Seeking Dehydration Inspiration

March 31, 2014 - Leave a Response

I used some gift money to buya food dehydrator. Curiosity and fun aside, I hope this will give me useful, tasty ingredients and help me reduce waste.

I’ve been reading “Made At Home: Curing and Smoking: from Dry Curing to Air Curing and Hot Smoking to Cold Smoking” by Dick Strawbridge and James Strawbridge.
I used the book’s guidelines on salting, amount of salt to water e.t.c. to brine my beef before roasting. It tasted great but I can’t be sure whether that was because of the good quality meat, the brining or the fact that I used a thermometer to check doneness for the first time.

In any case I’d like to try some of the other methods discussed in the book such as air drying. This is where the dehydrator might come in. The book only makes brief mention of food dehydrators:

“…A more controlled way to air dry indoors is to buy an electric dehydrator or food dryer. Both appliances will speed up the natural process of moisture being drawn out of your produce. The fact that they are controllable means you can predict when your food is done, which is a significant advantage compared to letting the natural flow of air do the drying. These specialist gadgets create the perfect environment for drying. With internal ventilation and the ability to adjust the temperature they are great for meat and vegetables…”

So dehydrators are a controlled way of doing air drying indoors. But surely the two methods are not interchangeable because, apart from anything else, a ham, for example, would not fit on one of the dehydrator’s trays. I’ve also heard of people trying to make chorizo in dehydrators and it just not being right.

So forget air drying large pieces of meat. I just want to preserve smaller items for snacking and convenient cooking.

So far I’ve dried onions, mushrooms and tomatoes. The onions and mushrooms are great rehydrated and added to pasta or jacket potatoes. I haven’t tried the tomatoes yet and am worried I over-dried them.

I’m in need of inspiration to reassure myself that I haven’t bought an over-priced plate-warmer.

I still want to discover:

  • Which foods do or don’t dehydrate well.
  • Recipes for marinades/pickle (I don’t trust the one in the manual because it refers to “big spoons” – how precise).
  • In what circumstances, if any, can meat and fish be dried raw.
  • Which temperatures are best for which foods.
  • What’s the relationship between curing, air drying, dehydrator use, temperature, P.H. and bacteria control.
  • How to tell when dehydration is sufficient.

Crispy tomatoes anyone?

Catching Up on Ten Years of TV

March 1, 2012 - Leave a Response

Now that I have a desk I can get under properly and plenty of space on it, I decided to get the TV out of the spare room and put it where I can actually watch it. It’s been about ten years since I last watched TV on anything like a regular basis, and it wasn’t often then.

Most of the programs I’ve found during my flicking fall into four categories:
1. Property finding.
2. Selling antiques and gubbins.
3. Cooking.
4. Being perfect.

Don’t get me wrong – of course there are soaps, dramas, comedies and documentaries around as well. But the big four seem to be the dominating flavour and weren’t so virulent last time I switched on.

I pass by the property ones, unlikely as I am to ever be able to buy or sell it. The antiques and paraphernalia are sometimes intriguing and enjoyable. The cooking gets my interest though it can be tricky when I am trying to lose weight and hear about some extravagant gorgeous sounding dish concocted by someone on Come Dine With Me.

But it’s the perfectionist piffle which really irritates me. I mean the kinds of programs where they ask strangers how attractive someone is and “pod” dooms them for evermore if they don’t make the grade; overweight people suffer the collective bitchiness of the others in the group if they don’t meet today’s shedding target. And in between they’ll blast you with ads for miracle products to make your house more sterile than an operating theatre, your face the most beautiful and town and every aspect of your life saved from the big bad world by the perfect insurance policy.

This is nothing new but TV in general does seem to have a more preachy, competitive feel to it than when I last watched. Most people are probably acclimatised to this but I am beginning to wonder whether I should have left the TV buried in the spare room.

The Snails Are Back

July 20, 2011 - Leave a Response

Snails and slugs have reportedly been less of a problem for gardeners this year. A couple of months ago on Gardeners’ Question Time someone from the RHS was saying their members had experienced fewer problems from slugs and snails, probably due to a dry Spring.

Well this had been the case on my patio until recently. But when I went to examine my broad beans one Sunday evening I found one of the foul cr’eatures eating its way through a leaf. I flung it across the patio and then felt slightly guilty. The peas have been destroyed – I should have noticed earlier. It’s amazing how quickly the snails can cause havoc.
Peas plants eaten by snails

So it’s out with the pellets and Slug Gone mulch. I’ve also put copper rings around a few of the plants but I’m not convinced this does anything. Most of the actual pots already have copper tape around them and that didn’t stop the slimy suckers. Slug Gone was praised on the Organic Garden Catalogue website when I bought it but it can’t be that good because they don’t sell it any more. I suppose it’s beneficial as a mulch anyway but now I’ve finished it I’ve bought what seems to be their latest favourite: Slug Snub. These are heavily re-caffeinated coffee grounds which is supposed to suppress snails’ appetites. The pellets must be useless because I never find any bodies. I have a trap filled with beer too. Hopefully one of these approaches will do some good!

Job Search Jottings: Not A Good Start

June 24, 2011 - 2 Responses

Feeling that at the age of 31 I really ought to be in a better position careerwise and moneywise than I am, I decided to focus and make a proactive plan rather than reacting to whatever chances come my way. To be fair on myself, I have been proactive at several stages in the past. Or else I suppose I wouldn’t have got the jobs/pieces of work that I did get. But at the same time it strikes me that I have had a lot of luck, and a lot of people who, for some reason, respected me and thought I was worth giving a chance. It dawns on me now that a 31-year-old blind somewhere-in-between-para-andquadra-plegic with a 10-year-old degree in Philosophy and History, a Masters in Computer Studies and a rather patchy mixed bag of employment history needs to do much more to get where I want to be. It does also strike me that luck and friends are running out, but I try not to think about that and the negative thoughts which go along with it (the interviews I’ve failed at, not capitalising on being a “young graduate” with a Masters while I was still young and it was still relevant, resigning from the most long term job I’ve ever had because my manager was essentially bullying me e.t.c.).

Where do I want to be careerwise anyway? I have never had any long term “career goals”. I have had things I think I’m good at and tried to get work involving them. My most long term job, with a Disabled People’s Organisation, seems looking back on it to have just come to me. That was fortunate for me, because I ended up being paid for something I thought was useful and seemed fairly good at. But things changed and, still struggling to come to terms with the fact that as a disabled person I can’t try and get *any* job in a factory, doing bar work etc, I need to decide on the sorts of jobs I’m looking for and get into a position where someone will give me one. It’s got to be a well managed project, not a wandering journey. Of course few people really want to work in bars or factories anyway, but I find it difficult not being able to seek such work as a means to an end. Still, I have decided on some goals and a plan to implement them.

This plan involves something I would have never considered until now: contacting the Disability Employment Adviser. Oh the the joys of the job centre: discussing your personal situation in front of everyone, being told you aren’t entitled to benefit, banging your feet while getting out of the ridiculously tiny lift, being turned away because they gave you the wrong appointment time. Still, I decided it’s just possible they can help me, and I ought to give it a try. So I banish my cynicism, swallow my pride and phone the job centre.

And the line went dead. They say they’ll put me through to my local Centre, but it just rang and rang before simply cutting me off. No answerphone, no “There’s no answer at the moment, would you like to call later?” from a helpful receptionist. Just cut off. Great.

I wasn’t surprised by this but still it’s pretty shoddy. I suppose I could have tried again but after psyching myself up once was enough. I will have to go in to the job centre and ask to make an appointment there. Not a good start.

Aren’t NI numbers supposed to be private?

May 22, 2011 - 2 Responses

What is it in these times when we are all supposed to be protecting our personal data and watching out for “identity theft” with more and more authority figures asking for said data?

When I recently filled in one of my housing association landlord’s zillions of forms I left the part asking for my National Insurance number blank. The other day I got a voicemail from them saying I hadn’t filled in the form properly and they “need” my National Insurance number.

Someone I know also was asked to give their NI number to a *potential* employer (Tesco) and could not proceed with the job application until they filled it in.

At my last care review I was asked for it by Social Services. On asking why they needed it they said “It’s nothing to do with benefits. We just use it as a reference number”. Ummmm…are you incapable of creating your own referencing system?

Call me old fashioned, but I thought NI numbers were personal information and only needed by, and therefore only to be disclosed to, people dealing with tax, national insurance or benefits. The information from the directgove website agrees me:

“It’s very important you keep your number safe and don’t give it to anyone who does not need it. This will help prevent identity fraud…”

And Social Services and landlords are not listed as people needing it. Nor is using it as a reference number listed as a reason to use it.

Hopefully I can refuse to give it to my landlord without causing problems for myself. I figure that with personal data, the fewer people/places that have it the less chance of it being misused.

Pick A Colour

May 3, 2010 - Leave a Response

Red for stop, green for go
Blue for rejected feet
Yellow for sunshine programmed to faide
A vote, a prayer, defeat

Just a little question

November 14, 2009 - Leave a Response

Here’s something to ponder in the gloomy winter. Why is it that quite a few English people seem to think that England is the only country in the world that puts our clocks back in winter?

I’ve heard this lately from quite a few people who think putting the clocks back is a bad idea and say “I don’t know why we do it. We’re the only country that does”. When I was a kid I used to think we were the only country to do it. Where does this idea come from?


The Bringers Of My Smiles

June 3, 2009 - Leave a Response

They come easy and flowing in a glass of wine
or sit in the crust of a pie
while life is tottering by

They tickle me from the mouth of a friend
who offers me food to try
after declaring it “vile”

Reviving and wholesome they sweetly sneak
into my festival tent
where journeys and music mix into sleep

Pinching my heart they thrust me free
when leonard cohen, aged seventy three,
dazzled thousands and silenced me.

They softly stroke from ear to ear
as in simple calm i hear
the purring of my cats.

They rummage in rubble or dawdle sometimes
but i mostly eventually find
the bringers of my smiles

Copyright © 2009 by Catherine Turner. All rights reserved

Yes I Can

February 15, 2009 - 5 Responses

I initially thought this entry would be impossible to write. I wanted to rise to the challenge posed by this blogger I often read of writing something about disability and sexuality for Valentine’s Day.

But I’m not in the mood. I find the topic fascinating and important in
lots of ways but my emotions are rather delicate at the moment so I
prefer not to think about it, especially on Valentine’s Day.

Eleven years ago a drunken man who I couldn’t see, hear properly or
touch in a noisy student club asked a drunken me “Can you have sex?” And I felt flattered because sex was somewhat mysterious to me and I took the question to mean that this man – who I knew nothing about beyond the fact he wanted to know whether I “could have sex” – wanted sex with me.

These days I don’t go to noisy clubs, and I would find anyone who asked me that question in that context offputting. To me the question “can you have sex” may or may not be asking something specific about the mechanics of one’s body, but at the same time it’s masking the more fundamental question of “are you human?” Because every human has sexual desire and so in my book – yes, everyone “can have sex”.

Of course that’s not what the guy meant! And I wasn’t bothered then about the questions which occupy me now. These include “how on earth am I going to find a partner when I do the same things with the same people week in, week out?”; “how do I, as a blindy wheely, express my desire and how do others perceive it/me?”; and “who can I find to accompany me and share some desire, expanding horizons, new experiences, comfort and support while we’re here on this grubby beautiful planet?”.

Thanks to decent, accessible housing, technology, a substantial care package, brilliant Personal Assistants and many other things I’m actually able to explore these questions – something I seriously doubt would have been allowed to be an issue if I’d lived permanently in an institution, for example, which was a real and frightening possibility at one point.

As my favourite (I’ve tried a few!) dating website, OkCupid, was pointing out recently – we’re in a recession but messages on OkCupid are free – spread the love!

So my (day late) contribution to this topic is to revel in the fact that I can spread the loves, and pains, and anything else that makes us human, whether we’re disabled or not. I hope you can too.

200 Years Old – Let’s Keep It Going Strong

February 8, 2009 - Leave a Response

2009 is the bicentenary of Louis Braille’s birth and people the world over will be marking it in some way. Here in the UK the RNIB is organising events, publicity and research around celebrating and promoting braille.

In these days of powerful computers and speech synthesis braille often gets overlooked or rejected as being old fashioned, too difficult to learn, and various other criticisms. But braille has unique, powerful qualities which are invaluable to a blind person who masters it, and I think it’s crucial we give it a much needed boost and put pressure wherever it’s needed for people to have the chance of learning it. It is difficult to learn, but boy is it worth it! And whoever said worthwhile things were easy to come by?

Here are some personal reflections of why braille has been so important to me.

When, aged eleven, I first dipped my finger into the world of braille I had no inkling it would ever be more than a curious hobby for me. It really was a “dipping”, my eyes were more involved than my fingers, along with a BBC computer and very determined teacher. Whenever I did touch the page I could barely tell that there were individual dots, let alone distinguish patterns they made. So I carried on with the graphics accompanied by monotonous beeps from the BBC and avoided the cold frustration I felt whenever touching the dots. But one day a year or two later I did manage to crack that bumpy code.

The time I became able to start reading braille, rather than deciphering hostile bumps, was when I discovered it was a vehicle for something I definitely wanted to do: the school play. I was using print as my method of reading and writing. But lighting in our school’s drama studio was not conducive to my reading and anyway I felt hampered straining at a script through a magnifier in dull light whilst simultaneously trying to move around and respond to other people. Reading my braille script I found I was able to stop worrying about how to read and start worrying about how to act!

After that, using braille became a real option for me. The difficulties gradually eased and because I found advantages to reading braille rather than print I didn’t mind the frustrations. I could catch up on unfinished homework (unfinished because my classmates and I had spent most of “prep time” discussing music, rearranging the furniture in our classroom or just generally messing around) by reading in bed without disturbing room mates. I chose to use braille hymn books in assembly purely because I’d heard that people sometimes changed the meanings of the words by scratching out some dots. I provided some amusement when, responding to a teacher’s apparent surprise that I was using braille on that occasion, I said that I wanted braille because every time I leaned forward to read print my nose started running (I had hayfever at the time).

So braille became an important tool for me. The ability to use it helped enormously in my school/college work and, just as importantly, allowed me to join in a certain kind of culture among braille users.

By the time I started university my vision had deteriorated to a point where print was not a viable option. I used a mixture of braille, audio and electronic material instead. I preferred braille but couldn’t always use it because of its large space requirements and the lack of available material. Whenever possible I used braille though. There is nothing more distracting when discussing a piece of text in class than hearing a screen reader’s electronic voice babbling, say, Plato’s “Republic” in one ear whilst trying to concentrate on what a tutor is saying with the other. When I did use speech instead of braille in seminars I had to decide whether to understand what was being discussed or to join in the discussion, I didn’t have the capacity to do both. When giving presentations I felt much more confident when I could use braille, the ideas I’d put on paper could flow straight from my fingers to my mouth without the awkward computerised interpreter in between. This was important for me not just for academic work but also for other parts of my life as I was involved in various societies and often facilitated meetings supported by notes I’d made.

However I was forced to stop using braille because of worsening sensation in my fingers. Reading it became slow and difficult so I stopped and got used to relying on speech synthesis. I was able to work in this way but it was tiring and presentations became an embarrassing necessity.

It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve regained my connection with braille and the qualities it brings. I discovered a few years ago that I could read braille if it was written on plastic type labels or on braille displays because the dots are sharper and firmer. I used labels to identify CDs etc but it was only recently that I acquired a braille display and so truly brought braille literacy back into my life.

I’ve now discovered new benefits to using braille. The difficulties during the school play were nothing compared to listening to synthetic speech, to the director, keeping the laptop on my lap and driving my powerchair, oh and putting effort into the actual acting too, all at the same time. My Braillenote (a braille-based PDA) sits easily on my lap and makes no noise if I don’t want it to.

I can read on noisy trains.

I can understand bank statements more easily by feeling the figures rather than hearing them.

But braille literacy’s gifts are more profound than its tangible uses. It keeps my mind alive and connected with the world around me. My spelling -something I had always been quite good at – became awful when I stopped reading braille. I couldn’t visualise words like I used to. Now that I’m reading again I’m able to visualise in a pattern that’s a kind of fusion between print and braille. I make few spelling mistakes but more importantly this visualisation and imagination that braille stimulates is part of who I am. Spelling is part of language and language is something fundamental to our being; it’s culture and identity. Braille literacy keeps me connected with culture in its widest possible sense.

For me there’s also something unique about the physicality of reading braille. Being a wheelchair user means I don’t experience much direct physical contact with the world and people around me. When using braille I feel more connected with them – it’s almost as if, by feeling the words underneath my fingers, I’m getting a sense of the rough feeling of gravel under my feet, the cramped intimacy of a crowded pub corner or the grimy satisfaction of cleaning a dirty floor. Listening to descriptions – whether by speech synthesis or a human reader – is a pale imitation because it comes through something or someone else first before it reaches my mind.

I’m glad I can experience these sensations and benefit from the fuel braille provides to my imagination. I look forward to the doors it might open for me in the future (I hope to learn braille music). Most of all I deeply appreciate the dull beeps of the BBC computer and determined energy of my teacher all those years ago.


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