I am a bagel baking genius!

When I visited America I fell in love with bagels.  You do get them in the UK - but they arent anywhere near as good and you dont get as many flavours.  So ever since my trip across the Atlantic I have wanted to try making them, 4 years later and this is my first attempt! Yes Im lazy, yes Im busy, but I also thought they would be really hard and slow to make due to all the boiling etc.  Well they were super easy to make, and they turned out great! 

This is the recipe I used...
450g plain flour
1 sachet dried yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

Mix with 300ml warm water to make a firm dough.  I added fresh parsley and chives from the garden and some pumpkin seeds just to spice things up a little.

Knead for 10 minutes, leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Divide into 10 flattened balls.  Make a 3cm hole in the centre of each.

Boil for 2 minutes, turning halfway through.

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes (mine only needed 20) at 220 degrees.  

And this is the result...

They are super yummy straight out of the oven.

I only made half the mix - as I wasnt sure how they would turn out and didnt want to end up with loads of gross doughy messes.  If I was doing it again I think I would make each bagel bigger, and cook at a lower temperature for a bit longer.  They got brown too quick and so are still a little bit doughy.  But that could just be my oven so some ovens might be ok at 220.

Still not quite up to American standards though unfortunately - but the baking genius satisfaction more than makes up for that!

Change and Me

"Change is the only constant." (Heraclitus...some Ancient Greek philosopher)

Change is all around us.  It is never-ending, it is one of the few things that can be relied upon to always always happen.  And it does not sit well with me.  I struggle to cope with it.  Last year was one of the worst years of my life, at the time I looked at it as a year full of bad luck, even though I dont really believe in luck.  It was in fact a year full of change.  And it almost broke me.

It takes me a while to let new people into my life, and it takes me even longer to get over people leaving it.  I cannot cope with loss.  My cat (who I didnt even really like) went missing a year ago, it still keeps me awake at night in a panic of guilt.

I get incredibly uncomfortable when Im out of my comfort zone.  And yet...I seek out change.  I yearn for it.  I work for it.  My whole life plan is based on me speeding through a far more rapid whirlpool of change than life alone is likely to subject me to.

Why would I do that! Surely thats crazy.  Its like an arachnophobe saying they are going to buy 100 tarantulas and let them run free in the bedroom.  Or is it.  To conquer my fear I have to face it.  And embrace it.  And seek it out.  

One day maybe change will come as easy as the seasons do for me.  Maybe I will learn to love it.  For there is no fear in love.

Electrickery and other confusions

I have been doing lots of internet research and talking to lots of far more knowledgeable people about how best to get some electrics into my van...and I have gone from Plan A of the leisure battery few what feels like an infinite number of Plan B's to the current plan which I am actually (amazing I know) implementing.

I gave up on the leisure battery idea for 2 reasons.  One - I dont think its safe or even possible for me to do on my own.  I came to that conclusion when I asked a friend who is obsessed with tinkering with his (giant house-sized) motorcaravan if he would like to help...and he responded with "That's the one thing I cant do".  Not a good sign.  Then I went to a local garage who specialises in VW conversions to get their opinion...and their response was "We get an electrician in to do that".  Right.  I really dont have a death wish so I then started to investigate the first of the many Plan B's.

And that's when I came to the conclusion which is the second reason why Im not installing a leisure battery...I just do not need one.  Im not installing a fridge, air con, heating, a tv, a water pump, a shower...I dont even intend to use my laptop in the van except in emergencies.  All I want is a light, and a power socket would be great so I can charge my phone and camera.

Now the van already has 2 lights installed in the back, so my friend suggested that I should switch the bulbs to LED.  I will (hopefully) have enough light for the van, and they make such a small drain on the battery that I should be able to use them whenever I like without flattening it.  So I have bought some of these - this was the cheapest site I could find.

And for the power supply - well I have bought a hookup cable with plug sockets on the end of it...like this.  You can then get a continental and a UK adaptor - which means I will have power anywhere that I can access a 240v hookup, or a power socket.  Awesome.  And if I get car chargers for my stuff, then when I am on the road I can also charge things.  And for any cases when neither of those solutions is adequate, Ill just have to go and find somewhere that I can sit and charge my things.  I dont want to be sitting around like a loner in my van for hours waiting for stuff to charge anyway.

If it does get too annoying not having a permanent power source, I can always get a 12V power pack to charge off the cigarette lighter which I can then connect to an extension lead to charge stuff.  They are pretty expensive though so I think that might be a addition once Im on the road and can get a feel for whether it is really worth it.

So that's where I'm at currently.  I have also managed to detach the passenger seat ready to take its swivel - just need to decide which one to buy and get it ordered.  The bed is being collected on Friday and will hopefully arrive a week on Tuesday.  So yeah...I am making progress!

Anna the electrician?

So... I am about to have 11 days holiday from work, these are my van targets for that time...

  1. Get the bed I have ordered
  2. Get the plywood panels to make the furniture
  3. Fit the electrics for the leisure battery, lighting and plugs
Now 1 & 2 seem achievable - I can find things, I can buy things, and I can go pick up things.  But electrics! ELECTRICS! That terrifies me.  I can change a light bulb...but yeh thats pretty much the limit of my electrical knowledge.  Im scared I wont be able to do it, I hate failing.  Im scared I will electrocute myself and blow up the van, that would be bad.  

Im scared that Im not ready to take on the challenge.  But in reality, when would I ever be ready!  Kelly Diels at Cleavage puts it much better than I could...

"Ready is the wrong litmus test.

You only need to be willing.

And “I don’t want to” and “I’m not willing” are legitimate. “I’m not ready” is bullshit and a waiting game."

And willing is what I am.  I want this project to work. Time for some serious internet research I think...progress update to follow soon!

Bedtime !

I have ordered the bed for my van! YAY! Im getting a rock and roll bed from this guy...in a bespoke size for £170.  Seems like a pretty good deal to me.  Just hope I can fit it into the car to get it home!

Ive drawn up plans for the van, sooner or later Ill get round to uploading them on here.  Its all getting very exciting.

Im going to a wedding tomorrow and Im super excited about that.  Weddings are my absolute favourite thing.  Its going to be a good weekend!

No Consequences

We live in a world where consequences are erased whenever possible.  When we are too sick to go to work for a week, we get sick pay.  Our families dont starve, our houses dont get repossessed, no consequences.  When I crashed my car, sure it was inconvenient and scary, but there were no serious consequences.  Cars are designed to protect us, insurance covers our mistakes, no consequences.  If someone fails an exam at school, they take a resit.  They arent forced into a prospectless future, they get another shot at it.  If you get married, you promise away the rest of your life, but yet you know there is a getout clause.  You arent cast out of society forever, you arent forced to remain in the relationship, you just get divorced.

We are indoctrinated with the "second chance", the "get-out clause", the "get out of jail free card".  Sure there are consequences, but there is still that safety net.  The only people who fall when there is no safety net are those distant people on the news.  Its always someone else, not you, not me.

So what does it matter that we live in a culture which minimises consequences!  We get unlimited free healthcare, we are supported when we are sick or old or unemployed.  We can insure ourselves and our possessions against any eventuality.  And that IS amazing.  It really is.  There arent many of us who would willingly give that safety net up.

And yet there is still value in remembering that there are consequences.  Underneath that safety net, there is the hard ground.  And most of the world dont have the luxury of the sick day or the car insurance or the exam resit or the divorce.   When they fall, they hit the ground hard.  To truly empathise with others, I believe we must first be fully grateful for the contents of our own lives.

And sometimes those consequences are ours.  Sometimes they come out of the TV, out of the lives of others, and into our own lives.  In some relationships, there are no second chances.  In some illnesses, there is no cure.  Awareness of the potential for consequence does not come naturally to us, after all, we have learnt that there arent really any.  I am working on gaining that awareness.  I learnt the hard way that if you remain oblivious to consequence, you can hit the ground before you even knew you were falling.  

Gaining the ability to consider the possibility of a world which is not wrapped in a giant safety blanket would mean everything to me.  Knowing that I have considered the consequences of my actions would at the very least give me peace of mind.  I firmly believe that it would go beyond this though, it would protect my relationships,  channel my future towards productivity and happiness, one day it could even save my life.

Aint That The Way Love's Supposed To Be...

When I was a kid my dad and I used to take long walks along the old railway line near his house.  Wild flowers and butterflies lined the embankments, birdsong and summer haze filled the blue skies.  We would walk and talk and laugh together for hours.  Our private world was punctuated by the people and dogs we would meet along the way, some of them new, some of them familiar faces.
One of our favourite group of people to meet was an elderly couple, they must have been in their seventies but to me they looked as old as the mountains.  In summer they wore shorts which exposed their soft wrinkled skin folding away from their stick thin limbs like paper caught by an imaginary breeze.  In winter they would wear yellow raincoats like the kind fishermen wear in cartoons.  

Whenever we met them, they were always, without failure, holding hands.  Walking along, they were holding hands.  Sitting on a bench, they were holding hands.  They didnt seem to talk that much, in fact a lot of the time they would walk in silence, but not for one moment did they ever let go of each other's hands.

My dad used to joke that they held each other's hands to stop the wind from blowing them away.  We both knew that wasnt true though.  If anything was holding them up, it was purely love.

Oatmeal Loving

Ok...so I know this is old old OLD news...but my friend has only just introduced me to this site...and it is AWESOME !!!

Loving it!  Its not helping me get my latest university assignment done though...


Sleepy Saturday

"Is it time to go yet Mum?"

"Hmm...now which one is the battery...?"
Today I finished preparing the van for storage.  It is now washed and waxed, all the door hinges are oiled and all the window and door seals have been lubricated.  I have disconnected the battery (with great difficulty finding the thing!) and I am going to be drip charging it.  The windows are slightly open and I removed the wiper blades and wrapped the wiper arms.  The handbrake is off and the wheels are bricked - I havent decided yet if I want to put it on blocks.  All the fluids are topped up and I have increased the antifreeze percentage.  The van is sitting on a plastic sheet with carpet on - at the moment there is a leak somewhere in the barn roof so I need to sort that out so there are no more puddles under the van!

I have taken measurements of the interior so now the next task is to draw up some plans...watch this space!

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