Friday Links: It’s a horrible mess all over

Happy Friday!

I took some time off because I was in a slump (yes they are coming more frequently, I’m perimenopausal and look at the state of the world, of course it’s harder to be cheerful and motivated!) and when that happens, I have to concentrate on work and home because those things are more important.

The world is still a mess, and on fire in Gaza. (side note, I believe that Israel has a right to exist, I don’t like or agree with Hamas. However, Israel is treating the Palestinians as sub human, if you treat people like rabid dogs, that’s how they’ll act. They are trapped in Gaza and the West Bank, in occupied Jerusalem (that’s the east of the city) they are basically having their homes stolen from them. It’s been called apartheid, but to me it looks more like Germany about 1938 and I don’t say that lightly. But on Monday the news said that 5 Israelis and 35 Palestinians (including 9 children) had been killed. The Today Programme spoke to two women, one in Palestinian and one Israeli, I was struck by the Israeli woman saying that the body count was wrong, six people had died. I thought that would have put the body count up to 41 not six. Maybe she didn’t know, maybe the Palestinian deaths aren’t reported in Israeli media, but isn’t that the problem?

Anyway here are this week’s links….

Grenfell is still giving up its secrets and they retain the power to shock

Mandatory voter ID would dangerously undermine UK democracy

The violence that began at Jerusalem’s ancient holy sites is driven by a distinctly modern zeal

Defiance in the face of Israeli aggression gives Palestinians everywhere hope

Trump’s signature Israel policy had a key flaw. We’re seeing it now.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is exposing a deep schism in the Democratic Party

How angry Apple employees’ petition led to a controversial new hire’s departure

Why Millennials Can’t Grow Up

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Oddbox and Potato Crust Quiche

Because the allotment isn’t producing a lot at the moment (we’re getting rhubarb and not much else) I decided to try Oddbox. Yes, it’s part of my drive to be a bit more sustainable because this produce would be thrown out otherwise.

I chose the £19.99 large fruit and veg box to be delivered every two weeks, because it had more variety in it and I eat a lot of produce, especially as I’m not eating meat Monday to Friday. The first order was £10 off and Oddbox does run a refer a friend scheme (https://mention-me.com/m/ol/nn2gg-nicola-dempsey. This is my link if it’s something that interests you). You can change your delivery frequency and the size of the box anytime, I can see that when the allotment gets going I might switch to the small box or the fruit booster box.

The large box

I’ve been trying over the last year to buy British seasonal produce, so I have to admit it was a shock to have a box with tomatoes, courgettes, passion fruit and mangoes in it! But it’s been interesting to have to plan around the contents of the box and not plan and then shop! I chose a Large fruit and veg box every two weeks, because it had more variety in it and I eat a lot of produce, especially as I’m not eating meat Monday to Friday. I do know that for many of my friends with children this way of doing things has been difficult because they don’t have the time to plan, however, Oddbox do send you an email the week before with the expected list of what’s in the box and I was impressed that compared to another box scheme more of the produce was local (i.e British) although yes the apples and clementines were little!

You can exclude up to three things and you can change that every week but I thought it would be more interesting to take was I was given and go from there. Which meant potatoes. Really like potatoes but don’t often buy them, there is a certain time of the year on the plot when I eat a lot of potato salad and I love mashed potatoes, but I’m not my dad and I don’t need them with every meal! So I went looking for a recipe and stumbled on this, as luck would have it, I had sweet potatoes in the box as well so it was a win.

As usual, I made a small change, and used spring onion tops instead of chives (I really need to replant some chives on the plot but these spring onions over wintered in one of the beds and I’m going to make that something I do for next winter!) and my oven still runs too hot so it’s maybe a little darker than a perfect quiche would be.

Next time I will use the food processor to grate the potatoes and I might use more paprika in the crust, but it was perfect with a salad for dinner and eating the leftovers for lunch!

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Allotment Adventures: Not As Expected

On Saturday, despite some disappointments (lack of wood and compost) we were rearing and ready to get to the plot. Then Mum’s knee went out from under her, it’s a thing, it’s happened before and she was not happy about it.

Apple blossom

So new plan. I left her in the street to hobble home and went to the plot. Well not quite. I did leave her to go to the plot, so I could dump the contents of the bokashi bin into the compost and pick some rhubarb! Then I went back to help her walk home, Ma has a pretty high pain tolerance so if she’s telling us she’s in pain and can’t walk, it’s really bad. We got home, iced the knee and had a nice quiet Saturday.

Bulb bed and the rhubarb

So the next morning, I left the house when Ma went home and headed to the plot. I watered everything and re-upped the bird feeders. My plan was to strim which I started and then the strimmer stopped working. It’s an easy fix I have a replacement bit at home! So I tidied up, weeded the rhubarb and gooseberries, removed the raspberries from where they aren’t supposed to be (I’m beginning to think that they are actually triffids!), did a bit of path weeding and planted the phlox Ma bought last week.

At home, I potted on the tomatoes, echinacea and basil.

Spring view

We are pretty behind where I intended to be at this point. The weather is weird, it’s really still to cold for the summer plants and there is a dearth of compost and wood so I can’t really get on with building the other beds or filling the ones that are already built and to be honest, I’m not too worried. If I end up direct sowing the squash plants, at the end of the month when I do the french beans and cucumbers, then I do. It might mean that we don’t have as long to eat summer squash or as many winter squash as I’d like but as Ma keeps pointing out (annoyingly), we aren’t subsistence farmers, this isn’t the only food we have access to and it’s not our livelihood. We’ll be disappointed but it really won’t kill us and we’ll have next year to get it right. Something will grow.

On the plot right now, there are berries on the gooseberries and blackcurrant bushes, the rhubarb is abundant, there are broad beans and peas coming up, the beetroot and carrots are beginning to show, as are the potatoes, the garlic, onions and shallots are all doing ok and there is blossom on the plum and apple trees, and the blueberry bushes. There are even flowers on the strawberry plants. It might not be as generous as last year but it’ll give us something.

Tiny blackcurrant

One of the areas of the plot I’m most proud of is the pond and rose garden. I’m ok at growing food but I’m not that great with flowers, although I’m trying to work on that to help the pollinators. This area of the plot, I made up all by myself, I moved rose bushes and plants and dug a pond and hoped for the best. And it’s not perfect but I think it’s looking pretty good.

Pond and rose garden

I think it’s maturing nicely with it’s ‘chuck it all in’ design and I’m looking forward to seeing how it fills out.

Last year we bought a bunch of bulbs and because the soil was so dry and hard to dig into, ended up throwing bulbs into the bed near the plum tree, we’ve designated that bed the bulb bed and we have narcissi, daffodils, crocuses and tulips in there. I think there are also irises in that bed that we are waiting on and this mystery (in that I can’t remember what it called) allium. I. moved some of the white tulips into this bed and I’ll also move the other tulips on the plot into the bed too. There is no planning in this bed either but I’m really fond of it’s chaos, especially as the californian poppies go mad in that bed!

Mystery allium
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Lotion Bars

It’s been mentioned a couple of times but I’m on a quest to reduce my rubbish, I’ve switched to soap but one of the places that I can make a change with is moisturiser and hand cream. I have really dry skin and my use of both things is high.

Sarah at Sustainable Cooks, has a recipe for hard lotion bars, which she swears by and she’s never steered me wrong before! I was prepared to give it a go but I’m not that keen on coconut oil, I’ve used it before but it’s not my favourite. So I used the same basic recipe but subbed in cocoa butter. I’ve also done another replacing the coconut oil with shea butter and both work fine.

The bars work well and I have an old mint tin that I’m using for storing it and it works really well. It’s also worth noting that you don’t need a fancy mould, I had one and thought that it would work really well if I was making them for presents but a silicone muffin cup would work as well (actually I have a silicone madeleine mould which I think would be perfect for hand lotion bars!)

This is a case where I’m reducing not giving up entirely, I still love my Altruist moisturiser, it’s a brilliant all in one cream that works for body, hands and feet, so while I have these bars for body and hands, I will continue to use it for my feet, but it’s using maybe three tubes a year versus more than 24 as I go through about 12 tubes of hand cream a year and about the same of moisturiser. Like I said, I’m not aiming for perfect but in this instance, less is more!

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Friday Links: John Lewis Nightmare

Happy Friday!

I have today off work because I wanted to have a long, long weekend. Right this minute, I’m mooching around the kitchen finishing my coffee. Then I’m going to wash up the breakfast things, do some house stuff and do weekend things I usually do on Sunday. Then come Sunday, I can read books…

Here are this week’s links….

The new rom-com Together Together explores the romance of platonic friendship

The ‘John Lewis nightmare’ shows just how out of touch Boris Johnson is

Primal rage at PMQs as Boris the joker is unmasked

India Is What Happens When Rich People Do Nothing

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Good things

This is a sort of what I ate but only the really good stand out stuff of the last week or so.

Roasted veg and mozzarella (or why I will never be a vegan). An easy throw it in the oven lunch (carrot, cauliflower, sqaush, onion and sweet potato), if I’d had salad leaves, I’d have thrown them in as well but we can’t have everything..

Hot Stew. This in very adaptable, I need to can some more black beans and chickpeas, this used a 10 bean mix and the last jar of chickpeas. The dumplings were perfect, fluffy balls of gorgeousness.

Pain au Raisin. Saturday morning breakfast

Roasted Veg Soup. Using the same mix of veg as above, added to stock with some red lentils. Soup is an easy way of using up vegetables and an easy lunch.

Chard and Goats Cheese Pasties. When we pulled up all the chard a while back, I made two batches of these, I made the pasties a bit smaller and froze them so that Ma could have some. In future, I’m going to do it this way all the time, the bake really well from frozen and it’s always good to have something like this for quick, hands off lunches at home or eventually for office packed lunches.

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Allotment Adventures: Dry

This week, the perennials and occupied beds got a watering twice and I refilled the pond! It’s dry, we didn’t have as much rain as we usually do this winter and it’s been a while. There is light rain predicted for Thursday but I’m not sure that it’s going to be enough. So the flowers, perennials and potatoes are getting a soak once and week and the beds (onions, shallots, garlic, peas, broad beans, carrots, beetroot, newly sown salsify, parsnip and salad beds) will be watered at least twice and more if it gets any warmer. It’s earlier that I’d like for watering but it has to happen, my poor blueberry bushes are not looking well.

So this week there was epic watering, pond re-filling and filling up the bird feeders. I tidied up the back of the plot and got the water bins cleaned and filled. Ma lined some of the empty beds with cardboard which had the added bonus of clearing it out of the shed so that Ma could have a small tidy. There is a ‘take everything out of the shed, clean it and put it all back in a more orderly fashion’ session in my future, my partner in crime is going to insist on it.

Rhubarb, rhubarb

We picked the first rhubarb of the year, which made me very happy

Every year, Ma and I try to grow something we’ve never grown before, last year it was sweet potatoes. This year Ma wanted to grow salsify and I agreed but only if I could try parsnips, sow we’ve got half a bed each and sowed them this weekend. We were going to sow celeriac but there was some debate about whether it was the right time to sow outside, so instead we sowed salad, spinach and radishes, we’ll see how they get on. We also sowed a second set of peas in the pea bed. I really would like to get around to trying fennel this year but I have until June to think about that!

The allotment tasks for next week are painting the shed and strimming the paths (me) and weeding (Ma). This week, I need to buy more wood and compost and get the summer and winter squash seeds sown. It’s going to be interesting as last year I was working in the kitchen and growing in the living room. This year the seedlings and I are going to be in the same room!

It’s fine, there is plenty of time and we will find a way to source all the compost we need.

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Fix One Thing

I’ve been working from home for a year and I’m stuck in something of a rut, I have absolutely lost my mojo and I need to get it back. One of my friends had the brilliant idea of tackling one thing a day that I’d been putting off, the idea is that I’ll regain my mojo because I’ll look around the flat and see all the things I can do, and I’ll want to do more.

These are not big things, it’s not painting the living room (so needs to be done) or replacing a kitchen, it’s the little things that need doing that you never get around to, like the shirt that needs handwashing or hanging a picture. You know the niggling things that you put off and put off because the idea of them is exhausting (like how I feel about hoovering!) but that once you do them only take five minutes or so hands on time.

So in the last couple of weeks, these are the things I’ve done:

  • Cleaned all the limescale off the loo (Harpic Power Plus to the rescue)
  • Cleaned the cooker hood;
  • Fixed the wobbly knife rack, so it doesn’t wobble any more;
  • Refixed the hook in the kitchen that had come off the wall;
  • Re-habbed all the house plants, giving haircuts where necessary, adding perlite to the tops to try and prevent fungus gnats, and adding plant feeders to them;
  • Cleaned and re-organised the cupboard under the sink;
  • Hoovered (twice in two weeks, which is a miracle because I loathe hoovering);
  • Put all the used and cleaned jars away in the cupboard of doom;
  • Cleaned the glass on the living room door;
  • Ironed and put laundry away as soon as it was dry; and
  • Started off a new batch of vanilla extract.

There is a bunch of other stuff to do (oven cleaning and freezer defrosting spring to mind) but it’s helping me feel more in control of my life. So I would recommend it as a strategy if you’re feeling a little blah..

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Monday Miscellany: Away with the Fairies

Happy Monday!

Tulips

It’s the last week of April (2021 seems to be whizzing by), next Monday is a Bank Holiday and if all things go to plan, May and early June have some very good things in them. We’ll see the boys and Ben and Laura, with any luck the weird weather will improve and the allotment will be abundant, I’ll get a haircut (right now the split ends have split ends!). I’m a fairly boring person, I don’t need restaurants and pubs to be open but I would like to see the people I care about which hopefully we’ll be ok to do soon.

Last week, I was a space cadet and not in the ‘clever person preparing to do important things in space’ but more the completely unable to settle down and concentrate and totally away with the fairies sort of way. I’ve always had that tendency but have more or less grown out of it, however, as peri menopause marches on it’s really noticeable during parts of my cycle. Apparently, it might be a thing. So I did try to knuckle down and I mostly got out for a walk every day and kept on top of the housework.

This week, I need a distraction free couple of days to work my little socks off. I also need at least one trip to Wickes for wood and screws – the excitement of allotmenting!

Other than that, everything here is pretty much the same and I’m not complaining about it!

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Recommended: L’Oreal True Match Foundation

Up until 2019, I’d been happily using my Bourjois Healthy Mix foundation which was great, and then Bourjois withdrew from the UK market. I bought enough that I didn’t have to think about a new foundation until April last year.

I struggle to find foundation that matches my pale skin at all, doing that in the middle of a pandemic when I couldn’t test anything, wasn’t fun. But the nice lady at Superdrug, suggested the L’Oreal True Match in 2C Rose Vanilla.

I’m happy to report that the lady in Superdrug was a genius because it matches really well and it’s less drying that the Bourjois was. I know that foundation can be a fraught issue for people with darker skins and while I have no idea whether this is good for darker skins, but that this one comes in 40 shades is a sign of improvement and I hope to see more products for a range of shades and more shops stocking them..

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