Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Urban Food Growing Tuesday:

The weather has been magnificent but at 39 weeks pregnant, there's only so much you can do even in a tiny garden. Still, there's planning and harvesting to be done:

What I grew this year and some attempt at summarising my relative gardening successes and failures:
- My sunflowers are starting to bloom (see yesterday's post) and it makes such a difference to see - maybe I can even get a few seeds out of them? Who knows.
- Potatoes: Cubling helped me harvest the last two of three pots of potatoes. The pots were the biggest flower pots I had, but still not particularly large. One of them had a decent yield. I know what I did wrong: I should have planted the potatoes deep and then added compost to them as they grew (which I did partly with the one pot that had a good yield). So I'm all set for a much better harvest next year. For now, we have enough for the next month, which is pretty amazing considering I just stuck some potatoes into soil and let them be.
- Cabbage: Out of all the cabbage I planted in my raised beds, one is forming a head, but I guess the leaves can be eaten too. Of course there's lots of butterflies having a meal as well.
- Leeks: I planted leeks between cabbage and broccoli, but they didn't get any sunshine because of the massive cabbage leaves and haven't grown at all. I wonder if they may still grow now that the cabbages and broccoli have been thinned out
- Beans: full fail - all three plants that I planted out got eaten up. Not sure by what, but there are only stalks left
- Courgettes: tiny fruit, leaves full of mildew. I remembered that I'd planted courgettes in the same raised bed last year so this may be why they didn't do so well.
- Pumpkin: one plant has grown properly but no flowers or fruit to speak of yet. I'm still hoping.
- Spinach: I planted out spinach a couple of weeks ago but it doesn't seem to have grown at all. I have this problem with spinach all the time, although it should be ideal for the Scottish climate. A shame really because it's my favourite veg and I don't get why it doesn't grow.
- Lettuce: most of my lettuce did well initially, then got eaten by aphids , one lettuce got spared and is still doing well.
- Soft fruit: I had a handful of raspberries, brambles didn't grow and strawberries didn't go red. They all grow in small containers so I wonder if that's the problem.
- Herbs: Mint is growing well, shame I don't like it, chives look a bit ill, sage needs treated.

Plans for next year, with some action to be taken during the autumn:

Front garden jobs: 
- Put lime on front garden which is rich in clay and add manure in early spring
- Thin out plants in front garden that are old and no longer nice (it's all flowers and there's plenty of need for improving the borders)
- The old and woody sage plant in the front needs thinned out. In its place (with some cuttings) I'd like to put a herb garden of herbs that can grow in semi shade.

Back garden jobs:
- I'd like to plant raspberries in raised beds along one fence, taking out half of the slabbed path. For this, I need to find out if raspberries will grow well in containers.
- Now that some of my larger containers are empty, plant winter veg in them.
- Talk nicely to leeks and spinach so that they grow a bit more.

- As both front and back are quite shaded, I plan to research any veg that does well in semi shade and shade, to avoid disappointment form this year when lots of my plants didn't do well even in the south facing patches. Similarly, most of my garden grows in containers so whatever I plant, it needs to be able to deal with container location.
- I must avoid overplanting. It just doesn't make sense to plant too close and then not end up with anything edible.

- Source manure to improve the soil
- Turn the compost bin content and add brown matter to it so it may actually become usable compost

I'm also considering getting 2 or 3 hens - not necessarily super soon, but I'd like to find out more about it, how they can be kept, how much work they involve. Then there's my hope for an apple tree. I haven't got the faintest idea where to put it, but I wants one.

What have you been up to in your gardens, containers, window sills or community gardens this past week? If you've written about it, please share your link in the linky below, or if you haven't, just use the comment box.

Monday, 30 August 2010

out in the back garden - Outdoor Monday

This week, our outdoor adventures have been limited. Baby's head is weighing a ton and my radius is getting smaller by the day, walking simply is uncomfortable. I'm glad Cubling still attends the forest kindergarten, especially because the weather has been rather nice and this is a lovely time of the year.

Sometimes though, you don't need to go far to enjoy the outdoors. Our back garden may be small but we are so lucky to have it. Today, Cubling took her play out to the garden. I was hanging out the washing, which is one of my most enjoyable household chores when it can be done outside, and Cubling decided that she'd like to do some ironing of the washing. She fetched her ironing board, her iron and some of the laundry and placed it outside.

Later on the items on the washing line were counted and we managed for the first time to get beyond 20, in German at least and with a bit of help.

We were also able to at last admire our first sunflower in bloom, alongside some insects who were equally impressed. Only a week ago we had feared that sunflowers were another write off in the garden, but low and behold, there are two small but perfect flowers:

Colour in our garden at last!
What were your outdoor adventures this week?

Friday, 27 August 2010

Trains of thought: One week to go

Some things I pondered today:

Catching up with your laundry is not necessarily a good thing. Keeping part of it in dirty bins, inside the washing machine, on the line or on top of drawers means you don't realise that you actually need more wardrobe/drawer space.

There are too many baby clothes in this world. In my search through one (!) bag out of three handed down baby clothes for first size neutral coloured babywear, I stopped myself at 28 sleepsuits. There are more. I didn't even look at anything pink or blue.

Considering the number of baby vests and sleepsuits, I wonder if I can get through the first 12 weeks without washing them at all.

Cubling's new chest of drawer may look bigger but somehow the same amount of clothes won't fit. It may have something to do with the first point.

I'm not sure why I get ever so slightly annoyed at my nightwalking 3  year old ghost when I'm awake with heartburn and forceful babykicks anyway.

Nothing beats being told by your toddler that you are the fairest of them all. Even if you know she's just discovered the concept of telling the untruth for advancing her personal causes. (quote: "Why are you up again?" - "coz I want to cuddle in your bed" "Can you please go back to your bed and cuddle your cuddly toys and let Mami sleep?" - "Oh, I need the toilet.")

How come I get panicky every evening about things not being as ready as they absolutely have to be because of those Braxton Hicks contractions and then forget all about the urgency in the morning, convinced I'll have another 42 week pregnancy?

How is it possible that in your first pregnancy all you think about is labour and giving birth and yet after experiencing it you are strangely efficient at living in denial it will ever happen to you again?

Could it be true my bump is smaller than it was a month ago? If that is so, why does none of maternity wear fit me anymore?

Where is the best place for the changing table/chest? Upstairs or downstairs?

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Competition time: Win a Boppy Nursing Pillow

A little while back, I was offered by the PR of Boppy to review their nursing pillow. It's a product that I can only recommend - when breast feeding Cubling a firm nursing pillow like Boppy as the saving grace for my back because she fed, well, rather a lot. Something like every 2 1/2 hours for up to one whole hour, so we spent a lot of time nursing. With her securely tucked onto the nursing pillow, I managed to read, blog, read blogs, and nap (I know you're not supposed to do that, but I have a very light sleep which keeps me alert and I did it responsibly). Cubling, the nursing pillow and me were best pals.

Now Boppy is offering one lucky winner the chance to receive one of their lovely nursing pillows - lovely because they are firm, flexible and functional, but also because they come in beautiful and washable covers which make them extra attractive.

So to enter the competition for a Boppy nursing pillow (which will also make a great present in case you're not pregnant or have just had a baby), leave a comment below. The winner will be drawn on 2nd September 2010 (unless Tiddler makes an early appearance in which case there may be a tiny delay).

Good luck!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Gallery: A photo I'm proud of

What a double edged sword this prompt has proven to be! On the one hand, one I can't resist because I have quite a lot of photos I'm proud of. On the other hand, the images that spring to my mind easily are those where I capture Cubling in a special way, pictures I'm not prepared to share on this space. So, I went back in time a bit to my old photos and despaired at my filing system, or the fact that the photos I'm really proud of come in the lowest resolution ever seen. You see, I wasn't one to switch to a digital camera until I bought my DSLR rather recently.

So here are four very different offerings of photos I'm proud of. Before Cubling, I took photos of landscapes. After Cubling, well, guess what...

Since my first trip to Ireland, sometime in 1989, I've been mainly interested in capturing the northern light against dark clouds. It's been rather an obsession and my favourite photos have always been those where it seemed that the photo got close to what I saw. I'm fascinated by the colour, the way that a recent shower and the dark clouds give saturation to the landscape, which is then brought alive by the sunshine that so often goes hand in hand with a shower. It's so unlike the light I was used to, the hazy industrial light (or misty - humid on a summer's day) of home, where the weather changes rarely and the sky is eternally hazy and flat, while the sun stands high in the sky and rarely offers the warmth of colour I love in the north.

The first two images are taken with a film camera and were scanned, so the quality of the digital image is rather poor.

This is Orkney in the evening light:

And this is Ben Cruachan after walking up in boring and mind destroying mist all the way, only to be rewarded with the most amazing glistening sunshine at the top, with sprinkles of other Munros to be identified by their mere tops peaking out from above the clouds. The sky and clouds really are closer in Scotland:

So then, now to Cubling. One of the very first photos taken of Cubling is this one (and for the life of us Mr Cartside and myself can't agree on who took it, but it's a photo we both love to bits so what does it matter? At the time we both took photos with the same camera so there's no way we can establish who took it). A photo that had my first teacher of photography, who passed on the passion and many a camera to me (aka my dad), criticise me for chopping off her head. I loved that comment, because of course I particularly like the crop of the image. The comment was proof that I'd develop some confidence to try out something less conventional, which I've done much more of recently (and that includes switching off auto mode on my DSLR). I like everything about this image, the peacefulness of sleep, the beauty of my baby, the sun coming in from the window at the back, the moses basket, changing table and my home-made curtains in the background, while my baby naps in our bed, oblivious to our adoration:

And finally, a recent photo of her climbing a tree. I love hands and to get this image of her holding confidently onto the bark, the texture of her soft skin against the rough of the bark, was just magic. It's one of the first pictures taken with my new telefocus lens.

Needless to say that my mission in photography these days is to get the perfect image of Cubling. And again. I have a whole bunch of photos that I'm immensely proud of, and yet I don't tire of taking ever more photos. I'm not sure where this will take me once there's two to take photos of...

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Some fab initiatives for Urban Food Growing Tuesday

Last week wasn't the best for actual food growing in my little patch. A lot of rain, then general business and illness. However, I've been inspired by a few blogposts and initiatives not to let my urban food growing Tuesday lag, so today I'd like to introduce a few initiatives and tips.

The thing about initiatives and organisations is that they are often local but there's nothing preventing them to be replicated in other places. Often it just takes one person who gives it a kick start and if there's one thing I've noticed recently it's that the social networking world has facilitated the process. Most initiatives now have their facebook page and personally I love joining and keeping up with what's happening, you never miss a date for your diary (even if you can't make it) and it's easy to get involved.

Last week I already spoke about the East Kilbride Development Trust and their seed bank initiative. I think it's a fabulous idea and something that could happen anywhere really. The trust also works with local primary schools developing food gardens, something which is close to my heart because I saw the impact it can have and the enthusiasm it can create in a very short period of time.

NVA is a public arts organisation with a focus on urban and rural landscapes and how people can shape them. One of their current projects is SAGE (Sow and Grow Everywhere) which encourages creative uses of places and containers to grow food, culminating in the Glasgow Harvest, a massive public harvest sharing event at Glasgow's Tramway Theatre this Saturday 28th August. The idea is that the rather private experience of gardening is shared collectively, including cooking with the produce and making jams. There's a great Q&A about them here.

The Fife Diet came about in 2007 when consumers signed up for a challenge to eat locally produced food only for a year, and to share how they got on. It's about re-localisation of food, cutting down on food miles but also supporting the local economy. More than that, it's about rethinking food in terms of sustainability, i.e. working towards a future where food may not be as easily transported from across the world and where we may well have to rely on locally sourced food.The Fife Diet can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.

GROW Glasgow is based in the West End of Glasgow and you can follow their activities on their facebook page. They aim
  • To encourage and increase production of organic vegetables in the West End
  • Facilitate a garden sharing scheme
  • Work towards setting up community gardens
  • To promote a tangile sense of community through team work and sustainable agricultural development

Urban Roots are based in the Southside of Glasgow. They run a community garden, a food coop, have a woodland area, environmental art projects and food growing courses amongst other things. You can follow their activities on facebook too. A lot of it is done by volunteers, so for instance you can join the Sunday gardening session at the community garden as a volunteer.

All these initiatives/organisations show how with a bit of imagination, you can get lots of people involved in growing food in cities, and spread the goodness of it all.

Now I'd love to hear about your week in urban food growing. If you've blogged about it, or want to share some link you've come across, please use the linky below.

Birthdays, Bugs and Bullshit

This blog has been a bit neglected recently. We've had a busy weekend with 3 kids' birthday events and then both Cubling and I were down with a nasty tummy bug. She's up and hopping again thankfully, I'm still considering if food is a good idea or not. It's a hard call that food thing, between the fear of sickness (which is something I abhor unspeakably) and the fear of fainting (which is only mildly better, provided it doesn't happen at the top of stairs). Sounds melodramatic? It's not meant to be, I have low blood pressure (which is mostly a blessing) and a day without eating does often lead to bouts of fainting. No big deal, I just don't like it much and it can be sore if you don't pick the right location for it.

I'm slowly but surely getting some energy back - which is just as well because there still is a lot of stuff that needs done before baby arrives. What's held me back recently is Argos. That company deserves a massive rant from me, honestly. Months back, I ordered a beautiful, perfect chest of drawers, which would have been ideal for all those toddler/baby clothes. Our house is small with sloped ceilings and space for furniture precious. We don't have many wardrobes etc so it has to be just right. This chest of drawers was just the thing and it was also nicely half price. So I ordered online. The first glitch was that I never received a confirmation email. A couple of weeks later, still no confirmation email. Thus started a regular email enquiry from my side - first of all to get an order number and confirmation that I had actually ordered something (the money had of course been taken off my account), followed by trying to find out when the drawers would be delivered.

On two occasions, I was told that a delivery date would be set by a certain date. Both times the date passed and no communication was made, not even one advising that there will be a delay. When the second expired I had enough of email and phoned. A nice customer service adviser apologised that they hadn't been in touch (but should have been) but there was a delay and delivery would be roughly in mid October. If she hadn't been so nice, I'd have screamed through the phone. Well, it's not her fault to work for a shite company, so I just said that my baby is due 6 weeks earlier and I can't live in a pile of clothes for the next 10 weeks (bearing in mind I'd been already doing it for 10 weeks) so could she please cancel the order and reimburse me.
Done. (I hope I got reimbursed, mental not to check)
I still really want that chest of drawers but nevermind. The one I bought on another online site was delivered promptly within a week. It's not perfect, it's pink, but at least Cubling will love that, and it's the best I could find in my panic to get something organised.

So then, I'll be off to do some flatpack assembly and finally get some floorspace back. And I shall try to boycott Argos, hard as it may be, but I'm seriously peed off with their delivery "service".

Similarly, baby mattress sheets have not been delivered, and every single little bureaucratic undertaking turns out to be more complex than originally thought. I still don't have a UK driving license (because they want me to fill in a vocational form - I don't drive vocationally, so why????). I'm generally losing my patience with all that stuff.

10 days or so to go and I'm still fighting the to do list rather than enjoying maternity leave with a bit of knitting and reading. No happy camper in the Cartside home.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Music for giving birth to

Listening to music while labouring may not be everybody's cup of tea. I understand. But at least last time I did actually do it and methinks, if I remember correctly, which of course may not be the case, I sang along at times (surely much to the dismay of the midwife). It was probably more of a shouting along but you'd better ask Mr Cartside about the details.

What I do remember is that some music worked and other music didn't. The music that worked did wonders and I was really glad I'd taken the CDs along, especially after many people had said it was the last thing on their mind. Now while I'm sitting here with yet another evening bout of Braxton Hicks (they do disconcert me because I didn't have them last time and I always panic that it may be actual labour starting, especially as they are stronger than early labour was last time), I've put together my cd wallet of choice (I may not have all my toiletries for the hospital packed, you have to get your priorities right).

It's not my all time favourite list of music. It's more like the type of music that worked last time, that kept me calm, got me singing along and thus breathing. My favourites last time were Duke Special, Aimee Mann. So this time I added Radiohead, John Martyn, Jackie Leven, David Gray, Sinead O'Connor (the Lion and the Cobra for some good screaming), Sting, Counting Crows, Luka Bloom, Hothouse Flowers plus some obscure stuff, and plenty of HypnoBirthing and Natal Hypnotherapy. I picked specific albums which I know well and which have a fair amount of songs I know the lyrics to. All I hope is that hubby won't bring The Suburbs because I've listened to that album enough already.

Did you listen to music when in labour and what worked for you? Or did you prefer to smash the CD player into 1000 pieces?

Thursday, 19 August 2010

What's cooking? Courgettes!

One of the staple vegetables of my garden is the courgette. In previous years, I've had massive marrows from my courgette plants, and often didn't know how to use the plentiful harvest up without getting rather sick of eating courgettes. The problem with courgettes, especially when they grow to the size of a marrow, is that they have a high water content - which makes them unsuitable for freezing, so you kind of have to use them as you pick.

This year, my courgettes were pitiful, the size of gherkins if that. I had no problem using them up and hiding them amongst my general cooking. However, somehow I ended up this week with 3 courgettes from the supermarket plus a massive marrow-courgette grown by our neighbours in their allotment. I knew I had more than enough courgettes for this week's cooking, but could I say no to the offer of a home grown courgette? Surely not.

So it's courgette cooking time and I was determined to be a bit more creative this year. Thing is, cooking is not my greatest passion or skill (I wish it was, but let's be honest here) but somehow I felt motivated by being on maternity leave to put a bit more effort in providing home cooked and healthy meals. I'm also rather fed up with my stock of 10 quick recipes that I tend to draw on for cooking dinner after coming home from work.

I came across Maya Made's selection of courgette/zucchini recipes which gave me the idea that I could grate them. I know, that's a pretty basic thought, but not one that has ever occurred to me before. I then thought maybe I could make a courgette variation of Rhinish Reibekuchen (grated potato and onion cakes), looked up a recipe for that and started improvising. 15 minutes later and I had a yummy dinner on the plate which was gobbled up by hubby, Cubling and myself, which is quite an achievement (with one vegetarian, one carnivore cheese despiser and a toddler who is suspicious of anything green and red).

So I give you my own Zucchini Reibekuchen recipe:
(makes 6 - simply increase quantities for bigger families)
1 medium sized courgette, grated and drained (I drained just briefly, you can drain them for up to 20 minutes)
1 large potato, grated and drained
1 large onion, grated
4 large eggs
olive oil for frying

mix grated and drained vegetables. Beat egg. Mix egg under the vegetables. Heat oil in frying pan and fry the mixture, pushing it slightly down to make it even. Fry until golden brown (3-5 mins), turn and fry on the other side.

You can season to taste and add other ingredients - but they taste good even without any seasoning. Cheese will go well with them, especially feta, you could add nuts or seeds, mint, sundried tomatoes - anything goes. Serve with a fresh salad.

I also asked my friends for more recipe ideas and here are some of their recommendations:

Chocolate Courgette Cake
Courgette Fritters (very simple and similar to my recipe, just with flour instead of all the eggs in my recipe)
Nigella's Courgette Fritters (a bit more adventurous and with both egg and flour)
Courgette Frittata
Courgette and Tomato Gratin (Delia)
And my friend S's idea to peel courgettes thinly with a potato peeler, fry with fresh garlic, add creme fraiche, season and pour over pasta.
Cookie Scotland (do check them out on Facebook!) contributed another professional recipe, much to my delight: Pasta, good olive oil, basil, lemon rind, courgettes, garlic, pecorino cheese. Slow cook finely chopped courgettes, with whole cloves of garlic with olive oil. Remove cloves.
That is your sauce, grate 1/2 of untreated lemon rind, tear some basil leaves, cook your pasta and mix with some pecorino cheese. Dress with a little more olive oil. 

And if you still have some courgettes - Maya made has some more ideas too.


Wednesday, 18 August 2010


A while back, at some table top jumble sale at Bungo in the Lanes, Cubling discovered a flower press. She was delighted with the pink box with flowers on it. It was pretty clear she didn't quite know what it was for, but liked it anyway. She was delighted when she could have it (for a pittance of a price - I still can't believe that the as good as new wooden press was sold for close to nothing), and as soon as we were home, we went flower hunting.

It's a slow process, with one to two blossoms that can be pressed at a time, and the pressing process taking a week, it's become a little bit of a weekly routine for us. It's slow but easy and Cubling still enjoys finding flowers and seeing the end result. The colours are amazingly preserved, the texture is almost transparent, yet perfectly maintained - the wonders of nature seen from a different perspective. So Saturday is flower pressing day: Last week's flower is released, admired and stored, this week's flower is found, selected and pressed.

Now with a selection of flowers, we were able to take things a little bit further.

So, introducing our range of Cubling's pressed flower cards; I give you these:

The photos don't really do the pressed flowers much justice, it's one of those things you need to see to be amazed. Interestingly, Cubling likes the "plain" flowers best, such as clover blossoms, fern leaves and our flowering sage. The cards are simple but oh so beautiful. Cubling's "plainer" flowers and leaves make for perfect opportunities to arrange a meadow scene, while my preferred bigger flowers go better on their own.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Urban Food Growing: All about seeds

I'd never really thought much about seeds. My approach was firmly rooted in buying them in garden centres, and planting them. Just that somehow, I've not been particularly successful at growing from seed. Well, now I know why this could be.

Matthew Love from the East Kilbride Development Trust took our food growing course session on a tour de force in his presentation/talk on seed saving. It's rare to learn so many new things in just an hour, and it was mindset changing stuff. Did you know that the seeds you get to buy are really rather rubbish because they are the cast offs from the agricultural industry? The farmers get the good seeds, gardeners get the shite ones, so little wonder we're not doing too well on the planting from seed front.

What's more, seeds on the market are controlled by seed producers who have to register seeds. This is expensive and leads to a reduction in variety of seeds. So localised seeds are become rare and are not available commercially. We're losing variety, and particularly that which grows well right here.

The seeds that are on the market are more often than not aimed at industrial production of food, which is done differently to the food growing of your average gardener. For example, if you grow peas on a farm, you will be looking for a low growing variety that can be harvested by combine harvesters. If you are a gardener, you obviously don't have a combine harvester and don't need low growing peas. In fact, your garden would make much more efficient use of space if your peas were high growing so you can use the other space for lettuces.

And finally, because most of agricultural mass production of food is done in countries with a bit more sun than the west coast of Scotland, the seeds are of mediterranean origin which doesn't make for great growing in Scotland.

What the urban food grower needs are seeds which work well in the local climate and makes best use of what that climate is like. This is even different between Glasgow and Fife, so local really means a rather small area. The East Kilbride Development Trust has a perfectly simple but inspiring answer to the seed conundrum: Saving seeds from vegetables that grow well locally, either through existing knowledge of varieties that do grow well or by trial and error. Then, swap the seeds. The whole ideology is that of making seeds available and enabling local food growing, so the seeds are always free. Ingenious.

Matthew is in the process of developing seed saving network for Scotland which will contribute to affordable and sustainable food growing, while develop seed knowledge and enabling people to be more self reliant. He runs an annual seed exchange event and I can already not wait for it to happen some time in early 2011 (although to be fair I walked away with more seeds than I can plant in my small space in the coming year as it is).

There were also lots of tips on how to save seeds yourself as well as general gardening advice. I know what I did wrong this year now and can avoid my mistakes next year. I also walked away with half a cherry tomato, of the winner in Matthew's tomato growing test - a cherry tomato that will do well in our climate. Half a tomato which will give me about 30 seeds. Method: scoop out seeds into a jar, add some water, stand for 3 days until the gooey stuff around the seeds gets mouldy and separates from seeds. Then wash away the mould, catching the seeds. Dry off and leave to dry for a few days. Store in a cool, dark and dry place until next spring.

Find out more about tips that the East Kilbride Development Trust has on growing food, and join the mailing list if you're interested in the project. If you're in Scotland and interested in growing food, I can only recommend to contact Matthew about the seed exchange project.

Now it's your turn to share your food growing stories!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Outdoor Monday: Climbing Trees in Linn Park

This week, our outdoor fun took us to Linn Park. Believe it or not, the heat in our back garden was quite overbearing (at least if you're 37 weeks pregnant) so we decided to explore the leafy shades of one of Glasgow's urban park gems. Linn Park is really walking distance from us and runs along the banks of the White Cart water, south from Cathcart's picturesque Snuff Mill. The river has moulded a deep gorge into the landscape, and makes for ever changing views. It incorporates a golf course, play areas, large wooded as well as grassy areas. In spite of being landscaped it retains a  wild aspect to it, with lots of exploration in an easily accessible environment. It used to be my favourite running track, what with gentle slopes on one side and never ending steps on the other which made for an ideal short but demanding run.

On Sunday, the park with its woods brought a refreshing breeze to a hot day. The whole family came along and Cubling enjoyed playing hide and seek with her cousin and grampa, my little niece didn't tire of exploring the texture of falling leaves in the grass, and my nephew had a lot of space to impersonate Lightening McQueen or Buzz Lightyear (the confusion is all on my part, I'm sure nephew knew exactly who he was). There were perfect climbing trees, bugs, seeds and mushrooms to explore, and the accessible banks of the river make for perfect fishing with nets and rods.

The beauty of the park lies in it's spectacular setting which lends itself to ever changing aspects. It's big enough for it not to become crowded even on a busy Sunday afternoon. In a month's time, it'll be the ideal place for some brambling too. This time, we made daisy chains and double headed daisies, looked for fallen tree seeds and played a lot.

On Sunday, while the kids were busy having fun, we relaxed and watched, sometimes joined in, and had a perfect lazy afternoon.

 Linn Park will host a family fun day on 29th August, a perfect opportunity to visit if you haven't explored it yet.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Tired wave

I haven't disappeared or gone into early labour, just been a tad busy and not had time to blog. Odd really, now that I'm on maternity leave.

My feet have taken on such epic proportion that I now have weekly check-ups to contain with. I'm all thankful that the NHS is making sure I don't develop pre-eclamsia, but with a blood pressure that makes you wonder how come I'm still conscious, there appears to be little danger of the dreaded condition which brought about my own early appearance on this planet.

We've been rather busy socially as well which is great though I'm so tired that my inclination at the moment is towards hibernation inside the house. Which I did one day last week and didn't exactly like either, not helped by mummy guilt that I didn't actually do much with toddler and had her sat in front of the telly for far too long so I could put my feet. Not that she minded, it's just that I did.

The wonders of the internet are rather amazing. If you are my age, from Germany, or some adjacent countries, you may have been brought up to a diet of Barbapapa on the TV. I had my dad in stitches letting him watch Cubling through Skype how she was glued to the TV for the selfsame series, courtesy of youtube and the internet through the Wii. I have since woken up to dreaming about the theme tune, which is rather disconcerting. So while Cubling currently watches too much TV, at least it's educational because it's in German (if I manage to not get the Dutch version) and let's her experience what toddler TV looked like when I was her age.

And yes, we've finally got Skype working with my dad in Germany. It's taken me 3 1/2 years, lots of hours on the phone bugging him, buying him a new computer (that in itself took a year and a half) and finally one phone call to get him through the set up process. Phew. Luckily he seemed impressed by the result (I told you so!!!), even though his webcam wasn't working.

I've been knitting a good bit as well, and nearing finishing stage - one cardigan for baby and one thick winter jumper for Cubling.

As to preparing for baby - in spite of one evening of rather regular Braxton Hicks, I still lack cot, car seat, mattresses, pram, hospital bag (or at least essential contents for it), feeding equipment and a chest of drawers. mattresses appear to be on the way, car seat, pram and feeding equipment will come down from the loft tomorrow or I'll scream the house down (Mr Cartside, you are warned), and cot isn't essential anyway. The chest of drawers has me worried because the delivery has already been delayed twice and I'm starting to get rather unimpressed with Argos. We have two bedrooms with piles of clothes by now and it's driving me bonkers.

On the tick side: bouncy chair (to be reviewed once baby has used it), newborn kari-me wrap, Hop-tye Mei Tai wrap, size 1 cloth nappies, baby bath, some clothes in neutral colours, Boppy nursing pillow, sterilizer, half a birth plan.

That's just the ticks and no ticks for baby. You really don't want to know the other list. That baby had better stay in for a few extra weeks...

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this:

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Introducing: Urban food growing Tuesday

I know, I know, it's Wednesday, and pretty late in the day at that. Thing is, I've been going to this Grow More Food gardening course which Urban Roots put on for the past 7 weeks and well, it's been a Tuesday kind of thing. To honour the inspiration (and kick in the arse) it's given me, as well as to keep the momentum going for me personally but maybe also for anyone interested in urban gardening, I thought I'd introduce an Urban Food Growing Tuesday.

Nice one, no?

So, what's it about?
Well, I live in a big city, in the suburbs (although it's not your average suburbia). Our house is a tiny mid terrace with a small garden. I used to have an allotment when I was still in a tenement flat, so allotment gardening is not a stranger to me. I enjoy growing things, and I've always been more into growing food than flowers. Growing food in urban spaces has particular challenges but also rewards. Above all, I have to admit that after all those years of having an allotment and trying to get a yield out of our garden, I'm not particularly good at it. I do want to get better, and I'm sure I'm not the only one struggling in their urban patch! So, wouldn't it be great if other bloggers into growing food would join in to share their successes, failures, tips and ideas? With Urban Food Growing Tuesday I'd like to create a space to share our journeys in urban food growing. If you blog about growing food, add your URL in linky below, simple as that. I might even come up with a badge if I feel creative. The linky will be open for a week from the date of my post (so usually from Tuesday to Wednesday).

One thing I felt rather bad about is that at most sessions of the Grow more Food course, I had very little of progress to report from my tiny gardening space. Of course there are reasons, so today I decided to try and cook from our garden. We had a handful of sprouting broccoli, two handful of spinach, 8 potatoes and topped it up with eggs, bread and sweetcorn, all sauted in butter. Cubling helped me dig up the tatties and was mightily proud of her harvest, and low and behold, ate her full meal (including the spinach which she usually refuses). It was tasty. I mean it, the yield might have been pathetic but the taste of it was just so much better than anything you will get from the supermarket.

That's the good bit. The bad bit is that the yield really hasn't been good this year. I didn't get a single red strawberry, my courgettes are the size of tiny gherkins, and as to the broccoli - well I waited for proper heads to appear only to see them go to flower, unsure if that meant I'd lost my chance or not. I messed up the tatties too, and the 8 small (if tasty ones) we dug up today were the yield of 3 plants.

So, putting into practice what I learned at the course, I looked at the site tonight, as we had dinner in the garden (request by Cubling, she likes the wind and wanted to eat in the wind). While our back garden is south facing (ideal), the sun is obscured by 3 sycamore trees growing on our neighbour's patch, one ash tree in our garden (which we prune to reduce the impact), a high fence to the south, a high hedge to the west, and a low fence to the east. From August, this means no sunshine after 1pm in any of the planted area of the garden - not good. The garden is mainly grass, with a few slabs for paths. To plant food, I have 2 raised beds and a significant collection of tubs.

Our front garden is north facing (not good) but on the plus side does not suffer from additional lack of sunshine. It's a grass area, with flowers, bulbs and shrubs on the edges and a new and small acer tree in the middle. Not an ideal site for food growing, and we'd be the first in the area to have food growing in the front.

A further challenge is that we are in Scotland. The growing season is shorter than in England, the climate in the west of Scotland is wet and with less hours of sun than even in the east. So far, nobody in their sane mind has suggested a Strathclyde diet (where you only eat food produced in the local area) because we know that this would probably lead to serious deficiencies. That doesn't mean though that you can't grow food here - you just have a few extra challenges to deal with and need to be more creative.

My plan for the week to come: consider what I can plant now in the spaces that have become available, but also making a plan for next year, which may expand the food growing area, and prioritise my ambitions for the space (chickens or apple tree?). Let's see what the week will bring.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Outdoor Monday: Cathkin Braes

It's a rare week where I can pick from a number of outdoor adventures. Luckily I displayed a proper pregnancy brain cell loss when I forgot my camera on Saturday, so the choice was easier if I wanted to show some photos. I'm still utterly annoyed at myself because Saturday was a very special day, what with N visiting all the way from New York.

Anyway, Sunday we decided after much toing and froing (the choices for family friendly activities are just fabulous in Glasgow in the summer) that we'd make the best out of the good (!!!!) weather and remember an outing 3 1/2 years ago - when I was also 9 months pregnant. The destination was Cathkin Braes, which is situated between East Kilbride, Carmunnock and Castlemilk just south of Glasgow. It's situated higher than Glasgow and offers fabulous views of the city and both meadows and forested walks. Historically, it's also the place where Mary Queen of Scots watched her troops being defeated by the army of Queen Elizabeth I (the battle took place just next to where we stay) in the 16th century.

We took a long walk through the heath, marsh, woodland and meadows and discovered plenty of wildlife - some too quick to capture on film. Cubling went from one discovery to the next and I felt I had a lot of learning to do with her constant enquiries as to names of plants. I really need to dig out some of my plant identification books.

Access to the country park is free of charge and it's ideal for walkers, mountain bikers, joggers, or even on horseback. The Braes are gentle and both toddler and 9 months pregnant proof. Take a picnic (there are no local services, bliss) and enjoy the views.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

What to do with my newfound freedom

There's no doubt now that I'm 9 months pregnant. I'm still confused about my week count, having due dates ranging from 30th August to 6th September, but even with the latest one I'm in my last month.

So yes, I feel tired and could do with an afternoon nap (so much so that at work I have been seen to go for a 10 minute walk just to avoid falling asleep, not because of the boredom of work, but irresistably leaden eyelids). When at home, Cubling is great for shouting Mami wach auf! as soon as I try and shut my eyes. Tomorrow I say. Tomorrow I'll be off work and Cubling will be at nursery. I can have a nap. Hurray.

Other than that I have no specific plans. My first true day of freedom and I'm still wondering what my priorities are. Getting the house fixed should be top of the list but I'd love to read a book, do some knitting and sewing, some gardening too, until my lower back will tell me to take it easy.

After a rubbish first 7 months (morning sickness, tiredness, chest infections, pelvic girdle pain) I'm feeling not too bad. It's all relative, obviously I'm not jumping about like a young deer, but I do remember how I struggled to walk any distance last time around while now I can do a fair distance before my back/hip gives out. I have much less heartburn which is nice. My feet though... They are beyond words. The skin has reached the point of maximum expansion I'm sure, at least it feels like it's about to burst any second. The only shoes still fit for wearing are with adjustable straps and even they hardly reach the velcro. Cubling is getting a bit more helpful these days what with fixing my shoes and actually picking up stuff from the floor when I ask her to (we had a few weeks of refusal and other behaviour that was bordering on the dangerous, like refusing to stop running or stay close by even though/because mummy can't run as fast).

So it's generally all good.
I'm still torn between getting things ready for baby and not wanting to tempt fate. Which is also why I still have the no longer required maternity wear (the kind of stuff that stopped fitting me at 7 months) sitting about. Your mind plays tricks on you at this stage, at least on me. But that's kind of normal too, right?

I'm doing some HypnoBirthing and Antenatal Hypnotherapy which a kind friend has passed on to me, but I've not managed to do some of the other birth preparation plans that are on my mind. I feel I need a bit more because I'm not as relaxed about it as I was last time. There's no lengthy birth plan this time, just notes in my pregnancy record.

Cubling is getting excited, she no longer thinks it's a plastic baby in my tummy and has started kissing and hugging it (about time, I was getting worried) although she still insists she only wants a baby girl.

So, any suggestions what to do with my 2 days of childless and workless freedom next week?

Friday, 6 August 2010

Full time mama

From today for a full year, I will be a full time mama. It hasn't yet quite sunk in, maybe it'll happen next week when I don't actually go to work. For now, there's a mixture of feelings about it all. I know I'll miss my work - my wonderful colleagues, the banter, the serious discussions too of how to best make a difference. That's the beauty of working in the voluntary sector, everyone is in it for the cause ultimately and passionate about what they do and how they do it. Even for all the frustration there can be, it never gets boring and it's a great environment to be in.

I also remember very well my last maternity leave, which was shorter. Back then, motherhood hit me like a sledgehammer. My life change beyond recognition and as much as I adored my beautiful daughter, loved her every cell, the adaptation to life as a parent wasn't an easy ride. I longed to be back at work, for very profane reasons: to be able to manage my time according to mostly my priorities, to be able to drink a cup of hot tea, go to the loo by myself, to feel a sense of achievement at the end of the day rather than the never ending repetition of tasks without immediate purpose.

However, returning to work after just 6 months also meant additional strains: a baby who wasn't ready for childcare yet, the constant rush, the juggling of parenting and working and feeling like neither was done as it should have been. Only slowly a balance emerged, only to be thrown off course again. So now, I'm more than ready to embrace being a full time mama because I'm tired. Very tired. Pregnancy tired but more than that, working mum tired. While I worry that I may feel a bit isolated, a bit lonely, a bit without proper purpose, I embrace this time where I hope not to feel pulled into three directions at once without ever getting any sense of balance. And I know the time will pass very quickly, so I'm determined to make the best of it.

I wouldn't even mind going overdue again this time, more time for that longed for balance that will surely be overthrown once a newborn is thrown into the equation.
Finally, I'm getting ready for baby. Cubling and I went shopping and she was loving it. I was glad to get it done, so as to feel a bit more prepared but I also always worry about whether it's the right thing to shop for baby, because, you know, one never knows. But that's a different story.

Time now to tackle the ole to do list and get this place ready. Not just for baby, but for all of us.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Gallery: Playtime at the Tramway

The Tramway currently hosts an interactive installation for children 0-12 (Folding Clouds and Hoovering Hills) which we visited today. The installation brings the outside indoors, with items that you would expect to find outdoors or items that resemble the outdoors in the spacious Tramway theatre/museum. It's truly interactive - the children can create, craft, draw, run, make music etc. For example, the old tramlines are filled with soil and look like paths, there are mirrors the shape of water splashes, felt and cushion make for great hills. There's a den, a massive kaleidoscope, pots to make music with, a giant carton tube, giant pipe cleaners (like knitted snakes, just that you can bend them into shapes), a craft table with the option of exhibiting the creations in a construction from cardboard that resembles a beehive.

What I loved most about it is that it's a work in constant change - you can create flowers with shapes, and take them apart. The children create little pieces with craft materials, some don't complete them, the next child will pick it up and transform it into something different. It's collaborative and constantly evolving, you look away and back and the room has changed. Hours of fun.

So today, our playtime was at the Tramway, complete with a stroll through the Hidden Gardens. The installation is still up for another 10 days so if you're near Glasgow, make sure not to miss it (entry is free).

Monday, 2 August 2010

Outdoor Monday: Pick your own

It's taken us all summer and a night filled with dreams of anxiety to finally embark on our very own picking your own adventure.

Let me explain: Firstly, my excuse is that I'm pregnant. For everything. So yes, I had a night full of anxiety dreams that if we didn't go fruit picking TOMORROW we would never ever go fruit picking. That is a serious, dramatic, and panic inducing thought. If you're pregnant. Because, as I now know, it doesn't matter WHAT you are anxious about, even if it's a stupid, ridiculous thing like fruit picking, what matters is THAT you are anxious, the actual feeling. I mean, when I woke for the 10th time that night, I knew I was being stupid to experience such anxiety, but it was still real. Very much so in fact. Previously, our plans to pick our own were abandoned due to atrocious weather (I'm talking serious downpours, not a bit of drizzle) and my SPD (as I say, you can blame anything on pregnancy) which rendered me almost immobile for the best part of 8 weeks.

So I decided to make a fool of myself to Mr Cartside (and now the whole world by blogging about it) and tell him about it. How I would love to go fruit picking because Cubling would love it and it was almost the end of the season, and then there's going to be a baby and if the baby was anything like Cubling, we wouldn't be able to do it next year (screaming baby syndrome) or the year after (runaway toddler syndrome). Plus considering our weekend plans for the next weeks, there was NO TIME LEFT. It was NOW OR NEVER.

Am I shouting? I tried not to, but yes, I guess I was.

And we went fruit picking. Straws were "scarce", fair enough, I'd just bought 4 packs at a supermarket (Scottish grown though) when a shower came down and "fruit picking" in a supermarket suddenly became appealing again. I hadn't bought raspberries and they were still going strong, and all was well.

Need I say that Cubling loved it? Just look at the pictures - we spent twice as long as we'd intended, picked twice as much as we'd planned, and spent a lot more than we had estimated. Cubling actually liked the pea picking as much as the raspberry picking.

The following days were spent: jam making, preserving, eating. My intention to cajole Cubling into eating fruit has backfired though: now that she knows that real fruit makes it into jam, she no longer eats jam. I give up. At least she loves picking and jam making, that's a start, isn't it? And she's fine with peas, straight from the pod or cooked. We now have 14 jars of jam to carry the summer goodness into the winter, a very knackered but happy mummy because there's little cooking I enjoy more than making jam.

There were lots of families there, with children younger than Cubling. So it may not be totally unimaginable to pick our own next year. I'm reassured all around. We went to East Yonderton Farm, the only Pick Your Own farm near Glasgow (Renfrewshire to be precise). It's located right next to Glasgow airport, so the kids can watch planes take off and land as well. The farm has all kinds of soft fruit and some vegetables - you can pick your own at weekends and buy produce from their shop weekdays. For a list of all Pick Your Own farms in Scotland, you can find the details here. On this site you can also find farms in England and Wales.

This post is part of Outdoor Challenge Monday, hosted by 5 Orange Potatoes.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Agent of Birth

I resisted Make do Mum's post. I can't resist Single Mummy.net's post.
The big question is that of birth plans. Or not. With just over 4 weeks left (or maybe more or less) I guess it's particularly relevant for me right now. Having the benefit of hindsight, I'm a bit more informed about this all than I was last time, but in principle, my views haven't changed.

Draw back the clock 4 years ago when I was just pregnant, and one thing that was overwhelming was my fear of giving birth. It was bad, it was ugly, there seemed no way out. I was scared of a c-section, especially being awake through it. I was scared of labour and the pain, and all that comes with it. Neither natural birth or a c-section were something I wanted to ever experience.

I knew I had to do something about it and I did. I informed myself about birth, the process, complications, options, choices. I embarked on a HypnoBirthing course and did an NCT course. I faced my fears and worked through them. I signed up for some forums, including one on homebirths. I really and truly considered all options and made sure I knew what my preferences were.

Thanks to HypnoBirthing, I entered labour without fear, but with excitement and confidence. I also had a lengthy birth plan which was along the lines of natural birth, no epidural, birthing pool etc. My main worry was that of a c-section - the one thing I hoped to avoid at all costs and I was confident I would. And yes, things went different - a long labour, and prolonged second stage which needed intervention. I was very close to the knife but managed to do with the forceps (and boy was I thankful for the last minute spinal). I did manage to avoid a c-section, I did manage to do labour without an epidural (for whatever that's worth), I found out that labouring in water works wonders for me, gas and air is odd but not to be dismissed, and that diamorphine is shite.

This time around, I'm much more open to the idea of an epidural because at the end of the day, when you're labouring forever and are tired, it doesn't help to be so categorically against it. Diamorphine did more damage to my mindset than an epidural would have done. I'd still try doing it without, just to be able to stay in the pool, but rather have it than go through the last 3 hours of my last labour again.

I do have a birth plan this time. It's shorter, to the point and much more flexible. I still find it important because it establishes me as a person who has choices and a say in birthing. This is something not to be taken for granted. Consider this: everytime I tell someone that Cubling was 15 days late, I hear the sentence "I didn't know they would let you go that long over". I'm sick and tired of the implications of this turn of phrase. I was offered induction at 39 weeks because I felt rotten. I refused because there was no medical indication. This was my choice - and if another woman had chosen the offered induction, that would have been fine as well. No woman should feel or actually be "made" to have an induction because "they" don't "let" you go over a certain number of days (or refused one because she hasn't reached that point yet but has real reasons for requesting one). It's the woman's body, the woman's choice, the woman's baby.

I was scared of induction and refused to have one before 42 weeks as long as baby was doing well. Baby was monitored and was doing just fine. It was my choice to have an appointment for induction at 42 weeks because of the higher risk of stillbirth from that point onwards. Labour started at 42 weeks exactly, so I didn't need induced.

Due dates aren't an exact science, but it shocks me that women still feel totally at the mercy of the medical profession when it comes to what is supposed to be a rather normal occurrence, that of birthing a baby. It's great we have good healthcare, midwives and medical intervention if needed. However, we also have choices, and should be informed about risks and options to base our choices on. Of course there may be circumstances where we have to adapt - when Cubling got tired and a c-section was advised, I questioned this. We discussed it for 10 minutes and I still struggled to sign the consent form (because I didn't feel I could consent to it). I did it though-for the baby. And in those 10 minutes Cubling finally moved down the crucial amount to make it out by forceps.

I struggled for about a year with this less than perfect birth, not having felt her being born, not having pushed her out by myself. And then, suddenly, I realised that it didn't matter. What mattered was that I tried to do my best, I did the best I could, we were both well and giving birth is nothing but the start of a much bigger adventure and challenge - that of parenting. It's important though to take ownership of how we birth and not be subjects of the medical profession. It's not so important how it all ends up. I'm very much at ease with how Cubling's birth went now, and positive about what's to come.

Above all, I'm glad I did have a birth plan, it made me an agent in this event, rather than a subject. And that's a good thing, surely.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin