Sunday, 23 July 2017

My Week

Hello again. How has your week been? Mine has been quite a busy one!

On Sunday I helped EC sort out her little garden as it was very overgrown again. We got the loppers out and cut the pyracantha back first as it had got absolutely huge and was completely obscuring half of the living room window. After we’d sorted that out, we attacked the buddleia. This isn’t really a wanted plant and was actually a windfall which EC never managed to be able to dig out. I’ve had a few attempts at it too but it’s too close to the wall and has a huge trunk. It’s good for the butterflies and bees though, so EC just tries to keep on top of it during the summer. She also cuts it right down to ground level at least twice a year. I have to admit that it always seems a bit brutal but it easily swamps the border and after the flowers begin to fade, it is quite an ugly plant! The honeysuckle also needed a bit of a trim as it had sent long shoots everywhere. I think this is because the trellis needs replacing and it doesn’t have anything to scramble up but EC is going to sort out a replacement soon. We were both a bit tired after this but managed to do a little bit of weeding and tidied up the edge of the border. It looks considerably better.

I think I’m getting too old for manual labour because I was really tired on Monday. I just wanted to lounge around in my pyjamas, eat vegan ice cream and read. I decided this was a bit lazy of me (and vegan ice cream is not on my diet plan) so spent a bit of time sorting out some photos. Apart from the odd one or two I really like, I haven’t printed any photos for a long time and have mostly just popped them onto disc when my laptop is a bit full. I’d ended up with a ridiculous amount of them though, a whopping 3,218. This doesn’t include photos I’ve taken of things I’ve made either! Some of these photos go back as far as 2006, before I had a smart phone and when I used to use an actual camera to take photos. I aren’t sure that I want to print all of my photos so spent a lot of time sorting them into different folders on the laptop and then editing them from there. It was actually a lot more time-consuming than I thought it would be and the whole process overran into Tuesday. I have to admit that by then I was a little bit fed up of sitting at a computer screen cutting, copying and pasting but I plodded on with the editing and have finally whittled them down to about 400.

I think it also took so long because I kept finding little gems which really reminded me about how much time has passed, like these pictures of Oryx as a kitten, in 2006.

Monkey Bear

She was so small when EC brought her home that she could fit in the palm of PDMC's hand.

Monkey Bear

Wasn't she cute?

She could have been a cat model because she is so beautiful.


Here she is in 2017, still adorable.


I find it hard to believe that she is 11 years old sometimes. She often acts like a kitten, clambering up the curtains after moths and chasing around after spiders.


But sometimes we are reminded that she is an old girl who likes her peace and quiet and who gets seriously grumpy if she doesn't get it. A bit like me, really!

As a lot of these photos are quite precious to me I think it would be a good plan to store them on at least one of the online clouds so I also spent a bit of time researching the various options. It’s quite strange because even though I have had accounts with Flickr and Instagram for ages, I’ve never actively used them and if I’m honest I really didn’t have a clue how to either. I blame the kids for leaving home and taking their tech-savvy brains with them. Anyway, I now have a better idea of how to sync things to my chosen clouds and will be able to access my photos at the touch of a button (or fingertip swipe) from now on. I’m going to print some of my photos via Snapfish as well but only when there is a decent offer on. I’m also planning on using my Instagram to post photos related to my blog, but I’ll let you know when I’ve sorted that out and when it’s up and running. I think this will be a better place for me rather than using Facebook or Twitter which I loathe with a passion that surprises even me.

I woke up with a horrible headache on Wednesday and spent much of the day in my pyjamas and in bed. I felt overwhelmingly fed up. All those pictures had made me feel slightly nostalgic and I found myself ruminating over some rather bittersweet memories. This is dangerous territory for me. I was lucky enough to speak to EC later on and this minimised the relentless thoughts, at least sufficiently that I could make myself something to eat and watch a bit of meaningless TV. I decided I needed a change of scene, if only for a day, so I booked myself on a trip to IKEA for the very next morning. I was so excited I could barely sleep. Sometimes I feel embarrassed by my childlike enthusiasm over the smallest things but then I remind myself that it was not so long ago that this excitement manifested as debilitating anxiety. I'm still not always sure which one will surface but I’ll take excited over anxious any day. 

It took just over an hour to get to IKEA (Leeds) and I had about four hours there before the coach headed back. There are plenty of other shops on the retail park but I stuck to Ikea because I wanted to have a good browse at the room sets. It was quite busy as some of the schoolchildren had already broken off school for the summer, but as I wasn’t in any hurry it wasn’t a problem. It was nice to not have to rush around and I even had Veggie balls for lunch in the restaurant. 

There was plenty of luggage space on the coach but I didn’t buy very much as the whole point was to get out of my daily routine, get some home decor ideas and hopefully not spend a fortune in the process.

 I did get these super mobile phone stands though.

I thought that they would be useful to prop my phone on when I'm following an online recipe. 

On Friday I popped into the town centre to have lunch with EC. I was a bit nervous when we met up because she had booked a table for us at Pizza Express and I haven’t been there before. I knew that she had been keen to eat there for a while though, especially as they have recently added a vegan pizza to their menu. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not a pizza fan at all.  In fact I have pretty much hated pizza for as long as I can remember! But I tried the Vegan Giardinia which was , for pizza, really tasty. Apparently they use rice cheese made by Zillis. 

I am not sure that I would order it again (especially while I’m trying to lose weight) but it didn’t gross me out in the same way pizza ordinarily does. I still don’t understand pizza as a meal though and would probably prefer a bread roll and a bowl of vegetables rather than vegetables splodged on a pizza base! 

Yesterday, EC and I went to Hornsea for the day as it was a market day and the annual Hornsea Carnival. I think the demographic is slightly older here so it’s generally fairly quiet and the pace of life seems slower. It’s got a really peaceful kind of atmosphere which I like, especially when I’ve been struggling with my anxiety or depression. It was raining when we got off the bus which was a bit disappointing but pretty much what we have come to expect. It always rains when we go to the seaside!

We hopped off the bus and headed straight to the beach. Unbelievably, it was completely deserted. The rain really started to come down at this point so we wandered back towards the market. I don’t always mind it being blustery at the beach but I was a bit tired after the journey and just wanted a cuppa and a sit down.

It eased off a bit as we got to the market so we had a good browse round the stalls. It was a lovely walk around and we visited the legend that is Picklin' Rick for some Chili Jam for PDMC. EC picked a pickle (!) for herself too but I really can't remember which one it was. As we were leaving the market, the Carnival Parade came down Newbegin so we paused to watch this before heading off to the pub for a soft drink. We were both quite hungry but I really wanted to head off to Withernsea as I hadn't been there for over 20 years and we had pretty much done everything that we wanted to in Hornsea anyway. 

This was a big mistake. It took us well over an hour to get to Withernsea and although the sun had come out and the journey was quite scenic we were both ravenous and tired. As soon as we arrived, we knew that it wasn't for us. The whole place seemed very dirty, with litter everywhere. There were a lot of inebriated people lounging around on a large grassed area in front of the amusement arcades and there was a club-singer type act performing songs which I think my dad would be too young to remember. As we were so hungry, we ended up having pattie and chips in a local sit-down chippy but it was far from ideal. The tide was in so we weren't able to sit on the beach and as there was very little else to do we decided to wait for the bus to bring us back home. It was really disappointing but we had just had a lovely time in Hornsea and overall that made up for it. 

I hadn't been in very long when PDMC and JA popped round. I haven't seen them since JA's birthday in June, so it was lovely to see them and have a catch up in person. I was also able to give PDMC his Chilli Jam-he has text me today to say that this is really hot and made his nose run, so I am glad we didn't get the fiery hot one now! x

It’d be lovely to hear about how you all spend your free time. Do you like to go to places like IKEA or do you prefer the beach and local markets like we do? I’d love to hear about your favourite places to eat and if you get better luck with the weather than we do. x

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Vegan quiche

I was in the supermarket a week or so ago when I got chatting to a lovely young couple who told me that they were about to go vegan. I was really pleased by this as I've been a strict vegetarian for about 20 years and finally committed to a completely vegan diet in 2014. It's always lovely to meet kindred spirits, so I enjoyed telling them about my forays into vegan cooking and especially my recent mission to create the perfect vegan quiche.  

I think they took this to mean that I am a bit of a superstar chef and very kindly suggested that I open my own stall selling vegan food in the local market. I have to admit that this sort of idea occasionally crosses my mind (especially when I've made something that's particularly yummy) but there is also a huge part of me that also thinks it’s a completely hilarious idea. I am not renowned for my cooking ability and it’s really only since I’ve been vegan that I’ve devoted any significant amount of time into learning some new skills in this area, so I don’t actually think that this is a viable option (apart from on days when I'm feeling particularly deluded). 

I do think that my quiches look nice though and they are very tasty. This one is an onion, mushroom and spinach vegan quiche, made with tofu. I don't follow a recipe for this and have just used a process of trial and error to get the filling right each time.

I use tofu in my quiche filling as it binds the vegetables together and gives a nice consistency. It's excellent for reassuring the Protein Police and is a good source of iron and calcium, too. The shortcrust pastry recipe comes from my trusty Be-Ro book, but I make a couple of adjustments to suit my taste. I prefer a crumbly, cake-like texture to my pastry so I use self-raising flour instead of plain flour. I also replace the animal fats in the recipe with a dairy free alternative, such as Pure Free FromFlora Freedom Dairy Free or Vitalite, although I suppose it would work just as well if you were to use olive oil. 

I have also been experimenting with the idea of making a low-fat quiche. I think the best way to achieve this would be to make it without a crust, as the filling itself isn't made with any added fats anyway. The filling also has a tendency to pull away from the pastry while it is cooling after cooking and is solid enough that it doesn't really need the pastry case to enclose it. I won't be able to test this out for a while though as I'm currently trying to lose weight and sadly, tofu is not allowed on the plan I am following. 

I don't feel too deprived though as there is plenty to eat on this diet! I have put on a shocking amount of weight over the last few years (probably because of all the quiche I ate) and I really was struggling with my everyday life.  I have lost 30 lbs so far which I think is pretty impressive in 9 weeks. I still have a lot to lose though so wish me luck! x

Saturday, 8 July 2017


Hello again! 

I feel a little bit sad that I haven’t been here for such a long time (again) but for a variety of reasons I've been unable to share any of my creative projects. A few things have happened over the last few weeks which have made me want to dust off my poor neglected blog though, so here I am.

I have made no progress whatsoever on the jumper that I started for EC just before Christmas 2015, despite having bought the yarn to finish this way back in January of that year. For some reason this project just hasn't inspired me at all but I'm just going to leave it close to my favourite seat so that it will be handy to dive into when the mood comes upon me to finish it. I fear that it could end up being another one of those projects which just never ends up being finished. 

I have abandoned all hope of ever completing the KCACO-Groovyghan Cal. In fact I spent a bit of time frogging the little I had completed earlier today so that I can use the yarn for something else. There were several reasons for abandoning this but the main reason was that I couldn't get the blocks to fit together for the life of me and the more that I tweaked the pattern, the more I hated what I'd made. It just didn't look like it was supposed to. It also didn't help because I hadn't thought my colour scheme out very well in the first place so I was left with a very limited palette of colours to work with. I have to admit that I found this massively restrictive -normally I take a fairly spontaneous approach to choosing colours and try not to over think the process as I find that it all usually comes together in the end no matter what you do. I didn't do that with this project and chose colours which 'matched' (in my head anyway!). Clearly it wasn't the best approach for me. 

Happily, I have managed to finish the Scarf which I started well over a year ago. I really like the mixture of colours in this and I feel like it turned out pretty well.

I have to admit that I wouldn't necessarily wear this myself but EC wore it quite a lot last autumn and throughout the wintertime. I think it matches her cheery, slightly eccentric personality perfectly!

I tried not to make it too long (it's about 6.5') because I thought that the drama of the flowers might be lost and overall I'm glad I stuck to this length because they seem to fall just at the right place on EC.

It looks a bit wonky from this angle but in person it is fine. You can just see Paul towards the top right of the picture. He really likes to be involved with whatever you may happen to be doing but especially when it involves crochet.

Here he is, sitting with his back to me in a huff because I wouldn't let him sit on the scarf for the photos. He is so funny! He made sure that I gave him lots of cuddles afterwards to make up for being so mean to him. I think there might even have been several cat treats involved as well. 

Overall, I was really impressed with the quality of the pattern for this scarf, which comes from Creative Crochet WorkshopThe instructions were straightforward and because it was a means of using up scraps of yarn, it is (theoretically) an inexpensive project to complete. I used a fairly bog-standard acrylic double knitting yarn, mainly because it was pretty much what I had in at the time, but also because I was on a tight budget. I really enjoyed making this scarf and would definitely make it again, although I do think it would be fun to use a mixture of yarns and make it truly freeform, a bit like I did Here with the little heart cushion. 

I have a few more projects to share with you over the next few weeks - some are still WIP's and others are complete (surprisingly enough). Until then, enjoy the summer sun! x