Thursday, 29 May 2014

In other news...

It's been a whirlwind few days here, I got my new sewing machine all set up but haven't used it yet. I was planning to make something and then got bogged down by Pintrest looking at all the things I could be making and before you know it, it was time for bed. Oh Pintrest! I will get round to some stitching soon hopefully and of course I will let you know of the results.

I don't know if you recall, but I have been making a different cake for every one of my lady's exams. I delivered her some Baklava Muffins (How to Be a Domestic Goddess, though with pistachios rather than walnuts) to the library today, we had a pretty epic revision session - we started at 1.30 and ended at 7pm. In between credible commitment and assymetric information we did also get talking about TED talks, boys and ended up looking at videos on the internet, so it wasn't as intense as it sounds. She has her last exam tomorrow (Politics of the Middle East) so she will have some yummy treats for after. The last cake I made before this one was for Deeply Divided Societies - I made one half of the batter lemon and pomegranate and the other half chocolate and then poured them into a loaf tin. The two halves melded together while baking, it really worked out. I put two different types of glitter on - she was really impressed! To be honest, so was I - it turns out that lemon and pomegranate is a fabulous combination. And this video is totally worth some revision procrastination....

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Jive Night: The Doel Brothers

It's been quite a while since I have been to see a jive band, it was lovely to get back on the floor last night. The Doel Brothers are a rockabilly band who are a little bit country sounding, between the three of them they play sing, play guitar, play bass, play double bass and play the drums. That's a lot of playing! The songs were pretty fast on the whole, though they did play a couple of strolls, and most of them were written by their own fair hands - they did a couple of covers but the rest were originals which was nice. Miss T and I got a few fast jives in which was fun and there were plenty of boppers. They clearly have a sense of humour - the lead singer introduced one of the songs saying it was the story of his life and then went on to sing 'Whiskey Lovin' Fool' which was delightful. Even more delightful was the shirt he was wearing which was covered in pineapples. Glorious.

The rest of the evening we had a DJ on the decks for more jive classics. I danced with a few people I'd never danced with before which is always fun, though sometimes a bit perilous depending on who you are dancing with. The floor was pretty packed and there were more than a few instances of hitting someone on the way past, not to mention a little slip sliding on the talc in the corner near the band stand (it was ok, Miss T saved me from going over head first!). On the whole a pretty enjoyable evening with some very enjoyable dancing and a splendid band.

In other news, I have a new sewing machine (a Janome Sewist 525s, since you ask) so I will be able to get back to some stitchery. Hurrah! It is all very exciting!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

How Do You Like Them Apples

Me: 'Oh no! I'm supposed to make cake for my lady! and now it's 9pm!'
Middle B: 'That's ok, we can still make it. Let's run down to the shops for eggs and apples.'

This is why Middle B is my best friend - because she has a cool head in a cake crisis, that's why. I've been revising with my main student at work, it's her third year exams and she's working really hard. We joked around about me making a different cake for each exam, and later on I thought 'why not?', so she has her homework and I have mine. So far we have had: Terrorism and Political Violence for which I made a White Chocolate and Chilli cake, American Foreign Policy got a Key Lime Pie (from How to Be a Domestic Goddess), Europe and the World was a glittery Banana Bread because 'buying bananas is a political act!' according to our lecturer (from The Moosewood Cookbook, look for the carrot cake recipe it's the best) and the next one is European Security Co-operation since 1945 which reminded my lady of apples, so I made her a basic apple sponge according to Middle B's wonderfully easy sponge recipe, which I shall bring into our revision session tomorrow. 

Middle B's Basic Go-to Sponge Recipe

4 oz butter
4 oz sugar
4 oz self raising flour (or plain flour with a couple of tsp of baking powder)
2 eggs

I added in 2 small apples. This makes a small loaf or a sandwich tin's worth of cake.

- Heat the oven to 180 C.
- Line the tin with parchment and grease it. Sprinkle a bit of sugar at the bottom and arrange apple slices. This is essentially an upside down cake, so feel free to make it as pretty as you like.
- Cream together butter, sugar and flour, then add in the eggs and mix up.
- Pour batter over the apple slices.
- Bake for about 30 - 40 mins roughly, a skewer should come out clean, the top will be firm but slightly springy to touch.
- Leave to cool in the tin for 5 mins before turning out onto a wire rack.

Sometimes Middle B just sprinkles an ounce of poppy seeds in the pan instead and makes up a lemon syrup, thus turning this into a lemon drizzle cake, sometimes she skips the apples and makes a plain sponge with this recipe. I think it would be lovely with peaches and raspberries myself. This is a very adaptable recipe and easy to remember - maybe I'll get into making sponges, who knows?

Right now to get thinking about the last couple of exams....

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


It's my birthday!
Things that have happened today:
- I got birthday cards through the post. It was really exciting - with the added bonus that now I am covered in glitter, thanks Miss H.
- I had to go to the post office to pick up a parcel. A real parcel. And in it was a very classy teal apron with a fox on it! Thanks very much Imogen, that is exactly what I would have chosen!
- I got a letter informing me that I appear not to have cervical cancer and I don't need to have another smear test for three years. Surely that is something to celebrate in itself.
- I got a lie in because I (coincidentally) had no work on today. Hooray!
- I got a copy of Slaughterhouse Five and Stardust from John..... so excited to read that again.
- Miss T bought me some cake, some giant playing cards and some dominoes. I believe she may have made me cup cakes as well, but I'll just have to wait until jive later on for those. And one of the girls at work promised to make me red velvet cupcakes for tomorrow. Yum!

I mostly had a mooch around town, Miss T and I had coffee and had a wander around in the sun and got uneven suntans. I spilled food down my new top (surely that's what they are for?!). I am not bothering with a party until about June, because this time of year is really stressful for a lot of people. And also because I only realised last week that I should really organise something. So Superheroes and Board Games Picnic will be coming in June, watch this space for some truly ridiculous photos.

Friday, 9 May 2014

A Little Help...

Me: '.... So I was talking to the Buddhas about this problem I've been having, and G said that she had talked to the angels about it and they gave the same response...'
Miss T: 'Let me just ask Gandalf and Dumbledore. I'll be right back.'

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Reaching towards the Light

Today would have been my grandma's 89th birthday. All three of us are Taurus, all three of us stubborn and strongheaded in our own way.... she looked more lady-like than my mum and I maybe, but it was there bubbling under the surface. She made her decision and stuck to it. She often said, 'I married your grandpa very young, I was 18. We met at a party, I was very impressed by him. He wasn't the easiest man. At some point I said to myself, you can stay or you can go. If you go, you have to go now. And if you stay then you can't complain, you shut up. I thought about it for a long time and when I made my decision I lived with it'. I asked her one day why she stayed if she wasn't that happy, 'Well, you know, he gave me a very good life. He wasn't easy to live with but we had a very interesting life, we traveled, we did things. It was a very good life.' And that was the thing: she looked small and fragile and delicate but she made decisions and she stuck to them. She had diabetes from the age of 40, the doctors didn't know if she would survive long - but she lived until she was 88, mostly by taking really good care of herself. She worked with a number of doctors in a diabetes charity helping with their research, 'they knew all about the medicine and about the body, but I was the one with the actual diabetes, and they needed that', for about 20 years and then she went off to work as a volunteer in a museum helping them to catalogue art that got donated. 'I had to look at the art, describe it and write down who donated it. They kept a typewriter for me. I don't know about computers, not at my age I can't learn now, but they were kind and they kept a typewriter and I worked on that.'

She was right, they did travel. My grandpa was an academic who got invited to conferences, sometimes for three months or more. She visited Japan, New Zealand and Canada, and we have sketches from trips to Turkey, Kenya, Jordan and various European countries. 'It doesn't matter if you know the language, you smile, you gesture, they smile, they gesture and eventually you manage to communicate somehow. That's how it is'. She spent a lot of time walking round cities, drinking coffee, visiting museums, looking at art, sketching. They went to the theatre, the opera, and visited other academics. 'I met an awful lot of interesting people, an awful lot. They all knew such a lot, they always had something to talk about. I enjoyed the traveling immensely'.

In many ways, she had a hard life, but in many ways her life was quite easy too: she mostly volunteered, she entertained, and met interesting people. She baked, cooked, and stitched, though she could stop doing a lot of that when ready to wear clothes came in and you could buy ready made food at the shops. 'I remember when we made our own clothes, but now it is much simpler. You don't have to make clothes that last for 20 years anymore, you can buy different things each year, different colours, different patterns. So much nicer!'. The real passions of her life were painting, listening to music and drinking coffee. She used to go for a stroll to the cafe on Aza Road and have a coffee and then walk back. She did that for as long as I can remember. When I was young we would go for coffee and she would sketch, I'd sit and people watch and drink strawberry juice or apple juice. She was so happy when I started drinking coffee at about 13 years old. She would go to concerts and the theatre, and when she came over the visit we would always get a matinee and go to the museums, maybe Madame Tussaud's, or the Planetarium, but always the National Gallery, the Tate, the Hayward. And then sometimes Selfridges for tea afterwards.

I'm sure if she knew she would be cross with me for remembering her today at all. 'Me? What? I don't care about my birthday. When you get to my age you'll see it doesn't mean anything. But you! You should make sure you buy yourself something nice. Make sure you have fun. Above all things make sure you do something nice.' Happy birthday Grandma, who taught me to live while you still can.