Sunday, 31 July 2016

Monthly Munch: July 2016

This month we have survived #thehottestdayoftheyear (July 19th), the first week of the summer holidays, and a rain of dried grass.  (Seriously - clumps of hay drifting down out of a clear sky!)  There has been much fun with the hosepipe and paddling pool, several barbeques, and many hours at the playground.  Pretty standard summer stuff.



Toby



 - finished his first year of school!  He got a glowing report from his teacher, and we've been so proud of him.

- camped out with Graham in the back garden.


- was very nervous about getting into the swimming pool.  Once he finally summoned up courage to let go of me and take two steps to the side, he turned round with a big grin and said, "Just kidding!"

- decided to dabble in watercolours and painted a very creditable landscape.

Rolling hills in watercolours...

...and the Seattle Space Needle in Megabloks

- completed his tennis course and got a racquet as a reward.

Theo

 

- can scoot a decent distance on his red plastic motorbike.

- shouts, "Three, two, one, pasta!" instead of "Three, two, one, blastoff!"

- gets seriously over-excited every time the word ice-cream is mentioned.


- enjoys picking tomatoes and all kinds of fruit.  He has been checking whether the blackberries are ripe for weeks already.



- very seriously tells you that race cars are "yit bit youd" (a little bit loud) and he might need his ear defenders.

Thankful for:


- a fascinating book called Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.  If you have any interest in how people think, assess risks and make decisions, read this.  It's packed with stuff but very clearly written.

- the opportunity to write a guest post on Derby's Hidden Gems for Love Derby.  It was enjoyable to write and has really boosted my Cafes with Kids audience too!

Recipe of the Month: Naan Bread


I'm well aware that most people, most of the time, won't want to bother about making their own naan bread.  Usually those packs of mini naans from Tesco fit the bill just fine here, too.  But for some reason I made some from scratch at the beginning of this month, and they really are in a class of their own.  If you've ever made a loaf of bread, you can make naan; and the dough has a beautifully silky feel as you're kneading it.

There are probably endless recipes; this one is based on the 'Best ever grilled naan' from Anjum Anand's book Anjum's Indian Vegetarian Feast.



300g plain flour (not bread flour)
3/4 tsp dried yeast
3 tsp caster sugar
3/4 tsp salt
130-140ml warm water (1 part boiling to 2 parts cold is a good guide)
4 tbsp melted butter
4 tbsp yoghurt

Stir together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add the melted butter, yoghurt and most of the warm water.  Bring it together with a spatula or your hands, adding more water very carefully if it's too dry.

Knead the dough for seven minutes or so until soft and smooth, then place back into the bowl, cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rise for a couple of hours.

Knock the dough back and divide into six or eight depending how big you want your naan.  Roll out each piece into a teardrop shape and brush one side with a little butter or oil.

Preheat the grill (broiler) and put in a baking sheet to heat, too.  Place the naans on the hot baking tray and grill for a couple of minutes until the top side looks done.  Be careful, because they puff up and can get alarmingly close to the grill element if you don't keep an eye on them.  Turn over and cook the other side, brush with a bit more butter, and serve warm.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Scribbling in the margins

Margins.

The word, dropped in at the tail end of a sermon, made my ears prick up.  Margins.

At first I thought the speaker must mean setting boundaries, creating carefully neat frames around those areas of life so likely to spread into puddles of time.  The quick check of social media that becomes an hour.  The late night reading junk food words.  I envisaged lines of colourful patterns surrounding these things, corralling them into shape.

Designed by Freepik


As he continued speaking, the image shifted.  He talked about arriving at appointments 15 minutes early, leaving time to be available, gaps for the unknown.  I saw the page of a book, dense black letters in the centre, and white margins around the edge.  That space that we don't really see, and yet it helps to define the story.  If it wasn't there, how cluttered would we find the page?  How difficult to concentrate on the words?


Of course, the margins don't always stay clear.  I still have a copy of my GCSE text, The Merchant of Venice.  Around the edges are hundreds of pencilled notes - explanations, observations, illuminations.  Our English teacher was a sharp but enthusiastic lady, who dug us deep into Shakespeare's words and pulled out treasures of understanding that we never would have found ourselves.  And we carefully wrote them all down - in those handy spaces, the margins.


Or maybe we should leave dry paper and splash into a watery world.  Rivers have margins, those reedy areas which are somewhere between mud and water, where birds shelter their young and small creatures live their secret lives.  They can be inconvenient, those in-between places, in a busy world, but we are gradually realising just how important they are.

By Moni3 - Own work, Public Domain,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3985314


So many images conjured up by a single small word.  The edges and spaces of our lives can define them as much as the middle.  Where are your margins?  And what kind are they?

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Not a thoughtful post

This was going to be one of those thoughtful posts.  But it's just not been that kind of week.  Between boys just plain going to bed late to boys being violently sick (that was Toby.  He was absolutely fine the next day), I don't seem to have had enough space to think about much, let alone write it down. 

So I thought I'd skim through the photos on the camera to see what inspiration I could gather for a quick post.  Turns out the camera this month contains 382 photos of cars.  Do you want to see 382 photos of cars?  I think not.  Or if you do, feel free to visit.  Graham and Toby will happily talk you through the make, model and specifications of every single one, and I can sneak off and do some writing.

Very old car
 What else?  There's some very blurry / underexposed / differently angled photos taken by Theo.  A collection of photos of playdough, taken by Toby.  Ummm... oh, here's some pretty food.  Want to see some pretty food?



These are those Jamie Oliver squash fritters I mentioned.  I went all cheffy and put them in a stack, with sage butter on the top.  He recommends actually coating them all in the butter, which I think would work better; the ones with no sage flavour felt like they were lacking something.


And this is cheesecake (not home made) with some of our homegrown strawberries!

Finally, yes, you can have some cute boy photos.  Toby had his sports day last week, and all the photos are either intense concentration or pure delight.  He had a great time.


Theo's not lacking in enthusiasm either.  It's a rock!


Monday, 4 July 2016

Monthly Munch: June 2016

The rain... oh, the rain!  We've had far too much to be reasonable, especially in a month purporting to be summer.  Looking back through my diary, I discovered that we did have some hot days too, but they seem a long time ago.  We started the month with a visit to Bristol, where we were generously fed and entertained by friends and family.  Graham got breakfast cooked for him on Father's Day, and counted votes for the EU referendum.  I wrote a guest post for Derbyi website, and attended a Derby Parents Social Group meetup.

Monster truck at Motor Madness

Toby


Trying out a motorbike for size

- has been doing a free 6-week tennis course, and (slightly to our surprise) really enjoying it.

- loved watching monster trucks pull a car apart at the Motor Madness event

- danced in the rain at our local village fete


- was Robin to his friend's Batman for a superhero day at school


- can do a forward roll and attempt a cartwheel.  Gymnastics suddenly seems to be the in thing among his friends.

Theo

Helping with the laundry!


- loves to ride his red motor bike - and any other vehicles!

Driving an old truck at Wild Place in Bristol

- keeps wanting to take photos with the camera.  He doesn't always get the angle right!

A slightly blurred portrait of Toby and me.

- has decided his favourite letter is W.  He points them out whenever he sees one.

- sings every phrase to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  "Grandma, Grandma, Grandma, Grandma..."  "I go outdoor, I go outdoor..."

On the Downs with Dad.


Thankful for:

 - meeting up with lots of lovely friends and family in Bristol

Balancing act by Bristol harbour

 - a nice long bike ride round the parks of Derby (well, longer than I've done for quite a while, anyway!)

Recipe of the Month: Pasta with Roasted Vegetables



By popular demand from my last post, here's the recipe for pasta with roasted vegetables.  The recipe describes the dressing as walnut sauce; it's really a pesto, but heavier on the nuts than the herbs.  Whatever you call it, it makes the recipe.  I've tried making the pasta once with just the vegetables, and it wasn't the same at all.

The recipe comes from a 20-year-old book called the Oxo book of food and cooking.  Every single dish contains Oxo cubes of some description.  This one called for two Garlic, Herb and Spice cubes, which I've never seen and have probably long been discontinued; I substituted with a clove of garlic and a spoonful of mixed herbs.

Vegetables for roasting: I used -
1/2 butternut squash, cubed
1 large courgette, sliced thickly
1 green pepper, in large cubes
1 onion, cut into wedges
6 mushrooms, quartered
Olive oil to drizzle
250-350g dried fusilli or tagliatelli

For the sauce:
1 small clove garlic
1 tsp mixed dried herbs
50g walnuts
a good handful of fresh parsley (meant to be 2 tbsp chopped)
salt and pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F.  Chop the vegetables as needed and spread out in a roasting tin.  Drizzle olive oil over and roast for about 25 minutes until tender (if you're using butternut squash you may want to give it a head start).

Meanwhile, cook the pasta.  250g is what I usually do for the four of us, but increase to 350g if you are feeding four adults or older children.

For the pesto, peel the garlic and put it in a small food processor with the herbs, walnuts, salt and pepper, and about half the oil.  Process until it forms a paste, drizzling in the rest of the oil until it's the consistency you want.  Taste to check the seasoning.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it and toss with the pesto and roasted vegetables.  Sprinkle a few walnut pieces on top if you like.