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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A Swishing Update

Junior daughter went to school today wearing her lovely jacket she swapped on    That got me in the mood to write about my clothes purchasing habits this year.

In 2013, I set myself the challenge of not buying any new clothes for a year.  In August that year I wrote an update about what it felt like, what I'd bought and what I thought I'd saved. I finished the article declaring that 'eight months in and swishing has become a lifestyle choice I love'.  By the end of the year I had acquired quite a few new clothes - probably more than ever before - but I'd spent less than £100.

Nearly a year later, I've taken a look back at how my Swishing challenge has affected my buying habits longer term.

Firstly, I'd say, I have hardly spent any time in clothes shops.  The 'clothing outlet' I've spent most time in this year is probably The Blue Cross charity shop in my nearest town as they have a habit of putting really nice outfits in their window that lure me in.  I have asked a few times to try on the fab outfit but have been, so far, unsuccessful in finding one that fits.  On one visit, though the dress that got me in there was too big, I did find a nice green t-shirt at the grand sum of £3.50.

Other than that, I've made just three more purchases and I think I made those purchases very much with the thought about how the clothes and the sellers are impacting on the planet.

My first purchase, early in the year, was a 'buy my own' birthday present from my grandmother.  I chose this lovely tunic from Pre:Loved run by Jackie.  Jackie sells a combination of secondhand (pre-loved) and new clothing clothes from her shop in Towcester, but she will also post out items to customers who contact her via her Facebook page.

My second purchase of the year was a pair of bamboo leggings.  The more I learn about sustainable living, the more picky I get about everything I buy.  I have previously bought bamboo clothing because  it is a fast growing crop that has a much lower water footprint than cotton, and it produces a lovely soft fabric.  In researching the ethics of bamboo clothing I found that there's a 'standard' for organic bamboo just like there is for organic cotton, the Global Organic Textile Standard.  So that's what I was looking for - GOT organic bamboo leggings.  In my search, I found these thermal bamboo leggings.  I'm not quite sure what happened about the organic bit, but the leggings are proving to be fab.  Since taking to my bicycle this year as my main mode of transport I am finding that leggings are the most convenient winter clothing for getting about by bike and it is certainly helping that they really are very warm.

My third and final purchase this year is this wonderful jumper hand made by the Woolly Pedlar, Sue Reed, from reclaimed materials.

Sue turns unwanted knitwear into funky clothes, soft furnishings and accessories.  Much of the knitwear Sue uses has been rescued before going to landfill. It may have been ‘ragged’ by charity shops or wholesale textile merchants, because of felting or holes. These can be cut around and used in patchwork designs. Sue also buys top quality second hand jumpers and uses these for the bodices of jumpers and sweatercoats. She makes sure there's no waste from her designs as she passes on any scraps that she doesn't use herself for crafts such a proggy matting, which is a 'time honoured north-east tradition'. Sue chooses to work with wool as it is a totally natural product, totally renewable, biodegradable and has excellent insulation properties.  She says:  "Each new creation is very much a ‘serendipity’ moment, with each design depending on what jumpers I have been able to find. No two items are ever the same."

I find, as we near the end of the year, I've spent around £120 pounds on clothing and I'm confident I'll have lots of wear from these items.  I'm also pleased that two out of my four purchases have have been supporting two wonderful women, who are creating sustainable businesses in the textile industry.  This has also opened my eyes to the fact that I can and will raise my standards in terms of what I buy.  From now on I want to support the hand-made, the ethical, the reclaimed.  That's my way forward in clothing.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

More naked shopping!

This naked shopping is becoming a habit.  After my trip to Whole Foods Market a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had been hoping to find somewhere to buy pasta other than in a plastic bag.

Rae Strauss, who runs Zero Waste Week, tweeted the question and there followed a wonderful conversation about where you could buy various items without the usual plastic packaging.  From this I learnt about a couple of packaging free shopping options in Oxford...

The first is Farm Fresh Oxford at Jericho Barn.  Farm Fresh Oxford are a hub for local farm produce.  They do deliveries in the local area, so if you are in Oxford, check out their website.  You can also visit  them at Jericho Barn.  They sell fresh tagliatelle which comes in a cardboard box, but I believe you can also use your own containers.  I'm looking forward to trying it out, next time I'm in Oxford on a Friday or Saturday. (They are open Fridays from 3-8pm and Saturdays from 9 to 11.30am).

The second option for naked shopping is SESI which can be found at the Methodist Chapel in Jeune Street opposite the Penultimate Picture Palace.  SESI are open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm and they have an array of dry goods that they buy in bulk and you take along your own containers including bottles for oils and vinegars.

Rina weighing out my couscous
Some of the dry goods available at SESI

I bought wholemeal and white flour both from a local mill, light brown sugar, wholegrain couscous, dried cranberries, dried apricots, dried mango, pistachios and peanuts.  I also bought some Greek olive oil, some cider vinegar and some red wine vinegar in some lovely glass containers my Dad bought me for Christmas.  I had found a beautiful glass decanter style bottle tucked away in a cupboard, so I used that to buy locally produced rape seed oil.

I had forgotten to take my empty washing up liquid container but Rina had a stock of donated bottles, so I bought this locally produced spiced ginger washing up liquid too.  Doesn't that sound just perfect for the Christmas washing up?

What I loved about shopping at SESI apart from the fact that I met some lovely people there, was that everything had a story. The dried mangoes I bought for Junior Daughter were not only Fair-trade but they were from a Women's Copoerative in Burkina Faso, so this, to me, felt doubly important.   I think if I am are going to buy goods shipped from afar, then I want to know that those goods are doing some good.

This was definitely my perfect shopping experience.  It was easy, fun, informative and I got to taste what I was buying.  I recommend it highly, whether it is for reasons of avoiding plastic, buying local, organic and fair-trade or just because you want your food to taste great.  I want all of that, and that's what I got.  When you get all that, you might rightly expect to be paying a lot for it, but that is definitely not the case at SESI.  I spent around £35 pounds which I know is way less than what I would have been able to buy everything for in a supermarket even without going for organic or fair-trade products.

(Okay, here I confess to arriving home with far fewer apricots than I bought, because they were so delicious.  That's the problem when you taste before you buy.  You know how good they are before you get them home.)

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Pumpkin and Sage Risotto

I had a bit of pumpkin left from pumpkin number two from the Pitt Pumpkin Patch, so last night I made pumpkin and sage risotto.  Hubbub asked me to share my recipe for their #pumpkinrescue campaign.Truth be told... it was a bit of a 'throw in whatever needs using up' kind of recipe, but broadly speaking this is what it involved.

A tablespoon of olive oil
1 red onion
1 clove of garlic
Arborio rice (200g)
About a pint of stock
Cubes of pumpkin (about 600g)
Sage leaves - a large handful
Black pepper
Sea salt
Some leftover bits of chicken (about 200g)
Some leftover gammon (about 300g)

Firstly, the stock was made from boiling up the chicken carcass from Sunday's roast dinner along with the vegetable peel from Sunday and some that I'd collected last week, which was mainly onion skin and pumpkin skin.

The olive oil was what was left from a pot of olives I was munching as I cooked - you know I hate to waste anything!  This oil had a few herbs in but any olive oil will do.

Chop the red onion and stir fry it in a little olive oil for a few minutes, then chop and add the garlic for a further couple of minutes.  Add the arborio rice and toss it around in the onion and garlic and oil for about a minute.  Add the stock a bit at a time and let the rice soak up the liquid almost entirely before you add the next lot of stock.  I added initially about 3 ladles of stock.  When I added the second lot of stock which was a further three ladles I added in the pumpkin, chicken and gammon, a generous twist of back pepper and about half the sage leaves.  After the second lot of stock was almost soaked up I tasted it and added a little sea salt. I added the rest of the handful of sage leaves along with the last of the stock.

The Pitt Pumpkin Patch
About Hubbub

"Hubbub is taking a fresh look at things we are passionate about: food, fashion, sport, homes and neighbourhoods. Through festivals, events and playful displays we help people come together to enjoy themselves, learn new things and do good.

One thing we want to do is make the most of food and stop edible food from being thrown away. 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin are thrown away at Halloween each year, that is why we have launched our #pumpkinrescue campaign and are hosting the Oxford Pumpkin Festival.

For more information visit our website"