Friday, December 23, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Stressed about what to get your loved ones this Christmas? Don’t fret! Buy your friends and family eco-friendly gifts this year; they’re fun, practical, and good for the environment!

Gifts made of cotton, silk, hemp, or wood: all of these materials are natural and renewable, and your loved ones are sure to enjoy their durability!

Gifts bought from local vendors: when you buy from local vendors, you eliminate the carbon emissions that come from the transportation of far-away goods, not to mention you support your own community! Plus, a meaningful home town gift is always sure to warm your loved one’s heart.

Consider buying antiques and collectibles: Value and appeal doesn’t always mean “new and shiny.” Antiques and collectibles are affordable and can have the appeal of history and sentimental value.

Giving found objects and homemade items: Found objects such as seashells can be used to tell a story and can offer the gift of rediscovery to recipient. Homemade gifts can allow you to express your creativity and are a very heartfelt and thoughtful present. If the homemade gift is an edible item, than it will be personal, easy on the environment, and not likely to go to waste.

Nothing is more precious and heartfelt than a homemade gift. Your loved ones will feel special and so will the environment! By using the materials you already have at home; you will prevent unnecessary waste of un-renewable materials.

“Old jewellery and “used” gifts: Passing on “old” jewellery can allow you to give a timeless item without the cost to the environment. Previously used gold looks just as good as new gold, and jewellers can even redesign and resize certain pieces. Many used gifts can be appropriate and environmentally friendly. Consider items such as vintage clothing, CDs and books, toys, and electronics. If you are uneasy about giving a used gift you could write a note on the gift card that says “We know how much you love nature…this gift comes to you at no expense to the environment.”

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree:

Now I am definitely not saying to get rid of Christmas trees! I am one of the first people to say that nothing can beat that fresh pine scent that permeates home in days before Christmas, but maybe, just maybe, there is an alternative in which everyone wins. Now, there are tree programs in which you can rent a live Christmas tree for your home to have during the Holiday Season, and when the holidays are over, the same program picks up your tree and will plant it somewhere in the following year, or it will be rented out until it becomes too large and then it will be planted somewhere else! These trees are delivered to your home potted, with their roots intact, and they serve as a living air freshener in your home!

Christmas Decor:

Christmas is a great time to express your own creativity and style. There are so many different decorations you can get in stores, but there are even more that you can make yourself. Making your own Christmas decorations can be fun and it is a great opportunity to add your own creative flare to the Christmas season. Not only is making Christmas decorations a great stress reliever, but it is also a great way for you to give a gift to the environment by using recycled materials or odds and ends around your house instead of going out and buying the latest decorations in stores.

For starters, you can use real food for decorations such as popcorn strings instead of tinsel to decorate your Christmas tree. You can also make decorations out of gingerbread cookies and pinecones that you can find in your backyard. You can also take evergreen branches from your backyard to make your own homemade wreath, complete with nice red berries or other colourful fruit that you can attach to it!!

You can also decorate your tree with homemade ornaments and you can really get creative by making your own picture frame ornaments, or painting eggshells, or even decorating a tennis ball to look like a real Christmas ornament. By making your own decorations, you can really help the environment because you are not contributing to the CO2 emissions from transporting commercial ornaments, you are recycling materials so less waste is produced, and you can compost the natural decorations you use from year to year. Even if a fraction of your ornaments and decorations are environmentally friendly you are helping to make a more sustainable holiday culture.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Indian shots :: LIFE in INDIA


This is a collective photo album, It my personal effort to observe the inner walks of life in India.. from the seasonal and cultural perspective. These are some collective valuable Indian shots from several platforms. This is just a part of India but to explore it well, you have to go for the self endeavor.




Tuesday, December 13, 2011

‎12 days of Christmas... :)

I love this time of year! everything about the holidays makes me excited. something about it gets me in the mood to do things that i have never done before... baking new treats, wearing new outfits, and going new places.

These are some good VEGAN recipes for the HOLIDAY SEASON...

Cream of Tomato Soup

A beautifully simple dish that could be made in advance and frozen, making a perfect brightly coloured starter.

2 tins of plum tomatoes
about a cup of water (rinse out tins with it)
1 onion
5 cloves of garlic
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 or 2 handfuls of cashew nuts
sea salt to taste

Place the tomatoes and water in a pan and bring to the boil, adding the onion, sweet potato and garlic as it heats. Once it boils, turn down to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are soft. Place soup in a blender and add the cashew nuts. Blend and taste for seasoning, add salt as desired.

Chick-Pea Tagine

4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried red chilli
2 medium leek, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 small glass orange juice
2 x 14 oz (400g) can chopped tomatoes
12 dried apricots, chopped
1 lb (450g) pre-cooked chick peas
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
Generous handful chopped coriander

1. Heat the oil then add the seeds and chilli. When the seeds start to emit their distinctive odor, add the leek and garlic. Saute for a few minutes.
2. Pour in the orange juice and allow to cook for a few seconds or more until some of it has evaporated.
3. Add the tomatoes along with the apricots, chick peas, bay leaf and salt to taste. Bring to the boil then turn down and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.
4. Remove the chilli and bay leaf then stir in the coriander. Serve with rice.

Cranberry, Orange and Ginger sauce

3/4 cup/150g/5oz sugar
1/2 cup/150ml/quarter pint of orange juice
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger (or half a teaspoon of dried ginger)
2 cups of fresh cranberries
pinch of salt

Place the cranberries, orange juice and ginger in a pan and simmer for about 10 minutes. Give the berries a mash and add the sugar, zest and salt. Cook gently until all the sugar is completely dissolved. The sauce will thicken up as it cools slightly. Nice served hot or warm with nut roast or mushroom puff and parcel.

Lentil lasagna

140 g unbleached white / wholemeal spelt flour
2 ml salt
90 g cooked spinach (chopped, steamed and water squeezed out, chopped again very finely)
1½ tbsp olive oil

4 tbsp each of two different types of lentils
1 tbsp olive oil
½ large red onion, finely chopped
1 block tofu, drained and patted dry
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp each dried oregano and basil
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp cinnamon powder
4 fresh bay leaves

5 large tomatoes, chopped (no need to peel or remove seeds),
2 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
black pepper, to taste
1 tsp herbal salt

white sauce:
1 cup chopped, steamed cauliflower florets
½ cup soy milk
1 tsp olive oil
1½ tbsp savoury yeast flakes, crushed

1. Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl.  Make a hollow in the flour and pour in the olive oil.  Stir to mix in the oil (roughly).  Add the spinach and stir in a cutting motion until they start to combine.
2. Tip the dough onto the work surface and knead until the spinach makes the dough moist and the dough feels soft and elastic – like play dough.  (It is correct when the dough feels thick and stiff – this makes it easier to roll out later.) Place the dough in a plastic bag and rest in the refrigerator until needed.
3. Meanwhile, make the filling:  pour the two types of lentils together into a pot and boil for 10 minutes until they are cooked and soft.  Drain and set aside.
4. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and fry the onion until soft.  Add the tofu by roughly grating it over the onions with a small grater.  Fry together, stirring from time to time until the tofu is dry.  Add the garlic and fry for another 1 minute. Add all the herbs and spices and stir for 1 minute more.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the lentils and set aside.
5. To make a quick pasta, place the tomatoes, tomato paste, black pepper and herbal salt in a liquidizer and blend until smooth.  Add to the lentil and tofu mixture.  To make the white sauce: blend the steamed cauliflower with the soy milk, olive oil  and yeast flakes until smooth.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.  Lightly spray an oven dish with olive oil.  Make sure the dish is large enough to hold all the ingredients.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 3.  Roll each part into a ball, then flatten with your hand.
7. Flour the pieces of dough and your work surface.  Roll out the dough, either by hand or with a pasta machine, until you have enough pasta to make 3 layers for the lasagne.  Cut the pasta into sheets to fit into the oven dish.
8. Assemble the lasagna: place a few spoonfuls of the lentil tofu mixture into the dish. 

Place a layer of pasta (a sheet, or a few pieces cut to fit) in the dish, spoon a third (of what is left) of the lentil tofu mixture over, place a bay leaf on top, then pour a third of the cauliflower white sauce over.  Repeat with another layer of pasta: the second third
of the lentil mixture, bay leaf, and then the cauliflower sauce.  Repeat with the third and last layer.  Place 2 bay leaves on top.
9. Bake in the oven on a lower shelf for 30 minutes until it starts to bubble, and the white sauce starts to form golden brown patches.

Sage and Onion Roast Potatoes

4 teaspoons of dried sage or 8 teaspoons of freshly chopped sage
4 tablespoons of sunflower oil/ Prefered oil
1 finely chopped onion
4 tablespoons of medium oatmeal
Potatoes, peeled and cut to desired size (this coating is enough for about 4 or 5 lbs/2 or 3 kilos.)
salt to taste

Par boil the potatoes then just when they are beginning to soften remove from heat and drain. Place in baking tray and rub the coating all over them (careful!) - roast in a hot oven until nice and crispy (30 minutes plus). You might want to baste with a little more oil half way through for extra crispiness!
Variation: sesame roast potatoes - coat the potatoes in sunflower oil and plenty sesame seeds before roasting - this has a lovely flavour too. Pictured are plain roast pots coated in flour prior to roasting and the oil heated in a hot oven first and also roast parsnips and peppers roasted in a mixture of sunflower oil and maple syrup.

Ice Cream Bombe

1 vegan sponge cake, thinly sliced up
some jam to spread on the cake
1 or 2 tubs of vegan ice cream
a small bag of unsalted, shelled pistachio nuts
a handful of glace cherries
some white chocolate buttons
a bar of good dark chocolate

Line a round pudding bowl with cake slices (leave some for the base) and spread a layer of jam over them. Get your other ingredients ready before taking the ice cream out of the freezer, then layer it up. A layer of ice cream, a sprinkling of nuts, ice cream, cherries, ice cream, buttons, ice cream then the last slices of cake on the base. Cling film the whole bowl really well and use a plate to press down and squash all the layers together well. Bung it in the freezer until you want to eat it (can be made weeks in advance). Place in the fridge for about an hour before removing from bowl (may have to run outside of bowl under hot tap, being careful not to wet the pudding!) and pouring the melted chocolate over the top (it sets fast on the cold bombe). Slice up and enjoy :)

Triple Chocolate Variant: use chocolate cake, and chocolate ice creamand maybe even chocolate spread though cherry or apricot jam would be good too :)

Chocolate Yule Log Cake

1 chocolate cake baked in a loaf tin
1 batch of vegan chocolate 'butter' icing: Beat together half a cup/130g/4oz vegan margarine with 1 and a third cups/210g/7 oz sifted icing sugar and one tablespoon of cocoa (also sifted to avoid lumps). Beat in a few drops of natural vanilla extract.
1 tablespoon of icing sugar for dusting
1 festive cake board or large plate and decorations of your choice (fake flowers or berries, holly leaves, small baubles etc.)
Cake Assembly:
Cut the corner off one end of the cake and turn it round to look like a branch - arrange on the cake board or plate.

Secure the branch with some of the icing. With a knife smooth off the corners of the log to make it rounded. Cover the entire cake with the rest of the icing, then use a fork to make lines and knots like a log :) Dust with icing sugar. Decorate it with your wishful content.

Jewel Biscuits

Delicious and colourful biscuits or cookies - the 'jewels' are optional but very bright and special - makes about 25 medium (3 inch/9cm) biscuits.
150g/5oz/three quarter cup caster sugar
150g/5 oz/three quarter cup vegan margarine
5 tablespoons of soya milk
300g/10 oz/1and a half cups of plain flour
teaspoon vanilla extract (or according to pack instructions)
boiled sweets - in different colors

Preheat oven to 200C/400F and grease baking sheets. Cream together the sugar and marg. Mix in the soya milk and vanilla and then the flour. The mixing of the flour is best done with your hands. You should have a workable dough (add more flour if it's too wet or more soya milk if too dry and doesn't hold together well). Roll out on a floured board (to just under 1 cm thick) and cut into shapes - cutters in festive shaped such as stars, trees and angels are lovely but plain round ones are effective too - you can use a drinking glass if you don't have cutters. Lay on baking sheets. Make a hole in the middle of each biscuit - plain round, diamonds, stars - whatever you like, as long as it is big enough for your sweet! Place a sweet in each hole. Bake for about 10 minutes for soft bake cookies or a little longer for dryer, crunchy ones. The sweets will melt down and fill the hole in the oven and then reset once cool.

Easy Christmas Fruit Cake

This cake has no added sugar or fat (suitable for a range of diets) but is still really sweet and rich. It should be stored in the fridge and eaten within one week.

8oz/250g/2 cups of cooking dates with the stones removed
10 fl.oz/300ml/1 and a quarter cups of water
6oz/175g/1 and a quarter cups of wholemeal flour
1 lb/450g/3 cups of mixed dried fruit of your choice - including lots of dried apricots works very well
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
4 tablespoons of orange juice

For decoration: You can either do a traditional marzipan and white icing topping or use rows of different nuts such as walnuts, pecans, brazils and almonds.

Heat the dates and water until the dates are soft. Remove from heat and mash with a fork. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Spoon into a greased 2lb/900g cake tin and level top. If using the nut topping place rows of different nuts on top of the cake prior to cooking. Bake at 170C/340F for about an hour and a half until cooked. Once cooled the nut topping can be glazed with a little syrup (melt some sugar into hot water) or you can ice traditionally.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Water Pollution Prevention: Just a little thought...

The effects of water pollution strongly impact the balance of nature, which ultimately impacts all humans. With proper care and consideration, many of the situations that cause water pollution can be stopped or decreased.

The effects of water pollution are not always immediate. They are not always seen at the point of contamination. They are sometimes never known by the person responsible for the pollution. However, water pollution has a huge impact on our lives. With knowledge, consideration and preparation, water pollution can be decreased. It doesn't take much effort — just a little thought.

Water Pollution

Water covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface. While less than 3 percent of this water is drinkable, all of it is necessary for supporting life on Earth. Water pollution is one of the biggest threats to the environment today.

There are several types of water pollution ranging from sewage and fertilizers to soil erosion. The impact of water pollution on aquatic life and land life can be devastating.

Although just about any substance can pollute water, there are a few sources of pollution that create the greatest risk—or add the greatest volume of pollutants to our waterways. These sources include: runoff, wastewater, air pollution, and eroded soil and nutrients. Each of these sources contribute different pollutants to our waterways, and they all have differing affects.

Water Pollution Solutions

The best solution for water pollution is prevention. While pollution that has already occurred is a current threat to all life on Earth, attempts to clean it up may cause even more harm.

Chemicals used to treat or clean up oil spills may further contaminate water supplies. Adjustments in temperature to counteract heat or cooling pollution may not achieve proper balance, leading to more loss of aquatic life.

Preventing water pollution does more for the environment by halting the level of pollutants where they are. This gives the environment needed time to begin to correct itself, and time for scientists to determine the best way to combat existing problems.

Water Pollution Preventions

There are several steps that can be taken to help prevent water pollution from getting worse.

Conserve Soil

Erosion is one of the biggest causes of water pollution today. When you take steps to conserve soil, you are also conserving water and water life. Planting vegetative covers, strict erosion management and implementing beneficial farming methods are just a few of the many possible approaches to soil conservation.

Dispose of Toxic Chemicals Properly

It’s always a good idea to use lower VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) products in your home whenever possible. If you do use toxic chemicals, such as paints, stains or cleaning supplies, dispose of them properly. Paints can be recycled and oils can be reused after treatment. Proper disposal keeps these substances out of storm drains, water ways and septic tanks.

Clean Up Waterways

Just picking up waste and litter wherever it is spotted can go a long way to keeping debris and pollutants out of the water. Do your part by taking your own trash, other wastes and any you see to a nearby disposal facility.

Avoid Plastics When Possible

Plastic bags in the ocean is a well documented water pollutant. Keep this problem from getting worse by changing to reusable grocery bags whenever possible.

Get Active and Get Involved

Is there a company near your home that releases heat, coolants or chemicals into a nearby waterway? You can get involved. Contact the local authorities or write letters to the heads of companies. Spreading an awareness of problems is a big first step toward combating them.

While water pollution solutions may seem like too little, too late when viewed in the light of major oil spills and floating plastic bag islands they are necessary to prevent these problems from growing worse. Simply slowing down the rate of pollution can give the environment and scientists time to find long-term solutions to the very real problems of water pollution. If you do your part to prevent pollution in your area, then you’ll be helping to protect life.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Story of The CHRISTMAS...

What does Christmas mean to you? The impending season seems to sparkle with twinkling lights adorning homes, streets and shops. Christmas music is heard all around. The wonderful aroma of pumpkin and spices is in the air. The television is showing the wonderful classics such as ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’
Little eyes shine in anticipation of Santa’s arrival. The skies are searched nightly for signs of the man in red with his eight tiny reindeer. What! Was that the tinkle of bells? The Christmas trees are decorated with the lights and tinsel, sharing space with stockings that are hung in anticipation of being filled. This special time of the year puts a glow in your heart. The Christmas tradition is one that has survived for many years.

Santa or Saint Nicolas has been around for centuries. The traditional red suit, white beard and black boots are the conventional attire for the jolly old man with the plump red cheeks. The original Saint Nicolas is said to have been born in a village name Patara. The village was at that time located in Greece, but today is in Turkey. As the story goes, this kind-hearted lover of children would throw presents through the windows to the less fortunate.

Each country has their traditions and the day is celebrated in a variety of ways. Although turkey may be the predominant dinner in the U.S., in Rome the meal consists of seven fish. In Italy during the holidays the meals do not contain meat in holding with this Catholic day of abstinence.
In Germany, families gather in their warmest clothes and off to the Christmas Markets they go to shop. They are held outside and the weather is cold but the tradition has been followed for many years – since the 14th century. The markets begin opening at the end of November and are open until Christmas Eve. This is the German version of the shopping malls in America that are crowded with people looking for gifts. Another tradition that differs from the pumpkin pie and hot cocoa or hot toddies that are enjoyed in the U.S. is Germany’s Gluehwein and Stollen. This is a scrumptious German Christmas cake that is full of nuts and raisins and a sugar glaze coating.

The day after Christmas in England is known as Boxing Day.. This is a national holiday and in the past was a day for the poor. Servants during the 18th century would receive boxes of leftovers and gifts provided by their employers and since they were required to work on Christmas day, Boxing Day was the day they visited family.
In India the 'Poinsettia' is the flower, which is use to decorate Churches with its brilliant bloom. People do Charity, give presents to each other and celebrate the day with Christmas pudding. They also use small lamps to decorate their homes and surroundings. In Russia the religious way is replaced by 'festival of Winter'. They celebrate it with lots of food and family gathering. The role of Father Christmas played by Dedushka Moroz or Grandfather Christmas.

Every country has traditions that have been in place for many years and the Christmas season is unique for each. The poems, Christmas carols or songs and the exchange of greetings through Christmas cards is a time-honored tradition in the U.S. All season of goodwill and glad tidings, Christmas can be enjoyed in many countries and by many people no matter what the traditions include.