Saturday, 30 July 2005

more on ethical consumption

This is an unashamedly tub-thumbing post with links to healthy, non-supermarket purchasing options. Both Loki and Cheryl have posted recently about supermarkets and the mass production of food. You can read their thoughtful and informative posts here and here, respectively. Both posts were in response to the Channel 4 'Dispatches' programme Supermarket Secrets and I am not going to duplicate what they have said, as between them and the comments people have left them, I think the subject is already nicely summed up.

Rather than ranting on any more in their comments sections, here is my contribution - a few links to information sources for ethical, non-processed eating and local and/or organic food. If you only look at one, look at The Big Barn, which has loads of links and information - even seasonal recipes. I also use my copy of The Good Shopping Guide more and more, for everything from financial stuff, through to fridge and pet-food buying.

Find local and organic producers:

  • The Big Barn - a hub of information for local, fresh produce and producers.
  • Soil Association - organic information, including producers and 'box schemes'.

Green cleaning and household products:
  • The Green Shop - All things kind to the environment. And they do mail order!
  • Low Impact Living - Information sheets in .pdf format from everything from household cleaning to bee keeping :).

Food additive information online:


Also, have a look at The Guardian's Ethical Living Experiment with Leo Hickman - a series of articles where Hickman has different aspects of his life 'ethically audited'. Makes interesting reading and has some good links.

Okay, that's it. Tub-thumping over for another few weeks :).

However, if you have any useful links or books that you think could be added to this list, please either email them to me or add them in the comments section - I am going to put a link to this page on my front page and try to keep it updated.

  • Ethical fish consumption (added 8 Dec 05)
  • Freecycle - Community recycling network (added 29 Jan 06)
  • Ecoballs - Laundry without detergent? (added 24 Feb 06)
  • Battery Chicken video (Large windows media player file, with potentially distressing content) (added 8 March 06 courtesy of Bart)
  • The Mooncup - Doris reviews an alternative to tampons and sanitary towels (her post, 4 Dec 05, linked here 20 Mar o6)
  • Composting project: Post 1 - Post 2 (added 22 Apr 06)

fifteen minutes at last ...

I've volunteered for this meme via Doris at Grans on Bran. She got it from Scott-o-rama, who got it from Larry who got it from Large Tony... . I put my name forward, and she's asked me the following five questions. If you'd like to volunteer yourself to be 'interviewed' by me, have a look at the instructions at the bottom of the post.

1. A 4 bedroom Victorian terrace or a 6 bedroom new build with a huge kitchen and why?

Difficult, difficult! Simply because of the huge kitchen. To me, growing up on a farm, the kitchen is the heart of the house. So although I have never lived in a new-build, and really, have no desire too - because I feel they lack character - it would be tempting.

SO I'd probably plump for the Victorian terrace, because it would have more character and wouldn't be on an estate filled with people washing their cars at the weekend a la Pleasant Valley Sunday.

BUT if the new build was an eco-friendly house with a bit of land in the country, I'd be there on the doorstep with my bags packed. This would be pretty close to be being my ideal home and location.

2. Favourite film from the 70's. (Even if you are not old enough!)

'Animal House'. I know it's student humour, I know it's just drunken guys messing around, I know some of it's offensive. But I can watch it again and again and it makes me laugh every single time. Three Days of the Condor, Sleeper, Grease and Star Wars are up there as faves, as well.

3. What part of your body would you change and why?

My boobs. They're too big. You don't know the meaning of pain until you turn over in the night and realise that you have your elbow trapping your own nipple.

4. Which zodiac sign are you most attracted to?

Well, B is a Scorpio. But I don't think I've got a consistent standard.

5. Why do you like ducks?

They're always busy pottering round doing their Duck Thing - they seem very contented. And I like the way their bottoms waggle as they waddle along. They eat slugs, too - much more effective than slug pellets. Admittedly they also eat everything else in the garden, but it's a small price to pay :). And they dibble.

In accordance with the rules of the meme, I need to post these instructions:


  1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying “Interview me.” (”Tickle me” or “Caress me” are not acceptable substitutes.) You must leave your blog address so I can think of good questions for you!
  2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person’s will be different. I’ll post the questions in the comments section of this post.
  3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
  4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
  5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Thursday, 28 July 2005

gosford park

This post has been triggered by a throw-away remark in an un-related comment Pia made a couple of weeks ago, saying that the plumbing stories reminded her of an "English country novel in installments". So just to set the record straight ...

We live in an urban terrace, built around 1900. It has three bedrooms (soon to be four, once Attic Man comes back to us and fits us in to his hectic schedule). It has two bathrooms (please god, please let it actually have two bathrooms by the time I come to post this ... ). And note the incredibly kitch stained-glass swans above the front door, that you can just about make out, making up the house number. I love them. But hating them would involve having to remove them, so I'm morally obliged, you can make your own mind up.

We have stripped plaster off one wall in the kitchen and oiled the bricks. My Aga is going to go in that archway there, where I assume the old range used to be, as soon as I have saved up the thousands and thousands of pounds it will cost (like in a million years). It will probably be as or less expensive to move house than to put one in, so that is probably a more sensible course of action. And then I could have ducks, too.

Difficult choice.

There are scary, scary wallpaper and carpets in the sitting and dining rooms ... I always feel that I should be wearing a high-waisted dress and offering tea to the Curate a la a Jane Austen heroine, whenever I stop managing to blank it out of my consciousness.

Note the books. I like books. We have lots.

There is a yard, that we are about to convert in to a courtyard garden. I am very bad at watering pot-plants - so the Garden Conversion Budget includes some sort of automatic watering set-up for the hot weather.

Isn't it supposed to be an indicator of becoming middle-aged when you start spending more time thinking about home improvements than you do planning late nights in shabby bars drinking tequila?

Wednesday, 27 July 2005

plumber, redux redux

They have come back.

Really come back.

With tools and flexible piping and tiling adhesive and everything.

Plumber2 has tea with milk and no sugar - "Because I'm on a diet, hun" and Plumber1 has tea with milk and one sugar - "Because I'm so fat I don't care, love".

I don't think he's fat. I think he's lovely.

Plumber1 is the Actual Plumber. He does the things that involve pipes and swearing.

Plumber2 is Plumber's Mate. He does dot-and-dab, tiling, passing spanners and lifting things. He also seems to be Designated Phone Answerer and Customer Liasion Plumber.

B has gone away for a couple of days on a job in Harrogate. Harrogate is lovely at this time of year, traditional English (well, Yorkshire) Watering Place, Betty's Tea Rooms, functioning toilets, everything.

We have been managing the panics I've been having by deciding that every time I start to get stressed about something, I will just tell myself:

"I don't need to worry about that. B's dealing with it."
This has been working quite well. It's even working quite well today, in his absence. He did the Plumber Project Management Conversation yesterday morning when they arrived and they have basically been getting on with it, fuelled with a liberal application of tea to the specifications described above.

I'm going round to Nina's for lunch and a wee now, since the toilet is currently sitting in the front garden and I don't want to experiment to see if I suffer from performance anxiety.

Tuesday, 26 July 2005

let the gymnastics begin

Did I mention the Polish Giggling?

I think I may have in passing.

MsMac's suggestion of purchasing the full range of Ikea Ear Plugs is sounding like more and more of a good idea.

On the upside, Polish Lodger's Girlfriend seems to be a really nice woman.

On the downside, Polish Lodger clearly thinks she's really nice, too. Lots and lots, at all times of the day and night.

PLG has already had an interview for, and got, a job at the same place that PL is working and has been opening bank accounts and sorting out NI numbers today. She is very happy with the sleeping arrangements and the firm mattress suits her as she has a bad back. She's really polite and a little shy around B and me.

I am going to have to move the computer from the corner of the office that is adjacent to their bedroom though.

Monday, 25 July 2005

oh, for goodness sake

Odd how you can be walking down the street, pootling nicely, everything going fine; and then you suddenly trip over a hat with a brick hidden underneath it and you just can't seem to pick yourself up again.

There must be a hat-brick/picking-yourself-up-again formula for this somewhere, but you'll have to Google for it yourself.

Everything was going along so well.

And then last Monday I had one of the old panic attack patterns, the kind that leave me feeling that I have to pack a bag and run for it.

Not good.

I got a grip, we had a couple of days off in Birmingham, I had a nice, relaxing reiki, situation returned to normal.

Friday night I had another one, bad enough for me to not be able to manage myself when Polish Lodger came home and bad enough for B to have to cancel his D&D night with only thirty minutes notice.

Yesterday we were supposed to be going to a christening. I couldn't make it out of the house.

Today I am supposed to be on a four-day First Aid At Work course with R.

Instead I am sitting here trying to ignore the fact that the phone is ringing, because I simply can't make myself pick it up and answer it.

I am frustrated.

I am sad.

I am angry.

On the larger scale of things, this is completely inconsequential. No cancer, no heart surgery, no-one bombed to death, no terrorists in the family.

On a personal scale it is totally incapacitating.

Tea, I think.

Sunday, 24 July 2005

sunday afternoon ennui

Rain drizzles sadly
Giggling lodgers flirt upstairs.
I should hoover soon.

Thursday, 21 July 2005

polish gymnastics

The radio silence has been because we took a few days off. B had a training day in Birmingham and I went along for the ride. We stayed a couple of nights in a hotel, and generally enjoyed not having to spend our recreational time in a lounge full of bathroom fittings.

It was starting to get to me.


  • Nice hotels stayed in - 1
  • Nice Indian meals had - 1
  • Nice days spent chatting to nice people while B did his training - 1
  • Times used the phrase 'Polish cum stains' too loudly in quiet moment in the Ikea warehouse - 1


Polish Lodger's Girlfriend is arriving on Saturday and he asked if it would be possible for them to continue to stay with us, rather than look for a double room elsewhere.

The room he is in is tiny - you can basically get a single bed and a chest of draws in it and that's it. So initially we said that we didn't think it would be appropriate, as they are staying until mid-September and that's quite a long while for two people to spend in a space that small, even if they are young and in lurve.

However, he didn't have any success finding another room within his price range and then Kate and Vic offered us a four-foot wide futon that fits the space. So as he's quiet, he's tidy and he pays on time, we thought we'd give it a go.

My one reservation is that futon mattresses stain really easily - and it's a good futon that we have a use for as a sofa once they've gone. So I've gone on a crusade to get an Ikea mattress pad and a mattress protector to put over it.

I know I should have had the conversation with B about the necessity for this before we ended up in the shop, but I just downright forgot.

Hence the embarrassed silence as (it seemed like) everyone in the shop stopped and looked at me.

I have tried to sell it to Polish Lodger on the grounds that it will make the futon 'more comfortable' as I really don't want to have a discussion with him about Polish Gymnastics. So far though, he is adamant that the futon is 'very comfortable as it is, Ally, very comfortable indeed'.

Perhaps it's a man-to-man conversation that B should have with him ... .

Off for a reiki now. Yay!

Friday, 15 July 2005

memory meme

Cheryl has tagged me for the 'Memory Meme', so here it is ...

What I was doing ten years ago - 1995.
Graduating from my MSc course and looking for a GIS job; getting over a disasterous not-quite relationship with Steve The Bastard; moving back to my parent's house (yet again); exploring my blossoming interest in spiritual healing and reiki.

5 years ago - 2000.
Getting to the point in my relationship with Crazy Tom where things were becoming just too crazy. He'd just come back from Glastonbury and was in the middle of a three week period of not speaking to me. At all. Nice.

1 year ago - 2004.
Er, looking back, probably having some sort of breakdown. At least, I was afraid to go downstairs in case anyone came to visit and I had to speak to them, and shortly after that my lovely doctor prescribed anti-depressant medication. (Which I have now come off. Yay!).

Yesterday - Thursday 14th July.
Blogging about tea. Going to the beer festival at one of our two 'locals'. Discovering that Belgian Raspberry Beer is actually much nicer than it sounds.

5 snacks I enjoy:

  • Pork scratchings
  • Pickled onions
  • Chocolate anything
  • Wine
  • Pizza

5 songs I know all the words to:

  • Don't Come the Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim, Kirsty McColl (Cheryl, the more I find out about you, the more we have in common!)
  • Hopelessly Devoted to You, Olivia Newton John
  • Coward of the County, Kenny Rogers
  • Leaving on a Jet Plane, John Denver
  • American Pie, Don McClean

5 Things I would do with $100 million:

  • Buy a house in the country and populate it with various animals, poultry and children
  • Give some of it away to individuals I know
  • Give some of it away to non-sexy small charities that do good work in difficult conditions
  • Buy the fastest, smallest laptop I could find and update it every six months :).
  • That's it!
5 locations I would like to run away to - Temporarily, not permanently!
5 bad habits I have:
  • I interrupt when I get excited
  • I pretend I don't notice that the cat has been sick and wait for B to clear it up
  • I don't always wash up before I go to bed
  • I pick my nose when I don't think anyone is watching
  • I impulse shop on ebay

5 things I like doing:

  • Walking
  • Sleeping
  • Reading
  • Drinking tea
  • Eating cake

5 things I would never wear:

  • Anything bright orange or lime green
  • Stiletto heeled shoes (Boots yes, shoes no. I fall over.)
  • A thong
  • A pill box hat
  • A wonderbra

5 TV shows I like:

  • MASH
  • Star Cops
  • Moonlighting
  • Spooks
  • Probably anything that's a period drama

5 Biggest joys of the moment:

  • Being married to B - soppy but true
  • Gardening
  • Looking out at the river and knowing it's going places I'll never go
  • Being in the countryside
  • I think you can get joy out of pretty much any moment in time, if you focus on where you are and what you are doing there in that pariticular moment.

5 Favorite toys:

  • Books. I'm an addict. But I'm slowly letting them go and giving them away in dribs and drabs.
  • The computers ...
  • Think that's it!

I'm not going to tag anyone for this one - but if you fancy doing it, leave a link to your post in the comments! :).

Thursday, 14 July 2005


I confess.

I have a tea-pot fetish.

I find them the ultimate in comforting and comfortable items, providing nourishment spiritual, sensual, emotional and mental. I defy anyone to look at a tea-pot for long without feeling better about the world in general.

I fell in love with this particular comedy example when we were last down in Somerset, and my sister bought it for me as a belated birthday present. I think there is something particularly pleasing about it's size and shape - quite apart from the fact that it looks like an extra from the film Chicken Run. It looks like it won't pour very well, but in fact the dribble factor is surprisingly low, so long as you can keep a steady hand and get over the fact that it is kind of sick-ing the tea through it's beak.

What can I say? Tea is very important to me. I am pursuing a one woman war with motorway service stations that don't have tea available in the glitzy 'serve yourself' machines in the shop - or those that if they do offer it, make it ridiculously expensive.

My campaign involves making barbed comments to B, loudly.

Obviously I never take it up with the management directly - that would somehow be Un-British.

Confession number two.

As a direct result of the Motorway Tea Debacle, I have started taking a thermos of tea with me whenever I travel.

It's only a step and slip before a good afternoon's recreation will consist of sitting in a deckchair in a layby by the side of the A41 with a cooler bag full of egg sandwiches, watching the lorries thunder by.

Tuesday, 12 July 2005


So, we decided to go for a nice walk along the Prom this evening, once the temperature had dropped below my safety cut-out point. We walked along by the edge of the river for about half a mile and then found a convenient bench to sit down on and look out over the water.

We picked out curlews dibbling around in the shallows and the rockpools and we saw a cormorant flying overhead. The sunlight reflected off the buildings on the opposite shore in a pleasing romantic manner. All was well with the world.

Then he found us.

The random, drunken, lonely man.

This evening, we have learned:

  • where the sea-bass shoal around the groynes and the fact that most people think they are skate. And the fact that the fishermen are always on the opposite side of the groyne from them.
  • how to disarm a man coming at you with a knife, including a practical demonstration using B's arm and a packet of Drum tobacco, helpfully plastered with 'Smoking Kills' signs.
  • the fact that you can get a brown belt in Tai-chi.
  • many policemen have been in Her Majesties Forces as a previous career.
  • if you want to take out someone who is attacking you, then it is a good idea to hit them in the sternum with your elbow. Again, demonstrated with the help of B. Who was becoming quite nervous by this point.
  • if someone slightly creepy who has been drinking kisses you on the hand, then you can still feel it even after you have washed your hands. Lots of times.

We eventually escaped when a Woman He Knew came along and was sucked in.

Random Man: "You don't mind me putting my arm around you Woman I Know, do you? I don't make you nervous?"
Woman He Knew: "Well, it does a bit Random Man, because my back's quite bad at the moment".
I think he must live in the Retired Mariners' Home at the top of the road. He is sixty years old in seven weeks time and at that point he gets a lump sum from the Navy. He told us all about how he'd been on the ferries for four years and then had joined the Marines for fourteen years and had been taught to kill people with a rubber band and a teaspoon.

All of my wigging-out bells were going off as he approached us. He was obviously looking for a conversation and was obviously lacking the social skills to strike one up in a normal fashion. But, as he talked, my wigging-out alarm turned itself off, or at least, quietened down a bit. After a few preliminary comments about fish, he launched in to the story that he clearly felt compelled to tell.

About how he'd been attacked last night in the centre of town as he was going home from doing a bit of shopping. How he'd disarmed two kids who had jumped him and turned the tables on them quite effectively.

Clearly he might have been making it all up, but he had fresh bruises and cuts and was exuding a kind of desperate need to be heard.

He was drunk, of course. But I probably would have been if it had happened to me.

He told us the whole story a couple of times.

How they'd jumped him.

How he'd gone in to town with £57 and bought a pair of trousers and a top, and had £22.17 left and was walking down to get the ferry and come home. How they came out of a side-street and one of them had a knife. How he automatically fought back and made the guy drop it. How the marks on his hands and arm were from the other guy's teeth, where he had side-chopped him and missed his throat and caught him in the mouth and how that was actually quite lucky for the guy. How he had jabbed one guy in the sternum with his elbow and kicked the other one between the legs. And how when the second guy was down on the ground on all fours, he'd automatically kicked upwards in to his face and broken his nose so that it was pouring blood. And how the Police were sympathetic when they arrived.

He told us that he didn't like violence. That he wrote poetry. That he didn't want to be in situations like that. That he wanted a quiet life.

He told us that he supposed that he was looking for us to validate his actions. That he was right - he shouldn't have just given them his money, or his tobacco, or his shopping, or whatever it was they thought they wanted. He said that it was mostly an automatic reaction. Mostly.

We said that we completely validated him. That he couldn't have done anything else. That it was a perfectly natural way to have behaved. That they deserved it.

We said it a second time, and a third, as he told us the story again.

And when the Woman He Knew came along and sat down on our bench to have her post-exercise smoke, we made our excuses and we left.

And here I am, blogging about it.

And out there ten minutes walk down the Prom, he is probably telling his story to another couple who are just out for an evening stroll, looking for some peace and wishing that he would go away and leave them to enjoy the evening, in the same way that we did.

And tomorrow, he will drink some more. And perhaps he will stop other strangers and try to tell them his story. And maybe they'll listen. And maybe they won't. But by sharing it with you, perhaps I've given him the validation that he was looking for.

Monday, 11 July 2005

parlez vous franglais?

I am feeling much better - everyone has gone away and I have cleaned the kitchen, which is the Ally-equivalent of pee-ing in the corner. My house is my own again. Also, before he went home, R helped B to move the new bath out of the hall and in to the bay window. This means a) it's no longer visible and b) we can actually open the door. Which is nice.

We have just had our second French lesson, from Dani's mum, Teresa. She has a house in France that she spends some of the year in, and is consequently a lot more fluent than either B or myself.

We are practicing for our trip in mid-August, which is almost all planned. Er. Almost. We've booked the ferry, anyway. And chosen the campsite. Tomorrow we're going to book it, honest. This is going to involve emailing in French, which involves some preparatory deep breathing.

I am off to drink some whisky and play Civilization III for a bit now. Yay!

self pitying wallow

We've been visiting the farm for the weekend - it has been so hot that I spent most of the time lying down with all the windows open and the curtains closed. I still don't feel quite right today.

The house seems to be full of people - Aunt Kate has come over whilst Vic is doing some more in the bathroom. Polish Lodger is at home, going through the papers looking for another job. Both B and R are in the office (although they don't really count, in the nicest way possible, B because, well, he's like a part of me, and R because he doesn't seem to mind if I am finding speaking to people difficult and need to be quiet).

It feels like a mad-house and I don't feel like I can go downstairs, because I will have to interact with Aunt Kate, Vic and Polish Lodger and I just can't cope with that today. Hence they are all downstairs having lunch and I am hiding in the office.

The bathroom guys delivered all the bathroom bits this morning and there is now a bath in the hall and two toilets (with seats, cisterns and mechanisms) in the lounge.

We have had to move the bicycles in to the dining room because the hall is full of plasterboard for the bathroom walls and ceilings.

B and R are trying to finish filling in a thirty-five page form for some work we want to tender for. But:

  • Vic keeps wanting B to run out in the car and pick up more stuff for the building work.
  • We need to phone The Plumbers and ask when they are coming.
  • We need to phone The Attic Converter and ask when he is coming.
  • We need to phone the Staircase Makers and ask about staircases.
  • I am in no way helping.

There is too much going on and my head is buzzing.

I am going to go and lie down now, under some nice, soothing wet newspaper and hope my incipient migraine goes away.

Thursday, 7 July 2005

support networks

Yesterday we filled in the form from the adoption agency and posted it back to them. It feels strange - exciting, and scary at the same time, as if we have just stepped on to the top of a helter-skelter.

By co-incidence, the Baby Catalogue (The BAAF monthly 'Be My Parent' magazine, so named by my friend Tessa) came yesterday as well. This month is one of the alternating months that it contains extended articles. This edition's topic was about people who have adopted sibling groups. It prompted us to have a long chat about what exactly we do and don't want to happen.

It transpires that we are both anxious about maintaining our relationship with each other and not letting that get completely subsumed in the needs of the children. B finally articulated his concerns that three kids will make that too much of a challenge. He's voiced reservations about three kids several times, but in a wishy-washy way that I have found difficult to get to grips with, as he hasn't been able to give any real reasons other than "It's a lot of children Ally. I am worried that we won't be able to cope".

The articles and our chat clarified it for him and he was able to speak about it. And this concern I can understand and identify with.

So we started talking about our "support network". This was actually something that came up in the meeting with the Adoption Worker. She asked us to list the people we would include.

Last night we were discussing in more depth who we will be able to rely on to look after the children sometimes so that we can have that all-important time to maintain our own relationship.

We have been asking ourselves "If we ask people to babysit, will having three children make them less likely to help? Will our parents be able to cope with having three children to stay for a weekend occasionally?" And "Are we strong enough ourselves to do this?".

Do people think about these things in this depth when they decide to start a biological family?

blogging for books, july 05

For what seems like about the whole of the last year, I have been promising myself that I will make time to enter the current month's Blogging For Books over at Zero Boss, and then not managing to find the time. This month, Jay has chosen a topic that I felt I'd already written about ... so I've entered this post from April.

Please do head on over to the site and look at some of the other entries for this month's topic, which is: "Write about a pivotal point in your life as a parent, OR write about a pivotal point in your relationship with one of your parents." There is always great writing.

Wednesday, 6 July 2005


Everything everyone does is wrong today.

  • I have had a nice nap with a hot water bottle.
  • I have had two bars of chocolate and about three pints of tea.
  • I have had a good cry.
  • I have got het up at the perfectly reasonable request of one of our clients to re-issue an invoice I buggered up earlier in the week.
  • I have asked the people I sent the invoice out to earlier in the week who aren't actually our customers to send it back to us, and managed not to cry when both B and R laughed at me.

Now I am going to test the theory that evolved on Bumptious a couple of weeks ago. I hate milk. I'm going to go and have a hot bath and two bottles of wine.

It probably won't make my cramps go away, but if I drink quickly enough, I won't notice them any more.

Tuesday, 5 July 2005

plumbing heaven

I feel satiated.

The plumbers came back.

They came back with a quote that is more than 50% cheaper than Ridiculously Expensive Plumber who gave us our first quote. It includes moving the soil pipe. And doing the tiling and finishing.

They can fit us in on the week beginning the 18th July, or, possibly, before then. So no divorce and remarriage is necessary, although, of course, I still love them both.

B and I are off to the plumbers' merchant this afternoon to order all the bits.

Monday, 4 July 2005

new shoes

I have new shoes! New shoes! I have new shoes! See the picture of my new shoes!

They are pink Birkenstocks. I have been listening to various people big-upping Birkenstocks for the last few months, and I found these on Ebay for £26 including delivery. They are incredibly comfortable and I am ecstatic.

I will take my girlish enthusiasm elsewhere now.

Sunday, 3 July 2005

ethical audit

In a burst of slightly mis-placed enthusiasm we have invited Vic, Kate, Auntie Kate and Uncle Horace to tea this evening.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but after spending yesterday mostly in our pajamas, leaping in to action to roast lamb and peel potatoes this morning has been a bit of shock to the system.

So we've cheated.

We have been to Asda and we have bought pre-prepared vegetables.


In bags.

Please, please don't tell my Ma - in her lexicon this is only one step up from buying pre-prepared crumble topping, which is apparently a hanging offence.

To try to make up for this burst of rampant consumerism, I have just been looking at the Northern Harvest website. They work with producers in the area to source and deliver food locally. They have a selection of organic produce and will deliver every week, provided you spend more than fifteen quid.

We stopped our organic veg box before B went off to Germany, as there was no way I was going to eat all of it on my own each week. And then in the interim, the people we were using changed their minimum delivery from £10 to £15, which is too much for just the two of us weekly and impractical fortnightly.

So the Northern Harvest people might work out okay, as they will deliver all sorts of groceries to make up the fifteen quid, as well as simply fruit and vegetables.

They also have a locally produced dry cat food for sale.

I am in a quandry about this - we are currently feeding our two Iams. I understand there has been some very bad publicity about the company recently because of the kind of animal-testing that they do. I have checked it out in my copy of The Good Shopping Guide which categorises companies according to their ethical stance and actions. Iams is in the middle one of the three bandings - so whether or not the allegations are true*, there are more ethical alternatives.

The three cat foods in the 'ethical' band are: Hi-Life, Pascoe's and Yarrah. Looking at the statistics The Good Shopping Guide gives, Yarrah seems to be the most ethical of the three. I've never heard of it, although I've just discovered that you can buy it from various places online.

I need to make some enquiries about the local stuff and then decide which to switch to.

If the blinkin' animals will eat it, which is always the catch :).

I am going to go and make some of my own crumble topping now, in a kind of never-to-be-articulated apology to my mother.

* From the information on their own website, it looks as if there definitely was an issue, which they say has now been corrected. See here for details. A quick Google for Iams also brings up loads of stuff from sources not related to the company.

Friday, 1 July 2005

bran loaf

I have had a bout of cake-making recently. I thought I would post the recipe as a public service, because I have been told that not only is it very tasty, but it can also be, er, helpful, due to the bran content :). And I thought that Doris in particular might be interested ...

Bran Loaf

Put in to a bowl:

  • 1 cup of bran flakes
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of mixed fruit or currants or sultanas

Cover and leave to stand overnight.

In the morning:

  • Beat an egg and mix it in
  • Fold in a cup of self-raising flour

Bake in a medium oven for forty minutes or so or until a knife comes out clean. I find it normally singes a bit around the edges before the middle is done, but I quite like that :).