Sunday, 31 August 2014

Happy Day 17: Out for Tea in Yellow Shoes

#100HappyDays Day 17:
I spent a lovely day in London with Miss H - I was very impressed with her yellow shoes!

We haven't seen each other for a while so tea and cake and a long chat were in order. We met at St. Pancras and consulted Tea & Cake London as to where we wanted to go. We started off by going to the Nordic Bakery for some lunch. I had cheese and pickle on rye....

....and we couldn't resist having the cinnamon rolls.

We had a good old natter and then decided to stroll to another cafe mentioned in the book, Yumchaa. They do amazing tea, I had Notting Hill, Miss H and her Mr had some iced tea.

Mr. went home and we stayed and had another round of tea and cake. This time I had Chilli Chilli Bang Bang and a slice of chocolate velvet cake, while Miss H had a iced rooisbos with pulped fruit in it and a pistachio, fig and date scone.

They had loads of teas on the counter to buy in tiny ceramic jugs, so naturally I smelled all of them and then bought some. Because it would have been rude not to.

By the till, they had a very interesting sign by the tip jar. I'm not sure what it all means but I really liked the drawing of a squid. Apparently it was done by one of the staff before they went back to South America. I picked up a very yummy cheese sandwich for the journey home and the lady threw in some lemon drizzle in for me for free!

And then after all that chattering it was time to go. I think this tea and cake business might become a regular thing, you know - especially if my companions always look this fetching!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Happy Day 16: This Man in This Skirt

#100HappyDays Day 16: A (very good-looking) man in a (very fetching) skirt.
I was too shy to actually run up to him and ask for a better photo, but the skirt is a steel grey pleated kilt and he was wearing a black frock coat with it. He was also having a little sing-song to himself and gave me a bashful smile when he turned round and noticed that I was walking behind him.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Happy Day 15: Play It Again Sam

#100HappyDays Day 15: An Unexpected Serenade on the Piano at the Train Station.
The high speed train to London gets into St Pancras which is always a delight. They have some pianos scattered around the place and as I was walking through to get to the tube I stopped to listen to a gentleman playing Danny Boy and the Rose of Tralee. He noticed me and beckoned me over. 'Do you play?' he asked without breaking his chord sequence. 'I used to', I replied. 'There is no used to. If you play, you play, even if it was 15 years ago or yesterday. 'You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable. Yet the timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness....' Khalil Gibran that was, from the Prophet, oh you've read it?' I nodded. He looked directly at me and asked, 'What's your name?' I replied that my name is Nat. 'Nat... ah! Nat King Cole!' and then he played a beautifully ornate rendition of 'When I Fall in Love'. I missed my train and had to wait for another one - but somethings are worth missing trains for.

And here is the legend himself:

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Happy Day 14: Fresh Tomatoes

#100HappyDays Day 14: Tomatoes grown fresh in our garden.
 I have to admit, this has absolutely nothing to do with me - Middle B does most of our gardening, I just get to enjoy the fruits of it. Yum! Tomato salad for lunch, anyone?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Happy Day 13: A Surprising Coffee

#100HappyDays Day 13
I asked the gentleman who was serving me at Pret how he was doing today and he said 'thanks for asking!' and gave me my coffee for free!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Happy Day 12: Puddles

#100HappyDays Day 12: Puddles
It's unseasonable cold and rainy in this part of the world so I bought myself some boots and had fun splashing about in puddles in the rain. There is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothes!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Happy Day 11: Dessert

#100HappyDays Day 11: Dessert with a friend I haven't seen for a while.
Miss T has been away for about five weeks trying to find out what she wants to do with her life. She came round for dinner tonight, and since the weather has been pretty autumnal the last couple of days I made a stewy soup filled with grains and veg and tofu and for dessert I threw an apple strudel in the oven. It was the only dessert type of thing I had around the place, but it turns out it's her favourite! We had a good chat over dinner and I got to see all of her holiday snaps. Fun times.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Happy Day 10: Tea towels and picnic baskets

#100HappyDays Days 10: Tea towels and picnic baskets
This morning I went to make tea and I spotted our picnic basket still lounging about from yesterday - V had brought a fabulous tea towel with us yesterday and I love it, mainly because I *do* think my kitchen is for dancing (among other things)!

We had a really lovely day yesterday - V's beau works in Glyndbourne so we got there a bit early and got to look behind the scenes before the show. It was all very glamorous, even back stage. I really enjoyed looking at the stage, seeing all the props and learning how the lighting works. Of course one of my favourite bit was the wardrobe section as well as chatting to the staff backstage, they were all so friendly and answered my questions. We went right the way round and even go to go on stage. I loved the prop furniture and the dresses, and he showed us the app on his phone that can move the focus and change the direction of the lights - from his phone! We also went up on some of the balconies and saw the rigs for the lights and for props like chandeliers, as well as getting some views of the set as a whole.

The sets backstage

On stage

The stage from the upper circle

The sound desk

The wardrobes

The view from the upper terrace - the grounds were huge and very lovely

The show was in two parts with an hour and a half intermission in between. You can dine there and have waiter service but most people brought picnics. Ours was pretty modest, just a few picnicy bits and Prosecco but we saw some full china sets and a couple even had vases of flowers and candles.

After dinner we still had time for a stroll round the grounds. The family still live in the main house so you can't go into most of it, but they do open up the Organ Room

We had a stroll around the grounds before going in for the second half

The production itself was really well done. They had subtitles above the stage which was helpful and we could see the orchestra from where we were sitting. We had to lean over the balcony a little bit when the singers got too far to the right of the stage, but all in all it was wonderful. I love the idea of a long intermission for a picnic, I really liked seeing what everyone wore and I enjoyed the whole thing much more for having been backstage and seeing all the workings of it. We both came away saying that we would be back - probably with lovelier frocks and an even more splendid picnic.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Happy Day 9: the Opera

#100HappyDays Day 9: the Opera
I went to the Opera for the first time today - V and I took a picnic and headed for Glyndbourne for La Traviata

Friday, 22 August 2014

Happy Day 8: Acupuncture

#100HappyDays Day 8: Acupuncture
I had acupuncture today and for the first time we didn't schedule a repeat appt., my lady decided that I'm well enough not to go for a while and that I should follow my intuition about the next time I need it. She says a big shift has happened inside me and she thinks I'm going in a really great direction.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Happy Day 7: Hot Chocolate

#100HappyDays Day 7: Real hot chocolate
I went round to a friends for dinner - she made us all pease pudding, roast potatoes and quinoa burgers and gravy. To finish up one of the girls made us hot chocolate - real dark chocolate melted in a pan with coconut and almond milk topped with vegan marshmallows. We snuggled up on the sofa with the dog and watched Dark Crystal. Perfect.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Happy Day 6: Ball pits

#100HappyDays Day 6: Ball pit
There is a jive class starting in October and we happened to walk past the place today. As we were trying to figure out if it was the right place, a (very good looking) man invited us inside to look around. Yes, it was the right place, a baptist church, but they are hosting a childrens camp at the moment, so the baptismal font is currently a ball pit, the downstairs has a pirate ship in it and the upstairs has an art exhibition. He showed us round the hall we'd be using too, it was really lovely of him. You have no idea how tempted I was to climb into that ball pit!

The church is about 150 years old, though it recently got a glass frontage, and the hall we'll be dancing in is from 1914, though a lot of the fixtures are 1950s at a guess. That is being renovated at the moment as well, but we got to have a good look around.

Baptist churches are generally quite plain.... though I really like the addition of the ball pit!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Happy Day 5: Bunnies!

#100HappyDays Day 5: Bunnies!
We have wild rabbits on the grounds at work, they rarely come out when there are people around.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Happy Day 4: Interesting Graffiti

#100HappyDays: Day 4
I see interesting graffiti around the place - I don't know what this means but it made me think about how we are all interconnected, which is always a lovely thing to contemplate.

Day 8: No Shampoo
Just a little update: My hair is adapting pretty well, it doesn't feel quite the same as shampoo but it is still pretty soft and it doesn't smell of vinegar at all, which surprises me. I've been experimenting a bit with adding some cinnamon or ginger extract to the cider vinegar, and while my hair smelled divine it became much more greasy, so I quickly opted for just bicarb of soda and apple cider vinegar on their own. I was thinking that I may use the extracts in coconut oil to make moisturiser and then I'd still smell yummy, I'll let you know how that works out.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Happy Day 3: Coffee Doodles

#100HappyDays: Day 3
I love good coffee, especially when someone has doodled in it.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Happy Day 2: Let's Go Ride a Bike!

#100HappyDays: Day 2
Loads of my friends ride bicycles and I decided I'd like to join them on sunny jaunts through the countryside. The only thing is I haven't ridden a bike since I was about 10 years old and I was a little scared, so Middle B came to the rescue and took me to the park with her bike to get me used to it all again. It is - as they say - just like riding a bike! I had a good old cycle round, she made me fiddle with the gears and after some time on the grass she made me ride on the tarmac just to see the difference. It was fun!

Middle B: 'I can imagine you on a bike... you like the outdoors, you go places.... you'd need a basket though for your shopping'
Me: 'that I would get from some farm shop three miles away or something. I would probably need paniers, things might fall out of a basket.'
Middle B: 'Palmiers?! Oh panniers, they'd be good. Filled with palmiers. We should make some palmiers later....'

So we did.


- half a roll of pre-packed puff pastry
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup sugar
- water (though we used lemon juice)

- Take the puff pastry out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. This is because it is mostly butter so if you unroll it straight away it will be hard as a rock and most likely snap.

- Mix together the cinnamon and sugar in a bowl. We experimented with raspberry and lemon as well, so we smooshed some raspberries in a bowl with some lemon rind and added a bit of sugar as an alternative filling.

- When it is ready, roll out. Brush the surface with water (or lemon juice) and then sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar evenly across the pastry making sure it comes right up to the sides.

- Roll from both ends to the middle, then wrap in cling film and put back in the fridge for about half an hour.

- After about 15 mins put the oven on at 180 C to warm up. Put some greaseproof paper on some baking trays. Take the pastry out of the fridge and start to cut them into 1cm slices.

- Place on the baking trays. Bake for about 20 mins, or according to the pastry packet instructions.

- Take them out when they are starting to brown. Move them immediately from the parchment to a wire rack and let them cool down. If you don't they will get stuck to the parchment. Trust us.

Ta daaaaaa!
The raspberry lemon ones ended up being a little more buttery while the cinnamon ones were more crispy. You could really try any filling - the fresh raspberries were pretty juicy and a bit messy, but you could probably used jam and get a similar, sweeter, less messy effect, or you could just just plain water and sugar rather than cinnamon. These are so easy to make, yet elegant enough to take to a friend as a gift.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Happy Day 1: Bubble wrap

#100HappyDays: Day 1
Turns out you *can* tap dance on bubble wrap....

The boys were pretty taken with it, we might have to get a bubble wrap rug.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

All a Bit Squirrelly

Me: 'When we were revising for the exam I had to make up questions based on your seminar handout because this is the first year you've taught the course so we had no past papers to go on. The questions I wrote were pretty bang on actually....'
Lecturer: 'What utterly ridiculous?'
Me: 'Like about squirrels or something?'
Lecturer: 'I did try and put some questions on the exam about squirrels but the dept. weren't having any of it.'
Me: 'But surely squirrels relate to foreign policy....  those grey ones are pretty colonial.'
Lecturer: 'Yeah! Colonizing bastards.'
Me: 'Like the squirrel version of the Tea Party! It probably exists, you know.'

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Day 1: No Shampoo

I remember Miss M once remarking to me that since skin is an organ, she would not put anything on her skin that she could not put in her mouth. I ran out of moisturiser the other day and I thought, why don't I use Eva's trick of using coconut oil and lavender? So I mixed some together and I'm road testing it for a few days to see how it works. If it does then I've saved myself a lot of money - coconut oil is about £3.50 for a tub as opposed to body moisturiser which is a lot more expensive than that. I like the idea that it only has two ingredients, that it is cheap, that none of it is animal tested and that there is minimal packaging to be thrown away afterwards. I don't think that I will end up making everything myself, but if I can and it's not too much trouble, why not? I like the idea of concocting lotions and potions!

I saw this article about not using shampoo on Pintrest a while back, and was reminded of it when I was thinking about all this. I have quite fine but reasonably frizzy hair and I fairly much just bundle it up in a bun every day apart from the odd special occasion where I will style it and wear it down. I've always been curious about the No 'Poo movement, but I wasn't sure if I could cope with the greasiness in the beginning stages. In this article, the lady uses bicarbonate of soda instead of shampoo and apple cider vinegar instead of conditioner, so it's not completely cold turkey which sounded much more manageable to me. I don't go back to work until late September so I thought I would do my own 1 month experiment on baking soda and cider vinegar and see what happens. If this works I'll be really happy - again, it's cheap, animal friendly, simple ingredients and when I wash it off down the drain it won't pollute rivers or make various frogs mutate unhealthily which is always good and in addition she says that her hair got less frizzy and she needed to wash it less over time which would be a bonus. I'll update you about how it's going!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I had a lovely time with the family, but alas all good things come to an end and after a couple of flights I'm finally back home again. While I was away I:

- Read lots of books
- Had a facial with the lovely Eva
- Had dinner with lots of interesting people (including a Jordanian / American couple, a Palastinian / Greek couple and a Mormon family)
- Visited Muskegon and went to the beach (though not swimming because it was too cold)
- Visited Belle Isle, the Detroit Riverbank and the Renaissance Center
- Read lots of books
- Had breakfast and shopped for fresh veg at the Eastern Market
- Went to an Estate Sale (and bought hats!)
- Watched Star Trek: Into Darkness, the 3rd season of Sherlock, The Lego Movie, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, all three of the Matrix trilogy and Muppets: Most Wanted
- Ate al fresco on the patio most nights
- Saw some amazing thunder storms
- Sat in rocking chairs in two different airports in the States
- Read lots of books. Did I mention that?

....and generally got to have a relaxing, lovely time with my family.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Estate Sale

Our lovely friend Carol has her own business selling antiques and other bits and pieces at Slyfield and Sime. She goes to house clearances and estate sales about once or twice a week to pick up stock, and she happened to be going today so my step mum and I tagged along. 

This was my first estate sale so I didn't really know what to expect. The house is opened up and various things are displayed in each room. There is a company in charge of unpacking, pricing up and getting the house ready and then they also answer questions and take money. Carol says that some companies you can bargain with and some you can't. One of the ladies said that this house was quite exceptional - the lady who lived there had been paralysed and recently died at age 66. She used to be a horserider when she was younger, and there was a lot of regalia like riding boots and hats and trophies. She had insomnia and she would go on the internet or on TV shopping channels like QVC in the middle of the night and order things. Then she would forget and order more things. Evidently she was not short of money because she had many, many clothes, many of which were fairly pricey and some not even out of their wrappers. She had hundreds of pairs of scissors, calculators, books - especially on gardening and cooking, glasswear, crockery, two whole sets of china (one of which was a beautiful Wedgewood set that I would have taken anyday if this was at home!) and loads of vintage fabric, patterns, blankets.... it was pretty extraordinary. I tried on all the hats - of course! (Even the sales assistant said that when they were unpacking they had a few impromptu fashion shows). My step mum picked up some lovely tops, some mascara and a food processor, Carol bought some plant trellises, a fig tree, a whole pile of books and some puzzles for the kids, while I picked up two hats, several vintage zips for $1 a piece and a swathe of fabric from 1979. It was a fascinating experience, not least because this lady was a real hoarder and it was interesting to see all the things she had bought. I have to admit though it made me want to clean out my room just in case I die suddenly and someone has to deal with all of that...

When I said hundreds of scissors, I wasn't joking

Notice the carpet bag: I love
it but it was a wee bit pricey for me

Look at all the Wedgewood! Good job this
wasn't at home or I'd have to find space for a full set of china...

So much fabric, most of it vintage