Hey readers, I know it has been a super long time since my last post. I have been adjusting to life in the real world now that I have a job and not as much free time anymore but I feel like I am about to get back into the swing of things. Makers meadow is attending a craft fair this Saturday 21st and I invite you to come join us for a peruse and a shop if you can make it to sheffield. There will be lots of other craft stalls from independent creators throughout sheffield and I am really looking forward to it. Stop off and say hi if your come by.
I have been meaning to do this little home task for a while and I finally got round to doing it this week. I changed my energy supplier from one of the big six energy companies to a small independent eco friendly supplier. This winter just gone has seen a great deal of focus in the media on the problems of the largest energy companies that dominate the market, known as the big six, and it has been niggling me for ages to get something done and change my supplier. So I am going to walk you through my reasons behind it and why I think you should do the same.
Personally I believe that the energy companies should be nationalised as we all need gas and electric to warm our homes, cook our food and keep the lights on and believe it is something our government should provide rather than private companies. Those are my political views but the reasons behind me switching is something I think everyone should hear no matter their political persuasion.
- The big six (British Gas, N-Power, EDF, Scottish Power, E-ON, SSE) owns 90% share of the energy market and have been subject to an inquire by the monopolies commission because this percentage means they can control the prices between them and thus have been accused making deals together to artificially inflate prices for their customers
- The high prices affect those with pre pay meters the most as the unit price and standing charge are often higher and the ones who often have pre pay meters are the poorest within society.
- They have blamed the rise in prices on green levies (see below) but if you look at their profits they are astronomical, if they cut their profits they wouldn’t need to charge people the amount they do.
- As profits are all these huge companies care about then why should I trust them with something that is an essential part of my life and a substantial amount of my bills. I place more trust in smaller companies that have time for their customers
As you probably are well aware if you read this blog often, I am very interested in protecting the environment through doing stuff in our own lives. It is part of humankind’s problem whether climate change is our fault or not and I think that positive steps towards a more environmentally friendly economy.
- Non of the big six have invested sufficiently in green energies and it is something I think we need to do as a country to help the environment. Green energies are very varied each with their own qualities and problems but with one uniting idea that we don’t need to burn away resources when their are other options. I am not going to discuss their merits here but some of the major ones include: Solar, wind, biofuels, hydro power, anaerobic digestion and several less known but equally important ones.
- Even though we are out of the recession there are still plenty of people in the UK and across the world without stable employment and investment in new green industries would provide thousands if not potentially millions of new jobs in just this country.
- We need to avoid carbon based energy and nuclear power not only for the environments health but also our own. We will run out of oil and natural gas eventually and messing with nuclear energy has already proved that it can go terribly wrong.
Maybe not everyone cares whether their energy is from a national or private company and i know many people doubt climate change but one thing I know most people will agree on is that they want to pay less for goods and services and want to save where they can
- Green energies are always accused of being too expensive for ‘normal’ people and I can understand these reservations. All energy industries are expensive to set up, so when we start investing in green energy to start the prices will be higher but after time they will pay for themselves resulting in cheaper prices for all (I say this for the major two as the sun and wind are free commodities ….currently)
- When I chose the company I wanted (Good Energy) I worked out the cost for both my current supplier and Good Energy on the average usage basis. In all fairness H and I probably use a lot less then most people but makes more sense for what the average is. Turns out that per year I would be £20 better off with Good Energy. Not a big difference but when you consider all the other factors why wouldn’t you switch.
I implore you to take a look at your current energy supplier and research the other independent ones to see if you could be making a difference to your bill and the environment at the same time. As a side note I am not affiliated with Good Energy they are the one I chose for their clear goals and straight talking about what everything costs (another problem I find with the Big Sixes websites). Take a look at the others too. Good Energy, Ecotricity, Green Energy UK
I have always loved pesto ever since my teens when one day my sister cooked us up a batch of pasta with lashings of pesto mixed
into it. Both store bought but the flavour and almost immediate satisfaction that filled our bellies after just 15 minutes cooking time has always left the classic pesto and pasta combination as a staple in my household. I have always enjoyed the taste of store bought pesto but nothing can beat a fresh pesto made from scratch. It’s flavour is always lighter and fresher tasting, pairing brilliantly with more then just a simple pasta dish. I often make pesto for the start of the week as a go to dressing for quick meals when I’m busy. It can be a little expensive to make your own pesto as you need quite alot of fresh herbs but there is a solution. I use lettuce to bulk the pesto out yet it doesn’t detract from the flavour as I still uses the herbs plus all the other classic ingredients. It is the perfect way to use up salad leaves which are often one of the most thrown away items in British households and you know how I hate waste!
Ingredients to make a small jar: 1 good handful of fresh herbs,2 good handfuls of salad leaves, 2 large handful of nuts or seeds, A small lump of hard cheese, 2 garlic cloves, 2tbsp of olive oil plus extra for jar. sprinkle of salt and pepper.
1. I have given these vague ingredients as you can pretty much choose whatever combination of items you want. A classic pesto is basil, pine nuts and parmesan but you can adapt it with anything. Here are some ideas
Mint/parsley, almonds, mature chedder
Coriander, cashews, manchego , abit of chilli and ginger
Dill, sunflower seeds, pecorino
3. Add to a jar, press down with a spoon and cover with a layer of olive oil. It should keep for 1 week, topping up with oil to cover if you use a little at a time. (My oil looks horrible in this photo, it has no colour weirdly. That’s what you get for cheap olive oil)
You can add pesto to loads of different dishes other then pasta, here is a few and please feel free to add your own uses in the comments.
Dolloped on pizza either as a replacement to a tomato sauce or as an addition blobbed on randomly
Mixed into potato salad
On top of a baked potato
A sandwich filling with some fresh salad veggies (tomato, pesto and mozzarella sounds good)
A salad dressing, mixed with some more oilve oil and a little lemon juice or vinegar
A crust or rub for fish or meats
I am really enjoying keeping a wishlist on a regular basis. There are so many things that I would love to have but can’t ( just yet) normally because of lack of funds and then there are also items I want which I want to get to replace something I already have ( but obviously I wouldn’t throw something away before it needed to be, that would be wasteful) I find it great to have an idealistic wishlist as it allows me to think about what I really need, what I really want and what I really can live without. As always all these items come from an ethical back ground that I support whether eco friendly, from an independent business or fairly traded. Number 1 is a bit of a cheat as I have just bought it, It’s a blusher from BM Beauty that uses all natural ingredients. I don’t use a lot of make up so I think it’s pretty reasonable that I could slowly replace all my make up and I would be happy to with BM Beauty as I’ve found the blusher amazing. I have started to gain some temp work through an agency and would like to have some neater tops and jewellery for interviews and work plus I would like a backpack that’s good lucking but can fit more in it then my handbag so I can shop while out an about (bonus points for not using plastic bags) I would love this horseradish vodka from Godminster as I really enjoy a good bloody mary and want to make some really tasty spicey ones for friends and family the morning after the night before. Lastly I would love this piece of art
This is a really quick recipe for a gratin because who doesn’t like food smothered in cream! I had a Kohlrabi in my veg box and having never cooked it looked to the internet for some inspiration. I found a several gratins with varying ingredients so I settled on a mix of Kohlrabi, celery and potato. It’s another great dish that can be prepared ahead of time, kept in the fridge and whacked into the oven when you get home. Kohlrabi has a slightly sweet appley taste but has a root vegetable like texture so it lends well to savoury dishes but it would be interesting to see if you can make it work in a sweet recipe. Any ideas people?
Ingredients Serves 2: 1 smalll kohlrabi, 2/3 medium potatoes, 2 celery sticks, 1 garlic clove, 150ml of double cream, 150ml veg stock, a small handful of fresh rosemary or 1 heaped tsp of dried rosemary
1. Peel the kohlrabi and potatoes, slice in to thin slices (having a mandolin works well here) Dice the celery into thin slices also. Slice the garlic and chop up the rosemary.
3. Layer the kohlrabi, potato and celery in a baking dish and slowly add the liquid, and continue to layer until your dish is full. You don’t want the liquid to be full right to the top, at least 1cm from the top is good. I prefer to finish with a layer of potato on top as it browns nicely.
4. Pop in the oven for 40 mins at Gas Mark 5. A good grind of black pepper on top never goes a miss. Serve with a crisp salad to offset the gorge on creamy goodness.
There we have it! Has any one got a brilliant recipe for kohlrabi, would love to hear?
p.s. Sorry about the lack of finished photos, as always I ate it before I had a chance to photo it, nom nom
Soup is a wonderful thing. Its good for you, keeps the cold from your toes when it’s winter and it’s super thrifty. You can put just about anything into soup and it will come out tasting fantastic and for me this is the perfect meal for the end of your shopping week when your running low on fresh produce. Me & H get our veg box delivery on a Thursday so by Wednesday we normally only have a few bits and bobs left over to make dinner from. A brilliant but healthy way to bulk up this veg into a soup is using a wide selection of grains as your base. Add the produce as a lighter edition to the filling flavours of the grains. You can get a generic dried ‘soup mix’ from all food shops and supermarkets for around £1 or less which normally include pearl barley (I bloody love it), red lentils, split peas, a mix of beans and peas. They are cheap and filling but the perfect way to use up those rogue carrots or sticks of celery that may be languishing in the chiller of the fridge.
Ingredients Serves 2
2 generous handfuls of soup mix, 500ml of veg/chicken stock,1-2 garlic cloves, A selection of veg I used 1 Carrot, 3 small sticks of celery, a bunch of radishes and a random tiny piece of fennel leftover.
1. You will need to soak the soup mix overnight or throughout the day. 8 hours should be enough time.
2. Cook the soup mix in plenty of water for 30-40 mins on a rolling boil. You will need to skim off the impurities off the top of the water and discard throughout the cooking process.
3. Meanwhile dice the vegetables and slice the garlic
4. Once the grains are cooked you can create the rest of the meal in two ways. One just on the stove or one in a slow cooker.
5. For on the stove: Heat a small amount of oil in a heavy based pan over a medium heat. Once warm add the garlic and veg and slightly brown if you want. Add the grains in with any of the remaining cooking liquid plus the 500ml of stock. Gently heat to a simmer. You can then cook the veg to your liking. I like them pretty crunchy so I generally heat it through just to warm the veg and not really cook them
6. For in the slow cooker: I like using the slow cooker as I can prep the meal the day before and then I just have to turn it on when I am home. I turn the heat on for the slow cooker and add a little bit of oil into the bottom, when it is warmed I add the garlic to slightly cook through and mellow the flavour. I add the veg, the grains with cooking liquid and the stock. I can then pop the cooker on throughout the day or when I get home
This is such a simple dish but I really enjoy the flavours and that I get to use up any left overs I have. You can use whatever vegetables you have left at the end of the week and create some thing wholesome and tasty for you and your family. If you don’t cook the veg in time and that onion is getting pretty manky, fear not, here is a post on composting. Also check out this little review I did on this Soup Maker to get inspired to make more soups!
I am always looking at more ways in which I can reduce the waste coming out of the home so that the fullest bin is the recycling ones and the black bin is never full. Depending on your local council,l recycling can be easy but a lot of councils including our own no longer do green recycling so we have to get rid of it in another way (or pay for the privilege). If you have a garden the best way to get rid of your organic waste is to compost it and reuse it on your own garden once its matured. The process is slow but it means you can give back to the earth Lion King style as the circle of life. Here is a little guard to how and what to compost.
I was wrongly informed once that a compost bin needs lots of air and holes in the side, this does not work in my opinion. You need a bin of some kind which is well insulated especially in the winter and has a lid on the top. You can buy one, make your own or sometimes you can get one free from your local council. I like the standard black ones with a lid on the top and a small door at the bottom to get the finished compost out. As they are black they absorb the suns rays and keep it warm which is key to producing compost quickly. The compost bin should be in a sunny or partial shaded spot so it gets the most sun and kept warm. It should be placed on open soil or turf and away from water courses or standing water
1. Add anything that was once living- but avoid cooked foods, meat and dairy as they can attract vermin
2. Make your pile a mix- you should use roughly equal parts brown and green mix
Green mix are used as activators to give life to the compost and break the mix down quickly, these include: grass clippings, leaves, young weeds, vegetable peelings, tea bags, coffee grounds, animal manure
Brown mix creates the bulk of the compost but breaks down slower then green, its best shredded and broken into smaller pieces before being added, it includes: untreated woods, hardy weeds, newspaper, brown paper and cardboard
A few added tips I found is to keep the compost moist but not sopping. My favourite way to add moisture is with the dregs of a beer barrels which I have lots of access to :) The nutrients in beer add to the compost and get it going again, it definitely improves the quality of your heap. Crushed egg shells are another good additive, rich in nutrients and hair & nail clippings are gross but great for it. No point in adding anything to your bin if you could add it to your compost instead. one last hint is that once your bin gets noticeable full (our compost bin was there when we moved in and was already pretty full of garden waste) don’t worry that you won’t be able to fit any more in. Our compost bin is full every time we put a bag of waste in (about once a week) but there is always room the next time we put it in so you can see that the waste is slowly degrading into the heap so keep topping it up. Compost takes a long time to make but if your in it for the long haul it will result in a wonderful mulch for your garden and the perfect way to get rid of your organic waste.
p.s. One last tip, stir the mixture up with a stick every once in a while it aerates it which gets it going again
January is always a time to re think and reorganise your life and for me this year its no exception. I have signed up for Apartment therapy’s January Cure which helps you with little prompts throughout January to complete projects you want to get done and organise your house after the craziness of December holidays. As part of the cure each weekend they say you should buy flowers to enjoy. I love flowers but I do find I feel bad for wasting money on what isn’t an essential item. Instead of buying flowers I’ve decided to buy living plants as an alternative. Each plant or collection of plants cost the same price as a simple bouquet (for smaller plants) but it will last as long as you take care of it for. I am also quite interested in the health benefits of having houseplants, as an asthma sufferer (though not totally convinced of the diagnosis nowadays) and general sniffler I want to see if having air purifying plants and therefore more oxygen will improve my respiratory health.
I got both these for Christmas, I got the herb planters from my mum so hopefully they will start sprouting soon and I got this gorgeous basket from my sister in law Verity and her boyfriend Johnny! These definitely inspired my green start
This palmy dracaena is suppose to be a brilliant air purifier, taking up all the nasty chemicals that can be present in our house and the set of three cacti are just the cutest little things ever! I had to get them. They will be moving home to the bedroom once I have made some planters for them. more to be revealed soon.
When I talk to people about independent and ethical shopping I often find it can be bizarre ground for a lot of shoppers as we all get use to shopping in a certain way and by nature we don’t like change. For me one of the biggest problems I find is that independent shops don’t label prices consistently or visibly enough and items aren’t always laid out how you would normally find them in your bog standard supermarket or on their website. For more people to be encouraged to shop with the little guys or the eco conscious these retailers need to make it easy for others to transition. A perfect example of this is the ethicalsuperstore.com
The online retailer specialises in a whole range of products from clothes to food, gardening to beauty all items of which are either fairly traded, organic, eco friendly, promote health and wellness, educational, locally produced or charitable. These are all worthy causes that I care about so it makes the perfect place for me to find exactly what I want without failing my principles. Each item page has a thorough description of the ethics behind its production or company, each of which you can find out more about on its own page and browse its other products. The clear layout of each page means you can find out the relevant info you might want and see customers reviews at the same time to inform you on its positives and negatives.
I love that the ethical superstore is set up just like a supermarket website as it is really easy to navigate and more often then not they will have the products your looking for as they have such an extensive range of items. They display prices visibly and even offer bulk buying discounts on most of their food products. They also have offers and sales just like any other store as well as their clearance sections for homewares and clothing making the shopping experience exactly the same as you would find it in any big box store except you can rely on the products being ethically sourced. My only criticism might be that I wish the free delivery order didn’t have to be as much as £50 but that is because I like a bargain. I think this is definitely the way ethical retailers should go to encourage more people to look at their wonderful products and get them to make the switch.
I needed a topper for my tree and one that was thrifty and eco friendly, so I returned to my old friend the toilet roll. This is a quick tutorial of how to make a golden star to sit atop your tree. You will need a toilet roll or a cut down kitchen roll, a piece of cardboard, craft knife, glue or masking tape, gold spray paint and a star template ( or draw your own)
1. Use your template to draw the star on to your piece of cardboard. I made a template on the computer by using four diamonds to make the classic nativity shaped star
3. Spray paint the front of the star
4. Glue or tape the toilet roll on to the back of the star and at the bottom. Spray paint the back of the star including the toilet roll to make a neat finish
5. Pop on the tree and admire your work
I love this simple star for my glorious little tree. Its bright and bold but nice and traditional. If your tree is lacking something special still then this is the perfect little DIY to finish off with the Christmas decorating