Monthly Archives: June 2011

Rocket fuel

It was a busy weekend trying to keep up with what to make with all the nice things growing in the garden. I finally got around to making the radish tops soup. This was actually amazing. It tasted so nice. The slow sautéing of the onion really added a sweet flavour. The children loved it too surprisingly. I made fresh rolls with ham, cheese, lettuce, radish and mustard to go along with the soup. It all just tasted like more once gobbled up.

After that bit of sustenance, it was back out to the garden to figure out what to do with all the rocket, which was about to flower.  I decided to give it the chop, with the help of Seren. Any opportunity to use her scissors :)

Helping me snip the rocket.

I decided to make the old faithful pesto. Can’t go much wrong with that. Rocket is peppery so I wanted to add something that would counteract that. I toasted walnuts as they are sweet, plus I like the smell.

I made two different types:

Garlic and Rocket Pesto

  • clove of garlic
  • two handfuls of rocket
  • handful of walnuts
  • couple of glugs of oil
  • spoon of honey
  • squeeze of lemon
  • pinch of sea salt

Throw it all in a blender/mixer and give it a blast. I added some parmesan but this could be added before eating.

Rocket and sun-dried Tomato Pesto

  • three to four sun-dried tomato halves, soaked in oil
  • two handfuls of rocket
  • handful of walnuts
  • couple of glugs of oil
  • spoon of honey
  • squeeze of lemon
  • pinch of sea salt

Repeat the same process as above. Make sure to pour the pesto into sterilized jars. Use them whatever pleases you!

 By the way, does anyone know of a more appetising name for the soup. Radish top soup is not very appealing!

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Art attack!

Sometimes it feels as though there is a permanent art bonanza taking place in our home. The shelves are cluttered with paints, crayons, indoor chalk, outdoor chalk, paper, crêpe paper, colouring books, glue, markers, stickers etc. You get the picture! Paintings and drawings are proudly displayed on the dining room walls. Patio stones are coloured in vibrant colours with chalk. Our weekend mornings usually consists of fresh pots of coffee and doodling.

The kids have a serious addiction to all things involving arts and crafts. They didn’t get it from the side of the road either. Art is in the family. Their grandmothers are artists. I grew up surrounded by canvases, oils, gouache paints, charcoals, pencils, erasers, paper. All these things bear memories for me – the smell of freshly pared pencil shavings, the shape and feel of my mother’s special erasure, the rubbery sensation of dried oil paints on pallets, piled high on wobbly tables, the somewhat pleasant smell of turpentine. I loved going into my mother’s studio and snooping through the old photographs, catalogues and notebooks. Sometimes I left feeling overwhelmed as I did not always understand the personal topics of her work at my young age. Most of the time I left feeling like  I had gotten to know more about her. When I was a teenager, my mother started an art school, which became very successful. There was a flow of people through the house day and night. Her studio was expanded and a dark room was built. I loved the quiet intimate darkness in there and loved watching my mother dipping and dunking negatives. I can still remember the smells of the chemicals. There was also this massive old school printing press. That was a hit with everyone. Classes were held for children and I thought I had the coolest mum. Sometimes I even sat as a model for her drawing classes. I think I grew to love classical music from this because it was always played in the background.

My mother is building a new studio at her home in the countryside and in a way I am jealous that my girls will be able to explore this. Hopefully they will have as many memories of their grandmother, as I do of my mother. Although my children do not get to visit my mother’s studio as often as I did as a child, I think it is important to help them develop an appreciation and love for art. Kids love getting messy and exploring with colours and textures. It’s a great way to learn. Most of all, I love watching them develop new techniques.

Olwyn is now learning how to draw circles. She holds the pencil for dear life and scribbles, scribbles, scribbles. Markers are a no go with her as she has a tendency to suck the ink out of them! She points at all the paintings on the wall saying “Seren do that” or “Olwyn do that”. Other times she likes to make her own impromptu teething ring!

Seren, who is three and a half,  loves drawing happy faces, dogs, lions and balloons. She sits happily at the table until every inch of paper is coloured in. It’s great to see her concentration and how seriously she takes it.

Give them some stickers, glue and child friendly scissors and there is beautiful silence for ten minutes. Other times we all sit around, chat and paint faces, which is always a good giggle.

Painting is always a hit. I like to give them different utensils to use on the paint for texture but inevitably the fingers usually win out. This day usually leads to a good soaking in the bathtub.

We often visit the National Art Gallery with the children. They are still a bit too young to parade them through the entire gallery, but there is an excellent space for children to draw pictures. Here we all sit happily for an hour, the girls scribbling to their hearts’ content. Daddy usually has a cat nap because it is so warm from the sun light flooding in. In another year Seren will be able to take part in the art classes that are held here. It teaches young children how to read the paintings in the gallery.

I am an academic at heart, not having tapped into the artist in me when younger, and our home is crammed with books and words. My children love books but I want to pass on to them some of my experiences I had with art as a child. Although I don’t have a studio, I can try to keep painting and drawing alive, and nurture in them a love for all things creative.

Do you encourage your children to be creative? Is it important for you to have art in your children’s lives?

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For Emily

Seeing as you are missing nasturtiums in your garden, Emily, I am posting some photographs to give you a fix for this year! Enjoy :)

                                                                                                       

 

 

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The jewel in the garden.

I planted nasturtiums in the garden a while back and they are really taking off now. There is one especially that sits next to the raspberry bushes and it is flourishing in that particular spot. I had no idea that it could creep along the ground until one day I spotted a cheeky runner making its way to the wall! I am fond of this plant though (perhaps a bit unhealthily, as if it were my child). It is the first and best of the lot of nasturtiums and I watch it proudly growing each day. Every evening I go out to inspect its progress. Tonight I discovered that it was harbouring its own microcosm! Lo and behold there was the first flower bud holding its head up with great pride, as it should. Look at how aerodynamic it is. It reminds me of the shape of a raptor’s head (but much more beautiful of course :))

The flower is not alone however. On every leaf there is a different occupant. Here is a little yellow spider who has delicately spun his web using the leaf’s edges as his frame.

He’s not the tidiest little fella though, not having cleaned up after his dinner. Yuck!

Across the way, little white fly eggs have been laid with military precision. Peter sorrowfully informed me that these are not the friendliest things to ooh and aah over as they will devour the neighbouring carrots. 

Buh-bye eggies. Thank goodness for parasitic wasps to take care of these little things. They lay their eggs in the white fly eggs. It’s a cruel world. Not the prettiest thing to look at (turn away now if bugs make you want to vomit!).

Although the meandering lines across the leaves look nice, these are as a result of leaf miners. I enjoy squashing them between my finger tips, a bit sadistic, I know, but effective.

I guess that’s why the nasturtium is so suited to being a companion plant in the garden. It attracts all sorts of trouble by luring  nasty bugs toward it with its giant saucers for leaves and exotic jewels for flowers.

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I love radishes!

From little seeds great things grow!

The radishes have come up trump in the garden! At first, I was a bit reluctant for Peter to plant them. I mean, one is a bit limited when it comes to what to do with a radish, right? Thoughts came to mind of radish rose garnishes but besides that my mind went blank. Well, considering the amount of seeds Peter sowed, I had better come up with some ideas.  In his excitement at the prospect of future growth, Peter sowed all the seeds. We had reminded ourselves after our last glut of cabbages (which we fed half the neighbourhood with) to be strict advocates of successional planting. As you can see from the above picture, this was not followed through with. So now we have radishes coming out of our yahoos!

Luckily, I am now a reborn radish addict! I underrated the radish for far too long. Pulling up the first radish filled me with glee.

I spy with my little eye.

The moment of truth.

Et voila.

 This weekend I hope to make radish top soup. This name does nothing for it and my kids will probably think I am trying to poison them, ha. But I hear these leaves are high in antioxidants and all sorts of other goodness, so why not. It’s the same as with any vegetable soup. Sautee chopped onion and garlic. Add some leek or celery. Then throw in the washed radish tops. Wilt down. Then add a litre or so of chicken stock, with an added chopped potato or two. Simmer until cooked then blend. Serve with a dollop of cream. I would also like to try roasting the radishes. They will probably lose their crispiness but I bet they go good with a splash of balsamic.

I am so glad we have these growing in the garden now. It’s definitely been a learning experience for me anyway. But my children will probably have an aversion to radishes for life!

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Shades of green…

I went into the garden to take some photographs of our ever-growing jungle yesterday. The garden is really coming into itself. There are many shades of green throughout. I am pleased with how the photographs turned out. Have a look!

It's a jungle in there.

The above photo is looking through the potato plants. We planted rocket in between the rows. It’s about done now and I am planning to make pesto with it this weekend. Yum!

Fuzzy fennel

The fennel towers above the herb bed and acts as a focal point in the garden. It is great to be able to just throw some on salmon and poach it.

Golden oregano and lemon balm

I love the contrast in the shades of the oregano and the crispy green lemon balm. I have used the lemon balm in vinaigrettes. It adds a zingy flavour. The oregano goes into pretty much every dish! The great thing is that it grows back so quickly.

Raspberry flower

The bumblebees are out in force now that the raspberry blossoms are out. Isn’t nature amazing. Look at those red thorns.

Lone soldier.

The lavender is just about to bloom and explode into a purple cloud.

Geranium "Ann Thomson"

This geranium is planted under the tree and the magenta flowers really add character to that corner, which before was void of colour.

You know, as much as we like to complain about the rain, I kind of really yearn for a good rainy day, because the garden just flourishes the next day.

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The sloth and the snail.

Today started off at 5.20 am with Olwyn crying to get up due to those troublesome canines bothering her. They have bothered her now for near on three months and they are still a no-show! Poor thing. Olwyn goes around with her fingers permanently stuck in her mouth and leaves puddles of saliva in her trail. Anyway, I settled Olwyn and put her back to bed at 6am. I hopped back into bed and fell  into my slumber only to be woken by the bright-eyed Seren sitting beside me at 6.20 am, proudly announcing “I had a really nice dream! It was about lions!”.

Needless to say,  my good intentions in writing my research paper today were not fulfilled. There was a major dose of fatigue today! It is seven weeks until I give my first “professional” paper. The attendance to the week-long conference is in excess of 500 people. Gulp! No pressure. However, I was no closer to a finished product today than I was a week ago. The thoughts of sitting down and poring over books seemed torturous. I had to give a tutorial in the early afternoon though so I had no choice but to go into the office.

To add to that, it was actually a beautiful sunny day and all I wanted to do was stay home with the family and enjoy the garden. I called it quits after the tutorial and headed home. Alas, the sun was now hiding (Murphy’s Law) but we still got to enjoy the garden. Seren and Olwyn found a little snail and were intrigued at this little creature, who carried his house on his back. We sat on the bench in the reappearing sun for about ten minutes marvelling over the snail, touching his tentacles, watching him crawl. It was the moment of the day! I am so happy to have witnessed this.

Meet Sammy the Snail

Sammy snail is never worried

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