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Grass cuttings

 the neighbours were mowing their lawn today and putting the clippings into a bin bag to take down to the tip, so I asked (as I've sometimes done in the past as well) to have the cuttings.  They are happy to give them to me.

I've used most as  a surface mulch around the raspberries - grass clippings are very good at suppressing weeds.  They also add nitrogen to the soil and add organic matter.  They vanish totally in six months to a year, probably due to worm activity.

The remainder I put on the compost heap where they will mix well with the twiggy stuff and weeds that are already there.

Amazes me that anyone can just throw away such wonderfully useful stuff.

If using clippings at home, try and put them round your plants as soon as possible. If you leave them for long in a bin bag, moisture and heat will combine them into nasty, smelly clumps.  IF you get them onto the ground quickly this problem is avoided.

When spreading them, don't use more than  one or two cm thickness, or you'll run the risk of it getting clumpy.  Try and sprinkle them with your fingers to get plenty of air in the mix.  That will reduce any risk of smell ( it dries out like hay, rather than rotting soggily).

If composting grass cuttings, make sure they aren't the only thing on your compost heap.  Mix them up with kitchen waste, weeds, twigs and hedge cuttings, even egg boxes and cardboard.  Different types of material ensure that you have a mixture of 'greens' and 'browns'  and results in better compost (and it's produced faster).  Don't pack it all down hard, let a bit of air circulate.  You want it to decompose aerobically, not anaerobically.

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I Spy

 Oswin likes playing I Spy.

The rules are somewhat flexible at her age.  We don't ask her to set questions (her spelling probably be way out on some words).

We generally operate on the principle that any answer she gives beginning with the correct letter is the 'right' answer.  However, the item does have to be visible.  She's not allowed to say 'cat' for 'C' unless there is a cat in sight, etc.

Most of her guesses are relatively simple items, though she's pretty good on her sounds and generally gets the first letter correct.  (we try to think of reasonably simple clues and ones where the sound is clear)

Yesterday, though, we had to laugh.

Granny: "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with 'P'"  (I was thinking of 'plant')
Oswin, looking out of the window" "Pulmonaria".

She was right!

Here's what she was looking at:

Apparently, it's also known as lungwort, but 'Pulmonaria' is the Latin name and that's the name Molly taught me, and I in turn taught Oswin...

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Growing up

 Yesterday, I would have told you that the most wonderful and amazing thing in the world was a three-year old child.

Today, with equal truth, I tell you that it is a four year old.

From this, you may deduce that it's my grand-daughter's birthday!

She is happy, joyful, bright, interested in everything, can sing nursery rhymes on her own, loves stories and books and is pure delight (except, of course, as any parent/grandparent will know, on the days when she isn't, but fortunately, those days are few and far between.)

Watching her learn and explore new things is an endless source of pleasure.

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vegan food continued

Pleased to say that our hotel last week eventually came up trumps. Kudos to the chef at the Exeter Court hotel (in Devon), after emailed requests (and tips on vegan protein) before the event, he came up with a truly excellent range of vegan food, including a couple of deserts.  For five days on the trot, our vegan had a good choice of different meals.

What was really interesting was how many other members of the convention started asking for the vegan menu: so many, that they eventually restricted it to vegans and vegetarians only as they were running out, in spite of having five or six portions of many things.

Some people just liked the variety (smoked coconut cheese turns out to be delicious, and the veg+bean stew in a halved butternut squash sold out before I could try it), and some, like my friend Charlie, who can't eat dairy and is wheat-intolerant found that many of the vegan options were ideal for her, even though she isn't a vegetarian.

At the closing of the convention, members who were not in our party, were asking for more of the same next year.

I've already written a thank you letter to the hotel and I gave a tenner to the chef before I left.

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vegan food continued

 I asked the hotel we're staying at for a list of vegan meals.

They sent a list of five.  One is jacket potato with baked beans (which is fine for a one-off, but not for five days on the trot).

Of the other four, one did not contain any protein other than couscous (incomplete protein) and the other had no protein at all.

Great flavours, but no protein.

It wouldn't' be so bad, but I've been staying at this hotel for the last ten years and I've complained about the lack of vegetarian protein for most of that time.

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Protein and vegans

 It is truly scary how many people do not know what protein is.

We're going to stay at a hotel for a gaming convention this weekend and my son's girl friend is vegan.

I just phoned the hotel to ask what vegan options they have.  Mixed roast veg with spices and beans. That's the only one.  We're staying there for five days...  At least the beans are protein. Many so-called vegetarian and vegan options are totally lacking in protein.   They removed the meat and assume that vegetarians only need vegetables to thrive.

I've found this problem in past years with many hotels (though they have improved a bit over the years).  I'm not vegetarian myself, but I've been hotel rep for many conventions in the past, and my first move was always to check the vegetarian options as fans have a high percentage of vegetarians.  I also eat about 70% vegetarian, mostly for environmental reasons.

Cooking for vegans isn't that hard, we do it whenever C comes to visit.

It's just knowing what to add.  Nuts, quinoa, buckwheat, tofu, Rice and beans/lentils/chick peas (the combination of rice and beans gives a complete protein), hummus and pita bread (again, the combination is important), peanut butter sandwich.

Also, peas, spinach, kale, sprouts, artichoke, mushrooms are good incomplete proteins that can combine with other stuff.

That's it really.  Just remove meat and dairy and add something else instead.

I'm not sure that chefs have any actual training in food nutrition.

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Sarantium Mosaic - review

Sailing to Sarantium
I had this book sitting on my shelves for nearly a decade before I got around to reading it.  As soon as I finished it, I ordered the sequel and will be buying other books by this writer as well.
An alternative history of the Byzantine Empire, with light fantasy elements, with the central character being a mosaicist.  Crispin's position as a skilled craftsman brings him into contact with people from all walks of life, and thus he becomes the central character with a circle of friends/clients from the Emperor to chariot racers.  
Kay's skill is to show us how major historical events impact at all levels.  One person may fear assassination, but another may not care who is in charge as long as the crop can be harvested.

Lord of Emperors

Even though I have some misgivings about the ending, I still rate this book ten out of ten.
It's the characters.  Kay gives us a wide range of  characters, some of whom have ordered assassinations, started wars, hurt someone who was injured, betrayed husbands or lovers, etc.  Yet, for all of them, there is an underlying humanity.  We understand why they did what the did, even when we don't approve of it, and cannot hate them (with just one exception, whom even Crispin hates).
I love the relationship between the Emperor and the Empress.  They have a deep love and total trust in one another.  It's so rare to find closely married couples in fiction.
I love the description of the chariot race - Kay brings it to life on the page.
The politics and the food all come to life.
I've visited Hagia Sophia.  In my mind's eye, it now has Crispin's mosaic on the dome.
The only thing that I fail to find totally convincing is the number of women who fall for Crispin, though at least (because he is still mourning for his late wife), he doesn't sleep with them all.
The woman he ends up with caught me by surprise. I can partly see why (understanding of each other's loss), but I'm not totally convinced.  However, this is a book I will definitely want to read again, so I shall see how it strikes me the second time around.

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Get to Know you Meme

 Paranoidangel asked how I got into morris dancing.

When I was about ten, I did country dancing at the church hall.  We also went to local barn dances now and then.

(Odd really, I grew up not far from Manchester, yet never encountered North West or Carnival morris while growing up.)

When I went to university, the first society I joined was the country dancing society.  Some of the society also did morris dancing (Cotswold), which was the first time I'd encountered morris.  We didn't do much morris, but it sparked an interest.

When I got married and moved to Dorset, I went to Wimborne Folk Festival (which is very local to us) and for the first time encountered morris dancing head on in large quantities.  There, I met Dorset Buttons, the local ladies North West team.  They were the team closest to where I lived, and it looked like a lot of fun.

That's where it all started. Since then, I've danced with another North West team, a Border Morris team, started a longsword team, taught maypole dancing and longsword and dabbled in rapper and Cotswold. 

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Get to Know you Meme


eledonecirrhosa asked

We've met in person at science fiction cons... but I have no idea who your favourite genre authors are!

I've had an odd relationship with genre fiction over the years.

As a teenager, I was fascinated by SF, read everything the local library had and ended up cycling to Wythenshawe where there was a bigger library.  I was fortunate the Gollancz did all their SF in the classic yellow jackets as it made it so much easier to fine SF on the shelves.

I loved Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov and Eric Frank Russell and read a lot of Andre Norton as well.  Other writers too, but those were the ones who stuck in my memory.

I still reread Heinlein, but Clarke's characters lack depth for me now, even though his science is great.

A colleague of my father's once left behind a copy of Triplanetery, the first of EE Doc Smith's 'Lensmen' novels.  I loved it. Bought all the others and loved them too.  As an adult, I got a new set (one of my siblings must have ended up with the originals), dived in eagerly, only to stop after a few chapters and think "This is terrible.  The characters have all the personality of wet cardboard!"

Some writers hold up well, I still read Tolkien, but others fell by the wayside.

I encountered Lois McMaster Bujold not long after I first encountered slash fanfic.  The local post office had reduced price copies of several of her novels, including "Ethan of Athos".  A mainstream book with a gay character!  I bought it on the spot.  Later in the week, I bought the other two novels they had by her.  No gay men in those, I was hooked by the quality of the writing.  Still am.  There's an awful lot of Bujold on my bookshelves.

Other favourites include Elizabeth Moon, David Weber Ursula le Guin, John Scalzi and Ellen Kushner.

I enjoy good space opera with convincing military tactics.

I've missed out on a lot of writers.  I hit a point when we were very short of money and I got very stressed and book-buying fell by the wayside.  Even SF books I had in hand failed to get read. I've owned 'Sailing to Sarantium' for about a decade but am only just now reading it (and it's first few chapters are very promising)

Urban Fantasy rarely works for me, thought the Succubus novels by Richelle Mead turned out to be an exception. (mainly due to the quality of the romance and some very interesting characters)

I also like some historical fiction, but it has to be accurate to the period.  Nothing annoys me more than poor research.

Thus, Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels, Patrick O'Brien and Georgette Heyer are well represented on my shelves.
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Get to Know you Meme

 Espresso Addict asked:
This is a bit of cheat, because I've met you multiple times offline but... I know you participate in various forms of folk music, but do you enjoy any classical (in the broadest sense)?

Classical music mostly sends me to sleep.  I don't dislike it, I just tend to tune out anything that doesn't have words.

The same thing applies to any form of music where I can't distinguish the lyrics.

 guess that's a bit part of the reason why I like folk and filk - the lyrics are to the front of the mix.  Musicals work well in this regard too.

I dislike any form of music where the volume is too loud.

I did once buy 'The Lamentations of the Prophet Jerimiah' after hearing it on Desert Island Discs, but that's one of a very small number of classical items in my music collection.  The others were bought in charity shops, but rarely got more than one listen.
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Judith Proctor


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