On Friday, after days of umming and aah-ing, I signed up for an Arvon Foundation course. This London gal will be Scotland bound in April. For a week of writing. A week of working solidly on my novel. And hopefully getting ideas and feedback and inspiration from others. Yes, it cost a bomb. But at last my money and my mouth seem to be meeting.
I said this was my year of action, and I meant it. And I've finally reached a point where I would rather fail than never try.
And making big happy decisions like this gives you free rein to go with your fiance to a fancy Italian deli/wine bar where you can drink red wine and eat cheese - lots of cheese - and raise a glass to your action, and think that finally, finally, you are making things happen for yourself.
Hi everyone! Happy new year, and I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Mine was excellent, though I was pretty pooped by the end of it! I worked like a demon to get the meal on the table! It all went very well though, and I was delighted with the murmurs of approval and "yummy noises" (and clean plates!) around the dinner table!
Someone had me awake at 4.15am because he was very excited (apparently)! Thankfully we went back to sleep and dozed for a few more hours before deciding to get up!
We had M&S croissants and tea in front of the tree and then gave each other Christmas presents - I got the complete set of The House of Eliott on DVD, which I've been after for about 10 years! I got Tom some CDs he wanted, and also a new LCD television (part Christmas present, part engagement present! What a cool fiancee/future wife I am, ha ha :P)
I'd done lots of prep the day before so thankfully most of what I had to do on Christmas Day could be done at the last minute. Had a few moments of "oh dear God, I've still got X to do, Y to finish and the table to set..." but eventually I just had to relinquish my aspirations of perfection and doing it all myself, and let other people help! It made it a lot easier! :)
I didn't get into my Christmas dress until everything was in the oven (I wore the bridesmaid dress from my sister's wedding in October), but to protect my old favourite grey dress Tom's mum and sister made me a very cute apron to wear while I cooked - out of some old tea towels, a scarf, some Christmas baubles and some VIVA stickers! I loved it!
Excuse my pink ugg boots and very messy kitchen!
During present opening we had champagne, olives I marinated myself, blinis with salmon for those who wanted some fish, blinis with extra mushroom mixture from the aubergine main course, and a cheese platter:
I was very spoiled and got some gorgeous things - books, L'Occitane shower gel and scented candles, a sweater dress from Anthropologie - and was delighted that the presents we gave the family were well received too. Tom's parents also got us a joint present - a new "granny trolley" to do our shopping with. We don't have a car, so this little old thing is essential for our weekly trips to Sainsbury's. The "old granny" we had, inherited from the flat we rented in North London last year, was starting to wear out and couldn't even stand up on her own any more! So we were very pleased with that.
Thanks to freezing temperatures, we chilled the beer and wine outside! Tom cleared a space under the barbecue especially :) We keep wine and beer outside all the time at this time of year! I find sometimes the wine is chilled just from the walk home. Brrrr!
While I dished up in the kitchen, the table was set:
And then I unveiled the feast! We had a Linda McCartney roast and stuffing, sauteed sprouts, roast potatoes, roast parsnips and carrots, onion gravy and...the main course was a delicious Aubergine Charlotte with tomato pesto and goat's cheese custard (recipe at the end of the post).
We have a very small flat, so I wasn't sure how we were going to go with the serving/eating of the meal, but it all worked very well in the end. And the food was all very delicious! We could barely move by the end of it.
The tradition in my own family back home is to sleep after Christmas lunch! Seeing there wasn't enough room for all of us to do that (!), we decided to go for a walk in the frosty cold along to Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.
We watched the sunset (it wasn't even 5pm!) as we walked back home up along the Thames. It was really beautiful.
Then we had pudding! My mother-in-law made this pudding, and we set it alight with some whisky:
To go with pudding we also had some poached pears and gingerbread ice cream. The ice cream was very easy to make - I just got some good quality supermarket vanilla ice cream, blended it with crumbled ginger cake, glace ginger pieces and a bit of whisky. Worked a treat!
Then we settled in with a nice whisky (Tom's dad and me) and port (the others), some Lindt balls and The Hangover. After the movie we got my parents on Skype and said happy Boxing Day to them!
It was a lovely Christmas day, my first actually spent in London (we have gone to Tom's parents in Wales for Christmas the last few years) and one I will remember for a long time!
And now to face all the excitement, adventure and challenges of 2010. I hope you're all as pumped as I am!
More soon! :)
And for those who would like to try my Christmas day main dish, here it is! It's fun to make and quite satisfying to turn out on to the plates! Do let me know if you try it.
Tomato or red pepper based pesto (I used Waitrose red pepper and almond) Fresh basil leaves
15g butter/low fat spread/dairy free spread
2 T olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Handful of herbs - I used basil, parsley and thyme - chopped
200g mixed mushrooms - I used chestnut mushrooms and Sainsbury's "exotic mushroom mix" - wiped and finely chopped
Goat's cheese custard:
200g tub creme fraiche
200g goat's cheese, plus more to finish
Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). From each aubergine, take a slice off the end opposite the stalk to remove the curve, the slice off a disc about 1/4 inch thick to aact as the base. Then cut the aubergines lengthwise into slices about 1/4 inch thick.
Chargill the aubergine discs and slices, or fry them briefly in a non-stick pan until tender and browned. Allow to cool. [you can do this the day before]
To make the mushroom stuffing, heat the butter and oil in a heavy based pan and gently sweat the shallots with the garlic and herbs until the shallots are softened. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes.
To make the goat's cheese custard, beat the egg into the creme fraiche and bring slowly to a simmer in a small saucepan. Immediately take off the heat, crumble in the goat's cheese and mix in well. Season with salt and pepper.
The original recipe says line four charlotte moulds with foil - I looked high and low all over London for charlotte moulds and couldn't find them anywhere. So I got mugs, just plain ordinary coffee mugs (ones that I didn't mind what happened to!) and lined them with foil. Leave lots of overhang. Then drop in the aubergine discs for the bases, and line the sides with the slices, overlapping and again allowing the ends to overhang. Try not to leave any gaps, you want to make a nice cave for the filling!
Put a tablespoon of the tomato pesto in the bottom of each, follow that with a few spoonfuls of mushroom stuffing, then the goat's cheese custard, and top with whole basil leaves. Finish with a slice or two of extra goat's cheese.
Bring the overhanging slices of aubergine up and over to seal the top of the charlottes and bake them for about 20-30 minutes.
Let stand for about 5 minutes so the custard is set. Then - and you will need a helper here - pick up one mug/mould, place a dinner plate on top, then turn upside down quickly. Set the plate down and slowly lift the mug off. Gently pull the foil away. Be really gentle so the charlotte doesn't disintegrate.
Serve with a bit of extra tomato pesto on the side - and all your Christmas trimmings!
When I think of everything I would like to accomplish, this year and in my life as a whole, most of it involves me biting the bullet and just going for it. It's not that I can't do things, or don't have the drive or resources or wherewithal....I just that I don't do things, for unfathomable and rubbish reasons. Too tired, too busy, too (and so it goes).
2009 was a huge improvement on 2008. But there is still work to be done.
Tom originally suggested I use the word "progress" as my aim for 2010, and I liked that - because I definitely want to be moving forward, in many areas of my life - but the more I thought about it, the more the word "action" just kept jumping around in my head. And then I read this:
“Action is the foundational key to all success.” - Pablo Picasso
"Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living." - Anais Nin
Oh yes. Oh yes.
So, what does ACTION mean for me?
Action means contacting interviewees for my next Tumbler articles.
Action means going to the library and writing on Saturdays, instead of going to the King's Road.
Action means going for a run or doing yoga instead of tucking into the reserves of Christmas chocolate and watching Come Dine With Me for two hours (CDWM is TV crack by the way).
Action means having a positive and confident attitude instead of a defeatist one.
Action means getting up earlier and walking to work instead of relying so much on the tube.
Action means writing as much of my novel as I can.
Action means revamping this blog.
Action means ironing my clothes.
Action means submitting for Open Arts Cafe.
Action means applying for an Arvon course.
Action means realising what is worth fighting for, and what is not.
Action means thinking a bit more about the future.
Action means reading more.
Action means doing what I say I will do.
Action means uncovering and unleashing my full potential.
Action means no longer saying yes when I really mean "no thanks".
Action means being strong.
Action means discipline, and being accountable.
Action means choosing to see the positive.
Action means following up and following through, on everything.
Action means realistic expectations, and meeting them.
Action means decluttering.
Action means getting organised, responsible and socially useful.
Action means getting ideas out of my head and into the world.
Action means being the best writer, and the best person, I can be.
Photo taken on Christmas Day, at the Tate Britain
And guess what?I bit the bullet last night and did the first thing on the list. And now I have two interviews lined up and ready to go.
This feels really good.
Here's to a year full of ACTION!
“Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, their lack of good fortunes or the quirks of fate. Everyone has within them the power to say, “This I am today, that I shall become tomorrow.” The wish, however, must be implemented”. - louis l’amour