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I spent last week at a beautiful marae in Akaroa with a bunch of late teens and early twenty somethings.

It was a really interesting time and it has also given me time to reflect.

A thought that I’ve had is how we change over our 20s.

I turn 30 tomorrow and hanging out with 19, 20 and 21-yr-olds makes me think how idealistic I was at their age.

At 20 I still hadnt had any knee operations, and so I sure I was going to be awesome at some sport, be it marathons, cricket or soccer.

I also harboured dreams of living in England or Pakistan. I was single, but I thought i’d be married within the next 3 or 4 years. And career wise I was pretty keen on being a PE teacher. I also thought I was a big deal, and expected that great things were going to be coming my way.

Ten years later, I’m a married semi-retired ex-journalist, living in Mangere working as a part-time office administrator, op shop volunteer/ gardener.  I haven’t played cricket for 5 years or any sport at a decent level and I’ve had two knee ops and one still gives me a gnawing ache as I write this.

In that time the Warriors have made two grand finals, of which, I’ve been once.

I’ve travelled a bit around Europe, America, Africa, Asia and through the Islands but  without doubt mygreatest achievement in the last ten years is marrying Jo. She has kept me grounded in so many ways.

I used to be really goal driven for the first five years of my 20s, but after not achieving a number of them and also realising that I was too externally motivated I’ve shifted to trying to aim for a lifestyle, rather than a set plan.

I hope to live well now, rather than straining to live better later. This has been quite freeing, as I’m learning to just enjoy life but its also a bit stressful not knowing that my future is all taken care of, or has a decided direction.

I hope my 30s are less messy, less highs and lows and just incremental growth. I hope the fears and insecurities of my 20s can diminish as I become more comfortable with myself and with my foibles. I think I’m still pretty idealistic, but one clear scar of my 20s is an over-functioning cynicism. So perhaps I can work on this a bit too.

The Constant Gardener is certainly how I feel at the moment. Whoever thought starting a garden would be so hard. It’s pretty much been my full-time occupation over the last two weeks.

We started with a jungle of weeds, and a patch of thick Kikuyu grassed land.

I started with the front of our little flat. After a day’s battle with long grass, a few ugly flowering weeds and a wheelbarrow with a flat tyre, we now have a little patio of sorts and an extra bonus of a rose bush.

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The patch of grass on our back lawn has now been turned into a garden with the help of my Samoan neighbor and a lot of the kids around the street who are on school holidays. We’ve planted a chilli bush, a raspberry tree, a rosemary plant, coriander, echinacea, basel, silver-beat, broccoli, rocket, spring onions, radishes and broad beans.

It wasn’t easy-going. The rotary hoe we hired seemed to have a mind of it’s own and I feared for my friend’s feet and anyone nearby as it careered in any direction it chose. I also missed the return time but thankfully the hireage company didn’t charge us for the late return.

It’s only early days, and the jungle of weeds defecating it’s vile roots along our back fence is still there.

But it’s pretty cool seeing the fledgling plants all lined up in their little rows. So far the CDs on polls are keeping away birds (and potentially evil spirits) and it goes to show there’s some use for those bargain bin buys from the 90s.

Who knows if it’ll be a success, but hopefully a few more people around the area get in on it and the harvest reaps more than just good food, but some friendships. For now, I’ll be trying to weed out the remnant Kikuyu roots and working out a way to organically keep snail away.

Any suggesting would be much appreciated.

Jo and I have been trying to make the move into vegetarinism of late. Or at least give part-time vegetarinism a go.

Reasons:

– to save money by not buying expensive meat.

– to reduce our complicity to cruel and inhuman farming practices. Much of the meat we eat has pretty much been tortured to death, pumped full of drugs or harassed most of its life.

– to lose weight ( that’s for me, not jo).

– to live a bit more simply. Who said every meal needs, a meat, a vege and a carb. There are plenty of filling and creative ways to make dinner without sticking to this formula. And I find that I usually end up eating to much when I make something from each of these food groups, thus the pot belly.

And so we’ve been trying out some creative meals of late.

Here are some recipes of my personal favs that we’ve recently partaken in.

Jo made this mean falafel burger meal. real filling, and the crispy burnt bits of the falafel are even tastier than the crispy burnt bits on a sausage or meat patty.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/5605/falafel-burgers

Cousous salad. This literally takes 10mins from start to finish to make, and I made too much by mistake because it’s hard to believe such a small amount of coucous will fill us for dinner. But it really does, and so I had plenty for lunches.

http://www.foodinaminute.co.nz/Recipes/Couscous-Salad

Potato and bean curry

I made this in England, and it was bland-city. So I’ve tried it since and doubled up on the spices and it was rocking!

The recipe is my own -so I can’t paste a link. But just think beef curry, without the beef and two-times the spice. Oh and the potatoes and beans.

One of the fun things about living the simple life is the joy of discovery, namely discovering sweet bargains or getting cool stuff for nada.

Here’s a wee collection of our recent and past unearthed gems…

School Desks

old school desks: Jo found these on side of road. they are perfect for a small house, and gives the room that lovely school room feel.

New World Tea Box

Maybe you can share your own discoveries?