Tuesday, 17 July 2018

My whimsical potted plants

Dear Family & Friends

I normally don't like growing plants in pots, simply because they require more attention - specially watering - as they dries up so quickly. But from time to time, I can't resist playing up with some garden plants, showing off some of my creativity ;P

tied up twigs makes a rustic little pot of soil to grow my succulent

This succulent plant was planted with pieces of sticks which I tied up to hold some soil. Hopefully it will last a long while.

boxwood little plant

I've been wanting to turn this tiny evergreen boxwood I rescued into a topiary...but it's growing too slow for me. Patience is needed but I'm still hopeful I will turn this into a tiny topiary oneday. 

my aloe vera produced a beautiful flower

Last year, I planted aloe vera in a recycled olive tin can - simply because aloe vera will not survive outside in the garden during our winter season, this way it's easier to take them indoors. To my surprise, I discovered that this plant is actually capable of producing such interesting looking flower!

So, I conclude that perhaps potted plants are still worth doing for various reason.

Happy gardening to you.


Thursday, 12 July 2018

sunflower & gooseberries

Dear Family & Friends,

The summer in Bulgaria this year seems to be very different. While the rest of western Europe experiences heat wave, we were having spring cool and wet days! Since I physically can't stand intense heat...I'm just so grateful for this:) Another bonus is that: my usual thirsty garden is given extra drinks too:) Yet, our summer is not over, it's probably just shortened...but we still have several weeks for those extra sunny hot days to shine for our tomatoes and all sun loving plants to enjoy.

gooseberries are in abundance this year

Before the stormy/rainy days poured to the max, we managed to harvest lots of sweet red gooseberries. As I have been propagating them a lot last year, we obviously have more berries to eat this year too:)

a few of my cheerful sunflower

In my anticipation for the summer, I planned and grew more sunflower for extra cheers. Sunflower grows like magic overnight but I always have problems if I sow seeds directly in the ground because slugs and snails just eats them up as soon as they sprout. So, I patiently sow seeds in trays and transplant them in ground when they're bigger- still, over 60% of them gets eaten. Yet, I'm still happy I've got a few growing here and there:)

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Well, gardening is all about enjoying what comes up - sometimes you gain, sometimes you lose. That makes everything more interesting from year to year.

Enjoy your day.


Saturday, 7 July 2018

Daylily & Lavender bloom marks our summer season

Dear Family & Friends

This year we managed to get the right date to join the Rose festival celebration, just 20 minutes drive from where we live. It was an enjoyable event with many traditional Bulgarian dance performed with various interesting costumes too. After the Rose festival, we noted that a Lavender festival is next on the yearly celebration. A 'must go' event...but alas, we forgot and missed the date!

lavender and daylily in bloom at the same time

Besides roses, Lavender grows very well in this country because we got the perfect climate for these plants. In our garden, is no difference. So, we learned to love these plants for their beauty and fragrance - mostly because they don't demand much care. When lavender blues fills our garden, daylilies also joins in the fun. Blue and orange seems to be a nice color combination and they both perform their best for us too.

daylily rows marking the pathway in our garden

I didn't used to like planting flowers before, but I realized they contribute much to the ecology of the garden by providing food for the wild life, which is so important for a healthy garden. Most of my flower contributors are perennial and are 'no demand' plant variety...so everything is just a bonus.

Daylily beauty

Besides, who can resist the beauty of these flowers? It's a food source for many garden insects and for people too. Did you know that daylilies are delicious edible flowers? Lavender and Roses can brighten up your summer salad dishes too:)

lavender planted by the roadside

Well, these few mentioned plants are what's entertaining us with great joy in our garden to mark the sumer season. Hope you are having a great day too.


Monday, 2 July 2018

A tiny but very productive garden

Dear Family & Friends

It was one beautiful sunny Saturday. After the weekdays' where we've all been working on our own individual work responsibilities, we thought we would go for a day trip somewhere near - for a change. There's a place called Krichim, up the mountain where it sits majestically on a big lake.

we went pass thru the mountain via a tunnel

It's a nice 45 minutes drive from our city apartment. Not far at all to enjoy such a serene and beautiful scenery. We've been here before but the area never fails to fascinate us. We crossed thru the foot of a mountain - thru the tunnel and immediately, we are greeted with a spectacular deep water lake on the otherside of the mountain. Part of this lake generates electricity for the area.

we were so high up looking down this waterway

We revisit another area of the lake where there are floating houses- they look like restaurants but perhaps it's a private property or for club organization only. It looks empty and only those with boats can reach them.

A tiny and narrow vegetable garden on the cliff side

From where we stood to admire it all, something else caught our attention. On the edge of the cliff was a very tiny vegetable garden. It was just about 3 feet by 9 feet long only.

this garden overlooks a big lake

Despite the size, it was neatly planted with various vegetables and herbs. There were at least 20 tomato plants, a dozen cabbages, a group of cucumbers, dill, mint, parsley etc... It was impressive and I'm sure this garden can provide an all year food for a family.

All the wooden stakes got a tomato plant

It proves that with just a tiny space, food abundance with not much cost can be achieved. That day, I'm more inspired with getting on with my own planting in our home garden. It was a good day out.

Wishing you a nice day today too.


Thursday, 28 June 2018

ladder for bathroom and pretty flowers in the garden

Dear Family & Friends

Just a few photos to share - a glimpse of what's around at this time.

Aloe vera flower

I've never seen an aloe vera flower, till the ones I grew in pot surprised us with an unusual orangey spike.

working area

I still carry on potting little plants to transplant in our veggie garden - mostly tomatoes, pepper, eggplant and cucumbers, as catch up crops. I have also been harvesting our garlic and I need to braid them up and hang to dry further on.

homemade towel rack

Back in out city apartment, we made a homemade ladder, using some of our garden sticks, to hang towel in the bathroom. It's such an easy thing to do and is serving the purpose without having to drill on to walls.

daylily flowers

The daylilies in the garden are all in bloom. I've scattered and planted them everywhere and am glad I did because it's a beautiful sight when you see long upright stalks with orange flowers popping up everywhere. I reminded myself to harvest some of it's flower buds to dry as they are so delicious with chinese stew...I have yet to do it , as I've been busy with many other things!

All for now. Hope you are enjoying your day with a constant smile.


Sunday, 24 June 2018

A Joyful Place - Under The Grape Arbour

Dear Family & Friends

If there's any fruit that I'm scared of eating because of chemical spray - it's the grapes. In our village, everyone has grapes growing in their garden - and I'm afraid to admit that everyone is also spraying their grapevine to have a good harvest. The chemical spray stick to each fruit and it's very difficult to wash off as it's bunched up in clusters. YIKES!

The head gardener under the grape arbour

For the past years, our grapes were never as good looking as any of the villagers' - but I insist on growing everything in our garden on natural basis. No toxin for consumption. Recently, I start feeding our plants with my homemade comfrey tea. It smells 'poohwee', but it's the best natural fertilizer there is! What a big difference it made to our grape vine too:)

a very healthy looking leaves, tendrils and so many forming fruit clusters too

If a plant is strong and healthy, no pest will likely attack it. Our grapevines are promising very good harvest this year - even with no chemical spray applied! The leaves are huge, and the grapes forming in clusters are big and abundant too! Even the tendrils are so robust and healthy!

a dense canopy to be sheltered in under the intense summer heat

With the dozen of grapes lined up in this arbour, I enjoy this part of the garden. To just sit under it's shaded canopy is a real treat. I get to enjoy the company of hundreds of busy tiny mason bees as they continue on pollinating each flower clusters:) The humming sound is so soothing.

Yes, it is possible to grow grapes without having to spray and still enjoy abundance. The secret is to just prune it hard and feed them with comfrey tea as they grow:) 

Hope you are enjoying your day outside too.


Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Our Lavender Pathway

Dear Family & Friends

Every year we enjoy the beautiful fragrance of lavender bushes in our garden. Each year it gets even more productive as it gets bigger and bigger. With their presence, the garden is just so busy with fluttering butterflies and buzzing bees of all sorts. It's all day party out there:)

This is about a metre wide lavender bush

From year to year, I collect lavender flowers to dry and put into sachet...but I've got one too many already. I think this year I will have a break and just use it as part of our garden mulch. Once the blooms are over and all our garden bees and butterflies are fed, we will prune the bushes and a second smaller flower flush will come up again later.

the front row lavender bushes are older and the back rows are catching up in size too

Having planted many lavender bushes all around the garden makes a spectacular sight to look forward to every summer and the garden smells so lovely too:)

lavender bushes surrounds me in my temporary working area where I start seed sowing 

Two years ago, I planted two rows of lavender to form a pathway in our garden, leading to the vegetable garden area. It didn't took long and slowly, it's forming a long hedge as planned. The best thing with lavender bushes is that it doesn't require much care. No watering needed but a hard pruning is important, once the bloom is over to maintain a healthy and robust shaped bushes.

our lavender pathway hedge that leads us to the veggie garden

My husband still insist that I keep growing more bushes- What?! More?! If I can think of more space to fill, perhaps I would. For now, we are all happy with them.

Gardening is so rewarding chore. Hope you are encouraged with yours too.


Thursday, 14 June 2018

It's cherry season in our garden

Dear Family & Friends

Cherries are very beautiful fruit trees. Before we get it's fruits, the trees will exhibit beautiful blooms - the spring time cherry blossoms. It smells so good and bees literally gets drunk in their frenzy.

spring time cherry blossoms

Like the plum trees, some of the cherry trees bear fruits in late spring to early summer, while others will deliver it's fruit much later in the summer.

flowers developed into fruits

We have a few cherry trees in the garden. Some are of sweet variety while others are sour cherries. The sweet cherry is much prefered, but sour cherries are also good for baking, juicing and turning into compote.

our harvest yield

When it's cherry season, the initial harvest is such a welcome, but subsequently, after eating a lot of  it, the fruit acidity can sometimes be too much. Thus, we end up preserving or freezing to enjoy them once again, when the season is over.

ready to eat fruits
The sun is getting fierce as summer sets in. A glass of homemade sour cherry juice is much needed these days to keep hydrated. We don't have a juicer machine, but there's no need for one, as we just pit a few cherries into a glass, smash it with spoon and top it up with cold water.

Hope you are enjoying your day too.


Saturday, 9 June 2018

Hanging a scroll and cabinet curtains

Dear Family & Friends

A few years back, we went to visit a cousin in the UK and she took me to see her brother-in-law's family.  I always remember their kindness when they set up a big impromptu special hot pot meal that day. It was truly special. Then, I was also given this Chinese scroll which he personally wrote. For years I kept it as it was not possible to hang it up in our home. Lately, we found - just the special spot and a perfect place for this special scroll in our apartment:)

my special chinese scroll gift

Likewise, this week we finally got to hang up my hand stitched curtain I sew for our homemade kitchen cupboard too.

our own designed kitchen cupboard

We bought this second hand cabinet set but it was not meant for kitchen fitting. Since we saw it to be the most potential one for our given tiny space, we adapted it to our needs. The open shelves doesn't conceal much of our stored stuff....but it wasn't a big problem. I simply hand sewed a curtain for it...and in minutes...we got the perfect solution. :)

with just a very simple hand sew curtain, it makes all the difference

Decorating our tiny apartment is a long process for us. We take time, we make things, and slowly we see everything coming together perfectly. I think that's important of all, enjoying our input together as part of family fun.

We still got a few more bits to finish here and there, but no rush, that's for another day again.

Wishing you a good day too.


Monday, 4 June 2018

Fascinated with the beauty of a century egg

Dear Family & Friends

When my children were small, the eldest one is a bit particular with her food because she uses pre imagination before eating. Then the day came when I tried to introduce her to one of my favourite delicacy - the century egg.

The century egg

From the name century egg itself, she quickly concluded that it is old and rotten food. Once it was peeled, she was convinced that her thinking was right because it looks black in comparison to ordinary boiled egg. She refused to taste it. Those days I had all century eggs to myself as there's no other takers in our family.

a beautiful snowflake imprint on the century egg was formed

But time moves on, the girls became older and wiser. They realized that what mother likes to eat must be good. Century eggs are specially preserved eggs. It's either you like them or not. Just like the blue cheese, moldy and fermented, odd but delicious. I'm all for strong food taste.

Gone are the days, when I have special delicacy food all to myself. Now, my little family are all sharing them with me. Yes, we have to divide and have equal shares to everything these days.

ordinary boiled egg halves and a century egg halve to the right

Somehow I'm glad that the girls broaden their thinking ways in many aspect...well, I don't mind sharing either.

Hope your day is wonderful. Keep happy.


Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Bird Cage Lighting Feature

Dear Family & Friends

This week we had the opportunity to finish our own designed lighting pendant for our city apartment. It didn't cost much and it's one of it's kind as it's all conceptualized and crafted by our family team. Another project that brought us joy.

our very own crafted bird cage lighting pendant

This project was not complicated and we are so pleased with the outcome. We found this very pretty decorative bird cage and we also bought a few pieces of feathered crafted birds online, shipped for free, from China.

it's decorative and it's also a lighting feature

There's a small light bulb which was thread through on top of the bird cage. It's really that simple and very effective.

our three quiet greeters

Since these birds are not real, they don't mind being pretty in their equally pretty cage. They bring smiles to our faces upon entering our apartment:)

All for now. Sending you good wishes for the week.


Friday, 25 May 2018

Learn a language - Focusing on Chinese Language

Dear Family & Friends

It's no secret that China is the next superpower of the world. So many things are changing so fast.  Are you keeping up with it all? Are you prepared? We firmly believe in guiding our children in life. Like most parents, we want the best for our children. One thing I encourage our children is  to learn foreign languages.

China these days...

When I started teaching them their ABC's and 123's at home, I also start introducing them to foreign language learning. No interest whatsoever - but I never gave up. When we left UK to make a new home in a foreign land, something clicked and the girls realized the importance of having language skills. Now both are linguist with 4-5 foreign languages they can switch on to.

The man is writing beautiful Chinese words on park pavement with brush and water

Language learning is a long process. My girls learn their languages by self teaching. As a mother, my role is to keep encouraging them. Top priority in our list is to learn the Chinese language, partly because it is our heritage, but most of all - it is the most beneficial language to have these days.

can you read the written characters?

Chinese is not an easy language. It requires a lot of memorization as they don't have alphabet to lean on. But, as you know it's not an impossible language to master as there are millions of Chinese people who speaks, read and write it!

Kind and humble character traits.

With the knowledge of the Chinese language, life would be easier when you go to China to discover the new world's superpower! You'll discover and understand such beautiful country and most kind and humble people in the world. Oh yes, of course you can explore the Chinese cuisine more if you can read the menu too;P

just one of the many regional chinese cuisine to try.

Not being a racist, but just giving an honest opinion on what best language to learn for the moment - both for career, business or travel success. I have always been so keen in learning languages but these days...I must admit that an old brain needs a lot of new brain cells to keep going. LOL

Wishing you a beautiful day!


Sunday, 20 May 2018

Comfort food - congee

Dear Family & Friends

Recently someone is our home wasn't feeling good due to sore throat that he completely lost his voice. Our home was quieter then;P Perhaps his recent food indulgence on rich, oily or spicy food took the toil. So, it was time to clear the stomach and cook simple comfort food like congee. With added cups of herbal teas from the garden, he got back his voice back in no time.

a bowl of Chinese congee

As I was given a very special and unusual gift of 'century eggs' by my clever daughter - I decided to cook and share a nice treat for everyone. A dish of chinese congee with century egg. It's nice for people who are on the mend and always a comfort food for me:)

To cook:
  1. Wash 1/2 cup of white jasmine rice and soak for at least an hour.
  2. Drain the rice and marinate it with 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp of cooking oil.
  3. Marinate also 1 cup of minced pork with 1/2 tbsp of cornstarch and pinch of salt. set aside.
  4. In a pot, bring 2.5 liters of water or stock to boil, then add the rice. After 10 minutes, turn down the fire to simmer for 40 minutes till rice is broken. Stir several times to avoid rice sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Place the marinated pork and 1 peeled and chopped up century egg in with the boiled rice and continue to simmer for 5-8 minutes on medium heat.
  6. Transfer into serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped spring onion and coriander. Serve and enjoy!

Easy to make and as always enjoy every good meal with your family too.


Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Children are a blessing

Dear Family & Friends

Today I'm just thinking of the importance of families. Everyday I wake up with such grateful heart that I have a family with me and we stand united and very interdependent on each other. We can spend all night and all day, recounting the joy and blessings of having our two girls...for indeed they are.

my daughter took this photo of the cutest baby she ever saw - she said.

Proverbs 29:17 says:  Discipline your children, and they will give you peace;     they will bring you the delights you desire.

if only we could take him home with us.

Our parenting secret is, of course, based on this very Proverb.

Well, just a short note from me and I wish you a happy day with your love ones too.


Thursday, 10 May 2018

Create a micro climate to grow some exotic plants

Dear Family & Friends

There's so many exotic food that I can only dream of as it can't be bought or be found here. I'm not one to be defeated, so I set a goal to grow them if I could. Climate is usually one factor that's makes it all a big challenge. 

one of my exotic plant veggie that I treasure a lot:)

Not everything will grow easily unless you plant native plants, but with patience and a little bit extra care and attention, I find that we can grow some tropical plants by creating a micro-climate in the garden. 

my precious kang kong or water spinach grown in pots

The easiest way is to develop a natural garden. Plant trees, in layers which includes shrubs, down to ground covering plants. Aim to protect soil from moisture evaporation...it makes a lot of difference to the surrounding area.

some plants are started in pots to assure they get more care before transplant onto the ground

Every year our garden grows dense as I allow nature to have a say in how I garden. I noticed a lot of insect species taking residence in our garden and they all contribute their labour as fair exchange. I also noticed a lot of bird species - day birds and night birds. I learned to identify them by the call they make. To see all these creatures in our garden - simply brings a lot of joy.

luffa growing on trellis for cosmetic use or for food!

As for growing some of my exotic veggies...I noticed that some of them can be grown successfully in parts of my garden as I provide a micro-climate to aid them a bit.

my polyculture vegetable plot - with veggies, flowers and herbs all together

It's been so pleasant to do gardening chores for the moment, although it can be tough on an old body...but gardening is still the most therapeutic activity there is. So, I hope you are enjoying your garden too. Wishing you a good day.