Eco-Warrior Challenge No.6: Day Four

When my children were younger, I used to put up the xmas tree and decorations the night before. I liked the impact it would have when they came down in the morning.  It meant that Christmas only lasted as long as I wanted it to.  I dislike the two months commercial build up it has now become.  The night before also means no excess.  Over the years, the tree and decorations have become simpler.  I now going searching for a windfall twig in the garden and it can look surprisingly effective once a tiny set of lights and little decorations adorn it.   It requires some care, as when dried out, the little branches can snap easily.  But I like it.   Holly, which is now rampant in the garden, replaces tinsel.

I love the smells associated with Christmas, so my decorations focus on warming the atmosphere with aroma.

Orange clove pomanders

There is something relaxing about creating orange clove pomanders.  Sat around a fire, it’s a great way to get the whole family involved.  Kids have fun with creating pretty designs.

Pot Pourri filling decorative bowls can be visually as well as olifactorily enhancing.  Try cinnamon sticks, pine cones and pine sprigs, whole nutmeg, cloves, dried apple slices, cardamon pods, star anise and rosemary sprigs.

Essential oils of orange, clove, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg diffused have immediate impact.

A novel gift idea?  A small box with a few chocolate gold coins and bottles of frankincense and myrrh.

Happy smells!

Featured image: Orange cloves







Eco Warrior Challenge No. 6: Day 3

Whether it’s to decorate your home, or to give as a gift, why not make it?  My crafts of choice are knitting, digital art and some heirloom plants I’ve grown from seed.

Here’s a few simple gift/decoration ideas that won’t break the budget.

Doily tea light holder

Made with paper doilies, wallpaper paste and a balloon, this pretty tea-light holder is a simple gift or seasonal decoration.  For directions, click here.

I’m a lover of origami and occasionally paper folding turns into something that can be kept permanently.  My last effort was a bouquet:

Origami Wedding Bouquet








Legend has it that folding 1000 paper cranes will grant you a wish from the gods.  Why not get started with a hanging crane mobile?  This one is beautifully crafted.


For origami directions, I recommend this site.  The videos are excellent and easy to follow.  The instructor goes at a pace you can keep up with, without having to pause the video all the time.

Some of the animals are great card decorations and gift tags.  The boxes could hold handmade sweets.  Luxurious chocolate truffles in an origami box, as a stocking filler, I’ve found to be greatly appreciated.  I followed a Delia Smith recipe in her Christmas book.  For cutout patterns for decorative boxes that are not based on origami, I recommend this site.

Know someone who loves smellies?  How about homemade bath bombs?  A super easy recipe and directions are given here.  It includes food dyes, but why not try natural beetroot or berry juices?

Happy crafting!


Eco-Warrior Challenge No. 6: Day 2

How did you get on with cloth wrapping?  They make it look so easy don’t they?  Mine never seem to be half as pretty!  So if cloth gift wrapping isn’t working out, how about handmade paper?

I used to work with a colleague who has written a paper on how to make paper.  I was never sure if she published or not, but as orders for her cards and wrapping paper became more than she could handle, she took early retirement from teaching and turned to an arts and crafts future.  Her papers are incredible mixes of yarn, shredded junk mail, flowers, seeds – whatever she has that needs to be used up.

I like using handmade paper gift wrap.  It’s quite fun watching people appreciate it so much that they try not to tear it when opening the gift.  It’s a present in itself.  It’s surprisingly easy and quick to make.  The hardest part is making a mesh mould, but these can be rough and ready.  Paper mush is quite forgiving.

I have a bag of shredded paper that hasn’t been turned into garden mulch, and have put it aside for experimentation.

As I’ve said, it’s easy, even a child can do it:

Featured image: Public Domain

Eco-Warrior Challenge No. 6

This is to be the final week of our eco-challenges and given it is holiday season and you may be preparing to give and receive gifts, it seems prudent to do presents differently.  I have three aims:

a) to not feed the pockets of the already rich and support the local artisan.

b) to rethink gift packaging

c) to handmake what I can to make the season beautiful

It is for the last of these aims that I’ve decided to close our challenges here, as I’m going to have to get cracking!

Let’s start with packaging:

Furoshiki is a Japanese tradition that dates back 1200 years.  Wealthy families would have their family emblem printed onto cloth.  When they attended bath houses, the cloth would be used to both carry their clothing while bathing and as a mat.  Merchants then used the folding techniques to carry their produce.  The art has been revived with environmental concerns and has spread beyond Japan.  It is now used to create shopping bags and for gift wrapping.  Other cultures also have a tradition of using cloth functionally – to carry market goods, babies……

Baby Carrier in Lesotho

The cloth around my son’s neck is a sturdy front baby sling

Not sure I’d succeed with either, so let’s keep it simple.

Your challenge today is to be imaginative about how you’re going to wrap your future gifts.  I’m planning to use some old scarves that are not coming on the journey with me as gift wrap.  While square is best, it is possible to get creative with rectangles too.  Here are six simple ways to wrap gifts using a rag!

Happy Wrapping!


Eco-Warrior Challenge No. 5: Day 5

You know that feeling you get when the adrenaline is flying around the blood stream at a rate of knots?  That feeling of not being able to focus, being able to sit down and relax.  I’m waiting for that parasympathetic system to kick in.

It’s Module 1 bike test day (again)

It’s an hour ride to the test centre, I’m calm, collected and don’t do anything stupid.  In fact, I’m feeling like a rider.  I manage to keep up with the instructor and don’t get lost.  But as I see the centre in sight, the nerves jump like someone started them with an electrical voltage of immense proportions.

We’re early, so Steve, my instructor for the past couple of weeks, recommends a bit of emergency stop practice.  This involves U-turns.  I’m feeling frazzled, neither goes well, and I announce I need a break.  We go in, but waiting is almost as bad.  But I’ve learned a new trick.  I recommend it.  It takes a minute, but the effect is amazing.  I’m using it to associate being on the bike with deep relaxation instead of sheer terror.

The wait gets to me and I have to resort to it several times.  In between, a couple of familiar faces get me laughing at their stupid jokes.  The examiner’s in a good mood and very encouraging.

Slow manoeuvres go well.  I do the round for the emergency stop.  It goes well except I hit 45 instead of 50 kph.  As nothing else goes wrong, I’m allowed a second attempt.    But I’ve learned from the experience and know how to handle the bend.  Attempt two – 49 kph!  I’m told it’s good enough.  I’m set up for the last manoeuvre and realise I’m actually close to passing.  It’s the same again, but swerving an obstacle.  I go around, and again, it goes well, except I only make 45 kph.    The examiner comments that I’m enjoying myself too much.    It would make one heck of a training ground, if only the schools had such spiffy pads.

So, last go and if I nail it, I could pass.  I take my time coming up to the bend, I build up speed smoothly, but comfortably, I straighten up and give that throttle all it’s got.  I don’t hit any bollards, it felt right.  I control the stop.  I look at the examiner hopefully.

“I’ll open the gates and you park her up.”

“Well, did I do it?”

“You’ve got to park up yet – do as you’re told!”

“You’re so mean!”

I park her up.

There’s another bike school there.  One of the lads had just passed his module 1 and the other was waiting to do his mod 2 with the instructor.  I got a clap on the back.

“Looked good out there!”

I cross my fingers.

You enter an office.  It’s like being in court waiting for your sentence.  Your instructor comes in with you.  I do as I’m told and sit down, even though I was jangling in suspense.

“I’m pleased to say, this time…”

I whoop, jump about, give my instructor a hug.

You’d think I just got my license.  But nope – we have Mod two to go.

And the speed on the last manoeuvre?

49 kph.

Good enough.


So anyway, after putting all those fumes into the air, let’s get back to waste reduction.

Junk mail.  How much of it do you get?  And how much of it do you open?  Ours always goes straight to the shredder.  It’s something that really annoys me.  So today, I’m going to give you a couple of links – that provide some tips on reducing unwanted junk mail.  I’ve only covered a few English speaking countries, so apologise in advance if that’s not you:

UK:  and




New Zealand: 


I’m hoping our letter box is lighter now.  Let me know if it works for you!



Eco-Warrior Challenge No. 5: Day 4

I’m a bit late today.  The milder weather had me donning biker gear and multiple layers to ride north to the very pretty town of Harrogate.   The aim was to follow route signs and improve observation.  This did have me circling parts of the town more than once as I failed to get into the right lane on time, but I can say that I have a deeper knowledge of its geography than before.   Next skill to develop – learning to find a bike friendly place to park in towns.

So, while I’m thawing out, here’s today’s waste reduction tips ….

Next to vinegar, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) makes a good addition to your house cleaning substances.  It is a naturally occurring substance in most life forms.   It is a little more abrasive, so should be used with caution for more sensitive surfaces, for example, silver.


Here’s 3 more recipes for keeping your home pollutant free:

  1.  One of the benefits of bicarbonate of soda compared to vinegar is odour reduction. Put neat into a small open tub and add to your fridge to keep it whiff free.  Similarly, sprinkle in bins to reduce nasty smells, or at the bottom of ashtrays, if there’s a smoker in your house.  Mix with hot water to take smells out of food containers.  If stubborn, they can be steeped in the mix overnight.  Sprinkle some in those smelly running/gym shoes!
  2. Surface cleaning:  Mix one part soda with three parts water.  Apply, leave, and wipe with wet cloth.
  3. Grease stains on clothing.  Pretreat with bicarbonate of soda before washing.  A paste can also be used to treat stains on other surfaces, including floors.


Featured Image: Evitaochel