a blog about an Essex girl living in Swansea, chatting about baking, rowing, other bits and bobs, and some crazy teaching times in India

Thursday, 29 November 2012

You sound you're from LAAANDAN!

I went to London on Tuesday. I'm convinced I want to live there when I'm older. The Megabus drove through the streets of Chelsea and Kensington; my face pressed to the window in awe. One day I'll be living in one of those houses, traditional and white, or cream, the inside will be furnished with bare wood and pale coloured rugs, and there will be at least one mirror encased in a wicker frame. Crowded with various things from quirky shops, hand-decorated photo frames, macrame plant pot holders...

Dream big, think bigger, do even better. Push yourself to the limits and you might end up where you want to be. That's what they say isn't it? We want to push for success and money, material gains. What's wrong with making mediocre plans nowadays? Wishing for the basics, a good family, a place to live, and a job you like. I could settle for that. It's nice to have lots of pretty things, but I guess it's not essential. I like showing off, but what is there to show off if you're not happy? It's always nice to dream as well. I did it when I was younger, I'd draw and draw, crafting my ideal family in pencil, or sometimes pen. It'd be modelled on my family, that's where I drew my inspiration from. I'd be the Mum, I had a husband, 2D figure in the style of Nick Sharratt's illustrations for Jacqueline Wilson's books. Sideways noses, thin necks, hardly supporting the head of the disproportional bodies I drew. Three children, one girl, two boys, one of them still a baby. All with mildly popular names. Nuclear family. I wanted all this by a certain age. It's strange how plans change, I would be horrified if I'd completed all these things within the timescale I set up in my eleven year old self. I'm not entirely sure what I want now, which is good. I'm only young, I have the rest of my life ahead of me.

I'll write something about London properly in my next post, maybe?

Big love, xo

Saturday, 24 November 2012

So many plans!

I'm far too excited for Christmas! It's almost December, which means it's almost celebration month. December has always been a succession of birthdays for me, mine, my Dad's, and my Grandad's; they're all pretty close together. My friend Lucy's has been thrown into the mix as well, she's born the day before me. Then there's Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year's Eve. I feel exhausted listing them, let alone actually partaking in them. 

I have so much to look forward to this coming month, other than these dates. I have a sea rowing race in December in Norwich, which I cannot wait for, even though it'll be bitterly cold. It's going to be fun getting back into one of those big gig boats and rowing with my club back home! Then with the university there's the Welsh Indoors (which I won't say I'm looking forward to, we have to do a two kilometre test on a rowing machine - painful!) and also the Monmouth Head Race. I'm working over Christmas too, and whilst that may not sound exciting, it is slightly, because my shop back home gets so festive in the run up to the holidays - plus I'll get to see all the girls who work there (I say girls, some of them are my mum's age, but nevertheless they are brilliant)! Plus, I'll get to see all my friends back home that I am missing huge amounts at the moment. I have a Skype date with two of them tomorrow night!

Some things are even nearer on the horizon than I expected, too! I am going to London this week to see my friend from home - I have my fingers crossed that we'll go to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and do some skating or something. Well, I don't really have my fingers crossed. I just know I'll whine and whinge about it for long enough that he might give in and we'll go there because he'll want me to be shut up about it. Actually, just walking around London to see the lights will do, as long as there's a bakery stop at some point. Cupcakes in London are the best. It's a ten hour round trip on the coach though. I am going to have to invest in some kind of entertainment - I'll probably end up buying some trashy magazines. You know the ones with the ridiculous stories; 'Aliens stole my toe,' 'Big Macs made me go blind,' 'I got married in a giant shoe' or some other nonsense. They're my favourite for long haul trips.

I guess the point in this post is that it's not all bad. It might be dreary outside, with the constant drizzle (or if you live in Wales, the flood-like quantities) of rain might be less than appealing, and everyone is experiencing the winter blues (it's mostly homesickness from what I've gathered), but thinking of all those lovely things you have happening to you is definitely going to cheer you up. 

My Dad is a very wise man. I am definitely one of the ones with the winter blues, because I'm calling home everyday! But he gave me some very good advice - to focus on what's happening now, and what good things you have coming up. Not to dwell on things that have happened, or what might happen that you're worried about, just to focus on the here and now. My Dad is wise for more reasons than that, though. 

So that's what I'm doing. I'm getting all festive. I want to wrap myself up in fairy lights and bake gingerbread, cutting it out in bauble and tree shaped patterns. Christmas definitely makes me crazy.

I am doing an essay right now though. That's less exciting. Much less. 

I wonder if they'll ever decorate the library with tinsel? They definitely should. 

Big love, xo

Monday, 19 November 2012

This time it's on paper

Writing in blue pen is something of a novelty for me. Always black, always a biro, always made by Bic. I've convinced myself that I don't trust any other pen manufacturer; I am skeptical of any writing instrument without an immediately recognisable brand stamp. This one is pretty though. Pink hearts of varying shades cover the middle section, the silver clip at the top printed with neat lettering: Emma Bridgewater.

I'm a sucker for brands. I'm that typical materialistic market consumer, enjoying owning anything with a label on it. I tell myself it's because those items are better quality than cheaper brands, but I know it's more to do with looking good. Truth is, you can look good in a charity shop outfit. I have Primark tops which have lasted years and still look pretty damn good on, even if I do say so myself. Just because you're showing off your Hollister and Ralph Lauren logos, emblazoned on the front on that cute cable knit jumper you're sporting, doesn't make you a better person.

I can hardly speak. I went to Cardiff on Thursday for a talk (uni-related, I got terribly lost trying to find the building), and ended up doing some late night shopping afterwards, getting sucked into the overperfumed realms of Gilly Hicks to buy, ironically enough, a bottle of perfume. It does smell nice though. I'm surprised I found the fragrance section. It's so dark in there. I almost walked into a mirror, I'm not even joking. The sales assistant was definitely laughing at me.

I wonder if we'll ever change? I wonder if people will stop this desperation to own expensive brands? I know I've only talked about high street designers, but its like a brainwash effect. Will there be a day when I don't actually see anyone on campus dressed in a Superdry hoodie?

I say this as I slip on my Hollister top.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Recipe Time: Spiced pear cupcakes

FINALLY. A recipe. Make these little winter warmers and brighten up those chilly evenings in.

Okay so this is an easy one. I'm such a cheater. Refer back to my Vanilla Cupcakes Recipe, and follow the instructions until you reach step 3, just before you fold in the flour.

This will make about ten cupcakes.


What You'll Need...
All the ingredients from the vanilla cupcakes recipe
Two tinned pear halves, chopped finely
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
150ml double cream

1. After following the steps from the previous recipe, you'll be at the point where you'll want to be folding in the flour. Make sure you add the spices to the flour mix, and then you can begin to fold in the dry ingredients.
2. Now add the pear pieces. Stir these in until they are well distributed among the mixture.
3. Pop the mixture into the cake cases that you've lined your trays with. Fill to about three-quarters full, as usual.
4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
5. Leave them to cool after taking out the oven.

6. Whilst waiting for the cupcakes to cool, whisk the double cream until it is light and fluffy.

7. When the cakes are cool, use a teaspoon to place the cream on top of each one. You can do it as messy or neatly as you like! I then finished with a dusting of cinnamon.

Beautiful! Now go eat!

Big love, xo

Hitting rock bottom

This is the beginning of a multiple post spree. After a week of hell (I'm not even exaggerating), which I did partly bring upon myself, I am setting myself up in the library. Ready to work/at least pretend to be working. Getting things done. That doesn't necessarily mean doing university-related studying, it includes a manner of all things. I have my belongings spread out around me, laptop case to my right (one of my most pretty studious possessions, it has a Cath Kidston-esque rose pattern; it makes me feel better about lugging my laptop onto campus); a block of lined paper to my left, covered by forms I have received this week (all shall be explained); and then my slightly battered pencil case rests on top of this slightly disorganised pile. I had full faith in nabbing the corner desk; the basement part of the library is never packed out unless it is exam time, but have had to settle for another. It's not quite the same. Massive evils for the guy who is sitting in my spot. Go swap seats please, and take your massive folder with you. It's not even a nice coloured folder. I need to stop being so possessive. Or stop being a bitch. One of the two.

I shall start by explaining a bit about That Week. I've began the words in capitals because it is that type of experience in my life that I know I want to forget but will have to refer to it at some point in future. It has to have a name, because it is a relevant piece of history. It's like the Easter weekend or something, only a lot less festive and a lot more depressing. But maybe a similar amount of chocolate is needed. If only I wasn't pretending to be healthy... (This consists of eating less junk-type food but huge portions of it, so, in effect, I'm still a little piggy whatever I do. Dieting doesn't seem to work on me, ever).

Back to the story. I went out with a boy. A really lovely one at that. Lovely isn't even the word. Kind of indescribable. I was one of those cringey relationship people that I now hate - not hate, really, but I am probably just massively jealous of. I was soppy, I was so willing to please, I would have done anything for him. But this summer, everything took a turn for the worse. Bloody hell, I think I'm going to have a little weep in the library. Pull yourself together woman! We went through the break-up motions. There wasn't really any sense to it; I didn't see any sense to it. And it hurt. Feelings changed, things wobbled, the balance was thrown off. It's never returned either. It's like a boat. Hello rowing reference. We're sitting in a pair, one behind the other, and our hand heights are terrible; my oar is hitting the water, and his is somewhere up in the air. We're trying, we're trying so hard to get it back, but somehow we can't readjust. We're always somewhere far from getting it right. The boat shudders, halts, I fall in. I'm now in a entirely different place altogether from him. Dragged underwater, the current is pulling me... I'm trying to swim, trying to breathe. I am struggling. We're totally separate. Apart.

I should have told him. I should have done things differently. I should have considered the future. We can't change the past though can we? My silly decisions have led me to this outcome, and now I have to live with it. I think I might have accepted that, but I think a tiny part of me is telling me it's all a bad dream. I wish it was a nightmare - I will wake up soon, in my bed at home, perhaps in a hot sweat and clothed in my Eeyore nightie (I don't bring this to uni, it's too embarrassing). I'll be eighteen, I'll be full of ambition and dreams and idealised university nonsense. Nothing will have hurt me, hurt anyone. Innocence is bliss.

I don't really wish that. I kind of do.

This week has been horrible because I lost him again, when I thought things were coming together. Hopes were crushed, again. It's hideous when you've built yourself up numerous times and every time you've been pushed back down. Flattened. Fly swatter. Smack in the face, squished on a wall. Destiny is the black bin bag, joining the rest of the unwanted rubbish.

'It's good you hit bottom. Now the only place you can go is up.'
You're totally right, Jill Clayburgh. I love the film Bridesmaids.

That was deep for a library session. I stopped midway through this for a food break, and am now a bit spaced out, sipping on my Praline and Cream Latte (oooohhhh Christmas coffee!) from the Costa outlet which takes pride of place in the front foyer of the library, raking in buckets of dollar from the caffeine junkies of Swansea University. I happen to be one of those, buzzing in the library, diffusing my tiredness. Bit disappointed. I got cream  (of course. I already said, I'm a little piggy) but underneath that it was more foam than coffee. No good. Should I email them complaining? RA, RA, RA, I DIDN'T GET ENOUGH COFFEE IN MY CUP.

It's sad that talking about the quality of my coffee is an interesting topic for me right now.

Big love, stay safe. Tell the truth always. xo

P.S. You're not just the main character in your life story. You're the author. Don't get stuck on one page, write that book for yourself. You have the opportunity to begin a new chapter, slowly but surely.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Recent Bakes

I will try and post recipes for these as soon as I can. I'm hideously busy with university work at the moment, but here are a couple of pictures you can have a nose at. I got into a bit of bake-off with myself, making three different types of cake in one morning. Productive, as always.

These are the spiced pear cupcakes that I made - they have whipped cream on the top. Yummy!

Rainbow cake is so much more colourful than normal cake... 

Finished rainbow cakes

Banana and chocolate loaf. Most calorific thing ever!

Big love, xo

Remembrance Day, a day late

Lest we forget.

Remembrance Day is so important in our history, it is entrenched in our calendar and our culture to remember those that fought for us in the many wars our country has participated in. I'd like to take this day to remember someone who was very special to me - who is still very special to me. He holds a place in my heart still, and if I'm being honest, I haven't completely accepted that he is gone. My lovely Grandad, my mother's father, who lived a fabulously long life, and hopefully was super proud of all of his achievements.

This man was brilliant. He served his Queen and country, working during the Second World War, and he had even worked as a guard for Buckingham Palace. Sadly, later in life, he suffered from an accident at work where hot liquid rendered his leg permanently in a dressing. Despite this, he never complained about it. I never heard him complain. He had a lovely wife who I never had the fortune to meet, but my Mum has talked about her... That's my Mum's mother. His first wife died. Then a daughter who could sometimes be a bit bossy and concerned, but was only wishing for the best for him (a bit like me, I sometimes think). Then three grandchildren. I hope you're proud of us now, Grandad.

I love you.

Lest we forget. I will always remember you, Grandad. I hope you're smiling down at me from heaven.

Big love, and big love to those that will never be forgotten, xo

Friday, 2 November 2012

One of those moods

I'm in one of those moods. I want to curl up in my bed with a huge box of chocolates and eat all the good ones, and pretend to eat the ones that aren't so nice, but really put them back in the box half-eaten. I want to put on P.S. I Love You and pretend I'm going to go to Ireland soon. I want fizzy water. Lots of it. That Pear and Elderflower flavour that the Tesco Express has now started selling. I want to wear my comfiest (and possibly ugliest) pair of pyjamas, and roll myself up in the fluffy pink blanket. Of course it's pink. I want to watch Like Crazy without crying myself a little river.

All these things are perfectly doable, but I am busy. I don't have time for moping today.

I want, I want, I want. "No Naomi," my Mum says, it's "I would like." I'm being a bit self-absorbed, really.

I am missing people.

I'll post a recipe tomorrow, why not? And bake. I want banana loaf.

I'm just in one of those moods.

Big love, xo