Saturday, 16 January 2016

Cooking Dinner (a tale of great responsibility) | Day 69/100

My husband and I have an understanding: he cooks, I clean. This setup was established early on in our relationship and suits us both fine. He loves his food, so is more adventurous with cooking, whereas I'll happily claim a chicken breast stuffed with basil and some boiled veg as a superior culinary dish.

Yeah, I know I got an A* in GCSE food tech. Geez, stop going on about it, but that doesn't mean I'm hugely imaginative when it comes to food or completely trust my cooking skills 13 years down the line.

Despite my protests, the task of cooking dinner tonight fell to me. I'm not sure how this happened, but I've decided to suck it up, because sometimes in life you have to do things you don't enjoy. Luckily, I didn't need to prepare the menu. The husband knows well enough that would be a step too far and he's not willing to gamble the enjoyment of his dinner by letting me Google around to find an appropriate dish, looking up ever more complicated gourmet style recipes - because I want to serve my husband man only the best - and settle on something fancy sounding like steak tartare with a par boiled egg, served on fresh asparagus with a cream truffle sauce (or something), only for me to give him raw meat poisoning, salmonella, pick frozen peas because Sainsbury's local were out of asparagus and then burn the sauce.

He picked a fool proof dish that he "whips up" when we're in a hurry or need to cater for a lot of people. It would be impossible for me to fudge it up. I don't think the dish really has a name. We just call it Chorizo and Lentils...because that's what's in it. Not exactly imaginative. Sometimes we stick the word 'stew' on the end of it, just so we can classify it.

Much to my surprise, the husband was right. I didn't stuff it up. And even managed to not burn the toast that I put under the grill while flitting between chopping parsley and stirring the chorizo and lentils. TONIGHT I OWNED THAT KITCHEN! I even got an encouraging, "this tastes really good," even though I know it tastes pretty much exactly the same as when he cooks it, but hey. It's a compliment for my cooking, so I'll take it.

But how is this foolproof dish created, I hear you cry. Well, don't tell him I'm sharing this (although I think he stole it from somewhere else), but here's the recipe.

How to cook Chorizo & Lentil 'Stew' 

Adorable. He even typed it up and printed it out for me, so it was super clear and I'd get his dinner right! That's love folks.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Mastering snooker | Day 68/100

The Masters snooker tournament has been on all this week. Currently, while writing this blog, I'm catching up on the Robertson v Trump match that was on this afternoon. I'm also drinking ale and eating blue cheese. I promise, I'm not an old man in disguise.

I know, snooker isn't everyone's cup of tea when it comes to sport, but over the last few years I've been really enjoying it. I love the suspense, the rivalries, the strategy and the players' ability to make totally un-pottable balls, pottable*. It's also really therapeutic. Like cricket, it's one of those sports that you can have on in the background, the comforting sound of the hushed commentators' voices and clatter of the snooker balls filling the silence while you carry on with other jobs. A glance back at the screen now and then will tell you if you need to pay more attention or not. It's the perfect winter sport to snuggle down to.

Yeah, I'm sure there are lots of well-versed fans that won't think of it like that, but that's what I enjoy about the game.

Anyway, as I watch it more I've been trying to become versed in the rules. I get the basics, but there are still laws in snooker that I don't get. I'm a long way off being sharp enough to do all the maths and work out when there are "snookers required". But there are other rules, like when one player fouls and then they're either made by the other player to replay the shot, or the non-hitting player (for lack of not knowing what else to call them) can come to the table and take the shot from the new position that the cue ball is in.

Does that make sense? Oh, ok I just looked it up. It's the rule of a foul or a miss leading to a free ball (seriously confusing). Turns out that the free ball rule is possibly the most complex, but here's what I've managed to find this evening to further my snooker education. A free ball is:

When a player is snookered on the reds after a foul shot by their opponent, they can nominate any colored ball on the table as a red. If that ball then gets potted, it counts as one point, it is respotted in its correct place on the table, and a color can then be nominated in the normal way. (taken from
So now we know what a free ball is, when is it a foul and miss? And when can the non-striking player request the striker to replay it?

From what I can gather, a 'miss' comes down, in part, to the referee's discretion. If they don't think a player has made enough of an effort to hit a ball that's hittable, then it's called as a miss and a foul. It gets complicated from here, but luckily the BBC are on hand to clear it up and have done a way better job at explaining:

After a foul and a miss has been called, the next player may ask the offender to play again from the position left or, at his discretion, from the original position. (taken from BBC Sports)
Now I'm somewhat better versed, I shall return to the snooker, and my ale, for the rest of the evening. If you don't think you're a snooker fan, but you're saying that without really having watched it, then I challenge you to spend just 15 minutes watching the final on Sunday. I reckon you'll be hard pushed to not be a little bit impressed with the skill you'll see and the suspense of 'will they, won't they make the pot?!' that will leave you feeling just a bit excited about snooker.

*If you watch snooker enough, then you'll come to accept that this is a perfectly acceptable word in the English language.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

A blooming lovely gesture | Day 59/100

January sucks big time. I'm yet to discover something wonderfully positive about this month. I think my husband feels the same, because he seems to have gone into total bad mood, hibernation mode. Mostly, I think it's because he's Australian and suffering from a lack of Vitamin D.

Anyway, it's not nice to see him so down so I've been thinking about how to put that smile back on his face. Knowing it was going to take more than some chocolate and back to back episodes of Blackadder to really make a smile stick, I thought, 'what one thing that no one can resist smiling at?'

The answer of course is PUPPIES!

That's right, it's really hard to not smile and feel instantly happy when presented with a puppy. Unfortunately, I don't have the time nor the budget to care for a small dog. So instead I opted for buying him a bunch of flowers, because we all know it's just as incredibly difficult not to smile when faced with a bunch of fresh smelling blooms.

Interestingly, while stood in the florists, I was trying to think back to another time when I'd bought flowers for a man. And I don't think I ever have. Surprising, considering I so enjoy breaking gender stereotypes and so gifting a man some flowers seems like an obvious one. I mean, think about how many people you've bought flowers for? And then how many of those recipients were men?

It's kind of funny really, how you can be in garden, or walking a meadow and men will stop and appreciate plants and flowers. But as soon as you pick them and wrap them up in a bunch there's this weird social convention that men won't appreciate them as much...or in the same way a woman would.

I remember sitting and watching the Olympic Games a few years back and a friend commenting on how "weird" it was that the male athletes get posies when they win. "Surely they should only be given to the women winners?" he questioned. Obviously there was no logic in his question and no reason why the male athletes wouldn't appreciate a posy of flowers, but it does go to show how this is one area that's still so gender stereotyped.

With Valentine's round the corner, I must keep an eye out for any interesting stats on giving flowers as gifts.

Anyway, gender politics aside, I'm pleased to report that this story has a happy ending. Giving the husband his bunch of flowers, his little face lit up with a smile I'd not seen all week. "You got me flowers!" Such was his surprise that it was hard not to laugh at him. In a nice way. Of course. He didn't think he'd ever been bought flowers before either, so a life first for both of us!

Mission accomplished.

For anyone not getting flowers, here are some puppies to lift your mood.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Estoy aprendiendo Espanol | 57/100

I'm learning Spanish. Or at least trying to. By my own admission, languages aren't really my strong point. I'm only three days in, so my vocabulary is still really limited. I even had to Google translate the title of this post - which reads 'I'm learning Spanish', in case you wondered - because I haven't learnt the words for 'I'm and 'learning' yet.

The motivation for trying to speak in Spanish is because the husband and I are off travelling to Central and South America next year. While he's already fluent in French and can get by in a restaurant with the little Spanish he's learnt, I'm totally new to it. At school I paid attention enough in French, just so I could be in a high enough set to drop that and learn German.

I know a *bit* of German. I got my C at GCSE, so can just about get by in a restaurant. We didn't do any Spanish and it wasn't really an option.

So far, in Spanish I know how to say 'the girl/boy' (la nina/el nino), 'I eat bread' (Yo comes pan) and 'You the man' (Tu el hombre...I think....I'm trying not to Google it). Doesn't sound much, but in three days I have become 2% fluent in Spanish. That's two percent more than I was a week ago.

Not sure how far I'll get doing just 10 minutes a day, but my aim is to get enough under my belt so that I can hold a basic conversation. And if I get lost/stranded anywhere that I'll at least be able to communicate on some basic level to get myself out of the pickle I find myself in. I'd also like to be able to know enough to order in a restaurant.

Doable? Here's hoping! Will keep you posted on progress. And for any of my friends that speak Spanish already, be warned. I may try some of my bad Spanish out on you in order to practise.  

All you have to do is pick up the sticks | Day 56/100

Today the husband and I were invited for a lazy New Year Sunday roast at a friend's house. While I wish I could dedicate this whole post to how tender the roast beef was, how perfectly crispy the roast potatoes were, how indulgent the cream leeks and bacon tasted, along with the several other side dishes, and a heap of delicious red wine to accompany it, sadly that's not where this story is going.

Instead, I wish to write about the really old game that we played, that I'd never played before and got way too competitive at.

You may have heard of it: it's called Pick Up Sticks, or more traditionally, 'Mikado'. According to the oracle that is Wikipedia, it got it's name from the highest scoring stick, known as the Mikado which means "Emperor". Interesting. It's also interesting that after reading the rest of the Wikipedia page, we in no way played the game right. But hey, it was a Sunday. We'd eaten a HUGE meal, drunk lots of red wine and so if we wanted to play by our own rules then we would.

The gist of the game (as we played it) was to remove as many of the wooden sticks from the pile without disrupting or moving any of the other sticks. If you did, then you has to leave the stick where it was, or randomly replace it. Manage to get hold of it without moving anything else and you keep the stick and get another go. In the proper game different coloured sticks have different point values, but we simply played that whoever managed to get the most sticks by the end of the pile, won.

Like I said, it was Sunday.

Anyway, I managed to get off to a good start, removing all the easy ones so had a three stick lead. But then our host managed to get the magic Mikado stick, so it was game on!

Honestly, I have never felt so tense about picking up an over sized cocktail stick as I did when playing this game. I had to wipe my hands dry of nervous sweat before each go as I tried to ping, swipe and manoeuvre each stick out of the pile.

My three stick lead quickly diminished, but luckily for me I have stupidly small pixie hands with little fingers. And I'd cut my nails that morning, which I definitely think gave me a tactical advantage. I managed a run of (carefully) grabbing 3 or 4 sticks in a row, thus giving me the lead. Ah, the satisfaction of winning a game you've never played before. Yes. I felt smug. I felt smug and skilled at how well I managed to pick up sticks. Because in that room I was the best stick picker upper.

What a claim to make!

Sadly, after my 11 stick victory no one wanted to play a second round and returned to more eating and red wine guzzling. All in all, a good Sunday.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Scrapbooking 2015 | Day 55/100

At the start of new years I know that the general rule is to look forward. To think ahead of all the fun things, exciting possibilities and new life experiences that the next 52 weeks can bring. While I have done a bit of that, I have to admit that 2015 was an exceptionally brilliant year for me: I had a hen party with some of my best friends and family; I got married; I saw some fabulous friends get married; my brother moved to London; drove a Mercedes; had friends and family visit from Australia and so much more that I can't even remember.

So yes, I know it's only the second day of 2016, but today I really enjoyed looking back at some of those super happy memories from just last year. I'm a big fan of actually getting photos printed. I have a draw full of them and am currently in the process of buying enough frames and photo albums to fit them all in. Today I finally got round to scrapbooking my hen party. That happened back in July, but I've only just had the spare money to get all the photos printed that I wanted.

As part of my hen party gift, my bridesmaids and friends created a book for me with photos and lovely messages for me to keep. The idea was that I then filled the rest of the pages with pics and mementos from the day. A glass of white wine, crap New Year holiday film's on the TV, blank pages and a stack of photos in front of me. I was the most relaxed and happy I'd been in weeks!

It's really hard not to smile from ear to ear when looking back through old photos. They're a brilliant remedy for when you've had a crap day. Rather than feel gloomy and let your photo albums gather dust on the shelf, pull one of them out and look back through the photos. Even if they were only taken a month or two ago, it doesn't matter how fresh the memory is, leaf through them and I bet you'll feel happier by the end of it.

Hen party done; next on to organising all my wedding snaps (I may be gone for some time...).

Thursday, 19 November 2015

A little slice of Italy in Herne Hill | Day 10/100

All pizza is not created equal. You will only understand this if you have visited a proper pizzeria and managed to distance yourself from both a) the mundane, tasteless supermarket options and b) over greasy, throw-any-shit-topping-on take away variety*. 

No. A proper pizza means you enjoy the dough, the simple yet wonderfully blended flavours and that extra drizzle of quality olive oil which you choose to put on only after your pizza has been served to you. Opposed to the dousing it gets before arriving at your door on the back of a scooter. 

A proper pizza is what you'll get if you visit Herne Hill's newest eatery: Pizzeria Pellone. Boasting a traditional Neapolitan wood oven, clearly whatever was cooking was working on the locals, because every time the husband and I walked past not a table was left empty. So it was time to try it for ourselves. 

Are we really still in South London?

Stepping inside it was easy to see and feel why Pizzeria Pellone has become such a hit. It felt like a little bit of Italy had arrived in Herne Hill. From the white and pebble stone walls, to the large pizza oven at the back and the friendly Italian chatter between the chefs and their happy - but very busy - wait staff, it was easy to imagine yourself not in South London, but in a bustling back street of Naples (the only area of Italy I have ever actually visited).

Look at him go!
The menu consisted of 10 pizza options and side salads. A specials board offered starters that ranged from a bowl of olives to mozzarella hidden under a layer of cured meat. Tempting, but not quite hungry enough for a first course and pizza, we instead went straight to the main event opting for an Ortolana (For di latte cheese, peppers, aubergine and basil) and Capricciosa (For di latte cheese, artichokes, mushroom, ham, olives, basil and tomato) pizza with a Pecorino side salad. All topped off with a bottle of red wine. Naturally. 

Our table was positioned parallel to the open plan kitchen, so we got a great view of the chef (who we assumed to be Pellone) creating the pizzas. We sat mesmerised as he worked each piece of dough into a uniformed pizza. Casually tossing it back and forth, decorating it with the required toppings and sliding into the wood oven. Each pizza took a matter of minutes or create, but then I suppose if you've been doing it for over 40 years you'd have picked up a trick or two along the way on how to save time.

It was fascinating to watch. As well as catering to all of the orders of the seated customers, there were also people popping in for a take away. I asked our waitress how many pizza's must Pellone make in an evening. She could only hazard a guess at "hundreds". Certainly not an exaggeration, as in the time we sat waiting he got through a whole rack of dough which we roughly calculated must have made around 70 pizzas. Just in the time we were waiting. Which was only, like, 20 minutes. If that!

A big pizza pie!

When the food arrived I was glad I held off on a starter. Forgetting my tape measure, I can only hazard a guess that it was at least 15 inches. Thin base, nice fluffy crust and so much topping: Pellone's pizza did not disappoint!

As we ate, we "Ooh-d" at the sight of the calzone being brought out for another soon-to-be satisfied customer. Definitely on my radar to try next time.

In true Italian dining style we talked lots and ate slowly. Good job too, as the pizza was so big we needed time to digest and try to find space for that little bit more. Too tasty to leave, we managed to finish both pizzas and the salad.

To top it all off, the price at Pizzeria Pellone is extremely reasonable. Our total bill came to just £35, including the wine.

Feeling fully satisfied we managed to roll ourselves home in a mild pizza food coma.

If you want a mid-week, good feed outdoors, then definitely pay a visit to Pizzeria Pellone in either Herne Hill and now Croydon.

*Its been recommended (by my husband) that I clarify my overall dislike for crap, cheap take away pizza. He calls it "a vendetta", whereas I simply call it a willing refusal to put shit in my mouth. 

Also, sorry for not getting a photo of the actual pizza. I was too busy eating and enjoying it to remember to take a snap!