Repurpose before you Recycle

Thank you for all the lovely comments both here and on  my FB page.  It is good to hear from so many people who want to ditch plastic and other single use items.  So in the spirit of reusing before recycling I have a challenge for you this week.  A repurpose challenge.

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This morning I lost an old stained bamboo tee-shirt and acquired some dusters.  Very easy.  I cut up the tee-shirt and have a nice new set of lovely soft bamboo dusters.  The tee shirt wasn’t fit for charity but it wasn’t yet ready for composting.  Win win.

So my challenge for you this week, and I’ll try to do it too and let you know how I get on:

Monday:  Repurpose something you used to wear.  It could be clothing, jewellery, a scarf or a hair accessory, anything you used to wear.

Tuesday:  Repurpose something you made.  It could be last night’s leftovers or a three piece suit!  Please do not repurpose your children however irritating they are!

Wednesday: Repurpose something you have put out for recycling.  A plastic bottle, a jar, some envelopes.  Get creative in your recycling bin.

Thursday:  Repurpose something from your black hole.  We all have them, the place where we put things we don’t know what to do with but can’t quite bring ourselves to get rid of.  Some are as big as a garage or outbuilding.  Some are as small as a kitchen drawer.  You know yours, now go release something from it.

Friday:  Repurpose something that is broken.  If you can’t repair it can you turn it into something else

You get the weekend off!

Love Gillie

 

shake it all up

Yesterday I was invited to talk to a group of business women about money.  I am not an accountant, and I was fired by Barings as a corporate finance executive because I was rubbish at the job (and hated it even more) so I was an interesting choice of speaker.  However, I am passionate about simple living and about organising oneself to achieve more time to do what you want to do rather than having to spend every hour God gave us working in order to keep one’s head above water.

I had a lovely morning, they were a super group of ladies and I think we all had a lot of fun and learned a lot from each other.  During the course of my talk I held a jar with a thick cream liquid in it that I shook constantly.  I said all would be revealed at the end.

This is what I made

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Butter.  And very delicious butter with no additives.  Organic double cream which I shook, on and off for half an hour or so.  By product, buttermilk for pancakes at the weekend.

Here it is wrapped and ready to pop in the fridge until we need it.

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I am not suggesting that you all make your own butter, but I am pointing out that cutting out the middleman, making it yourself isn’t as hard as most people think  It also means you know what is in it and it usually tastes a whole lot better too.

Love Gillie

 

aprons and dolmades

Turkey was wonderful.  The weather was hard, clear blue skies every day.  I believe we did see one cloud, but it was small and clearly lost.  One of the things I love about coming back from holiday is digging out old recipes and experimenting with recreating the foods we ate whilst we were away.  One of my absolute favourites are dolmades.

In the interest of minimalist living and using up everything I cast my eye over the grape vines in our garden.  Why on earth had I not thought to use them before?  For somebody who can make a pretty reasonable meal out of foraged or caught food you would have thought I would have spotted that opportunity before.

The dolmades were delicious, even more so I think because they came from my own vines.  Before we went away I was furiously foraging and drying flowers and leaves, soon I shall start canning and preserving.  But now I am freezing vine leaves for the winter.

Like all leaves you only want the young and tender ones.  The rule I found which seems to work for me is count three leaves down from the tip and pick the next three leaves.  Clearly this isn’t hard and fast but it gives you an idea of the size of leaf you are looking for.  In my case it is larger than my palm but smaller than my whole hand.

As our leaves have come from our own vines I know that they haven’t been sprayed but they do need washing.  Then make a pile of leaves.  There are five of us in our family and we eat about three each so I made piles of 15 leaves.

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Then roll them up and secure with string.

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Finally blanch in boiling salted water.

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Leave to cool and freeze.  I’ll let you know how they turn out.

In the meantime every cook needs a good apron.  I made this yesterday with some leftover upholstery fabric.  I feel very cool 🙂

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home made facial moisturiser

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Caraway, peony and chamomile.

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One of the rosewater donors

 

P1000705There is nothing like a nasturtium 🙂

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Part of tonight’s supper.

 

Happy Solstice.  A few snapshots of my garden this morning and the next batch of herbs growing on my windowsills to celebrate the middle of summer.  Tonight we will celebrate with a meal eaten outside, the table decorated with flowers from our garden and the hedgerows.  However you plan to spend today, enjoy the outside, celebrate the seasons and give thanks for the bounty the earth gives up despite the fact we treat her so badly.

But as you can see this post is meant to be about moisturiser.  So back on track.

I made rosewater the other day because I was running low on moisturiser and rosewater is one of the components.  So I was marginally miffed when I assembled the ingredients for moisturiser and discovered I was out  of shea butter.  It didn’t matter too much as I have plenty of cacao butter, but whilst that does have a deliciously chocolate smell there is no point using rosewater as the water element as the delicate smell would be wiped out.

This recipe is a mixture of ones I have found in books and latterly on the internet.  They are all variations on a theme so if you fancy giving this a go, make a few very small batches until you arrive at something you like and suits your skin.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 2 tablespoons wheatgerm oil
  • 2 tablespoons beeswax
  • 2 tablespoons cacao (or shea) butter
  • 25 ml water *
  • 0.5 teaspoon honey**

Optional extras

  • Essential oil
  • Aloe vera gel
  • Vitamin E
  • Rosehip oil

* I usually use rosewater but you can use plain water or aloe vera.  I have very sensitive skin and get urticaria at the drop of a hat and am a complete fan of oatmeal scrubs.  So this time I used cooled oatmeal water (I chuck a handful of raw oats in a pan of water bring to the boil and then leave to cool and strain) and added a couple of tablespoons of aloe vera gel to bring it up to 25ml.

** Honey and glycerin are both humectants so help the skin retain moisture.  Either will do.  Don’t use too much or your moisturiser will become unpleasantly sticky.

Method

It really couldn’t be easier.  Put all the oils, beeswax and cacao butter in a bowl over a pan of boiling water and melt together gently, then  you need to incorporate the  water.  Unlike the balms and salves I make for medical purposes I want this to be lighter so I want to make an emulsion.  If you have ever made mayonnaise or Hollandaise sauce it is much the same.  I have a hand held blender (the stick variety) and this works perfectly.  Let the oil cool a little and then gradually add the water drop by drop and mixing furiously after each drop.  Once it has started to emulsify you can add more water each time and I will confess to having once just chucked the whole lot in at once to no great ill effect.

Now you can add your optional extras.  I didn’t add any essential oil as I had used cacao butter and that will mask the EO (or certainly make it smell a little weird).  Which oil you use is up to you.  I love geranium and rose so tend to use those.

I use Rosehip oil as a serum on my skin  every day (and have just found a recipe to make my own so watch this space in the autumn).  It is a fantastic anti-oxidant so I always add it to my moisturiser as well.  I add about 20 drops.  To be honest I don’t know if it makes much difference at this dilution but I still add it.  Vitamin E is a another anti-oxidant.

Pour into clean (I sterilise my jars as I would if making preserves).  Leave to cool and put in the fridge.  I keep mine in the fridge.  Nobody has eaten them yet 🙂  They will keep in the fridge for about as long as you can keep milk say 7-10 days maximum.

A WORD ABOUT PRESERVATIVES

If you are not going to keep your moisturiser in the fridge and you want to keep if for more than 10 days or so you MUST add a preservative.  Unlike balms which are pure oil and fats this moisturiser contains water and are thus at risk of microbial growth.  Thus far I have not made a lotion with preservative, however, much reading of learned (and not so learned) papers on the internet leads me towards pheonip or germall plus.  The choice as to whether you use a preservative is yours.  I prefer to err on the side of caution if I am going to keep a lotion out of the fridge.

 

As for the rosewater.  I mixed it up 2/3 rosewater 1/3 witchazel.  I have used this as my toner since I was in my early teens.  You can vary the ratio, witchazel is an astringent and good for oily teenage skins.  At my age I suffer less from acne and so up the rosewater to the witchazel.

rose water

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In my aim to get back down to basics and exclude plastics and unecessary chemicals from our lives I have begun to expand my repertoire of homemade toiletries and cleaning products.  I have used rosewater and witchazel as a toner since I was a little girl and I recently discovered the best make up remover EVER.  Olive oil and witchazel, I have never seen anything remove so much grime and make up.  I was about to order some more rosewater in order to replenish my moisturiser when I looked out at the garden, heavy with roses and wondered if I could make my own.

Reader I did 🙂

I collected about 4-6 pints of rose petals and placed them in my huge soup pan.  I then placed a brick in the middle.

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I placed a metal bowl on the brick and covered the petals and just over the top of the brick with water.

 

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Then I placed my wok over the top and brought the water to a rolling boil.  Once it was boiling I reduced the heat to let it simmer and placed handfuls of ice in the wok.

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Ta da my home made still.  As the water evaporated it hit the icey cold wok, condensed and then dripped into the bowl on the brick.  I emptied the bowl regularly and let it keep simmering for about 30 minutes.  Much longer and I reckoned the product would become too weak.

Unfortunately this is not a scratch and sniff blog, but I can assure you this smells divine.  My first 3/4 pint of rosewater made with my own rose petals.  Now I can replenish my moisturiser.

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greenery – drying herbs

Back in the garden the greenery is doing greenery types of things.  Essentially it’s growing.  The Boss goes out with a frown and starts to remove the greenery which is growing where he has plans for other greenery.  I run behind him and rescue his victims.

Then when he has had enough of killing off the greenery I want to keep he goes for a kip and I go and pinch (sorry forage) for more greenery in the fields and woods.

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So far I have collected:

  • Chickweed
  • Cleavers
  • Nettles
  • Elderflowers
  • Plantain
  • Horsetail

From the garden I garnered:

  • Mint
  • Apple mint
  • Raspberry leaves
  • Sage
  • English Mace
  • Bay
  • Tarragon
  • Celery leaves
  • Comfrey

A particularly lovely and refreshing tea is nettle and mint. At this time of year you can use the fresh leaves (don’t forget your gloves!).  But I’m stocking up for the winter months.  You can dry leaves and flowers in a cool (50 centigrade maximum) oven, bottom of the aga or with a dehydrator.  Alternatively  if you want to be completely carbon neutral tie them in bunches and hang in a warm airy room.  If you are drying flowers like elderflower which may drop off then place a paper bag around the  bunch, but make sure to make several holes in the paper to ensure airflow.  Our aga is off for the summer and I like the speed and convenience of the dehydrator.  I dry a lot of plants and it is the easiest way to bulk dry without turning on the oven.

Plenty more to forage and garner but I have had enough for today and am going to settle down with a banana, strawberry, applemint smoothie thinned down with the whey from the cheese.

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101 things you could let go of right now

I love lists.  Don’t you?  That immensely satisfying feeling as you cross off the things you have done.  Decluttering is perfect for list makers.  You can break up the clutter by room, by cupboard, by person, by subject area.  Oddly enough, I have done none of these things.  I have just started in one part of the house and worked my way round, over and over again.  Then I came across this blog by Joshua Becker 101 Physical That Can Be Reduced In Your Home .  Oh the joys, I am so doing this today.  I have already crossed off those things I have already reduced to the bare minimum or we don’t have.  But so much more to go.  I’m all fired up and ready to give the remaining clutter the heave ho.

Could you take this list round your home?  How much could you cross off today?

  1. Glassware
  2. Cookbooks
  3. Kitchen gadgets
  4. Kitchen appliances
  5. Pots / pans
  6. Mixing bowls
  7. Tupperware
  8. Water pitchers
  9. Magazines
  10. Newspapers
  11. Books
  12. Over-the-counter medicine
  13. Make-up
  14. Barretts / hair clips / ponytail holders
  15. Cleaning supplies
  16. Personal beauty appliances (hair dryer/curlers, electric razors)
  17. Bottles of shampoo/conditioner
  18. Photos
  19. Photography supplies
  20. Sewing supplies
  21. Craft supplies
  22. Scrap-booking supplies
  23. CD’s
  24. DVD’s
  25. Decorative items
  26. Candles
  27. Figurines
  28. Crystal
  29. Vases
  30. Audio/visual components
  31. Audio/visual cables
  32. Computer equipment
  33. MP3 players
  34. Furniture
  35. Video game systems
  36. Vdeo games
  37. Video game accessories
  38. Shirts / shorts
  39. Pants
  40. Coats
  41. Dresses
  42. Hats
  43. Clothes hangers
  44. Shoes
  45. Winter gear
  46. Jewelry
  47. Purses
  48. Coins
  49. Pillows
  50. Towels
  51. Linen sets
  52. Candle Holders
  53. Televisions
  54. Items on your bulletin board
  55. Magnets
  56. Artwork
  57. Mirrors
  58. Home office supplies
  59. Pens/pencils
  60. Old batteries
  61. Tools
  62. Hardware
  63. Rolls of duct tape
  64. Coolers
  65. Manuals
  66. Phone books
  67. Coupons
  68. Sporting good supplies
  69. Sports memorabilia
  70. Aluminum cans
  71. Glass bottles
  72. Automobile fluids
  73. Automobiles
  74. Scrap pieces of lumber
  75. Brooms
  76. Rakes
  77. Shovels
  78. Garden tools
  79. Plant containers
  80. Empty cardboard boxes
  81. Board games
  82. Puzzles
  83. Decks of cards
  84. Unused wedding gifts
  85. Baby clothes
  86. Baby supplies
  87. Old schoolbooks/papers
  88. Army men
  89. Bath toys
  90. Toy balls
  91. Toy cars/trucks
  92. Toy musical instruments
  93. Stuffed animals
  94. Plastic toys
  95. Childrens’ old school papers
  96. Suitcases
  97. Soda
  98. Alcohol
  99. Processed foods
  100. Christmas / seasonal decorations
  101. Cable channels

clutter causes frustration, please pull over and allow me to chuck you out

frustration

Those of you who have spent any time on the A9 will be familiar with these signs.  In my experience they have little effect and I have spent hours in a high state of frustration behind a slow moving vehicle.  However that is a whole different story.

Were you to walk into my house tomorrow you would, in the light of this blog, to discover a minimalist, clear lined, almost empty house.  Sadly you would be disappointed.  Despite the enormous amount of stuff we have rehomed there is still far more than we need.  Over the past few days I have seen things out of the corner of my eye that I wanted out.  So today I did Operation Quick and Dirty.

In the space of a ten  minute dash around the house I accumulated all of this.

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Sobering isn’t it?

the herbal medicine cabinet

Living with less is not just about decluttering, about getting rid of stuff.  It is about changing how we live, about adapting our lifestyles to leave less of a footprint.  I have long wanted to learn more about herbal medicine, to be able to treat ailments from the content of my garden and the surrounding fields rather than by prescription.  Before I am hounded out, I am married to a medic, I fully appreciate that conventional medicine is both essential and lifesaving. But as even the Boss acknowledges  aspirin, digoxin, vinca alkaloids, atropine, l-dopa and many hundreds more drugs upon which we depend are all derived from plants.

I have made some ointments (comfrey, calendula and lavender), I have dried some plants, made oils and decoctions but only using a handful of plants I knew and was confident to use.  So I was so excited to spend a day with Sarah Hughes at the woods owned by Chris and Rose Bax of Taste the Wild.  Sarah is a nutritionist and medical herbalist and not only clearly knows her stuff, she is fun, interesting and makes you want to know more.

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We walked through the woods, identified plants, learned about their therapeutic uses and laughed.

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Laughter is a great medicine.  Take if from me, somebody who has been in some dark and lonely places and has the dubious honour of being the subject of a police helicopter search, if you can laugh you are 99% of the way towards recovery, regardless of your ailment.

So we laughed, foraged and then we met Mr Plantain.  Some of you will know that I had a slight disagreement with the tram line in Edinburgh on Tuesday.  Net result a huge hole in my knee.  By the time I arrived this morning  the wound was frankly gooey and unpleasant.  Not yet infected but it wasn’t looking good.  Ah ha.  We were going to make a plantain poultice, a poultice which is good to draw our dirt and toxins and is best used before the comfrey I was used to using.  Using comfrey on a potentially dirty wound risks healing of the skin over an unclean wound = abscess.

So I was the class practical session.  Poultice applied mid morning.  It is now early evening and the redness has reduced and whilst it is still sore it no longer throbs.  I have replaced the poultice with a fresh one.  Here is the poultice covered knee.  I did think seriously about showing you the lovely clean wound, but I suspect that some of you might never come back again if I did.

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But you don’t have to have a hole in your knee.  Many plants can be taken orally as a tea, a decoction, a syrup.  You can make oils or distillations.  inhalations and powders. Foot soaks and hand soaks (have you tried ginger hand soak for osteo arthritis?)

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You do need to know what you are doing, just as you need to know what you are doing if you are foraging.  Make a mistake and you could kill yourself.  It isn’t a game.  But it is an alternative and one we ought to learn about and understand.  We now finally believe that it is time to teach our children how to code rather than how to use a software programme written by somebody else.  When will be believe that it is time to teach our children how to use the plants around them to cure and to feed, and even more importantly which never to touch?

life is easier without clutter

I was talking with my mother earlier today and the conversation inevitably came around to decluttering.  The area in question being her wardrobe.  She maintains that there is nothing in her wardrobe that the doesn’t like nor anything that doesn’t fit.  On the other hand there is enough in there for her to  have just taken out several boxes of clothes because the wardrobe was full.  It is not a small wardrobe.

That freaked me out.  The idea of having that many clothes was scary. I love the fact that it doesn’t take me ages to get dressed in the morning.  I love the fact that I have discovered tops and bottoms that I would never have thought of putting together look fabulous.  I love the fact that I am much better at layering and thus don’t need so many jumpers (even in the north of England).

So I began to think of other areas where decluttering has actually made my life easier.

The kitchen.  I never have to clean a finickety garlic press, it’s long gone, I grate garlic now.  I am seriously wondering about keeping my Kenward Chef.  I rarely use it.  Today I made Bakewell tart and homemade custard for supper.  I did the whole thing by hand and with a hand held beater.  I would never have bothered to make pudding if I had to get out the Kenward and then wash all the bits up.  I make bread by hand because I enjoy the process.  The yoghurt maker died and I discovered I could make yoghurt just as easily without it.  The kettle died so we started using our stove top one on the aga and/or the hob.  Just as quick.  Leave it on the side of the aga and the water is always warm and there is a nice space on the kitchen surface where the kettle used to be.

The knicker drawer!  I cleared out every single item  of underwear other than recently purchased bras that fit and knickers that I wouldn’t mind being caught wearing if I was run over by a bus.  To the latter I added 4 pairs of bamboo knickers that I adore and with which I  will be replacing all current incumbants as they wear out.  Early mornings are so much easier when there are only five pairs of knickers and a couple of bras in your drawer.

The compost bin.  The kitchen compost bin has been replaced by a smaller one and the garden compost bin moved closer to the house.  Net result nobody minds emptying the compost.  That is a BIG result in our house.

Books.  Having got rid of books I had held onto for all sorts of reasons, but books I was never going to read again I have discovered some gems that was hidden behind all the rest.  Books I had forgotten I had bought but have loved reading …. and passing on.

Oddly enough the area I was most scared about decluttering.  The area where I thought I needed all those bits and pieces was the kitchen.  That has proved to be the area where decluttering has been the most productive.