Living a conscious life: plastic-free happenings

*Disclaimer: despite many re-writes I still feel there is a finger-wagging lecturey tone to this blog. Just a heads up that this isn't this case. This isn't meant to be one of those "I'm right, you're wrong - now do as I tell you" blogs, but the subject matter can come across this way. Rather, this is purely about OUR experiences about attempting to reduce the single use plastic in our lives. To put it simply, you do you, we'll do us. OK, as you were.

The sun has risen, bright and early. Clouds chase each other across the sky. The morning promises to be a hot one.

Steve and I grab our basket, produce bags and keep cups, pop the child into his trike and walk down the street to the markets. Breakfast and coffees are bought and eaten sitting in the shade while the little man alternates between stealing bites of our food and chasing dogs.

It's a fairly normal and enjoyable weekend for us, but an activity that still seems bizarre to people when we tell them about it.

It’s been four months since Plastic Free July finished, but Steve and I have found more than a few habits have stuck with us and we're consciously trying to live a more environmentally friendly life. Maybe it can be attributed to being parents and wanting to leave the world in a better way than we inherited it. Maybe it’s just because once we began to reduce single use plastic we found it was actually a lot easier than we thought it would be. Maybe it's simply habit.

Whatever the reason, on a daily basis habit sees keep cups thrown in our bags - sometimes accompanied by a flask of home-brewed coffee (frugal hedonism at its finest), along with reusable water bottles, cutlery and often produce bags.

However, as second nature as all this has become to us, I’m still finding that people raise their eyebrows when I mention both Steve and I try to avoid single use plastic.

“Wow, that must be really hard!” has been a frequent comment, or “You’re so good! I could never do that.” Or my personal favourite: “Do you really think that’s going to make a difference?”

I remember similar thoughts crossing my mind in the lead up to Plastic Free July : was this something that we could actually do? However, as Lauren Singer from Trash is for Tossers said – just start, just do something, and that's pretty sage advice to be honest. 

Simply packing a keep cup in my bag each day was my start. Making my own skincare followed (which is actually simpler than it sounds. You can find recipes here or here, or make google your friend) , as did buying deodorant, shampoo and conditioner package-free, then getting reusable cotton rounds and produce bags, stainless steel straws... it all seemed to snowball. 

However, for me it’s beyond trying to be “good”. I'm simply trying to make a difference, and if it makes someone think about their own impact on the planet then that’s a good thing. Finally, when I find my inspiration beginning to lag I check out The Rogue GingerTreading My PathTrash is for Tossers, or I Quit Plastics and find that normally does the trick. 

So, four months on what’s the take-away? For me it’s that some things are worth it. I may not be even close to living zero waste – or even single use plastic-free – but I've discovered life is a lot sweeter when you stick to your resolutions, and some things once seen can’t be unseen

I asked Steve this too and his answer was along the lines of it's all about changing cultures. You change your own culture and you become more aware of your own personal choices in how you buy every day things. If you change just a small percentage of the plastic you consume you've done a good thing for the planet.

So now over to you - are you trying to live a more environmentally friendly life? What have your experiences been?


Life: November

Desiring: An extended beach trip. Growing up my family used to pack up and head to Burleigh Heads for 3 weeks every Christmas holidays. We'd stay in the house my great grandfather built - which didn't have a tv - and spends our mornings at the beach, the afternoons at Tallebudgera Creek. A day or two of water skiing was the norm. This time of year and the beach are very closely intertwined for me. But these days on top of Burleigh Heads, I long for Byron Bay times - swimming in waterfalls, sunset beers at the Beachy, lazy mornings in Lennox. I want all of it. Call it a perk of marrying a Northern Rivers boy. More than once he's stopped the car in the middle of nowhere and led me to a secret swimming spot.

Loving: The Christmas decorations starting to appear everywhere. I do try and hold out until December 1, when Steve and I watch a Christmas movie, listen to carols, cook a fancy dinner and drink port while putting up the tree. But it takes all my willpower to make it that long. Plus the festivities on this instagram account isn't helping. It's one I've swooned over every day while drinking tea and blasting more carols.

Wearing: A wide brim hat, sunnies and sunscreen. Bare feet are a must. Every day. Summer has well and truly hit  in Brisbane.

Happenings: We made a short trip to Stradbroke Island at the end of November as part of my yoga teacher training retreat. I hadn't been since I was a teen, and I have to admit the focus then was more on teenage shenanigans. Who liked who etc. (Sidenote, you couldn't pay me to be that age again). Steve wasn't much better so excitement was pretty high. It's a stunning part of the world. Beaches and bush lend themselves to hikes and swims and relaxing, while barely any phone reception meant we were forced to disconnect and recharge a little. The ferry trip over was exciting for the little man. Big boat! Became a repeates refrain. We stayed near Point Lookout, and will definitely be returning soon.

Early morning hikes are worth it when views like this greet you.

Eating: Bread. Lots of it. Toast with peanut butter, honey, banana and hemp seeds has been my go to breakfast. And I'm apparently raising a toddler who thinks plain bread is the absolute bomb. I mean, a good loaf is heavenly, but c'mon kid. At least let me add a smear of avo to that slice.

Drinking: Water. Loads of it as the Brisbane weather begins to heat up. Also a lot of chamomile tea. I've been buying it in bulk from here and it's pretty damn delicious. Oh, and kombucha! And a sneaky cider in the afternoon too. 

Hearing: Music. Lots of it. Fiona Kelleher's I'm a Little Boat is on high rotation when the little man is awake, as is old school jazz. And podcasts - so many podcasts! The Slow Home podcast is a winner, and I just finished Dirty John. I wasn't sold on it to be honest. Plus I'm slowly sneaking Christmas Carols into the mix. 

Reading: I think my New Years Resolution should be to finish a book before I start the next? Ah who am I kidding, that's not going to happen. I'm currently finishing of The Wolves of Calla while also dipping into Slow and The Course of Love by Alain de Botton. Each is remarkable in its own way, but Slow is really resonating with me - especially as we head into the crazy festive season. Why put so much emphasis on STUFF? And I still love the idea of putting away all screens and reconnecting properly with your loved ones for a day or two.
Update: I finished Slow and loved it. Perhaps I'll buy a copy next year.

Watching: Well 'tis the season! I'm about to bombard my loved ones with a multitude of Christmas movies, from A Christmas Story to Elf, Die Hard to Gremlins. Plus I'm dying to see The Man Who Invented Christmas

Anticipating: Christmas. It's my favourite time of year. The decorations! The carols! The food! The celebrations! Ironically I hate consumerism - there's just so much "stuff" bandied about, most of which is forgotten about, broken or thrown out within the week. But a good afternoon with family and friends and Michael Buble crooning in the background is pretty much perfection. 

Ruminating: On how to expand my brain a bit more. A recent date night out to see Brian Cox left me speculating about how I need to feed my brain with more educational/expanding content. I'm not a scientifically-minded person - words have always been my thing - but listening to Brian Cox speak about (supposedly) fairly rudimentary physics left me grasping to comprehend what the hell was going on. To make matters worse, there were fairly young kids in the audience. I'm clinging to the hope that they also struggled. Cue a resolution to read/listen to more things that will really make me think, as opposed to the fairly light on things I've been stuck on thanks to 19 months and counting of sleep deprivation. That being said, anyone overhearing my and Steve's discussion about how time is a dimension would have been pretty amused. 

Now over to you - how has the month treated you?

Life inspired by Heidi (and in turn by Pip).


Food: a love story

Foodie breakfast heaven: Folk, Byron Bay (not the restaurant in question, but a delicious one nevertheless)

We walk into the restaurant, the scent of frying garlic wafting out to meet us makes us both stop in our tracks and comment – it just smells so good.
Within half an hour we’re seated at the table with a glass of prosecco each to ease us into the dinner. Would we go halves in pizza and pasta? Or would I have the mushroom risotto and you the spatchcock? The latter as it turns out and, as I bite in a piece of sourdough bread that I dipped in olive oil I say to you “I think I’m going to write a blog called Food: a love story”. You nod, taking another bite of bread and ask the waiter for the wine list, before saying you don't understand how people can't enjoy food. Like, really enjoy it.

But, you see it hasn’t always been this way for me. A child of the ‘80s and ‘90s I was led to believe that low fat/no fat/minimal food in general was the way to go to be healthy (read thin, not necessarily well nourished).
And then I met you and all that changed. Because you genuinely enjoyed good food. So our meals became an event in themselves - something to be prepared with enjoyment and eaten with gusto and a glass of good wine could only be an improvement to the situation. We ate real food made from real ingredients that was really delicious. 

We moved to France and couldn’t afford to buy steak, so instead stocked up on baguettes, salmon, cheese, pastries and fresh fruit and vegetables from the weekly street markets – not too shabby substitutes to be honest. And, as the weather warmed up we began to take our meals outside and have picnics by the Seine or on the rooftop of our building overlooking the Eiffel Tower. 

Then our visas ran out and reality came calling. We made our way back to Australia and learned that nothing can compare to French bread – and that you don’t serve Australian bread rolls to a Parisian (sorry again Phil!). I started to become curious about how we could use food to also nurture our health, and regularly began to spike our food with chia seeds and hemp seeds, raw cacao and coconut oil. You barely complained, unless kale was involved.

It seemed this love became central to our lives. I’d often text you "fancy a drink?" as I left the office on a Friday afternoon and would catch the train into the city and we’d head to that bar we liked and would order a whiskey drink or a gin drink, and wait to see what concoction would arrive before us before deciding which restaurant to head to. 

Markets became a weekend ritual, partly because eating coffee and breakfast in the sunshine is pretty fantastic, as is chatting to the people who grew the food you’re buying. I’d get over-excited and try to buy everything before you’d cut me off. There are only so many stone fruits a person can realistically consume, you'd argue. 

Then we decided to be grown ups and turn our duo into a trio. We were prepared for some of the life changes this would result in, but the hardest to come to terms with seemed to be the diminished opportunities to head out and try a new place to eat that we’d been told about. So we adjusted again. We replaced our dinner dates with regular Saturday night fancy dinners eaten on the couch while watching movie, or gathered around the table with friends. You spend days scouring our cookbooks looking for an exciting new recipe and I'd try to talk you out of your desire for madeleines as dessert (yes you won that argument, and yes I’m glad I baked them).

But the love story has continued. And I’m mighty glad it has because, as controversial as it may be I simply love good food. And I have you to thank for that.


Life: October

*Written over September and October. Can we take a second to reflect on how fast this year is zipping by?!*

Ah October, you little beauty. In Brisbane it's the month when the city literally bursts in flower. Jacaranda-lined streets everywhere turn purple and carpet the sidewalks while mock oranges scent the air. It's my favourite time of year, so it's been fantastic to spend hours upon hours in the garden playing with the little man.
It's also our wedding anniversary month, which just adds to that celebratory feeling as we slip towards Christmas.

However, it's also been a big month. A month of plans every weekend, big work and study schedules and a slight feeling of frantic energy to just GET EVERYTHING DONE so we can breathe. Anyone care to lie in a park and watch the clouds for a bit?

Desiring: Some more of these lovely sunny days. Two weeks of rain, locked inside with a little man going slight mental has really made us appreciate just how awesome it is to open the door and run around in the yard, head to a park with friends, stroll out with the pram before the heat of the day, or simply sit on the porch and say good night to the moon.

Loving: Mangoes. And then some more mangoes. And the rumours of a mango glut have me positively rubbing my hands together with glee.

Wearing: A well-worn pair of denim shorts and luxuriating in it! Although I am pretty mad keen on hitting the op shops soon to get me a pair of overalls. Recommendations are welcomed!

Happenings: As part of my yoga teacher training I have to log 100 classes - so I set myself a goal of getting to 60 by the end of November. I'm about 20 short of that number, so let's just say some part of everyday sees me hitting my mat, a yoga class or sitting down to meditate - although the latter may more often than not be at 6am while the child watches playschool while sitting on my lap, or knocks down his blocks nearby. That's super relaxing!

Eating: Did I mention mangoes? I'm also dabbling with intuitive eating and slowly getting back to experimenting in the kitchen again as the little man gets older and gives me a little extra time. Current favourites include this sauce and, surprisingly Sarah Wilson's slow cooked cinnamon beef from her Slow Cooker cookbook. The big challenge is finding food that is delicious, nourishing and provides us with enough leftovers to make sure the little man also has food (we're baby-led weaners here), while not costing a fortune or being too fiddly. There's only so much playdough I can hand over. And eating intuitively just makes sense after a year of eating everything in sight just to keep up with my breastfeeding appetite, and far too many coffees to deal with the sleep deprivation. A bit less caffeine, a few more veggies sounds really good!
Update: I should also mention that I'm also lucky Steve is an amazing cook and regularly takes over the kitchen while I watch on with a wine. It's a pretty great way to spend a Saturday night.

Drinking: Having said that... I'm loving loose leaf black tea, normally followed by a coffee while the child sleeps. I'm also about to break out the juicer and get some fresh veggie juices going to help us shake off the winter fug. A good wine isn't going astray either.

Hearing: Jazz, podcasts, kid's music. I'm not fussy right now. There's a slight backstory to this. About four months ago I began to notice that on the days I made a concerted effort to reduce screen time in the house, and keep the TV off completely after Jasper's nap, he was much more calm. He'd play happily after dinner and stopped screaming while going to bed. Within a few weeks he actually began to ask to go to bed when it hit bedtime. The flow on was much greater though. Because one of us normally cooks dinner while the other puts the little man to bed, we began to leave the music going while cooking and throughout dinner and we began to reconnect with each other more each night, having adult conversations that didn't revolve around stories about the kid. Then our phones started to stay away more. The nights spent on the couch playing on our phones while some mindless TV blared in the background are few and far between right now, and needless to say we've continued with this whole disconnecting to reconnect thing.

Reading: I've just returned The Good People by Hannah Kent to the library. (sidenote: have I mentioned how awesome libraries are?) It was a good page turner, it sucked me in and almost made me cry. But having said that, if you're going to read some Hannah Kent, her first book Burial Rites is the one I recommend.

Watching: I think I may be the only person who grew up in the era of The X Files and didn't watch it. What can I say, I was easily scared as a kid. Although, a good episode of Buffy was where it was at for me! So now Steve is educating me and we're making our way through the third season.

Now over to you - how has the month treated you?

Life inspired by Heidi (and in turn by Pip).

Four years later, this image still makes me swoon


An ode to my little travelling companion

Apologies my little friend, you would be forgiven for thinking I’ve forgotten about you. But, you see I haven’t.
It’s just life, you see. It’s more full than it’s ever been. And although I spend a few minutes each day dreaming about our next little adventure, I think you’ll have to stay in your little hidey hole for a while longer.
Although, while we’re chatting what are your thoughts about Bali versus Tasmania? Or possibly even New Zealand? Because the call of adventure is pretty strong within this family and there is a tiny human to indoctrinate into the way of the wanderer.
But until then, it’s time to rest. For one day you’ll be put to good use once again.


Life: July

*Written over July and the beginning of August*

July was a big month. Weddings and birthdays, busy work periods, and a toddler constantly on the move combined with our decision to tackle the Plastic Free July challenge left us all lacking in energy by the end of the month.
However, it was almost worth it. Weekends by the beach and reconnecting with friends helped to revive our spirits, the sheer joy of a little man running at us with a huge grin was too cute not to love, and the beautiful clear winter days we've had also meant we spent a lot of our hours outside in the garden, pottering around and gardening – a pretty perfect way to spend an afternoon to be honest.
And as spring approaches I'm starting to feel my energy grow with it.

Desiring: Some dark or raw chocolate. Or even just a hot cacao. Something rich and slightly bitter and delicious that I can sip away on while reading The Wolves of Calla. After a hefty break from The Dark Tower series I'm back with a vengeance!  

Loving: Podcasts! By about 8am every morning the little man and I have cabin fever and will normally set out for a long walk. He watches the trains and I treat my ears. Currently I'm flipping between Conversations, Chat 10 Looks 3 and Penmanship  but am considering delving into Revisionist History. 

Wearing: Um. Does activewear count? I certainly hope so because I'm throwing on yoga pants and a comfy top most days, partly so I can run around after a little man and then do a yoga session (did I mention I'm training to do be a yoga teacher?) before settling at the computer to work. And partly because it's a damn comfy attire, although part of me is terrified of becoming like this.

Happenings:  Steve and I decided to tackle Plastic Free July for the month, predominantly focusing on refusing water bottles, cutlery, bags, straws and coffee cups. What an eye opener this month was! We found just how entrenched plastic is in our society, and how strange people found this refusal was. But on the plus side, farmers' markets are our happy place, our local butcher accepted our own containers without batting an eyelid and bulk stores are fantastic (if just for the bulk chocolate). A few weeks on and we've loosened our grip a litter, but mostly we're living a plastic-free life and loving it!

Eating: Mexican. Lots and lots of Mexican with homemade spice seasoning and flour and water tortillas. So easy, so delicious.

Drinking: Gin! For Christmas I asked for lemon trees to keep my lime tree company, and the little trees are flourishing with fruit. A G&T with a homegrown lemon or lime is a pretty amazing experience, especially after spending many sleepless nights with a teething toddler (that's something they should put in the manual!)

Hearing: My wedding playlist. Spring means wedding anniversary and, for me, sounds, smells and memories are pretty tightly interwoven. Plus dance-offs with a one-year-old to Hall and Oates are also fun. 

Reading: I'm a notorious book swapper, and will normally have a few books on the go at a time. In addition to Wolves of Calla (again - get into this series if you haven't already), I'm flicking through Mia Freedman's Work Strife Balance, which is OK but it's not really capturing my attention. I've also got my eye on this book as we continue to simplify our lives.

Watching: Probably like everyone else, we're watching Game of Thrones. Come Monday nights I pretty much run out of the little man's room, get handed my dinner and we hit play. But we also tackled Lion recently, and I really recommend it!

Now over to you - how has the month treated you?

Life inspired by Heidi (and in turn by Pip).