Welcome to Bloomsbury

I absolutely love living in Bloomsbury. Today it felt decidedly spring-like, so I put on a skirt and went for a big walk around the area.

This is the route I took:
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You can’t really see but my route took me through or past many of the beautiful squares and gardens in the area.

I walked past Coram’s Fields, which is where the Foundling Hospital (a hospital and orphanage for abandoned babies) used to stand; now it’s a wonderful fenced off playground/sports field/nursery/etc etc for children, and adults are not allowed to enter unless accompanied by someone under the age of 12. There were sheep! Woolly hooligans! In the middle of London!

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There was a pavilion with a Calypso band playing and all of the children looked as though they were having a lot of fun. Must kidnap someone’s children so I can get inside!

I walked past Charles Dickens’ local, The Lamb:
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The nice thing about it being Sunday is that it was so quiet. Bloomsbury is fairly split between residential, academic (there are a ton of colleges and halls of residence) and offices. It’s all go during the week but in the weekend it’s as dead as the City just to the south. I walked towards the City through another couple of pretty squares and then turned right just before Holborn.

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I can’t even explain to you how busy this street will be tomorrow.

Past the British Museum:
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If anyone in London hasn’t been to the terracotta army exhibition you should, because I think it finishes very soon.

I headed up Tottenham Court Road for a spot of shopping. Not technically Bloomsbury any more, I think Tottenham Court Road marks the boundary between Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia. Then I turned and headed back East, past two of my favourite squares:

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(home to Virginia Woolf, among others)

And Tavistock Square:
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Tavistock Square was the site of the bus bombing on 7/7. Now it’s home to a peace garden with lots of memorials and the statue of Gandhi I have already talked about.

Then it was down to the Brunswick shopping centre for some food, and back home for some R&R.

Tate Modern

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I love walking along the Thames. To get to the Tate Modern I take the tube to London Bridge, walk past the Borough Market, and then along past the Globe, to the Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge. I was there to see the Duchamp, Man Ray and Picabia exhibition. It’s a massive exhibition and I would highly recommend going if you are in London. I’ve been much better at going to museums lately – a couple of weekends ago I took in the Vanity Fair exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, last weekend I went to the Museum of London, and next I think I’m hitting the V&A. I was supposed to go to all of the museums over winter, and now it’s spring, but the weather has definitely been what I term “museum weather”.

Speaking of which, weather permitting I am heading back to Bankside today. Hopefully I’ll have some more pictures to show you. I’ll take my camera this time; these pictures were taken with my new phone.

Afghans

The title of this post could mean a number of things… it could mean I am about to go off on another political rant (I’ll spare you). Or perhaps I’m knitting for charity? Or maybe a breed of dog? However, today I am not talking about any of those things – my Kiwi readers have probably already guessed I am talking about CHOCOLATE.

Afghan biscuits are a New Zealand delicacy. No one knows why they are called Afghans, they just are. The important part is they taste excellent!

Here is a wee pictorial recipe for you.

You will need:

200g butter
1/2 cup fair trade sugar (fair trade because I say so! you don’t want your biscuits to have bad karma!)
1/4 cup cocoa (fair trade if at all possible)
1 1/4 cups plain flour
2 cups cornflakes

150 gram block of chocolate (I use Green & Blacks organic cooking chocolate but Kiwis get let off this one – it’s available at South City New World but it’s crazy expensive)
150 ml single cream
Walnut halves

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
Nuke the butter for a few seconds to soften it – take it out of the microwave when it has just started melting. Put it in a nice big mixing bowl with the sugar and beat until thoroughly mixed (and “fluffy”). Add the cocoa and flour (sift if you must) and mix it all up. Finally fold in the cornflakes gently so that a) they don’t fly all over your kitchen and b) they don’t break too much as you’re stirring them in.

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Put spoonfuls of the mixture on a baking sheet and flatten slightly – I tend to shape them with my hands. Bake for about 25 minutes on the middle tray of the oven, they should feel set when you press the tops.

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While the biscuits are baking, make the icing, which will be a simple ganache. Boil some water up and pour into a saucepan. Set a glass or metal bowl over the saucepan and break the chocolate into it. Stir until melted. Add the cream and stir until mixed. Put the ganache in the fridge to thicken up.

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When the biscuits have cooled down a bit, ice them with a thick dollop of ganache. Top each dollop with a walnut half. Voila!

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Earth Hour

Well, someone left the heating on last night and I woke up all groggy and dehydrated, a full two hours early. So as I’m drinking my water here I thought “well, what a gift of time! I will use some of that time to update my blog!” (that is perhaps not what I actually thought. But I am trying to practice the positive thinking, peoples!)

Anyway, I remembered Earth Hour is this weekend. Who’s going to be sitting in a darkened room?

What with the excessive use of fossil fuels that’s happening in my flat I feel like we should turn the lights out for a week… but I have a confession to make. I will be sitting in a darkened room… at the theatre. Oh well. I did Lights Out London last year though!

I heard an argument not long ago that Earth Hour and little everyday things like turning lights out when you leave a room, fixing dripping hot taps (I wish my landlord read this), turning appliances off at the wall etc make people feel good about themselves without actually making any real differences to the root causes of climate change, and that people should instead be focusing on the Big Picture. Whatever, I say. Anything that raises consciousness has got to be a good thing, right?

With that, it’s time to turn my lights out once more and get another hour and a half’s sleep!

Sharing & Caring

I feel like I have so much to write all of a sudden… links to share, stories to tell, pictures to paint of my life here in London. I hope the weather is good in the weekend, because I want to take you on a walk with me!

I started writing a short story today which was a big thing for me, it’s not something I will post here and it’s a bit of a Murakami rip-off anyway, but I was proud of myself from taking a little bit of inspiration from something in my daily life and asking “what if?”

Speaking of daily life… it is not always easy. I don’t speak about work much because this is a public forum, but my job is not something I particularly enjoy. Work is extremely busy at the moment and everything is urgent. When I first started I took the attitude that I was a temp and paid for 7 hours a day, if there is more than 7 hours a day of work to do then it’s not my problem. But it’s very difficult to be that nonchalant. There are a couple of stresses to do with home life as well (let’s just say I long for the day I can have my own place – which is incidentally what keeps me going back to work every day). Overall I’ve been very proud of my attitude in the past year, but it’s taken time and I do have my little hiccups sometimes.

A year or so ago a friend linked to MoodGym. It’s basically a training program to help you understand why you think and feel the way you do and how to cope with things. Anyway, I only got a little of the way through but I thought it was pretty good, and I’m going to have another crack at it. They have characters they use as examples of different ways of thinking, and boy are there some people I recognise in there… including myself, which is the point really, isn’t it?

Wow, all this focus on mind, body and soul… but that is really what my life is about right now. I’m looking forward to reading “What to Do When You Don’t Know What To Do” which is a question Holly Becker has promised to answer on her Decor8 blog (I’m trying to cut down on my blog reading and facebooking and spend more time here, but that blog is too inspirational not to read). It sounds like exactly the kind of advice I need right now. A year ago I made a very big decision, but that was a year ago now… it’s “what next?” time.

Or perhaps not “what next?” but “what if?”

What I do part II

There is always something on this list that will make me feel better, no matter what:

  • Make a pot of tea with proper loose leaf tea
  • Cook something delicious
  • Dance
  • Wait until everyone has left and then sing in the shower!
  • Knit
  • Take a short walk to Tavistock Square or Gordon Square
  • Light my aromatherapy burner and meditate
  • Sleep on freshly washed sheets
  • Wear a new pair of socks
  • Tidy my room
  • Buying fresh flowers for my room (we modern women buy our own flowers)
  • Walking through a river (that’s a weird one.  The London equivalent is to give myself a foot bath)

Of course there are plenty of things I do with other people that make me feel good too, but it’s important to have things I can do by myself, that don’t take much time. What do you do?

What I do

Life can be pretty stressful sometimes. I’ve been in the UK for ten months now, and I haven’t regretted my decision to move here for a minute. I feel like I’ve reclaimed a sense of control and ownership over my own life, although it certainly has its scary twists and turns sometimes.

In the “Me” section of this blog it says “I am a New Zealander living in London. I’m into knitting and salsa dancing, so there will be a lot of both here.” I think I’ve failed miserably on both counts, but especially the dancing. After I moved here I didn’t dance for nearly eight months, apart from the occasional social dance. I felt like I had other priorities and things I needed to be doing. I didn’t really enjoy myself on the rare occasions I did go out dancing.

Then at the start of this year I had just come back from New York and was feeling a little low. I went to Irene Miguel’s website and noticed that a new round of classes was just about to begin that day. So I took myself along.

I’m so glad I did. Irene takes a holistic approach to dance teaching, and describes her training system as being for the mind, body and soul. She also teaches New York mambo style which is something I have always been drawn to and loved doing when I was in New York (which I wanked on about here). Aaaanyway. I feel like I have found my guru. I tend to come out of her classes feeling absolutely euphoric. The Tuesday night Body Movement class is possibly my favourite. We never even put our shoes on in that class, there’s a lot of pilates/yoga floorwork, isolations, plies, tendus, arm stuff, etc etc. By the end we have worked pretty much every muscle in our bodies and it feels like I’ve just come out of a massage. And there is something about Irene’s attitude that is very inspirational.

Here is a video of Irene and her dance troupes performing:

So anyway, dear Readers, the reason I’m telling you all this now is that Irene just moved to new studios near Old Street, right next to the Hoxton hotel in fact (Steph – handy to you when you’re in town!). This is very good news for me as it’s now much closer to where I live. The new studios are still a work in progress but they’re going to be fab. I’m excited. I’ve just had a two-week break from dance while they moved in, and it’s good to be back. Dancing is one of the most important things in my life, although I never want it to take over my life again like it has in the past, I never want it out of my life either.

Well, that’s all getting rather deep! It’s all sort of part of the new life plan I’m formulating (or at least resurrecting). I’m hoping to post here a little bit more often as well. I always have plenty to talk about and plenty of interesting things going on in my life. So tune in this time tomorrow for the next exciting instalment.