31 January 2012

The Before Photos

I’m cutting it close on The Gallery deadline here, but I have come up with one Photography Resolution I would love to stick to this year. So often I plan to write a blog post about a meal or activity, but when I come to write it up I’m missing the photo. So this year:

I will take more before photos.

I will take pictures of food before it’s eaten & crafts before they are done!

These lovely cupcakes are from Laura's Little Bakery in Liverpool. Mr Goldfish had only a vague idea where it was located (via @theAnfieldWrap Podcast) so it took us a while to find, but the effort was worth it!  That's a Lemon Meringue with Popping Candy on the right and Salted Caramel with Lindt Chocolate on the left. We also had a Walnut Whip, but that didn't make it home.

I usually find cupcakes rather sickly sweet, but these creations were delightful. My favourite was the Lemon Meringue, but Mr Goldfish has declared he'll need to try more before he can decide.

*Not a Sponsored Post*

30 January 2012

Last Minute Changes

It’s been awfully busy the last few weeks; making plans for our holiday in Center Parcs, the Emma’s Diary Meet & Greet, and BlogCamp in April. I nearly forgot about the upcoming hospital appointments.
Genie Phone
That is until the phone call last week. Some poor receptionist called to say that there was 'a shortage of doctors' the day of my appointment and that they’d rescheduled it for the 28th of March! I’m afraid I gave her a bit of a hard time, as I was more than a bit unhappy.

We’d requested the appointment back in mid-December (to any avoid delays over the Christmas period), and to move it now would mean we’d be waiting more than three months. I wasn’t rude, but I also wouldn’t give them permission to reschedule our appointment – so eventually I was passed over to her manager.

I actually feel quite guilty about this, I’d actually asked for a phone number I could call after I’d spoken to Mr Goldfish. I’m sure there were plenty of other couples just as desperate for their appointments, and while I was unhappy, I couldn’t really see what they could do to fix the situation. Instead I was immediately put through to the manager.

I tried to explain that the change would mean we were waiting more than three months since our referral, and I’m embarrassed to say my voice cracked just a bit. So she went to pull up my records, and confirmed that our last appointment had been in May. I said yes, but that was just after our ectopic pregnancy.

I’m beginning to feel that ‘ectopic pregnancy’ is a magic word that immediately sets doctors in a panic. They seem terrified that I might burst into tears, leaving them with a hysterical woman to deal with. In this case the receptionist quickly started looking for an alternate appointment. She asked if it had to be with the same consultant, and as I’ve never actually met our consult, I really didn’t care. I’m just desperate to find out where we are going, how the ectopic pregnancy has changed our situation and what the future holds.

I was lucky in the end, the manager found an appointment that’s actually the day before my original appointment. Afterwards I discovered the change would cause Mr Goldfish some problems at work, but there was just no way to try and reschedule.

I still feel a bit guilty as I don’t want to push in front of others in the same situation, but I don’t think I could face another two months of waiting.

29 January 2012

Step Down Sunday - Temptation of Flight

When looking to reduce your carbon footprint, flights are often seen as an easy target. People that rarely took to the skies in the first place, often see it as an indefensible luxury – as a dual national, I see flying as unavoidable.

Since I immigrated to the UK twelve years ago I’ve only been home twice, so it’s not something we do often – but we can’t say we’ll never fly again. We can continue to reduce how often we fly, but in the case of a family emergency there are virtually no alternatives.

So when we made our commitment towards a low-carbon lifestyle, we couldn’t say we’d never fly...but there were things we could say. We decided we could commit to making no domestic flights. It was a fairly easy commitment to make, as it's not something we did in the first place.

I should have realised our convictions would soon be tested. Last month Emma’s Diary arranged a bloggers event to be held outside London. At first I thought it would be a same day trip, which would be tiring but manageable. But when I realised the event was starting a 10am we hit the first problem - I simply couldn’t get there in time. I could go down the night before, but my health make it difficult to take luggage, much less the special bedding I need if I’m going to sleep. It was kindly suggested that I could fly down, thus making it there and back the same day.

I’ll admit I was sorely tempted, getting on a plane immediately brings a sense of adventure to any trip! Plus it would save me plenty of pain, frustration and money...but my conscious wouldn’t let me. We’d made such a small commitment to not flying that to use excuses and justifications to break it would make a mockery of our pledge.

So this Thursday I took the train down instead. The journey there was pretty good. I tried to pack as lightly as possible and ended up leaving the netbook at home - which was a brilliant choice, as I'd forgotten I'd be coming home with a few things to try! I asked the hotel for an extra duvet, which helped me get a few hours of sleep (I'm something like the Princess & the Pea; so even after taking pain killers to get to sleep I was wide awake at 4:30am, 6:30am, and I eventually gave up at 7:30am).

On the other hand the journey back home was quite hard, I had to wait longer between trains and it was quite cold. The combination of poor sleep, aching joints, a long day and delayed trains meant I was quite cranky for the last hour - and my bed had never looked so good!

Yesterday I spent most of the day in bed recovering and it may take a few more to get back to normal, but that's at least a cost I can afford. Despite the extra hassle, I'm quite glad I kept my commitment to avoiding domestic flights.

Hopefully I'll be writing about the Emma's Diary Meet & Greet itself soon, once I've caught up on sleep!

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

22 January 2012

The Cost of Trying to Concieve


At the start of the new year we decided to make a new budget. We were already tracking the big bills, but we suspected the small grocery items might be adding up. It was only when we started counting up the things we buy every month that we realised how much trying to conceive was costing us!

Granted we rarely pay full price for anything; you can often find ‘Buy One Get One Free’ or multi-buy offers on vitamins & tests. So here’s a guesstimate of our costs so far.

  • Basal Temperature Kit - £12
  • Prenatal Vitamins - £4.00 x 39 months = £156 
  • Zinc & Vitamin E - £9 x 11 months = £99 
  • Loose Boxer Shorts - £45 
  • Ovulation Tests - £15 x 7 packs = £105
  • Pregnancy Tests - £3 x 15 tests = £45
  • Clomid Prescription - £7.40 
  • Train Fares for hospital appointments - £8 x 9 days = £72 
So the two and a half years of trying has cost us about £550, which works out at about £19 for each month we tried - and that doesn't include anything like wine or films to get us in the mood!

I don’t know about you, but I was a bit shocked. We obviously weren’t going out of our way to scrimp and save on these supplies, so there are plenty of ways to bring the costs down – but it amazing how quickly it all adds up.

This was originally published on the Emma's Diary Blog.

Step Down Sunday - Goodbye Standby

As part of our Step Down Christmas we decided to ask for some of the eco-gadgets we hadn’t been able to afford yet. Specifically we wanted to invest in something that would turn our television and assorted peripherals off standby.


After a lot of research Mr Goldfish choose the OneClick Intellipanel, which arrived the other week. While I know many people just turn things off at the wall socket, ours is quite difficult to reach – and to be honest I quite like being able to use the remote! With the Intellipanel I can turn the TV on and off ‘at-the-wall’ throughout the day without jumping out of my chair every time.

The OneClick Intellipanel is an extension lead with eight plug sockets as well as phone sockets. It has a little sensor that sits on top of the telly, similar to a Nintendo Wii sensor bar, and works with your normal telly remote. In addition to saving electricity, the Intellipanel also provides surge protection for your appliances.

TVs are quite clever these days, and shutting the power off suddenly can potentially damage them. The Intellipanel is designed to monitor your television so it has time to properly shut down before cutting the power. At the same time it also cuts power to all your peripherals, so your X-Box, PS3, Wii, and DVD players are also completely turned off - but OneClick have been even more clever! Because they’ve designed an IntelliPanel specifically for modern media systems, two of the plug sockets are always powered for your Sky+, PVR or video recorder. So you'll never miss you favourite program because you forgot to turn the box back on.

In addition to the TV & Audio IntelliPanel we purchased, there are also IntelliPanels specifically for desktop computers and another for Laptops.

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

16 January 2012

Creative Challenge

Tunisian Crochet Bag
You may remember that last week I taught myself Tunisian crochet. After making a long thin test piece, I unpicked it all and started again.  This time I used only the knit stitch and hoped to make a short scarf...but I ran out of wool too soon. Unfortunately it was a very old ball of wool, so I couldn't buy another to keep going and nothing really matched.  I didn't really want to invest more money in a project I haven't planned properly, so instead I challenged myself to find a use for 18 inches of knitting.

I decided to unpick the last few rows and try my hand at a button hole -I didn't quite get the tension right, but it works. Then I found directions for decreasing on both sides - this took four attempts as the return stitches kept coming in too fast.  Then some quick stitching up the sides transformed it into a small bag.

The flap does curl which is annoying, but to be expected with Tunisian crochet. The only problem now is what do I use it for? It's lovely and soft, so may make a lovely heating pad cover - but I never actually use them. I'll have to keep thinking on it.

Overall I'm quite happy with this cheap cheerful project that let me practise my new skills.

Written for liveotherwise's Creative Challenge Linky

15 January 2012

Step Down Sunday - Refurbishing Furniture

Emma Bridgewater Tableware Ever take on a project only to discover it was much bigger than you expected?

When it comes to art I’m not really that impressed with paintings and prints, but I love ceramics. From tiles to plates, it’s a passion I can’t really explain. So it’s no surprise I have a small collection of Bridgewater tableware. For years I’ve been dreaming of a kitchen dresser that would let me present my favourite pieces – but they are so expensive!

In July I was looking for a project to lift my spirits and keep me busy while still recovering from surgery. I started scouring eBay for kitchen dressers in our area. After a few weeks I found on that looked perfect! The top had been painted a very dark green, but it was a simple modern style made from real wood with a pine top and just the right size – all for £100 and they’d even deliver for an extra £20! I anxiously watched that auction for days, and was thrilled when I won the auction.

But hours later we received a phone call - they said that there were some holes they’d not noticed before where the stereo speaker wires had been feed through the back. They suggested we go look at the dresser first. I can hardly think of anything I’d dread more! Going to the home of someone I don’t know, to make an instant decision about something they own? That’s my own personal hell, but off we went to look at the dresser.

Great big hole The holes they mentioned were tiny and not really something to be worried about, but the large 6 inch hole we spotted at the back of the cupboard concerned me more!

They pointed out how it was real wood and it was a bespoke design they bought from someone else for £500. I can’t say I was happy. It’s one thing to say there are small holes, but I would have had time to think before bidding if the large holes had been mentioned in the auction listing - at the same time I wasn’t sure we’d find something better so I agreed to buy it.

If we’d had a quiet moment to ourselves we may have noticed there were even bigger problems with their description. Firstly the only things made from real wood are the drawers, everything else is MDF - even that pretty pine top is really veneered MDF. Unfortunately by the time it arrived and we’d discovered this, we didn’t feel like we could really complain – we had seen it first. While it may still be a reasonable price, the whole story makes my stomach lurch. I don’t think I’d have paid £100 if it had been properly described. My brilliant bargain has turned into something else.

Once we realised the unit was made of MDF we decided the back piece would be easy to replace, thus fixing the holes. We’d also need to replace the ‘pine’ top as it was marked and we couldn’t sand it down. So my simple project that needed just quick coat of paint had turned into a complete remodel.

About the same time the Quakers made their commitment to becoming a low-carbon community, and this project seemed a brilliant starting point. We were bringing new life to furniture that was being thrown out.

Unfortunately we’ve had to balance out the costs with what we can do environmentally (It was already an indulgence to buy the dresser, before we discovered all the work it needed!) We used water-based primers and paints and used Ethical Consumer to try and buy responsible power tools. We also bought a piece of birch IKEA kitchen worktop to replace the top and the added thickness balances the dresser nicely. I just wish I was better at remembering to take before photos.

Welsh Dresser

Though it’s taken months, my pretty new dresser is finally finished!

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

11 January 2012

Joining the WI

For years I’ve been tempted to join the Women’s Institute, and I’ve spent several months being envious of a Friend in our Quaker Meeting that lives near a thriving WI meeting. It seemed a brilliant way to meet people with similar interests, but there didn’t seem to be one near me.

So when Nic (NicsNotebook) asked if I was interested in going to the inaugural meeting of a new WI in our area, I jumped at the chance! Started by Helen (Casa Costello) & Cara (The Freckles Family) it seemed perfect.

I didn’t have much time to RSVP, but decided to risk it and just turn up. There was a brilliant turnout - women of all ages who seemed really eager to get involved. The first meeting was mostly the technical aspects of getting a new WI off the ground. We had to vote for a president, we had to empower them to open a bank account, we had to choose a name for ourselves and we had to appoint a committee.

This is where I may have gone slightly mad. Ann our WI Advisor was telling us what the roles would entail and convincing us it would be a brilliant idea to volunteer. I was reluctant at first, I’ve been recently appointed as Co-Clerk of our local Quaker Meeting and I’m quite worried I’m already over committed. But this was an opportunity to make some real friends - not that I don’t love all my digital friends – but sometimes you just want to talk with someone face to face. I decided I could either hover around the edges of the group, being quiet and reserved – or I could throw myself out there and really get involved. As an ex-pat you often feel like an outsider looking in, and this seemed an opportunity to be there from the start and build something I really wanted to be a part of.

So when they asked for volunteers I hesitantly raised my hand. Luckily we had an amazing ten volunteers for the committee, so there should be plenty of people to share the work. After the meeting had finished the committee hung back to make some nominations. We had several positions to fill, and some hold significant responsibility. So I made a strategic decision and volunteered early, for Vice-President. Though it sounds important, I’ve been told vice-presidents only have to stand in if the President can’t attend – which sounds perfect! I’m quite happy to stand-up in front of people and make a fool of myself or pitch in when people need a hand. (I’m not so good at telephone calls and big projects.) Mr Goldfish was slightly exasperated when I told him of my new responsibilities, but he could see my logic.

So there you go, I attended my first WI meeting...and now I’m vice-president.
Surely it isn’t supposed to work like that.

10 January 2012

Perfect Storm

christmas I’m afraid the last two weeks have created a perfect storm that has made the Christmas holidays just miserable.  It doesn’t help that I find Christmas difficult even at the best of times. The long days leave me short on sleep, while staying at other people’s homes makes my joints ache painfully. After just a few days I can find my nerves frayed and nearly anything can push me over the edge.

Because we had the cancer scare back in October, our Clomid cycle was delayed a month. That means instead of finishing the Clomid at the end of November, our last cycle would finish just days after Christmas. I usually expect a short cycle with early spotting, but this time our hopes were raised by a long cycle and we found ourselves suddenly superstitious. For me, a believer in Murphy’s Law, I hoped the fact we had a new appointment booked with the fertility clinic would mean we’d get pregnant and thus need to cancel it. For Mr Goldfish, a film buff, he hoped this was our third act – where the characters get to their last chance and then everything works out perfectly.

By Boxing Day we’d finally had some spotting, but were hoping that this time it may be implantation. We’d been tempted to test, but were trying to be patient. While visiting my mother-in-law she received a phone call – Mr Goldfish’s cousin is 10 weeks pregnant. It stung, but I was all right as everyone fussed and gossiped. My brother-in-law commented how he always knew people were pregnant before they announced it. Did I remember how he’d known when I was pregnant? I just nodded and went back to my crochet.

I was fine for about an hour, until I had a small spat with Mr Goldfish. Though it was completely unrelated, suddenly I found myself on the edge of tears and I had to leave the room. It all came to the surface - It was incredibly painful to know that a woman I watched get married, just four weeks after I lost my pregnancy, would hold her child before I would. I should be holding a two month old, not sitting there with no hope.

Unfortunately my quick exit was noticed and my mother-in-law was soon at the bedroom door. She was very kind and understanding, but I hate breaking down in front of others.

By the time we came home on the 27th I was done with Christmas. There was no joy in my heart and the cheerful decorations mocked me.  I immediately packed up everything other than the Christmas tree and a single Christmas wreath I’m quite fond of. Ridding my home of the jubilant nutcrackers and decorations, helped me pack away some of the pain.

Unfortunately my Christmas wasn’t quite over, the next day we were invited to a friend’s party. I stood in the outside doorway while everyone gathered around the two young babies. I wasn't avoiding the children as such, but desperately trying to avoid painful questions from the adults. Instead I was sneered at for being afraid to enter the "baby room" by a woman I barely know and I found myself fighting back tears. I retreated to the kitchen where my friend was putting the finishing touches on her meal. She asked how our Christmas had been and I said pretty awful. She asked why and just couldn't say the words – instead bursting into a flood off tears. For once luck was with me and no one else witnessed my breakdown, but I felt awful for spoiling her party.

I pulled myself together and wandered back through to the sitting room. Now the guests had spread out I hoped I could risk resting in a chair. As I sat down the same woman made another comment about how I was  finally braving the baby room – in a way I wish I could have made a cutting remark that would stop her cold, but I’m not that type of person. Instead I smiled and kept my feelings tightly in check.

Finally after a goodnight’s sleep and a quiet day to myself, I am starting to feel better. I have my fertility clinic appointment in early February. It turns out that the nurse was wrong, and we weren’t discharged back in May. Instead the consultant has asked to see us again now we’ve finished the tablets. Our GP thought we would be happy that things were moving again, but instead we feel like we’ve lost something. The Clomid gave us our closest chance of a child, and now that chance is gone. From here on things are likely to be much harder.

This was originally published on the Emma's Diary Blog.

8 January 2012

Step Down Sunday:
Make Do & Mend Blanket

For this week’s Step Down Sunday I’ve resisted the urge to be fashionable and the temptation of new, instead opting to make do and mend.

Yellow Benetton Blanket
Despite its bright yellow colour, this is my favourite blanket. It’s a proper old polar fleece blanket, back from when they were weighty solid things. It was the only one I could find on the shop floor, and I convinced Lewis’s in Manchester to give me a display model discount. It’s wonderfully warm and toasty without being too heavy.

Unfortunately the blue ribbon edge is sewn on with a clear plastic thread similar to fishing line. As the blanket has aged, the thread has been prone to snapping. The corners came unfastened a few years ago and I repaired them, but lately large sections have come undone.
Yellow Benetton Blanket

I can’t say electric yellow is really my colour and as it’s clear the whole edging is going to unravel, I’ve been tempted to buy a replacement. It’s only because the new fleece blankets seem so thin and cheap that I’ve resisted.

But now that we’ve made our low-carbon commitment I really can’t justify replacing such a good blanket. I’ve been meaning to fix it for months now, but I only seem to remember in the middle of the night when my feet get caught in the holes!

So very late on New Year’s Day I broke out the sewing machine and reattached the edging. I didn’t have enough thread to sew all the way around the large blanket, but hopefully this will hold a few more years.

Step Down Sunday
Are you a proponent of Make Do & Mend? 
What have you fixed lately?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

6 January 2012

Finished It Friday!

Cross-stitch Biscornu

I've been tempted to join The Freckle's Family Finished it Friday for ages, but that required me to actually finishing something! So over Christmas I set myself the challenge of finally finishing this pretty biscornu.

I love to cross-stitch, especially on a high-count even-weave. The problem is I have no idea what to do with them when I finish. I don't really want a houseful of framed cross-stitches, so I'm often stuck stitching wedding & birth patterns I can give away. I'd been hoping to try my hand at Blackwork when I found this pretty biscornu pattern over on Etsy.

I started the project while recovering from surgery back in April, but my hoop was too small to do the backstitched edge that pulls the whole thing together. So New Year's Day I went digging through my craft cupboard to gather the final supplies.
Biscornu Pattern
If you've never seen a biscornu before, it's just two squares sewn together. You just stitch the corner of one square to the centre of the other square's side. I'm not sure I stuffed my biscornu enough, but as I'm only using it as a pin cushion I'm sure it will be fine.

Freckles Family

4 January 2012

Learning Something New

I’d love to learn to knit, but so far I’ve never found a way to hold the needles that didn’t make my hand ache like mad. So when I saw Tunisian Crochet on Pinterest, I was intrigued. Here was a way to ‘knit’ but with a single crochet hook.
I couldn’t wait to try it out, so I added Afghan crochet hooks to my Christmas wish list. A brilliant project for the lazy days of Christmas, I grabbed some left over wool and taught myself this basic stitch from Crocheting the Day Away.
It’s fantastically easy and quite quick, but now that I’ve mastered the basics I started to wonder what I can do with it (other than make scarves!) So with a bit more investigation I found another tutorial at Annie’s Attic that creates a beautiful knit finish. Just a slight adjustment on how you place the hook makes such a big difference!
I’m still not sure what I’m going to make with my new skills, but I’ve enjoyed learning a new craft!

Anyone have any pattern suggestions?

Written for Live Otherwise’s Creative Linky

1 January 2012

Step Down Sunday - Eco-Christmas Review

Step Down Sunday
The last few months we’ve been trying to make changes that will reduce the environmental impact of Christmas. Now that we're through the rush and excitement of the season, I thought it would be good to look back and see what worked and where we can make improvements.

Christmas Cards

This year we printed Christmas postcards on 100% recycled card. The idea was brilliant, but there are some things we can improve on!
Eco-friendly Christmas Postcards
First is that I should have left the backs blank. VistaPrint offer to print a light grey pattern on the back of the card, so I thought why not, but the print was actually quite dark and makes it harder to read the address and message. To make it legible I had to use felt tip pens. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but since they were postcards, there was the possibility they could get rained on and the ink may run. I had a last minute panic as I tried to find permanent markers that wouldn’t bleed. (Surprisingly I didn’t get funny looks in the Reprographics store for testing the markers on my card and then dashing over to the water cooler to dip my finger in the drip tray and try smearing the water across the inks!) I did finally find waterproof pens, but I assume they aren’t very eco-friendly. Next year if I leave the back of the card white I’ll be able to write my message in normal biro .

I think I’ll also try and send my overseas cards by surface mail next year. I have asked Royal Mail if they know how the carbon footprint of surface-mail compares to air-mail, but they’ve not got back to me yet. Finally we can try and find a printer that uses vegetable inks.

So while we made some huge improvements, there is still room for improvements.

Eco-Score: 7 out of 10

Christmas Presents

We did pretty well on the Children’s presents, but started to struggle when it came to the adults. I think they fall within three categories Eco-friendly Presents, Reasonable Compromises, and ones where we could have made better choices. This list includes things we bought for others and presents we asked for (I’ve left off gifts we had no influence over).

Eco-friendly Presents
Reasonable Compromises
  • Lego Sets (Nephew & Mr G)
  • M&S Slippers (For Me)
  • River Cottage Veg Cookbook (Mr G)
  • Spa Gift Certificate (Brother & Sister-in-law)
  • Baby’s First Christmas Ornament (For Friends)
Room for Improvement
  • Doctor Who BluRays (For Us)
  • Harry Potter BluRays (For Us)
  • TinTin DVDs (For Mr G)
  • White Christmas DVD (Mother-in-law)
  • Harry Potter Lego Wii Game (For Us)
  • Batman Xbox Game (For Mr G)
  • Music CD (Mr G)
  • Harry Potter Cluedo (For Us)
  • Hornby Model Train Level Crossing (Father-in-law)
  • Wooden Nutcracker (For Me)
  • Yankee Candles (Aunt & I)
  • Gap Jumper (For Me)
  • Cath Kidston Fat Quaters (For Me)
  • Tala Pastry Cutters Plain (For Me)
  • Tala Pastry Cutters Crinkly (For Me)
  • Staples Paper Trimmer (Mother-in-law)
Some of the items in the "Room for Improvement" list just don’t have eco-friendly alternatives. In particular media discs are a big problem (CDs, DVDs, BluRays, & Console Games), though we’ve greatly reduced how many DVDs we've bought. This year we’ve tried to only buy discs we are passionate about and will watch many times over the years. Other items were chosen because we are trying to buy more of what we need rather than disposable items we don’t. Finally some items were picked because they are tools we can use to make things in future.

On the "Compromise List" we have items that may not be eco-friendly, but have some redeeming characteristic. For the slippers it’s simply that no other product would be suitable. The cookbook will encourage Mr Goldfish to stick to his meat-free diet. Other items are made from plastic, but will be used for years. Finally the Spa Certificate is an alternative to other media type presents. I also feel that while Spa’s may use a lot of energy and such, sharing those costs with everyone else who uses the spa reduces their impact.

IMG_8960 On the "Eco-friendly List" all the presents were pretty successful. I love my new can crusher! I can’t use the foot operated can crushers, and I was a bit worried the wall mounted ones wouldn’t be as efficient. This wall-mounted can crusher by Ashley is brilliant though, we’ve spent the afternoon crushing our cans and they take up lots less space in the recycling bin now! However two of the presents have a small hitch. I’m not sure my youngest niece appreciated the I Love My Planet  Monkey when faced with so many other presents, but hopefully it will grow on her after reading the Curious George books.

Finally you may have noticed that the bamboo socks have an asterisk at the end. We bought these quite early in our Christmas shopping, assuming that bamboo cloth was an eco-friendly choice. It was only when researching the eco-felt that I learned more about bamboo fabric.

To make fabric, bamboo is turned into viscose. Viscose can be made manually, however it is normally made by processing the wood or in this case bamboo in lots of chemicals. It’s hard to claim using all these chemicals is really environmentally friendly. So while my bamboo socks were bought in good faith, I think we’ll have to do more research into eco-friendly fabrics and clothes.

As only half our presents were eco-friendly and even those could be improved, I think there's a lot of work to be done next year.

Eco-Score: 4 out of 10

Christmas Wrapping
Kraft Paper Christmas Wrapping
Now on Christmas wrapping we made some big changes! We bought recycled brown paper, which can be recycled again for the wrapping. We discovered that Sellotape brand sticky tape is bio-degradable! We made some fabric bags for wrapping awkward shaped presents, from some old curtains I had in the loft. And of course we can reuse these bags each year, which will save a fair bit of paper. The only thing we have to work on is snagging the paper back off people when they’ve opened their presents so it definitely goes into the recycling rather than the bin! We did reuse some of wrapping paper we were given, and we’ll keep our eyes peeled for eco-friendly ribbon in future.

We've made huge improvements, but until we use up our supply of curling ribbon and plastic sticky tape there'll still be room for improvement.

Eco-Score: 7 out of 10

Other Things

Even though they're not so far away, public transport doesn't really work for visiting Mr Goldfish's family. We were able to stay over a couple of nights, but once more guests arrived we had to make the 45 minute drive each day.

We also didn't prepare Christmas dinner, so there's little we can change there - but we should make some improvement to the snacks and nibbles we eat over the festive season.

Eco-Score: 1 out of 10

Step Down Sunday So what do you think? How did we do?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.