Food Food Food

Anyone who knows me knows I love food…a bit too much some might say! I love my dads Chinese, helping cook, and then chatting with the wider family around the table on a Saturday. I love sitting around the table at home after work and catching up on our day, while listening to the radio. I love bringing Miss Millies home after a late night gig when I’ve missed dinner. (I only found out while away at Uni that Miss Millies is a Briz Ting!) But that’s not why I wanna talk to you about food.

You see my New Year’s resolution was to start shopping locally: local food markets,  and so on. My mum asked me ‘why?’  – she was confused, thought I hated Tesco like the Bristol rioters. No, not really to be honest. For a long time they gave me what I needed, I could shop online when I couldn’t get to the shops, and make sure I didn’t overspend.

Before anyone up the other end of Town gets upset, have you been to a local shop in Knowle West? I couldn’t believe the range up your area, you are so lucky! We basically have giant sweet shops : (

In fact the last time I went into a ‘corner shop’ near Stokes Croft (The one on Ashley Road) I had a free game show play out infront of me… It was pretty awesome!

Me and my friend went in to get ingredients for dinner and we somehow start talking to the owner about supermarkets. My mate says the basics are cheaper but they get you to spend more in the end with all the offers on things you don’t need. The owner rebuts and says even his basics are cheaper than the supermarket. His till has a computer that goes online and he gets up some supermarket comparison site. He shows us the cheapest big bag of Tilda Rice, it was £8 reduced to £7 special offer in the cheapest store. Now go and see how much mine is” he says. We are gobsmacked, his rice – exactly the same – is £4.59!!! *(price at the time and subject to my memory).

It then turns into a game, we start grabbing items off the shelf and shouting the product name and size/weight and he looks it up on the supermarket site. “Wait a minute,” he says, “I can’t guarantee I will beat them every time, but when I beat them, I beat them by pounds. When they do beat me, it’s by pennies.” But to ours and his surprise he wins on every item! More customers join in, we almost forget to buy dinner and go cook it! One thing was for definite, we were having rice for tea!

So back to my resolution: At the time I was also buying the Knowle West veg bag for a while (from the Edible Lanscapes project), and one day I tweeted a Knowle West only meal, veggie omelette with salad. It got me thinking how nice it would be if all my food were from within a few miles of where I live. I love cooking from scratch and knowing exactly what’s in my meal, this was one step better. And it would make it so much easier, I wouldn’t have to read everything and see where it’s from!

I started off by shopping at the Tobacco Factory Market on a Sunday. They have some really nice food stalls you can buy food to eat there and then, and it’s next to Aldi, so you can easily top up on things not sold at the Market. It’s fab for getting local honey, which is perfect to help prevent or at least decrease the impact of hay fever. (Not good to be up on stage snotting over the mic, struggling to see). The bread is amazing, a wide choice, proper Artisan (slow baked with less yeast).

Problem was (apart from the fact market shopping is always more than supermarkets when it comes to the meat, delicious as it is!) I was in the Studio recording a lot of Sundays. So I then eneded up breaking my resolution and going to a Tesco on Saturday when I realised I wasn’t going to get to The Market.

I then started hunting for a weekly Saturday Bristol Food Market, which I have yet to find. But lucky for me, I’d inspired my mum, and she had started driving to nearby farms with farm shops on Saturdays. I’ve been to two so far with her. Farrington Farm isn’t too far a drive and has pretty much everything you need ( I didn’t check for deodorant that week, but they had Ecover, Toilet Roll etc not just food). I also got a giant Scotch egg with cheese, which was a blast from my school days and I think I’d go there just for that! Neston Park Farm had great food in their cafe, but the shop was smaller and less products and variety, and was quite a drive for me (closer for those who live in Bath) . So worth a trip once a month or so but not for every week.

So I think I’ve found the solution, going to farms some Saturdays with my mum, and some Sundays at the nearby Market in Bedminster. I have to really plan my meals to make sure I keep to my budget and have enough food for the week, but it’s worth it: the food is gorgeous and my conscience is clear ( well on the food-miles front anyway!)

I’ve also stopped eating so much meat so I can afford the farm food but that also means good news for the animals and the planet (meat production wastes a lot of resources), plus by default I eat far more veg (healthy) which I love anyway.  I could probably do with loving butter and cheese a little less, and could probably dance off dinner more often. That can be my post Easter resolution, and maybe my pyjamas won’t be so tight, the next time I sit down and write!

Buy Nothing For Christmas – say whaat???

So today I’m writing in a rush, as part of a blogathon organised by Bristol Green Capital. (Typo forgiveness please!) The task is to blog about a green christmas. Mine will be  about my ‘Buy Nothing Christmas!’

About twenty people are blogging at AtBristol and listening to xmas songs like that one that goes ‘when the snowman brings the snow’ – and like the penultimate line ‘why don’t you give your love at christmas’, that’s exactly what my Buy Nothing Xmas is about. I can show my love for those in my life, without spending money, getting in debt, stressing about bills, or adding to the need for mass production in the chain stores.

Working at Knowle West Media Centre  (KWMC) and the people and places and projects it has brought into my life, have changed me for the better and made me think about my actions, the impact an individual can have on the environment, and those around them.

I generally started to practice what we (KWMC) preached: or actually we don’t preach we ‘do’, so I practice what we practice : s.  Anyway…I’ve became more aware of how food, energy, nature, waste, thinking local, are all part of the bigger picture of sustainability.

So onto Christmas…
My previous xmas themes in the last few years included recycled (mainly from charity shops), ethical (lots of fairtrade, non sweat shop etc) and shop local (lots of independents in Bristol).  (P.S. Did you know about the Bristol Pound?)

The recycled xmas was the hardest  theme prior to this year and received the most criticism and misunderstanding from friends and family at first. I swayed about 80% in the end that I was not simply being ‘stingy’ when they saw the effort I had gone to, trawling charity shops every weekend for months, and I’m proud to say a few even started to follow my example (Ok someone did get a dodgy old omelete maker – but I made up for it the following year when he thanked me for my fab personal gift).

Throughout it all, it has been encouraging  that I knew people in KWMC were making presents e.g. alphabet biscuit quizes (what do your cookies spell – family game – re-arrange them on table, then eat…not for the hygiene particular!) and knitting socks; I wish I were that skilled!

This year I took it up a notch and decided to do a christmas theme of not buying anything. I basically don’t like that christmas has been about spending money on things people don’t really need, or could do without, or seem important now but will be forgotten, the mass production of it all. So I know it’s about the economy and jobs also (but that’s another argument that I’m really not equipt to make.) I just wanted Christmas to be so much more than what it had become.

So this year I searched online and found a website for Buy Nothing Xmas here. I didn’t find it particularly useful, but it was nice to know my concept was nothing new, and there was already a movement around it.

This year ‘Buy Nothing’ has got me even more taunts and comments, like ‘are you really that skint?’ asked my aunty. Once I start to explain it’s about not being a consumer, she looks at me with that “oh yeh your an ‘eco warrior’ ” look. And I must say I think it’s sad that people still have that way of thinking about acting more sustainably…but people are changing, one example is me. (Don’t get me wrong: 1. I love my aunty, she is awesome, and I’d be the same if not exposed to the things at KWMC. 2. I am by no means perfect, or at all an eco warrior, but I just know we need to be more thoughtful of how we are living our lives not just for the whole but also for ourselves (see my previous post on happiness).

So back to how I’ve been doing with buying nothing…
Well most people who have been curious rather than dismissive, have actually found they like the idea (even if it does all sound it bit too much effort). Below are some examples of what I’ve got people, and let’s hope no-one on my xmas list looks at my blog (other bloggers will know that’s extremely unlikely!!!).

[*Here’s the small print – I slightly cheat on my own invented loophole that if I spend money on an experience not an object it doesn’t count, if I only do this a little bit. Please give me a break…I’m trying!]

Here are some examples of the things I haven’t bought for family:
– Mum, Dad, any other family, if you are reading this, STOP NOW, or ruin the surprise! AND go on Santa’s naughty list forever!

• Baby sitting vouchers printed from the buy nothing website. These are for my cousin, who is a single mum and rarely gets a break from her little one and doesn’t want to burden people by asking. Just to clarify, I’m doing the babysitting, she cashes them in with me!

• A book from the library for my dad that I know he will love (and read before it needs to go back). Also I’m giving one of my books that I read and think my mum would really benefit from and enjoy. I’m also having them over Xmas day. Plus vouchers for 2 free nibble boxes full of yummy healthy snacks (worth £4 each, that I got for free from Graze as I joined them recently. Then they sent out more for their subscribers to give for xmas – so I can also give some to aunties and uncles. – It’s like the universe is helping me succeed!)

• A picture I painted for my sister, and an ice cream making machine won from a raffle (she loves sweet things but is diabetic, and so she can make her own with Stevia leaf sweetener rather than sugar). I also wanted to book her free tickets to Bath fashion Show in Easter time, but you can’t book until January…typical! … I may print out the page with a note to promise to book them : -/

• Cushions with my nephews names sewn onto them. The names are made from some of my old PJs! – they were in good nick. (No scrumpy bobbliness!)

• An unused laptop bag for another cousin, found de-cluttering my cupboards.

• Tickets to something locally for my man and little girl, and of course I will go too, and get us all dinner before. This was a hard one, trying to get him to book in the time in his diary as not free to do anything. I’m not sure how well I did at being vague and generally annoying him!

• Also a tip I got from another website was to save your kids school pictures and give them as presents rather than just when they come through. (Don’t worry this only applies to doting grandparents, I know pictures of your kids aren’t great gifts for your mates!).

And for my friends, my close friends (not everyone on my facebook list)…

• An extra Christmas day, wuhay! I take them to an activity, cook them dinner, play typical xmas songs and music, drink wine and generally have fun Christmas stylie. (I’ve done two so far, for different groups of friends, so it’s more intimate, and not just a repeat of my usual house parties).

One friend couldn’t make the group thing so we planned an afternoon, that really had no plan actually except an exhibition we both wanted to see. It kind of grew to an epic 16 hrs extravaganza. Here’s his post the next day on facebook:

“Life is good, had an amazing day with Makala Cheung seeing lots of friends reminding me what a great place Bristol is. Falun Gong exhibition at the Island, grub at Royce Rolls, walk around the docks, free wine at the Watershed, chips at Renatos, Wicked live act Stanz at the Louisiana, Latin boogie at Fiddlers, 2am bite to eat at The Mayflower, introducing Juan, a Spanish immigrant to Bristol and finding him a spot at The Full Moon, finally rolling off til 6am at a house party in Montpelier. Good times!”

Now how many people can say your xmas present gets that kinda response?

P.S. You can continue the Bristol Green Christmas conversation on twitter #greenbristol

Go out and get your dreams!

I’ve been on a bit of a journey this last year after reading a number of books, consuming myself in the world of self-help. I’ve tried out different ways of being efficient, productive and organised: work flows, daily routines, and de-cluttering (lessons from The Power of Less by Leo Babauta). I’ve taken on to new philosophies, with sayings that have helped me start a late music career: “Create your own luck” “It’s never too late” and “Find your tribe” (lessons from The Element by Ken Robinson). Although I must admit, I haven’t yet managed to follow the simple ‘1-minute rule’ (from The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin); if it takes less than a minute do it now… not as easy as it sounds!

It all escalated when my old university friend was coming stay with me for a week, after migrating to New Zealand. So having a staycation, I decided to fill up on books at my local library for the few days while she stayed with family before seeing me. I managed to find some pretty pointless books, one of which led me to doing 40-question-long quizzes with my family only to find that yes my dad loves money, my mum loves family, my husband doesn’t like quizzes and I love just about everything. So I almost never read “9 ways to feel fantastic” by John Whiteman, but thank heavens I had a few more hrs holiday to fill…it was (actually) fantastic!

I cheated though, as you’re meant to read a chapter a day, but being my usual impatient self I just read it right through. The writer talks about doing things to feel fantastic, each day (ideally): having balance from things like exercise, enough sleep, ‘personal space’, nutrition, and having momentum to move you forward such as achieving and learning.
The man got me crying with happiness. I was sat on the floor outside, having my ‘personal space’, aware of everything around me (and doing my best not to think about anything, past or present). I focussed only on my senses. It was really hard! You have to focus on feeling the sun’s heat, the breeze, watch the clouds, hear the birds…honestly 5 minutes of this is enough to make you smile all day long! I’ve been trying to get in nature more every day since.
It reminded me that I had once read about some research published ( in the Environmental Science & Technology journal) that said walking in nature for just 5 minutes improves your mood for the day, near water being the most mood boosting. Cue my latest obsession with lakes and rivers. Even a puddle would probably get me excited, as long as it was near a tree (also a bit in love with trees at the moment: they just sway there all happy and green, making noises in the wind, growing all the time).

But there was one lesson from John Whiteman that had me stumped for weeks – the dream list. You were supposed to write down about 10 dreams, and every day do one little thing towards achieving one of them.
My first attempt went something like this:
Travel, save, start pension, debt free, learn piano (properly), learn languages, put in French doors, have a built in wardrobe in the bedroom.
A week later (and a week later again), I realised I was not being honest, the second and third attempts went something like this:
Learn Chinese, learn to skate (outdoors), learn Parkour (running around doing gymnastic type things on buildings), do kung fu, travel more… and then some various task towards my singer/songwriter career (make another album, do more shows etc).
I finally sat down the other night, knowing that niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite right and wrote what had always been my dreams; before I had a house, or a family, or a career, or targets and tasks jotted down on a to do list and it went like this:
Be a Singer/songwriter (currently working towards, tick)
Be a Writer (am writing now, tick)
Be a Mermaid (I think a weekly visit to the pool, learning to dive, and maybe getting in the sea might be as close as I get to that)
Be able to fly (numerous attempts as a child jumping off walls, might take some more thought…)
Be a Martial Arts master (I have my dad to thank for this one, after all the kung fu films we watched when I was growing up. I’ve recently finished teaching Karate and will now be learning Kung Fu)
Be an artist (ok so painting my cousin’s little girl a hello kitty picture and making her a birthday card might be as good as it gets for me here, bar the odd bit of sketching on holiday).
Be a ‘proper’ Chinese person (born in England and being only half Chinese, I might have managed to hold on to lion dances at Chinese New Year, lanterns, dim sum, and my maiden name Cheung as singer Makala Cheung, but I want to learn the language. Ok, found a free website, now just got to do it!)

The point is, I don’t think your dreams really ever change much. Science might say we love being near water, but for me thinking about my dreams made me realise I love being in water (even the rain, minus hurricane winds). And that goes back to what The Element said to me about finding that thing, that thing that’s yours, that you just flow in and let go in and are your best and yourself in. And I know I haven’t quite got there yet, but I’m looking forward to a future of singing, writing, swimming, talking like my dad, and flying, or at least doing flying kicks!

Performing this Saturday

When I’m With You

Rehearsals start for getting out to open mics, starting with The Plantation (Bristol) on Tuesday.

Who is Chau Chong / Zhou Chong?

He is my great uncle, but as my nan has lost her memory we the ‘Cheungs’ have lost some of our family history.

Thank you to a lovely youtuber who recently filled me on on more details: “Zhou Chong (1925 – 1993), was born in Guangzhou, Hong Kong broadcaster, composer and lyricist, known as “broadcasting Emperor” or “broadcasting Prince”, he was the composer, lyricist and singer in one and could sing very well in early Cantopop, lyricist James Wong named him as ‘the father of Cantopop’. ”

I really wish I knew more! It’s very difficult to search for someone when you don’t really speak the language, and definitely can’t write the characters (all 26,000 of them!)

It is good to know though that it must be in my blood! I wonder if I should hire e detective? In fact anyone that knows chinese writing could probably solve it in a few google clicks!

Ask Me

Since everyone’s been asking me why I changed my name I thought I’d make it clear why I’m no longer going under the name of Lady K. I was advised by pros that it was not a unique name. They are right, I have the name I was born with, and since my EPs gonna be called Who I Am it was like it was meant to be. And on the theme of Who I Am and what people are asking me, I thought I’d share this Chinese song that my dad (Ba Ba) sang to me,when I told him all this. It reflects how I’m feeling right now.
Translated it goes like this…
“Ask me how often I’m happy, ask me how often I cry, how can I count it clearly
Ask me what makes me happy, ask me what makes me sad, I answer with the smile, I am who I am
It doesn’t matter how many times I’m right, or if I do many wrongs, I except the results
Facing the whole world, not afraid of what will happen, I whole heartedly stay true to who I am
Ask me how often I win or lose, it doesn’t matter, I couldn’t count it clearly
One day I’ll reach the end of my life, and it doesn’t matter what storms I go through
As long as I can shout out and say I was true to who I am.”
Here’s the link if you want to hear it: http://youtu.be/iZFvfzdApMA