Thursday, 3 April 2014


Hydroponics: Bigger Yields – More Nutrition From Your Outdoor Garden!

About the Author: Chris Wimmer is an urban hydroponic hobbyist who uses hydroponics to maximize his 400 square foot yard and extend the short Chicago growing season. Chris blogs about his hydroponic experiences at

Incorporating the elements of a hydroponic system into outdoor gardening is the best way to ensure you get the biggest yields and healthiest most nutrient-dense fruits, veggies, and herbs come harvest time!

With indoor hydroponics, proper lighting can be a challenge from a budget perspective, but with the powerful and “free” sun shining down on your crops, bigger yields are always possible using a soil-less, automated growing system.

Hydroponic gardening

Hydroponics Defined:

Hydroponics maximize nutrient and oxygen uptake in plants by eliminating soil from the mix. Plants are rooted in an inert, bacteria free media such as peat moss, tree bark fibers, rockwool, spagnum, perlite, clay or stone.

There are hundreds of variations to the media used, but all provide a non-restrictive base for the plant's root system; where a feeding solution containing water, oxygen, and fertilizer can be introduced to the plants every few minutes via an automated watering system.

Slow and steady wins the race...

The plant's root system is “spoon-fed” what it needs, then the excess drains out of the bottom of the planter, and back to a nearby reservoir where it's held until a pump's activated via a timer a few minutes later, and the plants receive another feeding.

Soil-free keeps the root system clean and healthy, eliminates the plants wasting time searching for nutrients in the soil.  This maximizes the plant's ability to produce healthy greens, veggies, fruits, or flowers.

Soil suffocates...

Soil, by comparison can retain too much water, allowing bacteria to form (which bugs and parasites just love) and smothering the root system of the plant blocking oxygen uptake.

Calcium and salt levels build in the soil, slowly restricting its ability to uptake nutrients during the vegetation and blooming phases. The plant's root system is also forced to grow downward in search of more nutrient and oxygen-rich soil.

This means the plant has to use the energy it receives from the sun (photosynthesis) to grow a larger root system, rather than fortifying its stalk and producing seed-bearing fruits, veggies, flowers, etc.

Benefits of Hydroponics:

  1. Plants get all the nutrients they need – no wasted water or fertilizer (25% of that used in soil grows)
  2. Little if any pesticides are needed – many crop eating bugs live in soil
  3. Bigger yields – up to 10 times larger than soil
  4. Less babysitting your garden – an automated system can thrive virtually on its own
  5. No weeding – weeds need soil to grow

Crop Suggestions:

You can grow anything hydroponically but it's important to do your research beforehand. There are many guides, videos, and blogs out there which it can be difficult to decide where to start.

If you're just getting started, stick to compact plants that don't require too much space, until you learn the ropes of setting up your feeding system, maintaining a proper PH, and all the other particulars. Corn, squash, zucchini, and melons are all best avoided as they are large or create large vine systems.

Instead try these plants...

·      Herbs of all kinds – rosemary, tyme, tarragon, sage, parsley, mint, dill, oregano (go nuts!)

·      Veggies – lettuce, cabbage, watercress, radishes, peppers,

·      Fruits – tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, strawberries

Based on your crops of choice you can then pick the best system.  For herbs and lettuce like veggies, I’d suggest starting with a simple lettuce raft. For larger fruits and vegetables, I’d suggest starting with a basic bucket system which you can find on
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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Four Lunchbox Friendly Salad Recipes

As mentioned in my 'About Me' section on this blog as well, it is hard for me to claim to be much skillful around the house, especially in the kitchen. However, luckily, most healthy foods don't require a lot of cooking or baking and I am not going to complain about it at all. As a family, healthy lifestyle is important to us and we try to educate our children accordingly as well. Our children have always been introduced to healthy options whenever and wherever possible and that is what they appreciate most of the time. Especially raw foods are an important part of their diet.

Our son started Prep this year and therefore, we too are on the same boat as many other parents who try to offer variety of foods for their children's lunchboxes on a daily basis. Let me tell you that it is NOT easy if you have not experienced it for yourself yet. The good news, however, is that with the invention of the internet and particularly social media, there are online recipes everywhere. You are the best person to know your child's habits and needs and you can easily find the best options that would work for you and your child, if needed, with some adjustments in recipes.

In our case, our son often brings some sort of a sandwich for lunch but also has some salad as a main or to go with his sandwich as well. He brings some snacks too but I may be able to share some ideas on snacks at another date. Today, it is about salads.

There are four recipes below but be ready for more to come later on as well, as it is only a matter of finding the time to photograph his salads when made freshly in the mornings. Again, that too is not always the easiest task to do. That is why, for the moment, I will only be sharing what I have been able to photograph so far.


- Baby spinach leaves
- Fresh cherry tomatoes in a few colours
- Fetta cheese cubes
- Nigella seeds

Delicious salad for school


- Cooked pasta
- Blanched green beans
- Blanched broccoli
- Raw red capsicum

Vegetarian pasta salad


- Cherry tomatoes
- Chunky lettuce leaves
- Red capsicum
- Carrots
- Sunflower seeds

Salad for school lunch


- Some fresh sorrel leaves (They are hard to find at stores but I have them in my garden. If you can't find them, you can substitute them with any of your favourite salad leaves).
- Carrots
- Cherry tomatoes in a few colours
- Avocado slices
- Cranberries
- Linseed

Healthy lunch ideas

Note: I do not use seasoning for my son's salads at school. However, you can easily add your choice of seasoning if preferred. 

Enjoy something fresh today!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Lunchbox Friendly Vegetarian Koftas

Lentil kofta wrap

Remember my post on 'red lentil koftas' from last year? (Click here for the recipe) Here is a slightly more attractive presentation of them for kids.

Vegetarian koftas

The inspiration simply came from my love for my son. One school day, he asked for something special (as he often does). I know he normally enjoys red lentil koftas, which I learned how to make last year and have been making some at times ever since. It was during a really hot week and I thought the red lentil koftas would be just perfect. I simply made the mix the night before and left them in the refrigerator over night. In the morning, made small koftas with them, wrapped them around with some fresh juicy, crispy lettuce and voila! When he came home, there was no sign of any leftovers. He surely loved his lunch.

Lentil kofta

Have a very happy day!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Happy Kids, Happy Mum!

Easy way to keep kids busy

As far as I can remember, I had never looked after someone else's child up until the other day. A friend of mine needed a carer for her daughter for a day and I put my hand up, even though I was a bit anxious about it. I know the little girl and my children love spending time with her. It definitely made it easier that they get along well.

DIY canvas for kids

Luckily, our little guest had great manners and her interests were similar to my children's. There were lots of reading, chatting, puzzles etc. during the day (actually, at some stage, my son was walking around with a crown on his head! Oh girls! They know how to make boys do things for sure). I didn't really need to come up with activity ideas for them most of the day but I did suggest a few little things which they happily accepted.

Butterfly and bird painted by kids

One of the favourites on the day was the outdoor painting activity. If you have been following my blog, you would know that we have been renovating since towards the end of last year. We have completed most of it but there are still some jobs to do before we can call it 'all done'. One advantage of this process is that we have got lots of cardboards around. We try to get rid of them slowly, putting them in our recycling bin whenever possible but we still have heaps. On the day, I basically cut one large piece nice and neatly and gave it to the kids to use as a canvas. They took one of their paint sets, took a paint brush each and simply got started.  They all had a great amount of space for their masterpieces.

A car by a 5yo

A house by a 5yo child

This would make a perfect party activity and it won't even cost much. Just make sure you have got nice sized cardboards, enough paint brushes to avoid any tears and screaming; and an art smock each so that no-one ends up with a set of clothes covered in paint to go back home with. All you need after this is to sit back and enjoy the sound of laughter and the bright, proud eyes on the children's faces!

Teaching kids hand embroidery
(Our little guest learning hand-embroidery)
Snack ideas for kids
(A snack platter from the day)
 Have a fantastic day!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

DID YOU KNOW ...? (76)

Penguins and knees
Photo Source
Are you one of those millions of people that have wondered whether penguins have knees or not at some stage in their lives? Well, here is the answer in case you have not found it out yet; yes, they do have knees.

Monday, 17 February 2014

RECIPE: Gourmet style couscous salad

Here is the newest addition to our family's salads menu. It was such a winner with the kids when we made it for the first time that our son even asked for some for his lunch at school the next day. 

Ingredients: (serves approximately 6 people):

- 1 packet couscous (500g) (larger couscous preferable)
- Some red capsicum (a small capsicum)
- Some rocket (a big handful)
- Some walnuts (about a handful)
- Dill (optional but it is particularly delicious in this salad)
- Parsley (optional)
- Roasted veggies such as zucchini and pumpkin (optional)
- Some olive oil, lemon juice and salt for seasoning.


Cook your couscous using the instructions provided on the packaging (it only takes about 10-13 minutes to cook). Once the couscous has cooled down, add all of your ingredients and seasoning and mix well. Voila! Your salad is ready! (You can add some chicken, fish or meat to it and have it as a main or have it as a side dish).

Enjoy something delicious today!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

A No-Sew Makeover in Half an Hour: DIY Chair Cover

No-sew upcycling project

Here is my no-sew project from the other day: a new DIY swirl chair cover. It took me less than half an hour to come up with this beauty!

Office chair makeover

The chair works perfectly fine but the cover on it was a bit boring and not in its best shape in my opinion. So, I decided to try my hand at re-upholstering it and I must admit, this has been one of my most favourite upcycling projects to date. I am just in love with the outcome!

What I used was a staple gun, a hammer (to hammer the staples down when/if they were not in properly), a screw driver and my choice of fabrics.  (Depending on how your existing chair is assembled, what you will need to use may differ. Eg. Allen key instead of a screwdriver).

Fabric options

The process was quite straight forward. I simply took the screws off the backing on the seat and the back support, separated them using some muscle power, stapled the new fabrics on them making sure that the fabrics were well stretched(I chose not to remove the original cover on it), attached the back pieces back on, put the pieces together again and voila!

Re-upholsterings swirl chairs

How to renew an old chair

Re-upholstering office chairs

The whole procedure took us approximately half an hour. It is a perfect and very affordable way of adding some colour to your home or jazzing up your room.  

Swivel chair make over

There is nothing like having something that has your (or your loved ones') touches all over it at home. It just is so unique and special. 

DIY chair cover

Enjoy the beauty of some personal touches in your life today!