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Omne trium perfectum

It's not just bad things that happen in threes. A few weeks ago I had three lots of very good news in the space of one week.

Firstly, I was offered an in-house digital/social media role at an organisation I can fully get behind. I'm very excited to be part of their new marketing offering and can't wait to make things happen there!

Secondly, I won a new freelance client. Yes, I know I've just said that I have a new job but the client only needs a few hours social media support each week. The extra pennies will help with my final thing...

My book will be published SOON! The final bits and pieces are happening, everything is slotting into place, and I should have Kept on a (virtual) bookshelf by late February/early March. Hopefully all the snow will have melted by then and spring will be on its way! (OK, so the snow has gone in London but I wanted to use Olly's snowy photo of the view from our back garden!)

All-in-all, it has been an excellent start to the year. How is your 2013 going? 

Theatre review: War Horse

Last night I went to the New London Theatre to see War Horse. Now, I've neither read the book by Michael Morpurgo that the play is based on, nor seen the Steven Spielberg movie that came out in 2011, but I had heard very good things about all three so was looking forward to seeing War Horse.

War Horse starts in Devon in the early 1910s where a foal is bought by Ted Narracott to stop his brother from buying it. The horse is given to Ted's son Albert to look after, and he names the foal Joey. War Horse features some rather marvellous puppetry. Joey and the other animals are simply marvellous. Their mannerisms and actions are so convincing that you could easily forget that you're seeing a puppet, of sorts, and not a real animal! The goose is also amazing (and quite a cheeky little thing!).

Anyway, Albert "brings Joey on" but his dad makes a bet with his his brother (Albert's uncle who wanted to buy Joey in the beginning) that Joey can plough a field. Joey is not a cart horse - he's a hunter - but Albert manages to teach him and gets to keep Joey. However, war breaks out and Joey is sold to the army, against Albert's knowledge. Major Nicholls - who also bid on Joey at the start and is fond of sketching him - promises to look after Joey for Albert but when Albert learns Major Nicholls has been killed in action, he joins the army, even though he is underage, in the hope that he might find Joey.

I won't spoil the rest of the story, but I will say that it's a great production. One thing that did happen though during Act I is that they had to stop the performance for about ten minutes and put the house lights back up as Joey had broken his leg! This was about 40 minutes but everyone was so captivated and thrilled with Joey at this point that it was forgiven. The whole production is very atmospheric, especially during Act II, and Act II is quite tense in parts, though it all works out in the end.

War Horse is a really enjoyable play - I must go and read the book now! Have you seen the play or film, or have you read the book? x

Memory Lane: Snow

Right now in London we have settled snow on the ground and a flurry of flakes swirling in the sky. Needless to say, our transport system is not running smoothly. Back in January 2007, I was in St Andrews for a few days to sit my Social Anthropology exam - we got most of January off and just had to return to Scotland if we had exams - and the day after my exam, in very icy and snowy weather, I was lucky enough to catch the last train heading south before all the trains were cancelled for about two days.

South of the border there was no snow, but severe gales instead. I got as far as York before the train was cancelled. Luckily, my parents live as close to York as they do Leeds which is where I was supposed to be alighting, so it wasn't too painful getting home. The poor people who were going all the way down to London however were snookered as no trains whatsoever were running from York.

We made it home from the station, passing blown over lorries on the country roads, and the next day Dad and I flew out to Prague from Robin Hood airport. The first half of the week was freezing. At the worst point the temperature dropped to -15°C, but felt like -25°C. In the second half of the week Prague had snow - proper snow - but the city still ran. Prague is used to it though. The gritters were out on the roads straight away, planes were still flying and there were no public transport problems.

After our week in Prague we headed back to the airport in a blizzard (the photo below doesn't do the conditions justice). Snow was piled up at either side of the runway, a few metres deep, but we were on the plane and off. Yes, we did have to be de-iced and refuelled because things were running a little bit slower than usual, but we only were only delayed by about an hour. If this was the UK, I dread to think how long we would have been stuck at the airport. UK, take note!

Warming winter chicken casserole

January started off mild but it's now freezing with snow on the way, which makes it the perfect conditions to use our Christmas Le Creuset casserole pot to cook a warming winter chicken casserole with dumplings. (Anyone else a Le Creuset fan?)

This recipe serves two hearty portions, with lots left over for lunches.

You'll need:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 white onion, sliced roughly
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and sliced into chunks 
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into chunks
  • Salt and black pepper to season
  • 400g chicken breast fillet, diced
  • Plain flour
  • 500g new potatoes
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • 200g butter beans
For the dumplings (makes 6):
  • 50g self-raising flour
  • 25g vegetarian suet
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 40ml water

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C. Add the oil to the pot; once it is heated up, add in your chopped onions and cook for a few minutes until soft. Then put in your carrots and parsnips and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Coat your chicken in plain flour in a separate bowl - about 2-3 tablespoons will be enough to do this. Season with salt and black pepper, then add to the pot. Once the chicken is browned, add the potatoes, rosemary sprigs, dumplings and stock.

To make the dumplings, put the vegetarian suet, self-raising flour, salt and black pepper in a bowl and mix. Add 40ml water and mix together to form one big dumpling. Then, flour your hands and make smaller dumplings from the big one.

Once your pot full of casserole goodness starts to boil, transfer it to the pre-heated oven for forty minutes. Once these forty minutes are up, remove your pot and add in the butter beans. To thicken your casserole, put two tablespoons of plain flour in a cup, add two tablespoons of water, and stir until a paste is formed. Add this to the pot.

Give everything a good stir, add in the dumplings, then return to the oven for another twenty minutes. Bon app├ętit! x

Baking and biographies!

As well as delivering a bank statement today - boooo! - the postman also had these to hand to me.

It's getting rarer and rarer nowadays that I'm having physical books sent to me - I have most definitely become a Kindle convert over the past year - but although the internet is a wonderful resource for recipes, it's much nicer to have a cookbook to pour over!

I have been tempted to give some cookbooks a go on Olly's tablet - I can't see it working on my normal Kindle, to be honest, though it would suit the coloured Kindle Fire - but Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale is cheaper in hardback anyway and it seems wrong paying more for the Kindle edition than it does a physical copy. Just me?

I am a massive Audrey Hepburn fan and quite often for Christmas my aunt will buy me a biography book of someone I admire. Previous ones have included Coco Chanel and Enid Blyton. But, as I didn't spend Christmas in Dorset for the first time in a decade, I didn't get my biography from her to read over the holidays and ended up reading Camp David by David Walliams on my Kindle instead. I decided though I really do need to read an Audrey biography as I'm such a big fan. After scouring several biographies and their reviews online I decided on Audrey Hepburn: Fair Lady of the Screen by Ian Woodward.

I can't wait to read it and have a go at some of the recipes from Lorraine's book. Baking and a biography seems the perfect way to spend this weekend, providing my oven gets fixed before then! What are your weekend plans? Are you a fan of baking and biographies? x

Best of the rest 2012

I've already shared my favourite books of 2012 and my favourite (cinema seen) films, but what about the rest?

2012 saw me watching the first six seasons of 24 for the first time which I absolutely loved. Jack Bauer is a LEGEND and far too good to the US government. Breaking Bad, Smash, Homeland and Hart of Dixie were new American favourites of 2012 and on the Beeb I loved The Tube and Lorraine's Fast, Fresh and Easy Food. I can't wait to see the final season of Breaking Bad this year - the character of Walter White is *utter* genius.

I saw the following perform in 2012: The Killers (x2); Robbie Williams; The Wanted, Rizzle Kicks, Mark Ronson and Katy B, Eliza Doolittle and You Me at Six (at the Hyde Park Coca-Cola Torch Relay concert); Tom Jones, Olly Murs, The Feeling, Tinie Tempah, Snow Patrol and Madness (at V Fest). You all know I loved The Killers the most.

I didn't frequent the West End in 2012 as much as I usually do, but I did see the following productions around London:
Bugsy Malone and BABEL were actually interactive theatre - interesting concepts, but I much prefer my musicals!

In 2013 I'm looking forward to The Book of Mormon and I must get round to seeing Matilda! I'll also be going to see War Horse later this month, and hopefully can sneak in a few more musicals. {^_^} What are your 2012 best of the rests? x

HRP: Tower of London

As you may remember, last summer we bought membership to the Historic Royal Palaces which means we get free entry to several of the palaces for one year. We enjoyed a very sunny day at Kensington Palace and had a quick visit to the Tower of London using our card over the summer but we still have Kew Palace, Banqueting House and Hampton Court Palace to tick off our list this spring.

At the weekend we decided to go and see the bits of the Tower that we had missed the first time round. Some people say you could spend a day there, others say at least 2-3 hours - definitely leave yourself a good few hours to see the Tower of London if you won't be returning anytime soon. You really should do it justice.

Our return visit was very different to our summer visit. The fog blocked out "new" London around us - if you squint very carefully you might just make out The Gherkin - but the Tower is definitely more atmospheric when all you can see are the ghosts of its past.

The Tower of London began its life sometime in 1080, which makes it the oldest building in London. It has been added to over the centuries and restored - it was hit by bombs in World War II and obviously its age means that restoration work is necessary - to get to what remains today.

That's not to say that the Tower is remains though, far from it. It's certainly incredible that it is now over 1,000 years old and to think about all that has happened there over the years. Today it's a tourist attraction, the home to The Crown Jewels but also the ceremonial regimental headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. It's a pretty incredible place.

Have you visited the Tower of London? x

Resolutions

First of all, Happy New Year! Hope you all had a lovely New Year's Eve last night, and I wish you all the best for 2013. {^_^} A New Year can't be started without a think about the previous year, and that includes seeing how you fared with resolutions, or at least it does for me. My 2012 resolutions were much simpler than 2011's lengthy list - how things have changed since then - as I had a mere three resolutions to contend with:

Cook.
I set myself the challenge of cooking properly at least twice a month and I definitely did that. Olly and I cooked a lot together, too, and some of our efforts are in my 2012 Cookfest labelled posts, but mostly we just Instagrammed the results! It was awesome to have a go at making Pho - it was delicious - and I can now make a perfect Focaccia con pancetta e cipolle with my eyes closed.

I'm definitely a much better cook at the end of 2012 than I was at the beginning of the year and I'm looking forward to getting even more adventurous with my culinary attempts this year. I think the various bits and pieces of Le Creuset that Olly and I picked up for Christmas should help with this resolution in 2013, as well as the cooking lessons his sister bought us!

Write!
I am definitely back on track in terms of writing. {^_^} I got there slowly but surely over the course of 2012 and am excited to reveal that my first book will be published over the next few months; my second book should be out by late April/early May. We'll see how it goes from there but I'm hoping to release another book by the end of the year. Watch this space!

Explore.
London is oh-so-vast so there's still a lot of exploring to do in Blighty's capital. This is definitely a resolution to continue in 2013, as well as seeing some more of the world. I'm hoping we'll make it to Vietnam this year, but who knows where 2013 will take us! With any luck we'll also be exploring London to find our very own place to live in - I can't wait for this to happen! 

What else can I say about 2012? Well, I've had some amazing times. Highlights of the year include going to India for a real-life Indian wedding, seeing my favourite band The Killers twice, going to the Olympics and Paralympics in my British Summer, celebrating my birthday at Go Ape, visiting Ellish at London Zoo and eating at Le Gavroche for our anniversary. 2012 also saw an addition to the Field family - Joshua joined us in July on my brother's birthday and Olly and I are his Godparents. {^_^}

I'm certainly looking forward to seeing what 2013 has in store and will be continuing my 2012 resolutions in 2013 seeing as they've worked out quite well! How was your 2012 and what are you looking forward to this year? Whatever it is, happy 2013! x

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