Ant Attack!!

Today I found some ants in my kitchen. I know full well that where you find one, you are soon to have an invasion, so to find a few was disturbing.

Now that we are on GAPS I couldn't just reach for my usual can of raid, so it was time to put in some hard work. If you have ants in your kitchen, here is a simple, healthy, and eco-friendly option for dealing with them.

The first thing you need to do is take out everything out of every cupboard and clean it out before putting them all back. I do this systematically, starting with the top ones and wiping all the debris straight down onto the floor. This is also an excellent time to be choosy about what you put back and reorganise your cupboards.

I found a tonne of stuff to donate including several GAPS illegal items that other families would probably be really happy to receive.

Wipe everything down with a sponge soaked in a solution of white vinegar and hot water (I put it in a spray bottle to make it really easy.

Next take a DRY cloth and some peppermint oil. Rub a few drops of peppermint oil over all the surfaces (shelves, walls, doors) of your cupboards and work surfaces.

Finally, it's time to mop the floor! Make sure you put a significant amount of peppermint oil in your mop bucket with some really hot water. It might make your eyes water a little, but your kitchen is going to smell amazingly fresh. Make sure you sweep your mop over all the skirting boards too, and contrary to your normal mopping technique, leave the floor fairly wet. The aim is to leave a nice layer of peppermint oil everywhere as the ants don't like to walk on it.

Hopefully this will be enough to deter them and they will find a new source of food.

As an extra measure you could also mix one cup of sugar with 3 tbsp of borax* substitute and 3 cups of water. Soak some cotton wool in the solution and leave it in a bowl. The ants will come and take it back to their nest and pretty much overnight they will be wiped out.

*we use a borax substitute because borax is pretty dangerous stuff. Although it isn't a man made chemical it's still a developtmental toxin, carcinogen, neurotoxin, endocrine disruptor and can cause respiritory and skin irritation. Borax is not sold in the uk, although some people do buy it from ebay. We choose not to use it and have found Borax substitute to be an excellent exchange in all things aside from making 'slime'.

Cloud Dough

When we first moved onto GAPS I was concerned about all the foods we were getting rid of from our pantry. It seemed so wasteful, and explaining why I was passing them on to friends only made my friends feel pretty bad about eating them too.

But I have found a solution to the flour problem (if like me you love baking you will have tonnes of it in your kitchen cupboards).

If you just don't know what to do with that flour, add it to some baby oil (8:1 in favour of the flour) and you have some pretty awesome sensory play stuff.

How to grow herbs

Fresh herbs are delicious and we can't seem to dedicate enough space in our garden to growing them. My children eat corriander like it's salad (but to be honest, so do I) and basil and sage seem to be rapidly depleting too.

My sister seems to be having trouble growing any, so if you are struggling, like her, here are some easy tips that may resolve the problem.*

  1. Growing from seed is hard work. Make life easy for yourself and buy one of those pots from your supermarket.You can totally trim off the tops for your kitchen and replant the bottoms and they will shoot up over and over again.
  2. Cut early and often. Don't make the mistake of thinking you want to use the older more established leaves. The plant needs these to keep on growing. Eat those sweet new growths that shoot out the top.
  3. Don't let them grow any flowers. Someone once told me that plants are like teenage boys; they like to focus all their energy on procreation and forget about growth. If you trim your plant regularly it will grow thicker and more productively.
  4. Plant some canaries. Basil is a great way to keep an eye on the health of your herb garden. It wilts visibly and quickly if you don't water it enough, but also recovers fairly well. Plant lots of basil around to let you know if you are getting enough water or not.
  5. Pick something easy. Anyone from the mint family (including lemon balm) grows and spreads like wild fire.

*Disclaimer: I'm fairly new to all this, maybe we are just blessed with this wonderful bounty and it has nothing to do with my skills/expertise!

Lemon tea

Our garden has been left fairly wild before we moved in, but someone before us was a keen kitchen gardener, because although they are untamed, the garden is full of edible plants and herbs.

There is a massive overgrowth of thyme taking over a large section of a flower bed and everywhere I look there are little lemon balm shoots.

We've been looking at Shavuot with the kids this weekend, and one of the traditions is to decorate your house with greenery. We used these herbs to create beautiful fragrant pieces for our home, but the more of the lemon balm I collected, the more I seemed to notice.

So today I made my first cup of mint and lemon balm tea, and it was divine! Thanks to this little tea cage that my sister in law bought me its super easy.

tea cage

Simply pack the little cage with as many leaves as you can (I go about2:1 in favour of lemon balm) then soak the little cage in hot, but not boiling, water.

Both mint and lemon balm are crazily easy to grow, and left unchecked they will spread throughout an entire garden.

As we have so much, I'm thinking I will dry some for the winter too, although its such a refreshing drink I may use it all up this summer!

Eat Your Weeds

Everybody loves blowing dandelion clocks, but most gardeners will stop their children as it spreads pesky dandelion seeds all over the garden, and we don't want that.

Or do we?

Our garden is full of dandelions, much as I'd like to claim the credit for being a relaxed gardener the reality is that we inherited it this way. I'm not complaining though, because Dandelions are so good for you! They support digestion, prevent anemia, reduce swelling and inflammation (particularly good for sufferers of IBS), lower blood sugar and can be used to treat eczema, warts and acne.

In fact, Dandelion leaves contain more vitamin A, C and iron than broccoli; as well as being a great source of magnesium and potassium.

They are a little bitter, but they are great in a mixed salad (I served some to guests with spinach and rocket last weekend and nobody batted an eyelid). You can make Dandelion Honey (replace the sugar with Stevia or even actual honey!), Dandelion Soup, saute the flowers, roots and leaves with some onion and garlic (avoid the stems), Dandelion tea or add them to your morning smoothie/juice.

The other plant we inherited tonnes of in our garden is stinging nettles. These can easily take over a yard, but you can get your own back by eating them! They are an excellent source of vitamins A, B and C, as well as minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc.

They make a great accompaniment to broccoli, tomatoes, mint and fennel; and despite their 'sting-ey' ways, most of the plant is edible if you steam or dry it. Nettle Pesto is delicious, as is the nettle cheese we recently bought from the Castle Quarter, and I can't wait to try this beautiful green nettle soup.
nettle soup with fish recipe

Healthy = pretty

You might not know this about me, but I went to beauty school. My sister and I even joked that I should say 'beauty is my life' at the interview, despite that being very untrue, as an attempt to fool them into thinking I was one of these people who worried about my appearance every day.

Part of me wanted to do beauty because of the profit margins in running a salon. I'd just left my 3rd year of business school for the second time and couldn't face going back for a third attempt.

The reality is I think there was also a very insecure girl begging to be taught 'how can I be pretty?'

One of the most valuable lessons I learned in beauty school is that healthy skin is beautiful, and one of my favourite teachers taught me 'healthy is never out of fashion'.

Yes, we want thinner models, but we airbrush their skin to make them look healthy, because no-one wants to have unhealthy looking models.

It to this end that I've realised I'm short sighted when I spend too much money on cosmetics. They have a temporary effect at best, when spending that money on better nutrition would have long term results on my skin health.

Just one week on live below the line was enough for my skin to lose its 'glow' and appear dull, yellow toned - to the point that my blush was the wrong colour.

Invest in real, organic food - the long term solution to beauty.

Breakfast Cake

It's rare for me to blog on a Sunday, but we've just finished Live Below the Line and I thought I'd test a new recipe. This couldn't have turned out better, so I had to share.

Breakfast Cake with Strawberry Honey (GAPS legal)

The Cake
7 eggs
1/2 cups ghee (or coconut oil)
1-2 tablespoon honey, depending on taste
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons vanilla essence
3/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup of mixed seeds (soaked and dehydrated)

Preheat your oven to 160c
Blend all the ingredients (except the seeds) 
Stir in the seeds
Grease a bread pan and pour your batter in 
Bake for 40 minutes


The Honey
Take honey and a large quantity of strawberries (you can use frozen if you have any left from last years produce - I had to buy mine :o( )
As a general rule I use about 6 times the quantity of strawberries to honey. 
Simmer over a low heat whilst the cake is cooking, occasionally mashing with a potato masher. 

To serve slice breakfast cake and pour on copious amounts of strawberry honey. Any left over honey should be stored in the fridge.

My kids LOVED this breakfast and so did I. Although anything tastes good after a week of chicken broth!

Making the Most of Your Vegetable Box Part Two

Making the Most of My Box Scheme

The Castle Quarter plant swap was such a great idea, but it made me realise that I've probably not been making the most of the Abel&Cole vegetable box scheme.

I'd factored into the cost that we would be ordering less towards the end of summer, as our garden becomes more productive and we can pick fruit from the park.

It wasn't until I started making Butternut squash crisps
(trying to preserve some of this weeks produce because we are on Live Below the Line) that I realised I was throwing away a tonne of seeds each week!

Good, healthy, organic seeds!!

My Able&Cole egg box even suggests I use it to grow seeds in, so this week that's exactly what I did. I put two in each pod, because I figure one might fail, but as we get through about 30 eggs a week at the moment I should be able to get plenty of little seed homes to grow some extra veg in. At least until we get some chickens of our own (long term dream).

What a great way to make the most of our fruit and vegetable boxes each week! And when I've got more than I can keep in our garden, I'll start donating seed to the school allotment.

The Castle Quarter

Yesterday 'the Castle Quarter' of Bedford had a medieval festival. It was so awesome. I had a great time and picked up some great things.

Despite needing to be dragged over to look at them, my son became pretty obsessed with the bees (once he realised they were trapped in glass); and I fell in love with several types of cheese, one of the best being with nettles in it! The man on the stall was even generous enough to give me the recipe so that I can make my own with some of the mountains of nettles I keep pulling out of our yard.

There was some delicious organic cider, with no added sweeteners or yeasts, so GAPS friendly (hooray!) and plenty of people dressed up.
Photo credit Staying Awake Blog

I got a flyer inviting me to a community screening of 'Food inc' followed by an open mic night which looks awesome.

My favourite part though, was the plant swap. You brought along a few seedlings, left them on a table, and picked up a few different ones. It was a great idea and I picked up a lovely little butternut squash.

I also bought a few more herb for our garden. We got chocolate mint, pineapple mint, blackcurrant sage, orange scented thyme and lemon verbena. I cannot wait to start using these, I think they are going to add a whole new dimension to our fruit harvest this summer.

Fruit and Herb Combinations

10 things learned on a 10 mile ride

Today we decided to take a family bike ride. The problem is that our bikes are knackered (I haven't ridden mine in seven years and it's been stored outside), so we hired some.

I pictured the day; beautiful, sunny, a picnic by the adventure trail followed by a leisurely pedal around the stanwick lakes sculpture trail. It was going to be beautiful. Maybe we'd do it every Exeat and holiday; maybe I'd even take the kids without Matt and do it sometimes whilst he's at work...

Unfortunately stanwick lakes was closed due to flooding, so the rangers had banned bike hire.

Not to worry though, Grafham Waters was still open, so we headed over there. Here are ten things I learned.

1. The children will only enjoy being in the bike trailer for approximately eight minutes. After that the novelty wear off and they will need to be distracted with with snacks/singing the entire way to keep from crying.

2. If somewhere has been closed for flooding, the place down the road is probably pretty wet too. You will get covered in mud, and there is no 'way around' most of the flooding - you just have to plough on through.

3. If you set off and the bike is too big you should stop and adjust it. Complaining eight miles in that you have to fall off the bike in order to stop will be humiliating when your husband flicks a switch and adjusts it.

4. Likewise, make sure you know how to ride a bike. Getting halfway round with legs like jelly only to have your husband point out that you haven't changed gears for five miles leads nicely to my next revelation...

5. It's always hillier than you expect it will be. Stop rejoicing at the downhills, you'll have to go uphill again very shortly to complete the circuit at the same point you started out at.

6. If you hire a bike, be careful with the brakes. The lightest feather-y touch can lead to instant stop and you flying over the handle bars. In fact I like to apply the 'Mario Kart' principle - never touch the brakes.

7. If your child poops in their diaper four miles in, they will not 'settle' for you to do the next six miles. You must pull over and change the diaper, no matter how wet/flooded the ground is.

8. The wind and rain feel colder when you you are cycling, bring a coat and gloves - or steal your sons hat. He's in a trailer anyway, he doesn't need it.
9. Sat nav on your phone will not work anywhere it is remotely useful. If you are far enough away from civilisation that there are no road signs, then you have no signal.

10. I LOVE family bike rides. Yes it was cold and muddy, but it was fun.

And I can't wait to do it again!

P.s no.11 is that no matter how old and respectable you are, you feel like a naughty teenager if you ride around a car park with your hoodie on.
Photo credit
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