Saturday, December 22

Mistletoe and Wine

That's right isn't it? The rhyming slang for Christmas time? Mistletoe and wine? Oh. Well I'm going to have it has my blog title anyway and we can break that news to Cliff later.
The Christmas preparation is going well. Presents have been bought a majority have been wrapped. Dad's traditional stockpile of Pringles is building up beautifully and tomorrow we are going to brace ourselves to do some food shopping. Yes, that's right. Food shopping the Saturday before Christmas. It will be hell. But we will buy fancy stuffing, exciting cheeses, crackers, good veggies (and bad veggies if Dad gets his way) and I can persuade him to get stuff I want but don't want to pay for or carry home. Stuff like nice bread and fruit juices. Dad always points out that the supermarkets are all open again on Boxing Day and there's no reason for the buying frenzy, but he still joins in and makes sure we're well stocked up. I think it's so we can survive if we get snowed in. He probably fears a repeat of the "great blizzard of '62" that he's always on about.
So yes, Christmas is set to be a good one. Although one of my sisters may not be here for Christmas morning. We're the youngest and we always sit in bed and empty stockings before going downstairs and sitting on the floor to hand out and open presents. The parents and our older sister will sit and drink tea like the adults they are. It will be weird having a grown up Christmas. Of course I'm 21 and she's 24, our childish edge to Christmas was bound to go at some point. I can cope if Mum doesn't bother with stockings this year, but the thought of sitting on the sofa instead of the floor to open presents is strange! I will try to battle through though, I promise.
For a little extra Christmas cheer below are some photos of the Christmas illumination, landscape things in Leicester Town Square. When we were little we would go into town just to see what they were. This year Noddy was on one side and Paddington Bear was on the other.
And with that all I can do is wish you all very happy Christmases and hope that you see the New Year in with style (I shall be tipsy and making a fool of myself no doubt, making you all proud!).



Merry Christmas x

Monday, December 3

Pitter Patter of Tiny Royals

A Royal baby is on the way!
The news of a new arrival has finally arrived. I don't think people are surprised, the young couple having a baby and heir to the throne was always on the cards. I'm happy for them and I wish them all the luck I can, but can we ask the media to keep calm please?
The fan fare and excitement is understandable today, the pregnancy has only just been announced. I'm just dreading the next few months. We'll have insights and reports being thrown at us as if the Duchess of Cambridge is the first Royal to have a baby. Scratch that, the first person ever to have a baby! There'll be reports summarising what will happen if it's a girl despite the fact changes to the system have already been explained - she'll be queen before any younger brothers would be. The fashion magazines that already praise Kate will be celebrating her maternity wear and cooing over clothes the baby could potentially wear. We'll be told about hospital appointments and listen to speculative reports on where the baby might be born and what it might be called. Is this going to be fun for any of us? Can we not ask the cameramen and paparazzi to back off a little and leave the expectant couple be in this new stage of their life together?
Don't get me wrong, I am interested. I will want to know the details but I would rather hear about them when the baby is actually born! It's like with the Royal Wedding. I wanted to see the dress, the people invited to the ceremony and the general spectacle around it all. But I wanted to see it on the big day, I didn't want reports that told me nobody had seen the dress yet, I didn't want to be told who had been invited and who hadn't and I didn't want to be given a summary of how many horses would be marching where at what time. I wanted to find it all out when it happened, without being forewarned by months of "news" stories.
So to the happy couple, congratulations and good luck.
And to the press, calm down.

Monday, November 12

The Silver Lining

Third year is rushing past and, if I can't find a job and an affordable place to stay here in London, I presume I'll be off back to Leicester in July. It's not the most desirable option, I've flown the nest and I don't want to go back. It's not just because I like London, but I've become very used to living close to my boyfriend.
Holidays put miles between us as I go to Leicester and he goes to Southend. I know there are plenty of couples like us and plenty with an even bigger distance between them, but it doesn't make me like our situation any more.
But on the bright side, being so far apart gives us the chance to have weekends away when we are seeing each other. When he comes up to Leicester I do things that I don't normally do. Walks around the lakes rather than powering round on my bike, eating somewhere nice in town rather than grabbing a bite on the go or waiting till I get home. Sadly the list also includes sharing a single bed and not getting to sprawl around on my own, but I can't complain.
And when I visit him? I get to go to the seaside. Well, they call it the sea, but Southend is on the Thames estuary and it's a bit too brown to be the sea in my books! But still, walks down the front and fresh, insanely sugary donuts, it's perfect for a weekend with the boy and it almost makes up for the time we spend apart. It's what I've been treated to this weekend and, if we do go home after uni rather than staying in London, then I believe it's what will get us through.
I must admit, part of the reason for the mushy post is the need for a post to attach the weekend's pictures to. They're not that fancy but I love my new camera and I'm getting more and more used to it, that means you all have to put up with the results! Enjoy.







Friday, October 19

Mini Stuffed Peppers

Last week I found these small peppers in Tesco. Today it dawned on me that I should use them to make mini stuffed peppers to use as a side. They went down a treat.

Ingredients:
Small peppers
Cous cous
Cheese


  • I use sachets of ready seasoned cous cous that simply need to be added to 200ml boiling water and left for 5 minutes. So I did that first and then set to work on the peppers.
  • Take the tops off of the peppers and empty all of the seeds out. 
  • Wedge small chunks of cheese into the bottom of each pepper. 
  • Spoon cous cous into the peppers.
  • Add another chunk of cheese to the top of each pepper.
  • Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for 20-30 minutes.



Notes:
The filling does ooze out a little and the cheese on top becomes very crispy. If you were to take the seeds from the "lid" and cook them with these on then the cheese wouldn't become so yummy!
If you can only find big peppers then simply half them, remove the seeds, fill with cous cous and top with cheese.

Tuesday, October 16

The Natural History Museum

I wasn't sure what to call this post, I was considering just "Home". I spent yesterday afternoon there and I am so relaxed in that place. I was on a mission to get acquainted with my new camera and its manual settings, but I spent most of my time falling deeper in love with what was already my favourite museum.
Every time I go I discover a different section or notice a different part in an exhibition I thought I knew. Yesterday I discovered the dinosaurs and they were fantastic, especially the motorised and roaring T-Rex. I do have a photo of him but I won't be uploading it as you should just go and see him yourself! I also discovered a replica of Lucy. I already knew about Lucy and her missing link type status, I think her name helped that stick in my mind. But I hadn't realised how incomplete the specimen was. For it still to be such a significant find, I was impressed.
I also came across the furry creature you can find below. He's a mesonychid, and last time me and Joe visited he had sparked a bit of outrage. The sign that accompanies him states that over millions of years creatures like this evolved into whales. Joe was dismissive of this idea but I trust the people who claim this have much greater evidence than the animal behind this glass, it just wouldn't make such a cute display!


Despite all of the interesting exhibits and artefacts the museum has, yesterday was more of a day for me and my camera. And as fiddled with buttons and played with settings I couldn't help being drawn to the incredible architecture inside that building. Of course, it's an astounding building from the outside, but I was inside, in the warm, and still being mesmerised by beautiful details. The colours of the brick work and the decoration on the ceilings are gorgeous. But more so I was captured by the little details that didn't need to be put there, it would be a magnificent building without them. There are rams heads at the bottom of pillars, there are flowers and birds carved into archways and hanging in some of those archways are little monkeys. The place could have been an empty building, no people, no exhibits, and I would still feel at home.



Friday, October 12

Boys from the Dwarf

Since Dave started showing it a few years ago, I have fallen in love with Red Dwarf. I'm ashamed to admit it was an almost naked, shackled Arnold Rimmer who really drew my attention to the show and I have never looked back.
Now they're back on our screens and I'm surprised just how happy I am about it.
To me, series 7 and 8 weren't that great. Although the storyline that saw Rimmer leave in series 7 was good, the dynamic was changed without him. Particularly with the introduction of Kochanski who took a while to grow on me. 
Luckily, in series 8 my beloved hologram returned. But so did the rest of the crew and again I wasn't happy with the change. The whole show was built around Lister being the last human being alive, and when a show strays from its central premise it strays down hill. Only Fools and Horses was a whole different show when they finally did get rich. And Porridge just wouldn't work if Fletcher was let out of prison. 
In the mini series Back to Earth I think they had realised this. The crew were once again dead and it was back to the boys from the Dwarf. But this time the production had changed and it felt like they were once again missing the mark. The charm I saw in Red Dwarf came from the aged special effects and the low tech gadgets. Back to Earth jumped straight in with CGI and huge digital sets. And to boot they dropped the studio audience. It all just felt a little forced and under par. 
And so with all of that I was little apprehensive about series 10. And so far? It's beaten my expectations. The script is strong and the audience is back. More importantly it's back to the more simple sets and the original premise. There's nothing more I could ask for, I just want the rest of the series to keep up the good work and belly laughs. 

Sunday, October 7

An Idiot Too Many

Today I'm having a rant. On Friday night, my boyfriend (who has a very different sense of humour to me) put on An Idiot Abroad. And I have seen it before, but now I want to moan about it.
Why do people find it so hilarious? Fair enough, he's not the brightest bulb in the box but why has Ricky Gervais decided to take advantage of this and broadcast it to the world? In the episode last night he was sent to Alaska, and he was only interested in seeing a whale. Fair enough. And of course Ricky gives him every task he can think of that he knows Karl would hate. And to be honest, would he enjoy doing any of them? I doubt it. The result is a very, very sea sick Karl struggling to appreciate his chance o see some whales.
I don't now how staged it is, I don't know how much of it Karl knows is coming up and I don't know if Ricky gears him up to act so dim, but I do know it is all very irritating.
Even on the Ricky Gervais Show it gets under my skin. Sometimes, you can see where Karl is coming from with his ideas and comments. Ricky and Stephen could acknowledge that there's some foundation to his thoughts. They could say "Oh yeah, you mean like that common theory that people often refer to." But no, they don't do that. Ricky decides to shoot a horrendous laugh from his now animated mouth and say "What! No! Don't be so stupid Karl! Nobody on this whole entire planet knows what you're talking about!" Where is the need for it? And where is the humour in it?
I'm glad I have seen such small amounts of each show, I doubt I could see much more without screaming. But if you do like it and you do think it's funny, please tell me why! I just don't get it.

Monday, October 1

Hello my little milestones.

Earlier this month I was excited to see my blog had finally had 400 views. And last night I hit 450. That means I had 50 views in around two weeks. I know some blogs will get 50 views in a day, or maybe 450 in a week, but 50 views in two weeks feels very impressive to me. Am I wrong?
I started this blog in February 2011. For a while I was only writing one post a month, if that. But now I've tried to pick up my blogging rate and I feel like, as some sort of reward, my increased activity has bought me more readers.
True, most of my readers get here from my plugs on twitter, and most of the visits will be from the same people, but I am still very happy to know people are reading this rambling blog.
The thing is, it makes me want to know who you all are! I want to find out if you're even real. So leave a comment and say hi, maybe give me a link to your own blog? Or if you've arrived her via twitter you could RT the tweet that got you here, or again, just send me a tweet and say hi.
On another positive note, my post from last week about the writing society was right to be so optimistic. It was a good meeting and I'm happy to go back this week. A lot of people went last week and I don't expect that they'll all be back this time. That means it'll be a smaller group who I should get to be really comfortable with. Yay!
Now I shall leave you be. I have a mirror and some photo frames I need to be painting. And, if it stops raining, I have to drag myself to the shops too!

Saturday, September 22

Roll up, roll up.

In an attempt to leave my comfort zone, I've decided I'm going to join the Roehampton Writing Society. I had an email this morning with details of this years first meeting and a thank you for signing my name at Freshers' Fair. I didn't see them at Fresher's Fair, but I presume they've sent it out to all creative writing students too. 
I'm already terrified. The first meeting is Monday, and it isn't even a proper meeting, just a meet and greet type thing. It's not like I'll have to bring work or ideas or read anything out, not in this first gathering. Still terrified. But I have to go for it. I have to. 
I need to find some self confidence and I need to have more of a social life. For some reason I wasn't included on the Moodle page for the Creative Writing department site, only the Media department site (stupid university), and so I feel a bit estranged from the goings on in the Roehampton "writing community", as it were. But I know a couple of the people in the Writing Society already. I don't know them well but I checked out the Facebook page and I've spoken to a few of the members in different modules. I'll find somebody I can talk to. And so really, there is no reason not to go. I need to take a leap over the chasm of nerves and do this for myself. 

Wednesday, September 19

When in Rome.

Friday morning to Monday evening. Three nights in a spacious hotel room and four days walking around the most beautiful city I have ever been to. It made my feet ache and afternoon naps have never been so necessary, but my weekend in Rome was perfect.
We were greeted with clouds and rain, but we were happy to track down our hotel in drizzle as opposed to while melting under the mid-day sun. We had a short stroll that afternoon, bought Joe some underwear, saw the Vatican, found a nice little restaurant for dinner. But I'm ashamed to say, as with the following nights, bed time was early. We're not exactly used to the vast amounts of walking, and curling up in bed, in preparation for an early start, was just what we needed. It also saved us from walking round late at night in a city we didn't know.
We spent the weekend walking around the city. The Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps. On the walk to each one we were surrounded by gorgeous buildings and interesting ruins. You could be on a small street looking for a cafe or on a main road filling your bottle at a fountain, you will be able to see an amazing building from where you are standing.
On Monday we went to the Vatican and its museums. We had visited St Peter's Square every day but saved a proper visit until the last day. It is hard to explain how magnificent it all is. Each room is filled with incredible paintings and sculptures and everything is enveloped in spectacular architecture.
The Sistine Chapel surprised us though. Not only as we expected it to be a separate building, but we expected the Creation of Man (the painting of God reaching out to Adam) to be so much bigger and to be more of a centrepiece. Yes it was a beautiful painting, but it's one of so many beautiful paintings in that room. Why is there so much fuss around that one?
I took my fancy new camera with me and I'm surprised I didn't take more than 300 photos. There is so much beauty to be found in Rome, I guess I just spent more time looking at it through my own eyes rather than through my camera. (But here's a few of the views through the digital eye.)





Friday, September 7

Upcoming travels.

It won't be long until I'm off to Rome with the boy. The excitement is really starting to build so I thought I'd better write a blog post to let all of this energy out safely.
Although the idea to go to Rome has been in the pipe lines for months, we didn't get round to organising anything until last month. We booked flights that get us there early on a Friday and take us home late on a Monday. So although we have 3 nights there, we get the best part of 4 days.
I feel so grown up having this holiday. I think that's partly down to the number of envious adults who have gushed about how lovely Rome is and how we'll have such a nice time there. It feels like a grown up place to visit. So grown up in fact, I feel bad that I'll be going and drinking no wine. It's a grown up place where you have nice food and nice wine, surely? But I don't like wine. And I figured it isn't France, it's not the wine capital of the world, it's just a strong competitor. So maybe I can refuse the wine and not feel like I'm missing out on part of the culture.
We know the general tourist things we'll be doing. We're close to the Vatican, we want to see the Colosseum we'll head over to the Trevi fountain. We'll be the typical tourists (fancy new camera in hand!). And we'll do a lot of walking and find cafes and ice cream and restaurants and shops along the way. It will be lovely, we don't mind that our plans aren't fully mapped out.
One problem is mother. She has this habit of Googling and checking out everything. Really it's quite ridiculous. She does it for my house hunting sister who has already searched through her options, she'll look up restaurant menus when she knows she'll be going and she has a whale of a time using google Earth. Me and Joe aren't stupid, we have looked into our trip. We've looked at our hotel on a map, we've seen pictures and we looked at the reviews on Trip Advisor. And that was after looking at a lot of other options and deciding why others weren't right but this one was. We're happy with that. I don't want to over examine it and build up expectations or ruin surprises. But my Mum wants to look at street view and check the street out, I dare say she's been checking out travel and a millions reviews too. I don't see the point and I don't know what I'm meant to say when she tells me "it looks like it's on a busy street, so that's good." I want to find out these things when I get there, I don't want to hunt down every detail before hand.
And so, with that little rant out of the way, I shall carry on and be excited about our trip. And to distract me from the seemingly long wait I have birthday celebrations too!

Wednesday, August 1

The Definitive Guide to Burger Joints.

After an utterly delicious meal at the new Cattle Grid restaurant in Kingston, I came to realise me and my boyfriend often choose burger restaurants when eating out. And so here it is, it may not be definitive but it's here anyway, our guide to burger joints. (OK, it's written by me but I have taken his comments into consideration, I promise.)
The first one shall be brief, The Handmade Burger Company. I haven't been there for a few years, and I've never been with Joe, but my main memory of that place includes amazing onion rings and a delicious fish finger burger. Lovely fresh batter, just what I fancied. And as I haven't seen a fish finger burger available in any of the other places I'll be mentioning, Handmade Burger earned themselves this entry!
Next! Gourmet Burger Kitchen. We've been a couple of times in the last few months and they haven't disappointed. The burgers are lovely and there's a good range. However I often want to opt for their "smaller portion" burgers and that leaves me with less choice while Joe still has the whole menu to choose from. However, they do really nice skinny chips. And not just skinny chips...really skinny chips. Think Mcdonalds chips, and then imagine them split into quarters and loads tastier. Yep, exactly. Gorgeous! They also have free jugs of water and monkey nuts on a stand near the till which I like. When there I tend not to get a drink and just have the water. I prefer that to soft drinks anyway!
"What's next?" I hear you cry! Well, Byron. Beautiful restaurant. I based my desire to go there on the décor rather than the fact they were a burger place. It just looked so lovely, and it was. We shared nachos as a starter, had a side of chips and shared a dessert too, and the fact I was able to cope with that suggests their burgers were on the small side. It may just have been that I had a chicken burger rather than beef and I find that less filling, or maybe they were smaller than a lot of places. But really, I don't see a problem with having room dessert. Especially not when it's an Oreo sundae.
And today we visited The Cattle Grid. We'd never heard of it and only found out one had arrived in Kingston when we passed on our way to the cinema. We spent a good while glancing back and drooling at the giant picture of a burger that is in place of a window. Joe raved about the spicy buffalo sauce on his burger and the melted brie in mine was gorgeous. I'm not even big on cheese. We were even wittering on about the burger buns which I suspect had a hint of tomato and herb about them. However it was a strange place to be eating as we were the only customers. Genuinely, just us until about 10 minutes before we left. Fair enough it was early, but it was a very strange feeling. Although it did mean service was excellent!
Now before I come to a conclusion, I would like to give an honorary mention to the burger van at uni. No fancy tricks, and so no prizes, but inexplicably delicious burgers that are there when we need them most...on the way home after a night at the union!
But back to the matter at hand. Where is best? Well, GBK is winning on the chip front, even if Joe is confused by the rosemary on top. And Byron and Cattle Grid get points for having waiters. Having to get up and order your own food is only useful when you're a in a big group and want to keep your bills separate. Handmade Burger is flailing behind as I haven't been for so long. I haven't found one near me at uni and until I do, they're out of the running. In all honesty, there is little question to it. The Cattle Grid is my favourite. And even if you don't like burgers you'll probably enjoy a meal there as they do steaks and have a good selection of salads too.
However there is no reason to take my word for it. You should try them all. Soon. It's for your own good.

Friday, June 15

Dissertations

My third and final year at uni is just a short summer away and so I'm starting to consider what I will do my dissertation on. I study media and, as with most topics, this leaves me with a huge choice of directions I could go in. So how do you narrow it down?
Firstly, it's important to pick something you really like. If you have to write 8000 words around the subject it has to be something you're really interested in. You need to stay motivated and engaged with your work for the whole 8000 words. So think about the theories you've looked at in your other modules and think about what theorists were easy to read and pay attention to.
You also need to consider that if you are writing so much on one thing, you may grow sick of it. I wrote an essay on Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes last term. I still like the shows, but I think if I had written a dissertation on them I would have grown weary. Picking something apart so much can ruin it for you. So if you need to choose a text to focus on, either choose one you really adore and which you are certain you could never hate. Or choose something you like, are interested in and can write about, but which you wouldn't be devastated if you were to get so sick of it you never saw it again.
As I commented before, it makes sense to consider previous modules and theories that you liked. However the other day, while discussing this with friends, I said to think about what modules you were interested in and I was met with the response "none of them". I  cannot describe how much that attitude irritates me. How can you come to university, study for two years and have no interest or even a vague enthusiasm for what you're studying? It sounds like a waste of your own time and no doubt it's irritating for the others on your course. I for one hate doing modules that I'm interested in knowing that others really couldn't care less. So if that's your view on it, and you don't have any interest in any of your modules, I don't really care what you do for your dissertation or if you even pass.
But on a cheerier note, if you are approaching a dissertation and you are bothered about doing well, I wish you the best of luck. I hope you find a topic that you really enjoy exploring and a theorist you really understand.
Now, it's off to the library for me. I'm going to find some books on Freud, have a read and see if psychoanalysis and popular culture is for me. If it's not, I'll return and look into another topic. A thrilling summer lies ahead.

Thursday, May 31

Malta

Malta in May is wonderful. I went with my family for my cousin's wedding and my goodness she chose a perfect location!
My Dad commented that it felt quite Italian but everyone spoke English. He has a point. There are lots of English people there and we didn't encounter any translation problems. Well, apart from the ice cream man finding hilarity in me asking for fudge ice cream when I meant to say toffee. Pronouncing it like a northerner didn't help.
The weather was great. It was hot and sunny but as it's a small island you're generally by the sea or on a hill so there'll be a cool breeze to stop you from melting. Of course, that's in May. The taxi driver who took us to the airport was English and had been there 7 years. He said he still wasn't used to the sticky 40degree heat of July and August.
There's a lot of construction going on across Malta. Most notably to us, it was going on in the flats above ours. Me and my sister often commented that it didn't feel finished, there was a sense that it was incomplete and that we should come back in 5 years. But really, a lot was complete. And what was, was nice. Restaurants, bars, cafes, cinemas and small supermarkets. That's in St Julian's at least, the town we stayed in.
Valetta, the capital, and Mdina, the old capital, feel far more traditional with more striking architecture and gorgeous churches, one of which my cousin got married in.
Really, a week wasn't long enough and I could have stayed longer. Then I might have come back with a solid tan rather than a patchy one where I burnt some parts some days and slighty tanned others on others day.




Sunday, April 29

Cookies

Ingredients:
100g butter
75g soft brown sugar
175g self raising flour
100g chocolate chips
2tbsp golden syrup
2tbsp milk


  • Use a wooden spoon to beat butter until soft. Add the sugar and cream together.
  • Add the syrup, milk, chocolate and flour and mix in thorouhly.
  • Place spoonfuls of the mixture onto a greased baking tray. I managed to get 12 cookies from the mixture.
  • Cook in at 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Take out of the oven and after a few minutes you can move them onto a wire rack to cool.


Notes:
I didn't use chocolate chips, I chopped up a bar of milk chocolate and it worked just as well. 
Keep an eye on them in the oven. The length of time they need will vary depending on their size.

Thursday, April 26

The Problem with Facebook...

When you're at university Facebook is a great tool. It's nice to have such a simple way to communicate with friends from home. But when it becomes the only way you ever hear from them, or more precisely read about them, then it becomes tiresome.
There are several of my friends from home, and I won't name names, who I don't talk to any more. And this would be fine, it would just be distance getting in the way of friendship and when we did eventually meet up it would be comfortable and straight back to normal for us.
But Facebook ruins this. It's not unreasonable to say that most Facebook activity is boasting or moaning. It's either pictures of you posing a million different ways on a fantastic night out or it's you moaning that your boyfriend didn't buy the right cheese. Or things to that effect. And when this is all you ever see of someone, it can make you dislike them. Your face twists at them complaining about the price of their 5 star holiday, or you build an irrational resentment for the new and exciting things they're doing with no desire to tell you about it.
If it wasn't for Facebook, you wouldn't know about these things until you decided to meet up, have a catch up and fill each other in on all the details. But with Facebook, you can't help but hate the way people only tell you things by telling every online friend the same thing.
I know I'm partly to blame for this happening, I could always talk to them first. But I'm ashamed to say I rarely start a conversation on chat and it's not very often I have anything interesting to post on someone's wall. And yet the resentment for them being the same grows.

Thursday, April 19

Flapjack

This flapjack recipe is quick, simple and has delicious results. This is one of the first things I used to bake at home.

Ingredients:
150g oats
100g butter
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup

  • Heat the butter, golden syrup and sugar in a pan. Be careful not to let it boil!
  • Take off the heat and thoroughly mix in the oats.
  • Put into a greased baking pan, press down firmly.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes at 180 degrees.



Notes:
This makes a fairly small batch of flapjacks. If they're just for you, that should be fine. But if you're planning to share you might want to double the quantities. 

Wednesday, April 4

a la London

I've lived in London for nearly two years, interrupted with the occasional visit home. But it is only now I am really coming to appreciate that fact.
Over the last few weeks I've had some gorgeous days out. For our anniversary me and my boyfriend went into central London. We arrived at Piccadilly and I stood, a mesmerised tourist, staring at the iconic, glowing advertising boards I had never seen before. We then walked to Trafalgar Square and to Buckingham Palace. We strolled through St James' Park and past the Ritz, sat and had coffee before going to see the 39 Steps at The Criterion Theatre.

The past two Sundays I've had equally lovely days out. One with a friend who took me to a gorgeous cake shop in South Kensington and then led me, the tourist, around the London he knew so well. We went to Harrod's, Covent Garden, Carnaby Street walked along the Thames and finished our day at Big Ben. The following Sunday, I took my boyfriend to the same little cake shop (any excuse for cake) and we too walked through London. We went to Kensington Gardens, saw The Royal Albert Hall and walked along discussing pedaloes in Hyde Park. We walked down Park Lane, past the Hard Rock Cafe, possibly even past Johnny Depp, and in all honesty, it barely cost us anything.
And now I feel dreadful for not using London more. I had been in occasionally, of course. I'd been to the museums, the South Bank Centre the O2, places like that. My trips into London were always for something in particular, to do a certain thing. Never to wander aimlessly and just see what's there and find little things that make you smile. Or find massive, gorgeous buildings that make you smile even more. I had let myself get used to the edges. I stuck to the little towns like Putney and Kingston that don't feel like London at all, but I always felt perfectly happy there. They felt safe because they felt like home.
I don't want safe any more. I want to explore and feel happy that I've gone out and experienced the city that is so close to me.

Friday, March 9

Crunchy Chocolate Brownies

This is a recipe I found in my Be-Ro Home Recipes book. I made it as it looked similar to something I used to have at school. Turns out to be slightly different but still delicious. And so simple!


Ingredients:
225g margarine
150g caster sugar
75g desiccated coconut
75g crushed cornflakes
150g self raising flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
100g melted chocolate (optional)

  • Melt the margarine over a low heat.
  • Stir in the sugar, coconut, crushed cornflakes, cocoa powder and flour. Mix in well.
  • Put into a tin and flatten out with a wooden spoon. The tin I used was about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Once flattened out it should be around 1-2cm in thickness.
  • Pop in the oven at 180degrees for 20 minutes.
  • Take out and leave to cool for a while before cutting into squares.
  • If you want, melt the chocolate and use to cover. I didn't cover it completely, just drizzled it over as you can probably see in the photo.

Notes:
Yes I'm wearing a tiger onesie in that photo. Don't judge me. 

Monday, March 5

Flarf!

Last week in my poetry lecture we looked at flarf poetry. One method used to create flarf poetry involves choosing a couple of unrelated words and sticking them in a search engine. Using the links displayed and the small samples you're shown underneath, you can pick and choose from words and phrases and build up a poem.
The results are daft and not necessarily great poetry with deep meaning. But the best part about it? It's fun! Choose the right words and you can be given a brilliant selection of quotes and phrases. If you work well with them then you can create a poem that shows that fun and that silliness. It can feel a little useless. Writing a poem with no strong sense behind it and so much disjunction, it can feel like a waste of time. But what's wrong with enjoying your writing? It doesn't have to result in a perfect piece, does it?
It's also good for shaking off the writers block. Experience a little freedom before having to tackle a task you think is more serious.

I played with flarf earlier, using the words Gauntlet and Hither in Google. I spent about 10 minutes with the first page of search results and this is what I came up with. You should pick your own words and have a go. Or use the same and see if you can come up with something better. Go on. It's fun.

Gauntlet Hither
My younger daughter, Fortune Hunter,
Didn't think Mace or Yoda dare pick it up.

Sauntering  Fortune Hunter, elbow length
fingerless mitts.
Gauntlets, velvet gauntlets.
Idiotic Fortune Hunter, destroyed
by another missile.

Start a combo - Fortune Hunter, the Gothlet, Darth Traya.
In their holiday finest they throw the gauntlet
in your face.
With a tightly clenched fist this time.
Dare to pick it up.

Thursday, March 1

Best way to Blog?

When I first started writing this blog, I thought it was best to make sure things weren't too personal. I didn't want to shout about my personal life and repeatedly talk about where I live and where I'm at uni.
But is this really the best way to blog?
Recently I've been thinking that to write a successful blog, to get a loyal band of followers who feel they know you, you surely have to let the personal stuff seep out. It's no doubt the stuff that makes you seem more interesting and more human. Showing your human side can only be a good thing, can't it?
And so in future blog posts that's just what I'm going to do. Be more honest and open and discuss things I'm doing and what's going on in my life. It might make anyone who reads this feel they can relate to me and like they may want to come back in the future and read more.

Tuesday, February 21

Potato Wedges

Potato wedges can be really hard to get right. Some times they're too thin and come out too crunchy, other times they seem to take an eternity to cook through! But here's what I do....

  • Chop up a potato, an obvious first step. No need to peel it, simply wash it. Make chunky wedges and try and keep them all the same size.
  • Put on a baking tray and add some oil and sprinkle on some mixed herbs. Get your hands in and make sure every wedge is covered.
  • Flatten them out ready to go in the oven. To help them cook through I find it's best to put the biggest wedges on the outside and the smallest in the middle.
  • Put in the oven for around 20 minutes at 200 degreesC. 
  • Take them out, mix them round and pop them back in for a further 20-30 minutes. Timings require some of your own judgement and although it may seem a long cooking time I find waiting for them is better than finding some aren't fully cooked!



Notes:
These are a great alternative to cheapo oven chips, and can either go with a meal or be a snack with some nice dip. For a slightly different flavour you could add garlic puree or chilli powder along with the olive oil and herbs.
Cooking for more people? Simply find bigger potatoes or use more of them!

Sunday, February 19

Parsnip Soup

This is a recipe my Dad gave me, I have no idea where he got it but it's brilliant. In all honesty, I could eat this by the gallon!



Ingredients:
3 large parsnips (or 5 of the skinnier ones you tend to find in supermarkets)
1 large onion
Chilli powder - 1 heaped tsp
Garamasala - 1 heaped tsp
Plain flour - 1 tbs
2 pints vegetable stock (2 stock cubes should be enough)
Splash of lemon juice (optional)


  • Peel and chop the parsnips and the onion. 
  • Fry these on a medium heat in some oil for around 10 minutes. Stay with them and don't let them rest for too long, you don't want them to brown or burn.
  • Take off the heat and add the chilli powder, garamasala and flour. Stir, then add the vegetable stock.
  • Put back on the heat and bring to the boil.
  • Bring to a lower temperature, cover, then leave to simmer for around 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Blend it! I transfer to a large bowl (to avoid damaging my saucepan) and blend using a hand held blender. The soup will be thick but smooth when finished.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.



Notes:
There's no need to go all out and get a fancy blender. Mine was about £5 from Asda and works perfectly.
You'll probably get 4 decent sized portions from this recipe. Don't worry if it isn't all being eaten at once. It keeps well in the fridge (a week is probably the longest I'd leave it though) and can be heated up in the microwave or on the hob when you want some more!

Thursday, February 9

Quick Curry

Ingredients:
200g chopped tomatoes
3 or 4 mushrooms
Half an onion
Curry paste
Soft cheese (optional)

  • Finely chop the onion and fry on a high heat for around 5 minutes to soften. It's important to stay with them and keep stirring and moving them so they don't brown/burn.
  • Stir in the chopped tomatoes. Lower the heat then chop and add the mushrooms.
  • Add 1 and a half tablespoons of curry paste and stir through.
  • Leave to cook for around 15 minutes.
  • In this time you may like to stir in a dollop of soft cheese (such as Philadelphia) to make it slightly creamier. I also added some mixed herbs and a little black pepper.
  • As it bubbled and spattered the hob I took the time to heat a naan bread, timing it so everything was ready at the same time.

Notes:
I made this as lunch for 1 and had it with a naan bread. To make it a more substantial or simply meatier meal you could serve with chicken and rice. Start by frying chopped chicken breast, add the onion once the chicken is sealed. When the chicken starts to brown and the onion has softened, add the chopped tomatoes and continue with the recipe as described. 
I've not really used curry paste before so I didn't know what would be best, but this tube was just £1 from Asda. It wasn't too hot and it worked perfectly.