The joy of a kitchen garden

For the first time since having my girls I have a productive garden. I didn’t come from a gardening family, but in my early 20s I developed a real passion for it. There were a couple of events that occurred in my life that started this passion. The first was coming across a Women’s Weekly book called The Kitchen Garden. This lovely book contains gardening information, storage tips and recipes, and I delighted in it. It seemed such a dream though; the sort of thing women on farms had. The second event occurred when we were living in inner-City Adelaide. In my opinion Adelaide has the best produce in Australia. The Tradie and I were completely inspired by food while there. We moved into this tiny unit in a fancy area and our back veranda overlooked the house of an old Italian man. He had transformed his tiny backyard into a market garden. The variety was amazing, and it was the first time I realised you didn’t need a lot of space to grow enough food to feed you (and more!).

You can always compost your mistakes

Over the years I have learned quite a lot about gardening, most of it through trial and error. I live by the quote above. Today when I ran to the garden to get a couple of things for dinner, I felt so inspired and happy. So, I’ve decided to blog a little about my adventures in the garden too. Life is always good in the garden.

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What its really like to be a parent

It’s a common question to new parents: what is it like to be a parent? I find the answers tend to fall into one of two categories. The first is the category that reflects the love of the parents to their offspring. It’s usually profuse, and magical sounding: ‘It just amazing, I couldn’t imagine how much I love them. You just can’t understand it until you have your own’. The other response is the one that reflects the difficulties: ‘I’m so tired, it’s so demanding, I had no idea how many nappies they go through’. The real truth is somewhere in between, and I’m going to attempt to illustrate it with an example…

Imagine you got a job as a personal assistant to a musician you love. You adore this person, their music really speaks to you and you feel they are a genius of their time. Despite the crummy salary, you are overjoyed to have this opportunity to work with this person. You turn up on the first day, and are completely overwhelmed at being in this person’s life. You soon realise though, that this artist has NO concept of a routine life, and is completely egocentric. As the day progresses it becomes very clear that they expect you to be at their beck and call all day. You go to the toilet and they start yelling for you. Hastily you wipe your bum, and exit to see what the huge issue is only to find their special blanket fell off, and they wanted it back on, just so. You adjust said blanket, and start organizing their lunch (apparently you are now a gourmet chef too – no extra pay). You prepare an amazing meal, and are convinced your adored artist will be so pleased at your efforts, but all of a sudden they are not hungry. You return the untouched meal to the kitchen, and head home for the night. Exhausted, a little disillusioned, but still in love with your idol. 

At 3am, you get a phone call. You are needed immediately. You throw on your old T-shirt and head over to their hotel room. Your much adored musician has gotten totally high and is having a meltdown. They are screaming, yelling and completely inconsolable. They are also covered in vomit and their own shit. You calm them down, clean them up and eventually get them off to sleep. It’s now 5:00 and you are exhausted. You finally get some sleep on the couch, only to be woken an hour later by a bright-eyed and chirpy person who is completely oblivious to the drama of last night.  This repeats on a regular basis.

Your friends tell you to quit, but the truth is you adore this person. They are inspired and interesting. For every shit-covered meltdown there are amazing moments when you sit around listening to them make music, and you are pulled into their magical world. Just when you think you can’t handle the yelling and tantrums, they turn their full attention onto you and smile in a way that you know how important they are to you. 

So you stay in the job, and as much as you never want to wipe shit from someone’s bum even again, you truly wouldn’t want it any other way.

THAT’s what it is like to be a parent. 

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Quitting sugar: week 3 and beyond

I must apologize for dropping the ball on my sugar free diary. It has been really popular, and friends have now resorted to calling me to see how I am going. Life got busy, Easter came and we went away, I got exhausted and depressed, so yeah the diary went out the window. At long last I present you with week 3 and beyond…

Week 3 was the last week of super-strict sugar free eating. I found it quite challenging again, and I am sure that Easter chocolates bombarding me anytime I left the house didn’t help. When you quit sugar, you really see how much these foods are in your face every time you go to the shops. It’s a little depressing, and enough to make a ranty lady like myself get angry. Anyway, I stuck to my guns and arrived on the other side of Easter having completed 3 (intense) weeks of no sugar AT ALL! High 5’s to me please! I am really proud I achieved that, and I must thank the Tradie for his support in making it happen.

So what now? I have decided to stay fairly strict. Whenever I add some fruit in, or allow myself to use rice malt syrup, I find I have a lot more cravings. It is actually easier for me to be strict. These are my guidelines now.

  • No foods with more than 6 grams of sugar per 100g (although I really try for under 4g/100g)
  • The only sweeteners I use are xylitol and rice malt syrup – nothing else
  • Very limited fruit. One piece every couple of days

My taste buds have changed, and I have lots of interesting experiences with food now. Pre-quitting I LOVED sweet, strong black tea. Once the 3 weeks was over I added some xylitol to my tea, and sat back ready to savour it. And it was nice. I found that I wanted more. Badly. What I wanted was the sweet taste. If I drink my tea with no sweetener, then I am satisfied after 1 cup. Add some sweetness and I am hooked again, and need more. So back to plain tea and milk for me.

I love being sugar free. It suits me perfectly, and is something I will continue with. I thoroughly recommend trying it, and the Sarah Wilson book is a great reference to have. Do I think it suits everyone? No. I think it best suits true sugar addicts. If you eat an entire block of chocolate in one sitting, if you can have ridiculously sweet dessert and want more, if a tub of ice cream is a one sitting event, then yup I think you should give it a try. If you can eat half a slice of cake and be satisfied, then you are probably okay with sugar.

My last little comment is on anxiety and sugar. When I got back from Melbourne I had terrible anxiety and depression again. Desperately seeking anything to make me feel better I ate half a bag of mini-mars bars the Tradie had in the cupboard. It actually fueled shocking panic attacks. If you have anxiety, it is well worth remembering that the effects sugar has on your blood sugar can exacerbate your moods.

So now I can proudly say I live a sugar free life. I promise to not turn into a smug wanker when we have coffee though.

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Antidepressants are just tops!

If there is one question about my PND that drives me totally batty, it’s when people ask when I can come off my antidepressants. It always comes with the best intentions, but it makes me feel like shit. There are two answers to this question. Usually I give this friendly, socially acceptable one: oh, I don’t know. When LillyPilly sleeps through, then my doc and I will review it. This is not untrue. When my little girl is weaned and sleeping through we will review my meds.

You know why this question drives me nuts though? It unintentionally implies that there is something wrong with me taking medication. It says that because I look well now, I should be thinking about coming off the evil medication, and getting on with my life.

I think we can all agree that antidepressants are over-prescribed, and that there are effective natural remedies and counselling-based therapies that could be used as a front line treatment. But I didn’t start taking medication as a front line treatment. I started taking it when all else had failed. I freaking love my meds. They saved my life; literally. I function most days pretty well now. Sometimes I even do awesome stuff, and am totally together. If I miss a dose, I fall into a crying useless heap for a few days. They allow me to get on with my life, and be the best Mum and person I can be. Why would I be in a rush to stop that. Do I want to be on meds forever? No. When will I be stopping them? No bloody idea, and that is totally okay. Antidepressants are tops.

 

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Quitting sugar: week 2

Day 8 and 9

At this stage I am learning to deal with sugar cravings. They are really manageable now, so it’s nothing like trying to deal with them when I was eating sugar. Now I notice them, and make a decision: am I actually hungry and need a snack, or is this just a craving and will pass. I feel very in control of myself, and that feels really good. I am becoming in tune with my bodies needs too. I have realised I really do need a snack after dinner. The other big change is that my energy is consistent throughout the day. This is completely new for me, as I have always had poor energy. Now, I am getting through the day with ease. Amazing! There is a bad side to quitting sugar (well good and bad), and it’s how much sugar I see my girls consuming now. Yesterday they ate baked beans, bacon and homemade bread for breakfast (the beans and bacon both have sugar), then a bowl of natural yogurt with honey and crunchola (the honey and crunchola), and then grapes and fresh dates for morning tea. Previously I would have thought that was a good healthy morning, but now all I see is the sugar! When I move to the maintenance plan of this diet, I will start to change the girls food too. Of course I will keep healthy sugars like honey and fruit in for them, but overall there will be a reduction in the amount of sugar they eat.

Day 10

Today I hot footed it to the health food store to stock up on stevia and xylitol. I’m not planning to use the xylitol until after the strict 3 week phase, but the stevia is for now. I went to the shops, and seeing all the chocolate eggs EVERYWHERE really kicked some cravings in. I didn’t end up using it as 1/ it tastes like crap and 2/ I strongly suspect the weaning myself off the sweet taste is as important and life changing as weaning myself off the actual sugar.

Day 11

Today was tough! I’m not sure why, but all day I have wanted chocolate. My resolve was very sorely tested. I stayed strong, but it was very hard.

Day 12, 13 and 14

The last few days have been insanely tough! I have been having really strong cravings, and right now this quitting sugar business seems all a bit much. Yesterday was the first day I knowingly ate something that had sugar in it. I was out at a community event and had very few choices. In the end I selected a pizza, which definitely would have had some sugar in the dough. It’s not a major indiscretion, but still irritating given how hard I have been working at this. It’s another reminder that preparation and planning are the key to making it through the tough stage with minimal problems. Despite the cravings, it has not been all bad news. I went to the shops to grab breadcrumbs today*, and my cravings were so strong I was worried I would cave and buy a chocolate. When I got to the shops I found the constant bombardment of sugar foods, all prominently on display, to be really offensive. It made me angry and more resolved to be strong. So from this I can see my attitude is changing. I also decided to have a hot chocolate at night time with some xylitol, as a bit of a treat. When I made it, I actually found the cocoa and milk to be sweet enough – I didn’t even need the xylitol! This is a huge change, as I would have found this undrinkable prior to quitting.

I only have one week of the super strict regime to go, then I can relax and add some fruit back in. As tough as it has been I can see both my palate and attitude changing and adjusting. This is a lifestyle choice I feel really works for me. People have been commenting that I look better, and I’m losing weight (to be fair I am also exercising a lot more so it may not be related). It’s been worth the pain.

*Did you know the commercial bread crumbs have sugar in them? I ended up toasting some fresh bread and making the crumbs myself

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Hojicha – super yummy green tea

We all know that green tea is packed with antioxidants, making it great for our health. Sometimes though being good for you doesn’t equal nice tasting. In the case of green tea, unless you are super careful with the way you brew it, then it becomes very bitter. I am one of those people that brews a cuppa, walks away and totally forgets it. By the time I come back it’s ruined. 

Fear not, there is an alternative to the standard green teas sold in supermarkets: hojicha. Hojicha is my very favourite green tea. It is made from the leaves or twigs of the normal green tea varieties, but after picking is roasted in a clay pot to give it a nutty, smooth taste. It also lowers the caffeine, meaning it can be drunk all day long. I love to make a pot and drink the whole thing, cup after cup. 

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Hojicha tea (image from wikimedia commons)

Hojicha is quite robust, and can stand up to 3 infusions from the same leaves, making it perfect for pots. The best brewing time is 2-3 minutes, but you can forget about it and return 10 minutes later and it will still be drinkable. 

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The brown coloured leaves are characteristic of hojicha (image from wikimedia commons)

The antioxidant effects of this tea are lowered, as the catechins are partially reduced by the roasting process. It still contains approximately 60% though, leaving it on par with black tea overall. The EGCg and EGC levels are only slightly less compared to sencha though, so it will still give you fantastic health benefits. If you want to boost the absorption of the catechins, pop a slice of lemon in too. 

I buy mine from T2. You will not find it at supermarkets, but it is worth searching local tea stores for.

Happy drinking. 

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Bathroom Safety: quick, easy and upcycled.

I really love the concept of upcycling: finding new uses for rubbish. Normally upcycling is done with lovely old materials and turned into some artistic and lovely creation. That’s very cool, but that is not going to happen in my world. In our house upcycling is uber-practical; even if it’s not pretty.

When you unleash the chaos of small children into your world, you quickly learn that your house is fraught with dangers that little people just love to find. Bathrooms are especially bad. You could spend a fortune on fancy gadgets to protect your little ones, but there are two bathroom safety items you can quickly and easily make yourself: a tap cover and a spout cover.

Supplies

  • 1 old tennis ball
  • 1 soft drink bottle, between 1.25 to 2L
  • A stanley knife, or similar

Method

  • Using a sharp stanley knife, cut an incision in the tennis ball about 3cms long (you can go wider if your spout needs it)
  • Now cut a cross shape about 5 cms long into the side of the soft drink bottle
  • To stop head knocks on the spout attach the tennis ball
  • To stop children turning on the hot water, attach the bottle over the hot water tap
  • Admire your handiwork

**Caution** Do NOT allow kids to play with the soft drink bottle once cut. Both my girls (yes both) have stuck their hand in there and scratched themselves trying to get it out. It’s not a serious injury, but you will be pretty sure you’re a shitty parent afterwards (especially if you didn’t learn the first time like me)

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Old tennis balls can always be found around tennis courts. No need to buy new.

 

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The incision doesn’t need to be big, as you don’t want it to come off to easily.

 

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Again, don’t cut this too big. It should be hard to get off.

 

 

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It’s not pretty, but it reuses rubbish and it works!

 

Have you got any simple safety tips like this? Please share!

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