Travel

Itchy feet

It feels like it’s that time of year when so many people are starting to make travel plans for this year. I know my feet are starting to feel itchy – between hearing of the holidays friends are booking, seeing the photos from friends who are travelling already this year and watching one too many programme set abroad my thoughts are definitely drifting to my own plans for this year.

Last year was brilliant, I managed a fantastic city break in San Francisco in April and then a hugely relaxing resort holiday in Mallorca in October. I enjoyed them both thoroughly, they were both such different trips and were both perfect in their own ways.

I’m not really sure what I want from a holiday this year. We did have plans to try and get our long planned for trip to New York fitted in this year, but I’m not interested in travelling to the USA at the moment so that’s been put on a back burner. There’s plenty of Europe left for me to visit, and while I’m keen to visit Canada, Australia and New Zealand one day they’re all currently out of my reach.

I saw someone sharing video from the Irish coast at the weekend and felt the pull of the sea, I think that might call for a road trip sooner rather than later though! In the short term I’m off to Verwood tomorrow for a few days. I’m pretty sure I’ll see the sea while I’m there, that’ll be a good start.

Reading

Getting back to facts

A contestant on a quiz show I was watching earlier talked about being a voracious reader (she read anything from 1 to 10 books a week) and how her favourite books to read were autobiographies because she liked to know about people’s lives. This made me think, particularly as I’d spent the afternoon as the cinema watching the excellent Hidden Figures.

I read a lot by most people’s standards. I don’t read a whole lot of nonfiction though. Most years I read in excess of 100 books and less than 10 will have been nonfiction. There’s no good reason for this though, I love a good autobiography (like the woman on the quiz I love finding out about other people’s lives) and am slowly getting to grips with essay collections.

I’m currently reading an essay collection by Alana Massey (very slowly, since stopping my daily commute I’ve seen a significant drop off in reading) and am putting the Hidden Figures book on my must read soon list. I’m going to try for the rest of the year to make sure that the proportion of nonfiction ends up significant more than normal. I want to make sure it’s a good mixture of nonfiction too – it’d be easy to just catch up on some of the autobiographies I’ve been meaning to read for the last few years but instead I’ll try to make my nonfiction reading more rounded in the same was as I do with my fiction reading. It feels increasingly important that facts and truths and knowledge are at the centre of everything so I’m ready to get reading and learning. 

Craft

Handmade thanks

I mentioned last Monday that I’d been designing and working on a small cross stitch project. I posted it off on Friday and it’s been received today so I can share it here.


The project was a thank you card to send to my former colleagues (along with some biscuits for the treats table). I wanted to thank them for being brilliant and for the great send off they’d given me, something like that definitely deserves a handmade effort.

It was fun to make, and I found that while I was stitching I kept them all in mind which made the making experience all the nicer. 

Baking · Gluten Free

Delicious Alchemy Chocolate Brownies

Yesterday I turned my hand back to a little gluten free baking. It’s the first baking I’ve done in ages – my kitchen in London wasn’t ideally set up for any baking (the oven for starters was somewhat untrustworthy) so it was one of my things that I let slide. Now I’m back home I definitely want to be baking more – it’s another creative pursuit that I enjoy and find hugely beneficial to my well being, plus I get hopefully delicious things to eat at the end of it.

I was given a pack of Delicious Alchemy’s Chocolate Brownie mix as part of a Christmas present, I thought they’d be a great way of easing my way back into baking. The instructions seemed simple, you only need to add butter and eggs. I got set up and ready to start.

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Making the brownies was super easy, and generated very little washing up. From first opening the cupboard to get the mixing bowl out to putting them in the oven would have probably taken under 10 minutes but as I was recording the process on my Instagram Story it took me a little longer.

The instructions said to bake the brownies for 18-22 minutes. I checked them at both 18 and 22 minutes but they were still very soft at 22 minutes so I left them in a few minutes more. Once they’ve finished baking they do have to be left in the tin for another 20 minutes before you take them out, then allowing to cool fully before you cut them. I did all of this and still when I came to cut them up they were very soft and fudgey. I prefer my brownies and the soft and fudgey side but I think that if I make these brownies again I’d leave them a little longer in the oven – these would be difficult to take out in a lunch box for instance.

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The brownies taste delicious. I’ve been disappointed lately by a few gluten free chocolate cakes and desserts that look like they’re going to taste amazing but actually end up tasting only of a hint of chocolate. These brownies certainly don’t disappoint on this, they taste very chocolatey and are full of chocolate chips. I cut the 8 inch square tin of brownies into 12 pieces. I would be tempted next time to cut them into 9 instead and have slightly bigger portions.

I’m really impressed with this mix. I think it’s one I’ll be keeping in my store cupboard as an easy baking fall back. It’s the first Delicious Alchemy product I’ve tried, based on how good it is I think I need to check out the rest of their range.

 

Life

What’s the story?

I’ve been having fun today with my Instagram story. I must admit I was a little dubious when Instagram first brought in stories – I’d been casually using (very casually) Snapchat for a couple of years and wasn’t sure what I would use it for. Quickly though it’s become such an integral part of Instagram for me, Instagram as a whole has become one of my favourite corners of the Internet and stories have really enriched the experience.

I don’t feel like I’m necessarily using Stories to their fullest advantage. I don’t have any particular plan for using it, but when I remember I try and put some things on there during my day. I think at the moment my plan is to use them more consistently and work out what I want to use them for through a bit of trial and error. My life looks pretty different to how it looked a couple of weeks ago as a result of my move home, I think this is contributing to the way I feel like I want to work things like this out.

This afternoon I baked brownies. I’m planning to write a blog post about them so I had my phone to hand to grab a couple of photos, as I set the first one up I remembered Instagram and decided to start Story-fying my baking. I enjoyed stopping and thinking about what to include and which steps to omit. I think baking was an easy one to try this out with – it’s a fairly quick process, and has defined steps. I’m not so sure about how I would use stories for some of my other slower creative pursuits.

I shall continue experimenting for a whole yet. I want to learn how to use the hands free option (I follow someone who uses it when they’re playing the piano and every time I see these stories it makes me wonder how they do it so seamlessly). I need to get better at doing video of me doing things (I did a story of me working on a cross stitch design earlier this week and it was so hard to coordinate in my brain). I would love to actually get me in it too now and again. Lots of fun and learning ahead I think!

Films · Music

Beauty and the carpet bag.

I’ve just read the wonderful news that Angela Lansbury has been cast in Mary Poppins Returns. Apparently she’ll be playing the Balloon Lady, a character from the books.

I’m thrilled she’s going to be in this film, I love her and I’m really looking forward to the film so it seems like a great combination for me. This news has made me realise that I maybe should have read the books by now, Mary Poppins is a film I love dearly so it seems a little remiss of me to have not gone back and read the books that came before it. I’m going to read them before Mary Poppins Returns comes out.

The other thing this news has made me think of is this wonderful video of Angela Lansbury at last year’s 25th anniversary screening of Beauty and the Beast.