27 April 2014

The young royals vs. Einstein

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited our Cambridge, 15 minutes from our house, recently. They visited the Cambridge Town Hall, which is one of my favourite local buildings - old, wooden and cute. It looked like it had had a fresh coat of paint for the occasion.

Anna and I joined 15,000 others to get a peek at the future King and Queen. Apart from the historical significance I felt a bit silly, though - they must wonder why on earth everyone is so crazy for them, and wish we'd calm down. Not that they showed it - they were graceful and friendly (not that we got very close).
Taken with my camera at full zoom:

My little princess and I filled in our nearly two-hour wait by reading and making leaf crowns. Actually our crowns were terrible, but a fellow waiter made an amazing one that she gave Anna. I like the way people 'bond' in these situations.

But to put all the bally-hoo in perspective: My husband's reading a biography of Einstein, which he's loving. He read that when Einstein toured America, crowds of 15,000 or so turned out to see him! Can you imagine anyone getting so excited about a scientist these days? They can do things we could barely dream of even twenty years ago. I was just listening to a radio piece about how they can construct new body parts from a patient's own cells - without genetic engineering. Obviously this pales in comparison to Albert's feat, but still - how is that stuff less impressive than being gorgeous and marrying the right chap? Grouch, grouch. I suspect William and Kate would agree.

21 April 2014

Recipe for healthy chocolate

If all that Easter chocolate is feeling a wee bit unhealthy, try this recipe. I make it often and everyone adores it. I think it's as nice as real chocolate. It's more like fudge than chocolate, but I think it's a fine substitute. You'll be impressed, I promise.

I got it from the Homegrown Kitchen blog, and have modified it only very slightly. You definitely need a food processor for it. I usually make double this quantity.

Best of all, it's faster than anything else I know how to 'bake'.

Raw Mayan Chocolate Fudge

1 c dates
1 c raw cashews (I have successfully substituted some of the cashews for almonds)
1 c dessicated coconut
1/3 c cocoa powder
pinch salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla paste (or you can use 1 tsp vanilla essence)
zest and juice of one orange, tangelo or similar
2 Tbsp virgin coconut oil (the stuff that tastes and smells coconutty)

Soak the dates in boiling water for at least 10 minutes, then drain. Process cashews and coconut until they are finely ground. Add everything else, including the dates, and process some more until it's uniformly sludgy.

Press into a tin of some sort and refrigerate until firm.

16 April 2014

The food growing obsession of a starvation survivor

My current preoccupation with gardening has led me towards a wonderful book called One Magic Square. I loved it.

This is why the author, Lolo Houbein, grows food:

"During 1944 and 45 I endured the wartime famine in Holland and, at 175 centimetres tall, was reduced to 34 kilograms of bone and sinew. I carry an abiding memory of my hometown, Hilversum (population 80,000), breaking down as war action cut off the region. All trees became firewood, as did door, cupboards, furniture and fences. Cats, dogs and rabbits disappeared. I starved rather than eat our rabbit, Trudy. Mice, rats and birds went into the pot. Rivers were fished out. We at sugar beet, which was normally pig fodder, and tulip bulbs, which made me ill. I dug for grass roots under the snow to steady my stomach."

I, too, would be obsessed with making sure I had enough food, if I had been through that. Enough food even if civilisation broke down, that is.

The concept made me even more worried about the white butterfly caterpillars consuming my winter vegetable seedlings. Only a few days later the solution presented itself to me. I was walking along a road with literally thousands of other people, accompanying the children to Hamilton's annual Nightglow, a highlight of our hot air balloon festival, where the balloons light up at night, there's lots of music and fireworks.

No one else seemed to want the table on the side of the road. The people in the house next to it confirmed it was out there because they wanted someone to take it. They put it behind a tree for me and I picked it up on the way back to the car. You've got to be bold, folks, if you want stuff for free. Plus friendly and polite, of course.

Here it is back home...

...upside down and draped with a mosquito net - my perfect little seedling table. The water-filled drink bottles on the shelves to moderate the temperature (I need more), and it sits on a sheltered, sunny porch. It works a treat! There will soon be about 20 broccoli seedlings and lots of other things in the garden to tide us over winter.

The Magic Square book, by the way, is not only compelling, but one of the best practical gardening books I've read.

ps sorry this post comes after such a long break. I struck a roadblock when I realised I cannot import photos from my camera to the computer! I'm having to do it a very second rate way.
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