Diet in Denial

Today my friend gave me a nice top she’d bought on a whim but then decided it ‘was not her colours’. Great I thought, until I got it out of the bag – it was huge!

Convinced it was going to swamp me I tried it on.

REALITY CHECK!!!

I could barely get it over my head. Further reality check, once on I could not get it off!

Seriously…

So what are my options?

I’ve tried most diets and all fail because I love my food and enjoy wine. Life is for living, right?

So can I have my cake and eat it?

Atkins Diet

I tried the Atkins Diet for a couple of weeks and lost 8lb. More importantly I was never hungry because while I could not drink alcohol I could eat as much of certain food as I liked. Although I was banned from eating carbs such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice etc. or even fruit, milk and some vegetables in the early stages I never missed them.

But with every upside there is a down: the potential side effect of bad breath constipation, nausea, insomnia, dizziness to name a few, did not rest well with me. Plus the experts evaluation of the Atkins Diet was not that encouraging for long term health.

Weight Watchers

A non-starter for me I’m afraid. There are no classes where we live and I’m not going to pay £12.95 per month to join an online class. I need ‘people motivation’.

SlimFast

You buy ‘shakes’ etc to replace meals. This is a fad diet.

Slimming World

I actually like the idea of this diet because:
“There are no gimmicks, no special food to buy, no pills, no shakes, no tiny portions and no calorie counting.” BUT unfortunately there are no classes near us and I’m loathe to pay £60.00 for a three month online class when I need ‘people motivation’

The 5:2 fast diet

With this diet you eat normally for five days and restrict calorie intake to 500 calories per day on the other two. I can manage this. I found an online support group for this diet and it’s FREE. I’ve now signed up and set my goals and started a diary.
thefastdiet.co.uk

Diet starts tomorrow with 500 calories.

Anyone want to join me?

Why Are My Kumquat Leaves Yellow?

After making some Kumquat marmalade which was absolutely delicious, I decided to grow my own Kumquat tree.

Kumquats

Kumquats


Kumquats are expensive here in Portugal so planting my own tree seemed the logical step says she, who kills most things including fig trees which are meant to be indestructible.

Fingers firmly crossed I planted a healthy tree in April 2016.

Fast forward four months and the kumquat leaves are yellow but apart from that the tree seems healthy with no leaf fall. At first, I thought it was under-watering, no. Then over-watering, negative.

My kumquat tree has yellow leaves

My kumquat tree has yellow leaves – August 2016

I trawled the internet and the problem appears to be a nutrient deficiency

According to Best Plants

Yellow and dull looking leaves often means the plant is lacking the necessary nutrients magnesium or sulfur. Apply Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate), adding it to fertilizer placed in the soil once per month. For more direct approach, 1 tablespoon can be mixed with a gallon of water and sprayed directly onto the leaves. Be patient as different plants respond faster than others to applications.

This is an excellent website with lots of useful tips.

I then studied various other sites and yellowing of leaves could mean the roots are too wet or too dry, low temperatures, or lack of feeding. I can rule out low temperatures because some days the temperatures have been in the high twenties to mid thirties. Too much water/not enough? It receives no more than my strawberry tubs because it is on the same watering system.

Further investigation reveals it is probably Chlorosis which is used to describe the symptoms of uniform yellowing of leaves.

Kumquat Tree - Chlorosis, uniform yellowing of leaves

Kumquat Tree – Chlorosis, uniform yellowing of leaves

Green chlorophyll requires iron and manganese. Lack of these nutrients result in the yellowing between the leaf veins

So what’s the cure?

According to the Garden of Eaden blog (I won’t include a link to their website as I was bombarded with annoying popups) chlorosis is treated by

spraying leaves with soluble iron foliar feeds every 2 – 4 weeks or by lowering the soil pH.

Or by applying nutrients to the soil surface. Suggested: soluble, acidic plant fertilizers such as Miracid or Sequestration as a weekly liquid feed. As I have neither of the above in store cupboard I am going to try Epsom salts. It’s got to worth a try, yes?

Dosage: Dissolve 2 teaspoons of Epsom Salts to 1 litre of water and apply every fourteen days.

The experiment started today. I sprayed the leaves and watered the plant with the remainder.

All suggestions,tips and advice welcome!

FitBit and Senior Moments

I accept I’m not the sharpest tool in the draw when it comes to mastering technology and digital gizmos, but even I had to groan at this particular ‘senior blond’ moment.

Wanting to lose weight I invested in a FitBit Charge HR. So far so good.

Much to everyone’s surprised snickers I managed to ‘set it up’ and more importantly, and much to my surprise, I even synced it with my iPad which enabled me to monitor daily steps, distance walked, pulse, stairs and all sorts of other useful data. This is turn enabled me to take part in Challenges with family and friends. Hey, I was on a roll… or so I thought.

The FitBit became part of my daily routine and I became obsessed with steps walked and distance covered. Even to the point I would run round the house ten times to increase my daily steps if I was not on target. Yes, I actually did that on several occasions especially when my daughter and I were participating in a challenge.

Then disaster struck. It stopped syncing with my iPad and it could not collect the data.

I contacted FitBit customer service via Twitter and after twenty emails offering support and directions they cut their losses and sent me a new FitBit (It was probably costing them more in man-hours than the value of a replacement)

My new FitBit arrived, I charged it and then tried to set it up.

The FitBit arrived pulse set at 135

The FitBit arrived pulse set at 135

I kept pressing the button on the side of the Fitbit, but the data on the screen remained on 135. It was stuck. The back of the watch was flashing green but the screen data remained static.

FitBitCharge HR - I pressed the button and the screen lit up but numbers remained static

FitBitCharge HR – I pressed the button and the screen lit up but numbers remained static

I contacted customer services again and you could almost sense it was a case of ‘oh no, not that woman again’ Emails bounced back and forth offering various suggestion until I finally admitted defeat and passed it to Mr. Piglet.

He looked at the FitBit and then asked why I had left the Surface Protection film over the screen.

‘What…what film?’ I asked.

He peeled back the printed film to expose the screen and then laughed.

FitBit Charge HR - Beware it arrives with printed surface protection film

FitBit Charge HR – Beware it arrives with printed surface protection film

I was not amused.

Please, Mr. FitBit. Can you send an Idiot’s guide with your product or at least a note reminding people to remove the SPF.

PS

If anyone wants to link up for a Weekly or Daily Challenge please let me know!

Palácio de Mateus Reflections

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is all about reflections.

Palacio de Mateus2

Palacio de Mateus

Palacio de Mateus

One of the least memorable trips on our Douro river cruise was a visit to Palácio de Mateus, near Vila Real. Please don’t ask why but I was expecting to visit a vineyard for the Mateus Rose wine. Yep, the devil is always in the detail and I failed to connect the dots.

I am not a student of architecture so the building while providing an impressive photo oppotunity on our arrival failed to stir much interest within. Even Wiki only has a page stub.

The official website is www.casademateus.com

Why does my Aloe Arborescens have black leaves?

Is there a cure?

About a year ago I noticed my Aloe Arborescens were covered in dappled black marks, and after a few months the leaves turned black, shriveled and died.

 Aloe Arborescen - black marks on leaves

Aloe Arborescens – black marks on leaves

There is an old adage: Don’t put off till tomorrow what you should do today.

Unfortunately, I never acted immediately and when I did seek advice I was told it was a virus and there was basically nothing I could do to  cure it. I was then advised to remove all the affected leaves so only the new growth remained. I tried, but after spending many back-breaking hours pulling off the dead leaves I decided the plant was too far gone and we cut it back to ground level.

Apparently Aloe’s are rarely affected by pests although the root and dry rot can be a problem. I was about to give up on my mission to discover the cause of the black marks when someone suggested it could be a fungus due to humidity. Ah ha! After an extensive search of the web looking for clues I discovered:

Insects such as aphids and snout beetles sometimes attack aloes, and they occasionally fall prey to fungal diseases, such as rust, especially if they are growing close together. Spray the plants with a systemic insecticide to stop the sucking insects in their tracks.
Make sure that the poison runs into the growth points between the leaves as well. A fungicide with a copper base can help to control diseases such as rust, which are a nuisance in humid climates.

Credit: An article published on The Gardener

I am on a mission to find a fungicide with a copper base to save my one remaining Aloe Arborescen growing in another part of the garden. Can anyone recommend a product which I can buy here in Portugal or from the net?

Aloe Arborescen with black marks on leaves

Aloe Arborescen with black marks on leaves

All the plants pictured above have since been cut down to ground level in the hope they will regrow and I will get a second chance.

Fingers crossed!

Does anyone have any other suggestions or advice, please?

Other useful websites:
TipsPlants.com
PlantsAfrica.com

Narrow: Locks, Dams And The Douro River, Portugal

The theme for this week’s photo challenge is narrow. When I was reviewing my photographs for this challenge I was reminded of a weeks cruise with Croisi Europe along the Douro river in Portugal. The river cruise was a seven-day leisurely return trip from Porto, in northern Portugal, to Vega de Terron on the Spanish border. We navigated several locks which was a first for me. I thought they were AMAZING!

Narrow entrance to a lock

Narrow entrance to a lock

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Approaching the lock

Approaching the lock

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A long way up

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It's a long way up!

It’s a long way up!

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Finally at the next level

Finally at the next level

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Crestuma-Lever Dam, Douro River, Portugal

Crestuma-Lever Dam, Douro River, Portugal

Useful websites:

Eco Tours Portugal

Croisi Europe River Cruises

One final picture to tempt you to visit the Douro!

View of Douro River in Portugal

View of Douro River in Portugal

All Aboard The Aperitivo Train!

On my last visit to France I discovered an unusual way to serve my favourite dips hummus, Tzatziki and guacamole.

All aboard the Aperitivo Train - a great way to serve dips!

All aboard the Aperitif Train – a great way to serve dips!

The idea was SO simple yet effective I’m surprised I did not think of it myself! As you can see from the photographs the peppers form the train carriages which hold the vegetable sticks, and dishes are used for the dips.

Train

– Food glue or cocktail sticks to attach the cucumber wheels to the peppers.
– Aluminum foil to cover serving tray.
– An assortment of coloured peppers (red, yellow, orange and green) which form the train carriages.
– 1 cucumber cut into slices for the wheels

1. Cover a flat serving tray with aluminum foil
2. Carefully remove one side of the pepper and remove seeds. Wash inside of peppers and dry.
3. Attach cucumber wheels with food glue or cocktail sticks (cut to size)
4. Arrange peppers in a circle or S shape on covered serving tray.
5. Spoon dips into dishes and add to the centre of the tray.

Vegetable sticks

Cut vegetables, such as carrots and celery, into sticks and arrange in the ‘pepper’ train carriages

Voilà!

Bon Appétit…

Now I just need to invite some friends to marvel at my creative genius… yeah, right. Trots off the find some ‘dip’ recipes and then some friends.

All aboard the 'Aperitif Train'

All aboard the ‘Aperitif Train’

Gazanias – Unusual Daisies With Exquisite Detail

I love the way the droplets of water linger on the petals and leaves like tiny bubbles. These are small details we often fail to notice yet when captured in a photograph remind us of the simplicity of nature.

Gazania

Gazania

Other details include the unusual combinations of colours.

Gazania (pink and cream striped petals)

Gazania (pink and cream striped petals) Photo taken in Spring

And bees gathering pollen.

Gazania with yellow and orange flowers

Gazania with yellow and orange flowers (photo taken in Spring)

While I find Gazanais relatively easy to grow, I disagree with the experts comment that they are drought resistant. If I don’t water my plants regularly they resemble a bed of birds nests.

Are Gazanias drought resistant?

 

Gazanias are not drought resistant. (July 2016)

Gazanias are not drought resistant. (July 2016)

Useful websites for care of Gazanias
About Home
Gardening Knowhow

This post was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is ‘Details’

Monster Tomatoes!

I don’t know the name or variety of these tomatoes but they sure are HUGE!!!  (I’ve since been informed they are ‘Rosa’ tomatoes). This year I bought several baby tomato plants from Silves monthly market which is held on the 3rd Monday of each month.

This is an excellent market for vegetable plants, fruit bushes and trees.

Giant Tomatoes

Giant Tomatoes

In my best pidgeon Portuguese I asked the plant seller for ‘Muito grande, tomates’. The lady nodded with a grunt and a smile then presented me with six plants. My purchase based purely on trust and a leap of faith were planted in my recently manured vegetable area. Yes, I splashed the cash and with the encouragement of a dear friend went to the local stables to buy some horse manure.

Monster Tomato!

Monster Tomato!

The first tomato of the crop weighed in at 1 lb 8oz

Although the tomatoes were a little misshapen and would win no EU awards for the ‘perfect tomato’ they tasted absolutely delicious.

 

The tomato weighed 1lb 8 oz!

The taste and texture of the flesh reminded me of beefsteak tomatoes we used to buy in the UK. There were hardly any pips and they were far less watery than normal tomatoes.

I will certainly be saving the seeds for next year’s crop!

These tomato plants the mother of the monster tomatoes!

These tomato plants are the mothers of the monster tomatoes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opposites: Remain or Leave?

The theme for this week’s WordPress challenge is ‘Opposites’. Contemplating the differences in opinion for Brexit: ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’, how could I express the extremes behind the vote and the wisdom of the ‘Leave’ result in terms of a photograph?

In the end it will boil down to money. Some think the UK will be better off leaving the EU while others disagree. Some people will benefit financially while others won’t. There are always winners and losers so let’s just hope the UK ‘leavers’ with their ‘island’ mentality eat their words and count the money (or not).

So for my ‘Opposites’ contribution I present a photograph of money: coins and notes. Both of value yet represented by different properties.

Counting the cost of Brexit

Counting the cost of Brexit