Monthly Archives: May 2012

Baby expenses

Bambino Mio consumables.jpg © by Regal Lager

Shake and I made the decision early on in my pregnancy to use re-useable nappies for our baby.

I spent weeks researching different brands, reading reviews and comparing prices and “special deals”.

In the end, I decided to ignore the reviews and chose a brand that had been recommended by a colleague of mine – Bambino Mio.

I found what appeared to be a good deal online and we now have enough nappies to last him for 2 years!

We compared this cost to the cost of using disposable nappies and even when factoring in the cost of electricity for the washing machine, reuseable nappies were considerably cheaper. Others have prepared even more detailed evaluations. Of course, we were concerned about the environmental impact as much, if not more so, than the financial.

When we packed our hospital bag we tried to take everything on the list as advised by the midwives. To clean baby, we were told to bring cotton wool pads. Whilst this seemed like a great idea (and better than using wipes), we could still see that this would generate a lot of waste.

Model sewing machine © by David Hilowitz

Therefore, with the help of my mother-in-law and her sewing skills, I bought some material and decided to make my own reuseable wipes. I read several articles online which suggested using flannel and found some which was both organic and unbleached, which would be kindest for baby.

We have been using them for 2 months now (time is flying by…) and they are still holding up well. The more they are used, the more absorbent they seem to be.

Do you have any suggestions for other homemade baby products that I could make?


Preparing for the move


Chunnel © by I

During the past year Shake and I have spent a lot of time sorting through all of our belongings in order to minimise what we need to take to France.

We had decided a while ago that it didn’t make financial sense to hire a van and drive all our belongings to France, especially as our new home is fully furnished. Instead, we plan to take just as much as we can fit in our car and Shake’s parents car, hence why we really needed to minimise.

It has been more difficult for me than Shake (my nickname is squirrel!) but having finished I must say it has been really therapeutic.

The easiest area to minimise I found was our clothes. It probably helped that I was pregnant when we were looking through them and doubtful as to what would ever fit me again!

As I know our lifestyle is going to change, it didn’t make sense to keep the numerous boring black suits which I occasionally wore for work, nor the expensive high-heeled shoes which I used to treasure. Of course, I kept a couple of pairs of shoes and my favourite dress for special occasions such as weddings, but anything else went to charity or to friends. What remains is mostly practical clothing for working outdoors and other casual items.

Paper Weaving © by FeatheredTar

The most satisfying area we worked through was our filing! My mother is extremely organised and when I left for University she tried to instill her good practices in me. I therefore had receipts and bank statements from over 9 years ago and we couldn’t think of any reason why I needed to keep these! We were reminded of Baz Luhrmann’s “Sunscreen”:

“Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements”.

And so we did.

Shake and I consolidated the paperwork we felt would be useful going forward into one file and recycled/used in our wood burning stove anything else.

The two areas where I struggled the most were my academic records and the kitchen.
I still had all of the ring-binders from my Mathematics degree, approximately 36, and was sad to discover that they meant almost nothing to me when I flicked through them. There were symbols, formulae, proofs etc that I no longer understood! I had to remind myself that I understood these at the time of my degree which is what matters the most. I kept a study book with a few proofs I had written, just to be able to show my son, but the rest went into recycling.

For whatever reason, I was far more comfortable recycling my accountancy studies. I suppose because the information becomes outdated each year and the it was through the working environment that my knowledge was maintained and developed.

Rhubarb crisp - Ramekins © by grongar

Shake and I spent the most time going through the kitchen. Initially as a means to reduce our washing up (which had a tendency to build up over a few days), we decided to select one plate, one bowl, one side plate, one mug, one set of cutlery and one glass each. The more we thought about it, there wasn’t any need for anything else, provided we washed up as soon as we had finished our meals. When guests came over we selected what was needed for the meal we were preparing, but once they left we stored them away again.

For everything else that was in the kitchen, appliances, baking equipment etc, Shake would ask me:

“How often do you use it?”
“Are you keeping it for sentimental reasons? If so, are you going to forget that person or that memory without this item?”
“Does something else we have do the same job?”
“Is it really worth transporting, given our limited space?”

This was frustrating at the start if I’m honest, but he really did help me to reduce things. We didn’t need all of those random knives if we kept our good quality set with sharpener. We didn’t need to keep the ramekins from the deserts we very occasionally bought. It really didn’t make sense to have a loose based baking tin without the base…

So with 2 months to go all our belongings, apart from our clothes, are packed into boxes and ready for the move.

The countdown has begun…


Raw super-infused chocolate layer birthday cake

For Shake’s birthday he asked me to make a special cake that we had seen on the wonderful and inspiring Green Kitchen Stories.

This was a cake with a difference for us; completely raw and with no added sugar!

The recipe was very simple to follow, but given the four different layers there were several steps involved. Due to the lack of time I had to find the required ingredients (we love you baby bakenshake!) I had to make a few amendments:

  • I couldn’t find coconut butter but used coconut oil and melted it as per the recipe in a small bowl of warm water.
  • Instead of nettle powder, I used the tea leaves from a nettle teabag we had in the cupboard, this meant that the colour wasn’t bright green but was still delicious.
  • I added a few tablespoons of a matcha tea we have to try to create the green effect, but it wasn’t very successful! No harm to the flavour but wasn’t so green.
  • I used a small glug of a Naked green machine juice we like which includes spinach (plus some other good things)
  • I omitted the peppermint essence and am not sure if I would include it next time if I find any, this layer was delicious as it was.

I really cannot recommend this cake this cake enough. It has been enjoyed by all of our family this weekend, old and young, despite what may be unusual ingredients for some. The combination of flavours works so well and it is both a pretty and interesting cake to look at.

Do let me know if you make it and any amendments you make to the recipe.

I’m definitely going to make the fudge layer again and divide it into small pieces for when I’m in need of a treat :)


Birthday books for simple living

My lucky day

I was a little ill on my birthday this year, but I received an exciting selection of books. I’m sure that many of these will be invaluable for our coming adventure.

I always ask for books, and my family always apologise for only buying me ‘boring’ books but I can assure you that none of these books are boring to me in the slightest. I’m so grateful they’re willing to humour me.

You can expect reviews over the coming months. First on their readability, and then a follow up once I’ve put them through the real hands-on test.

You can look forward to:

  • Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game
  • Your Bread Oven – Building it and baking in it (I have another post coming soon with one of my goals – you’ll never guess what that might be)
  • Small-Scale Grain Raising (only considering the possibility right now, I’ve no idea if this is actually viable for us)
  • Crust and Crumb (expect lots of photos of bread experimentation here)
  • The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (as above)
  • Gaia’s Garden
  • The Encyclopedia of Country Living (most books that try to cover such a wide range of topics only touch the surface of each, but at a glance this looks really useful)

I’ll spare you Experimental Design with Applications in Marketing and Service Operations and I’m not sure this blog is the place for Dawkins either, but they’ll can help keep my mind active.