Literary treat!

9 Sep

I’ve had the most amazing Tuesday – no, work was stressful and harried, as usual.  The commute has and will always be a bit fraught.  But all the ickiness of the day fades away when I think about how I met one of my literary heroes today.  The encounter was fleeting but I have a photograph as a memento.

I’ve adored the All Souls’ Trilogy, this trio of books about a witch and a vampire, how they go against all odds to fight for their relationship.  There’s a bit of historical fiction, there’s a lot of talk about love and relationships, and there’s a lot of the supernatural.  But I loved the books.  I love how the stories unfolded and how all the things seemed to really come together and how all loose ends were tied up in the last of the three books.  I thought the writing was brilliant — and that brilliant writer is Deborah Harkness, an American history professor.  I love her books because the historical bits were believable and the fiction was weaved wonderfully with what was factual.  While the melding of fact and fiction was seamless, I thought it gave credit to the reader, I thought the stories didn’t take it for granted that the reader wouldn’t know which part was written for the story and which part was historical and helped set the scene for the story.

I’ve read the books several times now and I follow Deborah Harkness on Twitter.  Nothing a fan girl wouldn’t do hey?  I’m quite pleased to say that I’ve gone a bit further than that.  I’ve actually met one of my literary heroes!  She had a book signing event in Chelmsford and I really couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.  I had to meet her!

It was quite nice waiting.  I eagerly got there 30 minutes before the event started and expected a huge queue because a lot of people said they were excited she was coming.  I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t such a queue at the time – but on the flip side, I was second in line so I was a happy bunny.  It was also really nice to be able to chat to other people who enjoyed the books as much as I did!

When Deborah Harkness arrived, she said a cheery hello and told us she’d be right with us, that she just needed some peppermint tea.  It reminded me of how much Diana, the heroine of the trilogy, loved strong, almost greasy tea.  Always made me smile because I love strong Yorkshire tea over Earl Grey or English Breakfast.

When DH got settled, she chatted pleasantly to everyone who came and signed all the books that people brought to the table.  I cheekily asked for a photo and she said, “Of course!  By all means, this is why I’m here!”

Me and Deborah Harkness

She signed all my books and they will sit very proudly on my shelf!  I am a VERY happy fan girl!

 

Watermelon cake anyone?

27 Aug

We had a summer themed charity Bake Off at work.  I procrastinated (as is usual for me these days) with the Cakebook Challenge and put off my baking.  I need to get back into baking through the book.  I’ve lost so much time!  But I digress.  So at work we had, what I’d call a charity bake sale.  The theme was summer.  So I thought what would be better than a watermelon cake eh?

Watermelon cake

I thought it would be really cool to decorate a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and make it look like a watermelon.  I thought that putting in chocolate chips would make the chips look like the pips.  The idea is that when you sliced the cake, it’d look like a real watermelon because the inside would be red and the chocolate chips would look like pips and the whole thing would resemble half a watermelon.  Or so I thought.  I may have gone a bit overboard with the red food colouring and it turned out to be a really dark red.  I had a little batter leftover so I thought I’d make a few ice cream cone cupcakes.

Inside the watermelon cake

I got second prize for best tasting cake.  But the afterthought cakes aka the ice cream cone cakes won best decorated!  Sadly I don’t have any pictures of the ice cream cone cakes.  I must make them again.  Soon.  After I surface from the Cakebook Challenge!

Can I just say though that sometimes I wish it was easier to transport cakes to work.  There has to be an easier way…but that entails spending a shedload of cash on a car.  Sigh.

My (very brief) TV moment

16 Aug

Out of the blue over a month ago, I got asked if I wanted to be on the pilot of the after show of what is quite possibly my favourite TV show to date: the Great British Bake Off (silent scream – yes it still affects me that way!).  For those who aren’t familiar with it, the Great British Bake Off (GBBO), which is now in its fifth season,  is a reality TV show competition for bakers.  There are 12 bakers and each week they have a theme and they bake a signature bake, a technical bake and a show stopper and each week someone is awarded star baker and someone bakes their last bake.  At the end of 12 weeks (and 36 bakes) you have the winner of the Great British Bake Off.  I credit GBBO for the resurgence in my drive to bake better.

GBBO was such a hit that the bigwigs at the BBC thought it was necessary to move it from BBC2 to BBC1.  They also thought it would be good to raise the profile further by creating a post-show show, ala The Apprentice: You’re Fired.  I thought it was an excellent idea.  The more Bake Off the merrier, I say!

ExtraSlice

I had thought that that phone call was the end of it.  I couldn’t do the shoot of the pilot and I thought I’d lost my chance to appear on the GBBO aftershow.  But I got a call two weeks ago asking if I wanted to be part of the next episode of Extra Slice.  Of course I did and of course I said yes (of course!!!)!  The brief was to bring cookies and bring cookies I did!  I brought Chinese almond cookies.

I so wanted to tell the world and his wife about the impending TV appearance but I had to sit on my hands and bite my tongue.  Apart from everything being hush-hush and secret, I wasn’t even sure I’d get to see myself on camera.  Also, it had a lot to do with the confidentiality agreement that I signed before we went down to shoot the episode.  It was the closest I was going to get to the Bake Off (for the meantime!) and I was determined NOT to mess it up.

The day started off with a lot of rain and me and my curly hair!  Ha!  But nothing, even torrential rain (which it wasn’t really.  Everything was just a little gray that Sunday), could dampen my excitement.  I was going to be able to watch the next episode of my favourite TV show ever (ahead of most people) and I was going to get to see one of my favourite ladies of comedy for the very first time, in person!  Jo Brand hosts An Extra Slice!  Yay!

It wasn’t as if I didn’t know what TV production was like.  I’d been to a few sets in my time (mostly school field trips) but I was unabashedly starstruck.  Mostly because it was GBBO.  It was good getting to chat to people who loved the show as much as I did and who loved baking as much as I did!  Being in the ITV Studios was part of the excitement.  I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t take as many photos as I could!  D’oh and the accompanying face slap!

You tweet it, it's supposed to give you free orange juice .  Didn't work though!

You tweet it, it’s supposed to give you free orange juice . Didn’t work though!

While it wasn’t the GBBO baking tent, it was close enough.  There’s something to be said about GBBO magic.  There was a massive bonus though:  Lisa Faulkner and Monica Galetti were two-thirds of the celebrity trio that joined Jo Brand.  I love Lisa Faulkner from when she cooked her way into winning MasterChef and while Monica Galetti scares me, she’s quite an amazing chef and I am a fan!  Charlie Baker rounded of the three and let me just say that he has lost a massive amount of weight from when he danced into winning Let’s Dance for Comic Relief!

It took about 3 hours to shoot the 30-minute TV show and I got home at nearly midnight.  Was I bothered?  Nope.  Absolutely not.  The three hours were filled with a lot of aughter and amazing entertainment.  The guys at Love Production do an amazing job and the finished product is amazing (especially since I saw myself on telly — all of the two nano seconds!  Ha!)!  The experience of waiting around for everything to start wasn’t so bad either because getting a chance to chat to people, see what their bakes were, get inspired by other people’s creativity is something you can’t buy!  Even talking about the experience now makes me smile.

I hope they call me again.  I want to get a chance to bake a heck of a showstopper!  But if I don’t get a call back, I’ll still look back on the whole experience with a huge smile.  It was amazing.  VERY.

I can’t upload the video because my account needs to be upgraded before I’m able to do that (I probably should have uploaded it onto YouTube.  But you can view a bit o it on my Instagram account, if you want to!  Just click here.

Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes and fruit goo

3 Aug

I love it when a plan comes together!  I managed to tick off 2 recipes from the book.

I made blueberry “fruit goo” (page 34).  It was necessary because the fruit goo was going to be the topping and filling for the cupcake recipe I was going to attempt.  The recipe was so very generous and there is still half a jar of the fruit goo in my fridge.

Blueberry fruit goo

The cupcake recipe I attempted today was the blueberry cheesecake cupcake (page 62).  I haven’t been able to taste it because I’ve had too much of the fruit goo and the cream cheese icing, but Alan says it tastes and smells like a cheesecake and I trust his food opinion!  So it passes the Alan taste test.  It was quite fun to do this though because you built up the cupcake in stages: first you had to put together the biscuit base (like any self-respecting cheesecake, this one, too, has a buttery biscuit base), then put in the cupcake batter, bake the cupcake, then fill the middle with the blueberry fruit goo (for more fruity goodness, I think), and top it with a cream cheese frosting and swirl through even more fruit goo!  I had fun doing this.  I really did.

Blueberry cheesecake cupcake

So, as far as today is concerned, I only have 47 recipes to go and 22 weeks to finish cooking through the book.

I can do this!

Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes ready to go

Thinking…

29 Jul

…can be very dangerous!

I am thinking of a redesign of the blog.  But I am slightly torn because I love how it looks at the moment.  I may have to change the theme but keep the colours.

But everything right now is just a thought and everything is still on a drawing board.

Watch this space!

Daily routine

28 Jul

It takes me ages to get ready everyday.  I like to take my time with my morning ablutions.  Although that being said, I think I should streamline my morning routine so that I don’t necessarily have to wake up too early in the morning.  Because I think I may benefit from a few more minutes in bed!

I started thinking about my morning routine when I read Emma Gannon’s blog entry called No, I Really Did Wake Up Like This.  I copied off the first few words of my comment on her blog.  There are probably 3 things that I need to be sure of before I go out the door (apart from my well-planned handbag – you know, the essentials: purse, phone, keys, headphones and kindle): straightened and neat hair, a non-shiny face, and eyeliner. This is my version of low maintenance. I very rarely go out the door without making sure those three things are sorted.

But before I get to the door, before I leave my bedroom I need to have done the following:  injected Byetta (I am a Type 2 Diabetic, in case you missed it – wouldn’t blame you as this blog is filled with food related posts!), drank my Gliclazide, washed my hair, blow-dried and straightened my hair, moisturised, moisturised, moisturised, put my face on (mostly the eyeliner) and spritzed on my scent of choice (it is currently Escale À Portofino by Dior).  If I don’t get my morning routine done, I feel out of sorts.  There’s something about starting the day the way you’ve planned it.  Sometimes I wonder if I dawdle too much or if there’s a more efficient way of getting ready.

Call it bizarre but it’s my armor from a Murphy’s Law day.

What’s you’re morning routine like?

Down day

27 Jul

You know those days when everything is okay but you feel horribly horrrible?  The sun was shining and it wasn’t too hot but I woke up this morning with a head that felt like it was meant to be on an elephant, my nose was running like it was meant to be a sprinter at the Commonwealth Games and my eyes were streaming like…well, I can’t really think of an analogy for streaming.

I drank hayfever meds and I took a couple of paracetamol tablet and went out with Alan because he wanted to get mango purée because I think he wanted mango lassi today.  I didn’t say anything about my head but I did mention my hayfever to him.

It has made me horribly cranky today.  I think it’s safe to say I’ve been acting like a brat an entire day.  But I must say, it would’ve been nice to be pampered today and spoiled rotten.  But I wasn’t.

Phooey.

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