Friday, 22 October 2010

Baking for boyfriends

I’m no surrendered woman but I can’t deny that I get a shocking amount of pleasure out of baking treats for my boyfriend. The idea of being the little wife in the kitchen goes against all my feminist principles but still I can’t seem to stop. I blame Nigella.
It might also have something to do with the fact that my boyfriend and I live quite far apart and sometimes it can be a couple of weeks before we get to see each other. When I do visit him often I feel the need to have some kind of sweet offering - maybe to remind him why he loves me (shallow, I know, but it seems to work).
This week has been so cold I’ve been able to see my breath inside my flat, so something warming was needed. It was the perfect opportunity to try out a lemon and ginger fridge-cake recipe I’ve had my eye on for a while. OK, I know a fridge-cake isn’t particularly warming, it was more the lemon and ginger that grabbed me.
The recipe is ridiculously easy - chop 60g of crystallised lemon peel and 60g of crytallised ginger, blend with 200g of crunchy ginger biscuits and grate in the rind of one lemon. Then squeeze the lemon into a saucepan and simmer until it’s reduced to about one tablespoon-worth. Melt in 80g of butter then pout the lemony buttery liquid into the biscuit mix, stir it all together, press into a shallow cake tin and put in the fridge to set.
Catherine Mason, whose excellent recipe this is, suggests serving the cake with strong espresso. I don’t know about that but I found the baking process was helped along nicely by a large whisky.
I’d hoped there’d be enough to take some into my colleagues at work too. Unfortunately my boyfriend is a greedy man so there wasn’t. But I did had about half a pack of ginger biscuits left, which I took into work instead. Fortunately my workmates are easily pleased.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Dance off

When I have a lazy Saturday to fill in Bristol I often wander down to the Arnolfini. For me, it’s one of the best things about the city – a handsome building, right on the bustling waterfront, with an exciting and original range of exhibitions. And it’s free.
A friend was staying this weekend so we meandered down there, basking in the balmy October sunshine. As part of the gallery’s Autumn Dance season performing art company mouth To mouth were hosting  their Virtual Jukebox, which brought members around the world together, via web link-up, for a dance-off. Visitors could select the music they danced to.
I love a good dance-off. I’ve taken part in a fair few myself, although these are normally at about 3am after several shots of tequila, rather than 3pm after nothing stronger than a milky coffee.
But, although I didn’t feel brave enough to join in, there was something incredibly uplifting about watching four people dancing uninhibitedly to the same tune, hundreds of thousands of miles apart.
I’m sure there were all kinds of messages in there about modern technology and communication, but what I took away from it was a reminder that, when you want to revel in a sense of unbridled joy in your mere existence, nothing beats a good dance.
See here for what else is coming up at the Arnolfini

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A couple of my purchases

Shopping away the blues

After a hectic weekend of seeing friends and family up in London, all fuelled by more alcohol than is medically advisable, I was feeling a severe case of the Monday blues. A good stiff drink normally sorts this out but I could hear my liver sobbing, so next on the list of quick-fix pick-me-ups was obviously some retail therapy.
I tend to gravitate more towards smaller more independent boutiques and charity shops rather than the big chains. I’ve nothing against the high street, I just sometimes find it all a bit overwhelming.
But after a long Monday at work I wanted pure escapism from the working week. I needed a haven from all the troubles and strifes of life, so there was only one place to go – Cabot Circus.
As soon as I walked across the walkway from the car-park I felt my breathing calm and the stresses of the day float away. All I had to think about was clothes, beautiful, frivolous clothes. Clothes I didn’t need or even know I wanted until I saw them.
I hit House of Fraser first, where I lusted over the new Biba designs, particularly a black velvet maxi dress and sequined cardigan. I held back from buying then and there but will definitely be back nearer the Christmas party season.
Office had some beautiful brogues which I stroked for a while. I haven’t bought into this trend yet but I can feel my resolve weakening by the day, especially now autumn is here, calling for sensible but stylish footwear.
In Urban Outfitters I really hit my stride, hauling an armful of cardigans, culottes, shorts and skirts to the dressing room (they let you take a lot into the cubicles, which are also gratifyingly large). I twirled in a beautiful pair of navy polka dot culottes for a while, before deciding the fabric separating the legs would annoy me and settling on a jersey skirt in green. From there I skipped on to Oasis, where I rapidly added a fitted black jumper with sequined bow detail and a black and white lace top to my booty.
Oasis has launched a new Style Icon range and I really though either the Stephanie or the Audrey trousers would finally solve my search for the perfect pair of cropped, black trousers. Sadly not. Somehow both the 10 and eight were both too large and too small at the same time. I don’t think I’m that strangely shaped but this always happens to me.
So my quest for the perfect pair of trousers continues but Cabot Circus had done the trick and dragged me out of my start of the week dumps. I might make it a regular Monday evening thing – while my bank account can hold out at least.