Filmy

As you know, I’m all for supporting local businesses, so I read with delight a couple of weeks ago that a new cinema had opened up in the small coastal town of Borth (about 25 miles from where we live). Cinema is dominated by multiplexes and, whilst all those screens mean that you are bound to be able to see the film that you want the moment it is released, they tend to be soulless venues owned by big multi-nationals. What could be better, therefore, than a boutique cinema, seating 60, in an old chapel? Add to that a restaurant serving local food and you may have the perfect destination for an evening out. Actually, we didn’t manage to go there to eat (I’ll report back when we do), but we did go and see a film last night. It is the most comfortable, friendly, quirky cinema I have ever been to; you just have to hope that the film isn’t boring otherwise you’d end up falling asleep…

If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend Libanus1877.

Three Things Thursday: 17 August 2017

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with happiness.

First, a new mug. To raise money to help Syrian refugees, participants in the Sixty Million Trebles project were invited to submit a photograph of one of their blankets or squares to be included on a mug that would be sold within the group. I sent a picture and waited to see if it would be included… and I’m delighted to say that it’s in the top middle above the logo… here’s my mug (from various angles) and a picture of the original square (although not the same picture as on the mug):

Second, all the courgettes. Tomorrow’s task is to make them into a big vat of soup for freezing.

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and I haven’t harvested any today yet

 

Third, this

There’s a tiny bit of finishing required at the top, and there was slight delay in installation because the magnetic catches didn’t arrive when they were supposed to, but it’s all ready to be used now – hurrah!

So, what’s making you happy this week?

-oOo-

Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

Stash not scraps

It’s the fifteenth of the month, which would usually mean a ScrapHappy post, but not this month. You’ve already seen my latest scrap creation, in the form of this blanket:

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a big blanket of scraps

For the next few months, my plan is not to use scraps (although it might happen on the side), but to work my way through my slightly out of control wool stash and complete some WIPs*. Whilst I have been busy using up scrap wool for charity blankets, I have worked on relatively few other knitting or crochet projects, but I have continued to add to my yarn stash.  I’ve decided that the time has come to address this imbalance and to make use of some of the lovely wool currently squirrelled away in draws and cupboards.

So, my first (small) stash-busting project is a pair of socks (which will also contribute to one of my 17 for 2017 targets). This wool came in my 2016 sock yarn club subscription from The Knitting Goddess. The theme was The Discworld and the colour combination is called Distressed Pudding**. Personally, it makes me think of Neapolitan ice cream.

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scrummy yarn

There were six stripy colour combinations that came in the 2016 subscription and this is the third that I have used. I subscribed to another club this year with more subtle colourways, but since I have not knitted up any of those yet, there will be no 2018 subscription… I really have to reduce the amount of wool, not increase it.

As someone who bangs on a lot about excessive consumerism, I’m feeling a bit guilty about having this lot, especially since this is by no means all my stash. It’s time to enjoy using rather than accumulating I think.

-oOo-

* WIP = Work In Progress

** If you are not a Terry Pratchett fan, just accept this and don’t worry about what it all means.

Cooking without

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it’s usually about abundance

For me, cooking has generally been a positive experience – I don’t just mean that I enjoy it, but that it is associated with abundance (often from the garden) or a desire to cook with a specific ingredient or create a particular dish. In recent years, however, I have increasingly found my cooking constrained – dealing with restricted diets or needing/wanting to avoid particular ingredients. From my own perspective, this has been mainly related to making more ethical choices – supporting local producers, avoiding processed food, considering animal welfare, not using ingredients associated with habitat destruction and so on. But when I cook for others, there are other limits. Vegetarian cooking is never a problem – I used to be a vegetarian myself and anyway there so many wonderful dishes that don’t include meat that this, in itself, is never an issue. Gluten-free baking, on the other hand, is a challenge and this is something I have been exploring over the past few years as a result of cooking for one particular friend.

My most recent excursion has been into vegan cake-making. If you search the internet, you are overwhelmed by vegan cake recipes and so, at first sight, making a vegan cake seems entirely straightforward. However, the restrictions that I put on the ingredients I am prepared to use make it much more difficult. For example I never use margarine and many vegan cake recipes rely on this for both cake and frosting. Many recipes also make use of ingredients that have ethical issues linked to them – avocado, for example, is something I never buy because of the social problems and environmental degradation associated with the huge western demand for this fruit (you can read more here). And then there are ingredients like aquafaba (the liquid from cans of chickpeas or other legumes), which sounds great, but since I never use canned chickpeas, is not particularly something I wish to buy. And that’s before we get on to how I feel about food miles and the packaging certain ingredients have associated with them. Life is complex for the ethical cook!

So, when I offered to make a cake to take to yesterday’s tea party, my heart sank slightly when I remembered that the person whose birthday we were celebrating is vegan.  I put aside my happy hens’ eggs and organic butter wrapped in paper and searched for a recipe using ingredients that I had in my store cupboard. And finally I found a chocolate cake recipe that I was happy to make. I first tested out a gluten-free version and that was a bit dense, but the wheat flour one (modified a little from the original recipe) that I took to the tea party was light and moist and very easy to make. So, if you want a vegan cake, look no further…

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vegan chocolate cake

200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
250ml water

Simply put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk them together by hand with a balloon whisk to remove any lumps and get some air into them. Add the wet ingredients and gently whisk them together until they form a smooth batter. Pour the batter into a lined loaf tin (13 × 23cm) and cook for 45 minutes in a preheated oven at 180ºC.

I wanted to put some sort of frosting on the cake, but I simply couldn’t find a recipe that I was happy with, so in the end I made ganache. Usually this involves heating cream to just below boiling point and then, off the heat, stirring in very dark chocolate. Vegan dark chocolate is the norm, but a cream substitute is more of a challenge. I don’t use soya products if I can help it (for both environmental and social reasons), so I trundled off to the wholefood shop and examined the alternatives. In the end I selected organic coconut cream in a recyclable carton. I put a couple of dollops of this in a pan, heated it to below boiling, removed it from the heat and then stirred in chocolate until I achieved a nice gloopy consistency, before pouring it over the cake.

I was hoping to retain some of the coconut flavour, but sadly this was swamped by the dark chocolate. However, the verdict was good and I produced a moist and decadent cake despite all the limitations.

It’s certainly a cake I would make again… although not whilst we have an abundance of eggs!

Three Things Thursday: 10 August 2017

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with happiness. This week, it’s all about the future…

Happy memories of past holidays – looking forward to making more

First, holiday planning. I’m currently in the process of sorting out some trips away over the next nine months (I do like to plan ahead), including a holiday to Scotland next year that will involve seeing another blog-writing friend who I’ve never managed to meet in person before. The trip is also going to include a visit to New Lanark – a place I’ve wanted to go for several years. Although the planning is time-consuming, the anticipation is really making me smile.

Soon there will be shelves here

Second, getting organised. Tim is due to arrive tomorrow to install the shelves above the new cabinets in the kitchen. This will mean that all the cookery books can come out of my work room, and I can clear my work table of all the sewing things that have accumulated there because their shelf-space is otherwise occupied. It will be good to be able to use my sewing machines again… especially looking at my  (lack of) progress on the sewing-related items on my 17 for 2017 list. I’ve alrerady started filling the new cupboards in the kitchen, but I can’t really get them sorted out and everything in its new home until all the work is complete.

Looking forward to seeing these two soon

Third, meeting people. Over the next six weeks I have all sorts of get-togethers arranged, from a birthday tea party on Saturday, to teaching a friend to use WordPress; from a family lunch to a big Sixty Million Trebles meet-up in Birmingham in September; not to mention a training course with some smallholder friends and my monthly shared lunch with some of my permaculture pals. Writing this, I realise that all these events involve food in one form or another, so I’m doubly happy.

I know that I should enjoy the present (and I do), but it’s lovely to have so many good things to look forward to. Do you have any plans that are making you smile this week?

-oOo-

Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

Ruby Tuesday

Last autumn my friend @CambridgeGoats (not her real name) introduced me to the joys of steam-juicing and, as a result, I ended up buying a Mehu Liisa. By the time I got it, the only fruits that I had in abundance to juice were apples. We are still enjoying the results, although we’ve now consumed all the apple and ginger juice and there’s only plain apple juice left.

Today I decided to have a go with some of the red currants that have grown so well this year. I didn’t have enough to fill the whole basket, but as it was an experiment, I was happy to try with a small amount and to include the last of the frozen ones left over from last year (it’s always good to rotate your stock).

This method of juicing is single-step – it produces hot liquid, which can be drained straight into hot, sterilized bottles, ready for storage once cool.

The juice is very tasty and a beautiful ruby red colour, as you can see from the first bottle.

Now, I wonder how it mixes with white wine… or fizz…

Bye-bye blankets

Over the past nine months or so, I’ve been contributing to the Sixty Million Trebles Project – highlighting the plight of the sixty million refugees in the world (in fact, there’s now more than sixty-five million). The idea was to make blankets to send to refugees and for each stitch (a standard UK crochet stitch is called a ‘treble’) to represent one refugee. Three knitting stitches are equivalent to one crochet treble… you can, therefore, perhaps begin to imagine the huge amount of work that has gone into this.

Originally, the plan was to create a world record-breaking blanket. However, it gradually dawned on the group that the blankets were actually desperately needed by displaced people and so it was agreed that we would set aside the world record attempt and get the blankets to where they would keep people warm. Boxes and boxes have already gone to Syria to a hospital caring for premature babies, but the main bulk of the blankets are destined to travel to those in need later this month. So, feeling a little sad at seeing them go, I’ve just completed my last ‘refugee blanket’ and packed up my final three (totalling 97,258 trebles) to go off to one of the big collection points.

Prior to this, I’d made eight smaller blankets (plus a bigger one that went to a different charity – Knit for Peace) and these had already been dropped off in person at one of the collection points. Here they all are (as well as one of those in the current batch):blankets

The grand total for the 60MT project so far is 55 million trebles, so you can see how close we are. After this big dispatch, further blankets are destined for various UK charities as it was agreed that we also wanted to support people in need closer to home.

For now, though, I’m going to concentrate on some personal projects and finishing some neglected WIPs*

-oOo-

* WIP = Work In Progress

 

Gardening for chickens

Not all the fruit and vegetables that I grow in our garden are destined for human consumption. Some we share with the hens, some unwanted plants (weeds or excess production) are fed to the hens, some infested plants (brassica leaves with caterpillars or insect eggs on them) are also given to the hens and one plant in particular was planted specifically to provide chicken treats. This plant is a chokeberry.

Years ago I read somewhere how much hens like chokeberries and so, when I planted up the fruit cage, I planted a chokeberry. It started fruiting after a year or two and now it produces a crop each year which the hens do, indeed, adore. I’m careful to ration them, as I suspect, given the chance, they would eat all the chokeberries in one go, and who knows what effect that would have on their digestive systems?

Today I picked the first batch for them – beautiful black berries, to which I added a few red currants (as we have so many of those, I don’t mind sharing).

They go straight from the bush to the hens and you can judge for yourself how much they enjoy them (please excuse slightly odd orientation of this little film – I was juggling camera and berries whilst trying not to get mugged by hens before starting my recording):

If you search on the internet, you will discover lots about how wonderful chokeberries are: a “super-food” (I HATE that term), full of antioxidants. However, they aren’t particularly tasty and so I don’t mind the hens getting all the benefits!

Eviction

As you know, the limery is full of plants at the moment – chillies, peppers, melons, Cape gooseberry (Physalis), the carnivores, germinating seeds, ginger, passion flowers and tomatoes.

Hmmm… tomatoes… as some of you know, I don’t really like the tomato plants. Don’t get me wrong, I like the tomatoes, just not the plants. Peppers form lovely plants; the melons are trained to climb over the door, the Physalis are statuesque, but the tomatoes are untidy… and smelly. And because I’m not keen on them, they are the plants most likely to get a bit neglected.

Looking around yesterday, I decided that I needed a bit more space as I wanted to plant a few seeds in trays and there was not much room on the window sills. My eye immediately fell on the two most scratty tomato plants which, despite regular feeding, look very neglected and sorry for themselves. Not being keen on throwing plants on the compost heap when they are still cropping (even if only a bit), I decided to transplant them outdoors. Our newest raised bed is slowly being filled with material to compost in situ (leaves, grass clippings, cardboard, tea, paper etc) and is currently home to some impressive courgette and squash plants:

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hard to get the scale, but they are huge

However, one end is unoccupied. So, as an experiment, I have planted the two tomatoes in this area. The compost (you can’t call it soil, really) is amazing – very organic and full of worms, as well as being warm because of the decomposition that is happening remarkably quickly. Of course growing medium isn’t everything and we might be let down by the weather, but fingers crossed these will survive and continue to crop:

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you can see they are currently not very happy – I hope that will change

Elsewhere in the garden, the crops continue to be abundant:

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this morning’s harvest

And even that sad sage plant I mentioned a few weeks ago has perked up…

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it’s growing!

I hope, if you are a gardener, you are enjoying abundant crops and, whether you are or not, that there is abundance elsewhere in your life.

Three Things Thursday: 3 August 2017

It may be raining outside, but there are still things to make me happy.

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wind and rain outdoors… a jungle inside

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with happiness.

First, fourteen months of Three Things Thursday. I thought I was coming up to my one year anniversary of this weekly post, but I’ve just checked and I wrote my first regular post (there were occasional ones before) on 2 June 2016. I haven’t missed a week, so that’s 63 posts, which equals 189 things that have made me smile… talk about ‘counting your blessings’!

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one ordered, one found whilst browsing

Second, our library. In our small town there is a little library. Although it can’t house huge numbers of books, it’s easy enough to order a book from elsewhere in the county, and it will arrive within a few days. I used to be a big book-buyer, but joining the library means that I can reduce consumption and check out books that I may eventually want to buy.

 

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pretty dress… with pockets

Third, pockets. Last year I had a dress made for me and I specifically requested that it have pockets, because it’s one of the features I look for in my clothes. Women’s clothes often do not have pockets and the history and politics (yes, politics) of this is fascinating…. what could we be hiding in there? If you want to read a bit more, you could start here. Anyway, my clothes are generally pocketed, and those that aren’t, I have plans for.

 

So, those are three things making me smile this week. What is making you happy?

-oOo-

Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

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