Very lagom- carrot tops in the Vaxer starter thingy, photos taken over a timescale of a month. They may not be in the correct order though.

I wonder how long before I can eat them. Will I ever be able to?

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Not strictly  true title, or slightly unfair but anyway here is the story.

On Sunday I drove my two children to my mother-in-law’s and left them there until today. They had a great time. I had a two hour drive back home involving lots of start/stop driving on the M25 and then another 90minute drive back to pick them up and a very wet 2 hour drive back home (with more crawling along, all the way until the M4).  The two days in between I was at home completely on my own (husband is away working in Egypt), I have not been this completely alone for almost 12 1/2 years.

And how did I spend my two days I hear you ask?

I made this:

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It is not quite finished, but I am pretty pleased with it so far. My sewing machine was working beautifully for once- just incase you don’t get the significance this was the denim sewing project conjured out of nothing for the IKEA photo shoot.

Of course I did many, many more things over my two days including going for a walk, clearing out the porch and office. I also did the weekly shop and went to the library.

After returning library books and taking out new ones using the new library machine, I decided to self scan my shopping and pay using the self serve tills- thinking I could probably manage to get through the morning without talking to another adult. I would have managed this if I hadn’t needed help with the self scan till and then spilt my free coffee and had to ask for it be cleaned up. Obviously clumsy people can’t choose to be recluses. Oh well.

 

So it happened… people from a proper media company actually came to my 1970s end of terrace to take photos of my house! I think I am still slightly in shock, and not entirely sure that it did happen- and I didn’t dream it. To be fair I only have to turn around and look at my beautifully styled kitchen and ‘Lagom area’ to remind myself I haven’t dreamt the last two days- apparently things like this do happen in small lives like mine.

The children and I have had a lovely couple of days, the team that came were really friendly and made us feel very comfortable and relaxed. I am, and always have been, incredibly camera shy (with hindsight this wasn’t the most sensible thing to agree to do), I think I may have been through aversion therapy today, I will no longer hide from having my photo taken (well let’s see how long that lasts).

As always there were some awkward moments, extracting my son from his hiding place under the bed because he didn’t want his photo taken, or being told when they arrived that it would look good if I had a sewing project to do for the photos- possibly something involving old denim. (Those who know me will be unsurprised that I easily found three old pairs of jeans to cut up). I am now committed to finishing the denim project as I have promised it for my son’s new bedroom.

We had spent the day before tidying the house and depersonalising it all, making things look less unique and zany- the stylist then went round the house finding unusual and colourful things from everywhere, and enlisting the children to find something bright or some artwork.

The dining area became a sewing table for our sewing project.

This area didn’t get changed much, just some colour added.

Well there we are, a very surreal couple of days are over, my modelling career has begun (and ended, hopefully) today. Both children now have a good answer to the interview/icebreaker question “Tell me something interesting/ unique about yourself”. Up to now my answer was, ” I used to drive an ice-cream van”, now we can all say we have been photographed to go in an IKEA catalogue!

 

So I tasted the sauerkraut, fully expecting to not like it and actually it is pretty good. The first day I was sneaking spoonfuls of the stuff- infact I am just going to eat a bit more now- purely in the interest of describing the taste to you…

It has a crunchy texture and tastes very sour and vinegary. It leaves a not, unpleasant vinegary taste in your mouth. I have no idea why I like it- I have never had vinegar as a taste I liked (although thinking about it now vinegar does remind me of cucumber slices for Christmas tea with cut off edges and vinegar drinking contests in the pub on Christmas morning). The drawback is that it smells horrible- like old socks someone on facebook suggested. I can only keep the jar open for about 30 seconds before someone complains.

I am already planning my next batch, I am adding beetroot to it, mainly to use up this beauty from my garden.

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This is the only edible thing that has grown from seed in my garden despite the huge amount  I planted this year. I have had some raspberries and gooseberries from last years plants but not many;  it has been a disappointing year. Even the brand new packets of pea and bean seeds have only produced two runner bean plants (with no beans yet)- oh well, try again next year.

And here is proof that I am eating the pot of pickled cabbage and haven’t just emptied it in the food waste and made all this up….

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Firstly I have learnt it is possible to spend over £5 on pick and mix sweets at IKEA, especially if you let a 12 year old go there unsupervised (in her defence she did have to choose for her brother as well but still…).

So £5.70 spent on pick and mix at 8 30 pm on Thursday evening- I did also have a prize of a £25 shop in the food section so my kitchen now has a few products that I have looked at but never tried before. There is some lovely elderflower cordial, some instant iced tea drinks, coffee, funny rice/grains, crackers and some cinnamon buns- no meatballs and no lingonberry. £25 does not go a very long way and I should probably have decided what I wanted to buy before I went as deciding at 8 30pm is not a great idea.

Lets start at the beginning of the story instead of confusedly at the end.

The live lagom project has a facebook group where people get together to share their stories of living lagom- and to share links to relevant newspaper articles about how to be more sustainable. They recently ran a competition where you weigh your food waste and check your food spend for a month and then send them the details, the top two people showing a reduction in spend/waste won vouchers for food shops in IKEA and one other person was picked at random- which was me! I won a shop to the value of £25. This took place this Thursday, with me trying to keep track in my head of what I was buying whilst someone wrote it down on a clipboard and my daughter casually put over 500g of pick and mix into 2 small bags.

We were at IKEA because it was also the third and final workshop, called ‘Intent to Ferment’. Whilst the final blog was in a month ago the project was still officially going on until, I suppose, Thursday. The livelagom idea has taken off in a big way with IKEA and the various stores around the country have been running workshops open to the general public, consequently there is a part of the store- (right at the top of the steps when you go in) that is laid out with tables ready for workshopping. It was a bit sad as before we have been escorted to the staff areas -somehow it felt like more of an ending.

Anyway, at this workshop we learnt how to make sauerkraut, which honestly is not something I have ever wondered how to make. It was a interesting, easy and surprisingly relaxing thing to do.  And if you are wondering how to do it I will tell you…

  1. Cut up some cabbage
  2. Grate some vegetables like carrot and courgette
  3. Add some ginger and garlic if you like (apparently not too much)
  4. Weigh it and add 2% of the weight in salt.
  5. Squish it all really hard to get all the juice out. (This was fun)
  6. Put it in a jar with the juice- make sure the juice covers the veg ( I think you can top it up with water if needs be). Put lid on the jar
  7. Leave it for about 5 days- you will have to ‘burp’ it everyday (open the jar and let the gas out) else it will explode.*
  8. Try it after 5 days and if you like the taste put it in the fridge. It should keep forever.

Making it was really enjoyable. The jars provided by IKEA were just the right size for 500g of vegetables and they look lovely.

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You can see some of my free food behind them.

*If you don’t want to smell of pickled cabbage burping it is best done with the pot in a sink, not on a worktop on a Friday lunchtime when you have to go back to school in 5 minutes.

I am however, not entirely sure what it is supposed to taste like, so how will I know if it is ready? I am excitedly waiting to taste it, everyone in the lagommy world seems to love it- apparently it is really good for you as well with lots of health benefits. I am open minded- but also incredibly nervous about tasting it.

After we had done the fermenting we went to the restaurant and had some food and a small chat. It has been interesting meeting the other people doing the project. I wish I had more presence or personality in these kinds of social things- oh well, survived this long without any.

So I hear you saying is this it, is this the end of our insight into your slightly sustainable lifestyle? Well actually not at all- there are so many things I would still like to improve on, one thing this project has taught me is that I shouldn’t try to focus on too many things at once. I feel I have got to grips with the things in my NYR- now to go further I think the next thing is to try and reduce the plastic we buy. My first step to this is to switch to washing powder rather than liquid, watch this space to see how that goes.

The other reason that this is not the end is………………………………………..we might be in the next Lagom catalogue- unbelievable I know. Absolutely unbelievable. They are coming to do two days of taking photos at my house. The thought fills me with fear. I have to send some photos so they can see the space they are working with- I haven’t done this yet as this was T’s bedroom on Friday. Can you tell me what colour carpet she has?

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The fear was obviously catching as this is her bedroom today.

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Yes, she does have a green carpet! She has worked very hard all weekend, cleared out some rubbish, boxed up some things and put almost everything she ever wears to be washed. This is the picture I will send to the IKEA people.

They are coming in a fortnight’s time- wish me luck!

Until then live lagom

 

 

So this is the 500 words (and a sneaky few more) I sent to IKEA:

 

 

 

I suppose the best way to judge how we have done is to look back at my plan for achieving my NYR and see how that went.

 

Let’s start with the good bits:

 

Get organised so I can recycle more effectively.

 

 The recycling area currently looks like this:

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Which means things are taken more regularly to be recycled, I can store up laundry until I have a full load (thus reducing washing machine use), and the children can sort their dirty washing easily.

 

The stackable SORTERA boxes and the BLASKA clothes baskets were invaluable to making this area work. The MULIG drying rack is big enough to hold two loads of washing so clothes can be drying at the same time instead of sitting around waiting. I think changing this area has made the most difference in the whole project.

 

Reduce energy usage.

 

We have used 30% less gas and 22% less electricity from Jan to Apr 2017 compared to the same time in 2016. To achieve this, we changed to LEDARE bulbs, I have been trying to cook in a more energy efficient way and have changed to 30° laundry washes from 40°.  We turned off the heating a month earlier than last year with no real noticeable difference in comfort. We used a GLANSNAVA curtain liner to block the draught by the back door and this made a huge difference to the warmth in the kitchen.

 

But now for the bad bits:

 

Getting rid of some stuff.

 

We have begun decluttering and packing up things. We have donated over 100 items to charity and given things away to friends.  We have several boxes of things to car-boot when the weather is better. The decluttering was supposed to help the house look tidier, but has not made much difference!

 

 

 

Grow more vegetables.

 

 At the time of typing I haven’t achieved this. I have planted several things during this project:

 

 

 However, my vegetable growing story is usually the same every year, lots of optimism in April /May that trails off by the summer. We will wait and see how this year goes.

 

  We have spent 6 months trying to make our home life more sustainable and easier to live- and I think as a family we have achieved it. It has been lovely how quickly the children picked up the recycling and laundry sorting system. I have been amazed by how enthusiastic they are about being lagom; lights are turned off as a matter of course and there are no complaints if we regularly have ‘leftovers’ for tea. My main reason for applying for this project was to focus on making a more sustainable way of life the norm for my children so that they would carry it forward into their future lives- I think they might do just that…

 

As for me I now have many new ideas to help us make even more improvements, so whilst it’s the end of the project it is only the start of a life-changing journey

 

Thank you, IKEA, for helping us begin this journey.

 

By next week I will have written my third, and final ‘blog’ for the lagom project. In a maximum of 500 words I have to discuss how we are managing to live a more lagom lifestyle and how we are going to keep carrying on doing so- and mention a few IKEA products that have helped us along the way.

All fine, except I am not so sure I know what lagom is. I started out thinking it meant getting the balance of life correct, finding a common ground between living frugally and living well- the image we were shown was the 3 Bears’ porridge- Daddy Bear’s was too austere, Mummy Bear’s was too rich and wasteful, Baby Bear’s was in the middle, just right. Then the concepts of living a more sustainable lifestyle were introduced- finding the balance became using as little energy as possible and recycling as much as possible. This then became buying as little as possible- and if you did have to buy then make sure it was recyclable. There is a Live lagom facebook page- filled (as facebook pages always are) with pictures of peoples acheivements and links to stories about things other people have done that would be a very good idea to do and why didn’t we think of it first type stories. It has been interesting to see how the idea of lagom has evolved.

It does however, make it very difficult for me to decide how lagom we have been, I keep thinking of my NYR- to get organised so that the whole family can live more sustainably- I am not sure how close we have got to that. We have had several successes- reducing energy usage by over 20% year on year has been one- that was through some very small changes. Other successes have included keeping the laundry area tidy and not having piles of things waiting to be recycled, I think we also have less waste- I plan meals more rigorously and often use ingredients for more than one meal- we actually had a planned leftovers meal last week – just pie not all eaten earlier in the week, the children loved it. I have started washing clothes at 30 degrees, I have started saving the water when running the hot tap and using it to water plants, I have…. (notice a theme here).

I think when I started this I wanted all the quirky things we already did- the saving bottle tops, the never throwing things away, the reworking of all old clothes into the pants rug to become normal things that the children would do when they are older. I wanted sustainability to be part of their lives and the decisions that I naturally make would be decisions that they would also learn to make naturally when they grow up. I am not sure I have described it very well, maybe legacy is the word I am looking for, the lagom legacy. It is a tiny bit of a faff sorting out what can be recycled and what can’t but hopefully they never think there is any other way.

I have just noticed that even this tiny bit if deciding what lagom means has gone over 500 words.  Lets say then that it means living more sustainably.

Did I achieve that? Yes,  I think so for all the reasons I wrote above, but the house is still difficult to live in and we have boxes  of things everywhere waiting for the building work to start and finish. There is a lot more I would like to do to make life more Lagom, but right now I am happy to settle with tidier recycling and less waste.

 

 

 

 

Another month gone of trying to live Lagom- I know without looking that I have used less gas as we turned the heating off earlier this month. April has been a great month for Lagom living as we have been able to get out in the garden and plant some seeds, we have taken down the winter curtains (possibly  bit early) inside the house and inside has become brighter and sunnier. Much of this month has been taken up with Easter holidays so things are a but messier than usual.

However, 2 thirds of the way through the project seems like a good time to think about what changes we have really made, and what we have really been doing to live Lagom.

The first conscious change we have made (or I have made) is to start using up all the toiletries we have accumulated over the years- for a month we used only small bottles of toiletries acquired from hotels- I am not sure it did my hair much good but it was nice to smell of different shower gels everyday. I have not bought any shower gels since Christmas- being a TA I got several for Christmas and we still have several left. When these are used up I am only buying bars of soap as that will be one less plastic bottle in the house.

In an attempt to reduce the amount of plastic we need I have stopped buying meat from the supermarket (too much excess packaging) and have also drastically reduced the amount of single use bottles we need (by taking a water-bottle with us and by simply not buying bottles of drinks when we are out (this also helps my teeth, and has reduced my diet coke dependency)). I try where possible to buy refill packs of liquid soap for kitchen and bathroom and laundry liquid. I am also trying to not buy too many plastic packaged things- but sometimes I just simply forget or the cost difference between prepackaged and loose veg can’t be ignored. Is it better to buy the slightly misshaped veg in the plastic packaging stamped with ‘basics’ range’ or to buy the loose veg that are classed as top quality. Will the wonky veg be wasted if I don’t buy them??? I have also avoided all single use coffee cups (except once) by taking my Starbucks refill cup with me everywhere- it also saves me 25p everytime I use it in Costa or Starbucks. We have stopped using tinfoil to line the grill pan- instead we just wash it!

Reducing water was never part of my lagom goals as it was not measurable- however we had a letter from Thames Water offering some lovely freebiesand got sent all these.

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The shower timer was rushed upstairs by my daughter and stuck on the shower wall. I tried to put the toilet flushing thing in the toilet but it appears to just make the cistern take ages to fill (maybe it is meant to). The other two are to reduce water usage in the shower and hopefully will be fitted this weekend. My husband has fitted new taps in the downstairs bathroom so that the hot now works and the cold doesn’t constantly leak. I have got into the habit of filling an old squash bottle with water as I wait for it to heat up when I am washing sishes. This can then be used for watering plants. I also had abrief flurry of internet searching to see if we could somehow reuse the grey water from our soon to be new shower to flush the toilet but with no luck. It is possible but very expensive and slightly complicated- maybe something I can retro fit in a few years…

Our energy usage in the first quarter of this year is down from 5585units to 4283 units for gas (23%) and from 903kwh to 706kwh for electric(24%). I don’t think we have made many big  energy changes at home- we changed to LED lightbulbs, I use the smaller of our two ovens when possible and I have finally remembered to wash clothes at 30 degrees. As for the gas I don’t think I made any changes in how we use it- possibly it was just a warmer winter.

What else? The decluttering is happening slowly, as things need to be packed into boxes at the same time. The dining room is empty of stuff except for things in boxes and items used frequently like this laptop. We are planning on carbooting again in a weeks time.

On that note I will stop typing and go and sort through a box I hurriedly packed the other day- writing this has inspired me to be a bit more ruthless…

I think the question now is what to do next? The house is in limbo at the moment, most things downstairs are packed into boxes but we still have another couple of months until the building starts, so the organisation of the whole house is on hold. I have planted several vegetables in various pots and places so hopefully they will grow. The live Lagom facebook page is doing a  food waste challenge with ideas of how to reduce the amount of food we throw away. One thing I would like to improve is the amount of non-recyclables we have- I think it would be interesting (to me, even it to noone else) to see what we regularly throw away and if we can do anything with it ( I am thinking about upcycling crisp packets- next stop pinterest). I would also like to try and further reduce the amount of plastic bottles we buy- I might need to start investigating different types of squash and its packaging, as well as laundry detergents (I think this might end up being a trade off between cost and sustainability).

One thing the lagom project is teaching me is that you can’t do everything (or can’t do it all well)- it has helped me focus on how we can improve our little corner of Reading and  not to get overwhelmed with saving the whole world.

 

 

 

 

The Ninja, Hedgehog and Caterpillar, shame we didn’t plant something edible.

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Today was the next Live lagom workshop, entitled growing in small spaces. Started off with a presentation from one of the co-workers (that’s staff to you and me)  about how best to grow in small spaces with some helpful tips. We then painted some lovely terracotta plant-pots and made some grass-heads out of old tights- I am looking forward to these growing as we have a ninja, a caterpillar and a hedgehog. We filled the pots with IKEA soil and used some VAKER seed plugs to plant some seeds on. I also scattered some of the soil as an experiment to see if there is a difference in germination times.

I have put pictures of the pots as they are this morning and (if I remember) will update you next week with the growth. At the moment they are sitting on the cooker and the kitchen table waiting for me to find them somewhere to live.