27 February, 2011

Preserving....a new exciting adventure

Years ago when I lived at Stanthorpe, my lovely friend and mentor Ruth and her lovely husband Peter, organised a preserving night with my family. I have waited a long time since then to begin my own preserving. A while ago, I can't remember exactly when, Becc and I went to several garage sales and to the second hand shop here in town, and I found a stove top vacola for only $50. I really wanted to buy an electric one but they are around the $200 mark, more if they include jars. But I also needed jars, so I borrowed a boxful of vacola jars, lids and clips from my mum. Now I admit they have sat around doing not much other than collect dust and dirt for a while, but yesterday Sam the vege man from Stanthorpe was in Roma so I went down and bought a box of peaches and a box of tomatoes with the plan to spend my weekend preserving. Now Becc, I know you'll be disappointed that I didn't wait for you to preserve together, but I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing before we got together and spent ages preparing stuff to preserve, seeing as we don't have a book about it! 

I started with the peaches because they were starting to go off. When preserving peaches all instructions I could find indicated that the peaches should be covered in a syrup made from sugar and water. When we preserved with Ruth and Peter, we used diet softdrink that we had 'flattened' because Peter is diabetic. I decided to try diet lemonade, mainly because the lemonade was on special. I opened th bottles one at a time and poured the lemonade into a jug and stirred it vigorously to release all the bubbles. Then I peeled and cut up the peaches and put them into clean jars. I then covered the peaches with the flat diet lemonade, ran a spatula around the inside of the jar to release any bubbles caught in the jars, the put the seals, lids and clips and placed them in the vacola. I then filled the vacola with cold water and turned the element on and brought it to the boil. I let the water boil for 20 minutes - I couldn't remember how long we let them boil for when we did it with Ruth, but hers were electric. When I searched preserving peaches, the recipe I found said to let them boild for the 20 mins, then allow the jars to cool in the water. 

While I waited for those jars to cool, I filled more jars, then cooked up some yummy tomato sauce, strained it and put it into hot sterilised jars, put seals, lids and clips on and left them to cool. Unfortunately the first lot of peaches still aren't cool, but when they are I'll put the second lot in to preserve. I also still have another half a box of tomatoes to turn into tomato sauce!

I'm very excited about the prospect that this new hobby will save us money in the long term. I'm hoping that I can set up better garden beds over winter so that I can grow my own tomatoes next summer. I also want to grow cucumbers to pickle for my darling hubbie, beetroot and anything else I can think of!! Becc and I are planning to grow separate crops so that we can share our produce! Can't wait to have a preserving day with you Becc!!!

Emily xoxo

26 February, 2011

Hanging garden of strawberries

I know, it sounds crazy, but I have a hanging strawberry garden. Well, almost. We went to Charleville for New Years Eve to be with my parents and while we were there I saw that mum had planted up her hanging 'pot' with strawberry plants. I liked the idea so much that when I got home I went and bought myself some strawberries to do the same thing here at home. 

The bags we are using are Yates Vertical Garden Bags, and I think mum got them from Bunnings. Each packet contains three bags. I think mum expected me to plant mine with flowers, but given the food crisis we are sure to have after all the flooding here in Queensland, I've decided to use all three of mine to grow food. Bag #1 - Strawberries, #2 - tomatoes, #3 - lettuces (I think - may change my mind on that one).

You will find info on the garden bags at http://www.yates.com.au/products/pots-and-potting-mix/hanging-pots-bags/yates-vertical-garden-bag/ .

How to plant the vertical garden bag:

1. Begin to fill the bag with potting mix.

2. Plant seedlings starting at the bottom of the bag.

3. Add more potting mix as you go.

4. Continue to plant seedlings and add potting mix until the bag is filled to the top.

5. Water generously, making sure the water reaches the bottom. Leave the finished bag lying down or slightly propped up in a sunny or lightly shadded, sheltered spot for a week to ten days. Water as required.

6. When ready, hang bag from a hook, nail or railing.

My mum's strawberries died inside of a week and we think it was because she bought fairly established plants. Because the root mass was too large to squeeze through the small holes, she put the whole plant down into the planter and pushed the leaves out through the hole. When I went to buy my plants, I explained my dilemma to the lady at the nursery, telling her I wanted smaller plants and would wait for her to get some in. She suggested soaking the established plants (which had 3 and 4 plants per pot) in a fish emulsion fertiliser to help reduce tranplantation shock. She also said I should wash all the dirt off the roots (going against everything I know about planting) in the fish emulsion mixture then divide up the plants and plant by pushing the roots through the holes. So far my plants are recovered nicely from the shock of transplant and I think the rain duirng the week when I planted them helped, along with the milder temperatures.

So now, 2 months on, my strawberries are still alive and I hope to soon take a picture worthy of putting here on my blog. At the moment the plants look a little scrawny, but I'm confident that they will bush out and give me an excellent crop of strawberries sometime in the future.

Watch this space!!!

Emily xoxo

21 February, 2011

Back to the gym....

Due to the craziness that is the first few weeks back at school + my serious slackness (yes slackness) I have had not been to the gym since before we went away at Christmas time. Yes that wet and eventful Christmas at the beach. So last week we finally did it! We went back to the gym on Wednesday and did our weights work out. Then we went to boxercise on Thursday night (which honestly nearly killed me there and then) and then Friday we went to Zumba. We don't do things by halves in my house!!

This week we have done it again. Tuesday night Zumba, Wednesday night weights, Thursday night Boxercise and Friday Zumba!

What a week! The exercise is certainly helping me cope with the stress of school and I'm keen to get my weight heading down again! I'm so incredibly sore, but excited to be back at it again. I'm starting to re-read 'the book' for my fourth time - really it is amazing, I get something different out of it each time.

Looking forward to getting back on track!!

20 February, 2011

Worst housewife in the world award!

I'm totally convinced that if such an award existed, I would win it hands down! Well perhaps that's an exaggeration, but that is how I feel. I spend long long hours at school and try hard to keep it in order, which unfortunately means that things slide at home. I'm a 'I-do-my-housework-on-the-weekend' girl, but if we go away for several weekends in a row, or hubbie doesn't work and we spend quality time together nothing gets done. Yesterday (Saturday) I spent the day playing catch up. I vacuumed, mopped, cleaned the toilet, bathtub, shower and bathroom sink. I also caught up on a few weeks ironing and folding (four baskets full - shocking I know) and attempted to sort out some of the mess lying around. Don't get me wrong, my house isn't grotty, it's untidy. The study door remains permenently closed due to the disaster zone that is that room (no idea what to do about THAT!!) and let's not even talk about the spare room or the shed or even our bbq area...but at least the lounge room, kitchen and bathroom look presentable.

I dream of one day being a SAHM and being able to stay on top of these things, but I don't think we'll ever be in the position financially for that to work. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Just wanted to moan about the fact that I can't seem to be organised at both work and school....totally sucks!!!

Emily xoxo

19 February, 2011

Finding some much needed balance....

So obviously things still haven't really fallen into a rhythm at school or you'd have heard from me before now. I am really struggling to get some balance back. I've always been a super committed teacher but these first 4 weeks have been a little rediculous, I have been at school by 7 every morning and not home before 5. On a positive note, I did go back to my weekly craft group (UFO's - Un-Finished Objects) and we also started back at the gym on Wednesday. Despite this the balance I had last year isn't back yet. I'm not seeing my friends (unless they are at school, go to craft or are gym members) and I miss them. 

My dad was in town earlier in the week and he is a school guidance officer - so he guided me. We had a big chat about what is going on. Basically the biggest issue I'm dealing with is that this year I am dividing my support and teaching time between 16 students, where last year I had between 7 and 9 at varying times of the year. As mentioned in my previous post about the timetable, it has been a nightmare trying to get them all accessing my programs and then offer in class support. I'm starting to realise that I can only do what I can do and that my student's teachers are going to have to start taking a little more responsibility. I have been feeling like Bilbo Baggins (lord of the rings) - like I am spread too thin, like too little butter across too much bread ( or something like that). Part of the answer (dad's suggestion) is going to be showing class teachers how I arrived at my timetable and how complex it is. They only see the one or two students they have, not the big picture, so I need to explain it to them. 

Realistically, things are actually running very well. My students are generally coping. We have only had a couple of worrying incidents, but these would have happened whether or not there were more teachers assigned to the SEU. We are really motoring along well, it's just that damn list of things I need to finalise that I never get to - like finishing alignment planners to hand in (units are planned and going very well though), duty roster for the SEU, our stationary order (which I should have had done in week 1 and off to SDS so we'd have had it back by now), and the list goes on and on and on. 

I just need some balance...and to see my friends. So to my lovely friends who aren't seeing me...I do still love you all and I desperately need to see you but I just don't know when I can fit it in!!!! Hopefully I'll see you all soon!!

Emily xoxo