We have a little girl in our household with a birthday this week, and this little girl has a penchant for unicorns. What does the trying-to-be eco-friendly household do when it comes to birthdays? We make things. Yay!



I found a wonderful pattern for a crocheted amigurumi unicorn. I am not exactly a beginner ‘hooker’ but I am not yet proficient, so I need simple patterns. This pattern is just that. It is quite fiddly in places, particularly when stuffing, but that may be because I have only made one other stuffed toy previously, many years ago. Like many crafty types, I have a rather large stash of yarn, so I decided that instead of buying stuffing I would chop up some soft acrylic aran yarn in cream and use that as my stuffing. I made the body out of Twilleys Freedom Echo DK in ‘natural’ shade, which is manufactured in England from recycled cotton. I made the mane, tail and horn from Sirdar Smiley Stripes DK in ‘Honolulu’ shade, which is manufactured from 80% bamboo and 20% wool.


I am uncertain of the eco credentials of bamboo. It is a great crop in that it grows quickly and is incredibly versatile, which makes it renewable and useful, but bamboo can’t (I assume) be grown in the UK, so it must have travelled thousands of miles, if it has come from China, and accumulated a fairly substantial carbon footprint along the way. Also, I have no knowledge of the conditions in which it is grown;, for example, has rainforest been destroyed in order to grow bamboo? Is the harvesting of bamboo destructive to the surrounding ecosystem? Are pesticides or fertilisers used that disrupt the local ecosystem? There are often no easy answers when it comes to making better environmental choices. The more I learn the more I realise how complex it all is… So I presume that 80% bamboo and 20% wool is better than a man-made fibre.


I am also thinking of trying out this recipe for a rainbow unicorn cake (using fresh ingredients instead of cake mix). So cute!


DIY Peg Bag

A fortnight ago the cheap and nasty peg bag that came with the pegs I bought last year ripped. Instead of automatically buying a new one, which once upon a time would have been my default mode, I decided to make one. I looked on the internet for ideas and came upon this post. It gave me the inspiration to have a go myself. Mine is not as good as the original, but it is perfectly functional and very sturdy, unlike my previous peg bag. I didn’t worry too much about getting it all perfectly counted because I want to crack on with a birthday present that I am making (and we’re moving house in a fortnight!). It was made using Sirdar Simply Recycled Aran cotton in turquoise and coral, bought from Black Sheep Wools, which I had leftover from making crocheted placemats (pattern here). I used a small hanger from my daughter’s wardrobe to go inside.



The colours look a little dim on this photograph, but you get the idea. It’s actually a really bright blue and orange. It’s not the world’s best crochet… but it will do the job 🙂

#makedoandmendhour 17th July

Some truly inspiring ideas here!

My Make Do and Mend Year

Here we go then, this week’s #makedoandmendhour!

Pics we shared:


1. Brilliant bug house! Made from an old CD cabinet, broken fence panel and discarded bricks! From @kykaree
2. Alarm cable inner strands awaiting upcycling by @SueArcher6
3. Bottle top bead curtain! Linked together with fishing line, by @smalldustytown
4. 36ft of free shelving from ladders found in a skip by the lucky @Magpiemosaics
5. Awesome darning job on an old blanket for an invisible mend by @Magpiemosaics
6. Old bike tyre being called into action to hold up an apple tree in @Sweetmyrtle’s garden
7. @jhwilts is busy crocheting a rug for her camper van
8. Pickled nasturtium seeds! From @SueArcher6
9. Hanging baskets upcycled into a birds nest thingy by @junelpenney
10. Top darning by @BeckyAnnison
11. @bluebirdanielle shared tales of homemade wine for £1/litre. And no hangover..!
12. The fabulously talented @Maker_of_Things has made a heated towel…

View original post 306 more words

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Summer Days

The summer holidays are only a week away here in England (six weeks of no school), but as we are close to moving house, we have not booked to go away. Since the beginning of our marriage we have spent a week or two camping every summer. With the purchase of a trailer last year, and with our two Quechua ‘pop-up’ tents, we have this down to a fine art.

We use a tent like this for our living area

We use a tent like this for our living area


Sometimes we also travel by train a few hundred miles to visit my parents, hiring a car when we get there.

...and a tent like this for our sleeping area.

…and a tent like this for our sleeping area.



This isn’t an ad for tents, but these are superb. Made by a company called Quechua they combine good engineering with practicality. They are literally ‘pop-up’ tents and take minutes to erect, which is very handy if you’re dealing with the highly unpredictable British weather!

As I write we have just heard that we may have a completion date for our house move of 1st August… Woo hoo! Anyway, we will still be holidaying at home this year and I have plenty of activities planned:

Little Chip (youngest child) is booked to do a Dance Summer School for a week and a week of Sports Camp at the sports centre. Fluff (middle child) is booked for two weeks of Sports Camp. Prince (eldest) is booked to go to his grandparents for a week or so. We’re going to have plenty of things that won’t cost a lot, too. I have quite a few craft activities lined up for the inevitable rainy days, as well as activities from the book Ripping Things to Do by Jane Brocket. My girls want to build a treehouse in our new back garden. I plan on setting up the tents and letting them sleep in the garden with some friends. We’ll have a barbecue or two.

We have English Heritage membership so we’ll visit local English Heritage sites. English Heritage membership allows us to take along up to six children at no extra cost! If we take our gorgeous picnic basket and thermos flasks we have a nearly free outing. We make very good use of this membership, plus they do a very good job of conservation. We’ll travel by train to two nearby cities for day trips. In this instance our Family and Friends Railcard will come in very handy. No doubt Chip will want to go window shopping for shoes (she’s a very girly girl), and Prince will want to go to the electricals shop for hours on end, to look at all the gadgets, especially his beloved radios… We’ll go swimming at the local pool and afterwards picnic in the adjacent park. Picnics are easy if you’re already used to making packed lunches for school. No hassle whatsoever.

Let’s see, what else? Cooking! My girls simply love cooking. And we can maybe have a go at art and craft type things to decorate our new home, especially large, outdoor projects. We’ll play hide and seek and garden games, and of course if the weather holds we’ll have the paddling pool out. We have a trip to an outdoor theatre performance booked, and we will enjoy taking Grandma to the woods for a Teddy Bears picnic. You’re never too old for a Teddy Bears picnic 😀 I am really looking forward to going to the fruit farm for ‘pick-your-own’. Mind you, with our funny little mix of dementia, dyspraxia, neurological disorder, autism, PTSD and possible-Aspergers it’s more like the fruitloops on day release… (Normal is boring 😉 )

Do you have any plans for the summer? Do you have plans that are eco-friendly or do you think your holidays are your environmental Achilles’ heel?

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Our house faces due East. Oh how lovely to be woken at 5am by the glorious sun rising over the horizon. So beautiful! This weekend temperatures are forecast as high as 32ºC here in the UK (or at least, they are in London – the rest of us may not be quite so hot). What the weather forecasters sometimes forget to mention is the humidity; our ‘green and pleasant land’ sweats like a steam room on hot days. On the radio the other day they passed on a tip from the Mediterranean. I’d already heard this before but you may not so I am sharing here. What our southern European cousins do is to close all windows and curtains (or shutters, I suppose) on the side where the sun is. For us this means closing the windows and keeping the curtains drawn at the front of the house in the morning, with those at the back of the house left open. As the day progresses, we open the windows at the front of the house and close windows and curtains at the back. We leave windows open all night and avoid going out in the middle of the day. We live at the top of a hill so there is always a good breeze. In terms of the environment, this is relevant for two reasons:

1) We’re going to have to get used to hotter days in the summer, and

2) This method lessens use of electric fans, which must use a lot of electricity on days like these!


On a postive note: that sun ‘don’t half get yer washing dry ever so quick!’, as my Nana used to say. Now that reminds me…

Have You Got Furoshiki Style?

The previous post, reblogged from My Make Do and Mend Year, reminded me of Japanese furoshiki. Furoshiki is a way to fold simple pieces of cloth to make various useful things. I used furoshiki for the first time last year to wrap Christmas presents. I now also use furoshiki in the ‘katakake fukuro’ style to to carry my crochet gear around. It works very well. The Japanese use furoshiki cloths with beautiful designs, but squares of any fabric will do. I have used ladies scarves, fabric remnants and even an old Christmas tablecloth.

Check it out:


You can also find instructions on various furoshiki styles on this website from the Japanese government (it is, helpfully, in English).

Reblog: Lego Blanket

My Make Do and Mend Year

No, not a blanket made of lego, that would be pretty uncomfortable.
A blanket for the Smalls to tip their lego out on to, that can then double as a storage bag.
All in the (possibly naive) hope that this will prevent from feeling like many hours of my life are spent scooping up pieces of Lego.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Lego-it is VERY cool, but I do not love tidying it away. And I am sure you will not be surprised to hear, neither do the Smalls.

So I came up with a cunning plan, for a large drawstring bag that could open up flat into a blanket where the Smalls could sit and play nicely together (?) making all kinds of Lego-y things, and then when they were finished, the drawstring could be pulled and all the Lego will magically be contained back in the bag.

View original post 453 more words

Reblog: 10 things I do that I suspect might make me a bit weird…


The post below was originally posted over on the blog My Make Do and Mend Year, which is a good, practical, entertaining blog about the realities of moving towards earth friendly patterns of family life. I loved the title of this post and decided to find my own list of things that are normal to us, but may not appear so to other people!


1. We have found new uses for old things. For example, a throw became a tablecloth and a floral bed sheet became a throw.

2. We no longer use washing powder to wash our clothes. After various experiments, we have found ‘ecoballs‘ work very well.

3. We buy household products in bulk. We currently have enormous containers of SLS and paraben-free shampoo, ‘natural’ washing-up liquid, household cleaner and toilet cleaner. These are decanted into appropriate-sized (used) plastic bottles and used accordingly.

4. We don’t flush the toilet if it’s ‘number one’, unless we have visitors!

5. Every morning I fill the kettle to its limit, boil it, pour out the drinks and put the extra water in a stainless steel thermos flask. This saves time and money, because as soon as we want another drink we have instant hot water, and boiling the water in this way reduces our energy consumption. I got this idea from My Make Do and Mend Year.

6. Darning socks. I had never darned a sock in my life before last year.

7. Any purchase of clothing is either used or sustainably produced. I have long bought second-hand clothes because it seemed such a waste to spend ten times as much on an item of clothing when I can get virtually the same second hand, especially with children’s clothes, which are often barely worn before the child has grown out of them.

8. On the same theme, I asked for tights for my birthday. They cost £12.95 a pair (in the sale!) at I would never normally pay anywhere near that much just for a pair of tights, but a) I detest the feel of nylon tights with a passion, b) I now realise the environmental impact of non-organic cotton and c) they’re hard-wearing and should last, as opposed to cheap nylon tights that ladder easily. You know you’re going ever-so-slightly bonkers when you’re joyful over two pairs of tights.

9. We stopped using the tumble dryer. This happened more by accident than by design, at first. The tumble dryer was not getting as hot as it should have so we put it in the garage intending to get it fixed. In the meantime, we began hanging washing indoors (this was in the winter). Now we either hang washing outside when it’s sunny, or inside on two large clothes horses next to a south-easterly window. Works fine, saves money and electricity.

10. The thermostat is set at 16 degrees Celsius during the day and 12 degrees Celsius at night all year round. Thermal socks, hats, vests and layering of clothes do the rest.

My Make Do and Mend Year

Since starting My Make Do and Mend Year, and our quest for a more sustainable lifestyle, I have picked up some new habits. Things I now do without even thinking. Things that I now regard as ‘normal’ and forget that other people might see them as slightly weird…
Below is my list of the first 10 things I could think of that fall into this category:

1) Re-using tea bags. I have a dish next to the kettle, and after making tea, I put the tea bag in the dish. Once there are two tea bags, I use them both for the new cup of tea-it’s not quite an nice as a fresh cup, but if I use teapot it’s actually pretty ok!


2) Freezing bread crusts and half-eaten rolls.
The Smalls have that annoying Small child thing where they seem to find it impossible to eat crusts. There is…

View original post 464 more words

New Beginnings

I already have a blog. It started off being about life in general, but later it changed course and became more reflective. I also have a budget healthy eating blog.


Over the past six months or so, having studied with the Open University, I have begun blogging about the environment, climate change, etc., and the steps our family is taking towards a more responsible, eco-friendly lifestyle. These posts are over at, under the category ‘The Un-paving Paradise Project‘. But what started as an experiment has grown. The Un-paving Paradise Project needs a home of its own.


My husband and I are nearing completion on the purchase of a wonderful old house and I am thrilled at the notion of finally owning our own home after years of renting. I am jumping up and down like a frog on a pogo stick so excited by the prospect of making it as environmentally friendly as possible, and sharing that journey here, on my new blog.


This blog will also be more family-orientated than multicoloured smartypants, as our family figures out new ways of being together and ways to alter our lifestyle to leave less of an impact on the planet.