Friday, February 16, 2018

What homeschooling looks like this term

Our new year of homeschooling just started up and we're getting a bit more down to business than we did in term 4 of 2017, when we took time to de-school / shake loose of the expectations and routines of school for a while. I'm glad we did that because it gave us a chance to experiment with different curriculums we borrowed from people and figure out what we like.

I thought I'd share what we're doing this term so my friends who aren't homeschooling can get a taste of what it's like, and my friends who are homeschooling can get ideas or nod/shake their heads knowingly, depending on whether they agree with what we're doing or not.

This term L is doing a mixture of activities run by other people, as well as working through various curriculums with me at home.

Outside of the house, L is doing swimming lessons twice a week, an art class, Suzuki violin lessons, a dancefit class, a science astronomy class, a creative journaling class and Kiwisports. We ended up with two swimming lessons because I signed L and S up for afterschool lessons before discovering a homeschool option that runs during the day. I figure that doing a term of two lessons a week will boost L's swimming ability really quickly, and the homeschool lessons give her a chance to meet other homeschoolers and hang out with them in the pool before and after her lesson, so it's win/win.

In the home, we are using The Good and the Beautiful for L's Language Arts and Literature curriculum. I printed this for free, but would have gladly paid for it. It's SO good. Everything in the curriculum has been designed to be good/edifying and beautiful. The curriculum itself is incredibly rigorous and has been set out in a way that is easy to follow, and builds on itself beautifully. I'm really enjoying it.

These challenging words flash cards are part of The Good and the Beautiful curriculum. I've put them into a divided container with one half for mastered words and one half for words that are to be mastered. L really enjoys challenging herself with these words, and it's a quick activity we can pull out at anytime, or even bring with us places. L worked through reading some of the challenging words to me this week while we were watching J do a swimming lesson.

The Good and the Beautiful curriculum incorporates artwork into some of its lessons and I've started sticking that art work up in our homeschool space after we've done the lesson on it, so we can enjoy it for longer. The two paintings you see above are by Arnold Lyongrun.

For history, we're working through The Story of the World volume one. I bought the activity book from a Facebook buy/sell group and purchased the main book from the Book Depository. I'm learning so much from this curriculum, and find it completely fascinating. I hope L does too.

For science, this term we are focused on astronomy, since that's what L is also doing in her group science class and I managed to buy an Apologia astronomy curriculum from a Facebook buy/sell group. We hope to visit the star dome this term as part of the course, and have been watching YouTube videos of the recent Falcon Heavy test flight, which was amazing. Check it out if you haven't already. When we finish working through this Apologia curriculum, I'll be getting some of The Good and the Beautiful science courses, which look so good.

Last term for maths, L worked through Life of Fred Apples, as a fun / light maths curriculum, and this term she's working through Life of Fred Butterflies. This is a story-based curriculum that teaches maths concepts in a really fun and unique way.

This week L has started working through a Step Ahead maths book that a teaching friend of mine gave us. When I want to give L serious maths time, she has a Primary Mathematics curriculum to work on that we have borrowed from a friend, but she doesn't like it as much so I'm taking a break from it while we work through the Step Ahead book. It uses games and puzzles to make the maths more fun, which suits L's personality down to a tee.

Every day L also does a bit of Quick Maths on the iPad or my phone. This is an app I downloaded and she likes it because she competes against herself to get faster at answering the questions and earn a new personal best. Quick Maths has levels ranging from Beginner to Advanced, and you can choose to answer addition, subtraction, multiplication or division questions.

For spelling, I try to take note of words that L gets wrong in her various activities and when I have a list of about ten of them, I'll get her to copy them out three times each and then test her on them. There's also this fun activity my friend, Angela, told me about, where you can type words into a programme and print them out in game-form. We've used that a few times too.

Each day L also studies French using the free online programme, Duolingo. It and Quick Maths are good activities L can do by herself while I'm packing S's lunchbox and getting her ready for school.

We go to the library at least once a week, and L checks out lots of books to read in her downtime. I also read to her most nights from a chapter book that's a little bit ahead of her reading level. This morning we took an hour out of our homeschool time to finish The Princess Acadamy by Shannon Hale, which we've been working through over the past few weeks. It's one of my favourites, and now L's too.

If L does good work or shows a positive attitude, I let her choose a sticker from the above Kiwiana sticker book that I bought from a $2 shop. It's amazing how a little sticker can boost morale. I also have a packet of certificates I got from another $2 shop, and I awarded one to L this week for excellent progress in swimming.

So how do I keep track of it all? I don't have an overall plan as such. I'm just aiming to have L work through all the various subject curriculums so get her to chip away at them whenever we are having homeschool time. Each day I write L a to-do list in a little notebook, and once she's got through everything on the list, she's free to play. The above list shows what we did on Wednesday this week.

I'm really enjoying having my own dedicated office/homeschool space to organise everything, because I'm able to sit down after all the kids are in bed and plan out the next day's activities. Plus I have somewhere to put everything when it's not in use.

So that's what we're doing this term. Now I want to hear from you. If you're a homeschooler - what are your favourite activities/books/resources?

Monday, February 5, 2018

Frugal Fun - So many extracurriculars!

The past week hasn't felt that frugal. I've basically been throwing money into the endless pool of kids' extracurricular activities.

With L homeschooling again this year, I've signed her up for several homeschool classes and more extracurricular activities than normal to give her social time and do the activities that I'm not so confident teaching her at home. She's doing swimming lessons, dance-fit, Kiwi sports, science, creative journaling, an art class and, hopefully, violin lessons.

L had her first swimming lesson last week and I was distressed to see that she was in a way-too-easy level. I suggested to her teacher that L be moved up a level, but her teacher elected to keep her where she was, without even properly assessing her abilities. I was annoyed because it felt like a waste of time and money to have her in a class beneath her abilities, so I emailed the swim school manager and she got L to come in for a special one-on-one assessment on the weekend. Thankfully, after that assessment everyone agreed L needed to go up a level. I felt like a pushy-Mum while it was all going on, but am very glad it all worked out for the best.

Since J will be with us on the day L is doing her homeschool group classes, I've booked him in for a couple of homeschool classes that day too. He will be doing gymnastics and Kiwi sports. Last week we went to check out the facilities where these classes are going to be held, so we'll have an idea where we need to go on the first day. I'm usually the disorganised person who shows up at the last minute, wandering around lost, but I'm trying to make more of an effort to be organised this year and have all the information I need with me in my phone calendar.

This term S is doing swimming lessons at the same time as L, and I've also signed her up for a gymnastics class, which she's been begging to do. I've also just purchased her school stationary for the year and paid all her school fees, so it really has been an expensive week.

On the positive side, I just did my second online grocery order and managed to come in under budget. I bought the 6-month delivery service last week so that I won't have to pay a delivery fee each week. I could pay for delivery as I go but you get a delivery fee discount for spending over $200, which would probably tempt me, and the whole point of this online ordering is for me to spend less than $200 a week on groceries.

The extra money I have left over from this week's groceries will probably go towards buying fruit from an orchard shop later in the week. We can stock up there at lower prices than at the supermarket.

I was looking at purchasing a printed homeschool curriculum for L this past week, but the delivery fee alone was going to be $170, since the curriculum is coming from the United States, and I think that might have been in US dollars too. I hit pause on that, since Paul has just purchased a second-hand colour printer/photocopier for his business, which I can use to print PDFs of the curriculum instead. I'm just waiting for him to set up the photocopier and then I can get to printing.

In my own news, I've been working on a horticulture assignment which requires me to take 40 different plant cuttings, press them and identify them by leaf shape/flowers. It's taking a long time, but I keep chipping away at it by taking cuttings wherever I go. Eventually I'll get it all done. After that assignment, I think I'll only have three more to go and then I'll have finished my certificate in horticulture.

For entertainment last week, I read several library books - the standouts were The Cruel Prince by Holly Black and The Gathering Dark by Leigh Bardugo, but I'm also re-reading My Lady Jayne, which is a favourite of mine. I watched a few episodes of The Good Wife on Netflix, as well as the movie Silver Lining Playbook, which is one I own and love.

I mowed the lawns last night in a break from the rain. They had shot up with the combination of sun and rain we've had lately, so I was emptying my catcher every pass. I emptied the clippings into my large compost bin and the garden I'm trying to fill with homemade compost.

We ate several meals last week furnished with home-grown garden produce: Cannelloni made with my spinach, tomatoes and garlic; Spaghetti Bolognese that used my tomatoes, spinach and zucchini; and Butter Chicken, which I made with my own tomatoes and zucchini. I always point it out to the kids, when we're eating homegrown food, even though I'm way more excited about it than they are.

Paul and I spent way-too-many hours over the weekend sorting our vast Lego collection. A couple of months ago we bought a second-hand cube bookshelf so the kids could set up their Lego creations in the various cubbies. Previously we had a train table set up for their creations, but it had become more of a dumping ground than a creative space and it was kind of rickety, so we dismantled it. The bookshelf has given us more floor space in front of it, which is good because the kids tend to build directly on the floor. It's also the perfect size to fit our plastic lego drawers on top of, which makes a much more efficient use of space in J's small bedroom (where the Lego lives).

We used to sort our Lego by colour, but someone suggested we sort it by type instead, so that's what we spent the weekend doing. Paul started building sets with the newly-sorted Lego and said it was so much easier and faster to do it this way. Win.

We didn't have quite enough plastic drawers to properly sort everything, so Paul bought two more sets as well as several plastic dividers to split out the small items. Now it's almost done. Well, as almost done as it can be when you have kids continuing to play with Lego. I'm tempted to go Lord Business on them and get my Kragle out.

Now I'll leave you with this picture of my ridiculously cute cat, who still thinks he's a kitten...
I don't even know how he got in there.

What's your frugal news? Or are you in the same start-of-school spending frenzy as I am?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Frugal Fun - Holidays and groceries

Last night our family got back from a week-long holiday at the beach, which we spent with good friends of ours. Paul had to work most of the week, so he caught a ferry across on Friday night and only spent the long weekend with us, but we really treasured that time with him.

We had our fair share of dramas while we were away, with a power-cut, a water tank that ran out of water, crazy heat, mosquitoes and a lawn-mower that broke down halfway through mowing the lawns but, apart from that, it was a magical week. The weather was gorgeous, my three children played beautifully with our friends' three children, we ate good food, went on grand adventures and came away feeling refreshed and recharged.

After unpacking the car yesterday evening, I was keen to get out into my garden and see how it was fairing. It looked so good. Paul had watered it before he came away for the weekend, so everything was lush and healthy.

While I was out there, I harvested a skirt-full of tomatoes. Some we'll eat fresh and some I'll dice up and cook in curries or pasta dishes.

I also harvested several zucchini. Two were so large as to almost be marrows. I can't believe how fast they grew. A week ago they were just tiny zucchinis, not even worth picking. I know because I picked all the vaguely worthy ones and brought them on holiday with us. I've shredded all the zucchinis up and frozen them in ziplock bags to use in meals over the coming months. I like to mix zucchini into curries, bolognese and Asian Mince on Rice.

I filled a container with green and purple peas from my garden. L and I enjoy snacking on them fresh.

I pulled out all my garlic and hung it in my laundry cupboard to cure (and ward away vampires). I had already harvested a few bulbs before we went away, but wanted to see if the rest would grow any bigger before I pulled them up. The tops had withered a lot while we were on holiday, so I decided they were as big as they were ever going to get. Some had a decent head on them, some only a little piddly head, yet all will be welcome in my cooking this year. Last year's garlic harvest came to nothing at all so I planted this year's crop in a sunnier garden and they've done much better.

We've come home from our holiday to wittled-down pantry cupboards, so this morning I put a batch of dough in the bread maker to make buns for lunch. I'll go bake those in just a minute.

Driving home from holiday, I told Paul some of my goals for this year, several of which require financial backing. Paul asked what I was going to sacrifice in order to fund my goals, and I realised that groceries are something I often over-spend on.

When J was a new-born, I ordered all our groceries online through Countdown, and was able to stick to our budget really well because I could track everything as I went and easily take things out of the online shopping cart if I'd gone over budget. I stopped shopping online because I felt like I could get better deals at Pak'N'Save, but since I keep overspending at Pak'N'Save on all those good deals, I've decided to rein it in by going back to Countdown's online service. I'm going to buy one of the six-month delivery packages and try the online shopping service for six months in the hopes of really sticking to our grocery budget and making savings for my other goals this year.

I'll let you know how it goes.

In other frugal news, I've been booking all the kids' extra-curricular activities for this term and, where possible, paid early to get the early-bird discount.

I've also purchased a few homeschool books for L from a buy/sell homeschool Facebook group and from the library's 3 books for $1 shelf. I'm eyeing up other homeschool materials as well, but will add to my collection slowly to ensure we make the most of what we already have.

I read several library books while I was on holiday - some hard copies I had checked out and some ebooks I borrowed through Overdrive.

I rang our power company and changed to a different plan that should save us money since we are classified as low-electricity users.

What have you done to save money lately? And what are your financial goals for 2018?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Frugal Fun - Free stuff for kids

It's generally known I love to read. I usually read several books a week, but lately I just haven't been able to stick with a book. I don't know what's going on, but everything's boring me.

Instead of reading at night, I've started watching YouTube videos in my downtime. Videos about organising and homeschooling are my main-stay and this one by Jordan Page recently inspired me to take action. Jordan and her husband plan out their whole year in advance - putting dates into their calendars for everything they know in advance.

I'm usually caught by surprise when public holidays arrive and wish I had organised something special for the long weekend, so this week I took a leaf out of Jordan's book and put as many dates into my phone calendar as possible. Birthdays, anniversaries, public holidays, school terms, kids' activities... they're all in there and I've set the annual dates to repeat so I won't ever have to set them again. I'm sure some of you already do this, and I usually do diary some dates, but this is the first time I've tried to put EVERYTHING in.

I even went one step further and scouted out free activities for families around Auckland using the Auckland For Kids website a friend recently told me about, putting those into my calendar too. Theoretically, we should always have something fun and free to do on the weekend now, if we want to.

Some weekends we just want to blob, and that's okay. Our kids are only allowed screen time on the weekend, so they are more than happy to stay home playing Minecraft, but I'm keen to have cool excursions available for them so they don't spend their entire weekends fixed to a screen.

As well as listing events, the Auckland For Kids website also has a list of top ten playgrounds in Auckland, so yesterday I took the kids to Tui Glen, which is the top rated playground. It was beautiful and loads of fun, with enormous climbing structures, slides and a double flying fox which meant the kids could race against each other.  It was a blustery day, so we mostly had the park to ourselves, which I've heard is rare.

I'm going to check out the other playgrounds on the list over time, until we've visited them all. Of the playgrounds we've already visited around Auckland, these are our favourites so far...

Cornwall Park - Set at the base of One Tree Hill under lots of old growth trees so there's plenty of shade, this playground has a miniature train, things to climb, a slide, a flying fox, swings and more.

Mt Eden / Maungawhau on Normanby Road - This playground has a little train you can push the kids around on, a flying fox, a massive climbing structure, swings, slides and a see-saw, mostly all built with natural materials and situated at the base of the mountain so there are also mountain rocks to climb or build huts on.

Onepoto Domain - Something for all ages with a toddler playground, a big kids' playground, bike/skooter tracks with ramps and roundabouts, a flying fox, climbing frames, slides, swings. All set in a beautiful, natural setting and easy to get to just off the motorway.

Western Springs - We love biking around the lake, going up and down over bridges and cycling past the swans, geese and ducks. We always stop for a play on the massive playground too, and if the kids can twist my arm, buy an ice cream from the Zoo ice cream shop that backs onto the park.

What are your favourite free activities to do with kids?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Frugal Fun - Pretty little wilderness

It's all about butterflies and ducklings at our place lately. Our very own slice of paradise.
We're desperately trying to catch sight of a butterfly hatching out of its chrysalis, but keep missing it. One minute the chrysalis is a dark black sack, the next time we look there's a lovely butterfly hanging beneath it. The hatching must happen very quickly.
Since the kids are fascinated by the butterflies, I've ordered a stack of books about Monarchs from the library and the kids have started making lapbooks about Monarchs. Lapbooks are a new concept to me, something I'm trying out for L's homeschooling this year. I like that she can get super creative with them. Basically you just fold a manilla folder into a trifold and then fill it with as many pockets, pop-ups, pictures, maps and spinning things as you want to make an interesting display of information about a particular topic.
So far the kids have only worked on their lapbook shells and started thinking about what they want to put inside them. I'm not really sure how we'll tackle the topic, since I've never done this before, but I guess we'll read the library books, ask some questions and take it from there.

Ducklings are the other exciting feature of our garden at the moment. About three different duck mums and their babies rotate through our yard over the course of the day, drinking the water we put out for them in ice cream containers. It's super cute when the ducklings jump into the water and have a little swim.

I've been fascinated to see what they eat - lots of weed seeds and bugs, which make them incredibly welcome in my yard. They take the stuff I don't want and turn it into garden fertiliser, all while looking super cute. Good trade.

The kids have also enjoyed figuring out which kitchen scraps the ducks like and are always keen to feed them. S dug up worms from the garden today for a mama duck and her baby and was delighted when they accepted them.

We are hanging around home for most of January, so the kids and I have taken a couple of trips to the local school pool for a swim in the hot afternoons. We've also been having sleepovers with cousins, which is equal parts fun and exhausting.

We did a walk to Kitekite Falls on New Years day with friends, which was so beautiful, but will probably be our last walk in the Waitakere Ranges for many years/ever. That's because on our drive back from the walk, I noticed a sign saying that a rahui has been called by the local iwi, asking people to stay out of the Waitakere Ranges. This is to give kauri trees a chance to fight the kauri dieback disease that's killing them, and which is spread by soil movement, particularly from walking tracks. It's so incredibly sad to me that my children won't get to experience all the beautiful walks and scenery the Waitakere Ranges have to offer, but I hope that the rahui will help the kauri trees regenerate for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I also think it would be amazing if the council built proper boardwalk type tracks, so people didn't have to walk on the soil at all. That could help keep the Waitakere Ranges open to people and still prevent disease spread.

While our kids were happily playing at their cousins' on the weekend, Paul and I went to Dressmart and bought Paul a couple of pairs of Levis at the outlet store there for his new job. Everything in the store was 50% off, so Paul got a great price for the jeans. We also went to the Bonds shop and got Paul socks and got me a couple of singlets that I love and wear all the time.
While we were at Dressmart, we also popped into Typo, where I found these gorgeous file folders that I knew L would drool over since they fade from aqua to blue to purple to pink. I've set them up in my new office space to give us better book storage for her homeschooling.

Paul started his new job this week and is loving it. Hurray! However, on his first day he found out he gets paid monthly and his first payment isn't until February so we probably shouldn't have gone to Dressmart after all. Whoops. We will have to be extra, extra frugal this month to ensure we keep paying all our non-negotiable bills. Paul is also doing a side job that will at least pay the mortgage each week, so don't worry, we're not about to be thrown out of our home.

To help keep costs down this month, I've been avoiding the supermarket and seeing how long we can last on what food we already have. Today, however, I pulled our last roll of toilet paper out of the cupboard, which means I'll need to go for a small shop tomorrow.

My lovely sister-in-law, Mandy, surprised me with groceries today. We had her four kids here last night so she and her husband could celebrate their wedding anniversary. When Mandy came to pick up her kids today, she brought lunch for us all, plus extra goodies for my kitchen - a block of mild cheese, a block of mozzarella, a block of butter, a packet of bacon, pomegranates, cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. It was so kind and so generous.

This same sister-in-law is also working towards going zero-waste and doing a much better job of it than I am. For Christmas she gave all the sisters-in-law a Dirty Hippie shampoo bar and a glass spray-bottle filled with apple cider vinegar to use as a conditioner with it. I used them both for the first time this week and really loved them. Mandy also made us all beeswax wraps (to use instead of clingwrap) and has ordered me stainless steel reusable drinking straws. Such a blessing.

The new office space in my bedroom has been getting a lot of action these holidays. It has become the go-to crafting table and there always seems to be somebody creating something in here. I was lucky just to get a seat at the desk to write this post for you guys.

Paul and I spent a couple of days organising his office downstairs last week. I donated quite a few things to the op shop and we took several containers of things up to the attic, where we have put them in easily accessible places so we can get them whenever we need to.

There's so much space up there and the attic stairs make it super easy to get up and down, so it seems silly not to use that space to its fullest. I'm keen to get attic lights installed, along with a whole lot more power points around the house, so I've added that to my ever growing list of house improvements I'd like us to save for in the next year or two.

At least the sorted office downstairs makes that room feel so much more inviting and functional. I like it when you can improve a space through labour, rather than buying stuff. A tidy, organised room will always feel welcoming, in my opinion.

Today I mowed the lawns before the day got too hot. I also collected water from my washing machine and watered all my gardens with it.

For dinner tonight we are having chicken barley soup, using leftover chicken from today's lunch (which Mandy provided). It's still simmering away downstairs and I see it's gone 7.30pm, so I should really dish that up. These long days keep tricking me into thinking it's earlier than it is. Chicken barley soup is one of my go-to frugal meals. Sometimes I make it without chicken - just throw into a pot chopped veges, barley and pre-made chicken stock and simmer for ages.

I think that's all my frugal news for now. This has been more of a general life update than frugal fun, but hey, that's kind of how I roll. I have been thinking about the difference between being frugal and being stingy lately. I don't want to be stingy, but can see how it would be an easy trap to fall into.

What are your thoughts on stinginess versus frugality?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Wander around my January garden

Come and wander around my January garden with me.

Everything is growing so well at the moment. We've had lots of sunshine this summer, but not much rain, so I've been watering the garden by hand. I really like doing that as it gives me an excuse to get outside and see how my plants are growing.
My five raised bed vegetable gardens.

The raised bed down the bottom of my garden gets several hours of shade during the hottest part of the day, so I've planted it with leafy greens like kale, spinach, lettuce, beetroot and coriander, which would bolt if they got too much sun. Actually, the coriander has bolted anyway, so it was obviously still too hot for it. I previously had carrots in here, but they didn't get enough sun and went to seed before growing decent roots, so I pulled them out.

In the next garden up, I'm growing kale, spring onions, two zucchini plants, several snow peas and some beans.

My zucchinis have just started to fruit and I'm so excited about it. None of my previous zucchini plants survived the slugs and snails in my garden, so I recently put out slug bait to knock back the slug population and it really worked. I had been avoiding using slug bait because I wanted a completely natural garden, but it got to the point where I was losing so much produce, I couldn't even seen the point of having a garden any more.

The next garden up previously had massive kale plants that went to seed. I've collected lots of seeds from the plants and pulled out a few, but also left in a few to provide shade to the new seedlings I have coming up underneath - spinach, lettuce and more kale. I really like kale because it lasts for ever and a day in the garden and I can keep picking leaves off it to make kale chips as it grows.
The last two gardens are butted up against a trellis fence, which I use to grow tomatoes up. The garden pictured above has large tomatoes, sage, a couple of strawberries and some coriander plants I left to go to seed. The seeds are ready to be collected, so that's next on my garden to-do list. Looking at this garden, I realise I want to plant some basil in here too. Somehow I missed doing that this summer.

The other garden butting up against the trellis fence features garlic, which is nearly ready to harvest, spring onions, cherry tomatoes, a couple of strawberry plants and a sprinkling of carrot seeds in the gaps.

My other vegetable garden is my wraparound deck garden. I'm using one half of this garden to make compost, just by mixing mulch, grass clippings and compost from my rotating compost bin in here. I also plan to add seaweed once I've gone to the beach to collect some. If I can find a good manure source, I'll throw that in too. I'm letting it all rot down until autumn, when I'll plant it out with my autumn crops.

The other half of my wraparound deck garden features four dwarf citrus trees, lots of strawberries, asparagus plants and lavender plants. Today I emptied half of my rotating compost bin, and spread some of the rich compost around the base of all four citrus trees. The mixture was almost a vermicast mixture, because I found lots of worms in the bin when I emptied it, so it will be highly nourishing for my trees.

Ducks and ducklings are a common sight in our garden at the moment. I've been putting out water in containers for them, as it's been so dry. The little ducklings like to hop into the water, which dirties it up, so then I pour the mucky water around my trees for fertiliser. Win/Win. The ducks also like to eat the seed heads around the lawn, which I'm happy for them to do as it stops weeds spreading. It's been so dry, the grass hasn't grown much, but somehow the weeds have.

The blueberries on my two trees are swelling up so I'm looking forward to eating them when they're ready. Blueberry plants like lots of water and fortunately my trees are located right by my backdoor where my laundry is, so I empty my laundry water onto them whenever I can. They love it and it's helping them survive this hot, dry summer we've been having.

Last night for dinner we had black bean wraps which featured tomatoes from my garden. It could have featured lettuce too, but we already had an iceberg lettuce in the fridge from our holiday, so I used some of that instead. The black beans were ones I had previously cooked and frozen in individual 1 and 2-cup portions. I refried the black beans with finely diced onion in homemade chicken stock to spread on our wraps. I added salt, pepper, ground cumin, coriander, paprika and oregano to the mixture and it turned out so flavoursome and delicious.

Today for lunch I whipped up a spinach pie to make use of some of the spinach I froze over spring, as well as to use some of the fresh spinach coming up in my garden now. The pie recipe was one that my friend, Angela, gave me and it was really simple. I just whizzed up the spinach with a block of feta cheese and cooked it in store-bought puff pastry. Next time I make it, I'll probably throw in some herbs from the garden for added flavour.

That reminds me, I didn't photograph my herb garden for you, but it's pretty similar to the last time I shot it; It's still growing rosemary, thyme, oregano, borage and parsley. I'm not sure what happened to the calendula, but that's disappeared.

Are you growing anything at home? What are your bumper crops this month?