wonder if the reason she left this one till last is that it’s so bloody hard! Apart from the fact that it’s a bit more abstract in nature than, say, eating healthily, it requires an incredible amount of determination, resolve and energy to maintain a good attitude towards life in general. As Gretchen her self says,

“It’s easier to complain than to laugh, easier to yell than to joke around, easier to be demanding than be satisfied.”

Especially when you are moderately heavily pregnant with your third child… (Don’t make excuses, fortunately, is not on the chart).

February’s been an up and down month anyway. It started with a solo night away in Melbourne for me at a work meeting. I finished the book the night before I left and was all fired up to plan my project and start! I found 2 days (and one, blissful night in a comfortable bed in a cool, dark, quiet hotel room) unbelievably refreshing. I came back relaxed and energised and feeling like I’d had a holiday. Maybe something to do with the fact that we did, then, go on holiday for a week, back to Sydney, which was also a really enjoyable week.

Since coming home though, I’ve really struggled with work, especially, but also the day to day routine in general. I’m tired, annoyed with the annoying bits (of work) and desensitised to the good bits. Maternity leave is within view but before it lie 2 more night shifts and another weekend. Plus a number of work things I need to get done before I go on leave. And it seems like every week for the next month or so either Mr L is away or I am either away or working a weekend. Other things, like petty arguments with my sister, a slight change in routine for the kids and a ton of things on my to-do list that I never seem to get on top of, have allowed a negative attitude to stomp all over my resolutions and February happiness goals.

So I’m finding it hard! But half of Feb is left. The last couple of days I have been angry Mummy and I don’t like it at all, so I’m going to do and print my chart out right now and hopefully add some more ticks to it…

Wherever I lay my hat, perhaps??*

And so, after 6 months, we are moving again. Our landlords are returning unexpectedly from overseas and asked us very nicely to move out so they could have their family home back. We asked them not so nicely to pay for everything and they eventually agreed and so here we are, moving again.

Which has got me thinking again about the topic of “home”, which I tried to define in this post. When I wrote it, the house didn’t feel like home at all, and when I got the phone call asking us if we’d consider moving, I thought “Yeah, why not, it’s not like this is our home, we’ll find another house”. And yet in the few weeks since then (yep, we move quickly!) all I seem to have been able to think about is how much that rental house does feel like home now.

I’d say it’s taken me about 6 months to settle in. And by “settle in” I mean get a routine going, feel comfortable going about the activities of daily normal living that make you feel like life is pottering along happily. I’ve got my supermarkets [a- close and cheap] [b- the only one that sells the rolled oats I like] and [c-nice bread and earns us Airpoints]. I’ve figured out which bread to buy, where to get a takeaway coffee (an even more complicated algorithm consisting of options a-e) and where I go to hide on my child-free days to get free internet and do some work. We’re only moving 5 minutes away and so none of that will change, but moving still feels like an upheaval.

And so, when I suddenly felt unexpected pangs of “Oh but this place feels kind of like home now” I asked myself the question WHY? I started with “What will I miss?” Well, the trampoline and the cubby house for the kids for a start. So we’ll buy a trampoline if the kids miss it that much. And we left the world’s best cubby house in Sydney and got over it. We’ll buy/build/create another one.  The spa, which we poo-pooed initially as an indulgent luxury, we actually love, as it seems like such an indulgent luxury! Well, there’s a (currently non-functioning) spa at the “new house”, which we’ll ask the landlords to get working. And we’ll have to leave it when we go back to Sydney anyway, so it’s not the be-all and end-all.

So I started to think instead of all the things that annoy me about the house- the chopped-up living space, the smallish kitchen, the loose door handles, the stupid French phrases stencilled on the bedroom walls (which would be wanky even if you were French, and these landlords are not!) The new house has much more living space downstairs and a much nicer flow to it, which will suit us much better. That started to make me feel happier about moving.

We went away over Christmas and coming back to the “old” house, it felt nice when we first walked through the door to be “home” but after a few minutes, I realised it was being back with the convenience and familiarity of our own belongings that felt good. But then I thought it wasn’t about “stuff”….

And so as we gradually make the change to the “new” house, I’m coming to realize that home isn’t about a house or a corner shop or a supermarket or a selection of cafés or a cubby house, although those things help. I think it’s really about being with the security and comfort of those you love- with them, you can make anywhere “home”.

*And yes, I do realize that song is about a guy who doesn’t have a home, well not as I’ve tried to define one, anyway.

New Year’s Resolutions- the return

I know last year I wrote a post on NYRs and how I don’t believe in them any more, but this year I need to make a few changes. Not absolute rules, but efforts I intend to make to get more out of life and hopefully make things a bit easier.

 De-clutter my head and my time, not just my space

  Physical decluttering is an ongoing task which I’m quite happy to do and reasonably good at. I find it liberating and rewarding. Mental decluttering, on the other hand, I am terrible at. My job requires me to multitask at a sometimes crazy level, and over the years this has crept into my non-work life too, increasingly encouraged and facilitated by social media and portable electronic devices (5 years ago I didn’t even have wireless at home- to use the internet I had to go to my desk and sit at my computer- imagine how much more productive I’d be now if that were the case!!!). I surf the net in the evenings. I don’t read books, I don’t talk to Mr L in the evening, even setting aside the laptop to watch a TV show feels like a major act of restraint. And it’s crazy. I have discovered one or two things online (see below) that I think have the potential to enhance my life, but mostly, it’s crap. So I’m going to lay down some guidelines that will hopefully see me managing to fit in more of the things I want to do (see below) and wasting less of the time I have to do them in.

Improve my eating habits

  I could devote a whole post, no, actually a whole BLOG to this (and obviously there are many of those) but I have been eating waaaay too much, with the lethal combination of pregnancy and Christmas lead-up resulting in hunger being a very infrequent occurrence lately! Enough about that for now, but I need to rein it in a bit.

Get more sleep

  I think if I declutter my head I will be able to do this much more easily. I fill my brain with internet nonsense, interspersed with frequent FB and email checks, so when I do get to bed, my mind is still racing with thoughts about what someone has posted/sent me/responses I can post etc etc.

  I also REALLY need to get an alarm clock. How will an alarm clock help me get MORE sleep??? Well, at the moment I only have my phone as a time-telling device, and when I wake up and check the time, it’s soooo tempteing to see if that crucial email has come through, or read the FB notiftication that’s on my home screen. If I replaced my phone with a clock to tell the time and wake me up (if that ever ceases to be the role of my children) i can leave my phone downstairs.

Look into happiness a bit more as a principle, not just an abstract concept

  One of the more useful things I stumbled across on FB (in contrast to the previously mentioned time-wastage) was this TED talk by Shawn Achor. For a while now I’ve been quite intrigued by this friend of mine- really a girl I went to school with who I always considered way too cool to even dream of calling a friend. She is now living in the US and seems to have found this spirituality and sense of meaning to her life which intrigues me. I’m fairly sure it’s not a religious type of spirituality [forgive me if I’m wrong, if you ever happens to read this, Katrina!], it seems more about doing good and feeling good and spreading good.  Good is a bit of a bland word, I know, but it’s more realistic than love and more grammatically correct than nice-ness. Anyway, in a nutshell, this guy talks about how people really try and put the cart before the horse and have lists of goals and life plans and things to aim for, they strive to reach a state of affairs which they believe is synonymous with happiness. Assuming they actually achieve all those things, though, inevitably there is then something new to aim for and so the goal posts shift or the finish line moves further away and they’re still not happy. Instead, he proposes we start recognizing and acknowledging the happiness that already exists in our lives, and in doing so become more content, more fulfilled and thereby inadvertently more productive (and if not, then at least happier without even having to tick off our to-do list- I extrapolated there, I don’t think he actually says that.) As a goal-setter from way back this had an immediate appeal to me. As I outlined in this post,  despite having achieved a lot, for example, at school, I still left with a great feeling of having missed out….

[As I finish off this post, it turns out today I received as a Christmas gift a voucher for a Kikki K workshop. I can choose between organisation, DIY, goals or happiness, and I think I’ll have no choice now that I’ve written this, but to go with happiness. Exciting!]

Calm, Kind, Courageous

Something else that she-of-the-happy-spiritual-blog mentioned, that I need to look into more, is choosing 3 concepts or qualities that you want to focus on and then approach everything (particularly challenges) in your life with those 3 things as guiding principles…. More TF.

Do more of the following

  I’m hoping that with a less cluttered head space less wasted time (and one more child- yeah right!) that maybe I’ll find some time to do more of any or all of the following. Things I’d kind of like to do, if I had all the time in the world would be:

  • Reading- anything’ll do, I have a load of books on my e-reader to get started on, so this should be achievable if I can make time
  • Relaxing/meditating/etc- I’ve never been good at meditating, yoga, or anything that involves switching my brain off (or at least focusing solely on the experience at hand). Even as a child on long car journeys (any car journey, really), I’d entertain myself with elaborate fantasies about all sorts of things, and happily pass the time day-dreaming away. My mind is not used to being quiet.
  • Doing something creative- Sadly, I’m not remotely artistic (and actually not really creative either) but I can usually follow a set of  basic instructions to produce a recipe, an easy sewing project, or a craft item. Not that I’m wanting to inflict home-sewn clothes on my kids (well unless I got really good!) but there are loads of handy little things I often think it’d be quite nice to whip up, even for presents etc. Anyway I think the sewing thing’s a way off but I got a craft knife and a few other bits and bobs for Xmas which might see me making my own birthday cards or something in 2015….

Anyway, it’s Christmas Day today, so Merry Christmas, Nadolig Llawen and general happy thoughts to all….