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kids

Community Gardens

Good things come in threes (or fours)

October 3, 2012

Goodness what a week! They say good things come in threes and this week has been no exception!

Lavender

Number One

The week began here on Saturday with the news that I’ve made it to the finalist position in the Blog Awards Ireland 2012 which I’m thrilled about (see my sparkly new badge at the top of the column over there ——————->)

I’m in two categories (Lifestyle and Eco/Green) and in the company of some fabulous bloggers that you can see here, I’m truly humbled to be in the placings.

Number Two

Then I met up with Kilkenny Leadership Project to discuss the new community gardening project we’re about to get underway. I’ll be supporting Callan and Goresbridge and am looking forward to meeting the new gardeners and helping them to create  sustainable community gardens. I’ve also been putting together the programme for an after schools class at Bagenalstown Family Resource Centre as well as a couple of Fetac modules that I’ll be starting to teach to Millennium Community Garden in Kilkenny in the next few days.

Number Three

Lastly and very excitedly I’ve been working super hard on a project that I’ll be unveiling to you in the next few weeks. I can’t say too much as I want to be able to share the finished items with you and not just the pre-productions. There’s a very loose clue in the picture at the top of this post and if you’re at the blog awards ceremony on the 13th October there will be a tiny taster that I’m putting together right now, the rest of you will have to wait I’m afraid!

All I can tell you is that it’s a unique, handmade gardening gift product that will be available on-line once we have Halloween under our belts and feedback so far is very positive so I’m massively excited about it!!

If you don’t want to miss the unveiling, just sign up for the newsletter in the box below and the minute I can tell you more I will.

Oh and there’s a number four as well but it didn’t fit in with my best in threes theme, however it does deserve to be here… I won a makeover competition on Twitter to celebrate Kilkenny Fashion Week that will be running all of next week (there’s some fab things going on, do take a look).  The unveil will be on the night of the Blog Awards so I’ll be Very. Glammed. Up. when I arrive there (THANK YOU FASHION WEEK, YOU DON’T KNOW HOW HAPPY I AM ABOUT THAT!)

So a very a busy time for Greenside Up all in all. Look out for the blur as it whizzes past.

 

Food & Drink

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar Recipe

January 29, 2012

chocolate chip cookie barsAs a business owning mum, one of my constant struggles is the emotional guilt of not spending enough quality time with my children.

When they were tiny we made the decision that we would forgo holidays, new cars and lovely treats so that I could stay at home and look after our kids and not paying someone else to do it for us. I did that for ten years but when the youngest of our three finally started school aged five, I loosened the apron strings and signed up for the full-time horticultural course that set me on the road I’m currently on.

With fantastic support from Mr G I studied and experimented, dreamed and talked about plants and jChocolate Chip Cookie Recipeust a month after finishing the course threw myself into starting Greenside Up so that I could share all the knowledge I’d learnt about soil, water, polytunnels, biodiversity and plants, thereby helping newbie gardeners to grow their own veg too.

However, as any self employed, business owner knows – this isn’t a nine to five job. To make a success of it, and particularly when you’re so passionate about what you’re trying to do, it’s a seven-day a week, evenings, early mornings and even middle of the night kind of job. I can’t deny either that I thoroughly enjoy being ‘Dee’ again and not just being “someones mum”, but as a mum, that’s where the emotional struggle begins. How can you have a successful business and be WORLD’S NO 1 MUM?

I wonder do men feel this pull, as Mr G certainly doesn’t feel the same guilt I do at bathrooms not always being clean and floors unwashed…?

The answer, I feel, is that you can’t be everything to everyone and that there’s no such thing as the perfect mum. We all try to do our best. There were no school lessons teaching us how to do it, we weren’t born knowing how to be parents, nobody ever warned us just how difficult it would be, that it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to us all. All we have is our own upbringing to guide us and we either try to replicate it if it was a good upbringing, or hopefully improve upon it if it wasn’t.

Before she retired to go on to become a full-time foster-mother, for many years my mum was a business owner too and I now fully understand and appreciate all the sacrifices and guilt she must have felt. (Mum’s now in her mid 70’s and along with my dad is currently looking after three under one year old babies…) I was lucky – mum did her very best and I feel, a fantastic job, guiding and showing us in her actions how to be good human beings. My sister and I grew up to be independent spirits thanks to her amazing example.

Chocolate Chip Cookie RecipeSo how do I do the best that I can for my own children? Well for a start I’d like, and need, to spend quality time with them. I’m having to accept that it’s not going to be every day, or as often as they or I would like. At the beginning of this year I made a firm resolution that I would spend good, quality time with them – not homework or eating meals together time, but one on one time. Children remember things they do and not things they own. My memories are of holidays, swimming lessons or weekly trips to the cash and carry where the four of us would stop off and buy huge piles of fish and chips and pickled gherkins.

For our children and me, our quality time tends to be spent in the kitchen baking. They love to cook, so guiding  and teaching, weighing and tasting is how we’re currently spending most of our quality time. Yesterday we baked tasty little Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars from a recipe our youngest had torn out of a magazine. To our surprise the easy recipe worked, the cookies are delicious and I’m sharing it here ….

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

1 cup butter or margarine
½ cup caster sugar
½cup brown sugar
2 large eggs (I used 3 as the mixture looked very dry)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
100 g 70% chocolate broken up (or a cup of chocolate chips)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Method

Heat the oven to 180°C and grease and line a baking tray (23cm x 33cm). Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until combined. If you don’t have a food processor, cream the first seven ingredients together, then add the remaining.

Spread the mixture in the tin and place in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, cut the pieces to size and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy with a cup of tea, cream or custard!

love youFor now, when I’m sitting alone at night, when they’re all tucked up in bed and I’m beating myself up from feelings of unbearable guilt that I missed the latest soccer match, haven’t yet taught my eleven year old to knit or am sending them off to a neighbours once again to be looked after, I have to hang on to the fact that as long as my children keep slipping me notes like this one I can’t be doing it that wrong.

If you have children, how do you spend your quality time with them? Do you suffer the same guilt? All tips greatly appreciated please!

Lifestyle

Gardening with Kids – Have Fun with Cress

January 24, 2012

how to grow cress seedsChildren love to watch seeds grow, and even better if the seeds they are growing are scattered in the shape of their name or favourite shape (am thinking hearts for Valentine’s Day here…).

Here’s a simple project that can be grown at any time of the year – as long as you have a light windowsill to grow them on.

What you will need to grow cress seeds:

Cress seeds
Watering can or spray bottle
A container – margarine tubs, mushroom container – anything that will hold your seeds
Compost, kitchen roll or cotton wool

How to Grow Cress SeedsWhat to do:

  • Place your compost, cotton wool or kitchen roll on the bottom of the container and soak with water.
  • Shake some seeds into your (or your child’s) hand and carefully shape them into the desired initial or shape (beware as they are easily scattered!)
  • Place the container on a windowsill, preferably where the child can see them.
  • Make sure the compost, cotton wool or kitchen roll is kept wet as the seeds won’t grow if they’re allowed to dry out.
  • In just a week’s time, when the cress has reached about 5cm,it will be ready to eat! (Tastes delicious in a sandwich with egg or cheese.)

How to Grow Cress SeedsOlder children might like to try growing the seeds in more than one container at the same time, with compost in one and cotton wool in another so that they can compare the results.

Some of the things you can talk about as you watch the seeds grow are:

How the seeds all bend as they reach to the light. If you turn the tray they will bend back. There’s a special word for this which I love called Phototropism. There are lots of ‘tropisms‘. Another one I like is Thigmotropism where a plant moves or grows in response to being gently stroked or touched.

If the seeds are sown too thickly they might not grow as strong or healthy as they will all be fighting for space and light.

If they forget to water them they might not grow as strong or healthy as they will all be fighting for space and light.

If they forget to water them they will become limp (as we do). If they are overwatered they might not germinate as they will be starved of oxygen and drown!

How to Grow Cress SeedsIf two experiments are carried out, do the seeds that were grown in the compost look healthier, greener or larger than those in the kitchen paper or cotton wool? Did they grow more quickly? (If so it’s because there are nutrients in compost that will feed them, whereas there are no nutrients in compost or kitchen roll!

Seeds don’t need nutrients to germinate as everything they require to do this is contained within their seed shell. However, once they’ve sprouted and grown their first leaves, they will be looking for those precious nutrients.

Have you ever grown cress seeds in different ways? What’s your favourite way of eating it?

Lifestyle

Christmas Tradition ~ Twas the Night Before Christmas

December 24, 2011

When our first child was born it was time to make up new Christmas traditions for our family. A combination of some old ones from Mr G’s childhood, some from my own and new ones created for our first and subsequent children.

Our eldest was born just three weeks before Christmas and reading the poem The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore to him as a tiny baby was one of our first new traditions. It’s a poem I’ve read with delight  every Christmas since, and no doubt will continue long after they’ve left home…

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St.Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads;

And Mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap, 
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew in a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away, all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys and St. Nicholas, too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes – how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook, when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed, which I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk,
And laying a finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, And to all a good night!”

Food & Drink

Peppermint Cream Recipe

November 28, 2011

Peppermint Cream RecipeSo simple to make you’ll never need to buy peppermint creams again.

Just whisk two free range egg whites until they’re frothy then add enough of the whites to 500g of sifted icing sugar to make a pliable dough,  adding peppermint essence to taste.

Remove from the bowl and roll out on a clean surface dusted with icing sugar to desired thickness. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Our girls often choose the hearts but at Christmas all the festive shapes come into play.

Set aside on a tray to harden for 24hrs (that’s the difficult part!)

These make lovely presents at Christmas and our younger girls like to hand them out in little boxes to friends and teachers. I’d advise dusting them first with a little sugar to prevent them sticking.

Happy sweet making!

Lifestyle

Gardening with Kids: Grow Your Own Grass Head

September 13, 2011

Gardening With Kids - How to Make Grass HeadsIf you’re looking for a way to get children interested (and some adults) in growing seeds, how about growing your own grass head for a fun project?

Gardening with Kids: How to Make a Grass HeadAll you need are some nylon pop socks, compost and grass seeds – permanent markers, felt and wool optional.

Just place a handful of grass seed into the toe of the pop sock then add compost to whatever size head you want. Once full, tie a knot in the loose end and snip off the excess fabric.

Gardening with Kids: How to Make a Grass HeadPlace on a dish and water until the compost is moist, then just add water as required. The grass will keep growing for weeks – months even – so can be snipped and styled frequently.

Here’s a short time-lapse video clip showing you how your grass may grow and die back again in three weeks.

Do you remember making grass heads when you were a child? Do you make them with your own kids?

Food & Drink

Dee’s (not so secret now) very easy chocolate fudge cake recipe

May 30, 2011

 

8″ and 10″ chocolate cakes stacked

We had great excitement in the house this weekend with an 8th birthday party yesterday. Being slightly distracted when our youngest was writing out her party invitations it was only after she’d handed them out that I discovered she’d written 40 (silly mummy, lesson learned).

Even allowing for some of her guests not turning up that still meant a big cake was in order. Thankfully on the day the sun was shining and the bouncy castle and a football kept them all entertained outside.

 

Several different cake mixes

 

When I was a full time mum I used to make cakes for friends and family – just for fun wedding, birthday or special occasion cakes. The house picture was Mr G’s 40th cake.. a near replica of our house which has been an ongoing renovation project for the past 10 years. It was a mixture of chocolate, Madeira, chocolate biscuit and gingerbread and lots of fun to make.

This weekend the small one’s request was for a triple decker chocolate cake. We compromised with a gooey double decker and now I’m not making nearly as many cakes as I used to, am sharing one of my recipes below…

Gingerbread House (filled with sweets)

For a 10″ round chocolate cake baked in a deep cake tin you’ll need the following ingredients at room temperature:

450g unsalted butter
450g caster sugar, sieved
8 medium free range eggs
450g self raising flour, sieved
4 tblsp warm water
4 tblsp cocoa mixed with 4 tblsp warm water

Oven temperature 160oC, cooking time 75 mins (or thereabouts).

As the quantity of ingredients is quite large to fit into the food processor bowl, I whiz up the butter and sugar in the processor first until mixed, then add the rest of the ingredients in no particular order, stopping the mix now and again to incorporate with a spatula.

Grease and line a deep cake tin, pour in the smooth mixture then bake, testing with a skewer towards the end. Once the cake’s out of the oven, leave for a few minutes to cool before turning out onto a rack.

When I’m cutting cakes into different shapes, once cooled I wrap them up in tin foil and freeze them. This makes them easier to cut into unusual shapes and decorate without getting cake crumbs everywhere.

 

Chocolate Cake covered with fondant icing

For enough chocolate fudge to fill and cover the 10″ cake the ingredients are:

185g granulated sugar
100g unsalted butter
250g Cocoa Chocolate 70%
185g evaporate milk
2-5 drops vanilla essence

Combine the sugar and evaporated milk in a heavy saucepan. Place the pan over low heat and allow the sugar to dissolve, stirring frequently. When all the granules of sugar have melted, bring the mixture to the boil and simmer gently for 6 minutes without stirring.

 

Madeira Cake covered with fondant icing

Take the pan off the heat, stir in the chocolate pieces and keep stirring until the chocolate has melted. Finally stir in the butter and vanilla essence.

Transfer to a bowl, cool then cover with clingfilm and chill for a couple of hours until it’s thickened.

All that’s left to do then is to spread it on and get gooey! Enjoy 🙂

Food & Drink, Lifestyle

Bun making on a Sunday afternoon…

June 14, 2010

On a much lighter note, our two girls made buns on their own yesterday.  It was the first time our 9 year old has made them without help from Mammy …. I just sorted out the ingredients.  She read the recipe, weighed, sieved, doubled up the quantities and mixed.  Voila, here they are…..

Our youngest (aged 7) sorted out the bun cases, helped skewer the decorations and licked every spoon and surface she could!

They were thrilled with their efforts, and what a great way to spend a showery Sunday afternoon (and they were delicious too).