Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Seeing the Light

Last week we finally had the memorial service for my grandma. We all went over on Sunday morning, the memorial was held on Monday 22nd in the afternoon. She volunteered for 30 years at the Museum cataloging paintings three afternoons a week, so they held it in the reading room she worked in. They met us all at the entrance and lead us through a warren of tunnels to get to the room. They had laid on a nice little spread of food and drink for before and then we had the service. Mum started off by saying a few words and then various people from the dept. said a few things about their memories of her and then a couple of distant family members spoke. Some of it was moving, some of it was banal, some of it was new to me, some of it was information I have known all my life. The dept. has kept the typewriter that she used to use - she always refused to upgrade past the electric typewriter. The desk and chair are in the basement still. They showed us the little black books that she would type pages, and then unscrew the tops, find the right opening and insert the hand typed card describing each painting that came in. They estimate that she cataloged 50,000 paintings in the time she worked there. One of the ladies told us that grandma always brought in cake, and she typed up a recipe she got from her and handed it out after she finished speaking. They all said lovely things, some more honest than others, some more relevant than others.

I was staying with an old family friend so I had my time to reflect away from the family. My dad and stepmum were there which was really lovely. I mostly got on alright with my mum and sister. We had a couple of stressful moments but on the whole it was a pretty easy going experience - or at least most of the stress didn't revolve around me. I got to see my baby cousin too, which was heartening. It didn't feel like a great relief, or a weight lifting, I didn't cry or sob, or rejoice. I just kind of hung out with my family. But since I've been home things have been lighter somehow, my heart has opened up a little more. I dressed up and I said what needed to be said in my heart I didn't need to say it out loud, and since I've been back I've been happier, easier within myself. Maybe all that strain is finally lifting and things will settle, and the grief that has had a home in my bones for over a year will burrow it's way out leaving a spaciousness in its wake.

And in the meantime I get to look towards some new horizons with a lightness in my heart and a spring in my step.




Friday, 26 December 2014

The Existential Nature of Boxing Day Food

Boxing Day: slept in, had cinnamon rolls for breakfast, watched the Strictly Christmas special, and then went out for a stroll by myself in the fresh air along the fields and up by the river - shook the cobwebs out quite nicely. We have so much food left I don't think we need to cook for a while.

I think Mrs. Im feels similarly but just with a lot more family! This was her facebook status today:

Me: are you eating chocolate cake again? With double cream? You're going to be in a diabetic coma by teatime! What about your blood sugar?
Mum: its fine. It's all an illusion. No one can define reality really, what is reality anyway?
It's boxing day, the day of existential food excuses.


Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas Everybody!

I've been celebrating today with my housemates. It's been cold but bright since last night when we caught the carol service in the square (and were addressed by the archbishop himself). Then Em and I watched A Muppets Christmas Carol, which was the best way to kickstart the Christmas spirit!


The house was already decorated when I came back on Tuesday evening, we went out and collected wood and plantage another day but Middle B put all the decor up. Fairly lights and everything:





This morning we all had a fry up for breakfast and opened our presents. Em went off to her mum and dad's and the rest of us did some prep for dinner and then went to the pub for a couple of drinks before we came back and lounged about before dinner. The lads had cured their own bacon and I'm told it came out splendidly.



We got dinner in the oven about 5ish and sat down to eat at 7pm. We started with broccoli and stilton soup and bread all homemade by Mr. Middle B. (Yes, that is prosecco out of bone china teacups, because why not?!)


Then we girls had butternut squash and mushroom wellington while the lads had steak, and we all had roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, yorkshire puddings and stuffing.


After dinner we all watched The Kings Speech and then had coffee and some mince pies. All in all a really lovely day.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Meteors!

I went to Mrs Im's over the weekend for a Christmas before Christmas, which mostly involved eating curry, drinking tea and lounging about as we do anyway, only with Christmas music on and Christmas lights up. There were definitely some mixed feelings about the music, but we managed to get through the evening.

We made lemon noodles and lentil and butternut squash dhal, and as is customary the lads made a beef chilli that was hotter than the surface of the sun. I'm vegetarian so I didn't get burned that much - the dhal was spicy enough and mighty tasty enough for me. We made mulled wine after and sat on the sofa talking until about 11. 30pm.

Then we bundled up in all the warm things that we had and headed out to Lavistock in the car. Mrrs. Im lent me two jumpers, a snood and some gloves - it was -4 C by the time we got out of the car. We parked up near a lane with fields either side, found a spot to put chairs out and sat and looked at meteors. It was the peak of the Geminids last night, they are pretty frequent (at about one every couple of minutes) and most of them were pretty big, including a couple of fireballs. We were out there for about an hour before we all had cricks in our necks and our toes were starting to go numb and we decided to go home and have hot chocolate. The night was very cold and clear, you could see the milky way! The moon came up about midnight onwards it got brighter, which had Mr. Im chuntering and turning his chair away, he looked like he was sulking. We spontaneously 'oooh'ed and 'ahhh'ed when we saw one, they were so beautiful, shooting stars all over the place. We heard owls a couple of times, and even a duck. It was a perfect night to be stargazing.

In other news, Mrs. Im has got a really amazing grant to be a resident artist in a Brain Tumour Lab. She'll be trying to help communications between the scientists in the lab, the patients diagnosed that come to visit and the general public by creating art and recording the patients stories. It is very, very exciting, and I'm very proud of her! She starts that in January.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Let's Get Physical

I can't believe it's already December! The last few weeks have been pretty busy at work and I've been pretty chilly and lethargic. A certain gentleman was telling me about his gym routine last week and I got inspired. I couldn't cope with the idea of taking my clothes off and getting into water, so I decided to do a work out at home and I found some of the videos I used to do are now on youtube. Hooray! Only I'm not 19 anymore and my body isn't as fit as I'd like, while the ladies in these videos haven't aged a day! I've done four workouts so far and my muscles have no idea what's happened to them! Here's hoping I stick with it and it gets easier. In the meantime I'll be in a hot shower trying to convince my thighs that's it's all going to be alright.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Jive Night: Pulsators

Friday night was the first jive night I've been to for a while. Miss T and I started the evening by going to a 30th Birthday bash and eating far too much chilli and rice, and then we all rolled ourselves up to the gig in time to hear the band start.

Pulsators are a local quartet headed up by the lovely Serena Sykes on vocals and then a guitarist, a drummer and a chap on a very handsome double bass. They were a little bit rough and ready but they were a lot of fun. Serena has a beautiful voice and at one point they spontaneously decided to do a song that they hadn't played live - or really rehearsed - before. They did a fair number of jivers which meant that most of us were on the floor for most songs, though they had a few fast ones and a couple of strollers too.


I had a wee chat with Serena while the band were packing up and she's lovely. She's from Huddersfield though she's been down south for about seven years. She started singing when she was 14. The band haven't been together long so they are not as polished as some of the other bands I've seen but they are really shaping up.

I got a couple of cheeky dances in with the legendary Phil before he got too drunk (he gave me an aniseed ball as well - I haven't had one for years!) and managed to stay on the dance floor nearly all night, and mostly with the lads rather than just Miss T.

Yesterday afternoon, my other dance teacher Andrew hosted an event to raise money and tins for the foodbank - it was £1 and four items entry fee. There weren't as many people there as a usual Tuesday night but it was a really nice atmosphere. Andrew and Kate taught us a couple of moves at the beginning for about an hour and then we got to just dance. There were a few people there I hadn't seen in a while and I got to meet a few new people who don't make it to the evening classes. All round a very lovely afternoon for a good cause.


Saturday, 22 November 2014

Happy Day 100: It's Starting to Look a lot like Christmas

#100HappyDays Day 100: Town was packed today with people starting to shop for Christmas, the market is open, the lights are up. Middle B and I decided to get a bit creative today - we made red onion chutney, raspberry gin and she started sketches for a book she is making for relatives and I started stitching up a Christmas present and rounded the day off watching Strictly. Beautiful!


The gin won't be ready for a while but I don't mind, that means I have something to look forward to. And we still have jars left so maybe I'll make some jam at some point.

Caramelised Red Onion Chutney

8 red onions
1 chilli
2 bay leaves
25 ml olive oil
200g brown sugar
150 ml balsamic vinegar
150 ml red wine vinegar

- Slice onions and chilli finely and put them in a large pan with the bay leaves and oil. Cook over a low heat for about 20 mins to soften the onions.

- Once the onions are darker, add the sugar and vinegars and simmer for about 30 mins - an hour, check that the consistency is gloopy not too runny.

- While that is cooking, rinse out your jars in hot soapy water. Put a saucepan full of water on to boil the lids of the jars. Then put the oven on at 100 C and put the jars on a baking tray, once the oven is up to heat put them in for about 10 minutes to sterilise. Try to time it so that you can put the chutney into the jars as they come straight out of the oven. Use oven gloves and hot plates for this because both the chutney and the jars will be pretty hot.

- Using a jam funnel, spoon the gloopy mixture into the jars and seal them. Make sure that there is a bit of oniony liquid in each jar - when the mixture cools it will set more. Leave it for about a month to get the best flavour.

In time for Christmas! This made me about three small jars (250g) and two larger jam jars (500g). We used a recipe that was featured in the Guardian but was originally in Fraser Doherty's 'The Super Jam Cookbook'.


Friday, 21 November 2014

Happy Day 99: Graduation Day

#100HappyDays Day 99: Lots of dressed up graduates roaming town today and proud families snapping photos. A couple of those graduates were close friends, so I even got some celebrating in with them at the pub in the evening. It's the first time I've been out until 2am for quite some time, but we did go to Munchies and get chips after, just proving that some things in life don't change much - in fact I think I probably did that after my own graduation. I'm so happy for both of them, they worked so hard!




Thursday, 20 November 2014

Happy Day 98: Lights!

#100HappyDays Day 98: The Christmas lights are now up and on in town! Twinkle twinkle.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Happy Day 97: Friends Reunited

#100HappyDays Day 97: I went into the big city after work to meet up with my friend Mary who I haven't seen for eight years, since her wedding in fact. We both ended up living in other countries and wandering around the place failing to grow up... and in the meantime lost track of one another. We met at the train station for tea and cake (with the biggest teapot I've seen!) and a gossip.


After tea (a copper leaved oolong to match Mary's hair), we had a wander to try and find a restaurant. We ended up going up a small street with nothing much in it apart from this light sculpture that changed colours and had a swing in the middle of it. Some one was having a good old swing as we walked past.



We finally ambled back the right way and had some dinner. It was such a lovely catch up, it was like we'd seen each other yesterday. We talked about what had changed and what hasn't, about our families and mutual friends, what interests we've taken up, what books we're reading. She promised that we would see each other soon and I promised to give her the dates of my holidays from work.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Happy Day 96: Mushrooms and Blue Cheese

#100HappyDays Day 96: Miss T made us jacket potatoes with mushrooms and blue cheese.... so much yum! So just so you know, we really love our food. Really, really. We even eat it out the pan, I'm not ashamed. I'm just glad I didn't get indigestion while dancing later....


Monday, 17 November 2014

Happy Day 95: Unexpectedness

#100HappyDays Day 95: I have been in and out of the library all day and spent the day with lots of lovely people. I have been singularly unproductive, but I've had a lovely day. I even bumped into one of my friends who has been away and is only back for 4 days - serendipity!


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Happy Day 94: Christmas Beanies

#100HappyDays Day 94: My first encounter with Christmas this year... I don't think it's quite time to replace normal hats with Christmas beanies, wait til December maybe, but they are delightful!


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Happy Day 93: A Jar Full of Delight

#100HappyDays Day 93: I spent most of the day with the lady I worked with for the last two years - I'm so glad we've kept in touch! She's no longer a student so now we get to actually be friends. We spent a very long time in a cafe catching up... and then I spent the evening having dinner with another couple of friends. Food and socialising, what more could you want from a Saturday? A jar full of delight indeed.


Friday, 14 November 2014

Happy Day 92: Everyday Miracles

#100HappyDays Day 92: I came out of a lecture and the sun was setting.


Some days you just have to pause and appreciate how beautiful life is.


Thursday, 13 November 2014

Happy Day 91: Chinese Whispers

#100HappyDays Day 91: I've been tired and a bit grumpy and cold today... and then we had to stand up in our sign language class and describe our living room to everyone. I'd forgotten what it was like to 'present' something - I actually got really nervous. After that, our teacher Sean decided to lighten the mood and got us to divide into two groups and have a round of chinese whispers... in sign language! Our group started off with a mime of a cowboy strapping on ammo, smoking a cigar, getting on his horse and having a gun fight but by the time it got to me it looked more like the YMCA. The other group had a golfer who picked out his iron, shined the ball on his shirt, put the tee and the ball down, hitched up his trousers and took a proper swing at it, but by the end this had migrated into someone eating an apple and taking a slight swing with a cricket bat. We were howling. I actually cried with laughter, it was utterly hilarious.


I also had a really interesting seminar on the History of British English where we looked at a few words that have died out (lexical loss) - I particularly liked aspectable = visible, suppediate = furnish, expede = accomplish, eximonious = distinguished (ex in this case means out, so stand out), deruncinate = eradicate (take the roots out) and temulent = intoxicated. I'll just have to find some way of slipping a couple of these into conversation maybe.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Happy Day 90: Light Show

#100HappyDays Day 90: I was walking home through town when I saw this light show of snowflakes projected onto a wall. They were moving around and glistening.


I think it was coming from a window of the cafe opposite. Whatever it was, it made the dark way home much more lovely.


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Happy Day 89: Occupation

#100HappyDays Day 89: Miss T got a job she applied for .... at my work... which means we'll be able to meet for lunch more often! Yaaaaaay!


Monday, 10 November 2014

Happy Day 88: A Little Bit of History

#100HappyDays Day 88: V's other half works at the Opera and they've been in town for a few days. While they were here some of the crew stayed in this gorgeous building so of course V and I went to help them pack up yesterday so that we could have a good snoop around. I think it dates from 1600s or something, and it was just as lovely inside as out.


The back patio faces onto the river


The cottages are all joined together with a courtyardy bit at the back. The view from the window


There were some lovely details inside - I was quite taken with the partition between the living room and the kitchenette


There was this amazing box in the bedroom


And the bed looked amazingly comfy


The staircase was little and steep


But the view from the top was worth the climb


Sunday, 9 November 2014

Happy Days 87: Brass Bands

#100HappyDays Day 87: V was down for the weekend and we went to Spoons for breakfast, then managed to catch the poppy procession. We also caught another brass band in the high street - they played Happy by Pharrell Williams, Build Me Up Buttercup, Parklife by Blur, Take On Me by A-ha, a track by the White Stripes.... yes, I did say Parklife, and yes it was a brass band. Genius.


Here is the more official brass band that was preceding the procession - afterwards marched some of the RAF, the Army, some Veterans and some of the younger air cadets and the like. There were many people out with their poppies for Rememberance Sunday.


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Happy Days 86: Early Birds

#100HappyDays Day 86: I met Miss H and a couple of others for breakfast this morning. I love going out for breakfast, it's one of my favourite things!


(Buckwheat pancakes, banana, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and toasted almonds with warm berry compote, just in case you wanted to know).

Friday, 7 November 2014

Happy Day 85: In Which One Anticipates the Arrival of Some Close Friends with Great Enthusiasm

#100HappyDays Day 85: V is coming to visit tomorrow and she'll be sleeping in my room so I'm having a good tidy before she gets here. I haven't seen her for a while so it'll be nice to have a catch up. And I'm seeing Miss H tomorrow as well. It's all happening!



Thursday, 6 November 2014

Happy Day 84: I Passed!

#100HappyDays Day 84: We got our results from our Sign Language exam last week and I got 18/18... woo hoo! Today we moved onto learning about houses and household objects - and we got homework... I have to draw a picture of my living room to bring into class next week.


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Happy Day 83: Save the Date

#100HappyDays Day 83: I got this through the post - it's the Save the Date for a friends wedding! How exciting! I think it's going to be a corker of a celebration too if her pintrest boards are anything to go by. I was quite excited by the purple ink as well.... good thing it wasn't green or it would have raised my hopes of getting into Hogwarts.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Monday, 3 November 2014

Happy Day 81: Generally Lovely

#100HappyDay Day 81: I generally had a lovely day, I had some interesting lectures at work, I had a fantastic meeting with my lovely boss, and caught up with a couple of friends so plenty to be happy about but not much I could take photos of.... so here is a picture of the sushi I picked up for dinner on the way home. It was yummy.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Happy Day 80: Formula One on a Sunday Evening

#100HappyDays Day 80: Sunday Dinner, Strictly Come Dancing and the Austin F1 on the telly. Cracking race - some good fights between Jensen Button and Grosjean, not to mention Hammy and Rosberg. I'm glad Daniel Ricciardo got 3rd place. Fantastic.





Saturday, 1 November 2014

Happy Day 79: Winter Sunshine

#100HappyDays Day 79: It has been absolutely beautiful the last couple of days, and I think it's set to be 16 degrees C tomorrow. I saw someone in shorts yesterday and the man on the radio talked about seeing a witch eating an ice cream  - certainly the warmest Halloween I can remember! Today was pretty similar, town was heaving with people, most of whom had no coats on. Fabulous!


I also bumped into a certain gentleman in Pret so we ended up having a coffee for a while. It was lovely.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Happy Day 78: Happy Halloween!

#100HappyDays Day 78: I saw this lady with this amazing Cheshire Cat pumpkin, you can't quite see but there are ears carved in on the top. It made me so happy! I expect to see some amazing costumes later on too.


It has been so sunny today - it's been t-shirt weather! I'm not complaining, I hope I get to sit out in the sun a bit tomorrow too.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Happy Day 77: In Bloom

#100HappyDays Day 77: The Christmas cactus has suddenly flowered over the last few days. We thought we might have killed it, but it definitely looks alive now.


In other news, I was at work a full day today - my ankle is a bit twingey and is still a little swollen but I've walked around on it all day so I think that's healing up fine. I also had my first BSL exam - my mock last week went quite well but I'm pretty nervous about today. We get our results back next week, I hope I passed!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Happy Day 76: Quiche!

#100HappyDays Day 76: Middle B and I finally got round to making quiche! Hooray!


Quiche

Pastry: 2:1 ratio of flour to fat. We used 200g plain flour and 100g cold unsalted butter.

- Mix the cold butter and the flour together til it resembles bread crumbs. We did this in a mixer, I must confess, it is so much quicker!
- Then add a tablespoon of water and start bringing the pastry together so that it starts to bind. Carry on adding a bit of water at a time until the dough is a coherent ball rather than flaky crumbs. I think I ended up adding about 3 tablespoons of water. You can also use an egg to bind instead if you'd rather.
- If you have the time you can chill the dough in the fridge for 30 mins. This is optional - we were just too hungry to bother.
- Sprinkle some flour on a work surface and roll out your pastry to fit your quiche tin. Remember to roll out enough to go up the sides.
- Butter your quiche tin, then pick up your pasty and lay it into the tin. Push it into the tin and up and sides, tucking the dough into the corners. Make sure you plug up any holes or thin patches with any left over scraps of pastry.
- Blind bake it.  If you have baking beans, put them in the pan and then put it in the oven for 15 mins on 180 degrees C. We don't, so we cut out some parchment paper to fit the bottom of the tin and put that into the tin with a smaller tin inside to keep everything weighted down and baked that for 10 mins then took out the tin and the paper and baked the pastry for a further 5 mins.

Filling: 300ml milk or cream or a mix of the two, 3 eggs and any vegetables you want. We used some sweetcorn, some mushrooms, red onion and goats cheese. We added in some herbs to the egg mixture. If you want it not to be so runny, it's best to cook the mushrooms a little first to get the moisture out, but they were fine as they were.
- Layer your filling into the pastry.
- Measure out milk / cream in a measuring jug to 300ml, add in 3 eggs and mix. If you're using any herbs you can add them in here too.
- Pour the egg mixture over the ingredients. Be careful not to put too much in, go up to the top of the pastry and not over.

-  Bake at 180 for about 20 mins. Check after 15 mins, baking time will depend on how runny your mixture is - if you've used just milk it will take longer than if you have cream in there. Make sure the filling is firm, so bake until golden and not wobbly.
- Let it sit for a few minutes to settle. Nearly impossible when you're hungry! Good to let it cool down a bit before eating though.

And there you go!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Happy Day 75: Getting Comfy

#100HappyDays Day 75: I happened to have no work today and I'm still sprained so I spent the day with my foot elevated, a bottle of arnica and Pride & Prejudice. Perfect relaxation!


Monday, 27 October 2014

Happy Day 74: Hunkering Down

#100HappyDays Day 74: I have had a bit of a cold the last few days, nothing terrible, and also the first cold I've had in quite a while, and I've been just getting over that and I made plans to go round to a friends for dinner... but on the way home I twisted my ankle. Boooo! So I've got it elevated with some frozen veg wrapped in a towel on it, Middle B gave me a tubigrip and I think I'm going to hunker down in bed for the evening and snuggle up with tea and a book. Nice.


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Happy Day 73: Chestnut Icecream

#100HappyDays Day 73: I am totally stuffed from Sunday Dinner! Em made a chicken bhuna with a side of mushroom and potato curry and peas and tomato curry. I made fruit salad with chestnut ice cream, taken from a recipe in How to Be a Domestic Goddess. We watched the Strictly Come Dancing dance off and then followed up with Wonders of the Monsoon with Colin Salmon. Perfect Sunday night relaxing.


Saturday, 25 October 2014

Happy Day 72: Christmas Cake

#100HappyDays Day 72: I helped Middle B make Christmas Cake today. I know it's a bit early to be thinking about all that, but this is the kind of cake that needs 'feeding' with brandy, so best get started early. I haven't baked in a while so it was fun.


We used the Christmas Cake recipe from Delia Smith - you can't beat a bit of Delia!

We also made mince and bottled it so that we can make mince pies closer to Christmas. We used Mary Berry's Mincemeat recipe though we added in some apricots and some walnuts as well.


Ingredients
  • 175g currants
  • 175g raisins
  • 175g sultanas
  • 175g dried cranberries
  • 100g mixed peel
  • 1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 125g butter, cut into cubes
  • 50g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
  • 225g light muscovado sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
  • 200ml brandy, rum or sherry
INSTRUCTIONS
Makes 4 x 370g jars
  1. Measure all of the ingredients except the alcohol into a large pan. Heat gently, allowing the butter to melt, then simmer very gently, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
  2. Allow the mixture to cool completely then stir in the brandy, rum or sherry.
  3. Spoon the mincemeat into sterilised jam jars, seal tightly, label and store in a cool place.
 Make the mincemeat up to six months ahead and store in a cool place. It’s not necessary to freeze mincemeat as it stores so well.