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Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Mock Turtle - delightful tea rooms in Brighton

best tearoom brighton

Stepping through the door of this traditional tea room in the centre of Brighton has been a complete delight to me for over 20 years now. For as long as I can remember, despite changes in ownership and expansion into the next building over, The Mock Turtle has fulfilled the same role in the Brighton cafe scene - it was doing twee before 'twee' was in style, darling! My parents would take me here when I was little, for a treat of toasted teacakes - I continued to visit through my teenage years, and still make an effort to stop off for a spot of tea whenever I'm in Brighton because it is just such a pleasure to eat here, even now!

twee decor cafe interior
vintage cash register
big vintage mirror brighton
Antique aesthetic decor

The crowded, mismatched decor and super-antique atmosphere in the Mock Turtle should not fool you into thinking that the service and the food are anything less than top notch here. There's a vast array of freshly baked cakes, pastries and scones on the menu, as well as tasty lunch snacks such as Welsh Rarebit (which is a gooey, fonduey cheese mixture on toast, in case you've not heard of it before) and cooked breakfasts.

Dan and I shared a deliciously traditional Welsh Rarebit (which we greedily wolfed down before we had a chance to photograph it) before indulging in a cream tea for dessert. We thought that we'd do a very scientific experiment and decide once and for all, which kind of scone is best, out of the Devonshire and Cornwall styles. There's an age old friendly (I think it's friendly anyway) rivalry between Devon and Cornwall regarding the correct way to assemble a scone with jam and cream. In Devon, they put the clotted cream on the scone first, followed by a dollop of jam, whereas in Cornwall, the jam is spread on the scone first, and then a thick layer of cream is liberally applied on top. Dan prefers the Devon method and I prefer the Cornwall method, so I can't say we came to any particular conclusions in our experiment!

Cream and Jam pots
Devonshire Cream Tea
Cornish Cream Teas

I'd really recommend visiting The Mock Turtle cafe if you're ever in Brighton. I've loved it since I was a child, and I'm clearly not alone, as they've expanded into a much bigger tea room recently. The prices are still incredibly reasonable (doubly so if you're used to sky-high London prices) and you get fantastically generous portions. You can find the Mock Turtle on Pool Valley in Brighton (BN1 1NJ). Let me know if you ever visit this tea room because it'll make me so happy!

Which type of scone do you prefer? Devon or Cornwall? And if you're not from the UK, exactly how ridiculous does this rivalry sound? Is there anything similar where you're from?

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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Why do we think sunsets are pretty?

Brighton Skyline

Last Saturday, I took my husband to visit one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I've watched the sun set in so many different countries all around the world, and even so many places in Great Britain, and I am moved by every sunset I see - perhaps I am sentimental, but I can't think of a sunset that I find so profoundly sublime as the one you can see from Brighton beach.

We walked two and a half miles along the promenade, alongside the crashing waves and the salt-tumbled pebbles, as the sun dipped lower and lower in the sky, before sinking down just far enough to touch the horizon. We watched its final descent below the surface from a bench in front of a neat little row of beach huts which were bathed in the amber glow reflecting from the clouds as the sun descended.

This year has been one of the hardest so far - nothing has been certain, we've had to leave our home, and it has been deeply unsettling not to know what the immediate future holds, even though we do have each other. Looking at a sunset and letting one of the planet's most every day (literally) occurrences overwhelm me was more soothing than I could have ever expected. The sun sets every single day. It is beautiful. Every single day.

What does the sunset look like where you live? And why do you think humans seem to all agree universally that a sunset is pretty?

Sunlight dog
beach silhouettes
Sunset beach huts brighton
Sunset paradise UK

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Friday, 10 October 2014

Collector or hoarder?

cabinet of curiosities

I've been an avid collector of things for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, we moved house a lot, but one constant in my life was a little cabinet not unlike the one above, full of my favourite odds and ends. Many of the little items on those tiny shelves are the same as they've always been, but over the years, I've added to my collection as I've acquired little trinkets here and there.

Most people my age have left a lot of their stuff at their parents' house. All of their childhood bits and bobs remain in their adolescent bedrooms, or packed into boxes in the attic. At least, that's how it is with most of the people I know. All of their old schoolwork, their certificates, perhaps some old clothes... It's all tucked away at their parents' house, out of sight. Because both of my parents live abroad, I've ended up with the majority of my childhood things. Practically every single thing I've ever owned. Or at least that's how it feels when I'm trying to heft the boxes into vans to drive them up and down the country.

So at what point does keeping things become unhealthy? I've always kept a diary and I am a very nostalgic person - I love looking back on what I thought or said or did a long time ago. That's why all of my embarrassing old blog posts are still around for your delectation. I did spout some tosh back then. I probably still do, come to think of it. Moving house has given me the chance to get rid of a lot of old things that I never look at any more, such as an old set of computer speakers, or a jumper with an un-fixable hole in the armpit. There are plenty of things that I can't throw away though, like birthday cards from old friends, a note passed to me in class twelve years ago, a painting by one of my pupils when I was (very briefly) a teacher... I treasure these material possessions, not because they're worth any money but because I get such joy from looking at them and from re-finding them after they've been packed away for a long time.

Obviously there are limits - I mean, I'm not keeping things for the sake of owning EVERYTHING, or because I am scared to throw things away. I'll let you into a little secret - in Dan's childhood bedroom, on top of one of his bookshelves, is a chocolate Easter egg that his grandparents bought him when he was three years old. I'm pretty sure that my own personal hoarding boundary is much more acceptable than 23 year old chocolate... I try to make sure that I am being reasonable about the things that I keep. And my next project is to make sure that all of these things that I own are packed and stored in such a way that they are easily findable and take up the least space possible. And when I'm feeling guilty about having so much stuff, I need to remember that most people my age have a lot of stuff, it's just that half of it is at their parents' houses!

Do you keep everything? Or do you prefer the minimalist approach? What's your most treasured childhood possession?

1. A heart shaped tin with some of my milk teeth in it. // 2. A mysterious Virgin Mary that nobody remembers buying. It is covered in glitter and appeared in our house many years ago with no explanation. // 3. An Eiffel tower model given to me for free by a street vendor in Paris who made me cry when he showed me a sexually explicit monkey toy when I was eleven. // 4. A porcelain fairy that I bought with pocket money on a trip to Devon as a child. // 5. A really small German dictionary given to me by Robin. // 6. Another Virgin Mary, this time one I bought with pocket money on a holiday to Greece, when I was obsessed with Catholic shrines as a child. I feel I should point out, my family is not Christian! // 7. A small tin with the carnation my dad wore in his lapel on the day he married my mum. // 8. Wooden Tortoise, China Koala. // 9. A pebble from Brighton beach with a naturally formed hole in the shape of a 'C' for 'Candy'. // 10. Venetian glass dreidel, tacky 80s crucifix, and my graduation pin from Cambridge University. // 11. A picture of me as a wee babby. // 12. A tiny classical vase, full of whiskers shed by the cat over the last few years. // 13. Glass snail. // 14. The wheel I carried around in my pocket for a year as a teenager. As mentioned on my About Me page! // 15. Painted banksia seed pods, sent to me from Australia by my Aunty when I was little. // 16. Various nostalgic Champagne corks. // 17. A toy Morris Minor car that my Dad gave me when I was a child. He used to own a real-size one of these cars, before I was born. // 18. Tiny horseshoes for good luck!

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Sunday, 5 October 2014

Cooking for the in-laws

food for husband's parents

The first time I cooked for my husband's family was when we'd only been together for about six months. His extended family were coming over to his parents' house and I offered to make a tiramisu for everyone. I hadn't considered the fact that they were Italian and that there was no whipping cream in the house for the topping. I managed to substitute cream cheese, single cream and a lot of whipping to make it, and it seemed to go down well, but I'll never forget the panic and horror that overcame me when I realised that I was making tiramisu for the first time, for my Italian in-laws.

Since Dan's parents are allowing us to stay with them rent-free, we're taking on a lot of the cooking duties. I've probably made it pretty clear from my previous posts about this whole moving fandango, but we're actually really happy with this arrangement because Dan's parents have a beautiful kitchen! On Friday night, we drafted a meal plan for the week, focusing on things that we would have had trouble making in the tiny kitchen in our old flat, as well as some of our favourite recipes that we really wanted to make for the family.

Last night's dinner was planned to be a butternut squash and chilli soup with freshly baked bread, and a rhubarb crumble for pudding. Any of you who follow me on twitter will know that the bread ended up off the menu as the yeast I used was a sachet we'd brought from our flat, which was lonnnnng dead. Sad times. Aside from that, everything went to plan. Cutting up butternut squash is always a hassle, but the soup was shaping up to be silky and flavoursome. Then Dan's sister dropped the bombshell that she didn't actually really like butternut squash or rhubarb very much. I want to please everyone all the time, and I hated the idea that I'd be making food that she wouldn't like! It's always a struggle to cook for people whose palates you don't know fully, I think. Plus, there's the added pressure that I really want my husband's family to love me and to like the things that I make for them!

Soup with creme fraiche

In the end, Dan's sister really liked the soup, which made me almost cry with relief! Dan's mum said "mmmm" a lot, and his Dad was very impressed with the concept of a butternut squash. My personal goal for the next few months is to improve my food presentation skills (for eating and photographing!) and this was my first time garnishing a soup with olive oil, and everyone said it looked pretty! (PHEW!!!) The rhubarb crumble didn't look as beautiful but it tasted good, and apparently Dan's sister is now also a rhubarb convert too. I'm pleased with how that went. Now to continue this positive streak for another two months worth of evening meals!

Have you ever cooked a meal for someone else? Did you find it at all stressful? Was it a disaster or did it all go to plan?

vegetable love

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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

September's Greatest Hits

autumn is coming

September is over, Autumn has arrived, and as usual, big life events are coinciding with the changing or the seasons. Everything I own is currently in either a cardboard box or a black bin-bag right now, and I'm spending a lot more of my time on trains. In fact, I am actually drafting this post on a train RIGHT NOW. Woah...

September's memorable moment

oatcake mixology

Both of these things happened in the last week but they were sufficiently memorable that they have all but erased the rest of the month from my brain! Last week it was my husband Dan's 26th birthday, and we all went out for a lovely Chinese meal before seeing Ballyturk at the National Theatre. It was a very impressive play - the physical theatre was exhilarating and the dark sinister humour was beautifully timed. The day after Dan's birthday, we commenced the five-day-long process of moving alllll of our stuff to his parents' house, where we will be living for the next couple of months. We are both utterly exhausted!

September's Instagram moments

popcorn party pigeon party
commuting view UK Pumpkin Spice

This month, I ate some midnight popcorn (I am all about salty late-night snacks), enjoyed my lunch nestled in amongst a sea of sleeping pigeons, started commuting to work, and bought my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the year (remember, I'm from the UK. It's still a novelty here!!)

Songs on repeat in September
I played a gig at The Fiddler's elbow with my band the other day, and the band who were playing before us were this awesome three piece indie rock band called Cat Bear Tree. They manage to blend badass raucousness with perfect harmonies to make these effortlessly cool pieces of music. I really liked their song Spaces In Between. I've also been listening to C'est La Mort by The Civil Wars over and over again this month. It's such a lovely song, but... very sad.

Sorry this is such a tiny little post - negotiating the very small amount of internet at Dan's parents' house is proving to be a challenge. Not to worry though, posting will resume as normal once I've figured it all out! September has been utterly manic, but there's lots of good stuff up ahead, especially food-wise. Plenty of recipes are a'comin' this Autumn. So my question to you is, what is your favourite AUTUMNAL foodstuff? I'd love to know! I love reading all of your comments!

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Sunday, 28 September 2014

Owl Guy: Moving home

elephant and castle

As Candy has recently mentioned we are leaving South London, however our new flat isn’t ready yet so we are bridging the gap by staying with my parents’ for a few months. We’ve spent the last few days moving all of our stuff. As most of you probably know packing up your whole life is a strange experience, on the one hand it is really stressful but there are all the little moments when you find some nostalgic trinket that hasn’t been seen in years. Candy and I have spent lots of time sitting on the floor amidst the mountains of boxes reminiscing about the things we are packing and the fun times we have had in the flat. We have had some great times in our flat and in this part of London, but after 3 years it is time for a change and we are excited to be moving.

We have been living in our flat just the 2 of us for the last 3 years and to be moving back in with my parents is strange. We have spent the last few days trying to fit into our new roles, it is obviously pretty different from when we used to stay here during university holidays. Although it was strange at first it seems to be going really well. There are some other definite advantages to living back at home, at least for a little while. One of the big ones is that we get access to a much larger kitchen! The kitchen in our flat was nice but pretty small but here we will have space to make some slightly more fancy stuff, some of which will probably make it into the blog. Another advantage is that since we are outside of London now I can use my car and so lots of little trips are on the cards!

On the other hand, the internet in this part of the countryside definitely leaves something to be desired! And the commute to London each day for work is going to be hefty. Plus, we will have to work hard to get used to all of this change, and living with other people again.

Couple happies
kissing couples

We are looking forward to the next couple of months and getting our new flat ready, which will be a great adventure! However there is still a part of me that will always miss our little flat in Walworth, it will always be the first flat we had for just the two of us and that makes it special.

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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Happy Birthday Dan!

Baby husband

It's my husband's birthday today, so I thought I'd write a quick note to him on here, in public... It seems like a good idea right now, but we'll see how I feel about this in the morning!

Happy birthday beautiful Dan. I probably don't say this enough, but I love and appreciate you so much. From the very beginning of our relationship when you were barely 20, you've looked after me, supported me, and entertained me. We can talk and talk together for days, even if we do sometimes tell each other the same story more than once, or vehemently agree with one another... both arguing on the same side of the debate. You're a kind and generous human being; you are overflowing with boundless affection and tenderness for everyone you meet (except for people who stop walking very suddenly in front of you on a busy street... and wasps). I am very grateful to have met you and to be able to say with certainty, that we will always comfort one another when we're sad, and rejoice together when we're happy.

We've got a lot of stress coming up, what with this house-move falling at every hurdle, but I know that we will be okay because you're pragmatic and hilarious - a winning combo in a crisis.

Also, a big shout out to Dan's sister Bex. (Somehow, they both ended up with the same birthday, five years apart. That's Bex and Dan in the photo above) Bex, you're a schnügly tinosphere and I love you lots. In the words of Kierkegaard, "You don't know you're beautiful - that's what makes you beautiful."

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