Home & Garden

This section houses DIY project ideas, home-cooking and clean eating recipes, gardening tips and family time topics for both in the home and days out together.

Up until moving into our new home in November 2018, eating together at the table as a family wasn’t something we ever did but I can honestly say that it’s fast become a favourite part of my day and is a great way to check in with those closest to me.

I have to admit, apart from our youngest child, Mia, none of the family seemed particularly taken with the idea when I first suggested it. To their credit and my surprise, however, they’ve all fully embraced the concept and now it’s something that is done as a matter of course without even thinking about it, regardless of who’s on dinner duty that night!

A key part of our family’s move in this direction has been a better awareness and focus on the food we eat and fuel our bodies with. This all started with a book from the library which introduced us to the idea of “clean eating” whole, minimally processed foods as much as possible. We were amazed at the difference this made in just a few short weeks to our enjoyment of not only mealtimes themselves but to meal prep too (which up until then was not something I was particularly fond of!).

Over the last few years, other related matters such as getting into gardening and our growing concerns on issues such as climate change and the environments we spend time in, both in and outside of our home, have really helped us as a family develop a happier, healthier routine around our Home & Garden. This has most definitely provided us with a more rounded knowledge, understanding and practice of how these things affect not only our physical bodies, but our minds, emotions and spiritual connection to ourselves, one another and the world around us too.

Moving into our new home recently at the end of 2018 and having a larger garden, a more vibrant and noticeable wildlife as well as taking an interest in our new neighbourhood, have provided us all with a better peace of mind and awareness of the little things we can do (and enjoy doing!) to vastly improve our own lives in these areas.

Why not take a look at our features on the page around recipes, gardening, home and family life together with environmental issues to see which ideas appeal to you?

Zero Waste

Zero Waste

I recently came across the term “Zero Waste” whilst scrolling through Pinterest one night. It’s a simple idea at heart – do whatever you can to reduce the rubbish you personally are responsible for sending through to landfills – sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Whilst as a family we’ve been recycling for years with paper and card in the blue bin, plastic and glass in the black one, food and garden waste in the brown bin and a small green bin for landfill waste, as a society I think most people would agree that we are a very wasteful one, so used to disposing of anything no longer of any use to us, without much thought as to environmental impact.

The good news is that society’s views do seem to be changing albeit slowly. I remember finding out about our local authority implementing changes in rubbish disposal and recycling a decade ago and thinking it was great. I also remember hearing a lot of people complaining about not having the time to do it, as well as prophecies that the streets would be overflowing with rubbish and rats would be everywhere. Fast-forward 10 years and I doubt many of those same people think twice now when organising their waste as it’s now second-nature, well-ran generally and completely free to do.

Another recent edition to our changing views in society on the topic would be ridding our supermarkets and shops of plastic bags. Again a simple but effective idea that we can all do relatively easily and cheaply. This initiative started in the UK on 5 October 2015 and whilst for our first few shopping trips we would frequently forget to bring the bags at all, or leave them in the car, it didn’t take long for it again to be second-nature to think before leaving the house whether it was worth bringing a bag “just in case!”

For someone like me, just starting off on my zero waste adventure, it’s little changes like these which I intend to start with. The obvious one that many of us already do would be to replace single-plastic use water bottles/cups with reusable and environmentally-friendly glass or stainless steel alternatives. Similarly, investing in a reusable coffee cup is another straightforward example.

Another good place to start is asking yourself before binning, or even recycling, whether or not the item could be re-used by you or someone else. I did this in the last fortnight with an empty glass coffee jar that I’ve given a new lease of life to by filling it with dried raspberry leaves picked from my garden to make raspberry leaf tea with. Before hearing about “zero waste”, I would have probably recycled the coffee jar and then without thinking ordered some mason jars from Amazon for my tea – what a waste! When you think of the carbon footprint those sort of mindless acts cause – even just the petrol delivering the item to my door – when all the time I already had the perfect jar sitting in my kitchen, it’s very humbling to me.

The other area where we can make more mindful choices would be when we are out purchasing new items. Supermarkets and sellers are becoming more aware as they wake up to the fact that having so much unnecessary packaging is becoming a concerning issue for many of us. As consumers we can become more mindful by just thinking whether or not we need an item before buying and if so whether there is a better, greener alternative available instead. This could mean buying more durable, longer-lasting products instead of cheap, disposable plastic goods or opting for the bread wrapped in recyclable packaging instead of non-recyclable or buying second-hand from a charity shop (using your reusable shopping bag!) or a social media site instead of buying new.

I am right at the start of my zero-waste journey and know that there is so much more that I could do to improve in this area. The trick for me is to implement just a couple of smaller changes at a time and work my way up to bigger changes that will make more of an impact.

If there was one thing that you could change today to start your journey to zero waste what would it be?

Clean Eating

Clean Eating

Eating “clean”, in a nutshell, is really just about eating our food in as close to its natural state as possible with minimal processing.

When I first became interested in this approach to food, my first question was what did “processing” mean? My research led to my understanding that what was trying to be limited by clean eating was refined sugars and the like but technically, even cooking our food, is processing it.

Some people really take it to the extremes, juicing and fasting for days, or completely eliminating certain food types such as grains. As with everything else on this site, I found that what worked for me was more of a balanced approach.

Whilst there are some weeks I do really well with the clean eating approach to food, effortlessly enjoying my time in the kitchen, making yummy, healthy salads, pasta or soups and feeling a real sense of pride in what I’ve made and feeling great from all the fresh fruit and veg, other times, I lose all motivation for it and it’s an effort just to get one of my five a day! What’s important is to not get down on yourself because you’ve “gotten off track”. Recognise that’s the case and slowly start re-introducing healthier options into your day until you find it effortless again.

Clean eating also includes, where possible, opting for the organic option so as to avoid taking unnecessary chemicals and toxins into our bodies. I don’t buy organic every time, I’m simply more mindful when I am out shopping to do a quick comparison as to the costs of both organic and non-organic and if the cost is negligible then I’d opt for organic.

Filtered water is another easy way of starting your clean eating journey – I use a Brita filtered jug which was relatively inexpensive and just needs the filter replacing every 4 weeks or so.

I know that before I started clean eating, I often made the excuse that I didn’t have time to cook from scratch after coming in from work and, to be fair, some nights, I really don’t. Other times though, if I’m honest, I was just throwing convenience food in the oven because it was “easier”. No one ever really showed me how to cook/prep food and I was not at all confident in the kitchen – I’m still not! However, every time I made something easy but successful like my first ever home-made soup, Leek and Sweet Potato Soup, I became a little more confident and motivated. Sometimes I’ve been amazed how much quicker, easier and tastier it’s been to throw some wholemeal noodles or pasta in a pan whilst chopping tomatoes, olives, avocado and grabbing a handful of spinach before adding my own dressing from a lemon and a splash of red-wine vinegar and voilà – a healthy home-made meal before the oven has time to warm up! Chuck in some feta cheese and you’ve a pretty balanced plate.

I use Pinterest for my inspiration for clean eating ideas – see my Clean Eating board at

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/HolisticLivingWithCarla/clean-eating/ – feel free to follow Holistic Living With Carla. I have used other sites like BBC Good Food but I find some of the terminology intimidating for someone as green as me in the kitchen plus I like to keep my recipes low-key in terms of how many ingredients I’m using as a rule so I don’t scare myself or cost myself a fortune.

Recently I found myself unexpectedly toying with the idea of vegetarianism, not something that I ever really considered at all and yet I was completely serious. My thoughts on this are more in respect of the environmental impact that rearing animals for food has on the planet in all honesty but I’m starting slowly with trying part-time vegetarianism. I currently aim for around 2 days per week, totally meat-free.

If you’re interested in “cleaning up” your diet, why not think which of these ideas might work for you and your family? What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another – it may just be switching from white bread, rice and pasta to brown wholemeals to begin with and then – who knows?!

Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs

As you may have seen from our recent posts, we’ve recently become the proud owners of two guinea pigs, Gerald and Gizmo.

We have had guinea pigs and a rabbit before so have a fair idea of what’s involved. I can’t wait to get to know our little pigs better and get to see their individual characters.

Already they seem to have a routine and it’s only been a few days which I’m taking to be a good sign that they’ve settled into their new surroundings well.

We’ve an open kitchen/dining area that’s fairly large so we’ve chosen to place them on the opposite side away from the dining table and so far, they seem to be most active when we’re all sat in there each evening, cooking tea and eating together. Guinea pigs are known for being sociable pets and it’s really nice chatting away, hearing them squeaking or running about in the background.

So far, they’ve enjoyed being treated to a strawberry or two and a handful of spinach. I’ve been reading an interesting article on the PDSA site about strategically hiding bits of food for them to hunt out as a bit of a game-like replication of what life in the wild would be like for them.

Probably the most time-consuming part of having guinea pigs is the time involved in cleaning them out and keeping on top of cage maintenance. Whilst these are great pets to have in the home where a dog or cat is not possible, and it’s great for children to learn how to care for a pet, we know from experience that children will often need adult help with their pet responsibilities so do bear that in mind if you’re thinking of investing in your own little pigs.

No doubt more articles on Gerald and Gizmo will follow – they’re due a check up in the next few days with the vet just to make sure that they’re doing fine. I’ll pop a post on then to update you on their progress!

Garden & Wildlife

Garden & Wildlife

Moving to our new home has really helped us connect with our surroundings.

Not only are we lucky enough to have a large garden with active wildlife including butterflies, bees, birds, squirrels and even fox cubs, we also live close to natural beauty spots meaning wildlife is on our doorstep pretty much all of the time.

I’ve downloaded the free i-naturalist app which I highly recommend for those of you wanting to find out more about wildlife in your area as it comes up with useful suggestions as to what the app thinks you’ve taken a picture of as well as a vibrant online community who will make suggestions to you. If two or more people agree on the species identity, your photo will be bumped up to research grade for use by scientists. Talk about feeling a part of something bigger!

This app has totally inspired me to take walks in my local neighbourhood to see what I could spot and Mia loved it too! Fresh air, no internet (I take photos and upload later), peace and quiet, surrounded by nature all for free and easily accessible. It’s even contributed to this site – the photo of the forget-me-nots above was taken by myself on said walks!

I’ve recently looked into making my own herbal teas from the plants in my garden too. I’ve already spotted nettles in one patch that could be tamed down a bit as well as cutting the raspberry plant back and using its leaves in my own home-made herbal tea. That’s led to me reusing an old cleaned out coffee jar as a raspberry leaf tea jar and for me is what holistic living is all about – taking all these different areas of your life and integrating them in a way that helps you feel nourished and connected.

How could you adapt this to your own interests? Let me know in the comments below.

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