Wednesday, 28 June 2017

RIP Sergeant Peppermill

                                     Image result for sergeant peppermill
Sergeant Peppermill was adopted into our family on November 26th, 2011. You can read about his arrival here.

He was an integral part of our kitchen and was used daily. In the early years, he was a cheerful fellow who never minded us twisting his head to make pepper come out of his butt. But as he grew older, his joints became stiff and his pepper butt was often constipated. The paint on his face began to peel from over-handling and he grew cranky.

He used to really love being filled with knobbly peppercorns and made it easy for us to do, but as years passed he seemed to resent having his head taken off and peppercorns poured down his neck. In protest, he refused to allow us to put his head back on until all the peppercorns had been poured back out and reinserted with tweezers one by one. We did not begrudge him for this, as he was old and you have to make allowances for the elderly.

Over the past year, we could really sense he was shutting down, so it came as no surprise tonight when we tried to twist his moustached head that it refused to turn. I think he was giving us a message.

Please let me die (he seemed to say).

So it is with great sorrow, that we report the death of dear friend and kitchen companion Sergeant Peppermill. Rest in Peace, my friend.

He will not be discarded or recycled, but his empty shell will stand on the mantelpiece (well, the kitchen shelf) in memory of our heroic friend who ground pepper so lovingly over our food for the last six years. He will be replaced in the kitchen (but not in our hearts) with travel pepper grinder who is not nearly as cute, but a helluva lot easier to fill.

In lieu of flowers, please send peppercorns.

Thank you.

What We Ate Wednesday--Bippy Dread and Creamy Tomato Pasta (2 recipes. Luxury!)

Hello lovelies! While we had a fabulous time away on the Magical Mystery Tour, we are both still a bit tired from all the travel, so have been planning simple but healthy meals that come together quickly.

On Sunday we had Bippy Dread (a spoonerism for Dippy Bread) with homemade GF flatbreads, store-bought hummus, mango chutney and minty yogurt raita with lime and chilli cucumbers topped with crushed peanuts. If you want details about how to make the flatbread, go here.

We had some leftover hummus and thought I would try this recipe from the blog Oh She Glows. I have been a fan of Angela Liddon for yonks. I read her blog and have one of her cookbooks. I hadn't made it yet as we rarely buy store-bought hummus as it is considerably more pricey than homemade (I can make the equivalent of 2.5 containers of hummus for the same price as buying one and there's not all that plastic to throw away.) But, we were tired and I didn't have everything needed to DIY so we bought some plain hummus at Lidl for Bippy Dread.

So this pasta thing--it is called Adriana's Fave 10 Minute Pasta (Toddler Friendly) and looked pretty easy. You can see her original blog post and recipe here. I used my standard homemade marinara sauce (as did she), but you could make it go faster by using a jar of red sauce. Basically, it is red sauce mixed with some hummus to make the sauce creamy and boost the protein. She tops her with hemp hearts for extra protein, but we can't afford hemp hearts and this came out fine without them.

She doubles the pasta so it will make 4 adult sized portions, but we like things saucy over here in the Spider household. Wayhey! Oo-er, Mrs! (Get you mind out of the gutter! you know what I mean!) so we just used 1.5 cups pasta as that's our normal serving, but you could easily use 3 cups pasta and just have less sauce. I am sure it would be equally delicious.

Creamy Tomato Pasta
1. measure out your pasta and put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil. Use 1.5 cups pasta for two people, 3 cups for four folks. 

2. In another large pot, make your marinara.

1 onion, finely diced
half a red pepper, diced
1 grated carrot
3 cloves crushed garlic

3. Cook those for a bit in a splash of oil or 1/4 cup water then add:

1/4 cup red wine (optional--but really good...if you are worried about alcohol, buy alcohol free cooking wine)
1 tsp each dried basil and oregano
1/2 tsp broth powder or half a stock cube
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2-3 TB tomato puree to thicken

4. When the water boils, add your pasta and boil according to package directions. The GF pasta we buy is ready in 8 minutes. When the pasta is nearly done stir in:

1/3 to 1/2 cup hummus into the marinara sauce.

5. Drain the pasta and add it to the pot of creamy sauce. 

That's it. I had it made in under 30 minutes.

It was really tasty and fairly quick since I had hummus to hand. If I'd had to drag out the food processor and make a batch of hummus, it would have added and extra 10-15 minutes to it, so this is best done with something you have in the fridge already if you want to make it snappy.

We will definitely eat this again. This was made with regular flavour hummus (or hummus flavour hummus as we call it), but it would be great with some of my homemade roasted red pepper, smoky cheese flavour hummus or sun-dried tomato.

If someone asks you "Where do vegan get their protein?" you can serve them up a big bowl of this.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Little Anklebone (Pakistan)

Hello and welcome to part 9 of Murder Story Monday. This week I explore a version of this tale entitled Little Anklebone.

 Its title alone should give us a clue that this is unusual as no other versions that I have discovered have used an anklebone as our singing bone. This story has a touch of Red Riding Hood at the beginning and then quickly morphs into something very unusual. There has to be a willing suspension of disbelief to believe that a mere anklebone (all that is left of the poor shepherd after being eaten by a wolf) can do so many things as if it were a whole body and not just a foot. I feel the story doesn’t make it clear, but I suspect he is meant to be a ghost and the only corporal part of him is the foot. It is also extremely unusual in that the bone does speak, but not to call his auntie out for encouraging the most polite wolf in literature to eat him, but rather seems very content with his lot in life as a disembodied foot that can somehow still play the pipe.

The source for this tale is Wide-Awake Stories: A Collection of Tales Told by Little Children, Between Sunset and Sunrise, in the Panjab and Kashmir, collected by F. A. Steel and R. C. Temple in 1884. Steel's and Temple's source was supposedly a small boy from “the  wilds” of the Gujranwala District in Punjab, Pakistan.

This version came from here.

Image result for foot bones  illustration pen ink 

Little Anklebone
Once upon a time there was a little boy who lost his parent so he went to live with his auntie, and she set him to herd sheep. All day long the little fellow wandered barefoot through the pathless plain, tending his flock, playing his tiny shepherd's pipe from morn till eve.

But one day came a great big wolf, and looked hungrily at the small shepherd and his fat sheep, saying, "Little boy! shall I eat you, or your sheep?"

Then the little boy answered politely, "I don't know Mr. Wolf; I must ask my auntie."

So, all day long he piped away on his tiny pipe, and in the evening, when he brought the flock home, he went to his auntie and said, "Auntie dear, a great big wolf asked me today if he should eat me, or your sheep. Which shall it be?"

Then his auntie looked at the wee little shepherd, and at the fat flock, and said sharply, "Which shall it be? Why, you, of course!"

So, next morning the little boy drove his flock out into the pathless plain, and blew away cheerfully on his shepherd's pipe until the great big wolf appeared. Then he laid aside his pipe, and, going up to the savage beast, said, "Oh, if you please, Mr. Wolf, I asked my auntie, and she says you are to eat me."

Now the wolf, savage as wolves always are, could not help having just a spark of pity for the tiny barefoot shepherd who played his pipe so sweetly, therefore he said kindly, "Could I do anything for you, little boy, after I've eaten you?"

"Thank you!" returned the tiny shepherd. "If you would be so kind, after you've picked the bones, as to thread my ankle-bone on a string and hang it on the tree that weeps over the pond yonder, I shall be much obliged."

So the wolf ate the little shepherd, picked the bones, and afterwards hung the ankle-bone by a string to the branches of the tree, where it danced and swung in the sunlight.

Now, one day, three robbers, who had just robbed a palace, happening to pass that way, sat down under the tree and began to divide the spoil. Just as they had arranged all the golden dishes and precious jewels and costly stuffs into three heaps, a jackal howled. Now you must know that thieves always use the jackal's cry as a note of warning, so that when at the very same moment Little Anklebone's thread snapped, and he fell plump on the head of the chief robber, the man imagined someone had thrown a pebble at him, and, shouting "Run! run! We are discovered!" he bolted away as hard as he could, followed by his companions, leaving all the treasure behind them.

"Now," said Little Anklebone to himself, "I shall lead a fine life!"

So he gathered the treasure together, and sat under the tree that drooped over the pond, and played so sweetly on a new shepherd's pipe, that all the beasts of the forest, and the birds of the air, and the fishes of the pond came to listen to him. Then Little Anklebone put marble basins round the pond for the animals to drink out of, and in the evening the does, and the tigresses, and the she-wolves gathered round him to be milked, and when he had drank his fill he milked the rest into the pond, till at last it became a pond of milk. And Little Anklebone sat by the milken pond and piped away on his shepherd's pipe.

Now, one day, an old woman, passing by with her jar for water, heard the sweet strains of Little Anklebone's pipe, and following the sound, came upon the pond of milk, and saw the animals, and the birds, and the fishes, listening to the music. She was wonderstruck, especially when Little Anklebone, from his seat under the tree, called out, "Fill your jar, mother! All drink who come hither!"

Then the old woman filled her jar with milk, and went on her way rejoicing at her good fortune. But as she journeyed she met with the king of that country, who, having been a-hunting, had lost his way in the pathless plain.

"Give me a drink of water, good mother," he cried, seeing the jar; "I am half dead with thirst!"

"It is milk, my son," replied the old woman; "I got it yonder from a milken pond."

Then she told the king of the wonders she had seen, so that he resolved to have a peep at them himself. And when he saw the milken pond, and all the animals and birds and fishes gathered round, while Little Anklebone played ever so sweetly on his shepherd's pipe, he said "I must have the tiny piper, if I die for it!"

No sooner did Little Anklebone hear these words than he set off at a run, and the king after him. 
Never was there such a chase before or since, for Little Anklebone hid himself amid the thickest briars and thorns, and the king was so determined to have the tiny piper, that he did not care for scratches. At last the king was successful, but no sooner did he take hold of Little Anklebone than it began to thunder and lighten horribly, whilst the little piper himself began to sing these words:

Oh, why do you thunder and lighten, dark heavens?
Your noise is as nothing to what will arise,
When the does that are waiting in vain for the milking,
Find poor Little Anklebone reft from their eyes!

Whereupon the King, seeing that it really was nothing but an ankle-bone after all, let it go.

So, the little piper went back to his seat under the tree by the pond, and there he sits still, and plays his shepherd's pipe, while all the beasts of the forest, and birds of the air, and fishes of the pond, gather round and listen to his music. And sometimes, people wandering through the pathless plain hear the pipe, and then they say, "That is Little Anklebone, who was eaten by a wolf ages ago!"

Stay tuned next week for a version from India. 

Magical Mystery Tour, part five

Day five Magical Mystery Tour
Image result for london zoo
Going to the zoo, zoo, zoo
You can come too, too, too (1)

                             Image result for london zoo
Backstage passes with penguin 
rock stars (2)

We tried (and failed) to cuddle a Puddle (3)

Having a cwtch with chicks in the creche, all downy fluff and snuggles  (4)

2 Cheeky penguins hiding under my skirts and preening the hairs on my legs (5)

Silly buggers!
So glad to see this as it opened right after we moved...

                         Spiders were enclosed (6)
 Prejudice was noted (7)
Spyder, spyder spinning bright,

In the forest of the night (8)
Flies were caught in sticky webs
And a good time was had by all. 

Spider selfie! (9)

Feelin’ hot, hot, hot! (10)
Unnaturally vivid orange ice-lollies (with no orange in them at all)

Bear with me (it’s a pun!) (11)
We set the controls for the heart of the sun (well for Wales) and mega-bussed back to Cymru. (12)

While we loved being back in the big city there was so much pollution and rushrushrushrushrush that we were glad to get back to the slow life and the clean air of Cymru. 
Image result for bilingual sign motorway wales swansea

My heart fluttered when I saw the first signs in Cymraeg. (13)

As the sun set over Swansea we asked each other:

Wyt ti’n hapus? (14)

And the only thing to say was

Hapus iawn, gyda ti. (15)
Happy 25th.
(1) you can come too if you are willing to spend around £25 per person. We got in free as Spiderman used to volunteer there for many years taking care of birds.

(2) As I said, Spiderman had connections. We got to go into the “backstage areas” of Penguin Beach with a keeper friends of his.

(3) Puddle (featured in picture above with Spiderman) was a hand reared chick who was very people friendly. We had hoped Spiderman and Puddle could have seen each other to see if he remember him since it had been three years, but Puddle was in a nesting box on the other side of Penguin beach and therefore inaccessible.

(4) Never fear! We got to go into the creche where they were hand rearing some chicks and got to meet the son of Puddle! (in the photo) And the word cwtch means cuddle in Welsh.

(5) We went to meet some year-old penguins who were VERY inquisitive. Two of them spent a great deal of time waddling under my skirt and nipping at the hairs on my legs. I am reliably informed that this is good as they are preening me, as if I had feathers and were part of the colony. So, I am “one of them.”

(6) We went to through the walk-through Spider Enclosure. It was as awesome as you’d expect. Jamie (the keeper featured in the film) was there and gave us more “backstage tour.”

(7) a little boy was in the entrance looking at all the spiders and the fascinating scientific information in the outer part and really wanted to go into the walk-through but his mother said “NO. WE’RE NOT GOING IN THERE. IT IS DISGUSTING IN THERE.” We were about to offer to take him in with us when she snatched his hand and dragged him out. It upset us because she planted the seed of fear and disgust.

(8) the walk-through bit was quite tropical with real trees and lots of golden orb weavers and some social spiders (social spiders are rare as they hang out communally)

(9) Spider selfie! They had a mirror behind the spider and her web so you could get a selfie. Also, there was a tiny male on her web, but alas! We didn’t see him get any action.

(10) It was really hot. Have I mentioned this before???? The only frozen vegan ice lolly was this artificial orange one. It was delicious.

(11) This is a statue of Winnipeg the bear who was the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh. I am (of course) holding my bear Laurence in the photo.

(12) Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun is another song by Pink Floyd from a Saucerful of Secrets (just to bring us neatly back round to where we began)

(13) Cymraeg is the language of Cymru (Welsh is the language of Wales). By law, all sign must be bilingual.

(14) Are you happy?

(15) Very happy, with you.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Magical Mystery Tour, part four

Day four Magical Mystery Tour

For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like. (and we do) (1)

Our inner child
The books to read (2)

Greenaway and Carnegie
Awards for best children’s book and picture book

Hobnobbing with authors and illustrators (I’m your biggest fan) (3)

Oh man! What is that funky smell? Squids will be squids, after all. (4)

Sentient trains, (5) which arrive before I count to fifteen (6)

Two sorts of wolves (luxury) (7)

Smile! Before a nest of Dukes (in the forest of the night) there was an alien from outer space. (8)

Aragog is not the only spider. (9)

There is no (amnesty) on human rights. (10)
Drumroll please…and the winners are: 

Salt to the SeaTears in my eyes (11)
                        Image result for there is a tribe of kids
I’ve got a Greenaway. Have you got a Greenaway? I’ve got a Greenaway. (12)

Then Planet Organic picnic barefoot in the garden (13)
Cherry stained fingers and {birdsong}
(1) We are big children’s literature fans, so this day was all about the things we like the best. This line is actually from the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and we use it all the time to emphasise how what we enjoy is not always what others enjoy. 

(2) We read well over 100 books (all that our library had) that were nominated for these awards and then tried to pick who would make the long list and the short list.

(3) Lane Smith was there!!!!!! He is from America, so weren’t too sure if he would make the effort to come all this way and he did! We’ve been fans of his illustrations for 25 years.

(4) On the off chance that Lane Smith would be there we brought our copies of The Stinky Cheese Man and Squids Will Be Squids for him to sign. He was pleasantly surprised as they are really old (Stinky Cheese Man was published the year that we got married.)

(5) Philip Reeve, author of RailHead.

(6) Michael Rosen, who chose the poems for A Great Big Cuddle, but will always be remembered by us for his poem Before I Count to Fifteen which appeared in one of the first issues of Cricket Magazine.

(7) Dieter Braun, illustrator of Wild Animals of the North and William Grill, illustrator of The Wolves of Currumpaw.

(8) Author Frank Cottrell Boyce who wrote 2 Doctor Who episodes (Smile and In the Forest of the Night) as well as the nominated book Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth. But we love him for his freaky futuristic adaptation of the Jacobean play The Revenger’s Tragedy which starred Eddie Izzard. There is a nest of Dukes, indeed.

(9) Jim Kay, illustrator of all the new heavily illustrated Harry Potter books (drawings on nearly every page) but we surprised him with one of his earlier books which was a pop up science book called Bugs which features a number of perfectly rendered tarantulas. He was thrilled to see the book. He said it was one of his favourites. We had a long discussion about all of our childhood fascinations with spiders and insects.

(10) The Amnesty International awards for books that promote human rights went to The Journey by Francesca Sanna and The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon.

(11) Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys all about the largest maritime tragedy in history that no one knows about. It is about the sinking of a ship containing 10,000 refugees being evacuated during WWII  that was meant to hold 1400.

(12) Lane Smith won!!! Perhaps the reason he came all the way across the sea. This line is adapted from his book the Happy Hocky Family and one that Spiderman and I have used endlessly for emphasis over the years.

(13) the Hot Hotel had a lovely shady garden and we had a cool picnic under the shade of a tree with birds serenading us. We had lots of leftover food from the Quakers and so we supped on ripe cherries until it looked like we had murdered someone. 

Stay tuned for the last part of the Magical Mystery Tour. 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Magical Mystery Tour, part three

Day three Magical Mystery Tour

Heatwave! This is my island in the sun! (1)

Temperatures rise, but our welcome is warmer.
Image result for quakers hitchin
Meeting for Worship (don’t forget the fan!) (2)

A “Feast of fat things” followed by breaking (gluten free) bread and sharing (vegan) food with Friends who are friends. (3)
Image result for table with checkered cloth
The big surprise! My favourite munchkins! So grown up and nearly as
Image result for tall word  
as me. (4)

Eating, chatting, laughing, and hugging then time to say farewell

There were no monkeys on the train (they were undoubtedly on strike due to the heat) that took us to the Hot Hotel(5)

(Have I mentioned there was a HEATWAVE???) 
Image result for arran house hotel

Our room was at the tippy tip-top.
6 flights of stairs and 69 steps
I counted.
{Every time}

Image result for death of chatterton
It was like a garret for starving artists. (6)

We left the heat of the room (69 steps down. I counted) and went to 
Image result for tibits for

Image result for tibits (7)
Then back to the Hot Hotel and its 69 steps (I counted) to the tippy tip-top for fevered dreams.

(1) Have I ever told you we were having a heatwave?

(2) Meeting for Worship is what Quakers call church. Our Meeting House has big beautiful windows where you can see trees and birds and feel at one with God and nature, but consequently, they let it LOTS of heat. A bit like starting a fire with a magnifying glass. Thankfully, Miranda saved the day and brought a fan.

(3) The words “a feast of fat things” come from Isaiah 25:6 and is often used by Quakers to describe a Meeting for Worship where the spontaneous ministry was good. Also, Quakers call themselves Friends of Truth (with a capital F) so we have Friends who are friends. They provided a delicious picnic and there were so many vegan and gluten free options we were spoiled for choice. Thanks to all those Friends who provided the delicious food. 

(4) Because our Meeting House has only a small children’s group, they only do Children’s Meeting (Sunday School) once a month. I used to oversee the Children’s Ministry when we lived in England, so I knew all the children quite well. This week was NOT Children’s Meeting, so I thought I would not get to see all my favourite kiddos. However, the families came from 12-1 so we could have a visit and my heart was so happy. Those little munchkins are no longer little!

(5) Our hotel was lovely, but it was an English hotel, so no air conditioning (but they did give us two fans) and toilets and showers down the hall.

(6) It was a tiny little garret room much like you would have seen in La Bohème or its modern-day counterpart Rent. Thankfully we did not die tragically from TB (or whatever starving artists die from these days.)

7) Tibits used to be our favourite restaurant in London. They have all this amazing, fresh, healthy, delicious food on a buffet and you pay by the weight of how much food you choose. Also, they have this delicious, refreshing ginger lemonade that is sharp and tangy and super refreshing on a hot day and now comes in a large size.

Stay tuned for part four of the Magical Mystery Tour.