Monday, 28 February 2011

Restoration project

I bought an Ercol sideboard on Ebay the other day.  I knew, from the photographs, that it needed a little TLC, and today was the day I embarked upon loving it.

The wood is a lovely warm tone, but, as you can see, it has water damage and a circular dark stain which will present me with a challenge.  But we all thrive on challenge, don't we?

So I got together my tools, well, not much, really, a can of Nitomors, some rubber gloves, an old washing up brush, an old plastic card and a tub to put the used gunk in.

I obeyed the instructions, and opened the windows for ventilation.  Then I dabbed on the Nitromors with the brush, waited 5 miutes, then applied more and worked it in.

After about 20 minutes, I took my plastic card and carefully scraped the now brown gunk away.

Pretty revolting, I think you'll agree!  But the sideboard top was looking paler, so I applied a second coat.
Then it was time to repeat the rubbing in and waiting.  After I stripped off the next layer, the result was far more dramatic!
I wiped it down carefully with white spirit, and stood back and felt as warm a glow as the sideboard was giving me.

This gives an indication of what it would look like if I varnished it now.  BUT, I need to try to erase the dark circular mark before I do that.  I shall try lemon juice, then perhaps hydrogen peroxide, rather than going in with domestic bleach.

Watch this space, I'll show you the results, good or bad!  If you've undertaken something like this, what did you use?

Friday, 25 February 2011

Avocado and chickpea pate

I fancied something tasty for lunch.  Nothing too fussy, just a simple pate to accompany a salad.

I considered hummous, but that didn't quite hit the spot.  Nor did guacamole.  But how about a combination of the two?  Well, why not?  So here's what I came up with!

I took a can of chick peas and drained them, reserving about a tablespoon of the liquor.  Two avocados, a few cloves of garlic and the zest and juice of an organic, unwaxed lemon.

The chick peas and  liquor and crushed garlic cloves are whizzed in a storage container.

I then added the zest and juice of the lemon and whizzed again.

Then I added the avocado chunks to the container

and blitzed it again.  Isn't it a lovely pale green?

I served it with assorted salad leaves and halved cherry tomatoes, with a few chives to top it off.  Delicious, quick and easy :)

As a bonus, it was also delicious later atop a jacket potato, popped under the grill.  I'm very pleased with it, and will make it again.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

How did you decide upon your child's names?

I've just read my daughter's blog on names and naming children.  She says she'd definitely check to see if the domain name was available for any child she might have, as she was disappointed not to be able to have the .com site for her maiden name.

Her father started me on the fun names for your child trail when he vetoed Vanessa as a name for a girl.  I couldn't understand why, it's a lovely name.  Until he told me to think of her initials.  Then I agreed with him, Vanessa Dugdale, mmmm, not so good.

That's when the fun began.  I became quite inventive.  I thought it would be quite nice if the initial letters spelt out a word, this would be quite unique.

So, if I had a boy I thought of David Alan Vincent Ian Dugdale - brilliant, David is a family name, and the initials spell out the first name.  A stroke of genius, I thought.   Graham Oliver Dugdale  seemed to have some power, too.

Barbara Anne Dugdale might have been a bit of a handful, not to mention reminding me of the old Barbara Anne song from way back.  We settled on Rachel Emma for a daughter, and so she was, my little RED girl.  Now she's REC, not quite the same, but I love her just as much.

How much thought did you give to naming your child?

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A Smooth(ie) start to the day

I'm often asked what I eat for breakfast, and since it varies daily, it's difficult to be precise!  I thought I show you why.

Most mornings I make myself a fruit smoothie.  I vary the fruits according to what's in the fruit basket, and what takes my fancy each morning.  So there's no standard breakfast, really.

This morning, for example, I chose the following:

Mango, apples, satsumas, linseeds, brazil nuts and crystalised ginger.  I add soya milk or yogurt to make it as thick or thin as I want it to be, as well.

I take a pint glass and add the washed and/or peeled fruit in sizeable chunks.  I leave the nuts and crystalised ginger whole.

I then add some milk substitute and whizz with my Bamix.

The Bamix cuts through whole Brazil nuts and crystalised ginger without any problems, if you use a less powerful stick blender, you may need to chop them first.  Or use a food processor.  I'm lazy, and prefer to make my smoothie in the glass I'm going to eat it from to save washing up!!!

As you can see, it shrinks down somewhat after it's been blitzed, so if you were apalled at the thought of a pint glass, relax :)  Don't you just love those tiny flecks of colour from the apple skin, and the mango flesh and satsumas?

BTW some kind souls informed that I can't call my smoothies "fruit smoothies" because they don't contain banana.  Well, I'm allergic to bananas, so I don't eat them.  I believe that my concoctions are just as much a fruit smoothie as anyone else's - they're full of fruit, and whizzed until smooth.  Maybe I should call them smooth fruities, instead?  What do you think?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Maye not the best time to meet an ex-boss's son!

So there I lay, on my tummy,  wearing a very fetching hospital gown opened at the back, pants rolled down to expose my spine and sacro iliac area, with the doctor's lovely hieroglyphics marked in felt tip so that he knew where to insert the needles.  The young lady radiographer took snaps when instructed, the male nurse at my head tried to keep my attention from the imminent "discomfort".

I was undergoing a nerve ablation in the sacro iliac to try to ease the years of pain I've struggled through.  A cortisone injection into the area last autumn was successful, so the ablation was the next step.

A slightly curved needle, about six inches long, rather like a mattress needle, absolutely not a small, discreet, dainty needle, is inserted along the bones, then microwave energy is fired down the needle to burn away the nerve endings.  Fortunately the lovely doctor did load me up with local anaesthetic first, so that, although I could feel the pushing and turning of the needle, which didn't want to sit in the correct area, it wasn't really painful most of the time.

The female radiographer was called away and a  young man replaced her.  I continued chatting to the nurse with his distraction questions, you know the sort of thing,
"What do you do for a living?"
"I'm a retired school bursar." 
"Where did you work?"
"A local junior school."
"What made you take early retirement?"
"I went to study for my BA."
"Oh, what subject did you take?"

The radiographer's voice cuts in:

"Which school did you work for?"
"I think you might have worked with my mummy, I thought I recognised your name."
Some quick thinking as to the names of older females I'd worked with.
"So, would that have been A or B, then?"
My first headmistress, a friend who retired a few years ago now.
"Goodness, how is she.  I haven't seen her for a couple of years ..."

It sort of reminds you of the old chestnut when you meet someone from the gym or swimming club when you're out in the street and one of you says "Oh, I didn't recognise you with your clothes on!"  only this was exactly the opposite, sadly for me!!!!!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Vegan, wheat free tourist in Malta

Naturally, I requested that the hotel be notified of my vegan, wheat-free diet when I booked the holiday.  Of course, they assured me that it wouldn't be a problem.  I've heard it all before, and tend to assume the worst.

I always take a packet of pumpernickel bread with me, and some packets of miso soup so that I know I will be able to eat something whilst I sort out what's available.  This time we also took along some avocados and fruit from the kitchen, as we were going to be away for three weeks and it would have been a waste not to have taken it. 

On our first morning we ventured forth to investigate the local food shops.  We discovered many "supermarkets", many smaller than your local greengrocer probably is!  In some we were delighted to find beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables, in many more, we were disappointed by the sad, withered displays.

I was pleasantly surprised to see soya milk on the shelves of nearly all of the food shops.  Some brands I knew, others I didn't.  So, that was breakfast sorted out.

We discovered a large supermarket, called Scotts, nearby.

A sign proudly boasted that they stock Redwood meatfree products.  I was so surprised that I found myself taking photos of products on a supermarket shelf!!!  Not something I am normally likely to do!

Cheezly is one of the cheese substitutes that I actually buy here in the UK.  Not often, because it's full of fat, and doesn't really taste the same as cheese, now does it?  However, there are times when I really fancy a toasted cheese sandwich, with onion and olives and tomatoes.  When the craving strikes, I feed it!  I tell myself it's pretty much like a pizza.  Self delusion is a wonderful thing, at times :-)

Although I can't eat most of their products, due to the wheat content, it was still good to see that vegetarian and vegans are provided for in some shops.  And you can see that the prices aren't too bad, either.  Since we were booked in for half-board, I didn't need to buy anything.  I always look at what's available though, in case I plan to return on a self-catering basis.

Gluten-free bread wasn't quite as easy to find as the soya milk and other milk substitutes.  I was lucky, in that a reasonable sized supermarket nearby boasted a whole rack down one aisle full of gluten free products.  There were five different sliced loaves, plus several varieties of rolls and crackers.  The prices were higher than here, but you'd expect that, given that Malta is a small island and everything has to be freighted in.

So, it's possible to buy your essentials if you should travel to Malta or Gozo.  It's always good to know that you can buy basic provisions, isn't it?

Sunday, 6 February 2011

In a Maltese garden

To me, as to many of you, I suspect, a poinsettia plant is one that we buy for the Christmas season.  Indeed, they often appear on Christmas cards nowadays, don't they?

I have, in the past, managed to keep one alive for a couple of years, but not much longer than that.  How about you?

You can imagine my delight, then, when I spotted poinsettia trees in even the smallest gardens whilst on holiday in Malta this January :-)

This is one in the front garden of a small block of flats.  This leads me to assume that they are very easy to look after, as I never saw anyone tending their gardens in the three weeks I was there.

I think this is a hibiscus, which has been trained over an arched trellis.  You can see ripe, luscious lemons, ready to drop from the tree behind the blue netting.  Amazingly, we saw so many oranges, lemons and grapefruit rotting on the ground.  Clearly the owners of those trees neither drink gin and tonic, nor make fresh salad dressings or fruit smoothies!!

This was a small, courtyard garden, largely given over to fruit trees.  I was pleased to see that the soil here was not littered with fallen fruit.

Some time ago I asked if any of you could identify some leaves that I had acquired as part of a bouquet of flowers.  I was intrigued by the fact that the flowers appeared both underneath, and on top of, the leaves themselves.  You can imagine my surprise to see these plants growing in swathes.  Not only are the flowers there, to enable me to identify it, but such glorious, ruby berries too!  I still don't know what they are, but, again, they must be easy to grow, and probably worth bearing in mind if we are set to have longer, drier summers - after all, Malta has really hot summers!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Starbucks new, elegant coffee mugs

I was concerned to receive an e-mail recently which informed me that Starbucks, who have soya milk in their coffee bars to accommodate vegans, were literally binning all their old, earthenware mugs, to replace them with "bone china" mugs.

Now, I don't know about you, but I don't buy "bone china" products.  The name says it all, doesn't it?  Many years ago, a trip around a pottery factory, where trolleys of bones stood awaiting use in the manufacturing process, confirmed my fears.

So when I read about the "improvements" that Starbucks were planning, I wrote to them to ask them to reconsider.  Of course, I knew that my lone voice wouldn't carry any weight, but there are a lot of vegetarians and vegans out there, and who knew how many of them might also complain?

I received a reply from Starbucks informing me:  "Please be assured that we have checked with our supplier who has confirmed that our new mugs do not contain animal bone ash and that a synthetic material is used in its place."

It sort of begs the question how they can be described as "bone china" if they don't contain bone, doesn't it?  Do they retain the name "bone china" to keep the cachet of the lighter, "premium" product?  Even though it's inaccurate?  Is that legal?

Maybe honesty is the best policy.  After all, if a product purports to be made from something containing bones, vegans and vegetarian will shun it.  There's a whole new customer base out there for manufacturers who devise a new name for their lighter, stronger china which doesn't contain animal remains.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

We're back

We left the sun behind us in Malta yesterday, and flew home.  The pilot was so eager for us to enjoy the bracing British air that he landed ten minutes early - what a dear man!  The car sparkled gently in the lamplight.  Frost!!!  Such a rude reminder that we were back to winter weather.

Fortunately, it didn't take long to scrape the windows clear, and the roads were safe.  There was no sign of frost when we arrived home, my car didn't have a pretty, sparkly dress.

We've been away for three weeks.  I had packed for autumn-like weather, and didn't complain at all that we were obliged to buy a pair of shorts each to wear.  What a lovely surprise:-)  I had to buy sunglasses, too.

We experienced one day of on/off rain, with little let up in the cloud cover, and dramatic thunder and lightning at bedtime.  A couple of mornings were drizzly, but by mid-morning or lunchtime were sunny again.  Malta certainly provided us with welcome heat and sunshine in the midst of winter, recharging our batteries nicely.

Now, the first two loads of washing are blowing on the line, the sun is shining for us here, too, and in the conservatory, it is actually warm.  Maybe spring is just around the corner.  I hope.