Slutty Spaghetti, and Other Stories

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Ack. That’s the only word to use to describe the last few days. Work has been terribly, terribly busy, and even this, my half day off, is turning out to be something of a tricky one. But anyway. I’ve made some serious progress on the domestic goddess front. For instance, I have learnt that there is in fact a right and wrong way to cook pasta, and rice. There ought to be a cup of rice to two cups of water when cooking. And on Wednesday I’m planning on making muffins or cookies, and something nice from the Nigella Lawson Kitchen book. It’s turning into a necessary part of the day. I think my Mum is enjoying all the cooking.

I rather want to make white chocolate and raspberry muffins. The trouble is, I haven’t got a recipe that doesn’t make me want to cry. If anyone has any recipes that are tried and tested, I’d be most appreciative!

Something else I tried last week; Slutty Spaghetti, or Spaghetti Puttanesca. I think the Slutty Spaghetti nickname has more of a ring to it than the latter, but there we go. The sauce was perfect, and the bitterness of the capers seemed to counteract the building heat of the chilli flakes. It wasn’t that difficult to make either, although the smell of fresh garlic is rather pervasive, and lasts for days afterwards. I think that might just be a kind of homely smell; the smell of home cooking, and not using powdered garlic. In culinary terms, it seems that garlic powder is akin to devil worship.

Because I have a house now, I will be able to put little plant pots on the window sill, or on the patio (it’s really odd, knowing you have your own patio, complete with furniture), and grow little fresh herbs. I draw the line at growing vegetables (I don’t like mud, and gardening, and I like having clean fingernails), but I like the idea of growing herbs.

I think I might try cooking some kind of chicken dish this week, or fish. Rick Stein has some excellent fish recipes, and I might see if I can make a decent jambalaya. I think my family would quite enjoy that, and I think my housemates will enjoy it, too. Y’know, as long as I don’t set fire to a griddle pan, or make the microwave explode. Whilst these things sound a little far-fetched to the normal, adult person, it’s all entirely possible if I happen to set food in the kitchen. This is because my clumsiness knows no bounds; just yesterday, I was carrying hot food at work, and my napkin slipped, and as I caught the dish, I touched a pan that had just come from under a red-hot grill. I seared my thumb, and I have a little blister for my trouble.

There’s little news from the literary sphere from me, at the moment, because I’ve been caught up in the wonders of domesticity, and learning things about cooking, and lifestyle. So that’s what might be cropping up more often on here; perhaps there’s a food blogger in me yet!

(:

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Sarah Alice Becomes a Domestic Goddess

 

Lately, I’ve decided that due to my new house, and to a certain extent, my Mum goading me into learning how to cook, I will have one of those houses that is always full of people, and food. I’m not an amazing cook; see the episode with the brownies. But with a degree of vigour, I decided to make learning some recipes into nothing short of a revision session; note writing, studying. Like I would study for an exam.

And so, like any British woman in times of great culinary trouble, I called on the services of Delia Smith, Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater. I now own a wonderful volume called ‘How to Cook’, written by Delia Smith. And Delia Smith is my new domestic inspiration. She honestly has me believing that with a turn of the hand, I could summon up a casual three course dinner for eight people with homemade chutneys and apertifs to follow. The power of the woman is simple unbelievable.

Nigella Lawson as well, is just as inspiring. She doesn’t exude the same wholesome air as Delia, but she gives of a kind of naughty aura, as though cooking can be rebellious and exciting. I suppose that she wasn’t christened the queen of food porn for nothing. I always thought that this was more to do with her love of silk dressing gowns, as opposed to anything else, but I’m starting to think the connection here between food and sensuality extends beyond her choice of nightwear.

I’ve also been caught on several occasions lately scouring shops for place-mat sets and coasters (I’m happy to announce that I’ve found the perfect set). I seem to enjoy searching the internet for casserole dishes, something I never realised was a necessity. But according to the biblical writings of Delia, Nigella and Nigel, I think I’ll have to invest in one specially for my ventures into the culinary sphere.

I look like this everyday whilst I’m preparing dinner. (1)

So, last week, all this inspiration was going admirably, I was plodding on with my learning, and planning grown up dinners, and learning recipes for things like aromatic shoulders of pork. And then the unthinkable happened. I was struck down, (and down I did fall), with some kind of horrible stomach complaint. Everything hurt; the sides of my tummy were agonisingly painful, and the space between the bottom of my ribcage and my bellybutton felt horribly full, for want of a better word. I spent much of the morning facing the bottom of the toilet bowl. And after a distressing trip to the doctors, I had a shot of whatever they give you to halt the spontaneous volcanic eruptions, and things improved slightly.

However, all the resultant lying around in bed gave me plenty of time to ponder casserole dishes, and chocolate rum cake. And once I started feeling better a couple of days ago, I continued on my mission until I needed to take another nap, or eat another dry cracker. Which happened every two minutes. But then again, I suppose the path to perfection never ran smoothly.

(:

(1) http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/10/21/article-1322394-0BAEDB03000005DC-542_468x376.jpg

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This Writer’s Block Shows No Sign Of Letting Up

So things are just a little different at the moment. I seem to be leaving a trail of destruction behind me.  I’m exhausted, because I’ve dived straight back into working long shifts, and I find myself confronted with some rather horrible realisations, especially related to my future, and the path I seem to be following. Or as I like to put it, I haven’t found a path yet; I’m just stood at Clapham junction, waiting for the lights to change. I just haven’t figured it out yet, and it’s starting to affect everything, from my self-esteem, to the ways in which I approach employment, and employability.

So at the moment, I’m bumming around at home, tackling my second year reading list, brushing up on some philosophy, and working every shift I’m allowed to try to save some money up, readying myself for my climb up Kilimanjaro next year. I don’t know what it’s going to be like; I toyed with the idea of dropping out last week. However I received an email that snapped me out of my reverie: my deposit had been processed, and so without any real input from me, the deal was signed and sealed. I’m going to Kenya next June. For sure. I’m sure there’ll be a number of posts about the preparations for the mountain; it’s promising to be a daunting task, and the fundraising itself is going be to a gargantuan challenge; three thousand pounds must be raised.

Another problem I’m facing is that I can’t think of anything to write about. There’s nothing that’s attracting my attention. I seem to have run out of things to write about, because all I can think about, is me. And that’s terribly selfish, and I feel horrendously self-involved. I just don’t know what to say, and I certainly have nothing to say that would be of interest or note to a reader.

I wish I had more to say during this post, but the sad truth is that I don’t. I wish I did. But I don’t seem to be able to think about anything but the above, and I’m hoping I’ll venture back to the blogosphere again soon, hopefully with something better to write about, something a little more positive.

(:

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On Beautiful Shoes

I genuinely hope to own these one day, they’re Miu Miu (1)

I really enjoy luxurious things. I always have. It’s been something of an expensive pursuit, over the years, and by far the worst part of university is the inability to buy expensive body cream, and pretty clothes. I still do fairly well, all things considered, however being financially responsible is really not something I enjoy. In fact, I’d much rather go back to the days where I bought lots of things, and my Mum told me off for not having any money (because I’d spent it all on something ‘useless’. Occasionally our definitions of useless clashed considerably.) I never used to feel guilty about spending money, however now, I do, if I buy something I could have acquired for less money, or if it’s something I don’t really need.

I do occasionally get round this guilt by persuading myself that I really need a new dress. I go out quite a lot because I’m a student, and therefore I must have something to wear to this multitude of occasions. They also have to be fitting for lots of different things, from casual nights out, to themed space parties. My advice to a prospective student is to find as much dressing up stuff as you can, before you depart on your adventure. It’ll solve so many problems. I also suggest finding false eyelashes, tails, cat’s ears and wings, because I find that they are multi-use items of clothing.

It all depends of course, on where you go to university. If you live in a distinctly rural area, like myself, heels are very rarely worn on a night out, and I think I’ve worn trainers on most of the evenings out I’ve had. I choose this because at some point during the night, I tend to get tired, and take my shoes off. Which means I either walk with the risk of broken glass in my foot, or I change into trainers. I therefore prefer to skip this, and just wear trainers from the outset. If you’re at university in somewhere like London or Bristol however, heels are the norm. You should really adjust your wardrobe accordingly, and don’t take things that you won’t use, because at some point, you’ll have to move out of halls. The best thing to do is streamline the shoe collection, especially if like myself, you’re something of a collector. At home, I have a beautiful shoe collection. And I genuinely worry about them feeling neglected during my long absences.

But anyway, back to my starting sentence. Luxury is something I hope to afford one day in the future. And in the meantime, there are quite a few passable body creams out there. It just depends on how much money you’d like to preserve for things like food, and rent.

(:

(1) http://www.sisow.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Miu-Miu-Luxury-Shoes.jpg

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Cooking May Never Be My Forte

Food is one of the key ingredients to life, however most of us in the Western world spend a fairly large portion of our lives wondering about food. It’s nutritional value, whether we eat too much, or too little, or whether we ought to follow a diet. Food impacts our lives in such a massive way, and it contributes to whether we are larger or smaller, slim, or curved. In the image crazed world in which we live, food underpins the way we all feed about ourselves, whether we’d like it to or not.

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I am admittedly, a dreadful cook. Examples of my culinary expertise have been discussed in previous posts, purely because they provide the basis for so many amusing stories. I’m a legend in my house, because of my ability to burn everything, including peas, of all things. I’d like to note that I’ve been compelled to improve though, because I didn’t want to starve at university. I have got much better, although my use of the hob unsupervised is still prohibited, because, and I quote “We don’t want to be burnt to death…”.

Food is one of my favourite things, and it’s one of the reason’s I’d love to live in a big city one day; there’s always a huge range of choice, and many varieties of cuisine to be tested. I love to be adventurous with food, and I love spicy things, especially. I also thoroughly enjoy fish, in particular, sushi. I’m not a fan of the one with the omelette on though; I’m not quite sure why, really.

Eating in posh restaurants however is a minefield of its own; the more hyped up the restaurant, the more pretentious the food, and inevitably, something called “jus” winds up on the place, usually next to a teaspoon full of mashed potato. Cep jus is by far the worst of the “jus'”, because it looks like spittle. And it’s thoroughly unappetizing, in my opinion at least.

However, I’m not a food snob, at all. I’m perfectly happy with sausage and chips. I just like eating fancy things sometimes too, possibly because my parents are excellent at cooking. By far the best thing about coming home is eating my Mum’s cooking again. She says I could cook the same things, however the problem is I couldn’t; I couldn’t make it taste as she does, and I think it’s something to do with having your dinner cooked for you, by your Mum.

(:

(1) http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/rma/lowres/rman8657l.jpg

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On Coming Home

A very short note, to prove to all of you that I haven’t abandoned the blogging-sphere. I haven’t, really, I’ve just taken a small blogging hiatus, whilst I’m on a holiday of sorts, with one of my best friends. Anyway, the holiday is drawing to a very rapid close, and this time tomorrow, I will have skipped merrily across the country, back to my own house, and my own bed. I’m very excited.

I think my love of coming home stems from the fact that when I was younger, I couldn’t wait to move out; I thought it would be the best thing ever; you know the drill. Unlimited freedom, the power to go wherever I wanted, with whomever I wanted to. The part I managed to leave out of my perfect little fantasy, was that with unlimited freedom, comes unlimited responsibility. Money, bills, rent, and so on. All those things that just sort of weren’t there when you were fourteen, and designing grand houses that you would move into, as soon as you escaped from home. I realised however, this was the most preposterous thing I’ve ever done in my life. Ever.

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Anyway, the point is, that in twenty-four hours, I’ll be back at home with my parents and little sister, and all my teddy bears. I’m nineteen in a week, and I still cannot wait to go home, put on my onesie (they look ridiculous, but it’s like being in a bag of blanket), and cuddle up with my Mum. Whenever I tell people this, they either think it’s lovely, or that I’m somehow pathetic, and not independent; I think the two concepts are not the same. Loving home, and being independent, are not the same thing. There’s a distinction to be made, and I always feel as though people should realise the difference, and appreciate things they have, whilst they have them.

So to conclude: the rucksack is packed, the train tickets are ready to go. A spot of washing, and the making of packed lunch, and we’ll land back in the homeland before you know what’s hit you. Guess who’s back?

(1) http://www.twincitieshomeforeclosures.com/images/home/quotes/HFquote10.gif

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Since When Are Student Houses Idyllic Cottages?

However, no matter how nice my cottage is, it's nowhere near as cool as living at Hogwarts... (1)

I have a new house! Which seems a rather random declaration to make, but it’s true; instead of a grotty old flat, I’ve acquired, along with three of my friends, a three bedroom cottage, which is ideally placed in the middle of everything I need to be near. It was the closest I’ve ever come to believing in an intervention in fate; the cherry on top of the house being the fact the landlord is willing to buy new appliances, in colours of our choice (within reason of course). I spent about an hour picking out matching kettles and toasters, as well as pretty pink sofas.

I’ve never really had a house of my own before, and so I’m incredibly excited about the decorating. I like buying things for houses, and I have a sugarplum fairy shaped house planned out in my head. The paint can all be of our choice, as long as it remains in pastel shades; pale pink and purple. We’ve decided we’re going to grow flowers, in window boxes (because it’s a cottage, they’re already installed), and we have a two level back garden, with adorable little steps going up to the top. We’re currently entertaining some rather grand notions about what we’d like to do with the garden; this includes growing our own vegetables, to having barbecues.

This cottage seems to have improved my mood considerably, probably because I like the idea of being able to move into a house and not having to move out again, after a year. We’ll be able to live in our sugarplum cottage until we graduate, which is certainly an advantage to sharing with a smaller group of people; there’s less likely to be huge upheavals in the house, and because we’re all like-minded, we’re unlikely to seriously argue. I feel extremely lucky to have found some people with whom I feel comfortable sharing with for two years, at least.

Anyway, I only have one seminar left now, until the end of term, and revision commences. There will be a couple of revision lectures, however nothing strenuous, and until the end of May, it’ll just be cups of tea, books, and myself. It’s about five solid weeks of work, revision, and exams, but then the summer will arrive, and I’ll be back home with my Mum, Dad, sister and my friends for four whole months. There’ll be a week when I have to come back, to move and decorate my house, but aside from that, it’s back to work and home, just as if I’ve never been away.

I’d love to know how everybody else found their student houses; were they nice, could you decorate, or were they stereotypical student houses, renowned for mould, damp, and leaking pipes? I find housing experiences distinctly fascinating, because they seem to help shape a person’s university experiences. Living somewhere habitable and lovely improves your mindset immeasurably, making you a happier student, and therefore much more likely to get your work done. Sitting amongst moldy, cold houses, is a recipe for disaster.

I’m just feeling incredibly lucky today.

(:

(1) http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lyj226l9nf1r5ap1go1_500.jpg

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University Life Collides With Reality

Monday morning has arrived again, with the same reluctant manner as usual; a busy week, dominated by revision, essay hand ins, and lectures. However it is the last morning of term, which does provide a modicum of relief. The next Monday will be spent shopping, and the Monday after that will be spent at work; a return to the working world, to my job, back at home. Home and work feels remarkably different to university life; a person goes through a whole adjustment phase, every time they move back to the place they came from. It’s a constant movement, and a person is constantly in flux, preparing to move.

This form of nomadic lifestyle is at best, confusing; by the time one has adapted to living on campus properly, it is time to start looking for a house for the second year; this is done working on presumptions such as your friends will remain the same as they were last year, and you will pass the year, in order to progress onto the next one. Location is central to where a person wants to live. Near campus, or in town; in a village, or in a nearby city. Transport costs have to be taken into account; are lectures within walking distance of the house, or will you have to take the bus in? This is all fundamental to choosing a nice house, and when you’ve found a house that is acceptable, whether you can put the deposit down before anybody else gets to it first. (1)

Anyway, I’m preparing for my next trip home; I’m incredibly excited, because I simply cannot wait to see my Mum and Dad again; three months pass by, where I have to do my own washing and cook my own food; the magnitude of this is unrecognisable, until you have to actually do it, yourself. I have a flatmate who had never used a washing machine before, and to the day, we haven’t seen him cook. Life skills are learnt in a crash course of university life, ironically in the same week as Freshers. During Freshers, we have one priority: meet people, make friends, form bonds. The second priority is how many parties can be crammed into one week, or in our case, into two. It’s possibly one of the most turbulent periods of anyone’s life; all routine is poured down the drain in favour of partying.

Once you get over this particular period however, you can start to recognise opportunities; employability courses, endless societies, cheap gym membership. University offers far more than a bar full of cheap liquor, and offers access to people from all walks of life, people whose research is quite literally at the forefront of their fields. That is an extremely unique opportunity to have. Those who remain as drunkards on campus for a year tend to fall behind, at some point, whilst the rest of us sit in our rooms, at our desks, and ponder what on earth will happen, when we have to leave the safety, of the bubble. I mean, we might have to get a job, and everything.

(:

(1) http://thebackpew.com/backpew/images/lordsaveme.jpg (Credit to Jeff Larson)

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Oh, What It Is to Be Excited…

I'd like a bed like this one day. (1)

So here we are again; another sunny Monday morning with the prospect of university essays, the gym, and the laundry to be doing. However, today is an exciting Monday, because today is the day of the Asda deliver. I promise that I’m not getting excited purely for the delivery of vegetables; I’m excited because I found a double duvet and pillowcase set, with pretty trees on it, for £2.77. And so obviously, I had to buy it. I love duvet covers. I especially like clean ones. So I’m really quite looking forwards to the changing of the duvet, later tonight. Which, as a I read that sentence back, I realise sounds a little bit sad. But nevertheless, I like pretty stuff. I especially like it when it is on sale. I think it’s a genetic programming issue.

Another upcoming event, with perhaps a tad more significance, is my impending birthday; I’ll reach the grand old age of nineteen, very soon, and therefore that’s an excuse for a party. Or in this case, a venture to a nice restaurant with ten of my oldest friends. The restaurant “Las Iguanas” is a place I’ve been desperate to try, however it is a little bit too expensive to justify it on an everyday basis. However, birthdays mean special things can happen, and therefore I feel the pressing urge to eat South American fare. I shall consider it a prelude to my visit to the continent in 2014. A necessary training exercise, one might say.

I really enjoy celebrations; not surprise parties, or massive community hall get-togethers, but I like a nice dinner, with all my favourite people. All I really want to do with my family for my birthday is snuggle up with my Mum and Dad on the sofa, and watch Swamp People, an ingenious television program about the alligator hunters of America. I wouldn’t mind eating a steak whilst I do it, maybe with some peppercorn sauce. I think celebrations ought to be as large or as small as one would like. Equally however, I’m excited to get dressed up in something pretty, and go out with all my friends.

But before this, I get to see one of my best friends, because she’s coming to visit me at university at the end of term. It’s going to be a mini-holiday, in lieu of going on a proper one; we’ll use my flat for a holiday house, and do holiday-type things; going to the beach, going out for cocktails, and watching DVDs. It’s going to be a wonderful few days, ended by the cross-country train journey back to reality, work, and home.

In conclusion then, I’m quite excited, about lots of things. My friend visiting, my Asda order, and my birthday plans, to name just a few. It’s going be amazing. Now, I just have to tackle that essay…

(:

(1) http://www.terrysfabrics.co.uk/images/P/Lottie-Duvet-Cover-Gold.jpg

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Packet Mix Brownies Are Harder Than They Seem…

Today was one of those days where I decided to be one of those lovely dinner guests, who bring dessert. They bake you something delicious and bring it round in a Quality Street tin. I decided to make brownies, and I should have known the venture wasn’t going to go exceedingly well, when I bought the packet mix. You know the one. With the “just add water” instructions on the back. But nevertheless, I thought, “hm… what could possibly go wrong?”. The answer of course, was just about everything.

To start with, I didn’t have any greaseproof paper, which would have been perfectly fine, except apparently when using baking tins, it’s something of a necessity. The next error was that I had no scales. No scales to measure twenty-five grams of butter, and had to sort of go with a “wing it” approach. Using a tablespoon. Which, in case anyone was wondering, is a wildly inaccurate way of adding ingredients to a packet mix.

I’d just about managed to get the mix into two rectangular tins. Being a student, I do not have a seven-inch square tin, lined with greaseproof. I had a seven by four-inch rectangular tin, that was no so much lined with greaseproof paper, as with grease, the variety that comes from butter. The mix also seemed to be spread awfully thinly across the tin. I was assured that it would rise, and that no one would even notice. The problem really started to appear when I put the two tins into the oven.

"Oh, they look nice"... "Errr...I wouldn't get too hopeful about the ones I'm bringing"... (1)

The instructions told me that I should bake the brownies for fifteen minutes, on one hundred and seventy degrees celsius. I’d even remembered to pre-heat the oven first. Another, rather important, element that seemed to have slipped my mind though, was that our oven, again, being a student oven, is less than reliable, and is much more uneven than otherwise. So in the brownies went, me bumbling along, doing some clearing up, thinking that the brownies will be done in the blink of an eye. But when I looked in the door, they seemed very flat. The white chocolate mixture in particular, seemed to have formed a rather hard shell, that was preventing the mixture below from cooking. So I left the brownies for a few minutes, checked back, and it seemed that nothing had really changed. So there I was, pondering how I could get the middle to cook. At this point, I got bored, and decided to make some lunch.

After about forty-five minutes cooking time, the cookie-dough brownies looked almost acceptable (except for the little hole my flatmate had put in them, causing them to sink…) and so I put them on top of the hob to cool down. I also extracted the white ones, which had at this point, formed a biscuit-y sort of slightly burnt around the edges tray bake. Obviously, that didn’t stop us, and we thought we’d better “check to see if they were okay”.

As far as I can tell, the best of the bunch are cooling on the hob at the moment. The white ones have been confined to scrap bin, i.e. my flatmate’s mouths. You never know, if I’m really lucky, the cake goblins will have swooped down and murdered my little brownies, making them flat and burnt too. In fact, I’d better go and check…

(:

(1) http://www.nikiaguirre.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/brownie.jpg?w=300

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