Sunday, October 25, 2009

I wish I could fly way up to the sky but I can’t

Stu's latest Tuesday Challenge, should we choose to accept it, is "to come up with the most fantastic idea. What would you shoot if time, money and skills were no issue? Then work within your limitations to realise your dream. See what unique surprises occur."

At last, a reasonably straightforward one. If I had the time, money, equipment and skills I'd go off to Borneo and/or Sumatra and photograph orang-utans in the wild. I think they're marvellous creatures who are teetering on the brink of extinction solely due to Mankind's greed. Hundreds of square miles of their limited habitat is being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, a product that it seems impossible to boycott in protest because it's in everything. And to add insult to injury, it's being promoted as a source of bio-fuel to 'save the planet'. What a ridiculous concept - its very production is directly destroying far more than it will ever save.

So if I had pots and pots of money that's where I'd go; taking supplies to the orangutan orphanages where they try to raise the babies whose mothers have been killed by the rainforest clearance companies and sold as pets, and if possible to buy land to donate to them as habitat to release them when they're old enough. Whilst there I'd take photos of them - lots and lots of photos. But I haven't yet won the lottery, so my limitations are many, making this photo the closest to my dream that I'm likely to get. I'm not sure about 'unique surprises', though.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

La donna è mobile*

I'm not a gadget person. I have a very basic Pay-and-go mobile phone, which costs me about £10 to top up every 6 months or so. I'm told it has games on it, but I CBA to find out. I've had the phone for years - it was sent to me for free because service for my last one was discontinued. I still have the instruction booklet in my handbag in case I need to actually do something with the thing - that's how much I care about gadgets.

I used it twice today.

The first time was when we were on the M69 going northwards, to tell Stu that we were going to be a teeny bit late. We'd set off on a 40-minute drive at 10.30, to get us there in plenty of time for noon. Unfortunately we'd forgotten about the roadworks at the Longbridge roundabout (they've only been there for a year) which meant that it took us almost an hour to travel half a mile. But we got there safely in the end, and judging by the amount of giggling, our celebratory photoshoot seemed to go very well; I can't wait to see the results! (That's got several Christmas presents sorted.)

Then on the return journey (with a diversion planned to avoid the roadworks), during a torrential cloudburst we saw a car stopped neatly by the central crash-barrier on the M69 southbound, facing north. Thinking that the driver probably didn't want to be there I phoned 999 (for the first time!) hoping that nobody ploughed into him in the meantime.

Two phonecalls in one day. Extraordinary.

* I've always associated a mobile with the name Donna.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Still crazy after all these years

25 years ago we posed for this photo.

Now, I don't bother with birthdays (once you've reached 21 there's not much significance about them. Everyone has them,simply through failing to die in the 12 months since the previous one. Unless you have a serious medical condition or are past your alloted threescore-and-ten that's not really much of an achievement!) but I think successfully weathering the storms of a shared life and dealing with the challenges that inevitably arise, is something to be celebrated.

It sounds awfully soppy, but I've never once regretted marrying Ned, my soulmate, and look forward to many more years together.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Time it was and what a time it was it was

You couldn't get a book between them.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Harvest blog #2

I like growing things - I especially like growing vegetables. Unfortunately things don't usually appreciate the tender care I lavish upon them, and crops can be quite spectacularly poor. This year, however, the results have been, by my standards, amazing. Most vegetables I grow are unusual in that they're often unexpected colours - the varieties that are very rarely stocked by greengrocers or supermarkets.

The mange-tout peas were phenomenally successful, and with the rows being planted at fortnightly intervals meant a good succession and no glut; but I still managed to freeze a couple of pounds. The rainbow chard is now coming into its own (these photos were taken earlier in the year) and looks very attractive in the garden as well as on the plate. The cauliflowers did okay, but were small and allcropped together, meaning any that were left too long were munched by slugs. Bah.

Yellow courgettes are more visible on the plant and less likely to escape and turn into marrows when you let your guard down.

Historically carrots were white, with the orange colour being bred into them in the past couple of hundred years. So I decided to grow a range of colours (again for plate-interest), and these too have been astonishingly successful, and incredibly flavoursome.

The purple-podded climbing beans were again chosen for visual interest in the garden - the leaves are dark green and the flowers are a beautiful two-tone pink and purple. The beans themselves look amazing when picked (and are wonderfully tender and stringless) ...

... but sadly lose their colour in the cooking, which is disappointing. However it's all good and organic and couldn't be fresher - from plant to pot within 5 minutes.

Now's the time to clear up the beds (leaving the chard, leeks and parsnips because they're not finished yet) and spread loads of muck and compost to hopefully repeat the success next year.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Open up your mouth and feed it

I mentioned on Facebook that I'd baked a batch of 'Appley-Dapplies', which intrigued quite a lot of people who asked for more details.

It's a recipe we came across years ago, and has been a great favourite with everyone who's tried them. We had to cut the amount of sugar from the original because it made our teeth try to leap out of our heads in shock, but it's still plenty sweet enough.

I've not yet worked out when is the best time to slice it up; when it's still hot in the tin it burns you and falls apart, but when it's cold it's more difficult to cut through the top 'crust'. So the slices don't always look quite as neat as they could, but who cares?

A slice showing the apple filling.

So here's the recipe ...


450g/1lb Bramley Cooking Apples, roughly chopped
50g/2oz Raisins
50g/2oz Caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
zest 1 lemon

200g/7oz plain flour
200g/7oz soft light brown sugar
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g/5oz rolled oats
150g/7oz butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 190 C/ 375 F/ Gas mark 5 for about 10 minutes before baking. Place the apples, raisins, sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest into a saucepan over a low heat.

2. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apple is cooked through. Remove the cover, stir well to break up the apple completely with a wooden spoon.

3. Cook for a further 15 – 30 minutes over a very low heat until reduced, thickened and slightly darkened. Allow to cool. Lightly oil and line a 20.5cm/ 8 inch square cake tin with greaseproof or baking paper.

4. Mix together the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, rolled oats and butter until combined well and crumbly.

5. Spread half of the crumble mixture into the bottom of the prepared tin and press down. Pour over the apple mixture.

6. Sprinkle over the remaining crumble mixture and press down lightly. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 – 35 minutes, until golden brown.

7. Remove from oven and allow to cool before cutting into slices. Either serve warm with crème fraiche or whipped cream, or cold in lunch boxes.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Going back to my roots

Harvest blog #1

Looky! I've grown a successful parsnip!

*is very proud*