Wednesday, January 28, 2009

the 5 min bread

Following on in my search to create a bread each day with less effort, no equipment and maximum flexibility has led me to the discovery of Artisan Bread in 5 mins by Jeff Herzberg and Zoe Francois. Its very easy and you can keep the ready made dough in your fridge for up to 14 days. You can use it to make loaves, pizza bases, flatbreads, pitta breads in a very short time filling the house with the wonderful delights of homebaked bread. You can watch the presentation and recipe in the utube video here:

Once you have the basic recipe, the book provides endless variations on ingredients and types of dough. Artisan in 5 also provides ongoing inspiration.
I have no pizza stone but warmed the baking tray in the oven and then slid the loaf onto it. It worked out fine.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

replacing a button

In case you need some visual lesson on sewing a button here is a quick video by threadbanger which gives clear instructions. Replacing buttons is very useful in prolonging the life of your clothing. I personally cut the buttons of shirts that are completely worn out and keep spare buttons in a little jar. My grandmother had a button jar and I used to spend time sorting her buttons while she mended a pile of clothing, from darning socks, hemming trousers and patching trousers. A new button may only cost you 25p but it is money saved if you have a button jar.

To prolong the life of black trousers that have become grey, buy a dye you can use in the washing machine such as dylon and refresh the colour of your trousers. Usually one of our suppliers gives her staff a new pair of work trousers every season and throws the old pairs out. Not so this season, a new pair was achieved by dying them in the washing machine.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Orange Marmalade by Santiago Poveda
Orange Marmalade

If faced with lemons, make lemonade. If faced with seville oranges, make marmelade.

The first preserve of the year has to be marmalade.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "marmalade" appeared in the English language in 1480, borrowed from French marmelade which, in turn, came from the Portuguese marmelada.
In Portuguese, according to the root of the word, which is marmelo, "quince", marmelada is a preserve made from quinces, quince cheese. Marmelo in turn derives from Latin melimelum, “honey apple” which in turn derives from Greek μελίμηλον (melimelon).

Marmalade has been a regular best seller in our village according to the shop ledger of 1963 and currently there is an influx of people, marinating, cutting peel and boiling up vast quantities of marmalade to add to their pantry.

If you have time, its a worthwhile experience and when you are done, you can make marmalade bread and butter pudding.
Elise's recipe for marmalade
Delia's marmalade bread and butter pudding

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rocking the retailer's boats

The Village Sweet Shop, 1897 by Ralph Hedley
The Village Sweet Shop, 1897

In the shop we currently are experiencing some glitches with regards to stock. The first reason for that is that after Christmas, January and February in principle are quieter months where we can concentrate on the layout of the shop and initiate some repairs. The second reason is that reliability of the supply chain is a little fraught which means that some lines are not available when you want them and a delay of delivery is experienced. This does not relate to local food per se as the suppliers are known to us and very little changes on a daily basis. Some local suppliers relate that instead of a steady flow of customers, the pattern is a little more erratic which makes it difficult to plan staff and resources as effectively as in 2008. Larger suppliers experience gaps in the products that are delivered which may be a break in the transportation system described in an earlier post. Currently therefore, we are all in need of realigning our business practices and finding our feet in a new business climate. For very large firms that depend on credit from banks for cash flow, the impact is going to be greater than smaller shops. The speed at which goods sell is slower and the amounts of waste – products out of date and fresh unsold produce is increased which makes for more ready steady cook meals in the home and a reduction of the amounts of fresh bread etc that is displayed. Business customers as well as individuals are starting to downshift in the usual consumer patterns which needs careful monitoring.

As a business therefore we need to order stock before it starts to run out to ensure that there is continuity. That would mean an increase in investment before the product is sold and if you are depending on credit to supply that money then again there is a gap. Very few businesses hold large amounts of stock behind the counter. There has not been the need to stockpile before as suppliers could supply regularly at a week’s notice. Goods that are stockpiled increase the risk of waste due to dates passing quickly and take up more space. If shops are experiencing a break in the supply chain it may follow that consumers may find the same – not a complete guarantee that the product you are wanting is available immediately.

There are positive signs that consumers are thinking clearly about what is necessary and affordable instead of impulse buying and that is encouraging.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The new reality


A picture to ponder….
The aim of this post is to try and grasp an understanding of the systems we operate within as individuals and establish what personal actions, if any we can take in this difficult time.

As individuals and humans we are all interconnected in a series of interdependent systems. Some we have personal control over and others we do not.

We all take part in the financial system where we earn money and spend money. The financial system used to be backed by a gold standard (still a measure of personal wealth) but in the last century the financial system looked towards the US dollar as its measure. So the crisis in the housing market in the US undermined that standard and had a huge impact on all of us. Imagine a pack of cards collapsing and you get the picture. The government has to get the financial system to flow again because without it we stand still. Personal action is possible when you live within your means; are living debt free? Do you control your income?

The debt system, which is connected to the financial system works when we borrow money (and that is how the banks make their profit). Now if the financial system has no cash flow, and the debt system has problems generating cash, then there is likely to be no lending and a cut back by the financial system. I can see that the government are trying hard to restore the financial system and the debt system. As many companies rely on the debt system to create cash flow into the financial system, a breakdown in the debt system has a knock on effect. No cash flow, no business, no contracts, no sales, leading to a complete collapse of companies that were reliant on the debt system. As the value of our properties, banks and businesses decreases and our percentage of debt increases the balance means we feel the pinch and our jobs are on the line. Personal action is only possible if you work and can reduce your debt to a point where you are debt free.

The agricultural system, where farmers grow food for our consumption has also changed over the last century. Local food, bought at a local farmers market supports the local agricultural system and ensures that food remains locally available. Against that, any food with high food miles, supports farmers globally but if that price is lower than what can be produced locally, the local food producers go out of business and we become dependent on food produce that is imported into this country. The price of food is linked to the value of our currency. We can do this if we have the money to purchase it. Growing your own vegetables, eating seasonally and purchasing fair trade products enable us to exercise some small influence. You may have to pay more for local produce but the benefits of investing your money locally is that you support your local agricultural system. Personal action is possible by growing some of your own food, eating seasonally, reducing consumption and cooking from scratch every day.

The transportation system enables all goods to be transported from one supplier to another. Small farms for instance used to have pigs from piglets to sow and then bacon; now some farms look after piglets, then they get moved using the transportation system to another farm who keep them for a certain time and then moves them on. Food miles drive the transportation system and we all buy into that. As tomatoes and cucumbers currently come from the Netherlands, the dropped value of sterling combined with higher fuel prices means a higher cost of the tomato until we either stop eating them in winter or do not wish to pay the price for it. If we do not have the money we might need to go without tomatoes in winter. Cooking seasonally with local ingredients therefore makes a huge difference to the amount of foodstuff that travels on our roads and the price we financially need to pay for it. Personal action is possible by shopping for locally produced foods and keeping your money locally (small shops and individual retailers instead of large chains).

The transportation system uses a high proportion of our energy resources, as is a commute to work and travelling for business, Food miles and business globally. The agricultural practices that guarantee higher yields also use energy to produce them (fertilisers), to transport them, to keep them etc. If we would grow food locally, in season with our own harvested seeds, if we have trees that produce a crop each year and we harvest and preserve it, we have some control over our food chain. If we rely on our supermarkets that buy at low prices from a heavily dependent food miles system, we will have food as long as we have money to pay for it. (Personal action is possible by eating seasonally and reducing food miles).

The health system provides us with free healthcare in the UK but at the same time, the health system operates with the financial system to provide the funds for drugs etc. As our eating habits have changed (increased calories) and our energy requirements have reduced (less use of calories) (sedentary lifestyle) we have increased our exposure to health issues and such are making demands on the health system. It is for that reason that we are encouraged to move more, eat less and eat better. Personal action can be learning to cook, eating locally, taking more responsibility for our health (checking what you are addicted to) and thereby reducing our dependency on the health system.

The government support system (welfare system) although being a safety net when you lose your job or are unable to work, creates a dependency of another kind. It suddenly seems not worth it or impossible to work and every step of personal freedom is scrutinised and can create inertia. You can do this, not do this etc. Personal action can be to look at increasing your skills, taking part in barter systems such as Lets and working on increasing the skills you need for less dependency on the health system, debt system etc.

The military system. Governments globally spend a large amount of their resources on their military systems. We each have views on that. It is important to be protected as a nation and how each nation uses these resources depends on the level of risk they perceive to be in. Iraq is the least peaceful nation on earth as where Iceland is the most peaceful nation on earth. There are many levels in between that.

Change can happen and it has to start with us in the areas where personal actions are achievable, small and can matter.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Easy bread

Not a lot of kneading, a great way to start making artisan bread using your oven and a few casserole dishes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The blue in blueberry

The season after Christmas and the jolt into the New Year is probably one of my least favourite ones when it comes to the weather. Adding to that a lot of flu and colds going around, constant news of deteriorating economy etc etc. In case you are suffering from a case of the blues, enter the blueberry muffin. Naughty in a sense as you are probably trying to lose weight but good in another. Blueberries are very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, and a very good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Manganese.

This year I intend to feel alive every moment and experience life to the full so what better antidote to the winter blues than to get baking in the kitchen, a special request from a not so little boy. How about some muffins today Mum? How can I resist.

Need a recipe? Here is one to try.
Blueberry muffins

Right, I am off to sip a nice cup of herbal tea, a muffin and rummage through the numerous seed catalogues and do some planning, just the ticket to stop me wallowing.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Intensive care for your finances

Closed Green Door to Intensive Care Unit
Closed Green Door to Intensive Care Unit

The new financial climate

Living within your means and repaying some debt is going to be a difficult action to take and yet to safeguard where you are at the moment action will be vital.

Our financial situation can be compared to a critically ill patient and although just about out of intensive care, there is a lot that is needed to help towards a recovery.

If you have no idea where you are financially it is important to take stock and make a list of all your assets ( savings, property, cars, belongings, stock and shares etc) so that you can accurately see where you are.
Next make a list of all your debts, credit cards, store cards, car loans, home extension loans etc. Hopefully your assets will be higher than your debts otherwise you will be technically insolvent.

If you need any advice at this point about debt, go and see your local Citizens Advice Bureau and ask to see one of their debt counsellors. Do it as soon as possible as I am almost certain that there will be delays in the future to see a person immediately.

The reason businesses are closing down and staff are being made redundant is because banks need to readdress the hole in their balance sheets. They do this by contracting lending and reevaluating the debts they have and it is vital in order to stay solvent that you do the same. Why, will make sense later in the post.

I am going to concentrate this post on credit cards as my first focus. The reason for choosing the credit card is because it is one we have a certain amount of control over in the way we use it and it is also the first one that will show signs of cracking up . Get all your credit cards lined up next to one another and get your statements out. This will provide you with the following information. What is outstanding, what your credit limit is and what interest rate you are being charged.
There will be differences. The most important thing in this financial climate is not to start flashing as a risk on your banks computer. It is important that you pay a little more than the minimum due on each card as paying the minimum will show up as a person with a possible problem. Next look at the cards that have the highest interest rate and create a plan to pay off on a regular basis as much as you can. When that one is paid off, use the money available to pay off the remaining. Seeing a debt counsellor will give you an idea of what loans and debts are important and which ones are not. A credit card is an unsecured loan and although the banks cannot do much to recover the debt as such they are likely to do the following if you show up on the risk monitor. First and foremost,to cut their debt exposure it is feasible that your credit limit will be lowered which then increases the percentage of debt you owe on the card. Lets say you have a card with a £ 5000 credit limit and you owe £ 2500. That would be a 50% debt and you are paying 5% of your balance each month. When the bank cuts down the credit limit to £ 2500 then you are faced with a maximum credit card limit debt, i.e. 100%. That increases your risk to the bank of defaulting on your card. Next you may see that interest rates change to a higher figure because you are considered a higher risk. It is therefore vitally important to keep an outlook on what is happening with your credit card debt as it will influence your credit rating and give you a way to monitor your financial health as seen by the banks. Protecting your credit rating will be a vital element in the future. It may be an option to transfer your credit card debts to one card but you need to seek advice about that, see above.

As disclaimer I want to say that I am not a financial adviser but the above is an assumption of how I see banks are likely to react to the current financial deficit on their balance sheets. We can see that they are not lending to businesses, which in turn means that many businesses have their overdrafts cut or recalled forcing them into administration, which in turn leads to redundancies, loss of jobs etc etc. As businesses struggle with this concept at the moment and readdress their balance sheet, the individual bank customer is likely to be next in line.

As with a flu epidemic, avoid exposure, then have treatment available at home.

Our financial patient may be out of immediate danger but we must protect vital organs in order to avoid a complete breakdown.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Creating change


Change is palpable in the air at the moment. Many of you will face changes in employment, shopping habits and our environment. What we have taken for granted as ' always there' is about to disappear. What I mean by that is that our perception of ' normal' is going to be challenged.

The news continues to contain either companies going into administration or taking drastic cutting back procedures which will involve a loss of facilities, a loss of jobs and a loss of products available to purchase. The banks, then luxury goods ( such as Wedgwood), now Mark and Spencers are cutting out small food stores and I anticipate seeing pressure on many retailers that provide luxury items we took as being the ' norm'.

At the same time, the value of sterling has been dropping which means that our purchasing power abroad is reduced. This can be seen in a great price increase in produce that is imported from Europe such as flowers, fruit and vegetables. As buyer for a small village shop that means that some of the products that people use ( i.e. olive oil), may start to creep up in price. The difficulty I foresee for many shoppers is that they will need to start shopping more locally for their resources and this may mean a change in eating habits too. This creates unknown territory for shoppers and retailers alike and uncertain times as well as opportunities.

Many of us are used to go to the supermarket with the idea that tonight we fancy Italian, pasta with fresh tomatoe sauce, basil and a lovely bottle of wine. The local produce on offer at the moment is rather duller : potatoes, leeks, beetroot, brussels sprouts, swedes and turnips and on the meat section duck, venison etc. Fish is limited to turbot, brill and oysters. Not Italian then as the norm today. On the menu could be roasted roots with some venison sausages if you can find them. That dish however is not going to be made in seconds. In general the season demands slow cooked casseroles, stews and soups with or without a drop of wine.

To create change drastically means that our stress levels go up so here is my strategy for dealing with change and creating a difference should you be faced with immediate change:

Every big project or goal can be broken down into small steps. Little lurches forward. Sometimes they're clumsy. Sometimes they don't even seem to make an impact. But this is how anything gets done within a certain timescale. If you want to create a big change, plan backwards to the little step you can take today to start that process.

* Years and years of built up clutter get sorted and thrown away one drawer at a time. Plan for 10 mins each day to sort and reuse, recycle or donate.

* Years and years of reckless eating and unhealthy habits get shifted one meal at a time. (Plan a 15 min walk 1 day a week, then 2 etc) and cook a healthy meal with local ingredients 1 day, 2 days, 3 days etc per week.

Cutting your financial budget and repaying debts can happen if you plan one step at a time. Reduce spending on the small things ( latte, magazine, doughnut) and the money saved can go on paying debt.

As we are now on a deconsuming pattern, changes will happen and withdrawal symptoms for many will be heartfelt. Apathy may set in as well as depression but on the other hand you may have an opportunity to make small changes that will create a new way of life. Taking positive action means you will find a way through.

The heating went on while we had visitors and now they have left we realise that we got accustomed again to a higher temperature and day by day we can change that. If we change it immediately, we would really feel the discomfort. Any voluntary change can happen and puts you in control, if a change is forced upon you, then you may feel a different reaction.

Downshifting may no longer be a voluntary thing but one step at a time it is a possibility.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

on washing clothes

Wash Day by Diane Knott
Wash Day

I initially thought that washing powder was soap based but on closer inspection have found that that is not how it works at all.
Soaps work as an emulsifier which means that water and oils mix and allow the grease and dirt on clothes to be washed out during the rinse cycle. Real soap is made from oil and fats as where modern soaps have had all the oils removed. Clothes washed in soap are generally softer and therefore do not need conditioners to make them soft again.

So here is the myth we have been sold in the past to do the washing :
you need some washing detergent that strips everything out of the clothes and then you need fabric conditioner to put the smell and softness back in. Some powders combine the two.

Historically detergents emerged from a soap shortage after the First and Second World War. Detergents made their appearance and as a result, soap disappeared from our shelves. Surfactant detergents reduce surface tension and allow water to permeate clothes and then mix with oil and grease which is washed away during draining and rinsing cycles. Surfactant detergents are harsher on fabrics, dry them out and can create more static when they go through a dryer.
As a result, the new detergents may have washed your clothes in a different more effective way whilst reducing the items lifespan. You only need to check the amount of fluff in a tumble dryer if you use one. The fluff is the equivalent of fibres lost from your clothes. As a result we have been replacing clothes much faster.

How do we create shortcuts without loss of comfort?

Using washing soda :

For regular wash, add 1/2 cup of Washing Soda along with the usual amount of either liquid or powder detergent at the beginning of the wash cycle. (Always follow machine instructions when adding laundry products.)

For large, heavily soiled wash loads use 1 full cup of Washing Soda along with the usual amount of either liquid or powder detergent at the beginning of the wash cycle. (Always follow machine instructions when adding laundry products.)

For hard water conditions, add 1 cup of Washing Soda along with the usual amount of either liquid or powder detergent at the beginning of the wash cycle.

Washing Soda adds extra cleaning and freshening power to your detergent. Stains and greasy soils sometimes need special handling. Often a routine machine wash will just not be enough to remedy stubborn problems. The most effective way to remove stains is to begin treatment as soon as possible. Although some stains may be impossible to remove, a pre-treatment or pre-soak with Washing Soda is often very helpful; especially for removing greasy stains and embedded dirt from synthetics and cottons.

Pre-soak laundry in warm water (use cool water for non-colorfast items as well as for blood and egg stains). Use 2 tablespoons of Washing Soda per gallon of warm water if pre-soaking in a small tub, or use 1/2 cup if pre-soaking in a filled washing machine. Pre-soak for at least 30 minutes before washing. Wash with 1/2 cup of Washing Soda in the wash cycle, in addition to your usual detergent.

Short cuts to fabric conditioner :

Hang the washing out on the line and let the air freshen it naturally.
If using a tumble dryer, put some fabric conditioner on a small sponge and tumble with the clothes. The smell will linger nicely at a fraction of the cost.

This is a first step in changing your laundry habits. When you have decluttered your surfactant supplies you can start to look at alternatives such as Ecover.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christmas dinner for birds

Birds of the Garden Winter I
Birds of the Garden Winter I

The temperatures are plummeting as we speak and although as humans we can sit next to a wood burning stove and keep warm and toasty, not so for the birds in the garden. Our two cats have even given up going outside which may give the bird population some reprieve. What follows is a list of food that may end up in your waste bin for which the birds will be very grateful :

From a birds eye point of view :

any mince pies - they hold a vast amount of dried fruits and fat.
leftover Christmas cake - full of dried fruits, nuts and fat
stale bread soaked in fat from any Sunday roast
nuts and seeds ( but not salty ones).
fresh water - the bird bath may need spiking and some fresh water put out.

The rspb site has a lot of information on what and how to feed birds and what birds you can expect to see.

If you want to feed live worms to birds you will find a good supply at wigglywigglers.

The importance of our wildlife should not be underestimated as they provide a valued role within the garden ecosystem. I usually do not encourage birds in the garden per se because of the two cats but as the weather is very very cold, I am making an exception. There is no need to go out and spend a lot of money, just some leftovers can suffice.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.
Mohandas Gandhi

This is the reason I support Kiva. I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction that a small amount of money here, enables someone at the other end of the globe to start a business. Its creates a personal connection and when the money is repaid over time, I can take it back again or lend it out again. It amazes me what people on the other side of the world can do with a small donation and at the same time, it gives me an understanding that no matter how small our contribution here, it really has the potential to make a big difference to them. What the recipients can teach us however, is that their businesses are local, often they trade in circumstances hard for us to imagine and they are surrounded by community. Some of these businesses may not make a difference on a global scale as yet, but they enable us to reconnect with some aspect of ourselves that has been lost in last generations.

Here during the credit crunch our banks are having difficulty raising capital to loan to business and individuals. The difference with Kiva loans is that the recipients face a similar deal : the other options are that they get a loan from loan sharks that charge them over the odds just to survive and make a living. Ethically that is wrong. The other difference is that most people work very hard at their businesses, have realistic ambitions and repay their loans on time. That is something to be admired, in a business climate in the West that is often the opposite.

As an investment I feel that I will get a better value return on a loan to a Kiva recipient because it stimulates an economy at the other end of the globe, it gives me a personal connection and empathy. It also provides a feel good factor. I do not get the same from putting the $ 25 equivalent into my savings account. The interest paid by the loan compounds to enable me to loan more to more people.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Celeriac- the knobbly root

Celeriac Seed Packet
Celeriac Seed Packet

Mrs Beetons book of Household Management offers the following words on waste:

Frugality and economy are virtues without which no household can prosper. Whatever the income, waste of all kinds should be most sternly repressed. This again, is a matter in which the example of the mistress will be far reaching. Economy and frugality must never, however, be allowed to degenerate into meanness, one of the most contemptible of vices and one more certain than others to expose the mistress to the e ridicule of her dependants. ( Mrs Beeton, 1923 p 15).

This year, let there be even less waste, more creativity and let us stretch further into creating a positive cash flow where we spend less and save more and earn more. Let us follow the messages from supermarkets, such as every little helps…etc to make a difference.

Its time to see what is lurking in the vegetable box after the festivities and create a magical potage that will be warming, filling and very tasty.

Today I found a celeriac, 2 lonely apples, some home made bread and a lot of uneaten stilton (blue cheese). I made some turkey stock out of the turkey we traditionally had for our Christmas meal (very expensive and very free range).

Let me introduce you to the delights of the celeriac. If you like potato and leek soup, here is an alternative that has the same velvety creamy texture with a little taste kick at the end of it.

For celeriac and apple soup you will need a knobbly celeriac which will be peeled and cubed. That is the hard part. Put a knob of butter and sweat a chopped onion in it, add the cubed celeriac and 2 chopped stalks of celery, a little garlic (optional) and braise the vegetables without browning them for about 5 mins. Cover in 1 l or 2 pts of good turkey stock or vegetable stock and simmer of 10 minutes. Add 1 chopped bramley cooking apple and 1 tart eating apple and simmer for a further 20 mins.

Then puree the soup to a heavenly blend, prepare the nicest soup bowls you have on a plate, add some chunks of homemade bread. Ladle soup in bowl, sprinkle a bit of crumbly stilton or blue cheese if you have it ( optional) and sit down to a heart-warming meal with good company.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Lifting the spirit

Tea Pot with Tea Cup by Ulrike Koeb
Tea Pot with Tea Cup

“May you always have walls for the winds, a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love near you and all your heart might desire.” An Irish blessing.

After the hectic holiday season I find a simple pleasure in brewing a herbal tea in a beautiful teapot my young son bought me last year for my birthday. It is made by the local pottery and was saved for by him for many months. It is a precious gift as well as a reminder that I need some time to myself on a regular basis.

Herbal teas have the ability to lift our spirits, calm our souls and aid digestion. Here are my 3 seasonal teas.

Lemongrass tea

Dried lemon grass leaves make a zesty, refreshing drink that is highly satisfying both hot and cold. A native of South East Asia, Lemon Grass was introduced in the West with the growing popularity of Thai cuisine. It has a light lemony taste, with slight hint of ginger. It is known to lift a sagging spirit, as well as aid digestion. Recent studies also show that Lemon Grass has antibacterial and anti fungal properties. Best of all, it tastes great.

Chamomile tea

The finest chamomile flowers in the world come from the Nile River Valley of Egypt. Considered a remedy for all ills by the ancient Egyptians, this golden herb remains a modern favorite to promote calm and relieve anxiety. When steeped, these fragrant blossoms smell of freshly cut apples and produce a rich, golden cup with superior flavor. Delicious served with honey.

Peppermint tea

A herb prized for its medicinal benefits and distinctive flavor, peppermint (Mentha piperata) is a naturally occurring hybrid of spearmint (M. spicata) and water mint (M. aquatica) . Unlike other mints, however, peppermint contains in its healing volatile oil the powerful therapeutic ingredient menthol, as well as menthone, menthyl acetate and some 40 other compounds.

Dried peppermint leaves are used to make a minty, refreshing tea that is highly satisfying both hot and cold.

Make time in this busy world for a moment of reflection with a cup of tea. Take out your best china, your best teapot and sit in the most beautiful spot in your home. Enjoy the moment.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A new beginning

Happy New Year, Old Man Time and Child
Happy New Year, Old Man Time and Child

Happy New Year to you all.

As the sun has set on 2008, and 2009 starts , it is personally a time for reflection and anticipation. This starting point enables me to contemplate my personal harvests and the events of the past year. It is a time to make resolutions and set intention for the coming year. It is a time of rejuvenation where we can honour the old and clear space for the new seeds to grow and flourish.

What did we do well? What could have been better? What have we achieved, against what odds?
The landscape today in the garden is frosty and covered in white, not snow just a frosty day and as the world awakes, a few birds chirp. A renewed sense of hope and clarity for the coming year.

The time spent over the holidays with my family has been painful as well as deeply rewarding, as we have been able to reflect together on where we are at this time in our lives and what our hopes and aspirations are. We also painfully walked through some doorways, i.e. we realised and recognised that our lives have changed. A few distances are forming in our relationships as we learn to let go a little : my little boys are growing into little men and my parents are slowly and surely getting older, tired and in need of more compassion and care. Yet despite some difficult times I realised that there are circles we work with i.e, our family roles are changing. My daughter and I have an adult understanding, my boys are gradually asserting their independence and my parents are letting go gradually in ever decreasing circles. It is my understanding now that we can let these changes happen because they are natural although some of us may want to hold onto the way things have been for a long time.

The shop has been super busy and the cards and wishes we have received from our customers have been endearing and enabled my DH to realise that the decision to buy the local shop has been the right one.

Our stress levels are reducing gradually as we find our place with worthwhile work, right environment and a sustainable way of life. An inner peace is evolving too.

The coming year is going to test our ability to provide 30% of our dietary needs. Eating seasonally will continue but also more continuous sowing and reaping.

I am not one for new year's resolutions per se but it is worth looking at where you hope to go this year and prepare to walk that path with confidence.