Monday, 25 July 2016

SmallSteps week 4 and finding BuyBritish toiletries

Week 4 of SmallSteps is going to feature BuyBritish bath and body products, but first I will recap my week's efforts.

If you're new to this theme, I am blogging a series of Monday posts about ideas I think might help our disUnited Kingdom communities to get through the post-Brexit turmoil ahead. You can read the first post here. SmallSteps lifestyle changes, if embraced by enough of us, could help to keep our towns and communities afloat through the uncertain months ahead.

I've decided to keep a track of my attempts to practice what I preach! My initial three SmallSteps were:

1) to CheckTheLabel and BuyBritish whenever possible
2) to ShopLocal and spend at least £5 each week in independent local shops
3) to eat healthily and walk or cycle short distances
and last week I added
4) Not to use self-service checkouts or Pay At Pump.

So how did I do this week?

My ShopLocal spend was just a £1.30 loaf of multiseed bread from Truffles Bakery in Hailsham, although I realised that I didn't include our £30ish spend at last week's festivals in my roundup. Can I allocate it to this week?! We began to ShopLocal for events in our Devon to-be-home as well and now have tickets booked for NTlive broadcast of The Deep Blue Sea at Torquay's Central Cinema and for the Lauren Housley gig at Kingskerswell Church. I've heard rumours of a Richard Shindell gig at the Pig And Pallet in Topsham too, but tickets aren't on sale yet.
The apple and courgettes for my BBQ salad were BuyBritish as was the Borderfields rapeseed oil for the dressing. I also bought Borders and McVitie's biscuits - both brands baked in the UK - and British strawberries and free range chicken.

photo from Ora 
The Ora kitchen roll I mentioned last week is great and I can't see myself ever wanting to return to regular rolls. The cone tower is surprisingly elegant and fits on a low caravan shelf. I think it will be even more convenient on the kitchen worktop once we are in our new flat (Wednesday, eeek!). The sheets are circular and just as absorbent as other brands we have used in the past. I was concerned that two rolls' worth of paper taking up the space of a single roll would turn out to mean cheap, thin paper, but this is most definitely not the case. A good buy!

I walked for at least half an hour on five days, mostly to Hailsham for a spot of shopping and, once to post a Literary Flits giveaway prize. (Have you entered this week's giveaway?)

Now let's talk pampering!

My favourite bath and body products for years have been Lush solid shampoos and conditioner bars which are absolutely ideal for my travelling lifestyle because there's no chance of loosening caps and accidental spills. I can take a whole bar on aeroplanes too without needing to attempt decanting into silly mini bottles or paying way over the odds for travel-sized products. Once we're based in Torquay though I'd need to traipse to Exeter to visit a Lush store, so if I'll be resorting to mail order, I thought I might as well check out other BuyBritish alternatives.

Faith In Nature 
In a spooky coincidence, just as I was starting to write this post another company I like emailed about their latest promotion. Faith In Nature are offering their summery Tropical Range at half price for a limited time and the last day is TODAY so do all rush at once! And if you've found this post later than the 25th July, sorry you missed out, but I think their products are easily worth full price anyway. Faith In Nature don't make solid bar shampoos, but who could resist layering the chocolate shampoo scent with that of the coconut conditioner and, if you wash your hair a lot or set up a co-op with a few friends, splashing out on the 5 litre bottles (yes, really!) makes good economic sense.

While researching what will become my Torquay ShopLocal businesses, I was delighted to discover that I can actually purchase natural soaps and shampoos made within walking distance of my new home. Green Wyse is run by medical herbalist Dawn just three miles away and I am looking forward to sampling the various scents of vegetable soap/shampoo that she creates. I might give the toothpaste a try too. I also want to visit The Soap Stall in Torquay's Indoor Market which apparently is at The Market Forum. I've 'borrowed' the photo below from The Soap Stall's Facebook page - doesn't that display look fabulous?!

The Soap Stall, Torquay Indoor Market 
Please do feel welcome to link to your favourite / your own BuyBritish and ShopLocal businesses in the Comments. Make sure to say in which town they are so other nearby folks will know to look out for them!

Finally I have made a blog badge from my SmallSteps logo image. If you would like to join in this Monday (or any day) blog theme, feel welcome to display the badge and let me know about your post so we can link up.

Instructions: Select all code above, copy it and paste it inside your blog post as HTML

Sunday, 24 July 2016

I've found a new blog tool: LinkWithin

I was pottering around other blogs this morning, as I like to do, and noticed a great widget on Dishfunctional Designs. I enjoy Laura's creativity and, if you're interested, she makes fabulous recycled jewellery including stunning unique pieces from china fragments. Anyway, Laura has a nifty widget on her blog which uses some kind of algorithm to dredge up and link to old blog posts that are in some way related to the topics of current posts.

The widget is called LinkWithin and it is free to install and use. It's dead easy too, at least for the Blogger platform. I haven't tried it on Wordpress or anywhere else. I simply told the LinkWithin site my email address, blog URL and chose Blogger from the platform dropdown and it pretty much took care of the installation itself. The widget is displayed at the bottom of each post and I think it looks pretty good! It's even reminding me of historic posts that I had forgotten I had written! On the downside, LinkWithin doesn't seem to show up in mobile view so if you can't see what I am talking about and you're reading this on a phone or tablet, you will need to switch over to desktop view. Scroll down and hit that 'view web version' button.

Are you back? Whad'ya think?

As a thanks to Laura for installing LinkWithin on Dishfunctional Designs so I could find it, here's a couple of examples of her gorgeous jewellery. Do click through and check out her shop!


Saturday, 23 July 2016

Our last chance to stop Hinkley nuclear plant?

I received an email from Greenpeace yesterday following my signing of a petition against the proposed Hinkley nuclear power plant which is planned for the Somerset coast. To be honest, I am not sure that a government such as ours, one of whose first actions under their new PM was to scrap the Department for Energy and Climate Change, is going to make the Hinkley decision based on environmental reasons, but even the economics of this project aren't looking good from the UK's point of view. The plant will cost billions with no actual guarantee of real savings to British consumers when it is finally complete. The government has signed up to pay EDF a set price for electricity from Hinkley and they are stuck with paying that much even though the wholesale price is now lower. The difference will be made up with a subsidy. That means all taxpayers will end up subsidising EDF regardless of whose energy we actually use. I'm with Ecotricity - why can't I choose to have my proportion of the subsidy go to a wind or solar farm instead?! Plus, we will pay the monetary and environmental costs of decades worth of nuclear waste. How is this a good deal for Britain?

Greenpeace said:

"Breaking news: UK newspapers are reporting that a decision on Hinkley nuclear plant will be made next week [1].

Hinkley is set to become the most expensive object on earth [2]. If it goes ahead, billions of pounds will be channelled into a nuclear plant which is shaping up to be a national embarrassment, when the money could otherwise be invested in safer, cheaper renewable energy.

Chancellor Hammond is already under huge pressure over Hinkley. Security analysts have warned against the project [3]. Energy experts have said building the nuclear plant will be the ‘worst ever’ deal [4]. And more than 100,000 of us have signed a huge petition calling for Hinkley to be scrapped.

If we can get our MPs to speak out at this crucial moment too, it could be enough to can Hinkley once and for all. Please urgently write to your MP and urge them to ask the new Chancellor to drop Hinkley nuclear plant.

Hinkley nuclear plant is already sent to cost billions. And following the Brexit vote, the cost looks set to soar even higher. Do we really want to splash out so much on Hinkley - a nuclear plant that's a decade away from producing electricity - when renewables can be rolled out much more quickly?

With clean, renewable power we also don’t face the costly and difficult question about what to do with radioactive waste. Experts estimate we could be dealing with nuclear waste from Hinkley for up to 200 years.

Please email your MP and tell them Hinkley is not wanted and not needed.

Thanks for taking part.

Greenpeace UK

4. "

Friday, 22 July 2016

#TreatYourself - special offers that caught my eye

Hilda Boysenberry Tunic at Weird Fish 
If this week's heatwave caught you out with insufficient summer wear in your wardrobe, check out the bargains on offer at Weird Fish. They have fun and quirky designs and I have been impressed with the durability of clothing bought from Weird Fish in the past. This season, I like this lightweight Hilda Boysenberry Printed Woven Tunic, reduced from £38 to £15, and the Yazoo Cotton Jersey Striped Tunic, reduced from £40 to £20. For the more organised and forward-thinking among us, Weird Fish also have a good selection of autumnal clothes, waterproof jackets and parkas in their bargain clearance too so you might be able save on next season's outfits by buying now! Standard delivery is free within the UK and International delivery is free with orders over £100.

Waitrose's Kitchen department has items from its Great British Bake Off range at half price while stocks last. There are three sizes of these vintage style cake tins as well as measuring spoons, a marble rolling pin, pastry brushes, cookie cutters and a lovely wooden chopping board. Delivery to store is free or standard home delivery is free with orders over £30. If you've been enviously eyeing up new bakeware, now's your chance to grab a bargain!

Indie ebook website Smashwords is coming to the end of its 8th annual Summer/Winter sale so you've only got until the 31st July to take advantage of their discounts. Thousands of Smashwords authors and small independent publishers have discounted their books by anything from 25% to 100% (that's free!). I do find writing quality on Smashwords can be hit and miss - I have found enjoyable books and a couple of DNFs - but I like being able to support authors directly. Smashwords books I have enjoyed include Discovering Aberration by S C Barrus (review here) and Sinister Arcana Shards by S R Mulrune (review here). From the Sale I downloaded In The Heart Of Cairo by Mahi Wasfy which I haven't read just yet.

Whittard Of Chelsea has some great summertime offers at the moment. They are running 3 for 2 promotions on Hot Chocolate and on Instant Tea so it's well worth stocking up on these especially as Whittard's website has ideas for making tall iced chocolate drinks and the instant teas make delicious iced versions too. Browsing the clearance section, I just noticed that this gorgeous Dotty About Hot Chocolate Gift Set is on special offer, reduced to £14 from £20, so possibly perfect to stash for upcoming birthdays. Sadly you've already missed mine!

Finally something just for women, or just for menstruating women actually. Have you heard of the Mooncup? I have used one - the same one - for over a decade now and not only has it saved me lots of money, but has also made managing my periods far easier and stopped me sending hundreds of tampons and sanitary towels to landfill. It also completely does away with that mid-period last-tampon crisis. When I'm on, I'm wearing my Mooncup so I know my sanitary protection is taken care of, even though it is so comfortable that I am not constantly aware of it. The following video, produced by Mooncup, shows how the product functions:

That's it for my money-saving treats this month. Feel welcome to link up similar posts in the Comments, or to shout out other great deals you have seen. I look forward to finding another five for August.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Colourful courgette BBQ salad recipe

My colourful salad 
I love colourful food so was particularly pleased with how this throw-it-together salad turned out. We had been invited over to friends for a BBQ dinner (well, invited ourselves actually!) and I wanted to take a salad dish as part of our contribution. Said friends have a great leaf-filled veg garden so a green salad was already taken care of and the only useful ingredients I had were a small tin of organic sweetcorn and a crisp apple. I later raided the store cupboard for sultanas too.

Fortunately Morrisons came to the rescue. While Dave looked over the butchery counters I wandered the greengrocery aisles and returned with Special Offer stickered mini organic courgettes (zucchini) and pomegranate seeds. Yellow, red, green and pink. Perfect!

My final salad consisted of:
150g of Green Giant organic sweetcorn
1 cored and diced crisp red apple
1 diced mini organic courgette
About 100g of pomegranate seeds
A good handful of sultanas

I had learned from my previous Frankfurter And Apple Pasta Salad (blogged here) that using mayonnaise in a dressing mutes all the colours so I left it in the fridge this time and, instead, made up a barely there dressing which just coated everything and stopped the apple browning, but allowed all the flavours to remain fresh and unswamped.

My dressing was:
2 tsp Borderfields rapeseed oil
1 tsp Epicure balsamic vinegar
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice.

And that was it done! Quick, easy and delicious!

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

A festival weekend - Arlington Gets Cajun & Wealden Food Festival

Strum n Bass (n Bash)
at Arlington Goes Cajun 
We're trying to make the most of the small festival opportunities open to us during our stay in Sussex - that's the festivals which are small, not the opportunities! You might already have read about our trips to Broadstock in Crowhurst and to Eastbourne Feastival? This weekend just gone we stayed local to our current Hailsham campsite but still managed to take in Arlington Gets Cajun on the Saturday evening and Wealden Food and Wine Festival on Sunday afternoon.

Arlington Gets Cajun is essentially a village affair which raises much needed funds for the MS Society, but Dave and I have supported the event several times now because Dave has been asked to play guitar as a guest with the Cajun Dawgs. You can see him on the right of the photo below, in the red t-shirt. The Dawgs were the last of four great musical acts this year preceded by blues singer Dave Beckett, duo Strum n Bass featuring Bash, and Rough Chowder. I think my highlight was probably Rough Chowder who played a fabulous set.

Three Dawgs plus Dave 
This year Arlington Gets Cajun included an art show in the village hall together with cake sales and pre-loved books, and a gazebo outside shaded the BBQ run in aid of local hospice Demelza. I bought a couple of gorgeous cards by artist Julia Hawker but I won't show them here because I know their future recipients read this blog! Of course I couldn't resist the books although I did only get two. I was disappointed with my BBQ vegeburger which, even with onions and cheese, was bland. However, the Arlington Gets Cajun event was another opportunity to wear a new-to-me vivid pink dress I bought for the Eversley wedding and that came from Hailsham's Demelza shop!

Justin and the Argonauts
at Wealden Food and Wine Festival 
After lots of dancing the night before, I wasn't sure I would have enough energy for the Wealden Food and Wine Festival. Fortunately it didn't require a lot of effort! We went to the inaugural event in 2014, but missed last year's which was apparently at a different venue and didn't have as much atmosphere. This year, the festival returned to English Heritage's Pevensey Castle which meant that English Heritage Members could get in free. The £2 entry fee for the rest of us was very reasonable though, especially as it included a choice of a reusable commemorative cup or cloth tote bag. The Park and Ride from Stone Cross Nursery was very convenient for us and expertly stewarded by 1st Hellingly Scouts who took the opportunity to fundraise for their upcoming jamboree! Other folks rode in on vintage bicycles as part of a Bexhill Classic Cycle Group organised ride.

We arrived in time to hear Pocketsize play beautifully (Pocketsize are also playing at Eastbourne's Underground Theatre tonight) and also thoroughly enjoyed discovering Justin And The Argonauts whom we hadn't heard before. Their music is great fun and I would love to see them play again. Also perfect sunny afternoon music was Helen Sharp And The Soulshine Band. We had seen Helen in an acoustic bluesy trio at Broadstock, now she was a disco diva with a very funky sound!

Vintage penny farthings
from Bexhill Classic Cycle Group 
Between sessions of enjoying the music we did, of course, get to try and buy the food and drink on offer too! Our luch was from Indian street food stall Simply Veg where we both chose vegan foods that we had never had before. I ate Bhel which is a kind of puffed rice salad and Dave had Patra which was made from Colocasia. Downsview Farmhouse ice cream made for a welcome cooling dessert and I am actually wishing I had more right now. It's stiflingly hot today! Greenway Fruit Farm was selling the most delicious cherries I think I have ever tasted and I tried a couple of sparkling wines from Bluebell Vineyard as I was hoping one might be good for a forthcoming gift. Stone Cross Windmill had a stall selling their own wholemeal flour which I've bought before and been impressed with. It's a good strong bread flour. Then we ended our day at Mini Mouthfuls where we chose four 100g sticks of fudge for the price of three. What's not to like about that?! Of our Chocolate Orange, Chocolate Ginger, Cherry Bakewell and Banoffee selection I think the Banoffee was my favourite.

Now I just have to hope that Torbay can put on similarly good events to get us through August and beyond!

Monday, 18 July 2016

#SmallSteps week 3 & Do I Really Want To Eat That?

It's week three of SmallSteps already! How are you getting on?

If you're new to this theme, I am blogging a series of Monday posts about ideas I think might help our disUnited Kingdom communities to get through the post-Brexit turmoil ahead. You can read the first post here. SmallSteps lifestyle changes, if embraced by enough of us, could help to keep our towns and communities afloat through the uncertain months ahead.

I've decided to keep a track of my attempts to practice what I preach! My initial three SmallSteps were:

1) to CheckTheLabel and BuyBritish whenever possible
2) to ShopLocal and spend at least £5 each week in independent local shops
3) to eat healthily and walk or cycle short distances
and last week I added
4) Not to use self-service checkouts or Pay At Pump.

Photo from Dippy Doodahs
So how did I do this week?

The Handyman, a hardware shop on Hailsham High Street, stocks G4 10w 12v lightbulbs at £1.35 each which were just what I needed to buy for Bailey so I got two - ShopLocal but sadly not BuyBritish. I also had a good mint tea and a granola slice a few doors away at Dippy Doodahs for £2.50. Hailsham Street Market on Saturday was only about ten stalls, but did include a butcher, a greengrocer and a selection of pie and cake stalls. I spent £6.60 which brought my ShopLocal total up to £11.80 for the week and I am happy to recommend the Bacon And Cheese Slice and the Sweet Potato Pie made by Bay Tree Foods who came from Heathfield, and the Coffee And Walnut Cake and the Mixed Fruit Topped Sponge baked in Hellingly by Tracey's Kitchen Cakes. We supported local festivals Arlington Goes Cajun and Wealden Food Fair too, but I will blog about those two tomorrow!

Sweet Potato Pie from Bay Tree Foods served on
watercress, rocket and spinach leaves

Two BuyBritish finds caught my eye at Holland And Barrett. Firstly Dragonfly Tofu is made organically in Devon so that will soon have even fewer food miles to get to my plate. I like the marinated flavour. I also found VBites Gourmet Beanfeast Pate which, admittedly, doesn't look fantastically appetising, but does taste good! Then in Tesco I saw a new super compact kitchen roll made in the UK by Ora. It apparently compresses two rolls into less space than a single roll without any absorbency loss and is easy to use one handed. Now if that's not a selling point ... ! I'll blog more about Ora when we've given it a try.

I walked into Hailsham four times, but we did also drive once to the supermarket because there were bulky heavy items. We did use a staffed checkout though and hardly had to queue.

Were you intrigued by my Do I Really Want To Eat That title? I've been listening to an audiobook edition of The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan this week. My full book review will publish over on Literary Flits at noon today and the issues Pollan illuminates tie in perfectly with a lot of what I am considering here. He investigates various food chains in America from unrecognisable-as-farming industrial processes right down to wild food foraging. I don't think British beef cows are (yet) raised in the horrifically toxic environments Pollan describes, but Brexit is likely to leave us without EU legislation protecting food standards and animal welfare, and therefore at increased risk from American-style profit-driven food production. Along with Farmageddon by Philip Lymbery which I read early in 2015, The Omnivore's Dilemma provides much food for thought (pun intended) about what we eat and to what extent that food may be more harmful to us than its manufacturers want us to realise.

In a leap that will make more sense if you have read either (or both) books mentioned above, I've stumbled across a great online resource for tracking down local farm shops and farmers markets. It is Hey Farmshops and I just needed to put in what will be my new Torquay postcode for the website to identify all the farm shops within a 19km radius. I could then also specify how I wanted to travel and was shown a marked route from my home to the nearest, Occombe Farm, which is 6.4km away by bicycle. I'm yet to discover how much of that route involves insurmountable hills!

Finally I have made a blog badge from my SmallSteps logo image. If you would like to join in this Monday (or any day) blog theme, feel welcome to display the badge and let me know about your post so we can link up.

Instructions: Select all code above, copy it and paste it inside your blog post as HTML