I realize I haven’t written for a couple of days, very bad since I’m trying to write everyday. So here’s what’s been happening the last couple of days.
My camera’s been broken and I have sent it off to a place in Tunbridge Wells to have it fixed. It got me thinking, maybe I should buy a digital SLR so I can take better pictures and put them on my blog because as you know, a poor craftsman blames his tools. We have a friend coming to visit from NY in a couple of weeks so I thought if I can make a decision quickly, I can have one shipped from B and H, a wonderful shop in NYC and ask him to bring it over. So I called the only person I could think of who might be able to help me and she very generously offered to have me over to talk to me. Now, I don’t really know this person very well so I was really touched by her generosity. She showed me her camera, we took some photos of a roast chicken that was going to be their dinner and compared automatic settings and manual settings on a SLR and point and shoot. The conclusion we reached was that for the purposes of the web, the point and shoot was fine for me. I think she just save me masses of money. So now the only thing I have to do is wait for my camera to come back and buy a tripod. Yaay. Oh yeah and learn to use my camera that I’ve had for 3 years.
So we start chatting and I am telling her I want to photograph my food and start teaching classes and she tells me about pop up restaurants that have become very popular in London. For those of you that don’t know, it is a dinner in a non restaurant location where strangers will pay to come eat your food. I gather they are in people’s living rooms and cool spaces to which they have access. She was very enthusiastic about that and offering to help and I am going to give it some serious thought. We have a space that’s big enough to accomodate probably 12 people, but I’ve never cooked for that many before. But the wheels have started turning.
This is the first place I have lived where I have had any input into the design of the space. Like most people, we move into an existing space and work with what’s already there. But as we nearly stripped out the space we are in and redesigned the space, I now live in a place that suits me and my stuff.
As I am hoping to teach from my kitchen, the kitchen layout was very important. Considering I wasn’t sure what I was doing, it turned out really well. It is purely by accident since I thought the space would end up to be much bigger and I was very disappointed with the way it turned out. However, now that I have moved in and started using it, the space works really well. I am short so I did away with hanging cabinets. I don’t like them visually and they are also very impractical when you are 5’1″. Instead, I have drawers underneath counters holding all my kitchen equipment. I also have three tall cabinets which hold my larder and spices. The two things I insisted on were a heavy duty stove and large fridge. They both dominate the kitchen, but I get so much use out of them that it doesn’t matter. Here’s what it looks like. Well, here was supposed to be a picture of my kitchen but my camera is on the fritz so the photo will have to wait until the camera comes back from the shop. Anyway, off to make dinner, chawan mushi, a savoury egg custard, stewed daikon, rice and leftovers.
Had a couple of friends over for lunch today. On the menu, grilled filet steak, string beans in sesame sauce, freeze dried tofu, miso soup and mushroom rice. I was very satisfied with the result, I think my friends liked it too. I usually take lots of short cuts and use premade things when I cook for family but today I made everything from scratch and actually it doesn’t take that much longer and it tastes so much better. It is all about organisation and planning things out. I meant to take a photo of the table laid out but I forgot. I even had the camera out on the table, can’t believe it. I will try again the next time I entertain.
Tonight is the first nutrition class after a long holiday break, I hope we aren’t expected to remember anything, because I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten the little I knew before the break. I think my challenge for tonight will be staying awake for the whole class.
I went to class and it went pretty quickly. There were some new people in the class and they are friendly so it made the breaking into groups easier. Not that the other people in the class are unfriendly, but I get the impression they take this all very seriously. Talked about fad diets and ways of eating as a philosophy. Somehow I thought we were nearly done with the course but it turns out we are only half way there. Oh well.
I’m having some friends over for lunch on Tuesday so have been putting together a menu. I made a quick string bean with sesame dressing as a side dish for lunch yesterday, don’t know if it will make it onto the menu for Tuesday. The basic composition is rice, a soup and three other dishes. One can be cold, one hot and the last usually is a meat or fish of some sort. Obviously within that, you can play with the combinations but if you can put 5 items in front of your guests, you’ve got the basics covered. As far as home cooking is concerned, none of the techniques are that difficult, it is a matter of making sure all the different dishes work well together. When I cook for my family, very often it is one main dish, rice and soup or sometimes, it’s just a one dish meal. Japanese food isn’t always delicate and beautiful, sometimes it is hearty and homely. I’ll try and take some photos on Tuesday so you can see.
Here is a piece I wrote for my friend Silvia’s site on women and employment.
Self esteem is a fundamental requirement for a successful life. As social beings, we derive much of our self worth and self esteem by mirroring those around us. The feedback can be both positive and negative. Some of us are lucky enough to have been brought up in an environment where the positive far outweighs the negative. It is a superhuman task to set about changing your mindset about who you are in a positive way. It can come about through small successes and accomplishments which build self confidence. The setbacks and failures only make us stronger as we discover hidden reserves to deal with obstacles.
Having a job, being able to support yourself as well as a family goes a long way towards giving someone self esteem and dignity. I volunteer for a charity Dress for Success www.dressforsuccess.org/london that helps women to start on that road to confidence and dignity. We work with women from diverse backgrounds who due to circumstances find themselves out of work. We help the long term unemployed, those recovering from mental health issues, soon to be parolees, every woman is unique. Many of them are single mothers and for them to be in employment affects everyone in their family. When these women have a job interview scheduled, they come to us where we outfit them with clothing appropriate for the interview and position. We talk to them about the interview process, but mostly we make them feel good about themselves. By the end of our session, the client is feeling much more positive about the whole interview process and confident of their success. Over and over we hear, “now I don’t need to worry about what how I look” and “I look the part now”. Once they are successful, they come back to us and we give them further outfits to help them go to work everyday. It is an incredibly simple model and it works really well. I love helping our clients and to see the transformation in them at the end of a session is truly rewarding. For our clients, getting the job is the easy part; they will have to fight everyday to learn new skills, new people, and new systems. But if they can stay with it, then those accomplishments and the confidence gained along the way can be something they can turn to when things aren’t going so well. I hope there comes a time when everyone who wants to work can have a job as there is nothing more demoralising then having the desire to work and being denied an opportunity.
I find myself alone this week, everyone is away. It is absolute bliss. I’m sure after a couple of weeks I will be very lonely but for now, as it is such a rarity to be alone in one’s house, I am relishing it. Which leads me to my experience this evening. I am going to the theatre alone. I got an e mail offer and thought, why not? I’m sure it will be fine, but as with all new things, a bit uncertain. I hope it’s good, I’ve only walked out a couple of times at the interval. But it has to be really bad.
I volunteer every Monday at Dress for Success. It is a charity that helps women back into work by providing interview clothing and other support. I have been there for 3 years, I think and it continues to be a great way to spend my time. I’ve met all different kinds of women, some have been wonderful, some impossible to make a connection and some so unhappy that you know they are still a long ways off from being able to have a steady job We only had one client today as the weather is still causing trouble for those travelling in to see us. She left feeling on top of the world and I hope that confidence will come through at her interview. Fingers crossed she is successful and we will have the pleasure of outfitting her for her new job.
Had my first training session at the gym of the new year. Why is it that working with someone else is so much more effective than working out by yourself? I guess that’s why I pay for a trainer, I have the sore muscles today to prove it. The funny thing is, I couldn’t really tell you what we did yesterday that was so strenuous that I should be sore today. I’ve also become very conscious of portion control in the last couple of days. When I was on a good eating/losing weight phase, I was eating every three hours. My portions had crept back up to where I was eating a large enough bowl of cereal for breakfast, that it was holding me until lunch time. So, cut back on the portions and the weight is starting to go down, thank goodness. I have to make it to the gym more frequently than I have been over the holidays, hard when it is so frigid out.
I had tea at a friend’s house in the afternoon to meet her mother who is visiting from the States. I had a really fun time and the hours flew by. I guess we’ve matured to the point that friends’ parents are just people now, maybe at this rate, I will get over my fear of teachers and headmasters sometime in the next decade. I left the house in the afternoon walking over a solid sheet of ice on my street and came home in the early evening to find the street had been gritted. What a difference that makes. I wouldn’t mind the weather so much if the sidewalks were kept clear. I live in mortal fear of slipping and breaking something. Consequently I wear my ridiculous ski boots around in this weather. There are solid patches of ice on the boat basin now, a lot of birds hanging out on it. I guess their feet don’t get cold.
Waiting for my shipment from rice wine shop to arrive so I can start experimenting with sauces. A very different experience from net a porter when my shoes arrived the next day at no extra cost. Of course they didn’t fit, they went back the same day and they are going to send me a different size all for the same original shipping cost. I was unhappy about having to pay shipping, but I am certainly getting my money’s worth.
It’s been flurrying all day, not enough to stick and not cold enough to stick either. Everywhere on the news, they report the chaos in other parts of the country due to the “weather”. I guess this sort of thing happens infrequently enough that the local councils, airports, trains and anyone else charged with keeping people moving feel that you can just grin and bear it for a couple of days until it goes away. Hardly worth spending money on, for 2 days a year, right? Usually yes, but if the predicted 10 more days of sub zero temps continue, we are all in big trouble. Eventually I will have to leave my house. Already today I have put off a grocery foraging trip since I don’t want to go out in this mess. I hate being cold, I hate being wet so the combination is very unappealing. I have to go out tomorrow so perhaps momentum will carry me to get the shopping done as well. We’ll see.
Have been reading and thinking about how to structure my cooking class and have started to have some ideas. I am a huge convenience fan. I like good food, I like good ingredients but I think anything that takes hours to prepare, I’d rather pay someone to serve it to me than make it for myself. I always thought of prepared seasonings as the full of chemicals stuff they sell, which certainly has it’s place and I am not above using them liberally. But as I am discovering from my readings, there exists a tradition of sauces in Japanese cooking that you can make yourself and they can be very handy. I am planning to prepare some of them and experiment with it to see how it all fits together. I just need to find someone to eat the stuff I make since husband is veggie.
Spent the day shopping with my 17 year old son. He is at an age where sometimes he is required to dress up. So, he wanted some clothes he could wear to parties that wasn’t his dress suit. So, off we went to Spitalfields and the surrounding neighbourhood. Oh yes, he wanted shoes to go with that as well. We looked at all the stalls in Spitalfields that did men’s clothes as well as individual shops, he tried on quite a few jackets and things but vintage is really hit or miss and today was more of a miss. You have to be very patient and persevering and I’m not sure he has the stamina. Towards the end, he just couldn’t look in any more shops so we went to eat in Shoreditch, had a big meaty lunch and came home. I cherish these days we spend together because I know they won’t last forever and I do enjoy his company.
I have to make another trip to the Japan Centre to stock up on supplies. I think I will go on Wednesday and prepare some basic things on Thursday. I’m starting to understand when people say it’s all about being organised.
Can’t believe regular life resumes tomorrow, I’ve had a fun couple of weeks off. Although in a household where no one goes to work, it seems like everyday should be the same. But even within our random household, the holiday time has been a bit special. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.
The new year is starting off with a sore throat. Took a very long and cold walk yesterday to St. Paul’s. I had never been in there before, so I didn’t realize it would cost £11 to get in. £22 for the two of us, so we just peered around from the pillars by the ticket desk. The streets getting there were absolutely empty especially once we got closer to the city. But the cathedral and the area immediately around it was heaving with tourists. It wasn’t quite the same as going to a shrine, it was too soaring and grand, but it was nice to be in a spiritual space to commemorate the new year. Afterwards, we walked over to Kingsland Road and had a Vietnamese lunch, our first since moving out of the neighbourhood.
My food intake has steadily increased and I can tell I need to pay close attention to what I eat again. I don’t think I am going to the gym today, I just don’t feel well enough but I think I will try and cut out the sugar again. I no longer eat white sugar but have developed quite the dried fruit habit and bouja bouja ice dessert thing made on cashews and agave syrup. Basically, sugar is sugar in whatever form it takes and I am addicted to it.
I am seeing my trainer again on Wednesday and boot camp resumes next Saturday so hopefully I will feel better by then and can kick start my year.
On the menu today, a new batch of hummous, something involving daikon or maybe another pot of curry. Forgot to buy so many things at Japan Centre on Thursday, will have to go back soon.