Tag Archives: herbs

Getting Unstuck…the Greenhouse We Built.

Forget The House that Jack Built. The house our daughter built was stuck together with bits of sticky tape…an absolute engineering marvel! With its flimsy walls teetering precariously, it was one of the great wonders of the modern world before it was condemned and rebuilt.

Although our daughter is only 8, Miss usually shows more of an aptitude for engineering than this. She enjoys things like mechanics and working on the car with her Dad and usually asks me how things work and likes to put things together properly, unlike her “creative” mother. The sticky tape is my bad influence. I’m the sort of person who cuts corners and used to have staples or safety pins holding my school uniform together…even at a “posh” school. I couldn’t give a damn about how something works. Near enough is good enough. I am more interested in people and what makes them tick.

Although I am usually the sticky tape queen, as the greenhouse was designed for kids, I thought we should be able to put it together properly and give the thing at least a reasonable chance of survival. As it stood, or should I say leaned, it would fly over the fence in pieces with the first gust of wind

The house my daughter built was actually Jamie’s Greenhouse, part of Woolworth’s Jamie Oliver’s Garden  promotion. This promotion is based around an informative sticker book for the kids which is literally bursting with all sorts of facts about fruit and veg, games, recipes and is super educational. You pay for $4.00 for the book and then get a pack of stickers for every $20.00 you spend, luring hapless parents and grandparents back into Woollies for fresh supplies. At $4.00 each, this book was an absolute gift and has kept the kids busy for hours doing something other than playing on some electronic life form. These books have spread like wildfire through the schools and the kids are all trading stickers, even if they’re still overlooking the healthy fruit and veg in their lunchboxes.

Swap Your Stickers

You can check out the campaign by clicking through here:http://www2.woolworthsonline.com.au/Shop/Seasonal/Jamie-Oliver?hubID=11#url=/Shop/Seasonal/Jamie-Oliver-Jamies-Garden

 

Well, we were frolicking around in fruit and veg sticker heaven until…

Our daughter asked me to buy Jamie’s Greenhouse, a seemingly innocuous sidekick to the whole campaign. I love gardening and when I saw the package, I was reminded of my previous intentions to start a veggie patch with the kids. This is more of a herb garden but it’s certainly a step in the right direction and preferable to buying yet another soft toy. You see, the campaign also includes a range of stuffed toy fruit and veg and yes I know I could have said no and bought our daughter nothing at all but we all know that’s not how it works.

Anyway, while Jamie’s Greenhouse came disguised in cute cardboard packaging covered with child-like drawings, it is what it is. It’s an Ikea flatpack in kiddies’ clothing…only this time it is your child who is supposed to do battle with the bits and pieces building an entire house…not just a bookshelf or a desk.

That’s right. They get to build an entire house out of a few flimsy bits of plastic.

Yeah…right!!

Actually, constructing this Greenhouse is making an Ikea project look very Simple Simon . After all, when you go to Ikea, you don’t buy an entire house in their trademark flat packs and have to put it together before you can get a good night’s sleep. Of course not! You just buy “bits”.

The only piece of furniture which I’ve ever been game enough to buy from Ikea was a humble desk. In other words, a single piece of furniture. My Dad was much more adventurous. He actually bought a table and 6 chairs and almost gave up his day job to put them all together. So much for running his business!

Ikea’s approach is so win-win. They reduce production costs and increase profits while we get to prove ourselves. Show that we mere mortals can slay the Ikea beast and actually build something. There’s real kudos in being able to put a few bits of wood together and turn an Allen key. It’s almost as good as being able to boast: “I made it myself!”

Of course, no one ever expects us to be a linguist and actually pronounce all those luxurious Swedish product names, which is where my skill set naturally lies. I find it much easier to speak convoluted Swedish than work out how A slots into B. I have no spacial skills or engineering capabilities whatsoever and still can’t find A or B when I bought that desk back in high school.

While Jamie Oliver’s Greenhouse doesn’t come with an Allen key or any other kind of doobywacker tool, as I said, it does come in a flatpack. There are plastic sheets, an instruction booklet, dirt and seeds and stickers to cover up your mistakes. While I did mention something about constructing a “house”, I must confess that we’re talking about a small greenhouse. Indeed, you could say it is the doll’s house of greenhouses. Indeed, it reminds me of the Fisher Price Doll’s house my daughter had as a two year old before her dolls moved into their grand 2 storey mansion along with a considerable amount of accumulated flotsam and jetsam. Those dolls can barely breathe in there, let alone stretch their legs.

Well, my daughter has never been to Ikea and she certainly knows nothing about Allen keys or impressing your friends with your impressive DIY prowess. She was being pragmatic and stuck it together with sticky tape instead of putting the slots together. It was now up to me, or should I say Geoff to save the day. I did have a go but I’m more of a sower than a builder. He had it knocked up in no time. This greenhouse was going to weather life’s storms.

Now, it was time to sow the seeds and once again our daughter took charge of HER project.

This was where Jamie’s Greenhouse really impressed me. It had this special dirt. She added water and the dirt swelled up to double, even quadruple its size. There were little packets of seeds with all those garden herbs we’ve always intended to plant but had always put off. Everything we needed to start a garden was in the box. We planted the seeds. Added water. Remembered to water them and experienced almost instant gratification.

Cress

Cress

Two days later, we have cress. Cress is the perfect seed to plant for kids who need instant gratification.

I’m impressed!

Cress

Cress

Last night we had some very strong winds and although the roof blew off, the house is still standing and it has made it through today’s winds unscathed. I’ve got to say that Jamie Oliver has more than just a pretty face and when he’s finished at Woollies, he should give Ikea a call. I’d love to get a real live chef thrown in with my next desk.

XX Rowena

Welcome to Rosemary

Monday 13th January, 2014

Teaching the children how to cook is just as much about learning about the ingredients as the processes…the “how to”. We used rosemary in the lamb chops in Monday night’s meal and on the potatoes and sweet potatoes. I wouldn’t add it to everything but I do like my rosemary and have killed many bushes at home through over-zealous picking. This provided a great opportunity to introduce the kids to “Rosie”.

The kids with the monster-sized rosemary bush and cobwebs.

The kids with the monster-sized rosemary bush and cobwebs.

I have always loved growing herbs and as a child was quite attracted to their fragrant leaves and medicinal properties. I brewed up special rosemary “shampoo” which was supposed to give my hair added fragrance and shine. It was also fun.

As much as parents like to introduce their kids to the fun of growing your own veggies, I am also keen to introduce the kids to herbs.

A solitary flower on our rosemary bush. The neighbour's bush is covered in flowers.

A solitary flower on our rosemary bush. The neighbour’s bush is covered in flowers.

Herbs aren’t just about eating. There is also the mythology, symbolism, history. In Australia, sprigs of Rosemary are worn on ANZAC Day as a sign of remembrance to our fallen soldiers. But historical references date back. According to one legend, the rosemary bush opened to hide the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus from King Herod’s soldiers. Another legend says that during the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt, Mary threw her blue cloak over a bush of rosemary when she lay down to rest, and ever since, in her honor, the flowers have been the heavenly blue  of her mantle[1]. Historically, rosemary was also connected with love and was always worn at weddings and a sprig of rosemary was thrown into the grave “for remembrance”.

On a more serious note, according to Wikipaedia, rosemary is high in iron, calcium and vitamin B6,[13] 317 mg, 6.65 mg and 0.336 mg per 100 g, respectively.[14] Rosemary extract has been shown to improve the shelf life and heat stability of omega 3-rich oils, which are prone to rancidity.[15] (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary.

I found this little excerpt in Australian Town & Country Journal, Saturday 16th February, 1901 p 44:


[1] The Land Friday 25th December 1953 p 18.

Buying Time

This morning I finally took the plunge and bought myself some more time. Actually, I bought more thyme.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Very funny! While I know that pun is the very lowest form of wit, I’ll blame the rain. It’s been raining for days and days. My brain’s gone soggy and needs more sunlight to function properly.

But wouldn’t we all like more time? Isn’t that the Holy Grail we’re all madly trying to find? Some almost magical way of buying more time, even though we know there are only 24 hours in a day?

I know I’d certainly like more time!! Particularly now that I’ve had to accept that time is a limited resource. It doesn’t stretch. Like the sands through the hour glass, it just runs out. That’s it. Poof! It’s all gone!

This came as a bit of a rude shock to me. I don’t know about you but I’ve always treated time as a fairly flexible resource. Squeeze something in here. Jam something else in there. I’ve also had my watch set five minutes fast, so I could always squeeze in that one last thing before I bolted out the door. I can also run a little late, which is another way of buying just a little more time.

However, as the school bell rudely reminds me very morning, time is fixed.

Well, that might be what the so-called experts believe but I’ve finally found a loophole. I’ve proven them wrong. Not by buying myself some thyme. Rather, I’ve just done some very simple mathematics.

You see, if you want more hours in the day, you simply subtract them from the night.

Wake more…sleep less.

As I said, it’s a very simple equation…all very basic mathematics. An equation so delightfully simple that even the most mathematically challenged can get it.

I always knew I was clever…a veritable genius! I just needed to find my thing.

Ssh! This has to be our little secret. At around 9.30PM when my husband starts thinking of going to sleep, I conversely start to wake up. I make myself a cup of decaf tea, ostensibly to unwind before going to bed. Of course, it takes time to cool down. So instead of turning off my laptop and actually letting my brain slow down , unwind and  prepare for sleep, it actually fires up again. Inspiration hits and suddenly I’m typing at whirlwind speeds and the ideas are really flowing. Of course, it’s the very best writing that I’ve ever done and I don’t want to lose “the moment”. If you write, you’ll understand just how precious “the moment” can be. When inspiration hits, you’ve got to catch it. Get it down anyway you can before it gets up and leaves and goes somewhere else. (Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, gave a fabulous  TED Talk about creative inspiration: http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html)

I write and write and write until all that inspiration has well and truly dried up. I only stop when the words are starting to merge and blur together and I can’t tell the difference between a verb and a noun. By this point in time, instead of capturing all those pearls of wisdom, I’ve actually deleted them and nothing makes much sense in the morning!! I’m just left with a pile of gobbledegook. This, of course, is the danger of stealing too much time. Unfortunately, it seems you can borrow a little bit of time but you need to pay it back. You can’t keep it indefinitely!

Sadly, like most good theories, there’s a catch…no  free lunch. You pay for it. In this particular scenario, it’s called sleep deprivation. There’s that magic balance between wake and sleep and when you deduct too much from one of side of the equation, the whole thing topples down taking you down with it. Did you know that seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%? That means that if you were driving a car, you could actually kill someone!! That’s rather scary. We push ourselves further and further beyond the brink of sleep deprivation and that’s where we can end up. It’s not pretty. Not pretty at all and contrary to my earlier boasts, it’s not smart. It’s not smart at all.

In the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwarz argues that “sleep is more important than food”. That we could survive a week without food but we couldn’t survive a week without sleep.  He quotes former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin who wrote about the experience of being deprived of sleep in a KGB prison in his memoir White Nights : “In the head of the interrogated prisoner a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep … Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.” http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2011/03/sleep-is-more-important-than-f.html

The case for getting an early night was mounting but this was the real clincher. Schwarz goes on to quote Anders Ericcson’s famous study of violinists which found that top violinists also reported that except for practice itself, sleep was second most important factor in improving as violinists. The top performers slept an average of 8 ½ hours out of every 24, including a 20 to 30 minute mid-afternoon nap. That is some 2 hours a day more than the average American.

Humph!! Could sleep deprivation possibly explain some of the difficulties I’ve been having mastering my violin lately? For my husband, Geoff, it was a no-brainer: “Are you surprised? You are exhausted. You can’t keep the bow going straight!”

Alright! Alright! Maybe I’m starting to concede that things are having to change. The trouble is how? We all do things we know are bad for us, even when we know they are slowly killing us but how do we stop?

I could start by totally reprogramming my thinking. Tell myself how much I hate and even loathe that 30 minutes of total me time where I bask in absolute, beautiful blissful  silence each night. Tell myself I hate that final, lingering cup of tea and that I especially hate any Tim Tams or stray pieces of evil chocolate which might happen to stray across my path late at night.

But is it wrong to lie, even if it is for your own good?

Staying up late feels way too good to give it up even though it’s really bad for my health, relationships and mental state. It’s probably not even that good for my writing.

So if I know all of this why don’t I stop? Why can’t I change?

It’s like eating broccoli. You know it’s good for you. You know it prevents cancer and does all these other wonderful things but you just don’t like it. But then sometimes, something comes along and forces you to change. It’s like being pushed straight up the side of a mountain…a mountain you never, ever wanted to climb.

You see as much as I love those moments of very precious solitude, even I have to admit that I’m exceptionally tired. I sleep for at least an hour most days, no doubt catching up for what I’ve lost late at night. But I’m still not entirely convinced.  My auto-immune disease causes extreme fatigue.  I also blame my lungs which have been down to 50%. Not getting enough oxygen, can also make you tired and give you brain fog. But even taking all these possibilities into consideration, I should be going to bed earlier. Make the supreme sacrifice. After all, I’m supposed to seize the day, not the night!!

This has all become a bit tragic because I had no intention of going to bed earlier when I started this post. It’s just been a miserable, wet couple of days and I bought myself some thyme. Thought I’d photograph it for the blog as a bit of a joke because like most of us, I would really like to buy some more time. I have also had some scares with my health where I’ve wanted to buy some serious time. Sticking to the nitty gritty like going to bed and choosing the broccoli feels boring but if that’s what it takes to truly seize the day and possibly even save my life, perhaps it’s time for me to seriously play ball.

I’m getting myself a star chart and a serious reward. This time I mean business!

A keen gardener

A keen gardener?

Moving from time to thyme, the sag of my thyme plant continues. I used to be quite an avid gardener but we’ve had drought, water-restrictions and busyness. I don’t tend to buy many plants these days but every now and then I succumb. Despite my protestations, they generally end up thirsty and near death thanks to neglect. Every time I buy a new plant, I promise to do a better job but sadly history repeats itself. But…but…I am determined for this plant to live and to live life abundantly!!

Mister helping to plant the thyme.

Mister helping me plant the thyme.

To give it the very best chance of success, Mister and I headed out to the worm farm and filled the pot up with the best soil I’ve ever seen. It was so beautifully rich in nutrients. Our thyme plant surely has to flourish.

The last word on thyme goes to this folk song a friend sang to me after school this afternoon when I mentioned my post. I’ve just included a couple of verses but you can click through to read the whole song.

Let No Man Steal Your Thyme

For thyme it is a precious thing
And thyme brings all things tae your mind
Time wi’ its labours alang wi’ all its joys
Oh time brings a’ things tae an end

Come all ye maidens young and fine
All ye that are bloomin’ in your prime
It’s aye be aware and keep your gardens square
Let no man steal awa’ your bunch of thyme

http://mysongbook.de/msb/songs/l/letnoman.html

Any thoughts?

xx Rowena