Saturday, 27 September 2008

My life is in boxes...

I have a friend, who is frugal, tight, bossy, organised, loud and emotioness...

She came to our house yesterday with her husband after a two week holiday to Mexico feeling jet lagged, but she had already cooked dinner and washed up from the night before, done all her washing and hung it up to dry and looked fabulous in full make up and pretty clothes.  

We had no dinner prepared, washing up from days before, place a mess and nothing to offer as refreshments. Boxes all over the place and no idea how to send them for the cheapest price, safest journey and least hassle since we don't have a car.

To cut a long story short, my frugal, tight, bossy, organised, loud and emotioness friend made a plan A, B, C, D and then E, after 8 hours and a headache and a gin and tonic, we finally booked our boxes to be picked up door to door, at a third of our original quote, paid online and then found out the airline carrier was the same as the original quote anyway!!

I love my friend... she is an angel... we're happy now.

I won't be around much for the next few days, too busy, moving out on Tuesday. Have a lovely weekend x

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

There is one thing in my life that I am happily addicted to... my one cup of fresh coffee in the morning. Only one and only in the morning.

I think I fell in love with coffee when I was in Sydney. 
Almost as passionate about their capuccinnos, flat whites (that's a latte for us Poms) and long blacks (americanos) as the Italians, the good old Aussies just love their cuppas. 

I used to get quite confused and intimidated standing in line for a coffee, practicing in my head what to say when all I really wanted was a simple cup of fresh coffee. At first I started out with a long black, but with cold milk on the side. That of course got me looks of 'you what?'... then I followed the crowd into cappuccinos, but always found them a bit insipid, never quite hitting the spot. A barista friend then introduced me to the machiato (espresso with a dash of frothed milk). But that was too small. I just wanted to jump behind the counter and make it myself...

So I did. And 'voila' the perfect coffee was born. It has no name to forget and it's just simple and tastes good. It does what it sets out to do and it makes me happy. Take a double espresso add a touch of frothed milk and thats it. How simple was that? But oh no... I either get charged for a double machiato or told 'we don't do that'.... So I gave up and started to just order a double shot cappuccino, with less milk or in a smaller cup.

I had a bit of a tif with a waitress in Plymouth one day. I asked for a cappuccino, regular size, then added an extra shot to the order. She bought me a great big mug of cappuccino with two shots of espresso. Now, the great big mug of milk defeats the whole point of the two shots because 'I like strong tasting coffee'... She couldn't quite grasp this concept and insisted it was strong as it had two shots in it. Now forgive me and replace this with gin and tonic (as I quite often like to do, though not in the morning!)... If you ask for a double gin and tonic, does it come in a pint glass? No. I rest my case.

I actually sat down to write a post about Fair Trade coffee, but a story has to start with a little introduction and if you've read this far then I must have caught your attention...

Fair Trade is close to my heart. I think everything should be fairly traded anyway and the farmer who has done all the hard toil to get that fresh aroma to my coffee cup, deserves to be paid a fair price for it. It really hit me hard a few years ago when I watched 'Black Gold' on recommendation from my Mums partner, M.

We drank gallons of Costco's Signature brand of Columbian coffee at our house and it was quite traumatic for me to not find a Fair Trade logo on the tin. M assured me that I shouldn't worry as Columbia had a pretty good working standard when it came to coffee. M doesn't bullshit and he knows a lot about the economy and world issues, so I drank my coffee in a little more peace.

The success of the Starbucks petition to honour their commitments to coffee farmers in Ethiopia was a big breakthrough in our house, not that I go there, but knowing that we helped to change such an important issue. M was born and bought up in Ethiopia, so it was very close to home.

Now I only buy Fair Trade coffee as I don't shop at Costco's and Mum keeps forgetting to buy me coffee when she goes (It's really that good) but I have since done a bit of research and have found that the Signature branded coffee at Costco is actually owned by none other than Starbucks! Not only that but it is certified Fair Trade too!

I'm not sure when this article was written, but you can't really find a more reliable source than The National Geographic, Green Guide... It's really worth a read to find out the ins and outs of fairly traded coffee.

"Responding to heightened consumer activism, a handful of corporate giants have taken meaningful steps toward a more environmentally sustainable and socially responsible coffee market. As a result of pressure from grassroots non-profits including Global Exchange and Oxfam America, in 2003 Proctor and Gamble began selling Fair Trade-certified coffees through Millstone, its gourmet coffee division, but has yet to extend the certification to its more widely available Folgers brand. To be compatible with its socially responsible image, Starbucks sells its Fair Trade-certified Cafe Estima blend year-round, and their Fair Trade-certified Kirkland Signature house blend is also available at Costco stores nationwide and in Canada. However, the company has yet to make Fair Trade coffee a viable option for customers by brewing it weekly in cafes, although they do state that its stores will brew a pot of Fair Trade coffee if a customer requests it."

Yes and I remember sitting in Starbucks in Aldwich waiting for my freshly brewed Fair Trade coffee to brew... 10 minutes... 20 minutes... I wasn't in a hurry as I was waiting to go back and pick up our visas from India House, so I waited patiently. They had forgotten to put the switch on... obviously they make a lot of Fair Trade then?! I did however get a nice apology and a voucher for any drink of choice.

So M was right in the end and I don't feel at all guilty for trusting his knowledgeability. 

I found it interesting that when you Google 'coffee', wikipedia is the first hit, Starbucks the second and national geographic the third... something wrong there.

Fair Trade isn't a trend it's a right.

'Leicester Mercury' Article...

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

It seems there were two articles written about the 'Leicester Canal Issue', they were published in Tuesdays 'Leicester Mercury'. Online you can read them here and here. It was interesting to read the comments left on the main article. It's always good to see the messenger being shot at!

I left my own comment too, but it hasn't been published for some reason, maybe it has been delayed in the system. Here it is just in case...

Dear Robert,
I was taking a walk along the canal with my husband and 2 year old daughter on a Saturday afternoon. I do not usually take bin liners with me on our walks, but I often take my camera. I always take my rubbish home with me as I prefer to recycle what I can. I very often pick up other peoples rubbish as well and deposit it in the nearest bin. I do not however feel self righteous when doing this, just very sad. I did not contact the newspaper to 'moan' about the problem, only to make it known to the public the results of their disregardful actions when they throw litter. I would not know if this was a new or old problem as I have only lived in Leicester for 6 months.

Dear Kim,
I am concerned. This is the planet where my daughter and her future generations will grow up. I do a lot to ensure that I teach her about respect and compassion for the world and it inhabitants. I am very happy that there are people who have the sense to organise volunteer projects. I would be very happy to volunteer for any type of environmental project that is happening in the area. Unfortunately I am leaving Leicester in a few days, so as well as not being able to enjoy the beauty of Abbey Park anymore, I will also not be able to participate in any voluntary clean ups.

Dear Niki,
You have some very wise comments. I agree that we have to educate our children first, to make a difference. You may be interested to read my post about sustainable development in UK schools:

Please feel free to view my original post and photos at:


Natural Cleaning the 'Naked' Guide...


In June of 2000, the World Health Organization warned that antibacterial products directly contribute to the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Bacteria and viruses, are naturally, everywhere we go. We can’t escape them and we shouldn’t want to…

Our bodies produce antibodies in response to exposure to bacteria. Those antibodies protect us in the future from the same germs. If there were no exposure to bacteria and viruses, how would we make antibodies?

Babies who are exposed to bacteria and viruses at an early age produce antibodies quicker than babies who are kept in virtually sterile environments. You only have to look at the increase in ‘sick’ babies over the years. Allergies, food intolerances; every ‘yummy mummies’ little precious has something wrong with them these days. What happened to all of the snotty nosed, knee scraped, mucky faced scallywags running around in the mud?

While staying germ-free can prevent the spread of disease and infections, leading a cleanlier lifestyle may be responsible for an increase in allergies among children.

“It’s called the hygiene hypothesis,” says Marc McMorris, M.D, a pediatric allergist at the University of Michigan Health System.

“We’ve developed a cleanlier lifestyle, and our bodies no longer need to fight germs as much as they did in the past. As a result, the immune system has shifted away from fighting infection to developing more allergic tendencies.” 

 'Science Daily'

So what is the answer?

Well the usual one that keeps coming up … lets go back to basics and take advice from the elders. Clean naturally. 

My ‘funda’ is: 

If it looks clean and it smells clean, then it probably is clean and if it isn’t it probably doesn’t matter anyway. So if you are on a mission to save the world from toxins, chemicals, pollution and plastic, then here is my basic guide to:

'Naked Cleaning'…

Most of the research I have done has brought results in the form of a million recipes for a million different things to clean. Now I get a bit impatient when it comes to recipes and my mind starts to wander. By the time the idea of logic has briefly entered my head I overload and end up sitting down for a cup of tea instead…

So simple and natural cleaning is all about understanding the ingredients and how they perform. If you know the basic chemistry of the product, then your common sense will lead you in the right direction without the need for a measuring jug...

So in no particular order, they are...

The number one in natural fruity freshness…
The citric acid in lemon juice makes it perfect for natural bleaching, disinfecting, deodourising and cutting through grease. Take a cut and squeezed leftover lemon, sprinkle it with bicarbonate of soda and use it to clean just about anything. Rinse the surface after a few minutes with a clean wet cloth.


White distilled vinegar is mildly acidic and leaves no odour behind.
Use to shine windows, wiping away with scrunched up newspaper. As a fabric softener, one cup in the rinse cycle. To clean mineral and lime deposits from taps and ceramics, mix a paste of vinegar and bicarb, leave for a few minutes to work then rinse off thoroughly. Vinegar and water in a spray bottle makes a fantastic deodoriser spray. Vinegar on a damp cloth is great for dusting. Be careful not to use vinegar on marble surfaces.

Bicarbonate of Soda...

(aka baking soda/powder = bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar/sodium bicarbonate)
Bicarbonate of soda is an alkaline, abrasive and a great deodoriser – it doesn’t just absorb odours but it also neutralises them as well, making it a great cleaner for the refrigerator. Shake and Vac carpets to remove nasty smells. For tea and coffee tannin stains, scrub with a little bicarb paste.

Olive oil...

Just the simple cheap stuff. Of course oil has great moisturising properties, so it makes a wonderful furniture polish. Mix with a little lemon juice or vinegar and buff on with a soft clean cloth. Use olive oil to keep your wicker baskets supple and your hands soft after all that washing up (no fairies round here!)


Multi purpose cleaner, naturally anti bacterial, stain remover and abrasive. It’s also incredibly cheap.


Borax, or sodium borate, is a naturally occurring alkaline mineral. It isn't toxic and it's safe for the environment. It cleans, deodorizes, disinfects and softens water. Used mainly for laundry it beats 'Daz' on whiteness. Be careful as it can irritate skin and of course don't eat it.

Castile Soap...

Made exclusively from vegetable oils, it should be 100% olive oil to be classed as ‘Castile’. It lathers up for use in washing up, washing and cleaning, in fact use it for just about anything that needs a good clean or heavy duty degreasing. Grating it makes it easier to use.


Don’t for get the main ingredient for cleaning. Cold water is best for anything stained, warm water helps to lather up soap, boiling water will kill all the nasties and make you a nice cup of tea too.


Sunshine naturally kills off dust mites and mould and air-drying in good weather is quick and gives your laundry that wonderful sunny smell.


Produce oxygen and purify the air from toxins. Top purifiers are Philodendrons, Spider plants, Palms, Ferns and Dracaenas.

Essential oils...

It is simple to choose your oils by how you feel when you smell each one. Fresh fruity citrus fragrances are good for cleaning, try lemon, lemongrass, orange or grapefruit. Medicinal fragrances are good for naturally disinfecting: rosemary, lavender, tea tree. Add to vinegar and water and spray on shower curtains and other mildew prone areas for a natural fungicide. Never underestimate the power of pure essential oils and always check the properties before use. Do not use undiluted and avoid contact with skin or plastics when neat.


The perfect finish to a good days spring-cleaning. Fresh flowers will make it all seem worthwhile. If you can pick them from you own garden or get someone else to buy them, then consider yourself extremely lucky!


A very often forgotten ingredient for cleaning. The 'power' of natural cleaning products, needs a little more time to work compared to commercial products. This gives you a well deserved few minutes to sit down, guilt free and savour your tea…


Thank you for the beautiful images...
lemon)(cleaning kit)(vinegar)(bicarb)(borax)(washing line)(oil)(water)(salt)(soap)(essential oil)(plants)(tea)

Green as a Thistle...

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A special mention for 'Green as a Thistle'...

Vanessa, a journalist for the National Post, Toronto has written a must read post with some great article links on the subject of:

... there's also a sneak preview into Vanessa's new book deal 'Sleeping Naked is Green'

A Helping Hand in Sustainable Development...

Monday, 22 September 2008

I set out to discover what is 'really' being done to educate our country in the move towards being green. 

Now, I know from experience that when you sit a child down in a class with a book and preach about the world and it's issues, things get a little boring and out of perspective. It's another lesson to learn, another snippet of information to revise and another minute of a life wasted.

Get me out of the classroom, make me feel special, give me some responsibility and a chance to have fun and I'll remember the day for the rest of my life.

There is of course a government initiative to educate our children and reeducate our adults. Reports have been written, agendas have been set and all will be published for the world to see. This has been happening over the last few years, but of course unless you are involved directly or are scouring the net for answers, the results are hidden in a mountain of paperwork and promises...

The 'Sustainable Development' Government website states that:

"Formal education has a crucial role to play in raising awareness of sustainable development among young people. It gives them the skills they need to put sustainable development into practice in later life and form good habits at an early age.

On behalf of the Government, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) aims to ensure that sustainable development is embedded in the core education agenda across all education and skills sectors. In 2003 they launched the Sustainable Development Action Plan for Education and Skills. The action plan is organised around four objectives :

  • Education for sustainable development
  • The environmental impact of the Department and its partner bodies
  • The environmental impact of the education estate
  • Local and global partnership activities

Sustainable Schools website

DfES is developing a web-based service, Sustainable Schools , which will bring together sources of advice and practical support for teachers and school heads and governors. Sustainable Schools is designed to provide an on-line community, disseminate good practice and offer a shop window for the many schemes to promote their service to schools."


DEFRA, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is a UK government department. Their ultimate aim is 'to enable everyone to live within our environmental means'.

Reading through their Sustainable Development pages, they are obviously moving in the right directions in theory and practically speaking doing everything they can to filter down the 'action' through schools, teachers and communities. The introduction on the main page is a direct, straight forward, no nonsense statement, we all need to listen to:

"The past 20 years have seen a growing realisation that the current model of development is unsustainable. In other words we are living beyond our means. From the loss of biodiversity with the felling of rainforests or over fishing, to the negative effect our consumption patterns are having on the environment and the climate. Our way of life is placing an increasing burden on the planet - this cannot be sustained.

The increasing stress we put on resources and environmental systems such as water, land and air cannot go on for ever. Especially as the world's population continues to increase and we already see a world where over a billion people live on less than a dollar a day, more than 800 million are malnourished, and over two and a half billion lack access to adequate sanitation.

A widely-used and accepted international definition of sustainable development is: 'development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs' - Globally we are not even meeting the needs of the present let alone considering the needs of future generations.

Unless we start to make real progress toward reconciling these contradictions, we all, wherever we live, face a future that is less certain and less secure than we in the UK have enjoyed over the past fifty years. We need to make a decisive move toward more sustainable development both because it is the right thing to do - and because it is in our own long-term best interests. It offers the best hope for securing the future."

Extract taken from the
UK Sustainable development Government website


Now I feel a little better that so many things are in place, being ticked off and implemented, but a small cynical part of me says it may be there in theory, for the sake of reports, to show the world we care. But is any of it actually flowing through the system and watering the 'grass roots'?

I know that when I step outside the door, when I turn on the TV, all I see shoved in the face of 'communities' is the marketing magic of consumerism. At every turn, in every view on every bus, it's there. So where is the knowledge and encouragement we need from our 'so called elders'?

I have seen a few new hoardings for the 'Love Food' campaign and Leicestershire's reusable bag's ad (I didn't know the are given them away for free!) But I still feel that these green issues are all a bit 'alternative thinking' and that I'm only noticing the tiny changes because I'm looking for them.

As I don't have a child of school age, I can't tell you if the teachings are hitting home yet, I'd like to hear from others, in any country, what is your child being taught and how? Do they come home excited about environmental issues? How to you encourage and develop these ideas?

It's all very well having a mountain of websites to scour through, games for children to play online, reports and agendas, adverts and ideas, but truly the best way to teach your children is through spending time with nature. Learn about the basics of life, water, air, weather. Let your child see the beauty in the world and learn to respect and admire our planet.

A River Runs Through It...

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Here is a view of the canal that runs past Abbey Park in Leicester...

...beautiful isn't it? ...and another one...

Now take a closer look at the patch of white in the centre of the photo above...

...then, just to be sure...

...plastic bottles, a car wheel, a sofa cushion, a football, a yoghurt pot, a few pieces of fence post, a million plastic bags, an extended family of rats (yes I did see them scurrying across the island paradise they live on!)... a complete and utter disgrace!

... then there is the bank that leads down to the water, perfect for family picnics, groups of hooded junkies, tramps day out, school kids smoking place and nearby bus stop litter bin...

...and if your local council doesn't have a recycling and refuse depot, feel free to fly-tip your unused and unwanted clutter over the fence... makes a perfect playground for the rat babies... (sorry they are so quick, I couldn't catch a shot!)

Don't forget after your picnic lunch from Sainsbury's, to leave behind some bonus marketing for the local store. If you can't be bothered to walk to the bin or take your leftovers home, don't worry, leave it hanging in a conspicuous place for someone else to clean up!

We live in such a beautiful world, full of beautiful people... 

Shame they don't have any consideration for the gift they have been given...

Sad that their parents have neglected to teach them about sharing and compassion for others...

Do you ever feel completely lost and powerless in this powerful world?


Email to the Editor of 'Leicester Mercury' and  to Leicester City Council...

I would like to bring to your attention some images I took on a walk along the canal in Leicester.
I know that litter, recycling and refuse are an important issue at the moment in Leicestershire.
I have only lived in Leicester for a few months and I'm very impressed with the rejuvenation work and love the beauty of Abbey Park.
It's just a shame that this beauty is lost on Leicesters untidy residents.

I realise you don't have time to pursue all emails and I am not asking for a reply.
I would simply like to let you know there are some residents who do care for the world and it's beauty.

I have written a few posts in my blog about the issue of rubbish, litter and recycling in Leicester.
If you have time please read them, the photos are in the first link...

Thank you and regards,

One Water...

Saturday, 20 September 2008

I guess we have all given up buying bottled water by now?

Well just in case you are caught short (not very likely I know, who would refuse you a glass of water? (and that's not a rhetorical question) bear in mind there is one bottle of water you can buy without any guilt, as long as you recycle the bottle!)

Trying to change the lives of a billion people?

"1 billion people without clean water, 2 million deaths each year, but did you know that the bigger problem is actually that people spend an average of 5 hours a day walking to collect water? That's around 40 billion hours a year. Imagine what your day would be like if you spent 5 hours walking to your local shop for a drink. Wouldn't get much done would you? It's the same in developing countries. Kids don't go to school and adults can't look after their crops or families properly.

We could have sat on our backsides and done nothing, but we've seen the impact of a little bit of money used in the right way – which is why we launched One. We always said that if we could get just one bottle produced, or change just one life it would have been worth it. But with your help we've already done much better than that.

All of One water's profilts are used to install PlayPump® water systems in villages. PlayPumps® are roundabout powered water pumps. As kids play, clean water is pumped out of the ground into storage tanks for use by the community. So not only do people get clean water, but because it's readily available it means time isn't wasted collecting water - and that's great because the kids go to school to get an education and the adults look after their crops and families."

Volunteer on a water communitychallenge project in South Africa

"Due to overwhelming interest in our work in Africa, we've now teamed up with communitychallenge to launch volunteering projects - If you would like to make a difference and are up for a challenge then you may be interested in raising the funds to build a PlayPump® and then joining a small team to take part in a 9 day community project to help develop the basic infrastructure of a community in need. You could be building toilets, planting a vegetable garden, building a kitchen, or repairing classrooms. Whatever work you do, no specific skills are required, just the energy and enthusiasm to make a difference! You can be sure that you will be making a huge difference to the community.

If you'd like more information about this project please visit the '
Community Challenge' website...

Jade: Take note!! I'll come!

Fair Trade Coffee and Dreams...

Friday, 19 September 2008

Well I just got back from my meet up with Laura. She's lovely, just how I expected her to be, warm, friendly and interesting...

The morning didn't start too well for me. Angel didn't sleep in the morning until 5 minutes before we were about to leave! I had hoped to get her in the buggy without waking her up, but not a chance, so she was miserable and tired. Then the bus driver was rude to me before I'd even got my ticket. I make a deliberate effort with people working in services as I've been there many times before, I always say 'hello', smile and say 'thank you', whether to a bus driver or a bank clerk it doesn't take much to be nice. He ignored my smile and ordered that I'd have to fold my buggy up... all before I'd even got my ticket. He continue to shout at me as I was struggling up the aisle, all in the name of rules and regulations! Thankfully a lovely girl helped me to fold the buggy while the bus driver made a point of going nowhere 'til it was done (which makes a change from the usual foot slammed on the accelerator before you have a chance to sit down!)

Stuck for what to do in the middle of 'Consumerism Hell', we ended up at Costa Coffee for a cup of Fair Trade cappuccino and a pathetically priced 'babyccino' for 50p... (I forgot to say thank you for the coffee Laura!)

We chatted about our lives and where they are headed, how much we both hate the 'outside world' and how our escape to the sun will hopefully bring us what we are looking for in life...

One little Angel certainly wasn't living up to her name, so we had a wonder around aimlessly in the sun, backing up our views of this country at every step, from the ridiculously priced to the even more ridiculously dressed! We even stopped to listen to a 'one man and his dog' band and stared in amazement that the dog was actually singing along...

It was really great meeting you Laura, I wish you every happiness in your journey, thanks for sharing your story... x

(I've now just realised that Laura's not on my blogroll either! 

What's going on with the Google reader update! Down to Earth, Gardenopolis, Natural, Happy and Free, Notes from the Frugal Trenches and Sandras Garden are missing too! 

Sorry ladies, you're all regular reads of mine and deserve a special mention...)

Cleaning Baskets in the Sun (or Shade)...

Thursday, 18 September 2008

As you may already gather from this post, I have a big love of baskets. Our flat at the moment, with the weather getting colder, is becoming quite a haven for mould. No it's not very nice and yes, I know it's not at all good for our health. But we're off, so I don't really loose much sleep over it. The problem is though, apart from the teabags and flour I had in the cupboards going mouldy (sorry I couldn't offer you a cup of Peppermint tea Mum!), all my baskets have taken on a light tinge of green!

I couldn't live without my baskets (well I'm sure I could really) to contain all the silly clutter that flutters around my life. I absolutely love anything that can be classed in the 'Things to Put Things In' catergory... I like my surfaces clear and easy to clean, so for me the basket is the epiphany of clutter containment.

I thought I'd have a go at cleaning them, since they will be going on the 'by sea' journey to India. I'm not sure how long they will last in the monsoon humidity, but they may as well come along for the ride instead of going up in the loft.

The wonderful Rhonda Jean wrote a post a while back on just this subject and the lovely Julie (Oh bugger, you wern't on my blogroll... why isn't my google reader updating my list properly?), wrote a post about how she transformed her baskets in one of her super duper 'Doing/Making/Garden/Dinner' frenzies. (Simple Days she calls them!)

So with a little help...

...we collected up the mouldy baskets and using a little antibacterial, supposedly 'natural' washing up liquid from Sainsburys, (a little dig there because I thought I was buying eco, no more eco than 'Herbal Essences'!) we scrubbed and showered them down (I wasn't about to get the cold hosepipe out in this weather). Now the next step is to leave them to dry in the sun for a few days... yeah right! As the weather here is not quite as predictable as one would hope and the only patch of sun I could find in our little yard was a bit too high up to string up my basket collection, I settled for the cold shade.

So when they do finally dry, I will take an old cloth and rub them over with some Olive Oil to give them a new lease of life, fill them with beautiful things and post them off to India to meet me in the sun...

Slipping off the Eco-Wagon...

I'm not being very 'Green', 'Simple' or 'Self Sufficient' right now...

My energy levels are on a roller coaster ride at the moment. I've slowed down in the last few days, my mind is cloudy and I'm not at all worried about the impending doom and gloom of packing, paying bills and moving on...

In fact I'm almost non plussed.

I've realised that because I haven't had any of my usual focuses to focus on, I feel a bit lost. I've got nothing to write about, I've got no meals planned, I'm scraping through the last of our stock in the cupboards at the same time as being a bit frivolous, thinking 'Oh well, we'll be gone soon anyway'... 

My Mum came at the weekend bringing a fresh haul of goodies. Muffins, brownies (no, not a chance it was fresh from the oven, fresh from Sainsbury's!) Sausages, chicken and lots of shrink wrapped veggies. She's so good to me and hates to think of me starving myself! So I haven't even had the usually mulling around the local shops to do. I did however pick a handful of French Beans for my Mum to take home, she was quite amazed and hadn't thought in a million years, her daughter would be giving her home grown veg!

As for the packing, well what am I thinking! A new life starts ..... (here!).... and I'm worrying whether or not to take my colander along for the ride! Mum's bagsed almost everything, Michael will be none to happy about that! He can't stand the clutter and begs me to take it away.. no more back up kettles purleeeese!

I usually base my posts around the photos I've taken recently. But there aren't any. We haven't been very far with no car. We catch the bus to playschool on Mondays and Wednesdays and pop over to the local park. No excitement, no stress.

We went on the bus into the city last night. The usual shopping trip before we travel, to pick up the necessities for traveling, like pants and stretchy things you can't get in India. Primark of course because we can't afford anything else, although I did splash out for the first time in years at the weekend. We went with my family to Wagamamas for lunch, which happens to be smack bang in the middle of the brand spanking new Highcross Shopping Centre, Leicester City. A haven of high class, top brand fashion... yuck! 

Now in my mind I hate all the faffy fashions, hate the thought of all that money being wasted away, despise the image factor and can't believe people enjoy doing it all on a Saturday afternoon. Then when I got there, I was on a high having my family around me, having £40 in my pocket from Grandpa and having a belly full of positive+ energy...

I found the shop (Republic) I had tried to order some quality, 5 yearly purchases, online a few weeks ago. My order had been refunded because they were out of stock.

We can't afford the G-Stars and Diesels of the world, not coveted for the expensive labels but for the quality, industrial look, comfort and practicality, so very occasionally we step up a level from Primark and buy some long lasting essentials.

There in the shop the lovely grey hoody and sparkly jeans I coveted, were waiting by the door to tempt me... along with a very practical, lightweight coat, perfect for air-conditioned airports and the fresh air of the mountains. 

I had also wanted these combats...                                                                                                                 

... but the size 10 was huge on me, they are supposed to come in a size 6 too, be serious, me a size 6, not even in my dreams am I a size 6! So I was very upset to find the size 6 never even existed. After a mass trying on session and a few giggles with the lovely guy looking after the changing rooms, my very relaxed shopping spree (baby with Ammama) ended on a high when the nice manager gave me a 10% discount for having such a silly sizing system on the combats!

So I'm all ready to go, full capsule wardrobe waiting in a not very neat pile...

We still haven't got our passports back, so no tickets booked!


I'm very excited about tomorrow morning! Another bus trip to the city, for my very first meeting with an 'Internet Friend'! I've arranged to meet Laura from 'Move to Portugal' for a cup of Fairtrade coffee in 'The Lanes' of Leicester. That'll be something to post about!

Indian Kheer, a bit like Rice Pudding!

Monday, 15 September 2008

At first when I went to India, the incessant offerings of sweets and desserts made me feel quite queasy. They love sugar! Heaps and spoons of it, all a bit too much for me. So now I can make my own desserts, I hold back on the sugar and make everything to my taste, plus one spoon to make my husband happy!

Kheer is one of our favourites. So simple and sooo tasty. It's comfort, home food, perfect in the summer straight from the fridge and in the winter straight from the pan!


All quantities can be changed to suit your own taste... this will make enough for 4 people.

100g Seviyan (Roasted Vermicelli)

Semiya Payasam (South Indian), Seviyan (Hindi/Urdu), Sev (Gujarati)

Seviyan is made from Semolina, unlike the Italian version which is made from Durum Wheat or the Chinese version made from rice flour (glass noodles)

Kheer can also be made from the following in case you don't have a packet of Seviyan in the store cupboard!: Rice, spaghettini, quinoa, chickpeas, semolina, moong beans, even banana and cornflakes!

50g butter
1/2 tin of Condensed milk
You don't have to use these but they give a nicer flavour...

Flavourings of choice...
I like to use:

5 Cardamom pods (crushed)
A nice scraping of fresh Nutmeg and Cinnamon
And of course a few spoons of brown sugar...

(You could use anything you fancy really, like vanilla pods/essence, raisins, sultanas, almonds, cashews, coconut, saffron, even grated carrots!...)

A pint of Milk
Only roughly use as much or as little as you like, like rice pudding, some people prefer it stodgy, some runny.

Then for a really authentic Indian taste, try to get hold of some Kewra Essence or Kewra Water...

Kewra is an extract distilled from Pandanus flowers. Kewra flowers have a sweet, perfumed odour with a pleasant quality similar to rose flowers, but kewra is more fruity. 

To me it is such an 'Indian' smell, a whiff of this and I am transported to the streets of Bombay!


In a thick bottomed saucepan (to avoid burning, husbands take note:) Melt the butter, then add the spices/nuts/fruit and fry a little to bring out the flavours.

Then add the seviyan. If you crunch it up it makes it easier to eat with a spoon! 

Add the condensed milk, milk, kewra (only a drop if essence or a splash if water) and sugar.

Stir it all up and simmer gently for a while. You may need to add some more milk as the kheer cooks. We like it quite runny, because if there is any left over (which is rare!) it gets thicker with time.

You can garnish with Saffron, nuts, sultanas or even gold leaf if you're feeling fancy!

There are a couple of online UK Indian Food stores that seem to have a nice variety of products. One is 'Spices of India' and the other 'The Asian Cookshop'. They both have Kewra and Vermicelli for less than a pound.


For my little sister Hanna... 'cos she loves Kheer too!

Feeling Happy...

Sunday, 14 September 2008

My family have come to stay for the weekend...
It's so nice to have a bit of time without constant attention to the angel...
I love her with all my heart, but it's nice to free my mind...

She's so happy with her Ammama (my Mum)

Funny Grandpa (my Grandpa, he's 87!) 

and Auntie Hanna (my Sister)

I hate to think about leaving them behind and taking her away... it's too much... 
Has anyone been through it before?

Weighing Up the Pros and Colandars...

Friday, 12 September 2008

Over the last few days I've not really been up to much. I'd love to say I've been out digging up the garden (what garden?) or knitting a scarf for winter (I still haven't got any needles) or even making a nice big batch of muffins to store in the freezer (I never did get the muffin tray)...

What have I been doing?

A bit of procrastinating, a bit of worrying, some moving things from room to room...

I'm feeling a bit like I'm in limbo. We know we are going but we still don't know when. We're dreaming of the day the passports come through the letterbox, so we can book our flights. 

I've spent a lot of time de-cluttering and prioritising what's wanted and what's not, but I've hit a mental block now. Most things we need for daily life to continue so I can't even pack yet (I'm the one that starts packing 6 weeks before I go anywhere!) I need help. I'm not sure what I'm doing...

We have found a company that sends boxes to India for a pound a kilo. The idea is to send what we really love and don't want to get rid of, see my post 'Simplicity Update' for the list. The problem is I've started thinking 'Well if it only weighs a kilo, it only costs a pound to send', so things are being added to the list and weighed and then I stand there in the kitchen in a daze saying to myself 'What am I doing?!'

Now let me explain. We don't have a house yet. It may take a few years to buy a piece of land and build one. So my dilemma is should I send things that I don't really want, but could be useful in the future? There are so many things you can't get, or are expensive to buy in India. I'm mainly talking about kitchenalia...

The 'Obliterator' in me says 'Don't do it!', but the new frugal me says 'You won't get one like that for less than a quid'...

I'm not the slightest bit attached in any way to my colander or cake plate, but I can't help thinking 'what a waste!'...

Then there's the books and toys... I don't have a problem with these. Quality books and toys are hard to come buy in India and with 3 babies to entertain, I know they will be worthwhile sending.

So forgive me whilst I put the kettle on (no that's not going and neither is the kitchen sink!), sit down for a few more minutes and contemplate clutter... I've got so much to do!!