Friday, 31 January 2014

Ice Skating with Holly

I can write a post again!!! This past week, my computer has been broken. After much to-ing and fro-ing, grr-ing and RAR-ing, I finally have it back! Not impressed with Apple in the least. But that's a different story...

So, now I have a few adventures to catch up on!

The first one is ice skating with Holly! We went the other weekend to the ice rink in Brighton by the Pavilion, and it was great! We did it last year too, and both agree it should stick around for longer over the winter period. It's a fun way to exercise, with music playing all around you, and a beautiful backdrop of the majestic Pavilion with it's glowing lights behind you. Even better if it's snowing, to complete the picture! :o)

After an enjoyable hour of perfect pirouettes, jumps and twirls (ahem...) we headed to the bar for drinks, settled in to watch the next session's skaters, and chatted over mulled wine (Holly) and a cup of tea (me. Stupid Dry January).

I love the Pavilion at night. So pretty with all it's changing colours!

It's a shame the rink has closed for winter now, but we'll be back next year I hope for our little yearly tradition :o)

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Low Carb, Gluten-Free Fajitas

For this very simple recipe for two hungry hippos (or three relatively peckish, civilised people), you will need:

For the chicken/veg filling:
5 chicken thighs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 chicken stock cube (or a splash of your own homemade chicken stock)
2 tbsp water
2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cumin
1 clove garlic or 1 tsp of 'easy garlic'
Generous pinch of fresh coriander
1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
1 red onion

For the salsa:
1 red onion
5 vine ripened tomatoes
1 tsp chilli flakes (or 2 if you're feeling brave!)
Lots of fresh coriander
Sea salt to taste

For everything else:
1 can of refried beans
2 Little Gem lettuces
200g Yeo Valley Organic Fat Free Natural Yoghurt
1 serving of rice
Extra mature grated cheddar cheese


1. Chop your chicken thighs, removing any fat, and put chunks in frying pan with olive oil. Sprinkle on stock cube, chilli, salt, paprika, brown sugar, cumin, and garlic. If and when the mix starts looking a bit dry, add the water.

2. While the chicken's cooking, chop your peppers and 1 red onion. Add to chicken mix when the chicken is almost fully cooked. Leave to cook all together so that the flavours of the mix infuse into your veg, too. Stir occasionally. Add coriander to taste.

3. To make your salsa, finely dice your other red onion. Put half of your tomatoes in a blender, and blend to a pulp with chilli flakes and sea salt. Dice the other half of your tomatoes and chop lots of fresh coriander. Mix all together in a bowl - the half pulped tomatoes and half diced give your salsa a good 'saucy' texture, without just turning into a bowl of juice.

4. Carefully peel back individual leaves of the Little Gem lettuces - you're going to use these as vehicles for all of your fillings, so try not to break them! :o) 

5. Cook your rice and get your refried beans warming through in a pan for 10 - 15 mins. Add some leftover diced red onion and coriander to your cooked rice if you like to give it a bit of a kick!

6. Grate your cheese, and serve!

Me and Sarah made these one rockin' Saturday night, in an effort to 'be good' and save some money after all of our festive indulgence last month - we ended up feeling a little smug at how naughty they tasted though! :o) Effortless virtue...

If you like fajitas, give them a try. With only natural ingredients, no gluten, and minus the carby tortillas, we were left feeling full to the brim, but without the horrible bloated feeling you can get sometimes after a Mexican feast. Kick back with an ice cold beer and enjoy! 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Hitting Hogwarts


Before reading or looking any further, please click here, and make sure your speakers are turned on.

Ahaha, now you have the perfect soundtrack to listen to whilst browsing :o) I'm listening to it right now as I write, and it's making me all excited again! Now... are you sitting comfortably...?

Last week, myself, Sarah, and Tora (our sister from another mister) packed our bags, broomsticks and owls, and headed to platform nine and three-quarters, ready to hit Hogwarts. Went I say Hogwarts, I mean the Harry Potter Studio Tour, where they filmed all of the HP films, in Watford.

It was so good! I think I actually enjoyed it more than the films themselves... everything around us just brought the stories to life before our very eyes. From the moment we stepped inside, where the Weasley's flying Ford Anglia was suspended from the ceiling, to the ticket queue where we walked past Harry's cupboard under the stairs, to the main sets themselves. After a quick session with the Sorting Hat (we all got in to Gryffindor, yay!), we went in.

The Great Hall was the first, and biggest set. We walked in, and the group we were with immediately dispersed, people excitedly clicking away with cameras at all of the costumes, props and sets, which are all the genuine ones used during filming. The floating candles (which we did see when we looked up in the gift shop...) were nowhere to be seen in the Hall. A little bit of investigating later, and we found out why - apparently every 'candle' was originally made of a tube filled with spirit oil and topped with a wick. They were suspended by a kind of wire, which was then digitally removed in post-production. But, after a short while of filming, the candles apparently burned through the wire, and fell on to the tables. So for the safety of the actors, the producers decided to just create illusions of the candles instead, with digital effects. FACTOID! 

I particularly enjoyed the fact that the Yule Ball (in the Goblet of Fire) architecture was apparently inspired by that of the Brighton Pavilion.

It was also amazing to see how small some of the sets where, like the Gryffindor boys' dormitory, and the common room. It really made you appreciate how clever the camera work must have been during filming!

The Mirror of Erised...

Harry's Invisibility Cloack, and the trunk that Mad Eye Moody was locked in! (Should I be this excited about a trunk?!)

The Gryffindor common room.

Can you imagine if this was your classroom?! This is the potions room, where Harry and his friends study under the watchful eye of Professor Snape. Tora tried to make a Polyjuice potion here, but we hurried away before she turned herself into a cat.

Two of my favourite sets had to be Hagrid's hut, and the Weasley's "Burrow". Amazing! This version of The Burrow was apparently only a small part of a much larger set (something to do with it being set on fire for one of the films, and the interior then being rebuilt for the final films), but it still came complete with Weasley costumes, mismatched tea sets, carrots chopping themselves, and a scarf knitting itself.

Hanging on the walls of the Hogwarts castle were nearly 350 enchanted portraits of old wizards and witches - and as a tribute to many of the film's crew (Muggles, to you and I), they were also immortalised in hand-painted portraits throughout the castle! Which is pretty cool. And if you look ve-e-e-ry closely, you'll see a portrait of Sarah, Tora and I hanging in Dumbledore's office... :o) 

Keep looking...

Next came the Ministry of Magic set. The huge fireplaces in the films stand at over 30 feet tall, and are part of the Floo Network. Me and Tora had great fun using our first batch of Floo Powder! Apparently, to create the "Ministry Look", inspiration was taken from the oldest London Tube stations, which are covered in ceramic tile. After months of research, the construction team mimicked that look using more than 30,000 green tiles made of wood. Oo-er!

BUTTERBEER TIME!! I was keen to try this, having heard mixed reviews. After a first careful sip... I can confirm that it is quite delicious! Tora and I shared a cup - it was too sweet to have a whole one - but delicious nonetheless.

The Knight Bus, Hagrid's motorbike, and Privet Drive were all in an outside area of the studio. I may have skipped a little up to the front door of 4, Privet Drive... it felt so surreal seeing it and standing outside! I was half expecting Daniel Radcliffe to open the door at any minute, or to peek in and see Vernon watching TV.

The last parts of the tour consisted of Diagon Alley, and the Hogwarts castle itself. Both of them kind of took your breath away. I could have happily spent hours wandering in and out of all the shops in Diagon Alley (but you couldn't go in them...) 

And the CASTLE! Hogwarts. THE Hogwarts. Fit into one room! The intricate detail of this magnificent model was mind blowing. And again,  the size of the entire model just showed how incredibly talented the camera crew were when shooting - it looked enormous in the films when the cameras were whooshing past the windows and turrets. 

And the last thing to do before leaving, was admire (and play with) the wands.

"EXPELLIARMUS!" (Sorry, had to get one in there...)

We really should have loaded up on Chocolate frogs, wands, and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans before leaving for the train journey home. But maybe that just gives us an excuse to go back... It was such a good day, and I would definitely recommend a visit to any fellow fans :o)

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