Sunday, 30 September 2012

Vegan MOFO

My blogger friends Sime and Kay over at Just Humans Being have signed up to Vegan MOFO and will be posting on all things vegan during the month of October.  As a carnivore it would not have been appropriate for me to do likewise but I have decided, nonetheless, to try and explore this meat and dairy free diet over the next few weeks.

The day I first read of Vegan MOFO I realised that my dinner that evening had quite coincidentally been vegan, a runner bean curry and rice.  If there had been any yoghurt in the fridge I'd have dolloped a spoonful of it on the side, but there wasn't, and it was perfectly respectable without.

As I've said, I am a carnivore.  I've considered vegetarianism and even veganism, but although I'm persuaded that I should eat less meat and question its provenance, I'm not convinced that I should give it up altogether. However it's clear that eating less meat makes sense for the sake of my health and the welfare of the planet and its people.  It will help me to live more frugally and perhaps even shed a few pounds.

So I'm looking for inspiration, ideas and recipes.  Knowing Sime & Kay I'm sure they will not disappoint!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Fine Pluck

Not long ago Bruce and Sarah Stanley, a couple we'd come to know in Bristol, did what many dream of but few attempt, that is they upped sticks and went to live the good life in rural Wales.

This week they launched Fine Pluck a range of home-grown, hand-picked, artfully-blended herbal and wild teas.

I ordered two packs (rosebay willowherb leaf, wood betony & hawthorn and elderflower, yarrow & chocolate peppermint).  They arrived yesterday, slightly squashed by thankfully still intact, despite our postie forcing the packet through our vicious letter flap.

Not everyone appreciates the unusual flavours of herbal tea but I do, as an occasional alternative to a regular brew, and these blends not only taste fresh and aromatic but are attractive to look at with their delicate leaves and miniature flowers.

The website is not only a feast for the eyes but is also a mine of information on the herbs you'll find in your cuppa.  Pop over and take a look at it yourself.

I'm looking forward to sipping myself through all the blends.

Well done Bruce & Sarah!

PS  This is most definitely NOT a sponsored post!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Use it or Lose it

On last week's Would I Lie to You, David Mitchell mocked the suggestion that Sue Perkins paid regular visits to her local butcher, describing the practice as a '1950s idyll' reserved for 'posh' people because 'most people buy meat at supermarkets, don't they?'

Well I have news for David.  I'm not posh and the last time I looked it was 2012, and I buy most of my meat at my local butchers.  I realise it's only a comedy programme but I get sick and tired of people assuming that supermarkets are the only place to shop and that people who do otherwise are slightly odd.

I was therefore delighted to read Steph's account of the Totally Locally Leek first birthday party.  Totally Locally is an organisation committed to celebrating the wonderful independent shops, business and people of our towns.  It provides a free award winning marketing and branding campaign to any local community wanting to breathe life back into its high streets.  I love their manifesto which you can read here.

And, according to their online calculator, if every adult in my district, spent just £5 per week in local independent stores, instead of in a supermarket or on the internet, it would plough £2.3 million into the local economy.

As they say, it makes you think.

The photo is of a blackboard in my favourite (yes, we are lucky to have more than one!) local butcher's showing where all his meat comes from.

Monday, 24 September 2012


I first came across Susan Taylor's work at the South Bank Art Trail.  I loved the simple combination of typography and silhouette images.  When I saw a couple of her city posters in a gallery on Colston Street earlier this year I asked if there was one of Glasgow.  The woman in the gallery couldn't say but invited me to write my request in her notebook.  Some time later I received an email from Susan to tell me that she hadn't yet designed a Glasgow print but that she hoped to do so one day.  A couple of weeks ago I received a second email to let me know that she had finally got round to it and that the print was now available online.  She said she'd enjoyed creating it and hadn't realised how many beautiful buildings  were to be found in the city.

Here it is and I think it's marvellous.  It features many of the city's famous buildings, old and new (the City Hall, the Beresford building, the Riverside museum, the Ca d'Oro, the Armadillo), its industrial heritage (the Finnieston crane), its bridges (the 'squinty' bridge), its art (references to Charles Rennie Mackintosh) and its sense of humour (the traffic cones on the Duke of Wellington statue).

The print was a flat warming present for my daughter who is studying in Glasgow and who has fallen in love with the city.  I hope it will bring her pleasure to look at it.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Harvest Thanksgiving

In addition to donations of non-perishable food for the Julian Night Shelter, we brought home-grown/home-made goods to be auctioned off after this morning's Harvest Festival service.  I dug out a jar of fruit and nut chutney from the back of my cupboard and supplemented it with a couple of jars of freshly made lemon curd.  My younger daughter produced the labels for my last batch of jam but she was out last night so I had to design my own.  They're not as accomplished as hers would have been but I'm reasonably impressed with my efforts.  

We came home with two portions of soup, a hunk of Cornish yarg and a marmalade cake, in addition to a dish of cold boiled new potatoes and a roast chicken carcass left over from last night's Harvest Supper.  The potatoes will be sauteed and covered in a spicy tomato sauce.  The carcass will be boiled for stock.

We've rediscovered Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries this weekend.  Last night we ate his pork steaks with vermouth and fennel and today it was slow roast lamb (without the chickpea mash) followed by plum crisp.  I've Sue over at The Quince Tree to thank for sending me back to this excellent book, worth reading for the quality of the prose as the recipes.  While out in town yesterday I popped in to Waterstones to take a peek at the second volume of his diaries which, as I suspected, has gone straight to the top of my Christmas present list!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Bristol Pound is Here!

Today saw the launch of Bristol's local currency - the Bristol Pound.  Equal in value to its sterling counterpart it will be accepted in around 300 local independent shops.  Because it cannot be spent in any supermarket or national/international chain it cannot leave Bristol but will circulate in the local economy enabling it to grow and prosper.

I bought my Bristol Pounds at the Tobacco Factory, where they are on sale from 12 noon until 5 pm from Monday until Saturday.  I was the Southville Deli's first Bristol Pound customer, where I bought some Parma ham and Pendragon cheese for lunch.

In the evening we went down to  St Nicholas Market where the queue to buy Bristol Pounds stretched out into the street.  In addition to most of the regular stalls there were dozens of extra ones and shoppers were entertained by circus players and musicians.  We ate in the Moroccan restaurant and bought a mug depicting the £10 note.  The optimism was tangible.  I sense a real desire to make this scheme work.

Tomorrow I'll have to call in at the Tobacco Factory for more Bristol Pounds as I've already spent most of the ones I bought today!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

If Music be the Food of Love ...

My Dad loved music.  He sang in choirs, beginning as a choir boy in the Scottish Episcopal Church and ending as a tenor in the Pune Choral Society in India.  In his last years his Morningside flat was always filled with music either on the radio or on a CD from his growing classical music collection.

When he died I inherited this library which my sister kindly had delivered to me in Bristol in several cardboard boxes.  I spent some time arranging them in historical, rather than alphabetical order, largely as a source of reference for my elder daughter in her Music GCSE.  However, although I have picked the odd one out from time to time, I haven't yet done what I promised myself I would do, that is to start at the beginning and listen to them all in sequence.

But this week, spurred on my my Classical Gas rehearsal this morning (we were singing Vivaldi and Bruckner), I am embarking on my classical music experience with Thomas Tallis, the Father of English Church Music.  The CD features Spem in Alium and Mass & Motets.  I am very fond of Tallis and was impressed by Exultate's performance of Spem in Alium at St George's earlier this year, so I know I'm off to a good start.

Friday, 14 September 2012

10 Things ...

... you can do with a book that you can't do with a Kindle!

  1. Run your fingers across the cover and feel the weight of it in your hands
  2. Bury your nose in its pages and breathe in the scent of the paper
  3. Chance upon it on the shelf of secondhand bookshop
  4. Borrow it from your local library
  5. Pass it on to a friend
  6. Donate it to a charity shop
  7. Release it into the wild
  8. Use it to create a work of art
  9. Judge it by its cover
  10. Wedge it under the leg of a wobbly table

Sunday, 9 September 2012

How Should We Then Live?

Samsara is a Sanskrit word meaning 'continuous flow', the repeating cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.

Ron Fricke, the director of the film of the same name, describes it as a nonverbal guided meditation, which is pretty accurate.  The audience is treated to a veritable feast of moving images from across the world, shot in stunning 70mm, depicting life in all its breathtaking, horrifying, uplifting, agonising, occasional amusing, manifestations.  There is no dialogue but there is music, from distinctly upbeat to hauntingly beautiful.

The images 'flow' into each other suggesting connections.  The natural flow is generally harmonious but there are the inevitable disruptions, illustrated by some rather disturbing images.

Samsara's not a preachy film but it did make me wonder about the impact of  my lifestyle on the flow of human life.  A timely reminder of the value of mindfulness.

You can watch the preview here and catch the full thing at the Watershed until this Thursday.  

Monday, 3 September 2012

Mere Baubles ...

but I like them.

I fashioned the balls around the outside from bits of coloured fleece at last week's WI meeting.  They were easy enough to roll between my palms, the only difficulty being in trying to make them all the same size.

The two in the middle were ones someone else had prepared earlier but which I decorated with sequins and beads sewn on with glittery thread.

The plain ones will be used to make a bracelet.  The decorated ones will become ear rings.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Summer Holiday To Do List - A Review

Well, I managed to strike off 11 of the 25 things I wanted to do in the school holidays, which doesn't worry me in the least as I did lots of other things instead.

I didn't eat a bacon butty at Brunel's Buttery but I did tuck in to a full English at the Lockside to compensate for the lack of a hot air balloon ascent at dawn.

I didn't have a drink at The Grain Barge but I did have a few at No 1 Harbourside, one of George Ferguson's other ventures.

I didn't visit the Holborne Museum but I was delighted by Richard Race's Automata exhibition at the Victoria Art Gallery on my first ever visit.

I didn't make it to London to view Grayson Perry's tapestries but I did take in the Alex Katz exhibition at Tate St Ives.

I didn't walk the Bristol to Bath cycle path but I did embark on the NHS Couch to 5k programme (temporarily suspended due to dodgy knee!)

I didn't visit Tyntesfield but I did spend a day working in the walled garden at Barley Wood.

I didn't bake any scones but I ate a few (with strawberry jam and clotted cream) in St Ives.

I didn't manage to fill my South West Reading Passport but I did make a start with one book each from North America (The Power & the Glory by Graham Greene) and Asia (Silk by Alessandro Barrico).

I didn't bake a pizza but I did bake a deliciously moist Almond and Orange cake for the last WI meeting.

I didn't paint my toenails but I paddled in the sea. 

I didn't have a barbecue but I did eat an excellent burger at Blas Burger Works in St Ives. 

I didn't make any homemade lemonade but I did drink Pimms (and eat cucumber sandwiches) while cheering Andy Murray on to his Olympic Gold.

I didn't start another sourdough mixture but I did share one of Mark's loaves with a friend I hadn't seen for a long time, who took the rest of it home to her partner in Wales.

I didn't catch a live performance at the Colston Hall but I did spend a very pleasant afternoon drinking beer, eating paella and listening to flamenco, blue grass and klezmer at the El Rincon  Fiesta at Greville Smythe Park Bowling Green.

I've had a good break and am as ready as I can be for the year ahead.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

One More Thing

As you can see from the image on the right next week is National Zero Waste Week 2012, pioneered by the redoubtable (as in 'worthy of respect and honour' rather than 'arousing fear', of course!) Mrs Green.

The theme of this year's week is One More Thing because, according to Mrs Green, if every household in the UK recycled just one more thing the total amount of recyclable rubbish could be increased by more than three quarters of a million tonnes.

Without wishing to sound smug I am a pretty good recycler already (with the support of my local council who provide excellent recycling facilities), but there is always room for improvement.

So what is my One More Thing to be?

Well, after some consideration, I have decided to make better use of my freezer.

I propose to this in three ways:
  1. I am going to try and (identify! and) use up some of the food already in my freezer.  Followers of my Zero Waist blog will remember that I attempted to so some time ago, but with limited success, partly due to the lack of labeling and partly to the kind of food I'd frozen. 
  2. Wherever appropriate, I am going to double up recipes and freeze half the dish.  This will save energy and provide me with an invaluable store of quick meals for those days when I don't have the time (or inclination!) to spend hours in the kitchen.
  3. I am going to label EVERYTHING I put in the freezer - even if I'm convinced I'll remember what it is when I eventually dig it out.  It's remarkable how similar stewed apples appear to curried parsnip soup - but you wouldn't want the latter with custard!  I am also going to try and keep some sort of record of what's in the freezer (and maybe even in which basket!) to help in menu planning.
  4. I am also going to use the freezer to save little pieces of food from the bin (even if it's the compost one!).  Parmesan rinds can be frozen to add to the next stock.  Half a lemon can be sliced and frozen to add to my favourite tipple.  The other half of a bunch of parsley can be chopped and frozen in an ice cube tray to add to a stew or a sauce.
  5. I shall be recording any interesting observations on my progress over on Zero Waist and I hope you will pop over to see how I'm doing.
Well, that's my One More Thing.  What's yours?