Posted in Cooking, Creative, Gardening, Home, Life

I gardened.

I went out to the veggie patches this morning.  It’s a nice zone, reallyt, basically adapted from what was there already.

When we moved in, the garden was an expanse of grass.  We had no idea what was under it.  We assumed it was just a huge blank meadow waiting to be mowed.

When we DID mow it, we found paths and walls and things that looked like they used to be flower beds.

Next door said the two large, walled rectangles surrounded by paths, positioned in sort of an ‘L’ shape with a flat concrete section in between, used to be where the generator was before the house was on mains electricity.

I looked at them and saw the perfect spot for a veggie patch – self contained and easily manageable (or so I thought) sizes.

Hubs bought me a (second hand, disintegrating) greenhouse.  It was half the size of what I expected my greenhouse would be, & made of corrugated plastic stuff instead of glass panels.  Which is a good thing since it all but collapsed the first winter it was up.

(He’s since re-inforced it with a wooden frame of sorts from some leftover joists from another project.)

The Allotment
The pumpkin patch with the greenhouse in the background and the other veggie patch behind it.

Along the side of one of the beds, between that and the path, was what looked like it might have been a flower bed…maybe to disguise or beautify the generators?

I got him to build a frame along the back of this long, narrow bed, and last year planted fruit bushes and vines….grapes, kiwifruit, loganberries, tayberries, raspberries and gooseberries, with the intention of trailing the growing plants up around the frame to create an edible wall along the path.

The fruit frame
The frame built along the side, with fruit bushes trailing up it. (Gooseberries at the very bottom of the picture)

 

The first year I did anything with them, in 2017, before the fruit frame was put up, I managed a few carrots and a couple of small onions, and a handful of potatoes.  The one broccoli plant I tried failed completely…mainly because of an abundance of slugs – on the plus side, I realised how much of a battle I’d have against slugs!

In 2018, there was the whole miscarriage thing, with two hospital admissions, in March and October; which meant that in between I really didn’t have any interest in putting in any effort in the garden; so apart from the greenhouse being reinforced, and the fruit frame built (and therefore me planting the fruit bushes against it…); not much was done on my part last year.

Which brings us to this year, 2019.

The fruit I had planted last year, I had checked on occasionally.  It was a 6-pack of ‘crumble mix’ fruit plants from a supermarket I think… rhubarb, goosberries, raspberries, tayberries and loganberries, and blackberries I think; although when I got home I realised the 6th one was missing from the pack so I only ended up with the first 5.  I also bought a grape plant and a kiwi plant at reduced price, so I didn’t really expect them to survive.

All were planted along the frame; grapes at the top for the vine to grow up and over the side of the greenhouse; kiwifruit next, then the tayberries and loganberries (I’m still having trouble distinguishing which is which, despite having picked and eaten quite a few this summer already!) then a space where I had wanted to put strawberries in raised beds (still haven’t got around to that one yet), and gooseberries at the end.

I think I planted them a little late, but they seemed to settle in and grow a little before the weather turned and winter set in.  Apart from the kiwi; which didn’t seem to want to be there at all.  Ah well, I hadn’t expected much from it anyway.  The grape vine, however, grew really well, and although I had no fruit of it, it reached the top of the frame and along the side of the greenhouse.

Of course, they all died off over the winter as expected.  Earlier this year, I went out to tidy up and check on the area and was overjoyed to see they all, including the kiwifruit plant, seemed to be springing back in to life.  That, in addition to having a huge bowl of carrot seeds I’d harvested from the original planting of carrots (It seeds bi-annually, so I’d left the strongest looking plant from 2017, and harvested a few large heads of seeds in 2018, and dried them and kept them in over winter, sewed them in trays in the house at the beginning of this year) seemed to have spurred me on…so this year, I took the plunge and bought a few more seeds to plant along side the carrot seedlings; and the pumpkin seeds I’d saved from last Halloween.  I spent a couple of weekends re-weeding the original veggie patch; and the second one that hadn’t been cleared or planted yet.  The pumpkin seedlings went in the ‘new’ patch; along with the rhubarb from the ‘crumble pack’ from the year before, which had been in a large pit from the year before.

Carrot plants flowering
Flowers like the ones I left to brown and harvested seeds from in 2018; on this year’s carrot crop – 2nd generation carrots from my garden!!

The veggie patch had a cloche in one corner, that I’d rescued and anchored down with some sand bags hanging over the frame in each corner (I’d almost given up on it last year as it kept being blown around the garden in high-winds!).  Inside the cloche this year are 2 honeydew melon plants…again, seeds harvested from a shop-bought melon so being grown to seedligns as an experiment; and 2 capsicum (sweet-pepper) plants, similarly, grown from seeds of shop-bought produce.

In front of the cloche are potatoes (grown from shop-bought potatos left to go to seed), cauliflowers, and turnips.

In the other full half of that veggie patch are beetroot, savoy cabbage, broccoli, onions, carrots and garlic.

Pumpkin patch
The pumpkin patch as it stands August 2019, plants left to vye for their own space & nutrients
A baby pumpkin
Some plants are producing fruit though; as it stands, this is one of two I can find on the patch.

They all seemed to take off initially, 15 pumpkin seedlings, which grew and grew and have been flowering almost constantly since June.  They’re apparently quite thirsty plants so when we had a lot of hot, sunny weather I was watering them every evening; now we’ve had a lot of rain recently I haven’t bothered and they seem to be fighting for space now & weaker ones are failing.  I did get a snippet of advice about thinning them out but honestly, I couldn’t be bothered!!  And to be perfectly honest, it’s been pretty much the same with the veggie patch…I went through a short period of despondency.  I looked at the amount of weeds that were surrounding the veggies, and the hints of slugs having returned after I’d dilligently slug-pelleted and organically hand-picked and removed them, and felt like I just couldn’t face the constant battle.  So the patches were left for a few weeks.  In the meantime

Yesterday, just out of interest, I tugged out a few weeds from the edge; and cleared a few slugs by hand.

IMG_20190817_120132
The first harvest of beetroot and turnip

There were far fewer slugs than I thought there’d be; and the weeds came out a lot easier than I thought they would…so I continued.  And then I pulled up a couple of turnips, just to see if it had ‘worked’ (I’ve never been a turnip fan so it was more of an experiement to see if I could grow them than growing them to be eaten!) and there they were; 4-5 suitably sized turnips (I had to look that up, I wasn’t sure what an average size for a turnip was supposed to be!!)

 

I moved down to the end of the patch and cleared some weeds around the beetroot; and noticed the tops of the root veggies showing at the base of the stalks looked quite impressive in size, so chose a few of those to pull up too; and ended up with a harvest that quite impressed me!

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Beetroot leaves and stalks….I had them for dinner!

I ended up googling what to do with beetroot leaves and stalks, as it felt wrong to ditch them (I don’t actually like beetroot all that much, shop-bought pickled stuff; only planted them because the seeds came as part of the pack and hoped they’d distract the slugs if they were along the edge, before they got to things I actually wanted!!).  I found that they were safe to eat and found this video on a way to cook them with lemon juice and garlic (also dug up from the veggie patch 😉 ) .  I gave it a go and that was my dinner last night…not bad, actually!

This morning I had another forage around, pulled out a few more weeds, realised the few broccoli and cabbage plants I have aren’t actually as bad as they first looked with the slug bites in them, and I might end up with something from them.

I know I could (and have) look up expert instructions on all of the things that might be wrong (weeds, slugs, too many pumkin plants overcrowding…and many more!) but I feel like I’m learning more from making my own mistakes – each year I’m producing a little more; and remembering more from what went wrong previously.

When the despondency hit last year, I’d pretty much given up, this year when I started the weeding I found a few more (small) carrots, onions and potatoes that had survived from the year before; and this year, just harvesting *something* edible, and standing back and looking at it and realising that it’s more than the year before, and the year before that, I realise that despite the mess and the chaos and the holey leaves, and my veggie patch not looking like the perfectly arranged and organised allotments I walk the dog past every day; I’ve managed to grow stuff, and increased the edible amount every year.

Today I pulled this carrot out when getting on with the majority of the weeding.

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yes…it’s straighter…believe it or not!!

This carrot might look a bit dodgy to you, but it’s already bigger, and straighter (believe it or not!) than what I got from the original 2017 lot (and the leftovers I found earlier this year); and this is not even the largest one from this crop… it is from the seeds I saved from last year, meaning it’s a second-generation carrot from my garden, and already stronger and healthier than my first attempt.

In watering and checking the fruit and veg, when training the fruit bushes to grow up and around the frame, I’ve picked a good few handfuls of berries, and washed and eaten them.  I’ve had no fruit from the grapes or kiwis yet but they’re already stronger plants than they were last year; so I’m ever hopeful.

I like to think of myself as an experimental gardner; much like when I’m cooking, really, once you know a few basic things, get out there and give it a go, don’t be afraid of things going wrong, and learn from the mistakes.

I’m ever hopeful that from the remaining beetroot, turnips, and garlic, and from the cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, melons, capsicums, potatoes, onions, tomatoes in the greenhouse, chilli and lemon plants in the greenhouse (that might be adopted as house-plants), and the baby pumpkins, I should get more produce, at least enough to ecourage me to step it up and be better next year!

R

xx

n.b. on a side note, no, the children aren’t that interested in trying the turnips and beetroot! 2 of them have tried the berries and are impressed; and have shared the carrots in the past. But on the plus side, even if I produce enough for me; that’s one less person eating in to the rest of the monthly food bill!

 

 

 

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Posted in Cooking, Healthy, Life, Medical, Women's Issues

FINALLY! A diet that REALLY works!

I don’t really know what else to call it.  It has no name.  It’s basically a sensible eating plan. Which is what I shrugged and said to my midwife not long after I’d been given it.

OK, let’s rewind.

I’ve never been skinny.  Well, maybe when I was little.  although when I was little, I remember people (my grandparents and their friends, mainly, I think) telling me ‘She’s going to be a heartbreaker’.  I think they meant I was pretty.  But I really couldn’t understand why ANYONE would want to purposefully break other people’s hearts?  So what possible incentive did that have for me to grow up beautiful?  I could go off on one long tangent here but suffice to say, remaning slim for aesthetic purposes has never been something that remotely interested me.  I’m not bashing those who do…it’s just not for me.  I look the way I look, and I’m fine with that.

And the other reason that’s always banded about?  ‘Health’? well, I’m quite proud to say that I have, pretty much, a clean bill of health.  No chronic health issues.  Very proud of it and prize it highly since I’ve had the opportunity to emigrate…twice…and anyone who understands the types of paperwork that entails will know that a health check and fitness certificate from a doctor.  Just to be sure, the first time round, I did try one of those crappy milkshake diets before applying for my first visa, which lost me a few kilos but I hardly felt any different within myself to be honest.

When I fell pregnant with #1 in 2008, about half way through the pregnancy I was diagnosed with ‘Gestational Diabetes‘; which means I wasn’t producing enough insulin for both myself and the growing baby.  They were quite scary.  ‘They’ being the medical ‘professionals’ who told me I’d be taking pills and injecting myself with goodness knows what.  There was no way, I told myself, that I’d be doing that.  I am cautious and generally avoid taking any medications if I don’t have to.  I mean, I’d rather suffer with headaches and period pain than take paracetamol.  So when they followed up their threats with “…if you can’t control it with diet…” I thought, well, then, I’ll have to control it with diet then, won’t I?  So I did.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling.  All I was given in a brief meeting witht he ‘nutritionist’ at the hospital after that fateful day was the sheet you see pictured below.  Well, the one you see pictured is actually a titdied up, revamped, clearer version I retyped as what I was handed was a sheet that seemed like it was a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of something someone had created on an ancient room-sized computer in 1988. It was blurred and skewiff and had black marks all over it.

What you see here is a result of me retyping the text and scanning in the plate diagram and repositioning it on the page I newly typed.

When I went on a fitness freak challenge when living in a very beach-orientated culture which meant spending a lot of time in a swimsuit, I almost had a fit when I couldn’t find the page I had printed; and then couldn’t find it anywhere on my laptop either…can you imagine?!  I was then, very very surprised that a simple eating plan (OK, diet…) such as this was NOWHERE to be found on the internet.  Not even after searching methodically in the way that helped me re-discover my Brownie Recipe that I had once lost.  Anyway, I finally did find a copy I had sent someone in the annals of my neverending-storage Gmail account and to my relief, re-downloaded it, printed it, and laminated it.  It is now permanently magnetised to my fridge door.

Sample Meal Plan
(Don’t worry, you can download this as a PDF at the bottom of the page x )

Seriously?  This is a basic, healthy eating cheat-sheet, given to me by a nutritionist/dietitian in a major hospital, that has worked for me to both control diabetes (of the gestational kind, but I’m pretty sure that works the same way as other forms, Type 2 for example?) and, when I actually did want to be skinny on a whim, lose about 50lbs (OK, I was doing a 2 hours work out every single day in addition to running after toddlers and teaching them to swim…but hey, the eating habits didn’t harm the efforts…).

That doesn’t mean I’ve followed it permanently…I have for at least the past two years, smiled sadly at it while opening the door to retrieve various items that are NOT sanctioned on the list. (yes, those 50lbs have crept in somewhere….)

However, in the last fortnight, a personal tragedy has forced me into a rethink and so I have re-started following this plan with a vengeance.  dietegAnd in the first week of not starving myself but just checking this sheet before I decide whet to eat and what time, I’ve lost 2lbs and an inch and a half. Without the extreme excersising. And I know this because I’ve gone back to my trusty little note book in which I would once a week record my weight and waist size, along with any notes as to what might have been happening that week, how much excersize I did or didn’t do and so on…

And Viola…it’s like running a slimming world right from your own bedroom.  Apparently.  But I’ve never been to slimming world or weightwatchers because I’ve nver had the money to spare…

Please feel free to download the PDF of the Sample Meal Plan <– here.   I have it laminated and stuck on the fridge door, with a felt pen in one of those magnet holders they use for shopping lists next to it (you know the kind I mean, right?) , so each meal/snack time I can tick off with the felt pen what I’ve had, to help keep track of the variety and, on some days, that I’ve actually bothered to have something at that time! (I’ve found it handy, in my advancing years and my filling schedule, to set a reminder on my phone.  I have had funny looks when my phone goes off telling me it’s ‘Lunch Time’…)

Basically, all I do is tick off the ingredients as I get them out of the fridge/cupboard, then cook them however I like.  I let myself a little leeway and have some raisins and a tiny drizzle of natural honey in my porridge, or some marmite as well on my toast; I cook veggies in a quick stir fry with some olive oil, worcester sauce, soy sauce and so on;  or start a stew-pot in the morning with a variety of veggies, some split peas and some couscous or noodles; and that will see me through lunch and dinner.  I make my own curry so sometimes that’s cheating as it has both chicken AND yoghurt in so I suppose that’s two from the protein section, but there’s veg and herbs and spices in it too and I always have hlf-veg and half-rice instead of all rice with it.  (My hubby likes this one as he loves my curry.  Although he doesn’t do veggies…)

What I’m saying is, I use it as a guide.  Be creative using the ingredients suggested on the page. Every now and again I think outside the box and stretch the limits of what I’m supposed to have; but generally, after a few days on it, I tend to not crave biscuits, cakes, chocolates; and the smell when hubby brought lunch for him and the children in today (it’s Saturday and a rugby -international-on-the-telly day) actually didn’t appeal to me at all and I was very much preferring my salmon, savoy cabbage and broccoli stir-fry I had prepared for myself, followed by tinned peaches! (and black decaf coffee, because I’m weaning myself off caffeine too…)

Someone I spoke to about this once said it does remind them of the Slimming world plan; but I’ve never done it so I don’t know.  I don’t generally ‘do’ a following-recipies type plan, it’s too much faff for me, I’d rather be given the basic ingredients and be creative.  But, if it helps, my aunty who’s a district nurse runs This Blog about Slimming-World friendly recipies.

Also, here’s the Diet Record Sheet now that I’ve figured out how to upload PDFs for other people to use 😉   I keep my little note book in the same place, near a tape measure, so I know where to go every wednesday (also set as a reminder on my phone…) morning, to weight and measure and note it down.

There you go!  A free, self-help diet without having to spend a fortune on a book!

So, here’s the disclaimer:  I’m not a fitness or healthy eating guru (But come one, healthy eating is healthy eating, right?  We all understand it, that’s not the problem…it’s the cravings and the willpower and the temptation!!) so this post, nor my posting of the diet sheet below, is not a substitute for professional advice.  However…I’m not exactly advocating extreme starvation or anything here…

Good luck people, and you’re welcome 🙂

*Before you ask, no, I’ve never been able to find out the definition of ‘Free’ vegetables…I just presume they mean veggies that don’t count as Carbs, for example potatoes, kumara, etc… I’ve just always concentrated on leafy greens (– savoy cabbage has always been a favourite), salad leaves, carrots, onions, broccoli…

 

Posted in Baking, Cooking, Creative, Family

Follow these 8 steps to the PERFECT Chocolate Brownies!

I won’t take credit for this recipe.  It’s my go-to brownie recipe after accidentally stumbling upon it on a can of cocoa a few years ago in New Zealand.

I think it’s worth publishing here because I lost it once and it took me ages to track it down online, after the brand was a) no longer displaying the recipe and b) wasn’t available in the shops around where I was anyway.

It’s attributed to a Nestle Baking Cocoa can label, 25-09-08.

It’s not healthy, but they are lovely and chocolately and stodgy.  And there are certain times when healthy eating and diets just need to go out of the window. These are highly recommended for those times x

CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
150g butter
1 cup cocoa
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
¾ cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 packet White Choc Bits

  • Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa, then allow the mixture to cool slightly.
  • Beat in the eggs.
  • Stir in the sugar and vanilla essence.
  • Add the sifted flour and baking powder and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  • Stir the white chocolate bits through, then turn the mixture into a baking paper base-lined 27cm x 18cm.
  • Bake at160°Cfor45-50 minutes or until just firm when pressed in the centre.
  • Leave in the tin for 20 minutes, then turn out on to a rack.
  • When cold, cut into bars and dust with extra cocoa, if desired.