Tag Archives: veggie patch

No More Limp Carrot… Masterchef Australia Returns!

If you know anything at all about cooking, then you’ll already know that fresh produce is the secret to cooking like a master chef. After all, a meal is only as good as its ingredients.

However, if you’re cooking at home, you’ll also know that “fresh” can be open to interpretation. As long as that limp carrot hasn’t gone moldy, she’ll be right. Indeed, that very same limp carrot provides its own unique sense of “theatre”. It might not be Masterchef, but once it’s in the mince, it’s an unsung “hero”.

After all, fresh produce isn’t something you can always pull out of a hat. It can mean running back and forth to the shops like a yoyo and quite frankly, I have better things to do.

That leaves growing your own.

Of course, we have our own veggie patch and a corresponding worm farm.

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The Veggie Graveyard: Thyme has become grass & the corn has died.

However, while friends have flourishing veggie patches which could feed an army, ours is sad. The beans died. The peas died. Quite frankly, I’m totally mystified how the tomato plant has not only survived, but metamorphosed into a veritable triffid about to take over the world. Yet, while this monster plant has produced a multitude of green, cherry tomatoes, we are yet to see one RED tomato. We don’t know where they’re going, but even covering them in wire mesh hasn’t produced a yield.

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Tomatoes: At least something is growing!

Sorry, spuds. I almost forgot. We’re also growing potatoes. My daughter just seized my laptop to ensure I didn’t leave them out.

So, despite my best efforts, two somethings are still growing in the veggie patch. All is not dead…yet!

Anyway, last Sunday night, Masterchef returned to Australian TV screens. Much to my deep shame and embarrassment, we weren’t feasting on a sumptuous Sunday roast. Rather, we were eating re-heated chicken and mashed potato without dessert. I remember making Jamie Oliver’s Lasagne during last year’s series but during the intervening months, I’ve lost my mojo. Summer was so hot that I tried not to cook anything. After all, you could fry an egg on the footpath and melt chocolate on the bench. Being a particularly long and hot Summer, it’s only just getting cool enough for me to think “cook”. We’re been eating quite a lot of salad.

So, after this rather long sojourn, the return of Masterchef was an awakening…the call of the wild. It’s only been two days and tonight I was already starting to cook with Matt Preston’s voice talking in my ear. “Flavour…where’s the flavour? Where are you taking this?” I swear I’m toiling away in the Masterchef kitchen…a thousand miles away from home!

Definitely, no more limp carrots around here!

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Shepherd’s Pie.

Tonight, we had Shepherd’s Pie and I can assure you this was no ordinary shepherd. While it wasn’t quite Masterchef, it was well on the way. At least, it would have been if I’d had a bottle of crusty red wine. However, with Dijon mustard, garlic and fresh Basil from the garden (another resilient survivor), the mince was stewing with flavour.

However, I must confess there were also other elements, which weren’t very “Masterchef”. That includes boiling the potatoes in their skins in the microwave and using grated tasty cheese straight from the bag instead of your authentic Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano. However, the cheese melted beautifully in the oven and the smell was divine.

However, what really mattered…I had no complaints. That’s quite a rarity around here. My kids have extremely discerning palates.

That could be one of the downsides of my love of cooking and watching Masterchef. That when I cook ordinary meals in between my more memorable creations, they know it. Aside from a few limp carrots, they’ve never had spaghetti on toast and I have my own peculiar fussiness myself.  Prefer to make things from scratch.

Jonathon Jan 2007 b

Baking with Mister back in 2007, aged 3.

While I’m not on the show, I’m operating against our own clock here. We’re needing to bolt dinner down and bail into Mum’s Taxi and our son is off to Scouts.

Indeed, every night seems to come with its own inbuilt pressure test.

With that type of pressure, why on earth am I watching Masterchef when I should just get a BBQ chook  and have an instant meal?

Personally, despite trying to juggle a multitude of competing pressures, I value and believe in good, nutritious food. While I might not be wanting to cook like a master chef every night, I do want to produce meals which taste sensational, are nutritionally balanced and teach my kids how to put a meal together. Show them how to produce a symphony of flavours bursting with vitamins, imagination and creativity. That food doesn’t necessarily come in a box. That food is so much more, than something to shovel in your mouth to satisfy your hunger.

family at Yoda

Indeed, that food is an experience, producing memories by the mouthful…especially when it’s made with love.

At least, it will be as long as Masterchef is on the screen.

Then, slowly but surely we’ll inevitably return back to that stick of limp carrot.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

Creating Space to Grow Up.

Until recently, I’d never consciously considered how much space my kids needed to grow up and truly reach their potential band and that without this, their growth could be stunted.

After all, we all need space to grow…just like a tree. An acorn could never become an oak if it had nowhere to stretch out its extensive branches.

However, in the expediency of getting by, it’s easy for the jungle to take over both physically and metaphorically and our growth is stifled.

veggie patch beginnings

veggie patch beginnings

In many ways, our kids have a lot of space. We have a backyard where they can explore a myriad of possibilities. Indeed, after the weekend, we even have the makings of our very own veggie patch. They also have our two dogs, Bilbo and Lady, to play with. There is seemingly plenty of room to move. Moreover, there’s also the beach just down the road where they can gaze out to the horizon and let their imaginations wonder far across the sea. That’s if we actually get there.

Indeed, there’s plenty of space for their minds, bodies and spirits to expand for growth.

However, while there’s all that space out there, their bedrooms are another story.

To be frank, they’re absolutely stuffed. Stuff keeps going in but little goes out. You could say it’s been the result of too much love, a soaring imagination and my obsession with op shops where I keep finding the most incredible things very cheap. It’s not uncommon for me to have piles of things waiting for them when they get home from school and despite my enthusiasm, they’re usually so ho-hum about them all. I’m lucky if they even look up from Minecraft long enough to roll their eyes!!

Our daughter's impressive three-storey doll's house is on the move.

Our daughter’s impressive three-storey doll’s house is on the move.

Anyway, just like Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, all that stuff couldn’t possibly stay in there forever and the big regurgitation process has begun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhbHTjMLN5c

Mr Creosite about to explode just like the kids' bedrooms.

Mr Creosite about to explode just like the kids’ bedrooms.

Yes, stuff is literally spewing out.

Much of this is hastily dispatched into the boot and off to the op shop before anyone can change their minds.

However, there are also the left overs, which of course, none of those annoying decluttering “experts” never discuss.

Yes, indeed they never mentioned “no man’s land”.

Anyway, what all the cluttering experts conveniently forget to tell you is that the clutter gets incredibly worse before it starts to get better. That’s because most of your cupboards are packed like a loaded spring and once you start releasing the pressure, the stuff explodes all directions just like an exploding dandelion. The upon release, your clutter plants itself in some fertile corner of your house, grows roots and re-establishes itself somewhere else. These self-sown cultivates are then often joined by those hapless homeless items which keep moving round and round your house from the kitchen table, into the bathroom, the bedroom and perhaps even packed into storage.

Consequently, as a result of this “declutter” process, we have our son’s car bed and our daughter’s huge doll’s house sitting in our lounge room. That’s in addition to the sofa bed we brought back from Palm Beach which is perched in front of the piano, which I’ve been trying to give away for at least a year to a Mum who can’t seem to collect it. We also have a procession of tables and an old sofa bed to move on out the back. Our overcrowded house is indeed starting to look like a departure lounge for a gang of furniture allsorts.

As much as I'm looking forward to getting the doll's house out, it's hard to part with these personal touches.

As much as I’m looking forward to getting the doll’s house out, it’s hard to part with these personal touches.

While the decluttering Nazis can seemingly throw anything out without even a drop of sentimentality, I personally find all this change and transition quite stressful. While I’m delighted that my kids are growing up and becoming more independent and developing their own personalities, I just don’t know how much to let go. There are so many memories etched into their precious things and yet there’s way too much to keep. Indeed, I’m starting to feel like I’ve swallowed a push-me pull-you and I’m paralyzed between going forward and moving back, which should, at least in theory, place me in the present but I’m not so sure!!

Yesterday, for example, I came across a toy rainbow lorrikeet which sings when you press its tummy. Of course, you’d say to keep that. However, when I tell you that it’s beak and eyes are missing, you’ll say: “broken…toss!!” but when I tell you that Bilbo chewed it’s face off when he was a puppy and he’s now approaching old age, then that poor damaged lorrikeet tells more of a story that something brand new and pristine.It tells a story of growing up, growing old and ultimately moving on to that great blue doggie heaven in the sky.

Needless to say, the lorrikeet stays.

Yet, I’m fed up with having no space, wading through the mess on the floor and the arguments over cleaning their rooms. There’s so much stuff that we’re all feeling completely overwhelmed and quite frankly, I just want the lot to disappear. Poof!

Anyway, as I said, the kids are growing up and they can’t grow up without anywhere to move. Childhood slowly but surely needs to give way to … drum roll…the teenage years.

Mister in his new bed. His feet have outgrown his car bed.

Mister in his new bed. His feet have outgrown his car bed.

While this might be a period of dread for many parents, it feels less daunting for me than facing the terrible twos, although we’re not there yet. Although our 9 year old daughter thinks she’s already there, our 11 year old son, at least, seems blissfully unaware of what lies just around the corner when he starts high school next year.

It turns out that Minecraft does have some virtues, after all!!

So instead of simply writing about sorting that mess out and procrasinating

    , I’d better get back to it.

    Time and the tide of clutter waits for no one.

    xx Rowena

Seeds for the New Year

January 2, 2014

Seeds in anybody’s language spell hope, new beginnings…the start of a dream but for me there was an added resonance.

Yesterday, I received the ultimate New Year’s gift.

It wasn’t expensive or luxurious.

In fact, it was deceptively simple and it cost its giver nothing.

Not even a cent.

“How is this so?” I hear you ask in a very Professor Julius Sumner Miller tone of voice. Perhaps, you haven’t heard of him but he used to host a science show called “How is it so?” and he also did an ad for Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate where he managed to get a boiled egg inside a milk bottle. It was pretty impressive stuff.

Julius Sumner Miller

This was in the days before a more recent Australian politician, Pauline Hanson, made the phrase: “Please explain” legendary.

Well, I am overflowing with explanations.

The kids and I were visiting some friends. All the kids were playing. I’d brought my friends some of my White Chocolate Rocky Road and she’d given me a slice of her Wild Strawberry Cheesecake, which was incredibly lush and made completely without additives and nasty chemicals. Wow! It was exceptionally creamy and I must admit I was feeling rather spoilt. This is the sort of thing you usually have to go to a café or gourmet bakery to find….very, very nice. My friend also made me a cup of tea and there is always something particularly healing and soothing about someone else making you a cup of tea, especially when you are a busy Mum and always seemingly looking after everybody else. She was an angel.

While the kids were bouncing round in the pool, I couldn’t help notice all their veggies. They grow their own tomatoes, beans, beetroot and more in garden beds raised above the ground. All these veggies, which could almost amount to a small market garden, are growing slightly more than a stone’s throw away from the beach on a standard suburban block. Quite a miracle really except you can see this garden is very well-maintained and cared for. Loved.
I was incredibly impressed and inspired.

Not that I looked at their set-up thinking: “if they could do it, I could do it”. Not on your life!!! However,  I did consider that just maybe we could manage one tub…a veggie patch on a smaller scale and actually grow something! The rest of our garden might be derelict but perhaps we could manage to look after this small patch of soil and develop our own backyard “oasis”.

Actually producing veggies we could eat would be nice but that would be more of a by-product. I was equally interested in the gardening experience in itself and all that excitement that comes with planting seeds and waiting, waiting, waiting for that very first green shoot to finally poke its head through the soil to greet the sun and a whole lot of eager watching eyes. The kids would love it. I remembered picking beans straight from my grandfather’s vine and just how amazing that was. As a child, it was a veritable miracle!

Moreover, being somewhat of a life-lesson addict, I thought the routine of having to water our plants was going to be good for the kids as well. Routine, responsibility, nurturing…these are all important life skills. Things perhaps you could learn from books but I really doubted you could learn them from playing Minecraft, even if you do get to grow virtual crops!  They need life experience as well. To do things with their hands aside from pressing buttons all day.

There was only one drawback to my veggie garden scheme.

Me!

Although I’ve always loved gardening and used to have quite a green thumb and have grown my own herbs, bulbs etc even in our exceptionally barren and sandy beach soil, I’m not good at keeping up the watering and so many, many plants have died from thirst.

In other words, I’ve become a plant killer.

Now, being a loving, caring and nurturing person at heart, I’ve had more than a little guilt over this and stopped buying plants until we could get the watering system going again. We’ve been on drought status and water-restrictions for many years but now we have no excuse. Water restrictions have eased and while we still need to be responsible about our water consumption and I do tend to re-use water at home, we can actually water our plants.

However, I have a very bad track record. It all starts out alright but slowly but surely the watering tapers off and without rain, we all know what that means.

But I am always a firm believer in change. Personal growth. After all, we are fluid, flexible beings. We’re not set in stone.

So after expressing my interest in starting our own veggie patch, my friend gave me a handful of dried beans filled with seeds with the potential to create our very own bean plantation in our small, yet to be constructed, backyard tub.

I carefully, put the beans in my handbag trying to think of the right words to tell Geoff, ask Geoff, to build our veggie patch. It wasn’t exactly the best timing but it was something we could do together as a family and I wanted the kids to learn all about gardening, soil, watering, worms…our environment. We have had a worm farm for 4 years and so this would just be an extension of that and indeed it would be a great use of all our juicy, fertile worm dirt. It no longer go to waste just sitting at the bottom of the tub. We would convert it to lush, fresh produce oozing with vitamins and none of the horrible chemicals. Perfection, in other words.

But as I said, this isn’t exactly the best time to launch into new gardening project even a small-scale because we are currently struggling to manage the everyday stuff and when you consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, growing your own veggies is more of a luxury not an act of survival. At least, when you live walking distance to at least three huge supermarkets and a great fruit and veg shop, it is.

I guess this is where I really have to stop being cryptic and answer your “please explain”.

You see, I haven’t really explained or updated my health status for some time. Even though I am fairly open about my life, I have struggled to find the words and it is difficult to tell people when things get worse, when I have a setback because I know that even people I haven’t met in this weirdly intimate world of blogging, care about me.  We are only human and you don’t need to meet in person to be a friend, to love or to care. My situation is also quite emotionally charged because I have young kids and it’s not nice having to think about children potentially growing up without their Mum but that is what we live with. We are conscious of this as a possibility as it is for any one of us. We are just more conscious of this possibility than others and can actually take steps and plan ahead. Not for the eventuality but the possibility. While this shadow lurks around,it also enables us to capre diem seize the day and squeeze the marrow out of life. We have fun!

Anyway, a few months ago, I developed pneumonia. This wasn’t as bad as pneumonia gets but it was pretty awful and I spent 3 weeks in bed and was coughing so badly that I pulled muscles in my stomach. That’s never happened before and that was really scary and it hurt. We put the kids in before and after school care for 2 weeks straight…something we’ve never done before. It was a big deal. Things were pretty serious and we were considering hospital but there was also the risk of catching something else in there so Geoff wanted to keep me at home.

My GP sent me off to get lung x-rays and these showed some issues so I went for an updated CT Scan. I’d had my last CT scan two years ago and it had shown mild institial lung disease, which is a form of fibrosis. This wasn’t considered a problem at the time but they started monitoring things more closely. This is a nasty disease and it kills. But treatment is available and of course, works better when you catch it early, which we have. Monday I saw my rheumatologist. Tuesday his secretary called and Thursday I started chemo along with transfusions of methyl prednisone, which has all the reverse side-effects of the chemo and makes you really bouncy, euphoric and unable to sleep. It’s like buzz! Buzz! Buzz! All this steps are designed to reduce inflammation and gain control of my disease.

This situation may not be ideal but I am certainly in the best position to mount a counter offensive and I am also looking at other ways of improving my lungs such as swimming and playing the recorder.

Of course, the side-effects of the chemo can include losing my hair. I almost had to laugh at that because after taking 6 years to finally get my hair cut off and being really pleased with the results, now I was being threatened with losing the lot. 90% of me didn’t care as I had no doubt that losing my hair was nothing compared to saving my lungs. I need to breathe. But at the same time there was still a residual “growl”. I figured that it would be just my luck for my hair to fall out just when I’ve got it all sorted.” I really do love my new hair.

So far so good. My hair has stayed put and I’ve had none of the expected side-effects from the chemo aside from fatigue. I have a few buzzy days after my treatments from the prednisone and then a few days feeling wasted and then I’m back on deck for the next one.

While chemo might and I guess certainly does sound depressing, right from the start I have been telling myself that it is only six weeks. Being in the lead up to Christmas, I thought of the kids countain down the number of sleeps until Santa arrived and I would do the same…6,5,4,3,2,1…blast off!

This really helped me face my first treatment and now that the side-effects are nowhere near as bad as I’d expected, the countdown isn’t really an issue. I had my third treatment today so now I’m officially halfway. It’s all been going so quickly.I also made jokes about getting chemo for Christmas, which in reality is the best Christmas present I could have. Treatment and hope. These are a gift.

Yet, to be perfectly honest with you, the important thing isn’t just surviving chemo and getting through.

What matters is that it works. That my auto-immune disease responds and goes back into its cupboard and doesn’t come out.

A rainbow of hope.

A rainbow of hope.

That’s the real waiting game. My cough has dramatically improved. Yet, as positive as I am, I still have doubts. Just like the seeds of faith, the seeds of doubt can also germinate and grow like crazy…the weeds in the garden of hope.

That’s where my ultimate New Year’s Day present comes in…those bean seeds.

It didn’t hit me straight away but those seeds were almost like a promise ….a hope. I will get better. Those seeds are offering me the vision of a brand new life and healing…renewal. I cling to that hope and pray!

Now, I don’t know that for sure. My disease has been pretty resistant in the past but it has also responded…eventually. I like the science behind my new treatment. I will also be treated with a drug called rituximab after the chemo and it is a much more targeted therapy without the toxicity of the chemo. It really could be the treatment that will ultimately work for me and you can only access it after other avenues have failed due to the cost.

So it could be that while this setback is serious, it could well be that coldest time of night before dawn. That this new treatment should and could be the solution!

That is our prayer and our hope.

I would love to receive any words of encouragement or stories of overcoming the odds. It would mean the world to me.

Love & best wishes,
Rowena xx

I was given a handful of dreid golden beans filled with seeds….the makings of our new veggie patch.