Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Appliance of Science

Yesterday we took delivery of a new washing machine to replace the old one which kept trying to boil our clothes. We'd had a man round to have a look at it who suggested a new thermostat, but it didn't do the trick and we regretfully decided that we had no option but to buy a new one.

I can't remember how old our washing machine was but certainly nowhere near as old as Doris Stogdale's fridge which is still going strong after 58 years.

I hate throwing away stuff until it's no longer useable. So for months now we've kept our washing machine from overheating by setting a timer and turning the dial on to the rinse cycle after 15 minutes. It was annoying but we learned to live with it.

However there's a balance to be struck between continuing to use an appliances that are no longer energy efficient and casually upgrading them. Our old machine was removed by our supplier and will be disposed of in accordance with WEE regulations, and we've replaced it with an A rated model, but I can't help feeling that it's still a waste.

I grew up in India where you could find someone to repair almost anything that was broken. It provided employment and prevented you from having to replace stuff quite as often.

Perhaps that explains my attitude. Or maybe it's my Scots blood.

Anyway I look forward to turning my back on my new machine, safe in the knowledge that it won't shrink my jumpers.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Hey Big Spender!

This afternoon I took part in my first flash mob. We sang Big Spender in Cabot Circus as part of Bristol's Festival of Song. I'd managed to miss all the other events in the week long festival so I was glad to be able to take part in this one.

I've only ever seen flash mobs on YouTube but I think they're brilliant - random flashes of creative insanity piercing the monotony of our urban lives. Yeah!

Here we are, brightening up the lives of Bristol shoppers:

Saturday, 23 October 2010

'They Say Cut Backs! We Say Fight Back!'

This morning I took part in one of the many anti-cuts demonstrations that took place today. It was a miserable day, cold and wet, and I was therefore surprised by the numbers who turned up to march from Castle Park to College Green. We were told by one of the speakers that the police estimated the turnout at 500 and the organisers 5,000. All I can say is that it was somewhere between the two.

When we reached College Green we were addressed by a series of union leaders sheltering under unbrellas as they roused the crowd with their well worn rhetoric. No concensus politics here! I'm opposed to these cuts, especially in relation to higher education, but I do wish we could get away from the language of confrontation. It's outdated and not particulary helpful.

As the mother of two daughters, one just embarked on a four year university course and the other due to start the year tuition fees are set to rise, I was particularly impressed by the Bristol University student who put her case very eloquently against the recent announcements.

There was a minor skirmish, not particularly well handled by either the crowd or the speakers, but it was soon under control. It was the first time I've witnessed any trouble at a demo, and I've been at a fair few. I hope it's not a foretaste of what's to come, as we all need to keep our heads if we're to be taken seriously.

Anyway, by the time the speeches were over and the crowd settled, I was so cold and wet that nothing but a mug of builder's tea and a crisp bacon roll would do. These were both amply provided by the Revival Cafe in Corn Street (unfortunately no website to link to), which I would highly recommend to anyone needing sustenance after any outdoor activity, be it political or commercial.

PS I'm proud to say that my elder daughter was at a similar march in Edinburgh where the sun shone and the protesters were accompanied by pipers.

PPS I did take a photo of my placard, but it was corrupted during upload so I've had to make do with the poster. And I only thought of taking one of my bacon roll after it was eaten!

Thursday, 21 October 2010


This morning I received my eagerly anticipated Graze box. I'd taken advantage of an offer in this Sunday's Observer and ordered myself one free box, to be followed next week by a second for £1.

Graze is a brilliantly conceived scheme which delivers healthy snacks to hungry office workers. Subscribers register and are asked to rate a long list of foods including seeds, nuts, dried fruit, flapjacks, olives, focaccia etc. They then choose a date to have their box delivered directly to their desk. Each cardboard box contains four snacks in individual plastic containers. There is a paper napkin and a pick for the olives. There is also a tiny personally addressed booklet detailing the nutrional details of each snack and another with more general information about the company. Genius!

My first box contained a West country cheddar, red onion and chutney focaccia, green olives in a citrus marinade, a bento mix and an americas nut mix. The focaccia was slightly stodgy but the bento mix was spicy and the americas nut mix crunchy. I haven't tried the olives yet.

Graze boxes are normally priced at £3.29, which is probably not unreasonable given the quality of the products and the impeccable service, but they're too expensive for my budget, so I don't think I'll be ordering any more, or at least not on a regular basis.

There is inevitably packaging involved - a cardboard box secured with two plastic bands, four plastic punnets, a paper napkin, a wooden pick and two booklets - but the claim is that these are either biodegradable, recyclable or recycled. I'll certainly be be able to recycle everything except the plastic bands and the plastic seals on the punnets.

It would, of course, be much cheaper and more environmentally friendly to buy larger quantities of these snacks and carry portions of them in to work in reuseable containers but, given that there will always be a significant proportion of the population who will not do so, and who would otherwise be opting for a chocolate bar or a packet of crisps, I reckon it's a welcome alternative.

Let Them Eat Pudding

Last evening's Malago WI meeting was largely given over to the consumption of pudding. Members were asked to bring along two portions of their favourite dessert - a family favourite or perhaps one with a particular significance.

I made Gajjar Halwa to reflect my Indian upbringing. It's a carrot sweetmeat, prepared by boiling milk and grated carrot for an hour until thickened and then sweetened with sugar, enriched with butter, flavoured with cardamom and decorated with flaked almonds.

It's quite delicious.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Salmon Fishcakes & Salad

This evening we had salmon fishcakes. I used a tin of pink salmon and mashed potatoes, spiked with spring onion and cornichons and bound with beaten egg.

An excellent way to use up leftover mash.

Melting Moments

Yesterday I baked a batch of melting moments. I remember my mum used to make them when I was girl. She wasn't a brilliant cook but she was famed for her biscuits, and Shrewsburys in particular.

I would have liked to have topped mine with a sliver of cherry to add a bit of colour but they were fine as they were.

Quilting for Beginners

Inspired by Jane Brocket, who visited the Malago WI to talk about quilt making and show us some of her gorgeous creations, I signed up for an introductory course last Saturday. We began by sewing precut squares together and then moved on to using paper templates and try our hand at a log cabin design. We trimmed our patchwork squares with the rotary cutter and sandwiched wadding between the quilt and the backing fabric. By the end of the afternoon we each had a small quilt to take home.

I had a really good time.