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.