Thursday, July 26, 2007

LOTR, baby!

Okay, I was wrong. Five years ago when I tried to watch The Lord of the Rings I was tired and I couldn't really follow the plot. I got bored, so I turned it off and went to bed. And for the five years since I have been mercilessly mocked. When I have told people I didn't like it, asking them to keep in mind the fact that I had never read the books, they have scoffed at my lack of taste. I didn't say it was bad, really, just not interesting- a very unpopular point of view. But as I grow older and ever wiser, I realise the importance of flexibility. While some might consider it a sign of strength to take a stand- to form an opinion and then to stick by it no matter what, I completely disagree. I find it far more admirable to be open to new ideas- to be flexible, to evolve, to allow one's opinions to change in light of new information. And thus I freely admit that I was wrong. (Do you admire me now?) I watched the first film again last week, and it was good. Quite good. This time, instead of thinking, "why does this short dude have to take this ring everywhere?" I had Gordon to explain some things to me. I feel that I am a reasonably intelligent person- generally capable of following the plot of a blockbuster movie, but some of the details in this one are never really explained in a satisfactory way, and I am not one to be impressed or distracted by big battle scenes and a whole lot of special effects. I need to understand what's going on. So with the Gordon Commentary switched on it all made much more sense, and I found that it was really quite good. =) Then we rented the other two movies and had ourselves a nice little hobbity marathon. It was excellent. =) I must be off- it's coming up on elevenses and this hobbit is getting hungry. =) Mmmm... elf bread. =)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Domestic Goddess

Being (almost completely) vegan is wonderful. I feel great, physically, and I know I am greatly reducing my risk of developing a lot of serious heath problems in the future. Heart disease and cancer are bad. =( More importantly, I am doing what I can to distance myself from the almost inconceivably torturous and corrupt affair that is modern animal agriculture. Cute, fluffy animals are good. =) Then there’s the environment... Trees and potable water are good, too. =) So all of these things are good, right? Why isn’t everyone vegan? Well, my friends, there is downside. What is it they say? "If it seems too good to be true…" There’s one unfortunate fact that nobody ever mentions when they tout all of the many benefits of the vegan diet- one terrible truth that lies hidden between the lines of all the books… You have to learn to cook. It’s true. Tragic, but true. Especially true if you are unemployed. You see, here in Nottingham there are few options for a vegan meal out on the town, and even if there were thirty vegan restaurants I couldn’t afford to go to them. So I must cook. And even Sarah can’t eat linguine with garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots every day. (Well, I probably could, to tell the truth, but there was that little episode when I was a kid where I turned orange from just that kind of beta carotene binging, so I try to mix it up.) It’s hard to know what you’re getting when you eat out at a place where they don’t label things veggie or vegan on the menu, and I find that even if you ask about the food, often the employees have no idea if there’s chicken stock in the vegetable soup, and the guy who made it left at three, so there’s no way to find out. And frankly, I think Gordon is going to go shopping for a new girlfriend if I force feed him Bombay Potatoes one more time… There’s got to be a better way to get our daily ten servings of fruits and veg! To this end, I went to the library and checked out a couple of vegan cookbooks. =) I have tried two recipes so far with great success! =) A couple of nights ago we had Rigatoni & Spinach Crumble, and last night we had Leek & Potato Soup (both taken from this book) with bread that I actually baked! :o Who woulda thunk? So, perhaps this downside of my diet is actually an upside? An educational experience? An optimistic person would say yes- it is allowing me to develop new skills and enhancing my quality of life immeasurably. And I am an optimistic person. =) Martha Stewart I am not, it’s true, but definitely a domestic goddess in the making! =) Here is the recipe for the pasta dish! Try it! If I can do it, so can you! =)
Rigatoni & Spinach Crumble
From Cook Vegan by Richard Youngs

8 oz. (225 g) rigatoni pasta
2 Tbs. (45 ml) olive oil
1 medium onion
1 small pepper
2 generous handfuls of spinach
4 tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic (triple this if you’re me)
Sufficient breadcrumbs to cover
Handful of flaked almonds (I used ground almonds)

Boil the rigatoni according to packet instructions. Drain and rinse. Meanwhile finely chop the onion, pepper, and tomatoes. Crush the garlic. Wash and roughly chop the spinach. Heat the oil in a large pan or wok and sauté the onion. When it has turned transparent add the pepper, tomatoes, garlic, and spinach. Cook until the spinach has softened and most of the liquid from it has evaporated. Add the cooked pasta, season, and transfer to an ovenproof dish. Top with enough breadcrumbs to cover and the flaked almonds. Place in a medium pre-heated oven and bake for about 15 minutes until brown on top. Serves two if you are a piggy like Gordon and me.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Birmingham (not Alabama)

Just returned from an overnight jaunt to lovely Birmingham! No disrespect to my UK home, but in the battle of the Hams (Birmingham v. Nottingham), I'd say we have a clear, undisputed champion, and it's simply not the Notts. =/ From the moment we got off the train we loved it! =) I didn't expect much- from what I had heard it was a dreadful place, polluted and industrial. But it has been though a renaissance in recent years- refurbishing, rebuilding, re-everything, really, and it is lovely! =) In a nutshell, the city was clean and beautiful- flowers everywhere, a lovely series of canals with footbridges, pedestrian areas, free museums, nice cafes, and very few scary young men with their hands down their track pants leering at you from in front of boarded-up businesses like you might see in some places... (In fact, I didn't see any of those in B-ham.) The purpose of our trip was to see Bright Eyes at Carling Academy. Never a dull moment when traveling... Our train was parked at the wrong end of the platform, and we wound up on a train going the total opposite direction... Not to worry, others had been fooled by the bad signing, too, and so four of us were stranded at Netherfield (not nearly as nice as it sounds, and most certainly not the country home of Jane Austen's Mr. Bingley). The next train back to Notts wasn't for hours, so we all got a cab back to the station together. The cab took forever to get there and one of us (possibly me) made the mistake of saying "at least it's a beautiful day out." Then the rains came. When our cab driver finally found us, we were wet and cold and intent on catching the 18:oo train. The driver wanted to get us there, too, and it was a ride right out of Pole Position. We arrived unscathed (except for the nausea) and got on the train with 4 minutes to spare. =) We stayed right in the city centre at Nitenite, a mini luxury hotel of sorts. Everything is very nice there- cozy beds, huge flat-screen tv, wifi, etc, but the rooms are TINY, so the prices are low. Adorable if you're not claustrophobic at all. I, for one, loved having a bed with walls on three sides and no windows to let in pesky sunlight in the morning. Seriously. If I had a million dollars I'd build myself a room like that (and a library for all of my books with a ladder on wheels). The concert was great- Bright Eyes was far better live than I had anticipated, and we went for post-show cocktails at The Shakespeare, a nice little pub in town. Saturday we hungrily wandered into the Mailbox, which used to be a postal sorting office, but is now a multi-story open-air shopping oasis. If you go all the way through it you end up at what is basically a very posh food court- tons of bars and restaurants with outdoor seating right on the canal. There's even a Nando's there for Andy. =) From there you can take footbridges and walk all around the canal, galleries, convention center, Brindley Place, Gas Street Basin, etc. We had lunch at the Canalside Cafe, which was excellent! Vegan food galore! Chilli, soups, bangers and mash- hard to find that stuff around these parts! It was delicious! =) The rest of the day was spent wandering around- bookstores, cafes, Muji, galleries, etc. Lovely. Got the evening train back and are now home, eagerly anticipating the Wimbledon final this afternoon. =) Tentatively planning to go back to Brum while we're here if we can swing it. Vegan bangers and mash are calling!

Friday, July 6, 2007


I love Wimbledon. In fact, I have become almost obsessed with it over the last week or two. Never really been much of a tennis fan- I've seen a few matches here and there over the years- but now I can't stop watching! My two favourites at the moment are Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Not surprising considering they are the two highest-ranked players in the world... I do know how to pick 'em! =) Gordon is a Federer fan all the way- and why wouldn't he be? He is one of the best players in the history of the sport! His game is beautiful to watch- he makes every perfect shot seem effortless. I really hope he wins this year so he can have his five Wimbledon titles in a row. There's a reason he's number one, and I think it is likely to remain that way for a while. =) And then there's the surlier Spaniard- adorable young Rafael Nadal- his massive, unevenly pumped-up arms rippling out of an always-sleeveless shirt like a fiddler crab... He is slightly less cool on the court than Federer- he always looks a little bit angry and brooding when he's trying to concentrate. He is very powerful and exciting to watch. Sad to admit it, but I have been watching so much tennis this week that little Rafa (though he's not actually little at 6'1") was actually in my dream last night! He didn't say anything, which was disappointing, because his very thick Mallorcan accent is quite endearing, especially when he talks about playing on various "soofraces." Clay is definitely his best soofrace. His weird rituals involving sock adjusting, water bottle placement, and obsessive toweling off are unusual, and you know how I like unusual! (Though it seems as if he may need to invest in some new undies- he's always pulling at them through his capri pants during matches...) He's right-handed naturally, but plays with his left, which is even more impressive if you've ever tried to hit a ball over the net with your wrong hand (or any hand at all, in my case)! My hope is that he ends up in the final with Roger Federer, which is not unlikely. I'm glad Wimbledon is only a couple of weeks, because it's hard to watch so much tv without your eyeballs popping out of their sockets. That, and watching tennis only serves to remind me that I'm not the world number one... Last year I had decided it was my goal to win Wimbledon. Gordon bought me rackets for my birthday and we hit the ball around a couple of times. I was well on my way, really. But my game has been thrown off by the move. Yeah, packing up my rackets and storing them was a real blow, psychologically, and tennis is really won between the ears, you know... Really threw me off... Yeah, that's it. And Sharapova's looking quite good this year, so I doubt it's going to happen for me. Curses! So, I'll stick to watching it on telly for now, but don't be surprised if I pull a Martina Navratilova later in life and end up in the Olympics! (Maybe I'll be playing mixed doubles with Rafael Nadal!) It could happen! =)