Back to the Future

After we got back from our trip to Normandy, we went to our local supermarket to stock up on fresh food, but that’s not the only fresh things we got.

Maybe we unconsciously wanted to keep being surrounded by plants like we were on holiday…

We bought fresh basil and parsley pots and a new flower plant that was reduced to clear to 29p as it was looking past its prime, (the previous week I had bought another orchid for 39p!) and a cyclamen.

Fresh Basil and Parsley Plants

Fresh Basil and Parsley Plants

Out window sill is now fuller than ever with pretty flowers!


Flowers 🙂

During the journey back I also caught up reading a Stylist magazine issue from the end of July called “The Good Life?“. It was full of information on how to take steps to lead a healthier, more sustainable life.

Stylist is a free magazine distributed in London on Tuesday evenings/Wednesday mornings that is always full of well-written, interesting articles and I found this one particularly inspiring. It was about Stylist staff slowing down and staying in Launceston Farm in Dorset for a few days and I felt I could partly relate to their experiences, having just left our nature-filled break.

These Stylist editors, the junior writer and the photography director had some rules while staying at this farm:

  • No mobile phones, smartphones or any other electronic equipment
  • No internet or e-mail access
  • No sat navs or GPS equipment
  • No credit or debit cards, just simple cash
  • Only eat food they could pick or kill themselves or source from an independent retailer within a 15-mile radius
  • No contact whatsoever with their office
Stylist "The Good Life?" Issue from 24th July 2013

Stylist “The Good Life?” Issue from 24th July 2013

I think it sounded like a great challenge / experiment, especially for people who rely on constant updates and news via social media platforms, internet and e-mails as part of their jobs and lives.

I did something similar:  -I didn’t use my phone on holiday except to briefly check my e-mails a few times to let my mum know we had got there safely and what we were up to, -we didn’t have a sat nav and ended up driving around maize crops in the pitch black a bit longer than planned; -I only used cash; -most of the vegan food I had was local, including organic vegetables from the neighbour and I didn’t have any contact with my office.

The “I’m a journalist…get me out of here!” article tells about how everyone got on with “no phones, laptop, TV or radio”.

It’s actually quite funny, as the author describes the panic they all felt when prompted to hand over their phones, knowing they wouldn’t be able to whizz them out at any moment to Tweet, post on Instagram, or check the news.

It goes on to describe how they sourced their food. They were all brought up to eat meat but none of them had ever shot a living creature. In the evening they had rabbit pie, as for the farmer rabbits are crop-ruining vermin.

Being away from all sorts of devices helped them sleep really well, they picked their own vegetables from a nearby farm, foraged for elderflower and told each other ghost stories after their made-from-scratch, locally sourced dinner.

One thing I notice a lot at my office is that people are always tired…no matter who it is, even after the weekend or a holiday people are generally tired! Could it really be linked to our super-stimulated world where we just can’t relax properly?

By the end of it all some realised they normally find it hard to relax in our tech-filled world, or that they spend their free time on the phone. Some enjoyed it but would have loved to document some of their experiences by posting photos and messages about them and others noticed they didn’t get their daily headaches.


The next article I enjoyed reading in this issue was “Where does your garden grow?

"Where does your garden grow?"

“Where does your garden grow?”

It starts off by saying that after they spent a little while in the countryside it was really easy to feel like start growing their own vegetables, making lovely meals from scratch (I do too, even more after going to Normandy)…then it snaps to the reality that makes up many of the readers’ lives: we work long hours and things like these take a lot longer than grabbing convenient pre-packed food.

Convenience shop numbers in the UK confirm this, we’re never too far from somewhere that offers packaged, ready-to-eat products that take a few minutes to be ready in the microwave.

However, after issues such as the horsemeat scandal  and news of processed meat being linked with early death earlier on this year, fortunately people are starting to be more careful with what they purchase and consume.

According to the article, more and more people are “flexitarians”, that is, people who mainly have a vegetarian diet but occasionally eat meat and fish.

The meat available for us to buy comes in glamorous, clean packaging making it easy for us to forget where it comes from. I agree with the author when she says that “if we are prepared to eat something, we should know how the animal has been killed to get it”.

She writes about going to an abattoir, describing something similar to what the French farmer explained to me last week as animals are checked, inspected and treated with respect, but adding that unfortunately other abattoirs operate cruelly, with a member of the team telling her we should get meat from a local butcher to know animals have been treated with such respect.

Another interesting point: what’s the cost of our demand to have fruit and vegetables all year-round, out of season? Have you noticed that asparagus, one of the most sensitive vegetables, are imported from Peru and only come from the U.K. in May-June?

Our quest for cheap food also means that we often bring down the economy of our own country (and not just for the U.K.). One of the well-known examples are of New Zealand lamb being a fraction of the price of British lamb, despite travelling so far to reach us.

If we bought higher welfare meat and dairy, we would support British farmers. Have a look at the Red Tractor Logo website to know more about the benefits that come with choosing products that bear it. It’s actually Red Tractor Week from 16th to 22nd September.

Finally, the article ends showing what we can do to directly make “a big difference to the environment, your health and your friendly local farmer”.

  • Buy British lamb (better if from a local butcher or the farmers’ market)
  • Cut down on your meat intake maybe start by not having meat a couple of days a week
  • Buy fruit and vegetables in season 
  • Avoid chicken that just says “fresh” if it’s not organic of free-range it was factory farmed 😦
  • Check the label carefully such as the Freedom Food label
  • Buy British (or your own country’s) dairy
  • Choose free-range eggs (or organic)free-range eggs are actually healthier and less likely to harbour salmonella”
Red Tractor Logo

Red Tractor Logo

Freedom Food Logo

Freedom Food Logo

Useful links:

How do you think you’d feel with no electronic equipment for a few days?

What can we learn from the past to improve our future?

Which steps would you consider taking to lead a healthier and more sustainable life?


Rosie Y: Experimenting

“Anyone who’s ever told you that you couldn’t make a difference was wrong.”

This is a very important concept from J-F and B L’s blog 222 Million Tons, which is a constant help and inspiration to me.

Since starting this blog in February 2012 I know I have positively influenced some people to think more of what we do, buy, use and waste and these actions’ effects on our surroundings. From showing my mum how easy and better it is to finely chop and eat broccoli stalks rather than throwing them away – which is a small change, an easy-to-get-used-to habit – to bigger issues such as climate change.

After starting a new job in December 2012, I got to know a very interesting, stylish and overall amazing young lady, Rosie Y.

We went to a great exhibition at London’s Kensington Olympia, ART 13, and I asked her a few questions about her little experiment…

Rosie Y - @ ART 13

Meet Rosie Y

For the whole month of February you didn’t eat meat, fish or eggs. Why did you decide to do this?

Because I love eating and in China there is a saying: “民以食为天”, which is an idiom that means “Food is the God of the people”.

When I was in China I decided I would not eat meat in order to lose weight but then I gave up, I didn’t even insist for one day! This time I was determined to give it a go as I hadn’t tried a diet that limited this kind of food before: it was like an experiment to see if I could do it, it was my goal to do it.

The trigger was when my friend, Su Fei, had a vegan month in January and I was very inspired by this and wanted to do something similar. I had previously failed my attempts but Su Fei succeeded so it was time for me to try it.

How did it go?

I was very surprised not to feel any different at first. It turns out that not eating meat, fish or eggs for a month is not as difficult as I expected, but I also didn’t feel lighter or healthier as I expected. I made more of my own food for diversity.

Vegetarian and vegan choices in normal restaurants are few, even normal sandwich shops offer very few meat-free options – I have to admit that I got very tired of eating falafels! Oh, the only difference might be that I felt hungrier, or I got hungry easily; however my stomach always felt good, unlike when it sometimes feels uncomfortable, too full and I feel guilty after eating meat.

Are there any positive aspects you noticed during your meat-free experiment?

I expected it to be very hard but now I feel like I can do so much more, I am not afraid of trying new things. Su Fei suggested to upload some pictures of the food I was eating on Instagram and many people from all over the world liked them, that was very surprising and encouraging.  Before my experiment I thought that meat-free vegetarian food wouldn’t be as tasty as meat dishes but after seeing their pictures I realised that it also look and taste just as delicious.

Before this experiment I didn’t like salad. Now I really appreciate salad’s natural taste, and the same happened with Brussels sprouts and other vegetables I tried. Also, I often used to go for food that had many added condiments and sauces, now I really like simple food as well, less processed and less ready-made.

When you eat, do you think about food’s sustainability?

No, but I don’t know why I believe eating vegetarian is a good thing. At the end of the experiment on 1st March I bought fried chicken, not because I wanted it but because it was an easy and practical option. After eating it I felt unwell, my stomach felt heavy, too full, and I felt like a garbage bin for junk food. I did think that maybe I should carry on eating vegetarian.

After trying a vegetarian month, do you feel like trying and eating more vegetables and fruit?

Yes, I have a plan. I must have a whole vegetarian day before having meat or fish the next, as I feel like a vegetarian diet is good for me and also good for the planet.

Rosie Y @ ART 13

Rosie Y @ ART 13


Would you consider giving up meat/fish/eggs/dairy for a while to be healthier/more sustainable/ try something new?

The Art of Upcyling: Mr Brainwash and More Inspiration

Upcycling is an art. It’s the art of seeing potential in something that seems to be useless.

I have written a D.I.Y. Upcycling post about my little upcycling projects, but last week I went to Mr Brainwash’s exhibition at The Old Sorting Office in New Oxford Street in London and it really inspired me to see everyday objects in a completely new form and environment.

I first saw that there was something going on in New Oxford Street a few weeks ago, the dazzling wall paintings on the corner of the street kept adding up every time I walked past there to go and meet my friends in the West End.

Mr Brainwash’s take on The Queen and The Beatles

It was a pleasure to see more and more images and colours appearing

Inspiring Message and Kate Moss

I told my boyfriend about it and he said “It must be that man’s exhibition, the man who was in the Banksy film we watched”. He was completely right, Mr Brainwash was the street art lover in Banksy’s film “Exit Through the Gift Shop“, a film we watched together the night I made my vegan baguettes, sitting on the carpet together, watching how street artist operate and thinking “wow…..”.

I was really happy I went to the exhibition with my friend last week and breathed in inspiration.

Mickey Mouse made of Coca Cola metal plates

This Mickey Mouse was taller than me! Just nearby there was a massive Darth Vader sculpture made of tyres…!

Michael Jackson Record Portrait

If you look closely not only the hair but also the shirt’s shadows in this portrait are made from whole or fragments of records.

As far as records and CDs are concerned, I only ever thought of reusing them – if scratched and not working properly anymore – as funky coaster or to hang up outside as I once read that their reflection keeps birds away, making it useful if you have a vegetable patch.

I would never have thought of making art with them! This is really motivating.

There were many other vinyl records portraits, I loved Billie Holiday’s…

Mr Brainwash’s Billie Holiday Portrait

and David Bowie

Mr Brainwash’s David Bowie Portrait

Contemporary Madonna Pop Art

In my quest to find more ways to upcycle this exhibition was very stirring, making me realise there aren’t as many limits as we may think when we want to reduce waste and make something beautiful out of something unlikely to be useful.

Mr Brainwash’s work not only provided a most welcome contrasting and stimulating diversion after a hard week at the office, at the end of the exhibition there was a chance to make a donation to Great Ormond Street Hospital and a free poster gift, I chose the “Follow you Dreams” poster.

I have also found inspiration from other blogs: being more sustainable and saving money often go together, and on Miss Thrifty’s blog I found great uses for old maps ideas, using them as wrapping paper, to make lampshades…

After posting my D.I.Y. Upcycling post I received an amazing comment: a very kind reader told me: “I upcycled a disused gold brocade curtain that had been slapped over a junked old fridge at our old flat into my beautiful gold brocade wedding dress”.

I could not believe it, I had to see it! So she very kindly posted a picture of her beautiful upcycled wedding dress on her blog, chrysaliswithaview. Take a look by clicking on her blog name, didn’t she do an astounding job?

Her incredible intuition, motivation, vision and skill enabled her to make something as precious as a wedding dress from something that someone else had carelessly discarded. This is the best example of upcycling I have ever seen! Thank you so much for sharing it!

If everyone made a tiny effort to use their imagination and reuse more and throw away less I’m sure the results would be absolutely worth it, the Earth would be cleaner and its resources under less stress.

There are more upcycling examples on the Crafty Beggars website too.

Do you have any upcycling ideas?

Are you inspired by these examples?