Bad weather talk.

I’ve been ill for the last two days :( My body is clearly not used to such low temperatures for such a big chunk of the year.  My dad always says that I was born in the wrong country, and moving to London clearly didn’t help. My ideal temperature all year round would be around 30 degrees Celsius. Such a dream!

Having to spend yesterday and today in bed, I am really lucky to have so many birthday toys to play with.

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I really did not want to join this stream of weather complains I am hearing everywhere these days. However now as it managed to knock me down with a fever I give up and am openly saying:

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Birthday.

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Today I am 26 years and 1 day old and yesterday was one of the best days of my life (I am known for statements like this one, there are quite a few best days and best meals but every time I say it I mean it, I swear).

Mr. J is the birthday king and has been working on changing my attitude to celebrating my birthdays for a few years now.  He’s the best at making me excited about my birthdays, something I haven’t done since I stopped having kid b-day parties. When I was little my parents always invited my extended family and friends for the afternoon but when I grew older apart from a little family time with cake and presents I kept my birthdays to myself. I didn’t fancy parties and a big fuss around my birthdays. I guess I was avoiding the pressure from having to have a good time, the same kind of pressure New Year’s Eve imposes upon us.

All of my birthdays with Mr. J have been different but one thing is always the same: I get spoilt rotten. In the previous years he always told me what we were up to or I told him what I fancied doing (and eating!). This year, however, I wasn’t allowed to know anything, the whole day was a secret.

First thing in the morning while waiting for Mr. J “to get everything ready” I opened my emails to find one of the best presents ever (see, I told you). It was a short story written by my dad about the day I was born. As far as I can remember, my mum always told me the story of my birth on my birthdays but it was a completely different experience seeing it through my dad’s eyes! I couldn’t help shedding a few tears. Then after reading a lovely email from my mum, (she’s always the first one to wish me happy birthday, I think she must feel it in her belly button or something) I was invited to come to the living room to find a pile of shiny presents!

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I was over the moon with this present. Doctor Martens low patent shoes. I was dreaming about these for so long and here they were!

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Such lovely presents, I couldn’t have been happier! Clearly.

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Here Mr. J himself. Sipping his tea watching how well he’s done.

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We had my requested breakfast of cream cheese & smoked salmon bagels with banana & coconut smoothie.

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Ready for more surprises with my new DMs on.

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I had no idea where we were going when we got off in Charing Cross making our way through St. James’ park. We spent so much time watching ducks and swans…

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…and laughing so much at this little duck that could swim underwater and kept annoying all the other birds for no reason what-so-ever.

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It was quite a long walk and my feet started feeling the strange element of new shoes. The typical first day new shoes story that is especially cruel with Doctor Martens. Their life-long comfort  is well deserved by the first day torture. My first ever DMs are marked by my blood for the rest of their days.

I was very happy to hear that we were almost there and I was even more happy finding myself in the Ruben’s hotel next to Buckingham Palace! I right away knew what was happening! Afternoon tea! Mr. J must have taken a note of my rumbling about it.

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What? A laughing leopard? I couldn’t find the connection of a cartoon-like leopard with the serious posh decor but it actually made me feel welcome.

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We spent almost four hours chatting, drinking tea and slowly eating our way through the three plates of delicious sandwiches, scones and deserts.

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Difficult decision: where to start?

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Very full and very happy we headed home (at least that’s what I thought).

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On the train Mr. J started looking at his watch quite a bit more than he normally does when we go to “watch a film at home” but I did not suspect anything up until we took a different train than we would if we were really going home. I still haven’t received a birthday wish from Mr. J’s parents and this train was going close to their house. I put one and one together and was certain we were going for a visit. Wrong turn. What? Really? Ok, I am giving up guessing. When we finally walked into a pub I managed to give it just a quick thought possibly expecting two of our friends waiting for us there before I heard the familiar Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you… I was right about the couple of friends but what I did not expect was the other ten, Mr. J’s parents and brother! How amazing! With a few more people turning up later on, we were chatting and drinking till closing time.

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I got so many lovely presents and Mr. J’s mum made the most amazing ginger cake, big enough to feed everybody and still have enough for me to take home.

As I said it was the most amazing day with the most amazing people.

Cake Competition.

I don’t like competitions. The word competition makes me feel unnecessarily stressed. I tend to protect myself from this weird natural competitiveness of mine by not taking a part. But last year when I stumbled upon the following image I couldn’t have resisted.

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Back then it was just a few weeks since I discovered the joy of baking and was glad to have an occasion to bake for. It was fun and the competition involved public tastings which I happily participated in. Obviously I did not win but it suddenly seemed like the least important thing because it was already so satisfying to be a part of it all. And to taste all the amazing cakes :)

This year I received an invitation to participate in the Telegraph Hill Cake Competition again and without any doubts I did. And being it me, I did it all last minute, waking up early, baking in the morning (rather than the night before) and then almost blowing at the hot sponge to cool it down faster to be able to assemble the cake in time. Here it is! Banana caramel cake inspired by The Kitchn.

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To catch the 12pm deadline for submitting my cake  I run from Deptford to Brockley carrying a plate of cake in my hands.  Oh dear, somebody please finally invent a cake-carry solution for cyclists! This was probably the least fun of the day but at least I did not have time to be annoyed by the fact it was snowing at the end of March.

I made it and had an hour to cool down before the tasting started. It wasn’t difficult to cool down, I maybe did not have time to be annoyed by the weather then but I certainly did now. I walked around outside.

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I swear last year this time I was sitting in this park on this grass.

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The top left cake is a drawing of my cake from last year!

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I also walked in the inside bit – there was an art/craft fair going on in the church next door. Isn’t it just the best use for a church? Lets turn all churches into art fairs !

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I love walking around finding little gems like these.

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Then it was time to meet my groupies and get tasting.

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Most of the cakes were pretty amazing but I’ll try not to overload with photos.

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Apparently men need their own category…

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There were four winner for each category: Cakes made by kids, Cakes made by men, Teatime favourites and Decoration/Novelty cakes.

All in all, it was a fun day and I can’t wait for next year!

International Women’s Day Afternoon Tea

Today’s breakfast reminded me of yesterday’s fun afternoon of drinking tea, eating cakes and chatting with friends.

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Better late than never, yesterday I finally got to celebrate International Women’s Day. My friend Cheri and her housemates had the great idea to host a charity event in their home. This was a lovely cause for people to get together over a cup of tea and a range of baked goods while raising money for those in need.

The idea was for everybody to bring a little something to be shared and tip a few coins in the prepared charity box.

This box together with some decoration and the Host’s Kit can be ordered from Oxfam here.

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I made scones and served them with whipped cream and homemade blackberry jam.

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Ready to go.

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A few phone photos:

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Apparently the scones weren’t bad at all..

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IMG_0032_2Cheers !

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Day out.

I consider myself a gallery and museum enthusiast. On my days off I often find myself gallery hopping or wandering around impressive museum buildings. So the fact that I’ve never been to the Museum of London is kind of a mystery to me. Especially so that my old college is just around the corner.

But since they have an interesting exhibition going on there and since me and Mr. J finally managed to grab a mutual day off, I decided it was time to pay a visit.

The exhibition Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men is not for under twelve year-olds and so Mr. J couldn’t resist pointing out it would be just about the level I was able to take.

Haha. He’s right though. I don’t like to see open wounds and I always preventively close my eyes when there’s a moment in a movie suggesting blood or surgery (I watched an entire season of Nip/Tuck practically with my eyes closed). Basically, any insight into human body makes me feel uncomfortable. Even though, I decided to go and it was so worth it!

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The exhibition shines a light on the controversial fight between ethical and scientific interests during the 19th and 20th century that the urge to learn, and the demand for “fresh bodies” was so high that on a few occasions led to crime.

Craaaazy!

I never thought about how the progress in medicine and in particular surgical knowledge and skill was achieved.

It is something that is taken for granted these days but to improve a skill, one has to practice. To practice surgery although isn’t the same as practicing knitting or riding a bike..

Photos weren’t allowed but I managed to sneak a few on the phone:

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There were points when my stomach started hurting (a way my brain informs my eyes about how much it can take) but I powered through because leaving without seeing the tools for removing broken limbs (a standard procedure for broken bones back then), my experience just wouldn’t be complete.

Of course, the need for medical progress now is no smaller than in the previous centuries but thanks to the increasing awareness of it many people decide to donate their body to science.

At the end of the exhibition there is a mirror for visitor’s feedback. A lot of people left a message with the word ‘donate’. This provoked a big debate between me and Mr. J who is a registered organ donor, while I still haven’t made a decision about the fate of my body after death. Yeah, so kind of a typical Sunday conversation :)

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To lighten up, we went to mess about in the museum shop. Such a shame Mr. J did not get these sunglasses, it would totally make my summer :)

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My favourite item was a combination of two things I love: food and stationary: toasty notes!

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Much to my happiness there was a little exhibition about Michael Caine. I love the man! His way of saying certain words will forevah stay in my vocabulary. For some reason I don’t have a photo, so maybe just of photo of how much it cheered me up.

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The plan was to go for a walk around Barbican, to me the most intriguing part of the city. However, it was so cold and windy that we gave up pretty soon and resorted to hot late drinking, tasty pastries eating, and people watching in Starbucks.

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Pretty perfect day I must say.