Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas from the Convent!

I have been a very sporadic blogger lately but thought I'd drop by to wish everyone a happy Christmas and a jolly good New Year! Here's a quick video whizz around our living room I recorded a few minutes ago (in portrait mode, oops!). Tom is playing a Vince Guaraldi Christmas song on the piano. We have hung our home-made stockings up, watched several Christmas Simpsons episodes, eaten the best macaroni cheese and wrapped our pressies ready for the journey home to visit family. We will hopefully be moving into our new place in Jan/Feb (still unsure of the date!) so I am making the most of our final days in the Convent.

See you in the New Year! x

Friday, 12 December 2014

Film Friday: My favourite winter movies

Christmas is gradually creeping up, and in the build up I've been getting through some of my favourite films set in winter time, including...

1. Planes, Trains & Automobiles
"Those aren't pillooooows!" Steve Martin and John Candy make the perfect odd couple who form an unlikely friendship on an eventful trip home for Thanksgiving.

2. Fargo
Plenty of snow in this one! And some great accents to boot.

3. Little Women 
This movie stars a few of my fave actresses, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes and a young Kirsten Dunst. I love the Victorian Christmas scenes (plenty of greenery and candles). I'd forgotten that Christian Bale stars as 'Laurie' which is quite odd. The film slightly lets itself down toward the end for me though when Gabriel Byrne enters the scene as Winona's love interest.. I just don't see the attraction!

4. Girl, Interrupted
I recently rewatched this (on my Winona-binge) as I remembered it being quite a 'wintery' film. It's based on the memoir of Susanna Kaysen, who spent 18 months in a mental hospital in the late 60s. Jared Leto pops up as Susanna's boyfriend who gets drafted to fight in Vietnam and asks her to run away with him to Canada - but she refuses! This is a pretty depressing film truth be told.. but a good watch all the same.

5. Cool Runnings
By some miracle I managed to avoid seeing this film growing up, I recently watched it for the first time and enjoyed it!

6. Groundhog Day
Bill Murray ends up stuck in the town of Gobblers Nob (I kid thee not), and must relive Groundhog Day again.. and again.

7. The Shining
A classic winter horror.

What are your favourite (non-Christmas) winter films - are there any good ones I've missed?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Unusual Museums - The Hunterian, London

When Tom and I embarked on our British road trip back in June, I made sure that some quirky museums were added to our itinerary. The Pencil Museum in Keswick was first on the list, followed by a trip to the World of Illusions in Edinburgh, which didn't disappoint! 

So when a friend told me about the Hunterian Museum in London, I added it to my 'must see' list. Last week I had chance to visit, on a stopover in London and persuaded my friend Adam to accompany me. The museum is housed in the Royal College of Surgeons, a lovely building located in Holborn. 

The Museum is named after John Hunter, a Victorian surgeon who started collecting medical specimens as part of his research into medical science. No photos are allowed in the museum (which is probably wise!) but above is one from the Hidden London website so that you can get an idea of just how much there is to see there.

There seemed to be every kind of animal preserved in jars, next to human body-parts of every description, which can be a bit disturbing to see - this museum is definitely not for the squeamish! Also on display is the skeleton of Charles Byrne who became known as the 'Irish Giant.' Although the museum is quite unsettling, it was really interesting to see just how far medicine has come since the 1700s. 

After visiting the Hunterian (you can see our slightly shocked faces as we left!) we crossed through the park to the other side of the square where another brilliant (and free) museum is located, housing the collection of another John; architect Sir John Soane

Soane designed the Bank of England and Dulwich Picture Gallery amongst other buildings. His home is now open to the public, and contains an amazing array of artworks and antiquities collected on his world travels. Once you step inside the museum gets more and more intriguing. It is also home to a famous set of paintings by HogarthA Rake's Progress, which is worth seeing close-up. 

I really enjoyed both museums and would encourage a visit to them next time you're in the capital and fancy a change from the usual tourist haunts. 

See also: A Trip to The Horniman Museum.

Do you have any recommendations for more unusual museums? I'd love to hear them!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Film Friday: Nightcrawler

Plot: Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a man who's desperate for work and discovers the world of crime journalism. Nightcrawling involves listening in on police calls at night, and tracking down victims of crime to get to the stories first. 
Guest appearances: erm.. Ted from Mad Men pops up as one of the few 'nice guys' in the film
Watch this if you're a fan of... Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy, The Wolf of Wall Street
Overall: Although some scenes make for difficult viewing (one scene in particular was so tense I was gripping the arm of my chair!) Nightcrawler was a brilliant portrayal of 24 hour rolling news coverage in America and Gyllenhaal was excellent at playing the psychotic Lou Bloom.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Bits and bobs

I haven't updated this ol' blog in a while so here's what I've been up to lately..

- Dressed up as a crow for 'Monsters & Mischief' - a Halloween evening with a British folk theme held at Nottingham Contemporary
- Made a scrummy autumnal apple & plum crumble
- Helped Tom to film his new band video (involving a green screen and dancing nuns... this should be good!)
- Had a flying visit to the Big Smoke last week, and stumbled upon the bookshop from Black Books (only five minutes' walk from St Pancras, who would've thunk it?) I'll post more bits from my London trip soon.
- Got pretty addicted to Serial podcast (anyone else been listening to it? What do you make of the case so far?)
- Started watching The Gilmore Girls. I have never really given it a proper go so I've started it from the first episode... 
- In house news... (or lack thereof) we were told the chain on our house purchase was complete last month.. but the day after it fell through again so we are back to waiting for our vendors to find a new house. Such. A. Long. Process. Looks like we'll be spending this Christmas in the Convent after all. (Which isn't really that bad - but frustrating all the same)
- And finally.. Tom has found a new job in The National Space Centre! He'll be working as a Graphic Designer there which is pretty flippin' cool, am very proud of him indeed.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

A cave tour in the Malt Cross

The Malt Cross is a beautiful Victorian music hall which is now a cafe bar, and one of my favourite places for a drink in Nottingham. A few months ago it shut its doors for refurbishment after gaining a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the caves in its basement and discover more about the history of the building. It recently reopened again - hurrah! - and today I had chance to join a tour to learn more about its history and explore the caves in the basement. 

As well as the ancient caves, the venue also has a brand new gallery space downstairs, a workshop space, a rehearsal room and a prayer room (the building is owned by a Christian charity trust). There is also a new craft shop next door full of handmade goodies, open until the end of the year.

This weekend the workshop space was being used by Melton Original Portraits, a father and son team who use traditional photography methods to take unique Victorian-style portraits. Quite a few friends of mine have had their portraits taken there so it was interesting to hear more about the process.

The tour was a fascinating insight into the building's architecture and history, and a bargain at just £3. I'm also thinking of signing up to one of their Christmas courses (including letterpress, wreath-making and lino-printing) - I just need to decide which one! Read more about the Malt Cross's history here.


Friday, 31 October 2014

Film Friday: Gone Girl

I'd been looking forward to seeing Gone Girl for a while as David Fincher was directing, and the book got such rave reviews. Fincher is known for Seven, Zodiac and The Social Network and there are elements of each in Gone Girl. Ben Affleck plays a husband who arrives home one day to find his wife Amy missing. The film then explores their relationship using flashbacks and Amy's diary entries. But all is not what it seems..

I thought the film was really gripping, it really drew you in and Ben Affleck was brilliant in portraying the uncaring husband, throughout the film you can't quite work out whether you're on his side or not. I didn't enjoy the second half of the film quite as much though, I found the plot got a bit hard to believe towards the end and wasn't keen on the ending. But I enjoyed Gone Girl and would definitely recommend it. Have you read the book or seen the film? Let me know what you made of it!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Turkish Delight

Tonight I'm combating the horrible weather outside by playing some old Justin Timberlake and looking through some holiday snaps taken last week when Tom and I headed for a break in Kalkan, Turkey. We're not usually ones for 'relaxing' holidays spent lounging by the pool but I have to admit it was brilliant to escape our daily schedules and spend a week in the sunshine doing not much more more than reading, swimming and eating nice food! Tom's dad recently bought a flat there with an amazing view of the sea below, we felt very lucky indeed to have chance to stay there. It all seems quite far away now however... time to start snuggling up on the sofa with a good film and a hot chocolate I think!

Some memories of Turkey...

- Spotting little fishes swimming near my feet in the clear blue sea
- Stray dogs sleeping on the pavements
- Spotting pomegranate, lime and olive trees
- Beautiful pink bougainvillea trees 
- Watching lightning light up the clouds across the mountains
- Breakfasts of fresh yogurt, melon, pomegranate and honey
- The sound of the call to prayer from the Mosque in the distance
- Delicious hot Turkish tea, sheltering from a sudden rainstorm


Sunday, 5 October 2014

24 Hours in Nottingham

Yesterday I welcomed Leicester-based bloggers Janet, B & E for a wander around Nottingham. It was the perfect chance to visit some new places that have recently opened up here, including an amazing sweetshop and a Berlin-themed bar complete with photobooth. If you find yourself in Nottingham for a day here are a few places that are not to be missed.

First up is a trip to the wonderful Hopkinson, an antiques & arts centre handily located opposite Nottingham train station. Hopkinson is a real treasure trove of vintage goodies spread across 4 floors. As well as antiques the ground floor is home to a cafe while the basement is full of furniture (including some rather nice old theatre chairs), toys, buttons, letterpress blocks, scrabble tiles and other bits and bobs. Upstairs you'll find sewing goodies and vintage material, beautiful '50s frocks, cameras, jars and other quirky finds. And finally on the top floor there is a gallery space, where you can buy art supplies and zines.

Next up was a trip to Nottingham's newest sweet-shop The Treat Kitchen. Even if you're not the biggest sweet fan it's hard not to swoon over that window display. I picked up a pouch of crunchy rhubarb-crumble sweets, yum!

Nottingham is home to a wealth of cosy cafes and tea shops, but if it's cake you're after the new Edin's Patisserie in Hockley has a great selection. I opted for a brownie this time but on my last visit went for a huge hunk of the chocolate & apricot cake which was pretty impressive.

If you wander around Hockley you'll find a range of independent shops and charity shops including White Rose, Oxfam and Sue Ryder. There's also Wild Clothing and Cow if you're looking for vintage clothing. Lee Rosy's tea shop on Broad Street is good for a brew as is the Jam Cafe nearby.

By now we were in need of a bit of refreshment so headed to Das Kino, a new bar that's popped up opposite Yo Sushi in the Lace Market. As you can tell from its name, the bar is themed around a German cinema and houses an old photobooth in the entrance (although the prints are digital), and ping pong tables in the back. It can get pretty busy in there though so get there early if you want a table. To end the day we all crammed into the booth for a photo - although were caught unawares in the first shot, oops!

It was a lovely day in Nottingham which went by in a flash. Our only regret was missing out on the metre-long pizza at Das Kino which looked amazing... it's definitely on the list for next time!

See also: Top 5 quirky Nottingham pubs, Nottingham's top 5 curry houses.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Film Friday: Pride

Pride is a new British comedy set around the time of the Miners Strikes in 1984, when a group of gay activists decided to support them and formed a new group called LGSM - Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.

I agree with Sarah that the film took a little while to get going, but there were lots of emotional moments, some sad and some funny - including a bizarre part when Dominic West gets up on the tabletops in the Welsh community centre and dances to a disco tune.. (quite amusing if you remember him from The Wire!) The end of the film was very moving and I hadn't realised that a lot of the characters were based on real people so it was interesting to hear what happened to them.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

A trip to Barter Books

This is a bit of a 'retro-post' as I visited Barter Books back in June but forgot to post about it! Located in Alnwick in Northumberland, Barter Books is one of the best bookshops I've visited.

The bookshop is located inside an old railway station and houses hundreds of books as well as a little cafe, and best of all a miniature railway runs round a track above the shelves!

It's also the place which kick-started the (slightly too ubiquitous!) Keep Calm and Carry On phrase into popularity. An old poster from WWII containing the slogan was discovered in a dusty box of books and put on display in the shop. Its design was so popular that customers started asking for a copy. You can hear the story of the poster and the shop in this video. If you're ever in the area I'd recommend a trip to Barter Books, I just wish I could have stayed there longer!


(PS This year has been a good one for bookshops - I visited Hay-on-Wye aka the town of books in May!)

Monday, 15 September 2014

Recipe: Pea, Mint & Courgette Risotto

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with risotto. Mushroom risotto is often a staple vegetarian dish at unimaginative pubs. And a few years ago when I attempted my own I remember a particularly long session of stirring a risotto that just NEVER seemed to cook (I was quite hungry at the time!), after which I swore I'd never make one again. But after tasting a rather delicious pea & mint risotto at The Larder in Hockley a few weeks ago I thought I'd give it a go myself. (It's easy to vegan-ese this recipe by leaving out the cream/cheese and you can mix up the ingredients if you so wish!)

Ingredients (serves 2)
200g arborio risotto rice
800ml veg stock
1 red onion, chopped
1 small courgette, chopped
Half a lemon, use juice and zest
50g frozen peas
A handful of fresh mint, chopped
Splash of dry white wine (optional)
2-3 tbsp double cream
Cheddar cheese, grated
Olive oil

1. Get your cooking playlist ready. (Mine involved Crazy Sexy Cool by TLC...)
2. Fry the onion in olive oil in a large saucepan for a few minutes then add the courgette and fry until softened.
3. Stir the rice into the onion and fry for 1 min
4. Add a ladle of veg stock, stir in until absorbed and keep adding by the ladleful for 20-30 mins, until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is creamy (aka the boring bit).
5. Add the double cream, and stir in along with a generous splash of wine. Stir in some grated cheese.
6. Add the lemon juice and stir in the fresh mint and frozen peas. Stir for a few minutes until the peas have cooked.
7. Season to taste, you're all done!
8. Enjoy with some crusty bread.


Friday, 12 September 2014

Film Friday: Guardians of the Galaxy

I'm not normally a big fan of action/sci fi films so have avoided most of the recent Marvel adaptations, but on a VERY rainy Bank Holiday Monday at the seaside a few weeks ago a trip to the cinema started to really appeal! So we headed to Cromer Movieplex (I do love discovering little cinemas in seaside towns) to watch Guardians of the Galaxy.

Did it live up to the hype? Well.. it was pretty fun! Chris Pratt was great (hard to believe it was the same chap from Parks & Rec!) and I did enjoy his 80s mixtape. A slight gripe of mine was that I found the main female character a bit boring... but it was hard not to enjoy GOTG (and the end sequence got a lot a massive 'awww' from our packed out screen room). Have you seen GOTG? What did you make of it?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Great September Save-athon

After sharing my news yesterday about house buying, it's become clear that Tom and I really need to knuckle down and save money whenever we can. It seems we are not alone, as Janet also announced yesterday she is embarking on an autumn spending ban.

I will be keeping track of how much I manage to save this month, and have thought of the following ideas to help us pinch pennies...

1. We'll be making every Monday into a 'no electricity night.' I wrote about this previously here, and it basically involved turning off electrical devices, TVs, laptops and lights and lighting candles to spend an evening as they did back in the pre-electric age! This Monday involved us attempting a new card game (unsuccessfully as it happened, the rules were a little complex!) and me learning a new song on the guitar which I've not touched for months. I also broke the rules slightly by baking some cookies using our electric fan oven. Shh, don't tell anyone..

2. I aim to take a packed lunch to work every day this month. This may prove tricky as I often rely a bit too heavily on cheese sandwiches and get bored, but it should force me to be more inventive with my lunches! Wraps, pasta and heating up leftover curries etc will help.

3. Declining all invitations
 to the pub/lunches - and having friends over to ours instead  (with two possible exceptions that were planned last month!) I posted up some ideas on cheap nights in here.

4. A ban on buying clothes, books, newspapers and other unnecessary items for the month

5. Cooking more food in batches that can be reheated throughout the week

Do you have any other money saving tips you'd like to share? Or any frugal recipes?
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