Archive for the category “The Not So Serious Stuff”

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!

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Festive Fridge Cake

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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

 

♥ Where You Live

Fresh Footage

Valentine’s Day. The date remains the same, but over the years the people we choose to share it with come and go. Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to unleash a bitter tirade of a woman scorned by love. Far from it. This Valentine’s Day, I have decided that I want to give my affection to something a bit more permanent. Something I can invest in and yes, something that won’t reject my love. This year, my village is my valentine. A bit bizarre and unconventional, I know, but I’m not embarrassed to say I love where I live.

Perhaps yet more bizarre and unconventional is the way in which I have decided to express my feelings. Ever heard of yarn bombing? The concept is simple. People with far too much time and creative energy voluntarily knit public spaces. Be it railings, telephone boxes or park benches. You name it, we can knit it. I did a lot of yarn bombing when I lived in Canada but when I moved back I wasn’t sure if sleepy Devon was quite ready for the modern knitting resurgence, bearing in mind that the original craft never really went out of fashion in the region.

Anyway, imagine my glee when I saw this feature on the local BBC news! Turns out even deepest darkest Cornwall is well into yarn bombing. Perhaps I’ve been too harsh on the South West?

So back to the case in hand, what is there to love about my village? South Brent (SB) has a constant energy pulsating throughout the streets. The community surpasses spirit, it has vibrancy and is always growing. Considering the size of the village (so far SB has successfully fought off the engulfing threat of town-scale development) there are numerous active societies and events to get involved with and a fairly self-sufficient village centre with all necessary amenities. Cue the ulterior motive. Ah yes, did I forget to mention that I’m trying to sell my house? Or get signatures for some NIMBY campaign?

I suppose the third bizarre and unconventional aspect to this post is that I’m not trying to sell anything. Just as people like to be loved and recognised, don’t places deserve some recognition too? So often we see people taking things for granted and too often we do not realise what we have until it’s gone. Unfortunately villages like SB are becoming increasingly rare and it dawned on me that if I do think SB is great, why not say it while I still can? Before I leave the village or before the village changes beyond all recognition. It’s not quite Carpe diem, but hopefully when people see the random knitted hearts scattered around the village, they might stop and think and take a closer look at where they are standing. It can’t do any harm to take a step back and just appreciate what is in front of us.

It’s a simple message and one, without sounding too preachy, I think we ought to take to heart.   Love where you live.

Hot Dog

If only I could claim that the reason I haven’t posted in so long is because I’ve been working hard on this knitted dog sweater. Unfortunately for me the design is so simple and easy to follow it only took me two evenings to complete! Modelled by my gorgeous neighbour Bella, a 10 week old lab, the sweater is actually designed for a little Yorkshire Terrier by the name of Wilba (hence the ‘W’ on the back).

Despite my definite soft spot for canine clothing I am no dog expert. Trying to get a young puppy to sit still for a photo is as futile as telling it not to chase the cat – no easy task, as you will see by the blurry pics that follow.

I trawled through a lot of patterns before I found this one. I wanted something straight forward and simple in design, so thank you Talking Tails for sharing!

Hello 2012 – Hello Gotham City

A new year calls for new year resolutions. [Insert some self-righteous spiel about how I am going to religiously attend the gym, stop drinking, swearing and doing all things enjoyable].

Well, this year I have decided to make the ultimate move towards self-improvement. I will become a superhero. My friends Lucy, Rose and I made our first attempts at this transformation on New Year’s Eve, becoming Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Batgirl respectively. I must first apologise for the appalling video-editing you are about to witness. After becoming a superhero, improving my tech skills is next on the new year resolution list…

Every time I watch that video half of me is in hysterics and the other half is dying of painful embarrassment.  It’s healthy to laugh at yourself though, right..?

Audio for this was taken from Catwoman (2004), but the roar at the end is 100% Lucy.

All, yes all of that ivy is real and hand sewn onto Rose’s costume.

Step into Christmas

I have come to the realisation that so far this year my Christmas capers have all revolved around the deceptively sparkly and often torturous jungle better known as the Great British High Street.

The first was the Santa Dash last week where over 650 Santas descended upon Plymouth City Centre to complete a charity fun run. Words cannot describe how bizarre this spectacle was to behold. Jolly old Saint Nick has never before appeared in so many different shapes, sizes and ages. Personally, I found it very difficult to breathe with a cotton-wool beard and on a few occasions I accidentally swallowed some beardy clumps, much to the amusement of the Santas either side of me. However it was all for charity and the mince pie and medal at the end came as a most welcome reward!

A sight to behold: 650 Santas take to the streets of Plymouth

Possibly the cutest moment of the Santa Dash!

The Best Santas in Town: Kathleen, Amy, Sarah, Ryan, Caroline

On Tuesday I went to the Christmas Late Night Shopping in Totnes which saw the high street steeped in mistletoe and lined with festive buskers who serenaded shoppers as they perused the stalls selling all sorts of handmade goods. The whole town was buzzing and I definitely recommend going if only to end the night by sipping delicious mulled wine in the cosy setting of the Barrel House.

Totnes high street full of festive cheer

Working my way up country I found myself in London this weekend braving the absolutely heaving shopping mecca that is Oxford Street. It was somewhere between the West End Christmas Carol-A-Thon and the sexy santas prancing around outside McDonalds that I began to lose my sanity. Unfortunately Oxford Street provides no such respite as the Barrel House in Totnes so I had to make do with a brief pit stop in the John Lewis cafe.

To remedy my excessive high street visits I intend to involve myself in some wholesome carolling and roasting of chestnuts by the fire with loved ones.  Just after I finish ordering all my presents online…

Santa Dash 2011

If late night shopping and the tinkering festive lights haven’t succeeded in drawing you out of your cosy abode yet this season then I may have found something that will. Let me introduce you to the Santa Dash: a unique concept that blends exercise, charity and Christmas fancy dress. All ages can register to run either a 2.5km or 4km route whilst bedecked in a felted Santa costume, complete with beard, all in the name of charity.

I can think of no better way to embrace the festive season than to participate in some mad charitable Santa antics. That, and adding some falling snow to my blog… But I digress. I, along with four trusty fundraising Santa sidekicks, will be taking part in the Santa Dash in Plymouth this Sunday 4th December. The 4km route really is a dash around the city centre and will raise money for Children’s Hospice South West and Diabetes UK. If you are feeling generous you can make a donation online or join in yourself! Numerous Santa Dashes will be taking place across the country throughout the month of December.

Keep a look out for some “dashing” photos! The forecast is for rein(dear) so don’t be surprised if all they show are some bedraggled runners in soggy one-size-fits-all Santa suits. Apologies in advance!

Can You Keep a Secret?

Relish having a juicy secret?  The empowerment is intoxicatingly addictive but requires devilishly strong will power.  Just imagine if you could share that secret with the whole world but never have to reveal your identity?

I know that I’m incredibly slow on the uptake with this one, but now that I’ve found this site I’m completely hooked.  Post Secret (PS) is a community mail art project that explores the fascinatingly complex phenomenon of human secrecy.  Since 2005 it has allowed people to anonymously share with the world their untold secrets.  The premise is simple; PS invites anyone and everyone to write their secret on a postcard and post it to PS creator, Frank Warren, who then decides which secrets get published.

By remaining anonymous, the secret holder is able to alleviate their guilty conscience without any repercussions.  It seems obvious to assume that once a secret is read by thousands of eyes it loses its ‘secret’ status, but does it?  I found that as a reader, I was oddly aware that I had entered into a realm of confidentiality.  Rather than voiding the secret status, I was merely widening the parameters of those initiated.  For the secret holder, this gives birth to a rare sense of fulfilled euphoria.  It allows that smug pleasure, the one that swells in your chest when you know something no one else knows, to be combined with the pride gleaned from boastfully sharing a secret.

So how serious are the secrets?  They range from the inert and generic “I’m in love with my boss” to the worrying “I’m a racist” to the illegal “I forged a qualification for my job”.  The reader is also in receipt of gratification having participated in this bizarre exchange of anonymous knowledge.  Readers are relieved to discover that numerous people, from all walks of life, have been harbouring the same secret as them.  A true victim of Facebook, I often find myself searching for a ‘like’ button after reading a secret I agree with.

Usually the impact of a secret depends on who the secret belongs to.  Anyone can say “I hate my mother” but if it came from Prince Charles, it would take on a whole new meaning.  Interestingly it is precisely because of the anonymity that PS continues to work.  PS offers a kind of catharsis to those who share their secrets.  It alleviates the burden of knowledge and indirectly shares it with the whole world.  Talk about a problem shared a problem halved; with the readership of PS your secret would amount to nothing in no time at all.

I created a secret-bearing postcard for PS but unfortunately impatience, in addition to my lack of secrecy, has got the better of me.  I couldn’t possibly wait for it to travel all the way to the US to be published so I’ve posted it here instead!  A bit of a cheat I know, especially as it completely defeats the point of an anonymous secret.

So here it is: my guilty secret

I offer this as a guilty secret not so much because I’m scared to admit how I feel but because I know that if the poor dog in question could master its vocal chords it would be screaming:  “Get me out of this fucking woolly shit!”

Pug Love

Little Otsu

There once was a pug from Stoke

An old pipe did he like to smoke

But when he lit up one day

To his owner’s dismay

He singed his luxurious coat!

There are some things in this world that people go completely nuts over. For some it’s tiny babies, for others it’s One Direction, but for me, it’s pugs. That’s right, those small round dogs with ugly squishy faces who pant and go all boggle eyed after just two paces of exercise. Nothing in this world surpasses the cute factor of a roly-poly smooshie faced pug stitched to the max in snazzy knitwear (if you’re in doubt, I recommend you check out my Guilty Secret post when it appears). I must confess to having neither rhyme nor reason for this bizarre attachment, but thankfully I am constantly finding reassurance that I am not alone in my obsession.

It appears that the car industry has also taken notice of the humble pug. If I thought one pug was adorable, imagine my glee when Citroen stuck not one, not two, but three pugs, in the form of a kind of triple decker pug mobile, in their advert! Well, I was beside myself to say the least.

This version is not in English but that only makes the pugs tres cute.

Whilst satisfying my addiction to all things pug I came across Gemma Correll, a deliriously amusing illustrator whose pug sketches epitomise everything I adore about the snuffling critters. As far as pug names go, doesn’t ‘Mr Pickles’ just make you want to die it’s so pugfect? I could literally spend all day listing awesome pug names, but won’t. Although riddled with pug mania, I am still able to recognise that the vast majority of the world’s population continue to view pugs as the ugliest creature on the planet. But me?  Well, someone’s got to love them, haven’t they?

Happy Halloween

I simply had to post something on the eve of All Saints’ Day.  Halloween or Hallowe’en, spell it how you will, is the night when children take to the streets in droves, half heartedly dressed up as miniature witches and absorbing indecent quantities of sugary products.

Never one to let such festivities pass me by, this year I jumped on the commercialised band wagon by carving two pumpkins and baking four pumpkin pies.

Do you know the most exciting thing about Halloween?

Halloween means that tomorrow is November and November means winter and winter means cold and cold means knit wear!

Bring. It. On.

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