Tuesday, 24 January 2012

I'm So Excited ..............

I'm so excited I have to share my news - I've just taken a call from my local Council asking if I'm still interested in an allotment - I've been on the waiting list for about three years - they've opened a new site about a fifteen minute walk away from home - how good is that!  I'm going for a viewing on Friday. 

If there's anyone reading this who has advice for me - I would welcome it.

Friday, 20 January 2012

What Makes You Happy?

If the definition of stress is "responsibilty without control", is the definition of happiness the opposite?  Maybe it is - one thing is for sure, nothing makes for more stress than having to "do what you have to do" rather than "do what you want to do".  I think this is more true of women than men (but I don't really like to generalise) - it always seems to be the women who put aside their own "wants and needs" to take care of someone else's.  True that it is usually loved ones that we are putting before ourselves, but sometimes not, and loving someone,  be it spouse or child or parent, doesn't necessarily make the chore easier to undertake.

My sister was telling me how she was feeling happy because she had had a day to herself, doing what she wanted to do, sitting in the sun reading her book, having a swim when it got too hot - sheer bliss.  It's quite amazing to think that simple pleasures can make us so happy - I like nothing more than a day to myself to read and potter around doing as I please - no noisy televison, no incessant chatter - just silence.  Of course every day spent like this wouldn't make me happy either, but a day or two of calm works wonders for the soul, just doing what you want just for oneself.  I wonder if selfish people are happy?   I don't think they can be, because helping someone and making their life easier or bringing them some happiness is its own reward.

So, if as the mug says "happiness is a cup of tea and a new magazine"  - I hope you manage to find time for a cup of tea and a new magazine today.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Mansfield Park, Kettle and Coffee ..................

I've recently purchased this pretty edition of Mansfield Park in order to read along with The Book Snob.  I'm ashamed to say that I haven't got very far, yet The Book Snob was already half way through it yesterday.  Usually I am a voracious reader - I'm not sure what the problem is at the moment, apart from the fact that I seem to have been extremely busy - doing what?   It's surprising how quickly a day can pass just by doing the school run (a one hour round trip of approximately 22 miles) twice a day, making beds, putting washing in and out of the machine, changing sheets on beds, clearing out cupboards - and so it goes on - preparing dinner, deciding what to eat for dinner, shopping, visiting parents after school, cleaning, are you asleep yet?

These little "flipback" books are so sweet and quite easy to read - the paper is a little too thin really - but they are a great size to pop in your handbag for reading on the train.

I did spend last Friday helping my sister-in-law with the painting of the doors in her hallway - don't you just hate painting doors!  I did owe her though, she had kindly spent a day with me a few weeks ago making a new pair of curtains for youngest daughter's bedroom.  Still, she bought me some coffee and vanilla syrup - rather delicious too.  I'm looking forward to having this coffee poured over ice cream.  I'm going to buy an ice cream maker so we can have delicious homemade ice cream - another intention for this year - I really want to try and eliminate as many unnecessary ingredients, flavourings and colourings as I can this year (shhss - I know the vanilla syrup is over ingrediented - I know that's not a word but it fits).

Finally, my new kettle arrived today, but what a disappointment.  We're not having much luck with kettles lately.  A few years ago I bought an Eco Kettle which I really liked and worked well for a few months, then following a few problems with it the company replaced it with a new one - unfortunately this wasn't great either, after boiling a full kettle of water it would switch off and not come on again until it had cooled down completely - so rather than send it back again I bought a cheap kettle to use and put the Eco kettle in the garage (just in case - in case of what - oh just in case).  The cheap kettle lasted quite a while (as is always the case) and in the meantime I kept looking and looking for a kettle that I could love!  In the end the cheap kettle gave up, so I bought another okayish cheapish kettle which only lasted about six months!   So we reverted to the Eco Kettle until we could replace the more recent kettle, finally took it back to the shop the week before Christmas for a refund, couldn't see anything I wanted so thought I would leave it until after Christmas.  Then just after Christmas, the Eco Kettle packed up (who knows what we do to kettles - it's probably the husband) but then I had seen this lovely Kenwood Kmix Kettle in magenta.  Anyway, to bring this boring story to an end, the kettle arrived today - but it's too small!  How did I not read that it had a 1 litre capacity?  So, that's going back and I'm going back to the drawing board - in the meantime when the Eco kettle gave up we bought a cheap (and I mean cheap - £5) kettle until the new one arrived - I really hope that in a year's time I'm not still using this cheap kettle, I must make a decision and get something that will hopefully last a bit longer than the last few.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Not a New Year's Resolution

I've been thinking about making changes and New Year Resolutions and can't quite decide which would be more effective than another - can I really be bothered?  After much consideration I'm not going to make any New Year's Resolutions, but I am going to try (and I mean try) to make changes in the way I feed my family.  This is just the first of my decisions for the coming year - more will follow as and when I decide what I am going to do.

To begin though, I've been reading the book Not On The Label by Felicity Lawrence.  I've had this book for quite a few years yet I am ashamed to say I have not read it, at least not properly anyway, I've dipped into it several times when I haven't had a book to read and tutted over what I have read, disgusted at times and appalled at other times, surprised certainly and incredulous.  I recommend you read it if you can.  I am right now wondering if it has been updated and whether there is any more to confound us.

The chapter entitled Beans details the way in which our food finds its way into the supermarkets, how many miles it has travelled both from abroad and around the country, that's before we travel to the supermarket to buy it and drive it home - adding even more miles. 

Here are a few quotes from this chapter -

"35-40 per cent of freight on UK roads is now involved in the production and distribution of food"

"Our increasing dependence on processed food has also made its contribution.  A ready-made lasagne can contain around twenty different ingredients which may have come from all over the world"

"To air freight delicate vegetables and fruits, you have to pack them.  Most food is packaged in plastic, and plastic is made from crude oil.  Packaging in fact now makes up about a quarter of household waste;  nearly 70 per cent of that is food-related."

"Of course we have always imported food that we cannot produce ourselves.  But the traditional form of transport for the bulk of imports was shipping, which is much less environmentally damaging in terms of emissions than air or road freight.  What is new is the supermarket-driven creation of a permanent global summer time and the volume of food being imported at times when we could supply our own."

"About two thirds of the tomatoes we eat are imported, according to the British Tomato Growers' Association, and again, many are brought in when British producers could be supplying the market.  UK growers have found themselves pushed out of business, with the result that our self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetables has fallen dramatically.  In the last twenty-five years, it has dropped to just 4 per cent in fruit, and 52 per cent in vegetables."

We are taxed and taxed to dissuade us from using our cars, we turn off lights when not in use, are careful with our consumption of electricity, we have dire warnings of global warming thrown at us to engender  feelings of guilt.   Whilst at the same time distribution centres for supermarkets are travelling more miles than they need to in order to deliver food. 

"Many cities impose night curfews and other restrictions on lorries over a certain size travelling through residential areas.  For example, ............ ............'s juggernaughts from the ........................... are only allowed into London on officially designated trunk routes.  During my visit to the distribution centre he and his colleagues gave me a taste of some of the lobbying officials no doubt receive.  'We're a twenty-four hour operation and we're in residential areas, but more curfews are being imposed by local authorities.  The deliveries are shoe-horned into shorter and shorter times.  It creates rush-hour traffic james,  If we could reduce morning deliveries and bring more in at night, we could stop adding to the problem.  Central government  is in favour of it but local government isn't.'  .................. ........ later showed me a map of the London and M25 area.  he explained that in order to deliver to his supermarket's Holloway Road branch from Aylesford, he cannot take the direct route down the A2, a journey of 134 kilometres.  Instead, he must send his vehicles all the way round the M25 up to the A1, then down again, which is 214 kilometres. They go twice a day, or four times a day at the back end of the week.  That's 58,000 extra kilometres a year.  If you look at all the London stores, we're doing an extra 242,422 kilometres a year, just one way.  Half a million extra kilometres in all!  Think of all the extra congestion."

I cannot be the only person to find this ridiculous.  Little wonder that food prices are increasing all the time if petrol/diesel is being consumed in this way.

So, decision number one is to buy less fruit and vegetables from supermarkets and grow more of my own - this year and hopefully increase the amount I grow year on year.  I have all the inspiration I need from Nigel Slater's two volumes of Tender - the bigger decision is what to grow and where ............. hmmm, I think I need a cup of tea ............ a journal for my notes ................ and inspiration, and I couldn't be more inspired than with these photos which I took at Chelsea Flower Show last year of Bunny Guinness' show garden.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Playing Around Again .........

As you can see I'm playing around with the colour scheme and template for this blog - I think this might finally be it.

I've been chomping on Quality Street again whilst sitting here playing around - I do love the chocolate toffee fingers - unfortunately I think I may have lost a bit of filling from a tooth - no more Quality Street for me.

Monday, 2 January 2012

New Year

I'd like to wish you all a very Happy New Year - may God's peace be with us all.  Thank you for taking the time to read my blog(s) and I hope you'll find something to interest you here each week.

Had a little trip to London yesterday - visiting family and a little shopping at Westfield in Shepherds Bush - we drove home along the embankment and took a few photographs as we drove along at dusk.

Before we got to the embankment we noticed this swan - who appeared to be a little lost.