Veg Box

I’m always a bit perplexed by people who fill their Facebook feeds with food photos, but posting edible delights on a blog is a different story, right?

Well today it is because I got my first fruit & veg box from Abel & Cole and I want to document the results!

Small Fruit and Veg Box

Small Fruit and Veg Box

Today I got:

Bananas

Satsumas

Apples

Red pepper

White onions

Broccoli

Potatoes

and last but not least, Cavolo Nero, cookery hero (as coined by Abel & Cole)

As soon as I opened the box I was immediately hungry for it’s contents.  As a quick snack to tide me over, I tore up two leaves of the cavolo nero and tossed them in a frying pan with a splash of olive oil, garlic and a few chiilli flakes.  Ok maybe a bit more than a ‘few’ chilli flakes…

Cavolo Nero

This made a delicious starter to munch on whilst waiting for my main veg box creation: a big dish of roasted veg.  I threw in an onion, two potatoes and a red pepper from the box, plus a green and yellow pepper I found in the fridge.  Delicious!

IMG_4018

The best thing about all of this food is that it’s organic and comes from a process that considers the environment along every step of the journey.  The packaging is even recycled and bio-degradable! And who doesn’t love the idea of having their weekly food shop delivered right to their doorstep by a friendly guy called Mike?

I encourage you to check out the Abel & Cole website and to give it a go.  I know I’ll definitely be ordering from them again next week!

Pimp my Pup

Well, nearly a year on and the demand for canine clothing continues!

After the success of my last dog sweater, I made this adorable garment so that Wilba the Yorkshire Terrier could feel festive throughout the Christmas season.  Don’t you just love dogs in knitwear?

The basic pattern is available here but the snowflake design and pompoms I figured out myself so I’ll have to upload those details soon!

Snow flake jacket

Wilba Jacket

Vegan Cranberry Muffins

Cranberry Muffins

As part of starting 2013 on the right socially conscious foot, I’ve just joined The People’s Supermarket (TPS) in Oxford.  TPS is a sustainable food cooperative run by the local community for the local community.  To be a member all you have to do is pay an annual membership fee of £12 and volunteer 4 hours of your time per month.  In return, you get 20% off all your groceries and have a say in what they stock.  Not to mention the added benefit of meeting like minded people, listening to some of Oxford’s local music talent played in store and feeling good that you’re doing your bit for a sustainable lifestyle.

The concept was started in London and a team of dedicated people have helped to make it happen in Oxford.

Another aspect I love about the supermarket is their seasonal purchasing which means you never quite know what fresh produce they’ll have.  This month they’ve had cranberries on sale.  TPS offer a price comparison and their cranberries are £2 cheaper than Tesco’s cranberries.  Bargain!

If you’re inspired to pop into the supermarket, why not try this tasty cranberry muffin recipe I came up with.  It’s suitable for vegans and is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of earl grey.

Although I’ve called them cranberry muffins, banana is a key component. As it’s a vegan recipe, the banana acts as a binder and provides moisture instead of eggs.  Practical and tasty🙂

RecipeVegan Cranberry Muffins

60g dairy-free margarine

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small ripe banana

100g fresh cranberries, chopped

100g brown sugar

150g self raising flour

Pinch salt

1 tbsp lemon juice (or just a quick squeeze of a fresh one!)

Method

Pre-heat oven to gas mark 6 (360 degrees)

Take one mixing bowl

Mash banana with a fork

Mix banana with butter, lemon juice and oil

Add sugar and mix

Add flour and mix

Add salt and cranberries

Pop into cooking container of choice (filling about 2/3 full)

Bake for 20 minutes or until springy to touch

Then all that’s needed is to pop the kettle on and enjoy with a strong cuppa!

Festive Fridge Cake

IMG_20588

This delicious sweet is perfect for those work Christmas potlucks because it’s quick and easy to whip up the night before and doesn’t break the bank. This particular recipe isn’t suitable for vegetarians or vegans but could easily be adapted by taking away the marshmallows and using non-dairy chocolate and margarine.

Recipe

The whole process should take under 45 minutes (including the washing up!)

Ingredients

140g margarine

2-3 tablespoons golden syrup

100g mini marshmallows

300g dark cooking chocolate

300g digestive biscuits (crushed)

35ml rum (brandy would also work)

Pinch of ground All Spice

Glacé cherries (red and green make for an extra festive feel!)

Raisins and any other dried fruit (cranberries would work well)

Method

Roughly chop up the glacé cherries.

Pop them in a dish and pour over the rum (I gave a generous slosh rather than a measured 35ml).

Add some of the ground spice and stir together.

Melt marg, chocolate and golden syrup in a pan over a low heat (stirring continuously).

Remove from heat once melted.

Stir in crushed biscuits, marshmallows and pour in the rum and cherry mixture.

Spoon the mixture into a container. I used cupcake moulds but a square 8” Pyrex dish would also work or whatever you have to hand!

Leave to cool and then pop in the fridge to set fully.

Sprinkle with icing sugar and throw a cherry on top for the perfect finish!

Fridge cake

 

November Knits

November, and more importantly Movember, have now drawn to a close and I’d like to give a nod to all the boys who raised awareness of men’s health by growing and maintaining exceptional moustaches.

However, who’s to say girls can’t join in with this awareness campaign? It’s important to get as many people as possible feeling comfortable talking about health issues, particularly men’s health as guys are historically quite a shy bunch when it comes to disclosing personal problems. Here four Mo Sistas showcase a fabulous knitted moustache in support of their Mo Bros and the bid to raise vital funds and awareness of prostate cancer and testicular cancer.

Mo Sista 3

Mo Sista no. 1

Mo Sista 1

Mo Sista no. 2

Mo Sista 2

Mo Sista no. 3

Inspector Mo Sista

Inspector Mo Sista

On a slightly similar vein, I hope this big knitted cock mug hug (now you don’t get to write that very often!) will also help to stir up conversation around men’s health. You can find out more about Movember and donate here and please check out the super easy pattern for the moustache, you know it makes sense!

'cock' mug hug

A bit more background on the mug hug…

Ever since I discovered “Mug Hug” patterns by Alison Howard I’ve been playing around with different designs to adorn and keep warm a mug of tea. So when it came close to my friend James’ birthday I knew I wanted to knit outside of the proverbial box…

James and I have a unique friendship. We met in Leeds as students and quickly discovered that we shared a mutual love of tea and, well, cock. Whilst living together during my second year many a trial and man-related tribulation was discussed, debated and disentangled over a strong brew. Sometimes I wonder how I ever found the time to actually complete a degree.

Knitting @ Bestival

I’m seen here knitting the mug hug at Bestival. I was lucky enough to go as a steward for Oxfam which basically meant getting in for free, doing a few shifts and then having free run of the festival! Pretty awesome and as you can see I made the most of knitting whilst basking in the sunshine and listening to live music.

This is really childish but I found great amusement placing the mug hug over other words to create humorous situations😉

Cameron-Cock

Love of Cock

Snug cowl & matching headband

As a reward for all the hard work I’ve put into training for the Oxford Half Marathon (which I ran today in 2 hours 23 seconds!) I’ve treated myself to some new knitwear. The cowl and headband are both super quick and easy to make and open to all sorts of customisation. Why not experiment with different colours or try buttons as a cute embellishment on the headband instead of a flower?

I wore the cowl and headband today and was asked where I got them.  Surely there is nothing more satisfying than replying ‘I made them’?  Knowing that you’re wearing something unique that no one can just go out and buy is pretty awesome… Smug much?

Download the patterns here.

Enjoy🙂

 

Sunny Craftanoon

It was whilst lazing on a sunny craftanoon that I realised cupcakes are everywhere these days.

I remember in Ottawa you couldn’t walk down Bank Street without passing about 10 ‘cupcakeries’.  And I can see the appeal.  These overpriced delicacies aren’t just tasty, they’re also pretty darn cute.  Which is what led me to use them as inspiration for my card-making last Sunday.  As friends and family get older I’m finding it increasingly difficult to come up with unique card designs to mark their birthdays (I refuse to buy cards when they’re so easy to make at home).  Turns out that teaming a clean out of my room with an afternoon of craft was a genius idea as I was able to recycle some of my unwanted crap into something beautiful and new🙂

To make this cupcake card:

1. Take one pair of pants (I would say old but you don’t want to present someone with a really raggy old pair of whities)

 2. Cut out of the pants a cupcake case shape (if there’s a bit of lace trim on your pants it’s always nice to include it!)

 3. Stitch the case onto your backing material. I used paper which I then glued to the actual card. You could use material or attach the cupcake directly onto your card (bear in mind this will be harder to sew through)

4. Cut some felt into the shape of a cupcake (I used brown for the cake and white for the icing but you can of course be creative with the colours!)

5. Glue the felt to the paper (alternatively you could sew it on like the cupcake case)

6. Decorate the icing by tracing it with some colourful wool

(I just chose a light pink)

7. And to finish, garnish the cupcake with a cherry cluster of  sequins!

There you have a well spent craftanoon, made even better if accompanied by the Kinks.

Stay tuned for the next instalment, it’s a beauty from Bestival!

OOG

AKA Oxford Oxfam Group

The Robin Tax.

The Robin Tax. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t remember exactly how I got involved with this group, but it has satisfied my need for a worthwhile recreational activity that allows me to fully explore my creativity whilst also meeting a variety of new people.

I’m particularly involved with the campaigns side of OOG and last weekend we put on a Robin Hood Tax stunt in the city centre of Oxford.

What is the Robin Hood Tax? It is a small tax that governments could apply to banks to generate billions of pounds to help fight poverty in the UK and overseas. This isn’t an Oxfam campaign, though Oxfam supports it. It is an idea that turned into a campaign which has now become a movement. Supporters include charities, green groups, trade unions, celebrities, financiers, religious leaders and politicians. Hell, even President Hollande of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany support it.

The Robin Hood Tax is justice. The banks can afford it. The systems are in place to collect it. It won’t affect ordinary members of the public, their bank accounts or their savings. It’s fair, it’s timely, and it’s possible.

So back to last weekend. After at least a month of planning, the day came for us to don masks, tights and feathered hats and transform into the infamous outlaw, Robin Hood. Naveed and Danial bravely stepped up to the role of ‘Evil Banker’ and played it worryingly well!

The day’s plan was to perform ‘The Banker’ video from the RHT website (which features Bill Nighy) and talk with members of the public about the campaign to increase awareness.  Getting out and talking to the people of Oxford about the RHT was great but if I’m honest I spoke to more Japanese and Spanish tourists than local Brits. We filmed our performance so that the campaign could take on a new life online.

Filming was hilarious but the message that comes across is sincere. If you’re behind the tax, please sign up your support through the RHT website, please share the youtube video we made and please read the article on the Oxford Mail online.

Mini Projects

I lack a most sought after virtue; patience. As a result I excel at mini projects. I can never bring myself to begin an intricate, long winded pattern that will take a whole month. I prefer to act on my bursts of creativity immediately and produce something fabulous in an evening. I consider an Agatha Christie’s Poirot to be the ideal length of time a mini project should take. Who needs a stopwatch when you have those little grey cells ticking away? N’est pas?

Below are two of my more recent mini-projects.

The first was taken from a book. A wonderful aid to mini projects is the local library. It had never occurred to me to look for knitting patterns there but they have a whole wealth of books with all sorts of different ideas. I picked up Mug Hugs by Alison Howard and have used her ideas for a couple of presents. I made this personalised mug for my friend Joe. I’m pleased to say he loved it🙂

Personalised Mug Hug – to keep your beverage toasty warm!

This card I love, and there’s a story behind it. Many moons ago, my Granny knitted an awesome sweater. When she found out I was moving to Canada she gave it to me and it was possibly the warmest thing I have ever worn. This is the Granny who also taught me to knit, so the sweater has come to embody a physical realisation of the skill passed down the family tree.

Awesome jumper knitted by my Granny. Fashioned here by yours truly, celebrating my birthday on the frozen Rideau Canal in Ottawa

This month saw my Granny’s 86th birthday and with all this I knew exactly what I wanted her card to look like. I knitted the jumper on normal needles and then transferred the final row onto a cocktail stick. I did in fact knit one row using the miniature needles and then left it half way as seen here. Bizarrely rewarding! Needless to say, she loved the card too🙂

Miniature version of the above

Maybe one day I’ll take on a big project. But in the mean time, I’m quite happy churning out these mini projects. And of course, watching Poirot😉

Online Dating

First Date

Not even my wildest imagination could have invented how this date went.

I arrived fashionably 5 minutes late and nearly walked past the person claiming to be the guy I’d been messaging for the past week. 5ft 10? I don’t think so. Anyway, luckily my photos didn’t lie and he recognised me. I also didn’t recognise him because he was holding a drink. Oh, so you ordered without me? I’d have judged you more favourably had you bought me a drink and guessed what I’d like rather than just getting yourself a pint. Score so far? -2.

So we get a seat outside (its a nice summer’s evening) and conversation is surprisingly easy. There are a couple of false starts where we both begin talking at the same time (a verbal version of when you walk down the street and move to the left to let someone past but they move the same way at the same time and you do this awkward, ridiculous little dance and mumble sheepish apologies that Hugh Grant would envy). As we struggle to find similar interests I ask him, in a most rare open frame of mind, to explain to me why he likes heavy metal (FYI men who like heavy metal are two a penny online…no comment). Well, I learnt that the guitarist in Black Sabbath lost the tips of his fingers in some kind of machinery accident which influenced the brooding sound of their music and that the riffs in heavy metal have their roots in Blues. Who knew?

Redeemed to a neutral nil point I decide it’s time to call it a night. In modern gentlemanly fashion he walks me back to where I left my bike. Suddenly my bicycle transformed into an invaluable sidekick as it became a handy obstacle between me and him, preventing any lunges for unwanted goodnight hugs/kisses. NB bike must accompany me on any future dates. I turn to leave and before I set off I cast a fleeting glance behind me and BAM!

He’s got no hair! Being polite I’d spent the whole evening gazing attentively at his face and not once had I noticed the blindingly obvious (especially with the street lights reflecting off it) bald patch on the back of his head. FML it was like a monk’s tonsure. Did he lie about his age too? What the hell? Have I reached the age where I am now doomed to pick from a selection of receding hairlines and dentures? I ought to apologise as this is a very unforgiving portrayal but it came as a complete shock.

Conclusion?

Beware baldies!

Unless of course they are Ricky Whittle from Hollyoaks…

After thought…

I’ve had a few conversations with girlfriends recently and we’ve come to the conclusion that we have now reached a point in our lives where the men we date are starting to lose their hair. It is a sad yet inevitable fact of life. Apparently there is a 4 in 7 chance that a man will go bald and boys can start losing hair as early as their teens. Suddenly my track record of dating younger men doesn’t seem so cougarish. Its clearly my primal instinct hunting out those who have a full head of hair. But imagine if you marry someone in your early 20’s and in five years time wake up to discover you married a bald man in disguise! Perhaps its best they lose it early, that way we can see them coming and avoid any surprises.

There’s also that age old trick of looking at families for clues of how people are going to age. Its still disputed as to which line the baldness gene comes down but men whose fathers are bald are 2.5 times more likely to experience hair loss themselves. I look forward to inheriting my Gran’s super smooth skin and thick, silvery elegant perm. Hell she probably has a better barnet than I do!

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