Today, I was handed an unusual assignment: to buy a gift for an 8-year-old girl, whose birthday party my stepson is going to tomorrow. It seemed overwhelming to go a toy store – as well as challenging to do that in a zero waste kind of way – so I headed to a thrift store in the Old East Village and found these cute and creepy dolls of mysterious provenance. I love how their eyes close when they lie down and open when they stand up! Perhaps that is not such an unusual feature in dolls, but in my 36 years of life I have never paid much attention to dolls. Until now.

Of course boys play with dolls too, and if I had a baby boy I would buy him dolls. And dress him in pink. Actually sometimes I’m a bit sad that Freya isn’t a boy, so I didn’t get to do that! Today’s poem comes to you on Day 6 of 30 of my month-long poem-a-day challenge for National Poetry Writing Month #NaPoWriMo

I never understood
why girls play with dolls
why they style their hair and
take them everywhere and
talk in funny voices and
dress them undress them dress
them undress them dress
them again

I never understood
why girls play with dolls
and give such attention to these
pretend people’s lives
the cars they drive
what they’re into
the jobs they do and
dress them undress them dress
them again

I never understood
why girls play with dolls
why they create fake realities
of consummate banality
give them personalities
imagine future scenes
project hopes and dreams then
dress them undress them dress
them again

I never understood
why girls play with dolls
I never understood
but now I do

Two seven five

Day 5 of 30. I’m writing a poem a day for #NaPoWriMo and so far they have all been about my daughter 🙂 I started this one yesterday and finished it today. I’m having fun, but this lack of variety must be quite boring to people?? Sorry, readers! OMG I’m becoming so Canadian – apologising for everything! Here’s the poem…

today is number two seven five
that’s how many days you’ve been alive
see your dad keeps track of some wacky stats
I’m a wee bit weird but you’ll get used to that
don’t be surprised if you get a cake
on some seemingly random date
‘cos every day’s a reason to celebrate
especially number two seven five
it means the day has now arrived
that you’ve been three quarters around the sun
just as you did inside mum’s tum
I love you, my dear
I hope you like it here

Your voice

Day 4 of 30. Writing a poem a day for National Poetry Writing Month! Writing late at night again. I should be in bed! I had the first two lines of this poem scribbled down and built it out from there. This is one that could possibly benefit from some revisions at a later date with fresh eyes. It was fun to write a poem with a different shape and feel! #NaPoWriMo

you look at me, so damn cute
just a few more months of being mute
I can’t wait to hear your voice
to taste how it sounds when you use
actual words instead of shrieks and coos

I’ll miss this time then
when I simply sense your intentions
our conversations monologues
punctuated by whines whoops whimpers
just waiting for your giggles

precious moments, these
few months without a voice

when you find it, use it
wisely, my love

You won’t remember

Day 3 of 30. Writing a poem a day as part of #NaPoWriMo. Another one about my baby girl 🙂

your fingers snug around my thumb
your tiny dimpled squishy bum
that special smile reserved for mum
you won’t remember any of this

your frenzied flapping hands and feet
those first funny times you tried to eat
the same old lullabies played on repeat
you won’t remember any of this

you won’t remember any of this
all these things that I know I’ll miss
I wish one day we could reminisce
but you won’t remember any of this

you won’t remember any of this
but lucky me’s got the perfect view
you won’t remember any of this
but I’ll remember enough for two

Daddy tried

Day 2 of 30. I’m writing and sharing a poem each day during April as part of National Poetry Writing Month. I left it late in the day to write this one, but I’m happy with how it turned out 🙂 I hope you like it, too!

Daddy tried to stay dry
but he couldn’t do it
he put a towel on his lap
and you peed right through it

Daddy tried to stay dry
then you peed once more
you startled as I raised you up
and you smiled I’m sure

Daddy tried to stay dry
but he failed again
now my pants are soaking wet
I suppose I’ll remove them

Daddy tried to stay dry
this is getting rather silly
thank God your pee goes straight down
because you don’t have a willy

i owe you a poem

Day 1 of 30. As part of #NaPoWriMo, I will be writing and sharing a poem every day throughout April 🙂

i owe you a poem
it’s been some time
i’ve no way of knowin’
if it’ll even rhyme
i’ll just scribble down some letters
and hope they make words
perhaps planning’s better
but that’d be absurd
‘cos you are the proof
that planning’s over-rated
you fell right through the roof
like an angel blessed and fated
in an instant all doubts evaporated
by your merely being, i know i’ve made it
now i have wings
my heart always sings
no day will be more celebrated
than the day you arrived
and showed me why i’m alive
i owe you a poem
it’s been a while
i’ll never stop owin’
you, my dear sweet child

A month of poems! #NaPoWriMo

Here in Canada (and also in the USA), April is National Poetry Month!

To celebrate, I will be taking part, for the first time, in National Poetry Writing Month, aka NaPoWriMo. This involves writing a poem each day and sharing it online – on this here blog.

No, this is not an April Fool. I really am going to write a poem every day and share it here! Yes, this is scary for me. I’ve never done anything like this before!

The NaPoWriMo website will publish daily prompts, which I may use sometimes. I also have copious notes of potential lines and rhymes and troves of poem ideas which I seldom dig into. Probably, though, I will mostly be writing poems about my baby girl 🙂

OK, I’ve put off completing this introductory post for long enough. Time to go and write today’s poem!

Show your work

“Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine.”

The quote above is taken from page 67 of Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work, which I picked up at the Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican in December and which pushed me over the edge to finally start this website/blog.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for several years but I always put some big barrier in the way, like “What will I write?” or “What will people say?” or I felt guilty in advance for spending time writing, it felt self-indulgent.

Show Your Work helped me see what I already knew but wouldn’t accept:

  • Write about your work, write about what you care about
  • This is the way to find people who like my work and who care about what I care about
  • Doing this is an offering to the world and is also a necessary part of my creative process

One month into my blogging journey and I haven’t yet done what I said I was going to do. I haven’t shown my work, I haven’t been authentic.

Blogging has forced me to ask myself: What is my work?

My life is my work. But what does that mean? In an attempt to begin to show my work, I have created a Now page.

As well as my work in the world, there’s the work I’m more shy about, at least in print. The work on self. My constant daily work to be a better dad, a better husband, a better friend, a better citizen, a better human. The work of self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-love.

Austin Kleon recommends sharing a small piece of your work each day. I like that idea, but I’m not quite there yet. Watch this space!

Your bum

your bum
is a drum
for my fingers and thumbs
and the beat goes on

I knew that a baby
would be fun
but I didn’t know you’d be

your bum
is a drum
for my fingers and thumbs
and the beat goes on

not sure you agreed
to be my instrument
guess your giggles count
as implied consent

your bum
is a drum
for my fingers and thumbs
and the beat goes on


Living without packaging

At the start of this year, our family decided that we were going to attempt to live package-free. We’ve been thinking and talking about this for a while and as New Year approached, the timing seemed appropriate.

We gave ourselves January to transition, with the agreement that from February 1st we would not buy any food or other household items in packages, unless absolutely necessary.

We are going to document our journey of living package free, with all its ups and downs, on our blog and on Instagram.

Why we decided to go package-free

Over the years, it seems like more and more things we buy come in packages. It’s so wasteful, and also diminishes choice. Why do I have to buy fixed quantities of things – often larger quantities than I want or need?

So much packaging gets thrown away every week. We kid ourselves that it’s ok because some gets “recycled”. Where does that stuff even go? How much energy does it take to pick up the recycling bins from outside our house, transport them, melt down all that plastic and then re-form it into another product of lesser quality?

And anyway, lots of packaging cannot even be recycled! All the plastic bags and wraps and styrofoam and foil and so on just go into a hole in the ground, which we euphemistically call “landfill”. As if the land was empty before and we are doing it a favour by filling it up. It wasn’t. That land doesn’t need filling! But it’s out of sight, out of mind.

It had been bothering us for some time that we were throwing out so much garbage each week. Surely there had to be a better way?

Typical grocery haul before going package-free

Typical grocery haul before going package-free


Our most recent grocery shop

Our most recent grocery shop

Composting: How we began to shift our habits

When we moved from Dorchester to London last June, we began composting. To our shame, we hadn’t been doing that at our old house. As well as creating lots of yummy nutritious food for the vegetables in our garden, it was amazing to see how much less garbage we were throwing out each week!

And at the same time, it made us all the more aware of the garbage that we were throwing out. Why was it that all this plastic packaging was being used just once and then discarded? Was all this stuff only fit to be used once?

We throw stuff away and then we forget about it. But where is this magical place called “away”?

Sure, it’s convenient to do things this way. But convenient for whom? It’s certainly not more convenient for the planet. It’s not more convenient for our grandchildren. All that plastic thrown into huge holes in the ground and into our oceans is slowly suffocating Mother Earth.

If we can’t compost it, we shouldn’t be throwing it “away”!

This is what used to go out to our curb – every 8 days!

Staying away from evil supermarkets

Another event that conspired to push us into this move to living package free was the Loblaw’s bread scandal.

For non-Canadians, Loblaw’s, the largest Canadian food retailer, recently admitted to bread price-fixing scheme spanning more than 14 years. As it was, we were not big fans of Loblaw’s, but there’s not much choice, as every grocery store seems to be owned by them! They own 22 different grocery store brands – not much choice or competition there! Their CEO, Galen Weston, whose family owns 47% of the company, is the third richest person in Canada, and yet baulks at paying his employees a living wage, saying that paying them $15 an hour would be bad for business.

Once we were #freefromloblaws, it soon became clear that we could no longer buy all the groceries that we needed on a weekly basis under one roof. Since we were now committed to going to multiple places to buy our groceries, it made sense to use this opportunity to completely re-consider what food we were buying and eating.

A bonus benefit of eating package free

Not only is going package free good for our planet, it’s good for our bodies.

Much of the food that one buys in packages is processed. It’s artificial, it’s in some sense one step removed from actually being “food”. It’s easier, it’s more convenient than making your own meals from scratch. But at what cost?

Living package free has forced us – which is not a bad thing! – to be more conscious of what we are eating. No more turning to a packet of pasta or box of soup for a quick lunch because it’s quick and easy.

Instead, we are eating more actual food.

We even have ‘real’ food growing in our dining room now!

How it’s going so far

For now, a couple of weeks in, we are doing just fine. It’s the honeymoon period, of course, and we are still enjoying the novelty of it all.

And we still have some packages left in the refrigerator and the freezer and stashed in the basement. But at some point, those things will run out, and then reality will hit…

I’m already dreading having to make our own ketchup, baked beans, ice cream… We’ve already tried making almond milk, which is one thing we’ve not been able to find package-free.

We’ve tried four batches of almond milk and they have all been varying degrees of gross. Not only that, it won’t even stay together or look like milk.

We bought some reusable produce bags online so that we don’t have to use the silly thin single-use plastic bags that all grocery stores have. But they shrunk in the dryer and are now unusably small.

Our almond milk doesn’t look very appealing - yet!!!

Our almond milk doesn’t look very appealing – yet!!!


How realistic is it to live a zero waste lifestyle?

Living package free involves lots of driving around to different places to buy our groceries! We are lucky that we have the time to do this. One of us is on maternity leave and the other has the flexibility to choose his working hours. Not everyone is as fortunate as us.

We’re also lucky that we can afford to do this. Counterintuitively, we often have to pay a large premium for buying food that comes package-free. Harmony Milk, for example, which comes in glass bottles that are washed and reused, costs several times more than packaged organic milk. But on the plus side, it tastes delicious! And is not homogenized, which is kinda cool too.

There are still some things we haven’t been able to buy without packaging, so we’re starting to make them at home ourselves. Along the way, we’ve already found cool new local shops and fallen in love again with old favourites like Lyn-Dys and Angelo’s.

We’ve started having On The Move Organics deliver groceries to us and buying beer from London Brewing Co-op. I’m not sure why we ever got beer from anywhere else! But I don’t know what we’re going to do about other types of alcohol… Maybe this is a good opportunity to drink less booze, too?!

With Multiple places necessary to fill our families needs - this weekly box dropped to our door by On the Move Organics is a life (and time) saver!!

With Multiple places necessary to fill our families needs – this weekly box dropped to our door by On the Move Organics is a life (and time) saver!!

What does the future hold?

We are just getting started on our package free journey! It’s been very encouraging to hear lots of positive comments from stores that we take our own containers to, as well as from friends and from friends we don’t yet know.

Before starting out, we posted on Facebook asking for tips, and got over 60 comments, some of them very detailed and helpful!

We are certainly not the first people to think of this idea. There are some excellent resources out there! We are indebted to Bea Johnson’s manual “The Zero Waste Home” and the recipes of Wellness Mama. And we’re inspired that many cities now have entire package free grocery stores – such as Nu Grocery in Ottawa, and Epicerie Loco and Méga Vrac in Montreal.

Kara is going to university in September and will have much less time then. So we have about half a year to figure out where to buy various foods package free, and how to make the remaining things at home! And also to learn what we can do without – and, perhaps, where we can relax our self-imposed rules a little.

This summer will be interesting – what do we need to can, freeze, etc? An exciting by-product of this project is that it is helping us to eat more local, to be more conscious about where our food is coming from, what is seasonal and what is not.

Our learning journey

We are realistic that being completely package-free may not be sustainable in the long run for our household, given the competing demands of living a good life with three young children too. Clearly there is an environmental cost to driving to all these different stores each week, too, as well as an opportunity cost.

But at least on this journey we will see what we might be able to do, and maybe we will find a “new normal” that works for us.

Starting this package free journey has made me think that maybe it’s not just about looking at food, but at life in general. Wouldn’t you like to live a life that’s less packaged and processed and plastic? Maybe you have to work a little bit harder for it but it’s more real in the end.

We’ll sure learn some things along the way about food and much more, and I’m sure we’ll have some fun and adventures!

Who knows, maybe we will find some others to share this journey with us, too 🙂