Posts Tagged ‘flat’

h1

Cooking in 2012 – January: BBQ chicken sandwich with roast potatoes.

January 7, 2012

In my previous post, I mentioned that Toby had baked some bread today. This became the foundation for tonight’s dinner, which evolved as we shopped in M&S and picked up chicken breasts, barbecue marinade and salad. Under Toby’s patient tutelage, this became BBQ chicken sandwiches (with salad, caesar dressing and sliced red peppers), and a side of roasted potatoes:

I have never marinaded chicken, roasted potatoes (although in my last cookery post, I did learn how to boil them, so I am becoming quite potato-adept!) or even sliced a red pepper, so I couldn’t have made this dish without Toby’s help. I discovered that the previous tenants in my flat had left behind loads of really useful kitchen utensils, including big knives and various-sized baking trays and oven tins. One of my new aims for this weekend is to make an inventory of the kitchen cupboards and find out exactly what exciting cooking tools I possess! So first of all:

  • The oven was pre-heated to 200° C.
  • I took out the four chicken breasts we had bought, and cut 3 diagonal slices halfway down each one. These slits were to ensure that the BBQ sauce would get right inside the meat and imbue it with flavour.
  • Then I took the red pepper, sliced the top off, grabbed the white middle structure and pulled that out. I then turned my hollowed-out pepper upside down, put my hand underneath, and banged the top to get most of the seeds out. I then cut my pepper shell into quarters, and sliced it. I found out that this really is quite straightforward!
  • In a square baking tray with sides, I laid the sliced peppers to make a bed for the four chicken breasts. I then added about two-thirds of the bottle of BBQ sauce marinade, and worked the sauce into the chicken, ensuring that it got into the slits I had cut earlier. This was frankly quite horrible, as I hate my hands getting sticky and messy. But I did it!
  • Then I cut about 8 smallish potatoes into thirds / quarters (depending on size), and put them on a flat baking tray. I seasoned these with salt and black pepper, and drizzled some sunflower oil over them. I then turned all of the potatoes over in the oil to ensure that the surface of each potato fraction was oiled and seasoned.
  • I put both baking trays into the oven. After 20 minutes or so, when the potatoes started to brown on top, I took both baking trays out of the oven and using a fork (I tried it with a spatula the first time but things got a bit messy!) I turned all four chicken breasts over in the red pepper and BBQ sauce marinade, followed by turning all the potatoes over. I put everything back in the oven for another 20 minutes.
  • After this, the potatoes started to sizzle. I gave them a vigorous shake on the baking tray, and turned some of them over again. I then turned the four chicken breasts over once again. Everything went back in the oven!
  • 10 minutes or so after this, the potatoes started to look brown on top and the chicken looked cooked, so everything came out of the oven.
  • We then sliced four reasonably thick slices of Toby’s bread and laid them flat on two plates. I put salad leaves on the bread, and drenched these with a good amount of caesar dressing. I then sliced the chicken breasts into thin slices, and arranged these on top of the salad leaves. I covered the chicken with the sliced peppers, added a couple of dollops of the leftover BBQ sauce, and put the final slices of bread on top to make the sandwiches.
  • I served the roast potatoes in a bowl as a side dish. (In other words, there wasn’t enough room for the potatoes on the plate, next to the giant sandwiches.)

Et voilà!

Quite honestly, this meal was delicious, and so delicious that I felt almost overwhelmed that I had made it myself. I could not have done it without Toby telling me what to do, but I made it with my own two hands and cooking utensils, and I am really proud. On top of this, it really wasn’t that difficult, and I have learned how to do new things. It’s confirmed to me that this cooking idea that I had at the top of the year really was a good one that I should continue to pursue. I’m not used to taking so long to prepare and cook a meal, but neither am I used to feeling such a sense of pride at the end of it. 🙂

Advertisements
h1

2012, here we come!

December 30, 2011

The time has rolled around, once again, for my two standard end of year / new year posts. The first one is my own personal review of 2011, evaluating how I did with my aims for the year, and looking forward to 2012 and what I hope to achieve within the next 12 months. So, to recap, my aims for 2011 were:

1. Buy a car.
Tick! I not only bought a car, but I crashed it and then sold it 6 months later!  Driving was a major achievement for me, as it was 6 years in the making, and represented a triumph over my nerves and my previous failure (I have been a lucky person who generally didn’t have to deal with failure too much in life, up until I started learning to drive). But I also learned the hard way that it’s a big responsibility, that it comes with a whole trapping of expenses, and that while being able to drive is an asset and a liberation, living in London and not having to drive anywhere is also a blessing. When the public transport system is good, life is good. (Let me tell you, having gone home to Bristol for 6 days over the Christmas period, I immediately starting missing my car and how easy it made travelling from place to place. Bristol, step your public transport game up please!)

2. Get a job in London.

Tick! Although I miss the warmth and camaraderie of my colleagues in Cirencester (I yo-yoed about how much I enjoyed the job, but I became much happier and carefree once a certain colleague left), my new job in Notting Hill is a whole new challenge – I’m always busy, I’m never bored, and I am learning many new things. Plus, I am earning more!

3. Move to London.

Tick! As you know, I am now living in my own little studio flat in Earl’s Court, which is pricey but very conveniently located for transport (bus stop and tube station outside my front door), and also only a 15 minute walk from Toby’s place.

4. Stay with Toby and make sure that our relationship grows even stronger!

Tick! I love my baby and I realised early on in 2011 that the 100+ miles gap between the two of us wasn’t going to be feasible. We missed each other all the time, and although I may have ended up in London anyway (I’m a city boy at heart), he was the driving force between the transformation in my life and career that has occurred this year.

5. Buy a new microphone and record a new album.

Nope. The microphone never happened. I have recorded some new material (and written even more), but I am hoping that the album will be complete next year.

6. Pay off my credit card and student overdraft.

Sort of. I am debt-free, apart from my student overdraft and my student loan. My car ended up being a big drain on my finances, and moving to London required every penny I had. Plus, I did have a wonderful holiday to Seville with Toby in July, which I wouldn’t have traded for anything but did further delay me paying off my student overdraft. But with my first couple of pay checks, I paid my parents and Nonna back for the money they lent me to settle myself in London, I paid off my credit card, and sorted myself out financially. The student overdraft is my primary financial focus for 2012.

So I guess 4.5 out of 6 is not bad at all! I seem to have more success when I write my yearly aims down, so here goes for 2012:

1. Learn to cook a new dish every month.

Toby is a fantastic cook, but I want to learn to make healthy, interesting meals so that I can return the favour from time to time, and enrich my own skill-set and repertoire. Tonight, Toby’s housemates Michael and Naomi have made some very yummy sushi, so that is one thing I shall aim to make; I also enjoyed watching the British Bake-Off and am tempted by the idea of whipping up my own lemon tart!

2. Cut down on takeaways – to once a fortnight.

I’m not quite as svelte as I was this time last year. I have got into the habit of having desserts, of snacking unnecessarily from time to time, and from cooking quite simple dishes (similar to how I was at university). This is all fine, but I am going to moderate myself a bit and cut down on takeaways from Dominos, Pizza Hut and Jasmine Garden.

3. Move in with Toby.

I would like the two of us to move in together; it feels like the logical next step for our relationship, but we both need to be at ease with it and it also needs to be an affordable and convenient location. Moving in will happen when it happens, but I’m just putting this wish out there in the universe and perhaps in 12 months’ time, I will be able to tick this one off the list! 🙂

4. Pay off my student overdraft.

See above. This year I have really improved at budgeting and restraining myself from impulsive / extravagant purchases; therefore, I am determined to pay off at least £200 a month. So even if I don’t pay the whole thing off by the end of the year, I will have made a sizeable dent in it! Fingers crossed!

5. Learn Italian

Ok, let’s get this done once and for all. I am half-Italian, therefore it will not only be easy (especially having studied French and Spanish) to learn Italian, but it will be culturally enriching and give me a new understanding of my own heritage. Work have offered to pay for / subsidise an Italian course for me, but my initial plan of attack will be to buy an Italian novel, an Italian dictionary (and possibly an Italian grammar book), and keep a pen and paper by me as I read – and just have at it.

6. Learn to sew

Because I feel somewhat babyish whenever I have holes or rips in my clothes, and I have to take them to Toby’s to fix. I presume that sewing is a relatively simple skill, and therefore I should learn to do it and allow myself to be self-sufficient when it comes to repairing my belongings.

7. Finish my new album

This year will be the year! I am over halfway. Keep your eyes and ears peeled!

8. Go completely digital with my music and film collections, and only keep physical copies of what I really love

Having moved to London, I was unable to carry all of my DVDs and CDs with me. I would need a truck. Obviously, I have my computer, my iPod, and I was able to take quite a few of my DVDs here; but I have realised that I don’t really need most of the physical copies that I own. So I will sell them, give them away, and go digital. I will open myself up to buying things on iTunes much more (believe it or not, B.Slade’s album Diesel that I bought a couple of months ago was the very first album I bought on iTunes!), and perhaps I might need an extra external hard drive. But I am willing to embrace the digital age (only a few years late!), and also make it much easier for myself to move flats and houses as I go.

Wish me luck, and have a Happy New Year! x

h1

sixth sense.

September 3, 2011

When I was younger I used to believe in the supernatural – ghosts and the zodiac, stuff like that. I was fascinated by it all, but as I grew older I sorta decided that maybe some people had access to powers and things that the majority of us couldn’t see, but I just didn’t and that was that. I concentrated on what was concrete and tangible.

Nevertheless, I think that as humans we all have intuition and sometimes we have a sixth sense. I knew that everything was going too smoothly – I had got a new job, had found a buyer for my car, and had put down a deposit on a flat that was perfectly located between Toby’s flat and my new place of work. I have yet to hear from the landlord about when I sign the contract, but I figure that no news is good news as it means that he hasn’t changed his mind about renting the flat to me. (Did I mention I am a bit of a pessimist?) I was originally going to text him this weekend to let him know that I am around to sign the contract, but I decided against it as I don’t want to nag and put him off me. If I haven’t demonstrated by this point that I am organised (I met him the following day after viewing the flat to give him bank statements, a look at my new employment contract with my employer’s address and phone number, a copy of my driving licence, and the holding deposit and admin fee), then whatever. But at the moment, I am not feeling too worried about the flat – I’m kinda “c’est la vie” about it all.

But I felt that as I got closer and closer to the last day of driving my car (which is this coming Thursday), I knew that I wouldn’t get away without something going wrong. Every day that I drove it to work, I would say to myself “You only have X days of work left, so try not to crash it!” I haven’t crashed it. Then I drove up to London yesterday, and I was dreading this because I haven’t done so in quite a long time, and the last time I drove back from London, my door nearly fell off. But I just had to make one journey there and back. I drove up last night, and lo and behold, nothing bad happened. I drove successfully, and remarked about how crazy some of the other drivers on the M4 are! I met Toby once he finished work and we went home and had a lovely lamb moussaka for dinner. Then (because Toby’s street has controlled parking on a Saturday), I went to move my car to a street a few blocks away, so that I could park for free on Saturday (today).

This is when the problems struck – just when I thought everything was fine. As I was parking my car, suddenly the exhaust started making a very loud rattling noise. It made a similar (but quieter) noise once I picked it up from its MOT back in June, but Mike and I fixed it. But now it sounded horrendous. I got Toby to come and have a listen, and he said it was definitely the exhaust. And at this point, I just KNEW that this was the disaster that I had been waiting for. I knew that my car would not leave my presence without causing me one last problem, one last headache, and bleed one last lot of money out of me. I took it to Kwik Fit this morning, and they were supremely unhelpful and told me “It’s the heat shield. It’s not dangerous. It’s not worth spending the money to fix it.” They looked at my car for a total of 3 minutes. I was unsatisfied by this – how am I supposed to sell a car that makes such a fucking huge noise? If it were me buying it, I certainly wouldn’t – no matter how much the seller insisted “Honestly, it’s not dangerous!!!”

So I took it to another garage, who had a look at it and tightened some stuff up so that the noise was diminished (it does sound better now). They have recommended that I take the car back to the Car Clinic in Kingswood (where they originally fitted the new exhaust during my MOT) as they hadn’t done something properly, and it is their place to sort it. I have the receipt for when they did the exhaust as part of the MOT, and I am sure that they will not charge me much (if anything – after all, it is their mistake!) – however, I am also prepared that they might not believe that they are at fault as otherwise I should have reported the issue the first time it was rattling, instead of Mike and I fixing it ourselves. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully I will get back to Bristol in one piece – the car still drives fine, it’s just noisy in low gears. So hopefully if I am driving quickly along the motorway, it won’t make much noise.

What I am trying to say is that sometimes, when things seem to be going too smoothly, we need to be on our guard! I knew that my car would screw me over one last time before I got rid of it. I now have to somehow find the time between now and Wednesday to take my car to my local garage and get it fixed. I felt so guilty for ruining mine and Toby’s morning – which is ridiculous, because there is hardly anything I could have done to have prevented this, and my car is a law unto itself. It’s not my fault. But it is my car, and if I want to sell it on, I have to take responsibility for it and get it fixed. My intuition told me that my car would not let me go so easily. So I advise everyone to listen to your sixth sense, and be on your guard as misfortune can strike at any time.

And I also advise you not to buy a Vauxhall car, and to buy as new a car as possible / affordable, because in theory then you should have less problems with it! This car has been nothing but a drain on both my finances and my happiness, and while I have enjoyed driving (sometimes), the past 7 months of owning this car has overall been hellish. I will not be sorry to see it go, and now that I’ll be living in London, I am looking forward to making the most of a decent public transport system. It will hopefully be a long time before I own a car again – and next time, I will have a lot more money at my disposal and buy something much better and more reliable.

h1

on my way.

August 9, 2011

At the end of last year, I wrote down that this year I wanted to achieve:

1. Buy a car. (Tick. I bought a car, bought some tyres, had a small accident, replaced the door latch, paid through the nose for its MOT, and taxed it. So yes, I well and truly achieved that aim!)

2. Get a job in London. (Yes! As of yesterday lunchtime, I got a new job as Admissions Officer at Southbank International School. I start there in mid-September, and I am so excited. And relieved. And proud of myself.)

3. Move to London. (Now I have to find somewhere to live in London! I am more than ready to move out, and I am adamant that I want a flat by myself, which is going to be expensive. But I am ready for it. I am thinking Earl’s Court / Barons Court)

4. Stay with Toby and make sure that our relationship grows even stronger! (So far, so good!)

5. Buy a new microphone and record a new album. (Well, I haven’t got the microphone yet. I don’t know if that is going to happen; as you can guess, I have had a lot bigger things to spend money on this year. But the album is underway and I have recorded 5 or so songs, with lots more on the way! It’s a slow work in progress, but I have faith that it will be the best thing I have ever done. Watch this space.)

6. Pay off my credit card and student overdraft. (This one seems to be the hardest, but my credit card is nearly paid off. I will get there.)

In the last few weeks, I was feeling quite low. I wasn’t having any luck with finding interviews, my car just kept going wrong and needing more money spent on it, and work just seemed to pile more and more things on top of me, without my colleagues seemingly having to take on more tasks. I started feeling resentful, paranoid and questioning whether I was entering a depressed period. It wasn’t nice, and it wasn’t nice for my friends or for Toby who had to support me. Luckily, there were some things to look forward to: I went on holiday to Seville with Toby and I had my interview at Southbank, which held a glimmer of hope. Just before I finished work for my holiday, I had a long chat with Mike who said in no uncertain terms that I needed to snap out of it, or go and talk to someone professional.

I decided that I would try the former before I had to try the latter, and spent a long time thinking. About feeling taken for granted at work, and about why I couldn’t see that being able to manage additional responsibilities was a compliment as well as a burden. About the fact that I didn’t want to be down anymore, and I didn’t want to feel the guilt of burdening my friends when they could do nothing to help me, before I started helping myself. About the fact that I overcame a lot of obstacles to get my driving licence and my car, and that I shouldn’t give up now – I already achieved more than I thought I would. About the fact that if I give up, I end up nowhere, making no progress – and unhappy anyway. What could I, my family, my partner, be proud of then? And finally, about the fact that life is too short to be miserable all the time, especially about what largely boiled down to petty popularity contests at work. Just because I don’t want to be involved doesn’t mean that I should alter my whole routine and happiness because of it. It’s just a job, these are just people! I already have my friends, my family, my boyfriend. Life is good and I shouldn’t focus on the bad. So I decided that I won’t.

I let it go. At first, I was exhausted by it all, and there was an element in acting happily in the hope that my smile might be contagious. But it was surprisingly easy after a few days. Once I got to London, did my first interview, and chilled with Toby, my troubles started to melt away. Maybe I just needed the time off after all. The holiday in Seville was good for me (as well as immensely enjoyable and relaxing – the first of many holidays I hope to spend with Toby) as I was able to think and talk about what I wanted to do with myself. I have resolved to continue working on my music, but to actually start putting together a portfolio of music reviews (the Nadia Oh one is the first) which are kept to a strict word count of 250 / 500 words – perhaps alongside a couple of longer articles – and then sending these to newspapers and magazines in the hope of perhaps landing something. At first for free, but maybe – in the long run – freelance? Paid? Writing music reviews, at least for part of my living, would be great and I think that I am and would be very good at it. So I have a plan. I felt positive, and I felt empowered once again because my future is in my hands.

We came back from Seville, I had my second interview, and yesterday I got the job offer, which I accepted. I handed in my notice at college, and I realised from all the congratulatory tweets, as well as colleagues being so pleased for me, that I have a lot of people who are really happy for me and want the best for me. I am very lucky, and very grateful. But it’s also because I try to be a good person, a nice person, and a fun person – not only do I try to be those things, but I am those things, most of the time. So it’s not worth losing that to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Because I am not worthless, nor hopeless – and as soon as I let it all go, my worth and my hope revealed itself once again. So I learned that: I don’t believe we can control everything that happens to us by any means, but you get a lot more in return when you are nice & happy. We need to roll with the punches life throws at us, take some down time and then come out smiling 🙂 Life can be good if we let it!

h1

london calling.

August 6, 2010

So I’m in London again spending the weekend with Toby, and already it’s turning out to be a sociable weekend. Toby left me in bed this morning to go to work (which felt half sad, half decadent) and since then I’ve been out to meet up with my friend Sarah for the first time in ages. She texted me impromptu, said she was free, was I free, and we took it from there!  Caught up on lots of gossip and exchanged stories about our lives, a lot has changed! After that I went to Oxford Circus, where I wandered around the shops, picked up Janelle Monáe’s Metropolis I: The Chase Suite and Vivian Green’s Beautiful albums, went to Selfridges for the first time and had to resist spending £30 on a Thierry Mugler book, and decided not to go anywhere for lunch there because all the cafés were ridiculously crowded.

So as the weather was overcast but pleasant, I decided to walk through Hyde Park to Knightsbridge, where I am now writing upstairs in a very crowded, cramped Starbucks while I drink a strawberries & cream frappuccino. After this, I intend to walk to the Saatchi Gallery (I’m doing a lot of walking in an effort to keep fit and also do some sightseeing along the way!) and have a cultural afternoon wandering around there before going to meet Toby at Gloucester Road once he finishes work.  I bank on a relaxed evening tonight eating something yummy and hopefully watching Breakfast At Tiffany’s, which I purchased last week on a whim and fell in love with (unnecessary racist caricature Mr. Yunioshi aside). Tomorrow Toby, Claire (his housemate), Nana and I intend to go shopping round Westfield before we have Toby’s housewarming neon-themed party in the evening. Then it’s back home Sunday afternoon!

This is basically an itinerary, but I wanted to jot it all down to show how exciting London is.  I’ve been here for 3 long weekends now, and although at first in the face of ‘real London’ (I’d only ever been to Leicester Square and Oxford Street in the past), I felt lost and swamped, I’ve grown to love its sprawling commerce coupled with quiet, sedate residential areas that make Bristol look like a grimy speck in comparison to LDN’s magnitude. Sure, I haven’t explored all of London and I haven’t yet been around any of the rougher areas, but I like what I’ve seen so far.  In addition, it’s refreshing to enjoy a speedy, reliable public transport system (the Underground) which makes Bristol’s bus system look pathetic, and I love bumping into my friends and being able to socialise at a moment’s notice, which to be fair I can do in Bristol.

Two other things I’ve learned:

  • Walking around London with a full bag carrying my laptop is agony after a while!
  • My love affair for Starbucks does not apply to London. The Starbuckses here are crowded and cramped, and I was refused my free filter coffee refill here.  On this count, Bristol comes out firmly on top, because the service is nice and friendly, and the cafés are relaxing, tranquil places to go rather than a fight over seating space. Nevertheless, I’ve manoeuvred myself into a nice corner and am happily typing away on my laptop, so it’s not all bad!

Could I see myself living in London in the future? It depends what happens; I’m not thinking about that right now as I’m about to start my new job at Cirencester College on Monday 16th, and I intend to stay there for at least a couple of years; in a year’s time, I’m hoping to do the masters in Careers Guidance at UWE and hopefully gain an MA in Education.  I also appreciate that while London is exciting because it’s a big step up from Bristol in terms of its urban landscape, fast pace of life and shopping potential, I enjoy the fact that Bristol (although it’s a fairly-sized city) now feels intimate and familiar, and I have plenty of friends there as well as my family, whom I wouldn’t want to be far from (although they drive me mad on the regular). It depends how Toby and I progress as a couple too; where he sees his future is going to have a large impact on where I see mine.  I try not to talk about it too much because I don’t want to get too heavy and risk freaking him out, but I feel like now that I’ve overcome all of my initial neuroses about our relationship, I can see myself being with him for a long time. So I’m prepared to compromise to be where he wants to be, and I’m sure he’ll do the same for me.  Watch this space. But my priorities for now are car, move out into my own flat, tone stomach and allow my relationship to continue to grow. 🙂

h1

gift.

October 10, 2009

So my birthday is coming up, and literally just now my mother asked me whether I still wanted a flat screen TV.  Originally, I was after one so that I could better see the graphics (and actually be able to read the on-screen instructions!!!) when I’m playing my Playstation 3.  But I was going to move my current TV into my ‘office’ area (where I have my printer and filing set up for uni) and according to plans my mother has to put a wardrobe in there, I don’t think it’s gonna fit.  And I don’t really play PS3 enough for it to be worth just buying a new TV.  So I’m gonna nix the gift, and now I have to think of something else!

And it’s hard but I almost got a little bit tearful for a moment there because if I could choose another gift at this moment, I just wish that my parents would stop fighting.  This last couple of weeks, it’s been really really bad, alternating between silent treatments and raging rows.  I’ve just tried to get out of their company as soon as I can after dinner, and work by myself in my bedroom / the spare bedroom / the hallway, because it’s just traumatic.  I remember when I was 8 years old, and I used to listen to them fighting upstairs and just cry and wish for it all to stop – well, I react differently now (I go and have a shower to drown out their voices; I contemplate going downstairs and telling them to grow up) but I still feel like I’m 8 years old again and a little child listening to the world falling apart.  I don’t know what to do.

Maybe this is why my little crush at uni isn’t really a crush.  I just want somebody to protect me and hold me tight and for everything to be ok.  I try and maintain the façade of having everything together as much as possible, because I don’t want anyone to know that I am actually feeling quite vulnerable, but I think I’ve let a couple of things slip that maybe betray the fact I’m quite upset about it.  When I daydream (or night-dream), it’s not really a sexual thing but more a protective thing, that somebody will hold me and not leave.  I have made my friend Mike promise that as soon as he has a decent flat available and my bursary comes through, I am going to move out because I’ve just had enough, and also I really need my own space where I can just be at ease and have my own privacy and invite people round and come and go as I please.  I don’t get on badly with my parents (after all, they’re not shouting at / being silent with me) but maybe it’s just being 23, nearly 24 and still living at home is a little constraining.

So I now have to deal with the conundrum of what to ask for as a birthday gift from my mum. (I haven’t asked if this is going to be on behalf of both of my parents, as my dad usually remembers my birthday – he didn’t buy me a birthday present once and a Christmas present another time, but that happened in the past so I don’t know if he would still forget these days.) Although I want a Gucci necklace, I don’t think I am going to mention it.  I may have a window shop today and see if I find anything that tickles my fancy, but other than someone scooping me up and telling me everything is gonna be alright, or a place to call my own (both things I can’t exactly ask for!), I really don’t know what I want.