Saturday, July 28, 2012

Beat the Winter Blues with the Mind

I had a wonderful Sunday morning chat with Dr Louise Greenstock a while back (you can download it at and she was talking about the power of the mind in managing mood, happiness and a whole range of other things that impact on us daily. It got me thinking that winter is a time when our anxiety can increase and our mood can spiral down; shorter days and dwindling light can contribute, but so can being closed inside or getting cold. It is important to take care of oneself and nurture the body and mind at this time of year – and particularly to find a personal mantra that shifts the focus from what you don’t want to what you do.

One strategy I use is positive self talk and gratitude.

I have developed a short ritual in the morning that speaks to the truths I know about myself and the vision that I have for the day ahead. I repeat the words to myself quietly, reiterating the positive and kick starting a productive frame of mind – almost like a computer reboot.

I am also mindful that when things get tough, the days are short and the sunlight and time seem more limited and nothing seems to be going right…I am to be grateful rather than resentful.

This is sometimes easier said than done, but definitely works and is something I have had to keep reminding myself to do for many years. For instance, instead of getting anxious and uptight about traffic jam (not a problem for me personally as I live 100m from my workplace), be grateful that the universe has provided you the opportunity for reflection or has saved you from a potential accident that may have awaited otherwise. If a work deal falls through, be grateful for the new opportunities it has presented and the time it has freed up.

It is worthwhile listening to the podcast with Louise, I have listened to it quite often since we recorded it, just as a reminder of how important the mind is to your overall wellness.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What to plant in Winter

Winter often gets the cold shoulder in the veggie patch as it does require a bit of extra fortitude to rug up and brave the breeze to get into it, but it is worth it AND if you are going to eat out of your patch into springtime, definitely necessary!

There are plenty of veg you can get started from seed at this time of year (July), and it is worth investing the $40 or so to buy a small plastic covered hot house, just to give them a bit of protection. Otherwise, find a nice, sheltered, warm place for the seeds to start their germination.

You will be rewarded at the end of winter with a garden about to burst at the seam, the minute the sun lingers a little!

Winter is also a great time for planning and preparing the soil – and for making new gardens! Make the most of sunny Sunday afternoons and do yourself a favour by investing in a back yard veg patch…and improve your Vitamin D intake at the same time!

What can you plant at this time of year?

Cool and temperate zones

Broad been, beetroot, cabbage, capsicum, lettuce (seeling), onion or leek (seeling), spinach (seeling)

Tropical and sub-tropical zones

Beans, beetroot , broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cucumber, leek, onion, silverbeet (seeling), spinach (seeling), tomato, lettuce, pumpkin, pea, melon, corn

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Super FAV Winter Veg Recipe

We have an abundance of pumpkin this winter, delicious varieties including jap, blue, golden nugget and another that I am not sure about, it could be a hybrid that snuck out of the compost heap at the end of summer!

I have any number of pumpkin recipes, mostly they play to the sweetness of this nutritious and highly underrated veg, but my favourite is a very versatile and highly adaptable pumpkin soup.

The reason I say versatile and adaptable is that it basically takes whatever you have left in the pantry or fridge and turns it into a hearty meal for a hungry family.

To make the soup base, start with any combination of garlic, onion, leeks and celery and sweat in a large pot until nicely browned and suitably fragrant. Then add ½ a decent sized pumpkin chopped into chunks. At this point you can also add any other root veg you fancy, or have wilting in the bottom of the fridge; parsnip, swedes and turnip are in season at the moment and carrots, potato or sweet potato will also do just fine! They need to be cut into similar size of the pumpkin, but be sure not to add so much that it will overpower the flavour of the pumpkin, it is after all the hero of the dish.

Now you need to add enough water to cover the vegetables – and then add a bit more…because now you are going to add another pantry staple – soup mix, barley, lentils, green peas, white beans etc… about 250g will be sufficient, but if you want a really thick soup, add more!

These will all cook together in the soup, once the ingredients are all soft – blitz it up and serve with crusty bread and a squeeze of lemon.

This soup is a great way to sneak in some extra fibre and nutrients as it includes hidden legumes and vegetables which are very important for a healthy diet – if you want to get really cheeky add an apple or a pear for a bit of extra flavour and a serve of fruit!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Welcome to Winter

Well it is time to rug up and get out your woollies, winter is well and truly here. As long as I can stay warm, I love this season!

For me winter means a mesmerising log fire, hearty soups, warming tagines and slow cooks, mittens, scarves and funky felt hats!

It also means consolidation in the garden. Winter is a time to give a bit of extra love to the soil in the way of nutrients (compost or soil improver, or in our case, cow poo and shredded newspaper) and extra mulch. In our temperate climate we are also able to start planting new seeds for a spring transplanting (we have a little greenhouse which helps this), it is so exciting to see new growth…and imagine the possibilities for the table!

Winter is often the time when we do garden structural adjustment or extensions –often, we have taken the opportunity during winter to light a fire outside, rug up and get building.

There have been many an afternoon where I have come home from work, just on dusk, changed into my gardening clothes and wiled away the hours moving dirt, digging holes or mulching garden beds….with rosy red cheeks, a smug grin and the knowledge that the fire is warm inside, it is a blissful feeling!

If you live in the tropical north, I think you are missing out.

After the bright seasonal serenade of the autumn colours subside, winter can sometimes feel gloomy, but if you take the season in hand and celebrate all that makes it special – the food, the festivals, the ambience and the outdoor recreational opportunities, there is much to be excited about.

Be joyous this winter – and shout about what you celebrate this season!