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Thursday, 20 November 2014

NaNoWriMo - Day 20 Update

Once more, I have taken up the challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in the thirty days of the month of November. This morning see's the very start of Day 20, and I can confirm that I have written 50,000 words of the first draft of a novel. In fact, I have written 50,398 words of a Murder Mystery novel, however, it is not yet finished... but neither is November! So I shall continue writing and I hope to be able to finish the story by midnight on the 30th...

I managed to finish reading The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood too (I know, in November as well! I'm impressed!) I have got to be honest, I didn't really enjoy it. I know, I know, that it's a classic, and the concepts behind the dystopian Gilead is terrifying! However, I struggled to get into the book at the start, I didn't get a fully rounded sense of the characters, which may have been a purposeful thing to increase the sense of disconnection that the narrator feels, but I didn't like it. I shan't do spoilers, but I hated the ending!

I do have many other books to read though. This week I shall start reading The Defiant Lady Pencavel. I hope to be able to finish it by the end of the week, however, it's Thursday already and my reading week changes on a Sunday and it is still NaNovember! So I won't make any promises.

I have started a new cross stitch though. It's been a while as my cross stitch stuff ended up going into storage fairly early on, because it takes up quite a bit of space... the project I am working on is by a designer called Maria Diaz, who has converted quite a few classical art works into cross stitch patterns. They look fabulous, and the one I am working on is based on Albrecht Dürer's "Betende Hände" (Praying Hands) which are based on a preparatory drawing for the Heller Altarpiece. My Cross Stitch pattern book sadly informs me that the Altarpiece itself was destroyed by fire on 1729. It also goes on to say that the original drawing was created in Vienna in 1508. Wikipedia shows the original being on blue paper which the artist made himself, but the cross stitch version is sepia toned, which, although I thought it looked pretty spiffing in the books, is actually (so far at least) taking an age to stitch because I'm stitching on a creamy/off white evenweave, with creamy off-white thread! I really, really, didn't think my fabric choice through here! However, I am confident that it will look so much better, when I finish it, than it would have done on white! I am hoping to be able to finish this in time for it to be a Christmas gift (the recipient is, to the best of my knowledge at least, not online, but I don't want anyone telling so I won't say who it's for!) This is what it looks like so far - I photocopied the page from the book with the pattern in it, so I can mark up where I am up to - that's not me scribbling over my book with a highlighter pen! Though, as you can see, there is still a way to go yet!

And Finally: My Municipal Liaison (it's a NaNo thing - but it loosely translates to awesome, lovely and supportive friend and NaNoWriMo expert!), gave me some advice. Make soup! Vegetable soup is best, and Butternut Squash is a trademark named diet brand "superfood" apparently, because it is very, very low in fat, but contains lots of vitamins and minerals, so it is good for you! The idea being that you make a huge vat of soup, and then freeze it and microwave it for a speedy meal while you are buys increasing your NaNoWriMo word count! So, I did!

The first thing that I did was to Google (other search engines are available) the easiest way to peel and chop up a butternut squash... which resulted in me finding this awesome video on You Tube! She never does appear to explain "How she knows" though... But I can guess!

With that in mind... here's what I did. I should caution you that I measured almost nothing, and I like my soup thick - no, really thick! So thick you can almost stand your spoon up in it! I want to eat it rather than drink it!

I started by preparing all of the ingredients... I failed to take a photograph of all of the ingredients prepared and ready before they went in, but my ingredients were as follows:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large parsnip
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 large leeks
  • a handful of celery sticks
  • 2 weedy looking sweet potatoes
  • 2 pints of stock
  • 400ml of coconut cream
  • A variety of herbs and garlic (or I could have used a bouquet garni)
  • A wodge of butter (that's a real measurement, I'll have you know)
  • seasoning to taste.
So once my veggies were all chopped up, I put the wodge of butter in the pan...
Then I added the chopped onions, leek, and celery and cooked until they became translucent (doesn't that sound nicer than limp?)


I then added my garlic and herbs, which included a bay leaf, thyme (because it always smells delish), sage, basil, oregano and coriander leaf. I used dried herbs, because I always have some in, and they do the job. Obviously if you have fresh herbs, use those, but I'm rubbish at keeping them alive and they cost more (and I never use them so close together that I get to use the whole packet of fresh, so dried works out better for me).
Then I threw in the carrot and the stock.
Followed by the parsnip, sweet potato and the squash;
I stirred it all up, and then put the lid on and let it go for a few hours before adding the coconut cream.
and then let it go for another half hour.

Now I need you to learn from my experience. Please take the soup off the heat and let it cool slightly before you try and blitz it!
I didn't, and it spits a bit - and it burns getting boiling hot soup up your arms... not badly, wiping it off was enough to stop it, but it was faintly stupid of me.

Anyway - the result, as you can see, was a lovely bowl of soup for lunch. As well as six plastic tubs of soup to go into the freezer for lunches on other days.


I would also add, that frozen soup takes longer to micro-nuke than I originally anticipated, and so I would recommend taking tomorrow's lunch out the night before, so it defrosts naturally in the fridge, and then you can either reheat it in a pan, or microwave it as you please!

But thanks to Linda for the idea, because it was a blooming good one! Bon Appetit!





Sunday, 9 November 2014

NaNovember...

Remember, remember, the fifth of November.
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason,
Should ever be forgot.

One of the highlights of the year, certainly in our family, is Bonfire Night. We're lucky to live in an area, in which our Local Authority puts on a large and rather impressive display on the gantry wall in between the canal and the river, so that it can be viewed from both towns. It's always on actually on Bonfire Night, and it's free. (Ok, so the council actually pay for it, and out of our council taxes, but on the night, there's no charge to go and view it, and besides, you knew what I meant!!)

Sadly, there is no longer a Bonfire (there used to be one at the Town Hall, and after that at Spike Island, but 'elf and safety reasons made it not be a thing any more.

Something that may surprise you, certainly given my usual blog posts, is that I didn't take my camera! 



Another thing about November, is Remembrance Sunday. This year it's actually on 9th as the eleventh itself is on Tuesday. But I will wear my poppy throughout the month, in remembrance of those who gave their today for our tomorrow.



Don't forget Children in Need (next Friday, 14th). It's a fantastic charity, and if you are able to make a donation to the cause, then please do.



Finally, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel during the thirty days of November.
So far, I have written 18,233 words, and am slightly ahead of target, so wish me luck as I tap away at my Alphasmart, watching the words grow.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Book Club Film Night

A few months ago, our book club read The Book Thief. It was my recommendation after I saw the film at the cinema. Last night, we all watched the film (on DVD).

I hope everyone else enjoyed it as much as I did, because, whilst there is obviously far more in the book, it is still a very, very good film. The things they have taken out of the story, the story survives without, it's still moving, heart-wrenching and lump-in-the-throat inducing. 

Watching it on DVD is still as good as watching it in the cinema, with the added bonus of being able to pause it to go to the loo, and alter the volume... oh, and we can ask questions part way through (I know that actress!!! Who is she?)

Nibbles were eaten, wine was consumed, talking about books happened (as did talking about other things).

If you haven't tried watching the film version of a group book at your book club, personally, I'd recommend it.

Anyway - not yet organised next month's book club, but I am hoping to have something a little bit special up my sleeve! I shall report back once I have managed to do a bit more organising!