Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Week 4 Running

Week 4 of the running programme started okay. This week included a 1.5km run. This is the longest distance I have run at one stretch in a long time. I found it challenging. My heart and breathing were okay, but the "lead-legged" feeling started as I completed 1km, so I slowed to a walk. The feeling isn't pain, just achiness and a feeling of great effort in the lower legs.

I completed two of the planned three runs. On Sunday I was planning to do my third run of the week. Unfortunately, I woke up with what I call back twangs, which I get this every so often. The pain isn't debilitating - I can still walk around and do most of what I want - but it is bad enough to be uncomfortable, and has me looking for pain killers. The thought of doing an impact exercise like running is out of the question. These episodes last from one day to one month, so I decided to forgo the running until the pain subsides. I've kept up walking and swimming, though.

Today, Wednesday, the pain has gone, but I won't be able to run now until Friday afternoon because of my work schedule. Once I get home it's nearly dark these winter days and though country roads are great places to run because they are so quiet, the lack of street lighting makes night running a bit scary.

Given the difficulties I was having with this week's programme, I would have repeated this week anyway. My plan is to stay on Week 4 until I can run the 1.5km distance, however long it takes. I'm happy to take it slowly, and know that if I just keep persisting I'll reach my goal in the end.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What plant is this?

I have two pots of this lily-type plant, which is flowering at the moment. Someone gave Action Man this plant, and I would love to identify it. I've never seen it anywhere. This photo does not do the flower justice. It's a mix of bright pink, purple, yellow and lime green, a truly spectacular combination. Can anyone out there identify it for me?

Meanwhile, we are in federal election mode here in Australia, which means lots of politicians making lots of speeches and interview grabs filled with lots of cliches. ABC 702 radio is running a game called Election Lingo Bingo. There are thirty well-worn phrases to find, the aim being the audience tries to find all thirty in the shortest amount of time. When you hear a phrase you email the station with a "sighting", which they then verify. Fun, hey? It started last night at midnight. Already I've "sighted" "hard working Australians", uttered by our new female PM Julia Gillard this morning on Radio National Breakfast. If you are interested, here's the list of phrases. I wouldn't think you'd need to listen to 702 to take part. Certainly makes listening to the news a lot more fun!

Edited to add:
Thanks to Cabbage Tree Farm for identifying this plant as billbergia nutans, a variety of bromeliad. The link to the Cabbage Tree Farm is here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chicken Pie

Whenever we have roast chicken, I always do two. As a family of four, one chicken used to do, but my twelve year old son (who at 170cm is just 5 cm shorter than me..and he's growing) is always looking for "more". So now I roast two chickens. With what's left over, I normally make what I call an Aussie chicken curry, or I'll turn it into chicken pie.

Here's what I do:

1. Saute one onion and a clove of garlic in some butter until soft (sometimes I'll use a leek too).
2. Add vegies you fancy - leftover roast vegies, mushrooms, peas work well. Saute these too. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over the vegies and cook over medium heat for a minute or two.
4. Slowly add a cup or so of stock or water.
5. Add chicken which has been cut up into small pieces.
6. Simmer for 15 minutes or so.
7. Transfer to a pie dish.
8. Top with two sheets of puff pastry that have been rolled together. Use pastry offcuts to decorate and you fancy.
9. Brush with beaten egg (v. important if you want that beautiful golden colour). Bake at 200degrees for about 30 minutes or so.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Week 3 running recap

Week 3 of Julia Jones' running programme completed on schedule.
Some firsts for me this week:
1. I skipped for the first time in about 35 years! The programme this week has you alternating between skipping and walking a few times as a build up to two 1km runs. By golly, was it fun! I think it's impossible to skip without a smile on your face.
2. During the 1km runs, I broke out from lead-legged shuffling into bursts of activity that would be identified as "running". With each session, I did a little less shuffling and a little more running - a little, but enough to take 1 minute 15 seconds off my 1 km time this week. My fastest time was 7 minutes 35 seconds (I started 1km a few weeks ago at 9 minutes 20 seconds)

Overall I am finding the programme really enjoyable. Each week gives you a bit more of a challenge, so I feel I am getting somewhere without overextending myself. And no part of my body has hurt at any point over the last few weeks!

And in other news...I've lost the pesky 4cm around my waist and hip measurements that had me start running in the first place. So I can cut out and sew some skirts and pants I had planned from my custom pattern. So, I've achieved my first goal. Hooray!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pruning season

Winter is pruning season here. Last year, I pruned all our 100 grapevines. This year, Action Man has already done about 75% of them. It looks like a nice day out there today so I try and get some done today.
As for our fruit trees...well. Our fruit trees were planted in 2003, and they have never been pruned. You can imagine what they were like. Really big, really bushy, too big to net. I knew they needed to be pruned, but I didn't know where to start. Start reading a gardening book on pruning fruit trees, and you'll see what I mean. You have to know what you're doing, otherwise you can really do some damage.
So, I hired a professional gardener to come over and show us how it's done. Above is one of our plum trees, pruned into the classic "vase" shape you see in the books.
Our gardener needs to come back and do our apple and pear trees. Even he was flummoxed by them, and said he needed to consult his mate who is an orchardist. Apparently, our trees are very overgrown, and need a hard prune. However, if we prune too heavily at once, it could be a case of "goodbye trees". Hence, caution is needed.
This year's yields won't be as great, but given last year's fruit fly debacle, this won't make much difference. In fact, smaller trees with smaller yields mean that we will be able to net more effectively, and use exclusion bags for fruit fly. We might even get to eat our own fruit this year!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

This book's a cracker

I had my birthday a little while ago, and this book, Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Irish cooking writer Darina Allen, was one of my gifts.
As you would guess by the 700 recipes, this is one weighty book. There are chapters on foraging, game, fish, meats (including information on different cuts including offal), sausages, smoking, breadmaking, vegetables, cheese and dairy, preserving and baking. In each chapter there is comprehensive information, followed by several recipes. For example, in the potato section there is info on how to grow potatoes followed by recipes.
What I liked especially about this book is that there are recipes and information that lifts it above most recipe books. And the recipes themselves work, which is always the bottom line with recipe books. And the book is beautifully presented.
One reservation, whilst it is detailed, it is not definitive for us here in Australia. Unsurprisingly, some of the chapters have limited relevance for Australians, particularly the foraging section. Ditto game, and fish, although it's fairly easy to substitute Australian species here.
To me though, these points are only minor drawbacks. This book's a cracker, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone wanting to get skilled in the kitchen and the garden.

Friday, July 9, 2010

It's a Boy!

To Woolly Jumper and Rambo, a boy, born this afternoon Friday 9th July 2010. True to form, our ewes lamb on the coldest days of the year.

This photo is taken as the lamb is less than an hour old. Woolly is assiduously licking the little guy, while he makes little bleats.

Too sweet.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Week 2 (repeat)

Last week I decided to repeat Week 2 of Julia Jones' running program for beginners (link in side column). I'm glad I did. The lead is still there, but I can detect some improvement so taking it slowly is worth doing.
One of the great things about living where I do is I know just about all my neighbours within a two kilometre radius. One of the worst things about living where I do is I know just about all my neighbours within a two kilometre radius, which is not great when one is trying to learn to run. The roads around here are very quiet, perfect for running. However, when a car does pass, it is normally driven by a neighbour I know. Call me paranoid, but I am sure I detect a smirk every so often. "There she is, trying to run! Wonder how long this will last?" I am sure they are thinking as they wave at me cheerily! To make it worse we seem to have an abnormally high percentage of "serious" athletes around here. You know, types who do long course triathlons, marathons etc. One neighbour took off this week to follow the Tour de France - on his bike. My lead-legged shuffling must look pretty sad to them.
Never mind! I plan to be running for a long while yet, shuffling or not...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pottering about in the kitchen

School holidays here. Cold and rainy outside. Kids still in pyjamas. I've just spent a fruitful couple of hours pottering around in the kitchen, making lots of things to make life a bit nicer. Here's what I did:

1. Made some oxtail stew in the pressure cooker for Action Man. We're going to visit my parents in Sydney for a few days from tomorrow, so the oxtail is for his dinner while we are away.

2. Made a batch of Anzac Biscuits. I've made so many batches now I make this recipe from memory.

3. Roasted a couple of kilos of tomatoes with a head of garlic, then pureed to make roast tomato sauce to be used on a pasta one day when there is no time to cook.

4. Made a batch of breadcrumbs from some stale bread.

5. Made a batch of dukkah, using a packet of cumin seeds, a packet of coriander seeds, a cup of hazelnuts and a couple of tablespoons of sesame seeds. Toast everything in a frypan, then whiz in the food processor. Add salt to taste. This is one of my favourite snacks - dip some good bread into olive oil, then dip into dukkah. Good to have on hand when people drop round.

Back into the kitchen later. The kids are going to make meatloaf for dinner, and I'll need to be around to supervise.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Knitting season

Last year, I started knitting this blanket whilst watching the Tour de France. I had to stop knitting for a while because I acquired a knitting injury (chafed skin on middle finger right hand ). Since recovering from injury, I've done a bit of knitting on and off, but with the World Cup, and now this year's T de F, I am in peak knitting season.
This blanket pattern is one of my own devising. I am using 8 ply wool, with No 4 needles. I simply cast on 28 stitches and then knit a square of knit, purl or rib, then cast off. I hope to have 81 squares done soon, so I can finish this blanket for this winter. If successful, this will be the first knitted object I have completed.
As someone who always thought I couldn't knit, I am really quite chuffed to have gotten this far! I'm already contemplating my next knitting project....