I woke up to find a For Sale sign under the bed… Some party (this is for Mother’s Day):

My Aunt was like a mother to me. Unlike my actual mum.
My aunt took me in after I’d been drifting from sofa to sofa, and she got me back into school and supported me through applying to university (it’s a longer story, you don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to tell it), something I never thought I’d do, along with the millions of other things that mothers do for their children.  Nobody asked her to, but she did it anyway because she thought it was the right thing to do.
I don’t always appreciate her anywhere near as much as I ought.

Anyway, that’s why my article on mother’s day is actually going to be about my aunt.
It’s inspired by Laura’s post over on Laura Living Life where she talks about the secrets we keep from our parents. I was thinking about the “breaking things” thing, and remembered a funny story from about 10 years ago, before I moved in with my now-husband:

My aunt and uncle had gone on holiday somewhere (I think Italy), and the cousins were in charge of the house. They planned and executed a house party, while I was at my other aunt’s house for the week, staying with her. She drove me back and I arrived in time for the house party. I think I drank most of a bottle of Jack Daniel’s that night – at the time, every party I went to, I’d drink most of a bottle of whatever whisky was available (or whiskey – I’m pretty sure I have resistance to both from the Irish side of the family though), otherwise I’d go for any other alcohol in similar quantities, so I don’t remember everything that happened.

I remember myself and a couple of other people attempting to walk across the kitchen to prove how sober we were, and I remember that we were pretty much walking sideways. I remember talking absolute crap about nothing important, and probably being a crashing bore (as I was prone to). I remember posing for this picture (my cousins were more sensible):

beer trophy for sale sign
That’s me at the front. I had absolutely nothing to do with the acquisition of the sign, I just thought it was really funny. I think one of the lads in the picture stole the sign but I don’t know.

I have no idea where the For Sale sign came from or how it came to be in my room, but when I awoke, it was there, under my bed, in the room I shared with my cousin, and my 3 cousins had no better idea than I as to where it came from, let alone who had got it up the stairs or why it was under the bed!
When we ventured downstairs, we were horrified to see that there was more to this story:
There was also a Little Tykes rocking horse see-saw thing, in lurid green plastic, there was a ladder, and I’m pretty sure there was also a duck.
There were other things too, but I don’t remember what they were. Unfortunately last year when I lost all my old photos (except the ones I’d grabbed off Facebook before I deleted my account, which is how I have the picture above) the other pictures of this party went the same way.

Now I think about it, I’m pretty sure at least one person used the ladder to get onto the garage roof, with the intent of getting back indoors via the bathroom window (which they thankfully didn’t actually manage).

But the For Sale sign was the sticking point. We needed to get it out of the house before my aunt and uncle got back. I can’t remember if they were due back later that day or not.
The four of us carefully manoeuvred the huge sign out of my bedroom and down the stairs. I think I was at the front. The thing about those stairs is that they curved, and there was a window and a holy water ceramic ornament thingy by the window, then there was the front door. The sign started moving a bit too fast from behind and suddenly we were about to put it through the window so we turned it sharply to avoid it, and I felt it smack into the holy water ornament thingy. I think we all just winced in horror as it hit the floor and smashed, but we still had to get the sign out of the house, so we tried not to break anything else as we worked out how the hell to get the rest of the sign around the corner of the stairs and out the front door.  It was like one of those impossible puzzles.

At the time, the cousins all shared ownership of an ageing N-reg Renault Megane, which isn’t the largest car in the universe. Somehow, we managed to get this For Sale sign into the car (I still don’t know how we did it) and then went back into the house to grab the other beer trophies. We had to be incognito because it was now broad daylight.
So someone started the car up and we drove around Uttoxeter trying to remember where all this stuff had come from (which was difficult, because I’m pretty sure none of us were actually involved in the stealing of any of this stuff, so we just had other people’s vague descriptions, half-remembered from the night before, to go on). We had directions like “the rocking horse came from the place with the big hole in the fence and the angry dog” to go on. But somehow we managed to return all this stuff to vaguely where it had come from and we got back home.

There was a LOT of cleaning up to be done, and a few things had been broken or lost.
I’m pretty sure some party guest made off with my uncle’s slippers, because he was wandering around the house looking for them for weeks afterwards (I really don’t know why anyone in their early 20’s would steal a pair of grandad slippers but then again, how did we end up with this Estate Agent sign???) so there was a lot of stuff that didn’t really make any sense.

At some point, I remember looking at the broken ornament on the floor of the hall. It was very badly smashed, and I don’t think there was anything anyone could have done to repair it at that point. One of us wrapped it up in newspaper and put it in the bin. It might have been me, I can’t remember.

When they got back, my aunt kept asking what had happened to it. I felt awful. I wanted to tell her but I didn’t want to land my cousins in trouble for having a house party. So eventually I said “I do know what’s happened to it but I can’t tell you because it’ll get someone else in trouble” (I was a pompous ass at this age).

I honestly don’t know how we managed to get the house looking even vaguely tidy after that house party, as hungover as we were, but we went on to have other parties in the years to follow, so we became cleaning ninjas – my aunt and uncle have NO IDEA how much cleaning we did to get the house looking like no-one had cleaned in a week, every time they went on holiday.

Which just leaves the question of exactly what happened to the duck, which is anybody’s guess.

Happy Mother’s day.

Recipes: Easy Vegan Wedding Food For 75 Guests

All the recipes I did for my wedding are below.  We got Lebanese, Caribbean and some store bought cakes.

vegan caterers wedding food picnic raw gluten free

As I said in my previous Wedding Wednesday post, we really struggled to find any single caterer in York who would cater to a vegan wedding.  I phoned some places, and I didn’t even get quotes because they just didn’t do vegan food.  I was suggested the supermarket sandwich platters, but not one single vegan option, let alone a whole platter.  They all did “the vegetarian option” which meant cheese sandwiches with that miserable commercial grated flavourless cheese.  Obviously this service cost close to £100.  I was convinced that I could find tastier, more nutritional and more satisfying food for less money.

I wasn’t really sure what to go with for food – as long as it was vegan and tasty – but as the day drew closer I decided I was definitely going to do everything myself.  I’d seen lots of doom and gloom posts warning about the potential for disaster here, especially because people labour under this bizarre idea that you either can cook or can’t cook, and that “being able to cook” is do do with being able to make very specific, Western-Centric dishes that are generally nutritionally void and full of dead animal, and if you’re putting people in those camps, then no, I can’t cook, but if you try to remember that the basic purpose of cooking is supposed to be to get nutrients, and then give me an Indian, Asian, Caribbean, South American or African recipe (you know, two thirds of the world) and I am in my element.  I was so confident that I could do better cheaper food than the sandwich platters, that I set myself a challenge: to cater my own wedding for under £50.  Then I started looking at what to feed people.

I chose a few Lebanese dishes and some Caribbean.  I spent a whole day in the kitchen cooking, the day before the wedding, and refridgerated everything.  For drinks, and a nice visible centrepiece, we did up a cheap big rocking horse (that we found on Ebay for £5) to make him look like Vash the Stampede (links to Youtube) and we added two bags for life to make saddlebags, which we filled with drinks. There was bottled water, and cans of lemonade, cream soda and mini juice boxes of fresh orange juice. We were a little worried about how an alcohol free and animal free banquet would go down, but in the end we decided we wouldn’t do it any other way.

Here is the full list of food I whipped up or bought for the wedding, including the details for all the recipes I made, grouping foods by location:

Caribbean:

Plantain Chips GF

Cassava Chips GF

Fruit Ginger Cake (store bought, not GF)

Cucumber Chow (Trinidad and Tobago): 2 peeled diced cucumbers; 3 cloves of chopped garlic; 6 coriander leaves (finely chopped); pinch salt. Put in bowl and mix. RAW VEGAN FRIENDLY, GF Add hot sauce for more authentic Caribbean taste – I chose not to as the day was already forecast to be roasting.

Lebanese:
Batata Kizbra: 4 lg potatoes (cubed); 1 bunch coriander (chopped finely); 5-8 crushed garlic cloves; 1 juiced lemon; 3 tbsps olive oil. Cook potatoes then fry the lot. GF
Malfouf: (cabbage rolls): 1 whole cabbage; 3/4 cup vegimince; 1 cup raw rice; 4 squeezed lemons; 1-2 tsp of Lebanese 7 spice; 3 tbsp olive oil. Cook the rice, prepare the mince, mix the two. Boil the cabbage leaves until they are supple and rolly. Roll the rice mix in the cabbage leaves. Put in pan. Pour lemon, spice, oil and garlic mix over. Simmer/marinade until tasty (or 40 mins if you’re unsure). Check your vegimince, the rest is GF.

Mujardara (rice lentils): 2 tins of green lentils, 1.25 cups of uncooked rice; 4 medium onions; olive oil. Cook rice and lentils together until the rice is done. Chop and fry onions in the oil, mix about half of the onions in with the rice and lentils and garnish top with rest. Serve with plain yoghurt as a side dish (I served with Alpro plain soya yoghurt). GF

Loubieh bi Zait (beans in olive oil): 3lbs green beans; 3 medium onions; 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil; 2 tsp of Lebanese 7 Spice; 1/2 tsp salt. Chop the beans and onions, saute onions until they start going pinkish. Add the beans, salt and 1/2 the spices. Mix well to ensure the beans are covered in stuff. Cover and simmer for 45-55 mins. Stir every 5 mins. Once beans have turned a dark olive colour, add rest of spice, mix well and serve. We served cold with pita, julienned bell peppers, and spring onions, but can also be served hot if you’re not feeding 75 in a public park miles from home. GF

Extra Nibbles:

I bought some tiffin (dairy free vegan), in chocolate and chocolate orange flavours, available from the Free From section of Sainsbury’s or many other supermarkets.  I went for 4 packets as there was a 4 for the price of 3 offer on at the time, and I cut each slice into 4 little slices (so we got 80 little slices from 4 packs of tiffin), and we had about half of the tiffin left over after the wedding).

There were also store bought apple and strawberry pastries (£2 for 18-20 from Brompton House bakery brand who make cheap pastries for ASDA and Home Bargains), a few packets of cassava chips (crisps made from Cassava, found in the Caribbean aisle of ASDA), a few packets of plantain chips (crisps made from plantain, found in the Caribbean aisle of ASDA), and a lot of packs of pitta bread to eat the Loubieh bi Zait.

bunny bowls wedding bowls easter

We got these cute bowls for 10p for a pack of 10 from ASDA and okay, they say Happy Easter on them, but they are bowls, you put food in them, and they have bunnies on them. If the words were in Chinese, nobody would even know what they said so I figured, meh, letters, people can get over it. Anyway, it’s never too late to wish people a Happy Easter. When I’m faced with a choice between something expensive with no bunnies on it, and something cheap which has bunnies on it, I am always going to choose the bunnies, it’s a complete no brainer. Since the wedding was filled with little touches of randomness, everyone thought we were being ironic and found it funny.

My main worry was whether this would feed enough people, since we had about 75 guests who actually turned up from 100 invited, but I needn’t have worried.  The actual problem was that there weren’t enough drinks for everyone.  On one of the hottest days of the year, we ran out of drinks which was very stressful.  I could’ve done without that.  It was fine though, because we moved the cake-cutting forward (apparently there’s a social cue that cutting the cake means the wedding party is over.  I accidentally cut the cake too soon, wanting to share it with my friends, and didn’t know why everyone left so suddenly) and we went home to where we had a stockpile of more drinks and a cupboard full of cups, and sat around with the last 20 guests playing video games.  The 3lbs of beans and the extensive amount of cucumber chow (I doubled the recipe) meant that everyone who wanted to eat something had something to eat.

I will do a separate post for my wedding cake, which was made inside the £50 wedding food budget.  Spoiler alert: It was made of cornflakes.

vegan wedding picnic food