Friday Links

Happy Friday! And happy birthday to nephew No 2. I’m pretty sure that time moves more quickly when there are children in the family, I can’t believe that he’s 2 already, J is a force of nature, he looks like his dad (except for those blue eyes), is completely crazy and calls everyone mummy or daddy, he is generally the best natured baby/toddler I’ve come across. How is it two years already?

In the midst of a disaster zone, why are we judging women on their shoes?   It’s not the shoes being judged. It’s the Trump family and their total lack of awareness and appropriateness.  Also seen in Louise Linton recent instagram post, which shows that a bunch of people in the US government are out of touch with the world that most Americans inhabit. I’m also really tired of the ‘Melania is trapped’ narrative, she was an adult woman in her 30’s when she married Trump. Do we make mistakes even when we are adults? Yes but she’s had 12 years to rectify that mistake and she hasn’t. So enough. She chose to be where she is and she chose to wear those shoes, she’s part of the problem of Trump.

A man who punches his ex-girlfriend for telling him no, is not a ‘spurned lover’. I don’t really think more has to be said does it?

Have smartphones destroyed a generation? This got shared around a couple of weeks ago and I just got around to it. It’s worth thinking about and examining our own phone habits too.

Hillbilly Elegy isn’t the only experience of Appalachian poverty.

Libba Bray on the all-female ‘Lord of the Flies’ remake

Sometimes the hardest thing about being a Christian is other Christians who try and speak for all of us. Ana Marie Cox’s nails the problem but also speaks to the impossible truth of our faith.

I was out with a migraine for some of Monday and all of Tuesday so I missed the Hetty Douglas furore but this by Dawn Foster is so true.

Girl finds sword in lake in Cornwall. Personally, I’d have no issue with accepting her as our future queen and I don’t think it’s a co-incidence that the Cambridges have announced a new baby this week!!

Rachel Roddy’s recipe for arancine al ragù I don’t think I would have the patience for this but if anyone would like me to taste test theirs, I’m more than happy to do so!

Hail seitan! How vegan food got down’n’dirty I’m really not into vegan or vegetarian food as meat substitutes. I want to try ‘vegan bacon’ not as a sub for bacon but because I really like carrots. I want vegetables to be vegetables…

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Cooking from the Allotment: Preserving Tomatoes

Although I’ve found managing the produce that comes off the plot this year much more manageable. I’ve eaten a lot more veg as it comes off the plot, I love the idea of putting up food that I’ve grown. Probably because I read lots of American blogs and people like Sarah and Cassie do a lot more canning than I do.

Generally, the US is more adapted than the UK for full on food preserving. I make jam and in Jan/Feb spend quite a bit of time making marmalade but I don’t water bath jam, I read quite an impressive post last week on why the way we do things in the UK is wrong, wrong, wrong and I’m still not going to water bath jam. Jam shouldn’t last forever and you shouldn’t have so much that you keep it for more than a season, if you have that much jam, give it away or don’t make as much! I also don’t have the jars for it!Preserving by bottling is an art that is very lost in the UK (assuming we ever had it) and preserving is more difficult to do here because it’s harder and more expensive to get the right equipment. I love Kilner jars, especially these ones, but they are expensive. Ball seems to have launched in the UK and are slightly cheaper but still quite expensive and are in US sizes. Despite that, I need to get a little bit more into this because the other option is another freezer. You can see all the reasons that Ma doesn’t want to get another half plot, can’t you? I decided to start with the tomatoes. Because I had a few and I had bought some more jars in August!

So I read around the subject and decided to try preserving them using this method, from Food in Jars, which was pretty simple. I had enough for three jars. I’m feeling very proud of myself. Although the whole boiling something for 85 minutes was traumatic, next time I’m going to put distilled vinegar in the water so the limescale doesn’t accumulate on my jars!(Please excuse the terrible picture, the only time I had to do this was early in the morning and it’s September the light is not great and I didn’t use a proper camera!)

I followed tje method to the letter and I’m not bothered about the separation so sometime in the winter, there I’ll be with a tomato sauce made with my own tomatoes. Go me!

 

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Allotment Adventures: September

The food production on the plot is slowing down but not so you’d notice from the weekly produce shots.Courgettes, crookneck squash, a patty pan, salad, chard (the self seeded one next to the flowers at the top of the plot), over a kilo of tomatoes, peppers and loads of basil. That was Saturday, in the week, I’d collected another load of tomatoes and on Sunday we collected broccoli, more basil and a few more tomatoes.

So we’re still keeping ourselves fed, but two of the tomato beds are done. The early bed with the orange tomatoes, is more or less exhausted and we pulled up the cherry tomato bed next to the herb bed because the blight was spreading faster than the tomatoes were ripening (it’s a fine line). So they came up and we harvested all the basil in that bed too.

Once that was done, we manured the bed and covered it with cardboard to give the worms something to do.The greenhouse is full of ripening tomatoes now.But the buckets with tomato plants in them at the top of the plot and the last bed are still hanging on and hopefully their will be enough sunny weather to ripen them on the vine.I planted out some baby kale next to the chard and am kind of relieved that the rain yesterday afternoon and today which should help them settle in, although it’s not good for my remaining tomatoes.I also sowed some black winter radish in the bed with my one cabbage and the pak choi, I learnt from last year and netted the bed to prevent the marauding pigeons, I might even get some this year!I got some broccoli spears from the side shoots but it’s still flowering away and is food for the bees at least! There are two big kale plants in there and when the broccoli comes up, I’ll sow mustard greens.

So for those of you keeping up, that means that over winter we’ll hopefully have kale, chard, mustard greens, winter radish and leeks. Not like the abundance of summer but something. Next week, I’ll also sow some winter lettuce and spring onions for early spring and some coriander and parsley for indoor herbs. In October, we’ll also plant garlic, shallots and broad beans to overwinter.

Other things that happened on the plot this week where noticing that the borage did self seed and that it’s about to flowerManaging to move the butternut squash from the pallet where it had wedged itself to the top of the pallet where it can get some sun.The romano pepper suddenly growing, let’s hope it has enough time to ripen!and the cosmos developing flower buds. Word has come down from on high (my mum) that we are not growing cosmos next year because they are disobedient!It’s been a good summer and autumn shows signs of being very productive too.

 

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What I’ve Read – August 2017

From the look of this list, it looks like all I did was read. Which is not true but I did read quite a lot, some months that happens and it was my birthday month…

The Unyielding – Shelley Laurenston (Kindle TBR)

I love the Laurenston books although this wasn’t as much fun as the last two Call of Crows books. Having said that Four Horsemen of the Apocalyspe were hilarious, the whole riff on which patheon has the better dragon had me laughing hard. Perfect, I’m in bed with a cold reading..

After You – Erin Nicholas (Kindle TBR)

I enjoyed it but the whole plot was based on someone not talking about what the hell was going on and I didn’t feel that that was dealt with.

Trust – Kylie Scott (Kindle bought)

This is one of H’s picks, it’s written as YA so it’s less explicit than other of her books and I really enjoyed reading it. I loved that although horrible things happened and have given her issues, the Edie is strong and sure about who she is. I liked that although the John had alpha-hole tendancies, Edie will not put up with it although she gets it wrong sometimes. I still think happy forever endings for teenagers are unrealistic but I liked this one. I also really liked the parent here because it was nice to see a non perfect parent be normal and loving instead of over the top terrible or neglectful.

Lord of Shadows – Cassandra Clare (Kindle bought)

I really enjoyed it, I could really, really do without the ‘we’re in love but we can’t be’ theme, but the rest of it, I liked. Although it ended really abruptly (and horribly) and it’s going to be ages (2019) until the next book. What I did love having read all of her other books, is that nothing really gets resolved. You beat the big bad, find your true love but there’s always the next thing. Sometimes that’s your relationship, sometimes it’s another big bad, sometimes it’s just that people don’t learn. They overcome one type of hatred, fall into another. That is the biggest problem here. Life and people not learning.

Hate to Love You – Alisha Rai (Kindle bought)

I really enjoyed this. I enjoyed how mucked up they both were, I liked how strong they were. I didn’t quite get the melodrama but I thought it was well handled.

A Queen from the North – Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese  (Kindle bought)

This had an interesting write up in Smart Bitches but I struggled with it. I loved the premise but there were too many issues for me. First, the history and alternate worlding – to completely change the history of royalty in the UK means to completely change the history of the UK. They made a stab at it with Unified instead of United Kingdom but what happened in Ireland. The change of history happens with Henry VI’s Tudor dynasty coming unstuck and Elizabeth of York being beheaded. So the Tudors are Lancastrian. But the book is based on the North being neglected, it says from the Midlands to Scotland. There is a whole lot of non-Yorkshire land in the North including Lancashire, which is a problem if the North is neglected and underfunded, what about the Industrial Revolution? Also the line goes back to the Henry VI which supposes that Elizabeth I married which changes the dynamic of most of European history even more. And yet everything is the same more or less as the modern UK I live in. Doesn’t make sense. Then there were the Americianisms – English people would not say math or school, when they mean maths and uni or college. Why is the heroine only applying to US colleges for PHD study, when Imperial College is on her doorstep. The stuff about the ravens and the tower doesn’t make sense within the novel. I really struggled with the hero not bloody communicating and there was too much instalove and not enough actual communication. On the plus side, the book contains diversity which I appreciated and I read it in a day. It’s a great idea but for me, poorly executed.

Good Boy – Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy (Kindle TBR)

This was pretty fun. I liked that Blake was all easy on the surface but was a really nice guy. It was funny and easy to read and we’ve established that I like Sarina Bowen books haven’t we?

Deep Check – Kimberly Kincaid (free)

It was free, I read it in a day. It was ok. Everything was a bit to easily resolved.

A Rogue by Any Other Name – Sarah McLean (Kindle TBR)

With Sarah McLean novels, I do a certain amount of handwaving, they aren’t supposed to be accurate but but please…an English lady would not vow to pay back every cent. You know why? Because England had pounds, schillings and pence (and many other complicated coins pre-decimalisation). They would pay back every penny. Not hard. Aside from an couple of other errors, I’m pretty sure that the age of majority in 1833 was 21 but I’m happy to be corrected, I enjoyed it. I liked both characters and that they eventually got over themselves and together. And of course I wanted to read the other two, thank goodness for friends who buy books but Amazon really does have to get on with allowing leading on Kindles..

A Scot in the Dark – Sarah McLean (borrowed)

I think I liked this one most of the three. I found myself annoyed at some of the language through both this and the next one, generally, we are finished not through. But my petty language annoyances aside, I enjoyed this but I did become increasingly annoyed that their didn’t properly use their words. Tell each other what is going on. Having said that I did like that we got more of the Dangerous Daughters but I’m sad that two of them got married in since the last book and we don’t see any of them.

The Day of the Duchess – Sarah McLean (borrowed)

This was going to be the hardest sell of the three books, given that the first starts with the hero, Mal cheating on his wife, Seraphina, who is the hero in this book. Sera disappeared after book one and in this book she comes back and asks for a divorce. I found the Lords part of the book the hardest to cope with, I think I was just in a nitpicky mood and I’m pretty sure that the House of Lords would not have met in the morning, they only work two mornings a week as it is and morning sessions are a relatively new invention in Parliament. I loved that we got to see more of Sophie and Sesily in this book and pleased that Sesily will eventually get her own story. Overall, I liked this but I felt that they both needed to use their words more and be a bit more honest with each other.

The Taming of the Duke – Eloisa James (Kindle TBT list)

This is book 3 of the Essex Sisters series, I read the first two last year and didn’t get to the other two. A friend was talking about all four of the books and I remembered them so went back to finish the others.

Pleasure for Pleasure – Eloisa James (Kindle TBR list)

Book 4 of the Essex Sisters. I don’t know about this. There’s too much going on. Josie is the youngest and has not been a hit with the ton. She’s known as the ‘Scottish Sausage’, she’s plus sized and encased in a torturous corset because she’s so self concious about it. The Earl of Mayne, our hero is an older man, friend of the family and reformed lothario, engaged to someone else who is nice enough but doesn’t really want him, she just wants to be married because that’s what ladies do. There’s a sub plot with the hero’s sister (and Josie’s chaperone), Griselda, starting a romance with the man who made Josie a pariah, who has seen the error of his ways and is also younger. Another about one of his set, who tries to get the gang back together by destroying Josie but is ultimately foiled. It’s all too much. I wanted to know about all of them in more detail. For me, how does Josie overcome being selfconcious about her size, Mayne needs to get his head out of his arse and realise what he’s doing and what he has and it all goes too fast. Griselda’s story is a book in itself but seems to have been added so everyone can have a happy ending. I did enjoy it, Eloisa James writes brilliantly but it was frustrating, I’d just got into one person’s story and it all switched to another but I had a ton of things I wanted to know more about.

In Other Lands – Sarah Rees Brennan (Kindle bought)

So Sarah Rees Brennan turned her free internet story ‘The Turn of the Story’ into a book or her publishers did or something and because I loved The Turn of the Story have enjoyed everything that she’s written before now, I bought it and it is glorious. I like all of it and love Elliot because he’s a pill but he’s right (and wrong) in a human way. It made me laugh out loud on a train. I can’t be objective about it because I love it too much. It makes fun of all sorts of things, fantasy novels, sexism, being a teenager but also has at it’s heart a boy who doesn’t think that he’ll ever be wanted but won’t let that stop him from being him. And it’s funny, did I mention how funny it is…

A Promise of Fire – Amanda Bouchet (Kindle bought)

Breath of Fire – Amanda Bouchet (Kindle bought)

I had heard really good things about this series, so bought them as a birthday treat. I really enjoyed them and have already ordered the third. The use of the Greek gods was really interesting and I liked Cat. I was less enthralled with Griffin and I want to know more about the others in the team. Both of them absolutely live up to their hype.

Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman (library ebook)

I’m not sure that Neil Gaiman has a style but for me, he’s just readable. I liked this, I liked the way that each story lead on, one from another and it’s a bedtime book for an older child too.

 

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Best/Worst 28 August to 3 September 2017

Happy Monday!

Best

An easy week. Three working days, I love bank holidays

Dinner with Jo. I only see her a couple of times a year now, but it’s always lovely to see her (and Ms T) and she bought me a big block of cheese for my birthday!

Worst

PMT headaches. As I get a handle on the more severe symptoms (migraines), I seem to have ended up with a constant headache, it’s annoying and difficult to live with but there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it, everything helps a bit but nothing solves the issue.

Honourable mentions to renewing my English Heritage membership, cinema (Logan Lucky), making guacamole for the first time, tomatoes, getting things I have been putting off at work done, coffee on the allotment in my tin mug (it’s like I’m at peak fortysomething!), the Brentford Festival, the WI cake stall at the Brentford Festival and my first homegrown bell pepper!

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Friday Links

Happy Friday and welcome to September. It’s time for schools to go back and to think about autumn (which is not a fun happy time!) and launch ourselves into the last four months of the year!

Being good at one thing doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be good at another but Jeremy Hunt needs to stop having a go at Stephen Hawkins. He knows about the NHS through personal experience and he’s able to look at a problem objectively. And he’s right. Jeremy Hunt can attack me all he wants – but he is wrong to say the NHS is working

Houston is what climate change looks like in a world that has decided not to take climate change seriously.

Dear Sadiq: pocket-sized homes are the last thing London needs

Living on the breadline makes me cry. I dread to think how it affects my children This just sounds horrific. Ma sometimes talks about hard things were when we were children and if I look back, I can see it. The house wasn’t decorated, Ben and I had carpet and so did the living room (and the bathroom!) but no-where else did. Ma had a strict two packets of biscuits and one bottle of squash a week policy. I thought the biscuit limit was because Ma didn’t want to rot our teeth and as Grandad brought us fruit and the cousins sweets at Ma’s request and we didn’t get sugar generally it seemed to fit the status quo. I had better holidays than the cousins and most of my school friends but we didn’t go on family holidays but then given what a disaster the ones we did go on were, it didn’t seem that that was about money but about Dad. There were a lot of frozen sausages in my childhood and I knew that money was limited and we did know that if one thing was going to be paid for then another couldn’t be butI didn’t ever, ever feel that we were poor.

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Goals Recap, Goals Set – August/September 2017

Tomorrow is the beginning of a new month which means it’s time to look at August and set goals for September. So August……

August goals are in italics, how I did in bold.

Turn over, turn out. I did pretty well with this. Sunblock and moisturise. Tiny failure in the middle of the month when I burned my shoulders – again… Feet. If I don’t look at them, I can pretend that they are ok, but they’re not. Complete failure. Update the spreadsheet every week. Yep. £15 a week on food. Better than done I’ve had two weeks of no shopping. Keep money for food and everything else separate. I did ok on this. Keep to overall goals. Suprisingly, I feel I did that, I had a good month but I kept to my set limits, I’m on track for savings.

More generally, I want to celebrate my birthday month and have some fun. So although the goals below are a pretty focussed set of to do’s, I also want to have fun with the nephews when we have them and chill out a bit. I had a great month, I’m a bit tired but the nights are drawing in and I think that my brain is responding to that, I had a great week off and a lovely birthday. We had the boys over the Bank Holiday and they are a joy and we had fun

House

  • Defrost the freezerdone
  • Clean ovennot done but I bought a cleaning kit!
  • Declutter the cupboard of doom and take stuff to the dump – half done, some things went to the dump, but the cupboard is not sorted
  • Joe proof the flatdone but it did not help, I’m down a destroyed lamp, he stole my garlic bread off my plate AND played football with one of my winter squash. 

Plot

  • Take all the rubbish to the dumpdone
  • Tidy the shed and put some shelves updone
  • Raspberry maintenance – not at all done
    • cut back the old wood
    • shorten them so I have a path from the greenhouse to the bottom of the plot
  • dig up gooseberry bush at end of plot and weed and cover for new bed not done
  • Extend strawberry bed, this is going to involve moving some containers about and some heavy weeding!not done
  • frame the bean/chard beddone
  • sort out the sides of the brassica bednot done

Now for September. I already have stuff booked in for every weekend in September, except Saturday 30th! This weekend I’m skipping the allotment workday because my plot needs some love but on Sunday I’ll be spending some time on our stall at the Brentford Festival trying to get more signatures and explain why the allotments are so important to Ealing. The next two weekends, I’ll be at Ben and Laura’s, for Joe’s birthday party and the weekend after that to help Ben while Laura is away on a girls weekend (Ben works nights at the weekend so he needs someone to at least be in the house with the boys!) On the 24 September, I’ll be volunteering at the Ealing Half Marathon again and Ma is away that weekend so I’ll be weeding by myself. So although it’s probably not as full on as some people’s September, it’ll be pretty busy for me, when will I find the time to still and read?Overall, I want to prepare myself for the darker days, I need to get more rigid about bedtimes, the golden hour and no screens, I also need to start walking a bit more to compensate for the lack of allotment work that’s coming up and doing bedtime yoga.

House – I want to put some monthly things here because daily and weekly tasks I’m pretty good at but the bigger ones are more tricky to get to and there’s a bit of autumn preparation here too

  • Defrost the freezer
  • Clean oven
  • Deep clean bathroom, bedroom and kitchen
  • Wash rugs in living room
  • Declutter the cupboard of doom
  • Sort out cupboard under the sink
  • Clean living room windows

Plot – all of this comes from the work list I made a couple of weeks ago, the crossed throughs we’ve already done and yes it’s a lot.

  • more pruning of the plum tree
  • plant out and sow some of the things we have planned for autumn
  • sort out the raspberries (shorten the lines, work out the frames)
  • sort out the brassica bed (new sides and netting, pull up the french beans)
  • extend the strawberry bed (weed and plant out new runners)
  • sort out the space for the new long bed at the bottom of the plot
  • plant potatoes in bag for Christmas (late but what can you do)
  • plant spring bulbs at front of plot
  • sort out paths on plot (weed/woodchip/make paths at front of plot)
  • mark out space for gooseberry bushes
  • sow grass seed at front of plot

 

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