How To… air the house after Winter.

Now, if you live nearer one of the Poles, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Closed windows, double glazing, heaters and dehumidifiers on full, condensation on the windows, dirty muddy entryways, old fireplace smell, animals shedding, urgh. When did our house become a Roman bath? There is far to much sweat, grime and soot to handle!

And now that Spring is properly underway, we can try and do something about it. Yes, the dreaded Spring Clean!

Wait! Don’t lynch me yet! I know none of us want to do it. Some of us (including yours truly) tried to do it way back when in March when Spring officially started and we got nowhere. But this time is different. It’s going to work out. This is how, after failing to clear everything down, I finally got my house, well, not shiny, sparkly, 1950s catalog clean, but fresh and pretty and Spring-like!

1: Open all the windows.

First step: air the house out. Yes, it’s freezing. Yes, it’s annoying. But at this stage the air outside is far lighter, drier and cleaner than the air inside.

Pick a nice, warmish, dry day. The reason is twofold: One, the air outside will be at its crispest and driest and there is little chance of rain getting in. Two, you can get everyone else outside as you air the house, so nobody complains before it’s done.

2: Clean all the windows.

And whilst they’re open, may as well clear them down. They will be stained by rain, snow, smog, soot, mud, sweat, animals, all sorts. So give them a good wash down so they let as much light in as is physically possible!

3: Empty the fireplace.

Speaking of grubby things, it’s time to clean the fireplace. You will have to give it another, lighter clean if you will use it after Spring Cleaning, but it’s best to get it done deeply now, regardless of when you’ll next use it. A fireplace is a major source of stuffy air, soot and dirt and smells in the house. Give it a thorough cleaning as the windows dry.

4: Dust the shelves and fittings.

Once you’ve closed up, it’s time to deal with the other source of stuffy air and grime: dust.

The main reason I don’t recommend dusting when airing the house is that a couple of gusts of wind can send the dust everywhere, even back where you just cleaned!

Make sure to dust the whole room, top to bottom. Shelves, painting frames, doors, light fittings. Especially look out for those hard to reach areas or the places you dust less often. Dust the walls too!

5: Hoover and sweep.

Now you’re done dusting you want to hoover and sweep immediately! All that dust you dislodged is on the floor, bed and chairs, along with any soot from the fireplace and cobwebs from the windows. Sweep or hoover it up now and it’s gone! Make sure to hoover furniture as well. Anything on the floor and anything with a fabric coating, basically.

6: Have a tea.

You need a tea break after all that rushing around. Want a biscuit or a piece of fruit too? Let’s put some music on, get the heaters back on and relax a bit.

7: Change the bedding and curtains.

Go and dig out your Summer bedding and any throws or blankets you have. Swap the bedding over on every bed and add a bright throw to keep warm. This way you aren’t waiting until you’re boiling to get your duvet changed and you can adjust the bedding based on those unpredictable May nights.

Also swap your curtains. The need for super heat retention is going away now, so you should have some light linen, net or lace curtains. If you don’t, pick some up quick. Charity shops and stores start selling them a little early, so buy them before they put the prices up!

Lighter bedding and curtains also hold less humidity, making the room feel cool and not cold.

8: Turn the heating down a tiny bit.

It’s a brave move, but it signifies Winter is actually over. Sure, you may just turn it down two degrees and wait until next week before you turn it down again, but it’s the first step towards Summer.

9: Bring in some flowers or potpourri.

Take advantage of the newly crisp, fresh air and liven your house with some lovely natural fragrances. Summer, here we come!

How is your Spring Cleaning going? Got any tips or hints? Feel free to share!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Welcome Spring!

This Friday is going to be the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the Autumnal Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. Which basically means the time the sun is up will be equal to the time the sun is not up. Which means that here in England, Spring has finally sprung!

Like the other three seasons, I love Spring. There are many reasons to love it and many things to do. The days are going to get longer and warmer and melt into Summer.

The first thing I’m looking forward to is the beach! I’m an outdoor person in all weather, but something that’s very hard to do in Winter is go to the beach. Chilly wind, huge waves, flooding, sea spray, storms, beached animals and sand flying everywhere doesn’t really make the multi-hour trip to the coast worthwhile. But I’m not really much of a Summer beachgoer either. Direct sunlight for more than a few hours at a time, the intense heat and the holiday crowds don’t appeal. So Spring is when I like to get to the beach. We don’t go very often even when it is Spring, but I’m looking forward to when the air is warm enough to go out in a top and a light, airy skirt, the water is just cool, the wind is calm enough to sit for a picnic and the beach is empty enough to go for long walks, seek out mussels and crabs and just have a great time.

Until the weather is spot on and we have a series of days off in a row, though, our walks will remain landlocked, in the green countryside. I adore spring flowers. From the last nodding snowdrops to the first daffodils to the explosion of Summer wildflowers, Spring brings great colours and scents to the countryside and my garden. I look forward to collecting a variety of wild daffodils on our walks, watching the wildflowers and beds bloom in our garden and seeing my seedlings start to burst up and flower, ready to give us tasty fruit through Summer and Autumn. That is, if we get to them before the rabbits do!

A part of Spring I hate to love at the moment is all the little fuzzie baby animals. They’re so cute and bouncy, from lambs to rabbit kittens to ducklings. They break into my garden and eat everything they can get their grubby paws, hooves, mits, teeth and beaks into, but they look so cute and friendly, as all diminutive animals do. Don’t get me wrong, they’re going in the pot when they grow up. But whilst they’re tiny I like to look at them and think about when my babies will be running about the garden stepping on my peonies and eating the tomatoes off the vine.

And then, once the rain is dying back, onto Summer with delicious home-grown fruit and veggies, barbeques in the garden, picnics in the woods, mid-afternoon siestas and weightlifting outdoors.

But for now, let’s enjoy Spring.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

What are your favourite parts of Spring? What are you planning on doing this Spring? Is it Autumn where you live? What are you looking forward to down there?

How To… make a great salad.

At the moment I am living off salads. Love them. But too often people go wrong with salads, especially for weight loss. Either they’re just a pile of tasteless leaves or they’re so swimming in dressing, croutons, mayo, cheese or other calorific foods that they’re no better than any other lunch.

Personally, I primarily use salads to get some vitamins and minerals, some pickles, some fluid and other assorted things into my diet and only secondarily use them as a calorie-control method. Still, by using these techniques you should be able to make a largely raw, plant-based, low carb, low fat, low calorie salad that is also textured, flavourful and filling.

Step 1: Your base.

The first thing you need is a base of greens. Fill almost the entire bowl with greens. I like using lettuce, spinach and finely sliced cabbage, but all mild-tasting, leafy greens are good.

Step 2: First layer of texture and flavour.

Skip the croutons and crunchies. Leave the nuts and cheeses for now. What we need to add is around a fistful of onion, pickles, celery, carrots, etc per serving. Good quality tomatoes, radishes and watercress is also part of this category. The best bet is something crunchy and something strong, so a fistful of onion on its own, or half a fistful of carrots and half of pickles. Make sure these are all very finely diced.

Step 3: Booster texture and flavour.

This is literally a pinch of something. Maybe chopped chilies, sunflower seeds, fresh basil or pomegranate seeds. Not even enough to make a calorific impact, just for visual stimulus and a little variety of texture and flavour. Some things from the first layer can be added here in smaller quantities, but many boosters are just too rich, calorific or textured to use as the first layer.

Step 4: Topper. [Optional.]

You don’t need a topper. You can just have the salad as-is, or with the dressing. But, if you want to feel a little fuller for longer, then a topper may help. Pick something rich in protein and moderate to low in fat and carbs. Keep the portion fairly small. So a handful of walnuts, 20g of cheese, 50g of lean meat or a boiled egg. Increase if you need more calories or protein, decrease if you want a little bit but don’t want to eliminate it entirely.

Step 5: Dressing. [Optional.]

This is the bestest way to make a very low calorie dressing that helps you digest, adds lots of flavour and keep you healthy.

1 part (olive, coconut) oil to 3 parts (white, cider, balsamic, brown, rice) vinegar.

1-2tsp dry herbs (thyme, parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary, mint, etc) and spices (chilli, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, anis, cumin, etc); any mix

1tsp mustard (fresh, raw, unsugared, unsalted if possible)

1-2tsp honey or sweetener (agave, stevia, coconut, sugar, cane, etc)

Put all the ingredients in an empty jar and shake until well mixed. Shake before pouring every time. Around 300ml makes enough for 6-8 well dressed salads or 8-12 lightly dressed salads.

And that’s how I make my salads. Some examples, to give you an idea.

Spicy surprise.

Base: lettuce and savoy cabbage.

Layer 1: onion.

Layer 2: chillies.

Topper: 50g cambozola cheese.

Dressing: brown vinegar, olive oil, smoked paprika, onion powder, dijon mustard, honey.

Pork salad.

Base: lettuce.

Layer 1: onion, pickles.

Layer 2: chillies.

Topper: 100g roast pork.

Dressing: brown vinegar, olive oil, onion powder, salt, dijon mustard, honey.

Light salad.

Base: lettuce, spring cabbage.

Layer 1: tomatoes.

Layer 2: onion.

Dressing: brown vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, american mustard, honey.

Egg salad.

Base: lettuce, spinach, cress.

Layer 1: tomatoes.

Layer 2: onion.

Topper: hard boiled egg.

Sweet salad.

Base: lettuce, spring cabbage, cress.

Layer 1: tomatoes.

Layer 2: pomegranate seeds and orange bits.

Dressing: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, onion powder, salt, palm sugar.

Hopefully that gave you some great ideas for light Spring and Summer salads!

What about you? What are your favourite salads? What is your biggest issue with salads? Do you prefer them sweet or spicy? Are you all about the greens, all about the fruit or all about the starch? Leave your thoughts, ideas and recipes in the comments.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!