Uncategorized

Recipe: Tasty 5-Ingredient Crunchy Nut Bites

Here’s the promised recipe for my Crunchy Nut Bites. Super simple to make with just 5 ingredients, and as tasty as honey nut cornflakes themselves, it’s a corker of a sweet snack: give it a try!

This play on the popular cereal tastes like the real deal but cleverly combines natural ingredients to create a healthier version, finished off with just a little sprinkling of honey nut cornflakes for added crunch and an indulgent touch. Dates give that classic caramel-like taste, but you could also use apricots which work well but alter the taste to a fruitier version.

The main equipment you need for this recipe is a good blender or food processor. I recommend Magimix which is just great for making all sorts of things. I use their 3200 model.

Ingredients:

  • 20g bran flakes
  • 100g dates
  • 2-3 big heaped tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • (Optional: drizzle of maple syrup)
  • Handful honey nut cornflakes

How to make:

Soak the dates for 10-20 minutes to soften slightly, which makes it easier to bring the mixture together later.

Put the bran flakes in a food processor and blend until they’re ground up really small. Drain the dates well, add them to the processor and blend until these are finely chopped. Pour in two heaped tablespoons of peanut butter and whizz up to bring it all together.

Check the consistency to see if the mixture sticks together: it will be quite crumbly but should hold its shape when pressed. Add more peanut butter and/or a drizzle of maple syrup if desired, along with your cashews. Blend until the cashews are chopped up and the mixture is the right consistency.

Take a handful of honey nut cornflakes and crush with your hands onto a plate. Grab little bits of the mixture and form into rounds (the size is up to you; I like really small ones that you can just pop into you mouth). Press two sides of each piece into the crushed flakes so you end up with little medallions (you could go for balls but I find pressing rather than rolling gets more coating to stick).

And there you have it: your tasty Crunchy Nut Bites are ready! They’ll keep in the fridge in an air-tight container for about a week. Enjoy!

There’s more where this came from, so if you like what you see feel free to follow the blog to be the first to know when knew recipes are posted!

Note: if any purchases are made via the Amazon links on this page, I am able to earn commission as an Amazon Associate, which would help cover the costs of running this website.

Gardening, Recipes

Container Gardening: steps to self-sufficiency!

I posted a while back about my very modest progress in the world of growing my own veg this year, and have achieved so much more since then I barely know where to start!

My biggest challenge was being unsure whether I had the space to plant very much: whilst we have access to a yard, it’s all concrete so we’re limited to planting in pots & containers, and there’s only so much you can grow in small spaces. Fortuitously, our landlord had some old palletes lying around, and used these to build two new planters (one for flowers to please the landlord’s aesthetical preferences; one for veg!). Not only did it feel great to minimise waste by reusing the old wood, but it massively increased the space we had availabe at home for growing and opened up opportunities to grow a bigger variety of goodies.

I’ve got a couple of rows of beetroot coming on strong, and a few carrots after a precarious start. I thought all the seeds had totally failed but it turns out it takes a few weeks for the seedlings to show, so with patience came reward in the end! You’ll see they’re interspersed with another type of plant; those are just flowers to help hide the carrots from the dreaded ‘carrot-fly’ pest. I’m experimenting with a few different varieties of carrot: the ones you see here will be purple, and just today I’ve planted a fly-resistant variety to fill the gaps and Amsterdam variety which grow well in small spaces in their own little pot. Watch this space for more on how they all do!

I also love the makeshift greenhouse, which takes up limited space and offer a chance to grow things that love heat even in the most basic of gardens. We’ve got some lettuce, cucumber and pepper plants in there at the moment. I’m particularly excited to see how the peppers do and thankful that I was donated the plants by a friend!

In other news, our tomatoes are coming on amazingly well. They’re really strong and lots of flowers have appeared already. Again the space available is confined by keeping our landlord happy with how things look, so it’s nice that the plants can sit in a nice neat row along the fance. They’re joined by my 2 surviving strawberry plants and a blackberry bush, as well as my beloved herb wheel. I love using fresh herbs from outside my door in cooking! My favorite is this green hummus recipe, which is bursting with lovely summery flavours.

I also have some other great recipes up my sleeve for home-grown veg, which I can’t wait to show you once the fruits of my labour start to materialise. As a teaser, here’s a picture of my bangin’ beetroot burgers (made with shop-bought on this occasion!), which I’m super excited to share the recipe for when I’ve got my own beetroot from the ground. You’ll have to take my word for it for now, but honestly, it’s SO GOOD, you don’t want to miss it! Follow the blog to keep up to date and be the first to see new recipes when they land.

Are you growing veg yourself or hoping to start? I’d love to hear from you! Post in the comments to share your story 🙂

eco friendly products, Recipes

Making my own snacks to save on waste!

I love making my own tasty, clean and eco-friendly sweet snacks, which is both healthier for me and reduces the amount of packaging I have to buy and dispose of! I’ve enjoyed experimenting with some fun energy ball flavours these last couple of weeks… Let me know if you’d like to see recipes and be sure to follow me for updates when they drop!

Crunchy Nut bites
Chewy date, nut & oat bars
Dark chocolate, apricot & pistachio balls
eco friendly products, Plastic Pollution

Introducing my favourite eco-friendly household items

When it comes to making eco-friendly choices, I find household items are one of the most challenging things. So many of the basic things we use in daily life – like toiletries and cleaning products – generate a lot of plastic waste and other environmental issues. From growing natural sponges to recyclable toothpaste tubes, slowly I’m discovering an array of products that are helping me overcome those problems. I’d like to share a few here and hope you’ll share some back!

Eco-friendly toothpaste

I have to admit, I was devastated a few years ago when I found out that my favourite toothpaste – the kind that has ‘micro-crystals’ in it to get your teeth squeaky-clean – was full of plastic. Exactly the thing I loved about it was tiny bits of plastic that ended up in the sea causing all sorts of harm to the animals who unwittingly ingested it. Disappointedly and dutifully, I immediately stopped using this type of toothpaste, but have continued to be bothered by the non-recyclable packaging that toothpaste inevitably comes in.

That is, until yesterday. I’ve recently been pleased to see charcoal toothpaste becoming fashionable – yes, it’s overpriced and gimmicky, but at least it’s more natural than plastic – and was hunting for the best-value version I could find, when I spotted Colgate’s Smile for Good toothpaste in fully recyclable packaging! I was embittered to find it was a good deal more expensive than other basic toothpastes (aside from all the fashionable whitening varieties and so on), but my moral compass told me I had no choice but to buy it now I knew it was on offer. i do feel happier knowing I’m now empowered to make such a choice, and have also been enjoying Colgate’s bamboo/charcoal toothbrushes. Well done, Colgate!

New recyclable packaging from Colgate

Coconut scrubbers

Coconut scrubbers & scourers seem to have made a mini-explosion in the cleaning products market, and it’s easy to see why. Over the last few months, I’ve been using an EcoCoconut scourer for the first time, and it’s excellent. They’re naturally antibacterial, which is an obvious plus for washing your dishes, and are also highly effective at scrubbing whilst also being non-abrasive, so they won’t ruin your pans. My dishes are clean and I’m no longer sending endless little bits of micro-plastic down the drain from a traditional scourer: it’s win-win!

Lush shampoo bars

When I talk about shampoo bars, friend often instantly retort that ‘they’re no good; they make my hair greasy’. Now, I’ve personally never used any shampoo bar other than Lush – I’ve never needed to because they’re so good – but have also heard friends say Lush is the only shampoo bar that doesn’t make their hair greasy. In other words, if you think you don’t get along with shampoo bars but haven’t tried the Lush ones, do it. They are, in short, amazing.

Not only are there obvious benefits of the plastic-free nature of this solution, but I find this stuff is just so good for my hair. I don’t need to wash it as often as I used to, and my bar of choice – Honey I Washed My Hair – is so softening I don’t even need conditioner. What’s more, their solid nature makes them easy to travel with and you can buy a handy tin or cork holder to transport them in. Brilliant!

Natural sponges

This could be a bit of a wildcard, but this year I’m attempting to grow my own sponges! We were offered a luffa plant (or loofah – same thing different spelling!) and jumped at the chance. This is the plant that the well-known back-scrubbing device luffa comes from. It’s a vine plant that produces fruit of a cucumber-type shape which, once dried out, can be used for various purposes such as slicing to use as sponges or scourers. I’ve read they can be a bit tricky to grow so will be interested to see how it pans out. I’m really excited to be giving it a go as it combines my newfound love of self-sufficiency through gardening with my passion to reduce waste from packaging. Watch this space!

Over to you…

What are your favourite eco-friendly household items? I’d love to hear from you so we can all learn from each other. Share your thoughts in the Comments and be sure to follow the blog if you’d like to keep up with my antics. Until next time!

Gardening, Recipes

Summer Hummus with Garden Herbs

I love using home-grown ingredients and the satisfaction that comes from that little bit of self-sufficiency. It’s too early for any fruit and veggies yet but my herbs are going strong and I wanted to share with you my summer hummus recipe that’s perfect for this time of year.

Hummus is my go-to lunch item as I try to stick to a high proportion of plant-based food. Given that I make it every week, the traditional version can get a bit samey, so I enjoy trying out different flavour combinations.

This lovely green hummus makes a great alternative to the classic recipe and is alive with the flavours of summer. I make it without tahini which gives it a certain lightness, but you can always add a tablespoon or two if you like. Mint and lemon verbena really give it that summery zing, but you can use whatever herbs you like from your garden; feel free to experiment with different combinations. Some of the quantities are deliberately vague as I like to be relaxed and go with the flow whilst making this, and encourage you to do the same!

Equipment:

Ingredients:

  • 400g tin chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or 125g dried chickpeas
  • Large handful of frozen peas
  • Handful of spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • Small handful of mint and lemon verbena leaves (or other fresh herbs)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • A good glug of olive oil
  • Salt, pepper and chilli powder to taste

Method:

If using dried chickpeas, cook or sprout them according to your preferred method ahead of making your hummus. Otherwise, drain the can of chickpeas and save the aquafaba.

Put your frozen peas in the saucepan on a medium heat for a few minutes. Once warmed through, rinse with cool water to bring back to room temperature.

Peel and roughly chop the garlic. Add it to the food processor with the chickpeas, peas, spinach and herbs. Whizz up until very finely chopped, scraping down the sides with the spatula occasionally if needed.

Juice half the lemon and add the juice to the processor along with a good glug of olive oil (a couple of tablespoons) and a splash of the aquafaba. Blend for a good few minutes until smooth (it takes patience!). Add more aquafaba if needed to get the desired consistency.

Taste and adjust: add lemon juice/zest, olive oil, salt pepper and chilli powder and continue to blend until you’ve reached your ideal flavour balance. Transfer to your container and store in the fridge. It’ll keep well for about 5 days.

Top tip: if your food processor has an accessory designed to help get a smooth consistency, use it! In the case of Magimix, I use the BlenderMix which stops the ingredients flying up the sides of the bowl, keeping them close to the blade an ensuring more effective blending.

Serve simply with pitta and carrot sticks or as a refreshing side to a summer salad.

A great alternative is to use broad beans in place of the peas & spinach, and add some green chilli for extra zing, Yummy!

I’ve got some other lovely home-grown recipes up my sleeve, so be sure to follow me to be the first to know about new recipes when they drop!

Note: As an Amazon Associate I will earn commission from qualifying purchases via links in this blog

Travel & Transport

Moving forward from COVID: How I hope travel habits will change

One positive thing I hope will emanate from the COVID-19 pandemic is an increased propensity for people to travel conscientiously. I’ve written elsewhere about some of the benefits I see being generated by the situation, one of them being environmental improvements. It has been encouraging to see miraculous improvements in air quality, most strikingly northern India having a view of the Himalayas for the first time in decades. I kind of think there’s an element of nature knowing what it’s doing, and the pandemic being its way of accelerating some sorely needed societal changes in a bid to save the planet from itself.

Of course, travel and transport can’t and won’t remain restricted to current levels, and indeed that wouldn’t be desirable even to the most dedicated eco-warrior. However, it seems likely that global travel will take quite some time to get back to normal, and rightly so. I hope that for many people, having been under such constraints will add more meaning to the idea of freedom to move around the world; make people realise the value of this amazing privilege.

Travel is undeniably nourishing for the soul and good for our wellbeing. It expands our minds, connects us with nature, introduces us to amazing people ad cultures, gives us much-needed rest & recuperation time. But all this comes at such an enormous cost to the planet: each passenger on a plane from London to New York accounts for the carbon-emission equivalent of an average car-driver for a whole year. Multiply that by the number of people per flight and the number of flights going here, there and everywhere each day, and it’s easy to see we have a problem.

Exploring my local area and feeling like I’m on holiday!

It’s only in recent years that I’ve become aware of how lucky I am to be able to travel, and the impact that doing so has on the planet. It really is such a privilege, yet it’s so easy and often cheap these days that it’s naturally taken for granted. I’ve become a far more conscious traveller in the last couple of years, being careful not to fly often and creative about the other options I can take advantage of (more on this in a later post!).

A vital component of my greener travel philosophy is the train. Sadly, the services are under-resourced and over-priced here in the UK, and there has long been a tendency for people to fly short distances (say, London to Manchester or Edinburgh) ‘because it’s cheaper’. Incidentally, recent events have highlighted just how precarious that fact was: FlyBe going bust whilst the British rail service remains intact just goes to show it wasn’t cheaper; the operator simply wasn’t charging enough to build the required amount of resilience into the business. (I’m just a tad less inclined to complain so much about the prices of trains here now, though it still infuriates me that I pay more to commute by public transport than I would to go by car as a sole occupant).

Clearly the airline industry is going to need quite some recovery from the current situation, which may well mean that people have no choice but to fly less because of availability. People may be encouraged to ask themselves: ‘do I really need to fly?’, and perhaps be more inclined to choose alternatives or travel less frequently. Gone are the days, surely, where business jet people off for a day here, an overnight stop there, mindlessly booking flight after flight after flight without a thought for the effects. Companies have been forced to work smarter by the current situation, and I think they’re really waking up to the prospect that travel simply isn’t necessary in many instances. Not only that, but there are so many benefits to remote working: increased productivity, improved staff wellbeing, cost savings… the list goes on.

Train travel: the way forward in the new world?

Back to our holidaymakers, globe-trotters and travel enthusiasts. Will we see people making more conscious decisions about the way the get around? I hope so. Having something taken away helps us realise the value of it, and I think that’s what will happen here. This brings to mind something I often think about modern Western life: that we have too much of everything and, as a result, too little appreciation. I recall stories from my parents and grandparents about how, when they were younger, every little thing had to be saved for, planned in, worked towards. That is so different from the life I know where I could have whatever I want, whenever I want, in a world of online shopping and instant gratification. Much as I’m grateful to live so comfortably, I sometimes envy them: it’s all too easy and I yearn for that sense of reward that comes from really having to earn something. A simpler life, but one that makes you truly appreciate things.

So that’s what I can see happening with travel: the limitations we’re under right now, and will likely be for some time albeit to a lesser extent, will inevitably make people think harder about what they really want out of their travels. What will their priorities be? How could they enjoy adventures closer to home by more sustainable travel methods? Will they limit trips by plane to once a year, perhaps?

We’re entering a new world; we have to be. People talk longingly about ‘going back to normal’, but things will never be the same as they were. Daunting as that may seem to some, my own dream is for a better world, with the current darkness making way for a brighter dawn than before. The earth has given us a second chance to live in harmony with it, and I for one hope we all seize it with the utmost enthusiasm.

How do you think COVID-19 will affect people’s travel behaviour? Will you be making any changes yourself as a result of these times? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to follow me for more on my green travel stories.

Plastic Pollution

A Top Tip for Tea-Drinking Types

I was astounded when I discovered, maybe a couple of years ago now, that teabags contain plastic. Once I knew, it seemed obvious – of course they’d disintegrate if they were just paper – but I was shocked at the time. I was also somewhat disturbed by this fact, given the amount of tea that I drink (I am English after all) and how many people throw teabags in their food waste bins. I was immediately on a mission to eradicate teabags from my life.

Loose tea is an obvious answer, and indeed I enjoy the process of selecting different varieties, making and drinking the tea. But sometimes loose-leaf just isn’t practical, you don’t have the time or, if you’re anything like me, you just fancy the type of brew that only comes from an English Breakfast tea bag. Not only is this problematic because of the plastic, but also because most teabags are bleached, which isn’t good for the body either. There must be a better way…

You can imagine my delight when I discovered that Clipper Tea bags are not only unbleached but plastic-free too. What’s more, their Everyday variety is about the tastiest I’ve ever come across – amazing! Oh, and of course it’s Fairtrade too…

Even more happily, it turns out Clipper originated right here in my home county of Dorset. I feel rather proud of that! On writing this post, I worried that it would only be relevant for people living in the UK, but no: Clipper has branched out internationally to over 50 countries, including the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan. So wherever you are, I hope you find yourself able to sample this wonderful English tea, guilt-free.

I invite you to make a brew, sit back, relax and browse the rest of my site. Aaah.

Travel & Transport

How the e-cargo-bike as a second vehicle has transformed my life

From food shopping to date nights, here’s how the e-bike has changed my life forever…

I once heard of an argument between a couple of friends when one of them had bought an e-bike. A protagonist reprimanded the buyer for ‘cheating’ on the bike by having pedal assistance. This is a common critique of the e-bike concept, but completely misses the point. The e-biker in question was using it for a daily 34-mile round-trip to work. Considering the proportion of journeys less than 2 miles that are done by car, this is staggering and, in my view, pretty impressive. The e-bike in this case does not substitute a regular bike; it takes a car off the road, and for that should be hailed.

E-bike as car alternative

In a world where it seems that nearly every household has a car per person, my partner and I like to do things a little differently. We have a small, relatively economical car (which we barely use – more on this in a later post!) – and an e-cargo bike as our second vehicle. Technically the car is mine and the bike is his, but we essentially share them both to get best use out of each.

Jason has always been an active traveller and buying the e-bike – a Tern GSD – was an inevitable extension of this because he carries a lot of gear for work. It’s an amazing machine which carries up to 200 kilos, rides like a dream and turns heads everywhere it goes (not least because of the colour!). Whilst gaining access to the Tern was, for me, a mere by-product of Jason’s choices, I wouldn’t want to be without it now. Quite frankly, it’s changed my life.

For Jason, this bike is an extension of his personality and of the lifestyle he’s led for decades as a ‘utility cyclist’. For me, it’s a game-changing tool in my quest to live sustainably. And for both of us, it’s an absolute joy to ride.

GSD stands for Get Stuff Done. That’s a pretty apt strapline, and I’d like to tell you a little bit about some of the stuff we get done on the Tern (and where we might like to take it next!)

Shopping & deliveries

I used to despair over food shopping because I simply couldn’t carry everything on a regular bike (bulky items like loo roll soon fill up a bog-standard rucksack or pannier!), which forced me to drive to the supermarket more often than I’d like. Whilst my guilt was tempered by the fact that I barely used the car outside of this, it felt so wrong doing such a short trip by car.

The Tern has transformed my weekly routine into a much greener one.

With two huge panniers and a front rack, my days of being unable to carry a bulky food shop are over. Sometimes it takes a bit of careful arrangement to fit it all in securely – cue anecdote of the time I went over a bump causing several items to bounce out of the front and scatter across the road – but by and large the machine carries everything with ease. If I’m doing a big shop I’ll take a rucksack as backup, and have been known to transport wine in the bottle cage!

The e-bike has been especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we’ve shopped less frequently and collected groceries for relatives occasionally. We were particularly pleased by how the box of Corona we picked up – which was on special price because of damaged packaging, not because of its connotation! – fit snuggly in the front crate on one such occasion! (We don’t actually drink that much; I promise!!)

E-bike date-nights

If we needed to, we could actually carry a massive crate on the back as well as the panniers. Such is the versatility of this machine though that it transports more than just cargo. Fitted with a comfy removable pad, the back of the bike doubles up as a people carrier! A GSD comfortably carries two kids (with the right configuration), or in our case one delighted, child-like adult (me!).

On these occasions we tend to stick to gender stereotypes, with Jason piloting and me riding on the back. (We tried it the other way round once when J needed a lift to the station with a chunky weekend bag. This was before the front rack had arrived and the bag wouldn’t fit in a pannier, so he had to hold it on his lap whilst riding. The movement of the bag as we travelled kept shifting the balance of the bike and making me wobbly. Not an experience I’d recommend!)

These ‘couple-trips’ – visits to the cinema and the like – are some of the most fun times on the bike, and by far the most head-turning. We literally watch people gawping at us, open-mouthed in astonishment, as we go by. Whilst I’m far from the type who seeks to be centre of attention, it does make us chuckle and we get a glimmer of satisfaction from being a bit out of the ordinary!

Wedding taxi!

My favourite example is the time we used the Tern as our taxi to and from a friend’s wedding reception! The ceremony and reception were 8 miles apart; not a distance I’d expect any wedding-goer to make by bike. Fortuitously, both venues were situated conveniently: the church nearby my parents’ house, where I happened to have stayed the previous night to cat-sit, and the reception just a couple of miles from my current abode. So, post-ceremony, we strolled back to my family home, hopped in the car and popped home to grab the GSD. We landed at the hotel just in time to see the bride & groom arrive, and didn’t have to stress about tackling a jam-packed car park. It was a beach location on a glorious day so the road was teeming. We enjoyed being waved and called at by car-dwellers edging their way towards the sand as we glided past on two wheels.  

Hopes & dreams

Having the GSD in my life has undoubtedly changed it for the better, but I think we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible with this ingenious machine. When the time is right I’d like to test its limits and see what more it can do for us. We’re particularly keen to see how it handles a weekend away or camping trip…

Watch this space for more on my e-bike adventures!

Gardening

Grow-your-own: my story, how to get started and busting myths!

Over the last couple of years, my partner Jason and I have forayed into growing our own veg, which is a rather enjoyable and rewarding pastime as well as having obvious benefits both for our health and the planet. Here I share some insights and tips from our experiences so far, whilst busting a few myths that may be stopping you from getting started with growing your own!

Do you ever despair over the limited choice of plastic-free produce in the supermarket, or at the price you pay for good quality veg? These issues leave me feeling wracked with guilt every time I go shopping, either for buying packaged items, stuff from halfway across the world or denting my bank balance more heavily than I’d have liked. Here in the UK we seem to be particularly bad for plastic packaging in our produce isles – though it’s getting better – and I’d love to hear what it’s like in your part of the world if you live elsewhere.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the summer, when these issues won’t trouble me so much as we’ll be picking lots of fresh produce straight from our own crops!

We’re not gardening experts by any stretch, but that’s the beauty of it in some ways – you don’t have to be particularly skilled in order to make stuff grow – as long as you choose things that are relatively easy, give them enough space and provide the little bit of TLC they need (which for the hardiest of plants isn’t much!).

Last year I let Jason lead on the gardening, feeling I couldn’t contribute much because I didn’t know what I was doing. This year it’s different, not because I’ve suddenly become more knowledgeable but because I’ve taken the plunge and got stuck in. Here’s a run-down of what we’ve done, with some top tips and myth-busting thrown in along the way:

Top Tip 1: Grow-kits

Inspired by a colleague who had done the same, I bought some grow-kits from a local shop. Though such a simple thing, these nifty little packs that contained everything I needed gave me the confidence to crack on and get planting.

Where to buy: here in the UK, Wilko offers a range of grow-kits; this is where I got my stash.

I was impressed with the grow-pots, which are essentially yogurt pots that form a mini-greenhouse with their clear plastic lids. I’m continuing to use these as plant pots, and now I know how it works I’m saving yogurt pots to use for germination in future and minimise waste!

Myth: you need a greenhouse to be able to grow tomato plants

Bust: you don’t! Our tomato plants are coming on just fine, helped along by their starting life inside a yogurt pot (along with the glorious weather we’ve been getting of course!). Admittedly we don’t know how many will continue to survive, but we’ve got about 30 decent-looking baby plants that have survived this far without a greenhouse. Amazing!

We’ve also got radishes and Turkish Turban squash plants doing well, both from the 6-veg grow-kit you see in the picture. They are both super low maintenance and I can’t wait to see how they turn out later in the year!

Of course, this means we have a LOT of little plants right now. You might be picturing us in an idyllic garden with loads of space for them to live, but this isn’t the case! Our apartment is an annexe of a big house and we don’t have access to the garden. We only have concrete outdoor space, so we’re limited to growing in pots and planters.

Myth: you need lots of space and a proper garden in order to grow vegetables.

Bust: not necessarily; it all depends on what you choose to grow. Some plants are actually well-suited to being grown in limited space, with tomatoes being a prime example. Given too much space, they’ll spread outwards rather than upwards, so something just-big-enough like pots of baskets are perfect for optimal growth. For vegetables that like to grow in rows, such as beets, we’re on the lookout for some long but compact trough-like planters.

Top tip 2: smart storage

If you’ve got limited space, look for clever ways to store your plants. Whilst we’ve got lots of baby tomatoes, the pots are all stacked on a makeshift stand, which minimises surface area and makes them easy to move around (we like to get them maximum sun exposure during the day and pop them just inside the front door overnight to keep them warm).

Top tip 3: plant swap

As the plants get stronger and we’re confident in their survival, we’ll be able to donate some to friends and family. This is a lovely thing about growing veg: it’s rather sociable and it feels good to share. We’ve already done a swap of a squash plant for a couple of courgettes (or zucchini if you speak American English!) and it feels exciting to add a new vegetable to our collection! It’s also a good way to not end up with a surplus of something.

(Note: any plant swapping we do at the moment is done whilst maintaining appropriate distancing and as part of our daily outdoor exercise.)

Top tip 4: seed harvest

You can be even more resourceful by harvesting the seeds from shop-bought veggies and using these for planting. You’ll get loads of seeds this way so you can share them with friends too! Here are the 3 simple steps I followed to prep my butternut squash seeds for the ground:

  1. Scoop the seeds and pulp from the middle of the squash and place in a jug with enough water for the seeds to float to the top. Over the course of 2-4 days, the mixture starts to ferment, killing viruses and allowing the good seeds to sink to the bottom.
  2. Get rid of the pulp and any seeds that continue to float, then dry the remaining seeds thoroughly. I did this by laying them out on a paper towel on a plate and putting them in the sun for a few hours.
  3. Once you’re sure the seeds are completely dried out, pop them in an envelope (it’s a good idea to label with what they are and when from). Put them in the freezer for a couple of days to kill off any last bad stuff, then they’re ready to go!

I’m looking forward to getting some of these planted and am keen to learn more about prepping seeds from other veg for planting. Watch this space!

Myth: I can’t grow anything as all the stores have sold out of seeds.

Bust: with a bit of leg-work, you can plant the seeds from shop-bought vegetables!

So there you have it: a whistle-stop tour of my grow-your-own journey so far this year. If you’re keen to start growing, I hope this has provided the inspiration you need to get started. If I can do it, anyone can! Please use the comments box to share your own growing stories and tips. I’ll look forward to hearing from you and sharing more of my experiences as the season progresses!

Uncategorized

An Introduction…

Welcome to Lauren’s Cloud!

I’m on a mission to live healthily, optimise my wellbeing and look after others and the planet at the same time. I hope you’ll join me on this fascinating journey.

I’ve been passionate about healthy living for many years, and in recent times my interest has deepened in adopting a lifestyle that is good not only for me but for the world around me too. How can I look after myself whilst also caring for others, for the environment, for society? I feel privileged to have been born into a life where I have a degree of freedom to even make choices about my lifestyle; to live in a developed country that is abundant with food options, career choices, consumer products and leisure pursuits. Relatively speaking, I can do what I want in life, and I think in some ways this comes as both a blessing and a curse.

As I’ve begun to explore more sustainable and ethical choices to align with healthy ones, one of the things that has been most striking is that it isn’t easy. Doing the ‘right’ thing can be really challenging. I find myself, for example, visiting 3 stores on some ocassions to do my grocery shopping, simply to get the balance between value, personal needs and ethical choices. I am such an advocate of active and sustainable travel that a single car trip leaves me feeling wracked with guilt. Sometimes I simply don’t know what choices or products are available that meet my combined personal and ethical goals. But I’m adjusting and learning and growing and building this healhy, green lifestyle, one baby step at a time.

I’m in the fairly early stages of this journey myself, and am aware that some people are miles ahead of me, whilst others will be taking the very first steps or simply contemplating making some changes in life. Either way, I want to connect with others who share my vision for a world in which we live healthily, happily and harmoniously with mother nature. I intend to share stories of my endeavours, tips and recommendations that come out of these, and invite you to do the same along the way so we can learn and grow together.

Whilst I hope you’ll find some of what I share useful – and I do intend to do my research and offer genuinely meaningful insights! – I certainly don’t profess to be an expert on any of this stuff. You won’t find me posting super-professional, uber-styled photos or bringing you the slickest, smartest content you’ve ever seen. What you will get is honesty, integrity and a genuine passion for living well in every sense of the word, which I hope you’ll share.

So without further ado, let’s take the next step to saving ourselves, and the planet, together.

Grow your own: a great way to live well! Me in April 2020 tending to my tomato seedlings