Monday, 31 December 2012

It's the End of the Year as We Know It

So it's the end of a year and the beginning of another. It's been bitter sweet this year, so many disappointments, so many adventures, and so many changes that I feel like I've been on a rollercoaster and I'm still trying to get my vision straight and settle my stomach back down.

This was the year that I passed my driving test and got to know my quirky car; entered an art competition and was exhibited in Japan; ate a few unusual vegetables; confronted a little bit of fear; joined a cooking club and made lots of yummy new recipes; carved a pumpkin for the first time; went meteor watching; survived several apocalypses; and of course, last but not least, started a blog.

The most important thing that I have learned this year is that people will surprise you, the events of this life are unpredictable and wonderous, everything is changing all the time and in that moment of flux there are infinite possibilities. I'm very, very grateful to all the people who stood by me while I went up and down and round about, I'm a lucky, lucky girl to have all of you in my life. Together we go forward into untold adventures.

I am hoping that next year I will accomplish bigger and better things, that I will be light and whimsical, that I will live with an open heart and an adventurous spirit and I hope that you all will join me. To infinity and beyond!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Face Off

I went for a facial with Eva, an extremely talkative Polish lady who originally sorted out my teenage acne (mumble) years ago. She is one of a dying breed of cosmeticians who were trained up long before micro-abrasions were available and dermatologists did facials, so she knows all about skin.  The facial she gave me was not one of those pampering sessions, it was a proper full on treatment. The session was about two and a half hours long and she included an eyebrow wax and a shoulder massage. While we were talking she told me about how she and her husband met, how she ended up in the States, how much she is cooking more and more traditional Polish dishes as she gets older.  She is so full of life! And now my face is too :)

While she was doing my face we talked a bit about my skin. She shared a few skin care tips and I thought I would pass them on:

-Witch hazel is a great toner, good with oily skin but not too drying

- If you have sensitive skin, organic baby head-to-toe wash is the best cleanser

- The best exfoliator is if you rub in a bit of baking soda into your cleanser and wash with it, then rinse off. It's cheap and it has no horrible preservatives.

Happy skin, hooray!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone, or any other things that you are celebrating! I hope you have a delightful time, spend some time with people you love, give and get and eat yummy things. Wishing you lots of fantasticness today! x

Friday, 21 December 2012

It's the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine

Happy End-of-the-World everyone! Apparently the Mayan calendar ends today.  Apparently this is more of a celebration of the end of a cycle, a time for reflection and an opening of consciousness.  In the last age, we were 'people of corn', in the this age we will be 'people of honey'. I have no idea what any of that means, but it sounded nice. In any case, I haven't noticed any zombies or robots invading. It is snowing though, which is quite enough excitement for me :)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Home for the Holidays

Term finally ended and I got to pack everything up and jet off to the States to see the family for Christmas. Before I left I got to catch up with Fairy Princess Mummy for a coffee, I had an early Christmas with Middle B, and I had coffee and a gorgeous stroll around Ramsgate Marina with M. Then I jumped on a plane and here I am! 

Well, not quite: I left the house at 6.15am to get on the fast train to London and tubed it to Heathrow.  I got to the check in for my flight and there was man with a very strangely shaped suitcase, so naturally I asked him what was in it.  He said, "Guess!" so I said, "An instrument?'" and he leaned over to a guy the other side of me and said, "She guessed an instrument!".  It turns out that it was a hat box carrying cowboy hats, though people usually guess instruments or various other things, including a turtle.  The gentlemen were from a dance troupe called the DC Cowboys and the first thing they did was apologise for their airport. "Dullis is horrible, I can't believe that we welcome people into our nations capital with an airport that is so badly designed." They had come into London for the weekend to film a show with Dale Winton and were flying back to DC in time to go back to work.

I got through check-in and security and I ran into Santa and one of his elves.  They were distributing chocolate.  The elf was dressed in a green tunic, a purple hat and stripey tights, and had a very mischievous smile. Santa stopped me and told me to have a good day, which I reciprocated of course, and then he exclaimed "You're fabulous, you are!" and as the walked off I heard him say to the elf, "what a lovely lady!".  He then went onto assure me that I would have a white Christmas and I believed him because who wouldn't believe Santa?! I ran into them again later and they gave me more chocolate and waved me off as I headed towards the gate.

The flight was lovely, I got to watch Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the Maltese Falcon and read the Fellowship of the Ring and ate lentil tikka masala for lunch. It was all very relaxing until I arrived in Washington. I went through customs which took about 20 mins and then picked up my luggage and then put it down again 100 yards later and then got into another queue for security.  I managed to get my belt and shoes back on and then sprinted down the hallway.  It turned out my gate was in a different terminal and I just made it onto the train before the doors closed.  I got out with about 5 mins to spare and I dashed up the escalator and down another escalator then down the concourse, then down another set of stairs and along again and then up another set of stairs and then down another escalator and arrived at A1B in a crumpled sweaty heap and had just enough breath to ask "Detroit?".  It turned out that there were 4 flights going from that gate, none of which were my flight, I narrowly avoided getting onto the Miami or the Jonesboro flights.  In the event, my flight was about 40 mins late so I had plenty of time to catch my breath and overhear nearly everyone exclaiming about how confusing this airport is. The moral of this story: I'll make sure I have over 2 hours for my layover in Washington next time.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Down by the Sea, Wouldn't it be Lovely

We have strolled around cities and woods and gardens and fields but the place we get always get drawn back to is the sea.

The Street, Tankerton
view from Brighton Pier
Ramsgate marina

Friday, 14 December 2012

(I may be presumptuous in saying) the Best Christmas Present Ever, Surely!

Middle B and I went out for our annual Christmas-before-Christmas at The Hutch, where they know us so well that when we didn't order the cheese board they were surprised. (We had the Indian platter and the Tapas to share, just in case you wanted to know). It was truly yummy.  We had some hot spiced cider as well - they had to go next door to the pub and get more cider for us because they'd run out! The food was delicious (of course) and the company divine (naturally) but the best part of the evening was....
my home-made present from Middle B:

Typographical Scrabble. We know how to party.

She made me Typographical Scrabble!! The 'board' is a tea-towel, and each letter is made in a different font that begins with that letter.  She made it so that I can learn my fonts. My favourite tiles so far are the Z which is made of Zebrawood font and the Q that you can see in the picture.  She also printed a 'box' out of a tote bag and it has a totally fabulous ampersand on it.  We had a nice little game of Scrabble there and then, it was so exciting!  We even carried on through dessert.

It's ok though because the board is washable. Did I forget to mention that we're design geeks? I love my friends so much!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Post Secret

I've been reading Post Secret since about 2007.  I bumped into the first book in a bookstore when I lived in Canada, and I've been checking the secrets on the website every Sunday ever since.  The secrets are moving, hilarious, terrifying and hopeful.  There are secrets I can relate to and secrets that I could never dream of understanding.  There are secrets that are written on blank paper and secrets that are works of art in themselves. There are secrets that are very specific and secrets that speak broadly to us as a species.

On Monday, M and I embarked on a road trip to Brighton.  It was a two and a half hour drive for me and mostly stress free until we got a bit lost in the town centre and some man in a very big car sat and watched me park which got me all flustered.  That aside it was a very nice drive.  We had a stroll to the Pavilions, around the Pier and along the sea front, and then out of the cold and into a coffee shop for a mocha (which M preceded to get all over his face) and finally another stroll up to the Dome concert hall.

The Dome is beautiful and stately.  As we walked in we were greeted by some people from Grassroots, a local suicide prevention organisation who were sponsoring the show, and we both took pledges to ask for help if we needed it and to help others if they were thinking about it. We had a wander around the building - it's exuberantly tiled and has extraordinary ornate ceilings - and then finally we got to go in and pick a seat.  A lady ushered us in and told us that there were still seats at the front, to which I replied that we're lurkers and a bit more comfy towards the back, which got a chuckle out of M.  We ended up nearish the front to the side.

Frank Warren, the founder of Post Secret, came on stage and began to talk about how the project was set up, secrets that couldn't make it into the book, his parents reactions, his own secrets, how much the Post Secret Community members have raised for suicide prevention organisations, and how the community has put together the most comprehensive page on the web for resources round the world for suicide prevention. He was warm and funny and honest. 

After that he handed over to the audience and people could go up to the microphones which were at the back in darkness and tell secrets if they wanted to. All sorts of people went up and all sorts of secrets came out. A couple of people told funny secrets, some harrowing ones, and some people got up and thanked the people they were with for stopping them from committing suicide.  The funniest one for me was a lady who stood up and said that until yesterday she didn't realise that reindeers were real. The one I related to the most was a lady who said that she felt like she had been born into the wrong world, she should have been in a world where magic and mythological creatures were real. You could hear the tremor in her voice as she said it. One lady started crying during her secret and the lady in line behind her gave a big hug while the next person spoke.  Both M and I were in tears at times, and in giggles at others. It was a really amazing atmosphere, very open and very emotional.

Frank rounded off the evening by sharing his favourite secret that was sent in on a dollar bill: 'We're all part of something bigger, and we're all part of it together.' Who knows, maybe next time I'll even be brave enough to get up and share my secrets.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Cooking Club do Christmas!

After a night out of cocktails and dancing with the girls, I hauled myself up to Julies house for some fun baking. Mr. Julie was introduced to Julie through a mutual friend, and the first time they met the three of them baked these biscuits - aw!

Stained Glass Window Biscuits

We started off by making the biscuit dough.  Mini-Julie and I mixed up with butter, flour and sugar with our hands til it had the consistency of bread crumbs, which, of course lead to me getting covered in flour. Julie then mixed in 4 tbsp golden syrup, so it ended up being pretty gooey.  We then kneaded it and rolled it out. (We had to use a lot of flour to get it to roll out properly because it's quite a damp dough, but be careful as too much flour can affect the taste of the biscuits.)

I ended up doing most of the rolling out and cutting out holes in the pastry for the 'windows', while Mini-Julie found her niche smashing up fruit sweets using a pestle and mortar.  I tried to find some clear, hard, fruit sweets at the supermarket and couldn't find any for love nor money! Scandal! In the end, I found some at Marks & Spencer.

Julie cleaned up the shapes once they were on the baking tray, put holes in the top (you can use them as Christmas tree ornaments if you like, but put a hole in the top for the string to go through) and filled in the 'windows' with the smashed up sweets.  You can just have a jumble of colour, or you can smash them up in combination - we had some green and yellow, some red and purple, amongst others.

We put them in the oven for 12 - 15 mins.  When you take them out, make sure they cool properly before you move them, the 'stained glass' needs to have time to harden up. Et Voila - tea and (very classy) biscuits!

Naturally, we finished off the afternoon with a board game.  Today it was Minotaurus, which all got a bit tactical.  Julie won with ease, with Mini-Julie coming a close second, while Mr. Julie and I battled it out for last place.  It was close, but I eventually arrived third.

Next cooking group in the new year. Feel free to give me suggestions of interesting things we could try out!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Snowy Snow Snow! and also Cooking Club: The Return

Today I opened the door to head down the hill and ... it was snowing! Big, fluffy, white flakes! It was so exciting!  I went to meet D for coffee in the bookshop and we ended up getting into a conversation about the snow with the baristas:

Me: It's bound to stop snowing at some point
Barista: Not necessarily.  It could just carry on going. Covering everything deeper and deeper.
Me: Like a snowy apocalyse.
D: We'll have to hide out here and live only on coffee and pastries.
Barista: I reckon we could survive at least a week.
Me: Best place to survive an apocalypse ever.  There's coffee and books. We'd never be bored.
D: We'll know everything ever by the time we get out.
Me: Everything ever. And when we get out we'll come across a small band of survivors, and they will label us the Holders of the Knowledge because we'd read the whole bookstore.
D: And they will worship us because we make really good coffee.
Barista: So if it snows any harder we're all staying here then, yeah?
All of us: Yep.


The girls and I have set up a little informal cooking club: last month we made nori rolls, on Sunday we set about making turkish food with traditional recipes from Mr. Julie's great grandma. We started off the afternoon with a good old gossip which lasted a long time and we finally got down to cooking at about 4.30pm.  We made three different dishes, substituting lentils for beef, some turned out to be more successful than others! Since they are grandma recipes, there are no quantities and the instructions are pretty loose. We just kind of experimented and hoped for the best.

Baked Zucchini

Zucchini / courgette - peeled and diced (though we used aubergine / eggplant)
4 eggs
salt red pepper
1/4 stick margerine

- grease the pan with the margarine
- beat the eggs together, add salt and pepper, and then scramble them lightly
- while the eggs are still runny, pour them into a baking pan with the zucchini.  Mix this together and bake at 180 C / 350 F for 40 mins.  Make sure you mix it every so often while baking.
- add more salt and pepper as required, and bake for a while longer if it needs it.

We found this recipe a tad confusing (red pepper like capsicum? or red pepper like pink peppercorns?) and while we did eat it all up, I think we'll have to modify a little - maybe we could have cooked the aubergines before hand more? If you experiment with this then let me know.

our version of Baked Zucchini


potatoes or peppers or sauteed aubergine, sliced thinly
minced beef (in our case we substituted with brown lentils, but you could use soy mince, Quorn or mushrooms just as well)
pepper paste

- combine the beef (or whatever) with the tomatoes, pepper paste, parsley and garlic. We boiled the lentils before for half an hour just to make sure that they were cooked.
- layer the potato slices (or other options) in the bottom of the oven dish, and then some of the beef mixture on top.  We used potatoes, and then put a layer of lentils, then a layer of red peppers, then lentils, then potatoes.  Unfortunately we forgot step 1, so we had to just to pour all the tomato concoction over the top and hope it seeped through during cooking! It was still good, but I recommend mixing it up first.
- pour some extra tomato sauce over the top of the dish (but not so much that it completely covers it)
- cover with foil and bake on the bottom shelf of the oven at 200 C / 400 F for about an hour. If it is a bit too watery then take off the foil and let it cook up top for a while til the water evaporates more.

This was very yummy and I'm definitely doing it again - even though we forgot the spices! It reminded me a bit of Eggplant Parmigiano, which made me think that maybe I could experiment with cheese on top next time.



onion - chopped in chunks
green beans
fresh tomato - chopped in chunks
swedish salt I don't actually know what this is, but apparently you can get it in Portugal.  We settled for more spices
jalapeno we ended up using an italian capsicum, so we didn't get as much spice, but it was a yummy addition to th recipe

- sautee the onion until a little bit transparent
- add the green beans
- add the tomato and spices
- cover and simmer for 25 - 30 mins

This was definitely our favourite dish of the night, it's easy and tasty and even tastes good as a cold salad, and it keeps well, I imagine. I'm not sure because we ate all of it.

Turkish dinner: yum!

Naturally, in fine Cooking Club tradition we ended the day with a board game.  The choice this time was the Lego game which was a bit tricky but quite exciting.  I ended up rescuing the King, but Julie got the most gold and Mini-Julie defeated the huge big monster, so everyone's a winner.

Now it's just a case of finding other exciting food to try out next time! Any ideas anyone?

Friday, 30 November 2012

High Hopes

I saw this graffiti on a toilet door today, it lifted my heart:

well read graffiti :)

The origin of this quote is here, from Neil Gaiman's Journal.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Game playing

Conversation between M and I the other day:

Me: ....and then as we were walking to the pub, when we were up north, I lost one of my domino earrings. It made me sad.  But they were made by Middle B, so I'll just ask her if she has another pair that I could buy.

M: If she doesn't you could just wear the one, couldn't you? Maybe find something else to pair it up with?

Me: Like a chess piece or something. 

M: Or a whole roulette wheel.

Me: Ha ha.  Or a playing card.

M: Which playing card would you choose?

Me: Oh,.... I don't know....I hadn't thought about that.

M: It'd be Queen of Hearts.  Definitely.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Out on the Street

M and I decided to go for a stroll along the beach today. It was windy and wet and cloudy.  I didn't mind too much, it was still beautiful. The rain gave us a chance to stop at The Forge, a little hut selling tea, doughnuts and rock oysters by the sea front. We wondered out towards Seasalter and then back down the other way towards Tankerton. The only people out were a few bedraggled families and some dog walkers.  We saw some amazing looking dogs - ones that looked like big shaggy bears, a happy one with dreads, a slightly skittish poodle, some overenthusiastic collies and a few labs. We carried on past the harbour and went on to stroll up the Street.

The Street is a little strip of land that stretches for about half a mile into the sea.  There are currents on either side. If you go right to the end you can stand in between these two currents and watch as they merge into each other.  It's made up of rocks and shells and sand. Naturally we paused to take in the view, skim a few stones (in my case more of an attempt than an actual skim) and eat some liquorice (after we'd finished having a sword fight with it. M won.). We got to the end and it was rainy and dark and the sun was setting over the blotchy grey sky. Windswept, we wandered back up to the shore. There were tiny little birds scuttling about looking for food, the crabs were running away from them into the sea as fast as they could go.

Nobody really knows how the Street came into being, though there are a few legends surrounding it: some say was a causeway for unloading goods in Roman times when the coastline was much further out.  Others say that it is all that remains of a medieval town called Graystone. Or that it is made up of lots of shells of various creatures that have washed up over years and years to form a high ledge in between the tides.  One artist had a story that it was created by a boy who fell in love with a mermaid, so they had a place for them both to live. Either way, out there in the elements, today it felt a little bit magical.

(The sunnier side of ) The Street 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

In which the First Meeting of the Deviant Sock Creature Meteor Watchers convenes and has a Jolly Good Time

Last weekend I met up with Mr and Mrs.-is-Thinking and we drove up north to meet up with some other arty friends and watch meteors. It was all very exciting! Taz and Laima fed us really yummy Russian food:

Potato pancakes for breakfast

We went for a walk around Sowerby Bridge in the morning.  It was cold and muddy and beautiful. I was a big scaredy cat and was really slow walking down certain bits but Mr. and Mrs. helped me walk through all the steep bits:

We walked past the llama farm:

Llama farm! Ok, they might be Alpacas but whatever
We also walked past a few other places of interest:

In the afternoon, we visited Hebden Bridge, home to many tiny independent shops and an amazing array of bookshops and other loveliness:

biiiiiiig cheese!

In the evening, we got together and made a collage between us.  We chopped up some old magazines and made poetry and added some embellishments:

With so many artists about it was bound to be awesome: 

We went out to the pub all dressed up in our warmest clothes, which in my case were definitely lacking somewhat.  We were intending to meet some friends and trek up the moors at about 11pm so that we could see the Leonid meteors.  Taz made us coffee with a gas stove before we left:

In the end, it was too cloudy and rainy, so we went home to bed and woke up for 5am so that we could get onto the moors for about 6am which was the peak of the meteor shower. We went to a secluded spot and stared at the sky for ages until the sun came up. I saw a couple of shooting stars, it was so beautiful.  

Meanwhile back at the flat, the sock creatures had a little reunion of their own:

Finally, after a nose around Halifax and an pretty enormous Sunday lunch, we managed to rescue the car from the car park that was about to be locked up, and we packed up and drove 300 miles back down south:

It was a really lovely weekend, and I'm quite sure that we will get together again for some major meteor showers next year.  Whether we actually watch meteors is not really the point, but it's a good excuse to all hang out, and if we end up seeing some shooting stars, then all the better.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Just to say....

This is not a real post, but just to say that I am going up north this weekend with Mr and Mrs.-is-Thinking to watch meteors and carry on knitting the periodic blanket of elements.  Why yes, I am quite geeky, in case you hadn't noticed already but luckily for me that's fashionable right now.  I will report on our star-gazing adventures when I get back.  Til then I will leave you with an awesome print that I couldn't resist - ampersands and foxes in one picture?! (you can get this and other charming prints and t-shirts here)
Have a lovely weekend, y'all.

Ampertastic Mr Fox by Sock Monkee

Monday, 12 November 2012

Um, erm, like, so, yeah...

Today, Miss R and I got talking about how these days we say the words 'like' and 'also' much more than we used to (in fact both of our mums used to tell us off for using like). You can't imagine a sentence without a 'like' in it, or 'you know', or (in my case) overuse of the word 'so'. Word fashions change - I think 'so' came in from Friends, 'I'm liking it' must come from McDonalds ads or something. My friend Roo used to make fun of my English accent by using the phrases 'henceforth' and 'post haste', usually together, which sounded like something out of Jane Austen and used to make me giggle no end. Wording also depends on context - when I'm at work and I'm dealing more with academia then I would use phrases which I wouldn't say but I write, like 'thus', 'however', 'hence', and Miss R's favourite 'the aforementioned....'. Understanding academic language is like a whole new type of slang, standards come and go, certain phrases become more in vogue than others and the way you reference things changes from one school to another so much that sometimes you have no idea what's going on.  I quite like footnotes myself (and not just in academic texts) but I think that might make up a whole post in itself.
And so to that end we had a text conversation later:

Miss R: Lovely to see you today hon, always great catching up
Me: Hence as aforementioned I love you also
Miss R: Ibid.
Me: And thus, et al
Miss R: Op. cit. me
Me: I'm glad you referenced that

This is why I love my friends, because I'm not the only person who gets all geeky about language! Now I am so off to bed, henceforth post haste.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Blogs I Appreciate

I don't have anything remotely entertaining that you need to know about, so instead I thought I would pass on some people who are entertaining me and generally being awesome in the land of blog:

Join Euphoria Girl as she battles pink robots and gets up to other geeky shenanigans in Austin, Texas. For her more musically minded adventures have a look here.

If you need a bit of positivity and mushiness, this is the best place for it.

Where quirky, fun, whimsical artyness happens every Monday.


Monday, 5 November 2012

Breathing Space

Everything has been pretty up in the air for a while and now I'm trying to let everything settle and get some rest.  I haven't been feeling my best recently, luckily I've got some pretty amazing people in my life who make it all better.  Some such people are Fairy Princess Mummy and the family, with whom I had a very relaxing sleep over weekend. We watched Brave with the Fairy Princesses (which I loved!) and later on once the kiddies had gone to bed we watched Safety Not Guaranteed which was suggested by FP Daddy (a definite hit with all three of us).  We also took some time during to day to pop to the Gallery to have a play in a fabulous interactive exhibit by Maria Nepomuceno called Breathing Time.

Cover me! I'm going in!

Lots of things to touch...

....and listen to...

....and play inside

The people at the museum said the the exhibit will keep on growing, bits will be added on to it every now and then.  While I love looking at paintings, I do really like art that you can climb on and play with! I know the Fairy Princesses certainly did.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

They're Alive!!

I was going down the footpath from work and noticed that people on the path seemed to have a lot more personality suddenly:

It started simply enough...

A bit naughty!

A bit corporate...

A bit chilly.

A bit dashing.

A bit dark.

A bit cool.

and my favourite is Harry Potter, obviously:

A bit magic.
I have no idea who bestowed the personality to the people, but whoever you are I think you're delightful.