Posted in Cooking, Creative, Gardening, Home, Life

I gardened.

I went out to the veggie patches this morning.  It’s a nice zone, reallyt, basically adapted from what was there already.

When we moved in, the garden was an expanse of grass.  We had no idea what was under it.  We assumed it was just a huge blank meadow waiting to be mowed.

When we DID mow it, we found paths and walls and things that looked like they used to be flower beds.

Next door said the two large, walled rectangles surrounded by paths, positioned in sort of an ‘L’ shape with a flat concrete section in between, used to be where the generator was before the house was on mains electricity.

I looked at them and saw the perfect spot for a veggie patch – self contained and easily manageable (or so I thought) sizes.

Hubs bought me a (second hand, disintegrating) greenhouse.  It was half the size of what I expected my greenhouse would be, & made of corrugated plastic stuff instead of glass panels.  Which is a good thing since it all but collapsed the first winter it was up.

(He’s since re-inforced it with a wooden frame of sorts from some leftover joists from another project.)

The Allotment
The pumpkin patch with the greenhouse in the background and the other veggie patch behind it.

Along the side of one of the beds, between that and the path, was what looked like it might have been a flower bed…maybe to disguise or beautify the generators?

I got him to build a frame along the back of this long, narrow bed, and last year planted fruit bushes and vines….grapes, kiwifruit, loganberries, tayberries, raspberries and gooseberries, with the intention of trailing the growing plants up around the frame to create an edible wall along the path.

The fruit frame
The frame built along the side, with fruit bushes trailing up it. (Gooseberries at the very bottom of the picture)

 

The first year I did anything with them, in 2017, before the fruit frame was put up, I managed a few carrots and a couple of small onions, and a handful of potatoes.  The one broccoli plant I tried failed completely…mainly because of an abundance of slugs – on the plus side, I realised how much of a battle I’d have against slugs!

In 2018, there was the whole miscarriage thing, with two hospital admissions, in March and October; which meant that in between I really didn’t have any interest in putting in any effort in the garden; so apart from the greenhouse being reinforced, and the fruit frame built (and therefore me planting the fruit bushes against it…); not much was done on my part last year.

Which brings us to this year, 2019.

The fruit I had planted last year, I had checked on occasionally.  It was a 6-pack of ‘crumble mix’ fruit plants from a supermarket I think… rhubarb, goosberries, raspberries, tayberries and loganberries, and blackberries I think; although when I got home I realised the 6th one was missing from the pack so I only ended up with the first 5.  I also bought a grape plant and a kiwi plant at reduced price, so I didn’t really expect them to survive.

All were planted along the frame; grapes at the top for the vine to grow up and over the side of the greenhouse; kiwifruit next, then the tayberries and loganberries (I’m still having trouble distinguishing which is which, despite having picked and eaten quite a few this summer already!) then a space where I had wanted to put strawberries in raised beds (still haven’t got around to that one yet), and gooseberries at the end.

I think I planted them a little late, but they seemed to settle in and grow a little before the weather turned and winter set in.  Apart from the kiwi; which didn’t seem to want to be there at all.  Ah well, I hadn’t expected much from it anyway.  The grape vine, however, grew really well, and although I had no fruit of it, it reached the top of the frame and along the side of the greenhouse.

Of course, they all died off over the winter as expected.  Earlier this year, I went out to tidy up and check on the area and was overjoyed to see they all, including the kiwifruit plant, seemed to be springing back in to life.  That, in addition to having a huge bowl of carrot seeds I’d harvested from the original planting of carrots (It seeds bi-annually, so I’d left the strongest looking plant from 2017, and harvested a few large heads of seeds in 2018, and dried them and kept them in over winter, sewed them in trays in the house at the beginning of this year) seemed to have spurred me on…so this year, I took the plunge and bought a few more seeds to plant along side the carrot seedlings; and the pumpkin seeds I’d saved from last Halloween.  I spent a couple of weekends re-weeding the original veggie patch; and the second one that hadn’t been cleared or planted yet.  The pumpkin seedlings went in the ‘new’ patch; along with the rhubarb from the ‘crumble pack’ from the year before, which had been in a large pit from the year before.

Carrot plants flowering
Flowers like the ones I left to brown and harvested seeds from in 2018; on this year’s carrot crop – 2nd generation carrots from my garden!!

The veggie patch had a cloche in one corner, that I’d rescued and anchored down with some sand bags hanging over the frame in each corner (I’d almost given up on it last year as it kept being blown around the garden in high-winds!).  Inside the cloche this year are 2 honeydew melon plants…again, seeds harvested from a shop-bought melon so being grown to seedligns as an experiment; and 2 capsicum (sweet-pepper) plants, similarly, grown from seeds of shop-bought produce.

In front of the cloche are potatoes (grown from shop-bought potatos left to go to seed), cauliflowers, and turnips.

In the other full half of that veggie patch are beetroot, savoy cabbage, broccoli, onions, carrots and garlic.

Pumpkin patch
The pumpkin patch as it stands August 2019, plants left to vye for their own space & nutrients
A baby pumpkin
Some plants are producing fruit though; as it stands, this is one of two I can find on the patch.

They all seemed to take off initially, 15 pumpkin seedlings, which grew and grew and have been flowering almost constantly since June.  They’re apparently quite thirsty plants so when we had a lot of hot, sunny weather I was watering them every evening; now we’ve had a lot of rain recently I haven’t bothered and they seem to be fighting for space now & weaker ones are failing.  I did get a snippet of advice about thinning them out but honestly, I couldn’t be bothered!!  And to be perfectly honest, it’s been pretty much the same with the veggie patch…I went through a short period of despondency.  I looked at the amount of weeds that were surrounding the veggies, and the hints of slugs having returned after I’d dilligently slug-pelleted and organically hand-picked and removed them, and felt like I just couldn’t face the constant battle.  So the patches were left for a few weeks.  In the meantime

Yesterday, just out of interest, I tugged out a few weeds from the edge; and cleared a few slugs by hand.

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The first harvest of beetroot and turnip

There were far fewer slugs than I thought there’d be; and the weeds came out a lot easier than I thought they would…so I continued.  And then I pulled up a couple of turnips, just to see if it had ‘worked’ (I’ve never been a turnip fan so it was more of an experiement to see if I could grow them than growing them to be eaten!) and there they were; 4-5 suitably sized turnips (I had to look that up, I wasn’t sure what an average size for a turnip was supposed to be!!)

 

I moved down to the end of the patch and cleared some weeds around the beetroot; and noticed the tops of the root veggies showing at the base of the stalks looked quite impressive in size, so chose a few of those to pull up too; and ended up with a harvest that quite impressed me!

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Beetroot leaves and stalks….I had them for dinner!

I ended up googling what to do with beetroot leaves and stalks, as it felt wrong to ditch them (I don’t actually like beetroot all that much, shop-bought pickled stuff; only planted them because the seeds came as part of the pack and hoped they’d distract the slugs if they were along the edge, before they got to things I actually wanted!!).  I found that they were safe to eat and found this video on a way to cook them with lemon juice and garlic (also dug up from the veggie patch 😉 ) .  I gave it a go and that was my dinner last night…not bad, actually!

This morning I had another forage around, pulled out a few more weeds, realised the few broccoli and cabbage plants I have aren’t actually as bad as they first looked with the slug bites in them, and I might end up with something from them.

I know I could (and have) look up expert instructions on all of the things that might be wrong (weeds, slugs, too many pumkin plants overcrowding…and many more!) but I feel like I’m learning more from making my own mistakes – each year I’m producing a little more; and remembering more from what went wrong previously.

When the despondency hit last year, I’d pretty much given up, this year when I started the weeding I found a few more (small) carrots, onions and potatoes that had survived from the year before; and this year, just harvesting *something* edible, and standing back and looking at it and realising that it’s more than the year before, and the year before that, I realise that despite the mess and the chaos and the holey leaves, and my veggie patch not looking like the perfectly arranged and organised allotments I walk the dog past every day; I’ve managed to grow stuff, and increased the edible amount every year.

Today I pulled this carrot out when getting on with the majority of the weeding.

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yes…it’s straighter…believe it or not!!

This carrot might look a bit dodgy to you, but it’s already bigger, and straighter (believe it or not!) than what I got from the original 2017 lot (and the leftovers I found earlier this year); and this is not even the largest one from this crop… it is from the seeds I saved from last year, meaning it’s a second-generation carrot from my garden, and already stronger and healthier than my first attempt.

In watering and checking the fruit and veg, when training the fruit bushes to grow up and around the frame, I’ve picked a good few handfuls of berries, and washed and eaten them.  I’ve had no fruit from the grapes or kiwis yet but they’re already stronger plants than they were last year; so I’m ever hopeful.

I like to think of myself as an experimental gardner; much like when I’m cooking, really, once you know a few basic things, get out there and give it a go, don’t be afraid of things going wrong, and learn from the mistakes.

I’m ever hopeful that from the remaining beetroot, turnips, and garlic, and from the cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, melons, capsicums, potatoes, onions, tomatoes in the greenhouse, chilli and lemon plants in the greenhouse (that might be adopted as house-plants), and the baby pumpkins, I should get more produce, at least enough to ecourage me to step it up and be better next year!

R

xx

n.b. on a side note, no, the children aren’t that interested in trying the turnips and beetroot! 2 of them have tried the berries and are impressed; and have shared the carrots in the past. But on the plus side, even if I produce enough for me; that’s one less person eating in to the rest of the monthly food bill!

 

 

 

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Posted in Creative, TV

OMG! 800 Words

O.M.G.

The BBC seem to have a habit these days of putting the best sites on in the middle of the day and then ditching them for low viewing figures!

They did it last year with The Coroner. If have loved to be on that myself, shooting around Dorset & Devon. Fab!

Then, they had Shakespeare &Hathaway. Lovely detective series about a private investigator and his new sidekick.

And now I find a retiree friend of mine asks me if “800 Words” is really like life is in New Zealand?

‘What’s “800 words”?’ I ask.

It’s a new (-ish… It’s been going for 2 series already!!) TV series from South Pacific Pictures co-produced with Australia’s Channel 7 Production company.

Now I’m already sold…SPP were responsible for a TV series I adored when I lived there, “Outrageous Fortune” (Incidentally starring among others Anthony Starr who went to the States and was in “Banshee”).

800 Words” is a fish-out-of-water story about an Aussie journalist (he writes a regular column for a Sydney paper and anally sticks to exactly 800 words per column like some unquestioned OCD affliction… hence the title) seeks a new life in small-town New Zealand after the sudden death of his wife.

Not only do his children not like the idea much; he then has to deal with cultural differences between Australia & New Zealand, and the contrast of big city Sydney and small town ‘Weld’ – fictional, mind you.

Retiree friend asks if this made up town is typical of small-town NZ.

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Little Manly beach, Whangaparoa peninsula. Not in 800Words, but passed every morning on my bus journey to work. Typical NZ?

I say, it’s typical of small-town ANYWHERE.  Transplant this story to a Londoner moving to West Wales, or a New Yorker moving to Iowa, and there will still be cultural and lifestyle differences these storylines could fit in to.

But watching 800 words brings back memories of living in NZ which is the other reason it appeals to me.  I don’t know if I was happier there than anywhere else, but this nostalgia, this ‘hiraeth’ seems a little stronger; but then that’s the appeal to me, not to a general wider audience.

Watch it if you’re interested in New Zealand – the accents, attitudes, Maori integration into everyday culture, and the locations and the landscapes are typical. Watch it if you’re intrested in fish-out-of-water stories. Watch it.
The beach used as the surfing beach –  is world famous – in New Zealand.  It’s Piha, on the West coast, over the Waitakere ranges from Auckland.  It’s in the guide books and tourist information.  What isn’t though, as far as I know, found by accident on one trip over is a cafe en route called ‘Elevation’.  It looks pretty regular from the front.  And the food is ok – what you’d expect from a roadside cafe, if not a little better. After you enter, however, and choose a table at the back, preferably outside on the deck, which protrudes out from the side of the mountain range so it feels like you’re sitting on Tarzan’s tree-house; the view of Auckland city is spectacular.

But that’s besides the point.  Why are these gems of television being hidden away at 2-3pm when most of us are working or else otherwise tied up with the demands of the day?  My erratic schedule allowed me to watch some of Shakespeare&Hathaway on days where I was going to pick the children up from school; in which case, it saw me leaving 10 mintues before the end and having to catch the conclusion on BBC iPlayer later on.  Or never.

By the time Shakespeare&Hathaway had finished I wasn’t even aware that 800 words had taken the slot until someone else told me about it and this week it’s become our must-binge-watch programme of the evenings after the children are in bed.

Now I know the way we (in general, as a worldwide industrialised-nations viewership) watch TV is changing.  We watch mostly on-demand, when we want to.  The BBC appear to be catching up….programmes tagged as ‘BBCThree’ productions don’t actually exist on the ‘real world of TV’ since BBCThree moved exclusively ‘online’ (i.e. BBCThree is basically a section of BBCiPlayer).  Recently, BBCWales seems to be putting an awful lot of weight on how well ‘Keeping Faith’ went down with online audiences, given that it was only broadcast within the confines of the BBCWales region in English (and S4C in Welsh), so the only way viewers who couldn’t pck up BBCWales (numbers of whom must be dwindling these days as more and more set-top boxes and smart-TVs give everyone the myriad of freeview channels available wherever you are regardless of regionality).

But still, I wouldn’t have known to go looking for “800 Words” on BBC iPlayer had someone not told me about it.

So, now I’m telling you. Watch it!

 

 

Posted in Creative, Home, Life, Travel, writing

Is this summer read guaranteed to leave you wanting more?

So, I wrote this book…

I did.  I mean it.  Well, actually, I wrote it, like five years ago when I was a bored housewife in the Caribbean.  Y’know, like all Fleming-esque, sitting on the verandah with my laptop (I wanted to inherit my grandma’s typewriter but it was not to be 😦 ) and a Bahama-mam… Nah, just kidding…

I was at the dining table with the air conditioning on while the children had afternoon naps.  You know how hot it is in the Bahamas, right? Without air con I’d have done nothing for 2 years but sit on the beach.

And then…nothing.  It sat gathering dust.  Virtual dust on my laptop.  Well, on a memory card inside my laptop.  I had another baby.  We moved back to the UK. Life got on top of me. Again. As has always been my excuse.  As did a few more pounds. And…my 35+ year old dreams of being a writer were sat aging in the corner of my mind again.

Well, to be fair, I was making a little headway (by way of one step forward, twelve steps back, but still, headway…) with an acting career, of sorts.

And then, at the beginning of this month I suffered a personal trauma that pretty much made me burst in to tears every time I saw people, let alone had to talk to them.

The only thing that distracted me was reading a detective novel on my e-reader.  And then I finished that one, and something drew me back in to getting back to my series again…so I did.  And within 2 weeks I had it edited to within an inch of it’s life (Honestly, some parts were just crap, didn’t make sense or just didn’t fit) and made some sembelance of a contemporary romance novel, oh and with a hero I was totally in love with, so jealous of the heroine!

So, I finally bit the bullet, and forgoing the myriad of rejection letters from publishers I’d probably have to put up with, (there’s enough rejection in acting already) I signed up to Kindle Direct Publishing and have published it as an ebook and paperback and just telling the whole world (that I know personally) about it 🙂

So, go take a look, it’s a contemporary romance with a bit or action and adventure, and a bit of raunchiness.  Well, if people will read 50 Shades..

Buy “Dreamboat” on Amazon

Dreamboat cover

Posted in Baking, Cooking, Creative, Family

Follow these 8 steps to the PERFECT Chocolate Brownies!

I won’t take credit for this recipe.  It’s my go-to brownie recipe after accidentally stumbling upon it on a can of cocoa a few years ago in New Zealand.

I think it’s worth publishing here because I lost it once and it took me ages to track it down online, after the brand was a) no longer displaying the recipe and b) wasn’t available in the shops around where I was anyway.

It’s attributed to a Nestle Baking Cocoa can label, 25-09-08.

It’s not healthy, but they are lovely and chocolately and stodgy.  And there are certain times when healthy eating and diets just need to go out of the window. These are highly recommended for those times x

CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
150g butter
1 cup cocoa
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
¾ cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 packet White Choc Bits

  • Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa, then allow the mixture to cool slightly.
  • Beat in the eggs.
  • Stir in the sugar and vanilla essence.
  • Add the sifted flour and baking powder and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  • Stir the white chocolate bits through, then turn the mixture into a baking paper base-lined 27cm x 18cm.
  • Bake at160°Cfor45-50 minutes or until just firm when pressed in the centre.
  • Leave in the tin for 20 minutes, then turn out on to a rack.
  • When cold, cut into bars and dust with extra cocoa, if desired.
Posted in Creative, writing

User: Undefined

I went a seminar last night at a popular local arts venue.  An Exec producer of a really (Really, internationally) popular TV show, in conversation with the new Head of Drama at the studio within which she works.

It was a rather intimate affair; a small screening cinema, no more than about 50-60 seats maybe (which were all full).  A lot of the conversation, and the questions from the audience afterwards, steered towards writing – what types of new material he wanted to see produced, where he might source writing from, how new writers would go about getting discovered or catching his attention.  Since I had gone in the context of being and actor working in the region, I hadn’t even considered the implications of a new head and prospective expansion of production would have for writers.

Just the night before, I had put the finishing touches on the first draft of a screenplay I’d been working on; and during the conversation, he discussed his favourite genre…how he’d like to see more of these produced; along with content that was based here in this region, reflecting life in this region.  It just so happens that the screenplay in question PERFECTLY MATCHED HIS DESCRIPTIONS!  It’s set here, based here, using local talent; and is the very genre/genres he was talking about.

Of course, he didn’t go handing out his contact details to everyone in the room and certainly wouldn’t be pleased if every prospective writer in the room (of which, from the questions and discussion after the talk, there were many) suddenly showered him with unsolicited scripts; but the idea that he was open to the very thing I’d just been writing about was a boost.

typewriter

I had, during the seminar, thought I recognised a couple of ladies a couple of rows in front of me.  As everyone prepared to leave,  I got closer and realised it was them – Another actress with whom I’ve crossed paths a few times, not spoken with much but we’ve worked with a few of the same people; and the producer of a feature I’ve been cast in (we’ve filmed a sizzle reel they’ve been using to help secure funding).  They’d asked a couple of questions during the Q&A section, and the producer had been taking notes; so it was a great conversation opener.  We decided to have a coffee in the bar together before we left.  We had a lovely chat, comparing notes and what we thought of the conversation.  We had a slight discussion of how the prep of the feature was going (rewrites and feedback so far and so on), and discussed writing, and filmmaking, and life in general experiences.  The actress mentioned about a story she had been wanting to write, and then, as though it was a huge barrier, admitted ‘I’m not a writer’.  The producer and I guffawed and immediately shot down her assessment.

We basically came to the same conclusions:

  1. If you write, you’re a writer
  2. If you want to be a writer, do some writing
  3. go in to any bookstore – there’l  be shelves of accomplished writers and poets and Nobel and Pulitzer prize winners; all published and selling; but selling more will be the reality TV ‘star’ who got paid to tell a ghostwriter what to write about how she ‘survived her first year of parenthood’ .. because HER experience is worth paying for, the millions of us ‘normal’ people’s experiences of parenthood don’t count…

There is always the ongoing debate of ‘training’ and where it stands in relation to talent and natural ability – kind of a ‘Nature vs Nurture’ argument.  But since that pertains to both Acting and writing, I think I’ll leave that to another post…

 

 

Posted in Acting, Creative, Home, Life, writing

21600 minutes

21600 minutes.

That’s how many minutes are in 15 days.  15 days since my last blog entry…I’m slipping again.

And the silly thing is….it’s not because I’ve not been doing anything exciting.  I have. 21600 minutes of doing stuff. Good, fun, exciting non-houseworky non-parenty stuff.

It’s just all secret.  I can’t tell you about it.  Although…technically..since this is my secret little blog that I don’t tell anyone about I’m not sure it would count as publicising.

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I was doing housework one day, last week, and I got a message asking “Can you be at *** for 3pm and be free for the next 3 days?” {dun-dun-duuuuuuun how covert is that?}. So that took up most of last week (it was Good Friday on…er…Friday so no-one would have been working that day anyway otherwise I’m sure I’d have been working that day too.) Yes, it was work…of sorts. Filming.  Some people know already (one of those ‘worst kept secrets’ things).  I should be able to talk about it in…er…September.  Statute of limitations on certain types of filming work where one is employed in a certain type of role… 😉

And then…I got specially selected to join an exclusive Film Club.  And since the First Rule of (said) film Club is that you don’t talk about film club…well…there ya go.

Ooooh, I guess it’s not-so-secret that I’m going to be a Doctor Who tour guide.  I haven’t signed the tour-guides-official-secrets-act for that one; however I’m playing with ideas in my head that *I* want to keep secret so that anyone wishing to join my tour will have a couple of nice moments they didn’t know about before…

AND it’s been the Easter holidays from school…although I didn’t get to do much with the children last week due to the top-secret last-minute filming booking (which was *REALLY* fun to do, by the way.)  But, we did get to go and see Dewi & Dwynwen the dragons and their new…er…born (?) eggs at Caerphilly Castle … they’re SO fab.  Someimes I wish they were real…

And we had a BBQ.  Oh, and we went to the rugby!  Judgement Day V .. what a day out that was.  Apart from *some* unruly junior players sat around us, who I suspect lack both the discipline and the self-control to ever really make it to the top of their sport… Luckily, I like to think that my little player, despite being the smallest in the team (he has the speed to make up for it though…) has the the dedication and the passion to do just a little bit well (seriously…he gets REALLY upset when he has to miss even one training session or game…and he’s only in the Under-7’s!) ….and I’m looking forward to my free tickets to the hospitality box when he does… #ProudRugbyMum 

Posted in Creative, Harry Potter, Life, Movies, Social Media, TV

Fandom taking over…

A while ago I wrote about my own personal earlier experiences with fandom, before and after the invention of the internet.

Years ago, geeks and nerds and cosplayers (which wasn’t even a word then…adults who play dressing up); were derided. Even conventions, VERY big business today, were covert trips.  They were the uncool kids.  The spotty bespectacled kid in the corner who was at best, ignored, and worst, had mashed potato slingshotted towards them from the back of a spoon (well, according to American TV shows and movies I saw…I don’t think I ever noticed any of these individuals in the UK…or wherever in the world I happened to be at the time).

It’s funny how the internet has changed this one particular walk of life.  Like I said above, Conventions are now huge (and there are so many more of them…everywhere…no longer do you have to save up a lifetime to go to San Diego for Comic-Con…) as is cosplay.  It’s now uber-cool to post pictures of yourself in your costume when heading off to {insert your city here}-Con; it’s perfectly acceptable to spend your social time discussing in-depth the comparisons of the latest Doctor Who series compared with the Peter Davidson or Patrick Troughton years over your Caramel-Macchiato (coz…y’know, no-one goes for a pint at the pub anymore….it’s always a coffee at that cool coffee-house on the corner…).

Because we’re no longer simply at the mercy of what we read in a handful of papers or what our neighbours and friends tell us in some kind of chinese-whispers type of way; or based solely on what we see on 3-4 TV channels that some TV boss somewhere has decided we should see or think is cool.  Now, we can search for anything, compare our thoughts and feelings and find the people, all over the world, who think like us about subjects we feel passionate about.  Now, the nerds and the geeks from every high-school in the world can unite, and show that they are many, and then the closet geeks and nerds who wished they were them feel brave enough to come out, dressed as a Klingon.

When I was in University I house-shared with a girl who was in the Medieval Society, she met her boyfriend/fiance in said society; we lost touch but I always wonder when I see reports of ‘themed’ weddings whether they did that, all those years ago before it was fashionable?

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It’s no longer ‘a bit odd’ to come out and announce your affiliation to whichever-genre-you-choose or the fact that you have Hogwarts robes in your wardrobe.

Mind you, the quality is so good these days, because *they* {Manufacturers, marketers, licensing people I suppose…} know that big fans will spend the money on them, I might even have purchased a ‘proper’ robe myself while I was at Universal, even as a not-so-huge HP fan {Loved the books…because I love books anyway…kind of went off the whole franchise with the movies etc…} but was put off by the price.  Which is kind of a sticking point I’ve noticed.  Across the internet, there are online-quizzes and games asking “Are you ***** biggest fan?”; articles and blogs about ‘Blah-Blah-Blah’s biggest fan”.  I found this video on Youtube (there are many, for all different ‘fandoms’) of a girl in America who “believes she’s the wizard’s biggest fan thanks to her vast collection of memorabilia worth a staggering £40,000.” and the comments range from basic “wow” to “I’m a big fan too” to “Does the fact she’s rich and can afford to buy the expensive memorabilia make her the biggest fan?”.  To be fair, not everyone has the money to spend, but she does address that in the video saying she’s worked hard for it all.

As with Victoria Maclean, who I had the pleasure of meeting last year and working on set with; co-incidentally after I’d read her autobiography online…completely by chance after coming across it from a different source (Mutual friends on Facebook I think).  Now Victoria’s similar…she has a vast collection of merchandise.  But again, she bought it all with her own money; she was gifted some and sent some (…and similarly is careful that it doesn’t completely take over the house in a hoarder fashion!).  But reading her book brought to mind my point.  Years ago, someone might have thought twice about building their life-story around their fandom.  In an autobiography, it might have been one chapter, or a sideline, if it was mentioned at all…incase it made the story ‘uncool’ or put people off reading it.

Nowadays, the fandom is a selling-point, a marketing tool.  Harry Potter fans, of which there are millions of all levels (myself included to a small extent) would flock to read the story purely because it references Harry Potter and the effect it had on Victoria’s life.  One event that occurs in one of J.K.Rowling’s  Harry Potter stories is the Yule Ball.  Thanks to her using that term in the book for the annual festive celebration at Hogwarts, to anyone familiar with Potter-dom, it no longer conjours up visions of some Victorian Christmas Party; it’s now intrinsically linked forever to the world of Harry Potter.  And that’s why Victoria is throwing her own.  Far from just collecting memorabilia and hanging her robes in her closet until the next Comic-Con, she’s made it her life.  She’s organised book nights and quizzes and runs online groups and Twitter accounts for other Harry Potter fans.  And, like two of my best friends are throwbacks to my Due South days…beause we will always have that in common; Victoria’s closest circle are also dedicated Potter fans.  And that circle is probably going to grow at Christmas time as other fans flock from all over to her *almost-sold-out event.

At the end of the day, no matter what you’re a fan of or how you celebrate it, it’s probably more about community.  30 years ago, if you were the loner in school, who never had the hot boy/girlfriend, because you wanted to read comic books about Thor and that’s just not what the other kids did, you just kept it to yourself and went to find a quiet place to enjoy it.  Nowadays, you don’t have to be sidelined…you go On-line; and find your best friends.

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The internet can be, and is, blamed for a heck of a lot of bad things these days.  But this is one to be celebrated.

That, and 24-hour shopping for just about anything you want, of course 😉 **

*at the time of writing, there were 3 tickets left
** that’s a joke.  The Internet is actually Good for you

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Posted in Creative, Family, Home, Life

Seeking The Good Life

 (…or, how would we continue to live after a zombie apocalypse?)

In accordance with the parenthood-induced-paranoia of my last post, and constantly worrying about what goes into our food, I’m increasingly interested in all things related to natural, sustainable living.  My guiding principle in this endeavour being, what if the unthinkable happened (Zombie apocalypse, world-order collapse etc.) and there were NO MORE SHOPS??? (Or cars, or farms…well..ok, there might be some quite healthy farmers laughing at the rest of us but they might live too far away from home to be able to pop over – without a car – for an egg and a side of beef…and how would we pay them?)

There was a TV show on when I was little.  Well, it was being repeated when I was little – it was produced originally before I was born.  It was called “The Good Life“.  Many readers will remember it.  For those that don’t, modern couple in Surbiton ditch their city-jobs and ‘modern life’ and decide to become self-sufficent, living off their garden and things they can make and grow and produce themselves. (My sister lives there, in Surbiton, now…can’t see her living like that though…)

Today, I planted a cherry tree and an apple tree in my front garden.  I also did a bit more weeding and planting in the flower bed just outside the back door.  It’s tough going – it’s been left wild for seemingly years to what used to be a flower bed was solid grass and dandelions before I began.

I planted some strawberries in tubs.  Time will tell but last time I tried strawberries they were rescued from B&Q for 50p per plant at the end of the season before being dumped by them.  By the following year I had a bumper crop.  It may have had something to do with the copious amounts of Miracle-Gro I was using.  Still, it gave me the confidence that I could actually produce something.  Then we moved.  And moved again…and again… (Again, another post…) and so the effort I had put in to that garden has never really come back to me.  Until recently when we moved again and this house, well, this one seems right…

I’d prefer to be doing this chemical free.  Of course.  I do not use weed-killers. of any kind.  I believe the safest and most effective way of removing weeds is..well..to remove them.  Dig up the roots and all and get rid of the whole thing completely,  And no poisons left behind to seep to your other plants.  I’m not much of a scientific gardeer; following rules and testing soil samples and paying attention to acidity levels and all that.  So far I’ve just been a fair-weather plant-it-and-see kind of gardener.  learning by trial and error and giving a bit of care and attention. Because I haven’t had to rely on the results…

Where did it start?:
It’s not a new interest of mine.  I grew up, as I’m sure many of us millennials did, with a grampy & great-grampy whose gardens were mostly given over to cultivating their own foodstuffs for the family.  Vines of beans and peas, greenhouses full of weird and wonderful scents and sights; and the weekly bribe of “ah, but they’re from grampy’s garden” over Sunday lunch to guilt us in to eating our veg.  (It always worked and I’ve been a keep veg&fruit eater since). It’s always been obvious to me that it’s perfectly natural that part of your garden is used for growing food.  In fact, I watch some of the more recent crop of ‘reality’ shows on TV, teaching people how to save money on their groceries, or eat a healthier diet, or a combination of the two, healthier cheaper supermarket shopping, and am at a loss to understand the pre-made roast potatoes and Yorkshire  puddings and the pre-grated cheese; the sauces-from-jars-or-packets and every other over-processed convenience food; the throwing away of the ridiculous over-stocks of fresh foods when it was clear they’d bought too much for them to consume within the time-frame of freshness…and I wonder whether these people are real…was there no hint during their childhood of what was in their food?  Did their mothers and grandmothers not involve them in the cooking & baking (and the washing up)?  Didn’t they pick their own peas from great-grampy’s garden and eat them fresh straight from the pod before even going inside?  Did they honestly think the only way to get lasagne was to buy it ready-prepared in the freezer section?

To me, having the space, even a small patch, in a garden, at your home, to grow at least something edible, is a normal part of life.

The Duck Collection:
We have a duck collection. (Rubber ducks, I might add). I think it would take a whole other post to explain the background to it; but suffice to say, it’s now the theme of our bathroom.

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( just *some* of the duck collection & theme, in our old bathroom)

Since that began, it’s always been at the back of my mind that I’d like to own ducks. Real ones, I mean.  As pets/domestic animals, partly, and partly to provide a fresh supply of eggs (and general amusement).  Actually, I say since then, I actually mean, since there was a 4-legged duck born in the UK, randomly, who became famous and made the news.  I looked him up on the internet (in it’s early days back then I suppose) and discovered that the farm where he was born also supplied ducks.  And they weren’t overly expensive either. And the seed was sewn…if they were that easy to get hold of, how difficult is it to look after them…? So I’ve been researching and procrastinating ever since.  About 10-12 years now.  I’m pretty sure it might happen one day.  I have an aunt who has chickens.  And I’ve learned that ducks not only produce nicer/more nutritious eggs than chickens but they’re also calmer and quieter in general.  I’m sure the neighbours would prefer ducks.   Various moves and living situations and so on have thus far prevented the very thought; but in keeping with the spirit of this post, Ducks for eggs (and eventually meat, maybe?) would be another addition to my Good Life garden.

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Stumpy the 4 legged duck as a chick…
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Stumpy grown up, with 3 legs after an amputation.

And another thing…
It’s always bugged me…well, since I’ve been trying to research stuff on the internet, it’s bugged me…that when you look up an instructional for something; say, how to make a home-made hair-conditioning or face-mask from scratch using household ingredients; invariably, it involves getting some exotic essential oil from your nearest branch of *insert name of US niche chain store here*.  Another example – I recently began working as a costumed medieval tour guide and so researching history has become more than a hobby, and actually sort of work-related.  So looking up ways to make certain things the old-fashioned way came in to play – cheese, butter (I play a dairy maid 😉 ); bread, wine, herbal medicines and so on. We have an apothecary nun who grows all kinds of things so learning what certain native British plants used to be used for is interesting. It annoyed me that everything online, suggesting how to ‘make this yourself at home without buying shop-bought stuff with preservatives and additives in’ STILL included having to ‘go and get something from the bakery aisle of your local supermarket ‘ …
Take Yeast for example. I looked up how to make simple, basic, home made bread.  Invariably “get some dried yeast from the supermarket” was always one of the steps.  With a little more digging I found that with a little starter yeast it’s easy to produce more; a bit like when I make home-made yoghurt with my Easiyo yoghurt maker, without the use of their pre-packed sachets, using UHT or pre-heated milk and some starter yoghurt.

But in a bit like ‘the chicken and the egg’ – where did the FIRST sample of starter yeast and starter yoghurt come from?  What happens if you run out inadvertantly?  Does the medieval village baker close down and wait for the next trader from the holy-lands to wander through the village and hope he’s carrying a sample of yeast?  How do you explain that to his Lordship and hope his lack of Pain-de-Main doesn’t cause him to close down your oven and chop your hands off? How do I get some starter yoghurt if I’ve run out (alright I had an unplanned house party, made a mint-yoghurt dip and a lamb curry with my yoghurt and forgot to save some for the next batch…). Now, the fermentation of milk into yoghurt & cheese was discovered by accident in the middle-east thousands of years before (or holy-lands I suppose as they were better known at the time). Fresh milk for drinking would be stored in a drinks container made from a sheep or camel stomach or intestines, for example, and after a few days riding across the hot desert, they’d find the milk, well, not quite as it should be.  It wasn’t just soured and gone off; but had been preserved in some kind of slightly solid and quite tasty substance.  Rennet has been used in cheese & yoghurt making ever since. There are alternatives such as certain vegetables that produce a coagulating substance

Now, with a little more digging I’ve discovered that it’s possible to recreate the yoghurting (is that a word or did I just invent it?) process without a starter, or the rennet, believe it or not.  There’s a few web posts dedicated to it.  I haven’t tried it yet but am anxious to try…y’know, so I know I can make yoghurt & cheese after the apocalypse…

Apart from some sources I’ve found mentioning that a bread starter can be made using just water and flour, I have discovered that yeast is a natural substance that grows on the outside of various fruits.  Raisins are good apparently.  It (basically – look up more in depth instructions if you want to try this...) involves soaking the fruit (I used raisins and orange peel) in water and leaving it to ferment.  Eventually, a film of solid…well…mush, separates from the fruit and sinks to the bottom. After a few days, remove the fruit and save the yeast and the water it’s contained in.   Now, I *have* tried this….I think it was successful (it certainly *smelled* a bit yeasty…well, like a brewery so I think that was close enough 😉 ) but I’ve yet to test it in the making of bread.  Well, I tried, but it was after moving house meaning the jar had not been refrigerated constantly (it was kept at room temp during the move while the fridge was unplugged, moved, settled and then plugged back in) and also, I think I may have stored it too long…and I dind’t exactly follow instructions to the letter, so it didn’t seem to have much of a reaction to warmth and the ‘bread’ was a bit, well, like a brick!  I am determined to try again, properly. Y’know, so I know I can still  make bread (if I figure out how to grow a good yield of grains in my garden) after the apocalypse.

So, once I’ve got the gardens cultivated and growing (also, without relying on buying Miracle-Gro from the shops that may not exist after the mentioned apocalypse!) settled the ducks in (and maybe a pygmy goat or two) and have figured out the yoghurt and yeast thing, we might be pretty well off!Oh, and I’ve even looked into which plants make a good soap-like substance 😉

Anything else I’ve forgotten?

*Disclaimer* Nothing in this post is meant as an instructional of any kind.  If you decide to have a go at the things I’ve described, please look elsewhere for full instructions and don’t hold me responsible 😉 !!
Posted in Art, Creative, Social Media, writing

Breaking Blogging rules

I don’t know where I got these from but for some reason I recall blogging rules like:

  • Always include graphics/pictures
  • Insert hyperlinks, at least 3 of them
  • people love lists and bullet points (see what I did here?!)
  • Blog about a specific subject or theme…

I tried to look up a definitive guide just now.  Guess what?  There isn’t one.  There are, however, plenty of other bloggers blogging about how to blog. I searched ‘Simple rules of bogging’ and the first search page came up with various random blog posts entitled things like:

…I could go on… but there’s nothing stopping you searching for yourself.  And there’s obviously nothing stopping anyone from trying to offer advice to others how to write their online diary.  Which is pretty much what I use this one for.  In a slightly more anonymous way than I’d be writing in a single copy handwritten paper journal hidden in a locked-box under my bed (which I don’t, by the way, if you’re ever in my bedroom.  I move house too often to merit carrying dusty old notebooks around. Actually, I do carry dusty old notebooks around…the world…but I’m trying to limit them.  Which is why this is my version of an online diary.  Anonymously. Sort of.)

Anyhow, despite trying to stick to using pictures and hyperlinks and (trying but failing to) writing almost regularly, I’ve completely and totally failed at the one that comes up more often than not…”Pick a theme.  Don’t fire in all directions. Follow a niche…”.  Huh. Yeh.  So far I’ve done family stuff, musing, acting, history, poetry, personal history, movies, TV shows, nail art… So I’m totally failing on picking a direction and sticking with it.

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Welsh Cakes & ANZAC cookies I made

But I’m ok with that.  I don’t expect anyone to follow me.  I’m not looking to sell advertising or become a household name from writing a blog about how fab my chocolate brownies, Welsh cakes and ANZAC biscuits are; nor am I expert enough to carry on telling people how to go camping.   I have won an award for my acting (have I mentioned that before?) but even so I wouldn’t purport to tell people how to act (If they ask for help I will, that’s different…) because I’m not the presumptuous to try to pass myself off as more of an expert than anyone else who might end up reading this blog…which, let’s face it, could be just about anyone – some Hollywood star or director even? Maybe? (in which case, cast me in your next movie, eh? thanks…) no?  Okay…

So I dug a little further and found this post on breaking blogging rules.  And I think I’ll stick with this viewpoint for now.  To be honest, I prefer blogs that keep me guessing and wondering what the blogger will say next…kind of keeps life interesting, don’t you think?

Posted in Art, Creative, Life, Social Media, writing

Ctrl-ALT-Delete…NOT!

When I began this blog I promised myself it was going to be my gateway. My gateway into writing every day. After the whole discovery of the ‘Morning pages‘ idea, I figured that if I could use this blog to shake off the shackles of everything else, then some days, maybe even most days, I might carry on writing and get something done.  Maybe (probably) not every day, but writing a blog entry every day would at least keep the juices flowing.

And, of course, ‘real life’ got in the way…as it has done with everything else, all the time. But thanks to a new follower on this blog, and the fact that someone else I recently worked with read and watched a monolgoue I wrote & recorded as part of a class I was doing and told me she’d love to see that extended and turned in to a play, I have started doing just that; editing the monologue and converting it into a play; and promising myself to blog -and generally write- more.

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Now, in the past, I might have…well, no, I WOULD have…deleted this blog and started all over again; maybe saving and reposting some of the entries under edited titles and updated.  I was contemplating how some people can blog on one single subject their whole blogging career – there’s those who blog on technology, business, fashion, makeup, movies, gaming…But having begun this blog mainly for my own posterity, I love the freedom of writing about…writing.

While showering this evening (why not…it’s Mothers’ Day, after all 😉 ) I realised that maybe that’s a problem with us “Millennials” (And before you ask, I can *only just* count myself in that particular age-group under *some* of the many definitions).  Basically, the last generation who will remember a life pre-internet and smartphones and the first generation to become truly integrated with said technology, learning it in school, applying it to everyday life and teaching it to our elders, whilst at the same time bemoaning our children don’t appreciate ‘the old days’.

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Not only are we are SO glad that those misdemeanours and mistakes and foolishness of our youth are not recorded for all eternity on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook (unless ones’ mother learns to scan and upload photos of you as a child…but that’s another post…;) ), we can control what others see about us ; we can delete anything we want to, that we’ve written, created, no longer agree with, no longer see as relevant, at the touch of a button.  And really, for me to do that with this blog, goes against the very sentiment I wrote about in my first post. It would be like someone keeping a real, pen-and-paper journal for 60-odd years and then tossing them on the fire with no-one ever having read them.