Monday 30 January 2012

The Meat Free Monday Cookbook

I’d had my eye on this book for a while (I defy you to look through it and not think the meals inside look delicious), so you can imagine my delight when I found it cheap in the January sales. It has since become one of my most used cookbooks. Whether it be a slight variation on a breakfast favourite, a tasty lunchtime treat, or a full out dinner, this book has some seriously good recipes.

Split into sections for food to fit each season, this book will encourage you to eat healthy, fresh food all year round (I can’t wait to get growing in my allotment this year). There have been a couple of recipes that I haven’t been overly keen on, but with a few adjustments make perfectly tasty meals. On the whole the meals have been fantastic, and I have discovered new foods, giant wholewheat couscous being a favourite thus far. There’s a recipe for each meal of the day for every Monday of the year, complete with ideas for sides, so whether you’re a seasoned veggie, or just trying it out, you won’t be stuck for ideas.

The only slight issues I have with this otherwise fantastic book is that some of the ingredients required are a bit obscure, and on the expensive side, but this can easily be combated with some slight changes to recipes depending on budget and availability (most of the ingredients can be found in somewhat more expensive/ health conscious shops). In saying that there are plenty of recipes that can be made relatively cheaply. My other qualm is the length of time it takes to prepare and cook some of the recipes. An hour and a half on a packed lunch, or a few hours on dinner after a day at work is a little excessive, but these recipes can always be kept for days off (and, let’s be honest, are tasty enough to make the effort worth while!).

All in all, a brilliant book that I would recommend to vegetarian, and meat-eater alike. There are still so many more tempting recipes to try out, and I’m happy to say it’s helped get 2012 off to a healthy start.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Rediscovering a love of card making

Throughout my life I have tried quite a range of different crafts, and one I used to spend a fair amount of time (and money) on was card making. I think my initial idea was that it was a cheap way to give cards, and then went a bit crazy online and spent way more than I ever would have on cards. I don't feel too bad about this though, as all these things keep and can be used at a later date for more card creations.

Having split my time over the past few years between two different houses, some of my crafting has declined as I haven't had the many tools and random bits and bobs I have accumulated over the years to hand. For my last birthday my parents gave me a nice card making set, and, it being my Gran's birthday next week I thought it was about time I put it to good use.

The box was full of all kinds of goodies; blank cards and envelopes, decoupage pages, gift tags, box templates, basically anything and everything you could want to make lots of adorable cards. I'm pretty pleased with how the card turned out, and definitely plan to get back into this craft.

For anybody who has thought of getting into it, I would recommend buying a set such as the one I was given as it can be a bit daunting choosing what to use the first time, and you can end up spending a lot of money on things you may never use. A set like this makes card making simple and rewarding, and provides all you need to create some lovely cards which I'm sure would be gratefully received.

Sunday 8 January 2012

All things Dickensian

With the bicentenary of Charles Dickens's birth almost upon us I have wholeheartedly thrown myself into Dickens season. The BBC have put on an array of fantastic programmes about his life and works, and there's still more to come. I'm not sure I can quite bring myself to watch the adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood with its imagined ending. Unfinished novels are tantalizingly frustrating, but they are unfinished, and, unless we find some long lost manuscript (I wish!) I can't help but think they should be left that way. That's not to say anything against the adaptation, I'm sure it will be brilliant, especially if Great Expectations was anything to go by!

In the spirit of Dickens season, I thought it was about time I visited the Dickens Museum in London. I was particularly excited about this, which almost made me slightly hesitant about visiting, as these things rarely live up to expectations. It was, however, a fantastic experience.

From its unassuming exterior I knew my hopes hadn't been entirely unfounded.

You enter through the house next door, meaning that the house Dickens lived in has been mainly unspoilt by gift shops, cafes, etc. The museum feels much more like visiting somebody’s house than going to a museum. In large part still decorated as close to how it would have been as possible, and with minimal cabinets you are free to wander round at will, enjoying the atmosphere. Spread over four floors, you are able to see the wash room, wine cellar, still room, study, library, bedroom, and several other rooms. I was lucky enough to go whilst the Christmas decorations were still up, and it was certainly a welcome sight. Christmas as we know it is so closely identified with Dickens and how he described Christmas to be that it was really very special to see the house in which he wrote Oliver Twist decorated as close to his descriptions as possible.

In the library a TV had been set up (one of the few features that seemed out of place) with a half hour film about Dickens’s life, which was an interesting addition to the visit, and made it possible not to have too many signs with information around the house, making the experience feel all the more genuine.

I understand the museum has plans to expand this year, making use of the house next door to allow for more visitors, and a more in-depth exploration of the history of the house, and its most famous inhabitant. This is certainly a museum I can see myself going back to time and time again.

Feeling even more inspired to find out yet more about Dickens I headed over to the British Library where they currently have a small, free exhibition about Dickens and the Supernatural. Another fascinating exhibition, you learn not just about Dickens, but in popular beliefs about the supernatural in the nineteenth century. Although Dickens was sceptical about many of the beliefs, ghosts, and unexplained phenomena feature heavily in many of his novels. You also learn of a fascinating link between one of his tales, and a real life event which was spookily similar to that of Dickens’s imagination. A fantastic exhibition, as always, from the British Library.

Later in the month I plan to visit the Dickens exhibition at the Museum of London, but in the meantime I plan to get on with reading some more Dickens, where to start, where to start...?