Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Wheat Delete

You might have noticed that I was giving away all my wheat stuff in my last post. I have just come to the conclusion that wheat gives me a tummy ache. When I eat it, my stomach feels hard and bloated and it hurts. I feel sluggish and tired and blah. I have, over the last few years, moved over into the SPELT camp. I bake exclusively with spelt and we eat spelt pasta. I use barley couscous and eat rye crackers as spelt, rye and barley all have considerably less gluten than wheat. Plus there are great gluten free options as well such as millet and quinoa and of course, rice. I have felt enormously better and being vegan I am used to making substitutions for stuff when I cook so what’s one more thing, eh?   We used to occasionally get a take away pizza and I loved the taste of it. But all that wheaty crust would leave me feeling horrible and constipated for days. I have tried in the past to make a spelt crust in my bread machine where the machine does the mixing and rising and you are supposed to just turn it out and roll it into your pan. Never had much success with that as you had to remember to start the bread machine hours before you wanted to make dinner and then the dough was mega sticky. So I wondered could I make a vegan, gluten free crust that actually tasted good? Here were the potential problems:

1. Most gluten free bready stuff tastes like ass.
2. Most better looking gluten free bready stuff has eggs in it.
3. Most gluten free recipes I found on line were from the US and either recommended sorghum flour (which I can’t find here) or Bob’s Red Mill brand flour mix--which contains sorghum--but costs £5 for a weenie little bag and I ain’t doing it.

So I looked at what purpose gluten free ingredients serve to put together my own recipe and this is what I found:

Tapioca flour: helpful where binding a moistening properties are required.
Buckwheat flour: Which despite having wheat in the name contains no wheat and is actually from a seed and is related to rhubarb. Who knew? It also has binding properties but is dark and strongly flavoured and is best combined with other bland flours so it won’t be so overwhelming.
Oat flour: Lightens baked goods. If you are really a celiac then make sure to get gluten free oats.
Chickpea flour: used a lot in Asian cooking. Can provide an "eggy" taste when making french toast.
Cornflour (cornstarch to my US peeps) makes lightly textured baked goods but can be a bit powdery so combine it with other flours to add moisture. If you have a corn allergy then sub in some arrowroot. Cornflour is just cheaper here.
Xanthum gum: Helps to replace gluten by giving the flours some elasticity.

Lots of recipes call for rice flour but I find it gritty and so I left it out. I also wanted to include some flax meal (ground flax seed) as it is a powerhouse of nutrition as well as goes all gooey and eggy in liquid and I thought it would help me bind stuff together.

Well after only 3 tries I invented the *perfect* gluten free vegan pizza crust recipe which also makes a killer flat bread that could be dunked in soup. It is also yeast free as some of my mates have yeast issues as well as the fact that yeast means you have to wait for it to rise and all that jazz and I haven’t got the time or the patience for that. It does contain those cheesy flakes of goodness nutritional yeast but those are an inactive yeast and therefore are acceptable for mates who are on a yeast free diets.

Spidergrrl’s Groovy Multi-grain Vegan Gluten Free Dough recipe 

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F

Sift together in a big bowl:
½ cup tapioca flour
½ cup buckwheat flour
½ cup oat flour (this is just ½ cup oats whizzed in your food processor until powdery)
½ cup chickpea flour
1/3 cup cornflour (cornstarch)
 2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
 1 tsp xanthum gum

Then add:
1 tsp salt (I used lo-salt)
1 TB dried Italian herbs like basil, oregano, marjoram
2 TB nutritional yeast

Wisk all the dry ingredients to mix the flours.
Combine the liquid measurements in a small bowl or jug:
1 TB apple cider vinegar
1TB agave syrup (or honey if you exploit bees)
1 cup warm water
2 TB flax meal (or substitute 1 egg if you are an animal abuser)

Wisk together and then add the wet to the dry and stir until combined. I had to add a splash more warm water.

Line whatever pan you are using with parchment paper (round for a pizza/rectangular for flatbread) Then use a wet spoon or wet hands to flatten the dough into the shape of the pan. This really worked to keep the sticky down and didn’t make the dough too wet.

For pizza:
Bake for 15 minutes, take out of oven and add toppings (we used homemade tomato sauce, caramelised onion and pepper, olives, pineapple, sweet corn and smoked tofu) and bake for 10-12 more minutes.
Top with a sprinkle of “Parmesan cheese” (3 TB nutritional yeast/3 TB ground almonds/½ tsp salt blitzed in a blender)  

For flat bread:
Bake for 25-27 minutes.

This was really yum and not that difficult to do. I liked that it had a whole grain healthy slightly nutty flavour but without being overwhelmed by any one flour.

  I am not sorry to see wheat deleted from my life. It also helps in social situations where there are biscuits (cookies) that want to leap into my mouth. Much of the time they have eggs and milk in them so I feel happy declining, but there are some like ginger nuts and bourbons that are accidentally vegan and I could scoff the bag and then really regret it after not being able go to the loo for days. So it just helps on those tempting moments to know I have healthier, less sugar, less fat, wheat free vegan treats at home rather than cheap and nasty store bought rubbish full of palm oil and the metaphorical blood of orang-utans in it. 

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Roasty Toasty Crunchity-Crunch Chickpeas

Anyone remember Ren and Stimpy? The best bits of that show were the adverts for products like Log (and Log for girls) and Powdered Toast (“Are you clinging tenaciously to my buttocks?”) or my personal favourite-- Sugar Sod Pops. I loved watching the whole cartoon family chowing down on slabs of earth with that “fresh mown taste” and showing their chlorophyll tinted green smiles to the tune of the incredibly catchy jingle:

If you like grass
If you like dirt
Eat sugar sod pops
It can’t hurt!

And  don’t forget there is a free praying mantis (blink blink) inside specially marked boxes!

Anyway, this has nothing to do with Ren and Stimpy. I just wanted to make some sort of tenuous link between their cleverly named food and my cleverly named new favourite snack.

I give you: Roasty Toasty Crunchity-Crunch Chickpeas. 

 I love a crunchy savoury snack. As I have previously mentioned I could eat my weight in wasabi peas. But I can’t seem to find a brand that doesn’t have palm oil and I try really hard to avoid palm oil if I can as the rainforest is often cut down to make way for palm plantations which displaces many animals and generally pisses me off. I buy a few things that say orang-utan friendly palm oil (meaning  no orang-utans were kicked out of their homes) but wasabi peas generally don’t come with that guarantee. So I figured I could make something cheaper and tastier and possibly healthier.

Then there was a food exchange at work where we all cleaned out our pantries and traded stuff we didn’t want. I gave away all my wheat stuff (bulgur, flour, pasta) as well as some split peas and among the things I got were some dried chickpeas. I have never cooked dried beans before so I was searching for a way to cook them and came across advice for roasting them.

Here is what you need:
1 cup dried chickpeas
1 TB oil
Spices of your choice.

Soak your chickpeas in twice their volume of water for about 14 -15 hours. I put mine on to soak before I went to bed and then let them continue to soak until I got home from work at 2:00. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and put them back in the pot with plenty of clean, cold water and boil rapidly for 10-12 minutes. Then drain and let them dry a bit in the colander whilst the oven preheats to 200C/400F.

Drizzle with 1 TB oil and spices of your choice. I did 3 tsp cajun spices. Then bake for 40 minutes on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and stir every 10 minutes. I know that sounds like a pain, but trust me it is worth it. It is no worse than making party mix from chex cereal. In the end the chickpeas with be dried all the way though and crunchy like popcorn or crisps. Plus you can store them at room temperature in a airtight container. These taste bloody amazing. And a serving is ½ cup (makes 6 servings) and so it will last a week if you are the only one eating it. Spiderman dislikes things that are that crunchy so all the more for me. I did try a second batch with no oil and they were soggy and really stuck to the pan. But I might do a compromise and do less oil. Or not. Really a TB olive oil divided between 6 portions is not that bad and our bodies need fats to help us feel full and lubricate our joints.  

I was thinking of how many combinations of flavours there might be.  So a drizzle of oil plus a TB tamari soy sauce and Chinese 5 spice powder or a TB lime juice and chilli powder or 1 TB malt vinegar and salt or 1 TB maple syrup and a wee bit of powdered ginger? The possibilities are endless.

But no matter how you season them they remain Roasty Toasty Crunchity-Crunch Chickpeas! Nom nom nom! 

Monday, 27 June 2011

Somewhere over the rainbow

Answer these OZ related questions:

What colour were Dorothy’s shoes that she got from the Wicked Witch of the East?
Answer: silver. If you said ruby then you are a victim of the 1939 film. They were made red for the film to take advantage of Technicolor.

Where was Glinda the Good Witch from?
Answer: the south. If you said the north then you are a victim of the 1939 film. The Witch of North who has no other name in the book appears to Dorothy in Munchkin land and they travel south to see Glinda after the wizard has gone up in the balloon and left Dorothy behind. When the film was made there was still a lot of anti-south sentiment after the Civil War and so it was decided to make Glinda the witch of the north because surely something good would not come from the south.

How old is Dorothy and what is her personality like?
Answer: 7 years old and clever, outspoken, practical, brave and a problem solver. If you said a weepy, wimpy teenager who sits around blubbing while the male characters do all the work to rescue her then you are a victim of the 1939 film. In the book, Dorothy melts the witch, frees the lion who has been tied up outside the castle (the witch had been starving him but Dorothy had been sneaking him food) then goes out into the forest and locates her 2 badly injured friends the scarecrow and tin man. She then goes to the Winkies and asks for assistance in getting them put back together. All at 7 years old and all without being a blubber box.

What happens at the end?
Answer: In the book it was absolutely real. If you said it was all a dream then you are a victim of the 1939 film. Dorothy went back many times to Oz and finally when they couldn’t pay the mortgage and the farm was about to be seized Dorothy made the secret sign to Ozma who watched her every day at a certain time in her magic mirror and Dorothy, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry were all taken to Oz to live.

The point of all this is to say many people think they know Oz because they love the 1939 film. Tommy Kovac and illustrator Andy Hirsh clearly know their Oz book trivia. Together they have made a comic about a man named Jasper Fizzle who is obsessed with Oz and always tries to write Oz stories but the Official Oz Society (really just gay men with dogs named Toto) keep shooting him down. And rightly so with dreadful sounding books like Percival T Cozy in Oz.  His obsession is getting in the way of his relationship with his teenage son Frank (named after L Frank Baum) who has heard all the Oz stories his entire life, but can’t see the magic. The magic really begins when Jasper finds the silver slippers in a junk shop (they fell off Dorothy’s feet as she flew over the Deadly Desert) and he is transported back to Oz  where he gathers artifacts to bring back to the Mortal World to show that Oz is real and is as amazing as the books show it to be and to help him get better stories that will not be rejected by the Official Oz Society.

Here is where the fun begins. Drawing from all corners of the 14 books Tommy K and Andy H bring out nuggets like one of Jack Pumpkinhead’s old rotting heads, the WoggleBug’s pill system for learning, a winged monkey, a kalidah (body of a bear/head of a sabre tooth tiger), a scoodler who can take off its head and throw it at you, some bun people from Bunbury (“What’s with the donut people?” his son asks), some mist from the waters of oblivion, the nine tiny piglets owned by the wizard--just to name a few. If you are not a serious Oz devotee like me then probably this all sounds really quaint and interesting, but lacks meaning. My mum is probably bobbing up and down with recognition as it was she who read me all the Oz books 2 chapters a night in the big brown chair.

Anyway, several characters from Oz--some you know like the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Woodman and some you don’t like Scraps the Patchwork Girl travel to the Mortal World to retrieve what was stolen with exciting results! Even if you are not an Oz devotee like me you will find this series wonderful. You can still get it from Slave Labor Graphics if you are interested:

But here is our next piece of loveliness: Spiderman has bought us 2 pieces of original art from the comic!!!!!!     

In the comic the characters from Oz kidnap Jasper’s son Frank in order to force Jasper to return what he has stolen. Frank is face to face with all the things he has heard of all his life, but never believed. In the upper left panel we see Dorothy, Betsy Bobbin, Jellia Jamb and Ozma sitting down for a cup of tea. You can also see the glass cat Bungle from the Patchwork Girl of Oz checking herself out in the mirror. This cat was very vain and proud of her ruby heart and pink brains (“You can see ‘em work”). Frank is trying to run away from Oz on the Sawhorse who was brought to life by Tip with the powder of life. He is the fastest creature in Oz because being made of wood he never tires--Ozma had his feet shod in gold so they’d never wear out. He is even faster than Jim the cab horse who was transported to Oz by a Californian earthquake. Anyway, this scene is where Frank and the Sawhorse run into the Glass Cat. Literally. With disastrous results for our glass friend. Click on this to check out the picture bigger:

The other original art we bought from Andy Hirsh is the Wicked Witch of the West Water Cycle. Try saying that 3 times fast. This is my favourite bit from the comics. Check out this cleverness. Again, you'll need to click to read the words--and the words are the best bit!

Anyway, we have blown our remaining food budget for the month on art because we are hardcore that way. But art feeds the soul and lentils and rice will feed the body (at least until payday.)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Joy, Aranea and Nellie

Any ideas? Ring any bells? Hmmm? Hmmm? These are the names of Charlotte’s 3 spiderlings who decide to stay and keep Wilbur the pig company after they hatched. This is from the book Charlotte’s Web  by E.B. White if any of you still don’t know what I’m on about.  Why is Spidergrrl testing us with such trivia? Well take a lookie here and you will see:

Isn’t that gorgeous? It is by one of my favourite people Tommy Kovac. He is the coolest gay librarian on the planet (or perhaps that should be the gayest cool librarian) but whichever way you think of it he is downright amazing. I follow his 2 blogs--his personal one and his librarian one—

Tommy Kovac is a librarian who  puts a tremendous amount of thought into his displays and really tries to make that connection about the magic of reading with kids without being boring, overbearing and fusty which can really put kids off. He also is a writer and an artist. He does these clever little “doodles” on old library cards which makes him an artist who reuses materials that would normally go to waste.  A-okay in my book.

We *puffy heart* his work so much that when we saw this picture of spiders on his blog we knew we had to buy it. I love that the spiders are so anatomically correct. Nothing pisses me off more than spiders with one body part and 2 big googly eyes and lopsided grin like you forever see on Halloween stuff for kids so spiders won’t look so scary. Bosh. These sorts of spiders often appear in children’s books which is a shame. But not Tommy K’s spiders! Look closely at the detail. Click on the picture and it will magically get bigger before your eyes. I love the one fanciful detail of the curly feet because it is so adorable. I know if our spiders could curl their feet like they definitely would. We have hung it over “Tarantula Towers” where the girls live and they love it. They spend all day gazing at it and begging us to read Charlotte’s Web to them.  Ok, that’s a bit of a lie as despite having 8 eyes, none of the girls can see worth a damn. . But we spend all day gazing at it and rereading bits of Charlotte’s Web which is how Spiderman came up with the name for it.

How did we discover Tommy Kovac you may ask. He is, like me, an Oz fanatic and we share the same favourite Oz book The Patchwork Girl of Oz (although for me The Tin Woodman of Oz where Nick Chopper goes back to the tinsmith who made him and he meets his old head and has an argument with it comes a close second) Tommy knows that L. Frank Baum wrote 14 Oz books in all and many people have never even heard of the books because they only know the 1939 film which is a shame because the books are rich with wonderful adventures and characters. I’m not knocking the film--I have lots of film related Oz memorabilia, but the stories by Baum are so good it just breaks my heart that more people don’t know about them. For many years, despite the fact that kids really loved the books, uptight librarians disliked them because they weren’t “literary enough.” Poppycock. As a child I was completely immersed in the land of Oz and felt as if I knew all the characters personally. It has been so wonderful lately that Oz is having a bit of a revival. Marvel comics is committed to published graphic novel versions of all 14 original books. They have done the first 2--The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz and the next one Ozma of Oz comes out in a few months. These gems are put together by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young  and rock my world and I hope will bring the magic of Oz to a new generation of munchkins.

The other recent Oz excitement (for me anyway) is how we discovered Tommy Kovac. He has written (although not illustrated even though he totally could) an OZ comic called The Royal Historian of Oz --which was Baum’s name for himself, if you want a spot a trivia. This brings me to my next post. Stay tuned for more Oz awesomeness.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

20,000 Leagues Under the Sofa

This is how it happened:

Last night Spiderman lost his pen. He had been doing a crossword before dinner and after we ate our delicious Jamaican jerk tempeh and pineapple rice he wanted to finish his pooh-zle. That’s not a misprint--that’s what we call them in this family. Get over it. Anyway, he thought it might have slipped down the back of the sofa as sometimes that can happen to a pen.

He bade me get up so he could take off the sofa cushions. Nothing. He stuck his hand down the back and came up with a pen. But it wasn’t his pen. He kept reaching down the back of the sofa and he kept coming up with pens. But never his pen.  It was like a magic show by Bo Bo the magician (who could really pull his thumb off). Those of you who did not grow up in the 1970’s in Central Louisiana will not recall Bo Bo the magician, but he came faithfully to Cherokee elementary and you could see his dazzling magic show for the price of a quarter. Good times.

Anyway, every time Spiderman reached in and pulled out yet another pen I wanted to applaud. I was squealing with delight and he went all Queen Victoria “we are not amused” on me, but I thought it was hysterical. In the end he pulled out 3 pens, 1 pen lid, 1 pencil, 1 sharpie and 2 red markers. Plus a handful of almonds.

Spiderman would like me to make note of the fact that every single one of the afore mentioned items was lost by me. We almost have enough to start our own stationers giving WH Smith a run for its money. You never know.

Oh and fear not, oh best beloved reader, we did find his pen on a chair hiding under a stack of papers. I didn’t want you to go off and be anxious thinking Spiderman was not able to finish his

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

You (shark) me all night long

Just when it couldn’t get any weirder:

Heavy Metal Under the Sea: Sharks Act Calmer When Listening to AC/DC

The great white shark—the toothy, aggressive predator known for its “man eater” depiction in Jaws—has long been a source of fascination. But when it comes to musical preferences, great whites are just like the 50 million-plus humans who turned AC/DC's Back in Black into one of the best selling albums of all time.
They're fans.
According to Australian news outlet ABC, Matt Waller, a tour operator in Neptune Bay, discovered that great white sharks act more calmly when listening to music by AC/DC, the Aussie heavy-metal band that reached its peak during the 1980s. The two songs favored by the sharks: “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Back in Black.”
After Waller played the songs using underwater speakers, the sharks became “more investigative, more inquisitive and a lot less aggressive."
“They actually came past in a couple of occasions when we had the speaker in the water and rubbed their face along the speaker which was really bizarre,” he said.
It all started when Waller met up with some divers on Guadeloupe who played music in the water. Certain songs, they told Waller, seem to change the behavior of the sharks. With his company Adventure Bay Charters, Waller began experimenting with underwater speakers attached to diving cages. AC/DC became a smash hit for the sharks down under. The larger question is, why?
“Sharks don't have ears, they don't have long hair, and they don't head bang past the cage doing the air guitar,” Waller told Australian Geographic. So if the great whites aren't necessarily rocking out to AC/DC's greatest hits, what's the appeal? Waller notes that there is a connection between a song and the frequency and vibration in the water that the sharks enjoy.
Waller is not a shark expert, but this discovery is significant. By using music and not bait to attract sharks during tours, his company is helping cage-diving operations become more eco-conscious and environmentally sustainable.
What other albums will have the great white meandering like a rolling stone through Australia's serene waves? Waller thinks Zeppelin is the next crowd-pleaser, though his kids are banking on The White Stripes.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Well, I know where we're *not* going on holiday this year

Feared "deadly shark" spotted off Cornwall
A species of shark thought to be to blame for hundreds of attacks on humans has been reported off the coast of Cornwall.
One sighting of an oceanic whitetip shark was made by a fisherman who said his wooden boat was rammed as he fished for mackerel.
The harbour master's office in St Ives confirmed that a second person on a separate boat had also reported seeing one of the sharks a mile off shore.
The species is blamed for many attacks on humans and brought terror to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh last year when a 'rogue' whitetip reportedly killed a German woman .
A spokesman for the harbour master in St Ives said they were not "100%" sure if the sharks spotted were oceanic whitetips and stressed that people should not blow the reports "out of all proportion".
The pelagic - or ocean-going - species is usually found far further south in deeper waters away from the coast, with Portugal being the usual northern-most reach of its habitat.

Merde and double merde with a good helping of merde on the side!!!! This is my worst nightmare come true. I leave you with my favourite hymn by Monty Python that I sing to myself to calm my nerves in times of overwelming shark terrors. Well I say hymn.....

All things dull and ugly,
All creatures short and squat,
All things rude and nasty,
The Lord God made the lot.
Each little snake that poisons,
Each little wasp that stings,
He made their brutish venom.
He made their horrid wings.

All things sick and cancerous,
All evil great and small,
All things foul and dangerous,
The Lord God made them all.

Each nasty little hornet,
Each beastly little squid--
Who made the spikey urchin?
Who made the sharks? He did!

All things scabbed and ulcerous,
All pox both great and small,
Putrid, foul and gangrenous,
The Lord God made them all.


Sunday, 12 June 2011

Rain, rain go away

But this is Britain we are talking about. It has a faint drizzly rainy thing going on about 50% of the time. Just enough to make your glasses all spotty. I need someone to invent a pair of tiny windscreen wipers for my glasses.

It is funny how types of rain are described here by comparing them to bodily fluids. It is spitting means just a bit of rain, here and there, on and off, just a dribble. Pissing down with rain means quite heavily. Also chucking it down means quite heavy--but chucking is not a bodily fluid--unless you are really saying up-chucking it down.

I have long since given up on umbrellas. It is also windy here and every umbrella I've ever owned has either made me lift off the ground like Mary Poppins if a wind current catches under there or more likely turned my umbrella inside and out and crumpled it like a paper cup. My new rain gear involves a really enormous yellow poncho with a hood that makes me look a bit like Big Bird. But it works even if I look like a big dork.

Sunny days are rare here. In the US you say partly cloudy but in the UK you say partly sunny. Ever the optimists, we are.

I'm not sure it can be called partly sunny today as I have seen no actual sun. It has been between spitting and pissing. And bloody cold. But what's a bit of bodily fluid, eh?

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Travelling through time and space

Yesterday I went to London to do some shopping and then Spiderman met me at the British Library so we could go to a lecture on time travel.  It was a thoroughly entertaining venture for a mere £7.50 each. My favourite quote of the evening was "We are all time travelers moving at the rate of 24 hours a day."

Anyone who knows me knows that I am crap at directions. I can get lost going home if I try to go another route. FACT. Read here if you can't recall my extreme phobia of navigation:

However, I have managed to turn a corner recently through intense prayer and have recently managed to go to London on my own--not once but twice-- and actually not get lost. Amazing. As some of you know I have joined a folk dancing class and needed some beautiful, well fitting strappy shoes that were not made from leather. Tricky that one. So I figured go into Covent Garden as I know how to get there and do some shopping then meet up with Spiderman for the lecture. And let me tell you--I was very blessed indeed. I believe a person should count their blessings and so here they are:

  1. There was someone working the window at the train station so I didn't have to navigate the touch screen computer to buy my ticket. I much prefer buying from a person.
2. I remembered my q-pod (much lower tech version of i-pod) and so i had tunes on the way.
3. It was spitting with rain when I arrived but I had remembered my rain gear unlike our anniversary.
4. It stopped raining shortly after I arrived.
5. When I got out of the tube staion I did not even have to use the map Spiderman had given me as there was a big sign saying "Neal street this way."
6. The walk to the shop was as short and direct and easy-peasy as I recalled.
7. The man who worked there was useless and couldn't be fagged to do anything but the woman understanding my incredibly tiny feet issues (I wear a size 3/4 here--size 5/6US) went to downstairs to the store room and brought me up some size 3 black narrow strappy crocs in the Shyana style,en_ES,pd.html?cid=206&cgid=women-footwear which were perfect and will be breathable and comfortable and will look much like everyone else's dancing shoes.
8. It didn't take long at all so I had time to potter around Covent Garden market.
9. I passed an AMT coffee-which are really hard to come by. They make this delicious Chai Steamer that is chai tea and hot soya milk with cinnamon on top. Perfect for a chilly (on and off again) rainy day.
10. I had a really interesting chat with a woman who carves animals in solid acrylic cuboids. I bought a lovely hand carved spider in a web as a late anniversary gift for Spiderman. We had a long interesting talk about teaching in an inner city school--she saw my backpack had a school logo and her son is trying to teach in Hackney but is so discouraged that he will go back to university next year.
12. I went into Crabtree and Evelyn pretending to browse but really as a cunning ploy to use a sample of their luscious rosewater hand cream that retails for £16. Shhh, don't tell anyone.
13. I went to LUSH for a similar reason to try out samples so I can figure out how to copycat them at home and I struck up a conversation with a girl who worked there about being vegan. I was excited to see the vegan society logo on some of their stuff so we got to chatting and she is a vegetarian wanting to go vegan. I wrote down a whole bunch of stuff for her--products to try (nutritional yeast that you can make your own cheese sauce/parmesan with) and some websites and blogs to look at. It was great to be so helpful. She gave me tonnes of samples.
14. I passed a Big Issue seller (magazine sold by homeless people who have to buy the mag and then sell for a profit--it is a way to get out of being homeless and the Big Issue foundation offers help with lots of stuff) and he seemed so down on his luck so I stopped to buy and mag and chat. Our friend Shaun who used to sell in our town said that the greyer the sky the less people buy. He agreed and said when it rains hardly anyone buys. We had a nice chat and I was glad I had some change to buy the mag.
15. I stopped off at M&S (oooh aren't we posh) and picked up some healthy salad bowls of grains and veg and goodness to eat and they had wasabi peas which was a treat.
16. I met Spiderman at the British library and when we were waiting in the lobby before the lecture a nice lady name Penelope struck up a conversation. She's Canadian but her hubby's a Brit. We had a really interesting visit about the Sci-Fi exhibit and Sci-Fi books we like. I'm glad that we seem friendly and approachable.
17. The lecture was stellar and really made us think. I was so happy to be here in England, so close to London, with my beloved Spiderman by my side.
18. Not actually about yesterday but something that happened earlier in the week that I am thankful for: The haberdashery stall in the market where I buy my thread and ribbon and buttons etc did me a nice turn. I was there buying some red yarn and the woman offered me some free iron on interfacing because she had accidently cut a hole in it and it was unsellable. I was really touched and went home and wrote a thank you note and she almost cried. Which was silly really--but I'm glad she felt touched as well.

It was a great day and I had a meaningful conversation with 4 strangers. I was very blessed by them and I hope I blessed them as well.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

N-n-n-n-n nineteen

Today was our 19th wedding anniversary and I always get all soggy and sentimental remembering our wonderful wedding and all the events leading up to it--like JD's birthday party where we bonded over Frank Zappa and I ate all the cake. We had a wonderful day  despite the fact that it was pissing down with rain. Spiderman was volunteering at the London zoo as he does every other week and so I trained up to meet him so we could go out to eat at our favourite veggie restaurant Tibits. Read here if you want to know about the most delicious place in London.

Here are some interesting statistics:
I was 19 when we met.
We have been married 19 years.

We have been together for 22 years.
I was 22 when we got married.

Spooky, eh?
So thanks to Lottie H-F who played cupid like we were in junior high and phoned up Spiderman to tell him I liked him because we might never have gotten together. Happy days.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Inch by inch, row by row

You know how dreams seem perfectly reasonable when you are asleep and when you wake it is like QUOI? Last night I dreamed I was a part of an eco initiative to create a Garden Bus. They were essentially a regular double decker bus but half the seats had been given up to a garden. So they were in a raised flower bed and they had a greenhouse around them but it was porous so air could get in and out. The object was that all the people exhaling CO2 on the bus would help the plants grow and the air on the bus would be ultra oxygenated. It made sense at the time. The buses also seemed to be a bit on the TARDIS side--bigger on the inside--but it totally worked in the dream. Some buses were for flowers and some for vegetables. There was a promotion that you could get a free organic carrot if your bus ticket was more than £3. Oh and the gardens were tended by fairies and gnomes. I think this is where I realized it was actually a dream.

I leave you with the best example I know of of a dream that made sense when you were asleep. This is the brilliant song by one of my favourite bands The Dead Milkmen. I give you Dean's Dream.

It's a Friday night cookin' show
With a horse-meat dish
I had to stay in the freezer
All Thursday eve
Talkin' to that horse

I really had to go
Down to the sidewalk
The sky's all red
The street's filled with people
From a High School band

I escaped to a theatre
To see a girl
With long blonde hair
Right down to there
I escaped from a theatre to see a girl
With long blonde hair

We had to leave

We got in a tan van
Us two in the back
With Steve McGarrett
From Hawaii-Five-O
At the steering wheel
Speeding away we slide into a
Parking lot
And all in slow motion
These tough guys appear

We argue and fight
And one pulls a knife
He hits me in the back
But I'm all right,
I'm all right,

I'm all right,
I'm all right

He's all right

I escaped from a theatre
To see a girl
With long blonde hair
Right down to there
I escaped from a theatre
To see a girl..

Friday, 3 June 2011

Over by the Nettos

My mum was saying she didn’t really get the idea of the rabbits from Watership Down being chavs because she didn’t have a good understanding of what a chav is. Here is a little something we tossed off a few years back. It is well funny innit (see you’re talking like a chav already! Just substitute well for very and tack on innit for isn’t it and you’re half way there!) While it is taking the piss out of chavs it is also an homage to that favourite childhood rhyme Over in the Meadow. If you don’t know the original poem this will not seem as dead clever as it actually is so take a squinty here   before you read our mock up version. Oh and for all my American peeps there is a dictionary that follows for all the British words you might not know. Cheers!

Over by the Nettos with their gold jewellery on,
Lived a young mother Chav and her little Chavvie one.
“Bling!” said the mother.
“I bling!” said the one.
So they sparkled like the sun with their gold jewellery on.

Over by the Nettos in a tracksuit made of blue,
Lived a young mother Chav and her little Chavvies two.
“Hoodie!” said the mother.
“We hoodie!” said the two.
So they tried to look tough in their tracksuit made of blue.

Over by the Nettos with an alcopop so sweet,
Lived a young mother Chav and her little Chavvies three.
“Drink!” said the mother.
“We drink!” said the three.
So they binged ‘til they puked on an alcopop so sweet.

Over by the Nettos like a cheap little whore,
Lived a young mother Chav and her little Chavvies four.
“Tart!” said the mother.
“We tart!” said the four.
So they gave it up for free like a cheap little whore.

Over by the Nettos where the school kids skive,
Lived a young mother Chav and her little Chavvies five.
“Skive!” said the mother.
“We skive!” said the five.
So they all hung around where the school kids skive.

Over by the Nettos with a fizzy drink and chips,
Lived a young mother Chav and her little Chavvies six.
“Eat!” said the mother.
“We eat!” said the six.
So they all got fat on the fizzy drinks and chips.

Over by the Nettos with a bloke named Kevin,
Lived a young mother Chav and her little Chavvies seven.
“Steal!” said the mother.
“We steal!” said the seven.
So they visit him in prison, this bloke named Kevin.

Over by the Nettos on the Newington Estate,
Lived a young mother Chav and her little Chavvies eight.
“Skate!” said the mother.
“We SK8!” said the eight.
So they  skidded on their skateboards ’round the Newington Estate.

Over by the Nettos committing petty crimes,
Lived a young mother Chav and her little Chavvies nine.
“ASBO!” said the mother.
“ We ASBO!” said the nine.
So they terrorize the town by committing petty crimes.

Over by the Nettos with their dope head friends,
Lived a young mother Chav and her little Chavvies ten.
“Smoke!” said the mother.
“We smoke!” said the ten.
So they puffed on their fags with their dope head friends.

Nettos - a supermarket chain that sells very low priced unhealthy processed food such as 25 bags of crisps for £1.

'chav' (slang) - a young person, often without a high level of education, who follows a particular fashion; Chavs usually wear designer labels including the chav favourite 'Burberry', and if they’re girls, very short skirts, large hoop earrings and stilettos.

For more about chavs go to

bling bling (slang) - synonym for expensive, often flashy jewellery sported mostly by African American hip-hop artists and middle class Caucasian adolescents.
Alcopop - a sweet fizzy alcoholic drink usually with about 5% of alcohol by volume, which makes them rather stronger than most beers. They specifically target younger drinkers as they taste as if it does not contain alcohol.

skive - Doing anything but that which you are supposed to be doing during a specific time frame. e.g. Pretending to do something for which you are being paid for, such as a your job, but instead doing other things (like having a laugh, phoning your friends, hiding from your boss, surfing the internet, playing computer games, having a sly cigarette) that are totally unrelated or unconnected to that which is within your job description.

Council Estate - the British term for a neighbourhood of purpose-built housing operated by a government agency, often simply referred to as "projects". The Newington Estate was the one right outside the Ramsgate school.

ASBO - an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) is a civil order made against a person, as a result of persistent anti-social behaviour. The order bans a person from engaging in a specified form of anti-social behaviour, and/or bans them from entering a specified area. Breach of an ASBO can result in criminal penalties.
The definition of anti-social behaviour is wide-ranging. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 ( defines anti-social behaviour as behaviour that "caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household." Cases of orders have included:
·        Vandalism
·        Abusive behaviour
·        Harassment

Fag- British slang for a cigarette

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Sci- fi / horror / fantasy / geek

We had a big ole geek fest yesterday. We went in to the British library to see their (free) exhibit Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it followed by a talk by author Joe Hill in the Waterstones in Piccadilly. But first to save money I cooked up a big ole pot of Mac and Trees and Peas which is my new favourite quick but healthy meal. Basically you make this cashew cheese sauce (I like to increase the nutritional yest to 1/4 cup) while your wholemeal pasta boils. You throw all sorts of veg into the boiling pasta water--I used tenderstem broccoli and frozen petit pois (hence the trees and peas) plus half a diced red pepper and a sliced carrot. Then you drain the pasta and veg, stir in a tin of beans (I used haricot this time but chickpeas rock as well), pour over the cheese sauce and dinner is sorted. Sometimes I have also tossed in some chopped smoked tofu because I am hardcore like that, but alas I had no tofu in the fridge at the moment. After having full tummies so as not to have us spend money on crisps or other cheap and appealing but ultimately unhealthy junk food we proceeded to London.

The exhibit was awesome! All sorts of old manuscripts and books with Sci-Fi themes. The oldest being True History by Lucian of Samosata written in the 2nd century AD about a group of adventurers on a sea voyage who are pushed up a water spout and land on the moon! There were lots of what you'd expect--Jules Verne and HG Wells--which are cool to see what ideas they had as to how things would be in the future and how many of those are true. There were also whole sections on Time Slip--my personal favourite type of Sci-Fi--such as that fantastic book Kindred by Octavia Butler about a black woman in the late 1970s who is pulled through time repeatedly back to the pre Civil War South to save a badly behaved white red haired boy name Rufus who she comes to understand is her great great great etc grandfather and has to keep him alive (he is forever trying to get himself killed) long enough for him to have children with her great great great etc grandmother--a free black woman who does not want Rufus as a mate. She has to watch him rape and enslave this poor woman --and help him do it--otherwise she won't exist in the future. I also really adore the Time slips of Jack Finney--all that sliding into a more simple times in the past where men sat on the porch of the feed store and  drank lemonade and played checkers. it also featured books about Utopian or Dystopian worlds. I was pleased to see my favourite feminist text there --a short story called Sultana's Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain which was written in 1905! The men are all in harems and locked away and the women rule the country wisely and well. There is solar power and flying cars as well as the idea that women get all the work done in 2 hours. Men used to work a 7 hour day but in reality they wasted 6 hours smoking charoots. It is a great Sci-Fi what the future will be like as well as a tale about how there is no violence or crime in a female run society. You can read the full short story here: it was a fascinating exhibit--and did I mention it was free?

Then we were off to waterstones where we heard the amazing Joe Hill (who is son of Stephen King) read from the novel he is currently writing and answer questions about his books. I would recommend 2oth Century Ghosts if you like short stories--my favourite (and his!) is Pop Art about a boy and best friend who happens to have been been born plastic and inflatable. Sounds dumb but totally isn't--I can completely suspend my disbelief when I read it. I also recommend Horns which is about a nice young Christian man whose girlfriend is brutally raped and murdered and he is the suspect but it never comes to trial although the whole town believes he is guilty (he isn't) and one day he gets drunk and curses God and grows a pair of horns. At first the horns make people tell him their darkest desires--some scary stuff--and he uses them to find the real killer and seek revenge. It is a profoundly deep, spiritual and dare I say religious book--about the nature of good and evil. It ask the question if God hates sin and the devil punishes sinners--are they not somehow on the same team--like good cop / bad cop?  Lastly, I would urge you check out the comic book series gloriously illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez called Locke and Key. This is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.  Actually here are lots of keys--like the one that takes you anywhere or the one that helps you change gender or the one which opens your head where you can put in or take out things. This is amazing stuff and if you are at all a geek I urge you to check it out.

Joe Hill was funny and clever and he signed our books and comix for us and it was a great day out! Plus I used my Waterstones loyalty card (which i've never actually used for books just discounts) to get £2 off each ticket so we say Joe Hill for £3 each instead of £5! Cool!

We are geeks and we are proud
Stand up tall and say it loud!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Are we there yet?

Yesterday Spiderman and I took the train up past York to Harrogate to see an art exhibit of  Victorian painter John Atkinson Grimshaw who painted lots of scenes by moonlight giving them an eerie ethereal quality. Look here to see his complete works: He was completely self taught but had a lot of the Pre-Raphaelite in his works--the really looking carefully at nature in natural light, the attention to detail (painting every single individual leaf) and his love for Romantic literature (he had twins named Lancelot and Elaine after the poem by Tennyson.) His works have a near photographic look about them. Gorgeous.

It was a long train ride. we left Stevenage at 7:30 am and arrived in Harrogate about 10:45 after a small layover in York. It was a long journey but we entertained ourselves by playing games. We saw some rabbits on the hill beside the tracks in Stevenage and so we spent a great deal of time rewriting Watership Down as if all the rabbits were chavs.

The primroses were well over.
Fiver: Ooooo
BigWig: Oh for Frith's sake 'azel, what's Fiver on about?
Fiver: Bloody fields, innit.
Posh Kehaar: I say old chaps, that's some frightfully big water.
etc etc etc

It was a huge laugh. The game we used to play on long car trips was inserting the word FART into famous literature quotes. e.g. But soft! What fart through yonder window breaks! (Romeo and Juliet) or To fart or not to fart, that is the question. (Hamlet) Hours of entertainment.

Anyway, we mostly entertained ourselves quietly as we were on the quiet coach that wasn't supposed to have mobile phones or people with small children so we kept mum with Spiderman reading and me listening to tunes on my wee MP3 player which we call a q-pod (as opposed to an i-pod) as it is so old fashioned. It is basically a gloried memory stick with earphones, but it works. Spiderman got it for me for mega-cheap when i went into hospital last year. So I listened to my favourite tunes to pass the time.

But once we got there we had 7 hours to have fun. We did the Attkinson Grimshaw exhibit (which was free) and the paintings were *amazing* and then we did the other museum at the Pump House which had lots of interesting local stuff including letting you sample the local medicinal water from the wells--which reeked of sulphur. Pooh. We declined to drink it, but many people used to come there for spa treatments as the water was supposedly good for skin complaints. But boy it was whiffy.

We also pottered around some antique shops and sat on some benches in the park and enjoyed a picnic lunch I had packed and just checked out the town. We found a cool geek shop with comix and had a nice chat with the dude working behind the counter about Joe Hill's graphic novel Locke and Key which we are mad for.

Then it was time to train back home. We stopped off at M&S (Ooooh, aren't we posh?) and bought some healthy food--quinoa with chickpeas, edamame and pomegranate seeds with spinach and other nice veg thrown in a sweet lime dressing for me and Spiderman got giant couscous with roasted butternut squash and red pepper in a  dressing--they were 2 for £3. Plus I bought some fresh cut pineapple, melon and grapes. Then we trained back home munching and listening to tunes or reading until we were safely back home about 9:00pm.

It is amazing that you can train halfway across the whole country and back in a day--in Louisiana 4 hours travel and you'd still be in Louisiana. I love living here.