Monday, 18 May 2015

What I Wore - Dressing For Spring

Zara Headband Leather Belt
I like every other British raised person get overly excited at the slightest amount of sunshine. Every nice day has to be treated as though it were our last. Some years we may only get the one so that is true. That being said I am not as hardy as I should be, maybe it is my foreign blood but my ability to moan about the cold knows no bounds. When my fellow Yorkshiremen have long abandoned their knitwear I am holding on to my cardigan for dear life. Spring has many of those days that are bright and promising but not quite time for sandals and certainly some sort of jacket is still a must.
Nat & Nin Bag
I am always loathed to stay in dark colours as soon as the sunshine is out, even if the air is still cool so finding this bright velvet blazer in Boden was perfect as a transitional coat. I had wanted a pair of these boots from Minnetonka for ages but then I live in Northern Europe and rain is not kind to suede so cooler bright sunny days are the perfect time to wear them.
Pink Boden Jacket
minnetonka boots
french fashion
Outfit Details
Dress - Sinequanone
Boots - Minnetonka
  Jacket - Boden
  Belt -Sinequanone
Bag - Nat & Nin
Headband - Zara
 
 

Friday, 15 May 2015

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

The sun is shining and my baby has not slept through the night yet, he is 17 months old. I know I am not alone in this and I wouldn't change him, he is perfect as he is but I need a boost from time to time so coffee and sugar are my false idols. I have read the articles that say a sudden boost is followed by a slump, for real sustained energy release coffee is not the answer. Okay so they are probably right but I would argue this, the instant buzz is nice and it tastes good. I accept there is no medical arguments or facts and figures to back me up apart from the fact that there a quite a few coffee shop chains that really well for themselves so this yummy coffee drink must have a market.  enough silly ranting and on with the coffee instructions. I say instructions as it is not really a recipe, more of a serving suggestion.

In Vietnam you will most likely find your coffee served over condensed milk. This is done for hot and cold coffee. I am not sure if this is done due to a lack of fresh milk in the shops or to sweeten the bitter taste. So here I go, ice cubes in glass, condensed milk on top and coffee on top of that. In Vietnam they will use a dark roasted coffee. All that is left to do is stir so that it looks like this;
I love drinking iced coffee this way but I am no a fan with hot coffee, but give it a try you may love it. Let me leave you with my coffee fact. Dark roasted coffee that has a higher strength has less caffeine in than light roast coffee. The strength is referring to the fullness of the flavour only, whilst a longer roast produces a darker, more bitter tasting coffee the bean loses more caffeine that way

Monday, 11 May 2015

Dining Room Inspiration

Dininng Room Inspiration
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Currently the dining room had become the dumping ground for all of the boxes have not been unpacked yet so it a great place to make box forts but does not resemble a dining room in anyway shape or form yet. The room leads directly off the kitchen via sliding doors which are ugly and impossible to slide, you can open them but it a two person job and requires pushing and straining. They need replacing and after stripping the wallpaper it is probably the first job I will tackle. I have looked around at sliding door options and think i am definitely going to go with a simple mechanism like the one below. I want to find vintage doors and have a glass etching project in mind to make it really personal.
vinrage  sliding door
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Even whilst it is filled with boxes you can tell that the room is massive and has tonnes of natural sunlight from the large bay windows. For this reason I need a huge table hopefully seating 10 but at least 8, dinner round at mine then! I have not found the perfect table for the right price yest but something along the lines of the one below would do just nicely, unfortunately it is no longer available.
Graham and Green Dining Table
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I have some dining chairs that I have collected over the years but will need to gather more and then a day of sanding and paiting will be ahead of me, well maybe a weekend.

This room will house the record player so I will need some seating. The mid century sideboard  that I restored last year will be perfect as a record cabinet.
mid century record cabinet upcycle
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Crossley record player
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I need to sort out the heating in this room as the radiator is too small for the space. So the gas fire will be removed and replaced with a cream wood burner and the radiator removed and two tall column radiators there in its stead. Swapping the radiators will also free up a little wall space for a much needed sideboard. I have heaps of glasses etc that will need to live somewhere. I am looking at a few second hand mid century options but I am also quite taken with the String shelving system too.
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string system shelving
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One of the stores I have fallen in love with in Paris is petit pan and I made the nursery pillows from their fabric. I am determined to have some of their beautiful printed cement tiles in the house, perhaps in the hearth? I think they would fit with the mid century feel.
petit pan paris
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Until recently I was set on having 5 small lights in the ceiling that would hang low and run the length of the table. However I have such a beautiful Victorian plaster ceiling rose that I have decided to keep it and instead am looking into a swag light. I will make my own as considering what they are the prices are through the roof, no pun intended. That way I can have the lights the exact length I want.
edison bulnb swag light
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I have not decided on a colour scheme as yet but I will need to consider that many of my food posts will be shot in there so deep colours may reflect in the light. One thing is certain I will be reintroducing cocktail hour.
cocktail cart diy
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dining room Smile and Wave diy
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Friday, 8 May 2015

Things Can Only Get Better? The story of one Labour voter

I have never before shared a post on here that does not fit with the blogs brand but today I have woken up with a need to make my voice heard. Sorry to all my readers outside of the UK, brace yourselves it will be a bumpy ride.Here is my story;

Nearly 40 Years Of Political Disappointment or How Slightly Left Of Centre Does Not Work  

I was born into the Winter Of Discontent widespread strikes crippled the country and helped the Conservative Party, with Margaret Thatcher at the helm sweep into government. Looking back now I ask myself if the white paper A Place Of Strife would have saved the Labour party by reducing the unions powers or it would have just been the first sad step towards New Labour sooner than we subsequently got.

Like many Indian immigrant families at the time my family voted Conservative. I at the tender age of 3 would say how I liked Micheal Foot, he was my favourite and my family would say how cute it was, look a mini socialist. My uncle would tell me that when I grew up I would understand that the country was crippled by Labour that the unions had to be stopped. My mum would tell me that as a woman it was an important thing to have Margaret Thatcher as the country's leader. My mother's viewpoint on this matter soon changed when she, like countless other women found that Mrs. Thatcher had pulled the ladder up behind her when it came to female representation. She was openly opposed to actively combating discrimination against women stating, "they need to pull themselves up through the ranks". Equally her government's policies on domiciled care and childcare made it harder for women as, due to the place of women in our society that onus primarily falls on the females in a family.

Still it was odd to be so young and have a different political opinion that my family. Where had it come from? I can only assume that the logic and morals of a child are simple and absolute, there is no grey area in children. Children don't think about how a vote may affect their pension, savings, how inflation for a period may work to their personal advantage. No a child hears soundbites on the news and takes what those individuals have said as absolute. And that is how I began my life as a Labour supporter.

Time marched on and soon the realization of privatization, pit closures and deregulation of the financial sector, (not to mention she stole my milk), was starting to dawn on everyone, including my family. My uncle stayed strong, as did my Granny, and they remained Conservative. My mother had swung to the left and my aunt declared that now she had started teacher training she had to vote Labour. I was no longer alone in my household and as a small child I took it as my personal victory. The country was no longer happy but history shows a war always unites us, strange how so many young men and women being sent into danger does that. The Falklands War saw a sudden growth in Thatcher's popularity once more and she won a second general election.

1987 - I had lost my Micheal Foot and we Labour types now had Neil Kinnock as our leader. The Labour party slowly started to move towards the centre, perhaps as they saw The Winter Of Discontent as their demise they thought this was their only option, but as a mere child with the popular media as my only source of information I could only speculate. I was a child but was politically excited, I made Labour flags, I made posters and stuck them in the window, my mum told me off as we were renting and she was worried about cellotape being stuck on the windows.  I was an only child and as one of my school reports stated, "she enjoys the company of adults". I would sit and listen to adult conversations. I saw the onslaught of negativity against the Labour Party from the tabloid press and wondered why they hated people who wanted to make life better. I was a long way from voting but I felt that making my flags and saying my favourite colour was red I was part of something. I was only to be disappointed as the Margaret Thatcher took her third victory. How? Almost every adult I was in contact with hated the woman. And as it turned out so did her party as John Major was soon to be their new leader

I grew up in the Poll Tax riots, and saw the people win. I grew up listening to The Specials, Morrissey, The Beats, Elvis Costello, The Jam all of whom sang about what Thatcherism had done to the country. I grew up listening to the words of Billy Bragg, watching Spitting Image and Yes Minister/Prime Minister all mocking the government and the way the country was being run. Yet again I was left crestfallen as despite the Gulf War, Black Wednesday and the highest number of repossessed houses at the time John Major led the Conservative government to their fourth win in my lifetime.

As a child I felt powerless but now I was a teenager, and teenagers know everything. Not only was I a teenager but I was about to vote in my first general election. Not only was I a voting teenager I was a drama student, yes my voice was going to be heard. I channeled Billy Bragg, The Specials and John O Farrell. I was taking A Level Theatre Studies and the world would hear me roar. Feminist theatre, check. Monologues from The Killing Of Sister George, check. All culminating in a satirical piece written by my fellow students and I called From Playground To Politics. We were on fire we were about to have our voices heard. We had grown up in a Britain that we did not choose but today was our day. But.....

Yes there was a but. The Labour I was finally getting to vote for was not Micheal Foot's Labour, it was not even the Labour of Neil Kinnock. In fact it was not Labour, it was New Labour with a privately educated Tony Blair at the helm. There was a rock in the pit of my stomach not the fire in my belly that I should have had. I watch the commercials, I looked at the billboards and read the manifesto and New Labour did not sound like my Labour, not at all. Still I promised myself Tony Blair would help, Things Could Only Get Better, that is what they sang. Besides I had faith in the backbenchers they wouldn't let him move the party even closer to the centre than it already was, would they?

I decided that drama and music were no longer for me, politics was too important, making the country better for everyone who lived there was too important. I took some time out to think exactly how I could be part of creating a better place to live and settled on social care. I studied Sociology and Politics and I was very good at it, far better than drama if truth be known.

1997 things were doing as expected, better and I was feeling good that the New Labour was remaining loyal to its roots. In 1997 Labour stated that only they could save our NHS, and at the time that was true as they embarked on a decade of increased spending in the NHS, the largest increase in sustained spending the sector had seen. However, and there is always an however. In 1999 New Labour began to move the NHS from a public sector provider to include the private sector provisions under the disguise of choice and competition. As this decision was unpopular throughout the party I could only assume that this was the start of what I refer to as the megalomaniac years. Tony Blair had an inner circle and the socialists were not invited, he thought himself as commander and chief not a first minister.

At this time I was still in university, I read about Anuerin Bevan godfather of the NHS and The Welfare State, I read about inequality of wealth and The Parade Of Dwarfs. I was primed and ready to graduate and begin to make a difference. For the most part that is what happened. I became a civil servant. Later I moved to working for Charities and NGOs. I did this for more than a decade. The whole time the whispers grew to shouts about what had happened to the Labour party. New Labour was dubbed Tory Lite and funding reforms were affecting my sector. Society was no longer the master of the government but its less deserving servant. In fact now we started to hear phrases like the deserving and undeserving poor. What is acceptable poverty in a developed nation?

2007, Tony Blair leaves the party in tatters and Gordon Brown takes over as leader. He inherited a split party, those who wanted New Labour reforms, staunch backbenchers, those who wanted to move even closer to the centre. Once more I am surrounded by vitriolic attacks by the press similar to those that thwarted Neil Kinnock. 

I, like many Labour voters, am disillusioned by my party. I didn't vote for 'Best Value' contracts, selling social housing or academy schools but that is what I got. So let us gain a little perspective here. New Labour for all the faults still brought us; The Freedom Of Information Act 2000, The Human Rights Act 1998, The National Minimum Wage Act 1998, Windfall Tax, A Ban On The Use Of Landmines and Regional Development Agencies to name but a few triumphs. Also interest rates were at a record low so national debt was paid off. In 1997 Labour inherited a deficit of 3.9% of GDP by 2008 it had fallen to 2.1% nearly 50% reduction.

2010, none of this was enough and Gordon Brown stood down and we had 5 years of a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition. Five years ago I worked for a homeless charity. I like multitudes of my colleagues were made redundant. I now work here. I am grateful for this living but I scrape a living now by comparison and as much as I enjoy the continual engagement I have with my readers I somehow feel I am betraying the child who stood as a lone Labour voice in her family and who worked for charities giving the people who are unheard a voice. During those five years we have seen further privatization in the NHS, the commonly dubbed bedroom tax, the Welfare Reform Act 2012. The later includes the phasing out of Disability Living Allowance, Housing Benefit Reforms, Reforms to Working Tax Credits. Add to this a rise in the use of Food Banks, a rise child health issues directly related to poverty, huge cuts in public sector employment despite reports confirming there was no space in the private sector. Despite reports explaining austerity is not working we have once more voted to continue. This is what I studied, this is where I worked and I can only assure you that reforms in welfare have long term effects in society, and what will happen when they occur, the populous will blame whoever is in the seat of power at the time.

Why the Conservative victory last night? Well in the first case I am sickened to once more hear that just over half the country turning up to vote is a great turnout. No it is not anything less than 90% is poor in my viewpoint.  Whilst I still voted for Labour in this election as I agreed with many of their policies and for me they were the best fit for my views I was not blinded to the fact that they wanted to re-introduce the 10p tax. That there answer to under performing schools is more administration in the form of school directors and that many of their social security promises were less than radical. Add to that the fact that Tony Blair and New Labour had left voters not trusting them. I would argue that we need a real alternative

So now we are left with these Conservative manifesto promises; £12billion Welfare Savings, (despite the welfare bill being far less than our pension bill), Household Befit Cap Reduction to £23,000,
Replace JSA for 18-21-year-olds with a Youth Allowance limited to 6 months & end automatic Housing Benefit for this age group. Scrap Human Rights Act and replace with a British Bill of Rights. Strike reform and a free vote on the Hunting Act.

When will my party that I have been loyal to my entire life return to those days of being the real left, of being the workers party, of being the party that gave a voice in Westminster to those who needed it. Where is Joseph Rowntree, Aneurin Bevan, Micheal Foot and Tony Benn. I met Tony Benn (a proud day), the man who turned down a peerage to serve his country in parliament only to have is son Stephen reclaim it this is not the future I expected. When we took to the streets over the bedroom tax we did not have the numbers or the fire of the Jarrow March or Poll Tax Riots. We have lost our fire because we have lost our left. 

What I hope for is a real left again, for my Labour party to come back to me and end my disappointment. This post is littered with historical fact but is also liberally peppered with my own political opinion, which you may disagree with. As with most people with opinions I believe that mine are correct, after all what is the point of standing up for something unless you fully believe in what you stand for.

My friend wrote today that collective action does not begin and end with this election and as history has shown us the public can make a difference, how will you choose to make a difference?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Bali - Travel Guide

Bali was one of those places that had never been on my radar as a must see, I had thought that it was a place that was only for surfers or sunbathers, I am neither of these things. In fact there was lots to do and plenty to see in Bali. It is certainly not the cheapest place to visit which is why I skipped it in my backpacking days. It has a steady market of honeymooners and is the Spain of Australians so their economy is strong and it is reflected in their prices.

We stayed in two locations the first being Sanur meaning Snore. It is seen as the quiet dull town in the South of the island. Whilst I will admit that it was not the beer fueled surfing and diving town of Kuta it was far from dull. I welcomed the tranquility of Sanur and it served as an excellent base for exploring the island. As much as it can be temping to find a favourite place to eat when you are away from home and camp out there we were insistent on trying somewhere new to eat very day and for every meal. As free of clubs and parties as Sanur was it was not short of place to eat. Some of the larger restaurants also had live music on. Further along the coast from Party Kuta and Sanur was Nusa Dua, now if solitude is what you are looking for than this is the place for you, although the choice of food and drink was limited.
nasi campur
Although we changed restaurants one of my favourite dishes to have was Nasi Campur, it very roughly translates as mixed rice. It is a scoop of rice served with between 3 and 7 dishes on the same plate, or leaf if you get it from a street vendor. Each restaurant had a variation on the dishes served with the rice and I loved it as it was a great way to try a variation of foods in one meal.

Sanur is walking distance to Denpasar, the capital of Bali. The route is all flat so achievable even in the heat of the day. You will get stared at for walking there and may, as we did get asked several times if we had lot our tour group. It is not the done thing to walk around but if you want to you can, you do have to brave the odd looks and take your life in your hands to cross the road traversing an endless stream of weaving beeping mopeds and the occasional air conditioned tour bus. On the walk we saw a number of stunning carving workshops, all the embassy residencies and stumbled upon the orchid farm. We were very happy to have stumbled upon this.
yellow orchids
In Denpasar itself the moped traffic may wear you down and you may feel like hailing a tuk tuk just to cross the road. The two place that are certainly worth seeing in the capital the first being Bajra Sandhi a imposing black structure in the centre of a public park that tells the story of Bali on the road to independence from Dutch rule through dioramas. The second is museum Negri Propinsi, whilst the exhibits themselves are a little timeworn and not that engaging the building and gardens are well worth the visit.
Bajra Sandhi Bali Denpasar
During the day in Sanur was much quieter but had endless coastline to explore. The shops and markets in Sanur, Kuta and Nusa Dua are not the best, mainly beer t shirts and novelty nonsense. That being said there were a couple of gems in Sanur that had beautiful Indonesian puppets and carvings. Sanur was also perfectly situated for visiting surrounding areas such as Tannah Lot, this must be one of the most photographed temples, it is stunning in its architecture and situation. From Sanur we also visited  Temple and went to see a Barong dance.
Barong dance bali
It is possible to rent a car but the rates are only favourable if you take it for a week or longer and unless you are driving everyday it is not worth it. You could rent a bicycle but we saw what was on offer and did not fancy our chances of steering.
We opted for getting a taxi or tuk tuk for shorter distances. Do not be afraid to haggle. The fares from the airport are set by the government so we used the distance and cost of that journey as a basis for future haggling/negotiating. The drawback of taking a taxi is the ensuing argument of being shown the shops. Bali is not the only place in the world that operates a driver kick back from shops and restaurants. Depending on what mood you are in you can hold firm and say no to shop stops, or, as we did on one occasion said hey what the heck let him take us. We did not end up buying anything from the shops but we did see nice things and found that side of it enjoyable....that once, everyday would have been a different matter.  The Hindu temples were stunning and very different to the ones I am used to in India.
bali temple
Along the coast there are a range of hotels, from the grand to the intimate. Personally the large grand hotels did not appeal to me and I did not want to get caught up in any all inclusive deals. I like to go out and explore rather than feeling I need to stay in the hotel complex to 'get my moneys worth'.  Certainly on the South side of the island the sea is better for diving and surfing rather than swimming. Be cautious of quiet bays as there are a number of areas that have very dangerous undertow, be sure to check before swimming. With that in mind if you really like a holiday swim perhaps finding a hotel with a pool would be the best option, you can still do this for a reasonable price. We did pick our favourite snack and breakfast spot in Sanur, a place called Manik Organik, fantastic range of juices and smoothies.
The second place that we made our home during this trip was Ubud. This was indeed my favourite out of the two locations. The markets were a great place to shop and haggle. I also spent the day on a cooking course here, it was so much fun and a great way to bring a little of Bali home. There are various restaurants that will run courses, just ask, I took mine at Bumbu Bali, Ubud.
bali market
Prices for restaurants and hotels were a little cheaper in land and we stayed in a small guesthouse by a rice paddy which was great for walks and spotting dragonflies. We also went on a tour of a coffee plantation, the coffee was not as smooth as Central America but the whole day was really interesting and I saw my first fruit bat, they are huge and a real problem for the farmer, as you can imagine.
fruit bat flying fox
ubud palace
bali statue
rice paddy bali
If you do nothing else in Ubud you should visit the monkey forest and see a fire dance, both were unforgettable in very different ways. I have traveled the world over and never known monkeys with such an amenable temperament. The one piece of advice we were given at the sanctuary was do not hide food if a monkey asks for it give it to them. I was actually petrified  when the huge monkey came and sat on me but he looked in my bag, saw I had no food and left. Bali certainly is worth the trip and there are several small islands that you can take a boat out to. And if you are a little more sporty than I there is diving and water sports.
monkey sanctury
fire dance bali
fire dance bali
monkey sanctury Bali

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Fried Sweet Potato Dumpling Recipe

fried sweet potato dumpling vegetarian recipe
If you come from the North of England, as I do the word dumpling may conjure up stew and dumplings. Whilst that is one of my favourite comfort food meals the dumpling is so much more than that. I love meals that are filled with lots of different bits, what can I say I am a picker. These were first developed when I was having a South East Asia street food day. They work really well as a snack or lunch too. In any case sweet potatoes are brilliant and work in so many sweet and savoury recipes. Baby Sebastian was a huge fan too.

you will need;

1 large sweet potato 
50g vegetable suet 
100g rice flour 
2tsp baking powder 
2tsp fresh chopped chives 
pinch of salt
sunflower oil (or similar) for frying, enough to make 1/2 inch of oil in your pan

method;
  1. Poke your sweet potato a few times with a sharp knife and bake in a hot oven until soft. 
  2. When your potato is cooked leave it on the side to cool. Once cool the flesh will fall away from the skin easily.
  3. Place the potato flesh into a mixing bowl. Add to this the salt, suet, rice flour, chives and baking powder. Combine but do not over work.
  4. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Batch cook the dumplings around 4-5 at a time. Make them the size of a heaped teaspoon or a conservatively filled dessertspoon. 
They are tasty enough by themselves but most things in the world work with sweet chilli dipping sauce.
sweet potato dumpling recipe