Pasta

One of my favourite things about the Slimming World plan – and I don’t think I’d have been so successful on it if this hadn’t been the case – is that pasta is a ‘free food’, so you can eat as much of it as you like (within reason – I have been cutting down on my portion sizes as I’ve got closer and closer to target – but I still eat pasta nearly every day):

Pasta and pesto
Pasta and red pesto, my all-time favourite. Used to be a regular meal but now just a ‘treat’ – I need to add lots of veg and use my ‘syns’ to make it Slimming World friendly!

My favourites are Quorn bolognaise, Quorn chicken pesto (after months of unsuccessful attempts to make my own syn-free basil pesto, I gave up and went back to using the stuff in jars for 3 syns per tablespoon), Quorn lasagne (did you guess I’m vegetarian yet?) and, when I’m in a super stodgy high-carb mood, pasta with potatoes, carrots and chickpeas.  I love carbs and I’m so thrilled I’ve found a way to lose weight without having to cut down on them too much.

One of my ambitions for this year is to try and find more pasta favourites.  I’ll keep you posted!

Packing…and shoes

This weekend, I finally got round to starting packing all our stuff up for the move, and immediately remembered that it’s a far bigger job than it seems.  Guess I’m going to be spending tomorrow afternoon drawing up a minute-by-minute immovable schedule for the next few weeks, seeing as we’re on a strict timetable in terms of moving out.  Geth has suggested getting it done bit by bit in the evenings (and is far more excited about it than I am), so it will get done – it just seems like an impossible mountain at the moment.

So far, I’ve packed about 80% of our books (which has reminded me exactly why I asked for a Kindle for Christmas – ideally I’d never buy another physical book again, but not everything is available in ebook format yet, and sometimes for a vintage/retro lover like me it’s nice to have the original physical versions of old books; still, for reasons of space I would need to have a serious book cull before I bought any more physical ones) and about 60% of my shoes.  The shoes take up three holdalls so far and I’m not done yet:

Holdalls full of shoes
Some of my shoes. In the holdalls, the amount looks a lot smaller than when they’re on the shelves, which is quite calming.

I currently have 87 pairs.  I’d have a lot more if I hadn’t forced myself in recent years to be better about chucking them in the bin when they wear out.  I’d also have a lot more if I hadn’t been so broke during my most shoe-obsessive years – much as I’m still magnetically drawn to The Shiny, with age has come (a small amount of) wisdom and nowadays I’m a lot stricter with myself about only buying stuff that I know I’ll definitely wear.

Hopefully, this time next week we’ll have got a lot more of the packing done and I won’t feel quite so stressed about it.

2018 Ciders #4: Old Rosie

I was given a bottle of Old Rosie for Christmas, which I saved for when I got back from Edinburgh on my birthday.  Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo, but you can see what the bottle looks like on the Westons website.

Old Rosie is strong and it tastes strong.  I really like the taste in the winter though – it’s a nice kind of ‘stodgy’ cider, lovely and warming on a cold day.

Incidentally, I’m doing very well with Dry January, so I’m starting to forget what these ciders taste like!  I’ll probably be more up-to-date with my cider logging from February onwards.

GPO phones

Following on from my classic phone box post, it will probably come as no surprise that I also love classic GPO 746 telephones.

Replica red GPO 746
My replica GPO 746. Modern-day replicas have an additional hash and star on the rotary dial so as to be compatible with telephone banking.

Growing up, we had two original 746s in the house, a black one that came with the place when my parents bought it in 1982 and an ivory one that I think one of them might have brought from a previous flat.  The ivory one died a death sometime in the ’00s, but the black one still sits on the hall table, waiting patiently for me to adopt it eventually.  I think even in the ’90s, we were a bit behind the times  – whenever I had friends from school round and they needed to use the phone, none of them knew how to use the rotary dial.  I’m guessing most people in the UK had switched to push button models by the late ’80s.

I bought a replica 746 (shown above) from GPO Retro a year or two ago.  I love the way it looks, though the feel isn’t 100% right – there’s not quite as much spring tension on the rotary dial as there is on an original model, presumably to aid quicker dialling when dealing with automated answer systems such as telephone banking, and of course it beeps in your ear during dialling as well, unlike the originals.  Still, I’m very happy with it, and when we get round to extending the phone line upstairs in the new house, I’ll probably get one in another colour.

Beermats

When I was a kid in the ’80s and ’90s, I spent what seemed like an inordinate amount of time in the back of a car, travelling around the UK to visit family, who lived all over the place.  My dad likes to take a lot of driving breaks, and so while we visited a lot of motorway service stations, when we were out on more remote roads our pit stop of choice was always some random country pub.

Country pub in 1988
Country pub, 1988, with my mum and younger brother. Pub drinking starts early in my family.

I don’t know where my hoarding/collecting/general possessiveness tendencies come from (some family members have suggested it’s genetic, as a lot of us are like that), but they’ve always been there, and so as a small child I soon started to notice the brightly coloured and highly collectible bits of cardboard that were always sitting there on the pub tables, preventing my glass of Diet Coke from leaving an unsightly ring.  I think you all know where this is going.

Beermat collection
A small fraction of my extensive beermat collection.

As an adult, I’ve turned part of my large beermat collection (i.e. as many as will fit on the above corkboard) into a slightly dubious-quality ‘piece of art’ that hangs in our hallway.  The display is an exercise in nostalgia as much as anything else – I often pause in the hallway and marvel at the way that some of them are painfully of their time.  The Furstenburg one in the top-left corner is absolutely classic ’80s advert styling, the competition advertised on the Martini one in the third row has a closing date sometime in 1986, and the ‘Head Out To Marlboro Country’ one in the second row brings back memories of an impossibly long-ago century when you were actually allowed to advertise smoking as cool and adventurous with only a tiny, hard-to-read government warning along the bottom edge.

At the same time, some drinks are so classic that I don’t think they’ve updated their beermat design in the intervening 20-30 years (Strongbow and Newcastle Brown, I’m looking at you) and I still see identical ones in the pubs of today.

I stopped collecting beermats around the point in my mid-teens that the alcohol itself became more interesting, but I’ll always have a soft spot for this particular hoard.

Victorian ceiling details

There are many things I am not going to miss about living in a Victorian build – draughts, damp and dust being the TLDR version.  What I am going to miss, though, are the ceilings.  I love ceilings in Victorian buildings.

First of all, they’re nice and high, and coupled with the larger rooms you tend to get in such houses, they give a real airy sense of space.  I grew up in a Victorian building – my parents still live there – and so I often find more modern houses with their low ceilings to be a bit claustrophobic.

The main thing, though, is the pretty detailing you get on the ceilings.  The house in which I grew up has absolutely beautiful cornices, at which I still find myself staring for ages whenever I visit home.  The house in which we live at the moment doesn’t have cornices, sadly, but it does have this lovely arch detail in the downstairs hallway:

Victorian plaster arch
Intricate plaster arch in our current hallway.

…and this ceiling rose in the living room:

Victorian ceiling rose
Ceiling rose with light fitting in the centre.

…both of which I absolutely love.  I will miss these pretty embellishments when we move into a more modern building, but I am looking forward to better insulation and hoovering not being a largely pointless exercise!

New (old) glasses

Since I got my latest pair of glasses in summer 2017, I’ve been wearing my previous pair for cardio exercise, a) to keep my new ones nice and b) because the arms of my new ones are too thin to fit into my Croakies.  This was okay for a while, but recently my old pair have really been starting to hurt my nose (they have those twiddly plastic nubs on wire that rest either side of your nose rather than a moulded plastic bit of the frame – I could probably look up the technical terms, but glasses-wearers will know what I mean), and so tonight I went through all my ancient pairs to see if I could find a better option for exercise glasses.

Glasses collection
My glasses, 2000-present. The fact that a lot of them have broken arms and/or loose lenses perhaps indicates I’m a bit harder on glasses than I should be.

I’ve been wearing glasses since I was fifteen, but a lot of my old pairs are broken.  Yes, I keep them around anyway – I’ve taken steps to curb my hoarding tendencies in recent years, but when a complete collection is involved the lure of eventually running a crazy old lady museum where I can show terrified visitors my Complete! Unbroken! Line! of glasses going back to 2000 is too great, and so the stuff stays in my possession.  I have some issues.

Anyway, other than my current ones and my now-uncomfortable pair, I only have two unbroken pairs in my collection, and one of them a) is my very first pair and hence far too ancient a prescription, b) has similar discomfort issues from what I remember, and c) has thin wire frames like my current pair, so would have the same Croakies issue.  That leaves a grand total of one option, which I’ve been wearing tonight to see if the feel is okay.  As you might expect from an older pair of glasses, the prescription does feel a bit off, but for cardio that doesn’t matter too much – it’s really just to keep me from being so blind I’m bumping into people.  One of the lenses also looks slightly warped in the frame, but after some experimental fiddling I reckon it’s lodged in there pretty firmly and probably not at risk of coming loose.  As such, I think they’ll do.

I probably should just buy another pair for exercise at some point, but due to a new house and car, 2018 is definitely not going to be a spendy year, so that may be a 2019 project.

Red phone boxes

In the month of my birth, January 1985, two important things happened in the history of the telephone in the UK.  One was Britain’s first ever mobile phone call, made in the early hours of New Year’s Day 1985.  The other was the announcement that classic red phone boxes would be replaced with a new design.  Looking 33 years backwards from our world of smartphone zombies, YMMV on whether either of these was a good thing.

The classic red phone box is one of my favourite aesthetic icons of 20th century Britain.  I love red phone boxes and take pictures of them wherever I find them, like some kind of excitable tourist.  Sad to say they are gradually becoming rarer and rarer on Britain’s streets, but lots of them are being repurposed for things like defibrillators and cash machines, so I live in hope that they won’t disappear completely.

Red phone box in York
Me with a classic phone box outside York Minster last year. I spotted it while running the Yorkshire 10 Mile race and went back for a photo the next day.

I have lots of phone box pictures and will be sharing them on the blog soon!

Some of my favourite useful links for info about phone boxes:

Another parkrun…

I went to parkrun again this morning, and shaved two minutes off last week’s time, largely thanks to the pacers that Newcastle parkrun has every second Saturday of the month.  Not bad following a winter slump.

Geth made a huge improvement this week too, following a couple of midweek training sessions.  We spent the rest of the day being deservedly lazy in the house!

2018 Ciders #3: Addlestones

This is another one I had on the 2nd, when I went for pre-birthday drinks with friends in Edinburgh, but as I’m doing Dry January (save the first three days!) I’m spreading these out throughout the month.

Addlestones Cloudy Cider
Addlestones Cloudy Cider.

I usually find Addlestones a bit dry for my taste, but on this particular evening it was quite welcome (especially as I was on the Diet Cokes otherwise, which I’m not madly keen on either).  Typically, though, I only drink it when it’s the only thing a pub has on draught, which is surprisingly often.