Value People – Use Stuff

We call ourselves minimalists yet own more stuff than any self-respecting minimalist should.

Fortunately for us for the most part we live our lives without concern of conformity.  So, even as some would advise owning 100 items we strive to own what we need, find useful and/or brings us pleasure.

When I look around some of the lowest value stuff we own that brings the most frequent joy.  Such is our Italian Coffee Percolator, given to us as a gift for housesitting.  For the ritual of having a little’ly (espresso) bring us pure pleasure.  As a couple, it continues to bond us.  I can see the truth in claims that couples who share the same drinking habits are more likely to stay together.  Together Forever – One Life, Live It.

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Another of the items we own is a small textured rug, given to us over a decade ago in South Africa by my eldest sister.  This rug has had many uses.  First as intended; a bath mat, then, to cover the front van seats of Bloubokkie and now as a mat in Sunny, our big yellow van, Man!  Many a time as my feet feel the texture beneath my heart feels the bond of our sisterhood.

In my cutlery draw lie a pair of excellent quality hand held peeler and spiralizer.  When I use these, particularly when a pile of veggies lie beneath my hands my thoughts turn to my second eldest sister.  Our bond lies, in running a business together and laughing together.  I remember the times when George had to sit between us to stop our giggling in meetings.

The scarf around my neck, the one I use on most walks was given to me by my mother and shields me from chilly winds just as mom stood up for me against the injustices that are part of boarding school life.

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Despite our best intentions and two years of decumulating to accommodate our nomadic, adventurous, house sitting lifestyle we still battle against stuff and clutter.  It pleases me that a lot of stuff we have is not only of use but reminds me of the people we value.

As much as I do not want to be defined by what I own I hope for my heart to grow so that I can value people, whether I have a bond with them or not.  Value people and use stuff.

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A Hygge Butternut Soup

ingredientsWhen it comes to hygge I am off the charts and that was before it became a ‘thing’.  Here is a little  video explaining ‘hoo-guh’ and in a word it embodies coziness.  So it was no surprise to see a Butternut Soup Recipe in the “Art of Hygge” book.  Supping on a bowl of warming butternut soup on a cold day,with its slight sweetness balanced by a touch of curry feels like Oxytocin (bonding hormone) coursing through your veins thus the same as getting a 20 second hug.  You have heard when hugging you should hang on long for maximum effect right?

empty-pumpkinYou don’t need the cute munchkin pumpkin vessels but it adds to the coziness of the meal.  I suggest you cut off the caps, scoop out the pips and fill with boiling water.  In the spirit of zero waste, wash off the pips, pat dry and spread out on a baking sheet.  As you are going to ‘light the stove’ and you should have plenty of oven space I would say make the most of the heat and make yourself a little baked apple pud to finish of your hugge meal.  Place your hollowed out pumpkins, prepped pumpkin seeds and sliced apple (or 2) into a hot oven (180 ºC) .  Now with this baking you can turn your attention to soup making.  Keep your eye on the pips, shake them around if needed and take them out before they go dark brown (i.e. burnt).

Ingredients and method for a double serving of soup

  • Saute an onion in a tablespoon of coconut oil and then sprinkle in a heaped teaspoon or more of curry powder and fry to release the flavours;
  • I added a few whole cloves and a touch of coriander, which is optional but reminds me of South Africa;
  • Add half a diced butternut (scrub the squash and leave the skin on) and
  • A couple of carrots, scrubbed and diced (keeping skins on reduces food waste and maximises nutrient retention);
  • Let this sweat for a good 15 minutes in a cast iron pot.  Stirring every so often so it doesn’t scorch.
  • Then add a pint (about 600ml of water) of vegetable stock (see the instructions on the stock container).  In the absence of veggie stock use chicken stock but then it is not vegetarian, so be mindful of this if you are having veggie guests around for dinner.
  • Let this hard simmer for about 20 minutes.  Test by squishing the carrots and when they tender you are ready to blend.
  • If you have a electric stick blender, well done you but I simply mashed mine with a potatoe masher (minimalism smugness).  This is why there is no need to peel the butternut as you won’t even notice the skin.
  • If you doing pumpkin pots take these out the oven and carefully tip the water into the soup and scrape out the cooked pumpkin flesh, adding to the butternut soup.
  • Stir the soup, ladel into the ‘bowls’ and sprinkle roasted pumpkin seeds on top.

For the baked apple I sliced 1 apple into a bowl, with a handful full of raisons, 25ml hot water and bake till tender.  Spoon onto custard and sprinkle with cinnamon.

There is some serious hygge to be consumed in these two little dishes and for us epitomises the art of living well.

Vel bekomme! translated directly is’well become’ which is my wish to you.



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Autumn holds such promise

One couple many pets

Last week we trundled over the border of Devon to Cornwall to meet with a retired Vet and his wife, who are looking for a housesitter during the Festive Season. They have 25 hens, 2 cockerel, 1 guinea fowl and 2 cats in need of company  over Christmas.  By all accounts it’s a lightweight assignment considering we have just finished looking after 26 rescue whippets & lurchers.

We are looking forward to the Cornish sit and exploring a bit more of Cornwall.  In the meantime this month sees us looking after one daintly, little black cat called Bella in the South Hams.  We have been housesitting members since 2014 and have had the most phenomenal success.  See below if you would like to find out more about house sitting or pet sitting.

Whippets and Lurcher Rescues
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George & Matt with TippyToes, Dart, Misty, Brindle, Jet, Socks & Miley (or is that Kerrypup?)
Bella of Braodsand
Mutant genes and wanderlust

I digress.  We had a delightful 3 course meal with our hosts, which started with a warming squash soup and ended with a dessert of figs grown in the garden (bizarre for England don’t you think?).  We meet such lovely, warm and open people on our journey.  I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it is the open mindset and of course they are animal lovers too.

It is interesting to hear about the history of people’s homes and families.  To think this couple have lived in this house and village for longer than I have been alive.  I have lived on 2 continents and in 3 countries and in more homes than I care to recall and yet we yearn for more sights and adventures.  Labelling a psychosis is helpful and ours appears to be genetic, for I am sure we carry the mutant DRD4-7r gene linked to wanderlust and exploration, which in turn leads to advancement of civilisation (google it!).

The world is an open book and those who do not travel read only one page –      Augustine of Hippo

On our drive home, with George imploring I make my butternut soup again, we pulled into the local farm shop in Lifton.  The display of pumpkins caught our attention and while we aren’t keen on consumerism we do make a point of spending some of our pennies locally, particularly farmshops or stalls and came away with some tea time treats to boot.

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Lifton Farmshot – convenient stop for families
Promise of a new season

The first of the month (1st October) holds such promise; the crispness in the air marking a new season.  New starts stirs up childish feelings from my school days.  The snow white, feint lined page of exercise books, which used to evoke false promises to my schoolgirl self to write neatly and even so far as endeavour to complete all homework.  Turn the page and the fresh inspiration is dented from the markings of my previous writing and spent effort.

Those feelings have not left me and if you ever hear a guy moaning loudly ‘not another notebook’ it is likely to be George. {Please distract him so I can make my purchase free of guilt and without being reminded of the countless discarded notebooks I own}.

1st of October for us is a call to press the reset button on our non-existent health and fitness regime  Apparently my blood pressure is through the roof (who knew – not sure the gadget wasn’t properly calibrated though).  Apart from this alarming indicator, we are both craving ‘live food’.  You know…food that heals your body rather than harm it.

Soup and Juice me Jason

Our go to reset regime is from the vibrant Jason Vale.  He is the UK’s Juice Master and we are loosely following the 7 day ‘Soup & Juice Me’ plan.  Later this month will be more hardcore when we take up the Big Juice challenge.  The circumstances of recent weeks has had us thinking about internal parasites and much of what we plan to eat is with this in mind.  Purely by coincidence today is International Vegetarian day and so we celebrate this too.

The first soup on JV’s plan is a Butternut and Carrot soup.  Jason’s recipe is dead easy to follow but being a cook I use it simply as a starting point and my own version will follow.

With a such a cold and blustery day butternut soup served in (wait for it…..) munchkin pumpkins (how could I resist buying these little sausages) will do nicely – thank you very much.

pumpkin-pots Continue reading Autumn holds such promise

How I cut this week’s grocery bill by a third

This week with some ingenuity and time I cut our weekly grocery bill by a third.  In my line of work, I see people’s budgets and often wonder, how is it possible to spend as little as they do on groceries.  To put this in perspective, for two of us my savings this week was equivalent to what the average couple people spend on food per week.  How the heck do you only spend around £60 a week (statistic 2015)  on food? [1]  This is an area of our family budgeting I hope to bring under control.

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Enough of the statistics and let me get down to the nitty gritty.  While picking up some cracking deals in the Waitrose ‘Half Price September Sale Event’ I spotted their offer of £20 off on a £100 home delivery shop and free delivery.

I hot-footed it home with discount code in hand.  Not wanting to be caught out with the old trick of spending to save I fired up‘mySupermarketUK’.  I have the app on my phone which enables me to compare prices on the trot.

First I selected the store I intended shopping at and then I selected ‘organic’ under Lifestyle filters.  Hey don’t forget it is #OrganicSeptember.  One useful feature with the app is you can quickly see if the item is cheaper at any other stores and what the historic average price has been.  The things that float my boat.  You literally can’t beat 60 pence per tin of organic baked beans, which is apparently 38% below its average price at the time of my order.

Quite apart from the historic low price of baked beans, organic or otherwise I plan on making my version of Southern Style Baked Beans soon.  When it comes to recipes I follow less and improvise more.  So having browsed the blog post at thekitchn.com – beautiful-beans and filled with inspiration I rustled up a brunch of baked beans on toast.  Here is what I created out of baked beans having read Faith Durand’s blog:

Jenny’s Rustic Baked Beans Brunch

  • Fry some onion, sauté them if you must;
  • Slice less fennel and fry too;
  • Add diced bacon, a slice or 4
  • Once you are happy the bacon is cooked through toss in a can of baked beans. Turn down the heat and simmer, while making toast to lay the beans on.
  • Spoon the bean mixture onto the toast, sprinkle with extra mature cheddar cheese, caynne pepper if you like heat and grill until the cheese has melted and is brown and bubbly.

Warning:  know now that you are more than likely to burn your mouth because you won’t be able to resist.

I have also bought Aduki beans, Red Kidney beans, Borlotti beans and Haricot beans and hubby reckons I am going to cook up a storm and just as well we tucked away in the countryside.  Joking aside I want to start replacing some of our meat dishes with a few more bean dishes as a way of being economical and environmentally friendly.

It wasn’t all hardship and scrimping as I added a ½ price Welsh Lamb Roast to my cart and some very nice organic wine for Sunday Lunch and have duly invited my favourite son and girlfriend over in a semblance of maintaining traditions.

img-20160806-wa0014Where we housesitting there is not one but two biscuit tins chock-o-block with treats.  We find them quite irresistible so this time I am prepared with our own snack size treats also on special.  I took the opportunity to stock up on my store cupboard supplies, including coriander, which is quite prominent in South African cooking.

A huge Ka-ching as all in all I saved £20 for ordering over a £100 of groceries and a further £38 off discounted items without compromising our standards aka organic as far as possible.

And as if that was not enough when I booked my delivery slot I picked one with a little truck symbol indicating the driver would already be in the area and thus more environmentally friendly delivery.  Not only do I get to feed my family nutritious home cooked meals I save the planet (even just a tiny little bit helps).

How you can save too but hurry to make the most of this

  • Register for Waitrose account
  • For 1st online shop £30 off £100 with code: AQ3H30£30 (before it expires) or pop in to a Waitrose near you and pick up the discount code on a van shaped flyer at the tills;
  • Create an account at mySupermarketUK and after selecting Waitrose as your store start adding items to your basket.   For a double whammy you can filter by goods on offer and if you drop down to lifestyle options you can select organic.
  • When you select an item you can see the average price of the item and how much other stores are currently charging.  If you find yourself a bargain on an item you need/want add it to your list;
  • Once you have £100 in your basket you can ‘checkout’ and send your shopping over the net to Waitrose.  Click on the button continue to Waitrose and be sure you have just over a £100 in case of missing goods.

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[1] https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/minimum-income-standard-uk-2015

Melktert: a traditional South African recipe

I have fond memories of making melktert since high school, when our single Jersey cow Annabelle, produced more creamy milk than either we or the dozen or so municipal workers could consume. So began my little enterprise of melktert making for the local ‘tuisnyrwerheid’ (home produce store).

Melktert is distinctly different to custard tarts in texture and taste due to the much higher proportion of milk to egg in melktert.  This results in a creamy, fluffy and light filling that is quite moreish.

When I got home from work on Thursday, hubby declared that Mary the neighbour of our housesit had invited him for tea and would I please, please make a melktert for tea.  Being asked so nicely, I kindly obliged.

Recipe
Pastry
Cream together 125ml (1/2 cup) of brown sugar with 125ml (1/2 pack) of butter.  Add beaten egg and cream further. Add 500ml (2 cups) of flour with about 10 ml (2 tsp.) of baking power and a grind of salt. Work until mixture comes together to forms a stiffish ball.  Roll out and press firmly into two medium size flan tins.  Make sure you press the corners in tightly.  Bake at a medium heat until golden brown (which should take about 25 minutes).

Filling
Prepare a mixture of 3 egg yolks mixed with about a cup of sugar (less if you don’t like your tarts too sweet)  40ml (2 1/2 tbsp.) of flour and 40 ml (2 1/2 tbsp.) cornflour and a pinch of salt.  Use a dash of milk to make easy the mixing.  Bring a litre of milk to the boil (let it foam up) then slowly add the boiling milk to the above custard paste and whisk well.  Return to the stove a patiently bring to the boil again, stirring frequently.  Add 3 whipped egg whites (soft peak) to the milk mixture at the start of the reheating process.

When mixture has thickened stir in a blob of butter (about a tablespoon) and small cap of vanilla extract.

Pour into baked shells, sprinkle with mainly cinnamon but you may like to add a tiny dash of nutmeg too, according to taste.

Please let chill properly in the fridge before you tuck in.

According to us, this can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and supper and anytime in between 😉

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It is one of those recipes were exact measurements aren’t needed and technique counts for more than measurements.

My technique tips would be to work confidently but lightly with your pastry. Whipping the egg white will add volume and lightness but take care when folding it into the custard that it does not coagulate into lumps. Rinse the pot out before boiling the milk to prevent a layer of film sticking to the bottom.

For more South African recipes see: http://www.justeasyrecipes.co.za/

Warning:  I do feel a little a bit of conflict posting this recipe when reminded by my sister, who has survived breast cancer, that milk and sugar are a no-no for her.

Beauty secrets shared by Royalty and Celebrities

I am not into pop culture but it has been hard not to notice Kate Middleton, The Duchess of Cambridge, filling the column inches recently.  Her engagements in March alone have included a memorial service for the British troops, a visit to the Downton Abbey set and St Patrick’s Day celebrations. This ahead of the imminent arrival of her little royal no.2 due next month.

There is no denying that Kate is a bonnie lass and so when I read her pregnancy beauty secret, I was royally rapturous.  Kate uses Rosehip Oil to achieve that healthy glow she sports!

“Look – Rosehip Oil!” I exclaimed to hubby, pointing at my phone, “That’s what I got you to get me for Christmas.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2986045/Is-rosehip-oil-secret-Duchess-Cambridge-s-pregnancy-glow-Royal-said-fan-natural-oil-keeps-wrinkles-bay-s-sold-out.html

Now I am no beauty expert but if it is good enough for my favourite Royal it is good enough for me.

In my quest for a simple life I prefer using single ingredients from natural sources.  (Just take a look at the label on regular skin products – what is in that stuff?)  If I had to choose one ingredient for my face it would the ingredient known to repair, regenerate, smooth out fine line wrinkles, soothe acne and moisturise.  Drum roll….Rosehip Oil.

The brand I use personally is organically certified and carries the SOIL association kite mark.

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This is not the first time a celebrity has usurped my rustic beauty regime, and although flattered a little part of me resents the likelihood of demand surging and prices rising.

The other products in my beauty repertoire include coconut oil, a favourite of Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow enjoys relaxing in an Epsom Salt Bath.

For my (our) grey hairs I periodically rub Neem Oil through our hair at night.  Finally Tea tree oil which is such a workhorse.  It smells clean and can be dabbed on and about ad lib.

To gorge yourself on more of Kate Middleton’s elegant style pop over to Carly’s blog

http://katemiddletonstyle.org/st-patricks-day-2015/

Are you some kind of nomad?

Housesitting has been in my periphery for a long time.  My feisty mother-in-law (hello Hazel!) is employed to house-sit in Cape Town, South Africa to deter squatters taking over people’s second homes.  This was the extent of my knowledge. It was something retired peogle did.

Then towards the end of 2014 our son declared his desire to join the Royal Air Force. Or RAF as he casually put it.  GULP.  This is a mom, who cried actual (many and large) drops of tears into her cereal the day he went for a college taster session (because my baby was growing up).  I was crying happy-sad tears.  Knowing ‘this day’ would eventually come we gave him our blessing, saying there were two things we wanted for him; to be happy and follow God.  After a couple of false-starts I was acutely aware that empty-nest syndrome would hit me hard.

Extract from https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/empty-nest-syndrome

Time and energy that you directed toward your child can now be spent on different areas of your life.  This might be an opportune time to explore or return to hobbies, leisure activities or career pursuits.

After a couple of weeks of moping about and deep philosophical discussion around what we would do ‘if money were no object’ we decided on two main things.

  1. Self-build and live sustainably
  2. Travel and see more of this amazing world we live in

So what was stopping us?

In short my career.  I had painstakingly built up a career as a Chartered Financial Planner over the last decade, after relocating to the UK.  It is something I am good at and can help people in a very personal and unique way.  The income is quite handy pretty essential too.  Plots and housing don’t come cheap on this small island.

George, then casually asked me, one Saturday morning, if I thought we could house sit. Being the researcher that I am I googled the gaggle out of housesitting. Scouring for tips and stories online I saw quite a few in our nearby vicinity, including a particularly appealing house sit for 3 months, which would coincide with our son’s leaving dates.

We joined Trustedhousesitters for a tentative 6 month trial. I created our profile, adding photos, requesting references from friends, acquaintances and even my boss (who is a lovely chap). We were all ready to rock and roll, except I was too scared to apply for the dream sit.  What if I applied and we didn’t get it?  It would be another disappointment to deal with, our hopes and dreams dashed once more.

Successful we were, and I can hardly believe two months of housesitting have gone and in exactly a month from today we will have finished our first house sit we applied for.  It is more than we imagined.  We live in the most gorgeous village, complete with village shop that bakes croissants on a Sunday morning. The two dogs we look after have crept right into our hearts.  And we have had the most amazing time exploring the South Hams and Dartmoors over winter.

Someone asked me if I was some kind of Nomad?  No,  not yet.  We are following our dreams with the resources we have at our disposal.