Thursday, 24 April 2014

Resolutions in review

April has proven to be yet another hectic month, but neither-the-less awesome!  In previous years my New Year resolutions have been vague and I had made them knowing I was unlikely to maintain them so I'm really happy that this year my resolutions are achievable, here is how I've been doing:

  1. Be in the moment.  I find it's easier to be in the moment in spring and summer, it feels like there is so much to notice and appreciate especially on the allotment as you are surrounded by new growth and lush foliage.  Whilst the first quarter of the year was spent travelling about April has been more home based.  (Having said that I did squeeze one London visit in.)  The allotment has needed a lot of our attention which is a great opportunity to spend time with MozzyMr.
  2. Take every opportunity to exercise.  Oh what have I become?  I never thought I would be the person to say this but... I love going to the gym.  I love the classes I do, and the netball I play, the people I go with and the people I've met by going.  On top of that all the digging on the allotment is certainly improving my upper body strength (which is good because frankly I had none).
  3. Be organised about lunches.  Well I am consistently failing at this, I have no motivation to make soups, salads or sandwiches at the moment and work have started stocking some amazing wraps which are sooo delicious.  Must try harder at this resolution in May.
  4. Reconnect with friends.  I have had two amazing trips to London, the first with my lovely friends Mel and Bonny and the second with my equally lovely friends (although I doubt they would describe themselves that way) Iain and Derfel.  I took all four of them to The Drowned Man, two are now complete converts and two are neutral leaning towards mildly interested.  On Good Friday I got to spend time with my childhood friend, there was cider, sunshine and the cutest dog called Maggie it was a great afternoon.
  5. Allotment time.  We've been doing well on this one, lots and lots of digging, whilst the plot still looks overgrown it is certainly improving.  We have our broad beans, garlics and onions in already and we have spinach, broccoli, tomato, pumpkin, butternut squash, cauliflower, beetroot, borlotti bean, runner bean and spinach beet seedlings on the way.  Over the weekend I am going to get the parsnips and carrots in the ground.
  6. Seek out culture.  In addition to what seem to be my monthly visits to The Drowned Man we also went to see the musical Billy Elliot, I don't normally choose to see musicals but I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it.  We were in the cheap seats high up in the gods, the view was great but the leg room was spine destroying!
  7. Be more efficient with chores.  I now have those antibac wipes in almost every room in the house so that when I have a couple of spare minutes I have do a quick dust or give the shower a quick wipe.  The big chores still bunch up towards the weekend but to be fair my chore routine is becoming more streamlined and time efficient (fun huh?)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Happy World Book Night!

Happy World Book Night!! I have suspended my A-Z of books for one week because I am excited to be a book giver of Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London which I first read in 2012 and have re-read a number of times since!  I collected my books from our vibrant if small local library yesterday and have been giving them out to strangers, friends and colleagues all morning!

Mewster wanted in on the action, to be fair anything to do with boxes and Mew is all over it but hey I like to think I have a literary cat... To those of you who have received a copy from me a really hope you enjoy it, don't forget to pass the book on so as many people as possible can enjoy!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

My A-Z of books

What else could I possibly have for 'H' other than the Harry Potter books?

What is becoming very clear to me through the course of writing up my A-Z of books is that I am massively judgey about books, how very narrow minded of me!  When I was working at Waterstones I would sell the Harry Potter books by the truck load, I kept being told I should read them, I don't respond that well to people telling me that I MUST read this book or see that film.  Anyway one day I didn't have anything lined up as my next read so thought I should at least read the first one so I could talk about it with the customers.  Yeeeeah I was totally hooked, I read one after the other in quick succession until I reached the end of The Prisoner of Azakaban where I had to wait with everyone else desperate for The Goblet of Fire to be released. I re-read the Harry Potters regularly and love picking up on the little details that I may have missed in previous readings.  I look forward to when my nieces are old enough to start reading them, I hope they enjoy them as much as I have.

My favourite of the front covers would have to be the one above.  I love the watercolour/sketchy nature of it as well as the 80's train behind the Hogwarts Express!

Here is a recap of my A-Z so far:

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Garden geekery

For the first two or three years of living where we do I paid little attention to our little back garden except for putting washing out on the line or hacking at the hideous Russian vine that would threaten to overtake the whole patch.  But as I became more interested in the allotment and growing veg my general interest in gardening developed. We got rid of the vine and the pointless pond and paid attention to the amount of light the garden got, where the shady bits were, which plants naturally seeded in the garden and flourished.

It's not a South facing garden but it does get light from about 10am - 3pm each day, ferns and foxgloves do well and it's at this time of year that I love watching the ferns uncurl.  Ferns are so jurassic, the leaves uncurl from egg like pods and develop vivid, vivid green foliage which sway in the breeze.  I love them and have been adding more to the garden year on year.  In the morning I stand bleary eyed at the kitchen window and check how far the leaves have uncurled and what shade of green they are that day.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

My A-Z of books

G was such an easy choice, this man... John Green.  The first of his books that I read was Paper Towns which had been recommended to me by a colleague of mine.  We both used to work at Waterstones so were pretty hot on recommendations but John Green had passed me by (I hadn't discovered the rich seam of Young Adult fiction at that point).  I was immediately hooked on all of John Green's books, he is such a great author and someone who I would consider to be an awesome influence for young adults.  His YouTube channel is amazing, in particular his exploration of the cost of healthcare in America.  

John Green is a decent human being, and for that reason alone you should read ALL of his books.

Here is a recap of my A-Z so far:

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Allotment geekery

On Saturday we were on a major clear up mission at the allotment, the weeds and grass have crept in and we have a lot of work to do.  Happily Malcolm from the plot across the way has offered to rotavate for us, all we have to do is move the raised beds and horseradish to one side so he can get there to do his thing.  Today the weather was bobbins so we didn't make it to the plot, instead we got more seeds planted and prepped, it got me thinking how much thriftier we are towards all things allotment in comparison to how we were when we first started.  So with that in mind I thought I would share some of the things that I have learnt along the way, not all of this will be earth shattering news but there may be the odd tip that comes in handy.

1. Absolutely, positively don't bother buying brand new tools.  They are so expensive and until you know that you love your allotment and can't imagine yourself not having an allotment there is NO point spending £20 plus on just one spade when you can get everything you need from the car boot sale.  The rake above which creates a lovely fine soil was a mere £2, I appreciate it isn't the best looking piece of kit but it does the job and that's all we need it to do. 

2. Save on seeds AND stop yourself from buying expensive coffee table gardening books.  Once the initial enthusiasm for the gardening books has passed we found we didn't refer to them that often.  We have perhaps two books that we go back to for reference but in your first year of owning a plot I would recommend subscribing to an allotment magazine like Grow Your Own or Kitchen Garden as they provide great tips and with almost every issue they give away all the seeds you could possibly need in your first year allotmenting!

3. Don't bother with expensive propagators or seed trays.  Even the more expensive plastic ones rarely last more than two years and you have to store them for 6 or more months a year.  From about December we start saving up our loo rolls (squeeze them and slot them in one another so they don't take up much space), we also start saving useful ice cream tubs or the packaging mushrooms come in so that when we're ready to get our seedlings going we have everything we need!  The bonus of this system is the loo rolls rot down and add texture to your compost, and the ice cream tubs can either be washed and used again or recycled, plus you don't have to store them year on year.

4.  Instead of buying bamboo canes for our beans each year we save the branch cuttings from our apple tree and use these.  In my opinion they look better than bamboo and at the end of the season can go on the bonfire.

5. Make friends with the ol' boys.  Malcolm loves his rotavator and for the price of a couple of ciders is happy to fire that bad boy up and give us a hand.  The wealth of knowledge available to you from those around you on the plot is incredible, just take a walk around the site and copy what everyone else is doing!

6. Start saving your margarine tubs now!  Come summer we will be lean, mean passata making machines and will need every tub we can get our hands on for freezing and storing.  The brick shape of the tubs make it easier to store in the freezer as well.

7. Once you have frozen, stored and used the veg in the margarine tubs rather than throwing them away, cut them up and use them as plant labels for next year.

8. Blanche and freeze as much as possible.  Stupidly we didn't do this in our first year and so much of our crop went back into the compost bin.  In the last couple of years we got ourselves organised and had runner beans and beetroot well into the winter which proved to be great additions to our soups and pizzas.

9. Sell your excess crop to family and friends.  I took armfuls of courgettes and beetroot into work last year and sold them to colleagues for charity.  Happily I have some keen cooks in my office who were happy to buy them and it made me really proud to see how impressed people were that we had grown the amazing looking veg.  Don't be cheeky with your pricing but don't do yourself down either you put time and effort into growing that veg!

10. MozzyMr's top tip would be use a separate pectin in your jam making (we use Certo which you can get in Waitrose or Lakeland) rather than buying jam sugar which is RIDICULOUSLY expensive in comparison.  Also if you have an Aldi near you buy your granulated sugar there as we have found it to be cheaper than the big supermarkets.

Well that's all I can think of right now, I hope they're of use!  

Friday, 4 April 2014


OK so there are a couple of recycled Mewster photos in this little post but I wanted to put all of those daft little snaps of Mew into a little collage.

We've had her for a year and a half now and it has been a real pleasure.  To begin with she was very shy and not very affectionate but now she likes to reach out and touch you every time you pass or she will stand next to you with her tail wrapped around your leg.  She's a daft little beast and seems to have great comic timing, she will poke her head through the curtains at the exact moment of drama on the television or seemingly respond to our conversations at the right moment.  We're teaching her to ride around on our shoulders (I don't know why we're doing this) and she's picking it up pretty quickly.

Well that's my crazy cat lady bit done with for a while.  No doubt you will be seeing more snaps of Mewster here in my #100happydays!

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