Live LAGOM 2

Bit of a serious post this. It’s time for my second blog about the journey I’ve embarked upon as a member of the live LAGOM community. And it is a journey. To recap, live LAGOM is a project by IKEA, encouraging a group of us to think about living more simply and with “just enough”. We’ve all been given access to a wide range of IKEA products to help us in this goal. Home visits were made by the IKEA team and recommendations were offered based on current living. As I mentioned in a previous post, I like to think I already “do my bit”: I recycle, monitor my energy usage, buy organic meat and vegetables, bake my own bread, preserve fruit etc. BUT. I also use a car, almost daily; I hoard food – my store cupboards bulge; and my particular besetting sin is the retention of stuff.

I live in a grade 2 Georgian cottage in Liverpool. Sandstone walls, stone floors, draughty single glazed windows that don’t let in much light, and planning required to make significant changes such as installing double glazing. From a practical point of view I needed to cosy things up, and add more light. My IKEA booty included 5 rugs, 3 blinds, 3 lamps and a whole load of battery operated LED fairy lights to use in dark corners. It’s been a mild winter but nevertheless it does get chilly, adding rugs & a blind to my bedroom means I’ve not actually switched on the radiator at all in there as the white fabric blinds block draughts from the window but don’t cut the light.

Morning light.

Morning light.

And I love that they are magnetic! The new rugs keep my feet warm on the cold floors and have been very popular with my furry housemates…

I’ve also been rearranging my cupboards, with the help of a LOT of Ikea glassware. Not perfect yet, but the systematic use of jars large enough to hold all my spices is meaning that at least I can see what I need before I go to the shops.

I mentioned this was a serious post at the start, so I should explain why. My Dad passed away 6 years ago, leaving me as executor of his will and sorter out of his estate. This was no small task. He resided in an 8 bedroomed house, plus garage and cellars. It was the family home for 40 years and I’d moved in with him in his last year, mostly to try to help him sort it out and aim to down size into something more manageable for a gentleman in his later years who wasn’t in the best of health. Sadly he died before we could achieve this, but I’d begun the truly Herculean task of going through the house. If I tell you that it took me TWO years to clear the house, and during that time I found myself dealing with much of my deceased mother AND grandmother’s personal items, you may have an inkling over what changes I want to make within my own home.  My own attic contains boxes of “items” left over from this period. Stuff I just couldn’t deal with, have no clue what to do with but struggle to throw out.

I really, really don’t want to end up like my Dad, filling rooms with “stuff” rather than throwing it out. I’m already spotting an alarming tendency to hoard paper – newspaper clippings, magazines, birthday cards etc.  So, not only did I join the Live LAGOM project, with an aim to be more sustainable, I also really want to take the message of “just enough” seriously.  I found a group on Facebook – it’s a closed one but you can apply to join – called Living With Less – basically it’s an online cheerleader for those of us who are trying really hard to reduce the clutter and live simpler lives. We post about the difficulty of letting stuff go, cheer on each other when we manage it and console each other when we just can’t deal with it any more. Since January 2016 I have got rid of: 5 boxes of magazines; 3 boxes of newspaper clippings; 28 books; 4 bags of “nope, you’re really not EVER going to wear that again” clothes; 2 boxes of random knick knacks (mostly weird presents, sorry); and 2 lamps that “just needed a little work”. I have a long way to go yet, haven’t even started on the stuff in the attic, but it’s a start. I want clutter free space where I can display the things I really DO want to keep.  Still trying to Live LAGOM…

Cat on a rug

Cat approval given

Live LAGOM

picture of store cupboard

One of the hiding places…

It probably says something worrying about me that the phrase Live LAGOM runs through my head to the tune of Ricky Martin’s Living La Vida Loca. Every time I think of it. And I’m going to think about it a lot this year. What am I on about? LAGOM originates as a Swedish phrase Lagom är bäst, meaning the right amount is best. Think Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it’s the porridge that was “just right”, not too big, not too small, not too hot, not too cold, not too sweet, not too salty. It’s a concept that IKEA are keen for us all to embrace. Enjoying all that life has to offer but in moderation, by living sustainably and looking after the planet as you do.

I’ve been chosen to take part in the IKEA Live LAGOM challenge, joining another 249 households across Britain who are all hoping to reduce waste, save money, energy and water, and live healthier and more sustainable lives. We’ve each been given a budget to spend on IKEA products that will help us on this journey, enabling us to make changes, some small, some larger, in how we live. It’s going to be challenging, interesting and hopefully inspirational being part of this project.

My first thought, when approached about this, was but I already do all that. Don’t I? I recycle, I use low energy bulbs, I’m fanatical about food waste, I turn the lights off when I leave rooms, turn off electrical items not in use, monitor my water use, surely there’s not much else I can do? Oh but there is. Much, much more. I live in a 200 years old stone cottage. It’s grade 2 listed so I’m restricted in what I can do externally – no double glazing allowed – but that doesn’t mean I can’t reduce the draughts by adding internal blinds to all those windows. I have a mix of stone and wooden floors that can get a tad chilly underfoot, so that’s rugs added to the list. My scented geraniums that come in for winter and go out for summer – self watering pots with wheels – immediate benefits for all concerned – me not giving myself a hernia lifting the pots, the plants getting the RIGHT amount of water.

And what about my behaviour? What can I change? I have a confession to make. I hoard. Food. Paper. Books. Stuff. Time to let some of it go. My resolutions for this year have all been about simplifying. Starting with the food thing. I’m an unabashed food fanatic. I write about it, make it, eat it – I even work in a food related area – I’m the Sustainable Food City coordinator for Liverpool and I blog and tweet as Grab Your Spoon, as well making and selling my own preserves under the same name. So I have cupboards. Full of spices, sugars, exotic ingredients, types of flour, pastas, pulses etc. You rock up to my house with an army in tow? I’ll feed you. No problem. Except there is a problem. I really can’t see the spelt wheat for the self-raising flour. I have NO idea what is in my cupboards. They are crammed. This means I regularly re-buy things that I already own. I make a guess when shopping as to whether or not I have turmeric. Turns out I do. Three unopened packets of it, that aren’t going to get used up before the potency of the ground spice dissipates. This is NOT cool. Bring on the stackable glass jars from IKEA that are going to help me organise my pantry. Lists are going to be made. Labels will be printed. And I WILL have order. Same of course goes for the fridge, the freezer and the slidy drawers in my tiny kitchen. Described as functional chaos, I’d like the kitchen to be a bit more functional and a bit less chaotic. I’ll deal with the books, the paper and the other stuff afterwards. One step at a time, and this kitchen is going to be a big step. Upside, inside out, I’m living La Vida LAGOM….

Butternutty Soup

So here we are on the 3rd January 2016. It’s a grey, wet and frankly miserable day. The festivities are over, the tree is taken down, decorations tidied away and it’s back to work or school for many of us tomorrow. Cheering up food is required. Something tasty, bright and warming. Soup should fit that bill, and I have had a butternut squash kicking about the kitchen for the past two weeks that needs using up.

I’m taking part in an Ikea challenge – to Live LAGOM – which is all about simplifying your life, reducing waste and being more sustainable in all your activities. One of things I’ve put down as a personal challenge is to manage my store cupboards better. I’m convinced I was a starving peasant in a former life as I regularly overstock my pantry, secure in the knowledge that I can, if required, feed an army at short notice. However, as that army doesn’t rock up with the frequency I think it should, I end up with full cupboards and an occasional *cough* duplication of items because I can’t actually find anything in them…

With that laudable intent in mind, I spent a merry morning turning out two pantry shelves, listing everything I had, relabelling jars & chucking out things from 2008. Oops. I’ve got lots of odds and sods – some desiccated coconut, not enough for a cake; various small quantities of lentils; lots of bits of pasta; and a fine selection of nuts including unsalted cashews, pine nuts and hazelnuts. I do hate waste so I’m determined to make some meals using up these scraps.

Back to the butternut squash and the warming soup that’s so sorely needed. I don’t think I’m being particularly original in this combination of butternut squash, cashews and coconut but by gum it makes a yummy soup! Please forgive the slightly random measurements, this soup was rather chucked together, so you may need to adjust quantities to suit your own taste. I’ve also realised that I’ve created a vegan recipe, by accident not design, but one that fits nicely into January’s Veganuary theme for a few folk.

Butternutty soup

1 medium butternut squash

1 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves of garlic

1 tsp dried thyme

1 medium onion

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 dsp desiccated coconut

a handful of unsalted cashews (or peanuts)

1 litre veg stock

Cut up butternut squash into 2 inch or so chunks – skin and all, but remove the seeds & fibre from the centre. Toss in a baking tray with 1 tbsp of oil, thyme and three slightly crushed but not peeled garlic cloves. Place in a medium hot oven – GM5/160 fan/ 180C and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until the squash is tender. Leave til cool enough to handle, then remove skin from butternut squash pieces and squeeze out the roasted garlic.

Meantime, roughly chop the onion. Add 1 tbsp of oil to a heavy based pan, heat gently and then add the onion. Keep the heat low and cook onions til soft and translucent. Add the chilli flakes and stir well. Add the butternut squash, garlic, coconut and cashews. Pour the hot veg stock into the vegetable baking tray to rinse out any lingering flavours and decant into the soup pan. Give everything a good stir and bring to a gentle simmer for about 15 minutes. Take off the heat, let it cool slightly before blending into a rich creamy soup. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed – salt/ pepper/ pinch of cayenne if it needs more heat etc. Serve garnished with more cashews.

Soup in preparation

Vegetables cooking before stock added

Picture of butternutty soup

Butternutty Soup