Saturday, 16 September 2017

Consumer Power to the People

I have recently acquired a healthy dose of consumer guilt. You may remember my advice earlier this year of never looking at the big picture. Humans weren't made to be able to process anguish on a global scale and it can often feel overwhelming to think of everything that's wrong with the world and try to fix it. I'm not saying that we cannot achieve great things by being bold and brave but sometimes it's the little things that add up. 

I've always been somewhat of a hippy girl, an earth child. My Mum used to make her own beauty products, dye and sew clothes and dry hydrangeas around the fireplace. I have some of that power in me. I was raised in a vegetarian household that respected the world around us, spent time with nature, celebrate the seasons and valued history. But lately I've been having pangs of guilt. Without getting preachy here, we waste so much and throw away so much plastic that the earth can't cope. I've initiated the 'make a difference in small ways' strategy. I've decided to exercise my consumer power here by choosing to spend money on the things I value and to avoid things that cause a lot of waste.

I've started with a few (experimental) changes to my daily life, pictured above and explained here:

Solid Shampoo Bars

I recently read a post online about how much water is in shampoo and how backwards that is as you're standing in a cascade of water, duh. I bought this solid shampoo bar from Lush for £6 (eek) and a metal tin to keep it in for £2.50 that you can refill. It's blue and seaweedy and I'm skeptical but hey-ho. No plastic bottle to throw away! I have a lot of hair that always needs taming so we'll see how this goes. I only wash my hair twice a week so if I need to use it more often than that it's probably a false economy and false ecology (is that a phrase?). I've used it twice so far. I didn't use enough the first time so my hair was a little oily the next day. The second time I used it I did a better job and my hair is still clean 2 days later (I know, I told you I was a hippy). So far so good!

Glass Fridge Jug

I already have a larger one of these from Ikea that I love. I use it for tap water and like to put it on the dining table or just use it for cool drinks throughout the evening. This one was £3.99 from TK Maxx and I intend to use it for homemade almond milk but to be honest I'll believe that when I see it...

Almond Oil

I love essential oils and use them quite often for aroma therapy - lavender makes me sleepy and frankincense calms me down. I've been researching homemade beauty recipes and carrier oils come up a LOT. I bought this almond oil from a heavenly shop in Chichester called Manuka for £5.99. It;s in a glass bottle that I can reuse so there's no plastic waste! Although I have today realised that I maybe was supposed to buy sweet almond oil and not regular almond oil and I have yet to find out whether what I bought it the correct thing... It's a learning curve!

Charcoal Soap

I got this charcoalogy soap from TK Maxx for £3.99 for 3 100g bars. I was a little disappointed to open it and find that each bar is plastic wrapped - that kinda killed my Zero-Waste-Buzz but it's still better than a big tube. So far it's left my face feeling super clean. 

Natracare Panty Liners

These panty liners are organic cotton and are more about treating my body right than treating the earth right. I have a Mooncup which is brilliant but sometimes you need a back up. I've also got some reusable pads but I'm still adjusting so these Natracare liners are perfect for now. 

DIY Multi Purpose Cleaner 

Simple ingredients cleaning up my home in more ways than one. Read more here. 

Glass Containers

Boo to single use plastic containers. Yay to glass jars and bottles! Simples. No purchases necessary, I already have a LOT. 

And lastly, a few things I already did to help myself and the planet:

Reusable tote shopping bags - this is pretty much becoming normal now in the UK -hooray!
Reusable water bottle - I have a Hydr8 which nags me to drink more water. No throwing away plastic bottles.
Not showering every day - I use ecology as an excuse to be lazy, basically. Anyone else seen that video of the little girl who won't shower and wants her Mum to hold her ipad so she can watch it in the bathroom? "But I'm gonna be COLD"...
Mooncup - As above, it's the bomb. What are tampons about anyway?
Reusable cotton face pads- washable and no more throwing away a cotton pad a day.
Natural Deodorant -  from The Natural Deodorant Company. No aluminium, no nasties, glass jar. Smells heavenly. Actually works!  

So I'll keep you updated on all these little changes: which ones I'm able to keep and which I need to work on. I'm not sure how this less waste thing is going to work our with my printmaking... there's always quite a bit of waste paper, lino cuttings, scrap fabric etc. but I'll see how it goes. For me right now it's just important that I'm making some small positive changes.

Anyone got any tips? A little help here? 



Friday, 15 September 2017

DIY Multi Purpose Cleaner

Why do we have so many cleaners for our home? Do I need a separate cleaner for my kitchen surfaces and my bathroom surfaces? I've always been a little wary of cleaning products and prefer to buy brands such as Ecover and Method but now I've gone one step further by making my own multi purpose spray! It's all part of my personal campaign to keep a healthier lifestyle for myself, those around me and for the planet. 

This one was a pretty simple start and I already had all of the ingredients! I got the recipe from the Telegraph online - I used recipe 2 from the article because I have a huge clump of rosemary in the garden that I love to pick and use. Thanks Sarah Lonsdale from the Telegraph!

The recipe uses vinegar as its main component - I use vinegar to clean a lot already. It's the only thing that can get the limescale off our shower glass! To this recipe is added bicarbonate of soda (I keep an out of life pot under the sink for cleaning), tea tree oil and a drop of washing up liquid.

I'll admit, I did have to open the windows in the house whilst making this as the smell of vinegar was quite potent... but once it;s used as a spray the vinegar smell is very mild and the small of rosemary and tea tree are more prominent.  The tea tree and rosemary are antiseptic and antibacterial without the need for synthetic chemicals. 

When the cleaner was made, I poured it back into the original glass vinegar bottle and screwed on an old spray lid I had saved. It fit perfectly and eradicates more disposable plastic from the house! 

So far, so good. Right - I'm off to whittle some salad servers and concoct a sourdough starter...



Butter Bean Sumac Hummus

Do you ever spend the whole day at work thinking about what you're going to have for dinner? 

On Tuesday I spent hours thinking about socca. Socca is a kind of chickpea flour pancake that's absolute heaven with everything. My Mum recently started making it and we're all in love. It's quick and easy to put together and really feels like you've achieved something. I thought about socca at work. I told my friends at yoga that I was going home to make it. I thought about all the things I was going to have with it. I had planned to make The Hairy's Biker's socca with red onions and pair it with Deliciously Ella's sun dried tomato pesto.

I thought about Socca all the way home from yoga, opened my ipad to retrieve the recipes I had photographed from my Mum's cookbooks and then remembered that I didn't actually have sun dried tomatoes. You see we had done the shopping in tesco and although I had them on my list I didn't buy them because they are cheaper in Lidl. But I never actually went to Lidl. Rethink. 

Hummus. The perfect accompaniment to socca surely? My friend had actually suggested it when I was going on about it after yoga - " socca and hummus - too much chickpea?". I went to the cupboard to get the trusty tin of chickpeas that I always have in stock and lo and behold: no chickpeas. The odds were not in my favour but I would not be stopped. Socca would be had by me and my boyfriend this evening. I reached for a lonely tin of butter beans and thus this recipe was made: butter bean sumac hummus. 

1 tin butter beans
1tbsp rapeseed oil
1/4 tsp sumac
small clove of garlic
black pepper
pinch of salt

Blend everything together in whatever style of food processor you may possess. If you don't have one, mash with a potato masher and finish by beating with a fork. Let nothing stop you.

Sprinkle a little sumac on top because it's fancy and serve with socca, olives and any other accoutrement in your kitchen. Put everything into tiny bowls and eat at the table. On a Tuesday no less. And you didn't even have any chickpeas. 



Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Pizza from SCRATCH

As part of Bread Week (it's basically GBBO in here) we made pizza! I had plain flour in the cupboard and wanted a simple recipe without any faff so of course I turned to 'A Girl Called Jack' by Jack Monroe. If you haven't got this book in your kitchen, buy it now. It's budget store cupboard cooking at its finest. Nothing feels like you're missing out and you can serve all the recipes to your friends with pride. Buy it. 

This pizza dough is a tweaked from a recipe for Penny Pizzas, made into one very circle of heaven. 

I wasn't in the mood to cook a batch of tomato sauce for the topping and I'm not always a big fan of the slightly intense raw taste of tomato puree or passata. Here's my cheaty-no-cook-tomato-sauce recipe for those who want to spice up the basics:

1/2 carton passata
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 heaped tsp Chillish chilli oil (from Pollyanna's Kitchen, bought from the Chilli fiesta!)

If you don't have Chillish oil, drizzle in a tsp of chilli oil, a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a couple of chopped sun dried tomatoes. The finished sauce has a rich, deep flavour and gets rid of the rawness of the tomato. 

We topped with cheddar (or use vegan cheese or nooch), mushrooms, olives, peppers and basil. Yum.




Sunday, 10 September 2017

Living Room Transformation!

We started on our living room in February after our housemates had moved out. As you may remember, this room was once a bedroom at the front of the house. It was carpeted and the room was dominated by a large brick fireplace. The whole thing was really tatty and felt pretty bleugh so I was desperate to get in there and turn it into a living room again.  

Above is my original plan for the room. I am into warm greys in a big way and was desperate for a laid back grey sofa. I spent about an hour online gazing at worn rugs and finding out what houseplants I could keep alive.

We stripped the carpet and painted the floor with a Farrow and Ball floor paint (read the full saga here).  For a long time I was determined to rip out the old fireplace - I hated it so much. But after realising how much work it would be  (and we don;t actually own this house!) we thought we should try to paint it and see if it worked. I love it. We later added a solid rubinia mantel to even out the proportions and that made a huge difference.

My lovely dad came and built some heavenly book shelves. I've ALWAYS wanted book shelves like this. Tom and I spent a good couple of hours organising our books onto these shelves (we decided on by genre for the curious amongst you). 

£20 bought us this huge mirror to fill the entire chimney breast. We painted it in the same colour as the floor. In the reflection you can see that we got the exact sofa from the mood board - Ikea, Stocksund. 

Tom's grandparents had this beautiful rug in their garage which we were pleased to snap up. The armchair is from a university art project: the cushions are machine embroidered and the arms and fron are drawn on. It's so tatty but I love it all the same.

My houseplant dreams came true. Does anyone know what this plant is though?

We can't light the fireplace - the chimney is a disaster - 
but I've rekindled my love of candles in a big way. 

We've still got some artwork to put up, a light fitting to hang and shutters to build but all in all it's a pretty perfect living room for the two of us.



Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Flatbreads, Falafel and Tom's Slaw

Classic September mood. It doesn't seem to matter how long it's been since you were at school, September still feels like the start of a new year and the time to learn something. Last night I finished a yoga class (I know, I'm a stereotype but don't worry, I can't even touch my toes yet - more on that later) and I felt the need to achieve something. It was eight o'clock, I was half a glass of wine deep and there was one hour until The Great British Bake Off on Channel 4 +1...

and I decided to make bread. 

I started small though, and made these flatbreads with falafel and Tom's slaw. Here's how to do it:

Serves 2, 1 hour from idea formation to plate
For the flatbreads you'll need:
100g plain flour
pinch salt
1 tbsp olive oil
50ml tepid water
(this is based on the BBC Good Food Quick Flatbreads recipe - thank goodness for googling)

For the falafel you'll need:
1 small onion
Tin of chickpeas
Shake of cumin
Shake of turmeric
1/2 chilli (depending on the heat and your sense of danger)
1/2 grated carrot
1tbsp flour
2 tbsp tomato puree
Splash of rapeseed oil to cook

For Tom's slaw you'll need:
Little gem lettuce
1 carrot
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
Clove of garlic

Start by making the dough. Mix the flour and the water and then the oil. Knead on a floured surface for a few minutes. That way you know you're really making bread. Split the dough into two or three balls. 

Meanwhile, start the falafel. Finely chop an onion and tip it into a hot pan. Shake in about 1/2 tsp cumin and turmeric and grate in 1/2 a carrot. Making a falafel mix on the heat like this seems to give greater depth of flavour and cut out that raw taste you can sometimes get with falafel. Drain the chickpeas and add to the pan along with chopped chilli and the tomato puree. I like to add tomato puree to recipes like this as a binder instead of egg. That way, it stays vegan and it doesn't matter that I almost never have eggs in the house. Sprinkle in a tbsp flour and mash the mixture together with a potato masher. Mash until the chickpeas are mostly broken up and the mix starts to come together.

Split your mix into about 8 balls and put into a small non stick pan with a dash of rapeseed oil. 

Now make the slaw. Tom made this one and it's the perfect acidity to complement the falafel. Slice your lettuce into strips and grate the carrot into a bowl. Mix up your dressing of olive oil, cider vinegar, crushed garlic, pepper and salt. Toss the dressing into the slaw, adding a little at a time until it's all lightly coated. Sesame seeds or flax seeds would be great in this. 

Give the falafels a turn when they are browning on one side.

Back to the flatbreads. I was about 45 minutes in at this point so no pressure. Roll out one of the balls of dough onto a floured surface.  Heat a large non stick pan on medium and rub with a piece of kitchen towel and a little oil.

Place your first flatbread onto the pan and leave it alone. They take a couple of minutes on each side. I majorly overdid the first one and it turned into a crisp-bread. It wouldn't bend so would have been useless as a wrap but it was so good dipped into chilli oil! See:

Flip your flatbread when it's puffed up a little and starting to slightly brown. Load it up with your slaw and falafel. Add more salady bits if you feel fancy - I added sliced radishes and chilli. 

Feel smug and go to watch bake off. 

Gotta go, my pizza dough has finished proving.



Sunday, 3 September 2017

Victorious Festival and Flower Crowns

Guys, I found a flower crown hanging in a tree. This isn't the kind of thing that happens every day. A lovely florist called The Little Southsea Florist hid it at Victorious Festival with a little label saying 'finders keepers' and I was happy to oblige. 


Victorious Festival takes place on Southsea Common on the south coast and boasts an impressive selection of local food vendors and amazing musicians. I had one of the best veggie burgers of my life and an incredible vegan burrito (plant based food is on the up babes).

The festival was packed and HOT and sticky and delicious and we loved it all. 

There were six (I think) stages throughout the festival each with a full timetable of bands and artists. We caught lots of brilliant music both on small, intimate stages and on the Common Stage where the headline artists were playing. Acts on the Common Stage included:

Pete Doherty, who zoned out often, spoke incomprehensibly and was then forced offstage by security when his set overran. But don't let that put you off! 

Turin Brakes were brilliant and provided the perfect calm summer atmosphere - if you don't know who they are you won't regret looking them up.

Franz Ferdinand allowed us to scream-sing along with glee...

and finally Elbow rounded off the weekend in arm-swaying spine-tingling awe.

So next year, pick out your best festival outfit (glitter and bum-bags optional but encouraged) and head down to Portsmouth for Victorious Festival.

See you there y'all


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