What I’ve been up to: Salted Caramel, Séances & The West Wing

I thought I’d clear the cobwebs on my little corner of the internet (not a euphemism) by telling you about some of the ‘cool’ things I’ve been up to recently.

The West Wing

I’ve just started watching The West Wing and I love love LOVE it. Yes, I have to concentrate because they talk awful quick and I know nothing about US politics. But it’s nice to watch a TV show where the characters are actually quite lovely (as opposed to Mad Men, the entire cast of which are dirtbags. EVEN THE HOT ONE).

Plus, I learn something new every time I watch it. Like that episode about the Peters Map which left my mind in pieces. You don’t get that shit on Come Dine With Me.

Salted Caramel Brownies

If you want people to like you, then bake them a cake. Everyone knows that. Want to reduce people to murmuring hrnghrhgh in a trance-like state of pleasure? Bake them salted caramel brownies. I know this to be the truth.

It’s quite simple really. Just layer Hugh F-W’s cocoa brownie mix with this salted caramel sauce. Twenty minutes in the oven and Bob’s your gooey, dense, salty, sweet and deliciously rich uncle.

Bake and distribute amongst friends / family / potential lovers for an instant god complex.

Macabre Museums

Hey, so you know an awesome and definitely in no way weird thing to do of a Thursday evening? Go to a séance! Or Through A Glass Darkly, which is the closest thing to a Victorian séance I could find in London. Held at the incredibly spooky Old Operating Theatre Museum in London Bridge, a magician explains the tricks used by fraudulent mediums in the olden days. As long as you don’t go expecting ectoplasm like I did (spoiler alert: there was no ectoplasm) then you’ll have a lovely evening.

Ooh, and if you’re free one weekend then definitely drop by The Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. Aside from a totally delightful exhibition on The Tiger Who Came To Tea, The Stuff of Nightmares art installation is shoulder-shudderingly creepy (excellent snaps here). Even more so because it was created by local school children.

I mean, what sort of sick mind dreams up this?

Mediatheque @ BFI

Despite the Southbank being one of my favourite spots in London, I’ve never seen a film at the BFI. Until last weekend when I discovered that you can turn up at the Mediatheque, borrow a pair of headphones and watch one of thousands of films or documentaries. For free! You’ll get told off for bringing in popcorn but aside from that it’s pretty much perfect. Go watch The Wicker Man when it’s raining and drool over Britt Ekland.


Things that I made: Lemon friands


Friands are ace. The little almond and egg white cakes from Australia manage to be dainty without being twee (unlike some other baked goods I could mention) and they’re dead quick to make.

I found the original recipe on Domestic Sluttery, and tarted it up with lemon zest and a swirl of lemon curd. I know that it looks a bit snotty in the picture, but this homemade lemon curd is like gargling sweetened sunshine. Make too much for your friands and eat the rest spread on the warmed carb of your choice. I recommend bagels, but to be quite honest it would probably work on boot leather. It’s that good.

Next up in my quest to poison my friends, housemates and colleagues with butter: Salted Caramel Millionaire’s Shortbread.

Some intelligent words on writing by Hari Kunzru

“I get great pleasure from writing, but not always, or even usually. Writing a novel is largely an exercise in psychological discipline – trying to balance your project on your chin while negotiating a minefield of depression and freak-out. Beginning is daunting; being in the middle makes you feel like Sisyphus; ending sometimes comes with the disappointment that this finite collection of words is all that remains of your infinitely rich idea. Along the way there are the pitfalls of self-disgust, boredom, disorientation and a lingering sense of inadequacy, occasionally alternating with episodes of hysterical self-congratulation as you fleetingly believe you’ve nailed that particular sentence and are destined to join the ranks of the immortals, only to be confronted the next morning with an appalling farrago of cliches that no sane human could read without vomiting.”


[via @Sathnam]

Small pleasures: The thing about baking

If you’ve spent some time with me (and that includes on Twitter) you’ll know that I’m a bit brownie-obsessed. Not so much with eating them, although that affords a pleasure of its own, but with finding the perfect recipe.

I won’t go all Nigella and use terms like unctuous or elven foodstuff, but brownies really are incredible. It still blows my mind that mixing various powders from the kitchen cupboard with butter and a few eggs produces something so delicious it makes your toes twitch.

Consequently, whenever I eat a brownie my thoughts are “hrrrrrngh” followed by “but how can I make it better?” This leads to thinking it’s okay to spend nearly a fiver on TWO vanilla pods and getting angry when Asda Charlton doesn’t stock chocolate with the cocoa percentage I need.

But a pleasant side effect of all this baking is sharing. More for the sake of my thighs than out of altruism, if I’m being honest. But seriously – bring French Toast Cupcakes or Cocoa Brownies into the office and you’ll make a tonne of new friends. One or two might insist on giving you a nickname (“How’s it going, Al?”) but karma will take care of them.

Obviously there are better things I could be doing with my time. Like visiting London’s best small museums, trying a new cheese or finishing that book I’m supposed to be writing.

But there are few greater pleasures than coming home on a Friday, switching the radio to Heart FM and baking some shit. And your housemates aren’t allowed to get annoyed at the disco tunes because 1) they’re stone cold classics and I’ll personally nut anyone who disagrees, and 2) you’re making a cake. Nothing ever goes wrong when you’re baking a cake*.

*Apart from this

Dear Internet: P.S, I miss you

Mmm, internet.

I had a MacBook once. It had a cool, shiny lid that barely clicked when shut, and the jet keyboard contrasted beautifully with the chrome-coloured edges. We had four blissful months together before we parted ways. It was followed by a three-week affair with a clunky Compaq, but that wasn’t meant to be. And now I am alone again.

Life without a laptop is, to quote Lady Jesus, “the worst”.

Sure, I have a bit more spare time in the evenings. Time that I would’ve frittered away updating Tumblr or watching retro hair tutorials on YouTube or googling Jon Hamm. I’m also reading more.

But it’s only when you have to go through evenings and weekends without a computer that you realise how much it was a part of your life. I’ve had to make the following adjustments to my lifestyle, sans-lappy:

No more Spotify. Now this has hit me the hardest. I’ve gone from having a music catalogue of gajillions at my Mint Green fingertips to relying on my skeletal CD collection.

As I stopped regularly buying CDs when I was 15, my musical consumption at home is all Alicia Keys, Maroon 5 and Avril “I’m a bit too old for this emo lark” Lavigne (although I will happily take on anyone who doesn’t believe that Sk8er Boi is a choon. A CHOON).

No more writing. Ever tried writing by hand? No, not like a shopping list or passive-aggressive sticky note. I mean proper paragraphs on lined paper. That ish is rough. You can’t copy and paste, there’s no spell-check and you can forget about an anthropomorphic paperclip dispensing handy tips.

No more cooking from American food blogs. I like baking as it combines two of my favourite things – lightly salted Lurpak and following rules. And food blogs across the pond are the best places to find butteriffic recipes like Cinnamon Rolls Drowned In Goo or Banana Butterscotch Pudding.

So if you were wondering why my little corner of internet has been so slack on the update, it isn’t because I’m out having a life or something. I’m suffering from the cruellest fate that could ever befall a 20-something social media addict attempting to write a book – I don’t have a laptop.

I know. I’m so brave.

Flickr image from timjoyfamily

Frugal February: Week One

No fudge for me :-(

Wondering what on this earth Frugal February is? Don’t fret, it’s all explained here.

So far, this February has remained frugal. I’m quite proud of myself, mostly because this week involved an afternoon trip spent in the shops of Wonderful Brighton. And I didn’t buy anything! Not a bag of fudge from The Lanes, not a vintage milk bottle (been after one of those for ages) from the cavernous Snooper’s Paradise and not a Rob Ryan mug.

Actually, if it wasn’t for Frugal Feb, goodness knows what useless tat I would’ve picked up in Brighton. I try to think that every cute poster or packet of artisan fudge I deny myself is another dollar in the pot for my trip to NYC this summer.

Not to sound like a total alcoholic, but I’m also finding that using holiday cocktails as currency is more effective than boring old pounds and pence. For example, a Sunday newspaper or pot of Barry M nail polish is about half a cocktail. A dress in the sale that I don’t really need? 3-4 cocktails. Season 3 of ER on DVD? Well that’s my bar tab for the evening covered. Unorthodox yes, but it’s a technique that has worked out so far.

That said, there have been a few things that I’ve had to buy that don’t strictly fall under the label of Essential (as in, I could just about survive without them):

  • Scrivener (£25ish). I’m writing a book at the minute and this web app is about as indispensable as my laptop. It’s a tool of immense beauty and I love love love it.
  • Spotify Premium (£10). If I’m awake then there’s an 85% chance I’m using Spotify. For ten English pounds, I get to avoid having my playlists interrupted by poorly-targeted adverts. The Spotify subscription stays.
  • Hairdresser appointment (Undisclosed amount). Sorry, did you say something? I was too busy sniffing my delicious hair. Money well spent.
  • Replacement Kettle (£15). Boiling water for tea on the stove seems quaint for a while (“It’s just like in the olden days!”) but soon becomes tiresome.

Are you taking part in Frugal Feb? How are you finding it so far?

Flickr image from biscuitsmlp’s photostream

Chanel Iman: My Latest Girl Crush

It’s rare that I find myself flicking through a copy of Elle but, seeing as I was at the hairdresser’s yesterday, I thought I’d go along with the whole Being A Girl thing. The highlight? Chanel Iman modelling the latest pretty bits and bobs:

You can see the whole editorial here and I highly recommend that you take a peek – Chanel Iman looks heartbreakingly beautiful. The clothes aren’t too bad either.

[via MsFashinista]