Monday, 30 June 2014

Ideas on Paper (a magazine lover's dream)

One of the things I love about Nottingham is the number of new creative spaces that keep popping up here. When Janet visited a few months ago we discovered the lovely Cobden Chambers, in Nottingham's newly named Creative Quarter. Situated near the Bodega Social, it's a pretty space full of indie shops, including a brilliant magazine shop called Ideas on Paper. I popped in this weekend for a browse and decided to treat myself to one of the pretty magazines on sale there. Choosing which one proved to be difficult as there were so many beautiful publications on sale! Alex, the owner is a friendly chap who was on hand with recommendations aplenty (and fresh coffee!), and in the end I plumped for a copy of Lionheart. If you're a fan of independent magazines I'd definitely recommend a trip to the shop and a visit to Cobden Chambers which also plays hosts to regular gigs and vintage fairs. Right, I'm off to read my magazine with a cuppa. If you have any favourite magazines to recommend, I'd love to hear!


Sunday, 29 June 2014

Just a minute: June

Reading Bossypants by Tina Fey (I'm a bit behind but just discovered it at the library, hooray!)
Planning more trips  to the seaside (you can never have too many holidays right?)
Finishing Orange is the New Black season 2. Really enjoyed it! But, (as Bee also pointed out recently) they need to trim down the theme tune a bit to stop it getting stuck in my head forever..
Starting Mad Men season 7 (has everyone else given up on it now?), Louie season 4
Buying a pretty summer dress in the Cath Kidston sale (couldn't resist!)
Looking forward to some good films coming out soon (Chinese Puzzle, Boyhood, Belle & Mood Indigo all look great)
Browsing the Rightmove app every day on my route into work..
Buying a flower press from the charity shop. Looking forward to playing with it soon!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Make: a Super Mario Pixel Cake

Last weekend Tom celebrated his 29th birthday party the only way he knew how - by organising a huge computer gaming party in the Chapel. (In case you're new to this blog, I live in a convent which handily includes a beautiful chapel which can be hired for social gatherings - thought I doubt anyone had filled it with old games consoles before!). As I'm not much of a gamer I decided to concentrate on making some appropriate food for the occasion and when some friends suggested we make a Mario pixel cake I couldn't say no!

It did prove a little trickier than we'd imagined. In our google image searches for similar projects we didn't quite realise how many cakes would be involved when it came to the baking (143 in case you're wondering!)  Thank goodness we decided to make really small cakes (made using petit fours cases) as if we'd made them full size Mario wouldn't have fit on to our table! We used coloured icing paste which worked out really well (although it can get a little messy, especially in a tiny kitchen such as mine.) We were chuffed with the final cakes anyway - in fact I still have a container full which need finishing... hooray! [Recipe below]

If you're crazy enough to try these too you will need:
- 143 tiny cake cases 
- blue, yellow, pink, red and brown icing (choc buttons for the feet optional!)
- Victoria Sponge ingredients:
300g caster sugar
300g self raising flour
300g softened butter
6 eggs
2 tablespoons milk

We used this recipe to make a Victoria sponge mixture, then spooned it out into the cases. We needed to bake them in three lots (with 3 cake trays full each time!) but it only took the cakes around 10mins to bake as they were so small, at around 180 degrees C.

While they are baking, prepare your coloured icing! We used paste colours like these which you mix with icing sugar and water. When the cakes are cool spoon on the icing, then meticulously arrange to create the final character, as above. Go go Mario!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Great British Road Trip Pt 3 - Edinburgh and the World of Illusions

After our trip to the Lake District it was time to pack up the tent and head to Edinburgh. This was both mine and Tom's first visit to Scotland and we loved driving the scenic route, past pine forests and isolated houses to the Scottish capital.
We stayed in a lovely Air BnB flat on the coast of the city in Leith (thanks to blogger Anna for recommending it). Leith was a brilliant place to stay, with lots of nice pubs nearby including our favourite, Nobles which has pictures of Bill Murray, Bjork and other brilliant folks on the walls as well as some impressive stained glass windows and the friendliest bar staff.

The weather was rather rainy on our stay but it didn't matter much as we had lots of indoor pursuits planned, including a visit to the Museum of Scotland (home to Dolly the sheep), and the World of Illusions! I'd heard good things about this museum and despite being slightly pricey, it was worth the trip. As well as lots of fun optical illusions (including a bridge which makes you feel REALLY dizzy despite not moving!) there's a Camera Obscura right at the top of the building which turned out to be the perfect way to see the city.

We really enjoyed our trip to Edinburgh and I'd love to go back and explore more of Scotland some time as the people we met there were so friendly and the city was packed full of independent shops, cafes and pubs. Not to mention some brilliant veggie eateries including David Bann's, Henderson's Cafe and a cafe called Mum's which made the tastiest macaroni cheese, just what I craved on a rainy day.


Thursday, 12 June 2014

Great British Road Trip Pt 2 - The Withnail and I Cottage

On our last day in the Lake District it started to drizzle, so Tom and I packed up our tent and loaded the car up for our drive to Edinburgh. On the way we just had to stop off at a house found in one of our favourite films, Withnail and I. In case you've never seen it the film focuses on two struggling actors in the late 60s with a fondness for booze, who escape London to go on holiday 'by mistake.' They end up at Withnail's Uncle Monty's farmhouse, near Penrith which we decided to track down.

What we didn't realise was that the house was so remote it didn't seem to be accessible by car. After googling the postcode and ending up in a tiny village, we eventually got directions to walk up the house. I would only advise this trip to the dedicated Withnail fans! We clambered up hills, past farmers, over a stream and finally we got to the cottage. Hurray! It doesn't seem to be currently inhabited as it's being renovated but there is a sign in the window saying people can arrange to view the inside if they email prior to visiting. We were both surprised by just how remote the cottage was, you'd probably need a tractor to reach it these days.

On a door just outside the house fans have scribbled quotes from the film. It was wonderful to see the real Withnail cottage, I might start a campaign for a blue plaque to be installed there to commemorate the wonderful film, it's surely part of our English heritage, right?


Monday, 9 June 2014

Great British Road Trip Pt 1 - Camping in the Lakes (+ The Pencil Museum!)

A while ago I posted a shout out to you lovely readers for recommendations of places to visit on our week's holiday around the coastline of northern Britain via Edinburgh. Finally the end of May rolled round and it was time to set off! We had an amazing time camping in the Lake District, exploring the Scottish capital and befriending seagulls in lovely Whitby. Here is a guide to what we did on our holidays. First up - camping in Cumbria, giant pencils and the BEST service station we've ever been to!

If you're wondering how good a service station could really get, take a visit to Tebay Services in the Lake District. It's chock full of local produce, fresh bread (we stocked up on 'Monty's Revenge' a dangerously garlicky loaf), pies, veggies, ales, cider, cheeses and cakes. I wanted to take it all with us, but we settled for a few scrummy picnic items. The food isn't so cheap but it was definitely worth it for the quality, and it was a lovely place to stop off, so much better than your average services.

In order to save on money we chose to spend our first weekend at a campsite in the Lake District. It was the first time we'd been to this part of the country and the scenery we saw en route was breathtaking.The kind folks at Tesco Compare offered me a Garmin Nuvi 50 Sat Nav to try out on our journey which came in very handy on our long trip. Without it I'm sure we would have got into quite a few scrapes on our complicated route, plus I tend to panic a bit when map reading (as poor Tom will testify to!) so it was great to relax and let the Sat Nav take charge.

We chose to stay at a National Trust campsite called Great Langdale. There are lots of nice looking sites in the area but I'd definitely recommend this one, it was so scenic - as well as the nearby hills and meadows there were lots of sweet little bunnies that kept popping their heads out of the grass, which reminded me we were in Peter Rabbit country! The site was also really well equipped; as well as a shop full of camping equipment, croissants and bacon butties there was also a drying room - very handy if it happens to rain on your visit as is so common in the Lake District. Not to mention hot showers, an essential on any campsite I visit! There was also an option of staying in sweet little camping pods which were a nice option in wet weather.

We went on an epic hike up a steep hill the first day. I'm not usually a huge fan of climbing mountains (blame being dragged up them many times as a kid!) but the views were fantastic. The next morning we headed to Keswick to visit a place I'd been wanting to go to for ages - The Pencil Museum!

It didn't disappoint! Despite the museum being fairly small there were some interesting items inside including amazing carved pencil tips and a special pencil used in WW2 that contained a tiny secret map and compass hidden inside. Not to mention the world's largest colour pencil! Memories of Sightseers came flooding back as I sat and watched a video on how Derwent pencils are made (I'm a bit of a sucker for seeing how factories work!).Next up, our first trip to Scotland, and a tiny detour to Uncle Monty's house from Withnail and I..
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