15 December 2010

out and about...an enchanted evening

I had a lovely evening on Saturday at Gateshead's Enchanted Parks A Gateshead winter's tale, which is a festival of lights, sound and performance in Saltwell Park.  It is hard to describe how beautiful it was with the winter-bare trees, how amazed I felt walking round, how breathtaking the park looked full of light and snow, and how absolutely freezing it was.  I ended the night with two frozen sore hands and a fancy phone full of photos (around 100).  I found it almost impossible to choose a few images from the masses I took so I got some much-needed assistance from my boyfriend P, so we have him to thank for the following...

09 December 2010

a spot of culture...field music at the cluny

Just got back in from seeing Field Music at the Cluny in the Ouseburn area of Newcastle.  It's the first gig I've been to for ages, and a perfect one to get back in the saddle, so to speak.  Field Music is one of my favourite bands, lead by two brothers - David and Peter Brewis from Sunderland in the north east of England.  I love that you can hear their accents in the music.  And I like their other incarnations - School of Language and the Week that Was too.  They are well worth a listen.  Too tired to write more...zzzzz

30 November 2010

out and about...the snow chronicles

We've had an incredible amount of snow in Newcastle over the last few days, which has created many photo opportunities of white, sparkling blankets smothering everything, but hasn't been especially helpful for taking part in typical day to day activities such as walking about, using the bus and working.  

Here are some photos (although not the best ones you've ever seen)...

day one - thursday morning waiting for the bus

day two - friday morning in my garden

day three - saturday just before lunch walking on the street around the corner, you wouldn't think this was a major city bus route...

day four - sunday at 1.45 in the morning (no flash) marveling at how light it is out, although not really bright enough to take a decent photo

day four - sunday at 1.45 in the morning (with flash) - i felt a bit odd taking photos so later/early...!

day five - monday early evening looking at the pink clouds

day six - tuesday late afternoon, walking home

It has led to an interesting approach to getting dressed, with an overwhelming focus on warmth and practicality rather than style.  Gone are the days of how many different pairs of shoes can I wear in a week to what, if anything, goes with my wellies. It's like having a competition with myself around how many items of clothes I can wear at any one time (too many to count), and realising that layering clothes is only limited by size of your coat sleeves or the importance of being able to bend your arms.  I've worked out I can fit a slip (how old school is that?!), a vest, a thermal long sleeved top and a jumper under my ultra-bright tartan pinafore dress from Dolly Dare.  

getting crafty...counting down to christmas

So it's time to reveal the advent calendar my boyfriend and I have made for each other.  As a reminder, he's working in the US just now so I've sent him off with the odd numbers and I've got the even ones.  Here are the ones I've got so far pegged on some bakers' string with mini pegs...doesn't it look delightful!

I'm very excited about P opening his first one tomorrow, and for me to open my first on 2 December.

11 November 2010

out in the garden...a mite blustery

11.00 at night is a strange time to be out in the garden but the gale-force winds up in here in the frozen north, charging around my back garden, have dragged me out of the warmth of my living room to rescue the parasol, which had blown over despite the four slabs holding it down.  Talk about blustery! 

10 November 2010

getting crafty...red and white string

This wonderful bakers' string arrived for me today from an online vintage fabric emporium called Donna Flower, and it even arrived in a matching red and white striped paper bag, held closed by a piece of Japanese masking tape...I love a nice bit of attention to detail. I'm bursting to do more Christmas crafting.  I've had quite a pom pom focus so far, making a random selection of coloured balls for decorating parcels and two garlands - one for us (snowballs) and another as a gift (rainbow).  I'll get around to taking some snaps and uploading them soon.

My boyfriend and I have also made an advent calendar for each other, based on these posts from Bugs and Fishes and Nice Package, using little brown envelopes, covered in a variety of backgrounds (doilies, graph paper, flock wrapping paper and pages from a damaged vintage book) and paper numbers using the same papers, and then stuffed with little gifts and notes and decorations, well that's what I've put in P's...I don't know what's in mine and I hope they are on their way.  P is working in America just now so he's sent them in the post...I hope!  He's got odd numbers and I've got even numbers so every day one of us will open an envelope, not only counting down the days until Christmas but also the days until we see each other next.  I'm very excited!

08 November 2010

blogging...what a to do!

Oh dear, I've not done very well with this blogging lark, have I?  And I've had so much to talk about too!  My partner, P, has been over for a week from Cape Cod, Massachusetts; we've been to sunny Scarborough in Yorkshire; I've been to the NewcastleGateshead Art Fair and to Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival at the Sage, Gateshead; there's been fireworks and an invasion of trick or treaters; and Design Week 2010.  And I've got back into the swing of tights and dresses after a summer hiatus...it's all go.

So, what's the verdict?  Must try harder I think.  My 8 November resolution is therefore to get back to the blog and to catch up on all these exciting things over the next week or so.

I'll be back soon xx

19 October 2010

out and about...a very early start, for me at least

Here is a bad photograph of the Tyne and some its bridges at 7.30 this morning from the train going to Middlesbrough from Newcastle for a training course. It's proof that I can get up on a morning...although perhaps the quality of the photo snapped with my fancy phone shows I can barely function. Or perhaps it's the moving train what done it. And *hushed whisper* there are even people with bikes! Imagine doing that kind of exercise at this crazy time in the morning.

18 October 2010

a spot of culture and something a bit more serious...cafe culture - philosophy and feminism

I went to another cafe culture event this evening for a spot of light hearted entertainment!

So, the blurb said: Kay Black [a lecturer in politics and feminism at Newcastle university] will consider the contribution feminism has made to recent developments in moral philosophy. 

What it all boiled down to is that traditional philosophy ie male-dominated philosophy says that women have a poorly developed sense of morals and ethics because we get stuck at a state of being overly concerned about what others think of us, always eager to please and always wanting to avoid conflict.  This is an emotional response, not a rational response, which is male and considered to be superior.  Feminist ethics says that it is a nonsense to compare the two and that one is no more advanced or better than the other because we all, men and women, have both rational and emotional states of thinking, and that we must employ both for effective decision making.  And, if we try to separate the two we make poor decisions or are unable to make decisions at all because we need passion or emotions to stimulate and motivate ourselves to make decisions.  The speaker illustrated this by saying it has been tested by working with people who, after an accident or something else, have damaged the part of the brain that controls emotion and they find it very difficult to make a decision, even only using rational approaches.  It is also evidenced by those people who have been abused as children or as adults and have suppressed their emotions to such an extent that it too affects their ability to make decisions and to function.  I can't comment on this because I don't know enough about it.

So, ultimately, the feminist approach to philosophy is about using the whole self, holisticism if you will.

The questions and discussions part of the evening after the talk was very interesting too touching on a huge range of issues...
* the early sexualisation of girls
* the impact the media has on young women, their body image and self esteem
* whether feminism is a dirty word and if it could or should be re-branded - we didn't think so though I think that there was a feeling that holisticism would be closest
* the confusion we all have about what feminism actually means and the many branches of the political movement - radical, lipstick, liberal, post-modern, marxist, etc - and how radical feminism in the 80s, while responsible for many advances for women, also gave feminism a 'bad name' as it was lead by many loud, vocal women, some of them definitely card-carrying men haters
* the use of words
* the steady, continuing drip, drip of misogyny and how women are complicit in this


One of the key points we came to was how we as women shouldn't try to fit in with how men have set up society and the structures we live and work within, instead we should push for a system where it works for us both, not just one group...again a holistic approach, where no one loses.

A true challenge, I think, but one I'm certainly up for.  What about you?

16 October 2010

getting crafty...pom pom crazy, pom pom mad

Little balls of wool waiting oh so patiently to become a pom pom garland for a christmas gift...I'm taking my cue from other crafters and getting my skates on, looking sharp, and other assorted metaphors, for homemade gifts this year. I'll have a pom pom photo shoot as soon as I can!

13 October 2010

eating out...another relaxing evening in pani's cafe

I'm slightly worried that my brand new shiny blog appears to be only about food when it's supposed to be about all kinds of stuff...hmmm...

Anyway, Tuesday I went to a Newcastle restaurant called Pani's, which is tucked away down a cobbled side street.  It's a wonderful Italian eatery, very relaxed with fabulous food.  I had ravioli con scamorza, which is ravioli filled with aubergines and scamorza cheese in a butter and olive oil sauce topped with percorino cheese.  Even though the cheese sounds like a James Bond villain, it was lovely, all fresh and bright tasting, yum.

My friends had ravioli filled with lobster with a tomato, cream and prawn sauce and pork fillet with a mushroom and olive sauce.

The affogato al caffe - ice cream with an espresso poured over the top - was as fabulous as usual.  And something I've never succeeded at recreating at home...must try harder!

Panis also has a special place in my heart as it's where my boyfriend and I went on our first date (I'm smiling now...).

eating in...what i ate when i was poorly

I made myself eat lovely food when I was poorly at the weekend, even though I didn't really fancy it...

...soft boiled eggs and soldiers

...eastern potatoes with spinach and poached egg

...pea and pancetta risotto

...and some cherry bakewells from the evil supermarket up the road that's in walking distance.  I was obviously thrilled that one had two cherries but just look at the state of the others.  I sent a funny email to the evil supermarket in question suggesting they do a bit of quality control at their cherry bakewell factory so I hope to get a voucher for even more cherry bakewells!  Who knows?!

08 October 2010

home sweet home...poorly sick at home

Well this is unexpected, a day off work feeling all rubbish and sorry for myself.  It's lucky I've got my get better soon tray sorted out, which features teapot of tea, my favourite orange mug, milk in grandma's jug and magazines.  We've got Living etc and Elle decoration to marvel at, frankly impossible, interiors, super cool, full of mid 20th century furniture, all the pieces you've ever dreamt of, plus Vogue to transport me to a place of fantasy, especially useful when bundled up in pyjamas.  I think an article on 21 ways to evening chic is especially useful on a day when I haven't even washed my hair.

The weather is awful today so it's maybe a good thing to be stuck inside feeling sorry for myself.  It's what the Scottish would call dreich - grey, a bit foggy, with a touch of drizzle thrown in for good measure.  I wonder where Newcastle's so-called Indian summer is...?

04 October 2010

a spot of culture and something a bit more serious...cafe culture - british prisons: fit for purpose?

I went to a Cafe Culture debate for the first time in ages tonight, which was on the fascinating topic of prisons and crime.  The blurb from the leaflet says 'leading criminologist Dr David Wilson will argue how our punitive penal system fails to tackle the causes of crime and explores the alternatives.'  Tonight we learnt that the most common murder victims are boys aged under two who are murdered by someone they know, whereas only six children per year are murdered by strangers, and that's a figure that hasn't changed for decades.  We also learnt that in England and Wales we spend on average £45,000 keeping someone in prison for one year yet crimes committed by people newly released from prison cost us £13billion per year, a staggering amount.  Just imagine if we could save half of that, what positive difference that could make.

Dr Wilson told us about a forward-thinking idea taking root in America called justice reinvestment, which removes money from the criminal justice system and spends it in communities that face the most crime on what local people need to tackle the reasons why crimes are committed there.  And it makes a difference to those who suffer the affects of crime and those who commit crimes, and it saves money.  The money is used for education projects, hostels, employment skills, developing community infrastructure, anything that works with those people who typically commit crimes and go to prison.

He also casually dropped in how there is a direct correlation between children who are excluded from school and committing crimes and being sent to prison.  And that a culture where everyone is valued the state and by others is one where there is less crime and fewer people in prison.

Churchill said that we judge a civilisation by how it treats its criminals, and I think this is important for us all to reflect upon.  We need to think about how we can value people more in our daily lives, to ask questions of those in power and to be involved and engaged in our local communities.  This is a challenge, even for me as someone who works in the voluntary sector, but we need to make a start to make our local communities, our cities and our country a better place to live in.

Oops, went a bit lecturey there, sorry!

02 October 2010

eating in...pork and pie and plums

No, not together, that'd be to unusual, even for me!

Instead we have a glorious small pork pie from Newcastle's farmers' market (which is on the first Friday each month by the Monument) served hot with mushy peas and brown sauce (I tend to have HP but my boyfriend prefers Daddy's).  I haven't met anyone else who has this but I remember occasionally having it as a child so maybe it's a Yorkshire delicacy.  I now have it once a month at least during the winter months.

I also poached some plums.  Look at the glorious blushing around the edges of the yellow flesh with a fabulously pink juice at the bottom of the pan.  I think I'll have some with Greek yogurt and flaked almonds...mmm!

01 October 2010

out and about...love letters straight from your heart

I stumbled across this lovely message in Heaton Park walking home after work the other evening, the only day it hasn't rained this week.  What a wonderful thing!

out and about...in a street near me

Even the dreariest, foot-soaking, most depressing day in Newcastle gives you something to smile about...

25 September 2010

eating in and eating out...british food fortnight 2010

We don't need a dedicated fortnight to celebrate the wonders of British food but it's a good excuse.  This year's runs from 18 September to 3 October, and I will try to indulge in as much lovely British food as possible, not with any especially patriotic fervour, just because it's harvest time and it's mouthwateringly lovely!  I'm sure it's no coincidence that it's at this time of year with a huge glut of British food...all these are in season now...blackberries, plums, apples, damsons, pears, beetroot, broccoli, sprouts (just starting but probably not at their best for a month or two yet), cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, celery, start of the leeks, parsnips, spinach.  Plus there's still the end of the summer produce knocking about...raspberries, apricots, beans, tomatoes...what a wonderful feast!

It is also a great way to support the local economy, especially local farmers, local markets, local eateries and local independent shops. 

Great examples of British food is turned out every day at Canteen, but that's in London, out of regular grasp of us northerners.  I last visited Canteen Spitalfields in July and had a fantastic chicken, tarragon and walnut salad followed by a very adult blackcurrant jelly, absolutely zinging with flavour.  I was thrilled when they published their very own cookery book called Great British food, which not only has stacks of fabulous recipes but looks really quite spiffing too - a cover of brown paper, black old fashioned font and the strapline on the back just sums it up perfectly - seasonal British all-day dining.  The inside pages front and back (not sure about proper term for these) are a gorgeous duck egg blue with the other pages a speckled off-white, with glorious photos, wittily taken with stuffed animals.  The recipes themselves are delicious!  I wouldn't normally use Amazon, preferring to shop in a real shop where possible, but Canteen themselves direct to Amazon and it includes pictures including of the blackcurrant jelly recipe.  Enjoy!

eating in...tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor

My plum stones have got it (more or less) right for a change! Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor - my boyfriend is a marine scientist, which might just about fit!!  Here's my empty bowl after poached plums with greek yogurt for breakfast, lovely.

19 September 2010

out and about...great north run and meeting up with an old friend

I trekked out to South Shields today to meet M, my best friend from school, who was running the Great North Run with her boyfriend.  I haven't seen her for the longest time (we're both rubbish at keeping in touch) so it was wonderful to catch up.  I don't know why but I didn't factor in the logistics of 50,000 runners, assorted families and general race watchers moving about the Metro, consequently the train was heaving on the way out of Newcastle to the coast and it appeared to take about four hours for the queue snaking along South Shield's main street to die down.  
Now, Newcastle and the north east has its far share of bad weather and good weather but I have a sneaking suspicion that it holds onto the bad weather for visitors to the region not wanting to attract any more people here to add to the traffic on the roads, to affect people's quality of life, to make it all busy busy like in the south, and today was no exception.  It can't have made it that pleasant to run in though...!  Or wait about, huddled under space blankets.

out and about...a typical saturday

Yesterday was a more typical Saturday than last week's, which featured (in order) Falmouth, Cape Cod; Logan airport in Boston; and sitting in an aeroplane (more of that in a future post).

In our house, Saturdays are usually fairly lazy affairs not worrying too much about starting times, plus Radio 4 (all morning if possible) and a leisurely perusal of recipe books, food magazines, websites and cuttings to roughly plan the following week's food, outside if I can. I don't think there will be many days left this year for sitting outside, but fingers' crossed.

Then, armed with my shopping list, it's off to Newcastle's Grainger Market, one of my favourite places in Newcastle. This week I stopped off at Lindsay Brothers, the fishmongers, for tuna steak and sea bass fillets, and J Armstrong, the greengrocers, for a whole variety of fruit and vegetables. I've been going there for years so have a bit chat (as they say up here) with the blokes behind the stall, and what's nice is that they sometimes throw in something for free, a real treat. Once I'm loaded down with shopping bags, the next stop is Olive and Bean on the outside of Grainger Market, my regular Saturday haunt, for a coffee and something sweet - a cafe latte and lemon and poppyseed cake this time. I haven't quite got over that slight awkwardness of taking photos inside so will have to provide a photo another time.

I also visited the flower lady near Haymarket metro station for my weekly bunch of flowers. She has a great selection of mainly seasonal flowers, cheap enough to treat myself each week. This week, it was a small bunch of spiky, blue, sea holly.

I also found time to pick a few blackberries from the tangle of brambles at the bottom of the garden that is behind mine. I live in a downstairs Tyneside flat, which was built in the 1930s and looks like a typical semi from that time but is in fact four flats.  The garden at the back is split into two with the back part belonging to the upstairs flat, which is rented out and not very well maintained, hence the brambles.  There's also a crab apple tree and some rose hips so my next project is to investigate what to do with them.  The blackberries were super ripe and most of them had gone over so I think they were at their best while I was in America.

13 September 2010

eating in...a thai green curry

Monday...a fresh and light Thai green curry for tea, all zingy and tongue-tingly.  I must confess it isn't completely homemade but is made using the best curry paste I've come across, all natural, nothing fake.  I tried chicken thighs in it this time, which worked OK, but have concluded that thighs work better in heavier curries.  I don't think fiery ginger beer is a typical, authentic accompaniment but it was certainly yummy.

It did make me hanker after Nigel Slater's wonderful version in Appetite, called A hot, fragrant, lively curry, and I agree with Nigel that it is 'as good as eating gets'.  Mr Slater is a constant inspiration, with a no-fuss attitude to food, celebrating food in all its sensuous, exciting, lip-licking, comforting glory.  As you can see, I've also taken on board his relaxed nature to photograph, a bit messy, not too precious, not that I would ever claim that my photos are as good as the photos in his cookery books...