Well, I did it. I ran my 5k. And you know what? It was a P.O.P. compared to my training runs. For a start, it was basically all FLAT, and all on tarmac (my training route contains a lot of inclines, trail running, and, lately, thanks to all the rain, a lot of mud).
It was a cold day at the Norfolk Showground on Sunday, but there were 3500 other walkers, joggers & runners to buoy our spirits. The atmosphere was pretty awesome, and it was fun seeing the people in silly outfits, reading their “I race for life for….” things on the back of their shirts, and sharing with their excitement.
But there were downsides to a massive group event too – the queue for the portaloos was one.
The other thing was the crush. I don’t really like being caught in crowds at the best of times, but when I’m trying to get away from the start line and get up to my optimum pace, crowds SUCK. But despite all this, I got my best overall pace for a 5k to date – 35mins clicked in just as I sprinted (would you believe it) across the finish line.
Eee, I got a medal!
So what’s next? Well, I started StrongLifts 5×5, I’ve started boxing a heavy bag in the garage and today, I ran 6.7km. GET. IN.
Yes, hopefully this habit is to stay.
OH AND MOST IMPORTANTLY.
Thank you SO SO much to everyone who sponsored and supported me in the 5k. Thanks to your generous donations, I’ve raised £301 for Cancer Research. You guys are totally awesome
Hellloooooo, blogosphere! Remember me?
I know, I know. I’ve been a neglectful blog-mother. I’m sorry. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been MIGHTY busy. New county, new home, new job, new life… Same old me. And Ben is still here
But yes: HAPPY NEW YEAR! I’ve had some tough “moments” this year, and to be perfectly honest, I’m getting a bit sick of hearing my own whinging. Looking back on last New Year’s 1st Jan post, a lot still applies:
“So,  is gone. Like so many days and years, it is in the past, now merely a memory. Words on a page, photos in the album. Some days, I mourn the days that we’ve lost, but really, we haven’t really lost them. We’ve lived them, and we have many more days ahead to continue living.
So rather than mourn what has passed, perhaps it’s time to look optimistically to the future. I spend an awful lot of my time moping and burying my head (please see my official job description in the blog header), but I have, over the last couple of years, been trying to reassess my life and get some perspective. I’m sure many of you know how difficult it is to break habitual destructive behaviours, but where there’s a will, there’s a way!
So let’s see the New Year as a chance for a fresh start.”
My New Year’s Resolutions from last year… didn’t really work out. Let’s review:
1. I have not lost weight. I’ve gone from last 1st Jan’s 12st1.5lb to a mighty 13st. Please do not adjust your sets.
2. The exercise… Well, no. I jogged for like… two weeks, then realised it doesn’t suit me. AT ALL. However, moving to the countryside has lead to more countryside walks, and in warmer weather will encourage cycling and swimming. Watch this space.
3. Eat healthy? Sort of. Less so these past few weeks due to the seasonal blow out, but over all we have rediscovered vegetables, which can be no bad thing.
4. Budget. Well, I wouldn’t be still standing if I hadn’t managed to squeeze my finances. Go me.
5. Redecorate the flat. I don’t live there any more! Hurrah!
6. Study hard. I could have studied harder, but still managed to come out of my MSc with a 2:i (3% off a first. I have mixed feelings. Not discussable here).
7. Forgive myself? Unfortunately, still an unmastered skill. I’ll keep working on it.
And this New Year? Well, one of my seniors at work today suggested making wishes, or hopes. for the year ahead, rather than resolutions. I thought it was a lovely idea, so with that in mind:
1. I hope to continue furthering my education, with possibly some NVQs or a diploma in counselling or mental health care
2. I hope to do some volunteering – I miss my work with SANE
3. I wish people would have their voices heard, and that people would listen more compassionately
4. I wish an assistant psychology post would open up in Waveney, and take me on board for the role…
5. I wish I could give a doggy a home
6. I wish all my friends and family luck, health and happiness. Cheesey, I know, but now more than I ever, I realise how much you all mean to me.
So there we go. All a bit vague and swirly, yes, but I hope that I can make this year a good one.
AH, OH, BEFORE I FORGET. The books of 2011! You remember the Book List, right? Well, here is the 2011 Book Round-up:
I’ve only read a measly 18 books (12 non-fiction, 6 fiction) this year. I know, I know. But remember how I was studying for finals, doing a dissertation, and then moving house? Poor excuses, maybe. Poo to you, sir.
Well, I got a lump of Amazon vouchers as part of a Christmas present, so I’ve loaded up my Kindle and am raring to read. I’ll see you in a year to prove that 2011 was just a rare howler, reading wise. Here’s the list (favourites are show with an asterisk):
- 01.2011 – *V S Ramachandran – Phantoms in the Brain (nf)
- 02.2011 – Neris Thomas & India Knight – Neris and India’s Idiot-Proof Diet (nf)
- 03.2011 – Carl Rogers – On Encounter Groups (nf)
- 02.2011 – *Terry Pratchett – Unseen Academicals (f)
- 03.2011 – Matt Ridley – The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature (nf)
- 03.2011 – Adam Phillips – Darwin’s Worms (nf)
- 03.2011 – *Ben Goldacre – Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks (nf)
- 04.2011 – Prof. Robin Dunbar – The Trouble with Science (nf)
- 04.2011 – Jeff Potter – Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food (nf)
- 05.2011 – Susan Greenfield – Id (nf)
- 11.05.2011 – Rudyard Kipling – The Man Who Would Be King (f)
- 29.07.2011 – Jack London - White Fang (f)
- 02.08.2011 – Richard Mabey - Food for Free: A Fantastic Feast of Plants and Folklore (nf)
- 07.08.2011 – Steven Johnson – Everything Bad is Good for You (nf)
- 12.08.2011 – Patrick Bateson & Paul Martin – Design for a Life (nf)
- 16.11.2011 – Terry Pratchett – Snuff (f)
- 20.11.2011 – Terry Pratchett – Wintersmith (f)
- 24.12.2011 – *Robin Hobb – Assassin’s Apprentice (f)
How about you? Read any good books lately?
January 1, 2012 | Categories: books, charity, exercise, family, holiday, jobs, Mental Floss, sociable, statistics, Suffolk | Tags: Christmas, complaining, debate, dissatisfaction, excitement, exercise, family, fox, gluttony, humans, I love, me me me, optimism, philosophy, rant, shiny, sociable | 2 Comments »
Hello to those of you who found this blog post because you were googling naughty things. Shame on you. Today I’ll be talking about dog walking.
This week, I’ve been looking after my mum’s dog, Dusky, whilst my mum and dad are on the Isle of Wight celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary. OK, I’ve sort of been looking after their dog – I brought her up to Suffolk, but because my new house (renting, not bought, for everyone that keeps asking) requires a “pet addendum” to keep pets, I didn’t think I’d risk asking this early in the game if I can have sleepovers with my friends, the animals.
Luckily, Ben’s parents (also in Suffolk) generously allowed Dusky to stay with them. They have a dog already (Jimmy, a grumpy Jack Russell Terrier), and he wasn’t pleased to see another dog enter the premises, but Ben’s parents LOVE her. She was initially a bit nervous (she is a rescue dog, so god only knows what happened to her before my mum took her in), but has settled in beautifully.
She’s had adventures aplenty. As well as walking around Southwold common, meeting other dogs, being frightened of bikes and freaking out at the sea, my brave little girl has been for a walk, OFF THE LEAD, for the first time ever:
I was a bit worried to start with, as she has no recall to speak of, and I’m not her real mummy, so I wasn’t sure if she’d make a run for it and never come back. But I kept the faith, and we’ve bonded quite well over the last few days, so she kept quite close most of the time.
But even more exciting than this, is she had her first ever play date. And what a play date it was.
I think I’ve mentioned my friend Vin and her two enormous Newfoundlands before. Well, they’re about a year old now, and sodding enormous. Thor, the boy, is about 12 stone, whilst his sister Jester is (only! Hah!) 9 stone.
Despite their size advantage, and the fact there was two of them and one of her (and it was THEIR turf, not hers), Dusky surprisingly put them in their place and ran rings around them. Jester was actually AFRAID of this minute lurcher, retreating behind Vin’s legs every time Dusky went to say hello. Thor, on the other hand, fell deeply in love – he followed Dusky everywhere, licking her ears and generally dribbling all over her (Newfoundlands are drooly dogs).
There were only three dogs, but with their size and her speed, it felt like there were at least a dozen dogs. A fun time had by all – we must do it again some time!
Oh, final excitement: Dusky also caught her first rabbit whilst at Vin’s. It had mixamatosis, so it was probably better off dead anyway, poor thing. Luckily, Dusky broke its neck pretty swiftly, but we had to chase her around the garden for a while to get it off her. Vin had the honour of disposing of the corpse. Fun. Times.
August 25, 2011 | Categories: Britain, car, exercise, family, holiday, philosophy, photography, sociable, Suffolk | Tags: animals, dog, excitement, exercise, family, funny, holiday, humans, I love, me me me, mum, optimism, philosophy, shiny, sociable, Suffolk | Leave A Comment »
Another gratuitous crafty post today. You’ll appreciate I’m quite busy at the moment… (WE HAVE A MOVING DATE, EEEEEEE)
Some of you may remember when I painted some plain Converse knock offs -
Sadly, these shoes have long since bit the dust, and I finally cut the cord and threw them out yesterday.
But it’s ok! Don’t cry! I made some new ones. Haha. Same sort of design – if it ain’t broke….
OK, time for some cautious optimism. We are getting closer and closer to leaving London.
“What?!” I hear you cry. Oh, you didn’t know? Well, I haven’t really made a formal announcement (because it’s been so touch and go) but basically, we’re moving to Suffolk. Various reasons, but a big one being I REALLY want a garden. Some space. Outdoors.
Southwold beach, about 15mins drive from our future house
The details are sketchy (because clearly Ben has a job in London, so won’t be upping sticks entirely. Yet) but we have just received an email from the letting agent in Suffolk saying we can have the house we want. We’ve arranged a day to collect the keys in the middle of August – not as soon as I’d've hoped, but soon enough (“that’s not soon enough!”)
But moving brings with it heartache and change. I’m really bad at change. I think that’s what’s held me back in the past – fear of change. It’s kept me in stagnant relationships, it stopped me wanting to go to grammar school (I know, I know), but slowly, gently, I’m learning to let change into my life. This is a big one (all at once) as I will be moving away from everything I know – volunteering, choir, friends, my mum (ARGH that’s the hardest one). However, I like to think that this year is a bit of a break through for me become a bit more independent – I’ve got my own car, I’ll (hopefully) be getting a job soon, and my own place (it’s in my name, people! Booyah). Scary shit, right? Right. But I repeat: garden.
Also, it’s not all 100% scary – my choir master from the English Arts Chorale lives in Suffolk too (and commutes to Surrey every week for choir – mad I know) – he runs two other choirs there, so at least I have somewhere to sing. Added to that, Ben’s parents and sister live about 15-20mins drive from where we’re going to live, which makes it feel a bit safer.
Yesterday came the first “cut off” – I said goodbye to SANE and to the EAC. I’ve been a member of each organisation for 15months and 3years respectively, but it felt a lot longer (in a good way). But Suffolk is a long way away, so I had to say goodbye. It was hard, but the cake I baked made it a bit easier. I will definitely keep in touch with the folks at the EAC (I can’t get away from them – they do joint concerts with the choirs in Suffolk!!) and I will continue to spread the news of SANE’s good works. But it’s still difficult to accept that I am no longer directly involved – both groups have meant a lot to me in different ways. Both have helped me to grow.
Anyway, I’ve rambled enough (and I’m getting sad, like when I had to leave the Horniman). More news on the move as-and-when.
Oh, and as always – sorry updates have been sparse lately, but given the above (and the dissertation) I hope you’re happy to forgive and be patient.
July 12, 2011 | Categories: Britain, car, family, holiday, London, Mental Floss, money, music, philosophy, sociable, Suffolk | Tags: debate, dissertation, excitement, family, fox, holiday, humans, I love, London, new, optimism, philosophy, shiny, sociable | 5 Comments »
It’s not all doom and gloom, chaps. In between dissertation writing, trying to move house and get a job, I have down time. Sometimes, knitting is too much like hardwork to fill the time, and it’s at these times that I turn to the PlayStation.
Recently, Playstation Network went down for quite a long while, leaving a lot of people a bit miffed. To say sorry, Playstation gave its users two free games. There was a small selection to choose from, but Ben I decided to go with Little Big Planet (because it’s silly, cute and multiplayer) and inFAMOUS because… it looked the less lame of the rest of the bunch.
inFAMOUS has turned out to be more than just “the least lame” – it is in fact pretty addictive. You play Cole, an unwitting tool in a terrorist attack, who ends up with super-powers following a bomb blast (don’t…just don’t ask). He can suck electricity from power cables et al, and fire it out at things. Whee!
I’m not usually one for games where you have to shoot over a distance (I have terrible aim) – I prefer melee characters. But inFAMOUS is strangely intuitive. It’s a bit like a sci-fi version of GTA crossed with a bit of Prince of Persia (oh yes – you can climb amazingly well, and survive a jump off any great height). As you go through the game, you gain greater powers, including some strange electro-gliding thing, and the ability to “bio-leech”, or suck electrical energy from people’s FACES. But be warned: this will make you more evil.
Yes, inFAMOUS does the good/evil thing – you get many “karmic choices” throughout the game – do the evil thing and you become infamous, do the good thing, and you become a hero. It affects how civilians act towards you, and which missions are available to you. To make sure we can observe the entire plot, Ben is running an evil campaign, whilst I get to be miss goody-two-shoes. It’s nice to be liked.
In inFAMOUS, the city is your playground – you can go pretty much anywhere, scaling buildings, grinding along railway lines (induction grind – great fun, AND you can recharge your batteries this way). The missions are challenging, varied, but not impossible – from simple escort tasks, to races against the clock to reset satellite uplinks, to all out wars with criminal gangs. Good fun. A nice mix of real-world griminess mixed with a touch of fantasy. The cool kind.
I’ll say it again: Sorry for the recent dearth of posts. I’m actually in the process of trying to relocate, find a job, finish my dissertation… It’s madness. Here, here’s my busy face:
BUT! I have guest blogged over at SWCraftClub. So it’s not all bad. Take a look: Streatham Knit Wits
June 20, 2011 | Categories: brain, Britain, crafts, guest post, jobs, knit, London, mental illness, Psychology, sociable, university | Tags: crafts, dissertation, diy, excitement, humans, I love, London, me me me, optimism, psychology, shiny, sociable, university | Leave A Comment »
Today’s post is courtesy of my good friend Angharad, from Edible Glitter. I was introduced to Angharad via her future-sister-in-law, my friend Sarah, only last year, and since then we have become good chums. I envy Angharad her stylish chic and her easy way with words – see her blog for evidence of both of these.
So without further ado, here are her thoughts on her latest ventures into the world of craftiness -
Astrid and I have many things in common. We both like cats. We both like cocktails. We both have names beginning in A and ending in D (and that’s fairly unusual, eh?). But we also have a few things that are very much not in common, and these largely relate to my various inabilities. Astrid can do the sciencey thing – I always WANT to be sciencey, but when it comes to the crunch I don’t really get it. And Astrid is blessed with the powers of a super crafter (which I suspect she gets from her lovely Mum.) Whereas when it comes to crafting my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak – I just don’t seem to have the skills necessary to put the creative ideas I have in to action.
Despair not, this post isn’t going to be a length rumination on my inadequacies. Rather it is going to be a positive affirmation of the fact that you don’t have to be a born crafter to have fun playing around with various crafts. So you might not be able to knit a jumper (damn you Astrid, I never progressed further than a garter stitch scarf) but it doesn’t mean you can’t find a different craft that suits you down to the ground.
Of course, every crafter needs good materials and some inspiration to boot. I was whinging to my fiancé’s sister Sarah only a month or so ago that I needed a creative project but couldn’t think of what. She helpfully suggested making a rag rug, something which I fully intend to try my hand at as soon as I’ve gathered together enough rags. But whilst I was wondering what the hell to do in the meantime, help arrived in the form of a brand new branch of HobbyCraft 5 minutes from my house. I’ve got to admit, I was stupidly excited. I squealed down the phone to various friends about it and as soon as an opportunity arose scuttled over for a good old browse.
HobbyCraft is heaven, and not just for established crafters. I defy you to go in there and not find something you want to make. There is such a variety of materials available that there is something for everyone, whatever your interests. I went in starved of ideas for creative projects and came out with plans to make jam, paint glass, do some decoupaging, learn how to knit again, make soap and try my hand at cross stitch.
Cross stitch is the example I really wanted to give to show that you can succeed with crafts even if you find them daunting. I’d always wanted to give cross stitch a go, and even got as far as browsing the cross stitch magazines with Astrid in WH Smith, but always chickened out at the last minute. I thought it was going to be too complex for me; that I would mess it up and feel desperately inadequate.
Happily, Hobbycraft offer tiny little cross stitch kits that only cost £1.99 and feature a variety of sweet little designs. The cheap price means that if you mess it up you’ve not lost much, and the small size means that on your first go you can get satisfaction fairly quickly rather than having to wait weeks for the design to gradually appear. I stitched a small picture of a steam train in an afternoon, which I intend to use as an insert for a Father’s Day card. A cross stitch addiction has been born.
I am now working on a top secret and very ambitious project (perhaps I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but I’m willing to find out). It just goes to show that I was silly to be frightened of cross stitch, and I could have been having fun stitching away months ago.
If you are a bit wary of crafting and know that you don’t pick things up as quickly as some people (I know I certainly fall in to that category) don’t be afraid to go on YouTube and watch any helpful tutorials over a few times to get the hang of it. When I started making 1000 origami birds for my upcoming wedding (yep, 1000 – I’m a glutton for punishment) I found it really difficult, to the point that I was so frustrated I nearly gave up. But after watching a helpful YouTube tutorial several times in succession it finally clicked, and folding the birds became second nature. I’ve since turned to YouTube to learn about rag rug making, which I’ve also found lots of helpful advice on.
So make sure that if there’s a project you are interested in you kick that fear and just dive in – yes, so occasionally you may encounter failure (I suck at baking and as I mentioned earlier am not a skilled knitter) but you will also discover new hobbies that you feel passionate about (try to take my cross stitch away from me and I will bite you). Good luck, happy crafting and don’t forget to pop over to my blog for more of my thoughts.
June 5, 2011 | Categories: art, crafts, guest post, how-to, knit, London, money, sociable | Tags: art, craft, crafts, crafty, cross stitch, excitement, guest post, how to, humans, I love, London, shiny, sociable | 3 Comments »
As I mentioned yesterday, you may have notice that summer is pretty much here. Really, I should be lounging somewhere in the sun, not wearing very much. But I have this love affair with food (affair? It’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had) which means I don’t suit skimpy beachwear.
But another joy of summer is that it’s cycling weather. On yer bike, and all that. I need some encouragement – London is a terrifying cycling experience, and I don’t much like leaving the house. So good news: I can fit my mountain bike in the back of my new car! Hurrah – get out to the country with the bike.
But should I want to cycle in the city, there is encouragement there too. The famous “Boris Bike” scheme makes bikes accessible to all, and whilst I have never used them myself (I have my own bike, and therefore have no need for hiring one), they seem to have been a great success with the general public.
Image from The Bike-sharing Blog
And TFL have now set up the London Cycle Challenge 2011 - you can sign up, join a team (get your workplace or school/college to set one up) or set up you own team of friends and family, then between 18th June – 18th July, you can log the miles you cycle. Miles equate to points, and of course, points mean prizes. Find out more on the TFL website.
Not a cycling commuter and want some ideas of where to cycle in London for pleasure? No problem. TFL are here to help again – they are supplying free paper maps for different areas of London, each map with many different route suggestions. Order them here.
And finally: please stay safe. They design some pretty cool helmets nowadays, and you can get neon reflective stickers in a multitude of designs (I have them in the shape of pawprints. Hurrah!) Lights at night, and try not to weave in traffic too much. Oh, and have fun!!
Those of you following me on Twitter might have seen me “fess up” yesterday. I bought a car. Hmm.
I’ve been thinking about getting my own car for a while now – with Ben’s Capri being a classic car (and recently polished to perfection), I didn’t feel comfortable driving it (should the worst happen) plus, putting me on the insurance quadrupled the price of the premium.
But now I have my own car. It’s a little baby jeep. Huzzah!
And you’ll be pleased to hear that, even after more than 3 years without being behind the wheel, I still remember how to drive. I drove it all the way home from Basingstoke, no problem. I even ate crisps.
Holy mother-load, Batman.
I have been charity shopping. Having been on a knitting binge, I remember that my local Trinity Hospice shop used to have a big mug full of donated needles. When I went there, the mug had gone. Sad face. So I asked the staff if they’d sold them all – no, they weren’t selling, so they had been moved to the store room. They went and got me a massive tangle of well over 200 needles. I bought the lot for a tenner – they were happy to be rid of the mismatched assortment of unsellable pointy things.
After a sort through, about 70 needles are unpaired. A shame. Unless someone wants a bundle of odd needles (I’m sure SOMEONE in the ‘verse can think of something to do with them…) they will be chucked out.
BUT. I now have a mass of knitting needles. Yay! Mainly standard straights and a mass of dpns, but I also found one circular needles, 4 crochet hooks (like I need more of those…) and three stitch counters.
Obviously, some are doubles. I have, for example, 10 sets of 3.75mm needles. So here’s my proposal: if you knit or know someone who knits (or wants to take it up), then have a look at my needle collection on Ravelry. I am happy to get rid of sets for as little as 50p (plus a nominal charge to cover p&p, if you want me to post them out to you). Please note: I’m only willing to sell on needles I have DOUBLES or more of. Please don’t ask for things I only have one of.
And if you fancy that bucket load of odd-needles, I’ll let you have the lot for a quid.
May 24, 2011 | Categories: Britain, charity, crafts, knit, London, money, photography, sociable | Tags: charity, comedy, crafts, diy, excitement, funny, I love, knit, money, needle, philosophy, shiny, sociable | 1 Comment »
Ooh, haven’t I been busy!! It’s all the commuting, dontcherknow.
On Friday, I met up with my mum and aunt, who were having a day out in London. They had already been to see Jan Gossaert’s (Flemish, like they are!) work at the National Gallery by the time I met up with them, and had a cheeky sit in at a lunch time concert at St Martin-In-The-Fields whilst they were waiting for me to arrive, so I knew they were on a culture binge. After a spot of lunch, we decided to round off the day with a visit to the Victoria & Albert museum.
After a drift through the hall of statues (the first gallery you come to after entering via the subway), we decided to avail ourselves of the temporary exhibition on the 1860-1900′s aesthetic movement, The Cult Of Beauty.
As all three of us are avid lovers of all things Art Noveau, it drew us in immediately. With a philosophy best summed up by Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”, the aesthetic movement was a celebration of beauty. Whilst I wasn’t mad on everything in the exhibition, there was an astoundingly large selection to choose from. My favourites included Pavonia (the picture used in the promotional material, as above), Proud Maisie, The Beguiling of Merlin and Louise Jopling. I was also deeply drawn in by the beautiful statue, Mors Janua Vitae (death is the gateway to life) by Harry Bates – the picture on that website does not do it justice; it is stunningly beautiful and more than a bit unnerving.
As well as being crammed full of beautiful paintings, sketches and sculpture, The Cult of Beauty also boasts some architectural drawings (including sketches for Whistler’s famous Peacock Room), Morris wallpapers, pottery, a set of wrought iron gates, some beautiful clothing and astonishing feats of carpentry. Oscar Wilde gets a mention or two, and there is a poster for a play entitled “Quite Too Utterly Utter”, which makes me grin like a loony.
The exhibition is on until the 17th of July, and is well worth the price of the ticket. We spent a good couple of hours in there, and would have taken even more time if we hadn’t started flagging after a long day.
Tickets are priced at £12 Full, £9 Seniors citizens, £7 Full time students, ES40 holders, 12-17 year olds, £31/£19 Family tickets (2 adults and 2 12-17 yrs/1 adult and 2 12-17 yrs)
Find full details on the V&A website.
May 23, 2011 | Categories: art, Britain, clothes, family, jewellery, London, money, museum, philosophy, sociable | Tags: animals, art, crafts, excitement, family, humans, I love, London, me me me, mum, museum, music, optimism, philosophy, shiny, sociable | 2 Comments »
Today, I want to make a special mention to Urban Threads, a magnificent resource and shop for all of you hand- and machine-embroiderers out there. I have never embroidered, but having browsed this online emporium, I really, really want to.
As well as a huge range of embroidery patterns to buy (intensely cheaply – starting at $1 each!! madness), Urban Threads also offers the occasional free pattern, as well as some awesome project tutorials.
And if you fancy giving embroidery a go (or maybe this one is really for the tried and tested embroiderers amongst you) Urban Threads is running a competition to celebrate their birthday! Click here for more details, and if you do decide to enter – good luck!!
On Sunday, after the wonderful Damnation of Faust (it was about 3 hours – 3-6pm) we wandered down to London’s vibrant Chinatown (I don’t usually use the word “vibrant”, but Chinatown deserves it).
We did some pre-dinner window-shopping, then looked for a restaurant. We had nothing specific in mind, just that we wanted something good.
We ended up outside the door of the Empress of Sichaun, and quickly decided we wanted in. They had chilli peppercorn squid – that was enough for us (also, they did that hotpot I was talking about, but we weren’t in the mood for that).
I was on menu choosing duty – so, a bottle of red (a Rioja), and some cold starters. I went for “Bang Bang Chicken” (which was like a cold chicken satay – a LOT nicer than it sounds) and thinly sliced pork in garlic and chilli sauce. Both were excellent – I could smell the garlic before it even arrived at the table. My only criticism was that there were some bits of gristle in the chicken, which were a bit gross. Nevermind.
Oh, and I was so ravenous that I forgot to take a photo of those. Oops. On to mains!
Our waitress asked if we wanted a short break before commencing mains, and I chose to take her up on that. We had ordered quite a few dishes.
I went for the chilli peppercorn squid (of course! Always a winner), as well as double cooked pork belly slices in garlic and chilli (garlic much? Oh well – cleans the blood and all that). We also had some broccoli steamed with garlic (seriously) and some steamed rice.
Ben struggles with chopsticks.
All dishes involved were amazing – the squid, as always, stole the show. I want to know how to cook squid like that – it’s so MEATY. The pork belly slices were like the starter, in that they were cut incredibly thin, giving a bacon-like mouthfeel. No bad thing. Tonnes of garlic on the broccoli, and everything was the right level of spicy. Very clean flavours, beautifully presented, generous portion sizes.
We ate everything, except a couple of broccoli florets and a handful of rice (there is always too much rice).
Then, straining, we were presented with some deep-fried pumpkin cakes, arranged in a stack, with a candle on top. After a rousing round of “Happy Birthday” (adorable), we managed one of the scotch-pancake sized treats each, and took the other three home. I think Ben got a photo on his phone, so I’ll upload that later on.
EDIT: here you go!
I popped a hefty tip on the bill. The Empress of Sichaun comes with huge recommendations. Get ye to Chinatown.
The Empress of Sichaun is at 6 Lisle Street, WC2H 7BG, in London’s Chinatown.
tel: 020 7734 8128
Two courses, with wine and followed by Chinese tea (and we certainly didn’t go hungry), about £40 a head
Tell them I sent you.
May 10, 2011 | Categories: Britain, food, London, money, sociable, tea | Tags: Chinatown, excitement, food, fox, gluttony, humans, I love, London, optimism, oriental, shiny, sociable, tea | Leave A Comment »
Yesterday, I turned 23. I won’t dwell on my troubles accepting the passage on time, but instead dive right in with the festivities.
Last year, Ben and I were thinking about going to the opera. Ben had never been to the opera before, and I wanted to treat him to a really good production. So, a browse around revealed that Terry Gilliam would be directing a production of Berlioz’s fantastic ”The Damnation of Faust” in May 2011. OK, not strictly an opera, but I performed it a few years back (playing bass in an informal music camp production (in a barn. Ask, if you’re curious), with the wonderful (Sussex based!) Neil Jenkins singing Dr Faust) and fell deeply in love with it. Oh, and Terry Gilliam is awesome, so extra bonus.
I booked my tickets as soon as they went on sale. I was on hold a mighty long time on the morning of November the first, but I didn’t care – I was determined to get good tickets for the matinee on my birthday.
B-Day (as opposed to D-Day) came around mighty fast, and yesterday afternoon found us lurking around the London Coliseum in anticipation. Soon, we were sat with a great view from the stalls (row J, which is close enough to actually see facial expressions, but not so close as to strain your neck).
It. Was. Amazing. From the brief spoken opener from Mephisto, through Faust’s heart-wrenching soliloquies (get an idea of how beautiful the music is from the first scene), the comedy songs, Faust’s descent into hell, and Marguerite’s requiem to close.
Like most ENO productions, it was in English (as opposed to the original French) – but there were sur-titles anyway, just in case you couldn’t make out the words. Personally, I had no trouble hearing, as all of the cast had beautiful voices and clear annunciation.
The scenery was out of this world, and I think there was more than a nod to to this famous painting (The Wanderer Above the Mists, Caspar David Friedrich) in terms of the scope of the opening scene, and Faust’s mad hair (although Berlioz himself was known for his flamboyant ginger locks) -
The running Nazi-metaphor was a good choice in my opinion – without it, we could have been left with some slap-stick demon story, but instead, comparisons drawn with WWII gave us something a lot darker, and far more Real.
And a special mention MUST go to Christopher Purves, singing the part of Mephisto. He had such an easy sounding voice, and was the archetypal cool, smooth demon. He was lurking around the stage whilst the human characters got about their business, and had so many costume changes (so smoothly executed) that I couldn’t keep track. The devil is everywhere: keep your eyes peeled.
Photo from The Guardian website
DEFINITELY worth seeing, should you get the chance. There are only 8 performances left, so you’d better get a move on. Tickets are going from £21 each, available via the ENO website.
Incidentally, if you are a student, or under 30 years old, DO apply for Access All Arias. It’s free, and you get top-notch tickets for cut prices. Made my birthday a bit cheaper, and meant that I could treat myself to two restaurant meals in one day. More about that tomorrow. Cheerio!
May 9, 2011 | Categories: art, Britain, debate, London, money, music, philosophy, sociable, theatre | Tags: art, debate, excitement, fox, humans, I love, London, me me me, music, optimism, philosophy, sadness, shiny, sociable | 1 Comment »
Holy crap, look what just arrived in the post (in one piece!)
I told you my sister-in-law was a master baker (sorry, I can’t resist saying that).
I got this bad boy as a belated Christmas present from my big brother (see here why it was late), but I can confidently proclaim: it was well worth the wait.
This weighty tome from Jeff Potter looks like a text book, but dear lord, if all my text books were this readable, I would have read them all cover to cover by now.
Cooking For Geeks is made up of some science, some “hacks”, some interviews, and tonnes of little nuggets of fascinating facts.
Maybe you’ll love it for the recipes (whilst I haven’t yet tried any, they all sound amazing). Maybe you’ll love it for the miracle berries, or many of the other weird and wonderful additives (which sound AMAZING and I must experiment). Maybe you’ll love it for the stupidly dangerous over-clocked oven (pizza cooked in 45 seconds, anyone?).
If you’re me, you’ll surprise yourself by finding the section on pathogens the most interesting.
The only annoying thing is probably the fact that this book is written by an American, for Americans. Broiling? Seriously? It’s a grill. Also, the references to the FSA make you wonder about our own, British food standards. Must…do further research…
But the problems presented by that fact are minimal. Far too small a problem to detract from the pure joy that is getting immersed into the strange and wonderful world of geeky cooking. Yay!
There is also a Cooking For Geeks website to accompany the book. Double win.
May 4, 2011 | Categories: books, Britain, debate, food, how-to, science, technology | Tags: books, cooking, crafts, debate, diy, excitement, food, geek, gluttony, how to, I love, recipe, science, shiny, technology | Leave A Comment »
Ben would like to say: he whooped my ass at this. It’s true. He did. Painfully.
It probably doesn’t help that I am awful to racing games. Fun though.
MS:A sees a loose plot around petrol-heads making a racetrack out of a collapsing city (suffering earthquakes and the like – I know, poor taste, but unfortunate timing is not their fault, really). There’s the usual storyline game to play through, and then a whole bunch of freeplay stuff (including multiplayer options – yay!)
I enjoyed watching Ben play through MS:A. Like other MS games, it was hugely visually appealing, and the cut scenes were amusing (in a moving-comic books style which was unusual and worked well). Oh, and the character Tyler was hot stuff (you know, until he started talking. That’s him, above. Brum brum!)
As far as gameplay is concerned, it’s much the same as MotorStorm: Pacific Rift – the same sorts of vehicles which handle in the same sort of way (yay for the Mudplugger and Monster Truck – big cars that don’t go terribly fast but are also fairly hard to total). A good selection of different race types – eliminators are a good challenge, because if you fall behind, you explode.
However, I wasn’t too fond of the tracks – there’s a lot of floating debris, a lot of things to fall off (seems to be happening a LOT with the games I’ve played recently) and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I much preferred playing in the jungle of MS:PR – less things falling from collapsing buildings. There’s a lot of jumping from roof top to rooftop, and the track can even change between laps due to earthquake related damage (buildings falling over, roads sinking, etc.) – it’s great fun to watch someone who knows how it’s done, but maddening if you suck.
Definitely worth a go if you like your racing games. Not worth a go if you suck at racing games like I do – the extent to which your car explodes will just become frustrating.
Since going out with Ben, I’ve developed a love of amber. He has family in Suffolk, and in Suffolk they have a lot of amber.
Amber is like little chunks of solidified sunshine. Well, that’s not entirely true – amber comes in a lot of different colours, including the familiar Jurassic Park orangey yellow, but also green, gold, red…
The Natural History Museum has had this necklace for sale for quite a while now, and every time I visit their museum shop, I covet it. The little cubes are beautiful, and they different colours show off amber to their full effect. Shame about the £100 price tag, but really, it deserves it -
May 1, 2011 | Categories: art, Britain, I Want Never Gets, jewellery, London, money, museum, Natural History Museum | Tags: excitement, fox, I love, I Want Never Gets, jewellery, London, me me me, museum, shiny | Leave A Comment »
Well, in the final of my blog posts about my mind blowing week in Dubai, I’ll tell you what we did (aside from eat and look at shops).
The answer is: not a great deal. I’ll be honest with you – you can’t go on holiday to the UAE for more than say a week, because there is simply not that much to entertain yourself with. Unless your life revolves around designer shopping (which mine doesn’t), then Dubai may be for a one off trip.
Dubai does not have much of a cultural history. There aren’t any ruins to see, or historical buildings. Even museums and galleries are in single figures (although we did see a great exhibition from the British Museum – see below).
But don’t get me wrong – Dubai is great fun. Just don’t expect to be entertained for weeks on end.
We gave the “desert safari” thing a miss – essentially dune bashing in a 4×4 followed by dinner in a bedouin tent. We did a similar thing in Qatar six years ago, and I can’t imagine it’d be much different in Dubai (just 40 mins away by plane). We also didn’t hunt down any camels – I rode one, and we saw them in racing training, also in Qatar.
But we did the water-park thing. Oh yes.
We went to Atlantis, based on the Palm Jumeirah (yes, that huge, palm-shaped island they built), and pretty much spent the entire day pratting about on inflatable tyres. Round and round the rapids we went…
Atlantis is sodding enormous, with a large range of water slides to choose from (I only actually went on two, but one of them involved going through a transparent tube THROUGH an aquarium, so I think that counts for something). There’s also a variety of restaurants, to keep you fuelled throughout the day (although the service left a LOT to be desired). And if you really want, you can relax on the man-made real-sand beach, and swim in the actual sea -
Nothing quite beats finishing the day with a Virgin Pina Colado (i.e. no alcohol) drunk our of a pineapple, though. OK, rum would have beaten it, but still…
But Atlantis was not the only swimming (ok, splashing about in water) I did during the week. Like all awesome hotels should have, our hotel boasted a roof-top pool. The joy of near 40-celsius daily? You can have a dip, and then dry off in the sun in about a minute. Mmm, toasty…
The final, major outing we did in the week was our Saturday trip to Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is arguably even “newer” than Dubai, in that they are still constructing a major tourist attraction, Saadiyat city. Included in Saadiyat will be the Arabic Guggenheim, the Arabic Louvre, a marina, a nature reserve, masses of hugely expensive villas (my dad’s company are doing the telecoms set up for TDIC, so he had access to show us around a AED10m (about £1.6m) villa) and much, much more.
At the moment, Saadiyat is very much a work in progress – some of the villas are there, but otherwise there is a “Story of Saadiyat” exhibition (which tells you about the work they’re doing), a restaurant, The Splendour of Mesopotamia exhibition (courtesy of British Museum) and… that’s about it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it was amazing, but maybe I’ll check in on it in a few years (especially as the recession has hit works HARD – I’m telling you people, if you were thinking of investing in Arabic property, NOW IS NOT THE TIME!! There, I think I’ve done a public service…)
Then, it was onwards to Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque -
One of the only (if not the only? I have no idea) mosques in the world that is open for non-Muslims to visit. And what a one to visit! It was bloody huge. Four minarets and countless domes, everything was marble inlay and gaudy chandeliers.
Understandably, you couldn’t waltz in wearing your summer dress – the staff provided abayas for women to throw on (I will reserve my opinions on cultural attitudes towards women) and men have to wear long trousers. You are asked to remove your shoes before entering the mosque itself.
And here, just a handful of pictures from the mosque itself. Wow, right?
Definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
And so ends my stories of the Middle East! Obviously, I can’t relate every single thing we did in these short blog posts, but I hope I have given you a taster of what Dubai (and Abu Dhabi) have to offer. I had a whale of a time, best aspect of course being the time spent with my dad, who pretty much lives out there now – boo
It’s not for the faint-hearted, and definitely save your pennies up before heading out there. But most certainly worth a look in.
April 27, 2011 | Categories: art, clothes, debate, family, holiday, money, museum, photography, sociable | Tags: Abu Dhabi, art, dad, debate, Dubai, excitement, family, humans, I love, Middle East, mum, philosophy, shiny, sociable | 5 Comments »
Following on from the post about taking my mum to Whitechapel… We also visited the wonderful Spitalfields market, and spotted this down a side street. Pretty awesome, no?
I love magpies. In fact, I love most corvids – they’re pretty, in a not-so-obvious way. But magpies are best, because, like me, they like shinies.
I took my mum to the Tatty Divine shop at the very end of Brick Lane. She loved it. And why wouldn’t she? Tatty Divine is… Well, divine.
I want this. £57. Arrrrrrgh.
April 22, 2011 | Categories: art, clothes, crafts, family, I Want Never Gets, jewellery, London, money, sociable | Tags: art, crafts, excitement, family, humans, I love, I Want Never Gets, London, me me me, mum, shiny, sociable | 2 Comments »
On Facebook a few days ago, I mentioned that my life had changed inconceivably in the past few years. So it was lovely to have the chance to catch up with a group of old friends yesterday, and pretend I’m not almost, basically, an adult.
I hadn’t gotten together with Beth, Naseeb and Sarah (not as a group, anyway) for about four years, so the chance to have lunch and a proper catch up was awesome. I don’t think we’ve changed much at all (a conversation I had with Beth & John’s friend Gareth last week – do we change much at all over our lifetimes? Intrinsically, I mean?)
Sure, our circumstances have changed a fair bit (in a few months time, they’ll join me in the wonderful world of being graduates) but we’re still the same people. Which is reassuring. And awesome.
I have awesome friends <3
April 16, 2011 | Categories: debate, food, London, philosophy, sociable, university | Tags: excitement, food, funny, humans, I love, London, optimism, philosophy, shiny, sociable, university | 3 Comments »