Friday, 31 August 2012

Friday again?

It's the afternoon and I spent a significant amount of time last night sat in a carpark. Happy Friday, everybody!

1.  Over this labor day weekend I will be: it's labor day weekend? Okay, cool. This weekend I will be mostly doing nothing. Tidying my room. Bacon.

2.  With the political debates going on right now, my thoughts are: obviously media bias means I only see the cray cray stuff, but my thoughts right now? How can people tell blatant lies in speeches and be dangerously uninformed about medical matters...and still be in a position to run a country? It's baffling and bad.

3.  Today: I spent the morning feeling rather fragile...then I went and had lunch/chat at a friend's house. And now I'm here!

4. The best thing I've cooked recently was: last night I made a delicious chicken, bacon and cannelini bean thing with a load of veg and herbs and nom nom nom, it was so good. 

5. The last thing I bought was: two bottles of fanta, a bottle of squash and some vodka for my sister. Exciting, I know.

6. The best movie I saw this summer was:  2012 is such a vintage year as far as films are concerned! The Dark Knight Rises has to edge it for sheer awesomeness though.

7.  The best book I read this summer was: it's a thousand-way tie between everything on my reading list. None of it is really my cup of tea so I wouldn't say I've enjoyed it per se. Sadly.

Done, done and done.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

A Freshers' Guide: Extra Bits

SO I know I probably don't have many readers who are going away to university this summer, but seeing as this time last year I was in that position (and now that I'm a seasoned second year...) I figured I'd point out a few extra things that you might want to take with you. Naturally saucepans, underwear and pens will all already be on the list, but there are extra bits and pieces that come in handy which you might not specifically need...but you definitely won't regret bringing them.

1. A tin of sweets and a door stop.

On my first day of university, I had a cheap ready-made lasagna for my dinner. I finished half and, jokingly, offered the other half to my new flatmates.
No less than 4 hands shot up to take advantage of a free half lasagna.
Conclusion: uni students like free stuff. And they like food.

So there really is one easy way to make people like you: wait till everyone's a little bit tipsy, whack out some free chocolate, and boom. Instant friends for life. I can still remember the apple cake a friend offered me in the first week of university. Considering I'd lived on Crunchy Nut and peas up until that point, it tasted like heaven in a bowl.

Step two to making BFFLs - doorstop. Leave your door wide open. Makes it easier to get into conversations at the beginning of the week; by the end of the week you can compare how trashed your rooms have got, and use it as a convenient stop-off point if you're too drunk/hungover to make it to the end of your corridor. Plus, bonus: if your room starts to smell a bit funky, you can air out all those nasty smells for the whole corridor to share!

Conclusion: who needs a personality?! If you want friends, the dual-fire cannon ball of a tin of chocolate and a door stop is quite clearly your surefire method of success.

2. Anything even vaguely fancy dress you own.

Trust me. You'll need it. And when I say vaguely fancy dress, I mean vaguely: if there's a jungle theme, take something orange. A stick of eyeliner later and you'll pass for a tiger. Take a binbag and a white bedsheet, too: there will be a toga night at some point in your life. There will also be a 'anything but clothes night.' Failing that, you can use it to throw away your rubbish. Handy! Don't forget Hallowe'en is within your first term - if you're not planning on going home, plan ahead! Your first day is probably one of the two times a year you'll actually be driven to uni, and thus probably the only time you won't have to carry everything you own.

Alternatively, adopt the motto of the Eric A ground floor scrooges: "nunquam concinnatis."

Never dress up.

3. Duct tape, scissors, hair grips, tweezers and the hallowed bottle opener.

You don't think you'll need it? You will. Our fridge looked much like this by the end of the year:

But more importantly things like duct tape and scissors come in handy all the time. You honestly don't realise how much you need them until they're not constantly lying around the house.'re really gonna need a bottle opener. And even if you don't, someone else will. Trust me. 

4. And a personal choice...

Not taking a wine glass to uni was the worst choice I ever made. Not because I was a massive wine drinker back then but because you can be drinking Frosty Jacks or White Lightening or something similarly lacking in class...and you still look classy as fuck. I drink ribena from a wine glass, cider from a wine glass, and occasionally (when the budget allows) even wine from a wine glass.

Either that, or a mug. There's nothing better than a bunch of students drinking spirits from a mug, okay?

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Oh god the budget.

This year has been kind of a washout. Not just in a weather way (although it's raining pretty hard right now) but in terms of DOING EXCITING THINGS. Admittedly I've had V (aces) and work to break the monotony a little but I am YOUNG FREE AND AWESOME and I feel like I should make the most of that!

We've all been kind of keen to plan ahead for next summer: part of the reason we've done less than normal is because of a lack of foresight, planning and money. So thus far, the plans...

1. The Party Week
Apparently there's a limited shelf-life for crazy drinking holidays. So apparently we're doing one next year.
The plan: go somewhere cheap and skanky. Spend a week drinking, dancing and sunbathing to our hearts' content. Stay trashy, San Diego.
The budget: Last night's initial discussion came away with "if we can all put aside £500 including spending money, that would be good."
I definitely have £500 to spare.

2. The Festival
After V this year, we fancy something a little more low-key and unusual, but it'd still be nice to get a festival experience in.
The plan: Shambala Festival in Northamptonshire, with a self-proclaimed "over 200 diverse musical acts across 12 live stages, world-class cabaret, an amazing array of workshops, stand-up comedy, inspirational talks and debates, jaw dropping circus and acrobatics, interactive theatre and nationally acclaimed poetry all housed in beautifully decorated venues." Highlights of the 2012 show (aka anyone I'd actually heard of) were Billy Bragg, Molotov Jukebox, and a host of intriguingly named obscure bands, such as "DJ Yoda & The Trans Siberian Marching Band" and "The Story-Telling Yurt." Who wouldn't want to hear bands like that??
The budget: Tickets this year were £119 for a four day festival. Add to that an extra £30 or so for food and drink and the total price is about £150. Not bad.

3. The trip of a lifetime
When they announced at the end of LeakyCon 2012 that there would be a Leaky in London next year, I was genuinely so excited I could barely breathe. When my long-time internet friends from all over the globe announced they might just be able to come too, I nearly died of happiness. Upshot: Leaky 13 could be a brilliant, brilliant time.
The plan: A four day Harry Potter convention in London. Another day or so exploring the sights of the capital. A trip to the Harry Potter studios in Leavesden. A wander up to Edinburgh for some more sightseeing. Possibly a trip to Durham cathedral to see where some of the scenes were filmed. Maybe a quick stop off at my house in York. Maybe Cardiff for the Whovians among us. THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS AND VERY EXCITING.
The budget: :cries: Leaky tickets alone are £150, £200 if you want a LeakyCon Lit pass (which um, I most definitely definitely do.) Then there's London hotel rates. Trains up and down the country. Hotels all over the shop. I really have no idea. But I'm going to shoot at £400 if we keep prices niiiice and low...

And the sum of it all...a mere £1050 smackeroons. I think I'm going to have to do a lot of extra shifts this year.

I think I might give up wine. Every time I would have spent a fiver on a bottle of wine (around twice a week), I'll stick it into savings. That's £10 a week, which is £520 in a year. That plus the earnings from my job and not going out as much and maybe toning down the amount I spend on food...things might just about work out.

Fuck me, I spend a lot of money on wine.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

All over the shop.

We went to V Festival.
We did festival things.
We got muddy. We got neon-y. We got very, very drunk.

It was wicked.

This was home for 4 days. 

And this is me and my best friend, Vin de Pays. At 6.20 for the equivalent of four bottles, I cannot complain. At all.

Essentially I had a wicked time, and I got to see three of my favourite artists EVER EVER EVER live which was awesome: The Killers, (who covered Don't Look Back in Anger, which was INCREDIBLE) Newton Faulkner and Ben Howard. Arghh, it was just really, really good, even though clashes in taste between my friends and I meant I had to endure Tinie Tempah and David Guetta...still, I feel like we navigated the clashes quite well. I had a couple of friends from uni there as well, and it was great to catch up with them too.

After that, (and this is all by way of explaining yet another extended absence,) I headed back up to York for my sometimes-job as a drinks waitress at the racecourse. It was a four-day meeting, the longest I'd ever endured. With Wednesday being the Ebor Festival opener, Ladies Day the day after, and the Betfred Ebor day on Saturday - known for its popularity with the travelling community - I was expecting a big day but bloody hell. I don't think I've ever had a more tiring 4 days, navigating the packed out crowds on the champagne lawn and trying to serve three customers at once under either pouring rain or blistering sun...occasionally both at once. 


It didn't help that five minutes before the gates opened on Saturday, the cleaning staff were enthusiastically telling me all about last year's Ebor Day, including tales of staff being bottled and warning us "not to provoke them." So basically, I was terrified before we even started, although it was exactly like any other day at the races: champagne flowing from bottles, money flowing from pockets and mud flowing in absolute rivers after the rain of the day previous.

Basically, thanks to sleeping in a tent in a field for four days and then wandering up and down another field for four days, my entire body is broken. Also, I never want to see mud ever again. 

Not that I'm a drama queen or was totally worth it for the money! The tips were fabulous, the people I was working with were lovely and so were the vast majority of the customers, so I can't complain! I imagine I'll be heading back next year, if only to break up the long stretch of the summer months. 

And's a cheeky fill in the blank Friday, just to round things off nicely.

1.  My favorite thing to do on Friday is: Fill in the Blanks! 

No, not really. My family and I have a relatively longstanding tradition of heading down to our local pub for dinner on a friday evening - it's cheap, allows us to catch up on our respective weeks and also gives us time to create the all-important to-do list for the weekend.

And if 'side-passage door' has been on there for the last two years, well, who's really counting?!

2.  This Friday I am: who knows! Whatever way the wind blows me, I will be having wild and exciting times in my life of being a floating wildflower on the breeze of life!

This is a fancy way of saying "lol who knows" but don't tell anyone.

3.  The best thing about a weekend is: I don't know, between my sparse university timetable and my evening-and-weekends job I haven't had that Friday feeling in a very long time...weekends don't really mean anything special to me any more!

4. Now that summer is almost over, I'm feeling: Quite sad. I feel like I've wasted a very long stretch of time doing not alot. But I've got a lot healthier and had some fun times, so I guess it's not all awful.

I should really start reading at some point though.

5. The best thing I did this summer was: Go to V Festival!

6. The thing I'm looking forward to about autumn is: wearing lots of layers, the beauty of a warm shower and a warm bed, getting back to university and of course, the new season of Doctor Who. (Pond Life starts tomorrow! I am excite!)

7. If I had to be stuck in one season for the rest of my life, I would choose: Ohh this is so difficult! It's a toss-up between autumn and spring, for definite...probably autumn if I absolutely had to choose, but anything warm-ish and pleasant will do for me! 

This has been a post.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Little things.

  • The way my postcode spells YOLO
  • Buffy reruns on Syfy
  • Montages of the medal winners on the BBC (weep)
  • Sneaking a bite of my Mom's chocolate brownie cake.
  • The Spice Girls rocking it in the Olympic closing ceremony. Actually just the whole ceremony in general. Standard weird British humour. Gotta love it.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Insert classic proverb here.

You shouldn't judge a book by its cover.
No, really.

When my housemate and I first discovered that he was familiar with the town I live in, one of the first things we discussed was the crazy guy who sells The Big Issue* outside Touchwood. He's kind of a Solihull staple: he yells incoherently at shoppers as they exit through the big glass doors, they try and avoid contact and ignore him. I can't imagine he sold an awful amount of magazines in his time as a seller, although I wish I'd bought one.

Crazy Big Issue Guy died this week days ago, and it's only since his death that I been able to discover there was a lot more to him than I assumed.

"I have worked with Peter for just over 5 years now, I badged him up just after he came back from the States and from then on he was one of the vendors I always referred to when discussing The Big Issue and it’s benefits to other people. Pete simply was an enigmatic and incredible type of person, his conversation was always of interest and his beliefs on the world was of intellect and understanding. He was also, even though I shouldn’t have one, my favourite vendor and I am very saddened to know he has passed away."

You can read the full article about him here.

To me, reading about Peter has really, really kicked a few things into light. The first is what I said right at the beginning of this post: I'm a hideously judgmental person, and it's not fair of me to create this persona of Crazy Big Issue Guy in my head, when it's someone I don't know at all and don't really deserve to have an opinion on.

The second is that it shouldn't matter what the book is about, to abuse the metaphor a little further. Even if the content did match the outer appearance, whatever Peter was like under the (sometimes intimidating) mask, it shouldn't have changed how I felt. I'm a dick for assuming that people with a higher intellect, or who've done stuff in life are somehow more worthy of my approval, or that I can somehow judge that some people deserve my two pounds more than others.

I'm also a dick for assuming my approval is important to anyone's life, when I so vehemently insist that I need no-one's approval to live my own.

And whilst I hate to get all ~tumblr-social-justice-brigade~11!!1! on here, it has kicked a few things into check about my own privilege, both practically as someone who isn't homeless but also on a more abstract level, as someone who thinks she's lofty enough to judge others.

And that rounds up my giant 'Emma is a dick' post. If you'll excuse me, it's 4:15 in the morning, my eyes are burning, and I have a particularly interesting fic to finish reading before my laptop gives out. So I'll conclude by saying RIP Peter Dolan. I'm sorry.

*I'm not sure how international the concept is, but here The Big Issue is a magazine sold only by homeless people, basically giving them a source of income and a chance to earn some money despite having no fixed address.

Title changed.

At first this blog was going to be called "Friday?! AGAIN?!"
And then I realised that it's the early hours of Sunday morning and yet another week has whizzed by maniacally.
I've spent an enjoyable evening throwing away my A Level notes and clearing out my drawers. It feels good.
Tomorrow I'm going to alphabetizing and reorganizing my book collection. Half of it is stored in my garage after I bought it home from uni last month and it's horrible.
One good thing about doing a Lit degree - my personal library, none of which belongs to my parents, is expanding and it's nice. I tried to explain to my sister that I'm going to have a library which starts with childrens' books...both mine and any future offsprings'...and proceeds through YA to adult, all in glorious alphabetical order. I'm excited. I don't care if I have to turn my kitchen into a library to make space. Who needs food anyway?
And that's rich coming from me.

Anyway, this week's blanks are birthday themed! I'll keep them short because I'm a miserable bastard when it comes to birthdays :)

1.  The age I will be on my upcoming birthday is: 2o. This is something that is NOT COOL. NOT COOL AT ALL. My brain starts screaming when I think about it, something along the lines of what no I'm not old enough to be an adult, leave me alone! 
Luckily my birthday isn't till June, so I have a while to come to terms with such an earth-shatteringly large number.
20. Ugh.

2.   The best birthday present ever would be: plane tickets and a years' worth of hotels in North America. Then I could finally meet all my internet friends, go to ComicCon AND go to LeakyCon all in one tasty tasty bundle. That would be so awesome I'd die.

3.  My favourite birthday to date was: hm. This year was pretty good, because we skipped the concept of my birthday entirely (handy,) went to the beach (fun!), got drunk, came home, got drunker and then went to bed. Crucially, though, the fact that it was my birthday went completely unmentioned all day long. Score.
Oh, there was also that fun time the 5th Harry Potter book got released on my 10th birthday. I had a fun day then. You can probably guess what I did. 

4. Birthdays make me feel: hideous hideous hideous. I can't wait until I'm 70 and can start ignoring them entirely. 

5. The worst birthday I ever had was: I can vividly remember having a birthday in some kind of village hall place, bursting out into tears because of all the attention and having to be driven round the block until I calmed down. It was raining. I was probably 7 or 8. It was not an enjoyable day.

6. When I was born it was either 7am or 7:19 (my mom gets mixed up between the two of us) and God knows how much I weighed or measured. It was a good day for humanity, I feel. In quiet houses across the world, the ordinary people cheered at the coming of their queen. Babies broke out in those cute gurgly smiles, cats purred, prisoners suddenly broke down in tears and repented of their sins. 

7.  So far my favourite age has been  18 was a vintage year. For the first month I was obscenely happy and settled, with a load of people I loved. Then came the longest summer of my life. And then there was the first year of uni, which was a whole new exciting and fun challenge.
Basically it's been excellent.
I've only been 19 for a month and a half but it has a lot to live up to! I look forward to whatever life chooses to fling my way before I hit the big 2-0.

After that I'll be past it, of course. But up until then.

Friday, 3 August 2012

1.  I am proud of: where I've got to in life so far and my work ethic: if work needs to be done, I will do it no questions asked. Also I'm a bit of a workaholic and I feel weird if I'm not juggling jobs, extracurriculars and education. 

2.   This weekend I will be: Nothing exciting! The gym, I'll probably go out in the evening, I have to make another banoffee pie at some point...I have reading to do, I guess! I'm ignoring it at the moment.

3.  A secret dream I have is: I'll always have that secret childhood dream of being an author. Maybe it'll happen. Maybe it won't. We shall see.

4. I can't handle: being patronised or underestimated. I'm a very laidback person in general, but if you try to treat me like a child, I will get angry. 

5. The most annoying thing in the entire world is: well that's an enormous question. 

6. The most relaxing thing in the entire world is: I know it's weird but showering! When there's hundreds and millions of stressy things on your shoulders, there's nothing better than a long hot shower to reconstitute your thoughts and calm yourself down. Such an enjoyable experience.

7.  I think everyone should: on a general level, chill out a little bit. If there weren't so many hot-headed, reactionary idiots in the world it would be a much better place. I'm not saying passion is bad, because it's not, but learning how to channel that passion and emotion into something constructive...we should do that.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Demand outstrips supply. I made banoffee pie.

In one day, my sister and I painted my nails in the prettiest of ways, upcycled some old photo frames (admittedly still in progress) and made the most beautiful banoffee pie.

Are we domestic goddesses, or are we domestic goddesses?

Anyway, normally it's not that big a deal when we bake something but this pie was glorious. We've already had two or three requests to make it for other people, and my dad's friends absolutely demolished it when they came home from a long cycle ride.

Seriously, I was gunning for a second slice, wandered in to scope out the situation and it was just gone. 

I'm going to put the recipe here, because as I say it's beautiful. The original recipe can be found here, but here's our slightly edited (and halved) version. This makes a pie that served 6 of us; I can imagine how big the full recipe must be!

Step One: The Base

  • 60g butter
  • 125g digestive biscuits
Step one is easy peasy: crush your biscuits to crumbs (good for anger management), melt the butter, mix it all up and press it all down into a medium sized cake tin. Refrigerate until it's cold. 

Note: We used 50g butter and there wasn't enough. I'm not sure how much extra you'd need to add but 60g should cover it!

Step Two: The 'Offee
  • 50g butter
  • 50g dark brown soft sugar
  • Half a 397g can of condensed milk 
Melt the butter and sugar together in a saucepan until the sugar has all dissolved and it's formed a nice thick paste, then add in the condensed milk and turn the heat right up, stirring and stirring and stirring until it goes a caramel colour and a viscous texture. Pour it over your nice cold base from earlier and then whack it back in the fridge. 

Step Three: The Ban. Also the creme.
  • Two bananas
  • 150mls double creme 
  • A chunk of chocolate (if ya like)
Slice the bananas and layer them over the top, then whip up your creme until it's nice and fluffy. Use a palate knife and a spoon to put an even layer of creme on top. Grate a bit of chocolate on top if you fancy it! 

That's pretty much it! You're ready to serve. I know it's a really simple recipe but that pie was honestly the best I've ever tasted, even if I do say so myself. Felt like I had to spread the word!!

Emma x