Wednesday, April 29, 2009
You would be forgiven for wondering what this has to do with green salad, dominated by lettuce as it is. Well, as I noted in my previous post in the series, the salad itself was never intended to be a meal in its own right, but instead would serve as an accompaniment to some other meal. And so it was that the selected meal was burgers and chips. (I've had plenty of burgers in the last seven months - including the occasional foray into both McDonalds and Burger King. One of these days, I might post on my recent experiences with fast food.)
So, anyway, I had chips. Made with a real potato, in a real deep frier. They were excellent.
As for the green salad itself - it was good. I ended up just using a bag of salad, on the grounds that I didn't want to waste large amounts of fresh lettuce of various sorts. The book provided four simple dressings, all of which I intend to try over the next few weeks, but this week was a simple French dressing, mostly made from olive oil and red wine vinegar. It was fine.
So, we'll call that a win on the dressed green salad, not least because I'm toying with pairing it with chicken burgers again tomorrow. Which would be 1-0 on the salads, with nine to go. Next week is an "Evolution Green Salad", which seems to mean it is built up in four steps, one of which includes bacon.
Also, I'm planning on tackling his granola mix on Saturday, thus returning to the breakfasts chapter.
#16: "Pathfinder: Howl of the Carrion King", by Erik Mona
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
It turned out that trying to put together a wedding inside a week was over-ambitious, so I went to Argos instead.
On Monday, I made the mistake of pre-judging this meal. I was annoyed, for not only had Morrisons let me down, but Tesco proved surprisingly resilient to the notion of letting me buy the actual ingredients I needed. In the end, I was able to track almost everything down, being forced only to substitute half a real onion for some spring onions, and some lime zest for lime leaves. Still, it was annoying.
And when you factor in the fact that the core of this curry was prawns, it was not looking good.
Putting the curry together was remarkably easy. In particular, it was nice letting the machine handle chopping the ginger. Unfortunately, I did make rather a mess when I dropped the lid of the food processor on the floor while pouring the mix into my wok, but that's not really Jamie's fault.
It was a nice curry. I was very surprised. It was also so incredibly hot that my teeth actually hurt afterwards. This was maybe not the best thing ever. Still, I quite liked it.
I'm not sure I'll have this again. Certainly, I don't expect to cook it again for myself. However, I might keep it in reserve for one of those times when someone comes round for dinner. (Assuming said person likes really hot curries, and isn't allergic to coconut.) Still, I have to give the mark for this one, which takes the "Easy Curries" chapter to 6-2.
This marks the end of the curries chapter, which has been my absolute favourite of the book so far. Sure, the stir-fries was a 5-0 whitewash, but this chapter still had it beat: those curries I liked I really liked, and I now have a freezer absolutely packed with meals for the next few weeks. Huzzah!
The weakest link in this chapter was definately the Aloo Gobhi, which I didn't like (and I've really come to dislike cauliflower). The highlight is difficult to pick out. My favourite was probably the Chicken Tikka Masala, but that was already an old favourite. That being the case, I think I'll go with the Leftover Curry Biryani, as this was something I hadn't had before. I never did get around to trying his method for preparing rice - I'll try to get to that at some point, if and when I get a finer collander.
The next chapter is entitled "Lovin' Salads", and the first entry is a "Dressed Green Salad", which doesn't sound too inspiring. It's also true that this isn't a meal in and of itself; it's supposed to be consumed alongside something else. Still, I shall review it on its own merits, or at least try to do so. There are ten salads, and then I'm skipping soups (once I'm done with the breakfasts, I'll switch to doing the soups for lunch), and into the mince chapter. So, that's something to look forward to at least.
This raised the question: if they aren't open when I want to do my weekly shop, should that automatically disqualify them from consideration? Given the choice, I would prefer to do my weekly shop on my way home from band on a Monday, and if they can't provide that, why not take my money elsewhere?
At length, I decided to relent. In the event that they are significantly cheaper than the alternatives, then I'll move my shopping day. However, this does automatically place them at a disadvantage - if it's marginal, then convenience will work against them.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
(Okay, the film is rather close to the novel, but then, even though the novel obviously predates the film, I saw the film a long time before I read the book, so... Also, this might be one of the very few times where the film adaptation actually captures the spirit of the novel better than the novel itself does, which was a bit of a surprise. And all that said, there is a point where the two diverge that was truly stunning, and makes this the best book I have read this year. In fact, I was explicitly told about it, and I still didn't see it coming.)
I also watched "Quantum of Solace" this afternoon, which is a much better film than I remembered. It's also much shorter than I remembered, but doesn't really suffer for that. However, while Daniel Craig is a very good Bond, he is not Ian Fleming's Bond. Craig spends a bit too much time playing "a thug with a gun" (where Bond is rather more than that), and a lot too much time playing a rogue agent (where Bond is certainly not that) for it to ring true.
Having now read five of the Bond novels, I have to conclude what we already knew: Connery is by far the best Bond. Roger Moore is actually quite a poor Bond, or rather the films he was in were far too tongue-in-cheek, and don't really match the source material at all well. Pierce Brosnan was, in my opinion, actually very good as Bond... but he suffered a lot from being in two and a half really bad films. Only "Tomorrow Never Dies" and most of "Goldeneye" really match up, and that's a very poor showing. Lazenby suffers from being too wooden, and unforgivably has no chemistry at all with the actress playing the most important "Bond-girl" of the series. And while Dalton was pretty good, and very close to the source, he suffers from the franchise being very tired by the time he gets to it.
For his part, Daniel Craig is very good in both his films, and "Casino Royale" is extremely close to the source in large parts. However, where it diverges from the source material (the start and especially the end), it really suffers. And, in "Quantum of Solace" they suffer from not having a blueprint to work from. And so, that Bond is not the 'real' Bond. Perhaps they should have tried remaking "Live and Let Die".
Despite that, I'm rather looking forward to Craig's next venture as Bond. As I said, QoS was a much better film than I had remembered.
#15: "From Russia With Love", by Ian Fleming
Friday, April 17, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
The Aloo Gobhi was okay, but like many vegetarian meals, it was lacking something. Basically, I can't see myself having it again. I'm also annoyed - my supposedly oven-proof casserole dish has started to fall apart due to heat damage.
The vegetable bhajis were very nice, but they were the cause of the monster clean-up job. I also grated my thumb while preparing them, which wasn't for the best. Honestly, I can't see myself ever going to the trouble again.
I'm going to split the honours on this one: the Aloo Gobhi was a fail, but the Bhajis a success. So, that will be 5-2. Next week, I'm tackling the last of the curries, which I believe is a Thai Green Curry. Unfortunately, this requires the purchase of a food processor.
The first time I met Chris was right at the tail end of Part One, at a family gathering to celebrate my Grandfather's eightieth birthday. I distinctly recall that at this event, my Grandma was showing a friend around, and on introducing us all, she said, "And this is Chris. He's not officially part of the family just yet, but we're hoping it won't be too much longer..." I found that decidely amusing, and even moreso when Grandad later introduced him to another friend as "Rebecca's 'friend'". Tee hee.
Fortunately, Chris took all of this in stride, and so almost four years later, the time had come to travel for the wedding. Although, of course, putting it like that completely skips over several interminable weeks of conversations organising just who would be travelling with whom, when people would leave, what food would be required, and many other trivialities. Fun.
Packing for the trip was rather easy. One of the benefits of being me is that choosing wedding attire is extremely easy - I have to choose which cufflinks to wear (the Dalek links won that one), and I have to decide whether to wear a bow tie or not (not, as it turned out). The rest is basically mechanical.
However, I did make something of a mistake: I pondered whether to take either a belt (generally frowned upon when wearing a waistcoat - should be a cummerbund) or braces. To keep the kilt up, you see. In the end, I decided not to bother. After all, I had worn that kilt at a ceilidh recently, and hadn't lost that much weight since then. This whole "Clown Rule" thing is getting absurd - I'm going to have to get this kilt adjusted.
The Thursday night was not a good one. For reasons unknown, I failed to get to sleep before 2am, and then had to get up again at 7. Fortunately, I don't actually need to sleep, so that was fine.
The trip down South was nice and easy. For me at least: CJ had to do all the driving as I'm not insured on her car. There was an enforced stop while we (well, she) fixed the SatNav, but otherwise it all went flawlessly. It seems travelling with children has become an awful lot easier than once it was, what with the advent of the portable DVD player.
The apartments we were staying in were great, although finding it was a challenge. Somehow, I managed to get the notion that we were staying on the third floor of a building that turned out to have only two floors, and so couldn't find the place right away. It turned out to be just inside the main doors. Oops.
There then followed a gathering for drinks and nibbles, at which I wore my legendary t-shirt with frogs on. This successfully enticed a princess at one point during the evening, but she proceeded to wipe her nose on my shoulder, before crying for her mother. Such are the perils of being Uncle Steph/ven.
Later, there was a gathering of several of Chris' friends (and me) to move lots of furniture around. There were sofas to remove, chairs to place in rows, and then move around, and discussions about the same. Apparently, there was also work to be done at the marquee, but as it was quite cold I skived off. Still, it was interesting hearing the discussions about the content of the best man's speech - it seems Chris is far more of a rogue than I'd taken him for.
As the evening wound down, the rest of our party gradually arrived. First were the A-team, who arrived after a long but uneventful journey. Then came the parents, who managed to get within half a mile of the place before turning back. Still, at length they managed to get there.
But where was Graeme?
About 11:30 he phoned to say he'd been forced off the motorway by roadworks, was stuck in traffic, and was most likely two hours away. Huzzah! So, I asked his intentions: would he carry on even knowing he wouldn't arrive until 2, or would he find a place to stop. (Dad, of course, heard me asking this, and declared I should tell him just to press on. Such are the problems of working with incomplete information.) Anyway, Graeme said he would stick it out for half an hour more, and then decide. And so, we waited for a midnight call.
Midnight came and went, and then the call came. It turned out that the traffic had cleared almost right away, and that G had misjudged his position, and was therefore some 40 minutes away. Success! Anyway, Dad elected to drive out to find him, and guide him through the last few nasty turns, while I waited up for them to get back. (I figured I might as well see it through to the end.)
And so, on the Friday, I got up at 7, travelled for several hours, and didn't get to bed until 1. Not the best thing ever, I think.
So, Saturday saw me get up just before my 8am wakeup call, still rather the worse for wear. Still, a swift breakfast (Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes!) soon took care of that. At which point I looked out the window, saw signs of rain, and despaired. It turned out to be false evidence, but how was I to know this?
After a while, others stirred, and I ventured back downstairs to shower, shave and get dressed. On doing this, Andrew approached me to set up a policy for getting ready. Naturally, I agreed with everything he said, then proceeded to ignore him and do what I was going to do anyway. It seemed to work fine.
And so, there I was, resplendent in my finery, all ready to play, and a mere hour away from being close to the time I was supposed to be playing. Slight miscalculation there. Still, it did mean I got to enjoy the spectacle of poor CJ getting roped into ironing shirts for far too many people. (Not me, of course - my shirt had travelled just fine, and anyway I do my own ironing. I even have the scars to prove it.)
Finally, the time came. Out I went into the total lack of rain. In fact, it was a bright, sunny, and gloriously warm day. (Meanwhile in Scotland, Captain Ric got to play in the rain!) Just as I stepped out, Le Welsh was arriving, and conferring with Chris about where to set up. I recognised her by virtue of her looking a bit like herself. (That said, le Tart actually looked more like himself, or at least I identified him more readily.) Still, I didn't introduce myself at this point, as I had a tree to serenade.
Having serenaded the tree, and struck a suitably heroic pose for the purposes of being photographed, I returned to the front of the house and started playing. And this I did for quite some time.
The performance went well. Naturally, I stuck with a selection of simple tunes and old favourites. Plus a few fun ones thrown in for my own amusement. And, at one point I consulted with the registraar about how and when I should communicate with her on returning inside.
Just before the appointed hour, I returned inside, and made my way upstairs to where cousin RJ was making ready. My most important duty of the day was beckoning.
Well, true to her declared intent, Juliet was indeed ready at the appointed hour. She was wearing a fairly traditional white dress. The bridesmaid was in bright blue, matching the cravats worn by the groomsmen (a nice touch, I thought. Also, it was a very nice colour.)
And so, I returned to my position at the corner of the stairs, coordinated between registraar and bride, and then struck up for the processional.
Playing the processional is always the most nerve-wracking part of the wedding. Not only is it something that isn't done too often, but it's also the point where a bad mistake can have all sorts of nasty consequences. (Basically, whenever anyone is moving while music is playing, they'll naturally start moving to the beat. So, make a mistake, and you can throw them off their stride, which can be particularly slapstick when they're already nervous, and even moreso when the bride is walking down stairs.) But no mistakes, and she made it down to the centre of the hall without generating any amusing anecdotes.
The service was short, and struck me as being quite informal, but was well done. I was impressed at how well they managed to strike an intimate feel, despite there being almost a hundred people there. There was a reading from John Donne (who tended to write poems that weren't about what they seemed to be about), and another from "Far From the Madding Crowd". And then a song from cousin R. Oh, and I had a great view of the proceedings. Huzzah!
(It seems odd that the focal point of the whole weekend merits only a single paragraph in the middle of a very long post. Oh well.)
We then ventured outside once more, where the photographs were to be taken. Sadly, the taking of the photographs is always one of the least pleasant parts of a wedding. Lots of standing around, lots of waiting for people, and lots of organisation involved. But the important thing is that the couple end up with the best possible photos to capture the feel of their day, and in that regard they should have done well - the day remained quite bright, and the photographer certainly seemed to know what he was about.
Also, while the photos were being taken, there was a string quartet providing entertainment. On reflection, I think perhaps 'directly behind the band' may not have been the best possible listening position, what with sound being directional and all. Then again, I had an actual seat.
It was during this time that two legendary bloggers first spoke.
"Well played," said Steph/ven.
"Thanks," said le Welsh.
(At this point, I considered not speaking to her again, and instead saying something about "an unspoken understanding" in this post. However, I decided that that would be silly.)
It was also during this time that it started clouding over a bit. On the plus-side, I'm told that this actually makes for better photographs. On the minus-side, the poor quartet must have been quite cold. It seems that I had the best deal of all the musicians of the weekend, across many weddings of note. (Well, two.)
There was then a break before dinner. This gave me a nice opportunity to properly introduce myself to le Welsh. Now, when meeting people from the online world for the first time, there is always that little frisson of doubt. After all, this blog most distinctly casts me as the hero in my own adventures, and almost unfailingly presents me in a positive light. And I'm sure most other people do the same. So, then, what when we meet? Will we fall into the easy cameraderie of people who have known one another for years? Or, perhaps, will we take an instant disliking to one another? I must say, the latter possibility had cccurred to me as being not unlikely.
Well, it transpired that before I spoke to the blogger herself, I found myself talking with le Tart (there's definately something not quite right about those French pronouns, you know), about whom I only had second-hand information. Apparently, le Welsh likes him.
Well, the main thing I recall was his quip that he suggested he would tune my pipes in with the quartet, and play along. I must say, it was most refreshing to meet someone who's default assumption was that "I could do that". Most people assume playing the pipes is impossibly hard. (Which isn't to say it's not hard - it did take me some years to learn, after all.)
Le Welsh herself turned out to be almost exactly as I had imagined. So that was a relief. The "extraordinary detective work" quip, in particular, was quite good. We didn't talk about too much at this point, but would converse again later.
And so, we come to the meal. Sadly, the long-anticipated fish'n'chips had fallen through due to a frier mishap. (I'd been looking forward to it; I haven't had a real chip in six months.) Still, instead we had a three-course meal featuring tomato soup, chicken, and classic Eton mess. It was nice.
I spent the meal sitting next to the very lovely Meredith, the wife of a friend of Chris. Her husband could not be there in person, and so was represented by an old photograph and an iPhone. Have I mentioned that it was quite an unusual day? Anyway, we talked about airlines, Edinburgh airport, and how teachers apparently don't get enough holidays (?!). I think that seating arrangement might have been a moment of inspired genius; it would certainly prove useful later.
After the meal came the speeches. These were to be delivered without the aid of electronic amplification, which was a bit of a concern. And, of course, I had expressed some doubts about placing them after the meal. But they went fine. I certainly heard every word. And they were well delivered, very funny, and generally good examples of the craft. It seems Chris is far more of a rogue than I'd taken him for.
(I also have to take a moment to reply to something Chris said in his speech: no thanks are necessary; it was my honour.)
And so, we came to another gap, while the marquee was cleared prior to the Barn Dance. A gap that was filled with drama, as Grandma fell and hurt herself. Not so good.
At the appointed hour, I returned to the marquee to find le Welsh and le Tart already esconced. So, I thought, it seems I have some competition in the dancing stakes after all...
It was my first Barn Dance, and it turns out that it is indeed much like a Ceilidh. However, the music is rather slower than at a ceilidh, and there seems to be rather more emphasis on group dances. Also of note, and despite the predictions of CJ to the contrary, there seems to be virtually no overlap in the dances. (Although, during the interval Chris and Juliet let it be known that they'd arranged this with the caller. I don't know how true this actually was, or if it was just banter.)
Anyway, the first dance featured a bit where each couple was dispatched to pull a new couple up onto the floor. And so, shortly after the start, I found myself up and dancing with cousin Jo. And, when the time came, it was time for le Welsh and le Tart to join us, despite her initial protests.
Little did I know that this would be the only time they would take the floor! So much for the claims that, "the Welsh can outdance the whole lot of you! ;)" Still, that did provide conversational fodder for later, so wasn't all bad. (Also, in fairness, there was some evidence that this might have been the case. The Barn Dance features 'the Swing', a move that doesn't feature in ceilidhs, and which I never got quite right. As far as I could tell, only one couple seemed to have it mastered...)
There is a secret to Ceilidhs, which also applies to Barn Dances, and especially when you don't know too many of the people there. And that is to keep an eye out during the early dances for all those people who look like they would love to dance, but just haven't been asked yet. When it is my avowed aim to dance all the dances (and thus do my part towards keeping a full dance-floor; also a prerequisite for a successful dance), it is important to keep this in mind. This is where the seating at the meal proved its value, for there were really three circles of people at the dance: Juliet's family, Chris' family, and their friends. And with little exception, these three groups didn't mingle too much. And my family seemed distinctly disinclined to dance (boo!).
Fortunately, my sitting next to Meredith at the meal gave me an opening to the 'friends' circle, and thus provided me with a dance card for the night. Huzzah! And so, I succeeded in my quest.
At the interval, there was a buffet. I'm told it was good. Sadly, buffets are murder on diets, so I was forced to abstain. Still, I took the opportunity to remind le Welsh of her claims of Welsh dancing supremacy. Which is important, of course. We talked about many other things, including the relative likelihood of various other bloggers dancing. (Well, just one, actually.)
After the buffet, Chris and Juliet danced their First Dance. (Unusual positioning, I thought. Have I mentioned that it was an unusual day.) And then the Barn Dance was to resume. Clearly, I thought, the thing to do would be to ask le Welsh for the next dance. Cunning, no?
Well, apparently, no. Instead, she and le Tart took this opportunity to say their goodbyes and depart. Foiled! Snsn Frsn.
I made it to bed by midnight that night. Frankly, I'd been fighting fatigue since seven, so I felt I'd done my bit by then.
Sunday, I got up at 8am, had breakfast, and gradually made my way through the day. I had planned to head to the Games Room, but never quite made it. I did read a couple of chapters of my book, which is also quite good. And ate barbeque. That evening, we played Trivial Pursuit (the Genius Edition from 1983). It was quite odd. Also, we played boys vs girls, which turned out to be rather unbalanced teams. My team won, of course. Bed was at 1am.
Then, on Monday I got up at 9am, packed my bags, then packed the car, and then CJ and I (plus little PJ and the princess) departed for our journey home.
It was a very good weekend. On the Weedol scale, it rates five dandelions out of five.
(Congratulations, you have made it to the end of this post. I did say it was a bit of an epic!)
- Super Secret Goal #1. Nothing to report here - there has simply been no movement at all.
- Super Secret Goal #2. Within days of this being dropped into my post, the goal immediately had to be dropped. Simply put, I have more important things to be dealing with.
- Books. I'm still at 13 books read. I've become somewhat bogged down in "Watership Down". Still, I have picked out the other three books for this month, and should be able to race through one or two of them. Plus, the major time sink that has slowed me down has now ended, which should help.
- Weight loss. I had to adjust my scales this morning, and found they were off slightly. Not hugely so, but enough to negate the weight loss of the last couple of weeks. Annoying. Still eight pounds to do.
- New skill. I'm probably settled on learning Spanish, as I think that's the most useful option. However, I'm holding off on this until the second half of the year.
- Car fund. I'm most of the way there. That said, May is a 'five-weeker', a month in which there are five Fridays between paydays, which is never good. I should get there, I think.
- General finances. The same situation that knocked out #2 above threw this one into chaos. I'm not going to talk about this any further, but it's likely that most of this will have to be placed on the back burner indefinately. Needless to say, I'm really hoping that I won't actually have to buy a new car after all.
- Band. The first competition is in four weeks' time, and should give us a good indication of how things are going to go.
- The house move. The Sky box seems to be working as it should, and the house-warming party was last weekend, so those are done. The rest remains on hold due to the same situation as #7 and #2.
- TV. I'm all caught up on TV, but now have to try to cut down to the target of six and a half hours. This means dropping about three shows from rotation, with "South Park" and "Robin Hood" the two most likely to be sacrificed at the moment. (And that's a major shock about "South Park", but it seems to have become truly awful of late.)
- RPGs. There's been no movement on this front at all.
The fourth and final week at Tesco. Next week, I'm off to Morrisons for a month.
- Shredded Wheat (30), £2.32
- Kitchen Roll (8), £5.67 (not counted)
- Aluminium Foil (40m), £3.48 (not counted)
- Yoghurt (12), £5
- Cooked Turkey, £1.80
- Soup (4 tins), £2
- Cauliflower, £0.80
- Mustard Seeds, £0.68
- Milk (4 pints), £1.72
- Fruit Juice (2 litres), £2
- Mouthwash, blue (2), £3
- Potatoes (2), £1.09
- Apples (8), £2.69
- Lettuce Hearts (2), £1.48
- Green Chillies, £0.49
- Almonds (300g), £2.99
- Tomatoes (6), £0.88
- Red Onions (2), £0.32
- Onion, £0.20
- Limes (4), £1.32
- Carrots (2), £0.32
There was nothing on the list that I didn't get, and neither was there anything that I bought that wasn't on the list. The total for this week was £40.25. I'm discounting the kitchen roll and aluminium foil, as these will probably last at least several months, and also one of the bottles of mouthwash, which was on offer. So, that drops the week's total to £29.40, and brings the total for the month at Tesco to £123.36. Looking back at the list, I think this represents a reasonably fair list of purchases for the month.
It will be interesting to see how Morrisons get on.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
- Diced Pork (800g), £5
- Bread (wholemeal, 2 loaves), £1.30
- Milk (4 pints), £1.72
- Peanut Butter, £2.09
- Toothpaste, £1.95
- Yoghurt, £0.70
- Coriander (annoyingly, last week's batch had gone off), £0.79
- Tomatoes (6), £0.80
- Garlic (4 bulbs), £1.19
- Onions (2), £0.34
- Almonds (700g), £2.99
- Ginger (5), £1.19
- Red Chillies (5), £0.54
- Pizza, £2
Anyway, this was another winner, but certainly not the best of the curries (which was either the Tikka Masala or the Biryani). So, an unassailable 5-1 on the curries.
Next up is "Aloo Gohbi", which is another vegetarian curry, so I'm not expecting great things.
(Incidentally, there will be a report on the wedding forthcoming. However, it's a bit of an epic, so it may be a while...)
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Having pondered this at length, I finally decided that the best thing to do was to draw a picture of myself, which can then be used to recognise me. So, if and when you see me, feel free to ask to see it. I'll be the one looking a bit like me (not too much like me, you understand; I don't want to make things too easy).
Seriously, though, I should be quite easy to spot. I'll be the guy in the kilt. And, if you're there for the gathering on the Friday, I'll be wearing my t-shirt with frogs on. That should be distinctive enough.