Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Cooking challenges ahoy!

A second post in as many days?  Pick yourself back up off the floor it's true!
I've been doing a little housekeeping with the blog; primarily involving the list of blogs I follow.  Now this is not my full list, rather it's just those sites I feel that many people might find interesting.  There's a variety of subjects here.  (Although yes, a lot of cooking.)
On the old list some of the links were out of date and some of the blogs were long abandoned so please take a moment to peruse the new list and see if there's anything you like. :-) Several bloggers have challenges and *giveaways on at the moment which leads me to my next topic...
It's National Vegetarian Week here in the UK.  To this end I have been looking up lots and lots of lovely veggie recipes.  I fancy making a cannellini bean hummus - because cannellini beans are my current new big love.  I also want to make some form of Spaetzle (a variety of egg noodle/dumpling) to link in with Chris's German theme for this month's Bloggers Around the World. A cheese and onion one is favourite - or 'Käsespätzle' as it is more properly known.  (Also it will give me a chance to use the potato ricer a friend gave me to make spaetzle with, er, a year ago.)
Dom over at Belleau Kitchen has Simply Eggcellent as his new challenge (he used to run the wondrous Random Recipe challenge) and this month has set 'savoury' as the theme.  Which opens up a huge plethora of possibilities - I'd like to use one of the 2 avocados I have ripening at home in conjunction with the eggs here, and I have a feeling cheese may well make an appearance too!
And - I have a challenge to set for the Scotsman.  Being a self-confessed bad cook (read: never been taught) he has been challenging himself to make a new-to-him dish each week, with the added proviso that it should be healthier than his usual fare.  Now I am not one to promote stereotypes but....but... he does rather have the Scottish diet of legend down to a T. White bread and things in batter/breadcrumbs (albeit cooked in the oven rather than deep fried) with a distinct lack of regular intakes of veg, seem to form the major part of his diet.  Or that's the impression I've got from several hundred miles away.  ;-)
Cow Pie - I'm reliably
informed it went a bit wrong
He's been doing quite well on the challenge so far with the likes of a Cheese and Onion pie, Seafood Paella and a 'Cow' pie complete with horns.  (So picked because he had steak to use and the Dandy and Beano comics were published in Dundee; just down the road from Aberdeen.)  He slipped on the healthy part slightly when he decided a Honey Cheesecake was the way to go one week but considering he has a very sweet tooth I'm surprised there haven't been more desserts included so far.
Anyway, I've suggested told him that as it's National Vegetarian Week he should make something veggie.  Combine this with his new and exciting purchase of veg at the weekend (carrots, onions, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, garlic and spring onions) and it seems like fate.  [I have to mention here that I don't consider garlic to be a veg but rather a necessity that lives in the seasoning cupboard but don't forget he's new to this.]  I'm thinking a frittata / tortilla sort of thing as that way he can use some of most of those lovely veg.  So to that end I shall spend this afternoon (in between answering the phone at my temp assignment) writing him a recipe, unless any of you have alternative ideas as to what he could make with those ingredients?  Got to be veggie and fairly 'beginner friendly' but any suggestions welcome.

* Veggie week giveaways I've seen so far: 
If I come across any more I'll add them in or if you notice any on your travels then mention them in the comments below.

Happy Veggie week all - even if you try just one day or even one meal veggie, do enjoy it.  :-D

Monday, 18 May 2015

Still here and happier than ever in 2015!

Well here we are nearly half the way through 2015 and not a single blog post to be seen from me.
 Well really - what a very poor show!!!  ;-D
Back at the start of this year I made one single resolution (that's one more than normal) and it was to be more selfish.  More selfish with my time where it concerned people who sapped the life from you, more selfish with myself round people whose endless negativity drags you down, and more selfish in pursuit of a lasting happiness for me.
That is not to say I immediately set off on some sort of hedonistic crusade and forsook all my friends.  In reality only a few things changed, but key was deciding I deserved more of my time.  So to that end; and this is all a bit of a roundabout way of saying it, blogging has taken a backseat along with a few other things.
So what have I been doing?  Applying for work, a little bit of temping, some sorting out of the house, and (this is the biggy) telling the man I fell in love with 22 years ago how I feel!!!  Now that was somewhat scary, but it was a gamble that paid off.  Turns out he feels the same, right down to liking me back 22 years ago.  Who knew??!  (We were both far too shy to do anything about it then.)
The Scotsman on the ancient
clapper style bridge at
Postbridge on Dartmoor.
Now the practicalities of this are not exactly straight forward, which is why I've never admitted it to myself before, let alone him.  He's in Aberdeen.  I'm in Exeter.  These are more than the Proclaimers famed 500 miles of walking apart.  Doh!
He came to visit for a week and with that time together we both realised we were more sure of this than anything before, so we will make it work.
We had a fab week, even though the weather wasn't all it could be, and his friends have already been asking when he's transferring down here!  That's all for the future though.  In the meantime I'm just as happy as I could possibly be, and it's truly wonderful.

So in other news; I have been doing some more temping and am currently on a 2 week assignment as a telephone receptionist.  In between calls though they are happy for me to potter around on the t'internet hence me taking the time to write this post.  Pretty decent of them I'd say.  :-)
On Friday I attended 2 interviews through a different temping agency and, (wait for it) have definitely secured at least one of the positions!  The lady from the agency is calling me back with full details later but apparently they came back with a big 'yes' to me after my interview.  Which is nice considering I'm very out of practice and was physically shaking going into it!  Perhaps a little more faith in myself wouldn't go amiss!  This may mean that I can't get up to Aberdeen as soon as I might have wished to but I will have to wait and find out as the company in question was advertising both 6 month fixed term contracts and permanent positions.  Exciting stuff though, none the less!
One of the other major decisions I have taken is to give up the allotment.  The friend I was helping bowed out at the start of the year and I have come to realise that a full plot on my own is just too much.  Instead I want to concentrate on the much neglected back garden at home.  Although small it's plenty of space just for me and has the advantage of not requiring me to tramp along the road with tools or a wheelbarrow en route to do a bit of digging.
Unsliced bamboo shoots
Otherwise I've been busy in the kitchen - a lot of noodles have been consumed recently as I've been getting right into the Cheung Fun (flat rice noodles in rolls) they sell fresh in my favourite Chinese
supermarket.  I also discovered recently what bamboo shoots look like before they're sliced - crazy huh!
My family came to visit for the annual Exeter Festival of South West Food and Drink.  Saw many lovely things, sampled some of them and bought some cheese.  A lovely time had by all.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Chrimble - and the latter part of 2014!

Well once again it seems that time has positively zoomed by leaving me looking a little like a cack writer of blogs! K  I am somewhat ashamed that I haven't got round to posting since August, and I'm afraid I don't even have any kind of decent excuse.  So - enough of the self-flagellation.  What has been afoot?
I did some temping in the local city council offices, in the planning department.  I printed stuff out, I scanned stuff in.  Rather more scanning than printing and it had to be said - it was pretty dull.  It paid however, and that was the main thing.  Much nicer environment to work in than my last place too, which was nice. J Sadly it was just a 3 month contract so I'm now looking for something else after New Year.
Myself and a friend discovered a new cute micropub called the Pig & Pickle Taphouse, that opened this year in Exeter in an old post office.  This is the third pub owned by the proprietor of the original Fat Pig and Rusty Bike.  They have a microbrewery in the cellar of the Fat Pig (in the 2014 CAMRA Good Beer Guide no less) and you can now get their ales in any of their three pubs.  The Pig & Pickle is delightfully quirky, small and very friendly.  They also offer a whole plethora of different pickles, as the name suggests, that you can pick from to make up a platter to have with your pint.
The Doctor chap I was seeing is no more.  Wasn't for me as a long term thing so best to call it a day sooner rather than later.
I've also been cooking, baking, making some chrimbo bits and trying to sort out the vast amount of stuff I seem to own that is taking over the house!  I may have said it before but 2015 really needs to be the year of the life laundry I think.
For the Christmas period I've been back in Dorset with family, and visiting a few familiar haunts.
Studland beach, owned by the National Trust, is somewhere we've been going since I was tiny.  A beautiful long golden beach with protected heathland behind, it's great for a boxing day walk as well as a summer laze.  At the Knoll beach end where we start our walk you can see Old Harry's Rocks in the distance to the west.  Rather tiny in the background of this photo.  (I know the horizon is wonky - frozen fingers!)

On the way back from Studland we stopped in the small village of Stoborough, just outside Wareham, and had a well deserved pint in The King Arms.  I had a chilli pickled egg too - very nice and suitably warming after our walk.  :-)
Well, this is a quick post just to reassure that I'm still alive out here!  I'm intending to get back to much more regular blogging in the new year, as soon as I get the damn internet in my house sorted out!

I hope you've all had a joyous and peaceful festive season.  All the best for 2015 from me and Zeke cat.  J

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A summer off

Greetings and salutations!  I must admit that it has been rather a long time since my last post despite my best intentions.  So; what have we all been up to this summer?
I have been enjoying the fact that we’re actually having a summer this year.  I.E. – sunshine.  I've taken the opportunity of not working to busy myself hacking back the garden.  I knew there was a shed in there somewhere but since it seems that this year is the year that finally the bramble and the honeysuckle have declared all out war on each other, and are both intent on full domination of the garden, said shed took some unearthing!
I have been navigating the perils of ‘signing on’ for the first time.  That’s fun!  There is a distinct paucity of information readily available about what you can get, how you’re eligible for what and how long anything takes.  The entire system seems a bit of a mare but better minds than I have waxed lyrical on this subject many times so I won’t bang on about it.  It has meant I've had to go up into the city centre rather more often than I usually do with the side effect that I happened to go through the Exeter farmer’s market on a Thursday and take a look at what I spied:
 Razor clams! I have wanted to try these for a very long time.  Ever since I saw HFW extolling their virtues several years ago.  After that I came to realise they were one of things that people used to forage for and eat rather a lot more in decades past than currently.  That seems to be changing now though with the rise in popularity of foraging, and awareness of what local delicacies we have available without having to ship our food for miles.  I didn't purchase any yet; being out of employment they seemed a little unnecessary, but I spoke with the stall holder (from local fishmongers Gibson's Plaice) and he told me they have them most weeks bar the winter.  I shall save them for a treat.  J  In fact all of their produce looked very tempting, and beautifully fresh.
I have been making some crafty things.  Remember my purse I made that gets re-invented every time the cover is falling apart too much?  A friend had mentioned that she cannot find a card sized purse anywhere and as it was her birthday coming up I decided to make her one. 
I used some scraps in her favourite colours and stitched it up on a visit home to Ma (and her sewing machine) and she loved it.
I've also been doing waaay more baking than I ever normally have the time for - tried cheese and courgette scones - thoroughly lovely.  Useful to use up any excess courgettes from the garden or allotment.  Which brings me to the news that I am helping a friend with her allotment as she has virtually no experience at growing things.  In return I get to adopt the shed on the right  and get part of the plot to myself and we share the rest.  I've been loving getting back into the digging - it made me realise how much I missed the old plot.  Lots of plans going round my head for next season.
All of these things have made me rather wish I could make a living crafting things, and doing gardens, and baking, with perhaps some social media marketing and invoicing / IT thrown in for good measure.  I wonder if that’s possible...  Sadly something tells me I'm going to have to get a ‘real’ job.  It has been lovely having a several weeks to myself though, for which I am grateful, and it has given me time to re-evaluate quite drastically what I want from a job.  I have come to the conclusion that as long as I can pay the rent and bills and have enough for Zeke and I to live on then it is far more important to me now, to find something I am happy doing / can believe in.  It may take me some time to find this so in the time being I have been applying for casual type stuff/temping whilst I search.  Wish me luck in my quest!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

This throw-away life

It never fails to astound me how wasteful people are, whilst seemingly remaining completely oblivious of this fact.  
No more are the majority of the public prepared to ‘make do and mend’, or even it seems, bother cleaning items when you can just buy new! 
These 3 deep glass (soufflé?) dishes were spied abandoned by the side of a glass bottle bank one night when I was out with the Doctor and some friends.  After discussion in the pub we all agreed it was worth a closer look- were they actually cracked, broken and knackered or just in need of a damn good clean?  Well as you can see – there’s nothing wrong with them!  They were caked in baked on oil, as you get when using glass or ceramic for roasting, but all they needed was a good going at with the scouring pad and hey presto – approx £25-30 worth of glassware for nuppence bar some elbow grease.  What is wrong with these people??!
Just yesterday I spied this big ‘bag for life’ dumped half way round the local Aldi.  'Oh no (heavy sarcasm)
the handle’s coming off!'  So I picked it up and will put a bunch of strong stitching through and bag (ha ha) myself a good as new, strong, big shopping bag.  These must cost at least a couple of pounds, doesn't that make them worth the handful of minutes it would take to put some stitches in?  Or do people have money to burn (I wouldn't have thought so in the current economic climate) and I'm just more sensitive to it now I am sans job?
On another note can we afford to be so cavalier with our resources that it’s ok to throw such items away?  And can we assume that there’s an infinite amount of space in landfill for them all?  Worth a thought, surely?

Ezekiel was just as non-plussed as me - at me using 'his' garden for taking photographs in!
"What's this??"

Friday, 27 June 2014

Life changes and moving on

Another quick post today - I really really will get a proper one up soon, I promise!  I felt I ought to give a little update about some fairly hefty changes in my life over this first half of the year.
I mentioned earlier in the year that the Chap and I had split, which happened back at the start of February.  Well since then I've met a lovely man who has done wonders in boosting my ego and making me feel good about myself again.  He's ever so complimentary, I'm really not used to it!  He's also a bit of a sci-fi geek like me; Doctor Who is his particular favourite.  So he shall be known as the Doctor on here.  J
The other major change in my life is that after years of being unhappy at work, I finally took the plunge and handed my notice in.  Things had got to the stage where the place was actually making me ill so I decided it was time to remove myself from that environment.  Today is my last day and although I don't yet have another permanent role to go to I am still convinced that I have done the right thing.  I have been so much happier having made this decision, it's definitely a good thing for me.
Which brings me neatly to the #100happydays challenge I started back on the 20th March.  Completely coincidentally and totally unplanned it so happens that today is Day 100!  So as I move on from my ex-work I complete the challenge of finding something to be happy about for 100 days.  And yes, I would agree with the founder of it that it has had a positive, and hopefully lasting, affect on my outlook and life.  If you want to take up the challenge yourself - and I heartily encourage you to do so - you can find the details here.
I have many of my happy photos to post still, I've only got as far as 45 on here!  I've managed to get them all onto facebook though.  For now however I'll 'treat' you to a tongue in cheek image I posted in my count down to leaving work this week.  Enjoy!  J

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Handy kitchen image

I'm slightly horrified to realise it's nigh on a month since my last post - oops!  A longer post soon but for now - I came across this super useful image on line that I thought I'd share with you.

I'm adding the link to the sidebar 'Handy Links' as I think this is one worth remembering.  This and the Oven Temperature Conversion Chart must be 2 of the best I have come across for cooking.  :-)