Saturday, January 19, 2008

New job, new toy

Finally, as of Monday I'll be back in the workforce!

I'm quite pleased with the role that I've landed myself, and if the interview is anything to go by, it will be a great place to work. They were very friendly. We got allong very well. So it looks like I'll be spending a lot of my time between now and April working out how a whole load of people can migrate a whole load of local council processes out of their existing offices and into a new location in Essex. This might even involve trips to Essex, which will be very easy for me given that I live to close to the borders of that fair county.

Unusually, the company I'll be working for asked if I would be able to provide my own laptop. I've never owned one. I've almost always had one for the last 10 or 15 years, but every single one of those has been the property of whichever company I have been working for at the time. I have long been an advocate of desktop machines. I think many people buy laptops when a desktop machine would be just as useful to them, would cost a lot less, and would be more amenable to upgrading. However, I jumped at the idea of buying my own for use in the new role, because it helps to reduce my exposure to certain tax liabilities that I'd rather avoid. Using my own equipment goes a long way towards establishing that I am not, in fact, an employee of the company with which I have a contract.

Anyway, after ordering quite late on Thursday night, and then geeing them along yesterday and agreeing to fork out for additional shipping costs, my new tablet PC turned up today. So far, so good. It seems lovely. The tablet thing is great, and I think I'm going to get a lot out of that facility. It also has an entertaining alternative to putting in username and password information all over the place - I can just swipe my finger across a little sensor, and it checks against a record of my finger print. Marvellous.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Joy Of Slow Cooking

It's now two and a half years since myself and my Lovely Husband™ moved (or moved back, in my case) to London. When we did, I arrived a few months ahead of him, and got lots of things sorted out - a job, a place to live, etc. When he arrived, I had only recently found a flat, and it was completely unfurnished. We put that right over the next few months. Along the way, we had one of the biggest arguments we have ever had. It was about cushions. I won't go into the details, but the end result was that the Lovely Husband™ ended up going back to a department store and returning some items that he had bought, and being issued with a credit slip. Some time later, we used that credit slip to buy a slow cooker.

We haven't made that much use of it until recently, although any time we did, we appreciated the results. However, I've been making soups of late, and the more I do, the more I come to love the slow cooker. For those of you who have never used one, or aren't inclined to cook, let me just say that they are very, very easy to use, and allow you to make some really beautiful food with so little effort it's almost wrong.

A couple of weeks ago, I did a lentil soup with a ham hock in it. Wow - it was divine! One of the tastiest soups I've ever had. Yesterday, partly out of curiosity, and partly to satisfy a dietary-related new year's resolution*, I essayed a similar broth, but without the benefit of the ham hock. It turned out stunning. Delicious. Wonderful.

But here's the thing - I deliberately did it with just about the minimal effort possible. I sloshed some water into the slow cooker, chucked in some red and green lentils, bashed a couple of garlic cloves and threw them in, skins and all. Okay, I did peel and chop an onion, and a piece of kumara (sweet potato), but the total amount of time I spent prepping was less than five minutes, and that includes tasting and adjusting the seasoning (salt, pepper, chilli flakes, veg stock powder). Then I just left the slow cooker to do its thing. Several hours on the low heat setting, and voilĂ  - perfect lentil soup.

I was out for dinner the other night with a journo friend, and mentioned slow cookers to him, but didn't get around to nipping his ear about how wonderful they are. I think I might direct him to this item once I've posted it.

* That new year's resolution is to try, as far as possible, to eat meat (or fish) only every second day, alternating with vegetarian fare. There are two reasons for this. One is that I think it is healthier on a fruit/veg consumption front, and on a weight management front. The other is that I am persuaded that meat reduction is very good for several environmental reasons. So, we'll be healthier, slimmer, and the planet will be a little less damaged. What's not to love about that?