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The Herb Book

Updated on September 11, 2013

Simple Living

Hi, I have changed my life .... I did this for my family and because I was getting lost in the rat race. I now bake my own bread, grow loads of different herbs and vegetables, and I make things. I want my kids to know that there is more to life than an iPhone or computer games - I love that they enjoy growing things and that they are happiest when they are outside.

Unfortunately, I did not wake up one morning with all the required skills - so it has been a learning curve, but one which I have thoroughly enjoyed.

About me

Hi,

I am the mother of two small boys. There was a time when I thought that I could bring them up in a city, but it soon became clear that they simply were not designed for it. As a result I headed out of town and looked to find some other ways of earning a living and most importantly of finding ways to feed, clothe and entertain them which were wholesome, recession proof and mega fun. Here is one of our successful projects: Plants for Kids

The results of our changes have been amazing. The boys are super happy, they are fit, and the love the outdoors.

As a family we spend hours walking in woods or along rivers, they are happy to collect stones, leaves, and poke around nature. They see the little things which I had forgotten about during adulthood. They see the world in wonder, and my husband and I get to watch this inspirational attitude everyday of our lives.

At the advice of a long time friend, who now lives in the USA, I started a blog. It is a bit of a mish-mash, it started off with pages I found interesting in Chinese medicines and controlling diabetes with diet, but then over time it became more of a diary with recipes and cleaning ideas - it is basically a guide to tips and tricks for a simpler and healthier life.

The Herb Book - ... how I ended up here ...

I am obsessed by food, and healthy eat. As a result most lunches, dinners, bbqs etc end up with me suggested herbs to grown and ways to do thing cheaper and I believer better. The result of this is that I have been call the 'walking herb book' on more than one occasion, mostly due to the fact that I am forever saying that however small a space you have you can always grow a herb.

The thing about being obsessed with food is that you discover how many people actually blame food for things they don't like about themselves. The key to being healthy is having a good relationship with food.

Many of us are not happy with how we look, but when I changed how I lived I lost my left over 'baby weight', my hair got strong and shiny and my skin glowed - all because I concentrated on my diet.

I think that a lot of the weight problems which plague us are often not because we eat too much or exercise too little (obviously these things do help) - but they are also because over the years we have changed how we interact with food, we need to look at the relationship with have with food and to remember that there are two reasons to ear - firstly for nourishment, and secondly for pleasure. When either or both or these are missing we start are doing something wrong.

Don't get me wrong, I did have to cut back on a few things to lose my weight, but I also enjoyed a lot of foods which many other diets would have banned me from.

The other great thing about improving our understanding of food is that we never have to give anything up again. From this day forward there is an automatic calculation taking place which means that my weight doesn't seem to waiver off its current number.

Easy Way to Dry Herbs
Easy Way to Dry Herbs

Drying Herbs

The Country Kitchen Look

There was a most amazing amount of rain last month, and this month is a heatwave - there is no predicting the weather at the moment. But the good thing is that the herbs have gone completely nuts and grown a ridiculous amount in the last couple of weeks.

The herbs were getting so high that they were starting to fall over, so I got the scissors out! I now have mint, lemon balm, lavender and marjoram hanging in beautiful bundles from my kitchen ceiling. There is something special about drying herbs, it is such an amazingly 'homely' thing to do, the kitchen looks and smells amazing and you feel that it is so wholesome doing this. When I was growing up we often used to go and visit stately homes and see the old kitchens with their bread ovens and herb cupboards, I loved these, the idea of people working in them and making everything from scratch. Now I realise that even with the smallest of spaces we can make amazing things and create healthy wholesome food from scratch, saving huge amounts of money and avoiding lots of chemicals, just by spending a little more time in the kitchen :)

Using the last of the flour
Using the last of the flour

Running Out of Flour

Prepare your larder

As you may know from reading my web posts I have recently moved to a village in the south of France, one of the things I didn't take into account was the 'just in time' delivery systems which have totally overrun our world. I was horrified to discover that the only shop in the village had run out of flour at the beginning of this week, then I felt a little guilty when I realised that I was the reason. I buy on average 6kg of flour a week, and in the 6 weeks I have lived here I have been using at least that. The result is that the village simply didn't have any more flour when I arrived on Saturday to buy some.

For me, running out of flour is like having a limb cut off, I bake in some way, every day. Last night I had to work out what I could manage with the limited supplies I had left.

In the end I opted to make a tomato and herb focaccia for lunch today, a small brioche loaf for the kids to have for breakfast (I figured my husband and I could have a slice as well and fill up on fruit), and I baked some cookies. I decided to have the cookies as well because they are always useful in a crisis. Of course I don't think that they are going to prevent World War III, but they did help my youngest this morning when he got a splinter, and they offered some comfort to myself and my husband as we listened to the debate in the UK House of Commons about going to war.

Easy Homemade Pizza

Making Pizza with your Kids

I am a big believer in cooking from scratch, and one of our family rituals is Friday night pizza night. Once the boys are home from school we make the bases. Then after they have been off to have a place, and the dough has rested, we make the pizzas and they are allowed to watch a film and eat on the sofa. It is not how the experts tell us to raise our children, but by Friday they are tired, and this way they get good wholesome food, they learn to knead dough and even when tired we work together - so I think it is a worthwhile ritual.

Over the years I have tried many different recipes. I love the sourdough recipe which I used to use. However, when we recently moved I accidentally left my sourdough started on the kitchen counter in the height of summer, and it went nasty. I have not yet got round to making a new one, so I have reverted to an Italian recipe which is very easy and guaranteed to come out fabulously.

Recipe: 1 tablespoon caster sugar, 2 teaspoons dried yeast, 215ml warm water, 450g plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons olive oil. First mix the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl. Then put all the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and add the yeast mixture once it has foamed. Knead until it forms a smooth ball, then leave to rest (if you are pushed for time you can use it immediately, but it rolls more easily if it has had even a 15 min rest).

Flies in the Kitchen

I hate flies, I know that may sound extreme, but at this time of year it seems that I just can't get rid of them. My neighbour assures me that it is something to do with the temperature fluctuations, but that doesn't not make me want to kill them less ...

I have tried those hanging sticky strips, but I could smell it, no one else in the family could, but I could - so that went in the bin.

Now I am down to trying to live with them, and just find ways of keeping them off the food. Last night I started a crochet cover for the water/milk jug. Unfortunately I don't have any beads at the moment, so I will try to find some before the weekend, then it will be weighted down and I can at least keep them off that. If that is a success, then I think I will be on a mission to crochet as many covers as possible as quickly as possible.

Watch this space for updates ....

This is the poison label which was used on the crisp flavouring :(
This is the poison label which was used on the crisp flavouring :(

How To Be Healthy

... remember - we are what we eat!

Being healthy is more than just doing the good bits, we also have to remove the not-so-good bits from out lives!

I bake all the family bread and I cook everything from scratch, there are several reasons for this which include the fact that I enjoy it and it saves me money, but also I used to work in the shipping industry and I specialised in shipping hazardous chemicals FOR FOOD. Yup, you read that bit correctly, your food is full of additives and preservatives and these are actually hazardous. In fact it is so common for hazardous chemicals to be used in the food industry that they employ people like me to make sure that no one gets poisoned or left with long term health issues as a direct result of contact with these substances

What Does Hazardous Really Mean?

Here is the link to a wikipedia page, not particularly because you should read the words, but because the photo on the right hand side is worth seeing - this is what people in HazMat look like in real life; it is not just in the films - they REALLY do wear this kit. What is even more worrying is that I used to ship a substance which is used as a crisp flavour, and this is what my staff had to wear when they opened the container.

On the whole I found that the girls in the office quickly went off crisps .... some of the guys took a little longer, but eventually crisps were are rare commodity at the warehouse we used.

The really nasty thing about this particular chemical was that it was poisonous and potentially fatal in both its liquid and gas forms. You may be wondering exactly how a chemical like this ends up in your food .... well, its easy. We shipped to a blending company and they used it in small amounts, and you can put pretty much anything in food if the levels are low enough - that is how the FDA works :(

Reduce Reuse Recycle

Recycling

I try not to throw out anything which can be reused. The other week I went through all the old clothes which the boys had grown out of. The decent ones were passed on, but there was a mass clothes which were just too battered to pass on, but I really didn't need that many dusters ..... so what to do with them.

The first thing I did was cut the fabric. I cut along and removed all the seams so that I could see exactly what sizes I had (I even did this for the sleeves of their tops). Once I had this I realised that I could cut quite a few 5 inch squares of of them for a patch work. But what was I going to make, which would be quite such a mish-mash?

To help work it out I divided the fabric into different textures, it was not long before I realised that most of it was either cotton or denim. Since denim is tougher than cotton I thought that I would find something which was denim backed - and hence practical and durable. Then I just had to decide what to make - the answer just popped out while looking at the piles of cloth in front of me: coasters and place-mats!

Unfortunately I have not yet had time to make the place mats, but here is a photo of some of the coasters. Not a bad afternoons work!

Patchwork for my Home

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Peg bagSquare PlacematRectangular PlacematPatchwork Cushionpatchwork Cushion
Peg bag
Peg bag
Square Placemat
Square Placemat
Rectangular Placemat
Rectangular Placemat
Patchwork Cushion
Patchwork Cushion
patchwork Cushion
patchwork Cushion

A Scary Thing I Discovered Today ...

.. you could have contaminated soil

I have just been reading that many of us have enthusiastically started our vegetable and kitchen gardens without research. Well, quite frankly, it never occurred to me that I should do any research .... but apparently, according to research from the University of South Maine, a lot of soil is actually toxic!

It appears that soil can contain lead! I am not going to write a summary of all the details - so here is a link which gives you the allowed levels, how to find out what your soil is and also how to correct them!

Discover if Your Soil is Toxic

Please do take time to check this out and pass on to anyone who grows there own food - these are things which many of us have simply not taken into account.

Tools For Your New Healthy Lifestyle - What Every Kitchen Needs

Cooking should be fun and easy, once you get into the habit of cooking from your cupboard rather than from a cookbook you will find that you can knock up a great meal in no time at all. However, to get to this point you need a few essentials.

I have found that often people have loads of gadgets in their kitchen, but sometimes the simplest of things are missing.

The fundamentals of cooking are based around measuring out ingredients. In my book this requires three basic tools:

Progressive GT-3520 International 19-Piece Measuring Cup and Spoon Set (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Progressive GT-3520 International 19-Piece Measuring Cup and Spoon Set (Discontinued by Manufacturer)

This actually covers my two next things which you need - a cup measure and ALL the spoon measures. The cup measure is really important because a lot of cooking is about ratios, not just weight, and a cup measure is a perfect way to get these right. If you opt for the smaller selection of measuring spoons then be sure to buy a cup measure as well.

 
Detecto 1002TB Baked Enamel 8 Lb. Baker Dough Scale with Scoop
Detecto 1002TB Baked Enamel 8 Lb. Baker Dough Scale with Scoop

I know that these are expensive - but I can promise you that once you have used traditional scales you will never want to revert. My sister used these and I had all singing and dancing digital ones - but once I had used hers for an afternoon I was converted. I then invested in some and 20 years later they are still as loved as the first day. If you cannot justify the expense now, print of the details and pop them on your kitchen notice board - next time someone asks you what you want - point them towards you printout. It doesn't matter how you get them - but these will be one of your best investments if you are planning on spending time in the kitchen

 

Save a small fortune by making your own tarts :)

Save a small fortune by making your own tarts :)
Save a small fortune by making your own tarts :)

My Favorite Recipes

I believe that cooking should be easy and fun ... here are some great ways to eat healthy food which is easy to make

Simple Living should also include Simple Relaxing

This is my first Squidoo Lens, and I started with an introduction called Simple Living - today is a glorious day in the South of France, and I realised that there is something else to Simple Living which I forgot to mention - downtime.

So often one gets to the end of the day and on review we have achieved a lot, however good these days are, there is still something missing and that can be a form of happiness which is often forgotten. I have just dragged myself of the terrace (primarily because a rather large cloud got in the way of the sun and I needed a shirt over my t-shirt), but as I walked into the house I realised how relaxed I was feeling. I have spent the last two hours reading a book and it is about life and trials and tribulations - but it is also about contentment and realising when you are content.

Out of Jericho: Broken walls cast jagged shadows
Out of Jericho: Broken walls cast jagged shadows

This is the book I have just been reading. It is a story which contains suffering and hardship, but it is also the story of success and understanding success. I know that the author is a difficult person (I know this because I am related to him) - but I also know that he went on a voyage of discovery which lead to the writing of this book. It is a book which will never set him free, but it has the power to set others free and the put the world back in perspective.

 
A Woman of Africa
A Woman of Africa

This is Nicks first book and a very worthwhile read. It captures the sense of Africa which is so hard to find in films. Definitely a book worth reading.

 

I would love to know ...

If money was no problem - would you buy organic?

Growing Herbs

I thought that I would add a section at the bottom of this lens about growing herbs. I have lots of details on my blog about it, but sometimes one just needs a quick reminder of things...

Growing Mint

There is one important thing to remember about Mint, it needs to be controlled. The problem with mint is that it just keeps pushing up more and more little mint plants and doesn't understand that you have other things in the garden. There are several solutions to this.

Cordon Off a Section

If you are planning on planting the mint directly in the ground and containing it then you will need to block the roots. I have only done this successfully once - this is how I did it. I had a couple of extra paving stones after my back patio had been redone. I put these on their side, the tops were just a centimeter or two above the soil and they touched at the corners so that they formed a sort of wall going down into the garden and this did contain the mint.

Container Planting

This is actually how I have my mint now. I have a pot, about a foot square just outside the back door, and I never have to do anything to it. It occasionally looks like it may not make it through - but it always does.

Raised Beds

If you are using raised beds for your herbs, then you will be able to section off a part quite easily for your mint.

Our Green house in May - My 5 year old took some photos of his plants

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rhubarb - Daddy's favoriteBeans - sadly no flowers or beans yet :(Tomatoes for his big brotherPeas - already growing pods
Rhubarb - Daddy's favorite
Rhubarb - Daddy's favorite
Beans - sadly no flowers or beans yet :(
Beans - sadly no flowers or beans yet :(
Tomatoes for his big brother
Tomatoes for his big brother
Peas - already growing pods
Peas - already growing pods

New Guestbook Comments

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    • profile image

      othellos 4 years ago

      Excellent lens. I started growing herbs and some vegetables in my backyard and I improved not only the standard of living of my family but also its taste repertoire. Thanks for sharing:=)

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      I couldn't keep my eyes off of the strawberry tart, Nice lens.

    • suepogson profile image

      suepogson 4 years ago

      This is great. yes - everyone can grow a herb or two - usually more. There are only pluses - the sense of pride in creating a part of your own food - however small, as well as the taste and health benefits. Well done for spreading the word!

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 4 years ago from Ljubljana

      You are right, we are what we eat... I can't imagine cooking without my collection of herbs too:)

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 4 years ago from Keller, Texas

      Welcome to Squidoo mon ami! I really enjoyed meeting you, and learning about your healthy lifestyle through this lens. Keep growing and thanks for the like on my backyard garden lens.

    • profile image

      Auriel 4 years ago

      great lens, herbs..i love it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I think its nice to be called the walking herb book and congratulations on making positive changes for a better life with your family.....all the best to you and yours!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I think its nice to be called the walking herb book and congratulations on making positive changes for a better life with your family.....all the best to you and yours!

    • profile image

      dellgirl 4 years ago

      You have a very nice lens, it is really inspiring! I like it, thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      LadyDuck 4 years ago

      I love fresh herbs, they taste much better. It's great to make all meals from scratch, a sure way to save money and keep a good health. Congratulations, nice lens.

    • justramblin profile image

      justramblin 4 years ago

      Oh my goodness, those hazardous chemicals are scary. How interesting - that's a little dirty secret the food industry wants to keep to themselves.

      I'm with you - fresh herbs make such a difference in your cooking. Kudos to you for making all your meals from scratch.

    • PenguinGirl111 profile image

      PenguinGirl111 4 years ago

      Hello. Great first lens! I can really relate to what you are saying as I did something similar in escaping the rat race to pursue a slower, healthier pace of life, and follow my heart. I wish you lots of luck and look forward to seeing more lenses in the future!