Foody morning — Yum! Plus fantastic podcasts, photography and a wee lolcat

30 August, 2008

I’ve been intending to make some pickled onions for about… well, probably about 25 years, now *g*

I finally got round to starting the process the day before yesterday, when I peeled what felt like a very large quantity of shallots (in the absence of baby onions), made some brine and set the onions to soak in the brine for 24 hours.

This morning I washed, polished and sterilised some jars, packed the onions lovingly in and covered them with a mixture of malt vinegar and pickling spices, with a couple of dried, habanero chillies per jar, since I like my pickled onions hot and spicy.

I like my pickled onions crunchy too, though, and I thought the soaked onions felt a little squidgy as I removed them from the brine, and so I made a third batch–following The Definitive Delia’s Quick Pickled Onions recipe–which haven’t been soaked at all: simply peeled this morning, washed in a dribble of cold water, dabbed dry with a paper towel (so as not to dilute the vinegar) and tumbled into the jar.

I think I have to wait at least 3 weeks before I try them, but I’m quite excited 🙂 My mother used to make pickled onions every year, and they were lovely. The nicest I’ve ever had, though, I bought from a stall at the Southport Show a few years ago, and that’s where I got the chillies idea: they were almost hot enough to blow my head off! Quite wonderful!

I’ve been getting on with various domestic kitchen-related chores for the last week, partly because I’m in the process of mucking out the sty to put it on the market, and while I’ve been doing them I’ve been catching up with the absolutely fantastic range of podcasts over at and The Outdoors Station.

Because I’ve been out of touch for a while I’d fallen hopelessly behind, but this week I was glad of that because it gave me tons of great stuff to listen to. I’ve been through loads of them, including (but not limited to…) The Gourmet Hedgerow, Foraging for Fungi, the whole of Bob’s journey with Lee along the Cape Wrath Trail, Andy‘s Life as a Guidebook Writer and Life as an Outdoor Writer interviews with Paddy Dillon and Mark Richards respectively, as well as his Meet the Bloggers compilation from the 2008 Outdoors Show, Bob’s interviews with the Cicerone Team and with Gayle about the LeJog she and Mick undertook earlier this year in M & G go for a Walk, and one of Bob’s broadcasts from the Friedrichshafen Outdoor Trade Fair, which included his chat with Chris Townsend and John Manning. I’m now working my way through Bob and Andy’s Tale of Two Podcasters, as they made their way along the TGO Challenge in May of last year.

I’ve always loved the podcasts, but I was really quite staggered by the truly fantastic range, quantity and quality of the amazing recordings that Bob and Andy have now accumulated. What a brilliant resource it is, for all of us.

Thirdly, I’ve been over at Andy’s blog, excited by a new Photo Project he’s started, the purpose of which is discussion, debate and information for those of us interested in expanding and developing our photographic horizons. I’ve just bought a DSLR and I’m very keen to learn how to use it, and so I know I’m going to be spending a lot of time over there soaking up all the info that Andy and other photographers more experienced than me have to offer.

Right! Back to mucking out the kitchen, then… First, though, a quick scan at ICanHasCheezBurger… *g*

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Friday night boogie

30 August, 2008

More Tommy 🙂

At 2:55 is one of the coolest little riff-type things I’ve ever seen on a guitar!

Tommy Emmanuel — Nine Pound Hammer

Pathetic self-indulgence, and a conspiracy

29 August, 2008

I heard some sad news today, and now I’m fed up. So I’m going out to buy some junk food and slob around eating it in front of the telly. I can only hope that the bloody tarantula spider doesn’t come out again, and demand my food with menaces.

I mentioned wee creatures invading my space the other day, and I reckon that they’re developing a network now and ganging up against me. Last night I awoke at about 4am to find two wasps buzzing like twin-engined Cessnas around my head in bed. It was pretty scary. More specifically, they were buzzing around the lamp on the side table, which I’d failed to turn off when I’d fallen asleep over John Hillaby’s Journey Through Britain. That was no comfort, though, the lamp being only about 8 inches from my head, and so I had to decamp to the arm chair in the next room and sleep there.

That was scary too, though, since the last time I saw the tarantula spider it was disappearing under the arm chair with a glare, and waving two legs aggressively in my direction. As I fell asleep on the chair, wrapped in my formerly spider infested Rab sleeping bag, I’m almost sure I heard mutterings from the carpet, and I dreamed that the blasted thing had crawled up the sleeping bag onto my tummy and that I’d had to brush it off my chest.

*takes deep, cleansing breath*

I need junk food NOW.

Favourite bits of kit: Equinox Mummy Bivi (188g)

28 August, 2008

I was alerted to the benefits of carrying a bivvy bag even when not intending to actually bivvy when I found myself sleeping a bit cold at night on my second TGO Challenge a couple of years ago, and a friend sent his spare Rab Survival Zone bivvy bag up to Kingussie for me to collect en route to the Lairig Ghru. It didn’t weigh much, and after I’d slipped my sleeping bag into it at night I was toasty warm for the rest of the trip. As a side benefit I found that I was also protected against the risk of accidental Titan mug and Kettley Thing slippages in the tent…

A year or so ago, though, I decided to try to find something even smaller and lighter, and after a bit of searching I came across the Equinox Mummy Bivi on the Winwood Outdoor site. I ordered one, and now I take it every time I go out. It weighs only 188g, and it packs up to almost nothing. In the morning I just pile it back into its little stuff sack (no folding necessary), and squeeze it into any convenient space at the bottom of my pack.

Winwood say:

This innovative bivi is made from super tenacious 1.1oz ripstop. The silicone impregnated bottom and water repellant breathable top provide amazingly lightweight protection for your sleeping bag.
Measures 72-1/2″ to shoulder and 83″l x 33″w overall.

* Webbing loops for stakes
* Mid-length 27″ zipper (#4.5 YKK) for easy access
* Packaged in a reusable no-see-um mesh storage bag
* New Mummy style with micro cord drawstring and mini cord lock
* Weighs only 6.6oz
* Manufactured by Equinox in the USA

I’ve only used it outdoors in the conventional bivvy bag sense once, in Corsica, and it was great. It was a dry night, though, albeit windy, and so I have no idea yet how it would perform in UK conditions.

However, the main reason I carry it is to lend a bit of extra warmth in the tent on unexpectedly cold nights. Even though I tend to sleep quite cold, it converts my very small and light PHD Minimus sleeping bag (520g) into something that will keep me warm in all but the coldest conditions. And having it there means that if I do have a bit of a brainstorm, and decide to sleep outside the tent, I can do so secure in the knowledge that I have some protection for my sleeping bag.

If I can overcome my insect/arachnid aversion I’ll give it a try outside in the Lakes before summer/autumn is out. Watch this space… *g*

Laser Competition — BlogPackingLight’s fantastic modifications

28 August, 2008

One of my favourite places is BlogPackingLight, which is an absolute mine of information, and innovative solutions to a variety of backpacking problems.

In particular, there’s a whole raft of extremely cunning and elegant suggestions for the modification of Laser Competition tents: here and here.

They’re all easy to do. A few of them involve the use of bits and pieces that can easily be purchased from Bob and Rose at, but none of them are expensive, and Bob and Rose are so quick at sending things out that they normally arrive in the following day’s post. (Well, in fact things have *always* arrived the following morning when I’ve ordered from Bob and Rose.)

So! If you have a Laser Competition then haste ye over to BPL and check out those suggestions. Hasten there even if you haven’t got a Competition, because there are all sorts of other clever and interesting ideas for all of us who go camping.

Wee creatures… invading my space!

27 August, 2008

I was sitting watching the television 20 minutes ago when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a HUGE spider leaving my bedroom. Leaving My Bedroom! In total Stealth Mode.


I confess that this is something that I’m always aware of when I’m camping. I see other people putting up their tent and fastening the door open to air it, and I’m thinking: “Are you NUTS? Are you actually INVITING the entire arachnid population of the area to sneak into your tent and snuggle down in your sleeping bag?” I even saw this happening in Corsica, where they have BLACK WIDOW SPIDERS!

*feels faint, and has to lie down for a moment*

Give me nasty camping-related fumes any day!

I’m absolutely anal about keeping my inner fastened up if there seems to be any chance whatsoever that scary, silent arachnids might creep in and secrete themselves in dark corners of the tent. I’ve never been keen on the idea, but I think that waking up on the last night of the Pennine Way and opening my eyes to find a spider SITTING ON MY NOSE! didn’t help. It took me 2 years after I got home to work up the courage to unpack the sleeping bag and check it out for crawlies… I had to buy a new one to use in the meantime.

It’s not that I don’t *like* spiders btw: if I saw one drowning in a puddle I’d spend significant time attempting to rescue it. With the assistance of a suitably long twig or piece of grass. I made myself late trying to leave Alston in 2004 because I was trying to tempt a spider out of the bath onto a piece of loo roll, so that I could drop it out of the window to safety. But share my sleeping bag with one? Or my BED? No way…

Anyway, this is something that worries me about bivvying and tarping. I was looking at the nice Shangri-La 3 tents over at BPL the other day, but when I realised that they don’t automatically come with an inner I had to turn away. What About The Ticks???


Is this only me? Don’t all these wee creeping creatures bother the rest of you when you hunker down for the night in the undergrowth?

Time to watch this again, I reckon… *g*

Sleepy time

26 August, 2008

Is it late, and are you just finishing off before you wend your way in dream time towards the great, fluffy sleeping bag in the eternal tent?

If so, click here and enjoy 🙂

x PW

TGO Challenge Video — hee hee!

25 August, 2008

It happens that the bloke who used to be my guitar teacher recorded a very funny song about a holiday in Scotland, and it occurred to me this morning to set some Challenge pics to it and make a video.

It’s mainly pics from my 2006 crossing, but there are some pictures from 2005 as well. All the usual suspects will find themselves featured at one point or another (or several, heheh…)

Well, if you watch it then I hope you enjoy 🙂

Incidentally, I’ll put the larger, better quality vid up on MegaUpload, so if you’d like a copy you can download it there. (Membership isn’t necessary, though it’s free and I think downloads may happen faster that way.) I’ll add a link to it here when it’s up.

Edited to say:

Megaupload download link here.

Backpacking photos: Pyrenees 2006 (Haute Route)

22 August, 2008

I’ve uploaded the pictures I took during my walk along the Pyrenean Haute Route (High Level Route) between Borce (near Lescun) and Gavarnie in August 2006. Anyone who’d like to take a look can find them here.

Backpacking photos: Pennine Way, March 2008

20 August, 2008

Last March I did most of the Pennine Way again, and I’ve been putting some pictures up at SmugMug. I might write it up at some stage, but in the meantime, and for those who’d like to see what a late winter/early spring Pennine Way looks like, you’re welcome to take a scan at the piccies.

This SmugMug place seems really excellent, btw. The only thing is that it takes quite a long time to upload the pictures, and so I’ve only got about a third of them up so far. I’ll put the rest of them up over the next day or so, and then I’ll go back and add captions and maybe a bit of further info.