Archive for February, 2015

Selfish Saturday: Square two, maybe

roughroadI haven’t posted in this slot at all this year. There has been nothing to post about. This series is supposed to be about recovery from a long period of subclinical depression, together with tackling the physical issues that developed over that time. The last three or so months were as if everything in my life has been conspiring to set me back, in every possible way. It largely succeeded. The effort to reverse the trend right now feels like having to dig myself out of my own grave.

Things had been going downhill for a while. The mister’s four-and-a-half years of temp work came to an end in the summer, when he was offered a permanent position he was very happy to accept. Immediately, everything about the place seemed to start going wrong. First our car died, then things started breaking down about the house at an alarming rate. We have a leaking overflow, another leak from the bathroom that could potentially need the entire suite replaced (we shower standing in a washtub and tip the water down the toilet once done), the boiler is playing up and it’s anyone’s guess if we will have heating on any given day. Our plumber never returned my calls, and getting hold of another was an almost desperate venture. We have had to replace the tumble dryer, then the microwave. Every load of laundry I put in could be the washing machine’s last. Just the other day the bank informed us that, since our finances had stabilised, they would begin getting back the two mortgage payments we are in arrears for… by charging us an extra £300 a month. We had just managed to secure a new car (new, in this context, meaning ancient but road-worthy) and were beginning to budget for a trip to Athens, which will have to be put off yet again, till goodness knows when. I haven’t seen my mother, or any of my family and friends back home, since New Year’s 2011, and I won’t be seeing them until we stop bleeding money for emergencies with lousy timing. I miss the place and the people so badly I can almost taste it.

Naturally, I haven’t been in a good place at all over those months, even before the physical issues started. I’ve been convinced, for a long time now, that my lot in life will always involve suffering disproportionate amounts of physical pain for trivial reasons. The first month of 2015 served me three rounds of tummy bugs (in as many weeks) and a cold. The second month saw a resurgence of the cold, with a tickly cough that wouldn’t quit tacked on, a dodgy knee (the beginnings of osteoarthritis; don’t congratulate me on being officially middle-aged) and shin splints on the other leg, which took exception to having to compensate for the bad one. All in all, a combination that made my daily 4-mile school run a matter of torture, and shot any chances I had to return to a regular yoga practice.

It hasn’t been all bad – after all, we do have wheels, so I don’t have to do all the grocery runs on foot (even though I did have to do them when it was still bitterly cold), and the mister and I decided, at the beginning of February, to go on the 5-2 diet, which seems to be suiting us both; I have lost 3 kilos in 4 weeks, even with my limited mobility, and I can look forward to a few more months of good progress, at the very least.

I don’t know if my spirits will lift any with spring creeping closer; I’m a cold weather person by nature, and I’m not looking forward to a spate of allergies to add to the rest of the objective physical issues I’ve been having. But all I can do is look forward and try my best, because it beats the alternative.


Foodie Friday: Lamb Steaks with Pesto Butterbeans

Lamb_pesto_butterbeans(Serves 4)

270g tomatoes on the vine
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 x 400g tins butter beans, drained and rinsed
300ml chicken or lamb stock
75ml crème fraîche
2 tbsp lighter green pesto
450g lamb rump steaks
200g spring greens, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 180C, fan 160C, gas 4. Put the tomatoes on a baking tray and top with 1.5 tbsp of the olive oil and the oregano. Roast for 15 minutes.
2. Heat 1 tbsp of the remaining oil in a pan and cook the onion for 5 minutes; add the garlic for the last minute. Stir in the butter beans, stock, crème fraîche and pesto. Simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Brush the lamb steaks with the remaining oil and season with black pepper. Heat a frying pan over a high heat, add the steaks and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove the steaks from the pan and allow to rest. Add the spring greens to the pan and stir-fry for 5 minutes.
4. Serve the lamb steaks on top of the pesto butterbeans and spring greens, with the roasted tomatoes on top.

Nuts & Bolts: Continuo

Much of the excitement provided by a performance of baroque music, particularly by a small group of players, is that some of it is unwritten and has to be improvised by players known as the continuo. Anna Picard explains the evolution of their art.

The art of continuo playing is the most important and subtle aspect of baroque music. Whether a sonorous theorbo in a Monteverdi motet or a percussive harpsichord in a Bach suite, the manner in which a player shapes his accompaniment from a ‘figured bass’ can make or break a performance. It is a unique form of semi-improvised accompaniment: though the bass line and chordal structure remain the same, no performance is identical. The continuo player takes the basic information from the written bass line and, if supplied, a series of numerical codes giving the barest indication of the required harmonies, and fashions from these an accompaniment to accent and support the melody above. Our closest modern equivalent is the jazz trio, with its scope for improvisation within a standard tune.

Continue reading ‘Nuts & Bolts: Continuo’

Wordless Wednesday: Go fly a kite

Clean Monday. Kites on Pnyx hill near Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Clean Monday. Kites on Pnyx hill near Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Storytime: The Octonauts and the Sea of Shade

seaofshadeYear: 2007
Author: Vicky Wong & Michael C. Murphy
Illustrator: Vicky Wong & Michael C. Murphy

It was a quiet afternoon under the deep green sea when…

Captain Barnacles was writing in his log.
Professor Inkling was enjoying afternoon tea.
Tunip the Vegimal was baking a cake.
Kwazii Kitten was chewing some wool.
Dr Shellington was polishing his clam collection.
Peso Penguin was practising the piano.
Dashi Dog was playing basketball.
Tweak Bunny was… where was Tweak?


The Octonauts rushed down to the Octopod headquarters and found Tweak in a panic!

‘Something awful has happened! I was napping under my favourite tree when the cool shade disappeared!!’

The crew looked around – outside, inside, upside and downside. Shadows everywhere were indeed missing!

Buy to find out more!

Month at a Glance

February 2015
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