“….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 🙂
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 toZero 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:
2.GARLICKY BUTTER BEAN DIP…..
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)
Mix in 250 grams mayonnaise (veganor egg based), 250 grams plain yoghurt, one or two crushed garlic cloves, and some finely chopped parsley or chives.
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.
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 Herefor 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 →
Our actions should never involve unnecessary strain, force or intervention. Keep your actions natural and spontaneous in order to find your own balance and momentum. Stay relaxed so as not to impede the process of ‘non-doing’. Our actions are more authentic, more true, if we can allow nature, rather than force, to guide us.
These are some of the central ideas in Wuwei, a key aspect of the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, and it encourages us to practice ‘going with the flow’, allowing our actions to be relaxed, spontaneous and natural, thus avoiding tension and unnecessary effort.
Seeking simplicity is for me not only about making eco-wise and efficient choices regarding the environment, my health and my home. Our thinking guides our actions, and if we find ourselves feeling under constant pressure to get things done and to get them done just right, we may want to step back a bit to a simpler, kinder way of relating to ourselves. It is all too easy to get caught up in over-thinking, which leads to tension and anxiety and can take the joy out life. We start to fear change: new opportunities are instead perceived as unwanted challenges and we start anticipating difficulties rather than possibilities ahead. I am speaking from direct experience here! And even mundane, repetitive action (housework, anyone?) can feel like less of a chore if we can relax into it rather than approaching it with a sense of dread and a feeling of tension. There is always room for improvement in the way we think about ourselves in relation to the tasks that we set ourselves and to the tasks that life itself sometimes unexpectedly presents to us.
Read Soon Teo’s fascinating posts about the power of Tao Here.
1.“The One you are looking for is the One who is looking.” (St Francis of Assisi).Beautifully explained in this post.
2. ““There exists a deep ecological tradition in Vedic culture by which human settlement, forests and water resources are carefully balanced. To achieve that balance, nature’s welfare and human welfare cannot be separated each other.” Chris Terry explains the Vedic ecology at the core of the Small Farm Training Centre, in an article from the Huffington Post.
3.“Really, to have a life of doing you need to not do.” (Will Rosenzweig talking about the Tao). Read about the four levels of non-doing, and how it may sometimes be necessary to be detached from things that you care deeply about.
4. “Animals move; people can learn about movement from animals. House pets stretch all day long, creating space in their joints. Animals sit in different kinds of positions. Monkeys and apes do things with their hands. Perhaps as humans we need to reclaim our four- leggedness. Getting down on all fours stimulates the pranic flow. Sitting in chairs tightens the hamstrings and the lower back. Animals don’t sit on furniture; they have not built things contrary to their nature.” (Denise Kaufman). From theEncyclopedia of Religion and Nature (London & New York: Continuum, 2005) Edited by Bron Taylor
5.”Whats in your cup? ….When life gets tough, what spills over for you?” fromZEN FLASH “The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step”
With December fast approaching, the holiday season is just around the corner! And suddenly you have a long list of family/ friends to buy for, and you find that you are short on ideas (and funds!) on what to buy. I have listed below some suggestions, with links, for easy handmade gifts plus ideas for eco-friendly packaging, wrapping and tagging. All can be presented in reusable glass jars such as mason jars and simple utility jars with screw-on metal lids, and are easy to ‘dress up’ for gifting.
2. Moisturizing Scrub And Shave:Scented with sweet vanilla. A lovely leg shave and/ or skin softening exfoliate. Contains vegetable oils, Epsom salt and vanilla extract.
3. Recipe for Multipurpose Bee Balm by Bea Johnson. I carry a small glass jar in my handbag/ purse for shiny, moisturised lips and nails and to highlight and moisturise cheekbones and brows. See also her application suggestions below for wood and leather….
4. Bath salts/ shower exfoliate: (use fine sea salt, NOT coarse, if you are intending to use it as a skin scrub)…and if you want to colour your salts with all natural ingredients, see Here…..
5.Vanilla extract, looks cute (and smells delicious) in a small glass bottle with screw top. Add a handwritten for a simple recipe (Here’s a suggestion: add a few drops to to tea, coffee, hot chocolate, soya milk etc) …How to make vanilla extract
1.Loaves of bread are a staple in most households and it’s not just for sandwiches! Bread which is less than fresh can be used to make a delicious, cost saving, sweet or savoury Bread pudding. For other suggestions on waste free ways to use ends of bread see point 10 here:
2.Couscous is a very quick and versatile grain that can be used like rice. It requires only soaking to prepare: In a small pot, boil one cup of water (or boil one and a half cups of water if you prefer a softer grain). Add one 1 cup of couscous, stir briefly and remove from the heat, keeping the lid on. Taste for readiness after about 5 minutes; leave for longer if preferred. Enjoy as is, or add seasoning such as salt, butter, oil, herbs, spices and lemon zest. Use as you would rice as part of a main meal, or allow to cool and include in salads.
Couscous is easy to find in cardboard packaging as opposed to plastic, which is another reason to buy it! I have yet to find it in bulk buy bins, which would be even better, of course. See point 9herefor suggestions of brands that are packaged in cardboard/ paper rather than in plastic:
3. Here is a good ‘standby’ for dishwasherdetergent powder, if you find you have run out of your usual: In your dishwasher’s detergent compartment, place 1 teaspoon of your usual liquid dishsoap (whichever brand you normally use for hand washing your dishes) On top of the dishsoap, place 2 tablespoons of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda). Close the detergent compartment. Then fill the rinse compartment with white spirit vinegar, and close the compartment. Wash a full load of dishes as normal. Even better is my chemical-free recipehere , which is the one I have been using regularly for over a year now, with good results.
4. Make your own cooling peppermint spray with water and essential oils. I carry a 100ml spray bottle with me at all times (it lives in my handbag :)), especially in hot weather. Use 100 ml of water, preferably distilled, or at least pre-boiled and cooled. Add 6 drops of peppermint essential oil and stir to combine. You can also add a large pinch of epsom salt to soften the water and assist blending of the oils with the water. (Scroll down to the foot of this page for suppliers of oils, salts and containers).
5. Use Tea as Self-Tan. I use normal black tea (Five Roses is a well known brand) or else the Khoisan black tea (such as their Earl Grey) which is produced in South Africa. If you are a well established Zero Waster, you will no-doubt favour loose teas, as opposed to teabags. At the moment I use both options. The teabags are the most convenient option for my Self-Tan recipe as follows: place a teabag in a cup and add a little boiling water, just enough to thoroughly moisten the teabag. Leave for at least 5 minutes for the water to draw the natural dyes from the tea leaves. Then use the teabag like a sponge to ‘paint’ the dye onto the legs. I find this is the perfect way to add a little pop of colour to winter white legs. Be sure not to add cremes, lotions or oils to the skin just before self-tanning, so that the colour can be applied smoothly.
Natural yoghurt is a probiotic rich food invaluable in assisting normal gut health. It also offers skincare benefits when used topically and can be used straight out of the jar as a facial wash or treatment. And yoghurt is not just for breakfast: It is delicious in cooking, baking, marinades, salad dressings and can even be used as a healthy replacement for oils and butters.
I have been making my own yoghurt on and off for years, and have recently done so with a new enthusiasm since the call to action to reduce plastic and make use of reusables instead of single use plastic containers which are the common packaging for supermarket yoghurt. And as it’s homemade by me, I know exactly what’s in there and can be assured of its wonderful healthy benefits and delicious taste. I try to make eco-wise choices when purchasing the milk that will eventually become my homemade yoghurt. Fresh milk from the Farmers Market is first prize, but this is not always possible. I often buy my milk in large 3 Litre (.793 gallon) containers from PicknPay or Woolworths, which translates into less plastic in the long run. I then dispense the milk into smaller glass bottles which I freeze until needed. (See my post here for more about freezing in glass).
My Homemade Yoghurt Recipe is adapted from this book on South African cookery which was my cooking bible when I first lived on my own in my early twenties:
Ingredients and Instructions: Heat 250 ml full cream milk to boiling, and remove from the heat when the froth starts to rise. Pour 1 tablespoon of the hot milk into the flask and stir for a few seconds to reduce the heat slightly. Add 1 tablespoon of shop bought or homemade yoghurt to the flask and stir in with the milk. This is now your yoghurt starter. Allow the remaining milk to cool to the correct temperature in one of two ways:
A food thermometer to test to 45°C, OR..
The ‘fingertip test’ as follows: by inserting the little finger for a count of 10, by which time the heat from the milk will ‘sting’ the finger. In my experience it takes at least 6 minutes for the milk to cool, depending on the surrounding temperature.
Now you are ready to add the milk to the yoghurt starter. First remove the skin that might have formed over the milk, pour the milk into the flask and stir it just a few times to blend with the starter. Screw the lid onto the thermos and leave the yoghurt to ‘brew’ for 7-9 hours, or till set. Once set, scoop your yoghurt into a glass jar and refrigerate.
Many people today are interested in meditation in a more ‘functional’ way, perhaps as a means to help us to manage stress or health issues and to help us to cope with our busy, demanding lives. Meditation therefore is something we might look to simply as a tool to help us to manage our daily demands.
In his book YOGA(6th Edition_ 1983), Swami Venkatesananda describes meditation as “..the art of realising the universal self, beyond the ego-sense” and as a state of being and awareness where “..the ‘I’ has disappeared and only consciousness remains”
Swami Venkatesananda spent many years as a recluse and ascetic disciple. His yoga practice extended to serving humanity and he believed in teaching through his word and example the ideal of an enlightened life. He believed that there is a way for us all to benefit from a meditation practice and believed in a ‘common sense’ view of our seemingly complex problems.
So how CAN we use meditation in a ‘common sense’ way, in a way that helps us to feel calmer, happier, healthier and more in control of our lives?
I have used my own morning meditation routine as an example of a light meditation practice before starting the day. The practice can take as short a time or as long as you like, even five minutes if that is all you have. I sit for fifteen minutes on average. The important thing is to make it part of your daily routine so that it becomes a habit.
First, I make sure I have a hot cup of tea in my hands and I sit comfortably in bed with my back supported by pillows. The routine is more or less as follows: Continue reading →
I imagine that most people reading my blog share some of my interests and concerns about the health of the planet, and individual personal health as well. Just as I care about my own health and well being, I care about the health and well being of the environment that nurtures and supports me. Enjoying life and remaining optimistic is a priority too, otherwise what’s the point of it all! We know that as consumers our choices have impact, and if we care about the environment, we will want our choices not to add to current problems.
Yet we can’t always have exactly what we want. In a perfect world I would have nutritious, wholesome foods and healthy non-toxic self care and household products, all responsibly produced and packaged, and locally made to reduce the problem of travel distances and the accompanying carbon footprint. Everything I use and eat would be from natural origin, from sustainable resources, incur no harm to animals, and be created in an environment where fair labour practice is upheld.
Even your bulk buy, unpackaged purchases might raise some questions for you, depending on your key issues: “What carbon footprint did it leave to get to the bulk bins? Is it a natural product? Is it cruelty free? What are the working conditions of the farmers/workers who helped bring it to the store? Is it locally sourced/ packaged?” And realistically, let’s not forget “What is the cost of this and can I even afford it?” The list can go on and it gets overwhelming (speaking from experience!) when you are looking for a seamless, perfect scenario and if you expect yourself to have all the answers.
I can recall occasions, even very recently, where I have stood in the shopping aisle staring at huge, catering sized jars of pickles thinking “yes, I know it’s less packaging in the long run, but how long is THAT going to sit opened and partially eaten in the fridge at home?” and “these retail priced boxes of Epsom Salts are packaged in cardboard, whereas my usual cheaper wholesaler sells hers in single use plastic, so which is the better choice?”
And that’s just at the supermarket!
At home you notice (again) that your kitchen cupboards are rife with tired looking plastic food containers, many with lids long lost at some birthday picnic or office canteen, and you wonder if you should just replace the whole lot. But you’re not sure because you don’t know if recycling an item in order to replace it is the Greenthing to do. Thislink tells you about using plastic for food from a personal health point of view.
So to get back to the title of this post: what things do you already know and have at your disposal? What exists in your home, in your cupboards and closets and in your fridge, that is already working for you and/ or you could make better use of ? I have found that by starting with what you already have and know, you are more likely to want to continue. Here are some suggestions: Continue reading →