Welcome to my world!

The reflections and comments of a resident in Southsea, Portsmouth, England.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Cupcakes galore!

Today seems to be cupcakes galore as I found two people who chose to bake these little beauties. These bakers are local to Southsea too, so I thought I'll share with you what I found..

"Hannah Banana Bakery specialises in creating delicious cakes and sweet treats for Vegans and Gluten Free people" - now, I know this would be the answer to some of my friends prayer. How often do you have to abstain only because the beautiful thing make you sick? With Hannah's cakes, there should be no more worries. Hannah has just started her business this year. Check out her website and you will fall in love with her cakes.

Wedding cupcake by Hannah

The other talented baker I'd like to mention is Denise Allen who is a Twitter friend of mine. Her motto is "Delicious Cakes made with Love" which says it all. She started this as a hobby and look at where she is now! The nicest people I know, she also has a colourful blog here http://cupcakeandbake.wordpress.com/

Take a look at these sumptuous strawberries by Denise!

So the next time you have a birthday, wedding or christening, worry no more, as they can make your celebration all the more special!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Beautiful Boscastle in Cornwall

I spent a couple of days in Cornwall recently and took these photos of the village of Boscastle, which was devastated by a flood in 2004.

What I cannot get over is the beauty of the place. I hope I can visit this place again some day.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Blooming marvelous!

My garden is blooming and I love it!

This white sweetpea I call 'heritage sweetpea' because it came with the house. It gave me such a beautiful surprise the first year I moved into this house to find it blooming in the garden, resplendent in its whiteness.

Each year thereon it has given me such joy that I look forward to see it blooming.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Light the barbie!

On Friday we kicked off the weekend with drinks at the Florence Arms and listening to Fox Elipses in the background (or the other bar). But apparently his songs were depressing, so just as well that I could only hear bits.

This was followed by a barbecue on Saturday. It's lovely to share a meal with friends. This time we got the timing right too, so that the food came in stages and the conversation flowing between sips of wine.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Dreaming of clouds

Look at these lovely photos of clouds from local photographer Hannah Treagus!

You can find more of her photos here

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Pea and sweetcorn patties

On Saturday I invited some friends over for a barbecue and I made these little pea and sweetcorn patties which are perfect for nibbling while waiting for the charcoal to burn.

Take 100 grams each of frozen peas and sweetcorn and give it a wash to soften them. Then put half in a blender with 1 garlic clove, 1 red chilli cut up, the juice of 1 lime and a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Blitz until they are mushy, but retain some bits. Pour out into a bowl and mix with 2 tablespoons of plain flour, half a teaspoon of salt and 6 rounds of pepper from the grinder.

If you like coriander, tear up a handful of leaves into the mixture at this point and mix well. Don't use the stringy stalks.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a shallow frying pan, once it's nice and hot, drop a tablespoonful of the mixture on to the hot oil. Fry on one side for 5 minutes, until it's nice and brown before flipping the patties to the other side and cooking another 5 minutes until nicely brown. Watch it though, as you don't want any burnt bits.

If you have friends who don't like hot things, leave out the chilli and offer some sweet chilli for dipping instead.

This should make about 12 to hand around on a plate to your guests.


On a summer afternoon

Nothing is lovelier than sitting on my garden chair, flipping through magazines, with a glass of wine nearby and the garden freshly trimmed. This summer afternoon, the sky was clear and blue, the sun was shining boldly and there were gentle winds rustling the heads of the newly blooming sweetpeas. Don't you just love Sunday afternoons in the summer?

On the menu tonight are some seabreams. They looked fresh and glistening on the shop counter yesterday. Not the fishmonger, as magazines like to tell you, but good honest middle of the road grocer. The magazines also said that seabream is a good alternative to seabass. There are articles after articles on eating fish sustainably. These seabreams of mine are destined to go under the grill and I have in mind a brush of garlic and chilli in olive oil for the skin and some juicy lime to soothe the singed skin afterwards and perk up my tastebuds!

So an easy, lazy summer dish. Ten minutes under the grill, eaten with some tossed spinach and pepper salad, leaving you more time to soak in the sun.

I raise my glass to you. Carpe Diem!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Carpe diem!

First thing this morning, I heard of the death of a great aunt. I didn't know she had cancer and last night she collapsed, went into a coma and died.

Only yesterday I was pondering about death and how unexpected it can be. That singer Amber died while at the operating table, so unexpected to get a complication on a routine knee surgery. And the woman in Tenerife who was decapitated on entering a supermarket. Such a random chance.

I used to get depressed thinking about death and how I would go etc. Strange, I know, but at some point we all must have thought about it. I was only little and so my expectation of death was more scary. I think it was the fact that I might go somewhere strange without anyone I know.

Somehow now the thought that I won't be conscious of anything when I'm dead is rather comforting. Nothing to worry about.

What these deaths remindes me of is that we must take each day as it comes and cram it full of what you want to do. You don't know when the end is, so live life to the fullest!

I don't mean drink to death or take drugs, but I do mean do not be limited by your fears.

Seize the day! Carpe diem!

And may you have fun doing it.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Negative self-talk

I've always wanted to do lots of things, but negative self-talk always talks me out of things! So today I declare war on negative self-talk. Given the chance, I know I'm charming and friendly and good at what I do. There; I feel better already!

Moving along the positivity vibe...I'm really enjoying this new doors to social media period I am having. I was preparing for my work 'performance development review'. There is a new form to fill and it has helped me looked back into the past twelve months and review what I have done.

I've done lots!

But the one thing I haven't done was to identify a social media training course! A quick work on-line to find those courses I've been dreaming of, I've now booked myself into a couple of amazing workshops to which I'm very much looking forward.

Give yourself a positive self-talk and see for yourself what joy it brings!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Fly to the land of writing

It's Friday and it has been an inspirational day for me. My team at work was discussing social media in the morning and their enthusiasm seemed like an encouragement that I'm not alone in this and should really embrace social media. This seems a very positive way forward.

I've always been wondering about my writing. Although I've always loved writing and wanting to write, it's always been in the more personal forms of letters and keeping a diary. Looks like I can't keep it that way for too long.

First of all, Andy Stanford-Clark, who came to give a talk at the Cafe Scientifique session I organised last month has now asked me twice whether I blog. I evaded the question once, but I think that's not the right attitude! So I've promised him I'll write.

Annabel Souter is another person I've met on Twitter who a few months ago, or maybe even a year ago, requested some writing from me which I managed to avoid. On reading her blog about her own writing I felt that I should be brave too and embrace this whole blogging thing.

So, if you are in the same shoes as me, click your heels twice and, just like Dorothy, let us fly to the land of super-writing. Just put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and share your thoughts without fear.

On that note, I've also decided that Friday will be an Inspirational Friday for me. More of that later!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Bring on the sun!

I'm buoyed by all the good weather so far and everything I do seems to be influenced by it. Like the starting of cooking of all sorts with salad and Spanish flavours this weekend.

According to my search, this sauce is either called 'samfaina' or 'sanfaina' - whichever way is the same, although there seems to be various versions of this vegetable sauce.

The one I made fits one of the descriptions I found and it says that people think of this dish as the ratatouille of Catalan. I have altered the recipe to suit ingredients that I have at home. Enjoy!

Chicken in Sanfaina Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
4 chicken thighs
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 green pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
120g bacon pieces
1 tinned chopped tomatoes
100ml red wine
100ml water (or stock if you have)
1 medium bay leaf
1 tbsp chopped thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a casserole dish, brown the chicken and then remove. Add the onion and garlic into the dish and fry for 1 minute. Then add the peppers and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Stir in the bacon, tomatoes, wine, water and herbs and bring to a boil. Then simmer gently. Add the chicken pieces back into the dish and make sure they are covered by the juices. Put the lid on the casserole dish and cook gently for 45 minutes.

Season well and serve with fluffly rice or couscous. Or, if you prefer, some lovely bread to mop up the sauce.

Carry on the Spanish theme by accompanying your dinner with a nice glass of rioja. Or if it's really hot out, a sangria.

Try also these recipes for sauces:

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A morning of inspiration

A morning walk is a lovely thing to do while gathering ideas and thoughts, whether it be what to cook for dinner, what to wear to the wedding later on this summer or what shall I do with the rest my life.

There is no place like Southsea for such a morning walk. The air is relaxed and there are lots to see. I took a different path to walk this morning and went into some of the smaller side streets around Palmerston Road. I saw new style of houses and also new ideas of who my neighbours might be. A peek into their gardens also gives me inspiration on what to plant in mine.

The greengrocer on Marmion Road is quite small, but it gives you that home country feeling and the plants this morning just gave me the inspiration I need for the garden. If you see nothing there, walk into the Laura Ashley shop and browse their home products. They give you such a desire to plump up your lounge cushions and dust the curtains.

So by the time I got home for lunch, I was full of ideas.

Next time you are feeling dull, go visit the greengrocer and your local shops for inspiration!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Golden Roasted Vegetables

If you don't know what to cook and you want something delicious for supper, try this recipe for two.

Arrange the following on a roasting tin...

1 onion, cut into wedges
1 large potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, cut into chunks
2 tomatoes, quartered
1 large red pepper, cut into large chunks

And mix well with the following...

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp oregano/thyme/rosemary
salt & pepper

Roast in the oven at 200 degrees Celcius for 40 minutes. Tossing the vegetables once while cooking.

I wanted some meat tonight so I threw in some chopped up bacon, which went nicely crisp in the oven. You can add/substitute parsnips, red onions or courgettes to the dish, if you like.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Science Busking!

Science Busking last week was good fun. Some scientists took to the street to demonstrate simple fun science.

On Wednesday some of the scientists at the University of Portsmouth were in Commercial Road wearing all purple and giving out purple balloons to entice people to the stand.

They were showing a variety of experiments, such as how to skewer a balloon with a sharp kebab stick. And then explaining why the balloon didn't burst!

Then on Saturday, members of the British Science Association Hampshire & Isle of Wight Branch were seen in Guildhall Square wow-ing passers by with more science magic.

One of the best demonstration was making a funnel disappear in a pot of oil. It was something to do with the speed of light travelling through objects such as water, air, oil and glass.

Many children loved the straw oboe as it involved making a lot of noise!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Southsea Seafront in Grey and Yellow

Kat showed me her flicker photos and I thought it would be lovely to share it with you here!

By Kat Neighbour - Southseamum.blogspot.com

I love Southsea seafront and on Twitter I was sharing a few of my fave photos of Southsea with @Southseascene so she asked me to do a little guest blog post. It's just a few lovely Southsea photos I have taken and love sharing. Enjoy!

Southsea Seafront

Classic Southsea Seating

Ice Cream

Southsea Rose Gardens

Some flowers down by Southsea Rock Gardens

My son throwing stones

More photos can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/miss-katrina/

Sunday, 27 February 2011

It's another cooking Sunday

Well, I am myself again! And I have had another cooking Sunday. I made pizza today with a slightly different toppings. So bacon, dear readers, go very very well on pizza. It was yummyness all around.

I've caught up with the washing as well, just need to do some last minute folding before going to bed.

How delightful to now be ready for the new week and all its challenges. My husband's show will open on Wednesday at the New Theatre Royal.

I hope you are coming to see it, if you are in town.

Time to regroup

Sometimes life has a way of catching up with you and you need to catch up with life. Today I woke up with a sniffle and the kitchen was a riot! No other way but to spend this beautiful Sunday on housework.

Don't resent housework. Take your time to chill. I use it also to re-group with myself. It gives me time to think and get back to my own routine of things. Also, the body gets some physical exercise it needs!

So a good Sunday to you and I'll blog again later today about how the day turns out.


Thursday, 24 February 2011

Tweet-up and new friends

Well, Southsea had its tweet-up last night and this time over 15 people come along. So that was a major success.and the other one was that we all managed to get to know each other and draw inspiration from each other.

Mary, who is a poet and is writing a novel, was encouraging Emma, who runs Eden Florist in Old Portsmouth, to write about what she's passionate about. Emma was trying to find out what blogging is all about. So I had a nice chat with her too about her shop, her children and why the things she said would be the things I want to read in her blog. From this conversation I too learnt about what might be good to blog about.

As I chatted to various people I was trying to find something interesting to talk about. I can be quite shy, but since this tweet-up happened because Abby and I talked it up on Twitter, we had to do our part in making sure everyone was comfortable.

Someone passed around a list of who were there and no doubt a Facebook page or something similar will materialise. In the mean time we were glad that there was so much to talk about.

Andrew from Creatiques passed around the Wedding magazine that gave them the Retailer of the Year award. His gown and Emma's bouquet will be on the front page of the next issue. What an achievement!

Haley who runs AboutMyArea website was there with a few people she tweeted with. There were Chrissie and Anne who both work for a company publishing text for staff training. What they do sounded amazingly like a detailed and focused work. Mike was telling me about B2B website which was something I don't know very much about and James, who actually didn't tweet, was a full time photographer which made me curious as I wasn't sure what that means. Do you have a studio? I asked him...

I don't think I can name everyone, but we did have fun and cannot wait for the next tweet-up. Some people stayed even longer and had an even better time!

Monday, 21 February 2011

We are planning a tweet-up!

Just a quick note to say that the Southsea Tweet-up this Wednesday 23 February is gaining momentum. This is encouraging since my first tweet-up was made up of myself and Haley Storey who runs AboutMyArea website. Then I had 4, then another 4 last month, so will be pleased if more Southsea tweeples turn up for this one.

Southsea Tweet-up
Wed 23 Feb, 7pm onwards
At No 69 Palmerston Road
Southsea, of course!

See you there!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Top 5 things to see and do in Portsmouth

I've submitted my roundup of things to see and do in Portsmouth for @GotSaga with some beautiful pictures from Elizabeth Allen. I hope you will take a look at let me know on the comments box below what you think.

Top 5 best things to do and see in Portsmouth, England

1 - Historic Dockyard
2 - Spinnaker Tower and Gunwharf Quays
3 - Old Portsmouth
4 - Millenium Walk
5 - D-Day Museum and Southsea Castle

Hope you agree! I would welcome your recommendations of things to do and see so I can write more.

What a week!

What a week in Southsea and I can tell you a few things I've been to this week to show you just how busy this place can be.

On Tuesday afternoon the St James' Hospital in Locksway Road officially opened The Limes, a facility to care and treat elderly dementia patients. It's a beautiful building and surrounding which clearly had been designed carefully with the patients welfare in mind. The staff were gentle and caring. In fact, everyone I met made me feel that the patients could not ask for a better care. Thumbs up for Portsmouth!

On Wednesday the University of Portsmouth officially opened the new Dental Academy in partnership with King's College London. Again, a beautifully designed building. Earl Howe officiated and the event was attended by the great and the goods in the city. A really good celebration and good news for dental health in Portsmouth.

Thursday night saw a glittering evening at the Spinnaker Tower to launch "Portsmouth in Poetry", a collection of poems written about Portsmouth. Dale Gunthorpe and Julie Millard are the people behind the Spinnaker Press who had compiled the book. Congratulations to them for putting together a wonderful evening of poetry and all the best with the book.

It's been an exciting week for me also meeting up with Twitter friends. On Saturday I was watching my first football match in Fratton Park. I'm sure many Pompey friends would be proud of me. Why did I take so long? And thanks to @PompeyNev for encouraging me to go. We can report that pork sausages are great for half-time snacks!

And Sunday was a blissfull day even if the weather was beginning to take a drizzly and blowy turn. I walked all along the seafront to see @creatiques Wedding Show at the Royal Beach Hotel. They have put together a roomful of talented people with unique offerings for the modern brides.

I will soon write about these amazing business people and their wonderful gift to turn a bride's day into a memorable one.

I hope you week has been good too!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sunday cooking - meatballs!

Sunday is always a good day for cooking. When the chores are done, there is always a lull in the afternoon to plan and plot.

This evening I started with 700 grams of minced beef and the aim was to create different dishes to freeze so I can eat them during the week when life's a bit too busy to cook.

First beefball recipe:

Mix together
100 grams bacon, chopped
350 grams minced beef
1/2 onion chopped
1 tsbp plain flour

Form into balls and fry in a pan with heated 1 tsbp olive oil, until all browned. Add 100 ml of red wine and let is bubble for 2 minutes.
Add 200 grams chopped tomatoes (which is about half a tin)
Add salt & pepper to taste
Simmer for 15 minutes.
Then toss together with pasta.

Second beefball recipe:
Mix together
200 grams minced beef
Salt & pepper
1 tsp thyme, chopped

Clean 6 medium mushroom caps, remove stalks. Pick up a small ball and squeezed into each cap. Line the caps in a roasting pan. Dot each cap with soy sauce and some vegetable oil. Roast at 180 degrees Celcius for 30 minutes.

Remove the caps, and in the roasting pan add
1 tsp cornflour, mix
1 garlic clove crushed
150 ml water

Transfer to a cooking pot and add 3 tbsp rice. Simmer covered for 15 minutes until the rice is cooked in the thick brown sauce.

Third beefball recipe:

150 grams minced beef
1 tsbp plain flour
dashes of Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
form into balls

Chop some mushrooms and fry in 1 tbsp olive oil with 1 garlic clove, crushed. Add the beefballs into the pan, let is fry a minute or two. Add 100 ml of red wine, let is bubble for a minute, cover and let it all steam for a further 15 minutes. If you prefer, you can have this one with some boiled potatoes.

And then roasted vegetables...
I also roasted some carrots, peppers, onions and potatoes in 180 Celcius for 40 minutes with a dash of olive oil and a sprinkling of herbs. Roasted vegetables are always delicious.

Please try these recipes and leave me with your comments. I would especially be interested in your 'improvements'. Good luck!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Make you own Gyoza

I love gyoza or Japanese dumplings. Since I found this recipe many years ago when I was a student in Cincinnati, Ohio, you can call these little darlings potstickers like the Americans do. So called because they stick to the bottom of the pot - you will find out why when you read the cooking instruction.


2 cups plain flour, will need more to make it more solid, plus extra for rolling
2/3 cup boiling water
1/3 cup cold water
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Combine all and knead until smooth. Divide into 30 balls and roll each into a thin 2-inch circle.


500g pork
1 1/2 tsbp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsbp sherry
Dash of pepper
1 egg
1 1/2 tsbp cornstarch
1/2 inch finger of ginger, finely chopped

Mix all the ingredients together. Put a small dollop into each 2-inch dough circle, fold into half and pinch the semi-circular edges - I'll have to make a video of how I do this!

Now, put a small amount of oil in a flat bottomed pan, with lid. Arrange the potstickers at the bottom of the pan and let them brown in the oil. The once it's nicely brown, pour 1/4 cup of water into the pan in high eat that it bubbles and hisses - cover and let the whole thing steam. You will get beautifully steamed dumplings with nice brown bottoms.

To eat these lovelies, make a dipping sauce from 1 tbps soy sauce, 1/2 tsp sesame oil and 1 tbsp vinegar (malt, if you can).

These make a lovely starter or invite some friends to dinner and make them together.

For vegetarian, use steamed shreded cabbage mixed with chopped mushrooms, spring onions, ginger and soy sauce. But I've never tried this one.

Enjoy! Post me your feedback on how yours turn out.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Music taught me a lot

I have loved music from a very young age. My papa used to play various cassettes when he was at home. He is a good singer too and I know his many songs such as Sinatra's 'My Way' and the one we call 'And I love you so'

I just checked that there are videos of Dan Mclean singing this on YouTube. And I know the first stanza by heart!

My father is also a brilliant musician. He has taught himself the guitar and
piano, and years later I found out that he can also play the saxophone. Better than me! Not that I was very good, but as a teenager I play the tenor saxophone almost every day.

One day I came home with my saxophone and he played it. He showed me all the vibrato and jazz techniques. I think I stared at him and wondered is this the father I knew! Shouldn't take anyone for granted; even your nearest and dearest.

I've always wanted to play a musical instrument, but they were too expensive for my parents to afford. So when at the secondary school welcome assembly the band master invited new students to join, I jumped at the chance.

Mr Chan was a kindly father figure, but also strict in his leadership of the band. So I learnt on my own, coached by the seniors on how to play the tenor saxophone. It took me a whole afternoon to get a sound out of the mouthpiece that first time. I remember the seniors around me trying to tell me how to blow. But not like blowing a balloon, they said. The trouble was, I didn't even know how to blow a balloon!

I tried and tried again. I'm glad I didn't give up that afternoon for playing the saxophone has given me tremendous pleasure over the years and taught me a lot. Being able to play the saxophone was my proudest achievement because I came from nothing and to be able to read music and play the most beautiful melody was such an accomplishment indeed.

And when Kenny G became famous right around the same time, I had street cred!

Music has opened up my interest and now I love the opera, going to concerts and even promoting music. CDs are fine but everyone must experience a live music concert. There is nothing like listening to a rousing percussion section or to a flute whistling a jolly melody.

Music has taught me discipline and to work well with others. You must work with your band mates to achieve the right sound, otherwise the whole symphony wouldn't work. I learn to watch and to listen.

It's been a long time since my school days and I no longer play the saxophone, but when I was at university, my then boyfriend bought me a clarinet. So I took lessons and now I join my local university wind band.

The younger players are very good, but rusty ones like me also feel welcomed in such a group. We are all equal and equally play our part in making the whole piece.

One day I felt tired and lazy but I dragged myself to rehearsal (discipline!) and playing actually lifted my moods so much that now the more tired I am the more I know I need to have some music. I go for relaxation even more now than just music making.

I hope after reading this you will look into your attic or garage and find that old musical instrument of yours and take it to play with your nearest amateur orchestra or band. If there is none, gather a few friends and have a jamming session.

Music is good for you and it may give you more than just entertainment.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Finding things out

It's good to have curiosity and the thirst to learn. That's how one finds out about things. It's quite important to instill in children not just facts, but also the desire to learn. When you keep learning, you keep your mind active.

I'm just saying that as now I have to find things out about Indonesian curry. There are many curry houses in Southsea, but mostly from the Indian subcontinent. Well, and the one Thai restaurant called Bangkok. Delicious food, by the way, if you are ever this way.

So I should look into Malaysian, Indonesian and other South East Asian curries.

Google it, Wiki it, read a book in the library or ask your auntie. Whatever the method, don't forget that there is a quest to collect family recipes and you can add yours at innocentdrinks.com/recipearchive

Get searching and tell me about your regional dishes!

Happy New Year!

Well, a happy new year to you and I hope you and yours have had a very good festive season. I won't bother with resolutions this year, but I do have a few things I'm looking forward to.

For Christmas I was given a year long subscription to delicious. magazine and also Nigella's new book - Kitchen. So I shall be making some things from the pages of these. Already I have my eye on Nigella's teriyaki chicken recipe and some cauliflower curry from the pages of delicious. I'm not sure how much use I will have of the 1001 cocktails, but those half drunk bottles that have been lingering in the drinks cabinet may get to be used too.

Also a stay with my friend Jan has always inspired me to cook because she's so amazing in the kitchen. While we sleepily watched television, she cut apples and made crumbles. Wow! I should take inspiration from her industry and try to make pies like her.

I will write more about living and working in Southsea, one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods in the UK. If you don't believe me, come down and I'll show you around. Or just read all about it on these pages.

I'm also excited about friends I've 'met' on Twitter and so will plan to meet up with them and if you want to follow my thoughts, comments and information about Southsea, follow me on @southseascene

On these pages or on Twitter, I hope you will post comments, ask a question or two, or just say hello. Have a productive 2011!

PS: Speaking of productive, lots of sales are now on in Southsea shops so a good time to visit.