Saturday, 30 June 2012

I wanna be your hero

In my last post there was a link about a very special little boy named Sam who has leukemia and his family are doing their best to show him he is hero and (hopefully) a survivor. They are asking everyone who reads about him to pray--the family are Jewish but said to pray in whatever way you can, because God hears all our voices, no matter how we pray.

 They are also asking people to dress in their favourite superhero costume or tee-shirt and cape and take a photo of themselves and post it to him. His knows he is part of a superhero team that are all praying for him and even if they don’t know him, care about him. He is bored and restless in hospital and the mail cheers him up enormously.  Their blog says this:

 Take a photograph of yourself wearing your favorite superhero shirt
(or holding up their logo...or just smiling!)

Print out the picture.

Put it in an envelope and mail it to:

Sam Sommer, E571

Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

P.O. Box 1997

Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201-1997

We will hang all the pictures on Sam's wall...Team Superman Sam!

I printed off a photo of one of the tarantulas and have attached the Spiderman logo to her carapace with a friendly note and am sending that off on Monday when I get to the post office. I urge anyone who reads this to do the same.

It’s just a little thing, but it means so much to a little boy. C’mon, be a superhero.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Being a Superhero

One of the blogs I read called  Peas and Thank You   recently wrote about teaching VBS (that’s Vacation Bible School for those not familiar with this concept) The theme was Superheroes. I know what you’re thinking--but it isn’t just that God is the ultimate superhero, but that every person and every child has the ability to be a superhero in their own life by putting the needs of others above their own.

One of my favourite poems  by vegetarian mystic Teresa of Avila is:

 Christ has no body now on earth but yours;
Yours are the only hands with which he can do his work,
Yours are the only feet with which he can go about the world,
Yours are the only eyes through which his compassion can shine forth upon a troubled world.
Christ has no body on earth but yours.

We can look up to Him and make the world a better place or we can look down and focus only on ourselves. Do you know which one will truly bring happiness? It is a proven fact that doing good for others increases the feel good chemicals in our brain. Plus the more you spread goodness and light and love the more there is in the world and the more comes back to you. Levavi Oculos--lift up your eyes. I have this tattooed on my arm to help me always to remember this fact. If you approach every situation with the thought, “What can I give here?” instead of “What can I get  here?” how much more blessed will your life be?  I’m not talking about being a doormat, I’m talking about basic kindness.

There are lots of things you can do to make the world better, small things that make a big difference. Thanks to Peas and Thank You for the ideas.

  • Pack resealable plastic bags with toothbrush/paste, soap, socks, granola bars, etc. and drop them off at shelters or with the homeless.
  • Let someone go ahead of you at the bank or the grocery store.
  • Leave a kind, supportive comment on a blog or website
  • Donate gently used grown-up books to your local retirement homes and care facilities and used children’s books to libraries, churches and shelters.
  • Leave an Operation Beautiful note.
  • Go through your pantry for canned food/dried goods donations for the local food share (here are the most requested items).
  • Push your neighbor’s empty garbage cans from the curb to the side of their house.
  • Write a thank you note to someone who you appreciate (your mailman, garbage man, the local fire or police department, that extra nice grocery clerk).
  • Give a stranger, a friend, a child, a spouse (or all four) a sincere compliment.
  • Take a picture of yourself wearing a superhero shirt or logo (or any shirt + a huge smile) and send it to “Superman Sam,” a Wisconsin six year-old battling Leukemia

 Things like “pay it forward” or “random acts of kindness” fit into this category. Most of these things are easy to do and at little to no cost to us because we have so much—we are so wealthy with enough food and shelter over our heads, whilst many have none. We feel loved and supported whilst many feel alone. There is a remedy for that.

 Be the remedy.

Confident or delusional?

There is a fine line between being confident and being delusional. As I child I loathed the Olympics because I could not see that those athletes were any better than me. Wearing a leotard and doing a wonky cartwheel or roller skating down the driveway in a tutu made me feel graceful, talented, every bit as good as the gymnasts and ice skaters I saw on telly. No matter how my parents tried to explain that those people had trained for hours a day for years to be able to do that I just went, “Pfffft. I could do that.”
the junior Olympic team at work
Clearly just wearing a tutu does not make you an Olympic skater, but somehow the tutu transformed me (in my mind) from a scabby kneed girl to a beautiful, graceful athlete. Same with the leotard. I can recall on a separate incident that I could not effectively clean house without a bandana tied on my head a la Aunt Jemima. The right clothes can make you feel the part.

I am sure my family would have called me delusional, but I called it an unwavering confidence in my grace and beauty and talent.

What I *feel* like
what I *actually* sound like


Cut to today. I am a self taught ukulele player. I adore playing with all my heart and when I’m alone in our bedroom plinky-plinking away I feel like a rock goddess—like Joan Jett if she were to be a ukulele player.  I rock out on the ukulele—which you can do more than you realize. I enjoy playing and singing along to familiar songs, I enjoy the challenge of learning a difficult chord (although I am prone to wimping out and just subbing in a chord that it easier and fairly close to the actual chord--my theory is a ukulele always sounds  slightly out of tune so I hope these substitutions are less noticeable) I take great pride in the calluses on 3 of my fingers and often pretend to be Bryan Adams in the summer of ’69 and hum to myself, “played it ‘til my fingers bled” after a long plinky-plink session where my calluses all have a groove in them from pressing on the strings.

The reality is I have lots of confidence when I play for myself.  But I struggle to play for others as I realize that the vision of me as rock goddess are less than true and when others are listening I become nervous and make more mistakes. The truth is--I will never be truly great at this no matter how much I practice. That’s not running myself down, that’s just honest. Strumming is hard for me to keep a consistent up and down rhythm and after a year is showing few signs of improving with practice. My friend Clare describes the movement you need to do for strumming as “lazy handjob.”  There is--and perhaps always will be--a 3 second pause before I play the chord Em as I have to look at my fingers to get them into the correct place. I am not delusional, I know exactly how I sound when plinky-plinking away like a mad woman. But somehow knowing I am just average doesn’t knock my confidence--at least when I am alone--because I really enjoy playing.

My goals are to feel like I’m wearing the tutu--and by that I mean do it in front of God and everyone and even if I fall and skin my knee I still feel beautiful and graceful and talented.



Friday, 22 June 2012

The Wizard of Jaws

This is a new game we made up last night waiting outside the cinema when a man asked me (me of all people!) to take a photo of him next to the poster for the film Jaws--which some of you know is my worst nightmare film. I convinced my parents at age 6 that it would be a good idea to let me see and and I had nightmares for years after that. I still see a picture of a shark and shudder. Don't even think of asking me to go swimming in the sea after an up close and personal encounter with a shark at age 10.

 So when this dude said, "Would you take a picture of me in front of the film poster for Jaws?" I was all agreeable and friendly--mainly because I didn't think that is what he said!!! I thought he said Duel and I was thinking to myself, "When did they re-realease Duel?" Then, of course, I had to follow through.

It wasn't as bad as I thought. the image of that enormous shark coming up through the water to attack that lady swimming at the top was a familiar sight. For years as a child I obsessively drew that image by day in the hopes of exorcising the demon that would give me nightmares. Didn't work.

(at this point I had hoped to cut and paste a picture of the movie poster but the search scared me so bad as I caught sight of a gaping mouth, red gums and teeth--my heart is thumping away like a galloping horse--that I could only look at the screen over my shoulder and throught my fingers and so was not able to see an image clearly to do so.)

Anyway, Spiderman invented a game by combining my favourite film--The Wizard of Oz and my least favourite--Jaws. This is how it goes:

Cue music:
Scarecrow: And I'm sure to get a brain
Tin Man: A heart
Dorothy: A home
Cowardly Lion: The nerve
Brody: A bigger boat

So there you go. How many other films can you mash up?

Monday, 18 June 2012

Kukla, Fran and Asbo

We have a new game in our household based on a bizarre dream I had the other night. For my British friends--Kukla, Fran and Ollie was an American telly programme with puppets that first aired 1947-1957 back when TV was black and white. It was all ad libbed and very funny. Fran was the lady, Kukla the "human" puppet and Ollie the dragon.

In my dream it was Kukla, Fran and Asbo. For my American friends--an ASBO in an Anti-Social behaviour Order. If you are continually rude and obnoxious in public you can be slapped with one of these babies and you get a fine or put in jail for doing it again.

The game is played when you make up new dialogue for the characters.


Fran: I hear there's a steel drum band playing in market square today. Shall we go and listen?
Kukla: Yes lets. I love the sounds of an authentic Caribbean band.
Asbo: Shut the f**k up, you f**king wankers, I've got a hangover. Bleeeech. (sound of retching)

Then Spiderman invented Kukla, Fran and Oral. For my British friends who don't know Oral Roberts was a conservative, evangelical pioneer in TV evangelism.


Fran: Today we're going to see our friends Richard and Tommy.
Kukla:They're very excited to live in Vermont because the state of Vermont recognises same-sex marriages.
Oral: All queers burn in hell.

Then last night I thought of Kukla, Fran and Wally. He's known as the star of  "Where's Wally" books here--called "Where's Waldo" in the U.S.


Fran: Today we're going to the beach. We can't go without Wally. Where is he? Have you seen him?
Kukla: I don't know but he'll be easy to spot in his stripy jumper and bobble hat.

Now you can play at home too!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Chocolate Cherry Dingle Dooty

Which is a name we just made up (based on the funny banter before and after that subversive trivia computer game You Don't Know Jack!) for a chocolate cherry ice-cream I made in my beloved Vita-Mix blender. Cherries are £1.50 for a pound in weight at the market right now.

Here’s what you have to do. *warning* don’t try this with your regular blender or you will burn your motor out.

1. Rinse cherries and let them dry well

2. Stone your cherries

3.  Put cherries in the freezer overnight.

4. The next day add 1 cup chocolate plant based milk to your blender, ¼ cup sugar and the frozen cherries. You can add 2 TB unsweetened coca powder as well to make it extra chocoate-y.

6. Then put the lid on and use the tamper to push the cherries into the blades with all your might while you blend on high and in about 1 minutes you get this:

7. Scoop it into bowls--it easily feeds four people (or 2 rather greedy people)

I think this may be our new favourite and will be a treat to look forward to when cherries are in season and  cheap.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Pussycat, Pussycat, where have you been?

from the Welwyn Hatfield Times

I've been to Hitchin to see the Queen!

Do you remember that old nursery rhyme? Well yesterday it came true for me! The Queen came to Hitchin! She was here as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebration and to give an award to our volunteers at the wonderful British Schools Museum which is the only surviving Lancasterian school in the world and to meet some local shopkeepers at places like Halsey's Deli which was opened in 1854.

The Good: All the schools were invited and because my school has special connections with the British Schools Museum we got a prime location. Plus 30 of our children were chosen to dress as Victorian school children and stand closer to the Queen when she came. The day arrived and amazingly the weather was good. Blue sky and not too cold or too hot.
from The Comet

The bad: The Queen was due to arrive in Hitchin train station at 10:30  and then come in her fancy motor car with giant crest on top like a Mohawk hair-do--just so you would know it was the Queen riding around--by 10:45. But streets were being filled up behind the barricades by 8:00am and schools had to be there by 9:15 to be in place. We registered the kids and then high tailed it out of there  and walked 200 children in a big crocodile down to the town centre. It is a VERY long wait for little ones, outside with nothing to do and no snacks or water and having to stand in one place for 2 hours. Everyone had plastic Union Flags and all sorts of games were devised (and stopped immediately) such as "who could spit through the hollow straw-like handle" and "use your flag like a sword and poke your neighbour"--we did allow them to play their flags like a trumpet as the brass band played, we're not total meanies.

from Heart radio

The Ugly: We did everything right and our children were beautifully behaved. However I cannot say that of other schools. Several schools arrived over an hour after we did and then wanted us to move over so their children could get a better view. there was pushing and shoving with people crushing our children into the barricades and name calling when we didn't agree to "squat down and let them see"--and that was from the TEACHERS! We were told that we should move back and let their children in and we refused. If they wanted to get a better view they should have come early like we did. Besides we were put in this spot by the police and told to stay here and so we were not moving. Other schools--children and teachers--shoved and insulted us, but we stayed firm. Our school also seemed to be the only one telling children off for behaving badly as all around us children from other schools spoke rudely to adults and ran around unsupervised whilst their adults stood and did nothing--or worse encouraged them to do so. We behaved with dignity and they were all little shits. I was proud to be from Wilshere Dacre School.

The actual visit and viewing was very brief for us--we saw her get out of the car, saw her walk in front of us and then she disappeared down the line to speak to others and our view was blocked. The Queen was lovely, smaller than you imagine, and looked like your sweet old granny in her Easter best.

I was thrilled to be a part of it and proud to be a British citizen. God save the Queen.

Monday, 11 June 2012

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Ice-Cream!

 I love my Vita-Mix. One of the things it does really well is make sorbets and ice creams. Seriously, sorbet and ice cream made in a BLENDER? You gasp, That’s not possible! But oh yes my friend, it is with a Vita-Mix. Another reason you should get this amazing blender. I know they cost a packet, but their industrial strength motor blends just about anything--and you can make ice cream!
 In summer when strawberries are cheap (around £1 a punnet of 500g--roughly one lb in weight)   we buy some and freeze them and make ice cream.
frozen berries

Here’s what you have to do. *warning* don’t try this with your regular blender or you will burn your motor out.

1. Check your punnet for any bad or squishy berries

2. Wipe them clean with a damp cloth like you would mushrooms

3. Don’t bother to hull as the Vita-Mix will puree those leaves

4. Put punnet in the freezer overnight.

5. The next day add 1 cup plant based milk (we dig Oatly) to your blender, ¼ cup sugar, 2 tsp vanilla essence and the frozen berries. This makes “ice cream” but if you want a “sorbet” add 1 cup water, half a peeled lime and ¼ cup sugar and the frozen strawberries.
ready to blend
6. Then put the lid on and use the tamper to push the berries into the blades with all your might while you blend on high and in about 1 minutes you get this:
all blended up
7. Scoop it into bowls--it easily feeds four people (or 2 rather greedy people)

Beautiful and fresh tasting. Lovely for warm summer days…not that we’ve actually had any of those lately, but we live in hope.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

I’m cuckoo for cocoa (or maybe just plain cuckoo)

There are many needless vanities I have left behind. I wear plain clothes to help me focus on my spiritual journey rather than my outward appearance, I don’t wear any make up except some lip balm and I don’t shave my legs or my pits. That’s right, I’m a hairy fairy. I do still pluck the witchy hairs that seem to grow out of my chin as I get older, I do have some pride left. But mostly I am happy to be naturally me and I am radiant with happiness and the love of God and rude health and so I glow.

But hair seems to be my downfall.  When I went to plain dress I seemed to focus all my negative vanity issues on my hair. My hair is fine and straight and refuses to lie down where it should or stick up in a punky style the way I want it to in this damp climate that we call England.  My lowest point was Spiderman catching me checking myself out in the back of a spoon--the only reflective surface I could find. Sigh….so I started wearing a head covering. It really did help because now the part of my hair that refuses to behave cannot be seen. Problem solved, right?

Not really. I have issues with hair colour. I really, really, really hate my natural hair colour. It is a mouse brown the exact shade of a cardboard box. It has a way of making me look a bit pale with dark shadows under my eyes. I feel ugly when I see it. Growing up my mother constantly voiced her opinion that it didn’t suit me. I have no idea if it really suits me or not--maybe I am just really pale with dark shadows under my eyes. But having been told all my life that it is wrong I have a very hard time shaking that feeling. Spiderman says I am the loveliest woman in the world and I agree with about 95% of that. Except for my hair colour I seem to always add as a mental addendum to every compliment he gives me. How sad is that?

I have been dying my hair since I was 15. I’m now 42. You do the maths. It has been various shades of red from shiny conker to Ronald McDonald orange (that was an accident!) as well as black for a while in my “goth“ phase, blonde for a while the first year we were married, purple for a while in the 10th grade (I got put into in-school suspension for that one--apparently my hair colour was against the dress code) but mostly in the last few years I have been a medium brown called “golden chestnut.”  In recent years I have switched from the cheap ones that you buy at the chemist full of nasties to the one you buy for twice as much at the health food shop that has considerably less nasties, but still has its share of them.

I was dyeing my hair every 5 weeks at £9 every time. That’s just about £90 a year. I am in frugal mode once again so I set about trying to think if there was a way to tame the beast that lurks within (who keeps saying ugly stuff about my hair) and a healthier, cheaper solution.

A year or so ago I had discovered that you can boil some tea, sage and rosemary and let it cool, strain out the bits and then thicken it with cornstarch and heat it up until it became a gel, then let it cool, then rub it into your hair, then wrap with cling film, then let it sit for 30 minutes, then rinse and it made your hair darker. Whew! Did you get tired of reading all those steps cos I sure as shit got tired of doing all that because you had to do it EVERY WEEK. I tried making up a big batch to last a couple of weeks but it went all funky as it had no preservatives. So I went back to old standby of “golden chestnut” in a £9 box. But now at week 6 with no golden chestnut to be found I decided to try the natural way again.

So I went back and did a bit more research. Thank you Google. I read that the same mixture of black tea, sage and rosemary could be made, strained and put in a spray bottle to cover grey by “staining“ it. Just make a new batch once a week. It makes sense--think how tea stains the bottoms of mugs.  Hmmm… I don’t actually have grey yet but that might be useful. Then I read that if you mix equal amounts of cocoa powder and shampoo together to make a frosting and you wash your hair with it, it will brown up lighter hair. Hmmm.. That sounded really good so after exercise I tried it and followed it up with a spray of the tea and herb solution.

Ya know what? It worked.  It is not dark like I dyed it, but it *is* slightly warmer…slightly browner…slightly nicer. And this is just day one. I think the colour will get richer and darker with cumulative use.

Now what I really wish is I didn’t feel like I needed to do this--but I do. Overwhelmingly I do.  Lately I have been thinking about what I need to feel happy. Darker hair makes me happy and then helps me to go on and do other things that make me happy like play the ukulele and not sitting around all po-faced every time I catch sight of myself in the mirror.

And cocoa powder and tea and herbs are much better for my body as well as my purse. So I guess I am cuckoo for cocoa or as Spiderman often reminds me--just plain cuckoo.

Friday, 8 June 2012

White(ish) Pizza

I had a craving for pizza the other day, but I decided to forgo our regular toppings (red sauce, onions, peppers, olives, pineapple, smoked tofu) and make what is known as a “white pizza”

Use whatever crust you like. I make my own GF one that is quite hardy and whole grain. It is really good and wholemeal-y but not as doughy as a white bread crust would be. Do what you like. Use a store bought crust to make it go quicker. Whatever. But follow the directions for baking it on the label. Because I make my crust from scratch it has to bake 15 minutes on its own before you add the toppings so while you are making the crust and baking it, slow cook a thinly sliced white onion and for the last few minutes add some thinly sliced mushrooms to the pan to wilt them. Set aside. Then when the crust is half baked and take it out and do this:

 1. Spread hummus where the red sauce would be

2. Add your previously caramelised white onion and mushroom

3. Add leftover cooked new potatoes, thinly sliced

Then bake for about 10 minutes, remove from oven and add some diced smoked tofu and lots of vegan parmesan cheese then bake for 5 more minutes. I do this because the tofu can burn.

 That’s it. Easy peasy and a new take on pizza.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Switch on the Night

Last night we heard on the radio of the death of author Ray Bradbury at age 91.  Spiderman and I are big fans of his work.  Have you read Fahrenheit 451?  It was published in 1953, depicts a future society in which books are banned. In the end there are people who ARE the book--they have memorised an entire work that is meaningful and they become the living book--keeping the words alive in their hearts despite the oppression.

The story, which gets its title from the temperature at which paper supposedly ignites, proved to be uncannily prophetic - the characters are addicted to television soap operas, while miniature headphones, known as "ear thimbles", provide a constant stream of music and news. Isn't that freaky?

My favourite short story was called All Summer In a Day.
From Wiki:
The story is about a class of school children on Venus, which in this story is a world of constant rainstorms, where the sun is only visible for two hours every seven years.
One of the children, Margot, moved to Venus from Earth five years earlier, and she is the only one in her class to remember sunshine, since it shone regularly on earth. She describes the sun as "a penny", or "like a fire in the stove", and the other children, being too young to have ever seen it themselves, refuse to believe her accounting of it. Out of jealousy, she is bullied and ostracized by the other students and finally locked in a closet during the time the sun is due to come out.
As the sun is about to appear, their teacher arrives to take the class outside to enjoy their only hour of sunshine, and in their astonishment and joy, they all forget about Margot. They run, play, skip, jump, and prance about, savoring every second of their newly found freedom. "It's much better than sun lamps!" one of them cries.
Suddenly, a girl feels a raindrop on her. Thunder sounds, and they run back inside. Then, one of them remembers Margot, who is still locked in the closet. They stand frozen ashamed for what they have done, unable to "meet each other's glances."
The precious sun has come and gone, and because of their despicable act, Margot has missed it. They walk slowly and silently towards the closet, and let her out.

Scroll down to the bottom of the Wikipeadia page and there is a link where you can open it as a word document.

Switch on the NightThere is a lovely picture book lovingly illustrated by Diane and Leo Dillon called Switch On The Night. According to Amazon:
A LONELY LITTLE boy who is scared of the dark sits in his room alone, with only light for company, until a little girl named Dark appears and shows him that light switches don’t just switch off the light—they switch on the night. And to switch on the night is to switch on the stars, the moon, the crickets, and the frogs. With the Dillons’ dreamlike illustrations, Switch on the Night is sure to reassure any child who has felt afraid of the unkown; the story will also impress adult readers with its imaginative approach to understanding that which is different.

His work was hugly influential and still continues to be read today in classrooms all over the world because as the man himself put it,
Do you know why teachers use me? Because I speak in tongues. I write metaphors. Every one of my stories is a metaphor you can remember.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

All you need is love

 Yesterday was our 20th wedding anniversary! Hard to believe! The time has really flown by! We have had our share of ups and downs--good times and bad, sickness and health, for richer for poorer and all that. But always, he is there by my side and not expecting me to be anyone but who I am. I don't have to pretend to be someone else, I can just be my weirdo self and he can be his and we have the perfect weirdness together.

When we were getting ready to be married all those years ago something happened that changed my life. We had gone to visit my grandparents for Easter and my grandfather said something to me that struck me in the solar plexus.

He said: You'll be married in a few months and then there will be one less Tisdale in the world. All that will be left are me, your Sweetie (my gran) your parents. There are no more after that.

I went home and pondered his words in my heart and I  thought that I really loved being a Tisdale. I loved who I was and I did not want to change my identity. I sure as shit didn't want to fall into that old fashioned trap where you not only lose your last name, but your first name as well.  How many of my grandparent's generation called themselves Mrs Husbands First and Last name??? That was like totally losing sight of who you were as if you weren't a whole person without a husband.

A few weeks later my grandfather dropped dead of a heart attack picking up pecans in his front garden and his words were there in my brain--There was one less Tisdale in the world. I was trying to think of a way to broach the subject with Spiderman. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but I felt I needed to keep my name so I could still be me. but as always, that man knows me better than I know myself. He came to me and said, "I don't think you should change your name when we get married." So that was that. Or was it?

You cannot imagine the amount of grief we got over it in backwards Louisiana. Friends at our baptist college told me how Spiderman (and his family) would never respect me again for my selfishness.

We did it anyway. But it took an act of congress to get them to print it correctly in the local newspaper. Only because I had a friend working there did it get flagged up and not once, not twice but THREE times did someone phone and double check that I wasn't to be listed as Mrs Spiderman under my wedding photo but Mrs Spidergrrl.

Then when we tried to open a joint bank account we were refused until we brought our marriage licence in to prove we were not "living in sin." We brought it in and requested that our cheques be listed as:
Mrs Spidergrrl
Mr Spiderman
And you know what? 6 weeks later when our cheques arrived they said Mr and Mrs Spiderman. We phoned the bank furious and they said they thought we had made a mistake. I mean we were married, right? So of course we had the same last name.

Once a lady at Walmart refused to sell us birth control because the cheques has different last names and we weren't wearing wedding rings. Seriously.

Sometimes hotels would not give us a room unless we showed our marriage licence. it was a nightmare--but we never gave into the pressure to be "normal."

So this year to commemorate 20 years of marriage--and 23 together--I celebrated with a new tattoo and Spiderman celebrated by rolling his eyes and humming circus music.
Spiderman once said to me that we didn't need the same last name to unite us--all we needed was an ampersand. So that's what I got. |It is beautiful but still in the scabby stage at the moment, so I'll take a photo later when it heals.

We also celebrated by training into London, having a slap up meal at our favourite veggie restaurant Tibits and then hanging out at geek shops like Forbidden Planet and GOSH! Comics before heading off to the theatre to see the Olivier award winning musical of Roald Dahl's Matilda.

It is true--all you need is love..and an ampersand.

Monday, 4 June 2012


Every week I try to bake us a low fat, low sugar, high protein treat. This week it is Duck flaps so called because the oats make it kinda like a flapjack. Plus the word "duckflaps" sounds like a swear word. heh heh

Don’t those look yum?

 You can make then with regular flour but I make mine gluten free. I do a big mix of  the following flours:

3 cups buckwheat, 3 cups quinoa, 3 cups brown rice, 3 cups chickpea

I chose this mix as they are all high protein and high iron and calcium and full of vitamins. Plus I can buy them all locally. I had a love affair with teff flour as it is soooo nutritious but it is hard to find and I’ve run out. If I ever see it again I’ll snatch it up, but until then all the other flours will suffice.


Preheat the oven to 180C/375F

Grease a rectangular 8 X 12 inch pan

In a bowl mix the following dry ingredients:

 1 cup sifted wholemeal pastry flour (or 1 cup sifted GF flour blend)

½ cup oats

1/3 cup vanilla Demerara sugar (or regular sugar and add 2 tsp vanilla essence to the liquid ingredients. But vanilla sugar is really easy to make yourself--see note)

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp (smoked) sea salt

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp allspice

¼ tsp nutmeg

½ cup broken walnuts

¼ cup sunflower seeds

¼ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup dark chocolate chips

 In the blender combine:

1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 ½ cups home cooked chickpeas. But also run water over them like you are rinsing them, the extra moisture helps)

¾ cup pitted medjool dates--about 6-7

¼ cup liquid sweetener--I use Lyle’s golden syrup as it has a buttery taste

1 ¼ cups water

2 TB flax meal

1 TB apple cider vinegar

Optional--2 tsp vanilla essence if you didn’t have vanilla sugar

 Blend until a smooth puree then add to the dry ingredients. Stir to combine and then pour into greased pan. Bake 14 minutes then take the pan out and rotate it round so both sides cook evenly and put it back in for another 14 minutes. Let cool then slice into a 3 X 4 grid to make 12 slices.

Making vanilla sugar is so easy it is worth doing at home. It can be hella-expensive to buy, but cheap to make yourself.

1. Get a container

2. Fill it with sugar--we like Demerara

3. Get some vanilla pods and slit them open so the seeds are exposed and insert them in the sugar

4. Leave it alone for a few weeks.

5. Open it up and the sugar will be darker and more fragrant.

6. You can keep the same vanilla pods in for YEARS just keep topping up with more sugar and stirring to mix. About once a year I add another pod if I’ve got one. Or not.

 You can make your own vanilla essence by adding vanilla pods that you slit into vodka or brandy and letting it sit for a month to infuse. Top up when low and let infuse again. Or have 2 on the go--bottle A to use and bottle B that got low and  is maturing so that when bottle A runs low you top up with alcohol and start using bottle B. Make sense?

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Can Ketchup Count as One Of Your 5 a Day?

I don’t see why not. Ketchup is bursting with tomatoes --Heinz boasts 132g of tomatoes per 100g of ketchup--and tomatoes are full of lycopene which not only is very good for you, but will turn you into a werewolf. Just kidding. Or am I? Eat lots of ketchup and wait for the next full moon and just see if I’m lying. 

 I have a strange relationship with ketchup--sometimes I am indifferent, sometimes I can’t stop thinking of ways to use it. I am currently in one of those Mmmmm Ketchup moments. Every couple of weeks Spiderman ambles down to the local chippy and buys us some lovely fat chips all hot and fried in sunflower oil and wrapped in plain paper. (that’s like “steak fries” to my American peeps) Yum. I normally eat them the British way with salt and malt vinegar (this is really good if you’ve never tried it) but recently I have had the Ketchup Craving. 

 Imagine my surprise when I found this recipe for Quick Ketchup Chickpea Curry in a Hugh  Fearnley-Whittingstall cookbook. He is an omnivore chef whom I really admire because he is very against factory farmer and he is a meat reducer. He also raises and kills his own meat--I’ve always thought that if you want to eat meat you should be willing to raise it and kill it yourself or you shouldn’t eat it. I think most people (including myself) don’t have the bottle for that. That’s why people like to be disconnected from their food-- if they knew the conditions that animals were forced to live in it would turn their stomachs. Ignorance is bliss. He once made a comment about eating puppies that had loads of people up in arms, but what he was saying was “why are some animals considered food and some animals considered pets?” I totally agree. Why does our society think only cute animals deserve compassion?   Anyway, I digress. I adapted his recipe a bit to add more veg and here is my version.

Quick Ketchup Chickpea Curry

Preheat oven to 200C/400F

Peel and dice a small sweet potato

Coarsely chop a red onion

Coarsely chop a red pepper

Spray with oil, grind on some pepper, sprinkle on up to 1 tsp of red pepper flakes.

Roast for 30 minutes, stirring half way.

Meanwhile start cooking some sort of grain like rice or quinoa.

After you stir the roasted veg heat a pot on the stove top with a smidge of oil and add:

Thumb sized piece of gingerroot, finely chopped or grated

1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated

Cook for 1 minutes then add:

1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 ½ cups if you cook from scratch)

2 tsp curry paste or curry powder

5 TB ketchup

Enough water to make a thick sauce--about ¼ cup

Then add salt and pepper to taste

When the veg are roasted stir them in and add a squeeze from a quarter of a lemon. The lemon bit is optional. The original recipe said the juice from half a lemon but I thought it made it too sour--ketchup is quite vinegary.

It was indeed quick and easy. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall also says you can make it more like a chilli by subbing kidney beans for the chickpeas and adding 2 tsp smoked paprika instead of the curry paste. We’ll try that some other time and see.