On the afternoon of Thursday June 26 I attempted to produce homemade alternative vegan cookies. I wanted to eat the sugar-free version of a tasty treat using ingredients I already had. So I researched some recipes* and decided to experiment.
The first batch I baked included the following ingredients;
150g plain four,
150g vegan margarine,
squeeze of lemon and lime juice
This resulted in six yellow flat dough circles.
The second batch I baked included the following, similiar ingredients;
100g vegan margarine,
sprinkle of cocoa powder,
squeeze of pineapple juice
This resulted in six rather more brown flat dough circles.
Although easy to make [mix all the ingredients into a bowl then place on buttered trays] the process took over two and a half hours at an oven temperature of around 180°C, primarily because the cookies did not change much in texture and appearance [hence all the cookie incisions to check they were done].
Although I could taste the difference between the two sets of cookies the absence of sugar made them a savoury treat. Plus, they crumbled easily and so acted more like biscuits. Still, Kristina enjoyed them and it allowed me to test out new ideas regarding vegan baking. I reckon more research into the roles of vegan ingredients is required if I am to improve my kitchen skills.
*My inspiration came from Sugar Free Recipes (www.sugarfreerecipes.co.uk/sugar-dairy-free-biscuits.html) and Vegan Baking (www.veganbaking.net/recipes/cookies/peanut-butter-cookies).
For several days I have wanted to uproot my Goodland’s brand wilting, yellowing Wilja potato plants, which had long since flowered, to witness my yield. Only, the recent poor weather and lack of time meant I have delayed until this morning. Despite the rain Kristina and I had recently used up the last of our potatoes purchased at Witham Market so it seemed appropriate to harvest my efforts now.
I started with the plants in the glazed terracotta pots, uprooting the plants then sifting through all the remaining soil for any extras. The results were rather promising.
Then I uprooted the potatoes in the planter bag designed for spuds and although it did not generate as many, it still produced the largest individual potatoes.
Aside from the few underdeveloped, rotten ones I am delighted with the impressive outcome, which totalled 1.8 kilograms. I have stored them in a reusable tote bag as suggested in Grow Your Own Crops in Pots (2013) by Kay Maguire but due to the overcast conditions I could not harden the skins in the sun. Still, according to The Vegetable Expert (1985) by Dr. D.G. Hessayon this oval potato variety holds excellent cooking qualities and stays fresh for a fortnight. This should be ample enough time to attempt a host of different recipes outlined by the Love Potatoes website, found at http://www.lovepotatoes.co.uk/recipes/list/vegetarian.
On the other hand my strawberry plants have yielded far lower amounts. I have picked a total of thirteen over the past three weeks and even considering the same amount again eaten by pests [I understand that organic methods of control, i.e. nothing, can be ineffective] this has fallen short of my expectations. There is of course more time for fruiting and a lot more personal gardening experience to acquire so I will remain upbeat for the remainder of my growing season. Besides, the ones that did fruit were juicy, sweet and some of the tastiest I have ever eaten.
Last Thursday (3rd July) I found my photograph in two local newspapers, the Braintree and Witham Times and the Essex Chronicle. The associated articles related to my local Morrisons M Local store opening in Witham on Friday 27th June at 09:00. I have been employed by Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC since April of this year and was fortunate enough to be working when the photographers visited.
So I bought a copy of both newspapers on the day and found myself on page 6 of the Braintree and Witham Times (www.braintreeandwithamtimes.co.uk/news/11307440.Supermarket_giant_opens_convenience_store_in_former_pub/) and page 15 of the Essex Chronicle (the Braintree and Witham edition at http://www.essexchronicle.co.uk/Morrisons-M-Local-opens-business-Jack-Jenny-site/story-21318124-detail/story.html). Surprisingly, since I have begun this blog almost fourteen months ago I have appeared in my local newspapers a total of seven times; including for my can collecting project, my first marathon, my WasteBusters volunteering and my amateur dramatics. I am humbled for these opportunities and look forward to contribute more to my local community.
It has been over two weeks since the conclusion of my first adult acting theatre production, which I am so pleased went well. As is customary with Witham Dramatic Club we underwent a full week of evening dress rehearsals from Monday 15th June until the show nights on Thursday 19th, Friday 20th and Saturday 21st. On Tuesday photographs were taken whilst we performed and on Wednesday I made enough blunders to get all my nerves out of my system [and get used to my new hair cut]. There are more photographs of The Anastasia File on at www.withamdramatic.co.uk/production.html and on the Witham Dramatic Club Photos page on Facebook.
My performances on Thursday and Friday were near perfect [I only missed a few lines, which were not critical anyway] with enjoyable director’s drinks and an Indian curry meal afterwards respectively. However, on the last night I unfortunately required one line prompt near the start of my performance [the one night people I knew came to watch; Kristina's parents and six of my work colleagues]. Still I did not let it faze me, and was instead reminded by a fellow actor that by and large audience members pay to watch the theatre for enjoyment and not to criticise. Despite this minor error on my part [overall I gained a great deal of experience and felt I achieved a lot] audience feedback was very positive, as was The Braintree and Witham Times‘ review (printed on page 41 of the Thursday July 3rd edition). Plus the after show ‘picnic party’ was very tasty and Sunday’s set down only took the morning to complete.
I also gained a great many items of memorabilia including a ticket end, a programme with a profile of me inside, posters from the set and gifts from the cast and crew such as a rose and an array of cards [Kristina and I too made homemade cards for them all, using an image of Anastasia - in the animated 1997 film - and individual quotes inside from the script].
As a result of enjoying this production, which saw around 150 people attend across the three nights, I decided to commit to the next production. This is entitled Oh, What a Lovely War! (1965) written by Joan Littlewood and Theatre Workshop, which will be shown for four nights starting 19th and ending 22nd November [I have already read the anti-war play and am impressed with the satirical and fluid nature of both the dialogue and scenes]. So I attended the second of three open auditions on Tuesday 1st July at 20:00 in the Witham Public Hall Committee Rooms and despite my rough attempts at foreign accents and group singing I managed to obtain yet another acting role. I thankfully now have some time to improve my voice and juggling abilities before rehearsals begin in mid August to early September.
Finally I choose to get even more involved in my local dramatic club by putting myself forward for one of the three seats on the Play Selection Committee at the club’s AGM, held on Monday 30th June [same place and time]. I was also lucky enough to gain this role, which primarily reads, suggests and discusses future plays to be produced by the club. I have already put forward the play Before the Party (1949) by a personally inspiring playwright Rodney Ackland and look forward to offering more over the coming year [not least because I read and write plays in my spare time anyway].
Monday (16 June) afternoon I continued growing my herb garden by planting more seeds. I spread three packets of herbs* [either chives or leaf salad mix, there are no labels to tell] in each of another two black crates freeganised from Witham Market last year. I just scattered the seeds and spread an extra layer of compost on top.
After the promising growth of all my other herbs so far, especially my rocket salad [the relatively large green clover-looking herb] I am confident these anonymous herbs will prosper, especially as I have raised all the crates higher onto spare plastic boxes away from the influence of weeds and any poor drainage issues.
There has been further developments for my other food-bearing plants too, including my potatoes [which although eaten in places are rather large and will soon flower],
strawberries [which are fruiting, reddening and expanding with even more plantlets]
as well as chilli peppers [which are also budding] and cauliflower [from last year].
I am pleased with my achievements so far this growing season, not least because I have since yet had no visible pests and have had an adequate supply of water [utilised over the winter and stored in an old secondhand water-butt my family gave me, which I situated underneath my shed]. Despite the recent hot and dry weather I expect this water supply to be ideal for my short-term, daily water requirements as hope for my humble harvest soon…
* Free from WasteBusters that were expiring this month.
This weekend was the set up for my first adult theatre production The Anastasia File (1986), a historical drama written by Royce Ryton. Kristina and I helped other members of the Witham Dramatic Club (www.withamdramatic.co.uk) construct the tiered seating, organise props, socialise with cups of tea and undergo a first technical rehearsal all at the Witham Public Hall.
Time has passed quickly since my audition and twice-weekly rehearsals, of which I attended all twenty-one [even when I was not needed] including last Sunday’s all day session [some going better than others]. I have learnt a lot about acting and character development over the past two and a half months, not least that to get the best out of myself I must be mindful of every mood, speech variation, movement and look; the lines too must be natural and flowing.
I have enjoyed the experience so far, working with different people and attempting six separate roles with unique costumes [a doctor in a mental asylum, a passerby in the street, a dentist, an American reporter, another doctor and a Russian soldier]. I have also had to have my hair cut and shave specifically for this show. Although nervous [I have six people I know coming to watch already] I am looking forward to next week’s intense dress rehearsals Monday to Wednesday night, with the main performances Thursday to Saturday night.
I still have time to perfect my acting and can at least draw on the positives I achieved for my last production. I just hope more people attend as only around 75 tickets have been sold so far, despite the advertising spread across Witham. This has included a page 39 article in the local newspaper, the Braintree and Witham Times (www.braintreeandwithamtimes.co.uk/news/11268216.Explore_the_aftermath_of_the_Russian_Revolution_in_an_exciting_play/).
Yesterday morning I began planting what could be called the start of a herb garden. Although I have many seed packets that have expired, I did not prioritise the herbs [despite their speed and ease of growth] over the vegetables. Rightly or wrongly I hold the presumption that a successful gardener is judged on the amount of edible food they produce. Still, unwilling to waste any potential life [after all Kristina and I do use herbs and spices in our cooking] I sowed the following herbs in a black plastic crate I freeganised last summer[divided by more sand and labelled].
• Sweet Genovese Basil
• Rocket Salad
Then early this evening I filled another plastic crate – this one blue – with the following;
• Garlic Chives [remaining after the onion pot]
• Dark Opal Basil
I also planted some more tomato seeds – the Moneymaker variety I failed to grow last season – in some more small pots.
I thinly sowed three seeds in six pots and four seeds in another three pots [the red case]. Unlike the herbs I kept the tomatoes indoors on the kitchen windowsill and without an extra layer of soil on top. Next to these tomatoes are my Marmande (or Beefsteak) tomatoes, which are growing well, and with a lot more sacks of compost still left to use I will continue to plant more of my out-of-date seeds, hoping they will yield greenery.