Wednesday, 29 June 2011

I never thought I would be saying this...

but, I missed my computer!!!

I haven't had access to my computer for a couple of weeks and I really, really, really missed it.  

I felt quite cut off not being able to email, do internet searches, look at the blogs on my blog list like Cooking with feeling, Daydream about food and Joy the baker, post my Project Spectrum for June  and write my own blog.

It was also so very frustrating not knowing what was wrong with it let alone being able to fix it. 

Before this little episode I was quite pleased with myself for how far I had come with regard to the technology challenged bit.  And, actually, I should still be quite proud of myself because I can do an awful lot more than I could a year ago. 

Mrs Pao sorted out the computer for me and I don't feel bad about that because she has a degree in the computery stuff and I don't - and it's also part of her business.  She is also very good at explaining and I think I understand what happened and between us we got the dongle open which was no easy feat.  Very clever is Mrs Pao.  I would recommend her for all things of a computery nature.

So, positive things - I am still  better than I used to be and hope to improve even  more, I wasn't frightened by what Mrs Pao was showing me and I even understood some of it  and - I know the right people to ask when things go wrong.  Also I make a nice feta salad and chocolate cake to say thank you for all help received.

My Dad missed me not being able to sort out his telephone bills online for him but I missed not being able to write my blogs most of all.

But now I'm back!!!!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Domestic Goddess in Training - Bread 3 and other bits

Today, I thought as I got out of bed, is going to be a good day.

Today I feel like cooking lots.

And so I did.

I cooked lots.

I made bread.

This is it going in

and this is it coming out

I thought it looked nice, I thought it tasted nice and I was quite pleased.  Well, I was quite a lot pleased actually. 

While this lovely, lovely loaf was in the oven cooking away I also made broad bean hummus which is a recipe of  Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall from the latest television series of River Cottage Everyday.  It is a bit of a faff because of the peeling of the broad beans.  Well, actually it is only a faff if the broad beans haven't been cooked well.  What you have to do is pop the cooked broad beans out of their skins by giving them a squeeze.  I will have you know this is an art.  If the beans have been cooked for too long, they don't pop.  You have to scrape the skins back and it gets stuck under your nails which is absolutely yukky and it takes  ages.  If you haven't cooked the beans for long enough - the same thing. But, if you really have to  under or over cook, I would advise undercooking.  It is a bit  easier scrapingwise.  But a perfectly cooked (and by this I mean following the recipe and not wandering off somewhere and forgetting about them or forgetting to put the timer on and guessing they have been on longer than they have because time has distortions you know) bean will just 'pop' out of its skin when squeezed.  However, and this is the artistry part two bit  -the pressure and aim has to be just right.  Too much pressure and it will 'pop' across the kitchen.  Aim it at the centre of your dish or whatever you are using because a centimetre off (look at me all metric) and it will miss the dish and end up who knows where - I am still missing a bean or two with the souls of airplanes.  When you have podded all your beans they go into a food processor - like this

and when you have added all the other ingredients and whizzed them all a bit they look like this

I also made some chickpea hummus from the same episode - this is the before picture

and this is the after

For the chickpea hummus I don't follow the quantities of the recipe to a T because I don't like tahini over much so I do it to taste.  What works for me is less tahini and more lemon juice, garlic and oil.  I also put the salt and pepper in as I whizz it instead of seasoning afterward.  I also don't like it too gloopy so I use less liquid overall.  And I used tinned chickpeas instead of dried ones.  Other than that I followed the recipe.
And this is my finished lunch - made by me

I should have arranged the plate a little better to make it more aesthetically pleasing but I was very hungry by the time it was all ready and just didn't want to wait any longer.  I wish I could say I grew the vegetables myself - well I could say it but it wouldn't be true.  If I knew how to do little arrows I would point them at 12 o'clock and say 'chickpea hummus' and at 10 o'clock I would say 'broadbean hummus' and right hand side of the plate my arrow would say 'homemade bread'.  

 I also made scones

going in

coming out

an attempt at food styling  (ok room for improvement)

and about to be eaten with a little too much butter

I think that was a good days cooking - and eating.

Nigella et al - look out - I am improving.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Project Spectrum

I was looking at the blog of my friend Mrs Pao a couple of weeks ago and she mentioned something called ProjectSpectrum.  And being a nosy person I had a look at it.

ProjectSpectrum  is an online creative project.  Each month from May to November has been given a colour and participants are invited to do something creative relating to the colour of the month and to post a photo of it online. So, as I seem to have a bit of time on my hands at the moment and in the interests of optimism (never know where these things might lead) and becoming myself again (hopefully that is a good idea) I thought I would give it a go. 

Being a technology challenged person (although I am improving - note the optimism) I found it a little difficult to follow what exactly it was I should be doing with regard to signing up and posting my creative attempts.  But I decided a little thing like that wouldn't stop me because by the time I had something creative to post I might well have worked out what to do.

May was red.  As I came to it late, there only being two weeks of May left, I decided on photography as a creative subject and went out a couple of afternoons in Canterbury and Maidstone photographing things red - as artistically as I could manage.

I had a lovely time.  I wandered around Canterbury with my camera and noticed all sorts of things I probably wouldn't have noticed otherwise.  I even went into a couple of shops and asked if I could photograph some of their red items for an art project I was doing (that made me feel very, very arty).  And - I found a missing postbox!  Well, actually, I am probably the only one who thought it was missing.   At the bottom of Station Road West there used to be a double postbox.  A couple of years ago, for some annoying reason, it was removed which miffed me no end as I used to use it regularly.  And thanks to Project Spectrum I found out where it was put.  It now resides at the entrance of the car park half way up Station Road West.  I have walked up that road, past that car park and thus straight past the postbox at least twice a month for the last eighteen months - and I never noticed it.  And I  would probably have carried on walking past it twice a month for however long if I hadn't been out looking for objects red. 

It will come as no surprise to anyone that a lot of my red based photographs relate to food.  I didn't realise how many food wrappers are red and quite how many signs are red either.

Here are a few of the photographs I took in Canterbury and an afternoon I spent in  Maidstone visiting PR for lunch

Not overly artistically taken I know but if you had asked me - I would have said the ASK sign was green.  Observation skills - nil points.  Anyway their pizza's are nice and I love their profiteroles because they have ice-cream inside instead of cream.

Not sure if I wish I could wear shoes like this  or not hmmmm...

And here comes the food...........

This didn't come out quite how I wanted.  The top right hand corner was supposed to show more stall so that it looked like a hill of cherries.  By the time I had examined the photo and decided to go back for another shot someone had bought a whole wodge of cherries and the whole display had changed - some people are so inconsiderate - couldn't they see art was taking place here....... 

and some flowers

I feel these should have  a title but I don't know what to call them other than 'red flowers in cellophane'.  Umm creative title brain cell needs a little work then.

And some good advice, where would we be without the good advice


Ok, so my photographs were more observational than artistic but it was a nice thing to do and that can't be bad.  I think it would be a nice project to give the kids over the school holidays as well as I found an awful lot of red just around the house - it will keep  them occupied for a while and it's cheap.  

By the end of May I still hadn't quite worked out if I had to do something to actually join this project or where to properly post my creative redness but as face book was one of the  posting options I posted a photo there.  I hadn't ever posted a photo to face book before (I have enough trouble commenting) so it doesn't have a caption because I wasn't sure what to do. But now I know.  This interweb business is a great learning curve.   Also nobody has got back to me saying 'you can't do that, you're not a member' so I am assuming   what I have done is alright and  am moving on to June.  Which is green.  Watch this space.

Thursday, 2 June 2011


A better day today. 

Still coughing, sneezing, wheezy and sleepless but better in myself. 

I had an appointment to go to this morning and afterwards, because it was such a lovely day, I went into town for  a while.

Tesco's were selling small boxes of Maltesers for Father's Day.  So I bought one. 

Then I came back and gave myself some therapy.

As my Dad doesn't like Maltesers I ate them, with my feet up on the sofa watching the Queen documentary I had recorded  last night - Queen the band not Queen Her Maj that is  'Queen the Days of our lives' followed by Timothy Olyphant in Justified.  I had a lovely time.  A bit sad when Freddie Mercury died but apart from that a very therapeutic couple of hours.  Almost as good as retail therapy.

I had intended to go for a walk and take pictures today but I forgot my camera so here are some I took last month in an attempt to improve my photography.  For LP who wanted more photos.

I just love Magnolia trees and am lucky enough to have quite a few around me.  I liked the shape of this one. 

I then followed the path along an alleyway and saw this

A post bike.  No sign of the postie.  What  a funny place to leave a post bike, thought I, as though abandoned, in a long, long alley.  There were a few houses the other side of the wall but with their back gardens against the wall with no access that I could see.  It was gone when I came back.  Hopefully collected by it's postie. 

Ok so I'm not in any way condoning graffiti - but - it was a bit dark in places along the alley and this was quite a nice splash of colour.  I like colour.  I don't much like graffiti though.  I just liked an aspect of this one.  But I am not condoning it.  OK. 

This is an attempt to be 'artisitc'.  It is an abandoned building (a lot of abandonment going on in this alley) no roof, no glass, no window panes just holes against the sky through which new green growth can be seen.  I'm not entirely sure it has worked.  This might be the zenith of my artistic aspirations but I expect I will keep on trying to be the new David Bailey for a while longer. 

Magnolia blossoms. 

The next two photos are from the little park I like to go and sit in sometimes

When I learn how to crop photos I will take the top of this one off because I think it will have a better effect.

And that is the end of today's photographic experience.

I miss film.  I miss having photographs to hold in my hands.  But I have more space because there are no albums and boxes taking up space.

Off for more therapy now.  NCIS - I'm so cultured!!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

An exercise in optimism

I have been rather poorly over the past few days.   A nasty summer cold caught me unawares and it spent 1 day running 30 million razor blades up and down my throat  followed by  3 days stomping through my sinuses, jumping up and down in my head, kick boxing my back, twisting  every joint in my body and streaming liquid excessively from every facial orifice.

With the exhaustion that has come from the fight the good antibodies are putting up inside my body against the invading germy ones - a fight they don't seem to be winning as the germs have migrated to my chest -  and the sleeplessness resulting from my spending most of last night awake listening to the symphony of wheezing in my chest, has come the opportunity for the evil seed of self pity to worm it's way out of the 'sorry for me' place I usually try to keep it locked in.

The spectre of worry and anxiety over the last couple of weeks (failed interview, rent increase, lack of money, Panorama programme, worries over the health of family members, my health, missing my niece, a few other things it's best not go into) has loomed large over me this morning.  And so I cried.  Much.   I saw the leaflet about homelessness  I picked up at the Cathedral Gardens as an omen and fretted myself into a cardboard box under a bridge with all that was left of my belongings in a plastic bag in no time at all.  So I cried some more.  Crying while coughing and sneezing is a very wet occupation and so on my way to the bathroom to get a loo roll to use as tissues, as it felt as though this could go on for some while, it occurred to  me that a nice shower and washing my hair might cheer me up and help  me focus on the positive and thus optimistic side of life.  Water of any sort -  drinking it, seeing it, washing in it usually makes me feel  better. 

So I stepped into the shower, still crying but there you go.  Firstly I dropped my shampoo onto the shelf as I was picking it up.  It fell off the shelf, knocking over the conditioner on the way.  Both fell into a bowl of pot pouri the contents of which ended up all over the bathroom floor.  After my shower I banged my head on the bathroom wall picking up the pot pouri.  I knocked my cleanser into the sink.  I dropped my cotton wool onto the floor.  The towel fell off the towel rail while I was nowhere near it.

A strong desire for chocolate was rising in my emotional centre. 

But, not having any, I thought breakfast would be the next best thing.  So I headed for the kitchen where I walked into a pile of plastic storage containers I keep on a shelf by the radio.  This has been their  home for about six of the eight years I have lived here so I know where they are.  Therefore my conclusion is they moved in order to be knocked over by me thus adding to my stresses.  Psychotic storage boxes I do not need.

My last glass of fruit juice either had suicidal tendencies or it wanted me to suffer as it threw itself all over the table as I reached for it.  I need the sugar damn it - I have no chocolate!!!

I reached into the larder for a teapig (green tea with mint - recommended) and two packets of pasta - from the shelf above!!- threw themselves onto the floor.  They want me to bang my head again as I bend down to  pick them up.  Well it won't work.  They can stay there.

The handle has just come off one of my two favourite big teacups and I can't get the cutlery draw open to get a teaspoon and I don't know why.

On my way into the bedroom the skirting board came out and kicked my toes and the edge of the door bit my arm.  Right there, where that  big green bruise now is.

So here I sit, in my bedroom with my teapig, scared to move  for fear of my surroundings or my body attacking me further while I try to keep the advancing pity party at bay.

I am talking to myself severely.  I am telling myself I will get a job, I won't lose my home and if I do have to leave this one it could  be to a better one, I will have money again and Mr Right will come along and I will know he is Mr Right.  BUT I AM NOT LISTENING.  My world at this moment is dark, vengeful and very, very sad.

However, the glimmer of optimism that  still flickers somewhere deep inside me and valiantly battles the pessimistic self  just made a massive effort, it flamed bright and reminded me that a walk would probably do me some good.  But then, I thought that about the shower and hair and quite frankly I don't want to fall flat on my face in the street because my feet let me down or the pavement took against me. That's happened before, on more than one occasion and it's not funny.

But remembering my recent  walks with my camera I wondered if just looking at the photos I took would have the same effect as actually going for a walk.  You know, like a meditation.  Imagine it well enough and your body actually thinks you have spent time on a sandy beach by the sea and relaxes because it thinks it's had a holiday.  I have had some success  doing this in the past and although it is preferable to have the actual holiday  sometimes needs must.  It doesn't work with chocolate though.  Imagining a soft, silky bar of Galaxy melting in my mouth and gliding it's way sensuously  through my body only makes the desire worse.  My body is well aware it is being deprived of it's emotional crutch.

So, I will give it a go.  And as I have probably tipped you over the precipice of lowness by now I will share my photos with you to cheer you up.

Pink is the colour of healing

Yellow is the colour of hope

Apple blossom time

Joyful colours

This has helped.  These are just a few of the photos I have taken.  I will show you some more later on.  Right now I feel strong enough to brave the kitchen for another teapig and to see if the bag I took out of the freezer last night is butternut squash soup - hopefully - or  - possibly - orange and mango juice.  I really must start to label things.  I am running the freezer down so that I can defrost it so I am eating some rather strange combinations at the moment.  Sadly there is no chocolate.  And although I feel better in myself I am not going to tempt fate by going out into the world to get any. Oh for an ice-cream van to appear.  In fact not moving very much seems to be suiting me very well so I might take my soup, or juice, and watch a DVD.  I know it is daytime and I vowed I would never do that while I am off work but I think today is an exception.

And as Scarlet O'Hara once said 'tomorrow is another day'.  And in the spirit of optimism, hopefully it will be a better day.