Teams Zoom-a-thon TWTW # 101

I forgot to mention last week that I’d made some grape jelly. We harvested the relatively small amount of grapes from our vine in the potting shed and converted it to jelly. We ended up with 4 jars. We have also since given it the taste test. It’s pretty good, although I think Ann likes it better than I do. I put some Star Anise in when I was cooking it and this has given it quite a unique taste, I’m not sure I care for it.


I was saddened to read that Sir Sean Connery had died


I’ve been reading an Inspector Montalbano mystery this week – The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri – and when I finished that I moved straight to an Inspector Morse – The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter. I seem to be wanting to read a lot of mystery novels at the moment. Not sure why, maybe it’s just a part of my brain that wants to be entertained in a certain way.

We’ve also watched a couple of Inspector Morse mysteries on TV as reruns. It seems that the series are being reshown from the beginning, so I’ve set our digibox up to record them as they are shown. It will give us something to watch as we enter the new national lockdown.


Workwise this week has been a round of virtual meetings. I have to say that depending on which client I am talking to their videoconference platform of choice varies. There’s a lot of Zoom and the rest seem to be Teams, with the odd Facetime or Googlehangout for some variety. Of all of them Teams seems to be the worst, although they all have their varying problems, the variety means that I get to experience them all. At the moment I’d much rather use them than have to travel for face-to-face meetings but I’m not convinced that it is a mature technology yet, despite the extensive field testing it’s getting.


Neil Gaiman’s Halloween Reading for 2020


More photos back from the developer this week. This was the black and white roll that I took more or less the same time as the roll of colour that I shared some pics from last week. Anyway some examples from the second roll below.


Work on the allotment has been a bit limited this week due to inclement weather. I’ve managed to do some weeding and some digging to keep things moving in the right direction but that’s about all.


I doubt it will all be over by this time next week, and frankly I still think it could go either way.


So it looks as if we are going back into another National Lockdown, assuming that the Prime Minister can get the new restrictions through Parliament. It’s going to be much harder this time I suspect, and possibly harder for the authorities to enforce.


That’s it for this week. Stay safe and well.

Switcheroo TWTW # 91

No – Don’t Panic! It is still only Sunday. I thought that I would switch things up this week and post this weeks update on Sunday. It might become a permanent change.

It’s really a recognition of how my routines have changed over the past few months. It used to be that Sunday mornings were my time for doing things for my Mum, a regular date and time, shopping, cutting lawns or whatever needed doing.

Now that she’s in long term care I don’t have that same commitment, the time and date have shifted. Normally I would write most of this post in advance. Sometimes a little bit each day, sometimes all in one go on a Monday morning. Now, although I’m still dropping things in during the week, I do most of the writing on a Sunday and schedule the post to go live on a Monday morning (because at the moment I’m busy doing something else). Seems a bit daft, so I thought today I’d write it, and then as soon as it’s done hit post. I realise that this might confuse a few people who subscribe by email or RSS but as I said – Don’t Panic! It’s still Sunday! Be chilled like our neighbourhood cat who I photographed mid-week lying on the ridge of our garage catching the last rays of the day. I’m not a cat person but I did like this photo. I also read recently as to how routines are not always about when you do something, but just the fact that you do it regularly. The doing is important, but not necessarily being a slave to the clock. Sounds good to me.


I’ve read Joe Country by Mick Herron this week. It’s the last book in the Jackson Lamb series – I’ve read most of that series this year – and there’s another due in early 2021. It wasn’t the best of the series, but it was still really good.

I’ve started reading Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi. It’s a little odd but I’m sticking with it as I think it has an interesting tale to tell but isn’t prepared to reveal all just yet.


My friend David has a new book about one of my favourite characters of the old West coming out soon.


I did our grocery shopping via click and collect this week. When I went to collect our groceries it had been raining just beforehand. Probably around the time that the crates with our groceries in where being loaded onto the van and our groceries were a little damp. Some were damper than others. The eggs for example were so damp that when I picked up the box, its now soggy cardboard resembled the consistency of mush and in slow motion the eggs parted company with the bottom of the box and fell back into the crate. I managed to save a few, but most broke on impact. The van driver was very good about it, despite the fact he had to clear up the mess and I got a full refund for the eggs.


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There seems to be quite a bit coming good at the allotment this week, the Uchiki Kuri Squash (Japanese Squash) are all just about ready. They’re an ideal squash for two people as they’re the right size to satisfy two appetites for a meal. I think I’ll be adding them to my list for seeds for next year.

I turned one into a squash, tomato and lentil pie on Saturday night, which will do us for tonight as well. The recipe came from Gill Meller’s Root Stem Leaf Flower cookbook.

I also wrote about the blackberry and apple that we had at the beginning of the week in another post in case you missed it.


 

Apparently I’m Sherlock Holmes – which fictional detective are you?


I really struggle to understand why people deliberately drop litter but some people are complete aresholes.

In some ways I think that the whole pandemic / lockdown thing has made me even more of a hermit than I was before, and when I see things like this I wonder just where society is going. I was brought up not to drop litter – to either take it home or wait until I got to a bin. Why is that so hard now, is it just that some people weren’t brought up that way or that they think someone else will clear up after them?


I’ve been reading about Covid-19 Long Haulers this week and how CFS/ME is on the rise. The government in the UK has long had a bias against CFS/ME (I can directly attest to this but it’s a story for another time), and I can see this being yet another area where they deliberately turn a blind eye to what is actually going on, as they have  done by revising the criteria by which you can only had died from Covid-19 if you die within 28 days of having had a positive test for Covid-19.


There’s a remake of All Creatures Great and Small coming to television. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned here before how much I love James Herriott’s original stories and the BBC production from the late ’70’s and ’80’s, which were very much a part of my childhood television. So I’m a little bit uncertain about a remake, but from the trailer I’m hopeful that it will be okay. We’ll see. I think I’m going to be doing some rereading anyway.


RIP Sir Ken Robinson


That’s it for this week. Hope I haven’t confused you too much. Take care and stay safe.

If Life Gives You Blackberries & Apple

If life gives you blackberries and apples, make stewed blackberry and apple.

We’ve been enjoying a healthy crop of blackberries for a few weeks now, but the bramley tree has only just started providing ripe fruit (apples are ripe if they come off the tree in your hand with no effort – if you have to tug leave them be).

On Monday this week we had both, probably the last of the blackberries and the start of the apples. So I rinsed off the blackberries and put them in a pan with a little water (about a tablespoon) just enough to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning and some of the bramleys – peeled, cored and cut into small chunks. Add sugar to taste – always a difficult thing in our house, Ann likes them really sweet, I like them a bit tart – and simmer over a low heat until the apples start to break down and get soft. Serve warm or allow to cool, with whatever you choose; custard, ice cream; both or chill and serve for breakfast as a compote.

If you have more time you could of course make jam / jelly, chutney, cakes and about a million and one other things.

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!

Another Strange Anniversary : TWTW # 27

Another week that was supposed to go one way ended up taking a different direction, strange how despite all the planning things don’t seem to be turning out the way they were envisaged. It’s left me wondering how the week ahead will pan out, which looks like being another one at the moment, but could potentially change.


Four years ago I said goodbye to my last full time, paid job. Although at the time I didn’t really know how things were going to pan out, I’ve been asked a few times if I regret the decision to leave. Simply put the answer is no, although in the last four years combined, my income has probably been less than any of the years proceeding that, it allowed me to do many things. Although I didn’t know it at the time it allowed me to spend a lot more time with my Dad in the last year of his life. It allowed me to be present for some other difficult family things and possibly it reduced my stress levels and the chance I might have had a complete meltdown had I stayed where I was. Most of those things aren’t even tangible but they are most definitely real to me.

I’m still not quite sure where this freelance work is taking me or even if I can keep doing it at such a low level of income. There have been suggestions of offers of work, and I am always on the look out but it might not be sustainable in the long term. I still don’t regret that decision though.


A slightly unplanned trip to the library meant that I ended up with a couple of books, it was as a result of reading the latest newsletter from Joanne McNeil about Michael Seidenberg and the Brazenhead book store. It was the final paragraph of that newsletter:

Read an underread writer this summer in his honor. Any lonely and interesting-looking unfamiliar book at a used bookstore will do.

which prompted me to check-out In The Wet” by Nevil Shute and Uncommon Type” by Tom Hanks on my library card. Now I’m not sure that either of those two books technically qualifies but that paragraph was in my head when I was browsing the stacks and I knew that I hadn’t read a Nevil Shute book for probably close to 20 years, despite reading a lot of them in my late teens and early twenties. The Tom Hanks was one that I knew I would never buy new and possibly not even secondhand, so they both did kinda fit the bill.

Anyway the Nevil Shute was amazing and I remember why I liked him as an author. Probably not the best book of his I’ve read (A Town Like Alice & On The Beach are probably both better known and better books), but it did prompt me to go on a hunt in our loft to drag out some of his books that I have up there and now plan to read.

The Tom Hanks however was, well it was just a bit meh. It had some great blurbs on the cover and maybe it was just me but it just read a bit like it was one of his early movies. It’s a short story collection and I enjoyed a few of them, and there were some nice tricks with how the book is laid out, but just not my cup of tea.

I enjoy popping into the library every so often I seem to always find something that I’ve missed elsewhere or wanted to read, it’s a great resource that has suffered a lot from government austerity measures, so I’m pleased to support it.

I get to go back in the week ahead, return the books I have on loan and see what else they have for me.



After writing last week about reading the Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri I was a little surprised to read his obituary, but interesting comments about the translation of Sicilian.


I finally got around to pickling some of the gherkins from the allotment this week.


Well that’s about all I have for this week. Who knows what’s going to happen in the week ahead, it may even be that it pans out according to plan!

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.

Caramelised Onion and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

This is a lovely cuddle of a soup. Sweet and warming.

You’ll need:

  • A medium to large butternut squash
  • Two medium white onions
  • Demerara sugar
  • One to one-and-a-half pints of vegetable stock
  • Large bunch of parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Take the squash; peel, de-seed, and chop into small pieces. Place into a roasting tin with some olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, give this a good mix to ensure the oil, salt & pepper is covering the squash. Put into a preheated oven (gas mark 5), and roast until soft, turn once or twice. It should take about 20 – 25 minutes to cook.

While the squash is roasting, peel and chop the onions. Saute these over a medium heat in a pan with a little olive oil, as they start to brown add a large knob of butter. Once the butter has melted add enough brown demerara sugar to just cover the onions. Lower the heat and allow the onions to caramelise in the sugar. Make sure to stir regularly and don’t allow the sugar-onion mix to burn on the bottom of the pan.

Once the squash is roasted and soft (you can test with the tip of a knife), add it to the onion. Pour in enough vegetable stock (probably about a pint) to cover both and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

While the mixture is cooking, wash and coarsely chop and large bunch of parsley, and then add to the simmering mix.

Remove the soup from the heat and pour into a liquidizer (you may need to do this in batches) and blitz until smooth. Alternatively blitz in the pan with a hand blender (being careful not to splash yourself with the hot mixture)!

Return the now smooth mixture to the heat, and bring back to the boil.

Serve with crusty sourdough or bread of your choice.

Once cool this will keep in a refrigerator or can be frozen to enjoy at a later date.

Caramelised Onion, Feta & Beetroot Tart

At the weekend I was down on the allotment and dug the last of the beetroot from the plot (I wanted to dig over that part of the plot in preparation for the new growing season). There were quite a few good ones, but not quite enough to pickle or store for the longer term so I decided to make a tart with them.

I used a sheet of ready-made puff pastry (because that’s what I had), and greased and lined my quiche dish with it, as it takes approx half the sheet of pastry I cut the remainder into strips to add to the top of the tart once the filling was in.

I cut up two medium sized onions and gently sauteed them in a little olive oil, as they were browning I added some butter and once that had melted a tablespoon of brown sugar and allowed them to caramelise on a low heat.

I boiled the beetroot, and removed the skins and then sliced roughly into chunks.

Once the onions were ready I added them as a layer to the bottom of the flan and then tipped the beetroot and some roughly chopped feta on top.

I whisked up a couple of large eggs with approximately 100ml of milk seasoned with pepper and added this to the flan. Then topped off with the remaining puff pastry strips.

Cooked for about 40 mins at gas mark 6, until the milk / egg mixture had solidified. Served with some mixed green veg.

Making Jams and Jellies

It’s that time of year when the preserving pan comes out and I turn some of the produce from the allotment and elsewhere into preserves: jams, chutneys, jellies, and pickles.

I made some pumpkin and ginger jam (which always turns out more like a marmalade) and a first for me, quince jelly. For both of these I made videos of the process. You can watch these below.

Pumpkin & Ginger Jam

 

 

Quince Jelly