Monday, 27 April 2015

Meal Planning Monday!!! Yeay!

It's the second week of term and the countdown to half term has started already. Well, it is only a 5 week term, so that's a blink of the eye.

Meals for this week are;

Monday; Pork fajitas. I cooked the pork on Sunday and left it in the fridge to be ready for a quick and easy meal after 2 hours of tutoring and before bookclub which today is discussing The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins.
Tuesday; Stir fried beef. We have some spring onions and some sugar snap peas to throw in with noodles and have a tasty chinese!
Wednesday; Meatballs and mash. We love Aldi meatballs, or Frikadellen as they're called. They cook quickly and go with loads of options. Like mash, or chips, or pasta. Today is mash and peas and gravy. Lots of gravy.
Thursday; Spaghetti Bolognese made in a jiffy with mince and a jar of pasta sauce. Somedays I am a lazy cook.
Friday; The children are having fried chicken and chips, while we will have a fast paella from the Hairy Dieters later on.
Saturday; Possibly tea at my parents, or they may come here while I cook. The lads have exams, so revision at home is a distinct necessity.
Sunday; Family party (not at our house!) so it will be fun to eat a meal that I haven't had to cook!

I'm joining in with At Home with Mrs M, but I'm not sure I'll have time to post a link across.....

Sunday, 26 April 2015

The End of the Holidays. Shame.

Mind you, the holiday ended with a good day, because we got to visit a shrine, a bookshop and a library. The Princess was a bit blasted by it, but my bookophilic son and husband soaked it all up.

In order, then;

North Gower Street;
It's where they film the new Sherlock. Look! That's Speedy's Cafe!

221b Baker Street

For Son number 1; he rounded off his perfect holiday with Sherlock Holmes as well. We visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum. You buy tickets, you queue, you go in to a small 4 story building where there are rooms decorated in the style of Holmes and Watson.

 Pipes, slippers, gunshots in the wall, it's all here, with a load of dodgy figures that look like C&A had a closing down sale next door and they picked up the mannequins.

Moriarty looking shifty, the Hound looking distinctly flea bitten and in the middle of it all a very happy looking teenager complete with deerstalker and smile. He enjoyed the shop afterwards, spending his hard saved cash on a magnifying glass, pipe and game.

Marylebone High Street
My Nan's niece used to live on Marylebone High Street so when I figured out I could plan a route that included a walk along it I jumped at the chance. And I did want to visit a place recommended by Paddington in his Guide to London, Daunt Books. Here they organise books (both fiction and non-fiction) by country. I happily perused the scandi-section and picked up a couple of books to read during the rest of the day.

On to the Wallace Collection.

After a week in London your feet hurt and your head spins at the thought of another museum or exhibition so our Friday excursion needed to be small, free and capable of keeping most of us happy. The Wallace Collection is very small, mercifully free and definitely had enough to fill an hour after lunch. Number 2 (my Top Gun) and I spent our time in the armour rooms, looking at enough knives, muskets, suits, halberds and accoutrements to please any blood thirsty person. No photos inside, my head was spinning, and then a decision to move on to the next place.

St Pancreas Station.

I wanted to see the frontage of this station, which was designed by the grandfather of the man who designed Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. It was beautiful as well. And there are some interesting statues inside;

 the one I loved best was John Betjemen, looking up at the great glass ceiling and thinking, yes, positively the statue was thinking, about the architecture and grandeur of life. I wanted to invite him to afternoon tea, a pot of Earl Grey and a small slice of toast possibly, while I asked him what life is like for him now.

The British Library.
And our final destination in London. I am embarrassed to say that by now my legs were aching so much I just couldn't walk any further, so the Treasures of the British Library exhibition will have to wait for a return visit. Husband and Eldest were happy to walk through, though, so I know it's worth going back for. I sat and read while I smiled and watched my two beautiful children sitting in the British Library, home to a copy of every book published in print in the UK, reading. Antiquity meets the future with a bang.

And that was London; plenty to see and do, plenty left to do on the return visit. We will go back, it's such a good place for a family holiday. We need to fly again, (I like legitimately being able to scream) to walk along the South Bank, to visit the National Gallery, the Abbey, to see the Geffrye. And to shop and eat and enjoy a faster pace of life than usual.

Friday, 24 April 2015

If it's Thursday, it must be Shopping Day!

The Princess has to have a shopping day in London. Must have, for her sanity after a load of museums. The last two times we went, we had to travel to Highbury in North London to visit the charming and beautiful Sylvanian Families shop. Alas, my daughter's days as a toy-playing child are behind her so this year was a rather more prosaic planned excursion to Lush, Claire's and Superdrug. When we shop, we shop in style!
Alas, my money had deserted me in droves the day before, so my cash was spent on a rather tasty cake and cocoa on the Portobello Road, a Duck Banquet on Gerard Street and mid afternoon drinks as we met the gang in Covent Garden. I'll let the pictures do the talking again.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

When they say Movie Magic, they mean MAGIC

Wednesday was a brief break from London city centre itself. We headed off to the Warner Bros Studio Tour The making of Harry Potter; it was the most expensive day out we had, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime-probably experience, so it was money well spent. And the whole day is a really magical experience if you're a Potter fan. From Privet Drive, to Hogwarts Castle, from the creature shop to the souvenir shop the day is a brilliant and enjoyable time for a fan. We spent ages wandering around gasping and calling each other over, we queued for the broomstick ride, we sat on the Express as the Dementors flew past and we spent ages just staring at the details on the scale model of Hogwarts. We wanted to watch the films one after another after the end; too bad we were at a holiday house and had left them at home. Bad Dobby. Bad Dobby. We shall have a marathon session this summer one day.

Anyway, it is a place best experienced in pictures and music, not words, so I shall let my little collection show you the fun we had. If you have any questions, let me know x

Entering Hogwarts; it's the original Great Hall set. You could hear people gasp when the doors opened. And plenty of children shouted "Sherbert Lemons!" hoping to make the door to Dumbledore's office open.

The Burrow. I love the details like the flowers, the knitting, even the plates and mugs on the dresser. Magical domesticity; not unlike the domestic magic we all make at home and blog about!
Real steam from a real steam engine. This is new this year and we have been told by all the cousins that they were well jel of us getting to see the Express. I didn't like to tell them that we actually saw it originally in 2004 at Railfest!

There are interactive parts all along the tour, like this section where you sit and watch the landscape rush past on the way to Hogwarts. There are chocolate frogs, flying cars and the scariest popping up dementors I have ever met!

The butterbeer was really sweet, with a marshmallow/ice cream topping designed to give you a moustache. We actually shared one because we'd been warned it was tooth-achingly sweet. Very cream soda-ish!
Chocolate Frogs and Every Flavour beans; we bought both just so that we can leave the package around and have a little Potter Magic in the house!
The model is brilliant, one of the last things you come across on the tour! We spent ages looking at this and the plans and concept paintings behind the actual creations. How do they think of this stuff? Who builds it? And did you know it took a team of 6 men 8 weeks to reassemble the model in its model hall home here? Impressive! 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

That's Green-wich, but said gren-itch

It's as far East as I have ever been in London, and takes a while to get there, but it is a good place to visit. It's old, for one thing, been attacked by Dark Elves and lived to tell the tale for another and, on a warm sunny day in April has enough large park teeming with history to keep anybody happy.

It is a really beautiful place, a  maritime town on the banks of the Thames, and full of beautiful buildings. With a history stretching from Tudor times when Henry VIII was born there and left Anne Boleyn there (until taking her to the Tower and a short break) through Napoleonic Naval battle school to the present day. it is an iconic sight.

 At the top of Greenwich Hill you get a real vista out over the east side of London.
And the Naval College (which is a university now) has a fantastic (and free to enter) painted Hall. We stood craning our necks and looking at all the different mythological Gods and Goddesses. We've paid to enter places that didn't have as good a ceiling as this one!

 A quick drink in the Naval College cafe, and on to the next part of our tour....

We could have visited the National Maritime Museum, The Queen's House Gallery, the Royal Observatory..... but we have hope that another trip to London will happen, and we've learnt that you don't have to rush everywhere and see everything in one go. And also that sometimes the most interesting moments happen off camera and are really surprising.
Like did you know that the bankers going home from Canary Wharf actually line up to board their underground train? They are actually really civilised about it, two neat, orderly lines to each entrance to the train, they let the other people off first, and they sit quietly when travelling. Spooky.

Wednesday Wind Up

What am I reading this week?
Still Warleggan, since I'm on a no spend week I'm trying to hold out on it so I don't need to get the next book until May, really.

I read a different book on holiday last week, Dust and Shadow by Lindsay Faye and John Watson. It is a Sherlock Holmes meets the Ripper novel. Very appropriate considering our adventures last week!

What have I watched this week?
The Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes. Eldest son has acquired it as a souvenir of London and we will be working our way through it from beginning to end. That's 42 episodes of Sherlockian enjoyment!
And I also have The Hobbit; Battle of the Five Armies to watch , probably this weekend with a themed tea to accompany it! (bacon and mushrooms, classic hobbit food!) I wonder what other food goes with which films? Ice cream with Grease? Pizza with Goodfellas? I must think about it!

Where have I been this week?
Since Monday, only school. But last week, ah, now last week was bliss. Magnificence.

How has my spending gone this week?
Ahem. We visited Harry Potter world. How do YOU think my spending went this week? Add a bookshop and a Sherlock Holmes museum and, well, I am on a spending fast for the next few weeks. At least.

What are my WIPs this week?
I have a finished WIP; does that cease to be a WIP? What will it be? A Ta Dah or a FO? And I have already started my next blanket project. This one will see me through summer and into the next winter, I think. It starts so simply, with 280 of these;

Made from a variety of these;

Any Other Business?
Only that I am waiting for May 20th to find out if there is a role for me at school next year. I don't think the Attendance Officer role will continue, but I haven't heard if there's another position that I could be able to do. If not, it will be back to supply and living day-to-day and hand-to-mouth. There are pluses and minuses to each.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

South Kensington; Not for the Faint-hearted.

South Kensington must be one of the most familiar sights to a London school child. I think any school within a bus ride or tube journey of London must take their children to either the Natural History Museum or the Science Museum at some point in their school life. It MUST be compulsory. Added to that the fact that every trip of overseas school children finds it compulsory as well, and it leads to one over crowded area of South West London.

Actually, we have tried to visit during local school holidays and that is infinitely worse, with queues round the block and children every where. The school trips are bearable with, especially since I think some children will behave better for the teacher than their parents ("Darling, don't climb up there; no, sweetie, the guard doesn't want his beard pulling; Tris, wouldn't you rather come to see this fossil than climb the dinosaur?) and they are contained, since one of the biggest fears as a teacher is to go on a trip and return with one less child.

On our last London trip in October 2012 we had visited the Science Museum but missed out on the chance to ride on the Fly 360 exhibit. You seriously need to watch any video of this. Hopefully, I can link to mine, just to show you that when it says 360, it means 360. Middle Son was desperate to go back. For 2 years it has been his dream to take me on the damned thing, and this Monday we did. Actually, at first he went on with his sister. Apparently she fancied the thing. I watched and was happy.

And then we walked away and we had lunch and he was smiling, and grinning and kept saying that was awesome, oh Mum you have to go on... blah de blah de blah. And I laughed and said something along the lines of, Oh no, I'm too old/fat/female/whatever to go on.
And, God bless him he kept grinning. Called me chicken. Said I'd love it.

Then he took me on.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Sherlock Holmes; The Man who Never Lived and Will Never Die

Eldest Son has quite an eclectic taste, but when he gets a passion he gets.a.passion.
And Sherlock Holmes (in book, film or TV guise) is one of his passions. I think it started one wet welsh holiday, when the best reading on offer was one of those huge Complete Short Stories. He devoured them and we have never looked back. I would go so far as to say he is most definitely a fanboy.
So when we saw that the Museum of London had an exhibition on about Sherlock (The Man who Never Lived and will Never Die) we began to plan. Sunday was the last day, and the only time it matched our holiday plans this year. We booked, we went, we really enjoyed.

The Museum of London is a little off the beaten track, lying a five minute walk to the north of St Paul's and near to the Barbican Centre. It's a good museum, dealing with the history of the capital from prehistoric time until the present so I knew we would have plenty to occupy a day there.
We walked from Holborn tube station to the museum, mostly because it gave us the chance to pass Lincoln's Inn Field, Chancery Lane, Hattons Garden, The Old Bailey, and Holborn Viaduct. It has been a lovely week weatherwise, so we walked a fair bit. And London is a series of underground stations unless you actually stay above ground and look. A half hour train journey with three changes may be a simple half hour walk passing by interesting sights. Or not. If you're a 13 year old diva, it's a torturous route to blisters and pain.

The exhibition was really good. I volunteered to be Watson to his Holmes, since I can do "What does this mean, Holmes?" in a really good Nigel Bruce voice. It had displays of the original manuscripts, copies of the Beeton Christmas Annual that Study in Scarlet first appeared in, pictures and photographs galore. A short section had paintings and etchings of London contemporaneous to Holmes, with fog, gaslights and all. Screens played excerpts from a range of adaptations (did you realise there had been so many? I didn't!) and modern Sherlock sat very happily alongside vintage. Fanboy was a happy sleuth, and treated himself to the accompanying book, while I (joy of joys) found a new addition to our Christmas Tree; Sherlock the Decoration.

The Museum has so much more; they have a display on the Olympic Flame from 2012 (that wonderful conceptual idea of the many individuals joining together as one) and the Lord Mayor's Coach. As the first stop on a week in London it really worked for giving us an insight into the life and times of London.

Meal Planning Monday

Joining in with At Home With Mrs M, and I might even post a link there if I can grab the time later.

It's a school week again. Boo hoo. Holidays are over for a few more weeks. So back on to the easy cook, quick meals after working all day or before going out at night.

Monday; Spaghetti Bolognese. I'm tutoring until 6 and out for 7 for WI quiz night, so no time for anything fancy. Quick mince and a jar of sauce will have to do!
Tuesday; Gammon and parsley sauce. I forgot to put parsley on the shopping list. Whoops. I'll pick some up after school choir, and get the meal on the table in the half hour available for us to eat as a family.
Wednesday; Enchiladas. We eat a lot of fajitas, they're quick, easy and popular. I'm on a healthy eating campaign and this recipe comes from the Hairy Dieter's Eating For Life. Essentially it's fajitas assembled, smothered in salsa and a little cheese and baked. What's not to like?
Thursday; Easy Chicken Bake. I have jointed the whole chicken (on Sunday, during the FA cup semi final) and frozen it to use on Thursday. Chicke smells so awkward to me if left in a fridge for a few days.
Friday; Children are having burgers. easy and simple to cook. I might even get one of them to do it. We're eating pork and rice with veg later on. It's basically paella but with american long grain rice rather than short, slodgy rice. 
Saturday; I don't care. I am out. I am NOT cooking for anybody and I am NOT shopping for it either. They're all either grown ups or immeasurably more sensible than most people give them credit for. If all else fails, Mr Pizza Hut delivers. I will not be in any fit state on Sunday to care. (red wine)
Sunday; Roast chicken and sweet potato mash. With gravy and cauliflower cheese. Or it might be a pasta with a jar sauce. It depends how much red wine I drank on Saturday.

I hope your meal planning goes ok; and I have a question for you. What is your favourite short prep food dish? What's the fastest meal from door to table that you do?

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Bletchley Park; Home of Secrets

We went away last week to stay in Harrow; that's why I was off the radar. I know it sounds silly, but I don't like to advertise big absences on the web, especially not now Mr AJ's business uses the home address as a base. It's just a precaution, not a reflection on how trustworthy I think my blogfriends are!
But anyway, we went and had a fantastic time so, with your permission, (or not, I really don't mind and I'm doing it anyway) I have written up the day by day account and I am going to post it here as daily as possible when I get back to work.

So, Day One;
We travelled down on the Friday night and stopped off at Bicester Travelodge. We find breaking the journey down helps so much from the point of view that you get an extra night away, the adventure of a night as a family of 5 crammed into a room for 4 , and the early start next morning which gives you virtually an extra day of holiday.

Usually when we go to Harrow we use it for shopping, settling in and a visit to Bicester village (with the range of shops that I look at and think "How much??? On clearance?") where we dodge Japanese tourists and eat a late breakfast at Pret a Manger before setting off again. This year I was feeling less inspired to spend money we don't really have on stuff we don't really need, so I figured that in the name of experientialism (my new favourite thing to be; I am an experientialist, not a materialist) we could spend the time better visiting a place I've wanted to see ever since Kate Winslett and Dougray Scott met eyes over the crossword puzzle. And the fact that Benedict has recently lifted the profile of the place even higher might have had something to do with it as well.

So we went to Bletchley Park. It's a fascinating place for a historian or  a mathematician or a computer nerd. It's a fascinating place generally, since the whole story had been so comprehensively covered up during the first thirty years after the war, only to go completely stellar now as a result of films, documentaries and, of course, the tragedy of Turing.
The estate still has a feel of somewhere they let you into cautiously, but getting out will be harder; the fences are still up, and the huts ranked along the drive to what was once a pretty country house look so alien against a sculptured lawn and lake with small fountain.

If you don't know the story of Bletchley and the breaking of the Enigma machine, then the introductory exhibition is a must. We are nerds (or geeks, whichever is the right term) and were perfectly happy to meander round rather than follow their organised route. Besides which, we had a limited time to spend and we knew what we wanted to concentrate on.

There are huts set up to resemble the code breaking areas manned by crossword addicts, mathematicians and clever people recruited just for the purpose, areas where broken code was translated into good English, huts where machines whirred round trying endlessly to break that day's cipher so that we could have a head start on the Nazi plans and be able to move against them. There were period details, posters warning that "Careless Talk Costs Lives" and information, information, information.

The machine designed by Alan Turing was called the Bombe and run by WRNS who had to set them up and take them to pieces every day. There is a working model in one of the buildings which we stood and watched for quite a while. The process was complicated, the whole rigmarole of catching messages, coming up with a possible menu based on regular words in use, entering those into the Bombe and linking the ins and the outs together only to end either when the code had been picked or the day was over at midnight, to strip the machine down and set up again for a whole new day must have been repetitive, just so slightly boring and also noisy. It was an honour to learn that one of the visitors there that day was a 92 year old lady who had been a Wren working in the Bombe Shed. She had never seen the machine for 70 years, and would not stop talking about it, pointing out the parts she remembered, the noise that one machine made ("and we had quite a few in the shed") and the fact that at the end of the war the machines were turned off, stripped down to component parts and not even one left as a museum exhibit.

There was an exhibit about the Imitation Game, parts of which were filmed at Bletchley, and an exhibition about the people, including Alan Turing, who built the first thinking machines during the war that changed and became the things we now love and use as computers. Hi story is so sad, a real morality tale of bias against diversity, and a real blow if one considers that he was only 41 when he died, and what potentially was lost in future developments. I'm so glad he was pardoned posthumously, and hope that the same acceptance could be offered to all the post-war offenders.

We watched The Imitation Game that night and it gave its meaning extra depth, having seen what his work had contributed to the war and the shortening of the conflict.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

I said I wouldn't be back...

But I'm only popping by to point you towards this Link; 

Because I love my city home!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Wednesday Wind Up

What am I reading this week?

Jeremy Poldark; yes, I'm still mining that great seam of Cornish Copper from the 1950's. Book 3 and Book 4 queued up ready to go for it in about 5% when I finish...
And a couple of self help books, The Women's Comfort Book by Jennifer Louden and The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin. I'm seeking a book like the incomparable Simple Abundance, one I can use to prime my artist within and get me creating my own stuff. I keep reading blogs and getting inspiration, but if all I ever do is crochet a blanket because that's what I keep looking at and seeing online then I am ignoring the spark of creativity awaiting within that I need to fan into my full fire. Watch this space. And expect me to be happier.

What have I watched this week?
It's a school holiday. We watch rubbish from morning til night. We've just caught up with Forever starring Ioan Gruffud which we all watch and enjoy, and we've got Paddington and Penguins of Madagascar on DVD to share soon. 

Where have I been this week?
At home. We aren't having days out this week because we have a few good ones planned for next week. Really good ones. Like massively good ones. Are you excited yet? I am!!!

How has my spending gone this week?
Well. Well, not good. Well, I spent a load of cash on the children on things like new school shoes (size 10 for DP aged 17), underpants for JW (me; "Tell me the truth, JW, have you got enough undies?" Him; "Yes, Mum. definitely..... well, as long as I wear each pair for more than 2 days." Pause while I barf, and then drag teenager out to Asda for decent undies.) and some clothes for the Princess. I went for a new cardigan for me (please, not black) and came back with a top, a hippy waistcoat and a pair of the most delightful turquoise sandals for Her. Can I borrow her stuff like she's borrowed mine all these years? No. Of course not.
3 Pack Hipster Trunk

What are my WIPs this week?
Still working on my circus blanket. I am only a few rows away from finishing, but it feels like these are the longest, slowest, hardest rows of the blanket. I could do with some time off work with no cold or shivers to keep me in bed so that I could get some done.... Oh heck, I'm supposed to be able to do some now! I'd better finish and get on with it! 

Any Other Business?
For the moment, no. Apart from a massive thank you to all the people who commented on my last post, How did You Start Writing Your Blog?. I wasn't angling for compliments and was so happy to get quite a few  from bloggers I admire and enjoy. I love blogging (if only now and again some days!) and I love knowing people from all over the place. Jan of The Great Escape phrased it beautifully, that we're like 21st Century penpals! So happy week to you all; I'm not likely to make it back now before next week (although never say never) although I will be reading and sharing my coffee time with me mates!