I’m Running a 10K to Raise Money for Macmillan

In 2008, at the age of 31, my little sister Jodie was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  This diagnosis came only a month or two after our Dad died of cancer.  For 2 years, Jodie fought this cancer undergoing many rounds of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and, in the end, a stem-cell transplant. 

Last month, Jodie reached the important milestone of 2 years in remission.  To mark this important occasion I am planning to run a 10k race on July 17th at Castle Combe race track to raise money for Jodie’s favourite charity – Macmillan Cancer Support. 

For those of you that have read my blog posts, you’ll know that this race will be no picnic for me as I’m rubbish at running, but I just wanted to do something to pay my respects to Jodie and everyone else who has been affected by cancer, and the wonderful Macmillan nurses that provide such valuable support to individuals and families.

If any of my wonderful cyber friends would like to sponsor me, all donations will be very gratefully accepted.  Here’s the link to my ‘Just Giving’ page:

 http://www.justgiving.com/bitofthegoodstuff

This morning on the way to school, one of Lil’ L’s friends (who’s also 7) gave me some tips and a demonstration of how I could run faster.  Thanks to ‘S’, I managed to run 4 miles tonight with an average pace of 10.5 minutes per mile (compared to my usual 11 minutes) 🙂

As I only have a week until the big race, I decided to pop out for a quick run this evening along the canal.  As I emerged from a tunnel on the towpath, I saw a reflection of a rainbow in the canal water.  I’ve never witnessed such a thing before.  It was incredibly beautiful!  As I ran home, the rainbow was reflected in every puddle I passed. 

The rainbow reminded me of one of the girls in Lil’ L’s class who told me today that she wanted to be a “weather spirit”.  She said that her favourite weathers are rain and cool summer breezes.  I asked her whether she could possibly be a rainbow too as I love them so much.  She said she would… and tonight I saw one of the most spectacular rainbows I’ve ever seen, stretching across the whole of Bathampton. Magical! 🙂

(c) Eric Rolph

Growing My Own Veggies

This year I am determined to grow some vegetables.  I’ve always loved the idea of having a lush vegetable patch… but I’m definitely less keen on the hard toil that goes into actually creating one.  If I could wave a magic wand and a fully-grown vegetable patch appeared, then that would be ideal 😉  However, instead, I have to tend with the billions of creatures that are intent on munching their way through my carefully planted seedlings or the cats that poo on my freshly weeded soil 🙁  I guess it’s all part of the experience.

So here we go again this year…

First off, the tomato plants that my mum bought me are doing amazingly well.  We’ve planted them in pots so that the slugs and snails can’t get to them and they’re placed up on the garden table at night, just to make sure.

 

I was so excited to find some tomatoes growing on the plants last week!  At the weekend, we bought some organic tomato feed so hopefully they’ll ripen up nicely 🙂

I’ve also grown some tomatoes from seed.  They’re much, much smaller than the plants from mum but we’re hoping for a growth spurt.  This weekend, we planted most of them in organic gro-bags and placed them on the raised deck, hopefully out of reach of the slimy ones.

The pot of flat-leaf parsley that I grew from seed is doing well.

The courgette (zucchini) isn’t doing so well. It’s absolutely covered in black fly.  One of the flowers actually dropped off today 🙁  If I can’t find a gentle way of encouraging them to leave, then I might just have to let them have it.

I grew this amazing trough of rocket and lettuce from seed… then it all bolted before we actually got round to eating it!  I’ve thrown it all in the composter and will start again.

We’ve found a novel use for Lil’ L’s sand pit… we’re growing spinach and purple kale.  It had just rained heavily before I took the picture, so the plants are looking a bit sorry for themselves.  I’m sure they’ll perk up.  I’m also planning to sow more seeds to fill in the gaps.

The raised beds have been the biggest challenge.  A couple of years ago we planted a whole range of plants which were subsequently eaten in one night by an army of huge slugs.  The only survivors were the sweetcorns.  This year, we’re on a mission to grow SOMETHING that won’t be eaten.  We’ve planted sweetcorns again (should be a safe bet), then the tiny butternut squash plants that I grew from seed have been covered with plastic cloches.  We’ll see what happens.  I did have the squash plants up on the balcony at the front of the house… but the slugs and snails still managed to find them!!!  3 plants were munched in one night!  The battle continues…

The brambles on the raised bed are to deter all the neighbourhood cats from using the bed as a litter tray.  It looks a mess but if it deters the cats, slugs, snails and anything else that wants to munch the veggies then I don’t care!

The little apple tree in the back garden is doing really well and has got lots of apples growing on it.  I’m not sure whether we’re meant to thin them out or not.  The branches are so heavily laden that M has had to use canes to prop them up!

One of the two gooseberry bushes we bought from Homebase didn’t last long… all the green shoots were eaten within a couple of days.  The slime trail led to the culprit… a huge garden snail.  The sorry-looking gooseberry plant is the twig in the pot to the left of Buddha.

My biggest success story, to date, has to be the basil that I grew from seed.  I absolutely love basil and use it a lot in our evening meals and salads.  I’m also hoping to make my own pesto.  At the moment, I’ve got about 6 pots growing on the window ledge in the kitchen.  When I took the photo below, I accidentally left the plants outside for the night.  In the morning, three big holes had been munched in the leaves.  These plants are definitely staying indoors from now on!

Finally, here’s a photo of my wonderful composter that M built for me from scraps of wood he found in the garage.  It seemed crazy paying the council to take away the green waste then drive miles and miles to buy it back as compost.  I’m looking forward to making my own, free organic compost.  It also feels good to know that our waste and scraps are appreciated by the score of bugs, beetles, worms and other critters that live in the composter.  It’s teeming with life!  (I won’t mention the rat 😉 )

Colourful Vegetable Pastry Bake

Tonight, I decided to make one of our family’s favourite dinners… the quick and easy colourful vegetable pastry bake.  To give the bake a protein and calcium boost, I spread some creamy cashew nut and tofu spread on the pastry as a base, before adding some basil pesto.  I then sprinkled pieces of courgette, pepper, olives, almonds and pine nuts on top.  I served it with a portion of crispy kale, and chopped cherry tomatoes and basil drizzled with walnut oil.

Colourful Vegetable Pastry Bake

I made Lil’ L’s pastry bake slightly different to the adults’ portion.  As Lil’ L still won’t eat tomatoes, I added some tomato puree to the base of his pastry bake instead.  I also whizzed the peppers in my mini chopper so that they were much finer.  Lil’ L said he loved the dinner and we did too! 🙂

Something good for the weekend… Delicious dairy-free wholemeal scones!

Dairy-free wholemeal scones

On weekends, we love to have something special for breakfast or elevenses.  Today, we decided to make some scones and eat them fresh out of the oven.  We made them dairy free by using soya milk and Pure dairy-free sunflower spread.  To add a touch of wholefood goodness, we used half wholemeal and half plain (all purpose) flour.  We served them with a big dollop of St Dalfour’s sugar-free strawberry spread and fresh strawberries.  The result was a tasty scone that is far healthier and nutritious compared to classic scones. 

Lil’ L said it was definitely worth the wait for these (ie. the wait for me to actually get out of bed and make them 😉 ) and proceeded to eat 2 scones… then come back a minute later for another one!

The recipe can be found here.

Sugar-free Jam Tarts

Tuesday’s tend to be my big baking day as I prepare the week’s lunchbox treats and try to make something yummy to take to my evening study class.  Today, I chose to make apricot bars and jam tarts. 

Sugar-free Jam Tarts

I make these tarts with half wholemeal flour and sugar-free fruit spread, so they’re much healthier and nutritious than a classic jam tart.  They’ve also got a lower GI, so they’re better at sustaining energy levels.  My favourite fruit spreads are the one made by St Dalfour, which are sweetened with grape juice.  Lil’ L loves these tarts as a lunchbox or after school treat!  Here’s the recipe.

Glastonbury!

This weekend I went to Glastonbury Festival for the first time in my life.  It was an amazing experience and I’m glad that I got to see the craziness that is Glasto. 

 The place is so vast it’s mind blowing! 

Thousands upon thousands of tents... pitched in the mud!

It was very, very muddy.  I tried to not be too much of a princess about it.  I didn’t complain (much) and just concentrated on plodding on and not falling over.  Lil’ L managed to fall over 3 times in the first half hour!  It’s hard work wading through mud for hours, but at least it gives your legs a good workout. 😉

Glad I bought some boots!

My favourite area of the festival was ‘The Unfairground’.  This zone invites you to the dark side of the world where plane wrecks, mutants and freaks all groove to Bez’s Acid House.  I fitted in well there 😉

The plane wreck below was actually a tequila bar!  You had to pick your way through the debris, then prop up the bar in the company of a blood drenched aviator.  Lovely!

Lil’ L was a bit in awe and a bit freaked out by The Unfairground!

Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to Shangri-La – the “futuristic and dystopian wonderland”… as it didn’t open until 11pm 🙁

Block9 was another late-night wonderland that we missed, but we did manage to see the incredible ‘London Underground’ – a 50ft tower block with a life-size, Tube train-cum-night club.  I would have loved to have seen it at night time when it was all ablaze.

The London Underground in Block9

I also loved the Greenpeace field.  Greenpeace is celebrating its 40th anniversary and it was great to join in the birthday celebrations with them.  There was cake, party games.. the whole sherbang!

The fish-cum-cafe below was actually made of old CDs!

There were some great installations by Greenpeace.

There were tons of vegetarian and vegan cafes and eateries at the festival.  We sampled the veggie burgers, falafel pittas and paella.  It was all delish.  My favourite refreshment had to be the fruit smoothie which was blended using pedal power to generate the electricity for the blender!  Very cool and fun to watch!

Blending smoothies through pedal power!

All in all, it was a great experience… and I didn’t get THAT muddy!!!