Saturday, August 28, 2010

Happy Birthday!

HAPPY 5th birthday Emma and happy 2nd birthday Alexander! We celebrated Emma's birthday with a few friends at a nature center, and Alexander's at home with a special grillout in the back garden.

Here we are at Emma's birthday breakfast, and baking Alexander's cake. I felt really prepared as I had found some nice recipes for healthier-but-not-too-healthy birthday cake, and printed them out the night before. So much for prepared...we were just getting ready to bake when I found we had no eggs left, so we tried out an eggless recipe instead. It worked out ok but I am resigned to the fact that I will never win any baking awards :-)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ice Lollies

WHEN it's so hot all you really want to do is get in the pool or drink something really cold. Ice lollies are good too so I went out hunting for lollipop moulds. Who would have thought a simple mould would be so hard to find? I could have had a set of planes or flowers or Dora the Explorer or all manner of themes, but no simple, small shapes. So I bought a packet of mini craft sticks and we went with ice cube trays, which were just the right size for a little icy snack. We had fun pureeing fruit and making our own lollies... but waiting for them to freeze was hard. Finally they were ready! We had blueberry and raspberry, which I think could have done with a touch of sweetener; peach strawberry was the clear winner for the children but I enjoyed the freshness of watermelon with lemon basil.

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Steps in Fermenting

I learned about the health benefits of the age-old tradition of culturing or fermenting foods this summer. Examples of these are sauerkraut, kim chee, kefir and yoghurt. Then I wanted to learn how to make them for myself. Over two classes, we covered fermented vegetables - like sauerkraut - yoghurt, dairy kefir and young coconut kefir. The last is most intriguing. The water from inside coconuts is especially rich in potassium and other minerals, while fermenting turns the acidic sugar into bubbles, creating a refreshing frothy soda-like beverage. For all that, I have to say it's not our favourite.

However, yoghurt and dairy kefir have been a big hit in our family and I can't make them fast enough. I've been using culture starter, but will soon be using grains to make kefir. Stay tuned to hear how this turns out!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Swamp Hibiscus

LAST year I acquired a swamp hibiscus. Only after I got it home, did I read the label and see that it needs a damp environment. No way would this survive in our dry garden!

So imagine my surprise when the plant not only thrived, but we found a bud on it. Then a few days later, a glorious red bloom! The plant has since flowered three times, each time lasting only two days, but so beautiful!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Amazon Girl

JUST because we don't have a stream in our back garden doesn't mean we can't make one with a hose pipe. This works particularly well if you run the water over an area of bare earth, and clay makes such lovely red mud! Just the thing if you want to hide or swing through the trees like Jane of the Jungle.

(Come to think of it, these are the knickers that Emma always puts in Alexander's drawer. She says she knows it's 'clean dirt' but she doesn't like them now they're not white any more.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Snack Garden

OUR vegetable garden has not been prolific, to say the least. And the few vegetables that have grown have not made it to the kitchen. The latest two vegetables - a red pepper and a cucumber - were on their way to the kitchen, via four little hands, when they fell into two little mouths. It's snack time Mama!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Anti-Zoo

I do not like the zoo. I appreciate the conservation and education efforts, but the environments seem so contrived. Though local creatures might not be so glamourous, it's so much more exciting to find animals in their own environments! Here are some of the animals we've seen, heard or found sign of on a guided night hike at a nature centre and a couple of our own day hikes: tadpoles, crawfish, toad, raccoon tracks, snake, downy woodpecker, tree frog, bull frog, cicada.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Caterpillar Invasion

THERE'S not much left of our lawn. It's patchy parched grass, but still some little moth and her friends thought it would be a great place to lay their eggs. For when we went outside this morning, the lawn, patio and brick wall were covered in little caterpillars. The closest we could find in our field guide was army worm, though this is usually found in agricultural fields. So if anyone knows what this is, please let me know! We collected some in a large plastic jar with some grass, but the caterpillars didn't fare well in the heat so we released them again. They were around for only two days, then vanished again. Could they have all been eaten in this time? Where did they go?