Not Camping ~ Days Four and Five


Thursday, 31 July 2014

Too Much

Catering for two when one is used to catering for five takes some getting used to. When I was little my grandmother was forever telling me that my eyes were bigger than my tummy and she was right- I have bought too much food (again).

 I have been over-optimistic about how much salad and vegetables I will eat especially when there are tempting treats around. Salad in particular is difficult to buy for one. Even in the farmshop little gems come in twos. Why? Surely there are lots of single people who want just one small lettuce. Tom is not a lettuce eater, not unless it is in a BLT. So we have had BLTs which fortuitously used up the bacon that was about to go out of date.

Lots of things are going out of date, and even going off completely. My homemade bread doesn't have a date on it and neither is if full of mould inhibitors which was why the huge loaf I defrosted last Friday had gone mouldy by Tuesday with half of if still to eat. Reluctantly I had to throw it away. I baked two very small loaves and put one in the freezer. The other one still hasn't been finished, if I am not careful that will mould too.

The two extra pints of milk I bought on Monday because it looked like we were going to run out remain unopened and this morning I see the use by date is today. Not that I take much notice of use by dates, even so there is more then Tom and I can drink so I will be making yogurt later today and maybe a small bread and butter pudding to use up the bread.

A dish of sliced tomatoes I prepared to eat with one of our meals was untouched. A red pepper and a courgette were wrinkling. There was half a red onion in a plastic tub in the fridge. I stewed the lot slowly in olive oil, ratatouille-ish. I put it in the freezer. Next week I will spread it on puff pastry and top with the goat's cheese I bought for this week but have not touched. Or perhaps I will use it as a pizza topping. Saved from the bin thank goodness. There are bendy carrots and drying leeks in my fridge. I will save those from the bin today by making stock.

 Throwing food away because we have so much we cannot eat it all is downright immoral, so I have donated to the Trussell Trust and vowed to make next year's Not Camping better planned and less greedy.

At least I am not having to throw away meat. It's easy to buy just enough meat for two. Two chicken breasts cooked with cream, wine and mushrooms. I have a variation on this every Not Camping and quite often make it for the whole family. I need to use up the remaining mushrooms today as they are getting a bit shrivelled. Why did I buy so many when it's only me who likes them?

This lamb dish looks burnt, it isn't. It's been cooked with honey which always blackens. Lamb steaks are coated with olive oil, honey and chopped rosemary, plus a couple of squashed garlic cloves and salt and pepper and baked in the oven at 160°c (140°c fan oven) for two hours. I put a dish of new potatoes in the oven halfway through the cooking time.

And today we find ourselves at the end of July and heading into late summer. Yesterday I noticed elderberries and blackberries ripening and damsons already falling from the trees. The year turns again.

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I Love Not Camping ~ Days Two and Three


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

~  Had pain au chocolat and coffee for breakfast.
~ Did a little ironing.
~ Wrote a blog post.
~ Made a croque monsieur for my lunch followed it with a drippingly ripe nectarine.
~  Picked up Tom from his friend's.
 ~ Poured myself a G&T and made salt and pepper squid  for supper. It's one of Tom's favourite meals and a Not Camping favourite of mine and much easier to cook for two people rather than five.
~ Drank some pinot grigio and watched more Sherlock.

~ Coffee and pain au chocolat for breakfast again.
~ Had a phone call from my Pilates teacher cancelling the class. Tried not to sound too pleased.
~ Did a happy a dance singing 'no pilates, no pilates'. I never regret doing my class, really I don't. I love how it makes me feel, my classmates and teacher are all lovely and we have a lot of fun together, but I still can't help seeing any kind of exercise as a chore and having no class this week just added to my holiday mood.
~ Drove to Waitrose and bought 3 trout, lamb steaks, mince, chicken breasts, cantaloupe melon, Roquefort, Brie, blood orange juice and more wine.
~ Called at the farm shop for tomatoes, green beans, lettuce and strawberries.
~ Had a lunch of toast and paté.
~ Mowed the lawn.
~ Cooked the trout with butter, rosemary and white wine. Allowed it to cool before taking off the heads, tails and skin.
~ At half past five my dad arrived bearing a huge bunch of sweet peas from my mum. They smell glorious.
~We ate the trout with tiny new potatoes and green beans and followed it with strawberries and cantaloupe.
~ After supper dad took me to Worcester Cathedral* to hear Mahler's 2nd Symphony. Bloody marvellous.
~ On the way back to the car park dad realises he hasn't got his car key. We head back into the cathedral where fortunately it is found by a very nice young man in a red cassock. We had been sitting right on the back row of tiered seats. We must have been ten foot above the ground and dad had hung his jacket on the back of  his seat and the key had dropped out of his pocket down onto the stone floor below.
~ Back in the car park. The car doesn't start. Dad calls Green Flag (breakdown cover) who say they will be with him in an hour.
~I call home to tell Tom we will be late. No answer. I know he probably can't hear the phone ringing because he has his headphones on, but I am now anxious to get home.
~ I get a taxi home leaving my poor old dad to wait for the breakdown people.
~ Once home Tom tells me the phone was ringing for ages.
~ I drink half a bottle of wine very quickly. Mum rings me to say that the breakdown people are bringing dad and his car back to Birmingham. Apparently the car wouldn't start because the key had been damaged by its fall in the cathedral. Cars used to be a lot simpler didn't they?

 Dad got home to Birmingham safely if rather later than anticipated having had a mostly very enjoyable evening. He does love Mahler. This evening I plan on staying put in front of more Sherlock.

* Worcester is hosting the Three Choirs Festival this year.

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I Love Not Camping - Day One


Sunday, 27 July 2014

Not Camping is what I do when my husband and offspring go camping with my sister-in-law and her offspring. They have been doing this for nine years now. There is much about camping which appeals to me; sitting around a campfire with a glass of wine, looking up at the stars, cooking  bacon and eggs on a campfire, the peace, the break from modern life. I get it. The deal breaker is having to traipse across a field in wellies, in the dark to go to the loo. No thanks.

So rather than sitting at home feeling resentful about missing out on a holiday I didn't want to go on I decided to make Not Camping a holiday for me. I clean the bathroom thoroughly, I tidy up, I pick some flowers, I open a bottle, and I cook myself delicious things to eat. I love it.

Yesterday evening I suddenly felt that I had spent most of the day sitting on the sofa watching the Commonwealth Games and doing little else, so I made a list of everything I had done and was quite surprised to find how busy I had been.

~ Washed two loads of laundry
~ Hoovered downstairs
~ Emptied bins
~ Made a picnic for the campers to take with them
~ Took Tom into town
~ Washed the kitchen floor
~ Washed the shower curtain and bathmat
~ Cleaned the bathroom. My low effort way of cleaning the bathroom is to spray bath, sink and loo with cleaning products and to  leave it for a few hours until I have my shower in the evening. Then I take the opportunity of being alone in the house to finish the cleaning in the nude. Much the best way.
~ Picked a bunch of lavender. I wore clothes for this, my lavender is in my front garden after all.
~ Made myself a lunch of paté (not homemade), crusty bread and cherries.
~ Made Tom a batch of white chocolate and apricot rice krispie squares
~ Made some coffee ice cream.
~ Wandered around my garden enjoying the sunshine, the quiet and taking a few photos.
~ Marinated some chicken in lemon juice, olive oil, black peppercorn, oregano and garlic.
~ Watched the Commonwealth Games
~ Made a tomato and olive salsa by dicing a couple of tomatoes, a handful of black olives and little red onion and mixing it with a spoonful of capers, some olive oil, a splash of vinegar and salt.
~ Poured myself a kir.
~ Grilled my chicken, setting the smoke alarm off in the process.
~ Ate the chicken with green leaves and tomato and olive salsa.
~ Whipped some cream (leftover from ice cream making), sandwiched two meringues (leftover from last weekend) with the cream, added raspberries and a drizzle of cassis.
~ Ate it all whilst watching Sherlock. I'm having a Sherlockfest this week and will watch all nine episodes.
~ Drank some white wine.
~  Went to bed and read some of Persuasion.
~ Couldn't get to sleep for ages because it was so hot.

Today I have a lot less to do. There's no laundry, no cleaning or hoovering. I have a bit of ironing to do and Tom to pick up later but other than that all I have to think about is my supper -salt and pepper squid, green bean salad and coffee ice cream.

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In My Kitchen


Friday, 25 July 2014

I know many readers are enjoying these In My Kitchen posts. I enjoy writing and photographing them. I cannot deny though, that they are a lazy way of filling a blog and I fear they may become repetitive. Already I can see too many dishes of tomatoes and too many plates of toast and jam and far too much flipping sweetcorn. I apologise. Things will change as the seasons do. 

I am posting today rather than Sunday- my designated 'In My Kitchen' day, because I want to make room for another reader favourite. Apparently there are people who wait all year for me to not camp. Wait no longer for tomorrow sees the start of Not Camping 2014. 

~ Stripy salad. A spread-out version of a layered salad. Once everyone has helped themselves from the plate it looks a complete mess.

~ Navarin printanier -yes another slow-cooked stew in this heat, I must be mad. Actually this lamb stew was delicious and not at all heavy or wintry to eat. New potatoes, young vegetables  and lamb all in one pot. I used this recipe as a guide but there are plenty of other recipes for this classic French dish on the internet.

~ Blackcurrant jam on toast.

~ Meatballs baked in a muffin tin. The recipe is here . I used pork mince in place of beef and barbecue sauce in place of ketchup. We ate them cold with salad.

~ A batch of oaty biscuits.

~ Mushroom tart for Charlie and me, ham and sweetcorn for the kids.Tart how-tos here.

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Fireplace Art Gallery


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Our house is only about twenty years old, part of one of those large housing developments you find on the edge of most cities in the UK. The house is easy to maintain and keep warm but it lacks character. One thing I don't like about it is that there are very few areas of wall space where you can put furniture. This fireplace takes up a big chunk of wall. It serves little purpose other than to provide somewhere to plug in an electric fire and one thing we don't need in this house is more heating. Of course we could rip it off the wall but that would mean a new floor as well as redecorating. Instead I've chosen to make a feature out of it. 

It has become a miniature art gallery for postcards and greetings cards. It's a rather slap-dash blu-tacked affair but I like it. Most of them are cards I have bought especially, but some are cards I have been sent.

The beauty of it is that I can change my art easily and cheaply, replace ones that are getting tatty and when Charlie claims not to have any idea of what kind of birthday cards I like I can point at the fireplace.

There are quite a lot of Ravilious cards there, some Mark Hearld, Emily Sutton, Tom Frost, Angie Lewin and Celia Hart plus a couple of travel posters.

When the fireplace is full I shall start on the doors.

A good online source of lovely cards is Down To Earth.

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