Thursday, 31 March 2011

This morning's smoothie was somewhat more exotic, as the local market had strawberries on very special offer!!!

I've used half a dozen large strawberries, an apple, a kiwi fruit, an orange, a couple of Brazil nuts and some Oatily milk substitute.  Can't you just feel the goodness?

As always, just blitz it all together, admire the colour and enjoy the fruity deliciousness.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Is summer over? Sprouting kale - yummy:)

For the last couple of weeks we've had some wonderful, sunny days.  So much so, I've been searching out things to wash and hang out on the line - I know, it's sad, please don't tell anyone!

I've also been sowing seeds like it's going out of fashion.  So far, the only ones to germinate are the kale seeds, but hey, that's a start, and kale is one of my very favourite vegetables.  I suppose that's quite tautological really, I wouldn't be growing it if I didn't like it, would I?  Doh!

However, it's turned cold again now, and I'm very glad I laid some horticultural fleece over my peas, runner and broad bean seeds - their very own little duvets :)

By the way, did you know that if you leave kale in the ground over winter, it then acts like sprouting broccoli?  No, neither did I, but it does! 

The flower heads are absolutely delicious and tender when steamed or boiled briefly, so I have green sprouts along with my purple sprouting broccoli - aren't I lucky?

Thursday, 24 March 2011

When parents become too old to care for themselves ...

My neighbour was taken into hospital in January.  She's ninety-nine years old, and has been looking forward to her 100th birthday party in August.

She underwent an operation, then succumbed to one of the really nasty super-bugs which can be fatal.  She survived.  When I visited her she was alert and perky.  Physios were exercising her legs daily.

However, following a stint of enforced bed rest, she now complains that it hurts too much to get out of bed, and so her legs are not exercised at all.

When she was at home, she could move, allbeit very slowly, with her wheeled zimmer frame.  But she would fall periodically, and be taken in to hospital for a day for observation and x-rays.  So, she spent most of her life in her riser chair, looking out of the window, reading, watching tv and sleeping.  She cannot cook, make a cup of tea, clean, or dress herself unaided, but is mentally alert most of the time.

Her daughter, a lovely lady who has her home and family across the globe, is here to help her mother. She is concerned for her mother's safety if she returns home, and was relieved when she agreed to go to a convalescent home for a few weeks. 

Sadly, her mother has decided, now, against the home, as she is convinced that as soon as she returns home, she will be able to walk again.  We all know that isn't going to happen.  Yes, she could, with a huge effort, stand, then move her feet.  However, her pace was so slow that a tortoise could have out walked her, effortlessly.  And she was unsteady - hence the falls.

Mentally, though, she still lives in an era when she could move easily.  And the carers who attend her daily, take care of her basic needs, so she's happy at home.   That's important.

The mental health of her daughter is also important.  Living half way across the world from  your very elderly, infirm mother must be a terrible burden to carry.  She phones daily, but worries constantly about her mother's wellbeing.

So, what's the best thing in this situation?  Should the medical team at the hospital insist upon time in a convalescant home?  Indeed, can they do so?  If they allow her to return home and she falls and injures herself because of the lack of muscle tone in her legs, would they be in some way liable for any accident, as they had sent her home knowing her condition?  Do they keep her in hospital?  Well, she's not sick, and bed's are in short supply, so that's unlikely to be an option.

Is a live-in companion the answer?  For a fiercely proud, and private lady, to share her home would be a terrible imposition.  Is it right to even consider it? 

Additional carers in attendance?  Possibly, she does enjoy their visits, as a rule.  She blossoms when someone is there with her - it breaks up her day.

Or, is a residential home the solution?  Round the clock care when needed.  Her own room, so that she can enjoy solitude whenever she feels like it, but the option of a lounge or two where she could chat with other residents if the fancy took her.  Meals made freshly for her, not left on a plate with a flask of coffee.

I know what I would want for my parents, but what if, like my neighbour, they fought against it?  I wonder what I'd do then.  What do you think?  How would you resolve such a painful situation if it was your parent(s)?  I really don't know the answer - in fact, there may not be any "right" answer.  So sad.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet....

I'm sure that Shakespeare was correct when he wrote this remark.  After all, a child who doesn't know the name of plants will stand still in a garden to sniff them appreciatively, won't they?

But, as a vegan, when it comes to naming colours, I sometimes want to rebel.

Take the orangey-pink colour, for instance.  I was brought up, in a meat eating family, to know it as salmon pink.  But look at photos of a salmon on the internett  ... is it pink?  No, of course it's not.

It only becomes that pinky-orange colour once it's been killed and cooked.  So, I have a problem with using the term "salmon pink", because it's defined by the cooking of a dead creature.

The same goes for "lobster pink" - before it's boiled, the lobster is a grey blue colour.  Just like prawns and crayfish, and scampi.

And howabout reds?  How do you name "ox blood", pretty disgusting, or carmine?  I just don't want to call a colour by the name of a dyestuff made from crushed insects.

Flesh is another colour I have trouble with.  If I move on from the connotations of flesh reminding me of meat, whose flesh are we describing?  Mine, as the person who's speaking?  In which case pretty pinkish.  Or my friend from China, whose skin tone is lightly tanned.  Or another friend from India, whose skintone is decidedly brown.  Or a girl I went to school with?  Her mother was from the Caribbean, and her skin was a burnished black.

You see the problem, I'm sure.

So ... how do you describe colours, or doesn't it worry you?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Christine eats gluten-free and vegan: Spaghetti with green beans, pepper and ginko beans...

Christine eats gluten-free and vegan: Spaghetti with green beans, pepper and ginko beans...: "This quick supper for one is tasty and colourful. Spaghetti is cokked with green beans, pepper and ginko beans, then dressed with..."

Spaghetti with green beans, pepper and ginko beans

Need something quick and tasty for supper?  Hoe does pasta with green beans, pepper and nutty ginko beans, tossed with toasted sesame oil and soy sauce sound?  I've posted the recipe on my foodie blog, if you care to take a look:)

Ercol renovation update

Well, it's not perfect, but then I'm not a furniture restorer, just a keen carer for older furniture that's been "pre-loved", or, abused.

So, after bleaching  bicarbing, and a light sanding down, I was left with a pale area on the top of the sideboard.  So, I took my pencil crayons and feathered in some of the grain lines which were there, to distract the eye from the circular mark.  I used five different shades of brown, matching them as closely as I could to the colours present in the wood.

Like I said, it's not perfect, but, comparing the two photos, which would you rather live with?  I don't think it's turned out too badly for a first attempt, do you?

The final coat is Danish oil, which I use a lot.  I love the golden finish it's given here.

Monday, 7 March 2011

More Malta buses!

How could I refuse a request for  more on Malta buses?  You're right, of course, I couldn't.

Let's look at some of the grilles today.  No, we're not talking barbecues, we're talking those metal things on the fronts of the buses.

Look at a modern day bus, and generally speaking you see a pretty featureless chrome set of bars.  Not on Malta, though!

Here we have a Leyland, with three stepped, almost pyramidic effect, neatly decorated with the galloping horse on the top grille (no indication of the speed at which the vehicle went, mind you, pure optimism there!), and the two horses heads facing each other inside horseshoes on the middle one. 

I hope you also notice the delicate white tracery around the panels, lights and signage.  These are things of beauty, maybe just a little OTT, but all the more interesting for it :)

Here we have an older specimen, a Perkins - so many different widths, and all very sort of rectangular, reflecting the shape of the headlamps, the indicators, and even the bumper seems less rounded.

Have you ever looked at a bus so closely before?  No, neither had I!!!  There is still some of the white decorative painting in evidence, but less flamboyance, somehow.  A more masculine bus.

Now this Leyland AEG is altogether more feminine, don't you think?  The eye makeup carefully applied, the jewellery, and it's almost as if she's been to the grilledressers to have herself styled just for the photograph with those angled stripes intersecting the flat ones at the base so neatly.  The bumper is self coloured, and the body more rounded, softer somehow.

It's always good to leave you wanting more, so we'll leave it at three shots for today.

Except for this last one - ok I lied, just forgive me and move on.

We were struck by the various bells used to ask the driver to stop the bus.  The switches sometimes were door bell pushers, screwed into the ceiling.  Sometimes the full length rubber strip that you simply depress.  But the one I captured here, well, see for yourself

A length of tatty cord ran from the rear of the bus through metal eyelets, down to the front, where it was attached by a thin twine to a bicycle bell affixed to the roof, before returning up the other side of the bus.  Very Heath Robinson, but it worked, what more did he need?

And there, I really am going to leave it for now, but there'll be more, I promise, there will be more :)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

A bus(sy) day

One of the favourite topics of conversation on Malta, amongst the tourists, is buses.  I know, not your normal opening gambit, "have you travelled on the 47 to Valletta with no doors?", but, believe it or not, it happens!

The buses on Malta vary tremendously in age and character.  I have never taken so many photographs of any type of vehicle as I did those wonderful buses.

This is the bus station in Valletta, the capital city.  Well, just a tiny shot of a few buses, actually, but you can see there aren't two buses alike here!  Not like your average bus station here in the UK where the majority are clones of each other.  In Malta, the colours unify them into a family, and they all have wheels and a driver, but after that ... well, like a large, extended family, each member is unique.

Look at the difference in the sizes of these two!  And, like a family, there are siblings of different ages.  The older brother on the left is shorter in stature than his younger brother, maybe nutrition improved for buses after he'd grown up!

Another pair of contrasts.  The flamboyant decorative grille on the right hand, older bus, has become subdued, streamlined, on the left hand model.  You could almost believe that the left hand one is modern, but take a ride on it, and you'll discover that it doesn't have much of what you'd expect from a public transport vehicle.  Decent suspension to give a comfortable ride?  Not that we noticed.  Windows that open and close?  Mmm, some did, others the windows were permanently one or the other.  Doors that closed?  Well, that's an interesting one!  Some buses, which are allowed to carry 12 standing passengers, had no doors at all!!!  They weren't just kept open, they were removed.  Comfortable padded seats?  Not really, in fact the seat covers may well be patched up with duct tape, if they're patched at all, that is.  Many are left slashed or worn, scarred by the hard life they've lived.

I'm not saying that the Maltese have necessarily done the damage, either.  These buses have been imported over the years from England, mostly, judging by the advertisement still in place on the interior walls, from London.  Maybe late night revellers in our capital caused the damage, who knows?

This was the most modern looking of all the buses, but inside, well, let's say it was as interesting as the others.

But, generally speaking, they were clean.  This guy is washing down his bus at the bus station in Valletta.

And this one is using a sweeping brush to clean his windscreen at the local bus station.

Apparently, some buses are owned by the drivers, and others are owned by the bus company.  I assume that those who assiduously clean their vehicles are those who proudly own them, but I could be wrong.

I'll post more photos another day, you ain't seen nothing yet, as they say!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Update on the Ercol sideboard

I attacked the dark ring stain with lemon juice, then with a paste of bicarbonate of soda and a little water.  It's fading, slowly!

Still a bit more elbow grease involved, I think, but I'm getting there :)

I also attacked some scuffed areas to reduce their impact, visually.  I remember cutting open a Brazil nut with my mother when I was a child, and being shown how to rub it across scuffs and scratches to blend them in.  I decided that this was the method I would try with the sideboard.
I started with a lightly scuffed area on a door.  You can see the Brazil nut cut in half - it doesn't matter if the nut is old and rancid even, it's the oil that's going to do the work for you!

About one minute later, what scuffs?
Here's an area that was quite badly scuffed at the bottom left hand corner.
This is after a minute of rubbing with the cut side of the Brazil nut.

And after another minute, it's looking pretty good.

So, this is what it looks like from a normal viewing perspective :-)

I'm quite pleased with myself - what do you think?