Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Travel Tuesday

When Mr Z and I went to Italy in the summer, probably the best thing we did was take a cooking class. I felt very fortunate to land a place as I only emailed about a week beforehand, thanks to the craziness of my summer schedule, but luckily we managed to bag some places alongside a Canadian-Italian couple who clearly didn't need any help.

Neither did Mr Z as it turned out, because he spends a lot of time watching videos of nonnas cooking on YouTube. Who knew?

It was a very relaxed evening that began by meeting Gianna and then taking a trip to the local food market, to shop for the freshest and best ingredients with which to make our dinner.

We stopped on the way back to her kitchen for a little coffee with almond milk, which is a Leccese speciality. It's not really almond milk: it's almond syrup. I approve. 

Once we got into the kitchen we started cooking a feast. It began with making some focaccia, which involved grating a small boiled potato in with the flour and and yeast. I got to press the dough into the dish when it had risen. That was a lot of oil. No wonder it tasted so good. 

With some caramelised onions and my favourite buratta cheese. 

After that we were taught to make pasta. We made a couple of different kinds, including the local orechiette, which are meant to look like ears, and little tubes. What was leftover, we made into spaghetti. 

It was quite hot in there. 

We made a fresh tomato sauce to go with the pasta, which involved squeezing the tomatoes underwater to get rid of all the seeds - a good tip. We also wrapped chicken thighs around sun dried tomatoes and then rolled them in good bacon, and made another meat dish that I have already forgotten about...clearly I didn't take enough pictures...and Gianna made a panacotta for us to enjoy afterwards with her three home-created spirits.

These were limoncello, rhubarb and the third? I forget. They were quite strong. 

It was an excellent experience that came with plenty of wine and I really enjoyed spending some time cooking with assistance, as well as chatting to the nice couple who was there with us. Gianna had good English but her daughter, though heavily pregnant, stayed the whole time to act as translator when needed. I can definitely recommend going along to one of these sessions if you ever go to Lecce. In fact, I might go again if (when) we return to southern Italy - I'm thinking next May half term. Already queuing up next summer's holidays. 

Monday, 19 November 2018

Blue Monday

A throwback to my last big adventure.

This was the train that transported us from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, or 'Machu Picchu town' as it is otherwise known. It was a comfy tourist train with windows in the ceiling and a friendly snack trolley. And look hoe blue it was! Almost as if it was meant to be.

I'm having fond memories of my trip there this evening and wishing I could go back again, though there's not much to warrant a second visit. I guess it was just nice to explore and see new things.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Sunday Selfie

I looked back through my phone for the week and my only selfie is a very bad one I tried to take with the Six queens in the background (they actively encourage this) so I am sharing this one of me and Mother Hand at the Vyne, which we visited in half term.

Happy new week, everyone!

Weekend WIP

I finally cast on the purple hat Mother Hand has requested for Christmas. I'm using Ysolda Teague's Gretel pattern, which I discovered in my library but have never knitted - I must have bought it years ago and then never cast on.

The yarn is Noro Cash Iroha, which I bought from my knitting group friend Emma's stash some years ago. I think I've used all the other stuff I bought so it is high time this was made up and loved. It's a soft blend of silk, cashmere goat and wool, with a bit of nylon in there. It's been quite nice to knit with so far and has a good sheen, which is good because this purple is daaaaaark and it could do with a bit of shine.

Ysolda offers three options for this beret - fitted, regular and slouchy. I think I might go for fitted, purely because every time I make Mother Hand a hat she seems to try to wear it like a beanie, even though I always knit it as a beret. At least this way it might work both ways.

Weeknote: 17/10

I did eventually pull out the purple yarn this week and cast on for Mother Hand's hat. The yarn came out midweek but the casting on didn't happen until this morning. I was annoyed that I didn't have anything to knit all week, but not annoyed enough to go to the trouble of doing the long-tailed tubular cast on (which in the end I didn't do anyway).

It's been a while since I knitted a hat and I am pleasantly surprised with how quickly it is going.

Going to:
I went to an exercise class at the leisure centre on Sunday, for the first time this year. I am ashamed to say I pay a monthly fee for the leisure centre and have not been since New Year's Eve last year. That means that exercise class cost me £350. I am booked to go again tomorrow though, so I will get a bit more of my money's worth, particularly if I can keep up my attendance. I hadn't realised my nearest centre, Longwell Green, was offering Les Mills classes and I quite like those, formulaic though they are, because you always know what you're getting.

I did some training for some primary colleagues on Tuesday which was fun and interesting - they face such different challenges, I think, that's it's always a pleasure to chat to them.

On Wednesday I went to a Henry VIII lecture by Tracy Borman. It was very entertaining. I went beforehand to ask her to sign my book (Private Lives of the Tudors, I recommend) and she was very lovely. She asked if I was studying History and, when I told her I was a teacher, she had the grace to pretend I looked young enough to be a student. Thus I adore her and will be buying all her books.
In the questions at the end, one man asked about the rumour that Henry VIII was syphilitic. He turned out to be something of an expert on the topic and gave us all his evidence to support this theory. Fascinating, but also made me think of what I often say to my A-level students - never underestimate what old white men are willing to argue about. Tbf he wasn't that old but I think my point stands.

On Friday I went to a Japanese-themed birthday party for my ex-colleague Xannah. I was caught short for an outfit so I went on Parpy Jo's suggestion and wore a tabard covered in sarcastic comments - 'a bottle of saki'. The first person to ask, when I said, 'I'm saki!', replied, 'Who's that?' so I don't think I can claim this as an unmitigated success, but it was OK.

On Saturday, after knitting group, I went to Southampton with my friend V to see Six again, and then had dinner with my old colleague and friend Paul and his not-so-new boyfriend, who I hadn't previously met. Six was as excellent as it was the first time round and I am already plotting a return to London in 2019, when it goes back to the Arts Theatre. It was great to see it with V, a fellow historian, so that we could discuss how clever and spot on it all was.

A busy week! I am getting my life back.

Entertained by:
Six, obviously.

I have picked up a fiction book I bought last year, Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer. It's good so far. It's about two brothers living through the 1348 plague - I haven't got any further than that yet.

I've been watching the Little Drummer Girl on the beeb (they are killing it for drama this year) but finding it quite hard to follow. Still, the late 70s vibe is very good visually. I want all their coats.

Quite enthused, really. Christmas is in sight. I've got a week at school with no interruptions next week, for only the third time this academic year. There are some other fun events coming up over the next month that I'm looking forward to, and minimal additional work, for once. The new sofas are being delivered at the end of next week and the new curtains will follow shortly after, and then we can put the Christmas tree up and really enjoy the space. Hurrah, hurrah.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Strictly: My Dance of the Night

CONTROVERSY this week, as I go for the pro dance. I absolutely adored Gloria Estefan as a kid and had her greatest hits album, a fact I had actually forgotten until I saw this number (all my albums got stolen when Mother Hand moved house, in the days before digital music was really a thing, so I have only replaced what I've remembered...hence the gap which I shall be addressing shortly).

Truthfully, this pro dance gets me out of a hole as no way could I even narrow it down to two this week. I can't remember a season I have enjoyed as much as this one. Stacey's salsa, Fay's paso doble, Joe's quickstep, Ashley's jive and Charles's samba - all joint top for me. Graeme's sheer pleasure in dancing the jazz theatre was also delightful to watch. And Kate and Lauren came a very close third to all of this. Impossible to choose.

The final is going to be incredible.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Fave Friday

I love a good history T-shirt. Here are two that have come my way this year.