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Monthly Archives: May 2012

The world is my oyster… no, I’m the world’s oyster. I mean rice.

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I spoke at a Hunger Banquet for work the other week. You know  those events where you turn up for a meal and just eat rice? Well, this was at a restaurant and it kind of threw us all. When the waiting staff came over we asked what was on the menu. Then we marched on with a million other questions. “What does it come with?” “What kind of beans?” What sort of sauce?” Without a word of a lie it was the most questions I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant.  We ordered, she left, we were satisfied.

Then the food arrived. Mounds of plain, white rice.

WHAT THE HELL? We looked at each other in confusion. The organiser squinted at us with a “Are you serious?!” look and exclaimed ” This is a HUNGER BANQUET, people!”

We had conveniently forgotten and spent the rest of the evening shovelling rice in to our mouths with great misery.

Some of you know that I spent last week living on a £1 a day food budget. I would NOT have gone to that Hunger Banquet if I had realised quite how much Value rice I’d have to eat as part of my Live Below the Line challenge. Gah.

I learnt lots of thrifty food things:

Free fruit and veg at the end of market day is not too rotten- and free, did I mention that?
We are going to cut down our organic box order and raid the bins on a regular basis. That kind of waste can’t be justified.
A squeeze of lemon or orange juice can make a nice sauce – with a spoon of vegemite thrown in.
Value food is a lot, ALOT, cheaper than what we usually buy.
Organic really is a massive luxury and just not affordable on a budget.
Garlic should be chopped and thrown in last minute instead of cooked right at the beginning. Same with Soy Sauce.
Your body really does adjust to not eaten snacks all day.
We waste a lot of food. Well, Ramona does. We need to put her half eaten biccies in tupperware so we can re-use them easily.

Other things I learnt (the things I suspect I was meant to learn)

£1 a day is a tiny, tiny, TINY amount of money.
The insecurity of being unsure of having enough food is really frightening – particularly when you have children to feed.
I feel very removed from really poor people in my day to day life.
This exercise made me feel connected, by the end of the week my sense of “global citizenship” was hugely enhanced.
I do genuinely believe  with all my being that a future where everyone has enough to eat is possible.
I want to be a part of a movement that makes this happen.

Ramona needs this! teacollection.com

That is a LOT of learning for 5 days of having Hungry Eyes. (I literally sang that song to myself all week as I stared at people’s tea and cake.)

At the end of the Hunger Banquet I mentioned earlier, the chef who did the cooking came up. She dumped the leftover rice on our table and said something along the lines of “Ridiculous middle class  English people trying to empathise with the poor but actually just mocking them”. We were shocked, particularly as we were all feeling very worthy right at that moment.

There is potential for Live Below the Line to appear that way- a sort of posturing that raises some money (£350,000 to be exact) but fails to actually address the root causes of poverty and primarily serves our “saviour complex”.

However it is forgiven this by being such a powerful exercise in solidarity. There is no way of imagining life as the poorest without trying to embody it in some miniscule way. Of course, it doesn’t compare in the least- we still for the most part had warm homes, gas to cook with, water to drink, jobs to go to, social networks that build in resilience.

 But it bought me back to the reality of millions of people with a stonking big thud. I am convinced that if we all felt a little bit more connected to our global brothers and sisters things would INSTANTLY improve. I am sure that a sense of global citizenship for everyone is the essential first step towards a more just and equal future. Live Below the Line definitely achieves this.

Celine Elliot’s Global Citizen illustration – thinkactvote.org

I do have a worry that I sound like I’m trying to be Gandhi, writing this post. And I guess it’s a worry people often feel when they try to make a difference. That people will just think them self righteous do-gooders but I think this is a fear we need to get over.

Perhaps one way of getting over it is using the thing you LOVE to do to join the movement of change makers. Combining a passion for justice and equality with your appreciation of knitting (someone, somehow is doing this, trust me) blows stereotypes of interfering do-gooders out of the window. It re-sets people’s tired old brains – jogging their minds to remember that another world IS possible. It is like, totally, the bomb. Oof, this craft-changey-knit-movement subject is SO a whole freaking post. Watch this space, peeps, watch this space.

Love,

Girl Gandhi*

PS – I am ten measely quid short of my target – go on, be a global citizen and give some to the Salvation Army’s poverty fighting work.

*This is an in-joke about the time I wanted to be called Eric. You can read about it if you want.

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Easy resin craft – Bambi and scrabble letters get Pompei’d

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I want to let you into a little crafter’s secret. I’ve mentioned it once or twice before. It is the key to making stuff that really doesn’t look home made.

Sometimes homemade IS the look you want; mismatched fabrics, crazy collections of buttons, novice stitching. But other times you want to be able to say “I blooming well MADE it!” without stating the absolute obvious.

Let me welcome to the stage, Resin. Crystal Resin.

I whipped up some bottle top magnets a bit earlier and waterproofed a jar lid before, but today resin is moving up from supporting act to main.

I embedded some paper – a tiny cut out deer (I Pompei’d his ass) and a sentence that said “so busy dreaming” – I love that you can see the words all the way through as they curl round. I also cut up a few flecks of sweet wrapper to act as glitter. And thirdly a scrabble letter. No craft experiment of mine is complete without getting a least one old scrabble letter in there.

The thing I especially love is that you could put absolutely ANYTHING inside and it would come out looking cool. An insect flew into the resin as it set – it looked grotesqely nice before I fished it out. Imagine getting your kids to collect random objects and then setting them in?!It is a way of making something together that you can both be stoked with. (Pasta shape pictures only go so far, eh.)

“Here mummy! Here’s a slug!” “Oh, darling. Such a shame, it’s not going to fit into the mold.”

As you can see, I made a necklace and I made a pencil end – it funks up a boring object, transforming it into a  magical wand. But you could really do ANYTHING with these molds. Magnets. Brooches. Rings. Leave them plain and put them in people’s drinks along with the ice as a delight for their eyes as they sip. Party favours or place settings even.

Logistics
At first it doesn’t seem hugely cheap- I use Gedeo which at the moment is online for £12.95 for 300ml. I fill the molds only a third up, so this makes these come in at about 50p each, which I think is pretty bargainous for a gift or bit of jewellery.

Have you noticed, apart from using the drill, this is completely skill free?! If you don’t know how to use a drill I suggest you sort that out pronto. It will change your life. You know the little bits that you poke into the end of the drill? Do you know what they are called? Drill Bits. Yep, it’s true. If that genius simplicity doesn’t make you want to learn how to use it I don’t know what will.

Linking up with Lakota’s spanking new Ta Da! Tuesday.

Also, if you get a moment to vote for me in the MADS, in the Thrift and Craft catergories, that would be phantasmagorically wonderful!

What reckon ye? Got any imaginative ideas for these molds or things to embed?

The Anti-Swank (and check out my orange pop)

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I’ve had a few conversations recently that have made me realise, that when it comes to clothes, furniture and general belongings, Tim and I are like the Anti-Swank.

We take an absurd kind of pride in going as low as you can go. We revel in it and I bet it really annoys people.

Ah, this? Well, this particular suitcase was found in skip, covered in turd. And this chair? From a car boot sale, absolutely ALIVE with FLEAS. And this? Ha, WELL, this old cupboard was dug up from a graveyard and came with decayed flesh in the hinges!

We like to clean things up and say “TADA!” and people often say we’re a bit jammy. (An equal number of people look at the stuff we are TADA-ing over and think “Ugh, looks like it belongs in a turdfilled, cat infested graveyard hole.)

People are mistaking jaminess for total dedication. You see, we can’t walk down a street without peeping up each driveway hoping for something sitting by a bin; we squizz into every skip, take huge diversions to pass by certain bounteous  charity shops.

We absolutely RUIN our days out. When we went to Brighton for a day out on the beach but ended up lugging round a pair of antique scales that, no joke, weighed more than me because we couldn’t resist them in the first charity shop we saw.

We look RIDICULOUS on public transport. The time Tim got three buses home carrying a 6 foot headboard for our bed. Or that surreal time we spent a whole morning unloading a stranger’s giant BeanBag bed into plastic bin bags and then had to get the tube across London, with 4 bags each, thousands of tiny, escaped polystyrene balls whizzing around the carriages on the Underground breeze.

Sometimes our scavengey tactics are foolishness – we think this 100% of the time when we are stranded half way home with a baby, a two bikes and a sofa.

But mostly, when the things end up in our house dolled up and chintzed out, we are pleased.

This corner shelf ruined a perfectly wonderful day out in Putney. It involved scaling a huge fence into a backyard wasteland where we picked through discarded trolleys and tellys. It hung out with us all day and then we had to cycle home with it. We left it plain and enjoyed it immensely until I saw on Pinterest the most WICKED bright shelf and knew I had to recreate it. (Have a look- isn’t it a beaut?)

BEFORE. Do you think I paint funny? Tim mocked my “hold”

So serious was I about making this happen in my kitchen that I WENT TO A SHOP! AND BOUGHT SOMETHING NEW! My sister would be SO proud.  Some lovely bright paint. (Being such a cheapskate however, I only bought the tester pot and it, um, wasn’t enough. I had to blend up my own concoction with some acrylic I had in the draw. Barely perceptible though!)

When we moved into this house two years ago the kitchen was the dreariest, most pinecladded place you didst ever see. Now it is awash with colour and this little corner just totes makes my heart sing. Hopefully in a few weeks time we’ll have some better photos that Pretty Nostalgic took and I’ll do an Extreme Makeover post.

Total Linky WIPEOUT

So many lovely things on Tinternet right now that I have to link up with:

Linking up with the Pinaddicts Crew over at ButWhyMummyWhy – your life will be enhanced by checking out their skills this month..

and the one and only Lakota and her Ta-Dah! Tuesday. She is one of the Charity Shop Oligarchy and you will love her.

Also, it frankly goes without saying, the illustrious Liz and the Magpie Mondays and …

PHEW BLINKING PHEW!

And finally, I, erm, kinda, ah…. GOT THROUGH TO THE FINALS OF THE MADS!!! ARGHHHHH!! I am competely and utterly thrilled. Thank you so much if you voted. Would you mind doing it one more time? You can vote for me in the Thrift and Craft catergories here. Please check out all the other blogs there- they are boombastic.

When life lives you rather than you living life

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Life this week has been in HD. Everything has felt extreme. I don’t know if this is because I am in a state of malnourished-guru-in-the-desert-style hallucination (it’s this Live Below the Line business– ha, you probably don’t even know I’m doing it! I’ve hardly mentioned it at all!) or if it is classic “it doesn’t rain, it pours” life.

I feel like life is a ship, forging it’s way through great crashing waves of joy, incompetence,  sorrow, bafflement and I am just clinging to a mangy little bit of canvas sail, wondering where the steering wheel thingy is.

(Partly because I want to know who’s captaining this puppy but also because, flipping heck, wouldn’t one of those vintage, rusting, wooden ship wheel thingys look BRILLIANT on the wall of the lounge????)

Here is what is happening:

We had the supremely STUNNING new vintage lifestyle mag Pretty Nostalgic come to our weird little recycled home for a photoshoot and interview. Jo and Jenny came, such lovely characters, and we just chatted and hung out and laughed and they left the first issue and it inspired my soul.

Due to that we have been putting in body achingly long hours tidying and DIYing those leftover jobs. Evenings spent dusting (first time since we moved in I think?), spare moments spent sanding and sewing and screwing (screws into walls, yeah? Filthy, you are. ) We are SO HAPPY having this tidy, clean, house just the way we like it! HURRAH!

Ramona is a sick little sausage, an ear infection and a hacking old flem cough. She nurses all night, and all day at the moment. But she is still a comedic, gorgous, little madam, just one that keeps me up all night snuggling in for more “BAPS!”

My 9-5 work is off the scale busy and at this moment I feel a little breathless with exactly how many balls I am juggling with that. I feel a bit exasperated that I can’t do justice to everything required of me. But I love the work, I love my colleagues, I just wish it didn’t eat into my brain as I try to sleep.

I got through to the finals of the MAD blog awards in TWO categories, Craft and Thrift- thank you SO, SO, SO much for voting for me. I am gobsmackedly chuffed but also, well, a little embarrassed to see Lulastic up against so many incredible, behemothic blogs. Even though I know, I just know, I would be a bit upset not to have gotten through. When you love to blog and pour your heart in, I guess that kind of comes with some high hopes for it.  How weird is that: how weird am I.

As I type my Nana, Betty Tribble, is living her last few days, losing consciousness. She has been slowly wilting over years, this most wonderful, WONDERFUL specimen of womankind. Love bursting, laughter sparkling, snack pushing Nana – “Stick these biscuits in your pocket as you go love, you’re WASTING AWAY I tell you!”- full of wit and all the patience and grace in the world.

*heaving sob*

*pulls self together*

And then this back drop of Below the Line fuelled stomach- angst. We are getting through okay. We are not starving. We are just missing food. We have realised just how much we use food to celebrate and to commiserate. When anything even slightly brilliant happens we say “COR, that’s gotta be worth some cake, eh?!” or if we are tired and feeling sorry for ourselves we bury our faces into a splendid Thai takeaway. This week food has just been about filling a gaping hole in our tummies and nothing more. How we miss it.

Hopefully next week will be back to normal and I can spend my days crafting away and wandering whimsically amongst charity shop shelves packed high with jumble.

See you on the other side…

Food, inglorious food – Live Below the Line Week’s Menu

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No wonder they call it the Live Below the Line Bleeding Challenge – this is SO TOUGH!!!!!

We have been hugely reliant on the rotten fruit and veg I scavenged, I simply don’t know how we would have managed without it.   As Fiona said in her awesome comment on my Vlog post (have a look- such a good wee story)  – it is just about survival!

The harvest festival haul from bins at Walworth Road

It is true but it did make me laugh as it reminded me of a story from when Tim and his brothers and pa went camping in the wilds and things got a little hairy and someone (remaining anonymous) burst out with “IT’S ABOUT BLOODY SURVIVAL!” and now it has kind of become a bit of a catchphrase. Whenever anything ever so slightly weird/random/desperate/non-desperate happens we put on a very stern voice and shout “IT’S ABOUT BLOODY SURVIVAL!” It is normally in an Australian accent too, although no Australians were involved in the making of the catchphrase.

So, with no further nonsense ado, here is what we have been eating:

Monday

Tea

Espresso

Fried egg on toast with butter (home made bread)

Yeah, we totally peak by 9:30am, it’s all downhill from here!

Brocoli (whole stalk) and  Onion Soup – boiled then zhugged/whizzed with the zhuzzer/whizzer thing and a slice of toast. Lots of salt needed in this!

Value pasta twirls with fried aubergines/tomatoes/grated carrots/ a spoonful of vegemite for taste

This was all delish but just not nearly enough!

Tuesday

Tea

Espresso

Pancakes with one-egg batter and a squeeze of lemon (we got three crispy ones each. If they were done too thick they turned to glue in mouth and were totally RANK)

Tomato on toast (my favourite lunch ever, ever, ever)

Value rice and curry made with onion, brocoli, tomatoes, carrots and spoon of onion powder and garlic thrown in last minute

Equally delish but we normally would have thrown in lots of extra biscuits, tea, cereal and toast! = hungry.

Alresco Rice and Veg

Wednesday

Tea

Espresso

Toast with half banana mashed (YUM!)

Rice cake fritters made with the rice from the other night, a spoonful of the curry mixture,  left over pancake patter and extra flour, and another spoon of curry powder and lots of salt. These were mindblowingly good! Frying in butter was the ticket!

Chow Mein for tea- value spaghetti with fried veg. Splash of soy sauce and minced garlic right at the end, half teaspoon of Chanese Fhaaaave Spaiiice (Chinese 5 spice said in the Michael Macintyre way! *chuckles to oneself remembering it*)

This was a GOOD DAY!!! Felt pretty normal, only a little bit hungry. Those fritters were the BOMBDIGGIDY.

Thursday (here are the plans)

Tea

Espresso

Banana on Toast

Plain spaghetti with butter and salt

Rice and beans with can tomoto, few veg and curry powder

Friday

Tea

Espresso

Egg on Toast

Nettle soup with toast

Value Pasta with veg and garlic and butter

VOILA.

Thrifty Food Lessons

In terms of thrifty eating, the bulb of garlic for 26p was the best thing we bought. Rather than cooking it through I am chucking in one little segment, finely crushed, right at the end of the cooking, just enough to spread the goodness/ take the zap out of it. This means we get full garlic flavour but with only a tiny amount of garlic.

Also, frying the spices in butter means we can use a very small amount, and using the odd half spoon of vegemite (pennies) instead of stock has added lots of flavour. A splash of soy sauce, instead of cooking with half a bottle like I usually do it, for the chow mein was a winner.

I am in two minds about the butter. It has added a tastiness to everything that has been wonderful. But there have been the odd hungry pang moments where I desperately wished we had spent that £1.50 on something bulky.

Well over half way. Lots and lots of enlightening moments and reflective moments onhunger, food, injustice, poverty. I need some space to sort my thoughts out and will post once it is all over I think.

Thanks ever so much for your incredible support. If you haven’t sponsored and would like to, you can do that here.

Live Below the Line Day Two VLOG!!

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Day Two of Live Below the Line and I’ve only gone and vlogged, haven’t I?! It is the lack of food, making me want to do weird and wonderful things like this.

It is my first Lulastic vlog and clearly, it, er, well, let’s just say it needs some work. It was so easy though, and could do the whole shebang on my phone which means I don’t have to spend my whole blogging time convincing Ramona that the computer is out for  typing words not Iggle Piggle.

Anyway, here it is, me salviating over snacks…

So, you know how vlogging is kind of a bit embarrassing? And how being hungry is totally the worst thing evs? Reckon that’s worth a few squids of sponsorship for the Salvation Army’s poverty fighting work? Just click here to do that. You’re the greatest. I thank you.

I’ve already been through the bins – Live Below the Line Eve

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Oh my goodness. I haven’t even begun Live Below the Line and already it is messing with my head and I have already cried once. (I never cry. I can’t even remember the last time I cried. Apart from at that book last week and the film the week before that and – okay, I can’t remember the last time I cried at Real Life. What does that say about me?)

I have spent about 3 hours scribbling and re-scribbling out a shopping list and a menu plan- I have never done a menu plan before, how is it possible to spend this long decided what to buy and eat???!! I guess having a budget of £1 each makes even the most minute purchase a bit of a big deal.

I am feeling the pressure. Tim is in this really reluctantly, so I don’t want my rubbish shopping decisions to mean he is wilting; draping his usually-hulking-but-now-gaunt frame all over the furniture because all we are eating is rice and digestives. Also, I thought it would be okay to bring Ramona along for the Hungry Ride- this may have been an error in judgement because I really don’t her to be hungry! (Honestly though, she is on one of her frequent breastfeeding benders and isn’t eating that much anyway.)

Then I went and had this genuis idea of going up to East Street Market at the end of the day and scavenging amongst the bins for old fruit and veg. It was an intense experience, most Dickensian- Ramona sat up on her bike seat watching Mummy shoo the pigeons away, scrabbling around for the rotten oranges and carrots. I don’t think it happens much because people were Really Gawping.

Still, I could not BELIEVE the pile of produce I got. I was SO blinking pleased, even after spending the evening cutting out the decay and freezing it all in portions – this had freed up £2 of our week’s budget! WOOHOO! This was really where it went wrong as I may have got my gloat on a little and posted a picture to Twitter along the lines of “CHECK OUT MY HARVEST FESTIVAL!”

At which point people began suggesting that this wasn’t exactly living below the line.

Sigh.

I even consulted Facebook and yeah, snot allowed.Apparently everything you eat has to come with an allocated cost. I PAID WITH MY PRIDE, MAN!!!

*weeps*

Are the organisers missing a trick here? I reckon. A little bit. Hunger isn’t only about not having access to food, but about the things people have to do to obtain it. The time spent sourcing it, priorities shifting. The insecurity of not knowing whether they’ll be any scraps left at the end of the day.

However I guess they have to be a bit black and white so you don’t just turn up at a different friend’s house for dinner every day. “Helloooo! I’m doing Live Below the Line this week, pop over to your place for tea, yeah?”

In the interests of totally transparent blogging here is the finished list of shopping:

For £12.50 (£5 each for Tim and I and £2.50 for Ramona)

Tomatoes, Onions, Brocoli, Aubergine, Half of 5 oranges =£2 (I halved my haul and factored in the cost of what rotten veg might have been sold for)

2 Tins Tomato – 60p

1 Tin chickpeas- 30p

Dried Spaghetti – 30p

Dried Pasta – 30p

Bag white rice – 40p

Organic Milk – £1.40

Organic Butter – £1.50

Flour -70p

Other ingredients (milk powder etc) to make 2 loaves of bread – 50p

Free range organic eggs £1.50

Garlic 28p

Popcorn £1

5 Fair Trade Bananas £1

Coffee- 50p (Tim bought green beans and is roasting them himself especially for this week. Yep, desperate times, desperate measures and all that)

Tea bags -10p

Spices etc- 10p

=  £12.48

Some of this might seem a bit odd. (Yeah you- I see you eyeing up that lump of butter below your raised eyebrows. We loooove butter! I figure it is gonna be instead of spread for the toast, instead of sauce for the pasta, for frying things – it could well save the week. It could also be a major misjudgement.)

It has been a suprisingly hard decision chosing what to keep ethical with. We normally go for organic, fair trade etc whenever possible but there had to be some compromise this week. We have decided that where lives are concerned- human, chicken or cow- we had to keep some principles. For us, if we can’t afford to eat dairy from happy cows than we can’t afford to eat it.

Despite having been to the local supermarket 3 times in the last 3 days, scouting out prices, scanning the bargain rails I haven’t purchased any of this stuff – tonight’s final mission to buy it saw me knocking on the windows of Morrisson’s while the staff inside pointed at the opening hours. Bah, Sunday trading.

So that’s that. In my next post I’ll share the menu plan  (edge of the seat blogging right here, folks) and will probably whinge about how hard it all is (stay tuned!)

PS Living Below the Line involves having £1 a day to eat with for 5 days, in order to raise awareness of extreme hunger and to raise funds. The funds we raise are going to the Salvation Army’s work with vulnerable farmers in developing nations. If you have a spare penny, please do sponsor!

PPS Normal parenting/craft/thrifty finds/nonsense blogging will resume in one week.  In the meantime you get me going “I’m HUNGRY 😦 😦 :(” Again, stay tuned!!