Juggling all the aspects of my life with some baking, writing and good old fashioned ranting thrown in

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Recipes from the Hairy Dieters

It was a bit of a shock when the Hairy Bikers, my favourite television cooks, appeared on the One Show looking much slimmer. They described their new programme, Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight, and I was immediately interested. 

Having watched a few episodes, I have decided to try out a few of the recipes. Today, we had Toasted crumpets and warm spiced berries with yoghurt and honey and for lunch, a tuna Niçoise wrap. I did change the recipes a tiny bit by using a mix of frozen berries in the breakfast and by leaving out the olives in the wrap, as I don't like them myself. 

I defrosted the frozen overnight in my fridge then, as that didn't quite do the job, cooked them for a little longer than suggested in the recipe. Both myself and my Little Monster (aged two) loved this dish, it was delicious. The ingredients go together very well. The mix of crunchy crumpet, smooth yoghurt, soft fruit and sweet honey is an utter delight. Plus, it's on 257 calories per portion! 

The tuna niçoise wrap was also delectable. Again, the different tastes and textures really complimented each other; crunchy from the beans and spinach, soft eggs and lovely taste of the fish. I was surprised to find how full I felt afterwards too, especially since it only contains 325 calories! 

These two recipes are fantastic examples of healthy yet tasty food. I look forward to trying more from the programme - particularly interested in the healthy pie recipe! 

Here are the recipes if you want to try them too:

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A short story, a novella or a novelette?

Despite having a novel on the go already, I decided to start writing a short story as well (there will be some shameless self-publicity for this at the end of the post). This is mostly because I have been writing this novel for quite a while and I know it's not going to be finished for a long time yet - I'm only roughly halfway through the first draft! 

But after showing my new work to my Other Half, he suggested that this story could be made much longer than a short story. Knowing that I have not got the time to start a whole new novel, plus that would risk the old one being forgotten, I wondered how long a short story could really be before it becomes something else. So I turned to my old friend, Google. It turns out, a short story is generally anything below 7,500 words. More than that, and it becomes a "novelette", something I had never even heard of before. A novella, which I ignorantly thought was just another, more fancy way of saying short story, is anything above 17,500 words. I had no idea that literary genres were so complicated! 

If you're interested in reading the first part of my short story, it can be found here: http://ameliaappletree.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/short-story/

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Doctor Who Experience: My Review

"A Madman with a box"

Being a family of Doctor Who fans, we were very excited to visit the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay yesterday. Unfortunately, the day began with a problem - there are very limited instructions on how to find the attraction. However, I made a quick call to the helpline, spoke to a very helpful advisor who gave me some useful directions. 

On arrival, we found there was quite a lengthy queue but this is to be expected at such places. Of course, the Little Monster was not too thrilled about it but we managed to keep her quiet and distracted - it helped that clips from the programme were being shown on screens in the foyer area. 

TARDIS set from the Tom Baker years
Eventually, a friendly guide ushered us through the doors and into the interactive portion of the Experience. The Doctor then guided us through an adventure, including a ride in the TARDIS and encounters with a few of his worst enemies. Our own Little Monster was a little scared by the daleks but afterwards said that they were her favourite part of the whole thing! Smoke and lighting effects, 3D video, interactive controls and moving floors all helped to create a very exciting atmosphere and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. 

After the adventure was over, we were led into an exhibition of props and objects from the programme, including various costumes, monsters and even some of the different TARDIS sets. 

The Doctor's Worst Enemy: The Daleks
All in all, we found the Experience to be a brilliant day out and well worth the ticket price, which initially may seem expensive. Definitely must for any Doctor Who fan! 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Sunshine and Smoothies

I was thrilled when the sunshine came back yesterday. As my terrible luck would have it, I had errands to run unfortunately so we didn't get much of a chance to enjoy it. We have a family day out planned for tomorrow but I really wanted to make the most of the sunshine and my matching sunny mood today.

After some consideration, me and my Little Monster headed off to the supermarket, bought loads of fruit then returned home, where we whizzed it up into lovely, summery, fruity smoothies.

This one is a mango smoothie. It was extremely simple to make: 

2 mangoes, peeled and chopped up
300 ml semi-skimmed milk
some ice

Put the mango and milk in the blender and blend until smooth. Put ice into glasses or into a jug then pour over the smoothie mixture. The recipe I read says to put into the fridge to chill but I found leaving it two minutes with the ice in was quite enough really. It makes enough for two adult portions or 4 child portions

Absolutely delicious. Later, I shall be making more for the Other Half - his favourite, banana and honey:

1 banana
300ml semi-skimmed milk
handful of ice 
1-2 tbsp honey 

Put everything in the blender. Its that simple! 

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A new beginning

I have started a new blog. I love my current blog dearly but I realise that its a personal blog about my life and I would like to have a separate blog for my writing. Do not despair, I say with some sarcasm, as I shall try to keep this blog up as well. Besides, where else would I express my pride at every one of my daughter's achievements (today, she managed to sing the chorus to "Rumour has it" by Adele!) and rant about everything that annoys me.

If you wish to take a little look, here is a link to my new writing-focused blog: http://ameliaappletree.wordpress.com/

Monday, 6 August 2012

A new study year approaches

The summer holidays are in full swing and yet I'm already looking ahead to my next Open University course, Creative Writing (A215), which will begin in a little less than eight weeks. With my first two courses, I was reading my set books at this point to prepare myself. But this course has no set books, only the textbooks which will arrive sometime in September. In all likelihood, I won't have time to even read them before the course starts as September is set to be incredibly busy, what with our family holiday, the Little Monster's birthday and a few other social engagements.

There are a few things I can do to prepare. Firstly, I can buy my new stationary. It may sound rather sad but there's something rather wonderful about a brand new, clean notebook, ready and waiting to be filled. I have heard other writers comment on how daunting a blank page can be but, for me, its inspiring. I plan to have a little notebook to carry around with me, so that if a good idea hits me I have something to jot it down before its wiped frustratingly from my memory. I'll also have a nice big notebook, probably hardback, to keep assignments drafts and planning. This leads onto the second thing I can do to prepare for my course: write. Although I regularly use my laptop for writing, especially for writing my novel as it would only need to be typed up later anyway, I never feel a craving to type, only to handwrite. At times, I simply have an impulse to write. Learning some writing exercises has given me something to write about when I don't feel in the mood for writing my novel. Plus, in one case so far, a writing exercise has turned easily into a short story. 

Thirdly, and many argue this is of the utmost importance for a  would-be writer, I can prepare by reading. This part is already going well, given that I have just finished reading The Hunger Games Trilogy (which was brilliant, by the way). Now I am looking for something new to read - recommendations are extremely welcome. I used to read books on holidays but something tells me I'll be a little busy keeping my Little Monster happy! 

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games

I promise I will try not to give any spoilers in this post as I know all too well how angering it is to be looking forward to reading a book, only to have it spoilt by something a careless person has written on the internet.

After a day of illness on Monday, yesterday afternoon I decided that I felt well enough to begin reading the new books my Other Half kindly bought me (under condition that he'll be reading them straight after me): The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I have been hearing nothing but good things about these books for a long time and was pleased to finally get stuck in. From the beginning, they did not disappoint. The story had me hooked very quickly and I found it difficult to put down.

Yes, dark visions of the future are fairly common in literature but this certainly felt different to others of the same theme. Much of the imagery was quite original and what was unoriginal probably couldn't have been easily avoided. The main character was someone, though much younger than myself, that I felt I could understand and relate to. She is also an actual strong female figure, something that seems to be lacking in many books. The romance is limited, which is quite a welcome change, and well woven into the rest of the story rather than seeming to be wedged in to catch a wider audience. There is a little teenage angst and emotional confusion but it feels real and not overdone, the kind one might expect a real sixteen year old to go through.

There is some blood and guts, which makes it very unlike many of the books I have read, particularly one with a female protagonist. Again, this is well done and not too much gory detail is added unnecessarily.

The ending of the first book isn't quite a cliff-hanger but I would definitely have been left frustrated had the second book, Catching Fire had not been to hand. All too often with sequels, I am a little bored by the beginning as the writer almost retells the whole of the first book so as to help the reader catch up, though I am unsure of who would read the second of a trilogy first and would therefore need to be caught up. Luckily, Collins doesn't feel the need to do this, instead putting details of the first book in as she goes, which doesn't bore me at all as the story is progressing constantly.

I am now well into the second book and will probably follow up this post once I have finished the third book!