Still no sign of a proper summer here in central NZ, although I guess we're half-way there – it's stinking hot, it just won't stop raining! Mind you, we shouldn't complain, the vegetable garden is absolutely booming from the uncharacteristic weather, we haven't had to water anything for weeks (typical, when I have been so looking forward to trying out some of the water saving ideas from the Vault this summer!) I reckon it will catch up with us in the end though and we'll be faced with a humdinger of a drought before too long. In the meantime, I shall just resign myself to spending a good deal longer than usual in the kitchen, chopping, blanching and freezing the harvest. Yesterday I swore I never wanted to see another cauliflower again, as I couldn't see my kitchen bench for the enormous things. We also have zucchini coming out of our ears and are happily feasting on peas, beans, lettuces, broccoli, celery, cabbages and some funny little yellow star-shaped things from the courgette family – not to mention the blasted cauliflowers of course! I stood grumpily in the kitchen for what seemed like ages yesterday, preparing bags full for the freezer – then I reminded myself that it would take just as long, if not longer, to drive to town and buy all these things. I had also forgotten one of the other benefits of organic gardening too – 'Tut, how do the commercial growers get rid of all their caterpillars and creepy crawlies? You never see them in the shop-bought ones!' I complained. 'Ahem – they use sprays, dear', Noel reminded me. Of course! Based on that wee snippet of information I decided I would much rather go to the trouble of vetting my veges for unwanted visitors!
I'm really proud of Noel's gardening efforts – he just loves pottering in there and finds it really relaxing and rewarding after the countless hours he spends in the car each week for work. It's amazing to think two thirds of the vege patch is less than a month old! Not a centimetre is wasted and he has learned heaps from reading up on gardening icons such as Jackie French and Linda Woodrow. He has even had to start a new compost heap as the sheep, chickens and worms are already being over-stuffed full of leaves, stalks and greenery. Another benefit of keeping the garden chock-full is that there is less room for pests to rampage – not counting my pesky little cauliflower caterpillars, that is! Aside from the larger vege garden, we also have two mini-patches which we planted when space was more limited – one of these is an old concrete farm trough, which is full to bursting with red onions and tomatoes and the other is crammed with cucumbers, pumpkin and yet more zucchini. If anyone else also has an abundance of zucchini, I can highly recommend this recipe, which makes two sweet loaves:
2 cups grated zucchini or young marrow (you can also use carrot)
3 beaten eggs
1 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
2 cups sugar (or less – to taste)
2 tsp vanilla essence
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts
Mix together zucchini, eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla until blended. Sift in dry ingredients. Add walnuts and blend well. Pour into two greased loaf tins and bake at 180C for about an hour. Easy! They freeze well too.
Another huge benefit I have discovered is that Noel is far more willing to cook dinner if he has grown the food himself! Last night he cooked a lovely meal of fish cakes, made with smoked marlin he caught himself and parsley from the garden, home grown zucchini stuffed with feta and mint (also from the garden) and salad using home grown fancy lettuce, celery and spring onions. I love it when he does the cooking – he's always so much more inventive than me!
Now that things have calmed down at home, I'm planning to start the $21 Challenge again tomorrow – it all went rather pear-shaped last week. You've probably guessed that things are a lot brighter in our household again. Since I gave Liam his remedy four days ago, he has been almost 100% back to his old self, with only the occasional mention of the 'p' word (poison!). He is due for his blood test for Coeliac's this Thursday and while he's not looking forward to it, I am! Hopefully the results will give some indication of whether the problems he is having are physical (as in part and parcel of the condition), purely psychological or a bit of both! Either way, we're not taking anything for granted at the moment – we're just taking each day as it comes and enjoying having him back. And of course we're thanking our lucky stars for Fran! I'm also deeply grateful to all the SS members who have written such wonderful letters of help and support. All your suggestions have been taken on board and we really appreciate every one – thank you!
The boys are happily settled back in their newly painted room and we've been having a great time getting creative with the décor. One of my favourite ideas is their giant pinboard, which is made out of some old cork floor tiles from our previous house. I always figured they would come in handy for something! I attached them to the wall, four tiles across and eight down and sealed them with clear varnish. Once dry, the boys could really go to town, cutting out pictures of their favourite rugby players and pinning them all up to make a giant collage. It looks pretty cool if I say so myself and it didn't cost us a cent! The saving I'm probably most impressed with this week is on a DVD rack. I was getting really fed up with the boys Playstation games cluttering up the place and wanted to get them a DVD rack to store them in – but the cheapest I could find was $24.99 and it wasn't even a nice looking one. The wooden style ones looked much nicer but cost even more. There was no way I was going to pay that – luckily I found the perfect solution at The Warehouse – a self-assembled maple look bookcase for just $12! Not only was it big enough to store their games, but also heaps of other stuff too, a much better alternative. Mind you, I don't think my Mum is going to let me forget for a while about how I tried to pay $10 MORE for the boys' new curtains! Goodness knows what planet I must have been on at the time. I specifically went to The Warehouse because they had 30% off selected curtains. It really bugs me that something as boring as curtains are so expensive, so I was pretty impressed to be able to pick up the two pairs I wanted for $147 rather than $200. However, when I got to the checkout I wanted to check I had got the special price right, as there was no way I was paying $99 each. 'It should be $147 for the two', I explained to the lady. 'Well it says here they're $137', she replied. 'No, that's not right – it definitely said $147!' I insisted. This went on back and forth for a little longer until Mum said 'Er – why are you wanting to pay more? She's telling you they're $10 less! Tut – call yourself a Simple Saver?' Oh dear, I'm starting to think I might need a remedy from Fran too!