Wednesday, 21 September 2011

How did it get to the autumn equinox so quickly?

I started the owls jumper this week and it's going well so far.  The pattern is surprisingly easy to follow if you take it section by section.

I went to jigsaw club on Wednesday night, we did a books jigsaw, 1000 pieces, we didn't finish it but we got half way through.  My friend made us pad Thai noodles halfway through!

On Thursday night we cycled down the canal to the fairy caves.

During my tidy session on Friday morning I made a 2 potato vindaloo from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty book.  I had to splash out on some new herbs and spices and a pestle and mortar.  It also took me a while to get hold of fresh curry leaves.  The recipe calls for 25 leaves which my Asian friends said was far too many, but I stuck to the recipe, and it was AMAZING!  It was so delicious and we had it for tea on Friday and Saturday, and for lunch on Monday.  Top marks for a cracking recipe.

It was the deadline for the Awards for All arts projects bids on Friday - we received 20 applications which we need to get down to 5 winners. 

We fixed the greenhouse glass at home on Saturday morning - it was a bit of a faff and Chris broke one of the panes, they seemed so fragile compared to the glass that's already in there.  It was wet in the afternoon Saturday so we stayed in and I did some knitting.  And in the evening we watched Peter Kay being interviewed on Jonathan Ross which made us laugh.

I bought the 'Nigella Bites' cookbook for £2 off the car boot on Sunday.  There's a recipe in there for Elvis's favourite sandwich - fried banana and peanut butter sandwich. I'll definitely be giving that a go.  Chris wants me to make chocolate cloud cake.

The tomatoes are still going strong and we picked loads. Perhaps I should sow the tomatoes a little sooner next year, so that they're not ripening so late.

We managed to make up a few veg boxes to give to our friends and they popped round Sunday afternoon to pick them up.

The sweetcorn in the greenhouse was full of flies. It doesn't do well as a late crop in greenhouse - I think it's better when sown early. If it's left later than mid to late August in the greenhouse it gets ruined by aphids and flies. There's one pumpkin in the greenhouse the size of large football, a few 'Jack Be Little' pumpkins and a few butternut squashes. The chillies are starting to turn red too. Everything's a bit late as there's been no sun. Wow, I can't believe it's nearly the end of September, where did the Summer go?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Giant Revel 2 bike review

I love my Giant Revel 2. I was so overwhelmed which bike to choose when I signed up to the Cycle to Work scheme. I didn't want to spend a fortune, but I wanted something good enough for on road and off road biking. The bike is quite light so I'm fine lifting it over stiles when we're out and about. The gears work well, and I can ride up steep hills relatively easy. I'm glad I went for this bike, rather than the Raleigh or the Diamond Back I considered. It only cost me £300 and it looks cool. The suspension forks work well, and it's fun riding over cobbled roads. It's a man's bike, but fine for a woman too as the cross bar isn't completely horizontal, it's on a bit of an angle. We love going out on our bikes, and I already feel a lot fitter. It's amazing how far you can cycle in a short amount of time. I'm really pleased my new bike - I'd give it 5 out of 5, and I think I made the right decision to buy it.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Blackberry crumble and the wind picks up

Chris picked some blackberries off the plot so I made a delicious crumble. Here's how the allotment's looking:

We went for a bike ride up a large hill near where we live - it was a great view but it was a four hour ride and my bum was really sore when we got home. We spotted some magic mushrooms on our travels!  We also spotted some non-magic ones (pictured):

I completely cocked up the owlings glove I was making, but I think I've learnt from my mistakes, which will help me when I make the owl jumper.

The remnants of hurricane Katia arrived on Monday night and I was a bit worried about the greenhouses, but luckily they survived without any damage.

I was featured on the intranet at work, talking about how I volunteer at the shop and how other people should volunteer too. Though it would be some good free publicity.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Moomin treats and a week off work

Sorry I've been a bit rubbish keeping my blog up to date recently.

I took a week off work - so here's the brief summary:

I made an extra curtain for the allotment shed to cover up the unsightly gap under the bench where we store bits of wood and the BBQ.

I attempted to make a pinnie using the sewing pattern I ordered - I cut out all the pieces then got really confused and didn't get any further!  It's kind of put a dampener on my sewing exploits.

I splashed out on these Moomin goodies for my bedtime cocoa:


Was tempted to get this tray too!

I bought the Plenty cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and it's amazing.  I'd give it 5 out of 5 - it's the best vegetarian cookbook I own.  Every recipe looks delicious!  It's already one of my favourite books.

I picked a selection of flowers from the back garden and pressed them.

The dahlia has finally flowered.

I spotted this cool house spider on the kitchen window.

I picked lots more tomatoes and sweet peas.

Here's a few pics from the allotment.

The potato harvest - a lot had been damaged by slugs.

The San Marzano look great but haven't gone red yet.

Jenny's sweet peas are much better than mine.

A little caterpillar has made a chrysalis on one of the tomato plants.

I bought this cool onion pot off the car boot - it's made by Sylvac.

As well as some vintage buttons for a bargain price.

I put together a newsletter for the shop which seemed to go down well.

And I finally ordered the wool for the owls jumper. I'd been a bit reluctant to spend £35 on wool, because it seemed a lot of money, plus with the cost of the bamboo circular needles added on top, it was getting close to £50, and I still had to make the jumper myself. I bought the Rowan British sheep breeds chunky wool in Suffolk steel grey. I was a bit worried the wool might be rough and scratchy, but it's not. It's soft and chunky, not as fluffy as Patons eco wool chunky, but I think I like it more. I don't know if it's the natural lanolin, but it feels ever so slightly oily (in a nice way) and it glides off the bamboo needles and knits up really quickly. It also smells of sheep. I'll be very pleased with myself if I actually make the jumper! It seems quite an ambitious goal. But I know it will be so warm and lovely for winter. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Making jam from (stolen) plums

I was in charge of the shop all day on Friday!  The shop manager asked me to cover whilst she went to a music festival, so I had to open up, cash up and lock up all on my own.  It was fine and everything went well, we weren't that busy, but I got on with some jobs, including ordering lots of goodies from Shared Earth.  It made a change from my usual tidy-Friday routine.

I ordered a selection of winter veg and spring veg plug plants from DT Browns.  I could have sown my own, but I've been so busy on the plot that the idea of having a batch of plug plants arriving in the post was too tempting.  The winter veg plug plants arrived on Friday so I planted them out on Saturday morning.  I got 4 each of kale, cabbage, cauliflower and sprouting broccoli.  They came wrapped in white paper inside a cardboard box.  Chris had already prepared the beds, so all I had to do was plant them and water them in - you can't get easier than that!  The spring veg plants should arrive mid September.  It cost £11 + postage, so £14 altogether, which is a bit expensive, but not too bad if it provides us with veg all winter and spring.

I spotted this baby cauliflower.

Chris harvested all the onions on Saturday morning.  There was about 200 altogether, he washed them, then hung them up in the shed to dry out on some special shelves he's put up.

Me with the onions.

We harvested the pink fir apple potatoes which look weird but tasted very nice.

Picked some more toms.

In the afternoon we went for a mega bike ride, probably about 10 miles I reckon.  We saw a heron and a green wagtail and we stopped for an ice lolly.  We ended up on top of a hill and we got a bit lost so we had to turn back.  It started raining at one point and neither of us had taken any waterproofs - slightly unprepared but we'll know next time.  I was so tired and saddle sore when I got home, but I think the exercise must have done me good, we both enjoyed it.

On Saturday after the bike ride I made an allotment chilli with loads of veg off the plot.  It took a while to make (broad beans take ages to pod and then remove from their skins!), but it was worth it and I had it again for my lunch on Sunday and Monday.

On Sunday Chris cut the tops off the potatoes to allow the skins to thicken before we harvest them next week.

Our allotment neighbour's plum tree has snapped in half due to the weight of all the plums on it - it's such a shame, it's completely broken and will need to be chopped down.  The plums that were on it have started to ripen and they were just going to waste so I lent over the fence and took some home to make plum jam.  It was lots of fun making the jam and very easy too.  It didn't set as well as I would have liked, but it's fine for on toast.  It tastes delicious!  I think I may have got the jam making bug.  All I used was 1 pint of water, 4lb of plums and 4lb of sugar (it's quite sweet so maybe I could have got away with less sugar, it seemed like loads when I weighed it out).  I ended up with 8 jars, which was more than I thought.  I quite fancy making blackberry jam next.

The tomatoes are really starting to turn red now and we've already had a couple of good harvests.  They taste fantastic and I challenge any supermarket tomato to the taste test - I know the homegrown ones will win hands down!


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Party on the plot

On Friday afternoon a co-operatives consultant came to the shop to offer advice on how we run the shop, it was a useful session and she made some good suggestions.  We need to make more money or we might have to shut, so something needs to be done.

We went ahead with the allotment party on Saturday afternoon - luckily the weather forecast said it would be dry all day so we decided to go for it.

Chris tidied up the plot and set up the cooking and seating areas.  And he cooked all the burgers, sausages and sweetcorn too, he was wiped out by the end of it. 

I made a soup for the party with lots of fresh veg from the allotment.  It was loosely based on a minestrone style recipe, and I followed a few of the steps in Marcella Hazan's Essential Classic Italian Cookery book.  I added spaghetti pieces, then served it with fresh basil, parmesan and crusty bread.  Mmmm.  I also made a chocolate brownie for pudding which seemed to vanish in a flash!

We picked lots of sweetcorn and BBQ'd it for our guests.  It tasted lovely - really tender, juicy and sweet.

I bought a box of organic cider, a tray of small bottles of beer and some fruit juice for people to drink.

Lots of people came to the party - we had 3 babies on the plot at one point.  The weather stayed dry and there was even a bit of sun.  We stayed on the plot until it went dark, then we had to go home.  Unfortunately we didn't see the full moon rise as it was too cloudy.

Our friends picked fruit and veg to take home with them and everyone seemed to have a good time.  My feet were killing me by the time I got home - it was a busy day running about getting everything sorted.

On Sunday we chilled.  Chris went to the flea market but I stayed home and washed up the pots from the BBQ, then deheaded the flowers in the gardens at home. I spotted lots of caterpillars on the nasturtiums.

Then we went to the allotment for a proper clear up.

I watered and fed everything in the greenhouses and made sure all the top shoots were off the tomatoes to encourage the tomatoes to ripen.  I picked some more veg.  Below are some sungold cherry tomatoes and a large constuluto fiorentino.

The weather has been disappointing and mostly wet.  We're halfway through August and we've not had many red tomatoes yet.  It's a shame.  There's so many green ones and if they all ripen at once I won't know what to do with them all!  I guess I'll have to make soup and pickles/chutneys and give away what we can't eat.  Pictured are some green tigerellas.

I made a tomato, garlic and basil sauce from the Marcella Hazan cookbook, I followed the recipe carefully, and it turned out really well.  It tasted pretty authentic and to say I only used a few ingredients it turned out a lot nicer than bottled pasta sauce. There's lots of good tips in the book about what type of ingredients to choose and how to cook things like pasta properly.  I love Italian food, last Wednesday night we treated my Mum to an Italian meal out and it was really delicious.

I've put an application in for another job at work, working in the parks department developing activities in the parks.  Fingers crossed I'll get an interview and then I can find out more about the role and see if I fancy making the change.  I've been in my current job for 5 years, so I feel like it's time for something new.

I've been out on my new bike a few times (it's been raining some nights).

We've had quite a lot on socially over the past few weeks, so I'm ready for a quiet one this coming weekend, I feel as though I've over socialised, so my introvert side is a bit put out. 

I've been working on a tender for the art/community project that we've got funding for at the shop, so that's been taking up some time in the evenings.

I'm loving Thomasina Miers' 'Mexican made simple' TV programme.  She had a fantastic pinnie (apron) on last week, which has inspired me to make some pinnies of my own, and I ordered a Simplicity sewing pattern for aprons today.  More on that next week.