gardening for mental health

Weeding out your Woes

I find spending time in my garden healing. I’m not a natural gardener; in fact I have managed to kill almost every plant I’ve ever owned. But I still try to grow things. I think sometimes the process is more important than the result. For example, my garden might looked like an untamed wasteland but the act of planting is satisfying in itself. I have begun trying to apply the same attitude to my writing. I find when I am ultra-focused on the end result, it takes the joy out of just doing it, and ultimately makes my writing worse too.

This week we have had our first spell of consistent Spring-like weather, so I’ve been making a conscious effort to spend more time outdoors, even if it’s only having a cup of tea at the fold up table in my back yard.

When I’m struggling to manage my thoughts, or to parent without snapping, returning to something simple that keeps your hands busy is always helpful. So, today I embarked on weeding my garden. The weeds had overtaken everything, in much the same way my thoughts do when I’m in an anxious state. Unrooting weeds from the ground somehow helps me to unroot patterns of unhelpful thinking from my own mind too.

So, while my daughter blew bubbles and had a biscuits picnic outside, I started stripping back all the unwanted growth. And when I did, I uncovered an opening tulip, some persistent violas and a thriving foxglove. And I realised, sometimes to find the good you have to weed out the bad bits. They might seem more prominent but when you reach the undergrowth, you can stand back to properly admire your garden.

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Cheap Veggie Chilli

This is one of those recipes where I threw random ingredients together, it worked out well and I’ll probably never manage to recreate it again 🙂

I am a happy meat eater, but I enjoyed this dish as much as one loaded with mince. This recipe stemmed from a surprise in defrosting: I defrosted mince and found out once thawed that it was actually beef sausages, so I made the chilli vegetarian 😀

Serves 2 large portions/4 sensible portions (which I don’t eat)

Ingredients

1/2 onion

2 cloves garlic

a handful of mushrooms

half a chilli/1/4 if using chilli sauce in beans

1 tin of kidney beans (in chilli sauce if you like)

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sugar

pinch of black pepper

1 square of milk chocolate (I used Galaxy :))

handful of fresh coriander

Method:

Chop onion, garlic, chilli and mushrooms finely. Fry in some olive oil. Once cooked, add the tin of tomatoes and the tin of kidney beans. This is important and sounds gross, but trust me – if you aren’t using kidney beans in chilli sauce, pour in the tin of beans with 1/2 the brine. It will thicken the sauce and give it better flavour.

Add cumin, salt, sugar, black pepper and garlic powder and turn down the heat. Add the square of chocolate and half the coriander and cook on a low simmer for up to an hour. Add water if the sauce is drying out. The longer you cook it for, the more the flavours will develop.

Serve with rice/tortilla chips and lots of cheese. Garnish with the rest of the coriander.

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Peanut Butter & Jelly Overnight Oats

I like breakfast to be effortless, hence why I set up my coffee maker the night before so all I have to do is wait for the sound of the coffee pot chortle as my alarm call. These are so easy to make and you just stick them in the fridge before you go to bed, meaning no preparation is required when you’re still in semi-slumber mode. I usually don’t serve these up to my kids, at least not without a chorus of “I want something else,” but at least I’ve eliminated the preparation of one breakfast in the morning. These can be eaten cold or shoved in the microwave to heat them up. You can make them look pretty by making them in a mason jar, but I don’t own practical kitchen equipment like that because I’d rather spend my money on candles and dresses, apparently.

Ingredients:

1 Cup of Oats

1 Cup of Milk (any you like)

1 tbsp Jam (strawberry or raspberry)

1 tbsp Peanut butter

Chia Seeds/nuts

Method:

Add one cup of oats to a bowl. Cover with whatever milk you like. I usually just cover them as I don’t like runny porridge, but you can add more if you want a different consistency. Top with one tbsp of peanut butter and one tbsp of jam. Sprinkle some chia seeds on top or some peanuts/cashew nuts/walnuts.

Refrigerate overnight and eat 🙂 You could also eliminate the jam and make a variation using chocolate chips with peanut butter and add cocoa powder to the milk and oats.

Simple Days: Scooters, Snacks and Rose Smelling

I took the girls to the park a few days ago. I’ve decided the best days to go to the park are ones where the sky is threatening rain, but never quite makes it there. It seems to put the majority of people off risking the downpour, which leaves the park swings dry but unattended. Fewer kids means more chance I get to sit down for a while on a bench, which is always a bonus. We took the girls’ scooters to the park and they had races and stopped to stare at the pigeons. For some reason, they seem to hold their interest longer than the ducks do. I guess there’s more interaction there.

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Everywhere we go that has a river or pond seems to prompt a game of “Pooh Sticks.” It’s weird how much longer my kids can be entertained by a stick than by anything I’m saying. We had a snack picnic after they went to the playground. There’s something old-worldly about having a picnic on a particularly windy day and having to use your picnic blanket as a cape to keep out the cold. We had hot chocolate and I brought snacks for the kids. They love having snacks they can pick at and assemble themselves, like different types of cheese with crackers and fruit and seeds to mix together. (But not as much as they love anything packed with sugar, preservatives and additives.)

On our way back, we noticed that the rose garden had bloomed since we were last there. We walked around looking at the different coloured flowers and the girls loved stopping to smell them and deciding which was their favourite. I like when we go for walks and come across unexpected things like that. The girls are really interested in nature and collecting things and it holds me in the moment for a change. They were fascinated by the ride-on lawn mowers and the freshly-cut grass smelled like the final fragrance of summer.

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Banana & White Chocolate Mini Muffins

This recipe is really cheap and a good way to use up leftover bananas. It is also a good baking activity for child involvement without compromising adult sanity 🙂 I won’t eat bananas once they have the first sign of a freckle, so I might have gone overboard with the number of bananas in the recipe. They were a hit with my kids; they kept trying to sneak their hands into the tub when I wasn’t looking (even though they’d already had three each.)

Ingredients

3 Bananas (I used 4 but mine taste more like banana than muffin now.)

1/4 cup of milk

1/2 cup of oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 3/4 cups of flour

1 heaped tsp of baking powder

1/2 cup of sugar

A handful of white chocolate chips/chunks of white chocolate

 

Method

Mash bananas in a large bowl with a potato masher. Add all wet ingredients and combine with a wooden spoon. Add dry ingredients, mix well, add chocolate and spoon into greased muffin tins/bun cases. Warning: this recipe made 26 mini muffins. That’s a lot of mini muffins, unless you’re me and always have room for snacks. You can improvise with the chocolate. I had no white chocolate so used part of an Easter egg I withheld from my kids and forgot about. They looked a bit annoyed and showed some vague signs of recognition, but they forgave me when I let them lick the bowl. Enjoy 🙂