Thursday, 13 June 2013

Day 150 - Offspring

31st May 2013

This year my darling friend Remi made another person exist on the planet. How insane is that? A whole new person is alive because of her! And isn't she just too beautiful for words?

I met Remi and Azra for lunch and a wander round Westfield. It was entirely an excuse to finally meet this gorgeous baby, sorry girls. Love you! I managed quite awhile before I just had to have a cuddle and I would have never let her go if Remi had let me. It was very strange seeing such a litle baby again, I'd become so used to seeing my darling little Keira who is just over 6 months old and is my standard little baby. Seeing a 3 month old made Keira look ready for university.

After finally giving up my cuddle (grumble mutter) and having another little wander round the shops, I went home to ready myself for the evening activities. As it's Ben's birthday we were off to All Star Lanes for some food, cocktails, and bowling.

Food was expensive and mediocre. The cocktails were slightly expensive but highly delicious. Bowling is so much more fun than I remember it.

I am greatly enjoying Shreena bowling like an Egyptian
The loneliness of the...bowler.
Here are the three main points to take away from this:

1) Remi makes adorable babies
2) All Star does good cocktails and meh food
3) Bowling is fun, go do it.


Saturday, 1 June 2013

Day 149 - Choco Dino and Munchstache

30th May 2013

I appear to have people convinced I enjoy baking. Where on earth have they got that from? It's not like I buy copious amounts of baking books, bake frequently, and post photos of my creations on the internet and write about how much fun I had! Mentalists! Because of this mad delusion my friends and family a labouring under I received a few gifts along those lines.

Ben gave me a cookie cutter designed so that you could build a 3D dinosaur with the biscuits afterwards, and Jen and her family gave me some 'munchstache' cookie cutters (so that your biscuits are both shaped like and imprinted with mustaches) as well as some adorable teacup and saucer cupcake moulds and a hummingbird bakery book.

I had picked up some ready to roll gingerbread with the idea of testing out these things before I had to worry about a recipe as well. Of course, this is me. I can't ever bake something with ease can I? I opened the gingerbread and though it still had a week and a half left before the use by date it smelt strongly of cheese. I don't know about you, but weirdly I'm not so hot on cheesy gingerbread.

Cue a flick through my many baking books. I settled on some chocolate biscuits. There were two reasons....they looked fairly easy, and they were cut outs so I knew the dough would keep its shape in the oven.

As is becoming all too frequent for me, I had to make a trip to North Ealing Supermarket. When I was in the car on the way to Braintree last week I was behind a van that supplied flour and other baking ingredients. I was a little tempted to follow them and beg them to deliver to me.

The mixing and baking and things did not take long at all. What kept me going for longer than imagined (as per usual) was the fact the dough had to be chilled over and over again. Well. Twice. But still. First lot took 30 minutes, fine. Then I started cutting out and realised it wanted to be chilled again afterwards. Now, our fridge is always stuffed full and there was no way a baking tray was fitting in there. So, I cleverly improvised. After one tray was full of biscuit cut outs I chilled them in the freezer for 15-20 minutes whilst I filled another tray.

The biscuits only took 6 minutes to bake, so once the first lot were in I had a perfect little conveyor belt going on in my kitchen. The dough made a seemingly endless amount of moustaches, and eventually I got thoroughly bored of rolling out scraps over and over again, and simply cut them into squares. I couldn't resist doing another camera, as I did in a previous baking post.

They mustaches looked really good, but did not have quite the integrity I've come to associate with the tache. A load broke in the middle when they came out of the oven, so I now have a tin full of half biscuits. I've yet to try one with tea, but I believe it will be godly.

It being Ben's birthday tomorrow I decided to make a dino for him. Sadly this didn't stand the test of...well...standing. But lying down and from the right direction, he totally looks like a dinosaur.

Now you must excuse me. I have tea and biscuits waiting.



Day 148 - Acorn Antiques eh?

29th May 2013

For the feels like forever but is more likely something like 6 months, Lynsey has been out rehearsing for a show with a local theatre company. Strangely, Sunday and Wednesday evenings have been rather quiet for the last 6 months. I wonder if there's any correlation? Ha.

Tonight was opening night, so Nich, Ben, Miss Floodseroonie and I were off out to watch her. I greatly enjoyed the show, I had never watched Acorn Antiques itself, but am aware of it and the style it is played and it transferred to the stage fantastically. The woman playing Mrs Overall had her down perfectly, and the 'everything is going wrong with the set' stuff was brilliant. As, naturally, was Lynsey.

And that was that. OH wait! You wanted something interesting and tantalising that I mentioned yesterday? Well ok.

Yes indeedy. Come September, after I have performed my maid of honour duties for Ally, I will be off to the Great White North for some adventures and exploring. I have been thinking and half planning for it since the beginning of the year, but now it's an actual reality. It's incredibly exciting and scary in equal measures. I am itching to plan as much as I can now, but I know that will hold me back somewhat when it gets to being there, so I'm trying just to do the sensible planning now. I'm going to get a map and some notebooks soon, get some lists going. If you have any hints or tips or places you think I absolutely MUST go, then tell me! I'm going by myself, so will be looking for people to meet up with and make my life fun for the four months till I'm back in Blighty. I also need to work out how I intend to keep the blog going, as I don't know how I will upload photos. But I'll find a way, I'm sure.




Day 147 - Tate

28th May 2013

Just in case I haven't had enough culture recently, I went to Tate Britain with Zuzi and her friend Isobel. There was a plan to see whatever exhibition was on and do some drawing of whatever it was.

After a nice long wander round the museum and asking 3 people where the exhibit was, we were finally told there was one on. Oh. Ah well, fun anyway.

Back out into the miserable grey day we headed, and decided that the only thing for it would be to go and get some wine. Off we marched to a pub in Westminster, where Zuzi and I had a lovely chat and Isobel fell asleep, being absolutely shattered. The manager came over and told us she wasn't allowed to be asleep as it looked like she was so drunk she'd passed out. Now I understand this, but she clearly was not. She had a full glass of wine in front of her, and Zuzi and I were chatting in depth about pyschopaths, what makes someone a psychopath etc etc. We were being very academic. Not blind drunk girls. We think that maybe someone had said something to him because he seemed particularly embarrassed about having to tell us to wake up our friend. Boo. Worse things happen in Parliament every day, seems like they're asleep half the time....ha...yeah...Satire.

After a hop back to Leytonstone Zuzi was kind enough to give me some dinner and some evening entertainment with her lovely boyfriend and some friends, including Kyle which pleased me, because I missed his face loads. 

Once again my day had not gone as planned, but it was highly enjoyable all the same. Love my friends, love living in London. I'm really going to miss it. Oooooh, tantalising......



Day 146 - T is for...

27th May 2013

Samantha and I had a plan to try and go to see the Lichtenstein exhibit at the Tate Modern, Clare was going to come, it was going to be exciting. Then we couldn't get tickets. Boo. So, instead, we made a plan to go to the Coulthard Museum and see Picasso. All we had to do was go to Temple, and we'd be fine.

We all met at Paddington Station, Sam and I a little earlier than Clare. We wandered around, got an iced coffee and chatted whilst waiting.

Clare arrived, we ran lovingly into her arms, and made our way to the tube, where we did that terrible thing of getting onto a train that wasn't going far enough for us. Stupid Circle line. Here's where our troubles started. Clare and I looked at one sign and determined we needed to be standing on one side of the platform. Sam looked at another and insisted to us that it was quicker by the other platform. I looked at the list of stations and said "I don't see Temple on there..." She quickly counted out on our side that there were 12 stops to Temple and only 10 stops to Tower Hill, without saying the names outloud. We, again, voiced our concerns that this wasn't right, but she was just so sure of herself that we thought she must have another plan. She insisted that we only had misgivings because it was her and things generally tend to go wrong when she's involved. We gave in and got on the other tube.

As we were crossing the bridge, she piped up "Why are we here? Didn't we need to go to Temple?" Cue exasperated looks and an eventual admission that she just plain hadn't read the words properly, had seen a T and assumed it was the right word. This is why we don't trust her with plans. Oh dear.

Still, we had a really fun day despite the initial problems. We made a half hearted attempt at heading towards our original destination, but settled on a casual wander and meander through what is fast becoming my stomping grounds, Southbank. We got some food from the market, did a whole lot of people watching, and then an ice cream before calling it a day.

Not the day I expected, but a very very funny one nonetheless. Thanks girls!



Day 145 - Haven Green

26th May 2013

I'd felt a bit headachey and yucky when I left Braintree, and inteded on having a relaxing day, maybe a lie down. Unfortunately I have friend who apparently like seeing me. What gives?

Nich coerced me into joining her, Ben and Chris at Haven Green for a picnic. It was a beautiful day and I was definitely ready to see the sun again. After lounging around for awhile we got back to Nich and Ben's place and got chinese whilst watching Community. Bliss.

I decided that I completely didn't have the energy for my camera today, and was only going to use my phone. Then I half forgot. I took photos, but nothing especially useful as a photo of the day. The photo I've gone for is one I took for an app I'm loving at the moment, Rando. With Rando you take a photo and it's sent to a random person, and then you get a photo back from another entirely random person. It's fun, I seem to get a lot of photos back from South Korea, though some from Russia and a few from the States.

If you're wondering, it was Crispy Chilli Beef, Satay Chicken and, natch, Egg Fried Rice. China Garden, it does good work.



Day 144 - Braintree

 25th May 2013

This morning I was up and showered and raring to go, unbelievably excited about seeing my family. It hadn't been that long, but it had certainly felt it, and I was absolutely ready to cuddle all my babies, even the ones who are getting too grown up to be squished by their Auntie Stephie.

I was seconds away from departing when Tom found another stash of sprinkles that I couldn't resist adding to the cake to make it look that bit more exciting. My longing to eat some was pretty huge I'm telling you.

Finally, I was in the car, and a not too shabby hour and a half later I was in Braintree with Stu, Sara and Keira. Shock of the century, she was being adorable.

A quick cuddle later and we headed over to the pub we were having lunch in to meet everyone else. Amazingly we were given a room to ourselves, it was fantastic, like our own little function room. It meant the kids could get out a bit of energy without annoying anyone else, and we could all exercise our massive laughs and spread out.

Look at my darlings! Look at them!!

After a yummy dinner and pudding we gathered ourselves up and went back to Stu and Sara's pad, Twelve Acres. No, they do not live in a field, I have to give names to every home now.

The kids were happy enough amusing themselves with all Sara's childminding kit, and were as absolutely hilarious and wonderful as they ever are. Joe was drawing up designs for a robot, Ruthie was proving her teacher gene, Susie was reading stories to Keira, and Keira was loving every second. Ruthie proved herself to be her Auntie's niece by coming to inform me I had a glass of Pimms waiting for me by announcing "Auntie Stephie, it's Pimms o'clock! What a girl.

After a (perfect) dinner of rolls, it was finally time for cake. I had Ruthie and Keira telling me how much they loved me which I, naturally, lapped up and rewarded with cake. Joe insisted he didn't want cake unless it was chocolate cake, but changed his mind after he saw and inspected the one on offer.

The Funfetti was really quite yummy, if I do say so myself. It was a recipe for White Velvet Cake, here, and I'm more than a bit tempted to try making cupcakes from it, just so I can have some more. Nomnomnomnom.The Carrot and Courgette was nice, but I'm not a huge fan of walnuts. I'm informed by my mum that it's tasty, so she got the rest cause I'm lovely like that.

Entirely enjoyable and lovely day. Thanks family for being so awesome!



Day 143 - Funfetti

25th May 2013

Tomorrow I'm going over to Braintree to visit my brother, sister in law and tiny baby Keira. The rest of the family are coming up too, and I am incredibly excited about seeing my babies again! Ahead of this I decided to make some delicious baked goods. Mmmm.

The first cake is one I've seen on my travels across the internet for years and was yet to make. It seemed fun and fairly easy, Funfetti. From what I gather it's a box mix in the states, which would have been a whole lot easier, a lot less messier, and probably a lot less fun.

I made the first two layers, expecting them to be the only two layers, but when I got them out of the oven I realised my cake tins were too wide and the layers were too shallow for my liking. I had started making the second cake by this point, and realised I would have to go for what has become my traditional trip to North Ealing Supermarket for ingredients. I was also low on sprinkles, but North Ealing had none of these to supply me, so two layers were a little more sprinkle spartan than the others. I of course found another bottle after it was too late.

Started stirring in the sprinkles and then decided to take a photo. Happy coincidence that it formed an 'S'!

The second cake is a carrot and courgette cake. I have obviously partaken of carrot cake on many occasions through the years, but was yet to try courgette cake and I was keen to try. I found the recipe on a low GI website, looking for something my mum can enjoy as she has diabetes. You'd think it would be easier to find recipes like this, most things I found were on forums and had all sorts of ingredients unavailable in the UK, or easily at least. It was fairly easy to make, but grating 500g of carrot and courgette is boring. And damp. And boring. And also damp. Bleurch.

It looks so appetising doesn't it?

I used one of my new springform pans, so it would be a pretty heart. I think with the top evened out and iced or glazed or something it would definitely look like a pretty heart, but that I think would defeat the healthy(ish) purpose of the cake. There was a recipe for a glaze, but transport issues meant I had to rule it out. Maybe I'll have another go another day!

Funfetti cake...not quite finished.
Carrot and Courgette, ready and waiting to go
Owing to the unexpected extra two cakes to be baked it took a lot longer to finish than I expected, and my spirit was a little dampened by not being able to have even the tiniest little taste, boo.

They looked pretty though!



Day 142 - Mystery Movie Night 1

23rd May 2013

A couple of weeks ago Ben decided we should start having a Mystery Movie Night every fortnight or so. We'd all get together, one person will have previously decided on a film and we'll watch it. I like this plan.

The first was The Breakfast Club. Good choice Ben, I hadn't seen it in forever and I really quite enjoy it a lot. Well done. Kudos, even.

Now it's my go. I'd say give me suggestions, but that wouldn't be very mysterious would it now. I'll find something...hmm.



Day 141 - Life Drawing

22nd May 2013

A couple of days ago Lynsey posted on my wall about a life drawing class she had found online. When Miss Flood lived with us she used to go to classes all the time, and I always talked about going along without ever managing to. Of course, now she's not here to join. Boo. Luckily for me she gifted us Clare before leaving, so I had a pal to go with.

I've done life drawing a couple of times, once in school, once in uni. It's a lot of fun, I really enjoy drawing but can only do it when there's something there to draw. That imagination thing people keep talking about doesn't seem to flow correctly for me when it comes to drawing. Sad face. 

I had a really nice evening. It's so nice to have some time where you can't possibly think of anything else, you can't worry about washing or work or anything else. And it's always fun to get a bit messy.




Day 140 - Jungle Speed

21st May 2013

Oh my good grief. Ben introduced Nich to this game...they then introduced it to me...I'm more than a bit in love.

It's a tiny bit like snap, except much harder, much more violent, and with much more risk to any drinks nearby.

If the cards are the same, you grab the totem. If you grab for it and it's wrong, you get all the cards. There are other times when you should be grabbing the totem. It's fast and fun, but inevitably ends in injury. Thanks guys.

This is Nichola trying to prove that taking any random photo with my camera just looks good. To be fair, the subject is me and I am entirely awesome.



Day 139 - Uke

20th May 2013

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have been teaching myself the ukulele. I got my first one about 4 years ago, and upgraded last year after finding I needed to retune almost constantly. The little pink one will have a special place in my heart, but I will not miss playing it at all. My uke now makes a sound that is so much more beautiful. I fell in love with it just from hearing the assistant strum it once, there was no way I was leaving the shop without it.

Now today after work I decided to pop into the same music shop to ask about my saxophone. I am currently unable to play my sax and have any real music come out of it, and not just because it's been so long since I played (though it definitely plays a part). The pads or hinges or something are worn, and don't spring back when pressed. A saxophonist friend recommended I take it into this place, which was handy as it's about 5 minutes walk from the flat. I haven't taken it in yet, I wanted to find out what they thought...they said it's incredibly busy at the moment and to wait a week or two. Watch this space.

I had other queries though. I wanted to pick up a case for the uke. I'm not one for performing in front of others, but I like to know she's protected if I decide to take her home or something. I also needed a capo.

Now this was something that has bugged me. I have come across a few songs that ask for a capo, but after some research online they seemed far more expensive than a standard bit of kit should be, in my head. I felt like I was being silly...did people really use capos on ukuleles? I asked the woman who told me that they do but not often, which is why they're expensive. They said they'd try and get one for me. Erk.

Last thing I picked up was some song books. As well as not being a performer I am also terrible at writing music, so my enjoyment of the uke is purely from the songs I can find to play. I am loving these books, it's always nice to expand my little repertoire.

So now, Tom and Lynsey, you will be pleased to know that you won't have to overhear the same songs over and over. Huzzah!