Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cirque du Soleil - Totem

This afternoon BB and I went to see Cirque du Soleil's Totem. See more about it here:

 We have been talking about going for the last couple of Christmases, so when  I saw the tickets for sale back in November, I jumped all over them, thinking it would be a perfect birthday birthday treat for my BB. And it was.

The Royal Albert hall is a beautiful venue. We had cheaper seats in the circle area, and they were just fine. Maybe a touch of vertigo right at the top there, but a good enough view. The set is amazing, as are the performers. The story line is, in my opinion, a little loose, but most circus-type productions, have a looser story line and excellent performers. And so it was today.

Would I go again? Probably not to see Totem, as I'm not a 'do the same thing twice' kinda gal. That said, I would definitely go and see another Cirque du Soleil performance.

I should mention that we went to the matinee performance, and looking around, it was obvious that not all of the more expensive seats were full. After the interval, many of the seats that we were in were empty. The occupants did not return. So, either they had had enough and gone home, or they had gone and 'helped themselves' to the more expensive seats. Is this allowed ? I wondered... Is this socially acceptable...? Would anyone really care if a person moved seats half way through the performance.... ??

We preceded the event with a lovely lunch in an ASK restaurant in Gloucester Road, there was only one poor girl waiting the whole restaurant, so the service was rubbish. The girl was practically sweating - poor thing.. They missed the croutons out of my Caesar salad - how is that possible ??

This was followed by a 90 minute commute back home with all the other commuters, two of which decided to start a fracas ten minutes into the journey. Nice. Always fun and never a dull moment on public transport.

We collected our little CC from Ruth's house and had a little glass of wine and a slice of Chinese birthday cake to celebrate Ruth's YH's birthday. The cake was lovely, so I am off now to search for a recipe of Chinese birthday cake.

What a (practically) perfect day!

Monday, January 23, 2012

I'm in Magazines! Outdoor Fitness

When we were at Kielder marathon, back in October, they gave away copies of Outdoor Fitness magazine. We managed to snarfle a copy the day before the race and were having a flick through as we sat and looked at the beautiful lake and enjoyed a coffee. If I'm honest, I was reading The Times Magazine, it was Saturday after all, and BB was reading Outdoor Fitness. Suddenly, he leaned forward and passed me the mag and said 'D'you recognise anyone on that page?' I, of course, was expecting to see a friend of ours, or a famous runner or athlete, or something like that. So, I was gobsmacked to see that it was BB and myself and BB's brother-in-law in a race that we did some four years ago.

I've circled us in red, there's bro-in-law leaning back. Me in the middle with one hand in the water, and BB with his arms in the water. The advert is promotinga race called 'Cannock Chase Calling'. The photo below isn't actually in Cannock Chase. The race we did was down at Weaver's Down and is part of the military training area, called Longmoor camp near Hampshire. I can say though, that if you are after a challenge it was the most difficult or should I say tiring race I have ever done. We had to run first, to the kayaks, the 'surprise' when we got there, was that they made us kayak without a paddle (kind), then we had to run back to our bikes, do 2 laps of the most horrendous bike course I have ever experienced in my whole life. I think I fell off about 5 times... and then I think we had to run about 5K, all topped of with an assault course, in which BB and BIL had to drag me over one of those tall A-frame climbing thingies, and we had to scramble under a net on the floor. Enough said?

If you fancy doing an extreme race challenge I would definitely recommend this. To say, it was a challenge is an understatement. It was excellent though.

We also ended up taking out a subscription to Outdoor Fitness magazine and I have to say it's a really good read and a break from Runner's World and the triathlon magazines that I'm used to of late...

Coming next: Me (well, the back of me in Runner's World Magazine (Feb 2012 issue) at the 'On Track On Target' training day  in Birmingham where I was lucky enough to be one of the shortlisted 40 out of some 1600 applicants to attend the training day with the chance of gaining one of five coveted VIP places in the 2012 Paris Marathon.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Boxhill - Cycling In Cold Weather

The 11 mile run went well yesterday - actually I was aching at the end, but we still went on our bike ride which we had arranged to do on our day off today. I took CC to breakfast club and then returned home where BB was preparing the bikes.

It's a nice road route for us up to Boxhill, so it's an opportunity to dig out the the racing bikes. The route is undulating so some steep up hills followed by some steep down hills and a little bit of fast flat parts, so there's plenty of time to recover from the hills. There was a frost this morning, so plenty of layers and 2 pairs of gloves for me, as well as my Compresssport calf guards, long running leggings, and a pair of cycling shorts. On 'top' was a warm base layer, a long sleeved running top and a windcheater jacket. Then there's the 'buffy' and my cycling helmet - so I was nice and warm. My only cold part was my feet, which felt like absolute blocks of ice, that's because I was wearing only one pair of (running) socks and a pair of trainers which have a meshed top...

When we reached Boxhill (which is a National Trust are of outstanding beauty) we stuffed our faces with cake and coffee - like you do, before heading back.

In total we cycled 44km - not bad for a Monday morning. :o)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Wish List 2012

Other than wishing for health and happiness for my loved ones and, of course, world peace, here follows a list of items that I am covetting this year....

Smeg Fridge Freezer

I would particularly like the pale blue model, as this will go nicely in My French Kitchen in Labour of Love. I had originally thought I wanted a large American style fridger-freezer, you know the type, the ones that have two full length metal doors and an ice-cooler/water-chiller. Anyway, I realised that a huge American style fridge was not the way to go, and that it would look too bulky in the room. Also, as long as I can freeze some ice creams, rapidly chill champagne (or blanquette), and store the odd box of fish fingers, why else would I need a huge freezer when on holiday ?? Exactly.

Which leads me nicely on to ...

A Wine Cooler

It would be totally decadent to have a wine cooler fridge thingy in Labour of Love in France. It's never going to happen as it's over £400, you can get cheaper models for about £150, but as this is my wish list, I am going to put the one I would really like if I was willing to spend that amount of money...

Of course the wine could go in that lovely Smeg fridge above, you are thinking, but wait,  the fridge will be located on a different level to the terrace (where I plan to be sitting and drinking cooled wine), and if I had the wine cooler I could step from the terrace to the den/bottom layer where the wine fridge would be positioned right near the door, and quickly be back under the umbrella and reading my book. No ?

(Here's a link to the above btw, in case you are feeling decadent (and rich):

OK, maybe in another life, which therefore means I must 'need' this instead:

Champagne bucket

This would be lovely, and would mean I wouldn't even need to move from my seat to fill my glass. Ha!
You can get this from Amazon for less than fifteen quid! What a bargain!

This of course means that the Smeg freezer will need to be packed full of ice !

OK, thinking about home for a little while ...

Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Attachment

It's not that I want to start eating load of ice cream (hardly!), but I would quite like to experiment with the lighter side of frozen desserts, in terms of sorbets and frozen yoghurts. It's a shame to have invested such a lot in a Kitchen Aid and not take full of advantage of it.. The attachment from the site below is £77.00.

What else ? There is sure to be many more items, but it's tea time so I'm off to cook!

I had a great time in Wing Yip my local chinese supermarket earlier today, so I am going to go and try out my new steamer (thank you bro) which I received for Christmas, and make Chinese steamed sea bass with noodles, oyster mushroom and pak choi. You never know, I might even take a photo or two..

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Year's Eve Menu

I forgot to do a post about the awesome food that we had on New Years Eve in France. Well, I didn't forget exactly, I just haven't had time til now.. So, here goes

Food: Smoked salmon blinis some served on blinis, others served on little rounds of wholemeal bread. I love that in France they do whole loaves of little bread specifically designed for making your little savouries. Shame we can't get those here... Where was I? Oh yes, some of those were served with 'fake' caviar, others with a dab of creme fraiche, and all with a squeeze of lemon - Yum!

As if that wasn't enough one of our friends, who is from India, had made a chick pea spice mix, which he piled into little vol au vent cases and topped with a little creme fraiche too. Yum!

To drink: Blanquette - this is a sparkling white 'wine', but it is more like champagne than wine.. it's lovely.

Starter no. 1
This one is not really my cup of tea ... foie gras. It is typically a goose, that is overfed until its' liver is engorged, and the liver is then used to make this pate. You can literally translate 'foie gras' as 'greasy/fatty liver'.  However, my French friend was unable to find the goose variety, and so went for the duck version instead. When she questioned the availability of the goose variety she was (rightly) told that it is no longer available, as it is no longer acceptable to produce it, but she was told that she could have the duck variety... I can only assume, and hope, that it is not produced in the same way..

This was served with what can only be described as fig jam with whole great figs in sugary syrup. This also came with the little toasts which also had figs studded through them.

To drink: A specific sweet wine that is matched to the foie gras. Cannot remember the name, didn't even see the bottle. Just slurped and munched. It was good but not as good as the Aperitif nibbles, nor what was to come.

Starter no. 2
Huge, massive langoustines which I ordered from E.LeClerc (French Supermarket) and collected on New Year's Eve, thus skipping all the queues. Result!

When I got them home, I tossed them in garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper, and left them to their own devices in the fridge. Later they were grilled on an open fire with more lemon on the side and finger wipes. Yum.

To drink: I'm not sure what this was called, but I know it had 'Oceanique' in the title, e.g. 'of the ocean' so once again my friend has bought a wine to match the food. As I recall this was a delicious, crisp white.

Another neighbour was making the lamb which was barbecued and served with roast potatoes, brocolli and cauliflower cheese bake and roast potatoes. The lamb was cooked to perfection!

To drink: What else, but a classic red ? I have a bottle here actually I believe we drank 'Chateau de la Riviere' 2005 from Fronsac. Find out more about it here:

Cheese course

A selection of typical French and English cheese - a stinky stilton, a soft Goat's cheese, a Brie and others, all served with crackers.

To drink: I took along a bottle of port. I think it was Croft's, myself and a Scottish friend enjoyed a hearty glug of the port along with the stilton. This was all served with some lovely iceberg lettuce on the side in a tasty dressing. The salad was probably the best bit looking back. Although, it was all good.

and on to ... Dessert

CC and I made a lovely chocolate mousse and also my famous Black Forest trifle, which one of these days is going to get a blog post all of it's own. I keep mentioning it here and there, but it's always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Even after all that food, we still managed to shovel down a small portion of each.

To drink:  Nothing super-duper to go with the desserts, but a glass of cold Muscat would  have gone down nicely..

Although this sounds like a lot of food, the trick was keeping the portion sizes small, although I could have just eaten the aperitif and starter 2 and been done with the rest, although that port and stilton was rather good.

Fond memories of good food and even better company. Bonne Annee everyone.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Griddle Pan Waffles with Chocolate Sauce

When Cupcake and I were watching the Jamie Oliver's Family Christmas cooking show ( at home in the UK, we were totally drooling over the waffles that Jamie made and servied with chocolate sauce.

Here is the the recipe here:
Ingredients:2 eggs
300ml milk
100g butter, melted
2.5 tablespoons baking powder
225g self-raising flour
1/4 tsp salt

1. Whisk the eggs and the milk together, then add the salt and the baking powder. Sieve in the flour and whisk. Expect the mixture to be thick. Dribble in the butter in stages. Rest for 30 minutes, or overnight.

2. Heat the griddle pan until very hot and melt some butter in the pan. You don't need lots of butter as thre is already butter in the batter. ('Butter in the batter', I like that ...) Pour in the batter, then turn the heat down to medium and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Yes, really for 8-10 minutes.  Cook the other side for about another eight minutes. Otherwise, the middle will be raw ! You might need to chop the thing in half to be able to flip it. It's a beast ! See below for more on this.

Our house in France is in a small village, we have a stone wall that we had restored in the living area. The living area is on the first floor, rather than the ground floor and so it has a great vista over the village and the church. Actually, I bought the house for the view out of the window. At the time, if I had looked behind me into the house, I doubt we would have bought it! Pretty, it was not. I could just see us eating these waffles from the grill in our pretty little room on New Year's day. The image in my head totally matched how it was. Perfect.

Like most people, we enjoy a little tipple on New Year's Eve, so I thought the waffle/pancake would also be some great stodge for New Year's day.

Instead of the chocolate sauce that Jamie uses, we did a basic chocolate and double cream mix, using some cream that I had left over from a trifle I had made for the evening before..

Here's the recipe for it:

Quick Chocolate sauce
Serves 4
100gr chocolate
200ml double cream
2 tsp (vanilla) sugar

1. Stir the sugar into the cream.
2. Melt the chocolate
3. Add the cream to the chocolate and heat gently and stir until it is mixed into a lovely sauce.
4. If you wanted to add a dash of something, you could add Cointreau for an orangey element, or Tia Maria for a coffee element. With the rich pancake we didn't add any liqueur.

The batter recipe is a standard batter recipe. It has no sugar in it, which is good as you don't need the added sugar with the rich chocolate sauce. I did prepare a plate of sugar to roll the griddled pancake in, a little like a doughnut. We also had a dash of lemon on the side to cut through the richness. I'm not sure if I enjoyed the lemon and sugar more, or the chocolate. Being the glutton I am, I can say I really like both.

Making the waffle in a griddle pan, makes it impossible to toss - for me anyway. So, I chopped the thing in half and tossed one half first, and then the other and it worked great. Once cooked, I cut it into strips, following the grooves made by the griddle.And we dipped and munched.

See the picture below. I love the marks made by the griddle pan.

This was the first time I have used the griddle pan shown above - I've since silently and secretly decided that I am going to use this pan for nothing except this recipe. Imagine that ! How decadent and indulgent am I ??
And then feeling rather full, we went for a three hour walk in the hills. Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Do Me a Favour

My little CC, aka Little Muchkin, has started a new blog and would like all my readers and followers to also read/follow her. I didn't have the heart to tell her that barely anyone reads me (sob!), and promised that I would add a link to her blog here.

So, just for my little CC/Munchkin - here is the link.

In all honesty, this is the best dessert I've had all year. ;o)

Please excuse the spelling mistakes on her page, I am trying not to helicopter-mother her on this one, but have just reminded her that she could  perhaps use the spellchecker! I've also just asked her to go and make my last serving of this. It really is delicious. Well done to my little CC-Munchkin-Baby-Lady.

Mommy loves you!

Exercise update: Today I did the school run - 4.06km I think it was today, I'm easing myself back in gently - especially after those French hills. I'm signing up for Sussex marathon tomorrow (!) it's on April 1  - so to all my running buddies out there - won't anyone join me ??

I have some great Garmin gps routes to upload from my recent trip to France. I know I keep going on about it, but those hills were so steep, I seriously had to walk them, which should set me up well for Sussex, because apparently it's a beast (or some other word(s) beginning with b) Tee hee. :o)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year !!

Wow! It's 2012 !! That jumped up and hit me out of the blue, or so it seems...

Still no time for bloggy blog, so just a quickie..

Had a(n) horrendous pit-of-tummy feeling earlier today when I realised I will turn 40 next year - eek!

Also, am on cereal and soup thang to drop a few pounds - yikes!

Am about to sign up for Sussex marathon on April 1 - anyone wanna join me ???

More on that, and much more... coming SOON! :o)