Category Archives: Uncategorized

Surgery update

The surgery is done and TLM is woozy and happy on morphine in the hospital. The consultant said that the testicle appeared to be nothing but cancer any more – but who cares, it’s gone now. We have also had the radiologist’s report from his CT scan yesterday and it is clear throughout. While we aren’t breathing a big sigh of relief just yet, at least we are not holding our breath any more. A biopsy of the tumour and further blood tests to look for/compare markers will dictate now what treatment is needed from here – if anything more than strict observation.

I’ve returned home to a fridge bursting with fruit and vegetables (I put out an SOS yesterday and left our key under the doormat!) and will be going back to collect TLM in a few hours when he has been debriefed by the surgeon and discharged.
Seriously, have I been living my life over the past three days? It doesn’t feel like it.

The relationship between love and food

One day, a few weeks ago, as I munched my lunch at my desk my colleague said, “Alice, seriously, you are so noisy when you eat.” The following day, I was eating dinner with TLM and he sighed and said, “I love the way you eat, you always go ‘a-nom-nom-nom’ and you can tell you really enjoy it”. And that, my friends, is why I love TLM. Because he loves the things that other people find annoying.

I am greedy and the reason I cook is because I love to eat. I am mildly addicted to fat and carbs (pastry, mashed potato, cheese) and have a tendency to comfort eat, but in a more balanced state I relish delicious fresh food with brilliant flavours. I have never, to my knowledge, lost my appetite.
But at the moment there is nothing I want to do less than eat, and I don’t particularly want to cook and, more to the point, things have been so frantic that we don’t even have milk or bread in the house. There is nothing to eat even if we really wanted it. Besides, tomorrow TLM is going in for his orchidectomy and is now fasting in preparation for tomorrow.
I’m guilty of showing my love through cooking, so I’m in a very odd state at the moment where it’s not possible to do so … and I’m feeling lost.
Sorry this post has been so “me, me, me”. I don’t expect anyone to enlighten me, but if you have any musings to add then please do!

Things can only get … worse?

I think blogging could be a cathartic exercise. I’ll let TLM do the talking.

Can we reboot 2010, please?

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It’s well known that getting married, moving house and having to find a job are some of the most stressful life events going.

So with three months until our wedding and starting to feel like we’ve got everything sorted, we’ve been given two months’ notice to leave our home (as the landlords want to move back in) and I have been given two months’ notice that my project may be winding up.

TLM has been working in a hospital some 40 miles away (and living in a cupboard there most of the time due to unsociable hours in A&E) and we have endured being mostly separated for the past six months so I could carry on with my career. He was just gearing up to start commuting now that he has a reasonable timetable.

So we are now left – to put it mildly – in a bit of a pickle. What should we do? Look to find a new home where we live now (as job prospects will be better for me)? Or move to the out-in-the-sticks hospital where there will be fewer opportunities? Will my project miraculously continue? If not, how likely is it that someone will want to employ me with the prospect of me having to take holiday for the honeymoon? How likely is is that there are jobs anyway? With regards to choosing our location, there is the small matter that I need to be attending the church where we currently live, and that we need to have banns read in TLM’s parish (and we won’t know where that will be until the very nick of time), in order to get married.

In the longer term, TLM has finished applying for jobs starting in August, but where that will take us we have no idea. I know full well that his career will entail us having restricted choices, and that I will have to trail along. But I’m still adverse to unpredictability.

Last year was somewhat rocky and uncertain and I couldn’t wait to see the back of it. Looks like 2010 has more surprises in store than we imagined.

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Well, I wrote this last night with a view to posting this today. And what happens this morning? I get a call at 6:15 am to say TLM has been in a car accident. Much fretting and an hour or so later, he calls to say that he is OK. On the way to work he narrowly avoided a head-on collision down a country road. A car was overtaking on a blind corner, and TLM was forced to crash (into a bollard no less) in order to avoid colliding with the lunatic driver on the wrong side of the road. The overtaker, obviously, drove off. More surprisingly, the people being overtaken also carried on without stopping, TLM’s car wrapped round a bollard in their rear view mirror and no idea if he was OK or not. The police say there is next to no chance of catching the dangerous driver, and with no evidence of the other person’s culpability, or even identity, we’re left to foot the excess and take the hit on the no claims.

Oh, and we have to pay for the rebuilding of the bollard.

So, pretty please, could we wipe the slate clean and start this decade afresh?

Lickin’ Banksy

TLM and I were up bright and early to visit the Banksy Exhibition at Bristol Museum and after a (relatively) short queue we shuffled into the main entrance, past a ‘topical’ image of Michael Jackson sat on the doorstep of a gingerbread house offering a candy cane to two small children. Once we were ushered into the museum we were able to roam free and as part of the first batch into the museum it was still relatively quiet as we looked first at the specially set-aside exhibition and then made our way round the museum, spotting substituted paintings, hash pipes in the ‘boring old plates’ room and muzzled lambs and beavers with trophies in the taxidermy section.

One of my favourites, the ‘Flight from Egypt – budget version’ was one of the substitutions in the main painting rooms.
The ‘ANGEL OF THE NORTH’ had me laughing my socks off (particularly as I’m going up to Manchester tomorrow for a girly night out). Fag, can, heels in hand and kebab wrappers on the floor.

The animatronic bunny sat filing her nails endlessly. I don’t know why, but I was captivated. Maybe because she was ignoring me?

The exhibition continued: hilarious, thought-provoking, submersive etc etc. As we were coming to the end, hoardes of people were rammed in to the museum and a whole load of teenagers flocked from piece to piece, indiscriminately taking camera phone pictures of everything – quite befitting.

Afterwards, we wandered up the road and stopped in a little patisserie… (note the grubby finger marks)


and I ate the whole of this little delight, which was like a treacle tart but with added pecans. Hum-a-nah.

Why lunch is sometimes bad for you…


Unfortunately I work in town, near some very lovely cafes, delis and shops. Previously it was the pastries that called to me at lunch time, but since my health kick I’ve shut their siren calls out. So…

Well I did need a carving board (I was fed up with meaty juices trickling slyly onto the floor and subsequently being slipped on). There was 30% off and it was actually a lot more reasonably priced and more robust than others I have seen. Moreover, the apron-clad people in the shop looked at me as though I lived in a barn-conversion with a stable door and a small lamb to incubate the the warming oven…

Have I done a very bad thing? 😉

The Boot Sales are Back!

I do love a good car boot sale and now that the weather is better they are out in force. We are lucky to live near a very big, very good one and so trotted along this morning. I love keeping an eye out for interesting kitchen things and today I spotted the pink tray (above) which I bought for 50p to sit my little tea set on (which my dad found for me in a charity shop). I think it’ll look splendid with some shortbread too.

As I was trying out my other car boot bargain (Raleigh, 18 gears) I heard something scrabbling around in the tree. You might recognise it from last week. Oh dear.

Salsa

At the weekend we had our first barbecue of the year (actually, the first barbecue we’ve ever hosted) and had a startling sixteen people round for the inaugral session. Can you tell we’re the only people with a garden at the moment? We put a lot of time and effort into the garden before winter and, over Easter, did the final blast and it’s really a lovely space now. I forsee lots of summer social activity, and luckily our friends are very civilised: in bringing food and drink, not getting on the wrong side of the neighbours and also, to my immense pleasure, in tidying up afterwards (and even sorting into recycling!).

Whenever I do ‘hosting’ I always make salsa and without fail it is the one thing I’m pestered for a recipe for. In fact, I got this recipe by pestering someone else at a party. What goes around comes around eh?

This recipe makes for a LARGE bowl (the above is one of about 6 smaller ramekins) and goes well with tortilla chips and, as we found, with barbecue goodies.

Ingredients

  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 4 large red tomatoes, sliced into small cubes
  • 1 large red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 pepper (whatever colour – orange here) sliced extremely finely
  • 1 chilli (whatever colour – green here) sliced extremely finely, WITH seeds
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • generous seasoning of salt and pepper
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh coriander roughly chopped

Chopping and mixing is all that’s required – and leaving it to macerate for an hour or so (though I tend to add the fresh coriander at the last minute). When I asked for the recipe I was really surprised about the tinned tomatoes, but that and the lime make it just the right consistency.

So next time someone asks me for the recipe it is here for all to find!

Pancake Day!

Pancake day today, and we’re having just pancakes for dinner tonight – with some freshly made raspberry sauce, lots of lemon and sugar and golden syrup! Yum.

I use my fail-safe pancake recipe which is rather immodestly titled “the best pancakes known to man” in my recipe folder.

Hope there’s lots of flippin’ pancakes going on where you are!

Beef and Ale Stew

beef and ale stew recipe casserole

Much tinkering over the years has resulted in this stew, which is made the way we like it best: rich, tender and with just the right amount of sauce. The result is mouth-wateringly delicious. Because stew takes a while to cook, I make enough to eat a portion and freeze one (well, usually I get enough beef to make one and freeze 5 – I usually make 3 times the amount I made on Sunday!). So this feeds 4, or 2 twice. We fancied dumplings today, but I also use this as the filling for steak and ale pie.

Ingredients (stew)
  • 500 g beef, cut into chunks
  • about as many mushroom pieces (or whole button mushrooms) as there are beef chunks
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 500 ml Guinness
  • 500 ml beef stock
  • flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tsps thyme

How to make it

Put the piece of beef along with enough flour to coat it, generous grinding of pepper, salt and about 2 tsps thyme into a sandwich bag and squiddle about. I’m a bit generous with the thyme because I think it makes it taste good. Then, brown the beef in batches in a frying pan and throw them into a waiting casserole dish as you go along. So as not to let the sticky brown stuff go to waste, fry the onions in it for a matter of a minute or two (just to take the edge off them) and throw them in the pot too. Tumble in the mushrooms. Pour in the ale/stout (it goes really fizzy, which is very satisfying) and the beef stock/oxo cube and water. Sometimes I feel it’s not beefy enough so I add another oxo cube.

At this stage it will look like this, but it only takes 1 1/2-2 hours in an oven at 180/200 for it to get like the picture at the top. You don’t really need to add cornflour to thicken it, it seems to be happy with the flour from the beginning. It is SO easy!

Ingredients (dumplings)

This was the first time I’d ever made dumplings and it was really simple. I think in future I’d make two half the size, or one big one each. One each was definitely enough. So I’ll give the recipe to make two, cause it can be scaled up from there.
  • 50 g self raising flour
  • 25 g suet
  • salt, pepper and thyme
  • cold water to mix
How to make it
Put it all into a mixing bowl and add just enough water to make a dough. Too much will be ikky, but you can add a bit more flour if that happens (it did to me). Work the dough a little bit and mould into two golf-ball sized balls. Put on top of your stew and cook for 10 – 15 minutes.
(I put my stockpot back on the hob with the lid on to do the dumplings, but I think it can just as easily be done in the oven. I was just being cautious so I could keep an eye on them as I’d not done it before)