Everyday posting

I’ve just noticed that my mother has decided to blog every day through February. The NaBloPoMo word or theme for February is ‘Character’, which could throw up some interesting posts, especially from my Mum if she tells some more of the stories which she is known for by her regular readers. I think I may join her in this. I’ve been saying for ages that I should get back into the habit of blogging a little more often, so maybe a solid month of posts would get me back in the swing of things. The only problem would be finding something interesting to write every day. Still, it’s got to be worth a shot!

Yesterday I popped into a local charity shop as I was passing, wondering if there might be any interesting bric-a-brac (BTW, Welshpurpletree, they had shed loads of glassware there, in case you’re in the market for it!) and immediately my eye was drawn by a spinning wheel and chair by the till. Now, you’ll all know by now that my addiction to new hobbies knows no bounds, especially one which involves fibre, so this was almost irresistible. I went and had a good look, gave the treadle a pedal (I’m a poet!) and generally acted as if I knew lots and lots about spinning wheels! Unfortunately, I really didn’t, although I increased my knowledge a lot once I got home and spent all night researching spinning wheels online. However, the salient point was that if I bought the wheel I’d either be acquiring the bargain of the year or a pile of prettily shaped firewood. Anyway, to cut a long story short, after all my research I went back to the shop this morning only to find that it had gone. I have chosen to believe that it was fate, and that had I bought it, within a couple of days the wheel would have bounced off the frame and out of sight in a comedy manner. Otherwise I’d be very very sad indeed about missing out on an antique single treadle saxony spinning wheel with accompanying chair (I told you I’d been doing my research!).

Hopefully this means that my character is developing new traits of acceptance and resignation which have at times been sadly lacking in me! Also, I really need to stop being such a Gemini with my crafting and just focus on the ones I already do. But it’s so much fun flitting from one to the other, I don’t want to be tied down! I think that I’ll have a go at my needle felting this week at some point, which is a new craft to me, and have a little break from knitting. Perhaps. But then I’ll probably have a really good idea for a pattern the day after tomorrow which needs to be knitted right away, or I’ll remember someone’s birthday which needds a present.

(As an aside, my sister in law celebrates her 30th in a couple of weeks – any ideas for presents?? She will be 14 weeks pregnant by then and so all alcohol and most clothing will be out. Also I’ve already given her toiletries and I don’t think chocolate would be particularly welcomed. It’s a dilemma!)

I’m already thinking about more posts along the ‘character’ theme, so even if I don’t manage to get here every day, I’m hoping to at least make it in a little more frequently! See you soon!

Water

In our flat, we’ve been unlucky with water. Mainly this bad luck has come from above – the flat above us seems to be very leaky – although we’ve had a couple of incidents within our own walls.

First off was when the washing machine in our upstairs neighbours’ flat wasn’t correctly plumbed in – this caused a beautiful mess on our kitchen ceiling, and yet it took them months to admit it was anything to do with them. Then came the time when a pipe burst under their bathroom sink in the middle of the night – water pouring through the ceiling in four out of six of our rooms, and we had to get the police out to rouse them to get the water turned off, as they wouldn’t respond to our hammering on the door. Next was when the owner evicted the unwakeable lads and, while readying the flat for sale, emptied an immersion tank full of water over their kitchen floor – which then filtered through to make my kitchen extremely damp. Most recently, my newest upstairs neighbours have been renovating their bathroom. They removed the tiles from their bathroom walls but then carried on having showers in the tub, not realising that the water would run down the wall, onto their bathroom floor and through my battle worn ceilings. And so I found myself, three days before a potential purchaser came to view the flat (she didn’t turn up in the end) up a ladder with some white emulsion, trying to hide the water marks!

Within my flat we have also had a badly fitted washing machine, which made a cupboard so damp it took months to dry out; a leaky toilet cistern which defied the efforts of several people to resolve; a fault around the seal of the thermostat in our immersion tank and a problem with the overflow of said tank which caused a constant drip out of the overflow pipe outside, at a time when I couldn’t really afford a plumber to sort it out and so it had to persist.

As you can imagine, all of this has made me more than a little twitchy whenever I hear a dripping sound. I have been known to leap out of bed at the merest hint of water being where it shouldn’t (ever since the ‘walk in shower’ effect we experienced in most of our rooms in 2004) and I experience mild panic when I see a drip on the underside of a pipe – is it a leak? Is it condensation? An unexplained mark on the ceiling can hold my attention for hours, as I analyse it and watch anxiously for signs of expansion.

So I can’t imagine how I would feel if I lived anywhere near Indonesia today. Those poor people, only six years after the Boxing Day tsunami which caused such devastation and so many deaths in that part of the world, so far have lost more than three hundred more people to the capricious tidal waves. And also, think of Pakistan and the devastating flooding there. I don’t know whether it’s just that I am taking more notice of these natural disasters as I’m growing older, or whether there really are more of them. I feel the need to give thanks that I was born into such a stable part of the world, and I don’t have the worries about natural disasters affecting my family and friends that others around the world must live with daily.

Faster than an aeroplane, slower than a snail

A lot of the time, my life carries on at a comfortable, slow pace, my daily routine taking me from one week to the next quite happily. At other times, I really have to run to keep up! At the moment, I’m developing three hobbies with the hope that at least two of them might become profitable enough in a couple of years to enable me to leave my part time office job. Of course, doing two things at once is quite hard, but doing three means that I’m totally absorbed…in all three!

One new thing which begins soon is my having stalls at craft markets. On Saturday I shall be sharing a stall with my friend Alison, from my Thursday night knitting group, next door to my friend Ellie’s stall. I’ve been busily making jewellery for a little while, so I hope to be able to satisfactorily fill my little area (and have a little bit over in case I sell out – if wishing made it so!!). I’ll be thinking a bit about presentation this week, and have the willing help and experience of my Dad to call on for help with that. We’ve been talking about internet presentation, and Dad has ever so kindly offered (a big weight off my mind!) to take over the photography, until I’m producing more than he can photograph, of course!! I’ve already registered to have an online shop, and I’m hoping to be able to unveil that, later this week. I want to get a good few items in there before I direct you to it all. There’s no point asking you to look at an empty shop front, is there?!

So, all in all my mind has been very occupied recently with patterns, jewellery design (trying to make sure I’m not copying anyone else as well) and yarn, to the exclusion of all else! I’ve come to the conclusion that my mind has a definite limit to it’s capacity, and I regularly find that my memory can’t hold a half of what I would like it to! When I went to look in my jewellery box (the pieces I’ve made, rather than the stuff I already owned) I was pleasantly surprised by some of the items I found, having completely forgotten I’d made them! And if I had a fiver for each time I’d been to the bead shop in Cardiff and bought the exact same beads as I had on a previous trip, I’d be able to fund my yarn obsession for a fair while! I think this may be a large part of the reason that Dad’s offering to photograph my work, in order that I don’t forget it all as soon as I sell it! Oh dear, and knitters are supposed to have a better memory than non-knitters – there’s really no hope for my old age!

Who knew that politics could be so much fun!!

I am having so much fun ‘debating’ on Twitter in the run up to our General Election next Thursday! Who could have guessed that I felt so strongly about things political! I think I’m holding my own, discussing the electoral presence of the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties with people who have quite opposite ideas to my own.

I may even be quite disappointed once the election is over – arguing politics is a great diversion for my brain from thinking depressed thoughts, I’ve found!

Oriental pork with rice

I slow roasted a pork joint at the weekend, and it positively fell apart afterwards – I mean it – I literally carved it with a spoon! Anyway, when I had the pile of shredded pork in front of me, it reminded me so much of  shredded duck at the Chinese restaurant (to look at) that I decided that I should make a Chinese-y meal with it. I wasn’t in the mood for a roast dinner anyway, so this was ideal. (If anyone wants to know how I roasted the pork joint to produce this result, drop me a comment and I’ll post the recipe another day).

Oriental Pork

Ingredients

  • Roast pork, shredded
  • One onion, finely sliced
  • Garlic (puree or 1 crushed clove)
  • Chilli powder
  • One chicken stock cube, crumbled
  • Dried herbs (I used mixed dried herbs with an additional sprinkling of sage)
  • Chinese 5 spice (you’d find it in the same supermarket display as the other herbs and spices, probably near the barbeque rubs and meat marinade spices
  • Red or yellow capsicum pepper, finely sliced
  • One 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

Method

  • Fry the pork and onions in a very little amount of oil, or a couple of sprays of spray oil (the pork should be fried as the fat in the meat will have made it a little greasy, and this seals the flavour in well). Once the onions are softened, add the garlic and fry until the pork is sealed (it will look dryer).
  • Mix in the chilli powder, stock cube, herbs and chinese five spice one by one, stirring well to coat the meat and sliced onions.
  • Add the sliced pepper, and then after a good stir add the tinned tomatoes (you might need a tin and a half/two tins depending on how many portions you are making, so that the sauce remains liquidy). Simmer on a very low heat so that the sauce doesn’t dry out whilst you are cooking rice, noodles or mashed potato, season to taste and serve.

Spiced and seasoned roasted potatoes

I made this to accompany my pork medallions in a Mediterranean sauce, and they complimented each other nicely. I think that this would also work well with a curry (tomato based sauce rather than cream or yoghurt) because of the cumin I used. Mind you, cumin always reminds me of naan bread, which is why it makes me think of curry!

Spiced and seasoned roasted potatoes

Ingredients

  • potatoes (as many as you want, really, as long as you can fit them all into your oven tray without crowding!)
  • vegetable/sunflower oil (olive oil can’t achieve the heat required without smoking, so isn’t really suitable for roasting vegetables in the oven
  • cumin seeds
  • black pepper
  • chilli powder
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves (if available – I didn’t have any and it was OK without, although I’ll definitely have some in for next time

Method

  1. Put a large oven tray into your oven with two tablespoons of oil. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6 (adjust for fan ovens)
  2. Wash and peel the potatoes and chop them into bite sized pieces. I don’t know why, but the slightly smaller pieces of potato work better for this sort of thing than the larger, more traditionally sized chunks we usually use for roast potatoes.
  3. Par boil your pieces of potato for roughly ten minutes, drain and then bring your oven tray out of your oven (the oven should have reached the required temperature by now).
  4. Spread the potatoes and the chopped garlic cloves evenly in the oven tray and then liberally sprinkle with the cumin seeds, ground black pepper and a teaspoon or two of the chilli powder (to taste).
  5. Return to the hot oven. After fifteen to twenty minutes, using a fish slice/spatula, turn the potatoes over so that they get a chance to evenly brown. The side which was on the tray should already be brown.
  6. After another fifteen to twenty minutes, when the potatoes are evenly browned they are ready to serve. Enjoy!

Welsh pork medallions in a mediterranean sauce

Due to the recent change of circumstances of a very good friend of mine, I have, at present, a freezer three quarters full of pork. You should see it – it’s all beautifully wrapped, packed and clearly labelled, and I now really need to get on with eating it! I have one drawer full of large joints, one of small joints and another full of pork loin steaks and slices of pork belly. I’m still umming and ahhing about what to do with the belly pieces, but I’ve had lots of ideas for the joints and the steaks. As you will be able to tell from the title, I had an idea the other day which worked out very well indeed, so I’ve decided to share it with you. (I’m generous like that!) So, here it is.

Welsh Pork Medallions in a Mediterranean sauce

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 pork medallions (I cut them out from the pork loin steaks)
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • couple of cloves of garlic (chopped) or 2 teaspoons of garlic puree
  • 2 peppers (capsicum) – different colours if possible (sliced)
  • couple of sticks of celery (sliced)
  • large splash of red wine or slightly smaller splash of port!
  • 1 (400g) tin of tomatoes – I used chopped tomatoes as none of us like the whole tomatoes in the finished meal
  • chicken stock cube
  • bouquet garni
  • seasoning

Method

  1. Brown the pork medallions in a large, flat bottomed pan (preferably one that they can all fit in, flat on the pan rather than having to overlap. Remember that the medallions will shrink a little during cooking).
  2. When the medallions are brown, place on a plate and fry the onions off. If you are using chopped garlic cloves, add them now as well. Once the onions have become slightly transparent, add in the sliced peppers and celery and fry until soft.
  3. Put the medallions back into the pan. If you are using garlic puree, add this now and mix everything well to make sure that it is evenly spread out. Pour in the red wine or port and use this liquid to help get the residue from the bottom of the pan – this will add flavour to the sauce and will make the washing up much easier!
  4. Once the wine has reduced slightly, crumble in your chicken stock cube, tip in the tinned tomatoes and add the bouquet garni and seasoning. Mix it all well together, but try not to agitate the pork too much as you will want the medallions to stay intact. Heat everything up until it is simmering (not boiling).
  5. At this point, I put all of the mixture with a splash of boiling water in my crockpot and left it to simmer down for the day. If you don’t have a crockpot, you could leave it in the pan to reduce the sauce (stirring fairly frequently to make sure nothing sticks and burns to the pan) or you could put it in a relatively low oven to achieve a similar result to the crockpot. Either way, keep an eye on it to make sure that it doesn’t dry out, and add hot water as needed.

I served this with sliced runner beans and lightly spiced roasted potatoes but I think that it would be equally nice on a bed of mashed potato or rice, or even with pasta although I think if you went for the latter option you might want to increase the quantity of the sauce at the initial cooking stage by using an extra half to a full tin of tomatoes, another splash of wine and a little more black pepper!