Saturday, 13 October 2012


Hey, hello!  Remember me? I used to post stuff on here fairly regularly.  More than once or twice a month, anyway. I hope at least some of you are still hanging in there, waiting for something to appear.  I'd still do it even if it was into an empty, echoing void, but it feels somehow friendlier to imagine one or two people reading what I write.

So. What's new with me, I hear you ask?

I now have TWO part-time jobs, as well as the fledgeling catering business, so my spare time is far more limited than it has been for the last 18 months or so.  I'm really enjoying both jobs, one as a cook and one as a waitress/barmaid in a pub, both within walking distance, both of which get me out of the house and allow me to interact with lots of people.

The new business progresses slowly but steadily too.  We've had some business cards printed, have advertising arranged in a local publication, and have a few jobs already in the calendar. We have to get some dull statutory stuff sorted out before we start "properly" but we've got plans for that too.

One of the things that needed doing was setting up an account with the local Cash and Carry store.  For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a Cash and Carry is a huge warehouse full of enormous ENORMOUS boxes of foodstuffs and catering/hospitality supplies which you buy at prices far below those charged in supermarkets.  The idea is that businesses are able to effectively buy in wholesale quantities and thus make a profit when they retail the products, or use them in their hotel, or pub or whatever.

You have to have joined the organisation and have been sent a membership card before you are allowed to shop there, and in order to join the organisation you have to be able to prove that you have a business.  So.  It was a big day when I was able to go to Trowbridge and fill in all the paperwork which allowed me to take my giant industrial shopping trolley round the aisles.

Well.  It's like Aladdin's Cave in there.  If you imagine Aladdin's Cave to be full of 100kg sacks of rice, and giant multi-packs of cotton wool, and mustard in vats you could bathe in.  We scampered round the warehouse in high glee, exclaiming over the things we found.  Huge pots of jam.  Teeny tiny pots of jam in packs of 100.  Gallon jars of pickles.  Ickle teeny tiny individual plastic containers of pickle, sold by the box of 250.  Bazillions of napkins.  Booze.  Varied and interesting catering equipment.  It was fantastic.  Honestly*.

We loaded up the trolley with about 200 different things, including antibacterial hand-wash (pack of 6), a catering first-aid kit, some smart white aprons, a box of bars of dark chocolate**, assorted flours, sugars and butters, and headed to the checkout.

The system is basic but effective.  A cheerful man with a hand-held scanner swiftly beeps everything in on the trolley, hands you the bill, and then you go across to a lady behind a glass screen to pay for it all.

The temptation is to spend far more money than you need to because everything is a BARGAIN.  I will go infrequently, armed with a shopping list, otherwise any money I'd save on low prices will be negated by the sheer quantity of things I buy.  They have ENORMOUS jars of Nutella.  I'm only human.

I've also been buying BARGAINS at the farmers market.  Most recently it has been ginger.  I picked up a 12 kg box of fresh ginger for £2.  TWO QUID.

Once the thrill of cornering the Wiltshire ginger market faded, I had to decide what to do with it all.

I've crystallized a lot, for sale as part of the catering business:

I made a batch of Japanese style pickled ginger, which I hope will turn pink in due course.  The recipe promised that it would:

And, ahahahahahaaaaaaaa clever, I grated a lot of it, froze it in ice cube trays in 1-teaspoon portions, and now have them all bagged up in the freezer for when I need fresh ginger for something.

Some of the crystallised ginger has since been richly enrobed (oooh, get me) in dark chocolate, and I have to say it is pretty spectacular.  I think a lot of people will be getting ginger-related gifts for Christmas.  

One thing I learned: if you chop and peel a lot of ginger, it makes your fingers burn, and if you later rub yourself in the eye, it REALLY burns.  So try not to do that.

Top tip there.

I've also made plum jam - 2 types - and my first ever batch of Chinese plum sauce.  Readers, it is delicious; tangy, not too sweet, heavily scented with star anise.  I will definitely buy another box of plums and make more.

As part of ongoing business development  I bought a box of proper matching jars (and lids) in two different sizes, and it's amazing the difference it makes to see chutney or jam or whatever all in the same type of jar, rather than in recycled (as in the ginger above) pickle or mayonnaise jars.

What else?  The dog, of course.  She continues to be a delight, despite the occasional bout of stomach trouble.  The colitis has cleared up now, and she seems to be back on top form. Although we did have The Day of Vomit the other week.  I gave her her breakfast, which she scarfed down in a matter of moments, then promptly brought the whole lot back up again, in its entirety, onto the rug in the sitting room - the only carpet in the whole of the downstairs.  Perfect target identification, dog, well done.

So, I thought "Ah well, she can wait till lunchtime now," and we carried on with our day.  She ate her lunch and seemed fine for a few hours, dozing peacefully at the top of the stairs outside my study.  I was working hard*** on the computer, and I thought she was fast asleep, until I heard odd wet slurping sounds.  I went out onto the landing, and was greeted by a thick rope of dog vomit, consisting predominantly of grass, which the horrible, horrible animal was about to try and eat.  Re-eat?  Whatever.

I cried out in disgust, then (in even more disgust) picked up the solid lump-o'-vom and carried it outside to the bin.  Gah.

Again, she'd managed to barf it all up onto the carpet, rather than either the tile, stone or wooden floors in the rest of the house.  Well done, dog.  She's so clever.  I'm very proud.  Here she is, placing her order for a walk.

"I'll take this one please.  With extra cowshit for me to roll in, and a plentiful supply of grass to eat.  Oh, and some partridges to startle.  Make it so."

Good job we love her.   She likes to sleep like this, stretched out against the sofa.  It can't be comfortable, she's twisted like a corkscrew.  That white thing under her head is her fleecy blankie that she brought with her from her parents' place when she moved in.  She goes and fetches it from her bed when she wants to go to sleep.

I recently loaded Instagram on my phone.  I can take brown 1970s stylee photos like a pro now.  This is from one of our favourite walks:

Other news:  I have had a drastic haircut.  I know I mentioned it before, but here are photos.  You lucky people.

I'm fortunate to have naturally thick, wavy hair, which has (mostly) retained its natural colour, apart from the occasional brilliant white one.  As my hair is very dark, the buggers really show up.  Bah.

For about the last 10 years I have had it fairly long, which I liked.  However, a few weeks ago I was sitting reading a book, and I realised that my hair was irritating me.  It had got long enough that when I leaned back in my chair, I leaned on it and pulled it, and when I leaned forward it fell over my face and got in the way.  I went to put it up, and as I did so I thought "I always wear my hair up nowadays."  It had got too long to wear down, so it was always clipped up off my face.  And in a blinding flash of inspiration, I thought "Hey!  I could have it cut off, and wear it loose again!"

I had 10 inches cut off.  Look, here it is:

And here's the end result, please note the extra-attractive red anxious face.  Hair is much shorter, and I think rather excellent.  It's easier to manage, only takes 5 minutes to blow-dry rather than 25, and if I brush it upside down it looks like I've spent ages styling it.  So. Hurrah for impulse decisions that pay off.

It occurred to me several days after I had it cut that I could have saved all the cuttings (clippings? trimmings? whatever) and donated them to that charity that makes wigs for children who've lost their hair.  I was really cross that I hadn't thought of it at the time, as my hair was un-dyed, un-permed and in jolly good nick.  Next time I have a lot off I will do that.

Other head-related news: Mr WithaY made a fox hat.

He worked very hard on it, cleaning and treating the skin to make sure it wasn't going to rot or shed, and then designing the hat, cutting it out, and sewing it together by hand.  I refused to let him use my sewing machine, I have to admit.

Anyhoo.  One evening when I was working in the pub, he came in for a drink and was telling the chaps at the bar about his new hat.  They encouraged him to go and fetch it to show them.  He did so.

They, being farmers and robust Wiltshire country chaps, were very interested in how he'd turned a dead fox into an item of attire, so Mr WithaY was explaining the process.  I and the (much, much younger) barmaid listened in.

Mr WithaY: once you've cleaned the skin, and dried it a bit, you have to tan it, which takes ages.

Farmers:   Oh yes.  Yarp.  Oo-aarrrr.  (etcetera.)

Mr WithaY:  ...and once it's been tanned you can start cutting it out.

Youthful barmaid: Tanned??  What....with fake tan?  Why did you do that to it???

I think she was imagining Mr WithaY trying to do a makeover on the fox.  Some fake tan.  Eyelash implants.  Painted claws.  Vajazzle the tail a bit.

I'm afraid I bellowed with laughter in a most unladylike manner, and had to go and stand far away till I'd stopped.

Continuing the wildlife theme, the mole has been wreaking havoc in the front garden.  Not content with building a scale model of Silbury Hill in the middle of the lawn, he seems to have reconstructed the entire Western Front trench system in the flowerbeds, and thrown up several smaller hills around the edges.


Life is, in the main, very good.  We're both still enjoying life away from the full-time rat race treadmill thing, and are finding plenty to do to occupy ourselves.

*We don't get out much
**For making cakes. No, really.
***Playing World of Warcraft.  I know, I know.