Striving for a greener, more ethical life

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

The post I meant to write ages ago…. ‘Autumn Finally Came’

Sometimes I have a post all mapped out in my head but it doesn’t materialise because I haven’t downloaded the photos or because I am just too busy with other things. This week I am trying to catch up with myself.

I wanted to write about how late autumn was this year and how topsy turvy things have been. I had several of my late winter flowering plants that flowered in October. This photo is of some that I picked.

Forsythia and winter flowering jasmine in October!

  To make sure I really enjoyed the autumn a good friend and I decided to go ‘away’ for the weekend. I don’t do this often because I am usually with the children. They were off sailing with their father for the weekend so I was FREE.  We decided late on Friday night where we would go that was cheap and rural and happened through the magic of the internet. on the Sustainability Centre in Hampshire. What and amazing place. I had been there many years ago but it has really changed. They have 50 acres of grounds and some basic, cheap and really pleasant accomodation as well as a wonderful cafe.
We arrived at lunchtime having stopped briefly for tea from a flask at Oakham Common and interesting plantation that has a special beauty in the autumn

Oakham Common

We had lunch in the cafe at the Sustainability Centre (near East Meon) and then went walking in the grounds and further afield. In the warmer months they have tipi’s and a yurt that guests can stay in.

Autumn at the Sustainability Centre

 The Centre also runs bushcraft weekends where you build and stay in your own shelter.

bushcraft area

As we walked down a country track we came across a field full of cars and the sky full of paragliders. We went back the next morning as it had been too dark to photograph them and there were far fewer people but I could really see why they do it.

Paragliding above the Hampshire Countryside

We left the Centre on Sunday afternoon feeling like we had been away for ages and decided to go down to the sea. Someone at the Centre recommended going to Bosham which it a very old town near Chichester where several roads flood with the tide. Ironically we had afternoon tea/picnic overlooking a sailing competition. Sailing has been a theme of my summer since the children decided to enter competitions all over S.E. England over the summer and autumn. I enjoy it but it’s nice to do something for me.

The edge of Bosham and its' much photographed swans.


Happiness Manifesto

I was sorting some ‘clutter’ last night ( a bag that had been under a cupboard for 3 years!!!) and came across a sheet I had been given about the Happiness Manifesto. This was devised through a project in Stroud with the BBC. The manifesto recommends:

1 Get Physical. Exercise for half an hour three times a week

2 Count your Blessings. At the end of each day, reflect on at least five things you are grateful for.

3. Talk Time. Have an hour long uninterrupted conversation with your partner or closest friend each week.

4. Plant Something. Even if it is a window box or pot plant. Keep it alive!.

5. Cut your TV Viewing by Half.

6. Smile at and/or Say Hello to a Stranger.  At least once each day.

7. Phone a Friend. Make contact with at least one friend or relative you have not been in contact with for a while and arrange to meet up.

8. Have a Good Laugh at Least Once a Day

9 Every Day Make Sure You Give Yourself a Treat. Take time to really enjoy this.

10. Daily Kindness. Do an extra good turn for someone each day.

Another one you could add is ‘Sort Through Your Clutter’ if you are anything like me.  Every time I tackle a pile of clutter I feel better and feel less weighed down. My current underemployed situation was going to be the perfect vehicle for really clearing out lots of accumulated junk and clutter. This has only recently started but I have done my son’s room and it looks so much better. It just needs decorating now… I wish I was brave enough to show you before and after shots but I’m not.

I would also add ‘Get Active in Your Local Community’. Volunteering for causes I care about is an important way  for me to make my life feel happy and fulfilled. I do volunteer in other ways as a school governor (for the last 8 years) and I love that but it is also nice to get your hands stuck in to something practical. So we have been volunteering (for the last 3 weekends) as a family to help with the local nature reserve (mostly litter picking and getting pond weed out). Our part of London is full of green spaces and I really enjoy walking in them. This can be spoilt by large amounts of litter and while I always try to pick some up its not always easy. Now we have borrowed litterpickers from the local environment group and it is so much easier. The group meets at weekends just for an hour which passes really quickly but means you can do other things with your precious days.

Litter picking

Our local pond

Can our Christmas tree be a bit less tacky this year mum?

What they actually (sweetly) said was – ‘can our tree a bit more minimalist this year?’ ‘Well if you both insist I suppose it can. I’ll let you choose which decorations go on the tree and we will all put them up’ Even the teenage son got involved because he knows that family traditions are an important thing and he even said himself a couple of weeks ago ‘the nicest bit about Christmas is being with family and friends isn’t it?’ You try so hard to instill what you feel is important in life and when it is reflected back at you, you are taken aback. That’s not to say I don’t often get teenage grunts for answers and have to point out he has spent 5 hours on his computer game etc.

As they picked the decorations from their storage boxes, the comments were ‘we have to have these ones because….’ ‘These ones are special because…’ ‘this one I made at nursery school’ ‘ This one was given to us by …’ Did we end up with a minimalist tree? No we didn’t.

Not a minimalist tree

Admittedly some of the decorations didn’t get used and I tried sneaking them on only to be told ‘we didn’t want those on there’. So, as I had said I would leave it to them I took them off and found another use for them where they look even better and can really be appreciated. They are ‘natural angels’ and were made by the children about 4 years ago when my sister in law was looking after them and doing crafts with them. They are pine cone bodies with a wooden ball for heads, moss for hair, and oak tree leaves for wings. I absolutely love them.

Pine Cone Angel

We put our tree and decorations up last weekend (3rd/4th December) because, having even less money this year, it feels so lovely to have all the opulence (tackiness) around us and having extra lights to combat the dark evenings is wonderful. I restrained myself and only bought two new decorations this year from Oxfam’s fairly traded range and they are hearts which I will also use for a Valentine’s day display.

Oxfam fairly traded heart decoration

All of our decorations have come from fair trade organisations apart from the really old ones which came from Woolworths post Christmas sales ( I still miss Woolworths) or were second hand from charity shops. Our tree was one my aunt gave to us after it had served her well for many years. I have a couple of miniature living trees which both get heavily decorated and I have started to decorate the hallway but it is a bit minimal at the moment. I have not got any lights for putting at the front of the house which I am disappointed about. I love seeing other people lighting up their front rooms, gardens, etc and really appreciate that they bother.

I think Christmas cards are a really nice part of the decorations and even though I strive to be ‘green’ I think it is a shame less get sent. Having said that I am very disorganised when it comes to sending them so I should acknowledge my hypocrisy here. I have a great way of displaying cards that is simple and effective. You hang ribbons from picture hooks and then just clip the card on with decorative pegs.



































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