Tag Archives: gardening

Its February .. the month of love and no sugar!

8 Feb


Dry January got off to a spectacular start and continued as such for exactly 14 days and 16 hours … then a rat strolled across our yard as nonchalant as you like, I could be mistaken but I think he was smoking a cigarette – YES he  was THAT CALM!

What followed was the freak out of all freak outs on my part and after a brief draining of blood from his face a very calm taking control of the situation by Dave! Rats are one of my biggest fears in life, second only to death and in joint place with falling and breaking all my teeth, so as you can imagine I wasn’t too happy seeing one in the middle of what had been a lovely afternoon. Mr Rat, as the neighbours have taken to calling it (they had been watching him for a while it seems .. no, I don’t understand this either) had eaten all our chillies and was probably heading for the capsicums which were starting to rot in the sun. Dave disposed of all our veggie plants in one swift movement, laid poison, set traps and poured me a glass of wine. There really was nothing else for it, the only way to stop me crying was to have me drinking!

The rest of January although not strictly dry was very restrained until Australia Day which became a 4 day weekend of immeasurable fun lubricated with various alcoholic beverages … Oh the fireworks! The laughing! The fun!


And shur then it was February ….

I started reading about going sugar free in earnest after Christmas, my main source was Sarah Wilson’s blog and e-books. Any fans of Masterchef Australia may remember Sarah presented the first series, she has an autoimmune disease as do I so this really interested me as she claims to have healed herself and lost weight by cutting fructose and wheat from her diet. It was something I had been thinking about for years so I decided it was finally time to give it a shot. So from Feb 1st I have not eaten any fructose including that in fruit and avoided wheat as much as possible, I am doing really well! My tastebuds have recovered to such an extent that a glass of full fat milk now tastes deliciously sweet!

This week I joined the local library, it was such a shock to see how high tech libraries have become its a long way from the stuffy little place we used frequent in Arklow in search of Roald Dahl & Enid Blyton books! For one thing the books check themselves out these days, you can keep them for 21 days, there’s dvds too and its not quiet AT ALL! My main reason for joining was that I wanted to read another book on giving up sugar called Sweet Poison by David Gillespie, Sarah Wilson refers to him as an inspiration. The book is incredible, I read it in 24 hours (it would have been less but I had to keep stopping to get into the pool and sleep) and would recommend it to anyone interested in health, the food industry, why we are getting fatter, heart disease, cancer, diabetes or just looking to expand their knowledge base (in other words info-hungry like myself!).

I’m not going to try and convert everyone but if you have ever wondered why humans are doing more exercise than ever but getting fatter, eating more low-fat/light products than ever but getting fatter and why this has all come about in our lifetimes this subject is worth looking into!  Oh and don’t worry I will be eating fruit again in a few weeks, I am detoxing totally first then I’ll start eating it again.

Are you wondering what I am eating? If so let me know and I’ll do a post on a few meals ….

Today I made these rice paper rolls, very simple and filled with all sorts from the fridge such as peanut butter, courgette/zucchini, cucumber, carrot, capsicum/pepper, fresh coriander, last night’s roast chicken, avocado (of course!) …I’ve munched on 3 as I’ve been writing this! Other filling ideas are cold rice, noodles, meats, prawns really anything works as long as its not liquidy.  Great with a simple little dipping sauce of lime juice, tamari (soya sauce) and chilli …


Of course February is the month of love with Valentine’s Day falling slap bang in the middle of month! I just love love and not just the romantic hallmark flowers and chocolates sort but the real life best friends, sisters, parents, family, being there for each other, knowing you are not alone in this big bad world sort of love! In the past few weeks I have come across some really beautiful stories that I want to share … if you’re a Hurley get the Kleenex out ..

Bill and Shelley: Their love story 

The Race Grows Sweeter Near its Final Lap 

Ada Bryant and Robert Haire 

And lest we forget those that were not so lucky to know love in life …. Margaret Magdelene No. 322 

And as for me well I am super lucky and know first hand all sorts of real love but none so greater than what I feel for my early Valentines gift …. isn’t she a beauty????

20130208-131155.jpgYip, I’m as shallow as they come ,

Be good,

SJ xx

Gardening: First Lesson Learned

6 Dec

Firstly some good news: The caterpillar was located. He has been sent to a nice farm in the country where he will happily live out his days*.


SJ and plants

Since my last gardening post we have been very busy! Seven huge plastic containers were purchased and lots more plants, so adding to those we had before we bought celery, strawberries, joi choi, rainbow chard,  lettuces, spring onions, snow peas, zucchini/courgettes, cucumbers, more coriander, mint, thyme and basil and my favourite was a rainbow selection of carrots .. potted them all, arranged them beautifully in the yard and were very proud of ourselves altogether. The weather was awful that week really stormy and wet, I worried about our little plants but they survived.

IMG_5182 IMG_5166 IMG_5155 IMG_5154 IMG_5153 IMG_5151 1375 1373 IMG_5148

Then it got very hot ….. and lots of them died!
What a rookie error on our part not to realise that a 36 degree day would burn the leaves of all but the very toughest. After a quick relocation into the shade some of them came back to life but we had a number of casualties and my dreams of rainbow carrots are fading. Its not just my skin that needs the factor 50!


However there have been some good developments, our chilli plants are weighed down with long green chillies and our courgettes are flying it with flowers bursting out, the capsicums are also doing well and we get about 2 teeny tiny tomatoes each day. The herbs and strawberries also with stood the heat and are thriving. This evening the tomatoes are being relocated as we think the wall behind them is getting too hot and burning their leaves so they too will benefit from a bit more shade. Its the complete opposite to Ireland where we were chasing the sun shine.

I cannot wait to be able to harvest the produce, hopefully neither the caterpillars nor sun will cost us anymore plants .. fingers crossed!

SJ x

*May not be true.

Gardening: An Australian Attempt

13 Nov

I’ve always loved growing vegetables so when we moved into our new little house and it had a yard I was thrilled … off to the hardware store with me to buy pots, compost, tomato and chilli plants and lettuce and herb seeds … spent an hour or so setting it all up and apart from watering them everyday didn’t really take much more notice .. UNTIL .. something ate all the lettuce, basil and coriander seedlings and my beautiful big mint plant (my future mojitos were in danger!) and had started nibbling at some of the leaves on the chilli pepper plant …

Lettuce seedlings. RIP. Taken down in their prime. 

I was suddenly a lot more interested, this was WAR! Nobody messes with my mojitos!

At Subiaco Farmer’s Market we spoke to a lovely lady from Heirloom Farm who diagnosed a case of CATERPILLAR and gave us advice on eco friendly ways to deter caterpillars and other pests, namely encouraging their natural predators by growing flowers!

Laden down with more tomato, chilli, spinach, marigold, petunia & lobellia plants along with a couple more bags of compost and a renewed interest we spent all Saturday afternoon gardening and re-arranging our front and rear yards … (we’re talking 2 square metres here, not hectares..). Its a really relaxing past time and an opportunity to get some Vitamin D.

Here’s some photos of how its all looking now …..

Marigold, coriander, basil, coriander in little colourful pots and predator attracting flowers below .. Area at front door …
Guard Frog is on high alert for caterpillars ….
Tomatoes, spinach and marigold in back yard.

The first fruits of our labour, teeny tiny little tomatoes!

The future is looking tasty …..

However there are a few areas I need some help with….

  • we planted oregano seeds but the seedlings are tiny & don’t seem to be growing at all, any tips?
  • when is the best time to water plants and do they need water more than once a day? this was rarely an issue in Ireland so need some guidance.
  • what other veggies grow well in pots?

Any help at all would be much appreciated,

I’ll be back soon with an update,

SJ x

A moving feast ….

25 Sep

In the spring of 1987 as I was eating my breakfast before school,  my mother said to my 2 younger sisters and I “There’s a surprise coming in September, guess what it is?”

“A dishwasher!” I guessed

“Well, actually yes but that will be here before September there is something better coming too …” she said.

“Better than a dishwasher” I thought to myself. Unlikely, very unlikely!

I was delighted about the dishwasher because I had recently come to the conclusion that we desperately needed one ..  you see every time I wanted to go somewhere my Mam would say “after I have done the dishes” .. dishes were ruining my little life!

As for the other great surprise? That was a third sister, followed a couple of years later by a fourth. Although I am fond of them now I was fairly annoyed that my mother couldn’t have gotten us some brothers at the time. I remember that morning so well, it was a very cute attempt to get us excited about a new baby wasn’t it? Backfired with me though!

The dishwasher in 1987 didn’t change my life in fact it probably ruined it a bit more as small children are a good height for stacking .. especially when you have a very busy mother and a “work ethic” family .. However this week I felt the excitement all over again as we have moved house and there is a beautiful new fitted kitchen and (joy of joys) a dishwasher!!

There is also a lovely little yard where we will be attempting to grow some veggies, I may need some advice on this as the seasons, climate, varieties are all completely different to Ireland.

The past week has been spent moving, cleaning, sorting, unpacking, cleaning, losing everything, slowing finding things again, buying more furniture and even more flippin cleaning … I am exhausted!

When I read this recipe yesterday I knew it was just what I needed – I didn’t have all the exact ingredients but as my national school teacher used to tell us “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” and it was delish!



Rye bread instead of wraps, fresh coriander instead of dried, cherry tomatoes instead of “cooking” tomatoes (whatever they are?), button mushrooms instead of large, lettuce instead of spinach .. and a chilli for good measure!

tomatoes cooking

add paste and herbs


sweating mush and onions Sweating the onions, low heat & patience – usually I try to rush them resulting in burnt onions! But I’m wising up … a pinch of salt helps too!

coriander and chilli I added chopped coriander and chilli to the tomato sauce just before serving …

mushrooms and balsamic Added in mushrooms then balsamic … which btw adds an amazing flavour to the mushrooms, I’ll be doing this again!

mushies ready to go


avo and toast This avo was very ripe so I just spread it on the toast but sliced would be nice too … a sprinkle of salt at this stage to bring out the flavour!

Ready for assembly ..

finished The finished dish .. it was really tasty and healthy .. if I was doing it in this form again I would poach the eggs, scrambled are perfect for a wrap!


Later on I had this … yes it is Nutella. A girl has to get her fruit you know!

SJ x








Busy busy …

7 Jun

So the detox is over .. I loved doing it, felt so great from about day 6 onwards .. I was up bright as a button each morning and felt full of energy! My skin was glowing and although I don’t have a scales so can’t give the figures I reckon I lost some weight, well I was def thinner around my middle … and everyone said my face was skinny, which in my mind is a total waste of weightloss energy! Seriously I have lot of fat on my lower half and I lost it off my face ??!!! I didn’t use up my 5 pilates classes with Jett during the course of the detox so I will use the remaining 2 up this week .. I love her classes, they are really tough and it hurts afterwards .. but its good to know you’re alive 😉

Detox is over 😉

Since the detox ended last week I have been really busy .. socially! Totally undoing all the good detoxing …
Lots of meals out (sadly without my camera) .. in some lovely places like Kennedys of Fairview where I had a delish lemon sole with peas & bacon in a cream sauce and mashed sweet potato .. yum! Great wine too and very efficient service – the waiter actually knew what we were going to order as he could hear us talking, it was really funny!
Friday was spent wedding dress shopping with my bride to be friend .. lunch in Fallon & Byrne’s cellar of pate with breads (they accomodated my request for gluten free bread without hesitation) and a bottle of pinot grigio ..

>>>>> Then the best meal of the weekend .. Sabor Brazil !
If you haven’t heard of this little Brazillian place you will soon! It is so hard to describe the level of service we received here .. by far the most attentive I have ever experienced .. lots of extra tasting courses before and between our starter and main, fabulous biscuits after our meal, flaming sambucas, dessert wine and THE MOST amazing truffles .. The chef and half owner Marco used to be a chocolatier in Brazil .. I had deep fried cassava root chips to start and fillet steak with a walnut bechamel sauce for my main .. YUM! I will definitely be back as its a gorgeous place to celebrate an occasion and be treated like a princess by the host and other half owner Tom.

10 oz Fillet Steak with rice & walnut bechamel sauce ...

AMAZING Truffles .. like little clouds of chocolatey yum-ness!!

Marco & Tom from Sabor Brazil with us very stuffed and happy ladies x

On Sunday myself and the boyf went for a late lunch in Rustic Stone, Dylan McGrath’s restaurant on George Street. This was my third time eating here and the first two meals had been great so I had high hopes … sadly this time it didn’t really impress me.  We went for the 28 oz t-bone steak to share, truffle chips, new potatoes, luscious lime salad and the courgette, avocado and olive mix! Everything arrived looking delish ..  steak cooking away on the hot stone accompanied by deep friend anchovies, pesto, chopped coriander with hazelnuts and sage butter .. However there was something missing and I think it was flavour!!  I expected the steak to be really tasty as I love meat off the bone but it was dissappointing. Perhaps I was suffering from eating out fatigue after the weekend I was having but the boyf was less then impressed and the service while adequate was disinterested at best. We had a cocktail each and the bill came to €98 so this is the upper end of lunching out for us … and I am sorry to say on this occasion it was not worth it.

28 oz T Bone Steak cooking on hot stone ..

Monday was spent at Bloom in the Phoenix Park – AMAZEBALLS !!! We realised as soon as we got out of the car that we had forgotten the camera .. TOTAL FAIL 😦

From the minute we walked in I was impressed. So well organised, well presented and planned. It suited us to a T as food, gardens, plants and animals are our top interests .. add gadgets and beer tasting to that and we were in our element! First place we visited were the cute little piglets asleep in the sunshine .. the boyf was wearing a t-shirt from Hairy Baby that read “I’M A SAVAGE FOR BACON AND CABBAGE” which got him lots of attention and laughs .. one man even stopping him and saying “Don’t let those pigs see you wearing that!!!”

I then spotted the lovely Caroline from Bibliocook who was at the 8DegreesBrewing stand, we tried their ale and it is yum! Will be purchasing as soon as its hits the off licences in a couple of weeks! I then introduced myself to Alan Kingston from Glenilen as I love their products and wanted to congratulate his wife Valerie on her latest award.  Next onto Green Saffron where I stocked up on my favourite Murgh Tandoori mix along with a few new ones .. I had met Arun Kapil at Limerick’s Milk Market and have made friends on Twitter so he was really nice and gave me a gorgeous big canvas shopper (which was so handy for ALL the food we bought) and a bottle of delish spiced orange salad dressing!

Other things I bought: Bluebell Falls Goats Cheese with honey, pulled pork sambo from Crowes Farm for lunch, 3 little beetroot plants from GIY, Bacon Jam from Ed Hicks which seems to have been the BIG HIT of Bloom if Twitter Foodies are anything to go by!

All in it was a great weekend, the lovely weather helped .. and I finished it off by watching the first episode of Irish Come Dine with Me  .. then Made in Chelsea!!

I need to take it easy this week as I have Taste of Dublin next Saturday … Oh God!!

And another four day weekend for me …

3 May

Of course now I never want to work a Friday or Monday again, next week is gonna be a barrell of laughs!

Spring Flowers

After the excitement and emotion (not a joke, I had butterflies & tears in equal measures) of the Royal Wedding

>>>>> yes I LOVED the dresses, PipMidds is a total roide, Wills has come way up in my estimation, the little girl covering her ears on the balcony MADE that photo and Beatrice&Eugenie were really not that bad…

but Kate Middleton is the real Royalty IMHO, she showed them! <<<<

… I spent most of this weekend at home on the ranch with the folks..

>>>> gardening, chatting, drinking wine, lunching at Macreddin Farmers Market, visiting the scene of the attempted ATM robbery in Tinahealy, running to my old primary school & back, walking with my girls, a baby and a dog, then leaving laden down with farm fresh eggs from my parents little henny-pennys and all the veggies I purchased in Macreddin from Dennis Healy’s fantastic organic farm!

Have you ever seen garlic straight from the ground ?? Seriously, you have to ..I can’t show you mine as I used it before I thought of photographing it but its really not what I was expecting .. really like an onion in fact.

Then back to the big smoke for more work on the raised beds “we” built last weekend .. strawberry plants and onions are down …. it was a very healthy outdoorsy weekend.

I have even have some extra freckles .. wooo hooo!
Now its over and I am sad 😦
Although I do have lots to look forward to in the coming weeks though, namely…

>>> Dinner with my sidekicks in The Old Convent, Clogheen, Co Tipperary. This has been on my wishlist for, like, ever. Its an 8 course tasting menu and I intend tasting all that .. and what ever else is on offer.

>>>  The following weekend I have a hen party in Kilkenny…Can’t reveal any details .. but trust me.. its unusual!

>>> I am also hoping to partake of a detox class .. but my partaking is yet to be confirmed so more on that later ..

>>> If this lovely weather continues … May is gonna be good month!

>>> Hopefully I’m not jinxing the weather but I am loving this song right now! … Have you ever seen the rain?

And to finish … The Vegetable Patch …. CUTIE-NESS !!

This weekend I … #1

26 Apr

Didn’t go to work for FOUR DAYS 

>>> joy of joys!

Had lunch in Avoca Rathcoole.

>>> Love the salads .. and tasted some yummy Burren Smoked Salmon in the shop. Good start.

Stayed in Rathsallagh House Hotel.

>>> Lovely walks around the beautiful grounds, some tasty bevs in the garden, a delish dinner, after dinner drinks in the drawing room and AMAZING breakfast the next morning in the course of which I tasted Kedgeree for the first time, it was love…  the perfect place to relax, slow down and actually smell some roses. 

Visited the Japanese Gardens and National Stud.

>>> long walk around the gardens and stable yards, sunny weather made it even better .. loved the cherry blossoms in full bloom and the lovely shiny healthy horses of all shapes and sizes in the perfectly manicured paddocks .. the fallabellas might have been my favourites.

Fallabella ...so cute and small. But apparently not small enough to live on my balcony 😦

Hit The Osprey Hotel in Naas..

>>> after some gymming & swimming we headed to Time nightclub where I realised I am old. Oh and I am massive compared to the young ones .. however I did have much better shoes.

Spent Sunday gardening..

>>> bought and re-planted two tomato plants one aubergine and one chilli plant for my balcony. Built* raised beds in boyf’s mother’s garden.

*my role may have been that of a supervisor.

The raised beds "we" built ...

Discovered a new love ..

>>> BOARDWALK EMPIRE. Why oh why don’t I have Sky Atlantic on my NTL ?? Now I have to find excuses to visit his mother’s house to watch all the Sky+’d episodes … OR find some other way of getting them .. I believe there are some *cough* websites where one might find such a thing? Answers on a postcard.

BBQ’d On Easter Monday ..

>>> not really a big deal for me BUT this one was different as I cooked a WHOLE CHICKEN on the BBQ .. I spatchcocked it! Yip! That is a word! It was totally delicious and well worth a try … for some expert instruction see this recipe.

So that was the weekend … back to work today and real world … but only for 3 days … then another 4 day weekend for me ..YiiiipppPPEEEEeeeeee !!!