Thursday, 2 August 2012

Happy Birth Day?

I had a bit of a larf at Small Roar's depiction of 'Mummy having a baby. The baby is me.' Though the baby to birth canal size ratio certainly felt quite accurate through those 30 hours of labour and 2 and a half hours of pushing.

I quickly gave with my own version of events.

Hm, is nearly 4 years on too late for birth trauma counselling?

As an aside, Small Roar's sudden love of drawing is a wonderful new phase of development that is a geniune joy to witness. We had a conversaton about how amazing it is to see things in our heads and then be able to make them into images and forms using just our hands and our imagination. We're going through a ridiculous amount of paper. Sorry trees.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Vetch Veg- an inspiring Swansea project

This weekend we had a jaunt back to Swansea- it is always changing. Its metamorphosis from the shithole of 1999 to the city it is now is amazing. I know the locals bemoan the state of the city centre (that's a double dip recession and out of town shopping centres for you) but the cultural and community life of Swansea has sparked and caught and now burns strong. There's a rich seam of price and respect being successfully mined by arts groups in the area, and we visited one of them- Vetch Veg in Sandfields.

                                                                             A bit of background- Swansea City FC used to be based in the heart of the city, at the Vetch ground, on the seafront. I have 'fond' memories of being coralled in Tesco carpark by riot police for the mistake of being English in the aftermath of a Bristol City home match. I have sincerely fond memories of the way the city supported the club through some really dire times, and the way in which they have made themselves known in the Premier League. Part of the change toward a top flight mentality was the decamp from vetch to the Liberty Stadium outside the city. This left a large (football pitch sized, infact) area in the heart of the city with no clear purpose. There was talk of student flats (there is always talk of student flats)being built- large, looming impersonal structures blocking the city off and towering over the community of Sandfields below. Dr Roar had lived in Sandfields for a short time as an undergraduate and the thought of that area being under the constant watch of copy/paste monoliths is a sad and troubling one.

The 'Vetch Veg' project is in association with ADAIN AVION and Swansea-based artist Owen Griffiths. It's aims are to create an 'urban utopia'in the heart of Sandfields, on the site of the former Vetch statdium, with the involvement of the local Sandfields community. Part of the grounds have been transformed into a temporary vegetable garden, with raised beds, chickens and bees. The community cultivate, tend, harvest and produce together. The importance of creating a space in which to be self sufficient and growing food to eat together is vital in changing the way 'we' eat. Gardening and growing-your-own is a wonderfully confidence building activity- it relaxes, empowers, educates and forges strong bonds between those who garden together. You really feel the sense of empowerment and communtiy when you enter the garden- from the set up, from the people, from the little welsh cake stand. There is pride in this project, and rightly so.

This weekend was the Vetch Veg open day. I wanted to visit for two reasons- to see this space after the demolition of the stands, and to get some inpsiration after an awful Spring in my own garden. I have an army of slugs demolishing anything I put down, a cat who hates carrot seeds and has now dug up my fourth sowing, a bog like lawn from the 'drought' and significantly less time to garden than I had last year due to working again (but with a gardening colleague, who understands my pain). The only thing to be successful this year are my sweet peas.

This is my favourite bed in the Vetch veg garden. I love the use of reclaimed containers, the aesthetically pleasing AND practical arch, the jumble of plants and flowers and the genius use of a small space. It is so pretty, relaxing, practical and inspiring that we are ripping up our concrete slab path (it is against a fence) and using this as inspiration for some raised beds. it is a glorious example of attainable self sufficiency. Plus it's pretty. Did I mention that it's pretty?

Doesn't this gladden your heart? A small, workable space- recycling sacking into a windbreak, using string and pegs to mark sowings, using small pots to seperate delicate plants.
Cut a head of cabbage, pull up some carrots and beetroot, grab a few potatoes and all you need is a roast to go with it. All grown by your own fair hand. Unpretentious, honest food.

The garden itself was planned out to have benches and quiet spaces interspersed with the working beds. There is a workshop and two forges/kilns on site as well as a chicken coop and I heard rumours of bees. I sat on a corner bench, with the terraced hillsides rising around the landscaped grass area, in this little cordoned off vegetable garden and thought it a wonderful, cleansing, affirming space.

The people involved with the project were warm and welcoming, and as a former Swansea dweller with fond Sandfields memories I found the reclaimation of the grounds by the community in this way to be so very inspiring. As a gardener I found a lot of reassurance and a goldmine of good ideas. More of this, please.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off- Gloria Steinem

This is my slightly controversial necklace (made by the fabulous types at Tatty Devine).

When I was thinking of a 'name' necklace, and the idea of using 'feminist' came to me, I never thought it would provoke strong reactions, nor was I expecting to feel apprehension myself about wearing it. Having the world slung around my neck seems more of a political choice than a cosmetic one. I knew this, of course, when I decided to have it created but this tension between my own apprehension and the reactions I have received (negative comments, derision, praise, questions- luckily no actual abuse as yet) is something I find intriguing and troubling in equal measure.

While reading an article on the F word about classism in modern feminism (here) I was asked by a colleague why I am a feminist. I realised I couldn't answer the question without knowing what HIS definition of feminist was, or what my own definition would be. My own definition of what it is to be a feminist is still fluid, still forming. There are some boundaries and fixed points, but other issues are so undecided  as to be indefinable. I believe feminism is equality, and that there is not a level playing field to build that equality upon. I believe there is a strong male privelege at the core of society and that its exposure is too uncomfortable for many to face. I believe there's an insidious and poisonous defamation of female sexuality and expression at work in every facet of media, advertising and fashion. I believe a post-industrial movement of failed masculinities is causing a resurfacing of a near theocracy of misogynism in the southern US. I also believe that most of my beliefs are framed within my own privilege- of race, education and class.

This is the problematic area- I can only express feminism in academic terms. Terms which can mean everything and nothing. Terms which are so much purple prose in the face of the darket, most distressing issues facing womankind. Rape, domestic violence, forced circumcision, sex trafficking, the right to drive and vote and bear children, the right to walk down a street at night without society judging you complicit in any attack that results, the right to strength and weakness, the right to political respresentation, the right to fair working conditions, the right to raise children, the right to work, the right to speak and be heard, the right to power over reproductive choices, the right to live without cultural shame.

Is my feminism a Universal one? If so, how can I show it? Is it a Local one? Is it at work in the way I raise my son, the way I conduct my relationships: am I, as a feminist held to a higher standard, less forgiving terms? Should I be married? Should I wear makeup? Should I be spending my free time at the heart of activism? Should I be reading or doing? Am I meant to be part of an organisation. If so, which? Am I Fawcett or Unison? Is the marketing of a pink globe as important a point to fight on as the withdrawal of legal aid to victims of domestic violence?

Should I draw my own lines, or should I subscribe to a philosophy and take my guide from there? Can you be a hedge-feminist? Can I be a feminist and never use the term 'womyn' or want to discuss my inner goddess? Can I get my fingers dirty but still wear nail polish?

I still feel the closest I have ever come to discovering another woman with my world view was when I picked up Caitlin Moran's 'How to be a woman'. Yet that is viewed a feminism-lite by some I've come across, while others can't get past her stance on porn. Can we ever sit down in actual sisterhood and agree that 'Feminist' is all of us, an opt-out system rather than an opt-in? At its core is the truth that there is an imbalance. An imbalance of power, privilege and control. Beyond that- I begin to flounder a little.

Steer me a bit?

Friday, 3 February 2012

Where did the time go?

So much happened and didn't happen.

A year of losses and gains, was 2011. I'd like a more sedate 2012.

I have a new hobby. Gainful employment. It's pretty marvellous, to be honest!

It is nearly time to plan the first batch of seeds to sit upon the windowsill. Sweet peppers and beans are a definite.

Small Roar is growing wonderfully and too fast all at the same time. How did I create such a fascinating human being?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Syn-free spaghetti fritters.

Yes, fritters. These are based on Jamie Oliver's street food version, but tweaked to be syn-free on Slimming World.

Makes about 9 fritters.


Spaghetti, cooked and cooled- either leftovers, or cooked especially. You can tweak the recipe to the amount you have. For the purposes of this post I used a 'handful', which made about 9 fritters, and would probably have served 3-4 in a pasta dish.
2 tablespoons very low fat cottage cheese
3 eggs
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
'A' choice amount of cheese, grated- either 28g full fat, 42g reduced fat etc. I used 42g Tesco reduced fat medium hard cheese. If you're clever and can do maths then allow 1-2 fritters per person and calculate the 'a choice' value needed  and add extra cheese to the 9 fritter recipe. I am not clever.
Generous pinch of salt
Herbs or spices to taste- I usually use 2tsp parsley and 2 tsp basil, but today I had run out so used a generous amount of a 'Lousiana Creole' spice mill. If you syn for it a generous dollop of pesto works wonderfully, too.
Sunflower oil frylight. Olive oil frylight will SMOKE and BURN, so avoid!

Cook the spaghetti:


Drain and cool.

In a large mixing bowl add the eggs, garlic, cottage cheese, hard cheese, salt and seasoning.

Mix to a thick lumpy paste like consistency.

Add the spaghetti and mix until it is completely coated.

Hmmm. Looks lovely, eh? ;)

Spray a nonstick frying pan LIBERALLY with frylight. Keep to a medium heat.

Using tongs or two spoons (one to 'wind' and one to dollop) dollop the mixture into the hot pan like so:

After 2-3 minutes the bottom should have set and started to crisp. Using a spatula flip the fritters over.

Once both sides are set simply cook both sides until they are brown and crispy.

Place fritters onto kitchen paper and serve immediately.

The 'proper' way is to eat them wrapped in paper, as a 'fast food'.

So there you go- yummy, cheesy, pasta-y comfort food, and free on green & extra easy. :) You can calorify it up a bit with more cheese, oil instead of frylight etc, but I found the 'full fat' version way, way too heavy. This is my new go-to comfort food. Even the 3 year old likes it.

Flattering. :/

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Now we are Three.

Small Roar turned three this week. We celebrated with a lovely little party and then spent Monday at Thomas Land, based at Drayton Manor. More to follow on that one.

This is the first year I have made SR's cake myself. I had seen at least three of my friends attempt (successfully!) the Rainbow Cake, in both dollop and line form. This really appealed to me- if nothing else it takes the pressure off making a highly decorated cake. The beautiful personalised cake topper from Sarah Designs covered that for me, too.

I used Delia's all-in-one sponge recipe (from her Complete Cookery Course), a set of gel icing colours and my Grandmother's sandwich tins. Struggling against a monster of a migraine and aided with liberal doses of codeine and caffeine I set to work. I used the tutorial and icing recipe from Whisk Kid and lots of moral support from friends who had already made the cake...

Come the day of the party I cut into the cake and...

It was worth the hours of baking, £19 on icing colours and kitchen covered in blue icing for the moment when I held aloft the first piece like a newborn Simba and heard the appreciative 'oooohs' and 'aaaaahs' and one 'she has too much time on her hands'. 

This cake will leave you seeing through time with a numb tongue, but looks amazing.

So, the title of this post. Now we are Three. Three years of being a family, of growing together and teaching each other to grow. Three years of being three.

Friday, 2 September 2011

No sew button bunting

I found myself, at 7:30 am, sitting infront of a pack of felt wondering how on earth I was going to follow up on my impulse-buy notion that it would make excellent and cheap birthday bunting.

By 10:30 I had made the garland above, plus two more long strings of bunting without lettering. Here's how:

BTW- I worked this out all by myself with the help of tea and codeine. If it is the same as someone elses method then hey, great minds think alike. And so do we.

I started off with:
  • scissors
  • 2 12 sheet felt packs, £1 each from Poundland
  • yarn
  • yarn needle
  • jar of random buttons
  • tin of pins
  • pva glue
  • small brush
  • letter stencils, traced from a pattern book and cut out.
Take your sheet of felt.

Fold in half.

Fold in half again and score about half an inch with your fingernail at the crease to leave an indentation.

The indentation will mark the point of your triangle.

With the sheet still folded in half, take another sheet of felt and lay from the outer corner to the indentation:

Cut along side the edge to make one side of your triangle.

Take the felt  sheet and do the same on the other side.

When you cut from indentation to corner again, you will be left with three felt triangle bunting flags and extra felt triangles from the edges. Keep the edging offcuts for later.

Have a cup of tea.

You can now use the offcuts as guides for your other bunting flags. Fold each piece of felt in half first so that you cut three flags at a time.

I was making this bunting for Small Roars birthday party, so wanted to add his name to a section. He has a name that you rarely find printed on anything outside of leftwing political biographies. As a template for the lettering I used the alphabet available in Cath Kidston's 'Make' book.

Traced onto paper:

And then cut out to use as templates.

I matched the flags with a contrasting off cut for the name section.

Pinned the template to the off cut. Cut out, and stuck to the flag with pva glue. You could applique, use wondaweb or hand/machine sew if you're cleverer than me.


This is the point to mention this is not meant to be bunting of any longevity. It is quick, cheap, cheerful and made in a hurry. If I were to make pretty bunting, I would use nicer fabric, pinking shears and my sewing machine but this is the anyone-can-do-it bunting with most of the materials available in your local pound shop. ;)

Then I was stumped. How to link it together without ribbon, cotton tape, ricrac or extra fabric? I looked at the never ending ball of red acrylic yarn. I looked at my button jar.

A plan formed.

It's not sewing so much as threading. I reckon a three year old could do it, so it can't be difficult.

I took yarn, yarn needle and button.

I made the length of yarn three times the width of the flags laid side to side.  I simply threaded it through the first flag, right side up.

Threaded a button, and passed the needle and yarn back through the felt to the back of the flag.

Then I loosely threaded the yarn back through at the other top corner of the flag:

Threaded another button, threaded needle and yarn to the back of the work and joined the next flag by starting the process again.

I had millions of buttons:

And here it is!

The rest of the flags ( I got about 40 from the two packs, and didn't use the black sheets of felt) I strung with buttons and yarn, but no letters.

Not bad for a couple of hours of making it up as I went along!