The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Guess what I went to see a while back! If you guessed that I'd seen the new Hobbit film (about a million years after everyone else) then you'd be right.
Click read more for my text-heavy spoilery thoughts:
His Last Vow
And so Sherlock is over for another two years (or one year?) It's sad, yes, but also a relief. Living with this level of excitement is not possible for long periods of time. I'm exhausted.
Right then. Let's talk about the final episode. Click read more for spoilers. (Oh so many spoilers.)
The Sign of Three
I'm a bit late this time. Sorry, folks! I had a flat inspection on Wednesday, which meant that cleaning had to come before blogging.
And oh how I want to blog about this episode of Sherlock. So, without delay, onwards!
Click read more for spoilers.
Happy new year!
I'm back today with a more general post. Isn't this great? I think it's great. I've missed this. It's been so long!
Augh. If I ever talk about doing a distance-learning course on top of my full-time work again, please ask me to reconsider. This one was good, don't get me wrong, and it's going to be really relevant and useful to my work and I'm glad I've done it. But it took so much time! Coming home from work only to start studying again is miserable; especially if you're tired. At parts I felt like I was trying to swim through tar.
Still, now it's over! (Here's hoping I actually pass it.) I have so much free time and I'm spending all of it trying to run around and catch up on what I've missed. It may be a while before I'm fully up to speed again. (I may also have to do a tiny little bit of studying later in the year, just to finish things off, but not in January that's for sure!)
So, how was my Christmas? Mostly full of report and essay writing to be honest. Also watching Cooking with Dog and playing ridiculous computer games because studying isn't studying without a little bit of procrastination creeping in here and there.
I did have some breaks over Christmas though. I went to visit friends and family and it was nice. Yesterday (because it still counts as Christmas) I went to see James and Eppa and we ate homemade soup and scones while doing a jigsaw puzzle. Very relaxed but exactly what I needed. (Except for the aborted walk in the pouring rain. Thanks, guys, I didn't enjoy that part.)
Can we get to the presents now? I like doing the presents. That's what the spirit of Christmas is all about, right? That and eating copious amounts of cheese.
I got some lovely cards. Many of which were good. But my favourite one this year has to be the one hand-drawn by my Dad. It brightened my week.
With a special mention going to the panda drawn by Mariya.
As for presents, I got lots of lovely things.
Kitchen stuff, including a Japanese book about toast with some tasty-looking pictures from Mariya. I am so excited to start cooking exciting stuff again.
Stationary. I got the Michael Bublé calendar in a present lucky dip from Steve and Heather. It's 100% unofficial! I don't really know anything about Bublé. I suppose I should look up a video on YouTube or something? For now though, I've put up the calendar and the free poster. Just me and
Bublé (or Boobz as I like to call him) hanging out in the flat.
Clothes and underwear. The scarf and gloves come from Mariya. In fact, I'm wearing them both at the moment. I love being cosy warm in the winter.
And other exciting stuff. The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England has hardly left my side since I received it. I am beginning to truly adore Ian Mortimer's history writing. It brings everything to life. And so many interesting facts! Did you know that if you start at Piccadilly Circus and walk along the road we now call Piccadilly that you'll eventually get to Bath? For serious! It was originally known as 'the road to Reading'. Aaa! Such a good book!
Another mention goes to the Manga Studio 5 software. It's a present from my Dad. Apparently some people he's worked with recommended it. At first I was sceptical. I hadn't heard of the software and I already have illustration software. Surely I didn't need more? I was so wrong. OMG. The software I currently use is 14 years old. And you don't realise quite how far illustration software has come until you try a new one. It is so easy to use! I've only tried arsing around on it so far, but everything I've drawn looks miles better than what I could have achieved before. The lines are so smooth! There are so many types of brushes! And because this is specific manga software some of the effects and brushes are so bloody kawaii. I can get automatic feathers and petals and flowers. I used to have to draw all that stuff by hand! Seriously. I haven't wanted to draw this much in years. I can't wait to get stuck in some more.
So, is there anything else I've been doing recently? Let me see.
National Portrait Gallery
I went to the National Portrait Gallery in October. It's one of the few fun things I've done in months so I loved it. Is it possible to get nostalgic about something only an hour later? Because that's what happened. I went with my parents for my Mum's birthday. We took the whole day and went through the whole gallery in chronological order. It was so great to see the fashions in clothing and painting evolving as we went along. And I was playing a game called 'who looks the prettiest in this room'? The winners for that one were Prince Rupert, John Constable (I'm a fan after my holiday earlier in the year) and Ira Aldridge.
Pride and Prejudice
I finished reading this book months back. It's one of those books where I was embarrassed to admit that I didn't really know much about it before. Personally, I'm not sure that Elizabeth and Darcy ever become that likeable but I still found myself caught up in the plot anyway. The best part though, is this tie-in documentary, Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball, which I rewatched over Christmas and is so interesting (and not just because of the pretty costumes). Basically, it seems like Regency balls were a lot more like modern day clubs than you think. They're boiling hot, tiring, and everyone slowly gets pissed as the night goes on.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
I've been reading my way through the works of Oscar Wilde recently. It's a lot of fun. I feel like you could start a drinking game where you have to take a shot each time a rich, witty and beautiful gentleman dramatically throws himself down onto a divan and lights a cigarette. You would get drunk very quickly. I'm still reading my way through the book at the moment, but I finished The Picture of Dorian Gray a while back. I enjoyed it a lot, even if most of the characters are bastards. And. Seriously. I don't think I've ever read any story with such strong homoerotic overtones before. People weren't actually shocked when Oscar Wilde was convicted for homosexuality were they? I have never read men described so lovingly before, and I'm sad that I haven't because it's great to read. What? You want to describe how beautiful his lips are yet again? Why, go ahead. I'm not stopping you.
This is the new comedy outing from the team behind Horrible Histories. Here's the trailer. I had despaired that I would never be able to see it because it's on Sky. But I had forgotten that my parents have just gotten cable! We watched part of it while I was visiting for Christmas. My verdict so far? It's a little on the silly and childish side in places (which was right for Horrible Histories but maybe doesn't fit quite so much here) but it is enjoyable for the most part. And if you don't appreciate all the jokes, there is at least the bonus of watching Mat Baynton dance around in tight purple trousers.
I also discovered that my parents have access to Sleepy Hollow, which I've been very eager to check out. There wasn't enough time to watch it though. Not when we had plenty more episodes of Yonderland to get through.
Is that it? I think that's all I have to say today. I hope you all had nice Christmases and New Years too! I'll be back next week with more Sherlock. For now, it's time to go play at drawing stuff again.
The Empty Hearse
Hi, everyone! Hi! I'm back! My studies are over as of a few days ago; Sherlock is back on the TV; and I am just giddy with joy at the moment °˖✧◝(´∀｀)◜✧˖°
I'm hoping to have a summary of my Christmas up tomorrow. But today? Today I have to talk about Sherlock. Loads.
Click read more for spoilers. (And sorry if it's rather image heavy. I got excited.)
Guys. You may have noticed that I've not been blogging much recently.
I'm currently doing a part-time distance-learning course and trying to fit it around my full-time work. Needless to say, I have very little time for anything else. (Not even cooking fun stuff. I miss it so much *sob*)
The good news is that the course is only until the beginning of January, so if I don't make it back on here in 2013, you'll be sure to see me in 2014, along with lots of excitement and jabbering about the new series of Sherlock (which I'm assuming will air about that time).
In other news, I was watching The Great British Bake Off recently (one of my few weekly treats while it lasted) and this happened.
Suffolk, Essex and Constable Country
I was away on holiday with my parents last week.
We didn't go far, just to a village in Suffolk, very close to the border with Essex. It felt like miles away, though, compared with the rough and tumble of London. The joys of hearing birdsong, having a whole detached property to yourselves and being able to see the stars at night should not be underestimated!
Oh, and the weather was great too. Now I'm back home, we seem to have descended into the first blip of autumn, but last week was a different story. It was warm and sunny and I hardly saw a cloud once!
Here's a recount of what we did.
The village we stayed in was were John Constable grew up and the surrounding area is known as Constable Country.
I got to acquaint myself with Constable's work while I was there. Many of his paintings are of a rural idyll bathed in the warm light of a sunny afternoon. They're pretty in a calm sort of a way and are subsequently very popular. If you don't know someone who has a Constable picture on their wall, I will be surprised!
This was Constable's studio.
And this is a village over the river, where Constable went to school. I'm not entirely sure, but I think the school he went to was the building on the left. We certainly found graffiti in the brick-work that could be his: "J.C. 1787".
This picture was taken just outside of one of the mills that was owned by Constable's father. The building is Willie Lott's House (not 'Lots of Willies House' as I liked to call it); Constable painted it in The Hay Wain (not the 'Wayne' as I also called it; God I was annoying that day).
And this was taken inside the parish church at the village where Constable went to school. Up top there is his painting, The Ascension. A bit different from his normal subject matter!
It was lots of fun to walk in Constable's footsteps. The area doesn't seem to have changed much since his time so it's quite easy to imagine it as he saw it. Oh yeah, and Constable seems to have been quite the attractive gent too, so that helps.
Following on from that last photo, here are some more photos of churches. I love wandering around a parish church because they're normally one of the oldest buildings in the village. They always seem to be filled with hints and puzzles about what was there before.
This is part of the parish church in the village we stayed in. It was built in the 15th Century. The most striking feature is its tower; or rather, its half a tower. For some reason, presumably a lack of funding, the villagers stopped building the bell-tower when it was only half-way finished. This photo shows an archway that was meant to run underneath the tower. But the walls don't go much higher than this, and as you can tell from the sunlight between the arches, the tower doesn't even have a roof.
Without a tower to put the bells in, the villagers put them in this (what they had initially thought was temporary) bell cage.
Inside the bells are left pointing upwards, waiting to be rung by hand.
I think this tower contains a staircase. The star was the emblem of a local family.
And here is the church that contains Constable's picture of The Ascension. It was also built in the 15th Century. This photo shows the tower that the previous church was trying to copy. Only these guys actually managed to finish theirs.
This tower, like the failed one, has an arch underneath it. Only this one actually has a roof, and very pretty it is too.
The area seemed to be very heavy on the puritan side during the reformation. According to the story, this font was found in the churchyard where it had lain for centuries after being dumped. You can even see where it had had angels on the outside before they were struck off.
What with recent TV documentaries and the Anglo-Saxon history book that I've been reading, I am on such an Anglo-Saxon kick at the moment. The dark ages are fascinating because I know next-to-nothing about them. But it was a time when all sorts of traditions and governmental structures were laid down. Shire boundaries! Manorial landholding systems! Place names! Ahhh!
And so I forced my parents to take a trip up to Sutton Hoo and its famous Anglo-Saxon burial ground.
Here's the entrance to the exhibition. It wasn't a large exhibition, and all the original finds are at the British Museum in London, but it was really interesting nonetheless.
This is one of the burial mounds. It's been reconstructed up to the size it would have been when it was originally made. Imposing. And eerie. You can tell why later Anglo-Saxons thought it would be good to use the place for executions.
These are the mounds as they are now. Some have been completely flattened by ploughing.
And here's a replica of the famous helmet. It may well have come from the grave of Raedwald, King of the East Angles and High King of all the Anglo-Saxons in the south of Britain. Whoever it belonged too, it's some serious bling.
So there I was, wandering through the countryside and caught up between Regency painters, 15th Century church-builders, and dark-age warriors. It was nice. I like to feel the roots of a place when I'm there.
And, well, it was all rather pretty in the sunshine. The ground is quite flat so the views stretch a long way. There were green fields, a lush river and grand cottages that were painted 'Suffolk pink'. You can tell why Constable wanted to paint the place.
Summer's still going strong
Summer has been so nice this year! Where are the cold temperatures and the endless rain that we've had to put up with for the past few years? I have no idea!
I've mostly been spending my time having picnics and going to the theatre (more on that later). And yesterday Claire was visiting and we took ourselves off to Notting Hill Carnival. I don't have any photos because I wasn't sure how safe my camera would be in the heaving crowds, but it turned out to be a good experience. The whole of Notting Hill was like one massive street party fuelled with dancing, bright colours and the smell of jerk chicken. We had fun.
In other things of note. This:
I received a birthday card from Linda! It deserves a special mention because it's travelled to London from Luxembourg twice. Originally ending up at the wrong address it got returned to sender and Linda was kind enough to send it out again. What a well-travelled card!
And as for the rest of this blog post, here's a run down of things I've been watching and listening to recently:
The Great British Bake Off
Not much to say about this yet because the new series has just started. I'm so happy it's back on TV though! It's like everything is right with the world when there's a mixture of cakes and Mel and Sue making bad puns on my TV.
King Alfred and the Anglo Saxons
I've come to the conclusion that I love every one of Michael Wood's history documentaries. This one is about the Anglo Saxons and is just as fascinating as I was hoping for. Watching it is my weekend treat.
A Field in England
I watched this film when it premièred on the TV. Here's the trailer. I enjoyed it! The direction was very nice to watch (bar one overly-long strobe sequence) and the story kept you on your toes. Bear in mind, though, that you will get to the end of the film without having any idea of what it was about. It's not an easy film to decipher. The best part though? I liked the historical feel of it; it was very 'show not tell'. Other films might have made a meal trying to explain what the Civil War was all about, but this film didn't even touch on it. The setting didn't need to be explained; it just was.
All in all, very enjoyable, and the only thing preventing me from purchasing it is that I can't bear to watch that strobe sequence again.
Welcome to Night Vale
So, I've gotten on the band wagon and have started watching this podcast (links to where to listen to it here). I wouldn't call myself a super-duper fan, but it is certainly fun, often laugh-out-loud funny, and shockingly cinematic for an audio-only medium.
The premise of the podcast is that it is a local radio show based in a small town in the US where every single horror cliché and stereotype is real. I'd call it a cross between The League of Gentlemen's radio show (only less of an obvious sitcom) and Blue Jam (only slightly less creepy).
I'd say give it a go if you're interested. Make sure to listen to the episodes in order though because they often refer back to things that have happened in previous episodes.
Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
I'm sure you've all heard the super catchy Get Lucky, right? Daft Punk's new album seems to be a trip back to their slightly more funky roots and I am all for that. Some of the tracks are a little slow and a bit too experimental for me, but some of them are great.
For example: I was listening to Lose Yourself to Dance while hanging up my clothes from the washing machine and before I knew it I had stopped what I was doing and had started dancing around the room like a weirdo.
So, yes, I approve. Once again Daft Punk prove that they are what we know them to be:
Sexy sexy disco robots.
The Sound of Music
I went to see this show at the Regents Park Theatre with James, Eppa, Steve, Heather, Eppa's sister and Heather's brother. Luckily, with it being an outside theatre, the weather was nice and not rainy in the slightest. We even had a picnic before the show!
Now, here's where I admit I've never seen the film before. Embarrassing, I know. This meant that I got to enjoy the full force of the plot, while somehow recognising all the songs anyway.
Overall, I really enjoyed this show! The songs were very uplifting (there's a reason why the film is so popular) and the actors had great singing voices. I actually felt energised after watching it, and I was left humming My Favourite Things for days afterwards. Oh, and Captain von Trapp was rather hot totty too, which I hear from a good source always makes the show more enjoyable.
If I've learnt anything from this show it's:
1. If you're expecting a happy ending, watch out. It's likely to be ruined by Nazis.
2. Nazis can be defeated through music.
Handy things to know.
And another musical! I saw this one with Claire this weekend at the Aldwych Theatre. Once again, I'd not seen the film, but most of the songs were familiar already.
I have to admit, I didn't enjoy the singing in this one as much as The Sound of Music. And while the dancing was good, I couldn't help feeling that it probably wasn't quite the same as Fred and Ginger.
That said, I enjoyed the show, especially once the farce got going. I love a good farce.
Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
I've just finished reading this book and I was shocked by just how much I enjoyed it. I wouldn't say it wasn't without its flaws (see also: God, Dickens really hated America back then; the gratuitous use of American stereotypes gets a bit boring to be honest. And also: none of the female protagonists appear to have much of a personality at all.) If you can overlook those parts, then it is a good read. The plot's a bit odd in places, but the characters are mostly great and the book is really really funny. There's a lot of physical humour in it, which I didn't even realise was possible in book form!
For example, take this scene, just after Mark Tapley has knocked on Mr Pecksniff's front door:
A person of Mr Tapley's observation could not long remain insensible to the fact, that Mr Pecksniff was making the end of his nose very blunt against the glass of the parlour window, in an angular attempt to discover who had knocked at the door.
Did I mention that I loved the characters? Of particular note are the good guys, John Westlock, Mark Tapley and Tom Pinch. John Westlock is endearingly romantic, Mark Tapley is pretty much the only person with any sense in the whole thing, and Tom Pinch? Well. I haven't been such a fan of any character for a good couple of years.
At the beginning, I thought Tom Pinch was going to be a joke character, but he pretty much turns into the main protagonist (or was that all in my head?) Once I got halfway through the book, I found myself feeling rather frustrated when reading any chapter that didn't have Tom Pinch in it. As a character, he's foolish, certainly, but he's also utterly adorable!
And here's the part where I descend into spoilers. Click the link below for more:
Hold on to your hats. I haven't blogged about my cooking adventures for the past month and a half. This is going to be a long one.
Strawberry and basil salad with balsamic reduction
This salad is really quick to make and looks so summery! Unfortunately, I was a bit wary about eating it because I normally don't like sweet and savoury mixed together, or raw onions, or feta. Good job. Luckily for me, I got a pleasant surprise when I took my first mouthful because the taste is actually pretty nice. Well, nice at the beginning anyway. It's still a bit too sweet for me so I started to feel a little ill once I got halfway through but let's not dwell on that part.
Panzanella Tuscan bread salad
I don't have much to say about this one. It's nice enough to eat (filling too) and is good for those hot days when you want to eat salad and nothing else.
Lemon and herb crusted fish
Oh God, this dish is so good! It's a bit of a faff to make and if, like mine, the fillet is smaller than suggested then it can break up when you try to take it out of the baking tray, but it's so worth it anyway. The fish is nice and goes really well with the potatoes and, man, that tarragon mayo is the jewel in the crown. I get the feeling it's not so healthy but who cares? I could easily eat it seven days in a row.
Colin McGurran's chicken fajita kebabs
Is this the most beige meal in the world or what? Don't worry; the fajitas are colourful on the inside. Point one: the recipe didn't say what to do with the rice so I just ate it on the side. Point two: I think I grilled these for longer than I was told too, but I always like to make sure my chicken is cooked through. Point three: I was scared this was going to be far too spicy for me, but actually it turned out to have a pleasant mild heat and nothing more. In fact, with the lime and everything, they were really tasty and nice; far better than my photo would suggest.
Love hearts gingerbread (recipe from Mother's Little Book of Home-Baked Treats)
Can you tell that I iced these at midnight? I think you can tell. I didn't have a heart-shaped cutter, so I made a stencil from some baking paper, which seemed to work well. The icing though; I think I made the icing for the middle too runny, because it took ages to set (you can see that it's still a little wet in the photo). In fact, I didn't wait for it to set fully because it was goddamn midnight already, so I just piped the rest of the icing on top with frequently terrifying results. Thanfully, they tasted absolutely stellar so there is that.
Vanilla macarons with caramel cream (recipe from I ♥ Macarons by Hisako Ogita - a birthday present from Mariya!)
Making macarons is possibly the most stressful thing ever. There was one part, about an hour and a half in, where I discovered that I hated everything in existence. Thankfully, I persevered and ended up with something tangentially related to a macaron. Now, before you tell me that these don't look too bad, let me point out that I hid all the ugly ones at the bottom, and that there were many of those. One of my problems was that I'd used a wet finger to smooth out the points on the macarons; this meant that they didn't dry very well and led to a lot of them cracking in the oven. My other problem is that they were a lot more brown and more hard and chewy than they were meant to be. This was all down to the oven temperature; I must have been using a different type of oven to the one they use in the recipe book because the cooking temperature was far too high and the cooking time was far too long for me. Oh, and I need to work out size as well. I tried to follow the size guidelines in the book and ended up with macarons that were ridiculously tiny (I hid those ones at the bottom too). So, all in all, I don't think I ended up with anything that looked, felt or tasted like a macaron, but actually they were pretty nice to eat anyway. Time for more practice I think!
Turkey and rosemary skewers
This is one of those meals that looks better than it tastes. The taste was fine, yes, but it wasn't mind-blowing. Oh, but the smell of rosemary when you're cooking will make your whole house smell great; I bloody love the smell of rosemary. As before, I grilled these for longer than I was told to because I wanted to make sure my turkey was cooked through.
Caesar chicken pasta salad
I normally find Caesar salad a bit too rich for me and this was no exception. I'm also still not sold on the taste of anchovies. Overall, this wasn't my favourite dish in the world, but making the parmesan crumbs was fun.
Herby chicken with lemon and almond rice
Again, I grilled these for longer than I was told to because I wanted to make sure they were cooked through. I liked the chicken; chicken legs are always nice and moist. And I get the feeling that the rice could have been really tasty if I'd managed to not burn the garlic to high heaven. How embarrassing.
Birthday time :D
Things have been rather exciting around here because it was my birthday this week! Unfortunately I've also had a bad cold, but I enjoyed the parts where I wasn't feverish or hacking up half a lung (actually, to be fair, the feverish parts were quite good too; feeling cold and getting goosebumps on a day when it's 32°C outside is kinda pleasant).
So, firstly, Steve and Heather and Nick came to London and then with James and Eppa we all went out to eat BBQ ribs in Hoxton.
Man, I've wanted to eat ribs again ever since I had them in New York. I went for the pulled pork and the ribs here. They were nice, but not quite as nice as the NYC ones. Expensive too, but the portion was so large that it managed to feed me for two whole days. Good work.
My milkshake was jolly nice though. It was basically a load of ice-cream in a bucket, and for a boiling hot day it was lovely.
A few days later my parents came to visit and we went for a wander around Greenwich. We got there quite late so most of the museums and things were closing, but it's a pretty place to walk around regardless.
First we saw the Cutty Sark.
Then the Old Royal Naval College.
Then the National Maritime Museum.
And finally we went up into Greenwich Park to see the view across to Canary Wharf.
All in all it was a nice day and my cold was stating to wear off by that point too. Score!
Not to mention, everyone has been so nice sending cards and presents! Thank you, guys!
A selection of my cards. Very impressed with the Moonpig card from Sam and Gemma, showcasing photos that we'd only taken a few days beforehand. So on-the-ball!
Cookery/food presents. (I've actually had the food processor for a few weeks now, but I've been keeping quiet about it ohohoho.)
The macaron recipe book is from Mariya and I am so excited to try it out. All going well, I'll attempt my first batch of macarons next weekend. Pictures to come later I'm sure.
Oh, and a special shout-out goes to James and Eppa for getting me the picnic blanket. I now have everything I need to be a fully-functioning adult. Hooray!
Other presents. The Horrible Histories box set is from Nick. Aaa! I haven't seen series one or two before so I can't wait to get my teeth into them (especially now that the last ever Horrible Histories series has finished showing on TV D:)
I asked my parents for Moranthology. I've been champing at the bit for the last year to read this book. Caitlin Moran is so funny; I am a mega fan.
And thanks to Steve and Heather for the book of Tom Gauld comics! I've just finished devouring all of them.
Other things I can't wait to get my chops around? Adorable moustache-shaped lip balm from Maryia and new Daft Punk album from my parents :D :D
Thanks again, everyone! I hope your weeks have been as lovely as mine!
I hope the weather has been nice where you are! Here, it's been mixed. Sometimes cold, sometimes windy, sometimes rainy, oftentimes muggy, and always with a high pollen count (just in case you like a bit of mucous with your summer).
This weekend though. This weekend the weather was gorgeous! Sunny and just the right temperature. If only it could stay like that always, rather than get all cloudy and rainy like today.
Still, good weather or not, I have been gallivanting around and trying to enjoy summer (and sneezing lots along the way. Seriously, what is up with the pollen count this year?)
1. Victorian cemeteries
2. Norfolk broads
3. Stuffed animals
4. Sunny picnics
1. Victorian cemeteries
I visited an old Victorian cemetery with James and Eppa a couple of weeks ago. It stopped being well-tended some time in the late-20th Century so now it's really overgrown with the headstones listing all over the place. Probably not what the first people to be interred there imagined would happen to their graves, but it does add wonderfully to the Gothic feel of the place.
2. Norfolk broads
After that, I went to visit Theresa and Colin and their 16 month-old daughter, Rosie. They live in a village on the Norfolk broads and the place is so pretty and peaceful!
We spent the weekend playing with Rosie (I was on drawing, pushing the ride-on toy car, and Winnie-the-Pooh duty), having a barbecue, and visiting model railways.
Oh yeah, and walking along the waterside.
3. Stuffed animals
The week after, I went with my parents and my Nan to go visit a museum full of stuffed animals.
It's a fascinating place. I love learning about evolution, so being able to compare the different species was great. But as the stuffed animals are all about 100 years old, we got to learn a bit about the way people saw animals and museums back then too.
4. Sunny picnics
This weekend, Susan, Helen and I took advantage of the nice weather and went for a picnic.
I love strawberry season. These strawberries were from Kent and were so sweet and juicy. I stuffed my face with as many as I could manage.
And Susan gave me a belated house-warming present! Very bright a cheerful. I hope I can keep this one alive, unlike all the other plants that have been entrusted into my care over the years. (Even my long-lived poinsettia is looking a bit ill these days.)
I've been watching a lot of TV series recently, and not one of them is a cooking programme! What's happened to me?
The internet tells me this is going to be the last series of Horrible Histories. How sad! It honestly is one of my favourite shows. What can be better than history and jokes? In particular, the songs this series have been great. My favourites:
Marcus Licinius Crassus
The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England
This documentary series was so fascinating! The presenter, Ian Mortimer, has written a book of the same name that I'm hoping to read soon. (I read his earlier book, The Time Traveller's Guider to Medieval England, last year and it quickly became one of my favourite non-fiction books.) What makes this show so interesting is that it pretends that you are going to visit Elizabethan England and tells you what to do, what to eat, what to wear, where to stay and what to expect (all very every-day kind of stuff so very relatable). I really enjoyed trying to imagine myself in the Elizabethan mindset. Fun fact! Most people in Elizabethan England had never heard of William Shakespeare. And how would they have heard of him if only the folks in London could go see his shows at the theatre?
I just loved this show. Can't wait to get my grubby paws on the book.
Rise of the Continents
And another good documentary series! I started watching this on a whim but it's turned out to be really fascinating. Taking each of the continents in turn, it uses the geology and the animals around to show how the continental plates have moved and changed over time. If you know almost nothing about geology, like me, you'll find it really interesting. Fun fact! It's not Antarctica's location but the seas swirling around it that make it so cold. When it was still attached to Australia, and so the sea currents around the land mass were different, it was lush and wooded.
Ahhh! Things in the past were different to how they are now! I can't get enough of this stuff!
Thanks to Eppa for letting me borrow her DVD. I'm halfway through the series now. Personally, I would class it as a comedy-drama rather than a pure comedy, because the laughs are thin on the ground. It works well as a comedy-drama though and has more of a feeling of reality to it than a lot of dramas do (see: characters living in believably tiny New York-sized apartments). Ok, and they might be thin on the ground, but I did laugh at the jokes too.
I've been busy doing various things and enjoying the summer these past few weeks. More about that later. Because today is food post day.
Did you know: it's been over a year now since I started this massive cooking spree? And I still haven't gotten bored of it yet! It's so much fun, it really is.
Shaun Hill's popcorn chicken
I couldn't find any popcorn kernels, so I bought a bag of normal salted popcorn instead. I was worried it would make the chicken too salty, but luckily it didn't. This dish is delicious by the way. The chicken is moist, crunchy and you can taste the popcorn. The pesto potatoes, meanwhile, are possibly the best way to eat pesto ever. I am a fan.
This is a very mild, unassuming dish. Nice though; I normally find carbonara too rich for me, but not so with this one. Really quick and easy to make too.
Roast chicken and tarragon sauce
jsyk I left the wine out of this one. The chicken came out very moist and tender. The sauce? Whoa. The sauce certainly packs a punch. It's nice, but it's been reduced so much that the taste is very very strong. I hope you like it that way!
Gluten free almond cookies
I made these to take to work because a colleague of mine can't eat gluten. Overall, I'm not sure how I feel about them. My colleagues seemed to like them, but personally I found them a bit dry and mealy. The main reason, I think, is because the mixture seemed too wet to roll out, so I added tonnes more flour until it seemed more like a dough consistency, which probably put my sugar/butter/almond/flour ratio out. They came out a bit like shortbread but not as nice. Oh, and all the almonds fell off the top too.
Tasty chicken tikka masala
As curries go, this was ok. Nice, but nothing to write home about. It was sweet and not too hot but perhaps more tomato-y than I normally like my curries. Then again, tikka masala has never been on my top favourite curry list.
Sugary doughnut muffins (recipe from Mother's Little Book of Home-Baked Treats)
These muffins were a massive success. They do taste like doughnuts! And with the sugar on top and the jam inside, they feel very decadent too. The bonus is that they're easy to make; the recipe is just weighing, mixing and spooning (with a bit of brushing on melted butter and rolling in sugar at the end for the topping). I literally can't praise these muffins enough!
I've just finished watching all 7 series of Ideal and I have to tell you about it because it's so good! In fact, I may have told you about it before, but let me try again.
Ideal is a sitcom from BBC3 (no, hear me out, it's actually a good sitcom on BBC3). It stars Johnny Vegas, who plays a cannabis dealer called Moz. The show started in 2005 and ran until 2011 when it was apparently cancelled. Boo. I didn't start watching until a couple of years ago, when I started from the very first episode and then blitzed my way through the lot.
Guys, how can I convince you how good this show is? I never saw it when it was originally on TV because I thought you never got good comedy shows on BBC3. How wrong I was! My parents were fans and they persuaded me to give it a go. I was hooked immediately. It is possibly one of my favourite sitcoms of all time. Really! It's dark and strange and weird and the jokes are good but the best part are the characters.
If you start watching this show from the first series (and I highly recommend you do) you get to meet each character in turn. They are all great (if sometimes scary) and it's a joy to watch them grow and change as the years go on. Not to mention, you can become so familiar with their individual quirks that sometimes I only need someone to appear on screen for me to start laughing.
My favourite is Psycho Paul and his gang. His accent always cracks me up. Here's a clip: http://youtu.be/XDXFVTZCZwI
Jenny is very good too. Here she is at her best: http://youtu.be/nbNl9zntR-M
And here's the trailer for series 5. No spoilers but it gives you a good feel for just how strange and dark Ideal is: http://youtu.be/Iq9w0RZnmNg
Just watch it. If you like comedy shows that are a little on the dark side, you'll like it. As a bonus, the first series contains the best executed pun I've ever seen.
Italian burger bang
I ate these in normal sesame seed buns rather than ciabatta rolls because that's what I had in the freezer, and I grilled the burgers for longer than suggested because I like mine well done. Taste-wise, these burgers were confused. They tasted nice, yes, but there were so many different herbs and flavours in the meat and the garnishes that it all came out being a bit of a jumble. So, yes, nice, but could do with being toned-down a bit.
Piri piri style sausage
I thought these might have been a bit too spicy for my liking but I was wrong. They were mild and sweet and tasty. A success!
Broccoli, chilli and tomato spaghetti
This came out rather boring and, maybe I made an error in the cooking somewhere, but rather dry too. I want some sauce!
Fig and hazelnut breakfast bread (recipe from Mother's Little Book of Home-Baked Treats)
This is the first thing I've made from this book that I've not been very impressed with. One part is my fault. Rather than buying new yeast, I was lazy and used my old stuff, which meant that the dough didn't rise very well at all. The main problem though, and I don't think it was to do with the yeast, is that this bread was too sweet for my tastes. The figs were sweet enough on their own, let alone with extra sugar added too. I've since found that the best way for me too eat this bread is toasted and dry. The addition of butter spread on top (or cream cheese like the book suggests) makes it too rich for me to handle.
Chocolate and porridge
Just a quick post to share a couple of things with you today.
The first is that I cat-sitted for James and Eppa a couple of weeks ago. (I really need to show you a photo of their cats at some point; they're great.) Anyway, I was given some holiday souvenirs in return. Thanks, guys!
Yup, that's right. Those are Henry VIII chocolates! You will be glad to know that I ate the wives in the order of their deaths. And tasty they were too; they went down right nice with a cup of camomile tea.
In other food news, I've just finished eating a free box of porridge that I got from Graze. Like their other stuff, it was tasty but not something I could afford on a regular basis. The good news is that I've got some codes for free boxes. If you've never had a Graze box before and want a free one, or if you've had a Graze box before and want a free box of breakfast, then hit me up and I'll see what I can do.