Friday, 17 January 2020

Just Do Your Best ...

There's so much in the news, in magazines and on social media at the moment about climate change, about saving what's left of our beautiful planet for future generations and the drastic things we need to do urgently to change things for the better ... if indeed that is even possible.

The fires, the floods, the extremes of weather that are happening in all the countries of the world are enough to make anyone panic and worry that there is so much we need to do and NOW!!

We can all do our bit, and if we all do our best that is a good start.

We don't have to be perfect in what we do, we just need to carefully move in the right direction.  We can cut down on our plastic use as soon as we can, keeping it only for the things that it is really useful for.  We can of course most definitely try and stop most of the single use plastics where ever we can.  We can cut down on car journeys, on flying abroad, on food wastage and excessive spending on clothes, shoes and household commodities.

My lovely Mum came to me the other week with a box of cotton buds ... the older sort with the plastic sticks … and asked  'What can I do with these?'.  Her first  thought was to get rid of them as soon as  possible but we came to the conclusion that she should use them, after all whether she did or didn't they would end up in landfill.  Better for them to fulfil their purpose before being disposed of than be thrown away unused.  Her next box, which most likely will not even to be purchased until next year will have the cardboard middles and be of no major problem to the environment.

It's little things like this that can confuse people and make them jettison perfectly good things and then have to go out and buy more things to replace them.  It's easy to have a knee jerk reaction and suddenly want all your cupboards to be full of glass jars rather than plastic tubs for instance, but you do have to stop and think.

When I first shared this photograph of one of my food cupboards on my Challenge blog last year, a reader emailed asking where I had got all my mis-matched jars from as she wanted to buy some for herself.  I wrote back with the truth, here, there and everywhere.  Mostly charity shops, car boot sales, jars that I had bought that had held sauces, mayonnaises, pickles etc.  I told her it would be cheaper and much more satisfying to slowly accumulate her own selection as I had done, than to dash out and visit a kitchen supplies shop.

One thing I did do after thinking carefully about it in late Spring last year, was to sort out all my plastic food storage boxes.  Yes I could have kept them and re-used them for years to come, but these were in good condition, I had far too many of them and the sight of all that plastic in my cupboard was getting me down.  So I sold all these and a few more at a car boot sale last year.

And put the money I made towards buying these.  The round ones all stack inside each other saving me space too. 

Doing that made me feel better and meant that the people who bought all my plastic storage boxes would not be going to shops buying them and creating even more demand for more to be produced.

Before you start being hard on yourself, or feeling like there's nothing you can do, think of all the things you are already doing, have already done and are planning to do in the near future.  It's lots of us doing little things that adds up so much more than a few of us doing everything possible.

Things I am doing my best at, at the moment:

Cutting right back on single use plastics

Reusing, re-purposing and recycling

Using my cloth shopping bags and not buying any plastic carrier bags

Eating a plant based diet

Selling unwanted items at car boot sales at low prices to people that want them more than me

Selling, and also giving things away free on Facebook Marketplace

Making sure I have NO food waste whatsoever

Simplifying my whole lifestyle

Reducing my living space 

Giving up my love of speed and instead driving to maximise my fuel efficiency

Heating the house with wood from our own woodland

Using the solar energy harvested by our 45 solar panels

Outdoors only using collected rainwater collected in our water buts and 10,000 gallon underground storage tank, for watering plants, washing cars etc

Following people on social media who inspire me to make more changes, and not make me feel inadequate that I'm not doing enough already

Sharing what I do to help give others ideas about what they can do.

I'm sure there is more but that's my list for now.

What are you doing ... or does it all feel like a bit too much at the moment?

Sue xx

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Simply Hummus

I was asked the other day about a hummus recipe, so as I was making some to put into the fridge for this week I though I would take a few photos.

My recipe … it's taken from Ella Woodward/Mills' first book Deliciously Ella.  I've never really found a recipe to beat it for simplicity.  

Although saying that, I did use a slightly simplified version when I did The Ration Challenge for charity last year on my other blog.  Swapping out the tahini for a tablespoon of peanut butter as that was all I had, and using mostly water rather than oil.

When I'm making anything these days I tend to get all the ingredients out on the worktop and then as I use them put anything not completely used up away again.  It keeps the kitchen tidy and it makes sure I don't forget to add anything that I should.

Can you spot the omission from the recipe?

Yes, I forgot to get out my lemon juice!!  I always use bottled juice rather than fresh lemons in recipes as it is handier and much cheaper.  As someone who only really like lemon in water and not on food I actually prefer my hummus without it after tasting the finished product!!

Once you have the basic hummus whizzed up, it is important to taste and adjust it to your own taste buds.  I ended up adding another clove of garlic, more oil and lots more salt and pepper to this particular batch.

I put half of the mix into two little tubs and then added a beetroot from a ready-cooked vacuum pack to the hummus left in the food processor,  and whizzed it up again.

Which then gave me three portions of gloriously pink hummus.  One for my lunch with dippable additions of celery, cherry tomatoes and a toasted wholemeal pitta bread, and two more to go into the fridge for another day.

I've found hummus keeps quite happily in sealed tubs in the fridge for up to a week.

Simply Hummus ❣

Sue xx

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Trust the Journey - Getting to Know Me

Many times during the course of my life I have taken a leap of faith.

Giving up a job with no other job to go to, but finding one within days and being all the more happier for doing so.  

Selling all our possessions and moving a hundred miles from my family with a husband that wanted to be nearer to his family, to live in a flat neither of us had seen and for him to start his own window cleaning business.

Leaving a husband of 26 years because I knew he was so engrained in a rut that I was desperately trying to climb out of for the sanity of myself and my younger son.  By this time my elder son was in the Army.

Renting a house for the two of us and my four cats because I saw a board go up in the street behind the shop I was working in at the time.  I saw it on the Monday, we were living in it by the following week.  With only a bed each, lots of boxes of books and two armchairs that came with the house.  

Getting legally separated.

Spending two happy years just the two of us (and of course the puss cats) finding our feet in the world together.  No car, no money, paying my way out of the debts I had brought with me from my marriage.

 Getting divorced.

Meeting a guy on-line … and then marrying him three years later.  

Switching from managing a shop for someone else to owning one of my own, just because each night on the way home from work I passed a lonely little boarded up shop and felt it calling to me.

Giving up everything I loved to start a new life in the country.

Realising the new life was not what I wanted, as things had veered in another direction.

Being totally unafraid of starting all over again.

Having a feeling that in this my 60th year …  perhaps the best is yet to come.

There, that's me … what has been your journey?

Sue xx

Monday, 13 January 2020

Snippets of Home - 3

If this was a real estate agents tour of our home you would all be fast asleep by now waiting for the next leg of the tour!!  We've looked at the downstairs and now, due to popular demand we are going to venture up the stairs to see what's going on up there.  

We put the little gate at the bottom of the stairs when we first moved in, it's just to stop the dogs from going upstairs if we don't want them to. They are allowed upstairs of course, but we just like to be able to control when.  Suky for instance loves to move from dry surface to dry surface after having a bath so she would be straight up there to roll around on the beds if we let her.

Ginger of course just squeezes through, and goes wherever he wants to much to the annoyance of the dogs.

This is taken from the little landing area halfway up the stairs.

The tiny hallway that leads to all the rooms.

The doggy doorstops that sit outside closed doors and on the landing are to stop Ginger from scratching up the carpet corners, a very naughty habit of his.

The first door leads you into the spare bedroom, it's a really good sized double.  We also use this room to store things and to dry washing on the airer and to do the ironing … what little there is of it that we actually do.

In here we also have a little television and I come up here to watch DVDs when Alan is watching something I don't like ... sport, action films or violent American series for example.  It isn't connected to anything outside the house so I can't watch any television, but I actually like it this way.

As you can see we currently have a few things stacked up ready to go back to the Van next month. 

The second door along is our room, which is a really good size for a small cottage. 

 Our bed is a king-size one and it fits neatly in the space opposite the built in wardrobes, added we think, by the last owners.  These and the little cupboard with the green door make good use of the alcove spaces either side of the chimney breast and give us all the clothes storage that we need.

Our log burner in the living room is directly below here, and the whole wall warms up nicely giving some warmth to the room on cold Winters nights.

We have mismatched bedside tables because if I had one the same size as Alan's the bedroom door wouldn't close.  So the one that used to be mine is actually in the spare room with the television stood on it and I have a sort of little telephone table/bookshelf unit which works fine for me and my books.

I just love this little green door and the framed limited edition print beside it.

I also love my 1930's sketch of a Pug by my side of the bed.

A sneaky peek into the working centre of our home.

Our house is also the business address for our Limited Company, and as such Alan is usually to be found in here anytime he's not working down South.  I used to share the office space but now it's proving very impractical to keep moving things around, so when I'm not at the Van I can be found blogging or working on my laptop at the breakfast bar in the kitchen.  

 Alan is rarely alone up there though, and a little doggy bed means that whoever chooses to keep him company can snooze in comfort.

 The final room upstairs is the smallest room of the house.  

The upstairs toilet, a godsend in the wee small hours of darkness when you just have to go.  When this was out of action for the first couple of years of us living here that trek downstairs meant you were fully awake before staggering back to bed!!

Rather weirdly this does not have frosted glass so a good thickness of net curtain was called for here!!

And that's it the completed tour of the inside of the house.

I hope you've enjoyed your little peak into our home here in Wales.  I've just been outside taking photos of the exterior and some of the areas around the house now that we've had the house fixed and re-painted.  So I could show you those if you are interested.

The white UPVC windows, doors, under the conservatory overhang and the black facias and soffits have all been cleaned by a specialist company who also unblocked and cleared all the gutters and drainpipes ready for us putting it on the market in the next few weeks.  So it's all looking lovely and fresh out there, not like the weather ... which is grey and overcast and decidedly January like.

Sue xx

Friday, 10 January 2020

Letting Things Slip

There are so many lovely vegetables available in the UK at this time of year,  not as  many maybe as in the Summer months, but still lots of choice available for us to buy.  And they are mostly homegrown.

And of course lots of lovely fruits available for us to buy in the shops, although until June we are not very self sufficient in this country for fruit.  But there are still UK grown apples available and homegrown Rhubarb is just about to come into it's own, more than enough to get us the vitamin C we need.

So why just recently have I gone down a rabbit hole of ...

Fishless Fingers on buns.

Falafel Pizza served with bacon flavoured Pringles.

Linda McCartney Sausage Rolls.

Although my saving grace here was that at least I served them with Cherry tomatoes 😁

And pickled onions are a veg ... right!!

My only excuse is Christmas, being busy and soooo many vegan foods ... or should I say easy vegan junk foods ... suddenly being available in the shops in time for Veganuary.  I've jumped onto a weird bandwagon and seriously now I feel the need to leap right back off, quickly.

I need to sit and read through my whole food plant-based cook books ... and more importantly ... actually cook from them.  I need to meal prep and take myself in hand so that when I feel the need for a snack there is one waiting for me made from good foods sat in the fridge.  No more grabbing a bun and slapping something on it, less bread makes me feel so much better anyway.

Life is busy yes, but I am able to cope with being busy so much better if I feel good and I really feel that I am at the end of my health tether at the moment.  What better time than this my 60th year to take myself in hand and come out of it feeling, and perhaps even looking a bit better.

So as Alan takes on his new 8 week diet plan, which in traditional fashion he is starting on Monday, I am going to join in but in a different way, buying, cooking and eating good foods from scratch.  Let's see if by my birthday in April I can make myself feel better.

Our plan is to round up all the leftover, still sealed Christmas food and gifts that have decent dates on them and drop them off at the supermarket Foodbank collection trolley when we go to stock up our respective larders in time for a new beginning food wise.

There ... I've committed it in writing on my blog so I HAVE to do it.

Sue xx

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Too Few or Too Many ... or Just Enough

Do you have too few clothes ...

 … or too many.

The question should of course be what do you consider to be too few or too many?  I was reading online about a girl that only owns 10 items of clothing at a time, only replacing things when they wear out.  For me I think this would be too few.  

A couple of years ago I did Project 333, choosing 33 items of clothing to see me through each 3 month season, now that worked really well.  I enjoyed the pulling together of a sort of capsule wardrobe and the freedom it gave me in the mornings to choose from the just few favourite items I had available.  When I went away on holiday for a week while I was doing this, all my things fitted very comfortably into one small sized carry on bag.

When things in my 'collection' didn't work for any reason ... or wore out as a couple of things did … I could donate them to the charity shop or throw them away and pull in something else to replace them, because with this Challenge all you do is pack away all your other stuff ready to rifle through them again at the next change around date.

At the moment it feels like I have too many clothes.  Of course I have to remember that just for now I have all my clothes from both here and from the Van, as I did have to duplicate some things and have extras of other things like underwear that always ended up left in the washing basket at one end or the other.

Still it feels like there's too much.

There is a lot less than here used to be though thanks to me selling a couple of rails worth of stuff at last years car boot sales.  The middle shelf here, where the spare bedding for the two beds is sat, used to have another plastic box of out of season wear.  

Not any more  😊

As well as the wardrobe I have three drawers in the chest of drawers and Alan has the other one for his spare t-shirts. He only needs the one as his bedside table also has drawers, two of which he uses for underwear and hankies etc.  One of mine has a mix of t-shirts and jumpers, one half a dozen bulky jumpers and the other one is full of all my underwear.

Again half of this is usually at the Van, so at the moment the drawers feel very cramped as well as the wardrobe.  Although I have just noticed how wonderfully co-ordinated the things in there are.

But I still think it's time for me to have a bit of a sort out!!

One place I definitely need to have a bit of a clear out is my shoe cupboard. 

 I seem to have kept a lot of old 'dog walking shoes' that I really don't need, as now have two pairs of really good walking boots thanks to finding another pair like my favourites in the Hotter sale.  And I have lots worn out Converse style sneakers that I've worn for a couple of years that are just about okay enough to go into the charity shoe recycling container at our Tesco store.

I have some as yet unworn ones for this Summer as I watch out for them in the end of season sale in Sainsury's and Asda and get my next years supply then … usually for around £3 a pair.

Although looking at this photo from Google Images my shoe cupboard suddenly looks very tame!!

I guess we each have what we like to have, and if it gets out of control for any reason it feels good to be able to get things back to within limits that really only we should set for ourselves.

I suddenly feel a very real need to get back to P333 and see what sort of workable capsule wardrobe I can pull together now I don't need outdoor working clothes anymore.

So if you don't hear from me for a day or two … I'll be in the wardrobe  😉

Sue xx

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Here Physically ...

Other peoples problems weigh heavy

They tell you them

But do they want you just to listen 

Or do they want them solved

They don't tell you that bit

I'm all zoned out

Simply can't cope with another layer

I'd daydream about chocolate 

But it's lost it's appeal

I do, however, wonder what the fuck is going on.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Snippets of Home - 2

You enjoyed the last tour of our Welsh home so much that I though I would continue … so lets finish off the downstairs today then.

As you can see here in the living room this is a favourite spot of the animals, even without the log burner being lit at the moment thanks to the new doggy bed that Alan has bought them.  When it is  lit the log burner can warm the whole house.  We have the living room door closed for a while to trap the heat downstairs and then an hour or so before bedtime we open it and the heat rushes upstairs … much quicker than we do!

It's so much cheaper to heat the house with logs from our woodland and off cuts from the workshop.  Alan has been busy chopping up all the odds and sods of wood he has out there that will never be used for making stuff, hence the rectangular basket full of blocks of wood.  They burn really well and warm the house for free, as most of them are from old pallets.

To the left of the fireplace are the built in cupboards.  They are original to this 1900's cottage and although I painted them green on the outside as the wood was quite poor,  inside the shelves and walls are lovely and rustic.  The top cupboard currently contains my huge DVD collection and board games for wet Winter nights and in the bottom cupboard there is the box of Christmas decorations, a couple of electric fans for hot summer nights … and not much else since all our simplifying.  

Well apart from the internal workings for the Freesat box, a complicated wiring system as our satellite dish is on a tree in the woodland right at the top of the hill.  It's never easy living on a Welsh hillside!!

At the other end of the room is my little old table.  Functional and useful for holding the lamp, and with the leaves up big enough for four people to comfortably eat around.  It was only £50 from a little antique type place a couple of years ago and I've been tempted to paint it a few times, but it so closely matches the little chair which was one of my Nana's wedding presents back in the 1920's that it has stayed in it's original polished wood up to now.

 Here's the view from the front window, looking out on the A470, the railway line one field away and the river Conwy another field further on … with the Carneddau mountains as a backdrop.  A very picturesque outlook and one that we have spent far too long gazing at over the last six and a half years when we should have been doing something else.

But ...

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies.

The view from the side window - not quiet as appealing but here we look out onto the garage space and workshop with the net and polytunnels just in front of our fields, with the hills again in the background as the valley winds round following the course of the river.

 Another Mavis? … no she's just moved position in the time it took me to take these photos.

The door to the right of the fireplace leads to the bathroom, this would have been a huge no-no for us buying the house if it hadn't been for the upstairs toilet.  Which on moving in we found hadn't bloody well worked for years and which took us two years to eventually get sorted out!

Oh well it's all good now.

The bathroom.

It's still a bit of a work in progress as we had to have the chipped much larger bath taken out and the new one is leaking so Alan hasn't been able to get the side panel on, although he has finished the tiling.  

You can ignore the smudge on the shower screen ... it's not … it's actually on my camera lens 🤣

The view from the loo!!

That BATH sign was here when we bought the house and we just painted it green, it's just one of those things you never get round to replacing even though it annoys you a bit.  The chair is another one of my Nana's, this time a kitchen chair rather than the bedroom chair that we have in the living room.  So because it had had more wear and tear I painted it green ... it's been a couple of different shades of green actually.

The bathroom window does not have a view, apart from being that obscure, opaque glass they use in bathroom windows, this window is literally two foot away from the rocks that form the bottom of the hill we sit on.  All that's behind the house is a small drainage channel to direct the water that runs down the hill from coming into the house.

Going back out into the living room if we cross over to the door we can see the built in bookcase, not original to the house but put in by a  previous owner.

And through the living room door to the teeniest little hallway ever.  Just a three foot square of carpet big enough to open the front door or walk over to get to the stairs.  The understairs cupboard, which holds a lot less clutter than it used to, still has it's original door.

We had all the doors dipped when we bought the house as they had been clogged up with many, many layers of paint.  I do love the natural beauty of wood, even if it is simple old pine and we have never been tempted to paint them again.

So that's it, the downstairs tour complete.  It's been good for me doing this as now I can see what I will have to tidy, change or titivate ready for the estate agents photos in a couple of months.

You want to see upstairs?

Sue xx