Monday, 27 April 2009

Saving Water and Electric....

A month or so ago I bought a pump-flask!! Turns out to be a great buy, instead of boiling the kettle numerous times each day, I boil a kettle full first thing then empty it in the thermos flask to be used throughout the day. Hot drinks or boiling water for cooking the veggies. Saves electric and time!! Any water left in the flask at night is decanted into a bottle for watering plants or swilling dishes.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Simple Recipes - how to make cupcakes when you've no butter!!

Determined to have a baking day today, i was somewhat thwarted when I realised we were out of butter!!! A bit of googling later and rejigging some of my favourite cupcake recipes I've come up with a winner (by OMJ's opinion anyway!)

Mrs Jones' Butterless Cupcakes

6oz SR Flour (sifted)
150ml vegetable oil
4oz sugar
2 duck eggs ( or 2 large chicken eggs)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. It will look really different to your usual butter mix (maybe greasy or a different shade) but don't worry!! spoon mix into cupcake cases and cook at 175oC for 15minutes till lightly golden.


Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Fragrancing your home naturally

Now we are using not using chemical cleaners there is a distinct lack of synthetic fragrances in the home, not a bad thing but this leaves an opening for natural fragrances. These can come in many different forms.

Fresh Air - Clothes dried on the washing line bring a lovely freshness into any room. Get outside on those sunnydays and dry your clothes. Open windows to let fresh air in.

Essential Oils - Drops of your favourite essential oils can be added to homemade cleaners, or mixed with water in a spray bottle to make a room fragrancer.
Plants - Plant fragrant plants next to windows and enjoy the fragrance wafting in on warm summer evenings. Pot up herbs and place on windowsills inside your home, ruffle the leaves for instance frangrance! We love lavender, rosemary and lemon thyme in our bedrooms (3 bedrooms, 3 herbs- not mixed!)

Food - Warm Cakes, Fresh Bread and Brewed Coffee all are listed as popular smells within the home. Get baking.......

Candles - Scented candles or oils add richness to a home in summer or winter

What are your favourite natural fragrances to use in your home?

New Starts

Originally uploaded by Thirtyoneteeth

Guess what? For the first time in 6 years I have a job!! I am in old-skool terms a 'dinnerlady' at the local school, for the politically correct it's SMSA (school meals supervisory assistant). Anyhoo, its messing with my schedule, taking me out of the house in the middle of the day. I havent baked for a week now!! Excluding last weeks bread disaster, where it didn't mix properly in the maker so I did it by hand and then it was still runny in the middle when I sliced the loaf - who said the simple life was all roses!

Seeds are still being sown, sunflowers, sweetcorn, parsnips and poached egg plants have all gone in over the last week, as well as planting my beetroot seedlings out into the garden :) On the downside I lost alot of the swiss chard sedling because they got scorched, along with some summer squashes. Tomatoes, chillis and peppers have been potted up.

Whats going well in your garden at the mo? and whats not?

Thursday, 16 April 2009

How to - make homemade shampoo

Have you ever read the ingredients list on the back of your shampoo bottle? Laying in the bath I often scan the bottle and am amazed how I can't even pronounce half of the stuff in the bottle!!!
Over the Easter holiday I have been trying out a few homemade shampoo recipes, this seems to be the one with the best results so far......
Step one - make a liquid soap!

  • Take 1 4oz bar of natural soap and grate it

  • Pour 4 cups of water into a saucepan and bring to a boil, then pour in grated soap and stir until melted.
  • Leave to cool.

Step Two - make a herbal infusion

Select herbs for fragrance or beneficial properties. For my soap I have used 2oz of lavander. *Herbs can also be substituted for a suitable herbal teabag.

Mix the herbs in a lidded jar. Boil 2 cups of water. Add 3 heaped tablespoons of the mixed herbs into the boiling water. Remove from heat and let infuse for 30 mins. When cool strain the herbal mixture into a bowl.

Make the shampoo

  • Pour 2oz of the herbal mixture and 4oz of the liquid soap into a bottle together.
  • Shake the bottle to mix
  • Shampoo is now ready to use.

After shampooing rinse hair with 1 capful of cider vinegar diluted in a glass of warm water.

Do you have any favourite recipes for shampoo?

What other products do you enjoy making at home?

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

A good book or two...

The absence of television in the house has seen an influx of books into the home.....

From friends, charity shops, mobile library and college I now have a good selection of reading material to keep me company in bed or in the garden on a lazy afternoon

The current selection include:-

Carrots love Tomatoes & Roses love Garlic - Louise Riotte
Getting Started in Permaculture - Ross and Jenny Mars
Food from Green Places - Rosamond Richardson
Urban Eden - Adam and James Caplin
The New complete book of Self-Sufficiency - John Seymour

I think my favourite is Food From Green Places, I wish I'd found this for sale rather than in the library, I'm a sucker for recipe books and this one really focuses on the simple ingredient. It would be invaluable when you have a glut of something on the plot and find a hedgerow harvest.

Carrots love Tomatoes and The Complete Handbook of Self-Sufficiency would both make great additions to the bookcase as reference books.

Urban Eden and Getting Started in Permaculture are both good general entry level books but both leave you 'wanting more'.

I'm glad I found the Permaculture one in the college library, Permaculture had been on my radar for a while and this explained the basics. I think when I plan my next garden it will be based on a permaculture idea. If you aren't familiar with Permaculture, explains it extremely well here I think.
What books are you reading? What would you recommend from your bookcase?

How to - Planting Sweetcorn

Monday afternoon I planted the sweetcorn. This was the one vegetable requested by all of the others for me to grow!! I haven't ever grown this before so I've gone for 'Applause' which is a full of flavour super sweet type.

Sweetcorn it turns our is also super easy to plant!

*Fill a 7.5cm pot with multipurpose compost

* Make 4 holes 2.5cm deep in each

* Plant your seed (kernel?) in the holes - I don't know why but I was surprised to see little shriveled kernels in the packet not seeds!!

* Cover and water. Place on a windowsill and after 2 weeks remove the weakest seedling from each pot.

Mmmmmm I can almost taste it now!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

How to - make Tortillas

I'm not sure where it came from but I got a hankering for Quesadillas at the weekend! Not wanting to go shopping I decided to make them from scratch at home, which meant making tortillas first. They were so easy I think they'll become a regular make around here!!

Basic Flour Tortilla recipe

1.5 cups Plain Flour
3 tbsp shortening, lard or veg suet
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 - 3 tbsp warm water

  • Mix all dry ingredients together, then cut in shortening/lard/suet until well mixed.

  • Gradually add water and mix until it forms a soft but not sticky dough

  • Knead dough for 3-4 minutes

  • Turn out onto a well floured board and cut into 6. Roll each 6th into a ball then roll into a circle making sure the dough is very thinly rolled.

  • I find it best to use lots of flour at this stage to stop the tortilla from sticking to board or rolling pin!

  • When you have your circle, transfer tortilla to a hot, dry pan and 'fry' until cooked 20 - 30 sec each side.

How much noise do you make

originally uploaded by Asparagus
Our recent camping trip was heavenly, we woke every morning to birdsong and spent the rest of the day listening to the wind in the trees and trying to teach ourselves to recognise the different birdcalls.
Now we are home I am amazed by how noisy our house is!! We no longer set alarms to wake us, the kids wake up bang on time everyday, any lie-ins we embrace and enjoy even if it means we are late for something !! The noise starts soon after.... neighbours banging doors, scrapping tables across floors. Cars passing peep to scare cats out of the way or to pick up work colleagues. Hard drives hum as I read through blogs, freezers make the strangest noise defrosting themselves.
I'm slowly trying to gain back some peace, and this week I'm making an effort to sweep instead of hoover and even the 'effort' of using a scrubbing brush to hand sweep the hall and stair carpet has a theraputic calmness to it even if it takes a bit longer than hoovering. I also have the satisfaction that it does a bettter job than my hoover!!!! I'm opening windows and working in the garden. Guess what..... we have birdsong here too, it was just too noisy to appreciate it.

What sounds does your house make and what would you prefer to hear?

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Free seeds anyone?

The BBC have just launched DIG IN a new initiative to get us Brits growing! Apply now and they will send you 5 packets of vegetable seeds FOR FREE!!!! You can then sign up for the newsletter and get helpful tips and growing advice. Sounds great doesn't it? What are you waiting for click on the picture above and get signed up!! I have, and I'll be posting my progress along the way!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Tutorial: A Frugal way to Plant Carrots

Little Miss Jones loves carrots, she'd eat them all day long, so there is no way I would leave them off my planting list but for really good carrots you need well prepared borders or nice deep pots. My square foot bed isn't really deep enough and I don't have any big pots left at the moment!

Thinking cap on, I've come up with a way that will give lots of nice straight growing length, be free draining and hopefully fox those carrot root flies too!

My Thrifty Carrot Planter

you will need

Sharp Scissors

2 ltr (lemonade type) plastic bottle


Dibber / Finger

Carrot Seeds


Cut the top bit off your plastic bottle ( see pic ) this should include the shoulders and 3/4" of the sides.

Invert the top and push it all the way to the bottom of the bottle. This should allow excess water to drain off safely.

Pour a handful of small gravel into the bottom of the bottle then fill up with compost.

Using your dibber / finger make 4 holes in the compost 2cm deep. Leave enough room between hols and sides to allow 2 to grow to maturity and 2 to be harvested as baby carrots.

Plant seeds and cover with compost. Water.

Simple Holidays


Camping is a big big thing for us, we LOVE it!!!! So much so we have a VW Campervan and a caravan, last year we had two tents too, but one broke and the binmen walked off with the other one by accident! This spring we decided to streamline our camping paraphenalia. We've retired the campervan into dry storage (awaiting a possible resoration) and treated ourselves to a new family tent. It was a bargain on Ebay. It's Easter here in the UK and according to the news this morning camping and caravanning is becoming ever more popular. Unfortunately rising popularity across the UK for camping instead of holidays abroad has a knock-on effect for those of us who've always done it; Prices go up and campsites are full! The campsite so we've been hoping to book at for this weekend wasn't even answering thier phone because they were so busy when I rang up in the start of March.

So this Easter we are trying out the new tent in Nanny's backgarden (it's too big for ours!!) At least we've cut our carbon footprint!!!! Surely if we are happy at home we shouldn't always need to go away to be on holiday?

How about you? Have you got any good tips for holidaying 'at home'?

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The perfect FREE propagator for sprouting seeds???

sushi seed propagator

Have you worked out what it is yet? I'm a bit of a sucker for Tescos sushi and about 3 or 4 times a year I give in and buy some if I'm out and without lunch. This time as I sat in the car munching on my californian rolls I looked at the box and it screamed propagator to me!!!

The box was cleaned thoroughly and I folded a kitchen roll up into a 9th and popped it inside - perfect fit. I moistened the kitchen roll and sprinckled it with red cabbage sprouting seeds - and a few mustard seeds I had spilt from the packet and accidently mixed, at the weekend!!

Voila, perfect little propogator to get them started!

What have you managed to see in a new light and reuse????

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Simple Changes - Television

A long time ago, television was a big part of my life. I woke up at the start of the day and switched it on as I walked into the lounge, at night I set the 'sleep function' on the bedroom TV as I fell asleep! Recently we weren't watching much TV at all. The kids watched 1 hour before bed and I watched a couple after they were asleep.
At the start of March I unplugged all the TV and challenged us not to use them. 3 weeks in we didn't even miss them so I removed them ( and all the other TV related stuff*) from the house and cancelled our TV license - saving £150 odd a year (yippee!!)
*Video, Digital set top boxes, Ariel booster, DVD players, scart leads, games console, extension leads.......
We still watch a few programs online using BBC i -player and other streaming channels, but the difference we choose what to watch and when. It doesn't rule our lives anymore.