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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Make your own reusable ice lolly containers

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Hurrah, the sun has popped out this week meaning I have been able to test my latest invention. Unlike my Sock-Sorting-Washing-Line (does what it says on the tin) and my Swellies (soft waterproof wellies for commuters to fold up in their bags!) which earnt me nothing but ridicule despite being completely genius, these made it to prototype stage. And they are a raving success at the trial phase. . .

They are little tubes I have sewn out of old packaging, and filled with yoghurt. As hoped, they make a delectable,  healthy and cooling snack for my little lass.

Yeah, alright, technically Calypso came up with the squeeze-an-ice-pop-out-of-a-tube idea in the nineties. But DID they empower you take something you were gonna chuck in the bin, add ONE line of sewing (or I have even successfully tested a hot glue gun version) and make your own that you can use FOREVER?

Nope, my friends, they didn’t. So here it is:

I can not explain how EASY this is, and how magically they work. They just squeeze straight out the top, the kids munch ’em up, you give them a little clean and fill them up again/ put in a drawer for another time.

I used my own homemade yoghurt (yeah, we are well hippyville like that, recipe is here) mixed with some whizzed up strawbs that had gone slightly too soft.

I also took it too another level – sewing some little sleeves out of some cute old serviettes to fit over the plastic tubes – suiting our whimsical garden where most lolly pop devouring occurs.  It serves a dual purpose of preventing little hands from falling off from freezing temperatures and also soaking up the excess juices. It was just a case of cutting enough fabric to fit round the tube, sewing the two long ends together and hemming to open top and bottom.

HERE’S TO SUMMER!!!

PS – Notice how I don’t really know what to call these icey-yoghurt-things-in-a-tube. Freeze pops? Ice pops? Ice lollies? Ice Lolly containers? Neither google nor Twitter came to the fore here – someone helpfully suggested “Lolly pop without a stick”. Gah. What do you reckon?

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Streets filled with peace (not tanks, thanks)

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There have been a fair few surreal moments in my 5 years history as a campaigner with Oxfam.

I have taught Richard Branson how to do the running man.*

I have trundled around the streets of Tunbridge Wells dressed as a big cuddley polar bear.*

I have wheeled a GIANT Santa in front of the US embassy and sung carols.*

I have bantered with Esther Rantzen in front of an audience of hundreds.*

I have mimicked those New York builders sitting on the girder eating lunch- whilst pregnant nonetheless.*

And then today I ‘as bin gallivanting around the streets of London with a big fat genuine TANK. *

Come with me for a tick, back a couple of years, to another amazing and surreal experience with Oxfam. It involved spending time in rural Cambodia, seeing the work Oxfam does in poor villages out there, arriving home just days before my daughter Ramona was conceived.  (In fact, we joked for most of my pregnancy about how a little Cambodian baby might surprise us, bahahahaha, ooh, teehee.)

As a result of the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot years Cambodia had a huge share of weapons within its borders.  When the armed struggles began to fizzle out soldiers from all sides went back to their homes and took their guns with them. Some estimates suggest there were close to one million unregistered weapons in that small country. As you can imagine, the presence of guns in almost every home was having a dire effect on families, in much the same way the presence of guns has an effect in my own neighbourhood of Peckham.

Fortunately for Cambodia, back in 2003, some passionate peeps decided to tackle this injustice by launching the Control Arms campaign- fighting for a UN treaty on the arms trade.   Mobs  of people from across the world joined in with the One Million Faces campaign – I added my freckly grin, as did thousands of Cambodians- even those based out in local, rural villages joined this struggle for justice in the arms trade.

Such a global force couldn’t be overlooked and  just a few months after the  this creative petition was presented to the UN work began on a historic, legally-binding international Arms Trade Treaty. (Campaigning works, it really truly DOES!)

As we know these things take time but whilst in Cambodia I was gobsmacked to see that even just TALK of an Arms Treaty was making an impact. The momentum of the global campaign had fortified national efforts to stop the arms trade, developed the campaigning consciousness of Cambodians AND lead to the handing in and burning of thousands of weapons during Gun Destruction week.  (Campaigning WORKS! Yes! It blooming WORKS!)

Now, two years on from my visit to Cambodia we have entered the final stages of an Arms Trade Treaty, and I have a little tot. Once you have children, your hopes for a more peaceful and just world become just that bit more crisp. The chance for a strong Arms Treaty that could make the lives of other children untold times more peaceful is moving nearer.

Which brings us to today and our tank. We (some activists and some policy wonks) were delivering letters and reports (read it if you like that kinda thing) to 5 key embassies, countries that have a key role to play at one of the final negotiating conferences beginning on Monday in New York. On that day too, a  global petition is once again being handed over, asking them to ensure this Treaty is effective and strong. You have just FOUR days to add your voice.

I want to see a world free from mindless violence, communities restored from the damage of guns. I want to see the young people my husband works with as a youth worker in Peckham and the young people I met in those villages of Cambodia knowing the sense of tangible peace. I want to see kids playing in streets free from tanks. I want Ramona and her generation to  inherit a more reconciled world . An Arms Treaty is one step along the way.

As we know (I may have mentioned it once or twice already) campaigning WORKS – let’s make it happen this time.  

 

*We were promoting Oxfam as the primary charity partner for the London Marathon.

*We were enticing people along to see the fantastic film, the Age of Stupid.

*We were singing climate carols and asking them to stop blocking progress at the Copenhagen Climate Change summit.

*I was basically trying to mass invite the audience to come along to the Put People First rally and she saw straight through me.

*We were raising awareness of how risky childbirth is in poor countries.

*We are giving a final push to get people to sign up for a robust Arms Trade Treaty. Please join us!

You are the expert in the topic of your children

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We have just come through a week of pretty angsty bed times. Some nights Ramona took a whole 1.5 hours to get to sleep. Even though we are just reading, nursing, singing and I should be able to think wonderful pleasant thoughts about spending all that extra time with my tiny delight, I don’t. I just get a bit annoyed inside, dreaming of being able to go downstairs and read without having a full-of-life  toddler flickering about around me.

And then, as quickly as the Bedtimes of Terror period began, it stopped. It stopped because I began trusting myself again.

You see, a week ago I read on a blog that I had been lurking on a bit (a blog that really resonated with me about lots of mothering practice) about children’s sleep. Sleep is always the thing that makes me a jittery mother – when Ramona was a baby I spent hours a week, it seemed, googling topics to make sure she was getting enough (or not too much!) After many months we settled into a pattern I was comfortable with and I stopped my obsession. Then I read a bit on that there blog about how crucial toddler sleep is, and how tots MUST go to bed before 7pm.  I was a bit stunned. 7pm? So certain? Just like that?  But she mentioned “circadian rhythm” with real conviction- I don’t know what this is but it seemed to be about syncing with the earth, which, y’know,  I am all for.

Now, Ramona tends to go to sleep between 8 and 9, unless she is sleepy earlier. What a TERRIBLE MOTHER! That night I vowed to give her the opportunity to sleep at 7pm. It didn’t go down too well with her but still, for the following 6 nights I tried every trick in The Book to convince her that 7pm was the right, circadian time for her to go to bed.

Every evening after she finally nodded off I’d come down, Battle Weary (a loving, cuddly one but a wrestle of wills all the same) and annoyed at having frittered so much time away upstairs.

It took six days for me to regain trust in my parenting. Six days for me to realise that the sleep pattern we had woven for ourselves was the right one, despite what other mothers do and the experts say.  Six days to sod the Circadian shizzle.

See, when it comes to Ramona, no-one is more expert than me.

And when it comes to your child, you are the know-it-all; the person most in tune with his rhythms, the detector of her subtle signs, his soul-whisperer.

Childhood charts and sleep guidelines and “Musts” and “Ten Signs of” may be helpful for some – I am sure. But for others of us they undermine what we have come to understand of ourselves, our children, and our ways. When I read that Ramona is just under the “normal amount of sleep for an 18 m old” I am wracked with guilt, especially when it is followed up with facts about how vital sleep is for development. But then I take a moment to look at my daughter and see her joy, her exuberance, her calm, her growth and  I feel okay about it all again.
When I trust that she will sleep when she needs it and eat when she is hungry, our lives have a certain flow and a tangible ease.  (My role is to provide the right conditions for these things to happen, of course,  but I need to trust her to take the bite or rest her head.)   I also need to trust myself as a mother, trust my intuition and my instincts and trust my ability to interpret my daughter and muddle through our own path.

Sometimes when I read the stories and tips and facts about others I find all of this trust just eroding a little bit. If you are like me in this, I just want to say it again:

You and your child are the best experts in all of this. You are the same flesh and blood, and your hearts beat to the same rhythm. Embrace the fluidity of your lives – don’t hide it or be ashamed- too soon they will have boring meetings to arrive promptly at and all the Schedules of Adulthood.  Feel the freedom of knowing trust in each other, to be guided by each other. Not a soul on earth knows  or loves your child more than you. And that is just how you roll.

Right, this is me using all of my blogger’s monthly entitlement for cheeseball posts.  Please forgive me, I was just really feeling this today.

Talking it up #1

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Hmmm. I am doing that thing where I share stuff I have found online, as if I think I am well good at the internet or something. I’m sorry. It’s just because sometimes you do come across something that you want to shout about and also I love it when other bloggers share goodies they have chanced upon.

So here is Talking It Up Numero Uno:

“When you teach a child something you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself.” ~ Jean Piaget

  • Feminist motherhood can be kind of angry. (There is a lot to get mad about, no?) It is always ace when someone can talk about the issues intelligently, succinctly, AND  inject a bit of humour, see Exhibit 1  Sad White Babies with Feminist Mummies
  • Finally, the proper brill Lakota over at Faith Hope and Charity Shopping has hosted an international gift swap between bloggers. She has paired up over 70 people and we were to swap parcels of secondhand and handmade treasures. Like somekind of blogger-whisperer Lakota fixed me up with another one who loves all things old and is also involved in craftivism, Rachel of Firebird Retro. I met her beautiful self at the Craftivist event at the farm on Sundayand today a delightful package arrived on my mat.

A green retro tea towel, a hand made pin cushion, two gorgeous old books about Britain and a hand stitched craftivist banner that I get the pleasure of pinning up somewhere public. (And I know EXACTLY where- watch this space!) I love the quote. Global Citizens 4 EVA.

Man. I LOVE the internet.

Seen or read anything awesome recently? Please reveal it!

Solidarity stitching and a jar full of hope

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 An inner-city meadow, a three piece band, jam sandwiches, a strawberry patch,  fifty stitchers, a barn of animals and my little toddler rampaging around.  It was a weird wee scene; both very local (I’m sorry, but East London is crazy. Everyone wears such silly clothes but I KNOW they are clothes that we will all be wearing in two years time. *gah* Those hipsters) and hugely global.

We were crafting up lids to fit on to jam jars, jars that would eventually be filled with a scrumptious tomato jam – based on a recipe from a Kenyan farmer, Christine.

In a way Christine is your typical farmer – but what makes her typical is pretty surprising. She is a woman, for starters (women are responsible for most of the world’s food production). And she also doesn’t have quite enough food to eat (small scale farmers like Christine make up 50% of the undernourished and women make up 80% of the world’s poorest.)

 But Christine’s jam oozes with bold, sticky hope.

A few years ago Christine was destitute, her husband had died of Aids and with no rights or access to power, Christine and her two kids were reliant on the kindness of strangers. Now, however, she chairs a small female cooperative group who grow tomatoes (one of those mega crops that is resilient to livelihood upheavaling drought) and they make this jam to sell at the market. The jam is BEYOND delectable and is a right old hit with the customers.

That is quite a story for one little jar to contain, don’t you reckon?

A jar of hope

I guess it was in an act of solidarity that we came together in one of London’s city farms to eat said jam on sandwiches, and to let our creative juices pour out over needle and thread.  We talked about hunger, the parts of our global food system that are utterly broken, the ways people can do something, who we were going to give our jar of jam to.

Stitching my first jam lid. I had to unpick it as it was properly ugly

We have masses of tomato plants in the garden and I can’t wait for the glut to hit *probably announced a bit to hopefully* –  I am going to fill my little jar up, pop my stitched up lid on and give it to my MP, Harriet Harman.  I will ask her to stand up on behalf of small-scale farmers like Christine, to fight the powerful tentacles of huge food corporations, and to promote local food systems in our urban village of Camberwell.

Freedom from hunger. (Bit rubbish eh, but you can understand how bad my first one was if I kept this one!)

Needless to say, Sunday was probably my ideal kind of day. Dreaming together of a future where everyone has enough to eat, crafting up world changey messages and letting Ramona frolick with the farm beasts (check out this little video of her encountering a rooster) combined all the things I love.

And I think it is here,  taking what you love and doing it for a more beautiful world, where change lies.  Hope doesn’t thrive when limited to certain behaviours,  and activists fizzle out after the one millionth petition signature. But if people can marry the thing that gives them energy – be it sewing, blogging, gardening, writing poetry, being a hipster-  with their passion for justice and fairness, change will come.

Solidarity Jam:

 Makes 6 jars

 Ingredients:

● 5 cups peeled and quartered tomatoes.

● Strips of the tomato skin

● 5 cups of sugar

● 1 lemon, sliced thinly and seeded

● 2 tablespoons butter

Method

Put tomatoes, sugar and sliced lemon in large, heavy pot and bring to slow boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. When foam rises to surface, add butter and continue stirring and simmering until preserves thicken, about 45 minutes. (To test, stick a fork in. When preserves cling to tines of fork, it should be thick enough to can). Pour preserves into sterilized jars, seal and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes.

This is your world. Shape it, or someone else will! 

Read about Oxfam’s GROW campaign and join the movement of people who share a vision of EVERYONE thriving and NOT A SOUL going hungry

It isn’t too late to join in. Perhaps you want to host your own lid stich-in and get solidarity jam making in autumn?

To get the full low-down on this beautiful project have a peep at Craftivist Collective founder (and the wonderful person I job share with here at Oxfam) Sarah, explain it in this AMAZE vid:

Have you found a way to do the thing you love for good?

Shake your yoghurt maker

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So how good for you is yoghurt? Like, WELL good. Amazing protein, jam packed with gut protecting bacteria and also, umm, I dunno, other good stuff I suspect. Calcium and things.

And it is incredibly delicious – my little lass Ramona puts nutritious yoghurt away like the Hungry Caterpillar getting through the treats page. (She is OBSESSED with the treats page – you know;  ice cream, chocolate cake, lollipop, cherry pie. She doesn’t want to read the rest of it. We just stare at the treats and when I have finished reading the list of yummy morsels out she implores “More?”  and I read it over and over and over again. Really, what’s so important about the transforming into a butterfly bit anyway? Back to the treats, mummy!)

But, for real, HOW EXPENSIVE is yoghurt? Especially if you get the organic, live, probiotic stuff.

So imagine my delight when, for 50p I discovered THIS at a jumble sale:

Why is a seventies curling set gonna help with my yoghurt conundrum I hear you ask?! I can understand your confusion. Let me explain.

It is actually a yoghurt maker.

It is a retro Bel electric yoghurt machine, minus a plug. We popped one of those on the end and got straight to work experimenting with the best home-made yoghurt recipe. It is incredibly simple and basically just involves making yoghurt from yoghurt. (You couldn’t make it up.)

I’ll give you the recipe we use, because you might come across one of these bad boys at a car booty (these were ALL the rage in the seventies) or Ebay. You might also try one of the many other options like wrapping some jars in a tea towel and leaving in the hot water cupboard/ making it in a thermos. Have a look here for more detail on yoghurt-maker-less yoghurt-making.

We have six cups in our machine so fill each one with the amount below. The whole batch comes to 50p – about a quarter of the shop bought cost.

To make one cup of yoghurt

  • A cup of  organic UHT milk (or milk heated to exactly 47 degrees – it has to be perfectly sterile.  We find UHT is the same cost and without the faff.)
  • A teaspoon of milk powder (this makes it thick and creamy)
  • A teaspoon of existing fresh, probiotic yoghurt (so we save a bit from the last batch to make the new batch)

Firstly, make sure you use super clean utensils as a bit of dirt can stop the good bacteria getting it’s action on.

Mix the milk powder thoroughly in with the milk, then stir in the yoghurt.

Plug it in over night (or set it up in a constantly warm place) – 12 hours seems to get the thickest result.

Put in the fridge for a little while, and then you get cold, seriously creamy, majorly cheap, incredibly healthy pro-biotic yoghurt!

You can eat it plain but we tend to get a bit naughty and stir in a teaspoon of lemon curd. Heck to the Yes.

Don’t you just want to slurp that right up?

The wonder that is Miss Lizzie B, host of Magpie Monday has flown the nest to a stunning resort in Portugal, where she is bathing in glorious pools and frolicking in the sunshine. *no really, not in THE LEAST jealous*

So I am STOKED to be having the Magpie Mondays over here at my place today. WOOT.

Just click this little guy to see and add the links:

Thanks for linking up or even just visiting. *Pops the lid from a jar of lemon curd yoghurt* *Offers round spoons*

Two well timed syllables

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Ramona is 18 months old yet only this week uttered the word “Daddy”. For a while, around her first birthday, she toyed with Dada, but quickly discarded it in favour of “Mummio” – the big fat comical  “O” on the end creating enough of a distinction for Tim to cope with.

Mummio

We would play the pointing at each other game with me saying “Mummy. Ramona. Daddy.” and Ramona would reply, pointing at each one in turn; “Mummy. Mummy. Mummio.”

(I’m still unsure if all this time she is having a great joke or if she genuinely hasn’t fathomed that we are not the same person, me and her.)

But this week, obviously in celebration of Fathers Day, she has taken “Daddy” and gone for gold. She shouts it, whispers it, sings it. When she woke up from her nap one day this week she followed her gut and cried out “DADDY!” which pretty much sealed the deal.

Tim’s happiness at that dazzling sound sparking off her lips is pretty vivid.

It’s funny how just a little word like that seems to ooze meaning. It feels like Ramona’s Daddy Song is a delighted, subconscious, thank you.

A smile-in-a-word in thanks for all the things he does for her; putting grass down in replace of pavers in the garden so she can feel the soft blades between her toes, tracing the different foods the Very Hungry Caterpillar ate upon her back minute after silent minute to help her get to sleep (the swiss cheese was her favourite), building a sturdy little house for her out of an old table in the middle of the veggie patch, creating nutritious delectable morsels out of leftovers for her to wrap her newly formed molars round, throwing her up in the air and spinning her around and heaping tickle upon tickle until her squeals turn to a solemn “nooooo”, then erupting into hysterical giggles and yelling “Mooore” again. (Are they all so flighty when it comes to tickles?)

And, that small love-filled-Daddy word, it even feels a bit like a most practical reassurance that Tim  halving his work hours to stay home during some days of the week is working out perfectly, that it is enjoyed by all three of us. I am pretty sure she blooms in his company (as most people tend to.)

Like kids do, within a day Ramona had nurtured her own little Daddy joke. Pointing at all sorts and shouting “Daddy!” – Postman Pat, Noah with his big grey beard and even the rotund hairy dad bear from Goldilocks. Tiny minx.

Wearing daddy’s glasses

So, it came after duck, stuck, poo, yummy, yuck, mummy and baps, but a perfectly timed “Daddy” nonetheless.