Making new friends
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We made a new friend today. He’s currently in a box in our kitchen.

This sounds more dramatic then it really is ;) Earlier this afternoon, James called me to look out of our kitchen window. We have a large communal garden, and there’s a fair bit of local wildlife around – we’ve got two identifiable squirrels, several cats, a fax, and a host of different bird species. I wasn’t expecting to see a tortoise ambling across the lawn. The neighbours who were out there went over to it and peered at it for a while, before it moved on. Later on, James noticed it was back, and we decided we ought to do something about it. Armed with a box, he went and caught it – admittedly not a difficult task – and brought it back upstairs where we peered at it for a bit, before calling the Tortoise Association, who suggested we pop it in a bowl with a small amount of water in case it was thirsty, and then call the RSPCA. The only out of hours number we could find purported to be for reporting cruelty to animals, so we decided to wait until tomorrow, until further digging revealed it to be a general number.

They’re coming to collect him tomorrow, and in the mean time he’s in a box in our kitchen. He’s not as majestic as the fine creature above, but he didn’t seem very keen in partaking of a photshoot ;)

Originally published at Quiet Contentment. You can comment here or there.


The best bed sheets in the world!
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This weekend has been a bit of a splurge. Gulp. 

I’ve wanted an ipad for ages, and even more so since J bought one a few weeks ago. I decided I would be sensible, and wait until my birthday in May, save up a bit, and then ask people for money for my birthday, and get one then. I decided I’d get a refurb one (basically one where someone’s sent it back after a couple of days, which means it can’t be sold as new) as they have a fair bit off them, and Apple replace the screen/case/battery, fully test it and offer a 1 year warranty. My phone’s a refurb model, and I’ve had no problems with it all.

Apple then announced the ipad 2 on Wednesday night, and when J had a look at the refurbs on Thursday morning, he noticed the price had gone down. Not by a little – a 16gig wifi one was now £289. Once the first gen ones are gone, that will be it, and they won’t be this cheap for a long time again. So, I kind of bought one. She’s LOVELY, and exactly as I had hoped. Although an ipad 2 would have been nice, I decided it wasn’t that much better to justify the extra £200 it would cost. Using it in conjunction with with the keyboard to write this is nifty, and I can kind of see this replacing my laptop for day to day stuff.

I then bought what may just be the most beautiful bedlinen l have ever seen in my entire life. I saw it on a blog a while ago, and whilst Mum and I were in Ikea today, I decided to throw caution to the wind, and now, 8 hours later, I’m back in London with it adorning my bed. I think I’m in love.

Originally published at Quiet Contentment. You can comment here or there.


Feeling guilty.
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Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll agree I have a problem with guilt. I feel guilty about the smallest things, and feel guilty even when I shouldn’t need to. If I suggest someone sees a film, or reads a book, and they don’t like it…I feel guilty. I’m ridiculous, I know.

So, I kind of feel guilty about this weekend. I had huge plans, for all the stuff I was going to do, and I’ve not done a lot of it if I’m honest. I spent most of yesterday curled up in an armchair, reading, watching TV and noodling around with some crochet, and felt a bit guilty about it. Weekends seem fleeting, and doing nothing seems a bit like a waste of them.

I shouldn’t though. It had been a busy, hard week at work, and I was tired. Last weekend was hella busy, as I was cleaning like a woman possessed to make sue the flat was ready for the landlord’s inspection. I’d had several nights out, and hadn’t slept all that well. So maybe a day like that was necessary. Needed to recharge a bit. So why do I feel guilty, like I’m wasting time, if I don’t have something to show for it. Hell, I’m even feeling like I need to justify it to people reading this!

Like I said though, I think this downtime was needed. Today I’ve done a fair bit – tided up and pushed the hoover round, cleaned the kitchen, made a bara brith, sorted out a load of starred RSS articles so I can look through them, had friends over for Sunday lunch, done two loads of laundry and read some of my book. And blogged of course. I think that’s okay. I probably should have done some ironing though ;)

There was some excitement this morning though – this is at the end of my road! I was in the bath when it happened – it was so loud, I actually thought something had happened by our house. The windows shook, and I kind of made a mess as I jumped out of the bath to see if I could see anything. I’m surprised no one was killed looking at the photos – it seems weird that a hole that big can be blown in someone’s house, and that they’re mostly okay. Scary.

Originally published at Quiet Contentment. You can comment here or there.


Domestic pleasures
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Hmm. The ipad wordpress app is a bit unstable. The expression on James’ face when he pressed publish…and half his entry appeared to have disappeared was not a pleasant one ;) Luckily, it was still there when he logged in to the website, but even so ;) So, for the time being, I’m using the notes app, which I actually quite like – you’re writing on a yellow legal pad, in a comic sans-esque font, and it looks quite nice.

Yesterday was full of win quite frankly. I found out that an old friend is engaged, and I ‘m going to their engagement party in a couple of weeks, and then another friend proposed to his girlfriend last night. I’ve known about this for a while, and not being able to say anything has been *killing* me! I’m so excited, and looking forward to hearing all their plans :-D

The landlord came round this morning, and declared everything good. The weekend of panic cleaning obviously wasn’t needed to the extent I did it to, but I have to say, the flat looks really nice and shiny clean now :) I do like our little flat – although as I mentioned before it’s a bit cluttered at times, it’s cosy, and, I like to think, welcoming. We’ve got heaps of cushions, and throws on the three piece suite, and I like to think people feel comfortable here. 

This weekend is looking to be a fairly quiet one, and this pleases me. Saturday, as far as I know at the moment looks to be empty, and I have vague plans to make some pillow cases out of a fleecy throw to cover some old pillows we have, maybe make a bara brith, and get some hooking done in front of a film. I want to finish my garland, and figure out the granny stripe.  Win.

Originally published at Quiet Contentment. You can comment here or there.


I have a confession
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I’m…a bit of a hoarder. I love the idea of a clean, minimalist house, with shelves with just a vase and a paperweight on, but in my flat, shelves are crammed with books, and surfaces are covered with more books.

Admitting this, even though I am nowhere near Mr Trebus levels of hoarding, it still feels bit shameful to admit this. When you have so many books and magazines lying around, keeping the flat tidy can take a lot of work, and it’s tiring. I’m fed up of it to be honest. I would love to have space to actually put things, you know?

Yesterday, I started to take steps to try and solve the issue. It’s slow, and hard, and kind of terrifying sometimes to find out just how much I do have. I’ve thrown away so much stuff this weekend – do I really need copies of my appraisal from 2005? Or the certificate I got for employee of the month?

So, this weekend has meant I’ve thrown away pretty much a whole recycling crate of old magazines and paperwork, and I have a huge pile of copies of Olive, Good Food, Delicious and other assorted food magazines going to someone off Freecycle. I’ve kept a few – some vegetarian issues, ones with great features in, and most of the festive issues – and next weekend I’ll go through those and pull out the recipes I want and file them. I did think about doing that for them all, but realised that would likely be a bad idea, and I’d end up with as much…stuff as before.

So they’re gone. And it’s a bit sad. And hard! I’m having such second thoughts about getting rid of them, but it needs to be done. Next weekend is pencilled in to go through my stash of craft magazines, and get rid of those. I think these ones I will flick through and pull out any patterns I want – but the rest need to go.

It’s kind of exciting, you know? Once I have all this under control, I will do this monthly, as I get new magazines – once they’re read and digested, they’ll be pulled apart and filed, and recycled or passed on if suitable. I’ve given away a huge amount of books recently, and the books I have left are being read, then if I don’t honestly think I will read it again, it will be got rid of. Offered to friends, left on the station book swap shelf, taken to a charity shop. Anything but left on my shelves!

Hopefully, this is the start of the new me. A me that isn’t a little bit ashamed of her possessions. A more streamlined, tidier me.

Originally published at Quiet Contentment. You can comment here or there.

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Ooh, fancy!
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I’m blogging from an ipad! James bought one to use for work – as a kind of pseudo laptop, and being the lovely person he is, has said I can use it! He’s bought the attachable keyboard as well, which is really useful – the ipad slots in, and stands up, so you can type. Amusingly, it also fits my iphone, so I can type using it, which makes responding to emails a lot easier! It looks a bit daft, but oh well :D

I’ve been thinking about getting a ipad for a while now – the way I use my laptop has changed drastically, and I use my iphone so much more then the laptop now. I use my phone to browse the net, use twitter, and email, and the idea of getting my laptop out, waiting for it to boot, and then trying to find a comfy position to use it as it gradually heats up – it loses appeal somewhat. Recently, I’ve only seemed to turn it on to blog, as on the phone it’s bit tricky, but even that would be easier if I use the keyboard. I do need a laptop for the occasions when I work from home – I doubt I could get Citrix running on an ipad! – but the idea of getting an ipad now is definitely more attractive after living with one for a couple of days! The temptation to just get one and stick it on my credit card is overwhelming, but I think the sensible thing to do is to save a bit, and wait for my birthday and ask for money/vouchers towards to getting one then. Maybe by then the new ipad will have been released as well…

Oh god, I’m becoming an Apple fangirl.

This weekend is going to be about DOING ALL THE CLEANING after the landlord announced he’s coming over this week to check the external decoration, and check the ‘condition’ of the flats. Gulp. Logically I know we’ve nothing to worry about – the flat is generally clean, and we’ve not destroyed anything, but I am still panicking about the whole thing – I’ll be happier when it’s over! I think I am now going to have another cup of tea, then throw on some jeans (note – am not blogging nekkid. Currently wearing leggings as I am cleaning and don’t want to mess up my jeans!) and wander up to Wilkos to get some more Cilit bang to make the whole cleaning experience that much easier. God I love Cilit Bang. I know it’s probably killing the environment, but seriously, that stuff is amazing.

If I get time tomorrow, I want to tackle to magazine mountain I have going on. I know they’re meant to be a dying medium, but I adore them. Curling up with a cup of tea and a magazine is a total guilty pleasure for me, and I love them. I have several years worth of food ones that I want to go through, and pull out any recipes I want, before getting rid of the rest – I think I might ask on Freecycle if anyone wants the ones that are pretty much intact, and then recycle the ones that I’ve taken a whole bunch of stuff out of.

This is turning in to a pretty epic blog post.

Last night I met Steph for a drink after work, which was awesome. She lives in Bristol, but was working up in London Bridge, so I wandered down after work, and we spent a very pleasant hour chatting and laughing. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s so nice to meet up with someone every few weeks, and have such an easy friendship :)

Okay, assuming anyone’s read this far, I think I should tape off somewhat, and give you a break. I have a couple of entries I want to write, but I think I’ll sit down this afternoon and write them then set them as timed posts for another day…

Originally published at Quiet Contentment. You can comment here or there.


Book reviews: My Kitchen Table Series
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I was lucky enough to be sent a set of the books from My Kitchen Table recently, and they are lush to say the least! Each book is 100 recipes chosen by the chef to book is focusing on, and at a little bit smaller then a paperback, they’re really lovely looking. The photography is abundant which I love in a cook book, and the recipes are clear, and well organised. The most used one so far in my kitchen is definitely the Mary Berry one which I mentioned yesterday – flicking through it, there were so many we want to try making! My mum had the big Mary Berry cake book when I was younger, and I recognise a lot of the recipes from that – I can’t wait to make the bara brith again!

I do love the look of a lot of the recipes in the Ken Hom book as well – as we go in to Spring, I long for meals made primarily of vegetables, and this book delivers this in abundance. The other ones I really like the look of is the Antonio Carlucci one – I have friends who love Carluccio’s, so I am planning to cook them a meal one night using this book. I’m tempted to cook a huge feast up using the Madhur Jaffery book as well – I have a really yearning to make naan breads from scratch!

I have to admit, the others I’ve not really looked at too much yet, but from my initial flick through, they do seem like books to use, rather then those lovely ones you get and never use! The only one I can’t really see myself using too much is the Rick Stein one, but that’s just due to me not eating fish, rather then the fault of the recipes – indeed, I have looked through the book and seen a few things I want to try and adapt!

I really urge you to go look at the site, there’s heaps of recipes on there, along with a huge amount of instructional videos – a lot of these are referenced through the books for some of the trickier techniques which I personally think is a brilliant idea!

Originally published at Quiet Contentment. You can comment here or there.


Sprung!
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HyacinthsIt might be a little premature, but I think spring might be here… the view from my office window  is of the sun glinting off the Thames, and there’s little peeks of green everywhere I look. Leaving work when it’s still light is joyful to say the least…

I spent Saturday afternoon poking round the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, and it was all kinds of great. There were so many times one or other of us would exclaim “I had one of those!” – anyone else remember Pound Puppies? :D

I’ve been buying pots of bulbs, and delighting in them as they bloom – hyacinths are my favourite, although I do love a jaunty miniature daffodil. I think spring flowers are my favourite of any season, there’s something quite lovely about the bright simplicity most of them have, and the hyacinths in particular have smelt divine.

I’ve also been baking a fair bit – current winners are my scones still I think though. It might be immodest to boast, but I do make a damn fine scone. They’re so light and fluffy, and so unlike the solid, stodgy things that tend to pass for scones normally. James requested butterfly cakes as well, so a batch of those was made, and I loved how simple and childlike they looked. The recipe for these came from the My Kitchen Table: 100 Cakes and Bakes book I was sent by Ebury, and it’s a brilliant little book – already full of things I want to try making! I was lucky enough to be sent the set, and I really need to get around to showing  you them all – the books and the site are lovely!

Originally published at Quiet Contentment. You can comment here or there.


Another New Year
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Something I read recently  suggested ignoring January, and declaring the year to start in February. I have to say, this appeals. There’s something about January that just seems to be setting you up to fail. It’s cold, dark and miserable, and everyone’s too poor to go out or not drinking in January, and by the end of the month, many resolutions have fallen by the wayside, or conveniently forgotten about. And then you have the start of February to deal with – not much brighter then January really.

Whereas, starting the year on February 1st – you’ve not got the weight of everyone else’s resolution hanging over you, the pressure seems to be off a little, and it’s getting lighter in the mornings. Plus, by the end of the month, you’re heading in to March, and that’s practically spring.

I’ll admit, I’ve been a bit flat this month. It’s the unrelenting GREY of it all. I had all these bright hopes, and I’ve not had the energy to do anything with them. This time of year makes me look at moving away from London. London in the grip of January is utterly depressing. The constant rain and wind and general ickiness of it all starts to get to me, but I know that as soon as we get that first warm spring day, I’ll forget all this, and love living here with a passion again.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been some bright spots this month – I need to write a blog about how amazing it was when we had Zoe Margolis speak at our WI meeting. The Manics gig was utterly magical, and at times I was giggling with pure pleasure. I’ve been to friend’s houses for pizza and boardgames, and reciprocated with a relaxing takeout curry evening at ours. I’ve had lovely friends over this afternoon in fact, and I taught Jo how to crochet granny squares, and fed her and Seb scones and butterfly cakes, and we drank tea and the boys played computer games. I was sent an awesome set of books – the new My Kitchen Table series – and need to blog about their general awesomeness.

Tomorrow night we’re going to see Gutted at the Leicester Square Theatre, and I think I will treat that as my New Years Eve Celebration. So how about we start this year again on Tuesday? Have our resolutions start then, with no pressure of everyone else trying to change their lives, with the promise of Spring, and the whole year ahead of us. Who’s with me?

Originally published at Quiet Contentment. You can comment here or there.


Menu planning
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This morning I went for a wander round Ealing to poke my head in the shops and see if there was anything in the sales – my haul? A necklace for £2.40 from Accessorize :D I’d seen this when it was £6, but wasn’t *that* keen – 70% off will do nicely thank you!

New necklace from Accessorize

I also picked up the Good Housekeeping Bumper Vegetarian Cookbook from WH Smiths – appears to be the same edition as this, and was a fiver, so I’d look for it there if I was you! It’s brilliant though – I had a coffee in Starbucks while I was in town and flicked through it, coming up with so many things I wanted to try. It seems to actually have recipes you can make from stuff you have at home which is a nice change – a lot of veggie cookbooks seem to assume you have all 47 spices, plus the obscure only-in-season-for-4-days-a-year-East-African vegetables needed to make the starter.

This week’s dinners are as follows then:

  • Sunday – Thai green curry with plenty of veg
  • Monday – Stuffed aubergines and salad (from the book!)
  • Tuesday – Shepherd’s pie and veg
  • Wednesday – Chickpea patties, sweet potato wedges and salad (book!)
  • Thursday – Chilli and rice
  • Friday – Pizza!

I can take leftovers for work the next as well with all these – I’m going to make a real effort this year to take my lunch every day, unless I’m meeting someone for lunch – although when it warms up, I’ll be able to take packed lunch to eat on the grass outside the Tate if I’m meeting someone :)

I’ve so many recipes bookmarked and saved in my Google Reader – this year I want to try making more of these recipes, and maybe share some of the successes with you :)

Originally published at Quiet Contentment. You can comment here or there.


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