Thursday, 29 July 2010

The scourge of slugs

The whole irrational rage instilled instantly by the sight of those sadly denuded, stripped and bare stalks where once a lush young plantlet thrust it's bold head skywards & sang for the sheer joy of life, and the feel of the sun on it's leaves, and the gentle rain cooling & quenching it's roots.
Can I just say 'Argh!!' and 'Garn' and other such similar expressions of impotent wrath.
There'd be a picture but I couldn't bring myself to record such barren wilderness where once majestic brassicas marched horizonward... *sob*

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Rain: 2 Umbrellas: 0

Yes, it has been raining most days recently but it hasn't been particularly windy. No - these gallant umbrellas were let down by shoddy mechanisms; unfortunately at the same time dooming me to wrestling with an unopened umbrella in the middle of a cloudburst. "Help me I'm melting..." etc.
Anyway, I started wondering if anything useful could be made from the remains rather than pitching the whole lot into landfill. I thought a shopping bag would be a good idea. The fabric from a brolly would fold up nice and small to enable it to be carried around in a pocket or bag whilst still being strong and durable for heavy loads. The fact that it's waterproof would be an added benefit over the cotton type bags I already have. These brollies could have their day once more!
I've started taking the fabric off the ribs and will update how the bag making goes but having just had a little google about I've seen that I'm not the first to come up with this idea. So there you go - upcycle those brollies and equip yourself with a free waterproof shopper at the same time. Win - win I reckon. :-)

Friday, 23 July 2010

Postcard postal art pay it forward post

It seems like a fair few of us miss the days of 'real' mail. When we'd get a satisfyingly fat letter through the door just to say hello and catch up on the news, or an arty card purely because someone saw it and 'thought of you.' Nowadays it's either bills, junkmail - addressed and generic, local free 'paper' (rag) or unsolicited kleeneze/avon/betterware/plastic tat merchants booklets that they then get irate when you don't leave them out on the right day. Errr - did I ask you to put the damn thing into my home in the first place?
Email has many many plus points, as does texting, but as anyone who has read the Pratchett book 'Going Postal' knows "you can't seal an [email] with a loving kiss." It's just not as good, or fun or real. (Apologies for any wincing from misquoting you feel, I don't have the book to hand right now ok.)
So - in a fairly longwinded way I'm actually getting to my point. Inspired by the lovely Jacqueline on Tinned Tomatoes and her pay it forward post I thought it might be fun to have a postcard pay it forward thing. I'm going to make the rule that you have to design the card yourself, like a postal art type thing. You could adapt an existing one, or draw or paint your own from scratch, make it from something unexpected - I've received a remote control through the post before now with the message tucked into the battery compartment. Now that is special. :-) Anything you like really [eg - pic is what was on my desk, reachable in 15 secs] so long as it'll go through the post safely and all the postage is paid. To enter put a comment (hmm - well I do have 5 followers - loves you!) after this post and I'll randomly pick a winner at the end of the month. By entering you must be happy to post about the receipt of the card and be prepared do the same thing yourself and send one. [If you don't have a blog you could have a guest spot on here for the purposes. (Ooh - exciting) ]
I've always loved postal art and the idea of it so this is my little contribution to both an artform and the royal mail and their workers. Now - gooooooOO comments!! [In an 'american football team circle raising hands' type way.]
Update - either it's catching or we're all subliminally on the same level. The ace Mangocheeks also has a 'pay it forward' going on over on her blog 'Allotment 2 Kitchen.'

Friday fever

Sometimes after one of those weeks at work (and this really has been one of those weeks) the stupidest things can set you off. We came up with the hilarious (to us) idea of eating the sweets in an absent work colleague's box of chocolate eclairs and then replacing them in the wrappers . Here's my effort. I know, I know - how old are we?! *snigger*

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Tempus fugit

Walking into work this morning and noticing the hazlenuts and conkers forming on the trees suddenly brought it home to me how much of the year is already gone. What have I achieved thus far? If I'm honest - naff all. Not of the big stuff anyway. I feel like I've been moving in a torpor through the year so far and am only just beginning to realise it's time to come out of hibernation again and get something done. Given that half the year's already passed that's a depressing thought. I really must get better at giving myself a kick up the ass from time to time. Chin up eh?!
Hmm - one feels that at a juncture like this one really ought to come up with some sort of "list of positivity charged stuff which I'll conquer before the year's out" or some other wondrously upbeat thing; however, the problem with those is that if you don't manage to tick every one of them off (damn - never did trek up Killimanjaro this summer) what you are left with is merely a device for staring your own failure in the face. And I don't think any of us need any more of those than life already feels the need to supply. So - no list for me. [Yes - that was a longwinded way of saying it but I have always been of the ilk of 'why use one word when 12 will do' and yes for a second time, I used 'and' to start a sentence with and I'm fully aware that you shouldn't but hey - sometimes it just fits. We're not pretending this is highbrow prose or anything after all.]

On my non-list nebulous *thought-board: - STOP STOP STOP - I started putting stuff down, then I thought 'ooh, it'll be all neat if I bullet point it' and what did I get? A sodding list!!!

Suffice it to say I would like to get various bits of my life in order and should that be attained, then see if I can do anything fun with the remainder of the year. That juzshy and upbeat enough for y'all? *wry smile*

*Thought-board: I just invented it but I like it. A non-corporeal cork-board kinda thing for collating thoughts all on the same topic.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Weather? What weather?? *pffff*

As it happened the state of the weather was of rather less relevance at the weekend than I had hoped. A niggling pain in the back of my throat on thurs and fri developed into some sort of mutant summer based cold complete with hot and cold flushes, croaky lack of voice, hurty eyes, inability to sleep etc. Fun it aint. Anyway, all of this added up to zilch getting achieved at the weekend or so far this week, and if I'm honest nowt's gonna happen tonight either as I still feel absolutely zonked.
Oh - I did manage to nearly finish watching the first 3 series of 'The IT Crowd' (how did I miss this first time round?) that I borrowed from a friend, and 'Invictus' that I borrowed from another friend. :-P
Was back to work today, feeling somewhat better now than when I arrived this morning too so hopeful for a steady climb through the rest of what remains of the week - just realised I'm talkin as if the weekend's just finished not like it's the middle of the week already! Hopefully I'll actually achieve something of note in the rest of the week and therefore be able to titillate you with a somewhat more interesting post but for now - toodlepip.
[Interesting picture in place of an interesting post. Like a posh version of my profile pic eh?!]

Friday, 16 July 2010

Grey skies and gales

Ok ok - I know us gardeners were all bemoaning the rapidly browning vegetation in gardens and allotments across the land but really - enough already! You can stop with the whole rain thing now - at least for the weekend? Yesterday was St Swithin's day which apprently means that if it rains then, it'll rain for the next 40 days and 40 nights. Suffice to say that when I got home from work yesterday I actually wrung my trousers out. Clement it was not. Now I have a fair few tasks I want to get done at the allotment this weekend so a little break in the weather would be really kinda handy. Here's hoping!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Quirky, different and hard work

Apparently or so I was told at the weekend! lol :-D
Played snooker for the first time at the weekend - man those tables are vast compared to the pub pool tables I'm more used to. Somewhat daunting. I'd have done ok if I hadn't kept fouling - you give away 4 points every time. Oops!
A good weekend though so a win as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Fab sky

On my way into work today I noticed this rather fab occurence in the sky. (Well - I thought it was fab anyway.) The sun (off to the side of this image) was still low enough to cast the shadow of the plane contrail onto the sheet of cloud much higher up in the atmosphere. Striking I thought.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Frugal fail - a fish soup

This came about as I pondered how to stretch a tin of lobster bisque (aldi) I had in the cupboard to make it more substantial and for preference, into at least a couple of meals. I wanted to make a £1 tin of soup (£1 really is too much for a tin of soup right?) earn it's keep, perhaps use up some odds and ends in the meantime but definitely not purchase anything new for it. Thing is I realised after making the soup, and incidentally whilst being quite smug that I'd bought nothing especially to go in it but had cleared things from the freezer etc, that the ingredients list isn't really that frugal, it just seems that way if you have all of it in the house already like me. Therefore this is another *'idiosyncratic Ruth recipe' that was made up as I went along with what was to hand.

A fish soup
Butter - knob
Olive oil - little splosh
Black Pepper - freshly ground
5 Spring onions - given to me by a good friend from their allotment and used here in lieu of onion
2 pints veg stock
650g ish mixed fish (like pie mix - mine had white fish, salmon and tuna chunks)
3-4 avg size potatoes - grated
Pinch tarragon
Pinch saffron
Tin lobster bisque
White wine - splosh (If forced to guess it was 4-5 tbs)

Melt the butter and the oil. Chop the spring onions finely adding as much of the green as liked (or use an onion if you have one to hand). Fry gently until soft seasoning with a good few grinds of black pepper. Add the stock and the grated potato and bring to a gentle boil to parcook the potato.
Stir in the tarragon, saffron and tin of lobster bisque.
Then add the fish mix. Cook gently until the fish is cooked through - you do not want to boil harshly or your fish will be destroyed and if like me you have chunks of tuna steak these will be tough and 'orrible.
Once fish is cooked flake with a fork to break up or 'mash' lightly. You still want chunks of identifiable variety of fish.
Stir in the white wine.
Cover, remove from the heat and let the flavours develop. Enjoy the next day.

A few words on the non-frugality of this recipe - fish pie mix is great if you have a proper fishmongers nearby but if you're buying it in little trays from Scumerfields or S'burys etc forget it. The chunks are, well, not chunks but pathetic wee scraps and the price is ridiculous. Yet people actually buy it??! Mental! Anyway - even if buying it from a ^proper fishmongers like mine, 650g is a fairly hefty amount to put in a soup I think. I bought the mix a while back and it has been in the freezer since. Sadly not in a couple of sensible sized amounts - oh no - but as one big frozen amorphous mass so I really had to use the whole lot at once. Either that or take an electric saw to it... ^Fishes in Exeter is absolutely fab. Friendly, very knowledgeable, happy to offer advice, recommendations or suggest a cooking technique, I cannot praise them enough. Top chaps - go and see them now and buy some of the chilli prawns with fresh coriander or the hot oak smoked salmon whilst you're at it and tell me I'm wrong.
Lobster bisque - not a frugal tin of soup hence the original aim of this recipe. It just happened to be in the cupboard.
Saffron - notoriously not a frugal item but ditto the 'happened to be in the cupboard' from above. Add nearer the end next time though as apparently that's better for it's flavour.

The soup was very tasty the next day - I was right to leave it be to develop as it was a little disapointing on immediate tasting after the cooking was finished.
It'd stand the addition of a splosh of cream, soured cream or creme fraiche if you had that about. Or it could be made more of a winter warmer with a gentle edge of smoked paprika and a tiny hint of cayenne.
This amount made a good 8 portions - so it's a definite win in the 'stretching a tin of lobster bisque' stakes if *not particularly reproduceable as a specific recipe. Unless you shop exactly like me. Which would be frankly scary. ;-)
*: one equals the other. Go back and check both the asterix again. You're with me now? :-D

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

'A purse, A purse. My kingdom for a purse...'

...or something along those lines.
Being unfortunate enough to lose mine recently (grrr) I had been attempting for the last couple of weeks to stuff my cash into a metal card holder, along with the cards. This really doesn't work. As I was getting somewhat irate with that arrangement I decided to make use of mother's sewing machine whilst I was home for the weekend and knock up a small purse; of the size to take a card and some cash and fit into a petite handbag without taking up all the room like those bigger purses with their historically significant collection of shop receipts, and points cards for all and sundry even the places you never shop, do.

I had an offcut of a gunmetal satin - lovely colour but an absolute git to sew apparently as it's slidey and you have to fiddle with the tension on the machine etc etc. so - bit of cotton to back it, an old zip and some zig zag stitching later and ta-daa!! I'm pathetically pleased with this, due in part I think because of the relief at not having to struggle to fit a £2 coin where one really didn't want to go but also because it's an age sinc I knocked anything like this up and even if the curves aren't equal - I think it looks ok. I didn't measure anything, except by eye and could have finished a lot faster had I not done the decoration. As it was I think most time was spent changing cottons and tying off the ends. Due to the aforementioned dire warnings about the slippery material I first stiched all the way round the outside of the rectangle to sew the satin and the cotton together, then did the zig-zagging, finally attaching the zip and sewing up the sides. It does the job and cost only the power the machine used, all other bits recycled from the cupboard. Good enough for me. :-D

In praise of the gastro pub

Being from a bit of a foodie family I get to visit gastro pubs whenever a birthday crops up, or a visit, or... well you get the point. Frugal it aint! However, there is much to be said for an occasional visit as a treat if you can.
Saturday we visited a new one; The Greyhound Inn in Sydling St Nicholas, a very small, very pretty village in Dorset, for my eldest big sis's b'day. The food was lovely with an extensive fish specials board and another for meat specials. Being unable to memorise the entire thing I photographed it as we were reposing in the sun in the garden. I had the Smoked Haddock Chowder from the starters selection but as a main course, something the pub were more than happy to do. It was gorgeous with mussels in the shell and several good sized scallops in a fantastic flavoured broth with wine and cream in. Yum!! Definitely a pub to add to the list we decided. The staff were friendly and attentive, even thinking to come and warn us a big group were about to order if we wanted to get our orders in first. If visiting I'd think about booking , especially in winter when everyone will be sitting indoors. All in all highly recommended.