Sunday, 28 November 2010

And the winner is...!

Thank you to everyone who entered my recent CSN Stores giveaway.

I am very happy to announce that the winner is:



ALI!

Well done Ali! Please all give her a big clap and while your at it, why not visit her blog Another Shoot, it's fab!

Ali, please email me your email address so you can claim your £25 voucher! You can get me at hannah_renowdenATyahoo.co.uk.

:)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Folk Radio UK


 Today I am not at work.  Work recently has been an unending onslaught of change, to-do lists that don't get done and customers already starting to crack under christmas' knuckly grip.  Like anyone whose job gets a bit on top of them, the days when you don't have to go in are glorious.  I am currently reclining on my sofa, tea is sitting with me as are biscuits.  If I didn't have to take the bins out I wouldn't even be contemplating getting dressed.  I intend to read, write a bit and watch some films.  All the things I promise myself I will do on days off but always end up feeling guilty about.  I always think I should be out at the shops providing items for my man, or scrubbing under the sofa, or painting the ceiling.  But, apart from the bins, I'm going to do none of those things.

It is rather wonderful then that I have discovered the perfect website to provide the soundtrack to all my whimsical doing nothing-ness.  Folk Radio UK is a Bristol based station pouring gloriousness all over my ears.  I love the radio, but apart from BBC 6 Music I find it very difficult to find stations that play music I want to hear.  The last time I listened to Radio 1 was probably the weekend Blur beat Oasis to number one.  I wrote the other day about feeling lost in Topshop amongst the young and the backcombed, I feel a hundred times more disillusioned when I have to endure any popular music at the moment.  To me Rhianna is a girl who could sing the sweetest love song and still make it sound like pornography, Katy Perry, I'm sure is a cartoon character and RnB is just about owning lots of things and having sex with stuff now isn't it?  It's all a bit "dirrrrrrrty" and a bit cringy.

Folk Radio UK is therefore my haven.  I have been listening for an hour now and only heard one song I have heard before, everything else is new to my ears and everything is EXCELLENT. I already have a rather long list of CDs  my life is now incomplete without. I'm very excited about ploughing through the mixes provided on the site. The Lost in The Meadow mix sounds lovely  and just what I need on a day where I haven't heard from the sun in a while.  Folk, tea, biscuits and the ability to relax make for a perfect day.  What more do you need on a grey Thursday afternoon when you have promised not to do much?  To have already put the bins out, that's what.  I'll go and sort the rubbish and let you tune in.  

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Hello flattering pleating, goodbye jumpers with cats on

ZARA
Photo by Dmitry Valberg

There comes a time in every girl's life when they exit TopShop and cross the road into Zara.  At 27 I feel it is my time to take that leap of faith.  This week I wandered into TopShop, ever allured by their bright pink SALE promises and I had to rub my eyes and blink a few times to convince myself I hadn’t wandered into the local under 18s disco.  All around me were girls who looked about 17 but were probably only 12. Their mother's credit cards were smoldering in their pockets.  Atop their heads were nests of perfectly messed up hair – that ever so boho look of backcombing the life out of it and scraping it from one side of the head to the other in a big ragamuffin halo.  Satchels entangled with satchels and fake thick rimmed glasses were pushed and pushed and pushed up blackhead-less noses in an orgy of phony myopia.  There was more 80s knitwear adorning 16 year old shoulders than there was in 1988. My sister, a TRUE 80s child, could only have envisioned such glorious sights after a trunk load of spangles and opal fruits.

It was too much, and before I even had time to fondle a pair of floaty culottes I was back out on the street sweating and worried.  I staggered drunk on other people’s mums perfume and crawled along the pavement. I had been shunned by the goddess of high street style. My ancient, late 20s bones shivered in my sack of a body.  I dragged myself along the wet pavement of Glasgow, a lost sheep without a flock until suddenly I was saved.  There looming over me like a mother ship was Zara.  She took me in, bathed me in space and light and wrapped my broken body in as much tweed-lite material as I could take.  

I had always avoided Zara, everything in the window looked a bit pricey, a bit *nice*, a bit……grown up.  But on a grey day in October I was enlightened.  Everything was gorgeous, I wanted, NO NEEDED every item in every colour.  The knitwear made me weep, I clutched the 100% wool labels like they were the tiny hands of my first born.  I sniffed the real leather shoes and skipped about high on its perfume.  The scarves were silken, the blazers were elbow patched, and the staff floated about unseen, there were no catty looks up and down - I was just left alone to indulge.

Zara has the layout and feel of a shop that could almost be designer, but the prices are the same, if not lower than Topshop….who knew? But unlike Topshop everyone in there seemed to be over 21; careful shoppers, taking their time to try things on, run their fingers over seams and select other items to make a complete outfit.  There was no rushing about, no shrieking, no loud indie rock, no bird nests and everyone in glasses (including me) seemed to have a medical necessity for wearing them.  I was shopping amongst adults and I liked it. 

But, it isn’t perfect – the tables were untidy – t-shirts looked like they had just come out the spin cycle and been discarded.  And the sizing is WEIRD.  I'm usually about a 10 in most places, but Zara clothes are teeeeny tiiiiiny wiiiiny ittttty so be warned.  Take a deep breath and put your inevitable weight gain down to international body differences.  I need a size 12 (if not 14!!)  skirt in Zara. I forgive them though, because its all very lovely and I'd rather have to big up for something gorgeous than be flattered by a size 10 or 8 item that is just OK.

We all need to grow up sometimes, and it can hurt.  But somethings about leaving your 20s are OK – you can eat olives without thinking about grapes, you don’t feel weird about spending Saturday night selecting a “nice loaf” for Sunday morning and you can wear tweed and elbow patches without looking like a geography teacher. Unless of course that’s the look you are going for, or you actually are a geography teacher. 

So my sisters and brothers who are crossing the road into the adult world and pulling on sensible, yet stylish knitwear, I salute you.

Monday, 15 November 2010

GIVEAWAY TIME!

N-Night
 It's getting a bit cold isn't it? If you are anything like me you are turning your mind to nesting.  I shall be stocking up on scented candles, flavoured hot beverages and thinking about getting some new bedroom furniture.  The kingdom of duvet is where I shall be living for the next few months so it only seems right.

If you ARE like me then you are clearly very lucky, which is the perfect attribute for winning my new competition.  The lovely folks at CSN Stores are giving away a whopping £25 to one of my readers to spend on any of thier UK websites.  Why not get yourself a little something, or even better, sort out that tricky Christmas present.

As before, all you need to do is leave me a comment on this here post and your name will enter the bowler hat of destiny to hopefully be drawn at random.  Competition will close at midnight on Saturday 27th November (Saturday night/Sunday morning (one of you was bound to ask)).

Good luck!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Last Nights Apprentice ep 4

Firstly let me apologise for not adorning your screens with a round-up last week.  I was incredibly shaken by the departure of Shibby.  A week of silence has helped the healing process, and I am happy to say that I'm back.  I have been told Shibby has gone to the farm where all the wrongly fired Apprentice contestants go.  Here they get to pitch successfully all day long and their order books are always full.  Knowing this I have peace. So onwards!

This week our Apprenti were trying to peddle innovation items.  As much as the sight of a woman holding a very hot looking hair dryer next to a very real looking baby doll disturbs me I'm just glad there wasn't any food involved.  I had fears this series was rapidly turning into ApprenticeChef. 

Jaime took the reigns of team Synergy after Melissa "that will be £1.82 for a bread roll" Cohen and her "skill set" was unanimously voted off the role.  Melissa, Melissa, Melissa.  What an irritable little ghetto pigeon she is. I don't think there was a scene in this episode where she wasn't rolling her eyes or doing that infuriating "err duh" face. 

I always get worried when a constantent says something I know I would have said. Something that leads them to being in the boardroom and nearly fired. I was right there with Stuart when he asked the Babyglow pitcher about how white the romper suit would have to go before a parent would need to raise an alarm.  OK so I might not have mentioned dead babies, but knowing how white is too white is surely quite important?  But bringing up infant mortality proved to be a clanger and the designer chose Apollo to take her product to trade.  Along with the babyglow Apollo picked the t-shirt that promised to suck in a man's gut, a bit like a Bruce Willis girdle while poor old Synergy were left with a high pressure money saving shower head and wait for it....a double headed spade. Sexy.

If you needed a double headed spade and a high pressure shower to wash off all the soil you have been turning over, where would you immediately head to?  Id go somewhere famed for it's wedding list service and mid-priced high street fashion.  Which is why I don't find it odd that Melissa was completely unwavering in her bulldog pitch to Debenhams.  I mean, what losers, why say no to two products that would sell massive amounts of units next to The Principles concession and in the perfume aisle?  Idiots.  Let down by a dodgy demo shower, even a DIY supplier didn't give no pitch love to Melissa.  Geez. Stewart's “calculator” face from ep 1 has been replaced in my hate brain by the vision of him biting into that shower head in a desperate attempt to weld the thing together with his fillings. I'm just glad he wasn’t pitching that weird porn Pilate's machine – an image for Halloween if ever there was one. 

Three girls that could have done with a high pressure shower were Apollo's Laura, Paloma and Sandeesh who were one huff away from having a brawl outside a shop in Soho. Personally I hope these three are forever trapped with one another just so I can witness a three-way hand slap fest in the boardroom and hear another rousing speech from Karren about how they are letting down humanity.  How can three grown up and successful women behave like this?  I'm sure that just over Laura's shoulder I could see the shop keeper creeping over to shut the door behind her, turning the key whilst silently flipping over the "closed" sign. 

In-fighting aside Apollo won, or more accurately Liz "the sane female taking part" won.  Her careful and understated pitching secured a bazillion orders and quite possibly saved a number of future babies from dangerous temperature increases.  Liz and those other people she hung about with for a day were sent off to a spa to sniff piles of fire and get covered in mud.  Synergy on the other hand (though clearly not the same day) sat in the boardroom for a bit and waited for the inevitable....

The axe fell on Mellissa for her annoying, repetitive and bizarre pitching "skills".  And though I will miss her incredible use of the English language, anyone who defends them self with the line “What has my ability to pitch got to do with how well the pitch went?” deserves to go.  Her refusal to shake Jamie's hand and accusations that he and Stewart "ganged up" on her only heaped more embarrassing female behaviour to the already rotting pile that has been exhibited in this series. Threatening another woman to stop shouting "because if we are going to shout, I can shout louder" is tacky and painful. Thank goodness for Liz, Stella and of course the wonderful Karren, who appeared to have taken inspiration for her boardroom outfit from a 1980's Avon catalogue.

P.S. Did anyone else recognise the guy pitching the face lift welding mask? Has he been on Dragons Den?

Bookworms get your purses ready!

I almost didn't want to tell anyone about this website, it's that awesome.  The kind of awesome you want to keep secret.  I was planning on buying everything from it and nonchalantly brushing off any enquires of "where did you get that amazingly awesome item?" with "oh just this place...you won't know it".  But Christmas is coming and everyone needs ideas of what to get me close relatives and extra special friends.

If those close relatives and extra special friends like books then you need to take your debit (or credit) card along to The Literary Gift Company.  This website is a gem and you will be sure to find something for the bookworm in your life.

For example, does your bookworm like cooking?  Well why not get them a retro Ladybird cake tin? Bargainously brilliant at just £5.95, this was one of my first purchases.


Does your bookworm like to adorn themself in a tie whilst projecting a well-read air? They do?! Well what about this:


Do they, like me, have an unhealthy addiction to tote bags? Well The Literary Gift Company offers many glorious examples of the eco carrier.  I am currently dusting down my shoulder in anticipation of this one


Perfect, for those moments on the early bus when reading alone isn't enough to stop the troublesome person next to you from nattering away. 

But the items I am probably most in anxious need of are the book cover posters.  I have the To Kill a Mockingbird one (and another one is awaiting to spread Christmas joy onto one lucky soul's wall) and they make a refreshing change from the familiar icons we all tack up to show what we like and that.  Band and film prints are just so last year


Oh....and once you have bought me someone special something, you will probably need some cool parcel tape to wrap it up with. Welllllll, those good chaps at The LGC have just gone ahead and thought of everything:

 Genius!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Death, Love and Cliches.

365.282 - it gets better
Picture by Nettsu

Four years ago tonight my dad died.  This is a fact. It is "something about me". It is a "defining moment" in my life.  It is something I think about everyday. It is what makes and breaks me.

The night it happened was the worst night imaginable.  The pain that coursed through our family was immense. It came like a tsunami and it drowned us.  For days and days and days we bobbed about in the aftermath in absolute danger of turning into ghosts ourselves.  This huge character that bound us together, that was absurd and brilliant, a pain and a know-it-all had simply vanished.  One minute he was there, the next he wasn't. Simple as that.

But I am not the only person to have ever lost someone and do not want to claim bereavement as "my thing". I will be eternally grateful for my friends at that time, the ones who knew when and how to talk about it.  The friends who stopped me with all their might from becoming "The Girl Whose Dad Just Died".  They resuscitated me with coffee, odd days out and blissful silences.  But when you lose someone you love throughout your soul you have to become an expert on how to cope otherwise that soul is in danger of shrivelling up.  It is a lesson you learn whether you know it or not.  Death, like love, is hounded by cliches, but I'm not ashamed to tell you that time does heal.

And the best medicine to aid the healing process? Oh yes, it's laughter. 

This was a hard lesson to learn and one I resisted as long as possible.  I don't think I even spoke coherent sentences for a while and as for laughing, it was something I was sure could never happen again.  My wonderful sister had other ideas.  At first I couldn't understand how she could buzz about still smiling, being charming to people.  She didn't seem to be feeling what I was.  But of course she was.  She was hit by the same waves and hurt in the same way.  But she understood my dad and knew that she needed to be like him.  I witnessed my dad loose his mother and brother.  He allowed himself one day on both occasions to sit mutely in his chair.  The next morning he came back.  He realised life was about the living and that we needed him to give the ok to the light and laughter.  My sister knew this too and I bow to her wisdom and thank her for calling out to us as we floundered in the shallows.

It is not a suprise to me then, that when I eventually did reach the shore I sought out the one person I knew would have me laughing for the rest of my life.  The one person I can be completely myself around.  I can be irrational, over the top, pathetic and embarrassing and this person takes it all in his stride. He sees through everything I would otherwise hide.  He keeps me afloat each day by filling my life with nonsense and comedy.  He does this unflinchingly and no matter how hard I try and plunge into a depression he just won't let me.  He may be miserable himself, he may be tired but making me happy is at the top of his to-do list. This is as close to unconditional love as you will find outside a bloodline and I adore it.  Hope and survival doesn't just rely on you finding someone like this, but it helps.  I cannot underplay how much this person's role in my life has enabled me to get up in the mornings, to get on with things and to bloody well allow myself happiness.

The one thing I will always regret is that my dad never got to meet Martin, but I won't dwell on it.  I know that the pair of them would have been firm friends and my dad would be full of thanks.  This is a fact.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

A message from Hannah about your sponsers


 The other night I noticed that I had spent a substantial amount of time getting frantically angry about the adverts barging their way through the programmes I was relaxing to.  I have a strange relationship with adverts, they have a sensational effect on me.  Part of me loves them, understands them, so much so it was suggested at school I go "into it". I loved the recent Hovis advert where one young northern lad legs it home to his mum with said loaf stuck under his arm.  His journey took him through defining moments in British history and swelled my pride more than The Last Night of The Proms. Grans must have loved it.  I also love the Natural Confectionery Company adverts, I have a soft chewy spot for genius, simple humour.



But most of the time I despise them and could list the ones that offend me until I die.

I hate having those drainingly unamusing 118 men jogging onto every film that has the insult of being shown on ITV .  Ghostbusters is my favorite film in the whole world, but those adverts are seriously close to obliterating the joy of that soundtrack along with any perfectly pitched  tension some genius film director spent years sweating and weeping over.  I don't take part in fun runs, not because I'm unfit (I am) but because I fear the sight of participants dressed as the 118 people will ignite some feral urge to attack. Going to prison for maiming a charity fundraisers is just not cool.

I also roll my eyes until they ache at any advert that attempts to update nice and lovely things from the past into something knowing, hip and happening.  I will be turning off my TV and leaving the room each time this bastard of an ad comes on:



Who does Argos think it is? I'm not Bing Crosby's number one fan or anything, but there are some things that you just don't demean like this.  I'm sure Argos would tell me "We contacted Bing's people and Bing's People told us he would have loved it" Well I don't, the advert is classless and awful and I didn't think I needed anymore reasons not to shop there. But I mainly hate it because I know my mum will hate it.

But not even having a massive poo on Bing Crosby's grave incenses me more than the amount of hateable inclination one voiceover woman manages to squeeze into one word.  This advert encapsulates everything wrong with our "I WANT! I WANT! I'M SPECIAL! GIVE! GIVE! ME! ME!" society.  I am tired of advertising that tries to make me want to be an arsehole, so it's apt then that the most detestable word in TV advertising at the moment is "Yawn".



 Listen to the way she says it and tell me you haven't just punched yourself.  Personally I have bitten my fist down to the bone on accidentally hearing this advert.  It is utter bile vomit.

I won't start on the Halifax ads.  There just isn't enough breath. I need to calm down, but can I ask you something? Is Tim Lovejoy playing "Tim Lovejoy" in those incredibly uncomfortable pasta adverts or is he acting?

Your thoughts please.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Last Night's Apprentice 2

It's Apprentice time again *rubs hands together. Oh how I love it!

In this week's episode our band of ex bankers and "entrepreneurs" were tasked with coming up with a beach accessory. Shaking things up a bit L'Sugar put Stella "possible winner" English into the boy's team and from the point she nestled the PM cap on, Team Synergy became "Stella and Her Boys". A rather more apt name I think.  Team Apollo was headed up by Laura "I hate books and reading and books" Moore who goes from pretty to scary depending on whether she is standing inside or out.  

There were the usual brainstorming sessions where the cupboards at the back of people's head let forth with all kinds of wonders.  Shibby Robati and his childlike delivery of The Big Hand Sun Tan Lotion Applier was just so touching I found myself placing orders in the thousands whilst the girl's fumbled about trying to reinvent the sock.  Foot-Glove anyone?  Though they may not have taken The Big Hand to market, Stella and Her Boys came up with the Cuuli (coolie), a unique towel/pillow/icebox device perfect for keeping those drinks cool and storing your life saving insulin. The girls meanwhile bickered and pulled each other's hair a bit.  Joanna Riley being the only person to come up with anything that wasn't totally rubbish- a book stand.   A perfectly reasonable idea I thought, OK you can already buy book stands, but there really wasn't anything else coming from anyone. The way Laura reacted to this idea made me worry for her. Such strange, out and out refusal to go with it.  I can only imagine that some horror has befallen her in the past.  Some massive book shaped terror that shakes her from her sleep at night.  But, they went for it and after hours of sniping they were left with just 10 minutes to design something.  What they designed seemed to be a tiny tent. 

Back with Stella and Her Boys, the latter desperately trying to turn the former into an FHM fantasy by encouraging her to get down and sandy by modelling their towel.  The horror that befell Stella's face is the same look that is usually exhibited by any women confronted by a boys idea of a photo shoot involving swimwear that they describe as "not slutty".  But it was her or Alex Epstien, so I for one am glad she laid down any feminist sensibilities and "took one for the team" COOOOORR!

Once both products were produced it was time to pitch.  I take a sickening pleasure in watching other people pitch things.  There is nothing I would dread doing more, and I drink in every moment of knowing that someone else is having to do it and I'm not. Melissa Cohen was in charge of pitching for the girls and actually said the following words:

  • Applicability
  • Comfortability
  • Built into your end user
Don't know about you, but she can leave my end user well alone.  Stella and Her Boys did well, after Chris Bates recovered from his little tantrum about being overlooked for the pitch role in favour of Jaime Lester.  But their pitch lacked something, what was it? Oh yes! A massive ugly cardboard box filled with sand! Good one girls! Those heals and that box of sand, should have earned the girls applause for coming away with a full set of functioning ankles. But it was in front of (the really really scary, who knew?!) women from Boot's that Laura and her utter hatred of books and resulting self destructive tendencies took over  and she blew it by refusing exclusivity to the largest flipping chemist in the world ever. There are TWO Boot's on my road alone.  But thankfully Melissa was there to break the stunned silence with another one of   those words:


  • Fabulous
Well done Melissa, think you saved it.

She hadn't.  Come the boardroom and L'Sugar broke the news that Apollo had broken Apprentice records by securing no orders (yes Stewart, on a calculator that's 0).  Stella and Her Boys shifted a measly 100 which is probably why they were punished with a round of golf.  Left bereft the Apollo girls screamed and shouted at each other and as Karren "Margaret" Brady rather rousingly put it, let down a generation of aspiring business women by behaving like school ground bitches.  And we all know the prey of the school ground bitch is the quiet girl, and here that quiet girl was Joy Stefanicki.  I will always stick up for the quiet girl in the room, but Joy bless her was so silent throughout that in some scenes she appeared almost see-through. When she did speak it was just to say "sorry", every utterance of the word making my heart break for her.  Joy wasn't built for this Room of Board and I'm glad L'Sugar's finger dispatched her quickly.  It was the kindest thing to do.

Last night's episode was an altogether less interesting affair than the first.  Mainly because the most irritating from episode 1 were either fired or muted.  I for one will miss Dan Harris, we can only imagine what cringing and awful substances may have flowed from him.  But, where was Stewart "The Brand" Baggs? Oh Stewart, that horrid little face you pulled in the board room last week has haunted my dreams for a week.  Unfortunately I think the calculator moment will become an infamous scene this series and will be repeated and repeated much to my eyes dismay. Even his profile picture on The Apprentice website is like a school photo of a bully:

Tough guy huh? Prove it, be more awful next week!

Right, I'm off to make a Big Hand Sun Cream Applier....where's the fish slice?


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

STEF NEEDS YOU! (pointy finger)


 Hands up if you like gorgeous girls!

Hands up if you like retro glamour!

Hands up if you like a red head!

Wow, that's alot of hands! Well why not take those hands, and more precisely your finger (any one), and vote for my friend Stef in the Pinuplifestyle.com calender competition.


You may remember Stef from a previous blog post, she was one of the reasons why I had had a particularly nice day. Now it's time to return the favor and let her have a nice day too! So please take two seconds to vote (you don't need to sign up to anything) and make a gorgeous red head (and a strangely washed out ginger one) very happy  :)

Here are some things you might like to know about Stef before making your vote:


Films she likes: Gilda, Some Like it Hot, Ghostbusters and Clint Eastwood ones



Music she likes: The Beatles, Muse, Michael Jackson, The Postal Service

She likes sundry things such as: High heels, seamed stockings, corsets and Simon's face

 GET VOTING!!


Photos by Ian Malone

Saturday, 9 October 2010

And the winner is......

Well my CSN Stores giveaway has come to an end, thanks so much to those that entered!

Some of you had trouble making your entry, I took this into consideration when the names went into the hat as Blogger and my blog had little issues, so thanks for bringing these to my attention.

Right....down to business.  Any good draw needs a hat full of names:

a drum roll.....

drumdrumdrumdrumdrumrollrollrollrollroll...

and....a WINNER!!!!

Congratulations Kevin!

Please drop me an email at: Hannah_RenowdenATYahoo.co.uk and I will send you your voucher! Let us know what you spend your money on!

Thanks again to those that entered, there may well be more giveaways leading up to Christmas so watch this space!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Customers are mainly always wrong

Customer Service A2
sittinginafield


In one form or another I have always worked in Customer Service. I know, what a lucky person I am.  How fantastically pleased am I that I spent five years in further education? The only thing I needed to be taught,  is that contrary to popular opinion, customers are usually always wrong.

I think most people at some time or other has worked in customer service, whether that's behind a bar, a shop counter or a cinema box office.  We have all had the pleasure of the odd, the rude and the down right daft.

This week I have already had a couple insisting to me that there was a vegetarian cook book available about cooking corn.  This was one of those enquiries that the moment it hit my ears I knew would draw a big, massive blank.  I mean, what the hell can you do with corn apart from boil or barbecue it?! I could have written that down on a post-it for them, saved them £12.99.  But no matter how much I "ummmed" and "errrred" they weren't budging, so I humoured them, typing "corn" into the system for the first, and hopefully, last time.  Nothing came up.  Deep breath:

"No, like I say, nothing has come up.  I think it will be a case of looking through the vegetarian books to see if there is a section on corn, but there aren't any books JUST ABOUT CORN YOU FREAKING LOOP HOLES!"

Then came the words every Bookseller dreads, "but I've seen one":

"My friend's got a copy, she was showing me it the other day...had a packet of corn on the cover and everything"

Then the penny dropped.  Dear oh dear did the penny drop.

"Do you mean Quorn?"

I would love to say that this situation ended in a freeze frame of us all bent backwards tearing the sky open with our laughter.  I'd love to tell you that we all bonded immediately, that we are now all firm friends, that I'm joining them in Kent for the summer. But the truth is, nonsense like this happens almost every day.  Moments of crashing, fist biting stupidity that leave you fearing for the future of our species. It's just not that funny anymore.

What makes it worse?  The customers' reactions.  Most customers will not laugh a mistake off or apologise.  Embarrassment will force them into a corner where they will not even admit they are wrong.  The response I got to my Quorn question was a very haughty: "Oh is that what it's called, it's not for me...I'm not a vegetarian" the last word spat out like a soggy piece of soya. I don't know what it is that happens to people when they pass through the doors of a shop.  I'm beginning to wonder if our alarm barriers emit invisible, personality altering waves which, upon passing through them, turn decent human beings into terrors.

Now, not EVERYONE leaves me scratching my head in bemusement obviously.  But sadly the normal and the nice tend not to dent my psyche as much as the crashingly bizarre.  I can still remember being completely berated about 4 years ago for approaching a customer with my hands in my cardigan pockets.  They went ballistic at me.  It didn't matter that I had walked up to them all smiles offering them all the help they could need, all they noticed were my nestled hands.  It was almost as if they check the whereabouts of people's hands before deciding whether the person is worth talking to.  They reacted to me like I had gone up to them and smeared poo all over their hair, rubbed it into their scalps and leant over them to take a good hard sniff.  This was the moment I knew this line of work would test me to an inch of my sanity.

This person wouldn't have come up to me in the street to point out how disgusted they were at my hand/pocket ratio.  But once through the doors of a shop, and those demonising barriers - "zap!" the ability to be reasonable left them.

As you are reading this you are obviously lovely, but please remember when shopping that the person serving you is still a human being and deserves to be treated as respectfully as you would expect to be. They will probably have a million other things to do aside from serving you and more than likely will have been on their feet for a stupid amount of time. I will go "that extra mile" for customers who come in and behave in a pleasant, non-mental way.  But the minute an eye is rolled, a chest is puffed, a finger is drummed my heart sinks.  I do not want to see the day where I have to say to someone: "look, calm the hell down, they are only books." That would be rubbish, because books are wonderful.

One more thing....if you are the only person standing in a "queue" at an empty till point,  listening to tills ringing out downstairs, chances are you need to go downstairs.

Monday, 4 October 2010

And then there was....OH DAMNIT!!

Bad Day at Work
"Bad Day at Work" by cptcheerios

This week I have been trying to write a blog post each day.  Things have been going rather well so far, it is, afterall, only Monday. 

However, two things have happened today that have distracted me.  Firstly, I have had an almighty and awful day. I left work today with harsh, horrible words ringing in my ears, words that have upset me more than I probably let on. Words that are preventing me from writing anything here that isn't anything other than a diatribe against that person.  I don't want to do that.

Secondly I forgot to buy electricity and we are sitting in the dark.  I am not sure how long my computer battery will last so I'm just dumping this all down here so I feel a teeny, tiny bit better about how utterly parp this day has been.

Normal service with be resumed tomorrow. 

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Sisters, are they literally doing it for themselves?

Sooki and Anna 02

Have you read Victoria Coren's column yet today? If not, why not? It's not about poker you know.  It's about girl's having the option to do cheerleading at school rather than the football.  She makes a wonderful point about girls' roles in society being, quite literally, sidelined and wonders why it is that girl's WANT to just be the jiggling prize for the boys rather than the decorated sports star.  I, rather more clumsily, was making a similar point about TV presenters in a previous post.  What Coren asks is why aren't women allowed any serious competition with each other (let alone with men)?

With all this inverted girl power knocking about it made me think that women are competitive, just in a different way.

It's true that women are capable of making very firm friends with each other.  Over late nights of bonding and mutual secret revealing, women can quickly progress from acquaintance to friend onto full blown sisterhood in a matter of hours.  I know many men who are quite envious of this.  Some long to be able to open up to their male friends in the same way, to bond over feelings and shared experiences.  But unlike SOME women, men seem to be able to participate in creative activities in a social and mutually respectful way.  Women seem to get jealous of one anothers achievements, and here is where girl competition is rife.

Now, I'm not talking about people's friends here, more precisely, acquaintances.  Those people you know, but don't love enough to be happy for all the time. I know men can be very competitive in the work place, but I'm stepping outside of that.

I have alluded before to a certain situation that happened at the start of my blogging life.  I wrote a rather pessimistic, upset post about feeling unfulfilled.  In it, I referred to someone who represented all the opportunities I had missed and that they had taken.  I TRIED to make the post as anonymous as possible.  I TRIED to choose keywords that only the person involved would pick up on.  I thought that being a first post the likelihood of ANYONE reading it was slim, let alone anyone I may have known in a previous life.  Part of this plan was not to use "he" or "she".  What I found very interesting, and ultimately infuriating, was when someone left me a comment.

It wasn't that someone was criticising me that got me down, I was ranting and I sounded daft.  What got to me was that in their comment the person kept referring to my post subject as "she": "she must have done this", "she must be better at that".  Whoever this person was assumed that because I was a girl, the person I was writing about must be a girl too.  WHY?  Because women can only be envious of each other?  Because women can only aspire to the heights of other women? 

Do women really view competition along gender lines?  Sure, in any physical activity there are obvious reasons why Average Joe may not be suited to a heavy lifting duel with Average Josephine, but surely where creativity is concerned everyone is fair game? Say, Blog Wars broke out tomorrow, my blog would be up against ALL the trillions there are in the world, not just the ones written by women.  So why did this person ASSUME I was talking about another girl?

This is something I will definitely be coming back to.  Right now I have to beat some men at some stuff.

And yes, the person who left the comment, she was a girl.

pic: Sooki and Anna 02 by Seneschal of Avalon

Friday, 1 October 2010

Square One

alarm clock
alarm clock by EureekasWindow*

If this blog has taught me anything it's to do things sooner.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I am LOVING my blogging experience right now and I don't want to take anything away from it.  However, I wish I had started it sooner!   How much farther down the blogging road would I be if I had started a year ago?  I suppose I will know in, well, a year.

But blogging isn't the only thing I wish I'd done sooner.  I wish I had taken my driving test at 17.  In fact, I wish I had taken it at all!  Driving is something that has never quite happened for me.  I can drive a car, if ninjas forced me, I could get a car from my house to where ever it may be the ninjas wanted to go.

learner brooch
Learner Brooch by PayneDesign

But I cant do it legally.  My test has always alluded me. I have only booked a test once.  The morning came round and I sat nervously on the edge of my bed waiting for my driving instructor to turn up, snapping: "YES I'M FINE!" to anyone who dared poke their head around my door (I'm not good with stress).  It wasn't long before his little red Corsa pulled up, and with my stomach sitting on my tongue I ventured out into, what I hoped, would be a new world of automotive freedom.

I hadn't even sat down in the front seat by the time my mum came running out with the news:  my examiner had called in sick and my test had been cancelled.  I cannot understate how much this rocked my confidence.  Convinced that that day was the only day I would ever possibly pass my test, I never re-booked.  My lessons fizzled out and two years later I still can't legally drive ninjas anywhere.  Every time I have to sit on a packed bus on miserable, rainy days, I think about that examiner and imagine all the ills that may have befallen him that day.  It is the only thing that gets me through the coughing, the fidgeting, the sneezing and the smell of my fellow passengers.

I also wish I had kept up with my guitar playing.  At secondary school I had the usual classical lessons which I found mouth dryingly tedious. I stretched my little fingers over scale after scale and knew more Russian folk tunes than I knew what to do with. But as tedium turned into a deep depression regarding anything to do with my lessons, I gave up. But, of course, NOW I wish I had carried on.  Now that I have been gifted a wonderful flowery guitar I wish I could play something on it.  But all those scales and all those Russian Folk songs escape me.  I am back at square one.

On my track record I think I will make Square One my new forwarding address. I am the Queen of Putting Things Off which is a rubbish empire to reign over; No-one makes the bed, no-one washes up, no-one plays the guitar and no-one can BLEEDING DRIVE!

Hopefully this time next year my blogging will still be bubbling along nicely.  Chances are I still wont be driving.  But I will endeavour to learn a tune on my guitar.  An actually tune.  One that I like and know all the words to.

Who needs a car anyway?  I'll walk to Square Two.



* This is just the cutest isn't it?  Are you handy with a crochet hook and fancy recreating items like this one?   Visit  the creators Etsy store for patterns HERE.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

GIVEAWAY TIME!

Well after all the loveliness yesterday I come spreading more Joy!  The wonderful people at CSN Stores are offering one of my readers £15 to spend on any of thier UK Websites.  CSN stores sell everything you need for each room of your house! From wardrobes to lighting to my personal favorite BAKEWARE!

 I have my eye on one of these babies:


KitchenCraft Natural Elements Cast Iron Scale with Body and Acacia Wood Stand in Ivory - NETSCAIVR

But YOU can spend your £15 on whatever you like.  To enter, just comment on this post and tell me what you would spend your voucher on! (Don't worry, you can change your mind later!).  Entry closes next Friday (8th October) and a winner will be picked at random! Anyone can enter, so tell your friends!

Good Luck! x

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Good things come to those that blog

BLOG
"BLOG" by NVasion

Blogging is lovely.

This blog here started in a very poorly place.  I was down in the dumps and down on myself. I needed to start writing to let off steam and this blog let that happen.

Thanks to blogging I have had a much needed outlet over the last few months to moan and gripe. Apart from a rather odd situation along the way (those this applies to know what I'm talking about, and they are the only ones that need to (so don't ask about it!)) it has been a very enriching experience.  From writing Bitter Lemon I have had the boost I was desperate for! I have something else to think about and something to get excited about!

I have been writing on and off for five months now and in that time I have progressed in my writing to a stage where I'm applying for writing roles on other websites.  I have also had the confidence to set up a blog in a rather competitive corner of the Internet: food.

"Competitive" is completely the wrong word.  Apart from The Situation I mentioned above, everyone I have encountered through the Internet have been an absolute joy.  They have given me heaps of advice, time and the occasional (well worded!) criticism, all of which has helped me to improve what I'm doing.

The Internet is, ironically, the place where things can actually happen! I have written two blogs in the past week about two women I admire.  Both these women have not only read my blogs but have taken the time to send me thank you messages (they were THANKING ME!).  To anyone who dismisses Twitter and blogging I will use these experiences as proof that through social networking you can reach the people that have brought a little wonder to your lives and thank them for it (and if they are truly wonderful they may even thank you back).

When I started I didn't know where blogging would take me. I am nowhere near where I want to be but just being HERE is lovely and to anyone thinking of starting their own, I'd say GET BLOGGING!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Victoria Coren: I Salute You.

I love telly.  I’m not ashamed to say it.  There is something quite comforting about that glowing box in the corner. It has been there always and long may it be the hand that guides me through those “what to do, what to do” moments (as well as those “I really should be blogging/cleaning/cooking/moving moments).  But like any relationship it also has the capacity to make me rage.  There is such utter guff on at the moment, fronted by the same vacuous personas.  Presenters seem to have been punched out in some glamour factory with big hair, big boob, big teeth cookie cutters.  Anything interesting, quirky or clever seems to have been cast aside.  There are two offenders high on my list.  I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say I’m sick to the back teeth of these two:


Look at them, no don’t.  It’s too horrible.  These two have been the bane of my television viewing since they heaved their monstrous “I’m just like your best friend” nonsense onto my screen.  They embody all that depresses me about broadcasting at the moment.  First there is Fearne, with her unbearable desperation to be cool. I almost feel sorry for her, she has the ability to be mince in everything. Did you see those interviews she did for ITV2?  Yikes. why were they allowed to be aired? . And then there is Holly, who reminds me of those big breasted titbits of the 1970s who soul purpose was to turn playing cards over for Bruce Forsyth.  I have yet to see evidence of anything going on behind those big, sad and bewildered looking eyes. 

But enough about them, this isn’t a post about people I don’t like on television.  It’s a post about someone who I adore on television and who should be on it a lot more: Victoria Coren.


Vicky Coren03

Her face on my screen is always the most welcome sight.  She makes me throw my arms up into to air and run through the nearest field singing gloriously from the bottom of my heart:

"FINALLY ! Thank you, thank you, thank you!" 

Television (at last!) has a young woman fronting witty, clever and entertaining programmes who also has the gall to be stupendously sexy.  I’m going to refrain from using that hideous and patronising clich√© “thinking man’s crumpet” because frankly she deserves more.  She deserves a much higher accolade than that, and I may by poking my head above the parapet here, but here goes.

There aren’t many people alive today who I rate in the same league as Stephen Fry.  Those I do, tend to share a significant amount of DNA with me.  I am by no means the only person who feels this way.  As a bookseller I spend a considerable amount of each day discussing his genius with people.  One topic that often comes up is “who do you think will be the next Stephen Fry?” Because everyone knows, when something good comes along we all have to agree on who will replace them if something awful happens, just so we can get the paperwork together in time.

The number one answer at the moment is David Mitchell.  I’m being controversial here, but I just do not agree with this. In fact I shudder to write it.  I can’t deny that Mitchell is clearly intelligent; he has had a similar education to Fry, has trodden the same boards, and is forging an almost identical career.  But I find him just such a pompous arse.  He doesn’t have the same approachableness, as Fry. He doesn’t have that genuine humble bafflement that Fry often displays when complimented too highly.  Mitchell’s face is too capable of smugness and he is too ready to put people down.

200px-Coren_victoria_large_headshot
I believe the true holder of ‘Britain’s Next Top National Treasure’ is Victoria Coren.  I cannot think of anyone else whose voice, and the words it forms, sends me to sillying heights of pleasure. Her obvious intellect, like Fry’s, doesn’t detract from the fact she is probably good company down the pub.  And it profoundly please me that these qualities ooze from a woman.  I don’t want to bang on about the Sisterhood here, and make the mistake of celebrating her womanliness more than her talent, but in a world drowning in Fearnes, Hollys, and ANYONE OF THOSE BASTARDS ON T4, Coren is a blessing in female form. 

Coren isn’t just a presenter though and has been writing since her youth.  I judge writers on their ability to make me think differently about issues, she has passed my test with flying colours.  Her writing about the female form and its uses in the tremendous (and much under stocked) book ‘Once More with
 Feeling’ made me look at women in porn entirely differently (there are too many things to say about that last phrase). The book charts Coren and Charlie Skelton’s quest to produce the best pornographic film ever.  If the book hadn’t had her name attached I would have completely dismissed it.  The feminist in me would have scoffed and shuddered at the subject matter; I would have tutted and rolled my eyes.  Alot.  Now, I’m not saying that Coren has turned me into a hairy handed porn enthusiast, but her thoughtful, engaging and challenging descriptions of the scene and those who inhabit it made me reassess porn as just a seedy pit of abuse and infection.  Of course A LOT of it is, and if you engage in it in anyway I urge you to watch films that are fully decorated with all the right certificates. But some of it isn’t.  Some of it is fun, silly and at times (ahem) touching.   

To me, Coren is doing for words what Nigella did to food.  She is making them stupendously sexy.  I am dying for another series of Balderdash and Piffle.  This series sought the origins of everyday words and phrases and for anyone interested in language was a delight.   The way the words trickled out of Coren’s mouth, the way she flirted with the camera was tremendously girly and alluring.  The best porn Coren ever made was in this programme: word-porn.

Now, thanks to Only Connect (a hidden gem on BBC Four), she is bringing a weekly dose of clever-porn into my sitting room.  This show is brilliant. I rarely manage to get anything right, but that’s the point.  It’s a breath of fresh air to have a quiz on television that expects a certain level of knowledge that isnt based on soaps or X-Factor winners. If you haven’t seen it yet, try one of their “fiendishly diffcult” connecting walls here. Of course, Coren makes the show.  If it was fronted by anyone else it could possibly be the most pretentious show on TV but her personality gives it just the right amount of comedy to make it watchable without singling out the viewer as the stupid one - “[contestants are] SO clever they’ll make Stephen Fry look like Welsh Helen from Big Brother 2”.

And to top it all off, she is a professional poker player! This is as close to being James Bond that a girl can get.  And it is THE COOLEST things about her!   I swell with pride each time I watch her playing.  Her name above that St George flag makes me punch the air, and I almost have to stop myself exclaiming that wincing phrase “GO GIRLFRIEEEEND!”  She would make a brilliant comic book character: ‘Vicky C – Poker Girl!’

Victoria Coren | Best Online Casino Gambling

And now for another wincing phrase - “Girl Crush”. Coren is definitely at the top of this list for me.  Everytime she is on a panel show, whether it’s Have I Got News For You or Question Time she easily overshadows everyone else.  Most of the time she is surrounded by men. You can see it in their eyes as inch by inch they fall in love with her.  But there is one panel show that series on series seems to be lacking something.  The fact she hasn’t yet appeared on it seems completely ludicrous to me.  WHY IN THE NAME OF STEPHEN FRY HAS SHE NOT BEEN ON QI YET?!!!  Surely she is THE perfect person for that show.  Just imagine it for a moment.

Fry, Coren and Facts.

Drink it in….

Surely she is due an appearance!

For me, Coren is the best thing on TV right now and tightly gripping holder of "The Next Stephen Fry" title.  I hope the future holds a lot more commissions with her name on. If that name isn’t “household” this time next year I will burn my TV License (which will be annoying as I pay on-line).  In short, Victoria Coren is the only girl on television that I want to see turning over cards.

Visit Victoria's Website here

Picture credits: Zykesmith, Steve Edwards
 bluemanunder

Victoria on Amazon.com

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Love it when I talk about food?


 You know you do!

So why not try my new foodie blog Hank's Marvin.

Go on, it's tasty.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Why I'm having a particularly lovely day



131/365
Cat by Cat


As you can all see this blog of mine is called Bitter Lemon and started from a rather frustrated place. But today I have had a simply lovely day, and as someone who suffers from pitiful downs and panicking panics I thought it was worth celebrating.

Now we all know the Internet loves a good list, so here is why I'm having the whimsiest day of loveliness:

* I had a substantial lie-in that went on for just the right amount of time. I got up today at 10.30, which is the perfect time: you have languished in the land of nod and fed on sleep until you are just full, but not too full to feel bloated and head heavy.

* The lie-in followed a horrible dream where Martin had left me. The relief I felt when I woke up to hear him pottering about was glorious.

* Having already tidied the kitchen and living room last night, I was greeted by the best sight to morning eyes - neatness in the two most inviting rooms.

* I had perfect, 4 and a half minute boiled eggs for breakfast.

* I wrote three letters which I went on to post on the same day they were written. They now won't rattle about in my bag for a week getting tatty and bruised.  They slipped into the post box in pristine condition. I also posted back my lovefilm DVD (Frost/Nixon) in record time.

* I decided to cook my hard-working fiance a meal that any 1950s housewife would be proud of. So out came Gizzi Erskine's book and her recipe for "Proper Beef Stew".

* I walked to the shops in the sunshine,with Stephen Fry in my ears. I went round possibly the bleakest Asda in the country and left with cheeks devoid of tears. Not bursting into tears wasn't the only first on this shopping trip, I also managed to buy EVERYTHING that I needed to make my beef stew.

* I only had to wait about 5 minutes for the bus home. This is always a delight, I wasn't even bothered that, having only a £2 coin on me, I over paid for my journey by 55p. I like to think the bus driver fished this out for himself and bought himself something nice.

* I switched on my computer in the afternoon sunshine, poured myself some very lovely coffee and got cracking on my Green and Blacks Cherry Chocolate bar. My broadband kicked in in super fast time and I was whizzing around the Internet before I knew it.

* I browsed my two new favorite shopping sites The Literary Gift Company and Folksy where I made a start on Christmas and treated myself to a Border Terrier badge:


Designed by Forever Foxed
This badge will have to do until I can get the real thing.

* I spoke to Stef, who looks like this:

Stef photographed by Ian Malone
and is one of the best people I know.

* I downloaded 'A Larum' which is a simply brilliant folk album by Johnny Flynn, and thanks to the power of the facebook status update have added more music to my Itunes wishlist.

* With 'A Larum' playing in the background I lustily prepared stew for my lover like any good folk wench would.

* Martin came home early.

These are all wonderful things. But surely the best thing is still to come: the stew should be ready in time for Only Connect. It's almost like I timed it that way.

Top photo by Cat_mcpie (wonderful photos, especially of London)
Stef photo by Ian Malone (www.malonesworld.com)
Border Terrier badge by Forever Foxed

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Freelance Writing Dream?

TYPE!


A few months ago my working hours were cut and as a result my free time went up. Hurray! I spent the first few months revelling in all this extra time I had to wallow in novels and daytime television.  But as anyone with even the slightest twinkle of ambition knows, every spare moment you spend doing anything other than strutting towards your dream looms over you with damning disapproval.  Every extra hour spent trawling through your Sky+ delights is an hour spent in guilt.  You really should be doing something. Those scarves won’t knit themselves and that paint wont leap spontaneously onto canvas.  In my case, those articles I need to complete to become a freelance writer wont type themselves up whilst I sit and watch The Great British Bake Off.

I have always wanted to write, for as long as I can remember.  But life and slovenliness has got in the way for many years, and its only now that my job has become part-time that I have felt guilt-ridden enough to do anything about it.  And it is now, when I’m just starting out, that I’m beginning to wonder whether this dream is really mine.

I know quite a few people who are freelance writers full-time.  Some thrive, they relish in falling out of their beds into their office (the coffee table) banging out a few articles surrounded by all the comforts of home.  They drink endless cups of tea, listen to BBC Radio 4 or 6 and are Zen and lovely   This is the image I had pinned my dreams to:  Sitting primly at my laptop, tappity-tappity-tapping away, sending off my articles to the wittiest, most right-on and most read websites out there. Once I had spilt my wisdom on fashion, popular culture and what’s so hot right now, I would spruce myself up and skip into town to take in an art show or two before whiling away my evenings cooking and reading. 

In the couple of months I have spent researching and finding websites to write for it has become ever clearer that there are a few glitches to this ideal freelance world.  The internet is freakishly good at eating up time, a phenomenon I also experience whilst writing.  Add the two together and your day lasts about 45 minutes. If I remember to eat or drink I’m having a good day. The concept of leaving the house becomes ever more alien and before I know it, it’s time to get ready for work-work.  All this and I’m still not anywhere near being an actual freelance writer.

As the hours tick by, and the article ideas dry up a nagging doubt keeps creeping up on me:

“I’m not sure I can actually do this…..and I’m not sure I even really want to….”

I was spurred to write this blog after someone tweeted (I cannot remember who, else I would give them the credit due): “Being a freelance writer is like having homework to do every night”.  It summed up beautifully what had begun to dawn on me.  Being a freelancer is hard and demanding and isn’t necessarily a career that promises endless days of creativity followed by hours spent in whimsy.  For some, it IS just that and I take my hat off to them.  But these people are clearly crammed to the edges with ideas and don’t mind not leaving the house for days on end.  Now I’m not the life and soul of the party, the word “hermit” has been banded about.  But even I wince at the idea of being cooped up until I have completed a client’s work “just-so” and knowing that the relief of having completed something is short-lived.  The moment I press “send” I will immediately have to seek out new employment.  My world will shrink into my laptop screen.   Just writing this has taken about forty minutes.  FORTY minutes.  When I’m actually at work forty minutes stretches on for an unflinching eternity.  When writing on-line it zips by in flash.  All well and good when you are writing for yourself, but unimaginably daunting when you have to get articles written (emphasis on the plural here) in order to pay your bills.

Luckily most jobs I have looked at don’t ask for many words, less than I have written here in fact.  And once a writer has a book of clients and a working rhythm I can see how it could be a viable and enjoyable career.  But it's a career you have to slog towards and sacrifice for.  I shall continue to plod and blog along but it is almost comforting that this dream job I have chastised myself for not yet having, MAY not be the key to absolute working happiness.  Knowing this I can go back to enjoying writing and as a result I may be able to produce something worth selling.  Ironically it may be letting the dream go that might actually make it happen. 

Photo - TYPE! by Carlos Moreira

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The £10 Food Challenge continued

Missed me?

You have?!  Well miss me no longer, I'm back with another thrilling update about what me and Martin have been eating over the last two days! I am only including the highlights because otherwise Bitter Lemon will just turn into a blog of such tedium you will all go and log onto The Daily Mail or something.

You will be relieved to hear that I DID eventually treat myself to the much hyped kippers and scrambled eggs.


 It looks like dog vomit.  I will grant you that.  But it's so darn tasty!

Requirements:

* 3 eggs (yes 3. Eggs are ok again)
* TAD milk (c)
* 1 kipper

Smash up your eggs into a "scramble". I prefer the hob method, eggs deserve a hob. But if you are stuck for time just shove it in the microwave and blast the hell out of it (like you ALWAYS do). I tend to add my kippers towards the end as you don't want them to make the eggs too salty. Dish up on your most aesthetically pleasing plate, eat and sit back satisfied.

* * *

Pie. Pie is what this country is made on. Well pie and pasties (I was born in Cornwall, all the best people and pastry based goods come from there. Oh and ice creams...and holidays...and people with the name Renowden.... and Bridgewater). It was a pie that instigated a shift in The £10 Food Challenge. A moment so moving, so tantalising I cannot possibly do it's importance justice here. It was a moment so tender and marvelous that it almost made me want to pack the challenge in, move to the woods, live in a shack and just eat pie until I was shack-ridden.

It started with a request "Er...Hannah, do you have a recipe for shortcrust pastry?" and it ended in my plate looking like this around 8pm.

Martin made pie and SHARED it.  What a knight among men.

Martin's Pie

The Pastry (or Heavenly Pie Hat)

* 1lb Plain Flour (c)
* 8oz Butter (c)
* Pinch of salt (c)
* Cheese (you choose how much) (c)
* water to mix

Rub the butter into the flour until you have bread crumbs. Give it some cheese. Add water until you are able to form a dough. The best thing you can do for pastry dough is let it have a snooze in your fridge for a bit. It likes it.

The Innards

* Potatoes
* Carrots
* Sweetcorn
* Broad beans
* One pack of White Wine Mussels

yes...one pack of White Wine Mussels. This sounds RANK. But it tasted sooooo good! The white wine sauce gave the pie this lovely tasting filling and really worked with the veg. Give it about half an hour in a high oven then just eat it.

I promise I will be writing about other things than my diet soon. I already have an open love letter to Victoria Coren in the works. I've gone and said her name! Now I will have to sate your excitement with a picture!
Smashing.

There is This Game

There is This Game

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Really basic biscuits for really basic people

So it's day two of the Great £10 Food Challenge. So far, still so fun.

Woke up this morning feeling a bit strange (might have been the appetite suppressants we've been necking) so decided against the much hyped kippers and scrambled eggs. Instead I had a bowl of the cheap coco pops, which lovingly cling to each other in the bowl. Not like the Kellogg's ones, which bob independently in their own pool of milk all confident like. This sticky sugar content saw me through until about 2pm when I had a bag of potato rings. The salt content in these little babies had me immediately craving something sweet again. As our budgets don't stretch to McVities I cracked out the recipe book and set to work on some home-made peanut butter biscuits with extra nuts.

Peanut Butter Biscuits with Extra Nuts


* 250g Butter (c)
* 140g Light Muscovado Sugar (c)
* 1 egg yolk
* 2 tbs peanut butter (or as much as you like) (c)
* Mixed nuts (handful) (c)
* 300g plain flour (c)

Mix all this stuff together, form into biscuit shapes and cook in 180oC oven for 15 minutes.

mmmm...nutty


This blog was brought to you by Celebrity Come Dine With Me on More 4+1

Saturday, 28 August 2010

on your marks COOK!

Unless you are thoroughly well paid or live in the woods, there are always a couple of months a year when you have a bit of a freak out about your lack of money. August has become that month in our household. Sacrifices will have to be made on both sides. My side consists of not buying Word Magazine and looking up pictures of crusty old folk musicians on line instead, not indulging in Boots' incredibly reasonable Meal Deals and staying away from the horses. But it was on the way to Tesco(s) that Martin came up with the biggest compromise of all, one that will help our bank balances as well as our ever-increasing waist sizes.

Martin has had a life-long admiration for the BBC's seminal pre-teatime television host Ainsley Harriot and in the spirit of his award winning show he suggested we take our sacrifice to the limit. I discussed the idea of wiggling our behinds whilst we one-handedly drove a sword into a shaven goat, humming euphorically. But that wasn't the Harriet Sacrifice he meant. Martin was more inclined towards the idea of setting ourselves a shopping limit of £10 each for a week, shopping separately and seeing who lasts longest. I laughed. Well no at first I scoffed, THEN I laughed as i realised it might be quiet fun and might make me think about the food i buy.

So here are the rules:

*We each have £10 with which to buy food and drink.
*This £10 must last 7 days, and money left after 7 days can be rolled over. However if we EXCEED £10 in one week this amount will be deducted from the next weeks money.
*The food that we already have in the cupboards is available to both of us.
*Milk, eggs, cooking oil and any essentials that are purchased,that we BOTH need does not count towards the £10. It would be pointless us both buying bread and half of it going mouldy.
*Bread can be made using the bread maker or bought.
*We are not allowed to let each other starve and the safety phrase is "feed me".

This week our shop of choice is Tesco (other supermarkets are available (no really! they are! and may appear in this blog during later weeks). I spent just £7.93. This was a much better result than Martin who having placed Special Beer in his trolley bumped himself over the £10 threshold.

Here, in all its Value glory is "My Bag"


Shiny aren't they? Those peppers. Going to be eating ALOT of peppers this week shiny or not. Please note the student staples pasta and cheap coco pops - lots of energy there. Star buy this week were the avocados which i got for under a pound. YOU TOO can dream of treats like these if you seek out the magical "golden price" person in store. This person is the guardian angel of the tight budgeted shopper. They go around in the early evening marking down all the stuff just on the cusp of freshness. If you enjoy a good soup, or know how to form a bag of apples into a crumble then this person can hold the key to a three course meal for a matter of pounds. Granted, some people may see this as just a step up from rooting around in bins, but be positive - its a step up. UP.

The potato rings you see there were the first things i tasted this side of my new life and they are incredibly salty and literally not for the faint hearted! But its all about those kippers! which i am already looking forward to. Tomorrow morning they will be flaked into some milky scrambled eggs and i shall sit back, my belly full, and declare: "today will be a good day".

But back to tonight. I had a number of options in mind, but eventually plumped for a lasagna. "But you didn't buy any mince!" I hear you call. Well, I'm a pescatarion so such things don't bother me (a fact which will make my challenge a slightly bit easier). So, here it is:

Purple and Red Lasagna

(c=cupboard)

You will need:
*One red pepper
*One red onion
*One tablespoon olive oil (c)
*One tin of chopped tomatoes (c)
*Dried herbs (c)
*Balsamic Vinegar (c)
*2 lasagna sheets (c)
*1 ounce plain flour (c)
*1 ounce butter (c)
*half pint milk (c)

Once you have formed all those things into a lasagna, voila! teatime!


I'm very happy because it actually didn't taste that bad! And the best thing is, i get to eat coco pops for dessert, like i always wanted to. You are probably wondering what Martin had. He had soup and macaroni so it could only have been the Special Beer that made him go like this:


Balance: £2.07

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