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...

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!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Just lately...

Just lately I have been...

:: Visiting Bosworth Water Trust hoping for a sunny walk around the lake but instead having a miserably freezing cold and windy few minutes on the lonely 'beach' and then coming straight back home with a huge head cold.

:: Smiling at the new baby lambs in Wistow which we went to see the following day, they would follow their mums to the stream while she drank and then skip past us back to the flock, so sweet!

:: Feeling feverish and shivering in bed under two duvets, and two blankets, with the heating on and surrounded by cushions and cuddly toys, being looked after by D.

:: Eating absolutely no chocolate or similar goodies for five days even though for the last three years Ive eaten at least one 'fun size' chocolate a day. Still not tempted. Alhamdulillah, the power of illness!

:: Getting better but trying to get rid of this sore throat with honey and lemon.

:: Writing to a friend who should really have received a letter from me months ago, and rereading her letters to me :-)

:: Posting another three letters after because the first one felt so good!

:: Learning about prayer and the good it can bring.

:: Realising that we have at least four different types of daffodil in our garden right now, all brightening up the view.

:: Thinking that I must plant more of the ones with yellow petals and orange trumpets, they remind me of fried eggs.

:: Exciting myself as I watch the blossom appear on the damson trees.

:: Noticing that the apple blossom is just starting to protrude with a few buds on odd branches! Whoop. alhamdulillah!

:: Wasting time but smiling at this and this.

:: Hoping that all is well with you and yours :-)

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Hanging washing on the line...

It is finally warm enough to hang the washing on the line in the morning and expect it to be dry or nearly there by evening, such a prominent seasonal reminder of the sunnier days to come. I love it! Using a dryer is such an easy, quick way to take our clothes from soggy to wearable but its not particularly desirable is it? Far too technological for us simple folks who prefer fresh air and a slower lifestyle. 

The weather is always a prominent talking point in England, always a conversation starter to break the ice (pun intended!). Even on our sunny days at this time of year there are still regular complains about the cold and the struggle to decide whether the weather is 'good enough' for going to the park / going for a stroll etc.
The United Kingdom sits in the Atlantic without much shelter, we forget that we are just a small island. Our weather is bound to be unpredictable, why are we always so begrudging about it?

We are very fortunate to have such a variation of weather and to pretty much bypass all the more troublesome things like hurricanes, earthquakes, drought and blizzards. In fact, I think we have it just right and its one of my favourite things about living in Britain! And no... its almost never too cold to visit the park or go for a stroll...