If Life Gives You Blackberries, Make Crumble TWTW # 88

If last week went quickly, then this week seemed to hang around a lot longer, different things happening but mostly mundane stuff, not a week of excitement. Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t feel like time was passing very quickly?

Austin Kleon wrote about how the coronavirus has changed the perception of time.

Time is running out for me to see comet Neowise though. I’ve had a few tries this last week, and although I’m pretty sure I did see it one evening, the light pollution is so bad here it’s hard to be totally sure.


My tomatoes have turned good, finally producing some good fruit and in reasonable quantity. On the allotment the tomatoes are a little bit further behind but there is still a good lot of fruit forming.

 

I also harvested our first cauliflower from the allotment this week, not huge but a reasonable size. We had it with some broccoli spears (also from the plot), cooked with some pine nuts and herbs and served with some pasta and feta cheese.

My remaining time on the plot this week has been spent watering and weeding.


Work has been quiet this week, no short notice commissions like last week, but the end of the month so the usual round of billing and admin to do. With it being so quiet at the moment, it doesn’t take long to do.


I’ve been reading a couple of Mick Herron novellas this week (The Drop, The List & The Catch). They’re in the Jackson Lamb series and fill in the gaps between the full books which I’ve enjoyed reading recently. I’ve also been catching up on National Geographic articles from the last couple of months.


My friend David had some poetry published this week – it’s rather good in my opinion, gritty but good. If you’re interested you can read it here.


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My Mum has some really good blackberries at her house at the moment and I harvested about half a kilos worth which I turned into a blackberry crumble mid-week. Just perfect served with some ice cream when it comes out of the oven. Even better it lasts for a couple of nights. Looking at the blackberries there might even be enough for round 2 this week.


Well that’s about all I have for this week, another short one. My week ahead is looking quiet. I have to take Wilson back to the vet for his repeat bloods, but otherwise not appointments at the moment. Whatever you are up to take care and stay safe!

Bit Twisted TWTW # 83

Hello again! This week started with a lot of promise of getting stuff done, and then on Wednesday morning I twisted my ankle and getting stuff done was restricted to what I could do sitting on my bum with my foot up. I don’t think I’ve done any serious damage, a bit of swelling is all I really have to show for it and painkillers keep most of the discomfort at bay. It has meant though that dog walks have been shorter or limited to the garden and I wasn’t able to drive for a few days.

It also meant that I spent one afternoon playing around with some watercolours. I doubt that I’m going to be a famous artist any time soon, but I did find it very relaxing and with no pressure or expectations it was nice to experiment.


I’ve continued with AudioMo throughout this month, some of the posts are just short snippets, others are longer recordings. Those that I haven’t listed in a previous post are linked below if you’re interested.

AudioMo will be over in just a couple of days and I’ve really enjoyed this years. The discipline of making myself record something everyday and discovering new voices and acquaintances along the way has been fun, and thought provoking.

AudioMo Day 15 – Currently Reading, Day 16 – A Lockdown Problem, Day 17 – To The Woods, Day 18 – Online Voting, Day 19 – Buffering, Day 20 – Buffering, Day 21 Harvesting After The Rain and Allotment Audio TourDay 22 – Woodland Ramblings, Day 23 – Lockdown Reading, Day 24 – A Touch of the Ouchies, Day 25 – Not at the #1984symposium, Day 26 – Reimagining Ansel Adams, Day 27 – Reflecting on AudioMo 2020, Day 28 – The Week Ahead


Work has been very quiet this week, which in some ways has been a blessing. I’ve been able to do some sorting of my Mum’s stuff and then being laid up with a twisted ankle hasn’t had the impact it might otherwise have done.


The Committee on Climate Change produced it’s annual report to government this week, it has recommendations for every government department. If you want to read the whole thing you can find it here or this Guardian piece is a good summary. I’ve been working my way through it slowly but my fear is that government will do little or nothing about it.


I read another Brother Cadfael this week – Dead Man’s Ransom, although these have kind of become my fall back when I don’t feel like reading anything else I found this one a little bit disappointing. Won’t stop me reading the next one though.

My friend David also published some poetry recently, it’s really good and you can read it here.


One thing that I didn’t do this week was visit the grave of George Orwell on his birthday (25th June). I’ve done this a few times but this year with coronavirus and a twisted ankle it wasn’t to be. These events are “organised” by my friend @documentally, and he wrote about it in his newsletter this week. If you don’t already subscribe to his newsletter you should, it’s free every other week or for the cost of a cup of coffee each month you can pay for the full weekly experience.


Lockdown seems to be completely over now, although we’re still broadly avoiding anything other than essential stuff here. Half-a-million beachgoers in Bournemouth had other ideas.


I haven’t been able to get much done on the allotment this week either, fortunately despite us having the hottest day of the year, we also had some rain so I didn’t have to worry about trying to get any watering done.


One of my minor successes this week was cooking a feta and spinach puff pastry roll. I’ve made this a few times and it’s really straightforward. You’ll need: a sheet of ready made puff pastry, a packet of feta cheese, a big handful of spinach, a bunch of parsley, some dried oregano, 2 eggs, some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

  1. Take the pastry out of the fridge and allow to come up to room temperature to make it easier to handle.
  2. Preheat the oven to gas 6 or equivalent.
  3.  Get a baking sheet big enough to accomodate the puff pastry sheet and grease or line with baking paper to prevent the puff pastry sticking (baking paper also helps with one of the later actions, and is my preferred method)
  4. Wash, drain and dry the parsley and spinach and then roughly chop and place in a mixing bowl.
  5. Chop the feta into cubes and add to the spinach and parsley.
  6. Sprinkle oregano over the top (about 1 to 2 teaspoons) and salt and pepper (don’t be too heavy handed with the salt as feta is already quite salty).
  7. Add one of the eggs and about a tablespoon of olive oil, and mix everything together to combine.
  8. Next place the puff pastry on the greased / papered baking tray.
  9. Lengthways down the centre of the pastry place the spinach / feta mix. You don’t want to overload the pastry or you won’t be able to seal the roll but make sure it is evenly spread.
  10. Beat the other egg to combine the white and yolk.
  11. If you are using baking paper now lift the bottom edge of paper to make the bottom part of the pastry sheet fold over the spinach mix. Brush the egg mix of the exposed pastry atop the spinach mix and the exposed pastry above the mix. Then use the top part of the baking paper to fold the pastry down to cover the mix and overlap the pastry. Press down gently to seal, and seal the ends by pinching with your fingertips.
  12. Carefully cut three or four slices in the pastry to allow the mix to breath in the oven, and brush the whole thing with the remaining egg.
  13. Cook in the oven for around 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

Serves 4 to 6. Works well with veg or salad or baked beans and chips if you want a trashy tea. Will keep in the fridge once cool if you can’t manage the whole thing in one sitting. Reheat in the oven at the same temperature / time; but cover with foil to prevent the pastry burning.


That’s it for this week – ankle permitting I’m going to be doing some more sorting of things for Mum in the week ahead but otherwise I don’t have any specific plans.

Stay safe!

Supermoon Flatbread TWTW # 72

It’s been a gloriously sunny week here, even the day they said it was going to be a bit gloomy was a good one. The slight perversity of having a bank holiday weekend when the weather is smashing but we can’t go out has not escaped the attention. Whatever happened to those old fashioned bank holidays were the weather was miserable and so was everyone stuck indoors? As I write this on a Sunday afternoon, it feels slightly dystopian being at home and all that I can hear are the sounds of police sirens and then more police sirens. I’m not sure what’s going on but I guess someone isn’t having a good day.


Although it is small I am very grateful for our back garden and very conscious that not everyone is as lucky as we are. I’ve been spending quite a bit of each afternoon sitting in the garden reading a book.

My reading this week has mostly been on my Kindle and has been Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On, the first part of the book is ten years worth (2005 – 2015) of his diaries and I think I’ve made it to about 2010 and am still going and have yet to get to the remainder of the book. I’m finding that I am able to concentrate on it which is something that I’ve recently struggled to do. Maybe the lockdown is just becoming the new norm and I’m adjusting to it?


I wrote last week about having been forced to go into town after failing to be able to do something online. Well I did achieve this and picked up some medication that the pharmacy has been holding for me. Town was strange. In places it was downright ghostly, in others it seemed that there were far more people out and about than there should have been. Going to the pharmacy was the weirdest part of all. It’s one of the only shops open in a large 1970’s built shopping centre (mall). The building management has opened a route up so that you can walk from either side of the shopping centre to the pharmacy and out again, but everywhere else is barricaded off. I wish I’d taken a photo of it but if you’ve ever watched any film that has a pandemic or other global emergency at it’s centre you already know what it looked like.

Speaking of which I’ve been watching season 9 of The Walking Dead this week (if you haven’t seen it yet but are going to, then best skip ahead as there are some small spoilers to follow). The series has been losing it’s way a bit for a while now, and with the deaths (both real and perceived) of major characters really seems to have lost itself completely. I still want to watch season 10 when it becomes free to view but I’m certainly not going to pay to watch it.


There was a Supermoon midweek, and I went out into the garden with my camera and a tripod and spent some time trying to get a good shot. It was a little cloudy and some of the shots were obscured a little by that but I got a few that were pleasing to me, which is what counts.

There are a couple more to come this year, but this one is where the moon is closest to the earth so the others won’t be quite as impressive. If you’re interested there are some more of other people’s photos here.


I’ve been making flatbreads this week – just flour, salt, water and oil, makes a perfect little wrap which you can stuff with whatever you like. I was using up some roast chicken and mixing it with some homemade bbq sauce, green peppers and white onion.

I’ve also been reading about sourdough revived from ancient Egypt (by the guy who invented the X-Box) and the sourdough library.

I also want to try this Spinach Dip if I can.


My social media abstinence for Lent has come to an end, but it’s the strangest thing. When Lent was over I reinstalled the apps on my phone and logged back in, but that’s all I’ve really done. I did look at Instagram for a bit and also Twitter, but I just felt a bit disconnected from the whole thing, like gazing into an abyss. I’m not sure what happens next, I guess I’ll just wait and see. I haven’t posted yet, and in previous times I lived in lists in Twitter to make it as locked down as possible, it might be I do a similar version but with lists that are even more locked down.

It does seem as if I didn’t shut down all of the autoposting I thought I had in my absence and this blog was still posting a link to twitter with every post. I didn’t realise and there’s no point in doing anything about it now, but there must be a setting buried somewhere that I didn’t find – because I thought I’d found them all.

If you’re interested I’m @tontowilliams on both Instagram and Twitter, if you don’t already follow me come and say “hi” who knows you might be the one to break my fast! Also it means that I can go back to posting links here again.


JRR Tolkein was right about the trees.


I used one of my exercise allowances to visit the allotment to plant out some broad beans and sow a few seeds. It’s amazing how quickly the plot went from being a soggy mess to rock hard and impenetrable to any hand tool known to man. I was trying to hammer some supports for my loganberries into the ground and had to water the ground to soften it first as the posts were just bouncing off. I feel a little like I’m on borrowed time with the allotment if the lockdown were to get any worse, and so have also been making space in the garden for some extra pots with veg in. Hopefully we’ll end up with a surplus that we can give away.


Well that’s about it for this week folks. I seem to have written far more that I’d intended to, or thought I had words to write. In these times of limited travel and adventure (yeah right when did I ever do those two things), that’s not bad.

I hope you’re all staying safe and well, and I’ll catch you later.

 

The Weather Outside Is Frightful – TWTW # 64

We’ve just had another weekend of weather warnings, more wind and rain. Again we seem to have escaped the worst – although it’s been pretty miserable and not very conducive to doing much outdoors – other parts of the country have been very badly affected.

I’ve been staying in, reading and making chutney – another batch of gooseberry and red onion, which went down really well last year, and gives me a bit of space in the freezer after I defrosted the gooseberries.

I’ve gotten through a couple of books this week, another Vivian Shaw Novel – Dreadful Company and an HP Lovecraft novella – The Shadow Over Innsmouth. I enjoyed both, I’m slowly rereading the HP Lovecraft stories but taking my time, no need to rush them. Not sure what’s up next, although I did get given Denali by Ben Moon last week, and have a copy of Mark Twain’s Notebooks that I want to get stuck into at some point. My problem of a never seemingly decreasing “to be read” pile, doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.


Works been pretty busy this week, mostly just moving various things forward for clients, and some discussions with an old client about doing something for them. The next couple of weeks are looking pretty busy with some travel coming up.


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I was contemplating going to the London Pen Show next month, it’s just before my birthday and I thought that it might be a nice treat. Then I looked at the cost of the rail ticket, and the accompanying weekend railway works and bus replacement services and decided instead to put the cost of the rail ticket towards a new fountain pen and some ink instead. I was contemplating getting the pen at the show, but I guess I’ve cut out the middle bit!




There are many things in politics that I feel like commenting on, but I’m afraid my commenting would probably lead to ranting in fairly short order. However it is leading to some great political cartoons, at least at the moment.


And on that note I’m out of here. Have a good week everyone!

Must Try Harder TWTW # 36

It’s been a busy week again. There were less meetings and phone calls, but I managed to get on with quite a few bits of client work. In the sense of doing much else it’s been quite quiet, and there isn’t really anything exciting to talk about. It’s been an all work and no play kind of a week (that titles already been used though so I’ll have to come up with something else).

I did travel across to Wales to collect my Mum from her sister’s where she’d been spending the week, on Saturday. The less said about that journey the better. Traffic was bad in both directions and ultimately what should have been a few hours took most of the day.


I spoke to a client who I’d quoted for some work, and who’s now said that it looks like it’s going ahead. Reviewing the quote it was done back in June, and I’ve had to say to them depending on the actual start date they have in mind, I might not have the capacity to deliver. They do seem a little flexible though so hopefully that will work out. The disadvantage of freelancing is often that everybody wants you at the same time or not at all.


After harvesting the pumpkins and squashes last weekend I’ve been looking for different recipes to use on some of the produce. We’re a little short on chutneys in our store cupboard and I really need to make some more, so have been looking at spiced squash chutneys in particular. I’m not sure when I’ll find the time to actually put the recipes to use but the squashes keep well, so there is not desperate rush I suppose.

 


To decarbonize we must decomputerize: why we need a Luddite revolution


Naomi Klein: ‘We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism’


I’ve started looking at a replacement for my aging laptop. It’s served me well, but is showing signs of it’s age and with work picking up I need something reliable and my current machine has become a little unpredictable.

I’ve been looking at a few options including a switch to a Mac, which might happen, but for the moment I want to get to the point where I now what I want and can shop around for the best price. With Black Friday not too far away, I might seek out what I want around that time in the hope that there is a little bit of discount to be had or I might wait until the end of the year. I don’t want to have to rush out and get a replacement because of a complete failure of my existing machine, but I want to be in the position of knowing exactly what I want to if that did happen.


I haven’t had much time for reading this last week. I did finish reading Maigret in Vichy, which I started at the end of the previous week, but I’ve been so tired each evening that I’ve not really gotten into another book yet. That’s not to say that I haven’t plenty to choose from. I did listen to audiobooks on my journey to Wales on Saturday, but didn’t finish any of those either, despite the very long journey!


I think that’s about all for this week. A short one again I’m afraid. Must try harder!


That Wet Dog Smell TWTW # 29

It’s raining outside as I write this and my office smells of wet dog as it was raining when we went for our morning walk too. It’s still quite warm though, although thankfully not too humid.

I seem to be behind with a few things at the moment, this weekly post included.


I’ve been doing quite a bit of chutney making and pickling this week. Another batch of pickled gherkins have been added to the store cupboard (about 5 jars worth), and a gooseberry and red onion chutney. This latter mix made 8 jars almost exactly, leaving me only a teaspoon worth to try. It was very good, and I have great hopes for it when it matures (in about a month). It looks like the sort of chutney that will work well with cheese and cold meats and possibly just to be eaten straight off of the spoon!


The wind had blown over the sweetcorn on the allotment and I’ve had to stake each individual plant to keep them upright. Hopefully they’ll survive the experience, although as a plant sweetcorn are very intolerant at having their roots disturbed. A shame if they don’t make it as they have already started to form cobs.


I’ve been reading “Irreplaceable” by Julian Hoffman this week. It is a great book and I thoroughly recommend it. It is also in some ways a depressing book. It is about those wild places and species that we have lost or might loose to what some people would call “progress”. I was familiar with some of the stories, but if you’re not it’s probably even more eye opening particularly with respect to some of those sites that are supposedly “protected” but in reality are not. I had quite a rant about it in my journal:

I finished reading “Irreplaceable” this afternoon. It really is an eye opening book. Although several of the stories were already familiar to me – many of them weren’t and it is truly shocking what we are doing to this planet in the name of progress. It feels that many of the current decision makers – the politicians, councillors and others just don’t care (or understand). They see progress as “at any cost” and that very often means at the expense of those things that we should hold most dear. Many of the stories are the sorts of things that I could all too easily see happening locally here because of weak leadership and low morales where a developer could easily sway the council with promises of “economic growth”, “more jobs”, “greater income for the local area”, when it’s all about the money, money, money; when in fact that is probably the last thing it should be about and the fact that many of the things that would suffer cannot simply have an economic value attached to them. They are our lifeblood, they support our health, our welfare, our mental prosperity and so many other things. All too often the decision makers simply do not give a shit about such things, that are mere travails, are inconsequential, of no meaning and no value!

Well it’s about time for a change and putting some of those things at the heart of such decisions.


Lemon Courgette, Pine Nuts & Feta Pasta

If you are starting to get a bit of a glut of courgettes, give this quick and easy pasta dish a try.

You’ll need (for 2 people):

  • 200g of your favourite dried pasta shapes
  • 1 regular sized courgette
  • 1 packet of pine nuts (100g)
  • 1 packet of feta cheese (200g)
  • 1 medium / large unwaxed lemon
  • Pepper to taste

The cooking of the pasta is the rate determining step in preparing this meal. Once you have prepped your other ingredients they only take about 5 minutes to cook, so get the pasta going first, and time it so that everything is ready together.

  1. Put a large pan of water on to boil to cook your pasta, once boiling add your pasta and cook according to the manufacturers instructions.
  2. While the water is coming to the boil and the pasta is starting to cook, prepare you courgette. Top and tail, and then cut length-ways and then length-ways again so that you have 4 spears. Cut each spear into bite sized pieces.
  3. Zest and juice the lemon and keep to one side.
  4. Chop the feta into cubes and keep to one side.
  5. Using a frying pan or similar heat and little oil and add the pine nuts and roast them gently until they start to brown.
  6. Add the chopped courgettes and continue to roast with the pine nuts.
  7. Once the courgettes are cooked, add a good grind of pepper and then add the lemon juice and zest and mix well to combine.
  8. Turn off the heat under the pine nut & courgette mix, and add the feta and stir together.
  9. Drain the pasta and serve, add the pine nut mix on top (alternatively add the drained pasta to the pine nut and courgette mix and combine).
  10. Eat!

The Insects Are Biting TWTW # 25

This week was the 11th year that I’ve had my current allotment. I was trying to find a photo or two of what it looked like when I took it on, however there seems to be a gap in my photo library around that point – I’m guessing that they’re still on whatever phone I had at the time, and are in our loft. I did however find this short video which was taken around the 26th July that year. Things have certainly changed since then.


As the year clicks past the half-way point, it’s been hot, the insects are biting and it certainly feels like summer. I’ve had no meetings this week, but lots of client work to do and so far I’m on top of it.


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I’ve read three books this week (although two of them were rather short). David Hewson’s “Devils Fjord”; Georges Simenon’s “The Flemish House” and Stephen King’s “The Colorado Kid”. They were all good, but I probably enjoyed Devil’s Fjord the most.


The allotment is doing really well despite the heat, we’ve had a really good crop of potatoes and the summer vegetables are starting now. I’ve picked more gooseberries than I can count and I’m planning to make some gooseberry chutney, but for now their in the freezer as I really don’t fancy working in a hot kitchen in this weather to make it, plus I need to get some ingredients. Pickled gherkins are also on the list, which are a little easier to do, just as soon as I get enough to fill a jar or two.


I wrote and linked last week to pieces about Kindle licenses and e-book DRM in general, and then this piece was linked to in Robin Sloan’s excellent newsletter. It isn’t anything new or that I didn’t really know about – although I wasn’t aware of what happened with copies of 1984 and Animal Farm. Kind of ironic that it would be books by George Orwell that it happened too.



How To Grow Your Own Medicine Cabinet.


 

Shaking It Up Some – TWTW # 22

It’s been a busy week that has been changing quite fluidly throughout, not a day passed where what was originally going to happen did actually come to pass. I had meetings and appointments cancelled, a funeral to attend that I hadn’t planned and the weather generally disrupting proceedings throughout like an interrupted cricket match. We got there in the end however, although the knock-on effect is that this week is a little busier than originally planned.


That said, there’s not a tremendous amount to write about. I did make some broad bean falafels, and I read “A Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula Le Guin. The former were very tasty and the latter was a reread. I last read the Earthsea series when I was at school, about 11 or 12 years old. It stands up well, and if you are one or know an 11 or 12 year old I’d recommend it.


Much of the news cycle this week has been around the election of a new leader of the conservative party and by default the political leader of our Country – our Prime Minister. From the soundbites it sounds very much like whoever it is they will be putting the needs of their party above those of the Country.


I’ve been listening to Jonny Miller’s new podcast this week. I’m quite selective when adding new podcasts to my feed, as I often don’t manage to listen to all of them each week anyway. Adding a new one is a time commitment that I don’t often have. In this case I’ve listened to the first two episodes and I think I’ll hang around for the next one, and see how it goes.

I’ve also added Joe Minihane’s Floating podcast to my list this week, which I really enjoyed, and although there’s only one episode so far, it’s another one that I’ll keep at least until the next episode.


That’s it for me – hopefully more to talk about next week.

Broad Bean Falafels

img_20190612_140126_355I’ve had a really good year on the allotment with broad beans (fava beans). I overwinter my crop, so plant them in late October or early November and this year I’ve been harvesting since late May and they’re still going strong.

They make a nice vegetable on their own, particularly when they’re young and sweet, and they freeze well, but it is also nice to make other things with them.

I was looking through some of my recipe and gardening books and came across a recipe for broad bean falafels in Alys Fowlers excellent book “Abundance” (affiliate link). Her book is really about storing of produce, but it does contain some excellent recipes too.

I made this video following the recipe in her book, it’s really easy so worth a go yourself.