Favourite things: Returning home

I’ve been back home in London for a few days now. The weather is about 30 degrees (celsius) cooler than when I left Melbourne on Sunday and while I love the sun and heat, I have been enjoying feeling the brisk air on my face when outdoors followed by that cosy rush of warmth when I venture inside again. The real test will come tomorrow with temperatures forecast to get down below zero overnight and remain that way for the next week. I’m guessing there will be little opportunity to show off my holiday tan.

Speaking of holidays, I am due a post about my month away – an indulgent week in a Thai resort followed by two and a half weeks in Melbourne with family – and there’s a whole lot of stuff milling around inside my head but it’s resisting taking shape right now. But rest assured that something will appear soon…in some form or other.

But right now, I am battling the jet lag and indulging in some cocoon-like time at home enjoying some of my favourite things to do.

Sleeping

I love a good night’s sleep and I haven’t slept through the night since my return. I went to my first yoga session in a month yesterday – which no doubt will hurt quite a bit tomorrow – and then managed about five and a half hours sleeping straight through last night so it’s all going in the right direction. I am trying to be patient with myself / this but I wish it would all just hurry up.

Reading

After an absolute glut of Kindle reading at the end of 2016, I returned home inspired to read some of the stuff that’s been on my bookshelf for a while. At the moment I am really enjoying Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay before I see him interviewed next week.

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Catch-up telly

My mid-December departure meant that I missed the final episode in season two of the sci-fi series Humans – which has had me glued to my TV screen each Sunday night – and the Strictly Come Dancing Grand Final. Both have been addressed and enjoyed with equal fervor. I also saw that the first episodes of two new shows – The Voice and Let It Shine – had aired so have gotten these under my belt too. My particular jury’s out on these but may return with a more positive verdict in the coming weeks.

Cooking

The thing that I’ve loved the most since being back at home is cooking. I ate so many fabulous meals during my trip but after a month, I couldn’t wait to get back in the kitchen and cook for myself. It was with much excitement that I got my grocery order delivered on Tuesday and made a quick trip to my local fruit and veg shop to fill the fridge again.

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I’ve been planning different meals each night and in my pottering in the kitchen, have managed to try some new things as well.

The day that I returned, I was so pleased to find a portion of my vegetable and chilli mince in the freezer and so I stirred that through some spaghetti for one of my favourite comfort meals.

I’ve also baked some beetroot, a tip I picked up from Mum’s partner Mr Licensed-To-Grill who BBQ’ed these scrumptious suckers while I was Down Under. It was lovely with my crumbed chicken breast and steamed greens. And I’ve been mindful of getting my leafy greens quota up again by stir-frying some chard with onion, garlic, ginger and chilli to have with my Thai salmon fishcake last night. Tonight’s plan is a roasted butternut squash and turkey bacon pasta with a cube of my kale and walnut pesto stirred in…and I can’t wait.

The funny thing about all this is that when I left Australia almost thirteen years ago, my family and friends would never have said that I was great in the kitchen. Oh I could whip up a basic tuna pasta but I was a competent compiler of platters and carpet picnics and the fridge was generally used for wine, cheese and little else. But a penchant for pottering about among the pots and pans has definitely snuck up on me and it was with some surprise that I found myself pining for it.

So until I sort the holiday stories into some semblance of interesting reading, I will be sleeping, reading and wielding my spatula with enthusiasm…and wondering at how Julie Andrews’ trilling about bright copper kettles as one of her favourite things became one of mine.

Happy telly

There has been much excitement at Gidday HQ today. Yes peeps, the ultimate in happy telly – the Great British Bake Off – is back. That’s ten whole weeks of signatures bakes, technical challenges and showstoppers to look forward to.

Yippee!!

So this afternoon I raced home from work, got two loads of washing on and with dinner done and dusted, I curled up on the comfy couch just in time to enjoy the opening sequence, the white peaks of the marquee sweeping into view amidst swathes of green and accompanied by the familiar tinkling of the GBBO theme tune.

Week one was Cake Week and the twelve contestants (I always think that thirteen i.e. a baker’s dozen, would be more appropriate) whipped – and in a lot of cases rewhipped – their way to a drizzle cake, produced a passable batch of Jaffa cakes and showcased the art of mirror glaze.

There were winners and grinners, triers and even a few fliers with Candice piffing her genoise sponge across the tent. The first Star Baker was announced and someone else’s spatula was despatched to the back of the GBBO cupboard. It seems that a nice weekend in the countryside (albeit a rainy one in what amounts to a big tent with nineteen strangers plus a film crew) and a judge’s nod to being one of the top twelve bakers in the nation pales quite a bit against the ignominy of being the first one to leave.

It’s probably a little early to be laying claim to my favourites but cool Selasi (could he be any more laid back?), pragmatic Jane and brave Benjamina were the ones that won my heart this week. How did they fare? Well there is a strict no spoilers policy here at Gidday from the UK so my lips are sealed. Unless of course there’s cake involved.

Speaking of cake, I pushed the boat out for a birthday bake earlier this month. A forage through the pages of my More Secrets From The Beechworth Bakery cookbook unearthed a recipe for Dutch Apple Cake so I set forth, wielding my spatula and turned out a veritable treat…

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My delicious Dutch Apple Cake: full of sugar and spice and all things nice and fattening!

…which was rapidly demolished by my workmates the next day.

Just when I was thinking my hips were safe again, there has been talk of an Office Bake Off. And next week the Great British Bake Off brings us Biscuit Week.

Hmmmm. Shame that.

My favourite things: Festive films

It is the last weekend before Christmas and having despatched most of my presents to their respective other sides of the world several weeks ago, all that remains is for me to do a few last minute things at home before the big day on Friday.

What it also means is that I’ve been at home all weekend and after immersing myself in the glitz and glamour of Strictly Come Dancing’s [very grand] Final and the last two episodes of the awesome Netflix series Bloodline last night, Sunday on the box is set to deliver a few more of my favourite things.

As I’ve been tap-tap-tapping away, Mr Wonka has led his five golden ticket winners and their ‘plus-ones’ along the red carpet and into the most fabulous factory in literary history. Gene Wilder is the quintessential Willy Wonka for me, combining playful joie de vivre with an other-worldliness that the later movie just did not capture. I’ve already welled up at Mrs Bucket’s “Cheer Up Charlie”, “Pure Imagination” is one of all-time musical favourites and I can feel a bit of “Oompa Loompa-ing” coming on in the not too distant future. Very little beats a bit of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

And then later on tonight, free-to-air channel ITV is running a live TV adaption of The Sound of Music from the soundstages at London’s Three Mills Studio. There are some well-known faces (to me anyway) in the cast from some of my favourite TV shows – Kara Tointon and Katherine Kelly from Mr Selfridge, Julien Ovenden from Downton Abbey, Alexander Armstrong from Pointless and Mel Giedroyc from The Great British Bake Off to name a few – so it promises to be a splendid night on the comfy couch at Gidday HQ.

The week that stretches in front of me holds just three days in the office before a welcome two week break.

I’m not heading Down Under this year but will instead spend a few days with my very good friends and their family in South East London. There’ll be plenty of good food and wine and a bit of spirited board game-ing on the big day plus the promise of A Muppet Christmas Carol – an annual tradition on Christmas Eve afternoon for them – to get us all into a festive mood.

(My version of this is the 2004 musical version of A Christmas Carol starring Kelsey Grammer as Scrooge and Geraldine Chaplin as the ghost of Christmas yet to be – it’s tearfully, wonderfully fabulous.)

A Christmas Carol DVD

And then it will be on with the rest of my London staycation. I’ve got a couple of theatre forays planned as well as some potential gallery and museum excursions in my sights. Then there’s shopping, reading and catching up on a few things to ready myself for next year. Perhaps there’ll even be time for a pyjama day or two.

In any case, with just five sleeps to go until Santa sleighs his merry way across the world, I’m all set for a huge helping of festive nostalgia.

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

A Woman of Substance…Again!

Here I am in the closing hours of a very chilled bank holiday weekend. Having spent yesterday in complete and utter indolence, I had decided that today should feature something a little more productive. So I ventured out for a brisk 40 minute walk around the local park this morning…

…and that’s about all I’ve managed.

After being tempted by the final film in my current LoveFilm trio this morning (Inception, and by the way, it was absolutely brilliant) I kept the telly on in the background while I sat down to tap-tap-tap away. That’s when all my good intentions flew out of the window.

One of my favourite books as a teenager was Barbara Taylor-Bradford’s A Woman of Substance and guess what’s showing on the telly – the whole series from 1984, back to back.

So I’ve climbed to the Top of the World (in the book this is Ramsden Crags on the Yorkshire Moors) and I’m just flitting about at the opening of the new Harte’s department store in Leeds. I can’t wait for the rest of the adventure to unfold…again!

A Penchant For Poirot…

I love a good whodunit. Film, book, TV, play – it doesn’t matter, I love them all. Most of the time it’s a guessing game trying to work out who the culprit is but sometimes it’s evident quite early – whether that’s via masterful deduction a good guess on my part or a through the story itself – but the thrill remains in seeing how the criminal will be exposed.

Christie 1890 – 1976

I have long been a fan of Agatha Christie and it was she who sparked my love affair with novels of the criminal kind long before modern crime writers put their graphic, and often gory, pens to paper. Her ingenious storytelling has me lifting layer after layer of delicious and dastardly detail with every page I turn and her quirky protagonists capture my imagination with their idiosyncracies and perversity.

Christie’s first murder mystery was The Mysterious Affair at Styles and was published late in 1920 in the US (followed by the UK early in 1921). She went on to write over 200 of the little blighters as well as 6 novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. That’s a lot of tap-tap-tapping in my world!

It all started with Parker Pyne Investigates when I was about 11 and I went on to enjoy books, films and plays – like The Mousetrap, which has been running on the West End continuously for 60 years and began life as Three Blind Mice – as Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot were brought to life for me again and again. There’s the international – Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun – and the close to home – Murder at the Vicarage, 4.50 from Paddington, Pocket Full of Rye – to name just a few. And having only read/seen 31, I’ve still got quite a few to go.

Suchet masters Poirot’s peccadillos perfectly

This weekend, ITV3 is playing Poirot movies all day every day – I am in heaven. David Suchet is absolutely brilliant as the pernickety Poirot and I’ve managed to add Sad Cypress and The Hollow to my seen/read list today. Death on the Nile is running now but I’ve seen it before and know whodunit so it’s time to check out tomorrow’s TV listings to see what other Christie gems I can add to my cache.

And Mrs McGinty’s Dead is looking promising…

After The Dance…3 Sleeps To Go

Today is Day 1 of my pre-birthday long weekend (only 3 sleeps to go peeps…isn’t it exciting?!) and while I’ve been out and about today and have some rather magnificent plans for the rest of the time, I wanted to tell you about an unexpected treat I discovered on telly last night.

I am, by nature, a night owl and would happily stay up til all hours but with my 2 hour each way commute at the moment, I am fairly disciplined about getting myself to bed by 11 each night (and that’s an hour later than what’s known in these parts as Surrey Bedtime) so that I am spritely enough to get myself out the door in an efficient 30mins each morning.  But on holiday, all bets are off and last night I trawled the channels to see what late night movie I might like to partake of.

I came across ‘After The Dance’, a 1992 TV adaption of the play written by Terence Rattigan in the 1930’s.

It’s one of those kinds of plays I loved seeing when I frequented the MTC‘s program in Melbourne – a little Noel-Cowardish in style with the action all taking place in one room (or within earshot of said room). It’s crammed full of gorgeous language, crisp banter and subtle innuendo all the while covering the fragile egos and unspoken political agendas surrounding the era.  Anyway, this film for TV adaption had been made in 1992 by the BBC and re-kindled a whole rash of revivals in the West End in the years to come.

It’s a little slower to get into than modern films but once I settled into listening to and watching for the subtleties, the intrigue crept slowly into the room and curled its wicked fingers – in the form of Helen Banner – through the fabric of David and Joan Scott-Fowler’s 15 year marriage. A small ensemble cast added colourful layers but Rattigan makes a stinging comparison between the ‘Bright Young Things’ of the 20’s and the serious ‘new generation’ facing a society crushed by the onset of World War II.

Frivolous. Sad. Thought-provoking.

I LOVED IT!

And despite this being an adaption for TV, After The Dance made me realise that I’d forgotten how much I enjoy theatre…so I’m off to scour the internet for some super-dooper deals!

In the meantime, land is definitely in sight and the SS 41 is cruising comfortably towards its mooring…

The Joy Of Eggs…

Being Easter Sunday, I have been thinking about what sort of Easter post I should write…and bonnets and bunnies were just not inspiring me at all.  But sometimes inspiration comes from the most unlikely places and while I was meandering through my list of favourite blogs, I came across an absolute gem from adbroad (the oldest working writer in advertising or so she says).

Apparently this episode of ‘I Love Lucy’ got the longest recorded laugh in television history (no canned laughter for these bastions of situation comedy)…

I laughed out loud (the neighbours must be wondering what is going on) and thought it was a perfect way to bring a little joy into a sunshine-y Easter Sunday.
And let’s face it, it brings a whole new hilarity to the phrase ‘walking on eggshells’.
Enjoy and have a wonderful Easter!
ps…if you liked watching this episode, click here to head on over to adbroad’s latest post and watch some more!

A Fetish For Cowboy Boots

In the last two weeks, I have become completely addicted to Ashes to Ashes.

There.  I’ve said it.

It started out as casual viewing over Saturday night pizzas with J and the kids (movie choices always seem to degenerate into an argument so we went with this) and has ended this weekend with me ‘n’ J watching all eight episodes of season two.

Not in one sitting mind – but it was two episodes Friday night, two episodes Saturday lunchtime, three episodes with dinner last night and the season finale over breakfast this morning! 

Plot twists flew thick and fast and combined with great 80s tunes (a particular fave is Gene revving the Audi Quattro to the intro of Duran Duran’s Rio) and great characters, this heady mix had us rivetted/riveted to our seats! (Riveted…is it one ‘t’ or two…hmmm I can’t decide.)

Season 3 started filming last November and will hit TV screens in the UK in Spring 2010. I cannot wait. What will Alex do? Who is Gene Hunt? Can Chris’ dress sense get any worse?  What is the wipe-clean wonder fabric that Alex’s white jacket (entirely unsuitable for police work I would have thought but hey, this is the 80s) is made from? Will Shaz do more than make tea? And will Raymondo get himself a girl?

Seriously, for me this is just the best mix of 80’s nostalgia trip and police drama and I love the whole slightly off-centre supernatural-ness of Alex’s dual life. If you are like me – fascinated by a puzzle and tempted by a little voice in the back of your head saying ‘what’s it all about?’ – go on and get your cowboy boots on.  It’s Ashes to Ashes time…