Friday, 30 November 2012

...falling in love with running again.

I fall in and out of love with running all the time. I am either completely obsessed with it, or I don't even so much as look at my running trainers for months. I have done a few 5 and 10km runs, and even a couple of half marathons. That seems like a looooooong time ago now.
I don't work Fridays (lucky me), and today the husband has taken the day off. So when he decided to take the little guy swimming this morning, I knew that this was it. This was my chance. My chance to get off my ass and get out running again. Without wishing to sound smug, I absolutely loved it.
It helps that we live in trotting distance from the most beautiful beaches in the UK (bias, you may say, but it is true), and you can see from the snaps I took on my phone, it is a pretty stunning place to go for a run.
It was a bright and chilly morning, and there was hardly anyone about. I listened to my favourite running tunes (see playlist below) and even skipped along in places. I ran down to the shore and had a little hunt for some pretty shells to bring back for the boys collector's tray.

I ran over huge piles of sand, and took some snaps of some beach huts all in a row.

Then I stopped pratting around and got back to work, psyching myself up for running the zig zag; a tough challenge. My favourite running tune of all time saw me through. I felt like Rocky when I reached the top.

Then I ran back through 'Fisherman's Walk' and on home for a nice hot shower. And now I am ready to start my day!
Here are the tunes I listened to on today's run-
There She Goes, My Beautiful One-Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (My absolute favourite-you can listen below to this one-a special treat! Turn it up!)

Panther Dash - The Go! Team
I Still Remember - Bloc Party
Victor Jara's Hands - Calexico
Tangled Up In Blue - Bob Dylan
You Really Got Me - The Kinks
Bongo Bong - Manu Chao
Kamikaze - PJ Harvey
Pressure Drop - Toots and the Maytals
Jus' a Rascal - Dizzee Rascal eclectic mix! Happy Friday!
Maria x

.... Mad Men party prep & decorating!

Firstly apologies for the late post! A couple of glasses of Rioja and a delicious Pad Thai made by my flatmate Chris and I think we are nearly there! My friend Tom came over tonight to chat about our Mad Men party play list. I have had a lovely evening pre party prep chatting with friends and laughing lots! (My weekly evenings should be more like this)

 I am getting excited, I thought I would hate turning thirty! But I have resolved to the fact that; 1. It's just a number & 2. I am lucky to be alive and have so much to be thankful for.

After a big old shop for booze and nibbles I started on turning my welsh dresser into a 1960's looking bar.

I still have a little more to do in the crepe paper bunting department but here's a sneak peak.

I made these light numbers yesterday - Which is helping me get used to  the idea!

This is Lawrence our Pinata, he is mine and Sarah's (housemate) new pet, and were beginning to feel a little guilty that he's going to meet his end with a soft baseball bat very soon!

 My twin sister and I have always liked a good old party! (And my funny brother)

Will post some Mad Men Party Pictures on Sunday (if not too tired!) Have a great Friday!

gem x

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

...making Christmas chutney

This year I am trying to make as many of my Christmas gifts as possible. I love to receive something home-made; I think that personal touch is really special.
My step mum and me have been trying to find a time to make some chutney. It's been a busy few weeks, but finally we managed to squeeze in some cooking at the weekend. My step mum has been making chutneys and giving them as little Christmas gifts for some years now, and I have been desperate to get in on the action. Now that we are safely back in town it means that we get to spend more time together doing these sorts of things. It's just lovely.
Making chutney is surprisingly easy. We followed a recipe from this very '80s 'The Book of Preserves, Jams, Chutneys and Jellies', and added a few bits of our own (namely chillies-we are big fans of chillies).

Mixed Fruit Chutney 
Makes about 10 jars

You will need
450g plums-halbed, stoned, roughly chopped
1kg tomatoes-peeled, coarsely chopped
1.8kg cooking apples-peeled, cored, finely chopped
1kg ripe pears-peeled, cored, finely chopped
18kg dark brown sugar
450g raisins
2 pints of malt vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons table salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
(chillies optional)

Chuck all into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring well. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours until dark and golden brown. Stir often.

Wash your jars in dishwasher or in hot, soapy water. Rinse, and keep hot.
Ladle hot chutney into 1 jar at a time. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean damp cloth and cover.
Let mature for at least 1 month before using (so we did them just in time!)

Now all we need to do is cover the lids with fabric and tie with a nice festive bow! We are thinking of giving them as gifts along with a good block of cheese, and a loaf of bread freshly baked by my dad (he makes the most delicious bread-I'll do a post on his recipe soon).
I love Christmas making! Hurrah!
Maria x

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

... listening to live music - Ben Howard & Willy Mason

Sunday Night I went to see the amazingly talented Ben Howard and his band members India Bourne and Chris Bond at the 02 in Boscombe. This gig was particularly special as Willy Mason was also supporting him and I had not seen him play live before. Willy Mason is somewhat new to my ears, I only really discovered him this year. But I think he is going to be the next big thing, I'm sure he is already, he deserves to be, his lyrics say something about society and life as a young twenty something, its not the dribble of boy band acoustic music we are used to. At work Maria and I, and our boss Paul share our music around and Willy Mason has been one of my favourite recommendations. I love his rich gravelly voice, and how he lets rip, changing the tone of his songs as he feels. He also makes me want to get up and dance which can be a bit difficult when I'm driving in my car!

In fear of sounding like an over aged groupie - I love Ben Howard! I have been following his success now for four years. I first heard him at a very small gig at 60 million postcards in Bournemouth in 2009  It was just him and his acoustic guitar, strumming out, in his strange way some really incredible songs. All about everything I love about the simplicities and complexities of life;  friends, family, the ocean, campfires, loss, nostalgia,family. I bought his ep These Waters - And listened to those four tracks up and down the A3450 road back home (on many occasions on repeat) Many of my friends had not heard about him, I know it's hard to believe now, but I felt that it was important to share the Ben Howard love. But he has made it! And very much deserves to be recognised. This little EP got me through an incredibly difficult time in late Winter of 2010. Singing my lungs out in the car really helped! So I thank Ben for this! And glad to say that all is ok with my Dad now.

On a brighter note his songs have some great memories:

Ben Howard - Field View Festival 2011

Field View fun 2011

(my sister) - Lacanau road trip South France 

Me and my flatmate Jo, would sing to the top of the hills on many road trips to Old Pine, my sister and I sang to Every Kingdom when driving through rough roads in Lacanau in the south of France. I'm sure Kylie was singing out of fear. But it did a great job of keeping our minds of the fact that I was driving in a foreign country, in a hire car, it was the middle of the night and there were too many road closures for our liking. Field View Festival 2011 - Ben Howard headlined on the Friday night, they had sound difficulties but the crowd were amazing and Ben just battled through it! My favourite gig by far was at Moles Club on the 13th April an (old school days haunt) It was a tiny gig but the atmosphere was incredible,at times it felt almost like a religious gathering in terms of the attentiveness of the crowd. Greenman Festival 2011 was out of this world, four days of beautiful scenery and music from; Ben Howard, The Avett Brothers, Laura Marling, to name just a few. I don't think you can compare Ben Howard to any of the musical 'greats'. His voice is unique with a huge pull, his lyrics are poignant and murky with just the right amount of melancholy reflection. I'm very much looking forward to getting my limited edition Burgh Island Vinyl EP in the post.

My Top 3 Ben Howard Songs are: 

1. London 
2. Three Tree Town 
3. Diamonds

Thank you for being part of the soundtrack of my life Ben & Willy and keep on writing!

My Favourite Ben Howard Song -Three Tree Town 

I would love to hear about what you are listening to?

Gem x

Monday, 26 November 2012

...banging drums on a wet Monday morning

The boy and I had a fun and noisy morning. We went and checked out 'Drumshare', an informal drum and percussion workshop for people of all ages. Indeed, there was a whole range of people from a 6 month old baby to a lady who had just celebrated her 90th birthday!

The class runs every Monday morning from 10:30 to 11:30 at the Southbourne Creative Hub. This centre aims to support professional arts practitioners and provide workshops and activities for the community. We feel it is really important to support arts events in the local area, and will definitely come drumming again!

The little one absolutely loved it, as he was allowed to roam free, choose any instrument he liked, and make as much noise as he liked. He drummed, he rattled and he danced as the rain poured down outside. What a wonderful way to spend a Monday morning.

Maria x

Sunday, 25 November 2012

....reading artzines like PCTGRM

Last weekend I had a lovely sunday strolling around coffee craft and cupcakes event at Bournemouth Dance Podium. I Picked up a couple of lovely things!

A gorgeous Butterfly necklace from the fabulous Carlitta Monchitta and some dutch stud earrings, because I like to pretend I'm Dutch (ask maria) Make sure you check out Carlitta's beautiful online shop!

I'm also a big fan of local illustrator Nicholas Frith, who was selling lots of gorgeous prints. My purse strings are very tight, and for xmas pressies only! (Well thats what my head was telling me)  but my heart  couldn't resist these retro drink mats which I'm going to turn into xmas decorations.

After our little stroll me and a friend decided that we had earn't a well earned cider and snack at 60 million postcards. The fish finger sandwiches are a must! And that is when I discovered the new artzine PCTGRM (Picotogram) It is only in it's second issue, but it is lovely. Bournemouth is full of creative people, but events and artzines like this are hard to come by. You have to be like a magpie, maybe It's because I live in Poole, perhaps Boscombe and Southbourne are more creative settlements.

Anyway, I finally got a chance today to lie on the sofa and enjoy the second Issue. Which is created by;

Mike Frost  - Editor / Designer , Managed by Lara Skowronska,  with Digital Editor Sam Williams.

Make your own D.I.Y Camera

In conversation with Nicholas Frith (yay)

This Scene Isn't dead!
 (It so isn't!!)
Very much looking forward to seeing Willy Mason & Ben Howard Tonight! (Post to follow)

PCTOGRM is a brilliant free artzine, I would happily pay for it (I know this goes against the values and ideologies of a zine) The design is stunning, the content imaginative and engaging, many of the words and illustrations are from local artists and musicians. The designers are also very ethical and print on 100% recycled paper on an old fashioned Risograph (you can watch their amazing video on their website) My hat goes of to these creative pips and I'd like to thank them very much! I will definitely be on the look out for Issue Three!

I hope you have had a lovely weekend!

Gem x

Saturday, 24 November 2012

...listening to The Avett Brothers

I have been loving these guys for some time now. My sister introduced them to me after she was lucky enough to see them live at the Green Man festival a few years ago. How I wish I could have been there! This band is truly special-goose pimples kind of stuff. You can listen to my favourite song by The Avett Brothers below.

I best be off now as we have some friends down from London to stay. The husband has made his signature pie, and our guests have brought mulled wine. A perfect Winter's evening! 
I will be back soon to tell all about how our morning of crafting went (we haven't quite finished it all yet!). 
Until then, Happy Saturday!
Maria x

Friday, 23 November 2012

.... making rocky road!

This week I have been on snack duty, feeding my hard working friends at work. We take it in turns and it's one of the only things that keeps us going, especially come Thursday when we all in need  a pick up. When I first started I made my quick no fail rocky road and now it's become a bit of a tradition. There's nothing better than seeing lots of happy faces, enjoying your home cooking. And the best thing is it's the easiest thing in the world to make. 

200g x 2 - Best Dark choc (85% cocoa) 
1505 - Milk choc - So not to bitter
Slab of local Butter
2 Table spoons of Golden Syrup
1 - Table Spoon of Icing Sugar
1 1/2 Packets of Rich Tea Biscuits (Bashed to little bits) 

Bash Biscuits in a large bowl. On a very low heat melt the chocolate, butter and treacle together, stir throughout, add icing sugar when mix is glossy. Then pour 3 1/4 chocolate mix over the biscuits, crunch into your dishes and pour over remainder of the chocolate butter sauce. Place in fridge and leave over night if you can resist. Lick wooden spoon & bowl! My uncle has nick named it Tarmac! Whatever you decide to call it I hope you enjoy it! 

Gem x

Thursday, 22 November 2012

...making funny little creatures!

One of my goals is to make more. So last night, after the little one was safely tucked up in bed, I decided to turn the TV off, and my sewing machine on. It felt great!
A while ago Gem introduced me to the amazing creations by Donna Wilson, and I have been longing for so many of her products ever since. Skunkboy Creatures and BlaBla dolls are also hugely inspirational, but sadly all are way beyond my budget! So I decided to try and make my own creature.

I found this daisy fabric a while ago for just £3 in a vintage shop, and bought it knowing that I would use it for something. I decided it would be perfect for my little creature, and I got to work, sketching out my shape. I then cut it out and pinned it to the fabric.

After cutting the pieces out I sewed them together on my machine, and stuffed it with wadding. Then I hand stitched the tail inside the opening and sewed it all closed.

Then I 'embroidered' (sort of) his face.
And here he is! OK, so I have a helluva lot to learn, and the finished product is no way near as beautiful as the likes of BlaBla, Skunkboy or Donna Wilson, but I think my kitty (yes it is a cat), is quite cute! A stocking filler for the boy perhaps?

So there you have it. I am enjoying my little pact to make more. A very satisfying way to spend an evening!
Maria x

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

..... page turning and drinking tea with friends

I'm not sure which of my friends suggested a book club, but we have been enjoying meeting up and eating cake and discussing our reads for about three years now. There are five of us in total, when we meet the person who is hosting gets to pick the book we read. We have made a pack that we should be open minded and read any book that is suggested. This has as you imagined caused some very lively discussions and also some sheepish phone calls late at night,  admitting and apologising for sometimes not being able to stick with chosen book. (This has only happened to me a few times; culprits being Tony Blair a journey and Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver)

We are currently reading the teen novel - Dancing Jax by Robin Jarvis and I think it is going to be a good read. I have only read the first chapter but I'm already being dragged in by it's lead character, Jezza who has just found a very spooky book.

My favourite top 10 book club books would have to be:

 1) Sarah Waters 'The little Stranger' This was probably my most memorable book club book. As a group we all met up and a  heated discussion soon developed; "it was too long winded".."The characters were unrealistic". But then we got talking deeper about the plot lines, about how we felt - Petrified! (Even though I was lying on a sun lounger in Kefalonia at the time)  By the end of the book club meeting, everybody had changed their minds, and were recommending the book to anybody who would listen.

2) David Nicholls 'One Day' - I loved every second of this book, I especially loved to hate Dexter and Emma all at different times, but also loved them and felt that they were long lost friends. The narrative concept of the novel was effective, but saddening reminding the reader how short our lives are. Situations resonated with me, we have all been Emma at some points in our lives, and Dexter is a character that many people can identify with knowing. David Nicholl's has a way of capturing an era, his attention to detail and nostalgic references are exceptional. But the magic is in his characterisations, he masterfully makes it look easy, his characters seem so real they could walk of the page.

3) Jo Nesbo 'The Redbreast' Last winter I fell into a winter hide of Norwegian crime, reading first Stieg Larson's incredible trilogy, I wanted more. After recovering from reading the terrifyingly brilliant 'The Snowman' I suggested to book club to read The Redbreast'. Harry Hole, the lead detective is a likable and intelligent protagonist but is flawed and lost in many ways. A maverick himself the reader is always on tender hooks. What unfolds is a very complicated twist uncovering a distasteful dangerous underbelly of WW2 Nazi sympathisers in Oslo. Murders begin to take place, and Harry is sent left right and centre over the city of Oslo, somebody out there is seeking justice and will do anything for sweet revenge.

This is a list of my final recommended book club reads;

4) Bad Science - Ben Goldacre (I will never trust a word Gillian McKeith says ever again)
5) The Hand That First Held Mine - Maggie O' Farrell
6) Skippy Dies - Paul Murray
7) The Bloody Chamber - Angela Carter
8) The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald
9) Hand Maids Tale - Margaret Atwood
10) Notes on an Exhibition - Patrick Gale

Happy page turning! 

Gem x

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

...eating crab sandwiches in Ventnor


(Ok, so this happened a little while ago now-but I still think it is worth a post.)
Back in October I was lucky enough to spend 2 nights away on the Isle of Wight with some girlfriends. It was such a special weekend as since we have moved to Bournemouth, I don't get to see these lovely ladies that much. I miss them terribly.
I got the ferry from Lymington and then drove from Yarmouth across the island to Cowes. We had a typical girly Friday night with plenty of wine, chocolate and cackles of laughter.
On Saturday the ladies woke up early and sat about reading papers and drinking coffee. They didn't wake me because they sensed that I was in need of a lie-in. They were right. I did not surface until 10am! Without wishing to sound like a whingey parent, I honestly cannot remember the last time I slept in for that long. It was blissful. Then we headed off to Ventnor. We listened to Angus Stone all the way.

As you can see from the photos the weather was pretty amazing. We had a little wander down to Steephill Cove and then sat and had the most delicious crab sandwiches at The Crab Shed.

We walked off our meal with a very brisk stroll over the cliff into Ventnor itself. A peek around the local charity shops was a given (these girls know how to humour me). Then back in the car to Cowes. That evening was spent catching up and laughing over a pint of cider (or two, possibly three, followed by fish n chips and prosecco...funtimes).
It doesn't seem to matter how long it has been since I've seen these girls-we just pick up where we left off. A sign of a true and lasting friendship I think.