Plastic-free July in the office

Hello my lovelies! I thought it would be good to record another day in my life of trying to be plastic-free since the month is now half over (has my motivation lapsed?) and I also had to be in the office yesterday. Totally different situation to my usual days working from home.

I completely forgot to take photos of my morning routine – I’m not at my best at 5:30 a.m.! But you know the drill from last time anyway. Bamboo toothbrush, toothpaste in a plastic tube, refillable bottle of shower gel. And at this point I should admit to you that I caved and used my old shampoo in its plastic bottle the day before. I just couldn’t get on with the shampoo from the zero-waste supermarket… my hair was lank and felt greasy. No thanks! Jan has now bought me a lemon grass shampoo bar so we’ll see how I get on with that. Anyway…

1-water flask

I filled a flask with water before I left so I had something to drink on the two-hour train journey.

2-croissant

Breakfast at the train station… croissant in a paper bag. I also grabbed a napkin so I could place it on the counter while I paid.

3-baguette

I purchased lunch on arrival in my destination city. Baguette wrapped in some kind of waxed paper and placed in a paper bag.

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At work we drink water from plastic bottles. German tap water is safe to drink, but the pipes for our building are old and not necessarily hygienic/safe. A company delivers the bottles then picks up the empties for recycling or reuse (I’m not sure which).

5-dinner

I finally got back to Basel at around 8 p.m., by which time I was way too tired to cook! So I stopped at the vegetarian restaurant by the train station. The straw in my drink is paper. Still single-use, wasteful and entirely unnecessary but not plastic. Did any of the food on my plate come in plastic packaging? I can’t guarantee that it didn’t (and I’d honestly be surprised if every ingredient they used was plastic free). Did I care? In that moment, no. I just wanted to eat and get home. (And yes, I’m aware that it’s exactly that kind of attitude that led to all the problems with plastic bags, straws, bottles, etc. in the first place!).

I then went home, brushed my teeth (plastic tube again), took my folic acid (plastic packaging – unavoidable) and very gratefully collapsed into my bed. Office days are long!

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Half-yearly goal recap

(Alternative title: Help, the year is half over already!)

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The sky’s the limit…

Now that we’re six months (plus a week and a bit) into the year, I wanted to take a look at the goals I set for myself back in January and see how I’m doing with them so far. Maybe decide if I want to change anything or add some new ones for the rest of the year. When I made my goals, I split them up into categories so I’m going to do the same again.

Reading goals

  • Read 100 books (Good Reads challenge goal). Of these:
    • 10 should be non-fiction
    • 12 should be from the BBC Big Read list
    • 20 should have been on my to-read list before 2019 started

I have actually read 94 books already, so I think it’s fair to say I’m doing okay with this goal! I’m thinking of upping it to 150. Another 56 books by the end of the year seems reasonable. Of those 94 books…
– 1 was non-fiction (actually one and a half, but I don’t think the half counts…)
– 5 have been from the BBC Big Read list
– 28 were physically on my shelves (and therefore my to-read list) before 2019 began. I have also read some others that were on my Goodreads or ancient, pre-Goodreads handwritten to-read list but were only acquired in 2019. Having this as a goal has been a real motivator. Whenever I go into work, I try to pick a book that’s been around for a while to take with me… and being stuck on a train for ages also means I will actually start it if only due to a lack of alternatives.

Overall I’ve been doing pretty well on my reading goals… apart from that damn non-fiction one! I’m going to be trying much harder with that one for the rest of the year. And I will be taking Big Read books on the train with me from now on! I think should have enough trips to work before the ends of the year to be able to meet my goal of 12 books…

I’m also going to add one extra reading goal:

  • Re-read four books that I own and decide whether I actually want to keep them or not

In the past I’ve kept most of the books I read (with the exception of ones I really hated and a few that I forced myself to get rid of before we moved to Switzerland) but that means there are a lot of books on my shelves that probably aren’t really worth hanging onto. I decided to do this after re-reading a book that I couldn’t remember whether I had read or not and discovering that I actually had, it was just really forgettable. Since then I’ve re-read two books on purpose and ultimately decided they weren’t worth keeping (in fact, one turned out to be a Bookcrossing book so it really should have been re-released after reading anyway! Oops.) but now it’s been added on to the goals list it’s official ;-). Four seems like a reasonable amount to fit in between all the unread books I feel like I should be giving my attention to. I also want to re-read Good Omens before I watch the TV series (waiting for it to come onto the BBC) but I already know I will definitely not be getting rid of that one!

Cleaning goals

  • Deep clean once per month. To include:
    • Cleaning the bathrooms including mopping floors
    • Cleaning the kitchen including mopping floor and cleaning the oven (bolded because I will clean that damn oven regularly if it kills me! Gah.)
    • Changing bedding
    • Dusting
    • Hoovering, taking away recycling, etc. as needed (although I do those things regularly anyway)

YES… I have actually been doing this! I did skip a couple of months during the renovation, but I then did an extra, almost month-long deep clean in June as I attempted to get all the dust off everything. And my new oven has a cleaning setting, which mainly seems to involve burning all the dirt into oblivion? I dunno… but result! It also tells you when it wants to be cleaned, which is fun. I am hoping that I can keep up with it for the rest of the year, but we’ll see…

Healthy eating goals

  • Eat 5 or more portions of fruit and veg on at least 3 days per week
  • Have nuts/fruit as snacks instead of chocolate and crisps
  • A maximum of 2 cups of black tea per day
  • Drink at least 2 pint glasses of water per day

Umm… *whistles nonchalantly*. Well, I’ve done okay at some of these. I drink enough water on most days and I’ve only rarely gone over the 2 cups of black tea limit (when I was really tired). Snacking is so-so… I have cut down on crisps and started snacking on dried fruit/nut mixes more often but I still definitely eat too much chocolate. But when it comes to my 5 a day… nope. I’m lucky if I eat five portions one day a week. I probably average around three (often all three of them in one meal) but I have to confess that there are days that I only manage one portion. And there have even been days that I haven’t eaten a single one. Those days are rare but do happen. So I really must try harder with this one. I will continue for the rest of the year and try to dream up some ways of motivating myself to eat more fruit and veg. Maybe I need to make myself a star chart like a small child?

So overall an okay first half of the year. Let’s see if I can make the second half more than just okay.

Did you set yourself any goals for the year? How are you getting on with them?

What I read in June 2019

It’s book day again! I have a lot to get through this month so no long introduction. I’m linking up with Steph and Jana, obviously.

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The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman. At 34, Brett Bohlinger seems to have it all—a cushy job at her family’s multimillion-dollar company and a spacious loft she shares with her irresistibly handsome boyfriend. She’d forgotten all about the life list she made when she was 14. Then Brett’s mother dies, leaving her utterly devastated. Things get even worse when the will is read – in order to receive her inheritance, Brett must first complete the goals on said teenage life list, some of which seem impossible. How can she build a relationship with a father who’s been dead for seven years? As Brett reluctantly tries to complete the abandoned life list, one thing becomes clear: sometimes life’s sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places. I looked at this book in a train station when it first came out but didn’t end up buying it. Then Jan’s mum gave me it for Christmas last year. So there’s a not-very-fun fact for you. This is a cute, quick read. Honestly everything works out a little too perfectly and Brett is the very definition of kind and lovely, almost to the point of it being sickening, but it was a nice light bit of escapism that didn’t make me have to think too deeply. 3.5 stars.

A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson. It’s bad enough having a mum dippy enough to name you Owl without adding in a dad you’ve never met (and who your mum refuses to talk about properly), a new boy giving you weird looks at school and a best friend dealing with problems of her own. So when Owl starts seeing strange frost patterns on her skin, she’s tempted to hide away and ignore it. But could her strange new powers be linked to her mysterious father?And what will happen when she ventures into the magical world of winter? A beautiful, magical fairy-tale come to life, but with some grounding in the real world. Unfortunately the ending seemed rushed to me – I felt like the book needed to be longer to incorporate both Owl’s everyday life/her best friend’s very much non-magical problems and everything that was going on with the magical part of the book. Somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4 stars. 3.75? Sorry, I’m being ridiculous now.

The Hour Before Dawn by Sara MacDonald. In Singapore in the 1970s, Fleur abandoms her dreams of becoming a dancer after falling madly in love with David, a handsome army officer. After their first blissfully happy years together, tragedy strikes and Fleur is left alone, a widow with her young twin daughters, Nikki and Saffie. Grief-stricken, she prepares return to England with her daughters – but then one of them mysteriously vanishes, without a trace. Years later, Nicki Montrose is living in New Zealand, heavily pregnant and still haunted by the loss of her twin. Her mother, who Nicki never forgave for her part in the tragedy, is on the way to visit her. But then Fleur goes missing during a stopover in Singapore and Nikki must travel out there and attempt a reconciliation. But what they discover back in Port Dickson will send shock waves through the entire family. This is written alternately from Fleur’s perspective in the past and Nicki’s in the present day. However, Nicki’s perspective is also written in the past tense, which annoyed me at first. Somehow it just felt weird. But towards the end the story got so gripping that I didn’t even notice any more. Lots of twists and turns and revelations. 4 stars.

Where I Found You by Amanda Brooke. Maggie Carter loves to visit the park near her home. She knows what time of year the most fragrant flowers bloom and which paths lead you to the bench by the lake. The park is her safe place. Because away from it, in the real world, Maggie is expecting her first baby and is beginning to question whether she’s going to be able to cope. Then she meets Elsa, who is also expecting her first child, and is utterly terrified that her child will be taken away. But all is not as it seems. The secrets of sixty years ago are haunting Elsa and refuse to let her rest. I really enjoyed this book. I loved Maggie and felt so sorry for Elsa. There was just a little something missing that stopped it from being a five star read for me. I think there were too many side characters and little side plots that felt irrelevant. 4 stars.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Seventeen year old Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the spaceship Godspeed. She left everything behind to join her parents as a member of Project Ark Ship, and expects to wake up on a new planet 300 years in the future. But 50 years before Godspeed is scheduled to land, Amy’s cryo chamber is mysteriously unplugged. Someone—one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship —tried to kill her. Now Amy and Elder – a teenager who is due to take over from Eldest as the next leader of the ship – are on a race to find out the hidden secrets of the ship before more people die. I enjoyed this so much more than I thought I was going to – I read the entire thing on one journey to the office and back (that’s two train rides of 2 hours each). Some people have given it’s bad reviews due to faulty science -but I can honestly say I didn’t notice. I only read it for the plot anyway – I have no interest in science fiction that reads like science fiction (i.e. focuses on the science). I’m all about the plot; the whole happening in space thing is irrelevant to me. Elder is annoyingly slow at times and I feel like Amy would have been a better character if we’d learned more about her past. I just didn’t understand *why* Elder liked her. Because she was the only girl close to his age he’d ever met? But if a book can keep me occupied for that long on a train it will always get a high rating. 4 stars – and I’ve already bought book 2 in the series!

The Beloved Dearly by Doug Cooney. Twelve-year-old Ernie is always looking for ways to make money – the start of the book finds him trying to sell fast-food burgers to his classmates at lunch time. After a conversation with his dad about how much it cost to bury Ernie’s mother, he comes up with his best idea yet: pet funerals! With his pals Dusty (designer of coffins) and Swimming Pool (one of the world’s great criers) Ernie creates a thriving business – until he loses his star employee over a raise. It takes the death of his own dog to bring everyone back together. The description of this story sounds so fun, but the execution is meh. Ernie really annoyed me and all the other characters felt flat and underdeveloped, except Swimming Pool. Admittedly I’m not the target audience but I can’t imagine I would have loved it as a child either. 2.5 stars.

Der fabelhafte Geschenkladen by Manuela Inusa (my translation of the title: Tghe Marvellous Gift Shop). Orchid loves her little gift shop – the fulfilment of her life-long dream. Located in Valerie Lane (the most romantic street in Oxford), In Orchid’s Gift Shop you can buy wonderful scents, home-made candles and creative cards, and Orchid herself is always there with a welcoming smile and an open ear. The only person that hasn’t taken Orchid into his confidence yet is Patrick, her own boyfriend. Surely after all this time she should know more about him? Finally, Orchid gives Patrick an ultimatum but what she learns is something she would never have thought possible. This book is part of a series, but there’s no indication of that anywhere in the description. Maybe if I’d read the others first I’d have liked this one better? The beginning of this book is sweet to the point of being almost sickening. Valerie Lane is the most perfect place on Earth. Everybody loves each other. All the shop owners are the absolute best of friends and always there for each other no matter what. Patrick’s story is very far-fetched and belongs in a Hollywood film. It was also very convenient that immediately after telling Orchid his secret everything turned out to be resolved and he could actually live a normal life again. That all sounds very negative, but it wasn’t a terrible book. I read it quickly and I really did want to find out what happened between Orchid and Patrick, but I won’t be bothering with the rest of the series. 3 stars.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. During a summer party at the family farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has stolen away from her younger siblings and is happily dreaming of the future in her childhood tree house. She spies a stranger coming down the lane, sees him speaking to her mother, Dorothy, and soon witnesses a shocking crime. Fifty years later, Laurel is a well-known actress. As the family gather to celebrate Dorothy’s 90th birthday, Laurel is still haunted by that long-ago day. Realizing that this may be her last chance, she searches for answers that can only be found in her mother’s past. I enjoyed this book – Kate Morton can certainly write – but parts of it dragged. The plot kept going off on tangents that kind of made sense for helping the reader get to know the characters but at the same time made it feel like the book was going to go on forever. At one point I seriously asked myself why it needed to have so many pages! I didn’t guess the big secret (I actually had something else in mind) so when the reveal came I was surprised. If you’ve enjoyed other books by Kate Morton you will probably like this one. She does seem to follow a bit of a pattern but I think the details are different enough to make it okay. 4 stars.

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter. Andrea knows everything there is to know about her mother, Laura. She lives a quiet but happy life in sleepy beachside Belle Isle. She’s a speech therapist, business owner and everybody’s friend. And she’s never kept a secret from anyone. But when Andrea is caught up in a shocking act of violence at the mall, Laura intervenes and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to her mother. Twenty-four hours later Laura is in the hospital, shot by an intruder who’s spent thirty years trying to track her down, and Andrea is on the run, trying desperately to find out who her mother really is. This is a good book. It started off slow, but by the end I was gripped. Not the best Karin Slaughter book I’ve read but still an excellent thriller. 4 stars.

What’s a Girl Gotta Do by Holly Bourne. Book 3 in the Spinster Club series, this time we’re following Lottie. After an encounter with some builders, Lottie decides to start a project: every time she sees something sexist (aimed at either gender) she will call it out. Lottie is determined to change the world with her #Vagilante vlog. It’s just a shame the trolls have other ideas. Meanwhile, her parents would prefer that she waited until after she gets into Cambridge. After feeling a slight disconnect with Amber’s story (although it’s still an excellent book) this one reminded me of why I loved this series to begin with. Lottie felt so real – it was like I actually knew her. I love how passionate she is – even if she can be annoying and stubborn at times, and has a tendency to believe that what she would do is best for everyone. And I love how the three girls are there for each other – even when Amber and Lottie fell out at one point, after Lottie opened up Amber was immediately supportive. The feminist message is, sadly, incredibly true to life and so, so necessary. It may not be a perfect book but I still gave it five stars.

Dead Wrong by Curtis Jobling. Book 2 in the Haunt series. In book one, our protagonist Will dies in a hit and run accident only to find himself stuck as a ghost… a ghost that only his best friend, Dougie can see. Together the two of them ended up solving a decades old mystery and helping another ghost move on. In this book, Will and Dougie are still adjusting to their new friendship dynamic – and the fact that Dougie’s new girlfriend is none other than Will’s crush from when he was alive and the first – and last – girl he ever kissed. Meanwhile, Dougie’s dad has been acting extremely strangely since Will’s death. Clearly he’s hiding something. Just as things are beginning to go right for Will, it seems he couldn’t have been more wrong… I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the last one – parts of the storyline seemed a little far fetched (and yes I am aware that the main character is a ghost!). Nonetheless it’s a fun book and Will is a really likeable character. His friendship with Dougie feels genuine and I just love it. Unfortunately this book was a little predictable. It’s still a good book but falls slightly short of the first one. If the series continues I will definitely give the next book a go. 3.5 stars.

Tangerine by Edward Bloor. After something damaged his eyes when he was young, Paul Fisher views the world through glasses so thick he looks like a bug-eyed alien. But he insists he can see perfectly fine, and he’s certainly not too blind to realise there’s something very odd about the family’s new home in Tangerine County, Florida. Where else does a sinkhole swallow the local middle school, fire burn underground for years, and lightning strike at the same time every day? And as if that wasn’t enough, Paul is completely terrified of his football–star older brother, Erik, the golden child of the family. Then Paul joins the school soccer team and, with the help of his new team mates, begins to discover what lies beneath the surface of his strange new home town and even gains the courage to face up to some secrets his family have been keeping from him. This book certainly has a lot packed into it and it felt like some issues were glossed over. It made compelling reading though and I didn’t want to put it down. I loved the main character, Paul, and hated the way his parents were all about Erik and his football dream – and that was before I even found out the extent of their neglect. The perfect example of an outwardly normal but actually very dysfunctional family. 3.5 stars.

Basic EightThe Basic Eight by Daniel Handler. Flannery Culp wants you to know the entire story of her disastrous senior year. Between perverts, unrequited crushes, complicated relationships, gossip, cruel jokes, and the hallucinatory effects of absinthe, she and her other friends who make up the Basic Eight have lived through it all. But now, on tabloid television, they’re calling Flannery a murderer, which is a total lie. It’s true that high school can be stressful sometimes, and it’s also true that sometimes a girl just has to kill someone. But Flannery wants you all to know that she’s not a murderer at all — she’s a murderess. Read that description, look at the cover and tell me you’re not reminded me of the film Heathers? Surely it can’t be just me? Anyway… this book is wild. Deliciously dark, quirky, crazy and – dare I say it – even fun. It could have been an amazing book but something in the execution just isn’t quite there. Flannery is very much an unreliable narrator (and she knows it – even seems to take great joy in pointing it out) but I actually quite liked her voice. Some parts just seemed to drag though and I found myself wishing it would just get to the main event already – I mean, we know from the start there’s going to be a murder. At the end, I was left with many questions. Not least of which is what kind of name is Flannery?! I liked it well enough but it’s not a new favourite by any means (although I would probably have rated it very highly at 15). Another 3.5 stars.

Good As Gone by Amy Gentry. Eight years ago, Jane witnessed the abduction of her thirteen year old sister, Julie from their house in the middle of the night. For years there was no trace of her and the family have done their best to move on. Eight years later, the doorbell rings. A young woman who appears to be Julie is finally, miraculously, home safe. The family is, of course, overjoyed but Anna, Julie’s mother, has whispers of doubts. Is this woman really who she says she is? I have another book on my to-read shelf (The Lost and the Found) that I swear has almost the same plot – except that one is YA, the missing child is younger and it doesn’t explicitly say that anyone doubts who she says she is. I’ll be interested to see how similar the two books are. Anyway… This book started off good but then the ending seemed to come out of nowhere. It wasn’t so much a twist as the author suddenly revealing that she hadn’t actually told us half the story. And Julie’s reason for not coming home sooner didn’t make any sense to me. As thrillers go this one is pretty average. 2.5 stars.

The Dragon With the Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis. Aventurine is the fiercest, bravest dragon there is. And she’s ready to prove it to her family by leaving their cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human. When the human she encounters tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, Aventurine is transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw. But she’s still the fiercest creature in the mountains, and now she’s found her passion: chocolate! Now all she has to do is get herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious) and soon she’ll be able to show them all! I loved everything about this book. Dragons! Chocolate! Aventurine is awesome, as is her human friend Silke who she meets when she reaches the city. This is the first book in a series – because I definitely needed to be committing to reading more of those?! – and I plan to read them all. 5 stars.

The Secret Shopper’s Revenge by Kate Harrison. Single mum Emily wants to get her revenge on the nasty shop assistants who laugh at her post-baby tummy and make her feel inadequate for not being rich. Store manager Sandie has been working in a department store for years and she loves everything about it, but then she’s set up by a bitchy assistant and loses her job. Glamorous widow Grazia just can’t seem to leave behind the high life, despite her chronically low bank balance. Together, they are Charlie’s Shopping Angels – a team of secret shoppers who receive assignments from the mysterious Charlie. But when they’re sent to stitch up a doomed shop owned by Will, the teams loyalties become divided. This is classic chick lit. A quick, easy read – which is precisely what I wanted at the time. I liked the characters and I was especially satisfied with the ending to Sandie’s story. Emily’s ending was a little predictable but that’s chick lit for you. I might give the sequel a go if I find myself wanting a lighter read again. 3.5 stars. Nothing spectacular but fine as a light, fun read.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Three years ago, Jude and her twin brother Noah were inseparable, two halves of one whole. Back then, Noah spent all his time drawing and painting, and was falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while dare-devil Jude wore red lipstick, dived from the cliff top and did all the talking for the two of them. Now, the twins barely speak to each other and Noah never picks up a pencil. Something has happened, changing each of the siblings in different, but equally devastating ways. Then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor, and slowly things start to change again. If Jude and Noah can just find their way back to each other, together they can remake their world. This book is told from two perspectives – Noah tells the story from when they were 13 while Jude gets the aged-16 years. It took me a chapter or two to get into it, but once I did I was hooked. I smiled, I cried. I was desperate for both Noah and Jude to get their happy endings. The writing style definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you don’t mind a lot of artistic metaphor and very quirky characters I highly recommend it. 5 stars.

Phew, that was 17 books. If you’ve made it to here you’re officially a star! And in case you couldn’t be bothered to read everything, here’s a quick summary of the ones I enjoyed:

TL;DR: I recommend The Hour Before Dawn and Where I Found You. If you like historical fiction, The Secret Keeper is good. If you like children’s books, chocolate and dragons you need to read The Dragon With the Chocolate Heart (probably my favourite book I read in June). Pieces of Her is a decent thriller but not Karin Slaughter’s best. YA lovers should definitely read I’ll Give You the Sun and the entire Spinster Girls series. I liked Across the Universe but if you read sci-fi for the actual science and are likely to notice implausible technology you might want to steer clear.

What have you been reading lately? Check out the Show Us Your Books link up for more recommendations.

June 2019 recap

Hello friends! Can you believe it’s July already? More than half the year gone, just like that. Next month is my birthday! Thinking about it makes me feel a little sick. Another year older and nothing to show for it. But that’s not what today’s post is about. It’s the first Thursday of the month, and that means I’m linking up with Kristen to talk about what’s new in my life (short answer: not much).

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On the first day of June, we went to see a Swiss comedian called Emil (I don’t remember his last name, but it’s irrelevant anyway – he performs as just Emil). Some of it was funny, some of it I didn’t understand and some of the jokes might have been funny when he started out (he’s pretty old) but today they came across as… old-fashioned at best (think stereotypical gender stuff). A friend of Jan’s from one of his choirs joined us and stayed the night since she lives in Zurich. On the Sunday she wanted to take an early train, so we got up early too and had breakfast with her. Later we headed into town and ate ice cream shaped like flowers. And then my holiday was over and the Monday was back to work…. which you wouldn’t think would be a problem after two weeks off, but I really, really didn’t wanna. It ended up not being too bad though. I was in the office on the Friday and between the train journey there and back I managed to read an entire book. Woo. Then came the weekend, which was a long one thanks to Whit Monday.

We decided to make the most of the three day weekend and go away for a couple of days. Jan booked us a hotel in Interlaken and we decided on Jungfraujoch on the Saturday and then see what we felt like doing on the Sunday based on the weather. Jan booked train tickets from Interlaken Ost up to Jungfraujoch on the Saturday, choosing 10 a.m. as the time… except it turns out that was the time the train from Kleine Scheidegg left! So instead of leaving Basel at around 8 we had to be on a train at 5:59 a.m. Just let that sink in for a minute… It was a loooong day! At the top we had to acclimatise first – it’s high! 3,466 metres (11,371 ft) above sea level, to be exact. So we explored the things around the station – viewing platforms, ice tunnel with random sculptures. I felt dizzy at first and got out of breath climbing some stairs. The effects of altitude are real! We then decided to hike to the Mönchsjoch Hut. I was slooow, but I made it. We ate some lunch there before making the trek back. Our train back down left at 4:30 p.m., then we walked to our hotel, checked in and went out for dinner before falling into bed completely exhausted.

The forecast for the next day was mostly rain with a chance of thunderstorms. We had been thinking about taking a funicular up another mountain (to Harder Kulm) but there wouldn’t have been much of a view, so instead we took a train to Meiringen and made a second attempt to visit the Aare Gorge… and this time it was open! The rain stopped just as we got there and held off until we reached the other end, so that was nice. Some photos of the very impressive scenery:

Or next stop was the Reichenbach Falls – of Sherlock Holmes fame. We didn’t go all the way to the top – so we didn’t see the exact location of the crime – but we walked far enough up to get an idea. Then we headed back down and sought out a tea room where we could eat meringues (supposedly invented in Meiringen) and an éclair type thing called a Tatzelwurm, named after a mythological dragon-like creature that supposedly lived in the Aare Gorge. By the time we had finished, it was raining heavily so the best course of action seemed to be to take a train home.

The bank holiday Monday was mostly cloudy/rainy. I think we pretty much spent the day unpacking boxes and attempting to get the flat in order. I took advantage of the fact that most of the flats are currently still empty and did some hoovering (on a holiday… I’m such a rebel!). And then it was back to work again. Only a short week, but somehow it draaaagged!

Another weekend arrived, and we basically spent it unpacking boxes. The Saturday was photo an hour. I started late, but you can see what I did for most of the day here. We went into town and bought new pans to replace some of our crappy old IKEA ones. Decent pans… I feel like a real grown up now! Sunday was more of the unpacking, but by the end of it all the kitchen boxes were empty so that’s good. Jan also put the coat rack back up and reattached the shoe cabinet thing to the wall. Almost back to normal!

Week three of June was yet another short one for me – although not for Jan. Corpus Christi may be a holiday in some parts of Switzerland, but neither Basel nor Zurich has one. This time the holiday was on the Thursday, which always completely throws me off. I spent most of Wednesday thinking it was Friday and half of Friday thinking it was Monday! On Thursday, I took advantage of the fact that Basel did not have a holiday and went into town. I didn’t end up buying much though – some shower gel, chocolate raisins,  lunch. That’s about it. I just couldn’t be bothered. Instead I went home, finished a book and read the entirety of another one. Much better use of my time than shopping! I also did some laundry and ran/emptied the dishwasher in an attempt to be at least semi-productive. I also moved most of my picture books from the bookcase into an empty moving box to create more space on the bottom shelf. I’ve rearranged some books and got new ones so obviously most of that space is now full again but at least the bottom two shelves on the middle bookcase look a bit neater. The picture books will stay in the box until I either have a baby to share them with (then they will go on a bookcase in the baby’s room) or I get rid of enough other books to have room for them again.

books
Yes, that’s the *neater* version of the bottom shelf. You don’t want to know how it looked before…

Then came another weekend. Jan had a rehearsal with the Basel Tattoo Choir on the Saturday morning and then he was singing at a church service in the evening. Demonstrations in town resulted in tram chaos, so after trying for a while to get home from the rehearsal, he called me and asked me to gather the clothes he wanted to change into and bring them into town. I obliged and then, since I was in town anyway, went to a supermarket there to buy something for tea. We ate salmon with couscous, in case you’re wondering. What else did I do that day? Cleaned the kitchen. Read. That’s about it. On Sunday Jan had to sing at another church service, then afterwards I met him in town and we went for brunch at a vegetarian restaurant. Afterwards we wanted to check out the Pärkli Jam festival. Unfortunately it turned out all the bands had performed on Friday and Saturday. Sunday was just dance shows. We bought a drink anyway, watched for a while and then went home. Jan cleaned the living room window (very naughty on a Sunday) while I wrote some letters… one was a response to a letter I received in January. Worst. Pen pal. Ever. In the evening Jan was invited to dinner at a friend’s house – said friend is planning a project that Jan will be part of and wanted to discuss it. I had scrambled eggs on toast for tea, and discovered that the spring onion I added to it was only one eighth of a five-a-day portion. Who eats eight spring onions in one go? I had been tired all day so tried to get an early night but of course failed to fall asleep for ages. Grr.

Not much to say about the following week. On the Thursday I had to go into work because we were all going out for a meal in the evening to celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary. I also had an appointment in the morning so I couldn’t leave as early as usual and ended up having to take a half day. I just love wasting my overtime to sit on a train [/sarcasm].

The final week of June brought with it a heatwave. It had been hot before that, but for that week we were on a red alert for high temperatures. Umm, yay? Keeping the flat cool enough to work was a challenge. I pretty much had the blinds closed at all times. On the Saturday we ventured out, visiting both zero-waste supermarkets in Basel. I call them supermarkets but neither is very big. We managed to buy washing powder plus a separate water softener, shower gel, shampoo, some vegetables, strawberries, eggs and a glass jar of yoghurt. We didn’t buy any of the staple foods (pasta, rice) since we already have loads. I decided I will go back but you definitely couldn’t do a full shop there! Back at home we didn’t do a lot. I think Jan watched some of the women’s football world cup. Then we ended up taking a two-hour nap. Sunday we didn’t do much. A few of my friends’ children have birthdays coming up so I stitched something for one boy’s card and then stitched and made a card for my cousin’s new baby.

Baby card

And that was my June. I’m still not sure how I feel about recapping my months in this format, so let me know what you think. Is the weekly run-down as boring as I think it is? Should I stick to just highlights and ignore the weekends where we did nothing much? (Does anybody care that I unpacked my kitchen stuff or went to a zero-waste supermarket?). Tell me your thoughts in the comments! And let me know what you’ve been up to lately as well. Also, definitely check out the link up to see what’s new with other people around the blogosphere.

First day of plastic reduction!

Hello! As I’ve already mentioned, this month I am teaming up with Steph to reduce the number of single-use plastic items I use. Today I am going to take you through a normal working day during plastic-free July. One of the things I committed to doing was to choose alternatives to plastic packaging wherever possible and, if I couldn’t find one and the item is non-essential, go without. However, I decided that if I already had things in plastic containers I would use them (I mean, I’m hardly going to throw them out and simply waiting until August to use them isn’t possible if they go off in July), so as I go along I will point out where I am using an item that’s made of or comes in plastic – even if it’s not single use, I will show you that it’s not plastic-free. The day in question is yesterday, the very first day of the challenge…

Monday, 1st July 2019

1-shower

It’s 6:30 a.m. (yawn!) and time for my shower. Jan and I visited both of the zero waste supermarkets in Basel on Saturday and bought this shower gel (right – labelled as soap because the bottle that went with the actual shower gel was too small) and shampoo. Now we have the bottles we can go back there and refill them. The shower gel is fine but I’ve yet to use the shampoo so once I do we’ll see how my hair feels about it…

2-breakfast

I’ve literally just started this challenge and I’m already failing! Breakfast is a slice of raisin toast… which comes in plastic packaging. Since I only committed not to buy any more plastic and this was purchased in June I’m safe 😉

3-tea

A cup of tea before it gets too hot. Did you know that many teabags contain plastic? It’s used to seal them shut. I found this post about common tea bands (in the UK) and whether they use plastic in their teabags. I have Tetley English Breakfast Tea. The company claims that their string and tag teabags are plastic free. Since mine have strings they should be fine. However, the box itself came wrapped in plastic (both plastic and box are long gone so I can’t show you). The milk is also in a plastic bottle.

4-toothbrush

Teeth brushing time! My toothbrush is bamboo (hurrah!) although the bristles are still plastic. Also, as you can see, my toothpaste is in a plastic tube. I did notice one of the zero-waste shops in Basel has alternatives so I want to try those at some point but I will use this tube up first. I also noticed the other day that this is made by Proctor and Gamble, who I’ve actually been boycotting for about 18 years so I’m doubly annoyed by this toothpaste! I’ve never bought Oral B before and I never will again.

Lunch break time and I took a quick trip to the supermarket but forgot to take my phone or camera to record all the plastic. At least I can show you what I purchased.

5-shopping

The margarine ran out yesterday so now I can’t have any more until August. But I can’t have toast either so it doesn’t matter. I’m not 100% sure what the butter is packed in – any guesses? Whatever it is it’s certainly less plastic than a margarine tub! The loose potatoes are clearly in my reusable bag, although the adhesive sticker from weighing them most likely contains plastic. Pesto in a glass jar inside a piece of cardboard. Apparently the inside of most jar lids is coated with plastic, but at least jars can be reused in theory. Tuna in a tin. Some (most?) tins are coated with plastic, apparently. I don’t know if this one is. The chocolate packaging is cardboard and some metallic foil. I wouldn’t usually buy Lindt chocolate but most of the others have plastic wrapping.

6-magazine

Picked up the mail on my way back upstairs. My cross stitch magazine arrived, and of course it’s packaged in plastic. I subscribe to two cross stitch magazines and both of them come wrapped in plastic every month. One subscription is up for renewal soon and I may just let it run out. I have plenty of magazines so it’s not like I’m going to run out of things to stitch any time soon…

7-soup

Now for lunch. It’s way too hot for soup, but I only have ten minutes left of my break so it’s all I have time for. I would have preferred salad or a sandwich but I can’t have either without single-use plastic packaging.  And speaking of lunch, Jan said if I was writing about my plastic-free efforts I should mention that he bought a reusable lunch box a few weeks ago and has been gradually figuring out which places close to his work are willing to refill it for him. He has also created a document on the internal portal so that other people working there also know where they can go to have the containers they’ve brought from home filled with food. There you go Jan, consider it mentioned. (Not that he will ever read this but whatever 🤷).

The dishwasher needs to be run. I bought these dishwasher tabs a couple of weeks ago and I specifically chose these “Held” ones because they’re made by Ecover and are supposedly environmentally friendly. Then I got them home, opened the packing and discovered that each individual tab is wrapped in plastic! So annoyed. I am using them for now since I have them, but as soon as they’re gone it will be back to Coop’s own “eco” brand, which have a dissolvable film. (The Migros eco ones also have a dissolvable film but the tabs are inside a plastic bag within the outer cardboard box – totally unnecessary!).

9-bathroom cleaner

Finally finished work (unrelated to plastic, but can I just point out that it’s 5:45 p.m. and I started work at 7:30 a.m…. my actual working hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.!). Now I need to do some cleaning. My bathroom cleaner is in a plastic bottle. The cloth is from a multi-pack and so came wrapped in plastic at some point.

Oh, while I’m in the bathroom I should show you this…

10-soap

Liquid soap. It’s been refilled multiple times, but the refills we’ve used in the past were also made from plastic. We still have one more full refill pack, but once that’s empty I shall try to find a new solution.

11-baby gifts

My cousin had a baby! Both of these gifts are in plastic. The one for a clothing has a zip so could be reused, but I obviously don’t know whether my cousin will actually do so. The rattle packaging is definitely single-use. Sigh.

Time to start dinner. It’s hotter than Hades (when will this heatwave end?) so we’re having baked potatoes for tea… the oven will heat up the kitchen but it’s still preferable to me actually standing by a hot stove.) We are having the potatoes with tinned tuna and bacon bits. The bacon bits use-by date is tomorrow (today when this post goes up) so they have to be used, despite being packaged in plastic. Most of the other the things I would normally eat with baked potatoes either come in plastic, require cooking, or both (hummus, cheese, chilli con carne…) so my options are limited.

13-folic acid

Before bed I take folic acid. You’re supposed to start taking it as soon as you decide to try for a baby and carry on until around week 12 of your pregnancy. I briefly stopped taking it when the midwife told me to at around 14 weeks, but two weeks later when I lost the boys I was advised to start taking it again immediately because it would hep get my iron levels back up. So basically I’ve been on folic acid almost non-stop since March 2015, and I will continue taking it until I either actually make it to 12 weeks pregnant again or we give up trying… I dread to think how  many of these plastic things I’ve already thrown away and how many more there will be in my future. (And that’s not even mentioning all the syringes, needles single-use plastic gloves, etc. at the clinic plus the needles I used to give myself injections, the packaging from the hormones I’ve had to take orally, etc. Infertility is not environmentally friendly!)

Other things I haven’t spoken about or photographed but did do: as I mentioned, we’re in the middle of a heatwave. I’ve been guzzling water all day. All from the tap and drunk from a glass. No plastic bottles in sight! I also took my reusable fabric bag shopping with me, as always. I only occasionally purchase a paper bag from the supermarket when I need one to take out the paper recycling in.

So, that was my first day. I hope this post has given you some insight into a few the unexpected (and not so unexpected) areas that plastic crops up and some ways of avoiding single-use plastics. As you can see, there are definitely many areas where I could improve! I could buy loose leaf tea in tins or cardboard packaging, find alternative cleaning products or make my own… as July goes on the list is sure to grow! Look out for more posts as I continue my month of being aware of plastic, and check out the #sustainablestephs hashtag on Instagram to connect with other people who are taking this challenge.

Going plastic-free (ish) for July

5-coffee

You may or may not know that I am passionate about the environment and do my best to recycle and live as sustainably as possible (which it turns out is more difficult in Switzerland than it was in Germany). Yesterday, I read a post by Steph in which she calls on her readers to participate in Plastic Free July. <- Click that link to read all about it; I had never heard of it, but it’s a real campaign, not something she made up. I loved the idea and decided I want to join in.

You don’t have to go completely plastic-free, thankfully – that would be next to impossible in the country where I have yet to see milk in a glass bottle. As long as you commit to doing something to reduce the single-use plastics in your life you’ll be doing your bit. And who knows, you might find you don’t actually need the thing you decide to give up and carry on your commitment beyond July.

For myself, I had to think quite hard about what I should give up. I already do a lot of the “easy” things people suggest for getting started. I always have a reusable bag with me when I go shopping (and our supermarkets have paper bags anyway, which I am aware have problems of their own but in the context of single-use plastics they’re not really relevant). I have reusable net bags for loose fruit and vegetables, so I don’t need to use the plastic bags provided. I almost never drink bottled water – the exception is when I’m in holiday in a place where you can’t drink the tap water. I very rarely buy take away coffee – since I work from home I can just make my own hot drinks and if I buy one from a café I’m usually sitting in the café, drinking from a normal cup. I make sure to buy paper cotton buds instead of plastic ones. I buy washing powder in cardboard boxes instead of plastic bags – also planning in checking out a local zero waste shop soon to see if they have any washing powder I can purchase with no packaging at all. So what does that leave? Here’s what I’ve decided to do:

  1. No ordering online for the whole of July. While some things come packaged in nothing but cardboard, I can never guarantee that they will and in some cases I know for a fact they won’t! I buy most of my books used from Better World Books (for every book sold they donate one to Books for Africa or provide support for other literacy non-profits) but they always send them in (annoying!) plastic packaging. New Look ships their clothing in plastic bags. And many other companies also use plastic somewhere in their packaging. So for the whole of July I will do my best not to order anything online.
  2. No ready meals in plastic containers. This also includes the ready-made bakery items at the local supermarket – the bags provided for them are paper but they have a plastic window for the employees to see the products. Looks like I am going to have to majorly rethink how I eat lunch in July (I often grab a sausage roll from the shop round the corner)!
  3. Look for alternatives in non-plastic packaging and buy those even if they are more expensive. If there are no alternatives and the item is non-essential, go without. I already know I’ll be making two exceptions: 1) milk – it’s an essential to me; I need it for tea! Plus Jan eats cereal for breakfast at weekends 2) bin liners – the waste system here involves buying stickers to put on your bin bags. The stickers go by volume, so you have to buy the “proper” bin liners in the right size. There’s no way I’m going to be not taking my rubbish out for an entire month at the hottest time of year!

I will be updating you all via my blog (and possibly Instagram) throughout July sou you can see exactly how well (or badly) I do. And if you know of any easy things I missed out let me know in the comments and I’ll try to incorporate them if I don’t do them already. I Also check out Steph’s post if you haven’t already and, once July rolls around, the hashtag #sustainablestephs on Instagram. I would love it if everyone who read this would commit to doing one thing, however small, in July. If we all work together we can surely make a difference!

 

A photo an hour: 15 June 2019

Over a week ago, I took part in the photo an hour link up, but somehow I’m only getting round to writing a post about it now. Also, technically I only half took part because I had forgotten it was that day and only realised when I saw a post on Twitter at 11:30 a.m., so I started at noon. As always, photo an hour was hosted by Jane and Louisa.

12 noon. Already busy unpacking all our kitchen stuff

1 p.m. I feel like I’m maybe getting somewhere?

2 p.m. While I was busy sorting stuff out, Jan found The Wizard of Oz on TV. Apparently he had never seen it?1

3 p.m. We have way too much tea!

4 p.m. Waiting for a train into town.

Forgot 5 p.m. – we were shopping for new pans.

6 p.m. On the bus home. Look at all that rain!

7 p.m. Manor had pies! Obviously we had to try them.

8 p.m. Pie, peas and mash demolished.

9 p.m. Having a beer – I earned it after all that unpacking.

10 p.m. Off to bed with a book.

The next photo an hour date is 20th July. Hopefully I will remember it this time!