Monday, 2 October 2017

Fantasycon and Eveything After

This Monday morning is very autumnal, and I've got the day off from the day job, so I'm starting it huddled in my onesie, with oodles of tea. I got back from Fantasycon in Peterborough yesterday. It was a great convention and I had lots of fun and inspiration, and there's a fire in my belly now... it's a dodgy boiler pilot light, flickering as I fight the melancholy, but a small flame I intend to encourage nonetheless.

It follows on from a bit of a pep talk I had in the tea room area of the Bull Hotel yesterday with my friend Mark West, and OH too, who were telling me I don't shout loud enough about my successes sometimes, and when I talk about sad things they seem to be the things that people pick up on and remember. But I think with OH and my friends, I have so much support. There's only me who can change things.

I do worry about OH too though. My reliable Chevalier party personality, he does his best to improve me and I love him so much. He has really stepped up for me lately, though that has meant a lot of sacrifice and pressure put on himself, and I haven't always made it easy. Let this fire drive me on, and towards that happy and successful future, because I need to make sure he is okay and knows how much he is appreciated.

Blasting Jethro Tull from the stereo in the A-team van, we arrived in glorious Peterborough mid-afternoon on Friday and checked into our hotel. We went to the Queensgate as my shopping around showed it offered free Wi-Fi and breakfast for the price of the room without those at the Park Inn, and was not much further away. Once we were settled we made our way to the con hotel, past the beautiful Cathedral Square, with its fountains shooting into the air.

There are also Poundshops in abundance and strange types on the street at night. Oh, Peterborough! But your architecture is stunning.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor
This is dusky Peterborough on the way home. The fountains are off.
Image may contain: sky and outdoor

The Bull hotel is in a beautiful building, filled with a lot of eighteenth and seventeenth century portraits. We found the bar, and settled into a corner with Sue Moorcroft and Mark West, and Terry Martin, and then shortly after were joined by Kim and Del Lakin-Smith, and beers were bought. We shortly then realised we would need to leave the hotel to get to the panels we intended to go to into the conference centre, so Del drink-sat and did some work, while Kim, OH and I went to a reading by Ian Whates, Andrew Hook, who we know and are our friends, and Rose Drew and Kevin Elliott, who we were not familiar with.

More chatting in the bar followed before a large group of us left for the fusion restaurant Ba Shoh. Having been road-tested and found to be decent in the week  by a couple of our party, something must have happened because the Friday version of the place had a loud lounge singer on (we just wanted to talk!) and it took a while to get served even drinks. They took the starter order, served that, then came back for the main order, which seemed a good way to get us through the wine. Both my starter and main came with components and ingredients missing and no apology or warning. They did try to make BBQ sauce when I pointed out that it was missing from my jalapenos, but goodness knows what it actually was - lumpy and full of chillies. Not nice. But what was nice was the company - Ian Whates and Helen, The Lakin-Smiths, the Tchaikovskis, Neil Williamson, Philip Palmer, Rob Malan and Francesca Barbini, Storm Constantine and Jim and Danielle Lainton.

Thence to the disco! I did a lot of dancing before retreating to the side bar where events caught up with me and I was woken up to go back to the hotel.

I had to be up early for my book launch the next morning, and first went to the Luna Press one, where Allen Stroud and Rebecca Hall were doing readings from their new books. I didn't have a big budget for the weekend, but I did want to make sure I'd bought Allen's The Forever Man. looking forward to reading it.

Then it was the big Newcon Press book launch: books being launched included Tanith by Choice - a selection of stories by Tanith Lee selected by other authors; a slipcase set of novellas including The Wind by Jay Caselberg, Cottingley by Alison Littlewood, Body in the Woods by Sarah Lotz and Case of the Bedevilled Poet by Simon Clark - all available individually of course, but also in a beautiful slip case with wraparound art by Vincent Sammy. And of course, Best of Visionary Tongue. 'VT' was a fiction and poetry fanzine started by Storm Constantine, who edited this anthology. The magazine itself was passed on to me and my good friend Jamie Spracklen as the editorial team in 2003. I so wanted Jamie to be at this convention, so as his co-editor I represented both of us. This is me at the launch with contributor Chris Amies. Terrible photos, as OH had split his jeans and was trying to shop for some so he wasn't there to take the photo... and my phone screen is broken so all my selfies are misty.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and indoor

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and indoor

My first panel (Humour in Genre Fiction) was at 2pm, so just time to nick Del's unwanted crisps before heading off, and I was nervous as anything as THE Chris Brookmyre was in my panel, and I flipping love his books.

Wow, what a great time on that panel! And here we all are: Heide Goody (who brought an awesomely creepy baby doll to the con), Duncan Bradshaw, Chris Brookmyre, Jen Williams, me, and Adam Millard.

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people sitting, living room, table and indoor

Before the panel, my friend Kim surprised me with a dress from a sale she'd seen me admiring... and after the panel, my friend Annie surprised me with an awesome crocheted thumb-hugging sloth. My friends are the best!

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and close-up

After the panel, I bumped into fantasy author RJ Barker, who had been called out of the panel by a phone call - great to finally meet him in the flesh, as he published my first short story on the Bloodlust vampire fan website in 2005

I also went to the GoH interview with Pat Cadigan, interviewed by Ian Whates, which was great.

A lot more chatting in the bar, including with fellow Norhampton Science Fiction Writing Group members Tim C. Taylor and Paul Melhuish, and as I had a panel at 8, a group of us headed off early to find somewhere to eat as soon as the dealer's room closed. After trying to get into Wagamama, we went round the corner instead to Wildwood, which does pizza, pastas and burgers. A much more relaxed atmos in there than in Ba Shoh, great service and lovely food. I had the mushroom burger with melted brie and sweet potato fries.This time we also took Rob and Francesca's friend Anthony Lakin.

My 8pm panel was Staging in genre fiction, and I was moderating again with panellists Terry Grimwood, Sean Hogan, Ritchie Valentine-Smith and Dean M Drinkel. With such a diverse panel of experts, we managed to talk very inclusively around the topics that confront am dram and professionals, script-writing, creative direction, production, cast choices and the money, and our bijou late night audience seemed to enjoy it.

Thence to the karaoke!

Oh yes I did.

Another early start for Sunday as we not only had to be checked out by 11, but I had a panel at 10am. This was on Small Press Publishing and included myself, Ian Whates, Francesca Barbini, Peter Mark May, Steven Poore and David A. Hardy. Again, I was really nervous, but we had a really good talk and people came up to us afterwards and said how useful they'd found it.

A quick scoot around the dealer's room followed, where I picked up a copy of Anna Smith-Spark's The Court of Broken Knives, and got it signed by the Queen of Grimdark herself.

As I perked myself up with a hot chocolate in the tea room, I had a good chat with my friend Mark West about self-promotion and it was soon time for the banquet. We were on a table with Lydia and Ella from Titan Books, and also writer Phil Sloman, who was a nominee for Best Newcomer in the British Fantasy Awards that followed. Titan Books also had a few dogs in the race, and though Phil lost out, Lydia got to go collect on behalf of one of her winners. Best of all though was being there when our friend Adrian Tchaikovsky was announced winner as Best Fantasy Novel winner, and got to collect his trophy from Ben Aaronovitch.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and indoor

So happy for him!

At the dead dog, we caught up with a relieved con organiser Allen Stroud and Dave Lally, but we had to go as we could feel the exhaustion catching up with us. And we completely failed to go visit Catherine of Aragon in the cathedral!

And that was my weekend - one book launch, three panel moderations later. I do good stuff! Looking forward to Chester.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Happiness without you...

I want to write this because, a brilliant thing happened and again, you are not here for me to tell you about it.

It's Saturday, I would probably have called you already, talked about how I don't have a hangover and I really, really deserve to have one, and you would just tell me to be careful -  you would be concerned about my vulnerability to embarrassment more than muggers and rapists. But I'm fine, Mom. Honestly, I did a gig on Thursday where I went on stage after an act who had, beyond his own credulity, somehow managed to get the audience to chant, "Rape, rape, we want rape!" And they found me "adorable". I am beyond all doubt, a survivor as Beyoncé would say.

But last night I did a gig for the Arts Lab, and I made people laugh, even though I started talking about dad's accident on stage and forgot to tell jokes for a bit. And then Robin Ince was talking about his mom, and his passion for art and there was so much I wanted to be able to tell you about. If you were there I'd have nudged you at various points. And I wanted to talk to Robin as well, who lost his mom a couple of years ago and talked about it in his show, about the grief - all this well of utter sadness and despair you left me with. How it was there on my wedding day. How it has been there for every book launch, every party, every time one of my friends hugged me and said they were proud of me. The ridiculousness of the grief... how, you think it is going to get smaller, but it bloody well doesn't, it just stays the same stupid size. And happiness. That speck of light in the big black pit. I knew I was happy. I just couldn't feel it. Not for ages.

Anyway, I didn't mention it to Robin, but I wanted to tell you about it. I have friends who are still in the pit, and they can't even see the speck. No one goes through this uniquely, but we all do.

I'm feeling guilty these days because I can say I'm happy. We have barely anything: a van that could do with fixing; a car with no nose; a washing machine that will boil and/or dampen clothes indefinitely; very dodgy windows. But I'm happy... There have been points in my life when I should have been happy but I wasn't. There was no happy without you. There is happy with OH now. He has been in his own pit for ages and ages and ages... but I think he's working towards happy too. We are beyond content.

Robin was talking about the Lucifer statue in Birmingham art gallery and sensory art exhibitions. I won't mention the Lucifer story I told him, because you know it anyway and he might use it. But I did want to apologise for constantly dangling the carrot cake of a nice sit down and cup of tea under your nose for keep dragging you round art galleries. Remember the Fluid exhibition when Wolverhampton re-opened? We'd only just been to the Dudley gallery wartime memories exhibition which was all 'lift this flap'/'touch this'/'sniff this' so I think that was the sort of thing you were expecting.  I didn't tell you this was an exhibition about body fluids  - not so cute. And you and babies and dolls! So when the first installation was a cradle you made a beeline for it and I had to tell you, "Stop, Mom! It's made of vials of sperm!!!"

That and the piss flowers. I'll never forget your face.

Were you listening at your funeral when the reader said "Kath loved to paint. If you've got one of her pictures, treasure it, because there'll never be another." There wasn't a bloody first one, was there, Mom? What the flip had dad told him...?

Oh, she loves to doodle on the newspapers  = Georgia O'Keefe.

And then when they started to move you before I'd done the eulogy... oh, I'd have loved to have seen your face, you'd have been so mad we'd have laughed. Why is it the best people are the ones in the boxes?

I went to the Holly Bush a couple of weeks ago with Bec. You are now not the only member of the family to have been given a banana in that establishment, as Al Grant needed to dispose of the fruit for a joke and gave his to my sis. I remember you haranguing Paul Savage for his banana you'd seen him use on stage in a trick. I now can't see Paul without thinking of you shrieking, "Where's the banana?" at him. He finally gave you the  - now much bruised - banana, and you wouldn't accept it because the one you'd seen him destroy had been pristine. You absolutely refused to believe it was the same one and told him he was keeping the best banana for himself - which he would have been much entitled to as it was his banana. Somebody was hungry! I think we had to go and get you a curry after that. Too much lager!

I remember you being so proud of telling people I'm an editor. I wanted you to also be proud to tell people I'm a comic, but I think me knowing Paul Savage was enough for you.

I'm sorry we can't meet anymore for tea and cake or go for a mooch round M&S or the market. I'm sorry I can't hug your bony body. My god, you were 100% shins. I'm sorry we can't talk about your love for Ed Norton, or Princess Diana, or Jonathan Rhys Meyers from the Tudors, or The X-Factor which I wasn't watching anyway. I know there's a chair thing now and you'd probably hate it as much as I hate the whole show. I'm sorry I'm... happy. It has been a long time, and I don't know when it lifted, but it did a bit. It doesn't mean I'm not crying as I type or that my love for you isn't still bigger than the entire planet. And that happiness would be 500% more intense if you were here and that's probably a bit too much happy for anyone. But happiness... happened.

And that's what I'd tell them, the people still living in raw grief. Nearly six years it has taken for me... but I think I'm going to be okay. And so will they be.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Can You Dig it?

I decided to spend some time on the allotment today. The lower half is running away from me and very grassy. I've put some tarpaulin down and had a go at digging a square foot where it's a bit tough. The advice I got from my neighbour with the immaculate-plot 2 down is just keep doing that, and it will soon be clear, so I'm not going to beat myself up about it any more than I clearly have done already - my goodness, I ache!

The potato beds cleared easy enough, and I now have two great bags of spuds to store. And these...

Beans, aubergines, squash, tomatoes, onions, alien cucumber, slug-eaten courgette

Raspberries - still!

Look at my pumpkin now!
I abandoned the plot in a brief shower and popped to the library to grab a Chris Brookmyre, so I can read ahead of meeting him at a convention in a couple of weeks. By the time I got back to the plot, the sun was beating down and the crickets were singing. That's what it's been like all day!

I've had a long bath, but I'm still very, very stiff and achy from digging, and I got a bit dizzy this afternoon again, which might be over-exertion. Also, I have accidentally cut a chunk out of my little finger near the nail - again, probably lacking coordination due to over-exertion. I've tried not to do too much else and have been in a onesie for hours.

But it did fell good to make dinner out of things I'd grown myself - sausage and mash for mains with some of my potatoes and beans, and rhubarb crumble for dessert. With custard, of course, I'm not a monster! Plenty crumble left for tomorrow's lunch.

Big week this week for me... got a couple of gigs to prep for and a writing group. Also, I think I promised just to help clean a motorbike. Sucker!

Saturday, 16 September 2017

If We Took a Holiday...

It feels absolutely crazy, but I've managed to book myself a holiday... it's not for another month or so, but work has been so busy it was difficult trying to find time.

Only one question now: is this going to be a vacation or a staycation?

I think that question is going to be left spinning for a bit, but I tell you one thing that's not spinning quite so much... my head! Doc took a guess (erm, Vertigo?), and I have meds that seem to be working. Apart from first thing this morning when I was a bit spinny, but then I naughty, naughty had a naughty cider last night, which I'm not supposed to. And thus, I think it stopped working. But only for a bit. Plus points, I feel as light as a lemon mousse, though my eyelids are as heavy as an actual moose moose. Typing is a struggle... so I'm not going to do much. But I do feel better. Yay for better!

What a lovely day I've had today too. I did a lunchtime gig at Northampton Soup.

What is Northampton Soup? It is a great way to raise money for local projects.
This is an event run by volunteers, whereby people can come along, pay £5 for lovely vegan soup and a vote, and hear pitches from groups who are pitting for the pot of funds. Pitches are for 4 minutes and then pitchers take 4 questions from the audience who then have to vote for their favourite pitch. There can be for charities, community projects, social enterprise, art groups... anything community minded that will be of benefit to the town. Today's pitches were from charities to help new mums in poverty, packs for women women with breast cancer, transport for the local hunt sabotage group, and a higher esteem fitness class to help women.

I see the page has put up some great photos from today. Go have a look, see how fun it is!

That's me timing one of the pitches. These were the winners, Breast Friends. Such good pitches today. There was lots of love and energy in the room. 

I do the MCing and sometimes do a bit of poetry.

And then afterwards I spent time with my nephews in the chaos that is Wacky Warehouse. Noisy but fun. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Adventures of the Worst Biker Chick

I've not been updating much lately due to extreme busyness and not feeling great - a mix of light headedness and spinning rooms, which has given way to post-party agues and aches that seem to have lasted a week... mind, I've got lots of new classes on, which sap energy and my Fitbit has been going crazy.

But I thought I'd share some of the things I've been up to, which naturally I have broached in my Frugal Wench manner.

First up, I got invited to the wedding of the century - beautiful friends, getting married in a beautiful place, and having their party in their beautiful back garden. I basically loaded these photos before last Saturday's do, so I shall take you up to the hen night. Both hen and wedding were themed Great Gatsby/glamorous 20s.

The major part of our prep was making sure OH could come. To something! Shifts were re-arranged, but in the end he couldn't be our hag at the hen do, and due to working so much overtime and needing to get his glasses fixed at *some* point, OH could only make the wedding party. So spending money on his outfit was not a waste of time (not cheap, but good stuff for blokes isn't, and after creating a mood board for him of different looks, I'm satisfied we only spent a fraction on a Joe Brown blazer than we would have had to recreating the look from Brooks Brothers).

As for me, I had a 30s-style dress for the wedding, and thought, you know, that's close enough, and comfortable enough to wear all day too. But for the hen do, I wanted to release my inner flapper.

I didn't want to spend any money though.... none whatsoever. So I started with a dress I already had, this one I got from Mind at Christmas for £8, which had required me wearing with safety pins to get it to fit.

I unpicked most of my seams, and settled down for a couple of evenings sewing with some inspirational telly.
The House of Idiot... I mean, Elliott. It's all on YouTube in some ridiculous theatre frame, but it's still good!
Drop-waists were kind of hinted at  with baggier tops until about 1924 when everything went South. So, I began the effect by inserting a panel using this gold material from my scrap box. I unpicked some of the under stitching that had held the ruching in place when the top was across the breasts to make it look more down-directional, like a lovely pair of curtains.

I chopped and re-attached the hem, giving it a shorter flare, and then hacked at the overlying chiffon, tying it in drapes about the hips. I stitched it in place, but could have done this better as it tore and I had to re-tie in the night -  but it looked right!

A black devoré scarf, a homemade headband made of green ribbon and elastic from my scrap box and some recycled wedding feathers pinned in place, et voila! Dame Maggie would like some Malbec, please!
I mean, it really is a terrible sewing job, but I think I've got the bug you know!

And I just thought I'd share some photos from my birthday weekend when I went on a little trip to Fawsley Hall. As we still don't really have a working 4-wheeler, we went on 2 wheels instead. 

And I've no idea why, when I was fine before, but I felt like I was about to get killed the whole time when I had enjoyed it so much before. I seriously wanted to get the bus from Daventry. It made me not want to go visit the little church, and I'd been looking forward to going to see that. I was going to walk around it doing impressions of Danny Dyer. Denied! 

At least there were no complaints from OH about my skills as a pillion. In fact, I was so good he forgot I was there. And that may have been why I fell off.

Yes, I fell off.

Okay, it was when we had stopped at a give way in the dead of the countryside, and there was no traffic about or anything, but I looked up at the bike from the tarmac and could see my glove still in the strap, and OH MY GOD CAN YOU JUST IMAGINE IF WE'D ACTUALLY BEEN MOVING! I happen to like my hands with skin on them, so that is not good.

And it didn't help, OH thought he'd drop me at my brother's house for a restorative cuppa, and OH MY GOD, WHERE IS YOUR HEAD? THEY ARE IN SPAIN ON HOLIDAY! I JUST SHOWED THE PHOTOS TO YOU!!

Legs. Of. Jelly.

Anyway, I need better gloves.

Only yesterday, I saw a bike going along in urban traffic and the pillion was holding on one handed, checking their phone with the other. I'm assuming Facebook as I just saw the general blue and pictures. Sheesh!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

I've Hardly Done a Thing Lately

Sorry for not blogging for ages... I've had a very busy couple of weeks. I've been doing a lot of editing work, and other things too.

Not everything has been a fun thing. We had to say goodbye to a friend who died of cancer a couple of weeks ago. What with his being a biker, though, it was an amazing funeral, attended by lots of his friends on bikes. I rode pillion, so had to overcome some nerves for that. Such a thoughtful day. He  had planned for what he wanted for his ceremony, but he had also very much planned to live as well, and I think there's a lot we can learn from that.

I've not had much time to get to the allotment, so things have been growing again... oh my goodness.

These are earlies. I dug them up laties.

1950s Flying Wall Marrows

Some squashes

Another squash


These are definitely not pinstripe.

Pumpkin with hand for scale. Mind it's my hand, which is tiny.
Last weekend was the Umbrella Fair on the Racecourse  - a wonderful coming together of performers and artists, organised by UFO. I started doing some MCing in the Umbrella Fair Café on sturday to help advertise Northampton Soup, and then de-camped to the spoken Word Tent to watch some great acts. It was fab to see some folks I hadn't seen for ages.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing
Poets with Babies

On Sunday, I was an early act in the Spoke Word tent... doing me comedy 'n poems while the greater part of the audience hovered in the vicinity of the tent flap entrance thing (to run away)... but we got there. I went to the pub for lunch, but came back for The Anti-Poet, who were very good indeed.

This weekend, I've had my birthday (my 4th eleventh one), and I've done my history-based comedy show in Leicester (at the Guildhall in the mayor's parlour again!). This time OH came on the adventure! And one of my friends from uni came to watch, which was brilliant. I've had a lovely, lovely time, but I am quite pooped and ready for bed now.


Thursday, 10 August 2017

"Pie" and "Chips"

I came up with a bit of an (I think) ingenious use for those patty pan squashes my brother gave me... they look like pies. Why not make them into an actual pie?

First of all, I cut off the "pie" lid, and scooped out the seeds in the middle (I have no idea if they'd grow again, but I saved some nonetheless).

I scored the flesh slightly to make it cook up a bit mushier, then added a small, chopped clove of garlic, a few roundels of goats cheese and a splash of milk, then grated some nutmeg for extra umami. (Hindsight Tip: I would probably add cream instead, or a bit less milk, then halfway through, spoon some of the cooked flesh into the middle, then top up the liquid - but it still made a tasty gooey pie centre).

 It was ready in about 45 minutes at 180*C.

 For the "chips", I made sweet potato wedges (sweet potatoes from the cheap town grocers, 7 for £1), just roasted in the oven with a spritz of Frylight.

Served with grated carrot salad (dash of smoked paprika, white wine vinegar), oven roasted allotment tomatoes, lettuce and fresh olive oil vinaigrette, a chicken leg for OH and half an avocado for me. Yum!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

What's a Marrow You, Hey!

Trapped in the house by chutney as I was on Saturday, I never made it to the allotment until yesterday, and things have grooooooooown!!!

All apart from the melon. No longer getting twisted. It died... having been convinced it was in a hot Mediterranean country for the first few weeks of its life, things suddenly getting a bit crappy and British again were too much. Also, I should have grown it under cover.

But even as we are still chomping through the marrow my brother grew, the tiny tiddler courgettes on our plot are turning into zeppelins.


Things OH grew.

Hidden round the plot, several pumpkins! And that's a weed...

Stripy marrow

Not stripy marrow... and a ladybird.
I'm doing a lot of sitting in the house, working on books. As for getting out of the house for anything other than the day job, I've got, like, 3 proper gigs coming up... and a handful of open mics. Loads of my mates are at a science fiction convention in Helsinki, doing plays, or are in Edinburgh for the festival. Or Camden for that one. Or off on the first leg of an exciting European tour... So, I'm feeling slightly meh...

I need to be a bit more RAWK.

I might dye my hair pink.

Yeah, and sit in the house looking all bright and that.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Trapped by Chutney!!

My friend and neighbour came round today with a load of plums from his garden tree... and then shortly after came back with a huge bottle of vinegar!

And so without delay, I began the chutney production line: cleaning and sterilising jars, checking for recipes (I went with Good Housekeeping's Plum and Apple Chutney from the 70s). Quick pop to Aldi for more carrots and onions, and I had everything I needed apart from cloves... ah well, just put a bit more all spice in.

3lbs plums, 1lb apples, 1lb onions, 1/2lb carrots... 450g sugar (I don't know why I have both Imperial and Metric there), 225g raisins (donated this week by a friend who is returning to Weight Watchers, where they are an evil 3 points per spoon!!) and 1 and 3/4 pints vinegar looks like this.

Boil and simmer until thick.

Won't take long I thought. I'll just do a bit of editing while that's simmering, then pop to the allotment.

Oh my giddy aunt... that was hours ago! 

Recipe was supposed to make 5.5lbs. Well, I think I evaporated 2lbs. Just enough to fill all my spare jars, plus enough for this week's sarnies in a pot. I'll put some pretty labels on tomorrow. Or functional, depending on destination.

And things taking longer than they are supposed to is the story of my life, as I wanted to finish that editing job today, and that will need to be tomorrow now.

I have been trapped in the house by chutney!!

Whew... time for a glass of wine.

Sunday, 30 July 2017


This weekend, I've had a huge change of pace.

I'd been feeling very anxious... and I still am really. I think I've been letting things get on top of me. I knew I needed to look after myself, so I've been paring back and engaging with the world as little as possible.

I did do a gig on Friday, as that was pre-arranged, and it was good fun. But I avoided meetings and parties that were happening, and instead chose to spend some time with my family. I took the bubble wands I'd bought for the Star Wars party a few weeks ago, and had fun running round the garden with my nephews, chasing after bubbles.

I've also spent a while tackling the ironing mountain, while watching Top of the Lake. I actually found it very calming.

Of course it helped a bit that OH spent the weekend camping with friends, as that gave me lots of time to tackle the things I needed to do. I did miss him, but sometimes you just need space and time to get things done, I find. And it's meant he's been able to come back to a peaceful, relaxed house. It was a bit windy on his campsite, and his pagoda got blown over into his tent after the first night, so both of those got wrecked! Oh no! We were meant to be under canvas for our friend's wedding in September! Well, one of his friends was prepared to leave her tent behind, unless we wanted it. o that's saved the (big) day (for us)!

I was also quite proud of myself for tackling a low pressure fault on my boiler - all by myself! It was nothing really, but that was a bit worrying when I first googled it and read the words "not expensive to fix, please ask for a quote". Just needs the boiler refilling, was all.

And of course, I've been to the allotment... and here are my progress pics.

Raspberries so ripe they're going purple

Crown Prince squashes getting bigger


Tiny pumpkins.

Give peas a chance!

Aubergines getting bigger - can't see the pinstripes yet.

Little Veg Courgette - Baby you're much too fast.

But, someone's green-fingered efforts are putting mine to shame - a gift from my brother and sister in law! Flipping heck! Massive or what!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Boldly Going Where No Spud Has Gone Before

"What did you say this was?" asked OH.
"Patatas bravas," I tell him.
"Patatas bravas."
"What is it exactly?"
"Oh. Patatas bravas... con huevos."
"Are you speaking foreign at me. What is it in English?"
"Patatas bravas. With eggs."
"I give up."*

I can't help it... Patatas bravas is the dish! It is what it is. The English just won't do here as bold potatoes is the direct translation, which in itself is essentially meaningless. Just how are these potatoes being bold? They are hardly out fighting a war or making eye contact on the tube with Londoners. They are merely in a pan, being delicious, as all potatoes should be.

At the weekend I tried a new (to me) greengrocer in town as my train was early enough to catch the shops before they shut, so I picked up some gorgeous veggies. Two fat aubergines, Two big kohlrabi  and seven medium-sized sweet potatoes  for £3. For this dish, I used three of the potatoes and one aubergine... the aubergine to take the place of oily chorizo to make this dish more veg-packed and less fatty.

To begin, the sweet potatoes were peeled and chopped and roasted in a pan with some olive oil. Half hour medium oven should do it, as they don't seem to take the same time as regular spuds.

When they were nearing the end of their cooking, I sweated a small onion, two garlic cloves, the chopped aubergine, a chopped salad tomato and a generous shake of Aldi patatas spice (it was only 49p in the special aisle, but you could just use smoked paprika, thyme, marjoram and parsley). Adding the cooked potatoes to the pan, I then stirred in half a carton of passata.

As the sauce began to bubble, I made four wells and cracked in some eggs.

 You need to pop a lid on to get the whites to set. A bit of extra parsley on the eggs there!

 Finally I served it up with some olive bread (YS from Asda 10p) - all the better for dunking in that egg yolk.

A hearty, low fat, filling veggie meal. Sweet potatoes are lower GI than regular potatoes too.

Very much needed as the weekend was a bit too carb heavy, slightly denting my efforts to shrink. Back on it!

*disclaimer... not entirely how the conversation went! If anything it was the clarity of my Spanish at fault.