New Beginnings

What makes a new haircut so refreshing? Easter is the celebration of new life and I certainly feel my own rebirth occurring right now.

            I’ve just got back from spending the Easter weekend with my parents in Glastonbury. Early on Saturday morning, I took a walk into town to Back2Back, a wonderful hairdressers. I got pampered. I had my hair washed (double shampooing – result!), a head massage with the conditioner and then a slick of sweet smelling Moroccan hair oil. The hairdresser spent nearly an hour cutting away my split ends and blow drying it to perfection. All of this indulgent treatment for only £15, how could I not be smiling?

            I bounced out of the hairdressers and continued walking down Glastonbury High Street with a spring in my step. My hair hadn’t radically changed, but just the process of shedding the old to unleash the new felt so invigorating.

            I’m in the midst of a life upheaval, it’s almost like another New Year. I’m bracing myself for summer and what I’m going to do with all the delicious free time I’ll soon acquire. I can return to being dedicated to my workout schedule. Life interrupted with assignments, and an unfortunate slip down the stairs halted all physical activity for a week. But I am emerging, clothed in my new workout gear, courtesy of a Sports Direct sale (sports bra and three-quarter length leggings for just under £10 – happy shopper!). Time is the most luxurious thing one can own.

            The blessing of time has also given me the opportunity to work on my writing. I have decided to pursue the story I showcased last week. Hopefully, I will see it through to a five book series. Having long periods of time to sit at the table and bath in the writing is so good for me. I can wander into new worlds without being dragged back by lessons or deadlines. Speaking of deadlines, I heavily altered the beginning of the story before handing it in to be assessed. I do hope you like it. Like my friend Adam, I too feel on the cusp of an adventure.

 

Adam was supposed to be at football club. Aunty Elaine was very keen on sports, exercise and nutrition. It was just a shame she wasn’t that keen on Adam.

            He shuffled along the road, kicking his PE bag as he went. The club wasn’t meant to finish for another half an hour, so he had some space before facing his fearsome aunt. “Why can you never be on time, Adam?” Aunty Elaine would shriek, even when she was caught up in an awkward yoga position. Adam still couldn’t work out how someone could still be scary with both legs over their head. As he dawdled along, he tapped each beech tree in turn, a ritual he performed when he walked home from school. He had plenty of time to think up a decent excuse to avoid another one of Aunty Elaine’s rants, he thought as he kicked out at a pebble.

            The stone spun off Adam’s boot and hit the cast iron gates with a loud twang. They towered above him. The charcoal metal had been twisted to form a pair that was bound together by a hefty padlock. Adam looked past the intimidating gates and gawked at what they were guarding.

            The house stood alone. It had to have been at least three stories high, but was the type of mansion that could be hiding an attic and cellar too. It looked similar to a house on a television show Aunty Elaine liked to watch with his cousin Amy after their Sunday roast. Adam had never found the programme very interesting, but the spiralling turret on this house caught his eye. So did the glittering, bejewelled Indian domes that stuck out on one corner of the house. The house front was decorated with a mish mash of exposed brick and cream stone. There were large stable right next to the mansion and he could hear horses whinnying. He pushed on the gates in an attempt to see more of the unusual house. The gates swung open freely. The padlock had vanished.

            Adam hurriedly looked all around him in search of the missing padlock, nut it was nowhere to be seen. He looked beyond the gates, expecting to see someone with a key but there was nobody near him. Adam froze, looking up at the building, wondering if he could risk a closer look. Just to pet the horse and have a quick look round. Although Adam walked down Greymear Street every day on his way home from school, he had never seen a house on this spot. There were normally piles of rubble and under construction signs, but Adam did vaguely remember a structure under a nest of scaffolding at the start of the week. He found it difficult to clearly think back, Monday was so long ago.

Advertisements

The First Story

As we are fast approaching the Easter Holidays, I have been on full studying lock down. More storytelling, less domestic around these parts recently. I have two deadlines before our holidays start and have been manically typing on my laptop all day.

Writing is strange. I love it and know it to be my true calling in life. But I still have to gear myself up for it and force myself to sit down to scribble. I use the luring technique of copious amounts of tea.

But the slog has been successful and I have a draft that I’m more than happy with ready for the final session tomorrow. It’s for my Children’s Fiction module, my favourite one this year.

 

Care to take a peek?

 

Adam was supposed to be at football club. Aunty Elaine was very keen on sports, exercise and nutrition. It was just a shame she wasn’t that keen on Adam.

            He shuffled along the road, kicking his PE bag as he went. The club wasn’t meant to finish for another half an hour, so he had some precious time to himself. As he dawdled along, he tapped each beech tree in turn, a ritual he performed when he walked home from school. Adam lazily started kicking about a pebble, thinking up more excuses for why he didn’t go to football.

            The pebble spun off Adam’s boot and hit the metal gates with a loud twang. The stone lay forgotten as Adam stared up at the overbearing structure. They towered above him, the charcoal iron twisted into rows of curling claws. The pair of gates was bound by a thick padlock, hefty and strong. They could have been carved from black ice as Adam quickly withdrew his hand from the metal bar. Adam looked past the intimidating barrier and gawked at what it was guarding.

            The house stood alone. It had to have been at least three stories high, but was the type of mansion that could be hiding an attic and cellar too. But it was unlike any old houses Adam had seen on television dramas. This house had a spiralling turret on one side with bejewelled Indian domes on the other. The front of the house was a mish mash of exposed brick and cream stone.

            Adam walked down Greymear Street every day on his way home from school. There had never been a house in this spot before, just piles of rubble and “under construction” signs. Even at the start of the week, Adam remembered seeing a vague structure under a nest of scaffolding. The house had sprung up so quickly, but Adam failed to remember if he had ever seen any builders at the sight. It was hard to think back, Monday was so long ago.

            His desire to see more of the house led Adam to lean heavily on the gates. They surrendered to his touch and slowly opened. The padlock had vanished. Adam stepped inside, treading softly. He opened the gate wide with an echoing screech. Adam looked around to see if anyone had been disturbed, but there was no one to be seen. He kept a hand on the cool gates. Adam couldn’t afford to be late home, it wasn’t worth the nagging that he would receive from Aunty Elaine. But the house barely looked solid, he just had to check if the mirage was true. A closer look and then off home, no one would notice.

            Adam tiptoed up the sandy driveway, ready to bolt if he saw an angry foreman. But there was no trace of workmen anywhere, no forgotten jackets or lone machinery. As Adam got closer, he realised how tired the house looked. The floorboards were faded on the porch and the fence that surrounded it was desperately seeking a paintbrush. The lion head knocker in the middle of the huge front door was covered in dust. Adam turned once more to search for any owners, but it was still silent all around him. He noticed that the gates had sneakily shut themselves, securing the house once more.

The difference between dreaming and doing.

In my life, I read a lot. For my chosen University degree, reading is essential, both fact and fiction. I have my nose in a book constantly. If not a book then it’s a magazine, a paper or even articles on the internet. I love to read and I always have, it’s part of the reason I want to be a writer. The genre I find myself diving into most is recipe books. I flick through at least one recipe book a day, and I have acquired a fair collection. I drool over certain recipes, add post it notes here and there and imagine what I could cook.

DSCN1142

But that is not the primary function of a recipe book. They inspire, yes, but you are then meant to waltz off into the kitchen and create your own culinary delights. There has been no waltzing. Despite all of my research, I don’t often use my recipe books for their designed purpose.

It’s the same with cookery shows. I know and love them all, Nigel Slater and The Hairy Bikers being favourites. I watch various cooks and chefs concoct marvellous dishes (often using basic ingredients) and my mind is off on a wander. I could do that, I always think. Just a quick trip to Sainsbury’s and I’d be off. But I don’t. I stay in and end up making all of the dishes that I’m used to.

DSCN1141

I have my restrictions by the bucketful. The fact that I’m on a student budget makes some ingredients out of my reach. My gluten intolerance makes some recipes unachievable. And, most of all, I live in a shared house that naturally has a shared kitchen. I have half a freezer drawer, one box in the fridge, one cupboard and the top drawer of a filing cabinet that I’ve nicknamed my “pantry”. I long to have a kitchen of my own, someday.

But I’ve shouldn’t be waiting for someday. I’ve made the executive decision to utilize the combined power of my recipe books. I’m cutting off the restrictions with my paring knife and bolding stepping into the kitchen, wooden spoon aloft. Yes, cooking for one person is tricky, but “leftovers” has become a fashionable word and I can make use of the freezer space I have. It’s time to shake things up on the kitchen front.

DSCN1139

The buzz word I keep getting from my books, and the TV shows in particular, is quality. It doesn’t matter what cuisine you’re cooking, technique you’re using or dish you’re preparing, good ingredients is always the starting point. Quality food is at the pinnacle of enjoyment of food. My meat, eggs and the majority of my fruit and veg all come from the Farmer’s Market, so quality is assured. I shall retain this ethic as I begin my quest into the realm of gastronomy. I think a large dose of luck would be most welcome.

Thank you for all the lovely likes I recieved for my Triple Chocolate Cookies recipe. I was delighted when Tumblr told me I had a record number of visitors 😀 I will be sure to post more recipes!

(Not so) Typical Student

I was dressed for battle this morning. My uniform consisted of black leggings, an oversized jumper and a pair of purple thick socks. My mission was to write 1500 words on status quo within Angela Carter’s The Lady of the House of Love. Armed with my laptop and reams of notes and quotes, I locked horns with my essay.

I don’t mind writing essays, really, I don’t. I do like them to be quick and painless though, which is why I invest time in preparing my research before I start to type. Two and a half hours was all it took to get a first draft of 1400 words. Lunch beckoned but I felt I needed a longer break before the mountainous task of proofreading loomed. What to do on a grey March afternoon, with a (nearly) empty house?

I baked. I baked triple chocolate cookies and it was wonderful. I delighted in wearing my apron, weighing out each ingredient and mixing with a wooden spoon. The whole house smelt of cocoa. To spend time with oneself in the kitchen is, for me, sheer joy. Maybe you could whip up a batch for your own joyous “me” time?

DSCN1109

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Makes 9

Ingredients:

65g margarine or butter (I use Stork in baking and probably always will)

50g caster sugar

25g light brown sugar

1 egg

Few drops of vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon of baking powder (GF)

60g Doves Farm Gluten-free plain flour

30g cocoa powder

40g white chocolate buttons

40g milk chocolate buttons

1)      Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.

2)      Gently melt the margarine in a saucepan on a low heat. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine both sugars. Then add the melted marg.

3)      Using a fork, beat the egg with the vanilla in a small bowl until thoroughly combined, then stir into the margarine and sugar.

4)      Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into the bowl and stir. When thoroughly combined, add your chocolate buttons.

5)      Using a tablespoon, scoop the mixture onto the lined baking tray, setting the cookies well apart to allow for spreading.

6)      Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes until the cookies are just firm.

7)      Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

DSCN1111

Is there a lovelier sight at 4 o’ clock in the afternoon?

I shall simply have to squeeze more time in for cooking, I really do love it. After visiting Carluccio’s, I bought the Simple Cooking recipe book from Amazon. I’m hoping it arrives before the next Farmer’s Market on Sunday. Just think of all the dishes I could create with the abundance of fresh produce available. I must have another cookie to stop my salivating mouth!

Lunch Date: Carluccio’s

 

I’m often asked by my friends and peers how it is that I am able to do so much with my paltry student budget. There is no big secret. I don’t really drink. That may seem unfathomable to certain students out there, but I’ve never really been bothered by it. So the £20 (or more) that can be zapped for a night out bought me an all day travel card to London.

It was a truly wonderful day yesterday, the sort that you commit to memory. Me and my chap were given tickets to see The Lion King on the West End at Christmas time. The day itself came round far too quickly. We made a day of it by heading into the capital earlier than our matinee performance, to spend a couple of hours behaving like shameless tourists.

We decided to have lunch at Carluccio’s as the chap had dined in one at Reading and was impressed by their gluten-free menu. Me, being of the ever-organised sort, couldn’t resist looking up the menu beforehand. The gluten-free options were indeed extensive and even included puddings, something I’m not accustomed to seeing. Although we didn’t indulge yesterday, it’s something to remember for future meals.

DSCN1102

For yesterday’s meal, we both chose a juice and a pasta dish. The chap had peach juice with a bowlful of Rigatoni Amatriciana. I had (g-f!) Pasta con Funghi, washed down with a cloudy cherry juice, something I’m pleased to find on sale at Sainsbury’s.

DSCN1100

Our meal cost us £23 and I think that’s a bargain. My dish was intensely flavoured, as if the great Antonio Carluccio himself had whipped it up. The staff were so accommodating too, deserving of their tip. I would certainly return to any of the Carluccio restaurants, although I did enjoy the lavishness of the Covent Garden branch. It was a meal fitting to our “being spoilt” day.

The show was a wondrous spectacle, vastly improved by our great seats. Sitting next to the aisle was a true experience, as anybody who has seen the show will know. Crossing the bridge on our way back to Waterloo Station offered time for reflection. Firstly, I know I want to live in London as soon as possible, and the chap shares this dream. Secondly, if I have to be thrifty until I achieve that dream, saving my money to make days like today so perfect, then that’s what I shall do. And I will be very content to do so.