Wednesday, 29 April 2015

My spring garden

Knowing full well that this is probably my last full growing season in the US, I wanted to get a good head start.  My veggies patch is not huge, about 3x6 foot.  But it is very practical.

Pinterest is my friend when it comes to gardening.  Heck, Pinterest is my friend when it come to most things!  I spotted this when I was planning my garden, so borrowed it 

Using this seed starting chart enabled me to plan what and when I was going to plant.  As you can see, I have adapted it of myself.  I actually started planting in January in milk jugs using this method. It worked for most seedlings, but damp rot got to a few varieties.

Despite this, I still planted some seeds in the ground, peas and sugar snaps, as these prefer cool weather.  This was in late january.  Typically it snowed in february, but I was able to protect them using plastic bottles.  

Thats all i can say about the planning really!  I love gardening, and can't wait to have my own garden so I can do with it what I want.  I would like it, that when we got back to the UK, I was able to grow a lot more of our own food, but we will have to wait and see on that one!

So this is what my veggie patch looks like this week.  I have a lot of strawberry plants.  I bought these last year, but was a little slow to get these in the ground.  Consequently, they did not fruit, but sent off loads of runners.

I now have strawberry plants at both ends of my veggie patch.  Most plants have had flowers on them.

I am just waiting on the sun now to turn them red.  These plants should keep Isaac in strawberries for about a week (he is the only one who eats them, and has them everyday!)

This is a row of carrots and radishes.  I probably should thin the carrots, but am loath to do so.  Our soil is full of clay after about 6 inches in depth, so I do not hold much hope for them.  I have grown radishes this year.  They are so quick and easy, and have been a wonderful addition to salads and sandwiches.  I will be planting more of these, later in the year.

I picked up this long pot from Big Lots for $6.50.  Bargain!  They are usually one of the cheapest places for gardening stuff.  In this pot is a pepper plant, 2 marigolds and a tomato plant.  I purchased these from the local high school, Hillcrest High.  They run an agricultural  program, and every year the students put on a plant sale.  Some nice kids, and cheap plants.  Well worth going to if you are in the area.

Two of the plants that grew successfully from seed in the milk jugs were cucumber and zucchini (courgette).  They are similar plants, I think they belong to the same family.  I have grown cucumbers with moderate success before, same with zucchini, though not in this country.  I have planted them either side of my trellis, with additional plants in pots for now.  If any one wants the plants in pots let me know.  One thing though, I am not sure which veggie is which, so it would be pot luck.....

Below is some sugar snap peas I planted in a milk jug.  These thrived before I transferred them to the pot.  They don't like being transferred, so I initially planted the seeds in toilet rolls in the soil, and kept all the soil together when I transferred them.  It worked, and they have been harvested already.  You can also see some chives in the photo.  This is from a plant I bought at Walmart from their vegetable section.  I split the pot, so I now have 2 plants to take from.  Great in salads, or egg dishes.  Yes, more strawberries in the pot behind!  In the bottom corner is my lettuce patch.  I have a foot square covered in lettuce.  I regularly take from this for lunch and dinner.  It probably has about a month before it bolts and becomes too bitter.  I will replace it with tomato plants from the milk jugs.

Below are more plants from Hillcrest High School, a sage and oregano plant.  Not herbs I have tried before, so am intrigued to see how they do.

Below are my pots.  They it behind the veggies patch.  I have a pepper plant at the back in the orange pot.  This has spinach and arugula plants around it, which are just starting to poke their heads up.  Strawberry in the red pot.  This is one I moved from the veggie patch in January.  no flowers = no fruit so far.  It initially had radishes planted around it, but i think the snow got them.  Blue pot is my mint plant. Again, purchased from a supermarket, pot split and replanted in to 2 pots.  Hopefully I now have enough mint to keep me in mojitos all summer long....  The red pot at the front with the tiny seedlings are chili plants.  These are seeds taken from last years harvest.  I am pleased they have sprouted, will wait to see if they fruit.....

This is another sweet pepper plant, from Walmart.  I have not had great success with these.  only green peppers really.  I need to discover the secret to getting big, coloured peppers.  These are a staple in our house, and if I could grow them successfully, they would save me a fortune!  In the back ground you can see the peas and beans

I may have gone slightly overboard with these.  I reckon I have about 20 plants all in the ground.  They are thriving.  And going slightly crazy!  But they do have a fairly short season here, as they don't like the heat.  I reckon they will stop producing around the end of June.  That is where succession planting will come in.  I will most likely put some radishes/carrots/parsnips there once they are done, ready for a fall harvest.  

But for now they are producing like crazy.  I did my first proper harvest last night.  I will be eating these for a week!  If anyone local would like some, let me know!

Oliver wanted to get in on the action this year.  Was I giving up valuable space in my garden?  Heck, NO!  So he did his own plan, looked at the seed packets, and decided what he would plant.  I picked him up a storage box from K-Mart, on sale (in fact I got 2, he has more planting to do this weekend!).  He is growing lettuce, broccoli, spring onions peas and sunflowers. 

His is also going well.  We enjoy gardening, and knowing we can provide some food for ourselves makes it all the more sweeter. 

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Cocktail Friday - The Roswell

Next up.....

The Roswell......

Wonder why it is called that?  anyone care to enlighten me?

Ingredients (for 2)

3oz Malibu rum
3 oz cranberry juice
3oz Orange juice
splash of pineapple juice 

Add all the 3oz ingredients to a glass filled with ice.  Top with pineapple juice.

Oh. My Word.  These were lush, lush, lush, lush.  I may even have one tonight.....

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

It's Bristol baby!!!!!

Sunday was going to be an awesome day.  We had tickets for the NASCAR race at Bristol in Tennessee.  It is 150 miles from here so we had every intention to do it as a day trip.  

We left about 8am in the pouring down rain.  We knew it was going to be a wet morning, but we had seen that it was supposed to clear in the afternoon.  We had tickets, we had to go along.

The drive up was very scenic, even with the rain!  We found Isaac's further business....

We had initially planned to stop for some brunch.  Instead we just made a restroom stop, just after crossing from North Carolina in to Tennessee.  It had stopped raining, briefly......

We arrived at Bristol Motor Speedway just after 11am.  We were able to park at the North End of the place, which turned out to be pretty near our seats.  Parking was not cheap either.....

Oh look, its still raining

We had to get Sebastian to a rest room pronto, so we headed in to the Speedway.  We were a little too late, but we know to always take a change of clothing.....

We got some pizza, then decided to go back out to the fan zone to look at the various merchandise.  It was still raining. Thank goodness for the ponchos I invested in initially for our holiday in Florida.  They certainly came in handy on the sunday.

The race was meant to start at 1pm.  It was still raining.  NASCAR do not run in the rain, it is just too dangerous.  We waited around for a bit.   Here is Oliver.  It had almost stopped raining, so the boys were watching the air dryers drying the track.

They do an awesome job.  On the photo below, you can see to the right a section of track that is dry.  This photo is from our seats.  They were brilliant, we could see pretty much everything.  This track has a few nicknames, one of which is The Last Great Colosseum.  I can see why.  It is stunning.

After an hour and a half rain delay, they actually got the race started.  The noise was tremendous.  I think people had seen the weather forecast, and chosen to stay away.  There were not many people in the stands at all.  

The racing we saw was intense.  On lap 22, team mates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano (My 2 favorite drivers!) crashed in to each other. This brought the safety car out, just as it started to rain.  The safety car led the cars back into pit row where they parked up.  Most people left the stands, as did we.  We walked around for a bit, all the time keeping an eye on the wether forecast.  It was not looking good.  At 4pm, we decided to call it, and start heading home.

We were so gutted.  I would have loved to see the whole race.  We stopped at Asheville for a fast food dinner, before driving the rest of the way home.  Most annoying, they restarted the race at 7pm.  We weren't even home!!!! We got back at 7.45, and were able to watch the rest.  Matt Kenseth won, his first win in 18 months, he is now in the Chase.  We were so gutted, but there is nothing you can do about mother nature.  Last springs race at Bristol was also a wash out, with the same thing happening.  A few lessons learnt:  book a hotel room for the night of the race (just in case), take the next day off work for the same reason!!!!

We want to go back and see a full race.  The one in the fall is a night race, so not really suitable for the boys.  Next spring, we are there......

I finally got me one of these!!!!!

If you live in the states, you will have seen the advert with Dale Earnhardt Jr, if not here is the link.  It still makes me giggle, even now!

I also purchased one of theses hats

Lilly diabetes sponsor the Xfinity race (next class down from NASCAR), on the day before the NASCAR race.  They also sponsor an Xfinity driver, Ryan Reed.  He has type 1 diabetes, and still races well.  He won the first race in the Xfinity series at Daytona.  He is pretty awesome.....

Friday, 17 April 2015

Cocktail Friday - The Classic Mojito

Ahh, the classic mojito.  

We love this drink.  I have even got a pitcher which we bought just so I could make jugs of mojitos.   I think I was first introduced to this drink while on holiday in France, probably about 5 years ago.  It is particularly yummy, a good mix of sweet and bitter.

There are many versions of mojitos.  This is what I think is the classic.  No doubt others will disagree!!!

The Classic Mojito

1.5 oz lime juice OR the juice of one lime, which ever is most convenient
teaspoon of brown sugar, we prefer the light stuff.
5-8 mint leaves.  I swear, this drink is the only reason I grow mint, and why I now have 2 plants.
1.5 oz white rum.  Cuban is preferred, but we live in the States, so thats nay on impossible.
soda water / club soda 
lime wedges to garnish ( I had frozen ones)

In the glass, muddle together the mint, lime juice and sugar.  You can use the end of a rolling pin, back of a spoon or a pestle to do this.  You want to crush the leaved slightly, so they release their juice.  Add in ice cubes and lime wedges.  Pour over rum.  Top up with soda water.  You may want to give it an extra stir before consumption.

My mojitos can be a little hit and miss sometimes, but these ratios made for a very good version. No doubt they shall be made again many times in the summer until both mint plants are bare  

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

General update/ photo drop

Oh my gosh, how long has it been since I did one of these?!?!  

About 6 weeks. I seem to be writing more on topics than general ramblings.  Better change that quick smart.  Try and keep up, while I bombard you with photos of our lives.  I apologize if I repeat myself in any way shape or form.

So a couple weekends ago we went to Lake Conastee Nature Park.  We have been to Conastee Park before, they have loads of play equipment and plenty of baseball pitches.  This is the other side of the Lake.  It is more of a bird watching / nature reserve place.  It was a beautiful day, and we had lots of fun walking / running on the paths.  They form part of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which they are constantly updating and maintaining here in Greenville.

This is an adorable picture of two of my favorite people. They both look so happy here.  Notice the garden furniture is out?  It is finally getting warm here.  Although it is rainy today, it is still 76 degrees......

We recently took a trip to Helen in Georgia.  You can read more about that here.

Th boys had a great time hunting for eggs on Easter Sunday.  Even if they were in their pajamas still

Sebastian was more inclined to eat what he found straight away, rather than hunt for more.....

I have been doing a shed load of baking.  We have stopped buying bread, as it just wasn't very nice.  I am now making a loaf a day to keep up with what we all eat.  At least this way we know the majority of what goes into our food.

I am also making a batch of about 40 cookies each week.  I found an awesome recipe on the choc chip pack from Costco.  A slight tweak on the time and temperature, and they make awesome snacks.  Not sure I have bought any packs of cookies or biscuits for about 6 weeks.  I am also making my own rice crispie treats, with decorations, which the boys love.  Next up is fruit jelly snacks.  I have tried one recipe, but they end up as jelly blocks, rather that gummy sweets.  Again, a slight tweak on the ingredients will probably do it, but we have to eat what we have first!

Isaacs behavior had been better for 6 weeks.  Until yesterday.  Funny, he started eating a certain snack type yogurt over the weekend, after not having it for six weeks.  We introduce it, and boom, email home about behavior.  Think we will be knocking them on the head for good.

Do you like my painting?  I went out on a Friday night with some ladies form a local Facebook group to Corks and Colours at Southern Galleries in Simpsonville.  It was a bring your own bottle painting evening.  It was great. I am really pleased with my picture!

Cocktail Friday is still going strong.  Don't forget to check back here every friday to see what concoctions we have been drinking recently!

This is a screen shot of a photo I pasted on Instagram.  See those likes???  They are all Monster Jam drivers!!!!!  If only they could know how truly OBSESSED Sebastian is with monster jam. We have a few recorded, and that is all he wants to watch.  He plays with the monster trucks when he is not watching them.  He thinks he is a monster truck and uses the sofa as his course.... 

This is my friend Amber.  She is another Zumba instructor.  We recently got together and choreographed 'Chica Practica'.  You can check it out here on her YouTube Chanel.

Check out the flower on my strawberry plant!  I got these in the ground too late last year to fruit, though they did send off tones of runners.  I have so many flowers this year it is ridiculous.  There are load of little strawberries coming along.  Yaaaaayyyyyy!!!  Think I will do a full post on my veggies patch soon, it is certainly coming along.

And in case you missed it, Oliver had the titanium plates laced in his ear recently.  You can read more about it here.

I did my Zumba Gold training this weekend.  It was awesome.  Ali the trainer was really good, I had a lot of fun, and learnt a few more rhythms.  


I am so enjoying my Zumba at the moment, and am looking out for a subbing opportunity very soon.  I am leading a song at a Zumbathon this weekend.  It is a charity event for the Make a Wish SC, so if you are in the area, please come along

Thats all for now! 

Friday, 10 April 2015

Bionic Clare

Ok, so before my last visit to the diabetic nurse (January), Paul and I had some serious discussions about me going on to an insulin pump to help manage my diabetes.  Since having Seb 4 years ago, my control has not been great.  Given that I have only been diabetic for 6 years, that's a big chunk of time.

It was time to get serious, and manage this thing properly.  Given everything that has happened in the last year, I owe it to my family and myself to try and prolong my life as much as possible.  Minimizing the risks for diabetic complications has got to be a good way to go!

So when I saw my diabetic nurse in January, I told her I was up for the pump and a continuos glucose monitor (CGM).  To say she was happy was an understatement.  She began the referrals.  I was tested for my hbA1c that day, and it was 8.2%.  A little high, but not the highest it has ever been.

I saw a diabetic educator in February.  I had met this lady before when I did a trial week on a CGM about 18 months ago.  I took Paul with me for this first appointment, as he needed to know everything that entailed it.  I think it was an eye opener for him.  Unless you live with someone with diabetes, I don't think you can fully understand what they go through.  Even then, all you can do is support, and Paul is awesome at that.  In that appointment we got to look at various insulin pumps and CGM's on the market.  All have their good and bad points.  Some are much better that others.  What suits one person, may not suit another.  I had been happy with my Dexcom when I trialed  it, so stuck with that for a CGM.  I decided on an OmniPod for the pump itself.  My main reasons were no wires, a blood glucose monitor in the hand held device (PDM) which communicates with the pod on my body, and an insulin wizard in the PDM.  This basically takes your blood glucose reading, you enter in the carbs you are gonna consume, and it calculates your insulin needs using pre determined ratios.

Confused yet?

Typically, my insurance decided to keep me waiting until March before they approved anything.  In this time I was dealing with representative from Dexcom and OmniPod via phone and email.  They were pleasant enough, and very pleased I had chosen their particular products.  

My Dexcom arrived in the second week of March, so I went back to the diabetes educator.  I saw a different lady this time, but she was just as nice.  Because I had been on the CGM before, it was a fairly easy appointment.  I left with one of these attached to me.

This is not a necessity.  I am not supposed to use it to make decisions about my insulin dosage.  It is ther to show trends and alerts.  It's a godsend.  I love it.  It shows me when I am high or low, and it is pretty small. The device itself is about 5 centimeters by 3 centimeters.  The sticky is bigger though.  It is pretty easy to put in, no more painful than an insulin shot, and each sensor lasts a week.  

This is the electronic device that goes with it.  What a pretty graph!  My aim is to get the line as flat as possible around the 100 mark, with slight peaks when I eat. It is not always accurate, and I have to calibrate it twice a day, which basically means checking my sugars.  That is fine by me!

Two weeks later, my pump turned up.  

The following week, on the last day of March, I was back at the diabetes educator.  This was the week after Oliver's operation, so he had the joy of coming with me.  We set up the PDM, with all my ratios and corrective doses.  A little note about this:  I have known these since I went on a Dose Adjustment For Normal Eating (DAFNE) course in the UK about 2 months after I was diagnosed.  This course, along with the good care I received in England enabled me to keep my sugars good all through Sebastian's pregnancy and after.  Pretty much till we moved here.  Nothing like a massive life changing event to throw you off course somewhat....

Anyway, we set up the PDM, and she showed me how to apply the first pod.  I have to fill it with insulin froma vial using a syringe, just like diabetics had to inject themselves till not too long ago (and some still choose to today!).  The insulin then goes into the pod. It beeps when full.  The pod is placed next to the PDM so they can communicate.  Once they have said hi to each other, the pod can be attached to me.  So far I have chosen to have it on my belly and my arm, but it can also be worn on the back and the leg.  I am thinking leg a lot in the summer when I am living in skirts and shorts.
The pods only last 3 days, and need at least 85 units to fill them.  I don't even hit 100 units in 3 days yet, so I am working on the right amount to fill the pod.  OmniPod have a pod recycling system which is awesome.  You collect them up, send them back in a pre addressed bag, and the postage is free.  Brucey!

CGM on left, pod on right, stomach sucked in

I had to go back 2 days later to the diabetes educator so we could change the pod, and discuss the ratios.  We made some changes.  I managed to bust my next pod by putting the syringe in at the wrong angle.  It didn't like that, so we did not use it.  The pod beeped at us for the next 3 days.....  The next one I tried was fine.

I also had to not exercise and not snack for a week, just so we could know the base line of insulin is right.  The not exercising was much harder than not snacking!  I think we have the baseline right now.

All in, I absolutely love my new devices.  It may take a bit of extra time to set them up, but once they are running it is a case of testing blood (did that anyway) and pressing a few buttons.  I have had a few instances with the stickies holding them on coming lose, but I have some tape, and a friend has recommended some sticky tack to go on them.  May have to invest in some......

Pod on back of arm

I saw my diabetes nurse on Wednesday.  She is over the moon about the devices.  We discussed many hints and tips regarding exercise, drinking and day to day life.  I won't bore you with it, but if you have got this far, you have done well.  

She also tested my hbA1c.  It was 7.8.  The lowest it has been since coming to America.......


I have been most fortunate regarding health insurance here.  Although our insurance company took a while to approve both devices, when they did, they covered them both 100%.  I get my supplies direct from OmniPod and Dexcom, and they bill the insurance company direct.  It is thanks to Paul's contract that we have such good insurance, they basically have to cover me for everything the NHS would cover me for.

Would the NHS cover these particular devices? Unsure.  I know they are both on offer on the NHS, but I don't know how often they are taken up/ advised for.  If you have any knowledge on this, please comment below, I would love to know!

Cocktail Friday - Boat drink

Ok, major confession time.  The next 4 cocktails I will post about on Fridays were all consumed in the same weekend.  Don't judge me, it was Easter, Paul was off work, the boys were off school, and we were kinda tied to the house given Oliver's recuperation.  

There's something to be said for drinking cocktails in the early afternoon/ evening.  Really makes you think like you are on holiday.... I so can't wait for our holidays to the beach.  Just got to decide which cocktails to make while there.  Oh the choice.......

Boat Drink 

3oz Vodka
1oz Rum (I used Goslings, typically)
Orange juice
Pineapple juice

Place ice cubes in glass, pour in vodka and rum.  Top up with 2/3 pineapple juice and 1/3 orange juice.  Enjoy

oh.  my.  word.  These were a little slice of heaven.  and so easy to make.  Needless to say another was consumed.....

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Helen, Georgia

We wanted so badly to go away over Easter weekend, but alas, we left it too late for anywhere decent that we wanted to go.  Seeing as Oliver was still recuperating, and I was getting my sugars level on my insulin pump (more on that next time), we decided to try and do some day trips.

I had heard about Helen in Georgia.  Many of my friends had been there, and people had advised going to see it so on Good Friday we took a drive up.  It is about 100 miles from here, and took about 2 hours.

The thing that makes Helen such a must see is its styling.  In 1969 the town was failing as a logging town, so they  zoned all the buildings to become replicas of a Bavarian alpine town.  Even the chain stores that are in the town are in buildings that you would expect to find in the Alps, not north east Georgia!


We parked up (good bye $5) and had a little walk around.  Most of the shops were typically aimed at tourists with your fudge place, old time photography and souvenir shops.  Very similar to Gaitlinburg.

We had lunch at the Castle Inn.  It may have been 11.30, but I had a beer.  Paul was more sensible with a soda, the same as the boys.  Paul ordered a German special wurst, I had a club sandwich.  Isaac and Sebastian had grilled cheese sandwiches, and Oliver had a burger.  The food wasn't great.  The service wasn't good either.  It really was a well oiled tourist restaurant.  The staff were constantly observing you, as soon as you were finished and paid, the table was clear.  It was more like a processing plant than a restaurant.  It wasn't even that busy!  Maybe they expected to get busy later in the day.  We were not very impressed.

We went for a walk around the town.  It was all very picturesque.

We headed up to the local park, so the boys couldhave a play.  Hooray, somewhere where you were not trying to be sold something or having to part with your money in one way, shape or form.  The kids enjoyed it too!

We headed back to the car. By now it was only about 1pm.  I had seen that there was a State Park nearby and a waterfall nearby, so we decided to head there.  To get to Anna Ruby Falls you had to drive through Unicoi State Park.  Very beautiful. Especially on a warm spring day.

We had to pay $3 each per person over 16 to enter the Anna Ruby Falls area, as it is run by the Cradle of Forestry in America (not an organization I had heard of!) And not the state parks.  This was a very reasonable price.  We parked, and headed up towards the falls.  There were quite a few people around, and they allow dogs.

This was one of the first signs we saw.....

We made it to the falls.

They are beautiful. 

They are twin falls, where two different streams join at the bottom of the falls to just one creek, Smith Creek.  This then leads into Smith Lake, the centerpiece of Unicoi State Park.  It was so pretty there, and nice and cool by the falls.  As we were descending back down, you  could notice the rise in temperature as you moved away from the falls itself.

And this delightful sign, reminding you that you are in the Deep South......

As we drove back to Helen, the boys mentioned that they had spotted a mini golf course on the way through.  I had seen more than one, but thought it best to keep my mouth shut.

That was the next stop.  With mini golf, the boys play while Paul and I spectate/ referee.  We were stuck behind another family, so Paul and I ended up potting a couple of balls.  Guess who got a hole in one?  ME!!!!  I really am not keen on mini golf, so this was a complete surprise.

Seb always gets a little confused when we get to the 18th hole, and the ball disappears forever.....We don't keep score, but I think we are near to playing a little bit more seriously.....

That will be interesting.........