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.

Weeeeeds!!

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

Un-Squashed



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

Tatties!

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.
"Pardon?"
"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.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Prances with Wolves

I've made a bit of a decision in the last couple of weeks: that I'm going to start saying no a bit more often. If I'm feeling tired, run down, rushed, ill-prepared or possibly-maybe-coming-down-with-something (especially if that something is skintness), I'm going to say no. No to spontaneous drinking sessions with 6.7% cider (seemed like a good idea at the time). No to organising events someone else has thought of. No to "ooh go one, just one more episode of Poldark  even though it's gone midnight" (that's my own brain, that). No to feeling I have to prove myself as a go-getting woman of the world. Quite frankly, I am done with saying boo to geese... and what a stupid thing that is. Why do you say a timid person wouldn't say boo to a goose? It's a very sensible person who wouldn't say boo to a goose, I say. Or any word for that matter! Why go near geese? They are proper feisty. Only an idiot would go and say boo to a goose.

Anyway, I'm done with attempting to provoke angry responses from pond-dwelling birds. Except maybe little mandarin ducks because they are way too cute. No, you're right. No riling ducks either!

No need for all that any more. I'm a confident, high-achieving woman with at least 4 strings on my bow, which is why I haven't played violin since I was 10. But there is going to be a lot more of me in my house this week, getting things I want done. Maybe even cleaning the windows (weather pending).

It will all be in the cause of self-preservation. Speaking of which, I prettied up one of my gooseberry jams to take to my dad's this weekend.

And while I was at it, I also whizzed up a quick pesto; this one of yellow sticker watercress. That's just for me and my lunches that is. Very yummy too.

It was nice to be back in the Black Country this weekend, if weird through its unfamiliar familiarity, if you know what I mean. I've probably been away too long.

I noticed there is a trail of wolves throughout Wolverhampton, but I was only able to spot three on my journey, one of which was spied through the window of the No. 1 bus.






Now, the No. 1 bus is a very odd thing, because it is exactly the same route as the 558 used to be, but seems to have got rebranded as numero uno at the same time as the buses were fitted with a broad-accented bus-stop announcer. "Next stop. Dudley Rowud, Springfee-uld Grow-uv."

... incidentally  that's where I got off the bus, and promptly bumped into my Uncle Chris and his partner (also Chris).

Aw... my family! As we walked the couple hundred yards until I could take the alleyway to the park I wanted to walk through, I saw loads of their neighbours open up windows and shout hello. It was like being in Pigeon Street, or Ballamory for even younger readers. Aw... Sedgley!

As much as nothing had changed thus far and it was all super friendly and delightful, I was in for a shock when I got to the bridge that leads out of Sedgley Hall Farm Park. This was the sight I was greeted with:


As far as I know, that's a right of way that's been blocked off, and that's no ruddy good. Never mind making it 'safe'; that bridge has been there since I was 8, and before that was some pretty well-used stepping stones. Here it is on the OS map:

I wonder if there's anywhere I could complain to about this? And did I climb over...? Yes I ruddy well did! Very, very slowly. But, I must say, it did put me off offering to take this scamp for a walk... though here he is, all tuckered out after my step-sister did.  Aw, Bandit sleepy!


I was back in the Black Country to see my dad, which was very lovely indeed. But also, I had a gig on the Sunday. This was at Bushfest  the summer comedy festival organised by the Holly Bush in Cradley Heath: loads of acts all weekend, free entry, very cheap beer. I had an ace time at my early Sunday afternoon gig slot, and then hung around to see the excellent Milo McCabe as Troy Hawke. An absolute masterclass in hilarious crowd-interaction. He must have spent 5 minutes trying not to lose a heckle-bark-off with a dachshund in the audience, I fair thought my sides might split. Great stuff about Scrabble and Poundland.
Good to see me old muckers from the comedy circuit, Dave (Wolfy), Dinzy, Jay, Pete (Trisha), Cal (Mike or Bug-eyed Bernard) and Billy. Second time I'd gigged with Pete this week... and this time, Id forgotten to pack any makeup whatsoever, so I was on stage utterly bare-face, while he was in the full MAC as per usual. Aw heck, I'm just jealous!

And thence back to Northampton via Smethwick and Birmingham New Street, where the wolves looked a bit funny.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Yellow Stickers, yellow flowers, yellow me

Something is definitely working for me as I find myself a couple of lbs lighter again, and another squidge further into the yellow.



Well, maybe this won't help... at work an colleague who is another yellow sticker aficionado decided it was his turn to bring in the treats, and at 3p for 5 doughnuts, that was a sweet treat indeed!

I should be sweet enough already. OH needed to clear some freezer space for his last purchase from the butchers, so I thought it might be time to turn some of this year's gooseberry glut into jam.
And here are some pics of things growing in the allotment this week. First up, tomatoes...
Tiny aubergines, like little bumble bees in the flowers.


The melons are spreading like wildfire. See those tiny yellow flowers? Little melons are growing underneath.


My lovely allotment.


Monday, 17 July 2017

Keep Smiling



I have been struggling a bit today with tiredness and low mood, so I thought I'd counter it with as chipper a blog post as I could muster.

First of all, I'm a squidge further into the yellow, and today I managed to get back into my formal work trousers from Aldi. My formal work blouse, nooo.... it's a bit 'naughty secretary' still at the moment. Ah well, I am still shrinking!

One bleak gig this week, but also one where I got  a compliment  from Barbara Nice. I invoke Millican's Law and move on.

Another comedian friend gave me comps to go to a preview of Paul Sinha's show, which was excellent, and in return I helped out a bit in the box office. I'm so very very grateful as it does us good to see pros in action, and of course my spondoolicks are much limited. Shout Out to My Ex is nothing short of inspirational. 

I also got to go on community radio this week to plug my own show, and really enjoyed it.

I have editorial work queuing up, and OH has plenty of overtime to do as well, so we can tackle things more quickly. OH is very sad this week, as one of his friends passed away in the small hours on Friday, but we are both employing the mantra "be kind to yourself" to get through the low patch. It is really good advice someone once gave us: what is the kindest thing you can do for yourself right now? Make time for rest? Go for a walk? Say no? Find your friends... whatever it is, do it!

And I bought an artichoke for 9p. I love YS bargains! 

To be kind to myself tonight, I shall write this, and make sure I take care of me before I go rushing to the allotment again.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Re-boot

What's that bump bump smack sound?

It's me coming back down to earth after an amazing weekend - and landing pretty heavily.

First of all, I went on a train trip to London, with my packed egg sarnie for breakfast, some orange and mango squash (my current lifesaver - stops me spending a fortune on Irn Bru), and some allotment raspberries and more sandwiches for lunch. Not spending your fancy London prices on mere food, no sirree! Some mutual outfit admiration occurred with some rainbow-bedecked youngsters off to the Pride March.
 Arriving with some time to kill, I went to one of my favourite places in London - the British Library, where I met up with friends for a chat in the open air terrace. Kings Cross looks rather like Hogwarts peeking out from behind, doesn't it?
I took this photo early on at my book launch in London, which was at The Star of Kings in Kings Cross. The room got pretty packed and people were still turning up after the event had finished to say hi and have a beer with us in the glorious sunshine. Such a lovely time. There was my Best of British Science Fiction 2016 and Elasticity: the Best of Elastic Press being launched.

Unfortunately, here I did spend some fancy London monies on cider. But it was hot! and I was there all day! That's my excuse, and I'm hiccing to it.

The train journey home was quite eventful, as one of my comedy heroes came and sat at the same table as me: Nish Kumar. And I bumped into him again at his gig, which was at a pub where I was meeting more friends to round off the day of loveliness. I promise I wasn't stalking him! I am a fellow comic, just occasionally I can't help a bit of fan squeedom, as I'm a geek and that's just the nerdy social awkwardness I'm made of. Plus he's really, really funny. I also saw other comics, but I know them, and therefore no need to name, but if they happen to be reading this, don't worry I think you're great too, okay? Sheesh!

Nish's Saturday night gig at my local was actually part of a comedy festival, for which weekend tickets had been made available. But as I was at a book launch all Saturday I'd only bought tickets for the Sunday.


And here is where I feel... awkward.

It was a great festival, I wanted to support it and the friends playing there, and I had a lovely time, and I got to see Ed Byrne, who I've wanted to go watch for 20 years (since 20 years ago, not for that longevity... that would be stalkerish). But there's something about being an old hand of the local scene who the new and extremely professional folks organizing this thing don't really know, and being in what I dub 'Puntersville' that made me feel... weirdly insubstantial. I didn't really know any of the crowd who'd bought tickets either, which was quite an alienating experience as there's normally folks to hang about with at comedy gigs I tend to go to. I kind of felt like a goldfish in a bag being introduced to the big pond, but instead of gently acclimatizing, actually starting to feel a bit short of oxygen and realizing I'm probably never going to get out of the bag. I'm going to die in this bag, and no one will notice...

Now if that doesn't sound like the plot of Finding Emo...

I'm sorry... I have had a really successful year in terms of publishing, and felt a bit of momentum happening in my performing too, but sometimes if I sit and think about it too long, it feels like everything crumbles and disappears. I don't know how to Houdini myself out of the bag...

Is that a bad example? Didn't Houdini have a sudden attack of appendicitis in a water tank and drown?

Ah well... I'm sure if I pull my socks up, I can get over it. And never ask anyone to punch me in the guts before going on stage.

Anyhoo... lovely weekend, but I'm looking at a strictly biznizz rest of the month, as I had  a horrible financial surprise, and then realised I've made a huge miscalculation in my budget and failed to make any headway on next year's transport. Not the end of the world, but I think I need to organize a re-boot.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Glorious Bounty!

Hello everyone. I thought I'd share this picture of the railings by St Giles church in Northampton. I passed last week when I was in town sorting out things for the launch of a book I edited. These shoes look a bit too pristine to be recycled, but what an idea! An interesting way of displaying plants while celebrating Shoe Town.


 Part of me likes to think these might be the shoes of drunken women exiting Bridge Street clubs in the wee small hours, cast off Cinderella-like to the gutter, only to be ignored by the be-Ben-Shermaned princes of the town. Alas.

Anyway, despite the weather being hotter than Aiden Turner (i.e. very, very hot), things on my allotment are still alive! It's looking very fruitful indeed.


 



I got given a load of spinach by one of my allotment neighbours, so I made spinach and ricotta cannelloni! OMG, this was flipping tasty.

I got the broad idea from Jamie Oliver's website, except if I had followed his recipe, this would have been a lot more expensive.

I used no-pre-soak lasagna sheets for the cannelloni, and just soaked them a bit so I could shape them, which was filled with a mix of cooked spinach with nutmeg, a tub of ricotta  and an egg. I topped this with a sauce made of passata, flavoured with garlic, bay and basil.  Jamie Oliver's recipe called for Mozzarella and Parmesan on top, but I didn't want to go out to buy fancy cheeses, rendering the dish a lot more costly, so I made a small amount of white sauce and grated over cheddar instead.

After 40 minutes at 190 C, it was ready!

And I ate way too much...

Really enjoying being back to veggie. No more weight off, but I feel trimmer.

Right, will finish this blog post now, but will be back to talk about my amazing weekend!