Friday, 23 March 2012

Je Vais a Paris...!

In a happy twist of fate, I'm going to be off to Paris for a week in April! I'm pretty excited (as the exclamation marks might tell you...)(!) and, in order to get the most out of the trip I'd like some recommendations for what to do there. I have a few things in mind already since despite having been there a couple of times before, I've never been to the Louvre or to Notre Dame, although the latter was admittedly because the Pope was there making getting anywhere near the cathedral pretty much impossible!

So, if anyone has any suggestions of places I can't miss, please tell me! I'd also like some recommendations of Paris-based books to read whilst there (and on the 8 hour coach journey...).

Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Happy St Patrick's Day!

 Happy St Patrick's Day to one and all! Today is the day of the year when I most miss my homeland (Ireland, for those of you who don't know who Patrick is the patron saint of!). It conjures up visions of going to the parade in Dublin when I was little and reminds me of where I grew up. Consequently, I think of it more as a way to celebrate my roots and not, much to the confusion of many of my friends, as an excuse to drink a lot of Guinness (although that's not to say I'm not going to have one later on...) 

In any case, when we moved to England, St Patrick's day, which had been a day off each year with fun and revelry, became just another day on the calendar. To counteract this, a tradition somehow developed. I cannot for the life of me remember how or why but every year we've lived in England on St Patrick's day, we have eaten green pancakes. 

Strange perhaps, but it's a tradition now and who am I to question (especially if it means I can eat pancakes!).   
 I used Nigella's pancake recipe, which is deeply ingrained into my brain from many uses. What I did, to make them as wonderfully green as they turned out was about halfway through step 3 (before adding the wet ingredients to the dry) was add blue and yellow colouring (I use Wilton paste colourings, as they don't dilute the mixture) until I had my preferred green and then added the dry ingredients. The advantage of doing it this way seems to be that the colour isn't diluted by the flour whereas if you add the colouring after the flour etc it tends not to be so vivid.


And, fantastically, they kept their colour and even deepened a bit as they cooked! The picture is making me hungry again...where's that leftover batter...?
 We had them with maple syrup that was brought back from a recent trip to Canada which is really delicious...I think we'll all be sad when it's finished! 

So there's my crazy Paddy's day tradition for you all, give it a try!


I have, of course, been dressed in green all day and, this afternoon my mum came home and presented me with this:

 My very own shamrock! He's been put in a little green dish to continue the theme.
Happy St Patrick's day everyone!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Eggcitement in London...

Yesterday we did the final checkout and left our flat in London. Pretty sad to be leaving, it was a lovely place to live but there are new adventures to have elsewhere! Anyhow, before cleaning and fixing on Sunday we spent some time wandering around London searching for these:

Moonbow by Richard Bull (eggciting, huh?)
Some of you will remember the wonderful Elephant Parade that happened in London in 2010 where over 250 colourful, beautiful elephants were place all over the capital and thousands of people (including yours truly) enjoyed a couple of months of fun trying to find them all whilst raising money to help save endangered Asian elephants. Well, now the lovely people over at Elephant Family have joined forces with Action For Children to give us something else to hunt for: Easter Eggs! At the end of lent, all the eggs will be auctioned off and the money will go directly to the two charities.

Having been an avid elephant collector, I obviously had to take on the challenge of finding the eggs and so far, we have found 94 of these wonderful creations. I even spent a couple of hours looking for them yesterday with an enormous Ikea bag full of the cleaning supplies we'd been using on Sunday. Some may think I'm a little crazy (and my shoulder would agree...) but I just call it dedication!

Not only does joining the egg hunt give you a great way to spend time, it also has two other MAJOR benefits. One thing that people say about London, and big cities in general, is that they are impersonal and, for the most part, people don't talk to each other. Enter the eggs! When you find fellow hunters, you compare notes, chat about your routes, share what your favourite eggs have been and generally get chatting to some very interesting people who you might never have spoken to otherwise. It's wonderful. The other main advantage, I reckon, is that you get a huge amount of exercise walking around searching and get to see all sorts of nooks and crannies of London that you miss on the regular tourist or commuter routes (that was two more benefits wasn't it...? Well, even more reason to start!)

Pretty Polly by Karen Hollis (eggceptional!)
I'm finding that there's an added quizzical element to the eggs: some of them have been painted by artists who also painted Elephants and I find myself (with my still near-encyclopedic knowledge of the Elephants, 2 years on...ahem) getting especially excited when I find an egg that matches a particular the one on the left here, which was painted as the same artist who created Just Joey! Other eggs have been found with cries of 'Bramble!' or 'No More Plundering!' (which kind of also sounds like a message to any would-be egg destroyers...)  or 'The Happy End of Nature!'. The last one was, conveniently, also the name of the egg...

Anyhow, all this eggcitement (you thought the egg puns were going to be limited to captions didn't you...well more fool you, you know I like a good pun!) has reminded me of my yearly egg-painting tradition, which is something I've done at Easter since I was little. I'll admit that some years, work has got in the way and egg-painting had gone by the wayside...but this year I have been inspired early on and am determined to have my own hand-painted miniature egg hunt! And, it true Blue Peter here's-one-I-made-earlier style, I've found a few of the eggs I've painted in the past to show you (I mean for you to eggsamine...):

I have eggscavated them from the cupboard...
I'm thinking that I might have a go at making some of the Big Egg Hunt eggs in miniature...

So, if you're in London or heading down there or like searching for things so much that you'll go there just for that take a look at this website, put on some sturdy shoes, find a buddy (or several!) and get hunting! It'll be eggstraordinary! (ok, ok, I'll stop...there's no need to get eggasperated with me...)

Monday, 12 March 2012

Knit 1, Purl 1, Purl 1...damn!

At the start of the year I, like many, made some New Year's Resolutions fully intending to do them at the time but knowing that by around this sort of time of year I wouldn't have accomplished any of them...but hey, I had good intentions! One resolution was to learn to knit, a reasonable goal I thought and after doing pretty well at cross-stitch over the Christmas period, well worth a go to add to my craft repertoire. I had an advantage as well in the form of my Gran who has been an avid knitter for most of her life and has recently taken it up again.

She agreed to give me some lessons but I think she was expecting me to forget about it within a week. So, imagine the surprise on her face when I turned up on her doorstep, ball of 'horrible acrylic wool' (her words, not mine) in hand and asked her to teach me. And I found it surprisingly easy-after a slightly tricky start with casting on ('No, NO! Not like that, around the back of the stitch!' 'I don't know what that MEANS!')-and managed a few rows of plain knitting within an hour of starting.

I quickly tired of the rubbish wool (it had come free with a magazine and kept splitting and creating extra unnecessary stitches so that the knitting got wider and wider) and so found an excuse to visit the wonderful treasure trove that it Masons wool store in Abingdon: