Red Velvet & Chocolate Cupcakes

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I’ve discovered some Instagram type apps and thought I’d play around with it. So we’ve done some red velvet and chocolate cupcakes. The reasoning was that there’s no way we’d eat a big cake just the 2 of us, and cupcakes are easier to share with friends and neighbours.

I’m pretty impressed with what was achieved today. For the record I came clean about the beetroots. Although, I’m sure that a savoury beetroot cupcake with an icing made of soft & creamy goat cheese would work a treat….

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Red Velvet Day

At long last, we are having a lovely, sunny and, dare I say it, warm week end in London. This doesn’t happen very often. But let’s not get over excited, it’s going to go back to normal from tomorrow : grey, rainy, and back to March temperatures. 

As the weather has been so lovely, I have felt compelled to do things like gardening, mini hike from where I live to the British Museum (that is a 5h solid walk by the way), only dampened by the fact that by the time we made it there, it was closed. Still, I have my farmer’s tan to prove that I made the most of this weather. Even now, I’m fighting the sun’s glare to type this, live from our little garden – I am using the word garden in the London’s sense of the term : patch of grass at the back of your house. Just about big enough for a couple of chairs or one of your clothes horse.

It’s all really pleasant. I must say it’s really nice to have weekends like this. I think I’m enjoying my weekends a lot more now that I don’t have a wedding to plan, The logistic of the event was akin to a military operation. Thinking ahead of all the things that could go wrong, from the weather to strikes, coordinating flights, hotels and taxis for the guests coming from abroad (Sandinavia, mainland Europe, USA and Australia, no less…). That was rather stressful. But totally worth it. And it’s in those kind of situations that I made the most of my professional background as really, when you’re a PA, you’re used to dealing with those kinds of things.

So today, is a red velvet day. My other half saw a red velvet cake in a shop, and he’s been baffled about it ever since. Baffled as in, what flavour is it, and why is it red, and why velvet. So for the first time ever, I’m going to give him a baking lesson in “red velvet”. I’ve sent him out to buy what we need:

  • self raising flour
  • unsalted butter
  • caster sugar
  • eggs
  • full fat cream cheese
  • icing sugar
  • lemon 

You can see I’ve left out not one, but two crucial things: the red food colouring and the cocoa powder… I didn’t put them in, because I already have some at home. And I sort of told him that we would be using beetroots because that is how the cake is red inside. Evil? I know. But then again, how was I to know that he would believe me?! Besides, he always makes things up and I fall for them, so good to give him a taste of his own medicine every so often. It’s all good fun.

So the plan is to bake this cake when he’s back from the grocery store. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, let’s keep on enjoying this lovely Sunday afternoon. 

 

 

Moustaches’ cookies for the lunchbox

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I had a bit of an odd 24 hours. Working late, getting home late, not sleeping particularly great. So rather than just toss & turn in bed and as a result spoil the marvellous sleep my other half is having, I decided to go to the kitchen and bake something to have later on.

And voila! Some sort of shortbread/peanut-butter-y cookies shaped like moustaches. I dipped some in melted dark chocolate.

They taste good, although they would need some more work to taste better. I guess I know what I’ll do next time I suffer from a bout of insomnia!

The joy of having an assistant

I have an assistant. You know you’ve made it in the corporate world when, as an assistant, you have your own assistant.

Except that I sometimes wonder who assists who.

Let me give you some background here:

I have been working in my wonderful blue chip corporate company for over 5 years. My work load has increased million-fold. See the economic downturn has done this: you’ve got to do the work of at least 5 people whilst being on the salary of 1/2 a person. I’m basically working an average of 50 hours a week on the salary of a part-timer – Oh cry me a river I hear you say. And I know, at least I’ve got a job. a permanent job. I have some sort of security, but quite possibly a very crap salary that barely makes it possible to live in London. If I told you how much I earn, you’d laugh. But I digress. Again. SO, as I was saying, I’ve got a lot of work, far too much. And after years of complaining, I finally got an assistant (whoohoo!!).

Except that I, i.e. the one who knows exactly what I’m looking for in an assistant, was never part of the interview process. Heck, they didn’t even bother telling me they had finally given in and that I’d get someone to help me out.

It’s just that one day, I got asked to start the proceedings to create a new user, sort out a PC thing & a phone (I dabble in HR as well as IT see…), and that this new user would be in the work station next to mine and would be my assistant. Once I got over the shock (esp. as assistant would be starting the next day), I got cracking. I did however ask to see their CV. I was told there was no CV to see. Baffled yet? Yeah me too. Then I clicked. Family names don’t lie that much, especially weird ones. They had picked the niece of the exec. chairman. Nepotism at its best, and great way to avoid recruitment agency costs.

Anyhow, I like to not make assumptions until I’ve got to know the people and see what they are capable of.. She’s been with me for just about 9 months now (my Early Christmas present!!), and I’ve learnt to tone down my sarcasm, no longer check Facebook during my lunch hour, or go on any websites that could get me in trouble (job search engines….).  Because I’ve basically got some sort of undercover spy next to me. Hardly anybody comes to see me at my desk for a quick chat for fear of being reported. Sad but true.

What ticked me off a bit is that while she’s utterly adorable, she just didn’t have a clue about  what working in an office would be like. No idea how to use word, excel, outlook, power point, Acrobat… which, let’s face it are part of the core things to know when you work in an office. There’s a reason for that.

She went to a special kind of school. Performing art school. She majored in Circus stuff. I kid you not. She’s pretty crap at making an excel table, but boy can she mime like Le Mime Marceau, and she can juggle with a pen pot, a stapler, a calculator AND the stickytape dispenser. Pretty cool heh? Except that, this doesn’t really help me.

I did complain about the choice made by the management, I mean COME ON, there are loads of young graduate with a business background, marketing and such, WHY THE FLIP would you pick someone who sees themselves as the spiritual daughter of Zavatta?!?!

I was basically told I was an ungrateful swine and I just had to lump it.

And lumping it I have.

Classic example: I asked her to get me some bubble wrap. Every body knows what bubble wrap is, right? well, she got me wrapping paper with bubbles on it. I facepalmed myself SO hard I still have the mark of my fingers & wedding ring imprinted on my forehead.

I’m not a psycho, there’s nothing I ask her to do that I’d not do myself, so no, I do not ask her to do the boring scanning or get teas and coffees. I explain everything, from how to use outlook to how to turn a word or excel document into a PDF. I never tell her off for asking me a question, even when it is a rather silly one, because I genuinely believe that with the right training she could and hopefully will be good. And I give her a list of things to do everyday, because yeah, even though she’s been here for 9 months and can see that I’m not an octopus, she doesn’t have any initiative. If I don’t tell her what to do, she won’t do it, unless it’s on a list.

But she is lovely.

Rather often, I am asked to do little things, like re-formating a document, or turning something into a presentation. A 10 min job at most. Nope, it’s gonna take her a full morning. I am patient, to a degree. If I was that slow to do trick like that I doubt I’d have passed my probation. What I find really tough to deal with though is her youth. Not that I am ageist and such, but it’s really hard to be made to feel like I was around when the dinosaurs went bust. She doesn’t know who Chuck Norris is. Chuck Effing Norris!! I mean who doesn’t know about the greatest Texas Ranger?!? She doesn’t know about the original 90210. Cannot comprehend why I don’t like Robbie Williams (if it wasn’t for him, Take That would have never split up!). Refers to 90’s band like “Vintage bands“. Oasis, Blur, Nirvana = Vintage. I mean, I’m hardly in the twilight of my youth, she makes me feel like I should wander about the office with a Zimmer Frame or at least already thing about retirement because it’s ‘coming up fast’ – sure, in about 40 years!!!. Oh dear….

Oh, and you wanna know the fun thing? I ain’t getting a payrise because see, they had to hire me an assistant. Oh the irony of it is killing me.

I may not be able to juggle stationery, or swing from a trapeze, or mime my way through an awkward situation, but if you’re after the real tears of a clown, you can come and see me.

Duck & Waffle part deux

Below are (hopefully) pictures from the Duck & Waffle.

There’s no filters or anything, what you see really is what we had.

In the wrong order I’m sure: foie gras & Nutella, the bottle in a bag was my ‘dark & stormy’ cocktail or how to do hobo chic, there’s the duck and waffle, the baked Alaska and the torrejas. And a view.

It was really lovely, although with hindsight maybe, we I shouldn’t have drank so much wine on a school night. My head is pounding and I’m just feeling meh. Oooh isn’t work going to be super fun today!!!

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Duck & Waffle

This is a quick one for 2 valid reasons
• I’m still at the restaurant
• I may be under the influence of various spirits.

I’m having a crazy insane dinner on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower. Just the lift/elevator ride up is enough to make you go into panic mode if you fear heights ( but if you do why the heck did you book a table on the 40th floor of a building?!). To me/us it was tremendous fun. But the view! My you get to see 360 degrees of London. Amazing.

But what’s more, the food is insane!! Seriously Foie Gras on a bed if Nutella?!?! Who’s the wacko who came up with that combo? Whoever you are, I tip my hat to you! Insane chef!

The food is really nice, not for the faint hearted and those who just like safe comfort stuff. This food is going to take you on a magic ride. If the food doesn’t does it to you, try the dark & stormy cocktail, which is for strange reason served in a bottle wrapped in a paper bag. Made me feel like some sort of hobo drinking my cheapo booze of the day. Still fun experience.

Ill post more when I’ve sobered up.

Excuse my French

This is one English saying I find deeply offensive as a French National (I’m just being dramatic here, I don’t really care). I used to use it when I knew I was mispronouncing something until I was told it was something people said before uttering a flowery language.  I obviously wasn’t making much sense. 

That’s the thing, when you learn a foreign language, you don’t get to learn much about colloquialism, slang, and swear words. This always lead to many many embarrassing situations (to me) or highly entertaining (to others). 

Words that baffles me:

Cock: to most English speaking people, it’s a synonym of a man’s private part or a way to refer to someone (usually a man) who is being a jackass.  To me, it’s the male counter part of a chicken, synonym to a rooster

Back story: I once wanted to impress my newly made English mates by cooking a very typical (and a bit of  ‘showing off’) French Dish. I decided to make a Coq au Vin, I checked in my Robert & Collins dictionary what was the English for each and every ingredients, and as far as it’s concered: Coq = Cock. Simple. So here I go to one of the poshest Butcher in London (I was hell bent in showing off…) and I asked loud and clear if I could have a big cock and if they could be so kind as to joint it for me. Oh the looks of “Oh my Goodness we have a weirdo in the shop” and “oh my giddy aunt, I cannot believe she just said that” from various posh old and young ladies in the shop, and the never ending laughter from the Butchers guys. One saying that I “came to wrong shop” that “Ann Summers was a few street away” and another one saying that if I came round the back he could “show me a big one“. I was confused and bemused. Only when I explained I wanted the bird that goes Cocorico (that’s Cock-a-Diddle-Doo- for you guys. Seriously.) and eventually, normality was restored in the shop and I was no longer seen as a pervert. Although they sold me a random chicken – Coq meat is red, tough, that’s why it needs to be marinated for about 24hrs in red wine… –  and I wasn’t particularly impressed. I managed to make a Poulet-au-Vin (chicken cooked in wine) that seemed to impress everybody. But what everybody remembered to this day was this story. FYI, I never went back to this Butcher.

One: as is “one is not amused”. You never really use that in the Uk, do you? The way i was taught about “one” was that, other than meaning 1, it was the English counter part of the neutral “we” (or ‘on‘ in French). We use that neutral we a lot in French. So I often used “one” when I first come over, such as “one should really hurry up or one will miss the bus” or “one should check out this party” ” doesn’t one fancy some chocolate” and so on and so forth. Eventually, one of my housemates took it upon himself to explain that while I sounded really cute, I also sounded like a bit of a pompous arse using it. So one stopped. 

Hot: the meaning of hot to me was simply “really warm”. I didn’t get the “hot” as in “spicy” or “hot” as in “sexy”. When I first arrived in London, I had never ever had an Indian meal. I did enjoy curries, but those from the French Caribbean, so mild-ish with loads of coconut milk. So when I first went to a Curry House, I was at loss with what to chose from, all I knew was that I wanted a hot meal. So I picked a ‘hot’ meal. I thought it was a bit random that they specified whether or not a dish was hot or not, and I just thought that they seemed to like their cold dishes an awful lot. So yeah, I ordered a vindaloo. Everybody at the table just stared at me asking if I was sure, i said yeah, I fancy a hot dish today. OH.MY. I think it only took  a mouthful and it felt like I had entered the 9th circle of my own Hell. It was just too much, my tongue had never experienced something as violent as this. I can honestly admit that I cried like a baby asking what had I done to deserve this. Everything was on fire, my mouth, all of my digestive tract, I was crying tears of acid, everything was just painful. It felt like my tongue had trebbled in size. Not particularly dignified. My saving grace came in the forms of naan bread, milk, some kind of yogurt and lots of ice. The waiters and cooks in the restaurant felt it was their duty to make things right, so they kindly replaced my dish from hell, with the greatest dish ever: Chicken Korma. That was amazing. Chicken Korma and Peshawari Naan. I am forever grateful to them for introducing me to these dishes. I’ve experimented a bit with Indian dishes, my favourite is definitely Saag Gosth (spinach and lamb). But yeah, that’s how I learnt that hot could mean “hella spicy” too.

After this fiasco, again, my housemates took it upon themselves to let me know about the various meaning of hot. Including the sexy one. This led to something that they have never let me live down.. Let’s call that the “hotpoint” incident.

In a nutshell, our washing broke down and needed to be repaired, I got the short straw and had to stay behind to let the repairman in. A guy calling himself the “Hotpoint Guy” buzzed in, I kindly redirected him to a house down the road who was having a hen party. I suspected that with a name like “hotpoint guy” he was clearly a stripper. So I waited all day, but no repairmen showed up. When my housemates came in, I told them I waited for nothing, although a stripper came in etc. They all looked at me with that look that clearly meant I was a right dingbat. I was marched to the washing machine where I got to see that the make was “HotPoint”. Well, I’ll be damned. No need to say much more, other than I was designated again to wait for him again the next day, he saw the funny side (still invoiced us double) and added that if I wanted he could do the work topless (I kindly but firmly declined this offer). 

I didn’t have a hotmail address because it just sounded wrong. Not to sound like a prude, but how was I to be taken seriously with an address @ sexymail.com or @spicymail.com. That probably make me sound like I’m crazy, but that is why I used yahoo.com. Since it was a clear reference to Gulliver’s travels, there was no way there would be something untoward with such address. Warped logic, but that’s my logic.

So yeah, learning how to speak English is a never ending learning session. Almost everyday I say something inappropriate, not because I am being rude or stupid, but because I genuinely think that I am saying the right thing. I get away with it because I am French, and I tend to pronounce those words in a very cute way, so there.

 

Sunday Rainy Sunday

Again, I have been fooled by the weather forecasts. I can only blame myself for being still so naive and gullible to rely on the weather forecast: it was supposed to be 19 degrees Celsius, sunny albeit slightly overcast. Yeah right. 

So far the weather has been horrendous. Since March 21st (beginning of Spring) we have enjoyed probably 10 days of blue sky/sort of warm days. I say sort of warm, but to most London it was “scorching hot” so much so that most men felt it was their duty to wander the streets of London topless. I was still wearing a cardigan and thick tights. My only comfort is to think that the weather is just as bad -if not worse- where I come from. They had snow randomly falling in May for instance. We have had that debate  about when seasons starts since the early stage of our relationship. Where I come from, seasons starts as follows: Spring: 21st March, Summer: 21st June, Fall/Autumn 21st September and Winter: 21st December. As far as Husband is concerned, Spring starts on 1st February, Summer, 1st May, Autumn/Fall on 1st August and Winter on 1st November. His argument is that “this is how it is according the Celts” and since he’s Irish, this is a valid argument. I argue back that since he’s hardly some sort of Druid, skipping around in a white robe in the garden to make the sun shine,  his point is un-valid to me. Not to mention that the rest of the world sees the season’s schedule as per what I’ve mentioned. We’ve reached an agreement: since I took his family name, he’s had to take my seasons’ schedule. Only because I don’t want our kids to grow up confused about what season is when. 

Anyhow, see how much of a Brit I’m becoming, yapping on about the weather and seasons like a pro.

So as I was saying, I mildly annoyed at this turn of weather, because I was sort of planning to look decent as opposed to looking like a soaked poodle today. Not least because we took that giant step of opening a joint bank account and I wanted the bank people to not think of me as an irresponsible dishevelled woman, but more like a decent woman of some sort. I know, to some people it was a bit weird that we still hadn’t taken that joint-account-leap since husband & I had been living together for about 5 years, thus splitting bills and going Dutch on pretty much every thing. It was never an issue really. It wasn’t a fear on either party that the other would go batshit crazy with the card and spend everything on the ultimate shopping spree to end all shopping sprees. Then again I will admit that my other half is great at saving money, whereas I am always on the hunt for bargains: I need new clothes, can’t always wear the same shirts etc. at work; we always need something for home, may it be new beddings, new towels, a super dupper steaming mop and such. Put it this way, I am a home maker. I can buy things to make our current abode a lovely nest. My other half on the other hand would probably be just as happy sitting on a hay bale, using paper plates and plastic cutlery, or still using the same towels and bedlinen that he was using when he first moved in London (they were the first things to be replaced when we moved in together… they were mismatched!!). 

So yeah, back to the meeting with this high street bank. Really great bank I’d say. We had brought far to many proofs of where we lived/who we are etc, but we (husband and I) have come to an understanding over the years that it’s best to be over prepared rather than under prepared. We got our credit ratings checked (we passed with flying colours) and got our bank account opened in no time. We even left with our cards! Amazeballs. We also deposited a cheque addressed to Mr & Mrs that we got as a wedding gift. I left the bank feeling pretty grown up.

We decided to take a stroll in Covent Garden, then we popped into the British Museum. I know it’s going to sound like I’m bragging (first the spare room and a dining room, now this…) but we’re members of the BM. Which mean that we can go and see any exhibitions without queuing, and as often as we want. This Pompeii exhibition is awesome by the way. So we often go to the BM, because it’s great and also it’s a way to make our membership worthwhile. We also have 10% off in the shop and cafe… I know, I know, I’m a spoilt brat.

The weather was turning sour already, but it wasn’t really raining. We decided to not be lazy and use common transport all the way home. Or rather, we missed the bus that would take us home because I refused to run for it – for the record, my knee is still not back to normal – so the alternative was to either wait for what would feel like eternity for a bus or just walk home. Within 5 min of leaving the bus stop it started drizzling. within 10 min it was raining, within 15 min it felt like someone was throwing buckets of water in our general direction. Awesome.

By the time we made it home we were soaked to the bones, cold, because obviously if it rains, you’ve got to have some wind too. But, we were both laughing because of something stupid: our shoes were waterlogged and therefore were making funny squicky noises. Yeah I know. His shoes made a rather trumpetty type of sound whereas mine were more like a few mices having a natter.

So all this fun called for some action when we got in: first (after getting dry), we had to have a home made hot chocolate : dark chocolate melted in milk, adding sugar, then few marshmallows. There is something really comforting  with having a hot chocolate to warm you up. At least that what I think.

Right, I’d better get my work clothes ready, sort of my lunch, and get some sort of unwinding time before attacking another manic week. Yay!

 

Lazy weekend bliss

Today is Saturday. It’s a lazy day. Not entirely by choice mind you. Since my knee is still preventing me from much activity (it’s no longer the size of a small country, but the size of a small county), it was safer to stay home. Plus the weather is crap. And erm, the plan for today was to go watch a rugby game with my husband’s work gang. I really enjoy the company of his workmates, I am actually really jealous that he has great workmates, people you would actually enjoy hanging out with after working hours (trust me, that’s rare), but I just don’t get rugby. I do not understand how could anybody want to play such a rough game and not wear any padding, a bit like in American Football, but maybe not so OTT. I just don’t get it. See, where I come from, Rugby, as a sport, didn’t get a look at. It was football or tennis. Put me in front of any football game, I’ll enjoy it. Tennis, meh, I’ll get bored because to me it’s a game to be playing not to be watching. Rugby, I don’t get the rules, everything looks made up on the spot, fouls are never really fouls and so on… So I technically used the ‘I’m not feeling too great because of my knee’ excuse to get out of watching 80 minutes of a game I don’t understand. I feel like I’ve pulled a sickie without being really sick. Oh I can feel the guilt trip coming right up, especially as I never pull sickies for work. I always kept in mind that “boy who cried wolf” story. Beside where I work, most people pulling a sickie are just clearly too hungover to make it to work, and clearly don’t give a hoot about the impact it’ll have on the rest of the staff who will have to pick up the slack. If I’m too ill to get to work, I’ll still work from home. I blame my parents for this.

Anyhow, I will justify my ‘pulling a social sickie’ with this: I deserve to have a bit of “me” time. Had a crazy week in the office, I need to recharge my batteries (yeah plural, because if I was relying on just one, I’d not last the week in the office.). Plus husband will be able to talk about work/rugby etc. with his mates without having to explain the in-jokes and other references to me. So really I did it all so he could have a much better time. Ain’t I a great wife?!?

So what I am doing on my lazy day home alone? Well you’ll be amazed to know that I’ve tidied up the house, the spare room and dining room (yeah, check me, I live in London intra muros and I have not only a spare room, but also a dining room! Fancy or what? what’s less fancy is the reality that both rooms are rather small, thus hardly used because you couldn’t swing a cat in there -not that I’ve tried!) So yeah the spare room and the dinning room have been used as “storage for wedding presents” and “where my wedding dress went to take a nap”. So I finally decided to go through the wedding gifts and find them a “home” within the home if that makes sense. In actual fact, I’ve piled them up neatly in our bedroom so when my darling husband comes in, he will be able to take them to the attic. I’m not being ungrateful, but we are going to move in about 8 months (to quite possibly a flat without a dining room or an attic!)and I don’t want to have to re-pack all these things. It takes a fair bit of will power, because we got some really amazing gifts that I cannot wait to use, but I had and still have to be strong about it. So I’ve been moving stuff from A&B to C, I’ve also hoovered/vacuum-ed the house and mopped the floors. And gone through my wardrobes for nice clothes I don’t want to wear any more that can go to a charity shop.

With this done and my conscience clear, I have been watching various cookery programs (most of them re-runs) from the Great British Bake off, to The Cake Boss via Ace of Cakes. Or as husband refers to it my “baking porn”. I’m hooked on those things! I’m also flicking through various baking magazines, my baking books, and I’m trying to figure out what cake or cookies or whatever do I feel like baking today. And this is all I am planning to do for the rest of the day – bar sharing this here.

In an ideal world, someday (hopefully soon) I’ll somehow create the mother of all cakes, with flavour combo nobody’s ever thought of ( like geranium & lavender; earl-grey and lemon; Guinness and dark chocolate) and bam, hit the big time with my cake business thing.

I was and still am serious when I said that someday I’ll quit my job to pursue my full time hobby. But until then, I must keep on observing how the pro do it and work on my business plan. But I’ll keep that for a day I don’t feel lazy.