The Self Sufficient-ish Bible: An Eco-living Guide for the 21st CenturyThe Self Sufficient-ish Bible: An Eco-living Guide for the 21st Century by Andy Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Can't believe it's taken me this long to review it...

The Ish Bible is the number 1 recommendation for anyone in an urban or rented setting who has an interest in going Self Sufficient. Andy and Dave, the authors both lived in a city in rented accommodation when they started the website They understood and found ways round the rules of renting and the difficulties of growing in cities.

The Bible is the result of the website and makes all the best hints and tips available in a beautifully printed, brilliantly photographed volume. The book is printed on recycled (and recyclable) paper and can be composted after reading if you wish :)

View all my reviews
Fee is always on her computer so I like to distract her with climbing, barking and generally being a nuisance. Here is my diary:
Morning: Wake up. I'm not a morning dog. I like to use this face. It says 'I was dreaming, you're not my friend at the moment'.

Have a little nap while Fee goes to work. I don't really like her leaving me and I do squeak when she goes out, but she has explained that if she doesn't work, she has no money. No money means no dog food and no treats! Dog food and treats are the most important things ever, so I let her go out.

Lunchtime: Fee gets back and so I give her the cute look hoping for some treats.

Success! A Stick! Sticks are the greatest thing ever. Once, Fee left the sticks where I could reach them. It was AMAZING. Lots of sticks within licking distance! Sadly, she found out and moved them to a high shelf. 

After lunch, have a little nap. It's warm here so in the afternoon I like to nap on the floor. It also means that my bed's not warm when Fee gets back...otherwise she thinks I slept all afternoon!

When she gets back, it is vitally important that I remind her I am STARVING! I've only had a stick, a bowl of biscuits and whatever other treats I've hidden. 

After dinner (biscuits and wet food) I like to finish off with yoghurt, It's good for my digestion. Fee eats most of it and then lets me have the pot. I don't like to leave any.

After dinner I like to practise my new tricks. Currently. I'm working on telekinetics. I know that Fee keeps a jar of my absolute favouritest treats ever - Beef jerky on her desk. So I like to spend half an hour staring at it hoping that it will come my way. Sometimes I squeak at it too to remind it that I'm there waiting.

My favouritest time of the day is bedtime! I get a bit sleepy after watching the treat jar for a while, so Fee takes me to bed where I snuggle under the covers with her. She tried making me sleep in my bed in her room, but I didn't like that idea, so i squeaked and howled and jumped up at the side of the bed til she let me in. I'm such a lucky dog!

This week I was taken out to dinner! Rebecca knows someone who wants me to teach children once a month. I've been saying no for a long time, so they decided to take me out to dinner to try to convince me.
This is the table of food. All food here is served communally. 

Then...this pot that looked a bit like a giant terracotta flowerpot came to the table. This is a first for me, I've never seen a giant flowerpot put on a table before.

All was revealed. It was actually a giant pot of chicken soup. Very nice chicken soup too!

This Friday instead of food, I'm going for drinks. I read an article about the strangest drinks in China, so I toddled off to the supermarket to see what I could find.

Here are the 3 drinks on offer today:
First off: Smart Watermelon

Fizzy, pink, sweet.
It smells like fake watermelon.
Tastes foul. The first taste is quite sweet, but then the bitterness of the artificial sweeteners hits you as you swallow it.
Not buying this again.

Next: Mirinda Plum
I love Mirinda Orange and their Apple too, so I've got high hopes for this one.

Looks a bit like cola and smells like plum jam.

Argh! It has a nice plum flavour that's totally overtaken by the bitterness of the artificial sweeteners as you swallow it. Bleurgh!

Not buying this one again either. If it tasted like it smells, then I would happily get it again, but the artificial bitterness just ruins it.

Lastly: The Ever Famous Grass Jelly Drink

I read that it's supposed to be sweet and herbally. The grass is wheatgrass - the thing that all the smoothie lovers are raving over.

Looks a bit like pondwater.
You can't see it in the picture, but there are little cubes of jelly at the bottom.
It's brown and cloudy and still.

Tastes exactly as you'd expect grass to taste. Green, grassy. It's slightly herbal, but I expected it to taste more of herbs, and to be the kind of drink that makes you feel healthy. tastes like I'd expect pondwater to taste. It's not that great. It has the flavour of grass, but a dirty grass flavour rather than a fresh green grass flavour. If you've ever tasted grass (I have) you'll know that it tastes green, vegetabley and fresh. This doesn't taste fresh. And the little lumps of jelly just make it taste like a pond with tadpoles.


I shared this on TACAweb a few weeks ago, and then remembered that i haven't shared it with you guys!

Last February, my passport was stolen on the flight back from Moscow to Beijing...Here is the story...

A few people have asked about passport issues. Earlier this year i had probably the biggest passport problem possible - mine was stolen!

It was on a plane from Moscow to Beijing, and when i got to Beijing, i realised that someone on the plane had stolen my passport, mobile phone and video camera (they were all in one travel bag. Luckily, my wallet was somewhere separate). The staff on the plane pulled my bags apart and shook all my clothing, expecting me to have just lost it. Try not to do what i did and get angry and start throwing things. I nearly lost my wallet by throwing it across the plane!

Firstly, if you land in China with no passport, don't expect them to help. The people on the gate in PEK spent about 10 minutes wandering around on their mobile phones while i made a break for it and went to immigration. They will NOT let you through, nor will they call the Embassy for help. They will just put you back on the next flight going to your previous destination (this is illegal under International Law - you should be able to contact the Embassy on request. The airline will be fined for this). they will also like to talk about you in front of your face in Chinese. A quick 'I understand' soon stops this, as well as explaining that you are not stupid, nor are you a criminal. Accept it and don't expect your luggage to follow. The airline will sort it out.

Just get back on the plane and return. When you land, generally someone at Immigration will have been told that you are on the plane with no passport, you will have to wait for all the passengers to disembark before you and someone will come to escort you off the plane. Expect to be treated like a criminal. technically, you are. As far as they are concerned, somehow you boarded a plane without a passport.        

When you get off the plane, ask to speak to the Embassy. You will not be allowed to leave the airport, usually, you will not even be allowed to leave the Departure lounge. However, you WILL get to speak to the Embassy. It may not be a consul in person, it will probably be over the phone. You will have to give the number of the stolen passport, your full name, date of birth and place of birth.

When this happened to me, i spoke to a man at the British Embassy in Moscow. I spoke to him for about 10 minutes and he was lovely! He asked questions to make sure i was British (passport number, full name, date and place of birth). he also asked for my parents' phone number in the UK to check that i was who i said i was. Luckily (or not) i was born in one of the most embarrassing places in England, so no-one who was trying to pretend to be British would pretend to be born there...I had to admit where i was born. He then asked the Russian airline to allow me to call the UK to tell my parents that i was coming home. The airline confirmed the landing time and terminal and i was allowed to call my parents to get them to pick me up.

Sometimes, you will be given Emergency Travel Documents. You are supposed to have these legally, and anyone asking questions at the other end (my sister phoned pretty much every department of LHR airport and they were obsessed with these documents) will want to know about them. Naturally, if you are in the air, the person at the other end can't contact you, but sometimes the people at the airport can't grasp this fact. Other times, they will just give their permission for you to travel. The airline will still be fined a huge amount for allowing you to travel with no passport. Expect all travel to be a pain in the behind from now until you land at home. At every gate, you will be held until the gate-person can call the Embassy themselves to check that you are allowed to fly (they're covering their own backsides). Eventually, you will get on a plane back home.

When you call home before you fly, ask whoever is coming to get you to bring your birth certificate and any other identifying paperwork (my dad brought his old passport that had me on it as a child). They will probably be spoken to by someone in Immigration. Don't be worried. Immigration are just doing their job and making sure that you are legally allowed to enter the country. They also understand that you're probably thinking that you'll end up in a little room with a man with rubber gloves. They want to make the process as smooth as possible. Don't be scared of immigration in your own country!

Other countries may be different, but going through British Immigration at LHR i was asked again for the stolen passport number, my date and place of birth and my full name. They also asked for a description of my dad (who, incidentally said that he had the most original excuse ever for not going to work - I've got to repatriate my daughter!). Someone alerted the people in the office when i was at the immigration desk and they went to see my dad. After about five minutes waiting at the desk, immigration waved me through and i could go home. My luggage did not get on the same plane, so the airline couriered it to me a few days later. If your luggage is not there when you get to arrivals, go to the desk and fill in a form.

The best advice for anyone if this happens to you is to accept it. Just be calm (i know it's difficult!!) and accept that something bad has happened. It has happened, there is nothing you can do about it and there is no point overthinking the situation. Go through the right channels, and ask to see the Embassy at every turn. If you are refused, take a note of the time and place. If you can, take note of any ID number shown. It is Illegal under International Law to refuse access to the Embassy, and the Embassies take this very seriously! 

Always keep a note of your passport number, and if you have any other photographic ID, keep it separate in case you need to use it later. Now, i keep a copy of my passport ID page, my visa and any other documents (invitation letter etc.) on a USB stick that i keep separately to everything else (i actually fly with it on a lanyard around my neck so that it definitely can't be stolen). This is so that if i need to, i can still prove my identity. This can also save time at Immigration if you do lose your passport. The authorites all have computers in their offices and can load up your information from the USB stick to make sure.

When you get back to your home country, go to bed! Have a good sleep! You have to report your passport (and anything else) stolen within 3 days of landing. They prefer within 24 hours. Just go to the police station taking any ID you have with you and report your passport stolen. give them the passport number and the place of theft (they will accept in the air - give them the flight number, time, departure place and destination). Your passport number is usually already on the system as a stolen passport from your entry to your home country. You need to get a reference number from the police to get a new passport.

After the whole affair, i've been told that it cost the airline £20,000 for every flight i took without a passport, and then an 'undisclosed amount' for being refused access to the Embassy. I emailed the airline and got a pretty poor apology, but i have been lead to believe that the gate-people at PEK no longer work there. It was a pain in the backside, and it was absolutely terrifying! I would like to thank Androv and Sergei on the flight back to Moscow who gave me whisky until i fell asleep! Lack of sleep and anger are the worst bits. Once you've slept and accepted the situation, you can laugh at it. I laughed my way through Moscow and UK Immigration. When they asked for passport, i just replied stolen - find the thief, find my passport...they laughed too and then took me somewhere that could help. When i went through British immigration, i asked them how much a bribe would cost...they laughed too. Keep a sense of humour! Laughing is better than crying and allows you to cope.

So, in conclusion, stay calm, keep any identifying information backed up on a portable drive and any photo ID separate to your passport. It is not a disaster, no-one is going to kill you! See the funny side of everything. Once you get over it, it makes an interesting story for the future!

*also posted on the Thomas Cook Win a Kindle competition page: *
The bread here is usually sweet. I'm not sure why, there must be some ingredient in it that keeps it sweet.

But I have my oven!
On the left - Bagel Buns.
On the right - Mantou rolls.

The bagel buns are a bagel recipe made into rolls rather than rings.
The mantou rolls are a Chinese bread recipe that's usually steamed, but i don't have a stemer so i baked them.

Insides. Look at the grains on them!

Delicious toasted with some butter and cream cheese.

I wish i could sleep in any position at any time...

I wish the promise of a biscuit could make me this happy...
It's Random Food Friday again!
So this week i had no late lesson, but i did find these in the local shop.

They were quite delicious! Although the ingredients don't seem to indicate that they contain peas, they do actually taste like peas! Win! I'll be having these again.

the actual pea things - like pea flavoured wotsits!

Sometimes it's just the Chinglish that makes me buy things. This is a microwave pizza slice. I'd love to know what 'meet' tastes like. tastes like bacon...

And in the positive food category - I love my oven!

Here, I present banana cakes - the large one (hidden) is plain banana and the little ones are Banana and Raisin.


Welcome to this week's Random Food Friday!
Looks like a Findus Crispy Pancake, doesn't taste like it.
It's filled with egg and green stuff and deep fried. It really isn't that good. Won't be buying these again :(

Fried Rice!
This is from my favourite sellers here. They now know that i don't like cooked cabbage, or hot spices. 

They also defend me from the shouts of 'Laowai!' (foreigner). Last time someone shouted that near me, they looked round and said 'Not foreigner, our friend'. He shut up pretty quickly. When you get shouted at every day just for not being Chinese, little moments like this can really make the world a better place.

Strange steamed bun thing.

This came from a new stall outside the college. It's run by two deaf men, which is cool but not helpful if you can't read the signs. 
In the end i pointed at raisins and they understood what i wanted.

The bun was really really nice! It's not sweet, but they add raisins when its steamed and sugar afterwards, so it ends up having a fruity top and a sugary bottom. Win-Win! I'll be going to them again!

I think this should be a weekly thing...
So. On Fridays i go and buy food somewhere because i don't finish teaching until late.

I've been trying to try all the local food stalls to see what they offer. So now, my dear readers, I'm going to share the goodness (or...badness) with you!
This is the fried rice i got tonight. There are about 7 fried rice stall and each of them has something different, so i'll start with this one. 

It's got rice, meat (?) green stuff, other green stuff, oil and seasoning. Don't know what the seasoning is.

This one's ok, but not my favourite. I like my fried rice to have green onions in at least, if not real onions. I would like them to offer lotus root too, it's my favourite vegetable!

Milk Tea!
I love milk tea. Probably more than any other drink (except, of course, you, you cheeky Mr Daniels...). It is a milk based tea product. It's fairly strong tea here which is nice. I haven't worked out how to get different flavours here yet. It has tapioca pearls in the bottom and a really wide straw so you suck up and eat the pearls as you drink the tea.
Right now it's cold, so i've gone with a nice hot cup!

These are little patty things. As i walked past the stall i'm sure i smelt some kind of curry thing, and i was hoping they'd be like Jamaican patties. 

Sadly, they're not. I'm not quite sure what's in them but they're not the tastiest thing i've had. Nucky will get to try these!!