Thursday, 29 December 2011

Things I Love Thursday - spa day

In addition the the joy of Christmas and the luxury of a week off work to indulge in sewing, reading, sleeping and eating today I got an extra blast of relaxation.

I spent the day at a spa with 3 friends. The day started early as I went to pick one of them up so we could all go in one car. However after a few days break from driving it was really nice to get in my car and have the roads pretty much to myself. The day involved a facial, swimming pools, an aromatherapy room, and snoozing on poolside. I was so relaxed I fell asleep in the car on the way (no need to panc folks - I wasn't driving).

Mimi and I then shared a pot of tea and toast in my kitchen before she got the bus home and I got back online.

Other stuff I'm delighted with:
Good reads, cups of tea, hummus, sleeping late, making plans for 2012, long socks.

Monday, 26 December 2011

The three books in your life

They say there are always three books in your life; the one you've just read, throne you're reading, and the one you will read next.

So here are my three for Boxing Day 2012. The Murder Room was a fascinating read bringing together science, art and psychology. I did find the timescale used difficult and was surprised when the three men the book focused on we're suddenly identified as being in their 70s. Maybe it just represented how life goes by without us realising.

A friend recommended Ten minutes in the morning to me. I'm not bothered about the diet but I like the idea of having suggested Yoga exercises for each day. I do have a tendency to do the poses I like best or find easiest. I'm hoping it will be really good for my achy muscles.

And finally I am about to start World without end. I first read The Pillars of the Earth as a teen and look forward to seeing how things have changed in Kingsbridge. Plus a doorstep of a book like this is just the thing for Christmas break.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

What's in my lunchbox this week? - bonfire leftovers

Saturday night we introduced my niece to the dubious delights of fireworks. My sister prepared loads of food including vegan friendly baked butter beans, jacket potatoes and corn on the cob. I bought along a pot of vegan coleslaw and my mother made vegan chocolate cake. There's no cake in this post because I ate it way before it had a chance to make it to the lunch box. 

Clockwise from top right:
Baked butter beans - made by my sister. I love these. They are very garlicky and very good.
Watercress, sweetcorn and seitan - I had to put my latest purchase of vital gluten flour to work. I really wanted to steam it but lost my nerve and went for boiling. Maybe next time.
Gingerbread Apple pie - With no ginger (again) and the addition of raspberries. A great way of putting to use the windfall apples I collected while out walking.
Coleslaw - Not sure what I did with the recipe but it had a slight sour cream taste to it. Making me crave a jacket potato though!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

What's in my lunchbox this week? The importance of being idle

I don't very often have sandwiches for lunch. I don't find them very filling. Plus my mother spoilt me by making me amazingly varied packed lunches during my school days. So consequently sandwiches are what I fall back on when I'm too lazy to even put together a selection of crackers, spreads and veggies for lunch.

The filling is red pepper hummus, cucumber, carrot, roasted aubergine and roasted tomatoes. It was good but some pickles, chillies and olives would have made it amazing.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Phrase of the week - just vegan

I gave a friend a lift tonight and she made me dinner. It was delicious. As we chatted about food and what she has feed guests with various dietary requirements I apologised for any trouble my lifestyle choice might have out her to. "Oh," she said, "you're not difficult - you're just vegan."

As good a reason as any for not apologising for my choices.

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

What's in my lunchbox this week? Farewell to the greengrocer

I am heart broken. The fruit and vegetable stall in the town I live in has closed for the foreseeable future. A visit was part of my Saturday morning routine. Happily I can still visit the one in the town I work in and it will mean I have to leave my desk one lunchtime a week. And I was able to stock up for this week when I stumbled across  a tiny health food shop on my way to a craft fair. 

Clockwise from top right: 
Cucumber -mmm
Tortilla chips
Refried beans - this is a freezer special a mix of Pinto beans and frozen spicy tomato soup. 
Apple - I love how white and crisp looking the flesh is when I cut into these

Monday, 24 October 2011

It means what it means

I understand (from reading an interview with Lee Child in the Times a few weeks back) that Hollywood was a bit concerned about making any of the Reacher books into films because Reacher doesn’t change. The whole point of Reacher as a character is that he stays exactly the same. Yes, the reader might discover a little more about him but that doesn't change him in any way. Hollywood meanwhile is obsessed with the character arc and how everyone is a better person at the end of the story.

This made me think about Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas has some interesting ideas about the storyless story. So in these there is no problem to be solved or obstacle to be overcome. Something happens, no matter how insignificant and that is enough to make it into a story. 

Our Tragic Universe isn’t an entirely storyless novel but it edges in that direction. There is no big ending where everything is wrapped up. The characters do develop but there are also indicators within the novel that the development is on-going and that it isn’t always for the better.

I’ve also just recalled the definition of theatre that Peter Brook offers in his book The Empty Space.  If memory serves me correctly he talks about anyone walking across a space while someone else is watching to be theatre. So no need for a complicated plot or character development.

Now this got me thinking about blogs and the urge to find meaning in small things and explain via a blog entry how this realisation made the blogger a better person.

I’ve done it myself. I’ve over explained the simple. I’ve read layers of meaning into the every day. While I’m all for taking inspiration where you can, living in the moment and embracing the mundane maybe it’s time to let things be when I blog about them. Just note what I’ve done/seen/been thinking about. Comment that it’s cool/shocking/amusing. Leave it be. 

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

What's in my lunchbox this week? - My cooking mojo takes a holiday

Sometimes it seems that my cooking mojo just packs its bags and leaves for the weekend. I spill ingredients everywhere, over cook things and even when I follow the recipe things just don't turn out right. Happily my interest in experimentation hasn't vanished so I was able to make over my mistakes and end up with something slightly more than just edible.

Clockwise from top right:

Autumn trifle - I decided to make Zucchini bread from one of the Sarah Kramer books and somehow it went straight from bread to bread pudding. Rather unfortunate as I was going to take it share at a pumpkin carving party the next day. So I sliced a banana in and made some soya milk custard (which boiled over in the microwave) and came up with this take on trifle. It's actually rather good.

Cucumber - the fruit and veg stall I go to on Saturday morning's was closed this week so I picked up a few bits in the Coop instead including a cucumber that wasn't encased in plastic.

Chestnut stew - I bought chestnuts a few weeks a go and totally forgot to cook them. So this weekend I decided to roast them but cooked them for too long. They weren't quite rock hard but... Happily I'd read A Vegan Obsession's post about Chestnut Hotpot so I threw the chestnuts in with onions, garlic, carrots and stock. It came out yummy and the chestnuts softened up.

Snow peas - another Coop buy - I'm a sucker for the reduced section although I've gotten better!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Things I Love Thursday - Radio 4, Family and stretching

So what's been awesome in my life recently? Well despite the sad library related news I've still found plenty of good things in life

Radio 4 - The radio in my car recently got tuned to Radio 4 and I'm now wondering why I've never taken this action before. I listen to Today before leaving the house in the morning  and now I can continue to listen all the way to work. What  I love is the intelligent presentation and the variety in programming. So last night coming home late from a Burlesque class I was able to enjoy a talk on how cultural perceptions of alcohol affect our response to it while earlier in the week I discovered the fascinating topic of LA street food and this afternoon it was nursing as a graduate profession.

Family - Between living at far flung corners of the planet and leading really full lives I often don't seem to see my family for ages. This weekend was a real treat as I had a highly enjoyable phone conversation with my mum and then got to spend the evening in the company of my niece and her parents (my sister and almost brother-in-law). I won't bore on with the proud auntie stuff but ... Now I just need a good chat with my Dad to round things off.

Stretching - I can see why cats stretch with such pleasure. When your muscles ache there is nothing like stretching them out. Now if someone can just invent a desk  I can work at lying down...

Other stuffTravallier mins, produire plus, lots of water, cashew cheese, time out just to breathe, Pinterest, cups of tea, being thrifty, having a plan, early nights, empty moonlit roads.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Phrase of the week - it hurts

Ok it's not the wittiest or most exciting post title ever but it's true. That's got to count for something.

It seems like I've always had achy shoulders and back. How much might have varied on how tense and tired I was but I tended to figure it was just my 'default' setting. That and sore throats to go with everything. I thoguht myself lucky that at elst I wasn't the kind of person who vomited at everything.

Then back in 2002 I took up yoga. It was awesome. I loved the class, thoguht the teacher was amazing and my shoulders stopped aching all the time. In fact once I'd got into the swing of yoga if I felt my shoulders tensing up I'd make a concious effort to relax them.

But then things began to change. The classs stopped running. I switched to another near work and took up Pilates. Then the yoga class closed and I was working on the other side of town. I tried to get to classes but things kept cropping up.

Not a problem, I told myself. I will still have regular accupressure or masaage. I can just do yoga at home. Yep, I said, 10 minutes before bed will be perfect. I can stretch during the day too, I thought and set an hour alarm on my PC.

Alas I have been tumbling down a slippery slope. I'm inconsistent. I stretch some days and not others. I tend to do exercises that I like rather than a good all round selection. I've put off joining a new class on the grounds that I'm busy at work and don't want any more evening taken up.

All of which has put where I am now. The therapist delivering my accupressure on Monday commented on how sore and tense my muscles were. So I need to look for a way of ensuring that I get the relaxation I need. Although there is lots to be said for doing yoga or pilates at home I think I really need a class. An hour or so of focusing on stretching my muscles will be a physical and mental break from everything else in my life. Plus if I commit to doing it at lunchtime it will force me to take a lunch break, get away from my desk and out of the building. I manged to do a driving elsson in lunch hour every week for a yearso there is no reason I can't do it for something else.

So I've added to my Wunderlist to find a lunchtime class within the next 2 weeks. Life's hard enough without taking the small steps I can to make it easier.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

What's in my lunch box this week? Leftovers rule

I really do think my favourite meals are the ones thrown together from the leftovers in the fridge. Which means that the time I spend trying to cook efficiently and buy only the ingredients I actually need results in me doing myself out of more opportunities to browse a variety of part consumed goodies. This weekend we were entertaining my niece and her parents. In the past we would have done something around a big main dish and then I would have gotten all worried about the side dishes. In the last year we've moved more towards a tapas/meze type arrangement. This ensures that all of our guests (whatever their tastes, allergies and preferences) can enjoy a number of different tastes plus I get to indulge in the leftovers.

Plus I played a bit less fast and loose with the recipes so my mayonnaise thickened because I added lemon juice, my tofu marinade has a tangy flavour and my cake wasn't chewy.

The big success which I haven't shown here because there wasn't enough left was cashew cheese. I took the trouble to make it properly without any variations and my sister took the trouble to eat it with great enthusiasm and ask for the recipe. I will be directing her to Lunch box bunch

Clockwise form top right:
Potato salad with home made vegan mayonnaise, spring onions and gherkins
Falafels and olives
Home grown lettuce and italian tofu (from Vwav)
Plum, apple and pear cake - delicious  - a bit like bakewell tart

There really is nothing like a good lunch to ensure a great afternoon!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Things I Love Thursday - working life, dancing queen and other vegans

Wow the week has just flown past and I can't believe that Thursday has come around so quickly. My life is so busy at present and it's full of the most brilliant things

I love my job - When so many people are thankful just to have a job job I'm totally blessed to have a job I love, working with amazing colleagues and without a long commute into London each day. Yes I do long days. Yes sometimes I get frustrated or frightened or disheartened by my work. Yes I'm often tired. But I believe in what I'm doing. I'm challenged by what I'm doing. And to think that when I that I didn't even plan to end up doing this! 

Dancing - I went to a Burlesque class last night and it was fun and it stretched some muscles that clearly  haven't been stretched for a while. Plus I have a good friend doing the same class and got to wear one of my vintage petticoats. What's not to like? 

Meeting other vegans - Last week after complaining that I didn't know any other vegan I discovered that a girl who worked in an office down the corridor was vegan. Alas I only found this out while signing her 'sorry you're leaving card'. Happily I got another change to meet a load more vegans at London Vegan Drinks. I had such a good time. I didn't actually talk to masses of people because I was having such  a great time with the first people I started talking to. I only managed one drink and totally failed to eat because there was so much to discuss - language, open university curse, travel, pesto, posh places in Essex. I'll just have to make sure I attend the next one. I seriously don't think I've been to something that made me feel quite so excited about life and all its possibilities in quite some time.

Other stuff - doughnuts, reading outside on hot days, fresh bed linen, planning 90% of my Christmas shopping, time at my sewing machine, relaxation, cold vegan pizza for lunch.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

What's in my lunchbox this week? - you've got to start somewhere

I honestly started off with recipes that I had every intention of following fairly closely. But then I just felt the need to improvise with slightly mixed results. Oh well you've just got to give things a try...

Clockwise from top right:

Apple, pear, rhubarb and raspberry crumble - fruit is either allotment grown or windfalls. This should have been very similar to the one I made a few weeks ago but it's not. Unfortunately I tend to just make up my crumbles as I go along. this works fine when I'm making them on a regular basis as I can recall that adding nutmeg or sugar is nice. This is ok but I think a little more sugar and spice would have made it really good.

Raw carrot

Cashew and walnut cheese - I love the cashew cheese recipe that I got from Kathy at Lunchboxbunch. However I find myself unable to resist trying different things with it. Maybe one day I'll even have the patience to strain it. This time  I couldn't resist soaking some walnuts along with the cashews resulting in a rather dark coloured cheese. Although as my previous version was green due to the addition of some spinach I guess I can't grumble. It tastes good but I think I prefer the cashew only version - unless I can find a way to do stripes!

Cream crackers - although I have since discovered this spread tastes amazing on dark rye Rivita

Courgette Fritters - these were based on the Greek style tomato zuchinni fritters in Veganomicon but by the time I'd skipped the tomatoes, doubled the courgette and done a bit of trading with the herbs they were heading for unrecognisable. These are good but breadcrumbs are a much tastier coating when mixed with a little seasoning prior to coating. A spot of sweet chilli sauce works well with them.


Thursday, 22 September 2011

Things I Love Thursday - good health, a stitch in time and London vegan drinks

It's that time of the week again. Time to carry on with what Gala Darling started and be thankful for all the good stuff that's in my world. I am, of course, capable of being grateful by myself but a little inspiration never went amiss.

First up has to be my health. After last week's cold I'm so happy to be feeling myself again. It's so true that you don't miss what you had until it's gone so I'm making an extra effort not to put to much strain on my body and to be good it. I've clearly been doing soemthing right as during a check up the other day I discovered that not only is my blood pressure about the best it's ever been but apparently I've lost a stone since last December. I did my clothes were getting a bit loose, however I think this is the result of swapping cups of tea for glasses of wine on a regular basis giving me a clearer head, more energy and less drunken junk food nibbling. Let's here it for tea and health.

I usually like to set aside Saturday afternoon's to indulge in a spot of sewing  but mine have all been so busy of late. However the urge to get some stuff moving through my sewing pile just wouldn't shift. Happily I've discovered that if I do a tiny bit of preparation in advance and leave the sewing machine out  and threaded that I can easily manage 20 minutes when  I get home from work. I've just got squeeze all the clothes I've altered or repaired back in my wardrobe now.

Thirdly I've very excited at the London Vegan Drinks meet up taking place next Thursday. I don't think anyone else I know is a vegan and I've been thinking it would be cool to meet some people who share my lifestyle choices. Plus Tibits is on my list of places I want to visit (but am unlikely to).

Other stuff - tea made in a proper tea pot, the heating going on at work, weekend plans, unbroken nights, making music, @markdavidson, 93 days to Christmas, wonderful friends.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Phrase of the week - You look terrible

Last week I was hit by a hideous cold. Everything ached. I was exhausted yet either couldn't sleep or dozed my way through the kind of dreams only a fever can bring on. My colleagues, when they weren't telling me that I looked really awful, compared me to a  zombie. Apparently it was something about my glazed eyes...

The only bright spots were that (a) I didn't have a blocked or runny nose - such are the perks of a vegan diet and that (b) I couldn't do anything but the basics. 

In a strange kind of way not being able to do more than the bare minimum necessary was very liberating. Usually I've got dozens of things I'm trying to keep track of, keep on top of and stay ahead of in all spheres of my life. Plus it's not enough for me to simply pay these things lip service I've got to make a really super special amazing job of everything to meet my own high standards. 

Last week  I was forced to reconsider my standards. I had to accept that dinner might be on the uninspired side. That my outfits wouldn't be perfectly planned. That I wasn't going to manage to do any of the stuff I had scheduled on Wunderlist. That  I wouldn't be playing bass for an hour each day. That clothes weren't going to get put away. That emails and phone calls likely wouldn't be returned. That  I wasn't going to start planning Christmas or make decisions about my pension.

And the world didn't end as a result of me not doing stuff. Our weekend house might not of had their visit planned down to the pre dinner snacks but they had somewhere to sleep and didn't starve. So while I clearly don't want to spend every night lounging on the sofa after a dinner of ready salted crisps I need to remember that sometimes it doesn't hurt to take a break. Everything that I'm picking up again this week feels fresher for the time away. I suppose this is why people take holidays. It's not the break from routine, it's the break from the person that the routine makes you.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

What's in my lunchbox this week? Harvest festival

It must be the best time of year for good fresh food. My fridge is packed and I can't fit anything else in the freezer. I can really understand why our ancestors celebrated Harvest. Afteral lthey really were going to be eating half frozen cabbages for the next 6 months or so.

Clockwise from top right:

Victoria plum and slices of cucumber

Apple, pear and raspberry crumble - the raspberries made this awesome and the rest of the fruit were windfalls gathered on my travels

Green salad - various lettuces from my allotment mixed with  a few basil leaves from the pot on the windowsill

Daddy Mac - delicious vegan macaroni cheese type dish inspired by Veganomicon

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Things I Love Thursday - burlesque, delicious stuff to eat and crazy websites

Currently on my 'isn't life great' list are:
Burlesque - I enjoyed the class so much at the weekend that I've just signed up for a 5 week course
Delicious stuff to eat - cakes that aren't made with bread flour, chilled plums, loads of fresh (and sometimes home grown vegetables), soya milk porridge for breakfast and the occasional bag of McCoys ready salted crisps (it's the crinkle cut that does it).
Crazy websites - currently floating my boat are -a site that suggests alternative and often more accurate titles for well known books - and - picked this one up from Seth Godin's email it features some very funny, accurate and thought provoking cartoons (although that just doesn't do it's scope justice).
Other stuff - cups of tea, bass playing, online stuff, real life stuff, meeting up with friends, being busy, sleeping well, funny autobiographies (who would have Richard Branson's would be so amusing?), keeping warm on cold nights.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Phrase of the week - I quit my City job to become a posh stripper

I quit my City job to become a posh stripper

On Sunday I went to a burlesque class with the fabulous Bettsie Bon Bon who informed us that she had done just that. I'm not about to do the same. For starters I already do my dream job. 

But Bettsie was inspiring and a reminder that to get to what you want you have to put in the effort.That hard work, patience and determination will get you there. Plus that your dream probably won't be as glamorous as you imagine it to be.

So, is there a vegan alternative to the feather boa?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

What's in my lunch box this week? Inspired by Hugh

Hugh F-W's article in the Guardian Weekend magazine a week or two back was just amazing. Recipes that used vegetables but didn't drown them in cheese AND was enthusiastic about beans and pulses.

From left:
  • Potatoes, aubergines and chickpeas roasted with Harrisa paste and a nice helping of Runner beans gently steamed (got to work through that glut)
  • Plums - I adore these. They are a great combination of sweet and sour.
  • Salad of lettuce, spinach and basil (all home grown)
  • Leftovers cake - an interesting mix of some kind of sweet powdered tea drink and past their best dried fruits soaked overnight. Plus I did not use strong flour for this so for one I have cake that is light rather then chewy!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Things I Love Thursday

Green sparkly shoes - they give everything I wear them with a little edge! Plus I never realised before thta my office carpet is actually green

Making plans - Maybe it's the idea of autumn (the old 'new school year' feeling), or all the blogs I've been reading about making lists, planning and getting organised. Or perhaps its just the joy of and the sense of control and feeling of relaxation that adding everything you think of to a list. Anyway I'm feeling happy and anticipating the future with a calm glee.

Scrambled tofu - I used to make this all the time and then fell out of the habit. then Dear Heart made it for me a couple of times which has not only gotten me back into the habit but I'm adding loads of veggies to it. So it tastes good, contributes to 5 a day and uses up my courgette glut.

Staying on top of my job list (and not worrying about what's on it tomorrow), live bands, Catching up with friends and relatives, picking sloe berries to make sloe gin, friends who actually know what a sloe looks like, getting inspired about being thrifty (rather than frugal), tea made in a pot.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Phrase of the week

I never buy much these days

Doesn't everyone say this? You spend your lunch hour wandering around the shops telling yourself that you have no intention of buying anything. You're just staying in the loop and keeping yourself aware of what's on offer. After all you wouldn't want to miss out on that perfect item that you've been looking for forever and that is going to make the rest of your wardrobe work. If you could just find it you'd never have to shop again. And what if there's an amazing not to missed sale on somewhere? Plus, you reason to yourself, Christmas is coming up as are a couple of birthdays. You can never get organised for those too early. Anyway I'm not actually going to buy anything - once I've tried it on I won't want it...

I thought I was doing pretty well on the not buying front. I bought stuff second hand. I shopped my wardrobe. I refashioned. In fact I was justifying to myself just this morning that I'd bought practically nothing this summer. So I was entitled to the two pairs of green sequin shoes from eBay. Oh and the white sandals and the pink ballet pumps. Well, four pairs of shoes over 6 months isn't too bad, I thought, after all I haven't been buying clothes. If you don't count the two black skirts, biker style leggings and white dress (now dyed green). But they were all charity shops finds so they don't count unlike the green trousers, black and grey stripped socks and black cotton tights...

Just like being on a diet it's easy to start slipping . You make an exception here and another there and before you know it it's turned into a habit. So I'm thinking that I need to nip this habit in at the bud. A quick search on the Internet turned up The Great American Apparel Diet and a whole range of blogs about making your wardrobe work for you and the financial benefits. I'm quite taken with but there are quit enough variations on the theme for me to spend whole lunch hours surfing, not shopping.

I've spent a lot of time putting my wardrobe together. I have some items that I enjoy wearing. I'd like to do them justice by actually wearing them. I'd like to spend my lunch hours enjoying my food, losing myself in a book or solving Sudoku. Not running frantically from one store to another just in case I miss something.

So I'm thinking that I'll commit to not buying any new clothes for the rest of 2011. Plus I'm going to limit any lunchtime wanders around retail units to once a week and that includes visits to Lush for soap, the market for vegetables, and the oriental grocer for tofu. Let's see how I get on.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

What's in my lunchbox this week?

Here it is - the post V festival lunch box. This lunch box is also a reminder of why you should never food shop when you are hungry (I just popped into the Coop for some odds and ends on my way home from the hairdressers and ended up going home loaded down with food).

Clockwise from top right:


Mango chutney - Yes, it's an Indian takeaway leftover. Yes, I am on a clear out the fridge kick.

Pakoras, samosas and bhajis from an Indian snack pack

Home grown runner beans lightly steamed and served with a dab of vegan margarine

Monday, 15 August 2011

What's in my lunch box this week?

This week's lunch box is the green and gold edition!

Clockwise from top right:

Corn on the cob


home grown runner beans lightly steamed

Mini refried bean tacos (from M&S and much reduced - I find it hard to resist food in the reduced section) on a bed of home grown lettuce

Plum and peach cake

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Things I Love Thursday

Essex Police - for making good use of Twitter to reassure communities during the recent riots

Sudoku - Once again I'm drawn to this fendish puzzle. I've been trying variations but nothing beats the classic.

Driving - My car was in the garage on Monday and I actually missed driving. Still good to take the bus for a change. Routine kills creative thought.

Other stuff - trying new things (Zumba), doing stuff I've put off (finally making a will), Cashew cheese, sleep, allotment produce (yeah I grew it myself), keeping busy, Lego, Scarlett Thomas novels.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Phrase of the week

We must plan a menu

This seems to be muttered about every two minutes in the midorigreen household which makes the fact that I haven't gotten around to actually taking any action on it a disgrace.

I used to plan a menu every week. If I had a few spare minutes I'd start planning out what we might eat over the next few days, what we had that needed using up and look up new recipes to try. I got quite efficient over time coming up with solutions to using up various ingredients. I'd often make a dish that could be eaten over two days in two different ways or where leftovers could form the base of a new dish.

However I've fallen out of the menu habit for a whole number of reasons. Pressures of work, the differences between my diet (vegan) and Dear Heart's (non-vegan), changing ideas about portion sizes and what equals a meal. There's been the question of who's doing the cooking and when.

However the time has come again to start menu planning on a regular basis. Apart from anything else the glut of courgettes, beans and leafy things from the allotment need dealing with before they take over the kitchen. Clearly I'm not the only person to think about this. Mimi at Little Sips of tea has been talking how she stopped menu planning and why she wants to start again.

With our busy lives including long working days and evening commitments it's clear that a few moments of thought about what to eat could make life run just a bit more smoothly. I just need to dig out the mini blackboard and start writing up my plans. When I've got a spare minute that is.

What's in my lunchbox this week?

I'm thinking seriously (once again) about how I eat, what I eat and when I eat. Currently I eat breakfast about 6.30 am. This means that if I wait until 12.30pm to eat my lunch I am very hungry and likely to snack if the opportunity presents itself. Then I get hungry mid afternoon. So I'm trying to spread my food out over the course of my working day and to pack more of it. This could do with a few more veggies but I'm sure I'll get the balance right in time.

Clockwise from bottom left in black/red containers:

Rye crackers and a plum

Apple and blackberry cake loosely based on a recipe from Vegan with a Vengance. Blackberries and apples foraged locally.

Cucumber and home grown salad leaves - I'm always thrilled when I find a cucumber that hasn't be suffocated in plastic wrap. This one was from my local Co-op.

Cashew cheese - this stuff is awesome. The recipe and variations can be found over at the always inspiring Lunch Box Bunch.

The tub on the side contains a mix of spaghetti, quinoa, peas, runner beans, home made vegan mayo and chillies.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Things I Love Thursday

Early nights – I feel so much better when I get to bed before 10pm. It doesn’t need to be much before (a couple of minutes will do). It’s not just how much sleep you need it’s when you get it.

Fruit – I’m mad about fresh fruits of all kinds at present. I guess it does help that it’s the middle of August and not January or I’d be overdosing on apples and pears.

Getting on with it – I made three phone calls today that I’ve been putting off for months and just like that I could cross them off my job list. I need to remember this feeling and stop putting things off.

Other stuff – driving to new locations, working by an open window in the twilight, lunches in the park, huge courgettes, lego pirate ships, late night post band practice curries, plans for lots of burlesque related activities in the autumn, Percy Pig going vegetarian (if not vegan…)

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

What's in my lunchbox this week?

clockwise from top right:

Fresh pineapple - I got two massively reduced ones so one got chopped for consumption, the other chopped for the freezer

Kiwi fruit and blueberries - I know it's the middle of the British soft fruit season but I've been craving Kiwi fruit for days and finally I give in. They are delicious!

Rice and chickpeas - Iwas cooking up a load of chickpeas for the freezer so I kept a cup back to throw in with some rice.

Courgettes in herbed breadcrumbs - I'm ace at growing courgettes and have enjoyed them in a variety of ways - stuffed, raw and grated, fried in tomato sauce. This is an adaptation from Vegan with a Vengance and it's very good. It reheats well in the microwave and goes well on toast too!

Monday, 1 August 2011

What I've been reading

I Love The 80s – Megan Crane
I picked this up because I wanted something lightweight. Plus I thought it would be fun to cringe at all the references to 80s style. What I had failed to take into account is that this is a book where the plot hinges on time travel. Therefore it’s science fiction. So just a few pages in I found that I was enjoying this far more than I expected and for different reasons. Ok the plot line isn’t great but there is an element of whodunit that had me trying to work out who, when, where and why. Surprisingly gripping while being a cross between Back-to-the-future and Sweet Valley High.

Worth Dying For – Lee Child
I like Lee child books. I find Jack Reacher fascinating. However I find there are two sorts of stories in the series. The first type is those with a strong human element. Reacher will often be solving some kind of puzzle in these and we’ll learn more about him and his life. They tend to finish up with 20 pages of serious violence but the journey there makes up for it. Then there’s the second type which seem to be essentially action thrillers recounting in detail weapons, battle and attack plans. I find that I scan read passages describing this kind thing in same way that I do Hardy’s descriptions of the countryside. Still it filled an hour or two and there was a tiny glimpse of that human part of Reacher at the end that was worth waiting for.

Wrong About Japan – Peter Carey
I’m interested in Japan and read a review of this slim volume some years back. However whatever the review said it clearly didn’t inspire me enough to want to go and find a copy. I grabbed this off a shelf in the library as I was passing (the bright cover helped it to stand out). It’s an interesting piece. Peter thinks he can encourage his shy son by encouraging his love of Japanese comics. The ultimate encouragement being a trip to Japan. It seems thought that Peter has his own reasons fro returning to Japan in that eh wants to find the ‘real Japan’. Of course, the book isn’t anywhere near big enough to even scratch the surface of Japanese culture and that I think is the point the Carey is trying to make. It doesn’t just apply to Japan either. We can’t expect to understand a culture that we are not part of. What we do instead is take aspects and use for our own purposes and to reflect our own culture.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Things I Love Thursday

Days off - I have a couple of days off work and although I do have a big job list to work through I'm trying not to overdo it. It was great to wake up this morning and realise that not only did I not have leap out of bed for work but that I didn't have anything else pressing to do either. Now if the weather could just get it's act together.

Decluttering - One of the tasks I will be undertaking during my time off is a clear out of our utility room. We finished puttung cupboards in it 2 years ago but it's never been properly organised. I'm slo looking at other bits around the house and embarking on another round of general clearing out.

My cooking mojo - This is really another take on decluttering but much inspired to cook stuff at present and use up things in the pantry and freezer. So chick peas are soaking, popcorn will be made, and another chunk has been hacked off the monster block of spinach pesto in the freezer. Plus I made vegan croissants at the weekend from scratch.

Other stuff - making adavance plans for gift free christmas (let's focus on the company and the food), wunderlist, stripy socks, cool stuff on the South Bank, toenails painted different shades of green.

Enjoy today and embrace the moment!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Monday evening slump

It happened again last night. It’s the second Monday in a row I’ve gotten home and just slumped. On both occasions I’ve powered my way through the day ticking items off my job and then as I’ve parked my car I’ve felt done for the day.

Except on Monday’s I’m not done. I’ve got to dash inside, have a speedy cup of tea and a snack, get changed, get back in the car and go to my belly dance class.

And I haven’t wanted to for the past two Mondays. All I’ve felt like doing is slumping on the sofa with a book and a cup of tea with a view that at some far distant point I will go prepare some food.

I do think that part of the issue might be that my band practices every Tuesday evening. What was once a possible night for practice has now become fixed. So That means that between rolling out of bed on Monday morning and diving under the duvet on Tuesday night I seem to be on the go. Which isn’t a bad thing and does mean it’s half way through the week before I know it.

But maybe this is my mind telling me that I need to take things a bit easier. That I shouldn’t rush around all weekend trying to get ahead of myself. That I should consider leaving work a little bit earlier on a Monday night so I’ve got time to relax a bit before my class.

Or I could look for some other class to take on a different night. I enjoy belly dancing. I’ve got some vegan dance shoes that still have lots of wear in them. However I’m wonder in if an hour of throwing myself around to music in a different style on another night of the week would work better for me.

How do you know when it’s time to move on? How do you know when you need to make a change?

Friday, 22 July 2011

Phrase of the week

Breaking distances at least double in the wet

It's been raining a lot this week and I thought that I was getting a good idea of what driving in wet conditions was like. Until Tuesday evening, when just a few miles from home a sudden torrential rain storm turned what had been a dry road with traffic moving at around 70 mph to something much scarier. Suddenly it was like trying to drive through a swimming pool. Visability dropped. The window screen wipers struggled to make a difference. Speeds massively reduced. The road was inches deeep in water. All you could do was look at the tail lights of the car in front, keep moving slowly and hope it stopped soon.

You can't get past nature. You either have to live with or suffer through it.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Things I Love Thursday

Playing bass - I don't know if it's because I'm getting to grips with my job and driving or because it seems like the band is really cooking together but playing bass is so enjoyable at present. I always enjoy playing but I feel really in the zone and so eager to play.

Home cooked food made from fresh ingredients - I seem to have slipped into rather bad habits when eating recently. Fruit and vegetables have been rather lower on the list than they should be and I've been indulging in lots of vegan cheese and processed stuff. Monday night I did pasta, quinoa and peas and topped it with slices of aubergine coated in herby breadcrumbs and shallow fried (inspiration from Vegan with a Vengeance). It tasted awesome. Leftovers have worked well for lunch and I feel so much better.

Melissa shoes - I love my 4 pairs of Melissa shoes and they are proving to be a mainstay of my summer wardrobe. they are comfortable, look great and are ideal for both hot days and rain storms! Anyone else find that if they wear them with socks (I know plastic shoes and socks sound wrong) the socks won't stay up?

Other stuff - feeling the fear and doing it anyway, learning to love fifth gear, Wunderlist, cups of tea, being inspired, wandering around charity shops.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Phrase of the week

Nothing is forever

Uttered frequently as I realise that I've been in a new job for over a year, an auntie for over year and playing the bass for two and half. When you are in the middle of things you believe that they will go on forever in a completely unchanged manner but tend to forget how utterly things have changed from how they were before. Your band breaks up. You start a new one. Your job changes. You discover new annoyances and pleasures from the role. Your routine changes but you still complain about having to get out of bed so early.

In some ways that nothing is forever means that you need to worry about it less because you don't know what it will become or how it will turn out but know that it will be different to now.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Things I Love Thursday

Changes in routine - particularly when they include lovely company and cocktails. Monday I left the car at home so I could break with my usual Monday evening and have a couple of drinks with girlfriend. Two cocktail and a very special coffee later we left off from planning our burlesque debut and headed to our respective homes. I felt relaxed and refreshed the next day.

Lunchtimes in the park - It's good to be outside with my lunch and a book. I like looking at the people in the park and the occasional duck on the river. Whether it's hot or cooler the weather makes a change from my icebox office.

Other stuff - playing bass, feeling strangely calm, List making, home made pizza vegan cheese.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Phrase of the week

"I'll stick it on my list"

Such is my obsession with Wunderlist and the way it links up between my phone and various computers I use (although it doesn't like IE6 very much) that I utter this abut every ten seconds.

Plus inspired by Raptitude I've been reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. I must confess that I've been working through it in small easily digested chunks. there are loads of thing int his book that have really made me thing but the main one is that if I've added it to my list then I don't have to worry about it (as long as I empty my collection buckets regularly).

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Things I love Thursday

Clothes dyeing – I used washing machine dye on 4 white garments in my wardrobe that I just wasn’t wearing. I love the new colours and that I might now actually wear them.

Chill out time - I have a busy life but between work, commuting, belly dance shows, band practice, allotmenting and other bits and pieces I seemed to be running around with the time to actually enjoy what I was doing. Things seem to be slowing down a bit or I’m getting really well organised.

Discovering new parks - I realised this weekthat I had never visited the park by the museum and it was within lunchtime walking distance. It was quite busy and put me in the mind of Topsy and Tim go to the park but throughly enjoyed the winding paths. It was nice to just wander around and think good thoughts.

Other stuff – resolving the tights issue (just in time for the heat wave), getting to grips with third gear again, reasons to by a P bass, breakfast with a friend, hash browns,

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Phrase of the week

'Nice and easy does it' - muttered to myself everytime I change from second to third gear (going to fifth has a phrase all of it's own). It does seem to be working though. What's really bizarre is that prior to passing my test and doing all this solo driving I'd never had a issue with gear changes and couldn't figure out why people kept sugegsting I try an automatic. HoweverI'll be sticking with my manual for the foreseeable future.