Archive, August 2019, Gardening, Uncategorized

Vegetable Patch: July – August 2019

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So our ‘little’ vegetable patch has EXPLODED with produce recently, probably due to the crazy amount of rain we have had over the last few days here in the North East. The first lot of broccoli has been picked along with five heads of cauliflower all of which has been par-boiled and frozen for meals over the coming months.

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The cabbages are still in the ground and doing well, however we have lost two as they have ‘gone to seed’. What the hell does gone to seed mean I hear you ask? Don’t worry I asked my parents the same question, and no I won’t just keep repeating gone to seed at you as an answer until you feel like you’ve gone slightly mad. Basically it’s gardener speak for when a plant enters the flowering stage in preparation for seed production, and means the cabbages are past their best and will taste rank.

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The beans are also going crazy climbing the structure my dad built for them and producing lots of beautiful flowers which will hopefully soon turn into more beans then we will know what to do with, which is currently what the courgette plant is doing! I honestly don’t think I have ever seen one plant produce as many courgettes and I’m slightly glad my dad ignored my protests when I argued that we would need more than one of them in the garden to give us enough produce to cook with, boy was I wrong!

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My little nursery is going well, and now that the cabbages and first lot of broccoli are done I am  going to remove them from the vegetable patch and help my dad transfer the cauliflowers and turnips across  into the spaces left behind. I am a little worried for my beetroot though, even though I saved it and it survived despite being on the brink of dehydration and death, I’m worried that being under the huge broccoli and cauliflower leaves has stunted their growth due to the lack of sunlight. Fingers crossed they will flourish now that those vegetables surrounding them have been removed.

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And lastly, I added basil and greek basil to my herb garden this week and I can’t wait to make my own homemade pesto from scratch. Only one of the mystery plants has survived but has yet to flower, we still feel it is a sunflower plant and hope the slugs keep off it until it has a chance to reveal itself but at the minute (due to the wet weather) the snails and slugs are having a field day in our garden.

Oh and I must add, my dad is baffled that I run around the garden taking photos and ‘blog’ about our little vegetable patch (despite only writing and publishing one post so far) and says he hopes I am telling you that he has done most of the hard work in the vegetable patch this year, but in my defence this is due to him choosing days I am at work when he originally transferred all of the plants into the ground, sooooo.. not my fault really. Right?

 

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Archive, August 2019, Books, Fiction

The Bear and the Nightingale

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Synopsis:

Beware the evil in the woods…

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold at night and the snow falls many months of the year, and elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…


Oh my, where do I start with this book? I originally purchased this book on my kindle with the audio book attached to it as something I could listen to on the way to and from work but like most of my kindle books I ended up a few chapters in and forgot it was there. Roll on a few months later and I was standing in my local Waterstones where I was drawn towards this book due to the wonderful artwork on the cover, I flipped it over and read the blurb. Confused, I felt as if I knew part of this tale already but I couldn’t work out how, I opened to the first chapter, read the very first page of this book and instantly recognised where I had come across this tale before and off I ran, book in hand, to the till to purchase this magical book.

And that is what this book is, Magical.

This beautiful, unique, dark fairy tale is set in the wintery world of Russia where grand princes rule and young maidens must be quiet, presentable and well behaved. Everything that Vasya is not.

Vasya’s rebellious spirit is definitely what drew me into this book, which is a good considering she is the main protagonist of the story. The secret world she is able to see and how she behaves towards it is incredibly endearing and resonated with me personally as I believe in the old ways more than any other faith.

Also if truth be told I have a soft spot for young adult fantasy fiction books, especially if the theme of magic or fairytales arise (Hello J.K Rowling, Darren Shan, April Genevieve Tucholke) and The Bear and the Nightingale ticks all of these boxes for me and has definitely flew into one of my top 10 favourite fiction books.

Katherine Arden seems to have the ability to bring her words to life and has created a book that you can lose yourself in for hours at a time. I am incredibly glad I have found the second instalment to this, ‘The Girl in the Tower’ so that I can continue reading Vasyas story and hopefully find the answers to the many questions I have left from ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’.

So yes, I fully recommend this book! In fact I would actually go as far as recommending you to read this book on the build up to Yule where the dark nights set in quickly and there is a certain magic in the air as I imagine it to (somehow) be an even better read when you are snuggled up under a comfy blanket with your favorite hot beverage in hand.

Archive, August 2019, Lifestyle

August 2019 & Lammas

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August, one of my favourite months has arrived at last along with the first harvest festival of the year Lammas / Lughnasadh.

We are now at the halfway point between Summer and Autumn and nature has now shifted from growth to ripening, and in the coming weeks we will see gluts of blackberries, autumn raspberries, plums, peaches, apples and pears as well as beans, potatoes, spinach and cucumbers.

I won’t lie, I have already gotten a little bit excited about the prospect of the dark nights coming in, homemade soups and hot chocolates warming my hands up while I snuggle up on the sofa under my blanket waiting for the return of The Great British Bake off and Strictly Come Dancing before the Autumn leaves being to fall and the fairy lights appear in time for the countdown to Yule. Yes, as much as I love spring and Summer I long for the darker, colder months as soon as August the 1st hits.

I am also not really sure what I am up to this month. I know I will celebrate Lammas over the next few days by making homemade flapjack, stuffed courgettes, summer vegetable and feta pie and lemonade and I hope to make jam for the second year in a row, but for the most part of this month I will probably just tend to the garden and relax in the little bit of sunshine we have left before the Autumn nights set in.

Archive, Gardening, July 2019, Uncategorized

reconnecting with nature: the start of a 29 year olds obsession with gardening

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I am incredibly lucky to have grown up in a family that are green fingered. Everyone of my older family members have absolutely beautiful gardens, especially my late nanna and my late grandad (the latter who had one of the most fantastic gardens I had ever seen as a child).

My family garden has always been spectacular, even when it was a building site for my many many years, my mam would still have her hanging baskets up around the scaffolding with every plant standing proud. Many of my first memories have always hovered around our garden, I mean I practically lived in the greenhouse eating cucumbers straight from the vine and sieving the sticks out of the compost making it almost as fine as flour. 

But it was last year when I was very unwell with my anxiety that seen me take an actual interest in gardening as an adult with my very own little herb garden. This year I am wanting to step up my game and I am trying to help plant up other things in the garden after getting my herb garden up and running for 2019.

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So this year in the garden we have quite a good sized vegetable patch going on as we haven’t yet got a greenhouse which I’m slightly glad about as it will end up eating into some (most) of the current vegetable patch space. My dad has planted in some broccoli, cauliflower, onions, courgette, potatoes and runner beans. Last Sunday I took over part of the garden where a water feature will eventually live, and I created a little nursery to save the turnips, late cauliflower and sweet peas. I also transferred across the beetroot between the already established vegetables in the patch in hopes to save them as they were beginning to look a little sorry for themselves.

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As well as my little herb garden, I have also planted up some random plants that have been sprouting up in the most unusual places! These two little mystery seedlings were found in with the rose pot and in with the mint! We think they are sunflowers but are not 100% sure so it will be really fun seeing what they will develop into. I have also spotted more springing up all over the garden, including in with the strawberry hanging baskets and in the thyme / sage pot! So if you have any idea what they may be please give me a shout!

Also let me know what you are hoping to grow this year, I’m really looking forward to watching the vegetable patch grow from now until the autumn!

 

Archive, July 2019, Lifestyle

The Last Podcast on the Left: Bonnie and Clyde

So this week I have slowly been reading my way through my current YA book, but due to having other things going on (such as making and finalising my DnD character for Friday coming) meaning I have ended up spending most of my free time listening to podcasts instead.

One which stood out for me was The Last Podcast on the Lefts Bonnie and Clyde series. Why? Well, I always thought I knew who Bonnie and Clyde were, but it turns out I was wrong. So very wrong.

I always assumed Bonnie and Clyde were two bank robbers who traveled through the US during the great depression avoiding capture by the police until their fatal standoff which resulted in their death. End of. But their story goes SO much deeper then I could ever imagine and this podcast has really got me wanting to find out more about their lives. For example, Bonnie and Clyde were only 19 / 20 when they met. Bonnie was madly in love with Clyde (despite being married to someone else) and refused to leave his side, she also ended up badly injured in a car accident where battery acid ate through her skin and exposed the bone in her leg but being on the run meant she couldn’t go to hospital for treatment so instead ended up with at best a severe limp or often needing to be carried around as she was unable to walk!

The Last Podcast on the Left has to be one of my favourites at the moment as well, it is hosted by three close friends who cover all the horrors of the world, both real and imagined. It is cleverly put together and it is always light hearted despite sometimes being quite heavy or horrific topic wise AND always leaves me wanting more, not in a ‘ugh I’ve learned nothing’ way but in a I end up so engrossed in the subject that I am listening to that I want to know every fact I can about it, and I think that is great journalism where you end up inspired to learn more, especially when it comes to more gory topics like serial killers / cults. Basically if I had teachers like Ben, Marcus or Henry in school I wouldn’t have gotten a D in history GCSE, that’s all I’m saying.

Word of warning though, TLPotL has quite dark humour so if you are easily offended I would probably give this podcast a miss, however if not then I seriously recommend you check out their Bonnie and Clyde series first as it is mind blowingly good!

July 2019, Lifestyle

July 2019

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As if we are officially half way through 2019 already! Where has the time gone?

July is when we finally have summer up north, and thankfully the sun has decided to appear at last! Hip hip hooray!

Runner beans are meant to be in glut this season but we put ours in very late meaning they have yet to come, but the raspberry bushes are keeping me well fed and the strawberries are plentiful, we just need them to turn from green to juicy red and pray the birds keep away!

I’m also hoping to make Summer Vegetable and Feta Pie this month and some homemade lemonade to wash it all down with!

What do you have planned for July?

 

 

Books, June 2019, Non-Fiction

Midnight in Chernobyl – The untold story of the world’s greatest nuclear disaster

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Synopsis:

The dramatic untold story of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, based on original reporting and new archival research.

Early in the morning of 26 April 1986, Reactor Number Four at Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering the history’s worst nuclear disaster. In the thirty years since then, Chernobyl has become lodged in the collective nightmares of the world: shorthand for the spectral horrors of radiation poisoning, for a dangerous technology slipping its leash, for ecological fragility, and for what can happen when a dishonest and careless state endangers not only its own citizens, but all of humanity. But the real story of the accident, clouded from the beginning by secrecy, propaganda and misinformation, has long remained in dispute.

Drawing on hundreds or hours of interviews conducted over the course of more than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently declassified archives, Adam Higginbotham has written a harrowing and compelling narrative that brings the disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it,

Midnight in Chernobyl is the definitive  account of an event that changed history: a story that is more complex, more human, and more terrifying than the Soviet myth, and provides an indelible portrait of one of the great catastrophes of the twentieth century.

 


 

Midnight in Chernobyl is a brilliantly constructed book of facts from the events leading up to the nuclear explosion to how the Soviet union handled the situation after the terrible event that occured in April 1986 and I will admit whilst reading this book I mumbled the words ‘what the very fuck’ at pretty much every page.

Why you may ask? Well, if you think you know the events of Chernobyl think again. This book will shock you and leave you speechless at every turn, from how the reactors were constructed to how the state tried to cover up any wrongdoing, even going as far as denying an explosion had happened within their borders when governments in Europe began to notice something wasn’t right. Even after these terrible events, they still sent their people into the forbidden zone ill prepared for what hazards awaited them for months if not years!

One of the things I found interesting about this book was that quite frankly prior to picking this up I didn’t actually know how nuclear power or a nuclear reactor worked, yet Higginbotham explained it all so simply without dumbing it down too much for the reader so that you end up fully understanding how the events of that dreadful night unfolded.

Furthermore, rather then this being a book that paints nuclear reactors to be the work of the devil, Higginbotham doesn’t create a bias and briefly explains how nuclear reactors have evolved through the decades to become more ‘safe’ / how scientists are modifying them to help with our current climate situation.

Yet his main aim of this book seems to be to tell the stories of the men and women who were at the heart of this emergency, be it the people living in pripyat at the time, the reactor workers, the firemen or the soldiers (who were deployed to clear the debris away once the robots failed) to the hospital workers and the victims families. In fact Higginbotham tells the stories so well I was urging them in my mind not to go to work that evening, or to please be okay after being exposed to such high levels of radiation and gamar as if I could somehow rewrite the history of their lives.

So if the recent HBO series has left you wanting to know more, or if you’ve ever been curious about Chernobyl I would urge you on to pick up a copy of Midnight in Chernobyl as I honestly thought I knew everything I needed to know from various websites, but boy was I wrong!

Books, May 2019, Non-Fiction

Accused – The unsolved murder of Elizabeth Andes

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Synopsis:

It’s always the boyfriend. isn’t it?

When Elizabeth Andes was found bound, stabbed, and strangled in her Ohio apartment in 1978, police and prosecutors decided within hours it was an open-and-shut case. Within days, Bob Young, a 23-year-old football player who’d found his college sweetheart’s lifeless body on their bedroom floor, was charged with her murder. To this day, police and prosecutors still say they had the right guy — even though two juries, one criminal and one civil, disagreed, and Young walked away a free man.

Beth’s case went cold. Nearly four decades later, two Cincinnati reporteres re-examined the murder and discovered that law enforcement ignored leads that might have uncovered who really killed Beth Andes.

It wasn’t that there weren’t other people to look at. There were plenty. But no one bothered.. until now.


Okay, so here we go. I’m an avid reader but not one who tends to reviews books in great detail, I tend to just text my friends and inform them that ‘It’s mint, I’ll send you my copy to read’. However, Accused was such an eye opener I came to the conclusion that I would have to write something more in depth about it as I have never a) devoured a book so quickly in a long time and b) felt the emotions of sorrow, shock and horror like I did with these transcripts.

Yes you read that right, transcripts. Accused was originally a podcast series by Amber Hunt and Amanda Rossmann where they tried to shine a light on a cold case that seems to have been buried by local law enforcement and the book pictured above is the complete transcripts from that podcast.

I was originally worried when my book arrived and I realised it was transcripts rather then a novel, however the text flowed beautifully and I don’t think any of the emotion was lost at all by reading the words of the friends and family of Beth Andes rather then listening to them.

Every ‘Episode’ (or chapter) shocked me to my core as more and more evidence was presented and although there is no ‘happy’ ending to this book so far as in Beth’s murderer has not been caught and brought to justice, I strongly feel that the guy the police went after should not have been Beth’s sweetheart Bob but somebody else entirely!

Without giving too much away I strongly suggest you grab your own copy of this book or alternatively listen to the podcast series and let me know the conclusion you come to.

April 2019, Archive

Shoesday Tuesday x Irregular Choice

Shoesday Tuesday!

Something I occasionally post on my Instagram feed for the crack, and thought why not also post it on the blog? I decided to hold out until Spring as well so I could kick-start it all off with the most beautiful glittery heels I own which are my Irregular  Choice Flaming June sandals.

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I picked these up two years ago direct from the Irregular Choice website and they arrived pretty quickly to be honest and to my delight. I was honestly mesmerised by the colours and how the sunlight caught the glitter as you walk.

I think these may also be the last shoes I purchased from Irregular Choice, as despite being a fan for many many years I have found every collection released since not to be to my taste, which is sad as this brand was always very quirky and unique.

ALSO here is a shit fact I have never worn these babies out of the house! Everytime I debated wearing them the heavens would open and the rain would just pour and pour and pour for hours, meaning my trusty Dr Martens ended up on my feet instead. Hopefully this Spring / Summer will be the perfect oppurtinity to wear them.

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April 2019, Lavender & Black Bakes

Breads: Mushroom and Garlic stuffed Picnic Loaf

Oh Hi!

It’s been a while since I last blogged here, the beginning of October in fact! I have baked on and off during this 6 month hiatus but not really from the Mary Berry Baking Bible. I’ve also been really uninspired by the recipe numbers I was pulling from my lucky dip pot so a few weeks back I decided instead to have a flick through the book and see what grabbed my attention.

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With Ostara / Spring Equinox occurring back on the 20th, I decided I wanted to make something relevant to the holiday and Mushroom and Garlic stuffed Picnic Loaf screamed at me to be made.  So I toddled to Tesco for the ingredients I didn’t have in our baking cupboard such as; bread flour, a jar of wild mushrooms and (fresh) yeast and off I went home, and I made this bread the next day on my day off, and what a tinydisaster that ended up being! 

Okay so basically, many moons ago, I went to college and did a level one food tech course, where we were taught how to bake breads. I was always told to microwave your part milk part water mixture until it was at room temperature as this is when your yeast will thrive. Too hot – it will die, too cold – it wont activate. So, I did this and stirred in my yeast and set it aside for 10 minutes. Nothing. Nada! What was meant to be happening was little bubbles were meant to be foaming on the surface to indicate my yeast was active, but this did not occur in any of the FOUR attempts / jugs I made. I had one jug in warm water another on top of the oven and the third I had cradled in my hands with the oven door open trying to keep the mixture warm, but not too hot. Madness.

Then, on the fourth attempt I kind of thought fuck it. Not one of these mixes is showing signs of life, I’m just going the throw this yeast mix into my flour and pray something happens. So I did, I did the usual mixing and kneading of the dough by hand, something I didn’t realise I had missed doing over these past 6 years.

I popped the mixture onto my board, placed the bowl over the top and left it as Mary instructed. After 20 minutes I couldn’t help but peak (mainly due to the certainty that this bread was not going to rise and I was wasting my time and life) but to my delight, surprise, possible horror the bread had tripled in size in 20 minutes! The yeast was ALIVE!!!!

Now you may be thinking, to your delight – yes, surprise – yes, horror? Why horror?
Well. I had to take little legs to the doctors meaning I had to leave the bread to prove for around 3 hours? and it had already tripled in size within 20 minutes! So off I went to get ready, came downstairs after an hour and the bread dough was trying to slowly escape under the bowl.

So, I sorted that and off I went. I won’t lie I spent most the journey googling how long you can leave bread to prove for before it goes rank and won’t bake properly anymore, and Paul Hollywood told me (his website not him personally) that I can leave it to prove for up to four hours and it would be fine as long as it was covered and did not form a crust. Get in, there was hope yet.

So few hours later, in the door I wandered joking on about how we could be about to enter the kitchen to the blob from goosebumps taking over the house… and there was half of my bread dough all over the pastry board without any form of cover meaning it had developed a crust!! NOOOOO. I lifted the bowl, and there is the other half of my bread dough, without a crust. Shiiiit…

I quickly got to work kneading and smushing and praying that I could fix this disaster as there was no way I had time to start over, and I think I did if truth be told. I just sort of kneaded and kneaded and kneaded the dough until it all came together again and the ‘crust’ was gone, which isn’t what I was supposed to be doing at this stage as I was only meant to be knocking back the air from the bread. I debated leaving it to rise again, but thought better of it. It was probably already fucked so I may as well just keep riding this train right? So I rolled it out, covered one half of the dough with the wonderful mixture of, 1 jar of wild mushrooms, fresh crushed garlic and parsley and then folded the uncovered dough over on top of the mixture and sealed the edges, and at first it looked a little bit like a calzone pizza but I managed to get a weird bread shape in the end, though it looked NOTHING like a traditional loaf! 

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I then glazed the top of the loaf with egg wash, and sprinkled sesame seeds, black pepper and parsley over the top before covering it with cling film so that it did not form a crust (again) during its final prove. After, 45 minutes (and two cooked pizza’s later) I popped it in the oven for 20 minutes until it was golden brown in colour.

I was a bit worried as the bread seemed very flat, but after a quick google I think this is normal for this recipe, and it tasted wonderful. Would I make it again? Probably not if truth be told, but I would consider replacing the wild mushrooms with olives and making an olive loaf instead if truth be told.