Monday, 23 November 2009

battery operated toothbrushes

I like my battery operated toothbrush. I've tried a few different models, some with rectangular heads, some with round ones, and others with a rotating round part within a non-rotating outer set of bristles.

The one I've settled on doesn't have replaceable heads, as I found I was frequently nipped by them. It has a small, circular rotating head, and that's it. Simple.

It uses two batteries to run it, and since I try to be ecologically minded, I use rechargeable batteries.

Today, I decided it was time for a new toothbrush, so rootled around in the (very large) cupboard in the bathroom, and found one. I removed it from its packaging, prised off the base of the battery compartment and then the fun began.

I know, you weren't expecting fun, but, hey, it's half past ten on a Monday night, so why not?

So ... I prised off the base of my old toothbrush and shook it to extract the batteries. No joy. I banged it gently on my hand. No joy. I swear that rechargeable batteries develop middle-age spread, a bit like me.

I hit it quite hard against my hand, and there was a slight movement, but not enough to be able to grasp the batteries. Now it was time to get really tough.... I banged it against the wooden chopping board in the kitchen - yes!!! a whole quarter inch of battery emerged, enough to pull out first one, then the other. Hurray.

I returned to the the new toothbrush and tried to insert the batteries. No joy. They really have put on weight!! It's exactly the same model of toothbrush, bought on the same day, from the same shop as the other. I know this because I bought about twenty at the time, (they were on special offer).

At last, one went in - I'm sure I heard it laughing - but the next one really, really didn't want to be re-homed. I was brutal, and slapped it in - then stopped. Drat, I'd put it in upside down!!

I'd slapped it quite hard, so it was nearly all the way in, just an eighth of an inch protruding. Surely I could extract it? No, I could not.

After breaking two finger nails I decided that since I was human (yes, I am) I could do that human being thing and use tools. I got a thin knitting needle (if you're a keen knitter, look away now), the needle is not quite as straight as it once was, but I don't believe it felt any pain. The battery just stared at me as if to say "Huh, did you really think that would work?"

Tweezers didn't do the trick either, so I took out my tool box from next to the sink cupboard, and opened the lid. I couldn't see the pointy-nosed pliers, they must be on holiday somewhere, but I found a pair of wide mouthed snub nosed pliers and smiled to myself. The battery stood no chance!

So .... I went to the freezer and took out a pot of sorbet, wrapped a section of paper towel around it and applied it to my right forefinger. I'm glad I don't swear or the kitchen air would have been blue.

The battery won the battle with the pliers! It clearly has heard of those reptiles that leave part of their tail behind when bitten by a predator, and thought it would try something similar.

The pliers came away very rapidly from the battery, bearing a triumphant circular bit, then snapped the fleshy part of my finger. It still hurts now, but at least it's not throbbing like it was.

There's always a silver lining though - I did get to eat the sorbet after it had done sterling work in reducing the pain :-)

The battery is still in the new toothbrush, the wrong way round, and I've found another new toothbrush, with non-re-chargeable batteries in it for tonight.

Some battles I don't win. But I live to fight another day. I still like the electric toothbrushes, though:-)

Rainbow Chard, Jewelled Stir Fry, Quick vegan supper

As I stood at the kitchen window, the late afternoon sun slanted through the leaves, creating jewel-like glowing clumps. I had made no plans for my evening meal, so I went out into the back garden to see what I could garner for supper.

I harvested four different colours of chard, plus a standard white-stemmed variety. They don't look as good here in the sink as they did with the sunlight passing through them, but they're still quite stunning.

I decided on a simple stir fry, so took some celery from the fridge, a couple of onions from the basket, and started washing and chopping. Here's what I used, and how I made it:

4 sticks celery, sliced
2 large onions, cut in half, then sliced
8 sticks of chard
3 cloves of garlic, more or less, to taste!
2 chillies, finely chopped (remove the seeds and inner white ribs if you like it less hot!)
sesame oil
olive oil
soy sauce

Cut the ribs from the chard. Chop the ribs in the same way as you would the celery. Roll the leaves of the chard, and slice about a quarter inch or so thick ribbons. Don't they look like a dragon's lair of jewels?
I had red stems, bright cerise, orange and dandelion yellow stems, and the plain white ones, too.

In a large pan pour a glug each of olive and sesame oils. Gently fry the onion and celery until almost cooked through, then add the chilli and garlic.
Toss in the stems of chard, stir for a minute or two, then add the shredded leaves. I'm afraid the steam prevented me from taking a good shot of the leaves wilting down - sorry!

Splosh in some soy sauce, stir everything quickly together for about two minutes, and you're finished.

I served it with jacket potatoes, because my partner was here, and he loves them (so do I, but I would probably have had some rice noodles if I'd been alone).

A drizzle of toasted sesame oil over the top just finished it off nicely. The colours still looked lovely, even when cooked, and it tasted just great. What's more, it didn't take long to cook, and most of it came from the garden and cost very little - yay!!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Avocado, tomatoes, garlic, chili, lemon, dill, guacamole, simple raw food

Dill Guacamole. Super fast food.

I was peckish and felt the need for something almost instant, yet very tasty. I have several avocados which are either ripe, or approaching ripeness, so this seemed a logical starting point -oh, and the fact that I love avocados also helped a little:-)

I happen to have some fresh dill, and wondered how it would marry up with the avocado. I was pleasantly surprised by the blend, and will certainly make it again.

I gathered together the ingredients you see above:

1 medium avocado - mashed with a fork
1 medium red chili - diced
1 lemon - zested and juiced
3 cloves of garlic - crushed or grated
5 cherry tomatoes - finely diced
5 sprigs of fresh dill - remove delicate leaves from stalks
Salt and Pepper - to taste

Split the avocado and remove the stone by tapping your sharp knife hard against it, then twisting the knife. The stone should loosen nicely.

Mix all the ingredients together, seasoning to taste with freshly ground salt and pepper.

Pop some bread in the toaster whilst you mix - it really doesn't take long. Or prepare some cruditees if you prefer somehing cold, or eat only raw foods.

I've tried many variations on guacamole, and this new blend is deliciously different. I hope you'll enjoy trying it. What is your favourite guacomole recipe?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

boasting, my words were chosen,

Congratulations to Christine from "Christine's Chatter" for her winning contribution:

Tthis is the photo for which the words were written. November 1, 2009, Write with Pictures.

Isn't it sad that so many children today don't realize that cakes, cookies and biscuits can be baked at home?

If it doesn't come wrapped from the supermarket, it's not "real" for some.

You can share so much with a child when you're baking - math, motor skills, sharing, mixing, tasting, creating, sharing secrets, the science and magic of raising cakes and dough - oh - and most of all - LOVE.

Keep on baking, people, keep on :)

Monday, 9 November 2009

serendipity, charity (thrift) shop bargain

One of the gods must have been distracted as he/she was running a bath the other day. I know this because whichever god it was allowed the water to run too long.

The water overflowed the heavenly bath, and cascaded down upon me as I walked home from uni last Wednesday. I was wearing canvas trainers, and a light jacket. The sun had been shining in a clear blue sky when I'd caught the bus early that morning.

I was soon uncomfortably damp. Well, actually, my feet were positively squelching as I walked! I called into the local charity (thrift) book shop to shelter from the worst of it, and looked at a few books - I've bought many books there over the last few years, and taken a few back, too! It was thanks to a poster in their window that I became a founder member of the Ashton Book Group - another good thing:)

I then set off again, but, since I'd been in the book shop, I thought I might as well take a look in the non-book shop of the same charity further down the road. I'm very pleased that I did.

For a few weeks now, since the autumn clothes have started to blossom on the rails, I've been looking for a raincoat. Not a shower-proof coat, not a cagoule, I have at least one of each of those, but a raincoat. A coat that would go down to my knees and keep me dry. Not one did I see.

However, on the "expensive" rail at the back of the charity (thrift) shop, I spotted a few coats. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say, so I wandered over to have a look, carefully avoiding the feet of a smoky grey cat prowling amongst the jungle of rails.

My eye was taken by a stone coloured trench-coat, with hard plastic, mock leather buttons - I know, it's a weird description, but that's what they are!! The coat had a detachable thin acrylic check lining to add a tiny amount of additional warmth, in shades of red and black and brown on the stone background. Very neutral, therefore very useful.

I tried it on over my fleece jacket, and it fit! It boasted a £55 price tag from BHS at the neck, and another cardboard tag saying "Petite fitting" dangled from the sleeve. The original receipt from BHS was in one pocket, and in the other a small plastic bag containing a spare button and a scrap of fabric for necessary repairs. The receipt is badly faded, but it looks as if the year of purchase is 1992!!!!!

The fabric tag inside the coat proudly states that it is a raincoat. I bought it for the £5 they were asking, and carried on walking home, immensely pleased with my purchase.

Serendipity is all around us. Had it not rained, I wouldn't have broken my journey in the shops, but would have simply walked on home. Thanks to the rain and a soaking, I found what I've been looking for:-)

When I reached home I got changed out of my wet clothes and shoes, and thought about cleaning the coat. I'm happy to buy things from charity/thrift shops, provided I can wash them. I know people who insist that they couldn't possible buy second-hand clothing, because you don't know who owned it before you. Those same people will stay in a hotel and sleep in a bed which has been slept in by complete strangers. Not only that, they will dry all parts of their bodies with a towel previously used by goodness knows who.

That's different, they cry, the sheets and towels are washed!!!! I know it may be hard to believe, but I wash the things I buy from charity shops. So where's the difference?

Drat, I digressed!!

So, I looked at cleaning the coat. The label says "dry clean only" - no, not going to do that! The collar was grubby from being tried on, but the coat was clearly unworn, with its cardboard tags still attached. I sprayed the grubby collar with pre-wash spray, left it for a few minutes, then rinsed it off. I squirted on a little liquid soap and rubbed it in, then rinsed that, too.

I left the coat over the sink and went to set the washing machine to a gentle, cool wash, and put some liquid in the dispensing drawer. I picked up the coat, and whoosh, I was covered in cold water, and so was the floor. The water I had used to clean the collar had stayed between the lining and the coat fabric, instead of draining in to the sink. The outer fabric had held it like a bucket, and my lifting it was its clue to soak me for the second time that afternoon!!

After the shock, I was delighted!!! I know, how could I be delighted when I'd just got soaked? Easy. If the water stayed between the outer fabric and the lining, that was a pretty good indication as to how waterproof my new coat was - i.e. very :-)

The coat survived the washing machine, and I've worn it a few times now. It's kept me lovely and dry, and also warm, as there is ample room for a decent fleece jacket to be worn under it.

So there you are, serendipity in action, the charity/thrift shop made a fiver, and I'm one happy Christine :-) What's your favourite bargain buy?

The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes

I was sent this link in an e-mail, and was intrigued, so followed the link and watched this young girl talk to her "elders and betters".

I'd like for you to do the same when you have five minutes to spare. I only wish that all the "movers and shakers" out there could be compelled to listen and act on the issues she raises.

The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes

first frost, frost patterns,

It's a beautiful sunny morning, but it's cold,
very cold. So cold that Jack Frost has left his
trademark traceries on the conservatory roof panes.

They say the best things in life are free, and I consider the delightful designs left by the icy visitor to be one of the best free shows there is. So ethereal, so delicate, I love to look at them and marvel.
Wouldn't they make lovely lace fabric?
You can see how gloriously blue the sky is - it really is a beautiful world!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

When I am Old I Will Wear Purple

Well, it's happened! What? I hear you cry. I have grown old without noticing. I know this to be a fact, because I caught sight of my reflection in the supermarket window yesterday.

As you know, I'm in the middle of my loft conversion, and life is somewhat chaotic, to put it mildly. Yesterday the weather turned colder, and I slipped on a pair of purpley-pink fleece tracksuit bottoms - I don't wear the top because it takes too much effort to remove it quickly when I have a "tropical moment", but that's another story.

I pulled on a short-sleeved purple t-shirt, to cope with the aforementioned flushes. So far, so good. A black fleece jacket topped it all off neatly. No problems. I sat down to edit some stories I'm writing, and worked away until about noon. I decided to walk down to the supermarket to wake up my circulation - I don't know about you, but I end up with cold fingers and toes if I'm just sitting here typing, so a walk to the shop and back is just enough to restore the blood flow - I don't necessarily buy anything.

So I dragged a jacket from the coat cupboard in the porch. It was chilly, and rain was about, so I grabbed a waterproof one - bright red with turquoise reverse side. I opted for boots because of the rain, and the only pair not bundled away because of the loft work are a burgundy shade. They clashed a bit with the trousers, but hey, it's only the local supermarket! They didn't clash nearly as much as the scarlet jacket!!! the handiest gloves were a sensible beige, and the umbrella was brown. My hat black and purple.

I really didn't give it a second thought, until I caught sight of my reflection. That's when the poem came to mind, and I realised I had grown old. Here is the poem, one of my favourites :-)

When I am Old I Will Wear Purple

When I am OldI will wear Purple!
When I am an old woman,I shall wear purple - - With a red hat which doesn't go,and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pensionon brandy and summer gloves and satin sandals,
And say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
and gobble up samples in shops
and press alarm bells
and run with my stick along public railings,
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit!

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at ago,
or only bread and pickles for a week,
and hoard pens and pencils
and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
and pay our rent
and not swear in the street,
and set a good example for the children.

We must have friends to dinner
and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised
when suddenly I am old,
And start to wear purple!

--Jenny Joseph

My friends would agree that I started to practice years ago, my enemies, if I had any, would say far worse! I wear what I like, when I like, and it has to be comfortable! But I really didn't realise quite how unco-ordinated I looked, and must try harder - as my school reports often said!!!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

In the midst of death we have life

You know you have days when you think to yourself (though, come to tink of it, how could you think to anyone else??) - "I wish I'd done this yesterday!"? Well, this is one of those days.

I've just come in from the gareen, having harvested what I believe will be the final runner beans. Here they are, on the right. You could be forgiven for thinking I've taken leave of my senses (yet again, I hear you cry!), but I haven't. No, really, I haven't.

In the midst of death, we have life. Those dead-looking papery beans that you wouldn't give a second glance in the greengrocer's, contain next year's (and possibly the next, and the next) seeds. In this case, some of them are somewhat slimey, because I didn't collect them yesterday in the dry, but this evening after copious amounts of rain.

I wanted you to see how awful and unattractive they look, so that you don't despair when it comes to harvest your own next year - you know you'll want to give it a go - it's free, organic food!!

I mentioned the beautiful colours the other day, but I've taken this photo so that you can see how different they look to the small beans you find inside the runner beans when you're eating them. Those tend to be either greyish, if very small, or this lovely pink when they're middle sized. As they grow larger, and riper, they develop the delightful speckling that you can see, and the colour goes through a purply pink to the deep coral. They are beautiful - nature is a marvel!

Just for those of you who think size really does matter, here are some against a couple of tape measures. I've used a couple so that you can see inches or centimetres, whichever is your preferred measure. You see, I might have lost my mind, but I'm still considerate :)

I'm going to go and enjoy some of the beans with some sprouting brocolli and tiny Charente carrots, tossed with some potatoes and drizzled with toasted sesame oil and fresh lime juice. Yum!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

loft conversion, update, lights

I no longer need to go upstairs (still a new word in my home vocabulary!) with a lamp afixed to a band round my head like a miner's helmet :-)

The lighting system is now up and running, or glowing, I suppose I should say. I chose simple white globes which could accommodate energy efficient bulbs, in keeping with my green outlook, and they look fine.

Did you know that nowadays an electrician will only fit approved lights in a bathroom? Well, he will. Fortunately the one I had chosen was an approved model, as well as coming complete with its very own energy saving lamp.

The other thing the electrician insisted that he was obliged to fit, was a mains operated smoke alarm. Here it is, adjacent to the globe at the base of the stairs. I hope, that since it is sited here, by the new porch, and thus a whole room and hallway distant to the kitchen, that its dulcet tones will not be heard too regularly.

I should tell you that when I was growing up, we knew the toast was ready when we heard Mum scraping off the burnt bits over the sink. Even with a toaster she had the capacity to burn bread. Some skills are valuable, that one, alas, was not. Funny thing was that she baked lovely bread, really well. It was just toast that she couldn't manage.
The reason for telling you that small historical fact is so that you will understand that when I have toast, I like it to be really well done - it's what I was brought up on. Sadly, smoke alarms tend to believe I'm burning something, they can't appreciate the subtle difference between beautiful dark brown toast, and charcoal. I can.
So, I have glowing lights, and a smoke alarm. All working. I have new switches, some of them two way, to illuminate my "upstairs" :-)
The grey snake appearing out of the tiles is not, as you might imagine, the trunk of an emaciated elephant, it is the cable which will breathe life into the shower. Maybe tomorrow. We'll see.

I also have ......... - wait for it - ................ radiators! Yes, really, radiators, fastened to the walls, and linked up to the central heating system. Wow! One of them cost me a couple of pounds at a charity auction, a few years ago, the other I bought new at the weekend. Look at how neatly they are fixed, though! Aren't they neat?? No pipes coming up from the floor, they're new plastic water pipes, of a very small diameter, which enter the rooms through the stud walling. Beautiful - thanks Paul :-)
Actually, I think, if you look really hard, you can spot the bathroom radiator coyly appearing in refelection in the mirror, so you didn't really have to wait for it at all, but that would have spoiled the drama somewhat!
It's nearly all over, as far as the workmen are concerned. Rob and Paul, the builders, Kevin, the carpenter, Paul the plumber, and Ian, the electrician have been an integral part of my life for the past three and a half weeks, off and on. They've all been lovely blokes to have around, and I'd have any one of them back to do any extra work that's needed in future.
Rob reckoned it would take them four to six weeks, and despite the builing inspector insisting on extras, like the ventilation roof tiles at £7+ each (45 of them, no less! ), things have proceeded well, and they've finished within time. Well, Rob did get Mario (such lovely curly hair, makes me remember insisting my mum cut all mine off when I was about three), in to do the majority of the plastering to save time, but even so, they've done well.
This saga is nearly at an end - apart from the painting and oiling I now need to do to decorate it all :-) Talk to me nicely and I might tell you a little about that, too.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

loft conversion update

The plumber arrived in a black mood, his van had packed up and was in having major surgery. Next thing I know my builder comes to me to impart bad news. The plumber said the fittings that came with the new toilet were useless, and water would spray everywhere if he used the connections provided, it needed to go back to the shop.

I bought the loo about four years ago at a car boot sale from a guy who was clearing his warehouse, so it couldn't be returned. I was annoyed because I told the builder at the outset to show the sanitary ware to the plumber, as I didn't know what fixings were included, and that would give him the opportunity to obtain any necessary parts. Clearly that hadn't been done.

I spent hours trawling round looking at toilets, trying to find one without a million little ledges to collect dust.

How many of you can say you enjoy cleaning the outside of your loo? Hold still, I'm having trouble counting. No, I'm joking, none of you has your hand up, do you? And small wonder, I don't know anyone who enjoys the task.

Have you ever looked closely at a toilet pan? Most of them are so badly designed that they have creases and crevices which appear to be quite unnecessary. The more modern, and, needless to say, expensive, models are much simpler in outline, and relatively easy to keep clean. I really can't justify the expensive models in my tiny en-suite. I haad chosen this model because it is relatively sleek and crevice free, and also a compact size. The cistern is the tall, free-standing section behind the pan. Very neat.

David suggested possible ways around the problem, but the plumber was clearly in no mood to listen to an amateur!! So off we went.

Ultimately, David found several designs of flush systems that might fit the existing loo, and we bought a couple of the likeliest for the plumber to look at on his next visit. This was postponed due to his lack of transport. When he did arrive, he was in a better frame of mind, and prepared to consider modifying the existing fittings and sealing with silicone.

The loo is now in situ, and tomorrow the plumber returns and water will flow through the sanitary system. I hope it remains in the system and doesn't end up all over the floor. Keep your fingers crossed for me!!

boasting, my words were chosen, vegan ethic

I know I shouldn't boast, but I'm still at the stage where I find it amazing that somebody chooses my work above others!!! I liked this for its simplicity, yet the underlying message is there, for those that can, to see!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Today's Writing Prompt: Nursery Rhyme
Rewrite a nursery rhyme. (Have fun with it!)
(Here's a link to a bunch of them, if you need to refresh your memory!)
One-Minute Writing of the Day:Writer: Christine

Baa baa black sheep,
How's it make you feel,
Knowing that you're there to be somebody's meal?

Congratulations on another win, Christine! Clever and dark.... I like it.