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Month: December 2016

What’s wrong with these parsnips?

What’s wrong with these parsnips?

Here’s a question for you: What’s wrong with these parsnips?

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We are such fussy shoppers, picking over fruit and veg to find the most attractive. I guess more attractive veg not only appeals to our eyes, but maybe also seems more healthy and nutritious.

Parsnips (as well as carrots) aren’t the most attractive vegetables. If you’re buying them for parsnip mash or to go in soup, their appearance really doesn’t come into it. So, I’d normally opt for bigger ones, as they’re just easier to peal. My favourite way to have parsnips is roasted (isn’t everyone’s?!) and this is where the size and shape is a little more important. When I’m cooking roast parsnips, its even more important for them to be big; otherwise the spindly ends end up burnt to a crisp and inedible.

Bearing in mind my criteria for a perfect parsnip, can you answer the question yet?

If you can, I’d appreciate you letting me know. Because I can’t answer the question. They came from a bag of ‘a little less than perfect’ parsnips.

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They are more than twice as chunky as the normal (presumably ‘completely perfect’) parsnips and about 60p less per kilo! And I don’t think it’s just that Waitrose put the wrong parsnips in the wrong packaging; for some reason, someone who presumably considers themselves a parsnip connoisseur has decided that the perfect parsnip is small and spindly, and will be 50% charred by the time I’ve finished roasting it. Making it (normally) very difficult to get chunky parsnips from a supermarket.

It’s frightening to think that parsnips this good might not probably wouldn’t have got to the supermarket shelves were it not for Hugh’s ‘War on Waste’ that campaigned for less ridiculous veg standards. They didn’t used to. The point Hugh was making- quite clearly, to my mind- is that you can sell these just like you sell every other parsnip. They’re worse in no way (and as I have said, I think they’re better when they’re fatter). What the supermarkets seem to have heard is ‘This is a marketing opportunity to make people think normal veg is somehow premium AND make us look like the hero for selling cast-offs too’.

 Don’t worry, I don’t plan on complaining too loudly- I’m more than happy to pay less for better veg!

The very best place to find big fat parsnips is your local market, and, as they’re loose, you can buy exactly the amount you need and you don’t need them in a polythene bag. Another way to cut down on waste.

#WarOnWaste #WasteNot

What do you think about the ‘war on waste’? Would you choose parsnips that are larger than a size zero in the vegetable world?

A perfectly festive weekend that doesn’t break the bank

A perfectly festive weekend that doesn’t break the bank

It’s so easy to spend money at any time of year, but especially at Christmas. I’ve got lots of ideas for saving money, but if the perfect something catches your eye for a loved one, you can soon find yourself spending money you didn’t intend to!

This weekend, my plans mean I’ll be having an ever so festive time, without constantly spending.

Tonight the plan is a ‘fakeaway’- pizza and chips (or more likely, potato wedges that are tastier, have more nutrients and are more convenient. Win, win, win!)- whilst watching one of our Christmas favourites, Elf. It’s easy to watch, good for a giggle (or laugh out loud) and obviously nice and Christmassy.

Tomorrow morning, my niece and I are off to the local library to do Christmas crafts. It’s 50p for her to take part, which I’m more than happy to pay to avoid having my own carpet covered in glitter! It means my sister will have a few hours to chill out (or more likely, run round like a headless chicken doing a million and one things while she hasn’t got the little one undoing all her tidying up!)

In the afternoon, it’ll be finally time to buy our tree. Each year, we have a real tree. The closer to Christmas you buy, the lower the prices. It’s the only ‘decoration’ we’ll buy this year, as I’m determined to stick to the decorations we already have.

In the evening, we’ll either watch another festive film (I’ve got a couple recorded on the freesat box) or, even better, have a go of a couple of our favourite board games. (I absolutely love playing board games. If there’s one thing I hope to get for Christmas, it’s a new game!)

Sunday will be a day of decorating and wrapping presents whilst streaming festive music. I’m really chuffed not to need to buy any paper this year, after getting some 10 metre rolls in the sale last year. No mulled wine this year, as we’ve learned we like the thought of it more than the taste. So nice hot cups of tea or maybe even a sneaky hot chocolate whilst we wrap.

In the evening, we’ll be going to a Carols by Candlelight service at our local church along with my parents. The only cost will be the donation to this year’s charity appeal.

I’m really excited by my festive weekend that won’t cost a fortune. What plans do you have in the lead up to Christmas?

It sometimes pays to slow down

It sometimes pays to slow down

The busier you are, the more you can get done, and the more of your goals you can achieve. Right? I mean, that’s the reason we’re all so busy isn’t it? More shopping done, more batch cooking prepped, more house cleaned, more friends met, more books read, more decorations made… I can’t help but think that it sometimes pays to slow down.

There’s so much pressure, both in the online world and the real world. And at this time of year, there’s the added pressure to create the perfect Christmas filled with homemade goodies and handcrafted gifts (anything I try to make tends to look like it was made by a 5 year old. Obviously, it’s less charming than if it had been made by an actual 5 year old).

A few weeks ago, I felt so busy trying to juggle everything and the thought of Christmas was filling me with dread. So I took a little break from writing (and a few other things) to reset, and come back to my blog feeling refreshed and ready to write hopefully helpful stuff!

A few nights in Reykjavik was the perfect place to practice slowing down. Rather than trying to cram in everything we normally would, we spent some time simply wandering around the city, looking up and looking around. It’s a city with some of the most incredible street art that I could quite easily have been in too much of a rush to see. Check out some of the pics:

 

 

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I think my favourite is the building with the photo album page, I love how it looks like a photo has been torn off a page.

Slowing down in Reykjavik definitely paid off!

 

An unplanned day, or even a morning is a great way to slow down, but it’s not always possible. Here are a few other ways I like to slow down and relax.

 

Meditation and mindfulness

A few minutes of meditation guided by a youtube video has an incredibly relaxing affect that can last a day or 2, and really reduce the feeling of stress. Taking just 15 minutes often helps me feel energised to tackle more stuff.

Do something I’ve always wanted to do

It could be trying a new recipe or going on a walk that I’ve wanted to go on. By choosing something fun that’s not on the ‘to do’ list of chores can help you feel more in control and more positive about life. I really fancy having a go at baking gingerbread. No pressure on myself to provide a tray of gingerbread men for Christmas day, just an attempt at baking up a batch to scoff with a cup of tea or two!

Give yourself time off

There’s always a million and one things to do, but most of those will wait. Some of those things might transpire to not be important after all. I know people who have given up ironing. I no longer send Christmas cards, which saves time in writing and constantly arranging the hundreds received in those annoying card holders that keep falling down.

Taking some time away from the things that you’ve told yourself you must do helps you understand what is a genuine priority. And in my case, it has paid financially (because I gave myself more time to cook from scratch) and emotionally (I feel so much more relaxed about Christmas and am enjoying writing again). It definitely sometimes pays to slow down.