Sunday, December 31, 2006

the final hour

It's the last hour of 2006 here and while the beats of the beach party (out in the rainy windy cold) boom in the background, R and I are warm and cozy in my little room on the seventh floor. What better way to spend New Year's Eve?

Looking back, it's been quite a year full of challenges, setbacks, laughter, happiness, fun and love. Then again, which year isn't? But 2006 was quite a surprising one - my first resignation letter, a new environment, writing term papers on subjects I hardly know anything about, falling in love with a wonderful man.

What will the new year bring? A dwindling bank account, new classes, two more term papers and a dissertation, for sure, but hopefully lots more of the good stuff too.

Here's to a great 2007.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

happy holidays

The (temporary unannounced) hiatus from blogging is over and while I have so much to write about, I'll start with what i know best - the food. But basically, R finally arrived on Dec 18 and we've been doing some wandering around Brighton. And on Christmas Eve we went up to London for two nights to stay with my cousins in Hackney.

We hit Maggie Jones for a late Sunday roast on Christmas Eve. At about 18 pounds per three-course set, it wasn't exactly cheap but it was yummy.

My choice: Venison pate (served with toasted bread triangles), the roast beef with yorkshire pudding (perfect!), 'burnt cream' (a generous helping of creme brulee with a solid layer of caramelised sugar, so hard that it required several hard taps of the spoon to crack)

R's choice: Duck liver pate (served with toast and gherkins), roast lamb (not bad), apple crumble (a bit too sour)

Ching's choice: Stilton mousse (creamy and cheesy), seabreem (which wasn't up to standard and was kinda boney), passionfruit and mango terrine (nice and light and fruity).

The restaurant was too dark for photos and really quite crowded, and the waiter took a while to take our dessert orders but it was a good meal, a good start to two days of feasting.

Maggie Jones
6 Old Court Place, London, W8 4PL
Telephone: 0871 2238083

For Christmas Eve dinner, it was good old laksa (fresh from the Prima box!) with loads of fresh prawns and taupok.

On Christmas Day, the eating never seemed to stop, starting with breakfast of brioche lavishly spread with Nutella, then there was pasta for lunch and stollen and Dundee Cake. Then after a round of Cranium, the dinner began - parsnip soup, roast pistachio-crusted citrus-sesame oil-brown sugar-glazed lamb, wasabi mash, pureed carrots, and brussel sprouts with chestnuts. Dessert was apple-banana-mince crumble and a Somerfield Christmas pudding.

On Boxing Day, with leftover stollen, pudding and brioche in our stomachs, and the public transport finally up and running (somewhat) we took a bus over to the city and did a building tour, such as

The Gherkin

Leadenhall Market
photos by R

Then a stop by the baklava store in Hackney for an assortment of sweetsweetsweet stuff before heading back out for more food - this time in Chinatown, where the prerequisite stop is the Kowloon Bakery where I pushed my way to a boxful of pastries. And then to some Chinese restaurant for steamed fish, roast duck, hakka yong tau foo, spicy eggplant, beef and kailan, and preserved cabbage and pork soup. R and I headed back to Brighton on the megabus after the dinner, stuffed and happy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

the count

I'm obsessed with word count. I find my cursor drifting to "Tools", then down to "Word Count" every so often. For such a thrill it is to see the numbers inch their way up. It's not the numbers that count I know but I can't help it. I'm just waiting to strike that lucky figure, so I can feel like I have accomplished something and then I can take my mind off it for my two precious weeks with R.

Looks like I could do with some Old Fashioned Morphine (Jolie Holland does it just right)

Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs were Soft There

Hilary Mantel writes sentences I reread. Not because they're complex and convoluted or bewildering, but because they're simple yet filled with so many ideas and thoughts. It makes me furrow my brow and wonder how anyone could write like that.

And I cannot help but compare her to the last book I read - Jeremy Mercer's Time Was Soft There, which the lovely acquisition librarian at Jubilee ordered for me.

It sounded like a magical journey.. a sojourn at a legendary bookstore in Paris - Shakespeare & Co - by a Canadian crime journalist on the run after a death threat. How dreamy the title sounded - until I learnt what Mercer really meant by it, which made it harsher, more rough-around-the-edges, much like his book and his writing. His book feels like it needs another year to sit by the river Seine and absorb more of Paris. It is filled with fun punchy characters but some of them tend to glaze over and could do with a bit more fleshing out. It is such a marvellous tale - of the legendary George Whitman, a larger than life man who opened the store in 1951 and still runs it despite being in his 90s - helped by his daughter Sylvia. So I cannot help but feel a bit disappointed that I wasn't more thrilled with this book.

And then I find out that the UK version is titled Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs. While this is a horrible unfortunate use of alliteration, I cannot help but think this title suits the book better. And yet, if I'd heard about a book called 'Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs' would I have picked it up? I doubt it. I don't get the change in name, although I'm sure this would make an interesting segue into the reading habits of Britain vs North America. But I have 2500 more words of one and 1500 more words of another to finish. So please carry on without me.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

curry favour

What better way to spend a windy Thursday afternoon with a steep climb up a hill, five minutes trying to figure out the area code for Brighton, a tour around a 150-year-old house which is slowly being remodelled by its owners on their days off, a hearty lunch of chicken curry, glutinous rice with tumeric, stirfried vegetables with prawns and red bean soup, having a 3yo generously offer you his toy cars to play with.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


I wake to a sky of pinks, purples, reds and blues. The sea a calm, gentle lull. The birds flirting with the balmy breeze. The last stragglers emerging from the dark of the beachside club below, pausing in the chilly morning air for that one more smoke, one last kiss. My head still filled with dreams, my eyes still filled with sleep.

Monday, December 04, 2006


There's that moment.

When the hair's been washed clean, no soap bubbles remain. When your objectives for getting in that shower cubicle have been fulfilled. It's that moment of nothingness. A moment when time seems to slow down, and nothing matters but that hot water cascading down your body. That moment when all your worries, your aches, your pains seem to drain, swirling down beneath your toes. That moment you want to last forever, because standing in that tiny shower cubicle, you feel rested. You don't want to turn that water off. You don't want to open that door. You don't want the cold to rush in and make you start that hasty jittery process of grab-the-towel-off-the-rail-and-dry-off-quick-as-you-can.

But the work calls, the pile is ever growing, the paper still scant of words.

At least the bathrobe is warm.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

pita pizza

Pita pizza's the new fried rice.

When you've got four pitas which hit their "best by" date tomorrow, and you just had a pita sandwich for lunch, it calls for new ways to deal with these things.

And so the pita pizza was born.

I am of course, not taking credit for this. I'm sure millions of people have eaten it this way, but I've only just thought about it.

I keep buying pita, which come in a six pack, and always end up eating them either cold as a sandwich, or warmed in the oven as an accompaniment to soup.

So today, pita pizza has been added to my repertoire.

It's simple, quick and such an effective use of various items in my fridge that I wonder why I never thought about it before.

No tomato sauce? No problem - just use that bottle of pesto that's in the back corner of the shelf there.

Slather it onto the pita, slice up some courgettes and place them on the pestoed pita. Dig in the fridge for the bacon and the salami. Fry up the bacon first, cos bacon's just no good when it's not crispy.

Top it all off with some spices/herbs/seasonings.

Pop in the preheated oven, which was about 180 deg.

And er, when it looks right, take it out.

Yes, I'd make such an excellent cook book writer - precise instructions and all.