Day 36 of Project Happiness – Storms and stuff

Status (Yesterday)

  • Meditate for 2 Minutes – Yes
  • Write about something positive for 20 minutes – Yes
  • 5 random acts of kindness per week  – 1/5
  • Take 3 x 30 minute walks per week – 1/3
  • Unnecessary items bought – 0
  • Total car miles saved – 70

Wow!  Just wow.  Our world is such an awesome place to live.  After a very muggy day yesterday we had just the most amazing storm.  Crazy crazy rain like a monsoon, and thunder and lightening that was indeed “very very frightening”, or so mini EN thought anyway.  Eldest EN sproglet and myself were at the yard so she could have a riding lesson with my trainer, and the thunder was so loud the walls were vibrating with it.  Fortunately pony was very well behaved, and just his ears showed that he was a little apprehensive at times. When we went to put the horses back out in the field, there was a lightening bolt which forked across the whole sky.  It made both of us ‘Wow!’ out loud (WOL?) and made sproglet muse where thunder comes from.  What a silly question!  It’s storm giants of course!!

Today, the weather has been calmer, as has work.  I’m actually feeling on top of the world currently.  Lots of positive things happening at work which has really turned things round for me, still as busy as ever, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel now.  I’ve started doing some of my meetings as walking meetings to make the most of the sunshine which I’ve been really enjoying. sun1 At home, I have so much to look forwards to, visiting friends and family, a training course next week which involves boats 🙂 , and I’m taking the kids pony out to an event to hopefully prove that he is a good boy and can do it, so next time they can do it on him.  Fingers crossed.  Also, all the rain from the storm has really perked some of my plants up, and they seem to have grown twice the size in just a couple of days 🙂

Tried some more of the quinoa chips from Eat Real today, this time the sun dried tomato and roasted garlic flavour.  Delicious.  So much so that I went and left a positive review on their website.  Random act of kindness – check! 🙂  Much better than the packet Ainsley Harriet cous cous which I took in a panic as I hadn’t prepared anything in time.  Very meh.

I’ve also been a bit concerned with some of the studies on vegan diets which I’ve been reading, and the lack of certain vitamins (B12) and iodine in the common diet.  On reading the natural ways of putting them back in your diet, I’ve decided that iodine I’m going to struggle with full stop, and the other vits will be hit and miss, so I’ve started taking a multi vitamin supplement from Healthspan, which is specifically for Vegetarians and Vegans.  One of the claims it makes is that B12 can help with :

the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and the production of energy-yielding metabolism.

Sounds mighty fine to me 🙂  I’ll report back if I notice a difference.


I’ve also found this Early Retirement Extreme blog, which looks fascinating.  I’m really really keen to become FIRE, but Mr EN isn’t as motivated as me.  I’m hoping this blog and forum will help us on our way.  It’s tricky as without the ponies we could do things so much quicker, but the kids just get so much from them, and it gets them away from the computer and out into the real world, that I’m just not willing to give that up.

Today’s plant based diet has gone well, however, I have a small dilemma as every now and again I like a couple of squares of chocolate with a cuppa in the evening.  I have some very low fructose chocolate but the milk obviously does have milk in it.  I need a low sugar, dairy free milk chocolate – any suggestions?

Today :

  • Breakfast – Bagel with cream cheese – how long does the violife cream cheese last?  This is our second week now(!)
  • Snack – Eat real quinoa chips and an apple
  • Lunch – Half a baguette and some packet cous cous.  Not the most nutritious!
  • Snack – Carrot cake
  • Dinner – Fajitas with peppers, mushrooms, onions, black beans, spices, salad and rice. Yum!

Day 35 of Project Happiness -Working from home

Status (Yesterday)

  • Meditate for 2 Minutes – Yes
  • Write about something positive for 20 minutes – Yes
  • 5 random acts of kindness per week  – 0/5
  • Take 3 x 30 minute walks per week – 1/3
  • Unnecessary items bought today – 0
  • Total car miles saved – 70 (10 today)

I worked from home yesterday.  It’s something I do every now and again because I have a health appointment, or one of the kids are ill, or maybe something needs doing on the house.  Yesterday was because I had another osteo appointment.  I spent the first part of the morning working from the kitchen which felt cold and dull, but when I went out for my osteo I realised what an utterly glorious day it was.  So, on my return I cleared off the outside table, put the parasol up, and set up camp outside.  What a revelation!  The parasol we have for that table is a good size, and shielded the sun nicely meaning for once I could see my screen properly.  It was so good to be sat there, with a gentle breeze, the birds tweeting, the rabbit stretched out on the grass sunning himself, and my plants all around to admire.  Very relaxing.  I did get a few comments on conference calls about my very noisy budgies(!) but other than that just envy if I revealed where I was 🙂

It also meant I could go for a walk at lunch time with Mr EN in the sun.  Almost felt like I was on holiday!

When the kids came home they immediately joined me outside.  Mini EN persuaded varying people to play giant chess with her until dinner time, and the elder 2 either obliged her or revised for exams.

I took eldest EN sproglet for a ride in the evening, and the ponies were in a very chilled out mood as well.  Back home I planted out the rest of my plants finally, so at last feel the garden is all sorted.  My raised bed is a bit of a disaster, I think it needed another 5 bags of compost on top, and more digging in.  Add to that the slugs and snails have had a field day despite my best efforts to stop them, and it’s looking a bit sad and sorry.  But I’m sure I’ll get something out, and it’ll be better next year.

Dinner was my first ever courgetti spaghetti.  I cooked it with some extra veg and left over pesto, and I’m going to be honest, it tasted a bit weird.  It’s a ‘free from’ pesto, but tasted fine the other night, so I’m not sure if it had gone a bit funny, or if I just don’t like courgetti spaghetti?!

Have to update quickly too on my carrot cake.  It is LUSH!!  Definitely the best vegan cake I’ve made so far.  I found the recipe here -> and modified it just a little to have less fructose, by swapping out the maple syrup for brown rice malt syrup and the sugar for dextrose.  Absolutely fabulous 🙂

Last time I went shopping I bought some (vegan) Sour Cream & Chives flavour Quinoi Chips to try as a snack from Eat Real.  I can report back today that they are very tasty, and will definitely buy them again in the future.


Today I’m back at work.  I made the most of the lovely weather again and cycled in, but just took the short route due to being slightly concerned for my neck still.  It was sore by the end but nothing major.  Hoping it won’t keep me up again as I’m struggling to stay awake currently due to not sleeping brilliantly.  However, it does mean I go for more walks in the sun to wake me up which is a nice bonus.  Have to admit to wishing I was back home in my garden though 🙂

Plant based diet (Yesterday)

  • Breakfast – Bagel with cream cheese
  • Snack – Green smoothie – spinnach, blueberries, banana, peach, summer fruit
  • Lunch – Leftover nut roast and cauliflower cheese, plus tortillas and humus cos I still felt a bit hungry(!)
  • Snack – Carrot Cake!
  • Snack – Tortillas and hummus (I’m addicted)
  • Dinner – Courgetti Spaghetti

Day 33 of Project Happiness – Homestead

Status (Yesterday)

  • Meditate for 2 Minutes – Yes
  • Write about something positive for 20 minutes – Yes
  • 5 random acts of kindness per week  – 3/5
  • Take 3 x 30 minute walks per week – 1/3
  • Unnecessary items bought today – 0
  • Total car miles saved – 60

What a busy day I’ve had today!!  Today I had earmarked as a nothing day.  I had visions of me sat on the sofa with a cuppa and my book, maybe nibbling on some home made cake.  Well, I should have known better! 🙂

I *did* get a lie in, as I didn’t wake up until 9am so that was a great start.  A quick brekkie and then it was straight down the yard with mini EN to give her a lesson.  We spent a bit of time with the ponies first, gave them a good groom and fuss, and then into the school.  Mini EN didn’t feel as well as she hoped, so her ride was cut a bit short, but all in all a lovely way to spend the morning.

Home for lunch, then prep’d for Sunday lunch which is a bit of a marathon atm because :

  • Mr EN is coeliac
  • Mini EN is veggie
  • I am trying to adhere to a plant based diet

So we had a roast chicken, bacon and chipolatas for some, a nut roast (my first ever) for mini EN and me, a gf cauliflower cheese for everyone other than me, a vegan cauliflower cheese for me, roast spuds, and a selection of veg, plus two different types of gravy.  Got that in the oven and then nipped out to buy some plants as my tomatos haven’t grown so well.  Ended up buying a bit more than I anticipated and after dinner planted some tomato plants, potted out the cucumbers that mini EN has grown, and sewed some beans and squash.  Still have some lettuce to sew, and the courgettes and peppers to plant out, and a purple sweet potato plant that I’m very excited about!


After that I’ve made my first ever low fructose vegan carrot cake which is in the oven atm and smells divine.  Fingers crossed!  Also made some vegan smoothie ice lollies with rice milk, banana, peach and summer fruits.  Looking forwards to trying them.

During all of this the sun shone, and mini EN and middle sproglet played giant chess in the garden.  Blissful Sunday 🙂

Plant based diet today

  • Breakfast – Weetabix with rice milk (very sweet, like I had sugar on it!), bagel with vegan cream cheese
  • Snack – Half a vegan smoothie left over from making ice lollies
  • Lunch – wrap with avocado, falafel, spinach
  • Snack – Home made ginger oat cookies
  • Snack – tortillas and humus
  • Dinner – Roast

Day 20 of Project Happiness – Confidence


  • Meditate for 2 minutes – 
  • Write about something positive for 20 minutes – 
  • 5 random acts of kindness per week – 0/5😦
  • Take 3 x 30 minute walks per week – 2/3
  • Unnecessary items bought today – 0
  • Total car miles saved – 40

Didn’t manage to blog yesterday, so suffice it to say I didn’t write something positive for 20 minutes, or do any of the other things I should  have done.  However,  had a very busy and satisfying day, picked up my landy which has had the head gasket replaced and is now running fairly smoothly again, did a couple of hours of karate,  including some doing some kata teaching,  a bit of shopping for the necessary items for the kids, and took middle EN sproglet to see the John Le Carre film, ‘Our kind of traitor‘.  Actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and sproglet thought it was great.  I was pleased to realise quite early on that the main character was ‘Bootstrap Bill Turner’ from Pirates of the Caribbean, as it’s so frustrating when you’re not able to place someone!  Added bonus was that I got  the tickets as part of my Vitality Life insurance 🙂

Today has been fairly chilled.  Took youngest sprog to a pony club rally and it was fantastic!  She has been very nervous in the past, especially after a particularly nasty experience with a different pony which rodeo’d her off and broke her arm, requiring an operation.  Today she was  like a different girl.  Lots of canter work and even some tiny jumps.  Yay!! I was very very proud of her, and the grin on her face was just super to see. Took eldest EN sprog for a driving lesson and am currently sat here with my henna in my hair and the whole caboodle wrapped in clingfilm (a super sexy look!)  I actually hate the smell of henna, so have added cinnamon, cloves, ginger and made it with camomile tea.  I smell rather  pungent atm, but not hugely like henna so fingers crossed.  I also have a loaf in the oven (made with local flour, brown rice syrup instead of sugar, and olive oil instead of butter) which is smelling divine 🙂

Some more good news has been that my plants are growing!!  My potatoes are really coming along strongly, I have basil and sage seeds sprouting, cabbage, spinach and cauliflower seedlings coming through, and some  peas!!  Sadly still no sign of any of my peppers and tomatoes though 😦  Not giving up on them though.

Vegan diet is back on track again now.  Still eating eggs (and some fish) for the time  being though.

  • Breakfast – Scrambled eggs on toast (made with sunflower spread and soy milk)
  • Lunch – Humus and slow roasted tomato sarnies (Nom nom)
  • Snack – Crisps
  • Dinner – Pasta with tomato sauce; red onions, mushrooms and tuna.


Day 17 of Project Happiness – This ‘n’ that


  • Meditate for 2 minutes – 
  • Write about something positive for 20 minutes – 
  • 5 random acts of kindness per week – 0/5😦
  • Take 3 x 30 minute walks per week – 2/3
  • Unnecessary items bought today – 0
  • Total car miles saved – 40 (10 today)

Positives for today are a little tricky.  We’re currently down visiting family for a funeral tomorrow.  However, it is good to catch up with folks, and it’s lovely to see the family all rallying round.

My poorly broken landy is now fixed again, and will be ready to pick up on Saturday.  Just a case of trying to cobble together the money.

I’ve managed to catch up on a few bits of admin, put in a claim for two refunds owed and cleared my work email box from 600 down to less than 50!  Whoop!

Cycled to and from work today, and am enjoying it so much that I have planned out a route which goes all the way from home to work, instead of my half way point from the yard.  It’s over 13m each way, whereas normally I only do 12 total, so I’m a bit worried about what it’ll do to my shoulder.  However,

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.”
Rikki Rogers

So I’m going to give it a go, on a day with suitably cheery weather.

Oooh, another positive I’ve just remembered, is that my potatoes are coming up, and so is my thyme!  My peas kind of raised to the surface, so I’ve sprinkled some more compost on top.  Fingers crossed I get some more coming up soon 🙂

Vegan(ish) Diet – epic fail today.  What with trying to do a full day of work, sort out ponies, and travel down to family, along with a lack of preparation, meant I didn’t have dinner planned so Mr EN just bought me a pizza 😦  However, I think I have found some cheese to make them myself in the future, so we’ll see how that goes!!

  • Breakfast – Scrambled eggs and mushrooms on toast
  • Snack – Banana and satsuma
  • Lunch – Marmite sandwich, carrot sticks and humus
  • Snack – Banana muffin (vegan)
  • Dinner – Pizza (blush)


Day 12 of Project Happiness – Super Saturday!


  • Meditate for 2 minutes – 
  • Write about something positive for 20 minutes – 
  • 5 random acts of kindness per week – 2/5
  • Take 3 x 30 minute walks per week – 0/3
  • Unnecessary items bought today – 0
  • Total car miles saved – 20

Happiness is :

  • 2 hours of karate, including some sparring, some bo work and a run through of the katas.  Awesome way to spend a Saturday morning!
  • An afternoon in the garden planting.   Some of it I think isn’t likely to grow as I’ a bit late with it due to just being so crazy busy, but thought it worth a try.  Also relocated my (plastic) greenhouse to a better location which I’m hoping will help.  Today I’ve sown :
    • Peas (2 varieties)
    • Tomatos (3 varieties)
    • Cabbages
    • Cauliflower
    • Spinnach
    • Sweet Peppers
    • Jalepeno Peppers
    • Hot peppers
    • More mint
    • Carrots
    • Celery
  • Being bought flowers by my gorgeous middle EN sprog, “just because” 🙂 🙂 🙂
  • Going for a drink in the sun with my EN on the way to doing the ponies.
  • Family games night.

What a super day.  Even being punched very hard in the nose by a blackbelt (luckily with gloves on) who doesn’t understand the concept of taking turns, and whacking myself in the knee with the bo, hasn’t taken the shine off of it.

With regards to the walking, although I haven’t *been* on any specific 30 minute walks,  it’s rare that I do under 10,000 steps a day, so generally do around 5 miles or so on a normal day.  However, I do want to get out on some more walks with Mr EN.

Vegan diet was a mixed bunch today :

  • Breakfast – scrambled eggs (made with soy milk) on toast.  Eggs just seem healthy, especially as these come from a local farm where they roam freely.  I can’t seem to make myself feel bad eating them but I am certainly eating a LOT less now.
  • Lunch – Freekah salad, totally vegan, with some jalepeno bread
  • Snack – crisps and a alcohol free beer whilst gardening 🙂
  • Dinner – Veggie chilli, jalepeno and cheddar bread 😦 with vegan spread, followed by melon and pineapple for pudding.

EN – very happy 🙂

Purpose and Food

This week has been a busy one for me (not unusually to be fair) but work has provided it’s fair share of challenges this week, leaving me feeling washed up and demotivated.  I am seriously lacking in mojo currently 😦

However, that is no excuse to be sitting on ones laurels, so I have been getting on with the day to day chores, and trying to catch up on finishing the book I’ve borrowed from my colleague.  The former of these two tasks has taught me one invaluable lesson; always have a spare meal in the cupboard.  On Wednesday I tried to make vegetarian meatballs.  On the face of it they sounded nice.  Grated sweet potato, carrots and parsnips mixed with beans and spices and flour, fried then baked in the oven in a sauce made with roasted cherry tomatos and roasted garlic.  However, when you forget to grind the fennel seeds you toasted, discover you have run out of butter beans and chickpea flour, so make do with black eyed beans and some alternative flour (I forget which, I fear I’m traumatised), the result it transpires, is a culinary disaster of epic proportions.  They were, in a word, minging!  I ate mine (mixed with feta to hide the taste) out of sheer bloody mindedness, as I didn’t want to waste the food or the effort, but the rest of the family admitted defeat, and it was a merry dinner of cheese and biscuits in the end.

The other task, finishing the book, is proving a slower task than original anticipated.  I’m reading Your Money or Your Life, and so far am really enjoying it.  I love putting an actual real value on your hourly wage, and then working out how much life energy you need to give to buy each item.  It certainly provides a fresh and different perspective on the value of *stuff*.

I have also enjoyed the exercises to determine what drives your life.  Remembering what your dreams as a child were (to be a vet – not clever enough) and figuring out what is actually  important now (family, the environment).  One question was, what would I do if I knew I only had a year to live.  My immediate answer was to spend as much time as possible with my family, which definitely wouldn’t involve work.  I have come to the sad realisation that I’ve spent the last 20 years building up my career, and I now don’t want it.  I want to be a home maker, the very thing I had been determined not to be as a child.  We, or at least I, was bought up to believe that there was no value in that.  Now I strongly disagree.   We are losing, or indeed have already lost, all the skills our previous generation cherished and handed down.  If the food crises does come about, how many of us will be able to support ourselves?  I am trying to grow food at present, to try and supplement that which I have to buy, but last time I tried this I found myself with gluts of produce which I either gave or threw away.  My grandmother would have know how to preserve and keep these for the winter months when there is no fresh produce. I don’t.  I’m relying on books and blogs.  We need to regain these skills, and pass them on to our children.  I strongly believe that we live in a charmed age, but are by and large, unaware of how fortunate we are.  There are many different predictions of how the future may pan out, one popular one being the passing of peak oil causing a food crisis.  This paper from 2007 talks about the impact and gives these figures;

While food exports from the UK have increased significantly since 1961, from 2 million tonnes to 15 million tonnes in 2000, the value of these exports is declining. And the UK still imports almost twice the amount of food it exports, with imports growing significantly in value and weight. In 1980 the UK trade gap in food, feed and drink was £3.5 billion. This increased to £5.9 billion in 1990, £8.3 billion in 1999, £10 billion in 2002 and £12.2 billion in 2004. More recently the trade gap widened by 11% in just 12 months

This is disturbing news, especially when you see stories like this, where farmers are having to deal with surplus stock due to low demand.

The paper regarding peak oil impact also states;

Transport, because of its almost complete dependence on fuels from crude oil, is very vulnerable to decline in availability of cheap oil.

We need to invest as a country in our agriculture to support our farmers and maximise our food production.  However, we are still struggling with our milk farmers being paid a pittance for their milk.  There have been recent rumours that Tescos have changed their milk supply chain, which used to be a straight 50:50 split between Muller and the Farmers cooperative, to be 100% Muller.  This is a huge blow to our farmers.  I have take the step of buying all of my milk now from our local farm shop, which supplies milk direct from the local dairy.  There is also the sticky question of whether or not to stay in the EU, with opinions fiercely divided on what would be best for British Farmers :

In addition to the energy crisis, there are also concerns regarding the ever increasing population, along with new strands of rust disease in wheat, blue tongued virus in sheep (caused by insects) and the decline of bees and other insects which we depend upon to pollinate our crops.

UK food security threat

However, there are many alternative, but equally as dismal theories, such as the Limits to Growth book and subsequent review, which suggests we are going to run out of resources which will trigger a massive population crash. See the Guardian’s piece on it here.

Whichever theory you believe, one thing shines through to me and that is we ought to be becoming more self sufficient as a country, and I believe that needs to start at the grass roots level, i.e. us.  We need to lead the way and support our country.  Some important ways which I see we can start this are :

  • Buy local. I get my eggs from a farm in the next village, but the lovely lady delivers them every Saturday.  I get my veg, flours and meat (for Mr EN and the 2 elder girls) from my local farm shop or butchers.  I try to avoid Tescos like the plague.  And buy seasonal.  Get used to planning what you cook around what is available.
  • Cook!  And teach your children to cook.  Don’t rely on ready meals.  Cook your own.  Much healthier and tastier (unless you make veggie meatballs!).  And it doesn’t have to be time consuming.
  • Grow your own.  Everyone can do some growing, whether it is just a few herbs and come again lettuce on the window sill, with maybe a couple of pots of tomatos and strawberries on the patio, to a fully converted oasis of food production.  Every little helps, and will teach you and your children valuable skills should the worst come to the worst.
  • Community.  Get to know your community, know where there is local produce available.  Do swaps for seeds, vegetable gluts etc at work or down your local.

Our economy is in tatters.  We should be supporting it, not the economy of Japan, or China or New Zealand.

Anyway, I have finished my lunch (home made bread made with local flour, locally produced salad, and cheese, followed up by home made anzac cookies – yum!) so I’m off.


Raised Beds

So, in my quest to grow my own vegetables, a little creativity is needed as the house we are in atm has two disadvantages:

  1. The garden is small.
  2. It’s fully landscaped leaving little room for our veggie friends.

Actually, there is a third disadvantage.  Mr EN thinks that I don’t have enough time to scratch my skinny arse let alone build raised beds and grow food.  He also likes the current low maintenance aspect of it.

However, I am very stubborn persuasive and so currently have this sat in the back garden :


The lovely farmer where I keep my ponies has said that I can have as many of these as I like, so the plan is on Saturday I’m going to start turning them into raised beds.  Now, the last time I did woodwork was at school, so this is unlikely to be a quick, or pretty process, but I’m hoping it will be worth the effort.  I am also going to be using some of it to make a bird box as we’re trying to encourage more wildlife into the garden and youngest daughter is very keen to be involved in this 🙂