Thursday, 18 December 2014

Things I learnt in 2014

This should be a Dec 31st post, but to be honest I'll probably be feeling too lazy on that day to do any sort of blogging. Once I'm in full holiday mode, it can be difficult to get me out of it... so I thought I'd look back at 2014 now and share some of the things I've learned over the course of the year, some of which are writing and blogging related, some of which aren't...

1. How to gut and clean a fish

Well, I did it once in Canada...I'm not sure I'm qualified to demonstrate this skill to others though. I'm proud of myself for not being at all squeamish despite all the blood and guts!

Me and my lovely friend Ruth...Sorry for the blurriness!

2. How to write an email pitch

Keep it short, to the point and make it clear exactly what it is you're offering and what you can do for them. Use a formal writing style. 

3. How to get more blog hits

Occasionally stepping away from my typical blog subject matter[like this post for instance] definitely seems to increase traffic. My post on Zakopane [though it was actually really about Krakow] got far more hits than a lot of my other posts. I also learned not to be afraid to promote the blog on social media...though I hate to admit it, it really does work. 

4. How to actually use blogger

I've attempted to use blogger in the past, but it was only this year that I fully worked out how to use it properly, including how to do pages, how to add plug-ins and how to alter the layout. 

5. How to shoot a gun

Again, I did this once in Canada...not sure I'd actually be able to teach anyone else how to do it, as I wasn't very proficient at it. I even managed to break the first rule of shooting a gun...which is never point it at someone else's face - even if it's just for a moment with the safety on! 

6. That I don't need to schedule everything when I'm travelling

I'm someone who loves to plan, and map everything out in advance...however this did not work to my advantage when I was in Poland last summer, as I'd booked [and paid for] a whole week in Zakopane and only four days in Krakow. I'd booked for longer in Zakopane because I wanted to replenish myself in the beautiful Polish countryside and I wanted to see another side to Poland, but after a few days there I found that I far preferred the city charms of Krakow. I found myself hopping on a coach back to Krakow and spending extra money on a hostel room there, despite already having a room in Zakopane [it was too late to get a refund]. Whilst I will still book some things in the future in advance such as flights, I will try to give myself more flexibility if I go on a long trip again so as to avoid situations like that again.   

A Krakow Square

7. That I need to buy a warmer sleeping bag.

Every night I camped this summer was a night spent shivering violently, so if I go camping again - I will use an all seasons one and not a flimsy summer one...

8. How to use a leafblower.

Aim it at the ground and turn it on. That's pretty much it [although turning it off can be a problem...]. Also, always wear ear protectors when using one!

 2014 was a pretty good year for me - I can't wait to see what 2015 will bring! Happy New Year!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Cook Books

It's the time of year when everyone starts thinking more about food, so I thought I'd do a list of my favourite cook books. I should note that I actually don't like cooking,  [though I love eating!] and it's rare for me to actually follow a recipe from a book, so my recommendation of these books is largely based on how much pleasure I derived from looking at the pictures as a child or how much I like the chefs when I see them on television. I've also taken into account the choice of recipes, and how many ingredients are needed on average per recipe, as I prefer simple recipes to complex ones on the rare occasions when I do decide to expand my cooking repertoire. I hope this list doesn't make you feel too hungry:

1. River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall

Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall is my favourite chef, primarily because he grows all of his own food and is a firm believer in ethical and seasonal eating. Everything he produces is wholesome, hearty and delicious - and usually pretty healthy. There's a part of me [buried underneath my city girl persona] that would love to grow my own food and this book certainly inspires people to do that. I also like the layout - it gives imaginative suggestions for what to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner; no plain toast or boring sandwiches to be found here.

2.     Cranks by David Cante

I'm not a vegetarian, but I do think vegetarian food is yummy. I used to pore over this book as a child and salivate at all the beautiful illustrations. The illustrations weren't always about food - though the food ones were lovely, most of the drawings would often depict people going about their lives in all seasons, and I loved that touch. I would read this book like a story book, imagining what each recipe would taste like. I once attempted to make a tomato soup from this book, but I forgot to add water [oops!] which meant that the soup very nearly got burnt...but luckily my Mum came and rescued me just in time. The saved soup tasted incredible! If I ever stop renting and get a house of my own, then I think I will buy a copy of this book just so I can look lovingly over the pictures once more, and maybe get someone else to make that soup for me.

3. Marguerite Patten's Perfect Cooking

This book is a part of my family history. My Granny gave it to my Mum, and my Mum still has it in her kitchen, and I'm sure one of us will pass it down to our children one day. It's got loads of very useful information about how to make almost anything from pancakes to peppermint creams - it's like an encyclopedia of food pre- internet. I liked the fact that if we ever wanted to make something to eat as kids, this book would have the answer. My sister ate way too many peppermint creams  whenever we made them though... 

4. The Hamlyn Student Cookbook

This one doesn't have any pictures, but it's very easy to follow [I'm far more likely to cook something from this book than any of the other books] and the food is economical and easy to source. An excellent book for people who are beginner cooks or people who want to make something very quickly. Don't worry, it's got its fair share of nutritious, balanced food, although there are some junk food recipes too.

5.  Reader's Digest One Dish Meals

My favourite thing to cook is stew, because all you have to do is bung things in a pot and leave it. This book is filled with loads of recipes that follow that principle, and best of all since you only use one dish there's less washing up!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Would You Rather Book Quiz

I've got that end of term feeling, even though the end of term is not until next week for private schools [and not for two weeks for state schools] and I'm not even at school! I suppose it's because I look after children, and like me, they seem rather keen for it to be the holidays. At this time of year, when I was at school [both at primary and secondary school], the teachers couldn't really be bothered with actually teaching, and they would either roll out huge televisions and let us watch pointless films or they would let us play with board games or do quizzes until finally we could stop pretending to be learning something and were allowed to run free. So, I thought that since I'm not really in the mood to actually work, [not that I really think of this blog as work - it's actually the most fun thing in my life at the that sad?] that I would do a 'Would You Rather Book' quiz on here. If you've read the books, you can play along at home and let me know your choices in the comments. Warning: this quiz will probably be quite girly....and short.

The Quiz   

1. Would you rather marry Mister Darcy from Pride and Prejudice or Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones?

They are essentially the same character, since Mark Darcy is loosely based on Mister Darcy, but since I don't want my man to be stuck in the past with Georgian values, I'd pick Mark Fielding succeeds in making Darcy seem rather more likeable than Austen does. To be honest though, I'd probably still say yes to the other one.

Colin Firth as Mark Darcy

2. Would you rather be friends with Jo, Amy, Meg or Beth in Little Women? 

Jo of course! Amy is a snob, Beth is so pure it's irksome and Meg is forgettable [I can't actually remember what she's like] whereas Jo is full of passion and fire, and wants desperately to be a writer - I think we would get on brilliantly!

Winona Ryder as Jo March

3. Would you rather belong to the house of Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw from Harry Potter?

Ok, so everyone wants to be in Gryffindor, and hardly anyone in their right right mind wants to be in Slytherin, but it's harder to choose between the other two houses in Harry Potter. I personally would rather be in Hufflepuff, since they champion hard work, kindness and tolerance [which I feel are commendable traits], but Ravenclaw is not without merit as they value intelligence and wit. Could be a tricky one for Potter fans....   
Hufflepuff crest.

4. Would you rather be forced to read Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust or Finnegans Wake by James Joyce?

I've vowed to never attempt another Joyce so long as I live [since Ulysses was so unreadable] but Proust doesn't look like much fun either, but it's probably the lesser of the two evils.

5.  Would you rather spend the rest of your life not able to watch a film ever again or not able to read a book ever again?

Easy peasy! I'd much rather never watch another film than have to go the rest of my life without reading another book....