If the IT thing doesn’t pan out I can do this instead

People who know me well will know I am a bit of a flake. I like to think I have achievable plans, aims and ambition but really my only true ambition is so completely out of reach it may as well not be one. So, I bounce from job to job, get bored around the golden 12 month mark and move on. There’s really no rhyme or reason behind the jobs on my CV other than I fancied it at the time. I’m a little rubbish like that.

I have very few constants in my life. I like to mix things up. I will almost always be game for going somewhere new and meeting a new crowd when my fiscal situation permits it. When my bank manager says “No, you can’t go out this week”, I have limited options for amusing myself. When the pinch sets in, I normally head straight for the baking utensils. As the pinch happens fairly regularly, I have become quite good at baking.

My show cake is a Victoria sponge with jam and butter cream icing in the middle. I make them as birthday cakes mostly. Depending on how nice they look will depends on if I cover them in icing. Here’s my classic ‘sprinkle of icing’ Victoria sponge.

Recently, I have ventured from fairy cakes to cupcakes. Then I branched out into Icing the cupcakes. Here’s a batch of my first attempt. They were iced with a piping bag and star shaped nozzle.

The first issue I came across was getting the butter cream icing the correct consistency. You need to make it a little softer than you would if you were using the butter cream as a filling. Initially, I made the butter cream far too firm and ended up having to add milk in order to thin it out. Once the consistency was correct, the decorating began!  They were a bit squiggly in places as I hadn’t used a piping bag for donkeys years but, overall, a very good attempt. I heard only good reviews about them. I also over baked the cakes a little so resolved to not make the same mistakes twice. Roll on the second batch.

The cakes were much better baked, but I made the icing too firm and felt too lazy to empty the piping bag again.

In summary, I think I’ll bake cakes for a living if everything else goes wrong.


Another cycling one

So, Those of you who read avidly will know I cleaned my bicycle and then it got all messed up again in 10 days from my post here. Well, It’s been a tough old winter so far for us cycling types. I found myself with more punctures in 6 weeks then I’ve had in 2 years (mostly thanks to the deteriorating state of road repair), brake pads that seem to be made of paper and drivers who don’t understand how to use their wing mirrors. Well bad drivers aren’t specific to Winter but they do seem even more awful then normal when it’s cold and rainy/snowy outside.

Anyhoo, to get to the point, I saw via the ever informative London Cyclist blog/twitter feed that Evans Cycles had a stonking deal on Specialized inner tubes. Half price!!! Specialized are my tubes of choice because they’re just the most reliable I’ve used. I’ve never had quality issues and when repairing my punctures, I have seen just how many scrapes they have on them that resisted the temptation to become holes. As I was ordering the tubes, I thought, “Sod it, I’m bloody well buying a puncture proof tyre for my back wheel”. I settled on the Schwalbe Marathon Plus as it seemed to have the better reviews from customers. No one had a bad thing to say about it apart from the fact it can be hard to fit. One comment even helpfully informed me that another internet shop does the tyre cheaper but that Evans Cycles has a price match guarantee service. Lovely!!!!! Instead of Evans’ list price of £27.99, I paid £19.99. Couple this with 4 inner tubes, all half price, and I got my little lot for just under £30. Stunning! Here’s my haul.

All the items arrived this morning. Now looking at the filth on my bicycle I decided I could not fit this amazing new tyre on such a sorry excuse for a frame. I cleaned my bicycle again. This time, I took pictures. Efforts were made to try and match the photo positions to the ones taken when the bike was filthy. Here we go with the (hopefully) direct ‘before and after’ type photos.

Looking good you say? Why yes, yes it does. Lets continue!

So you can see, I didn’t quite get the toothbrush onto the matter but still, much improvement!!! Last ones….

It was a very busy one this morning. Muck cleaned off and tyre fitted with, really, no problems at all. There were a few moments when curses escaped my lips because inserting the last bit of tyre into the rim made another bit pop out but, all in all, a painless experience. I’ll report in once it’s had a decent test. I still need to replace my break pads tomorrow. A cyclists maintenance is never done.

It gets a bit nippy but I still like going outside

Many people retreat into their houses and sit Winter days out by watching Television and/or films indoors. I’m really not one of those people. As yet, I haven’t given in once on cycling to work because of poor weather, I get my water proofs out instead. The weekends are no different. I am lucky to have friends who share the same sentiment as me in so much that a weekend spent indoors is a weekend wasted. My most recent excursions have involved The Southbank and Kensington Gardens.

The main reason for going down to Southbank was to see the Take A View exhibition. Talk about stunning photography. Some of the images on display were simply staggering. I was a little dubious as to whether or not I would be allowed to photograph my favourite images so I erred on the side of caution and didn’t. One of the images that made me simple the most was a shot of a dog mid shake/jump/gallop (it was sort of impossible to tell) in the middle of a wood. It just captured the sheer joy of autumn. The dog in the picture looked how autumn makes me feel, ludicrously happy and utterly over excited about the prospect of HUGE piles of leaves!

I’ll add to it the photography discussion by showing you my own from the day. The first was taken as we walked from Waterloo station to Southbank. We passed the bridge and I couldn’t believe I never noticed just how good the eye and Big Ben look together. It was pretty difficult to get a shot where the sun didn’t completely obliterate the image so I had to settle for only a little obliterated.

We wandered around the exhibition until stomachs were rumbling. I opted for a healthy falafel and hummus pitta bread then walked past this and was utterly disappointed.

Who doesn’t want fish and chips out of a Routemaster?! I know my pitta bread seemed utterly pointless once I’d seen this. I ate it with almost contempt really. I won’t make the same mistake again. What I will say about Southbank is, it’s brilliant and there is always some kind of exhibition or event going on down there but, the cold air coming off the Thames in Winter is TRULY bone chilling. Wrap up warm. Here’s a quick snap of the walkway facing onto the Thames.

So next was a little trip across the City to Kensington Gardens. The first thing that made me like Kensington gardens was the man playing bagpipes with his bicycle propped against a tree. He wasn’t busking, he wasn’t even near a pathway, he’d just gone to play a few tunes in the park and have a practise. I salute you sir!

The second thing I liked about Kensington Gardens was the dog walkers. I am a big dog lover and there were so many different breeds to admire, I was a pretty happy girl. My favourite was probably a Westie who’s legs and tummy were filthy. Sure, he was having fun now but the bath at home wouldn’t be so gladly received I am sure.

The third thing I liked about Kensington Gardens was just how beautiful it is. There’s a lot of little buildings you can admire and also plenty of gnarled trees to investigate. The water fountains were gorgeous to look at but the combination of water and birds makes them popular with parents and their children so don’t expect to go and be able to just sit and enjoy them. There will be a child screaming somewhere and chasing some species of bird around (I know I’m a big grinch of the ‘seen and not heard’ school). There’s also a well deserved statue of Edward Jenner. He’s the clever chap who pioneered what we now call ‘Immunology’. We have a lot to thank the man for. Anyway, I took and overall snap of the fountains. You can just about see the Jenner statue on the left hand side.

One end of Kensington Gardens houses the Albert Memorial. For those of you who aren’t from round these parts, the Albert monument faces onto the Royal Albert Hall. It makes for a fairly imposing spectacle really. First this beautifully maintained piece of architecture and then the equally impressive domed building. You approach the monument from behind and this view, for me, actually provides the best overall ‘WoW’ factor. Here’s how I captured it.

The attention to detail is absolutely mind blowing. It is absolutely worth a trip to see. And of course you get the Royal Albert Hall the other side.

We were trying to read the wording that runs around the top of the building but it proves notoriously difficult when, in your 20’s, you appear to be blind as a bat and can’t make it out. The Royal Albert Hall, and the shows that go on within it, are a spectacles to behold. I cannot recommend highly enough the experience of seeing the monument and hall appear as they do when you approach them from Kensington Gardens. It is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

If after that you feel so inclined, you can then get on an old London Routemaster bus and take a little trip! I could not believe my eyes when I saw route 9 still being serviced by the historic wonders. I found myself seeing if I could get home from anywhere that route 9 runs. As it happens, it goes to Green Park (Buckingham Palace’s Royal Park) which means I could hop on gleefully. The only other time I have seen a Routemaster in London was WAY back in September last year when I took this hasty photo.

I didn’t take another photo today but, as you sit winging your way round London listening to the engine, you see more than one person whipping their phone/camera out to get a snap of the bus. The conductor was having a great time, waving and posing for the photos when and where he could. At one stop he hung off the pole at the back and smiled (like only a man who truly loves his job can) for a group of tourists. He made my day.

Feeling sleepy anyone?

As the English Winter progresses along, the days get shorter and shorter. This results in waking up before sunrise and leaving work after sunset. I think the entire population (well the ones who aren’t vampires) find this a rather unpleasant experience on a daily basis. I am no exception. It was getting to the stage where being late for work because I couldn’t drag myself out of bed  became a daily occurrence. That is not a good situation to be in. Normally I am early to work. I am a Lark by nature so an inability to get up in the morning is utterly out of character for me. Naturally, I turned to my Mother and the Internet for a solution.

The prevalent result of my research was Seasonal Affective Disorder. Now, I don’t think I necessarily have S.A.D. ,as my Mother so keenly insists, but, I decided that many of the solutions suggested for S.A.D. sufferers wouldn’t have any negative impact on me. After nominal amounts of  ‘Googling’, I thought the first item on the ‘get me out of bed in the morning’ list would be a sunrise alarm clock. These clever gadgets not only have traditional alarm sounds but they also simulate dawn. Slowly but surely, for approximately 20 minutes before the actual alarm time, the internal lamp starts off dim and eventually climaxes in all 100 watts of glory and a generic ‘beep beep beep’.

The prices of the alarm clocks aren’t cheap so naturally, you go second hand and give eBay a good going over. I secured a second hand beauty for £19 rather than the RRP of £55. Bargain. It arrived very quickly and I was dead excited. Couldn’t work out how to set the time or the alarm to start off with but eventually, got it all set up as I fancied. I almost couldn’t wait for the next morning to see if it worked.

I’m not saying there wasn’t a little ‘placebo’ effect but it was nothing short of staggering. I’m now a week and a bit into my sunrise alarm clock, and I would fully suggest a similar contraption to anyone having similar issues waking up on the dark mornings that Winter brings.

I like to clean my bicycle, I like to clean…………….

I have now owned my beautiful bicycle for quite a while. I looked at it the other day and thought “Good grief that is one mucky bicycle!”. I was spurred into action. After hunting around in the shed, I found a suitable bucket and soft brush, some raggy looking cloths and most importantly, enthusiasm!  As I don’t have any proper bicycle cleaning soap, I opted for hot water and fairy liquid. Now I know that’s not ideal but I resolved to give it such a good hosing down afterwards that you wouldn’t know I used Fairy liquid.

I and spent a good hour brushing the dirt and grime off wheels, spokes, frame, mudguards, lights, on board gadgets, basically everything.  I should also mention that due to the silly short days at the moment, it was dark. To get any light on the job I had to activate the motion light in the garden. As I am the most forgetful and clumsy person I know, I naturally flailed the hand holding the brush/cloth and covered myself in dirty water. I’m a genius aren’t I?

Anyway, about an hour after beginning the flailing and cleaning came the really fun bit. The Hosepipe!!! I don’t know about you, but the novelty of a hosepipe that has one of the guns on the end provides me with endless entertainment. I pretended to be James Bond for a while. I also attempted a bit of Light Sabre action but just got myself very wet. Eventually, I have decided that that most fun ‘play pretend with the hosepipe’ game is Robin Hood. The water jet is a very convincing arrow.

I digress. Essentially, my bicycle was spotlessly clean. If I’d been a car valet, I would have gold star for detailing. How proud I was. So proud, I forgot to take pictures. Shame on me. I did take pictures of how it looks today though. This is 10 days cycling on London roads. It only rained for 2 of the 10 days.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this makes my heart sink just a little. Here’s a close up of the filth around my seat post and back breaks.

It is not a pretty sight. Finally, what the bottom half of my bicycle looks like close up.

So, my question to fellow cyclists is this……do you have to wash your bicycle every week like a car? If you do, I’m going to be walking around a lot more.


Goodbye 2010, what a year!

Happy New Year!!!!!

I am sad to see the back of 2010. It has been one of the happiest and most fun filled years I have had for some time. I’ve ticked a couple of items off my ‘I really would like to to this before I die’ list, made some new friends, kept old friends, moved house, started a new job and generally seen more live music than I can comprehend.

2011 is already shaping up to be equally as busy and fulfilling. Hopefully the new friends I have made in 2010 will want to remain as friends and new acquaintances I’ve stumbled upon will blossom into friendships.

My only resolution for 2011 is to learn how to play the banjo.

2010 has been a real challenge for me but I have enjoyed, almost, every second of it. I hope you can look back on yours with similar feelings.