Experiment #2: Day 1 – Tom’s Update

Thus it begins!

For me this week is going to be about having fun while solving problems, with a healthy dose of looking at things in a new light…

Our trip along the Strawberry Line was a delightful way to start the week.  That is, once half the shed had been emptied into the garden to extract the sadly neglected bikes!  It really is amazing how much stuff you can squeeze into a 6x8ft box (maybe that time playing tetris wasn’t wasted after all).

With pumped tyres, a couple of chicken sarnies wrapped in a makeshift coolbox (thank you Sneaky for the loan of your timed feeder ice pack) and a slathering of sun cream, it was time to cycle off into the distance.

I think Adele’s post covers the rest of the trip, suffice to say that with all the important day out boxes ticked (pint at lunch, nibble of local food – cheddar in this case, something interesting to photograph) I’m not going to complain about the rather sore buttocks…  Well, not much anyway.

Tonight I’ve been applying the “looking at things in a new light” principal to one of the skills I’ve inadvertently acquired over the years – planning trips, only this time for other people…  I’ll ramble about this more later, but I’ve had my travel agent hat on (no it doesn’t have corks) and have been out on the hunt for those elusive deals.

Experiment #2: Day 1 – Adele’s Update

Another first.  Wanting to make the most of the unseasonable weather before the South West is once again plunged into a haze of drizzle, we rather rashly decided to cycle the Strawberry Line from Yatton to Cheddar.

I say rashly… we haven’t cycled (other than on a spinning machines at the gym) in just over a year.  And the route we chose to do today was a 24 and a half mile round trip.  Yes.  We hurt.

That said, it was a beautiful route and something we’ve been meaning to do for a while.  It was also a good opportunity to take a few more photos.

The Strawberry Line follows the route of the old railway that first opened in 1869 to transport strawberries from Cheddar (as well as stone, milk and coal.  Though presumably ‘The Stone Line’ doesn’t have the same ring to it).  The line was closed in 1963.  It’s now a national cycle route (no. 26), and passes through some lovely scenery.

More information on the Strawberry Line can be found here.

So that’s one to cross off the list for today (try something new), but what about the rest?

Well, being particularly knackered from our excursions, I haven’t quite done as much as I’d hoped today.  But, I spent an hour at the workbench, and pretty much finished off one pendant that’s been waiting for attention for a few days now, and have the pieces lined up and ready for soldering for a second pendant.  The jewellery notebook is also looking a bit more up to date.

And… the washing up and washing are under control.  Cleaning the bathroom can wait till tomorrow…!


Experiment #2: A week of keeping it real

It’s very easy to sit at your desk at work and dream of all the things you could be doing with your day – all the ways you could be making a living doing something more fun and fulfilling.  And then the weekend rolls around, and half the time (at least) seems to be spent doing all the chores that you haven’t had time to do during the week, and, ok, so the other half is spent doing something interesting or fun, but it always seems to leave you with that feeling that Sunday evening has rolled around all too quickly… and then it’s Monday again.

At least, that’s how my weeks tend to pan out.  Not that realistically it’s all that bad at all.  I’m always amazed at how much Tom and I manage to get done, even when we don’t finish work until late, or have to work at weekends.

Nevertheless, the essence of Experiment 2 is to have that week that I sit at my desk dreaming about (when I have a spare 5 minutes, that is!).

Will I be able to consistently work on my jewellery?  How bored will I get trying to put over 28,000 photos in some semblance of order (that’s just the photos I’ve taken in a little under 3 years)?  Will Tom  remember not to put his suit on?  Will he finally make the upgrades to the Kicikia website?  Will we be able to try a new experience every day?  How easy will it be to keep up with eating healthily (and not too regularly!) when the fridge is mere paces away?  Will we be able to stay on top of the chores, so half the weekend isn’t lost?

And how long will it be before the cat kicks us out?

Well, this is the week we’ll find out…

Going round in circles…

Last month, Tom gave me a voucher for a track day for my 30th:  an afternoon spent powering round Castle Combe race track, first in a Ford Fiesta Zetec S, and then in a single seater Formula Ford.

I’m not sure if it was a subtle hint regarding my normal driving methods.


Regardless of that, today was the day I cashed in the voucher.

The experience began with a few laps round the track as a passenger in the Fiesta, with the instructor talking through the lay of the track and how to take corners.

Ford Fiesta Zetec S, being speedily driven by Adele

Next up it was time to take the wheel, and demonstrate to the instructor that you’re capable of handling a car round the track.  We had to put crash helmets on for this bit.  Must have been because of the breakneck speeds we got up to (actually, I think I was going faster on the motorway on the way to the track)…

Part of my reluctance to put my foot down was the fact that the instructor was filling out a mark sheet, very much like a driving test.  I was sub-consciously trying to stick to the left hand side of the ‘road’ and stay within the speed limit – instead of using all of the track, and flooring it.  I ended up scoring a very respectable 80% (we were told 70% is average), losing marks for bad positioning of hands on steering wheel and breaking too soon before the corners.

Then it was time for the really fun bit.  Kitted up with a full-face helmet I was slotted into a Formula Ford, with additional padding because my little legs were too short for me to reach the peddles.

Adele speeds off into the distance

Despite my fears, I managed not to kangaroo jump or stall on my way out of the pit, and set off at Sunday-driver speed around the track while I tried to figure out the gears.  6 laps later I still hadn’t quite got the hang of the little metal gear lever, but at least I’d sped up a bit!  (Time stamps on the photos Tom took indicated an average lap time of around 2 mins 40 – hardly Jenson Button, but considerably quicker than the 4 minutes I was worried it would take).

It may not be a viable career alternative, but it was brilliant fun and a great way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon!

Experiment #1: Village Market – After the event

The good news is I’m not in the pub drowning my sorrows following this morning’s market (though there has been a certain amount of Cheddar Valley consumption to accompany the veggie BBQ we had for lunch).

So how did it go?

We made a grand total of 25p.  (Actually, the cost of the stall was £2, so we actually lost £1.75.)  However, it was a really good experience, and we actually got to meet some of the other people who live in the village, which is something we’ve been wanting (and for the most part failing) to do since we moved here nearly a year ago!  (That’s one of the downsides to working 20 miles away from where you live, and not being at home much due to working late…).

Although it wasn’t that busy (we weren’t the only stall holders not to make enough to cover the cost of the stall), we did have quite a lot of interest  – the photos, jewellery and mum’s hand-painted porcelain seemed to draw attention, and we got some very complimentary comments and good feedback.

The experience has filled us with inspiration and enthusiasm (despite poor sales).  We’ve signed up for a stall next month, and have lots of ideas about how to improve the display.  We’ll just have to see what May brings…

…and I don’t think I’ll be so nervous next time.

Experiment #1: Village Market

So… the bright idea we had about a month ago as we were pottering round the local village market was:

Wouldn’t it be great if we set up a stall and sold some of our photos and handmade silver jewellery?

A frantic month of building up stock (framing photos, getting greetings cards printed, hand-making cards with our photos, and silversmithing) ensued.  It’s now gone midnight, the night before the market and we’ve just finished our preparations and got everything boxed up ready to take down to the village hall bright and early tomorrow.

And I have to admit, I’m really nervous.

So far I’ve been very private about the creative side of my life.  I don’t often show my photos to people (though there have been rare moments – like the calendars we made as Christmas presents a few years ago).  Our photos can now be purchased from SuperFunkyPenguin Etsy site.

It’s the same with my jewellery making.  I’ve been dabbling for over a year now, have completed a couple of courses at City of Bath college, and have made a couple of pieces for friends birthdays, but that’s about it.

For the most part, I keep the things I make (both photos and jewellery) for my own enjoyment, though it would be lovely to share them and bring something of that into other people’s lives too.

So, this is a big step for me, and I’m a bit apprehensive…   (giving a presentation to 50 people, and I’m fine.  Put something I’ve put my heart into in front of a group of people, and I go to pieces.)

I’ll post again after the event with details of how it went.

Either that, or I’ll be drowning my sorrows in the local.

RECIPE: Dandelion Fritters

It was a surprise to learn that the entire dandelion plant can be eaten (having been taught as a child that dandelions are poisonous…).  I knew that the roots could be dried and used as coffee (Autumn’s supposed to be the right time of year for this), but the young leaves are great in salad and the flowers can be made into tasty fritters.

We found it was a good idea to pick the dandelion flowers last while foraging, and cooked them as soon as we got home – it was a hot day, and they’d already started to wilt a bit.  It’s best to pick the flowers when they’re fully open (from late morning onwards when they’ve had a good dose of sun).

Ingredients (just about enough for 2 – batter enough for 4)

20 dandelion flowers
Bit of oil for cooking
1 cup flour (I used self-raising as I’d run out of plain)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk

Mix the ingredients for the batter.  Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.  Coat each flower with batter and add to the pan.  (I picked up the flowers by the underside, upended them into the batter, and swirled them around a bit.  Bit messy but it did the job).  When the fritters are golden brown on one side, flip them over and cook for a few minutes on the other side.  Serve.  Eat.

Simple as that.

Tom had his with a dollop of teriyaki sauce, and I had mine plain.  I’ve read that dandelion fritters can be served sweet – with honey or maple syrup for example.

The batter made about twice as much as we needed, so I added some raisins and turned the rest into mini drop scones, for dessert (great with a drizzle of yoghurt and honey –  and an alcoholic strawberry or two from last year’s strawberry vodka).

RECIPE: Wilted Nettles

I’d been meaning to try nettles for a while, so we set off foraging well equipped with thick gardening gloves and carrier bags.  Half a standard carrier bagful was the perfect amount for the two of us, and the nettles weren’t as hard to handle as I’d feared.

We made sure to pick just the top 6 inches or so of the nettles, although the plants were still young so realistically we could probably have gone for the whole plant.  It’s worth noting that once the plants start to come into flower they shouldn’t be used for eating (something about being bad for the kidneys…).

Ingredients (serves 2 fairly peckish foragers, as a side dish)

1/2 standard carrier bag of freshly picked nettles
Knob of butter
Nutmeg (grated)
Black pepper

Nettles can be cooked in the same way as spinach, so:

Wash the nettles thoroughly, drain well, and tip into a large pan.  The water left on the leaves will be enough for cooking (there’s no need to add extra).  Add a knob of butter, the grated nutmeg and black pepper to taste.  Cover, and cook over a medium heat for about five minutes, until the plants are well wilted.

I sprinkled the cooked nettles with linseed, but sesame seed (either toasted or raw) would be ideal.

Happily the nettles only reduced by about 2/3 (unlike spinach which goes down to practically nothing!).

For nettle tea fanatics, the liquid left over after cooking can be drunk as tea.  I was going to try this, and promptly forgot… will try to remember next time.


Foraging for Lunch…

Foraged lunch (plus a few extras)

Last autumn we discovered the excitement of foraging, where we did very well for sloes (am enjoying a glass of the wonderful sloe gin as I type!), apples, rosehips (the roship & apple jelly is long since demolished), and of course blackberries.

So, taking advantage of the uncharacteristically gorgeous April weather this weekend, we did a bit of research, and set off again to see what spring had to offer…

We had an (almost entirely) foraged lunch of dandelion fritters, wilted nettles, and a wild salad of dandelion leaves, hawthorn leaves, and french parsley from the garden.  Add a bit of Lancashire cheese (which I can’t resist), a cherry tomato or two, a bit of rye berad and a glass of Cheddar Valley cider, and you have a pretty decent lunch!

The recipes for the dandelion fritters and wilted nettles are posted separately.