Report 8

Right, it’s a piss-poor report this week. Check out this list of non-events.

Script pages done: None. I’ll spare you the excuses. I cleared Thursday to do some work but then I got paid and went shopping instead. Didn’t buy much either, just a jacket and a t-shirt. Thoroughly disappointing all round really.

New thing done: Bought me some vegan shoes. Cowboy boots and trainers to be exact. Never bought vegan shoes before, not intentionally anyway, and not online either. The cowboy boot thing is a big departure for me. Got them from alternativestores.com. They have loads of great stuff worth checking out. And, if you enter the code VIVA at the checkout you get a whopping 20% off! I’ll be posting pictures when they arrive, so be sure to check back later in the week.

Recipes done: None… yet! I’m working on a recipe for Jerk Tofu, another staple from my college days, but it didn’t come out too well last night so I’m holding off publishing until I do a decent one. Gonna have another go on Tuesday, so it shouldn’t be too long. And I passed on doing a Carrot and Coriander soup tonight in favour of some dahl and subji, coz it’s been a long weekend at work and I was dead hungry. Hope to do that on Tuesday too.

Actually, there should be loads of new stuff next week. My ‘new thing’ is going to be going gluten free, so I’ll have to do loads of cooking just to get by. Maybe I’ll actually get ahead of myself for once, you never know (though I think we can make an educated guess eh, hahaha).

Report 7

New thing done: Went to the Dave Gorman gig on my own. A necessary experiment.

Recipes done: Flapjack & Maple pecan date cake

Writing done: Re-wrote pages from last week.

Been too busy with work this week to do anything fresh. That’s why I published what to me are ‘old’ recipes, and that’s why I haven’t written anything new on the script. But the re-writes do mean that I can crack straight on with new pages on Wednesday and Thursday, without having to go over what I’ve done before. It’s been a funny week this week, what with all the night shifts. Next week I hope to get back on track.

Flapjack & Maple and pecan date cake

Had no time for new stuff this week, so here’s a couple of recipes from the ‘archive’. And I thought it was time we had some cake.

Flapjack

vegan flapjack

150g marg/butter (soya spread)
75g golden syrup
75g sugar (soft brown sugar)
125g porridge oats
125g rolled oats (if no rolled oats, use 250g porridge oats)

melt butter, syrup and sugar on low heat to a smooth liquid.
line baking tray with grease-proof paper.
add oats and mix. press into baking tray.
cook in pre-heated oven at 175C for 20-25mins (the longer the crispier).
slice out of oven. allow to cool.

Maple and pecan date cake

vegan maple & pecan date cake

1/2 pint boiling water (1/4 pint if using maple syrup – see below)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3oz soya spread (was butter)
10oz plain flour (sieved)
1/2 tsp salt
8oz dates (chopped)
8oz sugar (though I used 175ml maple syrup instead – recommended!)
1/2 banana (ie: 1 egg – though I used a whole one to make it more bananaey)
1 tsp baking powder
2oz chopped walnuts (or pecans, as in the loaf pictured)

Put chopped dates, bicarb and water in bowl for 5 minutes.
cream sugar (syrup) and soya spread until soft.
mash banana.
combine flour, baking powder and salt. mix.
add banana and flour mix to creamed sugar/spread mix. stir together.
add chopped nuts.

line bread tin with baking sheet and pour in mixture to 1/2 inch below top (should make 2 x 1lb tins, but I only got the one out of it)

bake in pre heated oven at 180oC for 3/4-1 hour. mine took an hour. test with knife every 5 minutes after first 45 to make sure it’s done.
leave to cool and enjoy.

Dave Gorman: He’s a funny man

Just got back from the Dave Gorman show at the Hammersmith Apollo; his ‘Sit down, pedal, pedal, stop and stand up’ show which he took on tour last year (and which I just missed out on in Carlisle when I was up there for my brother’s wedding, though bizarrely enough he did cycle through the village my parent’s live in). It was excellent! Out of respect for Dave I can’t tell you anything about it. All I can say is, if you’re a fan, go and see it; you will not be disappointed.

The reason this was my new thing this week is because I went on my own. Not exactly ground breaking you might think, but it was new to me. And a bit odd too. I mean it wasn’t a real problem except at two points. One was the intermission, where I had literally nothing to do for a good 20 minutes. I didn’t need the loo, I didn’t have enough money for a drink, I just had to sit there and wait. Now technically this was an excellent opportunity to practice my mindfulness. Unfortunately for me I cracked; I called my twin brother and we chatted for the entire intermission. It was lovely to speak to him, but I did feel a bit of a failure (and I’m not even sure what at?).

The second was at a point in the show where you had to interact with the person next to you. This of course pre-supposes you know at least one of the people next to you (though the joke was that if you didn’t it’d be a bit awkward). This also pre-supposes the is someone next to you. I was in an aisle seat, and the two next to me never showed up, so they were empty. So there’s me, on my own and physically isolated from the rest of the audience, I can’t say it was a brilliant position to be in.

Now the moment didn’t last very long, and I’m sure no one else really noticed it, but I felt a bit sad at that point, that I was there on my own, with not even a stranger to interact with. It didn’t last long, and let’s not pretend I’m scarred for life, but I have to say on reflection that shows are better if you can find someone to go with you. But! don’t go missing out just because you can’t. There’s nothing wrong with going to shows on your own, it’s just funner with company. That’s what I reckon anyway, so there. 😛

Report 6

Ok, a quick summation:

New Things Done: Had a go in a floatation tank. Went to see a musical.

Recipes Done: Spaghetti Bolognese and Hash Browns

Script Writing Done: 4 pages.

Yes, that’s right, I did it; I finally wrote some pages!!!!! In fact it’s even more impressive than that. I sketched out a map of the story (if I explained the story this would make sense to you), I re-wrote the first 16 pages, and I wrote a rough outline of the remaining script, all in about 5 hours. Seriously, that was one session, and in fact I’m a little embarrassed that it was so damn easy to do. Honestly, seat of the pants in the seat of the chair is what it’s all about. How much could I have got done in life if I just made myself do it! Well I’ve learnt my lesson. I’m going to do something every week now, even if it’s only a few pages or some re-writes. I’ve no reason not to.

Legally Blonde : the musical; plus Spaghetti Bolognese and Hash browns (not on the same plate)

I’m playing serious catch-up with my blogging this week. Been doing night shifts since Sunday – all you do is get up, go to work, go home, go to bed –  so I just haven’t been in the mood to do anything. This is a mistake as once you lose the momentum it can be quite hard to catch up. Also, whatever joy you had at whatever you’d done is somewhat diminished by time. For example, I had a brilliant time going to see Legally Blonde last week, but what I have to say about it now is different than what I would have said then, being, as it is, tempered by time. Still…

I’d never been to a musical before, and though I had an idea what to expect, singing, dancing and the like, I was amazed by just how much was going on at any one time. If you haven’t seen the movie it’s the story of Elle Woods, a blonde Californian college student, who get dumped by the love of her life because she wasn’t “serious” enough for his ambitions, who then follows him across the country to Harvard Law school to win him back by proving she is the one for him. That’s about it in a nut shell, but there’s so much more to it. Ultimately it’s a whole ‘you-can’t-judge-a-book-by-it’s-cover’ story, with shades of ‘you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to’ and a little bit of ‘you-never-know-where-life-will-take-you’.

But never mind all that, the show, and the movie, are just fun! I heartily recommend you see one or the other. I’ve just bought the DVD to re-live the show watching experience, and I may buy the soundtrack if they do an English cast version (the one on sale is the Broadway production), but that’s partly down to the fact that I’ve got a bit of a thing for Sheridan Smith, who plays the lead. She was Janet in Two Pints Of Lager… and I’ve fancied her ever since then pretty much, so going to see this show was a real treat for me.

One weird thing was realising that, as far as I could tell, I was the only bloke my age there who wasn’t a bit of an uphill gardener. The audience was almost entirely blonde, female, gay, foreign or old (or some interesting derivation thereof) and then me. Not that any of that was a problem, it just struck me as odd. I suppose that’s what you get for doing random new things every week.

Anyway, I loved it. The singing, the dancing, the catchy tunes – “Is he gay… or European?” – the comedy UPS Guy, the prison skipping routine – hats off to them, no one tripped –  it was fabulous, and I fully intend to go to more stage shows like that from now on; assuming I can find people to go with me that is (see the Dave Gorman blog report for why that is). Just one of the many ways in which a girlfriend would be handy I suppose.

Right, now to the cooking:

Spaghetti Bolognese

spaghetti bolognese

My version of the old classic. The measures are a little sketchy I’m afraid, as I winged it a bit, but start with this and then add some more tomatoey stuff as need be and I’m sure it’ll work out fine.

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

splash of olive oil

1/3 red chili, chopped (optional)

1 tsp Italian mixed herbs, or ½ tsp basil, ½ tsp oregano

175g soya mince

1 tin chopped tomatoes

3 tsp tomato puree

1 tsp sugar

¼ cup hot water

In a medium pan fry the garlic and onion on a medium heat in olive oil for 4-5 minutes until the onion softens.

Add the chili and herbs, mix and fry for 30 seconds, then add the soya mice. Mix again, then add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and sugar.

Add water if required, stir thoroughly, then simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Serve on bed of pasta.

Y’see, nice and simple, and damn tasty too. The one in the picture was a second mix of the remaining half of the recipe a few days later. I added another tin of tomatoes and more garlic, herbs and puree, as I’d over done it with the mince first time round (225g). But I’ve reduced the amount to use for the recipe, and added some puree, so it should work out fine. If not let me know and I’ll revisit it (I’ve had enough bolognese for now so didn’t fancy testing it a second time in two weeks).

Hash Browns

hash browns

This is also a bit of a work in progress, but not in the same way. It tasted fine when I had it, it’s just the method of preparation that I might work on. I reckon grated onion and potato might work better than chopped, but you tell me.

2 potatoes, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 mushrooms, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp dill

salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Toss in the onion and mushrooms and fry until soft. Add the spices and potato, mix thoroughly, then fry on a medium heat until potatoes are cooked. Serve immediately.

The reason I’m thinking grated potatoes will work better is that it’ll take less time to cook. Also, you might be able to brown them a bit better to get that nice golden hue. Plus, and this is taking it to eleven, you might even be able to find a way to make those nice neat little patties like you get when you eat an English breakfast in a cafe. If you try that maybe eliminate the mushrooms and try mixing the ingredients in a bowl first before frying, that might work.

Ok kids, ciao for now. Well I say that, but I’ve got 2 more entries to write, so really I’ll be right back. TTFN.

Me and the Floatation Tank

It’s been a good week for new things this week. First of all, I’m in a new year. Turned 36 on Monday and I am glad of it finally. Think I was getting a bit stressed out about it the other week, trying to reconcile what I’ve done, with what I want, with what everyone else is doing, y’know? A losing battle of course, “for there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself” (Desiderata, Max Ehrmann), but one we keep on fighting anyway don’t we.

Going to be starting a new year on Sunday too; the Chinese year of the Tiger, which is my year. It’s always good when it’s your year. It means good things are meant to happen. Fingers crossed eh.

Also, going to see a West End show tonight, my first ever after 11 1/2 years in London. Can you believe it? I’ll be reporting on that on Sunday, but first… the floatation tank!

Got to admit, this wasn’t what I was expecting. For some reason I had visualised some kind of pod you lie in (a bit like a sun bed) with goggles and ear plugs and that. Instead I was show to my own individual room with a shower and floatation tank. The guy informed me of the basics – strip off (naked), get a quick shower, dry your face, hop in the tank and shut the door – then left me to it. Once you’re laid down and floating in the rather thick, salty water, you turn off the light and just… float. After about 15 minutes the music fades out and you’re on your own til the end of the session.

Ok, a few weird things. First, I couldn’t decide where to put my arms. They recommended down by your side, above your head, or on your chest. But all three made my shoulders feel weird, like they were up around my ears or something. And there was a lot of pain in my neck and shoulders too, which they had warned me about as that’s where you carry most of your stress and tension, so they were very hard to relax.

When I finally did manage it though there were two things that I found distracting. One was muscle twitches, my arms and legs taking turns to spasm now and then, no doubt as the muscles each individually relaxed completely; and the drifting about inside the tank that I did, sometimes bouncing from wall to wall to wall. Both were exasperated by the thick, viscous liquid, which exaggerated the tiniest movement so that pushing off gently from one end of the tank could easily send you all the way to the other.

That being said, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the experience. As someone who has done different types of meditation before it was interesting to compare and contrast. Floatation seems to offer you the experience of a contemplative state from the outside in, as opposed to the inside out as with other disciplines, so will no doubt be of great value to a number of people. Personally though I don’t think I’ll be going there an awful lot. At £30 a time (off peak) it’s a bit much for me to do on a regular basis. I get as much mental relaxation from Tai Chi or a bit of sitting meditation. But I will go back at some point, as it was a nice thing to do and the people there were really lovely. I got as much spiritually out of sitting chatting over a cup of tea afterwards as I did the float itself.

For those who are interested, here’s where to find them: www.floatopia.co.uk

More in a few days, including a recipe for hash browns, and my theatre review of Legally Blonde. TTFN.