Thursday, 4 December 2008

Playing tag

Earlier in the week Mrs Average from The Rubbish Diet tagged me - not once but twice! Well, actually she said to take my pick, but I can't resist doing both ;)

1. Six from six
The sixth image from the sixth folder in my photos directory is above. It's some mushrooms growing on a dead, half-fallen tree in Danby Woods, a small patch of woodland near where I live - I liked the colour of them as a contrast to the blue sky, and thought the shape of them was kind of cute. I suppose you could call them one of nature's recyclers :) One of the things I like about where we live is that we have not only the woods but also Marston Marshes practically on the doorstep, although we don't go specifically *to* them very often. I do run past them quite a lot though!

2. Another six
Six "interesting" facts about me... hmm, tricky! I'll try not to bore everyone to tears :)

Fact 1
I'm into the crazy world of triathlons - races where you swim, bike and then run. I started running a few years ago, and have cycled (commuting) for longer. A couple of years ago some of my neighbours asked if I wanted to come on a bike ride with them, "just 12 miles", so off I went on my trusty (heavy) commuting bike, with all of them on their sleek racing bikes. I not only kept up with them, but I loved it. Said friends tempted me to join them in Tri-Anglia triathlon club, and I started going to swim training too. Since then I have done three sprint (400m pool swim, 20km bike, 3km run) triathlons and two Olympic distance ones (1500m open water swim, 40km, 10km), and I've completed the Norfolk 100 mile charity bike ride. Amusingly I even managed to win the ladies' category in one of the Olympic races (due to low entry numbers I have to say!). Well, it gets me out of the house...

Fact 2
I can drive a Chieftain tank. And assorted other military vehicles. I used to work weekends for some friends with an activity centre (as did a certain Alex), and ended up instructing customers in driving various pieces of kit. They all had their special attributes, but I think I liked the Chieftain the best. Fifty-six tons of very heavy metal, the best part of 700 horsepower, and a LOT of mud. (I'm not reinforcing my environmental credentials much, am I?) I did get a bit of a kick out of confounding some people's expectations, stepping forward from among the other (male) instructors to take the customers over for their tank drive (which was sometimes over a car). Tank grrrrrrl indeed.

Fact 3
I volunteer as crew on a traditional Norfolk Broads wherry. These are the traditional boats of the area, around a hundred years old, with very distinctive large single sail. Crewing involves raising and lowering the sail, raising and lowering the mast for passing under bridges, and quanting (like punting but on a much bigger scale!) when the wind is absent or against us, and of course there's swabbing the decks and making the tea too. Actually since last year I have been chairman of the Friends of Wherry Yacht Charter Trust, looking after three of the eight remaining examples of these beautiful boats. Two of them are sadly not in sailing order - one is being worked on, and the other is waiting patiently for her turn - but we will be out sailing with the beautiful Edwardian pleasure wherry Hathor again next summer. Please come and sail with us, or come and look on board when we are moored up. It's the best way to see the Broads. You can even get involved as a volunteer or member. Just contact me if you want to know more!

Fact 4
I'm a map geek. I love maps, especially Ordnance Survey ones. I can sit and read them for hours, and always have to buy one when we go anywhere new. As I also love taking photos, I was very happy when I learned about the Geograph project - a web-based community project to document the whole of the British Isles, by adding map references and descriptive information to the photos. I don't get time to contribute so much these days, but I still browse often, and have a stash of photos just waiting to be uploaded when I get a free (!) day. I do have over 2,000 already there!

Fact 5
I do like a civilised tipple - real ale is my thing. I'm a paid-up member of CAMRA, and no I don't have a beard. The range of different beers you can get now is amazing, but I have a soft spot for treacly winter ales, easy-drinking dark milds, and fragrant summer beers. Norfolk has lots of excellent breweries, and Mark and I had Tipple's Redhead and Lady Evelyn on offer at our wedding - after a suitably serious tasting session to make sure we'd made the right choice!

Fact 6
Ich lerne Deutsch. I am lucky enough to get "personal and professional development" opportunities at work, and they agreed to pay for me to learn German via an Adult Education course. So, every Wednesday lunchtime I cycle over to King Street in Norwich and join my classmates for two hours of cases, conjunctions and the all important Kaffeepause. I do have work links with Germany - next time I go over there, perhaps I'll get the native-language lowdown on their excellent recycling system :)

That was surprisingly difficult! I'm still quite new to this blogging lark and so I don't have lots of people to tag, but I will tag Waste Free Alex - if only because I know she will have a bloody brilliant photo to share with us :) Thanks for the tag Mrs A!

Monday, 1 December 2008

See what happens...

...when you don't plan ahead and end up doing chunks of your shopping in random bursts? Our bin weights is 1.2kg for the past two weeks. In mitigation I will say it contains a completely stripped chicken carcass, and we have not eaten out as much this fortnight as we have before! There are several meat trays in there, and a bit of ham that hid at the back of the fridge until it was unusable, plus other unrecyclable plastics from pasta, spinach, celery and other things it seems impossible to buy any other way.

Tonight I will knuckle down, make a list, check out the freezer, and see how well I can plan out the week. I have to try and convince Mark that he can shop at the market (all of 200m from his office)! I'll also use up some of the many bananas I brought home from the half marathon leftovers, and turn them into my new favourite banana cake recipe, so there'll be no need to buy cereal bars etc.

Wholesome Banana Chocolate Breakfast Bars
(from 101 Cookbooks via Chocolate and Zucchini)
  • 200 grams (2 cups) rolled oats or mixed rolled grains
  • 60 grams (2/3 cup) ground almonds, a.k.a. almond meal
  • 30 grams (1/3 cup) dried, unsweetened grated coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 120 grams (4 1/4 ounces) good-quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 very ripe, medium bananas, about 400 grams (14 ounces) when peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) whole almond butter (can substitute olive oil, or slightly warmed coconut oil)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease a 9" square tin (or equivalent) with vegetable oil.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, ground almonds, coconut, and salt. Set aside. Chop the chocolate so the largest pieces are about the size of a chocolate chip. Set aside.

In another medium mixing bowl, combine the bananas, vanilla, and almond butter, and mash thoroughly using a potato masher. Add the oats mixture and mix well. Fold the chocolate in gently.

Pour into the prepared baking dish, level the surface, and slip into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, until the top is set and golden-brown. Let cool completely before slicing into bars.

The recipe happens to be vegan, gluten-free, and no added sugar, but primarily the bars are just yummy! Oats, bananas, nuts, a little dark chocolate - all good stuff. A couple of notes on the ingredients: you can get almond butter in health/whole food shops if not in the supermarket. I haven't seen unsweetened shredded coconut (desiccated is too fine I think) so I substituted chopped pecans, but seeds would work well too. I guess you could put good old soaked fruit instead of chocolate.