I'd like to thank...

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Well I have been pleasantly surprised with an award for having a brilliant blog!  

Thank you Jennifer at HomeMattersMost I'm really touched!  

So I now have to pass this award onto seven other bloggers who have inspired me.  Of course Jennifer would be on my list if she could be, but she can't. So I'm going to give her a 'Special Award', for making me so happy, instead!

In alphabetical order, these are my top blogs:

Drum roll please...

Nikki in New Zealand was my main inspiration for keeping a journal of our journey.  She is so down to earth and easy going, I really look forward to reading her updates.  Informative and practical news and views on the ups and downs of self sufficiency.  If Nikki wasn't 12,000 miles away I'd invite her round for a cup of homegrown herb tea to congratulate her! 

Julia in Australia really inspires me because she doesn't try to be a 'know it all'.  She knows a lot about ayurveda, but she is always aware that a tradition that goes back thousands of years can never be fully researched in a lifetime.  Having said that, she does her very best to find out everything she can and this shows in her 'love to learn' approach.  A refreshing blog, ideal information for my research in self sufficiency in India.  Thanks Julia!

I have only just stumbled upon Zoras blog (from the West coast of somewhere!) I'll be dropping by more frequently now and trying to catch up.  So far I can really relate to Zora, as she is a homely mother who likes to grow.  Zora's been meandering down that 'path to freedom' in a round about way, picking up toys and underpants along the way no doubt!  Lovely photos! That really attracts me to a blog too.... great one Zora!

India Garden
What an inspiration!  A beautiful garden in India and a beautiful little gardener to help.  Green Thumb in Uttar Pradesh, India just gives me 'Hope and pictures to dream about'. One day maybe I'll have a garden like that - here's to dreaming!
A masala of magic!  Recipes, photos and musings... never a dull moment from Bee and Jai. Dedicated to everyone in the world who is battling Leukemia, their site is about 'commitment to a natural, healthier lifestyle, and to a less toxic world'. Wonderful, exhilarating and passionate!

The Cottage Smallholder
Fiona from a beautiful cottage in the English countryside is living the 'good life' with Danny. A beautiful diary of good old fashioned, how it used to be, self sufficiency.  Hats off to you Fiona for a fantastic, contemplative look into your busy life.

Crazy Mumma Julie in Australia always gives me a laugh! Never a dull moment, she's a buzy bee, obsessive about seed catalogues and 'to do lists', highly amusing, self sustaining... a super woman!!  

...Thanks to all of you a million kisses, may you all be teaching me something new for years to come...

Where we belong...

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

I thought I'd post a few photos of the 'dream' we have, just to give an idea of where 'we' are trying to get 'to'...

The 'Destination' of 
'Our Journey to Where We Belong'

Lemon Balm Iced Tea

Monday, 28 July 2008

Before I set out with the scissors to snip my rather sad looking Lemon Balm leaves, I thought I'd Google Lemon Balm Iced Tea first to see if there was anyone out there who had thought of it...  I'm also waiting for the ice to set because I'd forgotten I'd used it all yesterday to keep the beers cool!

Lemon Balm Iced Tea Traditional Recipe...

Well back in the good old Victorian days, when women had nothing better to do with themselves, apart from hold tea parties, lemon balm tea seems to have been on the tea party menu.  Thanks 'Victorian Rituals' for this recipe.

Lemon Balm Uses...

Brenda from 'The Garden Path' has some wonderful ideas on how to use Lemon Balm...

Lemon Balm Ice Cream...

Wow... this looks absolutely gorgeous.

Lemon Balm Lemonade...

Another refreshing alternative from 'Glass Slipper Baking'

And last but not least, I know someone who's gonna love this!

Lemon Balm Mojitos...

From 'Gardenopolis'  
I love it when you stumble across a nice blog when you're out there Googling... in the name of research!

This looks like a great way to disguise your midsummer party by using the excuse of 'Experiments in Homesteading'!  And look Nikki, there's even a few raspberries floating on top!


So here is my recipe..

Lemon Balm Leaves (half chopped, half for garnish)
Mint Leaves (a few chopped and a few for garnish)
Frozen Raspberries
Brown Sugar
Lots of Ice
Boiling Water

Chop the leaves using a bit of Brown Sugar on the chopping board to bring out the flavour of the Lemon Balm.

In a large jug, pour boiling water over the chopped leaves (add sugar to taste)

Leave to cool in the fridge.

Top up with as many ice cubes as you like.

Throw in a handful of Frozen Raspberries (and a shot of vodka if you like!)

Garnish with leaves.

Sit in the garden, without a care in the world.
Slowly sip your glass of refreshing Iced tea.
Contemplate your next exciting 'Experiment in Homesteading'


Talking of beer... there was a full bottle of flat beer leftover from lunch yesterday and the resourceful, recycle, reuse mind started to tick. Now these are the uses for flat beer that I've heard of; 

* Beer Batter, but we don't have any fish and I'm not into Tempura Veg.
* Beer bread, a possibility.
* Beer Shampoo, might give this one a go, it's the least time consuming.
* Beer Polish, supposed to be great on furniture, may leave your living room smelling like a pub!
* Beer Washing up liquid, I just discovered this myself!  When pouring the remaining beer into one bottle, it overflowed so I quickly moved it over the dish I had used to roast the Lamb.  When I went back to the pan to wash it up, the grease had gone!  A quick rinse under the tap and it was spotlessly clean.  

My Spring has Sprung at Last...

I'm feeling a bit happier now, the sun has come out and my mood has lifted.  I was feeling a little low for a while... the whole 'Impending Doom' thing had spiraled.  

But the sun came to stay with me for a few days, I got my gardening gloves on and I pulled a few weeds, swept the yard, bought the table out and made it all look lovely again. 

Now I smile when I wake up in the mornings, make coffee and sit out in the sun.  In the evenings, we sit out for a while, talk and plan our future.

The dream has a focus.  I'm learning new things. For once it doesn't look so bad after all.

It's amazing how much 'inner peace' you can find in a garden.

Little Yellow Flower

Sunday, 27 July 2008

We're not quite at the fully home grown meal stage yet... well far from it really!  

But with inspiration from Jugalbandi and Andrea's Recipes 'Grow Your Own Event' I decided to 'harvest' a couple of courgettes and put them to good use in a vegetable bhaji.  I chopped and
 my husband cooked and teamwork made this wonderful supper for the two of us!

So here it is.  The recipe is 'off the top of our heads', but 
the idea came from a Punjabi Dhaba in Bombay, where they make the best ever sabji.

Quantities subject to how much you like each vegetable in order of preference!



Baby Corn
Courgette (Homegrown!)
Ghee (or oil)
Cumin (seed or powder)
Coriander (seed or powder)
Salt and black pepper


In a large wok or pan, heat the ghee and add the onions to fry on medium heat. Add the spices then the vegetables in cooking order. Cook over a moderate heat for 20 minutes. Stir
 occasionally. The vegetables should not be over cooked and should retain its crispness when bitten. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with salt and serve with rice, chapatis or parathas . (Method adapted from Wikipedia 'sabji' entry)

Banana and Blueberry Loaf Cake

Friday, 25 July 2008

I've been baking this cake for the last 2 days!

It's such a simple recipe, takes about 5 minutes to make, but I didn't realise I had no eggs in the fridge.  I have been too busy rushing around to even get to the corner shop where I have found the cheapest free range eggs, only 99p for half a dozen.  I have found cheaper, 85p, but they come in a plastic egg carton and it's further to walk too! Anyway enough about eggs...

On to the cake...

This has to be the best cake recipe in the world, no mess, no mixing, no sieving (although sometimes I do though I can't see any difference) It takes 5 minutes to prepare, an hour to cook and approximately 5 minutes before several sticky fingers have devoured the lot!

I got the recipe from Elise, and never looked back.

I've used bananas, bananas and blueberries (todays flavour), pear and lime (yummy, very moist, use a touch more flour), I did try honeydew melon, but it wasn't so good, a bit tasteless.  Next on the list is raspberries!

Oh and if you make it with banana, then a generous spread of Nutella or other chocolate spread is truly scrumptious! 

The recipe...


(A cup is 250ml)

3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar (can easily reduce to 3/4 cup)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose (plain) flour

No need for a mixer for this recipe. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack (if you can wait that long!). Remove from pan and slice to serve.


Lemon balm tea

Thursday, 24 July 2008

This photo will be my entry into the Jugalbandi  July click! photo event!

So I finally sat down for another cup of Lemon Balm Tea, recommended by Nikki

I used a little brown sugar to help bring the flavour out of the leaves when chopping.  It was very refreshing and subtle, a beautiful thirst quencher on a balmy summers day.

I think next time I will try it iced...


This week we've hardly done any shopping, because most of our store cupboard has been stocked up with everything we need.  It takes so much time to replenish your basics, when you move in to a new home. (bearing in mind we lived with my parents after returning from India)

I felt sick when I returned from a grocery shop with my mum last Sunday.  A great time to go shopping to get the cheap, reduced, organic vegetables!  The amount of packaging I threw into the bin was horrible...I felt like bagging it up and taking it to the manager of Tesco's!

Once again my dilemma of buying locally grown veg has been looming over me.  I paid 10p for some reduced organic mushrooms (I actually bought 4 trays in the end).  Now remembering the first veg box I got with mushrooms in, well those cost me a pound, for about 7 mushrooms!!!

But the organic Tesco mushrooms are in a plastic tray, and then covered in clingfilm and I think they were produce of France.

We are living on pennies at the moment, so how can I be ethical?


I have been collecting large jars from friends to store my rice, pulses etc in.  I just picked up 3 wonderful green hexagonal jars from a guy on Freecycle

If you haven't heard of it yet it's a Yahoo group, that connects you to your local community where people can give and take just about anything for free.  The aim is to keep as much 'rubbish' out of the landfill sites.  So far I've got some nice plants, plant pots and the jars.  I've managed to get rid of an old bike and some cups!


I bought a brass thermometer from ebay, so my next challenge is Neufchâtel


Yummy Crème fraîche is my favourite thing to have with Lemon Tart.  And it's so easy!

Take some double (whipping) cream, add a spoon of cultured buttermilk, leave it in a sealed jar in the kitchen overnight, chill and then spoon dollops of it onto your dessert!!! Voila!



Friday, 18 July 2008


I spend most of my time washing up...or so it seems!
I have found that this has been where most of my wonderings have occurred too.

Whilst working towards purging our life of all the nasty unnatural things in our home one of the main concerns I have are chemical laden, detergents and toiletries.  Simple you may say, don't use them. Well I don't want to, but what is the best way to dispose of chemicals you already have?

1) When we moved in to our home a few months ago, there was already about 10 different bottles of cleaning products including bleach, all purpose cleaner, window cleaner, bathroom cleaner, kitchen cleaner, carpet cleaner x2, washing powder, liquid hand soap and bug spray!

2)  When we moved, my mum gave me about 10 litres of washing liquid detergent and 10 litres of fabric conditioner.

3)  I used to be a Body Shop consultant for a couple of months.  (I didn't really agree with how dramatically the ethics of the company changed after Anita died, so I stopped doing it.  They held regular competitions for consultants and the last one included winning extremely expensive designer diamond jewellery and a trip to 'sparkle like the stars' in Monte Carlo...not really an image I would want to have a part in promoting, what happened to Community Trade ?  I would have liked to ask them where the diamonds came from... anyway rant rant!)

Hence I still have quite a few bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel left over from those days.

So what should I do?  I'm not in a position financially to just get rid of them or give them away.  Beggars can't be choosers as they say. Anyway, whether I pour them down the sink or give them to someone else, they still end up in the place we don't want them to be.  They have been paid for already, so the companies producing them know there is a demand for their products already...they will keep making more, regardless of whether I use them or not. So I just have to plough through them until they are gone!

Easy you may say but every second they are sitting there in my cupboards, I feel I am a liar and a cheat...what kind of eco warrior are you with all that chemical crap polluting your cupboard real estate?

Sometimes I find myself giving the bathroom sink an extra squirt, just to rid my stuff sooner...Hmmm that's not being frugal now, is it?

I use those awful spongy scrubber things for washing up pots and pans, only 14p from Tesco's for 5.  I'm sure they can't be any good for the environment.  In India my father in law uses a soap bar, a coconut husk and a lemon...wonderful!  With the price of lemons and coconuts and the air miles to get them here that's not very ecological or economical, so I've been trying to come up with a better option.

Ideas....on natural cleaning.

* Thank you Crazy Mumma for this idea, a pot scourer knitted from garden twine.  Brilliant idea, get the knitting needles clicking!!

* Soapnuts,  (Sapindus) I just found this blog entry, sounds interesting!  I'll look into it more.

* My husband always goes on about some white beans they use in Kerala for washing with, skin and hair that is.  Googled it and found this blog about ayurveda.

* Another hair care product I have heard of in India is Shikakai, it means "fruit for hair" and is a traditional shampoo used in India. It is made from Acacia concinna, a shrub native to the warm, plains of central and south India.


Sunday, 13 July 2008

Photo courtesy of Seema

I have great admiration for people who show amazing resourcefulness.  I always get excited when I find a new and often bizarre use for so-called useless items.  One place I have found to be one step ahead of the game is Mumbai.  Not because they want to be trendy 'green eco warriors' or because their local supermarket promotes 'green', not even because they care about the environment, they probably don't even know what a carbon footprint is, but because they have no choice.  It's reuse, recycle, over and over again because of necessity.  In the slums, one mans waste is another mans home.  An old tyre is a great substitute for the sole of a shoe. Have you ever fixed an umbrella before?  Did you just throw it in the nearest bin and buy a new one?

I remember reading this wonderful article in National Geographic about Dharavi slum in Mumbai.   
By the mucky industrial canal, the recyclers are in full swing. In Dharavi nothing is considered garbage. Ruined plastic toys are tossed into massive grinders, chopped into tiny pieces, melted down into multicolored pellets, ready to be refashioned into knockoff Barbie dolls. Here every cardboard box or 55-gallon (208 liters) oil drum has another life, and another one after that.

I have taken up Jennifer's challenge to limit our rubbish to one bag a week.  The 2 main problems I face when throwing away our waste are:

1) We don't have any means to compost.  No garden means nowhere to use the compost.  I'm looking into other ways to solve this problem, a wormery maybe!

2)  Nappies:  I use 70% biodegradable Nature nappies, the little Angel's down to about 3 a day now, she spends most of her time a home 'au natural'. 

I had a look on the local council website to see if there is anything I'm missing when it comes to recycling and I found this advice, it's quite straight forward and logical, but something that I think we all could be reminded of:

The 3 Rs of recycling 

Reduce, Re-use and Recycle are all ways of reducing the amount of waste to be sent to landfill. They are also known as the waste hierarchy.

Reduce - reducing how much waste we accumulate is the first step. This can be achieved by selecting items with the least packaging and wherever possible, buying better quality items which last a lot longer.

Reuse - the second step is to re-use items instead of throwing them away. Passing items on, repairing, or adapting them for other uses. For example re-using ice cream containers as sandwich boxes or yoghurt pots as plant pots takes materials from the waste stream. Many items such as clothes or unwanted gifts can be passed on to family and friends or given to charity shops. Unwanted furniture can be given to voluntary organisations. Alternatively, a car boot sale is a good way to re-circulate unwanted items.

Recycle - by always ensuring that what can be recycled is recycled then amounts of waste needing disposal is significantly reduced.

A Far from Ethical Dinner

My vegetable garden is nowhere near harvest because I sowed my seeds in early June, but last night I did eat my first ever homegrown produce!  We had a baby leaf herb salad (mixed lettuce/rocket/coriander/mint) to accompany our half price, reduced, Lamb chops with African spices and left over cous cous from my organic rainbow chard and mushroom stir fry on Friday.

I had bought some reduced organic strawberries too and so ended up using the reduced to £1 cream I have been keeping to make butter.  But then I still haven't sourced a big enough jar to shake it in!


I'm finding it a struggle at the moment to keep to my ethical shopping list.  I'm sure everyone is feeling the food cost inflation as prices rocket from ridiculous to absurd.  I can't afford organic everything at sometimes double the cost and my families healthy diet goes out the window when all we can afford is 'Tesco Value'.  When faced with organic local butter at £1.55 or Tesco Value at 85p, my morals are flying through the window in the path of the food price rocket!

I want to buy only 'whole' foods, nothing added and nothing taken away.  Preferably organic and local.  I feel my choices have been sabotaged beyond repair because of the supermarket world we live in now,  but the dilemma is, when you can't even afford to buy your basic foods, it's back to the devil to buy what you can afford.   We rarely eat meat anymore, which I don't mind so much, but my husband has "never looked for vegetables!"  I feel my duty as mother and wife to provide healthy meals for my family, with my husbands hard earned cash is being compromised on a very basic level.

On another level I feel extremely lucky to have food on my plate.

(This is my homepage, please make it yours too) 

Veg Box Envy

Friday, 11 July 2008

Oh dear, is there such a thing?

Did I really pay a pound for 3 small onions? I was a bit miffed also to find rather expensive (17p each!) mushrooms (not in the photo, in the fridge!), in place of VEG no. 7...

So we got:

Rainbow chard, a bit limp
A lovely cabbage
Quite a few red potatoes
3 small onions
5 carrots
A handful of broad beans
6 mushrooms (in a plastic bag!)
2 fairtrade banana's from Peru (LOCAL?) (an added bonus, I guess)

I'm not sure if my high expectations of a huge bounty of vegetables in a box was fueled by images of GM plastic packed vegetables at Tesco... but to me it just seems, well, not very many vegetables to feed my little family for the week.  I even Googled Organic veg box just to check out what the box should look like!  Thankfully I found Martin's blog and I feel a bit better that £7 doesn't really buy you many vegetables these days.

I did however find a new shop less than a mile from home, the pick up point for the box.  The Wholefood Coop was a breath of fresh air in the city.  An Organic, Eco Supermarket with a Homeschool bookshop, Roving Books

I'm going to cook up a rainbow chard and mushroom stir fry with cous cous tonight...

...are we there yet?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


...baby steps

I am trying to change one thing (or three!) at a time towards becoming self sufficient in every possible way.  

1. Every day learn something new, however small.

2. Reduce our processed food consumption, by learning to cook basic foods, eating fresh, healthy, organic, local, seasonal foods.

3. Stop supermarket shopping.

4. Grow vegetables.

5. Save money.

I have always been eco-conscious since I can remember.  I have always encouraged my family to recycle.  But since having my own family I have been able to take control of the household and the green in me has started to thrive!  We have recently moved to a rented flat in Leicester, we don't want a mortgage or anything else that will tie us down to England...our main aim is to buy a plot of land in India (my husband is from Kerala) build a house and live a quiet, simple life.  

This is a record of our journey.

Things I have recently changed in our lives...

* Growing vegetables.  We have a small yard with about 2 square metres of mud!

All in pots - potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, cucumber, broccoli, aubergines, chili, coriander, parsley, rocket, lettuce, peas, french beans, carrots.

In the mud - a few flowers, mint, basil, coriander, sage, thyme, rosemary, strawberries.
Nothing harvested yet as I was late in sowing the seeds (june) I was given tomatoes and courgettes as seedlings, so they are on the way.

* Inspired by Nikki, I have ordered an organic locally grown veg box.  £7 for 7 different seasonal vegetables.  I thought it would be too expensive.  I pick up my first box tomorrow!

* We can't compost as there is nowhere to put it... the council doesn't collect, my family have too much, no dog and no chickens.  I hate to throw away food waste but I have no choice.
We recycle by collection, glass (not much), plastic bottles (only milk really) and paper (every scrap) I take cardboard and tin cans to the local recycling point.

* I have learnt to bake bread, the conventional way.  I make all our yoghurt, so simple.  I have made Labneh, a soft Arabic cheese and paneer, indian cheese.  I have a pot of cream in the fridge waiting for a big jar to turn it into butter.  Not very economical, but fun!  I have just received my first bottle of vegetable rennet in the post today, so Neufchatel is next on the agenda.

* I have long ago cut back on toiletries, I don't wear make up and baby washes with water only.  I unfortunately have a stash of Body Shop stuff to plough through, left overs from my short lived days as a consultant... I use ecover now but I'd like to look into making my own detergents, I need to source the ingredients first.  

* I have always hated plastic bags.  and plastic chairs!

* I use Nature nappies.  I tried to use cloth nappies, but I couldn't afford them along with all the inserts, linings, outer bits blah fancy posh blah.  I ordered cheap ones from Hong Kong which were useless.  I was also living at home with my clean freak mother, so soaking stinky nappies was out of the question.  I ummed and ahhed over paying for a nappy service but I couldn't figure out if all the petrol, chemicals, energy use outweighed production of eco nappies.  We travelled India when Evangel was 3-5 months, she spent a lot of time naked and on rashioned Nature nappies.  I'm happy now I made the right choice for me and baby in our situation.  At 17 months now I'm steering towards potty training and half day naturism!

* The heating is off.  It's still cold!

* I'm struggling with the car situation.  It's a 20 year old, recycled, hand me down from Grandma (God Bless) She had it from brand new and I got it when she died.  It's only done 42,000 miles.  I've driven 25 of those in the last 10 years.  It always passes the MOT no problems, low emissions, economical to run, I can't live without it really.  I thought moving to a city would make it easier to get around, it's not.  Public transport is high cost and all routes are to and from the city centre, no good if you want to go across town and hard work with a buggy.   I go home quite a lot, 100 miles.  It costs £32 on the train, 2 buses to the station and 3 train changes, several flights of steps, no lifts and then a 10 mile round trip car journey from the station and back...total 4 hours!!  The car takes 2 hours and £20 max of petrol...

This is the beginning, or the middle, but definitely not the end...