Thursday, 30 May 2019

Paper napkins


How many paper napkins does it take to eat a piece of cake? Or a cafe/restaurant meal?  As a bit of a cafe addict I have been counting and typically it is around five if you eat in a restaurant.  Here's the thing: its been going up steadily.  So now there is often a glass of water on a saucer, with a napkin under the glass.  One wrapped around the knife and fork.  One put down with the main course. Another under the garlic bread, one under the coffee cup on the saucer, one under the cake and another loose one to go with the cake as well.  
Sometimes all of the above, totalling seven. So if we go out together that's FOURTEEN napkins.  And we really do only need one each.  So I take the surplus home if it cannot be put back.  Often if you hand them back,staff throw them away.  And they go in the tissue box to be used as tissue substitutes.  So we seldom need to buy tissues and I am working hard to tell cafe staff in advance not to bring more napkins.  Its hard to remember. And its hard for them to remember, they bring them anyway then throw them in the bin when I remind them.  The rubbish surges at you and it so hard to refuse, feeling like a lone voice in the throwaway wilderness.  So what I want to know is: who else out there tries to refuse and reuse napkins in coffee shops?  We have just ordered a rigid tissue box to keep them in, we don't use many tissues anyway cloth handkerchiefs prevail chez nous.  

Sunday, 12 August 2018

what can you buy for £1/$1?

On the radio yesterday:
A conversation about how someone had won £1 for their baking entry in a local show. Great hilarity about  how to spend such a princely sum.  But it got me thinking and asking the question what can you buy for £1 and how far could I make that money go?   It inspired me to re-focus and look more closely at the food budget.

Another, very good question is what costs nothing at all?  We inevitably begin to think of things that cost nothing or can be bartered, swapped, made, exchanged etc whilst considering how far £1/$1 (or one of whatever is your unit of currency is) can go.  In other words, thinking this way gets us into a resourceful state of mind.  That resourceful state may also lead us away from the shops and back to our own cupboards/closets/garage, to rake through what is already there that could be used, adapted or made into something else.  Shopping in your own cupboards is free and can provide free entertainment too. So the real question is not 'what can I buy?' but 'what do I need?'

  £1 is not of course the same value as $1 or a Euro etc but  it works to think in units of 1, so work with whatever your own unit of currency is.  So off I went to the shops to see.  Was that a mistake?  Possibly, there are many other places to buy or find things that are less obvious, such as batering, swapping, the person down the road who sells eggs or veg from the garden gate, jumble sales, auction sites, buy and sell Facebook groups, local summer fetes, Christmas fairs, car boot sales and so on.  And my £1 would have bought more in many of them.

The trip to the shops resulted in a purchase of two bags of pears (60p) and some lemons.  Total price 90p, so still 10p left to spend.  

Last time it was brocccoli, which with the potatoes growing in the garden made a pot of soup for 60p.  enough for three and the same again for the freezer.  People used to adapt their daily diet to what was available.  What if I did that based on what is best value?
40p for 2 heads of broccoli.   Potatoes from the garden & some stock saved from a chicken.

That thinking just led to the discovery that roasted peppers freeze well and are great with a cooked breakfast.  that lemons sliced up and put in the freezer (5p/4c for 6 lemons) are great in drinks or as a garnish and work just the same when making hummus. So breakfast is potatoes from the garden, hummus instead of eggs, bargain peppers from the freezer and some left over baked beans.  Absolutely, unexpectedly delicious. 
A really cheap, yummy meal with a bit of thought and using what was available

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Business, working from home and well, clutter

I notice a tendency to overwork and over commit.  Always to have several irons in the fire and more ideas in the background that I must try one day.  Seems good, huh? Always a plan B for earning a living if things don't work out.  Always the stuff poised ready, should that idea ever come to fruition...

A recent read was Year of No Clutter by Eve Schaub.  She made one insightful comment that has truly stuck.  It is the many possibilities and massive potential in our lives that prevents us from achieving what we want. AND cause a lot of clutter. Apparently people with serious hoarding issues often cite that as their reason for keeping stuff.  So I have been letting go of possibilities.  And their attendant stuff for the last couple of weeks.  It really has freed things up and the possibilities already seem more manageable. 

Having sold several large craft items that were a part of the business, less clutter, more in the bank is the new mantra.  The things that have been re-homed have liberated the cupboards and shelves in my wee studio-office and things have stopped falling off the shelf when I am hunting for stuff needed for a workshop. 

The best thing of all is that it has led to clearer thinking.  Some actual work has been let go too, the parts that were too much work for too little money, or too far from home.

And what has filled the vacuum is a long-held ambition, I have been asked to write online courses for the Low Impact Living Initiative.  One on spinning, one on weaving and one on natural dyeing. The first two will be filmed mid May. And LILI also want to publish my third book, Diary of a Downshifter, which will be the next project after the courses. 

I am picturing the size of the pile of stuff that left our house over the last few months and cannot imagine how it all fitted.  Now I am off to clear out some more, inspired by another great book, A Year of Less by Cait Flanders. Check out her blog too at Caitflanders.com

Thursday, 1 February 2018

How to make dandelion coffee

Its February and I just started using the dandelion coffee which is part of last year's bounty.  Two of the most useful and versatile plants in the garden are dandelions and nettles.  More about nettles in March when they start to grow and are one of the very first greens available.  But then so are dandelions.
dandelion roots drying
 You don't need to go planting fancy dandelions from seed companies, any old dandelions will do and there are most likely some in the garden already.  Let them grow where they will, in amongst other plants and vegetables is fine and if they take up a bit too much space, pick some leaves.  The young leaves are great in salads and you can force dandelions by placing a flower pot over the leaves, weighed down with a stone.  Then the leaves will be pale and even more tender.

Cook briefly (steaming works well) as a hot vegetable, or add them raw to a mixed salad.  Or juice them in combination with other greens and some carrots and celery.   Add apples to the juice if you like it sweeter.   You can use the ordinary green leaves in salad too all year, if you don't mind a slightly bitter taste. They add a dimension to salads as do other bitter leaves like land cress, rocket or mizuna greens.   They are really mineral rich and a nutrition boost, especially needed in spring.

We leave the flowers for pollinating insects and they are popular with many species of hover fly as well as nocturnal pollinators and bees.   They can be picked off just before the seeds disperse but allow a few to set seed for next year's crop.  Green Finches love the seed heads anyway. 

Then, when they get old and in the way of the next crop, we dig some up, leaving any that can stay to sprout again.    The roots are laid out to dry for a few days until hard, then roasted in a low oven.  Grind them up and you have dandelion coffee.  Half a dessert  spoon full is enough to brew a cup of coffee, done just like you would with coffee grounds and it is surprisingly tasty.

dandelion coffee - very tasty and not bitter at all

Saturday, 27 January 2018

clutter challenge number 4

today's sixty second de-clutter happened because I was planning a felt making workshop.  The boxes of dyes and miscellaneous textile supplies.
The dyes were not too bad really but time had moved on and now I use gallon containers for the dye rather than 1l bottles.  A stock take of the box revealed old paper towels, some empty bottles and other bits and pieces.  Now that the old bottles are gone, there is room for some of the gallon containers in the box and therefore more space in the cupboard...


Flushed with success after only 30 seconds, I spied another box in my textile workshop that continues to bug me.  Miscellaneous.  Having replaced a white plastic bag with a clear one, I can now see at a glance what is inside.  Some bits and bobs have been re-homed or offered for sale and it all now fits in the box.  A total of two minutes and I am off for a cup of tea.

A few days into this and the sixty second de-clutters have achieved more already than a day-long tidy and sort session.  And the total time spent is probably no more than ten minutes.  It is a powerful tool that somehow gets around resistance.  Probably because your brain thinks a minute is painless and not scary...

It's a funny thing, because we have kept on top of clutter and had a 'one in one out' policy for years, but it seems to creep in during the night.  having a home based business doesn't help.  Nor does being too busy to focus on home stuff.  So this year, the focus is changing to more home based time to garden, look after our house and just hang out. 


Friday, 26 January 2018

Clutter crunch day three

So today's wee clutter jobs are... The sewing boxes.  Everything came out onto the floor in the large box first.  Some bits of fluff in the bottom, gone.  Several reels of lurex thread will never be used so will be donated to a craft group.

And despite having a number of old zips, saved from old clothes, none are the right length for the two pairs of trousers that need zips.  There is a great one for a sleeping bag and well worth keeping given the price. 

So two zips are on the shopping list and the sewing project on my 'to do sometime' list.  Those two pairs of trousers are really worth repairing but have not been worn for a couple of years as the zips will not stay up.  I thought I needed more trousers till the sewing box reminded me about those ones that are not wearable.  So a quickie, sixty second de-clutter of sewing box number one has saved money.

There is more space in the box after letting go of some stuff and I now know what is in there.  And I just remembered there is a half finished skirt on top of the filing cabinet, so that is another job worth doing.  Sometimes I have taken clothes to a repair shop for new zips.  It only cost me £8  to get trousers repaired that cost £40 new and I don't
often find good trousers in charity shops for some reason.










Sewing box number two contains mostly reels of thread.  And I got some really cheap ones in a charity shop. But how many reels of pink thread can I use in this lifetime?  Have let go of a couple of them and that wee box now has a lid that shuts easily.  It surprising how much difference a small thing can make.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Clutter in your handbag, rucksack and car

Does it really matter if you have a load of bits and bobs in your bag or car?  To get started, clear it all out of the car or bag and make a pile. Then you can sort through everything.  And you will soon know!  I really didn't think this needed doing, but as it was only a sixty second de-clutter, thought I might as well go through the stuff.  That's the power of the sixty seconds, it unblocks because hey, it will only take a minute...

First, I discovered I had a nifty car booster for a flat battery.  I knew I had the compressor but had forgotten about this wee thing, which means you can jump start without another car to help and without lifting the bonnet. Oh, and the spare coat and wellies I keep in there for winter emergencies were in the house and I had forgotten to put them back in the car!

So a quick tidy of the car, which took two sixty second de-clutters in total (one for the boot and one for the car interior) and I was all set for the winter weather.  I added some more screen wash in a bottle and a blanket too.  And now I also know the spare tyre is inflated correctly and have even added a few snack bars for emergencies.  Amazing what organising the car does for your bad weather driving confidence.

So inspired, I moved on to the handbag, or wee rucksack in my case.    First thing was the mini torch I keep in there, which had a flat battery, so I put that right. And how exactly had so many bits and bobs accumulated,  left over from previous trips?  Three tubes of mints when one will do, a phone charger that I had been hunting for, which had somehow tucked itself into a corner, umpteen paper serviettes saved in restaurants.  These have now been added to the tissue box.  A pair of gloves too many. And there was the tiny pen knife that should have been in the bike bag, I had been looking for it everywhere.

  Another sixty seconds was all it took to sort those things.  Potential future hassles have been avoided and life actually feels better.  Partly because I am feeling rather smug I suspect!  So yes, it is well worth sorting out your bag and car and takes all of three minutes.

You will notice too, that a couple of lost things that turned up during this process.  De-cluttering the car and bag sooner would have saved all that hunting time.  The more you keep on top of clutter, the less time is spent looking for stuff.