Saturday, 19 April 2014

Upwardly Mobile

Our friends Iain and Rachel are having a baby. I am not normally a pee-pee baby sort of person. As the comedian Bec Hill said, “Why do people want you to hold their babies? There is nothing else that you could give someone to hold that came out of your vagina that is socially acceptable.” 

Only one other time have I been this excited about a baby and that was when my friend Cereal was pregnant with Zoria. I showed up at the hospital dressed as a Pilgrim (I came straight from school) and the rest, as they say, is history.

I am that sort of excited again because I love Iain and Rachel. They were kind enough to let me make their wedding invitations and do a reading at their wedding and so I was keen to do something special for the Bebé . I know in several years time I’ll be “Auntie Spidergrrl” and the child will come round and see the spiders and we’ll have a craft day or do some cooking together, but in the mean time I wanted to make something nice.

So I made a mobile to hang over the crib. Which would be pronounced Mow-Bull in the US, but is apparently pronounced Mow-Bile in the UK. Whatever. I can completely see the appeal of one of these. They are mesmerising to watch. This from the woman who could spent hours entranced watching a cement mixer at work. But I digress. 

The nursery  is yellow as we don’t know if the  Bebé is a girl person or a boy person yet. The theme is Winnie the Pooh and so we decided on a rain cloud mobile. You know…I’m just a little black rain cloud and Tut tut! It looks like rain and all that.

Iain says the child needs to look at rain clouds as that is the predominant weather here in the UK.

So here it is. Some lovely Krishna coloured rain clouds (they are a beautiful grey with a hint of purple) and some sparkly drip drops as well as a friendly rainbow in the middle just to brighten things up.

We don’t want the poor kid to get Seasonal Affective Disorder too soon.

In six weeks (give or take) we will welcome you to the world. Every time your tiny eyes look up you will see something made with lots of love and care and you will feel safe and happy knowing you are loved so very, very deeply.

Welcome to the world. 

Friday, 18 April 2014

In Honour of My Dad

Obey. Submit. Consume. Watch TV.

Do not question authority. Money is your God.

No independent thought. No imagination.

They live. We sleep.

It came. Last night when we got back from the comedy club it was here waiting for us. Spiderman, knowing I was feeling a bit down about my dad, surprised me with a DVD of John Carpenter’s They Live. It is the *perfect* film to watch and think of my dad as we watched it several times together. He debated about getting C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) which tried to be serious or its sequel  C.H.U.D. II (Bud the CHUD) which did not try in any way, shape or form to be serious, but he finally settled on They Live.


Perfect choice.

Do you know this film? The blurb on the back of the DVD reads:


Professional WWF wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper plays John Nada, a homeless, unemployed, construction worker who discovers a pair of sunglasses that when worn reveal a world run by upwardly mobile, capitalist yuppie aliens intent on keeping the human race sedate and brainwashed with subliminal messages fed through advertising and the media. Luckily for us, all John Nada wants to do now is chew gum and kick ass, and he’s all out of  gum. 


They Live is one of John Carpenter’s most accomplished films. An action packed, satirical, sci-fi adventure and socio-cultural critique on the decline of spiritual values and the rise of consumerism within modern society. It also included one of the longest fist fights in cinema history.


You see what I mean?



We’ll watch it every year from now on in honour of my Dad.

Thanks Spiderman.

actually a picture of George W Bush--I always suspected he was an alien

Edited to add: the plot for They Live is actually based on a (very) short story called Eight O’clock In The Morning by Ray Nelson and you can read it here:

Monday, 14 April 2014

Daddy's Girl

I was always a daddy's girl.

That man shone like the sun for me.

The patience he showed as we tried to play backyard baseball when I clearly have no natural athletic ability at all.

The one time I managed to accidently hit the baseball with the bat and it went over our neighbour's fence a few feet away was cause for celebration. He took me to Baskin Robbins for ice cream and told me that I could say "I hit it over the fence" and that I never had to actually say which fence.

The infinite patience he showed trying to teach me (and later Spiderman) how to drive. It is a wonder we actually got out of there alive. We almost didn't. The first time I ever went driving after I got my learner's permit, I crashed our family car into a fire hydrant.

He kept me company all through the lonely Friday nights of my teenage years when I had no date or place to go. We had pizza and watched crap horror film or old westerns and laughed.

The way he was willing to do any project with me. If I had an idea we would toddle over to Lowes in his pick-up truck and buy lumber and then we would build it in the back garden.

He loved all my school children vicariously and bought them things like little plastic spider rings or their own individual miniature pumpkin at Halloween.

He used to say to me every day --and make me recite it back to him--these three important things:

1. Know that I love you

2. Check your facts

3. Stand up for what you believe in

So I guess I am still a daddy's girl.

I know, without a doubt that i am loved and I still feel that love despite our parting.

I am so careful to think before I speak and be armed with truth and not assumptions.

I am out there fighting the good fight, speaking up for the animals and people who have no voice. I'm getting ready for an anti-nuclear protest in the summer. I am foolish enough to believe that I can make a difference in the world.

Just like my dear old dad.

GLT--it has been 14 years since you died, but you are always in my heart.

I am still your girl.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Pea and Mint Risotto with Mushroom Bacon


There is an episode of the Young Ones where Neil the hippy serves dinner and tries to pass it off as risotto, but it is actually snow. This is definitely not snow--but a really delicious and cheap risotto from the cookbook A Girl called Jack. 

She uses regular rice instead of more expensive Arborio rice but I still have some Arborio rice in my cupboard so I used that.

It was a really delicious risotto made with white wine, frozen peas. and some fresh mint and parsley from my windowsill.  The juice of half a lemon at the end really brightened the flavours but the real star was the mushroom bacon.

I know…vegans will make bacon out of anything. Some people would argue why make a fake version of something that you don’t want to eat, but my answer is that I want that






Flavour that bacon used to provide.  I don’t want to eat the dead body parts of a pig. I just want flavour. 

Jack says, “To make this dish of ricy goodness even more delicious, stir in some scraps of bacon along with the sliced onion.”

Normally I would buy a packet of smoked tofu for this. The brand we like costs about £3.00 and I can stretch it over two meals making each meal cost £1.50 as far as the smoked tofu part goes. That doesn’t count the cost of all the other ingredients.

I had some mushrooms in the fridge and so I decided to try a recipe for mushroom bacon because it would be cheap. I had the mushrooms and all the other ingredients. Would it taste good? Would it be sufficient to replace smoked tofu which was replacing bacon?

I thinly sliced half a pounds worth of  button mushrooms (this was about 6 mushrooms for me)  and drizzled them with 1 TB tamari soy sauce, 1 tsp liquid smoke and 1 tsp toasted sesame oil.

Then I baked them in a hot oven--425F/220C for 12 - 15 minutes.

They shrank up really small and dried out which intensified their flavour. The taste was rich and savoury and  *amazing*  and they really added an intense pop of flavour into the risotto. The smell also lingered in the kitchen in a lovely way as well.

I cannot believe how good this was. I always have tamari, toasted sesame oil and liquid smoke in my kitchen and it needed very little of the ingredients to make this work. It also only needed about 50p’s worth of mushrooms to achieve this which is a HUGE savings.

I am not anti-soy but I know that tofu is still a processed product which is why we only eat it about once a week--if that. I prefer to use whole foods in our diet and mushrooms fit the bill.

Plus it’s cheap. We may still splurge on smoked tofu every now and then, but now I know that for 50p worth of mushrooms I can make smoky “bacon” why would I?

edited to add:
I wanted to check to be sure the magic would work in a soup so we have eaten Caldo Verde (Portuguese potato and kale soup) for the last two nights. Again, the smoky mushroom bacon worked its magic and the second day over cornbread (ain’t nothin’ wrong with that) it was absolutely *gorgeous*. The marinated mushrooms added richness to the vegetable broth in an Mmm, mmm, mmm way.

I’m sold.


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Keeping the vampires at bay


We love garlic. I love the taste of fresh garlic. I have been known to consume an entire bulb of roasted garlic by squeezing the cloves directly into my mouth. FACT.

But I do hate chopping garlic. I like it finely minced and it is a faff to do. I used to have a mini chopper that would do it for you, but it has ceased to work and so I could never chop it as fine or as quickly as I would like. I ended up leaving it out of recipes as the onions, carrot and pepper would be sautéing in the pan and I would be trying to peel a clove and dice it small and then would give up and start to swear as the kettle had just boiled or the oven timer had gone off and the next stage of the meal was ready to happen and I hadn’t finished the fecking garlic yet.

Has that ever happened to you? I tried buying a jar of pre-chopped garlic in white vinegar  but it always had a vinegar-y taste. Then I came across an idea form my old friend A Girl called Jack. Her cookbook suggested doing several bulbs all at once and chopping them in the food processor with a splash of oil and then freezing ice cube trays.

I bought 4 medium sized bulbs of  garlic for £1 and set about peeling them. I tried the technique of shaking them like a cocktail to get the papery skins off. This didn’t remove the skins altogether but it did make them much easier to remove. Especially since I had about 40 cloves to deal with.

I put half the cloves (2 bulbs worth) in the food processor with a splash of yellow rapeseed oil (canola oil for my American peeps) and then blended it up.


Then I blended it up and added the rest of the cloves (the other two bulbs) in and blended them up to soak up the rest of the oil.


I was left with a finely minced garlic in oil that I could freeze. I just love the bright yellow colour from the oil.


I managed to fill in 25 ice cube compartments and then froze them for later.


The resulting cubes popped out with ease the next day and were stored away in an airtight container in the freezer--just like my cubes of smoky chipotle peppers in adobe sauce.

The result: Perfect. Cooking is a breeze. I just pull out a cube or two and sauté in the pan. The garlic tastes good--there is no prep time which suits me. The oil melts into the pan and adds flavour to the food.

It took me about 45 minutes but should last for about a months worth of meals so I think it was entirely worth it. 

So thanks Jack for another tip!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Spidergrrl, or the Pot of Basil

I love my husband. He knows me well and he knows what tickles my funny bone. He said that one reason our marriage runs so smoothly is that I am so easily delighted.

As blog followers know I’ve been trying to grow a herb garden on the kitchen window. I have bought plants and replanted them into terracotta pots and have managed to keep them alive for nearly a month (which has to be a record for me).

After payday I purchased a pot of aromatic basil for the windowsill garden. I dutifully replanted it in a larger terracotta pot and placed it beside its brethren on the window. When Spiderman came home from work he commented about it. I replied with stars in my eyes and discussed the possibility of vegan pesto….mmmm pesto. I thought he had taken no notice.

The next day he was in the kitchen cooking rice and I was on the sofa reading. I walked into the kitchen and let out a SHRIEK!

There was a skull on my basil plant!

What did this mean? Was it now the Herb of Death? And then I twigged it.

I laughed and laughed.

And laughed and laughed.

I squealed with mirth and did a little hoppy dance around the kitchen (which if you know the size of our kitchen you know this was no mean feat).

It was a reference to a poem by Keats called Isabella, or the pot of basil which was featured in some of my favourite Pre-Raphaelite paintings. You can read the poem here   If you can’t be bothered to read all LXIII stanzas of that poetry nonsense then read on for a summary.

In the poem, Isabella falls in love with the poor clerk named Lorenzo who works for her brothers.

Click to enlarge and see the detail

Lorenzo and Isabella was the first painting by John Millais that he exhibited for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. You can see one of her angry aggressive brothers in the foreground cracking the nuts and kicking the dog.

Her brothers murder Lorenzo and leave his body in the woods and tell Isabella he has abandoned her. His ghost appears to her and she goes out to find the body. Being only a weak woman she cannot carry the whole body back so she cuts off his head and puts it in a pot of basil. Like you do.

click to enlarge and see the detail
This is my favourite painting by Holman Hunt, another member of the PRB. It shows the bit where she goes mad, watering the basil with her tears. The brothers take the pot and find the head of Lorenzo and having been exposed as murderers went with “blood upon their heads, to banishment.” Without the pot and the skull of her beloved, Isabella cries until she wastes away and dies.

I loved it so much I was afraid that watering the plant would dissolve the sticker so we put a layer of clear sticky backed plastic (that’s contact paper for my American peeps) over it to protect it. .I don’t know if that will work. How well does anything stick to damp terracotta anyway?

If you are a literary type and you actually read the poem by Keats and admired the paintings then you might be interested to know that Hans Christian Anderson also wrote a story with a similar theme entitled The Rose Elf in which the girl places the skull in a pot and covers it with a sprig of jasmine. The story says, As the girl became paler and paler, the twig stood there fresher and greener. Eventually the girl dies from grief and the evil brother takes the beautiful pot of flowering jasmine to his bed chamber. The Rose Elf speaks to the souls that inhabit every flower as well as to the bees and the evil brother is killed by them in revenge. Because Hans Christian Anderson was all about comeuppance.  You can read it for yourself here:

I love my pot of basil.

My husband knows me well.

He knows both a literary and art reference will make smile.

I love that he knows the reference and knows that I will know the reference.

I adore my Herb of Death.

Thank you for making me cackle with laughter.