Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thursday Night Fish and Chips

I gave a presentation at work today and it went well, hooray! No hard questions, thank goodness. A few people came up to me afterwards to say that it was very interesting :)

After work I met Mr K-E in my trashy bookstore Murder One and we caught the bus home together. This blog is hardly going to set the world on fire is it? Hahahaha...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Had enough?

This kind of sums up how I felt when I got home from work today. I've had enough. Dump the shoes and the bag, get into my slouchy clothes and veg out.

It's Big Brother 2007 launch night, which means Mr K-E is transfixed. He loves trash TV.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bake a Car

When I was a kid, some of my favourite stories were the Enid Blyton's Wishing Chair or Magic Faraway Tree stories. They are about a group of children who find a way to enter other lands i.e. by climbing the Magic Faraway Tree or sitting in the Wishing Chair.

They would then have all sorts of "exciting" adventures and meet witches/goblins/elves etc etc. All very wholesome.

But the places that I loved the most, were the "magic food worlds" - where the rocks were made of chocolate, sweets grew on trees and the streams were full of lemonade. (Yes, I was a greedy child who grew up to become a greedy adult hahaha)

So imagine my excitement when I saw an advert on TV about making a car out of cake! Yes, everything in this car is made out of cake and other edible materials!

And it's not just the body; all the parts eg windscreen wipers, engine block etc have all been lovingly made out of yummy stuff. The panels are made of a baked rice crispy mix and the rear lights are made of jelly. Ingenious! Even the cake is not just boring old pound cake, but fruit cake, chocolate cake, battenburg cake....

The engine block above is full of golden syrup as "engine oil".....

I don't know how to stick on a YouTube clip, but fellow cake-lovers please click here and select the "baking of documentary" link. You can also view the actual advert there which is v. good.

Also look here which has more pictures.

The car is a Skoda, but hey nothing's perfect.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Paris : The Lonely Planet Guide

The maps aren't very good but I still prefer Lonely Planet guides to the Rough Guides.

There are photos of me taken all in various tourist hotspots clutching these blue guide books. It can be embarassing when other people are on the same "walking tour" and you keep bumping into the same people.

(Walking tours are suggested routes with points of interest and historical background noted in the book. Very good for exploring cities....)

My Paris experience in summary:
  • I know it's a cliche but why are French women so fucking thin? They live on croissants and fresh cream-filled pastries, cook everything with cheese and butter, and it's frites everywhere you look. Maybe they don't actually eat anything. Maybe it's all for tourists....
  • I was so conflicted about my new handbag. Head: Spending money on material items will not make you truly happy. Self-esteem should not be based on owning over-priced "luxury" items. This is the sign of a vain, shallow and insecure personality. Heart (and all rest of body) : I have a hole that only that handbag can fill.
  • A friendly "bonjour" goes a long way, even if you don't know any other French words.
  • Eating out breakfast, lunch and dinner is really expensive.
  • "Romantic" Paris is over-rated. One of our friends took his girlfriend to Paris for Valentine's Day. He had to warn her that he was not going to propose...or else she might have been expecting him to pop the question all weekend. Everytime he put his hand in his pocket she would have expected a little box to appear.... hahaha.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Paris, May 2007 : Tuesday morning

Our hotel (Hotel Terass FYI) overlooks a famous cemetary. It's a good job I'm not a nervous person, hahahaha.

Mr K- E thought it was really cool - just like Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire. Didn't the vampire Lestat live in Paris?

On Tuesday morning we made a hurried shopping trip to Galeries LaFayette.

A beautiful building full of beautiful things.

There were queues of Chinese tourists at the LV and Gucci concessions. Most of the Gucci, Dior, LV and Fendi staff were Chinese....there were even store annoucements in Mandarin.

Why don't they build shopping centres like this anymore?

My new arm candy.

I looked at the LV leather bags too, but I didn't like the finish. Also didn't want to get the "standard" LV and Gucci printed bags - they are not even leather - then you really are just paying for the logo.

At least I can kid myself that I am paying for the leather.

Oh, happy day.....

Paris, May 2007 : Monday

The film Amelie is set in Montmartre. In the movie, Amelie works in a cafe called Les Deux Moulins (the two windmills) - and here it is!

It's a real cafe, full of strange locals and the odd tourist who runs inside, takes a photo and then runs out.

...and here's what we ate there....

Croque mesdames, which are croque monsieurs with a fried egg on top.

And frites! Again! Hahahaha.

(Oh they were delicious)

Fortified by our brunch, we went off to look at the Pompidou centre.

A collaboration by two great architects, Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano; it is striking and instantly recognisable.

...view from the back...

After that we wandered Marais. It is interesting because you can see pre-revolutionary architecture in this area. It is also the traditional Jewish quarter and is now a trendy part of Paris.

Like all good tourists, we visited the Arc de Triomphe.

We stayed there for the sunset.

To finish off the tourist trail, here's the view of the Eiffel tower from the Trocadero.

Paris, May 2007: Sunday night

This needs no explanation. Unfortunately this was a rainy evening, so we didn't go up to the top. We had dinner in the restaurant at "Stage 1", Altitude 95 at (yes, you guessed it) 95m above sea level.

I was too shy to take any photos ;) but I had beef carpaccio salad, grilled chicken and creamy rissoto. Finished off by melting chocolate pudding with vanilla icecream.

Here's a view from the Seine. We had pre-booked a river cruise, which was actually really boring. Maybe I'm not romantic enough? There was a couple sitting in front of us who kept snogging all the way - hey, get a room! They weren't teenagers either but thirty-somethings....eeuuuww.

Then off we went to the Moulin Rouge. Even though we already had tickets we still had to queue for half an hour to get in.

This is the ballroom. (There is no photography allowed during the show.)

They squeeze 900 people in here twice nightly. The show is expensive but definitely worth seeing. The costumes are so beautiful and the performance is very, very professional. There is nothing tacky about this show.

Paris, May 2007 : Sunday

A typical French breakfast; our le petit dejeuner on Sunday.

We stayed in an area of Paris called Montmartre, literally the Mount of the Martyrs. It is really hilly, with charming buildings ....

and winding cobbled streets.

There used to be lots of moulins (windmills) in the area as this is where the flour was milled for the whole of Paris. The most famous is the Moulin Rouge (i.e. red windmill) which is now a cabaret, but more about that later...

At the top of Montmartre, there is a beautiful cathedral called the Sacre Coeur (the Sacred Heart). There was no photography allowed inside and this was strictly enforced and silence was required at all times, which is rare for a tourist site.

The reason is that The Blessed Sacrament is continuously exposed, so there is uninterrupted adoration day and night. It has been continuous 24-hour prayer since 1885 - isn't that amazing? (Catholics will understand what I'm talking about.)

Lunch was entrecote et frites.... we didn't only eat one meal during our time in Paris, honest! It was just that I was really self-conscious of taking food pictures.

We ate in this restaurant close to the Sacre Coeur.

Every 100m or so, there is a patisserie / boulangerie. I ate a lot of pastries and cakes in Paris, and I mean a lot. God knows how Parissiene women stay thin.

Paris, May 2007 : Saturday

We went to the Louvre.

This place is huge. The Lonely Planet guide says it would take someone 9 months to see everything in it, and that's just glancing at everything.

So our "hit-list" was the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and the two Vermeers (the Lacemaker and the Astronomer).

It could have been the jostling crowds, but me and Mr K-E were both underwhelmed by the Mona Lisa (or La Joconde, it's other name apparently). There was so much beautiful art in the same room eg The Wedding at Cana, it just didn't seem that special. But what do I know? :)

The Vermeers were outstanding though.

The entrance pyramid by I M Pei is quite interesting. All sorts of old vs new ideas going on.

But I'm still not sure if it works.

Nice stairs, huh?

As we wandered around Mr K-E spotted this.

Renaissance porn!

In the same gallery there is a lion-eating-man sculptor.

Over-dramatic and gory, but I like it!

I also like this Hercules one.

After lunch at the Louvre, we headed across the Seine to the Notre Dame cathedral.

This is the view of the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) and the Pont D'Arcole from the Ile de la Cite.

Mr K-E says look at the little fluffy clouds.

Notre Dame Cathedral.

You can't really appreciate how big this place is from a photo. If you click on the photo and enlarge it, you'll see the choirmaster wearing a bright blue robe at the front. She how tiny she is compared to the building?

We actually visited when Sunset Mass (6:30pm) was starting. It was amazing seeing mass being celebrated in this wonderful setting. The choir were wearing black tie! Wow!

Paris, May 2007 : Friday

We got there around lunchtime, made our way to the hotel in Montmartre and found somewhere to have lunch nearby.

Looking through our photos, it looks like we had frites for every meal hahaha. I'm still really self-conscious about taking photos of the food in restaurants, so I don't tend to do it in the "smarter" places.

Mr K-E is having the classic steak frites while I am having chicken in a creamy sauce. However, Mr K-E was disappointed that they were not real frites but thicker and more like English chips.

Then we went walkabout.

It was a lovely afternoon.

We saw this guy when we were walking down Rue de Rivoli.

Policemen on rollerblades. Cool.

The Rue de Rivoli is one of the main streets in Paris and we quickly renamed it the Rue de Ravioli.

We had afternoon coffee at this lovely place called Angelina. We had to queue to get in but it was worth it.

Angelina is a famous Salon de The, but Mr K-E and I just stumbled upon it as we strolled along "Ravioli Street".

After coffee we explored the Jardin du Tuileries, where we saw this arch.

You can see the stonework is done in blocks.

Mr K-E was very impressed by "boobie panel" as he calls it. He says - who gets to do the boobies?

(Yes, this is the man I married.)

Even the graffiti in France is cool.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

We're back

We are back from Paris, woohoo! Going on holiday is lovely, but oh isn't it nice to be home again?

The most exciting thing about Paris?

Shallow? Moi?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

See you later, alligator

I'll be away for a few days and I won't be able to blog. So loyal reader(s), see you when I get back.

Meanwhile, I'm busy packing. We've got to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Taxi has been ordered for 6:45am : ready for 7:30 check-in at Waterloo. Then it's the 8am Eurostar to Paris.

Mr K-E thinks I'm silly to book the taxi so early as we only live about 15 minutes away from Waterloo. I don't care damn it. I'm not rushing and struggling with my wheely suitcase.

And why do I need a big suitcase when we will only be away for 5 days? For all my frickin' shoes, that's why.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wednesday evening

Well, forget everything I said earlier about "not buying any more stuff". I'm like an alcoholic; one drink and it's all over. One pair of shoes and I'm off on a spending spree. My Barclaycard was on fire tonight as I hit Oxford Street after work.

I'm too tired to blog in detail, but now I have lots of lovely new clothes and lingerie...woohoo! I'll regret it when the credit card bill arrives, but for now - I love shopping!

I stumbled on this guy's website - letters from Brunei. Very interesting reading.

He's the guy who wrote that song about Kuala Belait. Sorry, if you don't know Brunei, none of it will make sense. I expended all my energy pounding the mean shopping streets of London, none left for explanations.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Rainmaker by John Grisham

Very good. John Grisham is a master story-teller and this book doesn't disappoint.

Mr K-E read this first and he thought it was very good. He hassled me into reading it as soon as I had finished The Loyal Character Dancer because he wanted to talk about it!

The book was made into a movie in 1997, with Matt Damon playing the main protagonist Rudy Baylor. I haven't watched the movie, but I'm a big fan of Matt Damon so I could picture him clearly in my mind's eye.

When the book starts, Rudy Baylor is a young impoverished student in Memphis trying to survive the last few months of law school before starting work in a medium sized firm. After years of working all hours to fund himself through college, it looks like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Then, bad luck strikes - his future employer is bought out by another company and there is no place for Rudy in the new office. It is the end of semester and all the available jobs have been filled.

These are desperate times. Rudy is a good student, in the top third of his year, but not good enough for the big prestigious law firms. Add his trailer trash background and his chances of finding a job are even slimmer. The rejections and humiliations pile up around him, until finally he has no choice but to work for the infamous Bruiser Stone - a dodgy lawyer deeply involved in the "skin trade" i.e topless bars and prostitution. To his horror, he finds himself as the worst kind of lawyer - the ambulance chaser.

In the midst of all his woes, our naive lawyer stumbles onto the case of his career. He meets the Blacks, whose son Donny Ray is dying of leukemia. Donny Ray is "lucky" because he is an identical twin - and therefore he is an ideal candidate for a bone marrow transplant. His parents have been paying for health insurance for years and this is their only hope.

However, the big bad insurance company Great Benefit refuses to fund the transplant, finding all sorts of reasons to deny the claim, until finally it is too late for Donny. His mother shows the 8th denial letter to Rudy - unbelievably, part of it reads "...this is the 8th time we are denying the must be stupid, stupid, stupid...".

The "stupid" letter inflames Rudy and he resolves to fight for the Blacks : to represent this poor white trash couple and their doomed son.

The David vs Goliath theme is the main plot of the book. Interesting secondary characters, a likeable hero, a seemingly invincible opponent and quick, tight writing - it all combines to make an excellent read. Grisham's descriptions of the legal system and courtroom procedure are absorbing, even the courtroom scenes, which could easily turn tedious.

The book is also painfully funny in parts - Grisham pokes fun at the "initialed and numeralled" lawyers from big firms (Leo F. Drummond and F. Franklin the Fourth) as well as the ambulance-chasing deadbeat lawyers who hang around accident scenes.

Overall, highly recommended. A nice easy read; quick plotting and good story-telling.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bad news for vegetarians...

Bad news for strict vegetarians - Mars, Milky Way, Bounty, Snickers, Twix, Maltesers now all contain rennet, which is made from the stomach lining of young cows. The Vegetarian Society is very disappointed.

(And it's not great news for observant Muslims, Hindus, Jews or Buddhists, is it?)

It's kind of weird, I think. I mean, all this time they haven't been using animal products and now they switch to using animal products? Isn't that a step backwards? I've always thought it was cheaper to use artificial/plant-based ingredients rather than actual animal products.

Oh well, at least they are honest.

I guess it's how strict you want to be. I was surprised when a vegetarian friend said he avoided beer unless it was vegetarian beer.

And today, I read that the vegetarian society also says that most vegetarians "avoid honey". Do they really?

Apparently cochineal (dye made from dead bugs) is also to be avoided. I'm finding it hard to feel sympathetic towards dead bugs myself.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Messing around in the kitchen

What can you do when the weather is crap and it's pissing it down outside?

My favourite things to do - sleep in till very late and then potter around in the kitchen in the afternoon.

I roasted some vegetables in the oven - onion, garlic, sliced peppers and tomatoes. I love oven-roasted tomatoes, their flavour just becomes so intense and yummy. Although you do need to take out some of the pulp or it can beome a bit watery.

I made some cous cous - the easiest thing in the world! Just add boiling water and cover 10 minutes.

Voila! Lovely cous-cous with oven roasted vegetables.

I also made a spanish tortilla with chorizo. Spanish tortilla is made from layered potatoes and beaten egg, cooked slowly in a stove-top pan. Delia has a recipe here. I don't have a heavy cast-iron pan, so I baked it in the oven.

Fry some sliced onions in a pan, and add the sliced potatoes. Then for "authentic" tortilla, you do all the layering in same pan and cook it all slowly on the stove. My frying pan is not really heavy enough for this.

So I layered it all in my trusty Pyrex. Chorizo first, then potatoes. Repeat. Then pour beaten egg all over it. Season liberally with salt and pepper.



I also made a Keema for Mr K-E's dinner. The recipe is based on Nigella Lawson's recipe in Feast, my favourite cookbook. I didn't have all the fresh ingredients, so I poked around in the cupboards for substitutes eg fresh ginger = ground ginger and fresh lime juice = jif lemon juice.

Serve on hot buttered nan. Delicious.