Thursday, 28 January 2010

This week I have been reading

Green is the new black – Tasmin Blanchard
I’ve flicked through this a few times in bookshops so when I saw it on the library shelf I decided it was time to read it all the way through. My opinions on it are mixed. I think it’s trying to appeal to a lot of different audiences. I related to a few bits, like where the author talks about lying on the floor drawing around herself to make a dress and wanting to get a new creations done as quickly as possible. I got a few new things out of it – mainly online stores that offer ‘green’ products. I wanted a bit more information about things like how long it takes knicker elastic to break down and what the alternatives might be. Also surprised there was no mention of Lush.

My thoughts on first seeing this book is that I probably wouldn’t get anything new out of it. I think they were pretty much correct. Good for those just starting to look at green living. The website/blog that goes with it is worth a look

Freakonomics – Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt
One of the things this book keeps going on about is the lack of unifying themes to Levitt’s work. This is made abundantly clear by the way the book leaps around from topic to topic. In general I like the way subject that seem unrelated are bought together. However it is a bit exhausting at times. This is quite a quick read so to have so many different things happening can get confusing. I also wanted to stop the author at times and ask for more information on a subject that he dashes past. I assume the topics covered where a result of information that Levitt had to work with which might be why there is an emphasis in certain areas. I didn’t feel quite as inspired as I did at the end of The Tipping Point, but this was definitely worth a look.

Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s worse husband met his match – Wendy Moore
I’m only part of the way through this but finding it very moreish. The characters really come to life. Moore includes some excellent snippets. There’s the bit about the cottage industry that gossip was in Georgian England with informants being able to deliver their new directly to the printers. Makes Hello/Grazia/Etc sound a bit dull. Also thrilled to hear that Fox (a leader of the Whig party) was so indulged as a child that he was allowed to sit astride a joint of meat on the table at a dinner party. I’m going to order The Knifeman: blood, body snatching and the birth of modern surgery from the library at once.

Things I Love Thursday

Non-fiction – I’m just not in the mood for reading fiction at the moment. So I went to the library and borrowed a stack of non-fiction. Also enjoying Fiendish sudoku. Stretching my mind and challenging my thoughts is good.

Remoska – a sort of mini oven type thing. Efficient on power, easy to clean and taking up a tiny amount of space in the pantry. The food in it tastes marvellous too.

Sewing –I’ve been spending Saturday afternoons working through sewing projects. It’s good to move on projects that I’ve had hanging around for a while and it’s making me get creative too.

Other stuff – Melissa shoes, belly dancing, red wine, tea, vegan cupcakes, mobile twitter, wearing more than one pair of socks, being needed.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Under the influence

I’ve always been uncertain about celebrity endorsement. It reminds me of the warrior eating the heart of an animal s/he has killed in order to gain their strength.

Ok when I was 12 or 13 I bought Wrigley’s gum and Pepsi (not coke) because my favourite band of the time used those products. Not many years down the line really from wanting something (anything!) because it had a care bear or a My Little Pony on it. While I can be smug about not buying the signature scent of some model/actress/pop star type, if I at little closer at what steers me towards things I have no doubt that some kind celebrity endorsement would turn up.

If fact there are many things that I have taken up because I think the person in question is cool and I wish to emulate them. The difference is that these people aren’t particularly famous. I read a lot of blogs and I can see that I’ve been turned onto certain things through these blogs. I started looking into Melissa shoes after reading Vintage Vivant. I wanted a laptop lunchbox after reading Vegan Lunchbox (and the now defunct Vegan lunchcast). I found myself wearing shorter skirts after reading What I Wore. So I what I eat and wear is influenced by these people. I want to be like them. Presumably by blogging about my own life I want readers to think I’m cool and potentially to take up the activities or products I mention.

It’s like being influenced by your big brother’s friends or idolising your glamorous auntie. The only difference is that you don’t know these people. Well, I don’t know these people but I am sufficiently taken with what I know of them to believe that my life would be better if I just had a little piece of them.

Of course these people aren’t endorsing products in the same way that celebrities do. They are simply sharing their way of life and the things that get them through the day. There is a big difference between sharing your love of refashioning and deliberately promoting products. I believe Gala Darling refer to this as ‘gay for pay’.

What I find a teeny bit worrying is that I think I’m an individual and work at not being sheeplike. Either I’m less original than I think I am or individuality is built from tiny bits of other people. Is that what being your own brand is? Or is this just part of an ‘act as if’ approach? Or do I just have too much time to think?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

What's in my lunchbox this week?

Subtitle: 50% inspired by Vegan with a vengeance or the one without white cabbage.

White cabbage would have certainly appeared in this box along with some rice or noodles but my allotment intervened. One of my new allotment buddies while clearing a patch at the weekend discovered hidden treasure. The form of this treasure? A row of Parsnips that I vaguely recall planting but assumed had never come up. A consultation of Vwav and one ancient hand mincer later and lunch had changed course…

Clockwise from top right:
Steamed Brussels sprouts – the love affair with my favourite vegetable continues.
Balsamic glazed mushrooms – from Vwav. So good. I’m finding it hard to keep these for lunch and resist snacking on them.
Parsnip and Scallion pancakes – I’m not wild about the very sweet taste of parsnips but these are ok. Very easy to make. Obviously better hot and fresh but perfectly edible cold. Think I’ll through some chillies in the mix next time to offset the sweetness.
Pear and a little tub of BBQ sauce to go with the pancakes.

Friday, 22 January 2010

This week I have been reading

Crow Stone – Jenni Mills
It’s hard to describe this one too much without giving the plot away. Let me simply say that the story moves back and forth between the past and the present and that some elements between these collide. A number of secrets are hinted at. The main character seems so honest but clearly is hiding things and on several occasions does things that seem stupid or underhand.
While some aspects were a bit predictable I found the mix of subplots fascinating. In fact I became much more interested in these than in what was presumably the main plot. Generally speaking it read in a very true to life way. I could really relate to the teenagers and their desire to be grown up. This is a first novel so I’ll keep an eye out for more from this author.

The Rose Labyrinth – Titania Hardie
This is much too long. I love a good secret manuscript hidden treasure story as much as the next person. What I found hard to take here were how complex the ‘clues’ were. Also having struggled through I couldn’t quite see what the point was supposed to be.

I also found the John Dee connection a bit difficult to swallow. Maybe because I’ve read a couple of things that details Dees’ life and suggest that he was duped by Kelley? So I found the character’s belief in him a bit naïve. Otherwise everyone seems to know all about equinoxes and the symbolism of roses.

Maybe there was just a bit too much crammed in for this to work. Pity.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Things I Love Thursday

Allotment buddies – I’ve teamed up with a couple, of friends who live nearby to work on my allotment. They want to get started in gardening and I have a plot that is too big for me so we’re both happy. We got loads done in an hour on Sunday so the outlook for the new growing season is very good indeed.

Dancing – I’ve been really enjoying my belly dancing class on Monday nights. The teacher works us really hard but I come home feeling great.

Clearing out – My thoughts last year that the best thing to do clothes wise would be to keep everything and buy nothing. However I often acquire clothes as gifts or hand-ons. I also have been holding onto things that I’m never going to wear because they are the wrong shape or colour for me. I could refashion them but why cut up a piece of perfectly good new clothing? Instead I’m having a major clear out. I’m familiar with my tastes and know that my style goes in cycles over several years. Less items in my wardrobe mean that I will be able to enjoy and use the clothes I do have better and it doesn’t mean that I have an excuse to buy more stuff. More space feels good. Appreciating what I have feels good.

Other good stuff - Baking powder biscuits, fruit, Melissa shoes, exercise, vegan pizza with chilli oil, balancing the books, stuff disappearing immediately on Freecycle, solving sudoku, hot water bottles, Sunday night home cooked dinner with friends.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The big magazine swap

I sometimes look back on my life so far and recall the magazine that I read during a certain time. Starting with Twinkle, then onto Princess, Tracey and Bunty. My next life stage was ‘guided’ by ‘music’ publications like smash Hits and teen titles like Just Seventeen.

My first year at university saw me reading Cosmopolitan with real enthusiasm for the glamorous 1990s world of being feminist and feminine. Then I dropped that to pursue the grunge of NME and Melody Maker.

A few years later I was enjoying Good Housekeeping and clipping recipes and tips to go with my first mortgage.

Then a need to have change for the bus lead me to buy pretty much every glossy under the sun for a year or two until I tired of tacky free gifts and recycled articles.

I rarely buy magazines now. I subscribe to Easy Living although the quality of content is a bit uneven. I buy Bass Guitar Magazine. I have more money in my pockets and less desire to buy expensive face creams.

I was discussing with Mimi of Little Sips of Tea whether I should renew my Easy Living subscription or not. A couple of glasses of Expresso Martini later (it was NYE) and a plan was hatched.

We decided that during 2010 we would buy each other a magazine every month. It can be any magazine as long as you think it will be of interest. Today we did our first swap. I managed to mess things up by failing to take mine along but am working to remedy that.

Mimi has given me the January/February issue of Sew Hip! to read. My review and thoughts will follow in a later post.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

What's in my lunchbox this week?

I’m really into rice at present so it’s making an appearance in my lunchbox for the second week in a row. The white cabbage is obviously looking to set some kind of record for an unbroken run of appearances.

Clockwise from top right

Apples – In order to fit most of an apple into my lunchbox some pieces had to ‘ride’ in with the rice. Still taste delicious though.
White cabbage – raw, see previous weeks. Head does seem to finally look as if I may finish it at some point in the not too distant future.
Brussels Sprouts – Lightly steamed and served cold. So good.
Brown rice and lentil with peanut and ginger sauce – I had a slight cold and thought something with a bit of spicy ginger would be just the trick. Alas I can’t find the original recipe I at some point in the past. Going back through previous blog entries has been no help. All I can recall was that I made it in a mini blender and used pickled ginger. I’m wondering if it was in a book I have since returned to the library. Anyway my approximation of it tastes just fine.

Monday, 18 January 2010

But do I actually wear it?

I was rather taken with the post over at House of Mirth asking sewers if they wore what they made.

It’s unusual for me not to be wearing something that I either made or altered in some way. However I must confess things don’t’ always go according to plan.

I make from fabric I have in my stash or buy up roll ends. Consequently I tend to think what a piece of fabric could become rather than what gaps I have in my wardrobe that need filling. So it was only as I began to turn a long pink skirt into a short wrap skirt with frills that I stopped to think that I rarely wear pink or frills and consequently a great deal of future wear seemed unlikely.

I get carried away. I don’t very often follow patterns. I think I’ve been influenced by the punk school of clothing construction and refashioning. After all if it doesn’t work out I can always make it into something else. Even if I start off following a pattern I’ll add some twist to it. Which is great. When it works out. Otherwise it goes back in the stash until I can face solving whatever problems my embellishments have created.

I can’t wait to wear my creation. So rather than do the prep and then leave it until I have time to work on it more I rush through bodging bits right, left and centre and then having to find a way to cover them up. So lots of unpicking, refitting and extra work.

Looking on the bright side:

No piece of fabric is wasted. Really ugly stuff lines bags. Scraps join crazy patchwork or get plaited.

If I find something that works I’ll make it again and again.

I’ve started to see that less is more when it comes to alterations.

I’m intending to work through my stash and unfinished projects this year doing a little every weekend.

Friday, 15 January 2010

This week I have been reading

The Godfather – Mario Puzo
I only got around to seeing the film last year. There are so many films that I’ve just never got around to seeing. 2009 was also the year that I saw the Rocky movies for the first time ever. Anyway I was curious to see what the book was like and I was not disappointed. The film is very true to the book. There are only a couple of changes and they are done in the spirit. Somewhat bizzarely I found myself thinking about how I could apply the ways of working and relationships in the book to my own life. I don’t mean that I’m going to start taking hits on people or making them an offer they can’t refuse. I’m thinking more about the emphasis that is put on investing in friendship simply for the sake of it. When you put something into your community you will reap rewards even in indirect ways. So reading about violent mafia hoods has made me want to be kinder to the people around me which can’t be a bad thing.

All in the mind – Alastair Campbell
I didn’t know what to expect from this but I now await his next novel, Maya which is published at the start of next month. This was a really moving book. Parts of it were very difficult. You experienced the agonies of the characters. But you found yourself actually interested in how the characters developed. I cried at times. Sometimes because I felt so full of hope after reading certain passages. I love novels that make me feel inspired and make me think. This makes you think about your own mental health and attitudes. The ending was also totally unexpected.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Things I Love Thursday

*People – I’m lucky to know some really wonderful people. Talking with them and making plans reminds me that friendship is the most important thing in the world.

*focusing on what you’re doing – I first read Feel the fear and do it anyway years back but the ideas that I got from that first reading have stayed with me to draw on. I remembered that really focusing on the task in hand makes whatever you are doing more enjoyable. Consequently I’ve been getting a great deal of satisfaction out of what I’ve been doing over the last few days. The work itself isn’t necessarily that fascinating – it’s the mindset that counts.

Other stuff – dyeing clothes emerald green, the time being ripe, dilligaf, Tattoos, hot drinks, Lush soaps, resisting the urge to shop, The Godfather, using it up and wearing it out, plotting lunches and unbirthdays, things never being as bad as you think, hot toddies, layers and layers of clothing, compliments, belly dancing, Friday night jams.

And remember your life is what your thoughts make it.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

My cures for the January blues

As much as I look forward to the fresh start a year represents it only takes a few weeks for me to realise that there is no such thing as new. There is always baggage. Your job and the rest of your life are still there waiting for you after Christmas. The things that you found annoying, irritating and downright unbearable did not vanish in a puff of glitter while you were eating vegan mince pies.

Furthermore you’ll have forgotten all the coping strategies that you had in place to get you through the day. You know, the routines that you abandoned sometime after Halloween on the grounds that the festive season was here.

So these are what I’m doing this January to remind me that there is more than the 9-5 grind.

They might not do it for you. You might not feel blue in January. But currently they are working for me.

Get out
Force yourself to leave your place of work every lunchtime. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Walk, breathe deeply, look around you, find out what’s down that side road you’ve always wondered about. Go out even if it’s snowing or raining. It breaks up your day, get your blood circulating and remind you that you are free.

Get a stack of books
Go to your nearest library and get a pile of books that you really like the look of. Some libraries are better at displaying tempting titles than others. If you really can’t find anything you like visit a bookshop, make a note of the titles they have on display that you fancy and then ask your library for them. Take your mound of books away and delight in the escape to other places that awaits you. Relish the excuse to wrap yourself up in a big blanket and read the long booze free evenings away. Congratulate yourself on what you’ve picked up for free. Make a note of the return date on your diary or calendar and pat yourself on the back for being well organised.

Shop with caution
Even if you are not overdrawn spending loads of cash on the sales will not make you feel less blue. If you are shopping for essentials in your lunch hour make a list and buy one item each day of the week. You’ll feel less inclined to throw all kinds of sale odds and ends into the basket. In fact, don’t even pick up a basket. You’re only buying one item. Why do you need a basket? Feel smug at not being sucked into buying yet more nonsense in the sales.

Start to plan ahead
Make a list of birthdays and other events over the coming year that will require presents and cards. Do one for next Christmas while you are at it. Make a note in your diary to check list at regular intervals. Begin to write in ideas for presents. Only buy presents that you spot in the sale if (a) they will not date and (b) you have storage space for them. While you’re at it plan meals and clothes for the next few days. Feel proud at your ability to take control of your life.

Whatever you are doing, focus totally on it. Don’t be tempted to put it off. Get it done and move on to the next thing. There’s nothing like a sense of completion to chip away at the blues.

Sleep well
I find that I sleep better if I do a few minutes of gentle yoga before bed. Nothing fancy. Some stretches, a roll down or two. If I still can’t sleep I make plans in my head or think positive thoughts. Or dig out some of that pulse point oil that you got for Christmas a year or two back, apply and breathe deeply.

Have an incentive for getting up
The thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is knowing that I will be plunging my feet into be warm slipper boots and that I can have a chunk of Lush emotibomb in the shower if I think I really need it. Relish the though that you already know what you are going to wear and have the days meals already in hand.

I find that talking to friends even if it’s only to moan makes me feel so much better. It’s good to know that you have people who feel that same as you. It’s good to make plans for the future. It’s good to recall later in the day people you spoke with earlier and know that you are not alone on this planet.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

What's in my lunchbox this week?

I’m still working my way through the bowling ball sized white cabbage I bought some weeks back. Last week I discovered by accident how good raw cabbage tastes when served with something hot. I decided to make this the basis for my lunchbox this week.

Clockwise from top right:

Basmati rice – delicious cold but just a quick blast in the microwave from being piping hot!
Dried figs and dark chocolate – I love this combination. The different textures and sweet flavours compliment each other perfectly.
Carrot and Cashew fans – This recipe came from The Vegetarian. It should contain carrots but the snow seemed to result in a lack of carrots. My local veg stall wasn’t there at the weekend and the Coop was out altogether. I used cooked red lentils instead. I also replaced the breadcrumbs with oats. It turned out rather well. Like a crumbly savoury flapjack. I think with a few more adaptations I could turn out a really nice savoury flapjack that isn’t too high in fat.
White cabbage and spring onions – Raw and crispy

Stay tuned to see more exciting ways with white cabbage!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Changing rooms

It’s all madness here in the world of Midorigreen. Following last week’s snow fuelled disruption, I was hoping for a return to some thing approaching ‘normal’ and ‘routine’. It’s January after all. The time we expect thing to be dull and to actually have to get on with doing some work after weeks of doing very little because it’s (nearly) Christmas.

Instead bodies are being shuffled round and squeezed in to offices and offices are being redecorated. Cue having to pack stuff up in boxes, put up with strange smells and loud noises and find oneself with out a desk to call home.

It’s also made me realise how much I rely on having a computer. I’m trying to embrace my forces adoption of analogue. So this post was created in long hand first.

There doesn’t appear to be a working telephone extension in the space that has become my temporary home so I’ve absolutely no excuse for not working through the big list of jobs that didn’t get done last week. Wish it was still the holidays though and I could sit around in jeans and furry slippers drinking tea and doing sudoku.

Friday, 8 January 2010

This week I have been reading…

Easy Living magazine – Just when I decide that I won’t renew my subscription to Easy Living an inspiring issue like February 2010 comes along.

The Musician’s daughter – Rupert Holmes
I’m not sure what I expected when I picked this up. A tale of the life of a jazz musician and his disapproving daughter maybe? This is a terrific story set in pre-WW2 America. You get an excellent flavour of the era plus crime, mystery, secret codes and jokes. This is one of those marvellous books where every turn of the page changes your expectations.

Silent in the Grave – Deanna Raybourn
I spent the last few months of 2009 devouring Mike Ripley’s Angel series. I was suffering withdrawal and wondering if there could possibly be any more wonderful characters out there for me to discover. Enter Lady Julia Grey and the March family. I’m half way through this and will definitely be heading to library to pick volume 2.

Passion – Louise Bagshawe
When Louise does chick lit well it is excellent. She can be by both funny and inspiring. Her works of late have taken a turn towards action plots. So the girl meets boy, loses boy, finds herself and regains boy in process plot gets reworked. This reworking tends to take the form of some kind of murder with an international flavour. It does not on the whole make me laugh or make me feel inspired. I found the supposed passion between the two main characters in this very hard to take. Other inconstancies around religious feelings, how quickly exercise has an impact on your body and all the loose ends being swept under the carpet by various governments did not enhance things. It is James Bond-esque only in that bond is a rather cold character in the original novels.

War and Peace
I’ve started this twice and not finished it because it’s just too big to carry around. My new solution is to keep it on my desk and read ten pages of so every lunch hour. The snow has rather hampered things this week but I’ll keep on with it. It’s just starting to get interesting.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Things I Love Thursday

Chilled out birthday celebrations – I made the decision not to have any major birthday celebrations on the day this year. It’s a bit too close to NYE and everyone is partied out. Instead I’ll be celebrating some time in February. This took all the pressure off and meant I was able to relax on the day itself. In a very grown up manner I spent the day having my hair cut, doing food shopping, showing some new allotment buddies around the plot and eating/drinking good stuff.

Great gifts – I love it when you get a present that makes you realise that someone has thought about you. Really pleased with High Voltage Tattoo book, Bee house (from ethicalsuperstore) and Bass guitar Magazine subscription.

Exercise – my exercise routine was a bit lax between June and December. With the exception of belly dancing things were sporadic or non-existent. This week I’ve been going for walk at lunchtime and doing yoga before bed. I managed an hour walk yesterday through the snow. It was exhilarating to start with anyway.

Other good stuff -warm slippers, working at home, home made smoothies, avoiding the sales, fresh air, scarves for indoor and outdoor wear, The Musician’s Daughter by Rupert Holmes (who can resist a novel with twists, humour, music and a secret code), allotment buddies, blogging, packing up and clearing out my office, February Easy Living, plans to go to the Vitality show, lunch out, pink blusher for winter, friends old and new, frozen assets, countdowns, the year ahead.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Three good things about the bus not turning up

My bus failed to turn up last night. As it frequently runs late it is difficult to tell the difference between cancellation and tardiness. I spent an hour standing in zero degrees and below. I arrived home feeling cold and somewhat annoyed that I’d lost part of my evening.

In The Little Lady Agency, Melissa/Honey tries to think of three good things about any situation she is less than happy with. I like the character of Melissa because she is both glamorous and organised. So taking inspiration I have tried to think of three good things about my bus not turning up.

1. Standing in the cold must burn more calories than sitting in the warm. Good excuse for me to enjoy a mini mince pie.
2. Reminder of how fortunate I am to live a life where I am able to catch a bus, have warm clothing and a home to go to.
3.Bit stuck on #3. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

What's in my lunchbox this week?

My fridge has all manner of things in it at present. The freezer is full to bursting. I’ve just got my hands on Vegan with a Vengeance and am all inspired. Here’s this weeks lunch.

Clockwise from top right:

Sweet potato hash with five spice – From Vwav. I should have made an effort and included the watercress. I don’t like over sweet stuff so I can only manage this in very small amounts. Will try again though.

Dates stuffed with marzipan. A lovely guest bought these for NYE and they didn’t eaten so I am enjoying as a treat in my lunch this week.

Raw cauliflower

Raw fennel and white cabbage dressed with a splash of rice vinegar and chilli dried tofu pieces.

I’m trying to make a point of going out for a walk every lunch time even if it’s only a short one and to read 10 pages of War and Peace.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Looking in both directions

Looking back at the posts I did at the start of last year, reviewing the year just past and looking to the year ahead, it seems that my hopes for the year ahead don’t vary much

2009 review
Started belly dancing again. Baked lots of vegan cupcakes. Did the Moonwalk. Saw NKOTB and Alice Cooper. Went to V09. Played a musical instrument in public for the first time in over 25 years. Discovered a café serving vegan food. Made strawberry wine. Dyed my hair with Elderberries. Bought and played electro-acoustic bass guitar. Danced and went to bed late in Leamington and Nottingham. One funeral and one wedding. Altered and made clothes using a dressmaking dummy (enter Rosie) for fittings. Started filing my nails regularly. Had a regular massage. Took Pilates and Yoga classes. Made a decision about my online business. Sold stuff on eBay. Started a new blog. Increased my fear of dogs. Discovered the hazards of wearing new shoes to festivals. Carted manure around in a wheelbarrow. Read and felt inspired by lots of books. Attended vitality show and tried out Burlesque. Went to cocktails and cupcakes party. Bought more music CDs than ever before and listened to them. Planted Raspberries (just waiting to get a crop from them). Went on secondment at work and developed. Attended summer beauty morning and lunch ( and decided to have my own home spa mornings in future). Climbed Glastonbury Tor. Hosted a ‘weekend at Bernies’ party. Cried, argued and sulked. Discovered

Plans and dreams for 2010
Buy a Rickenbacker 4003. Go to Sonisphere and V. Dance – lots. Eat loads of veg. Play bass and get to the end of grade 3. Get back into exercising. File nails. Come up with killer business idea. Complete chartership. Take lunch to work everyday. Buy less and make do more. Work my allotment with buddies. Find out how to become a good listener. Read War and Peace. Learn to read music. Do you yoga before bed. Have a Lush party. Belly dance. Learn to forage. Keep working at a vegan diet. Dye my hair green. Use up my fabric stash.