101 things in 1001 days: Host a dinner party and make it beautiful

      101 things in 1001 days

So, I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and with many of my 101 things being to improve my ability to cook this one seemed like a good one to test out my newly improved skills at the stove. It’s not that I’m bad at it, I just never make the time and when I do it’s something easy or quick. Although it often tastes rather wonderful it’s never exactly a culinary masterpiece. Now, as you all know I recently moved into a new house and despite telling myself I would have a housewarming it’s been a couple of weeks since I moved in. Perfect excuse for a get together and to invite a couple of wonderful friends round; on the menu, dips and chips to start, vegetarian chilli for main and chocolate fudge brownie dessert for dinner. Pretty simple but pretty tasty.

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I started by buying a number of little tea light candles and crimson napkins. The house is so beautiful and the colours are so warm that once I had set the table with the round smooth chocolate coloured plates and had put out the jewel coloured coasters; a criss-cross design of ruby, emerald and sapphire squares it all looked a little wonderful. I then set about on the chilli. I started by cutting up two onions into little squares and two peppers; one red and one green. These were gently softened in the pan with some oil which took a little longer than thought but all in good time; let em get all soft and yummy. I then added the Quorn and browned that off which is a little difficult to do when it starts and ends the same colour but I cooked it off a little. Then I made up 400ml of vegetable stock. It did say 200 and a glass of red wine but I had none in so I just popped in a little more stock. After adding this to the pan with a tsp of chilli powder, ground coriander and cinnamon I pushed up the heat and let it bubble away. I then added two tins of chopped tomato and a tin of kidney beans and turned down the heat. I then let it cook for a little longer and then added a few more shakes of chilli powder.

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When my guests arrived I stuck the rice on and popped a stick of garlic bread in the oven and turned the chilli onto a low heat to warm up. I served the food with guacamole, sour cream and a bowl of chopped up chilli just in case it wasn’t hot enough. Chilli probably wasn’t the best choice because I had no idea for the life of me how hot people like their chilli. If it’s my mother cooking it you better be ready for some serious heat but I just wanted a kick at the end and then everyone could add heat accordingly. I must admit I think it tasted pretty good and was just the right amount. The only small error is I didn’t quite cook enough rice which is a little silly because when it’s me I always end up with a huge amount left over but for five I wasn’t sure how to judge it. Saying that people did have seconds and there was a little left over for dinner the next night. I then served the pudding with passion fruit frozen yoghurt which I think went down a treat.

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Overall I think it was a roaring success but then it is me. I’ve always marvelled at my mother’s ability to organise a three course meal and even with almost everything ready I was a little stressed and flustered despite being overly prepared. (Printing out four different chilli recipes and having dinner cooked an hour in advance, I was looking pretty good.) I’m really intrigued to do this again and serve something a little more complex. I make a mean Thai green curry and think that would go down a treat. It was the perfect way to celebrate my new house and the move, and something I will definitely be doing again.

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101 things in 1001 days: Keep a Swear Jar for a month

101 things in 1001 days

Good morning lovely readers, it’s been an odd couple of weeks for me, and I think it’s because I finally realised how incredibly unhappy living in Stoke is making me. I know this will come of no surprise to a number of my closer friends, but recently the trains home every weekend, and the 4 am starts come Monday morning are becoming a time killer for both me and my wonderfully compromising parents. This last week or so I’ve been putting into motion, the steps to help me move back to the south of the country and be closer to the people that mean the most to me and to put my lifelong plans for working and living in London into place. It might be a dream and potentially an unrealistic goal but after this realisation of how much I need to get out of the cold, dank and frankly dire house I currently reside in, I need to start making my ambitions a reality.

Today’s 101 things post at first probably won’t make a lot of sense to begin with in terms of this change but this month’s swear jar really enlightened me a little. First things first I added this to the list because before I went to university I thought swearing was incredibly impolite and made it my mission to never let an offensive word slip. However, over the last couple of years and especially in the past seven months since working for an engineering firm I’ve found the number of times I’m using offensive language reaching an uncouth level. I thought it’d be nice to include it and get an idea of how often I’m swearing and put the money towards something (if you have any ideas please pop them in the comments below.) The swear jar was 50p a swear no matter how offensive and I noted how many  I was saying down in my diary during the days of the month of January.

For the first couple of days, it wasn’t too bad, I was trying to keep an eye on it and make sure that my language was polite however this swiftly came to a stop. A number of days in I came home from work to see a friend, I popped over to Sainsbury’s to buy ingredients for the pizza I was making for another 101 days challenge and upon entering I found the power and heating to be completely out. Running down to cellar, I pushed the button for emergency electricity before finding out even that had run completely dry. I cannot fathom how the two other lodgers living in my house had spent the day with no electricity or heating as the house was incredibly chilly. Let’s just say a number of words may have left my mouth in quick succession. The week after, eyes lazy with sleep and with the house utterly icy I stumbled into the bathroom, turned on the shower and left it to warm up whilst I grabbed my pink fluffy towel. Jumping in without checking, it seemed that the meter was once again out, and the water was so icy that even washing it under the stream of water gave me unbearable brain freeze. Yet again another number of expletives. This happened on another number of other occasions. With the swear jar piling up a couple of tough days at work, a troublesome EBlast, a couple of nights out, and my generally clumsy nature that leaves me rather bruised on a daily basis, I guess the jar was spilling over.

Saying all this there were a number of days where I didn’t swear at all, and I’m including bad words not just your regular swear words that I will not list here. The last week there were very little and so, in terms of money the final jar was £31.50 which is just over a swear a day. I actually really enjoyed doing this challenge although I won’t be doing it again any time soon because even though I am no longer keeping a swear jar I do think to myself, oh that’s another fifty pence, or how many times have you sworn today. It’s created an internal check on the words I’m saying. It has also reinforced my knowledge that even if I don’t leave Stoke I need to find somewhere else to live, in the not too distant future because so many of the swears came from not having heating or freezing water in the shower. It’s helped make that move seem more important and I’ll let you know how I’m getting on in making those steps as they happen!

101 things in 1001 days: Taste five cocktails I’ve never tried before

Recently I’ve been really struggling to complete any of the tasks on the 101 things in 1001 days list and I’m slipping behind a little in terms of my schedule. Browsing through the list yesterday I spotted one that I had missed, that being ‘taste five cocktails you haven’t tried before.’ In the past few months or so I know I’ve tried a number of new cocktails that definitely add up to over five however I’ve picked a few of my favourites.

Last year, sometime during July me and my then housemate Laura discovered the Coconut margarita cocktail; the usual recipe with a dash of Malibu. This has started a little bit of an obsession with this new type of margaritas. Tequila is a favourite of mine; however recently our bar of choice for cocktails changed hands and was re-named (The Kiln) quite suitable seeing the provenance of the potteries to Stoke-On-Trent. Although the menu is now missing the delectable coconut margaritas they have introduced two new flavours; the first passion fruit the second raspberry. Despite trying the two a number of times me and my cocktail buddy Ollie have yet to decide which is the better of the two.

The next new cocktail of choice, came about when me and my darling mother travelled to Glasgow for a weekend away; if the margaritas is unavailable I will normally go for a Cosmopolitan made rather famous due to being the favourite of the Sex and the City gals. This ‘cosmo’ was laced with strawberry and burnt orange and was rather wonderful however my mother decided to go for a orange based cocktail with a chilli kick. Blended with a dash of Tabasco this cocktail was delicious to say the least and although I don’t remember the name of it so well it was incredibly lovely. The next new cocktail choice came on a night out in Milton Keynes only a month or so ago; my dear friend Leanne is a big fan of the creamy cocktails either with a hit of coffee or chocolate liquor. We went to Las Iguanas a favourite of ours and tried the utterly delicious Crema Chido. A blend of Mexican liqueurs, Xta, with honey & aniseed
flavours, shaken with Kahlua, cream & almond syrup. It’s not something I would particularly pick however it was really good.

The final cocktail is one that I had whilst once again frequenting the bar The Kiln with one of my philosophy student friends. When the chain swapped hands they definitely increased their range of interesting cocktails and this one was named Wine gums from their Candy Shop menu. Sporting St-Germain elderflower liqueur, Chambord, Bombay Sapphire, apple juice and lemon and at the bottom of the glass was a selection of actual wine gums that became sticky in the alcoholic liquid. It not only tasted delicious but the wine gums were devoured and were pretty great. There are a number that I haven’t mentioned that didn’t make it onto the list however these were my favourites of the bunch!

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101 Things in 1001 Days: Watch a film starring Audrey Hepburn

101 things in 1001 days

Good afternoon my lovely, lovely readers; it’s time for another 101 things in 1001 days post which I hope you will all enjoy. Now this point on my list is due to my terrible habit of putting off things that I really want to do, but instead just don’t. I have explained this before but if I really want to do something instead of getting it done, I put it off, and put it off. It’s so ridiculously silly because I want to desperately do the task in hand. So I put them on the list and then I have to!

See, I love Audrey Hepburn; she is an absolute star. I think she is the ultimate female, stunningly beautiful, a style icon and one of my big female crushes. Posters of her adorned my walls throughout my years at university but, I am a fickle fan. My love for her is completely shallow; I have never seen any of her films, which means yes, all the posters denoting her in Breakfast At Tiffanies, ultimately mean nothing to me. I have tried to watch the film before but just never got round to it. So on my last trip to the Potteries in Stoke on Trent, I picked up a copy (and a copy of the Breakfast club which I have also never seen) and a few nights ago I snuggled up in my favourite spot, with my duvet, a bowl of salt and vinegar spirals and a glass of wine and sat down to watch.

Wonderful, truly wonderful. If you love a little love story this is perfect; Hepburn is naïve, a little crazy, irrational and outlandish. Her character flits about charming everyone whilst also being in her own little world. Please, someone take me to a party like the ones she throws in her darling apartment; we could sit in the smoke fug and drink and natter whilst comparing outfits, it would be my pleasure. Hepburn and George Peppard, who plays her love interest, display such charming personas and their intoxicating performance together led me to feel a little warm inside and I loved the way that he was so desperate to capture the obvious love that is felt between the two of them but his inability to grasp it and make her his is so lovely and kept me so very entertained. It’s chic and heady and yet also funny. The characters are so droll and witty I couldn’t believe it when I read bad reviews; this film is delightful. The evocative cinematography and the humour combined made for a wonderfully charming and enchanting film. I loved it and my love for Miss Hepburn has increased a mile.

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Fight Club: Chuck Palahniuk

101 things in 1001 days

*Spoilers: I have never had to do this before, but I’m worried I’ll ruin it if you want to read this book, so read if you know what happens or don’t mind knowing!’

Evening readers, today is another 101 things in a 1001 days, but it is also a book review. See, one of the points on the list is to ask twenty friends, to offer different books that I have to read and then review. Now, my friends did an incredible job and I have those twenty book stored up and ready to get my teeth into. The thing is you can get stuck in a rut as a book reviewer; I almost exclusively read books sent to me by authors. When I set up my reviews page I had no idea that six months later I would still be receiving books in their droves. Naïve Lizzy, didn’t realise when reading review blogs stating they could not receive books, it was because they were snowed under a mountain already. Although I am yet to ask authors to stop sending books if it continues I will unfortunately have too! To give myself a break, and stop myself getting into another reading rut, I have asked for some new inspiration, some new books, and a new lease of life to my list of 1001 days. The book I will be reviewing today is Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. This was delightfully recommended by a fellow Keele student, and my nearly next door neighbour Otis. Otis is a rather special friend and is also an avid reader; if you ever have the pleasure of meeting Otis you should ask him what delightful pocket book he is carrying and then have a conversation about how good or bad it is. See, Otis a burgeoning writer and poet, is a bit of a bookworm himself and therefore I knew he would offer up something brilliant. Well, I wasn’t wrong, so thank you my dear friend, and from this onto the review!

‘The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club, the second rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.’ That very famous line; everyone’s heard of it right? Everyone’s seen the film right? Cough, no. I have so far not been exposed to the cult following of Fight Club. I always assumed that some day it would appear in my life but so far it has been avoided, and only now do I wish I had witnessed this more recently. I had assumed this was a run-of-the-mill book about men fighting, how wrong could one reader be. It really shows you should never have expectations before reading a book. Instead of my once again naïve beliefs, the book follows the unknown narrator, a poor chap suffering from insomnia. Unable to sleep for days at a time, he hates himself, his job as a product recall specialist for a car retailer and he hates his life saturated with nothingness. His life changes suddenly when he meets the madman Tyler Durden, a charismatic, obsessive, off-the-wall type character who is opposed to social structure and capitalism. They form an underworld fight club as an extreme type of therapy. See, before the narrator meets Tyler he has been attending self-help clubs for terminally ill individuals. It is only here that the narrator can find hope in his world of hatred. However, when a destructive character named Marla Singer infiltrates his safe nest and threatens to expose his lies that he is not in fact ill, he needs to find a new type of therapy. The Fight Club spreads with more and more men joining despite the strap line being as said above. However instead of being only for therapy, the club grows to encourage destruction and rebellion across the country and is renamed Project Mayhem; this club now focuses entirely on the destruction of society rather than as a therapy to the men.

The main premise of the book is a character creates a new and secret society set up to reclaim the instincts that have been lost due to a society obsessed with consumerism. The Fight Club ultimately allows men to transcend this addictive lifestyle and return to a raw and un-repressed state. However the club becomes an organisation obsessed with terrorist activity and becomes an oxymoron of what the club was set up originally to do, and therefore our unknown narrator becomes a victim to his problems once again. In terms of structure and length the book is easy to follow and is straightforward in its writing style. Told by a narrator it doesn’t wallow in overly descriptive passages meaning it moves with pace. The storyline does jump a little and at times I found myself a little confused however I think it is meant to make you feel a little helpless so you understand more the confusion the narrator is feeling in his life. I also loved how we are placed right into the action; as we read the first sentence we realise that we are on the top of a building that is about to explode and there is a barrel of a gun in the inside of our cheek; pretty powerful eh?

What I loved about the book was how ultimately downtrodden and depressing it was; the book is saturated with pessimism and morbid events. This book stinks of male dominance through the need for power and acceptance through glorified violence. I loved the characters and I loved the mixing and matching of relationships. Tyler is sarcastic, fanatical, outlandish and outrageous and his manic character profile is ultimately the downfall of the rather more inward narrator. *Spoiler!* We find out as the book continues that the narrator and the extreme Tyler are actually indifferent. As the narrator sleeps this extreme and peculiar character in the form of Tyler takes riot, blundering and causing havoc. As, the narrator realises that he has fashioned this new personality the extremes he will have to take to control this outlandish second persona will taint him forever. I also found Marla’s character incredibly heart-wrenching, confused, maddening and eccentric; I couldn’t help but fall for her as a character. I also recently found out that she is played by Helena Bonham Carter, who is my ultimate favourite actress and I now cannot wait to get my hands on the film because I know she will be incredible portraying this lost soul.

So basically, if you hadn’t noticed I loved this book; it is grimy, bleak, harsh, dismal, dour and also enlightening. It is at times macabre but I loved it because it made me think. The double persona didn’t come to me until quite late into the book and I found myself relaying the events again to see if I could have picked it up sooner. Upon realising my mind immediately snapped back to this quote;

‘the old theatres that run a movie with two projectors, a projectionist had to stand right there to change projectors at the exact second so the audience never sees the break when one reel starts and one reel ran out.’

and it hit me how obvious the author was making it. The plan is the read something completely different and then re-read Fight Club to gain a second perspective on the book. Apologies that this review is so much longer than my usual posts, I just had to get it all out in one go. Thank you so much to Otis for recommending this I really enjoyed this book and found it incredibly different to anything I have read in a long, long, long time. I cannot wait to see what my other friends have got in store for me as if they are as good as this I know I will have a lot of fun making my way through the list.

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