Monday, 23 November 2009

My week off

Preparation – start binge reading ‘Angel’ series by Mike Ripley to the point that you start to believe that you have a cat called Springsteen and play the trumpet. Write impossibly long job list.

Saturday – Decide that you definitively have a cold. Go out for lunch and then sleep on sofa for several hours.

Sunday – come to at 4am remembering that you haven’t written your seed order. Go back to sleep. Get up several hours later and write out order. Persuade boyfriend to walk around to abode of seed secretary so that you can drop it off. Nearly get run over by seed secretary. Go to pub for pint of IPA. Sleep on sofa.

Monday – pop to surgery for a blood pressure check. Chat with nurse who points out that (a) your house is haunted, (b) it used to feature in Lovejoy episodes every time he went to his lock up, and (c) is the sweet black cat yours? Resist urge to ask if she’s talking about Springsteen. Waste loads of time watching Lovejoy snippets on Youtube just in case your house turns up.

Tuesday – go for contact lenses check first thing. This takes ten minutes. Wait for bus and arrive back just before lunch time. Wonder how you managed to accumulate so much bubble wrap and so many padded envelopes. Search in vain for bags big enough to contain them.

Wednesday – Go to allotment. Realise that potato crop is getting out of hand. Resolve to include potatoes in as many dishes as possible. Wonder if your cold will ever clear up. think baout going to High Street and then recall it is early closing.

Thursday – Feel good for about two hours. Engage in sewing and other activities. Then develop strange headache.

Friday – Get inspired about using potato glut to make dish from years ago involving herb and garlic cream cheese. Search for recipe in vain. Search online. Decide not to overdue things. Rest, relax…accidentally spend evening at 40th birthday party of someone you’ve never met.

Weekend – Attempt to recreate and veganise potato and cream cheese recipe.
Wonder how you can have still have watery eyes. Is it stress? A cold?

Monday – return to work wondering where the week went…

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Things I Love Thursday

*Breakfast with friends
*Time off
*Keeping up with NaNoWriMo
*Wanting to find out more about the characters I’ve created
*Deep sleep
*Engrossing thrillers
*Allotment progress
*Foot spa afternoons
*A steadily emptying freezer
*Planning what to wear to avoid making a decision in the morning

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

What's in my lunchbox this week?

I have an abundance of potatoes. I usually do quite well with potato growing. Either my skills have massively improved or the conditions this year were just what the farmer ordered. The spinach is doing quite well too. The stuff that went to seed had come back and a new planting is doing well (except for occasional slug attacks).

Clockwise from top right:

Celery - I enjoyed it so much last week I had to include it in my lunchbox again.

Boiled potatoes - I love mashed potato but have always been worried that it doesn't keep well once made. This is based on fears other people have expressed rather than my own experience. So I boiled the potatoes at the start of the week and have been heating them in the microwave at work and mashing on the spot. Works well.

Chocolate torte - from a Rose Elliot cookbook. Very rich. I made it to serve at dinner for guests but not that much of it got eaten. If/when I make it again I will use oil rather than chocolate to bind the biscuits in the base.

Spinach and tofu salad - From one of the Sarah Kramer books. I baked the tofu in sesame oil rather than frying it. The dressing very good and I can see lots of other uses for it.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

What's in my lunchbox this week?

I need to eat more fruit and vegetables. As ever I need to make some space in the freezer.

Clockwise from top right:

Pear flapjacks - Made with huge windfall pears and a half oat/half millet flake mix. Yummy.

Celery - This is so crispy and good tasting that I nearly went back to the veg stall for a second lot. Clearly my body is crying out for greens.

Mango - It was reduced. I wouldn't usually buy it but I had some vague idea at the back of my head about an Indian themed box.

Indian snacks on spinach - a indian snack pack dug out of the freezer. There's a samosa, a bhaji and a pakora. The spinach is home grown!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

What's in my lunchbox today?

I planned this entire lunchbox around some over seasoned soup that I was convinced I had in the freezer. Guess what either it's hidden behind a wall of ice or I used it up already. Time to get back to 'what's in the freezer' lists.

Clockwise from top right:

Boiled potatoes - fresh from the allotment.

Sweetcorn (lovely and sweet, and locally grown but not by me) and runner beans (grown by yours truly).

Apple -Local and in season!

Sausage casserole - this was based on a recipe from Quorn leaflet. It was a master of subsitution as I realised that I was either replacing ingredients (mango chutney instead of redcurrant jelly) or missing them out altogether (red wine). However despite it's very brown and solid appearance it's quite tasty. I thought the sausages had melted into the other ingredients but actually they have retained they shape and texture under the other ingredients.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Christmas planning part 2

So you’ve started thinking about presents. Maybe you’ve made a list of two. You might even have started shopping. Of course, there’s plenty more to organise at Christmas then just presents. What about all the other stuff?

Where will you spend Christmas?
Are you staying at home? Are you visiting people? Where do they live? How will you get there? When will you arrive?
Make a decision about where you will be over the festive period. Apart from the need to arrange travel, food and so on it can affect the gifts you choose. Gifts that have to be posted or carried would be better fro being smaller and lighter.

Once you know where you are going to be the rest of your planning can be attempted.

What will you eat?
If you are staying home it’s natural to think about food even if you don’t have the family descending for Christmas dinner. It’s still worth giving the food a thought if you are going elsewhere.

Do you have a particular diet that your hosts would rather know about in advance? As a vegan I prefer to err on the side of caution and always take something with me. Better that it’s not needed than I wish I had taken it.

If you are going to be away ensure that you’ve got food lined up for your return. If I’m visiting my family who are given to preparing mountains of food I pack plastic containers and bring some leftovers home to feast on. Waste not, want not.

What are you going to wear?
I got caught out a few years ago having deciding that I would wear one of the dresses I already own to a big event I paid no attention whatsoever to what the trends where in party wear for that season. I then found myself panic buying the day before. If you are going to wear something you already own it pays to keep half an eye on what’s in fashion. Then you can style your outfit wither with a knowing nod to the latest style or by doing completely the opposite. But you have to know what the rules are before you break them.

Planning this early give you plenty of time to arrange dry cleaning, repairs, find or make accessories and seek out the perfect bargain.

Don’t just plan for parties. If you have to go to work the next day have an outfit planned in advance. Decide what you wear on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. It’s one less thing to worry about.

And back to presents…
How are you going to wrap your gifts? Will you pick up paper in M&S along with your shopping? Or are you game to try something a little bit different?

Over the years I’ve done:
Chinese newspaper
Brown paper and string
Plain coloured paper tied up with loads of ribbon
The recipients name typed over and again on an A4 sheet, printed and then photocopied to A3. It looks very effective and save the need for gift tags.

For the last four or so years I’ve done present bags. These are made from odds and ends of fabric and intended to be reusable. They can be used for the following year’s gifts. Some of my family do this. Other use them for packing groups of items when they travel.

You can see pictures on my old blog - keep scrolling!

If you’re looking for way of planning your Christmas really effectively look no further than the Brocante Christmas planner. No only will it make you organised in areas like budget, decorations and housework but it has suggestions for making Christmas more lovely. and having got yourself all organised early you'll be in prime position to enjoy the loveliness, won't you?

Will there be a part three to this series? Who knows?

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Things I Love Thursday

Smiley faces in my coffee, Service with a smile, moonlit decking, wine deliveries, Heinz ketchup with chilli, amazing gifts from, necklace repairs, no more toothache, big blocks of henna from Lush, black lace up boots, my sister.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

What's in my lunchbox this week?

I got a bit carried away on friday and staggered home with loads of bags from the market. This then meant I spent Sunday afternoon when I should have been dealing with my toothache trying to cook it all up.

clockwise from top right:


Classic white uncheese - this is supposed to turn out solid but it never does for me. This time it turned out even less solid than usual, hence the cucumber slices on top to keep it in the tub.


Runner beans (home grown) and sweetcorn (not home grown)

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Things I love Thursday

Jacket potatoes with beans and vegan cheese, Ozark heavy plectrums (like playing with a tortilla chip), my secondment (exciting and scary), Indian Head Massage, Vegan curry and root beer at Wetherspoons pubs, great coffee in big white cups with soy milk, Saturday mornings with Dear Heart, new drummers turning up on the doorstep (ask and it shall be given it seems!), space in the freezer, excellent progress on present planning, inspiration from Eithne Farry, ‘please have my free glass of wine’, gossip, chatter and scandal, managing to walk in high heels.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009


I tend to treat my wardrobe as if we only have two seasons. However that’s not true. We have four and I need to make my clothing changeover reflect this. With this in mind rather than a complete change in a month or so I am going to make a gradual change this weekend.

Put away:
^flip flops and similar shoes
^all linen
^skirts and dresses that do not go with tights (the ones that only work with bare legs or over jeans)

Dig out:
^Tights/leggings (and check for ladders and holes)
^one pair of boots

I’m also going to clean out my make-up bag and consider putting my summer handbag away. This should see me through the next few months of variable weather before things get really cold. Also in my thinking is that it will make it easier (e.g. make me less lazy) to wash and repair summer cloths before storing them. It’s not a big change. It wouldn’t totally alter my life. But it’s the small changes that add up to make a big difference.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

What's in my lunchbox this week?

I sat down on Friday night and looked through my cook books and the fridge to work out what I had and what I could produce for lunch based on this. So this week we have:

(clockwise from top right)

Lettuce and a little tub of vegan mayo

Cherry tomatoes

Piroshka stuffed with mashed potatoes (home grown), sweet corn and watercress from a recipe in the the Vegan Lunchbox Cookbook. I was unable to resist moving beyond the plain potato filling suggested. these are very good. Apparently buckwheat is a traditional filling so I will be trying that out too.

Fruit crumble - base is plums, pears and aples. the topping is a crumble mix made with millet flakes, margarine, a dash of sugar and the (no longer desicated) Coconut left over from making coconut milk. Something exotic for falling tempaeratures.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Christmas planning part 1

Now I don’t want to get targeted by those ‘don’t start on Christmas too early’ people but I do think that forward planning is important. I bet you do it with your summer holiday. Most people don’t suddenly decide in June to book their week or two in the sun. And if they do book last minute it’s because they’ve planned it that way.

I forward plan because I know who’ll be getting everything organised for Christmas including where we’ll be, who’ll we‘ll see, what we’ll eat and the presents.

I tend to think that if I get myself organised early I’ll be able to enjoy the festive season rather than finding wrapping presents in the small hours after one glass of wine too many. I’ll also be far more likely to be beaming with good will to all men (particularly those who are happy to participate in the good bits but prefer to skip the preparation and mutual part of the giving activities).

I start with the most time consuming bit – the presents. My approach and suggestions are outlined below to make this task a bit easier. And don’t forget at the end of the day it’s the thought that counts.

Make a number of lists
I draw up a grid of all the people I need to buy for. I add in birthdays that occur around the festive season. Then I begin to add gift ideas.

Then I work in reverse and write a shopping list of the items you need to buy grouped by location/shop. You should then be ready to start buying. Don’t forget postage costs if you are buying mail order and online. Try and buy from as few locations as possible and order early (by end of October) to ensure you get your goodies in plenty of time.

I used to do this on paper but I now have it one spreadsheet and add in ideas as they occur to me during the year.

Set a limit
Consider setting a limit on cost of gifts. We’ve done years where gifts could cost no more than £10 and they’ve been marvellous. The need to buy expensive items or add extras on is removed. Agree it now before anyone else starts their shopping.

When people comment on their favourite author or how they have always wanted to own a garlic press/pink kangaroo/join the lunch pail appreciation society make a note of it. Then when Christmas comes you’ll already have a clutch of ideas.

Get inspiration
Use all those catalogues that are dropping through our door to give you idea. But don’t feel that you must buy the actual item that appears in the brochure. Use it as a starting point for the places listed below, knowing that you can come back to it if all else fails.

Go second hand
Charity shops and second hand shops are an excellent source of original gifts. If you don’t usually buy second hand take some time to get your eye in and don’t expect to do all your shopping in one trip.

Books rule
Last year I tried to buy a book in Waterstones, realised they didn’t stock the title I wanted, popped into Oxfam to browse and found a pristine hardback copy. Other options are looking for retro books (which can be a bit battered) or using Abes to find out of print items.

Handmade is cool
Make it yourself or buy from someone who does. I bought several items from Etsy last year and found it a very enjoyable experience. One which I will be repeating.

I'll be sitting down this weekend for an hour or so with a glass of something nice to do some inital planning and size up the task ahead.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Things I Love Thursday

Old lamps for old – Dear Heart fixed my clock radio which was crackling rather too much so that it can give me another 23 years of service. It was a present Christmas 1986. When I read the Heroin diaries I imagined my 11 year old self opening it as Nikki Sixx crouched under a Christmas tree several thousand miles away.

The Ramones – Why did nobody tell me to listen to them before?

HMV – this would be record shops but I feared that would give the impression that I had an independent record shop to frequent. Very happy with double Ramones CD and Michael Jackson’s Bad for a tenner.

Seasonal food – loving plums and cherry tomatoes

Nicole’s Coffee and Sandwich bar – Not only does it still have amazing coffee today they made me a vegan bacon sandwich. They’ve promised me a creamy mock chicken pie for next week.

Charity shops – Just over the road from Nicole’s I picked up two bargain items. A skirt which is perfect for turning into leggings (with plenty of fabric for the repairs that will inevitably be needed) and a retro green and white zip front dress. My only question is what other colours I can wear with green and white?

Newly discovered blogs and websites – advancedstyle, prom mafia and shopstyle's style books.

Other stuff – my new spider ring (as illustrared and reduced to half price), deep sleep, doing much better in belly dancing class, playing bass late on Friday evening, dancing around the kitchen to just about anything, cold veggie pizza for breakfast.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

To do list

#consult cookbooks and come up with lunch ideas for next week. Preferably one that uses freezer items such as over bayed tomato soup
#pencil in time for Yule planning
#clear out sock box and try to pair up orphans
#put scarf and tights in desk drawer at work in preparation for a sudden cold snap

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

What's in my lunchbox this week?

This is such a nice lunch and so easy to put together. Alas Iget tothe end and want to start eating it all over again.

Clockwise from top right:

Steamed cauliflower, reheated and served with a dash of salt and pepper and a dab of pure margarine. I really enjoyed cauliflower a few months back and was worried that this would be as good. If anything it's better. I must look up cauliflowers and justify my soon to be increased consumption on the grounds that they contain some vital nutrient or another.

Cherry tomatoes - Locally grown and so delicious that I returned to the market today to buy more. They are little red jewels of taste.

Plums -Really into these and they're in season. What more can I say?

Polenta fries and tofu 'fish' sticks - From The Vegan Lunchbox. I had the coating for the tofu in tub in the pantry just waiting to be used up. The fries used up the last cup of polenta. I was quite surprised by how efficent the recipes is but I was actually followed unlike my previous attempt back in March.

Now I really need to plan a menu to take some of the pressure off my freezer!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Things I Love Thursday

Nicole’s coffee and sandwich shop – which serves vegan food. I had breakfast and lunch in there today and it was marvellous. It makes a real change to able to eat somewhere where vegan food is considered normal. The staff are really friendly and the atmosphere is nice. It was such a good change from my normal routine that I’ll be planning on getting breakfast and lunch there at least once a week (although probably not on the same day). They also serve excellent coffee and I had two cups. I don’t usually drink coffee because it makes me feel a bit hyper and strange. This coffee has had exactly that effect but it did taste good.

Belly dancing – We’d had a break from class while the teacher was away in various locations. I was a bit nervous about her return. This was on the grounds that if I was dancing dreadfully in a weekly class surely I’d be even worse after some time off. However, it would seem the break did me good. I wasn’t perfect (and what would be the point in attending the class if I was?), but I wasn’t too bad. Looking forward to next week’s class and am reminding myself not to take it too seriously.

Books that make me think – I’ve recently read a few books that I didn’t really enjoy but that made me think (or more to the point reminded me to stop thinking so much). These included Snake hips by Anne Thomas Soffee and Yes Man by Danny Wallace. Here’s to going with the flow on a more regular basis.

Elderberry hair dye - I dyed my hair with elderberries. I like the dark colour. I picked the berries from a random bush i.e. they were free. Nothing more to say.

Other stuff – piles of books, drunken bass playing, moving through job lists,, decluttering, curry inspiration, opportunity interviews.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

What's in my lunchbox this week?

Once again the guys on the veg stall offered me a load of stuff at cut prices. So I went away with plums, mushrooms, cauliflower and aubergines for not much money at all. My only challenge was to convert these along with the usual array of pantry odds and ends into lunch.

Clockwise from top right:

Last of the quinoa
radishes and green pepper
two plums and a handful of blackberries
curry - I was inspired by an ancient leaflet explaining how to make proper curry. So using half an onion, cumin seeds, garlic, chilli powder, tumeric, cumin and some over bay leafed tomato soup I created a starter sauce. It probably would have been better if I had then used a large pan or a frying pan when adding aubergine and cauliflower to the sauce. It's turned out very well anyway. I will definitely be using this recipe again.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Things I Love Thursday

Home brewing - I’ve had goes at home brewing over the years but it always involved kits. This year Dear Heart and I had begun to explore making wine from fruit (and I’m keen to try some from vegetables soon). With the strawberry wine wine ageing on the rack, I’ve currently got a load of elderberry and blackberry wine on the go and it looks like its going to be a corker. I’ve also discovered why people rate elderberries as a source of hair and clothing dye.

Using stuff up – It feels great to be working through the stockpile of stuff that I have. I’m getting through food supplies, stationary, make-up and cleaning products. I’m handing stuff that I have no use for over to people who do. I have a vision in my head of cupboard with just a single item of something in them rather than a dozen different versions.

Vegan surprise – I finally got back to morning walks today. I ambled past a cafĂ© near my work place and stopped dead. It had a sandwich board outside advertising vegan food. So excited. I usually pack my breakfast and lunch, but I’m thinking that next week I might need to do a little breakfasting out.

Other stuff - getting deals at the vegetable stall on the market, snacks, exercise, eBay, lunch with the girls, nothing is permanent, lists, my job, routine, sleep and dreams, music theory, synergy and co-incidence.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

To do list

#Empty out coat pockets.
#Dig out half completed Suduko books, finish all the puzzles and recycle the pages.
#Start to think about hats for winter.
#Stop ordering the same thing! Swap rice and noodles for seasonal greens.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

What's in my lunchbox this week?

I'm having a bit of a clear out the fridge/freezer/pantry week once again. I often get the urge to do this, remove a few items and then buy more stuff. However I dothink the overall levels of stuff are shrinking as I can now fit the food processor on a shelf.

Clockwise from top right:

Cucumber - purchased from a farm shop I passed on my travels

Greengage and Plum crumble - this uses up the plums and greengages at the bottom of the fridge. I also managed to use up millet flakes and half a sample of museli making the topping. I threw in some marzipan which tastes great. A slight disaster with the marzipan which I popped in the microwave to soften and ended up exploding.

Tomato tart - puff pastry, tomatoes and vegan cream cheese with a sprinkle of herbs. The tomatoes are so sweet. Can I replicate the taste just by roasting tomatoes?

Salad - nothing fancy, just Little Gem lettuce and pepper.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Things I didn’t wear this summer

As ever my wardrobe is bursting at the seams - even when I don't buy new stuff I seem to acquire it. Is it time to be ruthless with those items that just don't earn their keep and have been worn rarely or not at all this summer?

Things I didn't wear

Pink linen skirt – it’s a little too big even with the drawstring waist and I just don’t think I’m a pink person. With my dark hair I always feel like a strawberry cream chocolate. Verdict - ditch

White linen trousers – No real urge to wear these. Maybe I just needed the rifht event? Verdict – keep

Cream skirt with floral pattern – This former cushion cover seems to have grown in size over the winter and will only just stay up on my hips. Verdict – Refit waist in preparation for next summer.

‘Medical emergency dress’
– a pale blue/green with little white spots. I’ve worn it lots in previous years but it felt very short this year and I only wore it a couple of times. Verdict – insert panel at wait to increase length.

My unexpected summer stars – things I didn’t expect to wear but did!

Denim skirt with handkerchief hem – this nearly went out as it was a little large around the waist and I thought it worked best with very high heels. Instead it’s been something I’ve worn loads and goes well with longer tops that don’t work with anything else. Also makes me look slim.

Green dress – a pale green with a halter neck and a pleated skirt. A bit dressy for day but a combination of hot weather and my beige shrug made this work well for evenings.

Red dress
– A dress in cahoots with the sun. Realised that it looked great with jeans and a white cardigan. Ideal for layering and attending a number of events on the same day.

Mushroom print dress – a black dress made from a 1970s skirt. Deciced I loved the vintage look of it and wore it to work and for partying. It even made it’s way to a couple of rock bars and fitted in just fine. A woven belt replacing a blue ribbon belt really gave this the edge it needed.

Beige wedges – an Oxfam bargain after I decided to stop wearing shoes that hurt my feet. Comfy and glamorous even with jeans.

White heart shaped necklace – Dug out of box of stuff from my parent’s house. Haven’t worn it since I was eight. Went great with everything adding a pleasing vintage touch.

My thoughts on clothing for future summers?

Long skirts are surely the way forward as they can be pulled up and belted into dresses or worn long as the weather dictates.

It’s old but true – accessories are what matters most. A belt, the right shoes and a necklace are just the thing for pulling it all together.

Sewing band of elastic across them prevents cheap pumps from falling off your feet.

While green and black/grey are my fallback colours for winter it seems that green and beige are my fallback colours for summer.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Things I Love Thursday

Green and beige as my summer colours, getting around to things, courgette and sweetcorn soup, Weekend at Bernie's, fun with friends, clearing out, being in one place, leftovers, sewing elastic onto shoes, Barnaby Grimes - a series of books much to good for children, mugs of tea, time off from partying, hot showers on chilly days, green shoes, autumn plans.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

To do list

X - Think gleeful autumn thoughts.
X - Book a massage of some kind.
X - Put more stuff on Freecycle and eBay and think how good the empty space looks.
X - Find a classic movie to watch in PJs while drinking tea.
X- Get an early night or three.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

What's in my lunchbox this week?

I love it when we entertain. It means that that fridge is full of unexpected goodies and exciting leftovers. Dear Heart and I hosted Brunch club this weekend with a Weekend at Bernie's theme including inflatable man. I made up a variety of canapes on and for the non-vegan Dear Heart had bread, crackers, cheese and pate of on offer. This week's lunches then will be featuring some variation on:

Crackers/oatcakes/pumpernickel/rice cakes/baguettes with vegan cream cheese/faux tuna/herby yeast pate/hummus.

From top right:

Dairy free strawberry cheesecake - an indulgance form the freezer section a Holland and Barrett

Salad - little gem and iceberg lettuce, radishes, peppers.

Canapes - pumpernickel or rice cake base with one of the spreads listed above with a garnish of pepper, gherkin or olive. Gaps filled in with a tomato and cheesy chickpeas.

Oatcakes with margarine and vegan hard cheese.