Aqeela's home and garden...

A blog about gardening, cooking, reading, crafting, homemaking, days out with nature, mothering and second hand brikabrak. A simple life with simple pleasures... remembering my ordinary days...

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Our Spring Garden...

Here's some snippets from our garden right now, its very Spring like with leaves on most of the tree's and blossom, bluebells, fresh healthy greenery and happy chickens. We've had lots of sunshine and dry weather so even the hose pipe is in use to quench the thirst of all the seeds I've sprinkled onto the ground. I've reseeded the wild flower garden and added extra poppies this time. The veg patch has spinach, salad leaves, carrots, spring onions, radishes and potatoes.

Above are the cherry blossoms which are snowing onto the ground with every gentle Spring breeze. The apple blossom is always second to show itself - it buds pink but opens to white and I wait eagerly and excitedly for this moment every single year.

The older girls are beginning to take it a little easier on the newbies, still pecking and bossing about but much more relaxed about it. They seem so happy here with us alhamdulillah, often able to hop over into the neighbours garden but just not feeling the need to do so. They are out exploring the whole garden most days, filling up probably half of their diet on organic yummy stuff which they rummage for. Strawberry is still such a sweet, passive, gentle and tolerant hen, patiently enduring D's games where she is stuffed into the 'boot' of his car, balanced on random things and rocked to 'sleep' like a baby!

Damson is still at the top of the pecking order but has more of a silent, respectable authority rather than a bullying attitude. She is such a lovely looking traditional hen and always first out of the coop in the morning.

While Apple has turned into a bit of a hen pecking meany since the new girls arrived. Strawberry seems to get told of by her rather a lot when I'm out digging with them. She is so chunky and meaty and much larger than our sweet little Strawbs.
Lavender floats around the outskirts and watches from the sidelines, but definitely getting her fill when I'm digging for worms with them all around my feet. She never pecks others or gets pecked herself. I think she is our noisiest girl and loves to let all the neighbours know that she is clever enough to lay an egg. SQUAWK!

Our newest trio are settling in nicely, and two days ago they finally ventured out of the enclosure with the others and had their first experience of grass under foot. Two are still particularly nervous around us and the other hens but Pumpkin is pretty confident. She looks after the other two.

Here is tiny Raspberry, we are longing for that first blue / green egg from her, go on girl, you can do it! Then Dandelion at the end, she is going to grow into such a stunning bird insha'Allah with her fiery plumage and grand side profile.

Primroses, last years nasturtiums which lived throughout Winter - I didn't know they would do that - strawberries and sweet-peas and even the odd tulip dotted about (which D is excited to see open) are also noticeable in our garden right now. The greenhouse seedlings have mostly been successful (sweetcorn and sweet-peas being failures) so we will be planting out pumpkins, courgettes, sunflowers, peas, nasturtiums, pansies, tomatoes, mint, chives, calendular and cosmos next month insha'Allah. I have lots of catching up to do and have been slowly laying a new path with Q helping me lift the ridiculously heavy slabs so that needs finishing this weekend insha'Allah. But generally speaking, right now, this is the happiest I've been with our little patch of land, it holds promise!

Monday, 21 April 2014

A day at the beach...

Its the school holidays (two weeks off for Easter) so Q (my hub) took me and D to the beach. We journeyed to our beloved Hunstanton, just two hours East on the flat windy coast with shallow sea and simple charm. Q hadn't been before but for me and D it was our forth time - see our other visits here. The day was bright and warm and we exploded with laughter together on the funfair - especially on the super fast Waltzers which always leave us sick and dizzy but worn out from laughing. We filled up on the best cod, chips and minty mushy peas ever ( Fishers of Hunstanton ) while sitting on the sunny village green overlooking the sea, and we felt utterly content doing all the usual beachy things like crab finding, stone lifting, shell treasuring, and letting our naked feet explore sharp shingle and soft wet sand which we sank into. The tide came in much too quick for me and D to paddle for long but we did spend extra time in the rock pools while Q covered his eyes with his hat and lounged on a dry break water on the edge of the shingle. D found a ladybird on the sand and it stayed on his arm for about fifteen minutes as he walked around the beach edge and showed it to everyone he came across. We all had ice creams while overlooking the ocean and D got the pony ride he was after. We spent just a couple of pounds in the village at the joke shop ( a must visit ) and came home with a bucket of periwinkle, mussel, razor clam, slipper and crab shells, and a mermaids purse which is a first for D. I'm so glad that we managed to go, me and D had been saving coins in a little pot since Christmas and he was overjoyed to find out half way there that our destination was Sunny Hunny as its commonly known. Now we are saving coins for Syria at his request, we will stop when the pot is full.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014


It was my birthday over the weekend, I'm 30 now! Whoop whoop!! I'm actually about to embark on real proper adult life!!! Genuinely happy about leaving my 20's behind, I feel like people take you seriously if you are at least in your thirties. I praise God for life, blessings and happiness, and I pray for those things too. 

I was humbled and privileged to be given gifts from family and friends, and the hub surprised me with a box of cakes (eaten before the camera got close!) and flowers in just the right colours.

I may have grubby windows and stained grout but a good soak of sunshine on these flowers is enough for me to forget about cleaning and enjoy the pretty instead. Oooooh I already LOVE being 30!

Meal Planning...

I was recently asked how do I meal plan so here you go, this is how! I've found that meal planning means that we always eat different things and don't often get board or stuck in a rut. Of course when your the main (the ONLY!) meal maker it can get a little samey sometimes cant it?! It also helps me to keep our meat consumption down, and takes away that stressful feeling which can sometimes be the undertone to life when you don't quite know what your doing, in this case what to cook and whether you have the right ingredients for a decent meal. I'm still fine tuning the process and would love any of your own hints and tips, please inspire me with your own organisational skills!

First of all it starts with this magnetic note pad on the side of my fridge. Whenever I realise that we need something I write it down starting at the bottom of the paper and the next time I go shopping I will rip off the list and take it with me. At the start of each month I have enough money for a huge grocery shop. I write my meal plan for the next four weeks, and rip off any list still up on the fridge and transfer it to my note book.

Here's this months meal plan...

To choose our meals I start by writing out all 28 of my days (we freestyle the missing days of the month) and add a J.P (Jacket / Baked Potato) meal to each Monday as it fits in with my new schedule now that I'm volunteering in a local charity bookshop. I add a take away to each week, and two frozen / random / left overs days. This is generally an easy meal consisting of something from the freezer, with vegetables or salad and either pasta, potatoes or rice. I'll then add one meal which contains meat from the butchers, and another which involves following a recipe from one of my scrapbooks. The final meal is usually something which I make from scratch and is a regular in our household - something we all enjoy and that I can make without having to check ingredients lists or methods. So that makes up seven meals per week, its pretty simple really. I don't usually stick strictly to this plan, I mix things around or we end up eating with family or I might run out of time to follow a recipe and do something quicker instead. I'm no super mum!

After I've written my four weeks of meals in my notebook I make a shopping list. I split it into parts - a huge list for week 1 where I buy all the dried / frozen / staple ingredients / toiletries and about two weeks worth of fresh fruit / veg / milk, then small lists for weeks 2, 3 and 4 depending on what I wrote in the meal plan. My week 1 shopping list is split into five sub-lists based on which things I buy from which shops. I currently buy most of our groceries from Asda (good all rounder), followed by Waitrose (great for unusual and organic food) , Aldi (cheap!) and Pak Foods (ethnic shop with HMC approved halal butchers inside), then our toiletries come from a health food shop. I try to do all five places in two days. Its a mission!

The shopping lists for the other weeks often get changed and are pretty flexible. I like to pop in to Waitrose a lot for most of our supplies for the rest of the month and generally go a couple of times a week.

This might all seem super organised and far too much work, but I'm pretty flexible and laid back with it. Being rigid wouldn't work for me at all. Meal planning is such a huge help in terms of stress levels and in comparison to when I don't start the month like this, its about £30 to £50 cheaper per month this way.

I would love to know how you meal plan? Do you coast through the whole month making it up as you go along? Or do you know exactly what to cook each week?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Pond Life...

We have a pond! It started out life as a corner bath neglected on the front garden of a house up the road. The builders carried it down here for us and my hub helped me to dig a massive hole to drop it into. It has sat full of dank black rain water all Winter but a few weeks ago me and D emptied it all out and put our resident frog to one side while we refilled it with pond plants and fresh water. Still very much a bath in a garden, but over time insha'Allah it will style itself out as an actual pond,  I will be adding planting around the edges to help it blend in a little. The frog has stayed and I see it in there most days, insha'Allah the newts will join it at some point, and I will scoop up some Brock's Hill frog-spawn when its ready.

Friday, 28 March 2014

New girls...

Well it happened a little out of the blue but our sweet sweet girl Cherry passed away this week. She was our original favourite hen (quickly followed by Strawberry) and was our blue egg layer. She had a lingering bout of vent gleet (chicken thrush) and I'm assuming it caught up with her in the end. She went to bed tucked up on the floor of the coop - the first time she hadn't perched at night - and never woke up, so we buried her in the garden and now D keeps asking if we can dig her back up again to see how she is... morbidly interested in the rotting process and thankfully mature enough to avoid any grieving!

So this morning, after a trip to the poultry farm I came home with three new girls, there was an escapee in the hallway back home after my attempt to stroke one of them ended with a flapping, squawking out-take from Hitchcocks 'The Birds' and I had to rescue her from the upstairs bathroom window sill!

So up there above is Dandelion who should give us pure white eggs insha'Allah, but perhaps blue, green or pink instead, hence her being called an 'Easter Egger'! I couldn't resist that beautiful yellow collar, she reminds me of a pheasant and a lion all in one! 

Then we have a pure Crested Legbar called Raspberry. She is small and timid and at the moment has a wiggly scrunched up lettuce type comb on her head just like Cherry did, she is also a blue egg layer.

Finally we have Pumpkin who is a copper black Maran and I think she will lay chocolate brown coloured eggs! She is the biggest and bossiest of our newbies and shines petrol green in the sunlight.

Our old girls (now one year old!) all puffed up their feathers and surrounded the old run with the newbies inside, very interested and having quite a chatter about it all. We might see what happens tomorrow if we let them all loose together, see how much squabbling ensues. I'm so excited about seeing them all together in one big flock!