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Six Plants You Can Grow On Your Windowsill

The importance of eating organic food has gradually grown from an unlikely trend to something a whole lot more vital; we are all encouraged to eat more fruit and veg and to choose organic options where possible but the associated costs can be prohibitive.   The most affordable way of eating organic plants is to grow them yourself.  Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of space to grow a selection of vegetables and herbs; a small vegetable patch, hanging baskets, a balcony or roof terrace or even, as in my case, a sun-filled windowsill, can provide enough space to make a good start in growing your own.

We live in a small flat with no garden so our only option at the moment is to grow plants on our bedroom windowsill (this is south-facing and so receives the most natural light and warmth of anywhere in the flat).  We have made a start into the process by researching the types of things we will be able to grow and have come up with these super six:

Cherry tomatoes

Spring Onions

Spinach

Basil

Coriander

Carrots

All of these are easy to grow indoors though will require different sizes of pots.  Caring for them regularly is vital to their success.  They will need watering, pruning and extra feeding as the nutrients they are planted with will get used up quickly – manure is an excellent way of providing the essential nutrients plants need to grow strong and healthy.

Tomatoes-on-windowsill

If you have children, growing vegetables is a hugely educational exercise for them.  I believe it is really important that we teach the next generation where food comes from so they can make fully-informed choices on their own nutrition.  Teaching them how to grow and care for plants is a good way of helping them to become independent and self-sufficient too and will hopefully be something they take with them as they grow themselves.  Once the plants are ready to harvest, you can also use the opportunity to further educate your children on how to cook them and the variety of meals each plant can be used for.

Generally, growing your own fruit and veg is a cheap, healthy and nutritious hobby that really makes a difference.

 

Squash and Coconut Dhansak… Using a Microwave

When I was growing up, microwaves had quite a negative image. There was a broad assumption (or it may just have been in my house) that the only things you could really cook in them were ready meals and other unhealthy convenience foods.  These days, though, there are lots of healthy meals you can make with the help of your combi microwave oven.

One such meal is this squash and coconut dhansak that is quick and easy to both prepare and cook as well as being super healthy.

The ingredients I used are as follows:

  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 500g butternut squash (one medium squash), peeled and chopped (or buy ready-prepared to save extra time)
  • 100g carrots, peeled and cut into batons
  • 100g chopped onions
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 400g can coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp. coconut yogurt
  • Garlic naan bread (shop-bought)
  • Rice (2 x micro pouches)

To make this delicious curry, I completed the steps below:

Heat the oil in a large pan. Put the butternut squash and carrot into a bowl with a splash of water. Cover with cling film and microwave on full power for 12 minutes, until tender. Meanwhile, add the onions to the hot oil and cook for a few mins until soft then pour in the curry paste, tomatoes and coconut milk, and simmer for 10 minutes until thickened to a rich sauce. Warm the naan breads in a low oven for 2-3 minutes. Drain any liquid from the squash and carrots before adding to the sauce. Simmer for a further 2-3 minutes then stir in the coconut yogurt. Cook the rice as per the packet instructions. Serve with the warm naan.

IMG_0438This was a really yummy meal for all the family (bar the ultra-fussy 8 year old, of course) and I was amazed at just how quick and easy it was to make.  For me, finding family meals that are nutritious and as organic as possible but also don’t take an age to prepare is tricky so that this was a hit has been a revelation.  It will be added to our regular meal plan and I will also be looking at other quick, healthy meals that we can make using our microwave.

When you think I’m being rude, here’s what’s going on inside…

You might see me on the school run, head down, face set, eyes resolutely avoiding contact.

You may notice that if we cross paths in town, I will take out my phone and busy myself rather than stopping for a chat.

If you do happen to engage me in conversation, you will likely pick up on the fact that I will just about answer your questions but rarely ask how you are in return.

Socially, you may note that I look unapproachable and like I would really rather be anywhere else than where I am, even if it happens to be your birthday/hen party/some other celebration.

You will realise that sometimes I just won’t show up if you invite me out.  I won’t always even give you advanced warning.

Quite quickly, you will get the sense that I am, simply, astonishingly rude.

It’s fine; you won’t be the first person to have thought this.

But you, like they, will be wrong.

Attitude doesn’t come into it; I’m far too busy trying to temper the anxiety that is coursing through me, turning my brain to mulch so that I am unable to hold a coherent conversation even when I try.

If I go out of my way to avoid you, it’s almost always because I really want you to like me but I am useless at interaction and avoidance is preferable to actual humiliation.

When we talk, I will be spending the majority of the time wracking my brains for something intelligent to say whilst simultaneously trying to stop myself passing out as my heart attempts to break out through my chest at my sheer audacity of trying to make a friend.  My failure to ask how you are or anything else is merely due to the invasion of social anxiety on all my vital organs, squishing them, restricting blood flow to them.  As soon as we part, be assured that a thousand questions will immediately fill my brain to bursting and I will realise just how rude I must have appeared, to not have thought to ask one of them whilst you were actually beside me.

Socially, yes, I will doubtless be having a terrible time.  I will have spent the preceding days (or weeks, depending on the occasion) in a higher-than-usual state of anxiety at the prospect of having to leave the safety of my house to go and be sociable.  Any hint of formality will increase my anxiety tenfold as will knowing people I’ve yet to meet will also be in attendance and therefore a whole new group of individuals will be on hand to witness my startling ineptitude at being alive.  It doesn’t matter that it’s your special occasion – social anxiety does not, in my (sadly vast) experience, discriminate.  After a few drinks, I will mellow to the point where I will be able to enter and exit the room without succumbing to a panic attack and I may even try to engage you in conversation, if I am not so wracked with guilt that I have to rely on vast quantities of vodka to be able to function socially.

I will often duck out of social events, that’s just how it is at the moment.  I have hope that this will change, if I find the magical combination of meds and CBT that works for me.  I will turn things down and back out at the last minute but I will always beat myself up about it for a long time afterwards.  I still feel physically sick about an event I couldn’t force myself to go to last summer.  And I will always worry about the effect my refusal to partake in social situations has on potential friendships.

If, on the behalf of all social anxiety sufferers, I can ask one thing of our friends and acquaintances it is this: please be patient and please be persistent.  We realise that we are hard work but, generally, we want to do better.

Give Your Business a More Profitable 2019

profitPicture source

Perhaps you’re looking to expand your company this year so that you can increase its profits. Of course, that’s easier said than done. You might not have the necessary funds for a massive investment. Still, there are plenty of ways to stimulate business growth without excessive amounts of funding. Here’s how to give your business a more profitable 2019.

Increase your company’s productivity levels.

A great way in which you could give your business a more profitable 2019 is to increase your company’s productivity levels. If you can boost your daily output then your business can expand as a result. This gives you the potential to meet the demands of a much larger client base, and that means your profit potential will increase as a result. There are lots of small ways in which you could make a massive difference to your company’s productivity on a daily basis. You could incentivise your workers by giving them rewards (e.g. a bonus or a free lunch) for pushing themselves. Give them a reason to work harder. You could also give them better tools so they can work more efficiently. You could automate administrative work such as data entry to speed things up. You could even use software to extract extract from images more quickly, as explained on Setapp. This would help you to digitise physical documents speedily. It’s one example of many when it comes to creating a more productive workplace through the use of technology.

Build on your reputation.

The reputation of your business is one of the most valuable things it has to offer. If there’s little buzz surrounding your name in the industry then it’s time to get people talking about you. For starters, work on the personality your business projects through every single one of its employees. Your company doesn’t have to be perfect, and that’s fine; humans aren’t perfect. But likeable humans admit mistakes, and likeable businesses have to do the same thing. This can lead your company to gain the respect of the market. You can also build on your reputation by pushing a brand message that connects with the market. Donate to charity, and do more to help the environment. Show people that your business values more than profits. In turn, you’ll gain consumer interest and actually turn over a larger profit.

Give your customers added value.

Some businesses might try to win over customers by competing on prices and lowering the cost of their goods continuously to keep the market interested, but this isn’t a sustainable way to grab the market’s attention. There are other ways to gain sales. For example, a much better way to give your business a more profitable 2019 is to give your customers added value. In other words, you should make your goods and services worth the prices you charge. We’ve talked a lot about impressing customers by deliving a productive service and creating a captivating reputation, but the loyalty of your clients should be your primary focus. Give your long-term customers freebies and discounts as a way of thanking them. Reward them with points they can use in your store every time they make a purchase. This will show people that their long-term custom is valued by your business. They’ll keep returning to your company over and over again.

 

My Experience with Data Breach

One of the downsides of blogging, or indeed any online activity, is the susceptibility you have to occurrences of hacking and resultant data breaches.  Back in 2013, when I hadn’t been blogging for very long, my site was hacked, I was locked out and sensitive information that belonged both to me and to my readers (those who had commented left their names and email addresses on my site) were at sudden and immediate risk of theft.

Now, I am the first to admit that I know nothing about the technical side of maintaining a blog and I simply reported the incident to my hosting company who did all the hard work for me.  As it turned out, it was quite a substantial and serious hack that also resulted in my personal email address being hacked and my financial data being at risk.  Due to this, it was deemed that the best way forward was for my hosts to shut down my site and reopen a whole new one.  Not ideal for any blogger, but the best outcome under the circumstances.  For my part, I had to change my email address password and make contact with the individuals who had left comments on my blog prior to the data breach to inform them of the incident and advise on how best to deal with it.  Moving forward, I set up a business email account which I now use to deal with blog-related business; being entirely separate from my personal email account gives me some protection over what data could be accessed in the event of another hack.

Thankfully, my experience was brief, it was all resolved pretty quickly and is now a rather distant and vague memory, but not all data breaches are so straightforward.  Some of the biggest data breaches of 2018 collectively saw millions of people affected by having personal information, including passwords, email addresses and financial data, stolen.  Articles like this one by Seareach actually force me to really think about how much information of mine is potentially available online and how I might go about reducing my own risk of data breaches.

dataWhat steps do you take to protect yourself or your business against data breaches and hacks?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

This is a collaborative post