Paring Down in London

Green sludge and a lovely omelette
May 6, 2015, 7:12 am
Filed under: About me, Food and drink, Health

Thankfully, my drive for a healthier lifestyle doesn’t seem to abate, in spite of being surrounded by sugary and carby foods.

I buy my family pastry and sweet treats because they love them, but also because they do not need, or have chosen, to walk the Clean Eating path, like I have. So, to compensate feeding them millet risotto with cashew cream and spiralised courgette (they loved it, almost licked the plate!), I buy them Danish pastries and cheesy twists. They don’t complain about more raw salads and also get a controlled amount of extra calories, much needed for a strapping, active 25 years old man and a vigorous, martial arts mad 64 years old one.

This morning I got up very early so I could make my husband’s breakfast and packed lunch, so I decided to eat early too.

I made the most gorgeous omelette, with all the health credentials, not that you’d know it, it was scrumptious. I sautéed a couple of chopped spring onions, a few mushrooms and a tomato in coconut oil (what else?!?) in a large frying pan (I use the “eco” non stick ones without noxious anti stick stuff), mashed up an avocado that had gone far too soft for salad, mixed it with 6 beaten eggs (baby hen eggs, the really tiny ones, fresh and lovely), a good grating of fresh turmeric (a new discovery of mine, so much tastier than the powdered version!) and a few flakes of homegrown chili, then poured the mixture in the frying pan. After a couple of minutes I finished it under the grill. We loved it! My husband had it with toasted bread.

I also made a smoothie in the vitamix for both of us, but the first part was for him, blueberries, apple, chia seeds and filtered water. He got a nice big glass of it and I saved just a bit, for flavour, to make my green sludgy one.

For my serving, I added a teaspoonful each of powdered Chlorella and spirulina and a chunk of fresh turmeric. On second thoughts, I should have added ginger instead, as I had the turmeric already in the omelette, but you live and learn, hey-ho.

Ghastly is the only way I can describe it. I drank it all at once as a medicine. It leaves a frothy, muddy, pond water like residue on all surfaces it touches and it tastes like pond water does (I think, not that I have ever tasted pond water!). I bought Chlorella and spirulina because they are supposed to be really health enhancing, I really like seaweed food, and I am taking a belt-and-braces approach to restoring my health in the best possible way.

However, these algae are really an acquired taste! Will I ever acquire it, though? I know they also come in tablet form, but I am already taking so many supplements so I did not want to have to swallow two more capsules.

I need to explore ways of making the green sludgy stuff a bit less revolting, but as I am minimising my fruit intake it is a bit difficult to hide the flavour in, say, a spinach and avocado smoothie, they need something sweeter and stronger I think. I shall keep experimenting, sooner or later I will either get used to the taste, get so healthy that I won’t need them anymore, or find alternatives.

Someone the other day was extolling the health virtues of Moringa, but not in powder form, in its fresh state. Apparently this lady’s elderly mum travels to Brixton every week to buy Moringa leaves in the market, uses the leaves for tea and then stir fries them and eat them. I shall have to look into this.

The world of nutritional health is awash with products that scream “buy me, I am the best/healthiest/most effective …” And if I were to follow up all suggestions I would be bankrupt and spending all my time eating, drinking, blending and pulverising newfangled berries, weeds, nuts, roots and whatnot.

As it happens, I want to keep it really simple. I shall write a new post on what I use at the moment, but for now I have written enough and my Matcha Latte with Coconut butter is getting cold – Joke! I am sipping a cup of nice, light, ordinary, garden-variety tea, albeit black, leaf organic Darjeeling – gotta keep up with the fancy foodie brigade after all!

On a health kick!
May 3, 2015, 4:43 pm
Filed under: About me, Frugal and moneysaving, Health

Finally, after 5 long weeks, I am emerging from the dark cloud of fatigue, coughing and head-fog of the flu.

I am on such a health kick! Really excited about spring, blue sky, longer evenings and renewal.

Many changes in my life and relationships have brought me to reevaluate how I live, my immediate environment, my diet (as way of eating, not as slimming – although weight loss is a desirable side effect at the moment).

As we redecorate the house, a bit at a time, we are choosing to use natural materials and paints, low VOC and gentle to the environment. This is not a cheap option, but I consider it frugal in the long term, as A – we are using materials that are strong and durable, such as high pigment paints, wool carpets and real wood, well made furniture which will last the test of time. B – we will live in a healthier, more harmonious home, which will enhance our quality of life. By loving our home more we will want to spend more time here and will not feel the need (like I have in recent years!) to escape away from a dirty, grungy and derelict house, which did not feel like a home. No more need for going out and spend money just to avoid the chaos indoors!

I am just back from the Be:Fit show, the new incarnation of the old Vitality show, thanks to my dear friend Sandra, who won two tickets and offered me the second one. Lots of fun, inspiring and interesting stalls. I had a free nutritional consultation with a very competent and highly qualified nutritional therapist, who also specialises in Functional Medicine, something that I am quite interested in. She gave me a mini-report full of good and useful information and suggestions, both on food and supplements, as well as resources, websites etc. Great stuff.

I came back home with lots of samples, discount vouchers and also a couple of bargainous purchases, as they were being sold at greatly reduced prices on the last day.

Inspired by the healthy environment, but maintaining my frugal hat on, tonight I am going to cook a fancy Thai fish soup for dinner.

Yesterday in the supermarket I found a yellow stickered pack of Thai spices (lemongrass, galangal, fresh chilli, garlic and shallot), which will make the base for flavour. As I have finished the soy sauce I shall use miso to add a salty flavour and instead of lime I shall use lemon, which I already have in the fruit bowl. Frozen cod from a multi-pack, and a bag of rice vermicelli that has been sitting in my cupboard for ages will form the bulk of the soup, plus greens from the front garden and a few veg that need using up from the fridge before tomorrow’s fresh delivery.

I shall also make a fennel salad with the two fennels that the nice guys at Abel and Cole gave me when I went to their stall and told them that I am a regular customer.

Sorted! Thai fish soup for two, at the cost of probably no more than £3 in all.

This is the way I love it, the good life, cheap and in great style!

More about my health kick in future posts.

The light at the end of the tunnel
April 14, 2015, 6:18 am
Filed under: About me, Thoughts and reflections

I nearly titled this post “Lingering on…” But on reflection it is so much better to focus on the positive! True, I am not fully recovered, still weak and coughing, my back is not too happy, but I am moving with more ease, breathing better and able to go out for short periods of time.

I am really excited today, as I am returning to my outdoors Tai Chi class in the park. The sun is shining and I know I will have to take it easy, baby steps, but it feels like I am on the mend, even thinking about being outdoors and moving gently!

Today my brother moves to the Dominican Republic with his wife and children. At nearly 56 years old he decided to take this brave step, so even if I am not in touch with him (long story), I am putting my best wishes for his new life, here, in words, and pray God that all goes well for them and that they find happiness and good fortune there.

I also hope that Danny’s trip to Brazil goes well.

I am so very VERY grateful for my mother.

April 3, 2015, 8:15 pm
Filed under: About me, Thoughts and reflections

I was really hoping to have escaped the virus that had floored my husband in the last couple of weeks, in spite of nursing him, caring from him and obviously sleeping in the same bed.

Chance should be a fine thing…

So far my version of the virus is nowhere near as bad, just quite a sore throat and no fever, but weakness and a very raspy voice. Perhaps gargling with the herbs has protected me, to a point. I have used a mouthwash tincture that my herbal medicine practitioners have made for me, to cure a bit of gum inflammation. But as it contains marigold, I thought it would be a good antiviral. Let’s hope this is the worst it gets. I have been in bed since last Monday and am getting a bit desperate to get well and start doing things again.

Hang on, doing…..last I heard myself, I was complaining about doing too much. Perhaps, to use a cliché, my body is forcing me to stop, to recharge, to ask my beloved men to look after their wife and mother, not asking too much, only a few days of making tea, a bit of simple food, to tidy a bit after themselves so I won’t find a nuclear disaster scene in the kitchen sink, when I finally get well enough to get up and start caring for them and the house again.

My husband tells me he is tired. No wonder, 2 weeks with a really virulent flu, raging fever, but he decided to go straight back to work the moment he could stand up. No convalescing for our Hard Guy! My son tells me that he is tired, after working at painting our house, then spending half the night watching catch episodes of Roswell! I am tired, too. I have cared for so many people in the last 30 years, non stop, sometimes I don’t remember how to care for myself. Hence, my body does not stand for it and periodically sends me an unequivocal STOP! An offer I can’t refuse, one could say.

Where to go from here? How does a past-middle-age woman, used to caring for others for so long, apply the same loving care, acceptance and tenderness to herself? This is going to be a journey of self-discovery. And all because of a teensy weensy virus.

Gratitude. I must, no, want, to start noting down my gratitude, in writing, in a notebook, not in a perfunctory way but from my heart.

I can see a whole new post about self care in the future, but not now.

For now, I am grateful that:

* the house is starting looking really great, thanks to the hard work of my husband, my son and his lovely friend (almost a son to me).

* both my dear men have been kind and loving to me, looking after me as well as they could.

* that I was able to say sorry to my brother and sister and that I am in contact with my sister again.

* that my dear daughter wants to see me again and will come to have lunch here soon.

* that life always works itself out even in the smallest things (lesson: stop fussing about the tiny details!).

Good night.

Already nearly April!
March 29, 2015, 1:59 pm
Filed under: Frugal and moneysaving, Thoughts and reflections

I don’t really know where time goes these days!

My last post was in January, about my Fiscal Fast. Incidentally, I managed 6 out of the 7 days, I can’t remember exactly why but on my 7th day I had to buy something and the Fiscal a Fast ended.

Since then, it has been spend spend spend, we have gutted the ground floor of the house, it needed a good refurbishing as it looked terribly grotty, compared to the brand new kitchen. So we bit the bullet and decided to invest some more money, time and energy in making the house look great. It is taking shape, but unfortunately we encountered a couple (more! Are they all bad and twisted? ) rogue builders who charged us the Earth, over-promised and under-delivered. Finally, we enrolled the (great, cheap but slow) services of our son and his best mate, both unemployed, full of goodwill but not very experienced. They are doing wonders and painted the rooms, stripped the old carpet, poly-fillaed all gaps, now it is taking some shape although there is probably more than a week or more to go before we can call the carpet people for the stairs carpet fitting. It will look lovely, we invested a good sum on this, as we want it to look good AND last us several years.

It did not help that my husband was out of action for two weeks with the flu and that I am pretty useless at DIY, although I make teas, lunches and refreshments in general. Now he is better, he has helped the lads cut and fit the new skirting boards, so they can paint them.

Overall we haven’t been able to be frugal in the real sense, more money went out that came in, and it is still going to be the case for a couple of weeks. Then the belt needs to be tightened seriously, as we will need to start saving like mad with the view of his retirement time coming up early next year. He might choose to remain in work and postpone his pension, but it depends on many factors.

I keep doing my little mystery shops, my babysitting and have started a tiny 3 hour per week admin job, which I am not enjoying so not sure how long I will last, but hope to host students in summer for a bit of extra cash.

Life goes on and I hope to update my blog soon, with pictures of the newly refurbished rooms.

Fiscal Fast
January 19, 2015, 7:37 pm
Filed under: Frugal and moneysaving, Thoughts and reflections

I came across the concept of Fiscal Fast on the forums. Until then, when I did nor spend money for a day, I called it a No Spend Day (NSD). Fiscal Fast sounds much more important, serious and “proper”, perhaps because the term was coined by a man!

Jeff Yeager is the man who coined this term. He is an inspiring man, although some people think he is rather extreme in his moneysaving. His website,, is full of interesting information and he has a lot of videos of his talks on YouTube.

Anyway, I came across his concept via this thread: For a long time I thought it would be impossible for me to do anything as drastic as not spending any money for a whole week, the reality was that I was shopping every day, for family food even though I had a full pantry and fridge, for trivia to make myself feel better (magazines, cups of tea etc…) and anything that took my fancy, within measure but without much thought ((Amazon books figured high on this category).

in recent months I have rekindled my acquaintance with a simple and frugal way of life and I am finding it easier every day to turn away from unnecessary consumption. The lovely part is that my dear husband is also on board and enjoys finding creative ways of living well without having a heavy impact on the family budget.

To cut a long story short, recently I saw the opportunity to test myself agains the Fiscal Fast (or in normal Old Style parlance “a week of NSDs”). Our daughter does not live at home so she is not in the picture when deciding about shopping, but our son, for whom I do a lot of the shopping – cannot feed a strapping 25 year old bowls of lentils all the time! – is off to visit a friend abroad for a week, starting today.

What a good opportunity! I did not stockpile in preparation but just did a normal shopping on Friday and a top up on Saturday. My car has only one bar of fuel, in short, life is as it always was, no particular adjustments were made in advance. I always have a good stock of dry goods at home, some veg in the allotment and garden and a couple of bottles of milk in the freezer.

Today was my first day, and it was good. I noticed how much I thought about things that I might have wanted and bought, but didn’t. I went out without a penny in my pocket and it felt really liberating. I reflected on my great luck in having free transport because of my husband’s job, this makes it easy for me to move about and I am really grateful for it.

One day down, six to go!

More sourdough adventures
January 13, 2015, 9:14 pm
Filed under: Food and drink, Frugal and moneysaving

The other day I was decluttering the kitchen cupboard and came across a few open packets of flour past their use-by date. I just could not bring myself to throw any of it away, so I decided that it was worth using up as another sourdough starter experiment.

I mixed the bottoms of the packets in a bowl, a bit of wholemeal, a bit of white, a bit of spelt, enough to mix with a cup of warm water and form a loose paste, which I then left on a side, covered with a muslin.

Every day I gave it a stir and after 4 days I started feeding it a bit of water and a bit of flour, nothing measured, nothing scientific, just experimenting.

In a few days I got a sizable bowlful of sour smelling batter, which I then decided to halve and feed in different ways. One half stayed in the same bowl and kept being fed every day or two, but the other half got mixed with a good deal more water and flour, until it formed a large sticky mass, which I kneaded for a few minutes then left on a side to rise. It never did really rise but every day I went back to it and gave it another kneading, every day it became less sticky and more elastic.

On Sunday I took some of this dough, mixed it with more flour to give it a thicker consistency, then rolled it into chappattis, which I cooked in a hot pan. They were delicious! My husband and I had them as wraps with a few leftover felafels, salad and a bit of mango chutney.

The rest of the main dough is now sitting in the fridge resting quietly until it can be put to use as flatbreads if I want a quick bread, or rolls if I give it the time to raise in a warm place after taking it out of the fridge.

Meanwhile the starter was growing because of the regular feeds, so this morning I halved it again. The first half got fed and put back on the side, but the second half, quite liquid as it was, got mixed with some white flour and a pinch of salt and was put to work as more chappatis. This time they were even better than the first! I cooked them for breakfast, served with friend mushrooms and a fried egg and my son commented that this was one of the best breakfasts of his 25 years of life. I shall certainly make more of those then!

Sometimes I wish I had the patience and common sense to apply a properly scientific, tried and tested method to my breadmaking, but then the rebel kicks in and I just have to go a bit wild in the kitchen (not many other places left in my life to go wild, these days!). I love experimenting, it gives me such a satisfaction to make things work, which they do, mostly!

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