Monday, 29 September 2014

Celebrations and disabled reptiles

This weekend was one of celebration.

Friday night started with too much wine in Cargo, celebrating the fact Kim has finished writing her million word thesis on something scientific and wanted to get blind drunk to celebrate.  Her night didn't quite go to plan, she hit a wall of tiredness at 11pm and couldn't recover, so went home, to be fair the stress of the last few weeks had probably taken it out of her!

Me, Liz, Tom and Tim (sounds like a children's book) stayed on till the wee hours dancing like loons until we too hit the wall - I couldn't face a bus home and luckily the others agreed to a cab home, luxury!

Saturday was spent mooching about the house then I went and met Jen for lunch.  After some appalling customer service at Nando's where we were first ignored then were spoken to very rudely, we left and went to Wagamama's instead where the service was great but the food pretty pants. Not to worry though, they gave me my pud for free as it was a bit rank tasting. Take note Nando's!

A leisurely stroll through the streets of Knightsbridge gawping at ridiculous cars (like this - the Aston Martin Cygnet - seriously wtf? A Toyota IQ with a ridiculous price tag) led us to the Royal Albert Hall where Leanne was performing at the National Poetry Slam 2014.  (Ok ok, it was in the loading bay of the RAH, but still, the RAH!).  As loading bays go it's a pretty cool one, decorated with graffitti and spruced up with some sexy lighting.

As always, Leanne was fantastic, but unfortunately didn't get through to the next round which was a shame. It's so lovely seeing her perform though, I remember her first London gig in Mile End and she was so nervous and now her confidence has improved massively and her performance was great.  It's so nice to see someone come on so much!  She definitely deserved to be on stage that night.

As always there was some poems that didn't float my boat, but equally some fantastic ones.  Leyla Josephine, who I believe was one of the overall winners, did a fantastic poem called Dear Beyonce, where she asked self proclaimed feminist Bey about how whether the lyrics of her rap star hubby in her 'drunk in love' song are really that great a message to be sending out (I didn't realise but he makes reference to the fact that Tina Turner's hubby beat her, trivialising domestic violence somewhat).

Another great poem was one about the internet, by Stewart Taylor.  I loved the rhythm of it and it was very clever. Miko Berry also offered a great love poem, about how people love so freely and easily when they're young and uninhibited, but puberty hits them and their views on life change and some things just aren't 'cool' anymore and your priorities change.  I have googled all the poets but I can't find anything on the interwebs for them so cannot share their wonderful poems which is a shame.

We were then treated to a set by Kate Tempest, she performed a new poem which was very long and bizarre and I have to admit I switched off a little bit in the middle but it was good to see how a 'professional' spoken word artist performs - with a lot of passion!! She also made a few mistakes which I thought was good - she's a bit of a celebrity in the spoken word world and so it humanised her and showed that even the pros make mistakes.

Sunday was my big little brother's birthday so I got up early and headed home.  He has a massive crush on Samia, so I printed off her photo and got her to write a little birthday message on it (and laminate it - her idea not mine!) which he found very amusing.  Mum and Tim had got him a HUGE box of sweets which they'd hidden in the garden for him to find, as well as buying him a parachute jump which I am also contributing to as it's soooooo expensive.

We then headed out to Beaver Water World which admittedly isn't the best name for it, but it's great. It's a small animal rehoming facility which has the most random collection of animals ever, all for the princely sum of £4.50 entry.    They have a reptile section which contains reptiles that have been seized or found in the wild - seized pets included a crocodile, a Caiman, many iguanas, bearded dragons, a royal python, a boa constricter and loads of other snakes, terrapins and turtles.  Many of the bearded dragons had deformities as they weren't kept properly in their tanks and suffered growth issues which was a bit sad.   They also had meerkats, a racoondog (didn't even know this existed), a deer, beavers (Though we didn't actually see them in the enclosure), ring tailed lemurs, owls, loads of other birds.  The centre was well staffed, very informative and lots of animals had little biographies on their enclosures explaining why they're here and the importance of looking after the animals.  It was a large variety of animals for a small price and it was nice to see Mum and Tim enjoying themselves too (as well as the birthday boy!).  More family activities like that please Mum!!

photo courtesy of my brother

photo courtesy of my brother

photo courtesy of my brother

photo courtesy of my brother

photo of my brother!

We finished the afternoon with a pub lunch, birthday cake before I had to head back home for my swimming course.  Happy birthday big little bro :-)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Hello Fresh Review

When I was off sick last week I heard a knock on the front door. Excited it would be a package for me (I always assume this, not sure why as it's never happened), I opened the door to two sales guys flogging a discounted 'Hello Fresh' subscription.

Having been taught by mum at a young age to avoid scams, and having in the past dated a sales man for 3 years, I know all the tricks of the trade and usually shoo them away. Maybe it was my illness, maybe it was the fact that the sales guy recited a poem to my housemate, maybe I felt immediately guilty for telling them 'salesmen are bad people' - whatever the reason, I signed up to it. 

The premise is you choose a package (I signed up for 3 meals for 2 people), and they deliver a box containing the exact amount of ingredients you need for 3 meals, including the recipes for each meal.  They were doing a promotion and my first two boxes would cost £29.95 (25% off) and I can apparently cancel after 2 boxes.

I am the kind of person who never knows what I am doing after work for dinner, and often end up popping into the poorly stocked and expensive local Co-Op to buy a ready meal, forgetting I already went to Asda on the weekend and did a weekly shop.  Therefore this sounded interesting, potentially less wasteful and could perhaps improve my cooking skills.

My first delivery arrived on Monday.  I had signed up to the 5pm-9pm slot, and so was annoyed when I had a text message from the courier saying it was delivered at 3pm.  Worried it would be nicked from my front door/the food would all be warm and spoiled, I rushed home and discovered the package had been hidden from sight behind my front wall.  On opening, the cold stuffs had been packed in an insulated bag with ice packs, and was still fairly cold, so disaster averted.  However if I hadn’t got home until much later I am pretty sure the ice pack would have melted.

My Meals:

Bedouin Chicken and Rice
Salmon fishcakes with citrus salad
Mushroom cheese burgers with wedges.

What's in the box?

The box was neatly packed as below.

Opening the box
Ingredients included for the 3 above meals consisted of:

1 x pot sour cream
1 x pot greek yoghurt
1 x portion of salmon trimmings
2 x slices of cheese
2 x brioche burger buns
1 x pack of pea shoot salad leaves
2 x chicken breast
1 x portion of panko bread crumbs
1 x portion of basmati rice
1 x portion of minced meat
1 x pot of chili seeds
1 x pot of coriander seeds
sachet of mustard
small pot of honey
sachet of ketchup
2 x courgettes
1 x lemon
1 x lime
1 x portion of mushrooms
1 x HUGE onion
3 x potatoes
1 x pack of coriander
1 x pack of dill
2 x spring onions
1 x stub of ginger
1 x portion fresh peas

Cat and dying house plant not included
The box also contained the recipe cards, a £10 voucher for some other subscription thing, a welcome book and a free tea pigs sample.

free tea!

Recipe cards (recipe on the back)

How easy is it to cook?

My first guinea pig was my man friend. I was hoping/guessing he would go for the burgers but to my surprise plumped for the fishcakes (he’s been overindulging on holiday and wanted something healthy - I failed to tell him that the fat and carb content of the fish cakes was actually higher than the burgers!). 

I am not very good at following instructions and I am very impatient, so I didn't do things in the order I should have, opting to do some steps whilst things were cooking.  The instructions were easy to follow and clearly laid out, and I produced the below:

I also had some ingredients left - panko breadcrumbs and dill, which I will use for something else perhaps.

The fishcakes were nice but they did seem like they lacked a little something...I had seasoned everything at the given times, so not sure why the taste wasn't that great.  They were a little flat, I blame the man friend as he squished them down when frying them - I also thought it odd that you were meant to use sour cream to roll the cakes in for the breadcrumbs to stick to, I would have thought whisked egg would have been better.  Perhaps they don't give eggs away in their packs incase they break.

My second guinea pig was Francesca, who came over for a Breaking Bad session.  We opted for the burgers as I didn't want the buns to go stale.  THEY WERE DELICIOUS!!!! Hands down the best home made burger I have had.  The meat was minced beef but it was more 'together' than the mince you buy from the supermarket, and was SO tasty.  However it said to cook the potatoes for 20 minutes - ours needed about 45!!

Sorry for the lame photo - my food photography is pretty poor to say the least

My third meal hasn't been cooked yet....I was out for dinner on Thursday and tonight I am out drinking...oops! Hopefully it'll still be OK to cook tomorrow for lunch.

I forgot to cancel my box for next week, which is annoying as I am out for dinner on Monday, Wednesday and have people over on Friday - though I could just combine all the meals into one huge weird dish and cook them all for my Friday guests....

Anyway I guess to sum up, I like the idea.  I think it's a bit pricey, I added all the ingredients up in the Waitrose online shopper thing (I chose Waitrose as I think the quality of ingredients is comparable) and that came to £38, and the box without discount costs £40 (I think).

But I guess for the convenience, ease and pure joy and excitement of coming home to a parcel of food on your door step means it's worth it at least once.  I will continue with next week and the week after as I have another discount to use up, but I don't think I will continue if I have to pay full price or I don't end up cooking the meals because I am out and about.

I have a discount code if anyone would like to try - go to and sign up, enter in this code PNJ2SB and you'll get a lovely £20 off your first box (I'll also get £12 off mine!)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Secret Seven

This weekend was straight out of an Enid Blyton novel.

Cesca's mum lives in a lovely little cottage in Suffolk by the coast, and we decided to go there for the weekend.  David, Cesca, Onyi, Martha and I crammed into my car and we drove up to Blytheburgh on Friday night.

On arrival Cesca's mum had laid out candles leading from the driveway to the kitchen where we found a feast of home made goodies, washed down with some delicious white wine.  We said hello, feasted and disappeared off into our beds as we were pretty tired from the drive up.

Saturday morning after a lay in, we woke up to the most magical garden.  Decorated with home made statues, glass, mirrors and random bits of art, it's a little bit magical. (I know I used magical twice but it really was pretty cool!)  The house is equally beautiful, filled with trinkets and knickknacks and home made quilts.  

Beautiful home made quilts!

Johan and David spectating the croquet

so beautiful - mosaic shower

We had a hearty breakfast and headed off to the beach at Dunwich, where Martha convinced me to go for a swim. In the sea. In September!   It was very cold, but very exhilarating and once the initial 'f*** this is bl**dy cold, please can we get out right now' had worn off, it was fun!!

attempting some synchronised swimming

After our brisk swim we headed back and played croquet in the garden - I am pretty pants, but the Ribenfors clan are pretty good and competition was fierce.

Cesca takes the competition a bit far

 James and Johan arrived, so after a cup of tea we headed out on a walk to Southwold, doing some caches along the way.  We stopped for a group photo on a fence, with Johan kindly volunteering to take the photo.  As he prepared the camera, a kind couple walked past and offered to take the photo with him in it.  He jumped up onto the fence, and just as the camera went 'click', we heard a thud and the fence dropped suddenly.  The resulting photo (and Cesca's face) is fantastic.  I advise you to click on it and zoom in if you can:

I am such a fashonista - trainers, maxi dress, leggings and a raincoat....yikes

unable to find the cache

We ended up in a pub (as all good walks should end) and James announced we should have a rock paper scissors competition to decide who stayed sober to drive.  He stated he was amazing at rock paper scissors and wanted to enter the world championships.  We all challenged him to a match and he proceeded to lose every single time, to 7 different people.  We advised him to maybe enter next year.

Cesca's step dad had kindly volunteered to come pick us all up.  However a communication mishap meant Cesca's mum to turn up at our pub (Simon had gone to another pub in a different village) which led to 8 of us squeezing into a Suzuki Wagon.  Impressive (and illegal) stuff!

The evening festivities included delicious food, alcohol, debates and  a very cringeworthy (well at least for Cesca!) game of Cards Against Humanity with Cesca's parents.

On Sunday morning James, Martha and I returned to the beach as the weather was a bit brighter.  I designated myself as photographer (couldn't face the waves and bitter cold again) and watched James and Martha frolick in the sea until they got too cold to continue.  We headed back to a hearty fry up, had a game of chess and some more croquet, before packing up and heading back to London.

James limbering up!

A lovely little weekend getaway with some lovely people!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Catch up

A catch up of what I’ve been up to since I have been back:

- I spent the first couple of days at home in Kent with the fam, went for a lovely birthday dinner in a Nepalese restaurant (mum’s latest favourite) then headed back to London.  My adorable housemates had got me an orchid (which is still alive!) and a bottle of prosecco and we had a house party – I had wanted to go to Dogstar but my foot injury meant going out would have been problematic which is a shame, I miss the place!!!

- Sunday was Celia’s wedding – a quiet affair at a cute venue in Northamptonshire.  Besides a last minute panic that the best man might not make it, it went smoothly.  Celia looked gorgeous in her ridiculously expensive dress that she managed to WIN in a competition – jammy girl!!! Here are some photos:

-  Drinks and food and catching up with a variety of people

- A failed Saturday cycling trip to Richmond with Tom, Tim and Liz – failed because we didn’t cycle as the bikes were all booked out, so we tried to hire a boat but the tide was wrong, so we ended up (after a lot of wandering around and discussion) on a boat to Kingston, where we landed and had a jug of pimms.

-  Purchasing a lovely little Golf TDI – so excited to have a car again, especially a ‘grown up’s car’.  It goes REALLY fast and it’s a proper car, no more fiestas for me! Fingers crossed it lasts longer than the last one….

- Seeing a boy, nice and casual like, no pressure

-   Gymming like a mad thing – kettlebells, power plate, TRX suspension, you name it I’m doing it

-  Hanging out with Cesca - Breaking Bad Mondays, impromptu pub trips and a lovely Westerham walk finished with scones and tea cakes in the village

- Ikea with Samia – we’re like a married couple

-  Girls night with Bex, accidentally dying my hair red (again!! When will I learn!!) and applying facemasks and watching a bloody awful film called Locke where Tom Hardy’s accent goes from a poor Welsh to west country to aussie to Scottish to northern and back again.  Don’t bother with it!

- House party for Liz's birthday - lots of karaoke, ridiculous photos and 4am bed time, owch, catching up with the lovely lovely Barbra! 
I think she drank too much

Glow in the dark G&Ts!