Spooky tales of pumpkins

30 Oct 2019: twas the night before Christmas Halloween … yes it’s that time of year again. Spooky scary Halloween is tomorrow. How many posts have you seen about pumpkins this year? There’s always loads about what to do with the flesh and seeds after carving. I’ve shared plenty of these posts before. But this year I thought I’d try actually carving a pumpkin and seeing how easy it is to save the flesh and seeds to eat. This is what I learned…

  • Saving and roasting the seeds is really easy

    • Spoon or hand, this is super easy. And you can clean the bits of pumpkin off the seeds by rinsing them in cold water.
    • I’ve roasted seeds before and they weren’t great. But this time I followed the Hubbub recipe where you boil them for ten minutes before roasting. Find the recipe here. The boiling gives them a great salty flavour (but you can get away with less than the recipe suggests).
    • Definitely a good shout.
  • Carving a pumpkin to retain the flesh is HARD!

    • Carving inside the skin of a cylindrical shaped object to leave minimum excess flesh all over and yet keeping the skin firm enough to support itself – that’s just simply tricky.
    • If you were going to eat a pumpkin, let’s be honest, you’d peel it.
      I tried chopping the bottom off (in a Halloween styled zigzag mouth shape) to give me better access to the lower flesh. But I still only got part of it out. And not in good sized or even chunks.
      You can probably buy special tools to help, but how many random gadgets do we need?
      If you really feel it’s necessary to carve a pumpkin, then of course take out as much flesh as possible and roast it up for soups and yummy recipes.
      But personally, I think I’ll just eat the pumpkin next time. Especially as I like it roasted skin on, although I’m still trying to persuade others that that’s a good shout πŸ˜„

    Don’t leave pumpkins too long once they’re ripe before you use them

    • Darn it I was excited to carve a pumpkin off our allotment. It was the last one and it had been there a month longer than planned – time got in the way. Unfortunately I think that was a month too long.
    • If you’re going to carve anything for decoration and then throw it away, using an old gnarled pumpkin off a pumpkin patch is probably your best bet as you won’t be wasting edible food.
    • (But lets be clear I’m not suggesting letting pumpkins rot just so can justify carving them. Don’t do that!)
  • Is it time to question the meaning of life Halloween?

    • Ok this one will sound super grumpy bah humbug, but hear me out.
    • Having decided it was stupid to try and carve a pumpkin and make good use of the flesh, my immediate thought was how to make a non food waste and long lasting pumpkin alternative.
    • So many great ideas – like drilling holes in and painting a tin can so it glows with a candle inside; or a tissue paper display that will glow with the lights from your window. Make it once, make it well, then keep it for ever. That’s good hey?
    • But looking at why we in particular have a pumpkin, it’s because we want to tell local families that we’re a house open for trick or treat.
    • Listening to the Sustainababble podcast the other day made me think twice about this. We all know the world is at a critical tipping point. As they said on the show, if we need to turn things around we’ll have to rethink our life choices. That will include how we travel, what we wear, where we holiday and what we eat. And also how and what we celebrate.
    • So in light of that, is it really useful to encourage even more excess consumerism – even if the trimmings do appear more sustainable? By buying into trick or treat we commit to buying more chocolate or sweets for kids who generally have quite enough anyway. We create more packaging waste – be it foil or plastic or little tiny nets. And orange plastic buckets for them to be collected in and cheap Halloween outfits that will be worn once and throw away.
    • I know it’s fun and it makes people smile. But is that enough?

    So yes, using all your pumpkin is important. Roasted pumpkin seeds are yummy and I’ll definitely do that more often now. Carving flesh out without peeling is stupid. Just eat the darned pumpkin – it’s lush and too good to waste. And sadly I think I’m going to opt out of the trick or treat thing entirely this year. My sad little bad tasting poorly carved pumpkin will just sit in the lounge and twinkle instead.

    The joys of receiving nothing

    21 October 2019: Tomorrow is my birthday and I must admit to starting celebrations a tad early with friends coming over for a night of games and fun at the weekend πŸ˜‚.

    Giving is part of our culture – it’s become almost expected to turn up at a birthday celebration with at least a card, and preferably a gift. I’m sure we can all think of an occasion when we’ve gone on that difficult gift hunt – what would they like? What do they have? What can I find?

    If you’re lucky you find the ultimate gift. Often it’s a compromise. Sometimes we just find something funny, but really not useful and quickly thrown away. Or how about those glittery cards with a funny Pom Pom that can’t be recycled.

    This year I decided to ask people not to bring anything except their favourite game – no gifts and no cards.

    It’s easy to measure our own worth by the number of gifts or cards we receive, so I wasn’t sure how it would make me feel. But actually ending a fabulous evening with lovely people and not a card to show for it was hugely liberating. There were a few gifts – yummy cakes, chocolates, a natural soap, butterfly friendly wildflower seeds. But no plastic, and it felt like nothing chosen as a compromise. I’ve never felt so special.

    One of my best birthdays ever – and it’s not even started yet πŸ˜‚

    Beauty should be subjective, so who’s making the rules?

    15 March 2019: With my history in catering it should come as no surprise to see not perfect food being thrown straight in the bin on Masterchef for purely aesthetics reasons. But it’s still galling to see. You know it would’ve tasted amazing anyway. But of course image is everything and that’s ruled our lives for centuries.

    It got me thinking – how do we make our value judgements? Who defines what’s beautiful or imperfect? And when those judgements impact on our waste levels and impact on the planet, is that still ok?

    Trends obviously change over time. If I’d ever been served charred broccoli as a kid I’d have refused to eat it. And who would pay good money a dessert that’s been dropped (Oops I Dropped the Lemon Tart)? But both are now championed by top class chefs and earning Michelin star ratings. Opinions change with fashion. Acceptance changes with experience.

    Then there’s body shape. Desirability has changed repeatedly over time: voluptuous to flat chested to curvaceous to skinny heroin chick. Virtually every body type has been en vogue at some point. And yet we remain obsessed about who’s too fat or too thin.

    Even fashion changes all the time, with styles deemed too way out there in one era slowly absorbed into our daily norms.

    So with all these constant fluctuations why do we still set parameters about beauty and acceptability? Why do people still live in fear of being judged, of needing to fit in.

    I follow a bunch of zero waste and plastic free groups on social media and one thing people often talk about is topics relating to beauty and acceptance.

  • Are there any non plastic or non chemical based products that will actually help tame my hair?
  • I’m buying second hand clothes to reduce my footprint but I no longer feel glamorous.
  • Which moisturisers come without plastic packaging and actually work?
  • I’m doing everything I can to help the planet but I feel like I’m starting to alienate my friends.
  • It’s human nature to want to fit with the crowd – a survival technique. Advertisers and marketers know that. They wouldn’t keep telling us ‘we’re worth it’ while a skinny lady throws her long hair around if it didn’t increase sales. πŸ˜„

    But if the norm changes so often, shouldn’t we start redefining ‘acceptable’ to be a bit wider?

    Gillian McKeith got a raw deal a few years ago after her life choices and appearance were compared, unfavourably, with Nigella’s. I obviously don’t know either or them to know what they’re like on the inside (a better definition of beauty?). But it begs the question – how much consumption, waste and excess consumerism goes into achieving Nigella’s look, and is that acceptable and favourable?

    Put it another way – if the act of looking externally like Nigella (no offence kitchen goddess) contributed to climate change and species extinction through excess manufacturing, waste and pollution, would we still think such a polished look is quite so beautiful?

    Yes my own hair may be unruly. It’s curly and I’m in my 40s – shit happens. Is that really justification enough to consume and spend to conform to a cultural norm that could change in the blink of an eye?

    Could just expanding our parameters around this be a simple path to reducing our consumption all round?

    We say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So now we now need those beholders to start looking at things a bit more carefully. And inspiring others to do the same.

    Remember you’re a Womble

    17 February 2019: I loved the Wombles when I was a kid. Uncle Bolgaria and Tobermory – that whole crew of lovely fluffy pointy nosed raccoons who sang and did nice stuff in Wimbledon. I even had the sing-a-long album. The litter picking part of it kinda passed me by, and according to the Guardian, lots of other people too.

    I’ve blogged before about walking around our local community with Ian – him taking beautiful photos and me picking up litter. When you look out for it you suddenly find it everywhere! I find it quite addictive.

    As we live in an area with a strong community feel I figured there’d be others who might join a litter pick with me. Following advice from the lovely Erica at Keynsham Wombles I’ve set up the fledgling Bear Flat Wombles litter picking group to see where that takes us.

    And after originally arranging the date for what turned out to be Snow Day (bad timing!) we finally got out last Saturday. Between 6 of us we picked up 13.2kg in just an hour! (weight possibly blustered by a large wet towel abandoned in the gutter).

    It was super easy to do. The council drop off all the litter picking kit (they can provide long armed pickers, bags, gloves and high vis) and then picked it up again afterwards. And they collected our filled bags of litter too. Lots of people were either grateful seeing us roaming with our litter sticks, or asked if they could take part next time.

    Here’s our bags of gold. If you’re around Bear Flat on market day (third Saturday of the month) then come along. We meet at 10am and there free tea or coffee in the market afterwards. Lovely!

    Pickles for my valentine πŸ’š

    12 February 2019: I love Valentine’s day. Single or coupled, I’ve always tried to do something to celebrate it. But there’s no doubt the day is an advertisers pot of gold: an opportunity to guilt people into making unnecessary purchases. How will your significant other / friend / siblings, parent / colleague / dog (delete as applicable) survive if you don’t give them some reminder of your undying love?!

    Why buy something for the sake of it when there are so many fabulous things to show your love that are not only thoughtful but useful and non wasteful too? After all cards, flowers and chocolates are so very last year and often come with some type of wasteful plastic…

    For something low key, or if you’re on a budget, just a pretty pebble or a bunch of daffodils from the garden is a kind and thoughtful gesture.

    For something more cultured, find a beautiful poem and read it to them, or go to a local gallery and look at beautiful pictures together and get all inspired.

    For something more decadent, how about indulging in their favourite food. Make something tasty; go mainstream and get a love sausages; or go left field with a pickle bouquets (all the rage).

    And for something more energetic, how about signing up for an activity you can do together – like dance classes or a joining a cycle club. Or just go for a good old walk, rain or shine. Time together away from distractions and get some fresh air along the way.

    Whatever you do, don’t buy ridiculous things like these boxes of nothing. One laugh, and it’s straight in the bin. A gift is only worth giving if you’re sure it’ll be loved and appreciated.

    (And don’t forget to take your own containers if necessary when you buy stuff).

    It’s official – we’re not fooled

    9 February 2019: We spotted this great pub sign on our little get away to the Cotswold village of Burford. It made us laugh. A proper antidote the normal advertising messages. Choose what you like. And then pay for it.

    It reminded me of an article I recently read in Campaign called True Lies which reported on a recent poll: Who do the public trust most to tell the truth?

    Top of the list – nurses, closely followed by doctors. No surprises there. But who’s at the very bottom? Surely either estate agents, politicians or journalists?

    Nope – the lowest scoring profession was advertising executives. The people we mistrust the most are the ones we know are trying to persuade us to buy stuff.

    I think that’s what I like so much about the pub sign. The BOGOF concept (buy one get one free) attempts to encourage us to buy more than we need by packaging it as a bargain we can’t afford to ignore. Yet the pub makes it real and honest – you want it, you pay for it. End of πŸ˜„

    Shopping is one of the biggest hurdles to reducing our impact. We’re constantly bombarded with consumer related messages but remember to question every purchasing decision.

    Yes there are some purchases we can make that will have a lasting influence on our environmental impact, but does every plastic free switch actually have relevance to you? Are we buying things to make stuff look nice, or actually because we need them to achieve a zero waste life style? Make sure you fight the thought ‘I need to buy this to be an ethical person’ and instead consider the question ‘…but actually do I really need it?’

    • Do you need to buy identical Kilner jars for storage when you could accumulate an eclectic assortment of jars?
    • Do you need to replace cling film with silicone lids when a plate would do?
    • Do you actually drink coffee on the go? If not then do you really need that fancy reusable coffee cup?
  • I can hardly talk. We found an amazing brush shop in Burford (apparently the only one in the UK!) and spent a small fortune! Beautiful wooden products that will definitely be useful and last forever. But we’ve lived without then for (cough) years so could we actually have done without? Or the metal straws I bought Ian for his ‘bar’, but really we rarely make drinks that need straws so they barely see the light of day.

    It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and end up with wondrous zero waste items to replace things – you never actually used in the first place!

    So let’s hope that poll is true and we really do mistrust advertisers and can stay strong against all those ‘buy me now messages’. Let’s prove to them we’re not as gullible as they think. Buy only what you need. And when you buy, buy pukka quality.

    And don’t go in that brush shop!

    Big foot

    6 February 2019: I saw an article today from IEMA and March for Science. It said that it is unlikely any climate change interventions we can introduce now will help save a third of the Himalayan ice caps. That’s very sobering – especially as we seem to have started very few interventions anyway. And now watching the BBC news there was a story about how our planet’s temperature is currently the highest it’s ever been. Scientists reported we’re entering unknown territory regarding global warming and the timeframe to make a change is rapidly running out.

    So what impact are we actually having as individuals and will our small changes help? Whilst carbon footprint tests you find on line are unlikely to be 100% accurate they do give an insight into areas where you can improve and also put your estimated in comparison to national trends. So I thought I’d do a couple and see how I faired.

    Firstly, WWF have created the ‘How big is your environmental footprint‘ test.

    Whilst my result shows me my footprint is lower than the UK average, I’m still double the world average. I took a local flight for work to Glasgow last Christmas- that didn’t help. And whilst I avoid meat at weekly lunch times now our remaining meat consumption also pulled me down. Still plenty plenty room for improvement.

    Next I tried Carbon Independent. Again I scored lower than the UK average but still double the world average (slightly more than, in fact).

    But what this shows is that it is feasible for each of us to break the national trends and have a positive impact. And if we all did it, think of the wider impact we could achieve. Yes of course America needs to sort itself out as figures seem to indicate they’re way behind. But that doesn’t stop us leading by example.

    Fancy trying your own? Let me know what you score. And how about we do it again this time next year and see how much we’ve improved. Up for the challenge?!