boats, temples and cocktails

The plan was to get up early and head off to JJ Market.  The Boss and I woke at 8am but still rather jet lagged decided to have a little more snooze.  The girls had been out for cocktails – we discovered the note when we got up.  Which was a long time before they got up!  Poor old PT Volunteer has hardly touched any alcohol for six months.  She was a little the worse for wear!

Eventually we made it to the pier to get the hop on off ferry down the river.  PT Volunteer was not keen on the boat plan and got little sympathy from her sister (something to do with an incident whilst interailing and “just deserts”!).

First stop was Wat Arun.  Golden Buddhas and exquisite mosaics.

We were stopped by two young students who asked if we would take a short survey for a school project.  When asked how we would sum up Thailand in one word we both answered in unison “friendly”  which just about says it all.  I have traveled a lot, both back packing, luxury and everything in between and I am hard pressed to think of a single country which exudes welcome and friendliness so much.

We crossed over to the other side of the river with a view to visiting the Grand Palace but we had left it rather late and instead decided to take a long tail boat through the canals of Old Bangkok.  Hearing the news that she had another hour in a boat the PT volunteer began to pale visibly.  Again her sister failed to weep with sympathy.

It was a fascinating water stroll through the back streets of Bangkok.

Quick dash back to our apartment to change and a tuk tuk over to the other side of town for dinner with the PT Volunteer’s partner’s family who are also over visiting and two other volunteers who were over from Isaan en route to their own holidays.  Never has so much noise been made and so much food been eaten by only nine people.  We still managed to make room for a couple of cocktails at Cloud 47.

Tomorrow  we WILL be up early for JJ!

Love Gillie x

 

 

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Lessons from Dory … just keep swimming

How did you get along with the repurpose challenge?  For the final Friday challenge I repaired a photo frame that had been propped against a wall for eons and my knitting bowl that had a disagreement with the floor!  Not sure if it counted but I podded a bowlful of mangetout that had been allowed to grow on.  The peas are not great, a bit to marrow-fat for my liking but they made delicious soup and far better than putting them in the compost.  The chooks enjoyed burrowing for the handful I thew on the grass as well.

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This week has been Olympic week.  Especially exciting as we watched Duncan Scott who we have known since he was a wee tot win Silver medal in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay and set a new British record in the 100m freestyle.  The final for the latter is at 3.00 am UK time on Friday morning if you want to cheer him on!

 

Duncan Scott

L-R: James Guy, Duncan Scott, Dan Wallace, Stephen Milne (courtesy of Ian MacNicol)

Watching the Olympics it is easy to get caught up in the razzmatazz and excitement and forget about the all the hard work that goes into just getting there in the first place.  Duncan announced he wanted to swim in the Olympics when he was nine, that’s ten years of early starts, homework in the back of the car on the way to evening training.  Ten years of driving across the country to swim in qualifying heats.  Ten years of physical hard slog.  Furthermore it’s not just Duncan that had to make sacrifices, who do you think drove Duncan across the country, sacrificed family holidays for training and so on?  Then there are the sports clubs, the ones that train our Olympians.  They don’t run themselves, someone has to be official timer, keep the books, fundraise, all volunteers.  There is much more going on behind the scenes than we ever see on the screen.

So when you look at your plastic bags, or the recycling that didn’t make it to the recycling box; when you buy a takeaway because you are just too tired and too hungry to cook; when you look at all the stuff you have accumulated and wonder how on earth it got there, don’t worry, don’t give up.   It took ten years for Duncan to become an Olympian and he worked at it seven days a week, 365 days a year.  Nobody expects you to downsize, declutter, go plastic free, live off grid (delete as appropriate 🙂 ) seven days a week, 365 days a year.  You have other responsibilities, needs, goals, ideals to fit in as well.

Do what you can, maybe up the ante every now and then and nudge yourself on.  But don’t beat yourself up and give up because you haven’t achieved it all in a year.  Watch the Olympics and remind yourself that nothing is quite as easy as it may look and congratulate yourself on getting as far as you have already.

Love Gillie x

Plastic detox

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I have been following Plastic Free July for several years now and have learned a lot and managed to cut our use of plastic considerably.  However, it’s not just about refusing plastic bags and using glass or stainless steel for food storage.  The real problem is the hidden plastic.  The plastic you can’t see and don’t expect.

When you buy food at the deli counter in the supermarket you may have noticed that some shops (eg. Sainsburys) no longer wrap your ham in a plastic bag but a paper one.  You duly put said bag in the recycling bin.  But is it paper?  No it’s not, it is “mixed  materials not currently recyclable”  The inside will be single use (i.e. non-recyclable plastic).

What about those teabags that you confidently put in the compost? If you buy organic teabags the chances are that they are 100% paper and are safe to put in your compost.  However most teabags contain polypropylene which is not biodegradable.  Which Magazine contacted major teabag producers to ask the polypropylene content of their bags.  These are some of the results:

Twinings: 0% polypropylene YIPPEE
Sainsburys Taste the Difference English Breakfast tea (Fairtrade):  1% Not bad
Morrisons: English Breakfast tea has 10% Could do better
PG Tips tea bags have 20%: YUK!
Yorkshire tea bags have 25%: YIKES!

If you are stuck on bags rather than loose tea then try to use those with the lowest polyproylene content and tear them before adding to the compost.

Most of us know that microbeads are not good.  They are clogging up the oceans and killing wildlife.  There are plenty of alternatives for scrubs.  Homemade using salt/sugar and oil, or scrubs from reputable organic companies such as Dr Organic from Holland and Barratt.  But what about the hidden plastics in cosemetics you didn’t know about?

A research paper published by the UN last year found a worrying level of hidden plastic in a huge range of cosmetic products  (UNEP report ‘Plastic in Cosmetics’, 2015)

“Microbeads and other plastic ingredients are present in products ranging from toothpaste and shower gel to eye shadows and nail polish. Their proportions vary in different products, from less than 1 per cent to more than 90 per cent of the content. In a typical shower gel analyzed in laboratory, there was roughly as much plastic material in the gel itself as in its packaging.”

You can download an app created by Beat the Microbead to check the microplastic content of a product before you purchase and look for the Look for Zero logo below to show that the product is 100% plastic free.

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I mentioned the cardboard take away coffee cups yesterday.  Have you ever tried to pour hot water into a cardboard box!  There has to be something on the inside of the those cups to ensure that you don’t end up with a hot soggy pile of cardboard in your hands as you walk through the park.  Most of the time it’s polyethylene and renders the cups unrecyclable.

Likewise those cardboard juice containers, many tinned foods, some cigarette filters, till receipts, labels on everything from groceries to clothes.  All contain plastic.

When I first started using my own shopping bags and refusing to put loose fruit and veg in a plastic bag but brought my own reused paper bags I got a lot of very funny looks.  Now refusing a plastic bag is second nature.  The way we win the war against plastic is to refuse it.  Not just the plastic you can see, but educate  yourself about that which  you can’t.

Love Gillie x

 

do not declutter this book!

 

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Yup, you read it right.  I am going to actively encourage you to make a purchase and to keep it!  My book.  It’s got nothing to do with decluttering and isn’t actively aimed at your age group (I am assuming I do not have a huge under 16 readership).  But I think it is a pretty darn good read, and believe me I have read it hundreds of times.  If you do find a mistake please let me know quietly…..

Timesmudger, a tale of murder, time-travel and friendship.  Go on you know you want to.  And I have a a family to feed so think of it as an act charity if you must.

In the manner of an Oscar winner I do have a few thank yous.  First to my family for putting up with me whilst I wrote and nagging me to keep going when I felt like giving up and to the wonderfully talented Lauren Kudo from Cozy Up Designs who is responsible for the stunning cover.

You can buy it in Kindle or paperback version on Amazon so it’s only a click away (I can’t believe I just wrote that… )

the dead zone

The presents have been sort of put away.  The fridge is full of leftovers, not enough for a whole meal on their own but little bowls of stuff.  Your Christmas guests have departed and even the dogs aren’t trying to eat the last chocolates.  What do you do between Christmas and New Year?

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In some countries it is business as usual, 26th December isn’t a public holiday and everybody troops back to work until 1st of January when the hangover cures come out and regretful memories of jaegerbombs and advocaat bang around sore heads.  However, for some, particularly large parts of the UK the holiday starts on the evening of 24th December and stretches out until the alarm goes on 2nd January.

I have to admit I love the long Christmas holiday.  I have my family around me, I can have a lie in, I don’t have to cook much as we have a long list of family traditional leftover meals that would spark a revolution if we didn’t prepare, I have lots of books to read, I can plan for 2014 and the dogs get long and wet walks.

But that time is also a great gift and it is easy to squander it, to look back at that fortnight and wonder what on earth you did. So, why not shift that backside, shake those legs and try something different….

  • Go to a local attraction, you know, the one you never go to because you live next door.  Better still go to one aimed at children and families and let your inner child out playing the treasure hunt or working out why ice is solid, feed the reindeer and make a paper snowflake.
  • Play one in one out with your christmas presents.  Unless you were given a Picasso for Christmas the chances are that you already have several of whatever you were given, but the new ones fit/work/go with your decor.  Throw or donate the grey knickers, the books you have read the scarf you never wear, the shoes that don’t quite fit.  This isn’t a clear out it is a single swap.
  • See if there are any matinee tickets for the local panto.  The evenings will definitely be sold out but trying to feed everyone and be in your seats for 7.30 can be a pain anyway.  Far easier to have an early lunch and work it all off with Widow Twankey (UK readers only I am afraid 🙂 )
  • Get out that book you keep meaning to read but never have the time.  Maybe it’s a heavy duty history book, an esoteric guide to comparative religion, a thumping great biography or a cookery book you have never had the time to try out.  You have the time now.
  • Bake.  Yes I know you were cooking right up until midnight on Christmas Eve.  But this is fun cooking, not mass catering I am talking about.  Bake cookies and decorate them with wild and ridiculous colours.  Have a go at making your own croissants or brioche, or bourbon biscuits, or custard creams….
  • Go to the garden centre and search out the “scratch and dent” corner.  They all have them, the corner where the dead looking plants are.  Most of them aren’t dead just hibernating but you can get fantastic bargains and now you have the time to bring them home and give them a little tlc before planting them out.
  • Paint.  No I do not mean redecorate.  This is most certainly NOT the time for that.  If you have always wanted to have a go at painting, palmistry, papier mache, pottery, philosophy then get out a book from the library, go online and have a go. This isn’t a full on course, this is spend an afternoon doing something simple you always said you would but never have.   Not everything has to begin with P by the way.

 

Decluttering is not just about getting stuff out of your house, it’s about getting stuff out of your life so that there is room in your life for the stuff that you love and that really matters to you.  If you are fortunate enough to have time off this Christmas, then why not use some of that time to find out exactly what it is that you love and matters to you.  It isn’t always as obvious as you think.

 

london calling …..

The Singer and I are off to London for the weekend.  She turned 18 last month and this is her birthday treat.  I had one at the same age and I still remember it.  We are staying at The Savoy (thank you for club deals…..) going to dinner on Friday evening.  On Saturday she, like I did, will go to Stephen Glass for a make up lesson and then we join my stepmother for lunch before going on to Les Senteurs for her to choose a perfume, a present from my stepmother.  Dirty Dancing (the musical not us) on Saturday evening and then on Sunday afternoon tea at Browns before we head home.

A weekend that I hope will make as much a  mark on her memory as my same weekend did on mine.  My perfume was Mitsouko and I still wear it.

However, you will notice that there are no great plans for shopping.  Well not for me anyway.  The Singer has birthday money and has her eye on a snuggly cardigan and a good pair of boots.  But other than window shopping and people watching I just want to soak up the Christmas atmosphere and marvel at the conspicuous consumption that I no longer feel any desire to partake in.

I wondered if the Singer would feel differently but as we have talked about what she would like to do she has concentrated most on dinner, the theatre and the astonishing roof top bar at ME that I suggested we went to for pre-theatre supper and drinks.  To be fair, she hasn’t waxed lyrical about the possibility of taking in the V&A or the British Museum – but heck she is 18 and it’s her birthday weekend not mine!

celebration part two

I went to a marvellous party
We played the most wonderful game
Maureen disappeared
And came back in a beard
And we all had to guess at her name
We talked about growing old gracefully
And Elsie who’s seventy-four
Said, “A, it’s a question of being sincere
And be, if you’re supple you’ve noting to fear
Then she swung upside down from a glass chandelier
I couldn’t have liked it more
With thanks to the equally wonderful Noel Coward
As far as I recall everybody left in the same gender in which they arrived and the chandeliers are still intact.  However it was a wonderful party and if I can hang upside down from a chandelier when I am seventy four I will be delighted (and eternally grateful to Noel and Laura my yoga teachers!)
The most wonderful thing about having a caterer (particularly one as supremely talented as Andy – really if you are looking for a caterer in the North East he is your go to man), is not only are you guaranteed fabulous food, but you don’t have the stress on the day of cooking it.  I love to cook, I love to give parties, dinner parties, lunch parties, supper parties, I have even given breakfast parties, I adored giving children’s parties; but sometimes it’s nice to have the day off.  As a result, instead of spending the day in the kitchen I could spend the day decorating and playing in the Barn.
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Work in progress.  Lavender and foliage from the garden.  I keep vast quantities of tartan ribbon which is used time after time.  My fingers were quite sore after winding wire round 16 mini bouquets and wrapping them in the ribbon.
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Finished product.  Worth the pain I think!
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These were the only flowers I had to buy.  One huge hydrangea head and one deep blue delphinium.  Cost £5.50.  I cut out a silver tag for the place name.  By now my fingers were hardended and I had found some softer wire.  I had also had a glass of wine which may have helped dull the pain….
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Close up.
By now I was on a roll.  Next up were table decorations and flowers.  I had already decided on lots of little jars and pots.  So it was back out into the garden to raid what was left.  If you are lucky enough to live in a rural area or have plenty of weeds (!) don’t ignore them, some of them are very pretty and tree foliage is a wonderful filler at this time of year when the colours are so rich.
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The candles are resting in black lentils.  I did um and ah, as I won’t be able to cookwith them now!  But they were just perfect and I had bought them ages ago on special offer so I didn’t feel quite as bad.  Also I can reuse them again and again.
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The finished product.
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The fifty balloons were a present from the Singers.  Unfortunately the five kept turning around and it looked as if I was twenty.  One look at me would confirm that this was an error!
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The only non-edible disposable purchases – two flowers – cost £5.50.  And they will be composted.