Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A Sugar Free Update

Since the start of this year we have been focused on a sugar free diet.  We still eat fresh fruit but try an avoid added sugar and concentrated sugars such as juices and dried fruits.  We also avoid processed food and when I bake I try and use dextrose instead of sugar.

After nearly four months we have learnt a few things about ourselves and about adapting to a world that is just full of sugar.

  • If you avoid sugar as much a possible your perception of sweetness changes and you find many foods too sweet to enjoy
  • You will often find it difficult to find foods without added sugar
  • It is not the end of the world if you decide to have something sweet as a treat
  • We often share what would be considered a small sweet treat for one person and are satisfied
  • Once you start looking to avoid sugar you see it being consumed in vast quantities all around you
  • Some baking does not work with dextrose
  • Once you are in the habit of having less sugar in your diet you rarely miss it, but sometimes do

We have decided to keep avoiding sugar but we are also not going to run our lives by it.  We will have the odd icecream in summer and eat good dark bitter chocolate when it takes our fancy.
And if I get so crazy pregnancy craving for jam and pickle sandwiches hey I might even give that a go too.
Sometimes we feel that we are depriving ourselves or making our lives harder but these thoughts are normally short lived and we see the bigger picture of our health.

We feel that if we keep going how we are we will not end up giving up on the low sugar life style because we are not going down the all or nothing path.  But at the same time we are aware that it would be an easy habit to fall back into so we are mindful of what we eat.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

A Wonderful Long Weekend

We just had a wonderful long weekend where we not only got to catch up with friend and do stuff at home but we also found time to relax, perfect long weekend combo.

We had lunch with friends out where we used to live and then spent a day and a half with other friends Liz and Pete at their farm and checking out the renovations at their second property.  They are doing an amazing job and are making good progress. Unfortunately Jessie managed to catch her shoulder on a barbed wire fence (well we think that is what happened).   She never let on she had hurt herself and it wasn't until Saturday night when we saw her licking her shoulder we noticed the cut. 

It is not the first time she has had a run in with barbed wire but this time it does not even seem to be sore.  She is a bit of a sook and normally crinkles her nose and shows her teeth if you get close to a sore spot but this time she let me clip all the hair away without blinking an eye.  The main reason I clipped the hair back is to stop it poking into the wound and irritating it (which stops her licking so much) and so I could have a good look and wash it out with saline solution.

So that it can heal we are trying to stop her from licking it too much.  We could have gone to the vets and gotten a cone today but a rolled up towel and a nappy safety pin do exactly the same job and she is not bothered at all.

I also cooked up a big batch of Chilli Beef and some Biscotti.  Most of the Chilli Beef went in the freezer as I am trying to make sure we have a good stockpile of precooked meals for when the baby arrives.

There was also some time for books and cuddles in bed.  Yes she is a very spoilt little dog.

How did you spend your long weekend?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Lemon and Chicken Tagine

I love this dish and I have tried other versions but this is the best one.

Preserved Lemon and Chicken Tagine

1.2 kg Chicken Drumbsticks
Chermoula marinade
⅓ cup  Oil
1½ tsp Salt
1½ tsp Saffron threads
½ tsp Ground black pepper
½ tsp Ground cumin
½ tsp Ground ginger
1 Cinnamon quill
4 C;oves of garlic crushed
2 Brown onions finely sliced
1 Tomato, peeled, seeded, chopped
½ Bunch Flat-leaf parsley, chopped
½ Bunch Coriander, chopped
2 Large waxy potatoes, peeled, cut into wedges
2 cups Water
150 g Green olives
1 Preserved lemon, cut into 6 segments
Corinder leaves, to garnish

Chermoula Marinade 

2 Brown onions, finely diced
1 tsp Finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp Dried crushed chillies
1 tbsp Ground cumin
1 tbsp Sweet paprika
½ tsp Saffron thread
2 tbsp Chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp Chopped coriander (cilantro)
2 Bay leaves
½ Preserved lemon, thinly sliced
½ cup Olive oil
½ Lemon, juiced

Make the chermoula marinade by mixing all the ingredients together thoroughly and leave for 30 minutes prior to use.

Rub the chicken all over with ½ cup chermoula, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Place a tagine or large, heavy-based saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the oil and brown the chicken then set aside.
Cook  the onions for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally then add the salt, saffron, pepper, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and garlic and cook for 2 mins. Add the chicken back into the tajine or saucepan.
Add the tomato, parsley, coriander, potatoes, the olives and preserved lemon and water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for covered for 40-45 minutes.

Remove the lid and turn the heat to high and reduce the stock for 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

Serve with couscous.

Monday, 18 April 2016

The Elephants and Bees Project

A Friend sent me this email the other day and I thought it was such an amazing project that I had to share.  Check out the website.

Bees and Elephants

Being a farmer is hard work — but being a farmer in places like Kenya, Botswana, and Sri Lanka has a unique challenge that other areas of the world don’t: elephants!

Wild elephants, whose natural behavior is to roam, have been known to march right through fields, damaging and destroying crops. When the human farmers try to intervene, things can turn ugly, and both human and elephant injuries and even deaths can occur. Sadly, like too many animals, elephants face many dangers at the hands of humans. It’s a shame, because these creatures are intelligent, sensitive and have complex emotional and social connections, forming strong bonds with one another,and with different animals, too. So a solution was needed that would both keep the farmers’ fields safe, but make sure the elephants were in no way harmed. This solution was not only brilliantly simple, but also had the added bonus of helping out another species in crisis: bees.
A Farmer in his raided crop
In areas where elephants are free-roaming, humans must learn to coexist with them. Sadly, elephants like to raid farms at night, eating and flattening crops and damaging the farmers’ livelihoods. This can lead to violent confrontations where both humans and elephants are hurt and killed.

Elephants usually raid fields at night and to ward them off, people have fired guns, thrown rocks and launched firecrackers to scare them off. Just like with humans, an injury or death in an elephant’s family unit puts major emotional stress on the herd.

The devastation to fields is no small issue, either. These small farmers rely on their crops to survive, and a damaged field can mean a serious loss of income and food.

There seemed to be no simple solution, until zoologist Dr. Lucy King noticed something: Elephants really don’t like bees, and will avoid them at all costs. If they hear buzzing, they’ll leave an area immediately, signalling to others that bees are about. This is because the bees’ stings are especially painful to the elephants’ trunks, and to avoid this pain, the elephants prefer to just stay away. And thus, bee fences were born!

Hanging a langstroth hive

“Beefencing”, as it’s known, is the use of hanging rows of beehives, each connected by a length of wire. When a nosy elephant approaches, it will knock into the wire, setting the hives swinging and disturbing the bees. And when the elephants hear that buzzing, they’ll turn around and leave. The crops are safe, the humans are safe, and the elephants are safe. The bees are safe, too.

Langstroth beehive fence line in Tsavo

Dr. King has been working with various conservation organizations and communities in Africa and Sri Lanka, building these beefences around local farms. She hopes that this will be the first of many steps to create sustainable solutions where humans and animals can coexist peacefully.

The bees also help pollinate fields and maintain the biodiversity needed to support an ecosystem, so the farmers get a helping hand, too. And as an added bonus, the farmers get to keep the honey and beeswax produced by their hives, which they can use or sell.

Honey Jar (cropped s)

This “elephant-friendly honey” is available in local shops near the areas where the farmers live and work. So unless you’re planning a visit to Nairobi, you won’t be able to get any. But it’s quite popular where it’s sold!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

BBQ Mackerel With Herby Mash

Fish is something we try and eat once a week but that is not always easy to achieve.  When we choose fish we try and choose fish that is sustainable, local and not too expensive.

This week our local fish monger had fresh blue mackerel at $12 kg.  From what I can work out blue mackerel is considered a sustainable fish species but I have read differing reports about the way they are caught which may determine the environmental impact the fishing of them has.

I really like mackerel and they are very good for you with a high omega 3 content.  Because it is a strong flavoured oily fish it goes well with other strong flavours like chilli that would over power other types of fish.

For our dinner I gutted the fish and removed the head then sliced along the fillet down to the spine.  I made up a mix of lemon zest, olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper then rubbed this over the fish and added some lemon the the cavity.  I wrapped the fish in foil and we cooked on the BBQ for 5 mins on each side which was perfect.

I served the fish up with Herby mash.  To make the mash I boiled the potatoes along with 3 cloves of garlic.  While they were cooking  I made up a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and chopped parsley.  Once the potatoes were cooked I mashed them and then stirred through 90% the oil mix instead of the standard butter and milk that we normally use for making mash.  The rest of the mix was spooned over the cooked fish.

It was a hit with Hubby and we will do it again with the other 2 mackerel that I froze.

Do you like mackerel?  How do you cook it?

Monday, 11 April 2016

Second Hand Toys vs Eco Toys and Minimalism

So with a baby on the way we are now finding people have all sorts of things they are happy to pass on to us.  

One of the things we have decided is that we do not want to have a child who has excessive number of toys and grows up to be an excessive consumer.  We would also like to avoid plastic toys and lots of baby/child paraphernalia focusing on timber toys and environmentally friendly products.

But what about babies who have no concept of ownership, wants or consuming?  Babies need stimulation to develop and many toys are designed to help develop a babies sight, hearing and sense of touch.  So do we relax a bit for the first 12 months and allow some plastic as well as new and second hand toys that may not meet our eco friendly criteria?  I am hoping we can borrow a baby gym (a play mat with a frame over the top with things hanging from it) or get one second hand as I think it will have a fairly limited lifespan.

Yesterday my brother in law and sister in law came to visit and they brought with them a large tub of excess toys from their now 2 year old son.

They were happy for us to take anything we wanted and pass the rest on to a charity shop and coincidentally just last week saw the delivery of a charity bag to be collected on Wednesday.  This meant we had to do a quick sort through and pack up the rest ready for collection on Wednesday.

A stack of foam tiles

A pile of toys to give away and a few we are keeping at the front.

After sorting through everything we decided to keep just 7 items.  A junior gardening box that we will put away for much later, a soft rattle, a wrist rattle (goes around the babies wrist), a hanging decoration that I suspect came from oxfam and is hand made, a toy that hangs on a baby gym. a ball with a bell rattle inside and a little truck that moves when you push down on the driver.
These are the items we chose for now but whether we end up keeping them all is another thing.

I am also not sure about all the foam clip together tiles.  Will we use them? Will they just be a pain to pick up and put away?  We have tile floors in the kitchen dining area so would these make a nice soft buffer between baby and floor if I need to have the baby in sight on the floor when I am in this part of the house?  If anyone has used these happily let me know. 

Toys all packed up ready for charity.

I suspect this parenting thing will be loaded with decisions like this where our values will be challenged and we will just have to work our way through it.  I am hoping that we can get others to support us in our decision to not have lots of plastic and overload us with stuff but only time will tell.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Surgery Round Two

After having his right hand done in December Hubby had his left hand operated on today for carpel tunnel syndrome.
He was going to have the left hand done earlier in the year but the surgeon had to reschedule.  He has not been able to go back to work between hands because of the conditions of his personal injury insurance that is paying him while he is off work.  
This has become very handy over the past few months with me being pregnant and not having much energy.  He has been great doing all the housework and really doing everything except the cooking.
He made sure all the floors were vacuumed and mopped and the lawns mowed before today so I do not have to worry about them.

The first hand done in December

We now have some experience with keeping him amused so this round will hopefully be a bit easier.
But we will see, he might run out of patience a bit sooner so I will have to come up with some jobs for him.  I am sure he will love that : ) 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Revamping A Family Heirloom

Well heirloom might be a bit of a stretch but it has had quite a long life already.

When Hubby's parents mentioned to us they still had the cot Hubby and his brother had been raised in we were more than happy to take it off their hands.  It is a metal cot with 2 sides that drop down and may have even been used by their older cousins before them (so at least 45 years old)

Now before doing anything I checked the current safety standards for cots in Australia.  This cot meet all current regulations other than the year it was made.  This means it cannot be sold or purchased for use, but we did not buy it so no issues there

The cot has a wire base and we were surprised to find out that it takes a standard size mattress so that is all we have to buy now along with bedding which I am sure I can get second had or make up from bedding we already have.

The paint was chipped and because we were not 100% sure of the age we did not want to take any risks with lead paint so we spent $100 and had the cot sandblasted.

Then Hubby started painting.  It was not really practical to spray paint due to the paint wastage so Hubby painted it by hand, plus since he is off work it was a good use of his time.  He ended up using up paint we already had (the same paint used for the antique door knob and knocker) which is why the cot ended up high gloss black but we had plenty left and did not want to waste money buying more.

We are really happy with how it turned out and now that the paint smell has gone and the paint is really hard it is great.

We also acquired a few other bits and pieces that I have not really sorted through yet so that will be a surprise when I go back for a proper sort through.
We are really focused on second hand for this baby as we believe there is no need for much to be purchased new when it comes to babies.  There will be a few things though as both my Nan and my Great Aunt have already asked what I would like them to knit for our baby who will be in NZ for next winter.  I was thinking some singlets would be good.

Suggestions anyone?

Monday, 4 April 2016

Why The Lack Of Blogging

So you might have noticed things have been a bit off and on with my blog over the last few months and it is time to fess up.

Yes I have been studying (about 40 hours a week) and working (30 hours a week) plus trying to have some sort of a life and making plans for our move to NZ in early 2017.

On top of this as I mentioned last year Hubby and I have been trying for a baby.  After more than 6 years of trying we went down the IVF path and now we are expecting our first baby in Early October.

The first 3 months have gone relatively smoothly and now as I head into the second trimester the all day nausea has stopped and just a bit of tiredness remains.  Obviously it is still early days and we hope everything will go smoothly.

We are now making plans for the new life that will join us in what I am sure will feel like no time at all.  We are already having some serious conversations about how we want to parent and so far the verdict from the family is that they think we will be quite strict.
We are also thinking about the way we live and how that will impact on our parenting style.

I know there are plenty of parents among my followers so I am sure I will have a solid sounding board and positive suggestions which I look forward to.  I know we will find our own way but there is not harm in getting a variety of ideas from those who have been there before.

Stay tuned for more news.