Monday, 24 December 2012

Could try harder

I feel a tad unprepared for Christmas.

I should by Christmas Eve have cleaned and decorated the house, purchased piles of gifts and mountains of food, and be swanning around the house elegantly attired and humming suitable music.

My decorations have been on the minimal side

A beautiful black and green ribbon wreath made by the lovely Mrs J.

Christmas wreath
A few ornaments donated by Carla adorning a dried out branch of Bay.

Christ ornaments
I've managed a bit of food prep, namely croissants, sausages, macadamia cream, and mince pie.

I've also managed to hack a load of ice out of the freezer (doubling available storage!), have been enjoying seasonal soaps from Lush and have purchased, wrapped and delivered all the gifts I was required to.

And I spent Saturday night getting into the festive spirit with Helles Belles and watching their seasonal burlesque show which featured a lot of glitter and sauciness. Highlights were balloons assisting in bra removal, the audience being showered with fake snow (which then looked like dandruff) , and an enormous powderpuff.

Post show debris
Post show
And I breakfasted on sparkly Marmite on Sunday

Gold leaf marmite
So maybe I'm not as poorly prepared as I thought. Time to get on with celebrating then.

Merry Christmas banner

Thursday, 13 December 2012

What's in my lunchbox this week? - forgotten

Lunchbox and book
As I was drifting off to sleep on Sunday night when I realised that I'd completely forgotten to prepare anything for my lunchbox. I'm not great at mornings but 6am Monday saw me googling easy vegan lunch ideas. This was the result:

Clockwise from top left

  • Smooshed chickpea salad based vaguely on a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I subbed sun dried tomatoes for olives and basil for parsley. It tastes great. Not sure if its the lemon or the oil but there's something really tasty and tangy in it.
  • Steamed Brussels sprouts - my favourites
  • The Red Box by Rex Stout. I had it on my list to read something featuring Nero Wolfe and this was it. I enjoyed the style of the writing and plan to be on a look out for some more.
  • Either a tangerine or a satsuma - what is the difference?
  • Steamed cauliflower

Sunday, 9 December 2012

What's in my lunch box this week? Creamy and spicy


Lunch and book
Lunch this week was the result of various wanderings, rummagings and a search for inspiration on a Sunday evening.


Clockwise rom top right:

  • Steamed cauliflower. I microwave this at work and add oil and salt and pepper. The creamy taste is amazing. The bloke on the market offered me 2 cauliflowers for a quid and I powerless to turn him down. Although it did then feel like I was carrying 2 bowling balls home.
  • Tub of spicy chickpeas, fried tofu, vegan chorizo. The creamy dreamy taste can always be improved with a bit of spice and protein. Picked up the Chorizo at a much reduced price at last weekend's Animal Aid fayre. The short date on it means I feel honour bound to consu me it as quickly as possible.
  • Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah. Another beautifully written book with a very cunning plot.
  • Apples - English Coxes this week with a delicious sweet crunchiness.


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Seven for seven

  • Eating - Christmas ice cream among other yummy vegan stuff at the Animal Aid Christmas Fayre
  • Reading - The Midnight Mayor by Anne Griffin and Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King
  • Enjoyed - a day of Christmas shopping with my sister
  • Regret - that a pair of green sequin shorts reduced in a sale didn't fit
  • Had a go - at driving a Mini
  • Laughed - lots at a 40th birthday party
  • Learnt - handmade and vintage things just can't compete with Star Wars

Monday, 3 December 2012

Counting down to Christmas - cup by cup


Advent tea calendar
Advent calendars were always a really important part of the build up to Christmas. My my always got two calendars and my sister and I swapped every night to keep it fair. Cadbury's dairy milk miniatures featured heavily although I do recall one year that resulted in a different plastic animal each day. The colours were on the interesting side with green goats and blue dogs.

I fell out of the advent calendar habit. Advent candles went unlit while I was out drinking mulled wine. Chocolates stacked up until I got round to opening several doors at once.

The discovery of vegan advent calendars did spark a fresh round of enthusiasm but given my preference for salt over sweet it was never going to be a long term enthusiasm. Besides I was too busy buying up blocks of vegan cheese, locating the last celebration roast and wrapping presents to want to be reminded how few days remained to get everything done.

Tea advent calendar
This year I'm being given an opportunity to sip my way to Christmas in a delightfully mature manner. Mimi over at Little sips of tea has made me this glorious advent calendar with a different tea bag for every day. Despite a very busy weekend it was lovely to take time to make a cup of tea and sit down to enjoy it. I took the opportunity to look at my job list, tick off Christmas related tasks and to think about all things seasonal (pretty lights, Christmas music and iced up windscreens).


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Say hello to Betty Blue eyes

Once again  I will be spending Friday night ironing and labelling. Then I'll rise early on Saturday to go and sell some stuff. There are 55 stalls so it should be an excellent. I've finished my Christmas shopping so I can focus on selling my handmade items (and a few vintage bits and pieces) and looking for presents for me. Do drop in and say hello if you are in the area.

What's in my lunch box this week? Borrowed curry


Curry, sprouts and a book
Clockwise from top left:

  • Brussels sprouts and Alfalfa sprouts
  • Locally grown Braeburn apple
  • The Midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin - reminding me of Mike Carey in a very good way
  • Roast vegetable curry
This has proved to be a really lovely lunch. I'd initially planned to serve it with flatbreads or rice but the dish proved to be filling and satisfying on its own. The curry recipe came from Mimi at Little sips of tea who adapted from one that Cole and Abel popped in her veg box. A great way to ensure that you are getting plenty of vegetables during the winter. I don't particularly like very sweet vegetables like parsnips so this is great way to cut through their sweetness.

To make you roast roughly chopped onions, cauliflower and parsnip in a splash of oil. Then blend together a tin of tomatoes, soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut butter, fresh coriander and chilli. Pour over the vegetables and bake until it's done.


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Seven for seven

A whistlestop tour of my last seven days in which I have been mostly: 

Wearing corsets


Reading more Barbara Kingsolver


Eating vegan sausages -from toad in the hole to hot dogs to a traditional Hogswatch supper


Listening to Bon Jovi's first album - I just can't be enough of a track called Roulette


Indulging in afternoon naps


Fretting over business banking and upcoming craft fayres


Hanging out with the lovely people who attended Hogswatch celebrations

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What's in my lunch box this week? - seeking fresh inspiration


So lunch this week has been pasta bake with green pepper and vegan hot dogs followed by apple, walnut and dried fruit flapjack.
The story of the pasta bake begins about 10 days ago when I cooked carrots and corn. Having eaten tiny portions of these on a pizza and with a roast, I turned the not inconsiderable remains into soup. Quite a lot of soup as it turned out. But the soup didn't get finished because I was out doing Burlesque stuff, vegan stuff, and work stuff. Or I was home being ill and eating nothing. Being incapable of throwing food away I mixed in a load of chilli and some cooked macaroni, topped off with nutritional yeast and baked it. There probably aren't any nutrients left in the vegetables by now but it might be the start of a future recipe. Obviously made with much fresher ingredients and more thought.
The flapjack turned out lovely. I've had to stop myself consuming the entire lot in one sitting. I would suggest apples and walnuts were an amazing autumn combination but surely we're currently in winter?

Monday, 19 November 2012

Seven for seven

In the last seven days I have been:

Wearing: pyjamas. Since I had no plans to anything but sleep, eat and read all weekend I saw no need to get dressed properly

Eating: in a famine or feast manner - toast or huge roast dinners and plates of chips

Reading: Barbara Kingsolver, various blogs and weekend newspapers

Working on : recovery from illness

Thinking about: seasonal food and Christmas gifts

Hanging out: on the sofa or between the sheets

Watching: The Walking Dead because zombie dreams make you glad it's morning

Sunday, 18 November 2012

What I read - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Cover of Animal, vegetable, miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
My Sunday on the sofa has paid off. I've read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and covered a year of meals, garden related toils and seasonal food in the course of a few hours.

Barbara Kingsolver was someone I always meant to read but somehow never got round to. However she'd come to top of my stuff to read list on Wunderlist and seemed ideal for a day on the sofa. By the by, I feel inclined to mention that it's a while since I read for so many hours without pause and I'd forgotten how your arms grow tired from holding the book up, and how you ignore the feeling because you must read on.

Seasonal eating, local food and growing your own are things that I've been interested in some time. I try to be mindful of seasons. I refuse to buy cucumber in December. I'm thrilled to discover stuff grown down the road. Hence in my head I was already buying the message generally speaking. The brief comments on vegan diets left me feeling uncomfortable and as if veganism (as opposed to say Paleo) had been singled out. I'm not certain the information on Calcium and Iron in such diets was correct. However I wasn't reading the book for these 2 paragraphs or so but to re-engage with seasonal food.

Just like someone designing their own exercise programme I've become a little lazy around the whole local seasonal thing. Admittedly it wasn't a great summer for foraging and allotment produce. However I notice that the occasional treat of imported or out of season produce has been increasing for me. So the book was a shove to get my thinking back on track.

It also made me think more broadly about the food I consume. Fruit and vegetables I'm generally mindful of but I have given far less thought to flour, dried fruits, pulses and seasonings. My current arrangement is to plan meals on Thursday and buy produce at the market on Friday. I think I need to start buying on Thursday so that when I menu plan I already know what resources are available.

And I enjoyed Kingsolver's writing enough that I'm moving straight onto The Poisonwood Bible.


Saturday, 17 November 2012

From my sick bed

Sick bed accessories
Sick bed accessories
It's been a while since I posted. I've been ill with a cold that just won't shift. My mum calls it boomerang flu. The usual cold symptoms (sore throat, cough, runny nose, temperature) come and go while the exhaustion is perpetual.Today I have spent the entire day in bed sleeping and reading. That I finally have the urge to blog suggests that I am possibly on the mend at last.

So much has happened in the last few weeks. Unfortunately my last attempt to blog (just before entering the arena of the unwell) was eaten by Blogsy, lovimgly crafted prose, photos and all. Although come to think of it the title remained like an uneaten parsley garnish. Rather than an in depth post about what I've done I'm going to fall back on a summary (at least until Blogsy has won my trust again!).

Here's a list of what the past few weeks held for me:

  • Performing burlesque at a vintage fayre, getting inspired by Lindy hoppers and buying a vintage dress (green, summery and probably M&S!).
  • Attending Mimi's annual pumpkin carving party, being crowned Apple Crown Queen (26" just for the record) and being served vegan mac and cheese (so honoured).
  • Rocking out Alice Cooper's Halloween Night of Fear with Duff McKagan's Loaded and Ugly Kid Joe.
  • Meeting my sister for afternoon tea and instead attending her surprise wedding.
  • Pre-burlesque dinners at Mimi's with beautiful homemade soup.
  • The launch of Inkdrops boxes - a stationery subscription box service I've set up with Carla from Ducking Fabulous.
  • A massive 5 hour jam session (which probably did nothing for my health but was good fun).
  • Various vegan related activities including purchasing new boots from The Third Estate, visiting Cookies and Scream, and enjoying hot ginger and lemon at London Vegan Drinks at Tibits.
It's not really surprising I'm worn down reading that lot!


Thursday, 25 October 2012

Things I love Thursday - into autumn

Button heart
Button heart
I honestly thought that I'd feel really relaxed and that life would be so simple once my big day (craft fayre followed by cabaret night). Instead all the other things in my life have expanded to feel the gap. Add in the rain, tension headaches and lowering light levels and its only now I feel like my mojo is back and that I'm embracing autumn.

  • Being cosy inside while it rains
  • Burlesque - I love the exercise, the opportunity to pull faces and the fantastic people I've become friends with as a result of attending class.
  • Becoming a small business person - Inkdrops boxes opens for business next week
  • Cooking for the week ahead - it was great to try new recipes, revisit old favourites and know that I didn't have to worry about what I wa going to eat each day.
  • O2 staff - I was thrilled with the service I got in an O2 store tis week (not least because I've had terrible service in the past). So it was doubly nice to have someone who took on lard the issue, solved it and had me leaving with a smile on my face.
Right back to relearning a burlesque routine I need to perform tomorrow. Having changed my mind on my intention to never perform this one I'm regretng that I didn't include it in my regular practice schedule.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

What's in my lunchbox this week? Blurry but good

Lunch and book
Lunch and book
I like the colours in this photo but it doesn't exactly give a god idea of my lunch. Guess you'll have to let me paint a picture with words.

Clockwise from top right:

  • Retromania by Simon Reynolds - an excellent read giving me a new perspective on vintage
  • Kiwi fruit and green grapes
  • Sun dried tomato and pesto scones filled with cashew cheese - my scones are finally starting to be more like scones and less like bricks!
  • Mushroom and basil tofu frittata, Chinese cabbage, and herb roared potatoes.
I have a wonderful time cooking on Sunday to ensure I had great food this week. I must do it more often.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Tractors, inkdrops and padlocks

It's that time of the week again when I find myself looking through my photostream wondering what on earthbive been up to lately. I obviously don't have any photos relating to last week's bout of illness.

However I did enjoy a lovely meal out at The Saracen's Head in Dunmow where they actually seemed thrilled when I said I was vegan as opposed to really confused. However I was a little confused as they'd changed from summer to autumn menu between me booking a table and our actual meal. That said they did a very nice job providing me with a 'mushroom' burger and a rather refreshing fruit salad (because it wasn't drowning in juice). Yes I should have started taking photos before eating but I was hungry.

Fruit salad
I also had a nice afternoon standing outside a pub watching a carnival parade, admiring tractors and making friends with dogs.

Pub sigh
And then I embraced a week of telling the world about Inkdrops, sending odd emails (some things will never be super) and being ill.

Happily recovery allowed me to see the Munch exhibition at the Tate Modern (bought back my teenage obsession with his work), go to a burlesque show with friends (lots of whooping, laughing and general fun) and indulge in large bowls of food (being ill makes me really hungry). I enjoyed this combo of cos lettuce, sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, radishes, yellow peppers, celery, crispy tofu and tahini dressing while reading Ms Peregrine's home for peculiar children.

While crossing the Millenium Bridge to reach the Tate Modetn I couldn't help but notice all the padlocks attached to it

Millennium bridge and padlocks
It turns out they are some kind of trend for declaring one's undying affection. One simply writes the initials, name or longer message on a padlock, affixes it to a bridge and throws away the key.

Millennium bridge and padlocks
Anyway here's to a week of feeling alive once again. I'm off to source cardboard boxes, emerald green frilly knickers and follow up a new angle on feather free boas.


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

What's in my lunchbox this week? Memory failure

Lunchbox of food
I was in a slight panic on Sunday night about what would go in my lunchbox. I'd planned to do some kind of lentil dish but could work out what els to throw in. Then I opened the fridge and found that I'd got various things that I'd bought or made and completely forgotten about. Clearly I need to shop in a less random manner, not get seduced by fresh produce and eat memory enhancing stuff.

From top right (clockwise):

  • Victoria plums - so sweet, so sour, so chilled, so delicious
  • Celery - does anyone else find that celery seems to have a ridiculously low freezing point?
  • Tamarind lentils (from Veganomicon) with addition of home grown potatoes and spinach
  • Pineapple cake -adaptation of the right side up pineapple cupcakes from Vegan cupcakes take over the world.

Monday, 10 September 2012

My weekend - vegan cake, friends and the great outdoors

I'm seriously starting to enjoy going back to work on Mondays for a rest. Between preparations for cabaret night, work on an exciting, soon-to-be- announced project with Carla from Ducking Fabulous, and my usual weekend routines I'm worn out by Sunday night.

Last night I made the mistake of working on something right up until I went to bed. Consequently when I went to bed I couldn't get to sleep.

So ley's look at cheerier things like this awesome sandwich I consumed at the start of the weekend (Thursday is the new Friday, right?). It was a fabulous combination of aubergine (dipped in gram flour and fried), tomatoes, and baked tofu. Perfect served with a mug of tea and a few pages of Stephen King.

Sandwich and book
Saturday morning's regular walk was great. The weather was lovely, the trail was quiet and the countryside was at its best. It felt like the start of summer, not the end.

After all that exercise I felt the need to spend Saturday afternoon consuming cake. I had a fab time chating with friends and exchanging options on bubonic squirrels, Ponygirls and American cuisine. I wanted to share the vegan love (and ensure that I had plenty of sugar) so I took my latest version of Aero fridgecake and a pineapple cake.

Sunday was photo free because (a) my allotment is too barren for pictures, (b) you can't take pictures while dancing, and (c) food consumed on Sunday just wasn't photogenic.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

What's in my lunchbox this week? Organised eating

Lunchbox with food
The start of September sees a return to getting organised, preparing food on weekends an experimenting with new recipes.

I took advantage of the nice man on the fruit and vegetable stall and snapped up 3 pineapples for a quid plus some Victoria plums. I don't like over sweet things and this combination of sweet and sour is fantastic.

The other two spaces are taken up by not one but two new recipes.

I've often marinated tofu in some manner and then baked it so I just had to try Hasselback tofu when I saw a recipe on lunch box bunch I had to give it a go. It turned out great and was so easy to do. The spread of flavour is good and I found it an excellent opportunity to use up odds and ends of various sauces. I have no idea why it looks like a portobello mushroom in the photo above. Clearly my food styling needs to move beyond open lunchbox and point camera.

Regardless of their appearance (another food styling triumph!) the final item is not a chocolate chip muffin. I adore l corn bread, muffins and the Vegan Lunchbox cookbook but I'd never tried the corn pone muffins recipe before. The instructions warned against the mixture getting too wet but I found mine too dry! Despite the addition of some extra soy milk, salsa and chopped jalapeƱos things remained on the solid side. As a result my black beans just sat on top, masqueraded as choclate chips and went crispy. However these are delicious and a recipe I will make again. I am planning to stir the beans into the mix next time or make a hole for the spoonful of beans to go in.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The art of a well planned life

Pile of notebooks
I've always been a bit uncertain about long term planning. While I love the idea of having a five year I know it's simply not for me. For starters I have trouble actually thinking where I want to be at that distance point. I have a terrible feeling that I'd get to my goal 5 years down the line and realise that I know wanted something else. We live in a dynamic world.

That said making a lifetime to do list has proved to be an interesting experience. Since following the advice in Getting Things Done I've been pleasantly surprised that I done things that I consider to be life experiences (for want of a better phrase) without even trying. I don't know if I've become better at spotting opportunities or just was doing things like this all the time and didn't notice.

However that doesn't mean that I don't like making plans. While I'm a bit more fluid in my approach to the long term, in the shorter term I like to be very clear about what I'm doing.

Over the summer I seemed to lose some of my regular routines. Weekends at picnics, car boot sales and music festivals ate up my organisation time. While part of me is horrified that my life revolves around Monday-to-Friday-9-to-5, I appreciate that it's as good a structure as any other. So I see weekends as a real opportunity to prepare for the week ahead.

And this morning I really reaped the benefits. Routines allow us get the stuff we need done and leave the brain to get on with being creative. So waking up to lunch ready to pack, clean ironed clothes, and not worrying about what on earth to eat for dinner was great.

It takes a very small amount of effort on a regular basis to keep routines ticking over. Little and often (on a great many projects) had better be my phrase for Autumn.