Sunday, 17 September 2017

Can You Dig it?

I decided to spend some time on the allotment today. The lower half is running away from me and very grassy. I've put some tarpaulin down and had a go at digging a square foot where it's a bit tough. The advice I got from my neighbour with the immaculate-plot 2 down is just keep doing that, and it will soon be clear, so I'm not going to beat myself up about it any more than I clearly have done already - my goodness, I ache!

The potato beds cleared easy enough, and I now have two great bags of spuds to store. And these...

Beans, aubergines, squash, tomatoes, onions, alien cucumber, slug-eaten courgette

Raspberries - still!

Look at my pumpkin now!
I abandoned the plot in a brief shower and popped to the library to grab a Chris Brookmyre, so I can read ahead of meeting him at a convention in a couple of weeks. By the time I got back to the plot, the sun was beating down and the crickets were singing. That's what it's been like all day!

I've had a long bath, but I'm still very, very stiff and achy from digging, and I got a bit dizzy this afternoon again, which might be over-exertion. Also, I have accidentally cut a chunk out of my little finger near the nail - again, probably lacking coordination due to over-exertion. I've tried not to do too much else and have been in a onesie for hours.

But it did fell good to make dinner out of things I'd grown myself - sausage and mash for mains with some of my potatoes and beans, and rhubarb crumble for dessert. With custard, of course, I'm not a monster! Plenty crumble left for tomorrow's lunch.

Big week this week for me... got a couple of gigs to prep for and a writing group. Also, I think I promised just to help clean a motorbike. Sucker!

Saturday, 16 September 2017

If We Took a Holiday...

It feels absolutely crazy, but I've managed to book myself a holiday... it's not for another month or so, but work has been so busy it was difficult trying to find time.

Only one question now: is this going to be a vacation or a staycation?

I think that question is going to be left spinning for a bit, but I tell you one thing that's not spinning quite so much... my head! Doc took a guess (erm, Vertigo?), and I have meds that seem to be working. Apart from first thing this morning when I was a bit spinny, but then I naughty, naughty had a naughty cider last night, which I'm not supposed to. And thus, I think it stopped working. But only for a bit. Plus points, I feel as light as a lemon mousse, though my eyelids are as heavy as an actual moose moose. Typing is a struggle... so I'm not going to do much. But I do feel better. Yay for better!

What a lovely day I've had today too. I did a lunchtime gig at Northampton Soup.

What is Northampton Soup? It is a great way to raise money for local projects.
This is an event run by volunteers, whereby people can come along, pay £5 for lovely vegan soup and a vote, and hear pitches from groups who are pitting for the pot of funds. Pitches are for 4 minutes and then pitchers take 4 questions from the audience who then have to vote for their favourite pitch. There can be for charities, community projects, social enterprise, art groups... anything community minded that will be of benefit to the town. Today's pitches were from charities to help new mums in poverty, packs for women women with breast cancer, transport for the local hunt sabotage group, and a higher esteem fitness class to help women.

I see the page has put up some great photos from today. Go have a look, see how fun it is!

That's me timing one of the pitches. These were the winners, Breast Friends. Such good pitches today. There was lots of love and energy in the room. 

I do the MCing and sometimes do a bit of poetry.

And then afterwards I spent time with my nephews in the chaos that is Wacky Warehouse. Noisy but fun. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Adventures of the Worst Biker Chick

I've not been updating much lately due to extreme busyness and not feeling great - a mix of light headedness and spinning rooms, which has given way to post-party agues and aches that seem to have lasted a week... mind, I've got lots of new classes on, which sap energy and my Fitbit has been going crazy.

But I thought I'd share some of the things I've been up to, which naturally I have broached in my Frugal Wench manner.

First up, I got invited to the wedding of the century - beautiful friends, getting married in a beautiful place, and having their party in their beautiful back garden. I basically loaded these photos before last Saturday's do, so I shall take you up to the hen night. Both hen and wedding were themed Great Gatsby/glamorous 20s.

The major part of our prep was making sure OH could come. To something! Shifts were re-arranged, but in the end he couldn't be our hag at the hen do, and due to working so much overtime and needing to get his glasses fixed at *some* point, OH could only make the wedding party. So spending money on his outfit was not a waste of time (not cheap, but good stuff for blokes isn't, and after creating a mood board for him of different looks, I'm satisfied we only spent a fraction on a Joe Brown blazer than we would have had to recreating the look from Brooks Brothers).

As for me, I had a 30s-style dress for the wedding, and thought, you know, that's close enough, and comfortable enough to wear all day too. But for the hen do, I wanted to release my inner flapper.

I didn't want to spend any money though.... none whatsoever. So I started with a dress I already had, this one I got from Mind at Christmas for £8, which had required me wearing with safety pins to get it to fit.

I unpicked most of my seams, and settled down for a couple of evenings sewing with some inspirational telly.
The House of Idiot... I mean, Elliott. It's all on YouTube in some ridiculous theatre frame, but it's still good!
Drop-waists were kind of hinted at  with baggier tops until about 1924 when everything went South. So, I began the effect by inserting a panel using this gold material from my scrap box. I unpicked some of the under stitching that had held the ruching in place when the top was across the breasts to make it look more down-directional, like a lovely pair of curtains.

I chopped and re-attached the hem, giving it a shorter flare, and then hacked at the overlying chiffon, tying it in drapes about the hips. I stitched it in place, but could have done this better as it tore and I had to re-tie in the night -  but it looked right!

A black devoré scarf, a homemade headband made of green ribbon and elastic from my scrap box and some recycled wedding feathers pinned in place, et voila! Dame Maggie would like some Malbec, please!
I mean, it really is a terrible sewing job, but I think I've got the bug you know!

And I just thought I'd share some photos from my birthday weekend when I went on a little trip to Fawsley Hall. As we still don't really have a working 4-wheeler, we went on 2 wheels instead. 

And I've no idea why, when I was fine before, but I felt like I was about to get killed the whole time when I had enjoyed it so much before. I seriously wanted to get the bus from Daventry. It made me not want to go visit the little church, and I'd been looking forward to going to see that. I was going to walk around it doing impressions of Danny Dyer. Denied! 

At least there were no complaints from OH about my skills as a pillion. In fact, I was so good he forgot I was there. And that may have been why I fell off.

Yes, I fell off.

Okay, it was when we had stopped at a give way in the dead of the countryside, and there was no traffic about or anything, but I looked up at the bike from the tarmac and could see my glove still in the strap, and OH MY GOD CAN YOU JUST IMAGINE IF WE'D ACTUALLY BEEN MOVING! I happen to like my hands with skin on them, so that is not good.

And it didn't help, OH thought he'd drop me at my brother's house for a restorative cuppa, and OH MY GOD, WHERE IS YOUR HEAD? THEY ARE IN SPAIN ON HOLIDAY! I JUST SHOWED THE PHOTOS TO YOU!!

Legs. Of. Jelly.

Anyway, I need better gloves.

Only yesterday, I saw a bike going along in urban traffic and the pillion was holding on one handed, checking their phone with the other. I'm assuming Facebook as I just saw the general blue and pictures. Sheesh!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

I've Hardly Done a Thing Lately

Sorry for not blogging for ages... I've had a very busy couple of weeks. I've been doing a lot of editing work, and other things too.

Not everything has been a fun thing. We had to say goodbye to a friend who died of cancer a couple of weeks ago. What with his being a biker, though, it was an amazing funeral, attended by lots of his friends on bikes. I rode pillion, so had to overcome some nerves for that. Such a thoughtful day. He  had planned for what he wanted for his ceremony, but he had also very much planned to live as well, and I think there's a lot we can learn from that.

I've not had much time to get to the allotment, so things have been growing again... oh my goodness.

These are earlies. I dug them up laties.

1950s Flying Wall Marrows

Some squashes

Another squash


These are definitely not pinstripe.

Pumpkin with hand for scale. Mind it's my hand, which is tiny.
Last weekend was the Umbrella Fair on the Racecourse  - a wonderful coming together of performers and artists, organised by UFO. I started doing some MCing in the Umbrella Fair CafĂ© on sturday to help advertise Northampton Soup, and then de-camped to the spoken Word Tent to watch some great acts. It was fab to see some folks I hadn't seen for ages.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing
Poets with Babies

On Sunday, I was an early act in the Spoke Word tent... doing me comedy 'n poems while the greater part of the audience hovered in the vicinity of the tent flap entrance thing (to run away)... but we got there. I went to the pub for lunch, but came back for The Anti-Poet, who were very good indeed.

This weekend, I've had my birthday (my 4th eleventh one), and I've done my history-based comedy show in Leicester (at the Guildhall in the mayor's parlour again!). This time OH came on the adventure! And one of my friends from uni came to watch, which was brilliant. I've had a lovely, lovely time, but I am quite pooped and ready for bed now.


Thursday, 10 August 2017

"Pie" and "Chips"

I came up with a bit of an (I think) ingenious use for those patty pan squashes my brother gave me... they look like pies. Why not make them into an actual pie?

First of all, I cut off the "pie" lid, and scooped out the seeds in the middle (I have no idea if they'd grow again, but I saved some nonetheless).

I scored the flesh slightly to make it cook up a bit mushier, then added a small, chopped clove of garlic, a few roundels of goats cheese and a splash of milk, then grated some nutmeg for extra umami. (Hindsight Tip: I would probably add cream instead, or a bit less milk, then halfway through, spoon some of the cooked flesh into the middle, then top up the liquid - but it still made a tasty gooey pie centre).

 It was ready in about 45 minutes at 180*C.

 For the "chips", I made sweet potato wedges (sweet potatoes from the cheap town grocers, 7 for £1), just roasted in the oven with a spritz of Frylight.

Served with grated carrot salad (dash of smoked paprika, white wine vinegar), oven roasted allotment tomatoes, lettuce and fresh olive oil vinaigrette, a chicken leg for OH and half an avocado for me. Yum!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

What's a Marrow You, Hey!

Trapped in the house by chutney as I was on Saturday, I never made it to the allotment until yesterday, and things have grooooooooown!!!

All apart from the melon. No longer getting twisted. It died... having been convinced it was in a hot Mediterranean country for the first few weeks of its life, things suddenly getting a bit crappy and British again were too much. Also, I should have grown it under cover.

But even as we are still chomping through the marrow my brother grew, the tiny tiddler courgettes on our plot are turning into zeppelins.


Things OH grew.

Hidden round the plot, several pumpkins! And that's a weed...

Stripy marrow

Not stripy marrow... and a ladybird.
I'm doing a lot of sitting in the house, working on books. As for getting out of the house for anything other than the day job, I've got, like, 3 proper gigs coming up... and a handful of open mics. Loads of my mates are at a science fiction convention in Helsinki, doing plays, or are in Edinburgh for the festival. Or Camden for that one. Or off on the first leg of an exciting European tour... So, I'm feeling slightly meh...

I need to be a bit more RAWK.

I might dye my hair pink.

Yeah, and sit in the house looking all bright and that.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Trapped by Chutney!!

My friend and neighbour came round today with a load of plums from his garden tree... and then shortly after came back with a huge bottle of vinegar!

And so without delay, I began the chutney production line: cleaning and sterilising jars, checking for recipes (I went with Good Housekeeping's Plum and Apple Chutney from the 70s). Quick pop to Aldi for more carrots and onions, and I had everything I needed apart from cloves... ah well, just put a bit more all spice in.

3lbs plums, 1lb apples, 1lb onions, 1/2lb carrots... 450g sugar (I don't know why I have both Imperial and Metric there), 225g raisins (donated this week by a friend who is returning to Weight Watchers, where they are an evil 3 points per spoon!!) and 1 and 3/4 pints vinegar looks like this.

Boil and simmer until thick.

Won't take long I thought. I'll just do a bit of editing while that's simmering, then pop to the allotment.

Oh my giddy aunt... that was hours ago! 

Recipe was supposed to make 5.5lbs. Well, I think I evaporated 2lbs. Just enough to fill all my spare jars, plus enough for this week's sarnies in a pot. I'll put some pretty labels on tomorrow. Or functional, depending on destination.

And things taking longer than they are supposed to is the story of my life, as I wanted to finish that editing job today, and that will need to be tomorrow now.

I have been trapped in the house by chutney!!

Whew... time for a glass of wine.

Sunday, 30 July 2017


This weekend, I've had a huge change of pace.

I'd been feeling very anxious... and I still am really. I think I've been letting things get on top of me. I knew I needed to look after myself, so I've been paring back and engaging with the world as little as possible.

I did do a gig on Friday, as that was pre-arranged, and it was good fun. But I avoided meetings and parties that were happening, and instead chose to spend some time with my family. I took the bubble wands I'd bought for the Star Wars party a few weeks ago, and had fun running round the garden with my nephews, chasing after bubbles.

I've also spent a while tackling the ironing mountain, while watching Top of the Lake. I actually found it very calming.

Of course it helped a bit that OH spent the weekend camping with friends, as that gave me lots of time to tackle the things I needed to do. I did miss him, but sometimes you just need space and time to get things done, I find. And it's meant he's been able to come back to a peaceful, relaxed house. It was a bit windy on his campsite, and his pagoda got blown over into his tent after the first night, so both of those got wrecked! Oh no! We were meant to be under canvas for our friend's wedding in September! Well, one of his friends was prepared to leave her tent behind, unless we wanted it. o that's saved the (big) day (for us)!

I was also quite proud of myself for tackling a low pressure fault on my boiler - all by myself! It was nothing really, but that was a bit worrying when I first googled it and read the words "not expensive to fix, please ask for a quote". Just needs the boiler refilling, was all.

And of course, I've been to the allotment... and here are my progress pics.

Raspberries so ripe they're going purple

Crown Prince squashes getting bigger


Tiny pumpkins.

Give peas a chance!

Aubergines getting bigger - can't see the pinstripes yet.

Little Veg Courgette - Baby you're much too fast.

But, someone's green-fingered efforts are putting mine to shame - a gift from my brother and sister in law! Flipping heck! Massive or what!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Boldly Going Where No Spud Has Gone Before

"What did you say this was?" asked OH.
"Patatas bravas," I tell him.
"Patatas bravas."
"What is it exactly?"
"Oh. Patatas bravas... con huevos."
"Are you speaking foreign at me. What is it in English?"
"Patatas bravas. With eggs."
"I give up."*

I can't help it... Patatas bravas is the dish! It is what it is. The English just won't do here as bold potatoes is the direct translation, which in itself is essentially meaningless. Just how are these potatoes being bold? They are hardly out fighting a war or making eye contact on the tube with Londoners. They are merely in a pan, being delicious, as all potatoes should be.

At the weekend I tried a new (to me) greengrocer in town as my train was early enough to catch the shops before they shut, so I picked up some gorgeous veggies. Two fat aubergines, Two big kohlrabi  and seven medium-sized sweet potatoes  for £3. For this dish, I used three of the potatoes and one aubergine... the aubergine to take the place of oily chorizo to make this dish more veg-packed and less fatty.

To begin, the sweet potatoes were peeled and chopped and roasted in a pan with some olive oil. Half hour medium oven should do it, as they don't seem to take the same time as regular spuds.

When they were nearing the end of their cooking, I sweated a small onion, two garlic cloves, the chopped aubergine, a chopped salad tomato and a generous shake of Aldi patatas spice (it was only 49p in the special aisle, but you could just use smoked paprika, thyme, marjoram and parsley). Adding the cooked potatoes to the pan, I then stirred in half a carton of passata.

As the sauce began to bubble, I made four wells and cracked in some eggs.

 You need to pop a lid on to get the whites to set. A bit of extra parsley on the eggs there!

 Finally I served it up with some olive bread (YS from Asda 10p) - all the better for dunking in that egg yolk.

A hearty, low fat, filling veggie meal. Sweet potatoes are lower GI than regular potatoes too.

Very much needed as the weekend was a bit too carb heavy, slightly denting my efforts to shrink. Back on it!

*disclaimer... not entirely how the conversation went! If anything it was the clarity of my Spanish at fault.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Prances with Wolves

I've made a bit of a decision in the last couple of weeks: that I'm going to start saying no a bit more often. If I'm feeling tired, run down, rushed, ill-prepared or possibly-maybe-coming-down-with-something (especially if that something is skintness), I'm going to say no. No to spontaneous drinking sessions with 6.7% cider (seemed like a good idea at the time). No to organising events someone else has thought of. No to "ooh go one, just one more episode of Poldark  even though it's gone midnight" (that's my own brain, that). No to feeling I have to prove myself as a go-getting woman of the world. Quite frankly, I am done with saying boo to geese... and what a stupid thing that is. Why do you say a timid person wouldn't say boo to a goose? It's a very sensible person who wouldn't say boo to a goose, I say. Or any word for that matter! Why go near geese? They are proper feisty. Only an idiot would go and say boo to a goose.

Anyway, I'm done with attempting to provoke angry responses from pond-dwelling birds. Except maybe little mandarin ducks because they are way too cute. No, you're right. No riling ducks either!

No need for all that any more. I'm a confident, high-achieving woman with at least 4 strings on my bow, which is why I haven't played violin since I was 10. But there is going to be a lot more of me in my house this week, getting things I want done. Maybe even cleaning the windows (weather pending).

It will all be in the cause of self-preservation. Speaking of which, I prettied up one of my gooseberry jams to take to my dad's this weekend.

And while I was at it, I also whizzed up a quick pesto; this one of yellow sticker watercress. That's just for me and my lunches that is. Very yummy too.

It was nice to be back in the Black Country this weekend, if weird through its unfamiliar familiarity, if you know what I mean. I've probably been away too long.

I noticed there is a trail of wolves throughout Wolverhampton, but I was only able to spot three on my journey, one of which was spied through the window of the No. 1 bus.

Now, the No. 1 bus is a very odd thing, because it is exactly the same route as the 558 used to be, but seems to have got rebranded as numero uno at the same time as the buses were fitted with a broad-accented bus-stop announcer. "Next stop. Dudley Rowud, Springfee-uld Grow-uv."

... incidentally  that's where I got off the bus, and promptly bumped into my Uncle Chris and his partner (also Chris).

Aw... my family! As we walked the couple hundred yards until I could take the alleyway to the park I wanted to walk through, I saw loads of their neighbours open up windows and shout hello. It was like being in Pigeon Street, or Ballamory for even younger readers. Aw... Sedgley!

As much as nothing had changed thus far and it was all super friendly and delightful, I was in for a shock when I got to the bridge that leads out of Sedgley Hall Farm Park. This was the sight I was greeted with:

As far as I know, that's a right of way that's been blocked off, and that's no ruddy good. Never mind making it 'safe'; that bridge has been there since I was 8, and before that was some pretty well-used stepping stones. Here it is on the OS map:

I wonder if there's anywhere I could complain to about this? And did I climb over...? Yes I ruddy well did! Very, very slowly. But, I must say, it did put me off offering to take this scamp for a walk... though here he is, all tuckered out after my step-sister did.  Aw, Bandit sleepy!

I was back in the Black Country to see my dad, which was very lovely indeed. But also, I had a gig on the Sunday. This was at Bushfest  the summer comedy festival organised by the Holly Bush in Cradley Heath: loads of acts all weekend, free entry, very cheap beer. I had an ace time at my early Sunday afternoon gig slot, and then hung around to see the excellent Milo McCabe as Troy Hawke. An absolute masterclass in hilarious crowd-interaction. He must have spent 5 minutes trying not to lose a heckle-bark-off with a dachshund in the audience, I fair thought my sides might split. Great stuff about Scrabble and Poundland.
Good to see me old muckers from the comedy circuit, Dave (Wolfy), Dinzy, Jay, Pete (Trisha), Cal (Mike or Bug-eyed Bernard) and Billy. Second time I'd gigged with Pete this week... and this time, Id forgotten to pack any makeup whatsoever, so I was on stage utterly bare-face, while he was in the full MAC as per usual. Aw heck, I'm just jealous!

And thence back to Northampton via Smethwick and Birmingham New Street, where the wolves looked a bit funny.