Saturday, February 28, 2015

Green and Thrifty

Very green indeed this week - it is all about the garden. In the New Year I planted out my new vegie garden. Now look - eight weeks later, and we have actual vegies. All of these except the pumpkin were grown from seed, and the pumpkin I dug out of a friend's garden where they were rather prolific. From seed to plate in eight weeks. Gardening is just miraculous, isn't it?

So far from this garden we have eaten lettuce, basil, a couple of tiny beetroots that needed thinning, rocket and zucchinis. Yesterday I took a rather large zucchini inside. "Well, that one nearly got away," I remarked to Posy.

"I wish it had got away," said Posy darkly. Then she tiptoed to the back door with it. "Fly away zucchini, fly away, be free!"

But no such luck. The zucchini stayed. It got turned into ratatouille with its friends the tomatoes.

The children had a moment of great cheerfulness last week when I thought I had killed one of the zucchini plants. Our pool is dug into the hill above the vegie garden, and after a sweltering day of children dive-bombing into it I thought I would pop the hose into it for half an hour. That was about half past seven. Well, at 5am I sat bolt upright in bed and remembered the hose was still on. I rushed out to find that the automatic mechanism that is supposed to make the pool drain instead of overflow... wasn't. The pool had been overflowing for who knows how many hours, straight into the vegie garden. It is a salt water pool, somewhat diluted now of course, and two days later the zucchini plant crisped up and looked to be at death's door. The children thought it was hilarious that I had killed the zucchini, but I got the last laugh because this week it has bounced back. It LOVES a salt soaking, clearly. The beetroot leaves, however, are looking quite yellow. I should dig one up to see how it is faring, but I don't feel brave enough.. on the bright side, I won't have to add salt to any of the vegies..

In other food news, some of the apples are ready, and so are the pears. Today I stewed apples, pears and rhubarb together. Now, every time I mention rhubarb, I must again mention the most marvellous tip I discovered a couple of years ago. Adding a quarter of a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to any rhubarb dish neutralizes the acidic taste of the rhubarb and greatly reduces the need to add sugar to it. Today I cut up about a litre of apples and pears and added six sticks of rhubarb, a quarter teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and vanilla and no sugar at all, and the sweetness of the apples and pears was all the dish needed.

I am also drying apples and pears for school lunch snacks, which I will have to hide from the hungry hordes, otherwise they mysteriously disappear. Sadly, due to my continuing nonchalance in regard to garden jobs, there is a lot of codlin moth damage in the apples and pears this year, MUST get on top of that next year. Every year when I stand in the kitchen for hours cutting around the grub damage in the fruit rather than being able to whiz through the job using my nifty apple slinky cutter, I curse my evil twin from the past spring who didn't spray white oil on the trees when they were in bud.

However, in a spirit of kindness to my future self who wants to eat lovely oranges from the baby orange trees, I did spray white oil on the orange trees to kill off the scale infestation that is plaguing them. If your citrus trees are covered in a fine black film that looks like soot, you have sooty mould, a fungus that proceeds from any number bugs that secrete a sweet, sticky subtance. Aphids, scale and some other bugs do this (notably a small white, annoying fly), whilst sucking the sap (or something.. not entirely sure) from your lovely, lovely citrus tree. Unchecked, the tree will start losing its leaves. Which a couple of my baby trees have. White oil is ridiculously easy and cheap to make, with only two, safe ingredients, and very effective. You can make up a jar that lasts for a year. Just do it!! Yes, I am really just talking to myself here. One day I will actually start paying attention to myself.

Tomatoes! I only have cherry tomatoes ripe here, but Cindy bought a couple of boxes of gorgeous ripe tomatoes from some local tomato-growing ladies, and dropped one off for me yesterday. Yes, I am now doing my vegie shopping by proxy and getting it delivered. Yes, it is a dream come true! And Cindy brought her new puppy to visit Posy and Benson-the-Wonder-Dog so altogether it was so far removed from your average supermarket shopping experience that it was like shopping on another planet. The planet where real food is grown by the people you buy it from, and distributed by friends and puppies. It is a planet I want to live on.

Today I started making passata, and have already worked my way through half this 12kg box. I will be trying two methods, roasting the tomatoes, which I tried today, and boiling them, which I will try tomorrow. After official taste tests I will let you know which is the yummiest...

My last food experiment for the weekend has been making dog food.  Dog food is ridiculously expensive and ubiquitous, yet somehow dogs have survived as Man's Best Friend for thousands of years without kibble. So I found a book (at the library of course), read it through, and then decided to make up my own recipes after all, with what I had on hand. Today Benson-the-puppy-with-the-stomach-of-steel-who-will-eat-anything gobbled up Slow-Cooked Chicken Necks In Chicken Stock With Oatmeal and Fried Zucchini (yes, I know it really needs a snappier title).

I figure I have managed to keep four children alive and reasonably well fed for over twenty-one years with my home cooking, so why not a puppy as well? I mean dog kibble, really, what is it but highly processed food for the welfare of dogs promotion of profits by multinational corporations?

Enough about me, how about you? Tell me about your green and thrifty week and your favourite dog food recipes.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Killing Mockingbirds

The house looks a bit slummy this week, because I have been re-reading To Kill A Mockingbird instead. This has been my third reading over twenty five years, and it gets better each time. Mind you, most books are more fun than cleaning the bathroom.

Atticus Finch. Now, not only does he have one of the best names in the history of literature, he is also an excellent role model. Every night he sits in his armchair after dinner, reading the night away. Now, why can't I do this? I try, believe me, but inevitably A Domestic Crisis takes hold. The dog escapes out of the front door and chases the cats up the street, with all the children running after them and yelling. Someone loses a vital doohickey that they need for school the next day, or develops a fever, or tips over the bird cage, or 'remembers' an entire Art project due tomorrow or wants to play the flute for me. Clearly I am doing the parenting thing wrong, and I will have to go back to the text for more clues on after-dinner child-wrangling.

But apart from his excellent parenting skills, Atticus Finch turned a light on for me this week.

I don't have to change the world.
I don't have to change the world.
I don't have to change the world.

There is a bit of a cult of the superhero in our society. We are supposed to be great. All of us. If We Only Set Our Minds To It, We Can Do Anything. We know this, because Oprah tells us so. And so many of us are idealists. We do want to change the world. We want to make a difference. But the truth is, most of us live small, unregarded lives. We may influence our families, our neighbours, our friends. Or maybe not even them, because, despite the fact that we are Clearly Right, some people just have minds of their own. And this is an appalling realisation for those of us who are idealists and also sensitive to the superhero myth. We want to be stars as a force for good, but instead we are only tiny little twinkly fairy lights. And we have temper tantrums and kick the furniture, then throw up our hands in despair and decide that trying to change the world is pointless, and that living any way that is any different to our neighbours is completely pointless, because nobody cares.

And this is where Atticus Finch has become my shining light. Atticus Finch knew what was right. He knew that many of his neighbours and countrymen thought he was an idiot and a traitor. He chooses to defend a black man falsely accused of rape because it is the right thing to do. He knows he will lose the case. He takes it anyway, because as he explains to his perplexed brother, if he doesn't take it, he won't be able to live with himself, and he won't be able to face his children. He chooses not to kill the innocent mockingbird, not to wash his hands of the death of the mockingbird, but to fight for its life with everything he has.

That, right there, is the thought I want to hold onto. I, personally, can do nothing to make the tiniest dint in global climate change. I can't right the injustices of the world that put money before people or start wars for resources. The world is full of innocent mockingbirds though; humans, animals, trees, oceans. And all around us the greed and stupidity of governments and corporations is killing the mockingbirds, and most of us do nothing, because we cannot see any way to fix the problem.

But, I don't have to change the world. Atticus Finch did not change his world. He lost his case, but he fought hard for it. He caused some of his neighbours and countrymen to face some unpalatable facts. I don't have to change the world. I just need to be able to live with myself, and be able to face my children.

Even that feels ridiculously hard of course. What is the right way to live? How can I live without profiting from someone else's misery? So much of my privileged life is lived at the expense of someone far away who has no choice but to mine the gold for my jewellery in appalling conditions or have their children born with birth defects because of the defoliants used on the cotton my t-shirt is made from, or have their sons die in a war over oil so I can drive my children to the beach, or fly them to Bali for a holiday. Where do you draw the line in that project? I have no idea, I really don't. But I have to start, and I have to ask the questions, so that I will be able to live with myself, and face the children.

PS After writing this I left it for a bit and went and walked the dog. Before we acquired the dog I needed to take long, hot showers to arrive at clarity over difficult problems. But now I have discovered that walking the dog has the same effect. You don't often see that tip in energy-saving manuals. 'Save electricity by getting a dog' - this fact should be more widely disseminated.

Anyway, it has occurred to me that personal angst and guilt, while being one of my most well-worn responses to almost everything in life, are not particularly effective here (or most places, yes, yes). The truth is, I do not know a single person who wants children to be born with birth defects. I did not ask anyone to start a war in the Middle East for me. I do not want chickens to be de-beaked so I can have cheap eggs. I do not not want Pacific island nations to be swept away by rising sea levels. I did not ask for any of this! Governments, institutions and powerful people have arranged my life so that these outcomes are part of 'normal'. Well, not in my name, and not any more! It is going to be bloody inconvenient to rearrange my life so that I am not inadvertently contributing to the death of mockingbirds, but I am going to do it if it takes me my whole life, and I am going to be bloody angry about it as well.

So do watch out for the irritable middle-aged woman, dressed like a bag-lady and walking a dog. She is no doubt having an existential crisis. Probably best to give her a wide berth. Although she is likely essentially harmless she does appear to be muttering a lot..

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Doing Good the IT Way

I started and ended the last post with a little therapeutic whinge about my stupid computer, and then out of the blue got a call from my friend Jen. Jen and I were fellow homeschooling parents about a hundred years ago (that's about right, isn't it Jen?), but Jen moved from Tasmania up and down the entire east coast of Australia, while I stayed right here. Occasionally we catch up by phone and chat about what we are doing, and it's great that we can just pick up and chat from where we left off the year before.. anyhow, Tuesday I got a call from Jen to say they are going to post me a spare laptop!!

Chris, Jen's lovely husband, works in IT, and in many work situations has found himself  'rescuing' old, unwanted laptops that are about to be binned. He brings them home and does highly technical things to them (was 'reformatting' one of those technical words he was bandying around??), assisted by his clever son, then rehomes them with folks they know who can use them. And they thought of me! And they are sending me one! Sqeeeeeeeeeeee!

I love every part of this story, the way Chris is saving 'outmoded' electrical gadgetry from landfill, using his skills to make them useful again, teaching his son to do the same, and spreading kindness and good cheer around his community (and now mine). He is like a lovely IT angel.

Even better, when Chris heard what was wrong with my laptop, he was able to give me a bandaid solution over the phone, which means I can use it again for now, and told me that I could get the battery reconditioned, a process I had never even heard of, so possibly this one may be usable again for another little while... always great in a houseful of girls doing homework that always seems to require access to the internet.

So here is to kind friends who are doing good things by using their skills to reclaim some of the Great Waste that is the curse of our society. It makes me think... how can I do the same with my own skills in my own community?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Two Stories About How My Life Without Spending Is Changing the Way I Live

I spent two hours typing away at this post this afternoon then my wretched, dying laptop ate it. How this is possible I don't know, because normally blogger saves my posts about once every two minutes, but this time my laptop died mid-sentence, so now I have borrowed Rosy's, and am gloomily contemplating how much less fun it is to write something for the second time..

Today I bring you two stories about how my life without spending is changing the way I live. I am finding myself feeling both more vulnerable, and more adventurous, and while these two states both have much to recommend them, it is also slightly uncomfortable.

So I have been looking at my grubby carpets for the last few months, wondering how to get them clean. I don't have a spare couple of hundred dollars to get them done professionally, nor did I want to buy a home carpet cleaner even though I was tempted because I have read good reviews about them on the interweb.

Then on Friday I was helping my friend Cindy clean out her garage. Cindy is a bit of a hero any way you look at it. Last year her beloved husband died, and Cindy has had to face a future, not only without him, but without their shared dream of a little self-sufficient farm experiment. To her eternal credit she hasn't stayed in bed with the covers over her head, but is courageously moving herself and her teenage boys onto a large suburban block in a tiny town to continue the experiment on a miniature scale. I have been trekking out to visit and stand by her side as she opens and sorts through box after box filled with projects for the future they had planned together - tools and materials collected over the years for a life that she is now facing on her own. She is an extraordinary and brave person, and there is little I can do but stand there and laugh with her and have a little cry with her as she decides which projects she can carry on with by herself, and which ones need to be moved on.

So Friday we were sorting through boxes  in her garage when I saw she owned a carpet cleaner, which she had never used herself because her lovely husband always cleaned her carpets for her - but of course she offered it to me, and so this weekend I have been cleaning the carpets, after spending quite some time figuring out how to make the damn thing work, but now at least I can give Cindy a demonstration when she needs to use it next. Both she and I are learning how to do so many things we have never done before this year. I am sure this is good for us, but we are still not quite at the point where we are grateful for the opportunity for upskilling.

This is my story about being vulnerable, because there are considerable societal restraints around asking for help. One is in a much stronger position, a secure place of power, when lending. 'Always a lender, never a borrower be' runs the old proverb, no doubt thought up by some grumpy old Calvinist whose summation of the Protestant ethic went something like 'God helps those who help themselves', which of course means that I should look after my own carpet cleaning needs and not rely on the kindness of others to provide for me.

I have lovely, kind and generous neighbours. I turn to Mr Neighbour when I need some handyperson help, I provide lemons for their gin and tonics, our kids play together, we collect each others' mail and feed each others' pets, and yet Mrs Neighbour can't bear to borrow anything from me. I practically had to force my vacuum cleaner on her when hers broke, and she was almost relieved when mine stopped working, because it meant she could 'pay me back'. She has said it makes her feel uncomfortable to borrow things, because she doesn't want to impose on me, but I think the truth of the matter is that borrowing makes us feel that we have lost some of our independence.

Judith Levine examines this dilemma in her excellent book Not Buying It, a chronicle of her No Spend experiment for a year. I have read many disappointed reactions to this book around the interweb, but I think people are looking for a feel good simple living manual, which it is not, but rather a sociological and political investigation of what spending means in our society, and what consumerism has turned us into. Levine does not claim to be anything but an average consumer who is looking for answers, not your typical simple living guru who has had an epiphany. Anyway, I am a person who would much rather consider an insightful question than be spoon-fed an easy answer. If you are too, get a hold of this book and enjoy grappling with the questions.

Early on in her experiment Levine encounters a situation where she needs to borrow an item from a stranger. She gets into an enormous emotional flap about this. She hates that feeling of loss of independence. "What I want is autonomy, the sine qua non of Western commercial citizenship...To buy is to be adult. A person without money is a child, and all children are beggars."

Independence is a prime quality, prized throughout our individualistic society. Donne was probably one of the last poets who could sincerely write "No man is an island" on the cusp of the 17th century. Behind him was the dying remnant of communal medieval society, ahead of him the cult of the individual was taking its place, and has been with us ever since. Of course, the only way anyone can be self-sufficient is if they have the means never to have to rely on anyone else. The poor need to rely on each other because they do not individually have the means to remain aloof from their neighbours and families. They are not individually able to afford everything that they need to live well. Hence being independent is a sign of wealth, a sign that you do not need to rely on anyone. So having to borrow from your neighbour means that you are poor. This is the story that we have learnt as a culture over many centuries here in our supposedly advanced society. We have forsaken the co-sufficiency of communal living for the bleak self-satisfaction of not having to rely on our neighbour in order to prove how well-off we are.

Now of course this does not mean that we are telling ourselves a story that is true or relevant. My dear friend Cindy is travelling the same path of simple living and forging community in the people we find all around us as I am. She is the soul of kindness, and knows very well that I would lend her anything I own, and yet... and yet, that story is hard to shake. It still makes me feel vulnerable to be a borrower. It has made me stop and think about how foolish and dangerous that particular story of independence really is. Clearly it does not serve the planet well to have a whipper snipper, ice cream machine, wheelbarrow and pasta maker in every house on the block. And yet that is the ridiculous, planet-wrecking consequence of our pride. An inability to let our neighbour lend us their ladder..

Ok, that was vulnerability, now to adventure. Although when I say adventure, you may be getting the wrong idea. I do not lead an exciting life. Don't get me wrong, that does not make me sad. Exciting is not my favourite or my best. Staying home and drinking tea is my favourite and my best. Adventure (that is, venturing outside my front gate) is at all times suspect. However, I had been explaining to the girls my thoughts on consumerism, and my plans to only buy second hand this year, and I thought that maybe a little expedition to demonstrate the fun of buying second hand might be in order. I had known about the existence of My Closet Market in town for some time, and this seemed the perfect opportunity to test the water.

To be honest, while I have always been an enormous fan of secondhand, as someone who actively dislikes shopping the truth is, secondhand is harder. You have to know what you want, and be prepared not to get it, and keep trying again and again until you do. Ironically, Not Spending New means more shopping sometimes. Sadly, for the last few years I have found myself scuttling into Target at the beginning of each new season, racing around picking up exactly what I need for the girls and scuttling back home an hour later, breathing a huge sigh of relief that I don't have to do that again for another six months.

Shopping for clothes in an old church hall amongst dozens of stalls of other people's clothing was a bit of a challenge by comparison. For a start, you can't make fun of peculiar clothes when their previous owners are standing right there. And that is half the fun (such as there is) of shopping, isn't it? And the changing room was communal, and it was hot, and Posy whined the whole time we were there. And there was so many clothes it was rather overwhelming. It felt a bit like a medieval bazaar. BUT, it quickly became clear that the people who sell their unwanted clothes at the market do not tend to shop at Target. We quickly acquired several very nice pieces of well-made rather gorgeous clothing for less than $10 each. A summer work wardrobe for me. Summer dresses for Rosy. And thankfully some locally crafted earrings for Posy, to stop the whining (she is the proud new possessor of a pair of holes in her ears).

As adventures go, it was fairly unstartling (my favourite kind). No orcs or rings or Dark Lords. Excellent. But it did turn out to be far more fun than I had anticipated. A busker who sang like an angel instead of dreary muzak. No convenient car-parking, so we had to walk for a block through the park where a number of hairy young men were tight rope walking. Now you don't often see that in the Target car park. And best of all, lovely clothes, the dollars for which went right back into the very deserving community in which I live. Win, win, win:)

Two stories of the way my life is changing. Vulnerability is generally not a state that we welcome, although its consequences are often positive. Adventure is something that, hobbit-like, I generally do not pursue, but might be persuaded to occasionally say 'yes' to, especially when there is a cup of tea at the end..

Now, if only I can find a second hand computer that won't die in the middle of posts. I am hoping someone will convene the first Launceston My Computer Market, complete with buskers and maybe a cake stall..

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thrifty Decorating

Now, I promised a decorating post this week, but I don't want you to get your hopes up. My decorating talent does not lie in the realm of Whipping Up Fabulously Crafty Home Decorator Items Out of Everyday Household Objects. It is more along the lines of finding things in the shed that I bought ten years ago from a garage sale, and putting them on a shelf somewhere. Just so as you are warned. Ok? Here we go then.

So last November I accidentally had some ugly shelves built in the study downstairs. First I despaired, then I painted them all white, which is my standard response to anything challenging in the DIY department. Then I went up to the shed and pulled out all the cardboard boxes that are labelled 'Jo's Special Things'. This is where, at the beginning of our renovation, I stashed all my inherited and thrifted treasures (and bits of seaweed I found on the beach. And special stones and shells and interesting shaped pieces of wood. I never actually outgrew that particular phase..).

The shelves were much improved when I decanted all of these treasures onto them (as you all assured me they would. You are always, always right, my lovely readers). Here it is. I did not buy anything at the time, as I have been collecting all those white filing boxes at sales over the years, and storing them in inconvenient places for The Man to trip over. Now that he has moved out, the tripping hazard has been neatly filed away. Hilarious, right?

My Grandma's tea cannister:

An excellent sentiment in the room where I pay the bills. Look, the bill spike next to it is empty. I wonder how that happened?

Now for this week's decorating project. First, the set of wooden shelves I bought in a junk shop some years ago. I always knew I would use this in the study, but wasn't clear how, because all the shelves are quite shallow. I think they were originally used to store envelopes or something - maybe pigeon holes for an office? I don't process many envelopes, but I do collect vintage household tat, because it is hilarious, so that is what is in the shelves now. A large number of items in this collection belonged to a very old lady, the mother of one of my mum's friends. When she died, and my mum helped clear out her house, Mum rescued a lot of unwanted vintage sewing notions for me. She is a star!

This op-shopped tin is covered in anenomes. It is my very favourite tin in the whole world.


Up the top is a collection of bottles I have dug up out of my garden over the years, and an iodine bottle from under the floor. My favourite bottle advertises cheerfully, 'Pink Pills for Pale People'.

Then there are a collection of boxes of pins - still full! 'Dandy Steel Household Pins Are Manufactured In Australia From the Finest Australian Material, the Quality of Which Cannot Be Surpassed'. How absolutely delicious that the manufacturers of these pins were so passionate about, well, steel pins. I do feel that such patriotic enthusiasm is hard to come by in the household products of today.

These Kodak film cannisters must have been immensely useful for storing any number of household items in.

On the top shelf here is a tin inherited from a grandmother, great aunt? Someone in the family. Guess what it was for? A slice of wedding cake was popped into it and posted to any guests unable to make it to the wedding. Adorable! (and incidentally, the method used to poison a victim in one of Agatha Christie's novels) Those pegs I found under the laundry floor, along with some newspapers from the 1930s.

Last of all, a collection of sewing notions. An ingenious needle threader, a tiny Singer sewing machine box, a needle book, and that red box with the spools of thread? That is thread for mending stockings, and the sentiment on the lid - 'Another hole? Darn it.' Sewing was once so much more hilarious. Even trouser patches stood proud. Look at this:

Self-supporting trousers? Who knew?

Well, that was my decorating effort for this week. I warned you. Putting things on shelves is about as clever and crafty as I get. But, better out than in, right? Plus, now I know I have a lifetime's supply of pins, a fact which I had forgotten. Thrifty!

I would still love to see all your thrifty decorating projects. Give me a shout out if you post one, and I will link to it. Love to see what you are all doing without spending to make your homes more homey and pleasant to be in.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Buy Nothing New: January Accounting

Remember I declared I wasn't going to buy anything new this year? Well, I am notoriously bad at not following through on resolutions, but that is partly the reason that I keep posting them on the blog. It is far more embarrassing failing in public than in private, so here is my first of twleve public monthly accountings. To keep me honest. And paying attention.

First, the WHY of not spending. To recap, endless production of pointless doohickeys is straining the finite resources of the world unbearably, while ruining the lives, habitats and livelihoods of the vast majority of the world's population, just so we can have another doohickey (I read a fab overview of the injustice of the capitalist system today. I do recommend it). Also, I have accumulated rather a lot of stuff already, and can probably concentrate on making do with the considerable largesse that life has already deposited in various untidy cupboards and storage spaces around my house..

Now for the accounting. Inevitably I have failed of course, but that's ok. Failure is something I am really very good at:) I have been trying to finish Walden (yet again, third time lucky..),  and  here is Thoreau on aiming at a lofty target:

In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.

So my aim was, not to spend on anything new. And how did I do?

Bought new: (this includes actual, manufactured things I buy for myself, the house, for gifts, and for the children. It doesn't include groceries, toiletries, medication, services, or what the children buy with their pocket money) 

One book, which I ordered at a local bookstore late last year, and which arrived in January.

One pair of thongs:

Picture added for illustrative purposes. What do people who don't live in Australia call this type of footware? Recently I was going to write about a domestic incident involving a red-hot, unpopped popcorn seed becoming lodged in my thong, and the resulting blister.. but realised that my non-Australian readers would be picturing an altogether different, and rather more painful first-aid moment. Anyway, my old pair of casual summer footware was a couple of years old and worn through. Bought these from a high street shop. Have no idea if it is even possible to buy such a thing secondhand, or if there are fairtrade versions, and didn't feel qualified to make my own. Thoughts? 

Another pair of thongs for Rosy.

One pair of sturdy school shoes for Posy. Bought them at a local school outfitters, which has been the go-to school uniform shop in town since dinosaurs roamed the countryside. Children sit on an old wooden church pew to get their feet measured for new school shoes.

School supplies. The Man graciously took the girls to buy exercise books and drink bottles and annoying plastic folders. We did manage to reuse a good deal of stationery from last year, which was excellent. The Man also remembered to restock us with printer ink cartridges, which I am always forgetting. Oh, and the girls also persuaded their dad to buy them some more blank cards to make even more home made cards, that should keep us in gift cards until about 2017.

One text book for Rosy. Thankfully everything else she needed was handed down by her older siblings.

I think that is it.

Bought secondhand: Nothing springs to mind... I tried to buy a second-hand school uniform for Rosy, but it was given to us instead:)

Given away: What goes around, comes around. This month I gave away a couch and coffee table to two of The Boy's old school buddies, now uni students, who were using mattresses and cardboard boxes as furniture, as you do. I also gave away a bunch of Posy's outgrown clothes and school uniforms, only to have new hand-me-down uniform for her and Rosy turn up the next week:)

So, I failed at the high target of buying NOTHING, but certainly I bought less than I have ever bought before in the month of January in my entire adult life. I must say it was very relaxing not going near the January sales. Usually I panic and become convinced I need to buy towels or sheets or something, because you know, I might run out of manchester, but this year I just ignored the sales and played Connect Four with Posy instead, and therefore had all that left-over money to spend at the vet and the dentist. Because that is so much more fun than spending money at the sales..

One month down; now let's see if I can buy even less in February. Can you tell I am enjoying this? I really hate shopping. It is a bit of a dream challenge actually. It's a free pass never to go to the shops again. Well, I say this, but it's actually not true. The truth is, challenging myself not to pop into a shop to buy something new off the shelf at the very moment I need it, means I am going to have to do some forward planning. Which is so not my forte. Gifts, children's clothes, my clothes. Where are they all going to come from? My one pair of skinny jeans are wearing out in a rather embarrassing place. I was whining to The Girl about this, and she suggested if I leave them under my pillow the Shopping Fairy might come and replace them with a new pair while I am sleeping. It's worth a try..