Sunday, 23 July 2017

Sticky Business

Dear Family & Friends

Every year the plum tree at the end of our garden produces abundance of fruits. We take it for granted and most fruits just falls and liter the ground. Enough waste! I feel it is a shameful thing to do! So, this year, I resolved to do my best. 

a big basket of plums harvested and two courgette were also picked along the way:)

I usually prepare our garden fruits to be frozen for future use. It's the quickest and easiest way for me to do. We use the fruits for dessert or with pancakes during the course of the year. Lately, to make life more efficient, I learned to cook in big batch and freeze meal portions...mainly with meat meals such as stews. It works very well for us and will continue to do so. Our big chest freezer just fills up so quickly with food storage specially at this time of the year when we have all sorts of garden harvest.


sticky business of preserving fruit harvest

Thus, I resolved to do more fruit dehydrating for this year. It's literally a sticky business. I only have a five tier dehydrator and it seem to take forever to accomplish the mount of harvest. Other than that, my other complain is that dehydrating indoor heats up the house too!! Certainly not good in summer!

dehydrating plums on dehydrator

Enough moaning... task must be faced. I have no right to waste food and so I march on with preserving them. after all, it's all for just a season. I am thankful for God's goodness pouring down on us. So far, I have done ten 750 ml bottles filled with dried plums. Plenty snacks for the family to enjoy in the months to come....but I still have more to do...in fact, just half way through that one tree. I can't leave them as time goes on...it's a job that just needs to be done.

In all of these, there's always the joy of  knowing that I can also provide good food for the people around me. Satisfaction for everyone. Hope you are enjoying your day too with whatever task you're on to.

Yours

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Still working on merrily ...

Dear Family & Friends

Our tiny city apartment is still in working progress but we're almost there. Yes, the famous last words:) Let's blame it on the nitty gritty tiling of the bathroom... but once it's done...we're all ready for our shower!! Hope it will all be in time for our big girl to make use of - for short stay during the course of her driving school course. The school is literally a walking distance. All things work for good here...always the case:) 

we're supporting UK economy:) wooden blinds were ordered and posted from UK - finally installed.

Although the furniture and fixtures are not in place yet, but at least our wooden blinds are now up to shield us from preying eyes and intense summer's heat. There's just an electric fan to cool us when we go there to do some day work, but to install an air conditioner is a must... it's the only means to cool the place during the height of intense summer's heat...and also to warm the place when intense freezing weather arrives.

here's where that aircon has to go, but we have yet to get the right size for it!

Our challenge for the moment is to find suitable fixtures to fit our needs. We're always searching for 'that' special size fixtures to fit in our apartment. These days we are grateful that there's option of ordering online that's not within the country either, giving us a wider choice but researching is a must.


while we take time with our interior decorating...developers are coming up with more apartments!

Whilst we work and make very slow progress in our apartment interiors....from our balcony we can't help watch the speedy developments...yes, more apartments are rising up just by our doorstep...this will certainly be a one happy complex - for they say: the more the merrier!

Everything is going on it's merry speed but we are taking a day at a time, always with a grateful heart:) You do the same and stay well and happy.

Yours

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Coping with summer

Dear Family & Friends

Sun is blazing hot these days. The mediterrenean lavender plants just loves it. In fact we've already pruned the bush as the flowers have already fed all sorts of insects in our garden. The main big bloom for the year is finished but it will give another small flower bloom later on. Such an easy going plant for us here...no wonder my husband just wants our garden to be filled with it! 

just two of the many big mounts of lavender blooms we have in the garden
In the summer we have extreme hot weather ...on some days temp goes up to 41C!! but humidity is low. Inside our thick mud wall house is cool... so we can survive without an airconditioner. When heat wave hits...an electric fan is enough for our luxury need:) Our temporary outdoor garden shower area is another luxury item... some of us go for about 4 quick cold showers in the garden a day!...and water drains to the garden ground for some boost! It's a genius concept!


it's mostly too bright in the garden these days

Our free garden roaming pet tortoise is not bothered with the summer heat... by now our strawberry harvest is over...he is going for my bean plants...it makes me wonder if we will have enough garden beans to eat this year! I can't be greedy....I need to share too...afterall, our tortoise always take care of his own need without our assistance. 'Help yourself with everything in the garden, Tortoise! :)'

our tortoise don't mind summer time and very self sufficient!

At this time of the year...I conserve all my energy. Summertime does crazy things to my body system as I fail to adjust quickly. Thus, no much gardening activities. I have to let go a bit, and will catch up again later. I don't cook anymore either...so all the pre-cooked frozen food are slowly utilized. Call me lazy if you want...but that's my way of coping. I sit counting the days till it's over. Hope you are having better time than me....

Yours

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Eat organic food

Dear Family & Friends

You don't need to be rich to eat organic food. Food that is not grown with pesticides - which are so poisonous for us. This sort of poison doesn't immediately react within us...but as you know, they are the culprit for the many strange diseases that abound these days.

My garden Kale - grown without any chemical help


You'd say 'but I can't afford to buy organic food...they are expensive' I can well understand that because it cost more for the farmer to grow good food. But hey! Why not grow some of your food which the family could eat and enjoy? They are far more superior in taste too.



Amaranth leaves and seeds are all edible..safe and healthy food to go for right from the garden 

Growing vegetables, however little you could, is a good start. It's not hard and it is not expensive. You don't need to buy fertilizers...just get good seeds - not GMO ones, nor hybrids, so you could save seeds to replant again next year without having to buy again. Old fashion plant variety is better as they are tried and tested over the years....it's not worth going for the fancy types.


My daily collection of fresh veggies for our family home cooked meal


Once you have grown a few vegetables of your own....you and your family will understand what is delicious tasting veggies, and will give you more joy in eating more of them. You don't need to be contented with the tasteless supermarket veggies...

Good food are worth every penny


If we are to eat, we might as well eat good and tasty food. Growing our own is cheaper and far better in quality too. If we are willing to work hard to gain some monies, we might as well be conscious of where we would spend it on too...Don't bother giving some to the doctors or pharmaceutical companies...keep healthy...thus, it's worth spending them on good food.


We grow, harvest , keep, and eat them - almost all year long - for free!

It's another gardening year for us here. As my yearly aspiration...there's nothing more that I want to give to my family but clean, good and healthy food. I'm off to my garden now and get on with my dream.

Hope you have a happy and most productive and fruitful week too:)

Yours

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Bite into Reality

Dear Family & Friends


I grow real food in my garden. When I prepare it, I try to find ways to keep the taste and goodness of that real food alive. I cook vegetables as short a time as possible, and in little or no water, to keep vitamins and taste from leaching out. 

a variety of green food from the garden




Without any added water, they taste more wholesome in flavor. That goes without saying that prolonged boiling of veggies is not our choice of cooking method.



a handful of mulberries gathered today are really delicious snack food 


Another favorite way of processing excess food gathered from our garden is to dry them. Dried fruits are popular snack food that's eaten like candy – right out of the bag or jar. Dried vegetables like tomatoes also make a good, quick pizza topping or pasta dish – as do frozen herbs and sweet peppers which we incorporate with our cooked meals during the week.



a mixture of freshly harvested herbs that will be mixed in our meal today


From time to time I make our own pasta and sprinkle dried crumbled up herbs into it. Anything that looks green becomes very appealing to this family for some reason, and they eat it:)


I encourage you to go for real food and make eating: worth the while. Wishing you good health and good day too:)


Yours

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

My 'A' student - Our success!

Dear Family & Friends

There are times when we have to be more understanding and supportive to our children simply because we love and care for them and wants to draw out their best potential. We raised our two girls in a well secured and happy home environment and we never considered in putting them into a box to conform with others. So, forget about the 'social' and 'bubble world' comments that we get from critics...they're all untrue and not necessary:)

our home schooled girls takes their own responsibility to excel themselves

Our two beautiful girls are home schooled, although some looks at it as a weird thing to do but we believe in what we do with all confidence:) We only want the very best for our children. I gave up secular work to stay at home for them and I'm glad I did. It paid over and above the cost. Both girls are very intelligent but most of all, we grew them to develop 'godly character'.

both girls are very different in their ways but both posses the godly character that we want in them

Both were taught the character needed in life but it does not mean that they both have the same personality. Skills were taught but they tackle it differently in their own individual ways. But along the way, my big girl somehow developed a phobia in writing her educational essay for certificate requirement.  I know what caused the fear but it can't be helped...all I needed to do was to pray, be patient, and give courage (with no sugar coating deal) from time to time.



proverbs 22:6 says: train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Looking back, it seems crazy that it took her 3 years to overcome the fear of completing these essays...but she did it , much tears accompanied it from time to time.....it was hard to watch.

This week, we are celebrating with her:) She finished and wrote it very beautifully.... The official results from the educational board in the UK came back and all her works got 'A' marks! Now, she looks back and laugh at her foolishness....it''s all of the past! She is an overcomer and we are very proud of her:)

Educational achievement is not everything...it's the character that counts the most. Both girls are self taught linguist...it amazes me to hear them speak languages that we parents can't speak well...it's their great asset and they're using it to their credit along with responsibilities too:)

We're having summer heat wave for the moment...but we're not going to be defeated...we're determined to go out and celebrate the blessings of everyday life with joy! You do the same and enjoy your day too!

Yours


Saturday, 1 July 2017

edible golden needle - day lily flower buds

Dear Family & Friends

Did you know that day lily is an edible flower? We planted daylilies in our garden and they are not fussy plants. By now, we have a big stock pile of these plants. I thought it is about time to put them to good use.

A full bloom daylily flower
You can buy dried day lily flowers in Oriental stores. It is known as 'golden needle'. It is delicious cooked with chicken in soy sauce sauce stew. Since we don't have Oriental stores here, I thought I should try preserving these flowers for cooking. I heard it is not advisable to eat these in great quantities...so harvesting them for future storage is also a good idea. Otherwise, they will all bloom up and it is not suitable for cooking anymore.

day lily flower buds are edible - best if they are still close buds

It's best to harvest the flowers as buds. Stir frying them - so delicious. I also gathered a few and steamed it for five minutes, then I dried them in a dehydrator. Now I have a bottle full of dried daylily buds for later use


my harvest of day lily flower buds

By autumn time, I will definitely propagate by dividing my day lilies and replant them so we can go all out in using them as edible food next year...the more day lilies in the garden - the better! They are easy perennial plants and if you don't eat them...the blooms are so beautiful for the garden too:) It's a winner plant!

Every year I'm learning to eat more edible plants to add to a wide variation of plant food for a healthier living. But with the intense summer heat...my immune system was knocked down with sleep deprivation. This week was bad. I had to medicate myself with cups and cups of herbal tea (echinea + lavender) it was so bitter that I added cherries to make it fruity:) With at least 10 herbal tea mugs that day and non-stop sleeping all night and all day...the flu just went! Grateful for the fresh medicinal cupboard we have in our own garden:) Hope your week was better than mine.

Yours 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Grow herbal tea

Dear Family & Friends

Gardening can be time consuming, but it depends on what kind of garden you want. I find planting annuals plants time consuming as I have to replant them every year. But there are many perrenial plants that we could grow which bears beautiful flowers and some of them can be used for cooking and medicinal purpose.


self seeding camomille - all for free and very pretty too:)

We have a clever neighbour who comes to our garden to harvest some herbs. Once in the middle of winter while our garden was buried in deep snow, she came asking for some sage as she was having bad sore throat. She went straight to the garden and knows exactly where to get them despite everything covered in thick snow:)

life is good with a good cup of  camomille herbal tea - only the best

Here are some of the plants we grow in our garden which we use for medicinal and culinary purpose:

Camomille - Use the flowers for indigestion/colic, anxiety, tension and irritation.
Echinacea - this is an immune booster that is great for the flu.
Lavender - Can be used to calm and ease pain...also as an antiseptic.
Lemon Balm - relieves anxiety, insommia, calms stomach upset, threats cuts, soothes insect bites.
Marigold - soothes sunburn, acne, ulcers and digestion.
Parsley - helps soothe upset stomach and bad breath
Rosemary - helps improve memory and concentration
Sage - good for solving sore throat problems


my edible wilderness in all its beauty

Other basic herbs are onion tops, chives, basil, parsley, cilantro, oregano, peppermint, tarragon and thyme...most of which just grow themselves, even self seeding if you just avoid digging and disturbing the soil. These plants can work wonders for your kitchen cooking.

our free roaming tortoise sunbathing in the garden with hind legs stretched out

Well, what more could I say. Chill out...grow herbs and use them for your health as much as possible. Not a difficult thing to do. 

We're into our proper summer time...not the best season of the year for me because I'm not so good in coping with the intense heat we get ..30..35...40...42C!! But I'll try my best, it just for a season, so, I'm off to chill out in the garden shade...sit on my green garden chair and sip some cool herbal tea. I need to recharge my small battery pack and that's what I will do to make my little family happy:) You do the same too:)

Yours


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Former Grass Lawn

Dear Family & Friends

It was one T-Storm week in late May, when clouds gathered up thickly, casting shade for us. As it builds it's rain clouds, my hard working husband couldn't resist the offer and timing. He wanted to fill up the former grass lawn which we turned into fruit and nut orchard last autumn, with more plants as understory.

lined up lavender row in between fruit and nut orchard

It's good that I'm always prepared with propagated plants. I quickly took hold of three dozens of Lavender plants to the delight of my husband. Yes, he have been asking me to grow more lavender. Now is the time he got his wishes. We planted three more long rows of lavender in between the orchard.

in between trees, are understory of gooseberries and goji berries

Planting rows of lavender is always a good idea over here. It grows very well, needs very little care as it is a very hardy tough mediterrenean plant, withstanding both the extreme summer heat and winter cold too. Of course, the abundance of very fragrant flowers all summer. It blooms twice in a season:)

trenches helps hold water

With alternate fruit and nut trees rows, which also grows gooseberries and goji berries in between, the former grass lawn is already becoming very productive for us. Wise husband is clever...there's no more grass lawn to trim either:)

grass lawn no more...it's now a productive food and herb galore

Although this orchard group is still very young to provide us with fruits, yet, the berries we planted in between, are already giving us great eating pleasure:) Another year or so, those trees will start to reward us and most important of all, I believe it will provide us the micro climate that I long for.

Summer is here. The best place to be is in the garden. We all come out and we all agree that its just so nice to be able to enjoy the ever changing garden sceneries, along with the company of so many happy birds and bees and all that lives within. Life is good:) Hope it is the same with you all:)

Yours


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Country lifestyle

Dear Family & friends

The past weeks we have been in our city apartment more times than usual, as there were a few public holidays to take advantage of. The city of Plovdiv is developing so fast...there's so many apartments going up. Even within our complex, the scenery seems to change from week to week as they progress in finishing and working on the buildings. There's lots of cranes and diggers around...it all adds up to the city noise! YIKES!

more apartments are being built

I'm a country mouse... although I join everyone whenever they arrange to go to the apartment, yet, at the end of the day, I always long for our village home - where everything is at a slower pace with just the gentle noise of the multitude of bees ad birds that fills our garden.


my assortment of harvest this morning: calendula and onions

Everyday, there's a lot of work in slow pace village life... but, I'm allowed to do everything slowly. If I don't finish my work, the next day is still there to accomplish it. Afterall, there's no end to jobs in a country life either.

more harvest: beans and young pea pods

Every morning while it is still cool, I gather as much food harvest that our garden gives us. Sometimes a lot more of this, sometimes a lot more of that! Everything seems to be growing so fast that I feel like there's no end to harvesting! I sometimes just have to pop them straight into my mouth while gathering to have lesser work;P 

my crochet project in between gardening breaks

By mid-day as the sun sets to full blast, I just have to sit on my neon green garden chair in the shade and enjoy another work. Surrounded with the entertaining noises of our garden friends, I race to finish my crochet project that I'm working on for the city apartment's use.

chopped buckets and buckets of comfrey plants to use as fertilizer

Oh yes, there's the unfinished garden chop n' dropping of comfrey plants that I was working on earlier on in the garden...it's still in one big file...now drying under the sunshine. I will get back to it later when the sun starts setting again. This mount of comfrey cuttings are very valuable for my garden plants - my best organic fertilizer which our veggies will benefit much:)

Perhaps city life is sometimes fun...airconditioned shopping malls, restaurants, fun clubs to join etc... but I'm all for country living anytime:) All is well when one is content in life. Have a good weekend where you are:)

Yours

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Starting my exotic veggie supply once again

Dear Family & Friends

We were doing our monthly food shopping in one of the big shop when I spotted a packet of lemon grass on the shelf. It's not a common thing sold here...thus the outrageous price of 15 euros/kilo! When I reached the cashier counter, I told my husband that I just have to buy this even though it's pricey...he asked: 'How much?' I said: '15 euros...'  and he immediately said: Do you have that much money to throw away? Look it's all dry as well! He was so shocked, he thought I've lost my marble already! What he didn't know was that the price was per kilo and I only took the smallest quantity there is. Still it was expensive for a few dried sticks of lemon grass. 


my dried lemon grass sticks are developing roots in a jar of  water

My plan was to grow and multiply them. I know they will grow in my garden, and I know it will take root even though it looks dry. I'm determined to keep this plant by bringing them in door during the winter as it won't stand any cold...If I'm vigilant, I will succeed in keeping this year after year. 

I grew lemon grass last year, and we enjoyed it so much because it gave wonderful aroma to our steamed rice and as seasoning to other cooked food. It is also very good as herbal tea. This time I must remember to take some roots over the winter for this precious commodity. 


my kang kong plant is now growing in the pot as the weather warms up

Besides lemon grass, I've introduced another exotic food to my family which they love as much as I do. Kang Kong or water spinach is another exotic veggie that grows very easily in the tropics. But not as easy here...although it is possible to grow it for a very short period of time. Thus, this is another very precious commodity in our home.

took a few cuttings to propagate and have more plants to enjoy

Every year I take great patience to grow this. I think it is worth it. It gives me back some wonderful memories as I love this veggie when I was a child and my children loves this too. No, we can never buy any of this here either.

kang kong will easily develop roots in a jar of water too

My precious brother gave me some seeds long time ago...and with it I start this plant in spring. Once it sprouts, I can easily get cuttings to take root in water. Another very worthy plant to be patient with in my book. 

Just some of the most precious and silliest thing I do for my little family. I think my little family is so special and they deserve every special thing that I could think of and do:)

From here, I've got to join the madness frenzy in our garden. Plants, birds and bees are all going mad in numbers. Hope you have as merry a garden as we do here too:)

Yours

Friday, 9 June 2017

Fava bean leaves and chinese style risotto

Dear Family & Friends

Remember I planted some Fava beans in early spring since I was given some seeds by one village grandmother? Well, the past weeks, we tried it's leaves as part of our meal. Cutting the green tips for it's leaves will just bush out my fava bean plant even more. The bonus of course is that we are enjoying it's delicious taste too. My big girl described it as: 'taste like McDonald' - whatever she meant... was only for good.

fava bean greens - delicious as stir fry or simply steam it for a minute

I always pre-plan a balance hot meal to serve my little family everyday. Sometimes my brain just get stuck. So, I ask the girls' opinion... they say they just want my chinese-style rissoto. It's one of my made up recipe - by recalling how my own grandmother makes it and invites me to have it with her. She usually cooks a pot and send it to our house for our whole family too.  It's always a hit! 

chopped up variety of fresh herbs to throw in to a meal at the last minutes - makes a difference

It seems like my girls are sharing my childhood fond food memories:) I can't share you the recipe because I don't have one. I just make things up my way... even the ingredients are not so accurate as some of the basic I couldn't even buy or obtain in this country.

precooked chicken breast always comes handy for a quick balanced family meal

My grandmother uses half sticky rice (of which we can't get here) and half ordinary rice. She stir fry pre-soaked dried shitake mushroom, onions, and dried shrimps (which is also unobtainable for us here) and in goes the pre-soaked rice for a quick stir fry along with all other ingredients. Later, it is topped up with water or broth to cook till rice soaks all the liquid. At times, it also includes dried chinese sausage. It's a comfort food and the best in the world!

cooking my chinese style risotto with shitake mushrooms and onions - variation is easy to incorporate

If I can't get the ingredients to make them, at least I am grateful that I've got the fond memories to replicate it my way, the best I could come up with and I pass this on to my children too:) Life can be good if we are grateful with whatever we have. Make do and be creative...that's the best way:)

Wishing you a blessed day.

Yours

Monday, 5 June 2017

My vegetable garden - has yet to be filled

Dear family & Friends

Let me show you my vegetable patch area. I have made about 10 long rows of beds to grow our vegetables every year. It's just a rustic mounds with alternate trenches as walkways. I have no wood to spare to make a nice neat border to define a bed...so we planted chives as edging to hold up the soil. It looks so packed to date,  but I have yet to transplant and plant the vegetables in!

purple balls of flowering chives in my vegetable beds

Vegetables that have over wintered like the brassicas are left to flowers so I can collect my next seed to replant. There's also lots of existing walking onions which are always there. The garlic, planted in autumn last year, will be harvested around June this year. So far, the first spring planting of fava beans are taking the space, but I can still find a lot of spaces where I've planted my potatoes, tomatoes and other greens beans recently. Leafy veggies are also scattered here and there amongst it all.

My vegetable garden beds

It's one jolly vegetable place. I walk around and try to memorize where some of the plants are growing so that I will know where I can harvest our next meal.

brassica coming to seed, garlic, self seeded granny's bonnet fills some of my veggie beds

It will get more chaotic once summer is here as more heat loving plants will be planted in as well. There's Okra, aubergine and sweet pepper still waiting to get in once the weather warms up even more. Cucumber and courgette will probably snick in too if I ran out of space! The more the merrier! 

these chives were planted as edging of my veggie beds

In due time, some of the plants will be taken out once they finished producing their seeds and there will always be spaces for other late comers. This also changes the outlook of the vegetable garden. everything changes so quickly...thus gardening is never a boring task.

I hope you are having the joy of gardening where you are too. There's nothing better than this. Have a great day:)

Yours

Thursday, 1 June 2017

beautiful village scene - our very own

Dear Family & Friends

We've lived here, we've lived there...we were given the chance to move around the world, mostly not by choice..and I must say: what I love most of all the places we've been is - right where we are living at the present time.

precious - they are the experts of life

It's peaceful here...things are not hurried. Life is real. Nature is beautiful and God is good.

another beautiful day

Mornings when my husband opens the bedroom curtains and announces: 'OH, another beautiful day!' It seems to me he says that everyday...nothing new:) But yes, it is another beautiful day! We mustn't take it for granted.

life is good

Most of the time, we place monetary values on everything, and that dictates the ranking order. Not so in my opinion. We see our hard working villagers with clothes that are visibly patched over the years, They all seem to wear the same sort of blue overall uniform of yesteryears...Does it really matter? No, not at all. The proof is the smiles on their faces. It is constant as well.

the sun rise and the sun sets each day

I don't claim life is easy here. After all, every work needs effort of some form or sort. I must admit that I do occasionally hear villagers' conversation over our garden walls...mostly it's about work to do or that money is hard to come by these days... yet, after their small chat, they bade each other goodbye to go forth and do some work that they do each day.

peaceful and calm

It's not about being so busy with work, nor is it about all indulgence in life that we must aim for. Life is about balance. We work because we eat. Because we have worked, we can enjoy the fruit of our labour. As for peace and contentment ... that's the added bonus.

unhurried village living

Life is a journey. Take it and make it good. Wishing you all the best there is for this coming weeks:)

Yours