Friday, 28 February 2014

February Round Up

* I saw an old friend today who I knew from my days up north, we went to a Moroccan restaurant and had a good old catch up. It seems like change is in the air - she is in the process of looking for a job somewhere new (as are a few others of my friends).

* Middle B and I tried out a new Japanese restaurant in town called Tamago. It's been a while since the Hutch has closed but we still haven't found a regular little place to go. We hadn't been out to dinner for ages and now that we live together it's quite nice to leave the house to have some girly time.

* I went back to the Centre today to do some stuff and it felt a bit weird, I was happy to come home afterwards. I'm not quite settled but it feels like home. It feels nice. I'm getting used to having a bigger room, I'm really enjoying my new housemates, the house itself is gorgeous, all of my friends are really happy that I have moved out of there and moved in here, that has to be a good sign.

* I've been cooking and baking again. I've been trying to get fitter. I'm eating better.I wouldn't say I feel alright right now, but I think I'm coming out of something big, I'm starting to decompress.

* I'm working hard but really loving my job. I've had amazing lectures this term, and one of my students told me that he requested me specifically. I'm a lucky, lucky girl.

* I saw my first cherry blossom the other day, spring is in the air, the sun has been coming out to play. Feels like its time to dust off the cobwebs and shake it out, get out in the sunshine.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Sunday Dinner: Black Bean Stew and Mango Salsa

One of the things about the new house is that we all end up cooking for each other. Usually one of us comes home early and we just happen to have a pot on the stove bubbling away, but on Sundays we have a proper communal dinner, and sunday was my first time cooking for it.

New kitchen, new oven, a lot to take on board, so I decided on an old favourite of mine from World Food Cafe which is one of the best vegetarian cook books I've ever met - if I had to recommend a vegetarian cookbook I would give you this one, hands down! I served this up with rice and a salad of fresh leaves, and Middle B provided cake and custard for afters. The boys were pretty surprised at the textures and flavours and said they loved it - they had pretty hefty second helpings to prove it! A success I say!

Black Bean Stew
serves 4 - 6

1/3 cup black beans (if using dry then soak them the night before)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lrg red onion
4 garlic cloves, crushed (I used frozen and it did just as well)
3 fresh red chillies
2 tbsp butter
1 lb sweet potatoes (roughly 1 and a half large ones, or 3 small ones)
8 oz turnips (I couldn't find any so I used parsnip, not quite the same but you know....)
2 carrots, peeled and cubed
1 red pepper, seeded, deribbed and cubed
2 tomatoes, finely diced (I used several cherry tomatoes)
1/2 cup of vegetable stock (I used Marmite because I love it)
2 handfuls of fresh coriander
handful of parsley
2 bay leaves (we have a bay plant across the road!)
salt and pepper to taste

- Drain the black beans, place in a sauce pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender.
- Heat olive oil and fry the onions, garlic and chillies until soft. Remove 1/3 of the black beans and their cooking water and add to the onion mix and mash with a masher til the beans start to break down. Return the mix to the black beans.
- Melt the butter in a large sauce pan on medium heat and fry sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots and pepper until they start to soften. Add the tomatoes and fry until they break down. Add this to the black beans and add in the stock, coriander, parsley and bay leaves. Simmer until the vegetables are soft and the flavours are combined.

Mango Salsa
serves 4 - 6

1 large mango, diced
2 green chillies, chopped
2 small carrots, peeled and diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
1 orange, peeled and diced
juice of  1 lime
handful of coriander leaves, chopped

- Chop and mix all of the above. This has quite a kick, so if you like you can omit one of the chillies.

I served up rice with this because I was feeding two hungry guys in all of this, though you certainly don't need it. I made enough for lunch the next day and it was pretty lovely cold too. One of the lads said that it was a really great meal, he doesn't usually like mango or celery but I sneaked both of them past him... cheeky! He also said that he felt really good for it the next day - it was proper healthy food that digests well unlike some heavy meat dishes. I wouldn't know about that, all I know is that it is tasty, unusual and pretty easy to cook. I'm in everyones culinary good books for the moment, hurrah.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Kairos + Cocos Lovers

I randomly got a text from a friend I haven't seen in a while saying she had a free ticket that evening for a gig, did I want to go? I'm knackered, I'm not going to lie, but I thought I might as well go - if I stopped doing things because I was tired I'd never get anything done. I'm so glad I did!

We arrived about 8.30pm and nabbed us a table and I ran off to get us some coffee and honeycomb ice cream (cos I'm classy like that). It's the first time I've seen live music at the Gulb so it was interesting to see how it would work out. The warm up act were a little trio called Kairo who were quite slow and folksy, with some pretty dark jazz undercurrents. The lead singers voice was a nice mix of being rich and smokey and at the same time she managed to hit a few high notes. They have quite a distinctive style.

After a short break we had the main act the Cocos Lovers. There were six of them, so immediately there was more stage presence. They have a really interesting mix of musical styles, mostly folk but mixed with some african and middle eastern sounds and some celtic and a slightly bouncy edge to them. After a couple of songs a group started to gather to the side who were standing around. Quite soon they started dancing around. The lead singer said he'd like to see the mosh pit that was forming merge with the people sitting at tables at the front of the stage, 'the VIP lounge over here'. They played quite a few songs, pretty varied beats and tempos - sometimes the focus was on the violin, sometimes the flute, sometimes the mandolin or the banjo. Some of the tracks were slow and mournful with layers of singing, and some of them were much more lively. They really engaged with the audience and got us to clap along and sing along. During the encore they got all the 'mosh pit' to move to the front and got most of the 'VIP lounge' up on their feet to dance. A few didn't but most got up and were having a little jig in no time. The audience seemed to really enjoy the evening, and the band certainly looked like they were having fun.

During the intro to 'Emily', the singer asked if there was anyone in the audience called Emily... a lady raised her hand and he said 'oh great! We wrote this song for you.... It's a shame you die at the end' which got a laugh from the audience and a smile from the girl in question. They had a really warm way of approaching the audience.

They also had a really nice vibe as a band, they all interacted with each other really well and there were some great harmonies. I had a little dance around, they were a lot of fun. Their new album comes out soon and I might just put it on my wish list.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Jive Night: The Doggone Honkabillies

Last night was the first Jive Night of the year and it was a cracker! The dance floor was packed out, which was lovely because we were celebrating two birthdays so I'm really glad we got a good turn out. The band were really happy to be back, and they were on top form. They played most of the usuals, like 'Hey Good Looking', some Johnny Cash, some Elvis. Of course we all danced around like there was no tomorrow. At one point the lead singer said that we were the best crowd, we dance to anything, even all their weirdest songs. He was even with us when The Severed Limb played, and if we could dance to that we could dance to anything. Half way through the second set he got both the birthday girls up on stage and we all sang Happy Birthday and presented them with cake.

Being a little bit country as they are, many of the lads were in Western shirts and massive belt buckles, while the ladies were dressed up as always. Ingrid looked amazing in a beautiful wiggle dress from Whirling Turban while some of the other girls were keeping it simple with jeans and cropped cardies.

In between the two sets we had a little cake making mayhem burlesque set from the Tutti Frutties which was fun and specially themed for the birthday girls.

I danced nearly every song, even some of the slower ones. It felt like a pretty festive atmosphere. There was a lot of joking about and chatting, and a great deal of drinking. People really seemed to have fun. I got a few wonderful dances in so I was happy. I really enjoyed seeing the band again, I hope they come back soon!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Moving On Up

I had my first night in my new room yesterday... so exciting! Mum came on Sunday and did a couple of car loads, and yesterday I packed up the remaining things and put them all in a taxi. 'I've moved a few students, you have the most things of anyone I've ever moved!' said the taxi driver. I did point out that I've been there for six years, and he gave me some concessions... but I did write a mental note to self to do more clear outs! V said she wanted to help me unpack my books, but apart from that it's getting there. And even with all that stuff there is still plenty of space in the room! If anything, all my stuff is swallowed up! Did I mention that I now have a double bed? That means shopping for bedding which the lovely V has also offered to help me with. It felt a bit odd falling asleep in a room so big. I have a couple of days off work so I stayed up late last night and watched an episode of Sherlock and then today I got to loll about and pick up bits from town and unpack a bit more. And the sun is out! I'm choosing to interpret this as a good omen. Right, soup for dinner, I think.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Happy Valentines!

Happy Valentines Day! I hope you're all loved up and happy. So much that you have enough to pass on to everyone else!

My lovely friend over at Love is Always the Answer Project has got some lovely posters for download if you want to love bomb your city. Share the love!

Meanwhile I've had a lovely day at work and I'm having dinner tonight with Miss T and a few people from Jive, so I'm spending V-Day with some of my favourite people, Hooray! Hope you all have a wonderful evening xxx

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Hundred Year Old Man

I recently finished reading The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. It starts in an old peoples home in a small town in Sweden, where the inhabitants of the home are preparing for a party to celebrate Allan Karlsson's hundredth birthday. Allan decides that he never wanted a party anyway, even if the Mayor is attending, and climbs out of the window and runs away. From there on the adventures get more and more surreal and we see more and more colourful characters popping up along the way. 

It was recommended to me by a friend and I have to say I love the title. It is a pretty simple premise: the tale is told in third person and is split between the events that are taking place now and a re-telling of Allan's life story. Since he is 100, he has lived through most of the 20th century so there is a great deal of history that is mentioned (which is fairly accurate, which made me happy!) and considering his character is not concerned at all with politics, he sums up the political situations at various times pretty well. The writing style is simple, clear and unpretentious - maybe deceptively so, in this sense it reminded me a little of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, it has a similar fairy tale quality to the narration. Given that the main character is pretty pragmatic, the humour is wonderfully dry. I really enjoyed some of the more absurd scenes in the book. It wasn't a very laugh out loud book but it did get me chuckling a few times. There are a few good plot twists, there were plenty of surprises, but I think the main thing for me was the construction of the people. Being pretty simply written means that it wasn't full of psychological analysis or extravagant emotion, but the characters were pretty rounded in various ways and they were all surprising in their own way. I'm a sucker for a good character, and I have to say that I really warmed to most of them - you know that feeling where you wish you were on an adventure with them? yep, I was there. Admittedly I'm fairly easy to please, but I really enjoyed the unfolding of the book. I'm sure I'll read it again at some point, I'll have to see what its like on the second read. If you're looking for something charming, heart warming and fairly optimistic (or if you really like blowing things up and drinking vodka) then this is a lovely little book to while away a few hours.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Waking Up Next to You is like When Other People Get to Sleep In and Keep Dreaming

I am surrounded by boxes and recycling and charity bags... but instead of tidying up I've been looking through A Softer World comics. Ah, procrastination, my old friend....

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Ride the Wave

So... the reason I haven't written anything in a few days is because I've been really grumpy! It's a bit odd, because I'm really enjoying work, my students are great, I have some wonderful friends, I managed to get a good deal on a dress from Asos the other day, Middle B and I had a lovely arty session on Sunday painting ampersands and that is my favourite punctuation mark, you know.... so why the grumps?? Well, I did have raging pmt, which none of you really know about, but hey, misery loves company.... and also I think I'm a bit terrified of moving out. I'm scared and also impatient at the same time - I'd like to wave a magic wand and magically be able to rock up at the house and go into my room and have all my things there without having to pack, and unpack, and wait around for people to move out, and have to talk to people about why I'm moving out, and settle in to a new place.... but I guess it's all in the process isn't it? And of course I need that time to adjust. My Mum has very kindly said she'll come down next weekend to move some stuff and some other friends have been kind enough to offer some help. I've already got a bit packed so I'm moving somethings over - and then I'll have enough space to pack some more things. So I have these patches of thinking maybe I should stay? It's nice and warm here.... and then I remember that it's not actually that warm here and actually I'm not really that happy anymore. And then I think - but I'm moving in with a friend, will it all go horribly wrong? and then I think, well if it does then it does, we'll have to cross that bridge when it comes to it. And then I think, for the love of all things holy, why do I have so much stuff? and then I think, well it's a good chance for a clear out... and who doesn't like a good clear out (once it's happened...). So yeah, I'm a bit grumpy and a bit hormonal, but actually life is pretty damn good.