Friday, 23 December 2011

Making & Baking - the xmas installment

Because it came in a v.large box and was therefore difficult to hide and because I was standing in the hallway when it was heaved carried up the stairs and therefore saw it straight off (and because this Christmas I intended to make presents rather than buy them), Mitch gave me my xmas present early. I am now the proud owner of my very own sewing machine and I love it! Hats off to Mitch, although it was two weeks early the christmassy present effect was still the same, it was such a good surprise and the perfect gift.

What with Christmas fast approaching, the quilt has been put on hold. In it's place I've been busy making presents, namely cushions, and so far so good. Of course, this being me I'm making a mental note of all the sewing and craft projects I could do once the cushions are complete and the festive season comes to a close, I don't think Mitch could've known what he's instigated (or what our flat will look like...)! I've been given the means to make my own clothes (I shall definitely be attempting this) as well as all the cushions and bunting I could possibly want - absolute joy. 
Feeling like a domestic goddess (although, I'm yet to make anything) I decided to do some baking: bread and biscuits. I'd never made bread before but Lorraine Pascale provided an incredibly simple recipe to start me off. The ham, cheese and chive loaf turned out pretty well. As for the spiced biscuits, it's an age old, simple recipe that I've been making (and assisting to make/ice) since I was very small. They've become some what of a Christmas tradition and my first Brixton batch of them turned out just as I remember them. I can't take credit for the icing though, that was down to Mitch. Nothing says 'season's greetings' quite like a dinosaur shaped biscuit :)

Merry Christmas everyone! 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Interval Ice cream & the Long Commute

As well as a couple of trips to the pictures - The Rum Diary (v.funny, catch on dvd), 50/50 (laugh out loud jokes from Seth Rogan but bring your tissues, I cried alot), My Week with Marilyn (amusing in places but also quite sad, it's an interesting glimpse into Monroe's fragility, Michelle Williams is excellent) - I recently went to the theatre to see The Lady Killers. Verdict: you should most definitely see it too, whether you've seen the original 1955 film (or the bizarre 'remake' by the Cohen Brothers) or not, it's a brilliant version to be enjoyed in it's own right. Graham Linehan (Father Ted, IT Crowd) is the man behind the adapted script and additional hilarious situations created for the stage production. The witty dialogue is expertly delivered by an excellent cast, most notably (I reckon) Ben Miller and Stephen Wright as Louis and Harry respectively. Lastly, the revolving set is superb, from Mrs Wilberforce's subsiding house to the inspired depiction of the heist half way through the first half (I won't say more than that). And, although it's available at most theatres, the ice cream at the interval is always appreciated and makes a nice change from popcorn.

Stage show line up compared the original film cast below.

What is (if there is one) the plus side of an hour or so commute? Answer: I get to read a lot. (It is the only  good thing about the journey). I've rattled through a mixed bag of books including the 3rd part of Stephen King's The Dark Tower Series (now I've started it must be finished), Iain Banks' The Wasp Factory (a v.disturbing, isolating story with a good twist), Norwegian Wood by Murakami (it's interesting and despite the fact that I disliked all the characters, it's pretty morbid and the ending - if that's what you call it - was v.odd, it's made me want to read another of his), a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman (most were surprisingly grim but the story that has stuck in my head was in the introduction, a creepy short about a wedding gift which I ordinarily would have missed as I rarely read book intros) and most recently Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. I've read a few of her books and what I've found is that opening one you haven't read before is like speaking to a good friend you've been out of touch with. It's familiar in a sense but also exciting because there's lots of new things to catch-up on, and most importantly you know that whatever they're going to say will be interesting. 

Oryx and Crake is a brilliantly, compelling book. The reader is plunged into a dystopian future where mankind has been wiped from the planet by a virus created by a possibly mad, possibly genius man (probably both) named Crake. The only human standing left standing and forced to survive on the post-apocalyptic Earth is Snowman, formally known as Jimmy. So, yes, it's science fiction and hence ticks several of my boxes. It's set in an 'end of the world as we know it' time but there are plenty of flashbacks (courtesy of Jimmy as he pieces the story together) to the world before human extinction but even that time is quite unlike our own, or rather an exaggeration of it, where we might end up if we're not careful. Atwood is a bloody awesome writer not just because of her imagination but her ability to put it all on the page in such a way that her stories linger with me a long time after I've read the last line. Talking of last lines I'm sure you can imagine my disappointment when I finished Oryx and Crake (as with all good novels), I mean this was the book that got me through a lovely district line journey where the train randomly stopped and the driver announced that he lost traction and wasn't sure why, how or when we would be moving again. My response had been to thumb the unread pages of the novel and calculate that we'd have to be stuck for at least an hour before I ran out of book to read (after which I probably would start to panic). Alas, I actually finished it the next day a third of the way through my commute but the good news is I've more Atwood in the pipeline...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

long-awaited beard update

I don't know about 'long-awaited' but it's been a few months since the last beard status update so if you're curious here it is. Pretty modest at present.

market places, market faces

We're well into the Christmas lead-up and for the first time ever the presents situation is in hand! But I'm not here to boast, in fact this will begin as a mournful post, a 'this time last year' jaunt down memory lane...

This time last year it was all gluwein and bratwurst, novelty mugs and plenty of snow. I massively enjoyed myself on two trips to Germany last winter only two weeks apart. Little did I know that my Christmas Markt over-indulgence of 2010 would not be repeated in 2011, at least not authentically or to even a 10th of the scale. However, people with no money to go Germany to experience the real Christmas Markets cannot be picky. Hello Winter Wonderland Hyde Park! I went a couple of years ago and I'm pretty sure it's doubled in size - there's plenty of food, drink, terrifying-looking-fairground-rides for those sausage-filled thrill-seekers and even some more authentic looking German craft stands. Of course it's no where near as good as what I saw in Cologne, Dusseldorf or Hagen (where are the gluwein mugs Hyde Park? Where are the cute little Christmas themed mugs for me to drink my four-quid gluwein - huh huh?! And why is it almost double the price is a plastic cup?). I got my bratwurst though and even managed to ask for it in convincing German (so convincingly that the sausage seller tried to make conversation with me in German at which point I said thanks and walked off - smooth)!
chocolate ginger heart from Hagen Christmas Markt

Also on my market radar of recent is the one to be found at Greenwich, tucked away in the centre of a square of shops. Although it's not Christmas specific (it's on all year round) there are minced pies and mulled wine and the individual stalls exude a festive spirit. It's very craft friendly and a number of the stalls ('tis the season) have lots of little Christmassy gifts from tree decorations to cracker prizes, stocking fillers to the stockings themselves! We got chatting to a lovely lady (and her husband) who was selling quilts (surprise surprise) in all sizes and colours including some seasonal stuff too. Aside from the from the stalls themselves the neighbouring shops that look out onto the market square are worth a visit too.
Sandie from Eni-Meni Patchwork

Brixton village plays host to a number of varied events including music. At the beginning of the month my friends' band Silvers performed in between the awnings and shop shutters to mark the release of their new EP Parades which you can listen to here (it's very good): 
They have also just made a Christmas song in conjunction with Greggs (yes, the steak bake people!) to raise money for the Help for Heroes charity, watch the video here
Staying within the Brixton area, last weekend saw many talented crafty people gathering in The Dog Star pub to set up mini stalls and sell their pretty creations from jewellery and hats to screen prints, home-ware and clothing, all courtesy of The Crafty Fox. It was incredibly tempting to buy a number of things (Storm in a Teacup for numerous pretty things, Love Lexi for bunting, Key Lime Pie for awesome t-shirts and Lucie Ellen for cute wooden accessories), however I restrained myself and only purchased three items that were Christmas present (for others) related.
Awesome screen printed wrapping paper from Frinton Press, cufflinks from House of Ismay and some extra large pretty pins from Zeena

And finally, I took a trip to an altogether different market in London's east end, Walthamstow - young Mitch's local market. He said a lot of it had changed (less stalls, the loss of a computer shop he used to go to) but thankfully one thing had not disappeared, our main reason for riding the length of the Victoria line, Manze's - the old pie and mash shop - home of very tasty pie indeed. It's been there on Walthamstow high street since 1927 with what feels like (in a good nostalgic way) all the original decor, tiles and wooden benches, even the brass cash register.

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