Category Archives: Plastic

It’s my party and I’ll spend if I want to…

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Planning any party is a stress-filled treat, but baby’s first birthday takes it to a new level. For a start, you are marking the first year of your precious offspring’s life on earth. Secondly, you feel you deserve a trophy just for surviving this first year. Third, you want to show off (just a little bit).

There’s a lot to think about:

1) How much to spend. Most of us are counting the pennies these days so setting a budget crossed my mind, but I didn’t think it would really be an issue, as we were just planning to have a few close friends and family round for a couple of hours.

Wrong. By the time I’d purchased a few decorations, cake sprinkles and “thank you” notes to suit the theme, I was already well over the £100 mark and horrified. We hadn’t even got to the food yet…

2) Who to invite. I know a mum who has distributed over 50 invitations to every baby at every baby group she attends, and hired a hall with an entertainer. I know another mum who had a quiet day at home with her husband and baby to reflect on the year.

I was pitching for somewhere in between as I want to share the occasion, but don’t want to spend a fortune. We have gone for grandparents, uncle, best friends, a couple of colleagues who have been there for us, and eventually decided to include our NCT group.

3) Party theme. It started as a small gathering and has gradually evolved into a duck-themed extravaganza! We chose ducks because our boy loves them and after “milk” it was his first baby sign. Also, as his birthday falls close to Easter and it’s [supposed to be] spring, it seemed like the right thing to do. So with a firm mind not to overspend, buy any stupid plastic and avoid anything that we can’t reuse, I clicked over to eBay.

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And the can of worms was open; my inner party-planning goddess unleashed… Well, we will need duck invitations, duck “thank you” cards, duck tablecloth, duck balloons, a duck balloon weight, duck cake decorations, duck biscuit cutters, duck-shaped ice, duck candles, duck toys and, of course, bunting.

I convinced myself that only the theme colours will do and therefore ordinary paper plates would not suffice. My attempt to control spending meant I ditched the duck plates, duck cups and duck napkins, but instead went for the still-quite-pricey plain blue and yellow ones.

I tried hard to maintain my green principles but failed miserably – even caving in to a pack of 25 latex balloons for which I then had to purchase a disposable helium canister. On the bright side, the bottle can be recycled.

4) Entertainment. There’s no way I’m spending money on a children’s entertainer this time, but I do like the idea. The babies are too young for party games and we don’t have many older children coming, so it’s a pile of toys on the living room floor and funky music on the stereo. We have created an appropriate playlist of clean, well-known songs that should keep spirits lifted and appease most musical tastes.

I couldn’t help buying a bubble machine. Bubbles are brilliant, everyone loves them (including rubber ducks) and it’s a cheap way of bringing smiles to a lot of faces. I will be making my bubble mixture using eco-friendly washing-up liquid using a recipe I found here and will probably have the gadget positioned by the front door to delight guests as they arrive.

5) Food. Who do I cater for? The babies, the adults or both? It has to be both. So now to strike the balance with healthy, safe and tasty food. I’m sticking with finger food to avoid disposable cutlery and messier foods, cooking posh nibbles from scratch to avoid any added sugar or too much salt, and catering to a variety of dietary requirements (vegetarian, vegan and nut allergies).

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I want cake but I don’t want sugar so I’m baking honey and lemon cupcakes with lemon-lavender cream cheese frosting and another lot of spiced banana with pineapple frosting, using apple juice as a sugar substitute. I took my inspiration from this blog.

I’ve ordered a silicone ice cube tray (duck shapes, no less) but I thought I might try to use it to create some sugar-free pineapple jelly as well. Accompanying “ice-cream” will be frozen banana blitzed in my Vitamix. I may add some coconut cream and lime juice to give it a piña colada feel. To keep costs down we will only be offering beer or juice and have encouraged guests to bring their own if they want to drink. However, it would be wrong not to serve Duck’s Fizz.

A lesson learned

I got carried away. The urge took over – I wanted to do things “properly” and lost my mind. The guilt started to set in as soon as I checked out through PayPal and realised what I’d done. This is money that should be saved for his education, or more immediately to pay the bills.

But then I justified it again by filling my head with clichés about remembering the day for the rest of our lives and that it will only happen once. Blah blah blah. Basically, I was stupid, I should’ve thought it out more carefully, I should have set a budget and not everything has to match the theme.

Out in town and I saw ducks everywhere because Easter is approaching. Bad news. What did I do? Buy more bloody ducks! I figured now I’ve started, why stop? Again, I lost my mind. But what I have promised is that next year we will tone it down and keep it small until the next milestones (5, 10, 13, 16, 18 and 21).

Better start saving.

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Disposable healthcare

For almost six months now, I have been attending my local GP practice to have a wound dressed by the nurses. It was an abscess I messed around with which exploded under the skin and had to be lanced to get all the gooey puss out.

Still reading? Well, there was a gaping hole left behind as the doctor scraped out the infected flesh, so he packed the wound with a sterile dressing leaving a little wick outside the incision to allow fluid to drain away and the cavity to heal from the inside without closing over.

Due to the nature of the procedure I was expected to return on a daily basis (even weekends) for the first two weeks. Each time, a new sterile pack was opened containing a plastic sheet, plastic self-stick bag, plastic apron and latex gloves; a fresh pair of plastic-handled scissors in a plastic sterile pack; plastic tongues in a plastic sterile pack; metal probe in a cardboard sleeve, in a plastic wrapper, in a plastic pack; 45cm length Aquacel packing (even though only 7cm was used) in a plastic pack; saline solution in a plastic bottle; a packet of gauze (even though only 1 square was used) in a plastic pack; and the dressing itself made of some type of plastic, wrapped in paper, with a plastic coating.

I was astonished. I know there is a lot of waste in the NHS, I know that minimising the threat of infection is a priority, and I know that the environment is not a concern to most. But surely there is a better way – more responsible way – of doing things.

I expressed my horror to one of the nurses on duty, who agreed that they waste an awful lot, offered me the scissors to keep and explained that the EU no longer allow us to sterilise equipment so everything has to be disposable. Wow. Everything?

Within a fortnight I had 10 pairs of scissors, several probes, packets of gauze and numerous bags.

If this is how many scissors are thrown away just because of me, I began to consider how many patients the nurses see in a day, how many pairs of scissors they throw away each week, how many GP practices there are in my town alone, how many hospitals, how many in my county and the whole country, then the whole of Europe… Oh my.

Then I started to think about all the countries around the world where healthcare is a privilege, not a right, and what they would think if they could see the amount of medical equipment we throw away, while they haven’t even got access to such things. Surely, it would make more sense to at least safely package up the used items, sterilise them offshore and distribute them among needy nations.

I dunno. I don’t have the answers, but I do know this is wrong. This is health and safety legislation “gone mad”. It’s as sickening as the amount of food thrown away by supermarkets that apparently can’t be given away to the hungry. But that’s another post…

Now, what do I do with all these scissors?

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