The fruity balcony

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After days of lust-watching the white flowers turn into green strawberries… about five days ago we were able to pick the first one! We were so excited… You should have seen us, sharing ONE small strawberry among two, and then go like “ohh this is so good, so much tastier than the one’s we buy!” because guys…I swear:¬†it was sooo much tastier! ūüôā

After the small tasting, the rest of the strawberries did not take much long though and¬†yesterday we were able to pick up this “bunch” you see on the picture. Not a lot, but at least more than one per each of us haha

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Tomatoes are taking a little bit longer… and are still looking super green… on the bright side though, there are lots of them,¬†so when they mature we’ll have plenty! ūüôā

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PS: Wanna see the planting of the tomatoes or the strawberries?

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Girona Temps de flors

During the last week and week-end, my favorite city event took place in Girona, the city where I live: the¬†Temps de flors. Literally it translates as “Flower’s time” or “the time of the flowers” but the translation just sound weird to me, it does not make justice how nice this expression sounds in Catalan.

Basically it is a flower exposition that takes place all around the old part of the city, streets, patios and squares get covered by original and imaginative flower arrangements. It is held annually, approximately at the beginning of May, and every year is becoming more and more popular.

As I already showed you on my previous post about Girona, the old part of the city is amazing, and combined with the flower exposition… it is really something worth seeing! Besides, many of the patios in the old part are usually closed because they belong to the building owners, and the exposition is also a chance to visit some of them.

I love visiting the exhibition¬†and I always take like a hundred pictures of everything. Here you have some ūüôā

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A world of flowers!

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haha isn’t this one funny? ūüôā

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and this patio was just magical…

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Aren’t you willing to come next year? If you do, be sure to tell me so¬†I can give you some advice ūüėČ

Jara

PS: Maybe you’d like to check out my my walk in the sun through Girona

Getting rid of the aphids

As promised, I am going to share with you the solution I have been using to finally get rid of the aphids that have invaded the balcony.

The solution my dears is… tataxan… potassium soap!

How did I get to this solution are you wondering? Well it was thanks to Picaronablog. It is a great blog, with tons of information on growing a kitchen garden in containers. So, thanks to her I have learned the benefits of this pesticide and hopefully I am in the way of getting rid of the damned aphids for good!

Picaronablog, however, is written in Spanish and Catalan, so for those of you who do not speak does languages I’ll brief you about potassium soap and how to use it.

Potassium soap is made out of vegetable oils. It can be made at home, recycling the used cooking oil. This time I have bought it, primarily because it was kind of an urgent matter so I didn’t have time to loose, but I like the idea so I am planning on trying it someday. (Remind me that in a year when I still haven’t done so.. ūüėČ )

The advantages of potassium soap, as a pesticide, is that it is ecological and it does not have any “safety time” before you can eat the crops. You just rinse the veggies with water and they are good to eat.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it kills (the insects) by contact, so it does not work as prevention for the aphids or have any lastly effect. Therefore, to successfully finish with the pest you have to spray everywhere there are aphids, for instance the back of each leave and also repeat the application during some days.

I have no idea of how often one has to do it, but since I was so pissed off with the invasion I sprayed the affected plants every evening for the first tree or four days. I have done it in the evenings because apparently some people say that if you spray it under the sunlight, the leaves might get burned.

To prepare the soap solution it is very simple.

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Heat some water (a glass a cup or a small boiling pot) and dilute a spoonful of the soap.

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Then just pour it into a spaying bottle and add cold water to fill it. The recommended proportion, according to Picaronablog, is one tablespoon of soap in a litre of water.

I have been spraying the plants with this solution for a week now, and although I still find some aphids, the population has decreased dramatically! As I said, for the first three or four days I did it every evening and spraying almost every leaf of the affected plants, but since then I have been doing it on a day in, day out basis and only in places where I see aphids.

So that’s it.. I hope this can be useful if you ever find¬†yourself with the same problem as me…¬†Have a nice (and aphid free) Monday you all! ūüėČ

Jara

Credits: Autor and photography Jara Forcadell

Ups and downs in the balcony

As I advanced in my last post, I arrived home from my trip to find some news on the balcony. What do you want first? The good or the bad news? I think I am gonna start with the bad, so we can finish the post with a smile.

One image tells more than a hundred words… and if you remember my struggle to rid the peach tree of the aphids (here you have my first and second post about it) you will imagine my reaction when I saw this…

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The tree was completely infested with them. And plus, the leaves were all curled and red. I promise you, when I saw this, my soul sunk to my feet. (Over-reactive? me? Please! ūüėČ )

And then, when I moved to see the rest of the plants I found that many others were affected too! The strawberry bushes, the lettuces, the basil, the mint… I was so pissed of, to have not been able to stop the pest on the tree and therefore having let it spread to all the balcony…

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If that was not enough… the peas (which by the way have already produced quite a few peas that we have collected, I’ll tell you about that later… ) have something grey on the leaves and at the same time are drying out in some places.

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See the greyish thing? And the yellow dry leaves?IMG_1882

However, after the initial stress, “Oh no.. What am I gonna do? I shouldn’t have started gardening in the first time, this is clearly not for me.. etc..”, I relaxed and started working.

I have already started action on the aphids, and I have been doing research on the greyinsh attack to the peas and hopefully will come up with a solution soon. Of course I’ll share it all here as soon as I can ūüôā

We’ll enough bad news, I also found some reasons to smile and clap my hands when I got home last Saturday.

First, the strawberry bushes are sprouting a lot of white flowers.

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The tomatoes as well have started flowering.

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The basil, which has taken it’s sweet time to grow¬†is finally starting to look like a plant and not a seedling¬†(remember I planted it on yoghurt pots¬†at the end of¬†January?).

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And, last but not least, the lavender, which until now hadn’t made any change since we bought it at the garden centre in February has started growing bigger and sprouting lilac beautiful flowers.

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Gardening has proved to be much more hard than I expected, I have heard about pests and diseases of plants but you know.. you always think it is not going to happen to you, and plus I though in case it did happen it would be easier to solve… on the other hand though… I¬†never expected it would be so rewarding either!

I guess it’s about practise, and with the time I’ll learn how to tackle all this problems more easily. In the meantime… when the task overwhelms me I’ll try to focus on how nice are the new flowers that are appearing and how sweet will those taste when they become tomatoes and strawberries!

Does your garden or balcony overwhelm you as well sometimes? How do you deal with the pests and diseases on your plants? If you do not have a garden or green balcony yet, I hope this post does not discourage you, as you see there is always a bright side! ūüėČ

Jara

Credits: Autor and photography Jara Forcadell

Trip to Sweden – V√§ster√•s and Stockholm

This past week I have been at a student conference in V√§ster√•s, a medium sized city in the south of Sweden…

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The event was hosted at Mälardalen University which I loved. All the buildings were beautiful, with great natural lighting and modern furniture. And everywhere were tables, sofas and benches to sit around and chat or work.

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On Thursday afternoon, me and my colleagues from Girona University, managed to finish early the conference activities and made a quick trip to Stockholm which was an hour away by train. I had already been there in 2012 with Sergi, but I was glad to repeat the visit, it is such a nice city!

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The trip has been amazing, and as always, travelling is been such a way to disconnect from everything. Also, Swedish people, however serious and quiet, are such a welcoming people! Everyone we talked to was extremely nice with us!

On another subject, I have encountered some surprises on the balcony at my arrival. Some of them are good but¬†some of them are bad… I’ll snap a few pictures tomorrow and share these news with you here¬†ūüėČ

Jara

You might also want to read about my, also beautiful city, Girona

A cheerful microwave

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In our small apartment the kitchen is also the entry way, and… the living room. As I said, it is indeed a small¬†apartment. This makes the decor of the apartment quite challenging. Everything has to be practical, there is not much space, and since is a rental apartment we cannot do major changes to anything. So, I do what I can to make the kitchen look nicer, like the shelf organizers with recycled paper I explained in a previous post.

One thing that I didn’t like on the kitchen is the microwave. It is on a prominent location in the middle of the kitchen (since there is no other place to put it) where is the first thing you see when entering the flat, and at the same time can be seen from the couch. Well.. if you cannot beat them, join them right? Well in this case, what I would say is… if it has to be in such a prominent position… better make it the landmark of the kitchen!

The idea for this¬†project¬†is from a post of A Beautiful Mess I encountered on Pinterest, where Elsie decorated her washer and drier with electrical tape, it was seeing it and thinking: this is it! BTW… I love their site, if you don’t know them you should check it right now! ūüėČ

So, the project is very easy to do. You just need electrical tape (any colour you want that you can find..) and scissors.

I started with the idea of the dotted pattern, but when I finished the door I thought everything with dots would be too much and decided to try the stripes. Plus, putting stripes was so much quicker than cutting the dots!! The best thing about this project is that electrical tape is very easy to peel off, so you can try without fear and if you do not quite like the end result you can make modifications very easily.

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I am not very methodical and quite impatient when doing crafts (which means I very often fail at doing them…) so for the stripes I did not make measurements or anything… I just guided myself from sight which is why the stripes are not equally distanced¬†and probably are not exactly parallel to the microwave edges. And as you see the dots aren’t either exactly circular, but I¬†wanted it to look informal and organic ūüôā

I hope you like it, I am very happy of the vibe it gives to the kitchen, and that now when entering the apartment I am greeted with such a colourful sight!

Jara

PS: Speaking of the kitchen… you should definitely try these oven baked zuchinni filled with goat cheese.

Credits: Autor and photography Jara Forcadell

Journal day #9: Beauty

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How would you say your upbringing or background has shaped your idea of beauty? Were you taught to apply makeup or do you hair by your mother or friends? If not, where did you observe what is now your norm as far as beauty practices? And although most of us have been inundated by different cultural beauty “norms” via the media, would you say that television and magazines have had a strong impact on shaping what you think of as beautiful? This week, write about your idea of beauty- how your background has shaped it and what that means for you today.

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“Oh look at you, very pretty… but you look even better without anything you know?” that would be my mum’s standard sentence when she sees me¬†pampered up for a night out or special event.

Apart from my mother influence though, I grew up with the usual influences most people have, friends, magazines, movies, tv… And therefore as a teenager I wouldn’t listen to her and put on makeup many days. I had some periods I wore makeup to high school everyday and other periods when I only wore makeup some days, and on weekends when I met with friends.¬†Also, I have curly hair, and I straightened it every day, to what my parents would always say they liked it better with my natural curls. Even so I keep doing it every day until about a year ago.

My idea of beauty¬†nowadays,¬†is a natural look, a clean face, and an authentic appearance. My beauty practices for everyday look basicly consist on washing my face on cold water and applying moisturiser. Some days, is I feel like it, or if it’s kind of an special day ¬†(say, first day at work, an important meeting, date with friends I am not very close…) I apply some mascara and illuminator.¬†Then for dinners, night outs’s, weddings and stuff like that I do get on some more makeup, like black eye-liner, lipstick and colour shadows. And precisely, what I like is that, since I never wear those on a daily basis, the day I do feels like an special thing.¬†I still straighten my hair, every now and then, for a change, but usually I wear it as it is. And since I have stopped straightening it every day I am amazed at how much faster it is growing!

My upbringing has helped me grow up with an idea of beauty as an effortless and natural thing, that does not follow “fashion” rules and that values authenticity. Do not now think I do not have any insecurity, that I feel as the most beautiful on earth, but whenever I feel unsure I just think that it’s okay, I am who I am, of course I try to look good, and well, I love putting on makeup for a special occasion, and buying clothes¬†following the trends of the season… but I never obsess about it and try to be simply myself.

Thanks for reading my opinion on beauty, I hope I haven’t been rambling too long! ūüôā

What are you thoughts on this? Wasn’t this a lovely prompt to talk about? I loved sharing this with you!

Jara

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This is a response to¬†Journal Day Prompt #9¬†from¬†the¬†Sometimes Sweet¬†blog. You can also read¬†Danielle’s response. Thanks Danielle for the prompt!!

Credits: Author and photography Jara Forcadell