Sunday, 29 January 2017

Digging some me time

This afternoon Mr MC&W was playing FIFA and ZAP was happily playing. I felt a real need to get outside. So I wrapped up warm, put on my wellies with about six pairs of socks and grabbed my gardening gloves.

Last week I posted about the border we have created and the fact the soil type is pretty heavy clay. Being so time poor I decided to start giving it a dig over to see exactly what I am dealing with. I found the clay soil was as bad first thought and roots, so many roots, there are brambles, nettles, ivy and countless other weeds.

At first, this was very disheartening, I stood up and slowly look around at the enormous amount of hard work ahead. But when I started to dig I found it to be very enjoyable. We have a very busy life, OB with his type 1 and ASD is a constant worry. Blood sugar checks, carb counting, hypos and hypers. It is a emotional rollercoaster  that you can not exit. Mr MC&W has a very stressful job with long hours commuting. Combined with a toddler who is into everything and making sure ATM has the attention  he so desperately needs.. Sometimes it can  get a little  overwhelming.

But as I dug, pulled the roots out of the ground, nothing mattered, my head was in a gardening zone. I came inside not only refreshed from the fresh air but somehow mentally rested. The plan is to dig the whole border over, pulling up as many roots as I can. Then to dig in lots of manure. Really prepare the soil for the planting.

I have lots of digging to do and I am sure it's going to be rather good for me physically and mentally.

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Friday, 27 January 2017

Meal Plan Friday 27th February 2016

The Chicken Pox came to visit us this last week, it has been really rather hectic and yet dull at the same time. I needed a quick meal plan in between applying cream to spots (a life saver from a totally awesome mum at school), making drinks and trying to stop the toddler opening every cupboard in the kitchen.

Friday - I love the Busy Mums Cookbook and she have a wonderful Cheesy Tomato Puff Jacket. Even easier with ready made jackets.

Saturday- Lasagna with garlic bread and salad. The boys will have homemade pizza.

Sunday - Roast Chicken from our local farm shop. Can you beat roast chicken?

Monday - Madhouse cookbook by Jo Pratt - Carbonara

Tuesday- Cottage Pie

Wednesday- Corned Beef Hash for Mr MC&W and myself. The boys will be having mini roast potatoes with a tomato sauce and veggies.

Thursday- Oven Baked Fish, Rice and Roasted Veggies with a homemade tomato sauce.
My Random Musings

Friday, 20 January 2017

Meal Plan Friday 20th January 2016

This week it is simple and easy to prepare meals. The weather is cold and I feel the need for food that is easy to cook and comforting.

Most of these meals have large elements I can make when the boys are at school and only need finishing off when we get home.

Friday  - Jacket Potatoes with beans and cheese. I must admit I now buy the microwavable ones.

Saturday - Chicken Cesar Salad. Boys will have Fish Fingers and Chips.

Sunday  - Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks with roast potatoes, roasted carrots, green beans and broccoli

Monday - Homemade Fish Pie with Peas - I can make this while the boys are at school

Tuesday  - Gnocchi with a homemade tomato sauce and melted mozzarella - the tomato sauce can be made in advance

Wednesday  - Crispy Chicken, Mash, Beans, Peas and Sweetcorn

Thursday  - Pitta Pockets with spiced beef mini meatballs, Yogurt dressing and salad - the meatballs and dressing can be made in advance. It has the below for inspiration but with a few changes.

Lamb meatball and pea pilaf

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Improving Clay Soil

Last year we did a huge amount of work to one section of the garden. We had the old hedge removed, I use the word hedge loosely, it comprised mainly of brambles and an old conifer. We put in a lovely new fence and some spectacular trees. Earlier in the year we had increased the size of the patio and extended the border next to it so we could have a lots of lovely flowers and plants to enjoy.

Planting lollipop trees

This is the space we have created. Sorry, the dull winters day does not exactly do the space justice.

The new patio area
The new border

In the summer we planted a car boot full of summer bedding plants to add some much-needed colour. They did pretty well considering they were planted directly in the soil that had not even been dug over. Though I noticed when digging them up that some of the root structures have barely grown, they must have struggled in the soil.


This year we are going to tackle making this into a proper border.

But before we go buying plants we must think about the soil. We have clay soil and some of this area used to be part of the lawn so is very compacted. In order for the plants we buy to survive we need to give the whole border some TLC.

This is our lovely clay soil, do you like my lumps.....

Clay Soil 

I read around and found the main ideas were to build raised beds or drainage systems. Our soil is not the best, but the bedding plants did well despite being plated straight into the border, at this point it had not been dug over or had any organic matter added. On asking the amazing twitter gardening community, the main conclusion was to use lots of organic matter and some also recommended adding grit.

I have decided first try a lot of manure (well rotted) and organic waste. I will be digging this in, I have read you can leave it on top and get the worms to do some of the hard work. I have three boys and the boys like to play in the mud, think it needs a good dig in.

I am going to take improving the soil slowly, so that what we plant has a better chance of survival. I will also be considering carefully plant choice looking at what can tolerate the soil, but that post will follow. As now I am grabbing a cup of tea and googling muck.

Any tips on clay soil are always appreciated and I will keep you updated with how the muck digging goes.
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Sunday, 15 January 2017

Meal Plan Friday 13th January 2017

Time is flying by so quickly. Mr MC&W is back in London all week, this means I will be eating with the boys again. The meals have changed slightly as ZAP has finally decided that food will not kill him and now our meals are for us all.

Friday - We are all having meatballs, the boys will be simple but Mr Mc&w and I will have them from the Hairy Dieters Cookbook

Saturday - Spag Bol for the boys. Mr MC&W and I are having Jamie Oliver Family Superfoods Chicken Kiev

Monday - Tuna Pasta bake using up a courgette and mushrooms I have lurking in the fridge. Please note the boys will not be eating mushrooms but will tolerate courgette.

Tuesday - Ham and Cheese Omelette's with chips

Wednesday- Chicken Casserole with Dumplings I found this recipe on the always lovely BBC Good Food

chicken and red wine casserole with herby dumpling

Thursday - Chili with Rice, Tortilla Chips and Sour Cream
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Monday, 9 January 2017

Meal Plan Friday 6th January 2017

Last week we only had one real change to the meal plan. I could not get filo pastry in the shop, so I made a tasty spaghetti dish with all the ratatouille ingredients we had.

This week is a little different, firstly Mr MC&W is working from home all week. Normally he leaves the house by 7am and is not back till just gone 8, so he has both lunch and dinner in London. We are looking at the food we eat and trying some new ideas. This week we got Jamie Oliver's superfoods book and it's filled with lots of ideas.

Mr MC&W and I are going to have dinner together each night as this never happens, though I am concerned we our wine intake may increase, at least we are being healthy with the meals.

Friday - I needed an easy meal so we had cheese tortellini with salad

Saturday- ATM had a party so we all had pasta salad for lunch then Mr MC&W and I had homemade Sweet and Sour Chicken made from the Hairy dieters cookbook.

Sunday - Again we are eating from the Hairy Dieters, a lovely Bolognese which is full of veggies and very little mice beef. The boys will have our normal spat bol.

Monday - Jamie Oliver - Superfoods Salmon, peas and veg. The boys will have the same but with cod.

Tuesday - Jamie Oliver - Superfoods - Samosas - Beef, Onion and sweet potatoes. The boys will be trying these as well.

Wednesday- Jamie Oliver - Superfoods - Spaghetti vine tomatoes with baked ricotta. We are trying Spelt Spaghetti for this one.

Thursday - Jamie Oliver - Superfoods - Bombay Chicken, cauliflower and Poppadoms. The boys will be having a simple  Chicken Korma.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Prunus sub Autumnalis Rosea - Autumn - Winter flowering cherry

It's the middle of winter, the sky is grey and dull, a slow misty rain is falling and to top it all off it's cold. I sit looking at the garden, trying to decide if I should venture out or just have a cuppa. Despite this horrid weather, our garden has a tiny glimmer of colour, my eye is always drawn to one tree that produces delicate, sherbet pink flowers in the heart of winter.

The tree is a Prunus sub Autumnalis Rosea - Autumn - Winter flowering cherry. On the cold and grey days it's tiny pink flowers provide much needed cheer. When the sun is shining bright they come to life, dancing in the light. Their colour is a gentle pastel pink, not the bold colours you get in the summer months, it somehow seems to reflect the winter light.

Pink Flower on a cold and bright winters day

Such pretty, delicate flowers

Cheering up a grey day

Dancing in the sunlight
It's a small deciduous tree that produces beautiful orange leaves in the autumn. It grows approx 5-10 meters. Our soil is pretty heavy clay and it's doing really well, I have been reading up and they do not like waterlogged soil. Ours is in a bit of a shady area, I would think it would prefer a little more light and plan to have the larger trees cut back allowing more light into this area.

The tree in its beauty against the cold sunny sky

The tree flowers late October to February. I really love it come November and December when it lights up these dark and cold months. They are the months when there are no real signs of life in the garden, the bulbs have not started to peek through as they do in January, giving you hope for spring.

So I want to say thank you to my beautiful cherry tree for making those hard months a little bit easier.

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Sunday, 1 January 2017

Meal Plan Friday 30th December 2016

Wow the last week has flown past and to add to it I got my days confused and thought I had an extra day to sort my shop out. It all ended up with out next shop coming between 7 and 8am as I could not get a morning slot any later.

The festive meal plan only changed slightly, instead of the potato bake we had Gammon, egg and chips, a request from Mr MC&W. The rich food continues for a few days and then you will see a real change. We did pretty well over Christmas the main indulgences were wine and cheese, we had very few crisps or snack food.

Friday 30th December - Fajitas using the last of the turkey. The boys had cold Gammon and salad bits.

Saturday 31st December - Steak, Chips, Peas and Mushrooms served with a peppercorn sauce followed by our body weight in cheese and red wine. The Boys had fish and chips.

Sunday 1st January - Sausage casserole with jacket potatoes and green beans for us all.

Monday 2nd January - Birds Eye Inspirations do a simple fish in tomato sauce and we have this with rice and roasted vegetables. The boys will have oven baked fish with rice and peas

Tuesday 3rd January - Ratatouille Pie from Jamie Oliver Superfoods family cookbook.. The boys will not eat this as it contains far to many vegetables, they will have little samosas with salad.

Wednesday - Sausage Pasta with Broccoli again from Jamie Oliver Superfoods family cookbook. the boys will be trying this one.

Thursday 5th January - I have found some recipes for a ricotta pasta bake, as we are having ricotta earlier in the week and I want to use it all up.