Monday Miscellany: Entertaining, Football and Gin

We finally have proper summer weather, it’s warm and all the windows are open and fans are being deployed. It also means that I need to water the plot more often, I’m loving the gardening videos where they talk about hand watering and have a hose…..hand watering is me with two 10 litre watering cans and a through watering of the plot takes about an hour.

I’m not great in excessive heat but in this weather, I tend to get up about 6am and go to bed earlier because by about 9pm I’m too hot to be awake.

Last week, I had people that weren’t my mother in the house! Sue and Richard came for dinner. I cook for Mum all the time but I haven’t had anyone else in the house since last year, it was lovely but I’d forgotten the worry I have that people won’t have enough to eat. So I made enough food that I fed everyone on Friday night and Ma and I on Saturday and me on Sunday!

Saturday was World Gin Day and after a morning at the plot, Ma and I celebrated with a martini (in the big glasses). We had an early night, I was running on 6 hours of sleep and that along with the sunshine and gin seemed to tip me into the beginning of a migraine (all good things seem to cause a migraine right now – thanks perimenopause!).

This week I’m going to be mostly listening to the football, look everyone gets excited for cricket or Olympics or rugby, I like the football and I’m tired of people on social media being snobbish about it, it’s the best game and I even understand the offside rule. Although I don’t think they should have resumed the Denmark/Finland game on Saturday night but I’m pleased that Christian Eriksen is stable and hope he continues to recover. I’m was going to renew my first aid qualification in August anyway but this has been a great reminder of what knowing CPR and how to use a defibrillator can do…

Have a good week…

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Allotment Adventures: Looking like a garden

This time last year, I had almost everything planted, sow and growing. This year has been very different, I went into last weekend with garlic, onions, shallots, carrots, beetroot, pea, broad beans, salad, parsnips, salsify, and potatoes in the ground and growing. The fruit is all in various stages of growth as well, I think we’ll be fine for rhubarb, blueberries and raspberries, we’ll see how the plums do and hopefully get one or two gooseberries, strawberries and boysenberries.

We are fighting a battle with the weeds but after this weekend feel like we are almost there in terms of planting. We got tomatoes and sweet potatoes in and sowed summer squash, french beans, cucumbers, basil, dill and the first bed of winter squash.

It feels like the hard work is paying off.

s

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Monday Miscellany: Busy

Happy Monday!

Last week, I was too busy to post. Please don’t think I was being all that productive, except at work where I managed to get a whole lot of work off the to do list and on to the done list (probably because my boss was on holiday and not checking his emails!) but there is a thing I’m much more open to as a get older which is that sometimes you need some time for things to stew a bit and then you get it all knocked out very quickly! It’s not the same as ignoring things, or worrying about them, it’s just that some tasks need to be ticking over in the back of my subconscious to find the solution, so that when I actually do them, they are simple. It’s a theory…

The Bank Holiday weekend we were up at my brother’s having Christmas and Christmas in May is great, I highly recommend it. It was great to just be with each other (and watch Chelsea win the Champions League. I won the family sweepstake for the first time ever in the 10 or so years we’ve been doing it, with my team! It was pretty great). We also got to know Barney, the very mischievous dog. He is interested in eating everything and drinking my water (they used to have a cat that did the same thing!)

The rest of the weekend was all about the plot we bought some more wood and built the final raised bed, and extended the weekend by having Tuesday off work for a haircut, it had been 10 months since my hair had been cut, my split ends had split ends!

I love this time of year, the days are long and even when I’m grumpy, (peri-menopause is harder on the nerves than I anticipated) I feel more awake and just feel like I get more done. I’m a summer person rather than a winter one.

Assuming that everything opens up on 21 June, this is probably going to be my last month WFH full time, I’ll have my second jab on 5 July and am planning to be back in the office at least some of the time from 19 July. There’s no pressure but I’m thinking that at least Monday and Wednesday would be good days to be at the office although it’ll depend on what else is happening. It’s going to be weird to be back to commuting and office life, I’ve been at home for over a year now. I’ve started to get up earlier and am generally changing my routines at home to accommodate office working, basically, I need to be a little bit more organised and rigid as I won’t be able to wing it as much as I do now, with laundry, housework and food, I’ll have to get out my lunch boxes again.

My plans for the week are few, I have friends over for dinner on Friday, but other than wheelbarrowing compost to the plot and watering nothing else major going on. It’s quite lovely.

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Monday Miscellany: Rainy

Happy Monday!

Wisteria

The last couple of weeks have been very like the last couple of months, I worked, I slept, I even occasionally left the house! But it’s hard to get too excited about much, I don’t think I’m unusual and actually compared to a couple of people I know, I’m in a very good space. As everything starts to open up and there’s worry about the Indian variant and what that could do to the opening up plans, we’re in a constant state of ‘always winter and never Christmas’.

It’s wearing and natural for me to feel worn through even though, as I keep saying, I’m quite well and feeling pretty ok.

Last week, I broke through a bit from the ‘languishing’, I got loads of good work done, getting through stuff that had been hanging around not getting finished, I’m not entirely out of the weeds of work yet but it’s nice to get things under control.

This weekend Ma and I abandoned the allotment to the rainy weather and I went to hers for Saturday morning breakfast. Ma doesn’t have a large coffee pot like I do and maternal sacrifice does not extend to having less than a three cups of coffee, so I had to have the little cafetière!

We went shopping for Christmas presents because I didn’t finish buying the nephews presents when family Christmas got cancelled last year. It’ll be lovely to see them over the weekend and our family’s ‘Christmas in May’ will be watching the Champions League final to see if Chelsea can overcome their very poor run of the last couple of weeks and beat Man City, it’s unlikely especially as I have Chelsea and Ben has Man City and I don’t think I’ve ever yet won a bet against my brother.

Other plans for this week, include lunch with Sue on Tuesday for her birthday, making carrot cake for the weekend, putting out the tomatoes in the cloche at the plot and giving the flat a deeper clean than normal, mostly to the floors! The usual stuff.

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Friday Links: Blame the BBC

Happy Friday! This week I made a concerted effort to look for links for this post during the week.

There’s nothing ‘great’ about this new British Railways revamp

How quickly Boris Johnson’s triumph has given way to doubt and instability

Blaming the unvaccinated for Covid’s spread won’t help stop the virus

Don’t Take the Narrow View of What’s Happening in Gaza

It’s pretty clear where I stand on the Israeli/Palestinian issue but this is worth watching

‘Bearing the brunt’: the suffering of children in the Gaza-Israel conflict – photo essay

You Can Only Maintain So Many Close Friendships. I’m really low across all those numbers because I’m fundamentally anti-social..

Tact & Tactics: Meet The Leading Women Diplomats Representing Britain Abroad. This came from my friend Jo, who is a diplomat and says that everyone wants to be Karen Pierce when they grow up!

‘She has a skill you can’t buy’: the making of Chelsea’s Emma Hayes. There has been a lot said about the Chelsea Men’s team but the Chelsea Women’s team has had an amazing season too. Even though last weekend went wonky for both teams…

Why We Speak More Weirdly at Home. This is lovely and so true. In our family we have nicknames and lots of weird words and saying. For example, I’ll answer to my actual name and two others. My brother is often Bungy, we call my sister in law ‘Lu’, we had thought that it was a nickname but it was about a year into knowing in her we realised that my brother invented it. In fact nicknames are our thing, I call my goddaughter “Tabs” but I’m pretty sure I’m the only person that does, Ma and I talk about ‘the boy’ which often means Ben but sometimes the youngest nephew. At Easter, we eat ‘cross H buns’ because I couldn’t get the sequence of words and say Hot Cross Buns. There are others but they are all peculiar to our family and I bet you have them too.

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Adventures in Menu Planning: No Spend Week

One of the things I’ve picked up this year is to have a week every month when I don’t grocery shop, usually the week before the I’m paid.

It’s a good habit to keep me acquainted with everything that’s in the fridge, freezer and cupboards and avoid waste. It also keeps me more creative and flexible in my cooking.

These were the contents of the fridge on Friday afternoon. Usually I would do a scan of the fridge, freezer and cupboards before I went shopping. It’s the second week of the Oddbox and I think it’s working out pretty well (although I’m eating a lot more apples than usual!)

Produce

The produce was a bag of salad leaves, a bag of spinach, some cabbage, two oranges, two and a half lemons, two limes, two very geriatric pears, five frozen by the fridge carrots, 6 nectarines and 10 apples.

The fridge has lots of jars of things, there’s pickle, cornichions, plum and raspberry puree, rhubarb compote, green tomato chutney, cocktail cherries, fat, leftover butter parmesan sauce (made for globe artichokes), blackberry jam, kefir grains, two jars of yoghurt whey, pesto, yoghurt, eggs, cheese and two bottles of Purdeys*), not pictured is the milk, ketchup, mustards, anchovies, coffee, lemon juice and tomato puree in the door!

I also had onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, flour, beans, pasta and so on (at this point I can hear my mother saying I have too much food in the cupboards – she’s not wrong but all of it is stuff I use so I regret nothing), as I run out of things, I chalk them up on the board in the kitchen, so that’s what I didn’t have or was running low on. I’m not going to inflict the contents of the freezer on you, it’s in dire need of defrosting. But a quick rundown, shows that I have about 6 pots of pesto, frozen veg (broccoli, peas, sweetcorn and spinach), Sunday breakfast packs (I buy bacon, chipolatas and black pudding and break them down into one person portions) for other meat there were 6 sausages, a pork shoulder, a pack of beef, a pork chop and two chicken legs (all Dorset meats) and some damsons that are going to be turned into gin. There was also two portions of soup, two portions of Hot Stew and two person size pasta bake which is what happens when I make too much, they go into the freezer as a sort of homemade ready meal!

Aside from the usual wine chillers, ice, and ice packs for my head, the freezer also contains random ingredient stuff – a bag of chicken bones and veg scraps for stock, a bag of parmesan rinds for soup, a bag of stale bread that will make bread pudding at some point and some frozen blocks of herbs). It’s where food languishes waiting for me to eat it!

On Friday night, I used the butter parmesan sauce and the milk to make a white sauce for macaroni cheese which I ate with the salad leaves (yes all of them, a bag of salad leaves is one portion)

Saturday morning I made soda bread to have with the bacon, sausage, black pudding (from the freezer) and poached eggs that Ma and I had for breakfast. We didn’t have lunch but dinner was sausages, baked potatoes and peas (hurrah for a very old fashioned 70’s tea!)

On Sunday, I had toast and jam for breakfast, a sausage sandwich for lunch and potatoes for dinner. (It was not my day for good or healthy eating).

I made a version of Smitten Kitchen’s Breakfast Apricot Crisp with the nectarines and that with yoghurt was breakfast for Monday to Friday.

I also used some of my courgettes to make a courgette cake. I used this recipe but subbed mixed fruit for the raisins and walnuts

Lunch on Monday and Tuesday was soup from the freezer and Monday night dinner was also a freezer meal, pasta vegetable bake with roasted frozen broccoli.

Tuesday night was Hot Stew (also from the freezer) with rice and peas.

On Wednesday, I made hummus and ate that with toast, carrots and cornichion for lunch.

Wednesday night dinner was risotto-ish. I had leftover rice from Tuesday with half a bag of the spinach, the cabbage, onions and pesto. It tasted great but the joy of eating alone is that sometimes, if it doesn’t look great, I don’t get negative feedback from other diners….

Today, I will eat the crisp and yoghurt for breakfast, hummus for lunch and baked sweet potatoes with black bean and sweetcorn taco filling Foodie with Family, which I use a lot. I’ll use salsa I made in the summer too so a win for using up preserves.

On Friday, breakfast and lunch will be the same. I have a friend coming over for dinner, which will be caramelised onion and spinach pizza and I promised her rhubarb crumble!

The fridge is much emptier than it was last Friday and there are things I need to buy tomorrow, milk for yoghurt, mozzarrella, the list of things on the board, more eggs, some veg for Saturday and Sunday because my new Oddbox doesn’t arrive until late Sunday night and I’ll have used all of it except the apples.

Maybe for next week, I’ll show you how I used the apples and the leftover taco filling!

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Allotment Adventures: More relaxed than I probably should be

Everything is looking good but I also feel like everything is behind and I’m not too worried about it.

Over the bank holiday Ma and I will sort out compost and wood and I’m going to sow the squashes direct in the first week of June which is about the same time as I’ll put the tomatoes out. Yes, it’s late but we’re adapting to conditions!

This week, we weeded, we topped up the potato pots, we made another plan for the top half, with the hope being that by next spring we’ll be done with structure, although I’m determined that by the time I’m 60 there will be a greenhouse/polytunnel of some description!

The rhubarb is doing well, we picked over 3 kilos without making that much of a dent in the size of it.

The peonies flowered.

Peony

The magpies visited.

Magpie

And there are bluebells, so I’m happy with how we’re going given the circumstances.

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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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