Thursday, August 30, 2012

Got up too early

... at 5.20 am, to be precise. Done the dutiful taxi thing, and SuperSpouse is now on the train to Tyneside, so he can visit Beamish.  

Meanwhile, back home, I've fixed packed lunches - but feel like death.  Shame I can't go back to bed ....

In Twitterspeak, #OldAndGrumpy

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Swirling, spiralling out of balance ...

I ate.  I swam.*  I came home.  What was on the agenda for tonight?  Well, I thought I'd deal with a couple of bills and see if I could progress a couple of professional/research things by email.  And order new skinny jeans for MiddleSon, who tripped and tore a hole in an existing pair this morning.  And chase SmalleyMcAulay to get homework and practice done.  And get the bread-machine going.

Chaos swirled around me.  I really ought to go and sit in a darkened room for a while, but I'm not the meditating type.

I now have the bread-machine, washing-machine and dishwasher all doing their stuff, and the kitchen restored to some semblance of order.   When rooms are approximately tidy, I feel better.

The boys have both fixed their supper.  All that remains is for us to have ours, because SuperSpouse wants me to take him to the station at 6.10 am tomorrow.

*  Talking of swimming - apparently one should aim for 30 mins of moderate exercise five times a week.

On Monday, I swam 1k.
On Tuesday, I cut two hedges.
Tonight, I swam 1k.

That amounts to more than 2.5 hours, so do you think I can consider myself suitably exercised for the week?   Mmmmm...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Baking pies? Worth the effort?

Don't do it!
Today's blogpost is very, very brief: if you're a student, you shouldn't be baking pies!  Go out and buy one, guilt-free.

Today, I made puff pastry from scratch, and used it in a proper home-baked chicken pie.  Which was, I might add, delicious.  But I spent a long time in the kitchen, and it was devoured in 5 minutes.  I could have bought a ready-made one in the supermarket.  It would probably have been cheaper, too.

So that's my advice to any student getting over-ambitious in the kitchen.  Stop, think, shop.  You can bake proper pies when you've got more time!

Friday, August 10, 2012

How a yogurt makes dessert for 4 students


You need a single-portion pot of any yogurt other than French set style.  A sachet of jelly crystals.  And a 1-pint jug.

The basic principle of jelly crystals is that you dissolve them in as little boiling water as possible.  They must be fully dissolved - 30 seconds in a microwave speeds things along.  (Don't microwave the spoon.). 

Ordinarily, you would then dilute the liquid up to a pint with cold water.  For a yogurt jelly, add some cold water to the jug and stir in, but leave enough room for the tub of yogurt as well.  Tip in the yogurt -top up to a pint with more cold water if necessary.

Use a blender or mixer to combine until smooth.  Put in a bowl or divide between 4 cereal bowls, and refrigerate until set - at least 4 hours.  It may separate into layers - this doesn't matter.

HINT: If you keep your milk in a jug, then you have to cover the jelly with a lid or cling-film, or the milk will acquire a fruity taste!  (If your milk is kept in a bottle, no worries.)


You can do the same thing using a can of fruit and its juice (but don't use pineapple or kiwi - something about the acid prevents the jelly from setting).  Blend or leave fruit whole.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Student's Useful Spicy Tomato Sauce

To go on meat, goujons, or anything else.  Or add to mince for a bolognaise.

  • Can or carton of chopped or unchopped tomatoes (Basics range)
  • Pinch of chilli seeds
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped garlic clove.  (Not the whole bulb - just 1-2 segments depending on taste!)

  1. Fry onion and garlic in a little sunflower oil.  Don't have heat too high, or you'll burn them.
  2. Add other ingredients, get it hot, then turn down heat and simmer 20 mins.  If you used whole tomatoes, mash them up a bit.
  3. If you want a meatier sauce for pasta, fling in a few slices of bacon, ham or garlic sausage.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Lazy carrot and lentil soup

I created a new soup. Introducing ...

' Why peel a carrot?' and lentil soup

In ten minutes flat, I sauted a few spring onions, washed and sliced two carrots, flung in a handful of lentils and a stock-cube, and some mixed herbs. Added about half a pint of boiling water and simmered it all until the carrots were soft. Then mashed it. Believe it or not, it was delicious. So - there you have it. 'Why peel a carrot?' and lentil soup.

There will be people out there who never have peeled a carrot. Good for you! You probably think I need to get a life - well then, I'm trying, see?!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Student's Vegetarian Casserole

Red Bean Bake is a "two out of one" dish from a book by Rose Elliot.   First published in 1975, I bought mine in 1980, when I realised that vegetarian cookery was healthy AND cheap.  (Alas, I might have finished my first PhD - or got closer to completion - if I'd spent less time cooking!  However.)  This is a paraphrase of her recipe.*  Great if you're a vegetarian - or if you've invited a veggie to dinner!

The whole idea of "two out of one" is to make your efforts last two meals.  So -  soak 12 oz of dry red kidney beans overnight, then salt them and boil gently for 2 hours in plenty of water.  (If you have a pressure-cooker, you can speed up the cooking.  But few people have one.)  Drain the liquid off and rinse the beans in a sieve.

Now you have enough beans to make Red Bean Salad AND Red Bean Bake.  The other ingredients are cheap and readily available.  See below.

Salad: add a chopped onion, a chopped garlic clove, 1 tablespoon of wine vinegar (or malt), 3 tablespoons olive oil (or sunflower), 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup.  Mix and stir - leave aside for 2 hours.  Serve with green salad etc.

Bake.  With a little butter, fry a chopped onion and 4 tomatoes.  (Or skip the tomatoes and use a tin of chopped ones after frying the onion.)  Mix in beans, 1 tablespoon ketchup, optional dash of red wine, salt and pepper, and make sure mixture is warmed through.  Mash if you like.
Put in a casserole, and top with breadcrumbs (Elliot suggests wholewheat) and grated cheese.  Bake at a moderate heat (about 180 deg C) until cheese has melted and breadcrumbs look crispy.

*Rose Elliot is an amazingly prolific cookery author.  Find out more about her here, on her website:- here.

Who coined that phrase?

When someone's "on gardening leave", they've been suspended from work.  However, to be on ANNUAL leave, and spend it gardening, is quite different and much pleasanter.  So why did they have to take a perfectly nice phrase and turn it into a euphemism?  

Anyway, here I am, using up some outstanding annual leave, and in contrast to yesterday - when the heavens opened - today has been glorious. What have I done this sunny Tuesday?  Not a huge amount.  I've taken Cello-Man to town to get his rail-ticket.  Washed, cooked, and gardened.  That's about it, really.  I dead-headed the hanging baskets, weeded two of the three borders, but forgot to plant Mum's geraniums - they're still in pots.  Must remember to do that tomorrow.

While we were out, Viola-Kid, aka Happy Scholar, got his Standard Grade results in the post. He looked, and saw, and pronounced them good.  They were good.  We were all relieved.  He had been admirably phlegmatic about them, and we had been correspondingly fearful that he was just too laid-back.  We were wrong.  Celebrations are in the offing ...!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Enough, that's enough!

I'm on holiday this week.  And by the end of Monday, I'm socially-media'ed out!  It started off innocently enough - I wanted to share things with my close friends.  And I did.

Then I thought I'd check Twitter and Facebook.  I regard Twitter as a professional, career-based tool most of the time, so really, there wasn't much point in checking it today.  Except that I'd tweeted about Cello-Man's evening of triumph at the Proms last night, and I wanted to see if there were any interesting tweets about that.  So I frittered away some time on Twitter.  

Facebook's different - I limit it to just a few friends and family, so I can't actually spend much time there. Apart, as I mentioned, from wanting to share things with friends.

But of course, I also remembered I needed to update my CPD23 (Continuing Professional Development) blog, Airs and Graces, having neglected it for a few weeks.  Did that too, which entailed finding a few links and details to include in the post.  And then I tweeted the link, because that's what I do.

I am quite sure someone - several someones - must have researched the weird phenomenon  of your concentration span growing ever shorter as you flit from social media site to site.   The only remedy is to turn off the computer.  And do other stuff.

Like this ...

Sunday, August 05, 2012

When I am old

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple - you probably know the poem

But over and above that, I shall buy a Volkswagen dormobile.  I'll paint big, hippy-chick flowers all over it, and drive around the British Isles at my leisure.  (We're talking 2028 or thereabouts.  When I've eventually grown tired of being an employee.  Yes, I shall be seventy.  I plan to be self-employed after that.)

I've warned the boys that they'll be phoning each other to give updates on my whereabouts.

"Watch out, she's on her way.  [Pause.]  You realise, she'll be needing a bath?"

I do hope there will be enough room in the dormobile for a small cooker, my laptop and a camera, casual who-cares kind of clothes, and a single respectable outfit for library and archive visits.