Friday, October 31, 2008

HUGE Caterpillar

This is the caterpillar that is at this very moment systematically eating it's way through a large portion of one of my Orange Bell bushes out in the back yard.

When I saw it I did a double take, not because it is so green, and not because it is so pretty, but because it is so HUGE! The next picture will give you an idea of just how huge.

See what I mean?

I know nothing about caterpillars and I have no problem with it eating to it's hearts content as long as it stays well away from my veggie patch. It is so beautiful and appears to be a solitary fellow from what I can tell. How amazing to watch it neatly chewing it's way through the leaves.

I can only wonder about what enthralling moth or butterfly it will become when it has eaten enough, rested for a while, and is good and ready. Any caterpillar experts out there that can help me with identification?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Just how far will that chicken go?

I roasted a chicken on Sunday, not something remarkable, but I always try to make it stretch as far as I possibly can. My Mum used to do this, and as much as it used to irritate me to not get second helpings of chicken, and be told to fill up on veg as a grumpy teenager, it delights me now!

(Warning- Amy, you may not want to study the next few pictures too closely! :)

Start with a nicely roasted chicken.

Add veggies for a complete roast dinner. (Well not completely complete actually as there was no gravy. The gravy SHOULD of course be made from the chicken juices but not this day I am afraid. Nigella Lawson I obviously am not!)

Then, strip the carcass of meat and place in a big pot with veggies of your choosing, onions, salt, pepper, herbs if you like, and cover with water.

Simmer for an hour or so at a low heat.

Use the leftover chicken for another meal, in this case curried chicken salad.

When cool remove the carcass and veggies. There is usually still a little meat left on the carcass after this which can be used but has little flavor left. (I have to admit I often give this, and the stock veggies to our doggies for a special treat, but that may be considered wasteful by some!) Then strain off the chicken stock through a sieve and muslin, and you are left with a couple of batches of chicken stock, (already frozen here), for use in many more delicious recipes such as soup, pasta sauce etc.

Feeling particularly productive that day I also made two more batches of pesto from my one endless and magical basil bush. That is now happily sitting in the freezer next to the stock!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin Patch In The Desert

On Friday I decided to take Kendra out of school so that we could go to a pumpkin patch. This will be the last year that I can do that because next year she will be in kindergarten which I can hardly bear to think about right now.

We don't have many pumpkin patches to choose from here which isn't a big surprise I suppose. We used to drive up to the wonderful Young's Farm in Dewey, Arizona each year and it really was the best day out. After we had seen and done everything there we would drive a little further to beautiful Prescott, have lunch in one of the places surrounding the historic square, and enjoy the fall colors. It was always the highlight of our year. Sadly, Young's Farm is no longer open. It fell victim to water issues, and land development, and after a long fight, it was sold in 2006. That was the last year we went. I really miss it!

There is another desert farm south of here that has a pumpkin patch but I am not a fan at all. It is a dry and dusty place, and is very expensive to boot.

Last year we went to the pumpkin patch at the Desert Botanical Garden and it was rather good. It wasn't expensive either, and we saved on gas, so this year we went again.

They had a petting zoo which was great, not too crowded, and really docile animals, although I suppose that is a must for a petting zoo. Not great pics, it was impossible to get both animal and child looking towards the camera at the same time!

The girls were allowed to pick a pumpkin each and then decorate them. Kendra had a great time with hers.

And so now, despite it still being rather warm here, I have succumbed to my "feelings of the fall", and we have a semi-autumnal entry way thanks to Kendra's lovely art work, and some of our decorations.

We still have halloween cookies to bake. I promised the girls several days ago and we still haven't because the weekend was taken up de-cluttering and de- filtherising the house.

Hopefully I will be a good Mommy in the next day or two and live up to the promise I made to my patient girls!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Awesome News!

This makes me very proud to live in Arizona. I imagine Brad Lancaster is delighted.

Now we just need the same ordinance up here in Phoenix, and soon!

City mandates rainwater-harvesting for commercial developments in 2010
By Rob O'Dell
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.15.2008

Tucson became the first city in the country to require commercial developments to harvest rainwater, as the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday for the mandate.
The regulations don't take effect until June 1, 2010. They'll require that 50 percent of a development's landscaping water come from rainfall.

The council voted 6-0 with member Regina Romero absent.

The 50 percent requirement is down from a proposed 75 percent that a city committee had endorsed last spring, and from some environmentalists' original hope for 100 percent.

The 50 percent threshold was chosen because it is the level that wouldn't force developers to install expensive cistern tanks. Instead, they can use berms or contoured slopes on a site to guide rainwater to trees and landscaping.
Several developers praised the city's process and flexibility in creating the new law.

One group, the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, opposed the new rules.
Robert Medler, the chamber's government-affairs manager, says the organization supports conservation efforts but opposed what it called an "unfunded mandate" that would push development to other cities.

David Pittman, director of the Arizona Builders Alliance, said he strongly backed the ordinance, however. "It will be a success because it will be fairly easy to comply with," Pittman said. "It's not just a first step for Tucson, it's a first step for all municipalities (nationwide)."

The Southern Arizona Home Builders Association, the Tucson Association of Realtors and the Metropolitan Pima Alliance all spoke in favor.

Environmentalists, including Bonnie Poulos, said the ordinance was a good first step. Poulos said she would like to see the 100 percent requirement met to make sure the region takes advantage of rainwater, which she called Tucson's only renewable-water source.

Councilman Rodney Glassman, who campaigned on the issue last year and led the effort to get it approved, said the ordinance's approval shows what can be done when everyone works together to "make Tucson a better community."

● Contact reporter Rob O'Dell at 573-4346 or

Fall Harvest

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Garden Update

Everything is growing beautifully in my little garden! These pictures are similar to ones I have posted before but they give an idea of how much everything has grown.

This was today's zucchini harvest. I am getting at least four every day. Needless to say I am looking for plenty of zucchini recipes when I plan our meals each week!

I also have baby peppers

Baby cucumbers

and the rapini is coming on well

I also finally have some radishes!

I have some very spindly and small looking carrot plants but I am not sure that there are any actual carrots underneath. My beans got swallowed up by the giant zucchini patch but I have a couple of plants with tiny beans on them. Next time I will plant them well away from the zucchini's. The cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage plants look great, and at the weekend I planted kale. My swiss chard has also just started to sprout, and now I have absolutely no space left until I do some more digging.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


After a week or so of enjoying the most perfect temperatures here in the "Valley Of The Sun", Mother Nature very unfairly decided that she would remind us of the summer all over again, and grace us with temps in the mid to high nineties. Now in the Summer or early Fall this would not be a problem because it would be much cooler than we had been used to. In mid October after we have been teased into believing that Fall is finally upon us, it is NO FUN! In fact I have been more than a little down about the whole thing, quite irrationally so actually. I have been wanting to get our fall decorations out but somehow it just doesn't seem right when the weather is so hot outside. So I haven't. In fact this past few days I have done little but mope around complaining about how hot it is again. A reminder I am afraid for my DH and sweet children of what I am like to be around all Summer.

Yesterday I finally gave in and admitted surrender. The AC which I had cockily turned off with great fanfare a few days ago while proclaiming how much energy we would be saving was turned back on, the shutters which I had been gleefully keeping open all day to let the warmth in stayed closed, and my winter pyjamas were washed and put away for the second time this year. I am not happy about this at all. Oh no, not me.

Tonight I decided to do something drastic, something that I have not done for absolutely ages because it goes against all my supposed green-ness. It is something I used to love to do several times a week and which always made me feel so much better. I had a LONG. HOT. BATH! It was as deep as I could get it using who knows how many gallons of precious water, and was hot, very hot, using who knows how much energy for water heating. As I lay back and sipped from a chilled glass of white wine, I reflected on how very much I have missed this luxury. I felt all of my aches and pains disappear, and felt really relaxed and calm.

I am out of the bath now and I am not feeling quite as good because remember it is HOT outside, and now I am very HOT inside as well. I am thinking as I sit here sipping a glass of iced water, bright red in the face, with sweat dripping off my brow that this just might be my penance. If so then it was totally worth it!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back On The Compact

Call me a flip flopper but I am going back to compacting. I haven't felt right since I stopped, and I have sensed a relaxation of my less consumerist behaviors. I have found myself flicking through Pottery Barn catalogs and wanting stuff. I wasn't doing this before, I wasn't looking and I felt better about myself.

We are on a much stricter than usual budget right now after Kendra's mammoth party,(who isn't), and the last thing I need is to decide that I have to have something pricey and unnecessary. So, I am taking the plunge and going used for six months. I will reuse my old pledge and add an exception for slip covers for the sofas. I am not house vain at all but our others have holes in and look pretty bad. The ideal ones don't need to be expensive or pretty, but they do need to cover the cushions so that stuffing doesn't come out.

I will be compacting for six months and will re evaluate after that time. Here again is my pledge.

I will do my very best to not purchase anything new for the next six months with the following exceptions:

Slipcovers for our sofas if and when I find some that are cheap and cheerful. If I can find some secondhand that would be better.
Food, drinks, and certain other obvious necessities such as toiletries, medicines etc
Shoes for the girls
Underwear and swimwear for us all
Gifts, although I will make every attempt to either make them, (!!) or purchase them from local, small, and independent stores to support small business and craftpersons.
Within reason certain DIY stuff such as paints etc, although I will make every attempt to salvage, and obtain raw materials for projects as much as possible
Seeds and plants for the yard, although again I will attempt to seed and plant share as much as possible
Certain garden supplies if I absolutely need them
We will not eat at any chain restaurants or fast food outlets

Anything else I find I really need to buy will be obtained second hand from thrift and consignment stores, Craigs List, Freecycle etc.

OK, that's it. I feel much better already.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Kendra!

Today is Kendra's birthday. I look at this picture and my eyes still fill up with tears as I think about how amazing that day really was. It was at that time the best day of my life. Since then I have been fortunate enough to have another "best day", the day that Emmie was born.

I was in labor for a long time with Kendra, I really was. So it was after more than seventy hours of labor that Kendra entered this world at 11.44 on Monday, October 13th, 2003. I can still remember exactly the way I felt when I first saw her, and the incredible high that followed. It was a high that completely took away the total exhaustion I was feeling, and replaced it with joy. I remember so well that night being unable to sleep as I lay gazing at my beautiful baby, the most perfect gift imagineable.

I can't believe how quickly these five years have passed. And as they have, and as Kendra has grown up from a little baby to a perfect, sweet, smart, kind, and sensitive little girl I feel very lucky.

Happy birthday my sweet Kendra. Thank you for everything that you are! I love you more than you can ever know.

MaMa. xxxxx

Sunday, October 12, 2008


This weekend passed by in such a busy blur. The weather was perfect again, mid seventies with a gentle breeze.

Although it is Kendra's birthday tomorrow, we had her party yesterday. I finally decided on the goody bags. I managed to find some very cute felt bags which were extremely inexpensive, and decided they had a better chance of not being tossed away quite as quickly as the plastic ones. In each one we put a packet of sunflower seeds, an eraser, a pencil, and a couple of candies. Not the booty one usually gets, but all stuff that might get used, or planted!

The girls and I formed quite the little assembly line yesterday morning.

And before long we had them all finished.

They seemed to go down especially well with the parents. Many loved the bags, a couple liked that there wasn't too much candy, while others were excited by the seeds. I did hear one small child ask "where are the toys?" which made me smile I have to admit. They were lots fun to do.

Kendra had a great time with all her friends and was so happy. Everyone went to a great deal of trouble to make her feel special and it was so lovely!

This morning I went down to the The Urban Farm for a rainwater barrel class. I had been wanting to go for ages and it was totally worth it. It has completely demystified the process for me now.

Here is my almost finished barrel. It just needs the netting securing on top, and I want to paint it dark green which is my backyard paint color.

I have a few good places where the run off is good from our roof but I am not sure exactly where I will put it yet. The class was a lot of fun and I met some really nice, like minded people. I also got to see the new chicks at The Urban Farm!

One of Kendra's birthday gifts came in a reuseable shopping bag which pleased me no end. We were also at a fundraising party last night for the Breast Cancer Three Day and as we left we got a reusable bag too. It is great that this kind of thing is catching on. All these small things change attitudes I feel sure.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Nice Day With Butterflies

The Desert Botanical Garden has their Monarch butterfly exhibition on at the moment. We try go each time because we are members, and it is a great day out.

Kendra was off school today, and I have been feeling so stressed out recently what with one thing and another, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take my girls for a fun day out. My dearest friend Amy always brings her girls too, but she has recently moved, and so today we went alone.

I will let the pictures tell the story of the day. They will do a much better job than I ever could!

Amy, we missed you and the girls very much!