26 November 2012

The Cross Forever Pearl Sauvage

A few weeks ago I wrote about my new Filofax pen, but that wasn't the only pen Cross sent me. They also sent me this gorgeous Forever Pearl Sauvage
Personally, I don't think this is a pen I'd throw in my handbag and carry around with me (I'd be too worried it would get damaged, though the Forever Pearl does come with a velvet storage pouch), but it would be a brilliant choice for writers or those who keep a journal. For anyone who enjoys setting aside time write, the Forever Pearl Sauvage adds a touch of luxury and glamour.
I love the fine details and sophisticated style of the Forever Pearl. The lovely champagne finish has a patterned of rings, some of which are etched into the into the pen, adding a delicious sparkle. And I'm completely taken with the pen's silver tone accents. The central ring has a raised edge, which gives it the appearance of fine silver jewellery. The pen clip is delicately sculpted to mirror the sweeping curves of the Sauvage, and finally the pen is topped with a smooth gleaming end cap. All of these small details give the Forever Pearl a distinctive refined style.
One thing that surprised me was how narrow the grip of the pen is. Despite being a thick substantial pen, the barrel tapers quite dramatically. Personally the barrel is a shade narrower than I'd prefer, but this is less of a problem because the pen is nicely balanced. Your fingers aren't straining to control the pen.  Like the Cross Tech 3+, I found the ballpoint scratched a bit when writing, but hope this will improve with time.

Another advantage of the decorative pearlescent finish is that it doesn't show fingerprints, so it always looks it's best. If you're going to buy a high quality pen, I think it should have some personality. The pattern of rings on the Forever Pearl give it character, while retaining a professional sophistication. A feminine design without pink flowers and bows, the Forever Pearl Sauvage makes writing even a simple shopping list more enjoyable.

25 November 2012

Step Down Sunday: Christmas Postcards

For this week's Step Down Sunday I've gone back to one of my favourites - the recycled Christmas postcards. I love the simplicity of this solution, that greatly reduces the impact of our annual missives. By sending postcards we use half as much cardboard as a normal Christmas card and there is no need for envelopes. We also have them printed on recycled card, to further reduce their environmental impact.

We've been trying to complete our Christmas preparations early this year. So a bit pressed for time, I searched the web for another free Christmas printable. It took me a while to find one with a suitable message, but eventually found the one pictured above. I then popped it into PicMonkey to give it the parchment texture. This year I left the back of the cards white, as last year's grey pattern made it difficult to read (as you can see below). Instead I kept it simple, adding just a few lines for the address and the recycled message message at the bottom.

I looked around for a new eco-friendly printer, but most were well outside our price range. So we went back to Vistaprint, where with voucher codes and money back from TopCashback, we were able to print 100 cards for about £15.

There was no way we needed a hundred Christmas cards, but I've been able to sell the extras at cost to other members of my Quaker meeting. So we've been able to help others reduce their carbon-footprint this Christmas too.

Step Down Sunday

Have you made any Steps Down this week? Leave me a message in the comments!

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.

21 November 2012

Another Cycle, Another Delivery

When I started my last period I started counting the days - and they didn't add up. When we'd last been at the fertility clinic they told us to call when my November period started, so we could book in for the next IVF cycle. By my calculations this would mean we were doing the egg collection and implantation between Christmas & New Years, which seemed fairly unlikely.

There had been a lot of confusion at our last appointment in early October. This time we're not using Buserelin to suppress my natural cycle so it will be a much quicker process, however the condensed time frame seems to be complicating things. The doctor had said we should start our next IVF cycle in November, but when we were passed over to the nurse she claimed he meant to order the drugs in November and start injections in December. I did try to argue the case, however she told us November was completely booked already so there was no other option.

I really didn't want things to be delayed an extra month because the nurse was wrong, so we rang the clinic up just to check. Turns out I was right and November wasn't completely booked, so we suddenly went from another four weeks of waiting to being booked straight in for treatment - my head was spinning.
The drugs arrived last week and there's a lot less than last time. There's half as many needles, but they appear identical to those we've used before. One interesting difference is in how many boxes there are. The long thin boxes contain a single prepared syringe, while each vial of the Fostimon is boxed individually.
Now we just wait for my next period to start and two days later we should start the injections. This time around we've decided to keep the IVF a secret from our family. Trying to manage their expectations and their reactions to the bad news, added to our own struggle. There's also the suspicion that our news has been spread rather farther than we'd have liked. We've had a few unpleasant shocks as people have offered their sympathies before we've had opportunity to tell them, while others appear to be avoiding the topic at all costs. It's turned every family gathering into a minefield, never knowing who may ask the next awkward question - while also removing the opportunity to share how we're feeling. So for now we're just keeping this between you and us.

This was originally written for the Emma's Diary Blog.

20 November 2012

Granny Square Blanket

One reason I've been posting less on Another Goldfish lately, is that I've been crocheting like mad. I'm attempting to make blankets for all four of my nieces and nephews. I'd normally post this as a Step Down Sunday, but they've actually ended up supplementing rather than replacing the presents we'd normally buy.

Back when we were making our Dream scarf, my eldest niece and nephew watched intrigued as I crocheted my squares - my ten year-old nephew even gave it a try himself. So I thought I'd try to encourage their interest by making them some lap blankets - and I better make one for everyone.
This is my first finished blanket, intented for my eldest niece. It's not especially fancy, just a great big granny square finished with two rounds of double crochet - but I'm quite pleased with it. It's made from a lovely soft chunky wool.
I've still got a lot to keep me busy. Another two blankets are still in progress and I have a handful of smaller projects to finish before Christmas, but fingers crossed it won't be too difficult to manage.

Though they are technically adding to our carbon footprint this year, if the blankets go down well wiith the kids we may be able to consider more home-made Christmas presents in the future.

18 November 2012

Step Down Sunday - Sprig Dump Truck

One of the problems with eco-shopping is that you do much of it blind. So few bricks and mortar shops stock eco-friendly products, that you are forced to search the internet for suitable alternatives. Unfortunately a bit of clever lighting an a talented photographer can disguise poor products.

I'm afraid the Sprig Dumper Truck is one of these products. Sprig is an American company that makes toys from Sprigwood* which is a bio-composite of recycled wood and reclaimed plastic. It sounds similar to the material used in our Beco cat litter tray, so we had a reasonably good idea of what to expect.
We love many of Sprig's toy designs, but had never seen them in person. So when I spotted the Sprig Dumper Truck in my reward catalogue, it was an obvious choice. Unfortunately I was quite disappointed.

As soon as I lifted it from the box, I knew it wasn't what we expected. These bio-composites often feel quite brittle, like cheap plastic that would immediately crack under pressure rather than flexing. So we were surprised to find the Sprigwood so thin, we expected it would be thicker and chunkier and thus more durable. It's possible the plastic could be more durable than it appears (I didn't actually try to break the toy), but there are other concerns like fairly rough edges where the manufacturing moulds didn't meet properly. I also wasn't impressed by the wheels, the axle attachments are quite basic and this affects the movement. In general the product quality felt like something you'd get for under £5, which isn't what you expect when the Sprig Dump Truck generally retails for £15.

I'm hoping the Dumper Truck is just an exception in the Sprig toy range as some of their other products look really interesting and engaging. But if you're looking for eco-friendly toys this Christmas, I'd give the Sprig Dumper Truck a miss.

Step Down Sunday
Have you made any Steps Down this week? Leave me a message in the comments!

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 November 2012

Step Down Sunday - Eco-friendly Toys

Finally after a refreshing break we are ready to start planning our second Step Down Christmas. We've started by avidly searching for eco-friendly Christmas presents that can compete with the normal high street faire. While this is easy for babies and toddlers, it's become more difficult as our nieces and nephews get older. I was thrilled when I discovered Hape who produce environmentally friendly toys for children up to about six years old.
Hape is making a real effort to reduce their environmental impact. They've looked at how the products are made, how they are packaged, the waste they create and how their products are transported. While they are still a major world manufacturer, the holistic analysis suggests a real commitment to the environment.

The original range of toys, which includes the Mighty Mixer pictured above, focuses on wooden toys finished with water-based paints. What really caught my attention was the fact Hape are producing role-play toys in wood. When trying to find a present for my five year old niece, we felt confident that this would be comparable to the other plastic toys on offer.

However Hape are still taking things a step farther with their new range of eco-friendly bamboo toys. I'm really impressed by the clever designs, which embrace bamboo's natural properties. Often when we see bamboo it's been sliced and glued into planks, which leaves me wondering how much energy and chemicals goes into the process. Hape however are using the natural bamboo tube to form several of their toys.
The body of the Hape e-offroader is a single tube, while the front and back fenders are formed by tube segments. There are some plastic parts, but these have been designed to last - so the toys may be passed down to future generations. Toys that look fresh modern and fun, I'm sure my three year-old nephew will love this chunky toy car.

Stormy Seas we've actually bought for my nephew's birthday. (I wish I could show you a better picture, but I don't think my nephew will appreciate me opening his present early!) Made from bamboo, this is a balance game where you have to add cargo to the ship without it tipping and spilling. Though we've bought it for him, we're hoping it's something that will also interest his older sister.

Really that's the thing that make Hape Toys special, their ability to appeal despite their ethical limitations. So often we see eco-friendly products that look rough, tired and boring - there's no way we'll convince people to reduce their carbon-footprint if the products we are offering don't inspire them. I think Hape should be commended for giving eco-friendly toys a mass-market appeal.

Step Down Sunday
Have you made any Steps Down this week? Leave me a message in the comments!

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.

8 November 2012

My New Filofax Pen - The Cross Tech3

You may have noticed from my Filofax post that I have a bit of a passion for stationery, so I take my pens quite seriously. I have a huge collection of ballpoints, flares, felt tips and rollerballs from my days as a design student; when the thickness of the line, the colour of the ink and the smooth flow were so important. So I was quite excited to see Cross Pens were sponsoring BlogCamp London over the summer. I've been searching for a nice pen to fit my Filofax and hoped they might have a recommendation. After chatting with them more by email, the lovely people at Cross offered to send me a few pens to try out - two of which I instantly fell in love with!
The first is the ultimate in organisation and multi-tasking. The Cross Tech3 combines a black pen, red pen, 0.5mm mechanical pencil and stylus into a single barrel that still fits in the pen loop of my Slimline Filofax! Perfect for gadget geeks or stationery fiends, I decided to head to Starbucks (where I do most of my planning) for a test run.
Currently I keep a digital calendar and use my Filofax as a paper back-up for when my data is inevitably eaten. So with both my Filofax and iPad calendars open, the Tech 3 allowed me to flip back and forth between both mediums. I could make notes, pencil in prospective dates, highlight changes in red and pick out events on my iPad without switching pens.
For a multifunction pen the barrel is quite slim, but is still slightly thicker than standard. Personally I prefer this, as it means my hands are less likely to ache when writing. I also appreciate the black print-free finish, as I don't feel the need to compulsively polish it! Practical and fuss free, the Tech3+ still adds a touch of sophistication with its bright chrome accents.

To change between the pens you just need to give it a twist, and when you're finished you twist back in the opposite direction to close. This does mean you sometimes have to circle through all the writing options as there is no way to go backwards. Though it caught me off guard at first, it was something I've quickly adapted to.
Writing with the Tech3 wasn't as smooth as with other Cross pens - it seemed to scratch the paper at times and the ink flow was a bit patchy at first - but it did get better with use. I suspect they just need a bit of breaking in. My only other problem was when I needed to change the lead in the pencil.
To replace either the pencil lead or the ballpoints, you need to pull the barrel apart. The fit is so tight that I was very worried I might break the pen. I had to check the internet for confirmation before I felt confident enough to force the pen apart. Once the barrel was off it was easy enough to remove the mechanical pencil and replace the leads. While a bit distressing at first, the firm fit ensures that your pen feels solid and secure the rest of the time.
Of course if you have a pencil you're also going to need an eraser and the Tech 3 hides this beneath the stylus cap. It's here in the details you can see the quality Cross are known for. The cap screws on smoothly for a flush finish, while the plastic seal ensures it stays on securely.
An ideal companion for my Filofax, the Cross Tech3 has a sleek understated style that combines practical function with gleaming chrome accents - perfect for everyday.

1 November 2012

A Clear Path

Last week we went back for our follow-up consultation with the fertility clinic. As we stood on the damp train platform, my husband lifted an eye lash from my cheek and asked me to make a wish. At first I shook my head, with our dreams now shattered I didn’t know what to wish for... but then I closed my eyes and lightly blew the lash away - wishing simply to find the right path forward.

I normally avoid taking about the spiritual side of our IVF journey, mostly because I believe the experience is universal and applies to everyone equally, but at the same time it’s difficult to explain our decisions without acknowledging this influence in our lives.

I believe there is some greater power that guides us through life; whether you call that force fate, chance, God or a collective human conscience I don’t really mind. Whatever the explanation, I have experienced moments where I have no doubts, where I know I’m in exactly the right place and know exactly what I should do. These are the moments when I feel in step with the world and part of something larger – for me they are the spiritual experience I’m searching for.

As we finished our first IVF cycle I was overwhelmed with the knowledge we couldn’t do that again. I could find plenty of reasons to justify abandoning IVF, but mostly it was an emotional response so strong it made me feel ill. Though I didn’t know of any alternatives, I just couldn’t repeat that exact same path - even if it meant the end of our potential family.

As we sat in the consultation room, the doctor quickly realised we weren’t convinced a second cycle was the right decision. From his perspective we weren't even a difficult case, yet it still wasn't right for us. But then he offered us something different -rather than repeat the same exercise again, we could try a different drug and this time we wouldn’t use Buserelin to suppress my natural cycle. This would cut the number of injections down from thirty-one days to just ten, which also makes the whole process seem less daunting. It’s doubtful that I’ll respond better to this drug treatment than the previous one, but instantly I knew it was the right thing to do.

Even if this IVF cycle fails, at least we’ll know we tried. We won’t be left with unexplored possibilities hanging over us (something which worried my husband). I can’t really explain why a simple change of drugs has made such a huge difference, all I can say is I felt that instant recognition that this was where I needed to go. My wish for a clear path came true.

This was originally written for the Emma's Diary Blog