Posted in climate change, food, Pembrokeshire Post, Uncategorized

Pots with purpose

Along with the becoming more aware of our rubbish – by being careful what we buy to thinking about the food we eat – I have been given such a perfect Christmas treat today.

I love food gifts! This one from one food-lover’s fridge to mine is a tub of Potted Shrimp. Spread on wholegrain toast and popped under the grill, served with a handful of grilled cherry toms and a dollop of lumpfish caviar; this dish will keep me feeling good all day.

I’ve made potted shrimps from scratch in the past. Having fishing friends can pay off! We went foraging for local shrimps in cool ponds on the Cleddau estuary as the tide receded. It was fun, then cold and hard work.

Back in the kitchen with a muddy bucket I peeled the tiny creatures and held them in melted butter in little glass pots. They went into the fridge for a tasty treat.

This time the hard work’s been done for me. It was a delicious treat!

And the empty tub will be washed and refilled.

That’s a perfect present in my book – having been made with love and shared with me 🙂

What favourite food presents do you give or receive?

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Posted in climate change, food, Motherhood, Pembrokeshire Post, Uncategorized

Starting on Sauerkraut

Catering for a family is both a pleasure and a challenge. If you believe that food goes hand in hand with love as I do it’s a daily opportunity to give love, nutrition and energy for your children to grow.

It’s a challenge to juggle the time to really cook rather than simply unpack and heat food when you’re also the only breadwinner and homemaker.

Christmas is the perfect time to acquire new culinary skills because it’s a time of enforced disengagement from work as pretty much the entire country shuts down. Combined with limited daylight hours, I find the days between Christmas and New Year the ideal time to experiment with acquiring new food skills.

Every September when the kids go back to school and I dread the short daylight hours to come I prioritise one new skill I want to work on over the Christmas break and then prepare. This year it’s fermenting foods so I’ve been saving jars and reading up.

When I want to learn to do something new I like to do my research. There are many resources online that give great advice.

The main points about making sauerkraut I’ve learned are:

Jars

You need a selection of glass jars. I bought two ‘Kilner’ type jars (the ones with large openings, a rubber gasket and glass lid fastened with a hinges metal clasp) and I’ve saved lots of jam and shop-bought pickle jars over the last few months in preparation. I love jars with undamaged metal lids because they can be repeatedly washed and reused before being sent to recycling.

Ingredients: cabbage and salt (optional cumin seeds)

You need to buy really fresh good white cabbage. I bought mine from my local farm shop so that they didn’t come wrapped in plastic! (I am avoiding buying food in packs because I am challenging my family to become as close to zero rubbish as possible).

I’m told by numerous websites that you need to use kosher sea salt. I decided to use my regular table salt because it’s fine ground which is much kinder in my skin than the hand milled crystal sea salt. Some experts insist that table salt won’t work (due to presence of anti caking agent and iodine) whilst others say it doesn’t matter. My initial test jar of sauerkraut has fermented despite using ordinary fine table salt from the back of my cupboard.

Time

Find your calm kitchen zen to ferment things because those bacteria need to be nurtured. The room needs to be just warm enough to let the bacteria grow slowly.

You must be present to remember to check your kraut! I’m opening the lid using the hinged lid to release the gases created by bacterial growth. The jars need to be tended daily during the active phase before refrigeration. Once the kraut is done, I intend storing in the back of a cold dark shed.

I made my sauerkraut the day before Christmas Eve. I sliced the cabbage by hand and mixed it with salt with my bare hands. I made sure my hands and jars were completely clean and dry before I started. By squeezing, kneading and bashing the cabbage and sprinkling fine salt onto the threads of cabbage the liquid came out of the cabbage easily. I started in a clean metal bowl and once I could see it was working I tightly stuffed the cabbage into a jar and tipped the liquid in too.

Keep pushing the cabbage under the liquid to ensure that bits of cabbage don’t stick up and go mouldy. The fermentation happens in the liquid in the absence of air. This allows the desired bacteria to flourish and stops the cabbage going ‘off’. As a beginner use white cabbage (which is pale green) so that you can see how the fermenting is working. You can of course replace with a huge variety of veg – red cabbage looks fantastic – but as one website pointed out, you need to avoid growing pink mould and that’s going to be hard to spot in a jar of dark red cabbage!

The cumin seeds give the white cabbage kraut a traditional flavour. I sprinkled some through my mix.

One small cabbage filled my smaller Kilner jar. The volume increases as fermenting happens so you do need a bit of a gap in the top of the jar.

As I’m tapping away Barak Obama is on my radio talking (to Prince Harry who is guest editing a Christmas current affairs programme ) about how he recruited young leaders from around the world to become part of social change. He recruited a million worldwide.

It’s very heartening in these dark days to hear that young people are being empowered to change the world. Obama is pointing out that it’s not enough to develop online communities – they have to then meet face to face and get offline.

He points out its harder to be obnoxious and cruel offline! It’s about getting on the ground to change things.

Goodness Prince Harry is now interviewing his father Prince Charles and he’s asked him what’s the most important issue to address today and his father is saying ‘IT’S CLIMATE CHANGE!’

I am so grateful for the knowledge I have access to online to make positive changes in my life offline. Food is one very important aspect to analyse and change.

I look at my own young people and how open they are to new ideas it makes me feel reassured. I’m acquiring old ideas to feed myself and my children in the hope they’ll go on to develop new ideas to address climate change.

Time to check the Kilner jar! The bigger challenge will be seeing if the kids will eat it…

Posted in climate change, Motherhood, Pembrokeshire Post, Uncategorized

What a load of rubbish

Putting the bins out has changed a lot since I was a kid. Back then, we didn’t bother with plastic bin liners. Rubbish went into a tin bin and disappeared into landfill. The rubbish tip of my childhood is now a housing estate!

But now I’m really conscious that there is no ‘away’ when we throw things away.

Two incidents have pushed rubbish to the top of my household agenda recently. Firstly, our local council is consulting on plans to dramatically reduce the availability of kerbside rubbish collections.

Then a Facebook friend (who happens to be the leader of the Green Party in Wales) posted that she had emassed one small bag of rubbish in an entire year. That was so inspiring.

My children were talking about the terrible scenes on the BBC series ‘Blue Planet’ showing the appalling damage to marine life and the sea caused by plastics.

And so we’ve agreed to change our behaviour.

The impact of little tweaks is the theme of this blog. What little thing can we do to make a big change?

I moved our landfill rubbish bin out of the kitchen and placed it out of view onto a shelf in the small utility room that operates as a dog bedroom and laundry room.

Suddenly there is no choice of bins in the kitchen. We now have a choice:

1. Wash it and use it again (this is the case for most food packaging materials).

2. Wash it and repurpose it. (Such as cutting milk cartons into cupboard storage items. We’ve done this a lot and it works brilliantly. Once the cartons fall apart they can be put into recycling).

3. Wash it and return it to the retailer. If a company insists on using non recyclable plastic they need to be held accountable. If the lady from the Green Party can do this then I’m willing to give it a go!

4.avoid buying items that are non recyclable. We are now scrutinising packaging like never before!

5. Can this item be safely burned in the log burner and heat our house?we’ve done this a lot with paper packaging, wooden crates, non metallic wrapping paper and paper food labels.

6. Put it into the recycling bin.

Only as a last resort should items end up on the landfill bin. The simple action of removing the bin (creating a moment to stop and think instead of chucking things into it) combined with a conversation over dinner to dramatically reduce our contribution to landfill is making a big difference.

Currently the black bin bag has a couple of pieces of non recyclable plastic and a cube of polystyrene in it. I’ve sent a tweet to our local council asking when they will recycle polystyrene and until then I’m going to do my best to avoid it.

I’m really pleased that my children are on board with this and I’m excited to see what impact this will make. We average about 2 full black bin bags a week at the moment and I’m aiming to dramatically improve on this as a New Year’s resolution for 2018 and we’ve already put it into action.

How about you?

Posted in Digital Democracy, Motherhood, Pembrokeshire Post

Tuesday Terror

To avoid emotional paralysis I turn to my blog for an outlet and some calm. Steady steady, you are a grown-up: pointless hand-wringing will do no good.

On days of shock and outrage Twitter gives a blow-by-bomb account; we are all journalists now. Most of the country woke up to the news. I heard it in the wee small hours and in my sleepy state kept wondering if I’d been having a nightmare.

What I  learned: apparently late last Monday night a man detonated some sort of nuts and nails device in the box-office foyer area of a major venue in Manchester; positioning himself adjacent to 21,000 mainly girls and mums enjoying a teeny-bopper night out; he killed himself and 22 (including an 8 year old little girl) and physically maimed 60.

He caused carnage and chaos and succeeded in bringing a city of diverse communities together in crisis as taxi drivers switched off their meters, hotels and locals opened their doors. 60 publicly-funded ambulances alongside armed police arrived within minutes. People gave blood.

Every woman and child had been searched by security on their way into the auditorium, each stick of lipstick inspected. Their murderer, armed with explosives, simply sauntered unchallenged into the public entrance hall (holding a suitcase reports later suggested).

I get that wherever the security is set up there will be the world beyond that line but it still sticks in my craw.

City dwellers will now see soldiers positioned at significant venues and a higher number of armed police will be on the streets. The ‘threat level’ is raised to ‘critical’.
These atrocities create fear, panic, loathing, upset. They also inspire people in a weird way. People get the opportunity to be amazing and kind and good.

Bombings are going off all over the world of course. It’s been a major news item from various countries around the world my entire life. I do not want to feel more grief for the death of victims in this country compared to other places, because we are all members of the human race living on just one planet together. But it is shocking nonetheless.

I shake myself out of a feeling of dispair. Such situations can capture people so that we all become hostage by freezing and becoming ineffective in our own lives.

It was tempting to fall down but I pulled myself up and into action.

It’s because the mundane everyday seems at odds with the harrowing anguish being experienced by those directly effected. But I know that keeping calm and carrying on is the only response.

And so I do so, sorting out the day-to-day details that my own children are relying on. Order more heating oil. Pick up and clean a ‘new to me’ picnic set for future happy excursions. Call the washing machine company AGAIN to get progress on a repair job now 6 weeks old.

I box up old videos and start to tackle my messy guest room. Family is coming to stay soon. It feels strange. I realise I’m numbing myself. My tears and sadness won’t change or improve anything. But attending to the details of my family’s life will.

Acting out of love is all the weapon I have against this hatred.

I pull food from the freezer and begin to plan a meal. There are bills to pay and I’m interviewing someone for a job this afternoon.

The position available is to help local rural communities work together on ideas to improve their lot. It’s what is known in the trade as ‘community engagement’.

It seems somewhat trite, today of all days, but I know that disengagement can lead in some extreme cases to murder and mayhem. And this reminds me that things are not so futile. All our small efforts working with others do in tiny ways make things better.

I’m contacted by a grandmother whose daughter has been told her unborn child may have Down’s Syndrome and they are desperately worried.

I do what needs doing, making use of social media to help connect those who feel desperate with those who have knowledge and can help.

And I wait for the return of my teenagers; sad for those whose children never went home today.

Posted in Digital Democracy, Media, Motherhood, Pembrokeshire Post, The Up-side of Down's, Uncategorized

A World Without Down’s?

I’m a big fan of Helen Fielding’s ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’. When I first read it, some of it felt EXACTLY like my own diary – especially the daily stats on weight; food and alcohol consumption and generalised bitching about this squeeze or that. Well, OK Fielding’s diary was FUNNY!

Continue reading “A World Without Down’s?”

Posted in Motherhood, My Grand Disaster, Pembrokeshire Post, The Up-side of Down's

Shhhh it’s all on social media

A sneak peek into the secret world of social media

And how it’s saving Down’s syndrome

By Sarah Hoss

Down's is a medical term; not my label. Social media is being successfully leveraged to help society improve its attitude towards disability.
Down’s is a medical term; not my label. Social media is being successfully leveraged to help society improve its attitude towards disability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc.) – or ‘Shmedia’ as I like to call it – is saving Down’s syndrome.

That’s a very bold statement. Stay with me, and I will show you how. But first, a little personal history:I was holed up in a leaky caravan in remote west Wales when I first began searching online for information and inspiration about Down’s syndrome. I was involved in a restoration project at the time. As a family we had a temporary caravan base for work and living space. Outside I was growing my own vegetables and keeping livestock. Sounds idyllic? I found it very tough.

Continue reading “Shhhh it’s all on social media”