Wonderful Wednesday Wok. Fruits of the Forest Pie!

Because he’s off for Friday and is only working the morning tomorrow, Jon decided to come home for lunch today. So we had the Wok and an at-home lunch on the same day. Always makes me happy when that happens. 🙂

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Recipe 1: Cottage pie.

Made entirely with cheap ingredients, as a bit of a challenge. Around £2 for the lot and it made 4 servings, so that’s pretty good. Jon gave it a 4/5 in terms of quality, but that’s not bad considering how little it cost and how filling it was!

Ingredients:

-800g/28.2oz potatoes

-300g/10.6oz mince

-100g/3.5oz bacon

-1 tin peeled plum tomatoes (400g/14.1oz)

-1 carton chopped tomato (400g/14.1oz)

-50g/1.7oz butter

-2tbsp herbs

-1tsp chilli

-1tsp pepper

-1tsp salt

-1/2tsp cinnamon

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Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-small pot

-potato masher or fork

-deep baking tray

Recipe:

1: Wash,  maybe peel, and slice the potatoes into small cubes.

2: Boil them.

3: Take the tomato, the bacon, 25g/0.9oz of butter, the chilli and the herbs. Mix together in the tray.

4: Put the bacon mix in the oven at 180-200C/355-390F for around 20min.

5: When the potatoes are soft, almost entirely drain them.

6: Mash the potatoes with the last of the butter, the salt, the pepper and the cinnamon.

7: Add the mince to the baking tray.

8: Spoon or pipe the potato evenly on top of the mince mix.

9: Bake at 160C/320F for around 1h.

There is no way to make this look more attractive. In many ways it's kind of worse than curry...

There is no way to make this look more attractive. In many ways it’s kind of worse than curry…

Recipe 2: Fruits of the Forest Pie.

Very, very easy and very cheap if you don’t use expensive jam or swap it for honey and a dash of fruit juice. As it stood, we had a jar of 100% fruit jam that I wanted to use. Also amazingly good. Jon gave it a 4.5/5.

Ingredients:

Makes 6 large slices or 8-12 smaller ones.

-200g/7oz plain flour

-150g/5.3oz butter

-100ml water

-3tbsp sugar/honey/concentrated grape/other sweetener

-200g/7oz mixed berries

-100g/3.5oz raisins/sultanas/currants

-2tbsp berry jam

-1 egg

Utensils:

-2 mixing bowls

-1 fork or cutter

-1 spoon

-1 rolling pin

-1 small, sharp knife

-1 brush

-1 baking tray

Recipe:

1: Mix the flour, sweetener and butter together until crumbs are formed.

2: Add the water little by little until the consistency of the dough is firm to the touch, elastic and not sticky. You won’t need all the water.

3: Place the dough in the fridge to cool.

4: Mix the berries, jam and raisins together in a bowl. Don’t worry about rehydrating the raisins, they will rehydrate themselves when cooking!

5: When the dough is cooled, take it out and break off 2/3 of it. Work the dough until it’s pliable again.

6: Roll it into a ball and roll it out until its as big as the pan, plus the height of the sides, plus about 1cm.

7: Grease the pan.

8: Carefully lower the dough into your pan. Press it into the corners.

9: Place in an oven at 160C/320F for 10-15min.

10: Whisk the egg.

11: Take the pie base and brush it all over with the beaten egg. Place back in the oven for 5min.

12: Fill the pie with the berry mix.

13: Take the other 1/3 of the dough and work it.

14: Roll it into a ball and roll it out so that the sections will go across the pie.

15: Using your sharp knife, slice the dough into a quadrilateral. Slice it into 6 or 12 strips.

16: Lay the strips over the top of the pie, weaving them.

17: Squish the strips onto the side of the pie and add egg to ensure they stick.

18: Glaze with more egg.

19: Bake at 160C/320F for 50min.

You can save the remaining egg for scrambled eggs or an omelet.

A more photogenic dish.

A more photogenic dish.

Mmm, pie!

Mmm, pie!

 

And that’s what Jon had for lunch today. He was very pleased. 😀

Money-Saving Book. Mending Clothes.

Another excerpt from my Money-Saving Book, currently subtitled The Good Housekeeper’s Guide to Economizing”. Still no clue on the main title. Working on a cover picture though.

The previous excerpts were on supermarket grocery shopping and time management. This one is on mending various items of clothing, from the chapter on clothes.

-Holes and tears (cotton, linen and thin synthetics).

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Some jogging trousers suffering from run-in with an unexpected hawthorn bush, a vengeful door taking a bite from your shirt or kids being kids and wrecking every item of clothing they own; we’ve all been here at some point. Usually a thin tear, though sizes and shapes may vary. And you’re unsure how to deal with it. Well, here’s how.

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For formal-wear: If a smart shirt, school shirt, tie, dress, blouse or scarf gets a tear, the first thing to assess is where it is. A torn pocket can be easily sewn back on, but a tear at the ribs is harder to deal with. The best solution for a small hole which is already near a seam is to undo the seam a bit and fold it in. If it’s really quite small, you can often fix it with small, even stitches done from the inside of the item. Some of the best solutions, however, are to customize it, which I shall go into in greater detail below.

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For informal/kids wear: Cut out a piece of fabric into a nice shape and simply patch the item. If that’s a bit adventurous, you can always buy iron-on patches online, that come in pre-made shapes. Iron them on, then stitch them a bit, to secure them. A knee-patch on some baggy trousers or a kids’ blouse covered in cool patches can actually look pretty awesome and individual.

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For practical clothes: If you need the item to be sturdy again, such as with gardening clothes, jiu-jitsu outfits or heavy-duty work gear, the best solution is often to get some thick thread and just stitch it as securely as possible. It may not look as nice, but in these cases a patch may not quite do the job.

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Holes and tears (denim, canvas and wool).

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Heavier, woven materials tend to tear in a different way to lighter ones. It usually involves some rubbing-away of the material, which can make it hard to just stitch back together or patch over. Eventually, the material wears around the stitches and comes undone again. This can happen with scarves, hats, gloves, jumpers, socks, coats, jeans, jackets and cardigans. The solution to this is to darn them. If you don’t know what darning is: no I didn’t just swear and, no I didn’t just suggest giving up. Darning is a process where you replace worn or torn fabric by sort of weaving, sort of knitting, sort of sewing the hole shut.

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A simple darn is suitable for denim, socks and canvas. You usually need nothing more than strong cotton or thin wool thread. Here is where you sew from right to left and left to right, up to down and down to up, weaving the needle in and out of the threads you’ve just sewed. It sounds more difficult than it is, but is easy once you’ve got the hang of it. You’re basically sewing across the hole until your threads are so interwoven and so densely packed that they’ve filled it in. Depending on how big the hole is, this can be a quick task or a very long one.

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Some forms of darning, especially those used on wool jumpers and other Winter-wear, is to follow the pattern created by a knitting-needle to fix the hole almost imperceptibly. For this you usually need wool of an appropriate colour and thickness and a wide-eyed needle. It may take a while to identify the knitting-pattern and get the hang of replicating it, but it is worthwhile to know and, plus, you have your favourite jumper back!

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Holes and tears (plastics, leathers and furs).

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As they are not thread-based materials, a plastic or animal-derived fabric is often hard to fix. This is because most threading would be very obvious. So, here are different approaches for different types of ‘unsewable’ materials. I will list the plastic-based ones first, so that those who wish to escape discussion of leather and fur can do so.

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Pleather: Often, the thin upper layer of pleather breaks and lifts away from its backing, looking like something has been peeling it like an orange. Not a good look. The best way to fix this is to insert fabric glue beneath every side of the tear and press it down. Start at one end and be sure not only to glue the part that lifts up, but also the main fabric. This is so the pieces can’t be pulled apart again. As fabric glue dries slowly, you can adjust the lay of the tear until it’s just right and looks like a natural fold in the material. Hang it up away from other clothing, dust and damp for a few days. After this, find a polish suitable for pleather (make sure it’s colourless or in the right colour) and gently polish around the area with small dabs. This should re-blend the colours and lessen any scuffing. When scuffing is severe, it’s best to dilute fabric glue with suitable polish and “brush” it in, making sure to keep strokes going in one direction. This minimizes the damage.

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Meltable plastics: The best solution is usually to use fabric glue on the tear. If you can warm the tear area so the fabric is more pliable and likely to bond with the glue, then do so. Just be EXTREMELY careful not to overheat it or use a naked flame, as it will melt and some can catch fire. Holding it to a radiator or using a hair-drier on it for a minute or so would do the trick. Avoid using irons, candles, matches…etc Once the area is warmed, add the fabric glue and press both sides together.

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Non-meltable plastics: Trim a small, ½mm-deep fray along both edges of the tear. Apply glue and press them together. Flatten with your fingers, a spatula, a butter-knife or a similar heavy, flat-edge instrument. Leave to dry.

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From here until the next material category I am discussing animal-derived materials.

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Smooth leather: Use the pleather trick, except, as leather doesn’t have a “backing”, insert some strong fabric beneath it to glue it onto. Make the fabric as close to the leather colour as possible, but a shade darker is better than a shade lighter. Gluing so it overlaps is also fine, but remember to polish out the marks around the edges once the glue is dry.

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Thick leather: This is your biker leathers, your leather shoes and your heavy-duty bags. Things you don’t want to just lightly glue back down. First step is to peel back the backing a little. Unstitch it as near to the area as possible and peel it back until you can comfortably work around the hole. Use the strongest super-adhesive you can find and some solid leather. Glue the leather firmly behind the hole, skin-side-up. Turn it over and glue the edges of the tear onto the under-patch. If you’re more bothered about function than cosmetic value, get a leather patch (maybe something plain, maybe something cool, whatever suits you) and stitch it firmly down over the hole. Next, apply leather polish to the top and a hardening mixture to the underside. Hang up to dry. A few days later, get it down and apply waterproof paint to both sides of the patching. Make sure to get it around the edges and under the upper-patch seams. Hang it up to dry. It ought to be good to use again after that. If the item in question is a shoe, consider waterproofing the entire inside of the shoe, in case of leaks. Water inside a leather shoe can spell disaster as, when damp, leather wears easily.

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Suede: Suede is basically inside-out leather. If you’re going through this step-by-step and have fixed a couple of smooth or thick leather items, you’ll have noticed how weird the backing looks once its been fixed. This is why suede shouldn’t be fixed with stitches, overpatches or anything stronger than normal fabric glue. Follow the same steps as with normal leather: insert an underpatch, glue the back of your suede down to it with fabric glue and press. As you’ll have to use very little glue, to avoid making stains on the visible parts, get a hair-drier and heat the area after the glue has been applied. This will make it stickier, so it will soak into the patch and the back of the suede and hold them more firmly together. Hang up to dry. Buff with leather protector and, if necessary, re-dye.

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Long-hair fur: Fairly easy to fix if the area won’t be seen. Simply get tapestry thread or leather-based thread, part the fur around the area and stitch the tear together. Be careful not to catch any furs or pull them out, as it may make a larger repair look more noticeable. Treat the tear with a tiny amount of vaseline to make it soft whilst the stitching beds in. Brush the fur back down over it with a soft-bristled hairbrush.

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Short-hair fur: Slightly harder to fix, as the fur parts more easily. This means you risk your needlework being exposed. To avoid this, follow the steps for long fur: part the fur, don’t pull any out. Next, overlap the tear so that the part that’s on top is coming from the direction the fur grows in. This should stop the fur from parting and exposing the stitches. Sew in a straight line (rather than from one side of the tear to the other) going through the upper and lower layer every time. Treat the stitching with a tiny amount of vaseline and brush the fur back into position with a soft-bristled hairbrush.

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Bust seams and scuffed edges.

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An open seam or a scuffed edge may seem unfixeable. But, with the right technique, this job can be made easy. For open seams, cut the broken thread out, sew any loose thread back down and stitch together from the back. If you can’t easily access the back, sew in a zig-zag line from one side of the seam to the other. Find the fold created by the seam. Put the needle into it, then straight back out a few mms up. Move to the other side and do the same. When you draw the thread tight, the stitches should be invisible.

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Broken jewellery (hooks, hoops, chains and wire).

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If you wear a lot of designer jewellery or are forced to wear largely gold because of metal allergies, it can be pretty annoying to find the hook or a link has bent out of shape or broken. Fortunately, a chain or connection hoop that has been bent out of shape or split open is easily fixed. It is worthwhile to invest in some jewellery pliers, as they do the job best and are often useful for many other tasks; but, if you’d rather not, hunt through your toolkit and find the smallest round-nosed pliers you have. They’re the ones that look like cones and end in points: no flat sides at all. You can use them to open, re-shape and close broken links. You can also use them to replace ornaments that used to be attached to the jewellery.

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Broken jewellery (rethreading).

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It’s best to catch something that needs rethreading before it’s too late and it falls apart. Many jewellers offer the service when you buy a more expensive item off them or when you pay to have it done, but, for your everyday jewellery, here’s a step-by-step: take an appropriate thread (metal-based threads are always preferable) and measure out twice the length you need it to be, add two inches and cut; thread it through a needle; even out the thread so it folds in half at the eye of the needle, tie the loose ends together tightly; unthread your beads carefully onto some fabric (the beads ought to weigh it down and the roughness of the fabric ought to stop them from rolling out of order); if you’re particularly worried about losing the order, then remove and thread one by one; save the original clasps if possible; rethread the beads; once rethreaded, tie off the end by the needle’s eye and cut it free; firmly attach the thread to the clasp. The best replacement clasps are the ones that pinch down on the ends of the thread, but remember to wrap the thread tightly in leather or faux suede before clasping, so it will be held more firmly. Another option is to add glue before compressing the clasp.

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Broken jewellery (earrings).

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Most earring involve some beads or charms strung onto something. This something can be a fine chain with a stopper, a hoop or a stem with a stopper. These parts are known as being in the category of “findings” and the ones with stoppers are called “headpins”. To fix a broken earring, you must first work out what part is broken. Is it the hook that goes through your ear, the clasp that locks onto your earlobe, the pin that goes through your ear, the backer for the pin or hook, the hoop that the pieces are strung on, the headpin the pieces are strung on, the pieces themselves or any chain involved? Usually the broken part needs replacing, but most DIY and sewing stores and any jewellery store that sells beads will be able to sell you replacements – sometimes these are sold in bulk and sometimes piece-by-piece.

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Once you’ve bought a replacement, then take apart the earring. Normally there are bent “eyes”, chain links and hoops that you can bend open with round-nosed pliers. Open all of them you have to until you reach the broken piece. Swap it for the replacement and reassemble.

You can apply this method to whenever anything fully breaks, but it’s usually necessary with earrings.

WWW. Frying, spices, flapjacks.

This week Jon’s having a chicken stir-fry, fried rice and a sultana and seed filled flapjack.

Oil contents not specific apart from flapjacks so you can measure how much you need for your own foods. Juicier vegetables may need a little more, as will less cooked rice, for example.

Recipe 1: Garlic Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry.

Makes 2 servings.

Ingredients:

-1 cooked chicken breast

-3 small carrots

-1 small parsnip

-3 cabbage leaves

-3 cloves garlic

-olive oil

-salt and pepper

-Chinese five spice

-powdered cloves

-onion powder

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-vegetable peeler

-large frying pan or wok

Recipe:

1: Finely dice the garlic. Cook in the olive oil with the spices until soft.

2: Wash the vegetables and slice them with the peeler. Tear or chop the cabbage leaves into strips. Add to the mix and stir as it cooks, to ensure even softening and browning.

3: Dice the chicken. Add to the mix.

4: Heat thoroughly. Serve.

Recipe 2: Chili Fried Rice.

Makes 1 serving.

Ingredients:

-30g/1oz rice

-olive oil

-chilli powder

Utensils:

-small pot

-frying pan from the chicken

Recipe:

1: Boil the rice until cooked through.

2: Add to the pan once the stir-fry is done.

3: Add the oil and chilli.

4: Stir until the rice has soaked up all the oil. It should be making squeaky sounds and “jumping” in the pan, but not burnt.

Recipe 3: Flapjacks.

Makes 8 servings or 16 snack-sized servings.

Ingredients:

-200g/7oz oats

-200g/7oz plain flour

-1/2 cup oil or fat

-25g/0.9oz sultanas

-50g/1.8oz mixed seeds

-2 eggs

-3tbsp honey

-cinnamon

-powdered ginger

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and spoon

-baking tray

Recipe:

1: Mix the flour, oats and seeds.

2: Add the spices.

3: Add the oil. Stir until crumbly.

4: Add the eggs and honey. Stir in.

5: Mix the sultanas in so as to guarantee an even spread.

6: Pour into a lightly greased tray. Bake at 180C/355F for 25min.

7: Slice.

[8: Optional. Drizzle melted chocolate over them.]

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Working from Home. Starting Up.

As a private tutor, I work largely from home. This was partially intentional, so that I could have children, run a home and earn extra income all at once, without inconveniencing anyone or harming my children, my family or myself. There are many things I’ve learned in the years I’ve worked as a private tutor. One of them is how to get it right. If you’re interested in working from home but uncertain as to how to manage it, read on.

I work here.

I work here.

The first question I’m sure you’d want to ask is “Why work from home at all?” Of course, there are many incentives to work in an office, such as more regular hours, social contact, promotion opportunities and the likes. But there are many perks to working from home as well.

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For starters, you often work your own hours. Want to sleep until 8am? Start work at 8.30 or 9.00. Want a Wednesday off? Have it off. Want to work all Sunday? Do as you please. This means you have more room to enjoy yourself too. You can do your phone-calls and emails in the morning, go for a walk or a swim or shopping in the afternoon and do your writing and book-keeping in the evening before going to bed.

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Next, it’s easier to work, especially if you don’t see your clients at home. Little risk of running late, little concern about messy hair or improper shoes. You can get your favourite coffee when you like and you know where the printer paper is. If you feel a little under the weather, your car breaks down or you missed breakfast, you can continue to arrange your day stress-free. You could even have a nap at lunch-time if you feel you need one.

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And, of course, working from home can earn you more money per hour, either because you’re being paid more, or because your overheads are low. Even if you’re on the same paycheck or working for the same company, the elimination of packed lunches, travel costs and potentially paying someone to keep your house in order means your income has been boosted. You could even use a from-home job to boost your income when you can only work part-time or when you’re studying.

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Of course, more per hour doesn’t necessarily mean more in total or even as much as you need. Sometimes you can work from home for a company, which will pay you a similar amount to the office version of the job, making the from-home option infinitely better. But working from home may also involve a customer-based paycheck, as with tutoring, art or writing. So how do you go about making your work from home earn you the money you need?

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The very first step is accountability and responsibility. Unlike in an office, you can rarely blame your own failures on other people. In an office, it’s perfectly possible you’ve been assigned too much work or too little work, been given a deadline that’s too early or too vague, been set to work with someone useless or who won’t let you do anything, etc. When working from home, you assign the work, you set the deadlines and you choose the co-workers and, to an extent, the clients. If an error is made, check in with the boss: what did you do to cause this problem? It’s important to understand that you’re the big manager here, so you need to think carefully about every decision you make. You need to plan ahead. Not just next week or next month. At least twelve months ahead. You can adjust your plans and long-term goals as you progress, but make sure to have these plans and goals to begin with. To wander directionless is to wind up anywhere.

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Now, let’s not worry about qualifications or interests to start off. You may hit lucky, but first and foremost you’re in this to make money. So you need to ask yourself: what from-home jobs can pay as much as I need? Not as in what ones could pay it if you’re lucky. Think of what ones provide what you need around 50% of the time, discounting abject failures (unless your plan is to become one). Don’t consider yourself beyond failure, but don’t set yourself up for it either. Think of whether these people set long-term goals, planned it out and gave in their all. If they did and over half the time they failed to meet your minimum required income, then perhaps you should reconsider.

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Narrow the work down to jobs that work in your area. You need to find that sweet-spot between “this work isn’t in demand here” and “I am flooded with competition”. You need customers, but you need a gap in the market.

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You also need to make sure there is a continual demand for this service or product. The other option is, of course, routine high spikes of demand. Either way, it needs to pay you well over the year. If you’re barely scraping the basics two months and the cash runs dry for a third before demand spikes, the demand had better be good. If the demand only recently appeared, it may quickly disappear. Monitor trends. Consider the possibility for repeat customers or being outcompeted. Ask yourself how to sell what you offer, sell it all year, get people coming back or recommending you and keep the demand high enough that any dry spells will not hurt you any.

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Don’t do anything yet. Don’t spend a penny or a cent.

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You now need to ask yourself if you could do this. Not if you can do it now, but simply if you could. You may need a qualification, a license, a vehicle, an office. If the demand and pay are good enough, these will be a mere investment. If it costs you £2000 to get a second-hand car and you can earn your basic income + £2000 in the first month or over the first three months, then you invested. From the third month that money becomes profit. Same goes for everything else. So, just ask yourself if you can do it. Can you meet the demand, manage the clients, sort the budget, get the qualifications and put in the actual man-power? Could you hire employees if the demand becomes too much to handle? Think about where you’d take it, how you’d deal with the ups and downs and whether you could deal with the pressures of being “the Man”. Finally, think about how much you’d enjoy or at least tolerate the work. If you’ll hate it and pray for freedom every day, then maybe you should look at something else. If you could live with it for the money, go for it.

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If you decide to go for it, now you have to acquire all the necessities. If you’re looking at selling something, you need to consider supply, demand, transport and stocking. If you’re looking at tutoring, you may simply need books and transport or you may need to consider sorting a room in your home into a classroom. Ask yourself what the components of your new job will be and make sure you have them. This includes advertising, paperwork, qualifications, transport and even sorting your taxes. Make a list.

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Now you’ve worked out what you need and made a list, work out the costs. Reassess. Consider how much time and money you’ll need to prepare. And yes, you’ll need to invest time and spend money before you’ve got a single client. Think of it as opening a store (this is a lot easier if you’re actually opening a store, but embrace the metaphor anyway): you need to have your shop front ready and your shelves stocked before you can sell. If you don’t have a shop front (qualifications, recommendations, location, etc) you don’t have anywhere or any way of selling. If you have nothing on your shelves (product or service), then however many customers come in won’t change the fact they can’t buy anything. If you don’t advertise yourself well, then you have no customers. Look at your list and get stocked up. Advertise when there are a few weeks before you can start. Book-in clients for the exact day you tell them you’ll start. Don’t start late. Allow time for if they’re late. Be the very embodiment of the Prussian Virtues.

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And remember to be proactive. Advertise. Call and email potential clients. Survey them. Get their honest opinion. Get them to sign their names down. Sell yourself and don’t take no for an answer. Nobody is going to sell for you. Nobody is more invested or more dedicated than you. Show this, at least to yourself.

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Prepare to be knocked back. There are ups and downs to everything. You have rejected the easy, reliable path of 9-to-5 salaried work. Don’t chicken out when it gets tough. Running out of clients? Advertise again. Running out of stock? Stock up. Running out of investment or returns too slow? Get the money from anywhere you can. If you’ve done this correctly, the ship will only sink if you let it. Don’t give up at the first sign of trouble. If there’s any doubt in your mind, ask yourself why this is. Your business is more likely to fail due to poor decisions or quitting than it is to fail due to random chance. If there is any way you can pick it up, then pick it up.

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But don’t assume it could never fail. You could get something wrong. You could find the pressure too much. Or random chance could sneak up on you after all. Consider what work you can return to, who you can rely on and where you can turn to if it all goes South. A man without an escape plan isn’t confident or serious. A man without an escape plan is unwise.

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And with that, I will leave you for now.

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TTFN and Happy Hunting.

First garden update.

First garden update.

Considering the garden is doing reasonably well, I decided earlier this week I’d show the progress I’ve made since mid January. Granted, most of the fruits of my labour are small or yet to sprout or be collected, but the difference is marked and I thought I may as well offer an update now and another when we have hens, the cabbages are huge and the bushes bearing berries.

So, this is what the garden looked like in mid January.

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Both photos taken from the patio.

Frost on the ground, flowerbed a bit weedy, no signs of pretty or edible plants beyond the pots. Much work needed to be done!

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The first step I took: turning the flower bed. For some reason it made me very proud.

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The first batches of things I planted. The berry bushes are just sticks and the peppers and beans in the trays didn’t grow. The second batch of peppers and beans are doing nicely, though.

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The first lot of seeds.

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Now for the garden as it currently is. Firstly,the patio pots have been reorganized. There are flowers and bushes and herbs already in some. The two troughs have peas in them and the empty pot next-to them will have coriander. There are multiple flowers in that green pot, along with a solar-powered light, to guide us up when we get home late and to guide students back when they leave late. In the far background there’s a birdbath+table, a hanging bird table and a pallet for the birds to hide under and sit on.

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Later1

Also, note the chicken coop and run. On the 26th there will be four re-homed ex-battery hens in there. I found it on Gumtree along with all the necessities for keeping hens (bedding, feed, anti-mite-spray, feeders, etc) and cleaned it, set it up and painted it myself. All in all, around £130, including petrol and the huge bucket of waterproof paint.

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The path is lined with three battery-powered lights (with butterflies as dispersers, because), to light the way at night. I dug a new flower-bed. At Jon’s request, there is a strip of greenery left between the two beds and a grassy path leading to it. We will be putting a bench there and there are already solar-powered lights set in. For this photo I was standing on our compost-heap, near which I will dig another bed to plant pumpkins in (they like very rich soil).

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The current batch of seedlings and seed pots. Lettuces, tomatoes, beans, beets, sunflowers, leeks, peppers, chilies, etc.

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Some of the parsnips I planted in January seem to be taking (thin leafed shoots to the right of the daffodils).

Bed1

New bed I dug. The little green things in the bottom left (near the border) are peas and beans. The big leafy things at the back are rhubarb. The rows of green are mystery bulbs. Not sure what they are, but looking forward to finding out! The slope in the back is where peppers, tomatoes, chilies and courgettes will be transplanted when they’re stronger. Not sure what’s going between the peas and beans and the mystery bulbs yet.

Bed2

The flowery corner of the flowerbed. Sadly can’t find the photos of when the primulas and daffodils were at their best. We’ve had many visiting bees trying to nest there, so I may get a bee home for them.

Bed3

Further up there are the berry bushes interspaced with sunflowers. See that leafy green thing in the mid-right? That’s a redcurrant. Most noticeable growth goes to the redcurrants and gooseberries. Award for least activity goes to the blackcurrants. Award for fussiest plant goes to the raspberries.

Bed4

Those teeny-tiny things are seedlings from when I went crazy and just spread random seeds everywhere. I think they’re the forget-me-nots. Looking forward to seeing them come up.

Bed5

Leaving good space between these, but may plant some annuals in-between. Two roses and a leafy bush. Want them to grow big and strong! 🙂

Map.

A quick sketch of the current plans for the garden. Still got much to do, but it will be lovely when it’s done. 🙂

Pretty much every bag of seeds cost from 0-99p, every bush and plant cost 99p-£1.50, all the lights cost 99p each and the coop cost £130 total, so it’s not like I’m going all out and spending hundreds on it, either. Maybe nearing £180 by now, but doing well.

Wonderful Wednesday Wok. PIE, more gari and butter-icing.

Something a bit more creative this week. A chicken pie for mains and spiced bread with cinnamon butter-icing for pudding. All made using Gari.

Recipe 1: Chicken Pie.

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Ingredients:

-300g gari or another coarse flour

-100g butter

-5 eggs

-chicken scraps (200-300g)

-300g cooked potato, cabbage and carrot

-200g cooked peas

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and fork

-greased or nonstick baking tray

Recipe:

1: Mix the flour with the butter and the eggs until a rough dough is formed.

2: Divide in half. Spread one half across the base of a greased baking tray.

3: Bake at 160C for 35min.

4: Cut up and layer the chicken and vegetables along the base of the pie. Add the peas on top.

5: Roll out the remaining dough to fit as a lid. Place it over the pie and press the sides down into the base of the pie.

6: Bake at 160C for 35min.

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Recipe 2: Spiced Bread with Cinnamon-Butter-Icing.

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Ingredients:

For the bread:

-200g Gari or rough flour

-6 eggs

-5tsp cinnamon

-2tsp ginger

-1/4tsp cloves

-2tsp sugar

For the icing:

-100g butter

-5tsp sugar

-1tsp cinnamon

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and spoon

-greased baking tray

-cup and fork

-knife

Recipe:

1: Mix the flour, sugar and spices in a bowl.

2: Crack in the eggs and mix thoroughly.

3: Pour into the baking tray.

4: Bake at 160C for 1h.

5: Leave to cool.

6: Place the butter, sugar and cinnamon in the cup.

7: Use the fork to mash the sugar and cinnamon into the butter.

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8: When the bread is cool, spread the icing over it.

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And that was Jon’s lunch today. 🙂

Getting tempted to steal his chicken pie, looks nice…

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Meat Feast III.

The first two were with our friend C____. This one was with our friends G____ and A____.

C____ is usually here for the meat, the beer and the conversation, so I had to adjust the usual plan this time. We needed background entertainment, more interesting alcohol and a bit more flair to the cooking than relying on the magic of steak, fried eggs and a whole salted and peppered roast chicken.

Checklist:

-Tidy, well-decorated house.

-Good food, including a nice pudding.

-A reasonable, fairly gory film.

-Music or a show for backup entertainment.

-Alcohol of various forms.

-Last-minute dog-accommodation.

Step 1: Sorting the house.

Jon did most of this, as he tidied the living-room, made space on the table for the food and put away anything we’d left out on the furniture. On the other hand I had washed his bike earlier, so I guess he felt we needed to get square. Fair and efficient. 🙂

I had to make sure I was cleaning up as I went, to avoid excessive buildup of dishes and surfaces to wash after the night. Basically, the kitchen was kept in as much of a semblance of order as is possible when you have guests.

Step 2: The cooking.

The food list and recipes were as follow.

Roast Ginger Chicken

We put some bacon on ours, to keep the juices in.

We put some bacon on ours, to keep the juices in.

Ingredients:

-1 chicken

-50g raw peeled ginger

-3tsp lemon juice

-2tsp powdered ginger

-1tsp chinese five spice

-1tsp paprika

-1tsp pepper

-1tsp cinnamon

Utensils:

-small cup and a spoon

-oven tray

Recipe:

1: Mix the ginger, pepper, five spice and paprika together with the lemon juice in the cup.

2: Once the paste is formed, spread it over the chicken. Make sure to get it over the back, under the skin of the breast and in the fold between the thigh and the body.

3: Dust the chicken with cinnamon and a little more pepper.

4: Dice the ginger and place it in the cavity.

5: Place in a preheated oven at 200C for 1h, or until the juices flow clear.

Roast Ginger Potatoes

Ingredients:

-600g potatoes

-the drippings and ginger from the chicken

-mixed herbs

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-the baking tray from the chicken

Recipe:

1: Slice the potatoes into chunks.

2: Roll them in the drippings and herbs.

3: Roast in the oven at 160C for 90min.

And remember to remove the ginger pieces! They look very much like the potato pieces and A____ got a mouthful of ginger. Hilarious though it was at the time, heed my warning.

Roast Leg of Lamb

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Ingredients:

-1 leg of lamb

-2tsp mint sauce (for home-made, mix 1tbsp mint with 1/2tbsp vinegar, 1/4tbsp salt and 1/4tbsp sugar)

-1tsp pepper

-1tsp salt

-1/2tsp ground cloves

Utensils:

-paring knife

-oven tray

Recipe:

1: Score any fat and the first 5mm of the flesh. Ours was pretty lean, so not much to score.

2: Rub in the pepper, salt and cloves.

3: Spread the mint sauce over the lamb, filling the slices.

4: Roast in a preheated oven at 200 for 90min.

Roast Carrots and Parsnips

Ingredients:

-1 large parsnip

-2 large carrots

-lamb fat from the leg of lamb

Utensils:

-potato peeler

-chopping board and knife

-tray from the lamb

Recipe:

1: Peel and top the vegetables.

2: Slice them into chip-sized pieces.

3: Roll them in the lamb fat.

4: Roast at 160C for 20min.

5: Roll or baste them again now they’re softer.

6: Roast for a further 35min, until done.

Lamb and Chicken Gravy

This is really good for making a soup or stew with the leftovers, too!

Ingredients:

-the fat from the lamb and chicken

-2tsp salt

-2tsp pepper

-5tbsp flour

-1 cup boiling water

Utensils:

-small cup and whisk that fits inside it

-gravy boat

Recipe:

1: Mix some boiling water and flour into a thick paste. Add to the fat.

2: Repeat until the flour has run out.

3: Add the remaining boiling water and stir in the salt and pepper.

4: Pour into the gravy boat.

Oyster Mushroom Salad

Ingredients:

-250g baked oyster mushrooms (should be crispy on one side and soft on the other, but not burnt)

-1/2 head of lettuce

-1/2 cucumber

-1/4 onion

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-serving bowl

Recipe:

1: Tear the lettuce leaves and form a bed.

2: Thinly slice the onion.

3: Roughly slice the cucumber and mushrooms.

4: Serve with an oil and vinegar dressing.

Deviled Eggs

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Ingredients:

-10 hard-boiled eggs

-5tsp chilli oil

-1/2tsp salt

-1tbsp thick cream

-1 pinch mixed herbs

-25g cheddar

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-2 mixing pots and forks

-teaspoon

Recipe:

1: Halve five of the eggs.

2: Spoon the yolks into one pot. Mash them with the fork.

3: Mix in the chilli oil and salt.

4: Spoon the mix back into the egg halves

5: Halve the other five eggs.

6: Spoon the yolks into the other pot and mash with a fork.

7: Dice the cheese into 10 small cubes. Place one in each egg.

8: Mix the herbs and cream with the yolks.

9: Spoon the mix back into the egg halves.

Banana-Custard Pudding

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Ingredients:

-4 ripe or overripe bananas

-50g raisins

For the custard:

-5 eggs

-300ml milk

-50ml double cream

-5tbsp sugar

For the pastry:

-200g butter

-300g flour

-1tsp salt

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and spoon

-chopping board and rolling pin (optional, I rolled mine by stretching it with my hands)

-small saucepan

-baking tray

Recipe:

1: Mix the flour and salt. Mash in the butter with cold water and stir until the dough is firm.

2: Roll it out, then into a ball and put it in the fridge. It should be ever so slightly streaky with butter.

3: Place 3 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs into a cup.

4: Stir in the sugar.

5: Warm the milk in a pan with the cream. Don’t let it boil.

6: Slowly mix the milk and the eggs.

7: Break/slice up the bananas and place them in the baking tray. Sprinkle raisins on top.

8: Pour the custard over the bananas.

9: Take the dough out and knead it.

10: Roll it or stretch it into just the right size and shape and place it over the banana custard.

11: Bake in a preheated oven at 150C for 90-120min.

12: Serve with plum and brandy ice-cream.

Leftovers abounded. It isn't a feast if your guests can finish everything, though. :p

Leftovers abounded. It isn’t a feast if your guests can finish everything, though. :p

Step 3: The film.

[WARNING: None of the entertainment is SFW or for kids.]

Seeing as we’d talked about it so much, Jon dug out “Frankenstein’s Army”, which is probably one of the bleakest films with the coolest monsters imaginable. This guy’s my favourite:

 

Step 4: Back-up entertainment.

Nearing the end we watched some anime clips. Namely this video from One Piece

And episode 12 of Bobobo-Bo-bo-Bobo.

http://www.watchcartoononline.com/bobobo-bo-bo-bobo-episode-12-english-dubbed

Jon seems to have this knack regarding keeping a conversation going. Then again, he has more empathy than everyone else in the room put together, so maybe that was it. However it was, he managed to avoid comfortable-but-boring silence overtake the evening on several occasions.

G____ and A____ also brought their dog with them, so that was fun.

Step 5: Drinks.

Served alongside pudding were the drinks. Jon had his usual warm brandy with orange and a vodka, A____ and I had a few G&Ts and rum and cokes.

Thankfully the gin was good, the rum was reasonable, the vodka was strong and nobody but Jon touched his favourite brandy, so all was well.

Step 6: Tidying up.

After a nice afternoon, we had quite a bit of tidying to do. Jon let us have the boiler on full even though it was night and did a lot of the washing-up.

Most of the dishes were done that night and everything else was tidied the next day. The lamb was made into a simple stew for me and the chicken was made into a Celt-food, oat-filled stew for Jon.

All in all, it was good. 🙂