Monday, 28 February 2011

Weekend De-brief

I had a birthday last week, but little time to celebrate. To make up for it City Boy whisked me away at the weekend for a surprise spa break in Oxford. Beautiful city, beautiful country side and fantastic food. I arrived  back Sunday evening feeling thoroughly relaxed after a massage, facial, sauna, steam room and a few glasses of wine at lunch. Good move City Boy, I’ll keep you for a while longer.
Someone was also having fun in our absence.

That would be some lovely alpaca, set aside for something pretty.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Weeknight Laksa

I don’t eat meat. City Boy does, but we don’t cook it at home. Added to this culinary restriction is a whole list of things that City Boy doesn’t like, including fish (although he does like shellfish), butternut squash, and beetroot amongst others. After last night’s dinner, polenta can be added to the list. Coming up with new and interesting ways to cook vegetables can be difficult, so I’m always on the look-out for new non-meat recipes to try. 

I’ve been gradually building up a repertoire of quick and easy dishes that we can put together on a week night when feeling uninspired. Last night we had one from the list – my weeknight version of Laksa. The authentic version is delicious, and I often enjoy it at our favourite Thai restaurant. My version is adapted it to be fuss-free and use up veggies in the fridge and other simple ingredients that we usually have in the cupboard. It’s perfect for a February evening  - a healthy, warming noodle soup that can be made as spicy  as you wish and adapted depending on what you have on hand. You can find Laksa paste, but we enjoy it just as much with red thai curry paste as a substitute, and it’s easier to get your hands on.

Below I’ve set out how I make it – it’s not a recipe as such, as I don’t measure things and it’s pretty adaptable – leave things out or add according to preference – it’s slightly different each time in our house.

Serves: enormous bowls for two people, more reasonable size bowls for four.

Ingredients (essentials):
400ml tin of coconut milk
Red Thai curry paste or Laksa paste
Noodles – dry, fresh, whichever you prefer. About 100g but no need to be too accurate.
250ml vegetable or fish stock

Ingredients (suggestions):
A mixture of any suitable vegetables. I have used those prepared packs of stir-fry vegetables in the past, but depending on what’s available:
Pak choi,
Baby sweetcorn,
Mange Tout
Bean sprouts
Sweet Basil

Whatever combination of vegetables and you use, chop them up into bite sized pieces. You want to end up with at least a generous handful per bowl.

Cooked prawns – Not necessary, you can keep it vegetarian
Cucumber and unsalted peanuts to garnish


Heat some olive oil in the bottom of a large pan. Add vegetables and sauté for about 3 minutes .

Add about 2 and half tablespoons of red thai curry paste and a splash of the coconut milk. If you’re not a huge fan of really spicy food err on the side of caution – you can adjust to taste later. Stir in to the vegetables and cook for another 3 minutes.

Add the rest of the coconut milk and any herbs, stir well and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste, and stir through a bit more of the red thai curry paste if it’s not spicy enough. Add the prawns a few minutes before you’re ready to serve to heat through.

Whilst it’s simmering cook the noodles as directed on the packet, drain and divide into bowls.

Ladle the soup over the noodles. I like to add some shredded cucumber on top and sprinkle with toasted peanuts.

Enjoy with chopsticks and a spoon to scoop up all the broth!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Which Day-time TV programmes do students watch nowadays?

Somehow I managed to get the house in some sort of order, turn out 3 courses and find time to brush my hair on Monday afternoon, so we had a lovely valentines meal, even though I burnt the parmesan crisps. City Boy came home with a potted orchid, a big red rose and a bottle of pink champagne, so he's got a few brownie points in the bank.

I've decided that I'm going to look for a new sewing machine. Mine is pretty basic, and it's served me for a good few years, albeit on it's own temperamental terms, but I've been thinking for a while that it's nearing retirement. I'm feeling a little guilty about replacing it now though, because i think it may be sentient. After using the f-word 4 times before 8 o'clock this morning I told City Boy that i would be asking very nicely for a new one for my upcoming birthday. The sewing machine suddenly started working perfectly.

I'm loving quilts with white backgrounds at the moment. Both of the current works in progress have lots of white, which I'm now thinking was maybe a bad idea. This one was intended to be a present, but I'm going to have to see how well the cat paw prints wash out.
Sergeant Stripe thinks my points aren't pointy enough

I just sewed some sashing onto the wrong side, which I can't blame on the sewing machine, so we're having some time apart.

One of the downsides (upsides?) of working at home is that I generally between the hours of 7.30am and 8pm I don't speak to or see anyone except the cats. This directly corresponds to the other downside, at least for the people I live with: there's not a lot of need to brush my hair or put on any makeup. Or even to get out of my pyjamas to be honest.

Today I'm quite excited because I will have some human interaction. The dishwasher repair man is (hopefully) going to be here shortly, and I have an ocado delivery coming this afternoon. These are the high points of my day. In honour of these visitors I just did something I haven't succumbed to since I was a lazy student. To save valuable time otherwise spent washing hair I instead washed just my fringe in the bathroom sink. I think I may just have to accept the fact that I'm reliving my student days and start drinking at lunchtime.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Weekend De-Brief

Mia Cat has a new game. She brings fat, wriggly worms in from the garden and strategically deposits them where I'm most likely to nearly step on them and scream. Sergeant Stripe hasn't quite understood the game and brings me twigs instead. Good boy.

Saturday night my friend hosted a lovely dinner party. roasted peppers and halloumi, seafood paella and sticky toffee pudding. Lovely.

She also required us to play an after dinner game based on bush tucker trials. Chilli worms and green Thai grasshoppers. Not so lovely.

I wanted to make pretty valentines cookies to give to my girlfriends at the dinner party. My attempt at royal icing was an unmitigated disaster.

Yesterday, feeling a little worse for wear after a glass of wine too many the night before, we decided to spend the dreary rainy afternoon in the cinema. We saw the fighter - not my choice but good nonetheless.

Today I'm working at home and intended to try and bring some semblance of order to the Littlest House. As of 4 o'clock this hasn't happened. Instead I started a new quilt, choosing to ignore the fact I already have a half finished one that I intended for our bed this winter.

I have, however, managed to get myself to the supermarket, in preparation for the 3 course valentine's meal that I promised City Boy this evening.
I thought I'd keep it relatively simple, now that I'm restricted for time having spent all morning sewing, so on the menu is prawn bisque with poppy seed rolls, seafood and sundried tomato linguine with Parmesan crisps and individual banoffee pies (City Boy's favourite). He'd better pick up some flowers on the way home.

I've even dug out some little love heart candles that a friend gave me a while ago to set the theme.
I'd guess I'd better get on with it, I suppose I should at least brush my hair before dinner.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Flea Market Finds and Furry Delinquents

A couple of weekends ago City Boy and I headed West to visit a flea Market. We had a few things in mind that we wanted to pick up for the house. Of course we didn't find any of those items, but I did pick up a few bits and pieces. City Boy complained about adding to the clutter - I just can't get him to understand that a pretty mint green vintage cake stand is a kitchen essential.

Into the shopping bag went teacups, saucers, table linens and 2 sparkly antique crystal candle holders.

Yes, there's only one in the photo. That would be because, after surviving for decades outside the Littlest House, one half of the pair lastest for precisely 3 days with the furry demolition crew we have living here.

I do my utmost to keep breakable things out of their way (clearly the mantel piece is no place for crystal candlesticks and I've since learned the error of my ways), but they keep coming up with new and imaginative ways to wreak havoc. This morning I came into the kitchen to find all the tips of the aloe vera plant bitten off and strewn across the windowsill.

Yesterday I found Sergeant Stripe playing with a little bead in the hall. Wondering where he had found it I discovered evidence of the crime in the bedroom: a necklace ripped to pieces, beads rolling under the bed and dresser.

They take their job seriously; even when the cat flap's open and there's the great outdoors to explore and play in they'd rather stay in and continue their campaign of destruction. As I type Mia is methodically scooping all the earth out of a potted plant. I think they have targets to meet.

Tooth marks in the plant? me?

City Boy says I should give up on bringing pretty things into the Littlest House. I say there's clearly a market for vases made out of toughened glass.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Knitting under the influence

Last week I came down with a nasty bug that City Boy kindly passed on to me. After telling him for a week that he was just suffering man flu I was forced to admit that there was possibly some truth in his complaints. So after dosing myself with cold and flu medicine I struggled into work, managed to achieve the bare minimum required of me for the day and left around lunchtime.

When feeling a bit grotty, what could be nicer than snuggling under a quilt on the sofa with a film and some knitting for the afternoon? So I made a detour to the yarn shop and selected some sock yarn to turn into something nice for a well deserving friend. (Full and frank disclosure: this is actually for a Christmas present. Christmas 2010 that is, not 2011. I knew that I wouldn’t be seeing said friend over the Christmas period and thought I had plenty of time to get knitting. I’m now up against a deadline).

So, equipped with new yarn, I prepped the sofa with the necessary tea, lemsip, pillows, quilts and kittens, and spent a lazy afternoon knitting away in front of the TV. A couple of days later, fully recovered, I picked the sock back up and had a realisation.

I should never again go yarn shopping under the influence of flu drugs.

And further, neither should I try to knit cables off the top of my head.

I don’t know what I was thinking. We can blame the cables wandering off in the wrong direction on me being easily distracted at the best of times, but the yarn? Those colours? Together?

It may be just your thing, in which case, great. I have 60 grams left of the stuff – drop me a line. But it’s not me, and it’s definitely not the well deserving friend. It resembles no yarn that I have either bought or desired to buy, and so I can only conclude that it found its way into my bag due to me being drugged.

So I went back to the yarn shop and tried again.

This turquoise is very me. I love the pattern (A variation on Pomatomus by Cookie A. – available on and I adore the colour. And I want to keep them.

Perhaps I had it wrong and my friend will in fact love brown, purple and fluorescent yellow stripes with wonky cables?

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Who doesn't need an extra layer?

Mia loves to be warm. She's often found stretched along the back of the sofa, which sits in front of a radiator, with her belly pressed up against the radiator cover.

Clearly her own thick furry coat just wasn't up to the job. There was one obvious solution.

A ball of chunky yarn, 6mm circular needles and a couple of hours later, problem solved.

It has to be the funniest thing I've seen this year. I laughed and laughed. Then I called City Boy to come and see and laughed some more.
He told me off for torturing the poor cat.  I think she likes it.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

And people worry about teenagers running up the phone bill

Mia's by far the cleverest of our cats. She required but one demonstration of the cat flap whereas Sergeant Stripe spent weeks watching his sister disappear through the magic portal in amazement then miaowing at us to open the door for him.

I'd thought perhaps she felt satisfied with her acheivements for the week after an incident 2 days ago that resulted in a glass vase, previously safely tucked onto the very highest shelf, strewn in pieces across the living room floor. However, this morning it became clear that I have been wildly underestimating her feline abilities.

Over the sound of my hairdryer I heard my phone making the text message recieved tone. It was from a friend to say I had called her by mistake and she would see me soon. Sure enough, upon checking the call log there was an outgoing call to said friend at 7.53am. Easy enough mistake to make.

Except I was in the shower at 7.53am.

I've racking my brains today to figure out how this could have occurred. My iphone locks itself automatically after 30 seconds and requires a pin to use. City Boy had already left the house at some ungodly hour, so through the process of elimination I can only conclude that it was one of my housemates without opposable thumbs.

Ruling out Sergeant Stupid, this means that not only does Mia have the dexterity to negotiate an iPhone screen but the capacity to memorise my pin number. I can only imagine that she's trying to get through to the RSPCA to report us for cruelty. We wouldn't let her have the lobster last night.

Some privacy please?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Hello, Is there anyone in there?

...Just nod if you can hear me.

10 points if you can guess the song.

Just a quick first post to say hello. I've spent a lot of time reading blogs when I should have been busy over the last year, so today, when I have a mountain of laundry, a filthy kitchen floor, a broken dishwasher and hours of work to do, seemed like a good time to begin my own.

Gratuitous kitten photo