Spring Frolic…

This afternoon I hosted a small group of friends at Gidday HQ.

Our quartet – or Fab Four if you like – makes an effort to do something together every month. March saw us venture into The Lost Lectures, February was lunch at The Banana Store and a wander around Borough Market (see my post on London’s Hip Pocket for more on this outing) and last year we discovered  some rather delectable delights at Ceviche in London’s Soho and beneath Tower Bridge at The Perkin Reveller.

It has been such a busy time for our little quartet that there was a danger of April slipping away without a Fab Four frolic. So I took matters into my own hands and invited my trio of lovely ladies for a Gidday soiree on the back patio.

To my delight (and great relief) the weather stayed dry and while it was a trifle chilly, I had blankets and wraps on hand. There was even much excitement when the sun made a cursory appearance between main course and dessert and for a few brief minutes, we basked in Spring-like warmth.

I learnt years ago that the key to being able to enjoy hosting these events is being prepared – I have no desire to be stuck in the kitchen while my guests are having all of the fun.  So we started proceedings with a vegetable platter, an avocado dip and some Mediterranean bread and seeded crackers for dipping – and I got to enjoy the wine and conversation, both of which flowed effortlessly.

To follow was a cheese and vegetable pastry-less quiche which went down a storm and after part-baking this morning, only need another 20mins in the oven. It came with a big bowl of green salad (easy to whip up) and some fresh vine tomatoes marinated in a light dressing (made last night) all of which meant I spent more time at the table…and drank more wine.

But the thing I am most proud of is my dessert – individual ginger and white chocolate cheesecakes…

..built to frame the cute champagne candles I had found in Tesco a couple of weeks ago and complete with golden ‘bubbles’. And made last night meaning even more time at the table for me this afternoon.

Before long, over three hours had passed, the coffees had been finished and it was time for my visitors to go.

It was such a pleasant Sunday afternoon and it reminded me how much I love to cook for other people, an opportunity that needs to be ‘manufactured’ in my time of singledom versus being ever-present – as it was – when I was part of a couple. And in any case, solo cooking exploits can be quite dangerous. Prior experience tells me that one cannot should not consume cheesecake (or any baked goods for that matter) on one’s own and still expect to fit into one’s jeans. Sharing is definitely the key.

So here’s to more Spring Sundays with fabulous friends, scrumptious sustenance and convivial conversation.

Commuting Gems…The Midlife Manual…

Each weekend I buy the Saturday Times newspaper and each Monday I pack The Times Magazine into my handbag to while away my trip to work.  Reading is one of the true joys of commuting (vs driving) for me and I tend to move from magazines to books and back again (alongside my daily topup of free news and views in the Metro) as the week progresses.  Anyway, sometimes I find some gems…and it wasn’t until last night’s journey home that I dug out last weekend’s magazine and read an extract from the book billed to be ‘the funniest of the year’, The Midlife Manual.

Having only just turned 41, I have not really considered myself to be mid-life (although in a purely literal and slightly morbid sense, 82 is not a bad innings).  And admittedly I didn’t say ‘Yes’ to many of the statements in the opening questionnaire although 14. (Tired. Just really, really tired.) and 16. (And angry. Christ, where does that anger come from? Why did no one prepare you for it.) struck a bit of a chord.  But it was turning the page and reading the following list that had me nodding in vigorous agreement:

Things that pass for excitement these days
A double espresso
Amen to that – the ONLY way to end a great meal!

A new organic cafe opening on your high street

Is there really? I didn’t hear about it. Oh no there’s not? Well we definitely need one!

The arrival of the new Boden catalogue

And the discount vouchers contained therein.

Finishing Wolf Hall

I read the back cover of someone else’s copy at work and I’m REALLY interested in reading this. Does this mean I am on the threshold rather than in the thick of mid-life?

A bountiful tomato harvest from your grow bag

Remember my ‘news from the patch’ exploits last year? Those tomatoes were so beautifully  sweet.

Ordering dessert

Another amen to that most holy of trios – cheesecake, pecan pie and tiramisu.

Successful erection of flat-pack furniture

Given that I have been doing this since my 20s, does this mean I was old before my time? Erk!

Being out in town after 11.30pm

…in the middle of winter and marvelling at the hordes of ‘young people’ wandering around wearing ‘not very much’…it makes me feel colder/older just looking at them.

Finding out someone famous has moved in across the street from you

Rick Astley lives in the next street – does he still count as famous?

The fact there’s an Argos iPhone app

I hate Argos.  Hate them, hate them, hate them (see earlier reference to anger). It’s a long story from more than 5 years ago.  And I’m still hanging on to it.

Losing 2lb

The only upside in morning after hangovers (when did these get so hard?) and illness.  Water retention is such a curse!


So sweet and pretty at first, like a 6 year old girl’s birthday party. 
The cleanup afterwards though?  Not so great…lifetime on the hips and all that.

Beating a younger colleague at squash

I haven’t done this – does that mean I am not yet mid-life (aka desparately clutching at straws)?

A racy storyline in the Archers

What is Archers please?

The first of the season’s asparagus in your vegbox

Bless them – so tender and just perfect in a spring risotto.

Buggar me (in the Australian sense please!).  When did this happen?  And given I’ve ticked off most of these exciting things, I am now starting to wonder what’s left…so I’m off before stocks run out – you can buy The Midlife Manual on Amazon too if you want…but stand in line, ok?  I got here first!

Note to JF:  I think this will be the best use of birthday Amazon voucher!  Thanks mate x

Strawberry Fields & Sticky Fingers

So I am here wondering what to write about today…deliberating over a review of the Star Trek movie I saw last night or the AMAZING chocolate-caramel cheesecake at Frankie & Benny’s afterwards (will these hips EVER be thin???) Or perhaps a vent about the non-collection of my recycling AGAIN. Maybe a little pre-sojourn into my busy week ahead…

But it’s all being eclipsed by one thing…


Not just any strawberry either. My very first one to go all red and be ripe for picking…how bloody rude!

I’ve been monitoring the progress of two particular strawbs, waiting for the perfect moment for picking them so that J and I could share the sweet taste of [strawberry] success together. It was all planned for the weekend…and when I went out to pick them, this one was gone.

Crushed (not unlike a strawberry daiquiri – at least when you’ve finished and you are trying to suck more from the dregs at the bottom of the glass), I plucked the remaining one from the bush and took it inside, cut it in half and sadly offered to share it…strawberry scrumptiousness indeed!

I have been thinking about the likely culprits – who do you think got their sticky ‘paws’ all over my strawbs? Could it be the neighbour two doors down, outwardly supportive of my gardening exploits but with a deeper desire to poach the fruit of my labours? What about the local wildlife – maybe it was an ambush conducted under cover of night by Bob the badger (J tells me he’s been seen lurking in the area) or a raid by a posse of Windmill Rise squirrels or one of those well-bred, well-fed, Kingston foxes, breaking cover from their usual stomping ground amongst the bin sheds.

But someone in particular has been looking rather pleased with himself of late and I’m beginning to suspect that maybe the culprit is closer to home…

So what’s this all about Alfie?