Sunday, 29 June 2014

Beware of the Dinosaurs

I've always enjoyed gardening and I learnt at the knees of my mother and grandmother. I am keen for Joseph to get into gardening so I have been busy trying to do some fun stuff to get him out there and enjoying the garden.

My first project was my work in progress bug hotel. I constructed it from a CD rack, which now in the age of iTunes we found wasn't being used. I still have a few shelves to fill, and more bamboo to cut! I have now planted a small herb and bug attracting garden in front of it, my hope will be to extend it over time. Joseph and I have been on a few stick collecting expeditions and he also helped me choose some plants.

One of the things I love is things in miniature. We have some dinosaurs that we picked up cheap at an NCT nearly new sale a few years ago which have been lying abandoned in the toy box. So I have repatriated them and put them to use.

Gardening is about having fun. Get out into your garden today and have a play!

This was the result at 7.30 last night!

Also you might be interested in this post on Not Even A Bag of Sugar today

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Pumpkin *sort of* Scones

Pumpkin scones are an Australian country tradition made famous by the Queensland Premier's Wife - Flo Bjelke-Peterson. Coincidentally the Bjelke-Peterson's sort of settled in Tasmania and for some time had some tea rooms in Sheffield in North West Tasmania the home of murals.

Pumpkin scones are a different method to your normal scone and far more forgiving for the novice baker. Firstly there's no rubbing in, you cream the butter and sugar. Secondly nearly all the moisture is provided by the pumpkin. This can cause confusion so I will explain as I go along.

A note on pumpkin. Proper pumpkin (Australian definition) is blue skinned. I prefer a Queensland Blue (which are enormous) or Jap pumpkin. I am sure you can use canned pumpkin, but I would think you would need to full amount of milk. In Australia butternut squash is referred to as pumpkin and that is what I used.

Just a note on flavour. Butternut squash is perfectly pleasant but it isn't pumpkiny enough. I would add some cinnamon or nutmeg next time to compliment the flavour.

250 grams prepared squash (directions below) - I cook a whole one then weigh the resulting puree*
30 grams butter
50 grams caster sugar (golden is my preference)
300 grams self raising flour (for additional rise add another teaspoon of baking powder)
milk (no more than 80 mls of milk and you may need a lot less)

1. First peel your pumpkin. I just use veggie peeler and do it whole. Cut the pumpkin in to largish dice place in a saucepan with a few tablespoons of water. Cook gently over medium heat, stirring, until soft. You may need to add more water but don't drown it. Alternatively microwave with a small amount of water according to your devices instructions (I don't own a microwave).

Puree or mash your pumpkin. I use a stick blender, you can use a food processor or old fashioned masher. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. Once cold weigh it out.

2. Cream the butter and sugar, by hand, with a hand held mixer, or I cheat and use kitchen aid. Add flour and pumpkin and mix til combined, adding milk to form a sticky dough. I needed only a tablespoon or so. Reserve your left over milk.

3. Flour your board and tip out the dough, using well floured hands. Knead briefly to bring it together and press to about 5cm thick then cut out rounds. I use a well floured fluted cutter. The reason being is you won't twist it. Twisting gives an uneven rise. You will lose the flutes on baking but no matter! You can use a glass or straight edge cutter.

4. Place your scones on a floured tray or lined with baking paper, the scones should be touching. They will stick together as they bake but that's intentional, it gives you soft scones with a good rise. If you space out they will dome and not be as easy to split.

5. Brush the scones with milk, and bake for approximately 15 minutes. My oven isn't even so I turn at 7 minutes.

6. Remove from oven and transfer to a tray to cool.

I got a bakers dozen out of this mixture 13 scones.

Serve them as desired! You can serve them the traditional way with jam and cream, or just with butter, or low fat philadelphia. They go well with soup too, the sugar doesn't over power at all.

I made these on the evening of England's first world cup match against Italy, my sister in law said should have done the cream as a cross, it didn't even cross my mind! So do that if making them for the next England game.

*Leftover squash - your average squash will be around 500 grammes. The left over puree will freeze and make another batch. You can use it for baby food of course should you have one. It will also go into soup, stews or mix with mashed potato for fish pie or shepherd's pie topping.

I hope you enjoy this traditionally Australian recipe.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Simply Superb Sempervivums

When I was  a child I was introduced to gardening by my grandmother. My nana loved flowers, pansies, hydrangeas, bulbs and lavender. She was a traditional cottage garderner in many ways. I loved her colourful displays on the farm in Lilydale, at her home in Mornington on the Eastern Shore of Hobart, and her last garden, the one she managed at our own house, where she lived with us until she died.

My mother is also a gardener. I used to bemoan her style, foliage over flowers, creating interesting and stunning displays, a lover of wild natives, and of foliage, flowers too, but always a concentration on green. It made me laugh the other day when my husband complained of my own garden "it's lovely but it is rather green". In my defence I do have plenty of colour in the front garden, and in pots around the back. But yes, I have inherited the love of form, texture and shades of green.

I bought a few rock garden plants two years ago. They all did rather well, but I was particularly intrigued with Sempervivums. I hadn't really come across them before, and hanging out in the alpine section, there they were. They looked lovely in my rock garden, I had two. And I was happy.

Until my old friend but foe Pinterest. I did a search for Sempervivums and found some amazing ways of using them. You can see my board here. And now, yes, I have discovered the love of foliage, of creating interest with things that aren't known for their flowers.

I discovered a use for strawberry pots. I had a pot that was never that great at strawberries, the cups are too deep, the top too wide. The drainage isn't right for strawberries, being too flat the water goes through too quickly. I found a new purpose for it.

Imagine my delight when on our recent trip to Germany I discovered that sempervivums are all the rage there and picked up 10 for just 99 cents each! And the lovely thing about sempervivums is true to their US name of Hen and Chicks, they keep on giving, you can easily divide and replant the darlings.

If you think you have brown thumbs, try Sempervivums. They tolerate full sun and don't mind a bit of shade, in fact they need a bit. They don't like to be overwatered. I never water mind. They do like good drainage, however we have pretty heavy soil and they don't root deep, so plenty of light compost and gravel when you plant and they are happy. They keep having babies, and you can separate them off and replant them when you need to.

They are the most intriguing little plants, forgiving, easy to care for, and fascinating to grow. Ideal for little fingers too! Have a look at my boards and perhaps choose some sempervivum projects for summer!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

An Honest Post about Weight

Being a size 28 is a weird thing. When you are 24 it's not an easy place to be. In the 1990's it was really difficult. I had to go to Melbourne to buy clothes most times, as Tasmania had only one or two places that did clothes that big, and all the fat girls would end up looking the same.

I've lost weight a couple of times in my adult life. The most recent was 2005 when I went down to a size 16. I lost six stone. Suddenly I could shop amazing places and things fit. I would marvel as a pair of "normal" jeans would get over my hips and do up.

But, and here's the thing. I loathed the way I looked and felt in my new shrunken skin. I felt scared, vulnerable, visible. The thinner me wasn't "me". I wasn't the Kylie I knew. I have absolutely no pictures of that time. I hated the way I looked, the bones starting to protrude, my hourglass figure. I missed my padded comfort.  And so I gained, not all of it, but a lot of it.

Now I am a size 20-22 and the 20 ish side of that. And this is my brain's happy weight. I feel fit enough, my mobility is good, I can swim and walk fast and do what I want. I have nice clothes that I feel comfortable in. I've been within a stone of this weight for around 7 years now.

However, I know that whilst my brain is happy, my heart is not. No not that undefined feeling which could be soul or spirit. My heart. That thing in my body that pumps my blood around.

I know that my body needs to lose fat to be happy and healthy. My brain, however, is terrified. I eat healthily. Given a choice between a salmon salad and fish and chips I will happily chose the salad.  I deliberately sabotage myself my bingeing once a week on high fat foods. At the moment my poison of choice is Lotus Biscuit Spread. It's easy to eat and calorific. If I stop this sabotage I will lose weight.

And I want to, I think. My body wants to. I want to walk for miles, taking photos of things I see, I want to walk fast with my best friend in his wheel chair, who goes very fast. I want to do runs for charity again. I want to play football with my little boy. I do all these things. I limit my exercise because I know if I do the things I want I'll lose weight. This is just so crazy.

I'm not a vulnerable little girl anymore. I will still be strong when I'm smaller, and in smaller clothes. I will still be me, won't I?

I am frightened of not being a the plus size fat girl. I am happy being the fat girl in my brain, I really am. I love wearing my clothes, I feel confident. I don't really care my arms wobble and my stomach is fuller than it should be.

However, to live a long happy life I need to lose weight. And keep it off.

And I need my friends to help me.

Help me accept that even when I'm thinner I will still be safe.

And hug me when I cry as my smaller self emerges again.