Friday, November 30, 2007

Moving house

The move has gone well but taking on a business as well as moving house is different. There has been no time to do any unpacking as DH gets to grips with the paperwork, suppliers, meat slicers etc. Its an early rise and an early to bed day but everyone in the family is chipping in and being patient. My regular internet will not be connected until after the 12th December so posts will be sporadic but I wanted to let you know that we have arrived and are up and running.
No pictures as the camera is in a box somewhere to be discovered.

I am reminded of the words to live and not live to work.

My challenge today is to use up a batch of mushrooms which will be turned into mushroom soup and to set up the compost bin which has travelled in pieces with us. Recycling will be more than necessary as I cannot tell you what wrapping and cardboard boxes get delivered and need dealing with.

Friday, November 16, 2007

500th post -going public

If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind.
From Nhat Hanh -Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Bantam reissue, 1992, ISBN 0-553-35139-7
Introducing the person behind the blog:
I started using this blog to express my thoughts on reducing our carbon footprint and to regain a perspective on a healthier lifestyle. The advantage of doing so in an anonymous way has enabled me to express those thoughts more easily than if I had been asked to speak in front a group of people about my passion for nature, the environment, what is possible and what is difficult.

This is the 500th post and having just published a selection of posts in Rich Pickings from Berry Cottage, I want to thank you for all your responses and encouragement.

When I return in December we will have moved into our local village shop with a view of continuing our vision of reduced carbon footprints not only for our family but involving the whole community. Can we get our village to take steps to go green? How will we deal with trade waste, what are the options, the choices faced, the opportunities. Join us for the next instalment.

What makes you smile?

Working with preschool children and watching their capacity to embrace each day, each new experience with all their senses makes me smile. Young faces smile, old faces smile, emocicons smile but many people rarely do. If smiling is our outward sign of happiness lets show each other that life is worth embracing by smiling. When the boys were little we would go splashing in puddles, dance in the rain and fall in a soggy heap on the floor. When the robin comes close to me while I sit in the garden, or when during sleepless nights I observe the stars in the sky and the moon lighting the world, I smile and I am grateful to be here. Going out on a cold day when the sun shines and the snow is on the mountains makes me smile, the world smiles at us in many ways and lets us know it is happy we are here. Can we smile back?

I dare you to try an experiment : take a walk and smile. The world will look different and people will react differently. Then take the walk without smiling and notice the difference within and in the world. If we can show our life energy with a smile, imagine what that would do to the world.

I was introduced to meditation by Brandon Bays, and it helps me focus on the parts of my body that are in pain. I listen to the spaces in between and ask what can be done today to help my body heal, feel more relaxed and happy. It brings inner peace and it makes me a lot nicer to live with. A daily dose of smiling, joy and beauty are a necessity.

Smiling is very important. If we are not able to smile, then the world will not have peace. It is not by going out for a demonstration against nuclear missiles that we can bring about peace. It is with our capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace. Nhat Nanh

And to celebrate 500 posts, I leave you with Charlie Chaplin until I return at the beginning of December for the next chapter.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A drop in the ocean

Action: Drop of Water
Action: Drop of Water

It only takes a single thought to move the world.

The importance of water is taken for granted and yet it is one of the two elements without which we cannot survive. We only seem to notice water when we lack it or when we have floods and yet it is a matter of substance.

Everyone knows that the earth is covered in about 70% of water but do you know that our bodies are made in the same proportion?

If you could imagine your body to be a vessel of rivers and oceans that carry a variety of life giving and purifying matter around, as well as channels that reduce toxicity , would that change the way you look after your water landscape? Did you know that the water in your body does vibrate with music?

Water has a very important
message for us. Water is telling us
to take a much deeper look at our
selves. When we do look at our
selves through the mirror of water,
the message becomes amazingly,
crystal, clear. We know that human
life is directly connected to the
quality of our water, both within and
all around us.

If you had a goldfish in a bowl and the water started to get mucky, would you take the fish out of the water or would you change the water? ( Taking the fish out of the water will kill it and staying in the toxic water will also eventually kill it)

Water, pure water is a luxury. For health reasons we need to drink a certain amount each day and the water wiki gives clear indication about how to work out the quantity.
Increasing water intake gradually has helped me in reducing the levels of toxicity in my body. Its also the most beautiful thing to watch,rivers, snow and seas are all fantastic manifestations of water. I visualise clear rivers in my body to enhance the potential for healing.

A visual and musical representation of water

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Reinard leaves a message

A Red Fox Peers Through Foliage by Phil Schermeister
A Red Fox Peers Through Foliage

Dear woman in the cottage,

As you have been winding down your gardening activities I have been watching you from behind the compost heap. I overheard you mention that you would be moving and that the chickens would be moving out too. I thought you had gone already as not much has been happening so I thought a swift take away might be in order.

I do so prefer free range. When the chooks were cooped up in the hen tractor, it was a lot more difficult for me to get my dinner sorted. I have my pick of young and old pheasant, lost rabbit but I have to say for variety in my diet a chicken has not been easy to come by. I can hear about 500 of them in the battery place up a mile but that is a dangerous place to go and the smell is enough to put you off. I really applaud you for having gone free range and feeding yours organic feed stuff. ( I am all for organic). I have been watching and waiting every day until after lunch when you have let them go out.

You did not know it was me. I was silent, I was clean ( only left a small wing behind) and thanks to the tasty experience I thought I would come back for my next dinner. Shame I met your husband on his way to feeding the chickens. I was hiding but we looked into each others eyes and he startled me when he clapped his hands.

Woman, its colder now, I am getting hungry and now that roaming the countryside is easier for me I hope you will not mind if I come by from time to time to enjoy a free range bird or 2. I promise to be clean, quick and only take one at a time ( what do you hold me for, some hooligan! Give me some credit here and respect)

I took your message on board, LESS IS MORE!

Will be missing you,
( and the ready organic meals).


Reinard Fox.

Dear Mr Fox,

However beautiful your coat and eyes, my husband and I are not against wildlife trespassing the garden ( as Badger, the squirrels and pheasants do) as long as their passing does not impact on our way of life. We want to thank you for dealing with stray pheasants and rabbits as part of your natural diet but cannot say that we are pleased that you have taken one of our chickens. The chicken deserved better. ( Even a quick,selective and silent take away is still daylight robbery!)

Please do not come back for any more chickens even though you have congratulated us on the plumpness and the taste. ( Is your middle name sly?)

Be warned, our black dog is on patrol.
Good luck over the winter period.

Best wishes

all at BerryCottage
PS - I hear the new occupants have guns so am afraid they may not take lightly to trespassing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I am one

Compliment d'automne - With the compliments of autumn.

"I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do something that I can do.
What I can do, I should do.
And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do."
by Edward Everett Hale

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest we forget

Poppies by Jenny Frean

Remembering today the many men and women, who with hope in their hearts set out to defend the freedom of those they loved.

Today is an opportunity to connect with those around us and be grateful and thankful for the freedom we enjoy.

Familiar words to many generations;

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.

While the wind blows lets whisper a thank you and let the wind carry our thanks across the devides.

Path to Freedom - Homegrown revolution

I have been following the Dervaes family's example for the past 3 years and here is their video explaining what they do, how they do it and how urban homesteads or small acreages can produce a large amount of food. ( 9 mins approx).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The space in between

What Lies Behind Us - Ralph Waldo Emerson
What Lies Behind Us - Ralph Waldo Emerson

What sets humankind apart from any other species is the ability to pass on knowledge and to work together to reach a solution. Some call it community spirit, others a feeling of belonging. Whether I acknowledge it or not, we are connected, visibly or invisibly. There are spectacular examples of humankind working together in particular in this century during the second world war and more recently when natural disasters strike like the tsunami, flooding in the UK and the New Orleans hurricane Katrina. What happens at that moment, is that we connect and align with the other human’s experience and very little that seems important to us, seems important at that moment, while we pause in the connection, the space between. Some people will galvanise that impulse into action, others will digg in their purses to give help and others again will feel a sense of helplessness faced with the enormity of the situation. Then the connection has gone in a flash.
All these responses combined however create a network of support : those who dig in their pockets respond to a call for resources, physical resources to which some respond; and those who feel helpless do provide a supportive connection in different ways. Some will compare this to the power of prayer or intention.

Recently my children argued around the table as to who was the best ( since they are boys that is a natural response to fight for a place in the pecking order), and I asked them what they felt they were good at and what they were not so good and how they would decide who was the best. When they discovered that the areas one excelled at another was not so good at, and that what he was good at, they were not so proficient in they looked blank. We work best as a team in our family, that is the basis of our approach; but when we want to all be at the top, we can feel driven and alone, tired out to a point where our strength diminishes and our weaknesses take over. What usually follows is appalling behaviour and a lack of tolerance. What stunned them was the possibility that they could combine their talents and efforts and together achieve something beyond their wildest dreams. That together they could work out and connect to get an idea to take shape and have the ability to carry the idea through to completion. Individually they would have struggled. It would take them a period of listening, silence, reflection and connection. Then something interesting happens : one speaks, the other takes it from there and they end up with a completely novel way of tackling the challenge. Social media give us that opportunity today.

The point about downshifting for me is not only that I have all I need, but that it allows someone else in the world to up shift, to have an opportunity to improve their standard of living and create a balance. When I work at creating that balance from my side, I feel the connection and joy that someone else is moving in a different direction.

What lies behind me is a drive to have plenty, to have the best house, the perfect marriage, lovely children, a brilliant career, etc etc
Now, my priorities are more aligned with my values and beliefs and they will be different for everyone. The energy when you truly align with your authentic self, is that it creates a connection to the vast potential within you, where solutions happen to arrive, with no effort at all. Where there is struggle, there is a point to ponder.

My house sale and purchase are not going smoothly and I have to be patient...I have difficulty with that, to stay in the moment and trust that when the time is right, everything will align and effortlessly carry us to the next moment. I am not perfect by any means, very fallible in fact.

What lies behind us matters little now
What lies in front of us...matters little unless we go forward
What matters is now, this moment.

What I am missing here is taking the time to connect with the vast potential within me.......and listen to the potential of others.

Mother Teresa was asked what she did when she prayed. Her answer was that she listened. ( This stunned me as usually any prayers that I have heard or have uttered have been generated by a desire to speak and be heard)
When asked what Mother Teresa thought God was doing when she was praying she answered....he listens too. We both listen to what lies in between.

How does this relate to my attitude to business?
Usually profit comes first, and we plan how we can achieve the highest profit; this often dismisses the impacts on people, the environment and the big picture. Is it really about competing with the best product, at the best price, in the quickest time regardless?
When we put our health first, people first, listen to the potential they have within them and align that to our values and beliefs and theirs then we have the ability to listen to what other people are reaching out for and together we can work out how we can make something out of that. No preconceived ideas, just listening and effortlessly connecting. And although profit figures in that, it can be complemented by a whole host of other things. It brings me back to that connection we glimpse when we connect in a negative situation; how would it feel to connect and build on that in a positive way?

Lets see how that works out in practice for us in the future.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Musical interlude

But to feel music is an extremely individual experience. It’s made by the individual and for the individual. In order to be lowered in that “empty tree” that are Mozart and Bach, we need an education to listening. Only then one succeeds in gathering the pure transcendence that emanates from some of their compositions. In those pages - according to the moments and the state of mind - I reach different levels of reading, partly even unconscious. I obviously find God there, but also the cosmos, the Mystery, the Everything. Which perhaps are the same thing. Because after all the point of arrival of whatever spiritual music is the same, even if we call it with different names. For this I don't have doubts: the sacred music is the most beautiful music that there has ever been in West.
Angelo Branduardi

Some of the music that inspires me is that of Angelo Branduardi and Andreas Vollenweider. Both are storytellers that use music to tell modern stories. Angelo Branduardi uses ancient texts and poems as his material and Andreas is a visual musician using the palette of the orchestra, Quite unique sounds. Both men have found a different way to express their potential. They have found their voice.


Innovative ideas

This post connects to yesterday's post about engaging with the negative and is an example of how Shidulai in Bangladesh has looked at the equation of global warming, what the difficulties are likely to be in the future through flooding and what can be done now to prepare and to engage with the situation instead of accepting that this is the way it is and that change is not possible.

If you watch the video by Green TV to the end, the last words provide the same sentiment as those I voiced yesterday, just in a different situation.

What Shidulai realized is that the rivers are not barriers to communication but can become channels of communication. In the same way Global warming is not just a negative that leads to extinction, if we engage with it we can harness the resources presented to ensure survival.

Tomorrow' s post will explore the changes in attitude that a business can implement to effect solutions and include the proposals within our business plan to test these out on a small scale.

The answers are out there if we engage with them.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Engaging with a negative

Keep Going- Winston Churchill
Keep Going- Winston Churchill

Just because my life is defined by my limitations does not mean that my potential is limited.

Global warming does not happen because we want it to happen.
Becoming disabled is not something that happens because we want it to happen. Sometimes it happens by what we believe to be an accident. However it happens, it provides in its devastation 2 ways of reacting. We can feel devastated by it or we can start growing from it. In nature, some plants cannot germinate until the land is either flooded or burnt to a cinder. I look at my disability in the same way. You can look at any personal, global crisis in that way. My disability did not come at a welcome time, it did not make life easy; in fact it burnt my entire career to the ground, it took my confidence away and created a life of limitations.

I could have stayed there, within my limitations, but I realised that becoming disabled did not change the person within me. It just changed the way others saw me, the way I thought others saw me and the way I reacted against that. I felt less, it affected me and for a time I became my limitation. I thought this was it, I would stay like that forever.

But when I realised that I was still me, that within me still lie the dreams and the potential that had always been there, I started to visualise a new life. There is no point pondering on the things I could do and can no longer do, when I do that, I struggle, I feel bad and life seems pointless. When I turn that around and look at what I can do, then there is room for movement.

Just because my life is defined by my limitations does not mean that my potential is limited.

I joined a class in tai chi because I saw the possibility that this practice would engage with my energy and in a sense enable me to work with the chi within me. The first lesson was pointless. I was in agony, I was tired, I felt ancient. While most of the people in the room were doing tai chi as part of a cardiac rehabilitation and in their seventies, while they moved graciously, I would sit there, with invisible tears in agony thinking I would never be able to do this. ( creating my own limitations) The tutor told me not to try so hard. To not do the 6 repetitions but to do 1 and then imagine doing the others, because with intention the movement and energy would flow.

Can I do intention, can I look at the potential within a body that is not functioning and stop defining myself as a disabled person? I know that some of my functions have been disabled ( but can be done by mechanical means such as speech software etc), but I also realise that some functions and abilities that were dormant are now starting to flourish. That is the power of a crisis, it can disable aspects that seemed important but that detract from what is the new important pathway in your life. ( Sounds deep but follow with me). Without my disability I would not have looked at the benefits of not walking, of not driving and using the car less. I would be too busy, to engaged in the ratrace. Reduced energy makes you look at what you can do with less and surprisingly I discovered more. The Families in the Coal House are also experiencing that hardship and no water, electricity and heat is giving them less and they are gaining in other ways.

Just because my life is defined by my limitations does not mean that my potential is limited.

What follows from that is that when I visualise possibilities, the resources I need to accomplish my task can be summoned and eventually what seemed impossible within a life with limitations suddenly becomes reality.

How can you relate that to the larger picture of the environment, global warming and a different way of living.
First I need to accept that change is possible.
Then I need to have the intention to bring that change into awareness.I need to face my fears and limitations, I need to challenge them.
When I am aware that change is possible I can follow through with the intention in a visualised way.
Then solutions and resources will materialise.
Then change will happen.

It sounds too simple I hear you say : to know where you want to be, you need to visualise the place, plan how you can get there and then give it energy and action.

How can I be grateful for having a disability? Loaded question. I know what it took out of my life but I also know what it has made possible in my life. I would not be writing without it, I would not be engaging with you without it, I would not be going to farmers markets, I would not have graduated without it, I would not be supporting bereaved families without it, I would not be singing in a choir without it and I would not have noticed that the toxic levels around us are reaching a high. I would not be wearing organic cotton, I would not be enjoying time with my kids, I would not be contemplating growing a small organic garden, I would not have learnt to can, I would not have rediscovered seasons, I would not have appreciated joy and I would not have tackled my limitations...but most of all I would not have discovered the authentic me.

Just because my life is defined by my limitations does not mean that my potential is limited. Neither is yours.

What is your disability? What will it enable you to do or to become?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

On a serious note

Just when you think that the subject might become serious and you are about to get depressed....then this comes in. Enjoy.
Serious message but you get to have a laugh too......

Check out this video: Grocery Store Wars

Add to My Profile | More Videos

We still have not exchanged contracts on our sale and purchase and am feeling the pressure in limbo. Maybe today.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Farmer and the Bishop

To Guardian reports on unfair practices from Supermarkets in their dealings with Farmers and states that the reason Farmers are not speaking out is because they do not want to upset their relationships with food retailers.

Supermarkets are guilty of "invisible and pernicious practices" that threaten the livelihood of farmers, the Church of England warned yesterday.

I find that incredibly sad and at the same time, I can entirely empathise with their feeling of ' not wanting to bite the hand that feeds you'.

The report, Fair Trade Begins at Home, highlighted instances where farmers had suffered in the supermarket's pursuit for cheap produce.

In my work supporting families in crisis I listened out not only for what was being said but what was not being said. When you take the time to listen to the silences, the spaces in between the words, you could sometimes feel the fear. Often in their situation it was the fear of having their children taken into care, others were unable to speak up because their partners abused them in a variety of ways and speaking up would put their lives in danger. It makes me believe that farmers are alone with pressure from all sides, the government legislation, the supermarket's purchasing power, financial hardship, pressure from banks......quite a lot to be pushed about. How can we the consumer throw a lifeline! If you are a farmer, please feel free to leave an anonymous comment.

The UK has a free market economy and as such we should be able to spend our money in ways that reflect our values and beliefs. I am not sure what the article evokes in you but as consumer it makes me uncomfortable.....

An inconvenient shopping experience

Farmer's Market by Linda Carter Holman
Farmer's Market

To be encouraged to go to a Farmer's Market is likely to be difficult. There are obstacles and there are always going to be obstacles, and in all honesty it probably is a lot more convenient to go to the supermarket: I know this for a variety of reasons and yet I am passionate about overcoming the obstacles because to me it matters.

Its too far !

I realised today that Farmers and I have things in common : they produce in the privacy of their land and I write in the privacy of my home, and both of us like to remain private and not make a fuss.

I do not speak often about why it is difficult but I have a disability which limits the energy I have available and the obstacles that are most difficult relate to mobility : I cannot drive easily and I cannot walk far. So, in practice a supermarket with a disabled car parking space and battery operated shopping trolleys does a lot to make shopping for food convenient. So why on earth would I want to undertake a journey of 15 miles each way to go and purchase food, as well as growing vegetables in my garden. The reason is that I notice the difference and the benefits I personally have from locally produced food. I do no longer have the luxury to be able to eat just anything, I have developed allergies and food sensitivities and local food does not contain many of the preservatives that activate these allergies within me. Food traceability is important to me : at the Farmer's market I can talk to the producer directly and ask them what they feed their animals on for instance because indirectly, whatever goodness they receive so do I. What I get from talking to producers is their pride in what they do and between us there is an understanding about the difficulties each one of us faces. Mine is getting here to the farmers market, theirs is being visible and accountable for what they produce. Both are uncomfortable new states of being and make the initial contact clumsy, but when you take the courage to ask the farmer about the product, and you can get him talking about it, you get a glimmer of the pride, the enthousiasm which is lacking when you get your apples or beef from the supermarket. Their strength is to produce the quality but sales training bypassed many of them.( Sorry chaps!) At some level I empathise with that. Yet when you engage with the farmer about his product, you get straightforward answers. He can tell you exactly how long the meat has been hanging, where in his pasture he animals grazed, how long the cheese took to mature, what they use to press the apples, whether the bread is made with fresh yeast, with locally produced wheat etc.

It costs more!

In many cases it just looks that way. Its an argument between quality and quantity. There is a reason why champagne was was rare, had an exclusivity about it but when sparkling wine came along, did we want to pay for champagne ( I think not). It is the same with locally produced beef. When you go initially, you may be shocked at the price but it is a realistic price at which the farmer can make a living and grow his product to the standard as consumer we would like it to be. Surprisingly, I have noticed that I need less of protein in weight from a farmers market than from a supermarket, and so the price becomes immaterial. I also know that when I have beef from a particular farmer at the market I do not suffer agonizing bellyache, as where I do when it comes from the supermarket; to me in any event, there are very real, practical reasons for buying fresh, locally, traceable, sustainable food. ( I am still working on reducing my dependency on animal protein but having less of it is my starting point)

They have limited availability?

Granted, we cannot eat strawberries in January from the farmers market locally and cabbages and apples may become a tad boring over the season. Again, if I buy my apples at the supermarket I get a few varieties that I can get all year around and that is a shame but convenient. There is food succession even in apple can get them from August to January but you have to look, and they have odd shapes, they can be smaller or larger than you are used to, but the taste is...spectacular and not bland. Through making a menu over a period of 12 months, and looking at it again, I realised that in practice the types of food I was eating were very limited. If you do not know what it is, just like when I introduce something new to the children, they look, they smell and some may not even have a go at trying it. I am forcing myself to try some new foods at least once.

Its too cold to go to the Farmer's Market in winter

Sure. It is a lot easier and more convenient to get the supermarket to deliver. Initially unable to leave the house, I liked the idea of a personal shopper doing it all for me and getting it delivered to my house. After a while I started to resent having peppers that looked a little past their best and products changed for other brands( as they were not available and conveniently more expensive). I did have the choice to send them back but in reality that was a lot of hassle. What I gained in convenience, I lost in my ability to choose what I wanted. Going to the farmers market enables me to ask the producer......hmmmm do you do basil? When he tells me that it is not the season I can only take his word for it ( and I feel stupid because I should have known that). I grumble mildly but notice my surprise when in August he calls me and says, Anne, if you want Basil, it will be here next week.

When I started using butter instead of margerine, my children asked why and I said I trusted cows more than scientists. ( no offence meant!) In reality, I trust the farmer more than the supermarket but I suspect that the farmer has no idea what I think unless I go out there to meet him in the rain, with a small bag, an umbrella and my walking stick and ask him embarrassing questions as to what I can do with a neck of lamb and why he does not have Basil.
The farmer tells me that he had no idea.....he trusted the supermarkets to tell him what the consumer demanded and he did his best to grow the stuff only to be told that when it was ready, the consumer demanded a lower price and they had bought it in Spain.

It reminds me about how children cruelly tell tales about eachother and how convenient it can be when there is no direct communication.

When it rains, and I stumble to the car, drive 15 miles, grab my stick and bag, walk the 50 yards from the nearest parking space and grumble about the wet weather, the numb fingers and how awful it is going to be to stand there, slowly opening my purse and counting coins, slowly and clumsily,handing them over for an item that is going to be heavy, that is going to make my arms ache, and returning home will mean I need to rest for 1 hour in bed, I can see entirely that I would be mad to go to a Farmers Market and instead it would make a lot more sense to go to the supermarket where it is warm, I can park and the trolley awaits me. What choice would you make?

When I am at the Farmers Market I have to do a scary thing, I have to become visible, I have to talk, I have to ask questions, I visibly struggle with my shopping, with cold hands, with dripping hair and yet the benefits are immense.......

It is inconvenient but I promise to keep trying because it matters.

So instead of taking on the logo ' every little helps' mine is ' every little change matters'.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Conversations with Downshiftingpath

a selection of post...
By Anne Howe

In creating a personal present to my family and friends, as well as a tool to create a memory of the place we live in, I have created a book with a collection of posts from this blog. I am edging towards the 500th post and that too seems a landmark achievement.

It started with an idea from the PodcastSisters and via Blurb I created a book which has about 200 pages and a variety of photos. It also includes some material that was posted on Angora's Journal.

The cost of the book is the cost charged by Blurb for publishing it and sending it to you. Making it public made me feel very nervous and excited at the same time. The books arrived today, and I am pleased with the end result.

The last 3 years have been a very difficult period in my life and I realise that that has not always shown through in these posts. Downshifting requires engagement on all levels and being able to respond and make an active choice is a very challenging process. I am beginning to be more comfortable with the idea of sharing the reality of that with you, the reader and in doing so, I would like to invite you to engage with me too by leaving comments if you can.

The daily soup

Chicken Noodle Soup by Catherine Jones
Chicken Noodle Soup

My grandmother used to make soup every day. It is still part of my family's main meal and I guess there were more reasons than merely ensuring that we had a certain amount of vegetables every day.

The WI is backing Wrap's campaign with a list of recipes and tips on how to create leftover dishes such as bubble and squeak, shepherd's pie, chutney and bread and butter pudding.( BBC article)

The lost art of leftovers reminded me of how I make soup whenever the want takes me and so I offer you my basic recipe for a nourishing soup.

Take 1 onion, spring onions, leeks ( whatever is in your fridge) and put it cut up with a dash of butter on a slow heat.
Add variety of seasonal vegetables ( today carrots and some leftover broccoli)
Add enough stock to cover .
Add a variety of beans or pulses ( today fresh borlotti beans, could be lentils- if using a type of pulses that need soaking, please soak first)
Simmer until ready ( I put it in the bottom oven of the Aga and forget about it till lunch).

If you like a thick soup ( liquidise some of the soup- 2 to 3 ladles) and return to pot.( Or add some cooked rice, potatoes)
Serve with a sprinkling of parsley and a slice of fresh bread, or toast or whatever is at hand.

On the question of stock, I make stock traditionally with the carcass of an organic roast chicken or use vegetable bouillon.

I never thought of soupmaking as an art but if it is, lets be trendy!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Memories are not just for Christmas

Laughing Couple Opening Christmas Presents Beside Christmas Tree
Laughing Couple Opening Christmas Presents Beside Christmas Tree

54 days to go I think?

I sent this in test it on my friends. The feedback has been great so I thought I would share it with you all.

Dear Fairy Godmothers

I would like to propose a dramatic change in the way we approach Christmas this year and am writing to ask you if you would be happy with the following :

adults - tokens only. I would rather see you in person and spend time with you in whatever way makes you happy ( as long as it is legal!) so lunch together, cinema trip, day at health farm, trip to a yarn festival, farmers market,wellie throwing? whatever send me your wishlist, share your passion with me.( If you want to go riding, and share that with me, let me know, whatever it is, as your friend I am willing to give it a go)

children over 16 - I propose to send them virtual giftcertifiicates in order that they may buy something that aids their education or musical tastes, or book tokens. (Boring probably but I am not sure they want to spend time with us). Small thing under the tree.

children under 16 - I will be limiting the gifts in monetary value this year. Again, come and spend some time with us and create memories:, go ten pin bowling, share a meal,teach them a skill ( test you patience), take us to the zoo, drive diggers, go to a cricket game, rugby game, theatre...

The reasons are that for our family in any case Christmas has become so commercial and in reality we like gifts, but relationships are more important. When the children were small, an overloaded tree seemed magical. This year, we will hopefully have moved house and Christmas will be about spending time together.

I hope that does not offend anyone and will make your Christmas shopping lighter and not less magical.

Memories are not just for Christmas but for a lifetime!

Best wishes

the other fairy godmother