All posts by Brox

The system works! 4 weeks on, the tadpoles are slowly starting to look like little frogs :)

Source: The system works!

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New residents!

Although these guys (canadian geese) are actually regular and they come back every year.

The first year we were here, they were only two and they successfully raised a chick (they used to go for morning walks in the field opposite, saw them most mornings on my way out to work 🙂 ), then last year three came back to the pond, I’m assuming it was mum, dad and offspring not quite yet old enough to be on his own…? And this year I think I counted five!

These two are obviously keen for some more privacy and have moved to the new pond across the drive 🙂 ❤

pair of canadian geese in garden april 17

I also spotted ducks, who were there last year but only two of them, a pair. This year we had three to start with (two males and a female) and now another female has joined them, so two pairs! Hopefully lots of ducklings, I’ll try to take some pictures…

Oh, AND the woodpecker was spotted twice over the last couple of weeks, after a few weeks of no sighting, so he/she is definitely still around! Will also try to take another shot. It always goes for fat balls in the bird feeder so will keep putting them out through the summer, keep crows and magpies away, and hopefully he/she will bring his/her chicks!

Exciting times, I 💚 spring!! ☀ 🌱 🐥

Brox

PS: and lots of baby 🐑 every where as well, so cute! Considering getting a pet sheep 😀

Homemade Nutella 😊

It was Shrove Tuesday this week, which in England coincides with pancake day.

In France, we are very lucky the events are different (not that anyone ever need any excuse to eat pancakes), we have pancake day early February, “la fete de la Chandeleur”, and then Shrove Tuesday, or “Mardi-Gras”, which marks the beginning of lent (just before the “Mercredi des Cendres”) the last day of indulgence allowed before the fasting period starts. In France we also celebrate Mardi-Gras with a carnival.

One thing that goes without saying with pancake is Nutella. Other chocolate spreads are available, they taste slightly different, but they all have tons of undesirable ingredients in them. Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff!

But how, being sugar-free, could I still indulge myself and maintain the “tradition” without offending my ethics and keeping true to my resolutions…?

homemade-nutell-raw-ingredients-close-up

I had to make my own of course!

There are various ready-made hazelnut/chocolate spreads available in shops that are free from whatever you want, but it just doesn’t have the same charm, does it? 🙂

The internet really is wonderful, I came across this blog “sugarfreemom” written by a lady who went down the sugar-free road 10 years ago! For those who thought this not possible, she is the living proof you can actually survive without sugar!

Ingredientshomemade-nutella
  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract
  • a few drops of liquid hazelnut stevia
Instructions
  1. In a dry skillet, toast your hazelnuts until fragrant, about 4-5 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Place on a clean kitchen towel and allow to cool.
  3. Once cool rub towel over them to loosen and remove as much of their skins as possible.
  4. Place in a food processor or high powdered blender and process until fine crumbs.
  5. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  6. Taste and adjust salt and stevia if needed.
  7. Makes 12 ounces

I used organic hazelnuts, organic coconut oil, fairtrade chocolate powder, Himalayan salt (controversial, but I have some in the cupboard, so needs using), I used organic honey instead of stevia, again because I have honey in the cupboard, and I used vanilla extract instead of hazelnut stevia, for the same reason.

The smell of toasted hazelnuts really is something else! And the taste of the finished product is practically spot on!

It took me a little while to get the taste correct, so I would suggest being careful with the “sugar” and also the coconut oil, as the latter will determine the thickness of the texture. I started with 1/4 cup of oil but had to add probably another 1/4 cup as the mixture was too dry. Honey is actually tricky to use in baking, I think you could overdo it, so start with a little and keep tasting and adjusting. I actually had to add more honey (I probably used two tablespoons all together), but better that than the opposite. I think I put too much chocolate, the after taste is quite chocolaty but not unpleasant.

What amazes me is that you get hints of taste, like the “real” stuff, but the after notes are so much better! They leave you wanting for more! But be mindful, it is actually quite filling and satisfying. Whereas before I could demolish half a jar of Nutella in less time it took me to actually eat it, I was quite satisfied here with only just one slice of toast!

There you go, that’s what real flavours and good ingredients do to you, a genuine feeling of satisfaction, not a trick to the brain to make you stuff your face!

In case you need more excuses to give this a go, hazelnuts are a source of vitamin E to protect cells from oxidative stress, and phytochemicals said to support brain health and improve circulation. More details hereCoconut oil is high in natural saturated fats. Saturated fats not only increase the healthy cholesterol (known as HDL) in your body, but also help to convert the LDL “bad” cholesterol into good cholesterols. By Increasing the HDL’s in the body, it helps promote heart health, and lower the risk of heart disease. It is also good for a huge number of other reasons, some of which are highlighted here. The cocoa powder is full of powerful antioxidants and has an antidepressant effect. You can read more here.

GOODNESS IN A JAR! 💝

Brox

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Carrot Biscuits

I was having a very interesting conversation with the lady at the cashier of a too famous and too large retail store a few evenings ago. She was commenting on my shop, I am cutting out refined sugars (I will blog about that soon), and we were discussing how difficult this was, because sugar is absolutely everywhere, even in savoury products.

She then told me that her and her family once followed a wartime diet, for a couple of weeks. She suggested I look into it for inspiration, for the very simple reason that unfortunately they had no choice but to be a bit creative with the limited produce they had available at the time, and also because they usually are pretty healthy and simple (fresh, organic, seasonal) recipes.

She particularly recommended to make carrot biscuits, I love carrots, I was all over this!

I found this recipe on the website recipespastandpresent.org.uk. I really like the little anecdote about the surplus of the vegetable back in the days, and the creative ways the Government used to convince people to eat it!

In terms of cooking, I don’t think you can make it any simpler:

Carrot Biscuits

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon margarine
2 tablespoons sugar + a little extra
A few drops vanilla flavouring
4 tablespoons grated raw carrot
6 tablespoons Self Raising flour (or plain flour + a half teaspoon of baking powder).

Method:
Cream the fat and sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in the flavouring and carrot.
Fold in the flour.
Form mixture into about 12 or 15 small balls.
Place each ball on a baking tray and flatten.
Sprinkle with sugar and bake in a brisk oven for 20 minutes.

Job done…

Because I’m sugar-free, I replaced the sugar with honey. It works well. Don’t use too much, good carrots should be quite sweet already.

If you want to make it even healthier, use coconut oil instead of margarine (I did), it works well too 🙂

And you can even adapt it to be gluten-free, by using gluten-free flour, or any other alternatives (brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, soy flour, chickpea flour…).

I stuck with normal white self-raising flour, because I had some, and I am not gluten intolerant. So admittedly I do not know how well it works, if you fancy trying it, let us know how you get on in the comments below!

Happy baking,

Brox

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PS: I would of course recommend using organic carrots, for a better taste, but also less risk of ingesting pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals… 🙂

The system works!

A bit of background, there was an abandoned foot/boot tray in the garden (maybe not the official term, the kind of tray used to clean boots/wellies on farms) which had collected rainwater, dead leaves, etc. and kind of looked like a little pond (despite being very shallow).

I know insects are attracted by it and I seem to remember having seen a bird drinking from it. Having found a couple of frogs and toads under the vegetation by the hedge line a few meters away, I thought that maybe these lovely creatures would appreciate an area of still shallow water that they could use for whatever purpose. So I “decorated” this little tray by putting stones around it, letting the grass grow around and gracefully placing a few stones and branches in and across to act as islands and bridges.

My other half, despite finding the whole thing amusing, actually helped with dressing the pond (now officially the “frog pond”), but never really believed it would ever work. As a matter of fact, since last spring, as far as we are aware, one frog was spotted swimming in it… and also our dog who likes to use it in the summer to cool down in between chasing balls and sticks…!

No need to say I had slightly given up on the idea that I had created some sort of amphibian all star resort… until yesterday morning, when walking past I spotted something in the middle of it that definitely wasn’t there last time. It rained a lot the day before (and I mean a lot) which is maybe what triggered the animal(s) to lay, I don’t know. But all I really care about right now is that my pond is being put to good use by those it was created for! Can’t wait for spring 😀 😀

Brox

img_1539

2 weeks on, the embryo in each egg has substantially grown in size, and is also starting to change shape, to become longer with discernible head and tail ends …!!

Exciting!!

 

And another week or so later, we have… tadpoles!

They’re really starting to take shape now, much longer with a more define head (and eyes!), they are swimming outside the egg for most of them, although all the eggs have now more or less combined into this jelly like mass…

 

I asked my friend, who knows most things about living things, and is really into conservation, whether I should give Nature a helping hand and put a little net to cover the pond and stop birds from eating the little fellas. She said not to, some will be eaten by water beetles, others by dragonfly larvae, others by the others (yes, they are cannibals :s ), and the rest will survive to replace their parents…

Just as Nature intended, She knows best!

 

A month on, the little fellas are clearly developing into amphibians. Their head definitely resembles more that of a frog and not of a fish anymore… Their belly area is a lot more bulgy. Some have grown quite a lot in size. They are still feeding of plant debris, although some should soon start developing teeth… ! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Homemade Candle

Last week-end arts and crafts activities… candle-making!

Candles never burn entirely, except for tea lights, so I kept all left overs and melted them again* to produce this layered homemade candle!

You can buy a wick from any craft shop, I attach it to the bottom of the jar with a little bit of sticky tape and at the top attach to a crayon or pencil which you rest across (so the wick stays nicely upright). Pour in the hot (liquid) wax, wait for it to cool and set then repeat. If you are feeling arty, lean the jar onto one side as you pour the wax, let it set, then lean it onto another side for the next layer, so you get a nice wavy effect. If you’re really creative, you can come up with all sorts of shapes…

Great if you have leftovers from fragranced candles, so each layer of your candle will smell differently as it burns. They usually also come in a very nice shaped jar, which you can keep and reuse for your own candle 🙂

* melting method, put the solid wax in a heat-proof bowl or other recipient, and then put it in a pan of boiling water. Like what you would do to melt chocolate.

 

Brox x

 

homemade-candle-using-leftover-candle-wax

Gardening and PPE

PPE as we know stands for Personal Protective Equipment, and in this instance doesn’t necessarily mean hi-viz jackets, hard hats and steel-toe caps.

Nothing more in fact than a good pair of preferably long gardening gloves. You would wear them of course if you were pulling brambles of nettles, or cutting roses, basically working with anything vegetal having the potential to sting you, cut you, scratch you and so on…

Well I would strongly suggest you wear them all the time, when doing any type of gardening, even if just picking your lettuce, especially – especially – if it is very sunny!

As it turned out, the day after I picked my vegetables, I noticed some red patches on my forearms. Didn’t think much of it as I had been working with nettles, until it started blistering that same evening. And the blisters got worse by the next day, were sore, swollen, more came out… So went to the doctor’s as you do, and I have what’s called strimmer’s disease or phytophotodermatitis (also known as parsnip burn, which is what caused my reaction). Other plants and fruits such as carrots, celery, parsley, wild parsnip, wild carrot, giant hogweed, limes and figs are also known to trigger the reaction.

Mine is quite bad, nothing that a good dose of strong steroid cream will not sort, but still it’s not pleasant!! And very unsightly.

So if you’re going to be in a garden for some time and it’s sunny, forget about your looks and your tan (😳), think about your skin and protect your hands.

In short, wear gloves and maybe even long sleeves.

You learn something new everyday 🙂

Brox x

Not bad for a morning’s work!

Spring onions, potatoes, the last of the lettuce (hallelujah!) and a show-winner of a courgette.

Probably another courgette to pick in a day or two (and more to follow), some of the peas are nearly ready too 🙂

I’ll plant another row of potatoes before the end of the week, and hopefully another one in 2-3 weeks time, weather dependent.

The parsnips are doing well, and the only spinach plant left still manages a few leaves.

Huge improvement on last year’s crop, fairly happy with that, can’t wait for dinner!

Brox