July 2019 recap

Hello everyone. Happy first day of August! I’ve taken today off work because it’s the Swiss national holiday. I’m still trying to figure out how I want to do these monthly update posts, so this time I’m trying out a different style. Let me know what you think. Linking up with the lovely Kristen, of course. If you’re not following her blog yet, you really should!

whats new with you

 

Renovation stuff

Pretty much everything was already done in our flat before the month started – the missing glass wall cover thing for the kitchen having arrived at the end of June. At the beginning of July they painted the stairwell, including our door frame (every time they wanted to do something there they rang the doorbell so I would open the door for them). Then on the 5th the construction manager and the architect came by to do a final inspection – even though we were still missing one radiator and the glass wall for the shower. The letter we got informing us about the inspection requested access to the entire flat so I spent the first week of July sorting out more things so that a) they could get to the windows/radiators and b) they wouldn’t see that we’d still been living like savages after the kitchen and bathrooms were complete. This meant unpacking the final box (which contained bathroom stuff), taking things back out onto the balcony, hoovering everywhere again (how was there still construction dust floating around?!). It doesn’t sound like that should have taken all week but I also had to work, do the usual household chores, make food every day. And it was hot for most of that week. Anyway. The spare room is back to pretty much normal, which means it still looks like a storage room with a bed. Before the renovation, I made Jan help me empty the final few boxes that had been in there so it would have been box free for the first time since we moved in if I hadn’t decided to pack away most of my picture books. I could still move them to the cellar but that feels too defeatist, like I’m accepting the fact that our chances of becoming parents are so remote that there’s no point in having anything relating to babies easily accessible. This week a man came to install the glass panel/door for the shower so finally the bathrooms are completely finished. The only thing missing now is that one radiator, but basically it’s done and I can finally shut up about the renovation 😉

Reading

I was participating in Erin’s book challenge so most of my reading revolved around the categories for that. You can see my list here. I then participated in the Reading Rush, because apparently one challenge in a month isn’t enough?! The list of books I read for that is here. If you want to know what I thought of the books you’ll have to wait until Tuesday for Show Us Your Books.

Cross stitch stuff

In my world summer means the start of birthday stitching season, with two people to make cards for in August (one right at the beginning) and another two in September – although this year might be the last time I make one for my little brother. He’s turning 13… at what point does a cross-stitched card from your older sister become uncool? I stitched one and a half cards for friends’ children in July… I really need to get that half one finished! I made a previously cross-stitched design into a card as well and sent that to a Post Pals sibling. Totally winning!

mermaid card

Travel/days out

On the first Sunday in July we went to the zoo in Basel. I have no photos for you because we spontaneously decided to go in as we were walking past and my phone camera is terrible. It was fun to see the animals (they had baby beavers!) but I counted no less than three sets of twins and every person I saw with a toddler either also had an older child or a baby or was very heavily pregnant and I was so jealous that they had clearly not only been able to get and stay pregnant but apparently also plan to the extent that their children were close in age. I mean, obviously I don’t know their history but emotions don’t do logic. I should really have known better than to go to the zoo on a sunny weekend in the middle of summer!

As I’ve mentioned, today is Swiss national day, so last night we went to the Rhine Falls to see the fireworks display. We’ve been to the Basel one a few times and I just wanted to do something different. We got there early, which was good because there were a lot of people in the end and it meant we were able to get a great spot. It was definitely a cool setting for fireworks!

And that’s about it. We didn’t really do any travelling in July. I did spend a day in the office in Germany, as usual, but that definitely doesn’t count!

Miscellaneous/general life stuff

Jan was participating in the Basel Tattoo again as a member of the choir. I went to the parade on the first Saturday and then attended the Friday night concert. It wasn’t quite as good as in previous years – it seemed like there weren’t as many acts so some were repeated (the Red Hot Chilli Pipers performed three oo four times). But it was still entertaining and the Chinese lions were fantastic!

Basel Tattoo lions

Apart from that it was honestly a pretty boring month, at least I can’t really think of anything else I did. Work was busy again so I did a fair amount of overtime, but other than that I guess I pretty much just read. For this month I have a few plans with friends (yes, I do actually have a few of those in real life) plus August is my birthday month so maybe I’ll have more to say next time.

Meanwhile, why don’t you tell me what you’ve been up to recently? And check out the link up, of course.

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Plastic-free July: Sustainability Struggles

Hello my lovelies! We are in the final stretch of plastic-free July now and Steph has asked people to talk about where they are still struggling when it comes to reducing plastic. You can read her post here.

Before I go into the areas where I’m still struggling to find an alternative, I should tell you that I will definitely not be continuing with my efforts to use close to zero plastic beyond July. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop caring about single-use plastic and buy things willy nilly – I didn’t do that before this month either! But I won’t spend the rest of my life basing all my decisions about what to cook/eat on whether it comes in plastic or not. It went okay this month, only because I allowed myself to use things we already had and made exceptions for a couple of things, but not buying any single-use plastic is not sustainable over the long-term. And now some products I’ve had trouble finding alternatives for.

Toothpaste. I have been using the toothpaste I already had throughout this month, but I’ve also had a think about how it could be replaced. I did notice that Lush has dental tab things but they were in a plastic bottle. There was a note saying the bottle was made from 50% recycled plastic, but it’s still a single-use plastic bottle!

Milk. I know milk in glass bottles is a thing that exists, but I’ve checked every supermarket local to me (plus the big one behind the train station) and none of them have milk in glass bottles. I know at least one brand in Germany has milk in glass bottles but going to Germany just to buy milk seems excessive! For the record, milk bottles here can be returned to supermarkets for recycling. The same with PET drinks bottles – I’ve even seen adverts in the tram recently telling people to take their drinks bottles to a PET container rather than throwing them in the bin!

Bin liners. This is one I’m not going to be able to do anything about. The plastic-free July website suggests alternatives to plastic including lining your bins with paper, but that isn’t going to work here. As I’ve mentioned before, general household rubbish is allowed to go in bags of 2 sizes, which you then stick either half a sticker or a full one on based on their volume (one whole sticker for a 35l bag). Also, general waste is incinerated here, so whether I use plastic bags or paper it’s all getting burned! (In Basel city, they don’t have stickers but an official bin bag – called Bebbi Sack. If your rubbish isn’t in a Bebbi Sack they simply won’t take it.)

Cheese. We found one kind of soft goat’s cheese that was wrapped in paper rather than plastic and one brand of flavoured Cheddar (they had smoked and garlic & chive) that was in wax with a sticker on. Other than that, every cheese in the supermarkets is wrapped in plastic. Even if you go to the cheese counter, they have the large blocks wrapped in cling film. Technically I am not throwing away single-use plastic in that case (if I can persuade them to give me my piece of cheese in a container from home instead of wrapping it in plastic) but passing the buck doesn’t make the plastic disappear!

Frozen vegetables. Yes, it’s always better to buy fresh vegetables, but I do like to have some frozen veg on hand, in particular spinach and peas. In Germany, I used to buy frozen spinach in cardboard boxes but I’ve checked every supermarket here and all of them use plastic bags. For the record, fresh spinach also comes in plastic bags here (you can possibly get loose spinach at markets but my local market is on from 7 a.m.-11 a.m. on Fridays and I have to work so that’s not happening).

Meat. I’ve barely eaten any meat this month simply because it is all in plastic packaging. Even if you go to the meat counter, they wrap your purchases in plastic. Admittedly I haven’t tried asking them to put it in my own container – trying to explain in German was a challenge I wasn’t ready to take on – but I suspect there are some health and safety rules that speak against it. And I’m sure at least one person out there is now thinking I could solve most of my problems (milk, cheese and meat) by going vegan – which is sooo much better for the planet anyway. But all the vegetarian/vegan alternatives are packaged in plastic as well. The milk issue applies just as much to almond, oat and soy milk and all the veggie burgers, etc. are packaged in plastic. Also, a lot of alternatives are based on soy, which can affect your hormones. I’m already infertile as it is without adding excess soy consumption to the mix!

Bread. Here, I’m talking the toastable kind. I usually have toast for breakfast but I haven’t been able to do that for the whole of July. I’ve been having organic cocoa porridge most days but 1) it’s too hot for that and 2) it also comes in plastic (the outer packaging is cardboard, but inside there’s a plastic bag). If I hadn’t already had it in my cupboard, I wouldn’t have been able to buy it (which would have made breakfast even more difficult!). Of course I could buy ordinary loaves of bread at a bakers, so bread is not out entirely, but I do like a bit of toast in the morning.

Cleaning products. Tips for this include buying cleaning products in glass bottles (do those exist? Not in Switzerland!) and making your own. I have actually tried the second option before – I’ve used the baking soda and vinegar trick to unblock a shower many times. (It doesn’t work for long, by the way. In my experience once a plunger stops doing the trick harsh chemicals are the way to go. Sorry). In this country, baking soda comes in little packets wrapped in plastic. The kind of vinegar you use for cleaning comes in plastic bottles (and also stinks!). Lemons are pretty much the only thing I can buy without plastic. I will have to take another look at the zero-waster supermarkets, but as far as I could see they only had washing powder, washing liquid, dishwasher powder (we use the tabs) and washing-up liquid. So for now I will keep buying eco-friendly bathroom cleaner in plastic spray bottles.

I think that’s all the things I haven’t been able to find an alternative to. There are a few things that there are alternatives too if I’m willing to go out of my way. For instance, at the supermarkets the organic vegetables are wrapped in plastic while the non-organic stuff is loose. I want organic vegetables. There is an organic supermarket in town that sells loose vegetables, but its opening hours aren’t great if you work full time. I also discovered that the only pasta at my local supermarket that features no plastic is green lasagne sheets. All the other ones in cardboard boxes – including the ordinary yellow lasagne sheets in the same brand – have a little plastic window. Obviously I can go to one of the zero-waste supermarkets and fill my own container with pasta, but again the opening hours aren’t the best if you work full time (actually the one that’s basically at the other side of town has slightly better opening hours, but I shouldn’t have to go all the way across town just to buy some pasta without plastic!). Of course inconvenience is no excuse. Buying pasta (or rice) in a plastic bag because I would either have to leave the second I finish work or sacrifice part of my Saturday otherwise is sheer laziness in my case. But that’s me. Other people don’t even have the option of going to those places. Elderly or disabled people can’t be expected to cross town just to buy some groceries. People in the villages surrounding Basel shouldn’t have to travel into town to buy their groceries. And plenty of people don’t finish work until 6 or later… the organic supermarket and the zero-waste supermarket closest to me both close at 6:30. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to get there and actually do your shopping! So while I will, of course, continue to do my bit and save plastic where I can, as of August I will be going back to buying meat and toast in plastic containers. Sorry, but there’s only so much an individual can do. Now if only the supermarkets (or, really, the producers behind them) would start doing their bit to help those of us who are trying our best!

A Photo an Hour: 20 July 2019

Hello lovely readers! Saturday was July’s photo an hour day. I took part on Twitter and now I also want to post the photos on my blog.

10 a.m. Obviously my day starts with tea.

11 a.m. Shower time. We’re still using the bath but the glass for the actual shower is due to arrive on the 29th! Also, we are not currently using those plastic bottles of shampoo/shower gel but of course I haven’t thrown them away because pouring out half the contents is even worse than having single-use plastic bottles in the first place!

12 noon. Waiting for a bus.

1 p.m. We met a friend (technically Jan’s friend, but who’s keeping track?) and went for a drink by the river.

2 p.m. Still by the river. It started to cloud over (but then brightened up again)

3 p.m. We went for food. I took this photo slightly late because I got distracted by eating 😉

4 p.m. Jan wanted caffeine. He went to Starbucks (which we never usually do) because he got a discount for being part of the Basel tattoo cast. Annoying that they give you plastic cups even if you sit in! This branch didn’t have any normal glasses and only small mugs.

5 p.m. Slightly delayed again as I was paying for some purchases then had to run for the bus. Photo taken on said bus.

6 p.m. Home and reading my penultimate book for Erin‘s reading challenge.

7 p.m. Another tea – ginger and lemon this time so I switched cups. Looks more like autumn than summer.

8 p.m. At this time of year I have lots of cards to stitch (it’s also about time I started Christmas cards!). This one is for my friend’s son, who is turning 5.

9 p.m. I wasn’t hungry for dinner after that huge lunch, but I popped to the shop because I fancied some chocolate. Plastic-free options are limited at the only place that’s open at night… I pretty much had the choice between this and Toblerone (or a grapefruit Lindt bar which quite frankly sounds disgusting).

I could have taken a 10 p.m. photo but I didn’t because I always like to have an even number, so that’s yer lot for today.

What did you do on Saturday? I hope it was a good one!

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).

whats new with you

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 Ă©clair 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 PĂ€rkli 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 đŸ€·).

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 cafĂ© I’m usually sitting in the cafĂ©, 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!

 

March 2019 highs and lows

Good morning. Before getting into the link-up, can I just be really British for a second and talk about the weather? On Tuesday we had bright sunshine and highs of 22°C. Yesterday the high was down to 9°C and it was raining. And right now, at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, it is snowing. It’s not really settling (except on car roofs) – probably because of all the rain – but after we barely had snow all winter now it appears?! The Germans have a saying “Der April macht was er will” (April does what it wants – referring to the weather) and this year they’re certainly not wrong!

Anyway…  I’m trying a new format for What’s New With You? today. I don’t want to go back to “currently…” style posts (what I call “recent doings”) but I also felt like my structure-free ramblings aren’t all that interesting, so here’s something else. I’m not sure yet whether I’m going to stick with it. We’ll see how this one goes. Obviously I am linking up with Kristen, as always.

whats new with you

The highlights

  • The month started with Jan’s birthday, on 1st March. He probably wouldn’t count that as a highlight since if he had his way it would be just a normal day and he could just ignore his birthday. He doesn’t get his way though, so there were gifts and I cooked something nicer than usual… chicken breasts stuffed with goat’s cheese and wrapped in bacon. A vegan’s worst nightmare! Afterwards, there was cake. Bought, not baked – I had no time for baking.
  • Fasnacht (the Bael carnival) was at the beginning of May. We didn’t bother with the parades this year, but we did go to see the lanterns on display outside the cathedral. There was a surpirsing lack of Brexit – I guess we’re too ridiculous to even make fun of any more! Lots had environmental damage topics – some with pictures of the Rhine full of plastic.
  • We saw How to Train Your Dragon 3 at the cinema. You’re probably wondering why I’m including that as a highlight… it’s only the second time we’ve been to the cinema since moving to Switzerland, so it felt like something special. I cried at the film, because I’m a big softy.
  • In the middle of the month, we went to Zurich to see Sarah Millican – a British comedian. As expected, she was absolutely hilarious. Her humour is more along the lines of sex and farts than clever observances, but that’s fine. Still funny. In April we have Eddie Izzard to look forward to.
  • Jan and I went to Meiringen with the intention of visiting the Aare Gorge, but it turns out the gorge was still closed for winter (the Reichenbach Falls of Sherlock Holmes fame are also near there, but I already knew the train wasn’t going). Instead we quickly made a plan B and took the cable car up the Hasliberg. That day was also photo an hour, so you can read about it here.
  • Jan’s dad came to stay and we took him to the pub quiz. We did horribly and came second last (better than last, right?). The next day (Monday) was overcast so we thought about going to a museum but it turns out all of them are closed on Mondays! So we walked around the St Albans area of Basel, had lunch then climbed the tower of the town hall. After that we took a tram to the German border, walked across to Germany and then crossed the Three Countries Bridge (which I posted about here) and walked back to Basel via France. The footpath along the river is currently closed at the Basel end so we had to walk along the road, through all the industry. We reached the tram stop just as the rain started. Timing!

The lows

  • At the beginning of the month we found out our third IUI had failed. There will be no 2019 baby for us. We didn’t tell anybody when we were trying, but I can now reveal that we did one round in December, with a negative blood test on 4th January  (yeah – happy New Year to us!) and another in February/March, with one cycle trying naturally in between. Next step is IVF,  which we have to pay for entirely ourselves. I’m mostly excited to be moving forward, but it’s a big step so I have mixed feelings on it. How far is too far when it comes to trying to make a baby through science? Maybe I should just admit that nature never intended for me to be a mother? Who knows.
  • My due date for the twins was on the 16th. I was so hoping to be pregnant again by that time, but alas my life doesn’t work like that. It ended up being okay. Jan stayed in bed until nearly 12 – despite the fact that scaffolding was being put up from 8am onwards with lots of banging and what sounded like drilling. It made me wonder how life would be if we actually had two young  babies right now. Would he sleep through their crying? Of course , chances are they’d have been born early and, depending on how premature,  they may not even have made it home from hospital yet. Anyway… once Jan eventually got up and showered, we went to the cemetery. The boys have a concrete strip now with their names carved on it, which looks really nice. After paying them a visit we walked into town and had coffee and a snack at a cafĂ©, then in the evening I lit a candle. It was nice to mark the occasion even in a small way.
  • Two days after my due date would have been my grandma’s 90th birthday. It’s still weird thinking of her house empty, waiting to be sold. The family will definitely never be the same without her.

    grandma
    My grandma and little me
  • Then it was Mother’s Day in the UK on 31st March. My mum and her sibling’s first one without their mother and, of course, my first as a mother who isn’t a mother and may never actually be a mother. Seeing everyone’s posts about their children hurt, but I got through it. Now I just have to get through German/Swiss Mother’s Day 😉

Other stuff

  • Since I pointed out to Jan that we have Film 4 he seems to put it on all the time. In March we watched The Seeker, Hugo, Ghostbusters (the new one) and Mrs Doubtfire (which Jan claims he had never seen. Scandalous!). That probably doesn’t sound like much, but I never watch four films in one month – and with the cinema trip it was actually five.
  • We had our radiators and windows replaced last week. At one point on Friday, there were eight builders in our flat, all doing various things to windows or blinds! The windows part got a bit noisy but I managed to mostly work through it, only taking a short break when they were actually drilling in my office. I’m just glad it wasn’t happening today. No windows plus snow? No thanks! The real inconvenience is yet to come – when they replace both bathrooms and the kitchen all at the same time. Obviously I will not be working from home during that time!
  • I did some cross stitch – including a birthday card for my friend’s son and a Loch Ness Monster for a Post Pals child. I’ve also been making Easter cards to send to Post Pals children.
  • Saturday, 30th March was my deep clean day, so I’ve managed to stick to my goal every month so far. I will probably skip April since we will literally be living on a building site and there will be no bathrooms or oven to clean! I did it the day after the windows were replaced and I was actually quite happy to hoover and dust – the builders did clean up after themselves but I felt like everything was still dusty. I also cleaned the oven even though Jan said there was no point if it’s going to be gone in a couple of weeks. But at least this way I won’t smell burning every time I turn it on for those two weeks. Also, if I skip it once I’ll never get back to it.
  • Speaking of goals… I have been doing absolutely terribly at eating fruit and veg. In fact, there have been days that I only managed a measly one or two portions. I’ve also put on wait… only a kilogram, but added to the 3kg I somehow managed to put on in one week in England it’s bad.
  • I read a lot of books again. 17 to be precise. After a slow start to the month I didn’t think I would read very many but I surprised myself. Six of them were books I already owned (two were actually re-reads), so that’s good. If you want to know what I actually read come back on Tuesday for Show Us Your Books day.

That’s about it for March. I’m not sure what format my April post will take – you’ll just have to watch this space! In the meantime, check out the link up and also let me know what’s new with you.