Friday, November 01, 2013

Three things I'm loving right now

1. Getting my green thumb on

We had a great veggie garden at our old place and we've really missed being able to pop out to the back yard to pick a fresh tomato or cucumber or a handful of snow peas for dinner. When we built this place, we did want slightly more back yard than we ended up with, but finding a block big enough for our house, in the right location, that had the right aspect to allow the northern sun into our living areas was tricky. So we compromised on size *sigh* with the result that we don't really have a lot of outdoor space. We do have a fabulous entertaining area, but everything else - including rainwater tank, clothes line, garden shed, bin storage - had to be designed to squeeze into narrow spots.

So when I designed the garden layout, I had to work around space, sunlight and shade constraints but still wanted some productive plants. I got a bit clever with espalier and pleaching and managed to cram in a lemon, a lime, a Kaffir lime (for the leaves), a mulberry and four fejioas, plus my old potted cumquat, but couldn't see anywhere to grow veggies. Two big planters jammed full of herbs plonked next to the barbeque were as close I got.

A few weeks ago the Spring veggie seedlings began appearing in the nurseries and supermarkets and I eyed them off wistfully. Then I remembered that my Mum has quite a productive little garden going on in her mini back yard, with tomatoes, lettuce, herbs and rhubarb growing in pots. I impulsively bought a heap of punnets of seedlings, a few larger sized pots and some bags of potting mix and voila! Instant vegetable garden.

Baby Cos lettuce - and a bonus tomato

Our replanted herb containers - with an artichoke that I couldn't fit anywhere else.
The feral sage on the right has been relocated since this photo was taken.

Mixed loose-leaf lettuce and a couple of cucumbers. The old strawberry pot
has been called into service as a home for our lovely mint.

Cherry tomato with basil - note the Vietnamese mint loving the wet weather. And who needs
to buy stakes? We grow our own... that bamboo is proving very useful.
We've ended up with:
Cherry tomatoes
Cos lettuce
Loose leaf lettuce
Cucumbers (unfortunately, something ate these. I'm off to find replacements today)
Birds-eye chilli

I also added assorted new herbs - our rosemary and sage plants had begun to develop Triffid-like tendencies, grasping at our legs as we navigated the side pathway, so they've been moved to a sunny spot in the front yard. That allowed me to add garlic chives, thyme and continental parsley to our existing collection of chives, Greek oregano, common mint, Vietnamese mint and curly parsley. Basil has just been tucked in amongst the tomatoes and other potted veg.

Now all I have to do is keep up the water throughout our summer. So far, that's not been a problem, as we've had more rain than I can remember in a long while...

2. Parlez-vous fran├žais?

I've had plans to learn French for years now. Our upcoming trip next year was just the poke I needed to finally do something about that. Bike Boy came across this beaut program called Duolingo - there's an app for phone and tablet as well - and we're loving it. So he's happily learning Spanish, while I learn French.

I've never seen a language course quite like this. They've made it like a game - you accrue points, get bonus "lives" and can compete against your Facebook or Twitter friends, plus post your milestones to social media. It's fun and has made learning so much easier than just reading a dull textbook or listening to CDs.

My competitive side has reared its head again; I cannot STAND to flunk a module and will do it over and over and over until I pass. ;) I'm on a 17-day streak (which means I haven't missed a day of lessons or practice) and am up to Level 9. Those two years of French at high school all those years ago apparently did stick... Conjugating verbs is my nemesis though. Ugh. I've bought myself a French-English dictionary with verb tables to give me a hand - there is a vocabulary section with conjunction tables in Duolingo, but it's kind of tricky to access on a mobile device, so I'm going old-skool with an actual book made of paper.

The main European languages are available to choose from - English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese - and here's the best bit: IT'S FREE.

3. Ice cream for the digestively-challenged

I've discovered the hard way that lactase tablets don't work for me. The theory is that lactose-intolerant folks should be able to take a tablet when they eat dairy products and Bob's your uncle. Nuh-uh. I've tried one, then two and then three tablets with a small serve of ice cream, only to suffer badly the next day - and for several more days afterwards. :(

I've used my ice cream maker and made coconut-milk based frozen desserts, which is OK now and then, but honestly? It takes too long and is too much trouble most of the time. AND the result goes rock-hard and icy in the freezer if you make more than a single serve - not really all that appetising. So I was pretty happy to discover this at my local Coles:

My kids turned their noses up at it at first. Where's the REAL ice cream? But after grudgingly trying it, they realised that it TASTES EXACTLY THE SAME AS NORMAL ICE CREAM. Well, duh. Actually, I should have let them think it was vile, nasty stuff. That way, there'd always be some left for me...

I'm still bummed that I can't have a Magnum now and then. And it looks like my favourite Maggie Beer treats are off the menu. *cries* But at least I have an option when I want a scoop of ice cream with my Death by Chocolate or whatever.



Sara said...

Can you not buy coconut milk icecream? It's just turned up here, all over the place (called 'nice cream'). Duolingo looks fab, I really must make an effort with German, seeing as I've got a growing number of rellys-by-marriage that only speak it. As a happy side effect, language learning as an adult is correlated with decreased incidence of dementia. Use it or lose it.. not just true for muscles!

Kek said...

The only coconut ice cream available here is CoYo and I've never seen it - one of the hazards of living in an unfashionable part of town. But it wouldn't help me to drive to the trendy suburbs to find it anyway, because it's sweetened with xylitol. Perhaps I should email them and point out that when people are lactose-intolerant, they have a strong likelihood of also being polyol-intolerant. :/

I'm loving the language lessons. Even if the verbs are making me crazy.

Debbish said...

Is the ice cream also gluten-free? My mum recently had GF ice cream (can't recall who makes it). Mind you, the last thing I need is something else I can binge / overindulge in.

On the green-thumb front, I have some rosemary I haven't killed, so am thinking of going crazy and getting some coriander as well! ;-)

Kek said...

I don't really know about gluten-free, Deb ...the kids polished off the tub a few days ago, so I can't go check the label. Will find out for you. :)

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