Sunday, July 26, 2009

One Local Summer week 8

Woo hoo, a picture!

Time has been against me this week, and I've barely eaten any meals at home, so yesterday I hoofed it to the local farm shop, Turners, and picked up some eggs and butter and bread from Hobbs House bakery and made this very simple lunch of scrambled eggs with grated courgettes (from the garden) on toast. I love adding veggies to scrambled egg, though usually it's just tomatoes.

I also bought some local flour and I have some rhubarb from a knitting group friend's garden and I was going to make a cake, but I think I have run out of time and will not have time to eat it, so perhaps I will just stew the rhubarb and freeze it for when we come back.

Excited as I am about the Odyssey 2009, I am a little sad to be leaving my prolific courgette plant and the tomato plants, which are heavy with gigantic green tomatoes. In spite of the fact they are supposed to be cherry or plum I think we have quite a lot of beefsteak on our hands. Hopefully the Parents Z will pick them as they redden and leave them in the fridge for our return, since home grown veg always seems to keep extremely well.

I am a little perplexed as to how to do local meals over the next three weeks, what with being on the road and all. I will still be cooking, I suppose, and since we're in California there shouldn't be a shortage of local produce - it's just finding out whether any of it is sold close to where we will be. I will have to keep my eyes peeled.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

One Local Summer week 5

This week I had spicy chorizo-style bangers with courgette and potato rosti - FAR more successful this week as I left out the cheese - and the last of the onion marmalade. I even took a picture but it came out really dark and made everything look burned. I haven't been successful with picture taking yet.

The sausages came from my local butcher, who also gave me a bit of an education this week.

I've been using the same local butcher for about 5 years now. Shopping separately for meat and green groceries, and only using the supermarket for stuff only they sell, is much more economical and the produce is better quality - fruit and veg that doesn't go off overnight, you could do a stir fry for 2 from one chicken breast, for example. The butcher gets me a ham of a perfect size every Christmas, and they provided all the sliced cold meats for our wedding buffet, and recently a new butcher has taken over in the shop (replacing the miserable old one who could barely raise a smile) and he is grand. He has a limp, a hunch, a lisp and stutter, and is as broadly Bristolian as they come (I may have already mentioned this...I am quite taken with him). I have taken to going in and asking for a joint of meat I can't mess up. He gets it right every time - gives cooking and serving instructions, too.

Anyway, enough bigging him up. This week I asked him if the delicious garlicy sausages I buy every month were made on the premises. Turns out, they're made at the sister store in Bedminster, from local pork, which they grind themselves. The eggs they sell are from Dorset, and there are signs up all over the place naming the farms where the meat comes from.

It's an interesting paradox. The eggs aren't free range - I don't buy them. The meat is most likely not happy meat. So, it doesn't tick all the boxes I usually associate with ethical eating - but it is local, and supportive of local businesses to buy there. I've seen at least two butchers close down since I moved here, and I think people need somewhere to buy hand made faggots (whatever they are - they're hugely popular), tripe and pigs feet. The supermarkets don't even sell ham bones anymore.

That's a lot of waffle. Basically, I am saying - local sausages, right under my nose and I never even knew! So many organic/local/fair trade shops these days spend ages putting up aigns about it that the ones who have been doing these things forever, quietly going about their business, are overlooked.

Back to work on Monday. I won't have nearly as much time for navel gazing and waffling then.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

One Local Summer Week 4

This year, for the first time ever, I have grown something edible in the garden that isn't a tomato.

This monster is a courgette which cost me 50p at a school plant sale. It had one yellow flower and one leaf, and now it's so mahoosive that it's attempting to devour the tomato plant sharing its planter. The thing moves with the sun, too. I can't believe how big it is.

It is already courgetting. How exciting! I get all these courgettes to myself because Mr Z is not a fan. I didn't used to be a fan until I realised how versatile they are. And today I cooked with one I'd grown for the very first time and realised exactly how tasty and juicy a real fresh courgette is. They will be back in the garden next year, definitely.

All the time I was in hospital, while I can't say I was hungry, I did think about food A LOT - I love eating and not being able to indulge was torturous. I put my mind to thinking up ways I could cook my courgettes. Here's my recipe for this week - I made it today, with all local ingredients rustled up from the fridge and the veggie drawer.

Courgette Rosti

1 courgette

1 potato, peeled
1 egg, beaten

Salt and pepper
Some cheese
Spray oil

Grate the potato and the courgette. Squeeze in a colander for a little while to get rid of the excess moisture. Season well and stir in the beaten egg. Heat a frying pan with some spray oil in it and press handfuls of the mixture into cakes. Fry on a lowish heat for about 5 minutes each side - until the potato is cooked. Sprinkle with cheese for the last couple of minutes.

I had these with some onion marmalade I also had in the fridge and they were delicious - a really good lunch. I didn't take a picture...because I was foolish, and added the cheese to the potato and courgette before cooking, and so it sort of stuck to the pan and didn't look great. Blush. But it tasted delicious! And there are three more courgettes waiting for the chance to be rostified tomorrow, so there might be a picture yet.

Oh...for the purposes of American readers (since OLS
is an American invention) I think maybe you call courgettes zucchini? We call them courgettes when they're little and marrows when they get really big.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

One Local Summer week 3

One reason why I love participating in this challenge is that I get to read what other people eat and it gives me ideas. Most of my meals seem to revolve around eggs and potatoes with whatever seasonal veg I can find, so it's really interesting to see what other people come up with.

Inspired, I decided I'd have some meat in this week's meal, and in fact we ate local two nights in a row, thanks to a stop at Springleaze farm shop on the way back from Brighton on Sunday. That night, we barbecued - burgers hand made on site from cows reared on their own farm, and locally produced sausages (I had Old Sarum, which were pork and redcurrant and possibly the nicest sausages I've ever had), and bread rolls.

Last night we ate up what was left of the sausages with onion marmalade produced by these good folks, some mashed new potatoes and some yellow beans, and then I had some lemon meringue pie for dessert, since Springleaze sell their own homemade cakes. I also have some Marshfield Farm ice cream sitting in the freezer. I feel very lucky to live so close to Marshfield Farm because local ice cream might be difficult to find, otherwise. A scoop of ice cream may have made it onto the pie - I'm not going to lie to you.

My tomato plants are getting quite big now, as is the basil plant I bought a couple of weeks back - but it's the courgette that's really making a success of itself. The plant has nearly covered up it's neighbouring tomato already.

I did have a bit of a growing disaster last week though. Mr Z split up my lilies for me earlier this year and there was a little one on its own in a small pot that was still alive but obviously not going to flower. Mr Z made me come and look at it last week, and at first I thought there was a big mushroom growing in the pot but no...

It was a fish.

A salmon, to be more precise - a huge chunk of cooked salmon on top of the poor plant, and most of its skin, dangling over one side of the pot. Now, I know Bristol is technically coastal, but it's not really and in any case I live on the wrong side....I can only assume that (a) I pissed off the neighbours, (b) they had a big food fight or (c) (and most likely) a seagull fished (haha) it out of a bin and dropped it during one of the spectacular midair battles they have over the choicest bits of food.

My lily was killed by a fish. How many people can claim the same?


Sunday, June 14, 2009

One Local Summer week 2

No picture this week, sadly - it was such a hurried end to the week and I'm still superbusy!

I was lucky enough to be able to work from home on Friday, as I had exam board standradisation and this year it took place online. It all went very smoothly after a few technical issues - but I only had 25 minutes to cook myself some lunch.

I boiled up some Maris Piper new potatoes with some fresh mint from the garden, roasted the last of the asparagus (local asparagus has now disappeared from the farm shops - BOO. It is such a short season!) and then poached some eggs in the potato water, so they came out quite minty too.

I got all these things from Whiterow Farm Shop, and I also picked up some strawberries grown in Cheddar, some Somerset yogurt from a Guernsey herd, and some locally produced rhubarb and ginger jam, which, combined, made a very delicious and local dessert.

Sadly I had to wolf it all down speedily and get back to work - which is what I'm going to be doing with today's local barbecue. But that's a meal for another entry....

I am getting the feeling that being a team leader for the exam board is going to mean less work later on, but far more work now. I got back from Beccy's wedding (more on that later) several hours ago and have been hard at it ever since. I need a nice picture of Tahoe or Yosemite taped to my computer monitor to remind me why I'm doing it.

Oh well, at least real work got a whole lot easier from Friday. I've got so many spare hours this week I'm bound to find time to fill you in on the trip to London when London had no tubes, and the trip to Brighton with the dodgy hotel and the sunburn.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

One Local Summer Week 1

It's that time again!

This week - eggs and potatoes from Whiterow Farm Shop nr Frome, and asparagus bought from the same shop and grown in South Petherton. That asparagus pops up all over the place - it's been in most of the farm shops I've been to recently (except Springleaze who, for one glorious week, were selling the stuff they'd grown on site, which was of unparallelled quality) AND my local green grocer up the 'wood.

It was a good meal. The potatoes made particularly good chips and I dressed the asparagus with a little black pepper and Balsamic vinegar, and a sliver of Pecorino Romano produced by Jon Thorner's which is that SW company which produces a variety of local fare and distributes it to all the farm shops for selling. The Pecorino Romano is, unfortunately, of Italian origin, though - but asparagus season is so short and the combination of the two so spectacular that I decided being Jon Thorner's label was good enough for me.

I went to Turner's farm shop this week too, for some Hobbs House bread and veggies, and picked up a white aubergine, which I've never had before. I also bought some courgettes there and have whipped up some ratatouille for lunches this week. I got chatting to the lady serving in Turner's about their production, since I was amazed at how big their veg patches have grown since my last visit. The veg I bought wasn't grown on site, but the lady said they are growing more and more all the time and it won't be long until they get chickens again. And since this article suggests that ethical and local producers are the only growth industry these days, hopefully they will go from strength to strength in the coming years.


Monday, May 11, 2009

One Local Summer 2009

It's that time of year again!

Last year, I participated in a challenge on an American blog dedicated to promoting the locavore movement (click on the picture to visit the blog). Basically, it involves making one meal a week from ingredients all sourced from within 100 miles of your home, and then posting about it on your blog.

Who can forget the star shaped scones or deeply unpleasant looking wholemeal gnocchi with rocket pesto I made last year? - which may have looked gruesome but was actually one of the tastiest meals of the challenge.

I am going to have another go this year, although it might be slightly more challenging now that I am following Slimming World....though, meals almost wholly of vegetables are most certainly encouraged by them, and very easy for OLS too, so we'll see.

The challenge begins in the last week of May - it runs from Whitsun to August bank holiday, so look out for pictures of food, coming soon.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

One Local Summer week 10

I have been looking after my friend Ali's chickens all week while she's been on holiday. Every evening, I went and shut them in and prepared their food for the next day, and I was rewarded with superfresh eggs. The boks have only been living with Ali in their Eglu for about a month so one has only recently started laying, and another started this week, just as the first bok's eggs got to be normal sized. I made a lovely lunch of this first normal sized egg, which turned out to be a double yolker, and a mini one, on some absolutely delicious seedy bread from Turner's. It was all really fresh and tasty. Yum!

Apparently, when chickens start laying, their first few normal sized eggs are double or triple yolkers, so I assume when I was getting those boxes of eggs from Whiterow and half of them had more than one yolk, they must have been from quite young hens.

Yesterday, Parpy Jo and I went to the farmers' market at Chipping Sodbury. There weren't a great deal of stalls but there were 2 good butchers and we got some bread from Hobbs House Bakery, which apparently has a national reputation. They made the seedy bread I had from Turner's this week. I also got some great-looking sausages which you can expect to see in my OLS meal report next week, and some eggs...Parpy Jo asked the preserves lady, who was also selling the eggs, if they were happy eggs. "Oh yes!" she said, "very happy - they're from chickens rescued from battery farms. When they arrive with us they're miserable and featherless but we soon set them right."

Happy eggs indeed!


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Clafoutis, Clapotis....let's call the whole thing off!

I know those are two different words but I've made both this week and that song's been going round in my head!

The first was part of our anniversary dinner, which is also my entry for OLS week 9. We had roast lamb which I bought from Cooper's, the supermarket near work, who source some their lamb from a farm 2 miles away. The potatoes (which were the best roast potatoes I have ever cooked!) and the mustard spinach were grown at Whiterow and the sugar snap peas are from Turner's. For dessert, I made a cherry clafoutis using local eggs and milk, and served it with local cream which I flavoured with amaretto and a little sugar. There's no local sugar to be had, and I'm not a big fan of honey, so it's not all local....also, the cherries aren't from round here. I suspect they're from Kent. Turner's had a sign on the bowl that said, "English cherries from one of the last growers in the country! Support them while you can!" which seemed like a cause I could place under the locavore umbrella. I'm glad I did - this dessert was delicious.

And onto the clapotis! In this picture, only partially complete.

Pattern: Clapotis by Kate Gilbert from Knitty
Yarn: The long-awaited Lion & Lamb, in Tahoe - a few yards short of 3 skeins
Mods: After reading extensively (and there is extensive reading to be had on this project), I purled the drop stitch rows instead of using markers; I skipped one increase row to make sure I'd finish it in 3 skeins; and I knitted an extra 3 repeats of the straight rows (I think....it might have only been 2) when it became clear that I had plenty of yarn left. I was a bit foolhardy there, though, and became concerned I'd run out towards the end. Thankfully it was OK. I now have an extra skein leftover for some handwarmers or something.

I also tried ptbl on the wrong side on either side of the drop stitches, but it looked all bumpy and wrong, so I stopped pretty quickly.

It was quite quick once I got started on it. Officially it took me 16 days, but I didn't add anything to it for several days, so if I'd been fastidious about doing a repeat every day it might have been quicker. As it was, I was up until 3am doggedly finishing it on Tuesday, once I'd realised that it's really just a scarf and I don't do scarves. Too long and dull. I love it, though. I love the size. I love the pattern. I REALLY love the yarn - I just bought 4 skeins of the August LE colourway from Jimmy Beans as an early birthday present.

Here it is on holiday with me in Blackpool this weekend. More on that at a later date.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

One Local Summer week 8

No picture this week. I went to Turner's Farm Shop today, which is about a mile away from my house, and when I came home I had a great lunch of a cheese sandwich with onion marmalade and seedy bread. The bread was from a baker in Chipping Sodbury, the cheese from Shepton Mallet and the marmalade from Wincanton.

I am making it my mission to shop at Turner's as much as possible in the future. It seems that, 20 years ago when the ringroad arrived, the farm was set to become several lanes of it. They duly rehomed all their animals and closed production, only for the route to be changed ever so slightly. So the farm was spared (you can see the farmhouse from the ringroad, though) but they had to start from scratch.

The little shop is absolutely crammed with fresh fruit and vegetables, and a large amount of booze, including Black Rat, which was my downfall cider the first weekend I ever spent in Bristol. They stock quite a lot from Jon Thorner's, which I mentioned in a previous entry. I am at odds here - I want to support them, but there's not a lot of local food. Some of their eggs come from Birmingham, for example. But, there's probably enough local produce to provide one meal a week, at least, and everything looked really fresh and tempting.

My two favourite things about the shop were the large quantity of tasting plates dotted around (it was on the strength of one of these that I bought the onion marmalade) and Jess's Ladies Milk. I love the idea of a dairy farm that knows each cow by a name and can trace much of the herd back to the original three founding cows. Very cool!

I tied the tomato plants to canes today. They have really gone from strength to strength since we finally got around to planting them out, and there are a LOT of tomatoes on the Italian baby plums. I'm sorry I only bought two of them, now. The third plant I bought was a micro tomato. We put that in a hanging basket (but didn't hang it, because we're contrary like that) and it didn't grow at all. I'd given it up for a bad job, but it has about a dozen tomatoes on it and they're already ripening. I am amazed! I'll take some pictures tomorrow. Next year I'll buy four, I reckon they could all go into one basket and still produce plenty of fruit.

Of course, next year I'll have that whole kitchen garden in front of the house :p


Sunday, July 20, 2008

One Local Summer week 7, a couple of whinges and a bandwagon


I haven't had a lazy Saturday morning for what feels like ages (in reality, it appears to be a mere fortnight - time moves more slowly at the end of term, I'm convinced of it) so I stopped at Whiterow to buy the fixings for a good Saturday brunch. Bacon, sausages, eggs and bread all came from there.

The meat products Whiterow sell are made by Jon Thorner's, a farm empire based in Shepton Mallet, which also supplies them with cheese. I was most disappointed, as I unwrapped the pecorino romano I am so fond of, to discover that I'd been so focused on the "Head Office: Shepton Mallet" label that I'd completely missed the "Country of Origin: Italy" label. BOOOO. I feel swindled. I have had a good browse around their website and under the Local: Fish tab, they mention Scottish salmon and potted shrimp from Morecambe Bay. These places are not local to Shepton Mallet!

I intend to go down there in the holidays and have a good look at what they've got in their home shop. It is easily within 20 miles of here, so at least the bacon and sausages are local. It's frustrating, though, when companies say they're one thing and then are quite obviously another.

It seems there are two competing bandwagons here - local, and organic. Springleaze, another farm shop I drive past, used to do all local stuff, laid out in a barn, not particularly fancy, but it did the job. Then they went upmarket, organic and got a cafe. Now, in spite of claiming the majority of their produce is locally sourced, they've got tomatoes flown in from Holland and Scandinavian cheese. I can see them doing very well, since their entire range - down to the tinned pulses - seems to be organic, and that's a good niche to hold, I suppose. But it's not so good if you don't really care about organic, just about keeping food miles down. It's a shame the two seem to be largely mutually exclusive.

I am currently hating my neighbours and their screaming children. There must be half a dozen squalling brats between the two houses that back onto our lane and they were up, screaming, until nearly 11pm last night. And they're young kids, not teens. Then they get up at about 10am and start screaming again, and this lasts all day. It's getting impossible to sit with the window or the back door open. I have a strong desire to play some very loud and very rude gangsta rap with all the windows open, but fear it would bring me down to their level.


In knitting news, I've really got to stop starting new things before I finish the old ones. I got the bug for new projects, thanks to the scrubby, and so I ended up casting on for a clapotis on Tuesday. It's seriously addictive, I am four repeats through the straight section already. I love dropping the stitches! Plus, the Lion and Lamb may be my favourite yarn of all time. In an attempt to squirrel a ball from the four I purchased for a pair of handwarmers or something, I read up on the knitting of the clapotis, and skipped an increase row. I also binned the stitch markers and did the drop rows in purl on the knit side etc, which makes it go pretty fast. I started trying to twist the stitches either side on the wrong side as well as the right, but either I'm not doing ptbl right, or I need to practise more, because my stitches ended up looking pretty wobbly, so I stopped.

I am surprised by how motivated I am to finish the project, considering I hate knitting scarves. Perhaps I am just eager to join the other bajillion people in the world who have knitted this. Next: that Drops jacket which has also been knitted a bajillion times. Yay for bandwagons!

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

One Local Summer week 6 - 2 meals

I finally pulled my finger out and made gnocchi on Monday (I used that recipe without the basil or the sauce).

It was a lot easier than I expected, though the dough was very sticky, and it was slightly bizarre in that I put the remainder of the dough in the fridge to use up for lunches later in the week and unlike pastry, it got softer and soggier as time passed, so that when I finally got it out again I had to add even more flour. These were some very healthy gnocchi - they have that wholemeal flour taste.

I served the gnocchi with a pork chop from
Norwood farm and a home made pesto, into which went a big bag of the very peppery Whiterow rocket, a very healthy slug of garlic olive oil, and a fairly large quantity of locally produced pecorino romano, with a very strong cheesy taste.

And a handful of unlocal pine nuts. Sssshhh.

I whizzed all this up in the blender and then stirred it through the gnocchi. It was very strong. Neither of us could finish our serving....I had my doubts about Mr Z liking it in the first place, but the truth was, I probably put too much pesto on the gnocchi and it was overwhelming. I finished up the leftovers for lunch the next day - much to the disgust of my colleagues, who said it looked so disgusting I should go an eat somewhere else (but this is par for the course with my lunches, which quite often look awful but taste great) - and it was better cold and with a quantity of the pesto left on the plate.

I cooked up the rest of the gnocchi last night and will serve it variously with salsa, a creamy mustard dressing...anything I can find in the fridge, really. Gnocchi. It's the way forward.

As well as cooking up the gnocchi, I also made a mostly local meal for dinner - potato gratin (non-local onions) with mustardy sausages and broad beans. I used up the last of the pecorino romano on the potatoes and it was much better than the usual cheddar. I will definitely be buying more of that.

I decided last night I should subscribe to a vegetable box scheme. I looked up Abel & Cole, who are always putting leaflets through my door, but then thought I should shop around a bit, so I started searching and found this great tool for locavoring. Even better, the great tool told me about a farm shop a mere mile away from my house. I could bike there! Well....I could. We'll see. Maybe in the holidays.

Top marks this week also go to Cooper's, the supermarket local to where I work, who, I noted yesterday, have a whole cabinet of meat from a local farm - and even have a big sign up saying, "This farm is only 2.2 miles away from Cooper's!" It's a semi-independent supermarket and I fear that, if we end up selling our school site to the developers, one of the giants will move in an Cooper's will be no more. I think there should be more shops that sell knitting yarn, local meats and out of date chocolate repackaged and discounted.

This week I am also loving....

Igoogle. Having finally worked out how to reap RSS feeds, there's no stopping me.

Extra marking. Strangely. I am up to £75 worth of additional work now (I finally was able to work this out when they sent me the item fee, 2 full weeks after my request) - roughly half way to that Boden coat, then.

Naps. Nuff said.

Year 10 work experience. My timetable's dropped to 12 lessons, out of a possible 25.

My impending birthday. I'm going to Blackpool for the riding of rollercoasters and the drinking of gin, in celebration of the turning of 30.

Vertical gardening.
Want. Can't manage the garden I've got already, but want anyway.

Hypermiling. I may be really pissing off the drivers behind me with my enormous gap between me and the car in front and my coasting down hills and up to traffic lights, but I can already see the difference in my petrol consumption. Impressive.

Not much loving....

The weather. It's too rainy! I hope the sun is being saved up for August.

Work. How is it possible there are 12 more get ups until the summer holidays? Whose bright idea was that, eh? The kids have given up, I've largely given up....having my full quota of classes back next week for the first time since February (student teacher has also gone now) may well be the end of me. Bring on more naps.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

OLS week 5 - triumphant end weekend

I spent my weekend here -

Well...I did spend most of my time out of this halls bedroom, but it was the penthouse room number 43 of Ripon Hall at Leed Trinity & All Saints for me this weekend.

I am slightly concerned that, between this and the Bath Uni conference last week, I have spent 4 nights out of the past 11 in a halls bedroom. Really, after living in Commonwealth for a year, I thought I had done my bit for student accommodation, but it seems this will be a recurrent event in my life.

Anyway, this room was hooge but didn't have an en suite, but it DID have a fridge which was nice. I was there for the 20th Annual Schools' History Project Conference. It was every bit as exciting as I had imagined, particularly because Sarah, my PGCE student from last year, and Rachel, who I trained with, were both there also, not to mention countless people from the School History forum. I went for curry with them on the Saturday night but felt vaguely awkward, in that "I'm always gobbing off online but don't really know what to say to you irl" way. Especially since, in the bar on Friday evening, they were all talking about their babies. And this was men. It was like some bizarre role-reversal moment. I am quite socially inept in such situations. Even after the curry, I ended up back in the bar with Sarah and a couple of teachers from Taunton (one of whom bore an uncanny resemblance to Dr Who - Sarah and I spent most of the weekend catterwauling the theme tune at him whenever he was off guard) drinking triple gin and tonics and talking about bizarre sexual practices. It turned into, "I know a more disgusting one than you" quite quickly.

I also went to quite a lot of lectures and workshops, I hasten to add. It wasn't all reminiscing about my days on the chatline.

Most exciting of all was this sign in the refectory -

How exciting! I ate local all weekend long! I think this really means that, on top of those three local meals I cooked for myself last week, I can add the 5 meals I ate whilst away. Score! Not sure how local the tinned tomatoes at breakfast were...but it's so nice to see large-scale eateries committing themselves to locavoring too. I love universities for being such pioneers of new and better ways of doing things.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

One Local Summer Week 5 - meal 2

I've managed to have my favourite breakfast for the past 2 days in a row. I thought asparagus season was over, but I found some at Whiterow this week that was grown in South Petherton...or maybe it was South Molton, I can't remember and I've thrown the label away. Both of these places are somewhere down the M5 and South Molton is exactly 100 miles away, because I drove Mother Hand there a few weeks back to see her friend being ordained.

So, I lightly roast the asparagus in a little olive oil for 10-15 minutes depending on how tender it was to start with, and then sprinkle it with ground pepper and a little balsamic vinegar, and serve it with buttered toast and poached eggs. The dairy things were made at Whiterow and the bread is from a local supplier committed...etc. It was really good bread this week: sometimes it's a little bit stale.

I really love this meal and refuse to eat it with asparagus flown from overseas, because it just doesn't taste the same, so it's a very seasonal brunch for me. Because of activities week at school I don't have to be in until 9am, so I've been getting up at 6am to mark and having a leisurely breakfast in the sun before leaving around 8am. It's been very civilised and I'm getting a taste for starting work later....or maybe living closer. Today was even better - I met the kids there so I didn't have to leave until 9.45am. Result! The car came in very handy for a coffee run to Sainsbury's, at which point I realised I was even closer to home than I thought and had driven a really long way round.

The best thing about this meal over the past 2 days is that each day I've had a double-yolked egg. I can't even remember the last time I had a double-yolker - 2 in 2 days is very lucky!

Yesterday we did high ropes and I fulfilled a 10-year ambition to do the leap of faith, where you climb up a pole and jump off to catch a trapeze or ring a bell or some such thing.

I've wanted to do this since I went on a high ropes team building exercise with Camp Black Hawk on Camp America in 1998. I was really excited to finally get the chance. The instructor assured me that, even though she wasn't roped to anything on the ground, she would stop me from falling. She's the slight blonde looking up to the left of the picture.

Mmm, yes - I did have my doubts. I managed to catch the trapeze and, predictably, promptly let go, since I don't even have the upper body strength to do a press up, let alone catch my body weight and hang suspended in mid air. I began to descend to the ground....and did not stop. Luckily the ground broke my fall. The instructor was dangling 30 feet up in the air, looking absolutely horrified and breathless from the cursing she'd been doing on the way up. The other instructors were there almost immediately. The other teachers were right behind them. It must have looked a lot scarier than it felt - I actually hit the ground at very little speed at all and was not at all hurt, or winded, or anything. They were overly concerned. I suppose it's lucky I wasn't just a little heavier.

Still...it might be time to try a little harder to lose weight.

It was terrifiying to do the stunt, but felt amazing. I started to feel very sick and shake all over about halfway up the pole and it took me a little while to manage to stand up....the pole is very wobbly. Then I didn't know if I'd be able to jump off. I just kept telling myself, you could do this easily if the pole was 3 feet high, and there's no danger of falling. That works mentally, but there's no controlling the physical reaction. I felt violently sick for at least the next hour and was unable to eat my lunch. That must be the whole fight or flight thing I keep hearing about.

The kids were very sweet. "Just sit there and drink your juice, Miss, and you'll feel better." "Wow, Miss, you're so brave - I'm going to have a go now!" "Ha ha! Looking, there's a bit hole in the ground from Miss's arse!" Well...maybe they aren't all that sweet after all.

There'll be a deeply unflattering video clip coming soon.

I'VE FINISHED MARKING! Very exciting. I played the Rocky theme for the last 10 responses to get me in the mood. Now the overtime can begin - I've seen a lovely coat in the Boden autumn preview and need to find £175 from somewhere. I'm a bit pissed off with the exam board, though. They've sent some quite blunt emails, asking examiners to commit a certain number of overtime hours and reiterating that we'll need to keep accuracy high, etc etc - but at no point have they mentioned the overtime rate. It's such poor business practice, not to mention bad manners. Can you imagine it happening in another industry?

"Oh hai. Do this extra work for us. You have to tell us exactly how many hours you can do, and we will hold you to it. Do it RIGHT. We're not telling you how much you will get paid, nor will we answer any emails you send us asking, and when you call, we will fob you off with another email address to which nobody will reply....but pls do it because we're desperate plskthxbai."

What's depressing is that it's absolutely par for the course - I don't know why I'm letting it bother me. It's so predictable. And I know I'll do it, because my ego has been well-massaged by both my team leader and my old team leader who assure me that I'm very accurate this year, and it would be enormously helpful if I'd mark more. So, I'll do it for them. But srsly....it's just so disappointing.

SHP this weekend. So. excited. Whoever knew a History Teachers' Conference would be the highlight of my month?


Monday, June 30, 2008

One Local Summer Week 5 - meal 1

Determined not to mess up a third week in a row, I hit two farm shops on the way home (and tried for 3, but it was closed) and came home with a veritable plethora of locally-produced foodstuffs, so we'll be eating local all week at this rate. Tonight I finally managed to have some of the salad with the flowers in it - it was very tasty, although at the end it all got a bit stalky and I came across something that had little bristles on it which I decided not to eat.

A simple ploughman's....some local garlic and herb cheddar, plus bread baked round Radstock way and butter from Somerset.

I was so in the groove tonight that I even baked these scones, using wholemeal flour I bought on my last visit, plus milk and butter from Whiterow, and I served them with Somerset clotted cream and blueberry jam, also made in Somerset. I am feeling very pleased with myself!

Who says scones need to be round, anyway?
(I know they look a bit shrivelled, but it's the first time I've ever made scones).

Incidentally, last year my work friend Amaryah and I had a long discussion about whether it is scone to rhyme with on - as I say it - or scone to rhyme with stone - as most other people say it (I think posh people say it like that). In the end, we decided to make up our own pronunciation, and call it a scone, to rhyme with done. Ain't the English language grand?

It's enrichment week this week. I scored myself Outdoor Frenzy - sitting around on a farm near my house watching the kids do things like high ropes and archery, joining in as I choose - for the whole week. I got loads of knitting done today, but I have some wicked sunburn. After years of carefully avoiding straplines and sunburn, I fear I've totally blown it for this year. I've spent the evening draped in a wet towel and slathered in Badger Bali Balm - the ultimate aftersun. Here's hoping it's toned down by tomorrow. Thankfully the BBSeaweed mask from Lush I had in the fridge has totally dealt with the (admittedly not as serious) facial redness. I should have layered it all over my shoulders and decolletage, as well.

One final showing off picture - here is a lily I have grown.

I planted it last year and it was immediately fallen upon by a pack of ravenous slugs and left for dead. As is our wont, we left it in its pot over the winter, outside, and in the spring it started to grow again. I reckon this is because Mr Z looked at it (he's very green fingered) - but either way, I planted it originally so I do get some credit for growing something for once (I am notoriously brown-fingered....so to speak). It has had 5 very lovely red lilies blossom on it in the past fortnight. I am quite delirious about how pretty they are, and fully intend to plant more outside to be similarly noshed on and then reborn.


One Local Summer Week 4 - epic fail

I can only blame not being at home for most of the week. After saying I'd go to the farm shops on Tuesday, too, I realised that I was driving past them all before 9am, so that was useless.

I did try, yesterday, to go to the Hicks Gate Farm Shop, as signposted from the roundabout - but it is most definitely not there anymore. It's just an overgrown cracked tarmac road to nowhere. And today we were going to go and Pick Our Own at Chew Valley farm, but it was a bit overcast and I had to mark about 400 GCSE responses today so it left very little time for actually, like, having a life.

GCSE marking is over on Thursday, Hurrah! Apparently I am accurate enough to have earned consideration for team leader. I knew it would all pay off eventually...although it has been absolutely beastly this year.

Just discovered I made a serious mistake with Marianne this week. I have not had much time to work on it, due to the marking, and I was determined to put a few rows on it during the year 9 conference....this culminated in me knitting during the presentation finals in the lecture threatre, which I didn't feel guilty about because none of my kids got through (they was robbed!). Anyway, one of the groups decided to turn out the lights, as I was part way through a row, and I must have had brain freeze or something because when they came back on, I started knitting again - only on a different row of the lacework. I righted myself without even noticing my mistake by the time I got onto the back piece, but 6 repeats of the lacework on the right front are not right, and because it was partway through and not the whole of the right front, I don't even have the right number of stitches anymore. It's a mess! Thankfully, the variegation in the yarn and the fluffiness mean that it doesn't really seem to notice, though I guess I won't be able to tell until I am a few rows past it.

There's nothing to be done. It won't take ripping back, and while I considered dropping the stitches back to fix them, that way lies insanity and blindness. It really just means that the diamonds in that section are somewhat oversized, but on the whole I don't think it will be too obvious a mistake.

I bet Rachel won't even give me a look :p

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

One Local Summer week 3

I was really rubbish this week, and couldn't get to a farm shop or even up to the green grocer, thanks to the GCSE marking and the lovely day I spent in London yesterday with some friends from uni, who I haven't seen for about 7 years. I think these excuses are good enough.

I managed to make myself a late night meal of West country chicken, from Sainsbury's - it's very handy that they sell locally produced food, though I have concerns that it is shipped to, hmm, I don't know, Aberdeen for packaging before being put in our local supermarket. I do, however, like the little Freedom Foods sticker on the packet, which assures me that, although the bok-boks are kept indoors, they have lots of room to run around, bales of straw, perches, and brightly coloured objects with which to play. I had a moment as I cooked the chicken, imagining it running around after a beach ball, trying to make it roll with its beak and popping it every time. It made me chuckle.

I combined that with some rocket which had been languishing in the salad drawer since my last farm shop visit, and some bread which was decidedly NOT local but the only thing on hand at 11pm on a Saturday night. At least the meal was slightly more local than the kebab Mr Z picked up for dinner on the way home from the bus station. But still, I think this meal gets a "Could do better" sticker.

Next week I am away from home for meals for 3 nights in a row, but on Tuesday I have a meeting in Devizes all day, which necessitates driving past a whole new range of farm shops - one of which, I noticed last week, sells its milk to Cadbury for use in Dairy Milk. Does this make Dairy Milk local for me? I had to drive around Wiltshire last week to drop off some application forms I'd forgotten to post (not for me...pupils) and was sorry I couldn't stop, thanks to being in such a hurry, at any of the half dozen places I saw advertising their wares. Mostly the signs mentioned free range eggs and potatoes, but I can definitely make a meal out of that. I think I might try making some gnocchi next week. If I am ever at home, anyway.

Also, I drive to work through a very woody bit of road, and the whole place reeks of wild garlic in the summer. I keep meaning to park and go and gather some, but I am afraid I might see an insect of some kind, get scared, run out into the road and be flattened by a tractor. Either that or misidentify the plant I pick and poison myself. I have been looking at wild garlic pictures online to help me, and have found a good recipe for wild garlic pesto. That would make a very local meal, with some gnocchi.

Oh, and just in case it wasn't really obvious - the reason I posted that picture of those cars is because of the number plates. These are a lot more clear if you click on the picture and make it nice and big.


Friday, June 13, 2008

One Local Summer week 2 (and some ramblings)

I did a little better this week - I didn't burn anything, for a start.

(I love my plates too, though they don't go with anything in my house. I live in mortal fear of dropping one and no longer having a set.)

Here we have toad in the hole, made with beef and horseradish sausages which I bought and froze when the farmers' market was up the 'wood a couple of weeks ago, and also with milk, eggs and flour purchased from the aforementioned Whiterow Country Foods. I know I should really stop at the other farm shop on alternate weeks, for the sake of fairness, but they don't have the awesome salad Whiterow do. Today they had bags with actual flowers in. I was very excited, but also very skint, so I may have to have that next week.

I am quite proud of myself for even making sure the flour was local, and intend to use it later in the summer for making pasta...or, yknow, for making Mr Z make pasta. The broad beans are also from Whiterow. As I was shelling them, it occurred to me that I can't ever remember having fresh broad beans - only frozen ones, that are grey. These were vastly superior. I felt very stupid when I realised one doesn't eat the fuzzy pod as well as the beans, so we didn't have many - but those we did were very tasty.

And then for dessert, I had some raspberry and elderflower sorbet from Mendip Moments. Yum.Whenever I have their ice cream it reminds me of the cows surrounding the turbanned man who was sitting cross-legged on the top of Glastonbury Tor when Mr Z and I visited last year.


And here is the other video I took that day, just because it made me laugh a lot when I watched it again just now.


That's what that big, ancient, stone tower is for! That girl nearly got a big kick in the face because she wouldn't stop prodding.

Some ramblings for this week.

Crows are mean. Mr Z pointed a pair out to me the other day, hopping around the corner of the guttering of one of the houses that backs onto our lane. He told me they were after the eggs or the chicks. I was horrified and disbelieving, but the very next day, I saw a crow carefully extract an egg from under the eaves and fly off with it. Gits. The local robin has been sitting on our fence post chirrupping for days now, with increasing desperation, and dievboming the cat, and I am starting to worry that it was its nest.

Zoe's finished her degree. I was lucky enough to be in London for her art show yesterday and got to see her final film pieces. They were very good, but I maintain that nothing in this world makes me feel as stupid as art - most of the time I just don't get it. I got Zoe's alright, I think. They were quite personal to her. I can't believe it's been three years and she's finished already.

Hotels are strange places. I rushed and rushed across London on Wednesday night, trying to get to my hotel room in time to catch most of the Apprentice final. At first the guy on the front desk seemed unable to find my booking, so off he went and messed around with some papers, and came back grimacing, "It's not really a problem." "Good," I replied, with a bit of teacher-eyebrow thrown in for good measure. In the end, they upgraded me to an executive suite (still no fridge, but the bed was about 6 feet wide - I slept in a star shape, I think - and it had a sofa bed, a flatscreen on a swivelly arm and two sinks, and would have slept 6 if they were a close bunch of people).
Anyway. Rushing. Apprentice. I couldn't turn the TV on. I decided it must be broken but didn't want to look stupid, so I tried everything I could think of before ringing reception, only to be informed that the switch to turn the power on to the TV was on the headboard of the bed (which was on the opposite side of the room).
Of course! Where it always is...

Cowboy boots are in, in London. I saw 3 pairs before I even got to my hotel. And the next day, more, and on men too. Most of the men I saw were in pointy shoes. I like outfit spotting in London. It's so dull in Bristol - I feel guilty being mentally acerbic because it's so obvious that most of the completely random and unknown people I am dissing like I'm some sort of Vogue editor don't care what they put on their backs, and therefore it's not really fun. People in London make an effort, even when they want to look like they don't. Hence, dishevelled skinny model types with hair carefully teased and spritzed to look unbrushed, and about 5 layers of baggy jersey in an "I just tossed on clothes until I wasn't cold anymore" type arrangement - a look totally ruined, in my opinion, by flesh coloured tights: completely at odds with the overall effect, but subtle enough that they don't really notice unless you're hypercritical.

I might be hypercritical. But only of people I don't know. And a woman accosted me at Victoria station yesterday to ask me where I got my dress from (I neglected to tell her it was from ebay and gave her the original shop details) - so I may be mean, but I have a little bit of style, at least in the eyes of the odd person here and there.

I own red and white spotty shoes. It had to happen sooner or later. They're quite sensible, for me.

I'm marking. The examination season has begun. Bye bye to life for the next 3 weeks. It prompted me to open up my funnies file from last year and these seemed worth sharing -
  • They did not stop the death penalty because they are stupid and they piss me off, so I can't be arsed to write in more detail.
  • She wasn't a violent person - on the contrary, she was beautiful.
  • Trial by Ordeal was a system where God would decide your fete. ["Thou shalt have thy fete on the second Saturday of July, and thou shalt have bunting and balloons and raise money for cancer relief"].


Sunday, June 8, 2008

One Local Summer week 1

Here is a dinner we had this week. It is quite simple and should bear the warning "do not put food in the oven and then fall asleep on the couch."

Everything came from Whiterow Country Foods, a farm shop near work; it's about 25 miles from home.

We had poached eggs, chunky chips I burned myself in the oven, a big pile of the pepperiest and most delicious rocket I've ever had, and a dollop of home made mayonnaise. I think I took the rules of OLS to the limit, here - the egg yolks are local but the oil is not, so it is within the boundaries. But I don't know if using half a pint of oil was quite what the rule makers intended.

It was good mayonnaise, though. I bet it would taste really good with some garlic in it.


Saturday, May 31, 2008

Trivial and mundane things

I have been very pleasantly surprised this evening by a film which I thought would be pants. In fact, I remember when it came out, I saw a trailer and, in spite of the fact it falls into my guilty secret genre (teen school flicks) I thought, "Good grief, what an utter pile of shite that is going to be." The film in question, the Girl Next Door, actually turned out to be hugely entertaining, in spite of the fact they moreorless stole the entire plot from Risky Business (which I also like a lot) - right down to the very expensive mantelpiece adornment. There was no dancing-in-pants-and-socks scene, but there is a bit where the main character is forced to run naked down a suburban street.

Having perused the reviews on imdb I see I'm not alone. This makes me feel better for liking it. It really was very funny. And really that Timothy Olyphant should do more acting in things I am likely to see because he is very funny.

I went to the farmers' market up the road from me today. I wasn't especially hopeful - I think there is only one thing that is farmed in the local area and that's the sort of illegal thing you need a heat lamp and a lot of tin foil for - but there was a good selection of stuff. They even had pickled eggs in malt vinegar which you almost never see. I know, BLEUCH. I can't see the sense in taking a delicious fresh egg, boiling the crap out of it and then immersing it in vinegar for a few months. I think they are like kebabs, and you only see them in bars because you would only ever eat one after a lot of alcohol. Mr Z has educated me otherwise, though. He will only eat the kind in malt vinegar....hence my excitement at the find today.

I also got some very pink rhubarb, some very tender asparagus, some very tasty sausages, and some goats cheese....from a very creepy woman. She was creepy. She may have spent too much time in her dairy. She seemed like she belonged in an episode of the League of Gentlemen. I had to keep reminding myself that they were Gloucestershire farmers and I'm used to Wiltshire ones. Perhaps the farms in Gloucestershire are more isolated.

Anyway, the reason for the detailed description of today's shopping is because I have decided to take part in One Local Summer. I heard about it through a group on Ravelry. Basically, I have to cook one meal a week from all locally-grown ingredients, excluding oil, salt, pepper and spices. I decided this would be a snap, what with all those farm shops I drive past on the way home from work and the endless supply of eggs from the teaching assistant at work. I sort of forgot that the summer extends past July 25th, and therefore, for 5 weeks of the challenge, I won't be driving past anything if I can help it. And may well not have a kitchen for a large portion of those 5 weeks.

Oh, I'm overjoyed at the prospect of ripping out the kitchen and replacing it. Really. I can't wait. I wish we could start tomorrow. I wish we could win the lottery and go and lie on a beach in the Maldives for 3 weeks while a small army of builders, carpenters, plumbers and kitchen fitters did the whole thing for us.

So, back to OLS. I may have to get quite creative with my meals for the 5 weeks I won't be at work. Breakfast counts as a meal, right?

I have finished my massive swatch for Marianne in glorious acrylic. I am at a bit of a loss with what to do with it now, tbh. I might use it as a face cloth, though it seems a bit indulgent to use a lace face cloth, even if it is made from something that costs £1 for 200g.

Everything inside the black lines is what I made up. I'm really glad I knitted the whole pattern out because I realised I had made several mistakes which would have been impossible to fix if I'd been using the Baby Kid, and I would have been really pissed off with myself because at least two of them were really stupid mistakes. At one point I'd lined up two YOs next to each other - hence the two rather large holes visible to the trained eye.

In places it looks a bit strange but then, the increase sections will only account for
a small portion of the actual garment and I don't think it will be noticable...and one of the reason for the strangeness towards the bottom is because I made a huge mess of knitting the pattern for a couple of rows and that's just idiocy,not the pattern. Now I just have to work the numbers and figure out how many stitches I need to cast on. This is easily the most prep I've ever done for a pattern, it had better be worth it.

I got a new phone this week. I am very pleased with it - it's very shiny and I have the most garish blue and purple background pattern. I rang up T-Mobile all ready to play it tough because I didn't want to pay £80 for the upgrade (first upgrade in 2 and a half years, there's no way I'm forking out for it!) However, the woman on the phone was extremely helpful; she switched my tariff to something which should be costing me half what I'm paying (in reality, it seems to be about the same...but I am at least getting more for it...I'll see what the bill says when it comes in) and she gave me the phone for free, and then she gave me a month's free trial of the web'n'walk.

Oh, clever T-Mobile dealer. It's only been 3 days and I'm already hooked. It was enough to push me into finally using that Google calendar I kept meaning to fill in (I am absolutely useless with diaries). I can upload pictures direct to here (hence the posts below - Mr Z worked out how to do this before I did). Facebook and I need never be parted again. It's very exciting. That free month is going to pass before I even notice it, isn't it?

One final thing. I was playing YouTube tag tonight and found this and it made me laugh a lot. Mr Z and I developed an appreciation for country music last summer. It's good honest lyrics like "I wanna see the other half of your butterfly tattoo" and "I don't give a darn bout what other people think, waddya think about that?" which sold us. It helped that one of the biggest songs on country radio last summer featured Mr Z's name in the title. Every new song was like a gift waiting to be listened to with incredulity. It amazes me that some of them even get written, so mundane and trivial is their subject matter. But they are mostly fun.

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