Friday, 9 April 2021

Another Friday

How is it that I managed to write a blog post every day for nearly two weeks and now it's been over a week since the last one?!  I think it doesn't help that it's the school holidays as my usual mush-brain turns into holiday mush-brain and I have no idea what day it is 😀  It just goes to show how we manage to fit things in - or not - but here I am at last with a catch up from the last week or so.

These photos were take on one of the walks I did before small daughter broke up for the Easter holidays.  We were out at the Nine Arches in Earlestown again and I took a different path which runs parallel to the main cycle path.  This wide grassy area was lined on both sides by what I thought were hawthorn bushes but reading this post of Lucy's, I think maybe they're blackthorn instead.  I'm now thinking we might have a blackthorn tree in our garden and that's been a mystery to me for the nearly 18 years we've lived here so that's good to know!

A wide grassy path bordered by white flowering bushes

The flowers are very pretty, and very like hawthorn flowers.  It was so lovely to walk down the flower-lined path, it really felt as if Spring had definitely arrived and that everything around me just couldn't wait to burst into life.

A cluster of white blackthorn flowers

Only a couple of weeks ago, these catkins were tight silver furry buds and now they're blooming.  I have to say that I prefer the silver pussy willow buds but the bees like these much better!

Willow catkins blooming as yellow flowers

It's quite amazing that the tree is doing anything at all as this is what the rest of it looks like!

A willow tree split open into four trunks

It's a good job that the seasons still follow their plan - I don't know about you but over this last year, I've had days when I've felt as if I'm blundering from one to the next and that time is disappearing faster than ever.  Some days, all I seem to do is get up, do a few things and then oh, it's bedtime again.  I've realised that without a routine that is essential (such as getting to school on time), I can be quite disorganised about having any kind of routine at all and despite good intentions of blocking out time in my calendar or doing certain things on certain days, it doesn't always work out like that!

Fortunately, Nature is much more organised than me and the green waste bin collection every fortnight has been a big incentive to make sure that I'm spending time out in the garden - not only good for my mental and physical well-being, but it's also looking more likely that our garden is going to be somewhere that's a pleasure to sit in over the summer rather than expecting tigers to jump out of the overgrown undergrowth.

There were two flowers on my Camellia bush this year.  I had thought it was a white flowered variety but this is so much prettier!

Pink-edged white Camellia flower

This is the Magnolia stellata that I showed you the other day (and thank you for your comments, I'm glad you love the plant as much as I do!).  It's never grown very tall, thank goodness, as it would probably be in the wrong place for a huge Magnolia tree, but it's absolutely covered in flowers this year.  I cut it back quite a lot last year as it was getting a bit sprawly and I've had to be a bit ruthless in the borders in some places, and it doesn't look like it's done it any harm!

White Magnolia stellata flowers

It's green bin day today so I'm planning to get out in the garden again this weekend when the bins are emptied again.  It's a subscription service from our local council and it's worth every penny not to have to load the car up with garden waste to get to the tip, especially as most of what's going into the bin is ivy and weeds, so not something I can compost.  I need to move our compost bins around, actually, as big daughter has been filling them up with the bedding from her duck house when she changes it.  It's only hay and duck poo so if we can get it to rot down then it'll just add some extra nitrogen to the compost 😀

Talking of the ducks, they've started to lay eggs.  Big daughter is a bit disconcerted by this - I think we'd assumed that as rescue ducks out of a commercial environment they'd have no need to lay eggs any more, but perhaps ducks just lay eggs because they can.  Can you tell we are learning as we go along?! 

Two white duck eggs balanced on top of a tray of brown hen eggs

Big daughter is finding it hard to think about eating them as now she knows where they come from (a bit like people who don't want to eat the meat of an animal they've known) and I can see that, although if we don't eat them and we're getting up to three eggs a day then we're going to have to do something with them! 

I baked a new type of sourdough loaf this morning.  I started it last night and proved it overnight in the fridge and then put it in the oven whilst I was pottering about feeding the pets and emptying the dishwasher first thing.  The recipe came from the Gartur Stitch Farm website again - it was linked on the newsletter - and you can find it here.  I've never made bread from a sponge before (it was really easy) and I used one of the duck eggs and some plant butter (big daughter is lactose intolerant).  It took a bit longer to cook than the recipe said but that might have been because it was very cold from the fridge.  I'll need to experiment as I will be making it again!

A loaf of sourdough bread on a cooling rack.  In the background is a blue Aga

No, of course I didn't wait until it was cool before I cut it open!

Two slices of sourdough bread on a wooden bread board next to a loaf

We've been going through plenty of bread just lately as there are four of us in the house - perhaps not quite as much as we do during school term time as small daughter takes sandwiches and over the holidays she's more likely to make herself some noodles or pasta for lunch.  I'd like to think that maybe I can replace one or two of our bought loaves with this ... although then I'd have to get into the routine of doing it ... I'm not incapable of being in a routine, I just forget sometimes! 😀

I also promised the other week that I'd tell you about my Hello Fresh experience so let me do that now whilst I'm thinking about food!

As a family, under normal circumstances we often only eat together on a Sunday.  Everybody has their own commitments and many days it's just small daughter and I eating our dinner whilst my husband eats out or eats late and big daughter is the same.  It can make meal planning quite a challenge, especially if everybody is in to eat at different times!

Although it's been lovely that we've eaten as a family over the last year, it's not been as easy as I'd hoped to prepare one family meal.  Big daughter is veggie and lactose intolerant.  My husband is veggie and doesn't eat certain foods.  Small daughter is going through a rather fussy phase and I try not to get too cross with that - as a spectacularly fussy eater as a child, I've carried enough food baggage through the years to know that saying the threat of no more to eat until the morning is actual the lesser evil when faced with something you really don't want to eat - and I do know that it's possible to grow out of it but it takes time.  It's not unusual for me to have to make several versions of the same thing to make sure that everyone has something on their plate that they will eat, and by the time we were down to four recipes that I knew wouldn't get sniffed at (I know, it sounds crazy, you should see how many cookbooks I have!) then I was ready for some kind of kitchen miracle!

That's when - surprise! - the Hello Fresh discount code appeared in my inbox.  I am sure our phones and computers listen to us!  I have to say that I wasn't convinced at first.  It seemed very expensive, I was worried that there would be a lot of packaging waste and there didn't seem to be much in the menu options that small daughter would eat.  Big daughter, who is quite a foodie and loves cooking, sat down with me and we had a good look through it all.  She's used Hello Fresh (or something similar) before when she lived away from home at university (ha! no student beans on toast these days!) and was convinced that this was an option for us worth considering.  We ordered our first boxes.

This is how it arrives.  It all comes in one big box and each meal is in a paper bag.  Some go into the fridge and others don't need to (although they may have ingredients inside which do).  There's a plastic bag with recycled insulation and freezer blocks with meat or fridge ingredients, and there's a menu card for each meal.

Brown paper bags containing meals in the Hello Fresh delivery.  There are also recipe cards

So far, so good!  The bags have been great for starting the fire (still not quite warm enough to give them up!), the strong, sturdy boxes have gone into the recycling or have been used for packing other things into, the plastic bag has been used a bin bag and I've kept hold of the insulation material just in case - I feel like it should be useful but I haven't quite decided where yet!  Some of the ingredients do come in plastic packets but there really isn't as much waste as I thought there might be

This is what it looks like inside one of those paper bags - everything that you need for one meal for however many people you choose to cater for ...

Vegetables and packets of condiments inside a brown paper bag

and this is what the recipe cards look like ...

Hello Fresh recipe card showing a meal and ingredients

and on the other side is the recipe itself.  It's probably not much different to something that I could have found in one of my recipe books, but I think what using this service has done for me over the past few weeks is that it's given me a rest.

I'm not thinking about what to cook, making a menu plan, writing a shopping list or trying to track down unusual ingredients.  I've spent years doing that and I have to say that asking, "What would you like for dinner?" and getting the answer "Domino's pizza" every single week wears very thin very quickly.  Small daughter would live on pizza given the opportunity, and we do make our own from time to time but it isn't something that everyone wants to eat for dinner.  The recipe cards are written in a pretty basic form so they'd be great for someone who hadn't done much cooking before, but it's actually quite nice to read "now do this, now do that" without having to weigh anything out or rummage for things in the fridge because it's all there in the bag.

A delivery service like Hello Fresh won't be for everyone.  Some of the meals work out more expensive than they would if you bought the ingredients yourself but I'm under no illusions that I'm paying for convenience here.  If you enjoy cooking and exploring the recipes in your own cookery books then you would have no need to choose from the menu options offered online.  For now, though, for me, this has been a game changer at meal times.

I'm not having to make lots of different meals because the most I'm having to do is make a veggie version of the same meal and it's easy to divide it into two pans with tofu in one and chicken in the other so in theory it is cheaper but it's taken a couple of weeks for that to filter through to the food shop!  We've been far more adventurous lately too - it had become very easy to stick to what we knew and we've been enjoying meals from different parts of the world that we might not have considered if we'd had to buy and mix our own spice blends (I've got lots of fish sauce in the back of my fridge thanks to the Wagamama cook book so I have been here before!) or track down particular vegetables.  I'm also in possession of what feels like most of the world's supply of garlic as most recipes use four cloves at the most but you get a whole bulb in each bag, so if anyone knows what I can make with a field full of garlic (and there's more growing in my garden too!) then please let me know!

We won't be having these meals forever, although we have kept them going for longer than I expected as my husband absolutely loves them.  I reduced the number of meals that we're buying once our hefty discount code ran out and I'll no doubt stop altogether soon - once we start going out and about again, it will be more difficult to eat together again and these meals are best made to share.  We do have a stock of new recipes now though, and small daughter likes a good number of them so we'll definitely be going through them to make them again, but this has actually been a good thing about lockdown and I'll miss it when we start eating in shifts again.

And on that happy note, it's lunchtime and I'm off for a sourdough sandwich!  Have a lovely weekend! xx


9 comments:

  1. Blackthorn flowers without any leaves on bush and hawthorn flowers after the leaves have come. Hawthorn flowers in May.

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  2. Your loaf of bread looked wonderful; I just had to laugh when you included that you didn't wait to cut the loaf! I have no idea why recipes tell you to "let rest until completely cool before slicing." They're Sadists, I tell you! LOL. Once again, thank you for sharing parts of your life with us.

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    1. That's like the recipes for biscuits that say they'll keep for 2 weeks. Not in our house!
      Interesting to read about your Hello Fresh experience. As there's only 2 of us now, I can't see me using them, though. xx

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  3. duck eggs are wonderful in kedgeree. 10 mins simmering takes them to 'just set' yolks.

    and they are good for quiches and other savoury egg dishes.

    bon appetit

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  4. That bread looks wonderful! A bit like the sort of breads i used to buy when I loved in Germany! That garden and dog walk photos are also gorgeous - sadly our -3C temperature on Monday just about did for all the blossom - certainly our Stellata is now brown rags! That Hello Fresh meal idea looks wonderful - if only for lazy days here as we do not have quite so many food intolerances - must look into it! Have a good weekend and thank you for a lovely blog.

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  5. Hello Fresh has been a lifesaver in our household as well. Although we too have found ourselves with a lot of garlic! We’ve been using it up by crushing it and making garlic bread and also in homemade pesto. Still lots left despite that - I think it’s secretly multiplying in our fridge...

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  6. Your loaf of bread looks yummy! My friend makes a garlic broth… if you like making soup might be an option for all your garlic 😊

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  7. Thank you Christine, you've prompted me to have a good think about why I'm struggling with dinners at the moment - & therefore not eating properly which then means I'm not feeling like cooking which just becomes a descending spiral of feeling blah! Elder Son is back at work with unpredictable getting home times & sometimes wants dinner & sometimes doesn't, he's a meat eating chef so can be critical of thrown together dinners! Younger Son has a very unpredictable waking /sleeping cycle & is very busy with online events, as well as being very particular about what he'll eat. & I'm vegan, so that just adds its own restrictions to what I'll eat!

    Think I'll get back to meal planning & actually portion up the ingredients into my own 'hello dinner' packs!

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    1. That sounds like a great idea - when you're trying to cater for so many different needs it can become quite stressful at mealtimes so if you can work out a plan of some sort then it will take away some of that. I'm going to have to start thinking about it all again over the next few weeks myself, but it's been lovely to have a break from it all!

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