Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A good friend of mine asked me for ideas for dinner, as she is getting tired cooking the same old stuff. I pontificated on this very subject not many posts ago: how cooking dinner starts to become a chore when one gets into a rut (which has definitely been the case with me for a while now). However, cooking new recipes can be daunting, especially when one is pressed for time; one has a busy day at work or studying or dashing around like a lunatic, and then one doesn't have the energy or the motivation to make complicated meals. Well, that's what happens in my house, anyway.

And then I discovered the joy of menus. If I write up a menu for the week, I know exactly what to do the night before (plonk the chicken in the marinade, put the beans on to soak), what to do before work (throw the whole thing in the slow cooker). And then I'll have made a brand-new dish and I've remembered how much fun food is and impressed Partner to boot. So I would like to share my last three menus (mostly for showing-off purposes. I don't actually know if the abovementioned friend even reads my blog. But I've made it smaller and easier to skip).

Sunday: Roast beef with Yorkshire puddings, cabbage, carrots, roast potatoes, and gravy
Monday: Stir fried fresh veg and leftover beef in Chinese insta-sauce with rice
Tuesday: Beef and vegetable lasagna
Wednesday: Marinated chicken curry with rice
Thursday: Slow-cooker sausage casserole
Friday: Baked chicken with herbs, roast potatoes, and green beans
Saturday: Pizza

Sunday: Roast chicken with cabbage, carrots, roast potatoes, and gravy
Monday: Stir fried fresh veg and leftover chicken in Chinese insta-sauce with rice
Tuesday: Slow-cooker casoulet
Wednesday: Chili with rice and tortilla chips
Thursday: Pork chops with herbs, garlic mash, and baby carrots
Friday: Slow-cooker beef hotpot
Saturday: Marinated grilled sea bream, refried beans, and red rice, with cheese and salsa

Sunday: Roast lamb with cabbage, carrots, roast potatoes, mint and gravy
Monday: Stir fried fresh veg and leftover lamb in Chinese insta-sauce with noodles
Tuesday: Pork chops in barbecue sauce, baked potatoes, and coleslaw
Wednesday: Chili with rice and tortilla chips
Thursday: Marinated chicken with garlic butter penne, and salad
Friday: Slow-cooker corned beef hash
Saturday: Pizza

Partner made me these last week for breakfast. He's such a sweet husband.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Gardening and robins and not-quite-wellness

I loved the raindrops on this rose. We had a thunderstorm this week which resulted in some very beautiful colors around the garden.

I'm still off work until Monday (paid holiday is great!) but I've been a bit under the weather yesterday and today. Yesterday I slept nearly all day, but woke up very awake at 7 AM today. I'm never willingly awake at seven; if I'm ever up early I like to do stuff (gardening, housekeeping, baking). But not today, and the day has just dragged for me; I haven't done much of anything except lay down.

My runner beans have begun flowering, and I even have a couple teeny bean pods forming. I also have one little green tomato so far, and the cabbage, while slug-eaten, is definitely forming heads. My slug traps are still catching them, but not as many as I'd like. We've also had the first of the baby carrots: yum yum.

I can proudly say that I've made a big dent in the weed population, and have even moved to a smaller bucket now. The weeds left are mostly small and easy to pull up, as they've only sprouted since I began weeding in earnest this spring. Of course, I can't get complacent. Small weeds become big weeds, after all.

And to conclude: our little fluffy ball of cuteness, learning to fly on our patio. This is a baby robin which was born in our garage, and has either graduated flying school or had a bad landing inside a cat. Either way, it's long gone.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I know I probably should have saved my money (I'm pretty broke), but I bought an orchid today. It's the first red orchid I've ever seen; red is my favorite color. I couldn't resist. I've put her on my dining table for the moment, but I've never grown this kind of orchid before. I hope I don't kill her. I have had an orchid fatality in the last two years: my dark pink phalaenopsis Mary Magdalen shriveled up a year and a half ago.

The only bouquet I took a picture of this week is on my coffee table, of pink roses, snapdragons, purple sage flowers, and some yellow shrub leaves. Partner picked a nice bouquet of sweet peas and daisies for the bathroom as well, and it smells lovely up there. My new orchid also has a gentle fragrance, surprisingly.

I've got the week off from work, as does Partner, and we've been going out a lot. I like to go walking in the mornings, before ten if possible, and the dog has started to expect it. When I come down in the morning she starts quivering and whining at me. Then when the leash comes out she jumps as high as my shoulder and does her best to contain her barking (if she barks I put the leash back until she stops), though she does make these peculiar yawning noises, which would probably be woofs if she moved her doggy lips during them. We go out as quickly as possible, so as to avoid as much noise as possible, and while I hold her at my side, because polite doggies do not walk ahead on the leash, she pulls me up the street as hard as she can, so hard that she can barely breathe. Yet when she gets off the leash, she always stays in sight of me, and if she thinks I'm lost she runs back to check on me. It's funny to see her up on her hind legs wildly straining to look over the tall grass to find me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Flowers and treats

This week's offerings from the garden (click on the images to see them full-sized) : in my bathroom I have a mixture of lupins, daisies, and mint leaves. For my dining table I picked foxgloves, daisies, and laurel leaves. And finally on my mantle there is a large bunch of sweet peas which I cannot take credit for picking or arranging. Partner did that one. Incidently, above my mantle is my very very favorite waterlily painting by Monet; I once saw the original and searched for many years to find a print of it.

My gardening goals for the summer are small and not really worth mentioning separately. So I have decided to share my general goals for the summer instead. I printed them out for myself personally about two weeks ago, and since the month of June is more than halfway over I have completed some of these goals already. I think I will be adding new goals as old ones are completed.

I enjoyed making pretzels (shown here as before and after). The actual goal is to bake sweets once a week, but I'm counting pretzels in this category. I think maybe I should have chosen "bake treats" instead, to cover this sort of confusion. I made them last night, and today they have all gone but one. I think the recipe could use with a little tweaking to make them less sweet and more chewy, but Partner gobbled them down quickly enough, which is all the assurance I need.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Roofs, and (not) falling off them

Because I have had a fairly structured academic year with targets and deadlines, now that it's summer I've felt at a loss as to how to spend my time productively. I don't want the summer to end with a ton of projects that never got off the ground. With that in mind I have written myself a list of goals for the summer, and a specific list of goals for the month of June.

I think I've mentioned in the past that our garage roof leaked in two places. And that we had buckets underneath the leaks to catch the rain. Well, I made it a goal to fix the roof this month, and today that is exactly what I did. The only help I had from Partner was to get the new roofing felt up the ladder, and the underlaying wood shifted. I tacked the new patch down and sealed it myself. Partner doesn't like ladders, and I admit it was a little scary climbing on and off the top bit. But the view up there was quite nice and I am satisfied in my accomplishment. It should hold for at least a few more years now.

Partner brought his camera when we went walking this morning and we found two different orchids. The pink one with my hand in the photo is the bee orchid, and the purply one with lots of flowers we think is a common spotted orchid, or possibly a northern marsh orchid. Anyhow, on further reading we have discovered there are about two dozen kinds of orchids native to Britain. Both of these were quite small, with the stalks no bigger than about four inches; we were so pleased to have found two(!) kinds.

And it is poppy season here, with whole fields gone red with them. I took a picture of our village (our house is somewhere to the right of the tower), and an action shot from the motorway, going about 65-70 mph. I was not driving at the time.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Simple pleasures

After a long day's work, indeed, after a long week's work, the simple pleasures of life take on new meaning. We bought strawberries for the first time this year, and had them after dinner the other night. With sweetened crème fraîche and leftover homemade chocolate sauce they became the food of gods.

Other simple things which give me joy:
  • a jug of iced tea glistening in the fridge
  • fresh flowers on my table, picked from my own garden
  • newly washed sheets on my bed
  • listening to the wild bird who sings "Charge!" all day
  • searching for orchids while walking the dog (still haven't found them)**
  • Coming downstairs in the morning to a clean kitchen
**UPDATE (June 11) Found one today! Will try and remember to bring camera next time.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

I've been in a blogging mood recently. My goal is one post a week, but lately I've been exceeding that target. I hope I'm not going into overkill. It seems that just the past month or so I've been excited about blogging. And more recently, I've finished all assignments! I only have one exam looming, but I know the material and don't feel too worried about it. As for the rest, I haven't received my marks, but they're submitted and there's nothing I can do about it now, so why stress? As a result, I have about twelve or sixteen free hours a week which I haven't had since last September. It's so liberating.

The other morning I woke up about two hours earlier than normal and couldn't get to sleep. So I got up and did some gardening. Then when it got really warm and sunny that afternoon, I kicked myself for not going for a nice long walk while it was still cool. So I resolved that if I got up early again, I'd go walk the dog. The next morning, no such luck. I could barely drag myself out of bed to get to work on time. But this morning, I was much better and leapt out of bed as soon as I woke up, threw on some clothing and moisturiser, and out we went. I want to do this regularly, as I've noticed some little love handles forming; it's nothing to panic about yet, as I still fit in all my clothing and really have had a constant weight for the past several years, but I don't want them to progress. What with my recovery from surgery (I was pretty inactive for about three months or more), plus the whole constantly-stay-at-home-studying thing I've had going on, I haven't gone dog walking in ages. So this morning was great.

And finally, before this post drags on too much, I thought I'd post photographic evidence of my first gardening goal for June. I also have two single roses upstairs in vases: one in the bathroom and one in the bedroom, but I can't be bothered to go up and snap them. On my living room windowsill I have irises, orange roses, daisies, and laurel leaves; on my dining table is a heady mix of daisies, sweet peas, and mint leaves. They are both scented bouquets, but the sweet peas in the dining room are especially pungent. As soon as I walk in the room I smell them.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Remember this fluffy ball of cuteness? Last week while gardening two robins perched on the fence across from me, and one gave the softest little "peep" at its mother. That's right, Junior has left the nest. It's a good thing, too, because not long after when it rained, their whole house just flopped out of the eaves. It fell straight onto my rainbow chard, but no damage was done.

However, we are overflowing with nests at the moment. The robins built another one in the garage but we don't think they finished because we still use the garage and it disturbed them too much. There is also a sparrow nest under one of the roof tiles on the back of our house, though we can't see it. However, father makes several trips an hour from our birdfeeders to the roof and there is constant cheeping.

Partner told me he shut the shed door overnight and when he opened it the next morning, he was nearly decapitated by "a huge bird" bursting out. Anyhow, this "eagle" hasn't been back to her nest, for obvious reasons. No eggs or babies, though, so it's ok. And we're leaving it open now just to make sure.

And lastly, the final nest that I know of, right at the center of this bush. It was impossible for me to get a good picture of it, but there are actually two nestlings in it. I'm not entirely sure what kind of birds they are, but I would hazard a guess at blackbirds. All I know is that the mother is dark with a long tail.