Hello again

Oh dear, I feel very neglectful of my poor old blog, I haven’t posted since March and even this one is coming from my phone so it won’t be long. 

In that time my life has taken a slightly different tact. I’ve been working three days a week teaching in a local secondary school. I have been loving reclaiming my professional self. I’m having fun with all the new technology in classrooms now, chatting with delightful young adults full of ideas and opinions about the world and engaging with fellow teachers. My contract finishes soon but hopefully there will be more work coming. 

With me working the home life has also changed. A bit more childcare/before school care and very busy mornings. Mr Good has stepped up with combining working from home, housework and kid wrangling. 

My second year of my masters had a slow start but is churning along now. Of course it has gotten to a crunch time just as work also gets super busy (reports!). Despite that I am excited about my research project. 

We’ve had two birthdays and now have a six and a four year old and several more grey hairs telling me time is pushing on. 

All my usual blogging topics, gardening, cooking, reading etc have been pushed aside just like my blogging. I am missing being able to do everything I have done over the last four years but I also think I need to be realistic. There’s no point choosing to study if I’m not going to make it a priority and the same goes for working. Finding a manageable balance is what it’s all about. 

So while I will try to blog every now and again, they won’t be as regular as they have been in the past. 

Catch you again soon(ish). 

   
 

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Garden Share Collective – March

In the midst of the start of the school, getting myself ready to find some work and life in general I missed the last Garden Share Collective – hosted by Strayed from the Table.

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In the two months since my last garden update something serious has happened.  A pumpkin plant has attempted a garden coup!  The coup began quietly and undercover of tomatoes and zucchinis, but has since spread rampantly and is now looking for total domination.  The attempt is so serious as to have involved the neighbour’s pumpkin plant which has started a take over climbing over the six-foot+ high fence and seeking to dominate the non-veggie patch side of the garden.  Things are becoming untenable, pathways loving created by Mr Good have succumbed to pumpkin plant rule and are now closed to all human traffic.  The girls’ trampoline seems next in line, but Mr Good assures me the lawn-mower army will mobilise and make short work of any attempt to capture the lawn.  All of this from just one plant!!

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Despite this plant’s attempt to colonise my garden, the patch has proved something of a manic provider this year.  The three zucchini plants have been in fruiting overdrive for more than a month and I can’t give the stuff away fast enough.  I’m picking 20-30 zucchinis a week.  The cucumbers have started the late catch up supplying at least as many fruit.  And with a stretch of warm weather – though still mild by comparison to other summers – the tomatoes are now ripening and the plants heavy with fruit.  However, my poor staking and neglect has left them in a sad and sorry state of appearance.

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The weather has been very odd this year and the humidity has been much higher than usual.  As a result I’ve had whitefly problems on and off since well before Christmas.  They destroyed the potatoes plants and the mint and then went for the beans.  Thankfully the beans survived and came on strong again in January but are again being attacked so my harvest has been limited.

In this part of the garden I also have some lovely healthy-looking silverbeet, red kale, spring onions, parsley and rogue potatoes.

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I’ve had my best every year with strawberries, picking a bowl or more every week for a couple of months.  I’ve managed to freeze quite a few which will be turned into jam at some point in the near future.

Below I’ve included a glimpse of my regular harvests and a couple of gorgeous sunflowers brightening our yard.

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The final big news in the garden is that Mr Good and I have made excellent progress on the last of the paths around the veggie garden beds.  We’ve dug it all out – back breaking and blister inducing work – gotten rid of the dirt we dug up and laid the gravel ready for the final stage.  Now all we need it so whack-a-pack that down, top it off with some sand and lay the bricks.  It will probably be another weekend’s worth of work but we’re close!  It’s only taken me the best part of 18 months to get these paths done!!  Next up is the deck, any bets on how long that will take us?

To Do this month:

Finish the path!!!!!! (I promise a photo on the next update)

Plant out seeds for winter – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage etc.  I’m a bit late doing this but I’ve decided not to stress too much about timing, I was late with the summer ones too and I’ve done okay.

Finish tidying up the tomatoes.

Weeding – lots of it!

Start getting some manure/mulch for the next season.

And anything else I can think of.

Be sure to check out some of the other posts, I’m constantly amazed at how much people manage to do in a month.  And I love seeing the gorgeously neat and planned patches that put mine to shame!  Mind you, I also love seeing the rambling free-range style that I tend to go with too.

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#FoodIsFree – a local initiative

Some time late last week I came home to find a flyer from a neighbour in my letterbox.  She was inviting the residents of the street to participate in a local movement called #FoodIsFree.  The idea is to leave any  excess home grown produce (or any food really) outside your house, or in a prominent location like a bus stop, where people might pick it up and use it.  This group started by leaving excess food in a laneway between two houses in a nearby street.  The idea caught on with others and they decided to hold a #FoodIsFree Day this Saturday just gone.  And that was what the flyer I received was promoting.

This could not have been timed better for me and my runaway zucchini plants, which are currently producing about 30 zucchinis a week.  A darn sight more than we could use.  I’ve been giving them away to family and friends, I’ve been making soup and zucchini slice like I’m planning to feed the army, and yet they keep coming.

So early Saturday morning I set up my little (or rather, going by the size of some of the zukes, BIG) contribution to #FoodIsFree day with my sign, bucket of zucchinis and a small tub of green beans.  I was a little worried about it sitting out in the sun all day (it was rather hot for once) and on returning from a trip to the park I was a little worried to see that nothing had been taken.  The concern was unwarranted because by about 4pm all but the colossal zucchini (that I was really hoping some little kid might insist on taking home so I didn’t have to deal with it myself) was gone.

I know, my sign needs work.  I'll get Miss Five onto it next time.

I know, my sign needs work. I’ll get Miss Five onto it next time.

I had a wander down the street to see if anyone else had put out their excess produce and came home with green capsicum, green chilli, basil, mint, one little but delicious peach and some plums.  All from four houses in my street.  And on the way home from doing the shopping this morning I stopped at the permanently appointed FoodIsFree Laneway Ballarat – which conveniently is located just near Miss Three’s kindergarten, I shall be stopping by regularly to leave or take produce.  I collected some cooking apples (Miss Five will be rapt with some stewed apples for dessert), a few more plums (they don’t last long around here) and some nectarines.

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Saturday was such a local success story, with over 100 participants, that the Ballarat Courier reported on it and there is now an established FoodIsFree day each month, on the first Sunday.  That’s a sure fire way of spreading the zucchini love a bit further.  And if we get a mild day I might even share some strawberries.

I’d love to hear about any acts of community spirit or generosity near you.  Or why not start a food-sharing movement in your community.  If you have lots of people walking by, place your excess out the front with a sign or leave it where people will find and appreciate it.  It gives you a lovely gooey feeling somewhere inside to share with strangers.

Posted in Gardening, Lifestyle | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Hello, hello…. It’s been a while

It seems I’ve recently taken an unexpected break from blogging.  This was for no particular reason other than a lack of urge to blog and a simple enjoyment of family life.  Since my last post this is what’s happened…..

We spent a lovely couple of weeks at our favourite beach getaway in southern NSW.  I re-introduced myself to the boogie board, not something I’ve done for about fifteen years.  I had so much fun!!  I was SO exhausted afterwards.  I rediscovered muscles unused for many years.  It was worth it.  The kids had a blast at the beach and the pool and the park and the cinema and the arcade (rainy days called for a bit of old-school arcade gaming – also surprisingly fun for the adults involved).

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We came home to enjoy the last couple of weeks of the school holiday and try to reign in the juggled-like vegetable patch.  The tomatoes are very slow to ripen (not enough hot weather) but the zucchinis are going completely mad.  Beans and strawberries are coming quickly too.

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Miss Five start school, heading off for her first day of prep hypo-ventilating with excitement.  Week two and she was still busting out the door to get going and was the first one there this morning.  She loves it, she loves her teacher (her appraisal was that she’s better than Miss Honey from Matilda, high praise indeed) and she is being quite the little sponge.  Let’s hope she can keep it up.

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Miss Three started three year old Kinder and one day a week at daycare.

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And I have been trying to find some work, a frustrating process to date.

All in all we’ve been busy, life is changing and things are good, really good.  So what’s new in your world?

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What I read in 2014

2014 would have to come close to the biggest year of reading I’ve ever had.  It was helped along by some real page turners, the countless picture books my children have been read, Miss Five’s discovery of chapter books and the completion of the first of two years of a master’s course.  There were days where all I really did was read in one form or another.  It’s a very good thing that above pretty much everything else, I LOVE to read.  I would pick it ahead of TV, gardening, cooking or pretty much any of my other leisure pursuits.

So here’s a list of the books I’ve read (for me) for pleasure.  I’ve linked to those I’ve reviewed (I’m very far behind on writing the reviews).

1. Murder with the Lot – Sue Williams
2. All I Know – Mary Coustas (NF)
3. The Marriage Plot – Jeffery Eugenides
4. The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
5. The One Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Joansson
6. The Last Days of the National Costume – Anne Kennedy
7. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
8. All That I Am – Anna Funder
9. The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan
10. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green (YA)
11. Reading Magic – Mem Fox (NF)
12. Three Dollars – Elliot Perlman
13. Lilian’s Story – Kate Grenville
14. Far from the Tree – Andrew Solomon (NF)
15. The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden – Jonas Jonasson
16. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
17. The Railway Man – Eric Lomax (NF)
18. A Fortunate Life – A. B. Facey (NF)
19. Railsea – China Meilville (YA)
20. The Promise – Tony Birch
21. Nine Parts of Desire – Geraldine Brooks (NF)
22. 12 Years a Slave – Solomon Northup (NF)
23. A Fictional Woman – Tara Moss (NF)
24. In The Woods – Tana French
25. Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
26. Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
27. How to Kill Your Husband (and other Handy Household Hints) – Kathy Lettes
28. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins (YA)
29. The Husbands Secret – Liane Moriarty
30. The Red Queen – Phillipa Gregory
31. Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
32. Catching Fire (Book #2 Hunger Games) – Suzanne Collins (YA)
33. The Wife Drought – Annabel Crabb (NF)

That’s almost three books a month, not a bad effort.  But of these 33 books which were the best, which were less pleasing (I don’t finish the ones that I really don’t like) and what did I learn in my year of reading (other than an awful lot about how to write an academic literature review and prepare a research proposal – I won’t bore you with those).

Top Five – these are the books that stay with me the most, that got under my skin or into my head.

1. Gone Girl
2. The Promise
3. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. The Husbands Secret (almost equally Big Little Lies – same author)

The Hunger Games books (of which I’m three quarters of the way through the third one) came close also, but that may be because I’ve been reading them most recently.

Least Favourite
1. How to Kill Your Husband – Kathy Lettes’ joke wore pretty thin pretty quickly
2. The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden – only because I read it too close to the first Jonas Jonasson book and they are VERY similar.
3. The Last Days of the National Costume – interesting idea, poor execution

Everything else was worth the minutes and hours dedicated to it.  I think that makes for a pretty successful year of reading.

So what did I learn:
1. My favourite authors never let me down – these include Philippa Gregory, Elliot Perlman and Jeffrey Eugenides from this year’s selection.  I think I’ll always retreat to my small list of favourite authors at some point every year purely for the fact that I know it’s going to be a great read.

2. Non-fiction has much more to offer than I had previously thought – this year I read nine non-fiction books, including a couple of memoir/biographies and all were enlightening in some way.

3. There is a wealth of great reading for young adults (and old adults alike) which bodes well for creating a new generation of avid readers – hopefully I’ll produce two of them!

4. I’ve discovered some really great new authors this year and I hope they keep writing so I can keep reading there work.

5. I haven’t delved into the classics much at all this year – with perhaps the exception of A Fortunate Life.  2015 I shall endeavour to remedy this!

So tell me about your 2014 in books.  What did you love?  What did you not love?  What did you learn?  And most importantly, what’s on your summer reading list?  I’m off for ten days at the beach which for me means READING TIME!

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Garden Share Collective – January, 2015

Welcome to 2015’s very first blog post and the first for quite a while.  I have enjoyed a break from most of my regular schedule over the last couple of weeks and have spent some lovely, quiet time with my family, close and extended.  We had a very exciting (for the kids) and happy Christmas and brought in the New Year with a sedate gathering with my siblings, their partners and children.  The food was great! We had cleared out pretty soon after  midnight (as happens post children) and then on New Years Day Mr Good headed up to the river (Murray that is) with mates for a few days.  The kids and I spent a gorgeous day at the beach and then hunkered down inside to endure a couple of days of horrendous heat, wild winds and then a drenching storm.

The garden has kicked into summer gear and I have started picking a few new things here and there.  I’m looking forward to the real summer harvests (ie tomatoes) but in the meantime here is my garden update as part of the Garden Share Collective.

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What’s growing:
About 20 tomato plants of various varieties and various stages of growth
Lots of strawberries
Five capsicums (is it just me or are these super slow growing, any tips to give them a boost?)
Two yellow and one Black Jack zucchini
Two butternut pumpkin
Beans of various types
Two sugar snap peas (have not had much luck with these)
Three Lebanese Cucumbers (another slow grower)
Potatoes
Kale
Spring Onions
Mint
Parley
Thyme
Rosemary

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Harvesting
Strawberries – a least a couple of handfuls every few days
Kale
Spring Onions
Herbs
A few sugar snap peas
The first three beans
The first yellow zucchini
And the last of the big garlic harvest (no more in the garden now)

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To do:
Lots of weeding – need to keep on top of the kykuyu grass
Watering
Pest control – I have white flies in plague proportions and the pear tree has pear slug.  I think I’ve conquered the slugs until the next lot of eggs hatch, but the white flies are making a complete mess of my herbs, potatoes and are starting on the beans.  Apparently this is a bad year for them – any one else have trouble with white fly?  Think I’m going to have to spray with Pyrethrum.

To finish I thought you might enjoy like these pictures capturing my two girls enjoying the rain and coo change after the terrible weather we had on Saturday.

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Reality Bites – Mealtime meltdowns

This is a well-trodden blog post theme for me, the seemingly never-ending dramas that occur at the dinner table.  Friends tell me it gets better, as yet I have no evidence of that but as I rarely see a 17 year old have a meltdown tantrum when eating out I can only assume they are correct.  Instead of going on and on about my frustrations around the dinner table I thought I’d make a little list.  My top 5 dinner dramas….. here we go.

5. A relaxing meal out – an oxymoron if ever there was one. I physically tense up in restaurants with the kids and not because they are horrible generally.  I just find the potential for the horribleness to come out (which it does very ocassionally) enough to set my teeth on edge.  I want them to be able to sit at a table, eat nicely, not disturb others around them and let everyone enjoy they’re meal.  I feel like other are judging me and my parenting based on the behaviour of my children.  So is this paranoia or something based in reality?  Who knows?  But what I do know is how often I’ve heard (and even said before having my own children) the line “My children will never behave like that in public” – or some version of it.  There seems to be unrealistic expectations about how children should know to behave and it’s bad parenting if they don’t fit that criteria.

4. No soup for you me!  My kids hate soup, pretty much universally.  I love soup, I want to make soup, eat soup and enjoy soup without a complete break down ocurring as the bowls are put in front of them.  What’s worse, they too used to love soup.  What the hell changed?

3. Cutlery, it’s there for a reason.  Use it!  Your hands are disgusting.  But if you insist on using your hands DON’T TOUCH ME!  Granted Miss Five is a gun with a knife and fork these days, her sister,  not so much.

2. Chilli, pepper, spice, I miss you so!  This one is reserved for Miss Five only.  She can spot a crack of black pepper at fifty paces.  A minuscule amount of chilli will send her racing for the tap as though flames are about to shoot from her mouth.  A curry is just not going to happen, I’ve tried!  Miss Three loves a bit of spicy sauce, a grind of pepper or some spicy salami.  She’s a girl after both Mr Good and my hearts.  And while adding our own heat or spice to the end product is okay, it’s just not the same as cooking it into the dish.

1. I’M BORED!  That’s me talking, not the kids.  I’ve given up my usual wide variety of dishes and have started serving up the stock standard meals week in, week out.  Spaghetti bolognaise, tuna mornay, fish fingers/fish fillets and veggies, fried rice, grilled meat and salad, kebabs and rice, tacos.  I’m bored with it all, I’m bored cooking it and I sure am bored eating it.  The dramas are fewer but at the expense of anything particularly interesting to sit down to.  I do add a new recipe in there every now and again, but mostly it’s the same old, same old.

It also doesn’t help that at least half the nights of the week I eat with just the girls, so there’s not even some adult conversation to dull the pain of eating with whining, fussy, messy kids.  I have two saviours though when I think I’m going to snap.  Wine and TV – the wine for me, the TV for them.  I wouldn’t normally suggest letting your kids eat in front of the TV, but occasionally it does the trick, they eat and don’t complain about the food.

I’m linking up with Jess again this week.  Click here to check out her post (when it goes up).

In the meantime, tell you’re tricks for surviving mealtime dramas.

Posted in Parenting | Tagged , | 6 Comments