Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Moving Home: Safe and Sound

A heartfelt Thank you to everyone for their warm wishes and comments on the previous two blog posts. Each comment has been read, digested and truly appreciated.  

Well the move from Scotland to Wales has been with relative ease.  The only drawback is that we are still tied to the flat as it has not been sold, in fact that is where D is right now.  He travelled down with me for the move a couple of weeks ago and was up again with his sleeping bag within a couple of days.  I hope to see him next week.  Unfortunately until the flat is officially sold, he will have to travel back and fro.  We also have some local friends who will regularly drive by and check it out. 

As this was our first ever major move with large wooden furniture, lots of books: cookbooks and academia, fragile glass and ceramic goods, as well as pots and a bench from the garden.  I have to say the removal company we contracted in Scotland: DMG Direct made our move most comfortable.  Not only is the DMG Direct accredited by the National Guild of Removers, very important in these days as many other companies can be just a man with a van.  We were offered a very fair and competitive quote, (and more importantly within our budget).   They do say, moving home is one of the most stressful times in peoples lives.  I have to say, I praise David and his team for making the move easy and working with a genuine smile, even when the number of boxes and weight of my cookbooks was starting to lose its humour.  I have to admit, I was expecting something to be either scratched, cracked or at least smashed during the move, but not one single thing was damaged.  So if you are ever moving home - in and around Scotland; or from Scotland - I really cannot recommend DMG Direct highly enough.  The service on the day of removal and the day of delivery was first class.

Well most of the recycled cardboard boxes have been emptied and things put into their new place for now.  Framed pictures have yet to be hammered into the walls.  There are still a number of unaccounted expenses.  For a start, our curtains are too heavy for the curtain rails in the house and are very likely to break.  Either we will have to purchase lighter curtains or replace the curtain rail with a pole to support them.  What is missing from this house and something that I am missing already is in built storage space. We will have to buy a second-hand wardrobe for our seasonal clothing and heavy coats.  I've not yet leaped into the kitchen with much enthusiasm yet, as I am still getting used to the place and the space.  Saying that though, at the weekend when I had my younger brother and his nippers over, I did get to test the new cooker out.  The rings operate by gas and the oven by electric.  I made some macaroni cheese and some banana muffins, which were snubbed a little by my brother who said they were not sweet enough.  Ah he just doesn't appreciate natural sweetness.  His kids approved though of both dishes.  My parents and other brother, also younger than me and his family have yet to visit me. 

I am really looking forward to seeing this place, albeit it rented for now, become our home.  I am looking forward to getting back into cooking for pleasure.  I am looking forward to growing organic vegetables again.  Yes I am excited to share that this house comes with a reasonable bit of growing land, but that won't stop me from signing up for an allotment too.  I also have to sign up with some employment agencies too - savings are really dwindling now.
Oh before I sign off, I'd like to share that just before Christmas 2011, I won a giveaway from Sue at Our New Life in the Country.  The generous lavender patterned gift bag contained lots of lavender scented goodies from her farmers craft market stall such as: a tube of hand lotion, bottle of bath essence and a selection of gorgeous handmade soaps that are being sniffed by admiring nephews and nieces.  I left them all untouched until I moved home.  I viewed Sues giveaway as a wonderful home-warming gift.  Its already making the bathroom a very appealing place indeed.  Thank you so much Sue. 

Sue has always been warm towards me, she occasionally highlights a 'Blogging Buddies' post, and guess what one of them was me - see here. - Ah I felt so big-hearted and fuzzy all over when I read it.    Like me Sue has just moved home, please please do go by and visit her here.  I know she will give you a very warm welcome.  

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Farewell Bonnie Scotland

This is my last blog post for a while, so it has to be a fond farewell to Bonnie Scotland.  My home for the past 15 years or so.  I came up for University and never left it.
Blue and White Jute String
I have met some lovely people along the way, and enjoyed celebrating St Andrews and Burns Night.  I have also been mighty fortunate to see many parts of Scotland, that even Scots who reside here don't get to see.  Click on the highlighted bold green links if you want to see more.

Here are some examples of some of the places we had the pleasure of seeing: Aberdeen, Anstruther
Auchmithie Harbour, David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre,
Culzean Castle and Country Park in Ayr and Cupar
Culloden Battlefield
Dalgarven Mill, Dundee City Centre and the Dundee Flower and Food Festival
Boats, bottles and beer in Dumbarton
Edinburgh - The Festival,
 Edinburgh Botanic Gardens,
Greyfriars Kirk
Eglington Country Park and East Neuk
Falkirk, Faulkand Palace 
and the Pillars of Hercules both in Fife.   One of my favourite places to visit.
Geilston Gardens - Another one of my favourite places for local fruit and veg at fair prices.
Greenbank Gardens (above),
Irn Bru and Scottish Tablet Ice-Cream Cone
Highland Tourist Trail, Argyll Forst Park and Inveraray
Inverness, Isle of Mull
Kilmarnock and the Battlefield of Killiekrankie
Lanarkshire - in every direction, Larbert, Loch Ness, Musselburgh and Prestonpans
National Museum of Rural Life, Oban and Paisley Town.
Robert Owens New Lanark, Oban,
St Andrews
William Wallace Statue
Poem about Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle - Look closely and you will see that the poem about Stirling Castle is splashed with raindrops. 
Clooty Ginger Creams
As well as Robert Burns Birthplace and Charles Rennie MacKintosh Hillouse and many many more places all over Scotland.

But how can I forget Glasgow dubbed as The Friendly City and My Home for all those years  It's a fair claim - Glaswegians are some of the most friendliest people I have ever met in my life. 
Places and events I've explored here are many, but to name a few: the Merchant City Festival, The River Clyde and its attractions, its West End, Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Pollok House, The Peoples Palace and Winter Gardens, Glasgow University where both D and myself attended many years ago and where I met my best friend Leah. The Riverside Museum, the Kelvingrove Museum, the famous Barras Market, as well as discovering community initiatives in
Govan, Govanhill and Maryhill.  It's been good exploring and discovering Scotland at my own pace.  My memories of Glasgow are relatively positive and warm, but with beautiful came also the ugly.  First how can I forget the loss of my allotment plot in a deliberate and malicious fire two years ago.
I know its not worse than any other city: every place has its ups and downs, but Glasgow from my own personal experience seems to have more than its fair share.  It's something I noted more after graduating from University and stepping out of the 'comfortable and fashionable bosom of the West end'.  Smashed bottles of Buckfast, territorial gang crime, religious sectarianism described as 'Scotlands Shame' between Catholics and Protestants, in the name of passion for football between Celtic and Rangers fans.  As a Welsh person of South Asian heritage, I was surprised at the level of vocal anti-English sentiments.  This is not unique to Glasgow,  you will hear that 'kind of banter' all over Scotland and it is deemed acceptable. The  racism and racist crimes towards people of colour, asylum seekers and refugees is no different from that in England or Wales, except when it rears is ugly head its really really ugly.  Did you know that Glasgow knife crime and murder rate is double than London's .  Unfortunately, we have encountered knife crime first hand - a real part of Glaswegian city life if you just look at someone the wrong way.  Something you won't see the Scottish Tourist Board advertising.  I think its one of the reasons Glasgow often gets missed off such visit Scotland campaigns in favour of Edinburgh and its famous castle.  Glasgow barely features in the new campaign ad. I think only showing King Tuts  - agreeably one of Glasgow's coolest and hippest music venues.  Some Scottish friends have often joked that a Scottish comedian should do a 'spoof of the campaign' featuring real Scots, not models .  I know some Scottish people will upset with what I am about the share, but if they are honest with themselves then they will understand why I am sharing this link:  'Glesga - State of Mind' (one of many parodies on Alicia Keys 'New York').  For me it highlights the Glasgow I only  know so well, albeit through a little tacky humour.  Afterall, I cannot share the beautiful without sharing the ugly, that would be unfair on my real and honest experiences and memories of Scotland.

In spite of some of these experiences, Glasgow is still a lovely city and one I hope to return to as a visitor oneday.  I would certainly encourage you to do so too.  Well I hope you have enjoyed this blog post for what it was. 

Farewell Bonnie Scotland, I take with me many memories  - both fond ones and not so fond ones - you were my home for a very long time and one I will not forget.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Chickpea and Rosemary Soup

Amongst the packing, running to the charity shop with goods no longer needed and to the local council recycle yard, I actually managed to do a little cooking and make some soup today.  Really need it as this afternoon there is a cold  chill in the air and the rain feels like ice.  I don't really want to be cooking, but I also don't like waste.  I have twelve tins of chickpeas and in an attempt to use up one of the tins, a Chickpea soup was made.  As well as the soup, I have made a large quantity of chickpea hummus and will also at some point be making a Couscous, chickpea and winter green salad.
I am linking this to February Simple and in Season hosted by Ren Behan at Fabulicious Food.  This soup is also my entry for this month's No Croutons Required (NCR) which is being hosted this month by the lovely Jacqueline. NCR is alternately hosted between the Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen. Its a monthly vegetarian food blogging event, where readers are challenged to create either a soup or salad incorporating a specified ingredient. This month Jacqueline has requested that we use fresh herbs

I have one small regret  on leaving Scotland that I was unable to meet with Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes in person.  A couple of opportunities had come up, but for some reason she was unable to make or or I was unable too .  She has always been most gracious and most supportive of my blog.  She was even one of my very first followers and regular commenters.  I am truly humbled to know her, albeit through social networking.  Jacqueline lives in Dundee, East Coast. with her husband Graham and very cute little boy Cooper.  I really wish her the best and who knows, maybe our paths will cross one-day. 

Anyway, back to the recipe.  I mentioned last week that I have rosemary growing int he garden and unable to take it with me when I move, so this is my last recipe with it in Scotland. I hope the new owners (that's whenever we actually sell this flat) appreciate the herbs growing.

You will have to forgive me as I have had to borrow the photograph from an old blog post. I am unable to share food photographs presently as the camera has been packed away for our move.  The above soup is very similar looking and tasting.

Winter Rosemary and Chickpea Soup
Serves 4
2- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 medium onions, finely sliced 

4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large potatoes, chopped into small cubes
400g cooked chick peas
2 pints of vegetable stock
2 sprigs of rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil, in a large pan and cook the onions and garlic until soft.  Then add the potatoes, chickpeas, stock and the rosemary sprigs. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.
With a slotted spoon, remove and throw away the rosemary sprigs. Then take out about one third of the vegetables. Use a hand blender or a food processor to blend the remaining soup in the pot. Put back the blended soup and vegetables you took out and stir well. Add seasoning and reheat gently before serving with homemade crusty bread

Friday, 3 February 2012

Chocolate Banana Bread

Chocolate Banana Bread known to me also as 'Leopard Bread', so named because of the pattern: rosettes on gold. 

Anyway, I made this Chocolate Banana Bread, oh a little while ago.  I think it may have been made for one of the times when we travelled down South, but I can't remember for sure.  What I do know for sure though is that I have not shared it with you.  So here it is - super moist. 
Well officially no more baking for me for the next couple of weeks as all the cookware has been packed, other than a small pot. a frying pan, a couple of plates. glasses, mugs and utensils to get us through the next few days.

Oh I am getting excited about the move, but also a little nervous as the weather is due to turn harsh and we still have to get all our stuff shifted from Scotland (across England) to Wales and hopefully all fairly in tact!  I do hope the weather is gentle on us  It hasn't been so far with the leaking roof, so I don't know why I am wishing for it to be gentle to us.  Knowing our luck, it will be snowing heavy the day we come to officially move and the removal firm may postpone it - hopefully not.  Let us see.

Chocolate Banana Cake
Serves 6 - 8
2 - 3 ripe bananas, mashed
170g golden brown caster sugar
185g self-raising flour, sifted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons milk
100g dark chocolate chips or dark chococlate, chopped into small pieces
80g walnuts, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to gas mark 4.  Lightly grease a 8 x 4 loaf tin and line the base with baking paper.
Put the mashed banana and sugar in a large bowl and mix well.  Add the flour, eggs, oil and milk and gently stir until well combined.  Stir in the chocolate and walnuts. 
Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 50 minutes to an hour or until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.

If you fancier a plainer Banana Bread check out this link.   You won't be disappointed.
Monkey eating bananas at Portobello Market 2011 - not literally.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

St Mirren and the Streets of Paisley

I think it was in mid October 2011 when we were last in Paisley, Renfewshire and these photographs were taken. 
Fortunately the rain stayed away and we were able to wander around happily.
But before I go on any further, I'd like to share with you my most popular blog post.  You may be surprised to learn that it's not related to food or growing vegetables.  Its one related to the Paisley pattern -  a kidney or teardrop-shape of Persian and Indian origin.  Follow this link. I was gobsmacked, especially as its really a non-blog entry.  I've read since that the shape was originally designed to signify the mango or the mango seed. 
Anyway, we decided to revisit Paisley again.  Paisley was somewhere we had considered purchasing a home, but ended up staying on the outskirts of Glasgow.I used to go there originally for the farmers market, then for thrift shopping as it has many charity shops. 
On this particular weekend, we decided to take a detour from the town centre and the shops. It was a good move.  So many beautiful historical building to see.
Its such as shame to have discovered this part of Paisley now, especially as I am leaving Scotland. Oh well - 'tis life.

Corporation of Paisley Bridge - looks like a fresh lick of paint.

Paisley Heritage Trail.  Forbes Place was the heart of the Parsley Shawl making industry - Click on the image to learn more.

Entrance to Paisley Abbey

You may know nothing about football like me and you may have a husband or partner that loves football (like me), but unless he is Scottish, I bet h doesn't know the answer to this one!
Where are St Mirren from?  Go on, ask him, that one thing about football that you can demonstrate you know more than he or she does.
 St Mirin  is actually the Patron Saint of Paisley. 

 Only the tourists look up - Yes, I guess I am or was  a tourist in Paisley.
The Russell Institute
 This was my favourite cherub looking character holding spectacles.
They are all different.
 Don't believe me....

 See below for comparison.

  Look around and you see small details in places.
  Paisley was granted Fairtrade town status in 2003.
  Walking back towards the High Street
Those of you who are fans of the singer/songwriter Paolo Nutini may be interested to note that the above Castelvecchi Cafe belongs to his parents.  D and me had the hunger pangs and sat indoors for a portion of chips.  The walls are covered with Paola Nutini memorabilia.  I wasn't that keen on Nutini's music when he first hit the music scene, but since some of his music has grown on me.  Dr Who fans may be interested to know that the current Doctor Who David Tennant is also a Paisley Boy.

I've showcased some nicer sides of Paisley, but there is also an ugly side: not just in relation to derelict and decaying buildings, but reputation too.  Over the years Paisley  has acquired a rough reputation as Scotlands most violent town*.  Crimes relating to drugs, gangland shootings, attacks with machetes, stabbings and slashings if you looked at a ned the wrong way.  In Scotland, a Ned is a term applied to louts who hang around street corners, dressed in casual sports wear - usually vibrant colours that make your eyes hurt and drinking Irn Bru.  Fortunately much is being done in Paisley to address this.

*Oh if your wondering whats Scotlands most violent city?  Well its Glasgow.