Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2015: A Year of Challenges

Two posts in one day!

Don't worry.  This is just a few lines to let you know about my January Challenge.  Inspired by the goddess of zero waste herself I will be dumping my junk; one item on day one, two on day two, three on day three ... until our house is 496 items lighter by the end of the month (and boy does it need it!).  Or at least that's the plan.  If you want to find out how I'm getting on or, even better, are tempted to join in, pop back and check me out.  I also hope to tweet @justgai under #DumpYourJunk.

PS  This January Challenge is the first of a series in 2015, all designed to force me to think, act, behave differently - and to make life more interesting.  The others may, or may not, include going vegan, giving up telly, reading poetry, growing food, exploring Bristol,volunteering ... I'm open to suggestions!

Here's (some of) what I did in 2014

Major changes:  Alan took voluntary redundancy from the BBC in the spring and was unemployed for six months until he found a new job with the Royal Voluntary Service in the autumn.

Green Party:  I campaigned for the local and European elections and was rewarded with success for our candidates in both seats.  Alan has agreed to stand as a candidate for our ward next year so we'll have our work cut out for us in spring, canvassing for him and our parliamentary candidate.

Campaigning: I knitted 3 metres of the 7 mile pink scarf that Wool against Weapons used to link the atomic weapons establishments at Aldermaston & Burghfield to protest against the proposed renewal of Trident.  Alan joined me in Living Below the Line (£1/day for 5 days - harder than you'd think) and, at the other extreme, we hosted a Karma Korma curry evening in aid of Frank Water.

Singing:  In addition to continuing to sing with the Gasworks Choir, and the Gasworks Singers, I have also been involved with another local choir, Handfuls of Harmony, rehearsing children in the school where I work.  We've given four performances and, in November, won £50,000 in The People's Millions to help get the whole community singing together.

Culture:  I travelled to Birmingham with bluehands to see Grayson Perry's outrageously colourful tapestries (and to pop in to the gloriously shiny new central library).  In the autumn Alan and I visited Crucible 2, a stunning display of sculptures set in and around the magnificent Gloucester cathedral.

The Girls:  Iona graduated with an MA in History from Glasgow University in the summer, with Alan and I cheering from the gallery.  She now finds herself being drawn ever deeper into the world of politics.  Who knows where it will end?  Eilidh is now in her second year at Falmouth University studying illustration and enjoying life in her beloved Cornwall.

Holidays:  What with one thing and another we didn't have a family holiday this year.  We took a few mini breaks to visit the girls, and my sister in Edinburgh.  I'm enjoying discovering a bit more of Glasgow and Falmouth each time I visit.  We also treated ourselves to a few days out in the summer, including a long overdue trip to Tyntesfield and a morning of indulgence at the Lido.

Visitors:  We hosted my school's French assistante, who was very unlucky with the weather, and in the summer we welcomed my Canadian cousin and her daughter, whom we hadn't seen in years. 

Quakers:  In addition to weekly Meetings for Worship I've been attending a smaller discussion group, learning more about what it means to be a Quaker, and making new friends.

Bristol Pound:  The Bristol Pound goes from strength to strength and I've been steadily increasing the percentage of our weekly budget we pay in local currency.  Avoiding supermarkets helps and, after having sailed through my November no-supermarket challenge, I plan to buy most of our food etc at local independents in 2015. 

The Referendum:  Having lived outside Scotland most of my life, I didn't expect to become as emotionally engaged with the Referendum campaign, to find myself on the opposite side of the argument to members of my own family or to shed tears when the result was declared in wee hours.  Despite the belief that we missed our golden opportunity to explore a better way of doing politics, I was never prouder of my people and remain convinced that one day Scotland will be an independent country.

2014, the usual mixture of highs and lows.

What will 2015 bring?  Electoral success?  A return to Cornwall in the summer? Unexpected guests? 

Come back and find out.

Monday, 1 December 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (Review)

Yesterday was the last day of my challenge.  Today I went out and celebrated ... no, not by dashing into the nearest supermarket to stock up on all the goods I'd missed, but by buying my first mince pie of the season ... from one of our local independent bakers.

Because you see, this challenge has been much easier, and more enjoyable, than I feared.  True it's required more forward thinking, and seeking out alternative traders and ingredients, but even on days when I haven't had time to give it much thought I've managed to put something on the table.

A few observations:

I am very fortunate to live within walking distance of a not just one, but two thriving high streets and a couple of markets, without which I would surely have failed in my challenge.

It's difficult to tell whether I'm better or worse off avoiding supermarkets.  Independents can't always match Aldi & Lidl prices but I've been more discerning in what I buy and haven't been tempted to buy more than I needed or give in to irresistible special offers.

I've eaten even less processed food than usual, preparing meals from scratch based on grains, pulses and vegetables, with fish and meat thrown in at the weekends.

The percentage of Bristol Pound payments has increased.

I've discovered a new supplier for the Indian dishes I enjoy preparing, as well as a new baker and cafe.

There is a sense of satisfaction in supporting local traders and keeping my local high street alive.

So although I'll eventually return to some of the smaller supermarkets it will only be for the handful of items I can't buy elsewhere.  I'll also be setting a weekly limit to prevent me from succumbing to old habits.

Perhaps you could give it a go.  If you do I'd like to hear how you get on.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Front Room Art Trail 2014

No photos of the art but here are some of the gardens!

Friday, 14 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (The Bristol Pound)

One of the benefits of going supermarket-free is being able to make greater use of Bristol's local currency.  Launched just over two years ago the £B supports local independent traders by ensuring that every £B spent continues to circulate within the local economy, creating jobs and fostering links between local businesses, long after its sterling equivalent has flown the city.

There are now over 750 traders accepting £B in paper or digital form, including cafes, chimney sweeps, brewers, photographers, web designers, health food shops, publishers, plumbers, accountants, cycle couriers, buses ... but no supermarkets!

To find out more log on to, open an account and see where it takes you.  I promise you will not be disappointed.

Oh, and look out for the brand new Official Bristol Pound Directory 2015 hitting the streets as you read this.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (The Butcher ...)

I've mentioned North Street, my local high street, without which this challenge would have been extremely difficult, if not altogether impossible.

One of the stars of North Street is Rare, the butcher.  Chris runs a traditional shop but with a modern twist.  You'll find all the normal cuts, but there are surprises tucked in among them, such as the Southville sausage delicately flavoured with lemongrass, spicy lamb koftas and French onglet steaks.

I shop at Rare for quality and local provenance, but also for the friendliness of the staff, the helpful advice on what to buy and how to cook it and the cheery conversations in the inevitable queue.  When I leave it's not just with 500g of diced pork, but with a smile on my face and a new recipe to try out.

One of my favourite memories dates from the days of the previous owner whose wife, when I asked for a pound of ordinary sausages, gently corrected me, saying that there was nothing ordinary on her counter.  She was right!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (Homemade Alternatives)

I've been using up opened items of supermarket foods but a few of these are coming to an end and I'm going to have to find alternatives - or make them myself.

Pesto: As well as stirring this through pasta and chucking in a handful of pine nuts, half a dozen olives or crumbled feta, I've also been known to use it to to add flavour to sauces or a zing to a weekday sandwich.  Pesto is traditionally made with basil.  Now I don't know about you but I've never been very successful in growing basil, however we have kale in our back garden, and I'm told it is a reasonable substitute.

Mayonnaise: Mayo is the essential partner for tuna in sandwiches and baked potatoes as well as my favourite potato salad (along with crispy bacon, spring onions and mustard).  However, despite following various recipes to the letter, I invariably end up with a curdled mess at the bottom of my bowl and enough egg whites to make a dozen pavlovas.

Yoghurt: Yoghurt is something I have made quite successfully, using a a spoonful of live yoghurt, warm milk and a thermos flask.  The consistency differs from shop bought varieties but I prefer it.  I've also strained it to produce a soft cheese.

So I've got a bit of experimenting to do.

Have you any tried and tested recipes to share?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (Cooking in Bulk)

One of the occasions I find myself popping in to a supermarket is when I've a quick turn around between coming home from work and going out for the evening.  I hurriedly scan the shelves for a pizza or a pie to pop in the oven or a sauce to stir through a bowl of pasta, either option easier than cooking a meal from scratch.

Tonight was a point in case.  This time, however, I was better prepared than usual and we dined, as we had the evening before, on Jamie Oliver's aubergine dal with rice and lime pickle.  A dollop of yoghurt wouldn't have gone amiss had I remembered to add a pot to my shopping list.

Bulk cooking makes sense in so many ways. There are economic savings to be made in buying larger quantities of ingredients, energy savings in cooking two or more portions at the same time and time savings in not having to prepare a meal every night.

The aubergine dal was so delicious I didn't mind eating it two days in a row, but I could have frozen it to eat it next week.  The trick, of course, is to remember to label it clearly!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (Local High Street)

I didn't do much in preparation for this challenge, apart from making a trip to Bristol Sweet Mart, a veritable Aladdin's cave, to stock up on flours, pulses and spices.

I'm lucky to live within walking distance of that increasing rare phenomenon, a thriving high street, boasting two butchers, three bakers, a greengrocer and a deli.  We also have a weekly Sunday market.

So I've been able to buy croissants, liver, eggs, cheese, fruit, vegetables, split peas, dried fruit and nuts without darkening the door of a supermarket.

I've used up a few odds and ends from the freezer, clearing a space for stocks of sauces and soups.  Having the basis of a meal in stock should save me from an emergency visit to a supermarket after a long day at work.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

30-day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge

Today is the first day of my 30-day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge.

Three and half years ago, following a couple of (ultimately successful) campaigns to prevent the construction of a megastore in our area, I vowed never to darken the doors of the Big Four (Asda, Tesco, Sainsburys & Morrisons) again.  With a handful of exceptions I have managed to do so (or should that be 'not to do so'?).  I have, however, continued to do some of my shopping in other supermarkets (Waitrose, Co-op, Lidl & Aldi).  But from today onward, at least until the end of November, I will be avoiding even these.

That's the history, but I'm anxious that this should be a positive, rather than a negative challenge.
  • I see this as an opportunity to explore the growing number of options to the supermarkets - local independents, fruit and vegetable box schemes, buying groups ...
  • I'm going to take a closer look at what I eat, how much I eat and how I prepare it.
  • I'd like to try and grow some of my own food.  November is not the obvious time to be out and about in the garden but I'm going to investigate winter salads and windowsill herbs.
  • I'm hoping to learn new skills.  If I'm unable to source an item from the supermarket, can I make it myself?  Will I be able to break my jinx on homemade mayonnaise?
  • And finally, at a time when (almost) everyone is tightening their belts, I'd like to  see whether I spend more or less money on food.  Can I bust the myth that supermarkets are cheaper than their alternatives?
For the avoidance of doubt (and waste!), I'm going to use up any opened packets of supermarket food and the contents of my freezer, which I'd like to clear ready to receive tubs of batch cooked sauces etc.

That's it for now.  I'll keep you posted on my progress.  And it goes without saying that any advice you wish to give me will be gratefully received.

Walking and thinking ... and taking photographs

Hannah Broadway's delightful harbourside mural
Yesterday afternoon I had to go in to town to buy a new pair of trousers.  As it was such a fine day I decided to take the scenic route around the harbourside.

These are some of the things I saw along the way:

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Crucible 2

Jubilee IV - Lynn Chadwick
Despite it having been recommended by several friends, whose opinions I value, I was nevertheless blown away by the sheer magnificence of the Crucible 2 exhibition in and around Gloucester Cathedral.

To begin with I wasn't prepared for the number of works on display - 100 in all.  It took us four and a half hours to view them all, with a only a short break for lunch in the Cathedral Cafe.

Nor for the fact that I would really like so many of them.  There were less than a dozen that didn't appeal, physically or conceptually, but these were more than outnumbered by ones that I would have have happily carried home, had my rucksack been big enough or my purse deep enough to do so.

My favourites included:

Display No More in Vain the Lofty Banner by Ralph Brown inscribed with words from Anne Finch's poem All is Vanity
'Display no more, in vain, the lofty banner, 
For see! where on the bier before ye lies
The pale, the fall'n, th'untimely sacrifice
To your mistaken shrine, to your false idol honour!'

There was a graceful movement to the piece that I found very aappealing.

The two figures are roughly sculpted with little detail and only one point of contact, yet they speak so eloquently of the nature and depth of the relationship they portray.

Collateral by Deborah Van Der Beek
The horse's head, cast in bronze is embedded with war debris from Iraq and Afghanistan.  The teeth are spent bullets, and there is  a carving of a hand cradling a baby's head.  Despite its beauty it is not any easy piece to look at. 

These three sculptures were displayed in the cathedral where taking photos would have been difficult because of the light and the crowds.  But I did manage to capture a few in the grounds, including my very favourite, Jubilee IV by Lynn Chadwick (above and below), which I love for the couple's confidence and sense of purpose as they stride forth from the main entrance.

Jubilee IV from the side

Sitting Couple on Bench - Lynn Chadwick
Pilgrim - David Backhouse
(Backhouse's Cloaked Rider can be seen outside the Hotel du Vin in Bristol)
I came away feeling privileged to have seen so much beauty and marvelling at the talent that enables the sculptor to conceive of and then execute works that demonstrate what it means to be human and touch us at our very core.

If you can get to Gloucester before the exhibition ends on Friday then I would urge you to do so.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

This Weekend ...

... was one of political engagement.

On Friday evening I signed up for a double bill of two of my heroes at Bristol's excellent Festival of Ideas.

First up was Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, the British civil liberties advocacy organisation, who spoke about her new book On Liberty. Liberty celebrates its 80th anniversary this year and Shami reflected on the differences, and similarities, of the issues it has faced then and now.  The audience was particularly interested in her views on anti-terrorist legislation and the government's proposal to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.

Next up was Owen Jones, left wing author and commentator, who spoke about his book The Establishment.  In his opinion the biggest threat to our democracy lies in the power exerted by those at the top (politicians, the media, directors, bankers etc) and he issues a powerful rallying call for them to be challenged.  He ended by quoting the late great Tony Benn who said 'You see there are two flames burning in the human heart all the time.  The flame of anger against injustice, and the flame of hope you can build a better world.'

Well on Saturday I did my bit.  I travelled up to London to take part in the TUC Britain Needs a Pay Rise march.  I'm a member of Unison and I joined tens of thousands fellow unionists, representing an impressive range of unions, to protest against the deeply damaging effects of our coalition government's austerity programme. According to Frances O'Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, the avergage worker is £50 a week worse off then in 2007 and 5 million earn less than the living wage, while top directors now earn 175 times more than the average worker.  It's just not fair and we were there to tell them so.

Maybe it was just the beginnings of a cold I glibly thought would pass, or maybe it was the 14 hour round trip with all that marching/dancing to the samba band and standing listening to the speeches, but today's been a washout.  I've spent half the day in bed and the other half on the sofa.  I hope I'm not too old for this demonstrating lark because I fear there'll be need for more of before we're done with building a better world to live in.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

This Weekend ...

Breakfast at Katie & Kim's Kitchen

... I tried out a new cafe.
It's called Katie & Kim's Kitchen and can be found in Picton Street.  I don't know where I first heard of it.  Maybe Twitter, where I discover most interesting things.  Anyway, it's run by two young former art students (Katie & Kim!) who won the British Street Food Awards in 2013, and have served food from a converted horsebox and a local pub before opening a cafe cum restaurant with a constantly changing menu of soup, bread, scones, sausage rolls and cakes.  It's a long walk from Bedminster to Montpelier so I ordered a plate of sourdough with ewe's curd, thyme and Greek honey to go with my coffee.  The curd was delicious and, as ever, I wondered why my sourdough isn't as holey as anyone else's.

... I bought a new pair of trainers and a pair of trousers.
I've somehow damaged my plantar fascia and have been advised to wear trainers to support the ball of my right foot.  The cheap and nasty trainers I bought for my short-lived experiment with jogging have come to the end of their life and needed replacing.  I search in vain for something attractive but ended up with a pair of fairly boring black trainers that will have to do.
The trousers are from the M&S Sculpt and Lift range.  Heads will be turned!

... I took the opportunity to walk down a few new streets and was rewarded for my efforts

Parish boundary in Bristol's Old City

Colourful facades in Montpelier

Bristol from the top of Spring Hill

... I took part in Bristol's Festival of Song.
The Gasworks Singers sang in St George's on Saturday and around the harbourside on Sunday.  I was also treated to some inspiring singing and was particularly impressed by Kettle of Fish and Original Sing both of whom have gigs coming up in The Folk House.

That's all!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

This Weekend ...

... I bought two sea bream from our friendly new market fishmonger and cooked them according to his instructions.  They were delicious.

... I made a blanket for the homeless from three lengths of the 7 mile scarf I'd helped knit to link Aldermaston to Burghfield earlier this summer.

... I enjoyed lunch at No 1 Harbourside (pork & sage arancini with spiced apricot jam, baked English Camembert with courgette pickle and a salad of green beans, spring onions, raisins and cumin seeds).

... I was greatly encouraged by Will & Testament, a film documenting the life and work of Tony Benn, one of my heroes and a continuing inspiration to all who strives for justice and fairness.

... I baked batches of cookies (cranberry, white chocolate and walnut) and scones for a Bristol Pound Open House, and hopefully persuaded a few friends to sign up and start spending them.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Should Scotland be an Independent Country?

Yes or No?
As a non-domiciled Scot I have no vote in tomorrow's referendum but, and this will come as no surprise to any of you, I do have a view.
We have reached the end of a passionate debate, over many years and covering a wide variety of issues; nationalism, the democratic deficit, Trident, sterlingisation, the Barnett Settlement, oil revenue, the privatisation of the NHS, the Scandinavian model ... even pandas! Both sides have bombarded us with statistics, paraded experts before us and cited examples of the success or failure of small independent states to support their opposing arguments. So much information but no right or wrong answers.
However, the question being posed of every voter tomorrow is a surprisingly simple one: Should Scotland be an independent country?
If independence means the freedom to create a fairer juster country in which to live, and to leave to future generations then, for me, the answer must surely be Yes. No one should be under any illusion that the ride will always be smooth, but it will be the Scots who will chose the direction of travel.
Never has the much used phrase 'too close to call' been more apt. There is little more any of us can do except watch and wait to learn the settled will of the people. But, there is a sense that, no matter what the result, Scotland has already won so much more than anyone could ever have imagined. The debate has ranged over every nook and cranny of the land, engaging people who don't usually do politics, giving 16-18 year olds a vote and with it a voice in their future, provoking a 97% registration and promising a record 80+% turnout. The Scots have invested everything in this referendum, too much for this to be the end of the process, no matter what the result.
I have always been proud of Scotland, the land and its people (in a completely non jingoistic way, of course). This referendum has done nothing to diminish my pride and everything to vindicate it.

Monday, 8 September 2014

This weekend ...

On Saturday we swam and lunched at The Lido in Bristol - a relaxing hour and a half spent in the outdoor heated pool, the hot tub, the steam room and the sauna, followed by a delicious two course a la carte meal in the restaurant overlooking the pool.  I'd planned for our visit to take place in the summer holidays but I'm glad it was postponed until the end of my first week back at work.  A touch of decadence was just what I needed.

I don't live near enough The Lido to pop in regularly, nor would I choose to fork out on the hefty annual membership fee, but I'd like to think I'll be back on some future occasion to sample another few hours of the high life.

If you like the sound of it, we opted for the Swim & Lunch package.  There are a number of others available.  The facilities are clean and well maintained.  The staff are friendly and helpful.  The food is imaginative and plentiful.  Good value for money.

On Sunday I sang with the Gasworks Singers at the Festival of the Voice at Stourhead.  We had four scheduled sessions at the foot of the Bristol Cross and in the Walled Garden, plus a couple of spontaneous ones under a tree, in the Pantheon and by the lakeside.  The rest of the time was our own to wander at will through scenery as exquisitely peaceful as an oil paining.  I sat on the grass eating my pasta salad and tried not to look too wildly out of place!

It's been a while since we sang together and I was a bit rusty, but our offerings were well received.  It was mercifully dry and the sun's appearance late afternoon justified an ice cream from the van.  All in all a jolly good day.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Summer 2014: A Review

At the beginning of the summer holidays I drew up a To Do List.  This is how I got on.

Cycle to Bath along the railway path
Having been knocked off a bike aged 18 and not ridden again until last summer on Colonsay, I was more than a little anxious about my ability to reach Bath without incident, but it proved to be much easier, and far more enjoyable than I'd feared.  We hired Bromptons from Temple Meads station via Brompton Dock, whose service I thoroughly recommend.  The path was a delight, taking us out behind back gardens and parks into the open countryside where we rode through wooded areas, along causeways with views out over the fields and following the river into Bath.  There, after a pot of tea in a cafe, we folded our bikes (albeit with a few teething problems) and carried them on to a train back to Bristol.  I enjoyed the experience so much that I'm planning to do it again.

Bake 5 pies from my new Pieminister Pie book
I managed two.  They were the Screaming Desperado (chilli con carne in a rough puff pastry) and Porkie Buns (Vietnamese flavoured sausagement in a hot crust pastry).  I loved the filling in the first and would eat it again on its own (the pie had a 'soggy bottom'), but the buns were a sensation.  We at them on a picnic at Tyntesfield with coleslaw and my daughter's boyfriend's mother's(!) piccalilli.

 Visit Tyntesfield
We caught the bus and claimed our 20% discount at the ticket office, cafe and shop.  It was a glorious sunny day and we spent a couple of hours wandering round the grounds, admiring the sculpture exhibition, exploring the outbuildings and the kitchen garden and eating our picnic, before entering the house. Restoration is ongoing and given the quality of what has been achieved thus far, the finished article will be truly amazing.  

Make falafels
I used Jamie Oliver's recipe.  They were alright but not nearly as good as ones I've eaten from street stalls; more bean burger than falafel.  So I'm going to try out Yotam Ottonlenghi's recipe which I'm certain will be more authentic.

Read 5 books
I read three (well almost three!) - Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gayle, A Death in Tuscany by Michele Ferrara and How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran.  A varied selection but all good reads.

Create a sourdough starter
My starter is well and truly established and has been used to make three loaves.

Get up early to watch Bristol Balloon Fiesta Dawn Ascent
I've watched many an evening ascent, but whether it's the satisfaction of making it up the hill that early, hot cups of tea from a flask, the absence of the fairground noise, the soft light or the anticipation of a bacon butty on our return, but this one was extra special.

Bake 5 new breads
I managed four - irish soda bread, flatbread, cornbread and sourdough.  And if I count the kanelbullar (technically buns, but made with yeast!) then it would be five.

Picnic at Bristol Zoo
I spent a leisurely day at the zoo with my younger daughter and picnicked on the lawn.  There's always something new to see and the promise of even more to entice you back.

Visit the Jeremy Deller exhibition
I'd never heard of Jeremy Deller but found his work very thought provoking.  I particularly appreciated the huge paintings on the wall.

Visit St Werburgh's City Farm, eat meatballs @ Ikea and shop at Bristol Sweet Mart
We had to go to Ikea to buy a table for my younger daughter.  I like to make the most of my £4 day rider bus ticket so we combined it with a visit to St Werburgh's City Farm and a short walk through Boiling Wells.  We enjoyed our meatballs at Ikea but sadly didn't have time for a cuppa at the farm.

Make rhubarb & ginger jam
I managed to get five jars from our new rhubarb plant.  I took a chance with a bag of jam sugar that was four years past its best before date, but we're still alive and kicking!

Take advantage of podiatrist appointment to window shop in Cotham/Clifton
I popped in to Kitchens and bought a banneton for my sourdough breadmaking and two pie dishes for my Pieministering.  Having drooled over The Philosophy of List's madeleines I'm kicking myself for not having bought the baking tin I saw on my way out.  Still, I'll be back that way on Saturday so ...

Swim and lunch at the Lido
Although I haven't technically done this during the holidays I did book our visit during that time.  We're swimming and lunching there this weekend.

Make a start on a recipe folder
Our house is littered with piles of magazines and boxes of cuttings but, with no way of knowing where any of them are when I need them, I rarely use any of the recipes I collect.  So, armed with a ring binder, an A4 pad, a pair of scissors and a Pritt stick, I went to work on the pile of Guardian 'cook' supplements.  I was ruthlessly selective and have ended up with a folderful of recipes that I might very well use.  Indeed I've already cooked two of them.

Make pizza
I made a couple of the best pizzas I've had in a long time.

Walk: Leigh Woods
I dragged my younger daughter and her boyfriend round the second longest trail, stopping to admire the view across the gorge and eat banana bread.  Despite being the weekend it was unusually quiet.

Picnic on Brandon Hill
We ate tortilla and salad and watched language students play frisbee under the trees.  Rain and the absence of the Vee Double Moo van prevented us from lingering.

Finish crocheting my daughter's quilt
It's almost there.  When I started to crochet the granny squares together I discovered I didn't have quite enough of them, so I had to rustle up a few more.  There's only five to go now and the border to add.

Walk: Bristol Old City
It's amazing how often we walk past building without actually looking at them.

So I didn't hold 5 dinner parties, visit Oxford, make tomato ketchup, take a proper look around the M Shed, watch the Night Glow, walk round Snuff Mills or Blaise Castle, shopped for clothes for work, swim in the outdoor pool at Street, make icecream, crak Prashad's khokla recipe, preserve lemons, make lemonade, have a barbecue or take the ferry boat to Beese's Tea Gardens.

But I did have lunch with friends at the Tube Diner, follow the Secret Cemetery trail around Arnos Vale, attend Amnesty's Goldney Garden Party, eat kebabs and jalebis at the Islamic Cultural Fair hand out leaflets at Temple Meads protesting about the increase in rail fares, run a Bristol Pound stall at the Tobacco Factory Market, see What If and Two Days and One Night, oppose the Metrobus proposal at a council planning meeting and generally enjoy not having to go to work.    

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Summer 2014: My To Do List

In my experience, the longer the holiday stretches, the easier it is to fritter it away.  So, when faced with 5 1/2 weeks this summer, I thought I'd best draw up a list of things I would like to have achieved by the end of them.  Maybe I should have added 'publish list on blog' as it's taken me over a week to do so.  But here it is:

(NB  Having decided that I was going to devote the first few days to recovering from the end of term, I based my list on 5 weeks - 7x5=35)

  1. Cycle to Bath along the railway path
  2. Hold 5 dinner parties (ie have 5 friends/sets of friends round for a meal!)
  3. Day trip to Oxford
  4. Bake 5 pies from my new Pieminister Pie book
  5. Visit Tyntesfield
  6. Make tomato ketchup
  7. Visit the M Shed
  8. Go to Bristol Balloon Fiesta Night Glow
  9. Make falafels
  10. Walk: Snuff Mills
  11. Read 5 books
  12. Create a sourdough starter
  13. Get up early to watch Bristol Balloon Fiesta Dawn Ascent
  14. Shop for clothes for work
  15. Bake 5 new breads
  16. Swim in Street outdoor pool
  17. Make icecream
  18. Picnic at Bristol Zoo
  19. Visit the Jeremy Deller exhibition
  20. Walk: Blaise Castle
  21. Crack Prashad's dhokla recipe
  22. Visit St Werburgh's City Farm, eat meatballs @ Ikea and shop at Bristol Sweet Mart
  23. Make rhubarb & ginger jam
  24. Take advantage of podiatrist appointment to window shop in Cotham/Clifton
  25. Preserve lemons
  26. Swim and lunch at th Lido
  27. Make a start on a recipe folder
  28. Make pizza
  29. Walk: Leigh Woods
  30. Make lemonade
  31. Picnic on Brandon Hill
  32. Have a BBQ
  33. Finish crocheting my daughter's quilt
  34. Walk: Bristol Old City
  35. Bristol Packet ferry boat trip to Beese's Tea Gardens
It's an eclectic mix of cooking, eating, walking, culture and fun.

I'm under no illusion that I'll get through it all and am therefore not going to beat myself up over it if I don't, but it should stop me waking up in the morning wondering what to do with the day!    

Saturday, 5 July 2014

It's Carnival!

I am ashamed to admit that, although I have lived in Bristol for 24 years, I have never been to St Paul's Carnival.  That is until today!