The Soil Revolution – part 1

The Soil Revolution – part 1

The soil revolution   The status quo –
where are we now? 

As far back as 2014, Reuters reported that a senior UN official said, “If we continue with our intense farming practices and destruction of wildlife at the current levels – we have realistically 60 years of sustainable farming left. “ (source Scientific American)

This is a sobering thought. But what has happened on the official front since 2014?

Where are the school campaigns that explain to children that to make 3cm of topsoil takes the earth roughly 1000 years, but we only have 60 left. Where are the billboards and media campaigns to the same effect? I am interested in this topic and apart from the occasional scientific paper, it does not seem to be ‘newsworthy.

But this ecological wave is coming nearer and nearer and nearer. And the evidence is all too clear. Since 2014 we had more floods, bushfires, and heatwaves and the destruction simply moves on. First the coral reefs, then the icebergs in Antarctica, the increase of desert and soil destruction, and the massive, massive loss of wildlife. The last one is properly the most talked about topic. And it is lovely to look after the bees, but only bees and no other wildlife would never ever work.

I know it is not the best place we currently find ourselves in, but this blog series is not meant to be just doom and gloom. The essence here is – what can we do about it?  And then act fast!

Luckily there are a few men and women around who really grasped this concept early on and started doing something about it. Some of these methods are really ingenious and we will hear more about their various projects over the next few articles.

But let’s start first at the beginning

When Rudolf Steiner first taught his first Biodynamic soil lectures – now almost 100 years ago – this topic did not seem relevant and he was called a deluded dreamer for most of the 20th century. But not anymore.  Ever since scientists discovered microbes in the soil and even inside us,  the concept of ‘the living soil’ has moved from random fiction to fact.

The first Biodynamic lectures were held just after the First World War and this is by no means a coincidence. Although this war was short (1914-1918), the world saw chemical warfare used for the first time in combat. The real war benefit was only established towards the end of this war, but with peace on the horizon all these chemical plants had no longer any use.  So a plan was hatched that these chemicals could in diluted form be brought out on the fields to get rid of ‘soil and leaf’ pests. This meant the farmer did not have to adhere to long-standing traditional methods of crop rotation, weeding and composting. The ‘miracle cure was of course much easier to administer.

And initially the farmers were enthusiastic. Who would not like more yield and less work? But after a few years, the quality of the soil and produce deteriorated and some farmers asked Steiner for advice.

Additionally, the first year a little bit of fertiliser did the trick, but with every subsequent year more and more fertilizer had to be used to achieve the same result. This is costly but after a while, there is not much of an alternative. left.  The farmers can’t just stop the farm for a couple of years in order to wait for the soil to revigorate. This is not a sustainable business model and the trap continues.

What had happened?

Let’s look first at how the soil works. Compost material (waste from the previous growing season) together with compost tonics and manure are put onto the fields and reinvigorate the soil. This usually happens in late autum (the end of the growing cycle)  and in early spring (the beginning of the cycle). This enables the billions of microbes in the soil to turn the compost into a fertile, nutrient-rich soil, ready for the next growing cycle. This humus is full of fungi, earthworms and insects. It is the ‘internet of the soil’, distributing moisture and letting plants almost ‘communicate’ with each other and certainly cross-fertilize each other (that is the principle of companion planting).

But artificial fertilizers destroy all these natural soil improvers, turning fertile, alive soil (there are billions of these creatures in just a handful of earth) into dirt= dead soil.

Lifeless dirt is then artificially fed to produce the next year’s crop, but there is no regeneration. Once this chemical is washed away by the rain, it is gone and more product has to be put on to replace it. But more importantly, the food you eat is ‘also dead’ as no or very few microbes survive. Dead food lacks nutrients and most importantly microbes. We need the soil and its creature for our survival, too.  IPS, bloating and more severe health crises can often be traced back to food that gives us fuel (and puts on calories) but does not actually ‘feed us’. And that is not even taking obesity and diabetes into account.

I have often talked about the macro-organism and the micro-organism and how they work together. If you are new to this concept it is as follows:

The Macro-organism is the universe, the planets, stars and micro-organisms are all living creatures. Beetles, birds, whales, lions, trees, flowers, and of course us humans. It is like a huge clockwork, every clog and wheel turns individually, but when in harmony they feed and enrich each other. 

Going back to the clock example. Taking a small wheel out of the clock may be ok, but destroying half of the clockwork – what do you think would happen? Most children could answer this.

But this is exactly what we are doing with the planet. Currently, we are losing about 30 soccer fields EVERY MINUTE!

We read above that the earth is capable of making 3cm of good quality topsoil in about 1000 years – please make the Maths.

Additionally, the soil is responsible for catching carbon and hanging on to water. Dirt can’t do that and the results are floods and climate change.

So, we are where we are, and no more gloom! From now on this series will turn to seek real, positive solutions.  We need to make this positive turning point for the sake of our children and grandchildren. The Soil Revolution has started and we are all hell-bent to reverse this damage done over the last 100 years. Come and join in and do your bit!

 

 An Introduction to LWTM

Please click this link to find out more about LWTM and holistic lifestyle planning and  download our freebies 

 

Natural home clearing

Natural home clearing

 Tidy, declutter and dusting
THIS SYMBOL REPRESENTS DECLUTTERING AND ENERGETIC HOME-CLEARING

In the late 1990ies I had a very interesting home visit. My then downstairs neighbour told me about this ‘wonderful interior designer’ who he met at a recent party. My husband and I were just about to gear up for a serious redecoration process. So  I decided to have her round to get some input and ideas.

A few days later a bubbly young Italian woman showed up and I guided her around the house. I had been a makeup artist for a little while but was then experiencing a career-lull and felt a bit lack-luster.  What I needed was extra energy and a fresh start.

As we walked around the place she noted a few things down and finally, we reached the top floor. There were 2 rooms. The one facing towards the garden was used as a work/spare room and the room facing the street was our bedroom.

She was puzzled by this arrangement and thought the bedroom would be much better facing the back. But we had tried this before and both found that we could not sleep well in this room. And neither did any of our guests.

She turned to me and asked if she could ‘energetically clear this room’ and took out a sage smudge stick.  At that time I had never seen one before and was by now getting quite curious.  She lit it and then walked around with it, making sure the smoke went into all the corners, behind piled-up papers, in the cupboard and any other hidden place. She then carried on throughout the whole place.

Once finished, she gave me precise instructions on how to declutter and thoroughly air and clean the place. Then she urged me to hang up colourful, happy pictures of friends and family and snapshots of ‘happy moments’.  When all that was completed and only then, I was to move the bed back into the garden-facing room, which of course I did.

That night and many after that I slept so well.  No more twisting and turning. I could not believe the difference the whole procedure had made. Additionally, a friend called me the next day and told me about an interview for a new TV show. I went to it and got the job. In hindsight, that day really transformed my then stagnant career and home life.

Of course,  this all could have been completely coincidental, but whatever she had done – it just worked! She had explained to me the ‘concept of stagnant energy’.

According to her, dead energy gathers in crevices and around clutter and needs to be cleared away. It is like dust or debris which you would clear away, too.

My grandmother had always mentioned that energy does not get lost but just transforms. So it all somehow made sense. In any case, it did work whatever had caused it.

Since then I have kept to this principle.  If I ever need a bit of ‘energy’, ‘oomph’, ‘mojo’ – or whatever else you call this elusive “get-up-and-go” quality, I cleanse my home – dirt, clutter, and energy!

How to cleanse your home the biodynamic way?

1) Declutter:  Choose the time of the Waning Moon, ideally on an Air Day. Take 3 bags and declutter either a room, a storage area or whatever needs doing. If you are a hoarder (like me), make sure you stick to a small area or room, otherwise, it is just overwhelming. There is always another moon cycle to do the next bit. A great way to go room by room through the whole house.

Bag One is for rubbish, Bag Two is for giving-away. This could be to neighbours, friends, family, charity or selling on e-bay. Bag Three is your treasure chest – this is the precious stuff to keep, ideally not too much.

Once madness turned into tidiness, take a duster and get rid of all the dust. If you still have some energy, clean mirrors, and possibly hoover. But what is really important – give your home a good blast of fresh air. Even in winter, just make it shorter.

washing and deep clean   2) Cleaning:  Keep the decluttering, dusting and hovering on Air Days, if you can and have a day off if possible. Then a Water Days will follow the Air Day- still in the Waning Moon. Today is a cleaning day. Do another good hovering session, wash your floors and wet vacuum your carpets (you can hire wet&dry Vaccum cleaners). Get down curtains, give them a shake outside or wash them.  Move furniture to really get as much dust/dirt away as you can. This is not a routine clean, this is a deep clean.

Here are 2 articles about natural cleansers that you most likely have in your larder.

Natural Cleaning Products   
Cleaning with Vinegar 

3) Clean Energetically: Now your home is dusted and cleaned. Give it a day or 2 and then you can clean it energetically. The element fire is perfect for this task and it won’t even take long.

Get a sage smudge stick and light it. Then walk around circling the smudge stick, making sure the smoke is going in all the hidden corners and crevices. Put some uplifting music on – it can be quite fun.

Have you ever heard the phrase – you can cut the air with a knife?  This is exactly what stagnant energy feels like. If you pay attention, there will be some hidden corners where the smudge stick literally gets stuck, spend a little bit more time clearing those ‘energetic cobwebs’. Places where there is a lot of traffic, such as hallways, show normally little build up of ‘stagnant energy’. It is those ‘forgotten corners behind the pile of papers’ that is where you need to first clear, clean and swish.

Finally, open all the windows and let the smoke ‘breath out’. Once all the smoke has gone,  light a scented candle or use a natural air freshener.  I guarantee you – you will notice a big difference and your sleep and general mood should improve a lot.

 An Introduction to LWTM

Please click this link to find out more about LWTM and holistic lifestyle planning and  download our freebies 

 

 

 

 

Baking bread

Baking bread

 

Today is a great day for extra baking and cooking. You can always freeze your meals in small portions to have them to hand on busy days ahead. This is a very efficient way to create home-made meals that saves time and energy.

Bake your own bread: 

Making your own artisan bread, especially sourdoughs have become a past time for many people now working from home. I grew up with sourdoughs and for me, these home-made loaves are what I call ‘bread’. Below you can read how to make your very own sourdough starter.

I have a breadmaker for ease but don’t worry if you don’t have one or if you prefer to do yours in the oven.  Below is a quick and easy recipe for all those who want to give it the first try. The recipe below is for a simple and tasty mixed loaf that can be done in any conventional oven. No breadmaker or sourdough needed.

baking bread   How to bake an artisan loaf

You will need kitchen scales, the ingredients below, a ceramic dish with a lid (ideally round), a bowl and a mixing spoon.
Ingredients:  560g wheat flour, 190g rye flour, 550g hot water, 16g salt, some cumin seeds (1/2 a teaspoon should be enough), 3gram of active yeast. You could add some linseeds or other seeds if you like.

1) weigh all the ingredients and put them together into a big kitchen bowl.  I use a big mixing spoon to blend them together. Then add some flour to your hands and knead the dough.  (please use enough plain flour on your hands, otherwise, the dough will stick to you). After a few minutes of kneading, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and leave it to rest. I suggest a minimum of 3 hours. You could also prepare the dough in the evening and let it rise overnight. Then it will be ready for baking the next day.

Tip: To see if the dough is ready for baking. Pull some upwards.  If it rips easily it needs to rise a little longer.  A dough that is ready for baking should glide out and not rip straight away. Traditionally you let the dough rise up to 5 times. It sounds complicated, but you let it rise in the bowl and then just take a few minutes to knead it again and let it rise again. It makes sense to make a few bread loafs at the same time.

2) Once the dough is ready,  preheat the oven to 250degree C (480F) and put the empty ovenproof dish with lid into the oven. Yes, that is right – empty to heat it up!

3) Take it out when it is very hot (be careful handling it!) and add some sprinkles of plain flour to cover the bottom of the pan. This is important as otherwise the bread will stick to the pan and it will be hard for it to come out.
Then add the dough. With the mixing spoon create a line in the top of the dough – that is where the crust can rise and sprinkle some plain flour on the top.  Put the lid on and bake the bread (middle shelf) for about 35 minutes.
My Tip: Pour water into an oven dish and put it on the bottom shelf, so the bread bakes it in moist air.

Sourdough starter:

This is an old recipe from my grandmother. In Austria most loaves of bread are sourdoughs and when I was a child I can only ever remember eating sourdough bread. Here is a recipe for your very own sourdough starter. If you put it together today, it will take a minimum of 9 days before you can use it. But once you have started, you can keep your sourdough going for years. If fact, if it is fed regularly, it gets better and better. My current one is about 3 years old. You can then give part of your starter away to friends – to give them a headstart in their own process.

What is sourdough? 
In essence, it is a fermented dough that you add to your bread mixture before baking.
The reason it has become so popular is that it tastes so good as well as being beneficial for your digestion. Sourdough contains strains of the helpful lactobacillus, also called the friendly gut bacteria. If you suffer frequently from bloating or even IBS, switching to sourdough from a conventional bread might be a good move.

Here is how to make the starter: 
You will need 250ml of milk, 250ml water, 1 tbsp of sugar, 2.5 teaspoons of dry yeast, and 450g of plain flour.  If you are lactose-intolerant try to do just warm water instead.

Warm the milk to almost boiling and add the water and sugar. When the temperature has cooled to 40degreeC (105F) add the yeast. Cook at a very low temperature for about 5-10 minutes. It is important that the yeast starts to foam a little. Pour this mixture into a container that has a lid and add the flour. Mix well. Initially, you need to keep the lid off as it is essential that air can get to your new starter. I suggest you cover it with a tea towel or muslin cloth. Keep it stored in a warm place like an airing cupboard. The warmer the better – around 30C (80F) is ideal. After a day or 2, it starts to bubble. It is important to stir it once or twice a day. Soon a greyish liquid will form on the top – don’t be alarmed. This is absolutely normal and good. Hurrah it’s working!

Once it starts to smell sour – hence sourdough – it is ready to use. Now you can put the lid on and that is how it is stored. If you don’t intend to bake immediately put it in the fridge. There you can keep it literally for years!  Beware it is a live organism and therefore needs the occasional feeding to stay alive.

This is how to do it: Replenish it with 120 ml warm water (4fl oz) and 120g of flour. That’s it. Leave it to bubble up (ideally do this a day before baking and leave it outside). Then return it back into the fridge when it is no longer needed.

If you keep your dough outside, you need to replenish quite regularly (say once a week), when I keep it in the fridge, I only do it sporadically, usually after using it or at least every 2-3 weeks. Even if you don’t use it, it needs the occasional stir otherwise it will separate too much.

Now you are good to go. You can add this sourdough starter to the bread recipe above and you will have baked your first sourdough bread.

 An Introduction to LWTM

Please click this link to find out more about LWTM and holistic lifestyle planning and  download our freebies 

Cooking with the moon

Cooking with the moon

TODAY IS A GREAT TO TO COOK IN BATCHES FOR FREEZING, MAKE  BREAD AND BAKE CAKE AND COOKIES

I read that Mauro Colagreco, owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Mirazur, situated on the French Riviera, has changed his menu post-COVID lockdown.  That would not be surprising for a place listed on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list. But why is it news-worthy? Because he will tailor his offerings in accordance with what the moon is doing.

I am sure many readers thought ‘Ridiculous new fad- what next?’. Well, this ‘fad’ is actually not so new, it is in fact a few thousand years old.

Here is the article 

Mr. Colagreco reasons that he is already using biodynamically grown produce and so he might as well not stop there but carry this method over to the kitchen. Ah, now it makes sense. 

In the Biodynamic garden, one aspect is that the gardener is plants, sows, and carries out any work in accordance with the biodynamic calendar. This has given Biodynamic farming always a ‘woohoo’ appeal, fit for a few crazy souls, but nothing for the sensible masses. But what many don’t realize is that for centuries this was actually THE normal way of farming, nothing ‘woohoo’ about this.

Generations of observations have led to practices which ‘just worked’ – olives picked on certain days had more oil and apples more juice. Spinach sown on this day was less susceptible to disease or grew quicker. The ‘why’ was less questioned, it just was called ‘tradition’ and it worked.  

I assume the menu choices you will see in the near future at Mirazur, will be guided by the change of the moon phases and the elements.  When you take a look at our online calendar The Month Ahead   you will see that each day shows a moon phase (Waxing Moon, Full Moon, Waning Moon or New Moon) and an element (Water, Air, Earth & Fire) and activity symbols that are connected.

These symbols represent the observations that led to the creation of these calendars. But their widespread appeal was (and still is) that they are such great tools to structure time and life.

So what is cooking with the moon?

If you grew up with this ‘way of eating’, then your body is sort of programmed to fancy certain foods at certain times.
I guess this is nature’s way to make sure you get a well-balanced diet. If you have never heard or experienced it, then it does need a bit of time to get used to it. Firstly, you have to ‘detach’ from your current eating habits and ‘re-teach’ your body to develop what I call ‘healthy cravings’ and food management. I am currently working on a program that will teach these steps in more details.

But here is quick intro if you are completly new to this way of cooking and eating.

Eating with the moon cycle:

The Waxing Moon: As the moon grows, so do we. People seem hungrier and gain weight easier. It is a great time for those who find it hard to put weight on (say after an operation) or anorexic.

If you struggle with too much weight, it is crucial that you watch this time. Don’t lose weight, rather stabilize your weight and aim not to gain. Prepare meals that are filling and full of nutrients (fresh, healthy, organic produce is, of course, best) and that contains very little sugar and empty calories, such as white flour.

The Full Moon: Again, it is easier to put weight on, but as it is just a short time, you may as well enjoy it and go for a slap-up meal. Traditionally diets started at Full Moon.

The Waning Moon: Losing weight tends to be easier now.  We are also more active and as a result may eat less, as we are too busy with other things.

If you have no weight issues, just focus on moving more and keep eating a normal, healthy diet. If you need to lose weight, now is your perfect time. These 2 weeks go for it – there are numerous strategies depending on lifestyle habits and body types.

New Moon: Traditionally a rest and fast day. 

Another area are the elements. Each day has a special quality and again you can see this on the calendar which ‘day quality’ is dominant.

Fire – dedicated to fruit – this could be picking, pruning fruit bushes and trees or making jam 

Earth – anything to do with root vegetable and the earth. Digging, weeding harvesting potatoes, sowing carrots, etc.

Air: Anything to do with flowers and oils. Sunflower would be a top example. This is a great time to pick olives and press their oil, incorporate flowers into salads and dishes and eat ‘flowery’ vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.

Water: Leafy vegetables like spinach, all kind of salads and in the garden a great day for planting, fertilising and extra watering.

The reason I combined the gardening and eating is that until very recently you would grow your vegetable, harvest and eat them – usually all on the same day. There were no chest freezer or fridges available. When your trees had an abundance of fruit, you made jams, compotes, cider or stored them in a way that it lasted for a long time.

Root vegetables got pickled or fermented. Freezing is not a bad habit, but it works best if you pick and freeze, so the nutrients stay as fresh as can be. If you take only one thing away – try to eat less, but better and shop for food that is ‘alive’ – ideally grown near you, by an organic or even better biodynamic farmer or grow your own, making sure the soil is a nutritous as possible.

Make your own delicious strawberry jam

Make your own delicious strawberry jam

Strawberry jam

  Early July is a great time to pick strawberries and make jam.  Here is a  delicious recipe for making your own jam. It is quick, easy and home-made jams just taste so good, especially with scones or toast.

Fire Days, in particular when you see the symbol above work really well. This will make sure your jam won’t get mouldy, providing of course you sterilized your equipment correctly!

What do you need to make your own delicious strawberry jam?

A general rule for making jams: Fill your jam glasses with boiling water before use or even better sterilize them in a pressure cooker. If you like making your own jam, then I suggest you keep a pot and cooking spoon just dedicated to this task and make sure that they are both REALLY clean. Done on the right day and with the right method/equipment, you can rest assured that your jam will last and you can make a  good supply for the next couple of month. Home-made jam is to do and makes great presents.

Recipe for simple Strawberry jam:

Equipment needed: 1 large cooking pot and wooden spoon (both very clean), 8-9 medium-sized jam jars (sterilized) or 4-5 large jam jars (sterilized), all jars must have tight-fitting lids. I tea towel. 

Ingredients: 1kg strawberries (washed and stalks removed, 1kg jam sugar, 1 small unwaxed lemon, a small pinch of pepper

  • Sterilize 8 to 9 medium jam jars (or 4-5 larger ones). Put them on a tea towel, so they are ready to receive the hot jam mixture. Make sure you also sterilize the lids as this is often a spot where mould forms.
  • Cut the washed strawberries into small pieces. Then rinse the lemon and grate the rind finely. Finally put the strawberries, grated rind, pepper and sugar in a clean pot and boil for about 4-5 minutes.
  • Pour the jam mixture straightaway into the sterilized jars and cover them tightly with cling film. Then close the lid on top of the cling film. This will give it extra protection.

If there is time you can also bake your scones and enjoy both with a great cup of tea.

Recipe for scones: 

Equipment needed: 2 plastic cake mixing bowls, pastry brush, whisk, baking tray, round pastry cutter

Ingredients:  225g self-raising flour (or 225g of plain flour and 1tsp of baking powder) and a bit extra for dusting, a pinch of salt, 2tbsp caster sugar, 55g butter (bit extra for greasing), 150ml buttermilk, 1 egg (beaten), 50 g of mixed sultanas, raisins or other dried fruit (optional) 

  • Preheat oven to about 200/220 degrees centigrade and grease a baking tray with butter.
  • Pour the flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter using your fingers. You will get a crumbly mixture. Then add the sultanas or other dried fruit.
  • Beat the egg into the buttermilk and add the sugar,  so it becomes a golden coloured mixture.
  • Make a well in the middle of your flour mixture and add the egg/buttermilk/sugar mixture. Work quickly, as speed here is important. You should now have a soft dough.
  • Dust your surface with some flour and shape the dough into an even thickness of about 1cm. With a round pastry cutter, cut out the round scones and place them next to each other on the greased baking sheet. Repeat until the dough is gone.
  • Glaze the scones with a little milk using your pastry brush and bake them for around 10-12 minutes until they have risen and are golden brown.
  • Leave them to cool on a plate and serve with cream, strawberry jam and a good cup of tea. This is a very English way to spend a summer afternoon.

 

7 Tips for staying at home

7 Tips for staying at home

It is currently a strange time. Practically overnight we turned from people with busy lifestyles to sitting at home wondering how to declutter the home, start home-schooling, and wondering how to cut our own hair. I can of course only recount my own experience here. If you are a key worker or medical staff then your life will have been busier than ever.

In London, it all started in mid-March 2020.  At first, my friends and I felt a bit uneasy and anxious about what this new situation will mean for all of us.  How could we avoid catching this dreaded virus?  A few days in, we secretly admitted that the quarantine was not too bad and we started to enjoy these ‘enforced, guiltless pyjama days’.

But there is so long you can sit around in your pjs. After a bit of rest came a rush of decluttering the loft and some obscure bathroom cupboards that had remained untouched for a while. Life felt good and productive.

Week 3 of lockdown. The enforced ‘holiday’ started to wear thin. One of my friends created a WhatsApp meditation group- very enjoyable experience.  I started writing ‘Gardening With The Moon’ (An Introduction to Biodynamic Gardening – which I hope to finish soon) and of course did a fair bit in the garden. We all confessed yo-yo-ing between good and bad days, some faring better than others.

Your experience may, of course, be entirely different. You may not be affected at all or you have lost someone close, in which case accept my sincere condolences.

May was going to be a month full of life, parties and get-toghers. Well, it does not look this way now. But let’s stay positive and use this time constructively. Here are some tasks that we all can do – and they are easy and cheap.

  Tip 1 – Planting herbs

Dig over a  small patch in your garden and plant some herbs. For all those without an outside space, find a window sill that gets some sunshine during the day. There you can grow chives, parsley, basil, mint, or oregano in small pots.

For the garden or slightly bigger pots,  grow dill, rosemary, fennel, or sage.

If you want to have immediate access to herbs I suggest you buy already established herbs in pots. These can be replanted into bigger pot by adding some good quality compost soil or replanted into your herb patch. Make sure you loosen the roots before planting and add some good quality compost (home-made is of course best).

Herbs are very thirsty and will need watering on a daily basis (except of course when it rains).  Make sure you keep the compost moist but not wet – otherwise your plants will drown.  It is wonderful to have an endless supply of fresh herbs for salads,  cooking, and garnishing dishes. Fresh mint or sage make wonderful herbal teas.

My top tip: cut some herbs and put them into an ice-cube tray and add a bit of water. These ‘herb-cubes’ will keep up to 6 months.

Here are some related articles from the LWTM blog series ‘ Cooking with herbs’.

Cooking with Oregano

Cooking With Tarragon

Cooking With Dill

 An Introduction to LWTM

Please click this link to find out more about LWTM and holistic lifestyle planning and  download our freebies 

  Tip 2 – Make your own bread   

It has recently become really popular to make your own artisan bread. I have had breadmakers for years and been doing my own sourdoughs. But here is a quick and easy recipe for all those who want to give it the first try. The recipe below is for a simple and tasty mixed loaf that can be done in any conventional oven. No breadmaker or sourdough needed.

 You will need kitchen scales, the ingredients below, a ceramic dish with a lid (ideally round), a bowl, and a mixing spoon.
Ingredients:  560g wheat flour, 190g rye flour, 550g hot water, 16g salt, some cumin seeds (1/2 a teaspoon should be enough), 3gram of active yeast. You could add some linseeds or other seeds if you like. 

1) weigh all the ingredients and put them together into a big kitchen bowl.  I use a big mixing spoon to blend them together. Then add some flour to your hands and knead the dough.  (please use enough plain flour on your hands, otherwise, the dough will stick to you). After a few minutes of kneading, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and leave it to rest. I suggest a minimum of 3 hours. You could also prepare the dough in the evening and let it rise overnight. Then it will be ready for baking the next day. 

Tip: To see if the dough is ready for baking. Pull some upwards.  If it rips easily it needs to rise a little longer.  A dough that is ready for baking should glide out and not rip straight away. 

2) Once the dough is ready,  preheat oven to 250degree C (480F) and put the empty ovenproof dish with lid into the oven. Yes, that is right – empty to heat it up!

3) Take it out when it is very hot (be careful handling it!) and add some sprinkles of plain flour to cover the bottom of the pan. This is important as otherwise the bread will stick to the pan and it will be hard for it to come out.
Then add the dough. With the mixing spoon create a line in the top of the dough – that is where the crust can rise and sprinkle some plain flour on the top.  Put the lid on and bake the bread (middle shelf) for about 35 minutes.
My Tip: Pour water into an oven dish and put it on the bottom shelf, so the bread bakes it in moist air.

For all my members, I will share with you my grandmother’s sourdough starter in the LWTM May newsletter.

  3. Do some exercise every day

It is amazing how just a few minutes a day can make a big difference. I have started running and do on average 5-6 miles (8k)most mornings. If you think about starting from zero exercises to running a regular 8k then my top tip is to get a Fitbit or device that can monitor your heart rate.  I honestly can say that this was my secret to success.  Start very gently and check your heart rate regularly.  Never go over 160, even if that means walking for a bit until your heart rate has down again to 120/130.  If you keep this under control, you will eventually get better and better. Soon you will run the first few miles and enjoy the experience. Once you made it to 5k (3 miles) and you can enjoy the experience – you are on your way.

You can find a few good apps to help you along. One of them is  5k runner. 

Most evenings I do some yoga exercises.  There are so many great videos on YouTube or find a good yoga/pilates app/book.  It does not have to be super advanced. Make sure you warm up with a gentle stretching program and always include some breathing exercises. Over just a few weeks, a stiff body can transform into a body that is more toned and flexible. Try to keep this up for (ideally) the rest of your life.

Other alternatives are brisk walks or a cycle trip. My teenage son does good oldfashioned plank and sit-ups every day. So find what works for you. But do at least 30min per day. There has never been a better time to start exercising. 

  4. Learn a new skill and develop a new hobby 

With more time on your hands, try to clear 20 minutes each day to learn something new. This could be a language, a skill like knitting, an online course in finance or computing, etc. It does not matter, but make a date with yourself and keep to it. Then set an alarm where you stay (ideally) 20minutes undisturbed. No phone checking, etc. If you look after children, give them something to do (depending of course on the age – otherwise do it when they are in bed). Every day you will advance just a tiny bit further and once you emerge from lock-down, you will feel you have achieved something new with the time you stayed indoors. 

     5. Have a DIY manicure and pedicure 

This month is all about exercise and well-being. A big part is pampering yourself. Show some extra kindness to your body with a home-made pedicure, manicure, face masks, body peeling, or body brushing regime. Look them up on  The Month Ahead 

Look after your feet 

Nail strengthening manicure 

   6. Plan your finances

Now times are uncertain and most of us will suffer a downturn in our finances. This true for everyone – whether your work has stopped or you are lucky enough to be still fully employed working from home. The chance that your disposable income will be squeezed is very likely. Here are a few things to keep you financially safe and sound. 

  • check your income over the last few months and work out your monthly disposable income. This is especially important if you work freelance or have more than one employer. Let’s call this figure 1.
  • add together all your monthly liabilities, rent, electricity, gym membership, etc. Ideally, this should be less than figure 1. If it is not, then you need to take action now.  What can you cut?  
  • check over all the financial products that you have. Life insurance, medical care, mortgage, credit cards, etc. Are you still on track, is this product still fit for purpose? It never harms to shop  around for a better deal. Remember, a lot has changed over the last month, so now is a good time for assessing your current situation. If you find yourself in financial troubles, don’t hide, but get in touch with your bank as soon as possible. They may be able to help you by arranging a payment holiday.
  • When money does come in (and try to keep to this formula from now onwards) divide all your income into 4 pots.
    50% expenses (living costs) – 20% to put aside for investments –  20% goes straight into a savings account that is easily accessible (for tax, unforeseen costs, extra necessary purchases)  and 10% for charity/good causes. This is a good formula. However, you can adjust it to your own needs, but make sure that there is always an element of saving and investing there, even if it is 5%. As over time these small sums will add up. 

  7. Meditate and rest for a few minutes each evening/morning

As I mentioned above, about 3 weeks ago I started to participate in a meditation group. Every evening before going to bed – I  took out 15minutes. This is the ultimate me-time.  Banishing all thoughts, just concentrating on my breath and ‘rest’.

At first, I participated only as a goodwill gesture to my friend who took the time to create this group. But after a few days, I really started to enjoy the process and looked forward to these precious 15minutes of productive rest.

I think this is especially useful if you have anxious thoughts and find it hard to get a good night’s sleep. If that is you, I really recommend drinking a cup of chamomile tea before going to bed and then listen to very calming music or a meditation app.

If you are a morning person, you may prefer to follow a meditation program just before getting up.  This will prepare you mentally for the day ahead.

If you have never tried meditation before, check out some good apps like Headspace – they usually have trial periods, so you don’t have to pay to give it a go.

You will see that anxiety levels will drop and some problems all of a sudden seem to solve themselves. Your unconscious mind is very powerful.

Back in January, I wrote this article The importance of resting. Of course, I did not have the faintest idea that ‘resting’ would take on such a new meaning. Especially for people employed in the travel and hospitality industry. However, there is a difference between ‘slouching on the sofa’ and ‘conscious resting’. If you have not read it before, please have a look.

So I hope one or the other tips will enrich your ‘lock-down life’.  If you have any other good lock-down tips – please get in touch and I am happy to mention them (with or without your mention – up to you).  Please stay all safe and well – and look after yourself!

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