I’ve been feeling a bit ‘meh’ maybe it’s the rain dashing my high hopes for May maybe it’s the crushing realisation that we’ve been here 6 months and I’m not as far along is in my general life plan as I’d like. Who knows. Anyhow, boring, mediocre, apathetic that’s how I’ve felt this week.
The cure for this? Fire up my self belief and get out there and do it! No, not at the moment, I’ve got a bit of cough and feel a bit run down. Instead I sloped off to the shops.
I would not advocate for, one moment, that consumerism is in any way a positive response to feeling a bit lack lustre. A run in the park, counting ones blessings. Is probably far more appropriate. Not for me, not this week. I opted for a bit of retail therapy of the beauty type.
Even at my age I am still not entirely sure how the various layers; foundation, powder, illuminators etc work. Often I don’t bother with any make-up. I wear foundation when it’s dark, mostly because I am not sure how to apply it.
The foundation I own is a sample given to me by a consultant on a Chanel counter who assured me it would even out skin tone, hide redness and lift my complexion. Nice. I was looking at nail varnishes and until that moment thought I looked OK. Tempted to reply “Do you have a large size Chanel gift bag for my head?” Instead, I gratefully accepted the sample and all its promises.
That is what terrified me when buying beauty products. The consultants and their in-depth knowledge and desire to sell, pitched against the huge yawning chasm that is me and make-up.
In my teens, I’d buy a lipstick, several, mostly Miss Selfridge and wear them. It didn’t occur to me that they might not suit me. My skin was youthful and dewy and I could carry off a lipstick called ‘Iron Lady’. The late maturing of my political ideals would now prevent me from wearing such a lipstick. Combined with the fact it was a pale metalic purple. Yes, really.
There is a feel good factor to a bit of lipstick and mascara. Most mothers will agree that in the early years you will grasp at anything as an alternative to looking like the ‘living dead’, which is one result of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation and age are not kind. As the years etched deeper into my skin I felt the need to consider a wider variety of creams and serums, blushers and other stuff to give the illusion of youth and dewiness. The problem is buying beauty products.
I’d ping from counter to counter in a confused state unable to make a decision from the dizzying variety; brands, products, colours. Caught in a kaleidoscope of never-ending possible purchases and then I found Sali.
Sali Hughes writes a beauty column for the Guardian. I no longer make decisions, I just buy whatever Sali suggests. She has a fringe (like me), brown hair (like me) pale skin (like me) green eyes (I think) (like me). We could be sisters. (Listen! You can probably hear Sali taking out an injunction). I am a little obsessed. Because Sali and I are so alike (probably) I reason that I can simply follow her advice and it works. I don’t even have to choose between 140 shades of MAC lipstick. Sali will tell which one, in which finish. Boom. Job done. Yesterday, it was Revlon Colourburst lip butter, Candy apple (thanks Sali). Sali’s advice can be applied to anyone, Sali knows her products.
I no longer enter Boots thinking, “I need a mascara” only to discover a choice of 20 billion types before I’ve even consider what colour and then waste an hour of my life wandering round with 5 or 6 different types in my hand, whilst reasoning that purchasing 3 would be a good idea, only to leave without purchasing any.
No, I head straight for the counter and purchase. Yesterday, a consultant tried to persuade me with the offer of a make-over, she tempted me with a new range of eye shadows. I knew the only thing I should purchase was under lash mascara (Don’t mock it until you’ve tried it, it’s one of Sali top 50 best products). The old me would be derailed by the lovely colours of the alternative products. Now I just tell them; “I only buy products if Sali Hughes suggests it. Under lash mascara please”. “Can I pay with advantage card points?”.
Sali has a lovely website, Salihughesbeauty.com where, amongst other things, you can watch Sali interviewing Caitlin Moran, while Caitlin is sits on the loo. It turns out Caitlin buys stuff recommended by Sali.
Or follow Sali on Instagram, which is my fave. Sali shares that she is off to a party (and what make-up she is wearing, sometimes it’s a lot). Sali drinks beer in the middle of day. Sali posts pictures of nice products. Sali reminds me to use sun-bloc. I live vicariously through her instagram feed.
Do you have a beauty guru? Dare I ask what is your best product? (opening myself up to possible conflict of loyalities).
This recipe is from The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook by Sarah Mayor. From the Yeo Vally Family Farm. Read my review of the book here.
It is a wonderful cake, the following sentence makes me snort a little bit because it’s not a sentence I’d thought I’d write.
Here goes: I made this cake and took it to my Women’s Institute meeting and it proved very popular.
A few short years ago I was standing on a table at 5 am dancing to David Morales and now I’m baking cakes for the WI and I like it.
Anyhow, I digress. Firstly, can I point out this is a cake to have with a nice cup of tea. There is no actual tea in the cake (I read the ingredients and instructions twice because I thought I was missing something).
Raspberries and lemon are a gorgeous combination an alternative could be blackberries or blueberries.
You will need a 900 kg loaf tin, some non-stick baking paper and tin foil.
Makes one 1kg loaf (enough for a lot of WI ladies)
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
115g soft butter
255g caster sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
2 large free range eggs
100g wholemilk natural yoghurt
25g ground almonds
200g fresh raspberries
100 granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Peheat the oven to 108c/Gas 4. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt. Put to one side.
Cream together butter and caster sugar in a large mixing bowl, until pale and fluffy. This takes around 5 minutes depending on how much your arms can cope with, it took me longer. A bit of energy from the elbow helps. Beat in the lemon zest, then one egg. Add a table-spoon of the sifted flour with the second egg. Then fold in large spoonfuls of the sifted flour and the yoghurt into the mixture. Mix until smooth. Finally, fold/mix in the ground almonds. I switched between a wooden spoon and a whisk.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, the cake should be browned. Cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes.
A skewer or knife poked into the middle should come clean.
Leave to cool for 5 minutes.
Mix the granulated sugar with the lemon and pour it over the top of the cake. (it looks like a lot of sugar and mixture but the cake absorbs it). Leave it to soak for a further 5 minutes.
Remove from the tin and allow to cool.
Sprinkle the top with a little bit more sugar. Pop the kettle on make a nice cup of tea and enjoy with a fat slice of cake.
I think David Morales would love this cake as much as the women of the WI.
I am a cack-handed cook. The sort that spreads pans, ingredients and utensils across every surface. I enjoy cooking but I am no great expert and like many people quick fix food tends to be an often chosen option.
Sometimes it’s good to take time, to cook for the sake of cooking. The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook from the Yeo Valley Family Farm is cooking in this genre. It overwhelming comes across as a celebration of Great British food. Think seasons, think locally sourced, think farmhouse based recipes, think cooking for love.
It is about food loving prepared. It is not about chucking it all in a food processor and then shoving it in the oven. I’d say the recipes, for someone like me a bit of cack-handed cook, are fiddly. They take time, but they are worth it. Put some time and love in and taste the time and love in return.
The recipes I’ve sampled are really tasty. Really delicious. I enjoyed the process of cooking them and very much enjoyed the eating. The ingredients are British based and could easily be sourced in a local farm shop or supermarket. I didn’t find anything obscure, which makes the recipes very do-able.
Buttermilk pancakes with honey and vanilla butter. To be honest I ate these with jam and to be very honest I ate all of them (the recipe serves 4). The book guided me easily through the process. This is the type of recipe I might usually avoid (it involves separating eggs and whisking the whites) but it was much easier than I’d expected. I like that Sarah Mayor offers alternative suggests so; ricotta pancakes or bacon and maple syrup. A three in one deal.
The book set out is good with a handy recipe list and index. Some of the recipes are meat based. It’s a farmhouse cookbook but thought has been given to vegetarian recipes and there are eight good main courses and a balance of starters and vegetarian snacks. All the soups are invitingly vegetarian. The pudding list is lengthy and wonderful. I can see myself returning to that list, especially for indulging friends.
Mr Noo was inspired by the proper meaty sections, game, beef, venison etc. Even with my strongly vegetarian heart I too was inspired to browse this section and cooked by the hearty kale, white bean and sausage stew but adapted. Veggie sausages, vegetable stock and left out the bacon (and I used new potatoes which don’t need peeling). It lasted a couple of days and on day two Mr Noo brought some bacon which he fried up and added. He said it made a good dish sublime.
The book has a lovely feel, matt paper and textured cover. Visually, the photos are inspiring and have a wonderful farmhouse atmosphere that transported me to an alternative dream life in the countryside, in which I have roses round the door and chickens in the garden.
I enjoyed reading the introduction which gives some background to Yeo Valley and the family behind the products, it warmed me to the book.
At the front there is an informative section on making your own yoghurt, cheese and butter, which is fascinating and I’m tempted to make my own ricotta.
This is a book for cooking with love, spending time making good food. So far, the recipe I’ve loved best is raspberry, lemon and yoghurt tea loaf, which I shared with a group of women and it went down a storm. I was really pleased. Pop back tomorrow because I’m sharing the recipe.
This is a book with the richness of good ingredients at it’s heart. It breathes the message; take time and cook for the love of food. Yeo Valley Family Farm. The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook. Sarah Mayor. ISBN 978-1-84949-302-4. Retails at £20.00 and is 223 pages
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review. Words and Opinions are my own.
I spent most of Saturday morning helping to organise a friend’s childs birthday party and most of Saturday afternoon listening to 28 children giggle and shriek while they enjoyed the fruits of our labours. Most of Saturday evening slumped on a sofa with a large gin laughing over the days events.
Noo ate ice cream twice daily and visited favourite parks, he went to the best birthday party he’d been to in ages with the funniest magician. Played with friends from the moment he woke up until bed time without a moments falling out and there was even a kitten thrown in for good measure.
This weekend we went back to the North. I did wonder as we drove up the M1 Friday evening if we were putting our head into the lion’s mouth. Before I moved I worried, of course, how Noo might cope. People told me; children are resilient and adaptable. He has been, taking it all in his stride. Actually, I think moving has been good for his confidence. He moved, he made new friends, he fitted in to a new class and it was all OK. He hasn’t looked back and here was I driving him back to the North and giving him a lovely big slice of his old life, with smarties on the top.
It was a fantastic weekend, we stayed with good friends and I did lots of catching up. I feel as if I didn’t stop talking between arriving on Friday and leaving on Sunday, I did sleep so there must have been gaps in my constant chatter, and I do love to talk.
As a child, teachers often complained about my day dreaming, I’d disappear into my own internal world. I still have dreams but essentially, I think , I am sometimes who is less likely to think things over more someone who likes to talk things over. Talking stretches my ideas and my mind.
I love my new city but I have fewer people to talk to. I’ve been forced by circumstances to think more.
Do I miss having people to talk to? When I lived in London I could have spent a months walking up and down Oxford Street and not found anyone vaguely familiar. In years of travelling on the tube I ‘bumped’ into someone I knew I think three times. It’s a big city but it can feel lonely. That’s London. I am a Londoner and I don’t mind my own company and I don’t want to talk to people I don’t know on the tube, it’s just nice to occasionally see someone I do.
I moved North for a sense of community and it had that, it was a place where sometimes it was hard to avoid people I knew. Familiar people seemed to be everywhere. Even if they aren’t familiar they still call you “love”. Total strangers make conversation on the bus.
In moving we have chosen to start again and build from scratch that sense of familiar in a place. Being part of a community where the faces are friendly and known. I expected that and for me, the bonus of being here is that we spend more time as a family of three, doing things together. We are happy and we do feel settled. I don’t miss having people to talk as much as I thought I might.
Getting to know people and a place takes time and sometimes it would be nice to press a button and fast forward to a point when all the things I’d like for our life here are all nicely lined up, but there is no fast forward mechanism on life. You just have to find your direction and aim for it, and eventually you get there.
This weekend the sun shone and having spent much of the last three months in the company of two other people, it was a little strange to find us all in different directions. Noo fell into games with friends as if he’d never been away, as did I. Because the beauty of really good friends is, you don’t have to see them everyday or every week. Good friends are the type that you just pick off where you left off. The gap of time doesn’t matter.
I think Noo has more of an affection for his old city that I do, in the end I’d fallen out of love with it and this weekend proved that hasn’t changed. A long weekend was good amount of time and I felt no pang of regret in driving back.
Our home is in the South now (South West actually). I’m happy to be back here and so is Noo. His home is where we are, his toys and his familiar things. A bit of his heart will probably always be in the North, but once again he jus took it all in his stride; happy to be in the moment and it is good to be in the moment because there isn’t a rewind or fast forward button. This weekend was about pressing pause and taking it all in for a moment or two.
May is my favourite month. Blossom heavy trees, the return of warm sunshine. Colours are vivid. Time is more outside than in. After school isn’t about rushing back to the warmth of the house, it is nipping over to the park.
Mostly, I love May for it’s long days. The stretched out days of May. It’s 8pm, the shadows are long and light is still bright. The sky still blue. Long evenings seem full of possibilities and my day dreams turn to summer.
I imagine warm walks in shadowy woodland. Clear crisp rivers, jam jars and fishing nets. Beaches and camp fires.
I am imagining my perfect British summer, a utopia free from rain.
I have optimism that this summer will be different, that ahead of me is the promise of months of good weather. That I can plan and my plans will bear fruit. Because I want to camp. At the library I have been squirreling camping books amongst my fiction.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and probably again). North Wales is has a special place in my heart. Somewhere I never tire of returning to. Now we’ve moved and I spy across the channel a Wales I’ve yet to discover and my heart skips a beat.
I must admit, that while Wales in the sunshine is perfection, in Wales it often rains. Maybe camping is for spontaneous weekends when the weather is wonderful. Camping for a week, planning to camp for a week is, in truth, European camping. Because that kind of camping is joined at the hip with sunshine…….. and beyond our means this year.
The enthusiasm for UK camping in this house is firmly pitched 2 vs.1. Mr Noo being voice of dissent.
Last year we found the perfect compromise in a yurt. I would spend a week in a yurt again. Maybe Wales, maybe better weather, so maybe Devon, maybe glamping.
Mr Noo would love a holiday on a barge, the slow pace, pretty canal side views. He loves a lock does Mr Noo. Or he would like a holiday cottage, in a little village not far from the sea. He likes comforts.
The wonderful thing about being down here, rather than up there, is all the possibilities of new places to discover, a short journey away. Places I hadn’t thought about when I wrote my Day Zero . There lies a list of plans and ideas; Norfolk, France, Skomer Island.
This summer my holidays are still daydreams. We are undecided. Not sure where the summer will take us, if anywhere.
What are your plans? Inspire me. Make me envious.
Over Easter we had a lovely invitation from Next to attend a bloggers event at London Zoo. Bloggers for me and animals for Noo. Can only be a win win situation.
We had the opportunity to browse the Next Summer collection and I chose a shirt as my favorite it’s the photo on the left, the first model in the Hawaiian shirt. Retro and a bit cute. I like a Hawaiian shirt. A nice beach vibe, thoughts of summer and sandy beaches. Summer Next is rocking a Cuba and shipwrecked vibe, it’s a hot trend (literally) and to be honest I’d be very pleased to be shipwrecked in Cuba.
However, Noo preferred the top on the right which I guess would give him massive peer respect, more so than a shirt with little palm trees on. I encourage him to choose his own clothes, mainly by showing him things I like, but increasingly he sees past that and spots items with a super hero emblazoned on the front. If you’re 5 super heroes are a key trend what ever the season.
Mutual agreement over The Beatles t’shirt, retro feel and heroes to my boy.
I can also report how lovely London Zoo is, or ZSL (Zoological Society of London) as it is now known. The penguins have moved from their 60′s concrete minimalist enclosure which while it looked good wasn’t very penguin appropriate. Now they have a deep blue pool swimming pool designed to enable visitors to see them diving underwater as proper penguins should.
I have distinct memories of visiting as a child and seeing a very depressed and lonely polar bear on a concrete mountain, or maybe I saw that on the TV and I’m not as old as I think I am. Anyhow, that’s gone as have the elephants.
The tigers have a wonderful new space, it’s all glass and spacious and the tiger looked very relaxed, Noo like that there was a bit of blood covered bone clearly visible, a left over from tiger lunch.
The best bit, according to us, was the squirrel monkey enclosure because you can go in and literally hang out with the squirrel monkeys. While I was taking the photo below, another small monkey attempted to rifled through my bag. Alas I had no monkey nuts, assuming that’s what he wanted. Maybe the first one was trying to distract us with its gardening skills “look I can prune the hedge” while his/her friend attempted to pickpocket me.
The ZSL lady chases about clapping at them like a teacher trying to control a group of small disobedient delinquents. As soon as she has one in order another is leaping on a visitor elsewhere. Not for the small monkey phobic.
The Amazon experience is lovely for the same reasons. Little tiny monkeys with long white moustaches (not sure of their proper name) flit about on plants draped from the ceiling and stop off on benches. It’s all warm and full of plants and birds. A small roofed Amazon but it feels fitting or the animals and they look at home. The moustache monkeys are less forthright than their squirrel monkey cousins. No monkey muggers here.
It was lovely to spent time with other bloggers and many thanks to Seasider Clare whose small boy is so lovely I am tempted to rent him as permanent friend for Noo.
Disclaimer: Next provided hospitality, Zoo entry and travel expenses. All words and opinions are my own.
Do you have an album that just brings back very distinct memories of playing it over and over? Of a time and a place?
This morning on the Breakfast TV sofa sat Jazzie B, the man behind Soul II Soul, discussion 25 years since the release of Club Classics Vol. One.
Soul II Soul’s Club Classics Vol. One is for me, is one of those albums with many memories attached to it. I brought it from Our Price Records. The album and 12” copies of various singles. I was sharing a house with friends. We’d previously being living in the ‘burbs. Now we lived on the one way system in the centre of the town, that growing up, had been the mecca we caught the bus to. Life didn’t get much better.
Mine was the small back bedroom. It was painted peach. Peach was a lifestyle choice, most of the house was painted in various shades, with accessories from the Reject shop. We were pleased with our peach palace on the one way system. My room caught loads of sunlight and was furnished at Habitat.
I had a little record player on a shelf. I’d play Club Classics over and over. Each time getting up and carefully moving the needle back to the beginning. Trying to catch that the deeper groove in the black vinyl and listening for a bit of crackle rather than a scratching sound which said I’d landed somewhere in the first few seconds of the track.
We lived opposite a new supermarket superstore, the size of it was a thing of wonder and we treated like a fridge. Loud South London voices shouting up the stairs “Just going over the road. Want anyfing?” several times a day. Countless people slept on the sofa. Pubs closed at 11 and clubs at 2 or 3am. “We live round the corner. Come back” was our normal. The phone, tethered to the living room, rang at all hours. Next to it various scraps of paper with hastily scrawled messages. I mostly wore big t’shirts and cropped trousers. We drank Lambrusco at home. Southern Comfort lime and lemonade when out.
I appreciate it’s a sophsticated picture of life.
Club Classics Vol. One became the soundtrack to a summer. Keen to share the joy the volume turned to full and the windows open, the sound floating across the slow moving traffic outside. It is music associated with youthful good times but mostly with sunshine; a long summer, a sunny house, warm evenings and friends. Happy music.
I think it still sounds as fresh as it did that summer.
What’s your album of memories?