Banana Seed Cakes

Although my gluten, sugar and dairy free banana loaf seems to have become a regular family favourite, I’m getting bored now! If you’re not bored with it yet, There’s an infographic on this page – tip: screenshot it on your phone.

Although, if dairy isn’t an issue for you, there’s another version here. Every time I make this, I seem to have different mixes 🙂

This Banana Seed Cake Recipe looks quick and easy although sunflower seeds aren’t always available so I’m going to try it without seeds as soon as the bananas don’t get eaten again 🙂

Found in ‘Grow Your Own Pharmacy’ (out of print now)

Banana Seed Cakes

Ingredients

2 small-medium very ripe bananas
6oz./150g./1.5 cups of self-raising flour*
3oz./75g./0.3 cup of sugar
3oz./75g./6 tablespoons of butter
5-6oz./125-150g./1 cup of sunflower seed kernels

*if using plain flour add 1-2 teaspoons of baking powder

you also need 3 bowls but they’re easy to wash up!

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, 180C or Gas mark 4
  2. In a bowl, mash peeled bananas
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and beat in the sugar and bananas
  4. In another bowl, mix the flour, sunflower seeds and baking powder, if using, together.
    *If you’re using self raising flour and not including seeds, skip this step.
  5. Fold the flour (mixture) into the banana mix and stir together well.
  6. Put tablespoons of dough on an ungreased baking sheet leaving about 5cm/2ins between them
  7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for around 15 minutes or when they are just starting to brown.

Let me know how you get on with this. I haven’t tried it yet. People keep eating the bananas!

Enjoy

Linda x

Banana and Chocolate Pancakes

Oh my, if bananas and chocolate don’t satisfy that sweet tooth, nothing will!

This is one of those recipes that get personalized the more you make them. If you’re gluten intolerant but can’t get pancakes to work with gluten free flour, maybe try an alternative such as almond flour – I haven’t tried this so don’t quote me on it! And the different types of chocolate you could use are plentiful 🙂

Banana and Chocolate Pancakes

Pancake Mix:

4oz. (100g) flour
Approx. 8fl.oz (200mls) milk
1-2 eggs (depending on size)
A little cooking oil

Filling:

1-2 bananas
2oz. (50g) dark chocolate (keeping it healthy!)
1 tablespoon honey

Method:

To make pancakes:

  1. Sift flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre
  2. Break an egg into the well and add a little milk.
  3. Mix well, adding more milk gradually and mixing until all milk has been used and you have a fairly thick batter mix.*
  4. Heat oil in a frying pan and pour in a little batter and cook for a minute or two.
  5. Turn over – or flip if you can! – and cook gently on the other side for a minute or two.
  6. Serve warm
  • some pancake makers like to chill the batter for half an hour or so before cooking. Not sure why, but when I remember to do this, the pancakes are often more ‘pancake’ like!

To Make Filling:

  1. Gently warm honey and chocolate in a pan to melt.
  2. Slice bananas and add to the pan.
  3. Cook gently for a minute or two then spread over cooked pancake.
  4. Eat immediately!

Enjoy!

Linda x

Necessity, the Mother of Invention

Many years ago, during a period in my life living off the land, money was scarce and children were many!

Coming from London and a townie through and through, even growing food was an alien pastime for me but we had to learn to survive.

The creative ideas that we came up with every day were based almost entirely on necessity but they worked for us at the time. 🙂

I saw a recent social media post – possibly facebook – stating that the only things that really matter in life are:

how to purify water
how to grow food
how to cook
how to build
and how to love

None of these ‘subjects’ are taught in main stream schools – there may be an exception here and there but basically we are all brought up to rely on a system that is purely financially orientated and pays little attention to the things that really matter, that are in fact a necessity.

Recent world events have shaken up the global population and we all have our own opinions and instincts about

what we are being told by mainstream media
what we are finding through underground sources

but many of us are confused and perhaps just going along with whoever ‘sounds’ like they might be telling the truth. And although I could probably rant on all day about corruption, politicians and the big pharmaceutical companies, nothing is going to change from the top.

It’s us individuals who need to take control, or as much control as possible, for our own lives to help not only the human species but all other life forms.

Food was ‘real’ food just a couple of generations ago. Speaking as a grandmother, I can attest to that. I’m not bleating on about the good old days because they weren’t all good, just as everything nowadays isn’t all bad.

Two of the biggest problems we have is that it isn’t always easy or affordable to go ‘plastic-free’ or ‘organic’ and then the guilt sets in or we just think “aw what the hell”. Neither state of mind is particularly good for our overall wellbeing.

The answer? Baby Steps. We are billions in number and if we all took a couple of baby steps whenever possible, we could make a difference.

So getting back to necessity being the mother of invention:

Yes, it is necessary to start protecting our world
Yes, it is necessary to start protecting ourselves – not only from obvious dangers but generally for our mind, body and soul.
And yes, it is necessary to take control of our lives, even a little at a time will help us and future generations of all sentient beings on earth.

Research a few ideas; how to grow food, how to purify water, how to cook efficiently, how to build and how to love yourself more 🙂

Get that inventive beautiful brain working!

With today’s technology, whatever your views on the privacy and plastic issues are, you can find many solutions as like minded folk share their ideas with the world. There are more than 200 posts just on this website alone that relate to home, family, garden and wellbeing issues.

If you have ideas to share, I’d love to hear from you.

To our Healthy Future

Linda x

P.S. Join the Happy Families community and be first to hear when new ideas are posted. Subscribe Here. And to thank you for joining, I’ll email you a Family Games Printable that will entertain the whole family without plugging in or charging anything!

Recycle, Upcycle, Re-use

It’s surprising how much we can recycle, upcycle and re-use items that are often just tossed in the rubbish without a second thought.

When that second thought occurs though, it triggers all sorts of benefits:

  • generally feeling good
  • creativity and imagination
  • projects, possibly family centred to enjoy and learn from
  • New and unique items for your home

And if those benefits weren’t enough, how about the benefits to the environment:

  • Less land-fill, generally
  • Less driving to the shops for a ‘new’ whatever

So, what could you recycle, upcycle or re-use?

It really does depend on your own lifestyle, family and needs but here are a few ideas that could help save the planet and the health of your bank account perhaps!

GARDEN

Pots:
Toilet or Kitchen roll tubes serve as small pots and are usually in abundance in a busy household. Cut them in half and place in a tray with sides then a waterproof one. Here, I didn’t have a tray with sides so I made a shallow tray from an old cardboard box to hold the pots in place then put it on a tray I wasn’t using for anything else. It works!

And many yogurt and dessert pots are now being manufactured with less plastic. Punch a hole in the bottom (be careful) and wash thoroughly before filling with compost.

I’ve been gradually buying canvas pots and they have been recently coming down in price. As long as they are emptied and dried out after use, they will last a fair amount of time – and I’ve found the slugs are not so keen on them, although my battle with slugs continues…. 🙂

Saving seeds:
When I lived in France, I found that a couple of crops – nasturtiums and parsnips come to mind – would re-seed themselves. But we did have mild winters so I wouldn’t recommend relying on that system.

Let one or two plants go to seed and collect carefully. With broad beans for example, leave the first couple of pods on the plant and they will eventually dry naturally, allowing you to save the seeds to plant next year.

Do a little research for your crops in your region. Parsley in the UK is biennial. It produces leaf in the first year then flowers and seeds in the second year. Let the plant do its thing if you can spare the space, then collect the seed and sow!

Containers:
A leaky bucket may not be any good for cleaning or holding water, but it could be an excellent garden accessory. If you’re weeding a patch of ground, pop the weeds in the bucket and you won’t be going back and forth to the compost bin or trailing soil across the lawn!

Fruit boxes, wooden or cardboard can be really helpful too, especially if you have lots of stuff to harvest at once.

Netting Bags may be useful to protect your fruit bushes. Be careful with this one though. You don’t want birds caught up in it. The holes would need to be fairly small to avoid wildlife damage.
However, I’ve used regular netting bags to stretch low between plants to deter cats from ‘visiting’.

Water bottles:
Although this is a plastic product, it’s sometimes the only choice. But they can be recycled in the garden. I sometimes use them for watering ‘cans’. Punch a few holes in the lid and water away! Also, cutting the bottom off (again be careful here) will create a mini-cloche you can pop over more delicate plants until the weather warms up. Push into the earth quite firmly or a gust of wind could blow it away and also damage your plant.

Cutlery:
Save old spoons and forks to transplant seedlings. They are less likely to damage the roots of your small plants than a trowel.

HOME

Furniture:
The upcycle market has been flooded with upcycled furniture over the past few years and it’s often quite expensive. I am totally with these prices even if I can’t afford them myself! It takes time and resources to re-create an old piece of furniture and the designs and ideas some come up with are amazing!

So, are you artistically minded or maybe a little challenged in that area of life skills?! It really doesn’t matter which. Work with what you have, in skills and resources. If you want to upcycle an old chest of drawers and it’s the first time you’ve attempted anything like it, think it through before you start slapping paint on.

Have a look at images online to get some ideas.
Make a list of what you’ll need and some notes on how to do it. Have you got space somewhere you can work and leave it when you’re needed elsewhere? Can you use eco-friendly products? How much is it going to cost?

Upholstery:
Upholstery crosses over with furniture really. Is your sofa really too saggy to be comfortable anymore? Check out whether it’s possible to refurbish it. – Sometimes it’s not so be realistic here!
But maybe it’s fine but could do with recovering. Professional recovering, again can be quite costly but there are other ways.

Blankets and throws can be super decorative and hide a multitude of sins – read ‘stains’! – I made this throw with only 3 colours because that’s what I had in my yarn stash. It got so popular that I eventually got around to creating a super simple pattern. It’s listed here if you’d like a cool project you can pick up and put down anytime. And the throw is unique – 100%. Make it in random colours or stick to a few blending colours.

And even dining room chairs can be upholstered at home. You’d have to do a little research into the tools you need and whether or not to take an evening class, but this is a satisfying hobby according to my daughter and could even turn into a local business. You never know 🙂

Other Textiles:

Collect large and small pieces of cloth for making new cushion linings and/or covers. Curtains, quilt covers and even blankets can often be found in charity shops if you’ve nothing available and want to refresh your furnishings.

Even old curtains could be used to line other curtains for winter months. Keeping out the drafts will help keep your fuel costs down and keep cosy anyway.

Also, clothes that are really too small, too stained or too holey could be harnessed into your recycling activities. Cut the good parts out and save in a ‘cloth box or bag’ and use later to make patchwork covers or even new clothes. I made a patchwork skirt when I was a lot younger (and slimmer!) It’s looking a little sad now but it’s been hanging around for over 40 years and I can’t bring myself to throw it out 🙂

Quick note:

A sewing machine comes in handy and can be bought fairly cheaply these days. They used to be almost a ‘luxury’ but a regular non-fancy machine could cost less than £100 and could save you a lot more. This is a Brother machine that comes in at around the £100 mark but there are cheaper options. Please research thoroughly as I haven’t used this one myself.

Brother Sewing Machine at Amazon (UK)

CHILDREN:

Clothes:
Kids grow out of their clothes almost before they’ve been washed! When that happens, either pass down to a younger sibling or give away to a friend or charity. There are apps you can sell them on too. But if they really aren’t saleable and not really worth passing on, do the same as before; cut the good parts out and save them for other things. Keep buttons and working zips as well.

Some of these pieces of cloth and general haberdashery can be siphoned off to a craft box for the children…

Craft box:
Cereal boxes, egg boxes and all sorts of containers can be used to create models and games and will encourage children to enjoy crafts and make the best use of their imagination.
Often parents say ‘but they’ll play with the box more than the gift inside’ and from my own experience, I would say that’s pretty much true a lot of the time!

So, how about getting one step ahead and creating something out of a box in the first place (and put your credit card away!)

Medium sized boxes can be used to make:

dolls houses, castles, model villages, cars and boats and even puppet shows – This article will give you some ideas- Boxland

If none of these ideas resonate, try googling or youtube-ing – for example ‘how to upcycle my washing machine’ – I’ve known a few friends who have recycled the drum of an old washing machine into a barbecue or garden waste burner. The rest of the machine is normally taken away by a metal scrap merchant although if you’re handy with tools and like messing around with bits of metal, maybe a sculpture or a practical set of shelves may be possible?

Whatever it is you’re getting rid of or perhaps been hoarding for ‘later’ allow yourself a moment of creative imagination before you declutter and throw everything out. Think Recycle, Upcycle, Re-use.

Here’s to a Happy Planet!

Linda x

P.S. If you are de-cluttering your home and it’s all got a bit too much, there’s a handy download I put together to help you get through the task step by step. It’s listed here (at the At Home page)

Boxland

How many of us have experienced the delight in giving a small child a brand new toy, only to find he or she really does prefer the box it came in?

Well, two can play at that game.

Welcome to Boxland, where anything may happen. Let your imagination run wild and spend some quality time with the little darlings. Added bonus: you can leave your credit card in your wallet. If you’ve just had a de-clutter or a spring clean, you may have to do a little collecting first. Look out for, and stash:

Cardboard boxes:
To make two of the projects on this page you’ll need a box large enough for your child to sit in, as a base. Then collect any other cardboard boxes, cereal packets, paper plates, anything that’s clean and food-free.

-Junk Mail comes in handy:
Collect junk mail, advertising brochures, catalogues and magazines. Anything colourful will do.

-Packing:
Bits of shredded paper, wrapping paper with a raised pattern, look for different textures to make it more fun and interesting.

-haberdashery:
Small pieces of cloth, ribbon, shoe laces, yarn, rope and any other trimmings are great for adding finishing touches.

Alongside all these recycled goodies, you’ll need:

-pencils, markers, crayons, paints etc;
-a decent pair of scissors, and perhaps a craft knife. Keep these out of reach of little fingers.
-glue, sellotape, maybe a little ‘blu-tac’
-paper fasteners

So, here we go…. projects and ideas for recycling household stuff into delightful toys;

Trains, Boats and Cars

… whichever your child happens to be into at the moment. The only downside to this – you need a strong back as you’ll be expected to provide engine power when the vehicle is built.

Start with a large box that your child can sit comfortably in. Put a cushion inside if they are too little to see over the top.

With paper fasteners, attach paper plates for wheels and steering. Or cut circles out of card and attach with a length of yarn through the centre. Make the wheels turn somehow.

-Cut out a windscreen from another box or piece of card, with a window, and glue to the main body.

Add extra ‘carriages’ to a train by tying smaller boxes on a length of rope, or ribbon behind the main carriage. These smaller boxes can carry the passengers (teddies or other favourite toys)

-stick pictures or stickers to decorate or paint the whole thing.

  • optional extra: An engine needs horsepower, so you need some reins. A fairly sturdy length of rope attached through the front of the ‘vehicle’ should do it. Now you can pull your tiny around in their train, car or boat until you run out of fuel.

Fairy castles and Doll’s Houses

A house or castle shouldn’t need pulling round so you can sacrifice a little sturdiness for size. Put 2 boxes together to make a large house your child can go in and out of. The only thing to look out for, is the child leaning on the walls… they may fall down. A large cushion may help secure it, or will at least break the fall 🙂

If you’re making a castle, glue some smaller boxes round the top of the walls for turrets.

‘Wallpaper’ the insides of the house or castle with pictures from magazines and old catalogues. Paint the outside in bright poster paints.

Cut out windows and stick two pieces of cloth on the inside to represent curtains.

Outside the box: Cut a circle of blue card or cloth and lay it outside to serve as a pond. Cut out orange fish shapes from card and scatter them on the ‘water’.

Theatres and TVs

Find a box that will sit on the table and be big enough to partially conceal someone sitting behind it.

Cut or remove half the base of the box. Then turn it on its side. The piece you removed is where the stage is set. If possible, instead of removing the base half, fold it back and adjust the width, so that ‘props’ can sit on it.

Decorate the theatre lavishly with shiny paper, ribbons and bows etc;

Hang a length of cloth over the back of the box (originally the open top) to hide the pupeteer.

Then hold your own puppet show. Make up a script and see how long you can stick to it before laughing!

Ideas for home made puppets:

  • Cut celebrity pictures from old magazines and stick them to thin card, Attach a sturdy length of card or a smooth stick (chopsticks perhaps?) with sellotape to the back of the ‘celebrity’ puppet.
  • Wooden spoons make very effective glove puppets that small children can work easily. Tie a piece of cloth round the ‘neck’ of the spoon. Paint on a face and stick on some ‘hair’ using yarn or something similar. The child can hold the handle of the spoon under the cloth.

Un-armed Bandits!

Turn a medium sized box onto its longest edge and on the inside of the edge, draw target areas. These could be strips of different colours with numbers, or different sized numbered circles. Don’t make the numbers too high, no more than 10.

On the base of the box – at the ‘top’ edge, cut 2 slits a few inches apart large enough for a counter to pass through.

Use plastic counters or cut circles from card. Make lots so you don’t run out too quickly.

Child pushes their ‘coins’ in one slit and if it lands on a target area clear of the lines, the child wins that number of coins. There’s room for diplomacy here; if the young player is getting to the end of their coins, a little extra bonus wouldn’t go amiss 🙂

The ‘winning’ coins are posted back through the second slit, much to the amusement of the child, especially if you are slightly hidden from view.

These are just a few of many creations you can make in the wonderful world of boxes. How about…

  • making a doll’s house as an ongoing project, slowly adding matchbox furniture and pipe cleaner dolls
  • building a complete model village around a village green, space permitting

When the box finally gives up its struggle to survive under such heavy play conditions, recycle what you can and make something else!

Have Fun!

Linda x

P.S. I’ve put together a quick download of 30 off-grid family games to lure them from their electronic devices! Listed here

Grow and Eat

Ever since I lived partly off the land when my children were growing up, I’ve never been able to shake the need to grow food. Even, when I’ve had little outdoor space, a tomato plant has always got pride of place!

This year, I’ve been blessed with a greenhouse that came free from a friend. And it’s my home from home – in fact I’d move in, but there wouldn’t be any space for my plants! This is what part of the greenhouse looks like this week…..

Plants starting to grow well and already had a couple of bunches of pea shoots to add to the salads.

Growing your own food, even if it’s just a couple of tomato plants is so rewarding – imagine eating food that’s…

Totally organic.
Fresher than anything you could possibly buy
Reducing your supermarket bill.

Even without any outdoor space you could still grow a few things to eat. How about:

Beansprouts? – No digging, no soil and very tasty sprouts! There’s a how-to blog here if you fancy a go at this.

Windowsill Herbs – Just a few small pots on a bright windowsill will give you fresh organic herbs to add that ‘je ne sais quoi’ to every meal. There are lots of herb tips here on site and some pretty cool herb growing downloadable books that will inspire you to get into herb growing. (Herb Books Page)

Do a little research before you rush off to the garden centre and consider your own space, for example;

  • How much sun does the garden get and where? – some plants are happier in the shade and others like to have the sun on their leaves all day
  • Is the soil reasonably healthy or has it been overstretched in recent years? – if so, you may need to add some nutrients or simple compost
  • Do you need any pots? Don’t go overboard here unless you’ll need to grow everything in pots. I’ve very little ground to grow in, so use a lot of pots but I’ve been slowly phasing out plastic and using these canvas pots as often as I can. They are more expensive, but with a little care, they don’t break and they certainly don’t add to the plastic pollution problem.

Breathable Nonwoven Fabric Pots with Handles, 5-Pack 5 Gallon – these are available at Amazon UK at the time of writing. But have a look around because there are lots of different sizes to choose from. Amazon UK Pots

So, seeds, pots and soil at the ready…. get gardening! Gardening is such a peaceful and relaxing hobby and it couldn’t be more practical. If you’re not growing food, grow some flowers. Flowers can bring colour, scent and bees to your garden. Nature at it’s ultimte best here. I’ve only recently started enjoying the pleasure of growing flowers and I would recommend it to anyone.

A mixture of fruits, veggies, herbs and flowers will keep you occupied and well-fed throughout the year and also bring a sense of well-being and tranquility to you and your family.

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

P.S. A few years ago I started writing mini-guides to help new gardeners get the most from their plants, and although there are a million books on gardening, it isn’t always necessary to buy a sometimes expensive book when you may only have the time, space and inclination to grow a tomato or two. So I made them super cheap and downloadable.

But then I thought why not put ten in a box so to speak and re-vamped the whole idea! Now you can grab ‘Growing Everyday Vegetables’ that covers everything in the mini guides in one download. Find it on the ‘Growing’ Books page.

Breaking Ice with Parlour Games

Playing parlour games was considered to be part of every day life just a few short decades ago. Digital games tend to be quite solitary – unless you’re on an online team game I guess!

But what happens when the internet’s down or there’s a power cut? Relying on ‘the system’ can be very disempowering but I’m here to say ‘Bring the fun back whether the leckie or the teckie is working or not!’

So let’s break some conversational ice. When you play games, whether they’re board games, card games, pencil and paper games or any other game that doesn’t need to be ‘plugged in’, you do have to speak to each other.

That could mean simply saying things like ‘it’s your turn’ or ‘pick a card’. But if there’s someone in your game who can press his or her fun button, these quick speaks could be lengthened and before you know it, you’re all chatting and having fun. For example…

  • Pretending that you’re going to cheat can cause riotous behaviour, although how riotous will depend on the atmosphere and length of fuses the players have.
  • Getting it wrong as an adult always makes the kids chuckle. Happy kids are what we’re going for after all. I employed this tactic many times over the years and although my grown up children still probably think I’m a bit dippy, I can laugh alongside their sibling jokes about me (sssh… because I know better!)

So, here’s a game that’s been played for many years in various forms and is suitable for all ages who can put pencil to paper. Young children especially like this game.

The more players the merrier but the game can be played with just two players. Each player will need a piece of paper and a pencil. Cut A4 pages in half lengthwise and give one piece to each player. I would also have some paper clips ready if you have some and if none of the children are likely to put them in their mouth, nose or ears 🙂

Each player draws a picture of a head and neck at the top of their paper. This could be the head of a monster or a person or maybe a robot? The drawing must be kept secret. Make the neck slightly longer and fold over the paper twice to hide the drawing but leaving the two marks for either side of the neck visible.

Pass the piece of paper to the player on your left. You may find it easier to use a paper clip to hold the paper in place.

The next drawing is a body and arms. Each player draws a body and arms taking the two neck marks as guidelines but not looking at the head that was drawn by the previous player. Mark the bottom of the body so the next player knows where to start the legs. The paper is then folded over as before and passed on to the next player.

The next drawing should be the legs. You could include the feet on this one or make the feet another stage. Using the mark at the base of the body drawn by the previous player, draw the legs and fold over the paper again. Mark the bottom of the legs if you are passing it on again for the feet to be drawn by another player, or include the feet in your drawing.

Fold over the paper after the final drawing and pass on to the next player to open and reveal the weirdest and funniest people/monsters/animals that you’ve ever seen!

I love to share fun games we used to play in days of (not-so) old.

There’s a free printable of ten games on this page somewhere when you join the ‘Happy Families‘ community.

Have Fun

Linda x

P.S. In case you’ve just about topped your email capacity, there’s also a book download on this page. Indoor Family Games is where I extracted this little game from!

Mediterranean Potatoes

When I lived in France, I experimented with veggie recipes and this is one that my kids loved and therefore they ate it quite often!

I included it in the free potato book (pdf) here if you’d like to download it or just copy the recipe below and give it a go. Super tasty and nutritious…

Mediterranean Potatoes

Ingredients

3 or 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed or peeled and diced
1 courgette (zucchini)
1 green pepper
1 medium onion
A handful of fresh chopped herbs (maybe a teaspoon-ish of dried herbs if no fresh available?)
The juice of 1 lemon
A little olive or nut oil

Method

  1. Boil or steam potatoes until just cooked. Drain well and set aside.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, slice the pepper into strips or cut into chunks, chop the onion and slice the courgette.
  3. Gently sauté the pepper, onion and courgette in the oil in a large pan until vegetables are soft.
  4. Stir in the cooked drained potatoes carefully, add the lemon juice and herbs.
  5. Stir gently over a low heat for a minute or two and serve immediately.

NB: Use up any odd bits of vegetables you have lurking in the fridge; e.g. a tomato or a few small broccoli or cauliflower florets.

Bon Appetit!

Linda x

Growing Aloe Vera

The essential kitchen windowsill plant. Aloe vera gel (inside the leaf casing) is wonderful for soothing minor burns. I couldn’t do without an Aloe Vera in the house!

Medicinal uses for Aloe Vera

The medicinal uses for aloe vera are well documented and various. One particularly benefit is a treatment for burns. The sap in the leaves can be applied directly to a minor burn. It aids the body in its healing process and the wound will be much relieved.

The sap also relieves pain from stinging insects and plants. It will also soothe sunburn.

An interesting feature of aloe vera plants is that they continue to release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide at night which makes them suitable plants to keep in the bedroom.

About Aloe Vera

Historical evidence suggests that aloe vera originated in Africa although it is now grown in many countries. In moderate climates, aloe is often grown as a houseplant and thrives well in containers. It will grow happily in humid conditions as long as the roots aren’t in water. The plant will tolerate very high temperatures as well as very cold air temperatures. But low ground temperatures will damage the roots.

The use of aloe vera in medicinal preparations has been recorded for more than 2000 years. The sap from the leaf of the plant is a thick gel and it is this gel that holds all the healing ingredients aloe vera is becoming more and more well-known for. There is a wide commercial trade in aloe vera and it has been proved to cure many minor ailments as well as some chronic conditions.

The plant is 95% water and is therefore frost tender. It is normally grown indoors as a houseplant in the UK and similar climates. In warmer climates aloe vera can be grown outside in full sun or very light shade.

Growing

Aloe vera has become very popular in recent years and is available in the form of ready grown plants from many garden suppliers. Plants should be kept on a sunny windowsill and kept indoors for most of the year. During warm summer months, pots can be put outside during the day. Don’t forget to bring them in before the temperature drops.

Offsets:

The quickest way to propagate aloe is to take the offsets from the main plant and re-pot immediately using new compost and a container that can be positioned in the sun. Offsets should be 3 or 4 inches (8-10cm) high or more with 3 or 4 leaves and removed carefully so as to minimize damage to the mother plant.

All pots and containers must be very well-drained. Add extra sand or gravel to compost before planting. Water immediately after planting and then let the soil dry out almost completely before watering again.

Use the offsets as they become large enough to remove from the plant, to produce new plants. Give them away if you have too man.

From seed:

Aloe vera can be grown from seed although it can take anything from one to six months to germinate. It must be kept warm during this time. It should be started in well-drained trays or pots of warm fresh compost and kept damp. Water gently but regularly.

When the plants are large enough to handle, prick out carefully into individual pots and keep warm. Position in a sunny spot, either in a greenhouse or on a windowsill. If you are planting outside choose the sunniest spot in the garden away from draughts and frost pockets.

Protect with a cloche or other cover during the night until the plant has become established, and during the next cold season. Remember aloe vera is a tropical plant and likes warm humid weather and plenty of sun.

Re-potting:

Plants will need re-potting every year or so, depending on the size of the pot, how well it grows, and also the quality of the original compost.

Aloe vera has shallow wide spreading roots and it should be re-potted into a container that is wider but not necessarily deeper than its current one. Always use fresh compost when re-potting and mix in some sand to help with the drainage.

During the summer months, aloe vera should be watered well and then left to dry out completely before watering again. During the winter months, the plant rests and requires very little water. When the soil is completely dry add a cup or two of water. The plant is a succulent so holds a lot of water within the leaves and roots, and will rot if watered too much and too often.

Storing

Aloe Vera is an evergreen succulent and available for use all year round. The gel inside the leaves can be stored and is widely processed in aloe vera preparations. However, in commercial processing, it is usual to use the whole leaf as it is more cost effective.

“One of the most practical plants you can grow indoors that doesn’t really need much looking after.”

Linda x

P.S. This article was stolen from 20 Occasional Herbs. Listed on the Herb Books page if you’d like to know more.

Chocolate Leaves

Well, if it’s chocolate, it’s probably worth sharing, right?!

I found a few ways of making chocolate decorations but they get a bit fiddly sometimes, then when you think it’s working, one of the chocolate works of art snaps and has to be eaten… oh well 🙂

I haven’t tried making these chocolate leaves yet. I need to go to the shop – AGAIN!

Anyway, see what you think. Copied from The Chocolate Book by Valerie Barratt

Select non-toxic leaves for ‘molds’ with clearly defined veins. Rose, bay, strawberry and mint are all possible. Don’t use leaves that would otherwise be non-edible.

Wash the leaves gently and pat dry.

Melt some chocolate on a heatproof plate over a pan of hot water.

Holding the leaf by the stem, carefully dip the vein side only in the chocolate

  • Alternatively, melt chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water and use a small paintbrush to paint the chocolate on the veined side of the leaf.

Wipe off any chocolate that may have dripped onto the front of the leaf.

Place on non-stick or waxed paper to set.

When the chocolate is completely hard, carefully pull off the leaf by the stem

Et voila! A chocolate leaf ready to decorate a dessert or celebration cake.

Linda x