There’s a gizmo in my pickles: the problem of hidden plastic

 

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In my garden: Bullrushes in seed

 

There they were: lovely glass-packaged, tasty looking tidbits, all glossy and tempting in their see-through casing, just waiting to be opened up with that nice Pop which you hear when you first unscrew the metal top. I was unpleasantly surprised and slightly shocked to find a cheap looking piece of whitish plastic, all leggy and holey, looking a bit futuristic and not remotely related to food.

 

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The jar of pickles was a gift from a thoughtful family member and I was very pleased to receive it. The very same company makes a delicious red pepper chutney which I buy often. I like the brand: made locally in South Africa, using nice simple packaging, and always in glass. Their products are available on many supermarket shelves, but they are not really one of the mainstream brands, retaining a bit of a ‘niche market’ feel. So I like to support them. The last thing I expected was to find this plastic gizmo thingy when I first unpopped the lid. It took me a few moments to realise what it was: a little mini-sieve that fits in the neck of the jar so that the brine or oil can be poured out, leaving the whole pickles behind. I fished the ungainly little thing out thinking, “well at least it may be recyclable”. But that’s not the point. I object because:

  • It adds nothing to my life: I have plenty of reusable metal sieves and strainers at home if I need help in separating solids from liquids. I appreciate that others might find this quite a handy little tool, but I do not. Especially not in plastic.
  • I should have been given the option as to whether to purchase this item or not. If the manufacturer had thought to include in their labeling, “For your convenience this item includes a plastic mini-sieve”, I could have made an informed decision. (OK, this situation was different in that it was a gift, which makes things a bit more tricky)
  • I am doing my best to reduce the amount of plastic that I bring home from the supermarket, and I do not appreciate unwelcome packaging surprises which now become my problem to dispose of.
  • But most of all, I am generally just tired of irresponsible food packaging. Surely the manufacturers could have done better in this case!!? …Could they not at least rather use a more sustainable source of material than plastic? What about a nice, once-off little metal sieve as a promotional item to offset and enhance their product? This could have gone a long way towards showcasing themselves as an environmentally and health conscious brand who are setting themselves apart from the plastic brigade. And especially for an extraneous, non-essential item like this one which a lot of people will end up throwing in the trash, intentionally or otherwise: rather create something more hard wearing and attractive, not just another cheap, forgettable piece of plastic.

 

It feels like high time for food companies to dig deep and really consider the environmental impact of what they are using to package and label their products. And at the end of the day to think about the impression that their choice of packaging may be creating of themselves as a brand. Hopefully in the near future we will see more legislation in place to rule out this kind of irresponsible food packaging. In the meantime, I’m off to enjoy a light lunch: cup of tea, tuna salad, and pickles 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Create your eco-wardrobe: in praise of pre-owned

 

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Favourites in my wardrobe: all purchased second hand.

 

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t experience summer 24/7 here in South Africa! Some parts of the country such as Durban, a coastal city facing the Indian Ocean, is pretty warm year round, but here in Johannesburg, being inland and high lying, not so much. Just ask the thousands of visitors who arrived here without coats or jackets in June 2010 to experience the opening of the Soccer World Cup in Johannesburg! We are currently in the late stages of our Winter 2018 now. A touch of warmth in the afternoon breeze, the days becoming longer, and in the garden the winter loving Chinese Greens are beginning to flower and bolt in response to the warmer weather.

 

 

But not yet the time to pack away the winter woolies that I was folding up this morning as I started on an early Spring Clean. I have always loved knitwear, specifically in natural fabrics such as wool and cotton: cardigans and pullovers are a staple in my wardrobe, including for the summer when temperatures can drop quite a bit some evenings. For me there is nothing nicer than the soft warmth of a cosy pullover on a chilly day, or a light cardigan when the weather is cool, but not yet cold enough to go all out with scarves and coats.

 

 

I buy a lot of my clothing second hand (aka: pre-worn, pre-loved) and this is purely my preference from an eco-friendly standpoint and not because I can’t afford to buy new 😉 All the above (see pic) were purchased second hand within the last 3 or 4 years, from one of two Hospice shops which I frequent here in Johannesburg. All very affordable: from 5 ZAR up to about 60 ZAR. (On the Woolworths online website a new knit top for women can cost you several hundred ZAR, and even more for wool rich items.

 

 

Details of my Wooly Babies as pictured above, left to right (NOTE: some labels incomplete or missing):

  • Woolworths, made in SA, : lambswool, nylon, angora
  • News, made in SA, : polyester, nylon
  • Woolworths, made in SA, : wool, viscose, polyamide
  • 100% Shetland wool
  • No details (no label)
  • Made in Cambodia, : cotton, acrylic
  • Smith & McGregor, : lambswool
  • Marks & Spencer, : made in China, : 100% wool

 

Lucy Siegle at theguardian.com explains it as follows: “Rewearing old clothes also displaces the need to make new virgin fibres – manufactured with oil-based petroleum or using cotton – both with hulking environmental impacts (also add in dyeing, finishing and the use of factories with dubious ethics). Buying pre-worn saves clothes from landfill and gives us an ethical way of satisfying a lust for new clothes without embracing fast-fashion culture”.

 

 

Environmental concerns aside, I also find that the quality of many second hand knitwear items is just of better quality, more unique and authentic (those one of a kind lucky finds are still out there), more likely to be natural rather than synthetic, and definitely less costly than buying new. And if I can apply just one or two of those points as a reason to buy, then purchasing second hand over new wins every time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of the To-Do list

 

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Winter in my garden: Origanum gone frosty

 

I find there is something immensely satisfying about crossing off completed tasks on a to-do list. Whether it’s something big like finally completing a passport renewal, or making that difficult call to someone I’ve been avoiding, or else a small matter like clearing out a shelf in the garden shed, that sense of personal satisfaction is always there. My feeling on completion can vary from a simple pat on the back to one of immense relief and even of validation and accomplishment, especially for one of those really frustrating, painful or time-consuming tasks that we sometimes have to face.

 

 

I have learnt to acknowledge that allowing myself to fall behind on my task lists is just not good for me. I end up dealing with some level of discomfort, whether its mild irritation at myself or (on a bad day) questioning my ability to deal with even simple things decisively and without procrastination. The Free Dictionary.com defines procrastination as “to postpone or delay needlessly” and more specifically “To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness”. (Obviously not a good thing… 😩 )

 

Completing my listed tasks and ticking them off allows me to clear the way forward, from where I can (guilt-free) move on and give my attention to things that I would rather be doing. My task lists can be a great way for me to feel that I have structure in my daily life, but on the flip side they can also become a kind of mental and emotional clutter if I fail to give them attention (aka procrastinate)

 

I have learnt to not underestimate the importance to complete the tasks on my to-do lists. I have realised that they may symbolise something more significant than simple ‘tasks’. I know that I end up feeling anxious and disorganised if I have too many ‘things on my plate’ no matter how small and simple these might seem at a glance. Completing my listed tasks and ticking them off feels like a way for me to clear a way forward for myself, from where I can (guilt-free) move on and give my attention to things that I would rather be doing. My task lists can be a great way for me to feel that I have clarity and definition in my daily life, but on the flip side they can also become a kind of mental and emotional clutter if I fail to give them attention (aka procrastinate)

 

Something as simple as completing tasks on a list can represent something powerful, such as the acknowledging and respecting of the commitments you set for yourself,  respecting your time and respecting yourself in general. Respecting the fact that your preferred way to spend your precious time and energy is on the things that you really  value and probably include quality time with the people that you care about.

 

If you’re an avid list-maker like me, here are a few points that I try to abide by:

  • Remember that you don’t have to write down Every Single Little Thing. Try and get into the habit of doing things as they cross your mind. Example: dialing my dentist takes about the same time it takes me to write down “make dental appointment” for the umpteenth time! Sometimes it really is simpler and better to Just Do It.
  • If you are looking for inspiration for something like a home decorating task, you might find yourself week after week writing out “choose paint colours for kitchen wall”. Commit yourself now to starting a Pinterest board, and then go online and start pinning those pretty pictures Right Now as we speak, to get the ball rolling. Or if you prefer a hard copy, make sure that your next weekly shop includes stopping at the hardware store or the paint wholesaler where you can pick up a few paint swatches to bring home.
  • Are you including things on your list that you end up regretting later? Are you taking on someone else’s task, so that every time you see it pop up on your list you find yourself wondering why you agreed on in the first place? Remember to be careful of over-commitment, especially if it’s a favour for someone that you’re about to agree to.
  • Love your Lists♄! Or if not, at least do your best to honour them. Just take that first step.
  • Important to remember: 1-Its YOUR list, and 2-Your time is precious, and so is your Peace of Mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired by Nature: “Be as Water”.

 

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Winter in my garden: Succulents, rocks and fallen leaves

 

“Nothing in the world is more yielding and softer than water; yet it penetrates the hardest. Insubstantial, it enters where no room is. It is so fine that it is impossible to grasp a handful of it; strike it, yet it does not suffer hurt; stab it, and it is not wounded.” Bruce Lee (November 27, 1940–July 20, 1973)

 

Bruce Lee understood the power of nature. His “Be Water”quote (on YouTube) from the TV series Longstreet, is one of those perennials that remain relevant and powerful, and continues to attract seekers of peace looking for meaningful sustainable ways to meet life’s challenges. Even as a young man (he was only 32 when he so sadly passed away) he was committed to do so much more than be the physical powerhouse and world renowned actor that he became.  He was a family man and a seeker of truth. To quote his daughter Shannon Lee, he was a “teacher, family man, martial artist, philosopher, and innovator who became a cultural icon because he actively lived his philosophy of self-actualization.”

 

Read more Here on the moments of clarity and conviction that led up to him becoming spiritually inspired and moved by the qualities of water in all its potential, from the power of its gentleness and yielding to the power of its force and magnitude.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Reuse: the beauty of upcycling

 

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In my garden: winter annual Pansies

 

“There is no such thing as away. When you throw something away, it must go somewhere.” – Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff

 

Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value. (wikipedia)

 

RECREATE is an interior design studio based in Cape Town, South Africa, where they specialise in turning “trash into treasure”. By salvaging worn out or otherwise unwanted items from various sources including homes, warehouses and rubbish tips, they source discarded pieces which are then upcycled into beautiful new creations with a brand new purpose. Nothing goes to waste, and even their packaging materials, labels and business cards are reused, recycled and repurposed.

 

 

 

Read here for more on Recreate’s commitment to their craft and feast your eyes on some of their gorgeous creations.

 

In 2018 the market is abundant with beautiful and innovative designs, excellent craftsmanship and the reuse of  unusual and unexpected items such as fridges, bicycles, and kitchen sinks. And with a few tools at home and an inclination towards DIY you may even surprise yourself! Here and here are some fun and inspired ideas on creative upcycling at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connected to nature: Its part of our Humanity

 

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In my garden: Pelargonium Angel-eyes

 

British naturalist and environmental writer Michael McCarthy explores the powerful feelings nature can stir in us in our day to day lives: “They are surely very old, these feelings. They are lodged deep in our tissues and emerge to surprise us. For we forget our origins; in our towns and cities, staring into our screens, we need constantly reminding that we have been operators of computers for a single generation and workers in neon-lit offices for three or four, but we were farmers for five hundred generations, and before that hunter-gatherers for perhaps fifty thousand or more, living with the natural world as part of it as we evolved, and the legacy cannot be done away with.”

 

In his book The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy,  Michael Mcarthy writes about his passion for nature beginning in his difficult early childhood and continuing into adulthood, and he presents us with some hard facts about our dwindling natural resources. He expresses his deep concern for the future of our natural world and his insistence that as a “resource” nature is far more than an exploitable asset but a true source of joy and connectedness.

 

“Our origins are of the earth. And so there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity,” Rachel Carson, a 20th century marine biologist who was truly in love with nature, and unselfconscious in her “preoccupation with the wonder and beauty of the earth.”

Both of these wonderful, devoted pioneers believed that despite everything we are still essentially nature’s children, and that the natural world is not separate from us, it is part of us. They believed that if we truly look out with our hearts and our minds to the beauty and realities of our precious world, we will connect more and more with our own ‘loving nature’ and become less tolerant of the neglect and destruction that is so commonly part of what we call progress.

Read more about their research and writings on Maria Popova‘s wonderful website: Brainpickings- an inventory of the meaningful life.

 

Living plastic-free: How to settle for good, not perfect.

 

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In My Garden: Cycad (Broodboom)

 

” It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result..” _MAHATMA GHANDI.

 

 

In 2007 a woman called Beth Terry wrote a letter to her city council member in Oakland, California, opting for the banning of plastic bags from grocery stores and other retail outlets in her area. Since then she has to date turned out a total of 746 blog posts, all centered around ways to reduce the devastating effects of plastic pollution on our environment, with a strong emphasis on reducing our own individual plastic footprints. And her blog is just one aspect of her site myplasticfreelife.com, which is a comprehensive resource for plastic-free living. She makes the point that our actions matter. Our efforts count. Allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed into inaction does not help. Don’t be paralyzed by perfectionism; you will end up feeling discouraged and frustrated, believing that your efforts towards creating positive change are pointless. Read below to where she discusses this very issue:

 

The reality is that there is a lot of hidden plastic that we inadvertently consume every day simply by being alive in this modern age.  If you ever eat in a restaurant, you consume plastic.  If you buy anything from a store, you consume plastic
 even if you buy it from a bulk bin.  Because often, the foods in the bulk bins come shipped in great big plastic bags.  And even if they weren’t, there was probably some plastic involved in growing the food in the first place.  Organic farmers may have used plastic sheeting to keep out the weeds.

The idea of living a plastic-free life is not to become so perfect at avoiding plastic that you feel smug about yourself.  Realizing just how unavoidable plastic is when you really trace back the life cycle of a product can wipe that smug grin off your face and provide a humbling perspective.  Our personal actions DO make a difference, though.  I know it can be tempting to say, “Oh, the problem is so big, I might as well give up.”  Don’t.

Read the full post here, and take a moment to remind yourself that it’s perfectionism that is pointless, and it’s the action, the effort, that is important.

 

 

Loving my garden: nature at my fingertips

 

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In my garden: ornamental grasses

“….Everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”— May Sarton.

Autumn 2018 in the Southern Hemisphere will begin on Tuesday 20 March. I am in awe of the splendour of my garden as we reach the last few days of our glorious summer weather here in Johannesburg. I am grateful for the hail and rains that have fed my garden; the breathtaking lightning and thunderstorms so typical of our Highveld weather. I am grateful for the sunshine that has helped bring out the best of what the garden has to offer: herbs and veggies in abundance, flowers on their best display, insects, spiders, frogs and lizards, birds and birdsong. I am grateful for our hard work and patience (yes, we have had to help our garden along over time, helped it to recover from the years of neglect, built up the impoverished soil that we inherited when we took this property on just over four years ago). And nature is a marvel, because it will come back. The joy and abundance that I experience as I look out from my back door makes every moment of hard grind feel worth it.

 

I trust you enjoy the pictures below. Each one snapped by me today or yesterday 🙂

 

 

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Blue Felicia Daisy

 

 

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Kiepersol (Cabbage Tree), Aloes and Comfrey
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Spanish Daisy with Ladybird

 

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Pond Grasses
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Variety of Succulents

 

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Transvaal Aloe (and our cottage at the back)

 

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Crocosmia aurea

 

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Porkbush and Pelargonium

 

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English walnut: ready to harvest

 

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Bulbanella and Spanish Daisy

 

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Pink Gaura Butterfly Bush

 

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Succulent in Flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 quick, easy & wholesome vegetarian meals (for when you’re too busy or tired to cook)

 

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In my garden: tomatoes on the move

 

In the song “Beautiful Boy ” John Lennon sings the line “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” This is annoyingly so when you suddenly hear Life calling you to the kitchen to cook a meal just as you are getting busy with something far more interesting, or are about to start on something that you have had parked on your to-do list for weeks. We all need to eat, and this generally involves some degree of preparation and cooking of food before one can sit down for a meal with yourself/ your spouse/ your children or whoever it is that you share your space with. 

 

I share my home with my husband and our cat (who I don’t cook for) and I don’t eat or cook red meat or poultry (my husband cooks those for himself when needs a break from my vegetarian and vegan offerings). Pulses such as beans and lentils are my main sources of protein, as well as some fish and free range eggs on occasion. I also try to stay as close to Zero Waste as possible, focusing on fresh and unpackaged raw ingredients, avoiding single use plastic packaging in particular. I wouldn’t call myself a passionate foodie (I don’t get excited about latest food and flavour trends or looking out for complex new recipes to try), but what I am passionate about is eating healthy wholesome foods, and staying away from unhealthy additives such as artificial flavourants and many preservatives. That, …and keeping it simple and convenient, which brings me to the whole point of this post: that there are plenty of other things I would rather be doing than cooking!

 

Simply put, life is busy enough without hours of my precious time spent in front of the stove, and I would rather reserve my time for the things I really enjoy doing (including crafting, vegetable gardening and blogging :)) and for the things I absolutely can’t avoid, like grocery shopping and Tax. I also happen to make most of my home cleaning and personal bath & body products, which saves me money and keeps our home (and bodies) almost chemical free. So for me, cooking needs to be quick, healthy and tasty, and if I want to try something more elaborate, or decide to try a vegan option for one of my homemade staples such as mayonnaise, I can choose to do so.

 

And here are three of my favourite quick and delicious, easy options for days when long cooking is just not on the menu:

 

1.CHICKPEA & LEEK SOUP….

From Jamie Oliver’s book The Naked Chef . This soup is really simple and delicious and can convert to vegan if you omit the parmesan, replacing it with a sprinkle of fresh parsley or a vegan cheese option:

 

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2.GARLICKY BUTTER BEAN DIP…..

  1. Use a stick or standing blender to whisk together 800 grams presoaked and precooked butter beans (or for convenience use canned butter beans which have been drained and well rinsed)
  2. Mix in 250 grams mayonnaise (vegan or egg based), 250 grams plain yoghurt, one or two crushed garlic cloves, and some finely chopped parsley or chives.
  3. Season with salt, ground black pepper and a sprinkle of ground cumin and paprika (optional)

 

  • Serve with crudites such as sliced carrot and celery, and your favourite breads: plain or toasted.
  • For a warming lunch or light supper, serve with a homemade soup (or shop bought for convenience) such as cream of tomato or minestrone.

 

3.LEMONY EGG IN A SPINACH-CHICKPEA NEST….

From Kitchen Treaty,  a delicious eggs, chickpeas and fresh spinach dish perfect for a weekend breakfast, or a light lunch or supper. Can be doubled up for two helpings.

 

Enjoy! ♄

 

 

 

 

 

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Popcorn smoothie, and how to use up leftover popcorn

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In My Garden: Pelargonium Angel Eyes

I like popcorn. Its quick and easy to prepare and makes healthier eating than commercial shop bought chips and other salted snacks. Once your popcorn is popped, it just needs a shake of sea salt, or else a bit of garlic or onion salt to make it Truly Delicious. A few days I very sadly had to  abandon a freshly made batch when I had to rush out at short notice. When I arrived back home later, my popcorn was cold and unwelcoming, and also slightly soggy from the condensation that had formed on the inside of the lid of the pot. Also, I wasn’t really hungry now, as I had eaten a packet of Lays Salted Chips (delicious, but not exactly healthy or Zero Waste) in the car while driving back from my appointment.

 

But I wasn’t done with the popcorn yet: my Zero Waste conscience got me thinking about ways to Reuse or Recycle my sad batch. My other option was to Rot it on our compost heap (that’s three of the 5R’s), but I wanted to see if there were more creative options out there. So I went online and found some scrumptious ideas Here. Also Here for some non edible tips such as making a festive garland, making packing material, and feeding your garden Birdies.

 

Before you popcorn can become leftovers, you will first need to make some. Here’s how I make it at home: Continue reading