A month or so ago came the time where if Dave and I wanted to rent this flat for another year, we would have to resign our lease. We were a bit ambivalent about doing so, because we very much hoped to be living in Paisley again by the end of the year, and even if we decided to stay in Dundee, we felt we'd like somewhere a bit bigger, warmer, easier to heat, less leaky.
We've been looking at flats, and found that everything in our price range is much the same as this flat. We've worked out what we pay on bills for both flats, and how much we make in total, and we came to the (startling) conclusion that even with my not working, we'd be better off if we lived in Paisley. Living here means we have nothing spare. No security. And Dave, the main earner, is frustrated and undervalued and often unhappy work. Paisley is HOME. It's where our own wee flat is. It's where our families are (or at least is drastically closer), and most of our friends. We have a garden there, and space, a functional heating system, lots of light. We want to go back and live there.
Of course Dave works in Dundee. He has to live with 25 miles of the lab. And we need the income at least until he finds something else. But we have both felt unsettled and not at home here for a while, Dave particularly.
We spent an evening working through things. A seed of an idea that requires us living apart sometimes, but that will make Paisley home again. We talked some more. We looked at stuff on the internet. It would require compromise on both parts - Dave working away at a job where he doesn't feel valued, and my leaving a job that I adore with children that I truly love. But we'd be able to try to set ourselves up for the next few years, give ourselves a little lee-way, and a lot less stress. And we've decided to do it. Because in the end, even if it's initially part time for Dave, we get to go home.
As of the 28th of August, we will be living in Paisley again. Dave will stay in Dundee (we are looking for a flatshare/lodgings) Monday through Thursday and come home for the weekend until he finds a job that's commutable from Paisley. I spoke to my boss on Thursday, who could not have been more lovely, and we decided I will finish work the following week.
Part of me feels like it's madness, giving up a secure and enjoyable job, spending half the week without my husband. In fact, If we kept living together in Dundee, and I spent another winter travelling through rain and cold and snow, my pay wouldn't even pay our rent and mortgage. Our outgoings are much smaller there, so we could both work part time and manage if it came to it. This way we'll be able to save a little too, and look after our rather neglected flat. We'll be working toward living here long term, and feeling settled.
So, I am now job hunting. As is Dave. If I haven't found a job by the time wee move, my job will be sorting out the flat. We hope very much that this will be a temporary situation and that Dave will be living there with me full time within 6 months.
I'm going home. :)
(I'm actually home now. HOME!)
And I get to have a cat...
Sunday, 20 May 2012
|lovely evening (near work, this view is part of my homeward journey)|
I'm trying hard to blog more. This blog is supposed to be a record of my life. Because it's that I can't really schedule posts, I try to just write things fairly soon after they happen. Of course, that means that when I'm super busy blogging just doesn't happen, and then it's three weeks later and I put loads of pressure on myself. It makes me laugh a bit that when I wrote my 30 Before 30 list, I initially aimed to have a weekly feature. Just now, my aim is to blog once a week even if it's just a teeny post.
And so here I am. This week has been really busy at work. I have the luxury in life of working part time. Most people I know work part time when they are either studying the rest of the time, or have children. I've done the studying bit while working almost full time, for a very long time, and now I like having the time to myself. It also means that all housework is done in the week, and Dave and I have the weekends free to do nice things. It's a nice feeling. This week, instead of my usual three days I've done four with two of them being sandwiched by an overnight. Childcare is a brilliant thing to do as a job, and I am very lucky to do something I love, but I have a long commute, and it is a tiring job by nature. In addition, I pulled a muscle in my neck/should at the beginning of the week, which isn't ideal with such a physical job!
|My favourites. I know I live in town. A girl can dream!|
A big bit of what made this week ok was having spent last weekend cooking dinners food. I did a bit more cleaning in the morning and night too. I'm actually going to try to keep doing this - If I spend 20 mins in the morning and evening doing little stuff, that time can be spent on off days doing big jobs. I've also been keeping my sourdough starter alive, so should hopefully have a post on some lovely bread fairly soon.
The weekend has been all about relaxing, recharging for next week. We slept late, I've watched some TV, done a bit of cooking, read, had a bit of a sort of my fabric stash, and done some basic cooking. Today while making fish pie for today and tomorrow's tea(and listening to Dave practice violin), I watched all of Broad City. Design Sponge did a feature on the living spaces of the writer/stars thing week. I clicked through and then found myself watching it all. It is utterly hilarious.
|This pile is for bunting. Some for our bedroom in Paisley,|
some for - dare I say it - Christmastime
In the coming week, everything should go back to normal. Normal work days, hopefully the last of the weird neck twinges, plans for tea and chat with the Dundee girls on Wednesday, and a visit home for some Paisley flat sorting, some lunch and crochet tuition with my sister and sister-in-law, and a gig at the weekend. Dave and I have tried to balance things so we have about the same amount of Dundee weekends as 'home' or away weekends. And, Scotland's weather forecast is for hot (or at least warm), sunny weather for the next couple of weeks.
I had completely worked out a way to segway into this recipe, but I can't remember, so, here is my slight controversial fish pie recipe. I put carrots in. I have had people be completely opposed to this when I've said I do so. I think carrots and fish go, and they're nicer in the pie than out. I like my veg fairly crisp, and if i'm eating fish pie, it's not because I'm looking for crispness.
Fish Pie (with Carrots)
600g mixed fish, in bite-sized chunks (I used packs. They were in the reduced bit in the Co-op. Fishmongers do fish bits for really cheap though).
1 onion, quartered
two medium carrots, diced finely
3 bay leaves
1/2tsp freshly ground pepper
100g butter (cube 50g)
6 medium potatoes, sliced
- stud two of the onion quarters with two cloves each
- chop the other two quarters
- add these, milk, carrots, bay leaves, cumin and pepper to a pan
- bring to the boil
- simmer for 5 mins over a medium heat
- add fish, and simmer 5 more minutes, till cooked through
- meanwhile, add potatoes and salt to a pan of boiling water, and boil 20 mins, till soft
- drain milk from fish, into a bowl
- preheat the oven to 180c
- Now, it's rue time. You can put your fish and veg in your oven dish and make it separately in a pan if you like. my lazy way is below.
- put the fish and veg back into the pan
- add the flour and stir well
- add the cubed butter, and when completely melted, stir through
- add a little of the milk back in, the sauce should be clumpy and sort of paste like
- allow to bubble for a couple of minutes
- gradually add milk, a ladleful at a time, allowing sauce to thicken between each addition
- it's ready when it has the consistency of custard, coating the back of a spoon
- put the pie mix into an oven dish, allowing enough space at the top(at least a couple of inches) for potato.
- Mash the potato. I generally give it a good mash, then add the butter and mash again, and finish off by whisking it.
- spread on top of the fish
- drag a fork along the top of the potato to make ridges. This is how you get crispy bits. If you are a fancy pants, you could pipe it.
- Bake in the over for 30 mins, till sauce begins to bubble out the side, and the top is all crispy and lovely.
You'll get 4-6 portions out of this. A sixth is the perfect size portion for me, it's very filling. Dave, however had two portions and two sliced of bread. You might want to consider who you are feeding it to!
We haven't had fish pie in ages, and warm, hearty dinners like this will be ignored in favour of salad and noodles when it's warm, so I'm glad we had it.
Now, I'm away to read Mollie Makes, and eat my pudding!
Sunday, 13 May 2012
|the kitchen table|
I also, of course, like eating. Over the past few months, we have had to put ourselves on a budget, and because we like socialising, and music, and books, it means that a lot of our food has been fairly basic - a lot of vegetarian, and a very lot of carrot and lentil soup.
|dumpling soup for our brewing colds|
This week, I will be at work for 4 days and be doing an overnight between two, which means there will be very little time to spend the budget in a social manner. I will also be really tired, hungry, and unlikely to want to cook. With this in mind, I planned for this weekend to be a foodie weekend, and we spent most of our budget on food.
I have a foodie weekend every now and again. They are usually at the beginning of the month, so doing one in the middle is quite fun. We do a big shop at the beginning, and then I spend both days cooking, and reading about food, and eating, and preparing meals for the week. I am lucky to have loads of cookbooks, but this weekend, my reading has come from blogs. I subscribe to relatively few food blogs, but I horde posts from my favourite ones for weekends such as these. My long-term loves are Smitten Kitchen, Tea and Cookies, Travelers' Lunchbox, Bread & Honey (no longer updated, but worth a look), The Wednesday Chef, Eat Like a Girl, A Southern Grace, and Domestic Sensualist. Recent(ish) addtions are The Foodie Historian, Grilled Cheese Social, A Wooden Nest (which is a lifestyle blog, but is food heavy), Shutterbean and Moveable Feast. I'd appreciate any other suggestions!
|sourdough starter, attempt four, day one. apparently this is how it should look|
I've spent the last two days sitting at the kitchen table, reading and cooking, occasionally getting up to stir, or baste, or top up a pot, or take something out of the oven. Boiling a chicken and making stock - does anyone else hate stripping chicken? - then making the stock into dumpling soup. We bought the dumplings from the Chinese supermarket, but I'm going to learn how to make them I think - recipe suggestions would be lovely please! Kneading bread dough and baking bread. Boiling a pork hock for sandwich fillings - which is much cheaper and nicer than buying sliced ham. Baking biscuits and realising I don't actually like cashew butter. Attempting another sourdough starter - this is attempt four and it now sits atop out internet route for warmth. And lastly, or at least the most time consumingly, brining and roasting pork/
Everything (except the biscuits) has been fairly successful this week, but the pork was something else. I saw Gizzi Erskine talking about brining pork on twitter recently, and whilst I'd heard of it done for barbequed meat, I'd not thought to do it for a roast. I had a wee panic about getting the volume of one of the brining ingredients wrong, and tweeted the lovely lady on the off-chance she could help, and got a very detailed reply, which stopped me fretting for the next 18 hours! This might be my new go to roasted thing, and I never thought I'd say that. Roast chicken and I are firm friends. This roast pork though, IT IS GOOD. And whilst brining requires a bit of forethought, it is easy and cheap, and it makes a real difference to the moisture and flavour of the meat. The flavour it puts in is subtle, and I am planning to work on different brining spices and gravy flavours combinations. I recommend it highly, which is why I'm going to stick a recipe here.
Brined Pork Roast and Basic Gravy
1kg pork roast, with a good layer of fat for crackling.
80g salt (I used sea, I assume normal is fine) + 5g for cooking
10g peppercorns, crushed (plus a little for gravy)
5g mustard seeds (a dollop of mustard would also do)
5g flour for gravy
The night before you plan to cook pork
- put everything except pork in a pan
- bring to the boil
- simmer 30 mins
- leave to cool 30 mins
- place your pork in a bowl/tupperware a little bigger and taller than it is
- pour over brine, making sure to scrape in all the herbs
- cover loosely, and set in fridge for a minimum of 12 hours (mine had 18, I'm going to try 24 next time)
To cook pork
- preaheat oven to 200c
- drain off brine
- pat pork dry, taking care over the fat
- if it isn't already scored, score your fat through failry closely, till about 2/3 of the way through the fat
- place in an roasting dish/tin
- sprinkle 5g of salt over fat and pat in
- bake at 200 for first 20 mins,
- turn down to 160, cook for a further 1h 10mins, till fat is crackly and brown, and juices run clear
- remove from oven
- place roast on a warm plate, and cover in foil
- allow to rest fo 30 mins (the foil hat and warm plate will keep it warm
- to make gravy, heat juices over a medium heat, add flour and whist till it thinkens. Our gravy was quite salty, so a wee bit of pepper was needed to balance it out.
|lovely moist meat|
I am quite excited to try different flavours and lengths of time with this. I often make pork gravy with a bit of cider, so I want to try brining with apple juice. I definitely want to try 24 hour brining.
|mmm salty crackling|
My last bit of cooking today will be making more stock from the ham hock bones. I can't resist an opportunity to have proper stock. As I said up there ^ somewhere, if anyone has new food blog suggestions or a dumpling recipe, I'd be most grateful!
I hope everyone has had a good weekend. :)
Sunday, 6 May 2012
After several lots of ripping out the stitches, I have something that at least resembles crochet. The book is 'The House at Riverton'
So, a month ago, I wrote about having a lovely relaxed time on my week off, and then times sped and work got busy, I got ill and better again, work got even busier, and suddenly it was this week,
|American M&Ms, Thanks D!|
|A small bit of joy in the ENDLESS public transport.|
|Boots at work. Oh the glamour!|
|There has been a lot of this going on.|
|The book is 'The Little Women Diaries'. I think they'd approve of my chosen snack!|
|Bulk cooking at work, Of course, I had one of these as a cook's perk!|
|The beginning of crochet...|
This week I have spent 17 hours and travelled roughly 650 miles on public transport. I got my winter coat back out, because the weather was awful. I have gone to the park on the two warm days with the kids. I have cooked nothing at home, while cooking a lot at work. I have begun to teach myself to crochet. I have had a whole day with some very lovely girls, eating D's delicious baked goods - including the best focaccia I've ever eaten. I've been to Whole Foods for the first time, and got cashew butter from the machines. I have read many books! I voted in the local elections and got angry at the low turn out, but was happy to see the candidate I wanted to win take a seat. After the day with the girls, I met Dave in ton for a few drinks for a friends's birthday, and we baorded my 15th (and last) bus of the week, the last bus back to Dundee. We arrived home to a rainy Dundee just after 1am.
Today- after a week of constant movement - I have napped, read, tried to catch up on blogs and Pinterest, listened to Johnny Cash and The Beautiful South (I know, I am SO cool). I had the foresight to build cleaning, washing and tidying into the mornings and the hour of evening I have after work this week - less sleep in the mornings, but I haven't had to do anything much today. And we had lasagne from Lidl for tea. I'm going to spend the last few hours of the day getting ready for the next busy week, and having some quiet time.