V&A – March 2015

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In my March visit to the V&A:

  • I checked out their display of plans for a new courtyard and entrance at the V&A, that looks amazing.
  • I explored the cast galleries, which are one of my favourites, they always make me think that some giant has gone absolutely mad and ripped up great masses of cathedrals and statues and crowded them all into a relatively tiny space (in reality they’re all plaster casts, created in the 19th century when travel was prohibitively expensive for most, as were art and architecture books, so creating casts was the closest some people could get to seeing the real thing).
  • The medieval galleries (another favourite).
  • And the glass galleries (I love the colours in the photo I took there – middle, bottom row).

Trigger Warning

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and DisturbancesTrigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this, I’m not that into short story collections as a whole but Neil Gaiman can’t do much wrong. I think I liked his introduction best of all, which I think is possibly a bit of a weird, not particularly complementary thing to say about a short story collection but I like the way Gaiman thinks. Gaiman’s choice of title has drawn some controversy, as he disagrees with the move, so it seems, to put trigger warnings on almost anything vaguely upsetting. Personally I do think the term Trigger Warning does have its very important uses, as long as it doesn’t get used for everything. I for example can be ‘triggered’ by something that comes up in everyday media quite a lot, something that never gets trigger warnings and I am certainly not sitting here expecting trigger warnings to be put on, I just have to be a grown up and monitor my own reading / viewing material. HOWEVER certain things like self harm or suicide, that could encourage people with mental health problems if read / watched, yes, those definitely need trigger warnings, also material covering sexual assaults.

But back to the actual short story collection, as can be expected with any collection, I liked some of the stories a lot more than others. Favourites include Orange with its unique format, Down to a Sunless Sea for atmospheric spookiness and people being utterly miserable, The Sleeper and The Spindle for it’s unique take on Sleeping Beauty and it’s guest star appearance and Black Dog, an American Gods short story involving Shadow and a northern village that was both lovely and absolutely not lovely. Some of the stories in the collection I’ve read before, Nothing O’Clock, Gaiman’s Doctor Who short story, Calendar of Tales, the Blackberry project and The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, it was definitely nice going back to The Truth is a Cave but the others didn’t improve with a second reading.

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February ‘challenging’ bake / bread – Mothering Buns

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Just in the nick of time, my February ‘challenging’ (once again not that challenging) bake and my February bread bake (cheating a bit but they are yeasted buns) are Mothering Buns from Paul Hollywood’s British Baking. Apparently they are a traditional bake for Mothers Day in Bristol, whereas I just love iced buns and hundreds and thousands, so hats of to the Bristolians for the brilliant idea of combining them!

They’re a simple sweet yeasted bun with a simple icing sugar icing and hundreds and thousands, I think I could have made the icing slightly thicker and it’s harder than you think adding the hundreds and thousands (the first iced bun I dipped into the hundreds and thousands came out beautifully but after that more and more of the icing with each bun was mixing into my hundreds and thousands plate so it got a bit messy) but overall I’m really pleased with them, as they have a lovely taste and texture.

Challenging bakes

January –  giant jam tart

February – mothering buns

Bread of the month

January – bread rolls

February – mothering buns

Eeny Meeny

Eeny Meeny (Helen Grace, #1)Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmmm, whilst I found this book to be entertaining enough, the story of a serial killer who abducts people in pairs and abandons them to starve to death with one unthinkable get out clause, I also found this book to be irritating as the characters were painted in such broad cliched brush strokes, that the story had absolutely no depth. I think crime fiction has really progressed to become a bit more ‘literary’ over the last few years and I think this was more a blast from the past.

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On the menu – more Deliciously Ella

Friday

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These were for lunch; quinoa fritters (from Deliciously Ella, I’ve menu planned all the recipes for this week from the book) made with sweet potato and buckwheat flour. Quite nice in a gently warming, filling sort of way, although if I make them again (probably), I’ll be shaping them with my hands!

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And the reward for the most unappetising looking and tasting meal of the week goes to my evening meal of roasted kale and polenta. It tasted as good as it looks. The actual recipe also includes mushrooms, which I emitted because I don’t like them, maybe if you actually like mushrooms and the mushrooms were in the recipe this would be ok, but as it is, nope. I’ve had some lovely roasted kale before and although I’m not a big fan of polenta I’ve had some nice polenta in the past . . . but not today. I think my definition of nice polenta has got cheese in it. All together a bit bland and just like the beetroot and buckwheat risotto I made from the book last week, in desperate need of some additional ingredients to add flavour.

Saturday

No photo but I made the simple oat biscuits from Deliciously Ella. They were quite nice but were more like flat cakes than biscuits and they certainly weren’t chewy as the recipe suggested (and if I’d left them in any longer they would have burnt). They were made with a mix of mashed banana, oats, coconut oil, buckwheat flour and maple syrup, they were very bananary, so I’d have called them banana biscuits really.

Tuesday

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This was rather nice, as you can see I couldn’t stop to take a photo of it until after I’d eaten. The recipe is under classic stir fry in the Deliciously Ella book and it is pretty simple, just stir fried veg but the thing that pushes it over the edge is a really nice sauce combo of tahini, lemon juice, (weirdly) mixed dried herbs and soy sauce (it’s meant to be tamari but can I buy that anywhere? nope and anyway, soy sauce is a good substitute). I’d never thought of using tahini before in a stir fry but it coats the veg and the noodles really well and adds a subtle creamy texture, whilst at the same time the lemon juice really cuts through, yum, I will be making this again.

Thursday

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And the award for the dish that most looks like baby food goes to . . . butternut squash ‘risotto’. This is another Deliciously Ella risotto that isn’t actually a risotto, it uses brown rice which you are meant to cook for 45 minutes, sorry but I am not going to cook brown rice for 45 minutes, I think this is meant to give the brown rice a more risotto like texture but sorry, that can’t be doing good things to the brown rice’s nutrient content, over cooking it that much, surely? So if you’re going to screw around with the rice that much you might as well actually use proper risotto rice, but no, I’m still on that health kick, so I used brown rice and cooked it for the time it said on the packet, 25 minutes. Other than that and the alarming baby food texture and appearance, this was actually quite nice, I may make it again but in a more ‘inspired by’ the recipe fashion than actually following it next time.

 

Slouch hat

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I can’t seem to stop knitting this year; this is the Slouch Hat from Knitting Smitten by Jessica Biscoe and it was my first ever project knitting in the round, so another #TSNEM for this month!

I found it fairly easy once I got my head around it, although I did rip out my first attempt as I had made a mistake and I was also worried that casting on 52 stitches as the pattern instructed was not going to be big enough for my large head, so on the second attempt I cast on 65 stitches, kicking myself shortly afterwards that it should have been an even number as the pattern involved K2tog but it worked out ok in the end.

The resulting hat is really comfortable, I particularly like how it covers my ears, although on a personal note I don’t like how my glasses then go and make the sides of my head under the hat look all weird and bulgy (I am increasingly leaning towards going back to contact lenses).

I really like the wool, Debbie Bliss Donegal Tweed Chunky, although I think there’s a typo in the pattern as it says to use one 100g ball and when I went shopping I could only find it in 50g balls, so I bought two and one 50g ball was definitely enough.

As I get older I’m increasingly realising and settling on a personal colour palette for me and I know now that I could happily wear just mid to dark greys, mid to dark blues and splashes of red for the rest of my life. So I could definitely knit more with this wool!

#TSNEM

January – acrylic painting

February – ribbingusing layer masks in Photoshop and knitting in the round

Capture Real Life – week 2 – guilty pleasure

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The challenge for week 2 of capture real life was guilty pleasures and I thought long and hard about this. Until recently my guilty pleasures were coke zero and chocolate but I’m not drinking / eating those anymore and anyway, even when I was I think there was more guilt involved than pleasure. So what was my guilty pleasure? And then I knew, Plants vs Zombies!

I’m not, as a rule, that into computer games, I do have a very long standing relationship with the game Civilization but I try not to play that because an hour on that can quickly turn into a day and anyway, my middle aged Mac can’t play the newest version and I’m still sulking about that. I’ve flirted with Angry Birds in the past (hasn’t everybody?) and I am partial to a bit of Peggle (although the latest version is a bit of a preemium rip off, so I don’t play that anymore) but I am totally and utterly faithful to Plants vs Zombies.

I came late to Plants vs Zombies, I remember the kids and Mr. Lacer being very into the original and I was as usual “Oh god, not another computer game” but then, in a moment of weakness / boredom a few months later, after the initial family fandom had died down, I downloaded it onto my Mac and I was hooked. When the new version came out I was as giddy as a school girl and I still am every time they release new levels for it (like right now some more new levels are due and I am beginning to check my iPad for updates at a very unhealthy frequency and I know there will be some squealing when they come).

Mr. Lacer and Girl Lacer are not into Plants vs Zombies anymore, well ok, Girl Lacer still plays Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare quite a lot but it’s me and Boy Lacer who are the hard core fans (me more so than Boy Lacer). I can not start my morning without playing the daily Piñata party and when I’ve run out of levels to play (like I have at the moment, which is why I’m even more excited about the new Ice Age levels coming soon), I’ll often play the Endless Zones.

I am trying to cut down on the tech time in my life but Plants vs Zombies is definitely going to stay; I love that I can share the one iPad game I play with my computer mad son, I love that the developers are always keeping the game fresh with new content, I love that although it’s a preemium game they don’t make it impossible to progress without spending real money and I love how fun and colourful it is (eek I sound like I’m either middle aged or a pre-schooler with that last one). So it’s my guilty pleasure because a small part of me says I shouldn’t be so hooked but it gives me so much pleasure I don’t care and as you can see, I’ve got the tshirt to prove it!

The zombie and the peashooter were hand drawn by me using tutorials from here. I added them to my photo using Photoshop which was definitely another #TSNEM for me this month as I’ve never done anything that ‘advanced’ with photoshop before and it was a definite learning curve!

Previous weeks

Week 1 – day and night

Week 3 – nature

#TSNEM

January – acrylic painting

February – ribbing and using layer masks in Photoshop