From Pot to Plate – Getting Started

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Last year, we met up with family at Bodnant Gardens and Munchkin was given a nasturtium seed to grow. I had wanted to grow a butterfly garden for a little while so this seemed the perfect starting point. I researched plants and decided on tropical buddleia, lavender and zinnia. I also had cornflowers and clary sage. They looked so pretty

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Discovering my dad was ill. Getting in from a busy day at work. Coming home from visiting my dad in intensive care. Parenting two teens through exams. It gave me head space. It provided me with solitude and time to think. Or not think. It was just what I needed.

At the beginning of this year, we decided to have the taller trees in the garden crowned and the men trampled the borders and destroyed the edging that I had installed. I felt pretty downhearted. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get involved again – but then I looked over my photos from last year and could see mistakes that I had made and knew what I wanted to do…

The flower beds definitely needed tidying. The flower choices had been too bold and this was a great point for starting afresh. I drew out the garden, planned a new bed to place the pots we had taken from my mother-in-law’s house and planned a few vegetables.

Last year I had a ‘plastic greenhouse’ that I picked up cheaply. It housed tomatoes and herbs. Everything was doing really well – until a bloody big storm blew it away. So this year I wanted a proper greenhouse.

And that’s the starting point for this year’s project. It’s growing arms and legs, but I do hope you’ll join us for the ride.

 

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The day I abseiled…or did a charity ‘building dangle’

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A few weeks ago I got an email from our local town council as the Mayor was planning on abseiling down a local building to raise money for her charity appeal ‘Save a Life, Make a Difference’, which supports a hub that provides a counselling service for suicide prevention, depression, self harm and those that cannot access a private service.

There was a limited number of places available to join her, so I rang Mr Six to make sure we were free, checked with my boss that I could have time off and then emailed to confirm my place. The last 12 months have been hard and I felt that I really needed to do something positive.

My sponsorship form filled up quickly over the next week with incredibly generous offerings from my family and friends and when the day came, I could barely contain myself. Despite the horrible, grey rain, I spent the morning staring out of the window, willing the time to come.

As the hours passed, the weather started to improve and by the time we made our way to the venue the sun was out and it was a beautiful balmy evening.

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I met up with my fellow abseilers, had a quick chat and then we were taken into a room for a health and safety check, got kitted out with helmets and harnesses then led up to the roof.

The views were breath taking! We were given time to take it all in, to wave to the crowds that had gathered and then the time came.

I climbed over the barrier, perched on the ledge and leant back to remove the slack.

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AMAZING!

I absolutely loved it. I wanted to run straight back up to the roof and do it all again. And again.

I met some inspirational people, raised money for an incredible charity and had the best time doing it.

As I unharnessed, a lovely gentleman came over and said, “I got a photo of you flying” and here it is.

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THIS is how it feels to fly. And to be a little it more…me

Making a meal of it -roasted vegetable pie

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Healthy eating is important to us as a family.

Our oldest two sons are at uni and their cooking skills are impressive – they know how to cook from scratch, how to shop on a budget and how to to make the most of leftovers.

Last weekend we attended Blog On.  As ever it was a full on day of fun and friendly faces – but as we were away from home for the entire day so on Sunday we wanted to spend some quality time at home.

After breakfast, Teen 3 retreated to his bedroom to continue revising and Munchkin came out to help us in the garden (you can read more about our gardening exploits soon). We spent a lovely few hours planting up some of out home grown seedlings and tidying up, but Munchkin tired so he and Mr Six decided to go in and prepare dinner whilst I finished off moving pots, watering and generally feeling very ‘Tom and Barbara’…

When I entered the kitchen, I was blown away. There was the most amazing vegetable pie in the oven – and an very excited Munchkin.

Mr Six had shopped for the ingredients a few days earlier but, apart from slicing the butternut squash, he had let Munchkin prepare everything else. This meant that not only had they had some wonderful quality time together, Munchkin learnt some very important skills and gained self confidence.

Pie 1

If you’re interested in making this dish, you will need:

  • Shop bought puff pastry
  • Butternut squash
  • Peppers
  • Courgettes
  • Red onion
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Rosemary oil spray (or fresh rosemary)
  • Garlic oil spray (or fresh garlic)

Mr Six peeled and sliced the butter nut squash whilst Munchkin sliced the rest of the veg, then they roasted the vegetables in the oven with a splash of oil until softened and starting to catch a little. Munchkin then sprayed some garlic oil and some rosemary oil over, rolled out the pastry, spread out the veg and covered with more pastry. Then he brushed with beaten egg. Mr Six put it back into the oven to cook through and once golden, served it with new potatoes, broccoli and asparagus.

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Making a Meal of it – Creamy ‘vegetarian chicken’ and broccoli pasta

After another lovely day out with Mr Six and Munchkin, we were on our way home when we received a phone call from Teen 2. He was on his way to a gig and realised he had left the tickets on the sofa… So we arrived back, picked up the tickets and drove to Liverpool to deliver them to him.

This meant that we were running a little late for dinner and I needed to rustle something up quickly to feed everyone else. They say ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ which is how this meal came about.

Pasta is a staple food for a quick meal in our house and after a quick rifle through the freezer and fridge, I decided to use:

  • A large bag of vegetarian ‘chicken’ pieces
  • A part bag of frozen broccoli
  • Some frozen diced onion
  • A small pot of single cream
  • Some Parmesan style cheese
  • Turci Italian garlic spray

I put the pasta on to boil – and added the steamer baskets above with the chicken style pieces and some broccoli. This is a brill way to cook the ‘chicken’ as it cooks through yet stays moist, although if you prefer it to colour up, feel free to fry it.

In another pan, I started frying the onion, on a low heat – so that it didn’t colour too much or get crispy – then I poured in the cream, sprayed several ‘pumps’ of garlic oil, added the finely grated cheese and stirred until it melted. Then I threw in some chopped parsley (grown on the window sill) and seasoned with a little salt and some pepper.

I drained the pasta and mixed everything together then grated a little more cheese over each plate.

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It was really tasty and so quick and easy.  I think this might be a new go-to for me…

Grief

Grief is a thief

A thief of happiness

Of memory

Of cognitive thought

Of time

Of sleep

Of awake

Of energy

Of personality

My appetite has waned. Things I used to enjoy haven’t appealed. Everything has been so much of a chore. An effort.

It’s like I stepped out of the light and I can’t find the sunshine

Making a meal of it – Get stuffed

It’s the end.

It’s the end of the summer holidays. We’re returning to work tomorrow after the best two weeks off. The children go back to school this week – and teen 2 is off to uni.

Today I felt really unenthusiastic. I didn’t fancy cooking an elaborate dinner. Also finances aren’t the best following the holiday activities, so I rummaged around in the freezer and cupboards and decided on stuffed peppers. I nipped to the supermarket for a bag of ‘cooking peppers’ which cost £1.15

I simply boiled one bag of boil-in-the-bag rice, added a handful of frozen peas and sweetcorn for the last couple of minutes, drained and mixed with two portions of bolognese and a handful of Quorn that was lurking at the back of the freezer. I really fancied adding a squirt of tomato purée – but as I didn’t have any, I opted for a shake of garlic granules, a shake of mixed herbs, a veggie Oxo cube and a splash of water.

I finished by stuffing the peppers and baking.

Simple. Tasty. Cheap.

I’d love to hear your shortcuts to budget meals.

Anyone for…footgolf?

Sometime last year, Mr six took teen 2, teen 3 and Munchkin to play footgolf. Even though teen 2 is the least likely person to pull on trainers and play sport, they all had a whale of a time.

Now that we have more family time we’re trying to do more together. Teen 2 is busy this summer so when Mr six bought another ticket for 4, I decided I’d tag along.

In case you don’t know what footgolf is, it does exactly what it says on the tin: a mash up of football and golf – you kick a football around a golf course.

Ok don’t switch off. It’s hilarious. It’s so much fun and I say that as a complete kicking imbecile. I have no idea where that ball is going once it leaves my shoe.

Mr six, as ever, becomes Competitive Dad, teen 3 coolly plays a blinder, Munchkin takes is very seriously – but we all spend a lot of time laughing. So much so that we immediately booked a return visit!

Fresh air. Family time. Sporting activity. What’s not to love?

Kayaking

I’ve wanted to try kayaking for such a long time. Earlier this year, Mr six and I promised each other that we would try something new once a month. Oi oi, saucy! Not like that. Some activities would be family fun and some would be just for the two of us. Then life kinda stepped on the plans. Although, to be fair, I’d never set foot inside an intensive care ward – or a high dependency ward before this year, so I might count those as ‘new experiences’…

Anyway, back to the story. Mr six bought us a kayaking experience for two a few weeks ago and I’ve been looking forward to it so much. Then we went away on holiday. I love the sea. I feel that I’m ‘me’ at the sea. I can feel the worries and tensions leaving me as if the tide were washing them away.

We had already bought a little body board for Munchkin and I had looked at getting shorty wetsuits, but I was worried that it might be overkill as we had no experience – however, whilst we were away, seeing all the sporting activities available and how much fun everyone was having, it made me feel that I really needed to do it. And so, three days after grumpily returning from the most relaxing break ever, Mr six and I drove out to the water sports centre.

We had been advised to wear old clothes and to bring a towel and a change of clothes. So armed with the necessaries, we made our way to the water’s edge, to be greeted by two of the least sporty looking gentlemen (equipped with lit cigarettes).

As I looked around, I could see that all the other people in the group were first timers too, so I was fully expecting a meaty health and safety talk; not the “Keep to the right, about 10 foot away from the bank. The water is shallower at the edges than the middle. If you fall out, it’s because you’re stupid. There’s a weir 3/4 of a mile in that direction.” that was dished out.

We were then handed life jackets, assigned a kayak, launched and told “See you in 4 hours”.

I am quite very much a competitive person and there was NO way I was going to let anyone else set off quicker than us. So Mr six and I paddled. Or oared. Or whatever the term is (see! I’m now a person with experience but still know nothing) with great passion the 3/4 of a mile toward the weir, turned around and headed back – then out, under the M56 and out toward Rocksavage.

It was quite simply perfection. I mean, the water stank, the kayaks were minging, there were definitely negatives, but the experience was the best. Seeing the river from a whole new perspective was brilliant, the wildlife – including getting so close to a heron before it took flight just in front of us.

Having spent so much time in the office recently, this break has been just what I needed. So little technology, getting back to nature and trying new activities which has given me back my self confidence.

We finally returned to our starting place and decided that 2 hours was enough so we got changed and headed home, aching all over but exhilarated.

I definitely recommend trying kayaking. Or just getting out of your comfort zone. And I look forward to any advice you have for me; kayaking related or other activities we should try.

The holiday – what we learnt

We’re home.

We had a meal cooked in an oven, a night in our own bed and reflected on our week away.

We loved every minute of it. EVERY minute of it. But we definitely learnt a few things along the way.

  • Buy a decent tent. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but buy a decent tent and get advice. We bought our current tent from Go Outdoors and they could not have been more helpful. They didn’t try to sell us the most expensive one in the shop; they listened to what we needed and showed us what fitted. And rather than sell pole replacements, they also taught Mr six how to fix broken poles (a skill that is necessary for continuing successful trips).
  • Choose your site carefully. Want a good sleep? Choose a site that has rules, that asks people to be respectful. Want to party late? Choose a site that is more relaxed. We (well, Mr six) chose incredibly well. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Hafod Y Plas – it was so peaceful, the owners were wonderfully friendly and the toilets/showers were clean and well maintained.
  • Work out what is important to you. Obviously there’s a checklist of things you need, but do you need EVERYTHING in the shop? I am rubbish at keeping warm and being cold makes me miserable. Before we went, I ran a poll on Facebook to see if we should take duvets or sleeping bags. We took both. And I am so glad that we did as the beds were really cosy.
  • Make sure you try everything before you go. We bought a fabulous kitchen unit from Aldi that I put together in a trial run before we went (so that I wasn’t scratching my head, trying to follow the instructions in front of strangers). However we didn’t test the electric coolbox that we bought from Winfields the day before we left. When we arrived onsite, I was incredibly frustrated to find the cable was dodgy. Thankfully Mr six has more patience than I and he wiggled and taped it until it worked.
  • Beds. We bought rollmats that have a foil backing. These were really inexpensive (about £5 each) but you can shop smart and look at the end of season sales. I saw some in B&M clearance for £1 last week. On top of the mats, we had airbeds. A top tip would be to position the airbeds with the valve accessible as you may need to re-inflate occasionally.
  • Electricity. We had electrical hook up this time. We swapped our gas stoves for an electric two ring stove (this was because the gas stoves caused ‘mild’ panic when they leaked and we had a fire). But the electric stove means that we can cook inside in poor weather. I also took my hairdryer as my hair takes ages to dry.
  • Pack smart. I think next time we go, we’ll pack the bedding and clothes in those vacuum storage bags, saving a lot of room. And of course, we’ll need to take the handheld vacuum cleaner with us for the return trip – which also means that I can use it to keep the tent carpet clean (like I said, work out what’s important to you…)
  • Another tip would be to chat with the site owner. Want to get a take away? Ask where they recommend. Want to visit a particular attraction? Ask for directions. The site owner is passionate about where they live, they know all the short cuts, best viewing points, parking places, eateries. They want you to have a wonderful time. They want you to come back.

So that’s what we learnt – what are your top tips? What advice would you pass on? I’m eager to hear

The holiday – Day 5

Following another peaceful night, we finally got to sample the delicious free range eggs from the hens on our site; boiled eggs and soldiers, washed down with a large coffee really set us up for the day. With the end of our holiday in sight, we decided to explore the local area a little more and Mr six took us on a magical mystery tour – which led us back to Valley. Munchkin wanted a few more photos of the planes before we walked down to a beautiful, secluded beach.

A few hours later, with rumbling tummies, we set off in search of lunch and made the most amazing find; Enoch’s fish and chip shop. If you’re ever near Holyhead, I urge you to sample the delights on the menu! We sat in the car to eat our lunch and all three of us were silent, save for the “mmm’s” and other favourable noises!

Then we continued with our drive of discovery, which also doubled up as an attempt to dodge the heaviest rain I’ve seen in quite a while, accompanied by thunder and lightning.

As it was our last night, Mr six dropped me back at the tent and he and munchkin headed out to Holyhead for a Chinese take away – and we were joined by two of our lovely friends and their son as they had heard me raving about the site.

We had a lovely evening – but the temperature dropped quite suddenly, so we retreated to our base, had a glass or two of wine before heading to bed for the final time